“None of them have succeeded?” Gemma asked.
“Depends on your definition of ‘succeed.’” Thea walked back to the living room. “But very, very few have managed to destroy it.”
“So you’re saying it is possible?” Gemma asked.
Thea sat down across from her again, crossing her legs and setting the glass on the coffee table. “Have you ever heard of a minotaur?”
“I think so. It’s like half man, half bull, right?” Gemma asked.
“Sort of,” Thea said. “The original minotaur was Asterion. I never met him, but I’ve heard that he was an incredibly gorgeous young man, and Pasiphaë fell in love with him. She was already married to King Minos, despite being a rather powerful goddess in her own right.
“The king found out about his wife’s adultery and threatened to behead her lover, so Asterion broke off the affair. Pasiphaë became enraged and cursed him to have the head of a bull,” Thea explained.
“Why the head of a bull?” Gemma asked.
“I’m not sure exactly, but I was told it matched his other … appendages,” Thea said carefully, and Gemma wrinkled her nose. “Pasiphaë went on to have many other lovers, and if they tried to end the affair, she cursed them to the minotaur form and locked them away in a labyrinth so that they could never escape.”
“That sounds terrible,” Gemma said. “But what does that have to do with your scroll?”
“It was terrible, and I’m getting to my point,” Thea said. “Eventually Pasiphaë died, and someone set the minotaurs free. But it was a terrible way to live. I met one once, and they truly were hideous creatures. Monstrous bulls with gigantic horns and angry eyes. Not only that, they were all a little insane from living in that maze for so long.
“Naturally, they didn’t want to go on that way,” Thea went on. “Pasiphaë had made them immortal, but Asterion was determined to get out of it. He came up with a way to destroy his scroll.
“If I recall correctly, he had to eat the scroll when the sun was shining above him.” Thea tilted her head as she thought. “I don’t remember the details exactly, but I know it was odd and very precise.”
“Isn’t it the same way to destroy your scroll?” Gemma asked.
“No, each scroll has its own set of rules for destroying it, and they are never told to the bearer of the scroll,” Thea said. “Meaning, we were never told how to destroy ours. I don’t even know for sure who was told, and even if I did, they would probably be long dead by now.”
“How did Asterion find out?” Gemma asked.
“One of the muses told him.” Thea waved her hand. “It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point of the story.”
“Then what is?” Gemma asked.
“Pasiphaë had turned Asterion and all those other men into minotaurs centuries before he destroyed the curse, long after their natural mortal lives would’ve ended,” Thea explained. “So the second the scroll was destroyed, they all turned into dust.”
“Why?” Gemma asked.
“When the scroll is destroyed, it’s as if the curse never even happened,” Thea said. “And if the curse had never happened, they would’ve been dead and decomposed for many years. So that’s what became of them.”
Gemma realized that this only confirmed what Lydia had told them earlier, and let out a long sigh. “And that’s what would happen to you and Penn and Lexi if anyone destroyed the scroll.”
“Exactly.” Thea picked up her glass and leaned back in her chair. “So, as much as I’d like to help you, I can’t help you with this. I won’t do anything that leads to my sisters’ deaths, or mine.”
Gemma stayed where she was for a few minutes, letting this all sink in. Even if she found the scroll, it didn’t mean she’d be able to figure out how to destroy it. She’d still need to find someone who knew how, and if she did that, it would turn all the sirens to dust.
“Thanks for your help,” Gemma told Thea and got up. “Sorry I messed up your house.”
“It’s fine. I’ll make Lexi clean it when she gets back.” Thea smiled at her, but Gemma couldn’t muster up a return smile. She lowered her eyes and was walking to the door when Thea spoke again. “It’s not here, Gemma.”
“What?” Gemma turned back to her.
“The scroll. I won’t tell you where it is, but I can tell you that it’s not here,” Thea said, sounding almost irritated to be admitting it to Gemma.
“Why are you telling me this?” Gemma asked. “And how do I know that I can trust you?”
“You can’t.” Thea shrugged. “I’m telling you because…” She sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know why I am. I just know that you don’t have much time left before Penn replaces you, and … I don’t want you wasting your time looking for something you’ll never find.”
“Oh, my gawd, everything about this town is horrible,” Lexi groaned as she flipped through the radio stations in Penn’s convertible. “Why did you have to get a stupid classic car? We could’ve had satellite radio.”
“You know me,” Penn said. “I love the classics.”
They were far enough out of Capri that the radio stations decided to just give up and turn into full-on static. Lexi flicked the radio off, then leaned back in her seat, sulking.