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But Hecate didn’t push it. She and Apollo sat down at the desk in the room and pored over the Mycenae maps she’d produced out of thin air, talking about ancient burial sites and the most likely spots for Perseus’s grave. After Cassandra’s pronouncement, Hades had questioned Perseus himself about the whereabouts of the sword, but, unfortunately, he had no recollection of those events. He’d been alive and then he was dead—or so he’d figured out when he appeared on the bank of the River Styx with a coin for the ferryman.

Apparently, the underworld was spelled against swords and other weapons, as the newly dead were sometimes known to take exception to their sorry state and attempt to fight their way out of it. Hades stockpiled the only weapons allowed in his realm and kept them under lock and key. And while Cassandra could point to Mycenae, she couldn’t pinpoint the tomb more exactly, as it seemed to be protected by some kind of concealment. I hoped it wasn’t any stronger than the illusion used by the Grey Sisters, but if Perseus’s final resting place hadn’t been found in all this time, I suspected I was destined for disappointment on that score.

In the meantime, I had minions. Well, a minion. My assistant, Jesus (pronounced Hey-Zeus), but he was worth his weight in gold. We’d left him back at the hotel in Delphi, probably sleeping, probably with my brother. I didn’t want to think about that. Luckily, it was only seven in the evening. I likely wouldn’t be interrupting anything. Probably. Maybe. With Spiro’s libido and the way those two looked at each other … avert, avert, avert … the alarm sirens in my brain went off, popping up pictures of LOLCats and red pandas pouncing on pumpkins and other cutesy Internet memes like a shiny, happy firewall. Things that had nothing to do with sex and my sibling.

In deep denial, I called Jesus. He picked up on the first ring, talking a mile a minute before I could even get a word out.

“Boss lady, where are you? The police and press are having a field day. They say you’ve disappeared, just like that. Poof.” I could hear him snap, as if that were the sound that went with poof instead of, you know, the word itself. Onomatopoeia and all that. The nymph herself would be so disappointed. “Where are you?”

“We’re on a case. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to tell you. But I need you on the clock. Code red, got that? I need you to get me everything you can find on the zombie virus or whatever it is and see if you can figure out where it struck first. Find out if the experts have narrowed it down to any sort of epicenter or patient zero. I don’t want links or crazy conjecture. Just pull together whatever you can find right from the sources—police and rescue, medical personnel, specialists. Also, I want you to find anything you can on Namtar. He’s an ancient Sumerian or Babylonian god of plagues.”

“Boss lady?” he asked. The are you crazy behind it coming through loud and clear.

Zombie viruses and plague demons. Yeah, sounded crazy even to me. “Just do it. You know that bonus you’ve been campaigning for?”

“Yes,” he said, drawing the word out dramatically, as he did everything.

“If we live through this, it’s yours.”

“Live through this?” he asked, but I hung up before he could expect an answer. I had one more call to make, and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

I hit the speed dial button for Yiayia and took a deep breath to prepare myself for what was to come. Such a stream of profanity, all in Greek, hit me as she answered that I let the breath out again. I wasn’t going to need it until she wound down. I wasn’t going to get a word in edgewise until then.

Finally, my grandmother took a breath, used it instantly for questions and demands. “What are you thinking, running off with Apollo? Didn’t I warn you against him? He hasn’t kidnapped you, has he? Turned you into some kind of sex slave? If not, you’re in big trouble, young lady, for worrying everybody like this. Your mother is beside herself.”

My head was swimming from her abrupt turnabouts. Which was worse—the sex slave thing or the running off of my own volition? I wasn’t sure. Anyway, there was no recourse but the truth.

“Yiayia, I didn’t run off with Apollo. That’s not what this is all about.” Although it sounded a whole lot better than the reality. I debated how much to tell her about that. As a career, my grandmother was the bearded lady in the Rialto Brothers’ sideshow. As an avocation, she ran the Goddities website, like a hot sheet on contemporary Greek gods. She knew everything there was to know about the latter-day Olympians, especially the more salacious parts of their histories … which meant she knew better than I about Apollo and the dangers of becoming too attached.

“So, what is it about then?” she asked. “What is so important that you would leave your family, who you haven’t seen in far too long?”

I wasn’t going to debate that. They could have come to see me at any time, far more easily than I could have gone back to the circus to see them, especially with Lenny Rialto still hot for my blood.

“Yiayia, forget that you’re my grandmother for a minute. I need your expertise.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone and then. “Something is up? Tell me all.”

