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Ghosts From The Past, Part 2

**Content Warning: Rape, Murder, Torture, Suicide**

I woke, hours, maybe only minutes later, to the sound of screaming. “Cecelia!” I yelled, or tried to. My voice was hoarse, no louder than a whisper, and I tried to move. “What the…? Cecelia!” I called out again, realizing they’d bound me to a chair, naked and alone in a damp, dark room. My voice, while growing stronger, was only echoing back at me, and yet I could hear her screams.

“Valeria!” she called out as I struggled against my bonds. I looked around, trying to escape. Or at least, find a way to get to Cecelia. My best friend, my sister in all but name, could never stick up for herself. It was something I loved about her. She was a wereshark, a bonnethead, but unlike me, she hid her predator side when she was top-side. The demure air she had when we danced was how she behaved all the time. It was her nature. Cecelia was trusting and kind, and I loved her dearly. I had to fix this. I owed her too much.

A new sound caught my attention, a squelching sound, and Cecelia screamed out, “No! No! Please gods, no!” I knew what it was, and it sickened me. 

I looked down at my hands, pulling and tearing at the bonds. It was a rope, tightly woven and rough. If only I had a blade with me, they would be simple enough to cut, but I just had my teeth. It had been a week since my last shift, and I could feel the serrations forming on my human teeth. I leaned as close as I could to my hand and began chewing. It took forever, and all the while, I was forced to listen to Cecelia’s rape in the other room. My face was wet with tears I had not shed in years, at the loss of someone else dear to me. 

“What do you think you’re doing?!” a voice boomed from the doorway. My teeth slipped off the rope as I jumped and slid up my forearm, slicing from wrist to elbow. I screamed as blood poured. The man closed the distance and ripped me off the chair with a strength I had never known before. It was the thinner one from the club, the one who Cecelia had danced for. So then who was… The question died in my mind as he yanked me into the other room and threw me onto the bed beside Cecelia. She was curled up in a ball, shivering uncontrollably.

I crawled over and took her in my arms, uncaring of the blood flowing from my arm. “Shh, Ceci, I will get us out of here. I promise, he will not touch you again.”

“Shows what you know, shark.” I looked up at him, the shift coming on me fast. My eyes narrowed with hate, visceral loathing, and he laughed. “Once I’m done having my way with you two, as they have promised me, you’re both going to be sold off.” My eyes widened in fear this time, and he laughed. “Oh no, not for your body, although I am quite impressed with the shape your Thresher form has as a human.” He licked his lips, and I nearly threw up. “No-no…they will sell you off for food. Did you not know? Shark fin soup is a delicacy, and threshers are very popular for that dish.”

I retched, I could not help it, but I kept it away from Cecelia. “They can do what they want. I am no good anymore,” she muttered, curling into herself. I worried for her, but when I felt the man’s hands fist in my hair and force me down, I froze. Maybe she had too. For the first time since I lost my family, I was afraid, and I hated the feeling. 

“No!” I screamed as he lined himself up. Something snapped, my fight-or-flight mode kicked in, and I fought back as much as I could. Thankfully, my teeth had not gone away yet. I pushed up on the bed, sliding through the slick of the rape and the puke to bite the man on the neck. Hard. He fell back screaming, and I grabbed Cecelia, pulling her off the bed. We ran wildly for the exit and burst into the sunrise. I realized that we were on a pier, far outside the city limits, where magic was less predictable. I felt the ground shift beneath me, which was odd on a pier, but when I looked down at my arm and saw the blood, I knew.

“Val!” Cecelia’s voice was the last thing I heard before I hit the water. 

When I woke we were miles from shore, and the sun was high in the sky. Cecelia had pulled me onto the Spring Tide and had cleaned my wound. When I rolled over, she held me still with soft trembling hands. “Do not move, Pexie, please. You lost a lot of blood, shifted quickly when we hit the water, and then shifted back when we were off the stern. You have been out for two days.”

I looked up, staring into her dark brown eyes, and saw the tears. “Ceci, I am sorry. Did I, did I hurt you?” She shook her head and stared at me. 

“You were so brave when you bit that guy. I could not…” She choked, and even though the world spun, I leaned up and embraced her. 

“I swear to you. I will hunt them down and kill them.” My voice startled me. It was dark and gritty, more so than I had ever heard. And because of that, I missed the deadpan look in Cecelia’s eyes. 

“I know…” Cecelia delayed her response, and I looked at her. She waved me off and got up. “Stay there. I will take us home.” Cecelia made her way up to steerage, and I felt my boat shift, changing tack. We were heading back into New Orleans. I curled into a ball, afraid to step foot there again. I dozed restlessly for a couple of hours until I felt the Spring Tide dock. I crawled out of bed, making my way to the deck. The sky was dark as we froze, staring at each other. 

Cecelia looked at me, and what I saw in her eyes scared me almost as much as those men had. “Ceci?” I stumbled forward and looked at her carefully. She was sitting on the edge of the boat, her feet tied together, and bound them to cement blocks. “Ceci!” 

My best friend took one look at me, tears streaming down her face. She kissed my forehead. “Avenge me, my Pexie, avenge me.” With those last words, she pushed the blocks off to the side and fell backward. I watched as she hit the water in what seemed slow motion. The brackish lake would be caustic to her if she tried breathing in it. 

“CECELIA!” I scrambled to the edge and watched her sink, shifting into her bonnethead form. Cecelia’s tail was wider than her feet, and the bindings dug into her even more. I watched her gills rip backward against the flow of the surge, and eventually she stopped moving. I dove off the edge, knowing I was already too late. Unable to shift and the water stinging my wound sharply, I swam down to her. She was not moving. I could feel my tears mixing with the water as I tried reviving her. I pulled on her bonds, tried hitting her, everything I could think of, but nothing worked. My best friend in the world, the one person who had been with me after I lost my family, was dead. I screamed into the water, the fish scattering from the bottom of the marina. I swam back to the surface for air and a knife, then dove back down as her body changed back into that of a human woman. I cut the bonds, cursing myself for not thinking of a knife earlier, and brought Cecelia back up to the surface. I could not stop crying and just clung to her all night. 

When dawn broke, I gave her a proper burial out in the middle of the Gulf. 

A week later, I still had the taste of that man in my mouth and thus in my nose. I could track him anywhere. When my feet hit the jetty, I went to work. I used my skills, born from years of the hunt, to tune out the distractions, and honed in on his scent. 

When I caught the scent, my nostrils flared, and my eyes shot open. “I have you, you son of a bitch, and there will be no escape.” I licked my lips, tasting his blood on them even though it had faded days ago. I stalked through the city. I did not stop for food or drink or sleep. I could not, I had a vow to live up to, and I would avenge her. It took me two days to find him in the basement of a seedy brothel, a screaming girl tied beneath him. I yanked him off, surprise and fear radiating across his face. 

“Do you remember me, scum?” I screamed at him. I pulled my fishing dagger from its sheath and looked at him. “You are going to pay for what you have done.” He crouched in a fighting stance, and I matched him. I was not the best fighter, but I would win this one. I had no choice. I calmed myself and felt his attack. I slashed outward, feeling the blade meet skin. I looked at him, his eyes wild with anger, and tried to keep cool. “Who sent you to find us?” 

“Estran,” he grated out, his voice gurgling with blood. I looked at the gash in his abdomen and felt pride. 

“And why us?” I asked, stalking forward.

“I told you.” He stumbled backward and fell against the wall. I stood above him, smiling darkly. “I can help you find them.” And now he was pleading.

“Oh, no.” I grinned, teeth flashing sharply. It had been another long time between my shifts because of the 6-inch laceration on my left arm. The dark purple web-lines fracturing from the main gash marred my skin, and I snarled, thrusting it in his face. “This is the only physical scar of what you and your partner did to us. Cecelia,” I choked, sobbing and continued, “she will never see the sunrise again. And neither will you.” I knelt down and grabbed his still erect penis, watching the color flush into his face and down towards my hand.

“Oh no, this will not be pleasant.” I moved quickly, biting off that weapon of destruction. My sharp serrated teeth ripped his flesh apart, and I held his gaze as I turned my head and spat it out. This would be a cruel way for him to die, massive blood loss from between his legs, but he needed to suffer. He needed to pay. The screams that filled the room brought me joy, cold and powerful, but it was joyful anyway. 

I stood up slowly, turned my back on the screaming man, and made my way to the girl. Her screams had me shaking with rage, and I quickly cut through the ropes holding her to the bed. “Go, get out of here, get some help.” She bolted from the room, and I turned back to the bleeding man on the floor. “I am going to leave you here. Maybe people will hear your screams and come down to help, but they will be too late.”

I trailed the blade along his cheek, relishing in the shiver it brought him in the last few moments of his life. I watched as he drew his last breath and smiled again. “I will see you again, in the deepest circles of hell.”

I sauntered out of the basement, a little swagger in my step, and made my way back to the Spring Tide before leaving the city forever.

*****

I gasped, waking from the dream, and looked around. Cecelia’s ghost stood nearby, and I wanted to run to her. “You avenged me, and yet, you have not.”

“I know, New Orleans has been calling me back. My brother, you, I need to find out why. I promise you, Cecelia, I will find out who did this to you, to us. Estran. I will find him and show him exactly why dealing with sharks is dangerous, especially when one has multiple weapons at her disposal.”

Cecelia’s ghost smiled, and she faded, leaving me alone with my anger and regret.

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Ghosts From The Past, Part 1

New Orleans. I spent the rest of my week thinking about the Crescent City. It was true that she had been calling me back for a while now, even before Ka’ahupahau set me on this path. To then learn that Alaran was also there and that Valen knew about it set my teeth on edge. Something, or someone, wanted me back in that city—the city where it happened. The city I vowed to never return to. And yet, I had called up my manager at Ocean Guardian and told him I would head that way once my vacation was over. I would not rush away, and I was spending some quality time with Valen. I had to say, being the fiancee to the Regis of the weresharks had its perks. But I would get into that some other time.

Valen and Leon had left the day before, informing me that Valen had business to attend back on the Island but that I would see him again soon. Leon snarled as Valen pulled me into a deep, passionate kiss, and I could tell that he was one of those sticks in the mud Valen had been telling me about. When I returned to my hotel room that afternoon, my last day in Hawaii, I found a box. Every day this week, Valen had left me gifts, little parcels appearing on my bed. Being doted on was a feeling I had never had before, and I wasn’t sure I would ever get used to it.

I picked up the box and lifted the lid. Inside, I found a glittering silver chain studded with diamonds that glittered in the afternoon light. There was a note there as well, and I lifted it out, adoring the fine script I knew as Valen’s. 

Valeria, I had this chain crafted for when you need protection. You can wear it as a necklace, or a bracelet, however you see fit. This is all I can offer you when I am not around. It will change into a whip made of pure silver. Hopefully, you will use it, but I also hope that you will never have to. 

Yours forever,

Valen, The Regis.

I smiled brightly and lifted the chain out. It felt smooth, silky, and powerful. I could feel the magic radiating through it, and I chuckled softly. “Oh, my king, this is a royal gift,” I muttered softly. When I held one end and let go of the other, it changed form into a whip. “Oh, oh! This is perfect!” I whipped it to the side, hearing the crack and grinning brightly. I shook it gently, and it changed back into the chain. I pondered how to wear it, and then the idea of an accessory I used to wear when I danced to pay tuition came to mind. I gasped as the chain immediately reacted.

“Well, this is the perfect addition. It will go with everything.” I wrapped it around my waist, clicking it into place, and looked in the mirror. “You still got it, Valeria.” I winked at myself and walked out to enjoy a swim in the afternoon heat.

*****

A week later, I was back in Miami, sorting my affairs aboard the Spring Tide. I was getting ready for my move to New Orleans but was hesitating as long as possible. I could have flown right there, Ocean Guardian would have sent my stuff to me, but I was afraid. New Orleans terrified me, between Cecelia and the dark magic that I felt last time, to the brackish lakes between the city and the Gulf. It was a hard city for me, and that was why I wanted to bring Spring Tide with me. It was my safe space, my home. I could be me, out on the sea, free from any attachments. But now I was attached. I was not free. I looked down at the ring on my necklace, a symbol of my unofficial engagement, and sighed. 

The news had spread quickly, and by the time I got back to Miami, I had received both well-wishes and death threats. Notes were stuck to the stern, and I shook my head angrily as I carefully peeled them away. I tossed the letters into the gash without reading them and made my way to the galley. I needed to prepare for the trip. Spring Tide was my single-mast sloop. Not a large houseboat, but definitely big enough for me. I looked out the portcullis above the sink and saw a storm brewing on the horizon. “Fuck,” I murmured under my breath. That was going to delay me. I placed a quick call into Pontchartrain Landing, the marina I had bought a berth at, and informed them I might be later than anticipated if I needed to sail around the storm or wait for it to pass. 

Secretly, I was hoping to delay the trip. I could afford the fees, and I really did not want to go back. And yet, there was the calling from each Ka’ahupahau, the search for Alaran, and my quest to find the Source. That last was honestly low on my priorities. Alaran was the reason I was going back. I needed to find him. Valen called yesterday to inform me he had heard some more rumors filtering his way about Alaran’s location, somewhere in the Metairie. His voice also held a sadness to it. 

“I am facing a lot of flack here, Valeria. As much as I wish I could come and stay by your side while you are in New Orleans, I don’t see that happening in the near future. I do not know if our engagement is actually legitimate since I went behind everyone’s backs to do it. I am…” I heard him sigh, and my heart went out to him. “I am creating an opening for you, my Valeria. If you find love again, take it. I do not wish to keep you bound to a promise neither of us can keep. I only hope that you find someone who will treat you like the queen I know you can be and will respect you and your boundaries.” And with that, he hung up without letting me respond.

The thought still rolled around in my heart, eating at me. I loved Valen. He knew that, and I knew he loved me, but it seemed like he finally understood the hardships we would face to make this work. It was something I wanted, but not right now. I could not even give him a time frame. I shook my head to clear the thoughts. Valen had given what seemed to be a free pass, but I did not want to take it. At least, that was what I told myself. I think part of me wanted it, a way out, one that would not have me ostracized from the community.

Standing in the galley, I looked around my home and sighed. I could not wait any longer. I made my way back up to the deck, let free the mooring lines, and started the engine. Spring Tide had a small inboard motor, mainly for marina and docking use, and I engaged it now, keeping the main and jib-sails furled for the time being. 

Once I got out into the open Gulf, I unfurled the sails and let the wind take me. It caught the mainsail in a broad reach, and I was racing. My heart thudded in my chest. Above the surface, this was one of the few ways I felt like myself. I felt the wind shift and ducked quickly as the boom took a sudden turn, and I tacked in the opposite direction. I forced the Spring Tide into a cautious close-reach, I could feel the wind shifting again, and I made my way back towards the shore. I hugged the coastline for the rest of the day and dropped anchor once the sun went down. I dove off the stern, shifting effortlessly in the water, and hunted down my dinner. The next four days passed in much the same way as I skirted the oncoming storm.

*****

The skyline of the Crescent City came into view as dusk fell on the fifth night. I was exhausted and decided to drop anchor rather than dock permanently. I curled up on the cushions in front of the steerage. Even in the lockdown, the music of the city rang true, and I could feel the magic drawing me forward. I knew, intrinsically, that I had made the right decision in coming to New Orleans, even if the city was not my favourite place. I closed my eyes, wrapped myself around the pillows like a tiny dragon clutching her hoard, and fell asleep. 

In the early hours, I awoke to the cries of a woman in distress. I looked around wildly, trying to find any sign of her, but found nothing. Perhaps she was already below? I dove in quickly, not shifting so that I could help if need be, but saw nothing, no one. I made my way back to the surface, confused. When my head broke the calm ripples, the cries started back up, but this time it sounded as though it resonated from my boat. I swam back quickly and boarded as the voice nagged at me.

“Cecelia?” My voice was ragged, scarred from the trauma, and I collapsed as the memory swept over me.

*****

“Those two,” the voice in the club that night was low and gravelly. Cecelia and I were up on stage during amateur night, and we assumed the gentleman had paid enough for two lap dances. It was not unusual for us. The managers paired us together most nights. Mostly because we were friends, but also because when I danced, I was aggressive while Cecelia was demure. The contrast drove men wild. 

When we finished our set, Cecelia and I walked to the back table where the two men sat who had ordered the dances. The larger one crooked his finger at me, and I winked at Cecelia, who moved on to the other one. “So, sirs, what have you ordered tonight?” My voice was playful and seductive. I watched as desire flooded the man’s face. 

He was clearly the more dominant of the two and was used to being in control. Here in New Orleans, that could mean anything from a human to a supernatural being. I would not feed Cecelia to him. This one I could handle myself. “A dance or three, and some drinks.” 

Cecelia and I looked at each other and draped our arms around the others’ backs. We rarely had drinks with the clients, but the manager said these were VIP, very VIP, and to afford them every courtesy we could. Cecelia nodded almost imperceptibly, telling me she was fine with the arrangement. “Alright, we can agree to that. What first? Drinks or dances?”

The smile that crossed the man’s face was horrific and dark. And for a moment, I worried our manager had sold us to the Devil. Not that they sold us per se, but there was an exchange of cash for our services. “Let’s order a round of drinks, to begin with, and then we’ll see.” The hesitant nature of the discourse was giving me the chills, but he ordered two rounds of tequila shots, and Cecelia and I smiled. This was our drink of choice.

We knocked back the shots expertly, licking the little drips off each other’s lips, and turned back to the men. “Now for a dance?” We asked, at almost the same time, and it mesmerized the men. It was a practiced dance, and by the end of the number, we knew we had them in our pockets. Or so we thought. The large man waved one server over and whispered into her ear. She nodded, looked at me apologetically, and then scurried off. When the next round of drinks came, two tall shots each for Cecelia and me, and smaller ones for the men, I began questioning this engagement.

“Bottoms up, ladies, this is a special blend of mine. The manager keeps some for only the most special girls.” Every warning bell was going off in my head, but Cecelia took her two glasses, I took mine, and we drowned them in rapid succession. I did not know something was wrong until I was looking up at the underside of the table, Cecelia’s hand grasping at mine.

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Forgotten Gods: An Invitation from No One

The sea had been calm recently, which was odd because hurricane season had begun. Perhaps it was a sign of the peace I had found recently. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed it. I was going out for more swims, to check in with Rommel and the border guards, if not actually going into Atlantis herself. Something had felt off, and I hadn’t been able to bring myself to go home properly. Regardless, I’d found myself going for longer and deeper swims than I had previously. 

That day was one such day. The Pacific was calm, visibility was infinite, and I couldn’t help but relish in the freedom the day brought. There was a sensation in my heart as if I was missing something important, but I couldn’t place it. Rommel looked over at me as we coursed through the currents, and I watched my friend’s face light up. We hadn’t swum like this in an age, and I missed it. “My lad—” he began, but my side-eye cut him off. “Amph, you should probably head back. You know how Mathieu loses his mind when you have been gone for too long.”

We had stopped swimming, and I sighed. “You’re right, my friend, but this has been such a great day.” 

Rommel nodded as we made our way back to the surface. “I know, and we will have forever to swim the waves. Have no fear of that, my queen.” We laughed, our heads breaking the surface as I lay out flat on the shimmering water.

“Same time next week?” I asked, looking over at Rommel. He nodded and smiled before diving deep and heading back to Atlantis. I closed my eyes, changed back to my human form, and teleported to my office at Nymphaeum. The sea-mist had barely dissipated around me when an invitation appeared on my desk. I picked it up carefully. The gold embossing was an elegant touch on the midnight blue background. But there was no sender information. While that had me intrigued, as did the idea of a party, it also threw up a couple of red flags. 

I walked to my closet, pulling out a dress of light blue, airy feeling chiffon. I didn’t bother with any other accouterments. Honestly, I wanted to be sure I could move if I needed to leave quickly. I sent a quick text to Mathieu to let him know I was heading to a party, then disappeared into the sea mist that encircled me whenever I teleported.  

The scent of the ocean still wafting around me, I popped into the warehouse and looked around. “Who sent this invitation? I was barely back to the office when it arrived.” My comment was a general one. If anyone answered, so be it. 

Selene, Artemis, Athena, Eris, Eros, Clio, and even Zeus were already in attendance. Whatever the event was, it must have been big to pull the king out of his office. A few moments after I entered, Adrestia and Nike arrived. I also saw Thanatos, who had been hiding and trying to escape. Dikê showed up, looking as fierce as she had the last time I saw her, which was forever ago. Even Erebus, Atë, and Hekate made appearances, although the Primordial had conspicuously not arrived with the other two.

Most of the family were dressed to impress. We never missed an opportunity to show off. My heart skipped a beat when Poseidon walked in. He always looked amazing. But my heart soared when Dion arrived, and I resisted the urge to race into his arms. Instead, I took a drink from the only non-family member I could see in the room. He was good-looking in an unassuming way, but I didn’t pay him much mind. The drink he was calling ambrosia had a sweet taste to it, and I found I desired another glass or two.

Dion and I made our way to each other, eventually. He had an extra glass of ambrosia, which he passed me, and I smiled gratefully. There was plenty of conversation throughout the room, so we didn’t feel the need to speak to fill the void. Zeus gave a speech about parties and not getting together enough. He received cheers and applause, then the conversation turned to who had organized the party. Dion, while adamant he hadn’t, wouldn’t say no to taking credit. I had to chuckle. Although he could go elegant when necessary, the evening wasn’t the normal shindig he’d have organized. 

We didn’t have much time to contemplate who brought us all together. Suddenly the lights lowered, and the sound of loud chanting came through hidden speakers. Voices overlapped as magic surged all around us. The black silk that decorated the walls wavered around the warehouse before falling. Glowing mirrors lined the interior. Runes were etched on each frame, along with the name of a god. They pulsed with power, all in sync with each other, but their focus was directed toward one individual god. My eyes focused on one. I could feel the call of the sea in it, but not the calm seas I had emerged from earlier. The current was too strong for me to resist. I knew, for the briefest moment before I was dragged in, this was not a mirror with which to trifle. I tried reaching out for Dion, but my body wouldn’t respond. Before I realized what was happening, I hit the floor and my mind careened into the mirror.

*****

“Trix, wake up. You go on in ten minutes!” a deep voice boomed through the PA system. 

I was startled awake. The dream fading into the background. I shook my head as I looked into the mirror. Sleep matted my blonde hair. I would need to fix it quickly. I grabbed my large wire brush and ran it through my hair. Once I had the nice waves I preferred, I placed some decorative pins in to keep it out of my face. My blue eyes sparkled as I touched up my mascara. The blurred, smoky look of my eye-shadow would be perfect for the set. I got up, found my red silk gown, a favourite of mine, and put it on. I tied the sash around my waist, pushing my breasts up, and smiled. “Bombshell, Trix. Perfect.” A quick application of red lipstick, a kiss on the mirror, and I was out the door.

As I walked the hallways backstage, I looked out a window and saw that night had fallen over the New York skyline. I found myself backstage with just enough time to don a pair of strappy red heels before I heard Revan call my name. “And now, for the one you’ve all been waiting for, give it up for…Trix!” I burst onto the stage to a loud round of applause, my smile widening. Some stars need drugs to get high. I needed the shine. I loved the spotlight. It made me feel amazing. That I was a talented singer only seemed to help. I was on the way to the top, something I had worked toward for years. Revan had told me earlier in the day that there would be agents from multiple record companies in the audience. That had just fueled the fire within me.

I could almost feel the tension in the crowd as the first notes of the song began. I shivered with anticipation. I opened my mouth, heard the crowd inhale with me, and began. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t stop. I was addicted to the sensation. My song choices for the night included some of my favourite covers that showcased my range and a few originals. Although I did not know where the titles had come from. Siren SongMaelstrom, and Wine Dark Sea had come to me in a dream I’d had the previous night. I’d shaken it off when I was writing them and just plunged on. Anyway, it was going to be my night. 

A face, well two faces, appeared before me as I was halfway through Wine Dark Sea, a song about the love of two stormy, powerful beings who were opposite yet complemented one another. One face had auburn hair and brown eyes, with a well-trimmed beard. The other had brown hair, blue eyes, and a clean-shaved face. They seemed to call out to me, but their mouths let out no sounds. I tried to focus on the song, to shake the vision away, but the room spun around me. The last thing I knew, my head was cracking against the stage floor, and the crowd began screaming.

https://www.inthepantheon.com/an-invitation-from-no-one/lady-of-the-seas/amphitrite/

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A New Review for Apotheosis

I received this review/email yesterday for Apotheosis, and well, I damned near cried.

Dear Ms Bartley,

I grew up with the visions of distant galaxies and worlds beyond my imagination. I thought that vision would not be fueled anymore after The Return of the Jedi. Suddenly on a family trip, while at the airport, I saw my first Star Wars novel on the shelves. I asked my dad for money and that book became my vacation’s most prized memory.

That was the day I started my journey into fantasy.

In this journey I’ve encountered many magical tales and worlds, and recently I stumbled upon Apotheosis on Amazon. I read it over a period of 6 days. I was fascinated on how you modeled Olympus; I had never seen the ancient gods in this realistic, modern day light, and dealing with the problems you point out throughout the story. I love how Ely is thrown into a world that although familiar to her, challenges her beyond her comprehension. You also might enjoy knowing I’ve spent the last fifteen years trying to follow somewhat in your footsteps, as a novelist, creating worlds of my own. One day, if I’m published, I hope to send you a copy of my work.

Your writing introduced me to a wonderful universe of gods, deceit, and characters that have inspired me. I enjoyed especially the journey Ely goes through with her life changing and taking her place as a god. I also like that your style is epic and cinematic.

After many years, I now believe I might be ready for a publisher. My love, The Eternal Summons, tells the story of two young soldiers in a distant galaxy who find themselves fighting off an enemy invasion, their former mentors, and their families while trying to escape a living planet that has them trapped inside it.

Today I am a better writer because of you, in many ways. One of the most important is that your writings on Ely helped me see how to write a better main female character. I love how she is full of life, but courageous and tough under the circumstances she is faced with. If you ever accept an advance reading copy of a novel by a new author who’s one of your newest fans, let me know. You’ll be at the top of my list if my work is published. But I’m already appreciative of what you’ve done to help in my pursuit as a writer. That alone, is everything.

Sincerely,

Julian Robledo

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A Strange Homecoming, Part 3

“I want you to be my wife.” The words resounded in my brain, and I froze. They echoed in there, reverberating, repeating, taunting me with the one thing I knew I could never have. If Valen had not have been holding me, I would have sunk. 

“Are you fucking serious?” I did not swear often, and by the look on Valen’s face, I do not think he was expecting it. “You cannot seriously want me. I am not even of your species, your class!” Why did I feel so angry about this? It certainly was not the question I was expecting. 

“Val, listen to me.” I looked up at him, tears threatening to well up in my eyes. “I want to dismantle the old regime. It is not working anymore. We are dying faster than we are being born. Part of that is because we stick to the species and class lines. If we were just sharks, that would be a different story, but I know for a fact that the weres can mate with others outside of their own species.”

I stared at him. I do not think I realized how passionate he was about all this. “How do you know? There has never been a crossbreed before.” Valen held me still, and I did not try to fight. Something was comforting about being in his arms, and I did not want to leave.

“After you left,” he paused and looked away, “the Island the last time, my father had another pup. I have a sister, she is three, and she is a crossbreed.” Valen’s gaze returned to mine, and I could tell this was hard for him. After a moment, he looked back at me and smiled. “She is fine, healthy, and happy, but when my father died, her mother took her away. I have not seen Phydia since my father’s funeral.” 

I wrapped my arms around Valen’s back and pulled him towards me. “I am sorry, Valen, I really am. What was her mother?”

“A Blue, so Phydia is smaller and thinner than she would have been if she were my full sister.” I smiled at the image in my head and placed my forehead against Valen’s shoulder. “Her mother took her away because she thought Phydia would get special treatment with her father being the Regis. But, when I inherited the role, Ixis thought her world was ending and took my sister. You know me. You know how long I rallied against my father to end the class system. If Ixis and Phydia had stayed, they would be perfectly well off, but now?” I heard him sigh, his breath tingling on my neck. “She has made them both outcasts, and until I change the system, knock it into the 21st century, they will not return.”

I nodded and nudged Valen gently with my head. “So, the only reason you want me as your mate is to break the rules?”

Valen’s head shot up, and he stared down at me. “No, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.” My mouth fell open before he claimed my lips in a kiss. I got lost in the currents of his emotions and nearly let myself go. Nearly.

“No, I know,” I whispered, breaking the kiss. “But Valen, I cannot marry you right now. I have to find Alaran first.” Wait, did I just say yes, but sometime in the distant future?

Valen caught it as well and smirked. “Well, I will take that as a promise for tomorrow.” I choked and looked around me. We were so far out to sea that I could not see the shore. It was not a big deal for us; predators would not dare to attack us. In the water, even though our forms were human, we still had our animal pheromones. “Swim back with me, and we can talk some more.”

I nodded and took off, making it a game. I wanted him to catch me. I felt him take off, my senses almost as strong as if I had shifted, and I swam faster. I was built for speed, for sprints, but Valen was built for endurance. In the end, he would win. The question was, how long could I hold out for? As we neared the beach, I felt Valen’s arms wrap around me and pull me under the surface, sending me into giggling fits. He spun me around, stared at me under the full moonlight, and I stared back. He was gorgeous, looking like some divine being to be worshipped. 

Valen pulled me into a slow, tender, loving kiss, and I finally realized how long he had been holding these feelings in. He kicked us back up to the surface and propelled us to the beach. He wrapped his arms around my waist and carried me onto dry land. “When, Valen? When did you know?” I had to confirm my suspicions.

“Shortly before I left for school when I was six.” My mouth fell open. We were nearly mature then. I was two years away from going to university at that time. “You were always around, always teasing me with that glorious tail of yours.” I blushed, and Valen kissed me again. “What about you? When did you know you loved me?”

I bit my lip as Valen placed us down on the sand. Leon was, thankfully, nowhere to be seen. “I do not remember not loving you.” It was Valen’s turn to blush and mine to pull him into a kiss. “But everyone told me not to because you were the crown prince and a Great White. I could never be with you.”

