Diordorus raced through the maze, his armor clinking, sweat dripping down his forehead. The sword in his hand felt heavy as he ran, his feet pumping quickly and loudly, splashing onto the water-covered floor. His breath was visible in front of him.
“Kallisto!” he shouted, turning another corner. There was a large wood door in front of him now, dripping with water and looking utterly breakable. Groaning, Diordorus put his forehead against the door, cursing. “Kallisto,” he whispered. “I will find you.”
With a deep breath, as if the oxygen would restore his lost strength, he stepped back and lifted a leg to kick in the door. It instantly fell. Every step he took from there on would be for Kallisto—he had to save her life. If Zeus found out he let his daughter die, his career as a hero/protector would end, just as his life would.
The room he now came to was large, big enough to fit a party of one thousand, and Diordorus blinked, trying to wipe away the sweat falling into his eyes while keeping alert and having his sword at the ready, just in case.
His muscles ached, his tongue, mouth, and throat were dry, and every inch of him was ready to collapse in exhaustion, but his brain raced with thought as he looked around the room. Much to his surprise, it was bare. Taking slow, cautious steps, he entered, looking around to the darkened corner. What would appear to him? A hydra? What was guarding Kallisto?
After making sure the end of the room he’d entered was clear, he walked to the other, only to find a limp shape in the far corner—the shape of a human body. He gingerly touched the shoulder of the person, rolling them over so he could see…
“Oh, Kallisto,” he muttered. The person was a guard with a bronze knife in his chest and blood staining his shirt—the fool had not been wearing armor—and ground around him. It was—the knife—unmistakably Kallisto’s weapon. “What did you do? Where are you?”
Wincing, Diordorus removed the knife from the guard’s body, putting it in his boot for later when he was sure he would need it for something. It never hurt to have another weapon.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and a mental weight settled on his back. He was being watched. With both hands he raised the sword, turning to face the onlooker…and saw nothing.
“Oh, poor Diordorus,” a female voice crooned teasingly as if it were speaking to a child. “Missing your little girlfriend?” Oh, no, no, no! Hera won’t like that all.”
“Eris!” he shouted to the shadows. “What have you down with her?! She will never take over Olympus with you!”
As if considering this for a moment, the voice hesitated. Soon enough, though, he heard, “We’ll just have to see about that.” Shadows swirled together before his eyes and Diordorus snapped to attention, watching the smoke rise and form a pale-skinned girl with blue-black hair. She was smiling wickedly. “Diordorus, I’m going to offer you a deal.”
He grunted, taking a step backwards. “What kind of a deal?”
“I’ll give you Kallisto, you step down as Protector, and tell Hera that a boy called Nikias will take your place.”
Arching his eyebrows, he said, “Why?”
“I enjoy more of a challenge than you can offer, dear Diordorus, and I see you using your talents in a more appropriate way than you are now.”
“Send Kallisto home and I agree.”
Eris smiled. “Aw, such a good little Protector.”
“Make it happen, Eris.”
“It is already done.”
Eris reached above her head, her eyes closed, and Diordorus considered running her through with his sword, but he didn’t think Zeus, Eris’s father, would approve, no matter how much he said he hated her. An apple appeared in her hand and she held it tightly, looking at it. Diordorus gasped, stepping back and tightening his hold on his sword.
“What are you doing with the apple, Eris?”
She laughed. “It’s just my oracle, dear. The Golden Apple is safe at home.”
He scowled. “Show me Kallisto,” he ordered.
Suddenly, the reddish tint of the apple faded, showing a picture—the picture of a girl with black hair, full, red lips, blood and mud caked face and hands, sitting on the floor of a room Diordorus knew well: Apollo’s chamber.
With a final scowl at Eris, Diordorus mumbled the magic words to get him home, and he was gone.
