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The Hero of Achelois

Welcome back to my Flash Fiction series, where we take a look at my assignments as I puruse my MFA. Here I had to write for a Young Adult audience, and I decided to stick with the same Greek theme that I used previously.

I hope you enjoy it! I'd appreciate it if you took some time to throw a comment below and let me know what you think!

 

I should have stayed in Argyre, Achelois thought.

But when Hermes, the winged messenger of the gods, brings a message from Zeus saying that there was yet another hero in danger, what can you do?

Trapped on a volcano, no less. I mean, who does that?

The message had come for Artemis, Achelois’ patron, but she’d been gone for weeks. Some vacation with Apollo. At least, that’s what she’d told Achelois before she’d left. When Hermes had arrived on Argyre, the Island of Silver, he’d seen Achelois—alone—and quickly surveyed the island, hoping to find a mature god to give the message to. But it was only her, the adolescent goddess of the moon, and she could almost feel the disappointment on Hermes’ face. She’d never saved a hero before, though she would certainly try.

And probably fail, she thought, standing now on a perch of rock on the mountain where the hero was trapped. She looked warily at the hero below, saw his short sword and shield. There were five others with him, all armed, and they didn’t look like friends. Not that Achelois had any friends herself, being the youngest god on Argyre at only a century old.

“Are you ready yet?” Hermes asked again, his voice edged with impatience.

Achelois scowled at him. “I’m getting there,” she snapped. Lava flowed freely from a crack in the rock, running down the sloping mountain like blood from a wound in Gaia herself. It hit an outcropping and split into two separate rivers of red, surrounding the hero and his five ‘not friends’ before joining again and trapping the six of them on an island of rock. “It’s just…it’s a lot of lava.”

Hermes frowned and held out the pair of winged sandals. “You just have to deliver these. In and out.”

“What about them?” she asked, pointing to the five others surrounding the hero. She heard the crack of bronze on bronze and watched as the hero dodged and cut. One of the five fell in a howl of pain that echoed up the mountain.

“The message only mentioned the hero,” Hermes said. He paused and read it a second time. “Just the sandals, it says. The fight’s up to him.” Hermes turned to her, sternly adding, “You can’t help him in the fight, Achelois. If he dies, he dies. It’ll tick off Zeus if you do anything besides give him the sandals.”

She looked again at the lava, felt a pang of fear. “Why don’t we wait and see if he survives the fight? Then I’ll bring him the sandals.”

Hermes sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I hate adolescent gods,” he mumbled.

She snatched the sandals from him. “Fine.”

And with that, she leaped angrily from her perch. Her thin robe caught in the wind, flapping around her like wings on her outstretched arms. She’d never tried flying from this high up—or over lava—and a quick gust pushed her dangerously close to the molten rock. Heat waves wafted at her sandals, and she gave a panicked flap of her arms. Her robe fluttered in the wind, she dipped, one of her feet nearly touching the blazing surface of the cherry-red river. She bobbed back up, flapping like a desperate baby bird, then tumbled to the ground mere feet from the flowing lava.

“That was a bad idea,” she muttered, looking back up to find Hermes already gone.

At least he didn't see.

She dusted off, then scanned the mountain again for the hero. He fought now only a dozen feet away, just over the river of lava. Though the hero had lost his shield, only one of the others was still alive; three were on the ground, and she thought she saw the tip of a spear sticking up from the lava where perhaps one of them had went.

Ouch.

The hero swung his short sword, but his foe ducked the strike, then kicked him hard in chest. He somersaulted backward and landed hard on the rock. One of his hands landed in the lava, and the hero let out a wail of pain. Achelois winced, then watched as he stood, his hand still aflame, and beat the fire out on his tunic.

Tougher than he looks.

She caught of glimpse of his face, of his blue eyes and lightly stubbled chin.

And handsome, too.

She shook the thought from her head, fixed her robe, and leaped once more—this time slow and controlled—and landed softly behind the hero. She hadn’t yet made herself known, so he couldn’t see or hear her. He tucked his burnt hand into his tunic and held his sword ready before him. She didn't know his quest, what was driving him to fight in the first place, but she couldn't help but admire his resiliency.

His foe leaped forward, and they exchanged a quick series of blows. The hero backpedaled and sidestepped, dodging both the bronze blade and the smoldering lava.

Don’t help him, she reminded herself. Just give him the sandals if he wins.

Even as she had the thought, she felt herself following the battle, always within reach, a part her mind conscious of the small dagger of celestial bronze tucked tight against her lower back.

The hero stumbled, his opponent’s sword grazing his left bicep and throwing a spurt of blood. He raised his sword to block, but his foe kicked it away. Achelois watched wide-eyed as it landed in the lava with a plunk, then immediately vanished in a puff of flame. She saw another flash of bronze, felt her feet and arms move. Before she knew what she’d done, she found herself in front of the hero, her dagger buried up to the hilt in the stomach of his foe, her other hand gripping his wrist as his sword wavered above them. He gurgled once, still unable to see what killed him, then tumbled backward on the rock, leaving Achelois with a bloodless dagger in her outstretched hand.

What have I done?

She felt herself become known, felt the veil fade that normally surrounded her, then turned to find the hero looking her in the eyes.

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