Hello again, my dear readers :) I know this is the second time I've posted today, but to be honest, I don't have anything solid written up for after this yet. I have stuff typed up, but it's not in order or anything yet! So. Enjoy it while it lasts (it's pretty long this time at least :) 4k+ words!)
One thing I neglected to mention in my last post: many of you (meaning out of the three people who reviewed chapter 6) noted that if the entire pantheon was wiped out, why are Hecate and Circe there. Well, to answer your question, I suppose my way of thinking about it was that they were either reincarnated long before (Circe being the youngest at about 10 years prior). I think Hecate might have chosen to come be a teacher at the Academy like Chiron. Circe on the other hand... perhaps reviews ARE inspirational! I think I just developed another aspect of Circe's character! Where IS my pen?
Okay, so anyone who has previously read "the Academy of the Gods" will recognize this chapter. If the chapter title didn't give it away, it's the scene in the locker room. Now, I can't be bothered to reread this chapter yet AGAIN. I know, it's awful of me, but to be perfectly honest with you, I've read this chapter far too many times already. So. I apologize for any mistakes. I know, I have a beta to help me with this, but he's busy with settling in to college, and all that, so we all suffer then!
I believe that is all for now... please be patient with me!
xoxo ~ Misty
The Heavenly Locker Room
When Helen walked into the room 110B for their next magic class, she noticed a note on the board.
"As promised, today we will be learning about your individual powers and strengths. Please proceed to the small antechamber Ms. Evans showed you last class. – H"
"Who's Ms. Evans?" Zach asked, coming up behind her.
"Circe?" Minerva guessed. "You're blocking the doorway."
"Sorry," they muttered.
"Shall we go in?" Demetra asked, looking in the direction of the little room.
In answer, Hecate appeared in the doorway. "Come in, come in," she ushered the class through the door. "I won't bite."
"Much." Herman muttered jokingly.
Haydon flashed a small grin. "That sounds about right," he added to everyone's shock. Haydon just shook his head and grinned wider at Hestiana.
"Victor," Hecate called from the far end of the tiny space. "Could you please shut the door behind you? Thank you."
She looked severely at the students gathered in the room, which thought was not very different from her normally stern expression. "What happens in this room is top secret – you are the only people who should know. Is that understood?"
All of the gods mutely nodded their assent. They could all feel that something huge was about to happen.
"Dirk," Hecate called him to the front. "If you would be so kind as to pull aside this tapestry behind me." Dirk did as he was told, revealing at floor to ceiling, wall to wall door made of what looked like industrial steel. There was an odd square in the center made out of a strange glowing bronze. "This is your safe vault," Hecate told them, gesturing toward the door. "Everything in it is all yours. It's made of steel and celestial bronze making it virtually impossible to force open. And this," she held up a small key made of the same bronze metal as the square in the door, "is the key to the vault."
Peter snorted. "There is no way a key that tiny will open that door."
"No," Hecate agreed. "But it opens this bronze panel in the middle of the door. Do you see it?" Hecate stepped up to the door and fit the key into an almost invisible key hole. "Listen carefully," she instructed. They all held their breath and heard the lock click softly once, twice, three times as the tumblers fell into place. Smoothly the little bronze door swung open to reveal… another locked door. This one had a dial twist combination lock like on lockers.
Hecate beckoned to Vivienne. "Please spin the combination."
Vivienne waited for further instruction. When none was forthcoming, she ventured after it. "Are you going to tell me the combination?" she asked timidly.
"The combination to this door changes constantly. You never need to worry about forgetting it because you will always know it," Hecate explained casually. "Just spin away, little Venus."
Vivienne nodded. She looked slightly scared as she reached out to touch the dial. Her head bent in her concentration as she spun an unknown combination. After the third number, she hesitated a second before lifting the latch. The door that swung open was about two feet bigger wide than the first door.
Helen took a minute to quickly count the number of hinges. There were a total of three, including the ones they had already opened. The last panel contained a four by four grid made of the celestial bronze stuff. Each square on the grid had a different raised curved line on it, making a picture of broken up squiggles.
Hecate gestured toward the door. "You know what this is, I presume?"
"A puzzle?" Aaron answered brilliantly.
"No kidding, Einstein," Minerva scoffed. She put on her intelligent face, "It's one of those shift puzzles where you have to find the design, oh—I can't remember what it's called."
