Hailey perched on the roof of her two-storey brick house, oblivious to the pair of teenage girls giggling at the end of her street. One of them pressed her hands onto the road. The asphalt shuddered and moaned, great big cracks tearing through the black ground as water gushed up from underneath it, transforming the road into a crystal blue lake. The second girl stirred her hand through the water, ice blasting from her fingertips and shooting down the lake, freezing it solid.
‘Ice rink,’ both girls shouted. ‘Ice rink. Ice rink.’
Children piled out of houses, pulling on skates and scrambling onto the frozen water.
Their laughter didn’t register with Hailey, whose gaze remained fixed on the envelope clutched in her hands. It smelled of salt, reminding her of sunny days at the beach. The address read:
Miss Hailey Woods
12 Golden Fleece Place
A gold trident bordered by the letters P and A was stamped on the back, with a swirl of gold water encircling it. Hailey’s stomach grew heavy as she thought about the letter inside, which would either inform her of her acceptance to or rejection from Poseidon’s Academy: the high school every eligible teenager in the world strived to get into.
Poseidon’s Academy was no ordinary high school. It was an underwater palace that had once been the Olympian god Poseidon’s home. No one had ever seen it—aside from accepted students, who whispered of jewel-encrusted walls and sea-nymphs.
Hailey doubted Poseidon appreciated the conversion of his palace into a school, but he wasn’t in a position to complain considering he, and every other god, was dead. And had been for sixteen centuries now—compliments to humans killing them in the Great Battle.
Although Hailey supposed you could say they had lived on—at least in a small way—because when they’d died, their powers had showered from the sky to the human race, turning everyone into demigods. And since then, the gods’ powers have passed down through each generation, so every human in the world has a power.
The cold touch of a raindrop sliding down Hailey’s cheek had her gazing up at a grey cloud encroaching on the sun. She flicked her hand at it, watching the cloud speed away out of sight, leaving the sky azure blue.
Hailey was a Zeus. The only Zeus in over a century, to be exact, which meant her powers came with certain expectations. Her mind flashed back to the last Powers class she’d had before the summer holidays…
Hailey stood in a grassy field, the sweet and earthy scent of rain hanging in the air. Her teacher, Mrs Pritchet, loomed behind her with the rest of her class. But Hailey was too busy focusing her powers to remember they were there.
Warmth flowed through her fingertips towards the black sky, and a rope-shaped tornado whirled to life fifty yards ahead of her.
‘Not good enough, Hailey.’ Mrs Pritchet marched to Hailey’s side and clucked her tongue. ‘That feeble thing couldn’t even pick up a shovel.’
‘I’m trying,’ Hailey protested.
‘Yeah, make it bigger,’ one of her classmates called out from behind her. ‘Big enough to rip someone’s roof off.’
‘I bet she can’t do it,’ she heard someone else say.
‘There’s no way,’ someone replied. ‘She sucks at being a Zeus. I’d be so much better.’
Hailey blocked out their voices and concentrated on intensifying the tornado. The warmth flowing from her fingertips grew hotter, and her hands trembled. The tornado expanded into a funnel shape, stirring up the grass and dirt and whipping about Hailey’s auburn hair.
‘Good,’ Mrs Pritchet said. ‘Now create a second one, while keeping the first one contained.’
Hailey’s hands trembled even more. ‘A second one?’
‘Yes. Do it now.’
Hailey gulped. She kept one shaking hand extended towards the tornado and moved her other hand slightly to the left, where a rope tornado materialised beside the first one, whooshing in and out of existence as Hailey tried to control it. Pain bloomed in her head. ‘I can’t,’ she said through gritted teeth.
Hailey focused on growing the second tornado, the heat pouring from her fingertips burning like fire. Come on. You can do this. A wave of dizziness swept over her, and a trail of warm blood trickled from her nose. She couldn’t take it anymore. The tornadoes vanished in an instant as she hunched over, fighting the urge to pass out.
‘We’re not finished,’ Mrs Pritchet snapped.
‘That was so lame,’ one of the students complained.
‘Told you she couldn’t do it.’
When the dizziness passed, Hailey straightened, wiping the blood from her nose. ‘I’m not strong enough,’ she told Mrs Pritchet. ‘Please don’t make me do it again.’
‘You have to, Hailey. You are the only Zeus. The one person with the King of the Gods’s powers. And that means you have a responsibility to this world to master your abilities. Or are you forgetting about the prophecy? It says—’
‘I know what it says.’
