The Long and Short of Speculative Poetry
edited by Samantha Henderson & Deborah P Kolodji
“Myrmidons in Calydon” is a sequel to “The Myrmidons,” first published in The First Heroes edited by Harry Turtledove and Noreen Doyle, which can be read here. “The Myrmidons” retells the origin story of Achilles’s band of soldiers, who were ants turned into humans, by correcting one aspects of Ovid’s natural history: soldier and worker ants are, in fact, female. “Myrmidons in Calydon” continues their story with the participation of some Myrmidons in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar. Together these are part of an in-progress cycle of poems reworking Greek mythology, which I intend to take through to the Trojan War. —LH
Myrmidons in Calydon
The boar came out of nowhere, so they knew
By this and other signs—its angry eyes,
The damage targeted to rooting through
The just-ripe crops, but most of all its size—
From whom it came. But no one could surmise
The reason—what had someone done amiss
To rate the wrath of Lady Artemis?
When questioned, everyone denied offence,
And while it’s true that Calydon omitted
Her in their harvest rites, this lack made sense
For all agreed the Huntress poorly fitted
With grape or grain—not even the clever-witted
Could make such jealousy seem rational.
Divinities aren’t random, after all.
Regardless, for whatever goddess reason,
The Lady of the Beasts had sent her rage
Which must be dealt with in this harvest season.
But how? They couldn’t spear nor trap nor cage
Nor fence nor scare it off. To assuage,
All Calydon (and king) must make a clear
Apology or starve this coming year.
His household hero and his seers stumped,
King Oeneus agreed to call for aid:
A council of the pious—though he grumped
The time it’d take to have the lot conveyed
Would keep his kingdom’s field repairs delayed;
But while it cost him feasts, flute girls, and liquor,
’Twas cheaper than an oracle—and quicker.
Son Meleager had instead suggested
That he invite heroic help: by deeds,
Not words, Aetolians think men are tested—
Besides, this boar was not a mountain breed.
But he could not convince Dad of their need,
Although he was of age now—if no more—
Because he’d so far failed to kill the boar.
Indeed, this unsuccess suggested he
Had been at fault—or so the king inferred,
For Oeneus could never clearly see,
I fear, the children that his wife preferred:
There’d once been flocks of rumors, which he’d heard,
She’d played the hostess past the customaries
With one who wasn’t even mortal: Ares.
Though women then of certain classes turned
A few divine affairs—or so report
The genealogies. His wife had learned
The fashion from her sister Leda’s court,
But then she overdid things, being the sort
For sibling rivalry, and so was led
To also welcome Dionysus to her bed.
Thus Oeneus ignored the godly two
Althaea doted on—till they insisted:
Born hero Meleager flexed a thew
While Deianeira’s little finger twisted.
The latter could be wed before she trysted;
The former threatened trouble—like a fire
On wood that’s slightly green and pops sparks higher.
The calls for help spread wide their herald wings,
Flying to those the likeliest to know
Bright Artemis’s favored offerings:
Tiresias, remanned not long ago;
Wise Æacus, Aegina’s head honcho;
Cumae’s young virgin Sibyl, never kissed;
As well as others—I’ll omit the list.
Replies flew back as signs of coming—late.
The priests all gathered over nine long days
From first to last, which was a longer wait
Than Oeneus expected—Party’s ways
Includes surprises, for she likes to faze.
Worse: Sibyl was held by some Cumaean strife,
And Æacus had sent instead a wife.
Aegina’s king was needed: Hecate
(Another name for Her) was honored there,
And Æacus was widely known to be
A man who could restock dead towns by prayer;
His ex-ant myrmidons had fought off with flair
Invading Minos. All Greece spoke this word,
But far Aetolia had not yet heard
That only female ants can leave the nest,
And they transformed to women. Cyrene,
His leading soldier, armed with spear at rest,
With seven armed attendant women—she
Gave Oeneus her king’s apology:
Her co-wife had just borne her first-born son
And Æacus would not leave either one.
Thus her calm offer of herself as priestess
Of wild Aphaea, nymph of Artemis,
And hunter of some skill—which was at least as
Useful. She was too new to know, on this
First trip from home, how Oeneus was remiss
In briefly greeting her to hurry past
And welcome blind Tiresias, just come—the last.
For his part, Meleager was impressed
By Cyrene (or rather, by the size
Of her bow) and decided it was best
To stay away. It should be no surprise
His mother liked her: in Althaea’s eyes,
The myrmidons would never catch—ahem!—
A god, not dressed like that—they weren’t femme.
