The Other Prophecy Child

First Love: Part 2

I stood there for a while and let that thought sink in. I never imagined that I would end up going through something like this. Yeah, normal teens went through first dates and stuff like that, but I was far from being a normal teen.

As I finally got over that little episode, I shadow traveled back to the lake. I appeared next to a tree a few feet from the shore. Elice was next to me, lying on the ground in a ball shape. She didn't pay any attention to me as I appeared out of thin air next to her. She was too busy catching up on sleep to worry about me.

I snuck past Elice and went down to the shore of the lake. I sat down and dug into my backpack. After a bit of searching I pulled out a few things to clean myself up: A bar of soap, a bottle of shampoo, as well as a few other things. I also pulled out an extra pair of clothes. After all, I couldn't wear a pair of jeans that were soaked and smelled like wet hellhound.

I held my things and looked down at the lake. Normally, I would find a nice pond or lake or sometimes a slow flowing river when I wanted to clean myself up, but something made me reluctant to use one this time. Natural water sources weren't the best ways of getting clean. I only used them because they were convenient, well at least they are when you're a twelve year old on the run. I really wanted to make sure I looked as best as I could tonight. For some reason, this whole thing meant a lot to me.

I ended up finding an empty trailer, which was pretty easy since only two of them were actually in use. Just in case though, I used my powers to make myself invisible. Luckily, the trailer that I had decided to break into had a bathroom, a rather small one, with a shower.

I washed up quickly. I wanted to take the time to clean myself up, but a thought occurred to me as I jumped in the shower. I had no idea when I was supposed to meet Sarena. She told me to meet her, "Later tonight," but that didn't give me any specific time. I thought it would be best to try and be there as early as I could. I shampooed my hair twice, just to be sure, and used the bar of soap to clean the rest of my body. I was in and out in about ten minutes. I threw my new clothes on and was out of there so fast that I forgot to grab the shampoo and soap.

The sun had set by the time I left the trailer. The moon was glowing in the sky as it stared down at me. I wasn't very good at telling time, I had meant to steal a watch several times since I thought that it would come in handy, but I always ended up forgetting about it. No matter the time, I definitely knew that it was night and that I should get going.

I didn't bother going down to the lake. Elice was already asleep and I wasn't in the mood to deal with a cranky hellhound. Even the nicest hellhounds are vicious when you disturb their beauty sleep. I got an image of the park that Sarena had pointed out in my mind and shadow traveled back into Morenci.

I appeared on the opposite side of the street looking at the park on the other side. There were three baseball diamonds at the back edge of the park, farthest from me, that formed an L-shape. One of the diamonds looked like it was designed for children while the other two looked about normal size. Next to the diamond in the center of the L-shape they formed was what looked like a skate park and in front of the same diamond were two tennis courts. At the edge of the park directly across from me was a children's playground, complete with two jungle gyms, one at each end, a set of monkey bars, and a swing set.

Sarena was already there waiting for me. She was sitting on one of the three swings on the swing set. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans, maybe the ones from before, and a black leather jacket. She sat on the swing with her feet hovering over the ground. She was facing away from me and looking down at the dirt underneath her. Great, I had already managed to screw everything up.

"Were you waiting long," I asked as I walked up to her.

Sarena looked up at me and smiled. "Not really," she said, "I've only been sitting here for a few minutes."

"That's good," I said, "I thought I had made you wait."

I stood there and stared at her as she did at me. It only took a few minutes to get awkward. I wasn't sure what I should say or what I should do. I just kind of stood there with this really idiotic look on my face, at least I thought it must have looked that way. Luckily, Sarena managed to break the silence.

"Wouldn't you rather sit," she said offering the swing next to her.

I sat down quickly and stared at the ground. Judging by how things were going, I had to say that I was not very good at this. I know it was my first date and all, but even by that standard this seemed like a disaster. I couldn't even call it a date really. It was just the two of us sitting on a swing set at a playground in the middle of the night. I guess it was just nice to think of it that way.

"So," I said as a thought occurred to me, "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," Sarena said.