Neil, a boy of 5’11”, brown hair, brown eyes, a washboard stomach and many, many muscles decorating his body stood gripping his guitar. James, also holding a guitar—though his was acoustic/electric and blue—stood to Neil’s left, while Craig, James’ twin brother, was to his right, supporting a bright orange bass. Sasha, the tall, lanky, bodacious blonde at the keyboard stood behind, but between, James and Neil, a microphone at her lips. Matt, the thick muscled quarterback at the drums was seated to the right of Sasha. Each of them wore a black shirt exclaiming, “The Invisibles.”
It was Saturday night and they stood on a weak excuse for a stage in the high school friendly night club called, “The Scene” in an area that was just outside Chicago’s busy center.
Neil held onto his black electric with one hand, the microphone stand with the other. Nodding to James, the beginning chord of their first song began, and the crowd erupted in screams.
“I had a heart attack,” Neil sang.
“Attack!” the crowd responded.
“I had a heart attack!”
3 and half minutes later, the song ended, and Neil was brushing the hair away from his eyes. “Okay, who knows of a little song called ‘Moonlight’? This goes out to a pretty little blonde out there named Courtney. I’m crazy about you, babe.” Again, the crowd’s screams echoed around the room and the band smiled at each other.
Sasha grabbed the microphone in front of her, singing, “It was impossible to imagine.”
“She was so beautiful, standing there, underneath the moonlight,” Neil joined in.
“He was my knight in shining armor.”
“She gave me chills.”
The crowd began to sing along, and Neil started playing his guitar along to Sasha’s voice, silently inviting the band to begin their respective parts.
Four songs later, the set was over, and the band exited the stage. It was nearly midnight, and Neil needed to find Courtney. He was going to kiss her when the clock struck twelve, announcing the start of a new year, and he was going to do it like it was their last kiss ever.
He found her by the bar—which never served alcohol—and sat with her for a while before the countdown began. She went into his arms easily, and when the crowd screamed, “Happy New Year!” their lips met, and the kiss lasted minutes before Courtney backed away to catch her breath.
“Babe, you sounded great up there.”
“Thanks,” he said, sneaking in another kiss.
“I liked ‘Moonlight.’”
He grinned. “I wrote it for you.”
“Then how come Sasha was singing it?”
“Because she’s the only girl in our band and I doubt Craig or James could manage that high of a pitch. And she only sang the beginning! I wrote it for you, babe; not her.”
She shrugged, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Okay. So…you coming over tonight, like you promised?”
“Your dad nearly strangled me last time I came over.”
“You promised, Neil.”
“We can stay here. Let’s dance.”
When Kallisto came into consciousness, her father was leaning over her, his eyes full of worry. “Oh, good,” he muttered. He turned, looking up to the man standing over her. “Get her into a bath, and call Apollo. I need to speak with his son, Nikias.”
“Yes, my king.”
The sound of feet shuffling filled Kallisto’s ears and she sat up, groaning. Pain spread through every inch of her body and she collapsed again, too weak.
“And get her ambrosia! She needs strength. Have Aphrodite’s nymphs get her food. They’re the only beings in this kingdom that know anything about good food.” He muttered the last part, his eyes still on Kallisto.
“Father?” Kallisto whispered.
“Yes, darling. I’m here.”
“Diordorus failed and Nikias is taking his place.”
Kallisto could not answer as her father bid her to be quiet while nymphs helped her to a bath, putting platters of meats and cheeses and fruits next to her, as well a small glass of ambrosia that instantly made her feel warm inside.
While she bathed, she allowed herself to think about how Diordorus had left her in that maze to die. Eris had been conniving and evil and Diordorus didn’t stand a chance against her. It wasn’t his fault, but she couldn’t imagine how she was alive now if he hadn’t rescued her. What had happened to her in that maze?
Once clean, refreshed, and robed in her favorite purple dress, a silky thing that flowed over her shoulders and ended at her ankles, she drifted into the main room of the kingdom, finding the meeting room of the Gods.
“Apollo,” she called.
“Kallisto,” he said. She turned to the left, where his voice was come from. “You are safe.” He was seated on his throne, dressed in modern mortal clothes, as if he had just been down to Earth.
