|2013 - The Questers: Paper Planes has been nominated for the 2013 !!!|
|This story was voted the Article of the Month for February 2013!|
Disclaimer: I don't own PJO.
Set in the winter of 2013. (In early January)
Blurb: When a strange portal is found in Alaska, the Questers are sent to investigate it. As usual, the group is faced with more than they bargained for, and for once the encounters are more than frightening.
The title was inspired by this...and I don't own that either.
Two of the five Questers were in the HQ; the others were participating in camp-related activities.
Natalie was someone who would stick to the schedule, but since few campers were here there wasn't much of a schedule to follow. She was currently reading the sixth Harry Potter book and was oblivious to everything else—except the tarantula in the corner.
Ava was listening to music and drawing something in her sketchbook. She also had a laptop in front of her and was looking up trailer music on it.
They both looked up when the door opened and Kyra hurried inside. “Gods, it's freezing outside!” she complained and collapsed on the couch next to Natalie.
“Hey, Kyra.” Ava greeted and paused the music. “Why were you out there if it's so cold anyway?” Kyra didn't answer her and instead took her coat, gloves, and shoes off. “I wish Apollo was the god of warmth so I could be warm all the time.” she grumbled and Ava rolled her eyes. Natalie ignored them; she was too engrossed in her book.
Ava went back to drawing in her sketchbook and Kyra remembered why she had came in in the first place. “Oh, Natalie, Chiron wanted to talk to us about something.”
“Chiron? Does he have another quest for us?” Natalie asked, her interest finally piqued.
“I think so.” The daughter of Apollo looked confused for a moment. “He said something about a portal.”
Natalie's eyes widened like she knew what Kyra was talking about. “Oh no...this is bad.” she muttered and stood up. Any calmness she had been she had been reading vanished, and now her eyes were filled with dread. “This is really bad. I'm going to see Michael. I'll come back to you guys soon.”
Michael was in the Athena cabin looking at a pile of scrolls when Natalie opened the cabin door. She squinted at the open scrolls and raised her eyebrows. “Does that say, 'Fear the cheese!'?” she asked. Michael shrugged and looked at it again. “That would make sense; there is a cartoon piece of cheese massacring an army here... I think the Hermes cabin took these.”
“That wouldn't be too far off.”
Michael put the scrolls aside and faced her. “Anyway, what's up?”
“Chiron apparently wants to talk to all of us. Kyra said something about a portal.” At the mention of the word Natalie winced. Her half-brother; however, hardly looked concerned.
“So? Sure, portals are terrible and bring ruin, but aren't they a little interesting? I mean going from one world to the next if you give someone a quarter is pretty awesome.”
“Except the part where the people who go into the portal rarely come back.” Natalie reminded him. “Come on, let's go find Zack.”
* * *
“Pfft, so what? Nico and I can freaking raise the dead. What can he do? Make pretty shapes with the water.” Ava and Kyra were having a somewhat friendly argument about what child of the Big Three had the best powers. “Then again, Percy can cause total destruction with his powers. That is pretty awesome.”
“Thalia can bring lightning from the sky, and she's also a Hunter. I'd say she's the best. Besides, you never show off your powers and Nico's never here. I still think Percy's powers are really cool, though...”
“Alright, Percy has the best powers out of the Big Three. What about the minor kids though? They need some glory. Who has the best powers: children of Persephone, children of Morpheus, or children of Nyx?”
“Morpheus kids. There's no point in arguing because Persephone's kids can't do anything and Nyx's son can only control the shadows.”
“He's more powerful in the night, too. Remember that one year? Plus he can blend in with the shadows.”
“So? He can't see people's dreams or make people sleep.”
The girls looked up when Natalie entered the cabin. “Chiron's waiting at the Big House.” She looked worried and somewhat annoyed but she left before Kyra or Ava could say anything. The girls both put on coats and walked out of the cabin together towards the Big House.
When they went inside Zack, Michael, and Natalie were already there sitting around a table. Kyra and Ava both took a seat next to each other and Chiron started talking.
“Now, as you all should have been told by Kyra here, there is a strange portal in Alaska. For those who do not know, a portal is an opening to another world. It can be a parallel universe with another version of someone on this Earth, or it can have completely different people in another world. A portal can only be created by a god, and this particular god wanted to add something to the portal so strange things begin to happen to people around the portal, and everything is related to what that person is most afraid of.
“As both Natalie and Michael know, portals are not to be underestimated. You must investigate it but I urge you to take caution. Portals are very dangerous and it is foolish of any god to create one.” “Chiron, what would happen if you by accident did go into the portal? What would happen?” Ava asked. He looked at her gravely.
“If you go into a portal, child, you can never come out.”
The Questers went back at the HQ to further discuss the problem. They agreed that they would leave in the morning and they would shadow travel there so they wouldn't waste time. They had already decided what they all would take and now were just talking about the portal.
“So...how can we avoid going into the portal if we don't even know where it is in Alaska?” Ava asked.
“By not being careless.” Natalie replied. “Just stick with the group and you should be fine.”
Ava opened her mouth to ask something else but Kyra shot her a look. Natalie was obviously annoyed and worried about this whole thing, so they all needed to be careful about what they said. Natalie sighed and stood up. “I'm going, I'll see you guys in the morning.” she told them and walked out of the cabin.
Michael didn't go after her and instead picked up a book that was lying around. The cover was too worn too read so he assumed it was Ava's. He tossed it to her and she caught it but she was confused. “What's this?” she asked and Michael shrugged. “I found it here so I thought it was yours.”
Ava paged through the book and noticed something odd about it. “It's all in Ancient Greek.”
“Really?” Kyra asked and Ava handed it to her. Sure enough Ava was right. “Can you read it, Michael?”
“Yeah, I guess, but since it's in Ancient Greek it will might take me awhile.”
“What about-” Kyra was cut off by Zack. “I think talking to Natalie is out of the question right now.” he told her and she sighed. “What is she so upset about anyway?” she asked Michael.
“She's worried about this quest even though she won't admit it. I think she's worried that something greater is going on with this portal.”
“But you can talk to her, right?” Ava asked but he shook his head. “If she doesn't want to talk she won't talk. I think I know what she's worried about anyway.”
He sat up and looked at all three of them. “See, there's more to a portal than what Chiron said. They're kind of like horizontal holes in the universe that warp someone or something to the next one. Gods can only make them, but they can't create them without there being side effects. Say that Poseidon created a portal somewhere in a desert. Around the portal it would rain off and on until the portal was closed.”
“So the portal would have side effects related to the god's power that created it.” Zack realized. Michael nodded. “But Chiron also said that this particular portal made people see what they most feared.” He looked at the tarantula in the corner warily. Kyra noticed this and her face fell. “Oh...” Ava closed her eyes and nodded to herself. Zack was the only one that wasn't affected. “What if you aren't afraid of anything?”
“Then the portal will make you fear something.” Michael replied.
The group met by Thalia's Pine the next morning, and as usual Natalie and Michael were there first. They had been discussing the quest when Ava came, then Zack, then finally Kyra.
A heavy snow started to fall so they had worn heavier coats. Kyra looked like a marshmallow because she was wearing so much. Ava looked like death her skin was so pale and her black clothing helped to contrast. They all stood in a circle.
“Some important things before I take us there. First, don't let go of the other person's hand.” Ava looked at them all almost hauntingly and the wind drowned out her words. Natalie, Zack, and Ava exchanged a look; they all knew too well what would happen. “Second, don't scream and third, I am not responsible if you puke.” She nodded and they all took the other person's hand. Ava closed her eyes and the group disappeared into the shadows.
They appeared next to the roaring and crashing sea against the ice. The wind was brisk and hit them all like a slap to the face. Kyra muttered something that couldn't be heard over the wind and Ava stumbled back slightly but caught herself before she fell. Zack looked around. “Now what?” he asked Michael. There was snow and ice all around them and there were masses of trees scattered on the horizon.
As far as they could tell no one was here.
Michael looked at the glaciers in the see then at the trees. “We don't know where the portal is, but I'm positive it can't be near the sea. I think we should move toward the glaciers.” Ava winced at the statement slightly but within seconds the expression faded.
The group trekked through the ice and snow towards the towering glaciers. Kyra kept grumbling about the cold and Zack kept thinking that this was pointless, that there wouldn't be anything here.
The wind picked up and they braced themselves against the cold. Natalie and Michael both squinted in case something unnatural was occurring so they could identify it as a portal, but neither saw anything.
There was a sudden howl that sounded wolf-like and they all turned around and saw four hell hounds barreling towards them.
The Questers started to run as none of them wanted to be killed so early in the quest. Zack would have rather stayed and fought but he couldn't risk being separated from the group.
The hell hounds were right behind them, all howling and mouths foaming. The Questers had no choice but to stand and fight.
Kyra notched an arrow and fired it at one hell hound while Ava threw multiple throwing knives at another. Michael and Natalie worked together to take out one and Zack took out the last hound. They stood there momentarily, watching the golden dust blow away in the wind.
“Let's continue towards the glaciers.” Natalie suggested and Michael nodded. The group started their trek once again and Kyra noticed Ava had a fearful expression on her face. She stood back so she could catch up with her.
“Ava are you okay? You look like you're going to faint.” she asked, concerned. Ava turned to her.
“I'm fine, really.” she replied but Kyra wasn't convinced. She still backed out of it anyway.
They reached the highest point in the area and they all looked down. The sea crashed against the glaciers and the shore. All of them seemed hesitant to actually go down to the glaciers.
Suddenly Natalie stopped and opened her mouth. “Guys, look at that!” She pointed towards the glaciers but nothing was there. “There's Medusa—we can't go any farther. We have to get away!”
The group looked to where she was pointing, all of them readying their weapons, but to their confusion nothing was there. There were only snow-covered glaciers. Michael looked at her worriedly. “Nat, there's nothing there.”
“No, Michael, I know what I saw! She's--” Natalie stopped and looked confused. “She isn't there...”
Michael looked at the glaciers and then at the group. “Something is up. Nat, do you think it's the portal?"
Natalie looked again at the glaciers and sighed. "I...I don't know."
“Guys, why don't we just move on...away from the glaciers.” Ava suggested, “I mean, clearly something is wrong with them.”
Michael nodded and he and the others backed away, but Natalie still seemed glued to the spot. “No. We have to go further.” she told them. Michael stepped towards her and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Natalie, we can't. Chiron told us not to go towards it, and if that is the portal there is a possibility we could be sucked into another dimension.”
Natalie whirled around to face him, her eyes taking on a strange dark hue. She looked as if something was messing with her. “Michael, Chiron told us to investigate it! How else are we going to stop the god that created the portal in the first place?”
Michael jumped back, clearly startled by his sister's actions. “Natalie...you aren't okay. We have to leave, this place is dangerous.” Michael pleaded. Natalie truly looked off, like something had taken control of her. The others looked at Natalie worriedly, and Kyra looked at the glaciers and noticed something move. She jumped, startled, and stepped back. “Guys, there's something over there.” she whispered but Zack shook his head. “I'm sure it's nothing. Natalie saw something and none of us could see it.” he reminded her but Kyra shook her head, her eyes still fixed on the glaciers. “No, I'm positive this is real.”
Zack looked to where she was looking and indeed there was something there. It was a small bird—wait no, there was a cloud of birds in the air that were screeching and coming towards them.
Michael looked to where Kyra and Zack were looking and momentarily his worry about Natalie was forgotten when the cloud of birds started to grow closer and closer. The only thing he could think of was, Birds? In a place as cold as this? They had to be monsters.
“Run!” Michael shouted and the group started to run in the opposite direction but Natalie still remained in the same spot. “Natalie, come on! You're going to be killed!” he begged, tugging on her arm. “Natalie, please!”
The birds started attacking the duo and the mist started to fade from Natalie's eyes. Michael breathed a sigh of relief but then yelped when a bird jabbed at his face. “Ow—let's go!” He and Natalie both ran towards the others but their vision was constantly being clouded by the demon birds that kept moving and flapping around, ready to avoid any weapons that came at them. Michael held up an arm in an attempt to stop the birds from attacking his face which worked—until they started jabbing his arm instead. He didn't want to be a demon bird's breakfast but he couldn't think of how to stop them as he was still thinking about what they were...
Wait a minute, giant birds that attacked the flesh? These were Stymphalian birds. They had to get out of their reach, and fast.
“Ava, give us some time!” he shouted over the screeching. She seemed to have heard him because she paused for barely a second and five skeletal soldiers sprang from the ground. Luckily, the giant birds started to attack them instead, but unfortunately the skeletal warriors couldn't attack the birds effectively because they were flying out of their reach. Michael had to do something—and quickly otherwise this quest would be over fast.
They reached a clump of trees and the group started to weave between branches, bushes, and other trees. They managed to stop the birds but too late Michael realized they would be waiting for them on the other side. He sighed and called everyone to stop which they all gladly did. Ava leaned against a tree for support since she was still slightly weak after using her powers. Natalie seemed startled by everything, which led Michael to believe she was definitely not in her right mind when they were by the glaciers. Zack and Kyra both held ranged weapons which would be helpful in defeating the birds if they could make them stay still for one minute...
Suddenly it hit him. Heracles had defeated the birds by using noise. “What were those things?” Zack asked and Natalie answered him. “Stymphalian birds, and we have no way to defeat them!” She crossed her arm in frustration. Michael noticed their confused looks so continued for her. “We have to defeat them by using noise,” he explained, “but we have no way to create noise.”
There was a rustling and the sound of branches breaking off and Ava looked up. “Uh oh! Guys, we have to move!” she warned just when Kyra pulled something out of her back pack. It was an iPod.
“Who brings their iPod on a deadly quest?” Zack asked, and Ava raised her hand. “I would. Just forgot it.” She said this in an obvious attempt to annoy him. Michael noticed it and the thought hit him. “Kyra, you're brilliant! Now we just need to play music that the birds would hate!”
“There isn't a docking station for it.” Natalie pointed out.
Michael's triumphant grin slowly faded but Kyra answered her. “It doesn't need a docking station, this is a newer, well technically it is an older version, version that can play music without having the ear buds in.”
“There's still one problem,” Ava said, “Will the music be loud enough?”
“I don't know.” Kyra admitted and suddenly the once great idea didn't seem to be of much use. “What would we use instead? I don't think we have any instruments handy.”
Bronze feathers began to sprout in the ground and the group was brought to a sudden attention. Natalie looked up and noticed that since the birds couldn't peck at them they were firing at them. She had to admit that was pretty clever.
She was snapped out of her thoughts when Ava and Kyra started to run ahead, closely followed by Zack and Michael. Natalie started to follow them and was given a strange clarity of thought. While running, she was able to think about what had happened to her. She had remembered Chiron's words about how the portal made you fear, so maybe she was unconsciously still worried of Medusa and that was what caused her to appear. Yes, that sounded correct, but that didn't help her with the strange sensation that something was controlling her. Maybe it was just another side effect from the portal, but if that were true then how would they ever find the god who did this if they couldn't investigate the portal while staying sane? Whoever created the portal had to was clever to think that up.
Zack was frustrated inside. It was just great; they had to defeat monsters they had no idea how to stop. They couldn't use Kyra's iPod since it wouldn't be loud enough and they hadn't brought anything else with them that could create a terrible noise. They would have brought some sort of musical instrument if they were anywhere else...heck, even a kitchen had instruments! It seemed like pots and pans could be used for anything...
A sudden idea struck him. Pots and pans...both vibrated to create noise, right? And metals made noise...so wouldn't celestial bronze work?
He stopped and the others stopped with him. “Zack, what it is?” Ava asked and Zack told them his idea.
“That might work.” Natalie murmured and Michael activated his shield. The surface was completely smooth. Perfect. They let the birds grow closer until they were within range and Michael hit his shield as hard as he could with his sword. The shield vibrated and created a painful noise so loud that the birds cringed in mid air. They used this opportunity to attack the birds until they had turned them all to dust.