“And now you can, because I am asking you again, Valeria Alopex. Marry me. It does not have to be tomorrow, next month, or even next year. But please, promise me that one day we will be mated properly, and I will be the happiest man in the world.” Valen wore his heart on his sleeve as he stared down at me.

“I have things I need to do first. I have this mission from Ka’ahupahau, and I need to find my brother.” I paused, drew a deep breath, inhaling Valen’s scent, potent and powerful. Then I looked at him intently. “When all of that is complete, yes, I will marry you.”

Valen let out a primal yell of joy, and I beamed up at him. I knew that even though I loved him, and he loved me, the likelihood that this union would go ahead would be slim to none. There were so many in the community who were against forward-thinking that it would be an uphill battle. I was not lying though, I would marry him, but I also knew that eventually, he would end up paired with someone in his own class, and I would be left alone. Why then did I say yes?

My thoughts were interrupted by his lips, his body, his desire pressing down on me, and I stared up at him, squirming to get out from beneath Valen’s being. “I…no, I ca—” I rolled out, trying not to hit him. Valen just stared at me with worry in his eyes as I popped up into a standing position, ready to run.

“Valeria, what is wrong?” he asked carefully, moving slowly and standing in front of me. I looked at him. I must have appeared wild and crazy. “Talk to me please, I do not want to hurt you.”

I took a deep breath and tried to calm the fight-or-flight instinct coursing through my veins. “This, here, now… It is not something I can do.” I wrapped my arms around myself, trying not to look at the scar on my left arm. I should have covered it up. 

“Are you, you cannot be? Are you still a virgin?” Valen asked slowly, not judging but sounding worried.

I shook my head. “Would you want me to be? I am sorry, I cannot give you that side of me. Not yet.” Not ever, I thought. 

“That does not matter to me. What matters to me is not harming you or forcing you into situations that are uncomfortable for you.” I could feel the love in his voice, and when I looked back up at him, I calmed down even more and fell to the ground. Valen kneeled beside me but did not touch me. “If you want to tell me, Val, you can, but I will not push you. I hope you know that with me, you are completely safe.”

I knew he believed he was telling me the truth, and that meant the world to me. “I have had partners before, not many, but I am not inexperienced.” Valen chuckled and held out a hand to me. I took it and stood up, and Valen immediately pulled me into his arms. “I was…it is not a memory I try to dwell on, Valen. I am sorry.”

I heard a sharp intake of breath and felt him still. The air grew quiet as his arms tightened around me, and I could tell that Valen was trying to keep his anger in check. “You were raped.”

The phrase was matter-of-fact and straightforward, but I shook my head. “No, Valen, I was not, but I was with someone who was. We were attacked together. The guy took her first, but when it was my turn…” I shuddered, and Valen’s arms tightened around me even more. “I am sorry, I will stop.” Most of the time, when I told people the story, they would tell me to get over it, I was not the one raped, so it should be less of a burden on me. But they did not know the whole thing.

“Continue, please. I need to know how I can help,” he grunted out, and I nodded.

“When it was my turn, I bit him. I do not know why Cecelia did not think of it, but I drew blood, and we ran out of there as fast as our legs could carry us. The man that assisted with the capture, who did not take part, was nowhere to be seen.” I felt Valen nod against me, and I continued. “We went to the police. They took everything down, but never found the man. I did. You know how well I can track. He will no longer bother anyone else.”

“That is my girl. But the other man, is he in the wind?”

“Yes, I never saw him again, but I have not forgotten his face. If I ever see him again…” I trailed off, and Valen held me away from him so that he could look at me.

“You come directly to me. I will deal with this bastard myself.” Valen’s voice was gravelly, I could hear the authority of the Regis as he spoke, and I nodded.

“As you wish, Regis, but I cannot promise that he will be in one piece.”

Valen laughed heartily. “I can understand that. That is fair.” Valen looked down at me, his features softening a little. “Is there more to the story?” I nodded. “Then please.”

“Cecelia was overcome with the shame of it, she…” my voice caught in my throat, and a sob escaped me. I had never told anyone this, and it was threatening to tear me apart. Valen just pulled me back into his embrace and kissed the top of my head. “She killed herself. Put weights on her feet, threw herself off a boat, shifted on her way down, and waited for death to claim her.”

This made Valen pause. “She was one of us?” 

I nodded. “The only Bonnethead I had ever met. Not many of them are weres.”

“No, the community will be sorry for the loss. Why did we not know this?”

“I do not know, until Leon and you, I have not seen another were since then. I may have been avoiding the community.”

Valen laughed and kissed the top of my head again. “Well, there is no avoiding us now. Not now that we are engaged.” I heard a hitch in his breath as he spoke, like he could not believe it. “I have something for you.” He stepped back, took my hand, and we walked towards where our clothing was.

When we saw the pile of clothing that was ours, Valen let go of my hand and bent over to pick up a small black box. I knew what it was, but Valen still got down on one knee and presented it to me. “Valeria Alopex, will you marry me?” He popped it open, and my mouth fell. Inside was a silver ring, with a round gem set into it. I did not know what the gem was, but it glittered a light blue-purple. When I looked closer at the band, it was fashioned in the shape of a tail, a Thresher tail.

“Of course, Valen, you know I will.” I meant it. I really did. He took my left hand, and instead of sliding the ring on my finger, he placed it in my palm.

“I know you said not now, so wear it as a necklace until you are ready. When you are, place it on your finger, and I will know.” The thought he had put into this surprised me. “I know you think I will forget or get tired of waiting, or find someone different,” he hit the nail on the head there, “but I want you to know, it is only you. I had this ring fashioned specifically for you, Valeria. There will be no other Regina for me.”

I clasped the ring, and Valen stood back up. “Now, I believe you said something about finding your brother?”

I nodded and sighed. “I did, but I do not know where to start.”

Valen chuckled and kissed me softly. “I can help you with that.” I looked up at him quizzically. “The last I heard, Alaran was in New Orleans.”

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A Strange Homecoming, Part 2

Leon and the Regis flanked me as I exited the caves. We could not stop moving, so they must have been swimming in the area while I was talking to Ka’ahupahau. My heart skipped a beat as we made our way out to sea. This was the Regis here, and even though he was the smaller of the two males, the Great White Shark was terrifying.

“Why did you run, Valeria?” His voice resounded in my head, but it was not the one I was expecting. Shit, it was his son.

“When did you—” I cut myself off. The only way that the position of Regis was passed down was if the previous Regis had died. His son, if he had one, immediately assumed his title and role. This meant continuity in the community, but it also posed a problem. I had no idea what he was going to ask me.

“Two years ago.” He slowed down as much as he could without stopping and turned his giant head towards me. “Right after you left New Orleans the last time.

How did he know? I was no one from a relatively small family, one that had died in one of the worst environmental disasters in modern history. “I am sorry, Regis. Your father was a good ruler.”

“Thank you.” His voice was soft and worried. 

We swam in silence, Leon leading us to a private pier. There were no humans around, so we were able to swim right up to the dock or the beach. Leon and the Regis took the beach option, shifting as they swam and walking straight out of the surf. I leapt into the air and shifted as I came down, landing softly on the wooden pier. Both men had swim shorts on. We’d had to become accustomed to wearing swim gear under our regular clothing. As we made our way back toward each other at the base of the pier, I looked the Regis over. I was so used to his father that seeing Valen caught me by surprise.

Even though he was only a year older than me, Valen’s hair was streaked with silver. It made him look more distinguished. I could not help but admire him on a physical level. I was still unimpressed that I was being backed into a figurative corner here. “What is it you want, Valen?”

Leon surged forward and grabbed my arm. “That is The Regis to you, Valeria Alopex.” 

I wrenched my arm out of his hand and snarled, “Do not ever touch me again.” 

Valen stepped between us. “Enough. Valeria, do not go pissing off my man. Leon, cool your head. I am sure that Val is getting used to me being the Regis.” That was for damn sure. I could not believe that this man I grew up with, spent most of my life with as the children, was now the king of all weresharks. Although, when he said my name just then, I nearly swooned. “Val, please hear me out.”

I looked up at him. Valen was still taller than me by a couple of inches, and his muscles rippled in the Hawaiian sun. “What is it, Regis?” I could not let myself get pulled into the drama he was bringing, but I could not leave.

I watched as my king, my Regis, sighed as if a great weight was settling on his shoulders. “I know that my father asked you to take up Lochlyn’s post.” I hissed with a sudden intake of breath. “I am not going to ask you that, even though it would make me happy.” Valen ran his hand through his hair, and the look on his face was almost sheepish. He was beautiful.

“Why?” I whispered, more to myself regarding why this stupid attraction was rearing its ugly head now. 

Valen took it as a question to him, though, and responded, “Why would it make me happy? Well…you know, I always kind of had a soft spot for you.” His voice was barely louder than mine, yet my blood chilled. 

“You can not. Those feelings can not be.” I turned away and looked back over the open ocean. “Valen.” I felt his hands on my shoulders and almost melted. No, no, this could not be happening. 

“I am not asking anything of you, Valeria, just that you have dinner with me. Tonight, please.” I could tell that he was still keeping back, staying out of my space, but keeping in contact. “Let us just be two old friends, enjoying a meal in peace and laughter. Can we do that?”

I turned around and looked up at him. His soft brown eyes stared down at me, with a look I had never seen before. “I,” my shoulders slumped, and I leaned my head against his chest without thinking, “yes, I will meet you for dinner. But, all I have are my shorts and t-shirts.”

Valen smiled and tilted my chin up slightly. “I will make sure that Leon brings something appropriate to your room.”

I heard a grunt come from Leon. He had been silent this whole time, and I stepped back out of Valen’s arms, my sense of propriety taking over. “How do you know where I am staying?” 

Valen smiled brightly and chuckled. “How did Leon know when and where to intercept you at the airport?”

“Are you stalking me, Valen?” Leon growled, and I stared back. I was not going to be intimidated by these two. 

“Following, please. Kings do not stalk,” he replied coyly.

I snorted and jumped off the dock onto the beach. “No, kings do not, but their manservants do. Fine, I will meet you for dinner, Regis.” I looked back up at him, a twinge of desire floating through me. “I am sure the details will find their way to me.” 

I began jogging away, and I heard Valen call after me, “I will see you tonight, Valeria!” I did not turn around, just kept running down the beach, my legs taking me further away from the confusing man behind me. 

When I returned to my room, I found a box in front of the door. I picked it up carefully and entered the room. I was curious to see what was in the package and how it had gotten here before I did. I also wanted to wait and open it later. Eventually, my curiosity won out, and I slid the ribbon off and opened it. The first thing that caught my eye was the beautifully pale purple, like the colour in a sunset. I picked it up and felt the slink as it shifted in my hands. 

“Oh my,” I commented as I held it up against me and looked in the mirror. It was a one-shoulder cocktail dress that went to my ankles. The arm with the shoulder had a sleeve attached, and the leg opposite had a long slit up it. I walked back over to the box and saw a note and a black bathing suit beneath it. 

I picked up the note and read it out loud. “Dear Valeria, I wish for you to meet me at 7 PM at the La Mer restaurant. Please wear the bathing suit underneath. I made sure that it would not be visible under the dress. I would like to go for a swim once we have finished eating. If you decide not to join me, I will be disappointed, but I will understand. Place the box back outside your door and Leon will come and collect it. I hope to see you tonight. Yours truly, Valen the Regis.”

My heart quickened. This was shaping up to be a date, and I had already said yes. I could always change my mind, but I knew that would hurt him, and hurting the Regis was the last thing a wereshark wanted to do. I set the dress down on my bed and jumped in the shower. If I were doing this, I would make sure to look good. 

The shower felt wonderful, and I washed my left arm carefully. The scar I bore from my last trip to NOLA still hurt when I pushed on it, and Leon had grabbed it earlier. I looked down at the long purple laceration that ran the length of my forearm with some cracking along the sides. Saltwater was not good for the healing process, so I’d put off my shift after the incident for as long as I could. I made it eight days before it was forced upon me. I would normally put some makeup on it to conceal it a little. But if tonight was a date, I wanted Valen to see the important parts of me, and those came with scars. 

I began pinning my hair up into a half-do, leaving some of it down, and then I went over to the box and pulled out the bathing suit. A shimmering black, I could see all the colours of the rainbow when it moved. I pulled the suit on and admired how well it fit. Someone knew my size, and I was not sure I liked that thought. If the bathing suit fit, that meant the dress would too. I picked it up again, watching the colour sparkle in my hands. I slipped the dress over my head and settled it down over my body. It fit like a glove, and I marvelled at the feeling of it. I did not dress up often, if ever, and this made me feel special. I found a pair of strappy heels in the very bottom of the box and slid them on. I did not have a clutch or a purse, but I did not need one either. I kept my makeup simple and did not wear any jewelry. At 6:45, I headed out of my room and made my way down to the restaurant.

I arrived a bit early and made my way to the bar. I had a feeling I would need some liquid courage and ordered a Sex on the Beach, sipping it quietly. I turned away from the bar at the exact moment that Valen walked in. His black suit and tie accented all the muscles I knew were underneath. Leon was nowhere to be seen, but I knew he was around. Valen caught my eye and smiled easily, looking younger and more relaxed with each moment that passed.

As he walked in my direction, I had the faint thought of his shark stalking mine as prey and almost ran. It was not unheard of, the larger breeds eating the smaller species when necessary. “Valeria, you look wonderful.” His voice was breathless. As I slid off the chair, he took my hand and kissed it gently. I was blushing. I knew that I was.

“Thank you, Valen. You clean up quite nicely yourself.” He held out his elbow, and I took it carefully. This whole event had me confused, and I did not enjoy the sensation. Valen wheeled us into a back room, where there was a reserved sign on the table. “Is it just us tonight?” I could feel my nerves spiking. I was not sure if it was because Valen was gorgeous, there I admitted it, if it was because he was the Regis, or something else, but I was on edge. 

“Leon is nearby, as always.” I nodded and sat down as Valen pushed my chair in for me. “But yes, it is just us.” I heard him gulp behind me and then sit down opposite me. “Do you like the dress?”

“Yes, Regis, I do.” The moment I said it, I watched his shoulders curl up slightly and regretted using his title. “I’m sorry, Valen, protocols and whatnot.”

He just nodded and sighed. “I was about to say, no Regis tonight. I am just Valen here, your friend.” He waved the waiter over, and we ordered some food. We both got fish, with some white wine to pair. Even though I could tell there was something on Valen’s mind, I could tell he did not want to discuss it over dinner. Instead, he sparkled with intelligent conversation and asked about my time with Ocean Guardian. Valen seemed genuinely interested in my work, and I found it easy to talk with him. 

When we were done with dinner, he took my hand, and we walked out to the beach, enjoying the night air and each other’s company. “Swim with me?”

I giggled softly and nodded. “I assume that is why the bathing suit accompanied the dress?”

“I thought it would be nice, a moonlight dip, as us, no need to shift.” I stared up at him, trying to read his expression, but found it impossible. 

I walked over to a lounger and slowly pulled the dress off, putting my shoes beside it. “Catch me if you can, Valen.” And I took off running into the water. I did not watch as Valen changed, but I heard him splash into the water, and I dove below.

He was faster than I thought, and in moments, I felt Valen’s arms wrap around me and pull me back to the surface. I was stunned. I thought I would never experience this feeling. But against all odds, I felt myself falling for him. Feelings that I had buried deep within when we were younger came rushing to the surface. I did the unexpected, something that could get me exiled, if not killed, if it was taken the wrong way. I pulled Valen into a kiss as deep as the ocean below us and bright as the moon above. I melted into his arms and felt him wrap his arms around me tighter. The man I had secretly loved since childhood seemed to love me back.

The kiss broke, and he pressed his forehead against mine, inhaling deeply. “Valeria, I did not know…I had always hoped…”

“What, Valen? What has my king so wound up in knots?” I teased, kissing his nose softly.

Valen tilted my chin up, so I was staring into his brown eyes, and I could see anguish and love and patience and worry all written on his face. “I,” he paused and took a breath, “I want you to be my wife.”

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The Spring Tide

The end of March was rough. Between the whirlwind trip around the world with Dion for Dionysia and running into my father again, I felt run ragged. So naturally, the tides had to be in full swing as well. I’d forgotten that Spring Tide was the 30-31. Normally I would have sheltered beneath the waves and let the energy flow through me and around me. But I forgot, and if I’m honest, I’ve been reluctant to shift into foam or take on the sea since I returned. I’m afraid of losing myself and never returning. I hadn’t voiced these fears to anyone. What would I say?

I lay in the water off the coast, as just me. No special forms, nothing elaborate, and felt the shifting of the moon. The full moon rose a couple of days ago, but I still felt her power and her strength filling me. Life was crazy. I needed release and time. I had been erratic this last week at Nymphaeum, uncooperative, almost to the point of rudeness. It was inexcusable, and when I finally made the connection to the Spring Tide, I removed myself from all human presence. I hadn’t even spoken to Alessa this week. All I did was text to let her know I was disappearing for a couple of weeks while I dealt with some personal stuff.

Same with Dion. A text, and that was it. And really, it was more to tell him some good news. Earlier this week, Sel had texted me and asked me to meet her and Artemis at Nymphaeum to help plan their wedding, which I was ecstatic to host. I could have brought in the wedding planner we kept on retainer for it, but I wanted my hands in this pie. I wanted to make sure this event went off without a hitch. It was more important to me than the grand opening, and I prayed to everyone I knew that it would be better attended as well.

I met with her and Arty, planners at the ready, and began working out decor details. They had chosen soft pink peonies and gardenias, offset silver and midnight blue draping. I had a few ideas up my sleeves on accents, but would keep those cards close to my chest until the wedding. Things seemed to be winding down until Selene cleared her throat and looked at me. 

“I have another question for you, Amph. One a bit closer to the heart.” I could tell she had been chomping at the bit to get to this part.

I turned to look at her, tilting my head a little as Artemis lowered her eyes with a knowing grin. “What’s up, Sel?”

Selene smiled brightly and met my gaze. “Would you be my maid of honor?” My jaw hit the floor as I stared at her.

Artemis looked between us excitedly as Selene giggled. I leapt up and hugged her tightly. “Yes, of course, I will. I would love to!” The question had caught me by surprise. I had never expected to be considered for the role.

Artemis clasped her hands as she watched us, Sel’s glow returning as she hugged me back. “I am glad. I am so glad you are here. I missed you so much,” Selene commented. I could hear the sadness and joy radiating through her voice, and I felt it too, more than I realized.

“I have missed you, too.” As I released her and went back to my seat, I felt the shift, the tidal changes approaching. I keeled slightly to the side before sitting back down. I loved Selene dearly, Artemis too, but I needed to finish my portion of this planning session. 

We talked about our fathers and the distance between them and us. I felt bad for both Arty and Selene, neither of whom had seen their fathers for such a long time. I felt ashamed that Nereus and I had recently reconnected because they hadn’t had that luck yet. 

So I began plotting a casual coffee between my father, Sel, and her father. I couldn’t do much for Artemis, which made me sad. I wanted both of my friends to be happy, and it saddened me to think that they may not be on the day of the wedding. We spent the rest of the time chit-chatting. A few more divine bodies dropped in, some literally, and we enjoyed reconnecting. 

As the week went on, I dragged. My movements became erratic, then sluggish, then fevered. I felt like I was chasing a high to a drug I’d never taken, crashing randomly and then soaring back into the stratosphere. I needed to hide, and there was no better place than in the middle of the ocean. I texted Dion, Alessa, and Mathieu and told them I would be back, I didn’t know when, but I would be. I debated on telling Pater, since if I did let loose, he was the only one who could reel me back in if needed. But I didn’t want to worry him unnecessarily.

So I left. I put my phone in my office and walked into the surf, not far from where I left Mathieu when I headed back to Atlantis. The notion that I hadn’t been back there since my incident in the Trench hadn’t escaped me. I would need to return soon, but not when I was already so chaotic. It would do Atlantis no good for her queen to be a mess, and I loved my home too much to subject her to my madness once more. 

I sighed, closed my eyes, and just floated. It felt good to release control, to let the currents take me wherever they wanted. Flotsam on the surface of the world was I, and I basked in the ebb and flow of the Pacific Ocean. I could feel the moon pulling on us, stretching the planet slightly. I chuckled at the memories of two young Titans just coming into their powers, just beginning their dance. Selene and I were sisters through more than blood. I knew that whatever problems I faced, I could so long as she was around. It made my heart soar that she had found love. 

The thought of love brought me back to my senses, even if only a little. I wished I could share this world with Nisos, to bring him home with me and show him the splendour of the sea as only the sea deities could know. I had begun to feel a tear in me. A need to choose between Atlantis and the surface. I think deep down, I knew I would have to give one up in the end. I also innately knew I would be unhappy with whichever choice I made.

I began to sink, the weight of indecision, guilt, and fear pulling me down. The indecision was obvious, even if it wasn’t a choice I had to make immediately. That brought on the guilt. If I left the surface, I would be leaving Nisos, and my heart, up top. If I relinquished my throne and ties to Atlantis, who then would I be? My sense of self was intricately tied to the underwater realm and her king. Who then would I be without them? The guilt was harder to trace, and it was here, contemplating this emotion, that the whirlpool began. No storm raged above, yet I rested at the bottom of the great maw as the ocean whipped around me. I sat there, the energies of the Spring Tide, the full moon, Dionysia, all converging upon me. I realized I wasn’t guilty. I had no reason to be guilty. I had found love. Nisos loved me as fiercely as I loved him. I had my own business that brought people happiness and taught them about the importance of the oceans. I had my own space, which given all my sisters and brothers, was in short supply. I was free. Not just untethered from past attachments, but from my past self.I no longer worried about the storm raging inside. I opened my eyes and looked at the controlled chaos around me. The whirlpool was beautiful, and I soared around the vortex, relishing in its simple joy. I imagined this was what flying felt like. I leapt from one side and dove through the other, laughing wildly as the gulls circled overhead. All manners of sea life had come to investigate the new whirlpool, and I could feel their beady little eyes on me, judging me. I didn’t care. For once in my life, I didn’t care what they thought, what they reported back, or to whom. Tell the rest of the ocean I was off my meds. I didn’t care. For whatever reason, I finally felt like I was moving on with my life after returning from two-thousand years of slumber. I was free.

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A Strange Homecoming, Part 1

“Aloha, and welcome to Hawaii!” the greeters called out as my flight exited through baggage claim. I did not need to claim anything, as all I had with me was a small carry-on. I made my way to the exit, eager to be in the open sea air. A man blocked me, a large, ungainly man, yet an instantly recognizable one. 

“Miss Alopex, it is good to see you again,” the man’s voice boomed in my ears.

I sighed and leaned against the wall, putting some distance between us. “Leon, it has been a while. Why are you here?” I was on vacation, or at least I was hoping to be.

“The Regis seeks your company.” His words were curt, and my breath stopped.

“He is here?” Leon nodded as I shook. “No, he knows my answer. It has not changed since the last thousand times he has asked. I will not.” I pushed myself off the wall, slung my backpack over my shoulder, and tried to walk past Leon.

The massive man blocked my path with his arm, and I looked up at his dark brown eyes. “You will see the Regis before you leave the island, or you will suffer severe consequences, Valeria, daughter of Lochlyn.” I shivered violently, even against the humid Hawaiian air. Leon’s voice dropped, and I found that I could not look at him. “How long has it been since your last shift?” My head snapped up as he continued. “You think he is not out there, waiting?”

I shouldered my way past, his last words ringing in my ears. “The moment you hit the water, Valeria, he will know.” As soon as I burst into the sunlight, I took off running. The resort I was staying at was over the water, and I had a vague idea of the direction I needed to go. I could have taken a taxi, but this need to run was primal. It was animalistic, and if I understood anything, it was animal instinct. 

After a brisk jog, I found the resort. Even though this was a vacation, my work was putting up for the accommodations because I was doing additional research into the locals’ ocean preservation methods. I was ok with that because it gave me opportunities to swim around the islands, see things firsthand, and gauge how effective they were. Ocean Guardians did not know how lucky they were to have me on their staff. I checked in and made my way to my room.

The breeze flowed through the room, calling me to the water, and as I sat down and looked over at the azure sea, I battled myself. If I went in, the Regis would surely find me. He was bigger and stronger, but I was faster. I was sure that I could get away if he caught up to me, but was it worth it?

It had been days since I had been in the water, and my skin was beginning to itch. Damn it, Leon was right. I needed to swim. I needed to shift. I jumped up quickly, changed into the pale green bikini I had brought with me, and made my way down to the beach. I picked up a towel from the bar, but I was lost once my feet hit the sand. The ocean beckoned me, and I dropped the towel, running full-tilt into the surf. My feet crashed into the salt-water, and I felt my skin begin to melt away. I dove beneath the surface and swam as fast as I could. My body elongated and narrowed, becoming streamlined, like a bullet. My caudal fin shot out behind me, doubling my length to 15 feet. My arms shortened slightly and flattened into two pectoral fins, and my face rounded out, with large round eyes and wicked sharp teeth. All in all, I looked like any other thresher shark in the waters. 

As soon as the transformation was complete and I was far enough away from the shore, I picked up on a few presences. One of them was Leon. He was massive and nearby. The other one I recognized was Great. Fuck. The Regis was here, and he was closer to me than Leon. I turned and swam in the opposite direction yet stayed away from the shoreline. I would not be responsible for bringing a bull shark and a great white shark into populated areas. 

I felt the chase begin, and I sighed. While yes, I was faster than both of them. I had been running recently, which tended to tire me out. A few miles in, and I felt myself slowing and the others gaining. 

“Valeria,” a voice echoed in my mind. But I did not know why or how or where it came from. “Come to me, Valeria.” It was feminine, and I realized that the two males had stopped their pursuit. I took the chance and put on a burst of speed, leaping 20 feet into the air, and reentering the water with an open mind. There were underground caverns nearby, and the voice seemed to come from there.

As I entered the cave system, I felt magic surrounding me. Weresharks had their own innate magic and an ability to change at will. But this magic was more than that. I needed to know what it was. There was a large opening, and the surface appeared, so I approached cautiously, not sure what I was going to find. I could not feel Leon and the Regis behind me anymore, but I knew they would be nearby when I left. My head broke the surface, and I changed back, my arms resting on the ledge in front of me. 

“Valeria. Welcome home.” The voice was beside me as I hauled myself out of the water, wringing my hair out and braiding it quickly. I preferred having it tied back while topside and when it was still wet.

“Who are you, and what do you want with me?” I asked, a little more forcefully than I would have liked. 

“I am the spirit of Ka’ahupahau, a magician of the Source who lived here in these islands many hundreds of years ago. It was I that blessed my son and his descendants with the ability to change into the body of a shark. I am your ancestor.” Her voice reverberated through me, and while I was skeptical, I did not detect any lies. “You need to find the rest of the truth about our line and your family. You will play an essential role within your community, Valeria. One I know you have not asked for.” 

I sighed and walked around the cavern, my bare feet gripping the wet stone. “I know what the Regis is going to ask of me. He has been asking for years, but it is not my place. It never was. It was Alaran’s.” My voice caught, thinking about my brother, the only other person in my family to have survived the spill. 

“Do you know for a fact that what he is hunting you for now is the same question?” Ka’ahupahau countered. 

I stared at the wall, the spot I felt her presence the most, and placed my hand over the site. As I did, a vision of the woman speaking pierced my brain. “You are beautiful, Grandmother.”

“Thank you, child, but the question is still unanswered,” she replied.

“He is attempting to persuade me to take over my father’s position as his advisor.” I shuddered, and it was not because of the chill in the air. “I cannot do it. The position rightfully belongs to my brother, Alaran, but he has been missing for ten years.”

“Why do you not take it, Valeria, step into a revered and vital role?” Her question was valid and one that I had wrestled with for a decade. 

“Because I have no desire to be in the spotlight. To be the right hand of the Regis is too much for me. I have never wanted to be so visible.” I closed my eyes and stepped back from the wall toward the edge of the water. “I just want to protect my oceans, my home, and what remaining family I have.”

I sat down and dipped my legs in the water as I felt Ka’ahupahau’s presence move beside me. “I fear that you will grow to be a larger presence in your world than you know, even if you do not take the position beside the Regis. If you are set against this elevation of status.” I shuddered. Threshers did not get many opportunities to prove to the higher-ups that we were every bit as capable and sometimes better. “If you are, I would have you travel to a place called New Orleans. Do you know of it?”

I nodded, then realized Ka’ahupahau was a disembodied voice and was unlikely able to see me. “Yes, I know of it. I was born and raised in the Gulf of Mexico. I have been to the Crescent City a few times.”

“Good, because that is where the Source is. The magic in this world springs from that location, and I need you to go there. You will find answers to your questions and perhaps a new purpose in your life. Not that the life you are living is not worthwhile, but I know you can be so much more.” 

I looked over at where the presence was pooling, and I swore I saw her figure, the same as I had in my mind’s eye. “I will do as you ask, Grandmother, but I do not see my life changing.”

“Go then, Valeria, with my blessing. Enjoy your time here first, you do not need to rush off, but I will know when you have reached the Source. Good luck, my child.” And with that, she vanished. I lost the feeling of her presence, and I realized I was crying. Her company, her being, was so full of love that I felt empty without it. I had never known love, not real love outside of the family unit or between friends. I doubted that I would ever find it, and if I was honest, I did not want to try.

I slipped back into the water and shifted easily, my other form taking over in the span of a breath. I left the cavern quickly and made my way back into open water, with the intent of heading back to the resort. I was stopped by two sharks, a bull shark, and the largest great white I had ever seen: Leon and the Regis. 

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The Old Man of the Sea and Me

The day at Nymphaeum had been hectic, and I felt the need for some tea. I hadn’t been into Dark Sparks much, and I felt poorly about that. Nike had done an excellent job taking over the company, and I wanted to make sure I supported her. I had a song playing in my head and didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings as I walked in. I made my way up to the counter and ordered a hot tea with milk.

