*In memory of the amazing author Ray Bradbury who actually inspired me to write when I was a little bitty person. I hope all of you have the opportunity to read something of his. The man was amazing. RIP*
"Okay here's a really early one," Sonja sighed, exhausted. She, along with Mollie, Daydream, Connor and I, had been up for over twenty-four hours reading through the Aphrodite Chronicles as well as the same kind of historical recordings from followers of other gods. Daniel, with his teleportation and numerous contacts, was a very helpful man to have around. "This priest of Poseidon says that the Odenites, so we'd know them as Vikings, claimed to go to the edge of the world where they found a dark skinned woman who possessed great power."
Connor's eyes widened. "Around 1000 CE?" Sonja nodded. "So when the Vikings came to America! That's why they came?"
Sonja nodded, rubbing sleep from her eyes. "So it seems. Anyway, the priest was able to speak alone with her, although the language barrier was a biggie. He tried to convince her to choose Poseidon and…wow, he's very detailed in his description of his seduction. And the sex. Goodness!" She blushed a little then cleared her throat. "Anyway, this seemed to only confuse the girl so, despite Odin's claim over her, she wasn't entirely sure who to fight. This resulted in only a moderate war. And that was how history passed it off. Just a war between empires. Odin, of course, won that time and the girl ran off, never to be seen again. But man did the priest receive a beating from the Viking who had fallen in love with the girl."
"I have one too," Daydream piped in. "Priest of Set writes about a man who sided with Set, because he'd been raised by the priests of Set. He ended up triggering some volcanic activity and…oh, Pompeii. Anyway, Set won that battle."
I sighed. "And here we have a man who chose to side with Poseidon. He took out a great island empire. Any guesses on the empire's name?"
"Atlantis," everyone replied.
"And who do you suppose won?"
Connor held up his book. "According to this priestess of Mama Quilla, who by the way is one of the goddesses who does not participate in the battle, in 1692 the blessed one was a young woman. A slave in the Caribbean. She was recruited by followers of Chernobog. Basically, they aren't the kindest of followers. So the woman felt she'd gone from one form of enslavement to another. She ended up killing most of the Chernobog followers. She was reportedly approached by Hera who told her she would gain ultimate freedom if she sided with Hera's followers. So she did, which led to the cataclysmic earthquake that took out Port Royal. Unfortunately, the woman ended up dying during the battle."
"But Hera's followers won out?" I guessed.
Connor nodded. "I guess we've sensed a pattern here."
"Yeah," I scoffed, tossing my book to the side. "I decide on a side and every other side gets slaughtered. Bully for me."
Mollie shook her head. "There has to be a way around this."
"There is, I can be like the original Paine and hide out until it's over. Such a good plan, right?"
Connor laughed. "Yeah, cowardice doesn't sound like a very Mari plan."
Daydream growled and slammed her book shut. "That's it. No more. I can't stand looking through these things for another minute. We need to sleep. And eat. And sleep."
"You said sleep already," Sonja sighed, groggily.
"I did? Well I need to sleep."
I nodded, standing up. "We are pretty much useless at this point. Turn in. We can rest and eat."
Everyone piled out of the room, grumbling their good nights. Mollie eyed me. "You're…you're not going to sleep are you?" I shrugged. Mollie shook her head and kissed my cheek. "You're hopeless." I watched her walk away, reminded once more of my mother.
I walked down to the kitchen to find Erol stuffing his face full of Funyuns while Jordan and Jason played Battleship. "Hey, she lives," Erol cried, mouth full.
"Mrmml!" I grumbled back.
Jordan laughed. "Tired Mari. We haven't seen you since your sleepless days in the California safe house."
"Yeah, I haven't seen her in longer," a voice said. I turned to see a familiar blonde vampyre staring at me.
"Chelsea?" She glared. "Oh, I mean 'Evangelique'. Hi, it's…been a while." I turned to the three guys, although only Jordan and Erol seemed interested. "Evangelique was in the hideout I was in before going to Tennessee." Jordan and Erol nodded in understanding. "Evangelique this is—"
She waved away my introductions. "Yeah, I've heard about them. Your lover and exlover. Gee, how long did it take you to forget Colin?" I fidgeted. Evangelique turned to the guys. "Yeah, she caught the eye of Colin. Never mind that I was a vampyre and I was in training to be a priestess. He chose the runaway human who got him killed." I swallowed my comments and stared down at my feet. Jordan and Erol however stared at her in horror. "Then she goes off and immediately goes after you two. How long was it after Colin died?"
"Almost a year," Jordan growled. "And we connected because I'd lost my girlfriend around the same time."
"Mmhm," Evangelique scoffed. "And yet I'm still grieving him. Does that seem right to you? I've still been running. I haven't been able to have a single moment of relief. And yet you've had two boyfriends, steady hideouts and some strangely acquired fame."
"Oh for the love of—shut the hell up Chelsea!" Jason finally burst, surprising all of us.
The woman's face turned red. "That's Evange—"
"I knew you before it was Evangelique and I knew you when you changed it at our house of night! You're just Chelsea. And you're just a bitch." Chelsea's eyes widened. "I'm sorry you can't get over the death of one guy, I really am, but Mari has faced more loss than you can imagine. She's led armies and lost many soldiers and friends. But you know the best part? She was able to continue forward to connect with and help people. So get off your high horse this minute. And get out of my kitchen, NOW!"
She glanced over at me before giving Jason a fearful look and taking off. Jason sat back down and took a sip of his coffee. "Wow," Erol sighed. "Jason that was…wow."
"Did you just stand up for Mari?" Jordan asked, somewhat amused.
Jason locked eyes with me. "Why did I have to? Why didn't you stand up for yourself?"
I shrugged. "I kind of deserved it I guess. I mean, she's still grieving him and then she sees me, the girl who was supposed to love him, just living my life."
Jason scoffed. "Mari, running around the country fighting and saving people isn't 'just living life'."
"Besides," Jordan added, "you kept having nightmares about Colin for so long."
"She still does," Erol sighed. "She just added nightmares about Rosto and Lucas and Gia."
I looked down at my feet again. "Mari," Jason growled, pulling my gaze back to him. "I'm done with this. This martyr crap. Stop acting like you should be punished for everything. Realize that people need you and you can't help them if you're just sitting around acting like you are the worst person in the world. Over Gia getting hurt, over what's been happening to the Coders, over what your powers can do. It's dumb. And it's a waste of your energy." He looked over at Jordan. "E7?"
Jordan glanced over at me then back to his game. "Um, yeah. Direct hit."