“There might still be more.” Natalie reminded them and they all started to sprint in the opposite direction to escape the trees. When they finally got away from the trees they all looked relieved to find no other demon birds following them.
“That was easy.” Kyra commented and Ava looked at her. “Don't say that, now the quest will be worse later on.”
Natalie looked at the horizon and saw the sun sinking into the sky. “Let's rest for now and hope go back to the glaciers tomorrow.” Even as she said that she felt a sinking sensation and part of her didn't want to go back at all.
The group woke up the next morning and they started to pack up again so they could move towards the glaciers. No one wanted to go back, but Natalie was feeling the most nauseous when they finally started to move. She had made a list of the possible gods that would create a portal so dangerous and unsurprisingly, the Olympians were not on it. Yes, they might have been ignorant towards mortals and demigods most of the time but they wouldn't do this. She had pondered Hades for awhile, because he definitely seemed like the type of god to do this, but she doubted he would have the time. He did have to run the whole Underworld after all.
The most likely candidates were minor gods who were still angry about having no recognition even after the war and the ones whose powers were more frightening. She immediately thought of Phobos and Deimos since the portal made you fear things and they were the gods of terror and fear, but she figured that a different god had created the portal with those effects so any god or demigod that was investigating would assume wrongly about the creator of the portal. Again, this was extremely clever.
Whoever this god or goddess was they were very smart.
When they reached the glaciers, Ava thought they were worse than before even though they hadn't changed in appearance. Just the fact that they were hiding a portal somewhere that could make you see what you most feared was enough to make her wish she was back at camp. Suddenly, her cabin didn't seem so gloomy and depressing anymore when she was running for her life from the demon birds.
She looked at the mountains of ice and was struck with the realization that they would actually be on the glaciers...and trying not to fall to their deaths. That definitely improved the situation.
She must have been shaking because Kyra put a hand on her shoulder. “Ava, are you sure you're alright?” she asked and Ava looked at her and nodded. “Yep. I'm perfectly fine.” she replied unconvincingly but Kyra didn't look away. “You know, you could probably...um...wait here if you wanted to.”
“No, I'm fine. Seriously.”
Just don't look down, she thought to herself, Don't think about falling and dying and what your funeral will look like...
Michael looked at the sea then the nearest glacier. It was about a foot away and pretty high but still smaller than where they stood. He guessed they could jump and land but he hadn't factored in the possible injures they could get from that. There was also a possibility the section of ice was weak and when they landed it would crack and they would fall into the ocean. Well, that would be another reason to scramble to the middle of the glacier.
There were probably a thousand reasons not to do this, but for once he didn't pay attention to the risks. They had to finish this quest and close this portal, otherwise things could get a lot worse.
He turned around to face the group and explain what they were about to do. He noticed that Ava looked paler than usual but assumed it must have been from the cold. He looked at Natalie and she nodded for him to speak. Heh. Great minds think alike.
“Okay, so the only way to get to the portal is to get to the glaciers, and to get to the glaciers we'll have to jump down from here. Since there is a possibility the glacier could break once you land you should get to the middle. There will be more support there since it is surrounded by ice, not open space. And I think that's it. Natalie?”
“If you see something that you fear, don't believe it to be true. Think of what would be reasonable to be in this place. Don't let the fear take control of you.” Natalie warned them and one by one they all nodded in understanding. Natalie nodded towards Michael as if to reassure him, and he turned around and jumped onto the ice. He winced when his feet hit the ice and the glacier started to shake as if it was on the verge of tipping. He quickly scrambled towards the middle and waved the others down. One by one, they dropped to the ice and stood with Michael in the middle of it. Ava was the last one and she looked as if she didn't want to do this. She kept staring at the water as if it would rise up and bring her down. “Ava, come on!” Michael shouted and he noticed her eyes went wide with fear every time she looked down. He looked at her is disbelief. The daughter of Hades who talked to the dead on a regular basis and wasn't afraid of a few monsters charging at her was afraid of heights. It was logical, though, because after all, Hades didn't particularly like Zeus. He probably envied both his brothers for having better domains.
She finally jumped down and quickly reached the middle of the glacier. Michael looked towards the other glaciers and noticed they were fairly close by so they shouldn't have any trouble reaching them. He scanned the other glaciers and noticed that one stood out. It looked like any glacier but he could have sworn the air around it seemed distorted. He decided they would go over there and check it out.
“Michael, we have to be careful.” Natalie reminded him and he was unaware that she was watching him. He turned to her and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, and we will be cautious.” he promised but Natalie still didn't look convinced, and he realized she must have been thinking about what had happened yesterday and that had been alarming. It still was. It clearly meant that whatever god created this portal wanted people to be trapped in another world so they would never return. That was what worried him the most.
Michael started to walk towards the edge of the glacier so the others began to follow him. He looked at the gap, then deeming it safe, he jumped onto the next mountain of ice. He gestured the others to follow which they did.
When they reached the glacier furthest from the shore, things started to become a little strange. First off, Kyra noticed that everything seemed to grow darker like the sun was going down, but it really wasn't, and she felt like something was watching her. She guessed it was the portal, and she remembered Natalie's words about telling yourself what was happening isn't real, but it felt like it was. Every step she made, everything just got a little worse...
She didn't know what everyone was was thinking, but Ava wasn't enjoying this one bit. Despite it being unwise, she kept replaying in image in her head of that bridge she and her (mortal) family walked across once. It was extremely high but she hadn't known the exact measurements, nor would she guess. She had just been a little child and she kept looking down when she was close to the handrail, trying to scare herself. There was a beat up car at the bottom and she had jumped back when her smaller self saw it.
This situation was like the bridge but there was no handrail, the ice was slippery, and there was a portal that could make her fall to her death. Down, down, down into the icy sea. She would probably freeze before she drowned, and she decided that maybe freezing to death was better.
Natalie liked rational situations. They made sense. They could be figured out easily. This was not a rational situation. Anything could happen and you would simply believe it and it wouldn't be reasonable. A pig could come flying out of the sky and you would believe it because you were so terrified. An alien might appear and you would believe it because you believe in your fears. It just didn't make sense, but at the same time it did.
She wanted to do something, to make this quest more believable, but she couldn't. She wanted to believe what the portal created wasn't real but she couldn't because she each time she turned around she saw a spider. A fat, hairy spider with eight eyes, eight limbs, and two fangs that were dripping with some kind of disgusting liquid that was probably the rest of a giant bug. Or worse.
The spider was always larger than her and she was so, so, so terrified. Terrified even though the reasonable part of her brain kept shouting that it wasn't real and can't be real.
Zack knew he didn't fear anything expect for the strange tendencies of some teenage girls, and the Aphrodite cabin displayed all of them, and it wasn't like he was terrified of them. No, they just made him think that something was clearly wrong with them.
Despite this, every time he looked around heard a scrapping sound, like a terrified animal was trying to get away from a predator. The sound would also echo within in mind and he couldn't seem to get it out. Then there was a strange, hoarse voice. It never spoke coherently but he could always tell it was angry.
So, so angry.
Michael and Natalie silently agreed that he would be the leader of this quest for once since Natalie seemed to still be extremely wary about this place, and more than anyone else. He respected her decision, but a part of it freaked him out, and more than the giant spiders he saw every time he turned his head.
If Natalie was almost frightened about something, and she didn't believe that they were dealing with what they were told, he wondered how long they would last.
When they reached the glacier they were aiming for, Michael started to walk more slowly and hoped the others would follow his lead. Since they didn't know where the portal was and it wasn't visible to the naked eye, they would need to walk slowly and watch for the slightest change in the air.
Admittedly, he didn't exactly know what to look for if they were near it, and he was just guessing. He just imagined there would be some sort of difference in the atmosphere.
He looked around and noticed that there was no change in the air and for the briefest moment he wondered if he had been wrong, but then he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. It was a raven. It screeched and kept turning it head as if it wanted him to follow it.
The bird was quite beautiful actually and it looked almost otherworldly. When he looked closer he noticed its eyes were golden like the color of the blood of the gods.
When he took a step closer it hissed and its body began to change shape. It stretched its wings and they began to shrink into its body until they were smaller than normal. The feathers changed the scales and grew a greenish color. It grew larger until it was more than half the size of him and its head changed into the head of a rooster. It hissed again flew up into his face and instinctively he raised an arm to protect his face but there was no impact. He lower his arm and realized that it was all in his head.
Kyra noticed the change right away because the darkness had completely faded. It was a relief, but at the same time she wondered if it was even worse. Michael clearly thought that the portal would be nearby so she wondered if it was tricking them into thinking they were safe...
She also saw an animal that was out of place, and it was a goat. She looked confused for a moment and she finally decided that it wasn't real at all until it started to move closer. She stepped back and the goat started to change into something. Next to the goat's head the head of a lion appeared and the tail was replaced with a snake. It started to grow larger and larger and its skin turned to a clash of soft fur and rough scales. The pig's feet were turned into the paws of a lion.
She stepped back when it began to scrap the ice away. When it jumped at her she let out a scream and and closed her eyes but nothing happened. She opened her eyes and saw nothing there, only the other four questers looking at her worriedly.
While Natalie was walking with the others on the last glacier, she took more caution than the others. She knew that Michael was being plenty wary of everything but she felt that something else was going on around here. When Kyra had screamed at something they couldn't see and Michael flinched at an attack that would never come, she came to the conclusion that the portal was messing with them.
They started to walk slowly to the center of the glacier when they stopped completely. Michael looked around like he was searching for something then turned around to face everyone when he looked satisfied. “Okay, the portal shouldn't be too far from here, maybe even a few inches from where I stand.”--Natalie shuddered when she thought of Michael stepping back and being sucked away into another world--”I think the air will be effected by the portal and we will be able to see the change. The way that it is effected should give us a clue to the god that created the portal. The only lead we have are fears and that isn't very specific. We need something to work with."
The others nodded and they started squinting their eyes and looking around as if they could find clues easily. Natalie noticed Kyra step forward and she realized what she needed to say.
“Don't step forward.” she warned everyone, her voice almost a shout. “Retrace your steps if you have to move but don't go where we haven't gone before. It is too risky.”
Kyra looked at her feet and jumped back like she was afraid something would grab her and drag her away. “Thanks, Natalie.”
Natalie began to look around and noticed something shimmering in the distance and a fox stepped forward and faced her. Its pelt was a gorgeous reddish orange and its eyes a pure golden color. It opened its mouth and began to speak to her which startled her greatly. "Daughter of Athena, why are you here? You could do so many great things if you were by yourself. If you were in another world you could recreate everything from this world. You could do whatever her heart desired. You could be free from the burdens of your pitiful friends."
She stared at it, enraged at what it was saying but at the same time entranced. What if she could do what this fox was saying? What if it only spoke truths and not the lies she quickly assumed?
It seemed to smirk as it stepped closer and she saw its face started to change into that of a human's. She stepped back, thankfully she wasn't walking to the unknown, and it continued to morph as it walked closer. When it had finally finished she realized a manticore stood before her, a smirk on playing on its lips and tail waving back and forth hypnotically.
"Just think of the possibilities." it murmured and faded like steam.
The only thing Zack could concentrate on was the deafening inhuman scream that echoed in his ears. He couldn't focus on anything, much less look at anything. The scream reminded him of the demon he was fused to in a way, but it wasn't quite that. It sounded like a mix of every monster they had faced and every tortured soul in the Fields of Punishment. It was agony. Pure agony.
It had stopped for a second and he breathed a sigh of relief but opened his eyes only to see a hydra staring at him. Its numerous heads looked at him in amusement and all of its mouths seemed to form a smirk.
When the scream started again he cringed but managed to keep his eyes open long enough to see the hydra morphing into Medusa. She stepped back and laughed once. "You should memorize those screams. You might be hearing them one day."
Some things weren't meant to be journeyed to. They weren't meant to be investigated by anyone: not curious teenagers, not gods, not adults, and certainly not demigods on quest. They had realized that much too late because when Natalie finally realized what was happening, the portal had already chosen its victim.
Fears were things that kept you up in the night. They could be explained easily or they might not make any sense at all. They made your heart beat faster and often times they make you want to run away and hide. Fears could be living things like spiders, birds, or frogs. They could be forces of nature such as hurricanes or tornadoes. They could just be something simple, like the fear of heights or the fear of water.
They can be faced easily and they can be concurred, but that would not be the case today.
The questers remained standing, facing various directions and all had painful expressions on their faces. They looked like they had no idea of what to make of this situation they were currently in. There was no way to make anything of it. They were stuck with going backwards because they couldn't move forwards anymore. It was impossible, but it was an amazing trap. The god or goddess had taken great care with creating this portal and they could have been admired had they not done something utterly despicable.
Ava was the last to see a strange creature, since the portal seemed to want to play with her mind and twist the gears so she had a habit of looking over her shoulder every second and always strangely close to the edge. When she was preoccupied with staring at the air in case of the slightest change, a pit bull had appeared directly in front of her, but like everyone else's visions, it was visible only to her. She thought she had heard a growl from behind her so she turned her head and her eyes grew wide when she saw the pit bull, and of course her mind replayed every single deadly incident involving one. However, instead of reacting, she remembered Natalie's words about thinking what was rational unlike the others. She closed her eyes and began to mutter to herself that it wasn't real, that a dog couldn't just have appeared. She opened her eyes, fully expecting nothing would greet her, but she was shocked to find the dog still sitting there patiently. It took all her willpower to stay standing in place. Slowly, it began to grow two heads and she recognized it as Cerberus.
Then, he spoke.
“I thought you would be here.”
Michael had stepped backwards so he was in the middle of the group and next to Natalie when a spider the size of a hen started crawling towards him. He saw the red spot on its black body and realized it was a female black widow spider. Just his luck.
She stood on her back legs and she started to grow until she was twice the size of him. He took another step back and bumped into Natalie. “Oh gods...” she whispered and Michael was at least glad to have some help.
The spider stepped over Kyra and Ava, and Michael was surprised they hadn't noticed it until he realized they couldn't have because it wasn't what they were terrified of. They had fears different to him and Natalie so they wouldn't see the giant spider. They had their own problems to deal with.
At first, Natalie figured that the spider was like the manticore so it would disappear quickly. She told Michael this and he relaxed, but only slightly. He and Natalie both looked at the giant spider and they noticed it was leaving tracks unlike the previous monsters they had seen. Natalie shrugged it off, assuming it was just the portal. When the spider grew closer she held up her sword and watched Michael do the same. “One clean strike through a leg and that should make it disappear.” Natalie told him and he nodded in understanding. They both waited for the giant spider to come closer, its fangs dripping with blood and legs covered with it. Natalie blinked once, and then again in hope that the spider would change in some way but it didn't. She felt slightly light-headed and noticed Michael stepped back again. The spider was finally close enough and they each sliced through a leg, both expecting the swords to run clean through and the spider to disappear into thin air once it had been touched.
What they didn't expect was the legs to slice off, leaving two stumps and a very much alive spider.
No, they didn't expect that at all.
Zack stood face-to-face with the demon he was fused to, a look of disbelief on his face. This couldn't have been real. No, it definitely wasn't, he decided, but he started to have his doubts when he noticed the footprints it left in the snow. Surely a product of your mind couldn't have been that precise.
He muttered that he didn't fear the demon he was fused to, but more the destruction it could cause and the thought that he wouldn't mind all the chaos one day... That did nothing to change what stood before him.
Kyra's vision was unlike the others because it was not a living thing. It was simply the darkness of the nighttime. She had closed her eyes for one second and the next it was pitch black. She could see nothing, and she held out her hands as if to feel her way around. At first she had been slightly frightened, but when she made contact with a the fur of a dog and her hand felt downwards and she felt razor sharp teeth, she screamed. She tried to back away from the dog but she heard it grow closer and knew she wouldn't be able to get away from it in time.
