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I was inspired to write this piece through my love of mythology. I've always loved learning of the ancient Greek gods and goddesses and this book allowed me to include them as part of my story. Mixing furture and mythology has always been interesting and thrilling for me.
The halls of Hyperion Academy are cold with misty winter air. Someone must have accidentally let a frost fayree in. No surprise there; the little beasts are nearly impossible to keep out. I shiver violently as I pull on my snug leather boots and thick wolf-skin coat. Kelly is already up and dressed in a similar fashion; plain brown pants, worn leather boots, black shirt, animal skin coat, and a thin cap pulled over her ears. I tug on my hand-me-down cap, a birthday gift from Trevor. It’s too big for me, but it’s warm and will keep my ears from getting frostbite.
Kelly and I blow warm air onto our fingers, then pop our bedroom window open, muffling its protest with our bodies. We both quietly climb out of the second level window, careful not to make too much noise. If we get caught by the sirens, we’re toast.
The window was originally supposed to be nailed shut, but the nails have rusted and and worn after so many years of holding the window in place and they popped out easily during our first attempt to escape.
There’s a huge, sturdy redwood tree situated a few feet away from our window, easy to reach if you know how to jump to the nearest branch without falling to your probable death. I wonder, not for the first time, why the sirens haven’t cut it down already, as it is obviously an easy route to escape. Perhaps they really don’t know that our window isn’t nailed shut. That would be a miracle; secrets are rare in this corner of Hell.
I calculate my jump perfectly, snatching onto the thickest branch and dangling there before I pull myself up and crawl to the safety of the trunk. Kelly follows barely inches behind me. Both of us are fairly skinny and tall, with long legs made for running and jumping, and long arms, making it a bit easier to navigate through the branches. We don’t weigh a lot. It’s kind of hard to weigh more than you’re supposed to when the food is scarce and the work is plentiful. Most of what we grow and harvest goes to higher men, and we’re left with only the worst of products from our hard labour.
The plush green grass is painted with tiny crystalline dew drops, which soak almost hungrily into my boots and through my wool socks. I wrap my coat tightly around me, jumping up and down to generate body heat. Kelly drops down right next to me, her breath coming out in wispy clouds of slithering warmth. Her thin brown hair peaks out of a purple cap, naturally curled into a tangle of loops. I’m lucky to have such long, thick hair to keep me warm. In the Border Land of Mid Olympus, it’s almost always winter.
Though I’ve been friends with Kelly since she was sentenced to Hyperion (where people go when no one wants them), she still has her secrets. Her purple cap is obviously a sign of wealth. Any kind of color besides brown, grey, and black is a rarity. No doubt she came from a rich family, born into privilege before her parents decided they didn’t want her anymore, then tossed her into a life of long work and hard labour. She sometimes even reminds me of a Richer, the way she carries herself proudly despite being reduced to the lowest part of society.
I’m not saying I blame her for her secrecy; no one is very fond of the past and sharing what happened there. So I don’t blame her, especially when I have even darker secrets of my own to keep.
Night fayrees, little silver lights, dance playfully underneath a beautiful full moon. That moon always seems to be smiling slyly at me, reminding me of a Cheshire cat I once read about in a curious, abandoned, old book. Not a very fond memory and not a very welcoming moon. One unwelcoming thing among thousands in my drab world.
The moon that shines tonight is the same one that shone down on Notgnihsaw when it forfeited itself to become the last part of Mid Olympus after the Waging War. There’s not much left of that place. Only little bits and pieces remain, all of them lying restful in the Border Land.
One such piece of marvelous faded history is the Blood Fountain, which is where Kelly and I are headed. Mostly it harbours runaways, criminals, and other types of outcasts not suitable for polite company. But it’s the only place where freedom is more bountiful than the leaves on the trees during the occasional summer. And yet it’s all a warped delusion of safety. Eventually reality invades the perfect dreams we craft for ourselves in small bits of time, and then it’s back to work.
The Blood Fountain sits snugly on a comfortable throne of grass, nestled between patches of redwood trees. It blows smoke from the fires within out of its one stone nostril, melting the surrounding snow with warmth and ash. It’s the most wonderful picture of security, all warmth and welcome, with the aroma of sweet rolls and honey rum billowing from the chimney.
