“Rhea”—I put my hands against my throbbing temples—“can we stick to one problem at a time?”

“Yeah, okay. I didn’t mean to blow your mind.”

“But how can they affect our lines of communication? How can they be so powerful?”

“They’ve had centuries, Apollo. Centuries. All that time, plotting and making war, building up their capitalist empire, waiting for this moment when you are mortal, when the Oracles are vulnerable for a hostile takeover. It’s just evil. They have no chill whatsoever.”

“I thought that was a more modern term.”


“No. Chill. Never mind. The Beast…he is the leader?”

“Afraid so. He’s as twisted as the others, but he’s the smartest and the most stable—in a sociopathic homicidal way. You know who he is—who he was, right?”

Unfortunately, I did. I remembered where I had seen his smirking ugly face. I could hear his nasal voice echoing through the arena, ordering the execution of hundreds while the crowds cheered. I wanted to ask Rhea who his two compatriots were in the Triumvirate, but I decided I could not bear the information at present. None of the options were good, and knowing their names might bring me more despair than I could handle.

“It’s true, then,” I said. “The other Oracles still exist. The emperors hold them all?”

“They’re working on it. Python has Delphi—that’s the biggest problem. But you won’t have the strength to take him head-on. You’ve got to pry their fingers off the minor Oracles first, loosen their power. To do that, you need a new source of prophecy for this camp—an Oracle that is older and independent.”

“Dodona,” I said. “Your whispering grove.”

“Right on,” Rhea said. “I thought the grove was gone forever. But then—I don’t know how—the oak trees regrew themselves in the heart of these woods. You have to find the grove and protect it.”

“I’m working on that.” I touched the sticky wound on the side of my face. “But my friend Meg—”

“Yeah. You had some setbacks. But there are always setbacks, Apollo. When Lizzy Stanton and I hosted the first women’s rights convention in Woodstock—”

“I think you mean Seneca Falls?”

Rhea frowned. “Wasn’t that in the ’60s?”

“The ’40s,” I said. “The 1840s, if memory serves.”

“So…Jimi Hendrix wasn’t there?”


Rhea fiddled with her peace symbol. “Then who set that guitar on fire? Ah, never mind. The point is, you have to persevere. Sometimes change takes centuries.”

“Except that I’m mortal now,” I said. “I don’t have centuries.”

“But you have willpower,” Rhea said. “You have mortal drive and urgency. Those are things the gods often lack.”

At her side, her lion roared.

“I’ve gotta split,” Rhea said. “If the imperators track me down—bad scene, man. I’ve been off the grid too long. I’m not going to get sucked into that patriarchal institutional oppression again. Just find Dodona. That’s your first trial.”

“And if the Beast finds the grove first?”

“Oh, he’s already found the gates, but he’ll never get through them without you and the girl.”

“I—I don’t understand.”

“That’s cool. Just breathe. Find your center. Enlightenment has to come from within.”

It was very much like a line I would’ve given my worshippers. I was tempted to choke Rhea with her macramé belt, but I doubted I would have the strength. Also, she had two lions. “But what do I do? How do I save Meg?”

“First, get healed. Rest up. Then…well, how you save Meg is up to you. The journey is greater than the destination, you know?”

She held out her hand. Draped on her fingers was a set of wind chimes—a collection of hollow brass tubes and medallions engraved with ancient Greek and Cretan symbols. “Hang these in the largest ancient oak. That will help you focus the voices of the Oracle. If you get a prophecy, groovy. It’ll only be the beginning, but without Dodona, nothing else will be possible. The emperors will suffocate our future and divide up the world. Only when you have defeated Python can you reclaim your rightful place on Olympus. My kid, Zeus…he’s got this whole ‘tough love’ disciplinarian hang-up, you dig? Taking back Delphi is the only way you’re going to get on his good side.”