She had entered college in another state. She couldn’t stand her parents anymore. After gramps had died, her uncle and her father completely decimated that house. She had fond memories of the place. They sold everything at an estate auction, all of great-grandma’s stamp collection, and the persian rugs from the 16th century. The only thing that she had been able to keep from her family was the watch that grandpa gave her before he passed away. She rarely took it off, only when she showered or went swimming. It never tarnished, and she never found that she had to wind it, though it was obvious that she needed a key for it, which when the house was torn apart to make whatever smallest buck, they had not found the key to it.
Her family made a mint on the property and valuables, and squandered it almost right off. It had probably occurred to them at one time that the money might have been good for her college. If only grandpa had known to put away a trust or something. She had successfully scored a full ride scholarship by keeping her grades up and passing her SAT with flying colors. She got into Texas at Austin to pursue a degree in computer engineering.
As it was said in the department, women were hunted to extinction in the program. It didn’t help that she had been a cheerleader and ballerina in high school and still had the body for it. Blue eyes, real blond hair, a lithe body standing at 5’7” and a soft voice. It was easy to make the nerds fall all over her. She had gotten date offers at least once every week from a different guy for the last two years. It wasn’t that she was playing hard to get, she just wasn’t in the mood. She wasn’t in the mood to take a fellow home and introduce her parents to him. Prudish, God fearing, Christian hypocrites. They had made her lose the faith when gramps died. She didn’t want to try and deal with their issues and a boy’s issues and her issues all at once. She knew her mother, the first moment she would even mention a boy, when she was in high school, her mother would automatically accuse her of sleeping with him and being pregnant and that she would be disowned. It was a problem she wasn’t willing to deal with.
Differential Equations was kicking her ass. She had been holed up in the coffee shop for the last three hours fighting with her midterm exam. The teacher had been kind enough to send it home, and they could use their textbooks, which was lovely, but still…The class was just not coming to her. It didn’t help that her teacher was from Bangladesh with one of the heaviest accents she had tried to understand out of the entire math department. She knew she shouldn’t blame the teacher for her own failings. The info was all right there in her book, she just wasn’t seeing it.
It was approaching twilight, and she was onto her fifth salted caramel mocha. She knew she’d be doing five mile runs for the next week to make up for it. The patrons had been steadily streaming out. It was just her, the barista, and one other guy in the shop. He had been there since before she had gotten there, typing furiously away at his laptop. She watched him for a minute, trying to ponder away a taxing equation that she had to proof out. She just wanted to drop her head on the table and groan in frustration. Maybe it was time to head back to her dorm. At least there she could groan all she wanted in frustration without disturbing too many people, seeing as everyone else was doing about the same at this point in the semester.
She sighed and stuffed her notes into the page leafs of her book. She dropped her pencil into the bottom of her pink polka dot backpack and shoved her book in after it. She unplugged her headphones from her smartphone and wrapped them up and shoved them into a side pocket in her pack. She stared at the half full cup sitting patiently on her table. Finally she made her mind up. She downed cup, thankful it was a little cool.
She found herself outside of the shop, not really aware of the passing of time. The dorms were on the other side of campus. The crosswalk lamps were already glowing. The spring evening was cool. Jasmine was blooming across the face of the student union. It smelled glorious. She closed her eyes and breathed in the damp ground and the shining stars. Then she felt a hand settle on her hip. Her eyes snapped open and she inhaled sharply, the tang of cigarette smoke biting at her nostrils. It was the guy from the coffee shop. “May I walk you home?” he offered, his voice scratchy and stiff. She couldn’t make much of him out, but she knew he was taller than her, and built. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. This wasn’t good.
“Oh, no, I’m alright. Thank you for the offer,” she tried to brush him off.
“I thought a nice thing like you might need a bit of protection on such a dark evening,” he pressed her in the direction of the parking lot. She balked, trying to side step him. He was at least twice her size. “I’ll be alright. I’m in the other direction,” she reassured him quietly. She glanced over at the coffee shop, hoping the barista could see her. Maybe she could call for help. But the front lights were already dimmed and the open sign was dark. She could feel the blood drain from her face. For the first time in years she felt it might be wise to start praying.
“I’ll drop you off, I’m parked over there,” he continued.
