“I’m fine,” she said after she swallowed it down. “Achelous is dead. Lexi told me.”
“Yeah, but … Lexi was an idiot,” Harper pointed out.
“True.” Gemma licked her lips. “But she seemed convinced of it. And nobody’s seen Achelous in like two hundred years. So I’m inclined to think she was right.”
“So how did Thalia become mortal if she never found a god?” Brian asked.
“She didn’t find Achelous, but she did find a god,” Harper said. “Or a goddess, actually. Diana.”
Brian shook his head. “Who’s Diana?”
“Thalia only devotes a sentence or two to her in the journal.” Harper had reread the part about Diana at least fifty times, hoping it would provide new insight, and she quoted it verbatim for her dad: “It is with the aid of the goddess Diana that I am able to make the transformation from muse back to mortal. About her, I can say nothing more. She guards her privacy more fiercely even than I do.”
“That’s where this gets weird,” Gemma said, and she’d begun to perk up. She pulled her knees up to her chest and leaned forward on the table. “Diana is a Roman goddess of hunting and the moon and werewolves or something. She’s this strong feminist, and certain Wiccans worship her.”
“I thought it didn’t say anything more about her in the journal?” Brian asked.
“It doesn’t. In my recent research of all things mythological, I’ve been studying up on everything,” Gemma explained. “And I picked up some information about Diana. But that’s my point. She’s not a Greek goddess. She’s Roman.”
“So?” Harper shrugged, not seeing the weird part. “They’re similar. And Lydia mentioned Horace before, and he’s Egyptian. Just because the gods have a different etymology, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And beyond that, I would assume that different cultures had different names for the same god.”
“So this Diana goddess, is she still around here?” Brian asked.
“I don’t know,” Harper said. “I don’t think they ever were around here, per se.”
“Then what was Thalia doing here?” Brian asked.
“She came for Achelous. According to the journal, the last time anybody had seen him was here, and she was trying to find his trail,” Harper elaborated.
“But she didn’t find it because he’s dead,” Gemma added.
“Well, probably dead,” Harper said.
“Why Achelous, though?” Brian asked. “Why not any of the other gods or goddesses? There have to be a lot of them, right?”
“I don’t think there are really that many anymore, but Achelous always had a good relationship with the muses,” Harper said. “He actually fathered children with two of them.”
“Wait.” Brian held up his hand. “The muses are Penn’s and Thea’s mothers?”
“Right,” Harper said.
“So Thalia was their aunt?” Brian asked.
“Right. But I’m pretty sure they weren’t close,” Harper said. “In fact, from what I’ve gathered, the sirens have had no contact with any other of their family members in centuries.”
“Okay.” Brian thought about it for a second, and it must’ve satisfied him, because he said, “Just wanted to clarify. Now continue.”
“So Thalia’s in Capri, and she thinks that Achelous will help her because he’s helped muses in the past. But she can’t find him. So she goes to this soothsayer—”
“What is a soothsayer?” Gemma asked, cutting Harper off.
“I don’t know exactly. I think it’s kind of like Lydia,” Harper said. “But that’s how Thalia referred to her.”
Then something occurred to Harper, and she flipped through the book, scanning the pages until she found the name she was looking for. “The soothsayer was named Audra Panning.” She looked up at Gemma. “Do you think she’s any relation to Lydia?”
“Yeah. Her last name is Panning, right? And she’s from Capri because she went to high school with Marcy.” Gemma nodded. “We should call Lydia right now.”
“I don’t have her number, and Marcy is coming over in”—Harper craned her neck to check the clock on the microwave—“like twenty minutes to get the book. She’s taking the journal out to Lydia’s so she can translate the back part of it, so Marcy can ask her then.”
Gemma pushed back her chair. “Well, I should get dressed, so I can go with her.”
“You can’t go with her,” Harper said. “You have the play today. Two shows.”
Gemma scoffed. “That’s dumb. I should be going out there instead of doing this stupid play. This is way more important.”
“You’re doing what you need to do right now, which is placate the sirens. That’s a really huge part of making this all work,” Harper told her calmly. “Because if they’re pissed off or suspicious … it’s not good for anyone.”
“You need to do what keeps you safe, Gemma,” Brian said, and his tone was much more firm than Harper’s had been. “And right now, that’s acting like everything’s normal. You need to do that, so you don’t draw attention to your friends, who are putting themselves at risk to solve this.”
“But I should be the one putting myself at risk,” Gemma insisted. “This is my problem, not theirs.”
Brian balled his hand up in a fist and slammed it down on the table, frightening both the girls. “I hate that I can’t protect you from this. It’s my job. You’re my little girl, and I’m supposed to…” He gritted his teeth and shook his head. “All I want to do is run up that hill and beat the hell out of those girls for getting you into this mess. And I know I’m not supposed to say that, because I’m your dad, and I shouldn’t condone violence, especially not on girls.
“But they aren’t girls,” Brian growled. “They’re monsters and … it takes all my strength not to go up there and settle this for you. Because I know I can’t. No matter how badly I want to take your place, to save you from all of this, I can’t.”
“Dad, you’re doing everything you can do. You’re supporting me, and you’re helping me.” Gemma reached over and took his hand.