"Why did you ever agree to this," I asked.

Okay, if you haven't figured it out yet, I have very low self esteem. Even though I was sitting there I couldn't believe that Sarena had actually wanted to hang out with me. I must have made the worst first impression ever, and I wasn't even that good looking. Something kept nagging at me to ask her about this. I felt like this was something more than just an innocent first date-hang out-thing.

"Honestly," Sarena said, "There was something about you, something familiar." She stopped and sighed as she looked at the ground. "My mom isn't around anymore," she said to my surprise, "I don't know where she is, my dad doesn't like talking about her, but I think he knows something." She paused for a moment. "I don't know why I told you that," she said, "When you told me about your missing sister…it made me think of my mom."

Sarena continued staring at the ground. It was hard to tell, but I saw tears forming at the corners of her eyes. She was trying to hide it from me, but I knew that she was trying to hold back her sobs. I wanted to comfort her, to say something that might make her feel better, but what could I say? I guess I could tell her why I seemed familiar to her.

"My mom died when I was little," I said. Sarena looked up at me and wiped the tears from her eyes. I looked off into the distance as I thought about my painful past. "My dad, he's…" I hesitated as I nearly told her about who my dad really was. "He's gone. I never got to know him. He disappeared when I was young." I paused as I went back to my mother. "My mom died of a…a heart attack when I was three. My sister and I lived in an orphanage before we ran away. We lived on the streets for a few months before she disappeared."

Sarena looked at me for a long time like she was evaluating the validity of my story. "Are you on your own," she asked.

"Yeah," I said, "It's tough, but I manage."

"That sounds awful," she said, "I couldn't imagine living without my dad."

"What about your mom," I asked, "Was it tough getting used to life without her?"

"Not really," Sarena said, "She disappeared when I was little. I never got to know her."

I was left speechless at that. Sarena's story was starting to sound all too familiar. Maybe she was like me. No, that couldn't be it. Surely she would have a weird tale or two to tell me. She could have been afraid to tell me those though. Maybe she thought I would think she was crazy if she told me about them. I couldn't blame her. That was why I didn't tell her any of my weird stories.

"Um," I said trying to change the subject, "Are we allowed out here after dark."

Sarena looked at me in silence for a moment. After she realized what I was trying to do, she started laughing. "No," she said, "This park closes after eleven. No one will care if we're here though. Morenci doesn't have much of a police force anyway."

"I don't usually get along with police," I said.

I hadn't thought about the fact that I was a fugitive in a while. It didn't affect me most of the time since most people didn't recognize me without my picture being somewhere nearby. The fact that no one knew my name made it easy to avoid attention too. Usually, I was able to move around normally as long as I avoided larger cities.

The night progressed well after that. With the awkwardness gone, Sarena and I really got to know each other as we talked. We avoided our pasts though. She seemed just as reluctant as I was to say anything more than was already said. Instead, we talked about other things, hobbies, likes, dislikes, and other normal stuff like that.

Sarena was smart. She was homeschooled by her dad, who happened to be an engineer. She knew all kinds of crazy mathematical concepts. Despite the fact that she was only twelve, she already understood a few of the more complex equations from calculus. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, but I guess it was supposed to be impressive. Honestly, she could have just read a whole sentence without squinting and I would've been impressed.

That was another strange thing about Sarena. She had dyslexia and ADHD too. Her father had noticed it in her early, but that hardly stopped her from her journey to learn everything there was to know about everything. The more she told me about herself, the more I was convinced she was a demigod. It was impossible though. Two demigods in the same place would attract enough monsters to fill Madison Square Garden twice.

We were out there for hours, I don't know the exact time, but I hated to see it end. Sarena had to get back home though. She was lucky that she actually had one to go to. I guess I shouldn't be that gloomy though. At least I had a loveable hellhound waiting for my return, even if she was asleep.

Sarena and I said our goodbyes and, strangely enough, agreed to meet again tomorrow night. I was actually happy to agree to meet her again, despite knowing that I would have to leave soon. Something told me that I should stay though. No, I wanted to stay. I didn't want to leave Sarena. I actually wanted to give up on my journey.

