Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-five - It's time (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE

(part four)

Thursday morning — 11:02 a.m.

“Who are you?” Jill asked the human form standing in the middle of the loft. “Why are you in my home?”

“I’m here to protect the children,” said the . . . woman?

Jill squinted at her. This being’s skin and clothing were grey from head to toe. Her hair was in what looked like dreadlocks but could actually be live snakes.

“You’re a gorgon,” Jill said.

“I am,” the being said. “You may call me, Euryale.”

“But that’s not your name,” Jill said.

“It will do,” the being said. “Now, where are the children?”

“Would you mind if I . . .” Jill started.

Jill reached out to the being. She put her hands on either side of the being’s face.

“What are you doing little Titanling?” the being hissed. The snakes on her head awakened and they hissed at Jill as well.

“One second,” Jill said. “Just give me . . .”

The being transformed into the form of a female. As she transformed, the woman’s eyes grew on her face and moved to be wide set. Her lashes became absurdly long, and her teeth straightened. Jill smiled.

“There you are!” Jill said. “You’re a fairy.”

“What have you done?” the being asked.

“I healed you, Callisto,” Jill said. “That’s who you are, right? Callisto the half-fairy?”

The woman’s hands went to her face and head. While she still had a head of snakes for hair, her skin was no longer stone colored but rather a golden brown like Heather’s. Her eyes were deep and dark. Her hands long and supple.

“Would you like to get rid of the snakes?” Jill asked.

“Am I no longer a gorgon?” Callisto asked in a whisper.

“Oh, no, I can’t do that,” Jill said. “I can just relieve your suffering, your trauma, your pain.”

Jill shrugged.

“That is not a Titan gift,” Callisto said.

“No,” Jill said. “I get it from my mother. She’s from Russia. She from an ancient line of healers. Would you like something more comfortable to wear?”

Callisto looked down at her grey outfit. She was wearing a grey dress down to her toes and sandals.

“You’re about my size,” Jill said. “Come on.”

“This doesn’t bother you?” Callisto asked. “Being around a gorgon?”

“I’ve been around abused women all of my life,” Jill said. “My mother was beaten and assaulted. My friends are abuse survivors. It’s not your fault that you were abused. Why shouldn’t you live free?”

Callisto mouthed the words that Jill said. Shaking her head, she followed Jill into Jill’s bedroom.

“I have some of Heather’s clothes here too,” Jill said. “She comes here after she’s been in Olympia so she can change, shower, or whatever. Let’s see . . .”

Jill took a pair of jeans and a couple of shirts out of her closet.

“We wear underwear,” Jill said. “Do you know what that is?”

Callisto shook her head. Jill opened her drawer.

“You’re thin,” Jill said. “Have you been eating?”

The woman shook her head.

“Okay, let’s get you something to eat after you change,” Jill said.

“Women wear these . . .” Callisto started. “What are they called?”

“Pants,” Jill said. “We specifically call those jeans. Everyone wears them. They are comfortable. If you’re going to watch after the children, then you need something comfortable.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-five - It's time (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE

(part three)

“Will we walk time again?” Nelson asked.

“I don’t know,” Hedone said. “Probably. I’m hoping that it won’t take that long.”

“We were going to do a lot of press about the find,” Nelson said.

Hedone nodded.

“Do the lawyers have the coordinates?” Nelson asked.

“The land is still owned by the Templars,” Hedone said. “As long as you can back up the claim to be the Grand Master with something more than a sword, we should be in the clear.”

“I have all the papers now,” Nelson said. “My name is on all of the deeds to property including all of the swords. Since my dad woke up, he’s been working to authenticate my claim. It just made it through the French courts.”

“Good,” Ares said.

“Why don’t you plan to leave tonight?” Hedone asked.

“Tonight?” Nelson asked.

“It’s soon enough,” Hedone said. “We’ll get out of your hair so you can wrap up what you’re doing.”

“But I have to go? Now?” Nelson asked. “This morning, we thought. . .”

“I’m truly sorry but yes,” Ares said. “You have to leave tonight, at the latest.”

Nelson nodded.

“I’ll get ready,” Nelson said. “We leave tonight? What time?”

“Eight o’clock,” Hedone said.

“I’ll be ready,” Nelson said, looking thoroughly depressed. “How long will I be gone?”

“A couple of months,” Ares said at the same time that Hedone said, “Few days, maybe a week.”

Nelson smiled at them.

“Will it be worth it?” Nelson asked.

“For the world?” Hedone asked. “Yes. For you personally? I’d also have to say yes. Everything you desire in your life is on the other side of this quest. Let’s just get it over with so you can get on with your life.”

Nelson nodded. His computer dinged and he turned back to look at it. A moment later, he looked for the Gods and they were gone.

“How long do you think you’ll need?” Ava asked, coming out of her office.

“No idea,” Nelson said. “They just said anywhere between a few days and a number of months.”

“Don’t worry,” Ava said. “We’ll put you on leave.”

“You won’t replace me?” Nelson asked. “You should probably replace me.”

“Not a chance,” Ava said. “Just come home to us.”

“And remember, we’re here if you need us,” Leslie said. “Any of us. At any time. We’re available to you and anything you need.”

Nelson nodded his thanks.

“I should probably go see my dad,” Nelson said. “He’s still pretty sick and . . .”

“Just go,” Ava said. “Let us know how we can help.”