"Yes, well," Hecate stepped up and touched the puzzle. "There's a catch to this one."
Alex raised an eyebrow. "What kind of catch?"
Hecate grinned wolfishly. "To start with, you only have thirty seconds to solve it before it rescrambles itself."
"That's it?" Diana didn't look impressed. "That doesn't seem like such a bad deal."
"Maybe not," Hecate admitted. "But there's another catch. After three tries, the person trying to solve the puzzle will … well, it's nothing you need to worry about. These locks were designed for you—if you can't open them, nobody can."
"That's a cheerful thought," Herman muttered.
"Herman!" the teacher waved him to the front of the room. "Thank you for volunteering!"
"W-what?" Heramn stuttered.
"Don't be afraid, boy," Hecate encouraged. "You can do it."
"If you say so," he said dubiously. His classmates' eyes widened as his hands blurred with speed. Twenty seconds later, the door glowed. All of the gods shielded their eyes from the bright light. Seared into their vision, they could see the number 888 even with their eyes closed.
"Ouch, damnit," Helen muttered.
"888?" Minerva questioned. "Is that some sort of special number or something?"
"As a matter of fact, it is," Hecate answered cheerfully. "You can open your eyes without being blinded now."
Fourteen pairs of eyes fluttered open. Hecate had closed the curtains over the windows. They blinked as their eyes adjusted to the dim light in the room. When their eyes had adjusted, instead of fabulous riches or some other exclusive heavenly treasure, they saw a solid wall of celestial bronze.
Helen found that if she squinted and looked closely, she could just barely make out small engravings and raised lettering on the slab. At a second glance, the slab became recognizable as a fourth, even less penetrable door. Helen looked at the door in confusion. "I thought there were only three doors?"
Hecate looked at her. "Whyever would you think that?"
"Because there's only three hinges," Minerva backed her up with a duh in her voice.
"Well there's a hidden door," the teacher said unnecessarily.
"No shit," Zach snorted.
"Language, Mr. Anderson," the witch reprimanded. "But of course you may open the door."
Helen resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I'll do it," she volunteered.
Hecate inclined her head. "Thank you, Helen, but Zach expressed an interest first."
"No," Zach hurried to say. "She can do it. I'd rather she humiliated herself than me."
"Thanks so much," Helen said sarcastically.
"Very well," Hecate nodded. "Ms. Zalvenson, please proceed."
Helen stood in front of the door, motionless but for the tilt of her head and the movement of her lips as deciphered the writing on the door. Her eyes narrowed. "'With great power comes great responsibility'; 'I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be'; 'Power is not alluring to pure minds'; 'True power lies within'?" she read. "What is this? It's just a list of quotes… from Spiderman?"
"The first is indeed from Spiderman, the two following are quotes from Thomas Jefferson, a wise man in his own right, and the last one… ? Well," the goddess smiled a little. "I'll let you all figure that one out yourselves."
"So what am I supposed to do?" Helen felt her cheeks flush. The other two had not had this problem. They had been able to open their parts of the door without any problem.
"Look around the edges of the door," Hecate instructed. "What do you see?"
Helen looked at the door more closely. Yes, there it was. "Our names, like, our Greek god names," she answered confidently. "And a crack, running from top to bottom down the middle, like a double door," she added. "There are symbols between each of our names and four of them, mine and Zach's, er… Zeus and Hera, and Dirk's and Demetra's, or, um… Dionysus and Demeter, have a line between them also."
"Good," their teacher nodded her approval. "Now, lightly touch the band of names and shift it until all of the cracks line up—counterclockwise. I hope your paying attention to this, Peter," she reprimanded severely without turning around.
Victor and Aaron elbowed the chastised god teasingly while Alex sniggered. The laughter abruptly stopped when the Hecate said, "You too, Alex. And the two of you as well, Victor and Aaron. This is important."
Helen carefully shifted the names counterclockwise. To her surprise, the names moved as smoothly as a well oiled bike chain. She looked back at Hecate for further instruction.
"Touch your name," the goddess prompted.
Uncertainly, Helen did as she was told.
"Now I want you to clear you mind," she instructed. "And imagine some of your energy and power flowing down your arms, and out through your fingertips, flowing into your name."
