Finally, after three horrid hours of that AJR, we crossed into Nevada.
The highway twisted through a canyon with the Truckee River on one side.
Miles tapped his hands on the wheel, in sync with the pitchy trumpets. He hummed along.
“So, ex-god.” Cailen said. “Where to?”
“I don’t know.” I said.
She had been in a much better mood since Fairfield. They wouldn’t tell me what had happened, I could only see what was visible from the car.
“We could go find H-” Miles started.
“No!” Cai said. “I will not go to her for help.”
“Cai, please. I haven’t been able to make the trip up and see her for months.”
“I will not see her.”
“Then wait in the car! We need her help. She knows Reno better than we do.”
“Wait, who?” I felt like I was missing something. I always felt like I was missing something.
I hated that feeling.
“No one.” Cai said, at the same time Miles said, “A friend of mine.”
“Can’t wait to meet her.” I said.
We rolled into a cul de sac. All the houses looked the same, other than that they were painted different colors.
Miles parked in front of a gray house with white trim.
“Come on, Loki. If Cai doesn’t want to come.”
She rolled her eyes and pulled out a book.
“Fine, then.” And we walked towards the house.
I had to do a double take when the young woman opened the door.
I may have even uttered a small “Whoa.”
She looked exactly like Miles, except for her eyes. One of them was green, and the other was blue. Her hair was the same ginger orange, but had bleached tips. They had the same nose, same smile, same glimmer in their eyes, same freckles. They even looked the same age.
“Miles!” The girl said, and rushed forward to give him a hug.
“Hey, Hunter.” He said, giving her a hug.
She saw me. I had tried to look as inconspicuous as possible. My hands were in my pockets, and I was trying to make it look like I was staring at the sky.
“Who is this, primo?”
“Ah. This is Loki. Loki, meet my cousin, Hunter Gil-Aguilar, daughter of Hades.”
“How does that family tree work?” I blurted. Darn this impulsive mortal mouth!
Hunter laughed. “Miles’ dad is Apollo. His mom is my mom’s sister. Hades is my dad. Not that difficult, if you think about it that way.”
“Miles, you stopped by just in time. I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Wait, where are you going?” Miles looked confused.
“You didn’t hear?”
She sighed. “You better come inside. I see Cai out in the car, tell her to come in as well.”
“You’re going to be a Hunter?!” Miles said, his eyes wide.
“A Hunter named Hunter?” I said, and Cai rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, Miles. It’s my destiny. Tomorrow they’ll be here, then I’ll accept immortality and join the Hunt.”
“So what is the Hunt?” I asked. “I didn’t pay close attention to other pantheons when I was a god.”
Cailen spoke for the first time since the car. “Artemis, or Diana for Romans, is the goddess of the Hunt, and the Moon. She has a group of maiden hunters called the Hunters of Artemis, or Diana, whichever you prefer. Members of the Hunters have to swear off romantic love forever, but in return they get to travel the country and hunt monsters. Oh, and immortality. Unless they die in battle.”
“Exactly.” Hunter said.
“Why now?” Miles asked.
“I couldn't…go through heartbreak again.” She looked to the ground.
Cai blushed and looked at the ground.
My godly senses perked up.
Why did Cai blush and look at the ground when Hunter said that?
I narrowed my eyes. “Cai-”
“Anyway.” Miles said, his eyes glancing from me to Hunter to Cai. “Can you give us directions? A god spoke in Loki’s head, said to come here, to Reno. But we don’t know where in Reno. Any mythological hotspots?”
“Well...I have been meaning to check out Peavine Peak lately. Something’s up. Random fires have been starting all week. Clouds swirl around the peak.”
“Well, then, let's make it a last hurrah before you join the Hunters.”
She sighed. “Let me get my weapons. Get the car started.”
“Why did you not want to see her?” I asked when Cai, Miles, and I were in the car.
“No reason. Stay out of it, Doyle.”
She was telling me to stay out of it? I was an (ex) god. We didn’t stay out of things. How absurd.
Before I could say anything, Hunter climbed in the backseat with Cai. Cai turned, and pretended to look out the window.
