Authors: Sheri Lyn
GOATED BY THE GODS
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Gae Gae Press
Palm Harbor, Fl 34685
Goated By The Gods
Copyright © 2016 by Sheri Lyn
Cover by Ash Arceneaux
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Property of Sheri Lyn
To everyone who has a dream that one day they will find their other half. I hope the Gods and Goddesses help guide you on the journey to everlasting love.
To Koda, the love of my life. You have brought me happiness and unconditional love. Without you, I don’t know if I would have made it. I wish I could keep you by myside forever.
Zach surveyed the young faces that surrounded the campfire and smiled contentedly. These kids didn’t get to do many fun things in their lives and he and his brothers were happy to help in any way they could. The best thing they had ever done was start this camp for kids like them.
Tomorrow they would head back to the orphanage they lived in and with any luck, have good memories to hold them over for a time.
“We have time for one more story, gang, then it's time for bed. We have to leave early tomorrow to catch the bus back home,” one of the counselors announced with a stern look at the faces of the kids staring up at her.
“Mr. Zach, will you tell us the last story, please?” a young voice piped up eagerly, a round of agreements echoing the plea.
Zach glanced around the campfire at the expectant faces and the smirking ones of his brothers.
“How many of you have heard tales of the gods?” He glanced around, waiting for anyone to respond, then with a sigh he continued.
“There is an old myth that my family likes to pass on. I will tell it to you, but then you must agree to go to bed without fuss for your counselors. Agreed?”
A chorus of “Yes, sir” filled the air.
“Good, now the story begins with the god Thor, who drives a chariot through the sky.” Zach paused and glanced to the child dancing in his seat with excitement. Did he have to pee? Was he bored? What the hell did the kid want already? Zach glanced to the counselors with a look of alarm flashing across his face.
“Did you have a question, Michael?” the counselor asked with a smile on her face.
“Yes, Ms. Jackie, I do. What is a chariot?”
“Oh, um, yeah, sorry. A chariot is like a wheeled bucket type thing that horses, or in Thor’s case goats pull. Does that make sense to you guys?”
The kids gave a chorus of “Yes” and nods of agreements.
Zach cleared his throat and continued on with the story. “Each night, Thor would kill, cook and eat the goats, all but the bones. When he was finished eating, he’d take the bones and wrap them in cloth and in the morning the goats would be reborn to pull his chariot again.”
Zach took a breath and let it out in a rush. He always hated this next part. The stupidity of one kid had doomed the whole family for eternity.
“One night, Thor stopped at a peasant, um, poor farmer’s home and offered to share his goat meal with them in exchange for staying the night. During the meal, the poor farmer’s son broke one of the goat's bones to get the marrow or, um, meat from inside. The next morning when the goats came back to life, one of them had a broken leg. In anger, Thor cursed the poor farming family to walk the earth as shapeshifters. They were men and goats.”
“Why is that a curse? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to be a goat and a man?” Michael asked uncertainly.
“It would have its benefits, that's true, but could you imagine telling a girl or boy you liked that you were part goat?” Zach waited for their laughter and snickers to die down before he continued. “All right, gang, that’s it. Off to bed with you, and I hope you had fun this week.”
The brothers sat alone by the fire, listening to the cracks and pops of the glowing embers. “You know I hate when you tell that story, but you still do it every time,” Quentin grunted out.
“I sure do, and that’s just one of the reason’s I tell it,” Zach replied
“Knock it off, you two. Now isn’t the time to fight over what can’t be changed. We are what we are. The gods know we have tried to undo that damn curse. Thor is as stubborn as the day is long. Besides, you were right, Zach, there are some benefits to this crap,” Jared tossed out with a smirk.
“Yeah, like what?” Zach asked belligerently.
“There isn’t much we can’t climb, which has saved how many lives since we joined the rescue crew?” Jared said as he walked away from the warmth of the fire.
