Ancient History should have been fascinating. Growing up, Kali had always loved reading about Greek Mythology. Any mythology interested her, but something always resonated in her about the Ancient Greek legends. But sitting in another stuffy classroom, nothing the teacher said seemed completely true. Hades had mentioned that not all the myths were accurate, but it wasn’t the differences that Kali found odd. It was the fact that in every tale the gods could do no wrong. It sounded like propaganda.
Most of the other students were just lapping it all up or weren’t listening. But there were a few like Kali who thought that whoever had written this history had been wearing rose-tinted glasses. Jem and Carl were sitting with her and they seemed to be tired of listening to it. Jem was just staring at the wall ahead with a pen loosely in his hand and Carl seemed to be sketching some sort of weapon. Kali glanced at it for a moment but didn’t want to make Carl uncomfortable, so she sighed and went back to listening to what the teacher was saying.
The half-truths and veiled lies were making Kali uncomfortable. The worst part was that the teacher, one of the librarians, didn’t even seem to realise there was anything wrong with them. Which was probably why she was teaching the class. But Kali was sure that the truth had to be somewhere; they could teach the new generations what they liked but they must have preserved what happened. For the rest of the lesson, Kali tried and failed to pay attention.
When they got out, it was time for Horticulture with Demeter. The goddess of nature often took the lesson herself; she would have been in the greenhouses anyway. Demeter was the only one of the gods that Kali had met so far that looked dirty. She liked to do most of her work by hand, not from afar with her powers, and it showed. She had a smudge of soil on her nose and some small twigs in her earthy brown hair. Her beige dungarees were baggy and covered with mud. But her eyes sparkled pea green and her smile was infectious. When Kali got to the greenhouse with the others, the goddess strode over and shook her hand before steering her inside.
As soon as Kali was in the greenhouse, all the plants turned towards her and leaned in as she passed. She hesitated but Demeter took her arm and pulled her through them, stating “Don’t mind them; they’re not used to having so much sunlight so close.”
Kali just looked at her, puzzled, and the goddess laughed and explained “Your father is the god of the Sun, among other things, Kali. They react even more to his presence here.”
“But…plants have never done that around me before.” She said uncertainly.
“These plants are so used to the presence of gods and demigods that they act as they should.” Demeter replied, moving briskly through the rows of planters. “Understand?”
Kali bit her lip. “Not really.”
“Good. Before we begin, I want to see how much you know about what some of my plants can be used for.” Demeter smiled kindly and Kali found herself warming up to the goddess quite quickly.
“Oh…okay…I don’t know much about horticulture.” She warned her, not wanting to disappoint when everyone seemed to expect so much from her. She was already baffled, and she had only just arrived.
Demeter just smiled, her eyes twinkling, and stated “You will.”
That class flew by quicker than any of the others. Kali didn’t know she could learn so much in one hour. Instead of just carrying on as normal, Demeter had decided to recap everything they had learnt so far – many of the students seemed glad of this – so Kali took rushed notes and tried to keep up. By the end of the class her head was crammed with plant names and properties and formulas for all sorts of salves and potions. She knew she would have to copy up her notes while she still understood them otherwise she would never be able to decipher the messy scrawl.
Even though she was nursing a headache, Kali was smiling. She always loved a challenge, she liked having to struggle to keep up. Demeter had made no allowances for any of them and rushed through at top speed. The goddess clearly expected her students to do their own work and research in their own time; if they didn’t then they would fall behind, and she wouldn’t wait for them.
As Kali was, once again, swept up with the rest of her classmates leaving the greenhouses she heard some of them complaining. Carl and Jem were beside her again – though she had barely noticed them during the class – and they just rolled their eyes, but a couple of others were agreeing. Halfway back into the main camp, the group ended up stopping on the grass.
Amanda turned to face the rest of the class and whined “Just because she’s a goddess she completely forgets that not everyone can keep up at that speed! I must remember to bring it up at the student council meeting. It’s not right, and it’s not fair!”
Carl grumbled something about double standards under his breath and Kali and Jem both smirked appreciatively. Trevor stormed up and stood over Kali, giving her a toothy grimace and shouting “You think it’s funny, do you? She’s talking serious stuff here and you’re just sniggering like kids!”
Amanda walked over, her eyes boring into Carl’s until he looked away, and said haughtily “This is stuff that we really want to know, and she just rushes through it and expects us to know what she’s talking about! And you think it’s a joke?”
