Weak shafts of moonlight peered through the ancient trees that loomed above me. Dark shadows danced across the forest floor as I ran. Spindly sharp branches raked my arms and legs, ripping open the thin fabric of my dress. I felt a warm sticky substance tricking down my limbs, and I realized it was blood. It only increased the sense of urgency churning in my stomach like a storm.

I didn't know whom or what I was running from. All I knew was that I had to get away. My chest tightened painfully with each breath, and sweat dampened my skin, but when I heard the pounding of footsteps and indistinguishable shouts, I put on a burst of speed.

Just as the thundering of footfalls diminished, I slowed down. However, as I decelerated, my foot caught on a gnarled tree root. Frantically, I tried to pull it free. My ankle twisted, sending waves of pain surging up my leg, starting at my ankle and snaking all the way up to my hip. My knees buckled, and I collapsed.

My body went sprawling across the a thick bed of dead leaves and pine needles. The pungent odor of rotting foliage reminded me of death and decay. Mortality. I blinked rapidly but couldn't stop the tears from falling. I closed my eyes tightly, until the world faded behind a veil of velvety darkness. Lying on my belly, I felt the ground vibrate beneath me as the thundering of footsteps approached. Evil triumphant laughter washed over me, but when I covered my ears with my hands, the haunting sound resounded through my school.

Even with my gaze averted, I saw a brilliant flash of light penetrating the veil of darkness until it dissolved all the shadows. My body lurched, and my head spun nauseatingly. Was this what it felt like to die? A burst of white, and then you're dead?

When the vertigo faded, my eyes fluttered open. Instead seeing the canopy of trees and tangle of tree limbs, I was greeted by the sight of the night sky. Lying on my back, I stared at the black sky glazed with millions of fiery stars, burning and sparkling. Their brilliance made the full moon seem dim. Long slender blades of grass swayed softly in the breeze and tickled my legs. The cool night air caressed my cheeks. Though my surroundings were peaceful, the world felt eerily quiet and apocalyptic. The unnatural fire of the stars only confirmed my suspicions.

Slowly sitting up, I turned my head side to side as my eyes scanned the vast field. My gazed fixated on s the Greek temple that towered above me. A peculiar glow emanated from the crumbling building, giving it a timeless, immortal vibe. A thick cluster of vines curled around the two main pillars, reminding me of green snakes twisting and writhing.

Abruptly, a woman stepped out of the shadowed entrance. The moonlight bathed her in a silver luminosity, making her gray eyes sparkle and her blonde hair carefully plaited shimmer beneath its helm. Her robes swished softly as she approached me. Though she smiled gently at me, I edged away like a cornered animal. Kneeling beside me, the woman's lips parted to reveal perfect white teeth set in a benevolent grin, but the cunning glimmer in her eyes unnerved me.

She placed her cold, strong hand on top of mine. I shivered and tried to pull away, but her firm grasp tightened into an almost forceful restraint. My heartbeat fluttered erratically, but I stopped resisting. Tugging my arm, the woman forced me to walk. A small hiss of pain escaped my lips as spikes of pain twanged in my ankle. If the woman heard me, she did not acknowledge my pain. She simply pulled me along more insistently, and I felt like leashed wild dog being dragged by a stranger.

Gritting my teeth, I followed her into the temple, praying that the ancient building wouldn't collapse while we were in it. Once we inside, she turned to me. Beams of moonlight outlined her beautiful but exhausted features. The smile pasted on her lips melted, replaced by a weary frown.

"I don't know have much time. Zeus doesn't allow us to talk to mortals, but this was so important, I had

to…bend the rules."

I was grateful that the woman had saved me-at least until she said 'Zeus'. She had to be insane, I told myself, despite the doubt nagging inside of me. As much as I didn't want to believe it, a part of me knew she was telling the truth.

"Who are you?" I asked, my voice coming out in a strangled whisper. More importantly, what do you want from me?

A look of annoyance flashed across her face. She waved her hand impatiently. "I was getting to that. I am Athena, and I need your help, Iva."

"Athena?" I repeated dubiously. "As in the goddess?"

She nodded. To my horror, I found myself believing it. She had the commanding, regal aura of a goddess, so it only made sense that she was one. Besides, no human could have such a perfect, unearthly appearance.