I heard a gentleman talking with a waitress about not getting a froo-froo drink, just a coffee, and I couldn’t agree more. Some of these coffees and lattes were too much. I came from a time and place of simple elegance, and I enjoyed it. Something about the man’s voice nagged at the back of my mind, but I just shook off the sense of familiarity. That was until I sensed a presence behind me. I turned around and was confronted with Nereus. 

“Dad?!” I exclaimed, a little more surprised than I should have been. I knew he’d returned, and I cursed myself for not seeing him sooner.

“Ah, the fairest fish in the school finally makes an appearance. It’s good to see you, Amphitrite. Do you have a minute or two to spare?” His voice was sparkling, like the Aegean in sunlight, and I leapt into his arms.

“I’ve missed you!” I felt like a kid again, back when my pater was my whole world. I clung to him tightly as Nereus spun me around.

“Ah, it’s so good to see you, too. Your mother’s been pestering me to get in contact with you ever since she heard I was coming here,” he commented as he set me down. I was surprised my mater was back and expressed that. “She’ll be here in a few days. Some of your other sisters took her to Fiji for a vacation. She’s flying back as we speak. Come, I have a table over here.”

I joined him at his table, the memory of my trip to the Trench floating to the surface. “Fiji, I was near-ish there recently.” Nereus chuckled, commenting how Mater and my sister ran into a bit of bad weather, but they made it work. I only felt worse for it. The hurricane I had caused affected more than I realized. “I had no control. It’s been so long since I was that…loose, that wild. It took everything I had to contain it.” 

“The sea’s a part of you as much as you’re a part of the sea. Mercurial and mischievous. It goes hand and glove together. And speaking of mischievous, I heard your grand opening went pretty well,” Nereus stated, mischief sparkling in his eyes.

The waitress brought my tea, and I smiled at her in thanks. “Yes, that is one word for it. I spoke with the Monterey Otter Pod. They said you were going to stop by. Why didn’t you?”

His answer caught me by surprise. That seemed to be a theme here. “Poseidon showed up a few minutes before I did. Saw him going in and thought you probably didn’t need him and me on top of everything else going on. Especially since I could sense Eros, Ate, and Eris in the vicinity. The void knows what the three of them could stir up. So, I took the path of least resistance and waited. However, he seemed to be there for the long haul, and I knew I’d catch you eventually.” 

I gulped and fiddled with my cup. Nymphaeum was everything I had hoped for, and the fact that it was still standing after my dramatic family had shown up was impressive. “He was only there until dinner was finished. We had some talking to do, and honestly, I was still a little raw from my trip into the Trench. If you had arrived on top of seeing P again and then the Erebus blow-out, I would have lost my shit. Oh, and Ate tried, Eris enjoyed some long pork, and Eros broke one of my closets. Those three are a menace together.”

Nereus did a double-take and laughed. We gossiped a bit about Erebus and Ate and Clio and Eros. However, I couldn’t give him too much information since all of it started or ended while I was stuck in the foam. I knew if we were discussing gossip, that the otters would have told him. He confirmed my suspicion when he asked, “I hear there may be someone new in your life?”

I bit my lip and nodded. “Yes, there is.”

He smiled broadly at me, reminding me of the much younger Titan who raised me. “I’m glad to hear it. Look, while I was proud that you were married to Poseidon, we also knew it was as much a political marriage as it was anything else.”

“It wasn’t a marriage, we never…” I sighed. 

Nereus nods, his smile tinged with sadness. “If this new person makes you happy, then my dear, I’m overjoyed and can’t wait to meet this young buck.”

“Even if that person is Dionysos?” I asked, holding his gaze.

“Well,” he looked me over, “Amphi, you haven’t looked this happy in years. While he might not have been my first choice, it’s not me who’s choosing. And if he treats you well, who am I to object?”

I smiled. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t need his blessing, but it was sure nice to have it.

“In fact, your mother wants me to invite both of you to dinner on the Aegean Star as soon as she gets back,” Nereus said, returning my smile.

“I would love to go to dinner with you two. I will have to check with Nisos, though. And you don’t have to worry, Pater. He treats me like a queen.” 

Nereus and I spoke of my mater and sisters, laughing as we imagined their reactions. They would all have a thing or two to say if Dion didn’t treat me well, but I knew it wouldn’t be an issue. I sipped my tea before reaching out to touch his hand. “Pater, I need to apologize to you.” 

Nereus’s smile faltered a little. “Apologize? For what?”

I took a deep breath. “I didn’t appreciate you, even when I became a mother. I didn’t appreciate everything you and mater did for me. When I was in the Trench, facing my worst fears, you were there. The worst aspect of you and I said horrible things. I’m sorry. I was angry and cruel. I was stuck as foam for two thousand years and then lost in the Trench. I was spiteful. Eighty thousand years old, and I hated you, like a child. And I am sorry.”

My pater patted my hand gently. “Well, I won’t claim to have been the best father either. It was a handful trying to keep track of all of you. You were more self-sufficient than your sisters, so I may have leaned too much on you instead of just letting you be yourself. But, it’s in the past, and I fully accept your apology and offer you one too for maybe not being there when you really needed me.”

I tried not to cry, really. It wouldn’t do for me to break down in public. “I…I was so lost for years. And when I came back, when I found myself again, everything was different.”

Nereus scooted his chair around and pulled me into a hug. I missed my pater so much, more than I think I realized until now. We were so similar, him and I, and I kept forgetting that the best parts of me mainly came from him. “Maybe if I’d been less selfish, I could have paid more attention to what was going on in Atlantis, and you might not have cast yourself to the foam.”

I leaned into his hug, needing his strength. “I didn’t cast myself into foam. Gods, I wish I had. It may have been easier. I never gave up, Pater; I wanted to be there, for Atlantis, for Poseidon…I didn’t choose to leave, to disappear.” 

“They should have named the Mediterranean after you. It’s nearly as big as your heart. That’s why I should have been there. You must have run yourself ragged trying to cover for Poseidon. Some merfolk approached me after he disappeared to retake the trident, but I declined. I said I was keeping my end of the bargain, and since it was the Olympian’s problem, they should deal with it. I didn’t think about how it might be affecting you.”

I shrugged a little. “No one knew. It was the secret Atlantis kept for a millennium. And then, when I disappeared, no one knew about that either. One, only one came looking. Triton held the seat of power when I was gone and he’s been installed as regent. I wish I could go back and change it, never to have gone searching for Poseidon in Rome.”

“Rome seems to be the source of many of our issues,” he commented, his voice a little darker than before.

I nodded, almost hesitant to tell him this next part, but I felt like I owed him. “There was a group of men hunting gods, draining their powers. Apparently, they were using a net based on the one Hephaestus made. If I weren’t who I was, if I didn’t have the skills I was born with, I would have died. That thought still wakes me in the middle of the night.”

Pater’s eyes widened in shock. “I hadn’t heard anything about that. Mortals hunting gods? That almost defies the imagination. Where were the Furies? The Harpies? Hell, where was the Kraken? Wait, skip that one. I think Perseus dealt with him…” He paused, shook his head, and regathered his thoughts. “Surely, someone dealt with those interlopers?”

“I wouldn’t know. I was stuck as foam.”

Nerus visibly grew in stature as his anger rose. “Someone is going to answer to me about this.”

I had started speaking before I realized what was going on. “Father,” I placed my hand on his arm, “calm the seas inside, please. Something tells me I will run into them again. If their organization still exists.”

He breathed deeply through his nose, and slowly he resumed his mortal size. “I can promise you that you will not face them alone the next time. Threatening one of my daughters is introducing yourself to Thanatos.” 

I smiled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Pater. I appreciate that.” 

Nereus looked at me seriously for a moment, and I withered slightly. It wasn’t a gaze I liked too much. “Perhaps you should speak to Ares, my dear. He’s lent me a few of his Amazons for special assignments. Gia and her sisters are quite efficient.” Although, when he’s endearing, it makes my heart soar.

“I have a very skilled fighter by my side almost daily, and I did speak to Ares about some hand-to-hand training. You know I’m not overly skilled at combat on dry land,” I commented.

He agreed with me, and we kept our chat going. I mentioned that I would need to find a way to stock up on salt from the Primordial Sea before my trip to the Underworld, which caught him off guard. I hadn’t planned on telling him that. I didn’t want him to worry. It just sort of slipped out. So I had to explain why I was traveling with Than to visit an estranged group of sea-nymphs. Apparently, they went native, trapped down there. I’m hoping to reconnect with them. Even if I weren’t the Queen of Atlantis and they were therefore my responsibility, I would still have gone. 

It was at this moment that Eris and Clio made their appearances at Dark Sparks and joined us. The conversation was fun and playful. There were a few moments when I grew dark inside, as pater made a comment about always knowing where his children were, and I grumbled at that. Otherwise, it was a lovely evening. 

A buzz came from Nereus’s pocket, and he looked at it sheepishly. “Sorry, Amphi, I have to head down to the coast. Apparently, the Greek Coast Guard is pulling a surprise inspection, and they want the owner of the Aegean Star there. You’re welcome to tag along, but it’s going to be long and boring.”

I chuckled. “It’s alright, Pater, I understand. I’ve had to rush off to Nymphaeum for similar reasons. And no, I need to feed Mano. He gets peckish when my fingers aren’t there to nibble on.” Clio had disappeared at some point in time, but with the twins, I was surprised she was able to stay as long as she had. Eris said their goodbyes and popped out. I believe they were off to sink a ship, which didn’t surprise me in the least. 

I stood and picked up my cup. “I’m on floor 27 if you or Mater care to visit.” It was nonchalant. And yet, I wanted him to know that I was trying to rebuild these connections.

His response came almost immediately, “I’m going to be on floor 41…well, the office is. I’ve talked to your mother, and some of your sisters will come help get the business going. They will either lead expeditions or run the office as they have time. Now, don’t forget to invite Dion to dinner.” 

Nereus asked about Nerites suddenly, and I shook my head, not knowing what else to say other than, “You should ask the king.” Maybe Poseidon knew where my younger brother was. The conversation didn’t last long, and we were back to saying our goodbyes.

“Let Mater know that she is welcome to stop by anytime as well?” I paused and smiled. “As are you.”

Nereus pulled me into a hug, and I returned it. “I look forward to it, Daughter. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

“That we do.”

His phone buzzed again, and I laughed. It felt exactly like how Mathieu would try to track me down. “Good grief, that captain knows how to spoil a perfect moment. All right, I’ll see you soon.” He disappeared into mist, and I laughed out loud before walking out of Dark Sparks and back up to the OA.

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The Staycation I Needed

“Dion!” I collapsed beside him, gasping for air and sweating up a storm. After I finally caught my breath, I rolled off the bed, wrapping a sheet around me before walking to the window that looked out over the Bay.

“I thought you were going to stay quiet this time, PheePhee. We do not want the manager knocking on our door for excessive noise, do we?” Dion teased. I tossed a throw pillow at him, laughing softly. A week had already gone by since the grand opening gala of Nymphaeum. I couldn’t comprehend how so much time had passed. “You know, no one can see you all the way up here. You don’t need to be so modest.” My lover tugged at the sheet playfully, and I just scowled at his playful teasing.

“No, maybe not, Nisos, but I feel more comfortable with something on.” I chuckled slightly. This past week I’d hardly worn a thing, spending most of my time lounging in bed with Dionysos as we enjoyed each other’s company. Sometimes I wondered if this was real or just moments of dreams while trapped in the foam.. 

I sighed. Dionysos stood up, wrapping his arms around me and kissing my neck. “What is troubling you, PheePhee?” He always knew. I wasn’t sure whether it was due to the bond or his natural attunement with others’ feelings and emotions, but he always knew when I was troubled.

I turned around in his arms and stared up at him. “It hasn’t been that long since I returned from the foam, yet so much has happened. I need to find a way to slow down.”  

A flash of hurt crossed Dion’s face before he hid it and smiled down at me. “I understand. I have often needed to step away from the world and people.”

I placed my hand upon his cheek and kissed him gently. “I’m not stepping away from you, Nisos.” His genuine smile returned, and I licked his lips teasingly. “You have been my only constant, which, given your nature, is amazing. But I know, eventually, you’re going to need to go on a journey. You’ve already stayed in one place for a while. I understand that, and I’ll still be here.” Dion kissed me quickly, and I melted some more. I loved this man. I really did. “It’s everything else that’s weighing on me. All the newcomers to the GC, Atlantis, work…everything.”

“Seeing Poseidon again did not help either, I am sure. I felt your pain when you set eyes on him, but I also knew that coming to your rescue would exacerbate things.” Ever the wise one, Dion was.

I nodded, burying my face in his chest. “For the few minutes I saw him when I first returned, the old tension and desire were all there. But it was so brief, so fleeting. I didn’t have the opportunity to discuss what had gone on or what was going to happen. To find out he hadn’t come back, even after I disappeared. Finding out that my home was left without its king, willingly, when I was unable to return. To find out I didn’t matter enough to him for him even to realize I was missing, that cuts deep.” I took a breath, trying not to look at him, but that was impossible. “I’m sorry to place all this on you after we’ve had such an amazing week. I need some time to swim, to gather my thoughts, to revisit my home, and spend some time there.”

“PheePhee, I understand that more than you know, the need to run, to travel, to see the wild, to be the wild again. You missed so much while you were away. You need to take the time to see it all again, to truly appreciate this world you are walking in again.”

I ran my hands up Dion’s back and pulled him tighter to me. “I do not want to lose you, though.” I felt him shudder under my hands and smiled up at my lover. “Do you think when we go our separate ways physically, that emotionally you’ll still be mine?”

“Aww, PheePhee, that almost sounds like you want me to be your Valentine.” Dion moved his hands across my back and around the back of my neck, shocking me. 

“What’s a Valentine?” I asked in all seriousness. I hadn’t been topside a full year yet, and there was still so much to learn. 

Dion caught my lips with his and pulled me back over to the bed. “I will show you what a Valentine is,” he mumbled, rolling us over so he was staring down at me. “Don’t worry about me, PheePhee. You have me for a long time yet. Even when we are worlds apart, we will still be together in other ways.” He tapped my forehead, then his. “We will always be connected. For better or for worse.” He kissed my shoulder blade, but with his beard, it felt more like a tickle. I giggled with pleasure like I was mad. “No, no, you are not allowed to be the mad one in this relationship. That title belongs to me.”

I laughed even harder as Dion began grazing his beard all over, kissing everywhere his lips could reach. “Stop it! It tickles too much!” I sputtered between fits of laughter. I could feel the ocean reacting to my emotions and was surprised the resort was still in one piece after the week we’d had. 

Tonight was New Year’s Eve. It was an event I’d completely blanked on because it was my first one, but Dion had remembered. He’d set the TV to the channel we would watch ahead of time. I didn’t know much about it, other than the calendar’s official turning, but I’d researched various traditions and how they marked the event.

Dion and I stayed in, even though a party was planned for the staff who lived nearby. I was partied out, and this way, I didn’t have to get dressed or leave the bed. I was perfectly content to spend the next day or so wrapped up in Dion’s presence, completely forgetting about the outside world and our responsibilities. “So,” Dion’s voice purred in my ear, “which position do you want to try next?”

I blushed furiously as Dion kissed me. The rest of the day faded away to the sounds of our lovemaking, broken only by the background chatter of the TV. We celebrated not only the new year but also our efforts to meld into one.

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Closing Time

I left them all, finished the pitcher of Black Siren, and walked over to Mathieu. “Send everyone home, skeleton crew for the rest of the week. You all deserve a break. Make sure everyone gets some time off. I don’t want the mortal staff around if my family decides to start breaking the place.” I smiled softly as I watched the staff exit through the hidden doors as quietly as they had entered. I followed their lead and disappeared through one of the secret doors. Conflict was not my strong suit, and I’d had enough surprises and angst for one night.

I took the opportunity to grab my cloak and a snifter of scotch from my suite. Okay, Selene was right. I was growing to like it. A few minutes later, or maybe longer, I slipped back into the ballroom, my cloak wrapped around me. Glancing around, I could still hear raised voices, so I ducked back through the hidden door.

 “I’ll murder the lot of them if they ruin my resort on opening night,” I muttered into the darkness of the hallway. “Too much…so much drama tonight…well, that’s my own damn fault.” How did I not realize this was going to happen? 

I reappeared in the gardens below the balcony and sat down near the fountain. The gardens were peaceful and perfect. I wanted something that was the best of both a romantic locale and a mediation area. You could see out over Monterey Bay. The ocean was sparkling under the moon, and I could hear the waves slamming against the rocks below.

I heard a crash, glass breaking, and didn’t even bother to look up. I sighed, realizing it was just one more thing I’d have to worry about in the morning. What caught my attention, though, was the Cha-Cha slide. It was one of the few mortal songs I knew, mainly because it played in the on-site club every night. I couldn’t help but laugh and thought that maybe Nike would like to dance with me while Adrestia was helping Dion in a way that I couldn’t. I teleported up to the dancefloor, placed my cloak on a chair, and joined Nike. “Mind if I join, Nike?”

She beamed down at me since she was much taller, even in heels. “Let’s show them how it’s done, Aunt, shall we?” 

“Sounds good, even I know this one!” I replied and began dancing. Now, it’s not hard, you follow the words, but it is fun. 

Dres tried getting Dion over as she joined us on the dancefloor, but he just leaned into the bar and smiled slightly. “There’s no way I’m dancing to that. You go ahead, though.”

I looked over at him and smiled, kicking my shoes off. I hope he knew I hadn’t intended to hurt him. He commented about joining on the next dance, and I smiled. “Only a few songs left… I think the evening is wrapping up.” 

Adrestia was adorable, trying to follow the steps to the song, and as it came to an end, Nike smiled and giggled. “Aha, this was so much fun. I guess I needed this.” She gave me a big hug. “I need to get on to patrol before Kratos comes looking for me. Thank you for a great evening…well, I guess it’s morning now.” 

“Well, tell him I said you could have some fun,” I quipped back. 

Dion walked over after speaking to the singer. “Last dance?” He held out his hand to me, and I smiled.

I took his hand, and he guided me back to the center of the dancefloor. “As you wish.” Adrestia and Nike cleared the floor, ostensibly to allow Dion and I to dance by ourselves, and “Sea of Love”, by Phil Phillips and The Twilights came on. I leaned into him as his arms came around me. “Thank you.”

He turned me slowly into the dance, keeping me close. “Don’t worry about the damages…I was going to have Luis wire some funds for your foundation, but you can use that to make your repairs.” 

I stared up at him. I knew he had a boatload of money, but this was going to be costly. “No… I’m going to chase Eros down for the damages he owes, but thank you. Truly, Dion.”

Dion snorted and chuckled. “Good luck with that. Eros can barely afford a shirt,” he commented with a wink. I smiled, giggled, and laid my head against his chest. “There’s that smile…”

“Only for you,” I replied softly.

We danced, the song lulling me into a sense of security. Or maybe it was Dion’s arms, but something was making this night better than it had been, and I was grateful. I knew that the memories would resurface about what was discussed, what happened, what was broken. But for now, all I needed, all I wanted, was him.

“So…hope business for the Nymphaeum will be good and a lot less hectic than the opening has been,” he stated. It almost sounded like a benediction, like he was willing it into being.

That is the hope. And no more hurricanes,” I muttered under my breath.

Nike made her way over to the balcony. “Night, Aunt, Dion, and Drista.” 

“Goodnight, Nike. I’m glad you came,” I replied.

Adrestia said her goodnights as well. “Goodnight, Nike. Good night, Amph. It was a great party. Goodnight, Uncle Dion.”

“Thank you, Dres. I hope you had fun,” I commented, hopeful that the drama hadn’t ruined her night.

“Goodnight, Adrestia…be safe,” Dion added.

“I will be.” She left slowly. I could see her feet were hurting her, and I hoped she was making use of the rooms available.

I watched over Dion’s shoulder as Nike took off into the night sky, and I smiled a little.

Dion smiled at me and offered his elbow as the band started playing “Closing Time” by Semisonic. “Let’s go, Pheephee.”

I took his elbow and nodded with a smile. “Lead the way, Nisos. I’m all yours.”

Featured

A Dinner, A Speech, and Long Pork

“Eat, please…enjoy your dinner, there is plenty of food,” I called out to everyone, hoping they would enjoy the meal. People dug in, and conversation picked back up. Eris commented on already getting the appetizer, and I shuddered inwardly, thinking they meant my conversation with Poseidon. I didn’t know how many people were listening in, I hoped not many, but I knew that Dion was paying close attention. 

I tried to focus on my food and participate in some of the conversations. I turned to Dion and apologized. “I’m sorry for being away for so long. I did not…I didn’t expect that.”

He leaned over, and I could feel his breath on my skin. It had me trembling with desire, and I so desperately wanted to teleport us upstairs and forget about the rest of the night. “Apologize for nothing. You’re still a queen,” he replied, his voice soft and powerful. 

I blushed and poured some more wine, but picked at my food. My appetite, while ravenous at the beginning of the night, was mostly gone. I pushed the food around my plate some more, ignoring the conversation until Atë shouted at me. “This is a really great party…how long did it take to plan?”

I looked up, startled that she’d spoken to me. My response was simple, “Too long.” It wasn’t a lie or an evasion. Mathieu and I had put so much time and effort into this event. Now that it was happening and progressing along, I seemed to be lost in it. Dion reached over, sensing my discomfort. He patted my leg and squeezed it softly. I smiled at him. Tonight was taking forever.

“Amph, it’s lovely. Just like the food,” Atë replied and made a show of eating. I couldn’t figure her out. One minute she’s full of disdain for anyone not in her immediate circle, and the next, she’s complimenting me, or at least my resort. 

“Thank you, Atë. I hope you’re sincere,” I commented softly.

“I am sincere. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it,” she quipped back. I nodded as the conversation turned toward the outfits people were wearing.

“Everyone looks amazing. I am glad you all came,” I admired. It was true. If my family was good at one thing, it was putting on a fashion show. Atë inquired as to what the resort offered, and I smiled. “We have a spa, a casino, underwater rooms. Restaurants and bars, nightly entertainment.” 

“And by nightly entertainment, she doesn’t mean the kind you rent by the hour,” Dion chimed in. 

I snorted and smacked his leg. “Dion!” 

He looked confused, although I knew it was that playful, teasing look. “What? You have that kind too?”

“No…I mean, I had toyed with the idea of a harem for a while…it was someone else’s idea, actually. But no,” I sputtered. Dion just nodded and smiled. “I mean,” I bit my lip and looked at him, “there is a backroom…I could show you later?”

Poseidon choked on his water, and I looked at him. I guess I was a little louder than I anticipated. Whoops. 

Dion, being Dion, had the perfect reply that sent me into choking fits. “But I’ve already seen your…backroom.”

We got to talking about the food, or at least that’s what I thought we were talking about. “I could call the kitchen staff out.” Mathieu coughed and pointed to the back. “Oh shit, they already are.”

Eris commented on not having had long pig in a while, and I snickered a little. “No long pig tonight. Come back in the new year, and I’ll have a fresh catch for you.” I winked at Eris as Mathieu looked down at me in horror.

“First thing you should learn about opening a business, Auntie! The customer is always  right!” Eris laughed.

Mathieu coughed again, and I sighed before standing. “Alright…speech time?” Dion shrank in his seat. But the reason didn’t truly register, not until later, not until it was too late. “Eris, if you were an actual customer, then perhaps.” I placed my hand on Dion’s shoulder and kissed his cheek. “Sorry, Nisos, that was crass of me.”

Eris threw money at me. I caught it and shoved it into my cleavage. “There, transaction complete,” they said. I heard some cheering but was making my way back up to the dais.

I stood behind the podium and looked out on the crowd. Mortals, immortals, media and paparazzi, my staff and friends, all watching me. My family sat a little straighter, I looked down at Dion, but I could see his mind was elsewhere. I didn’t want to look at P, but he was pretty much in front of me, and my eyes kept traveling to him. 

“Once again, thank you all, mortal and immortal alike, for coming tonight. Nymphaeum has been a labor of love these last few months, and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing staff.” I waved my hand, and the majority of the resort staff piled into the back. “These men and women have given their hearts and souls to making Nymphaeum a success, making it their home. We’ve helped people from all across the world find a place where they are welcome, where they can be themselves, and use their talents in a place where they are appreciated.” I waved at Oliana and Pania. “Two of my staff are from Guam. It was the least I could do after destroying their place of employment. That is what I want for Nymphaeum. A home, someplace that is home to all. To tie this speech up, I want to thank Mathieu,” he walked up beside me and smiled sheepishly, “who has worked tirelessly to make Nymphaeum and tonight the absolute best resort on the west coast. We hope to be the best globally, but that is a dream far off yet. Also, Dionysos…”

Dion looked up at me, startled. “Huh?” 

“Without whom, I would not be here. Thank you, my Nisos, for being my anchor in the storm and for bringing me home.” I watched as his smile broadened, and I smiled in reply. “Lastly… It’s not so much a thanking, but an announcement. To date, Nymphaeum has donated over 2 million dollars to hurricane relief and over 3 million to ocean research centers. Our secondary mission is to educate mortals, and some immortals, on the wonders, treasures, and importance of the ocean. So, to those who have donated and helped out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and the depths of my seas.” I curtsied gracefully, every bit the queen. “Enjoy the rest of your night. Eat, drink, and be merry!”

I made my way back down to my seat and raised my wine glass in a toast. Dres walked over and handed me a piece of paper. “You can add this to your hurricane relief funds.” I took the paper and opened it. When I saw the figure, I choked on my wine. $10,000 was a good chunk of money. Although, Eris and Dion were holding a conversation at the same time, so it may have been that. 

I smiled brightly at her. “Thank you, Dres, that is…it’s very kind of you.”

“My pleasure. The Revolt House knows about the Nymphaeum, so they know it’s a good business to support,” she replied softly before heading back to her seat.

I was hoping I’d get to eat as my appetite had returned. Poseidon got up and came over to the table. “As a gift for your grand opening, you are free to take one thing from the vault in Atlantis for you to use only.” He kissed my head tenderly before walking out.

I looked up at him as he walked away and wiped a tear from my eye. “Thank you.” I don’t know whether he heard me, but part of me left with him. And the question of what to take, to bring back with me? I’d been gone so long. I didn’t even know what was mine in the vault anymore. “Right, back to the party.”

Adrestia looked at me as I wobbled, before Dion offered me his arm, steadying me. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, Dres, I’ll be fine. Thank you.” I replied softly and she nodded back.

“Funny, I always thought you were fine.” Dion interjected as his arm held me fast.

“To you perhaps,” I retorted.

He pulled me out to the dance floor and spun me around into his arms. “I might be a bit…crazy…but I am not blind.”

I giggled and swung into Dion’s arms, wrapping my hands around his neck. “You’re only crazy to those who don’t understand you.” Dion played along, speaking in gibberish, then laughed as he spun me around. We danced and danced, and I lost track of everything that was going on because there was only him and me. I overheard Eris and Eros, and possibly Adrestia talking about something. I called out to them, “As long as they’re a willing sacrifice!” I was hoping they didn’t truly intend to eat someone, but with Eris, you never knew. 

I looked back up at Dion and smiled. “I wish it weren’t my party. You look too good in that suit.”

Dion whispered back, a devilish smile on his face. “I already told you I look better without it.”

I giggled again and blushed. “I know, and I can’t wait to see underneath it again.” I could hear breaking and sighed. I knew it was Eros and Clio, and I had really hoped I wouldn’t need to fix Nymphaeum this early in her life. 

Erebus and Atë came back, I hadn’t even realized they were gone, and the conversations turned to catch them up. Dion and I danced some more and then made our way back to our seats. Eris had been talking about some guy named Jim, and as I looked over at Dion, his face had turned pale. I could almost see his older self shining through. “I’ll be right back…I need some air.” 

I watched as Dion left, but Atë was asking me about my rooms. “Yes, a bank of rooms have been put aside for your use tonight, if you wish.”

Adrestia had followed Dion out, so I knew he wasn’t alone, but at the moment, I felt powerless. I knew I had been part of the problem, was sorting out now how I had contributed, and I felt horrible for my part. “I’m sorry. Please excuse me.” I had to help, somehow. But as I made my way out towards the balcony, I stopped short at the door, seeing Adrestia walk up to Dion. 

“It was a wonderful speech.” Than’s voice startled me, and I turned to see him standing just behind me.

“Thank you, Than. How is the night going?”

“Busy,” he said shortly. I knew he wasn’t a fan of crowds, so it was wonderful for him to come at all.

I nodded in response. “Well, I’m glad you were able to stop by. Umm..when did you want to go check on the nymphs?”

“Why would I check on nymphs? Ohhh…” He’d totally forgotten.

I chuckled. “You…you offered to accompany me? I can’t go on my own.”

Than nodded and looked down at me. “Right. I have some unfinished business in Tartarus. I will text you when it is done.” 

“Thank you, Than. It will take me a little while to get ready for the journey anyways.” My voice shook a little when I thought about the impending trip. 

“You’re welcome. Now I have to get back and check on Nem. If you’ll excuse me,” he softly replied before I heard the sound of his wings flapping and felt the familiar sense of vanishing.

I turned my attention back to the conversation outside for a moment before wrapping my arms around myself and heading back into the ballroom. I made my way over to the bar and ordered a Black Siren. Basically, it was a Black Russian with a hint of seawater and gold leaf sprinkled throughout it for a shimmer effect. “Actually, make that a pitcher.” The bartender looked at me, and I glared back. I needed a drink. 

Eris came over, and we got talking about everything that was breaking around the resort, and I sighed. My bill would be hefty after tonight, but it was to be expected. What caught me by surprise this evening was the extra non-menu delicacy that Eris helped themselves to. I began drinking straight from the pitcher and sensed some distress coming from Dion. Our bond was weird. I could sense him a little, he could sense me more, but it wasn’t like we could communicate through it. I didn’t even know if I could send my feelings through to him, but I did. I sent love and apologies for the course of the evening to him and sighed, wondering if it got through.

Atë sauntered over, happy from her little excursion with Erebus and I looked over at her. “So, Atë, having a good night?” I asked as she downed a few more shots.

“Oh, yes. I told you it was fun…Plus, it’s gorgeous,” she replied in between shots.

I looked at her, surprised. “Really?”

