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The Protectors: Chapter Two
We followed Skye as she guided us back down the rocky path to the shelter. Ace had caught up with me and Demitri was behind Cicero, last in case anything were to happen, or worse an attack. I could hear the rumbling of clouds overhead, and couldn't help my nervous shaking and heart from pounding.
It wasn't that far ahead. In face, we hadn't hiked as far as I thought we did. I could distinguish the location of our car after a manner of minutes, feeling relieved, but the swift snapping of branches and hooting of the owls sent cold shivers running up and down my back again.
"Here we are," Skye said. The building was fairly sized, one floor. She opened the door carefully and crept inside. "Hello?"
Her voice echoed throughout the abandoned room. We all entered after her, and I immediately felt better being away from the cold. Fumbling for a light switch, I found it and observed the inside. Picnic tables were lined up, and there was a water fountain with bathrooms on the far end. I saw Cicero grab a seat at one of the tables, and the four of us cautiously sat down across from him, leaning away from him as far as possible. I still didn't trust this guy, and we were all still wary of his movements; any sign of a threat and we'd be gone.
"So, um..." Ace started.
"Cicero." the man supplied.
"Cicero..." Ace corrected shyly. "What do you want? How do you know us?"
"Well, I've actually been looking for you for quite some time now," Cicero answered. "I was almost certain you'd be spread across the country, but when I saw you here...Yes, I knew it was you! Even with those hints I was given pinpointing your locations...Ah, but I guess it's better, now that you're young adults rather than children. Although, you will need training..." He rambled on and on, every so often muttering to himself.
"Why were you looking for us?" Ace broke his current train of thought.
"Well, certainly Hermes can't do it!" Cicero replied, like he was telling a little kid something for the millionth time. "He's gone!"
Wait, did I hear him right? Hermes?
Wasn't he a -?
"Now, time to get to business!" He clapped his hands together. "I owe you a tremendous explanation, my children. I'm sure you're all dying for answers..."
From the minute I heard him speak, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It wasn't true, or at least... no. It couldn't be!
"I must inform you that you're not the only ones who know of your powers. To make a long story short, they were given to you by the Greek Gods themselves. You were created to protect them, given the great chance there would be no other hope during a time of great peril."
"No way," Ace whispered. She was the first one to speak, whereas the rest of us were still processing it.
"Yes," Cicero repeated, as if reading my mind.
"We're not Gods!" I exclaimed. "We're not even Greek!"
"How can you be so sure of your heritage?" he asked, still patient. "And I said you are Protectors, not necessarily Gods," He raised his eyebrows and waited silently.
"So," Ace stirred at my side. "What do we have to do?"
"Alice!" Demitri said to her. "You're actually going to believe this whack job?"
She glared at him furiously. "I was just curious." she said coolly, not blinking. She turned back to Cicero.
"Can we have a minute alone, please?" she asked him.
"Of course," We all watched him walk out of the room, closing the door behind him.
"What's this about?" I asked Ace, concerned.
"I have a feeling he's not lying about this," she started. "I think we should believe him."
"Believe a complete stranger who claims we're these 'Protector' beings," I added gently.
"Well, think about it," Ace convinced, "We've always wondered where our place was in life, why we are so different. Maybe this explains it all. Maybe this time we'll finally know who, or what, we are." Ace looked at each one of us. She stopped at my gaze.
"Trust me on this,"
Sure, this was totally and completely out of the ordinary, but Ace had a point. For years we had tried to puzzle out the mystery of our being, and here it was, or what it possibly could be, starting with this man. We had a right to know, and if it meant saving something I'd only heard about in books... I looked at Ace, who was still standing in front of us, her eyes still trying to convince us of what seemed impossible to comprehend.
So be it.
"I'm with Ace," I said. "No matter what." I moved to stand beside her, and we smiled at each other.
"But we're not doing this alone," Ace added.
Skye gave in. "We deserve to know what are powers were given to us for. I feel we might be uncovering the truth after all these years." She got up from her chair to move to the other side of Ace.
Demitri grumbled, "I don't know why I follow you girls. I feel like a boy wrapped around his girlfriend's finger."
We all burst out laughing.
"I guess I have no choice in the matter," Demitri smiled sarcastically. "Somebody needs to keep you three out of trouble. I'm in."
"Let's hear him out okay?" Ace suggested.
We all nodded in agreement.
"And I thought finals were the worst I had to worry about." Demitri snorted.
"Uh, Cicero?" Ace poked her head out the door.
"Yes, child?" He strode in the room and faced us patiently.
"We believe you," she said.
Demitri huffed, crossing his arms.
"Or at least, we want to know more, and help out in any way we can, Demitri." I looked back at him shot him a deep glare.
"Yeah, yeah." Demitri shuffled his feet.
"Well, that settles things!" Cicero sat down in the chair across from us again. "What would you like to know?"
"What did you call us earlier, sir?" I asked. I knew everyone was wondering the same question.
"Protectors, Calantha." he smiled warmly.