She whipped her head around wildly as if the darkness was just mist and she could easily see through it. She heard a hiss from behind her and whirled around, expecting to see huge monster but there was only the darkness. She stepped back and notched her bow, ready to shoot at anything that might jump out.
Natalie and Michael both start to attack the spider when they realized it was real. The spider was already losing its balance since they had already gotten rid of two of its legs. Its eight eyes blinked rapidly and they both took a step back. One of its legs moved away just as Michael was about to slice it off and Michael fell into the ice. He groaned and opened his eyes to see Natalie raise a shield up to defend herself against a leg that reached out as if to grab her. She strained against the spider's strength and Michael took this opportunity and with his sword he sliced two other legs. The spider fell down and its footing was lost on the ice, causing it to slip and remove its leg from Natalie's shield. While it flailed around wildly, she and Michael cut off the remaining legs. They both looked at the spider and Michael was just about to stab it in the head when it turned to ice and blew away in the wind.
Ava looked the three headed dog, uncertain of what it meant. “How--”
“You really are a foolish girl.” it replied, its voice tripled since it all three of its heads were talking. “My own daughter cannot even recognize me?”
The dog started to changed, its fur forming black robes and the heads on the sides shrinking into its body. It started to grow until it resembled a man with a ring of flames circling around his head. She immediately knelt before him as a sign of respect. The god simply laughed and she looked up at him nervously. He ordered her to rise so she did, and in doing so she noticed his eyes were filled with hatred. “You call herself my daughter but you are just as helpless as your idiot brother.” he scorned, but instead of anger she felt confusion.
“What? Father...what are you talking about?” she asked but he simply laughed.
“Bianca was a fine child. She should have lived but Thanatos kept reminding me it was her time. Shame, to lose someone so strong and to have them be replaced with someone so weak.”
“Father, I don't know what you're talking about...” she whispered, confused but at the same time filled with a feeling of despair. He ignored her and a ball of fire erupted in his hands. “You'll kill him, you know. He will fall by your hand.”
“No! No I would never do anything to hurt my brother!” she shouted, her eyes filled with confusion and anger. “Who are you? You are not my father!”
“Oh, yes, I am your father, you little brat. I am ashamed to admit it but, alas, it is correct.” Hades transformed into the three headed dog yet again and took a step closer. “You really don't belong here. You are not worthy of being my child. Maybe you could be someone else's in that world of yours. Yes, that sounds nice.” he growled, taking another step closer. Ava stepped back, unaware of where she stood. “Good bye.” he growled and the three headed dog leaped towards her and knocked her into what felt like a vacuum. She extended an arm as if to grab something, anything, but she was too late. The creature posing to be Hades had already vanished, its job complete.
Now they just had to get rid of the others.
It was midnight and the air shimmered as a woman appeared out of thin air. She wore a white chiton and the moon reflected on her midnight black hair. Her skin was paler than white and her eyes were a charcoal color. A dog stood along side her with a live snake for a collar. She held a ball of green and purple flames in her hand to light the path ahead of her.
The forest was completely silent with the exception of the crickets chirping their night song. Unlike the other immortals, she liked to listen to the small creatures that roamed the land. They all had potential in this world and she wanted to see how their lives would play out.
The trees seemed to bend at her will, creating a pathway for her. Wherever she stepped, deadly and medicinal plants grew intermingled with each other. She bent her knees slightly and noticed a small frog the lightest shade of green hopping on its way. She smiled slightly and with her free hand she set her hand down and the frog hopped into her palm. It croaked twice but she ignored the creature and instead continued down the path. Lights floated around the forest like lightning bugs even though it was much too cold for them. They seemed playful and the woman smiled at them. “Ah, my children, you must be patient.” she murmured and the lights seemed to dim and the atmosphere turned saddening, like the lights were children who had just been put in time out. “Follow me.” She beckoned the lights to follow her with her arm that held the flame and they gladly did, becoming brighter. She extinguished the multicolored flame in her hand and let the lights go before her. She continued to walk down the path and the forest seemed slightly more eerie and frightening. She turned her head to look back at the dog that followed her. She slightly nodded her head towards it and the dog started to run ahead of her. She slowly followed it, moving her free arm to spread the lights in the trees.
Suddenly, the whole forest lit up and ahead a large break in the trees appeared. There was a circle in the middle of the forest with a stone altar in the middle. Stepping stones were lying all around it.
The dog was already there, its head bowed like it had done wrong. The woman seemed glide towards the dog and her fingers ran through its fur. “Thank you.“ she murmured and the dog barked once in what seemed like relief, even though it was an animal.
She walked up to the stone altar which was exactly her height. She set the small frog down and behind to chant in Ancient Greek. When she was finished, she brushed her lips against the frog's head and its eyes turned a horrible blackish-red color. She performed a motion with her hand and a plant sprouted straight through the stone. It produced multiple white berries with black dots on the end. The berries fell off and the plant disappeared in the stone, the crack it created sealing up.
The frog hopped towards the berries and ate them with a sort of hunger. The frog quickly perished on the spot.
“I am sorry, but it must have been done. May you live again in another life.” the woman murmured and waved her hand again and a bowl shape appeared in the stone. She set the frog in and reached up with her left hand and two lights zoomed into the shallow bowl shape. She murmured a few more words in Ancient Greek and black water appeared in the basin, dissolving the frog and absorbing the lights. Just when she started to move the substance with her left hand, two pairs of footsteps sounded behind her. She turned her head slightly and sighed. “Phobos, Deimos.” she greeted sternly.
“Hecate.” they chanted back. The goddess turned around to face them. “Why have you come here?” she asked, “I have no time for you.”
“Lady Hecate, we ask a favor of you.” Deimos told the older goddess. He grimaced at how that sounded. “You are the goddess of entrance-ways, correct?” he asked and Hecate merely nodded.
“Yes. Why do you ask such a question? Because of the portal you both created?”
Phobos looked outraged. “We created no such thing. Whoever created it is framing us!” He sounded similar to a bratty child, causing the goddess to smile slightly. “Yes, yes. I understand. Quite clever of them to have done that. But why are you telling me this?”
“Lady Hecate, we want you to close it.” Deimos explained but Hecate narrowed her eyes.
“Why would you ask me to do this?” she asked skeptically. Phobos opened his mouth to answer the goddess but she interrupted him. “No matter the answer, I will not close it.”
“I thought you liked preserving a mortal's life.” Deimos remarked. Hecate frowned and waved her hand, causing a vine of yew to wrap around the god's leg.
“I cannot close it, fool,” she informed him. “because something is weakening my powers against it.” She narrowed her eyes at them, Phobos in particular. “You know who created it, don't you?” she asked accusingly. “You've kept this to yourselves all this time.”
Deimos's nostril's flared. “You dare accuse us of--”
“Quiet, fool! She's trying to provoke you!” Phobos warned his brother. He turned to Hecate. “We do not know of them personally, but we know the name at least.”
Hecate looked at him. “Tell me.” she ordered but Phobos shook his head. A evil grin spread across his face and both gods disappeared. She turned to the dog that was watching everything. “I apologize, but this must wait. We must find those despicable men.” she told it and the dog stood up. She took it by the collar and they both vanished into the night, the mysterious lights and the altar disappearing as well.
Natalie was the first to realize something was wrong. She and Michael were the only ones who attempted to remain calm when the others noticed they were clearly lacking one of the original number. The others, especially Zack, instantly started freaking out the second they noticed Ava was missing.
Natalie had noticed the strange spell had been lifted once Ava had gone into the portal, like all it wanted was a distraction so it could lure in the victim. No one would have noticed that Ava had disappeared before it was to late, and it was possible it had been effecting her in some way as well so she had no idea what she was doing.
She shuddered when she realized something else. What if it was trying to drag everyone into the portal to rid of them, and not just her? Gods had wanted to get rid of them before, this wasn't the first time.
Natalie sighed and thought back to the days where they hadn't yet formed the Questers. They had been looking for Michael because he had jumped into a hole that was said to lead straight to Tartarus.
It seemed as if they would always lose a quest member every few quests.
They had found him in the end, obviously, so Natalie clung to the hope that they would somehow be able to get Ava back from this parallel universe, even if Chiron had mentioned it seemed impossible. Maybe it was impossible to do it alone, but they just needed the help of a god...
Kyra had already had a headache from the darkness that seemed to only surround her, and it only worsened when she realized their only way out of here and her closest friend was now missing. She, and probably along with everyone else, hoped that Ava had only shadow traveled to some place, but that would have been unlikely since there were no shadows around here.
“What just happened?” Kyra asked to no one in particular. She looked at Michael who looked as confused at her, but she noticed his expression instantly faded like he had already figured it out. “What just happened?” she repeated more forcefully then turned to Zack. He looked like he was about ready to murder someone. He could wait until they found the god that created this portal in the first place.
She stepped back as an afterthought. Just in case.
She looked back at Michael, a hopeful expression on her face like everything she currently thought was wrong. “She didn't, right? She couldn't have!”
Natalie and Michael both looked at each other, torn between finishing the quest and finding their friend. But it was pretty difficult to find your friend if they were in a parallel universe; even worse when there was practically no way to get them back. Maybe they could do both, somehow, in some strange way. It wouldn't end up like last time. Natalie was the one who spoke up. “She's gone—for now.” she added, noticing their expressions. “We'll find her, but right now we have to focus more on the--”
Zack interrupted her. “Shouldn't our priority be finding her? When Michael disappeared our priority was finding him!”
Natalie let out an annoyed breath. “Zack, we're going to find her, but we have to finish this quest in order to find her. We need the god who created this portal so they can bring her back!”
Zack opened his mouth to say something else but Michael quickly intervened.
“Guys, we can't be fighting each other! How are we supposed to move forward if we just stay in one spot? Natalie has a point, in order to get Ava back to this world we'll need to find the god who created the portal.” He looked nervously at both of them. Natalie and Zack continued to glare at her each, but they each reluctantly nodded.
“Stupid parallel universe.” Kyra muttered and looked to the spot where Ava had disappeared. That could have easily been her...
Parallel universe. Funny word to her. Chiron had said there was no escaping and she felt a sickening feeling when she recalled him saying that. She hoped Chiron was wrong about that.
The thing was; however, he was rarely wrong about anything.
Natalie cleared her throat and looked at everyone one-by-one. “Okay, I propose we get away from this place as quickly as we can and find the god who created this portal. That way, we'll be able to get Ava back. All in favor?” Michael, and Kyra raised their hands immediately, while Zack reluctantly raised his hand after a few seconds.
“Good. We will have to walk everywhere from now so I suggest we go back to those trees we saw when we first came here and rest there the night.” She looked and Michael and nodded at him to lead the group back. While they walked, Michael fell back with Natalie and the two began to talk. Before speaking, Michael looked around to make sure the others weren't listening. “Nat, I know we all want Ava back, but what if this idea of yours doesn't work?” He didn't seem like his usual cheery self who always reassured the others everything would work out.
“I know, I'm worried too,” Natalie admitted as she jumped across the gap between the glaciers. Michael quickly followed her. “but we have to believe it will work. Chiron could just be wrong about not being able to come back.”
“Natalie, what if he isn't? Then what do we do?” Natalie sighed and stopped in her tracks. “I can't believe that we let this happen. I thought we were all being cautious about this!” She sighed and looked at the sunset. It was beautiful, but it was exactly the wrong moment for something to be so stunning. “I wish we would stop losing quest members.”
Michael nodded, “Maybe it's just a way for everyone to work together. Think about it like that.”
“Or maybe it's all our faults."
The next morning, after the group had slept and eaten, they began to map out where they would go next. They all sat in the snow and most of them talked about where they would go next while Natalie drew a diagram in the snow using a broken twig. Zack remained silent throughout the whole thing. Michael looked at the diagram Natalie was drawing and it was pretty simple, but there was one problem.
“Natalie, the diagram's great, but there's one problem. We don't know where we are in Alaska. We could be just walking deeper into Alaska the next time we start walking again.”
It seemed that Natalie had already figured it out, however. “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, right? When the sun rose this morning, it rose to the right of us so the glaciers are in the east and behind us is the south. That's where we'll go.”
“Well, at least that's solved.” Michael murmured. “What about in terms of gods? How will we know who to look for?”
“How about minor gods?” Kyra suggested. “I don't think one of the major gods would have done it.”
“But we can't just ask every single minor gods out there,” Natalie explained. “so we need to look next at their powers. Phobos and Deimos seem pretty obvious to me, but they aren't very smart.”
Kyra and Michael both looked at each other, their minds racing. Well, there were always spirits that could have created the portal with the help of a god, Kyra thought, and there might be some spirits of the Underworld who might have created it.
Suddenly, an imaginary light bulb appeared over her head. “Hecate!” she shouted just a little bit too loud. Natalie looked at her, confused for a moment. “She not exactly a minor goddess though.”
“Yeah, I know, but isn't she the goddess of witchcraft? It sounds like something she could easily use to create a portal.”
Natalie slowly wrapped her mind around the idea. “It does make sense. How will we find her though?”
Kyra shrugged, as if she hadn't thought about that. “We could always ask Chiron--”
“No.” Zack interrupted. No one realized that he had been listening all along. “We aren't going back now. All this is giving us a bad reputation.” They all knew what he really meant. Going back to camp meant accepting the fact that she was gone and wasn't coming back.
There was an awkward silence until Kyra spoke up. “We could try somewhere in the states but not New York. Where would a goddess of witchcraft go?” she asked both Michael and Natalie. Truthfully, they were both stumped on the question. Witchcraft didn't ring any bells for them, so they had to look at the other things she had power over. Ghosts.
“She also has some control over spirits and ghosts.” Michael replied, “So maybe we could look for the most haunted places in the U.S.”
“Asylums.” Natalie said almost instantly. The others looked at her warily, even Zack. “Those places are terrible.” Kyra muttered and Zack nodded. “They are probably filled with all kinds of diseases.”
“Not to mention, we'll also have to go at night.” Natalie added. Now even Michael looked hesitant. “Nat, this is not you.” he murmured.
“It's also probably a great place to practice witchcraft. Guys, I know those aren't the safest places in the world, but how else are be going to find Hecate and bring her back? This could be our only chance.” Natalie looked at each of them and one by one they nodded reluctantly.
“This better work.” Zack muttered and Natalie was struck by how broken he sounded. This must have been worse than if Ava had died. Not knowing if the one you loved was in danger or not and having no way to help them would be utter torture. At least if they were dead you knew where they were.
“I'm sorry, Zack.” she told him, and she really was, but he seemed to have not heard her.
Kyra had only one question for the group. “How will we know where the asylums are?”
“Well, that's easy,” Michael answered. “books.”
“Books?” Kyra repeated, her eyebrows raising.
“We just have to find the nearest library. Or we could use a computer somewhere and look up haunted asylums.” He suddenly realized that would be much easier and it wouldn't take as long. “And that also calls looking for a library.”
“Alright then. Next stop, the library.” Natalie informed everyone and they all nodded. “Well, we better start walking if we're going to find one soon.”
After three hours of unstop variations of walking and running, the group came across a small lodge nearly hidden by the trees that surrounded it. They were all tired but none of them were going into a stranger's lodge. Kyra stopped and looked at the group. “They could always have a computer.” she reminded them but Michael shook his head. “I doubt it, and if they did it would probably be painfully slow. Let's just move on.” Kyra sighed and the group started to move again, but they stopped when they heard the door open.
“Ah, demigods. I rarely see them here.” a sweet voice told them. “Please, come in.”
Michael looked at Natalie. “Please tell me that isn't a monster.” he muttered and Natalie looked at the woman. She was short with hair that was frizzy and white, but she didn't look a day over twenty. Her eyes were an extremely pale blue and she wore simple clothes for such a cold place.
