Undying, Chapter 12
"Something's coming," Heracles whispers so low that we can barely hear him, "A threat to all of us. It's coming...it's coming..."
Ever since I'd come to Olympus, it was rare to see someone who looked sick. That's what Heracles looked. He just looked sick. There were bags underneath his eyes. His skin wasn't the usual bronze, glowing skin that was slathered with ridiculous amounts of oil. He was pale. I'd seen people like this before but only in the human world who were sick with the flu or something. When Heracles tells us about this I can almost feel this gasp come across the room.
This was the GREAT Heracles. And something had him scared shitless.
"What are you talking about?" Krill asks him.
Heracles just shakes his head, "It's coming...it's coming. You can feel it. Can't you? Can you feel it? Thad...I know you can feel it?"
Heracles grabs onto my hand. He's so strong that I think he's spraining my wrist by the way he grasps it. When he holds me though I see something. There was darkness at first. A sea of darkness as though I immediately close his eyes and for a quick slither of a second I can see something in that darkness. Am I imagining it? It's as though the darkness was staring back at us.
It's Clep who grabs my body away from Heracles, pulling me to the other side of the room in a protective stance, "Let go of him."
"You saw it too?" Heracles asks me, "The darkness is coming..."
I don't know what to say. I didn't see anything. Nothing but darkness. I want to open my mouth and describe however that I felt something more than I saw something. I felt like I was being watched somehow. I can't put those feelings into thoughts though, not yet at least, so I just stay completely quiet.
"He's fuckin' lost it," Clep states.
"We need him," Krill responds, "Heracles managed to steal a golden apple during his labors."
The 10 labors of Heracles were what made him famous. He had to perform 10 impossible tasks. Those tasks made him a legend. One of those tasks was to go to the Underworld and capture Cerberus. I had seen Cerberus many times in the Underworld. The fact that Heracles did something like that was amazing. Maybe if Heracles knew something about the apples he would be beneficial in this quest.
Or at least the Heracles of old.
This new Heracles wasn't present. He looked frightened. He looked completely afraid.
"He's tired," Ganymede states out of nowhere, "He needs his rest."
"Persephone is on the throne causing havoc and you're talking about rest?" Krill asks.
"Leave him," I state.
Everyone looks at me. I don't think anyone is expecting me to take Ganymede's side in this situation. Truth is looking at Heracles, I knew that he wasn't going to be worth much of anything in the condition he is. Sure, it would have been great to have the legendary hero along with us, but right now something was on his mind. I didn't think whatever was on his mind was going away anytime soon. We had to find another way around this.
"The apples---" Krill states.
"We can get it ourselves," I state.
I was tired of depending on people to save me. Time to do it myself.
"Thank you," Ganymede says to me.
I watch how Ganymede puts his arms around Heracles. Looking at how concerned Ganymede was, it was very clear that he cared about Heracles. It was touching almost how much he cared about him. It makes me smile really.
"Take care of him," I tell Ganymede, "Please. Olympus needs Heracles at 100 percent."
"I'll get him back to himself," Ganymede promises.
I nod at Ganymede. Ganymede nods back. I don't think we would ever be friends but at least we were under an understanding that we both cared about Heracles and we were both looking out for his best interest especially in a time like this.
I can almost feel Krill's reluctance to let Ganymede take Heracles out of the common room we are in. When they leave he turns to me and just shakes his head.
"The threat is Persephone," he states.
"I don't know what the threat is," I explain to him, "All I know we need to get back here soon. I'm having a bad feeling."
"What kind of a bad feeling?"
"When I was living among mortals I had many suitors. That's a kind word for them. They were more like stalkers. Well, I always knew when a guy was stalking me. I could feel his eyes. Just now I felt eyes. Someone is watching me. Someone is watching all of us."
There is a silence. Heracles wasn't imagining it. I could feel it too. I wonder if they could feel it too now that they were made aware. Either way, everyone is really uncomfortable in those next few minutes. The discomfort is almost loud when we all get quiet.
Clep crosses his arm seeming braver than the rest of us in those next few moments, "Well I guess we should hurry and get back then."
"Krill you should stay."
"What?" Krill asks.
"I need you to keep an eye out on Olympus. If anything weird happens I'll need you to report back to me. Send Iris."
