The blemmyae closed in.
“Look out!” Calypso yelled.
Leo swerved just in time to deflect a wrought-iron bench off our dozer blade. Unfortunately, that opened us up to a different attack. Nanette threw her street sign like a harpoon. The metal pole pierced the bulldozer’s chassis in a burst of steam and grease, and our getaway ride shuddered to a halt.
“Great,” Calypso said. “Now what?”
This would have been an excellent time for my godly strength to return. I could have waded into battle, tossing my enemies aside like rag dolls. Instead, my bones seemed to liquefy and pool in my shoes. My hands shook so badly I doubted I could unwrap my bow even if I tried. Oh, that my glorious life should end this way—crushed by polite headless people in the American Midwest!
Nanette leaped onto the hood of our bulldozer, giving me a ghastly view straight up her nostrils. Leo tried to blast her with flames, but this time Nanette was prepared. She opened her mouth and swallowed the fireball, showing no sign of distress except for a small burp.
“Don’t feel too bad, dears,” she told us. “You never would have gained access to the blue cave. The emperor has it too well guarded! A shame you have to die, though. The naming celebration is in three days, and you and the girl were supposed to be the main attractions in his slave procession!”
I was too terrified to fully process her words. The girl…Did she mean Meg? Otherwise I heard only blue—die—slave, which at the moment seemed an accurate summary of my existence.
I knew it was hopeless, but I slipped my bow from my shoulder and began to unwrap it. Suddenly an arrow sprouted between Nanette’s eyes. She went cross-eyed trying to see it, then tumbled backward and crumbled to dust.
I stared at my blanketed weapon. I was a fast archer, yes. But I was fairly sure I hadn’t fired that shot.
A shrill whistle caught my attention. In the middle of the plaza, standing atop the fountain, a woman crouched in faded jeans and a silvery winter coat. A white birch bow gleamed in her hand. On her back, a quiver bristled with arrows. My heart leaped, thinking that my sister Artemis had come to help me at last! But no…this woman was at least sixty years old, her gray hair tied back in a bun. Artemis would never appear in such a form.
For reasons she had never shared with me, Artemis had an aversion to looking any older than, say, twenty. I’d told her countless times that beauty was ageless. All the Olympian fashion magazines will tell you that four thousand is the new one thousand, but she simply wouldn’t listen.
The gray-haired woman shouted, “Hit the pavement!”
All around the plaza, manhole-size circles appeared in the asphalt. Each one scissored open like the iris of a camera and turrets sprang up—mechanical crossbows swiveling and sweeping red targeting lasers in every direction.
The blemmyae didn’t try to take cover. Perhaps they didn’t understand. Perhaps they were waiting for the gray-haired woman to say please.
I, however, didn’t need to be an archery god to know what would happen next. I tackled my friends for the second time that day. (Which, in retrospect, I have to admit felt a wee bit satisfying.) We tumbled off the bulldozer as the crossbows fired in a flurry of sharp hisses.
When I dared to raise my head, nothing was left of the blemmyae but piles of dust and clothing.
The gray-haired woman jumped from the top of the fountain. Given her age, I was afraid she might break her ankles, but she landed gracefully and strolled toward us, her bow at her side.
Wrinkles were etched across her face. The skin under her chin had begun to sag. Liver spots dotted the backs of her hands. Nevertheless, she held herself with the regal confidence of a woman who had nothing left to prove to anyone. Her eyes flashed like moonlight on water. Something about those eyes was very familiar to me.
She studied me for a count of five, then shook her head in amazement. “So it’s true. You’re Apollo.”
Her tone was not the general Oh, wow, Apollo! sort of attitude I was used to. She said my name as if she knew me personally.
“H-have we met?”
“You don’t remember me,” she said. “No, I don’t suppose you would. Call me Emmie. And the ghost you saw—that was Agamethus. He led you to our doorstep.”
The name Agamethus definitely sounded familiar, but as usual, I couldn’t place it. My human brain just kept giving that annoying memory full message, asking me to delete a few centuries of experiences before I could continue.
Emmie glanced at Leo. “Why are you in your underwear?”
Leo sighed. “Been a long morning, abuela, but thanks for the assist. Those crossbow turrets are the bomb-diggity.”
“Thank you….I think.”
“Yeah, so maybe you could help us with Cal here?” Leo continued. “She’s not doing so well.”
Emmie crouched next to Calypso, whose complexion had turned the color of cement. The sorceress’s eyes were shut, her breathing ragged.
“She’s badly hurt.” Emmie frowned as she studied Calypso’s face. “You said her name was Cal?”
“Calypso,” Leo said.
“Ah.” Emmie’s worry lines deepened. “That explains it. She looks so much like Zoë.”
A knife twisted inside me. “Zoë Nightshade?”
In her feverish state, Calypso muttered something I couldn’t make out…perhaps the name Nightshade.
For centuries, Zoë had been Artemis’s lieutenant, the leader of her Hunters. She’d died in battle just a few years ago. I didn’t know if Calypso and Zoë had ever met, but they were half sisters—both daughters of the Titan Atlas. I’d never considered how much they looked alike.
I regarded Emmie. “If you knew Zoë, then you must be one of my sister’s Hunters. But you can’t be. You’re…”
I stopped myself before I could say old and dying. Hunters neither aged nor died, unless they were killed in combat. This woman was quite obviously mortal. I could sense her fading life energy…so depressingly like mine; not at all like an immortal being’s. It’s hard to explain how I could tell, but it was perfectly clear to me—like hearing the difference between a perfect fifth and a diminished fifth.
In the distance, emergency sirens wailed. I realized we were having this conversation in the middle of a small disaster zone. Mortals, or more blemmyae, would soon be arriving.
Emmie snapped her fingers. All around the plaza, the crossbow turrets retracted. The portals closed as if they’d never existed.
“We need to get off the street,” Emmie said. “Come, I’ll take you into the Waystation.”
No building should be
A secret from Apollo
Or drop bricks on him
WE DIDN’T HAVE TO GO FAR.
Carrying Calypso between us, Leo and I followed Emmie to the big ornate building at the plaza’s south end. As I suspected, it was a railroad depot at some point. Carved in granite under the rose window were the words UNION STATION.
Emmie ignored the main entrance. She veered right and stopped in front of a wall. She ran her finger between the bricks, tracing the shape of a doorway. Mortar cracked and dissolved. A newly cut door swung inward, revealing a narrow chute like a chimney with metal rungs leading up.
“Nice trick,” Leo said, “but Calypso’s not exactly in wall-climbing condition.”