Zeus and his friends try to free Briar, Kottos, and Gyes from Tartarus so they can finally beat Cronus once and for all in this Heroes in Training adventure.
The fourteen Olympians and Ron are headed toward Olympus. Ron is telling them the rumors that the Titans have all escaped Tartarus and are gearing up with Cronus for a final battle with the Olympians.
When they reach the sea, Oceanus attacks them by surprise. They are almost washed away by a tidal wave when mysterious woman appears and saves them. It is Gaia, the wife of Uranus—and grandmother to Zeus and most of the Olympians.
Gaia is on the side of the Olympians, partly because she believes that they will be better for the planet than Cronus, but also because she is angry with her son. He has imprisoned his three brothers: Briar, Kottos, and Gyes. She says if the Olympians free them from Tartarus, they will help the Olympians defeat Cronus. But can the three brothers be trusted? And can the Olympians defeat Cronus once and for all?
CHAPTER ONE A Flying Horse “The heroes are walking into danger.
Not long ago we were all strangers.
Now we are a real fighting force.
One of us even has a flying horse!
This battle will be a real game changer—”
“Can you please stop singing, Apollo?” Hera asked the golden-haired boy. “We’ve got a long way to go, and if you’re going to sing the whole time . . .”
Apollo stopped strumming his lyre. “Singing songs is what I do, but I will stop it just for you!” he replied.
“Thanks,” Hera said. She turned to ten-year-old Zeus, who was walking next to her. “Okay, Boltbrain, what’s the plan?”
The black-haired boy frowned. “I’m thinking.”
“Well, you’d better start thinking faster, because we’re on our way to face an army of Cronies, a family of Titans, and a father who wants to swallow us whole,” Hera reminded him.
“I know that,” Zeus said. “Just give me a minute!”
Not long ago Zeus had learned that he wasn’t a normal boy. Pythia, an oracle at Delphi, had told him that he was an Olympian, a god, a hero in training. And he was destined to overthrow the mighty King Cronus and the Titans, who ruled Greece with cruelty and fear.
Pythia had also told Zeus that he couldn’t do it alone. So for the last few months he had been on an epic journey to find the other Olympians—other immortal kids who were ten years old, just like him. Together they had battled monsters. They’d taken on the Cronies, King Cronus’s army of half-giants. And they’d faced many Titans—giant gods with incredible powers.
Now all the Olympians were finally together, fourteen of them in all—plus four men with goat horns and hairy goat legs, who’d come with the newest Olympian, Dionysus. The Olympians even had help from a friend named Ron and his flying horse, Pegasus. But Hera was right. The battle ahead of them was a big one—an impossible one, even—and they needed a plan.
Zeus looked up and saw a white horse with wings flying toward them. He stopped, and the other Olympians stopped too.
The horse landed, and a boy with curly blond hair jumped off the horse’s back.
“Did you see anything, Ron?” Zeus asked.
“There are pockets of Cronies between here and Mount Olympus,” Ron reported. “It will be hard to avoid them.”
Zeus nodded. “That’s what I thought,” he said. He turned to the others. “We’re right on the coast. We should take a boat. It’ll be safer—and faster.”
“Um, why exactly would we want to get to Mount Olympus faster?” asked Poseidon, one of Zeus’s brothers. “The Titans are there, waiting to smash us to smithereens. Not to mention that Ron heard there was an enormous dragon at Mount Titan.”
“And how exactly is taking a boat safer?” asked Hera. “Won’t Oceanus be waiting for us if we take a boat?”
Oceanus was one of the Titans—a big golden-skinned giant who could harness the powers of the sea.
Ares stepped forward. “We’ve beaten Oceanus before! We can beat him again!” he said, shaking his fist. His red eyes were blazing.
Hephaestus snorted. “We didn’t stop Oceanus last time. He got scared off when King Cronus started fighting with his dad, Uranus.”
“We can still beat him!” Ares argued.
Athena, a serious-looking girl with gray eyes, spoke up. “Zeus, do we even need a boat?” she asked. “Apollo can make anything he sings about come true when he plays his golden lyre. Couldn’t he just sing a song about us appearing at Mount Olympus?”
Zeus nodded. “I thought about that,” he said. “But I think it’s too risky. Apollo is just getting used to his new magical object. And if he sings the song a little bit wrong, somebody could get hurt.”
“What do you mean?” Athena asked.
“Well, if he sings about us appearing in Olympus, we might end up trapped inside the mountain,” Zeus replied. “Or right on King Cronus’s lap!”
“I hate to admit it, but Thunderpants has a point,” Hera agreed. “It’s too risky.”
“Let’s take a vote,” suggested Hestia, one of Zeus’s sisters.
Zeus was about to agree, but he stopped himself. He was a leader, and as a leader he had to do what was best for everybody. A vote might only lead to arguing.