Something had to give.
We pulled on the interstate, all of us quiet.
“Look.” Hunter pointed.
There was a mountain to our left. The peak had clouds swirling around it, but they weren’t regular clouds; they were dark grey.
“What the…” I said.
“I know.” Hunter said. “Something’s happening up there.”
Lightning flashed in the distance.
“This won’t be good.” I said.
We rolled up onto a gravel road, northwest of the city. Miles stopped the car.
“If we throw out the axle, we’re screwed. Therefore, we will hike the rest of the way.”
Cai and I groaned.
Hunter just hopped out of the car and grabbed her weapons. Maybe she was hyping herself up for all the hiking she would do with the Hunters.
I studied her weapons. She had a sword, and that was it.
“You’re not starting to practice with a bow?” Miles asked, shouldering his.
“Nah. I don’t have a bow. I doubt I’ll be much good at it, anyway.”
“I’ll help you get the hang of it.” Miles said. What a helpful little son of Apollo.
“Thanks, cuz.” Hunter looked at the summit of the mountain. “We’ve got a hike ahead of us.”
Curse this mortal body!
Had I been a god, I would have teleported to the top. Or transformed into a wolf, or an eagle!
But no. I had to drag myself up on these feeble noodle legs, tripping and cursing like a fool.
“Are we there yet?” I complained.
“Loki, does it look like we’re at the top of a mountain?” Cai said.
I muttered some curses in old Norse.
“Watch your mouth.” Miles said.
I turned to look at him. “You understand old Norse?”
“Yep. I learned it a few years ago, because I knew there were Roman demigods. If they existed, why wouldn’t Norse demigods exist?”
I sighed, wishing my crush would cease to exist, and kept climbing.
Finally, my legs feeling like the weak noodles they were, we reached the summit.
“Whoa.” Cai said.
The whole city spread out below us. You could see the towers of the Row, and all the other various casinos in Reno. I tried to imagine what it would be like at nightime, when there were lights. Then I decided I wouldn’t want to be here at nightime, because the college’s mascot was Wolf Pack for a reason.
We turned. The grey clouds had started to spin faster, surrounding the very top peak. Antenna and a radio station were caught in the middle.
“Are there mortals in there?” Cai wondered aloud, as we all drew out weapons.
“I guess we’ll find out.” I said, and we walked towards the building.
The clouds didn’t act like a barrier, so we just walked in, weapons drawn.
Luckily, there didn’t seem to be any mortals. Just blinking lights on the control boxes.
As we made our way down a hallway, Hunter motioned with her head. Someone in here.
We all peaked in, and it was a blonde lady, with blue eyes, wearing a dress.
The hard thing about the dress is that it looked black, but then the color would shift to blood red and then back again.
She was not mortal, I decided that.
She noticed us, and turned her head.
Miles jumped backwards five feet. Cai went pale, and Hunter’s eyes widened.
The other half of the woman's face, scratch that, body, was a skeleton.
She grinned and gestured to us to come inside the sound booth. I went first, because I knew who it was.
“Hel.” I said.
“Dad!” She said. “You’re looking...young.”
“You wouldn’t be the first to tell me that.”
She looked at my companions, then zeroed in on Hunter.
“You,” She said. “You are a child of death?”
Hunter nodded. “Daughter of Hades, uh, ma’am.”
Hel smiled. “You can call me Hel, or Lady Hel.”
“I see you are all nervous to be in my presence.” She said. “But I will not be taking any of your souls today. I merely come with a warning.”
She turned to me. “Father, my brother, your son, his bonds are weakening. Soon, he will be unleashed on the world, and Ragnarok will begin, and we will all die.”
“Wait, who?” Cailen tightened her grip on Tide.
“He knows well that you are coming to stop him.” Hel continued. “And he will eat anyone who tries to bind him again. You included. You must cage him again, but survive. That will be the way back to your godhood.”
“Loki, who is she talking about? What do we have to do?”
I swallowed hard.
“She means we must find my son, whose bonds are weakening.
“We must bind the Fenris Wolf.”
End of Part Five.