The Healing Song, 1-3
By Rusty

Part 1

"I'm sorry," the doctor said as he turned toward the worried parents, "I'm afraid there isn't anything I can do for her."

The woman in the pale dress glanced over to her husband and burst into tears. He reached out and pulled her close; trying not to break down himself. It was a parent's worst nightmare. One he would have gladly giving his right arm to awaken from. But his daughter's mysterious condition was all too real. This physician was the best in the village and he couldn't bring their daughter out of it.

"What do we do?" he asked wiping away the tears from his hazel eyes. He wouldn't admit defeat. He wouldn't just give up on his little Megan.

The doctor shook his head. He didn't have an answer and it was eating him alive. He glanced over at the couple's nine-year-old daughter. The once happy active child sat on the bed staring straightforward; not moving, not making a sound. Her eyes blinking and the slow rise and fall of her tiny chest was the only indication that she was still alive.

"Pray to the Gods," the doctor said as gently as he could," If they're listening, maybe you'll be granted a miracle."

"If they're listening." his wife said as tears flowed from her eyes.

And on Olympus, someone was listening.

***

It had started out like any other day. Nine year old Megan was the first to arise. She reached up stretching as she shook off the last reminisces of sleep. The morning sun peeked in her window warming the blanket that still covered her legs. Turning to face the window she closed her brown eyes as the sun's rays kissed her face. The sweet scent of sunflowers drifted into her room by the warm summer breeze.

Opening her eyes, the little girl ran into her parent's room leaping onto the bed awakening them. Zach and Nina awoke with a start. Megan giggled covering her mouth with her tiny hands.

"Do you know what happens to little girls that wake up their parents so early in the morning?" her father asked trying to sound as stern as possible.

"No daddy." Megan said lowering her head wondering if she would get in trouble for waking them.

"They get tickled!" Her dad said grabbing his daughter and tickling her sides until her uncontrollable giggles filled the air. Her mother laughed as Megan tried to tickle her father back.

"I'll start breakfast." Nina said pulling her housecoat over her, leaving the pair to play. As she reached the door she turned and watched them. It had taken them so long to have what had become their only child. She had such a difficult delivery that the doctor had recommended that they not try again though she had wanted to try for a boy, to give her husband a son. When Megan was born she had wondered if Zach had been disappointed that they didn't have a boy; but father and daughter couldn't have been more devoted to each other. Megan may be a little girl, but she could play as hard and get as dirty as any boy.

As Nina finished preparing the morning meal, she could hear her husband and daughter playing in the other room.

"Alright in there!" Nina called out, "How about washing up then sitting down at the table."

"Ok honey." Zach called from the other room. The sound of her daughter screech caught her attention.

"Zach, what happened?" she asked turning to the door carrying a couple of bowls in her hand The worried look that had crossed her face vanished when her husband entered carrying their daughter over his shoulder like a sack of wheat.

"Nothing." he said turning his daughter to face her mother. She gave a wave and a smile.

"Alright you too. Sit down and eat before it gets cold."

It was a breakfast like any other. Zach and Nina talked about the prices at the market; the lack of rain, the usual things and married couple would discuss. Megan listened carefully trying to understand what her parents were talking about but after awhile she gave up and concentrated on her oatmeal. She had her own plans for the day and she couldn't wait to get started.

After breakfast her father left to go into town and as her mother started cleaning the house, Megan told her mother she was going outside to play.

"Ok sweetheart." Her mom said with a smile. "Have fun. Be back by lunchtime."

"I will mom." The little girl answered heading out the door.

The morning sun bathed the area in its warm caressing rays. All around Megan the wildflowers were shooting upward; some taller than she was as if they were in competition to see who would reach the sun first. Birds filled the air with their songs. A soft breeze tousled her long curly brown hair all around. She headed down the path as fast as she could. The other day while playing with friends she had discovered the opening to a cave. Though it was dark the little girl wasn't' afraid. Her uncle had once told her stories about treasure hidden in caves. She was too curious to see what was inside.

Reaching the opening, Megan glanced around her making sure no one had followed her. Seeing it was safe Megan climbed over the large rock at the opening and entered the cave. It was darker than night inside and the lack of sunshine had made the air inside cold. She squinted trying to adjust her brown eyes to the darkness. A funny sour smell wrinkled her nose. She covered it for a moment before taking a few steps forward. The ground was soft under her feet and the walls were in reach. Her fingers scraped along the walls as she moved forward. Her steps were deliberate and careful. She didn't want to fall over a ravine or at the very least wind up hanging over the edge.

