The front landing of Drake’s home in the Upper Realm was dark and quiet as the three heroes stepped out of the Door. The lights were all off and the hum of the appliances, which you could usually hear, was conspicuously absent. Drake toggled the light switch next to the front door. Nothing; the power was out. Aislinn and James, who still couldn’t hear, looked at Drake oddly when he summoned his sword but followed suit, trusting the god’s judgment. Drake motioned Aislinn to cover the left while he took the right, both pressed up against the hallway walls as close as they could, without being part of them. This left the middle clear for James, who had by this time nocked two arrows to his bow, string pulled halfway back ready to let them fly at a moments notice.
Drake had point, leaving Aislinn to watch his back as well as keep an eye on the rear, making sure no one could sneak up behind James. Drake was almost positive that there was nothing amiss, as only a select few gods could get into his home without permission, but with all that had happened today, his new philosophy was shaping up to be ‘better safe than dead’. As they got closer to the end of the hall Drake thought he could hear voices whispering, but they were to quiet for him to make out properly. He wasn’t sure if they were friend or foe, but he had every intention of founding out.
Drake raised his left hand and signalled for James and Aislinn to hang back while he made sure the coast was clear, no egomaniacal gods waiting around the corner to separate their heads from their shoulders. He pressed his back harder against the wall, grip tightening around the hilt of his sword until his knuckles were white with tension. Before he could motion for Aislinn and James to move up the hall, Diana stuck her head around the corner, worried brown eyes took in the drawn weapons with nervousness.
James screamed, a sound that was echoed by Drake and Aislinn, and jerked his bow up at the last second, sending his two arrows into the ceiling instead of Diana’s chest and head. All three long-time friends turned frightened and accusing glares to the blonde, who was looking both annoyed and sheepish.
“What? You’re all just lucky that I have such good reflexes or those arrows would be in Diana, instead of the ceiling.”
“Why are you guys armed like that anyway? And where’d you even get weapons like those from?”
“We got the weapons from Hephaestus; we have them so that we can fight Thanatos and the others on, somewhat, even footing.” Drake explained as James reached a hand down to pull him to his feet; he had tripped in surprise when Diana had stuck her head around the corner. Once Drake was standing, James unstrung his bow, clipping the string to a special loop in the belt that had come with the bow; he then took the bow apart and stuck the two pieces into the quiver that was slung over his back. Aislinn was just finishing sliding her twin swords into the scabbards at her waist when James stepped around her, causing her to jump when he accidentally bumped her arm, she hadn’t heard him moving.Diana had just started to nod in understanding of Drakes explanation when her eyes went as wide as dinner plates, and all the colour drained from her face, leaving her looking ashen and sick. “Are they coming here, is that why you all had your weapons out?” She started to tremble, teeth chattering hard together and goose bumps rose up on her flesh, as if she had walked from a warm house out into a blizzard.
Drake loosened the grip on his sword and it vanished into what most immortals referred to as ‘god space’. He stepped over to the trembling teen and wrapped his arms around the much smaller girl’s shoulders. She chocked back a sob and buried her face in his chest, wrapping her own arms around Drake’s waist.
“Easy Di, it’s okay.” He rubbed one hand up and down the distraught girl’s back. “No one’s coming, we just wanted to stop by and make sure you were alright. It was just so quiet and I’m just so on edge that I overreacted, which made me forgot one very important thing.”
Diana sniffed and wiping the tears from over bright eyes looked up at him, “What’s that?”
He smiled down at her, the usual devil-may-care grin that he always wore, “No god – save a select few – can get into my house without permission. Thanatos and his brothers do not have permission to enter here.”
“That and they’d have to get by Ash and I first.” Drake and Diana turned to look at the woman that was now standing in the archway to the kitchen, one hand on her hip. James and Aislinn still couldn’t hear so they jumped when they turned to see who the other two were looking at, and found the woman who posed as Drake’s mother standing there. She was tall and thin, with a body type that would be described as willowy; which was fitting as willow was both her name, and the tree that she was a spirit of. Willow and her mate Ash were Dryads; their trees were on either side of the garden in the back yard, standing watch over the house.
“Exactly, see Diana, you have nothing to worry about, and neither do I.”
