Seulgi dreamed of death.
This wasn’t the first time that she’d had strange dreams, but there was something about this particular dream that was so visceral she could almost feel the life draining out of her body.
She stood at the edge of a cliff watching as a battle unfolded below her. Steel rang against steel, arrows cut through the hazy sky and the air around her reeked of blood and other horrible smells.
It broke her heart to see so much death and destruction around her, and although she tried to move her body something rooted her firmly in place.
“We were too late,” Seulgi turned around to see Joohyun limping up to her, one hand barely putting pressure on the large gash in her stomach.
“Ssh, don’t talk. You’ll only make it worse,” Seulgi found herself saying. It was as if she was trapped in this vision, cursed to witness the events around her but unable to act.
“We’re not going to make it out of here alive anyway, Seul,” Joohyun smiled wryly. Seulgi was surprised at Joohyun’s casual use of her nickname. She didn’t even remember ever telling it to Joohyun. Not that she could ever picture her and Joohyun being civil to each other…This must be in the future, she thought.
“I really thought we could do it,” Seulgi said, turning back to help Joohyun lie against a nearby tree.
Joohyun coughed weakly. “That’s the thing about the gods. They’re in it for the long game. And us? Their children? We’re just their pawns at most.”
Seulgi couldn’t bear to look at the carnage of the battlefield anymore so she sat down next to Joohyun, exhaustion flooding her body and causing her to lean her head against the trunk of the tree. Joohyun’s hand inched closer to hers.
“I’m sorry, Joohyun.”
Their fingers intertwined.
“Maybe next time things will go our way.”
Seulgi awoke with a start, Joohyun’s name on her lips.
“Whoa there! Hey, you’re okay, you’re safe.” Gentle hands pressed on Seulgi’s shoulders, guiding her back so she could rest on the soft pillows.
Seulgi groaned as pain lanced through her head. What on earth had happened? She vaguely remembered dreaming something horrible. The last thing she remembered was getting angry at Hyoyeon for cancelling the solo auditions, then Joohyun was there making fun of her. Then Minjun and Renjun had turned into werewolves.
“Oh my god I set the school on fire again!” Seulgi’s head dropped back and for the first time she actually bothered to look at her surroundings.
She appeared to be in some sort of makeshift hospital. White curtains surrounded her bed on either side, but there was an opening directly in front of her that allowed her to see several other teenagers bustling around the floor, carrying bandages and what looked like small squares of fudge on paper plates.
“Don’t worry. Fires, floods, earthquakes. Those are just occupational hazards of being a demigod.” A voice came from her left.
Seulgi turned and saw the pretty girl she’d met at the portal earlier approaching her bed, a square of fudge balanced precariously on top of an unopened bottle of water. “A what now?”
The girl, her name was Seungwan, Seulgi barely recalled, tilted her head quizzically, as if she couldn’t believe Seulgi could be that stupid. “Demigod. You know, half human, half god?”
“God?” Seulgi’s eyebrows shot up. Had she been kidnapped and taken to some kind of weird religious cult? Now that she thought about it she could definitely see Joohyun being a part of a group like that. They probably kidnapped poor people and sacrificed them or something.
Her thoughts must have translated to her body language because Seungwan quickly set down her items on the bedside table and sat on the edge of Seulgi’s bed.
“No, not God with a capital G,” she said hurriedly, making a placating gesture with her hands. “That’s delving a little too much into modern and ancient religions and everything. Gods as in those who rule over the sky and the sea. War, agriculture. Things like that.”
Seulgi didn’t look at all comforted by the explanation.
“Like the Greek gods?” Seungwan said, waiting to see if any recognition dawned on Seulgi’s face. “Does the name Hercules ring a bell? Demigods are the result of a god’s tryst with a mortal.”
“Are you insane?” Was Seulgi’s response. Seungwan blinked. “That’s impossible. There’s a reason it’s called Greek mythology. They’re all myths.”
“Yes, and those werewolf boys you saw earlier were a figment of your imagination,” a familiar voice said condescendingly. Joohyun poked her head into Seulgi’s curtained-off area. “The gods are alive, and for a reason I cannot fathom they’ve deigned to bring you into this world.”
Seulgi stared at Joohyun. Seungwan stood up and rolled her eyes, gently pushing Joohyun back outside.
“Ignore Joohyun. She’s probably a little salty that you got tangled up in her perfectly planned out rescue operation. When we received intel that a young demigod had been discovered in Seoul, Joohyun and Sooyoung were sent to bring her back. We had no idea there were two of you there.”
“Back up a bit, please. Joohyun said the gods were alive. But that’s impossible.”