No one who shouldn’t know knows it’s here. Only people that hide from the law and the sirens have been able to find it. I’ve never been able to find out why. Or who has power enough to hide something so large and loud. A mystery that will probably remain a mystery.
Porter, the owner and bartender of the Blood Fountain, is waiting for us in the usual spot, where thick forest webs give way to a vast clearing. I smile when I see two night fayrees peak out of the big man’s red trimmed beard and blink thoughtfully at me.
I quickly jog over to where the bartender stands, issuing my usual greeting: putting both hands on my chest, then pointing them towards him, head down, palms up. He gives me a worried look, but follows suit.
Porter serves as my own personal spy, of sorts. No matter how far away events may occur, if they happen at all, Porter hears about it and reports back to me, either by sending a message to my window or coming himself. He’s not the sort of man anyone would suspect of being a spy, with his big hands and feet, broad shoulders, and hearty laugh. But he’s surprisingly good at it.
I smile at him, but my heart is cold and I get straight to the point. “I need to know if the Unity is here.”
He looks troubled, which is so unlike him. But I guess that the mention of the Unity has that effect on everyone. Because if the rumors are true, the Unity is a group of rebel Lessers, unidentified, of course. They go around the country burning buildings, leaving ash and ominous messages in their wake. Their goal has never been clear, but one can only assume they don’t agree with the way they’re treated and want something more out of life than dirty hands, hungry stomachs and days working in the cold.
Porter looks down at his feet so he doesn’t have to meet my penetrating golden gaze. “Aye lass,” he forfeits, “they are here.”
“What is their business this far north?” I ask with surmounting curiosity. Most people tend to stay in the southern part of Mid Olympus where riches are easier to catch and the cold doesn’t bite so hard.
Again Porter doesn’t look at me, but continues to stare at the ground as if he can see the secrets beneath the soil. “They reckon to find the Omen here.”
My bones chill and I freeze. The world seems to blur, dull colors mixing like the dripping of a wet and poorly painted portrait. They can’t know. They can’t possibly know.
A soft hand cradles my shoulder and I turn to see Kelly’s concerned expression. She turns to Porter, brow furrowed in confusion. “Why would they think they’d find it here?”
Finally I see Porter’s eyes as he surrenders them to mine. They are dark and haunted, black pearls cloaked in shadow and fear embedded into his white skin. He shrugs, making it look more like an effort to throw off a bad spirit rather than an indication that he doesn’t know the answer to Kelly’s question.
“The Omen,” I say firmly, but slowly, “is a myth and nothing more. Remember that.”
Neither Kelly nor Porter believes it. I can see it in the way their eyes dodge mine, in the shadows beneath their eyes that suddenly seem so much darker.
Finally I say, “Kelly, come on. We have somewhere to be.” She nods. I nod back, then give Porter the greeting and parting sign; hands on my chest, then pointed towards him, head bowed.
Kelly walks next to me and asks in hushed tones, “Why do you always do that? The sign, I mean. Isn’t it what people do at funerals when they’re trying to say goodbye?”
Nodding, I reply melancholy, “Yes. That’s what it means. And sometimes I think that’s what I’m saying when I do it.”
That is one of many sad truths. Mine is a sad world to live in. I don’t say that for sake of pity. I say it because that’s what’s true and it’s not going to help to deny it. The world is ruled by high, selfish powers and they rest their feet on the backs of us Lessers, smirking down at our inferiorities. And the world is more dangerous than it used to be. You never know which of your friends might disappear the next day, or what might happen to you in the future.
I turn away and concentrate my wandering thoughts hard on the information Porter gave me. The Omen is supposed to be the most dreaded, evil creature that has ever walked the earth.When the Titans destroyed most of what used to be the world, leaving some of two countries and disappearing suddenly, they left an ominous message in their wake. Stories flew about an ancient creature born out of the depths of Tartarus that would one day rise from the deep and be the first omen that the titans were awakening. Thus the name and thus the fear of the name.
