I rubbed my eyes as the morning rays of the sun grazed over my face. Stretching out of the comforter, I reached to my left for Selene. The space was empty. I looked around the brightly lit room. How long had I been asleep?
I rose from the bed and stumbled into the kitchen. My head felt heavy. I couldn’t remember if it was the late-night drinking or everything that happened afterward that had me so intoxicated. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and strawberry waffles beckoned me. “Seli, my darling…you’re a blessing,” I said to the empty kitchen.
Selene had left for the day. Unlike me, she was already catching up with work while planning our wedding and managing everything else. I found a note from her on the refrigerator.
Out to meet Erebus, be back later this evening.
I stared at the note for a while. Selene hadn’t mentioned anything about meeting Erebus. I shrugged, put the message aside, and sat down to enjoy my breakfast. I took a bite of the waffle, dipping it in syrup. I was tasting heaven, soft as a puff of cloud. Between mouthfuls of my delicious breakfast, I watched Sayeh, in her golden retriever form, playing with Yoru and Eechee.
Smiling to myself, I picked up a file addressed to me from the Olympus National Park management team. I knew my team was doing a fantastic job despite my absence. With the pandemic continuing, the park was almost free of visitors, and the wildlife was thriving. The hospital wing and women’s shelter of SBF, however, wasn’t doing that well. It was always at full capacity, and the staff worked round the clock helping everyone who reached out. I needed to spend more time there. But, the challenges incurred during the quest for Sayeh’s heartfire had taken a toll on me both physically and mentally. I knew I wouldn’t be of use to anyone in my current form. Sayeh and Selene had been my sole points of focus in the last couple of months.
I was willfully ignoring my family, the mortals, my nymphs, and satyrs. Above all, I had neglected SBF, the foundation that was supposed to help the mortals. My shoulders slumped as a wave of guilt hit me with a fervent force. I drew in a sharp breath, making a mental note to visit the SBF facilities and follow up on work that was pending on my behalf. Sayeh curled near my feet, and the foxes perched under the table, resting their heads on her. I smiled and winked at Sayeh as I cuddled them.
By the time breakfast was over, I had made a list of items to catch up on. First, I needed a nice cold shower. For a moment, I considered running to the waterfall in Olympus National Park and bathing under the clear sky in the fresh air, as I have done countless times, but decided against it to save time. I walked to the bathroom and turned on the shower, losing my robe in the process. The water flowed like perfect summer rain, calm and steady, awakening my body in all the right ways. I stood without moving for a few minutes, enjoying the water cascading over me. The last couple of weeks after the holiday season had gone by quickly, and Selene and I fell into a comfortable routine in our living situation. She had gone above and beyond to make our first Christengounna a memorable affair. Miteras, Polo, and Helios joining us to celebrate made it all the more exciting. Jacques wanted to spend more time sightseeing in Olympus, so Miteras decided to stay around for a few months before traveling back to Paris.
I was not sure of how I felt about Jacques yet. Of course, I was happy for Miteras, but there was something about him I couldn’t put my finger on. For a mortal, he seemed too easily adjusted to being amongst the gods. I had watched him the first time he arrived in the OA building with Miteras. He didn’t seem the least bit intimidated or affected by being around the immortals of this pantheon. Maybe I was overthinking it. Miteras might have prepared him well for all that awaited him in Olympus. Either way, it wouldn’t hurt to check. I added another task to my ever-growing to-do list.
Ask Jamie to run a background check on Monsieur Jacques Dubois.
My skin was starting to wrinkle from the prolonged exposure to water, so I scrubbed myself clean and stepped off the shower. I wrapped my long hair into a towel and dried my body, walking into the closet. My tunic and trousers were color-coded and neatly arranged, thanks to Selene. Thinking of her brought a smile to my face. I ran my hand over her silk gown that hung near my tunics. The scent of her perfume filled my senses, and a memory of her dancing in that dress last year during the annual SBF Masquerade ball flooded my mind. We canceled the event this year to keep the mortals from spreading the virus.
I dressed in a beige woolen tunic and paired it with dark trousers, sheathed my blades, and checked my bow and arrow necklace before exiting the closet. After I buckled my boots, I whistled for Sayeh and instructed her to meet me at our usual spot outside of the OA building where she could transform into her usual self. I drew in a long breath, contemplating my plan for the day. The sound of soft footsteps in the hallway caught my attention. Before I heard her voice, I knew it was Britomartis.
“My lady? Are you…are you here?”
“I’m here,” I replied, walking to the living room, ready to greet Bri with a hug. I pulled back, noticing her crinkled brow and nervous manner. “Bri? Are you OK? Everything alright?”
“My lady, you must hurry. We need to go to the park. There’s…there’s another body,” she said, almost babbling.
I frowned. “A body? Like the ones we found last year?”
“I believe so, but you may want to see for yourself to be sure if this is similar to the killings from last year.”
I rubbed my temples and exhaled a gust of air. “Okay, let’s go.” Bri followed me to the clearing where Sayeh was waiting for us. We climbed on her as Bri whispered the location. With a flap of massive wings, Sayeh was airborne in a second. When we landed in Olympus National Park, I found Jamie, Iain, Hyale, and Iphigenia standing around a body covered by a white sheet. I approached the group, noticing the grim expression on each of their faces. My eyes found Iain’s, and he nodded, confirming my doubts. Jamie pulled the sheet back to reveal the body of a young woman, perhaps in her early twenties. I knelt beside the woman, examining her. There were multiple stabbing and arrow wounds throughout her body.
Definitely, the hunting club.
I pulled the sheet back over her and stood facing my team. “Seems the hunting team is back in action,” I said.
“I thought they went inactive since you started looking into them, my lady,” Iphigenia asked.
“It was foolish on our part to assume they would go away silently. We should’ve kept looking for them. Our mistake cost this young lady her life. But no more! She will be their last victim,” I said, my eyes blazing with fury.
“We await your orders, my lady,” Iain said.
“Iain, Jamie,” I said, addressing my Satyrs. “I need you both to prepare for travel.” They nodded and left us, heading back to the OA building.
“Hyale, send a note to my brother. Ask him to meet me at the apartment in an hour,” I said, turning to face my nymph.
“Yes, my lady,” Hyale replied.
“Iphigenia, get her back to the shelter and clean her up. Bri, see what details you can find about her and if she has any family. Also, keep this away from the press and local authorities, for now.” Both Iphigenia and Britomartis nodded their agreement.
As I flew back to the OA, a plan was forming in my mind, but I needed Apollo and Selene before I could execute it.