Chapter 9:

The Festival of the Gods - Day 1 (pt. 2/3)

I Became the Plus-One to a Party of the Gods

Sir Ares laughed maniacally in Caisey’s face as Caisey turned an unsightly shade of ashen white. He wore only a warrior’s skirt and flat, high-laced sandals, so all his muscles were visible and very intimidating. His abdomen alone looked as though a sword would snap in two if it tried to pierce him and Caisey couldn’t help but eye the god’s own brandished sword held tight in his hand.

“Welcome to the party, Honored Guest.” Said Sir Ares, “I, Ares, shall be your first opponent.” Still hovering midair, he swept downward and back up in a fluid bow, his arm swung out wide. Just as suddenly, he stiffened and leveled a serious look at Caisey before speaking again. “It’d be wise to not disappoint me.”

Then, his blinding silver blade was slicing the air centimeters from Caisey’s face. It didn’t touch, but a heavy force blasted Caisey backwards like a cannon ball. Caisey spun in the air for a couple of seconds before Sir Mimir caught him against his chest like he had the morning before.

“You’ve got to learn to stop yourself!” The advisor god urged.

Caisey wanted to reply, but his stomach was up in his throat and his soul had left his body. The three words ‘I’m gonna die’ plagued his mind. He had tunnel vision, eyes hardly able to focus on Sir Ares’ image now several meters away from him.

And coming closer.

“Ah! Oh, god of gods—he’s coming!” Caisey cried, suddenly finding his voice. He dashed upwards against the side of the tall mountain, hoping to outfly this crazed god of violence and war.

Until he was stopped by a horizontal slash that cracked right through a thick layer of mountain rock, just above Caisey’s head. If he’d flown upward a second more, his head would have been gone.

Caisey cried out and spun backwards. In his panic, one of his wings clipped the mountain and he temporarily lost control. It was only a second, but it was long enough for the battle savvy Sir Ares to close the gap between them and position himself a few feet above Caisey, the gleaming tip of his sword pointed downwards.

“This is it for you, already?” Sir Ares asked and spread a wicked smile across his face. Caisey could feel the build-up of intense spiritual power around Sir Ares and his sword as he prepared to strike. “What a shame.” Sir Ares said and jabbed his sword downwards towards Caisey’s chest.

In the millisecond that passed between Sir Ares’ sword tip and Caisey’s chest being pierced, Caisey felt like his world shifted into slow motion. Without hesitation, his wings folded up and around his body, cocooning him like a shield. Sir Ares’ blade and his immense spiritual energy tapped the cocoon and sent Caisey barreling back to the land below.

His landing left an awful crater in the ground, and while Caisey was dazed and wondered how he wasn’t dead, a voice filtered in through the haze. “Get up, Caisey! Get up! Get up!”

Get up? Caisey’s thoughts were coming slow, Who’s saying that? Speak for yourself. I can’t move… That… hurt!

Despite complaining, he blinked his eyes open and saw Sir Ares torpedoing towards him from above, his sword in the same position it had been in before—only this time, Sir Ares looked like he would succeed in killing him.

Oh, damn! Get up get up get up get up, Caisey chanted, and tried moving. He managed to roll over on hands and knees, but he was too slow. Suddenly, he was pulled by his hands and flung into the mountain, smacking into it the way he had done at the start of the Climb. Just then, Sir Ares landed in the spot where he had just been like an explosion.

The crowd went wild, possibly thinking Caisey was a forked pancake at this point. Meanwhile Caisey crawled out of the little cavern his body had made in the mountain, and spotted Rina, a shower of blue, twirling in the air.

“RINA!!” he cried, “You’re going to kill me if you keep throwing me like that!”

“Oh? Then maybe I’ll let Sir Ares have you after all,” came her reply.

Caisey felt a shiver crawl up his spine. He smiled sheepishly. “Sorry. Thank you.”

As Rina winked prettily at him and started to spin faster, Caisey finally registered what she was doing. Around them, a vivid blue vortex was growing. In the center of the vortex, Rina mirrored a ballerina and a soft but crescendo-ing melody sounded from within. Sir Ares was caught right in the middle of it on the ground, standing still and dazed. The other god near him, Her Lady Terra, stood entranced as well.

