Uncle Hades kept looking at Nyx and I in our chairs. She seemed nonplussed. I hope I looked as casual, but inside my guts were churning.
How did I let this happen? How did that woman in the video get my key to Tartarus?
My thoughts were broken when Uncle Hades sat down behind his desk and asked, “So tell it to me again, Nyx. Who is this woman?”
Nyx replied, “It’s Ate. She is the eldest daughter of Zeus. A long time ago, he cast her off Olympus after she and Hera tricked him. Hades, surely you remember this? Ate convinced Zeus to swear an oath that a great man would be born and descend from him to rule on Earth. Zeus was sure it would be Heracles, but Hera delayed his birth and brought forth Eurystheus instead. Zeus was so angry his favorite wasn’t the one, he cast Ate off Olympus for making him take the vow. You remember none of this?”
Uncle Hades looked uncomfortable and shifted in his chair. “I have been having difficulty of late with my memory. In fact…” he lifted a small journal from his desk, “in fact, I have taken to writing things down, then going back to read again later.”
Nyx glanced between him and I. “Doesn’t that seem like a colossal coincidence that the two of you are having memory issues at the same time as all this is happening?”
I nodded, but looked down at my hands. “It does to me, but I am still trying to process losing the key to Tartarus.”
Uncle Hades sighed and dropped his journal back onto the table. “Dinlas, we will figure it out. I must admit I am not thrilled at the idea you had a key without my knowledge, but regardless, what’s done is done. Now we need to undo all this damage. I believe that needs to start with you and I paying a visit to that muse. What’s her name? The little one?”
“Clio?” offered Nyx as she watched us.
“Yes,” he and I said in unison. “Clio. We need to go see Clio.”
Several days later found us standing outside Clio’s museum. Nyx was working on her computer, researching recent events that may or may not have been the doing of the Titans, in order to track them down. We entered the museum, spoke to one of the docents and she escorted us into a back office, where we found Clio and Eros.
“Brother,” I said as I saw him, “what are you doing here?”
He and the muse glanced at each other, then he replied, “I have been here, helping her and keeping an eye on her. Both Artemis and Urania have been worried, with everything happening.”
“You mean the Titans or her strange letters?” I asked.
“Both,” he replied.
Clio stepped forward and hugged me, then awkwardly started to hug Hades, but tried to change it into a handshake at the last second. Eros and I both smiled at their awkwardness. Uncle Hades was less than a touchy-hugging person.
“Please, we can go back to my private quarters,” suggested Clio with a wave of her hand in the correct direction. “It will be more comfortable as well as more private.”
We both nodded and followed her and Eros into the suite. There was a kitchen, bedroom, and a small living space with a couch, a table, and several comfortable chairs. Uncle Hades glanced at me and I at him. Folded on the couch was a blanket with a pillow resting on top.
“How often are you staying here, Eros?” asked Uncle Hades in his unapologetically brusque manner.
Eros, never bashful, responded without a flinch. “Quite often. I was asked to keep an eye on her.”
Hades nodded but didn’t reply. For her part, Clio turned and pretended to busy herself with shuffling papers on the table. Her face flushed a deep red in the awkward silence that followed.
“Well,” I said after a moment or two, “Clio, we told you earlier why we are here. Do you think you can help us?”
“Yes, please sit down,” she replied as she gestured to two chairs by the table. She was happy to have the conversation move forward. We both sat down, then she added, “You both are having memory issues. Is there anything else? Any other symptoms?”
“Headaches,” we both replied, then looked at one another.
Hades nodded and allowed me to continue. “This Ate, she clearly put a spell on me that wiped my memory. I am concerned it is affecting more than just my memories of her and that night.”
Hades picked up when I stopped. “Ever since returning from my vacation in Boracay, and even there, I have been unable to remember simple tasks and routines that I did for years. I fear if this, this, Ate, is behind breaking out the Titans, then she somehow affected me as well. Perhaps during my vacation.”
Clio nodded, watched as we spoke, then responded, “The headaches do suggest a spell or some magic. In addition, most magic leaves a signature or a unique residue. The fact that you both are having the same secondary symptoms suggests that you were memory-wiped by the same practitioner.”
I sat silent, but Uncle Hades nodded and asked, “But you think you can fix this? You can undo this?”
Clio nodded. “Yes.” She was standing next to me. She reached out, touched my temples and added, “Dinlas, look into my eyes.”
Instead of following her command, I self-consciously looked down at my lap and said, “I-I don’t want you to see my history.” She hesitated and I thought to myself, “She doesn’t need to know any of that shit.”
