Morpheus emerged from the staircase with a solemn look plaguing his features. I hadn’t seen him this grim since before we found Persephone. This quest had taken its toll on everyone, but Morph seemed to be taking this the worst. What had he seen down there? What terrible things were hurting him? My heart ached for him. I averted my eyes and regained my composure. I didn’t want to make him feel worse or make this any harder on him. We all have our deep burdens to bear. Some worse than others, but regardless, they were there. It’s something that I understood all too well.
Okay, Athena, get your shit together. Deep breath in through the nose and exhale. I returned my gaze to his.
“Everything is going well?” I asked as lightly as I could. He met my eyes and tried to manage a small smile. I appreciated the effort. Closing the distance between us, I gently laid my hand on his shoulder.
“Hey Morph, it’s going to be okay. We are all in this together. Don’t be afraid to lean on us. We are here for you.”
He met my eyes then.
“Thank you, Athena.” There was so much pain waiting behind those eyes. It never wavered. All I could do was nod. We still had so much to do. I knew that we needed to keep moving. The logic was there. But when your family hurts, so do you. Another deep breath before I continued. We had a long way to go yet, and I still had outside obligations in addition to helping Artemis. I wanted so much to fix everything for everyone. It’s part of the reason I kept stretching myself so thin. I wanted to do more than I was physically able. But until the day I could no longer feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and my corpse grew cold and rotted, I would continue to do everything that I could to take care of those I loved.
One last moment before Morph broke the silence with a small exhale of breath.
“Alright, Athena, my part is done. Now it is up to you,” he says as he hands me a key.
“You’re going to need this.”
“Thank you, Morph.”
I gave a nod, and we left.
We figured out what my trial would be. I was going to visit a graveyard…and not just any graveyard, but a pirate graveyard. This was not going to be a fun adventure, but at least I would get to hit something. The air in the cemetery was musty and smelled of things long dead. I wrinkled my nose involuntarily, I never cherished the smell. Things would be so much easier if I could just hit something. But there were rules I needed to follow if I didn’t want to cause an undead apocalypse for the mortals. I could not just lop their heads off or kill them the good old-fashioned way. I could not spill their thick, dead blood, or more would pop up like daisies in the spring. As a goddess, I had great stamina, but I definitely didn’t want to spend an eternity killing and re-killing the undead. It’s one of those things that would eventually get old.
Quietly, I walked through the graveyard and looked at the old and crumbling headstones. Leave it to the pirates to have the most interesting names. Honestly, I was surprised that there weren’t any Seymore-Butts…oh, wait, nevermind. There it is. The eye-roll was as involuntary as the wrinkling of my nose.
I needed a plan. I couldn’t rely on my brute strength here, I needed to be wise about it. Sure, there were plenty of things that I could hit them with. But that’s not going to be the trick. I had to get rid of them so I could retrieve the next piece of the puzzle. But how? How did I get rid of them? I could fashion a trap and ensnare them. Or I could tie them up and hope they wouldn’t just gnaw through the bindings, themselves, or each other. What if they spilled their own blood? I probably should have asked about that. Way to go Goddess of Wisdom…
From behind me, I could hear the telltale groaning and moaning of either the undead or a very bad sex tape being recorded. Given the current circumstances, I highly doubted that it was the sounds of those in the thralls of passion. But who knew with the way things had been going as of late? Unpredictable and just fucking weird seemed to be the norm.
The moans came closer. I guess it’s time to get the party started. Walking towards the approaching sound, it didn’t take long to find the source. In the most cliche of fashions, standing before me were the two most zombified zombies I could have ever encountered. Seriously, if there was a Zombie Weekly Magazine or an Undead and Uprising, these two would be the poster boys. I assumed, by what was left of them, that they were once male.
A quick scan of the area gave me the inspiration that I needed. Now I just had to get them to play along.
“Okay, boys, show of hands. Who here can fly and control storms, because I can.” Taking off into a sprint, I charged at them. Both stopped in their tracks and looked just as confused as undead. I supposed they were used to being the ones charging after people. Well, if you can’t beat them…
It wasn’t difficult to avoid their grasps as I jumped over them and used my hands to bang their heads together. It would scramble their brains if any were left rolling about in their skulls. Gently, I landed behind them and whistled.