“No, I actually think it's a goddess.”
The Questers looked at each other and they silently agreed they would go inside but if there was any sign of danger they would leave immediately. Natalie led them into the lodge and she gasped when she saw the interior. It looked like the usual lodge, but there were shelves stocked with countless items ranging from canned foods to swords and armor. There was a glass chandelier that hung from the ceiling, and speaking of the ceiling, it was so high up you could have been able to fit a fifteen-foot giant in the room and his head still wouldn't touch the ceiling. The shelves were as high as the ceiling and it seemed like that was the whole place: countless amounts of shelves. There was a ladder attached to each shelf for retrieving items that were too high to reach.
The floor was hardwood, but it strangely wasn't cold at all, and in the middle of the room there was a spiral staircase that led to the upstairs. The room was exactly the right temperature, not too cold yet not too warm. The placed seemed too good to be true.
The goddess, Natalie decided that only a goddess could possibly run this place, smiled at their amazement. “Yes, it took an amount of persuasion on my part to have Lord Zeus allow me to run this place.” Her voice was like a songbird's, light and innocent. “Please, go where your heart desires. It isn't often that I have demigods stop by.” The Questers gladly took up this offer.
Zack and Michael both looked at the wide array of weapons that lay on the very top shelves. Each weapon was labeled with the type, when it was created, how many drachmas it cost, and the previous owner. Some hadn't been used at all such as a large double-sided axe and a spear like looked like it was made of diamonds.
Natalie looked at a shelf that held many scrolls in Ancient Greek and each had to be over a thousand years old. Most of the scrolls were dusty and looked as if no one had bothered to read them. Under the shelf with scrolls there were various books on Heracles, Theseus, and many other heroes that have long since passed. She began to read everything she saw and couldn't seem to get enough.
Kyra was at the back, looking at shelves that were chock full of many items. They looked ordinary close up, but she soon realized that all of them were some sort of weapon when she picked up a paper clip and it transformed into a bow. She admitted that it was pretty handy and quickly checked her stock of drachmas just in case these items were for sale. She had ten drachmas which she thought was hardly enough for something like this. “Dear, none of these are for sale. I'm deeply sorry.”
Kyra jumped back, startled. “I-I didn't notice you there.” she mumbled and looked at the goddess. “Who are you, anyway?” she asked.
“I am Aura, the goddess of the cool breeze in the morning. And these are not for sale because they are not finished. The lord of the forge has not had time to stop by to finish the projects.” The goddess sighed sadly, as if no one had stopped by in many, many years.
Kyra looked at the goddess sadly. Life must be lonely here, all by yourself for so many years without even the gods to acknowledge you. “I'm sorry.” she murmured but Aura just smiled. “Child, there is no need to feel sorry for me. It is my own fault that I hold this shop in an area so unknown. Just looking at what I have to offer is enough to make this old goddess happier.”
Kyra nodded and slowly began to walk away to another shelf. Maybe she would check what was on the top shelves next.
While Natalie continued to look at the scrolls, she noticed what looked like a bathroom mirror underneath the books and scrolls. She picked it up and wiped the dust off in an attempt to clean it. I wonder what this does, she thought and looked to where the others were. Kyra had moved shelves but was still in the back and Zack and Michael were working their way towards her.
She gave the mirror a small shake and the image of someone very familiar came into view. Before she could decide who it was, a voice from behind startled her.
“This mirror shows you the ones who are lost to you.” Aura explained and Natalie instantly set the mirror down. Even if she would give anything to see Michael Yew again, she was too afraid that it would reopen the wound in her heart.
Zack, since he had heard what the goddess said, walked over to where Natalie stood and picked up the mirror from the mound of ancient scrolls. He exhaled once and he briefly thought that this could be a way of knowing if she was dead or alive. He began to repeat her name over and over in his head as if that would make her face appear more quickly, but even after two minutes of waiting nothing happened.
“You cannot see her, son of Ares.” the goddess told him, “because she is no longer of this world anymore.”
“That makes sense.” he growled and brought the mirror down so hard that it cracked directly down the middle.
The goddess immediately snatched the broken mirror from the table. “You should be glad this didn't break all the way! It took me hundreds of years to find this valuable item!” she scolded but Zack just shrugged indifferently. The goddess then stalked away to the back shelves where Kyra was.
While Michael was looking at scrolls with Natalie, he also found an item buried among them, but this didn't look like anything useful they could use. It was a glass ball that had a look to it that made it seem like pure gold. When his fingertips touched it, it started to glow and a recorded voice echoed through the room. “Please state your destination.” Michael immediately set it down because he didn't want to take any unplanned vacations.
But, as he thought about it, this could be what they needed. Since they couldn't shadow travel anymore for obvious reasons they needed a way to travel from place to place quickly, and this was the solution. The thing was, it looked too small for more than two people to touch it at once. Maybe it worked another way.
He picked the glass ball up again and started walking to where Aura was. She turned around and smiled at him. “Ah yes, one of the most valuable item in this shop. It will be one hundred drachmas.”
“One hundred drachmas!” Michael repeated, amazed. He sighed in defeat. “Well, there goes that idea.”
Aura looked at him thoughtfully. “I suppose you could pay with the drachmas you have if you throw some others things in.” she told him and his face brightened. “Like what?”
“Such as that weapon the son of Ares holds. Yes, that is worth even more than the glass orb.”
Zack shook his head, slightly offended that the goddess would ask for it. “It's not for sale.”
The goddess frowned slightly. “Such a shame; nothing else will do. Unless...”
“Unless what?” Natalie asked. She already had a feeling that the goddess's idea wouldn't be any help.
“Stygian iron. I have always wanted to have that in my shop.”
The one thing they could give away but would probably be murdered for doing that. “No.” Natalie stated. “Can you just make an exception for us? We need some sort of transportation device.”
“I am afraid that I cannot, young demigod.” Aura smiled sadly. “I am sorry.”
Natalie sighed and looked at the others. “I guess we should go now.” The others nodded and they walked out of the shop. When they stepped outside they noticed the sun had already set and the moon was slowly rising into the sky. They were all startled by how cold the temperature had become until they remembered the lodge had been heated and they must have been in it for some time.
Natalie looked at the moon then at the others. “I guess we should rest for tonight and continue to travel in the morning.” she told them and the others nodded except Zack. “Why not just travel now?” he suggested, holding up the glass orb.
“You didn't!” Natalie exclaimed, shocked.
“Clearly I did.” he replied. “Now, how does this thing work?”
Natalie and Michael looked at each other and both shrugged. “I don't know,” Natalie answered truthfully. “but we have to state the destination to the orb so it can take us somewhere.”
“And it's too small for all of us to hang onto it.” Michael added. “Maybe it takes everyone within a three-feet radius to the destination.”
“Let's try it.” Kyra suggested and she took the orb from Zack's hand. She took off her glove and held it in her bare palm. “Please state your destination.”
“Um, guys, any thoughts?” Kyra asked. They all looked at each other. None of them really knew any haunted asylums. That was more of Ava's hobby. Right now they needed to get away from the goddess before she noticed what was missing.
“Portland, Oregon.” Natalie said clearly and the group disappeared.
The group appeared in a dark alley and they all grabbed the building's wall for support. “Why Oregon?” Zack asked Natalie.
“It's far away from where we were and it was the only place that popped into my mind at the time.” she replied.
Kyra looked at the orb in her hand; it had started to shudder. “Please wait three hours before use. Recharging is taking place.” the recorded voice told them. Natalie smiled at that. “Good, we can use this time to rest for the night. Everybody, follow me.”
The temperature in Portland, Oregon was significantly warmer than Alaska so the Questers began to take off their heavy winter coats since they wouldn't be needing them. They followed Natalie to a small hotel where they checked in for two hotel rooms. Natalie had used the Mist to convince the hotel employees they were all over eighteen even though none of them looked eighteen.
The rooms were right next to each other in case something went wrong and they had to leave quickly. The girls took the room on the right while the guys took the room on the left. Kyra took the glass orb with her and set it on the table next to the two beds.
The next morning, the group met up downstairs in the lobby. All of them carried their back packs with various items and Kyra had the glass orb safe inside her winter coat which was folded neatly at the bottom of the back pack. Natalie faced the group once everyone was settled. “First, we're going to find something to eat and then we need to go to this place that I found out about this morning. It is a hotel located in Maribel, Wisconsin and legend says that there were evil witches there who created a portal to hell. I figure that would be one place that Hecate would love to visit on a daily basis, even more so than an abandoned asylum. The thing is, I think it would still be best to go there at night because there will be a greater chance she will be there.” She looked at the others and waiting for a response.
“That sounds better...I guess.” Kyra told her. “Let's just find some food first.”
After the group had eaten they began their long wait for nighttime. They sat on the benches by a park, all of them bored out of their minds. Natalie and Michael both talked about what they would do next once they found Hecate and they both agreed that if she didn't create the portal they would keep looking for other gods. They both knew that Hecate would be a key point in getting Ava out of the portal so they needed to find her either way, and the sooner they found her the better.
Kyra was manipulating the light to form small spheres that she played around with to create more than one shadow on some objects. She constantly checked her bag to make sure that the glass orb wasn't harmed in any way.
Zack looked at Natalie. “Can't we just use the glass orb to take us to where Hecate is instead of waiting here until nighttime? That would save us a lot of time.” Although it sounded like he had a point, Natalie still shook her head.
“It doesn't work like that. You could say to the orb, 'Take me to where Hecate is,' but nothing would happen. Gods are constantly moving around by instantaneously going from one place to another. Plus, that isn't a location. You have to be specific for the orb: down to the state and the city at least.”
“How did you know that?” Michael asked, amazed. Natalie shrugged. “Most of it was an educated guess.”
After a few minutes, an older woman told them to move because they were taking the benches away from the people who actually needed them. The group reluctantly got up, expecting the older woman to sit down in their place, but she just went on her merry way.
The group became so bored they just decided to walk around the city and pop into random shops and look at what was being sold. While the group explore a small shop selling trinkets and other useless items only used for decoration, Kyra noticed a small gold colored bell that created a soft ringing sound when shook. None of the others seemed interested in any of the items they found.
When the sun finally set, the Questers were finally glad to be rid of Portland once and for all. It wasn't that they hadn't liked the city, but more that they had more important things to do at this time. Maybe they would come back some day when they weren't trying to find a god to close the entrance to a parallel universe. They probably would need a vacation soon because one can only do a certain amount of quests at a time before becoming exhausted.
Natalie had mixed feelings about this. She wanted to go so they could close the portal and somehow bring Ava back, but she didn't want to go in case in was a complete failure. What if she was wrong about this and Hecate wouldn't be there at all? She couldn't think like that. She had to believe this would work.
She turned and faced the group. “Let's find Hecate.” she told them and they stepped closer together while Kyra pulled out the glass orb. “Please state your destination.” The recorded voice was becoming more annoying every time it repeated something. “Maribel Caves Hotel in Maribel, Wisconsin.” Natalie stated clearly and the group vanished, leaving quite a few people dumbfounded at what had just happened.
The group appeared next to an abandoned hotel and Kyra could see why Natalie decided they would go to this place instead of an abandoned asylum. The building itself looked like it was on the verge of collapse and it had a look to it that warned people not to go in. It was made of stone and definitely looked like the kind of place where people would have died for unknown reasons. Even though she didn't believe in this kind of stuff, this place still sent shivers down her spine because nothing was right about it. She sincerely hoped that Hecate would appear soon so they could get out of here.
Natalie looked around thoughtfully and she looked at the full moon for a moment then turned to the group. “Now we wait.”
At first, the waiting itself was uneventful, but what happened during the waiting did much more than cause an adrenaline rush. At first, the attacks seemed fairly minor. A hell hound attack here, another one shortly after the first was easily killed. The hell hounds were fairly young too so it only took a simple graze of the blade to turn them into golden dust and have the wind take the evidence away. The attacks were almost an insult to their skills. After a few minutes, things seemed to die down and they stood in a circle with their backs to each other in case another monster appeared. They began to relax when nothing appeared and Kyra lower her bow. She turned her head to Natalie like she was about to say something when a monster leaped at her and knocked her down. She had closed her eyes so she couldn't get a good view of it, but the others could.
The beast had the head of a rooster, the body of a snake, and the limbs of a lizard. On its back were two wings as black as midnight. It was small but Michael and Natalie both knew was it was. “Kyra! Keep your eyes closed!” Natalie ordered and she averted her gaze as well. “Everyone else: don't look at its eyes. Don't even look at its head; stay behind it at all times.” Zack turned his head and he followed Natalie around the creature. Once he was behind the beast, he raised one sword to strike but Natalie forcefully dragged his arm back. “No! Its venom is poisonousness and once stricken, it will bite and kill Kyra as well.”
Zack looked at her in puzzlement. “You keep saying what it does but you haven't even said what this thing is!”
Natalie sighed. “This is a basilisk and it kills people not only with its glare but by its venom which it produces similar to a snake.” She looked at the beast for a moment and was stumped. It wasn't making any move to kill Kyra, and in fact it looked like it was using her as a hostage. “We can't do anything about this situation. It's hopeless!” She looked at Michael and waited for him to say something convincing. “There is still hope.” he told her, “We just need a weasel.”
Zack stared at him. “Are you serious?” he asked, hoping the son of Athena wasn't, but there was no hint of laughter in his eyes.
“Very serious.” Michael replied and he heard something step towards them. He turned around along with Natalie and Zack and saw a lion standing several yards away, but it wasn't just a lion. A goat's head sprouted from its neck and its tail was a full-grown serpent. Next to it and closest to Zack there was the manticore with its body poised and ready to strike down anyone who attacked it. Next to it, facing Kyra and the basilisk, was a hydra with twenty heads swinging around, watching everything all at once. Next to the hydra was Medusa and she was facing Natalie. She wore a veil and Natalie noticed two wings sprouted from the horrid creature's back. She stepped back on impulse and she noticed something familiar. None of them were attacking, more like they were waiting and observing.
The manticore laughed and turned its head to face Natalie. “Ah, good work, daughter of Athena. If you strike, we will kill all of you. Now, what will you make of this?”
Natalie glared at the manticore, angry that for once she couldn't think of what to do. Kyra could die any second and they had no way to kill the basilisk. Fighting these monsters together would be impossible, even with Zack's help, and they weren't acting like monsters. No, they were attacking almost human.
“Natalie? Any ideas?” Michael asked. Even without looking, she knew that he was staring at the monster that stood before him. She didn't have any ideas. Killing them one at a time had already crossed her mind, but once they attacked, the basilisk would kill Kyra and the others would attack Zack and the chimera was impossible to kill by itself. They needed help, and badly.
“Hecate, now would be a great time to appear.” she whispered and desperately hoped the goddess would hear her.
Before Ava fully woke up, she heard the buzz of insects all around her. It was significantly warmer than Alaska and it was humid. She picked herself off the ground and spit out bits of grass. She blinked multiple times and looked around.
The trees in the area were huge and created a beautiful canopy overhead. The chorus of crickets made her guess that it had to be early morning at least. She took off her winter coat and her jacket since it was too warm for them. She blinked again and her eyes widened when she finally took in the scene around her. Wasn't she just in Alaska... She paused for a moment, confused. What had happened, anyway? She remembered walking on the glaciers and seeing a strange dog with three heads... Yes, that was Cerberus, and he had transformed into Hades somehow. Her father had then said things to her...things she always worried he would say to her one day.
Something kept telling her it wasn't real but it felt and looked so believable.
Then after Hades had finished speaking, he had transformed back into Cerberus...and now she was here. But how? While she thought, she looked at a fly that flew around her and, irritated at its constant buzzing, she trapped it in her hand and killed it. She was startled by the sudden act because she couldn't quite understand why she was so angry. She had just shadow traveled here, right?
