Maria Anderson woke up in a large tree that sat just out of view of any look outs surrounding the massive mansion. Last night, it was a dark, damp, chilly night, with the stars and moon hidden behind thick grey clouds. The only light provided was from the distant flickering lights from various windows in the mansion. Maria had been following her latest target, Mr. Xavier Price, for almost two weeks now. Concealing herself from him, she followed him to his numerous sleazy errands, and multiple runs to the gym. Out of the mansion the man never did anything questionable, inside she could never track his whereabouts.
Yesterday around three o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Price brought home a visitor wearing a long thick black robe that was obviously not a woman, which was a change. The broad width of his shoulders, and height alone would make him taller than an NBA player. This intrigued Maria to no end. So she staked out all night waiting to catch a glimpse of his face. Maria questioned if this mysterious person was human at all. Her being assigned to the case, meant there had to be some threat to the ancient Greek world. Reading Mr. Price’s file he definitely counted as a threat. Those were the only times they used her assistance, when some foul creature, or mortal acted on plans to destroy the world, or wreak havoc by releasing old monsters. She was a daughter of a Greek god, who better to hire to knock off a few problems? Besides she liked getting her hands dirty.
Last night had been a close call; she wasn’t expecting Mr. Price to have a manticore guarding his property. One tiny little detail she’d over looked. Those giant human like eyes still haunted her. The memory brought back the pain in her leg where she was stung by its spikes. Pulling it out quickly had been painful, but at least she prevented the poison from spreading. Their strong lion like body made them swift and dangerous, but it was their tail that shot spikes that made them deadly. Any longer with them in her leg and she would be pushing up daisies the next day.
Mr. Price had an interesting collection of guard animals. Ones that she never saw a mortal in possession of. She managed to get passed the hydras, a giant dragon like beast with multiple heads and fire for breath, with no issue at all. She froze the sucker in place and then blasted the ice to pieces. Thanks to her parentage she was able to flatten most of her opponents with a simple flick of her fingers.
Since a young age Maria had been different than anyone else she’d ever met. Her single mother, Nancy Anderson, would often times come home from work to see her babysitters, terrified, frozen to the sofa. One time in particular, when her grandfather Gene, came to visit she managed to freeze him entirely. After a long afternoon of her mother, and him fighting to all ends, Maria was so worked up that the ice just flew out the ends of her fingertips. It took numerous hours of her mother, and her using the blow dryers, and wrapping towels around him to finally thaw him out. That’s when Maria saw the twinkle in his eye.
Leaning against a tree all night made the long dark hair in her ponytail matted. The damp leather against her body from her boots left raw marks from where it was rubbing against her skin. Her gloves felt like they would be permanently stuck to her palms. Rain was not on her radar last night either. The cool wind that soared through the air left her shivering silently. In her line of view she could see the autumn leaves shuffling from the breeze.
This was supposed to be an easy in and out job. Hobbs reassured her of that. Maria liked to take the time to know her intended victims routines, and habits before she annihilated them. Mr. Price on the outside looked like a normal man, but he had many nasty habits. There were the sick games of objectifying women and using them as his playthings. This was disgusting in its own right, but not the reason why Maria had been called in.
A report came to her employer that the slinky pig was using the women as test subjects for his experiments after he was finished with their company. That made him a callous monster. One she would most certainly enjoy putting an end to.
Two nights ago, she’d followed him to an upscale piano bar on the outskirts of Chicago. As he stepped out of his fancy sports car, his well-groomed Michael Kohrs suit, and large Rolex watch, turned almost every head at the joint. By now, Maria caught on to his theatrics. A few nights a month Mr. Price would walk into the upscale bars dressed to impress even the toughest, and snobbish of women. The tall, lean man with an athletic build was used to getting his fair share of attention. A simple blink of his sky blue eyes would make any unsuspecting woman swoon at the sight of him.
It also didn’t help that the man in his mid-forties was an utter genius. Maria felt like she was going to be sick, everything about the guy screamed slime ball. Once the drinks were ordered though, it was game over. Their eyes would link, and a charming smile spilled across his face. His intended victim would lean in closely to him while giggling at his corny jokes, often times giving him a playful hit. As soon as he was convinced they were in his grasps, he would spill his guts about how his wife had left him for another man. It had been tragic of course, but he was looking for a fresh start and new beginnings.
Maria had a hard time not gagging at every word the lunatic said. The women however, were hanging from his every word. The naïve victims would shower him in adoration. Maria respected his ability to captivate a crowd, that of course that was the extent of her respect. Usually at the end of the night he would bring around his 2014 red 458 Italia Ferrari and offer the women private drinks at his place. With these poor women only seeing dollar signs, and his broken heart, they’d foolishly be led into the lavish sports car unsuspectingly. Just like the busty blond had two nights ago.