"What are we protecting?" Skye asked, a little hesitant. I could feel her sensitivity to the subject-she was always shy around the topic of our powers. We've never had someone know our secret before. I didn't blame her either. It was uncomfortable. I exited her train of thought, and, sensing my presence, Skye smiled weakly to me.
"Ah, this is where my story begins," Cicero closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath.
"Wait," I said, suspicious. "Why do you remind me of someone?"
"It seems I have more explaining to do than I thought," he remarked. His tone wasn't impatient, no, but more teasing. "You see, children, I am Greece's most historical storyteller. My memory goes way back, to ancient times of creatures and tales, Gods and wars. I-"
"Homer!" Skye burst out.
"Why, yes, Skyler!" he said happily. "Or rather, his spirit. He is very much alive in me, though his body passed on centuries ago.
Homer, as you know, told magnificent and inspiring epic poems throughout his existence. The question is of whether or not you choose to believe it. Before I begin, remember that it is not my intention to force the truth upon you. I want you to find it in your hearts to fulfill and follow your destined paths,"
He looked at each one of us before starting his story.
"To this day there is a God by the name of Erebus. I've never met him personally, but no one suspected such a change in his personality. Sadly, his way of thinking was clouded by fear and jealousy."
"Jealous of what?" Demitri asked.
"I'm sure you know the King of the Gods...?"
"Zeus." Ace answered for him.
"Yes, young one," Cicero replied. "Yes indeed. A very powerful ruler; intelligent, strong."
"What did Erebus have against Zeus?" I asked.
"His kingdom, his riches...power...It occurred to him that he could somehow dominate the line of Gods. He didn't know when or how, just that he craved authority. Jealousy, children, is a very cruel concept. It takes over common sense, and makes you act rationally. Internal conflicts are always the toughest of battles to win." Cicero explained.
"Erebus gave into it..." Ace concluded.
Cicero nodded solemnly.
"Well, what did he do?" Skye asked,
"He plotted to take all the Gods and Goddesses hostage."
Ace, Skye and I all gasped aloud. Demitri looked untouched.
"How can he capture them if they weren't even real?" His attitude seemed to be kicking in again. I guess he just hadn't had his fill of daily stubbornness yet.
"Dear boy, these Gods are immortal!" Cicero said loudly. "They are as real as the time on the clock, or the D you got on your Geometry test!"
"H-how did you- ?"
"I know a lot of things, Demitri," Cicero smiled, but it remained genuine.
"I'm sorry, sir, my comment was a little rude." Demitri lowered his head and stared down at his shoes.
"A little?" Ace whispered, barely audible. I hid my smile.
"You are young and have much to see for yourself." Cicero said. "No need for apologies. It takes questions to find the answers."
He made himself comfortable again and asked, "Where was I?"
"Erebus' plan." We answered together.
"Ah, yes," Cicero gave a humorless chuckle. "Well, no one knew of it- no one knew Erebus had been planning this for years. His story is quite similar to Kronos, Zeus' father, and how he ate his children in fear they'd grow to be more powerful than he. Perhaps Erebus had a similar reasoning to Kronos in terms of anxiety and uncontrollable fear."
"Wait, did you say he ate his children?" I was dumbfounded. Who would do such a heartless thing?! If I thought grounding was the worst my parents could do, I wouldn't give them any ideas with this legend...if it was a legend...
"My mom told me about that!" Ace burst excitedly. What's so exciting about cannibals anyway? "She said that his wife Rhea tricked him when Zeus was born and made Kronos eat a rock instead. There was a prophecy, I think, that said Kronos' children would overthrow him."
"And overthrow him they did," Cicero sighed. "A perfect example of fear taking over one's decisions. You are absolutely correct, Alice. It is a tale I've both heard and told numerous times."
"How does this tie in with us, then?" I asked gently.
"Erebus finally decided on a way to get everyone together. The annual, yearly festival of the Gods was approaching, and he couldn't help but seize the advantage. The festival, this one in particular, was during the Age of Heroes. It was a ceremony Greeks held to appreciate and honor their Gods and Goddesses. Of course, no one interacted with them, the Age when both worlds walked amongst each other was long over, and the Gods respected the day and gathered in Zeus' palace, above the city, so they could celebrate and show off their powers with them. Only a select few, such as the legendary hero, Odysseus, encountered a God from time to time. Athena, Goddess of wisdom, guided Odysseus on his journey, for example. Even though they were considered a myth, from lack of presence around humans, they could still be both praised and angered.
Some Gods could be punished as well. They were sentenced to the Underworld, a land where Hades looked over the dead. It is a dreadful place, and during the time of the festival, no Gods were present there, not even Hades himself, not even his judges of Tartarus, who determined who enter. He is not evil, as some might think, although fingers got pointed at him when the first few Gods disappeared into Erebus' shadow force. Once he vanished along with the rest of them, we knew Erebus was to blame."
