Cataclysm (Book Three of the Hope series)
By Reign Atkins
Samuel looked around. He was standing at the bottom of the ocean... No, not standing... he had a long green scaly tail, thanks to Poseidon. He was swimming just like the rest of the merfolk that surrounded him.
He was in the midst of Atlantis and he had been protecting Poseidon and his son Triton from the rest of the merpeople, who had been compelled by the curse of Hades. They had been destroying Atlantis in their bid to take down their own king and their gods.
King Triton looked very similar in appearance to his father, Poseidon, only he had hair that wasn't quite as dark, and he looked very similar age wise. He had been wounded in the tail during the battle. Though, neither he nor Poseidon seemed at all phased in the slightest.
But now it seemed as if Hades' curse had been broken. They were not sure why, but Samuel could only assume that Astrid and Cruz had succeeded with their mission to take down the god of the Underworld.
The merfolk, whose eyes had shown nothing but darkness, had returned to the pure color that Samuel believed that they had once been. Upon realizing what they had done, the merfolk regretted their actions and sought to help Triton as fast as they could, pushing Samuel out into the background in the process.
But, Samuel didn't mind. He clutched his sword, holding it face down in front of himself, as he looked up at the beautiful underground palace made entirely of gold. It was just as majestic as he had always imagined it to be. It was no wonder that it had been kept a secret, a somewhat holy grail, throughout time.
Samuel shook himself out of his thoughts and directed his attention back to King Triton and Poseidon. Triton had been healed again and was very grateful for his help in the battle.
"Samuel, son of Jason, I don't believe we've been formally introduced. I am King Triton, son of Poseidon the rightful god and king of the seas." Triton said on approach, crediting his father.
"Yes, sir," Samuel replied. He was not willing to correct Triton for calling him the son of Jason, as opposed to the descendant of Jason. Samuel knew that Poseidon was aware of the truth, furthermore, he felt it wise not to correct a king, nonetheless, a god.
Triton went on to say, "I understand that I have you to thank for my survival, but I wish that I could say the same for my wife. I do not know of a more fitting way to show my gratitude. But, there may be one way and I believe that it would be in both our best interests."
He stopped speaking as a beautiful dark-haired mermaid approached him. She was naked from the top half up, but her hair and the golden chains adorning her neck covered her breasts. Her tail was blue scaled. Samuel decided not to look upon her out of respect.
"Let me introduce to you my daughter and your betrothed," the king said, gesturing to the young mermaid, "...Her name is Theresa and she is the heir to my throne. Which will make you the next in line to be the king of Atlantis."
Samuel's heart began to pound from inside his chest with a fierce rhythm. His first thought was of Astrid, the woman he truly loved. "I'm sorry your majesty... but, I have to humbly decline..." he began.
"Nonsense, Samuel! You will wed... I will not take no for an answer. Take her as my gift to you." It was clear that Triton was not offering out of the kindness of his heart but as an order. What the hell was Samuel going to do?
Astrid was standing in the doorway of her apartment in Las Vegas with her friends and her full-grown goddess daughter. It had been six months since the death of Cruz, the man that had stolen her heart and she had been struggling to come to terms with it all.
It had also been six months since she had heard about the death of Hannah and about the disappearance of Samuel and Tash. They had ventured to Atlantis without so much as a word.
Astrid and Samuel had been dating before he had left, and even though she had been torn between her feelings for him and Cruz, she had taken Samuel up on his offer to establish a relationship.
When it came to the two men that she loved, it was as if there was an inner battle within herself. As if there were two parts of her that wanted separate things.
But in a way that was true, Hecate had told her that she was one-part goddess, and had been so since the day that she was born. As a baby, she had almost died. But the goddess had planted the essence of Pandora within her.
She had once believed, as the myths had all claimed, that Pandora was just a mere human. But this tale couldn't be any further than the truth.
Pandora had been built by the gods. She was merely a weapon to be wielded by Zeus. She was a goddess made of the earth and the oceans and possessing the power over the elements.
Astrid's time with Hades had provided her with an influence over the creatures of the underworld. The creatures who were now roaming the earth.
But Astrid was still human. Just a mere mortal, trying to come to terms with the news that Tash had arrived home without Samuel, along with the death of Cruz... and of the news that Joey had just relayed to them all.
Astrid glanced at her daughter, who was waiting for an answer. Hope had requested to invite her friend, Apollo, the god of Archery along with their next mission.
