Categories > Cartoons > Class of the Titans > Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Chapter Twelve

by ClandestineFire 3 reviews

They always said that death was the final frontier, but I never believed it until now...

Category: Class of the Titans - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Humor - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2007-08-20 - Updated: 2007-08-20 - 9904 words - Complete

Hi all. Sorry about the wait, but it did take me a while to write this. We’re also short staffed at work, so that didn’t help. Here’s a shout out to everyone has ever reviewed me, or read this story. Sorry I couldn’t say particular names, but my e-mail system has been whacked lately. I may need to get a new one…This is going to be the last chapter of this story, and it’s been a damn good run.

Chapter 12:

“Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……!” Wait…

Realizing that the gut retching, spine chilling feeling I felt while falling is no longer there, I stop screaming. I’ve also had my eyes closed, so I snap them open. I immediately want to close them again. Deep red sky, jagged, razor-sharp rocks, and a sickly green river…I know where I am. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist. Just in case, I place a finger to my throat. The steady heartbeat I should have felt is gone. It’s true then…

Sitting up, I shake my head. Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Standing, and brushing the dust off my clothes, I just stand there, looking out over the bleak landscape. Anger suddenly flares up in me and I kick at the ground. A rock goes flying, landing in the river with a small splash.

“This…” I sigh, staring at the Underworld, “really sucks.”

“Oh, stop bitching.” A voice says from behind me.

Turning, I spot Robert glowering at me. He’s seated on a large boulder, looking a lot like a vulture. If he had wings, no doubt he’d be circling my head. The first thing I can so though…is laugh!

“HA!” I point at him. “Welcome to hell, jack ass!” I know I’m dead too - I have to be - , but seeing him down here is making me giddy. He’s dead, he’s dead! Yay! It’s like a bloody dream come true! I want to jump up and down, but I contain myself. Best not to look like an idiot.

After my moment of joy, I come back to reality. I’m in the Underworld, on the wrong side of the River Styx. The first rational thing to do is find Charon. Suddenly really gloomy, I make my way along the river, leaving Robert to do what he wants. A thought hits me just then as I walk away…how am I going to pay the ferry man? Checking my pockets, my heart drops when I find nothing. Ah, jeez!


“What?” I turn, finding Robert has followed me. He doesn’t look as smug as usual. Good. That means he’s confused, and if he thinks I’m going to help him, he’s got another thing coming!

“Why are you following me? Get lost.” I wave him away, trying to think. Maybe I could try swimming, but, of course, that’s not going to happen. Maybe…

“I’m not going anywhere.” He growls, grabbing the back of my jacket. “You’re going to tell me what’s going on!”

“Isn’t it obvious?” I yank myself from his grasp. “You’re dead, stupid! Does this look like earth?” I thought the red sky and sickly green river would have made it clear. “Now, I have to find Charon and try to persuade him to take me across the river.”

His expression is blank, so I know he has no idea what I just said. Maybe it’s for the best. Walking away, I continue down the bank.

Nice mess I’ve gotten myself into, isn’t it? I kick at another rock, which meets the same fate as the last one: eternity at the bottom of the Styx. I wonder if it even has a bottom? Staring down into the green water as I walk, my reflection stares back. Man, I look like hell. I really shouldn’t be surprised though, I suppose. Robert’s still following me around, it seems, looking around like he owns the place. Idiot.

Suddenly I hear a babble of voices coming from further down river. They don’t sound happy, but really. Who’s happy knowing they’re dead?

“I told you, this is all I have!” comes a man’s angry shout, and I pass a huge jagged rock in time to see a burly, heavyset man thrust a twenty under Charon’s nose. The ferryman doesn’t look impressed, and I can see why. Not only has the guy invaded Charon’s ‘personal bubble’, but his lack of a suitable fare has caused a backlog. There has to be at least fifteen people behind this guy, and none look very happy.

“Could we hurry this up a bit?” yells a middle aged woman from the crowd, an odd accent on her tongue slurring her words slightly. Her curly graying bun looks like an odd growth on the top of her head.

“It’s not like we’re getting any younger!” a skinny blonde man growls.

I give a sharp, bark of a laugh. Apparently, no one else found the quip as funny as have, as everyone’s staring at me. Why stare at me? Stare at Charon! He’s the bloody odd man out here!

“Now,” the heavy man turns his attention back to the ferryman, “what the hell is wrong with this?”

“Wrong choice of words there, pal.” I say, stepping forward. I just got myself an idea! I ignore the mans indignant glare and go on, planting myself next to him. “Charon here only takes gold coins.”

There’s a collection of groans and exasperated sighs as Charon nods in agreement. I turn to the demon. “Look, Charon,“ the ferryman seems surprised that I even know his name, “you’ll have to eventually change. There aren’t a lot of solid gold coins laying around up there anymore.” I point upwards to emphasize. “Money has a lot of forms now, and this,” I snatch the twenty from the man’s hand, who jumps in surprise, “is a lot of money.”

I pause a moment, hoping no one in the crowd will give me away. No one does, as they wait for me to go on. “In fact,” I say casually, “ this should be enough to pay for everyone here.”

“Hey, screw you!” The large man yells, but the rest of his sentence is drowned out by shouts of approval from the group behind me. Wow, I think it may have gotten bigger since last I looked. That’s depressing.

As the crowd quiets down a bit, the man grabs his bill back and huffs. “Why should I pay for everyone?”

“For making us wait, stupid!” yells skinny. The crowd erupts again in agreement, and the heavy man looks a bit cornered. “Besides, what are you going to buy down here?” Everyone laughs.