No, she hadn't because there were no shadows around the glaciers there was nothing except the portal.
The portal. These stupid “horizontal holes in the universe” as Michael had said. She finally realized why everything seemed to unnatural in this place. Everything was different as opposed to her world because it wasn't her world. She was an intruder in this place and she wouldn't be able to get back home.
Home. What was home to her anyway? Definitely not where her mother lived ever since she left her at Camp Half-Blood. She knew her mother did this to keep her daughter safe, but part of her couldn't say that the house her mother and step father lived in was a home to her anymore. It stopped being a home when she found the haven for demigods. Camp Half-Blood was her home, but it wouldn't be her home forever. Sooner or later she would move out, live in a house, find a job... She didn't really have an permanent home, only temporary homes. Homes that she would leave some day so she could find a better home.
Yet, she would never think of this place as her home even if she did have to spend the rest of her life here. It would never become her home because the world she was born into was her home. Her home was not a parallel universe that could be entered by a portal. Her universe was home to her friends and her family. Her universe was the place where gods and goddess existed and caused chaos by endless wars. Her universe was the place where she went on deadly missions and afterwards she laughed about it with her friends. Her universe was where she had a mother, a father, and brother even if they didn't quite love each other. Her universe was the place that was impossible to take a vacation from, but here she was in some remote location in a universe where people who very well have three hearts and two heads. In a way, she was taking an unplanned vacation from her universe but this was the kind of vacation you couldn't escape from. It was endless, and endless wasn't always a good thing.
So, without warning, she began to cry. She cried because she was foolish to believe the image of her father had been real. She cried because she could never see her family again and Nico would assume this was just Bianca all over again. She could never see anyone. Not Michael. Not Kyra. Not Natalie. Not Zack... In a way, this was much, much worse than death. At least in dying you knew they would eventually follow you into the gates of paradise.
Except for Zack. He would just stay immortal forever and watch the world burn. She supposed she knew that one day she would die and he wouldn't but those thoughts never really cross your mind if you're determined not to think about that.
She was stuck here until she died, and all because she was too afraid to realize that what had happened on the glacier wasn't real at all. It was only a manifestation of her deepest fears. If she had known that then maybe she wouldn't be here right now. She could still be with her friends and she would still be fighting monsters with them.
But she didn't and she was here, sitting on the ground in some strange forest and crying her eyes out even though it was foolish to be crying because it solved nothing. She sat here and wished she had relished the moments with her friends instead of enjoying everything while it lasted.
But at least she was alone. She needed to be alone right now because that was how she thought. Alone. Most of her lifestyle was about being alone and this was one moment where she needed to be alone and didn't just want to be alone. Maybe if she was alone she could cope with everything more easily.
But even here it seemed her luck was rotten.
She heard the rustling of branches and looked up, startled. She turned around and saw a young girl, maybe a nine-year-old, looking at her as if deciding what to make of her. “You've been crying.” the little girl observed.
Ava simply scowled. “Why do you care?” she spat and winced at how she sounded. Yes, it was much better if she was alone.
“You appeared out of thin air.” the girl added and she frowned. “You're missing someone.”
“No, a lot of people.” Ava corrected. “And how do you know this?”
“Because people cry when they're sad and I've only seen people cry when they miss someone.”
Ava just looked at her, amazed that this little girl knew so much. Maybe she wasn't as young as she previously thought.
“How old are you?” Ava asked.
“Eleven.” Okay, two years older than what she thought. “I'm sorry about whatever happened to you.” she added and Ava shrugged. “It's okay.” Really, it wasn't, but she wasn't about to explain to this girl what had happened to her.
The little girl stepped closer and sat next to her. Her eyes looked like a gray-ish green, kind of like how her own eyes looked at times. Her hair was a very light brown. “I've lost people too. I lost my momma and papa a year ago when they were attacked by somebody. I had to get away so I've been wandering around and looking for food.”
“I'm sorry about that.” Ava murmured and suddenly her losses didn't seem so bad. At least they weren't dead...yet.
“Who are you?” the little girl asked.
“No one important.” And it was true. To this girl, she was no one important. She was just a stranger to her. “What about you?”
“Nobody you would know.” the little girl said and started to giggle which made Ava smile. She knew the little girl was simply copying her, but it had made her smile. Maybe living in this universe wouldn't be so bad after all. The little girl stopped giggling enough to ask her a question. “How old are you?”
“You could meet my brother. He's the same age as you.”
“I'd rather not.” That was pretty much the last thing she wanted to do right now. “What's your name?” she asked. Names were easily enough, right?
Then, she noticed something disturbing. On her left hand, the girl bore a scar like she had on her left hand. Same shape and right in the middle. Even before the girl said her name, she already knew who she was.
“...It can be a parallel universe with another version of someone on this Earth...”
Natalie looked around, half-hoping the goddess would appear and destroy all the monsters with a flick of her hand, even if that was technically interfering with the quest. They wouldn't have to worry about the quest if Hecate didn't show up.
The manticore smiled evilly at her as if it knew exactly how she was feeling. “Where's your help now, daughter of Athena? Should I just go on and ask you for any last words?” Natalie glared at the monster and turned her head to face Michael. Maybe this really was hopeless; even he wasn't trying to think of a way out. She turned to look at Kyra whose eyes were shut closed and her body was trapped under the basilisk. Then she looked at Zack who was ready for a fight that would never come. Even he couldn't save them all.
She looked back at the manticore, her mind made up. “We give up. Take us to wherever we are needed.”
“Natalie!” Michael shouted, surprised. “We can't give up!”
“Your brother is right, child.” a voice told her and the manticore turned its head, along with the Questers, to where the voice was coming from. A woman stepped out from the shadows, but she didn't need to because her body was literally glowing with power. She looked almost like a ghost, but she wasn't one. Her hair and eyes were both as black as midnight and her skin paler than white.
She took one look at the manticore and it growled at her. “Hecate, you cannot possibly take their side.” He stepped towards the goddess not knowing he could be killed easily.
“They must do something for me.” Hecate replied looked at the manticore. “As I must do something for them.”
The manticore shrank back but disappeared into golden dust along with the other monsters. Michael helped Kyra stand up and Natalie looked at the goddess in gratitude. “Thank you, lady Hecate.”
Zack; however, wasn't so thankful. “About time you came and helped us!”
Hecate simply frowned. “Watch your tongue, son of Ares. I do know what you stole from Aura in Alaska and I am doing you a favor by not bringing you in.” She then turned to Natalie. “And daughter of Athena, despite what you may believe, I did not create the portal in Alaska. In fact, I am attempting to close it.”
Natalie looked stunned for a moment but regained her composure. “Lady Hecate, thank you again for your help, but we want to ask you another favor--”
“Which I cannot complete.” Hecate finished. She looked slightly sad at their expressions. “Do not despair, demigods. It is not that I do not wish to help you, but that I am unable to help you. Something is blocking me from closing to the portal and that includes creating another one to get your friend out.”
She looked at Natalie and motioned her to take a step back along with the others. Hecate chanted a few words in Ancient Greek and a globe of fire appeared in front of them. There was a purple flame in an area west in Alaska and closest to Canada. It created a line all the way from Camp Half-Blood where it stopped and another line branched off from the flame in Alaska and stopped in Portland, Oregon. The last line went straight to Maribel, Wisconsin. “You've been watching us.” Michael realized and the goddess nodded. “It has been difficult, but I have been tracking you. You must understand, young demigods, that I need you to find Phobos and Deimos for me. I believe they both know the whereabouts of the god or goddess who created the portal in Alaska. Find them and I will help you get your friend back.”
Natalie, Michael, Zack, and Kyra looked at each other uncertainly. Gods usually had other agendas and even if they promised they would do something for you they rarely would. Hecate did seem honest about this, though, but there wasn't any harm in making sure.
Natalie turned back to the goddess. “Swear on the River Styx that you will help us get Ava back from the parallel universe.” Natalie told her and Hecate smiled.
“Ah, I like this one. I swear on the River Styx I will get your friend out of the parallel universe.” Thunder rumbled in the distance but Hecate wasn't finished yet. “Now you must swear on the River Styx that your and your friends will find Phobos and Deimos for me.”
Natalie looked at her and nodded reluctantly. “I swear on the River Styx we will find Phobos and Deimos for you.” Again, thunder rumbled in the distance.
Hecate smiled at them, revealing teeth that looked almost translucent. “Good. I believe we have made a deal. After you have found Phobos and Deimos come back here. I will be waiting for you. If they did not create the portal I expect you to know who did. Now, farewell demigods. Pray you have safe travels.” And with that, she disappeared into the night. Natalie turned to the others and she looked at Michael nervously. “I hope I didn't just make a huge mistake.” Michael shook his head.
“No, you did the right thing. Now what do we do?”
“Let's leave, this place is really freaky.” Kyra suggested and Zack nodded. Kyra pulled out the orb and the recorded voice rang through the night. “Please state your destination.” Kyra and Zack both looked at Natalie but she had no idea where Deimos and Phobos could be. She decided on a place they could just rest for the night and leave in the morning, kind of like Portland, Oregon.
This time, the group didn't lose their balance when they appeared in an alleyway. Kyra brushed blades of grass from her clothes and looked around. “Why do we always appear in an alleyway?” she asked but none of them had an actual answer. “At least it isn't the middle of a bar.” Zack told her.
After they had surveyed the area, Natalie led them to a hotel where, again, they checked in for two rooms. Natalie and Kyra took the room on the right and set their belongings on their beds. Kyra took the orb from Natalie and placed it safely in her back pack. She lay on the bed, still, but Natalie knew she wouldn't get to sleep until they were ready to leave. Natalie thought that was ironic. A daughter of Apollo staying up through the night and becoming tired during the day.
Natalie sat on her bed and ran the events through her mind. Was it wise to trust Hecate? She had made the goddess swear on the River Styx but gods could always break their oaths because they couldn't die. Even so, they were given two other gods to chase, and Hecate didn't seem like the type of goddess to create a portal so dangerous... The goddess could easily be tricking them, but Natalie didn't quite believe Hecate would do that. Yes, the goddess had fought against the gods but she wasn't the type to go around causing mischief like Phobos and Deimos. She truly did seem sincere.
Natalie looked out the window and stared at the city. Lights danced in the sky and she heard a few scuffles around the hotel. If she was wrong about this she hoped she at least wouldn't be leading everyone to their deaths.
It took Ava three seconds to realize what was going on. She was talking to herself and she wasn't insane for doing so.
She was talking to herself.
She was talking to herself. Literally speaking and interacting with her younger self. This shouldn't be possible. This was just wrong. Impossible.
Wasn't there some kind of drawback to this? Like if you talked to yourself in a parallel universe you would die a painful death or something else along those lines would happen.
She looked at the little girl once again (she refused to call her Ava) and realized the girl looked nothing like her. The only similarities were the eyes and the scar, but apart from that they were entirely different people who shared the same name. They didn't even live in the same universe; they were hardly the same person.
“What's your brother's name?” Ava asked, almost dreading the answer.
“Nico.” She wondered if this Nico was as close to the younger Ava as she was to her half-brother. She doubted it. “Do you want to meet him? He takes care of me so he's always close by.”
Ava shook her head. She wasn't about to give herself a reason to cry again. The little girl looked at the trees. “What happened to you?” she asked and Ava sighed. She didn't want to tell her...but maybe she didn't have a choice. If this was a younger version on herself then maybe she would understand. After all, the kid did lose her parents. “It's a pretty long story.” Ava warned but the little girl just smiled. “That's okay. I like long stories.”
Ava let out a breath. “Alright, first off, I'm not from this world. I came through this portal--” she gestured with her hands to create an oval shape in the air “--which landed me here.”
“Can't you go back?” the little girl asked but Ava shook her head. “It's like a one-way street, so no. Anyway, before I fell through the portal, I had these friends. Well, they still are my friends. We just can't contact each other. Anyway, we lived at this camp and we went on these quests together. See, in my world, these gods exist and they have children with mortals and the product is called a demigod. This camp was a home for demigods and my friends and I were demigods. The children of the gods are always attacked by these monsters and the camp is a safe haven for us. We can't live in the mortal world.
“Anyway, we went on quests and we became really good friends after that. We always found challenges but we managed to overcome them. On this quest; however, we couldn't quite do that. We were supposed to investigate this portal in this area and we did, but in the process I landed here and now I'm stuck.”
“That wasn't too long.” the little girl told her but Ava just shrugged as if that didn't matter. “What were their names? Your friends?” she asked. Before answering, Ava hesitated. If there was another version of her in this universe, wouldn't there be other versions of Michael, Natalie, Kyra, and Zack was well? But, since this was a younger version of herself, perhaps she hadn't met them yet. “Their names were Kyra, Natalie, Zack, and Michael. Natalie was the oldest out of all of us and Michael was the youngest. They were both half-siblings; they shared the same godly parent.”
“Who were the gods? And where did they come from?” younger Ava asked. From the look on her face, none of the names sounded familiar so she took that as a good sign.
“The gods originally lived in a place called Greece. They reigned there for some time then began to move from place to place. Now, they live where my friends and I live. Or where I used to live. At first, there were the Titans which were born from Gaia and Ouranos. Kronos and Rhea then bore the gods. Zeus was the king of the gods and he, along with eleven other gods, formed the twelve Olympians. Zeus had two brothers, Hades and Poseidon, and they together formed the Big Three; Hades is my father. The twelve Olympians are Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hermes, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, and Dionysus. Athena is Natalie's and Michael's mother, Apollo is Kyra's father, and Ares is Zack's father. And that's pretty much it.” She looked at the little girl almost longingly. What could it have been like to live in a place where she wasn't hunted everyday or wasn't special? For a moment, she was envious of this girl, of this younger version of herself. She wasn't born special, nor was she born to be hunted and killed. She had the life all demigods wanted.
For a moment, she wondered if living here wouldn't be a terrible as to previously thought...
No, she didn't belong here and she would never belong here no matter how many decades were wasted at this place. She had to find a way to get back and she wished there was a way to get back, but she knew it was hopeless. She was stuck here until the day she died, but she didn't want to give in to that fact.
Even if this little girl was her, she wouldn't understand despite she would have gone through this had they switched places. They were alike but different in so many ways. This girl lived in paradise as far as Ava was concerned. No gods trying to get your help, no monsters who wanted to murder you, no friends dying at your feet. And the thing was, she wouldn't have it any other way. Maybe she was hunted everyday, but she had four friends in the exact same position. They weren't alone even if they tried to be alone. They were always there for each other.
And now they weren't. Four were home to stay and the one decided to take a vacation.
She wondered what they were doing right now. Where they trying to find a way to get her out of this place, or had they already found a way to fix this mess? Were they still in Alaska or were they in a different part of the Unites States, knowing how dangerous the portal was? Did they tell everyone at Camp Half-Blood or no? She didn't even know what was happening to them. They could be dead for all she knew or stranded by hoards of monsters because they tended to do that when they traveled on quests. They would grow old and end up dying on each other and they would grieve while she died here, alone, where no one would know or care.
What would happened if she died here anyway? The gods didn't exist here, so maybe she when she died she wouldn't exist either because she didn't belong here. No world deserved having two Avas in its midst.
"I'm sorry." the little girl told her but she went unacknowledged. Maybe there was a way to forget, because right now remembering what you lost was more painful than forgetting how you once lived.
When Natalie woke up, she noticed Kyra staring at her. “Morning, Natalie.” she greeted and Natalie raised her eyebrows. “Don't tell me you stayed up all night.”
“No, I just woke up before you. Come on, Michael and Zack are waiting.” This made Natalie sit up. “Why didn't you wake me up? I still need to think of a plan--”
“Nat, don't. You overwork yourself; I figured you would need the sleep after what happened.” And Natalie was grateful that Kyra noticed this and allowed her to sleep an extra hour or so, but at the same time she preferred to have a plan before everyone else woke up so they could save time. Now she would have to think of one before they all became too agitated.