The sudden dripping of water caught her ears. Slow and steady; the beating of an invisible drum. She moved towards it with a bit more speed. The tunnel twisted and turned; the echo of the dripping water growing louder.

Finally as her legs began to grow tired, a tiny light broke through the darkness. Megan stepped through the doorway to find herself in the center of the cave. A small hole in the ceiling above her head allowed a small patch of light into the area. Glancing around through the area she spotted a small pool of water near the back wall. Megan walked over and knelt down glancing at her reflection in the water. The droplets breaking the surface made her reflection look strange. She giggled at her odd appearance. Another, larger drops fell into the pool rippling her likeness. When the water settled instead of her own face the image of a woman was staring back at her. Megan jumped startled. She hadn't heard anyone enter behind her.

Rising to her feet she looked up at the stranger. The woman was tall with dirty blonde hair that was pinned on top of her head. She wore a long purple gown with a dark flowing cape behind her. The stranger's expression was stern; glaring down at the little girl with a pair of crystal blue eyes. Megan remained where she stood.

"Hello." the little girl said softly trying to be polite. The stranger didn't answer.

"Do you live here?" Megan tried again.

"Your Megan." the stranger said reaching out to touch her face. Her hands were as cold as ice and her tone gave her the chills.

"Yes." she answered. "Who are you?"

The women's eyes grew colder and angrier. How dare this child ask who she was. It was obvious neither of her parents had taught her a thing.

"I'm the one who is going to teach your parents the meaning of respect."

With that the stranger began turning her hand in a circle. A bright yellowish smoke began to encircle her growing thicker and thicker until it filled the entire area. Slowly the woman began to change shape. Her skin growing thicker, turning a brownish green. Her hands becoming claws with nails as sharp as any sword. Her face contorted becoming grotesque and misshapen. Megan watched the horror unfold before her unable to run untilů

From outside, under then noonday sun, came the terrified scream of a little girl.

It was hours later that Zach and Nina arrived at the doctor's house. They had been out since noon looking for their daughter when word came from the marketplace that a little girl had been found inside a cave by a merchant who was pushing his cart by the cave's entrance and had heard her scream. Acting on a hunch, the pair went to the village doctor and found Megan sitting on a bed staring off into space. Her mother ran to her throwing her arms around her daughter but the little girl didn't move or even acknowledge that her mother was there. Nina called out to her daughter but she didn't move. Her mother screamed her name in her daughter's ear, but the response was the same.

"What happened doctor?" Zach asked the physician standing solemnly by.

"I don't know. A merchant who found her inside a cave after he had heard her scream. She was seated on the floor staring off into space. He tried to snap her out of it but when it didn't work he brought her to me."

Glancing between the adults and the child,

"Are you the little girl's parents?" he asked the couple.

The man and women nodded.

"Can you do anything for her?" her mother asked, "Please, do something."

"I can try but I'm not sure what I can do."

For the next thirty minutes, the doctor tried everything he could from loud noises to smelling salts, to anything with a bad enough odor, something that would act as a stimulus."

Turning to the mother.

"Go home and get something of hers. A doll or a toy. Maybe seeing something familiar will bring her out of it.

Without hesitation Nina ran out the door to collect what the doctor asked.

Turning back to the little girl's father.

"What I'm going to ask you to do is severe. I wanted your wife out of here."

"What is it?" Zach asked placing his arms around his daughter.

The little girl didn't move. Tears welled up in his eyes as he remembers how they were playing just this morning. Now look at her.

"What do you want me to do?"

Taking a deep breath,

"Slap her across the face, hard."

Seeing his reaction, the doctor continued.

"I know, but whatever put her in this state of shock may be broken by another one."

Zach took a deep breath. He hated the idea but he was willing to try anything.

Standing in front of his daughter, he swung as hard as he could smacking Megan across her face with enough force to knock her off the bed. But Megan remained the same."

At that moment Nina ran into the house.

"I heard a slap.." she said breathlessly, carrying one of Megan's favorite dolls, "Didů"

"No I'm afraid it didn't work."

"Give her the doll." The doctor instructed, "Place it in her hands. Let her feel it. Touch its face to hers."

Nina did as she was instructed. She held the doll in front of Megan's face then attempted to give it to her daughter. The little girl just let the doll fall from her lap. Nina placed the doll in Megan's hands wrapping her fingers around Megan's fingers so she held the doll.

"Honey, here's your doll. Feel her? You're holding her."

When Nina let go, the doll fell helpless to the floor.

Nina stood next to her daughter feeling lost and distraught.

"I'm sorry," the doctor said as he turned toward the worried parents, "I'm afraid there isn't anything I can do for her."

