Leo just sat and sketched, letting the designs flow from his head and through his hand onto the paper. He had been up since five just designing whatever came into his head, but he wasn't tired, and a soft smile played on his lips. He liked being Firebird, it gave him a chance to interact more with the gorgeous Susan Pevensie, the one girl he always claimed was his Muse. How could he not? Hearing her voice, seeing her smile, it just seemed to help the ideas flow much more freely. He couldn't really explain it, nor did he really want to since he was just glad it was someone as lovely as Susan, but it certainly made for some interesting scenes with the Pevensies, considering her brother Edmund was one of his closest friends. Yeah, they ended up brawling a lot, but that was the whole fun of their little competition to one up each other. They just enjoyed throwing snarky, sassy comments at each other. Sometimes one of the other guys would chime in, though it was usually either Corin or Percy Jackson and when they got started, it usually took both Jason and Peter to stop it. A full-blown impish grin had grown on his face, oh yeah, good times. Not that those times were that far back in the past, but, now that he was a superhero and all, it seemed to be becoming somewhat distant. That, and becoming a superhero had caused Leo to rethink a few things. One of those was his relationship with Susan, and with the way he flirted with just about every girl he met. Could that be the main reason why she didn't seem to care? Here he was, claiming to love only her, and yet he would openly flirt with the next girl that crossed his path. That realization might have been a long time coming, but it took a mask to help him see it clearly. Maybe it was time to change tactics, and focus only on Susan all the time.
"What ya thinking?" asked the miniature Phoenix as he landed on Leo's shoulder.
"About growing up and giving my love to only one woman," replied Leo with a smile.
"What? Already? It's only been a few days since I turned you into a superhero!" blurted Phoenix.
Leo let out a laugh before replying with, "Yeah, but, thanks to that mask, I can now see what I've been doing wrong to Susan. She deserves better than what I've been giving her." He picked up the drawing as he finished speaking, satisfied with the result.
"Whoa, you drew that?" exclaimed Phoenix.
"Oh yeah. Susan's always been my muse. Whenever I see her, or hear her voice, I . . ." Leo set the piece of paper down on top of the others on the desk and laid his head on his arms.
"Wow, you really like her alot," Phoenix muttered gently, impressed.
"Yeah, I do, and I haven't been treating her right. Well, I'm going to change that, I have to, starting today, I'm going to treat her like the queen she is, the queen of my heart."
"Yay!" cheered Phoenix. At that moment, an alarm blared throughout the cabin. "Oh, it's already time for everyone to get up and get ready for school."
Leo stretched, "Yup, I just hope today's going to be as quiet as the last two days have been, or that the monster doesn't show up until after I've given this to Susan."
Phoenix chuckled, "Good luck with that, we have no control over when the monsters how up."
"I know, so I'd better get to work as soon as I can on this." Voices and footsteps resounded throughout the cabin, everyone heading towards the kitchen. "Sounds like everyone else is up, let's get you some breakfast."
"Alright!" Phoenix jumped into Leo's pocket, and Leo walked out of his room. With the general disorder in the kitchen, Leo could count on getting something for Phoenix without anyone noticing, and this morning was no different. The two quickly ate their meal before Leo dashed back to his room, gathered his things, and set out for school. The school day went on like any other, with Alecto's boring history class, Dionysus' much more fun home ec class, Mr. Tumnus' casual language and literature class, Mr. Tavros' hysterical arts and crafts class, Mr. Oreius' much more serious science class, Miss Tulmei's vibrant math class, and Miss Luflia's lively music class. But Leo was itching to get to the Hephaestus' Forge club room and get working on his project. In the meantime, he would glance every now and then at Susan, a soft smile spread across his face. He hoped that she would like it, and really couldn't wait to give it to her, which got him thinking about hurrying it up and making it.
Finally, the school bell rung, marking the end of the day, and Leo dashed off to the club room. It was the largest club room, complete with a forge and everything. The club itself was comprised mainly of children of Hephaestus, but it was open to all who wanted to be blacksmiths, jewelers, or anything like that. Leo burst through the door, the forge was just about finished heating up, he could tell by the heat, and Charles Beckendorf was just sitting back in his club captain chair and relaxing.
"Oh, hey Leo, you're . . ."
"Hi Chuck, I need the forge. Thanks!"