“Yeah, you’re not boring at all like I thought…”

Now, I’m a big strong goddess, older than Atë by a long shot, but for some reason, some idiotic, inane, bizarre reason, that hurt. And all I came up with as a response was, “Oh, enjoy your night…”

“I treasure my bond with the mortals. I’ve walked among them for ages and I savor it every time.” Dion’s voice filtered over to me followed by Erebus’s.

“I’m sure you treasure every orgy you’ve been in.” The argument seemed to be progressing, I didn’t know what set it off, who started it, anything.

The next thing I knew, Dion was at the bar, Erebus slammed his hand down, and I broke. “Stop Erebus!.” Now, I didn’t expect him to stop or to care, but he did. “The event you’re thinking of, and the one Dion is talking about were two completely different times…” Clearly, I had been paying attention. “The one…this recent one shook Dion to his core, part of why he’s younger again. He lost someone, someone important. It was senseless and wrong and completely unnecessary. It wasn’t that you interrupted, Erebus…some of us, and our complete disregard for mortal life, doesn’t sit well with others.” Even as I finished speaking, the conversation went back to Erebus, Dion, and Adrestia, with Atë and Eris pitching in. 

I had to leave.

Featured

Poseidon’s Return

Dion leaned in and whispered to me as I stepped down from the dais. “I hope you stocked up the condom dispensers in the bathrooms.”

I choked a little. “What?”

“Well…it is a party.”

Giggling, I smacked Dion’s chest lightly. “Yes. I’m sure the bathrooms are stocked.”

I greeted Nike, glad that she was here and taking a break from all her work. Then I felt a familiar chill and looked up toward the door. Poseidon was here. He walked in, fixing his tie, looking as impressive as he had the last time I saw him. “I…Poseidon, you…made it,” I stuttered, feeling like a total fool.

He smiled down at me, and I could feel my legs go weak. “I did. Um…sorry I’m late.”

I gulped, smiled, and shuffled a little towards the bar. “It’s alright. Please, enjoy your evening.”

Dion was being his classy self and waved at Poseidon. “Oh hello, Poseidon…better late than never.”  

Poseidon nodded at Dion. “Yes, well, these ties are more difficult than they look. I don’t know how my brother does it.” 

They were very cordial to each other, and when Dion placed his hand on the small of my back, I almost swooned. I knew he was trying to comfort me, and I welcomed it at the moment. I also knew that he wouldn’t attempt to interfere unless I needed it. 

I leaned into Dion’s hand and swayed slightly. “I need…I need a stronger drink. I’ll be right back.” I straightened and walked toward the bar, Poseidon following me. I half hoped he’d stay there and talk to Dion, or Eris who had just come over, but no. 

I ordered a scotch on the rocks, and Poseidon took a stand beside me. “I love what you did to the place, Trix.”

I drained the scotch in a single gulp and felt it burn all the way down. I didn’t know how Selene did it. “Thank you. It took a lot of work, but I’m proud of it. I’m also pleased I didn’t destroy it.”

“Yes. I’m very proud of you,” he replied. Poseidon smiled softly at me. 

I blushed deeply and tried not to look at him. “Thank you again.”

Poseidon cleared his throat and apologized. “I um… I’m sorry.”

I leaned my head slightly to the side. “For what?”

Poseidon fixed his tie anxiously, and I could tell that something was on his mind. “For not replying to your letter. For not coming back to you sooner.”

I stilled again and looked up at him. “Why didn’t you?” 

He cleared his throat and began fixing his tie. It was something he did when he got nervous, something I hadn’t seen in so long. “I um…I had to deal with a few things. I didn’t realize it would take as long as it did.”

I turned around, not wanting him to see the hurt in my eyes. “I can understand that we all need to deal with things in our way. But why did you leave?”

He cleared his throat again, but stayed silent for a moment. “Fear. Fear of failure. I felt like I wasn’t the person you needed me to be.”

I looked back and tried not to cry, but I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. “Do you realize how that made me feel, though? And that you never came looking? Did you even realize I was gone from Atlantis?” I got a text from Than with a picture of him in a Santa outfit, delivering presents to children in a hospital. I smiled softly before sending a quick text back.

Poseidon let out a shaky breath before speaking, and I put my phone away. “Trix, I wasn’t even at Atlantis…I thought no one needed me.”

I stared up at him. “I know you weren’t, P, because I was. Waiting for a thousand years, and then I vanished without a trace.”

He closed his eyes. “Yes, and… I’m so sorry. You don’t have to forgive me. You don’t ever have to forgive me. I…I just wanted you to know that I regret not being there for you.”

My mouth fell open, and I stared up at him. “I…I am a long way from forgiving you, Poseidon. I get needing your space, needing to be away from me. But the city, the kingdom, was dying without its king. I couldn’t fill both shoes. And I shouldn’t have to anymore. I know you made Triton regent, and that’s great. Neither of us are around much. But I will be making an effort for the kingdom. Because Atlantis deserves rulers who love her.” 

Poseidon nodded and fixed his tie again. “I understand. I am releasing you from your bond to Atlantis. It will be my responsibility from now on, if that is what you want.”

“No!” I felt myself shaking, but I shouted nonetheless.

Poseidon leaned his head to the side. “Then what do you want?”

“I told you, my oath stands, so long as you will still allow me to reign on the throne, I will be there for my home.” I rushed through it, forcing it out.

Poseidon pursed his lips, and I could tell he was thinking deeply about something unpleasant. “Understood. I heard you and Dionysos were getting closer, and I didn’t want to come between you. But if that’s not what you want…”

I sighed and ordered another scotch. I really needed the drink. “I miss you, Poseidon. I can’t, and won’t, deny that. But if you don’t want me down there, tell me now. My duties in the kingdom shouldn’t affect my relationship with Dionysos.”

Poseidon touched my shoulder, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Triton and I would love to have you.”

I felt a wave of mischief wash over me and knew it had come from Atë. I smiled softly and looked up at Poseidon. “Atlantis has been my home for eons. To not consider it such…would feel weird. Thank you.”

“You do realize that if you want to marry him, you will lose your duties to the throne. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that,” he commented almost as an afterthought. 

I looked down, sadly realizing just what he meant. “I know. We’re just starting our journey, Poseidon. Anything like that is…I haven’t even thought about it. You want me to abdicate before that happens?”

“No! I didn’t say that. It’s just how it is. If we could allow you to be Queen and marry someone else, I would, but we can’t do that.”

I snorted derisively. “Even when we were never technically married? If it ever comes to that, we’ll have that conversation then. But no, I’m not ready to give up the throne. I wasn’t 2,000 years ago, but I couldn’t physically return.”

“You know how traditional the merpeople are. I want you to be happy, Trix. That is all I’ve ever wanted,” he replied gently.

“I know. I am happy. I just wish I wish you could have been happy with me.” My voice was soft, and I don’t know if I wanted to hear his reply.

“I was happy with you, Trix. I just… wasn’t happy with myself.” 

“And that’s why you left?” I heard Dion scoff and tried not to look at him. I knew if I did, my will would break, and I wouldn’t be able to stand on my own here. 

“Yeah. It is. I didn’t know who I was,” Poseidon replied softly.

“And you do now?” I challenged.

“I think I’m close to figuring it out.” He nodded while speaking. 

I looked back up at him, sighing slightly. “I wish you had let me help with that.”

When Poseidon kissed my cheek, I almost melted. My heart had been beating a thousand times a minute. “You’re helping now. That’s all I can ask for.”

“How?” I heard a ding come from the kitchen and called out before Poseidon could answer. “It’s almost dinnertime for those who plan on eating!”

“By being you while I learn to be me.”

I nodded a little, worried at the answer to the question I was about to ask. “Are you staying for dinner? And were you planning on checking out your room?”

Poseidon smiled down at me again, and for a moment, I had to resist the urge to lean up and kiss him. “I think I’ll stay for dinner. If that’s okay with you.”

“It is. Go find a seat,” I said quickly. Poseidon smiled again and made his way over to a table near the front. I took Dion’s hand and squeezed it tightly for support as we walked to the head table. Dion pulled my chair out for me, helped me sit down, and took the seat beside me.

Featured

Welcome to the Party

Today was the day. The day Mathieu and I had been working towards for months. Nymphaeum’s grand opening. And I was shaking like a leaf. All-day, I had been running around, worrying about every little detail, when really, I knew that it was perfect. The hall was decorated perfectly, evoking that sense of winter that most Californians, hell most Greek gods, didn’t understand. If Khione had been around, I’d have asked her for help, but she wasn’t, so Mathieu and I had to make due. He brought extensive knowledge about what a winter scene would look like because he came from Quebec City, where their Winter Carnival is world-renowned. I had made a point and written the dates in my calendar to go and visit. 

“Amph, if you don’t get your ass back in your room and finish getting ready, I’ll call the whole thing off!” Mathieu shouted at me as I stole another glance at the ballroom. I was immensely proud of the work achieved, and I couldn’t wait to show it off. “Plus, Lord Dionysos will be here soon, and do you really want him to see you in this state?”

I stared at Mathieu and then looked down at myself. Fleece pajamas, giant blue fluffy slippers, and a long housecoat. People had been trying to get my hair done when Mathieu came in to tell me that the trees were all fully decorated, and I ran out of my room to see. I glared at him and raced back up to my old penthouse suite. “Okay, as long as there are no more distractions, I’m all yours.” Since I wasn’t wearing a button-down top, the stylists had me remove it before starting my hair. 

I’m not going to lie. I am impossible when it comes to doing my own hair. When I lived in Atlantis, I kept it loose and flowing and very rarely put it up. And when I did, there was someone to do it for me. I had tried to do the high bun thing myself here, and when I showed Alessa, she cried herself to sleep laughing. So I found someone to do it for me. It was the better of the options presented to me. 

Hours later, when they were through, I turned and looked in the mirror and was astounded. I looked…well, I looked regal. The only thing missing was my old diadem, but I had left that in Atlantis, as was proper. I stood slowly and looked around. The stylists had gone, but Mathieu remained. “You’re beautiful, my lady,” he said softly. 

I blushed and smiled. “Thank you, now let me get changed. We’ll take one last look at the ballroom, and then I’ll message Dion.” I pulled out the soft velvet dress from my closet and ran my hands over it. You would never find fabric like this back home, and I loved it. The fashion, the style, the choices we had up here always surprised me. I slipped the dress on after Mathieu had left the room and looked back in the mirror. I loved it, and I hoped that Dion would too. I glanced out the door after grabbing a large cloak, and Mathieu was gone. I figured he had made his way downstairs, so I hurried to check on things. It was getting very close to 8, and I didn’t want to chance anyone seeing me too soon. 

I stuck my head in the ballroom and looked at the final touches. It was stunning in there. “Mathieu outdid himself here.” I snapped a few pictures with my phone, and Mathieu appeared behind me.

“Go finish getting ready, woman!” He hurried me back out the door, but I was dressed. I was ready. All I needed was Dion. I watched as Mathieu brought in a giant red ribbon. I ducked behind a bush as some reporters began filtering in. I did not want them to see me yet. I snuck away and back upstairs. Once safely in my room, I texted Dion. 

Amph: Are you about ready? I’m starting to get very nervous here.

Dion: I’m coming to you.

Amph: See you in a moment. Room 1203.

It was only a few moments after that I heard a knock on my door. I hung my cloak and checked myself out in the mirror one last time. I swear I wasn’t vain. I opened the door, smiling brightly. “Nisos.”

“Wow, Pheephee…blue looks good on you,” Dion said as he walked into the room. 

I bit my lower lip and blushed. “Thank you, and that suit…suits you perfectly.”

Dion just snorted. “This thing? I bet I look better without it.”

I couldn’t help but giggle. “I know you do.”

Dion offered his elbow to me with a wink. “Shall we, or do you want to fool around for a bit and be…fashionably late?”

I took his elbow and smiled again, nudging him. “If it wasn’t my party, and if Mathieu wouldn’t be up here hounding me, I’d say we have some fun. Let’s go before I change my mind.”

Dion just chuckled. “Mathieu for the save…”

“He’s very good at that,” I replied as we made our way out of the room and to the elevator. I wanted so much to push him up against the wall of the elevator the whole way down, but I didn’t. I restrained myself, and soon enough, we heard the ding of reaching the second floor, and we exited. Before we even reached the entrance, I could hear that some of the family had already made it. Eros was showing pictures of the twins off to…yep, that was Erebus’s voice. 

The clicking of cameras and the flashes brought me back to my senses. Dion, too, his hand was on mine, patting me gently, told me there was no other option but forward. We had already been seen. The media had turned to the entrance and began snapping photos, so Dion and I did the only thing we could. We entered the ballroom. It had been a long time, but I remembered diplomacy and formal events and plastered on a polite smile. I looked at Dion. He had the biggest, cheesiest, dorkiest smile ever, and I felt a thousand times better. I leaned closer to him and whispered, “People actually came.” I was seriously having my doubts when I hadn’t received too many RSVPs.

“And I didn’t have to pay them, either,” he mumbled back. I giggled a little but was then caught off guard by someone calling my name.

“Amph!” Adrestia’s voice rang out, and I turned to look at her as she tripped in her heels and dress. Damn, she cleaned up nicely. And I had to admit it was nice to see her out of armour, even though her dress looked like it was gilded for armour. I wished Aphrodite had been here to see it, but she’d been missing for a while, and I knew that she would have loved to see Adrestia dressed like a lady.

“You look wonderful, dear. I’m glad you came,” I said to her as I walked over. 

Dion reached out and steadied Adrestia, steadying her. “Thank you, Uncle Dion. You clean up nicely.”

“I dirty up even better,” he replied in typical Dion fashion. I blushed a little, thoughts of the last few weeks filtering through my mind. I kissed his cheek, patted his arm, and began wandering the room. 

I made my way to Eros and Erebus, stepping into the most awkward conversation. I didn’t really want to get into it. All I knew was that they seemed to be missing Clio and Atë, who were coming together. “Lovely party,” Eros chimed in as he kissed my cheek. There was a time, in every goddess’ life after Eros had grown out of all that cherubic baby fat, that we envisioned what he would be like. I am thrilled to admit, for me, that time was exceptionally brief. I could see why he was so alluring to the masses, especially the mortals, but that drive for me was channelled elsewhere. 

I looked back at Dion, who was chatting with Dres and smiled softly. “Thanks for the invite, nice place you have here.” Erebus’s voice brought me back.

“Thanks, I’ve put a lot of work into it. Eros!” He had said something lewd, which isn’t a shocker, and yet I was still trying to maintain some semblance of professionalism, even with my family here. Erebus smacked him in the chest, and I laughed. “Never mind, with you, I should always expect the conversation to turn dirty.” 

A few minutes passed of conversation, and then they walked in. Eris and Atë were half carrying a loaded Clio. That is one goddess who does not hold her liquor well. “Oh…there she is.” Eros’ head snapped up, and he began making his way over to his wife. I followed a little behind him and Erebus, mainly to greet the three newcomers. I had also seen Ares arrive a short while ago with a woman on his arm. I was glad that he seemed to have found some happiness, although I wish I had a chance to say hi. 

Eros and Erebus quickly fell in with their partners as we reached the trio, and I smiled over at Eris. “Eris, it’s nice to see you.” 

“We were playing a game where we take shots every time…I forget…I guess we just took a lot of shots,” Eris explained. Gods, this night was either going to be the highlight of my year, actually my last 2,000 years, or it was going to be a disaster. I was really banking on the highlight.

I watched as Atë pulled out a secret flask from her cleavage and smiled. “Atë, we have an open bar, so there’s no need for a secret flask.”

She looked at me. In her eyes, I saw all the ruins beneath the waves, both my creation and not. “This place is gorgeous,” she said as she hid the flask. I thanked her. The comment seemed sincere. Although with Atë, sometimes you couldn’t tell.

It seemed like we were all heading towards the bar, Dion and Adrestia joined us, and I thanked everyone for coming. “Erebus, look. Clio gave me a strapless push-up bra, and I have tits now…” Atë pushed them up and out towards Erebus. 

I had to chime in. She’d been using her body as a weapon for eons. “It’s not as if you didn’t have them before, Atë.”

“Well, they aren’t as big as yours, Amph,” she quipped back.

I blushed furiously. “Whoa, mine are…adequate.”

“More than adequate, Auntie,” Eris added, licking their lips. I thanked them. It was a compliment, even if it was flirting.

Eros wheeled Clio away to the dancefloor, and I called out, “Ribbon cutting soon, don’t dance the night away just yet!” I looked over at Adrestia, who seemed quite uncomfortable, and smiled. “Dres, will you accompany me to the bar?”

“Do they have mocktails?” she asked. 

I smiled and nodded. “Of course, they do. I know plenty of people, gods and mortals alike, who prefer not to drink.” I offered her my arm. “Shall we?”

“Lead the way.” As we made our way over to the bar, more conversation was going on around us, and I asked Dres what she’d like. “Umm….surprise me? I like spicy and sour things.”

I chuckled and whispered to the bartender for a Virgin Ursula. Okay, so not creative with the name, but it was tasty. A few minutes later, the bartender passed Adrestia a dark-blue concoction that tasted like blue-raspberry. 

“Thank you.” She took a sip and smiled. “That’s really good, actually.” She sounded surprised, but I had been spending a lot of time recently with a certain God of Inebriation that tended to get the creative juices flowing for mixing drinks.

I smiled. “Thank you. I’m sure that anything else you may need they can make, sans alcohol.” With all his French, Mathieu had me substituting common English words with French, and I wasn’t even thinking about it. I sighed and ordered a glass of white wine, Assyrtiko, the kind the barkeep knows I like. As he passed it to me, I smiled again and looked around the room, glad that people were here and that they were enjoying themselves. I pushed myself off the bar as Mathieu waved me over to the dais.

“It’s time. Are you ready?” Mathieu whispered. 

“Yes, yes,” I sighed. I was a queen, and I hated being the center of attention. But here I go. “Everyone, can I have your attention, please?” The room took a minute to quiet down, mortals and immortals mixed, but I could still hear the camera’s going off in the distance. Dion came and stood beside me, and I squeezed his hand for comfort. Mathieu prodded me, and I growled a little. Yes, I was dragging my feet.

“Thank you all for coming. I hope that you enjoy your time here this evening.” Eris said something about cutting, and I pulled out the giant scissors. “I came prepared too, Eris.” I took a deep breath and continued. “Now, I know most of you haven’t been here yet, and I hope you can stay. There have been rooms set aside for your use after the gala finishes if you choose. There will also be some tours offered after dinner if you would like to take a look around.” I held one side of the scissors while Mathieu took the other. “We now pronounce that Nymphaeum is officially, and forever, open for business!” Together, we cut the ribbon as hundreds of flashes went off. People cheered, congratulated me, Eros smashed a glass on the floor. Still, I just laughed. “Okay, the hard part is done. Go dance, mix, and mingle, and please enjoy yourselves!”

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That Damned Calendar

Mathieu had been hounding me for weeks. Every time I do something he asks or needs, there is something new. I finally faced my fears of the Trench and returned safely. After a short respite, he found something else. The calendar.

“I thought that was just a joke, Mathieu, something to drum up interest in the resort. We’re mere weeks away from the Grand Opening. We don’t have time to worry about this stupid calendar,” I commented, shocked and surprised when he brought it up. 

“Amphitrite!” Mathieu gasped, and I couldn’t help but giggle.

“What? You knew I didn’t want to do the photoshoot, to begin with,” I replied. “Why do we still need to do the calendar? Isn’t it just a little silly and vain?”

He waved his hand in front of his face. “Nonsense, I know at least a few people who will buy it.” I just raised my eyebrow at him. “I’m sure Lord Dionysos would like one.” I blushed and shook my head. “Lady Selene would probably want to support you, hmm…who else? Alessa definitely, she’s already been texting me asking when they’ll be released.”

I gulped. “They’re already in print?”

“Soon, Amph, very soon,” he commented with a smirk. I just groaned. “Would you like me to continue the list? Because I have a pre-order list.”

“Burn it, Mathieu, we’re not selling the calendars.” This little publicity stunt had gone too far. All the photos were classy and tasteful, but I still felt like a pin-up girl every time they were brought up. 

“Please, Amph, I beg of you. Do this for me? I can print them without your consent. You already signed the document.” Shit, he was right. I did. Stupid paperwork. “But I want to do this as a team. Please.” Mathieu was practically on his knees, begging me. I sighed.

“Oh, alright, but if I don’t like the final draft, it gets scrapped, deal?” I replied and stuck out my right hand.

Mathieu, my perky, amazing General Manager, just beamed at me and took my hand. “Deal! Now let’s call the graphic designer over and get started!” He pulled me back into Nymphaeum, talking about all the ideas he had. About an hour and a bottle of white later, the graphic designer arrived, and Mathieu dove into the discussion with them.

It seemed I was just overseeing the work. There were times that I chimed in with a comment, but for the most part, Mathieu knew what he wanted and how to keep me looking classy. It was all I could ask for until it wasn’t.

“No, not that one,” I stated emphatically as they were trying to decide on December’s picture. 

“But, Lady Amphitrite, it is customary to have a sexier one for December,” the graphic designer commented. That one picture, more than any of the others, was a joke to me. And no one was ever going to see it.

I stood up, wine bottle in hand, and looked down at the computer. “If you decide to go with that picture, you may as well kibosh the whole thing. I will not approve anything with my name, my image, to include something so…”

“Scandalous?” Mathieu chimed in, and I nodded. “Alright, we’ll use the other picture because I want this calendar out there!” He was exuberant and elated, and it made me nervous. I’d enjoyed taking the photos so much, but I honestly thought it was just for fun. The idea of a calendar seemed so far-fetched that I agreed without really thinking.

“Alright, you know which ones I like and which ones I don’t, so…I guess put them in the order you see fit.” I made my way to the door, but Mathieu stopped me.

“Amph, I promise we’ll make you proud.” He placed a gentle kiss on my cheek and smiled. I nodded and left before I could agree to anything else.

—–

A few days passed, and as I was going over the floor plan for the big night, Mathieu burst in, carrying a stack of, you guessed it, calendars. How did they get them printed so fast?!

“Amph, take a look!” Mathieu bustled over to the dais where I was standing. I jumped down and sat on the platform. I smiled, it was infectious, and he placed them down. Five copies, but I could see even the covers were different.

“What is all this, Mathieu?” I asked calmly, picking one up and starting to flip through it. The pictures were stunning, the touch-ups just right, and I have to say, I looked good. I then glanced down at my shambles of an outfit. There I was, chilling in sweats and flip-flops, with my long hair up in a messy bun. I did not resemble the goddess in those pictures. 

“Well, there were a couple of months that we couldn’t decide on between the two of us, so we did a mock-up of how everything would look with each of the options,” he stated simply.

“Okay, and?”

“And you get to decide.”

Of course, I do. I rolled my eyes and flipped open the one I had in my hands. It looked good so far, but then May caught my eye, and I shuddered a little. It was just a little too…much. “What was the other option for May?” The other one was cute, sweet, tender almost. I was wearing a pale pink dress with flowers on it, cute little sleeves, and a heart neckline. Or maybe it was called a sweetheart neckline? I don’t know. I felt pretty and cute when I wore it. “This one, Mathieu.” He made a note, and I continued through. 

November caught my eye this time. It was a choice between two comfy looking outfits. One was a dark purple, the other blues and greys. The second one was what I would wear normally, and yes, I stole all the clothing and added it to my wardrobe, so sue me. Mathieu smiled at me, having seen me rock the look around the resort on the chillier nights. It wasn’t so much that it got cold, but the nights were starting to freshen up. I’d taken to wearing a long sweater, like the one in the photo around here and back home.

“That one works just fine. It cuts the sexiness of October with the elegance of December,” Mathieu stated. “Any comments on the artwork, design, or anything else?”

“No, Mathieu, they all look amazing. Thank you.” I went to give them back, and he just smiled. 

“Keep them. They’re just going to go in the trash anyway,” he commented. 

I nodded and sighed. “Alright, I’m going home. Let me know if there’s anything you need from me tomorrow. I’m not coming in.”

“Understood, we could all use a break once the Grand Opening is over.” I couldn’t agree more. 

I picked up the calendars, PROOF—DO NOT REPRODUCE, watermarked on all the pages, and smiled down at Mathieu. “Thank you, my friend, for taking care of me, this resort, and everything else. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

He chuckled and stood beside me. “Oh, you know, crash and burn.” I laughed along with him, kissed his cheek again, and disappeared into sea mist. I had never really wondered about the extent of my teleportation. I was always near the ocean to draw power and strength. Any further inland, and I would start to dry out, to desiccate. It was not a pretty look. 

I popped into the lounge back home, wanting to grab a drink before heading back upstairs. I placed the calendar proofs on the counter in the kitchen before getting a water bottle out of the fridge. I leaned against the wall for a moment while I enjoyed the beverage, and when I left the lounge, I left the calendars behind, completely forgotten.

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Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I decided to pick you up and try this out for a while, see how it goes. Maybe writing things down will help to keep my storms under control. I’ve been back a couple of weeks now and have been cracking down on planning for the Grand Opening. December 26 can’t come fast enough. Nymphaeum is completely booked except for a small bank of rooms I’ve left available for my family, should anyone decide to show up. I know Dion will, and for that, I am immensely grateful. I don’t think I’d get through the night without him there.

I’m worried most about Poseidon and Nereus both showing. I’d felt my father’s return in the sea but haven’t yet run into him. I haven’t seen P since long before my trip into the Trench and his return from his journey. I don’t know if I’m thankful for that or not. We need to talk, whether here or at home, and it should be soon.

I’ll deal with it if they do show up, as I always do, with class and dignity. If anyone starts causing issues, they’re gone. Oh, who am I kidding? This is my family we’re talking about. There is going to be chaos involved, especially if they come.

Anyway. 

I’ve been spending almost every minute at Nymphaeum with Matthieu getting things planned. One night last week, we finished early that night, and I made it home. As I was making some chicken cacciatore, I realized I had made too much. I did that more frequently than I would like to admit, and only some of the time did I bring it down to Dion. This was one of those times. Since we had returned from Guam, I hadn’t seen him much, mainly because of being at Nymphaeum. I missed him, though. He had become such a presence in my life, and so quickly. So, I sent him a text asking if I could bring some food down and hang out for a bit. He said he was in, and I made my way down. Mano was sleeping in his terrarium, and I smiled at the little axolotl before I left. 

Dion poured some wine, of course, it was good. I felt a little awkward. Since the flight home, we hadn’t spent much time together. We hadn’t discussed what happened, and I think I was trying to ease that awkwardness. Somehow, we talked about Sicily through the dinner, and Dion being his usual charming self, offered to go there. I thought sometime soon. He meant immediately. I couldn’t help but be swept up in it, and I agreed. With everything that had happened, I couldn’t count Guam as a vacation. Time away from the resort, yes. But I spent the few days I was there recovering from the ordeal of the Trench, worrying about how I was getting home…and thinking about Dion. 

I have to say, Diary, that the change Dion underwent during the Calling startled me. Not because I don’t like the younger version of him. I do. Very much. But because I remembered that it happened infrequently, and typically when there was a significant shift in his life. I don’t know how long he had been the older version of himself, and I haven’t asked. But the events in Napa shook him so deeply that the young, virile, wild god had to come out. I still didn’t care. We had a connection from the get-go. His looks never played a factor, and now…they were an excellent bonus. 

Mmm…sorry, I just got a shiver, remembering how his hands felt on me. Rough from working the land, and yet tender, loving. 

Dion knew exactly what we needed, that flight home, that weekend in Sicily. It was almost as if he could read my mind. Now there’s a terrifying thought. But anyway, I digress. This is where I dump my deepest, darkest secrets, right? I want to give in, to give my everything to him. We took things slowly before we left, but on the flight, I gave in. We both did. I think we realized how close we came to losing each other, and that yes, we’re immortal, and yes, we have all the time in the world, but some forces could separate us, keep us apart, kill us. Any fears I had melted away when I saw him on that beach.

Our trip to Sicily was perfect, a lover’s getaway. We left the morning after our dinner. I had messaged Selene and asked if she could keep an eye on Mano for a few days. She was very interested in the trip and elated when I told her. I could almost feel the moonbeam from floor five. I had hidden a key for her to get in and told her the location. No, I’m not going to tell you! What if this book falls into the hands of someone disreputable! Don’t worry, she’s returned the key, so my apartment is still safe. 

Sicily, right, I keep getting distracted. A short helicopter flight and a slightly longer jet flight had Dionysos and me on the island of Sicily just in time for lunch. I was astounded by the beauty. I don’t think I’d been to the surface of the island. But the waters were some of my favourite places, and the nymphs in the area had been some of my best friends. But this view was stunning. The wind whipped my hair around my face, and I took it all in. The sun in the sky, the ocean nearby, the salt in the air. Dion right beside me. I could feel his arm around my waist, but I was lost in the beauty of that place. 

He guided me to a villa that looked over the ocean, and I knew that it had belonged either to him or his extended family. It was at that moment I started getting nervous. A weekend alone with Dion. I knew what this meant, even more than all the fun we had on the flight home. This was a definitive step in our relationship. One we still hadn’t discussed. Were we a couple, were we just, what’s the term? Friends with benefits? I didn’t think that was the case. This connection, this bond between us, goes back so far. I felt that my love for Dion, subconscious as it was, went back to Naxos. He told me it had felt like forever for him. I knew we couldn’t be just friends, not now. And I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be more with him. Dating, I think they called it.

Part of me hoped we would come to terms with our relationship status soon. This ambiguous state we were in, while fun, and hot, and so so fucking good, constantly had me wondering if I was just another conquest for the infamous Party God. That thought alone has my stomach-churning. I am slowly getting over my abandonment issues, thanks to Dion. I honestly don’t know if I could handle that. Another notch on the bedpost. Not now. I am done with the frivolity of my youth. I want commitment. I thought I had it before, and then he left, and I…I never recovered. Which is why if Dion is just playing games with me, if I’m just another nymph to chase, to capture, to tame…I will break. 

Look at me. I’ve turned into a sappy romantic bitch. “Love me, or I’ll die.” Ugh, I can’t even look at myself right now. And yet, it’s how I feel. Like Dionysos is my future, and I can’t shake it. I don’t want to shake it.

