Standing in the Olympus Archives, I focus my will through the pendulum in my hand. The spiral-carved piece of star-metal swings in wild circles, channeling the energy of my need. Which are apparently plural.
What I need is to find some clue of who was responsible for the attacks on Nytéria. I also desperately need to rearrange The God of Love’s face, Mr. Potatohead-style. I’d like to pretend that relocating Eros’s pretty mouth to the vicinity of his ass is the more pressing need, but I know it’s not.
Stop thinking about his mouth!
I say a curse word so old only Nyx would know it. She should, since she taught it to me. My voice echoes back to me through the stacks. Amazingly enough, it isn’t followed by the rush of footsteps or whispered shushes.
I’m alone, buried alive in a sea of books that no one bothers to read anymore. Me included.
Which is why you’re having to use the equivalent of a cross between a card catalog and a magic 8-ball to look for clues, I mutter to myself.
I shake off thoughts of Eros and still my mind. I don’t need to look at the pendulum in my hand to know it has slowed its mad arcing spin and waits, vertical and still, for me to ask for what I need.
“I need to know who made the attacks on Nykteria.”
The pendulum quivers and goes back to sleep in my grip, scolding me for pulling my punch on the question. I close my eyes and try again, delving deeper. Rage slithers up my spine like a snake and coils around my heart, squeezing, wringing a more visceral question from me.
“I want revenge. Give me a target.”
The pendulum begins to swing, pointing in a direction. I follow it to the end of the row and wait for it to circle right or circle left. One row at a time, I divine a path through a pressed-and-bound forest, tracking the truth. Within fifteen minutes, the search is narrowed to a room, then a section, then a row, then a shelf.
I drag my hand along the spines, eyes tracking the rhythmic sweep of the pendulum from side to side.
Suddenly, the pendulum flings itself in a circle, almost flying out of my hand. I grab it at the last second and tuck it into my pocket, then look up to see what book my other hand has come to rest upon.
Bound in red leather with finely wrought brass fittings, the tome is as wide as my hand. I slide my fingers down the spine and trace a symbol in the air, a simple rune of levitation that will bring the heavy book down from the shelf for me. When the book doesn’t move, I do it again.
“That’s strange,” I whisper, muscling the book down from the shelf the mortal way. It comes free from its place in a cloud of dust, unusual since the entire library is under a dust-dispelling enchantment. Holding the book in my hands, I can feel it now — the magical signature of some other spell, canceling out the simpler enchantments of dust and levitation.
Curious now, I haul the book to one of the study tables nearby and sit down. There is no title on the leather exterior. A press of my fingers releases the clasp that holds the book closed. A flip of the cover reveals a simple title: The Last War: The Titanomachy, A History.
Closing my eyes, I leaf through the book by feel. I look like a blind woman, reading with her fingertips. The irony is not lost on me, for that’s what I am — blind. I can feel the slow pulse of ancient power thrumming up through the pages as I turn them, getting stronger as the chapter numbers count upward.
I am nearly at the back of the book when my hand catches fire. Or it feels like it does. I jerk my hand away with a hiss and glare down at the page, sucking on my fingertips.
“The Plains of Othrys,” I murmur aloud, skimming down the page.
It was a long time ago — thousands of years — but the memory of the battle there rears up in my head, blood-drenched and still smoking. We nearly lost the war that day. I nearly lost my arm.
I realize I’m rubbing my shoulder and stop. There’s no scar. No phantom pain. Just a memory I haven’t turned over in a long, long time.
The words begin to blur on the page. I dash a hand across my eyes — dry. One paragraph on the page begins to stir, the words undulating like sand on a vibrating surface. I hone my focus on the center, thinking that I can will the enchantment away.
I thrust my power deep into the earth and begin to draw up energy, channeling it into the page, forcing back the spell that has been laid on this one section of the book. The magic begins to recede like a tide, washing up a letter here, a letter there. I piece them together like flotsam and jetsam, trying to salvage something. Anything.
A word — Titan.
I push harder, draw more power. The stone floor beneath me cracks.
Two more words, right beside the first — Of Betrayal.
My power snaps like an old bowstring, rebounding off the book’s enchantment like a wall. The sudden recoil flings me across the room and into a stack of books that scatter on impact. Minutes tick past as I lie flat on the floor and let feeling return to my body. When I can feel the cold marble pressing against my cheek, my breasts, my thighs, I pull myself up and stagger back to the table.
