When I got back to my building, there was a note from Selene on my desk.
I took Kara to the training field earlier. I thought maybe she could use the punching bag to relieve some tension. Instead, she went straight for the weapons wall. Ares, this girl has got some skills! The moves she did with a staff were incredible. She is deadly accurate with a bow and arrow. And she can definitely handle a sword. Are we sure she’s not an immortal or a demi-god we don’t know about? Just thought I’d give you a head’s up. Selene
What the hell…? Kara’s mother had never mentioned anything like this to me when she first asked me to find her daughter. I rubbed a hand over my face. I didn’t have time to deal with this right now. I needed to get to Vermont; the uneasy feeling that I had been having about Aunt Demeter was growing. My hope right now was that I found her alive. If the outcome was any different, I didn’t know how I was going to tell Persephone.
Reginald came into my office without knocking, as usual. He was carrying a small package. “This just arrived for you,” he said, putting it on my desk. Spotting Selene’s note, he snatched it up and read it. “Selene is right. I saw them out there and stopped to watch for a few minutes. Kara displayed a certain grace when she was using those weapons. A sense of…” he thought for a moment, “…fluidity, for lack of a better word. It was like she and the weapons were one. To be honest, it was like watching you when you practice. She’s very good.” He tilted his head and looked at me. “I really like her, Ares. She would be good for you.”
“Whoa…back the truck up,” I said, holding one hand up. “I’m not interested in a relationship with anyone. Don’t start fixing me up with this girl.”
Reginald scoffed. “She’s hardly a girl. I’m just saying she would be a good companion. Who knows what might happen once you get to know each other.”
“I think you’ve been hanging around with Eros,” I retorted. “You’re letting his marriage give you romantic ideas.”
“Just because I’ve spent some time with him doesn’t mean…” he stopped. “Oh good grief, he’s right. You’d be a lot less grouchy if you had someone to love.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Instead, I focused on the package Reginald had put down. Opening it, I found a pendulum at the end of a gold chain. Underneath it was a note from Hekate.
Use this pendulum to help you find Demeter. Hold something of hers in your non-dominant hand, and the pendulum in your dominant hand. Focus on her, quiet your mind as you do before a battle. The pendulum will start to move on its own, swinging clockwise to turn right, counter-clockwise to turn left, and straight to go straight forward. Between the pendulum and Erini, you should be able to find Demeter. Make sure you wear the talisman to keep you safe. If you do anything stupid, like get killed or something, I will hunt you down, bring you back to life, then kill you myself for making me worry.
Nice to know she cared. “Is there anything else you need, Reginald? I need to get ready for my trip.”
“I’m going with you,” Kara said from the doorway.
“I wasn’t asking if I can go with you; I’m saying I’m going with you. I don’t need your permission to do a damn thing.”
I looked at her. This was definitely not the frightened woman who had passed out in my arms the day before. “I’m not going to be able to watch out for you and look for my aunt. Finding her is more important than babysitting a defenseless woman.” Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Selene’s note said she could take care of herself, but I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
Reginald glared at me. “She’s not defenseless,” he said. “She kicked Selene’s butt, and Selene is a Titan. You need someone to watch your back in that place, especially if people are disappearing.”
“Are you trying to insinuate that the God of War cannot take care of himself?” I glared at Reginald.
“No, that is not what I am saying.”
“I can show you where Alistor took me, and where I came out,” Kara said. “The fact that I’d like the chance to see Alistor again and kick his…well, that’s just a bonus.”
I leaned back in my chair and looked at her. “I’m curious. If you’re so capable of taking care of yourself, then why didn’t you kick Alistor’s butt when you had the chance?”
She thought about it a moment. “I’m not sure I can explain it,” she replied. “Whenever I was with him, I felt disoriented. I didn’t have the energy or will to fight. I just did whatever he told me, no questions asked.”
I wasn’t sure how to explain that; it was something to talk to Kate about later. Taking a female mortal into a dangerous situation was not something I was inclined to do, especially after what happened to Cassie.
“She’s not Cassie, Ares,” Reginald said quietly as if he knew what I was thinking. “And it will be different this time. You’ll be there to protect her; she won’t be alone.”
Standing up, I dug into my pocket, pulled out my keys, and tossed them to Reginald. “Take her to the weapons room and let her choose what she wants.” I looked at Kara. “You’ll find various kinds of weapons. Choose the ones you are most comfortable using. There are also clothes in there that will provide some protection in case of a fight. Not that we will be fighting anyone, but I’d rather err on the side of caution. I’m going upstairs to grab a few things. We leave in thirty minutes.”