That was just crazy talk though. I couldn't stay. I had to find Emily, especially since I was closer to finding her now more than ever. I could stay for a while though. Just for a couple of days.

That was what I told myself, but that wasn't what happened. I was there for several weeks. It was nice in a way. I was actually getting to act like a normal kid\pre-teen. I forgot about a lot during that time. Elice was constantly whimpering at me, begging me to leave, but I couldn't. I had to stay. I mean, there hadn't even been any monsters attacking me while I was there. Everything was perfect. Well, it was until that night.

We were getting ready to leave when it happened. Normally, we would have just said our goodbyes and then gone our separate ways, but it was different that night. We stood there for a while, after saying goodbye, and stared at each other. My heart was racing and we started moving closer. I knew what was about to happen, but the moment was interrupted by one of the craziest hallucinations I had ever seen.

I looked into Sarena's eyes as we moved toward each other. Then there was a white flash. The scene was different now. I was looking at the most gruesome sight I had ever seen. A lion was standing over a fresh kill. It wasn't a normal lion though. In the place of its tail was what looked like a giant scorpion's tail. The creature's face looked more human than feline. On the ground under the lion was a young girl with blond hair lying in a pool of blood. I saw the scene for a second before it disappeared.

I was standing in front of Sarena again. The look on her face had shifted to one of fear. It didn't take me long to realize that she had seen the same hallucination that I had. She stared at me for a long time. I was about to say something when she pushed me away and started running home.

I was left standing in surprise. I didn't know what I had seen, but I knew someone that could tell me. I had to speak to my father about this. If anyone knew what I had just gone through, it would be him. The only problem was trying to contact him. I had only ever spoken to him in my dreams and I wasn't sure that I could control it. Guess it was only a matter of trying.

I shadow traveled back to the campground where Elice and I had decided to…rent one of the trailers. She was sleeping on a couch in the living room. I snuck past her and found my way to the bedroom. I lay down and concentrated on what it felt like when I was in the Underworld. It wasn't long before I was asleep…and standing in my father's throne room.

"You wanted to chat," my father asked.

"You knew," I answered.

"I told you that I was watching you," he said, "I know everything that happened."

"Then what was that," I asked, "What in the world did I see?"

"Another unfortunate, shall we say…side-effect of being a child of the Underworld," Hades said, "Anyone that looks into your eyes is shown their own death…and you are shown their death as well."

"Why hasn't this happened before," I asked.

"Only now are you powerful enough for this unique ability to come forth," he said.

"Then what did I see," I asked. I was afraid of the answer, but I had to know.

"Sarena's death," Hades said, "Apparently she will be slain by the manticore. How unfortunate. I suppose she should be happy that she won't be sent to the fields of punishment though."

I stood silently and let that sink in. I knew before he had said it that what I had seen was Sarena's death. Hearing it said out loud though, it just made it that much more intense. I couldn't' let that happen. I had to protect Sarena somehow. That thing, the manticore, it was obviously drawn to her because of me. I had to leave her if I wanted her to be safe, unless I could take her with me.

"Sarena," I said, "She's a demigod isn't she?"

"Yes," Hades said, "A daughter of Athena, looks just like all of her other children."

Maybe I could take her with me then. If she was a demigod, then she could come with me. I could teach her how to fight and…

"No," Hades said.

"What?"

"You cannot take her with you," he said.

"Why?"

"The Olympians cannot know about you," Hades said, "Athena is already aware of your presence, but she does not suspect that I am your father. You cannot allow her to find out."

"But I can't let Sarena die," I yelled, "I have to do something!"

Hades was silent for a moment. "Very well," he said, "Tell her of her destiny, tell her who she really is, and then send her to New York."

"New York?"

"Long Island specifically," Hades said, "There is a place there where she will be safe. Once she leaves Morenci, Athena will guide her there, if that pompous goddess cares at all for the child."