Nelson nodded. He packed up what little he’d unpacked. Fran came out of the lab to hug Nelson good-bye. Bob came from across the hallway to see him off. Ava and Leslie hugged him for luck. He left the lab. Standing on the elevator, he could see his teammates standing in the hallway waving at him.

He tried to smile to show some optimism, but he felt like he was going to his death. Sighing, he made his way home.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-five - It's time (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE

(part two)

“It won’t be like the last time,” Hedone said. “We are more prepared, ready for anything. You have the support of the Titans and us, of course. You’ll have your same travel team.”

“Alex, too?” Nelson asked.

“I think you’d literally have to kill her not to have her come,” Hedone said with a smile.

“You’ve told her?” Nelson asked. “She’s really busy in the middle of everything all the time.”

“We just left her,” Ares said. “She said she needed an hour or so but she’s ready to go. Max is coming this time too.”

Nelson nodded.

“Fuck,” Nelson said again in a more resigned way. “There’s no way to avoid this. I was hoping. . .”

Hedone shook her head.

“You will need to take Katy and Paddie with you,” Hedone said.

“The children?” Nelson asked. “Why?”

“You need their swords to raise the hoard,” Ares said.

Nelson nodded.

“They need to be with you for their own protection,” Hedone said.

“I can’t find a hoard and protect the children at the same time!” Nelson said.

“The gorgon have agreed to protect the children,” Hedone said.

The laughter in Ava’s office increased and they all looked over to see Leslie, Ava, and Athena laughing.

“You made some agreement with the gorgon?” Hedone asked.

“Medusa’s head is in the hoard,” Nelson said. “She is still alive. Her head is alive under the water. She . . .”

Nelson shivered.

“Just horrible,” Nelson said.

“What did you agree to son?” Ares asked.

“I agreed to give them the head,” Nelson said. “They agreed to support me. I thought that Hedone had put them up to it.”

Hedone shook her head.

“They knew all about me and the hoard,” Nelson said. He shrugged. “They actually were lovely. Truthful. Helpful. Did you know that there are many of them? They only appear in threes.”

“Really?” Ares asked.

Hedone nodded.

“They are women scorned, abused, or used as sex slaves or oracle slaves from our time,” Hedone said. “Their unexpressed rage and anger at their abuse turns them into gorgon.”

“They are?” Ares asked.

“How is it that you don’t know this?” Hedone asked. “Zeus created most of them with his rapey misogyny. Where do you think the Sea of Amber came from?”

“From the gorgon?” Ares asked. “I never thought of it.”

“They have powerful magic,” Hedone said. “They are unmovable, powerful, and incorruptible. They’ve been behind every effort to create a safer world for the vulnerable. They live in the shadows because of their abuse.”

“How do you know so much about them?” Ares asked.

“My friend Tanesha had to do a report on them when she was in college,” Hedone said. “I went to find out what I could and met them. I was . . . in awe, really. They are incredible. Truly incredible women, very powerful, and absolutely beloved to the mother. As, Nelson is beloved to the mother.”

Scowling, Ares nodded.

“How much time do I have?” Nelson asked.

“Not much,” Hedone said. “Katy and Paddie were so freaked out that Jill kept them home today.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-five - It's time (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE

(part one)

Thursday morning — 10:17 a.m.

Denver Crime Labs

Denver, Colorado

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Nelson asked.

Nelson was sitting at his desk outside Ava O’Malley’s office and next to the lab. He didn’t turn around or look up. He knew that someone from the “old world” had appeared. He just wanted to finish what he was working on.

When he looked up, he saw Hedone, Ares, and Athena had appeared.

“We need to get this quest underway,” Ares said.

Nelson raised an eyebrow at him.

“See I told you that he wouldn’t listen to me,” Ares said. “He has no respect.”

Hedone and Athena laughed so hard that Ares grinned. With their laughter, Ava got up from her desk and opened her office door.

“May I help you?” Ava asked.

“We’re here for him,” Athena said.

“That’s nice,” Ava said. “This is a secure building. How did you get in?”

“They’re immortal Gods,” Nelson said.

“Sure they are,” Ava said. “Are they bothering you?”

“Outside of being incredibly annoying?” Nelson asked. “No.”

Dr. Leslie McClintock came out of the lab. She looked from Hedone to Ares to Athena and blinked.

“You know who we are,” Athena said, evenly.

“I’m not sure if I should bow or . . .?” Leslie asked.

“You’re fine,” Nelson said. “They just came to annoy me.”

“Lucky you,” Leslie said. “May I . . . Uh . . . Would you mind if I asked you some questions?”

Ares stepped forward eagerly.

“Oh sorry, I meant Athena,” Leslie asked. “I . . . well really, we need some wisdom.”

Leslie pointed toward Ava’s office. She, Athena, and Ava went into her office. After a few minutes, they heard laughing and talking coming from Ava’s office.

“What’s happened between when we talked about this situation this morning?” Nelson asked.

“We can’t wait anymore,” Ares said.

“I’m sorry,” Hedone said. “I know that you were just settling in to your life again.”

“What about the French?” Nelson asked. “They were going to fund the entire thing. They . . .”

“We put a bug in their ear about another expedition,” Ares said. “You would be amazed at how persuasive I can be.”

Nelson gave him a skeptical look.

