General Fiction posted July 9, 2024 Chapters:  ...39 40 -41- 


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Theo faces the last stage alone.

A chapter in the book Return To Concorde Valley

The Gift

by davisr (Rhonda)


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.



Background
Years after a fire took her parents' lives, Echo worked at a small town newspaper. She was rescued from danger by her old friend, Theo, who took her to live in his world, one full of its own danger.
End of last chapter:

Across the plain, he heard Hermes scream out in pain. He glanced back down at Theo, blood now soaking through his makeshift bandage. "Brother, forgive me. Hermes is your captain and you have to take his orders, but I don't."

Adam cupped his hands over his mouth and called out for the black stallion, Recovery. The horse pranced to his side and bowed. Adam grabbed his brother's sword, then jumped on the steed's back and urged him toward the battleground. It was time to earn his own respect.

Beginning of New Chapter:

Theo struggled to a sitting position and leaned against the stone embankment. His head was still murky from the trance he had been put into by Hypnos. His arm, unfortunately, was full of blistering pain. The rest of the aches and pains from battle arrived bit by excruciating bit.

He looked around for Adam, but found he was alone. He could see across the valley, something he hadn't been able to do before because of the storm. It had abated, though the battle had not.

He watched his brother swinging a sword on the two swooping birds. He alternated between being proud of the young man for his prowess, and worrying for his safety.

Beside Adam, Hermes, son of Zeus, fought with a fiery blade embossed with wings at the handle and intertwining serpents about its blade. He was fast, efficient and fearless. Together, the cousins were a powerful team, but the tide of the battle still vacillated.

For a moment, Theo allowed worry to flow over him like the coursing of a brook . What had happened to his quest? So much rested on its success, and here he sat on the brink of disaster, wounded and separated from his companions. He pounded the ground with his fist.

"Giving up, young king?" A voice said. Theo jumped in surprise.

"You're wound a little tight, aren't you?

"I'm just fine," Theo said. He rose to his feet before one of the shadowy twins. "Are you planning to blow more dust in my face and send me off on another hallucination?"

"Nope, and that wasn't a hallucination, it was a view of something my brother felt you needed to see."

"So, you're Thanatos?"

The twin gave a slight nod and tilted his head to the left in a habitual manner. "But don't worry, I'm not here to take your life, just to point you in the direction of the last leg of your journey."

Theo acknowledged with a nod of his own and waited for Thanatos to continue. "Your path will take you up the cliff." A shadowy hand pointed upward.

Theo glanced in the direction he indicated, then back toward the battlefield.

"They aren't coming with you," Thanatos said in answer to his unspoken question. His eyes never left Theo's face.

"I can't leave them in danger."

"Then you'll have to let them go. As soon as you start the end of the journey, I'll call off the birds."

"We can't just go off and leave them like they are."

"Hypnos and I will tend their wounds, and take them to our home. They'll be perfectly safe. I'll even send the horses."

"And what happens if I fail?"

Thanatos didn't answer. He pointed again to the summit, then shimmered out of view.

Theo raised his eyebrows to no one in particular and sighed. He looked at the battle and back upwards. He had no choice

"Nifty, my boy, come here." He motioned to the roan stallion. He stroked his long muscular neck and placed his forehead against his. "I'm going to have to leave you here, buddy, but I'll see you at the top."

Nifty nickered in response. If the great horse was anxious for his master, he didn't show it. He stood stoic and trusting. The immortal gift of Poseidon to the Immortal son of Phoebus... indelibly linked since birth.

Theo grabbed a bag from Nifty's shoulder. He opened it and removed rope and hooks. He grew up climbing mountains. This part of the adventure, he looked forward to.

********

For a while, the climb was challenging, but not impossible. After the intensity of the earlier stages of the trial, it was actually satisfying. He wasn't naive enough to believe the whole thing was going to be this easy, and he refused to allow overconfidence to deter him, but he did let relief steal in to heal injuries and offer encouragement.

He longed to look over his shoulder and see if Thanatos had kept his word about Adam and Hermes, but resisted. Distraction had plagued him since Concorde Valley when he knew Hades held Echo, and later when he was injured by the Stymphalian Bird.

With renewed focus, he pressed on. His hands found the ledges he needed to grasp, his feet the outcroppings on which to step. He was in his element.

And then the storm returned. Wind and hail beat against him making the stone slippery and the view ahead nearly impossible. He pressed on.

It was as though his entire childhood had trained him for this moment. Tree walking had taught him patience, balance, and a feeling of oneness with nature. Rock climbing and warrior training had given him confidence and physical strength. Even rescuing Echo in her world had built resolve in the face of danger.

Theo allowed himself no thought outside of climbing to the summit. He didn't require the help or support of anyone, and yet he knew it was there. He let his family's love surround him, and the memory of his mentors guide him, but the summit was his alone to reach.

The storm came and went, and the sun eventually set. Still, he climbed. Finally, as the sun rose again, his hand touched flat ground. He pulled himself to the top and rested. He resisted the urge to fall into a deep healing sleep.

He was a king with two valleys and a captured group of gods relying on him. He drew to his feet and stepped away from the edge.

******

In the shadows beneath a towering oak, stood the two identical brothers. Their hands were clasped behind their backs, their faces impassive.

"You made it here on your own," they said together.

Theo faced them. "Never alone, just by myself."

The twins nodded. "Then, your journey is complete. Come with us." Their voices and steps were in synchrony.

Theo followed the two men who in their own realm, were fully materialized. They were tall, even according to Theo's standards, with short blonde hair, wizened faces, and dressed in simple tunics.

A magnificent castle rose before them, the tops disappearing into the misty clouds. Birds, Stymphalian to be exact, circled around it as though giving protection where it was probably least needed.