Helen closed her eyes and focused. She imagined a black empty pit where all her thoughts should be. In the darkness, a spark came into being. She nudged and nurtured that spark until she sent it zinging down her arm like a lightning bolt. She felt a tingling in her arm and fingers so she opened her eyes. Her name was glowing brightly, but not painfully. There was a soft grinding sound from the door. Before their wide eyes, the bronze door split in half. Mist curled around the edges of the door and glowed a soft gold in the brilliant light emitting from the vault.
Even Hecate's voice sounded more magnified and magical in their awestruck haze. "Enter."
"Ooh," Vivienne said under her breath. "Impressive."
The fourteen of them stepped into the room. It was about the same size as the room they had just left. There was a table in the middle just like the one in the previous room, but this one was plain without any centerpieces or other decorations. And the walls were lined with doors. Helen did a quick count. Twelve.
"Close the door behind you please, girls," Hecate called to Helen and Minerva from the other end of the room.
Helen turned around and shut the door. The door shifted, blurred and disappeared. In its place were two different doors, identical to the ones that lined the other three walls. Helen gaped at where the door had been. She blinked and looked closer. Nope, it was still there.
Minerva leaned in close to Helen's ear. "Magic, hon," she said by way of explanation.
Helen echoed Zach, "No shit."
"Language, Ms. Zalvenson!" Hecate reprimanded predictably.
Helen just nodded, only half listening. The other half of her was taking in the room. The doors on the walls resembled those of lockers. Hecate was in the middle of explaining them.
"Each of you has a locker," said she. "It does not have a lock on it as that would be pointless. You simply have to trust each other enough to not steal your stuff. In return, you also need to respect each other enough that you wouldn't dream of intruding on their personal space unless it was under the direst circumstances."
"Lockers," Minerva muttered. "Different school, same rules."
Helen wandered around the room until she came to her locker. It was the right one of the two at the back of the room. Surprise of all surprises, Zach's was the left one next to hers. She noted Peter's was to the left of Zach's, then Harry's, Alex's and so on and so forth ending with Dirk's on the door-transformed-lockers wall. To her right were Minerva's locker, then Hestiana's, then Diana's, all the way down to Demetra's next to Dirk's. "It's the same as the pattern on the door," she realized.
"Yeah," Minerva agreed. "And of our thrones on Olympus?"
"Very astute, Minerva," Hecate complimented. "It is indeed the pattern of your thrones on Olympus."
"But I thought there were only twelve great Olympian gods?" Haydon questioned.
"Traditionally, yes, there are only ever twelve Olympian gods," Hecate agreed. "But it's interchangeable as to who is an Olympian and who isn't. That is why there are fourteen of you in this class and not simply twelve."
"I don't understand," Daphne said.
"Well," the teacher hesitated. "It's complex. Long story short, sometimes Dionysus and Demeter are Olympians while Hestia and Haydon are not, and sometimes it is reverse."
"Oh," she said quietly. "I understand now."
"Well that's not fair!" Victor said. "How are we any more important than they are?"
"Shut up, Victor," Peter hissed.
"No, you shut up, Peter," Vivienne snapped. "He's right. It's not fair. I know I'm no more important than Demetra or Hestiana. And guess what? Neither. Are. You."
"Settle down," Hecate placated them. "This is not an issue today. In fact, it's not an issue ever. Just cast it out of your minds and let it be."
Grumbling, the arguing teens turned their backs on each other. Helen and Minerva stared at Vivienne in shock. "Wow," Helen murmured.
"I know!" Minerva whispered back. "That girl isn't half as airheaded or vain or self-centered as I thought she was going to be!"
"I know!" Helen giggled. "It's just so wrong!"
Minerva laughed. The two of them looked appreciatively at the other blonde again. "She's a force to be reckoned with," Minerva noted.
"Yeah, I can see that," Helen replied. "Now let's see what kind of godly crap these lockers contain."
Helen opened her locker and yelped. She put a hand to her pounding heart and gasped for breath.
"What is it?" Minerva peered into the locker with interest.
Helen gestured toward the peacock in her locker. "Oh it's nothing," she said shakily. "I just thought it was real."
"Oh, it's real," Hecate said as she passed the girls.
"Oh," Helen gave a quavering laugh. "Well I thought for a second it was alive."
Hecate walked by again. "Oh, it's alive." At her words, the peacock blinked.
Helen stifled a scream. "Oh my god." She looked at Hecate uneasily. "There isn't a cow in there too, is there?"