Once the group is calm once more, everyone turns to Charon. The ferryman is looking at the green twenty doubtfully. Please, let him fall for it! Just when I think the plan is a failure, the woman with the bun pulls another bill from her pocket, this one a currency I‘ve never seen. “See?” she says, holding it up for him to see, “it’s all we have. Paper.”

After another moment of deliberation, Charon gives an odd grunt, then grabs both bills. Before anyone could say anything, Charon’s ushering everyone aboard the little craft. We’re already on open water before it dawns on me. My plan worked! Well, what do you know? Odie and Jay aren’t the only ones who can plan! You just have to b. s a bit, and life is good!

The ride is done in a sort of tense silence. No one really wants to talk, but I can see questions on their features, the confusion and fear. It wasn’t until we’re about half way across until a young man with short, bushy black hair leans over to me. He reminds me a bit of a European Odie. “So,” he whispers to me, “good thinking with the bills. I was thinking we’d be there for ever!”

“You just have to know how to deal with him. It surprises me he actually agreed!” I nod towards the ferryman.

The guy looks around a moment, then comments, “This place really sucks.”

“Yeah,” I say half heartedly. “I don’t know why I keep coming back.”


“Oh, this’ll be my third time here in less than six months.”

He stares at me as though I just announced God was coming, but I take no notice of him. Staring at the green water, my mind are on other things. The rocking of the boat is making me a bit nervous, but oddly enough, it’s not as bad as usual.

Again, there was silence. Even as our group gets off the boat and takes our place in line for judgment, no one speaks. Not even Robert, who hasn’t said anything since across the river. That in itself is surprising. The moron is still on my heels like an annoying dog.

I poke my head around the heavy man, and look down the line Maybe it just hit me, or I was trying to mask my fear, but I’m scared out of my mind. My eyes fall on the people in front of me. Men in all sorts of attire, including one with a tuxedo with long tails. Women in warm dresses or outfits that seem dull in the ghastly light of the Underworld. Even a few children, their faces wet with tears and faces fearful, clung to family members, or as far as I can tell, total strangers. My eyes burn as I spot a mother clutching an infant. The baby couldn’t be over ten months. Life can be cruel. Very cruel.

“So,” the woman from the boat says, her accent slurring her speech, “how did you go?”

She was addressing another woman from our group. She had a pale yellow sun dress on, and shoulder-length blonde hair framed her face well, even as she turned to glare at the lady. “What a horrible question!”

I agree completely. It is a horrid question, but before I can voice my own opinion, the skinny blonde pipes up. “I was in an accident at work.”

Everyone turns to him. He holds his hands up defensively. “What? It’s conversation, right? It’s too quiet.”

“What happened?” A woman with glasses asks. Her red, thick hair is un-kept, but that could just be because she’s down here.

“A tie strap snapped when I was loading the back of my semi. Sent steel pillars everywhere, and I didn’t get out of the way in time.”

“Sucky.” says another gentleman with gray hair.

“I…” the woman in the yellow dress falters, “I was in a car crash. Some drunk ran a stop sign.”

People around her pat her on the back, consoling her as she begins to cry. “What’s going to happen to my family?” she cries, twirling the ring on her finger, so dainty I never even noticed it before.

I turn away. I don’t want to see or hear anymore. The woman was right; the whole conversation just seems wrong.

“Me,” says the skinny blonde man, “I was working late, and suddenly the building I was in collapsed.”

There are numerous gasps of shock from the crowd, which, thankfully, hides my own gasp. I turn and look at him.

“Oh, jeez!” says a gentleman in a khaki jacket. “Was it terrorism?”

“I don’t know.” says the blonde. “I’m glad they hit at night though! Not many people would have been inside, and the daycare would have been empty.”

My heart skips several beats, and I go pale. There was a daycare in there? As he describes the ordeal in detail, I turn away from them again. I knew there had to be someone in the building, but it still doesn’t hide the shock. How many more died? And what if there had been children inside? Single parents working overtime…

I shake myself. I can’t think like that! I’m shaking as emotions roll over me in a chaotic combination. Hatred, fear, and guilt are the most dominant. I don’t even bother looking at Robert. If I do, I may do something stupid. Besides, it’s not like I can kill him again.

Time seems to pass on slower than ever as the line in front of me begins to get shorter. No ones really talking, except a little cluster behind me whose still going on about how they died. Blocking it out is hard, seeing as how the disaster of the New Olympia Petroleum Building keeps coming up. Even though I wasn’t the one who split the structure in two, I still feel as though that man’s blood is on my hands.

Finally, after what seemed to have been an eternity, the people before me are judged and sent on. Now it’s my turn. With a dark sigh, I step forward. Minos, our friendly, neighborhood judge had been rummaging around behind his desk for something, and never noticed my entrance. When he pops back up and sees me, surprise doesn’t start to describe his face.

“Archie!” he splutters, his eyes big. “You’re early! You weren’t supposed to be back here for another…” grabbing a big, leather-bound book, he flips it open, “…sixty-two years!” Huh, that would have made me eighty. Nice, round age for passing on. Not eighteen.

“Cronus kind of screwed that up.” I shrug, then glare at Robert. “And this guy!”

Robert actually has the gall to chuckle. Now even Minos is glaring at him. Pointing a finger at the man, he gestures him to step forward as well. With a shrug, Robert obeys.

“Now,” says the judge, placing a pair of reading glasses on his nose, “this is a bit of a tricky situation.” Looking down at his book, he makes some notes. “It says here that you both died at the exact same time. Usually there’s a few seconds, or even tenths of seconds between deaths, but not this. I must judge those who have died in order of death, or things get confusing.” He ponders something for a moment. Then he points at Robert. His tone gets angry. “You’ll go first.”

