This story is inspired by Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Magnus Chase and the gods of Asgard, and my siblings.
Author's note: The tree in this story refers to Felicia's family tree, along with everyone else's. Once again, enjoy!
I woke to the sound of music outside. (No, Bronte, not THAT Sound of Music!) When I looked out the window, I saw a band playing while thousands of people danced and mingled. I must’ve been either off my chump or dreaming, because there were NOT this many people living on Calf of Man. I heard the door behind me open.
“Oh, good! You’re awake! Mom sent me to come get you. The festival just began an hour ago.” Max was standing in the doorway with a tray of pastries. I decided this was enough of an invitation.
I grabbed a few biscuits filled with jelly and walked with Max down the stairs.
“So, about last night...” I began.
“What about last night?” Max asked, but his eyes were pleading with me not to ask.
I sighed, but soon forgot about it when I saw Cascade making a mess in the kitchen. I rushed to help her.
“Oh! I can never get this recipe right! Every year!” She said while bending over a stiff piece of old paper. The letters were scrawled all over the paper, almost illegible, but I studied at the recipe and immediately knew what to do.
I grabbed the sugar and butter and mixed them quickly in a bowl. Next, I threw a few eggs in, and mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl. I whipped up some frosting while it was in the oven. While it cooled, I grabbed decorations from 15 million different cabinets which seemed to not have any specific order. Throwing it all together, I had 48 cupcakes in forty minutes.
“Oh, thank you so much honey!” Cascade said, giving me a slobbery kiss on the cheek.
Max laughed up his sleeve and turned away to try to hide it as I wiped off the slobber.
“No problem,” I muttered, a bit embarrassed and rather annoyed that Cascade was treating me like a child. She rushed the tray outside and left Max and I to clean up the messy kitchen.
You must push
Those who lied
For your trial
Will put you in denial
The words would not leave my head, taunting me with their evasiveness. Demeter had told me I would have to push my friends away, and I couldn’t bear to think that one of them would lie to me. I needed to keep my friends out of this prophecy for their own safety, and that meant it was up to me to keep my friends honest.
“So... Max... About last night. What was that?” I asked, “Remember, no more hiding things from me!” I added, trying to make him talk.
“Look, it’s a long story, and I should go and entertain the guests. I’ll see you outside!” He ran out the door before I could stop him.
After cleaning the kitchen, I walked outside into the early spring sun. I walked past all the hastily put-up stalls and tried to focus on the lovely spring air, trying not to think. Of course, my thoughts came to haunt me anyway.
I finally gave up on enjoying myself and sat down on a nearby stool to think it over. The part in between my two dreams... The mysterious sunlight-filled void that felt so oddly familiar. Well, I didn’t have an explanation for that. Also, the dream with Demeter. Ugh, the lady just bloody annoyed the kerfuffle out of me. First, she wanted me to go on a dangerous quest to stop a goddess from doing only the gods know what without my friends. Second, I had to NOT save my dad in the process after I saw him hanging suspended in a cage, all bruised and bloody! (No, Bronte! Not that kind of bloody!) Just don’t forget the part where I needed to completely ditch one of my mates! Yeah right, like I would ever do that. Even Ali had become close to me, a mere stranger I had met a few days ago. We had been through so much, and I was just supposed to leave one of them here!? Alone and abandoned, with no purpose?
I snapped out of it. I was at a Spring Festival! I figured I should at least pretend to have fun. I owed it to my friends and my dad. The number of people at the festival was overwhelming, and everyone stood out in their own unique way. Not knowing where to start, I turned to the person next to me, who was playing a song on their flute. She looked at me with their hazel eyes that reflected the green lights of the Spring Festival and gestured to the seat next to them.
As I sat down next to them, she grinned. “Hi, I’m Vrinda!” She said as their fingers fiddled on the flute she was holding. Their outfit consisted of a t-shirt with a puppy on it and deep-bottomed denims. The flute case next to them held all different types of currency, leading me to wonder where she was from. Vrinda’s smile was bright, and her music was almost magical.
