“They are kind of a pain in the ass,” Tanesha said.
“Very self-focused,” Heather said.
“Aren’t they impacted by these spells?” Hera asked.
Tanesha and Heather nodded.
“Then it’s in their best interest to help us,” Hera said.
“That’s good thinking,” Tanesha said.
“I’ve been at this a long time, child,” Hera said.
“Yes, you’re right. I’m unused to using human names,” Hera said.
“Why?” Tanesha asked.
“Good question,” Hera said with a grin. “Now Hedone and I can fend off the shade while you and your family destroy the magic. Does that sound like a plan?”
Tanesha nodded. She looked down the hallway and noticed for the first time that it was clogged with this white string. She sighed and looked worried.
“What is it?” Heather asked.
“There’s just a lot of it,” Tanesha said.
“You know what works wonders on shade spells?” Hera asked. Heather and Tanesha shook their heads. “The Sword of Truth. Have you heard of it?”
Hera shrugged. Tanesha shook her head.
“No one knows what happened to the sword,” Hera said with a shake of her head.
“Thanks for telling us about a sword that has disappeared,” Tanesha said with a roll of her eyes.
“We should get started,” Heather said.
“We should wake Fin and Edie,” Tanesha said.
“I’ll do that,” Heather said. “You get started. Hera, would you like to come with me?”
“I’ll wake Edie,” Hera said, and then disappeared.
“Do you think …?” Tanesha asked in a soft voice.
“Not one word.” Heather shook her head. “We can do this.”
Tanesha nodded. Heather disappeared. Tanesha continued touching the white string and making it disappear. After a few minutes, Fin and Heather appeared. Fin started helping. Edie and Hera appeared. Edie got to work.
Three hours later, they had just cleared out the basement. Exhausted, they headed upstairs just as the sun peaked over the horizon. Tanesha and Heather lagged behind.
“We need Paddie’s help,” Tanesha said.
“What if it’s a trap?” Heather asked.
Tanesha nodded. They followed Hera and the fairies upstairs and started clearing spells.
“Shh,” Hera said, and pointed to the couple in front of them.
“They can’t hear us,” Aphrodite said. “You of all people know that my granddaughter looks like human most of the time.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” Heather scowled at Aphrodite. “You’re so prejudice.”
“What?” Aphrodite asked. “Why are you always so difficult? You’re a full Goddess now. You need look like one. How else will you garner the attention of a God?”
Heather rolled her eyes at Aphrodite, who gave her a beautiful smile. When Heather looked away, Aphrodite changed her back to the skinny, radiant version of herself. If Heather noticed, she didn’t mention it. They watched the couple for a few minutes in silence.
“See! What did I tell you? Nothing,” Aphrodite said. “I knew this was a fabrication. Spend your time with all of those humans and look what you get? Flabby and fanciful.”
Heather’s eyes flicked to her grandmother.
“Shush,” Heather said.
Her grandmother shook her head at Heather and disappeared. Hera turned Heather back into her usual form.
“Thanks,” Heather said.
“My pleasure,” Hera said. “You think …”
The shadow appeared. Old and crafty, it took one look at Heather and Hera and whispered curses.
Hera threw a destruction spell at the shadow. The shadow was unaffected. The shadow sneered at Hera. Reaching through the bubble, the shadow merged with Eros. Her father woke up.
“Hedone?” Eros asked. “Hera?”
Heather grabbed Hera and moved them to the kitchen in Tanesha’s little yellow house. Tanesha was sitting at the kitchen bar waiting for them.
“Did it work?” Tanesha asked.
“We found the shade,” Heather said. “It seems to be old and crafty. Powerful. It merged with him while we were there.”
Hera looked at Heather and then at Tanesha.
“Hedone, I don’t think …” Hera started.
“Tanesha, this is Hera,” Heather said. “Hera, this is Tanesha.”
Tanesha held her hand out for Hera to shake. The Goddess gave Tanesha’s hand a suspicious look but then did shake it. Without missing a beat, Tanesha asked the questions she’d had when she was ten years old.
“Are you a full-blooded Goddess?” Tanesha asked. “With all kinds of power and shit?”
“I am Hera, child,” Hera blushed.
“What the hell are you doing with that creep Zeus?” Tanesha asked. “You’re a Goddess! Have some self-respect!”
Hera looked at Heather and back at Tanesha. Before Heather could respond, Hera started to laugh. Tanesha shook her head ruefully.
“I was serious,” Tanesha said. “You’ve set a really bad example for lots of women over the years.”
“You’re exactly right,” Hera said.
“She was shot with a special kind of arrow,” Heather said. “Zeus, too. Nothing she can do.”
Heather stood just outside her parents’ bedroom. She had to determine if Eros himself was up to more mischief or if somewhere along the way, his shadow-self had splintered. Olympian Gods were capable of splitting into a variety of shadows off their original personality. It was all the rage when Olympia ruled the world. It allows Zeus to pursue sexual conquests all over the world, at the same time. She had no doubt that Eros had split himself during those days.
When Zeus was in the Sea of Amber, Hera had ruled, to the relief of most, that they would take only one human form and one God form. With one spell, she destroyed all of the shadow splits, thus forcing the entirety of Zeus into the Sea Amber. The anniversary of this date is still celebrated in Olympia.
When Heather was just her half-bred self, she had heard rumor that some of the splits had survived Hera’s spell. She and her half-breed peers openly wondered if these were new splits? Or remnants of splits made long ago?