“You’re the joke.” Kali snapped. She refused to back down to a bully like Trevor, though her arm panged a reminder of their first meeting. Stepping past him to address the blonde demigod directly, she continued “She doesn’t expect you to know what she’s talking about; she expects you to take it away and work on it yourself. If it’s something you really want to learn then surely you would have been doing that anyway?”
Amanda blustered, trying to find the words for a response. Kali was already sick of this girl’s attitude and she knew no one else was going to say anything. Even if it meant a fight, she couldn’t let something so pathetic stand. Before Amanda could calm down enough to regain the use of her tongue, Kali stated “You’re old enough for her not to have to mollycoddle you. But if you want to be treated like a child then maybe you should tell Demeter that yourself, instead of just bitching about it when you think she’s out of earshot.”
There was a long silence and Amanda was fuming. Kali almost expected the pristine blonde curls to catch fire, but they didn’t. Amanda’s cheeks were bright pink, and she was furious at being embarrassed in front of the whole class. It was like her lips had been fused together but she managed to pry them apart and sputtered “You…you have no…”
“Save the comeback; I don’t really care enough to wait half an hour for it.” Kali said honestly.
Amanda somehow managed to turn an even deeper pink and then, quite suddenly, she slapped Kali across the face. Most of the students were shocked by that, though a couple of Amanda’s ‘friends’ laughed, but they were even more surprised by Kali’s reaction. She was still for a moment and then she smiled broadly and said quietly “That is the first time you’ve been honest since I met you. I’m impressed. There may be hope for you after all.” Then she laughed and turned away from the confused girl in front of her. The others automatically moved out of her way and their wide eyes only made her grin widen.
It didn’t take long for Carl and Jeremy to catch up, but Kali had already stopped laughing and was just sitting on the edge of the lake, looking thoughtful. Jem was still chuckling to himself and Carl was grinning, and they sat on either side of Kali. To Kali’s surprise, Jem’s twin brother Jack followed them over as well. He didn’t say anything; he just handed Jem a small purse of coins and flicked his floppy hair out of his eyes to wink at Kali.
Taken aback, Kali waited until he had walked away again and turned to Jem with eyebrows raised. He simply said, “I won our bet.”
“I have a feeling I should be worried.” She said drily. “What exactly was this bet of yours?”
When he grinned, she could see all his teeth and she sighed. After another moment or two of that wicked smile, Jem admitted “I bet my brother that he would find you hot by the end of today. Which is, I’m guessing, why he winked at you.”
Scowling, Kali muttered “You should bet him that he won’t be able to get me to go out with him by the end of the week. Do that every week and you’ll make a fortune.”
Jem laughed but shrugged, insisting “You’d be surprised. Even if you don’t like him now, which I doubt, he can be pretty persuasive.”
“I doubt he is more persuasive than Ares or Hermes.” She muttered bitterly.
Jem and Carl frowned, and Kali just shook her head at their questioning glances and looked up at the sun. She suddenly stood up and said she’d see them at dinner, leaving them both bemused behind her as she ran towards the Colosseum.
She was frustrated to see that Ares was there, with a group of demigods running drills. Once Tom arrived, he explained that Ares always had extra sessions at the end of the day, but the Colosseum was available for anyone to use. Biting her lip, Kali glanced over, but the god of war didn’t seem to have noticed them. She nodded at Tom. “I’m ready when you are.” She wasn’t going to run away and hide.
For the next hour or so, the three of them ran through various conditioning exercises and basic techniques. She was incredibly unfit compared to Tom and Sage, but she refused to falter. Through sheer stubbornness, she made it through everything they suggested. When they finally moved onto using the quarterstaff, Tom was surprised by how quickly she picked up what he’d taught her. He was more surprised that she was still standing.
Even though he had known how determined Kali was to get better, he hadn’t expected her to come at it so hard to start with. At times he even struggled to keep up with her; she was relentless even with moves she had just learnt. But once he realised how hard she was willing to work, he really started to enjoy their session. As inexperienced as she was, she still pushed him to work harder than most of the guys in his own class. It wasn’t that she was particularly skilled; it was the sheer fire and intensity she brought to everything she did. She had always been like a kid sister to him, but now he found himself looking up to her and respecting her.
When they were finished, Tom looked just as worn out as Kali did. Sage hadn’t broken a sweat. Laughing, he said “I haven’t seen him work so hard in years. You really don’t do half measures, do you?”
