Our retelling of Hero & Leander is set in the fictional English towns of Seston and Abbeyford, which are separated by a one-mile channel of sea. In this world, the gods of the Greek pantheon are alive, and more keen than ever on meddling in human affairs. Aphrodite, goddess of love, rules in the affable and peaceful town of Seston, and Hephaestus, god of fire and metalworking, runs the industrialised and gritty Abbeyford. Ever since a difficult breakup between these two gods long ago, they have made these towns into separate countries, and closed the border between them, so that not even a single ship may pass.
However, the border is opened one day a year, when the Festival of Aphrodite happens. It is during this festival that Leander visits Abbeyford with some of his friends, and meets Hero, who is singing on the main stage. The two dance, get drunk and spend the night together at the lighthouse she lives in. Before Leander rushes off to get the last ship back home in the morning, he gives Hero the cryptic request to shine her lighthouse’s light towards Abbeyford. That night, she does so, and he starts swimming the channel, guided by its light, to see her again. Along the way, he meets Poseidon, who captains a smuggling ship running contraband between the two towns. He refuses to help ferry him across, not wanting to risk angering Hephaestus & Aphrodite, but wishes him luck. When Leander makes it to Hero’s lighthouse, she is overjoyed, and they make a plan for him to keep swimming across each night.
Hephaestus finds out about this plan, and appears before Hero. He tells how, when he found out Aphrodite was unfaithful to him, he could’ve killed her, but agreed to only close the border instead, as an act of mercy. He warns Hero not to let Leander swim the channel any more, but she defies him. In a fit of rage, Hephaestus smashes the light on top of Hero’s lighthouse into pieces. Hero despairs at first, but then decides to build a bonfire in the light’s place to act as a beacon for Leander, lighting it with a lock of her hair. Aphrodite imbues the fire with her magic, making it glow brightly in her favoured colours of red, white and gold.
More people start swimming the channel alongside Leander, and he and Hero spend a joyous summer together. Aphrodite appears briefly, and Leander asks her to talk to Hephaestus, who he has heard is planning something bad, but he fails to persuade her. Leander tells Hero he will have to stay home for the winter to be safe, but Hero persuades him to make one more swim that night.
That night, Hephaestus completes a machine that can change the weather, and uses it to send a mighty storm to flood both towns. The storm blows out the beacon, and makes it impossible for Leander to see where he’s going. Hero sends Poseidon to tell Leander not to swim, not knowing that he’s already started. As dawn breaks, Hero seas Leander’s dead body wash up on the beach, and jumps from the cliffs to join him in death. Poseidon burns their bodies, and tells of how some say the gods turned their spirits into two goldfinches, birds known to stay far away from the sea, but that no-one can be sure. He and his crew sail on, leaving the towns behind.