“I can walk,” she backed up. He continued to press her forward. She found herself in the dark corner of the parking lot, behind a large extended cab truck and a black SUV. Gravel skittered under her feet. Her hand reached went to her pendant automatically. It was her nervous constitution. She had her eyes shut tight. She could feel herself shake. Hands pulled her bag from her shoulder and bit into her waist. Tears were beginning to burn behind her eyes. Her voice was stuck in the back of her throat. She knew she should scream. She was trying. All she could do was croak. She felt something sharp at her leg. She looked down to see a knife slide along her stockings and cut into her plaid skirt. “I can see you working over that scream, honey bunch. I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he threatened, his voice milky smooth. She felt the blade begin to dig just as he began to bite at her neck.
The pendant came to mind, for no other reason than dire need ringing through her head. “Dibe e debu nertos uediumi,” she mumbled quietly, trying to reassure herself.
“Latin, I’ll have a learned one this evening,” the man chuckled to himself.
Hermes was just about out the door with his duffle, when Orion came pounding on his door. “Hermes! Hermes! Let me in, you’ve been summoned!” Orion yelled through the door. Hermes opened the door, confused. Orion, blue skinned and silver haired came spilling through the threshold. “Summoned? Orion, I’ve already been to Zeus’s court this morning. You’re here to take me to the mortal world,” Hermes outlined the plan. Anything to get away from Demeter sounded like a good plan at the moment.
“No, no, Hermes. You’ve been summoned by Chronos himself. Time has been stopped for you,” he tried to break through Hermes thick skull.
Hermes felt the blood drain from his face. He had never been summoned by Chronos before. Time stopped…by the ground that Zeus walked upon, this was a true summoning. Orion pulled himself up and extended a hand. In it was an arrow dipped in stardust. Hermes reached for it without thinking, pulling his hand along the blade. Within an instant he found himself at Chronos’s hearth on top of a mountain that overlooked the universe. Before him sat a large, old man, so many times larger and more intimidating than Zeus could ever be. He gulped, suddenly realizing that he was before a god that could not be dictated or summoned, that he was his own being entirely. He, for the first real time, realized terror.
“Chronos?” Hermes asked, startling the man from his nap.
The man snuffled and snorted, his eyes snapping open. “And who are you?” Chronos demanded in a booming voice.
“I am Hermes, Orion has sent me, stating that I have been summoned,” he answered, genuflecting, bowing his head in deference.
“Ah, right, yes. Time has been stopped for you, Hermes. A keeper has summoned you by the ram and the feather,” Chronos motioned to his hearth. It was a cold blue flame that sapped the heat from the space. In it he saw a man wound around a woman, her fist clutching a silver necklace, tears streaming down her face.
“She has summoned me? She really stopped all of time?” Hermes asked, slightly incredulous at having been summoned by a simple mortal.
“She has. As by the old ways, you must protect her,” Chronos said.
“Old ways? No one has been summoned like this in centuries, millenia. You made this deal with the mortals so long ago that no one even made an effort to learn the old ways,” Hermes answered defiantely. He couldn’t see Chrono’s face to tell if he had infuriated the man or not. “She has called out, and you must answer, in exchange for one request, and only one,” his voice boomed across the vast expanse. Hermes cowered. His mind darted though under his shell of respect. A request from Chronos, a request of time. He could undo this plight with Demeter, make Hades see that keeping Persephone was not a good decision.
“You may ask it of me, only after you go help out little miss stop watch over there,” Chronos nodded to the hearth. Before Hermes knew it, Chronos grabbed him by the back of his jacket collar and chucked him into the pit. Hermes, thinking himself going to be burned, instead found himself falling through a swirling blue vortex. The next thing, he found himself crashing into the asphalt of a darkened parking lot.
There was no sound. It was absolutely still. Even the wind had frozen. The cool of a spring night should have been perceptible to his heightened senses, but even that, temperature, he could not feel. He stood up and brushed himself off. He had dressed himself out for the mortal world as a normal Westerner, wearing a pair of dark blue jeans, lime green converse, a black polo and tweed slim fit jacket. He patted himself off, brushing gravel and dirt from his jacket and jeans. He was surrounded by a sea of vehicles, most of them trucks. The license plates had the Texas flag. One of the trucks had a decal of the Longhorns. Another had a sticker that read “Texan, White, Male, Republican, Straight, and God-fearing. How Else May I Piss You Off Today?” Texas. He found himself in the middle of Texas, oh by Olympus the freaking Bible belt? He made a mental note to kick Orion and Chronos in their holy shiny nuts the next time he got back to the Great Houses.