I just want to give in, to him, to us.

Well, I guess that’s it, Diary. I thought I’d give this a shot. Signing off for now.

Amphitrite

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Because I Said So!

The diaper change relay race had just got underway, and the teams’ laughing made me smile. I figured while they were busy, I’d get started on the next game, really just getting things ready for it. Because I Said So was the one I chose to host since it was the easiest to research for me. I’d never been to a shower before, and I didn’t feel very comfortable hosting or even participating in many of the others. I had brought a large bowl with pens and paper and smiled as the relay seemed to be finishing up. 

I watched Dion out of the corner of my eye as he made his way around the room, his pirate costume outrageous and authentic. It was perfectly him. Our respective trips had mostly gone according to plan, and part of me was still reconciling my feelings for both Dion and Poseidon. But that wasn’t the point of tonight. The point was to give Clio and Eros a spectacular baby shower because they deserved it by the gods. 

I wandered around, asking people if they wanted to play. Almost everyone said no, but three said yes. Eris, Nike, and…I gulped, Dion all wanted to play. Okay, this could get interesting, just between Eris and Dion. Each of them took a piece of paper and a pen, then looked at me. Eris was already chomping at the bit to write down her advice. “Okay…so write down something you associate with your parents or parent and drop it in the bin.” I looked over at Eris and smiled sweetly. “Everything is fair game. We’re talking about Clio and Eros here, so let’s go wild.”

She smirked back at me and began writing. “Now what?”

I knew hers would be quick, and I laughed. “Fold it in half and drop it back in the bowl. Once everyone is done, we’ll pick out of the bowl, read them out loud and try to guess whose was whose.”

“I shoulda made mine harder then,” Eris commented as she got up and dropped it in the bowl. 

I rolled my eyes and smiled, pulling out a piece of paper and writing my advice on it. Something I’d heard from Doris many times growing up. Don’t be afraid to fail. I folded it up and watched as Dion and Nike put theirs in as well. 

I took a deep breath, shook the bowl, and passed it around. “Alright, pick one out, and hope it isn’t yours.” I passed the bowl to my left. Nike took a paper out and clutched it in her hand before giving it to her left to Dion. Dion winked playfully at her, pulled out a paper, and then passed it to Eris, who pulled a piece out with a dramatic flourish. She gave the bowl back to me, and I took the last piece. When I opened it, I nearly snorted wine out of my nose.

Don’t dip the binky in the wine more than five times. Dionysos…If everyone was this predictable, it was going to be a short game. 

“Eris, why don’t you go first? Read out the advice and try to guess who it is. If you guess wrong, then we’ll all have a turn.” 

Eris winked at me, and I smiled. Eris was a handful; however, they chose to present themselves, and I found myself missing my sisters all of a sudden. We could get into a boatload of trouble when we were younger. “Allow them to try something risky. Like falling out of a tree, they will only learn to fly higher that way. Hmm…flying has to be Nike!”

Nike giggled softly and nodded, pulling out the piece she had. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Well…this almost sounds like mine. But I’d have to go with Dion?” 

The God of Wine shook his head and smirked. “Not mine, dear Victory, although I’m never afraid to fail. I win at failing, and I fail at winning!” That time I did snort, and Dion stared at me, his deep brown eyes piercing into me. “I’d guess that it was Amphitrite’s.” I nodded and blushed softly. The way he said my name washed over me like warm honey, and I just wanted to sink into it. I shook my head out of my daydream and nodded back to him. “So I got: Cages, leashes, spray bottles.” Nike coughed, I snorted, Eris cackled, and I could hear Eros in the background howling with laughter. “This has to have come from Eris.”

“None other, my fine sir.” She stood up with a bow and sat back down. “So that leaves the paper that dear Amphy has.”

I smirked at her. “And if we can’t figure out whose it is by process of elimination, the advice is crystal clear. Don’t dip the binky in the wine more than five times.” I chuckled softly as Nike brought her hand up to cover a laugh, and Eris doubled over.

“Yes, that has to be Dion. Let’s get the kids liquored…it’s perfect!” She roared with laughter, and Dion just looked pleased with himself. 

“It always worked with my kids,” Dion commented offhand, and we all laughed. 

“Alright, put the name of the god or goddess whose advice it was on the paper, and we’ll give them to Clio and Eros so that they can keep this epic information at hand. I’m sure they’ll need it,” I offered as I wrote Dion’s name down on the paper. Everyone else did the same and passed them back to me.

I smiled softly down at the little advice pieces and made my way over to Clio and Eros. “Here, from the misfits over there with love.” I placed a soft kiss on Clio’s head and passed the notes to her. I held out my hand to Eros. I may not like him on the best of days, but to the best of my knowledge, he’d never shot me, so there was that. “I wish you both the best of luck with the twins. You’re going to have your hands full.”

With that, I made my way back to where my wine was sitting and tried not to overthink about the future.

Featured

Girls Night In

I gazed at the stars twinkling in the sky as I looked over the grounds of the GC through my living room windows. So much had happened in the last couple of weeks. I was still processing it all. I held a glass of wine in my hand as I just sat there, looking at the world and nothing all at once. The flight home had been emotional. Dion and I had shared our stories. I was amazed at how well he was holding up, given what had happened at the party. Antonio seemed to have been a wonderful man. I was sorry I hadn’t gotten a chance to meet him. I was glad Dion had, even if it ended in pain.

A knock at the door brought me out of my reverie. I didn’t want company, not that I wanted to be alone. I hadn’t even really spoken to Dion since being home. My long sweater dress clung to my legs as I walked, shuffling along to open the door. “Alessa! What are you—” I barely got the greeting out before she pushed her way in, closing the door behind her.

“You go missing for days, and then I hear you’re back through someone else! Am I even your friend?” I was shocked by her response. My wine glass fell, and I pulled Alessa into my arms, hugging her tightly.

“You are, Alessa. Gods, you’re my best friend. I…I haven’t seen anyone. I didn’t even know people knew I was back. I didn’t know anyone realized I was missing. We really just wanted to return quietly,” I explained as I held her, and we both shook.

“Of course, people knew you were missing, Amph. You told them you were heading home, then no one hears from you, and a hurricane breaks in the Pacific.” I nodded sadly as Alessa continued. “Wait, you said we. Who is we?”

Shit. 

I let go of my friend, staring down at the mess at my feet as I tried deflecting the question. “Stay there. I’ll get something to clean this up.”

“Nonsense, I’m still in my shoes. You’re the idiot in bare feet,” she teased back. I knew then that she wasn’t too mad at me. I also knew we’d be okay.

“It’s my home, Alessa. I’ll wear what I want,” I called after her as she ducked into the kitchen and grabbed a towel and broom. I wasn’t too worried about the wine, but I didn’t particularly want to step on the glass. Although, that would be a story for Dion. Alessa returned, dropped the towel around my feet, and the cloth tickled me lightly, causing me to giggle.

“Oh, come on, Amph. You can’t be that ticklish,” she said, mopping carefully around my feet, pulling the glass away. 

I glanced down at her and smiled. “It isn’t exactly something I’ve had occasion to test out, you know?” I heard her giggle as I jumped out of the puddle. I grabbed another towel and dried my feet. Alessa finished cleaning up the last of the glass. I grabbed the mop, cleaning that area of the floor before it got sticky. “Remind me not to spill any more wine here.” Alessa just laughed. I took the towel from her, throwing it into the sink. “How about fresh glasses? Then we can catch up.” 

“Sounds good to me. Just pour me whatever you’re having. No need to open a second bottle.” I nodded, pouring two glasses of the rose I’d been enjoying. We sat in the kitchen around my large island. 

“Okay. Ask away.” I was mostly prepared for her questions.

Alessa’s eyebrow shot up. Maybe I wasn’t ready. “You said we.” Damn, I knew she wouldn’t let it go. 

I coughed before taking a sip of the wine. It was good. “Yes, Dionysos and me. He found me in Guam, then flew me home.”

My friend’s mouth dropped. “Lord Dionysos, the Mad God?” I nodded. “Twice born, God of the Vine and Inebriation?” I nodded again. “You two are a couple?” I snorted the wine out through my nose, which burned. I was seriously abusing this wine. Dion would not approve. 

“A what?” I asked, straining as I pinched my nose to calm the ache.

Alessa stared at me, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “You know, are you exclusive, seeing each other, dating…doing the horizontal tango?” 

I managed to set my glass on the countertop this time before sputtering, “I…whoa, no. We—there are certain things we haven’t quite discussed yet. Gods, you’re as bad as Aphi!” I commented with a blush. 

My best friend just laughed at me and sipped her wine. “Please! You may all be gods, but you feel more intensely than we do. Do you love him?” I nodded slowly, smiling. “Then really, that’s all that matters. You two have all the time in the world to figure your shit out.”

“And now, you sound like him.” I laughed, rolling my eyes dramatically.

“And have you?” She asked pointedly.

I pretended not to know what she was talking about. “Have we what?”

Alessa groaned, and I chuckled. “Don’t play dumb. Have you tapped that mad god’s ass yet?”

My eyes bulged out of my head. I understood what she was asking without actually understanding a single word. “Yes…on the flight home. But that was the first time of many.” I finished the sentence in a mumble. Alessa’s mouth fell open. I continued before she could say anything. “Because, according to both of you, we have all the time in the world.” She snorted at me, and we laughed together, enjoying the wine. “There are a few of you who seem to be invested in my love life, although I’m not entirely certain why.”

“What do you mean?” She asked innocently enough.

I scoffed and continued. “You’re on this tirade. Aphrodite wants all the gossip. As the Goddess of Love, it’s kind of her thing. And Mathieu…” I sighed. Mathieu had been very worried.

“What about him? Now that is a man who needs to get laid.” 

I rolled my eyes again. “I’m sure it hasn’t been that long for him. He was anxious. Dion and I stopped in Cali to visit Nymphaeum before continuing home. I’d never seen a mortal so worried about a god before. I really am sorry, Alessa.” 

She waved me off. “So, what did your General Manager have to say?”

I smiled a little, recalling the conversation. “He just held me, as if I were going to disappear again. He promised me he would never push me to do something I was hesitating on.” Alessa made to speak, but I held up my hand. “I had been procrastinating, Alessa. I should have attended to this shortly after my return, instead of letting it linger. I put it off, and Mathieu was trying to help me move forward. I don’t blame him, even if he blames himself.”

*****

The memory surfaced quickly. Mathieu’s face came into view as he ran to me, pulling me into one of the tightest hugs I’d ever felt. Dion was right behind me, watching the whole thing, as Mathieu sobbed into me. “Amph, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” He just kept repeating his apologies. All I could do was hold him. When he had cried himself out, he stood, straightened himself, and walked over to Dion. 

“Thank you for going to get her. I was going to send someone, but she told me to wait, that you would be on your way. Thank you. But I warn you,” oh no, “Lady Amphitrite means everything to Nymphaeum and me. Do not abuse that trust, sir.” I groaned and watched Dion’s face.

He just held out his hand to Mathieu and smiled. “If ever I am in that situation, I believe Amphitrite will let me know. She can be quite vocal when she needs to be.” I looked between them, blushing a bit, but Mathieu failed to catch the double meaning. He took Dion’s hand, shaking it. “Good. She will not be coming to the office for the next little while. Will you be alright?”

Mathieu nodded, smiling. “Yes, sir. If I could get Luis’s contact information. I have a few things to ask of him, and you, when you have the time. And no, I do not expect Lady Amphitrite any time soon.” They were coddling me, and I didn’t like it, but then Dion wrapped his strong arms around me, and I completely forgot to fight back. If that was where I’d be spending my next few days, so be it.

*****

Alessa waved her hand in front of my face, and I blinked. “Sorry, Mathieu blames himself because he kept nagging me to do it.”

“Looking at it from his perspective, I can see that, Amph. I think we also both know you well enough to know you don’t do anything you don’t want to do.”

I chuckled and shook my head. “No, I don’t. With this trip, it was more timing than anything. I didn’t know when only that it would need to happen.”

Alessa nodded, finishing her glass of wine. “You will keep me informed, though?”

“Of what?” I asked as she stood and smiled.

“The progress in your relationship,” she replied matter-of-factly.

“Yes, Alessa. I’ll tell you the moment something changes.” She laughed and hugged me. “Alright, alright. I can see you’re getting ready to head out. Be safe. I’ll call you in a couple of days for coffee.”

“And you’ll tell me the rest of the juicy gossip? I know there is plenty, Amphitrite,” she replied, and I nodded.

“With Dion, I have the feeling there will always be juicy gossip. You and Aphrodite should hang out. I’m sure you’d have much to discuss.”

Alessa laughed, and we hugged again, and she made her way to the elevators. I shut the door and sent a text to Dion.

Amph: Hope your night is going well. I spilled a glass of wine while talking with Alessa. It wasn’t my best bottle, thankfully. Feel free to drop by for a meal sometime soon. Bring Mourgo.

I filled my glass and returned to my spot near the window. My large comfy chair had been picked and placed for this exact reason. 

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Maelstrom, Part VII: Nisos

It was the day after I revealed myself to Pania and Oliana that Mano and I were out walking on the beach. I could walk, I could teleport a few feet, but I still couldn’t run well. Why was this taking so long?! Mano and I had taken to laying in the surf as the sun rose and fell. Mano was building up a tolerance to seawater, which I found amazing. 

“Mano, you know I’ll be able to create a little bubble for you when we swim, right?” I asked softly.

The little axolotl just looked at me, and I swear he sighed. “Sea Lady, I want to be able to swim with you, not just get pulled by you.” His answer made sense, and it would be fun to swim around with him. “But for now, we should help the nice ladies at the resort. The money came in yesterday, so that is good.” 

My friend made an excellent point. I got up out of the surf and teleported a few feet away, leaving behind only sea mist. I sighed, hoping that my power would return soon, but it excited the children, so I kept it up most of the way back to the resort. We began by cleaning up debris, sweeping where necessary, and helping with some of the lighter work. 

Oliana had been watching my recovery while I stayed there, and I was eager to do more, but the kind woman just kept me doing what I was. I think she wanted me to focus on recovering my strength, my power. I would make sure to lay a blessing of protection on this family, this place, once I could, for everything they’ve done for me.

“That’s it. We give up!” Pania shouted, startling Oliana and I as she came rushing into the room. 

We looked at each other and then at her. “What are we giving up?” Oliana replied.

Pania shot a worried glance at me and sighed. “We’re closing the resort down. The money you sent barely covers the insurance, wages, and cancellations. It doesn’t cover any of the damages or restoration.” I flopped onto the floor, and Mano skirted up around my neck. “Trite, it isn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known. But…” Pania paused and sat beside me. “Apparently, the resort has been declining for years. And this storm just confirmed what people already knew. That we would be closing soon.”

I fought back tears, and Mano nuzzled my neck. “I’m so sorry. I can call Mathieu and have him send more.” Pania shook her head and smiled. 

“It’s alright, Trite. We’ve known it was coming for a while.” Oliana replied, sighing along with her sister. “We’ll just go over to one of the larger resorts on the island and—”

“No,” I cut her off. “You both will come to Nymphaeum and work there.” Their faces went slack, and I continued. “Please, let me repay you how I can. And this I can do. You would both make excellent members of the staff, and I have two perfect openings!” Now, how did I know that Mathieu hadn’t filled them? Because we’d been waiting for the right people. And now I had found them. “Please, think about it.” They nodded, and since the resort was closing down, we were told that clean up would cease. Pania and I stood, and I left. 

The ladies stayed behind to gather all their personal belongings, and I walked ahead back to their place along the beach. I was walking in the surf as I normally did, when I noticed a figure coming from the direction of Oliana and Pania’s house, following the small waves washing against the shore. He was walking toward me but also moving up and down on the beach, sometimes chasing the water, sometimes being chased by it.

There was something familiar about him, something I couldn’t quite place. He was fit, not overly muscular like some of the other men and gods I’d known, but well built. He wore grey plaid cargo shorts and a light short-sleeved shirt that was unbuttoned and flapping in the wind. I saw tattoos along his arms and over his chest and wondered what they were. They reminded me of him, even though I’d only seen glimpses of his tattoos. Dark brown hair and a reddish beard adorned the man’s face, and I caught myself momentarily stunned by the idea of running my fingers through both of them. 

He was handsome, alluringly so…maddeningly so. I felt drawn to him, yet I didn’t know why. I felt like I was looking at someone I knew ages ago. For a moment, my mind went to the first time I met Rommel, and I shook my head to clear the incoming memory. No mortal man since had ever commanded my attention this quickly. As we neared each other, I saw dark brown eyes, which only served to pull me into his aura. I caught a whiff of wine. Not that I’ve been boozing and am drenched in it but the wine is in my soul kind of thing. I knew then who it was, but I couldn’t believe that it was him.

“Dion!” I cried out and ran full-steam at him, which right now wasn’t very fast. I leapt into his arms, holding on tightly for all the world, and I just clung to him. “Gods, I’ve missed you!”

Dionysos’ arms wrapped around my waist, and he held me close. “Pheephee, are you well? I told you not to go too deep. I told you I’d come after you.” His voice soothed every doubt that it was, in fact, Dionysos, and every last fear I’d had that I’d never make it back home. “Are you still not able to return yet?”

I shook my head, leaning into his embrace. “Nisos, I can’t teleport more than a few feet away, and I can’t shift yet.”

Dion gave me another squeeze, and he nodded a few times, working things out in his head. “You need not worry. I am here, and so is my jet. There is plenty of room for you.”

I looked him over, leaning back slightly to do so, and smiled. “I like the new you. I liked the old you too…but what happened? I sense that whatever happened in Napa, it was something major.” 

“Oh Pheephee, what happened and what did not happen? The Master Plan was very masterful, but there was an imbalance in the balance that I tried to balance. There was happiness and tragedy and anger. So much anger.” Dion looked away as tears formed in his eyes, and I knew then that the change was not only outward. 

I placed my hand on his cheek, turned his face back towards mine to look at him, and gently kissed the other cheek. “I’m sorry, Nisos, is there anything I can do?”

Dion heaved a long sigh, cleared his throat, and held me with his gaze. “There is much to say and much to do, dear. For me, for you, and for us. The trip back is long, and we will both have a story to tell.” With that, he leaned in and kissed me ever so softly on my forehead.

Mano shifted uncomfortably on my neck as I moved, and I realized I was pinching him. “I’m sorry, Mano, this is my friend, Dionysos.” 

I brushed my hair aside, revealing my new friend. “Dionysos, before you ask, this is Mano, my axolotl.”

Dion leaned into my neck and breathed in where Mano was perched, and his breath caused a chill to run up and down my spine. “Well, hello there, little one! Thank you for looking after Pheephee and keeping her safe.” 

The gentle tickle of his beard as he spoke, coupled with his soft voice, was almost enough to make me swoon. That’s when I realized it. I realized that Dion hadn’t let me go, and I suddenly got very self-conscious, given everything we’d discussed and admitted before we left on our respective trips. 

I started to squirm a little, but Dion held tight. “You said you were going to let me know before you left, Amph. Why the secrecy?” 

As if on cue, I saw Pania and Oliana as they came running up behind me. I took the moment to gently break free of Dion’s arms so I could introduce them. “These two wonderful ladies here are Pania and Oliana. They found me beached a few days ago and have been taking care of me.”

Dion straightened, and before they could react, he leaned in between them and took them both in an awkward embrace with a booming laugh. “So! It is you two that I have to thank for this. I hope you were not put out in any way, and as far as costs go, you will be well compensated.”

The two women, almost lost in his embrace, half giggled, half cursed at him, and fought for release. When he finally let go, they bowed with bashful smiles, and he returned the gesture, almost tipping over face first. 

When he turned back to me, I sighed a bit and ran my fingers through my hair. “I didn’t know that I would be leaving when I did. Mathieu basically pushed me to it. And after that, well…” I shook a little and continued, “I don’t want to get into it here.” I looked up at him and smiled softly. “I’ve offered them both positions at Nymphaeum. I hope they’ll accept them. If not, I’ve already had Mathieu wire them some money to compensate for my lodging and using their phones.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea! If they need transport to the resort, let me know, and I’ll have Luis make all the necessary arrangements.”

I felt my heart swell for Dion, the care he was showing two women he’d only just met because they cared for me…well, I almost cried tears of joy. Instead, I felt the tides respond to my emotions, and I smiled, pulling the water up and around Dion and me, encircling us. I leaned in, wrapped my arms around his neck, and pulled him into a kiss, the waves wrapping us entirely. I had enough control that the beach was unaffected, creating a sphere of water around me and the man I loved. 

I melted. My heart, my fears, my inhibitions, all of them dissipated into the kiss, and I felt the blockage that had kept me from shifting disappear. As it did, my legs melded together, my tail returned, and I looked every bit like the sea queen I was always meant to be, the one I felt like over 3,000 years ago. I felt like that was all thanks to Dion, his love, his care, but I also knew how much I had grown since facing my fears in the Trench. I broke the kiss momentarily and whispered softly, “I love you, Dionysos, please don’t hurt me.” 

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Maelstrom, Part VI: Inarajan

Over the next couple of days, things settled into a bit of a routine. I’d wake up with pain in my legs and try to keep from disturbing Oliana and Pania. I suppose I was lucky. Pania was a massage therapist at the nearby resort, and Oliana was in housekeeping. Pania had been doing everything she could to help ease my discomfort. Still, every morning I felt like I had my tail, and it was splitting me in half to give me legs. I’d never experienced that sensation before, and it concerned me, but I couldn’t tell them that. Between only drinking seawater and what I said in my sleep, Pania was already beginning to suspect I was more than I seemed. 

She brought the muttering in my sleep to my attention this morning. “Trite, you were babbling again last night.” Aching, I looked at her as I sat up slowly. I looked down at my legs, bruised and battered from making it over the reefs. I must have shifted because the splotches were in curious patterns. I had unconsciously fought the shift as long as possible to make it over the reefs in one piece. 

I looked back at Pania and swung my legs off the couch. “What was I saying?”

“You were calling out for someone named Nisos. You were begging for him to come get you.” I blushed furiously, burying my face in my hands. I couldn’t believe it. No, I could. Since I spoke to Luis the other day, I’d been hoping Dion would arrive and take me home, but he hadn’t. I knew he was busy, and that was alright. I guess inner me wanted to finish the conversation we’d been having before I left. “Who is Nisos?” Pania asked as her thumb worked into my calf.

I winced, looking down with a sigh. “Someone I knew before I left on my trip. I was trying to reach him when I borrowed your phone, but his assistant answered. I hoped he would get the message by now and would be on his way—or someone would.” I felt a lurch in my heart when I remembered the night after I’d asked Hekate for assistance and what Dion had told me. 

“I love you, too…” His words had been reverberating in my head for days now, and I couldn’t shake them. 

“These things take time, Trite. It’s not so easy to get here, even if you have money to drop.” I smiled, nodding as Pania finished up and helped me stand. Walking was getting better, and I could manage a few meters on my own. We made our way to the beach, and Pania sat me down in a chair near the shore. With the ocean being right there, it was the most calming place for me. I felt attuned, and as though I would heal faster. I thought I would heal better in the water, but never-the-less this was good. Pania squeezed my shoulder gently. Then she and Oliana left for work. 

The morning passed as it normally did, with me sleeping in the sun, relaxing under his rays, hoping the darkening of my skin would help to hide the bruises. It was around mid-day that I saw a shimmer in the sand. I got up, making my way closer. I fell to the beach, wincing again, and picked up the shimmering creature. 

“Oh no, you poor baby!” In my hands lay a small albino axolotl. “You’re very far from home, aren’t you?” I drew the salt-water from his lungs, the poor creature spitting up the remainder on its own. It was a good sign that I had some control back. “Youch!” The axolotl bit me, and I dropped him back to the sand, but he didn’t run away. 

“You…How did you save me?” he asked me as I smiled down at him.

“I removed the seawater from your lungs. You are a freshwater creature, and the ocean was killing you,” I replied, speaking his language. “Why did you bite me?”

“I thought you were going to eat me,” he replied. I looked at the poor thing, shocked. 

“No, little one. I don’t make a habit of eating seafood. Plus, you are far too cute. I placed my hand down on the sand, and the little axolotl climbed into it. “May I ask what you’re doing here? You’re an awful long way from your homeland.”

“I was onboard a houseboat, and we got caught in a large storm. The ship went down, my tank shattered, and I was free.” My mouth fell open, and I held the axolotl to my heart.

“I am sorry, little one, that was my fault,” I told him softly.

“How could it be your fault, dear lady? Also, how do you converse with me?” he asked curiously.

I sighed. “I am Amphitrite.” My reply was simple. He would either know of me or not.

“The Sea Lady?” I nodded. “My kind worshipped your husband.” I sputtered and waved it off. “What will become of me, Sea Lady?”

I shook my head. “I do not know, little one. You can’t go back into the ocean, but you made it this far. You’re on land and breathing. How is that possible?”

“My entire family is able to breathe on land. I did not know that axolotl could not.” This was intriguing. I would look into it later.

“Little one, would you like to stay with me? I can keep you safe, give you food, and you will be more than welcome with me.” 

The little axolotl looked at me, and I swear he smiled. “I would like that, Sea Lady. Will you give me a name? The other humans did not give me one.”

“Of course!” I smiled brightly, thinking about it for a minute. “How about Mano? It means shark on these islands, and well, you did bite me when we first met.”

“Mano sounds good, Sea Lady. Would you like me to call you Amphitrite or Sea Lady?” Mano asked politely.

I nodded as he crawled to my shoulder. I made my way back to the chair before deciding to try my luck and walk the beach a bit. “Trite, Trix, Amph, whichever you like best, Mano, is ok with me.”

“I’ll stick with Sea Lady. It is polite, and I like it.” I rubbed my finger under his chin, and Mano burbled happily. We walked on the beach for a while. I was feeling stronger with each step. Perhaps it was Mano, perhaps it was the daily massages from Pania, or maybe it was the relaxation. Something was finally starting to click, and I took it as a win. 

We made our way towards the resort, and I saw just how much damage had been done. Pania and Oliana had lied. They said everything was fine. I began to shake with anger for letting this happen, but then I felt one of Mano’s little hands on my neck, and I calmed. “Thank you, Mano,” I whispered.

“Of course, Sea Lady. We can not have another storm here,” he said calmly, and I nodded. 

“No, absolutely not.” My reply was short and sweet as Mano removed his hand. I felt calm still. This bond was nice, something I had been missing. I looked around for either of the two ladies and found Oliana clearing debris.

“Trite! What are you doing here?!” she exclaimed loudly. People began staring at me and, worse, at Mano. “And what is that?” she asked, pointing at Mano. 

“This is Mano. He’s an axolotl and very far from home. I found him on the beach this morning, almost dead. So I saved him. I want to help Oliana. Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?” I asked softly. Oliana sighed.

“Every time the storm was brought up, you would retreat into yourself,” she paused for a moment, “so we couldn’t tell you how much damage had been done.”

I was very glad there was a chair behind me because if not, my ass would have hit the ground. “It is my fault,” I muttered. Oliana just looked at me. 

“No child, you cannot control the seas.” I looked up at her, shifting my eyes from the sparkling blue they normally were to a dark storm blue. “Or maybe you can.” 

She knelt before me and placed a hand on my knee as I told her everything. Her face went slack, but she nodded along. “I’m so sorry. I never meant to cause all this.” I waved around me. “But I swear, as soon as I can, I will return with money and people to help you rebuild. You and Pania have been amazing to me these last few days. I don’t know why I’m taking so long to heal, but I can’t go home until I do. I don’t have the strength to shift or teleport or any of it.” I hung my head in shame. “I understand if you don’t want me to return with you, but I do swear I will repay you for everything you’ve done once I get back to Nymphaeum.”

“Wait, you work at Nymphaeum?” Oliana asked.

“No, I own it. It’s my resort,” I answered, too tired to keep anything hidden anymore. 

Oliana’s eyes bugged out at me as she sat down on the floor. “You give away most of your profits, don’t you? To ocean conservation charities, research groups, and stuff?”

I nodded. “And hurricane relief as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a check coming here from the board. That reminds me, I haven’t told Mathieu I am here!” I smacked my head, so hard Mano almost fell off my shoulder. “Sorry, little guy.” 

“May I borrow a phone again?” Oliana nodded, dumbfounded by the turn of events, and passed me her phone. I stopped my fingers from dialing Dion’s number again and instead called my phone. “Lady Amphitrite’s phone, Lord Dionysos, I have no other information for you.”

“Mathieu! It’s me. It’s Amph!”

“Oh, thank the gods, Amph! We were terrified here. What happened?”

I could hear the worry in his voice. “I’ll give you the break down later. I’m at a small resort near the village of Inarajan on the island of Guam. Can you please make sure whatever assets we have for hurricane relief make it over here? They have been wonderful to me these last couple of days.”

“Of course. But wait, a couple of days? You’ve been gone almost a week and a half.”

“I know. I will tell you the rest when I get home. But,” I paused, hesitant on what to say next. 

“But?”

“I don’t know when that will be. I can barely walk, and I don’t have the strength to get myself home the old-fashioned way. Just make sure we are doing everything we can for hurricane relief. I don’t care if I need to pull from every single one of my caches to do it, Mathieu. This storm was me, and I will help where I can.”

“I understand. It will be done. And if Lord Dionysos calls back?”

I sighed. “I called Luis the other day. He should know where I am. When was the last time he called?”

“A couple of days ago. I thought it odd, but then again, he’s an odd one.” 

I let out a soft giggle. “Oh, Mathieu, you have no idea. If Nisos calls back, or if Luis does, tell them where I am and what’s going on.”

“Should I send someone to fetch you?” The tension in his voice was palpable.

“No, just tell Dion, Luis, or Alessa if she happens to call. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way home, however that ends up happening.”

“Yes, Lady Amphitrite. I’m very glad you’re safe.”

I could hear the tears in his voice. I smiled. “I am too, Mathieu. I am too. Goodbye, my friend, I’ll see you soon.”

I gave the phone back to Oliana and sighed. “Again, please let me know what the charges come to, and I’ll cover them. You and Pania have been more than good to me. I am so sorry. I’ll find somewhere else to stay.”