That night, a banquet—with the local wine,
Supple yet strong. Next morning, Oeneus
Led wobbly experts to Laphria’s shrine
(The locals supplicated the Huntress thus)
Where they could hear the boar described, discuss,
Attempt divining signs of why, and pray.
They came to no conclusion—not that day.
The process puzzled silent Cyrene—
Weren’t solutions better than a cause?—
But she, for all her battle bravery,
Was, here, intimidated. Of human flaws,
Nothing, not even guilt, will give us pause
And make our social skills go on hiatus
As mere uncertainty about our status.
Experience, for all that habits smother,
Is all that helps us on the social side—
Hers said that ant nests never help each other.
But Æacus, her native human guide,
Had told her this was normal—for it tied
A net of obligation; when things are grim,
It’s there to catch you—and she trusted him.
She held her own that evening at the board,
But then at dawn, before the rest awoke,
She took her party tracking what the boar’d
Destroyed that night. The spoor vanished like smoke,
But traces left confusingly evoked
Titanic size. Her posse in frustration
Returned in time for more deliberation—
Which, too, was not conclusive. That night’s drinkers
Were deeply desperate, both the old and young—
And Meleager learned that, like home stinkers,
These new-met elders had critiquing tongues.
Glum Cyrene & Co. drank less—though stung
By failure more—and tracked again at crack
Of day but, learning nothing new, turned back
And faced—It. As when you cross a crest
To meet, unsought, a torrent tearing down
A cliff, the rumble shuddering your chest,
The spray and grey and green and drowned black stone
All massed to form a hallow hollow’s crown,
Feeling the spirit of the place’s roar—
Just so their awe on meeting massive boar.
The morning session was nearly done when sud-
denly—that woman—standing quite dramatic
With peplos stained by sweat—and mud—and blood—
Informed them all in tones that sounded vatic,
“I’ve seen it.” Cyrene was diplomatic,
But said in no uncertain terms what must
Be done to regain Artemis’s trust:
“The boar’s divine—it so astonished us,
It gored a hunter before we could react—”
(Just hurt, for Cyrene was valorous:
Her arrow struck its snout) ”—and does, in fact,
Belong to the Mistress of the Beasts. The pact
We have with deities must be renewed
By sacrificing back to her this godly food.”
Her firm insistence on the numinous
Convinced the skittish congress: all agreed
With her, except for one whose querulous
“But why did She—?” was trampled by stampede
Consensus. Cyrene went on, ”We’ll need
Some help—it’s strong” —which was the start bell’s ding
For Amphiaraus’ ride into the ring.
This seer (also hero known for doing)
Insisted they should ask his former band,
The Argonauts, who’d proved their strength pursuing
The Golden Fleece, to lend heroic hands:
“We could have killed this killer undermanned—
A sideline in between bit episodes—
A minor matter in our larger loads.”
Young Meleager seconded the call,
Despite his own annoyance: ’twas absurd,
How Cyrene had told these elders all
He had—and yet, with her they had concurred.
Admittedly, he hadn’t used her words
Nor came to her conclusion (which did sting),
But snitty, he’d admit to no such thing.
But any backing, even hers, to his
Proposal was a plus. Perhaps some tact
Would have been worth the effort, but with this,
His driving thought was getting Dad to act,
Advancing every argument and fact—
Though not including, as he almost said,
”I told you so.” (Tiresias did instead.)
Though not impressed by bluster, Cyrene
Agreed that they could use an Argonaut
Or two. That she replied composedly
Convinced king Oeneus perhaps he ought
To buy this line—his wild son had, he’d thought,
Inflated boar accounts—although as well,
The fact he’d paid for this advice did tell.
So invitation heralds flew again,
Dispersed upon cross-current motives—though
Our reasons always are a mess, with men
And women driven by a mixed-up blow
Of greed, ambition, leveling, and show
Of status, making causes all complex—
Though some would say they all reduce to sex.
The scattered heralds fluttered back once more
With yeas or nays per time and temperament.
Each “No” received cheered Oeneus—purse-sore,
He still had hopes of keeping what he spent
Down—but the first guest set a precedent:
His nearby in-law Iphiclus brought others
With him—to wit, Althaea’s other brothers.