Kyra looked at her expectantly. “Let's go before another window breaks.” she urged but Natalie stopped for a moment. “Wait, what window broke?” she asked but Kyra shook her head.
“It's nothing.” she dismissed and motioned for Natalie to hurry up.
The two stepped out of the room and Kyra led her to where Zack and Michael were waiting. Sure enough there was a broken window and Michael looked to where she was staring. “Oh, don't worry about it.” he told her and he sat down on one of couches in the lobby. Natalie sat across from him and next to Kyra. Zack took a chair.
“Okay, so we have to find Phobos and Deimos.” Natalie started but it was clear they already knew that. They were looking for something they could all work with, like a city or a state, but Natalie had no idea where to start.
“We could look for them around the city.” Michael offered, clearly trying to help his sister out. “We just need to look for anything suspicious.”
Natalie smiled gratefully and looked at the others. “Okay, then we'll look around the city for Phobos and Deimos. Let's find something to eat first.” They went up to collect their stuff since they wouldn't come back to the hotel and checked out. They found the nearest coffee place and bought their breakfast there and once they were finished they started to walk along the busy streets. They would look around for anything out of the ordinary but nothing in particular caught their eyes. It was just people going about their normal days.
Natalie feverishly looked around for any sight of Phobos and Deimos, but she had doubted they would be here in the first place. She led the group to random alleyways and dead-ends, and while she was doing so she knew the others were becoming exhausted and bored. They had no leads so what else were they supposed to do in this place?
Natalie was just about to give up and ask Kyra for the orb when she heard someone cry out. “What are you doing to me! How are you doing this?!” Michael and Natalie both looked at each other. They couldn't have been this lucky...but they had to to check it out and see what in the world was happening.
They group ran towards the commotion and saw an old man kneeling on the ground in front of the ugliest men to ever walk the face of the Earth. They were both familiar and Natalie now understood why. It was clear that Ares blood was in their veins.
The old man was whimpering, his eyes filled with terror and he kept begging them to stop. The man who stood there, laughing while the old man was in pain must have been Deimos while Phobos was showing the old man what he most feared.
Natalie and Michael looked at each other, and in a split second they both mentally agreed on what to do. Not caring about the traffic, not caring about anything but the gods in front of them, the group sprinted towards Deimos and Phobos and caused a few accidents as they stepped directly in front on cars. Only Michael had the courtesy to apologize.
Zack launched himself at Phobos in an attempt to stop him, but when they gods saw them approaching they side-stepped and laughed as he stumbled. “Hecate is unwise in sending weaklings after us.” Deimos commented and they both took off sprinting which was unusual for them. Natalie looked at the others and followed the gods across streets filled with honking cars and annoyed drivers. Michael turned to look at the drivers that stared angrily at them. “Sorry, sorry!” he apologized and Natalie grabbed his arm. “Come on, we can't lose them!” The group veered a sharp left and they found the gods looking at them, as if asking them to come forward. Zack, who was now leading the group, ran after them but the gods split up; Deimos went left and Phobos went right.
Natalie looked around and saw the build up of cars even from here. She looked at Michael and Kyra, then at Zack. They needed to split up in order to catch them. Alone, the gods would be weaker.
“Kyra, Michael, you two follow Deimos!” Natalie commanded and the two nodded and ran off in the direction Deimos went. She looked at Zack who already knew what she was going to say. “You're with me. Don't mess this up.” He said nothing and only followed her as she dodged various stationary objects that stood in their way. Zack, probably in an attempt to show off, jumped over them. They passed the occasional bewildered elderly people and curious children. Natalie watched as Phobos pushed random people aside in an attempt to lose them and she mentally scorned him for acting that way. Yes, he was a god, but she didn't think that was how a god should act. Phobos skidded to a stop, making Zack and Natalie do the same, and he turned a sharp right. Natalie urged herself to move faster but she knew the god was only trying to wear them out. She and Zack weaved among the pedestrians and finally stopped when Phobos led them to a dead-end. Natalie smirked at this, believing the god to be stranded. “Phobos, tell us who created the portal!” she asked and allowed a hint of an edge to her voice. The god just smirked, transformed into a crow, and flew off.
Natalie swore and looked at Zack. “Your crossbow!” she reminded him but he was already there. She turned back just in time to see the crow be pierced in both wings, causing it to fall to the ground. Natalie ran towards it and picked the crow up. Phobos began to protest but he couldn't transform anymore. She looked at Zack and smiled. “Good shot. Now we just need to find Kyra and Michael.”
Michael and Kyra didn't have as much luck.
They dodged the stationary objects and random people who tended to stand by and gawk, but they weren't as fast as Zack and Natalie were. Too soon they had to resort to weapons. Kyra shot and arrow at Deimos as he tried to escape but it just barely missed his arm. She ran faster and Michael followed her. They veered right, then went left. They avoided the streets as much as they could and tried to keep to the sidewalks but Deimos refused to be as courteous. He freely sprinted into the streets and caused traffic jams which in turn created quite a few pissed off drivers. He laughed at their frustration and anger, and seemed to gain energy from it.
Kyra's strides became increasing wider as she attempted to make more ground. She notched an arrow at the god and was just about to fire when he turned left. She swore and accidentally released the bowstring, causing the arrow to pass straight through a mortal.
It would have been an interesting sight had they not been chasing a god at the time.
Michael, noticing Kyra's exhaustion, took up the lead. He tried to closely follow Deimos but it seemed as if the god was becoming increasingly faster... A thought popped into his head. He turned his head enough that he could speak to Kyra and still look out in front of him. “Trip wire.” he gasped and Kyra understood. She loaded another arrow with a thin wire tied to the end as they dodged more people and animals. As Deimos started to turn, she shot the arrow and it pierced a stack of newspapers. Deimos, thinking they had failed yet again, continued to run but ended up falling face-first into the sidewalk. The duo caught up to him but just as Kyra stepped up to him he transformed into a rat and began to scurry away.
Kyra notched another arrow and it pinned his tail to the ground, but the god transformed yet again into his human form. Kyra notched another arrow and waited for the god to turn just so slightly--
There was a strangled scream as the arrow passed straight through the god's body, pierced his heart and both lungs, and flew straight out the other end. Deimos collapsed on the ground, in pain but he couldn't die. In fact, within minutes the wound began to heal. Before he could get up; however, Michael pointed his sword at the god's throat. Deimos sighed in defeat. “Alright, demigods, I admit defeat. Now, what is it you brats want?”
Michael and Kyra looked around in search of Natalie and Zack and saw them running towards them with a crow in Natalie's hands. When they reached them, Natalie noticed the pool of ichor. “What did you do?” she asked, not believing the sight in front of her.
“Um, I kind of shot Deimos through the heart.” Kyra admitted and suddenly she began wondering what the consequences would be. Surely the gods didn't take kindly to a demigod injuring one of their kind. Zack looked at the crow that Natalie held in her hands. “Makes it look like we pitied Phobos.” he commented then looked at Deimos who was still lying on the ground. People were beginning to stare at them now, and Kyra figured it wouldn't be much longer until the police showed up wondering what the hell was going on.
“Who created the portal?” Natalie asked Deimos and the god just smiled.
“Oh, that was all you wanted to know? You could have just asked politely.” He grinned to reveal a mouth with barely any teeth. “Well, I suppose you should know...” He was clearly enjoying making them angry.
“Deimos, tell us and we'll let you go.” Natalie promised and Deimos looked like he was in deep thought. “Yes, I suppose that seemed fair. Well then, we didn't create the portal of course. No, no, the goddess of folly and mischief did.”
And with that the two brothers turned to a reddish ash and blew away with the wind. Natalie stared at the spot where Deimos once was. “Great, real helpful. Now what should we do? We can't just go back to Hecate without a name.” she asked the others but they didn't have an answer for her. Michael put a hand on her shoulder reassuringly. “Maybe we don't have to. Hecate might know who the goddess of folly and mischief is and that will be as good as a name.” he told her and Natalie sighed.
“Fine. We'll go to Hecate and tell her what we know, and then she'll have to help us.”
The group stopped for a moment to rest and regain their strength. Kyra gave the orb to Natalie but she rejected it. “Not yet, we still have to think of what to tell her.”
Michael heard the police sirens coming closer and he shuffled his feet nervously. “We might want to go anyway, Natalie.” he told her and she reluctantly agreed. Kyra handed her the orb but before the recorded voice had a chance to say anything they had already disappeared into a flash of light.
The group appeared in front of the hotel's entrance but before they could move what could have been a beautiful woman stepped out of the shadows. Her hair was now a fiery red with hints of blue and purple and her eyes cat-like and as green as a leaf in the summertime. Her skin was still paler than white.
She didn't wear a chiton this time and instead wore a jet black cloak over what appeared to be a red satin dress that fell to her ankles. Her feet were bare and looked translucent. The woman smiled to reveal shark-like teeth and Michael finally noticed the snake that hissed at her feet.
“Thank you, demigods.” she said but she hardly sounded thankful. She sounded more angry at the fact they had gotten information of Phobos and Deimos and not her. “Who created the portal? I must know in order to find them and close it.”
Natalie looked at Michael and she let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. She prayed the goddess wouldn't blast them to the skies. “Lady Hecate, we don't exactly have a name--”
“Then why waste my time? Come back when you have the information I need.” The goddess began to fade slightly when on impulse Natalie reached out to stop her. “Lady Hecate, wait! We don't have a name but we have something else. Who is the goddess of folly and mischief?”
The goddess paused and when the breeze ruffled the goddess's hair Natalie could have sworn it was made of fire.
“Oh, yes I know the goddess. You will be looking for Atë but I am afraid that I have not heard of the goddess's whereabouts in some time. I fear that if you go looking for her without any leads you will be searching for years.” She glanced at the snake that circled around her feet and murmured to herself. “There is a way I can help you find her.” She waved her left hand slightly and a great black paw broke free from the prison it was trapped it. Natalie stepped back along with the others as another paw groped for something to clutch as it dragged itself out. The paws gripped the earth as it pushed itself out into the sunlight. A large snout appeared and after a few minutes a great back dog the size of four buses stacked on top of each other towered over them. It sniffed them in curiosity and Natalie noticed the eyes weren't red like a normal hell hound's. They were sapphire colored.
Hecate patted the one of the dog's hind legs and it brought its snout to the ground so Hecate could whisper something in its ear. It seemed to nod and looked at the group, expecting them to hop on, but no one dared to touch the beast.
“Come now, she won't bite. She is a tame monster.” Hecate reassured them but Natalie thought the goddess was silently laughing at their terror. Zack, who was the least fazed by this, gripped the giant dog's front right paw and started to climb it until he sat directly behind its neck. “It isn't too bad up here!” he informed them then winced. “Bit uncomfortable though.”
Natalie looked back at Kyra and Michael but they simply nodded for her to go up. She turned back and climbed its front paw and once she sat down behind Zack Michael and Kyra followed her. When Michael helped Kyra up she smiled to herself but said nothing about it.
Hecate looked at them and once everyone was situated she patted the dog's hind leg again. “Medea will take you to where Atë is but it may take some time, perhaps even a few days. She does not eat or drink and cannot become tired since she is dead. I ask you not to over work yourselves; however, because the goddess is swift and nimble. When you find and capture her Medea here will take you to me and I will work on getting your friend out of the parallel universe. I would wish you safe travels but that would do nothing for you.” The goddess stepped back and Natalie gripped the dog's fur when it reared up on its hind legs so she wouldn't fall off. It gave a loud snarl as if it caught Atë's scent and it began to walk towards the supposedly haunted hotel. When it gained speed it leaped effortlessly over buildings, Natalie had to wonder what the mortals were seeing, or if they could see them at all.
It was well past the afternoon when the giant hound stopped near a heavily forested area and began to sniff around the ground. Realizing this, the group took this opportunity to stretch since the hound wasn't most comfortable thing in the world. Natalie looked around to see if there was anything off about this place but nothing looked out of place. Still, the hound continued to sniff the ground. When it looked at them and kept shaking its head, Natalie took that as a sign it was about to leave again. Once they were settled the hound broke into a run and amazingly, no trees touched them. They passed bridges and rivers, streets and cars, highways and coffee shops, supermarkets and forests but not once did anyone look up. It was a nice change to go unnoticed by the mortal world for once.
When it was at least 11:35 P.M., the hound, as if noticing their discomfort, stopped when they reached a small wooded area. Apparently it wasn't informed that demigods preferred a nice bed as opposed to the cold ground. The giant dog turned around and moved its head side-to-side constantly like it was keeping guard. While the others began to succumb to the embrace of Morpheus, Natalie looked up at the stars that peered at them through the gaps in the canopy. For a moment she realized that in the parallel universe Ava could very well be experiencing summer or spring right now while they still felt the effects of winter. In fact, while they slept there was a possibility she was wide awake.
Parallel universe....Before, she had assumed that there was no such thing. That it was just a creation of a science fiction series, but now she wondered what it was really like. Anything could happen in them. Technology could be more advanced or technology may not exist yet. It could be winter more often than summer and spring. It was still difficult to grasp the concept but she knew it was real. They all did, and even if Chiron said it was impossible somehow they would free her from wherever she was.
After all, the group was known for doing impossible things.
In the early hours of the morning, Michael was stirred awake by the hound's frantic barking. He stood up, blinked a few times, then looked around to see if he could spot anything out of the ordinary. The only thing he saw was a doe that had wandered a little bit too close to them. When everyone else began to stir awake it scampered off.
He looked at the hound and watched in mild curiosity as it kept shaking its head back and forth as if trying to get rid of an annoying fly. It caught Michael's gaze and began to bark, and he took this as a sign they had to leave. He looked at the others and since they were fully awake he told them they had to leave now. Once everyone had packed their stuff, Natalie climbed its paw and sat behind its neck, followed by Kyra, Michael, and Zack. The hound immediately jumped into the woods and Michael took the opportunity to watch the trees zoom past them and the birds fly in and out of the hound's head as if it was nothing. The hound leaped over a river and landed in the middle of a busy street, but again there was no commotion. It slowed down at what appeared to be a supermarket and began to sniff the ground eagerly as it stepped forward. It began to whine like a dog who desperately wanted to go outside and stopped moving for a few minutes. Within seconds; however, it growled and leaped across the buildings and once again they were on the right trail. Michael had to grip the hound's fur so he wouldn't fall off while it barreled over highways and cars.
Suddenly, the hound stopped in front of a river and began to frantically paw the ground. It started growl and snarl like the goddess was close by. Michael relaxed slightly when a woman who stood staring at the river turned to look at them. She had a petite frame and long, reddish hair that fell to her waist and even from here, Michael noticed her eyes were a bright blue that looked like fire to some extent.
She looked at them, smiled, and jumped into the river while she transformed into what looked almost like a goldfish.
Instantly, the hound jumped into the river, and surprisingly enough it could swim. Although it couldn't see the goddess it could definitely smell her. When the dog was halfway across the river, the goddess emerged from it, laughing hysterically. “I must admit, I never thought it would take this long for you to find me. Hecate must be getting too old for this.” she shouted and Michael had to wonder if the goddess was insane. She certainly looked like it.
She stood at the bank of the river, a crazed grin plastered on her face, as if taunting them and when the hound's paw reached over her the goddess she transformed into a cheetah and raced ahead of them. The hound growled multiple times, leaped out of the water, and raced after the goddess. Michael craned his neck to the side to see the goddess way ahead of them and he worried they weren't going to make it at first, but when Kyra notched an arrow he smiled. Good, they would need a way to block her path and slow the goddess down.
