My eyes widened on the back of her head. I was pretty confident that Medusa could even turn gods to stone.
The further we went down the hall, I realized the same glyphs that currently had my skin buzzing were etched into the walls. An odd shiver tiptoed down my spine.
“I really hope they don’t take my presence as an all-out declaration of war.”
Josie stopped as her mouth dropped open. “I didn’t even think about that.”
I grinned. “Well, it’s a little late for that.”
She stared at me and then sighed as she started walking again. “You know, I think if they had a problem with us being here, they would’ve already intervened.”
Hopefully that was the case.
We reached another door and Josie pushed on it before I had a chance to tell her to slow down. The door swung open, and…and glittering sunlight poured in from a grassy meadow of blue and purple wildflowers.
At first I couldn’t move. It was like every muscle locked up, and then I was moving without realizing it, as if I were somehow compelled to enter.
The moment the sunlight touched my skin, I inhaled deeply, and it was like taking the first hit of the purest drug. Energy rushed through me, drenching my skin and seeping through my muscles before settling into my bones.
I came to a complete standstill again.
My skin hummed with energy as I stared at the trees crowding the edge of the meadow. I felt…I felt like I did after I fed.
Josie turned to me. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” My voice was hoarse as my gaze shifted to her. “It’s the…it’s the aether. I can feel it.”
“I felt it too, even the first time here. The air is heavy with it.” She bit down on her lip. “This is where I saw the Pegasus and the twelve icons. Medusa said that whenever there was activity near the gateways—”
Wind picked up, stirring the thin wisps of hair around Josie’s temples and shaking the heavy tree limbs. Instinct propelled me forward, to stand in front of Josie.
Something was coming—something very powerful.
And it wasn’t a Pegasus.
A column of shimmering light appeared in front of us, and in the center stood a god.
“Hermes,” I said as the shimmering light faded into nothingness. “Long time no see.”
My eyes widened as I stared at the messenger. I remembered reading about him in the Myths textbook. He was the second-youngest of all the Olympian gods and was also known as the “divine trickster.”
To me, he resembled what I imagined angels looked like.
He was tall and had a head full of curly blond hair, reminding me of Deacon. Those all-white eyes creeped me out.
One side of his lips curled up. “Has it really been that long, Seth?”
“Not long enough,” Seth muttered, and I shifted my gaze to him. “What do we owe the honor of your presence?”
The god laughed. “I am here to escort you.”
“To where?” Seth demanded.
“To commune with the gods, where else?” That half-grin spread. “Is that not why you two have come here? They’re waiting.”
“That is why we came,” I answered before Seth said something ridiculously antagonistic. “I think we’re just surprised that they would be, uh, accommodating of our unexpected visit.”
“Unexpected?” Hermes laughed and the sound carried. “Your visit is not unexpected.”
“Well, that’s not creepy or anything,” Seth replied dryly.
Hermes winked. “Come.”
He didn’t give us much of an option. Turning, he walked toward the tree line, and I had no idea if we should follow him or not. My heart felt like it was going to claw its way out of my chest. Were we just going to blindly follow this god? I exchanged a long look with Seth. He nodded as he took my hand and squeezed.
I guess it really was too late to change our minds.
Following Hermes, I wondered how far we had to walk or where we were being led, but as soon as we stepped under the first tree, the air started to ripple around us. I sucked in a startled breath as the trees above us fragmented.
“Seth,” I gasped, eyes going wide.
His hand tightened as he tugged me to his side while the limbs and leaves faded. Deep blue skies appeared. The grass under our feet hardened and turned to marble. Tree trunks thinned out, replaced by thin olive trees and columns covered in grapevines. Statues appeared out of thin air, six on each side of the pathway, each one as tall as a giant.
“What the hell?” Seth demanded.
“It’s an illusion, the forest,” Hermes explained, sounding bored. “If you were to get this far without a guide like me, you’d walk an eternity trapped in the illusion.”
“That…that wouldn’t be good.” I eyed the statues, quickly realizing that each one held something in their hand. A helmet. A bow. A harp. A trident. A spear. “These statues…”
Hermes looked over his shoulder. “This is the Isle of the Gods and that is the Great Pantheon.”
“The Great…” Seth trailed off as a massive structure came into view.
It was a massive dome-shaped building supported by thick columns. The structure was a pristine white, as if dust or rain had never touched it. The dome appeared to be made of some sort of glass as it seemed to reflect the clouds…except there were no clouds.
Off in the distance there were soft trills from birds, but I didn’t see a single one as we neared the Pantheon. There was a rustle, though, coming from behind the trees. My head swung to the right, and I stopped short, catching a glimpse of something white and winged.
“Seth,” I whispered, pulling on his hand as I pointed. He followed my gaze. “I think it’s a Pegasus.”
“Really?” He strained his neck, his eyes flaring wide. A white wing lifted high, and I turned to Seth. Awe settled into his expression, and I couldn’t look away from the boyish excitement filling his golden eyes. “I…” He gave a little shake of his head. “It’s beautiful.”
I grinned at him, thinking that it was him that was truly beautiful.
“Children,” called Hermes from the top of the wide, long steps. “There is very little time to linger.”
Seth blinked and his gaze found mine. There was something soft in his stare, a quality that was rare to Seth, and then he bent his head, kissing the corner of my lips. “We better get going. They can be impatient.”
Nodding, I started walking again and took the time to prepare myself to come face to face with the Olympians…and my father. That was, if he was here. My pulse was racing as we joined Hermes. He stopped in front of titanium doors. They glided open, and a rush of cool, sweet-smelling air washed over us.
I thought I might have a heart attack.
Seth stepped forward, and he had to tug on my hand to get me to move. It was like being in a dream. I was walking, but really didn’t feel any step I took.
None of this felt real.
The inside of the dome was brightly lit, and my eyes went to the ceiling first. Fluffy white clouds drifted across the glass. I got a little hung up on that, because there were no clouds in the sky outside.
Then I lowered my gaze.
And I was no longer thinking about the weird ceiling and the questionable clouds. Eleven gods sat before me on marble thrones. Without having to ask, I knew who the two were in the middle.
Zeus and Hera.
Regal. That was all I could think as I stared at the two. Both were inhumanly stunning, tall and elegant.
I was so glad I decided to wear a dress, but I really wished I’d done something more with my hair.
Flanking either side of them were the remaining gods and…and my father. He sat to the right of Zeus, at the end, and the moment I saw him, I didn’t see any of the other gods.
Apollo did not look at me. He did not look at Seth. He seemed to stare above us. I opened my mouth to say something, but caught myself before I did.
I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to run up there and shake him. I wanted to hug him and then slap him, but I had enough common sense to realize this wasn’t the time or the place.
Seth let go of my hand and moved in a way that he was standing more in front of me than beside me. It was a protective move, and based on the way his shoulders tensed, it was also one of challenge.