I can tell Krill doesn't like it but he nods his head. He nods his head because deep down he was probably wondering the same thing that I was wondering: What the hell had the God of Strength frightened to the point that he was almost weak?
The twilight of the sun is so beautiful up close and personal. It's hard to not appreciate it even though I'm afraid, especially in the situation that I'm in now."
"This is beautiful," I let Clep know.
We've been riding in his magical chariot for hours. The chariot is pulled by flying horses. The chariot belonged to his father and I can tell he takes a lot of pride in them.
"It's nothing compared to your dove chariot. That was a grand entrance. This is more like a job. This chariot belonged to my father. One of Apollo's most important daily tasks was to harness the four horses. Aethon, Pyrois, Phlegon, Eous pull this very same chariot, in order to pull the Sun across the sky every day. Now that's my duty."
"Well seems like we need to make sure to get you back before morning."
"It's no rush. You're a star even brighter than the sun."
Clep's been laying it on thick the entire time. I'm sitting in his chariot looking up at the golden god standing above me. He glows. It's as though the sun is all around him. It's hard not to smile listening to him flirting every chance he gets. Somehow I manage not to though. There is this handsome man who was literally risking everything to be there for me and I can't even allow myself to be happy.
I know that he notices. I can tell by how his eyes just follow me as though trying to figure me out somehow. I know that he's disappointed.
"I've been in the Underworld for so long, I forgot what beautiful things really look like."
"She did you a favor?"
"Persephone. Maybe it was foul to force marriage on you, but at least you don't have to go to the Underworld again."
He was right. I had promised myself to marry Hades in a way to get out of the Underworld for just a little bit but he was expecting me to return. I wondered how he was taking the news about Persephone. Truthfully I didn't care. Hades was handsome, but the Underworld was a horrible place and I never wanted to go there again.
"I would say I'd rather die than go back but that wouldn't make sense," I laugh.
"I was about to challenge Hades to a duel for your heart. Definitely didn't even know how that would have turned out. You have a way of causing trouble without even knowing it."
"I don't want anyone fighting for me."
"I don't think you can stop it."
He tries to touch my face but I pull away.
Maybe that's why I address it first, "It's not you. I promise.'
He sighs, "Don't worry. My father was horrible at love too. Not just with females either. Most of Apollo's male lovers were transformed into plants like Cyparissus accidentally killed his pet-deer – which was gifted to him by Apollo – he asked my father to let him mourn forever. So, Apollo unwillingly transformed Cyparissus into a cypress tree. Or how about Hyacinthus whose affair with my father caused him to be killed by a jealous admirer. Apollo changed him to a pretty flower."
"That's all kind of tragic," I respond.
Clep shrugs, "I'm kind of used to it. Just don't be surprised when you start growing roots in the ground at some point."
I laugh. I know he's trying to cheer me up. Even me laughing
though doesn't last long. I find myself choking over the laugh and
getting silent. I'm just not in the mood to be happy right now. Clep notices I watch him let go of the reins from the
harness. I think we are going to crash when he does but somehow the
magical chariot controls itself.
Clep gets down to my level. His eyes are checking on me.
"You're worried about what's coming..."
"My father was the God of Prophecy. I've seen prophecies go completely awry when he raised me. Trust me, it's probably nothing."
"It doesn't feel like nothing," I state.
"Is that it?" he asks.
"What do you mean?"
"Is that the only reason you're in a bad mood? Worried about crazy Heracles and a stupid vision? Or is there something else bothering you?"
Where did I start? I had Hades who I was supposed to marry but I somehow ended up being tricked into a marriage with Persephone who was a raging bitch. My mortal father was clearly under threat at all times. Then there was him...Deimos.
I remember our last conversation. He'd been so angry with me. So angry because I didn't promise him what he wanted me to promise him. It was a fleeting thought. Then I was thinking about my promise to Hades. I was imagining how angry Hades would be if he found out that I tricked him to leave the Underworld and go marry someone else.
"Did your father ever figure it out?" I ask.
"Love," I respond.
Clep crosses his arms and leans back at that moment. I can see this is a topic that he's probably thought about on his own. It's so strange that Apollo's romances were always so tragic. You would think someone as attractive as Apollo wouldn't find it so hard to find love. I guess none of that really mattered though.
