Chapter 8 - Two Years Later
“Do you like this one?” I asked Fern, holding up a leather tunic. She came over and pressed it against my torso. “It seems like a good fit,” she mused. She turned to look at the stall owner, “What do you want for it?”
The short man pulled at his wispy beard thoughtfully. “How ’bout...five drachmae?”
“Three,” Fern countered, “No higher.”
The man grumbled but made the exchange without complaint. “Do you know where the silks and thread store is?” I asked him as Fern folded the tunic and placed it in her bag.
“I do...but it’ll cost you two drachmae,” he smiled devilishly.
“I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then,” Fern answered before leading me away.
“Why did you want to know where the silks and threads are?” Fern quizzed me as we continued looking. Today was the one day of the year where a merchant caravan stopped in town for a week. And Fern and I were taking full advantage of it.
“Just...a little something I’ve been working on,” I said elusively. Before she could pose another question, somebody walked into me. “Sorry,” he muttered. Remembering old movies I used to watch with my grandfather, I reached for the coin purse hanging from my belt...but it was gone!
“Hey!” I yelled, “Thief!”
The man glanced at us before breaking into a run, pushing and shoving his way through the crowd. This clearly wasn’t his first time because even though I pushed and shoved just as hard, he outstripped me and disappeared into the crowd.
Squeezing through the mass of people, I searched frantically for him. “Here,” a voice said. I turned just as a coin purse was thrown from the shadows of an alley.
“I...I can’t accept this,” I tried, remembering how my dad was always saying never to accept free money.
“Why?” the man in the alley asked. “It’s yours.”
“But...?” I was certain nobody had stopped the man.
Fern raced up behind me, “What happ...Oh!”
She saw the man in the alley just as he stepped out of the shadows. He was tall and muscular but not broad. His sandy hair was littered with black specks. He had the look of a merchant about him, but something about the way he smiled said: Is it just me, or are your pockets a bit lighter?
“My Lord,” Fern said, curtseying to this stranger. I gave her a questioning look, but the man took her hand, bowed low, and kissed it gently. “None of that, my dear,” he told her quietly.
I just stood there in stunned silence. The man straightened and turned to face me. “Now then, you’re the future kid, huh?”
“How did you know that?” I exclaimed. The only people who knew that was Fern and me!
“My brother showed me how to see into the future a while back,” the man explained. “No one can do as well as Apollo or our father, but I’m no prodigy.”
Apollo? Seeing into the future? I racked my brains, trying to remember something about Greek mythology.
The man saw how I was struggling to remember and a large grin crossed his face. “Hermes,” the man bowed, “God of thieves, travellers, merchants, and Messenger extraordinaire. At your service!”
“Hermes!?” I exclaimed. “You mean...the Greek gods are real!?”
Hermes sighed. “Not much hope for the future, is there?” He straightened again. “I’m assuming you have some questions? Well, let me save you some breath. Apollo got a vision a while back saying that you need to be here at this time and place. Don’t know why?” he shrugged. Hermes looked at me to make sure I was still paying attention before continuing.
“So, remembering the vision thousands of years ago, the gods in the future must have sent you back here. I can only imagine the kind of power it took, but here you are!” he beamed proudly as if I was a successful experiment.
“So what do I do?” I asked him.
Hermes frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well...that’s the thing. No one knows. The gods are still a bit skittish for a lot of reasons. Hoping our future selves didn’t send the wrong person, thinking Typhon or the Titans are going to break out of their prisons. But even if they did, Zeus beat Typhon himself, with a little help for yours truly. And there are more gods now than there were during the Titanmonarchy, so we’re sure to send them to Tartarus again, no worries.”
“What if it’s something more dangerous?” I asked him, trying to think of a monster that the gods fought.
Hermes gave me a doubtful look. “More powerful than Typhon? Kid, the gods fled to Africa and we could still feel the tremors. He ripped out all of my father’s muscles so I had to stitch him together like one of Athena’s tapestries! If one god can defeat something like Typhon, then I’m sure an army of gods will have no trouble with what’s coming.”
And with that, Hermes tapped his foot twice in rapid succession. A pair of leather sandals materialised around his bare feet. Two beautiful wings, like white doves, fluttered out of the sides of each and started beating. Faster and faster until they were a blur emitting a low, humming drone. Then the god lifted into the air and streaked across the sky into the distance.