I smiled back. Maybe enjoying myself wouldn’t be as hard as I thought.
“I’m Felicia. Nice to-” I paused when I heard something crunch in the bushes.
The sound filled me with fear and uncertainty, which unleashed thoughts of everything that could go wrong. The prophecy, Demeter, monsters. Pretty much anything could go wrong, and I would be willing to bet twenty biscuits the mysterious noise I had heard had something to do with it.
As I turned, I heard yelling from somewhere near the food stalls, confirming my suspicions that this was more than an ordinary crunch. (Stop laughing, Bronte! There’s nothing funny about an unordinary crunch! I give up...) I unsheathed my daggers and ran, afraid someone innocent was hurt or in trouble. When I got to the stall, it was eerily quiet and empty, as if everyone had fled. Something felt off, so I looked Inside the tarp to find that something red and slightly chunky was smudged on the blue wall. These goopy red splotches on the floor stuck to my shoes as I checked the rest of the stall. I could only hope it was just paint or berries.
I was convinced the stall was empty until something from behind me made a noise, like a snake. When I turned, there was a mysterious stranger in dark clothing standing there.
“Where’s everyone else?” I asked cautiously, not sure he could hear me, as he was giving me the cold shoulder.
As I slowly approached him, he suddenly turned. His face was covered in horrific scars mostly on the right side, and he looked at me with calculating, dark eyes and a friendly smile that clashed with his menacing figure.
His mouth twitched into a crooked smile, and he threw his head back and laughed a laugh that I could have sworn I had heard before, but before I could react, he vanished, leaving nothing but the smell of reptiles and a small snake. This was what I had sensed earlier, I was sure of it. I raced after the snake, chasing it into the woods.
By the time I got there, the bloody nutter of a snake was out of sight! I stumbled back and forth, hoping to pace my anger away. Not noticing the snake had slithered back over, I tripped on it and fell into a dark void, screaming all the way down.
In a shimmer of black light, a lady appeared at an altar. I recognized her from my first dream at Camp.
“You? Why are you here?” I asked quizzically. Nyx laughed.
“I have something you want. Something you would sacrifice a quest for. I’m here to make a deal.” She responded.
“And why would I trust you? Your obviously evil... You look evil, sound evil, and even breathe like you’re evil!” It was true. She was even dressed like some cheesy cartoon villain.
She sighed exasperatedly and snapped her fingers. A cage made of bones emerged from the ground in front of me, suspended by a now-visible chain that stretched into the dark, ash-filled sky.
“Dad!” I yelled, hoping this was a nightmare.
“Oh, poor dear!” Nyx said sarcastically. “It would be such a shame to drop him into... say, a pit of lava!”
I pulled out my daggers, readying myself for a fight. I needed to get my dad out of there, and fast.
She noticed my fighting stance and laughed. “I’ll let you take him easy, but you have to give up on your quest.”
“Then, I’ll just...” She trailed off, gazing at my dad. I got the meaning – she was going to drop him.
“W-wait! Okay, so you want me to quit this quest, betray my friends, and let a bunch of innocent people die just because you have my dad?” I blurted out.
“Quite right! But, if you don’t, it’ll cost you the lives of your dad, stepmom, and your sisters. And I’ll take all your friends as my hostages. They’ll make lovely toys!” She had a hint of warning in her voice.
I stared her straight in the eyes. I had never felt so much hate in my life before. This lady had the nerve to threaten my friends and kill my family! I raised my daggers, about to attack, but then paused right before slicing her throat, remembering her threat and what that meant for the people I cared about. Was I willing to sacrifice that much for what it was worth?
“Made up your mind yet?” she taunted. I looked at my dad, suspended above lava, his face slack with worry. I thought about my little sisters and what might happen to them. I sheathed my daggers and made the bloody worst decision of my life.