Caisey knew was he had to do. He sent Rina a silent ‘thank you’ in his heart and seized the opportunity to get away. He jumped upward and flew fast against the side of the hulking mountain. When he had met Sir Ares, he had been only one-hundred meters off the ground. Now, he shot upward past three-hundred meters in under ten seconds. He was pleased to find Sir Mimir with him every step of the way.

Just when he thought he was making good progress, he was not pleasantly surprised to find himself blocked by Lady Nox, goddess of night.

Oh, no, he thought while Lady Nox swooped much like Sir Ares had into a bow of greeting, though hers was less “show off-y” and more a thing of beauty. “Greetings, Chosen One. Are you enjoying this party with us gods?”

Her voice was soft like a touch, louder than a whisper but low enough to curl into your senses. It was inobtrusive in the most obtrusive way, just the way bright light hurts the eyes, but dark is gentle—yet blinding. Lady Nox was beautiful, her voice captivating, her energy dangerous.

Caisey didn’t know whether to answer truthfully or lie. He felt like he’d be suffocated to death either way, so he gave half-honesty a shot. “Uhm, it’s… different than any sort of party I’ve ever been to in the Mortal Realm.” He said, a careful smile on his face.

Lady Nox chuckled, “I’m glad you like it.”

Did I say that? Caisey thought as the goddess of night went on.

“Parties are more fun with presents, aren’t they? As a gift to you, Honored Guest, I will allow you a ten-second head start.”

Caisey turned that offer over in his head for a moment. Ten seconds? He’d climbed three-hundred meters within ten seconds the last time. He felt good about those odds. Nodding his head, Caisey began to speak, “Okay, I like the sou—”

“Are you not worried about what she’ll do after the ten seconds are up?”

“Aaargh!!” Caisey cried, clutching the area over his heart. “Mimir! You’ve gotta stop sneaking up on me like that. Almost gave me a heart attack!”

Unbothered, Sir Mimir advised once more, “Pry. And try to make a bargain. Lady Nox enjoys bargains.”

“That I do.” Lady Nox said, overhearing their conversation.

“Alright. What about after the ten seconds are up?” Caisey asked, “I’ll be three-hundred meters higher than now. Will you attack me then?”

“I won’t have to attack you, Silly One. You’ll be out of the contest, then. The festival will be over, and you’ll be plummeting down towards Earth before you know it.

“Both you and Miss Elise.”

The way she said that gave Caisey goosebumps, and not in a good way. I’ll try bargaining with her, Caisey thought, though he wasn’t entirely sure about what.

“O-Okay…” He said, “Well, how about this. Let’s make a deal.”

“I’m listening.” The smile Lady Nox had on her midnight black lips was much too comfortable. She clearly thought that anything Caisey had to offer was pointless.

“I know, with your power, you’re going to drop the arena into pitch darkness and won’t let up until the time runs out,” Caisey tried and was pleased to see that he was spot on by the slight flicker in Lady Nox’s eyes. He continued, “I’m not going to climb for those ten seconds you gifted me with.”

“Oh?” Lady Nox said. She put her right hand on her hip and smirked. She shook her short, black bob and curled bangs out of her face and looked into Caisey’s eyes. “I’m listening.” She said again.

Caisey bit his lips closed, excited to have Lady Nox’s attention. He hoped she’d go for his bid, because he knew that everything would be rendered pointless against a permanent, sightless nightfall. And if he played his cards right, he wouldn’t have to face those monster gods, Hercules and Thor.

“Instead,” Caisey continued, “you drop the blanket of darkness now and then you’ll agree to stay out of the contest if I’m able to force you to deactivate your power within thirty seconds.”

Lady Nox hummed as if tasting something good. She smiled widely, “Hmmmm. Excellent.” She praised, “Except, not thirty seconds. We’ll stick to ten.”

No! Caisey thought, fighting with himself not to panic. He knew ten seconds wouldn’t be enough for what he had planned. As if sensing his distress, Sir Mimir murmured, “Bargain, child.” So, Caisey hastily countered with, “Twenty! Twenty seconds.”

The look on Lady Nox’s face was impenetrable. Desperately, Caisey added, “We keep the gift of ten seconds you gave me earlier and add the ten from my bargain. Please allow me just twenty seconds. How’s that sound?”

For two short seconds, Lady Nox regarded Caisey coolly with her dark eyes before she answered with a short, “Deal,” raised her arms outwards, black-painted fingernails tipped skyward, and sucked every fragment of light out of the arena.