"Love is a complicated thing," Clep explains to me, "I remember asking my father that very same question. How after having his heart broken so many times how he managed to love so hard again. You know what he told me?"
"He told me it's the experience that he did it for. You don't love because you think it will never end and that you'll be with that person forever. It's the journey that matters. It's the experience. It's having a smile on your face over and over when you think of that person. It's never really permanent. It's a temporary fix. It's a temporary high. Nothing lasts forever. Not even with us immortals. Nothing is truly undying."
"Everything has a twilight," I state.
He nods, "Exactly. You're beautiful Thad. You are the personification of Love. Now you see why we are all chasing you. And somehow you always seem to be just right out of our grasp...but we'll never stop chasing you. You hear me? Never..."
He's getting emotional. I can see it written all over his eyes. I can his passion. I can see his desire. Clep reaches over to me and he is ready to kiss me.
I pull away at that moment, "I can't."
"Who is it? Who has won? Was it Heracles? Hades?"
Won? Has it really been just a game this entire time? Was I the real competition even after the trials.
"No one has won," I tell him crossing my head, "It's just I've been...thinking about Deimos..."
"Him? Of all people. He's horrible for you..."
"Exactly. Which is why I don't get why I can't stop thinking about him," I admit.
Deimos was all bad for me. He slept with Krill. He ignored me half the time. Now the only reason he was showing me any affection was because I was out of his reach. Instead of being respectful about my decision like Clep or anyone else would be, he decides to throw a tantrum. He was immature. He was rude. He was selfish. He was all wrong. He was everything I shouldn't want
But here I am pulling away from a handsome gentleman like Clep for Deimos of all people.
"I wasn't going to tell you this but before I came to find Heracles I went to ask Deimos to assist us," Clep states, "He was intent on saying that he doesn't give a fuck what happens to you. He was intent on letting me know that he wouldn't lift a finger for you again in his life. And him being an immortal meant a very, very long time."
That was clear. That was clear as day.
"Do you think I'm stupid that it turns me on that he said that?" I ask.
Clep sighs, "Yes. I think it's ridiculously stupid."
"I can't help it..." I admit, "I want to get my mind off of him, but I can't help it."
Clep sighs a little bit, "I get it."
"Good guys finish last," Clep laughs crossing his arms, "Deimos is an asshole. He's a shady, selfish asshole. But he's one lucky shady, selfish asshole."
I smile at Clep.
"So you understand?"
"That doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying to prove myself for you," Clep explains, "I'll never give up."
"I wouldn't expect any different."
He takes that as a challenge. He leans back in for another attempt at romance. His lips almost meet mine but something stops us. A hurl at that moment and the horses snort followed by a long hard neigh.
I find myself being tossed out of the chariot!
I find myself falling, falling, falling towards the ground. I'm almost going to hit the ground when I hold my hands out and I'm captured...JUST IN TIME by a band of beautiful doves. The doves somehow managed to appear out of nowhere and catch me to lower me slowly to the ground.
I realize as we land that this ground is different. We've arrived across a strange sea that is has a glistening white coast. Across the sand sprout strange flowers that have a glimmer to them.
"Are you OK?" Clep calls out.
I brush myself off as he lowers his chariot to land on the island beside me. Across from us, I see beautiful women. They are young women with pointy ears, long exaggerated necks and mouths like little beaks. They run away from us desperately when we arrive. It's clear that they aren't used to visitors. They make a strange noise. Almost like an alarm. It's startling the horses of Clep who is trying to desperately to calm them down as he dismounts his chariot.
"Is this it?"
"The Island of Hesperides," he explains to me, "The Hesperides are the nymphs of the evening and golden light of sunset, who were the "Daughters of the Evening" or "Nymphs of the West". They tend the garden that grows the rare, beautiful golden apples."
He points out in the distance.
Sure enough, there were trees growing from the groves. I first notice the glittering stream that winds through the groves of trees. Then I notice the fruit of these trees. They grow tall and wide. It's beautiful. Beyond beautiful.
I don't get the chance to really appreciate this though. There is a panic in the air. The alarm was something that I'd never really experienced before. It's clear that the nymphs on this island didn't want us here. It was also clear that they were calling something.
"Do you feel that?" I ask at that moment.