Oliana stood suddenly and helped me stand. “Nonsense, you will stay with us still. Now that you can walk better, you can start to help.”

I laughed and felt Mano’s head on my neck. “I have wanted to do nothing else. Put me to work, such as I am able, Oliana. I’ll not shy away from it.”

“Tomorrow. Today you go home and rest. I think this has been trying for you and your friend. We’ll get started tomorrow.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied as she shooed me away. Mano and I walked along the beach slowly. I dipped my toes in the surf and started to feel my strength return bit by tiny bit.

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Maelstrom, Part V: Beached

I awoke on a beach somewhere. No, I don’t know all the beaches in the world. Even if I did, I haven’t been in the modern world long enough to get to know them. The sand was warm, and the sun was high. My legs were stretched out behind me. Legs! Oh, thank the gods, I had shifted back at some point. I flopped over onto my back, feeling like a dead fish. I looked down as best I could, hoping beyond hope I wasn’t naked. Modern mortals were such prudes. But no, I was wearing the dress I’d had on when I left Nymphaeum. I needed a change of clothes, a shower, and a situation report desperately. 

I sat up and looked around, noticing there weren’t too many people on the beach. I wondered why. It was a gorgeous day. Some of the best days come after a storm. The storm! What happened? Obviously, the storm had abated, but how long had it lasted? What path had it taken, and where had it made landfall? I needed to know these things. Unfortunately, my body wasn’t cooperating. It took all of my strength just to push myself into a sitting position, but I managed. Taking in my surroundings was more comfortable this way. The beauty of the place instantly struck me.

“Well, if I need to take some time to relax, what better place than this?” I commented softly to myself. I decided to rest here for a while; there was nothing I could do until I could move properly. I couldn’t even call anyone, Mathieu had confiscated my phone. “Wonderful, alone on a tropical island with no way to contact anyone.” I tried my bond with Selene. The ocean and moon were tied in powerful ways, but all I got was static. That could be because it was daytime. Still, I hoped I wasn’t causing her to worry. I hoped I hadn’t been gone too long, and that the storm hadn’t hit California.

Oh, Nisos. I knew I should try to get word to him. How do you tell someone where you are, when even you don’t know? Weary and drained, I fell back onto the sand. I had underestimated how much of a toll this was going to take on me. I should have stayed in Atlantis and healed, but I couldn’t bear it. The city felt empty without Poseidon, and I knew I wouldn’t get any rest. I felt bad for leaving Rommel in a lurch, but he would have never let me go. I couldn’t believe I let a turtle knock me out. I really was weak. 

Sighing, I looked up at the sun as its warm rays cascaded upon me. I had to be somewhere close to Atlantis. There were a few islands near its location. I could also tell that while we were near the equator, we were north of it. So, at least I was in the right hemisphere. I looked over the water and saw reefs, which made me very happy. I’d check them out once I could. 

I overheard a commotion building nearby. I turned my head to see people rushing to me. Their language and the hue of their skin told me I was near, or on, what the mortals called the Polynesian Islands. So, at least I had a starting point. Maybe I could borrow a phone from one of them to call Dion, Selene, or someone.

“Miss, miss, are you ok?” A woman kneeled beside me. She had kind eyes, very matronly. I nodded while trying to sit up again. “Here, let me help.” I nodded again, and she pulled me back into a sitting position. Another woman, younger than the first, leaned behind me and helped prop me up.

“Thank you. Could…could someone tell me where I am?” I asked slowly, making sure I was understood. The looks on the faces in the crowd spoke volumes.

“You weren’t…you weren’t, caught in that storm, were you, dear?” I nodded slowly, and a few of them gasped. “Oh, you poor thing!” I smiled weakly and tried to stand. I really did.

“I was out sailing.” It was a small lie. I couldn’t tell them the truth. “I truly don’t know where I am. I’m sorry.” The ladies helped me stand. I leaned on them heavily. 

“You’re in Guam, young one. You are on the south shore of the island.” 

“I’m surprised you made it across the reefs,” the younger one said as her arm wrapped around my waist. 

“Guam, in the Polynesians, right? Not too far from the Philippines?” They nodded, and I sighed. “How bad was it? Did the storm make landfall anywhere?”

The ladies shook their heads, and I let out a sigh of relief. Thank the gods. “It was the weirdest thing. The storm came out of nowhere a week ago. Then it disappeared the other day, and now you wash ashore this morning.” 

Shock replaced the relief I had begun to feel. A week? I had been missing a week? Dion was going to be frantic. If he even realized I was gone. I knew he had been heading to California for his Grand Master Plan. Would he have noticed time passing? “Erm, is there a telephone I could borrow? I need to call someone to let them know I’m okay.”

“But you’re not okay. We need to get you to the hospital to get you checked out.” One of them said as we made our way off the beach, my legs barely moving. “But yes, we have a phone you may use.” The younger one held out a phone, older than the model I’d left at Nymphaeum, and my fingers dialed Dionysos before I’d realized it.

“Your call is being forwarded…” I heard an automated message come through and wondered to whom I would be forwarded.

“Hello, this is Luis speaking.”

“Luis! Perfect.” I practically started crying. “My name is Amphitrite. I’m a friend of Dion’s.” I choked a little and plowed on. “Is Dion around?”

“Ah, Lady Amphitrite! Dionysos will be quite pleased to hear you are safe. He’s in an extremely important meeting at the moment. As soon as he is free, I will inform him. He has been worried, my lady, I am not afraid to admit that for him.”

I felt myself blushing, but knew I needed to get Luis as much information as I could. “I washed ashore in Guam, on the southern shore. Near,” I looked at the ladies who mouthed a word, “Inarajan. I have nothing with me and no strength either to get home. I think I’m bound here for a little while. Will you please tell him I’m all right?”

“Of course, Lady Amphitrite. I know it will put part of his mind to rest.” 

“And Luis,” I heard him pause, “thank you for answering.” We ended the call, and I passed the phone back. “Thank you. Whatever the charge is, once I get home, I will make sure you are well taken care of.”

The ladies led me to a car and loaded me in the back. I should’ve been worried or even scared, given that at the moment, I was as weak as a mortal. My body was non-responsive. The only thing I could hope for was some time to reflect on what had happened and to find a way home. I would stop at Nymphaeum first, to collect my stuff. Then I’d spend some time with Dion, if he wanted me to. I never knew with him.

We drove down a road I saw identified as Highway 4, making our way north to Inarajan. We pulled into the driveway of a house near the beach. The women helped me out of the car, and welcomed me inside. I had been quietly processing all that had taken place in a very short amount of time. I hoped they knew I hadn’t been trying to ignore them. Certainly, my feelings were at the forefront of my thoughts. I had admitted to myself I had strong feelings for Dionysos, very strong. I also knew they hadn’t appeared out of thin air.

I’d always wondered what would have happened if Poseidon hadn’t come to Naxos for Dionysos and Ariadne’s wedding. What if Dion had never found her there? I’d felt an attraction to him even back then, but my feelings for Poseidon had swept me like the tide, and I’d known my future lay with him. “Miss…” a voice brought me out of my reverie, and I was reminded where I was. 

“Yes. I’m sorry,” I replied as they set me down on the couch. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but it would do. I hoped Luis reached Dion, and someone could help. Otherwise, I didn’t know how long I would be healing on this gorgeous island. Looking out the window, I watched the sea, calming after a storm that could have caused massive destruction. It hadn’t, and that thought gave me hope for the future.

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Maelstrom, Part IV: A Queen’s Return

My mind snapped back to where my soul was. I saw the flickering light from the charm. I began swimming up, away from the voices of the men in my life. “Where are you going, Pheephee? You can’t escape us,” Dion’s voice sounded in my ear.

I turned and looked at them. “Away. You no longer frighten me.” I stared at the face of my father. “Nereus, if you can hear this, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you could, I will never help you. You lost me the day you almost threw me in here. I will side with Poseidon and the Olympians until the day my oceans dry up, and I no longer exist.” Nereus disappeared in a puff of bubbles.

Next, I turned to the visage of Poseidon, the one who’d held my heart since the moment I saw him. “Poseidon, my love. I do not know why you left me, why you left Atlantis. You need to be the king they need and deserve. I will help you however I can. I am worthy of you. I want to remain as queen if you will have me. My heart, though,” I paused, “no longer belongs solely to you. There is another. I am worthy of him, too.” Similarly, Poseidon’s face vanished like my father’s.

I turned to Dionysos. “My anchor, Nisos, I left part of me with you when I started this journey, even though it caught me by surprise.” The face softened as I spoke from the heart. “You are my reason for fighting. I am coming home to you. You were the first god I saw upon my return, the first one to not worry about my storms, for you have your own to deal with. For that, I love you. I don’t know if you meant it when you said it as you left my apartment that night, or if you were even saying it to me. But everything you’ve done for me has given me the strength I need to face this fear I’ve had of the trench, my father, and my inadequacies. I am coming home very soon. Find me.” With that, the third face disappeared, and I felt lighter. Whether that was due to the revelations made or the fact the sea glass was almost out, I didn’t know. 

I swam as fast as my soul could go. When I crested the edge of the abyss and saw my body lying there, I hurried over. Rommel was still there, but he was bleeding profusely. “Rommel!” I called out as I extended my hand towards my body. Hekate was right. My soul knew the way back. I slid into my body and once again felt the weight of the ocean above me.

“My queen!” Rommel exclaimed, helping me rise. I was weak, very weak. I didn’t think I could make the swim back. When I told Rommel this, he shook me off and lifted me into his arms. It was a long trip back to Atlantis, so I questioned him about his injuries. “A few goblins approached…they didn’t like being told to leave, so we got into it. These are all mostly superficial.”

I could hear the strain in his voice. I knew we weren’t swimming as fast as he was able to, so he was likely lying. “When we return, I want you to see the medics immediately.” Rommel nodded his agreement and kept swimming. When we neared the lower end of the trench, we turned away slightly and there she was: Atlantis, the throne of Poseidon, King of the Sea. Home. I smiled, despite myself, hoping he would be here, and we would be able to discuss things properly. 

As we neared the front gates, conchs blared, and I covered my ears. It had been a long time since I’d been announced. “The queen has returned! The queen has returned!” 

Rommel carried me in. I had no strength whatsoever, and it was all I could do to stay conscious. He passed me off to one of the rare bluefins who worked in the court, and I ordered him to get to a medic. Rommel simply smiled and nodded before swimming away. I was carried into the throne room and placed on the throne, the one beside Poseidon’s. I shuddered a little. 

The mer swam backward as I looked around. Nothing had changed, nothing I could see anyway. I think he was waiting for orders or something. “When was the king home last? I assume he isn’t here at the moment.” 

“No, my queen, he’s dealing with personal matters.” I could see there was some tension there. I raised my eyebrow at him, exhaustion beginning to set in. I tried not to yawn, but I couldn’t help it. 

The mer swam forward again, but I held up my hand, and he paused. “Make it known that Rommel will be my voice when I am not here. I will be splitting my time between the surface and Atlantis, but I will not abandon you.”

The court stopped and looked up at me. “But, my queen, he isn’t a bluefin,” one of them called out. I didn’t see who it was, nor did I care.

“That isn’t my concern. Poseidon has his advisor, and I shall have mine. That will be Rommel. He was on patrol upon my descent to Atlantis, and he was the only one that followed me when I went to the trench.” The court gasped. “Rommel protected me at a great personal sacrifice, and I thank him immensely. When he is returned to full health, I want him invested as my council.”

“I’m here, my queen,” Rommel called out. He was bandaged loosely.

“You’re supposed to be healing,” I stated as he approached the dais. Rommel just smiled and nodded.

“Yes, my queen, and you should be resting. You’ve had a trying enough experience as it is.” I shook a little and waved the thoughts away.

“Never mind me. I need a report. What’s been going on? What is the surface like at the moment? I caused a storm down here. I need to know the damage above. How long have I been gone?” My questions came quickly, and Rommel just stared.  

“You’ve been gone from Atlantis for over 2,000 years,” he began, then gave me a quick overview of the kingdom and how it had stayed afloat. “No one had heard from you or the king in so long that we’d begun losing hope. But then, when you returned, we felt the kingdom begin to heal. It was the same when the king returned. The city is better than it has been. As for the surface,” I cringed a little, “the hurricane is now a class 5 hurricane, with the eye directly above Challenger Deep.” 

I froze and stared at Rommel. “One, how were you able to find this out when you were with my body? Two, how long was my soul separated from my body that a class 5 hurricane formed?!” My voice shook the room, and some of the Mer scampered back. I couldn’t blame them. I was not what they had expected.

“My queen, you were separated for 12 hours,” Rommel’s voice trailed off at the end. I had to fight to keep myself upright. Staying conscious was taking everything I had. I needed to rest. “You need to go rest. Please, for us.” I stared at him, comprehension not quite sinking in. “I heard of the storm from the medics, and I could feel it building while I watched over you.” 

I nodded. That was the last piece of information I needed. “Alright, I’ll go rest for a few minutes. Then I need to deal with that storm, somehow.” I made to stand, and Rommel raced forwards, gathering me into his arms again. I didn’t complain. I couldn’t. I could feel the exhaustion ripping through me, trying to drag me into unconsciousness. Rommel brought me to my old room, down the hall from Poseidon’s, and set me on the bed. Nothing about the room rang familiar to me, but my mind carried me into the past again. 

Nights of endless pleasure and frivolity played through my mind. I wanted him there. I needed him there, to help me, to guide me. But Poseidon wasn’t there, and the likelihood that I would see him and not have to speak through proxies was slim to none. Rommel took one look at me, on the verge of crying, and backed out of the room silently. 

Once I guessed Rommel to be far enough away, I got up and slid out of my old room and down the hall to Poseidon’s. This room, which held so many wonderful memories, was just a waste without him in it. His presence filled the space. Even then, I knew he had been there recently. I could still smell him. I saw the cracked glass and the conch on the floor and sighed. My body ached and screamed at me as I picked the conch up. I placed it back on the table where it belonged and wrote a note to Poseidon.

Poseidon, 

I hope this finds you well. I have returned home, mostly safe and unharmed, and have named Rommel as my council. He has served me well in the past and, more recently, was the only one who was with me at the trench. I want you to know, my oath to King and Kingdom remains, so long as you’ll have me. But there are things we need to discuss, sooner rather than later. You know where and how to find me. I also have a room solely for your use, should you ever choose to visit Nymphaeum properly. Please return safely from whatever travels you are on. 

Your nymph, in heart and soul,

Amphitrite

P.S. If Rommel is in a state of disarray when you return, it’s because I left after he told me to rest. I need to deal with this storm.

I placed the conch on top of the letter and made my way to the door. My body screamed at me to stop. But I couldn’t, my job wasn’t over. The hurricane I created needed to be stopped, and I had to do whatever I could. I slipped out of the palace. I made my way back to the trench, where the eye was centered, and began swimming to the surface. The sea should have been getting brighter, as the surface drew nearer, but it was dark. I knew the storm was blocking the light. 

The hurricane was throwing the currents out of whack, and I struggled with what little strength I had left. I must not have been paying attention to where I was going because I collided with an old leatherback sea turtle. The knock to my head sent me reeling and into the unconscious rest my body so desperately needed.

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Maelstrom: Rome 44 BCE, Part III

The sun was bright in mid-June of the year 44 BCE. Julius Caesar was dead, and I was strolling the streets of Rome. I could feel the tension in the city due to the succession, but I didn’t care. What did the transition between mortal leaders mean at this point? The Romans had replaced us all with different names. Salacia was what they were calling me. But I took a different name while I walked among them. I chose Livia; it was common enough, as was my appearance. I did not want to be recognized as a goddess while I was among the mortals. 

My reason for being in the Republic of Rome was simple: to find my husband, consort, or whatever you wanted to call him. Poseidon had been missing for a thousand years. It was time that errant god came home. During the last few hundred years, I had been bursting at the seams as I did the job we were supposed to be doing together. Steam evaporated off me as I looked around, worried someone had seen me. No one had. At least, that’s what I thought at the time. I could see some of the lares in the houses, bouncing around, giving invisible aid to their families. I smiled, trying not to let them know I was near.

I walked down the streets, marveling at how far they had come since my last trip to the mortal realm, 400 years or so previously. Rome would be big, that much was certain. As I made my way to the Campus Martius within the Circus Flaminius, I felt a shadow, as though someone was following me. I didn’t see anyone around me, so I shrugged it off. Poseidon’s temple wasn’t far away, but once I entered the Circus, people started looking at me. A lone female wasn’t meant to be wandering around on her own, let alone into the Circus

I paid them no mind. Even though I was there incognito, I could be a force if needed. However, no one approached me. When I arrived at the Temple of Poseidon, sorry Neptune, the priests stared at me. “I’m here looking for my husband,” I almost choked on the word. We weren’t technically married, I guess, but for all intents and purposes, Poseidon was my husband.

“Is he a priest here?” one of them asked. I shook my head, and they laughed at me. “If he’s not a priest, is he here to beg a favour of Neptune?” I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t care for their tone, but I would be fine if it got me answers. “And what is his name, so that we can warn him his meddling wife was hanging around looking for him?”

This was it, the only time I had planned to let my divinity show through. “Neptune,” I answered simply. The priests stared at me like I was crazy, and I smiled darkly. I’d had enough of being alone, of sleeping in my room without my love, of ruling his kingdom, our kingdom, without him. I would drag him back to Atlantis kicking and screaming if need be. So I played my old card, one that always worked in the past with the mortals. I shifted my teeth a little to resemble shark teeth, then I smiled. The priests screamed, and one of them ran into the temple. I rolled my eyes and walked in, pushing past the other one. 

Inside the temple itself, I allowed some of my divine glory to seep through. When the head priest came running up to me, he knew exactly what and who I was. “Salacia!” he shouted in fear. The gods didn’t walk among the mortals too much here, and he was terrified. I hissed slightly, the name not ringing right in my ears, and the priests jumped back.

“I am looking for Neptune. Where is he?” I demanded angrily. 

“We don’t know, goddess. He hasn’t been answering any of our prayers or sacrifices.” That caught me off guard.

“At all?” I asked, stopping in my tracks. “No, he’s always taken the sacrifices, even when I was in Korinth hundreds of years ago.” The priest’s eyes bugged out at me. As if the shark teeth weren’t enough, I was talking about being in Korinth several mortal lifetimes ago. “Just please point me in the right direction. Where was the last place anyone heard from him?”

“Paestum. The last I saw of Neptune was in Paestum,” a new voice sounded behind me. I wheeled around. This man gave me the creeps, to put it mildly. But if he had a lead, I was going to follow it.

“Paestum? Do you mean Poseidonia?” I asked, using the old name for the town. The man nodded and held his arm out towards the entrance to the temple, inviting me to follow him. I reined in my divine shine, until I appeared normal again, then followed him out. 

“Yes, that was the name. Are you really Salacia?” he asked. His voice grated on me, but I still followed him. We walked back through Rome, heading south until we reached Via Appia. It would be a long walk before we reached Paestum, and we weren’t exactly close to the Tyrrhenian Sea. As we travelled down the via, I pulled an almost inconspicuous vial out of my satchel. The gentleman, who was still nameless to me, looked curious. I took a grain of salt from the vial and placed it under my tongue. As I did, I felt refreshed, strong. I had spent too long away from the seas looking for Poseidon. I tucked the vial back into my bag and kept walking, a little more pep in my step. 

Night fell, and we saw an old building on the side of the road. The gentleman suggested we stay there for the night. I was immediately put off by the idea. I could keep going. Then I remembered mortals needed to sleep. While I could push this body longer than a mortal could, it too was frail in comparison to my natural state. “Alright, we’ll stay here,” I agreed as we entered the shack. It was tiny and broken down, but the roof was still on. If it rained, that was a bonus. 

I didn’t think I would sleep, yet I was the first to fall. When I awoke the next morning, I was bound, gagged, and being dragged by two large men. My travelling companion from the day before was walking in front, leading them. I tried to break free, but my mortal body wasn’t strong enough. I needed the salt. It was from the first ocean. The purest salt, dried from that long past sea, and it revitalized me for a short time. It sustained me until I could get back into saltwater. I looked around, and my captor had my satchel slung over his back. I worried that he would dump out the vial of salt. I would never be able to replace it. 

“What are you doing? Let me go!” I shouted as I fought the bonds. I could easily end this if I changed back to my goddess form. As weak as I was without the salt, I couldn’t make the transition quickly. I began slowly gathering my power , to make the transition as drawn out as I could. As the air bristled around me, one of the men dragging me turned and hit me over the head with the hilt of his gladius. Darkness came, and I lost track of time.

The next thing I remembered was waking up, looking at a statue of Neptune and the men in front of me. The bindings were gone and had been replaced by a net. It was a golden net, flexible and strong. It reminded me of one used many, many years before, to capture a particular goddess and her paramour. But it couldn’t be that net. That net was locked up in the forge where its creator could use it when he needed it. “Where did you get this?” I asked, my voice full of fear. I could see my satchel sitting on the temple floor. I knew I needed to get it, at least the vial of salt.

“We had it forged for us. For collecting gods and the gifts they possess,” the leader, my travelling companion, replied gruffly. “We’re tired of being on the shit end of the stick. So we’re taking a little back.” I stared at him. I wasn’t important, but I’d slipped up. I’d let them know who I was. How was I supposed to know there was a rogue movement running around Rome trying to capture gods? It wasn’t like any of us had disappeared recently. Well, none of us except for Poseidon, but that hadn’t been recent. They couldn’t have!

“Where is Poseidon?” I demanded, pushing against the net. Some sea goddess I was. I couldn’t even break a net. Satisfied with the bonds, the men walked out of the temple. I couldn’t hear or see them. I had to try to get my salt. I moved as much as I could. Scraping across the floor, I inched my way to my bag. Thankful, I opened it and breathed a sigh of relief when I found my salt. I knew it by the feel of the vial. The power radiated in my hand as I moved back to where I was, moments before they walked back in. 

“Neptune isn’t here, hasn’t been around, and you’re not ever going to see him again,” the leader commented. “Go ahead, change your form. Nothing in your bag of tricks will get you free of this net.” I looked over and down at the golden net surrounding me. It was true, the creator had needed to take it off his wife, and her lover and I had no one. “We’re going to toss you into the ocean. You can either change your shape and drown, or you can give up and relinquish your power to us.” The larger of the two men who had been dragging me picked me and carried me outside. I could smell the sea. We weren’t far away. I could feel the salt in the air, and I had my vial in my hand, so no matter what, I would be ok. There was a line tied to a rock nearby, and one of the men looked ready to fasten it to the net. This was how they tortured their victims. 

I wouldn’t let that be me. So, as soon as we neared the edge, I shifted into a dolphin. The man was so surprised he practically threw me into the Tyrrhenian Sea. I laughed, the high-pitched squeal echoing through my new nose. I heard the leader shouting at them to dive in and get me—well, the net. That’s what they really cared about. I hit the water, and my strength returned. But I still couldn’t break free. As I sank, the thought of not being able to breathe crossed my mind. I shifted to my normal mermaid form. That way, I had hands, and I could breathe. My vial of salt returned to my hand, and I smiled happily. 

The conundrum of the net confounded me. I didn’t know how to break it. I tried to call Poseidon through the pendant around my neck. It was an emergency, after all. As usual, I received no response. To best the net, the only form I could take would be to shift into the sea itself and meld with my surroundings. It couldn’t hold on to me then. It amazed me it took so long to figure it out. Once I did, the decision was made, and I began the slow process of becoming the sea. This shift wasn’t one I could make from one breath to the next. It took time and patience because water, by definition, is fluid. It always wanted to move. But to become the sea meant infusing my essence into the surrounding water, creating consciousness, and binding certain areas together. It wasn’t something I did often.

As my last bit of essence became one with the sea around me, I felt power reaching out from the golden net, almost like it knew someone was escaping. It rippled, and in that ripple, a pulse of magic was sent out, disrupting my transition. I lost my sense of self, and the tenuous binding that held the parts of my being together shattered. The last thing I remembered was rising to the surface, bubbles of foam drifting across my awareness. 

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Maelstrom, part 2: The Abyss

The trench’s pull was strong, not that the currents were trying to pull me. The weight of my memory, the cold I felt, everything wanted me down there. I didn’t, yet. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the journey. I pulled my way up the wall and laid flat on the shelf, looking down into the blackness. I swore that I could see eyes staring at me, but most of the Trenchers wouldn’t come up this far. It was too bright.

“Amphitrite…” 

“Trix…” 

“Amph…” 

Random voices, all sounding different and yet familiar at the same time, assaulted my ears. I had no idea where they were coming from, but they surrounded me. Looking down into the darkness, I saw faces, familiar and devastating. 

“Father!” I shouted and tried to push myself away from the edge, to leave this place. If Nereus was here, we were all in trouble, and I needed to warn Poseidon. A hand shot out and grabbed my arm, holding me fast. I had just enough time to catch the charm that Hekate had given me and shout out, “schizo!” My soul was ripped from my body, and the hand that had been holding my arm was suddenly grasping water. I looked back and saw my limp body floating at the edge, looking down. I was worried about it; predators would take pleasure in ripping me to shreds. I hadn’t had a chance to speak with Poseidon about guarding me while I did this, and suddenly I was worried. Hekate had warned me not to do this alone, and here I was, alone. Like I always had been.

A figure appeared in the shadows as my soul moved towards the beings, entrancing me with their voices. I had enough time to recognize Rommel. He must have followed me. “Rommel! Protect my body until I return! Protect it!” I screamed at him. Rommel’s eyes widened in fear, but I saw his mouth move, and he nodded, before taking a defensive position over my body.

I followed the being that had grabbed me into the darkness, and I lost sight of Rommel. I knew he was capable, and this being that had my attention wasn’t letting me go. “You’re not my father. Nereus was cruel, but he never dragged me into the trench.” 

“Oh dear, I am your father, the worst aspects of the sea that you don’t want to admit live within.” We stopped and floated. I tried to see what was in front of me, but couldn’t. The black surrounded me. I was held fast by my fear, and I knew I couldn’t stay here. If my soul didn’t return to my body, I would die. The sea glass inside the pendant that Hekate had given me was glowing softly, and I remembered that I had until the light disappeared to return to my body. 

“What is it you want with me?” I demanded of the creature before me. The glow of the pendant illuminated three faces, almost ethereal in nature. One resembled and sounded like my father, the middle one was Poseidon, and the third was…Dionysos. But why him? I almost reached out, my soul responding to each of their presences. “Why you?”

“We are what you fear the most,” Poseidon’s voice resounded. It mimicked his strength, the sea at his command, the great and terrible Lord of the Sea, but I knew it wasn’t him. My love, my husband, my consort…he wasn’t here, he didn’t care. 

“You left me! To fend for myself in your kingdom!” I lashed out, my power over the water failing me. I didn’t have that with me…was it attached to my body? I craned my neck and tried to see my body, but outside of the pendant’s soft glow, it was just black. “I…you gave up on me, on us. Did you care? Did you know I was missing? Did you look for me? I gave you my everything, Poseidon. And you abandoned me.” 

Dionysos’ voice spoke softly, and as he did, I shuddered. “This is why you’ll never be worthy of love again, Amphy. Because you were never worthy to begin with. Poseidon only chose you because you weren’t fawning over him like your sisters were.” My heart stopped, and I looked at the ghost-like face of Dionysos. His words rang true and cut me deeper than any fishing knife ever could. I sank, my heart, my soul. I could feel it sinking deeper into the Mariana Trench, and I didn’t care. 

They were right. Of course, they were. I was worthless. My father knew it, that’s why he tried getting rid of me in the trench when I was young. That’s why Poseidon left, to escape me and the responsibilities he had in Atlantis. And Dion…how could he ever care for a wreck like me? These three faces showed my true fears. It wasn’t the deep, crushing black of the Mariana Trench like I thought. It wasn’t even my father’s beasts that lived down here. Maybe if I were lucky, one of the leviathans of the deep would snatch me, drag my soul down to the depths and leave me there for my father to collect.

Nereus’ voice spoke again, harsh and cold, “You ran from your responsibilities, from the family and me when you married Poseidon.”

“From Atlantis and me, when you went to Rome,” Poseidon chimed in.

Dionysos finished the chant, “From me, when you kept me back and wouldn’t allow me to come with you.”

Something hit me though, a memory, the one that had been pushing through when I first ran into Rommel. Why Rome? Why did I head to Rome, and why didn’t I return? The question was vexing me, and I turned from the figures haunting me as I tried to suss it out. I don’t think they liked it too much that I wasn’t paying attention to them, and the figures started to circle me, chanting that I wasn’t worthy, I wasn’t good enough. I was barely a goddess. 

I could have sided with my father in his personal grudge against Poseidon, but like my sisters, I was entranced by him. I just didn’t admit it to myself, and I kept myself aloof when he came to Naxos that day. I pretended like I didn’t want him, and maybe that’s what drew him to me, I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything anymore. I didn’t know my own heart, or where it lay. Part of me wanted to give Poseidon another try. I loved him. I did. Another part of me wanted to let him go and see where the currents brought me, and this attraction I had to Dionysos…well, it helped keep to my rudder straight the last few weeks.

Dion… “Nisos!” I shouted, and as my mind began clearing, I remembered the promise that I made him; that I would fight this. I would confront my fears and go home. I started to swim up, the light from the pendant guiding me back to my body, but the figures of the men present in my life surrounded me. They couldn’t touch me, but they could distract me.

“Trix, you’re just a little fish, caught in a much larger net…” the voice of Poseidon teased, and once again, I stopped dead. The light from the sea glass began to flutter, and I knew I didn’t have a lot of time left, but the word net shouted at me, and it ran through my mind, pulling the memory forward.

“Net, net, NET!” I finally pinpointed the memory, and my mind faded to black as I raced back to ancient Rome, before Trinity Inc took over.

https://www.inthepantheon.com/the-abyss/lady-of-the-seas/amphitrite/

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An Uneasy Feeling

“He needed me, I couldn’t tell the danger he was in… but I knew that he needed me.”