She nodded. “Where is Diordorus?”
“Who is this…Nikias?”
Apollo sighed. “He actually goes by the name Neil, now.”
She rolled her eyes. “Of course, he does. Who has he protected before?”
“Kallisto, he is an extremely competent Warrior, Guardian, and Protector. He will serve you well until Zeus and the others can capture Eris and put this wretched business to rest. Your prophecy is set in stone and we are keeping it that way.”
“Any way I can hear the prophecy now?”
“Not up to me, sister.”
She sighed. “Where am I going this time?”
“Chicago. And I’m warning you, Neil has his life all planned out for him, and he will not take no for an answer if he asks you to do something. He’s a lot like his father,” Apollo said, smiling. “But, if you will excuse me, I’m off to see Persephone. Happy New Year, sister.”
New Year? Oh, damn. It was New Year. In two hours, she would be in America, in an apartment that Apollo had for her, which would feature a room for her father, a room for her Protector, and every other aspect of a house, but with the added bonus of Hera’s oracle.
Neil gave Courtney a final kiss before turning and walking into his mom’s apartment, shutting the door behind him silently. Surprisingly enough, there was a girl sitting on the couch that was not his mother. Instead, she was a beautiful young girl with bandages covering her arms and one on her forehead, and long, black hair falling down to her back.
“Nikias,” she said.
Neil groaned. “Oh, not again,” he muttered. “I assume you’re Kallisto?”
“Okay, my place or yours?”
She smirked. “Mine. And you want me to call you Neil?”
“Yes, please. That wretched name made me the laughing stock of kindergarten and I’m in no hurry to have you calling me that in front of my friends.”
Neil walked down the hall into his bedroom to drop off his amp and guitar.
“You play the guitar?”
“I am Apollo’s son. Isn’t he the god of music?”
“And the sun, and healing. And your name means victory. You are an excellent Protector, I hear.”
“I’m okay,” he mumbled, pulling off his T-shirt. “You can come in here, you know. It’s not some top secret room. So, what are you here for, anyway? Minotaur after you? Got a pissy parent?”
From his doorway he heard, “No, my mother and father are fine. And I do not have any sort of history with a Minotaur.”
“So what is it, then? Apollo just called me up about ten minutes ago to tell me you were in need of high-class protection and I was requested.” He kicked off his shoes, then his jeans, reaching for the large suitcase in the corner of his room. “Some other, more powerful, demi-god holding a grudge against you? Nah, that wouldn’t be high-class.”
She cocked her head, watching as the muscles on his chest and back rippled as he threw clothes from his dresser into the suitcase that he had now placed on his bed. “Eris has it out for me.”
“Eris? That Goddess of Chaos chick with the golden apple?”
Kallisto nodded. “That’s the one.”
He shivered dramatically. “Yikes. So, what’d she do so far?”
“Trapped me in the Labyrinth, nearly fed me to a hydra, and tried to convince me to use my powers against Olympus. She’s been recruiting me and some other demi-gods for her cause.”
“Who’s your parent?”
He froze before giving a low whistle. “Nice to meet you, princess.”
“Not a princess. Not a god. Hera’s not my mother, and I’m just like any other demi-god.”
“Zeus’s daughters and sons don’t normally live long, darling. You understand that, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do; and don’t call me ‘darling’. I’m not that blonde girl you were kissing outside.”
Neil was sure he was blushing. But ignoring it, he walked around his bed to his closet and plucked jeans and some button down shirts out, as well as a couple jackets. “You live just downstairs according to Apollo, so I can come back up here if I need something, but I’d rather keep my eyes on you. I’d prefer not to get fired. Especially not when I have to answer to Zeus.”
He zipped closed his suitcase before returning to his dresser and grabbing a T-shirt to pull over his bare chest. As he did that, Kallisto caught the muscles rippling again, and she was admittedly impressed. He was very well built.
He chuckled. “See something you like, Daughter of Zeus?”
“Nah—Diordorus was hotter.”
had a lot of fun writing it. :D