Distracted by her scattered thoughts, Kali didn’t notice the demigod approach until he tentatively called her name. Startled, she instinctively grabbed one of her knives and held it to his throat. Only Sage’s gently hand on her arm reminded her where she was. Her hand opened and the knife dropped to the floor as she stared blankly at the boy in front of her.
“I’m sorry.” He said quietly, looking away from her. Perhaps Kali shouldn’t have been surprised that a demigod wouldn’t flinch at the attack, but she was. He didn’t seem alarmed, only remorseful.
Finding her voice, Kali replied “Don’t be. It’s my fault.” A hard sigh escaped her as she tried to drag her thoughts back from their nauseating descent. “You were looking for me?”
Acid green eyes fixed on her face, determined, and the demigod said, “I need your help.”
Maybe it was her guilt at attacking him, but Kali decided to do what she could before she even asked what he needed. At his request, Kali left Sage to continue his shopping and followed the demigod across the camp in silence. He led her behind the freshly erected stage, where four others were waiting for them.
To Kali’s surprise, the one that approached her was Amanda. “I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye but…” Tears began to fill her wide blue eyes, but she clenched her jaw to stave them off. “Not everyone made it back. And we were supposed to play something today, but Val…she’s gone. And I can’t do this without her.”
Her voice splintered and cracked, and her trembling legs gave way beneath her. Kali’s legs moved on their own, taking her to the sobbing girl’s side. She gathered Amanda to her and let her soak her shirt with the tears she had desperately tried to bottle up for too long. Logically, Kali knew that it hadn’t been her fault. That she couldn’t save the people she couldn’t reach. But logic had little to do with it as she whispered a frantic apology, holding Amanda’s trembling form.
The boy with vivid green eyes knelt beside them, and explained their situation. Val had been their lead singer, but she had disappeared around the same time as Ben. She had not returned with the others. Amanda had tried to stand in for her, to honour her, but the songs they had chosen hit too close to home.
“We just want people to remember them. You know; you were there. Even the demigods that made it back are changed. And everyone is celebrating and dancing like it never happened.” A bitter edge was thick in his voice, and his clenched fists trembled at his sides. “We need someone to sing. But it’s too late to teach anyone the set we were playing. We were hoping that you could help.”
They weren’t asking for Kali, the killer of monsters. They wanted the daughter of Apollo. A musician. They wanted the Kali that could help them share their feelings through music. She didn’t know if that Kali existed. She had never performed musically for anyone. But, with a lost demigod sobbing in her arms, she could not refuse out of hand.
“Amanda. You love deeply, and that is your strength. You’re not letting her down by remembering her.” Kali murmured, her voice trembling with emotion. “I can never make amends to those we lost. But I can sing, and I can help get your feelings across. If you’re sure that’s what you want.”
Even with a red face and runny nose, the girl was gorgeous. Kali laughed inwardly; she had almost hoped she would be an ugly crier, but no luck. Her heart twisted painfully as Amanda pulled away from her. “I’m not going to beg for your help.”
“I don’t want you to. I just…I don’t want you to regret it. If this is something you felt you needed to do…” She trailed off reluctantly, her gut twisting painfully. Amanda already hated her, so what did it matter. Amanda turned her back, crossing her arms, and Kali sighed deeply, Kali raised her voice to address the group. “I’ll do it. Can’t guarantee it’ll be any good, but I’ll do it.”
“You can learn the songs in time?” The drummer, a robust boy with no hair, asked sceptically. “We only have an hour until we’re on.”
“I just need to hear them once.” She replied, with confidence she didn’t feel. It was true that she memorised any song she heard without trying, but performing was new to her. Still, they wanted to honour their friend, and those that had not returned. Her nerves didn’t matter. She had more to atone for than anyone.
Without further ado, they moved somewhere a little quieter to rush through the songs. Kali was relieved that she already knew some of them; at least it would be her kind of music. It startled her to realise how long it had been since she had listened to music. Life in Camelot didn’t exactly lend to the use of electronics, so she didn’t have much opportunity anymore.
