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  • Home > Jennifer Estep > Mythos Academy > Midnight Frost (Page 35)     
    Midnight Frost(Mythos Academy #5) by Jennifer Estep
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    I'd come to the coliseum in search of a net that had supposedly belonged to Ran, the Norse goddess of storms. Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, had tasked me, her Champion, with finding such mythological artifacts and protecting them from the Reapers of Chaos. Something else I wasn't doing so well at.

    "Well?" Daphne asked. "What do you have to say for yourself, Gwen?"

    I looked at the brochure I'd grabbed from a metal rack by the front door. "That the net is in one of the rooms in the back. So come on."

    The Valkyrie kept glaring at me, but I was used to her temper. Daphne's bark was always worse than her bite - unless you were a Reaper.

    I batted my eyelashes at her. "Pretty please?"

    "Of course it's in the back," Daphne muttered, but she fell in step beside me.

    It was a cold afternoon in late January, just before closing time. Given the bitter winter chill and snow showers outside, we were the only ones in the coliseum, besides a few staff members wearing long white togas who were taking inventory in the gift shop.

    None of the staff gave us a second glance, despite the sparks of magic Daphne was still giving off. Mythos Academy students like us came into the coliseum all the time to look at the exhibits and gather information for reports, essays, and other homework assignments. Most of the staff members were former Mythos students themselves, so they knew all about the mythological world and the Valkyries, Spartans, Amazons, and other warriors who inhabited it.

    We walked through the main room of the coliseum, which was filled with glass artifact cases. The silver and bronze swords and spears all glinted with a dull, bloody light, while the jewels in the rings and necklaces winked like evil eyes opening and closing, following my every move. The gauzy silks hovered in midair, as if they were ghosts about to break free of the wires holding them up, burst through the glass, and attack.

    I shivered and quickened my steps. Bloody weapons. Winking eyes. Ghostly garments. My Gypsy gift was acting up again.

    "Geez, Gwen," Daphne muttered again. "Slow down. It's not a race."

    I bit my lip to keep from telling her that it was a race - us against the Reapers - and forced myself to walk at a more normal pace. We left the main room behind and stepped into a long hallway.

    "It's all the way in the back," I said, pointing up ahead. "In a room next to the library."

    Daphne sighed, and another shower of pink sparks streaked out of her fingertips.

    "Look," I said. "I know you're getting tired of chasing after artifacts, but the net I saw on the coliseum's Web site looked like the one we're searching for. So I figured we might as well come and check it out. Besides, it's not like we were doing anything else important."

    "Oh no," she sniped. "It's not like I wanted to spend the afternoon with my boyfriend or anything."

    "I asked Carson to come too," I said, referring to her boyfriend, Carson Callahan, "but he had that band meeting about rescheduling the winter concert that the Reapers ruined."

    Daphne snorted. "Ruined is a bit of an understatement, don't you think?"

    I grimaced. She was right. Ruined didn't even come close to describing the horror show the concert had turned into when Reapers had crashed the event, killed members of the ruling Protectorate, and taken others hostage, along with Mythos students. The Reapers had intended to murder everyone at the Aoide Auditorium as a blood sacrifice to the evil Norse god Loki. I'd stopped their plan, but it had cost me - more than I cared to remember.

    "Well, at least Gwen decided to look for this artifact during the day," a voice with a cool Russian accent chimed in. "Instead of dragging me over to the Library of Antiquities in the middle of the night like she did last week."

    I looked over to my left at Alexei Sokolov. With his dark brown hair, tan skin, and rugged features, Alexei was as handsome as any movie star, but he was also the Bogatyr warrior who served as my bodyguard.

    "You're just grumpy Oliver couldn't come with us today," I said.

    Alexei smiled, and his hazel eyes softened at the thought of Oliver Hector, the Spartan he was involved with. "Maybe."

    "And you're just grumpy Logan's not here," Daphne sniped again.

    Her words surprised me, and I stumbled over my own feet, even as my heart twisted in my chest.

    Daphne caught my arm and pulled me upright with her great Valkyrie strength. She winced at the miserable expression on my face.