“Not for your website,” I said immediately. “Completely off the record. We don’t need to cause a panic.”

“A panic?” she asked, more delighted than concerned.

“What do you know about the Nosoi?” I asked. Of all the things the Grey Sisters had said, that was the one word I hadn’t quite grasped.

“The Nosoi? Pfft,” she said. Just like that, as though it was a word and not just a sound. “They’re like the wind. Nowhere and everywhere. I can’t keep track.”

“I haven’t even gotten to current whereabouts. I’m still on what are they?”

“What are they teaching children in school these days?” she asked. I’d been homeschooled, as she well knew, so any gaps in my education …

“The Nosoi are the demons of plague and pestilence that escaped Pandora’s Box. But if you don’t know, why are you asking about—” She stopped, and the silence had weight, as though she’d just come up with the answer to her own question. “Are they stirring? Do we have to worry about the plague?”

Damn, she was far too perceptive. I didn’t dare ask her now about Namtar, probably not a great loss, since ancient Babylonian wasn’t exactly her bailiwick, but still.

“Tell me,” she insisted. “You know something.”

“I don’t know. But I fear. Listen, if you hear of any strange movement from the gods you track or you’re able to trace the Nosoi doing whatever voodoo you do, would you let me know?”

“Just tell me,” she begged, “are we safe? Is your family safe here in Delphi?” Her fear practically vibrated through the phone. “Is there somewhere—”

“I don’t know,” I said, hating it. “But it’s a tourist spot, which means people converging from all over the world, having ridden together on public transport—planes, trains, buses. I don’t know a helluva lot about these things, but I’d say that increases the chance of contagion. It might be best …” To what? Barricade themselves in their rooms? Bug out? And go where? Using what means? “Either we stop this thing or I’m not sure there is a ‘safe.’”

“So we are up schist creek?”

I loved the way Yiayia always got slang twisted up. For a moment, I missed her so fiercely I could cry.

“Not if I have anything to say about it. I’m on it. And Apollo … and Hecate.”

“Hecate?” I braced myself for an earful. “Say hello to the old bat. We raised some hell in our youth. Well, my youth. Helpful hint, do not gamble with that woman. She could teach that Lady Yiayia a thing or two about the ‘Poker Face.’”

“Lady Gaga,” I said automatically, the main part of my brain struggling to banish visions of Hecate and Yiayia raising hell and what exactly that might have entailed. I wondered if Yiayia’s beard was shorter then. Or if she’d waxed.

“Tori, are you still with me?”

I snapped out of the reverie. “One more thing—I don’t suppose you know where Panacea might be keeping herself these days?”

Despite what Apollo had said, I thought there had to be a way she could help. If nothing else, an epidemic sounded like an all-hands-on-deck situation. Maybe Yiayia knew something more specific than “Africa.”

“She’s not one I track,” Yiayia answered regretfully.

“Too tame?”

“Yes,” she said without embarrassment. “But I’ll see what I can find out.”

“Thank you. And, Yiayia?”

“Yes, Egona?”

“Stay safe.”

“You too. You and Apollo, you are using the protection?”

My heart stuttered in my chest. “Yiayia …”

“Don’t tell me it’s none of my business. If you won’t protect your heart, at least protect your body. You don’t know where that thing has been.”

I held the phone away from my head to stare as though it were her face and she could actually see the reproach. I realized how silly that was. “I’m hanging up now.”


But I was as good as my word. I loved Yiayia, but she should have been one of the Fates the way she liked to meddle in peoples’ lives.

Apollo caught my gaze as I put the phone away. “She loves and approves of me, yes?” he asked with a twist of his lips to let me know he was being ironic, at least in the Alanis Morissette way.

“She sends her love. The gift basket of puppies and rainbows is on the way.”

“Oh good,” Hecate said, “breakfast.”

“And Yiayia says hello,” I told Hecate, ignoring her attempt to get a rise out of me.

“Ah, how is the old bat?”

“Funny, she asked me the same about you.”

“Speaking of dinner,” Apollo cut in.

Right, we hadn’t eaten since … I didn’t remember the last time we’d eaten. “I know just the place.”

Normally, I’d have taken visitors to Thea Marya’s little hole in the wall restaurant, which had the best moussaka in all the world. I might have been biased, but I didn’t think so.