Thor looked down upon the Isle of Man and contemplated his past actions. He hadn’t meant to let the curse go for so long, but things kept coming up and before he knew it, the years on earth had passed swiftly. He sometimes forgot how short human lives were; when you were immortal, time had little value. He desperately wanted to make amends with the farmer's family for spiting them. Especially when in all honesty, he had healed the goat’s leg with his powers. He just needed to let his anger cool down, as they say, and the next thing he knew it had been a couple thousand years.
“Have you figured out what you are going to do yet?” Thor’s wife, Sif, asked as she approached him.
“I have been watching the farmer’s descendants and can’t in good faith take away their ‘curse,’ for look what they have done with it. They save countless lives because of their abilities. The goat is a mighty animal. There are only a few things it can’t climb, and they are natural escape artists. No, I can’t take the curse away, but perhaps I can make it up to them.”
Sif’s laughter filled the space, “And just how do you propose to do that?”
“Why, wife, I shall find them their mates. What better way to make them happy than to give them the other half of their hearts?”
She scoffed at his ridiculous suggestion, “Again I ask, how do you propose to do that? You have no abilities to discover their mates, unless you have been hiding something from me.”
“Simple, my arrogant wife, I will ask Freyja for help. She is the goddess of love after all. She must be able to help me in this matter.”
“Oh, do please summon her, I can’t wait to see how this goes.”
“I am not Odin to be obeyed, I can’t just summon her. But I did save her from two different marriage proposals to unworthy beings. The least she can do is assist me in this matter.”
Thor looked up to see Freyja approaching them with a look of impatience on her face. “Well, look who has graced us with her presence.”
“Tell me what it is you wish of me. I could hear you from a mile away blathering on and on and it became bothersome,” Freyja said
“I need to right a wrong I committed many years ago, and I need your help.”
“What service could I provide the great Thor?”
“Help me find the true mates of the sons of the farmer I cursed. You are a goddess of lust and love, surely you can discover their mates.”
“I could, but why should I help you? What do I get in return?”
“What do you want? There are no battles we fight like we used to, the world has become complacent to our existence. How about in return for the gifts I gave you so long ago, of your most beloved blue cats that pull your chariot through the sky?”
“Fine, who is it?” Thor pointed the brothers out and watched in silence as Freyja examined the men. He wasn’t sure how long this would take, but his excitement grew as her laughter filled the room.
“Oh, this is going to be fun.” She pointed, “His mate is right under his nose and he doesn’t have a clue. Wonder how he feels about half-bloods? His mate is a half-troll who has become something of a recluse. He spends a lot of his time in those very mountains the brothers climb and his name is Gareth. When I locate the others, I will let you know. In the meantime, have fun.”
Freyja turned and walked away in a huff of impatience, mumbling under her breath about gifts not being worth the trouble.
“What has you smirking, Thor?” Loki asked as he walked up to stand beside them.
“Loki, my friend, how would you like to have some fun?”
“You know I am always up for causing some mischief, I mean some fun.”
Thor laughed and returned his attention to the mortal realm once more. “Soon, my boys, you shall have your heart’s desire, whether you are ready or not.”
“Quentin, Jared, let’s go. We got a call for a missing hiker,” Zach hollered down to his brothers.
Zach moved to the front hall closet, grabbed his gear and pulled his brother’s gear out. “Thanks,” Jared said as he picked his up, running for the jeep to get it packed and ready to go. Zach turned to look for Quentin, who was nowhere in sight. “Quent, let’s go. Time is of the essence, man.”
Quentin came running from the office. “Sorry, I’m ready. Let’s go,” he said as he barreled past Zach.
The three men stowed their gear and climbed in their four-wheel drive jeep. “What do we know?” Jared asked as he started the vehicle.
“Hiker left word at the ranger station he would be back yesterday. They lost contact with him about midday and haven’t been able to ping his GPS since. Bad storms are moving in so they put a call out,” Zach recited from the phone call he had received.
“Where was his last known location?” Quentin questioned.
Zach grimaced, “That’s the tricky part. His last radio transmission reported that he was on Devil’s Peak. They don’t know if that was a mistake and his GPS was giving off false readings or if the guy was that far off course. They had spoken to the hiker every day and he was on the course he had laid out at the ranger station. There were even hikers who returned who said they had seen him on that trail.”