‘Then I shouldn’t have to remind you how important harnessing your powers is. I hope your next Powers teacher won’t tolerate your laziness. Now try again, and this time do it properly.’
The memory pressed against Hailey’s chest. She was sick of the pressure that came with being a Zeus. That’s why getting into Poseidon’s Academy was so important to her, because being underwater meant no sky. No sky means no powers. No powers means freedom.
She glanced back at the envelope. Inside it she could feel something with two pointed tips. She resisted ripping the letter open to find out what it was. She’d promised her two best friends she’d wait for them so they could open their letters together.
A door creaked open below her, and a few seconds later a redbud tree blooming purple-pink flowers sprang up ten feet to her left. Standing on one of its branches was her best friend Demi. ‘Come on, Hails. I’ll give you a lift down.’
Hailey leapt to her feet, forgetting she was on a slanted roof. She lost her balance and tumbled forward, the envelope flying from her hand as her arms flailed, trying to grab on to something. But there was only air. Air. Wind!
Warmth surged down Hailey’s arms and shot from her fingertips as she toppled over the roof’s edge.
A gale of wind rushed up and caught her, suspending her in the air. At the same time, two flower-coated tree branches wrapped around her waist. ‘Thanks,’ she called to Demi as the tree branches lowered her into the backyard: a grass-covered square edged with drooping sunflowers.
‘No problem,’ Demi called back, using her powers to unwrap the branches around Hailey’s waist and shrink them back into the redbud tree.
‘Nice form.’ Her friend Jayden stood in front of her, grinning. ‘That landing was much better than the last time you fell off the roof, but not as good as the time before that, or the time before that.’
‘What can I say, I like practising my acrobatics,’ Hailey joked, and then noticed a red mark on Jayden’s forehead. ‘What happened to your head?’
‘Someone turned your street into an ice rink again,’ he said simply, running a hand through his spiked up black hair before holding out an envelope. ‘You dropped this.’
Hailey took it back, her stomach growing heavy again now that she was no longer distracted with plummeting off the roof.
‘Don’t you dare open those without me!’ Demi warned, leaping from the redbud tree, which was back to its twenty-foot size, and bounding over to them. ‘Okay, let’s do this.’ Demi ripped her envelope open before she’d even finished her sentence and snatched out the letter. ‘We are pleased to inform you,’ Demi read aloud. ‘I got in!’ She bounced on her toes. ‘I got in! I got in!’ Her emerald green eyes darted to Hailey and Jayden, and she stopped bouncing. ‘Hurry up and read.’
Hailey blew out a breath and peeled open the envelope, unfolding the letter inside.
Dear Miss Hailey Woods
We are pleased to inform you of your acceptance into Poseidon’s Academy. Please find enclosed a travelling necklace that will transport you to Poseidon’s Island where you will meet your fellow classmates before departing for Poseidon’s Academy. Please also find enclosed a list of required supplies and textbooks.
First term begins on 1 January. Your departure time is 4.33pm. Please ensure you place the enclosed travelling necklace over your head at this exact time in order to avoid any collisions.
First Years Overseer
The letter almost dropped from Hailey’s hands as the heaviness in her stomach washed away. She’d done it. She’d gotten into Poseidon’s Academy. In four months she’d be at a new school with people who didn’t know who she was or what she could do. And even if they did know about her powers, they couldn’t make her use them.
She glanced back into the envelope and pulled out a gold winged pendant hanging from a thin chain. It was beautiful. More beautiful than her own bronze travelling necklace, which only allowed her to travel within London.
‘You got a necklace!’ Demi exclaimed. ‘That means you got accepted.’
‘Me too,’ Jayden said, holding up his own travelling necklace.
‘Awesome!’ Demi squealed, throwing her arms around their shoulders and squeezing them into a group hug before bouncing on her toes again. ‘Next year is going to be the best year ever.’
‘Yeah, I can’t believe we all got in. Blue skies.’ Hailey was beyond grateful she’d be starting her new life with her best friends.
‘I’m not surprised, considering how amazing our powers are.’
‘Modesty, Demi,’ Jayden rebuked her.
‘It’s true.’ Demi flicked her wavy brown hair behind her shoulder and raised her arms. The dying sunflowers sprang to life: their stems straightened, and their petals glowed vibrant yellow. ‘How many Demeters my age can do that?’
‘About as many Poseidons as can do this.’ Jayden curled his fingers at the garden hose, which lay abandoned a few feet away. It hissed to life, water spurting from the nozzle. Jayden waved his hand at the garden, and the water blasted up, showering over the flowers like rain.
