Chapter 4 guys! I think this is probably the most suspenseful chapter yet but who knows. The plot is finally beginning to take off from the ground. I hope you all enjoy it.
Steph was glad that the day was over; she couldn't wait to get out of Fallon that she had anything against Fallon . . . okay, she actually hated Fallon. Steph found it a huge waste of time. She couldn't understand why Lady Artemis insisted on attending the school when it had absolutely nothing to do with the Hunters. Steph leaned back against the leather seats as she waited for the rest of her carpool ride to get into the limo.
"Alyssa, Aron, c'mon," Hermes complained as he stuck his head out the limo window. Steph knew that he was referring to Aphrodite and Ares using their aliases.
"Great gods. Why did I have to be stuck with you guys? I'm Lady Artemis's lieutenant, I should be in the same vehicle as her," Tara said tautly. She pursed her lips and glared at Hermes, Apollo and Steph.
Well I'm pretty sure none of us wanted you in the limo either, Steph thought. But a small part of her agreed with Tara: Steph and Tara were the two of the longest—and oldest—members of the Hunters. Yet because the other two limos were full, the two girls were stuck with the last one, consisting of Hermes, Apollo, Aphrodite and Ares. It was by far the worst carpool ever. Artemis said that it was an honor she had so much trust in them but to Steph it still felt like a punishment.
"Aw, sweetheart, I'm glad you think I'm great," Apollo crooned. "But you don't want to be with me?" He flashed her a pearly white smile and wiggled his eyebrows.
"No one would ever want to be with you," Ares said as he and Aphrodite came in hand-in-hand. The chauffeur took notice and began driving. "That's why you're a lonely, single man."
Apollo shot Ares a glare.
"Boys, boys, calm down," Aphrodite said pulling out her iPhone. "You're all pretty." Immediately she checked all of her texts and her twitter account. She gasped abruptly, "She wore that to school today? With this uniform? How could she even show her face?" Rapidly moving her fingers across the phone screen, Aphrodite muttered to herself, "Sister you are not hanging around me anymore."
Steph and Tara exchanged glances of disgust. They thought that Aphrodite's behavior was an insult to the entire female community: silly, brain-dead gossip girls whom only cared about the latest trends and how cute the boy next door was.
"Soooo Hunters," Apollo said. He scooted closer to Steph who in turn scooted closer to the door. "I heard my sister has a fun trip planned this weekend."
"That," Tara said hotly, "is none of your business."
"But I hunt too!" he protested. "In fact, since I'm the god of archery if you ladies ever need some help . . ."
"I will gladly ask Lady Artemis," Tara shot back. Her cold blue eyes held Apollo in distaste.
Apollo shrugged. "Just a suggestion." He turned to Steph. "What about you Mademoiselle Valcourt?"
Steph cringed. She wasn't sure if it was his horrible, fake French accent or the reminder of her past. Probably both.
"There is no reason for me to ask you for help," she said stiffly.
Apollo shot her a hurt look but said "Well, I am always available—anytime, anywhere." He winked at Steph. She thanked him with an eye roll.
No one in the limo said much after that. Steph was glad, she liked the silence; it gave her time to think. Normally her thoughts would've run through the hunting trip in a few days. But Steph's mind wasn't on the trip despite her enthusiasm. Instead her mind lingered on something else.
Steph's eyes flickered around the limo, briefly meeting Aphrodite's. The goddess gave her a sly smile. Uh-oh, not a good sign. Ever since Steph's and Alex's short encounter with the Aphrodite that morning, Steph had had an uneasy feeling. Aphrodite hinted that Alex might have been showing some interest in boys—a particular boy—and Steph didn't like that at all. As Alex's friend she would try to be understanding and help her get over this illusion of liking the male species. As a Hunter, Steph could not believe that Alex was straying from the oath. In fact it was the oath that brought Alex to the Hunters of Artemis, the promise that there would be no boys at all.
"You know, I've been thinking, maybe we should get a new pool, the one we have now seems sort of shabby," Apollo said thoughtfully as the limo pulled up to the mansion. Steph leaned forward to get a better look at the pool. It looked fine to her; much larger than an Olympic size pool connecting to a large circular pool in the way back with statues of the gods surrounding every corner of the patio. There were lanterns strung across from one side of the pool to the other and about a dozen lawn chairs placed in a straight line on the patio. In the corner Steph could see Apollo's lemonade stand. It was way more impressive than the pools at Hearst's Castle. Shabby was the last word Steph would use for the Olympians' pool.
