I may have made a mistake.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, following that army through the ancient portal. I mean, we had our own army of automatons too, plus a Minotaur and a son of Hercules. By all accounts, we should have been prepared.
We were not.
We were, to put it quite simply, completely surrounded, utterly overwhelmed, and totally in trouble.
One hundred men in scraggly beards encircled us. They wore furs and wielded giant swords, spears and axes. They were screaming at the top of their lungs, and they were running right toward us.
“Not again,” I said, and wheeled out of the way as a giant ax flew by my head.
This definitely wasn’t the plan. The plan, well, it was actually pretty terrible, but we didn’t have that much to work with at the time. We had arrived in Greece from Mythic Ireland without my best friend Maria or stupid, dumb, mean, annoying Paige. Our castle was destroyed, and half of our army was following Number One through the labyrinth. On top of all that, the door that would take us home to the 21st Century — to the Internet and tacos and Lady Gaga — was now a pile of ancient ruins.
To make matters even worse, I didn’t have my key. Paige had stolen it from me in an Epic Villain Turn that made me want to throw her into a pit of lions dressed as a clown with only a hot dog to protect herself.
I know. That doesn’t make any sense. But when was the last time your best friend was trapped back in time by a grade school bully who was working for Prometheus, the guy who literally stole fire from the gods?
You’d be a little flustered too.
We were out of options. So, we had gathered our forces, following them into the labyrinth. When they disappeared into a portal into that glowing blue portal, we decided to follow them. That was the entirety of the plan.
Turns out, it was not a good one.
I dodged another ax and pulled more daggers from my backpack with a sigh.
I’m not good at daggering. I’m good at computers. Ask me to rewrite the code on your website, or make you an ap with in-game purchases, and I am your girl. Last month, I rewired fifty automatons, so their power sources run on a combination of mechanical and solar power, which means we don’t have to wind them up every night, and they are even faster and stronger than they were before. I’m smart. I’m good at what I do.
But the ax-wielding beardos didn’t need any tech support.
Trent leaped into the air, grabbed a spear before it hit Asterion, and spun it back toward the attacking army. “What’s the plan?” He asked.
I looked around us. We were in a frozen forest, trees above, and hard-packed ground below. The beardos charged through the greenwood — hurtling every manner of sharp weapons. Plus, our path was coming to an end. The path dropped off an icy ridge, disappearing into the bright morning light. We had no choice.
Number One and his army of evil automatons were headed down into the frozen valley below, and the beardo berserkers were rallying behind us.
“My best idea?” I asked him, knocking the snow off my wheelchair tire.
He flipped backwards and kicked a beardo in the face, then smiled. “Yes, Kleis.”
“Run!” I yelled.
I pointed down toward the valley, and Asterion pawed the ground with his hoof. He stampeded forward, and we followed in his wake. Our own army of automatons marched with us, arms and legs and claws spinning through the air.
They were majestic fighters, but for every beardo that dropped at his feet, another one sprung out of the forest around us. “Where are they coming from?” I shouted, spinning my wheels over the frozen forest floor.
“I do not know,” Asterion said “But we cannot stop them. They are battle-hungry. Bloodthirsty.”
Trent grabbed one of my daggers and shot it through the air, pinning one of them to a tree. I blinked, and he had already pushed another beardo away with the heel of his ax. He was so fast! Our automatons clawed across the forest floor, shooting webs at the army’s feet. A beardo came crashing toward me, eyes blood red and ax raised high. I threw my dagger wildly, then sped forward across the snow, wheels sliding.
It was in that moment that I missed armor. Like, full suits of armor, straight from Windsor Castle or the Smithsonian, fully-decked out with a shield and a helmet and one of those little flippy-down visors. Clearly, what we were missing was giant suits of metal covering our squishy parts. I mean, I like my squishy parts not squished. The golden plating seemed to be working for the automatons. The giant spider-men careened through the forest, taking spears like they were pencils and tossing them back into the battle like math class was over and it was time for doom.
Well, except the automaton that lost its arm. That one didn’t look so good. Or the other one, which was spinning on the ground with its eyes blinking red.