In the two years since Hope had been born, she was now a full grown goddess, as hard as it might be for Astrid to see that. It had only been a matter of months that their apartment had been lined with toys for a young child.
"Fine..." Astrid finally said, "...I think an archery god will be a perfect asset to the team! Okay, so let's do this! Let's travel to Atlantis!"
Once Hope had fled from the apartment, Astrid continued her conversation with Joey. She needed more news on the matter. 'Samuel needing help' just didn't sound right.
"You said that Samuel needs our help?" she asked, waiting for him to elaborate.
"Poseidon didn't use those exact words... but, he said that Samuel couldn't return and he needs to speak with us urgently. It almost sounded like they have him held hostage!" Joey confirmed.
"Are you sure? You're not lying this time?"
Joey sighed. "You asked me never to lie again, and I'm speaking the truth. Why else wouldn't Samuel return? Those damn mermaids must be holding him against his will!"
Astrid hadn't been entirely fair on Joey after everything that he had been through. Sure, he had lied to them all about who he really was. But, he had done what he had thought was necessary for his own protection and for the good of humanity.
Joey was the messenger god, Hermes, sent by Zeus to ensure that Cruz would open Pandora's Box.
"Wait, he actually found the mermaids?" Tash asked with excitement, but then her face changed as she continued on. "Never mind, don't answer that... you said something about Hannah, earlier... You do know that she's..." She couldn't finish her own sentence.
"I know..." Joey said, feeling free from Astrid's probing stare. "...Hecate said that she might have some news, but now Hecate's missing too... Though, I'm taking that as a sign that she's searching for her. Back to the task at hand, Poseidon has offered to guide us straight to Atlantis. But only if we meet him by the coastline tomorrow morning. I picked up a nice SUV, it's out on the street."
The thought of seeing Samuel after so long gave Astrid a glimmer of optimism. They would have no choice but to get him back.
"Alright, guys..." she said, rubbing her hands together enthusiastically. "...Let's start packing! We leave as soon as we're ready."
"Wait!" Joey exclaimed, "...Didn't you hear what I said about the rest of humanity?"
"Yeah, I did. They're planning a war... Let Athena handle it. Right now, we've done enough for the gods and we've lost too much! We deserve to be a little selfish, so let's just focus on getting Samuel and Hannah back." She stormed off in a bid to get packing, leaving Tash, Stacey, and Joey in the doorway, abruptly.
"She hasn't been taking Cruz's death very well..." Stacey explained. "...She's also been suffering from some serious nightmares. I think finding Samuel will be good for her."
Joey nodded. He could relate.
Astrid and Tash were leaning up against the fully-loaded vehicle, that Joey had acquired. They couldn't help but think of the last time that they had loaded up their belongings into the motorhome.
"Where's that daughter of yours, Sutherland?" Tash asked. She had changed from her Amazon Warrior attire and into a pair of jeans and a black top. Her long dark hair had been pulled back into a ponytail and her large brown eyes displayed a whirlwind of emotions.
"Here they come!" Stacey announced. She was sitting in the back seat of the car, watching through the side window.
As Hope approached with the fair-haired god by her side, there was a look of guilt in her eyes. "Mom, I hope you don't mind... but, I can't go with you," she said.
"I should have seen this coming," Astrid said dryly. "Why can't you go? and please don't tell me that it's because you can't stand Samuel."
"No... it's not that... My duties are to teach peace on the earth... I need to start sooner rather than later, and with the gods leaving, Apollo asked to stay back with me..."
"The gods are leaving?" Astrid asked, looking at Apollo.
"Yes, they are... But, I assure you, that I will look out for your daughter. I will keep her safe. My sister Artemis, has promised to join us on our journey when she is free."
"No, absolutely not!" Astrid said.
"Mom, I'm sorry... But, you need to understand that this is what I was destined for..." Hope argued.
"Screw destiny! Yes, you're a goddess! But you're also part human! You've haven't even been out of the barrier since you were a baby... you don't understand what it's like out there... I can't allow that!" Astrid could feel her anger building up inside of her.
"Please, I'm not a baby anymore... I know that you're still cut up about dad, but I promise you that bringing him back is part of my mission!" Hope pleaded.
"Hope, we're a family! It's our job to stick together!" After everything that they had been through, Astrid feared that she could lose her daughter. It was enough to shatter her heart entirely.
"I know... Look, I get that you need to save Samuel... but this will only be for a little while. I will find dad's body and get Demeter to bring him back... and when I do, you both owe me that family vacation, remember?"