“Why me?” Is the man that stupid? He’s questioning an Underworld judge!

“Why you?” a new voice echoes in the buildings high ceiling. I turn and see Hades walking out from behind a set of tall, gold and bronze doors. His usual cheery tone has become dark and dangerous. At his entrance, mutters and whispers erupts from the line behind me. “You want to know why one of my judges has chosen you first? Shall I name the crimes?” He begins counting off the sentences on his fingers. “Murder, attacking world hero’s, endangering the lives of everyone on earth, and conspiring with Cronus!” He looked ready to kill.

Minos had gotten down from his pedestal during the Gods rant, and was bowing deeply to him. At the first pause, he broke in. “My Lord, you don’t have to concern yourself with such a petty soul. Allow me-”

With a wave of his hand, Hades cuts off Minos. The little man doesn’t even try to argue. Taking the judge’s gavel from his hand, he turns back to Robert. His dark face seems even darker, and I can’t help but feel afraid, even if I’m not the one on the receiving end.

Walking forward, the God doesn’t stop until he’s nose to nose with Robert. “I’ve been waiting for you to come for ten years, when you destroyed this boy’s life.” He points at me, and I feel myself shrink away slightly. “Then to work with Cronus? Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Turning away from Robert, who still has an air of smug ignorance, the God of the Underworld walks over to Minos’ desk. Back still facing us, he announces, “For your crimes against humanity, and for endangering the lives of not only your kin, but the worlds last hope against evil, I sentence you to eternity in the darkest cell in the deepest part of Tartarus Prison.” Before he knocks the gavel, he turns and glares at the man. “My your soul rot in Tartarus’ fires.”

The clack of the gavel sounds like a gunshot. The atmosphere around Robert becomes hazy, but before he disappears forever, he grins at me and waves. Then, like dust in a wind storm, he’s gone.

As soon as he’s disappeared, my heart feel lighter. Or, at least, the space where my heart should be anyway. It’s too much for one person to hold in! I punch the air. “Yes! He gone for good! Woo-hoo!”

Hades claps me on the shoulder, his old, happy disposition back. “I’m glad you could be so happy in such a situation.” Oh yeah. I’m dead. Thanks for ruining the moment! I immediately get depressed.

Hades must have sensed the change in my mood, the hand on my shoulder now comforting. Handing the gavel back to Minos, he pushes me towards the bronze and gold doors. “I’d like to have a word with him, Minos.”

Nodding solemnly, the judge turns his attention to the next soul in line. Before I can even be lead through the doors, the gavel’s already banged twice. The guy sure is efficient.

The room I’m lead to is similar to Hera’s solarium back at the school, but a lot darker. No birds flock along the room, but there are a lot of plants. No doubt Persephone’s doing. Even though they are plants, their colors are dull, and there are no flowers. It must be hard to make plants grow underground.

At the back of the room, on a small pedestal, is seated a large black chair inlaid with silver and gold foil. I’m sure it’s a throne, but I never thought it would be in the Hall of Judgment. I expected a massive mansion, or castle. Maybe this ones a spare?

Even with a splendid chair to sit in, he doesn’t sit in it. Instead, he sits down on the edge of the pedestal, and pats the place next to him. I take a seat.

Before he can say anything, I speak first. “So, how are the others?”

The God of the Underworld looks haggard. That cannot be good. “They’re fine, for now. Your death has really hit them hard. None of the Gods has been able to talk with any of them, except Jay. He blames himself for what happened.”

“He would.” I look down at my sandals. “He takes his role too seriously. Yeah, he’s the leader, but we have to watch our own backs. He can’t watch us all at once.” I sigh. “How…how’s Atlanta?”

“She’s grieving, but physically fine. You acted like a true hero on that roof, you know. Having Galenthias take her away no doubt saved both their lives.”

I nod, just grateful to hear none of them were around when the building came down. They’re not down here, and that’s all that really matters. It hurts to know I’ll never see them again, not until they pass on anyway, but they’ll get over it. They’re strong.

“You’ll be glad to know that your body came back intact. It’s with Chiron as we speak.”

“Pleasant.” he looks at me in surprise. Must have been his tone. “I don’t want to be buried. The thought of being worm food isn’t pleasant. Can you get Hephaestus to cremate me?”

“We shall see.” What the hell does that mean? Before I can ask anything about it, a cry comes from the doorway.

“Oh, Archie!” Persephone comes rushing across the room, and wraps me in a bone crushing hug. Who knew the little woman was so strong? I pat her back as she begins to cry. “What were you thinking, going by yourself?”

“You heard the prophesy, Persephone.” I tell her, making sure my tone don’t offend her. “’The stars must shine alone’, remember? My throwing stars were all I had.”

“That doesn’t mean you had to push everyone away! Yes, you alone had to face him, but that didn’t mean the others couldn’t help in the plan. That’s why you were all brought together; you make the perfect team.”

I agree. We do work pretty well together, even through all our differences. Even Neil has his place, though you’d never think so. Guilt takes over, but I can’t cry. “Can…can you tell them I’m sorry? I knew how dangerous Robert was, and I thought that if they were out of the way, they wouldn’t get hurt.” I hang my head in my hands. “I was so stupid! While I thought I was doing what was best for them, they were worried sick! God, he was right. I’m no better than my father.”

Two steel-strong hands grip my shoulders, and start shaking me. Hard! “Don’t you say that!” Persephone growls at me, tears running down her face. “Don’t ever think that! You’re a thousand times the man he ever was!” Still shaking the crap out of me, she growls something inaudible.