"I agree," Hermes said. "There could be a lot more statues of me."
As the limo slid to a stop, Ares and Aphrodite immediately jumped out of the limo and dashed to the door hand in hand. Apollo followed, then Hermes, and finally Tara and Steph got out of the vehicle.
"It wasn't as bad as last time," Steph commented. Tara grunted in agreement but her face was still unhappy.
"Lieutenant Tara, Steph," Artemis greeted as she hopped out of the limo ahead of them. Though the goddess was fairly small, her presence held much authority and Steph felt herself straighten her posture. "I hope your ride was . . . okay? Everyone made it back in one piece?"
Steph and Tara drew in a sharp breath; no one could forget how troublesome the last carpool was. The two Hunters nodded and assured Artemis everybody was okay. There was no need to make the goddess feel bad about her decisions—out of all of the Hunters, they probably were the only two who could have handled that carpool. Most of the Hunters fled at the sight of men (especially Artemis's brother) and Aphrodite.
"And your ride my lady?" Tara asked.
Suddenly a limo door slammed shut and Steph, Tara, and Artemis all turned their heads to see Alex running towards them.
"Great, it's the wannabe Hunter," Tara grumbled under her breath. Steph shot the lieutenant a glare.
"Alex is just as much of a Hunter as any of us are," Steph replied icily.
"Hardly. She can't even shoot an arrow straight."
Steph opened her mouth to object when Alex finally caught up to them. Steph's friend was slightly flushed and strands of her brown hair dangled at the side of her face. Her expression seemed indifferent as she eyed Steph and Tara's murderous glares at each other.
"Hey," she greeted Steph. "My lady," she gave a slight bow as acknowledged the goddess's presence. Alex didn't even bother to glance at Tara. The lieutenant lifted her chin with a short 'humph' and then stalked off to the mansion.
Artemis smiled apologetically to Alex and then followed Tara. Alex didn't seem offended by Tara's rudeness but Steph was extremely annoyed. She remembered how she and Tara used to be good friends until the latter was promoted to lieutenant. Tara let power get to her head and became the world's worst control freak. Steph didn't tolerate that kind of attitude and the two drifted apart.
"So how was your ride?" Alex asked as she and Steph headed towards the mansion. "They weren't that bad were they?"
"No, Apollo and Hermes were . . . bearable. And Aphrodite and Ares were tame, for lack of a better word. They kept their relationship to a minimum," Steph replied.
"Was Tara." Steph and Alex glanced at each other and snickered. As the two Hunters came up to the grand doors of the mansion, Steph felt a slight wave of nostalgia. The sense of familiarity took her back to her father's house: it had the presence of a castle that stood about four stories tall and a majestic fountain had stood at the entrance way with a statue of an angel looking down at everyone who came by. The landscape surrounding her old home had been breathtaking and well-cared for. But Steph didn't have happy memories linked to that house. And she tried her hardest to erase those memories.
The living room was occupied by about a half-dozen middle-school girls; they were the younger Hunters. Watching the girls play Wii tennis made Steph feel old. Well, old for being a Hunter. Steph had been stuck at age sixteen for the last several decades. Normally Artemis took in girls between the ages nine and fourteen—what she was known for in the myths—but there had been multiple exceptions. Steph, Alex and Tara were all sixteen, along with four other Hunters. Despite the standard age of the Hunters, Artemis was lenient with the age limits. "As long as you stay faithful to the Hunters' oath you are welcomed," Artemis had said.
Alex was French braiding Steph's hair while she watched the younger Hunters too. "They're so lucky," she mumbled. "They don't have to go to school."
Steph smirked. It was true. While Artemis, Steph, Alex, and the older Hunters and the other Olympians attended Fallon, the younger Hunters had free time at their expense.
"I'd rather have that luxury than suffer through endless boredom at Fallon," Alex continued. "That and I need a break from Aphrodite. I already get enough of her here."