Instead, I took them to Galina’s. It was well off the touristy beaten path and into the section of Kalambaka where people actually lived. It was a hole in the wall as well, a white door in the side of a whitewashed building with only a discreet sign beside it as advertising. Galina’s didn’t need it. Just like booze in a Prohibition world, which in Greece would have been called the apocalypse, locals would and could have sniffed out this place without any signage whatsoever. But here I never got the moussaka. Here I got the braised lamb, which melted in your mouth. I tried never to think of the cute, innocent animals that gave their lives for my meals. Maybe the Grey Sisters did the same. The very thought turned my stomach and right there I vowed to stick with the spinach-based spanakopita.

The young woman who seated us didn’t recognize me, but Kosmo descended on us the second we were seated. I prepared for fuss and introductions, but instantly realized that he hadn’t seen me at all. He had eyes only for Apollo.

“Lord in Heaven,” he said, clapping his hands together. “Apollo Demas, gracing my humble eatery. I can hardly believe it, and yet it must be. There can be no one like you! I heard you were in Greece for a movie, but I thought … Ah, but perhaps you are filming at Metéora as well? But where are my manners, you must have our best table!”

There weren’t that many, not inside, anyway, but following the old ways, just about every building still had an atrium or a courtyard, and I knew that Kosmo’s was beautiful—a little grotto with a small fountain made of cement and stone with a statue of the Blessed Mother set into an alcove. Greenery and creeping vines always threatened to overtake the little fountain and never quite managed it, I suspected through careful maintenance. The vines’ pink flowers that opened up at dawn would be closing with the setting sun, but the tiny white lights strung about the grotto would be winking on like fireflies. The candles on every table would be lit. It would be completely romantic for two, but three was a crowd.

“Please, don’t fuss,” Apollo said, opening his napkin and setting it in his lap as a sign that he was staying where he was. “I’m happy here.”

And, really, he should have known better. We Greeks will kill you with kindness, whether you like it or not.

Kosmo snapped his fingers, and in less than a second, the woman who’d seated us and his one other server were at our table, taking the napkin from Apollo’s lap, pulling out his chair and bustling about.

Hecate shot me a look of amusement and Apollo sent one of apology. I didn’t care about the fuss, but Thea Marya was going to kill me. If word spread, and Kosmo would be sure of it, that the famous Apollo Demas had visited his restaurant and not hers … and if Marya spoke to Yiayia … well, everyone would know who to blame. Again. Why always me?

In no time flat, we were at a grotto table, as I’d suspected we would be. The other occupied tables stared at the fuss and whispered among themselves. I wanted to disappear into the vegetation, just like the fountain.

“Nice?” Kosmo asked.

“Nice,” Apollo agreed with a sigh. “Sas efcharistó.” Thank you.

My phone began buzzing up a storm as soon as we were settled again, allowing me to ignore the curious stares. I studied the files that had arrived from Jesus and hid behind my phone when Kosmo came to take a picture for his wall. Me in Kosmo’s in a photo with Apollo would just cement my guilt. I was lucky enough not to be disowned already with everything I had to answer for.

I took the quick respite after the picture to share Jesus’s findings with the others. “According to Jesus, Namtar is married to an underworld goddess, Hušbišag.” The last came out as Who-bi-sag. I had no idea how it was actually pronounced. I looked up at Hecate. “Maybe you know her?”

She eyed me back. “Sure, we have mimosas every Wednesday and play Mah-Jongg once a month. All us underworld goddesses do.”

“So you don’t know her?”

“Now, I didn’t say that. I know of her. Back at the beginning, she more or less had the market cornered on the afterlife. But her heyday came and went pretty quickly, partially, if you ask me, because they made their afterlife so damned hard to get into. You know Dante’s nine circles of hell? Well, theirs was something like that, but you had to pay the guardian at every level. If you were too poor or your gift was unacceptable, poof, no entrance. It worked out okay when the empire was on the rise, but not so well on the fall. Haven’t heard from her in a dog’s age. I don’t even know if she and Namtar are still an item. I mean, thousands of years is a long time and those celebrity marriages never last.”

She looked at Apollo beneath her lashes. “I mean, how many women did you marry over the years?”

Apollo looked steadily back at her. “At least I don’t have commitment issues.”

“Oh, I am wounded,” Hecate said, miming plunging her fork into her heart.

“Children,” I cut in. “Am I going to have to separate you two?”

“No,” Hecate said, at the same time Apollo came out with, “Yes, please.”

“Anything you can tell us about her or about Namtar?” I asked to get us back on track.

“She was a beautiful woman, back in the day. Beautiful like a snake with the bright colors and gleaming venom. Namtar was … Namtar. Dark like the color of dried blood, fever hot, eyes a miasma that would draw you in and with a cutting, biting, poisonous wit. And that tail …” She sounded wistful.


