I. The Mountain
I was standing atop Mitikas, Mount Olympus's tallest peak, peering back at the rocky path I had traveled to get to this point. I was alone, having left my new roommate Hannah, her aunt Melina, and Erika, one of the two girls who would be sharing our building, down below. After a picnic lunch, the others had laid down to rest and I snuck off—I couldn't go back to my friends in America, hanging my head and telling them I went to Mount Olympus but didn't make it quite to the top. I knew I could handle the climb. The way up had admittedly been a bit rough, but I was never in any kind of real danger.
A chill wind blew on the back of my neck, making me shiver.
"Sophie Lannon," a deep, masculine voice boomed.
I let out a small, embarrassingly shrill shriek and leapt quickly, turning to search for the source of the voice. This was not only terrifying, but downright impossible. The only people in this country who knew me so far were the three women waiting below, Erika's roommate Nita—who was currently in Athens—and Melina's husband, who was weak and lanky and whose voice was quite nasally. This was most assuredly not him. This voice was powerful and commanding. I squinted, not seeing anyone at first. All I could see was a strange, swirling gathering of gray clouds at some distance ahead of me.
"Is—is anyone there?" I called out, feeling a bit foolish. I felt like I must have imagined it. Could high altitudes make a person hallucinate?
"Don't be afraid, Sophie," the voice said. "I don't intend to harm you."
"That's not very reassuring," I squinted, peering around for some sign of movement.
I watched, not trusting my own eyes, as the clouds began to form into the shape of a man. Slowly, the clouds began to solidify somehow, and then a flesh-and-blood man was standing in front of me. His muscular arms, legs and chest were tanned and rugged looking, and he had a dark gray, curly mass of hair on his head and face. He had piercing silvery-blue eyes and he wore impossibly clean pure white garments made of cloth. A piece of cloth was wrapped around his waist and attached with some kind of golden clip to a white sash that reached across his otherwise bare chest and over his shoulder. I suppose I would have to describe him as being good-looking in an older gentleman kind of way, but that wasn't really my thing. And I wasn't much into the whole toga party scene, either.
"I have a gift for you," the man said, smiling in a kind and almost familial way.
I looked him over with suspicious eyes and saw sparks flying from his fingertips. I could hear them crackling faintly. I held my head. I didn't feel dizzy.
"Who are you?" I asked.
The man chuckled, "Haven't you a guess?"
"The smart part of my brain is telling me that I'm hallucinating the king of the gods because I'm on Mount Olympus," I said. "I know it's called mythology for a reason. I didn't know high altitudes could do this to you—I'm guessing that's the cause. Unless I've some kind of undiagnosed mental condition."
"You don't have any condition that I know of," the man—Zeus, presumably—said, smiling. "And I think the Fates would have told me—I know them personally, after all. They sent me here, in fact."
"This is good. Yeah, this is really clever, actually," I said. "I've got to pay attention to my subconscious more often. There's some really creative stuff in there, isn't there?"
Zeus smiled knowingly.
"I wouldn't doubt it. But could your subconscious do this?"
He snapped his fingers and dark clouds gathered directly above Mitikas, and rain pounded down onto my head. Real raindrops, huge and dense, struck my upturned hand somewhat violently, and my hair and clothes stuck to my skin. Zeus lifted a hand and a lightning bolt flew out of it and up into the clouds.
"Okay, stop!" I shouted, feeling quite soaked enough. "I get it."
The storm stopped immediately, and a warm wind blew at me, drying my clothes to some degree. I looked at Zeus, then down at myself. I pinched myself—not a dream, okay. I was quite sure hallucinations couldn't go to the extent of actually feeling like this, but my knowledge of hallucinations was admittedly shaky. I decided to accept this as reality, at least for now. Couldn't hurt, right?
"Okay, so if you are real," I said, "what do you want with me?"
"The Fates sent me," Zeus said.
"Yeah, yeah, you said that," I said. "Wait—you're Zeus. If you're here to shower me with a golden rain and make me have your babies, I do not consent. No babies for me, please. Not now—not ever."
Zeus threw his head back and let out a roaring laugh.
"No, sorry, Sophie, but you're not really my type," he said.
"Thank god," I said. "Uh—gods, rather. Or thank you, I suppose. You're not really my type either."
"I'm here because the gods of Olympus need you—we need your assistance," Zeus said.
"Ha! That's a laugh," I said. "The gods need my help? No. You must have the wrong girl."
"I do not have the wrong girl," Zeus boomed a bit angrily, thunder rumbling in the distance. "The Fates have sent me here in search of a Sophie Lannon, and that is you. You are the only one who can help us."
"The only one? Right. And how do you suppose I'll be able to help you all? With the biting power of my sarcasm?"