". . . early." Charles blinked as Leo dashed off towards the back wall, gathering metals, jewels, and tools. He set everything by the forge, took out his drawing, and went to work. He melted, he hammered, he polished, he pushed and pulled, he twisted and turned, until he was satisfied with the result. He wiped his arm across his sweaty forehead before letting out a breath of relief.
"Whew! It's done! Now, to get it to . . ." Leo turned, and paused, a small crowd had gathered around, watching in rapt surprise.
"Dude! That's a nice piece!"
"It's so beautiful! Who's it for?"
"Where did you come up with that?"
"Um . . ."
"So I leave for five minutes, and everyone's left their station?" Charles' voice echoed throughout the room. Leo's little crowd scattered and rushed back to their stations. "Leo, hurry it up with the forge, will you? There's more than one person waiting in line. Oh, and nice necklace." Leo grinned as Charles winked before cleaning up his mess, grabbing his backpack, and rushing out the door.
"I'm done now, thanks!" he blurted before he slammed the door shut behind him. He dashed down the halls in search of Susan. Eventually, he found Edmund and Lucy all decked out in suits for their monthly televised talks with Chiron, Jesse Aarons, and the Archenland twins. "Hi Ed, hey Lu, um, where's Susan?"
"She should be on her way back from the cabin with Peter. Why?" asked Edmund.
"Oh, um, I, uh, wanted to give her this." He showed them the necklace.
"Why Leo, it's exquisite! She'll adore it!" exclaimed Lucy, her eyes sparkling.
"Wow, great job, man! You really outdid yourself this time!" exclaimed Edmund as he patted Leo on his back.
"Thanks! Now, I've just got to give it to her."
"You know, if you hurry, you could still catch them before they get here and give it her then. We've still got a few minutes to spare," said Edmund with a grin and a wink.
"Great! I'll do that! I won't keep them for long!" Leo shouted as he began to run away.
"You'd better not, it only starts in a few minutes!" Edmund shouted back as Leo disappeared down the hall. Leo laughed right before he turned the corner and bolted for the front entrance of the school. When he didn't meet them at the halfway point between their cabin and the school, Leo kept on going, thinking that Susan was putting on some final touches to her make-up or something. He grinned, well, here was another thing to add to those last-minute touch-ups. As he got closer, a sudden dread seemed to creep over him. He knew that feeling, and it urged him on even faster. He almost stopped in his tracks when he caught sight of the cabin, the door was ajar, and he knew the Pevensies never left their front door open. Instead, he put on a burst of a speed, reaching the door in a couple of seconds. He entered a messy scene, curtains were torn, tables and chairs were overturned, a couple of Susan's potted plants had exploded on the ground, and there were quite a few claw marks. Whoever attacked them soon realized that these were not easy prey.
"Susan! Peter! Are you here? Are you alright? Susan! Peter! " he called out frantically. A low moan answered him from behind the table. "Pete! Are you alright?" asked Leo as he pulled debris off the eldest Pevensie.
"Susan . . . must get . . . Susan . . ." he mumbled. He tried to rise, but would have fallen over if Leo hadn't caught him.
"Hey man, you're not doing so hot yourself. Where is she? I'll go get her."
"Another . . . monster . . . empousa? Female vampire," slurred Peter as he showed the bite marks on his neck. "She took . . . her." Rage filled Leo like a roaring furnace, but he had to calm himself down or else he'd burn down the cabin.
"Ugh! Come on, I can't leave you here like this. The faster we get to the nurse's office, the faster I can go after Susan, alright?" Peter nodded sluggishly, and let Leo lead him out of the cabin and back to the school. Surprisingly, the two made good time, and Leo knew it, as he counted the seconds as they walked. "Help! I need a doctor, a nurse, child of Apollo, anybody!" called out Leo as they entered the nurse's office. Will Solace stepped out from behind one of the curtains, his face pale from some kind of shock, and it got paler upon seeing the two of them. "Well, you going to help your king or not?" snapped Leo as he brought Peter closer. He really didn't have time for this, Susan was still missing! In reply, Will only pulled back the curtain to reveal a TV, and Leo's knees just about gave under him. On the TV screen was the room where the Pevensies were supposed to meet with Chiron, Jesse Aarons, and the Archenland twins, but the roof had caved in and a pile of debris was stacked in front of the door. Sitting on the chair was a bound and gagged Susan while an ugly monster that Leo quickly recognized as one of the female vampires, the creature known as Empousa, was glaring into the camera.
