Even though I was a social God, it did not mean I liked random crowds. And this convention was packed with people. The sounds, the smells, and the constant cacophony of a myriad conversations felt strange yet familiar to me. Part of me felt threatened by the sensory overload, yet another part of me felt like home. After all, I was used to a multitude of voices, even when I was alone. A particular voice, however, hung in the air like the scent of freshly squashed grapes.
“No, I’m sorry, but unless there’s ambrosia mixed in with it, I am not paying that much. This is a convention, not a vineyard.” That statement came from behind me somewhere, and it made me stop in my tracks. I turned and looked around, trying to pinpoint the place from where the voice came. It was hard to believe, but even though I did not recognize the voice, I definitely did recognize the attitude in that voice.
Scanning the crowds did not help much because there was just too much crowd to cover. Instead of looking for faces, I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind. If I were right about this, there would be someone in here that I wouldn’t be able to touch that way. Not without their wanting me to.
Honey tresses whirled around as I found what I was looking for, and I came face to face with Nyx. Even in mortal form, she was still tall and imposing to the untrained eye. She scanned me over once, before a smile flitted across her face.
“Ah, it was you, then? Long time no see, Dion.”
This was a predicament I did not expect to find myself in. A Primordial and a God of the Pantheon at a convention. My mind reeled to find the punch line to that joke. “Well, hello, νυχτιά. Wasn’t expecting to see you here. Or anywhere else, to be honest. Been back in body long?”
The vendor Nyx had been speaking with watched our exchange with disdain, clearly still offended. Nyx ignored him, focusing on me as she answered, “I don’t think I ever quite left it, to be honest. What about you? I would expect you to be here, but I’ve not seen you at the GC.”
“Same. The walking never stopped for me.” I nod in understanding and wink up at Nyx. “Some of us were meant to roam. But no worries. I have just returned home. Well, to the GC anyway.” I opened my hand, fingers splayed out. “I am on floor five! All mine, too. What about you?”
She gestured before us, and we began to walk the convention floor as she spoke, “Seventeenth, though I’ve been inhabiting twenty-nine for some time. I don’t have the energy to redo my floor just yet.”
I started half-walking, half-jogging just to keep up, leaning on my thyrsos even more so I could stay on my toes. Literally. Keeping up with Nyx was like a game all on its own, and I had to say I was enjoying it. “Energy comes and goes, sure. But what brings you here? Looking for some wine?”
“Yes, funny enough.” Nyx flashed me a smile. “I need a new supplier for Nox. My old one went bankrupt, unfortunately. The idiot back there, however,” she jerked her head towards the fading vendor, “was trying to gouge me. So my luck, thus far, has been nonexistent.”
I gave a quick nod and pointed at the sky, moving my hand in a circle. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of that going on. The wine and liquor business is lucrative, and it’s been known to attract some sour types. Fortunately, about a third of the market is under my protection. Did you have something specific in mind?”
Nyx raised an eyebrow at me as we stopped near the back of the room, people milling by us with hardly a glance. “Are you offering to help me, Dionysos?”
“I am offering to help, yes. There is no better feeling than helping someone when you least expected to. And I least expected to see you, much less help you. As long as I can help you, of course. If you’re in need of supplies, it should not be a problem.”
Nyx laughed, folding her arms across her chest with a grin. “Then I should take the unexpected help with the hopes that I will, perhaps, unexpectedly help you someday. Are you taking up shop within the GC? We can arrange to set things up there, or would you prefer to work here?”
Her laugh made me laugh because it came so easily to her. That was a good thing. “Eventually, the GC will be my headquarters, yes. I am in the process of that now. So we can definitely arrange something there. In fact, I am having a family meeting with all the companies under me the day after tomorrow with a small party after. If you care to stay for that long, you are more than welcome to attend.”
That’s when I heard the shrill voice cutting through the ruckus of the convention. “Hey you! Yes, you, Mister Winemaker! How dare you sabotage me?”
Heads swiveled, and so did mine, settling on a short skinny blonde with long unruly curls and a bought modern but retro hippie look. I knew right away that the person facing me was Deborah Fleming, the paper owner of Nouvelles Règles. I wasn’t surprised by this public showing, but for the sake of things, I acted it. “May I help you, young lady? Are you lost?”
“You know very well who I am, but you have no idea who I am! You just picked the wrong person to mess with. My daddy will make mincemeat out of you!”
I opened my eyes as wide as can be, looking around at the suddenly quiet room, and said, “My daddy?” That got exactly the reaction I was planning for—first a snort, then a few chuckles, followed by a smatter of laughter. Soon enough, the whole circle of people surrounding us was laughing.
Deborah’s face turned all sorts of colors from both anger and embarrassment as she stomped her foot and started shrieking insults at everyone. “Stop laughing at me, you fucking retards! You have no idea what my daddy will do to you all! Especially you, Mr. Winemaker! He’ll fucking kill you!” That made the laughing grow even louder.
After letting the laughter carry on for a little while, I raised my hands to command silence, and sure enough, the laughing quickly died down. Everyone wanted to hear more. “Look here, Miss Fleming. When you go tell your daddy about me, make sure you let him know that I did what I did because all the rumors circulating about Nouvelles Règles are true.”
Apparently, the buzz was already out and running strong. As soon as the crowd heard the name, the laughter resumed even louder, with a scattering of boos to complete the atmosphere. Ms. Fleming sputtered, cursed, and yelled, but the crowd had now completely drowned out her voice. Realizing that her plan had backfired, and she wasn’t going to get anywhere with her confrontation, she stormed off.
Nyx was standing next to me on her toes, ready to spring into action. She placed a light hand on my shoulder and arched an eyebrow. “What was that all about, Dion? Business or pleasure?”
I looked up at Nyx and shrugged my shoulders before adding a smirk. “Oh, you know. Business as usual. The two-threes in action. Well, maybe with a bit of pleasure mixed in.”
“So….the two-threes. Will they, whatever they are, get in the way of our newly found business relationship?”
“Not at all, my tall, dark, and lovely. Not at all. You’ll have whatever you need, and more. For less.” I stopped in my tracks for a second, repeating what I had just said to myself to make sure I said it the right way, and nodded with satisfaction. “Shall I expect you at the festival a few days from now? It would be a good time to catch up.”
Nyx looked down at me with a smirk and folded her arms. “I think I’ll pass on that invite. I know very well how your festivals go, and I’m sure a certain someone wouldn’t want me partaking. Thank you, though. We can catch up once you return home.”
I shrugged and gave her a small bow of appreciation and, as she turned to leave, a very practiced royal wave that she missed out on because she never looked back. I turned and glanced at Luis and gave him a nod. He nodded in return and got on his phone immediately. Nyx and Nox will be pleasantly surprised at the selection I’ll be sending their way.
Nyx-Nox Patty-wox. There! I said it! Happy now?
After all the drama finally died down, I made the rest of the rounds in the packed convention center. It was good to see so many friendly faces and exchange knowing nods from the ones that were part of my extended family. I had no problem admitting to myself that this trip had been calling to me for a while now. When I first sensed the coming change, I thought it was about me returning home, but there was so much more.
Returning home was just the beginning. The return, the new place on floor five, Amphitrite half-swimming in a tail and half-running in bare feet all through my head, the Master Plan, Mourgo, Antonio and his family, Deborah and the dumpster fire she called a business. And there was still the meeting to go. And the festival. The festival would be a turning point. I could feel it already.