    "I'm sorry, Gwen. I didn't mean that - "

    I held up my hand, cutting her off. "No, it's fine. We all know it's true. I am grumpy about Logan."

    Another understatement. Spartan Logan Quinn was the best fighter at Mythos Academy. Over the last few months, he'd taught me everything I knew about weapons and how to use them.

    He was also the guy I loved - and the one who'd attacked me and then left the academy.

    "Gwen?" Alexei asked.

    I snapped out of my dark thoughts. "I'm fine. Let's see if the net is here."

    We hurried to the end of the hallway and the last exhibit room in this part of the coliseum. According to a sign on the wall, this area was devoted to gods and goddesses of the sea, the sky, and all the storms that raged between them. I put my messenger bag down in the corner, then went from one case to the next, staring at all of the artifacts. They included everything from splintered planks of the doomed boat that the Greek warrior Odysseus had tried to sail home in to a couple of gold tridents that had supposedly belonged to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Finally, I spotted a bronze plaque that read Ran's fishing net, and I stepped over to that case.

    A net made out of something that looked like light gray seaweed lay beneath the glass, along with a small white ID card. I'd have to remember to take that with me too. Hopefully, it would tell me what was so important about the net. I leaned even closer to the glass, studying the artifact.

    Thanks to my psychometry, I never forgot anything I saw, so I was able to pull up my memories of the drawing that featured the artifacts I was supposed to find for Nike. I compared the net before me to the one in the drawing. It was a perfect match.

    "Here it is!" I called out.

    Daphne and Alexei moved over to stand beside me. They both looked down at the net.

    "What do you think it does?" Daphne asked, her black eyes narrowed in thought.

    I shrugged. "I have no idea. But Nike showed it to me, so it must be important."

    "Now what?" Alexei asked.

    I shrugged again. "The usual. I'll call Metis, and she and Nickamedes can come and get the net - "

    I saw a flash of silver out of the corner of my eye, and I instinctively jumped back.

    The Reaper's sword missed my head by an inch.

    One second, Alexei, Daphne, and I were alone in the exhibit room. The next, six Reapers had appeared, all wearing black robes and twisted rubber Loki masks and all carrying curved swords.

    "Reapers!" I screamed, even though my friends had already spotted them.

    The Reaper next to me raised his sword again, and I pivoted and lashed out with my foot, kicking him in the stomach. The Reaper stumbled back, giving me the chance to grab my own weapon - the sword in the black leather scabbard that was belted around my waist.

    I raised the blade up into an attack position, and a purplish eye on the hilt snapped open. Instead of being plain, half a man's face was inlaid into the hilt of my sword, complete with a nose, an ear, and a mouth that I could feel curving into a satisfied smile under my palm at the thought of the battle to come.

    "Reapers!" Vic, the sword, said with dark relish. "Let's kill them all!"

    Beside me, Daphne slung an onyx bow off her shoulder and nocked an arrow on the thin golden strings, while Alexei pulled two matching swords out of the gray leather scabbard strapped to his back.

    I tightened my grip on Vic and charged into battle.

    Clash-clash-clang!

    I swung my sword at the Reaper over and over again, mercilessly hacking and slashing my way through his defenses until I was able to bury my weapon in his chest.

    "Way to go, Gwen!" Vic crowed as I pulled him free of the Reaper's body. "On to the next one!"

    I turned to face the next Reaper coming at me -

    Thwack!

    A golden arrow zoomed past me and buried itself in the Reaper's chest, and he too fell to the floor. My head snapped around.

    "You're welcome!" Daphne shouted.

    I raised Vic and saluted her with the sword. She grinned before bringing up her bow and using it as a sort of shield to fend off another Reaper. Daphne stepped forward and punched the Reaper in the face, her Valkyrie strength throwing him back against the wall. I knew she'd be okay so I charged over to where Alexei was fighting two Reapers. The Bogatyr's swords flashed through the air like streaks of silver fire as he moved back and forth, attacking first one Reaper, then the other.

    "Get the net!" one of the Reapers screamed at the sixth and final man.

    The last Reaper smashed his sword into the case, reached through the broken glass, and grabbed the gray net. He threw the seaweed over his shoulder and raced toward the open doorway.