“We’re taking a boat,” Zeus said firmly. He looked the other Olympians in the eyes. Nobody questioned him.
“There’s a village just up ahead,” Ron said. “We can get a boat there.”
Hermes flew down from the sky, powered by his magical winged sandals. “I was just going to say that!” he said. Zeus had sent the flying Olympian to scout along with Ron. “It should be easy for us to find a boat to buy.”
“Let’s go, then,” Zeus said. He started walking, and the others fell in step behind him.
Ron walked next to him, leading Pegasus.
“So, why does Hera call you ‘Thunderboy’ and ‘Boltbrain’ and ‘Bolt Breath’ and stuff like that?” he asked Zeus.
“It’s because of Bolt,” Zeus replied, patting the lightning bolt–shaped dagger tucked into his belt. He had pulled Bolt from a cone-shaped stone at Delphi. Even though many people had tried before him, Zeus had been the only one to pull Bolt free. Bolt was usually dagger-size, but it could grow up to five feet long—which was very useful!
Ron nodded. “I thought so, but she says those names like having Bolt is a bad thing.”
Zeus nodded. “And when she started doing it, she meant it that way. I think she was jealous.”
“Jealous?” Ron asked.
“Well, every Olympian has at least one magical object,” Zeus replied. “I got Bolt and Chip right away.”
He looked down at Chip, the round, smooth stone pendant he wore around his neck. Chip was Zeus’s other magical object, and it helped guide the Olympians in the right direction. The stone also spoke Chip Latin, which was like Pig Latin.
“But it took Hera a long time to get her magical peacock feather,” Zeus continued. “And I think having to wait so long really bugged her. Now I think she just calls me names because she’s used to doing it.”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” Ron said. He looked over at Pegasus. “I guess Pegasus is my magical object. Well, not an object, really. But you know. And I’m not even an Olympian!”
“Yeah, but we’re glad you’re with us,” Zeus said. “I think we’re going to need all the help we can get.”
They had reached the village. Scattered small huts overlooked a sandy shoreline. Several boats bobbed in the turquoise sea, tied to a wooden dock.
Demeter, the third of Zeus’s sisters, nodded to Zeus. “Aphrodite and I will try to get a boat,” she said.
Aphrodite grinned and tossed her magical golden apple from one hand to the other. Gold coins showered down from the apple and landed at her feet.
“Do you think this will be enough?” she asked.
Demeter grinned. “Plenty,” she said. “Let’s go.”
Minutes later the group was ready to sail away on a boat that fit all nineteen of them, and the horse as well. Aphrodite’s bubbly charm and endless supply of gold had also helped buy a barrel of fresh water, six loaves of bread, two small wheels of cheese, and a parcel of salted fish.
Zeus watched as the Olympians boarded the boat. Hera, Hestia, and Demeter—his three sisters—stuck together like they always did. So did his brothers—Poseidon, god of the sea; and Hades, lord of the Underworld. The two boys were rolling the barrel of water up the ramp.
Then came the twins, Apollo and Artemis. Apollo’s sister was as talented with a bow and arrow as Apollo was with his lyre.
Hermes flew over their heads. He was one of the newest Olympians, but Zeus suspected that with his magic staff he might be one of the most powerful.
Dionysus walked behind Apollo and Artemis. He looked more nervous than any of the rest, even though he was flanked by the four guys with goat horns—the members of his band.
I would be nervous too if I were him, Zeus thought. Just last night he was the lead singer in a band. And now he’s headed to meet the scary Titans!
Athena and Aphrodite followed Dionysus, whispering to each other. When Aphrodite had first washed ashore in her shell, Athena had been a little wary of the newest addition to the group. But the two girls were now close.
And last came Ares and Hephaestus. Hephaestus leaned on his magnificent silver cane with the skull on top, glaring at the back of Ares’s head as they walked on board.
Those two have never gotten along, Zeus thought. But they’ll have to start getting along very soon, or we’ll never defeat King Cronus.
“Are we ready to set sail?” Zeus asked.
“Aye, captain!” Poseidon called out, hoisting the sails. “There’s a good breeze today. Mount Titan, here we come!”
Ares, Hades, Artemis, and Hera each took an oar and steered the boat out of the port. Soon they were zipping up the coast, propelled by a light wind.
Zeus started to relax. The salt air gave him energy, and a yellow sun shone in the blue sky overhead. He walked over to Hera.
“Let’s work on that plan now,” he said. “I’m thinking—”
Suddenly the sailboat lurched. The calm waves around them began to churn.
With a mighty roar an enormous head rose from the waves: a head with long hair, a long beard, and angry eyes underneath green bushy eyebrows.
“Flipping fish sticks! It’s Oceanus!” Poseidon cried.
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.