She didn’t stop until Hades came in and saved me. Tears on her cheeks, she turned to her husband. “The reason I came was to let you know…Cronus is making his move.” Her words slice like a knife. “You have to act fast.” With a quick hug, she turns and hurries out of the room.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m still sitting, so this way Hades can’t see my knees shaking. Cronus is on the move, and there’s nothing I can do about it! “It’s really over isn’t it?” Hades has to lean in to hear my whispers. “With Cronus, I mean. I’m gone…and my team can’t win with just six! They were counting on me, and I let them all down.”

“It’s not over yet.” I look up at Hades. Off all the expressions I expected, a smile wasn’t one of them.

“What do you mean?” I’m getting a little mad here. Does he not realize the situation? “I’m down here, my body’s up there,” I jab a finger at the roof, “and there’s not a lot I can do about that. I have to help fight up there! I hate to be the downer here, but I don’t see how any part of this is positive!”

Hades gives me an odd look, then begins to pace back and forth. “As you so…unfortunately found out, there’s a very strong tie between families. But what about the tie between friends?” He quirks an eyebrow at me, and I shrug.

“I can imagine it’s fairly strong too.”

“Ah,” he seems happy with my answer. “That it is. That is why, when we brought the seven of you together, we granted you with these before hand.” With a wave of his hand, I hear a click and my gold necklace flies off my neck and into his outstretched hand. “Everyone acquired these at different times, true,” he says, examining it fondly, “ but they were meant to be found by the seven kids who had been prophesized. It wasn’t until everyone found their talisman’s that we could bring you together.”

He pauses for a moment, but I don’t take the chance to jump in with my questions. After a minute he continues. “Each reacts strongly to the bond of friendship, and the stronger the friendship becomes, well, the stronger the talismans power.”

“And what is that power?” all my other questions seem to leave my mind. Watch it be something stupid…

“A second chance.”

You know when it gets really quiet, and you hear the ominous cricket in the background? “A second chance…at what?”

“Oh, anything.” Alright… “They were meant to be a failsafe for you and your friends when you fought Cronus. After all, you are only kids, and mortals at that. They were to protect you during the hardest phases of your lives.”

“Some protection.” I growl. “Didn’t do me much good, did it?”

“No, because you had tried to sever your friendship with the others so they wouldn’t get hurt. By pushing them away, you actually made yourself weaker. Remember, the talisman’s react to friendship. Acting alone, it wouldn‘t have worked, even if you wanted it to.”

Well, if I had known this earlier…Hades walks over to me and hands it back. Even in the dank light down here, it still manages to give a bright glow.

“Now,” he says, “it’s time for you to go back to Minos. He’ll know what to do with you. I must go to Persephone. Just remember, friendship is your most powerful ally.”

I nod, not saying much. Sliding the necklace back around my neck, I grab it and, as I’m about to slide it back under my shirt, I decide against it. Looking at it, I mean really looking at it, I notice just how nice it is. Wrought by Hephaestus, no doubt. Turning it over in my palm, the carved ’A’ shines at me, and I start to wonder. The kids who were destined to find them…well, what if we did find one, but it had belonged to someone else? Like, per say, if Herry’s had been found by Theresa or something like that? Mine and Atlanta’s don’t look very different.

“Hades, what if this one isn’t mine…” My question falls on deaf ears as, looking up, I notice the God is already gone. With nothing left to do here, I stand and walk back out into the judgment hall.

Everyone who had been in the ferry with me are already gone, having been judged good or bad, and passed onto their appropriate places in the afterlife. Of course, the line hasn’t shrunk any, and as I walk into the hall, people begin whispering and looking my way. I don’t really blame them; I’m sure they have tons of questions they may never get answers to.

As he slammed his gavel and sent on an elderly woman, he glances up and notices my appearance. “Ah, Archie.” he says, waving me forward. I stand before his bench. “Done talking with Hades, are we?” The whispers behind me turn into a low din of babble at the mention of the Underworld’s ruler.

I nod, then I pause. Grabbing my talisman, I began playing with it. “So…what happens now?”

Minos doesn’t answer, but gestures with his gavel. Whatever that means. “Minos…” I pause, the thought coming to me. “Did…did my mother and sister pass on to a good place? Can they rest peacefully?”

Giving me a thoughtful look, he starts rummaging around under his bench, then pulls out a huge book. And I mean, this thing is gigantic! It has to have at least five hundred million pages! Minos, noticing the look I’m giving it, smirks. “And just think, this is only this century yet. It’s not full yet, though.” Flipping about halfway through, he looks at me, eyebrow quirked. “Their names? First and last please.”

I give them, and he immediately goes to work, flipping and thumbing through the pages at breakneck speed. Finally he gives a victorious cry, then looks thoughtful again. “Well, we have a Meredith, who you’ll be pleased to know passed on to Heaven. Beautiful woman, I remember now. Very kindhearted.”

“My mother.” I say solemnly, and Minos gives me a sympathetic nod. I’m just glad she’s in a better place.

“Unfortunately…” my head snaps up. What’s unfortunate? “…I can’t tell you about this Angela person.”

“Why not?” I can feel my heart in my throat. “What happened?”

“Nothing.” Minos shrugs. “She’s not in my book. Thus, I can safely say she never passed. Are you sure you have the right person?”

“What?” my knees are shaking. “What do you mean? Maybe you forgot to write her down.” I don’t want to lead myself down a trail of false hope.

“Listen, kid.” He seems indignant. “Every time I slam this thing,” he waves his gavel in the air, “their name, judgment, and final resting place is recorded in this book. It’s called the Book of the Dead. Handy thing, really. Given to me by my buddy Anubis.” he coughs, then continues. “Even if she had passed with one of the other two judges, she’s be in here. She’s not. End of story.”

