Part Twenty:

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Part Twenty:

The daffodils were too yellow. The grass was too green. The trees were too still. Sammy was standing in a vast, open, field that was full of trees, grass and heaps of flowers but no wind. It felt extremely odd, like the place held no life. He wondered if it was supposed to be a dream.

"Hello?" He called out, but there was no reply. Sammy's heart started racing. Something was wrong.

"Samuel Zhang." A soft voice murmured, as warm as a blanket but as sharp as a kitchen knife.

"Who's there?" Sammy shouted, whirling around to face a woman.

She had dark brown hair twisted into a long braid. Her face was beautiful in a strong, elegant way, and she was at least ten feet in height -- not in a tall, human way, more goddess-like. Her eyes were a sharp brown and she was wearing a gold dress with white swirls and held a staff topped with a lotus in her right hand.

"Queen Hera." Sammy knelt, and the goddess smiled, shrinking down to human form.

"Hello Samuel." Hera said.

"Why have you come to speak to me?" Sammy asked, standing up again.

"I'm here to guide you on your quest, like I did to the Great Seven, and also Jason and the Argonauts."

"You want to help us?"

"Of course, it has been over sixteen years since the Giant War, and your quest is the mightiest band of heroes since the Seven. I believe that Tartarus can be stopped, but first I shall help you understand."

"Um, what to you mean?" Sammy was nervous. This goddess could strike him down to ashes in less than point five seconds.

"Think back to the prophecy."

"Oh. 'Five young heroes who combine the power of two'," Sammy started, twiddling his fingers nervously
"Thats you and your friends. Now, tell me what your interpretation of this line is." Hera nodded her head, a small smile growing on her face.

"Um, our parents are demigods and so we combine both of their powers?"
"You're half-correct. But it goes much, much, deeper than that. Your parents know, of course, but I fear that the time is not right to tell you. The double meaning for this line will determine how you defeat Tartarus. It will also determine the fate of your friend."

"Who? Alex? Charlie? Zoe? Michael?" Sammy asked.

"You'll find out soon enough. Now, the next line is pretty straightforward, 'Shall travel to the darkest pit to finish what their parents didn't do',"

"'The girl with the flames will lead the way'," Sammy cut in. "That's Alex, right? Since her dad was a fire-user."
"Not quite. There's also a double meaning to that. Alex will lead the quest at some points, but another demigod will appear..."

"Um, okay." Sammy rubbed his arms as if he was cold. "The next one: 'But go too deep and the quest will be lead astray', what's that about?"

"Oh dear." Hera shuddered. "That is the line that worries me the most. I foresee that it doesn't literally mean go too deep into Tartarus."

"What do you mean by that?" Sammy questioned.

Hera shook her head and smiled. "You'll figure it out soon enough." Then the goddess' body started turning to a shimmering dust. "Looks like my time is up!"

"Wait!" Sammy started to panic. "You never explained the last two lines!"

But Hera was already gone.

•••

As soon as Sammy woke up, he noticed two things: one, Michael, Zoe, Charlie, Alex and him were in what looked like a small inflatable raft out in the middle of the ocean, and two, he had been the last to wake up.

"Glad you could join us." Charlie grinned. He looked extremely tired, like he had just run a marathon.

"What happened?" Sammy asked, sitting up. Hera's words were fresh on his mind. The fate of his friend? Who was it?

Zoe pointed behind him and Sammy turned to see the remains of a boat sinking just below the waves. "There."

"Oh."

"We're about ten miles from the shore." Zoe said, yet she sounded drained. Her face was very pale and she was shivering. "But I'm not sure I can--"
suddenly, she stopped speaking, then fell backwards into Charlie's arms, her eyes rolling into the back of her head.

"Zoe!" Alex, Charlie, Michael and Sammy cried at the same time.

"We have to get to land!" Michael shouted. "Everyone take an oar and row!"

"There are only two!" Alex picked up one and Sammy took the other.

"Just ROW!" Michael screamed. Alex and Sammy started beating at the water as fast as they could - Michael had scared quite a lot.

"Hurry!" Charlie shouted, checking Zoe's pulse. "I'm not sure we'll make it in time! She's completely drained."

"Ambrosia." Michael muttered, realisation hitting him. He ripped open a backpack and reached into it to grab a sealed snap lock bag, then fed a piece into Zoe's mouth. Some colour returned to her face.

"Stop!" Charlie shouted, after Michael had fed her another square. "She'll burn up!"

"The water." Alex cried. "Put her in the water! Water heals Poseidon children!" And with that, Michael and Charlie lifted up Zoe and dumped her into the ocean. Alex and Sammy stopped rowing to stare at where she had gone under. They waited for five minutes.

Nothing happened.

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