Jax guided me through the forest back to the courtyard, he left me there telling me that he would see me in class the next day. I stood there, lost and confused on what to do next. I just wanted someone to hold my hand, to guide me in the right direction, moving forward without getting lost. Instead of being alone, I wanted someone by my side. I sighed, and took a step towards my dorm.
Instantaneously, my head erupted into pain. I shut my eyes against the pain and whimpered. It eased slowly after a few minutes of concentrating on something else. The mind numbing throbbing became less frequent but the pain was still there, hovering just beneath the surface. It felt as though any slight onset of feelings or thought would set the beast off once again.
I groaned and walked forward, deciding that I would go see Dr. Holloway like she had asked if the pain came back. I made my way through the courtyard, waving at the students who were in my class. On my way to the nurse, I ran into Mr. Parker. He was staring out of one of the windows, his hand beneath his chin and a look on his face I could not decipher.
“Echo,” he said before I could completely pass him. I stopped and went to stand by his side.
“What is it?” I asked, he blinked, his green eyes swirling with thoughts.
“Did you feel anything strange about Ethan’s room?” I thought back to the scene of where my classmate had been taken from. The feelings in that room had been many but I had felt anger more than anything.
“A deep, raging anger.” I answered truthfully. He closed his eyes, sighing, when he opened them his irises had changed to an almost teal color.
“Keep an eye out, I do not like this at all.” He stroked his chin and turned to me, giving me a pat on my head. “Go see, Dr. Holloway, I’ll talk to you later.” He walked off, his hand still on his chin, his lips moving with soundless words.
Dr. Holloway was seated at her desk when I walked through the door, she ran a hand through her unkempt hair and was chewing on a pencil. At the sound of me closing the door, she looked up at me, her worried brow scrunching tighter.
“Echo,” she breathed. It was as if all the air had been sucked out of her lungs. She stood up, tripping slightly. “I can see the darkness from here, child. What has happened?” She reached me, and placed her hands on my cheeks. Her magic flowed into me, and she gasped. “It’s everywhere.” She pulled her hands away as if she had just touched a white hot flame.
I pulled out the satchel that was always in my pocket, it was the size of a thumbnail. Somehow it had shrunk, probably from being in the vicinity of my father.
“That’s not good,” she whispered, “Not good at all.” She looked at me, then grabbed the satchel. “Do not move from this room. I need to go grab another one.” She ran out the door, her still messy hair swinging every which way. When she returned she handed me a bigger talisman than the one before. She folded my hands over this one.
“It should last you maybe two weeks, come back and I’ll have another one ready.”
“Thank you.” She smiled and patted my hand. I left Dr. Holloway to her paperwork and wandered through the halls. I felt like I need to do something to help find Ethan. Maybe what I really needed to do was put in some extra combat training. I found Jax, Juni and Sam in the cafeteria. Jax was eating a roast beef sandwich, Juni was poking at a salad and Sam was finishing off some fried rice.
“I need your help,” I told the three of them. Juni looked up at me, stabbed her salad one more time and stood up.
“As long as it isn’t as boring as this salad, I’m in.” Juni volunteered without any more prompting. Jax waved a hand, stuffing the sandwich into his mouth, chewing quickly.
Sam looked at his watch and shrugged, “I guess I have a bit of time, what are we doing?”
I breathed in. It was now or never. “Helping me get stronger.”
“You suck at this.” Sam stated from his high vantage spot on the gym bleachers. I panted as I wiped the water out of my face. This training session wasn’t helping at all. I didn’t possess Juni’s super speed or Jax’s cat-like reflexes. “I’m going again!” I nodded my head, digging my tennis shoes into the laminated floor.
Sam pulled his hand back and threw it forward, launching a barrage of icicles towards me. I ran forward, waving my hand, stopping the water where is was.
“Create a shield!” Sam shouted as the icicles quickly dissolved into water droplets around us. I threw my arms up, visualizing a shield in my mind encasing me just as the teachers had showed me. The water jumped out towards me like daggers but stopped, hitting an invisible force. I smiled, surprised by my own ability.
“Move Echo!” Someone shouted on the sidelines. My head snapped up as another series of icicles hurled towards me. I turned, trying to change directions sharply but I lost my traction on the wet floor. My chest smacked the floor hard, knocking the wind out of me. I gasped from the pain before screaming when a gallon of water drenched me.
“SAM!” Juni shouted as she rushed over, pulling me up to my feet. “What did I say about taking it easy?”
“That was easy.” Sam countered as he slid down the bleachers. He tucked his left hand in his pocket as he tapped my forehead. Instantly, the water rushed off of me. I shivered, not used to being suddenly dry. “You don’t want to see me when I’m serious.” The pair traded glares. I had never understood their animosity towards each other. Jax popped up from his lounging posture on the sidelines.
“He’s improving.” Jax pointed out as he crossed his legs and yawned.