“Then…she’s alive?”

“That would be a brilliant deduction.” I’m not liking his sarcasm right now. Alive. Angela’s alive! But…where…?

“Alright, enough stalling.” my stomach tightens in a knot as he looks dead serious. No pun intended. “Let’s see that thing.”

“Huh?” Looking down, I’m surprised to see myself still fiddling with my talisman. With my mind elsewhere, I walk up to him. Taking off the necklace, I hand it to Minos, who inspects it carefully.

“I’m going to ask you some questions, and I want you to answer truthfully.” What’s this all about, now? I just nod, and he goes on. “Alright. What was a changing moment in your life?”

What the hell? Stupid question. May as well just answer. “When my father killed my mother and my…” sister?

I hear a small clink, and I look around. Minos asks another as I stare around for the source. “Would you rather be alone, or with others?”

Another stupid question. “With others.” Another clink. This time I isolate the sound to Minos, or behind him.

“Who is most important to you?”

“Atlanta.” Yet another clink, and I realize it’s the talisman! It must be doing something, because Minos is nodding his head, watching the pendant.

“What is your final desire?”

“It’s…” I’m at a loss for words as nothing comes up immediately. Thinking about it, there’s a lot of things I’d like to do. “Well, there are many I can’t chose from. I’d like to say good-bye to my friends. I’d like to know where my sister is. But if I have to chose, I’d say that I wished I could have told Atlanta how I really feel about her. Just blurt it out, and not give anymore subtle clues. I wanted to have a life with her.”

That answer must have been pretty good, as a series of clicks issue from the talisman. Finally, Minos nods. “Good.”

Handing me back my talisman, I slip it on as he becomes formal, holding his gavel up a little higher. Gods, here it comes. “What you hold there, young man, is a second chance. It listens to the heart of it’s owner, and echoes the good nature of the friends it has bonded to. As I asked the questions, the talismans echoed their own reply’s through the bond of friendship to let me know whether you had been truthful or not. The life experiences you have shared with your friends has left an impression on all of them, and I could feel it in the talisman‘s bond. Your words were truly from the heart, and even though the bond had been weakened, the talismans see you worthy of their gift. You, sir, may be granted your final desire, your second chance. You wish to have a life with this Atlanta, so that’s what will be granted…a second chance at life.” Slamming his gavel down on the block, he winks at me as my world starts to spin, and mouths something I just barely catch.

“Good answer.”

In a flurry of darkness, I can feel myself spinning. It feels as though a cold hand has clamped down on my stomach, and my mind feels open and light. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the spinning sensation stops, only to be replaced by immense pain. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before! Every pore on my body feels as though it’s on fire, and it even hurts to think! My head feels as though it’s just been split in half, and it’s so intense, I can barely breathe! Even though I know my eyes are open, there’s nothing but pitch darkness. It’s like a horrid nightmare that I can’t wake up from. Let it end quickly. Just let it end!

Then nothing. It’s as though someone simply flipped a switch or something. Now, nothing really hurts, it’s just numb and achy. My body throbs in protest of every slight motion, as though not sure of what to do. I can feel my heart beating hard in my chest, and I cough violently…Wait…my heart. I blink a bit, and light and color starts to come into focus.

“Oh, jeez…” my head is hurting again, but this time it’s a whopper of a headache, and I have to clamp my eyes shut as a wave of nausea and pain sweep through me. It passes after a moment, and I open my eyes again. The ceiling I’m under looks vaguely familiar, and the colors are bright and cheerful, not like the Underworld. Plus I‘m on a very comfortable bench. “What…?”

Turning my head, I spot a familiar bird. The blue and green peacock cocks it’s head at me curiously, then walks on. The room is full of plants and the songs of birds…it’s Hera’s solarium. I’m back…

Sitting up is surprisingly easy. A little light-headed still, I shake my head of the haze it causes. Looking down at shaking hands, I notice they’re bound with white bandages. Clenching fists, I feel the sudden pain from the mending bones, and I gasp. But pain…pain makes me know I’m alive. It always has, but now, for me, it’s something completely different. I‘m alive! Truly able to live again! And it’s all thanks to my friends.

Feeling around my chest, my fingers close around my talisman. Looking down at it, I have to do a double take. Instead of gold, the necklace I’ve had for years is now a gleaming silver. I stare at it for a while, taking it in. No doubt granting me a second life is the cause of it’s transformation, but thanks to this small, seemingly innocent pendant, I’ll never be the same.

“Thank you.” I whisper, clutching it harder. It almost seems to glow in response. I’m making a promise to myself here and now. No more excuses, no more skirting around problems. I’m saying what I feel, whether people like it or not. And since experiencing death first hand, I’ll live every moment like it’s my last. Life is too short not to.

Now something new interferes with my thoughts. I fell off a bloody building. So why am I not in more pain? I should have every bone in my body broken! No doubt the Gods had it fixed up for me. They were in on the talisman’s secret, after all.

A sudden shudder ran through the building, and around my, birds took flight in fright. In the distance, a loud explosion roars. Cronus…

Throwing my legs over the bench, which are bandaged like my hands and arms, I try standing. I’m stiff all over, and sore, but at least I can stand up relatively straight. Alright, lets do a check shall we? Legs? Working. Arms? Sore, but there. Clothes? Yes, thank the Gods. Looking around, I’m surprised to find a collection of items around the bench I was on. Flowers, a few cards, my whip, I notice, and some very personal items that I recognize. Some of them make me very emotional, and I start tearing up. Traditionally, they would be the items I would have been buried with, so I would remember friends in family in the afterlife. Apollo has left his lyre at the foot of the bench, polished to perfection. Jay’s inherited Golden Fleece, laid out like a carpet for me. A PMR I’m guessing was Odie’s, a pair of Teresa’s old nun-chucks, and a battered set of Atlanta’s old bolo’s. Even Neil, I was surprised to see, had left me one of his favorite combs. What a guy. On top of Jay’s shining fleece, Herry had left his prized teddy bear next to where my head was resting. Picking up the cute little bear, I give it a little squeeze as another blast shakes the foundation.