“Hey boys, you missed me. I’m over here. Wanna try that again?” I taunted, mostly for my own amusement. I was sure that I looked like a walking meat-pop to them. I doubted what I was saying registered, but oh Hells, sometimes I enjoy being a snarky bitch. This would definitely qualify as one of those times. The pair of them ran at me again, and it’s simple to push one into the other, and watch as they toppled over. I tried not to laugh as they fell in slow-motion into a heap of undead extremities.
“Aw poor dears. Need me to move slower?” I continued to taunt. Clumsily, they untangled themselves and struggled to stand. I was sure they dislocated something. Their step was off as they tried to come at me from opposite sides. They collided once again, but managed to keep their balance this time.
In unison, they turned around and let out a terrible sound. It appeared that even zombies could be frustrated. Good. Slowly, I backed up to the edge of the graveyard. I knew that a cliff was close behind and needed them closer to it. Lucky for me, they were so excited to munch on my flesh that they blindly rushed at me. I almost felt sorry for them, except for the whole undead thing.
One last rush…
“Come on, boys, come and get me.” They rushed me one last time. I let them get uncomfortably close to succeed in my plan. The stench of their putrid and rotting flesh assaulted my nose and caused my eyes to water.
“Geez, you two need a bath. You smell so bad!” Pinching my nose to indicate their stench. The one on the left wailed, and they both charged at me full speed. I couldn’t help but smile. Arms outstretched and digging at the air, they clawed desperately, trying to reach me. They were nearly close enough to touch me before I jumped up and over them. Both tried desperately to stop their forward momentum, but were unsuccessful. They tumbled and rolled off the cliff.
Walking slowly to the edge, I peered down, watching as they fell into the water with a couple of splashes. At least that should keep them busy while I finish my task.
I walked back through the graveyard to re-examine the burial sites. Nothing looked undisturbed, but I knew I had to find the buried chest. There had to be a clue here somewhere. Something to point me in the right direction.
The chest did not seem to be by the large tree in the center of the ancient burial ground or near the graves. Where in the Hells is it? Slowly sitting back against the large boulder at the edge overlooking the water, I hoped to find it soon. Think Athena! Irritation bubbled inside of me, and I stomped my foot. Clank! I stomped again, Clank! Clank! What in the world? I stood from my perch and bent to examine the source of the sound. There was a small piece of metal protruding from under the boulder. I tugged at it, but it didn’t move. I needed something to pry it up. My gaze searched my surroundings, and I spotted a dilapidated wrought-iron fence on the far side of the burial ground. Hopefully, the integrity wasn’t too compromised. Rushing to the fence, or rather what was left of it, I pulled a piece free and returned to the metal plate.
Before I could pry it up, I needed to break up the ground around it a bit. A few well placed hits, and the ground loosened enough for me to jam one end under the metal and lift it open.
Once I was able to remove it, I dug as fast as I could. How did they fit a chest under this tiny area? Gah, I should have brought a shovel…or a bulldozer.
Clank clank. Well, that was fast. I dug around the object and pulled it up. It’s a chest, alright. The part we got wrong was the size. It was no bigger than six inches by six inches. I dusted off the miniature treasure chest and took the key that Morph gave me out of my pocket. Here is hoping that this key works. Gods know that nothing else has gone according to plan thus far on this trip. The key slid into the lock without hindrance and I heard the click.
Inside of the box was a single see-through stone. Lifting it up to examine it closer, I could see that it was a sunstone. It’s rare and beautiful. Searching the lining of the chest, I hoped for some directions for use, but of course, there weren’t any.
I really hoped that Selene and Artemis could use it to complete their quest. I placed the sunstone back into the tiny chest and closed it. One last look over the cliff showed the two undead pirates struggling to get to shore.
“Thanks gents, it’s been fun, but I have to run. Happy swimming.” I gave them a small salute and left the burial ground. I had to find Selene and give her the stone. This vacation was definitely not what I expected, but it had been an adventure. However, after this, I may need a vacation. A vacation from vacation. The thought brought a laugh to my lips.
If I had a glass, I would raise a toast to life and keep things weird. It never failed to disappoint.