This raised a bunch of questions. A place that was safe for demigods in New York. Why wasn't I there? Wouldn't I be safer there? Of course, even if I knew about it, I wouldn't have gone there. I still had to find Emily. But, couldn't she be there? No, Elice was following her scent, she would lead me there if that were the case. There were a lot of questions on my mind, but I didn't have any time to waste.

"You should hurry," Hades said, "The manticore approaches."

The dream faded and I woke up in the bed inside the trailer. Elice was standing over me, sniffing at my face like she was worried about me. I must have been tossing around a lot because the sheets and blankets had been thrown onto the floor. I was sweating. My clothes were soaked from it. Elice licked my face in one last effort to make sure I was awake.

She jumped off the bed as I sat up. She looked at me and whimpered like she did every morning. She wanted to leave. She was sensing something strong approaching fast. I could feel it too. There was a powerful monster on its way. Whatever the manticore was, I wasn't looking forward to fighting it.

I jumped out of bed and looked at Elice. "We'll leave soon girl," I said, "But we have to do something first."

Elice understood immediately. She knelt down and I climbed onto her back. She jumped out of the window in the living room and ran straight for Morenci. The sun had yet to rise, but I could tell that it was close to dawn. Within seconds, we were in the town. I guided her to the park where Sarena and I had been meeting for the last few weeks. I stopped her a few blocks away and dismounted.

Elice whimpered at me. "Don't worry," I said, "I'll only be a minute."

I ran for the park. I didn't think that Sarena would be there, but it was the only place that I could think of to look. As luck would have it, Sarena was there, sitting on the swing set that we always sat at. She was facing me this time, and looking right at me. Nothing showed that she was at all surprised to see me.

"Hirius," she said. She got up from the swing and ran across the street to me. She threw her arms around me, to my surprise, and hugged me. "I'm sorry," she said.

She pulled away and looked at me. She wouldn't meet my eyes. I couldn't blame her. Even I didn't want to look at that image again. Seeing that girl lying on the ground in a pool of her own blood, it was terrifying even if it wasn't me I was looking at. I couldn't imagine what it would be like if it were me I was looking at. Knowing that it was the person in front of me didn't help though.

"I'm sorry," Sarena said again, "I just, when I looked at you, I saw something horrible. It must have been my imagination."

"It wasn't," I said. Sarena looked at me with surprise. "Listen, it might sound crazy, but I saw it too, the lion thing, the girl, all of it."

"The girl," Sarena said before I could continue. She stopped. I knew what she was going to ask, but she was afraid to do so. "Was that…me?"

"Yes," I said with a bit of hesitation. Sarena looked unfazed by the answer. I could tell that she already knew what I would say. "But that doesn't mean that you're going to die, I won't let it happen."

Sarena looked up at me, her fear melting away. As confident as I sounded, I was nowhere near as hopeful as I seemed to be. That thing, the manticore, I had never seen anything like it. I wasn't sure I would be able to defeat something like that, not on my own anyway. Maybe with Elice's help, but it might not have to come to that. We could escape before it showed up.

"Sarena," I said, "I have to leave…and so do you."

"What do you mean," she asked.

"That thing," I said, "I don't know how to explain how I know, but it's on its way here. It's attracted to me, that's why I have to leave."

"What about me," Sarena asked, "Why do I have to leave?"

I hoped that I wouldn't have to explain it, but I knew that I would. There was no way that she would leave her hometown without an explanation. "Because you're like me," I said. Sarena stared at me. I could tell that she didn't understand what I meant. "You and I we're…special. Look, I can't explain everything right now, but…"

I was cut off by the sound of roaring in the distance. I heard Elice yelp and a loud crashing noise down the street. There wasn't any time left. The manticore must have attacked Elice out in the street. That meant that it was on its way to us.

I heard another roar close by as if the monster were confirming my suspicion. I summoned my sword and turned around. As I did, I saw the creature from the vision jump out from a group of trees some distance away from me. The monster sprinted towards me and stabbed down with its scorpion like tail. I managed to block the tail as it came within inches of my face. I held the monster's tail in place as it stared at me with its humanoid face.