Seungwan shook her head. “Is it? There’s thousands of years of history that say otherwise. Sure, there are different retellings of myth and the gods aren’t always called by the same names but they’re there. Even modern history is influenced by them.”
Seulgi still didn’t appear to believe her. “And demigods?”
“Sometimes a god will fall in love with a mortal and have a child. Kids with abilities and powers inherited from their godly parent. There are plenty of famous ones. George Washington, Ryan Reynolds. IU.”
Seulgi’s mouth dropped open. Joohyun stuck her head inside again. She had no doubt been listening in on their conversation the whole time.
“Yeah, and more often than not demigods start a bunch of bull. World War One and Two? All their fault. Some kids of Zeus and Poseidon had a problem with a child of Hades and caused one of the deadliest wars in human history.”
“I thought you were here to visit Sooyoung,” Seungwan interrupted. “If you’re going to be rude to my patient I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Joohyun scowled. “Your soft-hearted approach to telling Seulgi she’s not human doesn’t seem to be working, Wendy.”
“Oh bite me, Irene,” Seungwan shot back. Seulgi was impressed that the shorter girl could easily stand up to Joohyun. “Joohyun’s not wrong though. After World War Two ended, The Big Three swore an oath to never sire any more children.”
“The Big Three?” Seulgi couldn’t believe it but she was slowly started to get into what Seungwan and Joohyun were talking about. After all, she’d exhausted all other options that explained the events of the last twenty-four hours. What remained had to be the most likely answer.
Joohyun stepped into the room and leaned against the wall. “Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. When the gods overthrew Kronos the three brothers drew lots to see who would rule where. Zeus drew dominion over the skies, Poseidon the seas and Hades the Underworld. Any children born from the three of them are usually stronger than other demigods.”
“Many people believe their children are too powerful. Too dangerous,” Seungwan shot Joohyun a pointed look and the older girl casually flipped her off.
“And wolf men aren’t dangerous?” Seulgi asked.
“The Sons of Lycaon are middling monsters at best,” Joohyun said lazily, much to Seulgi’s surprise. She considered those giant wolf twins middling monsters? Seulgi wondered what Joohyun considered to be an actual threat.
“It’s not just children of the Big Three that monsters hunt as I’m sure you’re aware of by now,” Seungwan clarified. “All demigods give off a scent that attracts monsters. It’s supposed to get stronger as you age but for whatever reason you’ve managed to stay undiscovered.”
“You make us sound like we’re some type of delicacy,” Joohyun grumbled.
“The point is,” Seungwan ignored Joohyun’s barbed comment and turned back to face Seulgi. “When a demigod reaches a certain age and they start attracting monsters we send out people to find them and bring them here to Camp Half-Blood. Joohyun and her partner were sent to Seoul to find a girl named Yeri.”
Seulgi recalled the young blonde girl that Sooyoung had dragged through the portal. Yeri didn’t seem at all surprised by everything, she’d even recognized Iris and called her by name.
As if Joohyun could read her mind, she said, “Usually we’re dispatched with enough time to break the news to the kid gently, slowly introduce them to the world of the gods.”
“Unfortunately you weren’t that lucky,” Seungwan added. “At least you managed to get here in one piece.”
“Tragically,” Joohyun muttered. By now Seungwan had had enough and she escorted Joohyun out of Seulgi’s room with a muttered threat to not allow her to visit Sooyoung and Yeri if she kept up with her attitude. Joohyun slunk away, knowing Seungwan was capable of following through with her threats.
“I’m sorry about Joohyun,” Seungwan apologized, walking around the side of Seulgi’s bed, opening the bottle of water and handing it to Seulgi, who took it gratefully.
Seulgi laughed bitterly, “Please. This is how she normally is around me. I’ve gotten used to it.”
Seungwan shook her head. “Just because she’s a child of the Big Three it doesn’t give her the right to be rude.”
Seulgi wondered who Joohyun’s godly parent was. Judging by the powers she’d seen earlier though, she was confident she knew the answer. Seulgi looked at the fudge that was sitting on her bedside table. It gave off the most delicious smell. “Seungwan, what’s that?”
“Oh. That’s ambrosia. Supposedly it’s the food of the gods themselves. Gives the gods their immortality, or so the stories go. On us demigods though it serves as a healing treatment. You’ve been through a lot the last few hours, I didn’t know if you’d need it or not.”
The ambrosia seemed to call to Seulgi and she reached for it. “Is it okay for me to eat?”
Seungwan nodded. “Go ahead. Just don’t ask for any more of it. Ingesting too much will burn you from the inside out.”
Seulgi’s eyes bulged and she jerked her fingers back. “Maybe I’ll just leave it for now then.”