Kyra aimed at cheetah's tail but after a moment she knew that wouldn't work for long. The goddess could easily change into an animal that didn't have a tail. She had just lowered her bow when the cheetah turned right and she noticed the window that the goddess was approaching. She aimed at the window, and if she shot right the glass would go flying in the goddess's path, causing her to slow down the tiniest bit and they could catch up.
She took a deep breath, exhaled, and released the bowstring. The arrow soared through the air and cracked the right hand corner, turned ever so slightly, and glass showered over the goddess.
Despite the cuts, the goddess didn't slow down.
Kyra sighed and lowered her bow. She didn't know if they could catch up to the goddess on time...or if they would catch her at all.
The hound turned and leaped for the cheetah just when she jumped into the air and transformed in a falcon. The bird of prey flew off and the hound began to snarl and paw at a target that was quickly getting farther away. Kyra aimed at the falcon but Natalie put a hand on the tip of the arrow. “Don't. That's just what she wants you to do. We'll chase her later but right now we have to find something to eat.” Kyra nodded reluctantly and put the arrow back in her quiver and put her bow away. They climbed off the hound and started to walk among the other pedestrians while the giant dog followed them. When they found a small coffee shop they bought a combination of breakfast and lunch and sat at one of the tables inside. The coffee shop was fairly empty so they were thankful for the space.
Natalie took a bite of her muffin and pulled out a map of the United States. There was a large purple dot on every place they had been and a number next to the dot. It took Michael a few moments but then he realized it.
“You're keeping a record of how long we've been away from Camp Half-Blood.”
Natalie nodded but she didn't looked thrilled that he had gotten it. “We've been away for a little over a week. Chiron will be wondering what happened to us sooner or later.” She stirred her water around with a straw with a sort of rhythm. “We'll have to go back to camp sometime.” she added.
Michael looked at her worriedly. “Natalie, you can't give up.”
“I'm not,” she replied, “but it feels like we're just going in circles.”
After they had eaten, they climbed back on the dog's back and it started following the goddess's scent. After a few hours it slowed down but it never showed any signs of stopping, and it was just after dawn when it started gaining speed but Natalie and Michael had already fallen asleep. Zack was about ready to drift off when the hound stopped on top of a large hill that overlooked a prairie filled with wildflowers. It snarled and began to run towards what he at first assumed to be just a rabbit, but Zack noticed the blue eyes and he knew that this was the goddess. He was tempted to shoot an arrow at the goddess like he had so easily with Phobos, but before he could, the rabbit changed into a gazelle and scampered away. The hound leaped after it and for at least half an hour the animals both jumped over various objects that stood in their way. It was clear the goddess was becoming tired though, because with every leap she took he could see the strain in her eyes.
Finally, after what could have very well been three hours, the hound finally caught up to the goddess and pinned her down. She changed back into into her usual form and glared at the hound. “Hecate will pay for this.” she spat when the hound picked the goddess up in its jaws, turned around, and began running in the opposite direction. It was a strange sight for any clear sighted mortal who saw them when they stopped. A woman in the jaws of a giant dog with four teenagers on its back. Nope, that wasn't strange at all.
They traveled at least two days, the hound stopping to let them eat and rest, until they finally found Hecate. The goddess smiled at them with gratitude. “Thank you again, demigods. Now, Atë, you and I will take a trip to Alaska. Doesn't that sound nice?”
Atë glared at Hecate but said nothing when the hound dropped her on the ground. Hecate waved her left hand slightly and handcuffs made of fire appeared around the goddess's wrists. Natalie had doubts about that, but since Hecate was the goddess of magic it must have done something to prevent the goddess from escaping. She looked at Natalie and nodded to her. “I think it would be best if you went to Camp Half-Blood. It takes time to create another portal.”
“Can't you just use the one that's already there?” Kyra asked but Hecate shook her head.
“I cannot because that was designed only for demigods to pass through. No, I must create one that will allow your friend and I to go through without harming either of us. I will send Medea to find you when I have finished.”
The goddesses disappeared into a ball of fire and the group looked at each other uncertainly. “So, it's time to go back.” Kyra started and looked at Zack. This couldn't mean they were giving up though, right? They couldn't give up just yet.
“Yes, it is.” Natalie agreed and Kyra pulled out the glass orb.
“Please state your destination.” For once the voice wasn't as annoying.
“Camp Half-Blood on Long Island.”
They group appeared in front of the Big House and, as if he was anticipating their arrival, Chiron stood before them. “Ah, I see you have completed the quest, good. Who created the portal?”
“Atë did.” Natalie informed him and she stepped back when he asked his next question.
“And where is Ava?” No one said anything, but he noticed how they looked at each other nervously and could understand. “You should inform her brother of the news. It would be best if he heard it from you.”
“I'll do it.” Natalie volunteered. She knew Nico more than Kyra or Michael did, and Nico never did like Zack in the first place.
“Thank you, Natalie. After she has done that I want you all to come back here because I must discuss something with you that involves this incident.”
They nodded and Kyra, Michael, and Zack went to the HQ while Natalie slowly made her way to the Hades cabin. She walked slowly so she would have time to think about what she would say to the son of Hades.
She had rarely talked with him before but she had seen him in the Battle of Manhattan and around camp once or twice. He hung around Percy, Annabeth, and Grover more than anyone else, and when he wasn't at camp he was in the Underworld with his father. She knew he wasn't the type of person to act rationally when he heard the news, and that was simply because of what happened when his sister had died. She didn't know the details because she wasn't at camp then, but she knew enough to pray he wouldn't act like that again.
But what about the plan to bring Ava back? If Hecate remained true to her word, Ava should come back fairly quickly. There would be a lot less to say to the son of Hades in that case, and all that she would need to say was his sister was gone but within a week or so she would be back. The negative effects could all be avoided.
But what if Hecate was lying to them? A goddess of witchcraft should hardly be trusted.
She stared at the pitch black cabin and took a step back when she watched the green flames move back and forth. Too much like the goddess she might have overlooked.
* * *
After Natalie had told Nico what had happened, she left the cabin and set off towards the HQ. The others were waiting there in silence, stationed at various places. No one asked how talking with Nico went, and Natalie could understand.
"So you gave up.” It was startling how calmly he was taking this. The rumors that she had heard and expected to be true were false. Or maybe he was just more mature.
"No! We didn't give up on her. Just the opposite.”
"You put your trust in the goddess of witchcraft. I don't see how that isn't giving up on her.” Even though it looked like he put all his effort into remaining calm, she could see the anger in his eyes.
And she could understand. Almost.
"Hecate is the only way to bring her back. Would you rather her be lost forever, never knowing if she's dead or alive, or would you rather put your trust in a goddess who knows a way to bring her back, even if the goddess wasn't the most respected?”
”The latter, I guess. But this is your fault.”
"I don't deny it.”
A pause. An unbearably long pause so quiet she could have heard a pin drop had she cared to test.
"Promise me she'll be back within a week.” Promises like these were never safe. In general, promises were fragile things. So easy to break. But it was easier to promise than to explain she didn't know how long it would take. Easier to escape this place.
But she couldn't promise that such a short time frame would work.
"I promise she'll be back, but there is no guarantee a week is how long it takes.”
He scowled, angry that she had managed to escape. The scowl was just like his half-sister's. "Fine.”
She turned to leave and put her hand on the doorknob when she turned around. "I understand and I'm sorry.”
The son of Hades simply shook his head. "You don't understand, so don't pretend you do.”
She didn't bother to explain that she had lost half-siblings too.
Zack looked up at her when she walked in. “Now we see Chiron. Looks like everybody wants to talk to us these days.” Michael and Kyra looked at him and they stood up and followed Natalie out of the cabin.
Natalie didn't know what Chiron was talking about when he told them he needed to speak with them, but she hardly thought it was the gift of a vacation. She hoped it was just a warning of sorts, like a suggestion to be more careful in the future.
But she also knew that Chiron rarely asked to speak with people privately unless it was a grave matter. If it were less important he could have just stopped by the HQ and told them, not come back to the Big House.
They stopped in front of the Big House but before they had a chance to step towards the door, it opened and Chiron came out. He was in his wheelchair form. “Follow me then.” he told them and they obeyed, following the centaur to the rec room. They all stood around the ping pong table (except for Chiron) and Chiron looked at them one-by-one. “You are probably wondering why I brought her here so soon after you had completed your quest and I understand; however, the reason may not be what you four think. I have brought you here because you have continuously lost quest members on your quests. First Michael, now Ava.”
Even though he was going to say more, Natalie interrupted him. “Chiron, sir, I'm sorry but all those losses were only temporary. We have a plan to bring Ava back that we are putting in motion right now.”
Chiron simply shook his head. “Natalie, this one could very well the one that doesn't return. I know you all know this but you do not except it. I cannot either, but there comes a time when you learn to except the losses.” He cleared his throat and continued.
“Because of this, I do not think it would be wise for you to continue with your quests and lose more valuable campers.”
“Chiron, you can't! You can't just disband the group after all we've done!” Natalie protested and the others nodded.
“I know that you are not happy, but it may be the only choice we have.” He looked at them sadly and looked at Natalie last. “If this plan of yours does not work, and I worry it may not, then you will no longer be called The Questers anymore; you must prove to me you will be more cautious. You are dismissed.”
“What do we do now? Just wait for something to happen to us?” Zack asked Natalie when they all returned to the HQ. None of them were happy with what Chiron had said which was no surprise. The others all sat around the table, waiting for Natalie to say something. She was looking out the window when she turned to face them. Natalie said nothing at first because waiting meant doing nothing. It meant sitting around. In a way it meant giving up. “I don't want to, but that's the only thing we can do right now.” she replied.
“I can't believe he decided to disband The Questers. Were all the important quests for nothing now?” He was understandably angry, but more upset than everyone else and it was obvious why. “Was this for nothing? So we went to Alaska for no reason at all, only to return and be informed that we've messed up one too many times?”
"Zack, this wasn't for nothing. None of those quests were for nothing; there was a reason we completed all of them. We just have to wait for Hecate to create the portal and she'll be back. And technically he isn't disbanding The Questers just yet, he's just waiting so we can prove ourselves."
"We've proved ourselves a thousand times over, what more does he need?" He stormed out of the HQ and the others watched him, but no one made a move to follow him.
"How long do you think it will take?" Kyra asked, and even though she didn't state what it was, they all knew what she was talking about.
"I don't know." Natalie admitted. "Maybe a few days."
"Maybe. Hopefully." Michael agreed, but none of them truly believed it would take so little time.
Three months since they partook in the quest to find the portal. Three months since they lost her. Three months since Hecate promised she could create a new portal to bring Ava back to her own universe.
Three months was a long time to think.
At first, when they had waited five days, they refused to give up hope. They knew that five days may not have been enough time to create a portal and they refused to believe that Hecate had been lying to them all along. They continued the regular activities at camp, but all of them looked around for some sign of the giant black dog that Hecate promised she would send when the portal was finished. When three weeks flew by like nothing, they began to finally have doubts. Doubts that they never shared with each other, but doubts that were the same among all of them. They still continued with the regular camp activities, but slowly they stopped participating in them and instead stayed in the HQ, hoping and praying all their doubts were just doubts and not truths. They were all waiting intently for something to happen. Some sign that they weren't putting their faith into the wrong person.
When they finally reached the first month of waiting, Natalie finally voiced her doubts to the group one day. They had all been in the HQ, doing nothing else but thinking.
“What if we were wrong?” she asked them. The question was somewhat taboo to them, because they hardly thought they could answer such a question for fear that they were indeed wrong. And what if they were? Then they had gone to Hecate for nothing. Given false hope to the son of Hades for nothing. They would be sacrificing their titles at Questers for a wish that would never come true.
Michael looked at her in mild concern. “Natalie, we aren't wrong. Hecate will keep her word.”
“Yes, but what if she doesn't? What if she's just tricking us? What if--”
“Nat, we don't have time to think about the what ifs.” Michael told her even though he was worried along with her and everyone else. But it was true, they couldn't afford to talk about the what ifs of their situation. “We just have to be patient.”
“We've been patient for a whole month.” Kyra grumbled.
“Just give it time. We don't know how long it takes to create a portal.”
“It could take a whole year for as much as we know!”
“Guys, Michael is right. We should just be patient.” Natalie told them, but she doubted that would solve anything.
After two months passed by, they slowly went back to their camp activities. Michael and Natalie looked over scrolls in the Athena cabin, but neither of them were set on figuring out the Ancient Greek. Kyra finally went over to the archery range, but she was so lost in her thoughts that she barely made any bulls-eyes. Zack fought people in the sword fighting arena, but he kept glancing over his shoulder like the giant dog would appear any minute. None of them wanted to go back to the camp's activities but they could do nothing else to be productive. All they could do was wait, and they had done enough waiting for a lifetime.
At three months, they seriously doubted anything would happen, and although they prayed that something would, slowly they stopped coming to the HQ. None of them resigned to the idea that she was lost forever, but they silently wondered if that was the truth.
It was around 2:34 P.M. and Zack was sparing in the arena with some camper by the name of George. George was a new camper, and therefore he had no idea what he was getting into when he decided to sword fight with Zack. Some people would fight him for the hell of it, but George was an entirely different case. He believed that he could actually defeat Zack.
In short, he failed to achieve that goal.
Zack had just defeated the camper when he heard a familiar howl. He turned around and saw a giant black dog racing through the forest, and he noticed its eyes were sapphire.
“What the hell is that?” George screamed and, not waiting for a response, he ran off just as the giant hound stopped near Zack. It barked and Zack finally smiled for the first time in awhile.
He turned away from the dog and went off in search of Natalie and Michael who were probably in the Athena cabin. When he found them looking over scrolls half heartedly, they were confused by the grin on his face. After a few seconds; however, Natalie got it. “The dog's here, isn't it?” she asked while she stood up. Zack nodded. “Yeah, now we just need Kyra.”
They didn't need to search far, because when they passed the great dog, Kyra was already there, grinning like a lunatic. “I have never been more glad to see you.” she murmured to the dog. When she saw the others coming, she grinned and quickly climbed the dog's paw and sat behind its neck. “What are we waiting for? We have to find Hecate.” she told them and the others climbed the dog and Kyra murmured something it its ear. It gave a loud bark and it ran off into the forest.
After an hour or two of racing past cities and forests and rivers and towns, they reached the plain of ice and snow. The hound began to slow down until they were at walking speed. They had momentarily forgotten that the portal was in Alaska in their excitement, so all of them were freezing, but none of them dared to complain about it. It was like complaining about the weather would cause them to suddenly appear back at camp and realize that the great hound never appeared after all.
After half an hour of walking at a steady pace, the glaciers came into view as well as two women who stood a distance away from each other. They could only be Hecate and Atë. The hound slowly picked up the pace and jumped across numerous glaciers to the spot where Hecate stood. The goddess smiled and the Questers jumped off the giant dog. “Thank you, Medea.” she murmured and the hound gave a loud bark and melted on the spot, sinking into the ground. Natalie finally asked a question that was bugging her. “What did you name it Medea?”
The goddess looked offended. “It my dear? Medea is a she, not an it. But I named her Medea because that witch was a divine magician, although she could have murdered her children in a more interesting manor, but we have more important things to do, do we not?”
Natalie looked horrified at what the goddess had said, but she nodded along with the others.
“Now, first you all must stand back.” she commanded and they obeyed. Hecate looked at Atë for a moment and moved her left foot slightly. Golden chains appeared and bound Atë's wrists and feet. A ring of purple and green fire also appeared around the goddess.
Although they didn't notice this at first, the Questers realized Atë looked nothing like she had when they previous captured her. The goddess's eyes were pitch black and her hair gray and matted. There were dark circles under her eyes and many wrinkles on her face. She looked like she an old woman on her death bed, not the goddess so full of life that they had seen before. Hecate looked at them and nodded in understanding. “Yes, that is what happens to an immortal at times. Now, goodbye, demigods. This should not take long.” The goddess stepped into what they couldn't see and she disappeared.