Astrid sighed and held back her tears, knowing that anything could happen to her daughter. But she knew that Hope was right. She was no longer a child.
The look that Astrid gave to Apollo was the look of a desperate mother. "I take it that this is your influence?" she assumed.
"No, it's not," he answered. "Athena announced that they are all going to Athens. They only came here to crown Hope and see to her training."
"Figures!" Astrid rolled her eyes as she spoke.
"Please, don't be mad, mom," Hope said.
Astrid was defeated. She missed the days when she had been ruled by her stubborn nature. She sighed. "Okay, but I need you to stay safe... Apollo, please..."
"Yes. I will see to her safety. I would say that I wish you all luck on your travels, but..."
"Yeah, yeah... We have Hermes, I get it!" She leaned over and gave her daughter a tight hug. "I'm going to miss you, stay safe. Don't trust everybody that you meet... Remember, it's about rea..."
"...It's about reading people! I know... you told me." Hope finished her sentence, returning the hug. Tash, Stacey, and Joey joined them and hugged Hope too.
"Stay safe Sutherland-Cruz, junior!" Tash said. "Apollo, I don't care if you're a god... if something happens to her... You'll have a whole tribe of Amazon women on your ass... as well as Sutherland."
As Stacey said goodbye, she did her best to hold back her own tears. "Please stay safe! and don't let any harpies come after you..."
Hope laughed. "I'll be fine, aunt Stacey!"
This time, it was Joey's turn to say his 'goodbye'. He hugged her and said "don't worry... we'll get your father back! Just stay safe, or I'll bring you back from the dead myself."
"Thanks, uncle Herm... I mean uncle Joey! Such a mortal name!" Hope laughed.
Astrid tried to suggest that Joey accompany them, but Hope refused to take the offer. "Mom, we don't need it... You're going to need all the luck you can get... you're going to Atlantis! That's if you ever leave..."
"Okay, fine... we'll go! I love you, just remember that!" she replied as she wiped a few of stray tears from her face.
"I love you too, mom!" Hope replied.
Astrid climbed into the driver's seat and fasten her seatbelt, as Tash climbed into the seat beside her, while Joey and Stacey sat in the back. They all waved their last goodbyes as the car drove out of the barrier of the city.
"So, music?" Tash asked Astrid, pulling out a small collection of CDs from her backpack.
"Hmm?" Astrid had been lost in thought.
"I said, did you want to listen to some music?" Tash spoke louder this time. "I feel like I was stuck on that island for an eternity... I missed music! They had no technology whatsoever!"
"Sure," Astrid said. "So, what was it like on the island?"
Stacey focused her attention on Tash, wondering the exact same question.
Tash pushed a CD into the stereo and waited for the song to start playing before she leaned back and continued speaking. "It was beautiful. At first, it was hell... but then... I was at peace. It was a real paradise... I actually cried a little when it was time to leave."
Those words affected Stacey. "Why didn't you come back sooner? How did you get back anyway?" she snapped.
"I couldn't, Stacey... Caelene convinced me that if I stayed for a little while and discovered my roots... then they would help me leave. I did as they said, and they held up their end of the deal." Tash explained calmly.
"So, how did you get back? You couldn't have sailed by yourself the whole way from the island." Joey chimed in. "...and you bypassed the sirens? How were you so lucky when others weren't?"
"I don't know how to explain it, but the waves brought me home... it must have been Poseidon... I'm not sure. But, my immunity to the siren's song has to do with my ancestor Fada..." As Tash explained everything to her friends she felt as if they could never understand.
The island had given her something that she had never expected. The feeling of belonging in a place that she would have never imagined.
"No..." Stacey interrupted angrily. "I'm not buying it! Are you even the real Tash?"
"Stacey, what's the problem?" Tash asked her, calmly.
"My problem is that my wife was away on a deserted island for six months, with what I suppose were very strong and beautiful woman, and you didn't even bother to contact me or return... Did you even think about me? I didn't even know if you were still alive!"
"Of course I thought about you! And I'm sorry, I couldn't get in contact with you, but how was I supposed to leave the island? Swim?" Tash was raising her voice now.
Astrid and Joey wanted to stay out of their friends' argument, but it was proving difficult to do so. "Hey, you guys... calm down!" Astrid demanded of them. "...Right now the car ride is probably the worst place to have this argument, let's just..."
In the split second that she had taken her eyes from the road, Tash screamed out, "Sutherland, Look!"
