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ONE - Lilith’s Dreams
TWO - A Fiery Sphere of Time
THREE - What a Hassle!
FOUR - The Oracle Gets Upset
FIVE - The Man with the Talking Horses
SIX - The Stymphalian Birds
SEVEN - The Giant’s Oxen
EIGHT - A Memorable Hoop
NINE - The Demigod Challenges the Law of Gravity
TEN - An Exceptional Inventor
ELEVEN - Emilio’s Photographic Memory
TWELVE - Emilio Gets an Earful
THIRTEEN - Spiders Everywhere
FOURTEEN - Plunging into Hades
FIFTEEN - Old Grudges
SIXTEEN - The Last Race
SEVENTEEN - A Disturbing Question
Translation by Maria Bullard
In the series Aki and the Spheres of Time:
The Crystal of Yggdrasil
The Crystal of Nammu
The Crystal of Atum
The Crystal of Rea Silvia
The Crystal of Gaea Aki and the Spheres of Time
Copyright © 2018
Illustrations and cover by Luca Rovelli
Translation by Maria Bullard
Lilith’s dreams are becoming increasingly powerful and horrifying, while the Sphere of Time has turned a frightful blood red color... It all seems to indicate that something serious and unexpected is happening on the parallel crystals. Not even the Master of Knowledge has an explanation for what is going on. So, Aki and Lilith have no choice but to set off on another exciting mission.
The Sphere beams them to the Crystal of Gaea, where Greek mythology comes to life. To discover what is happening, they must overcome gods and scary creatures, and face challenges that put their very lives at risk.
Gianni Perticaroli, who has been writing for many years, is the author of mysteries and historical fiction novels.
In The Crystal of Yggdrasil (2015), the first book in the series of Aki and the Spheres of Time that marks his debut in the world of children’s fiction, the author combines his passion for history and mythology with his love for fantasy into a compelling narrative. The Crystal of Gaea, the fifth installment in the exciting series about the adventures of the adolescent Aki, plunges the reader into the amazing, vast world of Greek mythology.
When the recess bell rang, the rain was pouring down, making it impossible to even think of going outside. The janitors would totally flip out if we came back inside dragging our muddy shoes through the school.
But Lilith beckoned me urgently to follow her because she needed to talk. Over the past several days I had noticed that she seemed to be on pins and needles, but now she was even more agitated than usual.
My friend, who was usually pretty discreet and reserved, grabbed me by the arm and dragged me off, not caring about the surprised and amused looks we got from our classmates.
“We need to talk!” exclaimed Lilith.
“That’s what I figured. But now we’ve given our classmates something to talk about,” I said. Not to mention plenty to tease us about, I thought to myself. “I would have followed you, even if you hadn’t dragged me,” I added.
Because she still wasn’t totally fluent in Italian, when Lilith was agitated about something she would tend to get confused. So she switched to Arabic, knowing I’m perfectly fluent in the language. Being able to speak and understand all languages, even ancient ones, was one of my talents as an Heir. “I keep having the same dreams every night and they get more and more intense. Something bad is about to happen,” she said. I could hear the concern in her voice.
Whereas I was gifted in languages, oneiromancy was one of Lilith’s abilities as an Heir. When she dreamed that something was about to happen, we needed to pay attention. However, often it wasn’t clear when the event was supposed to happen and that made the interpretation of her dreams much more difficult.
“You already told me that two days ago. But you still don’t know exactly what, let alone when it’s going to happen,” I said.
“The last dream was horrible,” she went on, as if she hadn’t even heard me. “I saw a man with the head of a bull...” “Like the Minotaur?”
“I guess so. He was very threatening and held a boy prisoner. I couldn’t see who the boy was because his face remained in the shadows. But that’s not all. I could sense anger, rage... The gods were very upset... Furious, actually.”
“The gods... You mean the usual ones?”
“Yes, that I’m sure of. In my dreams I keep seeing the gods of Ancient Greece.”
As Lilith looked at me with apprehension in her beautiful dark eyes, I felt like I had frogs in my stomach.
Okay, I admit it, I really like Lilith a lot. As if you hadn’t already figured that out ages ago. I would have liked to ask her to be my girlfriend, but I wasn’t sure what her answer would be. If Lilith said no it would be like getting hit over the head by Mjollnir, Thor’s mighty hammer. It would be like getting smashed to tiny little pieces.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” she prompted me. “Um... Yes, sure. We really should do something, but...”
“Aki, you’ve already said that,” she snapped back. “We have no choice but to go to the crystal. It’s the only way...”
“We’ve already discussed it.” This time I was the one to interrupt. “You wouldn’t be able to come and on my own...”
“I have to come too,” she said, without letting me finish.
