“I don’t care if you’re a Greek god. You had your fun and now you owe me for it. Come out of there or I’ll…”
Europa looked around the dining hall of Olympus. It was more spartan than she’d expected. There wasn’t much she could break to emphasise her point. She sniffed the contents of an urn. That was promising.
“Or I’ll drink your ambrosia.” It had been a long climb. “Then I’ll pour the rest away. Get your divine ar…oh, there you are.”
“Leave my ambrosia alone. I can’t stand it when Ganymede sulks.”
Europa blinked. The man shuffling into the dining hall was not the figure she remembered. Gone was the confident stride and muscular frame, and the voice whose judgement had resonated from Britannia to Scythia had faded to the whine of a man more used to asking than commanding.
“What happened to you?” she asked.
Zeus looked down at sandals that had seen better days. “Woden tells me it’s called austerity. I made a bargain with him. I thought, well, we’re both progenitors of civilisations. He ought to help me out.”
“Don’t go blaming German gods for your silly bargains. You always were far too impulsive.”
Zeus the Thunderer did not look up.
“Now,” said Europa, “let’s talk about the debt you owe me.”
“What I owe you? I built a civilisation for you.”
Europa noticed how the idea of having to pay a debt had injected new life into Zeus.
“You were a princess of some anthill calling itself a kingdom,” he said. “I took you to Crete. Gave you a proper nation. Look what became of you. Twenty-eight nations using your name and you come storming into my dining hall demanding…what do you want, anyway?”
“I want my due. Phoenicia was not an anthill. It was my country. You took me away for a couple of nights of -”
“Of the best you’ve had in your life.”
“That is not the point.”
“It’s exactly the point. You took one look at me and jumped on my back. I was disguised as a bull for Cronus’s sake. And you blame me for poor impulse control. You needed to ride the cradle of civilisation to get to where you are now so up you hopped. I should be charging you.”
“How dare you? What kind of woman do you think I am?”
“We established that the moment we got to Crete.”
“If you’re going to insult me, we’ll have to discuss this with her.”
“Her? You can’t mean my…my…”
Zeus rubbed his mouth as though to stifle his last word, so it came out sounding like ‘imf’.
“Yes. Your wife.”
“You really don’t want to bring her into this. She’ll take over and we’ll both regret it. It never works out well when she finds out about my, my indiscretions.”
“I’m a princess, not an indiscretion.”
Europa met his gaze. He was right. The last thing she wanted to do was involve a goddess whose solution to most problems was to fly into a rage and sanction everyone. Hopefully she’d persuaded Zeus she was angry enough to do it in spite of the consequences.
“Every schoolkid in Europe knows you can’t keep it in your toga. When you’re famous enough to call yourself the cradle of civilisation, you can’t expect to stay out of the tabloids. Now are you going to make me a sensible offer or do I call -”
“Don’t say her name!”
The word ‘Hera’ dropped into the room between them.
“What in the realm of man is going on here?”
The slim, grey-haired woman wore a purple toga that was hard to miss, but Europa hadn’t seen her enter the dining hall.
“Don’t you think I should be involved in this discussion,” said the goddess.
A small part of Europa’s mind wondered where Hera’s French accent had come from as her groan mixed with Zeus’s.