“Lack of faith, the same malaise that affects us all.”

“But he’s back. Any guesses why?”

“Could be that Rhea woke him when she rose. Could be the modern zeitgeist—dystopian fiction, the zombie craze. Hell, just think about that one for a minute. You have zombie runs, zombie pub crawls, television shows, movies, comics … even the CDC with their zombie-preparedness guidelines to educate people about what to do to prevent an infectious outbreak. Then you have those people on the news we heard about, the ones eating each other’s faces … Hell, we could have woken him ourselves with all the insanity. People might not know Namtar by name, but they believe in what he does. They have faith.”

“Holy crap.”

“You have such a flare for language,” Hecate said.

Our food arrived, and we dug into it. I was glad I’d opted for the vegetarian dish. Even with that, it was hard to eat past the lump in my throat. What was it Hades had said? Belief forms reality? If so, we might have done this, mankind as a whole. America alone had become a nation of germaphobes—hand sanitizer on every desk and every key chain, whole tubs of it at the grocery store to wipe down carts. How on earth did we pacify an entire populace and calm people’s worst fears even as they were coming true?

First thing in the early, early morning, we had a grave and a legendary sword to dig up.

Mycenae was … epic, even in the dark of night with only the moon and a few security lights shining on it. No, epic was too small a word, a four-letter word even. Mycenae was—grandiose, splendiferous. To quote Pinky and the Brain, “fantastically amazing.” It was the textbook example of Cyclopean construction, meaning that the stones used were so monstrous and massive that latecomers could only conceive that they were placed there by the Cyclopes, legendary one-eyed giants. For all I knew, they had been. Looking at the incredible Lion Gate, with the huge stone monoliths several times my height standing to either side of the entrance and the multi-ton lintel above them holding up the slab of rearing lions carved into it, all I could say was “wow”—even with the lions currently missing their heads.

“You’ve never seen Mycenae before?” Apollo asked.

“Wow,” I said again. It seemed all I was capable of. It was on a loop in my brain. “Wow.”

“You said that,” Hecate pointed out helpfully.

“It bears repeating,” I answered with a glare, but it was a short one, because it took my gaze away from the majesty all around me. Like all other ancient sites in Greece, Mycenae had been built on a mountaintop. The scenery was amazing, and normally I found it hard to believe that man (or Cyclops) could create anything as beautiful as nature, but Mycenae was enough to shift my whole worldview.

“Where to now?” Apollo asked. “Did Jesus’s research give any indication of where Perseus’s grave might be?”

“Well, if it is here, the earliest graves found were to the west of the acropolis near the cistern.”

“In or outside of the walls?”

“Both, the walls were built overtop of them.”

“But if Perseus founded the city …” Apollo began.

“Then his grave is likely inside the walls,” Hecate finished.

Which complicated things about twofold, since there’d likely be security measures to prevent people vandalizing the site.

“Can you get us inside?” I asked her.

It would be great if the witch was good for more than finishing Apollo’s sentences. I knew the thought wasn’t fair. I’d seen her heal. Him in particular. But I was surprised to find myself a little bit jealous of Hecate. She was striking and gorgeous in a way I’d never be, and clearly, she and Apollo had history. They knew all the same gods, had probably even been to some of the same orgies. Yes, and they’d had thousands of years to get together and hadn’t. What does that tell you? my saner, more sensible side asked.

“Piece of cake,” Hecate said.

She squatted to the ground, a centimeter or two shy of kneeling and scraped together with her fingers a pile of dry dirt and rocky soil. Once it was nearly to sandcastle size, she began to swirl her right index finger around and around in the dirt, muttering something darkly beneath her breath. As her volume rose, so did the pile of dirt, becoming a tiny tornado. Hecate rose along with it, her hands coming up to her sides and then rising to shoulder level and above. The cloud of dust, dirt, and pebbles rose with her, drawing more debris to itself until it was a cyclonic sandstorm. I had to avert my eyes as the grit and winds grew more severe, and clench my lips against asking what she was up to lest I get a mouthful of dirt.

The cyclone moved toward us, enveloping but not flaying us somehow, and as Hecate’s hands reached their pinnacle above her head, the cone rose up off the ground, taking us all with it. I made a sound I was sure Hecate would taunt me for later and clutched to my side one of the shovels we’d bought along. With my other hand, I reached out instinctively for Apollo. He was reaching for me as well, and we met in the middle, holding each other as the cloud lifted, taking us over the closed gates, and releasing us inches above the ground inside so that we had to stumble to keep our feet. Hecate kept chanting and lowered her hands slowly, letting the cyclone lose force and materials at a steady rate until it was no more.

