When they got to the lobby, they walked onto the campus lawn. Some of the maples had already begun turning orange and yellow, but the air still held the warmth of summer instead of the crispness of fall.
They made their way over to visitors’ parking and got into Marcy’s aging Gremlin. The air didn’t work, but she’d left the windows down, and a few leaves had made their way inside. The car sputtered and jerked as Marcy tried to start it.
“We could’ve taken my car, you know,” Harper pointed out.
“Lucinda will do it. Give her time.” Marcy turned the key again, and finally her car roared to life. “There we go.”
Within a few minutes, they arrived at Cherry Lane Books. The town seemed to be bustling a lot more now that school had started. The closest parking spot Marcy could find was nearly a block down, and she had to parallel park, which Lucinda did not seem to enjoy.
The windows on the bookstore were tinted too dark for Harper to see through, and the arch above the door creaked as she pushed the door open. There was almost a spooky air about the place, which made it all the more strange that such a cheerful little pixie ran it.
“Hey, guys!” Lydia beamed at them as Harper and Marcy came inside. She was carrying a stack of Edward Gorey books to the children’s section, but she walked to the front of the store. “How are you doing?”
“I got off work early, so I’m doing pretty fantastic,” Marcy said, sounding about as happy as Marcy was capable of sounding.
“You guys can have a seat if you want.” Lydia gestured to a children’s sitting area while she placed the books on the shelves.
There was a child-sized chair shaped like a dragon across from a My Little Pony recliner. In between them was a Lego table, where kids could play. Marcy chose the dragon chair, which was much too short for her, and she began shifting around to get comfortable. Harper sat on the floor, crossing her legs underneath.
“I’m sorry I don’t have much to tell you,” Lydia apologized. “This translation is ridiculous.”
Harper couldn’t help the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t realize how much she’d been hoping Lydia could really help them until the hope began to fade.
“I need to explain why this process is taking so long,” Lydia said, and sat down in the My Little Pony chair, which seemed to fit her petite frame almost perfectly. The bright purple flower she wore in her hair was coming loose, and she tucked it back behind her ear.
“English didn’t exist back then,” Lydia went on. “Even if something translates to an ‘a,’ it’s not necessarily the same kind of way we use an ‘a,’ and the words are in an entirely different language, and once I figure that out, I then need to translate them again into English.
“The problem is that I don’t think it’s written in just one language, and it appears to be some kind of slang as well,” Lydia elaborated. “Unfortunately, back in the day, they weren’t real constant about language or grammar, so it can get pretty tricky.”
“I can’t say I’m not disappointed, but I guess I’m not surprised,” Harper admitted. “What about Achelous and Demeter? Were you able to find out anything on them?”
“I still have feelers out, but so far, it’s not looking good.” Lydia shook her head. “The last anybody was in contact with Achelous seems to be about two hundred years ago, then he just fell off the map. I’m not sure if he went into hiding or what, but he hasn’t been confirmed dead.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you. How does one become confirmed dead?” Marcy asked.
“Two or more immortals must see your remains shortly after you’re dead. If they can see you die also, that’s a bonus,” Lydia answered.
“How come only immortals can confirm it?” Marcy asked.
“Most mortals don’t know what they’re looking at. Humans don’t have a good grasp on the magical, so they might think they’re seeing a werewolf die when it’s just a crazy hairy guy. Or they might think it’s a human dying, when really it’s Athena.”
“I would be able to tell the difference,” Marcy said definitively.
“Maybe you would, but experts only trust testimony from other immortals,” Lydia said.
“What about Demeter?” Harper asked.
“She’s even trickier,” Lydia said. “She’s been off the grid for a very long time. Something really spooked her, and she hasn’t interacted with any other immortals in centuries.”
Harper raised an eyebrow. “Something spooked her?”
“I’ve heard that it was Achelous’ daughters. I know that the sirens are his daughters, but that’s not how my source referred to them. I’m assuming that they are one and the same, but I don’t like passing off assumptions as fact.”
“So what did Achelous’ daughters have to do with Demeter?” Harper asked.
“They were trying to kill her,” Lydia explained. “They hate her. Demeter doesn’t have a lot of enemies because she’s the goddess of earth and growth and helped people farm and raise families. She’s a nice one. So she stayed above the surface for most of her existence, but then, once she had a target on her back, she went underground the way a lot of gods have. Hades has been off the grid since almost the beginning of time.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Marcy waved her hands to stop Lydia. “Hades is still alive?”
Lydia nodded. “Yeah. He lives in Iceland.”
Marcy put her hand to her chin and seemed to think about that. “Interesting.”
“If he’s off the grid, how come you know where he is?” Harper asked.
“Nobody messes with him there. He’s lived there for like five hundred years. He has a quiet life now,” Lydia said. “And Demeter did pop up for a while in Asia, but I’m not sure if she’s still there. When I find her, I’ll tell you.
“In the meantime, I do have more bad news about the muses.” Lydia frowned. “I thought they were all probably dead, but the last two that I thought had any chance of being alive—Erato and Polyhymnia—have been confirmed dead. Sorry.”
“How many muses were there?” Marcy asked.
“Nine originally,” Lydia said. “The first one died fifteen hundred years ago, and they’ve been dropping off ever since. The last one died only fifty years ago, and she lived right in Maryland. The sirens might have been looking for her when they came to Capri.”