Behind me, I heard Sarena let out a scream. "What is that thing," She yelled.

"Sarena," I yelled, "Run!" She didn't take any time to think about it. I heard her sprinting off into the distance within seconds.

With Sarena a safe distance away, I felt better about fighting this monster. I hadn't taken my eyes off of it yet. Its human face had a pair of feline eyes that glowed yellow. I looked into its eyes and wondered if my new power worked on monsters. After several minutes, I realized that it wouldn't.

"Hirius," the manticore said in a raspy voice.

"You can talk," I asked.

The manticore pulled its tail away from me and jumped backwards several feet. "Of course," the monster said, "Have you met any monsters that can't."

"No," I admitted, "But I've never met a lion that could talk."

"Indeed," the manticore said with a chuckle.

We stared each other down for several seconds in silence. The manticore kept its tail pointed at me as if preparing to shoot something at me. I held my sword ready to intercept any oncoming attack as I thought through every Greek myth I had ever read. I tried to recall anything I might have read about the manticore, but nothing came up. Guess I would be flying blind in this fight.

I thought about trying to control the manticore like I had with other monsters. I hesitated though. Hades said that Athena was aware of my existence. I couldn't let her know that I was a son of Hades or it might mean the end of my life. If there was the slightest chance that Athena was watching this fight then I couldn't give her any reason to suspect who my godly parent was.

"So," I said, "You know my name." I hoped to distract the manticore with a bit of small talk. If I was lucky, it might open up its defenses.

"I do," the monster said, "Everyone in Tartarus knows about you."

"Guess I have a bit of a reputation."

"Any child of the elder gods would," the manticore said, "Especially with that prophecy floating around and all."

The prophecy again. I hadn't thought about that in a while. Maybe this monster knew something about it then. "You know about that too," I asked.

"Of course," the manticore said, "My lord is weak now, but his power is growing. Perhaps you will be the one to release him."

"Your lord," I asked.

I had always assumed that Hades was trying to use me to destroy his brothers and that this prophecy was the reason that he thought that I would be useful. Now this monster comes along and starts talking about his and how I could release him or something like that. What did that have to do with destroying the Olympians? Who could I release that was that powerful?

"Oh I've said too much," the manticore answered, "I suppose for now that I should just kill you."

"Kill me," I said, "I thought I was going to release your lord."

"You might," the manticore said, "Or you might destroy him, I'm here to test if you're even powerful enough to be of use."

With that, the manticore pulled his tail back and shot it forward. He was too far away to hit me, but a thorn about the size of a crossbow bolt shot out of his tail and flew right at me. I just barely managed to duck in time for the thorn to skim the top of my hair. The thorn smashed into the jungle gym behind me and destroyed one of its legs, toppling the thing onto its side.

Before I had time to react, the manticore charged at me. I got to my feet and swung Heartstopper at the monster's face. His tail stabbed forward and caught my blade before it got near him. The manticore pulled away and stabbed at me again and again. I managed to block each hit, but I was being pushed back with ease.

As the manticore stabbed at me for what felt like the hundredth time, I rolled to the side and the monster stabbed his tail into the ground. I got to my feet and swung my blade at the monster. He tried to pull back, but Heartstopper connected and cut off the thorny end of the monster’s tail. He let out a wild roar and swung his tail at me. I was sent into the air and crashed into a fence around one of the baseball diamonds.

Before I could think, the manticore pounced at me, his teeth ready to sink into my body. I rolled away from him a second time and he crashed into the fence behind me tearing its posts out of the ground and mangling it into a ball of metal wires. I got up and stabbed at the manticore. He moved away, but I barely managed to pierce his back thigh. The monster swatted at me with his front paws, but I was able to jump away from him in time to dodge the hit.

The manticore stood awkwardly, shifting most of his weight to his left side. He tried to act like he wasn't in pain, but I had managed to injure him severely. He began walking in a circle around me, a motion that I followed to keep him in front of me. The monster had a pained look on his face as he attempted to avoid putting weight on his wounded leg.

