“Gah, did someone get the license number of that truck?” Drake groaned as he gradually came to. He gingerly pushed himself into a straighter sitting position with one hand while his other felt the knot at the back of his head. “Oh ow, that left a mark; I’m going to fucking beat the shit out of the little inverted torch wielding bastard.” He continued to mumble death threats at Thanatos as he carefully used the cliff face to help himself climb back to his feet.
Once he was standing, and his vision stopped swimming, he looked around to locate his friends. Aislinn was in the same place she had fallen after Hypnos had knocked her out, lying on her side, face in the dirt.
James was a few feet away, crumpled in a very uncomfortable looking position. One leg, the right, was tucked up underneath him, while the left was stretched out in front; his torso was folded over his outstretched leg. He walked over to James first, seeing as he was closer, and less prone to violence on being rudely awakened, and joggled him with his foot. “Wake up Morgan. Come on if you don’t wake up before Aislinn does she’s going to shock you. And trust me when I say, it doesn’t tickle.”
After a few more seconds of shaking James started to come to. “Ow my back, how did I land like this?” He rolled away from Drakes foot and onto his back, getting his right leg out from under him and stretching it out, sighing in relief. He glared up at the young god as he said, “You know before I met you two my life was normal. The biggest thing I had to worry about was whether or not to read or play video games on a rainy day, or figuring out how to avoid bonding time with my dad. Now? Now I have to worry about whether a god – who thinks his life is shit – is going to try and kill me. Thanks a lot.”
Drake grinned, “You’re welcome! Now help me wake up Aislinn. She got hit with Hypnos’ sleep dust. It’ll wear off on its own eventually, but I’d rather have her up and alert now. That and I don’t want to carry her all the way up to Olympus.”
The slowly made their way over to the unconscious teen, both still a little unsteady on their feet – by the time they got there they realized she was already in the process of waking up. “I’m going to kick Hypnos in the balls the next time I see him. I hate it when he does that.” She pushed herself into a half push-up position and rolled so she was sitting instead of lying face down in the dirt. She looked up as the two boys reached her and then looked around, wiping some dirt off her face. “Where’s Diana?”
The other two looked around and called for her. It didn’t take them long to grasp that Diana wasn’t there. Within seconds of them making the realization the sky started to cloud over, and thunder could be heard rolling through the clouds as they lit up, lighting arching through them in an awe inspiring display of light.
‘This place didn’t have an atmosphere before, where’d…oh right Aislinn,’ halfway through his thought he remembered what Hermes and Drake had explained to him about Aislinn and her Godling status. He looked down at Aislinn cautiously, and blinked when, in the distance behind her, he saw a funnel cloud forming. Turning to Drake he said, “I take it when you said when Aislinn gets pissed off you’re better off indoor’s this is what you meant?” He waved in the direction of the soon to be tornado.
“Yeah, it was. Nike, you need to calm down.” Drake was thinking fast, they needed her calm – or at least as calm as she could be with her best friend in danger. “You blowing shit up is not going to help the situation; it’s not going to help Diana. Calm down!” He shouted the last part as a lightning bolt struck the top of the cliff, raining dirt and rocks down on the three teens
“For the love of Zeus, Aislinn, settle down before you kill someone. You and James are mortal remember! You will most likely die if you’re struck by one of your bolts; save your anger for Thanatos and his brothers, they’re the ones that deserve it!”
Aislinn sat on the ground, her hands gripping her pant legs in an iron grip; her eyes were clenched shut as she tried to control her infamous temper. When one is the daughter of a storm god one comes to expect anger management issues. While Drake was used to her blow ups and could survive them, James wasn’t and couldn’t.
Aislinn took several deep breaths and the raging typhoon around them settled to a more survivable level. “Sorry,” she mumbled as she got to her feet, dusting herself off. “So now that we know my ability to think clearly has been shot all to hell…what do we do Drake?”
“We continue with the original plan. We head up to Olympus and go and tell your dad what’s going on so he can do something about it. Or we get tools so we can do something about it ourselves.”
