MUSE WARRIOR - Chapter 32
An imposing figure in a black robe stood with arms crossed in the Sibyl’s torch-lit cave. A hood obscured his face as he guarded her hourglass with its swift, constant stream of sand. Somewhere in the darkness were the sounds of clanking chains and scuffling feet.
In the very center of the temple, a glass jar hung from the high ceiling on a thick chain.
“It is time!” the Sibyl hissed as she sputtered around her jar, casting light from her firefly body in intermittent bursts. “Antonius, gather our guests!”
Antonius descended the platform and unlatched the heavy wooden doors on either end of the cavernous room. Dozens of black-robed gypsies swarmed into the room like an army of shadows. They marched toward the Sibyl’s jar, hoods pressed close together in hushed conversation.
Her henchman unclasped the jar from its chain and held it close to his body as he approached the platform. The Sibyl’s minions crushed forward, angling for a glimpse of the Sibyl. With great care, Antonius lifted the jar above his head.
The Sibyl’s light flickered. “Followers, truth-tellers, I beseech you to remain faithful,” she screeched. “As I foretold, Apollo’s Muse Warrior has received the Mark, and my time in this realm is short.”
The gypsies pointed to the dwindling sand in the hourglass and whispered their protests.
“But do not fear,” she pleaded in her shrill insect voice. “The Muse Warrior will bring the Oracles to me, as I have foretold it, and I shall present them to Pluto. And once he has the Oracles, he shall take control of the Third Realm and rule the mortal world. Finally, the balance of power will tip away from Jupiter and the drones on Olympus, and into Pluto’s rightful hands. All who are gathered here will be rewarded for their steadfastness and my long march to death shall not be in vain.”
In the center of the crowd, a gypsy fell to his knees. “Long may Pluto reign!”
“Long may he reign!” the other gypsies cried, dropping to the floor.
“Rise, my followers, rise!” the Sibyl commanded.
When they were back on their feet, one man asked, “Mistress, what about the boy?”
“Yes, the boy,” the Sibyl said. “Antonius, take me to him.”
Holding the Sibyl’s jar in front of his chest, Antonius approached a dark corner of the cave. The feverish light of the Sibyl’s firefly body illuminated a prisoner slouched against the wall, shackles on his wrists and ankles. The prisoner winced, shaking his arms, struggling to break free of the chains.
“Your sister has received the Mark, boy,” the Sibyl buzzed. “As I prophesied, she will come to me and return the Oracles. Then she will bow before the Darkness.”
Muscles straining, Troy tugged at his shackles. The clatter of the chains echoed through the cave. With effort, he groaned, “She will kill you.”
“Oh, but she cannot kill the Darkness.” The firefly cackled. “I was once given a pile of sand that marked my fate, and it will be my greatest achievement to return Apollo’s favor by killing you and your sister, the last living connections to his precious Calliope.”
Troy sputtered, “She is powerful. It’s written in my grandmother’s books—”
“Powerful? The Muse Warrior?” As the Sibyl buzzed about her jar, curls of light flashed in furious circles. “She has been raised by mortals and Muses, not Gods. And yet Mount Olympus expects her to protect their world. Imbeciles!”
She looped around the jar. “No, your sister’s power lies in returning the Oracles. And then I will give her soul to Pluto as it was promised 14 years ago. I wonder…just how this…warrior…plans to defeat Pluto?” she snarled. “With inspiration? Mortal weapons?”
“She will not be alone,” Troy called, struggling to lift his arms away from his chains. “The Gods—”
“The Gods? How simple of you, child. Your Gods have no powers in the Underworld. It is Pluto’s domain. If you had been raised on Olympus, even you would know that. Tsk-tsk. Sending a mortal child to save Olympus!” The Sibyl’s shrill, evil laugh echoed through the solemn chamber. “Does it upset you that you share the same blood line, descended from mighty Apollo himself, and yet your sister is Marked, the brave warrior, while you languish here, in the dark?”
The Sibyl’s light shone with laser focus into Troy’s eyes. “Where are your Gods now, child?”
Troy gritted his teeth, nose flared, breath heavy.
“They are on Olympus, as they always are, watching mortal children do their work,” she said. “However, I, like my benefactor Pluto, am generous with my power.”
Antonius stepped closer to Troy and the Sibyl rapped at the glass of her jar with her insect-like body.
“If your sister brings the Oracles to me, you may live. If not,” the Sibyl threatened, “you will fulfill your prophecy in death, as it is written.”