Diana smiled and hugged him once more before stepping back. “Okay. Thanks Drake.”
“Why are your friends so jumpy, Princeling? They keep twitching.” Willow had an amused look on her face as she watched the two Godlings who were standing a little ways away.
Drake looked over to where James and Aislinn were standing, James had succeeded in getting his arrows free and now stood nervously hand clenching around the arrows, and Aislinn kept looking around her nervously as if expecting something to jump out and attack her. “Oh, their eardrums have burst, so they can’t hear much of anything. Brontes’ voice was really loud.”
“So that’s why they have blood on their hands and faces? I was wondering.” Diana walked over to Aislinn and waved a hand in front of her best friends face, getting her attention. Aislinn grinned seeing her friend smiling and no longer upset, and pulled the shorter girl into a hug.
“How are you feeling Diana?” Her voice was a little louder than it usually was.
Diana made sure that Aislinn would be able to see her lips moving before answering, “Okay. My head hurts and I’m still finding all of this a little hard to take in.”
Aislinn looked away from her friend, biting at her lower lip and glancing off to the side. Guilt for not telling Diana about her heritage sooner, worming its way back into her chest. She looked up again when she felt Diana tap her sharply on the shoulder, her eyes met the annoyed look of Diana’s who was scowling at her. “It’s not your fault. I just need some more time to figure everything out for myself. Okay?"
Aislinn gave her a small smile and nodded, “Okay,”
Drake clapped his hands, loud enough that both temporary partially deaf teens could hear him. “Great, now that that’s all cleared up we really need to be getting to Apollo so he can fix your hearing.” He turned to look at Willow but before he could say anything she had interrupted him.
“Do not worry, Drake, the house will go into ‘lockdown’ as soon as you and your twitchy mortal friends leave. No one will get in.”
“Thanks Willow, that’s all I wanted to hear. All right kids, time to go.” He and Aislinn hugged Diana one more time, and Diana even gave James a quick hug causing the blonde to blush slightly, not used to such affection, especially from people he’s only known for a week. He patted her back awkwardly as she pulled away, a small smile was on his face; he was amazed at the amount of kindness Diana was showing someone she barely knew.
A Door swirled into existence on the wall behind Aislinn, through the door gleaming pools of water could be seen, surrounded by lush greenery and mountains. Aislinn looked over her shoulder, sensing the ancient magic. A grin split across her face once she recognized where the portal was taking them, and without needing to be told or shoved she jumped through. Drake shook his head and waved for James to go in next.
He waved one last time at Diana and the Dryad, Willow, then followed Aislinn through, a look of curiosity on his face as he tried to puzzle out where exactly this new place was in the world, that it was still so bright and sunny.
“This will be over before you know it Diana, and then things will go back to normal. Well as normal as things can get for us anyway,” He raised a hand in farewell and hopped through the magicked gateway. As the Door was closing Diana could see another opening on the other side, and a man stepped out. He had black hair that fell to his shoulders in soft waves and blue eyes, which from the crowfeet around them were usually crinkled in laughter, he looked grimly at the three as they approached him. Before she could get a better look and determine who the handsome man was the portal vanished, leaving Diana alone with nothing but her thoughts, worries, and Willow for company.
Apollo greeted the three heroes with none of his usual spark; he was annoyed at the happenings on Earth and with his cousins for ruining its beauty for their own twisted ends and amusement. The poison of the Underworld had yet to reach his Healing Springs that were hidden deep within the Rhodope Mountains – the mountain range the lies between Greece and Bulgaria – but it would soon and when that happened the Springs would become useless. Even if after it reached the Springs and the process were reversed the waters would for ever be tainted and would no longer have healing qualities.
“I hope you have good news for me cousin. Sister,”
“If you’re referring to the situation with the leaking rivers, then yes we have good news. The Cyclops, Brontes, is fixing the wall as we speak, and the Shades I sent to fix Lethe have done that, and Hector said he told Father about both “leaks” and that Hades is now pulling the poisoned water back into the Underworld. It’ll take a few days to fix, but the infection will spread no farther than it already has.”
