17. "Nostos"

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Centering Hera,
Queen of the Gods:

          Our return
     to the sacred mountaintop
  is accompanied by a chaos of activity.

"May I take your peacocks,
          your Majesty?"
   a bronzeman asks,
        in that irksomely obsequious manner
             that flows through every bronzeman voice.

     I toss him the reins.

Golden doors yawn open on the Olympian stalls.
     So many immortal horses have gone,
             along with their chariots,
        along with their riders
     into a parade that's forming on the avenue.

          Olympus is evacuating.

     Athena grips her spear,
          drops into a defensive stance,
               bright-eyed,
       scanning her surroundings
             for an invasion force.

     Giants again?
          A returning force of Titans?

     I shake my head.

Athena could ask one of the bronzemen,
     if she were as clever as she believes herself to be,
               as could I,
          but a queen does not converse with the help.

     I abandon Athena and stride uphill,
past splendid homes and temples,
          to the palace at the peak,
  and into the grandest hall in all the cosmos.

"Husband!
  I demand,

     "What goes on?"

The deity I encounter in the antechamber
          isn't Zeus,
     but our daughter,
          Hebe.

     She runs to me,
with streams of kohl painting her cheeks,
  and drops to my feet,
     and assumes the pose of a supplicant.

     "Oh, Mother. Thank Gaia you've come!
          Will you hear my plea?"

          She puts a hand to my chin
     and waits until I nod my head.

   A nod for approval,
        the rule established by Zeus on high.

     "It's my husband,"
          she whispers.

     Heracles.

I clench my teeth.

That uplifted mortal,
     notorious for generating chaos among the gods,
  has been quietly content since his death,
          like the resting peace of a dormant volcano.

     I take Hebe's trembling hands.
"What can I do for you, my daughter?"

"He refuses to come away with us,"
     she explains.
  "He says the summons came too suddenly,
     but even Heracles can't refuse a summons from Father Zeus.
I fear Father's anger when he learns
     that Heracles wishes to remain behind.
          Will you talk to him?"

"Talk to Zeus?"

     "Oh no, oh no,"
          Hebe blanches.
       "No need to bother Father,
     but do talk to Heracles.
          He listens to you."

I don't know where the court is headed,
     or why the haste to leave,
  but I understand Hebe's concern.
       With an unoccupied throne,
       with an untended armory,
       with all the strength of Heracles,
  Zeus could see this dalliance
     as the plotting of a coup.

     There was a time
          when I would have played up any rift
between my husband and his favorite bastard boy.

     There was a time
          when I would have played on Zeus's moods
to put Heracles into the chains of Prometheus.

But I've outgrown such pettiness,
     and Heracles has proven useful.

"I will talk to him,"
     I tell Hebe.

She rejoices,
     and pours a measure of ambrosia to seal my aid,
          as in olden days
       before Ganymede took over the cups.

EPIC CYCLE ROADMAP:

* The Kypria
* The Iliad
* The Posthomerica
* Tales of Nostos
* The Odyssey
* The Telegony
* The Aeneid
  Rage is the first book of the Iliad. Amazons is the first book of the Posthomerica.
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