“I dressed in a modern suit, shook hands, and all of that,” Ares said, proudly. “You would have been proud of me. I looked like a modern man.”

“And?” Nelson asked.

“They should be calling you in a few minutes,” Ares said.

Nelson looked up at the ceiling and whispered an angry, “Fuck.”

“If you’re offering . . .” Ares said.

Nelson shook his head, and Ares laughed.

“Come on, young lad,” Ares said. “We’ll have a great time.”

“I . . .” Nelson started. “I need to talk to Blane and my family again. Tanesha and Jeraine are adopting three more kids and. . .”

“They’ll be okay,” Hedone said. “We’ve expected that you’d be leaving soon. It’s actually been longer than we expected.”

Nelson gave Hedone a vague nod.

“It won’t be like the last time,” Hedone said.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part six)

“They may have thought that the children were more vulnerable in the future,” Hedone said. “Get them out of this house, away from those who defend them, and then. . .”

“And then?” Jill asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Hedone asked. “I’ve been speaking with Nelson and Blane. It seems that we need to get this thing going in the next few days. No one wants to risk Katy and Paddie’s lives but we think now that they need to come with us.”

Jill nodded and Jacob looked worried.

“Do you think that this is some fairy bullshit?” Jacob asked. “Should I speak with Fin and Edie?”

“It’s a fair question,” Hedone said. “I won’t dismiss it out of hand. Talking with Edie and Fin is a good idea. That said, I think it’s unlikely.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“The Templars,” Hedone said. “Or someone who is loyal to the Templars.”

No one said anything for a moment.

“If you know anything else, I’d appreciate it if you’d tell us,” Jacob said.

Hedone sighed.

“There is one thing,” Hedone said. “We don’t know what the Vatican knows or thinks about this Templar crap. They have archives — documents, books, objects. . . just so much — that likely contain information about our situation. There may be someone pulling the strings from the Vatican. Nelson says that there’s a contact there at the Vatican that is loyal to the Templars. He’s calling him right now.”

“Lumiati?” Jacob asked.

“Those assholes?” Hedone asked. “No. The worrisome ones are gone and those left worship themselves too much to actually manifest anything upon the world.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“I don’t know,” Hedone said.

“How can we find out?” Jill asked.

“It’s definitely something we need to look into,” Hedone said.

“The only thing that’s going to end this is to find the hoard and bring it to the light of day,” Jacob said.

“Exactly,” Hedone said.

“What can I do?” Jill asked.

“Call your grandfather,” Hedone said. “His beloved has connections to the Vatican.”

“Mari?” Jacob said. “Princess Marigold?”

“She does seem ridiculous, doesn’t she?” Hedone asked. “She does that so that she’s underestimated. She is an incredible being — knows people everywhere. She loves Katy and, my guess is, that she’d be delighted to help.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Jill said.

Jill looked down to see that Paddie and Katy were following the entire conversation closely.

“What can we do to protect the kids?” Jacob asked.

“I’m not sure,” Hedone said. “Give me a few hours and I’ll see what I can find out.”

Hedone turned to walk out of the room. She stopped at the door.

“So you know, it was Hecate who put this right,” Hedone said. “I tell you that so that you know the level of power and ability required to have pulled Katy and Paddie into the future. It must be someone powerful without remourse.”

“A Titan?” Jill asked.

“I was thinking Zeus,” Hedone said. “But, I’ll find out.”

“Thanks,” Jill said.

Hedone nodded and disappeared.

“Can we snuggle for a while?” Katy asked. “We feel scared.”

“Of course,” Jacob said.

The little children and Katy’s parents snuggled down in the warm bed. They lay there together until Jacob’s alarm dragged him out of bed.

“I’ll call you,” Jacob said before he left the bedroom.

Jill nodded. Looking at the children, she decided to lay in bed for a while more. They were so little and so brave. She tried to will her strength into them, because no matter what happens now — they were going to need it.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright...

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

Sometime in the future

New York, New York

Katy Roper Marlowe woke up with a start.

She had no idea where she was. The only thing that she knew is that she was naked.

And there was someone else in her bed!

She looked over and saw a tuft of white blond hair sticking out of covers tightly around the person’s head. That was just like how Paddie slept. But this person was big, really big.

“Paddie?” Katy asked.

The person didn’t stir.

Embarrassed by her own nakedness, she got out of bed.

She gasped.

She was big! She might even be taller than her own mother!

Her hands went over her body. She had breasts — not too big, not too small! Nice, strong legs. Her feet seemed really big! And her hands!

She reached out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared. With her gigantic size, the Vanquisher looked more like a knife than a sword. Clearly, the sword still belonged to her still. At least that hadn’t changed! She made the sword disappear.

Spying a silken bathrobe on a chair, Katy grabbed the robe and put it on. She went into the bathroom.

It was a lot nicer than her functional, practical bathroom in the Castle.

For the first time, Katy wondered where she was.

And who was the person in her bed?

Should she feel bad? She didn’t.

Shrugging to herself, she followed her feet out into the living area.

She floated toward the pictures on the wall. There was one of big her in a gorgeous lace white dress and. . .

“That’s got to be Paddie,” Katy said, softly to herself.

Whoever it was, he was wearing a black tuxedo. He was tall and handsome. White hair sticking straight up and sparkling blue eyes. Seeing him, Katy felt her heart warm.

