Monstro was transformed from frightened, desperate refugees into a mob, a cohort, an army. And who had worked this transformation? Panacea with her herbs and lotions? Pythia with some prediction of their future?
“When did they stop being afraid of the Olymps?” Thoősa asked the winged horse.
“When you reminded them of their stories, Miss. Then we met those others - the Downtrodden. Reminders. Underground, we settled for defeat. The locust eaters took our memories, too. Our tales were docked. You cannot be angry when one can barely remember the wrong that has been done to you. And then you gave us our stories. You gave us back our rage.”
“It was my doing?”
“No. You just triggered memories. Like smell does, or a colour.”
Hylas, sweating and red cheeked, lurched up, panting. He had been drinking the lapiths’ milk and his breath turned to a green steam in the cold night air. “Got a story yet, Thoosie? Got your story? No? Go home, why don’t you? Titans are top now. Zeus’z buried unner a ton of – “
“You are drunk. You said you never drank.”
“I said HE never drunk. I’m not him.”
“No, you’re all grown up and ready to go to Olympus and do battle with the gods. You’re throwing in your lot with an army of ageing… unfortunates.”
Hylas pulled a face and leaned against Pegasus who moved sharply away. “Go, then. Go’way,” said Hylas picking himself up of the ground. “Go north. Happy-Happy Land. Goodbye.”
“What and have Typhon kill me? Like he did Abaris? For deserting?” She glanced at Pegasus who was nodding sagely, agreeing with her.
“Certainly, if you tried to take the Lucky Boy away with you, that might occur.”
It doused Thoősa in fear. She had not actually believed it when she said it. Up until that moment she had fully intended to leave – to turn away and go home; to lose herself in rural Mysia where life went on the same year in, year out. The only question had been how to prise Hylas away.
“I wish I had headreds of huns. …hundreds of heads,” slurred Hylas, watching Typhon’s silhouette against the lighter black of the night sky. “And scales like the Echinda. And … and wings like you, horse.” He made another attempt to stroke Pegasus who shied away.
“Wishes did not exist in the caves of Monstro,” it said, with a brisk whisk of its tail. “Ours died underground. Like the pot plants. They died of suffocation.”
“I’m starting to wish,” said Thoősa. “I’m starting to wish that Heracles had found his Boy back in Mysia.” She watched Hylas crawl back, on hands and knees, towards the dancing. “Or that I hadn’t.”
Monstro feasted that night on raw mutton. Two score sheep fuelled their delicious rage, and left wool between their teeth. Six of Ladon’s baby teeth were displaced by the chewing, and since dragon’s teeth turn to soldiers as they touch the ground, six tiny, furious soldiers were tearing about, contributing to the excitement. They served as target practice for the spitters-of-poison, the archers, the axe-wielding giants, the hammer-wielding cyclopses. Xanthus the horse brought strips of bloody meat and laid them lovingly at Panacea’s feet: she tried to look grateful. Xyno ate and danced as eagerly as any of them. Betraying Abaris had finally earned him a place at the feast.
Already healthier for clean air, sunshine and exercise, many monsters came into breeding fettle that night, throats blushing red or purple, oily scales suffused with rainbow colours, scent glands oozing. Nature was dressing them - not to breed, but to do battle for their territory. The wool between their teeth only added to a look of rabid frenzy. Within each breed, the strongest males began to bluster and vie for supremacy, like stags in the rutting season. The Furies were no longer worn-out dish-rags, but strong as canvas sails.
Brass Man Talos did not dance: he was not built for dancing. He did not eat, either – had no teeth or digestive system or need for calories. All that passed between his new-made lips were words. That night he chewed on them instead and swallowed them down, unspoken.
The sun half rose above the horizon: a furnace door for the forging of weapons. Monstro moved into the shadows and lay low, cheerfully brooding on all the wrongs done them. The sun flared off Talos’ shoulder-blades: he was simply too big for any shadow to hide. Typhon snarled to see the tell-tale flash of light. He sent the harpies to spread themselves over Talos – a patchwork of leathery grey skin.
When they moved off again that evening, Thoősa looked back and saw, to her sadness, that all the pot plants, lugged with feminine tenderness across land and sea, now stood abandoned on the plain, soil spilled, roots trampled by the dancers.
Travelling by night and sleeping by day, the army left mystifying whorls in meadows, splintered branches in the forests and dung piles in all colours of the rainbow. But if a few farmers and woodsmen took fright and locked their doors at night, still no rumour spread of an army on the move. Olympus was still a dark thought beyond the horizon, but the constellations no longer needed to skew the sky. Hate was pointing the way.