"If your so-called superheroes do not meet my demands, I will give your pretty queen to the pirate Chrysaor. I'll repeat it one last time for you puny, forgetful mortals, your superheroes must give themselves up to me in exchange for the pretty queen and reveal their true identities. I shall be waiting where the river meets the sea. You have until the sun sets."
Leo didn't wait to hear more. He practically pushed Peter into Will, shouted, "Take care of him!" and was out the door, booking it to the anchor room. By the time he got there, Edmund was leading an attempt break down the door, but wasn't having any luck. "Let me try!" shouted Leo, his hands bursting into flame. Edmund nodded and made everyone back up.
"What took you so long?" called out Edmund so Leo could hear him over the sizzling door.
"I was getting Peter to the nurse's office!" Leo shouted his reply, his hands melting through every obstacle. But when they finally got through, the Empousa and Susan were already gone. Leo simply turned and rushed out the door, he had to turn into Firebird, now.
"Leo! Where are you going?" shouted Lucy. At that moment, the shadows parted and Ghost Hound stepped into the hall.
"I caught the tail end of the announcements. Where did the monster take Queen Susan?"
"Where the river meets the sea," growled Leo. "And we have until sunset."
"We?" asked Ghost Hound, his eyebrow raised in confusion.
"I promised to save her!"
"No, leave this to us superheroes, we're the ones she wants anyway. If you see Lioness and Firebird, relay this message to them, please. I'll meet them by the ruins of Cair Paravel . . ."
"They're not ruins anymore," blurted Lucy.
"OK, fine, just tell them to meet me at Cair Paravel, we don't have much time."
"No kidding," scoffed Leo. Ghost Hound glanced at Leo as he backed up slowly.
"You're right, this is no joking matter, hence why I expect you fully cooperate with me to get our queen back."
"Our queen?" asked Lucy. Ghost Hound merely glanced at her before stepping back into the shadows and disappeared from view. Leo took that as a cue, and bolted down the halls to get outside. As soon as he hide behind the first spot he could find, Phoenix came out of his jacket pocket.
"Alright Phoenix, power up!" Phoenix flew into the belt and Leo was changed into his Firebird suit. He took off to the sky, grateful that he could fly. He soared over the river, following it to where it met the sea, and Cair Paravel. He swooped into Cair Paravel, finding Ghost Hound fairly easily, hiding in the biggest shadow.
"Good, you're here. Lioness will, unfortunately take the longest."
"Why don't you use the shadows to go find her and bring her here?" asked Leo, a bit of annoyance in his voice.
"And leave you alone to do something stupid?"
"What are you so worried about?" spat Leo.
"That you could do something to jeopardize this mission and put Queen Susan in even greater risk than she is now. I know you like her a lot, but don't let your anger cause you to do something that could lead to her death." Leo clamped his mouth shut, had Ghost Hound figured out who he was? Maybe Hades was right in not having them reveal their secret identities to each other just yet. And if Ghost Hound could figure it out, who else could?
"I see. I won't do anything until you return, I promise."
"How can I trust you?"
"I promise on Susan's life, and my mother's grave, that I will not leave Cair Paravel until you return." Ghost Hound's eyes seemed to widen at that statement, but he regained his composure, nodded, and disappeared into the shadows, again. True to his word, though his heart ached, Leo only observed the encampment on the other side of the river. For the most part, the Empousa merely paced back and forth, and was probably spilling every kind of scenario she could think of to destroy the superheroes to Susan. Leo really did wish he could march over there, beat up the Empousa and fly off with Susan into the sunset, but he gave his word, on her life. He just wished that Ghost Hound and Lioness would hurry it up. Sure, they still had two hours before sunset, but Leo wanted them to hurry simply because he wasn't sure how much longer he could stand watching the Empousa brag about how she was going to win anyway or leaving Susan in her grasp. Though it felt like forever since Ghost Hound left, it was really only a few minutes when he returned with Lioness. Leo let out a soft squeak. "You're back!" he whispered.
"Well, yeah, it wasn't too long."
"Really? Felt like ages ago."
"If it was, you'd have started attacking Empousa because the sun was setting," Ghost Hound quipped drily. Leo grinned sheepishly.
"So, what are we going to do?" asked Lioness. Ghost Hound led them to a spot where they could just make out Empousa and Susan without giving themselves away.