Hecate smiled. "No, there isn't. There isn't a crow either. But keep looking."
Helen braced herself and risked a peek into the locker. "Let's see, there's a pomegranate, interesting," she commented holding up a ruby fruit behind her. "Loads of drachmas, a stunning crow pendant, and what's this?" She dug through the piles of treasure in the locker and caught her breath. "It's beautiful," she gasped. She pulled out a sparkling diadem. Attached to the crown was a sheer veil that shimmered and shifted color in the light. She plopped it on her head and flipped the veil primly. "How do I look?" she asked, posing "regally." She held her shoulders back with her chin way up high and a snooty expression on her face.
When nobody answered she lowered her chin. "Well, jeez, guys," she said in a hurt tone. "I was just kidding."
"No, it's not that," Diana assured her. "It's just…"
"You look…" Minerva tried to finish.
"Heavenly," Vivienne giggled.
"Gorgeous," Herman agreed.
"Amazing," Zach breathed. "Really, you do. You look amazing."
Helen held the edges of her veil out, giggled a little, and curtsied. "Why thank you," she simpered.
Zach rolled his eyes. "You're ridiculous."
Hecate came up to her and tugged the veil a bit. "There," she said, satisfied. "Beautiful as ever."
"Um, thank you?" Helen replied uncomfortably.
"Here," the goddess of magic held out a necklace.
Helen took it from her, puzzled. "It's the key to the door?" she asked.
"Yes," Hecate confirmed. "It's your key."
Helen looked at the necklace more closely. It was beautiful. The key was identical to the one Hecate had used to open the door earlier. It was on a chain of celestial bronze entwined with a shimmering ribbon made out of the same material as her veil. "It doesn't have a clasp," Helen noticed. "How's it supposed to fit over my head?"
"Try it," was all Hecate said in reply.
Helen gingerly lifted the necklace and pulled it over her head. "Oh," she gasped. The chain had melted away at her touch, reforming around her neck. "Thank you."
Hecate looked at her gravely, Helen returned the searching gaze.
"This key is a symbol of who you are," Hecate told her. "As it says on the door, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' What it doesn't say is 'With great power comes the great likelihood of messing up royally.'"
Helen took that in. "Okay…" she said finally. "Thanks, I guess."
A smile ghosted over the older woman's face. "Listen well, young goddess, this is important. What I am trying to tell you is that while you might be strong and brave and fight for your family no matter what the cost is, your pride and jealous heart will be your downfall if you're not careful and you don't watch yourself."
"I understand," Helen replied quietly.
"Keep it with you at all times," her teacher warned her about the key. "Never let it out of your sight."
"Yes, ma'am," Helen agreed obediently.
"My battle armor!" came the disembodied cry from inside Minerva's locker.
There was much clanking and confusion, a bit of banging and some mild cursing before Minerva straightened up. "Ow!" she yelled, her voice still muffled by the locker. "My stupid, dang helmet got caught on the—" her head popped out of the small space. "Whew."
"Wait just a sec," she instructed. She slid into the rest of her armor and her robes. She reached behind her into her locker and pulled out an owl, which she perched on her shoulder, and a potted baby olive tree, which she placed at her feet. She reached behind her again and pulled out a sword, which she strapped to her waist, and a set of scales. She hesitated, looked over her shoulder into the locker, and put the scales on the ground. She reached into her locker with both hands and tugged, her face wrinkling up with effort. With a tug and a pull and a final burst and grunt of effort, a full sized loom burst out of its confinements. Minerva looked at it for a second. "Nice craftsmanship," she complimented. She took one more forage into the locker and appeared with a silver hammer. She checked on her slightly ruffled and disgruntled owl, picked up her scales and stood before them. "Well, what do you think?" she asked with a grin. "Goddess of wisdom, war, justice, skill, industry, and the arts at your service."
Helen gaped at her. "Wow, you have all that stuff?" she asked disbelievingly. She caught herself in embarrassment. "I mean—wow, Minerva, you look great…"
Minerva laughed, "It is a bit much, isn't it?"
"Just a bit," Helen agreed sheepishly.
"This is nothing!" Minerva said breezily. "Alex's pile will be loads bigger than this!"
"Minerva," Hecate called. She walked over and placed a key identical to Helen's around Minerva's neck. The only difference was that Minerva's ribbon was the same gray as her eyes. "This is your key to the vault. Guard it well." Then she turned and left.
