Three days in the jungle hadn’t prepared our heroes for what lied ahead. The brave team, and Micca, stared up at the tall, desolate, jagged-edged mountain, steeper than the Cliffs of Shackonia that bordered their homeland’s capitol.
With their jaws agape, tempting the flies, Captain JOHN swallowed hard and stepped forward to address his men. In his mind’s eye he had prepared the most motivating, invigorating and rejuvenating speech he had ever spoken aloud before, but when he cleared his throat to speak, all that came out was, “Let’s get a move on, then.”
And the team of weary men trudged on, preparing their ropes for the climb of their lives.
“I don’t get it,” whined Micca. “The mountain didn’t look this bad from the beach.”
cRyptic smiled at Micca sympathetically and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Micca. I’ll help you.”
But Micca just cocked his eyebrow and shook his head. “With what?” he asked and leapt high into the air and landed on top of a fifteen foot tall rock.
“Show off!” cRyptic said with a chuckle as he swung a grappling hook around and around and tossed it up in the air and then secured its sturdy hooks in the mountain’s jagged rock, right next to Micca.
* * *
After half a day of climbing, the team had barely climbed midway and decided to stop for lunch. And as Lemonians conjured a fire to heat their meal, the captain’s eye caught a glimpse of an old ship’s sail that had been torn and mangled in the mountain’s talons. “Look, over there!” he pointed up the mountain at the sail. “Micca, can you retrieve it?”
Micca turned and studied the mountain before nodding. “Yeah, sure. But why?”
“If the sail’s in decent shape, we could salvage it with a needle and thread, then if Lemonians could conjure a strong enough wind we could sail the skies right to the top of this dreaded beast.”
Micca didn’t need any more convincing and rocketed up a nearby rock before scaling the razor-like walls of the mountain, toward the sail—destined to be their saviour.
“Lemonians,” said Captain JOHN. “Do you think you could muster up such a breeze?”
Lemonians surveyed the sail from afar and gave a gentle shrug. “It’s hard to say, Captain. The size looks right, but I couldn’t speak for its condition.”
Anubis stepped forward and drove his staff into the rocky earth. “I could repair it, Captain. That, I am certain.”
Despite his noble gesture, the crew couldn’t help but laugh at poor old Anubis, and he grunted and sat back down.
“Didn’t realize you were tailor’s wench in a previous life Anuby,” teased Cirrus as he chomped down on the leg of a reptilian cackle.
Anubis rolled his eyes and exhaled a frustrated sigh. “With magic, not thread. Imbecile.”
Just before Cirrus could retort, the sun disappeared and the sky turned black. The Shackonian Braves reacted immediately and swords were unsheathed in the blink of an eye—just in time to be consumed by an old, tattered tarp.
“Here she blows, Captain!” Micca beamed proudly as he dropped down from mountainside and onto the frayed sail.
* * *
By the time everyone had finished their lunch Anubis had mended the sail and sculpted it into a balloon-like shape with ten ropes dangling from its end. With all the men on the outside, and Micca in the centre, Lemonians summoned a powerful wind, so hot that the crew believed it to have come directly through the gates of hell. It propelled them up, up and away, right to the top of the treacherous mountain’s peak.
Once our brave team had landed, Anubis secured the balloon to the stump of an old, long-since dead oak tree and rushed to catch up with the others. They were standing in front on two very large gates that had been forged from iron and stood so tall that they could just barely see its top. “Suppose we should’ve kept the balloon in the air a tad longer, huh?” Anubis thought out loud.
“Goh… I’ll say,” Micca gawked in awe. “How’re we gonna get past this, Captain?”
“You, of course, Micca.” The captain turned and grinned. “These bars look just enough apart to fit your tiny frame through them.”
“Come on, Micca, you can do it!” Cirrus attempted to encourage him. “It’ll be a snap.”
“But I don’t wanna,” pouted Micca. “I din’t even know what to do when I get to the other side.”
“Find the Gem of Ambrosia, of course,” said Captain JOHN. “That’s the only thing we’ve left out, and that comes right before the feasting with immortals bit.”
“Yes!” shouted Mikaielle, much out of character for the quiet brute. “Look there, in the centre! I bet the gem fits perfectly in that slot!”
Micca inched away from Mikaielle nervously. “But I don’t know where that is!”
“Well go give it a look, Micca. Please?” said Ulysses as he reached down and pinched Micca’s bottom. “For us?”
“Fuuuuu—dge.” Micca exhaled nervously. “Okay, but the next heroic thing that needs to be done gets done by someone else!” he demanded as he slid through the iron bars.
Tip-toeing as stealthily as he could manage, Micca followed a narrow stone path that was surrounded by old, half-dead willow trees. But not long after the gates were out of sight, he came to large, circular clearing that sported a massive, rectangular table with ginormous chairs all around it.
It wasn’t the 100 foot tall table that worried Micca, though. It was the Gods who sat at the table that was freaking him out, and he crossed his fingers—all of them—that they weren’t due back for a snack.
Micca approached the leg of one of chairs, still afraid that the Gods would return, but knowing that if the Gem of Ambrosia was anywhere, it’d be right in the centre of the tall, spooky table. Fortunately, the chairs were fancy and had been carved like a spiral that led all the way up to the seat. From there, all that Micca would have to do is leap to the backrest and then up on top of the table.
Spinning around the chairs leg twice, while he followed the handy-dandy pathway up the chair—almost like the chair had been designed for just such an occasion—Micca pulled himself up onto the chair, hopped to the backrest and then on top of the table.
It had already been set. To one side was a row of three forks, to the other was a knife that was three times taller than he was. The cutlery wasn’t what sent chills down his spine, though. It was the plate he found himself standing in the middle of. If the Gods came in for feeding just then, he’d no doubt be mistaken for a meal.
And that’s when he saw it. Far off in the distance, past 20-foot-tall goblets and bread baskets the size of two Olympic swimming pools, was a bright, shimmering light. It sparkled even through the darkened gloom of the eerie dining hall, and Micca ran toward it at top speed.
Jumping over half-eaten apples, that stood as tall as he, and dodging vases filled with rotted flowers, Micca hopped, skipped and jumped toward the luring light. When he arrived in front of it, he couldn’t help but stop and admire its beauty. It was crystal clear and cut in a miraculously impossible spider-web-like pattern, so precise that Micca knew no ordinary man, no mortal, could ever achieve such perfection. But it wasn’t just the pattern that Micca admired. Its light was bright and warm and reminded him of the sun he’d never been able to enjoy, and when he reached out and touched it, he was consumed with visions of basking on the beach on a hot summer’s day, as if he’d never been allergic to sunlight.
Micca couldn’t help but to surrender himself to the gem; it gave him everything he’d ever dreamed of—and much, much more. And the longer he held it, the further away from the world he became…
It wasn’t until the earth began to shake that Micca realized what had happened. The plates and cutlery were rattling to the beat of deepest, most powerful drums he had ever heard, and they were getting louder with ever bone-shattering BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
Micca opened his eyes and looked around. The table was no longer dead and empty. Massive plates had been filled with meats, cheeses and bread, and a large and shimmering candle had magically appeared directly beside him, towering over him as it oozed wax down its sides and dripped down to the table.
The first drop crashed down in front of Micca, just barely missing his head, and splattered up his front-side. It cooled almost instantly, making his clothing stiff and heavy, but he had no time to try to peel it off as the drums were getting closer still, and Micca had realized that they weren’t really drums at all—they were the feet of hungry Gods…