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The first chapter

The roar of the crowd was deafening. Olympians sprang to their feet cheering on the very first Inter-Olympian football match. ‘The Solar Streamers’ were playing ‘Hercules’s Heroes’, but this was no ordinary football match. The scene on the pitch was as impressive and extraordinary as you would expect on Olympus…

When Joel first proposed a football event he was amazed by how many Olympians wanted to get involved. Now with a full stadium of spectators cheering him on, Joel, captain of the Solar Streamers, expertly maneuvered the ball down the pitch and between the legs of a charging satyr. The half goat, half boy turned and charged after him as if his very life depended on it.

Joel broke through the defense line, and passed the black and white ball to his Olympian teammate and friend, Paelen, who dashed forward to get into position. The winged boar, Chrysaor, caught up with Joel and drove away the Hercules defense players Mercury and Minerva, while Pegasus flew across the field over a line of centaurs and giants and called to Paelen to pass the ball. With a quick kick the ball was in the winged- stallion’s possession.

Emily sat on the sidelines beside Jupiter. She marveled at how adept Pegasus was at a sport he and the other Olympians had only just learned. Pegasus was able to keep moving forward while the ball remained in-play between his four hooves.

Suddenly a satyr ducked beneath Pegasus and stole the ball away. Moving swiftly on his goat legs, he kicked it back to his team-mates. But no sooner did the opposing team have the ball than a young female centaur on Joel’s team made a move that caused the crowd to cheer even louder. Leaping gracefully into the air, she blocked a high kick with her brown horse’s body. As the ball touched down on the ground, she expertly kicked it forward to Joel.

Running towards the goal line, Joel and Paelen kept the football moving between them. Finally Joel moved into position to shoot it at the goal.

“Go for it, Joel!” Emily shouted from her seat. “Shoot!”

The opposing side’s goal-keeper was a terrifying sight. The Sphinx reared on her lion’s haunches, spread her arms and eagle’s wings wide and prepared to block Joel’s shot.

With one quick dart away from a young Nirad defenseman, Joel kicked the ball. It flew in the air and then seemed to arch as if it had a life all its own. It caught the upper bar of the goal posts and flew into the net above the head of the Sphinx.

When the goal keeper saw the ball enter her goal, she roared in fury and sprang forward, tackling Joel to the ground. Emily’s heart nearly stopped. The Sphinx had Joel pinned down with her large lion paws. She threw back her head and roared a second time and raised a fearsome paw in the air making to tear into him with her sharpened claws.

“Jupiter, stop her!” Emily cried to the leader of Olympus standing beside her. “The Sphinx will tear him apart!”

But instead of moving to stop the attack, Jupiter cheered louder and started to applaud. He leaned closer to her. “My dear child, Alexis may be short tempered, but she knows this is just a game. Joel is perfectly safe –” Jupiter paused and looked at all the men in the stands raising their hands and cheering, “I am certain that Joel is the subject of many Olympians’ envy.”

Out on the football pitch, the players on Joel’s team continued to celebrate the goal, unconcerned by the goal-keeper’s assault on their star player. Finally the Sphinx brushed back hair from Joel’s eyes, leaned forward and kissed him full and long on the lips.

“Foul!” shouted Emily as she ran furiously on to the field. Pushing between the players, she shoved the goal-keeper. “Get off of him!”

As the Sphinx climbed slowly off of Joel, her serpent’s tail swished playfully in the air. She narrowed her green eyes and smiled mischievously at Emily. “Is the Flame of Olympus jealous?”

The Sphinx may have looked ferocious and dangerous with her lion’s body, eagle’s wings and serpent’s tail, but she had the head and naked upper body of a young woman. In fact, she was breathtakingly beautiful.

Emily paused and looked from Alexis to Joel. Seeing him on the ground with his beaming smile, warm brown eyes and handsome face, Emily was stunned to realize that she was very jealous.

“Of course not!” she shot. “But kissing opponent players isn’t part of the game.’

The smile never left the Sphinx’s face as she lithely padded back to her position in front of the goal. She looked playfully over her shoulder, flicking her long raven hair. “Pity. It should be.”

Paelen reached forward and with Emily’s help, lifted the stunned Joel to his feet. As they brushed him off, Paelen stole a look back at Alexis. “Wow!” he breathed. “That was some kiss. You are so lucky!”

The colour in Joel’s cheeks brightened further as Alexis called, “I will see you later, Joel.”

“Don’t count on it,” Emily fired back. She ignored the soft chuckles coming from the Sphinx and returned her attention to Joel. During his time in Olympus, he had grown taller, broad and muscular from all the physical work in Vulcan’s workshop. Joel’s growth spurt was the cause of much complaint from Vulcan as he constantly had to enlarge Joel’s silver mechanical right arm that replaced the one he’d lost in the fight against the gorgons.

“Did Alexis hurt you?” Emily asked.

Joel looked back at the Sphinx curiously, and then shook his head. “Not at all.”

Paelen smiled his crooked grin then pursed his lips in an exaggerated kiss. “Perhaps bruise your tender lips?”

“What?” Joel cried. He shoved Paelen away as his cheeks reddened deeper. “Stop that. I’m fine! Can we please get back to the match?”

As the players returned to their positions, Pegasus escorted Emily to her seat on the sidelines. The stallion nickered softly and Emily saw an extra sparkle in his beautiful dark eyes. Pegasus was laughing.

“What are you laughing at?” she challenged.

Emily’s teacher Vesta approached, overhearing the conversation. “Pegasus believes the Sphinx was correct. You are jealous of her.”

“Jealous of Alexis? That’s crazy,” Emily argued. “For one, she’s just an over-grown, green eyed, flying housecat. And for two, Joel and I are friends. That’s all.”

The smile on Vesta’s face grew. “Of course you are, dear…”

“We’re friends,” Emily insisted as she returned to her seat. “That’s all! Now Pegs, your team is waiting for you, you’d better get back.”

Pegasus let out a loud, laughing whinny before trotting back to the field of play to take his position on Joel’s team.