“Hello?!” a concerned female voice cried out. Demeter slowly blinked and opened her eyes, but only saw darkness. Her head was throbbing, and the pulsating sound of her heartbeat was thudding in her ears. She felt dizzy and closed her eyes again.
“Are you okay?” the same voice cried out again. This time, the words sounded like they were reverberating off walls.
Demeter quickly shot up from the ground, squinting her eyes and attempting to figure out her surroundings.
Where am I? She thought, her brow furrowing.
The slight sliver of a crescent moon was barely peeking through the treetops of this small crevice she found herself in. Her neck was sore, and her head was pounding. And then it hit her – she was in Vermont…somewhere in the Bennington Triangle.
She had driven from the God Complex to the airport over a week ago. She recalled how the dark clouds had started to gloom overhead. She remembered feeling a little saddened that the brief sunshine she had experienced earlier that morning was only temporary. She was hoping for better weather in Vermont. As she reminisced about the past week, the weather seemed fitting for the task that lay ahead of her. She was determined to help all five people lost in the Bennington Triangle, and she knew she would be facing some obstacles.
She picked out pine needles that were sticking to her wool sweater and brushed the dirt from her clothes. It became apparent to Demeter that she must have slipped and fallen into this narrow area. She sighed exorbitantly loud as she realized she had torn her favorite yoga pants.
“Oh good, you are alive!” a female voice exclaimed from above. Although it was too dark and foggy to tell exactly where this figure was, Demeter could hear her clapping in relief. The woman was actually excited to see she was alive. Even still, Demeter kept her guard up because the stranger had the high ground.
Feeling uneasy at being in a vulnerable spot, Demeter closed her eyes and attempted to teleport out of this valley. Expecting to hear a pop, she opened her eyes again to find she stood in the exact same place. She concentrated and tried again. Nothing.
You just haven’t done it for a while. No need to panic.
It wasn’t that teleporting made her nervous. It was just that she didn’t do it very often and liked blending in with the mortals. She could have teleported straight to Vermont, but she didn’t want to exhaust her energy teleporting across continents. It had been a while since she needed to shift further than around Athens. It also gave her time to learn more about these missing people. Aegis had gathered more research for her to read on the plane.
Demeter took in a deep breath and gripped the emerald stone of the necklace. She concentrated and tried to teleport once again. This time, a strong gust of wind hit her side and knocked her to her knees. Demeter bit her lip and grimaced in pain.
“Are you okay?” the female cried out. The concern in the woman’s voice was starting to be slightly irritating to Demeter. She was used to being in control, not being knocked to her knees.
“Yes,” Demeter loudly grumbled. There is some trickery going on here, but is she behind it?
Demeter got back to her feet and collected herself, brushing the dirt from her knees. Without trying to be demanding, she called out firmly, “Who are you?”
“My name is Kara,” she answered promptly, but her voice was trembling. “I…I was kidnapped. I have been wandering around this mountain for months.”
Demeter’s brow furrowed, thinking out her next moves. Poor girl was kidnapped and had been here for weeks? I hadn’t read about anyone going missing recently. Aegis was very thorough with the archives he’d sent me. He wouldn’t have missed sending me this case.
“He told me I wouldn’t be able to find my way out of here…he said something about this being a cursed area,” she continued. It was apparent she wasn’t a fan of the silence. “He said Ares would come to rescue me.”
Demeter’s stomach dropped as she heard her favorite nephew’s name. It wasn’t a coincidence that she found herself here. And now, she was concerned for her Ares’ safety, too. She had left him a letter knowing he would come if she didn’t return on time. Was she leading him into a trap?
“Who are you?” Kara’s voice sounded strained.
“Your new rescuer,” Demeter replied calmly. “I’m Demeter, and I am pleased to meet you, Kara. I promise I will get you out of here.” But I need to figure a way out of this valley first.
“Well, maybe I can help you first.” Kara chuckled softly. “There are some large, sturdy boulders about a hundred yards away you can climb to get back up. I fell in there a couple weeks ago, slipped on some loose rocks, so be careful.”
Demeter’s eyes finally adjusted to her surroundings, but there was still a thick cloud of fog. Her knees were still tingling from falling on them earlier.
Which direction am I even facing? Hundreds of trees surrounded Demeter in this small crevice in the mountain, almost engulfing her. It wasn’t like her to lose her sense of direction, ever. Cursed place, indeed.
As she looked back up, she could see Kara above with her arm fully extended, pointing ahead. Carefully watching her footing, Demeter threaded through this narrow gorge, crunching on small leaves and pine needles as she went. Kara continued walking along the edge above her and kept trying to engage Demeter in conversation.
“You’re the first person I have seen since he left me here. I’ve gotten good at scavenging. The woods around here have some great forging spots, but I constantly get lost on this mountain. There are some random gusts of wind that happen, which really throw off my sense of direction.”
I am glad it wasn’t just me losing my sense of direction.