The spell is still in place, smudging the words before my eyes. Knowing better than to try again, I close and latch the cover, then pick the book up and head for the door. With a few waves of my hand, I restack the fallen books in some semblance of their lost order.
“Find what you were looking for?”
I slow to a stop and look up at the satyr calling to me from balcony level. I feel my hand clenching around the book, wishing it was a throat.
“Not yet. But I will.”
I’ve spent days trying to break this damn spell. When not trying to break the spell, I’m making trips to the library, looking for anything I can find on the Titan of Betrayal. Neither attempt is successful.
Frustrated and in need of a drink, I drag the book into the Immortals Lounge to flip through it for the hundredth time. I’m arranging a plate of cheese and pouring a glass of chilled Moscato when Clio walks in.
“Hello, Clio. Would you like some wine? It’s Moscato. Sweet.”
The young Muse considers and accepts. “I’d love some. Not too much.”
I pour a second glass, half as full as my own. With a gesture, our wine, a plate of cheese, and the book float over to the table by the sofa. Clio and I sit down, and I pass her a glass.
“What that?” she asks, looking at the book on the table in front of us. Clio always notices books, being the Muse of History and all.
The Muse of History.
“Actually, I could use your help with something.” I gesture at the book. “It’s a book about the Titanomachy. One of the oldest books in the Archives.”
Clio runs her hands over the cover of the book, smiling, then unlatches and opens it. While she’s thumbing through, scanning the pages, her dark brown eyes begin to glow, like autumn sunlight through dark honey.
I reach inside my coat pocket and pull out the Nyktéria photos. I don’t want to show her, but I need to. She needs to know how serious this is. Or maybe I just need to share the burden before it breaks me.
“You might want to take another drink before you look at these, Clio. I’ve seen a lot of shit, and these even bother me.” I hand her the pictures and an explanation I still find difficult to say. “Someone hit every single one of the Gates to Nyktéria. Those…works of art were my people. Wait staff. Keykeepers. Now nothing more than twisted sculptures of blood and bone.”
I realize I’m grinding my teeth as she goes through the photos one by one. Her face pales, the horror of the carnage in the pictures banishing the flush of wine from her cheeks. She swallows hard and pushes the photos away. Pushing away the images in her mind is going to be far harder. I know.
“Who do you believe did this?”
I point at a photo. “That blackened mark on the wall…the one that looks like a ‘C’ or a crescent moon? Well, it’s not.”
I move my hand lower, pointing out the long sweep of ink — blood, to be more accurate — drawn to form a crude handle.
“It’s a scythe. A sickle.” I look at her. “Kronus’ symbol. Back when his worship was at its peak, before we overthrew the Titans, his followers would raze temples and villages to the ground and leave this mark to let us know that a Reaping had occurred. That we had been too late to stop it.”
Clio closes her eyes, thinking. “Yes, I remember. So you think a Titan is behind this?”
“Yes. A note was left on the bodies. A warning that the Godfather was returning and that those that rose would fall. Kronus was Zeus’ father.”
I hear a door open and turn to see Thanatos wandering in, between collections. He plops down in his favorite chair, quiet as usual, as I continue talking to Clio.
“We are the ones that rose after the last victory in the Titanomachy. And then, I came here a few days ago and found all of Olympus in a frenzy. People missing. Rumors from the Underworld that it was an inside job. And it’s not unknown that some of the Titans have a special…distaste for me.” I stab my finger down at the photos. “This is personal now, Clio. They murdered my people.”
Than’s jaw clenches, but he says nothing, popping a black peppermint in his mouth.
“If anyone murdered the ones I care about, I’d be doing what you’re doing now. Any Titan in particular come to mind?” Clio asks.
“I know it’s not Kronus. He’s never been the type to leave calling cards. Whoever did this wanted to scare me. Make me think it was Kronus.”
“They’re playing off your fear,” Clio observes. “They’re smart.”
A cold smile spreads over my face.
“They are fools.” I nod at the book. “Open it up, about three-quarters of the way back. The chapter on the Plains of Othrys.”
Clio flips the pages as I give the Muse a history lesson.
“The battle on the Plains of Othrys was a turning point in the war. We were holding off the Titans, but it was precarious. Even those of us who rarely fought took up arms.”
“She’s right,” Than chimes in. “That was the day I joined the fray against the Titans.”
When Clio reaches the page in question, I point down to the short passage of text that seems to blur under her finger.