    "Go!" Alexei said, slicing his sword across first one Reaper's chest, then the other's, making them both scream with pain. "I can handle these two!"

    I hurried after the last Reaper. He turned to see how close I was and slammed into another artifact case, knocking it over. The Reaper tripped and hit the floor hard, sliding to a stop just inside the doorway.

    "Get him, Gwen!" Vic shouted.

    I leaped over the smashed case and brought the sword up, ready to bring it down on the Reaper.

    And that's when he threw the net at me.

    I ducked to one side, but the net still clipped me. It was heavier than it looked, and I felt like someone had slammed a couple of lead weights into my shoulder. I grunted, spun around, and managed to fling the net off me, although the left side of my body ached from the strangely hard impact.

    But that gave the Reaper enough time to scramble to his feet and lurch out of the exhibit room and into the hallway. I picked up my pace, running after him. He wasn't going to get away. Not if I could help it -

    The Reaper stopped in the hallway, turned, and tossed something that looked like a black rubber ball in my direction. I stopped short just as a flash of fire exploded in front of the doorway, separating me from the Reaper. Through the flames, I watched as the evil warrior ran down the hallway and out of sight. I looked around, but of course there wasn't another exit from this room, which meant I couldn't chase after him.

    I cursed, ripped off my gray hoodie, and used it to beat down the flames. Whatever the Reaper had thrown at me wasn't all that powerful, because I was quickly able to smother the fire. I coughed, waved the wisps of smoke away from my face, and stepped out of the room.

    Empty - the hallway was empty, the Reaper long gone.

    I cursed again, but there was nothing I could do to catch him, so I went back into the exhibit area to check on my friends. Daphne and Alexei were already moving from one body to the next, tearing off the rubber Loki masks to reveal the Reapers' real faces underneath. I went over to Daphne and touched her shoulder.

    "You okay?" I asked.

    She nodded.

    "Alexei?"

    "I'm fine," he called out.

    I let out a quiet sigh of relief. Alexei might technically be my guard, but he was a friend too, and I was glad that he and Daphne were all right.

    Daphne noticed the worry on my face, and she slung her arm around my shoulder. "Relax, Gwen. We made it through the fight, and they didn't. Why, my hair didn't even get messed up."

    She used her free hand to smooth back the golden locks in her long ponytail. Daphne grinned, and I found myself smiling a little.

    "Well, as long as your hair's okay, I guess we're good."

    She nodded. "Don't you know it."

    Across the room, Alexei crouched over one of the Reapers' bodies and used his cell phone to take a photo of the dead man's face. He did the same with all the Reapers, then put the phone to his ear. He was probably calling Professor Metis and the rest of the academy's security council to let them know about the attack. This wasn't the first time something like this had happened in the last few weeks, and it certainly wouldn't be the last, as long as I kept searching for artifacts.

    "You did well, Gwen," Vic said. "I'm proud of you."

    I raised the sword up so I could look him in his one eye. "Thanks, Vic."

    He stared back at me. "Although you really should have killed more Reapers. And you especially shouldn't have let that last one get away . . ."

    And he was off on one of his rants, talking about exactly what we should do to track down the Reaper and how much Vic was looking forward to cutting him to ribbons. The sword was totally bloodthirsty that way. I rolled my eyes at his violent chatter, but I let the sword talk. It was just easier.

    While Vic muttered to himself about all the Reapers he wanted to kill, I looked out over the exhibit room. Blood and bodies covered the floor like dolls that a child had thrown down in a tantrum. Several of the artifact cases had been destroyed, and bits of glass glittered like diamond shards among the Reapers' black robes. Deja vu. This was the third time now that I'd seen such a scene at the coliseum. At least the Reapers were the only ones who were dead this time, and not kids from my school like before.

    Screams echoed in my head, and all the shadows in the room took on a bright, glossy sheen, like they were puddles of blood tainting everything with their horrid, coppery stench -

    I shook my head, banishing the thoughts back to the bottom of my brain.

    "What's wrong?" Daphne asked, noticing my weary expression.

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