Then his eyes fell on the couple in the far corner of the parking lot and time started again. The woman’s bag had spilled its contents across the parking lot next to the SUV. Her phone was playing Mendelson. He groaned to himself, put off with the fact that he had to go and deal with mortals. Such selfish creatures. What did Zeus see in these things? I mean, really. He asked himself. Take for example this moron. Just taking what he wanted without even having the decency to try and properly seduce the woman. He was disgusted by the man, but he was not really in the mood to deal with them. The woman’s blue eyes searched him out and he felt his heart suddenly drop to his feet.
He approached the couple quietly, all the while the blonde woman’s eyes followed him. She held in one clenched fist the pendant and chain, and with her other she was trying to scratch the man away. The man was large, and muscular, outfitted in a tight fitting t-shirt and ripped jeans. He was also going to be dead in ten seconds if he didn’t get his hands off of the girl. Hermes grabbed the man by the neck and lifted him up and away. The girl shrieked and crumpled, trying to scurry away between the vehicles. Hermes ignored her. She had summoned him to save her, nothing more.
“Oye man, lay off!” The man shrieked at Hermes. He pushed and kicked, landing a solid blow to Hermes stomach. Hermes doubled over, surprised at the ferocity the man presented.
“She called, I came. Get off her and begone with you, vile creature, spawn of a Hellhound,” Hermes threw the man across the parking lot and into a car. He didn’t feel truly that it was his moral duty to condemn the man. Back two millenia ago, a woman alone and dressed in such a manner would have been warranted such treatment. Now, with these Western notions of equality, it looked like humans were beginning to define their own forms of equal respect between the males and females of the species. He would need to present such leanings in this realm for now. He had already had his fill of women, Demeter was enough…not to mention Hera and Athena’s schemings in it.
He sauntered over to the banged up car to find the man staring at him, trembling. “Let’s just have a nice little review of some rules here that I have recently been made privy to, that you might want to jot down when you get the time,” he sat down on the hood of the car next to man. The man watched him in terrified silence. “In today’s day and age, I believe, as I’ve been told, they are wise to follow. One, keep your dick in your pants unless the woman says otherwise,” he paused. “But she wanted it, you can see how much she wanted it,” the man defended his actions. “Not from what I saw, no. Two, if she says no, she means no. It’s not a screwed up no means yes kind of thing either. No is no,” he waited again. “But she-” the man began to say. Hermes cut him off, leaning in close until he was nose to nose with the man, “And three,” he whispered sardonically, “she’s mine.” At this, he allowed just a bit of his energy to seep out of himself, enough for his eyes to shine an unearthly fiery orange. The man screeched, and Hermes smelled the pungent odor of urine as the man rolled his way off the car and dashed out of the parking lot.
He sighed, annoyed at his situation. Well, time to go and confront the summoner. The faster he got this done, the faster he could get back to Chronos and sort out this whole issue with Demeter. He hopped off the car hood, lightly landing on his feet, at least he thought it looked more elegant than his earlier landing. He walked back over to the truck and the SUV where he found the two initially. He glanced at the contents of the woman’s bag that was spilled all over the pavement. A book of mathematics, pencils, sheafs of paper with scribbled equations, a small rectangular black plastic thing that he had heard was a communication device of some sort called a phone. The white bag with pink polka dots was dirty, tracks of black tarry asphalt smudged across the canvas.
He kicked at a pencil and sent it skittering across the pavement into a puddle of liquid he only noticed when it stopped. He stared at it, realization only slowly creeping into his consciousness, just as slow as the red liquid crept along the edges of the clear plastic of the mechanical pencil. He rushed around the side of the vehicle to find the blond woman curled in a fetal ball next to the tire. She was bleeding heavily from a spot on her leg, just under her skirt. She had a running cut from her knee up, her tights had split all the way down her leg. Blood had began to pool down into the curb. She was pale, her eyes closed, her hand still grasping her pendant.