Astrid turned her head back in time to see the car smack into a large black wolf that had been standing on its two back legs in the middle of the road. It seemed to have appeared from out nowhere.
The force of impact set off the airbags and caused the group to suffer from whiplash. Astrid's head bounced from her window to her airbag, rendering her unconscious.
"Hey... is everybody okay?" Joey asked, looking around him. Stacey was fine, but Tash and Astrid were both out cold.
"Are they okay?" Stacey asked.
"I'm not sure," Joey said. He reached for his caduceus staff beside him and pointed it between the two front seats, instantly healing them.
Astrid and Tash groaned. But fortunately, they were awake. "What was that?" Astrid asked.
"It looked like a wolf," Tash replied. "But it was standing on two legs. Do wolves even do that?"
"It could have been a descendant of Lycaon..." Joey said. "...He was the first werewolf."
Stacey groaned, "But, I thought that they only came out during the full moon."
"Not necessarily... The moon doesn't affect them, that's an old wives’ tale."
Astrid and Tash unfastened their seatbelts and opened their doors to investigate.
"What the hell are you guys doing?" Stacey demanded, "Joey says 'werewolf' and you both hop out of the car? Are you guys crazy?"
"I might have an influence over the werewolf!" Astrid said as she and Tash climbed out of the car.
"Not necessarily!" Joey said. "Werewolves are unpredictable monsters..." he joined Astrid and Tash as they made their way to the front of the car. Stacey reluctantly accompanied them.
There was a large dent to the front end of the car. The impact had been greater than they had first thought, but the beast was nowhere in sight.
"Well, he's gone!" Astrid said, looking around. "...and we won't be traveling anywhere in this thing, it's dead... Joey? Would you mind flying us?"
"What am I? an uber service, now?" he scoffed.
"You are now!" Tash added. "...You could start your own business and call it Hermes' Airways! How fast can you fly us to the coastline?"
Joey gave Tash a look as if to say 'are you kidding me?' The truth was that ever since Hades had been defeated, all the gods were now at full strength. Hermes was no exception.
"Wait, you guys..." Stacey stammered. "I don't think that we'll be leaving anytime soon..." She was looking into the trees. The rest of them followed her fearful gaze.
Standing just under the shade of the tree was a large black wolf. It was snarling at them ready to make its attack.
"Yep! Nice doggie!" Tash said under her breath, "...Sutherland now would be the best time to try out your wolf whispering skills..."
Astrid nodded and spoke softly "Stacey, can you slowly make your way into the car and collect our weapons... Joey can you prepare to get her out of here, in case it charges for her..."
Joey followed Stacey back to the open door. The vehicle was the only thing standing in between them and the wolf.
The creature turned its head subtly to watch them, but then remained focused on Tash and Astrid instead. "Shhh..." Astrid hushed, as she subtly took a step toward the beast. It continued to watch as if it were trying to determine her next move. "We won't hurt you... You just need to leave us be..."
But the wolf took two steps toward her and snarled, aggressively.
"I don't think it's working..." Tash said softly.
"Me neither," Astrid replied. she was trying to keep her fear in check. But, the wolf had already sensed her hesitation. It let out a long and loud howl. "Stacey! How are those weapons coming along?" she stammered. Just as her sword was placed in her hand.
Suddenly, the wolf leaped at her. She managed to dart out of the way and swing her sword, just in time.
The wolf landed on the bonnet of the car with a large cut to the side of its body. Astrid had succeeded in wounding him. But it was far from ready to admit defeat. Instead, it's desperate thirst for blood grew.
Joey stood with his staff ready to heal the group if necessary, while, Astrid, Tash, and Stacey circled the wolf with their weapons drawn.
"This will be fun!" Tash grinned.
"Sure... just a walk in the park, right?" Stacey added, her tone faltered a little.
Astrid continued to glare into the eyes of the wolf. "Come at me!" she dared the creature with a menacing whisper. She had no clue where this newfound bravery had come from.
The wolf leaped up at her, making her fall onto her back, as she made an attempt to drive the sword into the beast's body.
But her attack missed and the wolf's fangs clamped around her lower arm, making her scream out in pain and drop her weapon as a reflex.
She could feel the power from Joey's staff healing her as the wolf continued to feast on her arm. Somewhere in the distance, she could hear Tash's voice cry out that the creature had brought a friend.