The other two nodded and followed Drake as he led the way back to his boat. They patted Cerberus as they walked out of the gate. He growled as James walked by, but when James turned to look, he noticed that a few Shades had tried to sneak out with them. They quickly ran back through the gate when Cerberus made to chase them.
The boat ride back across seemed a lot shorter than it had on the way there, probably because of the urgency of the situation. The boat gave a final burst of speed and surged up onto the opposite bank and onto dry land. Drake hopped out and quickly tied the boat to a tree. Aislinn was already heading towards the elevator, not even bothering to wait for the two young men. She hit the sapphire ‘up’ button and tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the doors to open. By the time the two boys had reached her, the doors were just sliding open. They all stepped inside and James noticed that the panel had changed. ‘Underworld’ was no longer an option instead the ruby buttons read Main, Level 2, and Olympus. Drake pushed the button labelled Olympus and the doors of the elevator whooshed closed.
Just as James got settled against the back wall of the elevator he felt it starting to move. The ride up was much faster than the ride down had been, within seconds the elevator had slowed and the telltale ‘ding’ announcing that they had arrived sounded.
The doors opened to reveal a view that was almost disappointing to James, as its very essence embodied the textbook definition of the word cliché.
While there were no written records about what Olympus had actually looked like most people described it as being a city in the clouds. The media, both literary, picture and film, described the Home of the Gods as being a city in the clouds. Even old paintings show the gods looking down on earth from the clouds.
James had been hoping for something that would break away from the cliché, but he supposed it worked. White fluffy clouds that stood out against the night sky that was over Olympus surrounded the stone pathway. The clouds though were quickly turning black in response to Aislinn’s anger. On either side of the path were six statues, each one depicting a different Olympian god or goddess. The two closest to the elevator were the two Olympians of least importance or influence, and worked its way up in order of importance. The two statues closest to the end of the pathway – at the foot of a set of stairs – were of Zeus and Hera.
James could see beautifully constructed palaces in the distance and turned to Drake and Aislinn, “Those palaces aren’t actually sitting on clouds are they?”
“No, we’re on top of Mount Olympus in Greece. The Mountain is actually a lot bigger than what mortals see; you can fit a city the size of New York and half again that size up here.”
Aislinn interrupted their conversation when she pointed at the foot of the steps where a figure was standing, “Who’s that?” She had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Drake looked where she was pointing. “Hmm, oh it’s probably one of the Horae.”
“There are three of them and they don’t show themselves unless their opening the gate and they wouldn’t start to open it when we’re way back here.”
Drake looked like he wanted to argue the point but he knew that she had a point. “Damn, I hate it when you’re right. Who could it be though?”
As they got closer and closer, the feeling in Aislinn’s stomach started getting worse and worse. Once they rounded the bend in the path and the moon wasn’t directly behind the person they got a better look at their face. Drake and Aislinn’s stomach dropped to the path they were walking on once they realized who it was.
“We are so fucked.” Aislinn muttered. While she wasn’t usually one to swear, the sight of her stepmother was enough to have her turning the sky blue with her cussing.
“What, why, who is that?”
“My stepmother, Hera”
“What’s so bad about that?”
“What does Hera usually do to the illegitimate children of Zeus, James? Cause I assure you it has nothing to do with puppies and rainbows.”
“Oh, right…Eep!” His voice had gone up a few octaves, making him squeak.
“Yeah exactly, if I wasn’t so pissed off, I’d be feeling a lot like that right now, too.”
Drake smile was only a tad predatory, “Oh, really? And how exactly are you feeling towards your dear stepmother right now, Nike?”
The three teens stopped at as safe a distance they could get from the queen of the gods, and not have to yell at one another to be heard.
“Nicole,” Hera never used Aislinn’s given name, only her middle as it was Greek. It also annoyed Aislinn to no end, and she suspected that was the real reason Hera refused to call her anything else.
The Queen of the gods was a handsome woman with mahogany coloured hair, and dark blue eyes. Her hair had wisps of silver throughout giving her an elderly, but dignified air. She wore a pale blue, Chiton; on her feet were brown opened toed sandals that had straps crossing over the arch of the foot and around the ankle. Sitting atop her head was a simple, yet elegant, silver tiara, adorned with Peridots.