After first reading his profile she was in utter shock that his man could be so vile. A quick search of his name in Google provided her with articles that he was top of his class at Yale in bioengineering. He was even head of his fraternity. From the outside he seemed like an award winning citizen. Maria might have even bought it; if she hadn’t viewed the pictures of victims he’d gotten a hold of that were so badly mutated one wouldn’t be able to tell it they were human. The descriptions of his lair were vague but enough to fill Maria’s imagination with the horrors these women endured. She’d originally planned on dressing up and using herself as bait. Pretty, and young seemed to be his type, with a little make up she could dress herself to look older. She thought it a good plan, until Hobbs told her that he’d recognize her eyes.
Maria’s silver eyes had a sapphire ring around her outer irises. Most demigods’, half god, half mortal, eyes were depicted in different colors to show their parentage. Thus far she’d never met another demigod with the same sapphire ring.
When her mother passed away suddenly from a car accident when she was eleven, her grandfather and Eric Hobbelton, or Hobbs as she knew him, took her in. Hobbs was her grandfather’s most trusted colleague, and dearest friend. They’d spent year’s together training and fine tuning her unique abilities.
The reminder of hours spent of strenuous tests, and weapons lessons still gave phantom pains on her limbs. Hobbs showed her a world she never knew existed. The world was still filled with the ancient Greek gods and their influences, most mortals however liked to cling to the idea of normality. It wasn’t normal to read the story of Athena, goddess of wisdom, strategy, strength and crafting, and Arachne, the only woman to every best Athena with her weaving, and view it as history instead of a children’s tale. An idea that grew to a very wide spread over 4,000 years ago, and forced the Greek gods to withdraw most of their holds on the mortal realm, and retreat into Olympus.
Now the Greek Olympians ruled over the mortal’s in secret, protecting them despite their ignorance. The three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, were the elected leaders of the gods, since they were the ones to team together to bring down their titan father, Cronus, in his quest for world domination. The three divided the responsibilities up amongst themselves by drawing stones to see which domain they would rule over. Zeus drew the sky, and became divine ruler of Olympus, and god of the skies. Poseidon drew the sea, and rules the waves of the world. Hades drew the underworld, and was bound to a life underground. As god of the underworld, he was responsible for guarding departed souls, and the prisoned box that is Tartarus, the very prison that holds Cronus, and the other brutal titans. While Hades watched out for the unsightly enemies below, Zeus and Poseidon were in charge of guarding the mortals from above.
As more monsters were birthed, and the faith in the Greek gods slipped, the gods needed to find ways to protect their beloved mortals. They created a new race of demigods. With the mix of god, and mortal, they were able to live amongst the humans on earth, but still inherit some of their godly parent’s powers. The most famous of demigods was, of course, Heracles, son of Zeus. He went mad with influence of Hera, Zeus’ wife, and goddess of marriage, and fertility. Hera was jealous of Zeus’ offspring with his mortal mistress, and instantly despised him. She took pride in his failures. Zeus made Heracles work to get into the gods good graces again. What the stories didn’t tell was how many mortal lives Heracles saved by slaying beasts.
The success of the new godly children inspired other gods to produce some of their own. Of course not all demigods had good intentions. Many needed to be brought down, and killed at the hand of their own parents. A handful of demigods in the old days didn’t know of their heritage, and never lived to full potential, or abstractedly created chaos due to lack of training. To this day hundreds of demigod children still roam the earth, secretly protecting their human brethren.
Hobbs, like Maria was a demigod, and had known he was since birth. Growing up around the lifestyle, introduced him to a network of godly kin. Before he’d met her grandfather, he trained young demigods in skills of combat for several years. Mentor was the responsibility he was given at the eve of his twenty-fifth birthday. Maria was always Hobbs favorite protégé. From the first time she’d trained with him he’d sensed victory. Though he had met a wide network of demigods over his years, he’d yet to come across someone with the sapphire ring eyes. Hobbs himself was a child of Hephaestus, god of blacksmithing, craftsmanship, and fire. It was because so, that he was able to produce brilliant devices and contraptions for her to use on missions. His hazel eyes had a dull orange color around the outskirts that could be downright terrifying when he was angry. Upon seeing Hobbs with his thinning grey hair, he gave off an innocent feel. Maria laughed at that thought. Only a fool would look at Hobbs, one of the deadliest demigods she knew, and deem him innocent.
