Two Godlings, one god, and one unconscious mortal stumbled out of the Door and into a spacious foyer made of marble. Aislinn caught her balance, only to be bumped into by James, and a still dead-to-the-world Diana. Drake stepped out calmly, feet still bare, and glanced down at the pile of limbs and weapons that was his friends before stepping over them and walking farther into the room, the Door swirling closed behind him. James and Aislinn pulled faces at his back before the between the two of them, picked Diana up and moved her over to one of the large pillars that surrounded the foyer.
Once they had Diana settled, Aislinn straightened up and took a good look at her surroundings, turning in a slow circle. On the floors where animal skin rugs, of the large and potentially deadly variety, Lions, Tigers, Chimeras, and other such ferocious animals. On the walls were spears and swords of all makes and ages, crossbows, shields, some of the weapons even had dried, crusted blood on them. Once she had done a full turn of the room she looked over towards the young prince and stalked over to him, hands balled into fists shaking angrily at her sides.
She took a calming breath before she spoke, so she wouldn’t do or say anything she would probably regret later. “So, Drake, you want to tell me just what the hell we’re doing at Ares place instead of at one of the healing pools, or in Apollo’s home at least? If case you’ve forgotten Ares does not like me.”
Drake just raised a black eyebrow and regarded her calmly, ignoring the bits of electricity dancing around her fingers, and James pulling Diana with him behind the pillar they had leaned her against. James had yet to see Aislinn’s temper and he wanted to stay ignorant, at least for a little while. The fact that Drake could address her calmly and not want to run in terror impressed the lanky teen, just a little bit. “Where would we be safer Aislinn, at a healing pool, or in the god of war’s home?”
She pointed a finger under his nose and opened her mouth to refute his answer, but no sound came out. Her hand began to fall back to her side but she brought it back up to try again, but again she didn’t say anything. Her hand dropped and she glared at the floor. “Fine. But I don’t have to like it and I’m not going to talk to him. And just so you know if he says anything, I’m roasting his sexist-immortal ass.”
“Okay that’s fair.” Drake that knew that out of all her immortal half-siblings, Ares was the only one she didn’t get along with. Well him and Aphrodite, but that’s a different story. While usually he wouldn’t even think of bringing Ares and Aislinn within 100 leagues of the other, he also knew that they needed a safe place to make a Door from, and there was no place safer than Ares home on Olympus. The only problem was while they could create a Door into the god of wars home they couldn’t create one out without Ares permission.
So cringing in preparation for the explosion that was the clash of Aislinn and Ares’ tempers, he walked over to a large bronze gong that was hanging on the wall opposite the entrance to the Palace. Taking a deep breath in trepidation he swung his left leg around and kicked the gong as hard as he could; which was when he remembered that he no longer had shoes. He hopped up and down on his now injured foot, nursing two broken toes, as a deep bass sound rang out from the large cymbal filling the foyer with noise, causing the two Godlings to cover their ears. Diana, still under the affects of Hypnos’ dust, slept on, oblivious to the noise around her.
As the sound faded away the two friends uncovered their ears – Drake stopped hopping around – and looked around, but didn’t see anyone. James set Diana back against the pillar, she had fallen over soon after Drake had kicked the gong, and James had had his ears covered and hadn’t been able to right her until then. After he had finished he stood up and glanced around the room, “Maybe he’s not home.”
“Well let’s hope he is, otherwise we can’t get out of here.” Drake grumped as he stole a pair of well worn black leather boots that he found sitting behind one of the many shields that were lined up against the walls.
James looked over at Drake in confusion, raising an eyebrow at his immortal friend. “You said something like that when we were at Hephaestus’s forge, what do you mean?”
Now it was Drake’s turn to look confused, he stared at James for a few seconds trying to understand why he would ask such a question. “What do you mean “What do I mean?”…Oh yeah that’s right this is all new to you, I keep forgetting.”
“Yes that’s right, I’m the mortal that just found out he wasn’t completely normal and has an immortal goddess for a mother.” James rolled his eyes in exasperation at Drakes memory, or lack thereof. “Now are you going to tell me why we can’t get out of here without Ares being here, or do I have to guess?”
“Because we’re in another god’s home and we came in unannounced and unexpected, we need to have Ares permission to create a Door out of here. It’s a weird rule, but I think it’s another one of those unexplainable laws of the universe.”