These men, too young when Argo first set sail,
Now cheered their chances to achieve, to do,
To grasp heroic glory. While the hale
Plexippus gave both aid and comfort to
The boar-hurt huntress, Toxeus went to view
With Cyrene her scene of gallant action
And traced her handling with satisfaction.
Not that the latter needed appreciation
The way the former did. Though human-born,
Philylla’d come to train in her vocation
As tracker—but she’d blundered, for all she’d sworn
She’d not. There was, back home, another thorn:
She’d argued with her boyfriend re: intentions,
So liked Plexippus’s mature attentions.
Because they acted useful, Oeneus
Could reconcile relations uninvited,
Even with queen Althaea’s doting fuss
And so-called son disgracefully delighted
With his heroic kin—so while he slighted,
He still accepted them. But every day
More heroes came—each with a protegé.
Some pairs were known—such as the Spartan twins,
Castor and Polydeuces, both admired—
But many parties had unheard-of kin:
Jason and Theseus had each acquired
A new blood-brother, and they both conspired
Amid their shipmate’s reuniting hails
To hustle them inside on their cloak-tails.
It got so bad, the seers formed a pool
For betting on each morning’s parvenu:
The who, with whom, on what excusing rule—
Though no one guessed at Atalanta’s two,
Raw cousins from Arcadia. Who knew
This heroine, who seemed so stern and tough,
Had family obligations? —But enough.
Suffice to say, the guests were many more
Than Oeneus expected—plus the way
They all behaved! —their drinking through his store
Of household wines—competing at risqué
Refrains throughout the night—he had to pay
Another flute-girl for each one—and worse,
Those myrmidons. By Hades! He could curse
The day they came. While Cyrene, he granted,
Was sober, young Philylla made him curl
His fingers—no sooner up, and she enchanted
A score of men inside her flirting whirl.
That “myrmidon” (so-called) was no good girl—
And even so, she wasn’t quite as bad
As Kalonike, always hero-clad.
For she’d had just her co-wife’s solace since
Their husband had been unmanned when nearly killed,
Fighting the Minos War. His lack (don’t wince)
Left lusty Kalonike less than thrilled,
So to alleve her feeling unfulfilled
She took this chance to fling a few affairs—
Especially in man + woman pairs.
Most often + with Iphiclus, who found
In her a robust woman equal to
The drinking/singing/wenching/fighting round
That is a hero’s life—and willing, too,
Unlike prim Atalanta. It was true,
Her captain would have made a better catch,
But Cyrene stayed faithful to her match.
Stayed faithful, yes—but she did not restrain
Her hearty myrmidons. I must admit,
This former ant was only partly trained
In human ways: she saw the benefit
Of rules that steadied state, but could omit
All others; if you didn’t cheat nor fight
Nor start a war, your morals seemed all right.
And if you think this ethic codifies
Self-interest (if, at one remove, displaced),
Consider her a toddler—though this implies
She lacked a certain poise, when it’s so phrased:
When young Laertes saw Cyrene was placed
In charge, he blurted out, “How old are you—
What, nineteen? twenty?” she said calmly, “Two.”
But I anticipate things—and misstate,
For she had taken—not been given—charge
Of local huntsmen, scouting where of late
The boar habituated when at large,
For Meleager never did discharge
This task. Since ant nests are self-organizing,
Her taking up the slack is not surprising.
He skipped that chore as hero guests arrived
Each day, and Meleager couldn’t shirk
His princely role as host. Of course, he thrived
On their attentions—that was just a perk—
Like Jason’s good advice on warrior work,
Though it provoked his father to descants
Of acid on heroic sycophants.
As for the myrmidons, the bold prince kept
His cold disdain for how they all would flirt
With (almost) anyone around—except
That dangerous Cyrene, who’d not desert
Her ancient husband (why?). Besides, it hurt
To see another do his other duty,
And so he hated this effective beauty
Almost as much as Atalanta did.
For her, it wasn’t just the competition
For token heroine: their spirited
Behavior tainted her unsure position—
Though were that all, she’d deal with inhibition
With mere contempt at groupies hero-hooking,
But Cyrene was good—and worse, good-looking.
For Atalanta had been raised the son
Her father never had and hid inside
A young man’s clothing that she wasn’t one,
But here—this woman—no one thought to chide
Her liberties, even when they saw her stride
With woman’s paces through the woodland oaks
In girdled peplos and a flowing cloak.