Clep and I look at each other. Our eyes glare at one another. At first, there is nothing but the alarms of the nymphs, but then something else. There is a shuffling of the Earth as though the plates below us were shifting. At first, I think it's an Earthquake but then I notice Clep heading desperately to his chariot to retrieve his bow and arrow. By the way, he holds his bow and arrow out, with his muscles tightened hard to draw the string I can tell that this is something serious.
"Stand behind me," he states.
I don't expect anything less from him. It's Clep after all. He was the perfect gentleman. His father had made sure he would be.
"I'm not helpless," I argue with Clep.
"I don't want you to get hurt," he responds.
He's irritating me at that moment. He reminds me of Heracles all over again. What was I? Some helpless damsel. Sure, I wasn't the god of war or strength of even some hunter who was trained with a golden bow and arrow. I was still a god none-the-less though.
"I got this!" I shout to him.
I'm turned to Clep. I'm angry that he's underestimating me like most of the other guys that I've met. Just when I say that I almost regret it instantly. A huge shadow is cast over me.
"Move...away...slowly-----" he starts off, "NO FUCK THAT! FUCK THAT! RUN!"
I'm not sure what has him alarmed but I take off running as fast as I can but I don't get far. I feel something grabbing me up. I realize what has grabbed me isn't human! The reptilian holds and constricts me! I'm turning down when I see it. My heart is beating as fast as possible. I'm shaking. My heart is racing.
"What do we have here?" a haunting voice asks.
I turn and see the face of a giant woman attached to the body of a serpent. Her body is what is constricting me. She holds me to the point that I swear any more pressure would crack bones in my body. Her face is pale and has scales but I can still make out the face of a female. She has long, slender hands. She has a flat stomach. It's right below her navel that her body begins to morph entirely into that of a snake. Her jet black hair wraps around her head like a web. She uses her long tail to lower me towards her so that she can get a better look at me.
I'm frightened to the point of silence.
"Thaddeus," I whisper.
"You're beautiful, aren't you?" she asks.
"I come in peace," I tell her, "I'm the God of Love."
Echidna doesn't seem impressed when I throw at the title, "You Olympians come and go all the time. God of this, god of that. You're no more god than I am. I don't care about what you think you're entitled to. You're trespassing."
"I just want a golden apple," I state.
She doesn't seem concerned about that.
"You're trespassing," she repeats, "Give me one reason I shouldn't break every bone in your immortal body and watch you grovel in pain for an eternity."
The idea of it sounds almost horrifying.
"Release him!" Clep states.
Clep doesn't wait for her response before shooting multiple times. I've never seen someone shoot so fast. It's clearly divine. The arrows pierce through the air blinding Echidna. It's really remarkable. It's enough to cause Echidna to drop me to the ground either blinded by the light or irritated by the pain of the arrows. I hit the ground hard but manage to roll a little bit away to safety.
When I look back I notice that Clep has managed to piss Echidna off even more.
"You'll pay for that," the voice of the half-woman, half-snake slithers off.
The threat is followed up with a whip of a violent tail. The tail is as fast as a bullwhip. Clep sees the first one coming. He's fast enough to roll out of the way. I watch as he begins to shoot more and more and more arrows. He's ridiculously fast.
The tail whips again.
I'm almost thinking Clep is going to get the better of her but then I realize that she isn't aiming for him during her last attack. She was aiming for me.
"MOVE!" Clep tries to warn me.
I am about to make the move but I'm nowhere as fast as Clep. Surprisingly he manages to be even faster than he was before! He gets to me in no time and pushes me out of the way taking the brunt of the attack. The whip slaps across Clep's body causing him to be tossed to the ground like free weight. Clep struggles to get up but I can tell he's having a hard time.
Echidna is like a shark at that moment. The mother of monsters can taste the weakness. She can smell the blood in the water. I watch as she circles around him. Clep struggles to get up! He's pushing at the ground. He makes a roll towards his dropped bow but Echidna slaps the bow away from her and makes a venomous noise that I can't quite put my finger on. I'm concerned about him. Real concerned.
"HEY!" I scream out to get her attention.
It happens just in time. It happens right before she turns to Clep.
She stares at me and smiles, "What's your trick Little man? Do you have arrows of flashing light as well? You going to blind me as well?"
"No, nothing like that."