‘Modesty, Jayden.’ Demi mimicked his censorious tone.
‘That looks much better. Thanks, kids.’ Hailey’s mum appeared from the side of the house. A variety of paint colours smeared her skin and overalls. Even her auburn hair, which was tied in a ponytail, was speckled with blue.
‘Happy to help, Evonee.’ Jayden waved his hand to shut the hose off.
‘We got into Poseidon’s Academy,’ Demi blurted, holding out her acceptance letter as proof.
‘I figured that,’ Evonee said and moved towards Hailey, pulling her into a tight hug. ‘I’m so proud of you, kiddo. But I can’t bear to be separated, so I’m coming with you.’ Evonee broke from the hug, shrinking several inches while her face seemed to stretch and contract at the same time.
‘Mum, don’t,’ Hailey begged, but it was too late. Her mum had already reverted into a thirteen year old.
‘How do I look?’ she asked, her voice soft and sweet.
‘Change back,’ Hailey demanded, covering her eyes.
‘I love your Hebe powers,’ Demi said.
‘I definitely think you could sneak into Poseidon’s Academy with us,’ Jayden added.
‘Hear that, sweetie? We’re going to be roomies.’
Hailey pressed her hands tighter against her eyes. Seeing her mum the same age as her was a level of creepiness her brain could not handle. ‘Mum, stop it.’
Evonee laughed. ‘Okay.’ Her voice had lost its girlish tone.
Hailey relaxed when she saw her mum looking like her usual thirty-year-old self. Although technically she was more like forty—being a Hebe, she could control how young she looked. ‘Thank you,’ Hailey said. ‘I wish you could come with me,’ she added.
‘Me too.’ Evonee’s smile faltered. ‘Well, I need to get back to painting. Congratulations everyone.’ She turned to leave and then glanced back at Hailey. ‘Oh, and you’re banned from the art studio.’
‘It’s a surprise,’ Evonee said and scurried off before Hailey could pester her further.
‘Hang on.’ Demi squinted at her acceptance letter. ‘This says we start January first. That’s forever away.’
‘I guess it’s only fair though,’ Jayden said, ‘considering Poseidon’s Academy takes students from all over the world—not everyone’s first term begins at the end of the year like ours does.’
‘But I don’t want to wait that long.’
Jayden threw an arm around her shoulders. ‘Just think, you’ll have an extra few months to practise your powers so you can outshine all the other Demeters when you get there.’
‘That’s true.’ Demi perked up.
‘Come on, let’s celebrate with some ice skating,’ Jayden suggested.
‘Wait. Hailey never got to show off her powers.’
‘Me? No. I don’t want to.’ If someone other than her friends saw her using her powers, it would lead to people banging down her door to make requests for her to do something “Zeus worthy”, like make the sky rain fireballs.
‘Come on, Hails,’ Jayden prompted. ‘It’s only us.’
Hailey scanned for peeping neighbours. But no one was around, thanks to the ice rink out front. ‘Okay,’ she gave in, figuring she only had so long left with her powers, so she might as well use them. She raised her arms, warmth returning to her fingertips and flowing towards the sky.
A chill swept around the backyard.
‘Cold air, really? That’s so boring.’ Demi crossed her arms, unimpressed.
‘Look.’ Jayden pointed up.
Snowflakes drifted from the patch of sky above them.
‘Okay, snow in summer, that’s much better.’
Hailey smiled at the snowflakes fluttering down, feeling just a little proud of the fact she’d created them. And then she remembered this would be one of the last times she’d get to use her powers. Her chest tightened.
It’s the only way, she reminded herself. I’ll never be free otherwise.
An Unwelcome Visitor
Aleta’s body un-tensed. ‘It’s all right,’ she told Hailey. ‘A friend is approaching.’
A white horse galloped into the small clearing. Well, Hailey thought it was a horse, but quickly realised half a man was sticking out of where the horse’s head should have been, a bow and arrow strapped to his back.
Aleta glided towards him. ‘Galdor, what brings you here?’
He opened his mouth to speak, but froze as a breeze whipped towards him. He sniffed the air and stiffened, his eyes shooting in Hailey’s direction. ‘Humans! Why are you harbouring humans?’
‘They’re children who lost their way,’ Aleta replied. ‘I promised to guard them until the sun is reborn.’
Hailey could just make out Galdor’s features in the glow of the moon, and he didn’t look happy. She braced herself, thinking he might yell at them to get out. But he merely shook his head.
His features softened when he turned back to Aleta. ‘Your compassion is why you own my heart.’ He stroked her cheek.