Clio cleared her throat and replied, “I would never do that without your permission, Dinlas. That would be an invasion of your privacy.” I glanced up at Eros, who shifted awkwardly and cleared his throat as she spoke. I nodded my head and looked up at her.
Clio stared deep into my eyes for a full minute before she said anything.
“You have a blackness, a blockage that appears to be affecting you. Now don’t be alarmed, this won’t hurt, but it will feel strange.”
“Alright,” I replied, “go ahead.”
Clio locked eyes with me and stared deeper, as if she were looking inside my skull. I watched as her eyes flickered this way and that. After a minute or so, I felt a gentle tug inside my brain. Imagine the feeling of pulling a piece of sunburnt skin off in a large patch. Now imagine that feeling in your brain. After a moment, Eros and Hades both gave a small gasp as a black mist was sucked out of my eyes and into Clio’s eyes. It was thick, acrid, and I felt my eyes tear up as it exited my body. After another minute it stopped, and Clio had absorbed it all. I slumped back in my chair. My body felt spent, but my mind felt strangely bright and alive.
Clio turned and looked at Hades. As she leaned over him to touch his temples, she faltered a bit and would’ve fallen had Hades not caught her.
“Aren,” blurted Eros as he stepped forward.
Clio waved him off and straightened herself. “I am fine.” She then turned to Hades and locked eyes with him. Several minutes later, she finished pulling the black goop out of his eyes as well. Like me, he slumped back in his chair, clearly spent.
Eros pushed forward and caught Clio around the waist. She did not look well at all. Her hands were trembling and her eyes were jet black from the gunk. She tried to push him away, but was too weak to do so.
“The waste bin,” she whispered. “Get me the waste bin.”
Eros looked caught; he didn’t want to let her go. I lurched up, grabbed it, and handed it to her. A moment later, she heaved into it, her body expelling the black venom she sucked out of Hades and I. When she was done, she dropped the bin next to me and Eros guided her to the sofa, where he laid her down gently. She looked a mess and part of me felt bad, but I also knew instinctively she had fixed me. My memories were sharp, and my brain no longer felt dull and fuzzy as if intoxicated.
“Uncle,” I said, “how do you feel?”
“Better,” he grunted, “this Ate, this witch, I remember her now.”
As he talked, I looked at the swirling black goop in the trash bin. It was more than mist, it had substance to it. I reached down into the bin and scooped some up. It was quite cold, colder than the room temperature and had a strange feeling on my hand. Like quicksilver it was, and it slipped through my fingers in much the same way. With my memories restored, it took me only a moment to remember where I saw this before.
“The woman, Ate, when she dematerialized to avoid my attack at the warehouse, she disappeared into a mist just like this stuff,” I said.
Eros frowned and said, “But she pulled the same stuff out of both of you. I don’t like this. How does Ate seem to know so much about us? Where we are at all times and how to get to us.”
He took Clio’s hand and looked at me. “I don’t like that she did this to you. We need to figure out how she is getting her information, and quickly.”
“Indeed,” interjected Uncle Hades, “She was in Boracay. A young woman, quite persistent, in fact. She approached me at the beach bar and engaged me.”
Eros quirked an eyebrow and looked at me. Despite the seriousness of the situation, I couldn’t help but snicker at the thought of Uncle Hades flirting. I mean, I know I am uptight, but Uncle Hades? Yeah, I snickered.
“Get your mind out of the sewer, both of you,” he said with an eye roll.
Eros replied as he got a damp towel for Clio’s forehead, “Go on then, Uncle.”
“Yes, well,” he continued, “as I said, she engaged me at the bar, then followed me onto the beach. She was flirty and came on to me, I was polite but made it clear I was uninterested. I now remember being on the beach, unable to move. Normally I would never fall victim to such a thing, but it was so unexpected. She grilled me about various fail-safes at Tartarus and where Chronos, as well as the others, were kept. After she was done with her questions, she charmed me, then disappeared in a swirl of black mist. My memories have been difficult to retrieve since then.”
We sat quietly for several minutes after Uncle Hades’ story. Clio’s hands stopped trembling and she had the damp tea towel on her forehead. Eros was focused on her. I hadn’t seen him fuss over someone like that in a long time.
“Not since Psyche…” I thought, then sighed. “If only he would let us help find her.”
Uncle Hades turned to me and interrupted my thoughts. “Dinlas, I owe you an apology. It would appear I was complicit in this colossal screw-up as well.”
I nodded and looked over at him. “We’ll figure it out, Uncle, then we’re gonna find this bitch.”