The queen was also bothered by appearance:
These ant-girls might not catch a god, but they,
It seemed, lured sons of gods. The men’s adherence
Irked her—but when her bestest brother, say,
Was stuck to one, had he been pulled astray?
Not him. And yet—what can a hostess do?
—Beyond bemoan her daughter’s poor debut.
While mother dithered, Deianeira turned
Sniffy at men. If Kalonike’s kiss
And that Philylla’s vamping hadn’t burned
Them up, she’d’ve reaped a swathe—a trench—abyss—
Through all these heroes; with that plan a miss,
She told herself she wanted other crops—
Like Heracles, not present and the tops.
Officially, the Herc was Laboring
(The truth: he’d met a pretty Lydian
Crawling cross-dressing bars—not quite The Thing).
They missed him. His brother, hero journeyman,
Gave a short speech, requested by a fan,
Describing how he helped his twin behead
The Hydra—pointers heroes liked, which led
To others trading notes about their trade:
Informal chats at first, but as they grew
The sessions turned to panel talks that stayed
On scheduled topics till the end review—
A change that baffled veterans who knew
How Jason struggled, leading these paragons.
But then, they didn’t know the myrmidons.
For after all, until they fought the boar,
Not every myrmidon need hike the hills—
So Cyrene detached a troop of four
To organize disseminating skills
The better heroes knew—and could instill.
(Besides, she thought it’d help the girls disperse
The reputation that they were perverse.)
They posted every morning’s subject matter
With where and when to hear “The Best-Made Sword:
Tapered or Straight?”, “Five Foolproof Ways to Flatter
A Bard,” “How Minos was de-Minotaured”—
All subjects that were usefully explored,
Though usually the best advice was heard
Down in the local tavern, afterward.
The myrmidons, past-masters of emergent
Behavior, shrugged and plunged into the whir
Of setting-changed exchange; they mixed divergent
Currents of knowledge, joining in to stir
The next day’s topics with the popular
Disputes. Attendance at their panels flooded—
As did the fighting of the hotter blooded.
They also started greeting new arrivals
To co-opt what they had to add. This worked—
And caught the eyes of guys—but made them rivals
Of Meleager, who felt he’d been jerked
Around. He could accept, for all it irked,
Their taking over hunters—hosting too?
Not him—for all his father’s temper grew
Impatient: given greeter girls, he should
Go back to leading trackers. Thankfully,
His staying had rewards—he got in good
With Atalanta as both watched with glee
A moment of strained relations: Cyrene
Met stepsons Peleus and Telamon
For the first time. These princes had been gone
Fleece-fetching during Aegina’s plague/invasion;
Because they hadn’t helped, these two were rather
Defensive. Her poise cut through this hard occasion.
Though Telamon, who lived in endless pother,
Scorned this gold-digger who had trapped his father,
After a late night where the wine ran thick,
His older brother called her “quite the brick.”
The king found Telamon quite willing to hear
His myrmic grumps, if not on the panels—but then,
A hero likes discussing his career.
’Twas not so bad by day, when girls, not men,
Controlled discussion; worse was nighttime when,
Rehashing over wine, harsh words were spoken—
Especially when furniture was broken.
Which evening didn’t start out quite so rough:
At first the talk was what change changes render,
As Cyrene (who liked males well enough),
Tiresias (who, having been a bender
Between them two, inclined to either gender),
And Caeneus (woman turned to man, who hated
Them both) described their morphing and debated
Which change was for the best—which parented
Some general thoughts on change, a line of spawns
Descending to the rub that always led
To voices ringing through great megarons:
Whether this “iron” will replace sharp bronze.
When heads struck this, sparks flew and caught a riot
That took till dawn before it burnt to quiet.
From which, king Oeneus correctly deduced
Make active heroes act or they go bad;
And even Meleager was induced
By royal temper to agree they had
Enough new men to hunt next day—as Dad
Announced that night (the ninth), to cheers from all:
Both feasting heroes and servants of the hall.
The cheers went on all night. When Dawn caressed
The morning hills, the myrmidons stood waiting
With Atalanta by the kennels, pressed
About by hounds and handlers waiting
To be unleashed, —and no one else. Waiting
Two hours turned up Iphiclus, hung-over;
Till noon, a dozen—but the chance was over.
The myrmidons (except Philylla: weak)
Disgustedly went chasing after traces
Of their prey, while heroes, feeling bleak,
Crept in to work on winning back their faces
(Big loss: they worked on reputation basis).
