Authors: Eva Pohler
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Myths & Legends, #Greek & Roman, #Paranormal & Urban
, Book Three
ished by Green Press
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, happenings, and dialogue came from the author’s imagination and are not real.
THE GATEKEEPER’S DAUGHTER.
Copyright 2013 by Eva Pohler.
All rights reserved.
Book Cover Design by Melinda VanLone
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication has been applied for
About the Author
Eva Pohler writes fiction and teaches writing and literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio where she lives with her husband, three children, two dogs, and two rats.
Be sure to check out the next books in the Gatekeeper’s Saga:
The Gatekeeper’s House
The Gatekeeper’s Secret
(April 1, 2014) and
The Gatekeeper’s Promise
(November 2014). You can find details at her website at
. She is also the author of
The Mystery Box
I would like to thank my grandparents, Ro Ann and Luther Ouellette and Joe and Margaret Mokry; my parents, Cathy and Joe Mokry; my in-laws and second parents, Danny and Lois Pohler; my siblings, Lisa Hubacek, Rachel Mokry, and Jody Mokry; my husband, David Pohler; and my three children, Mason, Travis, and Candace Pohler. Without them, this book would not have happened. I would also like to thank my book cover designer, Melinda VanLone. Finally, I would like to thank my aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, critique group, and book club for their help and support.
Chapter One: From the Ashes
The smell of ash permeated the air, and the cry of birds echoed over the valley. Therese’s mouth was dry, her lips parched. She opened her sleepy eyes, her lashes momentarily sticking together, and found her face pressed against Than’s chest. The pain had finally stopped. She knew exactly where she was.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been asleep on the altar beside
Than beneath the Grecian skies at the base of Mount Kronos outside of Demeter’s winter cabin, but her last memory was of the pungent scent of burning flesh, and that had been replaced by the fresh smell of morning dew. Blinking her dry eyes to produce tears, she wondered at the gray papery flakes of ash covering the two of them like dirty snow, which, when she flicked it from her arm, lifted in the air and floated before drifting to the ground. She shuddered, realizing she was brushing away bits of her old self.
Than met her bewildered gaze and gave her a hesitant smile.
“You okay?” he asked.
“We’re glowing. Like embers.”
“Like gods.” He leaned in and kissed her forehead. “My grandmother’s method worked. The transformation was a success. You should see how beautiful you look.” He propped himself up on his elbows, gazing lazily at her.
He pulled a mirror from thin air and handed it to her. She gasped at her own reflection. Her eyes were brighter, her hair shinier, gleaming like the sun. Even her skin and teeth were impeccable, in spite of the flakes of ash peppering her face.
She was also much brighter than humans.
Humans. It felt weird not to be included in that category anymore. And she was drop-dead gorgeous. Every one of her features was in better harmony with all the others. She looked airbrushed. Then she had this thought: “I look like my mother.” She blinked her eyes several times. Tears formed but didn’t fall. She was a goddess.
Her mouth dropped open. “Does this mean…?”
He smiled and nodded, a soft chuckle playing from his throat.
She jumped to her feet and brushed more of the ash from her arms, her legs. What was she wearing? The short white tunic was the only part of her not covered in the gray flakes. When she touched the silk, her dusty hand tainted it.
“I put that on you, just before you woke up,” Than explained.
Blood rushed to her cheeks. Other than the locket from Athena, which had survived the flames, the tunic was the only thing on her. Did that mean he saw her naked?
The soft chuckle played from his throat once more. “Your modesty is…”
“What?” She hadn’t meant that defensive edge in her voice.
She relaxed a bit and smiled back at him, handing over the mirror, which immediately vanished. “I can’t believe this. Am I dreaming?” She pushed off the ground and soared above
Than, not quite reaching the treetops surrounding them. Disappointment quaked through her as she landed on her feet in front of the altar. “Are you a figment?”
“You’re not dreaming, and I’m not a figment. That little test of yours won’t work anymore, now that you can really fly.”