“You already said that, but how can we make it happen? Your father won’t allow you to stay away from home for hours on end. And who knows if after my last trip to the Crystal of Rea Silvia, my own dad will agree to let me leave,” I explained.
“But we can’t wait. I feel that with each passing day the situation is getting worse.”
“I know, but what can we do about it?”
“Listen, if we don’t find another solution, it means that we’re just going to have to go. With or without our parents’ blessing,” Lilith insisted.
“Are you crazy?” I exclaimed. “If something were to go wrong and we ended up having to stay on the crystal for a long time, can you imagine what would happen?” I asked. I rattled off my concerns one at a time, counting on my fingers. “One: Mr. Filippotti would really be in hot water. Two: I could forget about ever going on a trip again and you more so than me. Three: indefinite grounding... Let’s just say, grounded for life. Four... Well, I’m afraid your father would forbid me even to cross your path on the street,” I said, suddenly blushing.
Lilith smiled at me. “You’re very thoughtful and sweet,” she said, making my whole face flare up.
“It’s the truth!”
“But you told me that your father knows about you... That you’re an Heir, I mean.”
“Yes, he does.”
“So why can’t you just explain... Maybe he could help us.” “No, and anyway...”
Saved by the bell.
“We have to go back to class.”
“Think about it,” Lilith urged me, as we parted ways.
As I walked back into the classroom with my head lowered, I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. At first I thought I was just imagining things, but when I looked up I was met with mocking expressions and smirks. I sat at my desk next to Giulio, trying to ignore them.
“Hey, buddy, you didn’t tell me that you and the Syrian girl... I’ve seen you two together often enough, but I didn’t think...” Giulio ventured.
“Yeah, well, do me a favor and continue to not think,” I snapped. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. She’s pretty...” he went on, but I interrupted him as someone at my back started teasing me.
“Give it a break!” I exclaimed as our math teacher, Ermanno Doldi, entered the classroom.
Order and silence were immediately restored and Mr. Doldi began the day’s lesson. I didn’t particularly like math, but I loved it that day. Even though I don’t remember a thing about the lesson.
When the bell rang announcing the end of the school day, I said some hasty goodbyes and rushed from the class, practically running to avoid being the brunt of more jokes and teasing. I left school without even waiting for Lilith, hoping she wouldn’t be upset with me. It had stopped raining. I unlocked my bike chain and hurried home.
After lunch I went to my room to study but I couldn’t seem to concentrate on schoolwork. Luckily, for the following day I only had a written test in English which, thanks to my Heir’s gift for languages, I would ace without having to study at all. Naturally, I was the best student in my English class and even the teacher was amazed that I did so well.
I thought about what Lilith had said and the urgency that she clearly felt. I had never known her to be so worried. Obviously, the dreams that continued to torment her at night must have been really awful.
I realized we couldn’t waste any more time, so I finally made a grave decision.
Someone was knocking at my bedroom door. I quickly opened my book to a random page.
“Achille, I’m going to pick up Aurora from school,” my mother said, opening the door.
My sister Aurora was in first grade. My parents had decided to enroll her in the full time school program, which turned out to be great for me because I didn’t have anyone bothering me till late afternoon.
“Okay... Hey, mom, I’d like to pop out to see dad real quick,” I said.
“How come?” she asked, somewhat astonished.
“No reason. Just to get away from my studies for a while,” I promptly replied.
“Make sure you call him first, because he might be out on visits,” she said.
My dad is a veterinarian, actually the only vet in Pieve Olimpia. “Okay,” I said.
I called dad’s office. He was there.
It took me all of two minutes on my bike.
I could have walked if I’d wanted to. Pieve Olimpia is a very small town and everything is close to everything else. Although it’s a small town, we have everything we need.
I entered dad’s clinic. There was a strong smell of wet dog fur mixed with disinfectant and dog biscuits, but I was used to it. It’s what dad’s clothes usually smelled like when he got home from work.
In the waiting room a heavyset lady leafed through a magazine for pet food while leaning on a carrier containing a black cat. Across from the lady, a boy wearing a baseball cap backwards held a drooling bulldog by its leash.
Despite their surroundings, both the dog and the cat were quite calm. I knew they were calm because I could read their minds.
My other talent as an Heir to the Superior Beings was that of being able to communicate with animals. I could read their thoughts and they understood what I said.
I knocked on the door to the examining room and my dad called out for me to wait.
“It’s me,” I said. “Come on in, then.” I entered.
There was a German Shepherd puppy on the stainless steel examining table. The pet’s owner looked on worriedly as my father examined the puppy.
As I approached, the puppy let me know what was wrong with him.
“Dad, could I have a word?”
“Sure,” he said. “Excuse me for a moment,” he said to the puppy’s owner.