I looked down at my sleeping angel as the glow of morning rose over our house. They were the most perfect being on the face of Gaia’s green earth. This last little while, with Phoenix, had been perfect. I had come to feel like myself again: happy and at peace, with love and life in my heart. The return of emotion was both foreign and welcome at once. Three thousand years was a long time to go without knowing true happiness. 

Don’t misunderstand me, raising Morgan was one of the highlights of my life. Seeing her grow into a strong capable woman made me the proudest mother ever. There was a different kind of pride that came from creating life. Bringing life into the world was something I had missed, terribly. Phoenix would be my redemption, even more than Morgan. I would do right by Phoenix, and I knew my archangel would keep me accountable to my past. 

I slid out of bed, picked up Phoenix, and walked downstairs. A forest-green and brown dress formed over my body. Before I made my way into the kitchen to start preparing breakfast, I placed Phoenix in a bassinet to let them sleep some more. There would be tea with an order of empire toast for me and formula for Phoenix. I hadn’t eaten much recently, even though I knew I needed to keep my strength up. 

As the toast came off the griddle, I felt a searing pain in my back. The pain vibrated through my back across the scars Lycaon had left me. I rushed to the bathroom and pulled down the back of my dress to look. They weren’t bleeding; the scars were pulsing white. “What?” I questioned, not as calmly as I would have liked. 

“Drakon, I need you!” I called softly, to avoid waking Phoenix. Gabriel had been away for only a couple of days. I knew he wouldn’t be done with his angelic quest yet, so Drakon would have to answer my questions. My oldest friend shimmered out of my body. and lay curled around the bassinet. “Why do the scars hurt?” I asked hurriedly as I turned everything off in the kitchen.

“You’re still connected to Lycaon, and he must be in danger.” He replied, just as soft. My eyes must have widened in fear, because before I knew it, a man stood before me and pulled me into his arms. “Shush Medea… shhh.”

“Drakon?” I asked, trying to look at him. 

“Oh child, yes. I wasn’t always the sleepless Colchian Drakon you know. I was a man once, and was cursed to guard the Golden Fleece for my greed.” His explanation tugged at my memory, but I couldn’t place it. “I can’t hold this form for long. What do you need?”

I stepped back and looked up at him. “You were one of my father’s advisors.” He nodded slowly. “I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name.” I apologized.

“It was lost in the sands of time, child, as was this body.” He said softly, stroking my hair.

“If I give you this form temporarily, will you watch over Phoenix? I cannot take them with me.” I asked suddenly. 

The drakon-man just smiled and nodded. “I shall protect them with my very life, Medea, as I have done for you all these years. Take these with you.” I felt a short searing pain in my back and looked at him. “My wings, you may have need of them on the journey.”

I kissed his cheek gently, reciting a spell Circe had taught me years ago to change man to animal and back again. I left, racing outside, and up the stairs to the portal area. I dashed through the portal leading to Lycaon’s cabin, expecting the old wolf to be around. I could smell him, hear his voice in the air, and feel his presence throughout. My senses told me he wasn’t there. I felt another moment of pain through the scars and ran my hand over them. Still no blood, but I focused on this connection, such as it was, to the man who’d held my heart for two thousand years. I knew instantly where he was. “New Orleans, Lyc, really?”

Night’s Children were in abundance there, but it was the witches who owned the city. Oddly enough, it was a place I hated to go. Once they found out who I was, everyone was so demanding, wanting this, and needing that. I started working on creating a portal to near Lycaon’s location. I wasn’t going to barge in without doing a little reconnaissance beforehand. What if I was reading the signs wrong and he was perfectly fine, or happy or… I couldn’t let that thought distract me. 

Lycaon was going to move on. I wanted him to be happy. If that meant falling in love then I hoped it took him less time to admit it than it did us to admit our feelings. Regardless, I opened the portal to an adjacent lot near a disgustingly dilapidated building. Seriously, I’d been in hovels before that had a smaller chance of being condemned. 

The first thing to hit me when I walked through the portal was the scent of blood, it was everywhere. The second thing I noticed was the imminent hurricane, but it wasn’t natural. The storm had magic written all over it. That meant witches, at least a couple of covens. Immediately after that, I felt the lack of Wards around the place. They couldn’t be that stupid. No Wards at all? I almost shouted for joy, as a plan began to form. I began to dance; frenetic and angry. My dress shifted from my regular travel gear to a Voodoo ritual dress I picked up last time I was here. Their music had caught my soul. I worked that energy into my Ward set up. Once set, the only people who could leave, were me, Lycaon, and anyone else I deemed necessary. When done, I was surprised at how little energy it had taken to set, and I smiled. I formed black leather over my body. The top vest left my arms bare. The look, one fit for fighting. I had gotten used to the faint scars left behind by the Chains of Kratos. They served as a warning to my enemies. I’d noticed a few times, when my power would build, they would shine softly with Helios’ light. 

I skirted around the building before making my way inside. I flew quietly to one of the upper floors. As I peered down into the central area my heart froze. Things were worse than I feared. Vampires, werewolves, and witches, they all worked together. In the middle of their circle, were three semi-conscious figures. The sight alone nearly shattered me. Mino, Gio, and Lycaon. 

I didn’t know Gio all that well, but Lycaon seemed to trust him, and that was generally good enough for me. Mino, on the other hand, was my kin in more ways than one. I would have razed the place to the ground to save him. Why were they there? 

Three men from my family were on the ground, bleeding, and barely moving. Accomplishing that required a feat of strength. I couldn’t fathom what I could do in this situation that they couldn’t? Then it hit me. I leapt from the broken floor down to the ground. I landed between my boys and the crowd of miscreant attackers. 

“Who the fuck are you?” One of the witches asked me as I stood up, my blue-black wings folding into my back. I ignored her and went around to the men. 

“Mino, hunny.” I knelt down near the great man’s head and pulled out a bottle of seawater. It hoped it would help give him some strength back, even if it were only to get himself out of there. “Drink this.” I tipped the bottle down his throat and placed a soft kiss on his nose. 

As I moved towards Gio, I stepped on his cane. I knew in a flash what would help. The connection between him and his cane was strong, even if he wasn’t in that moment. I unscrewed the top of his cane and poured the contents into his mouth before kissing his forehead. “Thank you for warning me, Gio.”

Lastly, I made my way to Lycaon and fell before him, trying not to cry. My hands went to his head, unafraid, and I pressed my forehead to his. “Come back to me Lycaon, please. I cannot lose you again.” I kissed his lips, softly and poured some of my own healing energies into him. 

I stood up and looked at the men, “when you think you’re healed, stay back, all of you. You may think you’re strong enough, and I know you all heal quickly, but you’re not. Let me handle this.” I turned my attention back to the crowd, who had gathered in front of me. 

The witch who addressed me when I landed started to speak again, “I said, who the fu-.” The rest of her sentence was cut off as my wings exploded from my back. I moved almost lightning-fast, tearing out her throat.

“You want to know who I am?” I dropped the piece of her throat to the ground. “Why don’t we play 3 guesses?” I pointed to each of the three factions. “Each faction gets a guess. A wrong guess, and I dwindle your numbers. Guess right- and well I dwindle your numbers regardless.”

I pointed at the werewolves, hackles drawn, blood dripping from their claws and teeth. “Who am I?” The wolves looked at each other and shook their heads as one. I grinned darkly, glad the boys couldn’t see it. I flew forward, drawing silver swords out of the ether. I slashed through the wolves in a straight line before curving high into the sky and landing exactly where I had been standing a moment before.

“Here, I’ll give you a clue.” I held the swords expertly, tips down and out, looking at the still stunned group. “Out of everyone in this room, I am the second oldest, only to him.” I pointed back at Lycaon, who I could see struggling to stand.

“Vampires. Nasty beasts. You next. Who am I?” Instead of answering, the vampire cohort decided to attack, coming at me from all sides. I dropped the blades and opened my palms, allowing direct sunlight to shine out from them. “Thank you, pappoús,” I muttered as they fell back. 

I could feel the witches bristling with power. I laughed a cold, dark and humourless sound. “You really think you can hurt me? I have trained with forces far stronger than you. More than half of you aren’t even protected by loa, and you think you can take me?” My face grew dark, hair shone like silver, and my eyes glowed with purple fire. I began an old chant. “Hekate, mitéra mageías, one who eats hearts. You brought me into your circle, taught me what you know. I beseech thee, guide me this day.” I watched the faces of the witches contort, trying to work out the second clue. I shook my head, wind whipping around us. 

“Alright, one last clue.” I clapped my palms together. As I spread them open, a small sun formed and grew. “Now do you understand?”

“Mère de Dieu, Medea.” One in the back whispered, but I heard it. “But you’re just a potion witch, and long since dead.” I shot forward, the sun in my hands thrust into the witch’s forehead. 

“A potion witch am I? Dead am I?” I ripped the heart out of the nearest witch and ate it. “I have been doing magic longer than anyone of you can comprehend. I have witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. I walked this land when nothing was here except the alligators and snakes, and you still think me weak?” My wings whipped out, slicing through the nearest witches and they scattered. The wolves and vampires stood tall and proud, mostly. I walked back over to where I dropped my swords, picking them up. 

“No one is leaving here, except me and my boys. Now,” I angled the swords out, blunt end of the blades facing the threat, “shall we dance?”

https://curseofthefallen.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/an-uneasy-feeling/

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Maelstrom, part 1: The Storm Takes Over

The last few weeks at Nymphaeum had been tumultuous. Rhodes had been around to help set things up and hire the staff, and then she buggered off. Which was fine, I didn’t want to keep her from her family any longer. Mathieu, the man she hired as my General Manager, was more than capable. He was a star. He had helped me set up the control room on-site and ensure only the two of us had access. He had created a VIP list that included my family, although they wouldn’t necessarily get free rooms or get pushed to the front. Some of my family had already begun visiting. 

“Amphitrite, you don’t need to come in anymore. Between your panic room at the GC and me, we’ve got everything covered,” Mathieu argued with me one morning. As it was, my position at Nymphaeum was that of the figurehead, the mascot as you would, the nymph of Nymphaeum.

I looked at him, a storm brewing within. It wasn’t the first time we’d had this conversation, but I felt it would be the last. “Mathieu…Nymphaeum is my resort. My family and I built this place from the ground up. I’ll come and go as I choose.”

Despite the words he said, Mathieu was always courteous. “I know Amphitrite, but you don’t need to. You will always be our boss, our goddess, and I know the patrons would love to meet the inspiration behind the place. But the day-to-day…you have other things you need to handle right now.”

I glared at him as we walked out to the beach. The turquoise dress I had on today blew around my legs as the breeze kicked up. I muttered a curse under my breath and sighed. Mathieu was the only person I had told about the storm brewing in my mind. He knew of the dreams that had kept me awake and curled up in a shaking ball on the control centre floor. It was one of the most secure and expensive rooms in the resort. “I can’t, not now.”

“If not now, then when? My lady.” He only got this formal when he was trying to convince me of something. “You need to confront this, sooner rather than later. If you don’t, you may destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to build.” My jaw dropped. Had I worried him this much? Was my storm getting this bad that he feared for the resort and everyone’s safety?

“Alright, you win. I’ll head home and deal with things there. Gods only know it’s been a spell since I’ve been there,” I replied, defeated. Mathieu looked at me expectantly, and I stared back. “What, right now?” I asked incredulously.

“We’re already here.” He pointed at the ocean. I sighed, passed my phone to him, and walked into the surf. 

I turned and looked back at him. “You had better take care of my resort. I expect it to be here in the same condition as I’m leaving it. You won’t be able to reach me if there’s a problem, so call Rhodes, and she’ll be able to contact me. But please, just keep yourself, the staff, and the guests safe.” I looked up at the horizon and saw storm clouds brewing, and I knew I was bringing them here. “I will be back, Mathieu.” He blew me a kiss, and I dove below the waves, my form changing to the lithe mermaid of my youth. A large, broad tail and pectoral fins helped propel me faster and keep my balance as I swam into the oncoming storm.

When I awoke from the sea foam, I hadn’t known just how much time had passed, and I should have returned home immediately. I realized that mistake now, and I hoped I could rectify it. Sighing, I knew I should call Poseidon and let him know that I was returning. Pulling the pendant, the Jewel of the Seas, up to my lips, I whispered his name into it. If he were able, he’d hear it. I waited, I called again, no answer. It didn’t worry me too much. He had a lot on his plate, but I hoped that he was safe. It was odd, this sensation within. Surrounded by the ocean and being in my pure form had me reminiscing about days gone by and the love we shared. I worried that maybe we threw it away. 

I couldn’t erase millennia of feelings, and I didn’t want to. I also couldn’t deny this…attraction I was feeling, and not to Poseidon. I hadn’t planned on it, but I found myself thinking about it more and more as the days wore on. Sinking into his arms as we danced, the taste of wine on his lips from his feather-soft kiss. I shook my head, clearing my thoughts, and realized I was closer to Atlantis than I had thought. There was a mer patrol nearby, and I waved one over, a guard I recognized named Rommel.

“My Queen!” he exclaimed and dipped into a low bow, the patrol behind him mimicking the action. Somehow I didn’t like it as much as I used to. 

“Rise, Rommel, it’s fine.” The mer patrol stood back up and looked at me curiously. “Could one of you swim ahead and let Poseidon know that I’m on my way home? Please?” A young mer, one I didn’t recognize, snapped to attention and swam off.

“My Queen,” Rommel started, I nodded in his direction, and he continued, “what happened to you? After Lord Poseidon left, you disappeared.” Memories bounced through my mind, each tripping over the other like a babbling brook to get to the forefront. I swam away from the patrol, holding my head and shaking, trying to get a hold of the thoughts.

“I don’t know, Rommel, I don’t remember.” My voice, which was usually crystal clear underwater now, was garbled and broken. “I, you need to stay back.” The storm which had been brewing, broke violently. My arms were stretched out, I threw all the water away from me, and everyone in its path was blown backward. As though a geyser had gone off nearby, the sudden pressure change in the water surrounding me sent some of the mer reeling. I watched as their bodies shook with the effort of fighting the change. One mer in the patrol levelled a spear at me, but Rommel placed a hand in front of him and glided forward.

“Lady Amphitrite, calm…the storm is passing. You’re safe.” His words, which once soothed me, especially when uttered from Poseidon’s lips, only made me angrier. And that was when I realized I was angry. At myself, at Poseidon, at Atlantis…I was mad at everyone. At the mortals for destroying my seas and forgetting the gods had existed, that I had existed. They would rue the day. Rommel’s eyes grew wide with fear. “Everyone, get out of here. Tell the king his lady is in distress. I fear he may be the only one to bring her out of this.”

Rommel’s words weren’t registering with me. I’d gone black, blacker than I could ever remember. How had one simple question raised such a storm in such a short time? I was vaguely aware of the patrol leaving. I turned and swam away, down deep, as far as I dared. I needed to get away from them. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t hurt anyone else. I was vaguely aware of some coral reefs, and I swam faster. One of the last healthy reefs in the ocean, I feared destroying it.

Again, I lost track of how far and fast I was swimming. I just knew I had to get away. I would leave the GC, Atlantis, Nymphaeum…nowhere was safe. I had felt this storm pushing at my consciousness for the last few weeks. It hadn’t abated since my return…and I didn’t think it ever would. 

*****

My sense of time and space disappeared. The ocean around me swirled dark and angry. I couldn’t imagine what the surface looked like. I needed to pull myself deeper. Only then could everyone I loved be safe from this maelstrom. 

I felt cold, a cold I had only ever felt once before. I stopped, my eyes flaring wide open. In front of me lay the vast, black abyss of the Mariana Trench. I didn’t know what brought me here before I wanted to be, but the seeping black, the ocean’s deep heart, had long been a source of my fear. One of my memories pushed through, and I dropped. The weight of the memory pulled me down, and it was all I could do to grab the edge of the shelf before falling into the abyss. 

https://www.inthepantheon.com/the-storm-takes-over/lady-of-the-seas/amphitrite/

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Move in Day, part 4

Today was the day. The day I would be moving into the GC for real. It felt surreal that my home was here, the new Olympus, and not Atlantis. But the option hadn’t even occurred to me to go back. When I returned to solid form, to consciousness, I felt the disconnect with the ocean kingdom. I somewhat regretted not discussing my role in the kingdom with him before I moved in here. It just felt right. Opening Nymphaeum and trying to sort my place out within the family seemed to be the right move. 

I was downstairs in the lounge, waiting for Alessa, who would be accompanying the movers. We had put up all the walls, portioned off the rooms accordingly, painted everywhere, and now it was installation day. My bed was arriving, the kitchen and bathroom were being put in, and everything seemed to be coming together. So why was I feeling so lost? The storm that had brewed when I met Alessa at her office a couple of weeks ago hadn’t dissipated the way I’d hoped, and the worst part was, I felt it growing. I knew that something was wrong, but I couldn’t place what. And for now, I had to focus on getting settled. 

Tonight would be my first official night in the GC, and I was a little nervous. I had taken up a suite at Nymphaeum for too long, and it was time to give it to the customers. We were getting a steady stream in now. There were guests from all over the world booking with us, and we were building momentum. The most popular rooms were obviously beneath the surface, as all manner of sea life likes to play around. Ok, maybe I had asked them to, but the guests loved it. The online reviews were raving, and the thought of it made me smile. I stood up quickly as Alessa approached. Her blonde hair was up in a ponytail, and she was frowning. 

“Alright, spit it out, what’s wrong?” I asked playfully to help diffuse the anger I could feel building in her

“The kitchen countertops, that beautiful lapis lazuli you found, they won’t be here for another week,” Alessa said quickly. I could tell that she was trying to keep herself calm to avoid the storm in my eyes, and I nodded quickly.

“It’s alright Alessa, is everything else ready?” She nodded and sighed. “Well then, I won’t be eating here. There’s a little bistro nearby that I’ve begun to frequent so I can eat there, it’s no big deal.”

Alessa chuckled with relief and waved to the foreman who was entering the lounge. “Alright, it’s floor 27, the door to the suite is open. Everything is ready for you to start,” she said authority in her voice. I just smiled and led the way to the elevator. 

Once we arrived at my floor, I opened the doors and watched as the crew started bringing in all my furniture. We had already set up the Nymphaeum office to watch over the resort while I was here. I looked at the door. If I hadn’t placed a tiny conch over the panel to open it, I would never know where it was. And that was the plan. No one was supposed to know. It wasn’t on the floor plans, and Alessa was the only other one who knew that the suite was smaller than the original floor plan. 

The kitchen and bathroom were the first on the list for installations since they were the most essential. My bedroom, living room, dining room, and everything else that easily movable would be arriving later in the day, and I was excited, tangibly, visibly ecstatic. It seemed my life was coming together, and as the day went on, my apartment suites began to take shape. The second floor was complete, and I made my way up to observe the rest of the work from the interior balcony above the great room. It was an open concept suite, and I loved it. It was all me. Soft blues and shimmering turquoises, bright teals and deep cyans were accenting every room. It looked like I was under the sea, just as Alessa and I had designed it.

“Amph!” I heard her call up to me. I looked over the railing and smiled down at the interior designer. “We’re almost done down here. Your television and internet are hooked up. Your kitchen is ready to go, minus the countertops, and the bathrooms are done. I think,” she paused as I came down the stairs, “I think we’re ready to call it a day.”

I smiled at her, the woman who had become my closest friend. “Would you like to stay for dinner? I’ll order something in, and we can enjoy a nice bottle of wine.” 

Alessa smiled and nodded, her brown eyes sparkling. We had discussed the possibility of advancing our relationship once this work was done, but we had agreed not to. We enjoyed each other’s presence to be sure, but we chose to stay friends instead. I understood, my respect for her only grew, and it was a mutual agreement. I was still glad to have her in my life, my best friend. “Alright, Amph, are you in the mood for anything specific?”

I paused and smiled a little. “Some pasta? And perhaps a nice salad?” I couldn’t eat seafood, I just couldn’t bring myself to, but I wasn’t going to deny anyone. Alessa respected my decision, and when we’d eaten together, she had refrained from ordering seafood. I called in the order, topping the pasta with chicken and bacon, and we cracked a couple of bottles of wine while we waited for the food. Red for Alessa, white for me. 

The night was beautiful, excellent dinner, sparkling company, and when it was time, I walked Alessa down to the lounge and made sure that she got into a cab. I wanted to keep my friend safe for as long as possible. 

Once Alessa was gone, I made my way back up to my floor and locked the door behind me. My first night in my new space, and I was suddenly nervous. I was alone. And that was something I had feared since Poseidon and I parted ways. I debated contacting him. I missed him so very much right now. I had my phone out, and his number dialed when I stopped and put it down. I’d only end up reaching Kai. I knew that it wasn’t Poseidon I’d been talking to these last few weeks, even if Kai was too polite to say anything. I doubted he was even at the bar. 

I pulled out the Queen’s Jewel, which hung around my neck, but stopped before activating it. My nerves were not an emergency. I was sure he was swamped being a king, being my king. Once things settled down, I knew that I would head back down to Atlantis and reaffirm my oath to King and Kingdom. Whether he wanted to keep me around, well, that was a discussion we would need to have at some point.

I made my way back up to my bedroom and flopped down on the bed. I was weary, not just tired from the move in, but from running into the family. Seeing gods that I hadn’t seen in over 2,000 years was draining me. I knew I would need time in the sea, away from civilization, which is hilarious considering I’d spent the last two millennia as sea foam. Even just a swim back home, seeing it again, would be rejuvenating. I made a mental note as I slipped into unconsciousness to visit Atlantis sooner rather than later.

*****

The next morning I awoke in a sweat. The dreams faded quickly, but the feeling remained. A sense of dread washed over me and when I looked out the massive windows, the clear blue sky and bright sun were no indicators that anything was amiss. Perhaps it was just my fears of being alone, or maybe it was something else. I didn’t know, and I didn’t really want to get into it so early in the morning.

After finding a pair of comfy pants and a loose off-the-shoulder sweater to wear, I trudged downstairs and made my way to the unfinished kitchen. I made some tea and walked over to one of my larger chairs. I had it facing the windows, so I could look outside and almost feel like there was a balcony. 

My phone dinged softly, and I smiled. Only a few people had my number, and they were all a cause for smiles. 

Alessa: Amph, the countertops will be in today. I called and rained hellfire down on them for botching the delivery date. I’ll call later with a more accurate delivery time. 

My smile got bigger.. My tea tasted better, the sky looked brighter, and I relaxed a little more. The storm clouds in my minds-eye dissipated for now.

As I looked around my nearly finished apartment, I sent a quick text to an old friend that I had run into a little while ago. 

Amphitrite: Dion, my apartment is nearly done, come over one night for that dinner I promised you. 

Once it was sent, I went back to looking out the window and relaxing my morning away.

https://www.inthepantheon.com/move-in-day-part-iv/lady-of-the-seas/amphitrite/

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Move in Day, part 3: Ivy and Wine

As I made my way back to the God Complex, happy with how my meeting with Alessa went, I ran into an older man who looked exactly as I remembered him. “Dionysos!” I exclaimed, pulling him into a hug.

I could feel a small amount of resistance from him before he realized who I was. “Well, well, if it ain’t the Queen of the Sea herself.” He spun me around and kissed my cheek softly. The amount of wine on his breath was staggering.

“You didn’t fade, did you? The mortals have always welcomed you into their homes. No wonder you didn’t need to take on a new body,” I chirped playfully, nudging him as we made our way through the complex.

Dionysos laughed heartily at me. “You’re not wrong, Amphy. Not wrong at all.” He looked me over and smiled. I knew I had an attractive body. I chose it for that reason. “So long as there is drunken revelry, I will always be around. And you? I’m not getting a wall of sea-salt vibe from you anymore.”

I slapped Dionysos’ arm and laughed. “I haven’t been salty in eons. I’d like to think I matured since Poseidon and I split.”

Dion smiled crookedly at me, and I could see some of that old mania in his eyes. “So what brings you to the God Complex? Are you staying here, too?”

I nodded and smiled softly. “Yes, Hebe gave me floor 27. I get the whole floor. What about you? You located near dear ol’ Daddio?”

Leaning on his thyrsos as if needing the support to think, he held his palm up, fingers splayed. “Yes! Floor five, all mine! I still have a lot of setting up to do, but it be mine.”

I laughed brightly and looked at him. “Floor five, do you have any ideas on what you want to do with it?” Looking around, I wondered aloud, “Is there somewhere to get a drink, or at least sit while we chat.”

Dion smiled and offered his elbow while talking rapidly, both to himself and me. “Yes, yes, lounge upstairs, lots to drink and lots to sit on, some comfy, some not. The set up will be set up as I set it up when the set up comes to me. Floor five set up, not lounge set up.”

I laughed again; I couldn’t help it. Dion’s ramblings always made me laugh, and I could feel the sea rolling with me. I took his proffered elbow and nodded. “To the lounge then. I had an interior designer drop by my floor yesterday. Would you like their contact information?”

Dion’s head lifted to the ceiling in thought, and he stopped mid-stride, almost toppling both of us over. I should have known better than to ask him something mid-walk. Then snapping back to reality a few seconds later, he finished his stride and nodded. “That would be very nice of you, dear. Very nice indeed!”

I smiled as we made our way to the lounge. It was classier than Poseidon’s bar, and I felt under-dressed here, my sundress and bare feet not seeming to cut it. But then again, Dionysos was in sweatpants and a flannel shirt, so I felt even worse for him. “Any drink you would recommend? I’ve recently taken a liking to white wine. From home, naturally.”

Dion smiled broadly, then looked down. “It’s all the same to me if it’s all the same to you. My taste has no taste, and that is the big punchline.” He raised a hand to get the waiter’s attention and yelled out loud before he even got there, “Tall glass of mineral water, flat for me, and whatever the pretty lady will have!”

I looked over at the waiter and said, “A glass of Assyrtiko, please?” The waiter nodded in confusion and hurried to the bar to put in the order.  

“So, what designs have you designed in your mind for your floor, Amphy?” Dion asked while physically trying to swipe a thought away from in front of his mind.

I closed my eyes and reimagined the space. “I want to have an office, completely secure, in case something happens again like the Titan’s escape. I heard some of the stories from Poseidon, and I saw Olympus…” I shivered as the waiter brought the drinks over. I took a sip and sighed happily. “Other than that, I want it to feel more like a beach cabin, than under the sea. I have other ways of remembering home.”

“A beach cabin sounds positively sublime to me.” Dion rubbed his hands together in excitement and nodded before slapping his hands together. “What is this about Titans, though? There was an escape?”

I nodded and took a long draught, not generally how one drank wine. “Yes, I believe someone decided to use them as a weapon and let them out. Revenge against your father, for some ill-perceived slight millennia ago. Poseidon didn’t really want to get into it too much, but I could tell that the betrayal of one of our own cut deeply.”

Dion smiled an uneven smile, and his eyes welled up a bit as he finished his mineral water in one sitting. “Slights and betrayals. It all seems so…familial, doesn’t it? It often happens when ancients get bored. I hope things eventually work out for the best.”

I nodded and sighed. “Change seems to come slower to us, and growth is even more delayed. Because we’re ageless, we think we have all the time in the world to fix our issues. But we don’t, and if our fading didn’t teach us anything, it should have taught us that.” I shook my head and smiled at Dion. “But enough of the drab and dreary, what plans do you have now that you’ve returned?”

“Plans? No plans. Only one plan. The Plan. The Master Plan! A plan so masterfully masterful that it will blow all expectations out of the water.” With that, Dionysos leaned into me and nudged me with a wink. “No pun intended.”

I laughed again, deep and hearty. “Of course not… And let me guess, you’ve completely forgotten this Master Plan?”

Dion stammered a bit and slapped both knees with his hands. “I have only forgotten it because it’s safer to be forgotten at this time. Such is part of the master of such plans. I can’t go around telling everyone, now can I? Especially not me. You know what a tattle-tale I am!”

I finished my wine and nodded. “The problem with madness, I’ve found, is that you’re either completely withdrawn and closed off, and no one can get you to open up, or you’re loose-lipped and sinking ships because you have no control… Now, I am, of course, speaking from personal experience.”

I think Dionysos found the last line a bit too confusing because he stopped moving again for a few seconds, probably to analyze what I had said. What came next, though, made me stop short in my thoughts and take in my breath. With no warning, he leaned close, kissed me tenderly on my right cheek, and whispered, “That is why I have a special place in my heart for you. You know that.”

I blushed furiously. I’d like to blame the wine, but I’d finished the glass earlier. I looked over at Dionysos, I could see the old and young god within his face, the young never too young, and the old never decrepit. How he managed to keep a sane balance between the two amazed me. “Thank you, Dion, that means a lot. I…” I suddenly faltered, unsure of what to say next. It wasn’t often that someone, mortal or immortal, had me at a loss for words.

Watching my reaction to his gesture, Dion giggled like a little child and leaned into his thyrsos to stand. “So…lounge is here. I’m on floor five, you on floor twenty-seven, interior designer coming to you, and I need…I need to be at the airport soon. I have to pick someone up so they can pick me up so we can come back and…” With that, Dion got lost in his thought pattern one more time.

I stood slowly. I knew better than to try to decode his ramblings, but I was certainly intrigued by it. “Wait.” I pulled out Alessa’s business card and wrote my number on the back. I passed it to Dion. “The number for the interior designer. I’ve already entered all the information into my phone. Call them if you want.” 

With a faint nod, he took the card and stuffed it in his shirt pocket. “And you? Do I call you if I want?”

I nodded again and raised a wall of water to take me home. “Anytime Dion. I have a hotel to get back to. The Nymphaeum, come by sometime and check it out. Maybe next time we can talk more about this master plan of yours.”

With a slight bow of his head, not in reverence but more in understanding, Dion smiled an easy smile at me and said, “Worry not, daughter of the seafoam. I will come to find you. Sooner or later.”

I turned and winked at him as I stepped through the wall. It instantly closed behind me, leaving Dionysos alone. Rhodes greeted me as I returned, and seeing my bright smile asked, “So, how did it go?” I laughed, remembering how I teased Dion moments before.

“It went, well, dear. Now, let’s get our work done, see the guests, and then I desire a swim.”I linked arms with my daughter, and we made our way around the hotel. The guests were taken care of, the staff knew what they were doing, and I wanted to lounge.