"Someone's going to have to go in as bait," began Ghost Hound.
"Wait, what?" asked Leo.
"Listen, this is a completely different set-up than our first two, alright? The Empousa is cunning and maybe something of a strategist, more so than either the Hydra or the minotaur, both of which just attacked without thinking. This one, she's got a plan, and we don't quite know it yet."
"I don't think she does either," mumbled Leo. Ghost Hound glanced at him questioningly. "She's been going on and on about what she's going to do when we give ourselves up."
"She thinks we're going to give up without a fight?" asked Lioness incredulously. Ghost Hound began to smirk, and Leo shivered.
"So, hubris is our ally today," muttered Ghost Hound. "Listen, I'll go in as the decoy . . ."
"What? No! We need you to turn her into a stone," hissed Lioness. "I'll do it."
"But I need you to come in on Susan's side in order to protect her!" blurted Ghost Hound. Leo sighed, had they forgotten already? "And Firebird can shoot flames at her from behind, it's not like I have to reveal myself." Ghost Hound glanced at Leo. "That is, if you don't make it up there in time."
"Uh, I will, but, um, why not let me go as decoy?"
"Didn't you just hear me? You can fly and shoot flames. Lioness can get around to Susan and protect her from them."
"What about you?"
"I can shadow away, or get behind Lioness' shield. Either way, you'll get the first attack on her." Leo began to grin as he realized what Ghost Hound's plan really meant.
"Sounds like a deal to me."
"Good. I'll shadow Lioness to the other side while you fly low and get behind Empousa. Don't attack until I've said, 'OK, if you insist'. Alright?"
"Right," chorused Leo and Lioness.
"Good, let's go." Ghost Hound grabbed Lioness' hand and the two shadowed away. Leo waited a second to make sure Empousa's back was turned before he flew towards the beachfront. Keeping as low as possible, he turned and made his way towards where Empousa was waiting. So far, his approach went unnoticed, but he didn't let out a breath of relief until he was situated behind the largest rock closest to Empousa's camp. A loud snap startled all three as their eyes went towards the treeline. Ghost Hound walked out from beneath the trees.
"Ah, so you've made it, good. Took you long enough. Where are the other two?"
"That's why I was late, I was searching for them. They might not know what's happened yet. But I did leave word that if anyone were to see them, that they are relayed the news."
"I see," the Empousa replied in a soft hiss. "Well, since you are here, and you're the most important of the three, I guess this will do. Take off your mask."
"Why? I'm here, I'm giving myself up. Isn't that enough?"
"Oh no, you're the smartest of the three, that I know."
"We've only faced two monsters, how could you know that?" Empousa clamped her mouth shut. "So, does Gaia actually know who we are?" asked Ghost Hound, his voice becoming low and deadly as he took a couple of steps forward.
"Not another step, or, or I'll kill your queen!" Ghost Hound did pause, though Leo knew it had nothing to do with the threat. It was a pretty weak threat, Empousa was further away from Susan than Ghost Hound was, if he really wanted to, Ghost Hound could just simply grab Susan and shadow her to safety. But he was certainly right, hubris was an unlooked for, yet very welcome ally. "Alright, I'm the one in charge here, superhero, so you're going to do as I say! Take a seat next to your queen!" Leo couldn't see him very well, but he knew Ghost Hound was raising his eyebrow in surprised pleasure, this was going a little better than planned.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, just, sit!"
Ghost Hound did as he was told, but, he had to ask, "But I thought you wanted to reveal myself. With the way you're talking, it sounds like you already know who I am."
"No, we don't, at least, I don't. Maybe Gaia does know, but, she hasn't said a word. But we do know that you're the smartest, the Nemean Lion is the strongest, even though he should have been on our side, and that the Phoenix is the fastest."
"You do know that it's a girl who's working with the Nemean Lion, and we call her Lioness? I'm Ghost Hound, and the fellow working with the Phoenix is Firebird."
"Oh, shut up and take off your mask!" shrieked the Empousa.
"Are you sure . . ."
"Just do it, or I'll kill her!"
"Say what?" said Ghost Hound in a very low, very dangerous voice. The Empousa involuntarily stepped back a bit. That's when Leo noticed Lioness behind one of the trees, she was ready to jump in front of Ghost Hound and Susan.
