Papers, pens, books, and late nights. Airplanes, empty streets, and everything in between.
Richard Santoso Jansen was always known to be a hard worker. He often forgot to eat, sleep, or rest, just to finish the work he started. The only thing on his mind? Perfection. Richard was a professor in Cambridge, specializing in Civil Engineering. He worked day and night to create designs, propose new patents for the engineering world, and build. Oh, how he loved to build. Behind his glasses and unruly mess of black hair, was a handsome, ambitious young man with the brightest smile in the town of Cambridge. His hair was wavy and black as night, eyes the lightest shade of ghostly blue. His designs and ideas earned him many titles and acknowledgements, and even reached the ears of Athena. Out of curiosity, the goddess decided to disguise herself and watch how he worked.
She was awed by his intelligence, his determination, and the smile he bared whenever he taught his class. Naturally, Athena became his best pupil, and he slowly began to fall in love with her and her mind. After a month of dating, Athena finally revealed herself to him, and convinced him to join minds with her. Richard did not fully grasp what she meant by this, and was surprised to find a beautiful baby girl in his room the next day. He was the happiest man alive at that moment. However, it was also at that moment that he learned Athena had gone, leaving him heartbroken and torn. He could never bring himself to look at Althea, who was the constant reminder of her mother. And what did he know about raising children? Thus, he entrusted his Indonesian nanny to bring her back to Indonesia with to be raised by his sister, knowing he could never raise her properly himself, Richard once again drowned himself in his work.
Thea spent her early childhood in the outskirts of Bandung, with her aunt; Melati Jansen, who owns a nature school/cultural centre in the village they lived in. Being the tightly-knight community it is, Thea was raised by everyone in the village. By the age of two, Thea was enrolled in her aunt’s nature school, where she learned a lot of her Indonesian heritage, such as its general history, its many native languages and songs, and even learning to do several traditional dances and playing several traditional instruments from all over the archipelago. She was raised with Indonesian as her mother language, later mastering several local languages such as Sundanese and Javanese, picking up other native languages during trips with her aunt to other islands for cultural performances, and some Dutch from her aunt and mortal grandparents whenever they visited. By the age of six, along with all her other classmates they were enrolled in a pencak silat course. Surprisingly, Thea managed to surpass all expectations and even excel in her class, managing to do complex moves and learn every technique with ease.
Several weeks before her tenth birthday, she and her aunt drove to an airport in Bandung to finally visit Richard, when it began to hail heavily. It’d been gloomy that day, and everyone had expected it to hail eventually. The roads in the village were small, and left and right, there was nothing but green; paddy fields and vegetable crops. But something odd happened that day, as they climbed on an uphill slope when Thea noticed a flock of birds flying toward their slow-moving car in high speed. They swarmed, blocking the view and causing them to slide off the road, rolling down the hill and crashing into an electric pole which fell over and crushed the car. Melati, even though she was pinned in to the steering wheel and door, noticed this, and told Thea to slip on her rubber sandals and get out. The young child cried, as she saw Melati to be her mother, and did not want to leave her. However, there was no choice when several beaks ripped Thea's door open. Stymphalian birds. Running on adrenaline, Thea scrammed to the backseat and ran out the door, the flock swarming inside the car in hot pursuit after her. But they did not manage to exit, as Thea slammed the door in their faces, and ran.
Just as the electric sparks ignited the fuel tank.
The villagers believed that it was a freak accident, knowing how slippery the road was in the rain. With her guardian gone, Thea was sent back to Cambridge to be reunited with her father. Permanently. She greeted this idea happily, however, excited to finally meet the man she had heard so much about from her aunt. Unfortunately, she did not receive the greeting she expected to get upon arrival. He shook her hand and gave her a nod. And that was it.
Richard never did step up to his position as a father. He did not care for the many impressive poems Thea made for him, or for the many feats of athleticism she tried to show off. All she wanted was his love. So when Thea started school there, she made a vow to be the best of everything and finally earn that love. She learned English rather quickly, studied hard and practiced hard, for she inherited her father’s determination, and consistently earned first rank in all her classes, including P.E. and Gym. Her teachers were impressed, but her father never even blinked. One day, upon seeing her report card, Richard told her, “The next generation should always be better than the one before. And you, my dear Althea, you are still young. Learn as much as you can, while you can.”
