(WP) The Goddess of Spring’s Victory

(WP) The Goddess of Spring’s Victory

               “Anthea?”
Paris nudges me, as if to tell me to pay attention. “Our goddesses asked you a
question.” His handsome face is closed off, and his hand in mine sweats
profusely. But, ever a soldier, he does not allow anyone in the room, immortal
or otherwise, to read the emotions he must be feeling.

               I heard
it; I know I did. But I guess I’m still in shock; I’m bathed in the golden
light of Mount Olympus. When Paris told me that he’d discovered a way for us to
be together, I was certain that he was lying to me, until he revealed the
bushel of golden apples he planned to present to the goddesses.

               “Think
about it, Anthea. If we give the apples to the most beautiful goddess, our mere
human trifles will be forgotten in their squabbles. Immortals don’t often think
about humans unless they’re directly involved.” Paris had said, over a hurried
meal of honeycomb, sweetened wine, fresh bread, and the rest of the fruit we’d
harvested.

               “What
better way to please them?”

               I’m
still not sure we haven’t made the wrong decision.

               “Who is
the most beautiful of us all, child?” The Queen of the Gods, Hera, addresses me
directly from her throne for the first time. She smiles beautifully, and a
brightly plumed peacock sits in her lap, adorned with a jeweled collar. “Answer
honestly, and you will be rewarded. You will be given a life with the man you
love, and servitude will be in your past.”

               It does
sound tempting; it sounds like we’re living the myths our culture has been
built upon. But even so, observing the array of beautiful goddesses before me,
I cannot name any of them as the most beautiful. Athena, Aphrodite, Hera
herself.

               “Persephone
is the most beautiful,” I say, after another moment of thought. Of course, she
isn’t here; being autumn, she is in the Underworld, with her husband, Hades.

               A
chorus of gasps meets my declaration, and Paris blinks; clearly, of all answers
he is expecting, it isn’t this one.

               “Are
you quite sure of that, child?” Aphrodite asks, in a voice like bells, but her
bright, blue eyes narrow, and her full mouth purse as if she’s bitten into a
particularly sour lemon. “Beware the wrath of the gods. I can bless your love.”

               “And I
can make sure that you survive childbirth and fill your home with healthy,
hearty children,” Hera adds, smiling so widely that her eyes become mere slits.
I almost miss the heated look she throws the other goddess’s way, and Paris
holds my hand, squeezing it, his dark eyes urgent, as if begging me to
reconsider my decision.

               After
all, our love hangs in the balance of whatever these all-powerful beings decide.

               Their
words hang in the air, honeyed and threatening all at once.

               But I
am soon saved from a response by thick whorls of dawn-pink smoke, and a young
woman steps out from it, clothed in a long, black gown that hugs her frame. The
skirt sparkles as if full of the night’s stars. A large pendant hangs around
her neck, the red jewel resting on her chest. Her hair is long, brown and
curly, and her eyes are a green that reminds me of the valleys I’ve seen from
my master’s windows.

               “I
believe the child has already made her decision in that regard,” Persephone
says, smiling at me. “And that means, ladies, that I’ve won.”

               **