Chapter 1: A Precious Day
1 A Precious Day
“WHAT AN AMAZING DAY!” ELPIS shouted up to the bright blue sky one Monday morning. Here on Mytikas, every day was perfect and precious, in her humble opinion. Mytikas was the highest peak on Mount Olympus, which was the tallest mountain in Greece. From atop it, she had a brilliant view of all the little towns, villages, forests, and lakes far below her.
Although Elpis could see, hear, and speak like a human, she wasn’t mortal. Or immortal, either. Nope! She was a real… live… bubble! The sparkly, golden bubble of “Hope,” to be exact. Until a few months ago, she’d spent her life locked inside a dark box along with nine horrible, troublemaking bubbles. So being free amid all this beauty was awesome!
Her freedom was mostly a result of sneakiness on her part, though. It had come about after a Titan godboy named Epimetheus had brought that awful box to Mount Olympus Academy (MOA for short). There, the box had fallen into the hands of a curious student named Pandora, who’d discovered the secret to opening it!
While Elpis remained trapped in the box, those trouble bubbles escaped. They managed to bump into nine MOA students, temporarily changing each student’s personality for the worse. Once Elpis escaped, she glooped the trouble bubbles out of those students, though, returning them to normal.
Then, while Pandora captured all the other bubbles, Elpis stealthily bobbled away to this peak. Ever since that crazy day, she’d worried she might be caught and returned to the box too. She really hoped that would never happen!
For now, Elpis shook off thoughts of the past. Leaving her perch, she hitched a ride on an air current. Whee! Like a kite or a bird, she was carried along by the current, gracefully gliding down, down, down the slope of Mount Olympus. How she loved floating along on this fresh mountain air!
She was always careful on such travels, though. The world was quite unsafe for someone like her. Someone small and fragile. Like most bubbles, she was made of water, soap, and air, and she was only a few inches wide.
As far as she knew, only two beings had ever been able to see her. Pandora, of course. And Zeus, the most powerful Olympian ever! He was King of the Gods and Ruler of the Heavens, and the principal of Mount Olympus Academy, too. Therefore, Elpis stayed away from that place. Because Zeus might not like it if he discovered she roamed free.
Sure, she sometimes got lonely being all by herself. But a busy, helpful life spent alone was better than being trapped with those unfriendly trouble bubbles, who’d argued and plotted nonstop. As if troublemaking were an Olympic sport!
Such bad thoughts fell away as she swooped ever lower, glorying in the day. Here on Mount Olympus’s beautiful Mytikas, she couldn’t help but be happy. And hopeful! Skirting the edge of a village, she was on the lookout for signs of unhappiness right now, though. That was how she spent most of her time—offering hope to others in times of trouble.
The homes she spied below were built of wood and mud bricks, each with wooden shutters on the windows and a small courtyard or garden. Here on the mountainside, villagers were going about their day. But then…
Crack! Out of nowhere, a thunderbolt shot down from the sky. She gasped as it struck one of the homes. Ka-boom! Half of it was instantly wrecked! As Elpis watched in horror, a family of four rushed out of the house, seeking safety outdoors.
“Oh no! Our home! Half of it is gone!” wailed the mortal woman who’d fled the house. She held a crying baby in her arms.
“Destroyed!” wailed the kind-looking man beside her. “What’ll we do?” He held the hand of his terrified little son, who clung to him.
Just then, a shadow passed overhead. Elpis glanced up in time to see a big, muscled guy with wild red hair and a beard zoom high across the sky. It was Zeus—riding away on his amazing white-winged horse, Pegasus! He must’ve thrown that thunderbolt! As the whole world knew, Zeus was famous for the huge, terrifying thunderbolts he wielded.
Anger filled her. How could he have been so careless? A family’s home had been half ruined by that bolt. Her heart ached for them. Yet he didn’t seem to care. Ignoring the damage he’d caused, he flew onward, never even slowing as he headed toward the Academy.
Well, she wouldn’t ignore the misfortune he’d caused. Unlike Zeus, she would help them! (Her name was Elpis for a reason, she liked to think. Because she put the “elp” in the word “help”!)
Quickly, she drifted closer to the family. From a few feet away, she blew out four small bubbles, each the size of a dandelion puff. “Hope,” she whispered, blowing the same word into each bubble. As fast as she created them, the hope-filled bubbles flew free of her and sailed toward that sad family.
Invisible to the people of the town, each of her bubbles bumped against the cheek of one of the four members of that family. Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! As the bubbles popped, the family was filled with the magic of hope. Within seconds, their tears began to dry.