Kelly and I saunter silently into the Blood Fountain, bracing ourselves for the usual rowdiness and heat and joyful air. Except, it doesn’t come. Everything is silent, cold, stiff. People’s gazes shuffle to us and then skirt away, back to the center of the room where a tall, dark haired, bright-eyed boy stands talking.
“...you feel it too. There’s tension and winter is colder and the gods are angry. You can deny it to yourselves, but it’s true. The Omen is back and we need to find it, either to destroy it or to make allies with it and lead a march against Olympus to show the gods and goddesses that they can’t control us and trample us under their feet. We will no longer live in cowardice and inferiority. We will fight back and we will win!”
There are a couple of cheers scattered around the room, but no real enthusiasm. I want to yell at this boy and ask him how he plans to take on Olympus with farmers and Lessers as his allies. He thinks the Omen is the key, but if I were to tell him the truth about the Omen, he would likely render it a lost cause.
Trevor appears suddenly at my left shoulder, silent and looking unhappy. His eyes glue themselves to mine. He’s the only one that ever does that. Looks right through me, without appearing unnerved by my unusual golden/green eyes.
“You shouldn’t be here Kristin,” he whispers in my ear, the coldness of his breath against my skin making me shiver. “You should go back to Hyperion.”
Trevor is as unusual as one can get. His shaggy silver hair and penetrating green gaze are like beacons, yelling, “Here I am! Here I am!” No one really knows where he came from. He was found by sirens, deep in the forest, with frost pixies everywhere. He, in a way, is more unnerving than I.
I clench my fists and jaw and whisper back, “I have as much right as anyone to be here.” I don’t take commands, especially not from him.
He hesitates for a second, giving me that look that means he’s thinking. Then he nods and turns back to the center, bright eyes analyzing every word, every wave of emotion on everyones faces.
The boy in the center is still speaking, giving fervor to his words in the hopes of producing any sort of reaction from the people in the room. Still nothing. No one wants to listen to someone when they bring back nearly forgotten fears, nightmares swept away back to the dark recesses of our minds.
So I do what I shouldn’t do. “Leave us be wanderer!” I shout, eyes turning to me. “We don’t want to be your warriors, to die in vain with you. We live in peace, even as we live in poverty. Now please leave. Your welcome has expired and it would be better for all here if you departed immediately.”
His stare swings in my direction, amused and not annoyed, as I thought he would be. His ice blue eyes make me pause. He’s Frost Blessed. Not something seen every day. Only the gods can give someone the right to be Frost Blessed.
He smiles and I secretly shiver. He knows something he shouldn’t. “I will leave, fire fayree,” he says, mocking my temper. “But you cannot hide what you know.”
He knows. I don’t know how, but he knows. I can’t help but scratch the inside of my left wrist nervously and anxiously at this terrible thought.
I shake my head. Of course he doesn’t know. This secret is known to few people, and he isn’t one of them.
When I look up from my worrying, he’s gone. Everyone has quickly returned to what they were originally doing, rushed to find normal again.
Trevor and Kelly, one at each shoulder, are looking at me in shock, maybe a little disappointment. Their eyes are full to the brim with something else too. Concern.
I huff out an angry breath. Angry at myself, angry at them, angry at the boy. Being angry doesn’t help anything, but it feels good boiling in my chest like a volcano waiting to explode.
My friends follow me outside, where I pause for a moment and breathe in cold, refreshing air. I know I probably shouldn’t have drawn attention to myself. It would have been better for everyone if I’d just stayed silent and unnoticed. But my knack for impulsive behavior is never easily discouraged.
I stand there breathing deeply for several minutes before I realize someone else is watching me. I spin, ready to confront whoever it is. And that’s when I see two gleaming icy eyes looking at me, so close and cold.
Before I have time to ask him what he wants, he slams me back against the wall of the Blood Fountain, reaching for my left wrist, the one that I always scratch when I’m nervous, and pinning it to the wall next to me.
Trevor tries to pull the boy away, but I know it’s already too late. My left sleeve is pulled back from my skin, exposing what I’ve been hiding there.
A single symbol, one that can’t be fake, one that everyone shrinks back in fear from. Crossbones over a scythe.
The boy grins in triumph. “I’ve been looking for you.”