There were pictures of her parents and even her brothers all grown up. Her mother’s friends were there and their husbands. There was a picture of Noelle and Teddy with a little baby and even a picture of a boy who had to be Jabari standing on a stage with a guitar.

Everyone was smiling and laughing. It made Katy so happy to see everyone so happy.

She went back to the bed.

“Paddie?” Katy asked. She was surprised because her voice sounded like her six year old voice.

“Katy?” Paddie moved the covers off his face. “You got big!”

“I know,” Katy said. “So did you!”

Paddie jumped up to look at himself.

“I’m huge!” Paddie said looking down at his naked body. Realizing that Katy could see him he said, “Turn around!”

“It’s okay, Paddie,” Katy said. “We’re married.”

“We are?” Paddie asked. He looked at his hand and saw that he was wearing a ring. “Look Katy!”

Paddie pointed to his wedding ring.

“I have one, too,” Katy said, pointing to hers.

Paddie’s face broke into a big, white toothed smile.

“My dream came true!” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“That makes me so happy,” Paddie said.

Katy smiled.

“You are very beautiful,” Paddie said, pulling on a T-shirt and sweatpants.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Katy said.

Paddie giggled.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “The last thing I remember is that you were staying with me because your mom was sick. But you don’t have to worry, there’s a picture of her on the wall outside. She must have gotten better. Connor’s there too.”

“And my dad?” Paddie asked, walking out to look at the photos.

“And your dad,” Katy said.

“I don’t know why, but I feel very relieved,” Paddie said.

“Your dad’s in the military,” Katy said. “You always talk about how worried you are that he’ll be hurt or die while he’s out on mission.”

Paddie nodded and looked at the pictures.

“Do you think we have our own food?” Paddie asked.

“There’s a kitchen,” Katy said.

They walked together into the kitchen. Paddie opened the door. Without thinking, he pulled out eggs, cheese and spinach. There was some vegan sausage so he added that. In a few minutes, he’d made them a breakfast burrito.

“How’d you learn to do that?” Katy asked.

“I don’t know,” Paddie said. “I just knew I could.”

Katy smiled at him. Standing in the kitchen, they wolfed down their breakfast burritos.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I woke up here too. Do you still have the Sword of Truth?”

Paddie reached into his pocket and was holding the sword.

“It fits you better now that you’re big,” Katy said.

“I’m really big,” Paddie said. He smiled broadly. “I like being big. Do you think when we go back that I can stay this big?”

Katy shook her head, and Paddie laughed.

“What do we do?” Paddie asked.

“I’ve been thinking,” Katy said.

“Did you call for your mom?” Paddie asked.

“I really wanted to,” Katy said, looking sad. “I really miss her. Do you think she’s okay?”

“She looks okay in this picture,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Do you think that this is a dream?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I think. . .”

Katy stopped talking for a moment and looked at Paddie.

“This is about that prophecy,” Paddie said. “The one about you and me.”

Katy nodded.

“Do you think I should call my grandpa or my Auntie Heather?” Katy asked.

“Your grandpa makes everything really intense,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Let’s call Auntie Heather,” Paddie said. “She’s always nice.”

Katy nodded.

“Is that Jabari on the wall?” Paddie asked.

“It looks like him,” Katy said. “See this red head in the front? That looks like Maggie.”

“Cool. They’re big too!” Paddie said with a grin. “Do you think we have jobs and stuff?”

“We pay for this nice place,” Katy said with a shrug.

“Where are we?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said.

She went to the windows and opened the blinds. For a moment, they stood there in shock. They were looking out over the city. Central Park was a block or two away but they could see people playing and walking.

“What a view!” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“We must be rich,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Cool,” Paddie said. “You’re sure this isn’t a dream?”

“It’s not a dream,” Katy said. “We can check with the sword.”

“No, you’re right,” Paddie said. “I’m just happy that everything is so good for us!”

“Me too,” Katy said.

Katy watched Paddie watch people in the park.

“Should I call my Auntie?” Katy asked.

Paddie nodded.

“Auntie Heather?” Katy asked into the air.

Nothing happened. Katy thought for a moment.

“She probably doesn’t recognize my voice now,” Katy said.

“Use her Goddess name,” Paddie said. “Use the Vanquisher.”

Katy nodded. She held out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared.

“Hedone, the Goddess of Love,” Katy called.

The air around them glistened with light. Shrouded by the light, a figure appeared and gradually became clearer.

Timeless and shockingly beautiful, Hedone appeared in her gorgeous gold dress. Katy and Paddie stepped back.

“Auntie Heather,” Katy said. She jumped up and down a bit.

“Katy?” Hedone asked. “Katy, what’s wrong?”

“We went to bed last night at home with Mommy and Daddy and the twins,” Katy said.

“We woke up big!” Paddie said.

Surprised, Hedone blinked at them. She looked around the apartment and then walked to the window. She turned around and looked at them.

“When were you married?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“What do you do for a living?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“Interesting,” Hedone said. “Do you still have your swords?”

Katy held up the Vanquisher and Paddie took the Sword of Truth out of his pocket.

“Huh,” Hedone said. “Someone must have thought that you would be more vulnerable in the future than you are in the Castle.”

“Are we rich?” Paddie asked.

“Well, you’re an MD PhD,” Hedone said. “You specialize in infectious disease. Katy is a museum curator.”

“That sounds fun,” Katy said.