“I’m coming guy’s.” Gently resting the bear down onto the bench, I grab my whip and the PMR and head for the door.

The hallway is empty, and the only sound is the muffled rumbles from outside. I really didn’t expect anything less. A sort of haunting feel hangs around the place, and I try to move faster. Glancing through a window, I’m surprised to see it dark outside. Still stiff, for obvious reasons, and bandaged, it’s hard to move period, let alone run. It takes longer than expected to pass the great statue of Zeus and run through the blue ‘wall’.

I nearly trip over a broom in my haste to leave the closet. Dashing through the hallways of the school, it’s hallways are deserted as well. No voices from the classrooms, no clicking of chalk, nothing. It’s like walking into a ghost town. There’s the front doors…

Okay, inside may be a ghost town, but outside is sheer chaos. Even though it’s night out, I can see clearly. Why? New Olympia is burning. People are running everywhere, screaming in panic, and there’s giants wherever I look. Throwing cars, destroying shop fronts and just making a hell of a mess, it’s like all of Tartarus came down for the event. And it’s not just giants causing the destruction. I have to duck back inside as a fireball flies by, shot from the mouth of a chimera. I hear a screech from above, and look up. The skies are full of Harpies and Hera’s Griffins, both battling one another for dominance, and along one building, a creature resembling the Hydra is perched. Clawing at the side of the building, huge chunks of cement and glass fall to the ground and explode, fragments flying everywhere. It’s like Hell’s playground.

Stepping back in the hallway, I do the first thing that comes to mind. I stretch. What? Are you surprised? If I’m going to run through all that, with my body in this state, I’m doing it the right way. Once done, I wait for a giant to lumber by before making a dash for it. It’s not easy, but before I know it, I’m passed the grounds and into the city. Dodging, giants, and weird monsters I’ve never seen before, I grapple for the PMR. Someone was thinking, leaving that for me. Flipping it on, I turn on the GPS. Six tiny, red dots appear on the grid, clustered together and moving erratically. Eight blocks up, and take a left. Thank god for track and field!

Running with everything I’ve got, it’s times like these that I wish I were as fast as Atlanta. Yeah, sure, I can give her a challenge when I want to, and I really try, but seriously! Two blocks down…this is taking too long! The girl’s a bloody blur when she gets going, and that‘s what I need now. Hold that thought…!

“Watch it!” I scream as a husky, yellow giant walks straight into my path. Looking around, scared, the idiot actually ducks down, and I jump him like a hurdle. Again, thank god for track and field! Glancing back, I see him looking around, puzzled. Cronus really knows how to pick ‘em, huh? I guess morons have to stick together. They are strong, I’ll give them that much.

Okay, three more blocks to go, and it seems I’ve gotten back into the swing of things. I love running; it’s just such a rush. The freedom you feel, knowing you can choose where your feet take you, and at this speed, fun seems a dull word to use. More like exhilarating. Flying through an intersection full of burning cars, I count how many steps it takes to get to the next one. Twenty two…not bad, but not good either. The last block, and I put on more speed. This time it’s sixteen.

Turning the corner, I’m suddenly confronted by a horrific scene. A block and a half away, a giant stone pedestal has been created through the asphalt road, on top of which is Cronus. Dressed in black armor, he’s a sight from some horror movie. I never did liked horror movies…The coward is standing there, directing his mass of creatures about at his will, laughing like the maniac he is. I know he’s up there so he can feel superior, and so no one can reach him.

That has to be where my friends are fighting, but I can’t see them directly as I spot a new problem. A huge mass of panic-stricken people are coming at me like a tidal wave. Starting forward, the distance between me and them soon close, and I feel like a fish fighting upstream. Engulfed, elbows, hands and arms are flying, catching me in the head chest, stomach, and various other parts of me. Dodging a frantic woman, she’s replaced by two others, who are followed by a thousand others! I cry out as someone catches my leg, and slams me to the ground.

Must…get…up! It’s hard, though, when people are running on you! The last thing I need is to die again! My breath leave me as I’m trampled on, but I have a plan. Rolling backwards with the crowd, I flip onto my feet and stand before catching another elbow in the ribs. The place I was seconds ago is swallowed by the crowd. Damn it, where are these people coming from? Evacuating from the office towers, no doubt.

Finally, the crowd seems to thin, but not by much. Still, I’m able to make some process. Leaving the road, I go to the sidewalk and stay close to the buildings. It provides a bit of relief from the crowd, and I spot a magazine stand I can use for cover. Wait, it looks familiar…and so is the guy sitting there, eating sushi like it’s just another day.

Dashing forward, I kneel beside the Oracles stool. It doesn’t look like Cronus has spotted me yet, and the stand is in the perfect position. The Oracle doesn’t even glance my way as I hiss, “What the hell are you doing here? Run away!”

Popping a California roll into his mouth, the deity replies around his food, “Why run when you know how it’s going to end? And I was wondering when you‘d show up! You‘re late, you know.”

“Sorry to mess up your schedule.” I whisper back at him. “And where are the Gods? I haven’t seen any of them around.”

“Oh, here and there. There‘s more than one fight going on tonight.” He states, waving his chopsticks around. “Now isn’t the time to worry, though.”