"J-just, just do it!"
"OK, if you insist," replied Ghost Hound with a shrug. But he made no move to take off his mask, because at that moment, Leo was flying towards the Empousa, his hands yielding flames, and Lioness bounded from behind the trees and planted herself in front of Ghost Hound and Susan. "Now!" shouted Ghost Hound. Lioness put up her shield, and Leo let loose the flames. The Empousa shrieked as the flames licked around her.
"You cheaters!" she shrieked as she battled the flames.
"Firebird, again!" called out Ghost Hound. Leo sent the flames at his adversary yet again. "Lioness, the stone is in her right arm!"
"Right!" Lioness' claws gleamed in the fading sunlight as she charged and slashed at the Empousa's right arm. The armour fell off in pieces, and Ghost Hound attacked, bringing his scythes down hard. The Empousa screamed as the stone activated and began sucking in her essence.
"We're not finished! You may have won this battle, but Gaia has an army! She will destroy you all! And that other one will rule Narnia!" The next thing they knew a bloodstone was sitting at their feet, but their faces were pale.
"So . . . that one she's referring to . . ." began Lioness.
"Is the White Witch," growled Ghost Hound.
"Gaia did bring her back," muttered Leo as he went to Susan and freed her.
"Of course, the two made a deal, neither like mortals, so this works for the both of them," stated Susan. Ghost Hound reached down and picked up the bloodstone, putting it in his pocket.
"Can you make sure she gets back safely, Firebird?" he asked.
Leo grinned, "With pleasure." He turned to Susan and gave her a bow. "Your majesty, if I may."
"Well, I guess so, but first." She hugged Lioness and planted a kiss on Ghost Hound's cheek before planting a kiss on Leo's cheek. "Thank you all for saving me."
"Hey, we're superheroes, it's what we do," replied Leo with a grin. He picked up Susan and held her close. "Hold on tight," he told her with a wink. He glanced at Lioness, "Hey, need a ride?"
"Well, actually, I was wondering if Ghost Hound could give me a ride before he goes to Hades. I'd like to get back quickly."
"Of course," replied Ghost Hound, the two stepping into the shadows. Leo flew off through the sky, a huge grin across his face, he was flying into the sunset with Susan, as he had hoped to. The two chatted a bit during the trip, but it was over far too soon, at least for Leo it was. He landed at the front of the school, where everyone had gathered. Peter was looking much better now, but he was still leaning on Edmund.
"Susan!" called out Lucy as she rushed in to hug her sister. Then the rest of the crowd rushed in to make sure their queen was alright. Peter and Edmund approached Leo, Peter extending his hand.
"Thank you so much for looking after her."
"No problem, but it was a team effort," replied Leo as he shook Peter's hand. "Well, if you're no longer in need of my services, I'll be off, I'm tired."
Peter let out a laugh, "Of course, you've deserved it."
"Thanks, see you around, your majesties." He shot them a grin and a wink before flying off to a safe spot to detransform. He waited a few minutes before rushing out to join the crowd. "Susan, you're alright!" He wrapped her up in a hug.
"Leo! Where have you been man? I've been looking all over for you!" berated Edmund.
"Just wanted to see if the superheroes needed my help, guess they didn't need it after all."
"You were going to help save me? Oh Leo," stated Susan as she gave Leo a big kiss on the lips. Leo couldn't help it, though he was blushing as red as a tomato, he was grinning like a Calchester cardinal.
"Oh, right, um, I was going to give this to you," said Leo as he pulled out the necklace.
"Oh Leo, it's beautiful!" she gasped as she fingered the golden sun set with jeweled flowers. "Can you put it on?"
"Of course!" Leo quickly obliged, the golden necklace a welcome addition to Susan' already graceful beauty.
"It looks good on you Susan!" exclaimed Lucy.
"Of course it does, Leo knows me way too well," replied Susan with a beam at Leo.
"Well, now that we have our queen back, I can announce that we will postpone the meeting until next week, along with all school activities. Until we can get our school fixed up," announced Chiron. Cheers went up all around, no school for a whole week! Maybe having monsters around wasn't half bad. "And now that the excitement is all over, I expect everyone to their cabins! We'll figure out something else for you to do with your time." Everyone else groaned. Leo merely chuckled, he didn't mind, as long as he could turn each outing into a date with Susan, he'd be happier than a satyr in spring.