As I fell to the ground, I felt hot liquid dribble down my neck from my ear, the screams of pain still echoing. My breath came in heaves, my right side refusing to move. Suddenly, someone was trying to press something into my shoulder. I batted at the hand, hissing in pain. “Stop that!” I glanced up. There were two people there. When did Tia split?
“Tia, give me the key,” Artemis said. Adrestia looked around for the key, seeming to have forgotten about it.
When did Artie get here? “What are you doing here? When did you get here? Did you see me fight? I could have done better.”
Artemis knelt and checked my pupils. “She’s fine,” said Adrestia. Just being her Hestia self.”
I gave both of them a look. “Here’s the key,” Adrestia said.
My friend dropped it in the pouch. The slight sense of confusion fogging my mind lifted as soon as the pouch was sealed. At least, I think it did. The ground had started to move.
“Do I need to get either of you to Apollo, or shall we get some information from your attacker?” Artemis asked.
“Apollo? Isn’t he that rock star that’s all the rage in New York?” I asked before I held up my hand. “So, who slipped me ambrosia? Why is the ground moving?” With that, my eyes rolled back in my head as I collapsed onto the ground.
I shot up, my face breaking the surface of the water. My lungs burned, and I gasped for air, rubbing water off my face. I glanced around and saw that I was on an island shore. Wait, I didn’t hurt anymore? I ran my hand over my shoulder, noticing it was healed and I was in a sundress that clung to my skin.
“Hello?” I asked, hoping someone would be around. I could see a dock and several huts on the far end of the beach. Several flamingos were feeding themselves by the dock. Why were they here? I was just in Utah, not exactly known for the pink birds. Was this Apollo’s place? If it was, why did he drop me into the water and then disappear?
I walked along the beach, noting that my footprints were the only ones to mar the sand. Well, besides the other critters running around. When I reached the dock, I was surprised to see a large jade crystal set upon a pedestal. I fit my hand to the handprint carved into the gem and it started to glow.
“Welcome, Hestia. My harpies made quick work of you. You are now trapped within the Mysts of Time,” said a garbled voice, a darkened image appearing above the crystal.
“Dude, did you rip off Myst?” I spat.
“No,” said the voice a little too quickly.
“You totally did. There’s the domed building. Then those stairs leading up to the blocky building, that’s the library. And over there is the massive pine tree in the hole,” I said, pointing to each location as I spoke.
“So what if I did?” he asked.
“Then there is a way out of here. It’s just a matter of unlocking everything. Besides, this is my mind. Regardless of what you might have done, it’s still mine, and I dictate the rules here. You might have me trapped, but if I say there is a way back, my mind will find it,” I taunted.
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” huffed the blurred image before disappearing.
I shrugged. “Time to find the way out of here,” I said to myself before starting my walk around the island’s shore. I would have to solve a puzzle in order to unlock my mind. If this followed the rules of the game, I’d have to find pages in a few books and then ride a hidden elevator. I’d expect that whoever did this would have changed it, but then again, he hadn’t expected me to recognize the island.
Oh, that was why he did it. He didn’t expect a goddess to know about something so new. The whole PC era of the last thirty years was an eye blink for an immortal. It took a lot to get most of us to pay attention to the changes. However, most of my fellow gods were not connected to every home. When things changed there, I noticed. I played with all the new-fangled toys that showed up. After all, how could I represent the home if I didn’t know what went on inside?
Let’s see here. I remembered the puzzles, so I shouldn’t have to find all the answers to unlock everything. I didn’t need to find the fortress and rotate it to write down the symbols, but I’d still need to get the linking books. Uhg, this was going to take some time, but Artie and Tia would guard my body until I returned to it.
Unless that was the whole point of this looking like Myst, thus tricking me into thinking I already knew how to solve everything. His reaction could have been an act. I stopped walking and sat on the beach, looking out over the lake. How was I going to get out of this nonsense?
Wait, I was the Goddess of the Hearth. I just had to follow that back out, duh! This was my mind, after all. All I had to do was wait for whatever was causing this to be purged and then follow the line of my power. That would piss off Mr. Shadow by defeating his puzzle by doing nothing.
I closed my eyes and crossed my legs, resting my wrists on my knees. Slowly, I let out a breath before inhaling through the nose. I focused inward, finding that ball of power within my core. I looked it over, searching for blocks or leeches. My brow furrowed when I didn’t find any. He had to be doing something to cause this. I found one of the threads that connected me to a strong hearth and pulled.
“I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Cidital,” said a male voice. I shook my head as I opened my eyes. I was sitting cross-legged in the middle of a space station, and a bird man and a lizard man followed an angry-looking gentleman in black carbon-fiber body armor.
“Miss?” asked Shepard as he stepped up to me. “Is everything alright? You’re kinda blocking everyone here.”
I waved my hand at him. “Just another strange dream. I’ll be out of your hair in just a moment.” I closed my eyes and pulled again.
Before I could open my eyes to a new scene, I heard a man speaking with an Italian accent. “It’s me, Mario.” Nope, not dealing with Koopas today. How many places will I pull through before I get out of here? I hope not that many more. Alas, I think I might keep bouncing until I can get rid of this poison in my body. Is it a bad thing to wait out the storm here? Eh, everything’s pretty much flame, and I’m the flame girl. I could play a little Mario while I wait, I guess.
“Hello there, I’m Hestia. I’m just passing through. Shall we save your princess?” I asked with a grin.
“It’s me, Mario,” said the short man with a red hat.
“Pleasure to meet you,” I said, holding my hand out.
“It’s me, Mario,” he said again with a slightly confused look.
“Oh, so that’s all you can say? Come on then,” I said as I rushed forward, leaping over a hole in the ground. It could be worse, like being in Myst or Mass Effect. As long as my mind supplies the rules properly, there isn’t anything to worry about. It’s going to be fun.
As I came down from the jump, the ground disappeared while the air was filled with dark laughter. The space around me morphed into a shadowy maw that slammed closed behind me. The darkness was suffocating, and the silence was deafening. I could hear the throb of my heart and small pops from my toes as I wiggled them to try to center myself in the here and now.
Not that anything changed, but I closed my eyes as I felt the panic rising in my chest. The darkness was absolute. I was never in the dark as the Hearth is lit somewhere in the world. There was a reason Prometheus gave fire to the mortals, one that no one knew. He understood the terror of the dark. He knew what it was like to be alone in the world.
Darkness was where the hunter takes his prey. It was where the snake rose to bite you. It was where bad things happened. Prometheus felt that fear. Without him, I’d not be here, at least not as I am. Who was I?
“I am Hestia,” I said softly. I swallowed hard, not able to even hear my own voice. “I am Hestia,” I said louder. This time I could hear a little. “I AM HESTIA, GODDESS OF THE HEARTH AND HOME!” I bellowed as fire danced down my hair and across my arms. The darkness recoiled, thrusting me into the light.