“If you guys don’t stop making out, I’m going to be sick.”
Daphne Cruz giggled and laid another loud, smacking kiss on her boyfriend, Carson Callahan. Princess pink sparks of magic shot off my best friend’s fingertips and flickered in the air around the couple, the tiny rainbows of color almost as bright as Carson’s flaming cheeks.
I rolled my eyes. “Seriously, seriously sick.”
Daphne quit kissing Carson long enough to turn and stare at me. “Oh, get over it, Gwen. We’re not making out. Not in this stuffy old museum.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Really? Then why is Carson wearing more of your lip gloss than you are?”
Carson’s blush deepened, his dusky brown skin taking on a fiery, tomato tint. The band geek pushed his black glasses up his nose and swiped his hand over his mouth, trying to scrub away the remains of the lip gloss, but all he really did was get pink glitter all over his fingers. Daphne giggled, then pressed another kiss to the band geek’s lips.
I sighed. “C’mon, c’mon. Break it up, lovebirds. The museum closes at five, and we haven’t seen half the artifacts we’re supposed to for myth-history class.”
“Fine,” Daphne pouted, stepping away from Carson. “Be a spoilsport.”
I rolled my eyes again. “Yeah, well, this
happens to be concerned about her grades. So, let’s go to the next room. There are supposed to be some really cool weapons in there, according to the exhibit brochure.”
Daphne crossed her arms over her chest. She narrowed her black eyes and glared at me for interrupting her fun, but she and Carson followed me as I stepped through a doorway and left the main part of the museum behind.
It was a few days after New Year’s, and the three of us were in the Crius Coliseum, a museum located on the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina. Visiting a museum didn’t exactly top my list of fun things to do, but all the second-year students at Mythos Academy were supposed to schlep over to the coliseum sometime during the winter holidays to view a special exhibit of artifacts. Since classes started back at the academy in the morning, today was our last chance to finish the assignment. It was bad enough that I and all the other warrior whiz kids at Mythos were being trained to fight the Reapers of Chaos. But homework over the holidays, too? That was
Daphne, Carson, and I had gotten here about three o’clock, and we’d been wandering around the museum for the last ninety minutes, going from one display to the next. From the outside, the Crius Coliseum looked like just another building, just another museum, tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains in and around the city.
Inside, though, it was a different story.
Walking through the front door of the museum was like stepping back in time to ancient Rome. The main room had been designed to resemble a grand coliseum, and white marble rolled out as far as the eye could see, broken up by towering pillars. Gold, silver, and bronze leaf glinted here and there on the walls before spreading up to cover the entire ceiling in dazzling disks of color. Sapphires and rubies burned like colorful coals in the necklaces and rings on display, while the fine silks and other garments shimmered inside their glass cases, looking as light and delicate as spun sugar. The museum staff even wore long, flowing white togas, adding to the effect.
But it wasn’t just ancient Rome that was on display. Every room had a specific theme and displayed a different culture, from Norse to Greek to Russian to Japanese and all the lands and peoples in between. That’s because the coliseum was devoted to members of the Pantheon. Gods, goddesses, ancient warriors, mythological creatures—the Pantheon was a group of good magic guys who’d originally joined forces to save the world.
Way back in the day, the evil Norse trickster god Loki had tried to enslave everyone and had plunged the world into the long, bloody Chaos War. But the members of the Pantheon had risen up to stop Loki and his followers, the Reapers of Chaos. Eventually, the other gods and goddesses had locked Loki away in a mythological prison, far removed from the mortal realm. Now, the coliseum showcased the artifacts—jewelry, clothing, armor, weapons, and more—that both sides had used during the Chaos War and other battles. Despite Loki’s imprisonment, the fight between the Pantheon and the Reapers had continued over the years with new generations of warriors and creatures battling one another.
Of course, what most people didn’t realize was that Loki was
to breaking free of his prison and starting another Chaos War. It was something I thought about all the time, though—especially since I was somehow supposed to stop the evil god from escaping.
“This is cool,” Daphne said.
She pointed to a curved bow inside a glass case. The bow was made out of a single piece of onyx, inlaid with bits of gold scrollwork, and strung with several thin golden threads. A matching onyx quiver sat next to the bow, although only a single golden arrow lay inside the slender tube.
Daphne leaned down and read the bronze plaque mounted on the pedestal below the weapon. “This says that the bow once belonged to Sigyn, the Norse goddess of devotion, and that every time you pull the arrow out of the quiver, another one appears to take its place. Okay, now that’s
“I like this better,” Carson said, pointing to a curled ivory horn that resembled a small, handheld tuba. Bits of onyx glimmered on the smooth surface. “It says it’s the Horn of Roland. Not sure what it does, though.”
I blinked. I’d been so lost in my thoughts about Loki, Reapers, and the Pantheon that I’d just been wandering around, instead of actually looking at the artifacts like we were supposed to.
We stood in an enormous circular room filled with weapons. Swords, staffs, spears, daggers, bows, and throwing stars glinted from within glass cases and in spots on the walls, next to oil paintings of mythological battles. The entire back wall was made out of the same white marble as the rest of the museum, although a variety of mythological creatures had been carved into the surface. Gryphons, gargoyles, dragons, chimeras, Gorgons with snakelike hair and cruel smiles.
An ancient knight dressed in full battle armor perched on a stuffed horse on a raised dais in the center of the room. The knight had a lance in his hand and looked like he was about to charge forward and skewer the wax figure of a Roman centurion that also stood on the dais, his sword raised to fend off the charging knight. Other figures were scattered throughout the area, including a Viking wearing a horned helmet who was poised to bring his massive battle-axe down onto the shield of the Spartan standing next to him. A few feet away, two female figures representing a Valkyrie and an Amazon held swords and dispassionately watched the Viking and the Spartan in their eternal epic battle.
