“Tethys, what in Hades’ name are you doing here?” The last thing I expected to see in the Old Town section of Krakow was a Titan on the run.
“Lyssa, is that you? I haven’t seen you in so long. Why are you in Poland?”
I could tell the Titan wasn’t pleased to see me, despite the fact we had always been cordial.
“I am here monitoring my new social media influencing business. We have an outpost in one of the historic townhouses here in Old Town, set up for my helpers. But the bigger question is why would you risk being found? You are wanted, you know. Zeus has his minions looking everywhere for you.”
The tourists wandering behind us to get a picture of the sixteenth century Cloth Hall had no idea two immortals were a selfie-stick length away.
“Why would they look for me here? With fresh water, I can be anywhere. Krakow seemed far enough from Olympus. I could be anywhere as far as they know. Zakrzowek Lake for the last month has been so quiet, peaceful, even serene – not like Tartarus at all. You’d like it.”
She shifted uneasily on the soles of her thin leather sandals. It was freezing, but all she had on was a threadbare dress.
“You must not remember me after all, if you think peaceful is my preference. You look cold, Tethys. Can I buy you a cup of tea?”
She looked warily at me, like she couldn’t decide if I were offering tea or poison. Slowly nodding her agreement, I turned toward the nearby cafe with a pathetic Titan at my side.
“Lyssa, I know that Zeus wants all the Titans back but honestly, who am I going to hurt? I rule fresh water. Not much danger in that, is there?” She chuckled and lifted the steaming glass cup nestled inside its intricate scroll holder. She cradled the warm metal in her hands before taking a slow sip.
“Tethys, I agree with you. I don’t think you are a danger to anyone, perhaps humans, but that isn’t my concern. Unfortunately, management doesn’t agree and I am not in management.” My tea sat in front of me, untouched.
“Surely you could put in a good word with them. Hera and I were close once. Nike, perhaps?” Her voice was loud enough that several people nearby looked up from their espresso. She seemed oblivious to the attention. Desperation had made her sloppy.
“I’m not in the confidence of anyone on the top floors of the Olympus tower. There is nothing I could say that would have a bit of influence over them. I’m sorry, Tethys.”
And amazingly, I was sorry. A grand old dame deserved more respect than she had received. To be wearing tatters on the run in a cafe in Poland was a far cry from the heights of glory she had once known. Did she remember what it had all been like, I wondered.
“Your tea is getting cold, dear. You should drink up. Once we’re done, I’ll go back with you. You can sic the dogs of destruction on me as you see fit. I won’t put up a fuss.” A sad smile crept on her face as she sipped again. Her fingernails had a tinge of green under them and her watery blue eyes looked tired. I almost believed her performance.
“Dear, do you think I would drink something made of fresh water so you could cause it to strangle me from the inside? I am not some fresh-faced nymph, born yesterday from a conch shell. You forget my primordial blood.”
It was a harsh message but not said harshly, at least to my ears. Her smile dripped off her face, like her last card drawn was a deuce.
“You can’t blame a Titan for trying, can you? I don’t expect you would go easily into that pit again.” She took a last sip of the tea and set down the cup. I didn’t believe for a minute that she had given up.
“I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be put there in the first place, but that is me,” I said, dryly.
She laughed, but it sounded harsh and hollow. “No, of course you wouldn’t, Lyssa. Goddess of Rage and Madness, always the smartest deity in the room. It must be so nice to be you.”
It’s rare that I let my own rage simmer, but Tethys was pushing my buttons. I had no doubt it was intentional, but nonetheless, the scorn on her face erased whatever softness I had let creep into my heart for this worn out being.
“I won’t go, and I don’t see what you can do to make me. I’ll go back to my lake and you can go back to your ivory tower, and we can forget we ever saw each other.” She pushed her chair back slightly, the precursor to huffing out of the cafe.
“Tethys, let’s not bluff, shall we? I know you cherish the rivers and lakes of the world. I also know that this love of water matters more to you than anything else and you wouldn’t let someone destroy it.” I lifted my left arm slightly above the table and my charm bracelet slid from under my dark sleeve. With a few flicks of my wrist, the charms jangled and chimed quietly in the murmur of the cafe.
The noise grew slowly, hardly noticeable at first. It was a loud place, after all, and conversation was all around us. The murmurs grew to louder grumblings and a shout or two rang out in the bustling cafe. Every human around us was visibly upset – hardened faces, mouths agape in outrage, hands pounding on tables that shook the silver samovars.
“What are you doing? Are you stirring up these people to capture me? I can strangle every one of them where they sit, with their gullets full of tea and coffee,” she scoffed, rising from her seat. “Humans don’t frighten me.”
“You might want to listen to what they are shouting about, Tethys. Eavesdrop for a moment before you decide to storm out of here. Humans can be the most dangerous beings of all.” I jangled the bracelet again. The man in the cheap gray suit nearest to Tethys was a lovely shade of radish red.
“These people are ruining our economy, what with all the environment protection rules and regulations. How are we expected to make any money if we have to follow all these damn rules! Climate change is nothing but a hoax to keep countries under the yoke of the west. It is ridiculous.” Spittle from the man’s lips reached across the table to his companion, but the other man didn’t seem to notice.
“When are we going to take matters into our own hands? Enough of this regulation, telling good businesses what they can and cannot do. We need a revolution, back to traditional business. As if we could harm the planet with our small factories. It’s all a lie, Alesky. A dirty lie to keep us from being profitable.” The smaller man smashed his fist into the table, knocking his glass tea cup to the ground. It shattered near Tethys’ feet. A flash of fear crossed the Titan’s face.
“So what are we going to do about it, Albin?” The radish red man jumped to his feet.
“I’m going out to Zakrzowek Lake right now. I’m calling the office and ordering dump trucks of waste into the water. Pile after pile. Let’s see what the damn locals have to say about that! Every river and lake in Poland will be clogged with the trash of factories!” The smaller man was on his feet as well, grabbing his hat and coat from the rack on the wall. In a few minutes, he’d be away from our table and I wouldn’t be able to stop him.
“You’ve made your point, Lyssa. Stop this idiot before he carries out his threat. Stop all these idiots.” Tethys sat down heavily in her chair, picking up her empty tea cup and cradling it against her chin.
I jangled my bracelet, sharply this time. The room was so loud, even I couldn’t hear the sounds of the charms striking, but the effect was felt almost instantly. The roar dulled to a buzz and then to a murmur. The two men were looking at each other with raw confusion all over their faces.
“I am sorry to use such methods on you, really. As I said, you don’t deserve this, but I can’t afford to let you go. I must keep the Olympians on my side, at least for now.” I rose from my seat and grabbed my own coat from the hook on the wall. She was still sitting at the table, clutching that damn glass tea cup. Tears were collecting at its rim.
“I only wanted to be free. That’s all. Days in the sun and nights under the stars. One decision, a millennia ago, and it is taken from me forever? That hardly seems like justice.” She placed the cup on the table as if it weighed a thousand pounds. Before I even knew what I was doing, my hand was on her shoulder, lightly patting the thin cotton fabric.
“Tethys, I promise I will do what I can to help you come back, permanently. I have no idea how I will do that, but I promise that I will help. Somehow. But for now, let’s go.” She turned to look up at me, with those watery eyes rimmed in tears, but I saw a flicker of hope in there. She didn’t have anything to cling to but my words.
“Thank you for the tea.” The Titan rose and we walked from the cafe into the late afternoon sunlight. What in Hades’ name had I just promised? How in the world would I keep my word? I had no idea.