Gross. Hailey averted her eyes and prayed they weren’t about to make out—if nymphs even did that kind of thing.
‘Hailey, you’re talking in your sleep,’ Demi grumbled, rolling over.
The sound of hooves galloping away distracted Hailey from telling Demi it wasn’t her. She looked up and saw Galdor was gone, and that Aleta had disappeared back into the trees.
Hailey was considering lying back down and attempting to sleep when her fingertips began tingling. At the same moment, Aleta reappeared in front of her. ‘Galdor came to warn me that there is a knoxen heading this way,’ she said, voice calm. ‘I’ll do my best to dissuade it from here should it approach. You must lie down and remain quiet until it leaves.’
Hailey gulped. ‘What’s a knoxen?’
Aleta’s head jerked up, just like it had when Galdor had come, but this time her concerned features didn’t relax. ‘Remember not to move,’ she told Hailey before darting into the clearing’s centre.
Lying down was easy. Staying still wasn’t.
The tingling in Hailey’s fingertips intensified with every beat of her racing heart. Her powers urged her to use them, to be ready for the approaching monster. She fought against her instincts and tried not to move. Aleta knows what she’s doing, she assured herself. She probably deals with monsters every night.
She clutched her necklace, the heart pendant’s touch easing some of her panic as she stared unblinkingly towards Aleta and waited to find out what a knoxen was.
She saw its eyes first. Great big glowing orbs the colour of a blood moon. Their hunger stiffened her body, but it was nothing compared to the fear that stole her breath when its body came into view.
It was gigantic—double the size of a grizzly bear. Its skin was black and leathery, and its long claws looked as if they could slice through metal. Its teeth were the most terrifying thing of all, being the size of baby elephant tusks, with blood dripping from their points.
Aleta stepped in front of it, speaking in a language Hailey didn’t recognise; the knoxen apparently did, though, keeping its bloodthirsty eyes on her.
Hailey didn’t dare breathe, afraid the monster might hear. All she could think about was how excruciating it would be to have those teeth rip into her flesh.
Aleta gestured for the monster to leave back the way it had come. Hailey relaxed slightly—very slightly—when it turned to go.
That was the moment Demi chose to sit up. ‘Hailey, I said be quiet.’
The knoxen reeled back around; a spine-chilling howl tore from its snout, waking Jayden and Kendra—and probably everything else that had been sleeping in the forest. They barely had a second to understand what was happening before the knoxen launched at them.
A hand wrapped around Hailey’s arm and yanked her to her feet, dragging her from the knoxen’s path. The monster landed on the moss bed, sending leaves flying everywhere. To Hailey’s relief, the dryads had dragged away her friends, too, and were leading them off in different directions.
The knoxen fixed its red eyes on Hailey and growled like a rabid dog—only a hundred times louder. Fear paralysed her.
The hand on her arm tugged her, and she remembered she had legs and ran, only to realise the dryad gripping her was heading straight for an oak tree. Hailey tried to pull away, but the dryad tightened her grasp and continued running towards it. She’s going to knock me out so I’ll be easy pickings for the knoxen! Hailey thought, right before she smacked into the tree.
In her experience, slamming into solid objects equalled pain. But when she hit the tree, her body floated with airiness. Is this what being knocked out feels like? It’s nice. At least it was better than her being awake when the knoxen ate her.
With a jolt, Hailey realised she wasn’t unconscious. She could still see everything.
And the knoxen was charging towards her!
She tried to run, but her body was stuck in place. She glanced down to see what was wrong with her legs and sucked in a breath. Her legs weren’t there. All she could see was the trunk of a tree. The same tree the dryad had smashed her into.
But Hailey wasn’t lying on the ground lifeless or in pain, which meant the dryad had taken her inside the tree. She knew nymphs could pass in and out of the parts of nature they protected—like the naiads at the stream—but she hadn’t thought they could take humans with them.
The knoxen halted in front of the tree Hailey hid in. Its enormous claws swiped out, slashing the bark. Pain seared Hailey’s skin and she cried out; at least she tried to, but it came out as a creaking moan.
The knoxen bayed, pumping fresh terror through Hailey’s body, and pressed one of its mammoth paws on the tree trunk. The tips of its claws resting on the bark, poised to tear through it again.
The monster sniffed the tree, its hot rancid breath brushing against Hailey’s skin and reminding her of rotting meat. She expected it to smell her inside and start clawing at the bark in an attempt to get at her. Instead, the knoxen howled in frustration and ran off.