He’s right. Through a part in the crowd, I just spotted my friends. At the base of the pedestal, I now know why Cronus was laughing so hard. It looks like I might be too late. It’s not just giants they’re fighting. Harpies, chimera’s, and demons of all shapes are going head to head against my teammates. Odie and Teresa are being held tightly by a pair of giants while Herry and Jay, both bloody and bedraggled, have their hands up in surrender, not wanting their friends being hurt. Atlanta’s pinned down by a chimera bigger than anything I’ve ever seen and Neil’s nowhere to be found. I just hope his luck hasn’t run out.

“Looks like you’d better get busy.” Oracle exclaims calmly, taking another bite of his dinner.

Damn it. It’s like looking at a huge Rubik’s Cube. Where the hell do I start? Looking back up at Cronus, there‘s nothing but anger in me. Start at the head of the problem, and the rest will fall into place. That’s what my mom always told me. Now, how to get up there…Glancing around, a crude plan starts forming in my head. It’s iffy, but it could do the job of knocking him off his high horse. At the moment, he’s started a grandiose speech to Jay about ‘never being beaten by children’, blah, blah, blah.

Standing, I take a few steps back and dig out my whip. It feels good to have it back in my hand. I’ve actually missed the thing. Releasing it, I run towards a nearby light post. At the same time, I fling my whip around the lamp and hold on. My speed earns me momentum, and as I pass the post, I hit the button that pulls the cord back, and I’m suddenly airborne. The direction I was traveling throws me into a wide arc, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

“It seems the better of us has won, eh children?” The God croons at the group. “Finish them!” he orders. Unfortunately for him, Cronus never even sees me, too busy with my friends, even as both my feet slam solidly into his back. With an outcry of shock, while flapping his arms like a failing bird, he lands unceremoniously onto the pavement as I land on the platform.

If only I had had a camera. Cronus, my friends and the giants all look up at me. The expressions on their faces are bloody priceless! And whose to blame them? With fire and embers leaping everywhere, and against the night sky, I must look pretty damn cool up here. With a tug of my whip, the lamp is cut in half and frees the cord to be returned. Tossing the handle into my right hand, I pull out a throwing star from my pocket and unsheathe it. Spinning it between my fingers, I grin. “Miss me?”

Cronus is glaring at me in anger, and I think some confusion. The girls have started crying, and the guys look like they’ve seen a ghost. I guess they have. Afraid, the giants release my friends and back away towards their master.

“Idiots!” Cronus screams in anger. “Get them!”

“And there, the stars stand alone.” I hear Oracle quip, and I go into action. Flailing my whip in a circle, I aim at the base of the rocky pedestal, cleaving it in half. With a shudder, the rock beneath me begins to lean. Leaning back, pushing with my feet, I guide the falling pedestal towards Cronus and his giants. Jumping away, I watch as, ironically, the giants are the only ones who manage to get out of the way. The God of Time can only cry in outrage as the stone pillar crashes down on top of him.

The crash and resounding cloud of dust seems to pull the others out of their stupor, and they’re quick to begin fighting again. Without the guidance of their master, the giants are no match for us and are quick to run. Herry quickly flips the chimera off Atlanta, and the two run the creature off with punches and laser blasts. Seeing the tides turn, the rest of the monsters do the smart thing, and flee. Without Cronus in the picture, it seems they are able to think for themselves now.

Watching them go, I crack my whip and smile as they start running faster. “That’s right, you bastards! Don’t mess with - oof!” A pair of arms suddenly tackle me from behind, and I hit the ground hard.

“Ow!” There goes the skin on my knees! The hell? Glancing back, I spot a familiar flair of red hair. I can’t even turn around to hug her as Atlanta’s sprawled across my back. I can feel her shaking, and a spot on my shirt is slowly dampening. She has this strange way of crying without making a sound, but I know.

With more effort that I thought it would, I roll myself onto my back, and at the same time pull her into my arms. I don’t say a word as she continues to weep, and I stare up at the sky. A few stars are visible through the smoke and fire light, and I can feel all the individual rocks beneath me on the pavement. Atlanta’s warm skin is even more soft than I remember it. It truly is good to be alive, and there’s no words to explain the gratitude I feel towards the Gods for granting me such a gift.

Suddenly my vision is filled with the faces of my friends as they look down at me. Confusion, fear, happiness…every emotion in the book is written on their faces, and I know they want answers. Without waiting for anyone to speak first, I tell them everything. From the time I left the school with Galenthias, the Underworld, the talismans, the fate of my family, everything. Hours seem to drift by, but it doesn’t matter. The fight is over, and my friends are safe. That’s all that matters.

Sometime during the tale, Atlanta stopped crying. We never move though, just lay there. As I recall my thought upon seeing the items by my bedside, my voice cracks with emotions, and she hugs me tightly. A few moments later, my story finished, no one really talks. It’s a lot to take in all at once, and I expected the silence.

“So it’s true then.” Jay finally states. Pulling his talisman from his sweater, he looked down at it. “This is why I was able to avoid Atropos for so long and remain in the living world when the chimera bit me.”

“It gave us enough time to save you.” Teresa whispers, and they share a meaningful look and clasp hands.

“I was never given that chance, because of the weakened bond.” One arm looped around Atlanta’s shoulders, I pull out my own talisman with my free hand. They all look taken aback at the now silver medallion. “You never entered the Hall of Judgment, so you never had to use the gift. That‘s why yours is still gold.”

“This is so unbelievable!” Herry shakes his head. “When I saw you, I thought I had gone bonkers!”