Next morning, Dawn discovered heroes more
Engaged: awake, alert, and armed for boar.
Delay (while Oeneus looked black) for omens:
Tiresias claimed ultimate success.
Then hounds, let loose ahead of spear- and bowmen,
Nosed to the north (per trackers: not a guess)
Past boar-torn vineyards, broken terraces,
To scrub oaks and pale grasses, where—there—tracks,
Running to where it rests between attacks.
They found it in the hills above the city,
A giant tusker wounded on its snout
(Which had become infected—never pretty).
The shock and awe—its size, its might, its clout—
Of meeting it made heroes give a shout
And charge right in, abandoning positions
To rush it as a crowd of bad tacticians.
I won’t delineate the whole affair—
Others go on at length about the assault
On Artemis’s beast by men who dare,
The vaunts, the boasts, who missed and who’s at fault,
The proud Ancaeus gored, young Nestor’s vault,
The ones who ran, the injured, and the dead.
Cyrene saw it all, and shook her head.
Just one blow, Atalanta’s arrow, struck—
Grazing its shoulder (just) to pierce its ear.
Though myrmidons were organized, their luck
Was bad and didn’t make safe shots appear
Within the crowd, and so the boar was clear
To harrow rows of heroes with its tusks
And turn the finest crop of Greece to husks.
While myrmidons could not attack,
They could defend, holding a spear-set spine
Against the boar as the broken band fell back,
Protecting hurt and routed with their line
Until they could escape the deadly swine
Behind the solid city walls—retreating
To lick their wounds and snarl about the beating.
The royal family, possibly more peeved,
Withdrew their presence from the grouchy pout
As Deianeira griped, Althaea grieved,
And Oeneus just growled aloud about
Each greedy, bawling, wenching, brawling lout
And threatened their eviction now—tonight—
Two toddlers could put up a better fight.
Throughout this, Meleager didn’t know
How to respond when he himself felt sore,
But hearing husband rate her brothers so
Provoked Althaea to defend them more
Than her shocked son could—and so they tore
A dust-up that blew into a general storm.
But then, a family is a retiform—
That is, a net that’s knotted from a spread
Of crossed relationships that, when combined,
Are stronger than a friendship’s single thread—
Though ties that hold are also ties that bind;
Pluck this string, that one resonates in kind,
For good or ill—as Meleager learned
When years of marital frustrations burned.
His raging parents’ pent-up accusations
Drove Meleager to the hall, where he
Ran into something even worse: dictations
On how tomorrow’s well-run hunt would be
Conducted, from the most heroically
Experienced. He seethed, but had the wit
To know he had no choice but to submit.
Though he negotiated one small change:
For he, though this cabal was Jason-led,
Believed that Cyrene had here arranged
This new humiliation—so instead
Of in the center, myrmidons were spread
Out in the wings with those who’d drive the quarry
Towards men who’d kill it, getting greater glory.
And then he got away again. This was,
As far as Meleager was concerned,
The worst day of his life, not least because
His uncles helped to kindle the coup—which burned.
He finally found the comfort that he’d earned
Quite late, in blind Tiresias’s arms.
(’Twas nice to hear that he indeed had charms.)
Dawn dawned. The heroes knew this day would be
Their time to do or fail. The soldier sense
That there is nothing of divinity
In what they sought to slaughter, a pretense
Of just a target, was their best defense
In this attack—and so, before they started,
Together they drilled at living harden-hearted.
This exercise gave trackers time to trail
The scattered drops of blood—still hard for pros—
From the boar’s bleeding ear. In a damp swale,
They found, surrounded, baited it with blows
Upon its tender still-infected nose,
Until they drove it in their killing zone:
A grove of grounded spears, butts closely sown.
With giant beady eyes, it gauged this mere
Death-trap, then charged what seemed the weakest place
And deeply gouged itself upon the spear
That Meleager held—and tusk to face,
The prince held on. It staggered. In that space,
The wounds then came so fast, they couldn’t know
Who in the end delivered the killing blow.
“Couldn’t,” and not just “didn’t,” was not surprising
Given their spears had met the numinous,
Which mazes minds—like a hushed fog rising
Shuts senses—leaving just the tremulous
Experience. While goddess animus
Was prep’d for offering, the band refracted
Upon the start, not end, of how they acted,
Thus: Meleager got credit for the kill.