And Thea smiled, but her father never saw because he never even looked up from his work.
The rest of her childhood was filled with study and clubs. She won many competitions; mostly sports, and academic (Richard always told her that a healthy body harbours a healthy mind, thus she joined as many sports as she could). But she had absolutely no friends. A drop in score or achievement what was Thea feared most. Her already high-achieving father would look at her, with a look that she swore was of utter disappointment and frustration before the scolding started, clawing and tearing at her on the inside until she could cry no more. Her father would quickly apologize after each outburst, hug her and whisper comforting words. But by the age of eleven, she stopped hugging back.
Thea had grown emotionally hollow, and she began to miss her childhood in Indonesia. Her father never cared for her smiles, so she stopped smiling. Lonely and starved of affection, Thea began to recede deeper and deeper into her mind, asking questions to which she’d make up an answer for. Creating a world she could escape to. One day, after asking a question, something else asked back. It wasn’t her. It was an odd, new voice that gave her new questions she never thought of. Due to this, Thea became a quiet observer. Watching, thinking, and studying. She studied people. She seemed to like that. However, when a pencak silat class opened in her school (and she did join it in a heartbeat), she felt as if she’d regained an old friend, and once again became the star of her class.
Her second monster attack occurred at the age of twelve. A substitute teacher who was filling in for Thea’s science teacher during last period. She was an odd woman, the young demigod thought. And for some reason, she kept on imagining a bird. Squawking, baring its talons. And she saw blood. Blood, and blood. She ended up staring at the substitute in an entranced manner until the end of class. Until all the children left and went home. The substitute walked over to the door and locked in, and only until the ‘click’ was heard did Thea snap back to attention. But by then, the teacher had begun to transform. Talons, feathers, and wings. A harpy. But the girl was not as helpless as she looked. She wasn’t strong enough to attack the creature, but she was fast and smart enough. Discreetly opening the storage unit of her pencil sharpener, she threw the pencil shavings into the eyes of the harpy once it charged. Everything moved in slow motion as it screeched and grabbed its eyes, Thea bolted to the laboratory, locked the door, and began working.
However, this caught the attention of a young boy using crutches.
As Thea dressed the skeleton in her shoes and jacket, threw a black rag over its head and closed all the curtains, the crippled boy with brown hair and blue eyes rushed outside to the laboratory window. The memory of her aunt’s death flashed through Thea's mind as she rummaged through the supply closet for the largest generator she could find. The harpy began pounding on the door. She connected the generator to the metal pole that kept the skeleton upright, and she knew what it was plaster. It should conduct electricity. Then, she threw water onto the floor from the sink before grabbing a bottle of powdered sulfur and doused it on herself. She switched off the lights. Thea hid under the desk just as the harpy broke the door down. It sniffed about, but the smell of sulfur was sharp and distracted it enough to spot the decoy in the corner. It slipped and rolled about in the soaked floor and once it grabbed the skeleton, it was shocked hard. In the harpy's paralyzed state, the boy broke a window open and drew the curtains back. His skin was fair and glowed with the sunlight. Thea was awed. "Take my hand!" He yelled, and Thea did just that.
She escaped through the window and ran with him to the street and onto a downhill road. As they crossed, the harpy regained control and surged after them with blind rage. And dearly forgot to notice the truck that became its cause of death. It hit the harpy and tried to break, but gravity kept pulling and the weight it carried caused it to fall over. It was crushed.
She asked the boy questions and he merely told her, "We're special, you and me. Beings like us, we gotta stick together." That day Thea learned of her godly heritage, but she made a friend. Collin was his name.
Entering the eighth grade, Thea had become the school’s star athlete, often working herself relentlessly to her coaches’ worries. She trained to drown her troubles, the memories of the monster attacks when she was young, and the voices inside her head when they grew too overwhelming. Aside from pencak silat, she especially also excelled in archery, fencing, and obstacle races. She was probably seen to be one of the most popular kids in school. All the girls acted like they were her friend, and all the boys looked at her with awestruck eyes. And she would smile in knowing that they would lie down on their stomachs without hesitation if she asked. This was when her manipulative trait developed, getting people to do what she wanted during group assignments, and set them an impossibly high standard. They’d whine and complain, but once it was done, they’d always get the highest marks.