Helen stared after her. "What? No 'if you don't watch yourself you'll die' speech? That is so not fair!"
Minerva laughed at her. "It's because I'm the wisdom goddess, duh. I already know my strengths and weaknesses."
Helen raised an eyebrow. "Oh really?"
Minerva sighed and shook her head mockingly. "Oh, Helen, must I?"
Helen shrugged unenthusiastically. "If you want."
Minerva smirked. "My strength is my infinite wisdom, of course," she winked, "and my ability to think logically as well as strategically. My weakness is my pride and unwillingness to accept that I could ever possibly be wrong, causing me to sometimes overlook something extremely important."
Helen laughed, "Well if that's all."
Minerva grinned. "Maybe."
"Well check me out," Zach interrupted in a stuck up voice. "I look totally fabu!"
"Thunder bolt, shield, fancy robes, oak tree, and eagle." Hecate circled him and muttered the objects like she was checking off a list in her head. "I think you have them all, Master Zeus."
"Good!" Zach thundered in his best movie Zeus impersonation.
"Here's your key." The sorceress held out a bronze key on a leather, bronze, and hemp rope. "Don't lose it, you hear me?"
Zach nodded wordlessly as he took the key from her.
"And watch out for your loyalty and faithfulness, my boy," Hecate warned him. "You don't want to estrange yourself from everyone else, especially not… your siblings," she finished lamely.
Helen glared. She had no doubt who, specifically, Hecate was referring to and she really did not appreciate it.
"I will," Zach promised earnestly. "I won't estrange… anyone."
Helen threw up her hands in disgust. When the two of them turned to look at her, she snarled, "I'm right here! And currently, I could care less if you estranged me or not! In fact, I think I'll welcome being estranged from you two freaks!"
Zach looked at her like she had grown six more heads. "Are you okay, Helen?" he asked in concern.
"As if you don't know!" she snapped. "I really don't appreciate people talking about me like I'm a) oblivious, b) not there, or c) stupid and/or clueless!"
"Believe it or not, Helen," Zach glared. "We weren't saying you were stupid or clueless or not there or anything. And – believe it or not – not everything is about you. In this instance, for example, we were talking about me and what I shouldn't do."
Helen just crossed her arms and tried not to show how embarrassed she was.
Minerva came to her rescue. "That's not what she meant, Zach. She was talking about the 'sibling' part of your conversation. Cause it was pretty obvious to everyone you were talking about her in particular."
"Yeah, well," Zach muttered. "It doesn't mean she's not full of herself!"
"I resent that," Helen informed him icily.
"Good," Zach retorted.
"Well I am very proud to admit that I am very full of myself," Vivienne smirked. She was wearing her goddess robes.
"Skimpy much?" Helen joked.
Vivienne ran a hand down her side seductively. "No, no I don't think so," she answered with a smirk. The barely there gown was a sheer shimmery pink with a long slit up the side, almost to the hip. "It covers everything important and doesn't leave much to the imagination," she winked. "Just how I like it."
"Be careful about your vanity, dear Aphrodite," Hecate warned as she put a key around the blonde's neck with something like affection. "And try not to be too shallow, okay?"
Vivienne blushed slightly. "I try."
Hecate smiled slightly. "I know you do." She patted the girl's cheek, "Just beware."
"Okay," Vivienne agreed solemnly.
After Demetra got her key, Helen got so bored she just stopped paying attention.
"Hey," Zach whispered and nudged her.
Helen started. "What? Sorry, I zoned."
"It's all good," Zach said. "But I think she's almost done now. Or she should be, I'm starved and is it me or has this class lasted forever."
Helen checked her watch. "Um, Hecate?"
"Yes, Helen?" the witch hardly glanced at her.
"Class ended, like, two hours ago," she said. "It's almost the end of the day…"
Hecate cocked her head, "So it is. And you missed lunch! My apologies, children. Let's call it a day shall we?"
The boys groaned their hunger. Hecate wore an amused look. "Alright then, take the rest of the day off, which is about twenty minutes, and go get some food in your stomachs. I'll apologize to your teachers for keeping you all."
"Can we take this stuff out of this room?" Demetra asked before they left.
Hecate nodded slightly. "Of course. Just try not to lose it."
Demetra nodded hurriedly, grabbed her goddess robes and rushed out of the room after her friends.
Review? Please? Cool.