Yes! —but in thanks for being named their peer,
Magnanimous praise was needed for good will,
So he gave co-credit to Atalanta here,
Claiming of all the wounds, the bleeding ear
That led them to it was the useful one.
And thus an uglier battle was begun.
His uncle Toxeus made the first objection:
“But surely the infected snout did more
For our success!” —a startled interjection
That prompted others to promote a score
Of later deeds. They’d have just sniped and swore
If only heroes had expressed protests,
But nephew/uncles? —that’s a family mess,
And internecine makes things worse by far.
Finally forced to choose, Althaea chose
Berating brothers for their non-avuncular
Attacks—a poking in of outside nose
That polarized the heroes from their rows
Of separate claims, to line up to defend
One helper, either from the start or end.
The prince, shocked by his uncles’ opposition—
’Twas almost like they feuded to profane
His joy in his heroic recognition—
Suffered from this fresh injury more pain
Than even Oeneus’s old disdain,
Which was familiar—if increasing now.
Resentment smoldered—choked—he’d show them how.
For Atalanta and Meleager both,
Each vote for her was taken now as personal
Approval, justifying an overgrowth
Of fine disdain for myrmidonic gall.
Their attitude was so ungenial
That Theseus reversed his inclination
Solely to see them squawk in indignation.
Indeed, as usual for politics,
Support for either heroine derived
Not just from merits, but a motive mix
Of biases and where self-interest thrived:
That Cyrene herself had not connived
(She knew her worth) at honor made a few
Decide she’s unheroic—snooty, too.
Before the sacrificial carcass burned
Upon the altar, all of them had sided
Without consensus. His troubles, the king learned,
Hadn’t expired with the boar, but bided:
Of all the family, he was undecided
Because he spent an equal effort snarling
At myrmidon and Meleager’s darling.
That all his family had turned partisan
Made him more prickly: How could they endorse
This check upon his will as king and man?
What strength drawn from these myrmic bitches forced
This challenge? Rational, no—though of course
We blame the trigger when events go wrong,
And not the flaws exposed, there all along.
But neither did he like the hunting tart,
Ally of trumped-up son—and overwrought.
The king’s ambivalence of hating heart
Gave Amphiaraus an analogic thought
For how to break the stasis that had them caught,
Viz, ask for judgment from a man who was
Equally (im)partial: Tiresias.
The seer’s biases were opposite
The king’s: on hunting days he’d comforted
Philylla in her bed, while nights he’d flit
Between whichever heroes could be led
To sleep with someone old but spirited—
This easy switcher claimed that he was gay,
But as a man or woman, wouldn’t say.
Because he’d bedded many (if not the leads)
From either side, supporters could adduce
A preference for their claim, and so agreed.
He tried to buck them off on some excuse,
But still was harnessed judge and not let loose—
Indeed, his bridle had a social bit:
Consensus forced the king to live by it.
Not happily, of course—that first suggestion
Of Amphiaraus hadn’t been too hot,
And whether ’twas worthwhile was still in question—
But somehow helpful myrmidons had got
Alloyed agreement tempered from this lot,
So king and seer joined. The latter grumped:
He hadn’t seen this coming till it’d jumped.
He used the wiliness that is the guide
Of senior seers, and made a quick decision,
Awarding Atalanta the boar’s hide
And Cyrene both ears and tail—a scission
Admired just as much for its concision
As ambiguity: you will, I trust,
Believe that everyone was left nonplussed.
A “left” that’s literal: Tiresias
Decamped for home, even while boar smoke rose
To gratify the goddess. ’Tis a guess
That deities are where what’s offered goes,
But while it’s true that no one ever knows
A god’s been mollified, no further beasts
Appeared—and that was good enough for feasts.
The trophied heroines both hurriedly
Followed the seer off—the one to hand
Her father proof she’s worthy, Cyrene
To ask her king why things went worse than planned,
How she and the myrmidons in her command
Could have avoided the botch they’d catalyzed.
He’d know the way, or she would be surprised.
The heroes all concurred, and got away
To salve, somehow, their new employment woes,
For civil wars are not quite worth the pay—
Not when the royal family raged as foes,
Even the quiet queen: When threats arose,
She promised her brothers that if they pursue
Her son, well, she could play with fire too.
At least the family fighting was, at first,
Confined within the palace walls (thank Fate!),
Which let the countryside repair the worst
Unhindered. Left alone and drinking late,
King Oeneus stayed up to calculate
Whether having divine displeasure cease
Was worth the price of his domestic peace.