Steph raised an eyebrow. "Why would Aphrodite bother you?" Behind her, Steph felt Alex tense.
"I-She was talking to me about Lady Artemis."
"Really?" Steph turned around swiftly causing Alex to yelp. "What did she say?"
"N-nothing. She was just saying nonsense. You know Aphrodite, there's some sort of malfunction in her brain."
Alex wasn't that convincing, but Steph did not push her friend. She trusted her. Steph knew Alex wouldn't fall for Aphrodite's lies. As Steph finished the French braid herself, she changed the subject. "Do you wanna go do target practice?"
"Sure," Alex replied, her face relieved that they were off the topic of Aphrodite. "I have to grab my bow though."
"No problem, so do I."
Steph and Alex shared a room on the third floor of the mansion. As Steph grabbed her bow from the side of her bed she gave an amused look to her friend; Alex had to dig through piles of clothes and movies and books. While Alex sought her bow, Steph inspected hers. It glowed silver and had an intricate design vines surrounding a single crescent moon carved into the wood. The memory of the day Steph made her bow burned in her mind. It was a rite of passage for the Hunters. It took her about fifteen times to get it right but it was one of Steph's best accomplishments.
"I can't seem to find my bow," Alex stressed. She bit her nails and frantically began to toss clothes up in the air, hoping that her bow was somewhere underneath.
Steph tightened her jaw to keep herself from laughing out loud. This was just like Alex.
"Here, I'll help you," Steph offered. "Maybe it's in the closet? It was last time." She started to open the closet door when she suddenly heard whispers. They were soft yet haunting. Steph flashed a confused look at Alex who had stopped searching too.
The gods will rise or fall.
"What was that?" Steph asked. Alex shrugged. Both girls were staring at the door.
Darkness . . . old foe . . . renew what was lost.
The whispers continued, echoing throughout the room. Steph inched closer to the hallway to see where it was coming from. They kept repeating themselves, broken words that didn't make sense.
Renew what was lost.
Steph felt her skin tingle. Then there was a flash of blue light that came down the hallway. Steph's stomach dropped when she realized whose room it came from.
It was none other than Apollo's.
Apollo's room was clean, well neater than some of the other gods' (from the few glimpses Steph had had, Hermes's room looked like the apocalypse had rolled in). On the south side there was an enormous panoramic window that overlooked the pool; opposite of that was a long bookcase filled with various songbooks, CDs, and poetry books. The walls were painted a luscious white complementary to the gray carpet; dozens of band and movie posters were hung up, along with electric and acoustic guitars. There was a corner dedicated to Apollo's various other instruments such as a keyboard, a drum set, a lyre and a tuba. Apollo's bed was a king sized bed that almost kissed the floor and above it was a humungous painting of him. Steph found it somewhat creepy that on his bedside table Apollo kept a framed picture of laurel tree.
On the east side of the room was Apollo's closet which was wide open and held an endless supply of designer clothing. Steph heard Alex inhale sharply as she eyed the life-size Apollo mannequin dressed in the latest fashion style. "Doesn't he ever frighten himself with all of this stuff?" Alex hissed.
"I know," Steph agreed. "You would think he would be sick of looking at that face." She nodded toward another picture of the god that hung close to the girls.
There were the whispers again. There was another flash of blue light coming from one of the drawers of Apollo's desk. Steph and Alex looked at each other. Steph wasn't too keen on the idea of going through Apollo's stuff but she was curious of where the voices were coming from and what exactly they were talking about.
Alex got to the desk first and gasped. "What? What is it?" Steph asked excitedly.
"Gods, look at these," Alex said as she rummaged through the god's desk. She held up pieces of paper with Apollo's chicken scratch and squinted to read them. "They're his poems. Listen to this:
"Babe you got me dreaming
'Bout no one else but you
How hot you look in that dress
We'd make the perfect pair, I know this is true
Maybe I'll ask you out on Tuesday
And we can go on a fantabulous date
Or maybe I'll just hold back because I know it's safe that way"
"That sucked," Alex stated as she finished. She flipped through the other papers. "There are others just as bad. Tell me, how exactly did he become the god of poetry?"
"Alex, focus," Steph said. "Mysterious whispers, blue light."
