Silence falls into the clearing. Shadows gather around Paul’s face, making his eye gleam. He doesn’t bat them away. He parts his lips as if he savors the taste of the darkness as much as it savors him.
The nearby greenery rustles. Christopher feels eyes watching them, wanting to come closer, to approach the temple and the stream, but whomever is there doesn’t.
Paul: (closing his eyes and smiling) She cannot enter holy ground. (He swivels his head to look away from Christopher.) Go on. Talk to her. That’s what you do. Isn’t it?
Christopher: (backing away) Yes it is, although I wonder what cannot enter this place while I, whom you’ve called a monster can.
Paul: You should know the answer to that. If not, go and find out.
Christopher circles the clearing, giving Paul a wide berth. He plunges into the bushes.
He is seized by two strong hands, swept within a billowing cloak.
Hebe: What are you doing, talking to him? Come away at once!
She pulls Christopher through the thicket which is softer than he expected toward a shimmering patch of air.
He doesn’t resist. He recognizes the rippling the sensation in the air of an opening between worlds, what he calls a Door.
The rippling sensation surrounds them, swallowing them until there are elsewhere.
Hebe and Christopher stumble into another clearing with a very different temple. Smaller than the green one with the blue roof and golden dragons, yet taller and a completely different design. Open air, supported by four pillars, and a domed roof, a white marble statue graces the center. The statue is of a naked youth who looks very much like Paul.
Christopher: There’s always a statue, isn’t there? At least this one is really a statue.
Hebe: Of course there’s a statue. He is beautiful, that creature you were speaking with, beautiful and terrible. A legendary beauty, although too few see the terror until it’s too late.
Christopher: You mean Paul?
Hebe: Is that what he calls himself? (She smiles bitterly.) When he seduced my father and took my position, he had a different name.
Christopher: He seduced your father?
Hebe: (frowns) Well, that’s what my father says. My mother agrees. She feels he betwitched my father into forgetting me, my family, and his obligations.
Christopher: You don’t sound convinced.
Hebe: He said he was kidnapped. That my father turned into a beautiful bird that carried him away.
Christopher: Do you believe him?
Hebe: It wouldn’t be the first time my father has turned into a bird to seduce someone or ravage them. He got to my mother in that form.
Christopher: Did he?
Hebe: Personally I think the shower of gold form is more seductive. Who’s going to say no to gold?
Christopher: Yes, but a shower of it? Particularly if it’s melted down into a molten form which sears you when it touches you. Or if it traps you in a mold, turning you into a statue of gold, unable to speak or move. Slowly killing you in a beautiful, motionless form, or cursing you with eternity within the shell.
Hebe: You and your sinister view of statues! One would think you had a close encounter with a gorgon.
Christopher: A gorgon?
Hebe: Hmm. Snakes for hair. Sometimes immortal, but not always. Even the ones that aren’t immortal retain their power after death. Even if you hack off her head, a gorgon can still turn you to stone just by looking at you.
Christopher: Like and unlike an arachnocrat. She has to do a lot more than look at you to turn you to stone. And she’d need your consent.
Hebe: Sounds like a more convivial relationship for both the arachnocrat and her victim. More convivial than any you’d have with a gorgon, whether the gorgon wished it or not.
Christopher: You sound like the Lady Duessa herself.
Hebe: Is she an arachnocat? (She rubs her throat. There’s a petal-shaped scar upon it.)
Christopher: Yes. (He gives the scar a pointed look.) I thought you knew.
Hebe: I’m not sure how much I knew or know. I’m not a statue.
Christopher: You weren’t a Marriage Feast.
Hebe: No. I was feasted upon, but marriage wasn’t offered.
Christopher: I don’t think the Lady Duessa could have. The Marriage Feast is always a boy, selected by an arachnocrat as her Marriage Feast, something my sister, Vanessa never stopped reminding us of.
Christopher: (straining to recall something, someone who’s become like the faded part of a dream) Damian, myself…and Melyssa. Yes, Melyssa. How could I forgotten her? I think…(his cheeks color)
Hebe: (raising an eyebrow) You think?
Christopher: I think Melyssa might have asked Vanessa to be her Marriage Feast if ladies could take other ladies, but Van was shocked by the idea.
Hebe: Shocked and unwilling?
Christopher: I’m not sure. Strange, that such a thing would be shocking, but the Gardens were a strange place.
Hebe: Yes, strange. Almost as strange as the Tower.
Christopher: What? What do you know of the Tower?
Hebe: Never you mind. I wasn’t warning you about the Tower or the Gardens. I was warning you about Ganymeades.
Hebe: The one you call Paul.
Christopher: Actually it was Peter who called him Paul. They used to be together.
Map: What? Our Peter? Our sweet, silly flirt at the Navel had a relationship with that creature?
Christopher: One that’s not over, judging from Paul’s attitude.
Hebe: Well. First my parents, now Ganymeades. Our Peter has a way of enchanting everyone.
Christopher: Yes, he does.
Hebe: I’m surprised to hear you agree. You were the only one who seemed immune to his charms.
Christopher: I’m not immune. I’m just less…responsive to his charms.
Hebe: I suppose we vary in responsiveness. Peter and Paul, eh? Now that I think about it, they would look lovely together.
Christopher: (looking at his feet) Yes.
Hebe: I wouldn’t trust that one, if I was Peter. He may have been a victim when he lashed out at the gods after being unwillingly turned into one…
Hebe: Tricked into tasting the ambrosia in my father’s cup, the way the lady of the underworld was tricked into tasting pomegranate. Only the effects of the drink may not be as everlasting as we thought. Given none of us are what we were.
Christopher: I see, I think.
Hebe: I’m not sure how he did it. He had help in stealing my father’s thunder. He might argue he had to do it, to get away from my father and the heavens, but he’s gotten a taste for the hunt. He likes to get close to his victims before he drains them of their power.
Christopher: I don’t think Paul sees Peter as a victim. You and I, yes. Your parents and the other gods, yes. Not Peter.
Hebe: I see. We’re monsters, gods and shadows alike. Peter is the fool who just wandered among us.
Christopher: Is he wrong?
Hebe: No, I fear he’s not.