“Ivan and Sissy gave you this apartment as a wedding present,” Hedone said. “It’s a part of their floor in New York. Your mom and dad refurbished it for you, Katy.”

“It’s beautiful,” Katy said.

“You are both very loved,” Hedone said. “Katy, you control the entire collection of art from the Polish mine and the Templar Hoard, not to mention all of the items you and Paddie found under that church in the Isle of Man and other places you’ve adventured.”

“The white eyed guy?” Paddie asked.

“Maughold gave you everything,” Hedone said. “Fin and the fairies, too. You are both fairly famous. As far as I know, you’re very happy.”

“Mack and Wyn?” Paddie asked.

“Mack just got a job as a Greek antiquities professor at UCLA,” Hedone said. “Wyn is a lawyer. He has an internship at the Supreme Court.”

“Wow,” Katy said. “Does he like it?”

“Not in the slightest,” Hedone said. “He wants to be a Supreme Court justice and this is the way.”

Katy nodded. It was weird to her that the kids who were younger than her had grown up too.

“Nash and Nadia live here too,” Hedone said.

Katy nodded.

“Are you sure that you were in Denver at the Castle when you went to bed?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“Listen to our voices,” Paddie said.

“Good point,” Hedone said. “You do sound like the little kids you were and not your adult selves.”

Hedone gave Katy a soft smile.

“We think it’s to steal our swords,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“What do you know about the search for the Templar Hoard?” Hedone asked.

“Nothing,” Katy said. “Did we go?”

Hedone nodded. The goddess looked away for a long moment.

“This is about the prophecy,” Hedone said.

“Can I see my Mommy?” Katy asked. “I really miss her.”

Paddie nodded.

“Why didn’t you call your grandfather or your aunt?” Hedone asked.

“Because he’s all ‘Hello, I’m Perses,’” Paddie said mimicking Perses’ accent.

“‘I’m big and violent,’” Katy mimicked her grandfather.

“‘Shall I kill everyone just for fun?’” Paddie asked.

Hedone laughed.

“Fair point,” Hedone said. “Hecate.”

Hecate appeared out of thin air.

“What. . .?” Hecate turned to look from Katy to Paddie. “This is impressive magic. Yours?”

Because Hecate was looking at her, Katy shook her head. Hecate turned to Hedone, who shook her head.

“You don’t know how this happened?” Hecate asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded their heads in unison.

“That’s not good,” Hecate said.

“Do you remember them going missing in 2021?” Heather asked.

Hecate shook her head.

“So it was done out of time,” Hedone said.

“Or I put the children back before anything happened,” Hecate said.

“Can we go home?” Paddie asked. “My mommy is really sick. I can’t be here!”

Katy reached out to hold Paddie’s hand.

“I’ll put you back,” Hecate said.

There was a whooshing sound and child Paddie and Katy were gone along with Hecate.

“Auntie Heather?” adult Katy asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Do you remember waking up in adult bodies when you were kids?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“You do?” Hedone asked.

“We put the pictures on the wall just like they were when we were here,” Katy said.

“It was just before the fight for the swords,” Paddie said.

Hedone nodded.

“Hasn’t happened yet?” Paddie asked.

“It hasn’t,” Hedone said. “Any tips?”

Shaking his head, Paddie reached his hand out, and Katy moved closer to him. His arm went over her shoulder. Hedone nodded. She kissed Katy on the cheek and disappeared.

Katy looked at Paddie and he smiled.

“It made me so happy to wake up as your husband,” Paddie said. “I’m so glad to be your husband.”

“I’m glad to be your wife,” Katy said.

They kissed and hugged each other.

“You look worried,” Paddie said.

“Just telling younger me that it’s all going to work out,” Katy said.

Paddie smiled at Katy and she kissed him.

“Coffee?” Paddie asked.

Katy nodded, and they went into the kitchen.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday early morning — 4:12 a.m.

Katy Roper Marlowe woke up in her own bed in the Castle. Sitting straight up, she looked around the room. There was a little boy’s tufted of white hair sticking out of his blankets in the bed next to hers.

“Paddie?” Katy asked.

Paddie’s head moved up and down causing the blankets to move.

“I’m ’fraid to get up,” Paddie said. “In case, we’re somewhere scary.”

“We’re not,” Katy said. “We’re in my room at home.”

“Are you little again?” Paddie asked.

“Yes,” Katy said. “You look like you are too.”

“Okay,” Paddie said.

“I’m going to see my Mommy,” Katy said.

“I’m going with you,” Paddie said.

Katy ran out of the bedroom with Paddie on her heels. They ran across the loft to Katy’s parents room.

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Katy said.

Wide awake, Jill and Jacob sat straight up. Katy crawled across the bed toward her mother. Paddie stood on the side of the bed until Jacob grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed too. Jacob lay back down.

“What’s happened?” Jill asked.

“We grew up!” Katy said. “Me and Paddie were married and living in New York.”

“I was a doctor,” Paddie said.

“I was a museum curate,” Katy said. “But I don’t know what that is.”

“We were very happy,” Paddie said.

“Sounds like a beautiful dream,” Jill said with a yawn. “Shall we cuddle a bit before we have to get up?”

“It wasn’t a dream!” Katy said. “We were really there.”

Jill shook the sleep from her head.

“What?” Jill asked. She reached across and shook Jacob’s shoulder. “Jake?”