Three weeks since she had first woken up in the middle of what she thought to be a forest. Three weeks of trying to convince herself she wasn't going to go back. Three weeks of staring at nothing, waiting for something, like a hole in the universe, to appear so she could go home. Three weeks of talking to the girl that was her. Three weeks of trying to forget, even though she didn't want to forget. Three weeks of thinking. Three weeks of saying her goodbyes that would never be received.
One night she couldn't sleep so she stared up at the moon and felt a pang of sadness. It gave off a blueish color, and even though it was fascinating, she wished that there was something the same in this place. Something familiar she could hold on to.
"You've been staring at that for a while now." her younger self observed. It startled her, because she could have sworn that the kid had fallen asleep hours ago, but she regained her composure quickly.
"It's just interesting, seeing how different it is from the moon back home."
They fell into a silence that was gladly appreciated. Welcomed, even. Then, the little girl decided to speak again. "Does it hurt, knowing it can't go back?"
What do you think? "It hurts more than you could imagine."
"Maybe there's a way you can go back."
"I wish, but there isn't."
There was silence again, and she turned her head to see her younger self sleeping. She didn't smile no matter how child-like the girl looked. She was more disgusted by the fact that this girl sleeping next to her was her, and her younger self had a better life than she did. At first, she believed that, but after a few moments, her anger started to melt away. Maybe she was wrong. True, this girl might not have been running away her whole life, fighting endless teams of monsters that wished she would die someday, but compared to most demigods' lives, they had it easier.
At least they were comforted by the fact one of their parents would never die, no matter how much they hated them.
Finally, she tore her gaze away from the sleeping child and closed her eyes on the luminescent moon, and for what felt like the thousandth time, she dreamed that she was with her friends again.
* * *
The next morning, when she woke up, she was surprised to see her younger self watching her intently. At first, she was confused, but then she saw the woman standing there, and she knew it was a goddess. Even though she didn't know the goddess's name, she stood up and bowed with respect. When she looked up, the goddess was smiling. “Hello, Ava, I am Hecate. I am here to bring you home.”
For a moment, she was confused. Home? Bring me home? Then it hit her, she was going back.
A grin broke out across her face and she had the overwhelming desire to engulf the goddess in a hug, but she knew that in doing that she would probably be burnt to a crisp. In the end, she managed a small “thank you”. She was just about to follow the goddess back when she heard a voice behind her.
“You never told me we were the same person.”
Smart kid, putting two and two together.
She turned back, feeling slightly guilty. “I didn't know how you would react.” she admitted, but it was partly a lie. Her younger self hardly looked convinced. “Does this mean everything that happened to me happened to you? Does this mean your other parent is dead too? You can tell me what happens, and this means I won't die soon.”
“No, it's not true. Nothing that happened to me will ever happen to you because we live in different universes. My mother isn't dead.”
“But we're the same person.”
“It doesn't work like that. We've made different choices in life even though we are the same people. We took the opposite paths on the trail.”
“But you know what I should and shouldn't do, right? Because you've made the same mistakes. You could stay.”
“I can't. I wasn't meant to stay here and I only came by accident. I have to leave and see my friends.”
She looked down at her younger self, and she knew by the look in her eyes that the kid was hardly grasping what she was saying. “What if I came with you? Where you live sounds so amazing, I would want to see it.”
“You don't. Trust me, it would be the worst mistake you ever made.” And for the first time, she realized how alone this little girl was, and she realized this younger version of herself could have been lying. She probably didn't have an older brother taking care of her, or she did and he was killed like her parents. She probably only said that so she wouldn't seem as alone. “You're that afraid, aren't you?”
“Please, let me come with you!” the little girl begged, but she couldn't do it. She couldn't allow this girl to be so lost in a world that was so different from hers.
“No. You belong here.” she replied, and the little girl sighed in defeat. She watched as her older self turned around and stepped forward, Hecate gripping her arm. As she was just about to step forward, the little girl spoke again.
“I'll miss you.”
Ava said nothing as she stepped into what felt like the portal she had fallen through weeks before. For a moment, she regretted not having answered her.
When the feeling of being sucked inside a vacuum cleaner had disappeared, she was startled by the bright light and had to squint before her eyes were used to it. When her eyes had adjusted, she found four people grinning at her like idiots, and she imagined she looked the same.
First, she hugged Natalie because she figured that Natalie played a part in deciding to find Hecate. After all, she was the one who always had a plan. She had to admit, she had missed the older girl's nagging.
Since Michael stood beside her, she got him next. She pulled apart quickly with Kyra in mind.
“Glad to have you back, Ava.” he told her and she nodded. “I'm happy to be back.”
Kyra was her next victim, but she was mildly surprised when the daughter of Apollo tackled her first. She had always assumed that she was saving those for Michael.
Zack stood there, watching her, and when she pulled away from Kyra, she ran at him and threw her arms around his neck. “I thought I would never see you again.” she murmured.
“I know; I was so worried.”
They stood there, arms wrapped around each other so tightly as if they were terrified that in letting go they would lose each other all over again.
Natalie was watching Hecate as she chanted a few words in Ancient Greek, and the air began to grow less distorted meaning the portal was closing. When the air around the area was back to normal, she sighed in relief. She was more than glad to go back to Camp Half-Blood. She noticed an eagle flying towards them and she stared at it, puzzled as to why an eagle would be here.
Of course, it was the symbol of Zeus.
Hecate looked at the approaching bird of prey and Natalie observed that the goddess looked angry when she read a scroll that Natalie hadn't noticed was tied to the bird's leg.
Zack and Ava had finally broken apart and looked at the goddess in confusion. The goddess finally looked up at them. "It seems we must pay a visit to Olympus." she informed them and burned the scroll in her hand. She waved her other hand slightly and the fire and chains that prevented Atë from escaping disappeared. The goddess of folly disappeared into a flash of light.
"Why do we need to go to Olympus?" Kyra asked and Hecate shook her head.
"Nothing you demigods have done, but what I have done that concerns you." Suddenly, everything clicked.
"You interfered with our quest." Natalie blurted out and the goddess of magic smiled. "Yes, and it seems that Lord Zeus isn't too happy about that, but, I suppose it is my time to finally see Olympus at its greatest."
Olympus has always been magnificent, but today, the Questers thought it looked more heinous. Maybe it was because they knew what was about to happen, but they dreaded walking into the throne room to visit a goddess who would most likely be punished. One would always wonder what would happen to a god or goddess if they ever interfered with a quest, but since so few gods ever chose to do it it was unlikely they would ever find out.
Today was looking to be like the Quester's lucky day.
The Twelve Olympians stood in their respectable thrones and they were looking down at the strange group that stood before them. Four of the demigods looked like they were on their deathbeds and the fifth looked confused about everything that was happening and it was clear they hadn't slept for many nights. The goddess of magic stood closest to Zeus and every aspect of her choice in appearance made it look like she was on fire, or was the embodiment of fire itself.
Four of the demigods bowed while the one remained still. The goddess did nothing and only looked at the Twelve Olympians without emotion.
Zeus stood up and addressed the goddess. "Hecate, you are brought here because you have interfered with the quest that these demigods were given. You added them with transportation, hints, and you voluntarily closed the portal after you retrieved the daughter of Hades from it."
"I deny nothing."
Zeus continued as if he hadn't heard the goddess. "It was sworn the gods would never interfere with a quest of any sort, yet you deemed yourself above that rule and continued to help them even though you were carefully being watched."
Zeus looked at her strangely. "You refuse to defend yourself?"
"Lord Zeus, with all respect, what is my punishment?" The lord of the sky looked dumbfounded, as if he had not expected this to go so easily. In fact, it looked like he didn't even have a respectable punishment figured out yet. Within seconds, his composure was regained and he looked at the goddess angrily like she was mocking him. In truth, the goddess of magic probably was.
"There will now be a vote. All in favor of punishing the goddess?" His voice echoed throughout the hall, but before any of the immortals had a chance to raise their hands, Natalie spoke up.
"Lord Zeus, Hecate barely did anything to help us and really only gave us transportation. We had already completed the quest when Hecate finally closed the portal and freed Ava, so technically--"
"Silence! You are as much in trouble as Hecate because you made her swear to the River Styx that she would help you. You demigods are never grateful that the gods spare your lives." His eyes were full of anger and Natalie knew better than the speak out again. "Now, all in favor for punishing Hecate?" he repeated.
All the gods raised their hands except Artemis, Athena, and Hermes. The king of the gods forced a smile as he looked upon the goddess of magic. "Your punishment for interfering in this quest will be exile. You will be isolated to a small island near Charybdis and Scylla for one hundred years, adding some because you sided with Kronos a few years ago."
Natalie looked at the king of the gods, her eyes filled with anger. That was unfair, even by the gods' standards! She would have spoken up, but she knew better than to speak out against Zeus.
The goddess of magic simply frowned as Artemis and Apollo stepped towards her, and neither looked thrilled at the prospect of taking the goddess to her prison. Hermes stepped towards the Questers and looked apologetic for his father's actions. "Zeus wished that you leave now, and he has requested I take you demigods to Camp Half-Blood." the god informed them and they nodded, none of them daring to speak. The group disappeared into a flash of light and they soon reappeared, staring at Thalia's Pine. The only thing different was the lack of snow on the ground which Ava found strange. After the god had left again, she asked them why there was no snow and why all the plants were alive and healthy when they should still be dormant for winter.
Natalie answered her. "You've been gone for three months."
Ava stared at her. "Three months? But I was only in the portal for three weeks!"
"But that's impossible..." Natalie murmured and looked at Michael. Or maybe it wasn't, and like any magical area the time was different. A day to you could be ten years when you came back. "Time was different when you went through the portal. The days must have been longer so you only spent three weeks that would have felt much longer to you."
"Oh gods, I have to find Nico." she breathed and sprinted towards the cabins.
By the time the others had reached camp, Ava was probably already talking with her half-brother. Actually, talking most likely was not the best term. Natalie assumed Ava did more of the apologizing while Nico half-listened to her.
Until Ava reappeared they decided to wait in the HQ, knowing the daughter of Hades would probably go there next. Then, they would need to inform Chiron of the news so he wouldn't take away their titles as Questers, but knowing the centaur, he probably already knew she was back.
At least that was another thing reassuring about today.
* * *
She stood at the foot on the Hades cabin, bracing herself for what was to come. She knew that her half-brother wouldn't overreact like he had with Bianca, but she was still unsure of what he would do. Nico di Angelo was her brother, and it felt like she should know everything about him. But she didn't. No one really did.
For once the cabin didn't seem welcoming to her. Before, she always took in the darkness as a meaning of peace and quiet, even if there were the unexplained creaks when you stepped. She always thought it as a home, or a replacement home for the one she couldn't visit.
She opened the cabin door and stepped inside, only to be greeted by silence even though her brother was sitting on his bed, his back to her. At first, he said nothing and she contemplated leaving, but then--
"I waited three months." She could have responded, but she didn't, because what could she have responded with? It wasn't her choice? No, but it was her mistake in thinking that the thing that pushed her into the portal was real, so in a way it was her own fault, but it certainly wasn't her choice to go into the portal. I know? That could just make him angry, because a lot of things tended to set him off.
"You could have died and no one would have known."
"Nico, I'm sorry, but it wasn't like staying away for three months was my choice! I wanted to come back the minute I fell through but I knew I couldn't! It wasn't a vacation for me either!" She was practically screaming at him because she was furious with how he was acting. She couldn't control how long it took for Hecate to create the portal, or how long it took to find Hecate.
But she could have controlled how cautious she was being. She could have payed more attention to how everyone was reacting. She had been paying too much attention to how high she was in the air to really focus.
Silence. He doesn't speak for some time, but this time she doesn't think about walking out of the cabin. "Nico..." she starts, but her voice trails off, leaving an unfinished thought hanging around their heads. She wants him to say something, anything, but it is like he refuses to.
Finally, he speaks. "I'm your brother, so I'm supposed to protect you. I can't do that when you're trapped in another universe."
Of course, that's what he would always say, as if protecting her was his purpose in life. She knows he doesn't want to lose another sister all over again.
"You don't have to protect me anymore. I can fend for myself."
He smiled at that. "I know; I'm just doing my job as an older brother."
* * *
When the door to the HQ opened, Natalie sat up straight and watched as Ava walked in. She looked tired, like she hadn't slept in some time. She was curious as to what happened between the daughter of Hades and her brother, but she wouldn't pry. Instead, she veered away from the subject. "Ava, something happened while you were away." she told her and the younger girl looked up, alert.
"Chiron told us he would be taking away our titles as Questers because we've been losing members of the group."
"But they've all been temporary losses, not permanent ones!"
"I know, and that's what we told him. Thankfully, since you're back, he won't do that anymore, but now we have to visit him." she told her.
"So now we have to convince him not to take away our titles as Questers?"
Ava sighed and stepped back outside and the others followed her. Natalie led them to the Big House and opened the door to find Chiron waiting for them. "Follow me." he told them and led the group to the rec room where they stood around the ping pong table like they had before. Chiron looked at them and nodded. "You have again managed to find the lost, and I am grateful. You are still the Questers, but I urge you to take caution with every quest. Being reckless does not end kindly." Chiron warned and they all nodded.
"You all remind me of other heroes from long ago. Other characters in Greek mythology..." he mused and smiled at their confused expressions. "Now, I believe we have a Capture the Flag game to get in order."
The next few weeks were lazy weeks for the Questers. They didn't do much of anything because they felt the need to catch up on the time they lost while they were waiting for Hecate to free Ava from the parallel universe.
Speaking of Hecate, they all felt rather guilty for the punishment the goddess would have to endure, and they wished they could do something about it. Natalie felt more guilty because she was the one who made the goddess swear to help them. The others spent time convincing the daughter of Athena that it wasn't her fault.
When they weren't socializing with each other, they would occasionally participate in the camp activities with much more enthusiasm than they had previously. Ava would spend her time with her half-brother in an attempt to apologize when the others were doing other things, and when she wasn't she would try to master the art of canoing. Michael and Natalie decided to take on the challenge of figuring out who the old heroes were that Chiron had mentioned before. Kyra and Zack would race each other up the lava wall and would sometimes become overly competitive about it.
One day, when they were all talking in the HQ, Ava was strangely quiet, so, naturally they asked what was wrong.
"It's nothing major," she reassured them when she saw their expressions of concern. "it's just something I've been thinking about. When I went through the portal I found a younger version of myself."
Kyra looked at her. "That's crazy." she commented and Ava smiled. "Yeah, it was."
"But it does make sense after all, I guess. I mean, she was in a parallel universe. You're bound to find another version of yourself somewhere." Michael told them, but it didn't take away the strangeness of the situation. "Anyway, go on."
"Well, the thing is, both of her parents had died and it made me realize something. Our lives might be seriously crappy at times, or all the time, but at least we have one parent who's never going to die. It just kind of puts things into perspective I guess."
They all looked at her expectantly, but it that was all she had to say, and there might have been a ring of truth to it. It was good to have a little perspective of different situations and see them in other people's eyes.
All of them seemed to be thinking about it and Natalie nodded. “You do have a point. Perspective is always good in any type of situation. Maybe we've forgotten that.”
They sat in silence for a moment, but it wasn't an awkward silence that they all were used to. Finally, Kyra spoke up. "Another world where we aren't demigods... I wonder what that's like."
"I bet it's better than being chased by monsters everyday." Zack replied.
It was an interesting question, because it was something none of them would experience. They would always be a demigod, they would always be chased by monsters. They would always be fighting for their lives.
Some days they wondered what life would be like to no longer to chased, to no longer be defined by your immortal parent. Maybe they could find out what that was like someday. Maybe. Hopefully.
But probably not.