Astrid continued to struggle to break free from the wolf's clutches. Even with Joey's healing assistance, she thought that she was done for. But then to her surprise, the wolf suddenly stopped mid-action. It let out a large piercing cry into the air.
The howl both frightened and confused her. Its yellow eyes beamed down at her in confusion. But there was something more. It seemed to be in severe pain.
The wolf instantly released her, giving her arm enough time to heal and she a chance to retrieve her sword from the ground.
She stood up and stared at the creature. It now seemed less like a large beast, and more like a whimpering scared and wounded puppy.
It continued to cry out and as she brought up her sword to end its life. There was an intense fear in its eyes. At that point, the wolf that Tash and Stacey were fighting, stood beside the creature, clearly just as confused as Astrid and her friends were.
The wolves were waiting to see if Astrid would strike them down. They were surrendering. Astrid glanced over at her friends and then back at the wolves. She lowered her sword as an act of mercy.
Then, without further warning both the wolves fled back into the trees from whence they had come.
"What the hell was that all about?" Tash stammered.
"I... I don't know..." Astrid replied.
"It's your goddess blood, Sutherland!" Joey said. "Most creatures can't drink the blood of a god as it can feel like it's burning them from the inside out."
"Like chili?" Tash wondered out loud.
Joey stared at Tash, uncertain whether to laugh or take her question seriously. "Close, but more like fire... and if they drink enough, it can kill them."
"Well, maybe we should just get out of here before they bring their friends..." Stacey suggested, "Astrid eats chili too... but it's never stopped her from going back for more."
Within a few hours, Joey had taken them all to the shoreline, where he had pomised to meet with Poseidon. The beach was clean, the sand was white and there were large rocky beds in the distance.
"Is this the right place?" Tash asked, referring to the empty beachside that they were standing on. "I was expecting a ship to be waiting for us."
"This is the location that he gave me," Joey replied. "But, I've been known to get messages wrong from time to time. Besides, we weren't meant to arrive until tomorrow."
"Hey, you guys... look!" Stacey exclaimed, pointing to the large ripples that had appeared in the water.
"Oh, please don't let it be another cetus!" Tash exclaimed, preparing her sword.
"A what?" Stacey asked.
They continued to watch the rippling waves, only to see Poseidon's head emerge from the water. "Oh, thank god!" Stacey sighed in relief.
The group inched closer to the god of the sea. He was standing in the water at waist height, and clutching his trident.
"Will you tell us where Samuel is?" Astrid asked him, "Is he safe?"
Poseidon swam towards the sand, bringing with him, the depths of the ocean but only in the location that he stood.
The magical display of water that he was performing looked magnificent as it fountained around him. Amongst the waves, they could see the end of a tail that had sprung forth from the crystal blue water. Stacey was the first to realize that it was Poseidon's true form. He was a merman.
"I understand that you have come to know who you truly are, Pandora..." Poseidon said. "Huh?" Tash asked aloud, "Pandora?"
"What has that got to do with Samuel?" Astrid asked, ignoring Tash's comment.
"You understand that you can control the earth, the seas and that you can influence the creatures around you..." Poseidon continued.
"Yes, I do... but I don't actually know how to channel my powers. Please, just take us to Samuel." She cut in impatiently.
"As you wish... but, many things have changed. You may not approve of the outcome."
Astrid was about to question the sea god when she instantly felt the sensation of the cold winds and the water all over her body.
Poseidon had pushed a large crashing wave towards them, so now they too were submerged waist down in the sea. But that was not what had shocked her.
"What the hell?" she exclaimed, on realizing that she was naked from the waist up, as were her friends. She instantly brought her arms to her chest to maintain her dignity.
"Sutherland! We have tails!" Tash declared, excitedly.
"We're mermaids!" Stacey added.
Astrid was in shock. This just didn't make any sense. "Is this some kind of joke? Can you at least give me something like a pair of clam shells to cover myself!" she demanded. "...You better not be looking, Joey!"
Poseidon waved his trident, and Astrid, Stacey, and Tash were given large clam shells to cover their nudity. They stuck firmly in place, magically.
"It's still a little revealing... but it'll do!" she sighed.
"Now, if the four of you are ready, we can leave," Poseidon said. "You have been gifted with the ability to breathe underwater. When we communicate, we speak with our thoughts. You are the guests of honor at a royal wedding, so it would be wise to curb your tongue."
He stared at Astrid to ensure that she understood the meaning of this. Then he turned and disappeared under the surface of the water. The group followed him on route to Atlantis.