As I made my way out to the infinity pool, the view caught my eye. A memory rose from its burial spot, deep in my subconscious. Poseidon and I, standing on the deck of a ship in the arctic ocean. The memory faded as I shook my head and dove into the saltwater. Yes, all my pools were saltwater. What did you expect of me?

“Mother?” Rhodes came out as I surfaced on the far side. I nodded, letting her know I was paying attention. “Everything is taken care of, and I’m going home to Lesbos for a while, see the family again.”

I smiled and swam back, walking out of the pool. “Of course, Rhodes, bring them by sometime, I’d love to meet them.” I kissed her cheek softly and watched her vanish in a wisp of mist. Time to be alone for a bit, I guess, I thought with a sigh. I could always go over to the Mermaid’s Tale and see if Poseidon had returned, but did I want to bring that storm back into my life so soon? I knew he had things to attend to back home, and Kai would be a good confidante. Maybe down the road when we’d calmed down, but I feared it would always be so. I needed to stop thinking about running into his strong arms, feeling the salt on his skin, and tasting the wine on his breath. Wait, wine? When did I start thinking about Dionysos again?

Secretly, I had hoped that he’d follow me immediately, but I also know how the both young and old god was. He went down his path. The delicious madness in his mind sometimes matched my own maelstroms. Maybe that was why I felt this weird attraction to him. Like two magnets aligned just so and slowly pulling on one another. I knew that he would come soon. I just hoped sooner rather than later. I had to admit that his kiss, even if it was on the cheek, got me a little hot under the collar that I wasn’t wearing. I flung myself back into the pool and rested there, floating on the surface like foam on the sea. “I hope you find me again sometime soon, Dionysos,” I whispered as I watched the sunset.

https://www.inthepantheon.com/ivy-and-wine/lady-of-the-seas/amphitrite/

~Written alongside Peter Farmer. Check out his work https://jhiieri.com/

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Move in Day, part 2

I looked up at Alessa’s office, Divine Interiors, and smiled. I could tell that she and her brother were extremely proud of their accomplishments and their business. I made my way inside the gleaming building. The receptionist smiled and looked me up and down as I walked in the door. 

“You must be Lady Amphitrite. Alessa told me to expect you, but I didn’t realize you’d be here so soon,” he said brightly.

I looked him over. He was attractive, but in a somewhat nondescript sort of way. I didn’t even catch his name before I heard Alessa’s voice coming from a hallway behind him.

“Amph! I’m so glad you’re here.” She beamed.

I smiled in return and held out my hand. “Well, when I woke up to those designs you sent me, I couldn’t wait.” Alessa shook my hand and led me to her office. I could see scale models of all the different interiors she’d designed, and I knew that Poseidon had given me the right contacts.

“So, as we walked through the space yesterday, I saw the cathedral ceilings, and wondered if a second floor would be possible, so I came up with a few different ideas. Obviously, there are some for a single floor, we could use those beautifully high ceilings to our advantage, or we could create an entirely new space. Move the bedroom up there, add a sitting room, and a balcony…” Her voice trailed off as she opened the large display TV to show me the designs. I was truly blown away. Alessa began going over all the different designs she’d come up with and didn’t stop talking. I could tell she was excited, and that fed my own excitement.

“Alessa,” I paused her for a moment, and she seemed relieved. “Let’s sit and have a drink. You’ve been talking nonstop for the last half hour.” Alessa breathed deeply and sat down. I began to hum softly, a calming sea-shanty, and I watched as she visibly relaxed.

“What?” she asked after a few minutes. “What was that?”

I finished the phrase and smiled softly. “Just my voice. It’s a gift of mine, Siren Song. I can use it for different effects, but normally I use it to help calm people. Am I…” I didn’t want to ask it, but eventually, curiosity won out. “Am I the first deity that you have designed for?”

I watched Alessa’s eyes widened, the chocolate brown sparkling. She nodded. “Yes, I guess…you make me nervous, Amph.”

My mouth hit the floor. I don’t think I’d ever made anyone nervous in my life. It was an entirely foreign concept to me. I began laughing, a little storm brewing in the sound. “I…make you…nervous? Oh, gods! Gaia preserve me.”

Alessa looked at me, horrified. “I didn’t think it would be quite that funny, Lady Amphitrite.” Her voice was gruff, professional, and almost angry. “If that’s all, I think I’d rather get down to business.” She stood up and walked back over to the display. 

Standing quickly, I grabbed her hand and smiled. “No, Alessa.” I breathed slowly, calming the storm, the madness, and gently kissed the back of her fingers. “Don’t be angry. I’m sorry for my um…outburst. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been around normal people, mortal or immortal, and I’m still learning. I have never, that I know of, been known as intimidating. I apologize most profusely if I hurt your feelings.” I stood straight and pressed my forehead against hers. “I don’t want to lose my first friend, please.”

Alessa looked down at me, her couple of inches making a difference, and closed her eyes. “You seemed different for a little bit there, Amph.” Her voice was soft but still hesitant, and I pulled back, still holding her hand. “Like…a storm was brewing in your mind. Like a different person was ready to take over.”

I looked at her, and in the reflection of her eyes I watched my normal blue eyes glaze over dark grey, and I realized that she’d seen it. The part of myself that Poseidon and I had been hiding since the beginning. He wasn’t to blame for the majority of the storms the mortals attributed to him. I was. After living in Atlantis for a while, my bond with the sea deepened. I’m not sure if it was to balance Poseidon out, or if my own powers were growing, but I was more attuned to the tides than before. I would switch from bright and bubbly, to calm and docile, to violent and stormy. We called it Maelstrom, and the mortals took it as the name of a sea storm. Most of the gods I’d met didn’t know how that felt, to be containing such a force at all times. Feeling her build until she broke and took everything with her. 

I lowered my eyes and sighed, calming my emotions before speaking again to Alessa. “I am the embodiment of the sea, I will always carry a storm with me, and for that, I can only caution you. I do not know when or if it will come out.” I slowly looked up at her, her eyes taking in my shifting expressions as I allowed the storm to pass over my face. “I would become a different person, I wouldn’t recognize you, and I could hurt you. I–” I stopped as Alessa wrapped me in her strong arms, and I looked at her. “What?”

“Amph, you are amazing,” Alessa said, holding my gaze intently.

I shook my head, trying to keep the tears back. How long had it been since a friend held me this way? How long had it been since I’d had a friend? Perhaps a couple of my cousins in our youth, but never just a friend. 

“You have just returned to the surface world after what? 2,000 years away? And you’re trying to learn and catch up on history and find your way. Step out as your own person. It’s no surprise there’s a storm brewing within you. I’d say you could let it out with me, but…” 

I shook my head violently, the tears streaming down now as I looked away. 

Alessa tipped my chin up, forcing me to meet her eyes again. “I know you’d keep tighter control to protect me, and the mortals. I’ve read the stories, Amph, the few you’re mentioned in. You are a friend to humanity, as much as any goddess is. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to let your storm out once in a while. But I’d suggest not suppressing it if you can. Anger, which is something we humans know all too much about, bottles up the same way. It can eat us away from the inside out if we don’t address it periodically. Now, if you need someone to talk to, well, you have my number.” 

I nodded and pulled back slowly, our eyes meeting again. 

“I will be your friend when you need one, because, goddess,” she chuckled softly, “it looks like you need one.”

“Alessa, you are the first person I met here other than family. You will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you.” She let me go and grabbed a tissue to wipe my face. “Now, let’s settle on some designs so that we can get to work putting it all in action.” She laughed and nodded in agreement. 

Within the hour, we had honed it down to one design. It was sleek and sexy, definitely beachy, but inviting all the same. She had taken into account the panic room, as we were calling it. From there I could run Nymphaeum, using it as both an office and a safe space if anything happened and I couldn’t get out of the GC. There was a hardline phone with a direct line to a similar office at Nymphaeum, for management to use if I wasn’t in. Poseidon had suggested many of these ideas as we chatted. He didn’t want to see anything bad happen because of poor planning. As he’d been running a business, and a kingdom, for a while, I heeded his advice. 

“So, the second floor will be entirely…” I started.

“The bedroom, yes,” Alessa finished my sentence with a smile. “We can set up an identity scanner if you want to keep unwanted people from heading up the stairs, or you can leave it open.”

I giggled softly, like a little girl, and suddenly I felt years younger. “I don’t expect to have many visitors who would need to see my bedroom anytime soon.”

We stood up as the documents were printed and walked over to Alessa’s desk. “You never know, you may find someone to your liking.” She grabbed the paperwork out of the tray. Technology was more amazing to me every day! She flipped through the printouts, marking what needed to be signed. 

“Yes, you’re right. Perhaps I will. Or maybe an old flame will surprise me, who knows? I can’t tell the future, Alessa.” I began signing and smiled. “But for now, I just want to be me. Amph, wild, free, and untethered. For once in my life.”

Alessa smiled like she knew something I didn’t, and once the paperwork was taken care of, she laughed. “Alright, I’ll take your word for it, but don’t come to me once you meet someone, and you’re tempted to break that rule. I’ll be here to remind you of it. Now, we start work tomorrow, are you excited?”

I laughed along with her, took my copy of the contract, and we headed back towards the entrance. “Ecstatic. I’ll make sure the front desk knows that your crew will be arriving bright and early, and to give you access if I’m not there waiting. I want to see this place come into fruition.”

We made our way outside, and Alessa pulled me into a deep hug. “You’re strong, Amph. You can make it on your own. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a support system. I know that Lord Poseidon has your back, and so do I.” I nodded and smiled at her. This woman had become such an integral part of my life in a short time. I knew I could face any mortal challenge as long as I had her in my corner.

“Thank you, that means a lot. Now, I believe you have some calls to make.” Alessa laughed brightly. “And so do I.” We shook hands once more, and Alessa made her way back into the offices. I walked towards the GC, back to my new home, and made a call to let reception know to expect Alessa and her crew tomorrow morning.

https://www.inthepantheon.com/move-in-day-part-ii/lady-of-the-seas/amphitrite/

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Move in Day, part 1

*Ding Floor 27*

I got off the elevator and looked at the plain white door in front of me. Well, that was going to have to change. I pulled my notepad out of my satchel and began scribbling ideas down. I thought a nice mural of Atlantis along the wall and on the door would be perfect. I unlocked the door and stepped in. The room was blank and massive. I could see white walls all around, and a gigantic bedroom off to the side. All of this space was…well, it was too much. 

“Ok, I need an office,” I began writing and speaking, sketching out a floor plan and wandering around. “I want to run the hotel from here if need be. I know that’s the point of everyone having their spaces here, for protection and whatnot,” I muttered to myself as I paced the gigantic room barefoot. I wandered and paced and muttered, the room taking shape in my mind, and I smiled. “Wall here, an invisible door here. I need the office to be completely self-sustaining, my…oh, what do they call it? A panic room.” I walked over to the windows and looked out. The God Complex was impressive. 

My phone vibrated in my pocket, yes my dress had pockets, and I pulled it out. The incoming text was from Poseidon: Hope your time at the GC goes well, let me know if you need any help. Also, check out this baby.

The picture was of the largest bed I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t help but blush at the thoughts running through my mind. And yet, I needed it. I replied quickly, asking if he could put an order in for me, and have it delivered to floor 27. I was getting used to this! I got a little wink face back and chuckled. He sent me a number to a design consultant, and I did a quick search. As I said, I was getting used to the phone, and I looked at some of the work that they’d done. I’m not going to lie. I was impressed and decided to give them a call.

“Hello, yes, is this Divine Interiors? My name is Amphitrite, my par- friend Poseidon recommended you. Yes, I’m in the God Complex. Yes, I have some time this afternoon. Yes, I would love for someone to come and look at the space. I’m a bit lost when it comes to designing this space. Excellent, I’ll meet them downstairs. Goodbye.” I hung up the phone and then realized I didn’t know how I was going to pay for what I needed. I could raid one of my caches. I had one nearby. 

I left the suite, locked up, and made my way down to the lounge where I could portal out. I saw a few familiar faces but didn’t stop to say hi, I just disappeared and reappeared at the beach. I walked into the surf and changed quickly, my mermaid form taking over from one breath to the next, and I made my way down. The cache wasn’t too far off the coast, but it was well hidden and impossible to get to unless you could shift into another form. When I retrieved the small box from beneath the dying coral, my heart broke. My ocean was dying faster than I could heal her, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I died along with her

I swam back up to the surface, shifted back to human form, and opened the box. Gold drachma shone brilliantly in the sunlight, and I smiled. Poseidon could call his hoards from the depths, but I had to visit my caches in person. I preferred it that way. It gave me a chance to reconnect with the space, remind myself why I chose it, and why I hid stuff away. This particular batch of goodies came from some time I spent in Ancient Greece as a regular human. I lived in Korinth at the time and made a decent wage while there. I was neither proud nor ashamed of my history, it just was. I wanted some time away from the court, and I got it. I shook the memory away as I teleported back to the lounge, tucking the box into my satchel. Yes, a mermaid with a satchel and a bunch of funky stuff in there. I know.

I sat in the lounge and ordered a glass of white wine. Poseidon had pointed me to a Greek wine called Assyrtiko, and I had taken a liking to it. This particular bottle had come from Thera, one of my favourite places above and below the waves, and I sipped it with pleasure. 

I was early for the meeting, and I didn’t have anywhere else to be, so I figured I’d wait here and enjoy a glass of wine or two until my contact came. I checked my phone, saw that I had a few hours to waste, and smiled before double-checking the name: Alessa. What a gorgeous name. I pulled out my notebook and began drawing. I wasn’t good at it, but I enjoyed the freedom of it. I sketched ideas for the suite, thoughts in my head, what this woman may look like. I spent so much time writing notes and scribbling down my thoughts that I didn’t even notice the woman appear in front of me. “Ahem,” she coughed softly, and I looked up. One of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen was standing before me. She was strong, but petite, with brown eyes and blond hair. My mouth went slack, and I sat up straight, placing my wine-glass down. 

“Do you know where I could find the Lady Amphitrite?” She put the stress on the wrong syllable, but I just smiled. 

“You can call me Amph, if you’d like.” I stood up slowly, allowing the woman to step back, and she smiled as I extended my hand. “You must be Alessa?” 

She took my hand in a firm grip and nodded. “I am. I’ve heard good things about you, Amph.” She tested my name, and it sounded wonderful on her tongue. I picked up my satchel and held my arm out to the doorway of the lounge. She made her way out, a little taller than I was, in work boots and functional clothing, and I respected her for it. I looked down at my bare feet and gulped. It wasn’t exactly uncommon for me, but I knew people in the modern age preferred having something on their feet. 

“Who have you been speaking to, that’s spoken of me?” I was curious, I wasn’t well-known even within the family. My fame so to speak came from my proximity to Poseidon, not anything I’d done. We stepped into the elevator, and the scent of her perfume caught my attention. Jasmine, but it wasn’t overpowering, it was subtle. I tried not to focus on it and hit 27. 

Alessa smiled and looked over, her soft brown eyes disarming me for a moment. “Lord Poseidon, of course. I called him after you got off the phone with my brother. Alex is the one who originally did Lord Poseidon’s suites, so I called to get a little background on you,” she blushed, and so did I. “Was that alright?”

The elevator dinged again, and the doors opened. “Yes, that was smart on your part.” I opened the door and looked around. “It’s a blank slate.”

Alessa stepped in and smiled. “It’s perfect, do you have any ideas in mind?” I nodded and showed her some of the rough sketches I’d done, and the bed picture that Poseidon had ordered me. “Oh, that’s lovely. Are you expecting to have company?” The question caught me off guard, and I shook my head. 

“No, I am,” I coughed gently, “technically single for the first time in, oh gods…30,000 thousand years? Something like that. I don’t even know what year it is right now. So no, I am going to enjoy myself, the massive bed, and have all the room to move and sleep where I want.” Alessa started laughing at me, and I blushed again. I didn’t know if I was attracted to her, or if I was so starved for friendship that I didn’t know how to act anymore. I looked sideways at her. “What?”

“Amph!” She wheeled out as she keeled over laughing. I just stared at her. “I’m sorry, you called me here for business, and I’m asking about pleasure.”

“Well,” I huffed softly, “they’ve always mixed in the past for me, I’m going to have to learn to separate the two of them again.” She placed a hand on my arm, and I stilled. “I’m sorry, Alessa. Let’s get back to work.” I needed to focus on something other than her charm. 

I heard her gulp before she responded, “Right, so what did you have in mind for your office?” 

I guided her over to the side of the suite that I wanted to wall off and indicated roughly how big. “I want it basically to function both as a safe room, and as the hub for the Nymphaeum.” Alessa looked at me, and I smiled. “My hotel, although I guess it’s more of a resort. I want to be able to run it from here, minus the guest interaction obviously. With everything my family has been through the last few months, I want to have somewhere safe, something impenetrable.” 

Alessa nodded and smiled. “Alright, I have some ideas, I’ll draw out some sketches and email them to you. Or did you want to meet up again?”

I bit back the immediate answer of meeting up again, and instead, I just smiled for a moment. “Why don’t we meet at your office when you have something?” Alessa beamed back at me, and she gave me her card. “Thank you, I’ll put the information into my phone now, and send you a text, this way you know who to call when you’re ready.” I did just that, including my name, address, phone numbers, fax, whatever that was, email and social media contacts. And then I texted her. Alessa, it’s Amph, now you can get a hold of me. I hit send and watched as she saw it.

“Thank you, Amph. I’ll call or text as soon as I have some designs for you.” I nodded and shook her hand again.

“Take your time, I’m living out of the Nymphaeum at the moment, so I’m not exactly homeless,” I replied. We made our way back down to the ground floor, and we shook hands again. 

“Until next time,” she said softly, and I nodded as she walked away.

I watched her until she got into a work truck and left before I replied under my breath, “Until next time, Alessa.” I teleported back home and, with a smile, helped my concierge Matthieu check-in the waiting guests. 

The next morning I woke up to massive spam of pictures and a single text message from Alessa. I was inspired. Come by the office today. I smiled, rolled out of bed, and changed quickly into a soft blue sundress. I remembered to put on sandals before teleporting to the office location on my phone.

https://www.inthepantheon.com/move-in-day-part-i/lady-of-the-seas/amphitrite/

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The Return of the Sea, Part 2

I awoke one morning, not too long after opening the Nymphaeum, and sighed. I knew that today would be the day. Since I had separated from Poseidon fully, I had felt the call to return to Olympus properly.

“Ok, Amph…you can do this,” I told myself, and made my way to Poseidon’s dive bar to let him know I was returning.

“Damn, Amph, you look…” He left the sentence hanging, which left my heart pounding for him to finish.

Instead, I smiled and twirled a little. “What, this old thing? I’m fond of the dress,” I stated simply. Poseidon looked like he was going to move forward, but he stopped, respecting my wishes. “I’m heading up. I know you have a portal, and I would like to use it, please?” I asked politely. Some things were bred into me. I could have whirlpooled over, but with having been away for so long, I didn’t trust the connection to the family to be that strong. I needed to have my feet on the ground at Olympus before I could fully reignite that bond.

Poseidon cocked his eyebrow, and those sea-green eyes I loved so much grew bright for a moment before he stepped aside. “Of course, Amphitrite, you can use it whenever you need to. Just know, the destruction up there is terrible.” As I walked in front of him, Poseidon placed his hand on mine, and I looked up at him. Even this new mortal body stood below the towering sea god.

“Yes, Poseidon?” I asked, my voice hitching slightly.

Poseidon took a long breath, I could see his neck bulging a little, and that meant he was trying to control some aspect of himself. “Be careful up there. There are gods and beings that haven’t been seen since long before the fall and have returned to Zeus’ command. By the way, does he know that you’re coming?”

Poseidon let go of my arm, and I smiled brightly. “He knows that I’ve returned, I’m sure, but if I’m coming up? I don’t think so.” Poseidon led me into the back, and to his portal to Olympus. I knew that it could also lead him home, though it seems he’d given up being King of Atlantis. “Thank you, my friend,” I said softly and kissed his cheek. Poseidon activated the portal, and I stepped through without hesitation.

~~~

When I exited the portal, the devastation surprised me. Sure, Poseidon had warned me about it, but to witness the lingering carnage? I felt tears well up, and I had to wipe them away. It would be no good, going before the King of the Gods crying. I had an image to uphold, anyway. I saw a man running towards me and looked at him. Mortal security on Olympus? 

“Excuse me,” I called out, and he stopped in front of me. “I’m looking for Zeus, do you know where he is?”

The security guard eyed me seriously, and I could tell through the uniform that he was well built and suited to the task at hand. “Who are you, and how did you get here?” he demanded.

While initially affronted by his tone, my smile settled into a cool temper, and I looked him dead in the eyes. “My name is Amphitrite. I am the consort of Poseidon, which makes Zeus my brother-ish. Now tell me,” I widened the smile to show off a line of shark teeth I rarely used unless someone was really pissing me off, “where my family is. I have been gone for a very long time, and I wish to see them.” I didn’t need to tell the man that Poseidon and I had separated, even if it was only just this week.

The security guard blanched when he saw my teeth and stood at attention. It was the little things in life that brought me such joy. “Ma’am,” I clicked my teeth, and he sputtered, “Lady Amphitrite, everyone has moved down to the God Complex HQ. I would suggest you start there. But ma’am,” I growled a little, not feeling as young as the body I was in suddenly, “Lady Amphitrite, sorry, but you may want to make an appointment with Hebe first, before seeing Lord Zeus.”

I nodded and smiled again, my teeth returning to normal. “Thank you very much, mortal, for your help. I can take it from here.” He nodded and waited for me to leave. I set up a wall of water, not knowing my destination was tricky, but with family, there was always a bond connecting us all together. And now, once I was here and felt the current re-establishing itself, I knew I could follow it. I stepped into my wall of water, focusing on Zeus’ signature and allowed the current to take me to him.

~~~

“I’m sorry, miss, but you can’t go in there,” Hebe called out as I strolled past her desk. Was this going to be the theme if I returned? I stopped and looked at her, my crystal blue eyes radiating annoyance.

“Hebe, was it?” I looked over at the nameplate on her desk. She nodded and barred my way. I had to give the girl credit. “Well, Hebe, I’m new here, and I haven’t seen my brother-in-law in over 2000 years, and I would very much like to.”

Hebe’s eyes opened wide, and recognition dawned. “Lady Amphitrite, I’m sorry. Lord Zeus told me that if you were to return to give you access to your floor.” 

“My what?” I asked curiously, moving to the front of Hebe’s desk so that the assistant could return to her duties. 

She looked me over and smiled sweetly. “Your floor, here within the Headquarters. I believe…” Hebe trailed off as she scrolled through her computer. “Yes, here it is, floor 27 belongs to you.” 

I fell into one of the chairs and looked startled. “I have a floor all to myself?” I guess I was more out of touch with Olympus than I had previously thought. “But, my hotel…”

Hebe just smiled and nodded. “Yes, and we can mark that down as well. A hotel you said, what is it called?” she asked as she passed me the key to Floor 27.

“Nymphaeum, because,” I began.

Hebe picked up on it. “Yes, because you’re a Nereid.” I nodded. “And where is it located?”

“A few miles away from The Mermaid’s Tail,” I replied, anticipating her response. 

“Ah, so then you’ve already run into Poseidon.” I nodded again, trying to keep the tension in my voice to a minimum.

“Yes, he stopped by the hotel a couple of days ago, he said he liked the name.” I could hear in my voice, that my feelings for him weren’t quite gone yet, but what could you expect after millennia of being together, even when we weren’t? Hebe just nodded and put the information into her computer.

Looking up, she smiled at me. “I see it here. You’re open for business?”

“Yes. We’ve had a few customers in already, but I need to focus on marketing to get more people in.” I replied, beaming at the prospect of having a full hotel.

Hebe stepped in and smiled. “Well, we can certainly help you with that. Most of the gods who have returned have started their own businesses, and we will help you, however we can.” She shook the key at me again and smiled. “Now, I believe you have a floor awaiting you and a business to run.”

I chuckled as I registered the polite dismissal. Normally it would set my teeth on edge, I was the Queen of the Sea, but the way she said was more matronly than condescending. “Yes, Hebe. Will you let Zeus know that I’ve returned, officially, and that he is always welcome to come to visit the hotel?” Hebe just nodded at me, and I smiled as I left, making my way to the elevator to explore this floor 27.

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The Return of the Sea, Pt 1

Should I give you a little history of who I am? Would that help in the coming days when I tell my current story and how I got here? Yes? Okay. To start, I am the oldest of fifty daughters born to Nereus and Doris. I am one of the Nereids, the female embodiment of the sea. When I was a young nymph, Poseidon pursued me, and I chose to play hard to get. I knew what a catch he was, one of the Big Three, God of the Sea, the male form of, well, me. I ran and hid near Atlas, an old family friend, and it was there that Delphin found me. Poseidon didn’t even come himself, but Delphin made a good argument. I would be a goddess, Poseidon’s equal, and would rule the seas with him. I had to admit, that sounded good. No more living under my father’s shadow. The Old Man of the Sea could be fearsome. 

I accepted Delphin’s offer and left with him for Atlantis, where Poseidon was pleased to see me. I also knew who he was, and how many children his brother had by mortal women, and that the trait was probably familial. I didn’t care. His presence was intoxicating, and when we met for the first time, I saw in him my future. We were happy, even with our other consorts. It was an arrangement that was beneficial for us, and I did not resent his mortal offspring. I didn’t hate or put my stepchildren through trials and hardships just because of their birth. If anything, I supported them on their journeys. Theseus was a favourite of mine. I gifted him some of my own attire, and he treated me with respect I never saw from Zeus’s children. Perhaps that is why no one knows me. I wasn’t a bitch *cough* like others were. Oh well.

When we fell, when the gods faded, Poseidon and I had grown apart as lovers but had remained friends, and I retained my place as his consort. I remember nothing through my time in the seas, just floating by, not even paying attention to humanity’s prosperity. I barely remember hearing a call, Zeus’s voice, commanding everyone to return. I didn’t fall under his power, I never did. I was his cousin by birth, and his sister by choice, but I was NOT an Olympian. He held no power over me. 

The sea was fickle, and I was the sea. Sometimes, even more than Poseidon. The sea was always seen as a woman, and Thalassa and I had merged into one being many, many millennia ago. I was slow to respond and quick to act. I was violent and calm, stormy and bright. I didn’t need anyone in my life who would try to temper that. When I realized that, I awoke, and it amazed me it took so long. “Okay,” I said, “now what?” I wandered the oceans, growing in strength and spewing out the garbage and filth that humanity had dumped in me. 

Eventually, I was drawn to a little bar where merpeople could swim up and interact with the mortals on the other side. I realized the source of the pull when I discovered Poseidon was running it. I shifted into a mermaid, blue hair and eyes, a sleek, lithe body, and he didn’t recognize me. I knew then that I would be free. 

We chatted. He flirted, and I flirted back. If by the end, he did realize who I was, he never let on. I left and made my way down the beach to a secluded cove. From what I could see, it was accessible only by boat. I smiled, this was where I would make my home, my mark. But what kind of home could I build? The thought of a bar appealed to me, but so close to Poseidon would pull his customers away, and I wasn’t that much of a bitch. Maybe a hotel? One that showcased the splendour of the ocean and showed off all her might? That I could do. 

I raised the building, asking Hephaestus for help, seeking out Athena to guide with the finer touches, and locating as many of my sisters as I could find to add rooms and suites under the waves. When it was finished, I looked on, proud of my achievements, and emblazoned the front door with its name: Nymphaeum. A little nod to my origins, I hoped that people, mortals and immortals alike, would come to visit. 

There was a casino, restaurants, beaches, hundreds of rooms, and a little section I left alone for private use, as per my good friend Hedone’s request. “Amphi, it looks great!” she exclaimed when I brought her in for the first time. My friend hugged me, her power of pleasure washed over me, and I smiled.

“I’m glad. You and your harem are currently the only ones to use it. Maybe that will change.” She hugged me again and disappeared in a puff of pink smoke. I walked the empty halls, waiting to open properly, and I sighed.

“This looks amazing, Amphitrite.” My heart stopped momentarily. I turned around and saw my consort, the God of the Seas, Poseidon. He was looking at me with respect and desire. I smiled easily at him.

“Thank you, P,” I replied, walking over to him. “I wanted something of my own. I’ve seen all the other businesses that the gods have set up, and this,” I waved around me, “is mine.” 

Poseidon took one of my hands and kissed it gently. “You could have come back to the bar.” I cocked my eyebrow at him. “As if I didn’t know that was you, I’d know your presence anywhere. But I understand your desire. We have been bound by the past for too long. If you will still have me as a friend and confidante,” he winked scandalously, “would you take your freedom, the separation we both feel?”

I didn’t know what to say, and I looked up into his storm green eyes, eyes I had fallen in love with millennia ago. “I would fall from divinity, though, would I not?” Why was that my only worry?

Poseidon laughed. “You’ve been a goddess for most of the years you’ve been alive. No, my love, you will still be you, and maybe even more without me tying you down.” There was a sharp intake of breath, and Poseidon smiled easily at me. “So, be the sea. Be wild and free, and most importantly, be untamed. Be exotic, calm, serene, and virulent. Be the goddess of the sea that you were always meant to be.” Poseidon kissed my forehead tenderly and smiled as he walked away. “By the way,” he turned and looked at me from the entry, “I love the name.” With that, he vanished into a whirlpool, my heart thudding out of my chest.

I felt the snap of the invisible chain that bound us through the years, and I turned and ran off the balcony, diving into the ocean below. My power had returned, a power I never knew had been contained. I soared through the sea, flexing my muscles and watching as the mortals cowered in their ships and homes. I sunk nothing. Even after seeing all the garbage polluting my waters, I still did not hate them. But I did warn them, the seas were no longer man’s to control. I would be there, testing their worth, judging their mettle. Only the finest would ply my waters. I could be everywhere, see everything, and I would always be present. 

The sea was free, and she would revel in that release.

Episode 7: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner part 7

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-5knsv-1035164
We’ve made it to the end! Come and join me for the final part of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner!

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