“Good, I would have been pissed if it had reached here, and may have had to go and extract my own brand of revenge on Thanatos and…Drake, why are Aislinn and your newest addition to your little band of merry men looking so confused?”
“They can’t hear anything; Brontes burst their eardrums when he was yelling at us.”
Apollo stared at Drake surprised at the blasé way he described his friend’s injuries, “Right, come here you two.” He motioned for the Godling’s to follow him as he headed in the direction of one of the fountains that led the way into the Springs.
He stopped in front of one of the smaller ones, it looked like a bird bath, one of the ones with a little fountain tier to keep the water from going stagnant. Hanging from the fountain by a golden chain was a silver cup, a chalice with two handles that looked like laurels on wither side. He picked it up and dipped it into the water filling it. He waited until both Godlings’ were standing before him, then giving the mischievous grin he usually wore he up ended the cup over James’ head soaking it. He quickly refilled the chalice and before she had a chance to pull away, repeated the action with Aislinn.
“What the hell,”
“Can you hear me now?”
“Yes I can hear you, you evil immort…hey I can hear. Fantastic, thanks Apollo.”
“You’re welcome,” he was completely unfazed by Aislinn’s quick mood change and continued as if she hadn’t just been about to threaten his well being, and most likely his manhood. “Well you seem to have won one battle, so how goes the war?”
“Like an acrobat on a tightrope, it can fall either way. Either we beat them in the next encounter and finish this thing, or they beat us, probably kill James and Aislinn for kicks, and continue on their merry way.”
“Well we can’t have that, now can we? So what is the plan then, little Prince?”
“I’m taller than you are, and you know I hate it when you call me that.”
“Taller yes, but you are younger and less mature than I -”
“Please, grass is more mature than you are, cousin.” Apollo stuck his tongue out impudently at the younger god, which only proved Drake’s statement.
“Get back on track boys.”
“Right, the plan was after stopping here, to head up to Olympus and find out where the three stooges are, and then come up with a plan to stop them from there.”
“So in other words…”
“We have no plan,”
The four stared at each other for a few seconds, blank expressions on their faces before Apollo couldn’t take the hilarity of the situation any longer and started to laugh. It started as a choked off snicker, which made the three younger to glare at him for daring to poke fun at their lack of foresight. This, instead of quieting the god, only made him laugh louder, until he had worked up to a full belly laugh, complete with side holding and tears streaming down the sides of his face.
Seeing her half-brother in such hysterics had Aislinn’s own mouth tugging upwards into a small smile, until she too joined in his laughter. James and Drake only continued to look at the two, as if they had lost their minds.
“It’s really not that funny you guys,”
“No it’s not,” A Door appeared on the ground a few inches away from where the laughing siblings were standing. “Okay children, time to go to Olympus.” Drake gave an evil smirk, and even with the knowledge that he was going to pay for this later, running through his head waving big red “Danger” signs, he shoved Apollo and Aislinn’s shoulders and sent them tumbling backwards to fall through the gateway. He gave James a mock bow and motioned for him to go through first.”
“You just don’t want to be the first thing Aislinn sees when we come through.”
“Well duh, have you ever been shocked by one of her bolts? It doesn’t tickle, trust me.”
“Aw, a lovers quarrel, how sweet.” James laughed, and not wasting time waiting for Drake to catch up with what he had said, dropped through the portal and into Zeus’ Pavilion.
It only took Drake a second to realize what James had said, “We’re not dating, for Aphrodite’s sake. How many times do I have to say it?” Drake continued to grumble and mutter death threats and threaten violence towards the next person who implied that he and Aislinn were seeing one another.
Before even exiting the portal and landing on the white marble that made up Zeus’ Throne Pavilion, Drake could feel the tension and animosity in the air, and all of it was directed at himself and the two Godlings. Instead of standing right after he landed, he turned his crouch into a bow, managing to drop to one knee without falling over, or looking completely ridiculous. He stood and joined his friends just as they stood from their own bows, and before any of them could get a word in of the progress they’ve made, or to see if they can get help locating their quarry, Hera’s voice ripped into them like a starving animal on the first piece of food it’s seen in weeks.
“Why are you here? You should be on Earth, tracking Thanatos and his brothers. Why haven’t you stopped them yet, surely it cannot be that difficult.”