“Can you read that?” I ask. “Because I can’t. I see the letters. It seems like it should make sense to me, but it doesn’t.”
Clio squints down at the page. “Strange.”
“I tried magic, tried to break the spell. All I got was three words — Titan of Betrayal.”
Thanatos frowns. “Betrayal — been a lot of that lately.”
I nod at the God of Death. “Too much, my friend.”
Clio’s brown eyes begin to glow as she searches the living archive of her mind for any trace of a Titan of Betrayal.
“Have you ever thought that maybe…it’s been erased?”
“Erased?” I ask, frowning. “What do you mean erased?”
Clio is hesitant. “Do you remember Atë? The only reason I remember her now is because I saw into her eyes, saw her history. That’s when the fog cleared.”
I sort through the memories in my mind, trying to trace the first of my memories of the Goddess of Ruin. I realize I can’t remember. “My god.”
“If I’m correct, maybe the same thing happened here. To whoever this Titan was.”
I can’t slam my wine back fast enough. Clio and I have a connection that I’m not even sure she knows. History is a landscape of all the choices made by men and gods. Clio sees the forest, while I tend the trees. Wipe away history and you wipe away choices.
And choices belong to me.
“Hekate? Are you okay?”
I feel Clio’s hand on my arm. “That’s not right, Clio. That’s not how justice happens! We’re supposed to learn from history, from the things that happen. How are we ever supposed to evolve if we just erase everything? It doesn’t matter if you erase the memories of a person, the damage they’ve done is still there!”
“That’s why I started my museum. To show mortals the past mistakes of their ancestors so they don’t repeat it.”
“And what’s to stop someone from tearing down your museum, Clio? From erasing you?”
“Good question,” Thanatos says.
Clio takes a shaky breath. The page in her hand wavers in her trembling hand. “I guess…someone could.”
I can’t stop thinking about Atë. Can’t stop pitying her. “Poor Atë.”
Thanatos grunts, obviously not agreeing with me.
“Fuck, Than. If this is true, Atë is the way she is because of this. Scoff if you want to, but we created that beast.”
Clio wipes a stray tear from her cheek and looks back down at the book. At the magically smudged words on the page.
“If anyone can remember, it’s you,” I say to Clio. “You have the histories of the ages etched on your bones. I just need you to try. My magic says that the answer I need is right there. I have to know who did this, Clio. I have to.”
Clio places her hand on the center of the page. “I’m going to try something, a trick I used to help restore the memories of Atë to several minds. It worked then. Maybe it will work now.”
As Clio closes her eyes and reaches for her power, Than moves to stand behind her, preparing to catch her — just in case. I feel a shudder in the air as Clio’s own kind of magic moves through the room. Her brown eyes glow as she stares at the page below. Black smoke starts to rise from the book, the pages curling as some invisible fire works its way across the parchment in an undulating line.
A bright flow of blood, gold and glimmering, paints a line down the Muse’s upper lip where her nose has begun to bleed. A rush of wind pushes through the room, and the black smoke dissipates as Clio pushes away from the book. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her raise her sleeve to wipe her face.
My gaze is fixed on the blackened page — no longer blurry, merely broken up by traces of a fire I never saw. I bend down and try to piece together the fragments of a story I’d forgotten existed.
“And Ostasus,” I read aloud, “Titan of…of Glory and Reknown…came broken and bloody to the Olympians with news of…of…battle. Of a battle. Forsaking his own kind, he offered the Gods information on where the next battle would be fought.”
I squint at the page. Too many words are missing for me to piece together who discovered that Ostasus was deceiving the Gods, leading us into a trap. A trap that was never sprung, thank Gaea.
“Here’s more,” I say, continuing. “And for his crimes, Zeus decreed that the Titan of Glory and Reknown should be stricken from the memory of all the Gods. That his crime was so heinous that it and he should be forgotten, erased from the minds of immortals and all mankind. And should his name be remembered, it would only be as the Titan of Betrayal, until the end of the Ages of All Gods and men…I can’t believe this. He’s been in Tartarus this whole time?!”
Than’s whisper sounds like a death rattle in the silence of the room. I look over at him, watch him wipe away a rivulet of black ichor dripping from his nose.
“It was Atë,” Thanatos says, eyes on something neither Clio nor I can see. “She figured it out. I remember…Atë, she and I…we were sent after Ostasus. To bring him in after his lies were discovered. We…we—“
The full weight of lost memory settles in Thanatos’ mind but never reaches his lips.