I stared at the Viking and the Spartan, and, for a moment, their features flickered and seemed to move. Their wax lips drew up into angry snarls; their fingers tightened around the hilts of their weapons; their whole bodies tensed up in anticipation of the battle that was to come. I shivered and looked away. My Gypsy gift, my psychometry magic, had been acting up ever since we’d entered the museum.
“Hmph. Well, I don’t think that bow is so bloody special,” a voice with a snooty English accent muttered. “I think it’s rather boring.
I looked down at the source of the voice: Vic, the sword sheathed in the black leather scabbard hanging off my waist. Vic wasn’t your typical sword. For starters, instead of having a plain hilt, the sword actually had half a face inlaid into the silver metal there. A single ear, a hooked nose, a slash of a mouth. All that joined together to form the sword’s hilt, along with a round bulge of an eye. It always seemed to me like there was a man trapped inside the metal, trying to get out. I didn’t know exactly who or what Vic was, other than rude, bossy, and bloodthirsty. The sword was always going on and on and
about how we should go find some Reapers to kill.
Actually, there was just one Reaper I wanted to kill—the girl who’d murdered my mom.
A crumpled car. A sword slicing through the rain. And blood—so much blood ...
The memories of my mom’s murder bubbled to the surface of my mind, threatening to overwhelm me, but I pushed them away and forced myself to focus on my friends, who were still staring at the onyx bow and ivory horn.
I’d brought Vic along today because I thought he might enjoy seeing the items on display. Besides, I’d needed someone to talk to while Daphne and Carson had been giggling and tongue-wrestling with each other. The two of them were so into each other that it was rather disgusting at times, especially given the sad state of my own love life.
“It’s just a bow, after all,” Vic continued. “Not anything important. Not a
I rolled my eyes. Oh, yeah. Vic talked, too—mostly about how awesome he was.
“Well, some of us happen to like bows,” Daphne sniffed, looking down at the sword.
“And that’s what’s wrong with you, Valkyrie,” Vic said.
The sword stared at her. Vic only had one eye, and it was a curious color—not quite purple but not quite gray either. Really, Vic’s eye reminded me of the color of twilight, that soft shade that streaked the sky just before the world went dark for the night.
“And you, Celt,” Vic said, turning his attention to Carson. “Gwen told me that you prefer to use a staff. A staff! It doesn’t even have a bloody
on the end of it. Disgraceful, the things they’re teaching you warrior kids at Mythos these days.”
Every kid who went to Mythos Academy was some sort of warrior, including the three of us. Daphne was a Valkyrie, Carson was a Celt, and I was a Gypsy, all of us the descendants of the Pantheon warriors who’d first taken on Loki and his Reapers. Now, we carried on that tradition in modern times by going to the academy and learning how to use whatever skills and magic we had to fight against the Reapers of Chaos. And we weren’t the only ones. Vikings, Romans, Amazons, Ninjas, Samurais, Spartans. All those warriors and more could be found at the academy.
“Disgraceful, I say,” Vic crowed again.
Carson looked at me. I just shrugged. I’d only had Vic a few months, but I’d quickly learned there was no controlling the mouthy sword. Vic said whatever he liked, whenever he liked, as loudly as he liked. And if you dared to disagree with him, he was more than happy to discuss the matter further—while I pressed his blade up against your throat.
Vic and Daphne glared at each other before the Valkyrie turned to Carson and started talking to the band geek about how cool the bow was. I wandered through the rest of the room, peering at the other artifacts. Vic kept up his running monologue about how swords were the only
weapons, with him, of course, being the best sword
. I made agreeing noises when appropriate. It was easier than trying to argue with him.
Daphne and Carson continued to look at the bow, and Vic finished his rant and fell silent once more. I was reading about a ball of silver thread that had belonged to Ariadne, who gave it to Theseus to help him find his way through the labyrinth where the Minotaur was kept, when shoes tapped on the floor and someone walked up beside me.
“Gwendolyn Frost,” a snide voice murmured. “Fancy seeing you here.”
I turned and found myself face-to-face with a forty-something-year-old guy with black hair, cold blue eyes, and skin that was as white as the marble floor. He wore a dark blue suit and a pair of wingtips that had a higher polish than most of the glass cases in the room. I would have thought him handsome if I hadn’t known exactly how uptight and prissy he was—and how very much he hated me.
I sighed. “Nickamedes. What are you doing here?”
“Overseeing the exhibit, of course. Most of the artifacts on display are on loan from the Library of Antiquities.”
Nickamedes was the head honcho at the Library of Antiquities, which was located on the Mythos Academy campus not too far away in Cypress Mountain, North Carolina. In addition to books, the massive library was famous for its priceless collection of artifacts. Hundreds and hundreds of glass cases filled the library’s seven floors, containing items that had once belonged to everyone from gods and goddesses to their Champions to the Reapers they had battled.
I supposed it made sense that the Crius Coliseum had borrowed some artifacts from the library—that was probably the reason the Mythos students had been assigned to come here in the first place. So they’d be forced to look at and study the items they walked past and ignored on a daily basis at the library.
Nickamedes stared at me, not looking a bit happier to see me than I was to have run into him. His mouth twisted. “I see that you and your friends waited until the last possible second to come and complete your myth-history assignment, along with a great many of your classmates.”
Morgan McDougall, Samson Sorensen, Savannah Warren. I’d spotted several kids I knew roaming through the coliseum. All seventeen or so, like me, Daphne, and Carson, and all second-year students at Mythos, trying to cram in a visit to the museum before winter classes.