Upstairs, I changed into all black clothes: jeans, t-shirt, boots. Grabbing my leather pack, I put the pendulum and Aunt Demeter’s scarf into two separate pockets, then went to the kitchen and put in several packages of jerky, nuts, and bottles of water. I whistled for Eirini, who came trotting into the kitchen and looked up at me expectantly. “You ready for an adventure?” I asked her, kneeling in front of her to gaze into her eyes. A quiet “woof” was her answer.
Back downstairs, I found Kara and Reginald talking in the weapons room. Kara was wearing a dark brown shirt, dark brown leather pants, and knee-high leather boots that I was glad to see had no heels on them. She was sensible; a lot of mortal women would have gone for boots with high heels. Leaning against the wall was a simple staff. “Is that all you’re taking with you?” I asked her.
She turned around, and I noticed the sword in its sheath on her back; she wore it like I wore mine. “I also have a few shurikens in my bag.”
“Do you know how to use them?”
“Trust me, she does,” Reginald said, showing me the torn material on his shirt.
Trying not to laugh, I walked over to the wall and grabbed my broadsword, strapping it around my back. I selected my Sig Sauer p320, a few magazines, and extra bullets, packing them in my bag. Closing it up, I turned to Kara. “Last chance to back out.”
She shook her head. “No. Your aunt saved my life. I need to return the favor if I can.”
“Grab your stuff then.” I watched as she slung the bag over her shoulder and picked up the staff. Bending over, I picked up Eirini and walked over to Kara. “Hold on tight,” I told her, wrapping one arm around her while I held my dog in the other.
“Wait, what are you doing?” Kara asked, looking uncomfortable.
“We’re taking a shortcut by teleporting.” Before she could say anything else, the room shimmered and faded from view. I heard her gasp, and I tightened my grip on her. “It will be over in a minute,” I assured her.
We landed on a small road in the middle of the woods. Kara stumbled backward and fell. “That was…wow…” she said.
I put Eirini down and reached for my bag. “Are you all right?” I asked her as I took out the pendulum and Aunt Demeter’s scarf. I touched Kate’s talisman, hoping it would do its job. Eirini sniffed the fabric and then started scenting the air before heading up the road. “What’s up there?”
Kara stood up and brushed her pants off. “Glastenbury Mountain,” she said. “This road leads to the Long Trail, which goes into the mountain woods.” She watched Eirini. “Is it possible for her to have picked up a scent, especially an old one?”
I nodded. “Eirini is a special dog.”
She looked at the pendulum and scarf in my hands. “What are those for?”
“I’m going to use them to find my aunt, I hope.”
We followed Eirini up the small road. She left the road and headed up a rocky trail. “This is the way Alistor brought me,” Kara said, tightening her grip on the staff. “Call your dog back, don’t let her get too far ahead.”
I whistled, and Eirini turned to look at me before sitting down where she was. We stopped next to her. I put the scarf in my left hand and the pendulum in my right. “I need you to be quiet for a few minutes,” I told Kara. “I need to focus on my aunt.”
She nodded, and I closed my eyes. I thought of Aunt Demeter sitting at her desk, laughing at something I had said to her. She looked happy, even though I know she was missing her daughter at the time. I felt my heart drop into my stomach for a moment; I really missed my aunt, and I hoped she was all right wherever she was.
The pendulum jerked in my hand, and my eyes popped open before I looked down at it. It was swinging to the right, and I quickly hurried in that direction. Eirini ran ahead, but not far enough for me to lose sight of her. Kara kept up with him, her eyes scanning the area as if she expected something to jump out at us.
When we came to a fork in the trail, the pendulum swung to the left, and I turned in that direction. Things went like this for quite a while, the pendulum changing direction so much that I thought we were going in circles.
Eirini abruptly stopped, and I almost tripped over her. We were standing in front of a cave opening on the side of the mountain. Eirini sat down and waited. Shoving the pendulum and the scarf in my front pockets, I reached over my shoulder and grabbed the hilt of my sword, pulling it out of its sheath. Kara gripped the staff with both hands and looked at the opening.
Eirini sniffed the air, stood up, and ran inside. I didn’t hesitate; I went after her, my grip on my broadsword tightening. Kara ran behind me as I ducked my head and went into the cave. I could hear Eirini barking, but it wasn’t a frantic bark; more of a happy one. The darkness of the cave seemed to lighten the closer I got to her.
The narrow passage led to a large area. A small fire was in the center of the room, the smoke rising in the air and disappearing through a small hole overhead. A pile of firewood was on one side; nearby were piles of grains, fruit, and vegetables.
Eirini was standing near someone, their back to us. The person stood up and faced us, a frown on her face. “Well, you sure took your damn sweet time getting here,” Aunt Demeter said.
I walked over and gave her a hug. “It’s good to see you, too.”