"Right, right." Alex opened the front drawer of the desk and inside was a couple of fortune cookies. "Oh! I love these things." She took one before Steph could object and opened it. "'Apollo is the god of hotness.'"
"And the little respect I had for him just vanished," Steph muttered. She opened another desk drawer and found a Magic 8 ball. There was a faint blue glow on it. Steph picked it up and shook it. The small blue triangle where typically there would be some sort of answer like 'yes' or 'no' was blank, instead the ball whispered.
Twelve connections . . . renew what was lost . . . Twelve connections . . . renew what was lost . . . Twelve connections . . .
Steph frowned. "Last time I checked, these things didn't have voices."
Twelve connections . . . renew what was lost.
"It sounds like it's a broken record," commented Alex.
"It certainly is emphasizing a message. 'Twelve connections'? 'Renew what was lost'? What do they mean?" Steph inspected the Magic 8 ball in her hands, hoping there would be more clues to what it was saying.
"Maybe you should ask it a question," Alex suggested.
"Good idea. Um, Magic 8 ball, what exactly are you saying?" Steph shook the ball again. The ball started to vibrate and its blue glow swelled, becoming more and more intense. All of the sudden different voices came out of it. It sounded like yelling, but they were only snippets.
Gone. Everything gone!
How did it happen?
What are we supposed to do?
Disappeared. Vanished. We're no match. We can't fight back.
We can't win.
What are we supposed to do?
Mortals. Renew what was lost.
The Magic 8 ball grew hot and Steph dropped the ball in surprise. The ball dimmed and became silent. Steph and Alex stood next to each other unsure of what they just heard.
"Was that just—did that sound like the Olympians or was it just me?" Alex casted her friend a worried glance.
Steph nodded slowly, scared to believe what she had just heard. The voices were definitely the Olympians'. She could hear the fear in Hermes's voice and the concern in Artemis's; she also recognized the calm composure of Athena's. What was gone though? What happened? Who were the gods against? Why couldn't they fight back?
Renew what was lost. The Magic 8 ball had been repeating that over and over again. Obviously the Olympians lost something precious to them, but what could it be? Steph bit her lip in frustration. Suddenly there was a noise outside of the room.
"I can't believe you just replaced me. I am irreplaceable."
Steph froze. Apollo was right outside his room. She shook Alex, who had picked up the Magic 8 ball and was reexamining it, and pointed to the door.
Apollo, she mouthed. Alex paled and her eyes widened.
"What do we do?" Alex whispered.
"He was new, he needed a friend," Hermes replied from outside. "'Sides, I like to think of him as my protégé."
"But replace me? Me? The Apollo? Dude! That's almost as bad as stealing my cows."
"Suck it up, that was soooo long ago. You're just jealous man."
"Jealous? Jealous? Of what?"
"That I am the superior god. Not only did I steal your cows, I have protégé and I also got that hot chick you were chasing after in L.A."
"She was into me until you decided to pose as me at that party. I never thought you would stoop so low."
"Wrong. She thought I was you and I didn't bother to correct her. Of course, how she could confuse me with you I don't understand. I am ten times better looking."
"Excuse me, but all of the myths say I am the handsomest god of Olympus. Nothing can beat this angelic face right here."
"Actually, you both are quite revolting," Tara's voice emerged from the hallway. "I don't see how the world could even tolerate blockheaded-egotistical-buffoons like you two."
"Tara, Tara, Tara," Apollo purred. "When are you gonna lighten up? I could help you if you want . . ." There was a flirtatious tone to his voice and though Steph disapproved of that kind of behavior, she struggled to suppress a laugh at the thought of Tara's face.
"You are just a sad sight," Tara said huffily. Her footsteps resonated in the hallway as Steph heard her storm off. Apollo and Hermes laughed out loud and Steph heard them high five each other.
Hermes then murmured something inaudible and his footsteps became faint as he walked away too. Steph watched in horror as the doorknob turned; she had a better understanding of the term 'deer in headlights' now. Neither she nor Alex could run away and hide much less move; they were petrified.
"What are you girls doing here?" Apollo asked in surprise as he entered. He was baffled—a little amused—to find two Hunters in bedroom. "Steph, I know I told you that I'm available for you anytime, anywhere but . . . to be honest I didn't expect to see you so soon."