Now the father studied their broken house. “Well, at least half of it’s still standing,” he said, perking up a little.
“Yes! We can always rebuild,” the mother added. “I’m just glad our family is safe.”
“Me too,” said the little boy, still hugging his dad’s leg.
“Goo-goo,” cooed the baby.
Elpis figured that was the baby’s way of being hopeful too.
Having heard the crack of the thunderbolt and fearing some catastrophe, neighbors were now pouring outside to gather around the family. When they saw what had happened, they stepped in to help. One man offered to bring the family wood planks. Another offered mud bricks. Still other villagers offered food, furniture, hammers, and nails. And many volunteered to spend time working to rebuild the house.
It pleased Elpis to see this nice family’s hopes lifted even higher by their neighbors’ kindnesses. However, this never should have happened. Zeus had been unforgivably careless.
Gazing up at the puffy clouds overhead, she saw that he and Pegasus had disappeared from view. Before she could think better of it, she issued a command. “Magic breeze, come to me, please!” No sooner had she uttered these words than a glittery breeze whooshed close, causing her to momentarily bob this way and that in the air.
Once she’d settled again, she told the breeze, “Please deliver this message to Zeus. Tell him that I, Elpis the Bubble, hope he will be more careful where he throws his bolts in the future. Because today one of them half destroyed a family’s home.” Feeling fresh anger at the memory of the incident, she added, “Shame on him!”
“I will deliver this message, as you wish,” the breeze promised as it gently whirled and swirled around her.
No sooner had the breeze whipped away toward the Academy than Elpis began to worry that she’d made a terrible mistake. If she’d been face-to-face with Zeus, she’d never have dared to say such things to him. After all, Zeus was King of the Gods. She was just a bubble! So maybe her message was ill-advised? It could even land her in trouble!
“I hope he doesn’t take it the wrong way and think I’m trying to boss him around,” she murmured to herself.
Zeus was the one who had created her and the trouble bubbles in the first place. While she was golden and glittery, he’d colored the other bubbles blue, purple, green, orange, yellow, pink, red, turquoise, and chartreuse. He’d meant for the nine naughty bubbles to help him and the other Olympian goddesses and gods battle their Titan foes in a terrible war called the Titanomachy.
So it was no surprise that those bubbles were not good-hearted. They’d been created to cause mischief and thwart enemies! After the war, Zeus had boxed them up to keep the world safe. Her, too, which wasn’t really fair, since she’d brought no trouble. But if her message made him mad enough, might he gloop her back inside that box with those awful other bubbles for the rest of eternity?
Another hour passed as Elpis delivered hope here and there. To a farmer who hoped for healthy crops. To a child who hoped for a baby brother.
And then… whoosh! Out of nowhere, a new wind whipped up around her. It sent her loop-de-looping in the air.
“Stop! Stop! You’ll make me pop!” she called to the wind.
When the pesky wind finally stopped blowing, she bobbed to a halt in midair, just inches from a firethorn bush. Carefully, she backed away. Many of these prickly bushes (also called pyracantha) grew in Greece. With their white flowers and red berries, they were pretty. But dangerous. To her, anyway. Bubbles did not fare well around sharp thorns!
“Message for Elpis from Zeus, King of the Gods and Ruler of the Heavens!” called the wind.
Uh-oh. Elpis groaned. “Already? That was fast.”
“Art thou Elpis?” it guessed.
“Well… y-yes,” she replied. This had to be about that note she’d sent. She was surprised Zeus would reply so quickly (or at all), but MOA wasn’t that far away. And these message winds moved fast!
Argh! Zeus probably would never have noticed she was still on the loose but for that dumb message she’d sent in the heat of anger. Now she’d drawn his attention!
“Am I in t-trouble?” Elpis asked the wind.
“Zeus summons youuu to Mount Olympusss Academeee,” it whoosh-spoke, ignoring her question.
Was this summons a good or a bad thing? If she wasn’t in trouble, maybe Zeus just wanted to discuss what had happened to that family. Or ask her advice about what he could do to prevent future such mishaps. She kind of would like to speak with him. To caution him to be more careful with his bolts!
“I’m to give you a speedy ride to MOA,” added the wind. “Let’s go. Zeus doesn’t like to be kept waiting!”
So saying, the magic wind abruptly whipped itself into a small tornado, one just big enough to carry her. Whirling gently, it wrapped itself around Elpis. Then, before she could protest, she was whisked away from the village.