Hand picked up the automaton and threw it on its back, then continued on, like it was no big deal that an automaton was dancing like Lady Gaga on its golden shoulders.
I wheeled through the forest, focusing on the break in the trees, and the possibility of freedom beyond the ridge, when a fresh crop of beardos charged toward us.
As they got closer, Trent got faster. He cut through their ranks, knocking many of them unconscious or *unable to fight* with their own weapons, but there were so many of them, and their fighting style made no sense.
“They are just swinging their axes!” Trent said. “What is their strategy?”
Asterion roared as one punched him in his hairy gut. “Not nice! Stop that!” He picked up the beardo and tossed him over his horns and into a tree.
It was great having a minotaur on our side.
I threw another dagger and wheeled on as fast as I could. The path opened up to a wide, frozen meadow.
Now that they had more room, my army of automatons sprang to life. They shot spiderwebs at the incoming army, wrapping them in silver thread. Hand tied one to a tree and somehow yanked another beardo up over our heads. He hung from the branch of the tree on a thin, silvery web.
We programmed the automatons so they couldn’t kill people, but they were definitely going too easy on the beardos. A man who was dressed like a bear was swinging one of our automatons through the air.
And that wasn’t all — the meadow opened up to a valley, but first, you had to head over the side of a cliff.
Trent flipped over to me and hit a beardo in the foot with his axe. I threw another dagger as they closed in, but I only had two left.
“This isn’t working,” he said.
“There’s a cliff,” I said.
“Cliff!” Asterion yelled.
“I know!” I said. “Number One took the automatons down that path.” I pointed toward where the ground seemed to disappear along the cliff’s edge.
Trent kicked another beardo in the face. “That’s a path?”
“I hope so!” I said.
“It’s too narrow,” Asterion added, throwing a beardo back into the forest. They kept on coming.
“I think it’s our best option right now.” I wiped the snow off my gloves and pushed my wheels hard toward the ridge.
Trent looked like he was about to rip someone’s head off. Or at least their beard. He swung his ax in the air and the handle bonked a beardo right on the nose. “Not the only option.”
“I would prefer to not render the entire army unconscious,” Asterion said. “My hooves are cold. We should take the path.”
Hand shot out a golden claw. “Send ten automatons first.”
I nodded my head and Hand gestured toward a line of troops. They followed hand down the mountainside.
We shot after them, sliding between the icy rocks. I swallowed hard. It wasn’t so much a path as a ramp leading to certain frozen death that had been cut into the mountainside. I turned back, but more beardos came, so we started down the path, and to our untimely death, when I heard a clamor of metal and screams ahead of us.
“Seriously?!” Trent yelled.
I stopped my wheels. “Asterion! There’s more coming up the ridge.”
The beardos threw our first two automatons off the cliff. They fell into the valley below. I watched them fall, waiting for the explosion, the sudden burst of flames.
But in mid-air, they tucked into bowling balls, then collided with the valley floor. They rolled off into the dead grass, then spun around and ran back toward us.
The beardos pushed forward, and our automatons kept falling. I could already smell the beardo’s breath and hear the swish of their axes. Hand held the next batch off, but even with Trent’s help, we seemed to be losing ground. Behind us, Asterion was fighting even more beardos.
This couldn’t be happening. After everything we had gone through, I refused to be thrown off a cliff by stinky men with wild beards and bloodshot eyes. There had to be a better plan.
I could see a crack in the cliff face up ahead, which could protect us from the long journey to certain death at the bottom of the mountain. “Go in!” I yelled. I turned for the cave just as a beardo was coming out. He raised his sword, ready to strike. His eyes met mine. They were wild with anger and fear.
He was scared.
“It’s okay,” I said.
“Okay?” he asked, turning his head.
“We are not here to hurt you.”
He held his stinky breath, considering. Then his eyes narrowed, and he looked over my shoulder. His eyes popped open wide. He pointed into the sky behind me.
“Valkyrie!” He screamed, running back into the cave. I grabbed my wheels to turn around, but the snow blew in a whirlwind around me.
Ice and snow crashed into my face and I screamed.
“Charlie!” Trent yelled.
In a flurry of golden wings, I was lifted into the sky, wheelchair and all.
The adventure continues on May 10th!