"No-I," Steph started to say otherwise but then thought better of it. Apollo didn't really seem too suspicious of why she and Alex were here, perhaps if they could just lie their way out. "I just was curious about your prophecies. Strictly Hunter related," she added hastily. "I wanted to know how our hunting trip this weekend will go—hopefully there's good weather, right?"
Apollo stiffened. His eyebrows bunched together, his lips set in a line of worry. Steph had never seen the god so uncomfortable. "I'm not sure," he said apprehensively. "Do you really—? Aren't weathermen better use for this?"
"But you're Apollo. Your prophecies are better than any prediction a lousy mortal could do." Steph looked at the door. They had to get out of here. "Of course, if you can't do it . . ." She moved towards the door.
"No, no, no!" Apollo held his arm out to block her. "It's just a small prophecy right? No harm."
Apollo's eyes narrowed as he noticed the Magic 8 ball in Alex's hands. "You shouldn't touch that," he said sharply. He swept the ball from Alex's hands and tucked it inside his pocket. "Next time ladies, I would prefer it if you waited outside my room, and not got through my stuff without my permission. But since both of you are looking mighty fine today, I'll forgive you two."
Steph and Alex exchanged glances. The god went through his desk and pulled out a paper-folded fortune teller. Quickly flipping it back and forth, Apollo opened up one of the flaps. "'This weekend will have an overcast but it will not rain in the northern part of the state,'" he read. "Well, looks like the weather is smiling upon the Hunters since you guys are heading east. Anything else I can help you with?"
"No, thanks," Steph answered. "Now we know we don't have to bring our rain jackets with us. Right Alex?" Her friend nodded. "Thanks again Apollo." She attempted a somewhat friendly smile.
"Okay . . . if that's all. Wait, here," Apollo said as he turned toward his desk again. "Take these; I have too many and they're terrifyingly accurate." He tossed each Hunter a fortune cookie and grinned, some of his normal-self coming back.
"Remember, don't hesitate to call Lord Apollo of awesomeness if you need help. Homework, looking hot, hunting or archery, problems with my sister, anything, I am always here. Well, not here here—you know what I mean. I am free of service to beautiful girls."
"We'll keep that in mind," Steph said hurriedly. She took Alex's arm and rushed out of Apollo's room before he could flirt with them anymore.
Back in her room Steph absently fingered the fortune cookie Apollo gave her; she hadn't opened it and didn't want to open it—especially if it had the 'Apollo is the god of hotness' as its fortune. Her mind was whirling with dozens of questions about the Magic 8 ball's weird voices. She found Apollo's sudden reluctance to give a prophecy strange too. Usually he was ecstatic about giving prophecies; he loved to brag that he was the only god who could do that.
Alex snorted as she dumped her fortune cookie in the garbage. "I don't believe that those things are accurate. It wasn't even right about the previous fortune." She looked at her friend. "I can't believe he actually thought we were there for a prophecy, you'd think he'd be somewhat doubtful. I mean, us Hunters try to avoid him like the plague."
"He's a guy, of course he wouldn't notice. They're all oblivious idiots."
Alex tilted her head and thought about it for a moment; Steph wondered if her friend was going to object. "You're right, they're all oblivious idiots," Alex finally said, though Steph thought she saw Alex's eyes flicker to the right. "Anyway, it was ridiculous that he offered help in hunting and archery. As if we didn't have Lady Artemis for that stuff."
"That's what Tara told him in the limo earlier this afternoon."
"And problems with Lady Artemis? Looking hot? Homework? Has his brain been under the sun for too long?"
Steph gasped. Homework. Suddenly everything began to make sense. The gods. Fallon Academy. The gods had no reason to go to high school, they were gods. But what if they all of the sudden had a reason? What if they had to blend in? Steph's mind race as she pieced the puzzle together. The Olympians lost something, something so valuable that they had to fit in with the mortal world. Or else . . .
Steph turned to face her friend, her body trembled with shock. "Alex, the gods lost their immortality."
I hope to get the next chapter up in two weeks. I'm trying really hard to stay on the biweekly schedule. Thanks for reading and again, if you liked it, please spread the word! You guys are awesome! :)