“Hello Hera. We need to go and speak to Zeus. Would you mind opening the gate?”
“Why do you need to see my husband?” She said it like she was curious but Aislinn and Drake could tell that she really didn’t care.
“Does it really matter? And since when do I have to have a reason to come and visit him, anyway? He is my father after all.”
Drake groaned mentally at Aislinn’s lack of tact. She usually knew better than to speak like that to Hera, but with Diana having been kidnapped, and the situation down on earth going to hell in a hand basket, she wasn’t in the best of moods, to put it mildly.
“You dare speak to me like that?
Drake decided to step in before Aislinn said something that would get them killed, or worse. “Aunt Hera, I apologize for Nicole’s lack of respect, she’s a little upset at the moment. You see, a friend of ours, a mortal named Diana, was kidnapped by Hypnos, Thanatos, and Moros not that long ago. Not only that, but they seemed to have found a way to connect the Upper Realm and the Underworld together. We came here to tell you, Zeus, and the other gods what’s going on.”
Hera regarded the three young adults for a few moments before scoffing, “What tripe is this? Don’t you think that if something like that had happened we would already know about it? Your father –”
“My Father is incapacitated. I’d be surprised if he knew whether or not he was wearing pants, let alone that something was wrong with the Underworld. Plus you know that communication between Olympus and the Underworld is minimal at best.”
Aislinn was steadily loosing what grip she had on her temper. “We don’t have time for this.” She growled quietly at Drake, before returning her attention to Hera, raising her voice so the goddess could hear her, “Look, Aunt Hera, please move so we can go and talk to Zeus.” She said it politely but her tone was more exasperated than it was polite.
Hera took it as a demand, not a request. “And if I don’t?”
That’s when Drake and Aislinn realized that she wasn’t going to move, not without either a fight or a really good reason; they suspected it to be more the former than the latter. James was trying to make it over to the statue of Ares, as unobtrusively as possible, sensing the danger as well. Drake and Aislinn tried to gauge whether or not Hera was going to attack them.
Aislinn regarded Hera critically before saying, “Dad usually knows when I’m coming, what is it that you have done that he’s not intervening right now?”
Hera just smiled and raised a hand.
After a few moments of the three teens scanning the area around them James pointed off in the distance, to the left behind Hera, “Hey guy’s is that cloud moving oddly to you, or is it just me?”
Aislinn and Drake looked towards where he was pointing. There was a dark cloud that was indeed moving towards them at a much faster pass than a cloud should be able to.
“Um…don’t some ‘myths’ say that one of the animals sacred to Hera are crows?”
“Yeah, so? What can a few little crows do to us?” Drake asked, looking at Hera out of the corner of his eye derisively.
He and Aislinn both had to throw themselves to the ground as a crow the size of a small horse swooped down over them, it’s talons grasping as it tried to grab at the back of their shirts.
Aislinn rolled onto her back and as she sat up she threw a handful of lighting at the crow as it turned around to take another pass. She cried out as another crow flew past her, its talon raking across her arm, scoring it deep enough to draw blood. She could hear Hera laughing as the sky filled with hundreds of giant crows. “Little crows? Little crows! Drake, if we live through this, I’m getting Apollo to help me feed you to Scylla!”
“Yeah, yeah, you say that like this is my fault? James duck behind one of those statues while we take care of these flying pillow stuffers, would you?” Drake rolled his eyes as he squared his shoulders, summoning twin balls of blue hellfire, one in each hand.
James not needing to be told twice, dodged a low flying crow and dove behind the nearest statue, which coincidently enough was the statue of Artemis. Not being particularly religious, but deciding that now was as good a time as any to start, James sent up a quick prayer to anyone that was listening, Asking for protection for him and his friends from the murderous murder of crows, and the crazy goddess that commanded them.
He peeked out from behind the statue just in time to see Drake get knocked over as a crow flew low, its large talons knocking into the back of his head. Drake shook a fist at the bird as he climbed back to his feet, and Aislinn was letting loose some rather vulgar curses at both the crows and Hera, touching on her sexual preferences and what she does with her peacocks when she’s alone.