“Not if I can help it.” Kali admitted and shrugged. Everything hurt, and her head was spinning, but she grinned. Glancing at Tom, she jabbed him weakly in the stomach and said, “Come on, tubby.”
“I’m not too tired to put you on your arse again, Kali.”
“Unlucky for you; I know that’s a lie.” She giggled, prodding him again. Before he could retaliate, she danced out of reach and excused herself to get changed. She staggered over to the small block of flats with the sun painted over the front door.
Each block of flats held the rooms of the children of each of the gods. Aphrodite’s was, unsurprisingly, the largest but it was closely followed by Ares’ and Hermes’ buildings. The rooms were apparently very different in the other buildings, but Kali hadn’t seen any of them yet.
Her own rooms were spacious and bright, almost too bright when she was trying to sleep. They were quite bare; she didn’t have many belongings to fill them with yet. But a new plant next to the table in the living room area caught her eye as soon as she entered the room. She smiled slightly as she spotted what were obviously gift baskets beside the plant and approached them.
Before she did anything else, Kali moved the plant into the corner of the room and used the watering can that had been conveniently placed beside it. She assumed it was a gift from Demeter; she apparently gave all the students a plant to brighten up their rooms when they arrived. The gift baskets would be from some of the other Olympians. Again, Tom had mentioned when he was showing her around all students received housewarming gifts and things they may need.
Kali decided she could look at the gifts when she got back from dinner. She tried not to pay any attention to the baskets and boxes as she got dressed. The temptation to open them was challenged only by her reluctance to be late for dinner.
Not quite used to where everything was, Kali spent some time looking at food around the central pillar before finally going to find a seat. She spotted Tom and Sage chatting nearby, so she went to sit with them and the three of them were soon joined by Jeremy and Carl. Eventually, a very quiet Willow wandered over without any food. She only sat down when Kali kicked out the chair next to her for the nymph.
Tom seemed to know pretty much everyone at Camelot, so no introductions were necessary for him, but Sage and Willow hadn’t met the two demigods in Kali’s class yet. Carl seemed nervous, but Jem took everything in his stride and didn’t seem to share the opinions of his siblings about satyrs and nymphs. It wasn’t long before they were all joking and talking, even Willow, and Kali wondered how it was suddenly so easy. She had never been good at talking to big groups of people, especially if they didn’t know each other, but this just felt so simple.
Tom asked Kali what she was grinning so much at and she just shrugged and didn’t reply. Sage smiled slowly, like he knew exactly why she was happy, and they went back to chatting. Kali took a few moments away from making conversation to eat and noticed the warmth of the sun on her back. She frowned gently and turned to see her father’s back retreating through one of the archways encircling the mess hall.
Sighing softly, Kali stood and excused herself for a moment before leaving the table and following Apollo away from the crowds. It had been brightly lit inside the mess hall where they were having their dinner but outside the sun had set and the sky was dark. Kali shivered slightly, even in her jumper, and saw that Apollo had stopped by his statue. She scowled darkly but jogged over, guessing that he wouldn’t want to be kept waiting.
When Kali stopped in front of her father, he looked grim. Sighing, she stated “Poseidon.”
“He knows.” Apollo’s voice was weary. “You are lucky he cares more about family than rules. He will not speak of this. But you should be more careful. The more who know of this, the more likely it will get back to Zeus.”
“I understand.” Kali muttered irritably.
He scowled darkly and asked, “Do you?”
“Yes.” Her answer was short and so was her temper. She had spent most of her life taking care of herself and she didn’t need him suddenly acting like her father. But she said nothing of this and just met his glare with a defiant stare of her own. Apollo’s lips twitched slightly into a brief smile and he stated, “I will see you tomorrow, Kali.”
Kali didn’t trust herself to speak so her jaw remained tightly clenched until Apollo had wandered off and out of sight. She sighed bitterly and returned to the mess hall though she had lost her appetite. Suddenly she was hit by a wave of exhaustion; it had been one of the longest days of her life. All she wanted to do was go back to her rooms and bury her head in the pillows until sleep took her. She spent just enough time in the mess hall to excuse herself permanently before slipping away from the crowds.
It was early, too early to sleep really, but Kali only just managed to make herself get changed before falling into her bed. She pulled the covers up over her head with a small smile and was swept away by her dreams. A quiet voice called her name and pulled her deeper into her slumber, letting the darkness surround her like a shroud.
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