“Now that I can…what? Are you saying I can fly?”
“You don’t have very high expectations for what it means to be a god.”
“I can fly? While I’m awake?” She jumped up into the air, turning somersaults just above Than’s head. “I can fly! Woohoo!” Images from
rushed to her, and, though she laughed at herself, she didn’t stop twirling in the air.
Than shook his head. “Come back down here, you crazy girl.”
She continued to turn and glide across the sky, daring to go higher, above the trees. “Whoa,” she cried when she wobbled and dropped a few feet. Then, confident again, she soared up to the clouds. “Wheeee!!!” Slowly, she descended, feet first, back to the ground, but before she landed, another idea struck her. She took off running up the mountain and was halfway there in seconds. “Look how fast I can run!” Spotting a boulder wedged in the mountainside, she stopped, tugged at it, easily loosening it from the surrounding earth, and lifted it above her head. “Look how strong I am!” Her voice echoed throughout the valley.
“So I can finally kiss you without killing you, and you’d rather fly and lift heavy rocks?”
She giggled and flew to the altar and lay beside him, propping her head on an elbow. “Sorry. I’m all yours.” Then, as Than’s face moved near hers, she frowned.
“Can we take a shower somewhere? We’re both covered in ash.” She shuddered again. Yuck. Her own dead body. She’d like to get clean of it as soon as possible.
Than snapped his fingers and a black cloud appeared above them. The cloud opened and dropped cool, refreshing rain.
“Mmm.” Therese lifted her face to it and allowed it to cascade down her cheeks, neck, shoulders. “Can I do that, too? Make it rain?”
He swept her wet hair out of her eyes. “Do you really want an education on what it means to be a god?
Right now?” With each word, he moved his lips nearer to hers.
“No.” She looked at his mouth.
“No, not really.”
He reached his lips towards her, but she stopped him once again.
“You burned, too. I saw you pour the kerosene all over yourself. Why?”
He cupped her chin. “I didn’t want you to go through that alone.”
“Wow. That’s so…”
He covered her lips with his as the exhilarating rain softly washed away their ashes and reinvigorated her. She slipped her arms around his neck and pressed her body against his. He pushed her hip down onto the altar and lay half on top of her, crushing her, but she didn’t mind, wanting to be as close to him as possible, making every part of her touch every part of him. She curled a leg over his and reveled at the sound of a moan escaping from his lips.
I can’t believe it. We’re finally together.”
He snapped his fingers, and the rain stopped, and the morning sunshine warmed and dried them as they kissed, caressed, and stroked one another on Demeter’s altar.
Memories of Than anointing her body—every inch of it—with ambrosia, his hands stroking her, quickly but lovingly, filled her with desire.
“Maybe we should go somewhere more private,” Than whispered.
Therese nodded, but asked, nearly breathless, “What happened to your mom and grandma?”
Than stopped and sat up. “That’s a good question.”
Therese sat up, too. “Are you worried?”
“They gave me the vial of ambrosia. They could be in trouble.”
“We need to find out.”
“I’ve just disintegrated and dispatched to Mount Olympus to look for them.”
“How do you do that?”
“Comes with the job.”
“Can I do it?”
“I don’t think so, but, ultimately, it’ll depend on your purpose.”
Just then Therese heard her aunt’s voice calling to her, as though she were right there with them. “Oh my god.”
“Nothing.” She tried to ignore it. “What purpose?”
He leaned back once again on his elbows. “Every god and goddess must serve humankind or the world in some way. We have to find a purpose for you, or this transformation won’t last.”
Therese hopped from the altar to her feet. “You never mentioned that.” It seemed like pretty important information, too. “My god, how much time do I have?”
“I’m not sure, but don’t worry.”
She frowned, unhappy with his vague answer. She didn’t think she had it in her to go through the transformation process again. The anticipation of burning to death had been horrible; the actual pain of burning alive had been worse. “I need a better answer than that. I didn’t just burn to death for nothing.”