‘We are so doomed.’
The sky was filled with cawing as hundreds of crows swooped around Drake and Aislinn as they fought to defend themselves, and take out as many of the crows as possible, while trying to acquire as few injuries as possible. After years of working with both her father and her half-brother Apollo, Aislinn was just as fast as Zeus was with his lightning bolts, and had impeccable aim. The crows, though, were proving to be excellent flyers and always managed to move out of the way just in the nick of time. Swooping, diving, and rolling out of the way, as if they thought this was a game. Their antics weren’t helping Aislinn’s mood any, and since the crows always stayed high in the air, except for when they swooped down on the two teenagers, Drake wasn’t having much luck trapping them with vines either.
“Say Nike; do you think you can create a net of electricity or something to force them lower to the ground? With them so high I’m not much help.” He tossed a ball of fire, only managing to singe some tail feathers.
“If you want me passing out in about 30 seconds, then yeah I could. But then as soon as I pass out the net will disappear.”
“Fuck! Ouch! Bloody feathered menace!” Blue fire gathered in his hands and he tossed it at the tail feathers of the crow that had just scratched his talons across his upper right shoulder. “Well that’s just fantastic isn’t it?” Whether he was complaining about her not being able to create a net or the fact that the crow had wrecked one of his favourite shirts, Aislinn wasn’t quite sure. She immediately pushed the thought aside as she was forced once again to evade the grasping talons of one of the crows.
As she ducked and rolled underneath one of the hundreds of crows that were trying their best to kill her and her friends Aislinn’s cell phone rang, the “Imperial March” from Star Wars ringing out from her pocket, ironically meshing with the sounds of battle and cawing. She answered it as she came to her feet, throwing a lightning bolt at a crow that was getting too close to James’ hiding spot. “Mark?”
“Honey where are you? It’s almost time for dinner.”
“Mom?” She was confused, but relieved at the same time. Why was her Mom calling her from Mark’s cell phone? “I’m a little busy at the moment; just put a plate in the microwave for me, Kay?”
She ducked as another crow made a grab for her, just narrowly missing her face. She moved the phone away from her mouth, tucking it against her chest, before yelling, “Stupid bird! Fight fair!” She threw a lightning bolt at the feathered menace but missed as it winged away, higher into the sky. It cawed as if laughing at her attempts to hurt it.
She brought the phone back to her ear in time to hear her mother ask, “What’s that noise I hear?”
“It’s nothing Mom. Just a movie on TV, I’m at Drake’s.”
Drake dropped to the ground and ended up landing on his back, after the crow he had set on fire dropped him. He rolled to his left dodging another crow then got to his feet, summoning a Shade as he did so. “Is that your mom Nike? Hi Mrs. Douglas! Ha-ha! Eat zombie warrior you winged bastard!” One of the stupider crows had glided too close to the ground, giving Drake’s hastily summoned dead warrior a chance to take it down. Drake cackled madly as the warrior-Shade made short, bloody work of the avian menace.
“Zombie…! Aislinn Nicole Carter! What is going on?”
“Um can’t explain right now, I’ll call you back later. Just stay in the house until I say you can come out, okay? Love you, bye!” Aislinn flipped her phone shut and stuffed it back into her pocket, throwing another lighting bolt, this time hitting one of the crows in its chest. The smell of burnt flesh and feathers filled the air.
The sight and smell of one of their own dying incited the crows to a greater degree of violence. She ‘eeped’ and ducked, covering her head with her arms as four crows dove at her, one managed to get close enough and raked its talons across the upper portion of her right arm.
“Okay, this isn’t going all that great.”
“No really? I hadn’t noticed that on my own Capitan Obvious, thanks for pointing it out.” Aislinn bit out sarcastically and her temper finally snapped causing the sky to light up with large lightning bolts that arched across the sky.
Drake watched as a few of the bolts struck around them, but nowhere near them or the crows to do much good. “Aim those things at the birds, will you?”