"You are better than I expected," the manticore growled.

"You expected less," I said feeling out of breath, "From a son of one of the elder gods?"

"I expected less from a child," the manticore asserted, "But you are not strong enough."

The manticore charged again. His leg made him slower, but he was still faster than me. He pounced. I dodged to the side, but the monster saw it coming. As agile as any cat, the manticore hit the ground and turned to swipe at me as I dodged. I felt a searing pain as his claws raked across my back. I felt warm blood flowing from the fresh wound. I let out a scream and fell to my knees. I swung my sword at the manticore, but he jumped over me and dodged the blade.

"Predictable," the monster said as he walked towards me, "Your soul will make a wonderful sacrifice for my lord."

The manticore stood over me and looked down. His eyes glowed yellow and a savage look was on his face. He was savoring the moment of his kill. Maybe I could…I tried to lift my sword while he was distracted, but Heartstopper felt twenty times heavier than normal. I looked down to see the monster's paw pressing down on my blade. He had made sure that I couldn't escape.

I heard the monster chuckle as I looked up at him. "It's a shame," he said, "You might have been useful, but I suppose getting rid of every variable is the best…" the manticore screamed and roared before he finished his sentence.

He looked over and I was able to see a bronze dagger sticking out of his side. I just barely caught sight of Sarena as she ran away from the monster. I wasn't sure where she managed to find a dagger, let alone a celestial bronze dagger, but I was glad that she did. The manticore stepped to the side as he watched Sarena run away. I felt the weight of his paw lifting from my sword.

"You little brat," he yelled, "When I'm through with…"

His sentence was cut off as I stabbed Heartstopper through his neck. The monster screamed and roared again. His body began turning to dust from where my sword had pierced into his neck. What was left was a pile of ash and a lingering sense of evil.

The dagger in his side clattered to the ground. I picked it up and looked over it. It was clearly something from Olympus. It was made of celestial bronze, the only metal that can hurt monsters, aside from stygian iron of course. As I looked over the weapon, Sarena stepped out from the darkness. The blade began to glow as she approached.

"Sarena," I said as she approached, "How did you…where did you…" I was at a loss for words. I knew that she was a demigod and all, but I didn't think she had a weapon. Besides that, I never imagined that she would be brave enough to come back and face that thing.

"I wanted to help," she said, "I didn't think I could do anything, but I couldn't let you face…that alone." She looked at me like she was waiting for me to say something. I was still speechless. "Then this owl came out of nowhere and dropped this dagger in front of me." She took the dagger from my hand, which had stopped glowing. "With it, I ran back here as fast as I could."

I saw the owl that she was talking about. It was sitting in a tree close by and looking directly at me. As I stared at it, I realized what it was. The owl was the symbol of Athena, which meant that she was watching me. I knew that she was trying to figure out who I was. She knew that I was a demigod, but she had no idea who my parent was. It was a good thing I had held back on using my powers against the manticore.

"Well I'm glad you came back," I said, "I would've died without you."

"You would've been okay," she said. I wasn't so sure.

The sun was beginning to rise as we stood there. Behind me, I heard Elice yelp. She ran up behind me and nudged at my shoulder. I knew what she was saying, "It's time to go." I didn't want to leave, not yet. I wanted to stay just a little longer, but I knew that I couldn't. Elice was right. It was time to get moving again.

Sarena took a step away as Elice approached me. "What is that," she asked.

"Don't worry," I said, "She won't hurt you. This is Elice, she's been taking care of me the past several months."

Sarena looked afraid, but she approached Elice slowly. She reached out and placed her hand on the hellhound's head. Elice began nuzzling Sarena's hand. Sarena smiled and began petting Elice like she was a big dog. Honestly, sometimes I thought that she really was just a really big puppy dog.

"Hello," Sarena said, "I'm glad you're here to take care of Hirius…Keep him safe, okay."

"I can look after myself you know," I said.

"I guess," Sarena laughed. The two of us were silent as Elice pulled away from Sarena's hand. "So," she said, "I guess this will be goodbye."