No one knew. Everyone had an opinion.
As time went on, splitting fell out of fashion for the simple reason that each split reduced the power of the God. Human beings couldn’t be relied upon to recharge Olympians with their worship anymore. Very simply, most God’s couldn’t afford to lose power, especially to some random split.
Eros, on the other hand, was different. Once a year, every year, human beings from around the world celebrated love. Pictures of Eros’s childish form, Cupid, could be found on cards, posters, televisions shows, and all things love related. Once a year on February 14, Eros received an enormous boost of power.
Heather knew for a fact that her father spent the day in silent meditations to soak up as much power as possible. If he wanted a shadow, he could make it on February 14 without any loss of power. No one would be the wiser.
Heather transformed herself out of her physical form and slid open the sliding doors to her parents’ bedroom. She moved into the room to stand at the end of her parents’ bed.
Psyche, her mother, was wrapped around her father, Eros. He held her in a tight clench. She created a bubble around them and waited until they were sealed off from the world. If there was a shadow form of Eros, it should immediately feel the break from its source and return. She shifted back to her usual physical form.
Hera appeared next to her.
“Anything?” Heather asked.
“Not that I’ve seen,” Hera said.
Aphrodite appeared on the other side of Heather.
“What are you wearing?” Aphrodite asked.
Heather looked down at her flowered flannel top, black leggings, and slippers.
“I was in bed when I found out about this situation,” Heather said.
Aphrodite changed Heather into a golden ball gown. Heather scowled at her grandmother and changed back.
“I have no idea why you insist on wearing that body?” Heather’s gorgeous grandmother asked.
“It’s comfortable,” Heather said.
“Tsk, no Goddess would be caught dead looking like that.” Aphrodite clucked.
“Artemis and Athena wear whatever they want,” Heather said.
Her grandmother clucked again and transformed Heather into a thinner, radiantly beautiful version of herself.
“You are a Goddess now. Don’t you want to look like one?” Aphrodite asked.
“If I’m a Goddess now, then this is what I look like,” Heather said, and transformed back to her usual form.
“Shh,” Hera said, and pointed to the couple in front of them.
“Not this boy,” Tanesha said. In a neutral voice, she said, “Heather.”
Heather’s feet pounded against the stairs. The moment she hit the last step, Wyn started crying.
“I’ll get him,” Blane said.
“Charlie?” Heather asked.
She looked at Tanesha and Jeraine.
“He hasn’t said anything,” Tanesha shook her head and shrugged.
“What is it? What’s happened?” Heather asked.
Charlie stood frozen in the living room. Jeraine grabbed him by the arms and shook him. Blane appeared with Wyn in his arms.
“Thanks,” Charlie said to Jeraine.
“My pleasure,” Jeraine smiled.
“Charlie?” Tink asked. “You can tell them.”
“Eros,” Charlie said.
“What about him?” Heather scowled.
“He’s wandering through the Castle whispering,” Charlie said. “Abi says he’s out of his mind. He wants to ruin this weekend for everyone.”
“Thank you for letting me know,” Heather said with a nod.
“Come on, Charlie,” Blane said. “I’ll take you home.”
He gave Wyn to Heather.
“Can’t Charlie stay?” Tink whined. “We won’t do anything.”
“I can’t,” Charlie said with a shake of his head. “Sandy will freak out.”
Blane nodded. He waved Charlie to the back of the house and Charlie followed him to the car. A few minutes later, they were in the Castle. Abi was standing outside with her baby. She looked visibly relieved when Charlie got out of the car. Charlie hugged Abi and they went inside.
“What do we do?” Charlie asked.
“This is a job for Olympia,” Abi said. “We can only watch.”
“What if they can’t do it?” Charlie asked.
“It’s been my experience with Olympia is that what is new to you or to me was a part of an Olympic plan,” Abi said.
“But, we always have to fix things,” Charlie said.
“What did Heather do when you told her?” Abi asked.
“She said thank you for telling me,” Charlie said.
“That’s it?” Abi asked.
“Then this was either expected by Olympia or part of some long, convoluted plan,” Abi said. “Best to stay out of the way.”
Charlie nodded. He gave Abi a slight smile. He pointed up the stairs and Abi nodded. Charlie crept up the stairs and into the apartment. When he opened the door, Sandy and Jill were in the living room.
“Charlie!” Sandy said. She got up to hug him. “Where did you go?”
“I …” Charlie said.
Sandy and Jill looked at him with the expectation that he would tell them.
“Uh …” Charlie said.
He tried to remember anyone had told him not to talk about what he’d heard.
“What is it?” Jill asked with a kind of force.
“Eros,” Charlie found himself saying. “I went to tell Heather.”
Jill and Sandy nodded.
“Good job, Charlie,” Aden said from the doorway to the living room. He gestured to Charlie. “Come on, it’s back to bed for you. We have a big weekend so we have to rest.”
Aden escorted Charlie to his closet.
“What are we going to do?” Sandy asked.
“Nothing,” Heather said as she appeared in the living room. “This is work for your matrons of honor.”
“But …” Sandy said.
“You need to rest for your big days,” Heather said. “Rest now. We’ve got this.”
Smiling, Heather pointed. Sandy disappeared from the room. Jill raised her hands.
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Jill said.
Jill left the apartment. Heather stood in the living room listening to the sleeping house. There was no whispering form here now. After a moment, she nodded and vanished.