Aislinn through her arms up in the air in frustration, “Well that’s just fantastic we could be stuck here for only the gods know how long and…hey wait a second. Why don’t we just carry Diana out of Ares place and create a Door from there?” Aislinn stopped mid-rant and turned to look questioningly at Drake her arms still in the air, making her look rather ridiculous.
Before Drake could answer a new voice broke in on the conversation, and they didn’t sound happy. “Create a Door, from where? And what is she doing in my home?”
The three conscious teens turned to look behind Drake to see who had spoken, though they already had a pretty good guess. Standing next to the bronze gong, pointing an angry finger in Aislinn’s direction, was Ares, god of War, Bloodshed, and the instigator of violence, probably the only god everyone on Olympus hated. Except for Hera; Hera liked him. If only for the reason that he was a legitimate son and the two of them shared a mutual dislike of Aislinn.
“There you are Ares, where have you been?” Drake asked, ignoring Aislinn who was flipping off the taller man and pulling rude faces as she made her way over to check on Diana, making sure she was still asleep.
“I’ve been in my viewing room, watching what’s happening down on earth. You guy’s got your asses handed to you.”
“I thought I heard someone laughing when Moros knocked me down.” Aislinn glared over at the rough looking god.
He crossed his arms over his a barrel chest, which was covered by sleeveless deer hide shirt, the kind worn beneath armour, and leaned against the pillar that was next to the gong, sending a condescending smirk towards his half-sister. “Yeah, that was me. Pretty fun watching you go ass over feet like that.” He crossed one leg over the other, muscled legs clothed in dark blue jeans, no shoes where on his feet.
Aislinn looked over her shoulder at her half-brother, her grey ringed-green eyes dark and narrowed in suspicion, “You must be enjoying what’s happening on earth, eh Ares? All the fighting, the violence, the bloodshed? What I find odd though is that those three usually can’t make pitchers hold water, let alone concoct a plan like this.” Lightning crackled erratically along her right arm, the one that was closest to Ares.
Ares drew himself up to his full height of 6’ and stalked over towards where Aislinn was crouched down next to Diana and James. “What are you implying, little mortal.” The air around Ares rippled and his clothes were replaced with armour, a black muscled cuirass with leather strips hanging down around his waist to about mid thigh, as he walked the black short-type garment her wore underneath could be seen, a two and half foot bronze broad sword appeared in his right hand, and a black metal shield appeared on his left arm.
Drake quickly put himself between the irate god and Aislinn, tossing a look over his shoulder that clearly told her to shut it. “She’s not implying anything, Ares. Nicole’s just upset that we lost and is looking for someone to take her frustrations out on.” His own sword appeared, scabbard slung across his back, the hilt showing from behind his right shoulder, prepared to defend his outspoken friend if need be. “Now if you will let me make a Door we will get out of your home and out of your way. All right?”
Ares moved his glare from Aislinn to Drake, “Fine but next time you drop by, leave that thing,” he pointed his sword at the still glaring, lightning wielding Godling, “on earth. Understood?”
“No problem,” he nodded and quickly moved away from the now pissed War god. Once he was sure that Ares wasn’t going to do anything, he vanished his own sword, and quickly strode over to where the other three were gathered around the large pearl grey, marble pillar. He crouched down and motioned for James to put Diana up on his back, all the while he glared at Aislinn, who just glared right back, though Drake could see in her eyes that she acknowledged that what she had done was stupid. While he and Aislinn were both excellent fighters and probably could have gotten out alive, Diana or James, or both, most likely would not have made it. Her pride just wouldn’t allow her to admit it out loud.
Drake stood up once James had Diana settled on his back, he flicked his fingers at the air in front of him and a Door swirled into existence. He turned his still angry charcoal eyes on Aislinn and motioned her to go through first. Aislinn jumped through the Door still avoiding both of her friends’ eyes, internally wishing that she didn’t have such a temper, or such a big mouth. James quickly followed keeping an eye on the still armoured and battle ready Ares, then he too vanished through the swirling portal. Once his friends were safely through Drake nodded at Ares, acknowledging and thanking him for allowing them to pass safely through his home, despite Aislinn’s insult. Ares nodded in return, his armour disappearing, Drake smirked and walked through the Door after his friends.
