“Hestia?” This time, I waited before barging in. Hestia had made a point of rebuking me the last time I’d barged in. I waited a few moments and knocked again, wondering if she was lost in a pot of stew. “Hestia, the ice is melting out here!” I yelled.
She did not respond, so I tried the door. It was unlocked, as she always left it. Security was not her strong suit. I walked around, calling for the Goddess of the Hearth, but there was no sign of her. The ice was starting to melt, so I popped into the back of a large freezer. I wondered how long the ice could hold off the magical seepage of the bespelled keys. It was best not to leave this for long.
I closed my eyes and wove power into my call. “Hestia, where are you?” Suburbs surrounded by farmland filled my mind. What was Hestia doing in Utah? Then I felt frustration and was that pain? I pulled my bow out and ported to Hestia.
At the front corner of a suburban house, I saw two harpies flying around Adrestia. I sighed at the thought of fighting more harpies. The sight of Adrestia missing her target as she swung a sword was confusing. Adrestia did not miss. That just did not happen.
I stood frozen and watched for a few seconds. Every time she swung her sword, it veered to the left. The harpies took turns, diving and taunting her. Adrestia was able to avoid them but was knocked off balance when her swings missed. At the third missed swing, Adrestia’s head tilted to the side, and she paused. When a harpy next dove at her, Adrestia swung her sword to the right of her target. The sword again veered to the left and clipped the harpy’s wing. The creature screamed, and Adrestia laughed. She ran a few steps toward the second harpy and again aimed to miss, which landed the blow.
Gratified by my niece’s prowess, I went in search of Hestia. She was standing in the next house’s yard with another two harpies diving at her. My chest filled with anger when I saw the golden blood smeared across her shoulder and dripping from the harpy’s talons. Hestia was not a warrior god and had not compensated as quickly as Adrestia. All her blows were missing, and all of their attacks were landing. Still, Hestia flung insults that were landing. One of the harpies was getting angrier, which was slowing down the attacks as it stopped to scream at Hestia.
I let an arrow fly toward the second harpy attacking Hestia. It flew past its target, much like my arrows had missed the last harpy I fought. This made me pause and wonder if these harpies had a magical object protecting them from harm. I paused long enough to see Hestia stare at the smoke billowing out of the house behind her and yell, “Tia, down!”
They both hit the ground. A fist-shaped ball of smoke, the size of an oven, punched out of a window and engulfed Hestia and the harpies around her. Fire followed the geyser of smoke, ripping through the harpies. My ears rang from the percussion of the fireball. The red and yellow stream of fire burned out as quickly as it had appeared. The dense smoke, which appeared to have the texture of cotton balls, expanded past Hestia and the two harpies before quickly evaporating.
The remnants of the smoke lingered before slowly floating away. Hestia lay on the ground. She rolled over, liquid gold running from her shoulder across and staining her chest. It dripped down her chin from her nose, and a thin line fell from her ear.
“Hestia!” Adrestia screamed. Two charred corpses fell to the ground in cracked lumps. Adrestia started for Hestia, but one of the remaining harpies blocked her path. Adrestia swung her sword like a baseball bat. She missed it, having forgotten to compensate for the spell protecting them, but her sword did clip one of its wings. Due to the force she had put behind her swing, the harpy fell to the ground. Adrestia dropped her sword and jumped on the harpy.
The second harpy moved toward Adrestia’s back, and I saw what I had been looking for. A string knot poked out of the harpy’s armor. Not wanting to waste time, I pulled a dagger from my belt and ported behind the harpy. I remembered Adrestia’s lesson, so I reached for its head from either side. The sensation of both my arms being pushed to the right was disconcerting, but I got a hold of its hair with one hand. I had to use considerable force to push my other hand through some kind of field to get to its neck. The tip of my dagger scrapped the harpy’s neck as I positioned it between the harpy and the string. The harpy’s struggle was what cut the cord.