“Anyone can improve from zero.” Sam added before catching Juni’s wrist when she tried to violently stab him. “Really? Can you please keep your daggers to yourself? I’m not a fan of holes in my clothes.” Juni rolled her eyes but allowed Sam to disarm her. Her dagger balanced in his hand perfectly. “Would he be better with weapons?” He asked, the blade glistening in the soft light.
“He’s more likely to cut himself than his opponent.” Juni responded as she snapped her fingers. The dagger shimmered in his hand before returning to hers.
“Hey, I’m right here!” I shouted, waving my arms. Neither Sam nor Juni acknowledged me, still deep in thought. “Jax,” I whinned, “help me out here.”
“Let’s move away from all this dodging and weapons stuff.” Jax offered as he stood up, arching his back. “Attack me.” I furrowed my eyebrows and looked around. Attack him with what? Jax sighed, he slightly slid his legs apart and lifted a hand. “With your hands, little mouse.”
I looked at my hands and then at Jax. “You’re not going to hurt me? Are you?”
Jax sighed again, “No,” he paused then amended his statement, “well, not too much. Now, hurry.” I grumbled under my breath and put my hands up. I took a series of quick steps forward, but Jax disappeared from my sight. There was a light touch of skin of my neck. I whipped around and found Jax behind me.
“Be quicker,” he whispered into my ear, trailing his fingers down my neck. I shivered unconsciously, knowing he was doing this to be on purpose but wondering if he was like me at the same time. Dislodging those thoughts, I threw my elbow back but he disappeared again.
“That’s not fair! I can’t teleport like you can.”
“No fight is fair.” He tilted his head and grinned. I tightened my fists and groaned before sighing. I reached for my powers and pulled, all of the sports balls in the gymnasium flew to me at my call.
“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me.” Jax groaned, dropping his arms and rolling his eyes.
I smiled, and chuckled. “You asked for it.” I pushed out my hands and a basketball flew threw the air, aimed for Jax’s head. He dodged just before it hit him, he slinked low to the floor, dodging as each ball came towards him.
I followed his trail, throwing balls at him as I deemed fit. I was not watching where I was headed, my feet hit something and I went down, hard. Losing all concentration on the balls still left in the air, they fell softly. I pulled my burning face off the ground and looked up. Juni sat against the bleachers, and finger waved at me, her legs were up near her chest. It seemed I had tripped over her legs.
“I can’t tell if that was on purpose or not,” I muttered, flipping my black hair out of my eyes. She grinned at me and tapped my leg where it was near her hand.
“I’m not saying,” she chuckled, “but your triple T is now on the offensive.” I jerked my head back toward Jax and found him mere inches from my face.
“What happened to be aware of your surroundings at all times?” He asked, he touched my forehead with a finger and pushed. “If this was a real fight, you’d be dead.” He looked over at the two sitting on the bleachers. “More than once at that.”
“I’m sorry I suck at this.” I groaned. “That’s why I asked for help.”
“Well then, get up,” Jax encouraged, holding out a hand, “and let’s try again.”
Over the course of the next few days, on top of my extra combat training, Juni and I tried to brainstorm on who had taken Ethan. It had seemed strange that there had been paw marks. I felt like I should keep Jax’s transformation to myself because even if I didn’t suspect him, someone else might. After all of our classes were done for each day, we usually ended up in the library trying to find out anything about my father. Juni stuck to one side of the shelves while I browsed the others.
“Juni, you find anything yet?” I groaned into the book that sat open before me.
“No, it’s all just blah blah now.” She muttered into her palm.
I raise my eyebrow at her, “Blah blah?”
“Yeah, you know, one god goes and rapes human, demi god is born. Oh, then there is Zeus, he goes and rapes a freaking animal? Who has sex with animals? Gross.” She slammed the book shut and groaned. “I’m seeing books in my dreams. If I had wanted to extend my vocabulary I would actually do my English homework, you know.” I laughed at her and also shut my own book.
“We need to find something though. Ethan could be murdered and we would never know.”
“I know,” she said sadly, “But I haven’t seen any visions in days. I can’t even help with my own powers. I feel useless.”
I sighed, “You and me both.” We read into the night, Jax was on library duty again so he was at the check out, reading his book silently as we worked. The first time Juni found out that Jax worked at the library she had been shocked, and said, “I didn’t know cats could read so well.” We had both just looked at her, astonished that she had mentioned him being a cat. “I’m a precog? Remember?” She had tapped her head and then wandered into the shelves, humming all the way.
Jax and I had looked at each other, “Well, I guess the cat is out of the bag.” I had darted away before he could playfully hit me. I chuckled all the way to where I found Juni hidden in the shelves.
I was reading a book on the all the rites that gods and deities over ruled when my eyes started to blur. I pulled away from the book and rubbed my eyes. The library was darker, the sun having gone down completely. I looked over at Juni, expecting to find her still reading, but she was fast asleep in her chair. Her arms curled under her head and the book, still open beside her. I looked up at the clock and found it was later than I had thought. I stretched, putting my arms behind my head, my bones cracking. There were footsteps and I looked over to see Jax walking out from behind one of the shelves. He had several books in his arms, it looked like he was putting them away. He glanced over at me and Juni.