She is entertained. I can see her coming towards me. She's coming towards me in a way that she wouldn't be coming towards Clep. Her guard is down. The mother of monsters could care less about me. I have no weapon.
"What you going to do? Send doves to attack me? Give me a bad blind date?" Echidna asks.
She's laughing at me. Laughing completely.
She approaches me. Closer. Closer.
"What's can you possibly do?" she asks.
That's when I see her squirm in pain. It comes out of nowhere. I am shocked when I notice an ax buried deep into her scales. I watch Echidna scream out a bloody cry that causes the nymphs to go into complete hiding on the island.
"His power is to make people with common sense cross the ocean to track him down and protect him despite their better judgment," a voice states, "Just for a shot that he'd fall in love with them."
I turn at that moment and I'm shocked who I see!
"You came..." I state.
"Unfortunately you have a way of getting men to do stupid things for you," he tells me before sighing, "And even more, unfortunately, I haven't found a way to break the spell you have over me."
I can tell he's only half teasing but the truth is I was completely happy to see him. Maybe that's why I run into his arms and hug him. The hug means the world. The hug quickly turns into a kiss. Deimos pulls his tongue down my throat at that moment. My heart thumps something crazy. It's amazing that he came here. It's amazing that he tracked me down.
"We should get out of here...NOW!" Clep states.
I watch Clep running back towards us. At first, I'm not sure what he's running from but then I notice it. Clep has an apple in his hand. It's a golden apple. And he's being chased.
Echidna's scream for pain had drawn the attention of others.
If she was the mother of monsters then all her children were after us!
We barely get away with our lives. It's awkward. All of us are bruised and beaten. I was pretty sure that Clep was using only one hand because a dragon had damn near torched his other arm. Still, we had managed to escape the Garden of the Hesperides with only one apple.
"Thank you for coming," I tell Deimos.
"He was late," Clep jumps in almost immediately.
"Sorry. I didn't have a golden chariot like you, boy scout. I had to get creative with my means of travel," Deimos responds, "But I'm just in time. And I got my kiss. That's all that matters."
I watch how Deimos cuffs his hands around me at that moment. I'm shocked at how he seems like he wants to claim me. He has his hands on my ass. It's a turn on honestly. It's more of a turn off to see Clep losing that composed demeanor of his as he watches.
"Fuck you," Clep states, "He's a married man...by the way..."
"Not for long," Deimos states, "You going to blackmail the fates with the apple right?"
"And then what?" Deimos asks me.
"I haven't thought about that far," I state.
"Persephone isn't going to give up that throne without a fight," Clep warns.
Clep had a point. Did I want to take the throne away from Persephone though or was it that I just didn't want her to have it? I was tired of her throwing her weight around. She literally was threatening me into marriage with her. She was threatening my father. I was tired of her shit. Still, what was the alternative? There was so much to think about.
Deimos shrugs, "Persephone can keep the throne. If she wants to keep Thaddeus that is going to be a whole different issue. The only thing most of us Olympians can agree on is we want Thaddeus for ourselves. It's going to tear Olympus apart one day."
He laughs when he says it but I feel uncomfortable. I don't know why. It just feels like something I've heard before. Some sort of foreshadowing.
We're flying up to Olympus and I can tell something is wrong. Something is very...very wrong...
"I don't think Persephone's the problem right now..." Clep whispers.
Just then I see darkness. Olympus is engulfed in darkness. Something is happening. Something big. Something serious. Something I didn't expect. Was this the darkness? Was this the threat that Heracles was so afraid of? What was happening back on Olympus? What had we missed during our quest to go find the golden apple?
Just at that moment, I see the rainbow. It's Iris. She looks more desperate than I'd seen her before. When she arrives she has sweat trickling down her face. I'd never seen Iris with sweat trickling down her face. It's almost as though she had seen a ghost.
"I have a message from Krill," she states.
The Messenger goddess glides by us but the closer we get the more we can see what she is reporting with our own eyes. Olympus was under attack! The entire mountain kingdom is engulfed in this dark shadow and I don't understand where it's starting or ending.
"It's Hades," she states, "He's attacking Olympus. He says he'll destroy it all if you are not returned to the Underworld with him."
Was this what Heracles was afraid of? All hell was literally about to break loose and the source of it all was me.
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com