Maria was a rare demigod. Most of the time people never really felt comfortable around her, guess that was a down fall of being an assassin. Her personal skills were never developed. Friends and suitors were just people who could be used against you. It wasn’t that she couldn’t get a suitor if she wanted too; she was really quite lovely. Her long jet black hair reached the middle of her back. It looked as if the sun bent down and kissed her skin. The curves in her body were emphasized by her petite frame. Over all Maria found herself to be quite an attractive young woman.
As far as her hidden attributes, the ability to frost had always come as naturally to her, as breathing. Along with being a demigod, came heightened speed and agility. Since she was only seventeen, there was still a chance all of her powers had not yet been developed. That thought delighted her. More than anything in this world she wanted to know what she was capable of. She dreamed of being assigned a hero, the demigods who were responsible for saving the world.
All demigods had until the eve of their twenty-fifth birthday to figure out their parentage for themselves, or their godly parent was responsible for claiming them. The twenty-fifth birthday, or the Claiming Name Day, signified whether they would elevate to their new responsibilities in the demigod world. Maria dreamed of being a hero, the policing factor of the demigod children. Not that the other responsibilities were bad, Hobbs’ loved being a mentor, but Maria could only see herself battling monsters, and other cruel beings. If she didn’t claim her father, he would claim her, and in doing so take most of her power away.
Claiming was an excruciatingly painful process where a god would infuse their child with their might, announcing to others that this was their offspring. If a child was claimed they would lose a vast their abilities to their parents surge, and would be deemed a Halfling, as opposed to demigod, which took them out of any of the front lines. After the renaissance period when several demigods went rouge, it became an implemented rule that a godly parent had to claim their child, should they not figure out their origins themselves.
No demigod ever wished to wait that long, and any Halfling who was claimed didn’t want to talk about it. It was a silent out casting from the demigod world. Sure, they still had friends inside, but they would hardly see them with their new duties. Maria seriously hoped she could discover who her father was, and soon. Loosing most of her abilities wasn’t an option. Not when the majority of her powers would start to develop around her eighteenth birthday. In the transformation that took them from childhood to adulthood, the Renewal Name Day as the demigods called it. Hers was less than a fortnight away.
The thought of what was to come was a constant weight at the back of her mind. The possibilities intrigued her. Other demigods displayed super strength, could call down lightning, or breathe in the water. At the moment, Maria could freeze things. Not exactly her idea of a worthy hero. It had however gotten her this far in life.
A quick movement to her left drew her attention. Swiftly as she could she balanced herself, and jumped landing on the thick branch a few feet away. A tiny squirrel was scurrying up the tree. She could have laughed at how quickly she’d been to squirm. The thought of what Hobbs would do to her if he’d seen her react as such a coward made her shake her head. She was trained better than that. Two days holding a handstand on the forty foot platform would’ve been his punishment.
Two men chatting, and exiting the maroon colored mansion, pulled her out of her thoughts. Mr. Price was more relaxed today, and dressed to show that, in a zip up Nike sport jacket, with a pair of khaki shorts. A giant smile plastered on his face as he held the door open for his hooded visitor into a black limousine. She heard Mr. Price call him boss. Her ears perked up at this. Hobbs and her grandfather would be very pleased indeed with this little tid-bit. If these two are here, that meant his recent victim could still be inside. Maybe she could buy enough time in her plan tonight to let the girl escape.
Once the mysterious visitor left his premise, Mr. Price went back inside. She could hear mumbling coming from the male. Swinging her legs over either side of the branch, she moved positions to sprawl out a bit. The daggers that lined her body now allowed her to move freely without the threat of injuring herself. Two arm length bamboo sticks crossed at her back ready for action. She’d been following this guy for nearly two weeks. It was high time that she’d collected her fee for him.
Only about forty minutes had passed when Maria saw him exit his house with a gym bag, and a water bottle. Now was her opportunity. When his car had reached the end of his long driveway, and turned out of sight, Maria slid down the large oak tree. Walking swiftly and silently she crept along the outside of the tree lines. A door in the back that would lead her in through the kitchen had been her primary goal. It was about 8:00 am on this cool Wednesday morning, which meant that his house keeper would be nearly finished with her duties, and heading out to go flirt with the local butcher. Maria slithered her way through the grass. Staying low to avoid being seen proved more difficult than it seemed. Considering the trouble she fought off last night, she imagined there was only more to come.
Nearing the door in the back, her ears keened in on the soft sound of footsteps. Nimbly, she hovered over towards the shrew of bushes and settled in close enough to get a look at the creature approaching. It was a large thin creature with dull glaucous skin. Its dark hair clung to its face. Maria thought it to be a female since a worn cloth was wrapped firmly around its chest. Due to the size of the creature, and its enormous black wings that spanned the width of a tennis court, she guessed it was either a gargoyle, or a fury. Considering her knowledge of both, she really hoped it was a gargoyle. At least that she could freeze it and smash its face in. Furies however, wouldn’t be so easy to freeze. The underworld was their home, so they were used to dark, and brisk. The chill of her frost would be welcomed, and pleasured by the brutal creature. No in order to escape a fury she’d have to rely purely on whit. A large talon came into her line of sight. It would be a fury, she complained in her head. A second later the creature whisked out of sight.