I wondered what she would do for an encore.

“Cool,” I had to admit. It occurred to me then that the mother of witches was probably one deity who’d never had to worry about losing her worship or her power.

“Thank you,” she said, turning an almost-feral smile on me. Her eyes had gone darker than ever, black holes with the brown of the cyclone still swirling like an afterimage. She had to blink a few times before they got back to somewhat normal.

That was when I remembered that I could fly and could probably have brought the others in one by one, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as flashy. Damn, I had to get used to these wings and start thinking in terms of probabilities rather than liabilities.

“This way,” I said, retaking, if not leadership then, at least, an active role. I knew from the map Jesus had sent that the cistern was on the far side of the complex from the Lion Gate, and so I started off in the right direction, figuring that when paths diverged, I could consult the file to orient myself again.

It was cool up here at the top of the mountain without any buildings to block the wind—at least, none still standing in near totality—and no modern conveniences to blow hot air. In fact, it was as though the modern world had dropped away entirely, leaving us in another time.

We had to be careful with our footing once we got beyond the pressed-earth walkway at the entrance. Everywhere we looked there were roped-off excavation pits with oversized stones, some still stacked on top of each other, forming the foundation of what would have been buildings at some point in the past, and some laying by themselves with grass growing all around. In the near dark, it was tricky to navigate. My wings wanted to flap every time my balance got iffy, until I was half tempted to rip out the back of my shirt and let them loose. Apollo’s shirt. Whatever. It was too bad there wasn’t any ancient god of tailoring I could go to for a custom wardrobe. Wait, was there? I’d ask, not that it would matter ultimately. Either I’d save the world and the Grey Sisters would keep their end of the bargain, or I wouldn’t and wings would be the least of my problems.

There were stones to the left of us, stones to the right … the demented little deejay in my head sing-songed in a parody of Steve Miller Band’s “Stuck in the Middle with You.” Just to be certain of our bearings, I took out my phone to study the map, but the complex wasn’t as big as I’d have expected, given how huge it looked in myth and legend, and it wasn’t very long before we hit the steps down to the “secret cistern,” according to my map.

“You know, in Mayan times, cisterns were a place of sacrifice,” Hecate said casually. “People would be cast into the very same cisterns from which people drew their water.”

I turned to stare at her, “Are you trying to tell us something about these cisterns …”

“I’m just making conversation. Sheesh, chill. She always like this?” Hecate asked Apollo.

“She hasn’t had caffeine in hours,” he said, in poor defense of my honor.

It was true, I hadn’t. Come to think of it, I also hadn’t had any ambrosia since the great battle where I’d gotten my wings and nearly lost my life. And yet I’d healed anyway. It would be cause for celebration, if it meant what I thought it did—that my addiction was gone, but with my metamorphosis and my supernatural healing, I knew there was something more to it. I was becoming … something other. I just hoped I still matched the picture on my passport when all was said and done. Otherwise, I was going to have a helluva time getting home.

The water in the cistern was blacker than the tail end of night. Those same chunky stones that were all around the site formed a wall surrounding the well. They were bleached nearly white—or so it looked in the moonlight—like bones scoured clean by scavengers. The conservators of the site had roped off the approach to the cistern, both to keep people from falling in and from defacing the site. While we could easily access the pool by stepping over the rope “barrier,” the moonlight couldn’t penetrate the pool so easily. All this talk of watery sacrifices had me imagining stinking, waterlogged bodies pulling themselves up out of the cistern and coming for us, skin sloughing off, bellies bloated … I’d had nightmares like that.

Of course, we probably had more to fear from some kind of site security than from supernatural forces.

Famous last words.

“Where do we even start?” I asked, looking at Hecate. “Any chance you have some kind of grave sense?”

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Some kind of locator spell? But it doesn’t work like that. Once the soul is gone from a thing, the connection is severed. I couldn’t trace Perseus back to his body, and if he ever knew where he was buried, he’s forgotten in the thousands of years since. It’s amazing how much memories can fade over time.”

Hell, witnesses had trouble remembering what they saw on the same day they saw it, I could well imagine spiritual senility.

My precog kicked me in the gut, whipping my head around just as Apollo said, “Um, girls, maybe we can start there.”

It didn’t seem like the time to take him to task over calling us “girls”—not when the stuff of nightmares was ripping itself out of the ground farther west of the cistern.

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