Recap: Corey’s parents had an argument about her and were found dead the next morning. Corey then meets Detective Skylar Adams. She is later adopted by Helen and Andy. Two years later, Corey is in school and meets a friend, Terese, and the class bully, Sandra. One day, two students are found dead and Corey meets Detective Adams again. Corey starts 2nd grade, which brings her face to face with a terrifying new teacher. As you can expect, her teacher does not last long. And then neither do her adopted parents, but things look up as Corey may have found a forever family. Corey moves in with Detective Adams and his wife and learns Terese lives across the street. One Friday night, Corey has a typical, happy evening with her mom, but seems out of sorts when Skyler comes home looking haggard. One night, Terese is sleeping over, but it doesn’t stop Skyler from working on the strange murder case. Corey and Terese get an interesting ski lesson and Corey provides some important information regarding the murders. Skyler and Dimitra go on an overnight trip, leaving Corey with a babysitter who does not meet with a happy end. School is back in session after winter break and the class gains two new students, twins Aiden and Cate. During recess, Corey is drawn to the twins and starts to get to know them. Then one snowy evening, Corey’s family has the Asphodels over for dinner. Corey has a chance to chat with the twins and learns magic is real, but it’s a secret. Turns out Corey isn’t a great secret keeper and grows suspicious of the twins. Aiden and Cate explain magic isn’t bad and induct Corey into magic. Corey’s magic lessons begin. Corey, Aiden, and Cate are caught doing magic by the principal and something bad happens to him. Sent home for the day after the principal’s death, Corey and Terese get to hang out and start planning Corey’s birthday party. Skyler thinks magic might be the key to solving the case and Corey returns to her magic lessons.
Corey couldn’t sleep. It was the night before her tenth birthday. As soon as the clock struck two in the morning, she would officially be ten years old and able to use magic. Excitement coursed through her, making it difficult to fall asleep. She twisted and turned in bed, looking at her clock in turns. Two o’clock was taking a long time to come. It was just now midnight.
Corey sighed and crept over to her window. She knelt on the window seat, looking for any sign of Aiden come to get her for a little bit of magic making, but there was no human figure lurking outside of her window. She waited there for a few more minutes before she began to yawn. Quietly, she crept back to her bed and covered herself up. She closed her eyes and felt sleep finally descend on her.
The sun was just beginning to rise when Corey’s eyes blinked open. The glowing sunlight fell across the window seat,lighting on the few stuffed animals settled there, and she lay snuggled in bed for a moment, just staring at it. A smile slowly formed across her face as she realized today was her birthday. She was ten and she could use magic. She looked over at her dresser, to where the wildflowers still bloomed in all their glory. They looked just as vibrant as they had the day Aiden had conjured them for her all those months ago.
Corey pushed herself up slightly so she was reclining against her pillows instead of lying down. She held out a hand and concentrated, her gaze unwavering, her face serious. She called to mind the sensations she had felt when Aiden and Cate had conjured the fire. Ever so slowly, the limber feeling entered her body and a tiny flame blossomed on her hand.
Her smile widened and she let the flame and magic go out. She sighed happily. She could use magic. Of course, she had only worked with fire and air so far, so she would still need Aiden and Cate to teach her earth and water. But it was something.
Corey pushed her covers across the bed and swung her legs to jump down.
An odd sight met her eyes just as she was swinging her legs over. She paused and stared at the black clad body lying face down on her bedroom floor. The head was covered with some kind of hood, so she couldn’t see the face. She wasn’t sure if the person was male or female. It was just a large body sprawled across her floor, gloved hands outstretched.
Corey intently studied the body for a full minute, looking for any signs of life. Finally, she sighed and gave up. The body was dead and had probably been dead for some time. She just sat there and stared at it, her hands folded in her lap, wondering what to do. She was upset that someone else had died, but also curious about why this was happening and who it was that was lying on her floor.
She turned her head to look at her window seat. The window looked intact and it was still locked. She glanced over at the door. It was firmly closed, but the intruder could have closed it after they had entered the bedroom. Corey frowned and studied the floor. As the brightening light continued to flood her bedroom, she finally caught a glint of something metallic.
A knife was protruding from near the foot of her bed. The sun had just touched it. It was a couple of feet away from the dead person’s outstretched right hand. Corey shuddered as she realized this intruder had meant to kill her. She wrapped her arms around her body, contemplating whether to get off her bed or not.
Her bedroom door opened suddenly and Corey swung wide eyes to it, fear temporarily gripping her heart. Her mother’s smiling face peeked in and her mouth opened to wish her daughter a happy birthday. Instead, her eyes fell on the body on the floor, her face crumpled into a horrified look, and she screamed.
Corey put her hands over her ears as her bedroom door fell all the way open and Dimitra continued to scream. Corey heard footsteps rumbling down the hallway and Skyler joined them in no time at all. He came to an abrupt stop and stood gaping at the body. His eyes rose to meet Corey’s.
“Corey, what happened?” Skyler asked as he hugged his wife close, shielding her eyes with his chest.
Corey shrugged. “I don’t know. I woke up and started getting up. That’s when I saw the body.”
“How long ago was that?” Skyler demanded.
Corey shrugged again. “I don’t know. Maybe a couple of minutes ago.”
Skyler nodded and pulled Dimitra from the room, telling Corey to stay put and that he would be right back. Corey nodded and listened as Skyler escorted Dimitra out into the hallway. She could hear her father quietly talk to her mother. A minute passed before Skyler walked back into the bedroom while Dimitra scurried down the hall to call the police.
“Okay,” Skyler said, crouching down near the body. “Let’s find out who this is.”