"What do you need my help with? And how do you know my name?" I said, my eyes narrowing. I wasn't an expert on Greek mythology, but I knew when goddesses asked for mortals' help, it never ended well.

"You know the myth about Zeus and Cronus, right?" she said, purposely avoiding my questions.

I nodded, eyeing her warily. To me, the question was a senseless one only meant to stall. But I hoped if I answered her questions, in return, she would answer mine. Information in exchange for information.

"Zeus dethroned Cronus, and cut him into pieces with the same scythe Cronus used on his father.

Zeus scattered the pieces into Tartarus, the darkest place of the Underworld."

Athena nodded approvingly. "Good, but Cronus is not a myth. The tales you mortals call 'myths' are very much true. Cronus and the Titans are reforming. After eons, Cronus has had more than enough time to heal. He is close to being completely reformed. When he escapes from the Underworld-it won't be good. Life as you know it will end."

Her ominous words send chills rippling down my spine. "What will happen when he does escape?"

She smiled darkly. "First, he will take revenge on Zeus and enslave the Olympians. Then he will destroy civilization, and Chaos will reign. But…"

"But what?" I asked desperately.

She stared at me solemnly. "Iva, you can help."

"Me?" I echoed skeptically, and she nodded. "How can I help?"

She smiled at me hopefully, like she was about to say something I wouldn't like. Closing the distance between us, Athena placed a light hand on my shoulder.

"The Olympians have been hiding for eons because of the possibility that Cronus would reform. Once we went into hiding, we disappeared out of Greek history. As other religions spread, the Greeks turned to other gods, and our temples became abandoned. Without the faith of our worshipes, we have weakened over the centuries." She pointed sadly to the ancient walls afflicted with cracks that branched out like veins.

"For a while hiding worked. But now that possibility of Cronus escaping is reality, hiding is useless.

One of our own kind has betrayed our location."

"Wait, who revealed your location?"

Athena shrugged. "Even I don't know that. I suspect it is either Hades or Ares." She waved a hand dismissively. "That's not important right now. The point is we can't hide any more. This is where you come into play. If we become mortal, then we may be able to restore some of our lost powers and restrain Cronus until we find a better, more permanent solution."

I didn't like where this was going. "What do you mean 'become mortal'? And what does this have to do with me?"

"I want to control your mind and body to study how mortals think and feel," she replied bluntly.

"When I am successful," she continued superciliously, " then the other Olympians will host mortal bodies, and we can throw Cronus back into the Underworld-forever."

She fell silent, staring at me expectantly.

"What if I refuse?" I retorted.

Her face darkened, twisting with fury. I realized what a dangerous enemy she could be. Athena's hand tightened on my shoulder, her nails digging into my skin, like claws. "If you do not agree, then I will force you to cooperate. Trust me, you do not want me to resort to that option."

Even though my legs shook with fear, like a leaf clinging to a tree about to be blown off from a stormy breeze, I stared at her defiantly. For emphasis, I jutted my chin out. Athena shook her head, as if my feeble attempt at bravery amused her. She let out a harsh laugh.

"Iva, you're a smart girl, but do you really think you can defy a goddess?"

At a loss of words, I shook my head. Despite the urge to drop my gaze to the floor, I stared straight into her depthless gray eyes. The skin around her eyes tightened as she narrowed her gaze. Her lips stretched into a tight, thin, humorless smile.

Grudgingly, she stated, "I see you are hard to bend. All the more reason for me to use your mind and body."

Her last statement caused waves of dread and fear to roll in my stomach. Bile burned its way up my throat, but I choked it back down. If I became sick, I would die of mortification before the goddess could fulfill her threat.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Athena looked out the window, staring at the starless night sky now obscured with storm clouds. I flinched when lighting illuminated the sky in golden streaks and a loud rumble of thunder shook the temple. She sighed.

Leaning forward, Athena gripped my arms, giving them a brutal squeeze. My eyes widened from the strength of her dainty hands. Athena's silver eyes flashed lethally, but her face remained a stony emotionless mask of indifference. I found her blank expression more frightening than when she deliberately displayed her ire.

"I must go now," she said, giving me temporary relief. As if sensing my relief, she added, "When we meet again, which will be soon, the circumstance will be pleasant. Be

warned it is only a matter of time before you will obey."

A blaze of light lit up the temple, shrouding her figure. Athena disappeared, leaving me alone in the darkness.