“You are not helping Drake!” She made a rude gesture in his direction but did try to gain some semblance of control over the storm that was raging over their heads. All she really managed to do was make it worse. ‘Dad makes this look so bloody easy!’ Needless to say it wasn’t going very well.
James watched as his friends struggled for their lives and his as well, without much success. The crows were slowly, but surely gaining ground, getting closer and closer to killing his friends with each pass. ‘I wish there was something I could do to help them. Someone please help.’
James clenched his eyes shut after he saw Aislinn get knocked over by a crow, blood spurting from a new wound in her shoulder. As he started to open them again, her heard a soft melodic voice from somewhere nearby. He looked around trying to locate the source of the voice, but saw no one. He shook his head passing it off as fear induced insanity. He watched Aislinn and Drake take down two more crows with lighting and blue fire and then dodge quickly to avoid becoming mince meat, when he heard the voice again.
This time making out what it was saying. “I will help you help your friends. All you need do is listen.”
James nodded, though he wasn’t sure why. There was no one there, and he was pretty sure he was going insane but he figured why the hell not, his world had gone through the looking glass Saturday anyway.
“Good boy. Hold out your dominant hand, like your holding a small amount of water.” James did as he was told and cupped his right hand. “Good, now picture a ball of light sitting on your hand, moonlight.”
James had never been very good at visualizations so instead of a ball of moonlight he just pictured the moon. The voice laughed softly, “That works too. Now start to close your hand around it, and visualize that as you’re closing your hand the light is going out. Keep going until all the light is gone.”
Deciding he had nothing to lose, and that going through with the crazy plan from the voice of the invisible woman inside his head, was better than sitting there and doing nothing, James attempted the visualization.
It seemed to take forever but in less than a minute he heard yells of surprise and the frightened cawing of confused crows. He opened his eyes and saw nothing. The sky had gone completely black. With only the occasional flashes of light coming from the electric bolts that were still arching through the air.
After a few moments of surprised silence Drake and Aislinn laughed and started picking off the crows one by one. Since they couldn’t see where they were going, the crows were all flying around in a panic. Aislinn threw lightning at the crows making them fly lower and lower, until they were close enough to the ground for Drakes zombies to go to work.
After ten minutes of being ruthlessly slaughtered by zombies and roasted by lightning bolts and hell-fire the crows realized that they were losing. Deciding to save what of their number they had left, they fled the scene. Aislinn tossed a few more bolts at their retreating forms for good measure.
James stepped out from behind the statue and did the reverse of what he had done to turn out the lights. When the moon was once again shining on Olympus he noticed Aislinn and Drake smiling at him, both covered in blood and sweat.
“Thanks for the hand.”
“Yeah I thought we were done for, for awhile there.”
“Well you would have been done for, I would have been fine.”
“Shut up Drake.”
“Why don’t you two seem surprised that I was able to do…whatever it was that I just did?” James looked between the two in confusion, waving his hands around him to indicate the light.
“Oh, we’ve always known you had divine parentage, we just didn’t know who your mother was.” Drake was looking around the area where they had fought the crows. Hera was nowhere to be found, she had fled soon after the sky had darkened. She knew that at that point it was only a matter of time before her crows were defeated.
James looked at Drake like he was crazy. “How could you know?”
“That’s easy,” Aislinn explained. “Children of gods – demi-gods and Godlings – and other gods can sense one another. That day we first met you we got this odd tingling feeling at the backs of our necks. You were the only new student in that class so we knew it was you.”
“Oh.” James vaguely recalled the odd feeling he had gotten in that class as well when he had briefly made eye-contact with Drake and Aislinn before meeting them, officially, and the same one he constantly had while hanging out with them. “So where’d Hera run off to?”
Drake gave him a droll look, “Would you stick around if you were losing, and risk having to face the wrath of two teens with divine powers and supremely bad tempers?”
“No I suppose not. So where are we off to now?”Aislinn pointed at the cloud gates that were already opening. “Through there, we’re heading to Zeus’ Palace. It’s the big building at the top of the path. You can’t miss it.”