Furies were unusual creatures. They were sharp as whips, and quicker than horses. Some say it is because they were once the tortured souls of women. Their large wings made them virtually indestructible, unless you could sneak an attack without giving it time to react. The unfortunate part of furies, since they belong to the underworld, eventually they’re able to rematerialize. Lucky little monsters really, she thought.
For a minute it was too quiet. Trying not to breath, she slowly turned her head to the side. In between the leaves of a large rose bush she saw a beady black eye staring straight at her. She swore, before leaping up out of the landscaping. The fury made a low growling noise. Seeing the face in front of her now, there was no doubt this was a fury. With a loud shriek it soared after her. Running in odd patterns to avoid being snatched by sharp talons, Maria did her best to stay a head of the tormented soul. Though the creature had the advantage of flying with the speed of the wind, sharp turns, and quick stops weren’t as easy for the beast to maneuver.
Twice now she’d been scratched by its long talon’s. The shoulder in her black jacket was now ripped open exposing the gash that throbbed as she moved. Using rocks, acorns, and any other objects she could find she whirled them up at the creature. Finally she saw an opportunity. Near a flower garden towards the side of the house, was a large gazebo. Pushing herself, she ran towards it. The fury was close on her tail. She pulled free one of her bamboo sticks, and began swinging it at the creature’s talons as it swooped in. With that she’d managed to anger it. Good, she thought.
Zigzagging her way through the garden, she patiently awaited the perfect time to act. Now the fury was following her every step. That of course was what she’d been hoping for. She managed to injure its right foot with a solid hit from her bamboo stick. Howling, Maria could feel the rage radiating off the cursed demon. Being so wrapped up in its hatred for her, it didn’t even have time to notice that it was plowing right into the gazebo.
With the weight of the fury and its massive wings the gazebo clasped on top of it, allowing Maria an advantage. Barely jumping to freedom, she watched as the gazebo crumbled around the area where she just stood. Focusing her thoughts and energy she felt the frozen tingle come up her spine and out her fingers onto the pile of rubble. This allowed her to trap the brute underneath it in a frozen prison, well for now. Jumping out of the way had managed to put her in perfect alignment of an open window on the second floor.
There were mossy green vines growing on the outside of the maroon house. Placing her hands and feet in the allowed openings she pulled herself up a few feet at a time. A sharp pain twisted through her left shoulder, and right knee, where she’d been gouged. Climbing her way up to the second floor, she kept scoping out the opportunity. She needed to get over to the opened window.
Luckily the mansion was built with a French revival rococo design, so all the windows had tiny ledges she could perch on. It just had to be the middle window she thought. Only two windows to pass, she could do this. Stretching her leg out towards the ledge she tried to keep her body tight. There was no room for error now. Falling to her death would be an embarrassment she’d have to deal with even in the afterlife. Trying to plant her foot on the window she shifted her weight evenly between her feet now. With all her strength, she managed to grab a hold of the top molding and pulled the rest of her body onto the small ledge.
One down, she breathed with relief. As she was extending her leg again she heard a loud screech come from below. The ice prison was cracking, and beneath it grunting noises were flooding her ears endlessly. The big black wings were already free.
She jumped over to the next ledge, not wasting a moment. She could now hear the enormous wings airborne. A bamboo stick was in one hand ready for the attack. Crouching on the ledge of the second window she tried to leverage herself so she could slip into opened window. The white molding surrounding it was hard to hold onto, even with the grip of her gloves she was still slipping.
She managed to get one foot inside the house when she felt a sharp clench in her back. With the creature’s talon digging into the lower part of her back, she knew she had to attack in one fluid movement. She rigorously and hastily turned her body. Stabbing the dagger hard into its leg, she twisted it around causing a deeper laceration. The pain in her back was excruciating. She bit back tears as she moved. Screeching, the large wings began backing off, no doubt to swoop in for another attack. In a split second she’d jumped into the room and slammed the window shut.
The fury’s black beady eyes peered at her through the window. Now with the security of the mansion around her, she dared to look it straight in the eyes. After their eyes linked, it turned its head slightly. There was a hint of emotion that crossed those piercing black eyes; not unlikely remembering some hint of the human life the cursed soul once lived. The fury lowered its head slightly, and then shrieked as it flew away.