"Wow, it's stunning," Theo said, "and not just because it's enormous, but it's beautiful as well."

"An infinite project, young friend," one twin said. "You have a great eye for architecture."

"It's a family passion," he responded. The word, friend, had not been lost on Theo. Immortals, such as these two, didn't throw the term around freely.

"Come with me, please," the other twin said, and motioned. Theo recognized him as Thanatos because of the way he tilted his head slightly to the left.

Theo followed until they reached a stable beside the main house. Within were the two stallions, Recovery and Nifty. They were cantering around and kicking up their heels like colts.

"They look happy to be out of the battle," Theo said. "I can relate."

"Yes. Forgive our trials."

"It's a Greek thing," Thanatos said. "I get it. I'm just glad I passed."

"They really are magnificent, these two stallions... good breeding."

"Thank you, my father..."

"Yes, Phoebus the Centaur, son of Poseidon, who, by the way, is one of the only gods we like. He created horses, you know."

"Yeah, I've heard him talk about it at length."

Both men chuckled.

"I'm glad your father was transformed back to a man."

"You knew about that?" Theo was surprised. "I didn't think you and Hypnos cared about any of us."

Thanatos shrugged. "You never know what entertains us."

"Are my companions safe?" Theo asked.

Thanatos cocked his head like a curious puppy. "I told you they would be. They're safely inside eating from the table of the Lady Nyx. I'll take you there shortly. We have business to attend to first."

"The gift?"

"Yes."

Theo leaned against the wooden corral. "I have very little to offer one such as you, but I'm guessing you have something in mind."

"I do. You know I asked for something from Hermes as well."

"Really? Can you share what it was?"

Thanatos leaned against the coral as well. "I wanted a single feather from his wings."

"Okay, why?"

"My brother and I can do many things, but we can't fly. With his feather, we can soar like a bird. Sometimes, it's the simple things that can satisfy the soul."

"I don't have a feather to give you," Theo said.

"No, but you have something else, something I've wanted for years." Thanatos nodded his head toward the paddock.

Incredulously, Theo's gaze followed the Master of Death's. It landed on the copper stallion who was still frolicking around the pasture.

"You have one of the only immortal horses in the world," Thanatos continued. "He's fast, strong and beautiful."

Theo's blood ran cold. He whirled and faced Thanatos. A million thoughts ran through his head, but it always came back to one thing. He had agreed to give the brothers anything they asked, and one simply doesn't try to cheat sleep and death!





Recognized


The Advanced Editor is acting weird, so I had to post this in Basic Editor. Sorry for the plainness, but it's better than the alternative. Thank you!


Book Summary so far:

Young Echo Jones is overlooked by First Responders as she hides in a wheat field during a house fire. Both parents killed in the fire, she escapes into an ancient forest behind her home. Alone and afraid, she meets up with a young boy, Anthos, nicknamed Theo, from mysterious origins that tends to her while searching for help.

20 years later, Echo is working for a newspaper called the Taylorville Sun. Among other duties, she investigates a serial killer who has now struck in her small town.

After being stalked by enemies intent on stopping her investigation, Theo, now a man, returns to rescue her from a demonic force. After a battle outside Echo's apartment complex, Echo and Theo fled through the trees toward his homeland, Concorde Valley, an undisclosed place near or within the Great Forests of Southern United States.

Theo takes Echo into Concorde Valley where she is tended to by Phoebus, Theo's father of many roles. He patches her up and sends her with Theo to meet the family.

Theo receives a missive from the 12 gods, via the rascally Hermes, instructing him to free the gods being held captive on Mount Olympus and defeat the enemy Hades.

With the help of family members, some of Greek Mythological fame, Theo sets out to save the world.

Characters:

Echo Jones: Young girl left stranded by a fire that took her home and parents in the first part of the book, then as an adult, she's an investigative reporter for a small town newspaper.


Theo: Named Anthos by his parents. Protagonist of the book, and Echo's love interest..

Specters/men in dark clothing: Minions of the Enemy. Have eyes that turn red when they're angry. Can appear as normal humans, serve the Enemy.

Kitty Sunshine, aka Sunny: Echo's Russian Blue cat


Theo, A nickname for Anthos: An 8-year-old, of mysterious origins, who finds young Echo in the forest and tends to her needs. We see him later as a grown man who rescues Echo once again.

Georgios: One of Phoebus' Captains. Theo's half brother

Phoebus: King of Concorde Valley, Theo's father
Diantha: Queen of Concorde Valley, Theo's mother
Poseidon: god of the Sea, Theo's grandfather
Hermes: messenger god, warrior, boyish charm; Theo's 2nd cousin, one of the ruling 12.
Apollo: Hermes' elder brother, sun God, and more. One of the ruling 12. Currently on sabbatical.

Rebecca: Theo's 25-year-old sister. She's married to Henry and has a baby Caitlyn
Henry: Rebecca's husband.
Adam: Theo's 21-year-old brother
Phillip: Theo's 17-year-old brother
Helen: Theo's 10-year-old sister
Hannah: Theo's 7-year-old sister who loves animals and can talk to them in their own language.
Mary: Rebecca's mother-in-law and a woman who is like a grandmother to the kids.

Mageia: Old Sorcerer who lives in Carack Valley. Used to work for Hades.
Thanatos: One of Nix's twin sons. He supersedes Hades as controller of death.
Hypnos: One of the twin sons. He lulls people to sleep
Nyx: Female personification of the night. Mother to many primordial beings, feared even by Zeus.

Stymphalian Birds: Monstrous creatures from Greek mythology, often depicted as large, carnivorous birds with metallic feathers and razor-sharp beaks and talons. (Quora)
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