“You find anything?” He asked me. I groaned and glared at the book before me.
“No, and Janus is such an elusive name, I doubt I will ever find anything valuable.” Jax set the books he was carrying on the table and sat down beside me. He stretched, closing his eyes, and folded his hands in his lap.
“Why don’t you just ask him?” Jax asked. I looked at the book before me.
“I would if I could, but I don’t know how to get in contact with him.”
“Can’t you just call his name?” He asked me.
“I’ve never tried that before.” I admitted.
“Try it, concentrate on him and his name.” Emotions are without form or substance. With them, nothing is certain. It’s easy to laugh at those who make big promises based on feelings. Acting like they’re so sure, without knowing what the future holds. It’s much more difficult to believe in them. And yet, without knowing why, you find yourself admiring them, wanting to be like them, until eventually, you become one of them. I closed my eyes and thought of my father, of the shadows that always enveloped him. How would I call for him, Janus? Papa?
“Father,” I whispered into the quiet library, hoping that it would get through. I needed to know what was happening. My head exploded in pain and I sucked in a sharp breath. My hand went to go grip onto the satchel, but I stopped, I needed answers. The pain hit me in another wave, sharp and consistent. I felt a hand wrap around mine, and knew by it’s size that it was Jax and almost breathed a sigh of relief. I thought back on my father through the pain, of the snake beneath his eye, the blue shade of his iris’ that matched my own.
“Echo,” Jax’s voice was soft in my ear but also urgent. I opened my eyes, the pain still there but looked over to where Jax’s gaze was. My father stood against a bookshelf, he was in his regular form, the darkness decorating his skin like tattoos. His face was pale, his skin lighter than it had been before. His breathing was also rapid. His blue eyes met my own and he sighed, closing them.
“I’ve not much time. Hurry.” He opened his eyes and held down his own shadows as they began to escape from his skin.
Noting his urgency, I asked him quickly, “Who is after me?” Janus grimaced from where he stood.
“A god of war by the name of Nergal. He is controlling humans in this realm to do his bidding.” His eyes roved over me, his power flaring slightly. “You should know your true powers soon, Echo. I unlocked them the last time we met. I must go. He is searching for me.”
“Wait! What can I do to get my classmate back?”
“More will be taken. You will find them when the time comes.” His form disappeared, evaporated like water on a hot day. Jax still held my hand, squeezing lightly.
“At least he’s more friendly than my father.” He muttered to me. I squeezed his hand as hard as I could, turning towards him. Even before I spoke he was nodding, “Yes, I know. Let’s research this Nergal. The library isn’t going to close tonight I guess.” He turned and grinned at me. His eyes were dancing with excitement. He really loved books. I let go of his hand and he jumped up, walking towards one of the shelves, pulling books off one after another. I looked over at Juni, she was still asleep, her breathing even. Leaving her be, I grabbed one of the books off the stack Jax set in front of me.
Nergal, we found out, was depicted as a fiery god of war and pestilence. He ruled over the sun at noon time because that was the time that crops were at their weakest. During his ruling as a god of war, he took over as one of the gods of the underworld. He has been given the name ‘the raging king’ as well as ‘the king of sunsets.’ Not many books we read had anything nice to say about Nergal. They were all about kidnappings, murders, and death. It seemed befitting that he was the god of the underworld.
“I’m not liking the idea of ever going up against this god.” I muttered to myself. Jax set a book down and ran a hand down his face.
“I don’t like it either. These stories are worse than the ones my father is in.” He scowled at the book he just read. I lifted the corner of a book I had yet to read, maybe it would tell me everything else I needed to know.
“How do you even stop a god of war anyway?” I asked, hoping maybe Jax would know.
“Peace?” He said it questioningly, one eyebrow quirked. I resisted throwing my book at him and instead slapped him lightly on his arm. He pouted, rubbing the area.
“Ha ha. Very funny.”
“Just trying to get you to smile.” I smiled at him and he smiled back at me. In that moment, I felt that we were connected, truly connected. As if it didn’t matter that I was gay. He opened his mouth to say something but Juni groaned. Looking over at her, she had woken up and was stretching. She looked over at us, her eyes darting in between the both of us.
“What’d I miss?” She muttered sleepily. I opened my mouth to tell her but the library door banged open. Mr. Parker stood there, his hair flying every which way and his face white. He was still in his pjs, his shirt haphazardly thrown on. I think even his pants were on backwards.
“Tell me the three of you found something.” He begged us, righting his shirt that was showing his chest. The three of us all shared a glance.
“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping that my father had been wrong with what he had told us earlier.
Standing in the doorway, his eyes crazed, the Mad Hatter revealed what we had not wanted to hear. “Someone else has been taken.”