The woman in the pale dress glanced over to her husband and burst into tears. He reached out and pulled her close; trying not to break down himself. It was a parent's worst nightmare. One he would have gladly giving his right arm to awaken from. But his daughter's mysterious condition was all too real. This physician was the best in the village and he couldn't bring their daughter out of it.

"What do we do?" he asked wiping away the tears from his hazel eyes. He wouldn't admit defeat. He wouldn't just give up on his little Megan. The doctor shook his head. He didn't have an answer and it was eating him alive. He glanced over at the couple's nine-year-old daughter. The once happy active child sat on her bed staring straightforward; not moving, not making a sound. Her eyes blinking and the slow rise and fall of her tiny chest was the only indication that she was still alive.

"Pray to the Gods," the doctor said as gently as he could," If they're listening, maybe you'll be granted a miracle."

"If they're listening." his wife said as tears flowed from her eyes.

And on Olympus, someone was listening.



Part 2

Lord Apollo had just finished putting the final touches on his latest musical creation when Nina walked into his Temple.

It was nearing dust and the little girl's mother was becoming desperate. She had run to the God of Healing ready to beg for a cure for her daughter, ready to give or do whatever the God would command to heal her.

Apollo watched from his seat as the women walked in. She was visibly upset as she approached the altar with an offering basket of fresh fruit from their own orchard. Placing it on the long table; covered with a blue silk cloth Nina knelt down before a statue of the young blonde God.

"Lord Apollo, I come before you today to beg for the health of my only daughter Megan. Nine years ago, on the day of her birth, I consecrated her life to you, placing her under your protection. She is very ill with a mysterious disease that no physician can find the cure for. I beg of you, Lord Apollo to have mercy on my daughter and return her to my husband and me."

The handsome young God ran his hand over his long shoulder length blonde hair. He remembered little Megan. Her mother, a once promising musician, had given it up to marry a blacksmith. She had hoped when Megan was older she would take up an interest in the arts. He had been watching her since she was born. He was fond of the curly head child knowing that when she grew to be an adult he would have other plans for her as well.

Placing his golden lyre to the side, the blonde God watched this women leave his temple before walking over to the water pool to see what was wrong. With a wave of has hand he found her still seated in the doctor's office. She sat on the bed staring off into space not noticing the doctor trying to get her to eat something.

His blue eyes grew dark with concern. It didn't take a God to see this wasn't the work of any illness. It was the work of one of the other Gods. But why? What could this little girl have done to deserve such treatment. The realization of this put him in a very difficult position. Zeus had made it very clear that no God was allowed to interfere in the judgment of another God or Goddess but this little girl was a favorite of his. He couldn't just turn his back when he had plans for her.

"I don't think it you should interfere, big brother." came a voice next to him.

The bronze muscular god turned his head to see his twin sister Artemis standing next to him. Unlike his honey blond hair and blue eyes, his younger sister's blonde hair held brown highlights and her eyes were hazel. She wore a tunic and leggings of brown and green to give her the invisible camouflage of the forest. His sister eyed his gold and white vest and golden leather pants. He truly was the physical manifestation of his nickname "The Shining One." as he was sometimes referred as.

"You want to fill me in on this?" Apollo said facing his twin, "That little girl doesn't deserve what's happening to her."

"What's it worth to you?" his sister questioned running her hand along her bow string.

His blue eyes grew dark with anger. He hated it when his sister played such childish games. He needed to know, and he needed to know now.

"What do you want Artemis?" Apollo snapped back, "Name your price. I need to know which God is doing this."

"You know we're not suppose to interfere in the punishment of a mortal by another God." his sister answered baiting her other brother even further.

"Artemis I'm warning you!"

Apollo's voice grew angry; his expression becoming as dark as the storm clouds that covers the sun. She had two minutes to give him what he wanted before he took matters into his own hands.

Taking a step backwards, Artemis glanced into the pool at the young girl. Apollo was right but she wasn't about to get into trouble herself.

"I can't tell you." She started stepping back as her brother's anger turned blacker; "But I can tell you it wasn't me, it wasn't Aphrodite, or Ares, or Hermes, or Zeus, or Hades, or Poseidon, or Athena, or Hephaestus or Demeter or Dionysus."

Apollo took a deep breath. That left only one Olympian. But why?

"Artemis I need you to do something for me."

"What big brother?" she smiled sweetly. She had him and she was going to make the most of it.

"Go down there and find some unobtrusive way to tell the family their prayers have been heard and their daughter will be ok."

"Where are you going?"

"To make a house call."

In a flash of golden-white light Apollo disappeared.