“Oh, shit. This isn’t good.” He kneeled down next to the girl and checked the pulse on her neck. He could see the bruise already developing where the man had bit her. For the first time he could truly feel a sense of revulsion at the man, of actual distaste and potential hatred. Her pulse was weak, and her skin was chill to the touch. What was he supposed to do now? The only thing he could think to do. He pulled an arrow head out of his pocket, one of Orion’s, dipped in stardust. He pricked the tip of his finger, silver blood pooling at the point. “Apollo! I summon you brother, get your ass down here now!” Hermes broadcast the call across the skies.
Within seconds the sound of a supersonic boom set off the car alarms in the parking lot. “You called?” his brother asked, stepping into the parking lot in a newly tailored tuxedo.
“Chronos sent me here, and now what am I supposed to do?” Hermes confronted his brother.
“Chronos? You’ve been summoned?” Apollo asked, startled, taking a step back from his brother. He looked from his brother to the cringing mortal at the foot of the truck. Blood was soaking her clothes. “What in the name of Mount Olympus did you do?” Apollo accused.
“Don’t blame me, I just got here and got rid of the guy who did this to her. What am I supposed to do with a mortal? I don’t even know what her name is,” he told his brother.
Apollo knelt down, fascination blanketing his face. “This is -” he reached for the necklace the woman grasped so tightly. He eased it from her fingers, but as his fingers skimmed the lid of the pendant, he cried out, dropping the little bit of silver. His fingers blistered, burned from it. “A du’la of fate,”awe-filled he looked up at Hermes, terrified.
“A what?” Hermes asked, reaching for the pendant. To him it was cold as ice. He found the engraved ram on the front and the feather on the back.
“A du’la. You’ve heard of being summoned. That’s why when Chronos summoned you, you didn’t hesitate to ask. This is a bargain made between mortals and the Fates. That thing can be used to summon one of the Great Houses, once, and only once. The bargain forged between Fate and the mortal is that the Great House would become a servant of the mortal until death parts them, in exchange for the individual’s pure person. There are other ways of summoning, but this, Hermes…” Apollo’s voice trembled.
“She didn’t just call for me, did she?” Hermes was beginning to understand. Apollo nodded, his hands scanning the cut on her leg. Hermes collapsed next to the girl, staring at her. He couldn’t escape women for the life of him could he?
“Hermes, if you are to keep your end of the bargain, we need to get her back to my house now. She’s suffered terrible blood loss. I think she’s nicked her femoral artery,” Apollo carefully cradled the woman against his chest.
“What happens to the bargain if she dies?” Hermes asked, suddenly nervous.
“You answer to Chronos and the Fates who’s only other deal in this matter, as I’ve heard, is with Hades,” Apollo answered.
Hermes gulped, afraid about what that could mean. “Has this ever happened to you, Apollo?” he asked.
“Once,” Apollo wouldn’t look at him. “Do you still have the vélos astéri?”
“Yeah, here,” Hermes held out Orion’s arrow.
“Good, we’re heading for my house,” Apollo reached for the arrow, slicing his thumb along the edge. Hermes followed suite. They began walking, exiting out of the mortal reality and walking back into Olympus.
“We don’t bring mortals here, Apollo. If Zeus found out,” Hermes said nervously.
“Zeus can bite me,” Apollo grumbled, walking through the conglomeration of Greek and Roman style houses.
“What happened?” Hermes asked, opening up the door to Apollo’s house, letting the man in.
“Not now,” his brother grumbled, pushing his way through the house to an operating room in the back. “Go, call Asclepius and his daughters. We will have need of them,” Apollo commanded. Hermes nodded his understanding and dashed out of the house.
Rosmerta’s head throbbed and she felt cold. A strange sort of glowing man was standing over her, whispering calming words in a language she didn’t quite understand. He was handsome to a fault. Her vision kept going in and out. Her hand trembled as she nervously searched out her necklace. Once she found it, her breathing calmed and she closed her eyes. She started to distinctly realize that there was an extreme sharp pain in her leg. The more she felt it, the more she realized that it was becoming difficult to breath past the pain. A warmth spread through her, a reassuring warmth that lulled her into a dark, dreamless sleep.