As soon as the cord was cut, I dropped the dagger. The force pushing me away took my hand down far enough for me to grab the string and rip it from the harpy’s neck. We both fell to the ground. I recovered first and grabbed the dagger as I stood. The harpy was just starting to pull itself to its knees when I pressed my dagger against its throat.
“Tia!” I yelled loudly enough to break through her rage. She jerked her head around and stared at me in surprise.
“Artie?” she asked, confused by my appearance in the fight.
“Rip off the necklace,” I yelled, holding up the key hanging from a broken string. Tia took no more time to question my presence. She dug under the harpy’s collar and ripped off the necklace. I saw the key hanging from the sting in her hand. The harpy under Adrestia panicked and grabbed for it. It missed several times, even though it was inches away. The key had switched allegiance, and the harpy could not touch it or Adrestia. Adrestia’s face lit with a smile I never wanted to be on the receiving side of.
Adrestia quickly took care of the harpy and rounded on the one in my hands. “I want to question it, Tia,” I said before she could cross the yard. I jerked my head toward Hestia, who had started to sit up.
Adrestia ported to Hestia, pushing her back down to the ground. “Don’t sit,” she said. Hestia shook her head. Adrestia said, in a harsh tone, “Let me take a look at you first.”
I looked around for something to tie up the one harpy left. The houses and the yards were all in shambles. This neighborhood was a wreck. It looked like it had been abandoned after years of neglect and misuse. The char across the yard of the burning house seemed to match the haggard appearance of the area. What did not match was the fresh coat of paint on the curbs and fire hydrant. A brand-new mailbox had been knocked down. The mix of new and decrepit was curious.
I spotted a thick chain in front of one house. It was the type of chain used by cruel people to leash dogs they could not control. Full of anger at seeing the sweet Hestia attacked, I knew the added surge of anger at the mistreatment of an animal, no longer here, was not a good idea. I pushed the feeling down and assured myself that I would not forget.
The harpy did not fight much as I pushed it to the chain, but it lunged for the key I had stowed in my pocket. I pulled it over to Hestia and Adrestia. The anger I felt was not as contained as I had wanted, and I pulled the harpy more roughly than I had intended. I paused to take a breath. If I was going to be of help to Hestia or get any information from this harpy, I needed to be in control. Sometimes I missed the vengeful ways of the past. I opened my eyes and looked at the Goddess of Revolt, and sighed. It was that kind of thinking that made a Goddess of Revolt necessary.
I slowed and wished I had something safe to contain the key’s magic. Then I stopped, remembering something I had packed before I set out on the search of Skiron. I had looked through my belongings then for something that could contain magic because of the possibility of finding more bespelled items. A search of my pockets produced a small pouch, just large enough for a few skeleton keys. I hadn’t used it on that trip because we found too many keys. This time, there were only two.
I took the key from my pocket, which got the harpy very excited. As soon as the key was dropped into the pouch, the harpy’s face fell. Then she looked around, and for the first time she seemed to realize the situation she was in. Fear spread across her face, and I knew the pouch was working.
Hestia was sitting up, and Adrestia was wrapping something around her shoulder. They were arguing about how long it was taking. Hestia did not seem to have much patience with being a patient. I took a moment to tie the harpy to a light pole.
“Tia, give me the key,” I said. Adrestia looked around for the key, seeming to have forgotten about it.
Hestia looked up at me, confused. “Artie? What are you doing here? When did you get here? Did you see me fight? I could have done better,” she babbled.
I knelt and checked her pupils. Adrestia shrugged. “I can’t tell if she is okay. She is being her Hestia self.” We both smiled, and Hestia looked offended. “Here’s the key.”
I dropped the key in the pouch. A slight sense of confusion lifted as soon as the pouch was sealed. The feeling was nothing as palpable as the first time I contained a bespelled key in a magical box, but it was noticeable. We all relaxed.
“Do I need to get either of you to Apollo for healing, or shall we get some information from your attacker?”
“Apollo?” Hestia asked. “Isn’t he that rock star that’s all the rage in New York?” she asked before she held up her hand. “So, who slipped me ambrosia? Why is the ground moving?” With that, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she collapsed onto the ground.