Landfall

“What, pray tell, is that?”

And like that I was free, as easy as releasing a held breath, as impossible as growing young again. I wept and embraced him who asked, much to his discomfort, but did not stay to share the story yet again. The night found me far toward the sea, and the morning farther still. I was weary of ashen faces and mountains, weary as I had been of the sea, of war before that, and home before even that. I was weary of myself, and ready to unshoulder my soul in some more familiar field.

This time I was expected and forewarned: the dawn ran before me up the rocky coast and into the stony fields, to warm my bed. In the armory, the ceaseless rattle of sword and shield fell still; in the kitchen the endless bustle paused, just for an instant. The stars themselves hung poised in the sky, then turned on.

The sea itself bore me up, wave to foot, from shore to shore, old grudges paid at last, all gods appeased, all immortals forgiven. Home: again and again, ever new, ever changing.

Gomer

Another long shift at the temple and it’s all bitch, bitch, bitch when she gets home. “I can smell them on you,” Hosea says, sourly, his face wrinkled like an old fig against the incense and cedar water they use at the end of the day. “I know where you’ve been.”

Of course you do, she doesn’t say, you met me there. You lost the faith, found another, and now you’re ashamed of the old ways, your old desires, your old practices. But we were twins once, both aglow with piety. You’ve grown sour with poetry.

“The whole country is rotten as an apple in winter,” whatever that means. “Rancid oil, spoiled cakes.” He has taken up drinking, breadmaking, prophecy, so everything is symbolic, each act a sign, each moment a commentary on the one before. She doesn’t understand where he gets the energy; just trying to parse his speeches is exhausting.

Still. The work is still the work, and gods are gods or they aren’t; all the poetry in the world won’t shift that. She goes to bed weary with a day’s labor well-done, wakes up to a new day of hard, pleasing work ahead. His complaints are smoke rising through the roof on a windy day — tch. He’s infected her with metaphor.

Never Take A Job From a Sister-Wife

You don’t know much, but you do know this: you’re two snakes and you’re here to kill this baby.

Simple. In and out and back to wherever two snakes go in time to do whatever you want, you marvelous pair of murder worms, you. The baby is asleep and there’s even an extra baby so maybe you’ll get a little bonus for going above and beyond. You are two pairs of snakes and you are pumped.

Only. Well. Look, mistakes were made, you didn’t have the complete picture, certain key facts were left out of the briefing you didn’t get. When the baby you are totally jazzed to strangle wakes up and throttles you to death with his pudgy hands, you feel hard done by. Used, even. Just the first bump on some wailing asshole’s heroic journey.

You didn’t know much, but you did know this: you were two snakes and you still had so much to give the world.

Tethys

“Abimelech asked, would it not be better to be ruled by one man, rather than seventy? Remember that I am your blood, your brother, your son.”

When the younger gods fought amongst themselves, turned knives and teeth against their children, I took pity on the oldest and hid her away in the far reaches of my kingdom where ever the light cannot reach. I taught her the oldest ways, the language that can only be spoken in the darkness, the spells that brought motion to an unmoving world.

Both of us were built for love, and loyalty, but even then her future pressed down upon her like so many atmospheres of water. Constancy itself, she would never find constancy, nor in shape nor mood, but find herself exiled among the rivers of the air, the mutable, everchanging tides of the heavens. Married now to a man, now to a bull, now to a flicker of gold, she will learn to change herself, into smaller things, flies that bite, eyes that peep from a feather’s end.

We took her in, as I said, my man and I, and gave her safety, a bed, the knowledge we had. Time, most of all: time after her double wombing, time before marriage taught her petulance, time to be herself, to be alone, to owe no one nothing and be owed nothing in return. We had space; no greater kingdom save the earth itself, no less need than the night that came before and will follow after. We had many daughters, and she, Queen of the Gods, was but one among them.

Glauce

We would never have been friends.

Different worlds, different expectations, how should we have crossed that gap? History and tradition are wider than any winedark sea.

Still: we might not have been enemies. What was he to me, or I to him, beyond the convenience of a moment’s politicking? A marriage against a civil war, no more, and such things are as honored in the breach as in the observance; swear us safe and powerful and i would as liefer lived my own life as live hers.

I cannot find it in me to fault her, even now. Did she not do as much or worse for his weal? Was it not his place to weigh costs and futures? He claimed a throne; what were we but kingdoms?

We would never have been friends, but we might have been more than sisters. Now, past burning, I can see her rage, value her fury: were things different, I might have done the same. But nothing is more damning than what need not have been. Sister mine, Medea, these men have turned us one against the other; your only sin was their success!