"Yeah," I said, "I'm sorry, but I have to find my sister."

"I understand," she said, "Besides, if you face creatures like that every day then I don't want to be anywhere near you…no offense."

"None taken," I laughed.

Sarena stood staring at me for a moment after that. "I have to leave," she said like it was a question.

"Yes," I said, "Like I said, I can't explain everything, but I know there's a place in New York, on Long Island. You'll be safe there."

"You're sure."

"No," I said bluntly, "It's just a feeling but…" I trailed off. I had no idea if this place even existed let alone if it was safe or not. I could be leading Sarena into some kind of death trap. I didn't even know where this place was or what it was called. I looked around hoping that an answer would come to me. My eyes fell on the owl still sitting in the tree. "The owl," I said as an idea came to me.

"The owl," Sarena asked. She turned and looked at it.

"Yes," I said, "Your mother, she sent that owl to guide you to that place."

"Hirius," she said like she was questioning me. Honestly, even I was questioning me. Luckily, the owl flew down and sat on Sarena's shoulder. It wasn't very large, about the size of a pigeon, but it looked strong. The owl looked at Sarena like it was trying to tell her to listen to me.

The owl turned and looked at me. I knew that Athena had been watching me. She could've seen that whole battle. I had shown a bit of my power, but I was sure that she wouldn't have any proof that I was Hades' son. I would have to be careful of any owls that ran into in the future though.

"Like I said, I can't explain everything right now, but that owl will guide you somewhere safe. You have to trust me."

What I was saying sounded crazy, even to me. I was sure that Sarena was thinking that I was some kind of mental case. She stared at me. To my surprise, she was actually considering believing me. Of course, I knew that she wouldn't in the end. Who would believe something that sounded like it came out of a fantasy movie.

"Okay," Sarena said.

"What?"

"Okay," she said again, "I believe you."

I was glad to hear that. Now I only had to hope that I was right. I knew that my father would lie to me. He was the god of the Underworld after all. The owl seemed like too much of a coincidence. I had to place my faith in Athena's ability to look after her own daughter. If the other Olympians were anything like Hades though, then I was placing my faith in the wrong place.

Elice nudged me again. It was clearly time to leave. "Stay safe," I said to Sarena, "I'll be praying that you make it."

"And I'll be praying that you find your sister." Sarena offered me a smile, a gesture that I returned with one of my own. The owl on her shoulder flared its wings and took flight. Sarena watched it soar into the east. "I should go," she said. Before she did, she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. And then she ran off chasing after the owl. I smiled as I watched her disappear into the distance.

Before I left, I saw the owl flying back around towards. It dropped what looked like a sandwich bag as it turned around and flew away again. I caught it and saw that it was filled with cubes of gold colored...something. I opened the bag and pulled out one of the cubes. I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but it appeared to be some kind of food. I lifted the piece to my mouth and bit a tiny bit off of it. It tasted like fresh fudge brownies. I loved fresh fudge brownies.

I continued to stare at the piece of food. I went to take another bite when I felt a strange sensation on my back. I could only describe it as feeling like a bunch of bugs were crawling around on my back. It lasted for only a few seconds, but once the feeling was gone the pain in my back had melted away. I had been ignoring the stinging for some time wondering how I would get around with five bleeding scratches on my back. I felt around on my back and was amazed to find that the wounds had sealed already. There were still holes in my shirt, but there was no evidence that I had ever been injured.

I looked at the piece of food again. I was clearly holding a bag of ambrosia, the food of the gods. Hades told me about it, how it had healing properties for demigods, but I had never seen any before. I also knew that it might kill me if I ate too much of it. I certainly didn't want that to happen, so I placed the piece of ambrosia back in the bag and resealed it. I put the bag into my backpack, which Elice had so graciously decided to bring with us, and threw it over my shoulders.

I felt Elice nudge me again. I turned around and climbed onto her back. "Come on girl," I said, "Let's go." With that, Elice ran off into the distance towards our next destination.



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