Only to almost fall to the floor upon reaching the other side when he bumped into James and Aislinn, who had not moved very far away from the portal once they had made it through. He managed to catch himself by reaching out and putting a hand on James’ shoulder. “You know you guys could have moved farther away from the Door. Just a thought for next time.” He hadn’t bothered to look over his friends shoulders to see what had made them stop, just moved over to one of the kitchen chairs and gently set Diana onto it making sure she wouldn’t fall over.
“Father, what are you doing here?”
Drake straightened so fast his back cracked. James winced as the sound echoed throughout the otherwise silent kitchen. Who Drake saw sitting on his kitchen counter almost made him want to go back through the Door and fight the brothers all over again.
Leaning against the black granite counter top was none other than Zeus himself, long wavy auburn hair, a slightly darker colours than Aislinn’s, hung freely around his shoulders, and a beard of the same colour covered the lower half of his face, though you could tell that the man wasn’t smiling. Green eyes glittered out from underneath thick, but sculpted brows.
He pushed off the counter to stand in front of Aislinn; he put one massive hand on her shoulder and looked down at her, taking in her dirty clothes and multitude of injuries. She had a lump under her ear where Moros’ fist caught her; it would be a spectacular bruise in a day or two. Her right arm, the arm she usually blocked with since she was left handed, had blood from mid upper arm all the way to her finger tips, it was dried and crusted, her sleeve was soaked with the red, life giving liquid. The cut that the blood had come from was on her upper arm and almost went all the way around her bicep; it still seemed to be bleeding, but it was slow, signalling that it would be stopping soon. She had other cuts and scrapes, but those were the worst.
Anger welled up in the ancient god at seeing his daughter so injured, his green eyes darkened to nearly black and his mouth compressed into a line so tight it became nearly invisible. Wind rushed in his ears so loud he could barely hear himself think, outside lightning struck and thunder crashed so loud it shook the house, knocking a picture off the wall where it fell and crashed to the floor, glass case shattering into hundreds of tiny pieces.
The ancient god nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt something touch his arm; instead he just looked down sharply. Aislinn’s hand rested on his forearm and a small smile was on her face. “Calm down Dad, I’m fine. Really,”
He raised an eyebrow and looked at her sceptically, but the thunder quieted and the lightning ceased to flash. “I highly doubt that, but seeing as how you are still standing I’ll take your word for it.” His eyes then moved to look at the other occupants of the room. James looked confused and kept looking back and forth between Zeus and Aislinn. Drake looked nervous about having his grandfather/uncle in his home. He turned his gaze back to Aislinn only to find that she was glaring up at him in annoyance. “Yes?”
“I’m not made of lace, Father. I am mortal yes, but I’m not going to break the moment someone hits me.” She pushed his hand off her shoulder and crossed her arms, glaring up at the king of the gods. The action of crossing her arms caused the wound on her arm to tear a little bit and a rivulet of blood flowed done her arm to her elbow, where it then dripped down to the red-orange tiled floor. Aislinn didn’t give any sign that she noticed other than a slight tightening of her eyes.
“You, Apollo, and Athena have been training me to defend myself since I was 14. Have faith that what you taught me and my own desire to not want to die is enough to keep me alive. I refuse to sit at home while my friends fight to keep me and everyone else safe just because you think I might get hurt. All I’m asking is that you trust me. Please?”
Zeus stared at Aislinn, surprised that she had the strength of self to give him such a dressing down. Aislinn was usually wary of angering her immortal father and hardly if ever talked back to him, preferring to take out her anger and frustrations on training dummies, or in her spars with Apollo and Hermes, who didn’t mind if she vented at them. “All right, daughter. I will trust in your ability to look after yourself. But do try and be careful.”
Aislinn grinned up at him again, pleased to see that her message had gotten through to the usually stubborn god. “Thanks Dad,”
Drake decided that this would be a good time to speak up, now that the tension in the room had lessened enough that it no longer felt like a physical force. “Now that that’s all cleared up, may I ask what you’re doing here grandfather? Not that your presence isn’t welcome or anything, I’m just curious.”
Zeus had always made the young god nervous, mostly because he didn’t like Hades’ son, but usually kept his remarks to himself out of respect for his older brother and love for his daughter, both Persephone and Aislinn. Drake flinched involuntarily when Zeus looked at him, but managed to maintain eye contact.