Jacob’s eyes popped open.

“What’s up?” Jacob asked.

Jill nodded to Katy.

“The kids were taken out of their beds and moved into the future,” Jill said. “What did you do?”

“We called Auntie Heather,” Katy said.

“But she didn’t come as Auntie Heather so we called Hedone and she. . .” Paddie said.

The Goddess of Love, Hedone, was standing at the foot of the bed. No matter what she actually looked like, Jill always saw her good friend Heather under the glow and the gold dress and perfect hair. Jill smiled at her friend. Of course, her friend would come to help Katy.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Hedone said.

“Is what they are saying true?” Jacob asked. “Not a dream.”

“No dream,” Hedone said. “In fact, if I had to wager a guess, Katy and Paddie had prepared for their younger selves to come visit them. They put a bunch of cheesy photographs of everyone on their walls so that when Katy and Paddie arrived they would see them.”

“We looked at those!” Katy said.

Paddie nodded.

“Katy was very beautiful,” Paddie said, shyly.

“Paddie was huge,” Katy said.

“I was handsome,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

Jill shot Jacob a worried look.

“What do we need to do?” Jacob asked.

“The truth is that we cannot wait any longer to go find this stupid hoard,” Hedone said. “The longer we wait, the more risk for the children.”

“Who would have done such a thing?” Jill asked.

“I think the question is when did someone do this thing?” Hedone asked. “This hoard has been missing for a long time. The prophecy has been told a long time ago. Someone, anyone really, could have sent their child selves to their older selves anytime between when the prophecy was made and now.”

“Why would they do that?” Jacob asked.

“They may have thought that the children were more vulnerable in the future,” Hedone said. “Get them out of this house, away from those who defend them, and then. . .”

“And then?” Jill asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Hedone asked. “I’ve been speaking with Nelson and Blane. It seems that we need to get this thing going in the next few days. No one wants to risk Katy and Paddie’s lives but we think now that they need to come with us.”

Jill nodded and Jacob looked worried.

“Do you think that this is some fairy bullshit?” Jacob asked. “Should I speak with Fin and Edie?”

“It’s a fair question,” Hedone said. “I won’t dismiss it out of hand. Talking with Edie and Fin is a good idea. That said, I think it’s unlikely.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“The Templars,” Hedone said. “Or someone who is loyal to the Templars.”

No one said anything for a moment.

“If you know anything else, I’d appreciate it if you’d tell us,” Jacob said.

Hedone sighed.

“There is one thing,” Hedone said. “We don’t know what the Vatican knows or thinks about this Templar crap. They have archives — documents, books, objects. . . just so much — that likely contain information about our situation. There may be someone pulling the strings from the Vatican. Nelson says that there’s a contact there at the Vatican that is loyal to the Templars. He’s calling him right now.”

“Lumiati?” Jacob asked.

“Those assholes?” Hedone asked. “No. The worrisome ones are gone and those left worship themselves too much to actually manifest anything upon the world.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“I don’t know,” Hedone said.

“How can we find out?” Jill asked.

“It’s definitely something we need to look into,” Hedone said.

“The only thing that’s going to end this is to find the hoard and bring it to the light of day,” Jacob said.

“Exactly,” Hedone said.

“What can I do?” Jill asked.

“Call your grandfather,” Hedone said. “His beloved has connections to the Vatican.”

“Mari?” Jacob said. “Princess Marigold?”

“She does seem ridiculous, doesn’t she?” Hedone asked. “She does that so that she’s underestimated. She is an incredible being — knows people everywhere. She loves Katy and, my guess is, that she’d be delighted to help.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Jill said.

Jill looked down to see that Paddie and Katy were following the entire conversation closely.

“What can we do to protect the kids?” Jacob asked.

“I’m not sure,” Hedone said. “Give me a few hours and I’ll see what I can find out.”

Hedone turned to walk out of the room. She stopped at the door.

“So you know, it was Hecate who put this right,” Hedone said. “I tell you that so that you know the level of power and ability required to have pulled Katy and Paddie into the future. It must be someone powerful without remourse.”

“A Titan?” Jill asked.

“I was thinking Zeus,” Hedone said. “But, I’ll find out.”

“Thanks,” Jill said.

Hedone nodded and disappeared.

“Can we snuggle for a while?” Katy asked. “We feel scared.”

“Of course,” Jacob said.

The little children and Katy’s parents snuggled down in the warm bed. They lay there together until Jacob’s alarm dragged him out of bed.

“I’ll call you,” Jacob said before he left the bedroom.

Jill nodded. Looking at the children, she decided to lay in bed for a while more. They were so little and so brave. She tried to will her strength into them, because no matter what happens now — they were going to need it.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part five)

Thursday early morning — 4:12 a.m.

Katy Roper Marlowe woke up in her own bed in the Castle. Sitting straight up, she looked around the room. There was a little boy’s tufted of white hair sticking out of his blankets in the bed next to hers.

“Paddie?” Katy asked.

Paddie’s head moved up and down causing the blankets to move.

“I’m ’fraid to get up,” Paddie said. “In case, we’re somewhere scary.”

“We’re not,” Katy said. “We’re in my room at home.”

“Are you little again?” Paddie asked.

“Yes,” Katy said. “You look like you are too.”

“Okay,” Paddie said.

“I’m going to see my Mommy,” Katy said.