"I do not know the specifics, you insolent girl, but the Fates are never wrong," Zeus said, his hands crackling with electricity.
"Whoa there," I said. "Don't smite me—you need me, remember?"
"Right," Zeus said, clearly trying to keep himself calm.
"I rather like her," a smooth, slithery voice behind me said as a cold hand covered my shoulder.
I turned in surprise. A man with a wild mane of black hair and an equally unruly beard now stood next to me. His hand squeezed my shoulder tightly, making me a bit uncomfortable as his dark eyes stared at me appraisingly. His face was somewhat long but not unattractive—he appeared much younger than Zeus, although obviously both of them were older than I could probably imagine. He wore black robes, held together with a gold sapphire-encrusted cinch. I noticed he had rings with precious metals on every finger as well as similarly bedazzled bangles. His skin was pale, presumably from never seeing the light of day—this had to be…
"Hades, I presume?"
"Well, well, well," he said, sliding an arm around my shoulders. "Girl has done her homework. You can come stay at my palace anytime."
"What would Persephone think?" I asked, looking him up and down and probably sounding a bit more flirtatious than was wise.
"You're a smart one," he said, looking at me with interest. "And sassy. Just my type."
I ignored him, shrugging his arm away and turning my attention back to Zeus.
"So what is it you want?"
"Someone is trying to overthrow us and gain power over the earth," Zeus responded with an air of importance.
I tried to look as bored as possible, choosing my nails as an appropriate fixation, "And who says that would be such a bad thing? If you're in charge of the whole world, you should know there's a thing or two wrong with it."
"It's not as simple as you think," Zeus said seriously, clearly bristling with suppressed anger. "We do the best we can, but whoever it is that's trying to take over has made it clear that their intentions are not good. Not in the best interest of human beings at all."
"Alright, so suppose I do agree to help you—not than I am yet," I said, still finding it difficult to accept that any of this was happening and therefore still acting nonchalantly. "What do you suppose I can do?"
"We Olympians have agreed to lend you our powers ," Zeus said. "You will be able to call upon each of our powers whenever you need them in order to help us. I don't know why it is, but the Fates have unanimously agreed that you are the only person capable of stopping whatever evil forces are trying to overthrow us. Perhaps because of your unique circumstances, whatever they may be—I don't know. But we do need your help."
"What's in it for me?" I asked.
Zeus looked shocked.
"Besides… preserving your species? Or at least its free will?"
"How does unlimited fortune sound?" Hades asked, resting an arm on my shoulder and smiling at me knowingly.
"Not so bad," I said with a smile—I was beginning to like him.
"So you'll do it?" Zeus asked eagerly.
"Well, I don't see why not," I said. "If the Fates say it… it has to be true, right?"
Zeus and Hades both agreed.
"Alright then," I said. "Do your thing or whatever it is you need to do to give me access to your godly power."
I stood, hands on my hips, feeling extremely self-important. Zeus lifted a hand, palm facing me. I suddenly saw a group of others standing around him, all pointing their palms towards me. I had just opened my mouth to say something, when there was a blinding flash of light—and that was it.
I woke up as the sky was beginning to darken.
"Shit!" I said, looking around me to find that I was, in fact, on Mitikas—I must have fallen asleep. It was all a dream, and it was getting late. My new friends would be worried, and I'd need to be getting back to them.
I scrambled down the mountainside, nearly face planting several times. Soon enough, I heard female voices yelling my name urgently.
"I'm here! I'm here!" I shouted back. "I'm okay!"
Hannah was the first to find me, and she threw herself at me, pulling me into a hug.
"Oh, thank god," she said.
I was a bit alarmed at the display of affection, as I barely knew the girl. We'd just met a couple days before when we'd moved our things into an apartment in Athens. But I suppose she was just relieved that I wasn't dead or something. Erika and Melina came next.
"Where did you run off to?" Melina scolded. "The mountains are so unsafe, you could have been killed."
"I was fine," I assured. "I wanted to check out Mitikas since we weren't going as a group, and I thought I'd be back before you all finished resting but… I guess I… fell asleep or something. Somehow."
"Careless," Melina said, shaking her head. "You should not have gone off by yourself—especially without telling anyone. Oh, but I'm just glad you're safe."
Then she pulled me into a hug. The affection was becoming overwhelming.
"Okay, okay," I said, feeling embarrassed. "Can we go back to the refuge now? I'm starving."
Everyone agreed, and we headed back to the camp. I couldn't stop thinking about the fantastic dream I had had on Mitikas. I couldn't remember falling asleep—perhaps the change in altitude had made me pass out or something. I don't know if that's even a thing. Regardless, it was all worth it for that fantastic dream. I hoped that being in a place as magical as Greece would inspire many more like it.