Music had always been a huge part of her life. To be able to share in it again, especially under the circumstances, was overwhelming. Time rushed past in a blur. Before she knew it, Kali was following the others on shaking legs up onto the small stage.
There had been bands playing on and off through every day of the festival, and no one took much notice. With the bloody shows in the Colosseum, no one was all that interested in live music. Even Kali hadn’t noticed them, unaware with everything else grabbing her attention. There were a few demigods waiting for them to begin, maybe friends of theirs, but no real crowd to speak of. With everything going on, Kali hadn’t gone to find her friends to let them know about it either.
Any misgivings Kali had dissipated when the guitarist struck up the first chord. The music, and the message, were all that mattered. They wanted to remember the fallen, to rage at the injustice of the world that tore their friend away. Kali just wanted to let it all out. The pain. The regret. The useless anger that was eating away at her. And she wanted to believe that there was still a tiny shred of hope waiting for them all.
The opening built to a crescendo, and silence crashed around her as Kali began to sing. Every demigod in the camp turned their head. Kali had never thought much of her voice; she didn’t sing like popstars did, and she rarely let anyone else hear her. But there was power in her voice, and the words reached everyone in the camp. Little by little, throughout their first song, people were drawn to the stage to listen.
Gold light coiled around her feet and spread across the stage until they were standing in glittering stardust. As she sang, her searching eyes found Apollo wearing a wry smile. For once, she welcomed his interference as the crowd continued to grow. The quality of the sounds from the instruments and the speakers improved drastically with his blessing.
Their crystal clear sound boomed through the camp, beckoning the last stragglers, and the crowd stood entranced. Kali’s heart clenched painfully at the sea of faces in front of her. Their captivated gazes stunned her, and she wondered what Apollo had done, but the music soon swept her back up. The songs she sang weaved themselves through every fibre of her, drawing her deeper than she would have chosen to venture.
Apollo had never been so certain, or so proud, that she was his daughter. But with that pride came discomfort he was not used to. She didn’t know how to keep a low profile, and every choice she made drew her further into the path of the king of the gods. An unfamiliar shiver tingled down his spine as he risked a glance at Zeus, still sitting in the gold box.
He had managed to sing a blessing over the others in her group to mask her presence with his own, but Zeus’ gaze was fixed on Kali. Wide-eyed and silent, caught by her impossible presence. Her voice was as haunting as a siren, and just as compelling. Apollo had expected an outburst when the fighters dropped their weapons, entranced, but this was worse.
The sky darkened and lightning pulsed overhead, sparking seemingly of its own accord as a heavier drumbeat picked up. Kali’s eyes shone with the reflection, strangely empty, and her voice grew stronger. Apollo sighed heavily at the sight.
The Olympians were not bound by their elements, but minor gods were little more than slaves to them. Kali’s power was far beyond her fellow demigods, but that came with its own challenges. The way she performed was proof enough that she was little more than a conduit for the raw energy and emotion charging through the songs they had chosen.
Without the knowledge of what was happening to her, trapped inside the music, Kali’s energy was draining quickly. She could feel herself shaking, the adrenaline fuelling her nerves into a buzzing energy that filled and surrounded her. Her instincts took over, following the cues the others sent her way. It was as though she was along for the ride with the rest of the crowd.
Overwhelmed, every song twisted and danced out of her grasp before she knew what had happened. The crowd roared its approval, and she was floating, tethered tentatively, watching from a distance. If this was what performing felt like, spinning out of control, she wanted no part of it. Every inch of her was tingling, trembling. The addictive sensation was dangerous. Losing herself, flying out of reach, terrified her. The part of her that remained lucid shrank into the soothing silver glow, letting Hades be her anchor, and she let go.
Kali had no idea how long she stood up on that stage, in front of a sea of demigods. Her ears were ringing, and her vision swam as their last song finally ended with a crescendo. They stood, staring blankly, as the deafening cheers swept over them. On shaking legs, Kali stepped down from the stage, desperate to slink away out of sight.
I’ve got you. Hades’ voice was a cool breeze across her burning skin, and she gratefully sank into his embrace as he pulled them into the shadows.
Hello there! Apologies for the huge delays between chapters! I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m working on it!
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