Athena stepped forward, interrupting her Queen, “The water from Styx is still poisoning that of the waters on Earth –”
“Father has been made aware of the situation, and is pulling the water back to the Underworld as we speak. Once we have caught Hypnos, Moros, and Thanatos and bring them back to Olympus for judgment I will return home and help him. The waters will spread no farther, of this I can assure you.”
“You’ve fixed the barriers then?”
“Yes Brontes is repairing the mess he’s made of the Wall, and my Shades have repaired the breach in Lethe’s banks, everything will return to normal before the week is out.”
“That still does not explain why you have not caught them yet, what could possibly excuse taking this long?”
Aislinn was kept from snapping at her step-mother by James’ hand on her shoulder, when she turned a questioning look to him he found him not looking in her direction at all, but at her Father. “Zeus, may we approach the Pool that you are all using to monitor the situation on Earth?”
Zeus regarded the younger Godling for a few moments before nodding his assent. The three friends bowed and approached the side of the basin.
“Do we have any idea as to where they are?”
“No. Only that they are no longer in your homely little town, or anywhere in your Country. They could be anywhere. I thought we told you to stop them in your city, before this progressed any further?”
Aislinn rolled her eyes at Hera’s snide remarks, but made sure that she didn’t see. “We were a little busy rescuing Diana, and trying not to get ourselves killed in the process.”
While Aislinn began a staring contest with Hera, Drake got permission to take over directing where the waters looked at on Earth. Having worked with Thanatos more than most of the gods on Olympus, besides Hermes, he knew his habits better and had a pretty good guess on where he was most likely to be.
“Now they have moved on, spreading the infection as they go, and soon even with the Wall between the Realms fixed, they will be to strong for weaklings such as you to stop.”
“Do you have anything at all helpful to say, or are you just going to be a Negative-Nancy about this whole thing? We’re doing you guys a –” James hand slapped over her mouth before she could finish her sentence.
“You really have no brain-mouth filter at all do you?” his mouth was right next to her ear, so no one else could hear him.
Hera’s face had gone through a rainbow of colours, purple, puce, and other shades of anger before finally settling on a livid red. However before she could curse Aislinn a crow of triumph from Drake brought everyone’s attention to the despised young god. “Found the bastards. They’re in New York; Thanatos said it’d been his favourite city for years, all the murders, suicides, and what not, lots of souls for him to collect.”
“Where exactly in New York are they?” James, still with his hand around Aislinn’s head preventing her from talking and digging her grave any deeper, walked over to stand beside Drake, dragging Aislinn with him.
“Hmm, let’s see; zoom out a bit, The Museum of Natural History.”
The gathered gods and mortals watched the scene in the water with a mixture of anger, disgust, and disinterest. The usually lush green Central Park now looked like nothing more than the ancient remnants of Pompeii. There were no leaves on any of the trees or bushes, the flowers were nothing but shrivelled up husks, no colour anywhere except for the clothing of the people in the street and the silver blood of spirits and demons.
People ran screaming in the streets, trying to get away from the battles that were taking place between the Keres and Hellhounds. A taxi swerved to miss a laughing Thanatos, who was standing in the middle of the road. The taxi smashed into a fire hydrant, ripping it free of the sidewalk and bursting the pipe that it sat on, sending water gushing out of the ground like a geyser. People now tripped and slipped on puddles of water as the attempted to flee from the swooping death spirits.
James watched as Hypnos jumped back into a particularly large puddle of water as he dodged the snapping jaws of a large ‘hound, water splashing up onto his cloak and soaking through to the clothes beneath. “Say, it kind of looks like rain doesn’t it?”
Drake and Aislinn turned to stare at him, as if he had lost his mind. Once again though Aislinn found James looking straight at her Father, who was smiling, the same grin that Aislinn herself wore when she was about to pull off a rather spectacular prank.
“Yes, I believe it does look like rain.”
“James? Dad? What are you guys talking about?” She had finally managed to make James move his hand away from her mouth, she’d licked his palm.James wiped the wetness off on his jeans as he turned and headed out into the less crowded floor of the pavilion. “Hey Drake make a Door to my place would you. I’ll explain my idea when we get there.”