James looked back and forth in confusion. He remembered the derision that most of the gods on Olympus had shown Drake, as if they resented him for breathing. Zeus had a similar expression on his face, but it was not as hostile as those of his fellows had been, most likely because Drake was his grandson, but James wasn’t sure. Once everything was over he would have to ask Aislinn what that was all about. If he survived the battles to come that is.
After regarding the two Godlings and young immortal for a few moments Zeus spoke, “I came here to offer a small piece of advice to help you along on your quest.” The three friends looked at him attentively; any bit of help that they could get would be welcome. “You need to start at the beginning before you can finish the end.”
“Wait, what?” The three looked at Zeus like he had suddenly told them that the sky was green and the grass was blue, and had the proof to back it up.
“With the Underworld expanding as it is Moros and Thanatos’ powers grow stronger, though Hypnos’ power remains the same he should not be taken lightly. And yes, though Drake’s powers are growing as well, he is only one man. You need to start at the beginning before you can finish the end.”
Aislinn’s mind was racing in confusion and she shook her head to try and clear it, “But Dad, time travel is strictly forbidden, unless under the most dire of circumstances, you told me this yourself years ago.”
“That is true yes, but Aislinn, when did I mention time-travel in this conversation?” With those parting words Zeus waved a hand and stepped through the Door that appeared to his left, leaving the three friends staring at the spot he had occupied in bewilderment, trying to wrap their minds around the puzzle that had been given to them.
The silence was broken a few moments later with an angry shout from Aislinn, “Zeus’ Bolts! Why must gods always speak in bloody ridiculous riddles?” Aislinn continued to mumble at herself as she walked over to the counter. Once she reached the counter she started pulling out first aid supplies from the bag they had left on the counter earlier that day; she pulled out some alcohol swabs, gauze, and medical tape.
Drake looked up when he heard the kitchen sink turn on and then off again, Aislinn had wet down a cloth and was using it to clean out her cut. He walked over and ripped one of the swab packages open and handed it to his friend. She muttered her thanks as she took it from him and brought it up to the cut.
“So any idea what your dad meant, Nike?” He handed her the gauze and cut a length of medical tape as she wrapped the cloth around her arm a few times.
“Nope, not a clue. I don’t see why gods just can’t give us straight answers. I mean we’d still have to do all the work.” She nodded her thanks as Drake finished tying off her bandage, flexing her arm to make sure it would hold.
“Because it would be interfering too much, if they give us a clue and we figure it out on our own that’s fine but anything other than that…” Drake just shrugged and tossed the medical supplies back into the first-aid kit. “What about you James, any ideas?” He opened the cupboard next to the sink and pulled out three cups.
James was leaning against the fridge arms crossed over his battle rumpled blue t-shirt, head bowed as he stared intently at the floor as he thought. “Not yet, no. What was it he said, ‘Go back to the beginning’?”
“Yeah, that sounds right,”
“But that doesn’t make any sense, the beginning of what!” Aislinn pounded her fist against the counter, which didn’t really do much other than cause the young Godling to yelp and cradle her hand against her chest. “Ow, that was dumb.”
“Don’t hit the counter, it has feelings too, you know.” Drake wagged his finger at her as he filled the glasses with water from the tap. He handed them around to his two conscious friends and then walked over to the table to check on Diana.
James reached up one lanky arm and scratched the back of his head, “What if he meant it both literally and figuratively?”
Both Drake and Aislinn turned perplexed faces towards him at the question, “Say again?”
“Just what I said, we can’t go back in time, like you said it’s forbidden, but we have to go back to the beginning to stop the three stooges. What if he meant the beginning of the brothers’ plan?”
“Wouldn’t that still involve time travel, going back to stop their plan before it even starts?”
“No it doesn’t, I think I get what James is saying Aislinn.”
“Really enlighten me then,”
“We have to stop their plan from the beginning, from its source.”
Aislinn tilted her head to the side as she looked at them; both had huge grins on their faces. She sighed “I still don’t get it.”
“We have to fix the rivers and get everything back to the way it was, only then will we have any type of chance at stopping Thanatos and the others.”
Aislinn nodded finally understanding what her friends were trying to tell her. “That’s great, but we still have no idea as to how they even pulled this off in the first place.”Drake quickly downed his glass of water and stood up from the table. “I think we need to pay Charon another visit.”