Looking around, he grabbed a blanket from the back of one of the chairs at the little table. He used it to push the body over and revealed an uncovered male face. He and Corey stared down at a clawed up face, eyes wide open in horror. There wasn’t a single sign of anything else wrong with the body. The clothes were intact. But, remembering Mr. Connors, Skyler pushed up the bottom of the man’s black shirt to reveal a mauled chest.
Skyler sucked in a deep breath before lowering the man’s shirt. He put the blanket aside and looked up at Corey. She was sitting patiently on her bed, her hands folded in her lap and her legs swinging. He flashed back to when he had first met her, when her biological parents had died. About six years ago, Corey had been sitting on the porch swing, eating muffins. Now she was sitting on her bed, looking as though nothing had happened, as though no one had just died in her bedroom.
“Are you okay, Corey?” he asked.
She nodded. “I’m okay.”
“Have you ever seen this man before?” he asked, gesturing to the body.
Corey shook her head, her hair flying around her face. “No. Never.”
“Are you sure?” Skyler asked intently.
“Yes. I’m sure. I don’t know who he is. I’ve never seen him before. How did he get into my bedroom, anyways? My window looks fine.”
Skyler shook his head and stood. “I don’t know. I was in the living room before I heard your mother scream. The front door was fine. All the windows were fine. I don’t know how he got in.”
Slowly, Skyler stood, his eyes never leaving his daughter, his mind whirling. He looked back down at the body and caught sight of the knife. Corey met his eyes as realization dawned on Skyler. Something was protecting her. This man had meant his daughter harm. He probably meant to kill her. And something had protected her from that death. But what?
“Corey,” Skyler asked, very carefully and very slowly. “What is protecting you?”
Corey cocked her head to the side, her legs never stopping their swinging motion. “What do you mean?”
“Listen to me, sweetie. This man meant you harm.” Skyler pointed to the knife. “He probably meant to kill you. But he died instead, in the same way all those other people died. Something is protecting you. What is it?”
“I don’t know what you mean, Dad.”
Dimitra walked back into the room just then, her face pale and her cell phone clasped in her hand. Skyler turned slightly to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
“They should be here soon,” Dimitra said quietly.
Skyler nodded. “Something is protecting Corey, Dimitra. But she won’t say what.”
“That’s because I don’t know,” Corey said emphatically. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Maybe we can help,” a slithering voice said from the air. “We are her guardians.”
A billow of smoke rose from Corey and formed three snake-like figures. They were coiled up in the air above Corey’s head. One was a shimmering dark blue and the second was a fiery red while the third was a gold and green mix. Short arms with claws extended from three points on their bodies, two on one side of the body and one on the other. Two wings flapped gently from the middle of their body, each covered with silver feathers and gold scales. The heads were rounded with luminous gold eyes and a wide slit mouth. The voice was slithering, but there was no evidence of a snake tongue.
Skyler and Dimitra clutched at each other as they stared wide eyed at the serpents. Corey was looking up at them with curiosity in her eyes, but she didn’t seem frightened.
“Who are you?” Corey asked curiously.
“We are the guardians from Asphodel sent to protect you,” the blue one said. “I am Styx, guardian of the River Styx.”
The red one lowered its head. “I am Plegethon, guardian of the River Plegethon.”
“Lethe, guardian of the River Lethe. When our world lost you, we were sent to find and protect you from those who meant you harm.”
“What are you?” Dimitra asked, her voice quivering, fear evident.
“Spirits,” Lethe responded. “We are the guardian spirits.”
“Perhaps we can help,” another voice said, this one from behind Skyler and Dimitra.
The couple turned and saw Aiden and Cate standing behind them. Both of them were dressed in long gold robes tied with ropes of silver.
“Are you guardian spirits, too?” Dimitra asked, her fingers digging into her husband’s arms, fear in her voice, face, and eyes.
Cate smiled at her gently and she and her brother stepped into the room. Skyler and Dimitra moved away towards the wall, flattening themselves against it. The twins went to stand near Corey. Aiden looked down at the dead body and shook his head. The twins looked up at the serpents and the serpents bowed their heads. Cate recognized them with a nod.
“You have done your duty well,” Cate said solemnly. “We thank you.”
“Anything for our young Queen,” Styx said, bowing her head.
“You are free to return to Asphodel,” Cate said. “We will be bringing her home very soon.”
The red and the blue serpents bowed their heads and vanished.
“If my Lady approves, I will remain with our young Queen,” Lethe said.
Cate inclined her head and the serpent turned into a wisp of smoke that went back into Corey. The girl made no motion that it had; her eyes just turned to her friends.
“Who are you?” Dimitra whispered.
“I am Hades, Lord of the Underworld. This is my twin sister, Hecate, handmaiden to Kore.” Aiden swept out a hand towards Corey. “This is Kore, Queen of the Underworld.”
Dimitra looked faint and Skyler clasped her tightly to him, his sharp eyes never leaving the three children before him, the three children who were claiming to be ancient Greek gods.
“I think you had better explain this to us,” Skyler said solemnly.
Aiden nodded as he and Cate settled themselves on either side of Corey. “Of course. But, first, you must know we come from another world known as Asphodel. You know of the Greek gods who once ruled this world. They are not stories, but beings from another world, Asphodel. When we were banished from this world, we returned home and each of us is reborn after a thousand years of life.” Aiden turned to look at Corey and Cate. “This happened for my sister and me about four or five months before Corey joined us in the rebirth.”
“Corey had just been reborn when a mysterious force swept through our world,” Cate said, taking over the narrative. “We were infants ourselves when it happened. No one knows what it was, but they attacked our world. We all fell into a deep sleep. When we awoke, half of Asphodel was missing, including Kore…”