“I’m going with you,” Paddie said.

Katy ran out of the bedroom with Paddie on her heels. They ran across the loft to Katy’s parents room.

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Katy said.

Wide awake, Jill and Jacob sat straight up. Katy crawled across the bed toward her mother. Paddie stood on the side of the bed until Jacob grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed too. Jacob lay back down.

“What’s happened?” Jill asked.

“We grew up!” Katy said. “Me and Paddie were married and living in New York.”

“I was a doctor,” Paddie said.

“I was a museum curate,” Katy said. “But I don’t know what that is.”

“We were very happy,” Paddie said.

“Sounds like a beautiful dream,” Jill said with a yawn. “Shall we cuddle a bit before we have to get up?”

“It wasn’t a dream!” Katy said. “We were really there.”

Jill shook the sleep from her head.

“What?” Jill asked. She reached across and shook Jacob’s shoulder. “Jake?”

Jacob’s eyes popped open.

“What’s up?” Jacob asked.

Jill nodded to Katy.

“The kids were taken out of their beds and moved into the future,” Jill said. “What did you do?”

“We called Auntie Heather,” Katy said.

“But she didn’t come as Auntie Heather so we called Hedone and she. . .” Paddie said.

The Goddess of Love, Hedone, was standing at the foot of the bed. No matter what she actually looked like, Jill always saw her good friend Heather under the glow and the gold dress and perfect hair. Jill smiled at her friend. Of course, her friend would come to help Katy.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Hedone said.

“Is what they are saying true?” Jacob asked. “Not a dream.”

“No dream,” Hedone said. “In fact, if I had to wager a guess, Katy and Paddie had prepared for their younger selves to come visit them. They put a bunch of cheesy photographs of everyone on their walls so that when Katy and Paddie arrived they would see them.”

“We looked at those!” Katy said.

Paddie nodded.

“Katy was very beautiful,” Paddie said, shyly.

“Paddie was huge,” Katy said.

“I was handsome,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

Jill shot Jacob a worried look.

“What do we need to do?” Jacob asked.

“The truth is that we cannot wait any longer to go find this stupid hoard,” Hedone said. “The longer we wait, the more risk for the children.”

“Who would have done such a thing?” Jill asked.

“I think the question is when did someone do this thing?” Hedone asked. “This hoard has been missing for a long time. The prophecy has been told a long time ago. Someone, anyone really, could have sent their child selves to their older selves anytime between when the prophecy was made and now.”

“Why would they do that?” Jacob asked.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part four)

Katy nodded. It was weird to her that the kids who were younger than her had grown up too.

“Nash and Nadia live here too,” Hedone said.

Katy nodded.

“Are you sure that you were in Denver at the Castle when you went to bed?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“Listen to our voices,” Paddie said.

“Good point,” Hedone said. “You do sound like the little kids you were and not your adult selves.”

Hedone gave Katy a soft smile.

“We think it’s to steal our swords,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“What do you know about the search for the Templar Hoard?” Hedone asked.

“Nothing,” Katy said. “Did we go?”

Hedone nodded. The goddess looked away for a long moment.

“This is about the prophecy,” Hedone said.

“Can I see my Mommy?” Katy asked. “I really miss her.”

Paddie nodded.

“Why didn’t you call your grandfather or your aunt?” Hedone asked.

“Because he’s all ‘Hello, I’m Perses,’” Paddie said mimicking Perses’ accent.

“‘I’m big and violent,’” Katy mimicked her grandfather.

“‘Shall I kill everyone just for fun?’” Paddie asked.

Hedone laughed.

“Fair point,” Hedone said. “Hecate.”

Hecate appeared out of thin air.

“What. . .?” Hecate turned to look from Katy to Paddie. “This is impressive magic. Yours?”

Because Hecate was looking at her, Katy shook her head. Hecate turned to Hedone, who shook her head.

“You don’t know how this happened?” Hecate asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded their heads in unison.

“That’s not good,” Hecate said.

“Do you remember them going missing in 2021?” Heather asked.

Hecate shook her head.

“So it was done out of time,” Hedone said.

“Or I put the children back before anything happened,” Hecate said.

“Can we go home?” Paddie asked. “My mommy is really sick. I can’t be here!”

Katy reached out to hold Paddie’s hand.

“I’ll put you back,” Hecate said.

There was a whooshing sound and child Paddie and Katy were gone along with Hecate.

“Auntie Heather?” adult Katy asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Do you remember waking up in adult bodies when you were kids?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“You do?” Hedone asked.

“We put the pictures on the wall just like they were when we were here,” Katy said.

“It was just before the fight for the swords,” Paddie said.

Hedone nodded.

“Hasn’t happened yet?” Paddie asked.

“It hasn’t,” Hedone said. “Any tips?”

Shaking his head, Paddie reached his hand out, and Katy moved closer to him. His arm went over her shoulder. Hedone nodded. She kissed Katy on the cheek and disappeared.

Katy looked at Paddie and he smiled.

“It made me so happy to wake up as your husband,” Paddie said. “I’m so glad to be your husband.”

“I’m glad to be your wife,” Katy said.

They kissed and hugged each other.

“You look worried,” Paddie said.

“Just telling younger me that it’s all going to work out,” Katy said.

Paddie smiled at Katy and she kissed him.

“Coffee?” Paddie asked.