“My grandmother will know. I’m looking for her, so be patient. Hephaestus just told me he hasn’t seen her, but that I’m not allowed in the palace. He’s going in to ask for me.”
Therese heard her aunt again: “Please, Therese, wherever you are. Please come home.”
She covered her face with her hands. The voice, full of desperation, seemed so close; her aunt’s mouth might have been at her ear.
Than god traveled to her side. “What’s wrong?”
“I didn’t think about how I would be able to hear my aunt. She’s talking to me, begging me to come home. How long have I been gone?”
“A few days.”
Therese sat on the ground and covered her face again. “She’s in full panic. I knew this would be hard—leaving her and everything—but I didn’t know I would hear her crying for me. I can’t bear it.”
“It’s worse than I thought.”
Therese lifted her head. “What?”
“My mom and grandmother are being held prisoners at Mount Olympus and are awaiting trial, which we thought could happen, but...” He pulled Therese up to her feet.
“They’re coming for us.”
What’ll we do?”
He shook his head.
She grabbed his hand and pointed to the top of the mountain. “Let’s run and hide. Come on. There could be a cave.” What was she thinking? They could go anywhere. “Let’s go to China!”
“I’m disintegrated in thousands of places. There’s no way I can hide. But you could.”
“I’m not leaving you.”
Therese wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her cheek to his chest, the pure joy she felt moments ago vanishing. She hadn’t thought completely through the consequences, and they didn’t look good. His mother and grandmother were being tried in court. Her aunt and uncle were worried sick, her aunt crying out to her. And now the other gods were coming for them.
Just then roots from the ground at their feet shot up and coiled themselves around Than and Therese’s legs, climbing higher and higher, cold and abrasive, ensnaring them in a net of plant. Therese screamed and Than pulled at the roots, to no avail, and soon they were encased in a kind of cocoon. Therese clung to Than, her new heart pounding, her new blood coursing through her limbs. Although she was stronger than she’d ever been in her life, it wasn’t enough to break free of the trap. Then she felt the invisible plastic wrap itself around them, recognized the feeling of god travel, and the next instant, she and Than were standing in the middle of the court surrounded by the gods of Mount Olympus.
Chapter Two: Prisoners at Mount Olympus
Than could feel Therese’s body trembling against him as they faced his family, the final note of Apollo’s lyre lingering in the air before dead silence overtook the palace. Everyone, including his father, was there. The last time they were all together had been nearly a year ago, when Therese chose to fight McAdams, her parents’ killer. Most years went by like the blink of an eye, but this past year had seemed longer than any in his life. He finally understood human longing and suffering and the dragging by of time.
Last June, while in a coma, Therese flew to him, wrapped her arms around him, and told him he was lovely. She thought she was dreaming, ignorant that she was at the junction of the dream and under worlds. In the long history of his ancient existence, no one had ever shown him such affection, and no one had made his heart race and his lips quiver with excitement like this girl, who had literally dropped from the sky.
Than needed to remind himself that his father was on his side at first. Hades had, after all, allowed Than to go to the upperworld as a mortal to try and win Therese’s heart, forcing Than’s brother, Hypnos, to take his place as god of the dead. In order to become a god, though, Hades required Therese to avenge her parents’ murder. Therese fought valiantly on Mount Olympus against McAdams, but she refused to take his life once he was incapacitated and no longer a threat. Her compassion and her value on human life cost them their eternity together, and all the gods at Mount Olympus swore an oath on the River Styx never to make Therese a god or to retrieve her from the Underworld.
He and Therese were given another chance when Hades agreed to force Dionysus, who was not at Mount Olympus and so swore no oath, to make her a god if she could complete five challenges. Hades set her up for failure, disgusted by her decision not to kill McAdams, but when he witnessed her determination to be with
Than and her cunning, strength, and bravery, somewhere along the way, Hades, too was wooed by her. Than could feel it. His father wanted Therese to succeed, even when he knew she wouldn’t.
In the end, her concern for
Than was her undoing. She looked back. And Than was forced to take matters into his own hands.