“I was worried it was a new kind of enemy.” Odie says. “One that can morph, or…”

“Invasion of the body snatchers?” I suggest, and we laugh. It’s nice to be able to laugh again after so long. I sigh. “It’s go great to be back!”

“It’s good to have you back.” Jay says, clapping me on the shoulder. There’s nods all around, and the emotions start coming out again. Tears, hugs, and laughs all at the same time. Deciding it would be easier on everyone, I finally get up off the pavement. I have yet to let Atlanta go.

“So now what are you going to do?” Atlanta suddenly asks. She’d been quiet for the last little while, which is unlike her.

“What do you mean?” I ask, worried.

“With your sister. I’m sure you want to find her.” So that’s it. She’s scared I’m going to leave again. I’d better settle this here and now.

“Listen,” I take her shoulders and make her face me. Gently, of course. I can see some fear in her eyes. “The Gods can help me with that, and I won’t go anywhere without all of you. Especially you.” The look in her eyes change, and I don’t know what to think of it. “Back on that rooftop, you said you cared about me. Remember that? Well, truth be told, I have a confession to make. I love you.” There. I said it. That wasn’t hard at all! It’s like a load has been lifted from me, and I’m finally free. “I love you, and I always have. In fact, I’ve had a huge crush on you since day one!”

“Its true!” Herry cuts in. His smile is huge. “He told me and Jay.”

“You both knew about this?” Atlanta demands, red in the face. Could either be a blush, or anger.

“Yup.” shoving his hands in his pockets, Jay gives her an innocent smile.

I love hearing their opinions, but not now, guys! “Anyway,” I shoot a glance towards the guys, “like I was saying, I thought you were the cutest girl I’d ever seen. You’re the reason I came back that night! I still didn’t believe in all the stories of Gods and hero’s. I just had to see you again, and I’m glad I did. Over the months we’ve spent together, it evolved into something much more, and I was scared I had no control over it. That’s why I never said anything before. I’m ashamed that it took losing everything to find what I’d been missing, because I didn’t have the guts to say anything. But, you know, talk is cheap, right?” Without another word, I lean in and capture her lips in a kiss. It’s everything I ever dreamed it would be! It’s like fireworks are going off in my head. I don’t want to overwhelm the poor girl, so I break away…but slowly.

I don’t have time to say anything before Atlanta’s grabbed me by the front of the shirt. “You’re right. Talk is cheap.” she breathes, then pulls me in to return the favor.

It’s pure ecstasy. No drug could ever get me this high. I’m floating on Cloud Nine, for god’s sake, and I don’t want to get off. I’ve waited for what seemed like forever for this, and I’ll be damned if anything could ruin it. I’m vaguely aware of Herry and Odie making cat-calls as the two of us make out in the street. I ignore it as I bathe in the softness of her lips, but, call me selfish, I want more. Roving my tongue over her lips, I silently beg for entry, and she allows it. Running a hand through her hair, our lips and tongues locked, I make a startling realization. Needing to breathe anyway, we break apart, panting.

“You taste like strawberries. Can that possibly be natural?” I tell her, running a finger down her cheek. Her giggle is like music to my ears, and I bring her into a hug.

“Well, I don’t wear lip gloss, if that‘s what you mean.” she says coyly. I never though that she could take a tone like that. Atlanta…coy! She’s usually ‘I-think-I’ll-kick-your-ass-’cause-it’s-fun!’, not coy.

“So, guys, can you forgive…” Turning back to the gang, my words hang in the air as I see Teresa and Jay in a passionate kiss. Herry and Odie are looking at one another, looking torn between staying and leaving us alone.

“When did this happen?” I ask the two, pointing at our leader and the red-head.

“When you two were…yeah.” Herry shrugs

“It’s about time too.” Odie says, crossing his arms across his chest. “It was so obvious, it was painful.”

The four of us laugh as Jay shoots us a glare. The two soon join us where were standing, Jays arm around Teresa’s waist and both are just beaming. It’s nice to see them so happy. Now we just have t get the others girlfriends, ones that aren’t evil.

“By the way, where’s Neil?” I ask, looking around the now deserted street.

“Good question.” Jay sounds worried. Pulling out his PMR, he says, “We were jostled by a pretty big crowd…” he breaks off as his PMR beeps. He looks up then he starts laughing.

“What?” I realize that I’m a very impatient person. “Where is he?”

“Give him a minute.” I’m about to ask what he’s on, when we hear a familiar voice from behind us. Turning, there’s Neil, stumbling out of a small shop about halfway down the block. I’ve never seen him like this before. Hair messed, shirt torn and bruised, I would have never imagined it was him if it wasn’t for the GPS.

“Guys, look at what those hooligans did!” He whines, walking towards us, dragging his feet in a somewhat pathetic manner. “Pushing me around like that. Me! Look at me! I’m hideous! It’ll take me months to…” he stops as he catches sight of me, the abruptly turns and walks back up the street. “This is all a bad dream! The dead are walking around, my hair is a mess, my…my shirt is ruined!”

Shaking his head, Jay just starts following him back down the road with Teresa in tow. The rest of us are quick to follow them up the burning road. The sky to the east is starting to brighten, and the only noise from the city is Neil’s consistent complaints. Another thing I never thought I would miss. It’s so good to be back. Looking down at Atlanta, who returns my look with a smile. “If this is a dream,” I sigh, “don’t let it end!”


The End.

I know, you all hate me for leaving it at that, but I’d love to hear from everyone about what you think. I’m thinking about a sequel, since I left a few things open. It’s all up to you, though. I just want to say thanks to everyone who’s read this story, reviewed it, or even just glanced at the title. You all rock! Until next time.

Clandestine Fire.
Sign up to rate and review this story