Katy nodded, and they went into the kitchen.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part three)

“What a view!” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“We must be rich,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Cool,” Paddie said. “You’re sure this isn’t a dream?”

“It’s not a dream,” Katy said. “We can check with the sword.”

“No, you’re right,” Paddie said. “I’m just happy that everything is so good for us!”

“Me too,” Katy said.

Katy watched Paddie watch people in the park.

“Should I call my Auntie?” Katy asked.

Paddie nodded.

“Auntie Heather?” Katy asked into the air.

Nothing happened. Katy thought for a moment.

“She probably doesn’t recognize my voice now,” Katy said.

“Use her Goddess name,” Paddie said. “Use the Vanquisher.”

Katy nodded. She held out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared.

“Hedone, the Goddess of Love,” Katy called.

The air around them glistened with light. Shrouded by the light, a figure appeared and gradually became clearer.

Timeless and shockingly beautiful, Hedone appeared in her gorgeous gold dress. Katy and Paddie stepped back.

“Auntie Heather,” Katy said. She jumped up and down a bit.

“Katy?” Hedone asked. “Katy, what’s wrong?”

“We went to bed last night at home with Mommy and Daddy and the twins,” Katy said.

“We woke up big!” Paddie said.

Surprised, Hedone blinked at them. She looked around the apartment and then walked to the window. She turned around and looked at them.

“When were you married?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“What do you do for a living?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“Interesting,” Hedone said. “Do you still have your swords?”

Katy held up the Vanquisher and Paddie took the Sword of Truth out of his pocket.

“Huh,” Hedone said. “Someone must have thought that you would be more vulnerable in the future than you are in the Castle.”

“Are we rich?” Paddie asked.

“Well, you’re an MD PhD,” Hedone said. “You specialize in infectious disease. Katy is a museum curator.”

“That sounds fun,” Katy said.

“Ivan and Sissy gave you this apartment as a wedding present,” Hedone said. “It’s a part of their floor in New York. Your mom and dad refurbished it for you, Katy.”

“It’s beautiful,” Katy said.

“You are both very loved,” Hedone said. “Katy, you control the entire collection of art from the Polish mine and the Templar Hoard, not to mention all of the items you and Paddie found under that church in the Isle of Man and other places you’ve adventured.”

“The white eyed guy?” Paddie asked.

“Maughold gave you everything,” Hedone said. “Fin and the fairies, too. You are both fairly famous. As far as I know, you’re very happy.”

“Mack and Wyn?” Paddie asked.

“Mack just got a job as a Greek antiquities professor at UCLA,” Hedone said. “Wyn is a lawyer. He has an internship at the Supreme Court.”

“Wow,” Katy said. “Does he like it?”

“Not in the slightest,” Hedone said. “He wants to be a Supreme Court justice and this is the way.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part two)

“You are very beautiful,” Paddie said, pulling on a T-shirt and sweatpants.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Katy said.

Paddie giggled.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “The last thing I remember is that you were staying with me because your mom was sick. But you don’t have to worry, there’s a picture of her on the wall outside. She must have gotten better. Connor’s there too.”

“And my dad?” Paddie asked, walking out to look at the photos.

“And your dad,” Katy said.

“I don’t know why, but I feel very relieved,” Paddie said.

“Your dad’s in the military,” Katy said. “You always talk about how worried you are that he’ll be hurt or die while he’s out on mission.”

Paddie nodded and looked at the pictures.

“Do you think we have our own food?” Paddie asked.

“There’s a kitchen,” Katy said.

They walked together into the kitchen. Paddie opened the door. Without thinking, he pulled out eggs, cheese and spinach. There was some vegan sausage so he added that. In a few minutes, he’d made them a breakfast burrito.

“How’d you learn to do that?” Katy asked.

“I don’t know,” Paddie said. “I just knew I could.”

Katy smiled at him. Standing in the kitchen, they wolfed down their breakfast burritos.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I woke up here too. Do you still have the Sword of Truth?”

Paddie reached into his pocket and was holding the sword.

“It fits you better now that you’re big,” Katy said.

“I’m really big,” Paddie said. He smiled broadly. “I like being big. Do you think when we go back that I can stay this big?”

Katy shook her head, and Paddie laughed.

“What do we do?” Paddie asked.

“I’ve been thinking,” Katy said.

“Did you call for your mom?” Paddie asked.

“I really wanted to,” Katy said, looking sad. “I really miss her. Do you think she’s okay?”

“She looks okay in this picture,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Do you think that this is a dream?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I think. . .”

Katy stopped talking for a moment and looked at Paddie.

“This is about that prophecy,” Paddie said. “The one about you and me.”

Katy nodded.

“Do you think I should call my grandpa or my Auntie Heather?” Katy asked.

“Your grandpa makes everything really intense,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Let’s call Auntie Heather,” Paddie said. “She’s always nice.”

Katy nodded.

“Is that Jabari on the wall?” Paddie asked.

“It looks like him,” Katy said. “See this red head in the front? That looks like Maggie.”

“Cool. They’re big too!” Paddie said with a grin. “Do you think we have jobs and stuff?”

“We pay for this nice place,” Katy said with a shrug.

“Where are we?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said.

She went to the windows and opened the blinds. For a moment, they stood there in shock. They were looking out over the city. Central Park was a block or two away but they could see people playing and walking.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...