“You haven’t seen anyone else?” Demeter said as she stumbled slightly, stepping on a pinecone.
“No, I can’t seem to get off this mountain. He brought me to this cave, which has been a great shelter so far. Although, I’m worried that he may show up again…” Kara trailed off.
Demeter didn’t want to seem demanding, but she needed answers, and she needed them now. Especially with Kara eerily mentioning her nephew’s name earlier. “You seem to be skirting around who he is. Did he give you a name?”
“No…but I know what he looks like. He has icy blue eyes, dark hair, wearing all black. I spent only a brief amount of time with him before he left me here,” Kara replied casually, but halted her steps. “The path up is right here.”
Demeter saw the large boulders, they were nearly her height, but sturdy enough to climb. She swung her leg up on top of the first one. Good thing I have been keeping up on my yoga. She climbed and pulled her way to the top boulder. Kara reached out her hand, which Demeter happily accepted, and she pulled her up onto the ledge. She carefully took note of the girl. She had brown hair and a youthful appearance. She carried what appeared to be a handcrafted spear that also seemed to function as her walking stick. She is just as resourceful as Ares.
Kara smiled brightly. “I am just so happy to see someone. Look, it is late, and the cave I’ve made shelter in is over here,” she said as she swirled around and pointed with her spear. “No, sorry, it is over there.” Kara pointed to a large tree that some symbol was carved into, which was the complete opposite direction she was pointing before.
Demeter kept her guard up and a hand on the sickle inside her bag as she closely followed Kara. The girl seemed to know her way around this mountainside. It wasn’t long before they arrived at the small cave.
“I know it isn’t much,” Kara said as she grabbed an already smoldering stick and lit the pile of kindling inside a circle of stones, “but it has been home.”
After realizing she wasn’t in any immediate danger, Demeter sat down on the rocky floor by the campfire. As the flames grew larger, she could see that Kara had drawn a city landscape in ash along the walls. She could also see the girl much more clearly. She had brown hair and was a beautiful young lady, even with the scrapes, bruises, and dirt all over her very thin body. Kara grabbed some berries from her bag and handed them to Demeter, but she refused.
“Oh no, honey, please eat up. You need it more than I do,” Demeter said in a motherly tone. “You have some very good artistic skills. You must miss home.”
“Yes, I would very much like to get out of here before I become some type of sacrifice,” Kara replied somberly, holding her knees to her chest.
“It was the only thing he really said to me. That he wanted to claim what was rightfully his or something, and that he should be rightfully sitting in the pantheon. I didn’t quite understand what he was saying, so I just let him ramble on, and stayed quiet. I had told him off before he teleported me here, so I really didn’t want to anger him more.”
“He was able to teleport here? In this cave?”
Kara pointed to the far right corner. Demeter immediately grabbed the smoldering stick Kara used earlier and stuck it into the fire, which lit up after a few seconds. She walked over to the corner and looked closely at the area. There were some ancient carvings she didn’t recognize carved into the floor. Kara got up and bent over Demeter’s shoulder. As Demeter traced the symbol with her fingertips, it glowed a dark green, and a mist filled the area. Within moments, there was a pop, and a man dressed in all black appeared with his back turned.
“You finally summoned me, Ares. It has been too long,” said the man in a very long, drawn-out tone. As he turned, Kara gasped, and Demeter stepped in front of her.
“No, not Ares,” Demeter replied, cautiously looking at the symbol. The bright green light from it was fading. The man turned sharply on his black loafers.
“Demeter!” he exclaimed. “Did your nephew send you here to do his dirty work for him?”
“I am not sure who you are,” Demeter narrowed her eyes as she pointed the burning stick towards his face, “but Ares is definitely a better man than you are. Kidnapping a mortal, how could you?” He jumped away from the flame, and she gripped Kara’s hand.
He opened his mouth like he would answer, but Demeter cut him off. “Don’t bother. I really don’t care.” The symbol glowed again, and just as she teleported, she could see the shock in the man’s eyes.
Oh, how I missed that sound.
Kara nearly toppled Demeter to the ground as she hugged her tightly in the middle of a roadway. Demeter held the girl and looked down. There was another symbol, but it was facing the opposite direction, and the light was fading quicker this time. They were on the outskirts of the Bennington Triangle.
“I can’t believe we escaped!” Kara said happily, tears of joy streaming down her face. “Did you see his face? He was so mad!”
“Look, I know you won’t like this,” Demeter said firmly, “but I need to move quickly and help the other missing people. That man may be using them as sacrifices, and time is of the essence.” Kara’s smile faded from her face. “My nephew is in the God Complex in Athens. He needs to be warned. Find him and please stay safe.”
Kara nodded and gripped Demeter tightly in acknowledgment. She stepped back and wiped the tears from her face. And with that, Demeter attempted to teleport back to the cave. Nothing. She sighed.
This area is so particular with magic. No matter, I will just walk.
“Goodbye, Demeter,” Kara said sorrowfully and waved as Demeter quickly jogged back into the forest.