Zeus and his friends are back for another adventure in this latest Heroes in Training chapter book!
Since defeating the Titans, Zeus and his fellow Olympians have taken over Mount Olympus. Things are nearly back to normal…until a stranger named Hercules shows up, asking for help. He’s on the run from Eurythseus, King of Argon, who is after Hercules for egging his temple.
Before Zeus can help, Eurythseus himself appears. It turns out that Hercules has also been bragging that he is the ruler of Olympus, and Eurythseus intends to declare war on the Olympians’ new home.
Zeus’s friends come up with an idea—maybe Hercules could make up for egging Eurythseus’s temple. The Oracle Pythia reveals that in order to do this, Hercules must get a scale from a huge, nine-headed serpent—the Hydra. Will this be enough to please Eurythseus? Or is another battle on the horizon for the Olympians?
CHAPTER ONE The Chicken Dilemma A single peacock feather floated up from the Greek village. It flew up into the sky, all the way to the top of Mount Olympus. When the feather reached the snow-covered peak, it flew through the entrance of the shiny marble temple.
The feather soared into the royal throne room and settled in the hand of a girl with long blond hair. She stared into the shimmering blue, green, and gold eye design on the feather. Then she turned to the boy on the throne.
“Hermes is bringing two more villagers to see you, Zeus,” she informed him.
The boy sighed. “Another problem, Hera? What is it this time? I’m getting kind of tired of listening to all these boring problems.”
Hera smirked. “Well, you wanted to be charge,” she said.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” Zeus replied. “It’s not my fault that I was chosen by fate to lead the Olympians. I mean, I do want to be in charge, but it’s not like I asked for it.”
“Mm-hm,” Hera said with a frown.
“What does that mean?” Zeus asked.
Hera shrugged. “I get it about the destiny and everything, but you can step down at any time. I’m sure there are others who wouldn’t mind being in charge.”
Others like you, you mean, Zeus thought. He and his sister were a lot alike. They were both ten years old. They both had blue eyes. And they were both natural leaders. Hera had always thought she should have been chosen to sit on the throne, not Zeus.
Zeus sighed and felt for Bolt, the lightning bolt–shaped dagger tucked into his belt. Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, had given him the magical tool at the start of his journey as a hero in training. He hadn’t used Bolt in a long time—not since the Olympians won the battle against the Titans.
“Incoming!” Hera cried.
A boy with dark hair flew into the throne room, powered by magical winged sandals. Under each arm he held a man from the village—a tall one and a short one. He landed and released the men.
“Whew!” Hermes exclaimed. “Two at a time is tough!”
Both men bowed to Zeus. The shorter man, Zeus noticed, had a white chicken tucked into his jacket.
“What kind of problem do you guys have that is so important you need to ask me?” Zeus asked them.
The man with the chicken spoke. “Idas is trying to steal my chicken!”
“That’s a lie!” cried the other man. “Enops stole my chicken and won’t give it back!”
“A chicken?” Zeus asked. “You want me to solve a problem about a chicken?”
Enops bowed again. “Yes, mighty Zeus!”
Zeus hated these problems. When he’d been fighting the Titans, he’d had real problems—like how to defeat birds with poisonous poop or hungry half-giants. In those cases, Zeus had had two main solutions: fight, or run away.
“Um, maybe you two guys should fight,” Zeus said, unsure. “Whoever wins gets to keep the chicken.”
“Yes!” Idas cheered, but Enops looked afraid.
Hera rolled her eyes at Zeus. “Are you serious, Boltbrain?” she hissed in his ear. “Nobody needs to get hurt over a chicken.”
She stepped in front of the throne. “I have a better idea,” she said. “Enops, put the chicken on the floor between you. Whoever the chicken goes to is the rightful owner.”
Enops frowned, but he liked that plan better than fighting Idas. He placed the chicken on the floor of the throne room.
“Cluck!” The chicken flapped her stubby wings and threw herself out the window.
“Can chickens fly?” Zeus wondered.
“On it!” Hermes cried, and he flew out the window after the chicken.
“Well, I guess that settles it,” Hera said. “The chicken doesn’t want to be with either of you. The mighty Zeus has spoken.”
She nudged Zeus. He nodded. “Oh, right! I have spoken,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” Hera muttered.
“Hey, I didn’t ask you to help,” Zeus said. “I thought my idea was pretty good. More exciting, anyway.”
Enops and Idas looked at each other and shrugged.
“Oh well,” Idas said. “At least we got to see the palace. It’s pretty cool up here.”
“Yeah,” Enops agreed. “Hey, where’s Hercules?”
“Who?” Zeus asked.
“Hercules,” Enops repeated, pronouncing it “her-cue-leeze.” “That kid who single-handedly took down the Titans.”
“Are you kidding me?” Zeus asked. “Who does this Hercules guy think he is?”
“Where did you hear that?” Hera asked.
“Everyone in Greece is talking about it,” Idas chimed in. “The Olympians couldn’t defeat the Titans, so Hercules showed up and saved the day!”
Zeus’s eyes flashed. “That’s a lie!” he said. A low rumble of thunder rolled through the palace. “The Olympians fought a long, hard battle against the Titans. We worked together, and we sent King Cronus and everyone who stood with him to a prison in the Underworld!”
Hermes flew back through the window, holding the chicken.
“Take these men back to the village!” Zeus boomed. “And leave the chicken!”
Hermes dropped the chicken, which flew onto Zeus’s lap. Then he picked up Enops and Idas and flew out of the palace.
“That was strange,” Hera said. “Have you ever heard of this Hercules guy?”
Zeus shook his head. “No. But whoever he is, he’s a liar.”
Hera nodded. “Sounds like it.”
Zeus slumped in his throne, cradling his new chicken. “It’s not fair,” he said. “We spent months traveling, hungry, cold, and scared. We risked our lives fighting monsters. And it’s like nobody remembers that! And on top of it all, I’m stuck on this dumb throne solving dumb problems. And it’s not even comfy!”
“Well, like I said…,” Hera began.
“Yeah, I know. I was chosen,” Zeus said. “But I have the most boring job! Poseidon is ruling the seas, and Hades is ruling the Underworld. Apollo and Dionysus are hanging out in the temple at Delphi, jamming together and holding contests. Demeter and Hestia are traveling all around Greece, helping people. Artemis gets to live in the forest, and Aphrodite gets to live at the beach. Even Hephaestus and Ares are having fun building machines in a cool new volcano.”
“Well, Hermes, Athena, and I stayed here to help you,” Hera said. Then she lowered her voice. “Although I’m wondering if we should have.”
Zeus heard her and sighed again. “I’m glad that you guys are helping me,” he said. “It’s just… I miss the adventures, you know? Even though they were dangerous.”
Hera nodded. “I understand.”
His eyes flashed again. “And now this Hercules guy! Taking credit for what we did! If I ever meet this kid in person, I’ll—”
Hermes flew into the throne room, carrying a boy under one arm.
Craig Phillips has been creating cover art and drawings for books, comics, and magazines for nearly two decades. He is most at home working on tales about myth and magic. His latest book—Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts: Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods—is a 200-page graphic novel about just that! It will be in stores in May 2017. When he is not drawing and writing, he likes to swim in the lakes and walk in the forests and mountains of New Zealand. Visit him at CraigPhillips.com.au.