“I’m confused. Why did they call us if they don’t think he is on Devil’s Peak?” Jared asked.
“They are sending their crew out to check the trail and different areas that way. On the off chance he is somehow on Devil’s Peak, they called us in. We are the best and they know it. Have you guys been watching the radar? We have a limited amount of time before that snowstorm comes in. If this guy is still up there and it hits, he won’t survive.”
The three men grew quiet at Zach’s words. They, better than most, knew how treacherous that terrain was. If they hadn’t been part goat, they wouldn’t be able to climb that mountain in the best of weather.
Silence filled the jeep as the men drove to the base of operations at the entrance to the park. They had to be mentally and physically prepared for what they would face up there. Yes, they had the advantage with their shifter abilities, but nothing was ever foolproof.
Zach was pulled from his thoughts when they reached their destination. He hated that people got lost in the mountains and he and his brothers were called in, but he loved being outdoors. He climbed out of the jeep and took a deep breath of the fresh, clean air. The smell of the trees and dirt, the cool wind blowing and the beautiful sunlight dappling through the trees almost made it seem like heaven on earth. If only they weren’t here because someone was in danger.
“Let’s check in with Mack and get our assignment before we unload,” Zach called out to his brothers.
They made their way to where a group of men and women stood assembled in a circle. He knew all of them by sight and some of them by name. He and his brothers weren’t part of the regular crew, but they had been called in enough to be recognized and acknowledged. “Welcome, boys. It's always a pleasure to see you, just wish it wasn’t under these circumstances,” Mack called out.
“Now that we all are here we can begin the debriefing. We have a male, approximately thirty-five years of age. He is an experienced hiker and amateur climber. He left word a week ago at the ranger station that he would be back yesterday morning. He made arrangements to check in via his satellite phone once a day to let them know his progress and if he had any issues arise. He failed to check in or show up as he had scheduled. We have hikers who reported seeing him along the trail and everything was fine they stated.”
Mack sighed and rubbed a hand down his face in exhaustion. “His last transmission is what has us confused. His GPS coordinates have him high on Devil’s Peak, but the day before he was over sixty-five miles in the opposite direction. “
“What is our instructions then? How are we handling this?” one of the rescuers asked.
“We are going to concentrate on the trail we know he was on. The Maddux brothers are here because they can safely and quickly get to Devil’s Peak and check it out for us. I don’t think our hiker is there, but I can’t afford not to check it out.” Mack nodded his head at Quentin’s raised hand. “What’s on your mind, son?”
“It seems pretty farfetched that based on one set of GPS coordinates, you are sending us to the mountain. Is there something you aren’t telling us?”
“We received a call from a local plane flying overhead who said he was relaying a mayday call from the mountain. We know from past experience that the reception up there makes it practically impossible to send out signals. The pilot also reports seeing smoke for a moment. The odd thing about all of it is that it only lasted for about two minutes and it all disappeared.
The signal we could understand, but the smoke was just gone and the pilot couldn’t find a trace of it at all, not even a plume in the sky above like if it had been doused.” Mack groaned and looked away. “I know this sounds insane, but we have to check it out. I don’t want to send a whole team up there for what could be a wild goose chase. I won’t be able to sleep without checking it out either though. You boys can do it and get back in one piece, you have proven that time and time again.”
Zach nodded his head in understanding and turned to get his gear from the jeep. It didn’t matter if it sounded crazy or not, they had to check it out. For that matter, who would believe people could shift into goats? With the gods, the brothers knew nothing was impossible.
Quentin and Jared walked up and rifled through their bags, double-checking that everything was in order and nothing was missing.
“Ya’ll ready for this?” Jared asked with a hint of excitement in his voice. Zach couldn’t help but smile. Being out in the forest and the mountains with his brothers was one of his favorite things in the world to do.
“Let’s hit it. If we hoof it, we can make it to the base of the mountain by dark,” Jared responded.
“Really, you are such a dipshit. Did you have to say it like that?” Zach groused out.
The brothers laughed at his disgruntled tone. It didn’t take much to rile him these days. They grabbed their gear, checked in with Mack and then headed out.