Part 3

"Ok Big Brother, just what am I suppose to do now?"  Artemis thought to herself as she stood in the shadows of the doctor's house. The Zach had stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air and release his anger and frustration as Nina returned from the Temple. She wrapped her arms around her husband praying that the God of Light and Healing had heard her. She didn't care what happened to herself as long as her baby was happy and healthy. Zach slipped his arm around his wife whispering in her ear that everything will be ok, she just had to have faith.

Artemis smiled getting an idea. Holding her palm open, she popped in one of the apples that the couple had left at the altar. Unlike the ordinary red ones found in the market place, these were golden and sweet. The blacksmith and his wife had traded dearly many years ago for these special seeds and they were among the very few in all of  Greece who could grow the unusual apples. They were a favorite of Apollo's as  well as it seemed the rest of Olympus. In fact the other Gods and Goddesses usually found a reason to stop by and see Apollo when he had a fresh supply to such an extent that the God of Light started trading the luscious fruit for favors of one sort or another.

Pulling the hood over her head, Artemis walked over to the couple deliberately bumping into them; placing the apple in Nina's hand. She was hoping that seeing the fruit would be enough without having to go into the whole explanation to them. The couple glanced over surprised to see the apple then distressed as the hooded woman looked up at them.

"Where did you." Nina began slowly getting angry. She and her husband had enough to deal with right now without someone playing cruel jokes on them.

"Shhh." the woman said softly to them. "Your daughter will be alright.  Take her home and wait."

She smiled warmly at them before turning and walking into the shadows, disappearing before either of them could come after her.

"Honey," Zach said examining the fruit, "Isn't that one of the apples."

He didn't need to finish his sentence. Nina's tears of joy were enough. Their prayers had been answered.

Rushing back into the house they ran over to the doctor who was attempting to break her out of the spell by using the various aromas and told him what had transpired outside. The doctor smiled agreeing to release the little girl.

Zach wrapped Megan up in a blanket, lifting her up in his arms. He carried her out to the wagon parked just a few feet from the door. The night air had grown crisp and it rustled through his hair.

"Just relax honey," Zach whispered to his daughter, "You're going to be fine. Just hang in there. We're going to get you home and into your own bed and your going to be fine."

Nina held her daughter next to her, in between her and her husband.  Megan continued to stare straight ahead unaware of where she was or what was happening.

"Keep me posted." The doctor said to Zach as he climbed on and took the reigns in his hands. "I want to know what's happening to her. I'm sorry I couldn't be much help."

Zach and Nina smiled.

"Doc," Zach said, "You've been more help then you realize."

"Thank you. Take care."

"Good Night." Nina said giving the doctor a wave.  He watched the wagon with the three occupants inside disappear down the path and into the night, hoping that everything turned out for the best for them.

"Done," Artemis said returning to Apollo's chambers. She lowered the hood walking over to her brother. Apollo stood next to the pool watching the couple; invisibly guiding the wagon to its destination.  Artemis watched the wagon in the water before turning again to her brother.

"Ok, so just what do you plan on doing? You know as well as I do you cannot just pop into their home, wave your hand, and cure that little girl. If Hera finds out what your doing, your going to wind up in Tartarus handing upside down by your ankles with your own lyre strings."

"I'm well aware of what Hera can do to me if she finds out what I'm doing. And right now, little sister, I don't give a damn. I'm not going to let Megan take the punishment because Hera has a bone to pick with her parents."

"Just what did they do to get Hera so ticked off at them?" Artemis asked. These people didn't seem the type that would go around deliberately stepping on the toes of the Queen of the Gods. They seemed like kind gentle people. She just couldn't see it.

"I don't know and I'm not about to just go walking into up to that woman and ask her why she's being a bitch towards them. All I know is I'm not going to let her take her petty grievances out on Megan."

Apollo clinched his fist slamming it down on the rim of the pool. The sudden jolt sent the water into tiny ripples, distorting the image for a moment. The God of Light waved his hand returning stilling the picture. Carefully he steered the wagon around a few very large branches that would have meant a nasty spill for the three of them.
Once the tiny home of the little girl and her parents came into view, Apollo withdrew his hand and allowed them to finish the final legs of the journey alone.

He and his sister watched as Nina and Zach helped their little girl into the house and into bed. Zach walked over to the door and bolted it. They were safe indoors. Now it was his turn.

"Like I said before big brother, what are you going to do?"

Apollo shook his head watching the family in the pool. He had to think fast and he knew it. Time was running out for the little girl. But one way or another, he would save Megan and find a way to keep the little girl and her parents free from Hera's wrath."

TBC