"That's a majority vote," said Cio. "Five of nine agree."
"Who did the turning into a magpie thing last time then?" Terpsichore was pirouetting, one after another now, and her voice sounded strangely distorted and disembodied. Five heads all looked at one another, shaking slightly as they did so.
"Oh bugger," said Calliope. "Well, whichever one of us did it had better remember how then."
"It's not really a dance thing," said Terpsichore. "I can do the Red Shoes though."
"That's not Greek legend!" Clio sounded snappish.
"Maybe," said Terpsichore, "but it is dancing, so I can do it. Find me Carnalità and I'll have her dancing in red hot shoes for the next eternity-and-a-half."
"Well, if it comes to that, becoming a magpie's not a tragedy but becoming disfigured or disabled is, especially in modern society," said Melpomene. "If anyone's got a knife, I can definitely sort that out."
There was a shocked silence while the other four Muses stared at her, and she stared defiantly back. "It's not like they come with manuals," she said, "It's pretty much just poke and twist, poke and twist."
"Ah, it sounds like we're talking about Carnalità," said a new voice. Erato rose gracefully from the ground, an exedra appearing underneath her and supporting her upward movement. Her exedra was covered with finely chiselled love poetry.
"Actually, Melpomene was just letting us in on how violent she's getting," said Clio. "She's offering to disable and/or disfigure Carnalità."
"That sounds like a plan," said Erato. "I could make sure she enjoys it while it's happening. The S&M scene seems to be producing so much material these days that I've had to have a new toga made, out of leather."
The other muses now regarded Erato who toga was indeed black, leather, and appeared to be able to divide into numerous straps and bindings with a shake of a wrist.
"That's very..." said Calliope, and the other Muses nodded agreement.
"Not exactly my choice," said Erato, "but we have to move with the times, don't we?"
"No," said Clio. "We learn from history, don't forget."
"So, historically then," said Melpomene with an edge in her voice, "which of us did the magpie trick last time?"
Clio looked momentarily furious, and then a stack of parchment crashed down on the paved floor beside her.
"Give me a minute, and I'll find out," she said.
"How are you going to disable her?" said Terpsichore, sitting down at last and massaging her feet. "I want to make her dance, don't forget."
"Oh, now we're just being cruel!" Urania looked upset. "You can't put her in a wheelchair then in red hot shoes that force her to dance!"
"Fine, fine," said Melpomene. "I'll just disfigure her then. Cut off her ears, nose, some fingers, carve someone's name on her back, that kind of thing."
"Just who are you hanging around with these days?" said Calliope. "You used to be one of the nicest people I'd ever met."
"Magpies!" called out Clio, attracting their attention. "Bad news girls, apparently Apollo did it for us."
"That's not bad news," said Urania. "We can ask him to do it again."
"Carnalità's supposed to be sleeping with him though," said Clio. "I thought everyone had heard that rumour?"
"He'll do it if we're unanimous," said Melpomene. "He can't live without us, you know."
"That's true," said Polyhymnia, stepping into the circle. "Did you girls not walk here then?"
"Magpies?" asked Clio, and seven hands now rose. "Great, that's good enough. Let's get Apollo on the case."
Melpomene put the knife that she'd fashioned from her exedra down, and followed the rest of the Muses on a trip to see Apollo. Behind them, the grass still grew and the wind blew silently around their meeting place.