And even with all the achievements and appreciation, Thea knew there was only one person who truly cared for her, and he was a new boy in crutches. The only one who knew what she truly was.
This all changed when she turned fourteen. Thea had gone to see her father at his class after archery practice with Collin. On their way there, they saw a black horse with a shining mane. It started to canter furiously toward them, and they realized, this was no normal horse. Everything once again moved in slow motion, and Thea moved in front of Collin and crossed her arms before her chest. There was a screech of an inferno, and she and Collin flew back to the lonely streets of Cambridge. She began to open her eyes, and what she saw shocked her. A giant spider web, out of nowhere, burning with fire that the horse exhaled. Thea kept doing this as she and Collin tried to escape it in order to slow it down, running into alleyways and crowded streets. Until they found a dead end. The fire-breathing horse managed to catch them and once again blew its flames. Thea could only improvise and weave another barrier. Collin then presented her with an arrow, its head made of Celestial Bronze, and told her it'd been a gift he was wanted to give her and that she needed to use it against the horse. "Only this will work." He told her, and she trusted him. As the barrier of straw burned down, Thea strung the arrow into her practice bow, and shot it through its heart.
But since that day, Thea began to suspect something. Richard should know about this too, right? Despite her usual contempt towards her father, her curiosity could take no more, and she finally confronted him. Through much convincing, yelling, counters, and unpleasant memories, Richard finally cracked and told her everything of his experience with Athena, and the rule the gods had established in order to care for demigods. It was like a session of therapy for him, and he finally grew to accept reality as it is after fourteen years. Thea on the other hand, saw this as an act of betrayal, but once again managed to lock her emotions away to let reason shine through. Their relationship had finally improved.
At the age of sixteen, two weeks before turning seventeen, she went with Richard to New York, America so that he may attend a conference. She was left alone at the hotel in Long Island that night, when she heard the sound of a scuff happening outside. The young demigod peeked out through her room curtains just in time to see none other than Collin stumble out of an alley. But he didn't have crutches. Instead, he had the legs of a goat. In hot pursuit behind him; a pack of hellhounds. Without hesitation, Thea rushed out and pursued them, bringing only her cell phone and a keris from her pencak silat training.
She eventually managed to run ahead of Collin and yank him into an unlocked shed. They shared a long embrace, but before she could ask questions, he yanked her back outside and hailed a cab (not before putting on his pants and crutches of course). This was when the interrogation once again occurred. He merely explained that he needed to take her to a safe haven for demigods, and that he'd always been looking after her. They stopped at the forest line and ran into it, where the hellhound pack finally caught up to them. They could move faster now, since Collin didn't need to use his crutches, and began to sprint to the camp. A few meters away from the barrier, a hellhound sprung from a bush and tackled Thea down. Collin bashed its head in with his crutch, which was in fact made of Celestial Bronze. However, this ignited the other pack members to attack him. The young demigod watched in horror as her dearest friend was torn apart, and he told her to run. She didn't move, watching Collin be devoured alive sparked an emotion in her; anger. So instead of retreating, Thea ran back for him, grabbed one of his crutches and hit one away. This turned all eyes on her. The days she spent training silat with Collin flashed through her head, and suddenly she could see bright spots appear on the hellhounds' bodies. Pressure points. They all charged at once and Thea fought back with the crutch, getting them disoriented with a bash or whack and then striking a pressure point with her middle and forefinger.
This went on until all the hellhounds were wining in pain on the ground, and Thea took this chance to drag her bloodied friend into the safe parameters of the barrier. She held him in her arms through his last dying breaths, and he left her with a smile.
Thea felt grief, pain, and guilt. So strong and gripping, yet... She didn’t know why, but it all began to fade away just as quickly, leaving her hollow yet again. She looked back at the flicker of torches in the dark and felt things slowly click into place. Richard never brought her there to accompany him for a conference. It'd always been to bring her here. So Thea pulled out her phone and dialled Richard’s number. He didn’t answer, but that was to be expected, so she left him a voicemail;
“Dad? I wanted to tell you I found the camp. I’m sure you know what I mean. And I just want to say... Thank you. For everything. I finally understand now. You’ve kept me away, because you were always afraid of this day. Of losing me too. But just know that I’ll come back one day, I promise. I love you, dad.” I love you too, Collin. And she kissed her friend's forehead in farewell.