I could feel the anxiety and nerves coming off everybody in waves. I looked around and noticed we all had sat down, fully absorbed in Cicero tale. I knew that same question was circling all of our minds, but the truth that lingered in his words made it somewhat comprehensible.
"Erebus knew that if he captured the King of Gods first, the rest of his plan would be flawless," Cicero continued.
"How could he get rid of Zeus without anybody knowing?" I asked.
"Erebus can create deep darkness or shadows. That's his origin, so naturally, he snuck into Zeus' palace cloaked and unnoticed. Since he controls the lower half of the Underworld when Hades is too busy, he had the advantage of using his Helm of Darkness to become invisible." Now Cicero looked as if he were about to cry, but he shook his head and continued anyway. "At the festival, his dark mists enveloped the edges of the palace and sent Zeus deep into the hollows of the Earth. He manipulated the monsters in Tartarus to get the job done quicker, and tortured the dead souls into taking captive all Gods and Goddesses that remained. Since all Gods are connected, it didn't take long for Erebus to take control of the immortal and magical bond that linked them and send them into the Underworld by large numbers. Even Gods with smaller deities were banished, and Hades had his own power turned against him. Same with Nyx, Goddess of Night.
"His own wife?!" Skye said, and I saw a small tear make its way down her cheek. Even Demitri was having trouble pretending he didn't care. Demitri took and deep breath and put his arm around Skye's shoulders.
"What about his children?" Demitri asked.
"There is a lot of dispute on that subject," Cicero sighed. "Some think they were taken hostage as well, and others think he's using them for their strongest deities. They are, after all, Gods and Goddesses of all traits associated with evil. It's not surprising people believe that due to the amount of grief and loss of hope residents of Greece have."
"So what you said earlier was that..." I wondered out loud.
"Hermes, being a messenger, told Zeus of Erebus' plan from the Underworld. Zeus, wanting to take precaution, wanted to create a powerful individual to save them, but not anybody ordinary. He would give every single one of his powers to that one gifted person. He told his children with the most general of deities to do the same. Apollo, Artemis, and Aphrodite gathered all the Gods and Goddesses powers linked to theirs, and created-" He gestured to all four of us. "-you four."
"The Gods and Goddesses are all in Tartarus without their powers, then?" Ace asked.
"Yes." Cicero nodded.
"Wait," Demitri sat up a little straighter. "Wouldn't that mean we'd be all mega-superhero or something? I can only do little stuff."
"Hence the word training and knowledge, young man." Cicero smiled warmly.
"Wait another second," Demitri said again. "How long have they been waiting?"
"Oh, centuries." Cicero answered. "They knew they'd gift four children, but when they'd be born was uncertain. However, we do know you're not demigods, so you're not the biological children of them. You appeared the same way the very first Gods appeared."
"Chaos?" Ace guessed.
Cicero nodded. "You also could have landed anywhere on this planet, but fortunately, I've found you. A very easy feat on my part, thankfully! I'm afraid I'm not as quick as Hermes." He chuckled to himself.
"So we have to save them?" I asked.
Again, Cicero nodded.
"Well, then, let's take this one step at a time..." I said, overwhelmed. "What do we need to do first?"
He looked suprised at first, but then started giving instructions. "Well, I'd like you to calm down a little, prepare yourselves mentally for the battles of which you face, and then I shall return. We will go to Greece from there where your studies will begin."
"So, we just go home and pretend we're not super human or anything?" Demitri asked sarcastically.
"Naturally," Cicero said, seeing no problem with it. "You have been doing so for sixteen years now, have you not?"
He had him there. Demitri shrugged and didn't say anything more.
"It's getting rather late, so I will leave you now," Cicero said, checking his watch and standing up. "Sunday, I expect you to meet me at this city's airport, six o'clock sharp. Our flight back to Greece will take off a half hour from there."
"This is all happening so fast," Skye whispered. "What do we say to our families?"
"I shall take care of that matter, dear." Cicero winked and left the shelter. We all got up and followed him, but by the time we made it outside after him, he was gone, leaving the four of us wondering and bewildered in the late night darkness.
"I don't know about you the rest of you," Ace said, sighing. "but I'm tired. Really tired. All this is making my head spin." I agreed; we would all have to let this sink in a while before we jumped right into anything, like for instance, saving an entire culture.
"You okay to drive?" I asked as she pulled out her car keys.
"Of course I am," she said, rolling her eyes. "I don't drink or do drugs, so we'll be good."
We trudged over to Lexis' car and hopped in. I blasted the heat, hoping it would help the tension surrounding me. As we traveled down the road, I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes, hoping to relax after tonight's events. I opened one eye and checked the time. 11:30. Was it really that late? Holy crap.
"I'm going to my house," Ace said, taking another turn. "If you want a ride home you find it yourself. I'm way to tired to drive back and forth."
"How about we all just crash at your place?" I asked, pulling out my phone. I sent a quick text to my sister, letting her know I'd be spending the night at Ace's place.
Everyone agreed enthusiastically at the idea, and Ace smiled. "Scary movie when we get home, anyone?"