Storm-grey clouds appeared above him, warping into long arms that scooped up Skiron and Khione. They disappeared as the clouds twisted into a small tornado. The roar of the storm and the rush of wind down the tunnel of the cave kept me from hearing anything.
Because I hadn’t learned to control my own powers back then, now I couldn’t control either of ours. I was still a failure. A disappointment. The wild child who played with tricksters and thieves instead of learning to lead.
The harpy’s shrieks pierced our minds, and the echo bounced around in our heads. I hate fighting with anything that addles my senses, and I’d had enough of that recently. I shook my head and pushed on.
I tried to rise but crumpled. The blisters burst where the flames had touched, the air stinging the open wounds. My charred, dry skin was taut, pulling against itself, flaking off. I pushed through the physical pain. It was something I had lived through for years, tormented by the monster I had been. I tried again. The tears were tiny ice pellets, cutting my skin as I rose.
I had seen this many times, so I counted to ten before speaking. Something had deeply wounded this woman. No good would come if I responded to her bait. “I understand, Khione. I do, but I’d rather not split up as there is dreadful cell reception in the Himalayas.”
I nearly stumbled over my feet. A yak? A yak’s smell was nauseating, and they were excruciatingly slow. I could blizzard my way up the mountain in mere minutes. I thought about protesting, but the light in Aspen’s eyes stopped me, and I swore I saw Artemis smirk.
“You’re going to be fine, Kia. You’re as strong as she is and just as powerful, even if you don’t believe it. Together, you’re going to find Skiron and set everything back to normal. Hopefully, he can fix these crazy weather patterns across the globe.”
I let out a long breath as I remembered the politics of family. Why could we never just get to the point? As I pushed all the air out of my lungs, I looked at her face for the first time and saw Hestia. Her sweet face was full of hope and love. Memories of playing in her kitchen flooded my mind. That soft voice yelling at us to stop getting underfoot as she cooked was never angry. This was the one person in the family that always made me feel loved and wanted.
I was torn between the letter in my hands and the letter in my pocket. How much longer could I prolong the inevitable? It was better to let everyone down now before making promises I could not keep. No one needed me. Not my team. Not my family.
But it would be rude to just leave Hestia high and dry. She deserved a face-to-face explanation, just like my team did.
Oh, this was going to hurt.
They walked with her a few steps outside the tent, and she lifted her face toward the sun with her eyes closed, leaning into its warmth. I had seen her do this before. She used the bright bands of sunlight to help her focus.
Hey, don’t give me that look, Kia. If you need to find an object, I’m your guy. That’s what my powers are, finding and stealing treasure. If you need to trick something or someone, you’d have to ask Dolus. Tracking someone, well, you know who you’re going to need to ask.
Cheers arose from the maidens again, but without the jubilance of moments before. I saw the shadows of their personal nightmares cross their eyes. There was rage in their voices. These women would protect anyone who needed protection. They would destroy what could not be reasoned with.
We laughed and swam until the moon made an appearance, brightening the night sky. I walked out of the little pool, followed by a soaked mass of white and black fur. She stopped, and I braced myself as she shook her entire body, water droplets raining down on me. I jumped back, avoiding most of the spray.