“The puppy isn’t sick. He keeps throwing up because the mush they feed him is disgusting,” I whispered in dad’s ear.
“Ah, I see.”
My father had recently discovered that I was an Heir to the Superior Beings and knew about my extraordinary abilities.
He finished examining the puppy and then advised the owner to try different dog food.
“Don’t feed him anything other than what I have prescribed,” said dad.
The pet owner thanked dad and left us. “Hey, Achille. What’s up?” asked dad.
He was clearly suspicious. I hardly ever went to see him at the clinic. In fact, I didn’t have the vaguest idea when I had been there last.
“I need to talk to you,” I said earnestly. “I have to finish with the pet visits first.”
“Sure.” Then I told him what was bothering to the two animals in the waiting room so he would finish up sooner.
No other patients came in and he was done in less than half an hour.
My father put the “Out on Home Calls” sign on the clinic door before turning his attention to me.
“Have I ever told you about my friend Lilith?” I asked him. “Actually, I’ve heard more about her from your mother. She claims you have a crush on the girl,” dad said dryly, in his usual style.
Blushing, I tried to deny it.
Dad grinned. “Look, there’s nothing wrong with having certain feelings for a girl, especially if she’s as pretty as your mother claims,” he continued.
“Come on, dad, stop!” I blurted. “Did I say something wrong?” “No, but…”
“Well then, do you like this girl or is it just your mother’s idea?” “That’s not what I came here to talk about!” I exclaimed. “You’re the one who asked me if I knew your friend Lilith.”
“I know, but all you had to do was say yes or no.”
“You’re so defensive, I guess you really do like her. Anyway, let’s not talk about it anymore,” he hastened to add.
“Lilith is an Heir like me,” I said, coming straight to the point. When my father discovered about me being an Heir, about Mr.
Filippotti and the parallel crystals, at first I tried to deny it, but then I told him everything. At the time I decided not to mention Lilith, but now there didn’t seem to be any point to keeping it secret.
Dad sat there staring at me, the revelation leaving him shocked and speechless for several seconds.
“What... I mean, are you sure that...”
“We’ve traveled to the crystals together a couple of times. I didn’t tell you before because there was no reason, but now it’s different,” I said.
“Well, the thing is, Lilith has a very special talent. It’s called oneiromancy, meaning she dreams about things that are going to happen.”
“You mean she sees the future?”
“It’s not that simple. She doesn’t see the future of our time, the primary time. Her prediction dreams always concern the parallel crystals, but what she sees isn’t always clear cut so her dreams often have to be interpreted.”
“You mean she can’t foresee test questions? That’s a real pity,” dad joked.
“Dad, this is serious,” I snapped.
“I suppose it must be serious, otherwise you wouldn’t have come here,” he said. “And you wouldn’t have forced me to keep the clinic closed,” he added. I knew he hated to do that. Dad was such a workaholic!
“Actually, it’s very serious,” I confirmed.
My father took off his glasses with their old-fashioned frame from the nineties and waited for me to continue.
“I’m here to ask for your help.”
“My help? With what? Don’t ask me to help you see your girl... Lilith, because I can’t do that. If your mother found out I was... “
“Well, in a way, it’s something like that.”
“The answer is no, forget it. You’re on your own. You’re a teenager and you’ll figure out a way to see her outside of school. I never asked your grandfather for help when I was trying to date your mother.”
“No, dad, you don’t understand. I said it’s something like that. I need your help so Lilith can come with me on another trip to one of the parallel crystals,” I explained.
“You just told me you’ve already traveled together, remember? I covered for you during your trip to the crystal of... The one with the Roman gods, right?”
“And you didn’t get back by your curfew, so I ended quarreling with your mother. Not to mention that I was so concerned and afraid that you wouldn’t make it back that it must have taken ten years off my life!”
“These journeys are really challenging and you can’t always come back just whenever you feel like it. Anyway, I told you what happened.”
“Yes, I know. But can you see me going up to your mother and saying, ‘hey, you know your son Achille? Well, he’s a little late because he’s tied up trying to clear the goddess Laverna of a theft she didn’t commit. And that’s not all, he managed to get back home by hitching a ride with a giant eagle sent by the god Jupiter.’ Now, tell me, do you honestly think she would believe me or would she be afraid I had gone stark raving mad?” he snapped.
“I know she wouldn’t believe you, but you don’t have to tell mom the whole truth.”
“In any case Achille, the answer is no. I don’t want you to leave again.”
“But dad, I have to. Lilith has had some really horrible dreams and we absolutely need to find out what’s happening on the crystals. You have to help me. Please.”
“How can you ask me to help you go on a journey that could be full of obstacles and perils?”
“I’ve already gone on four trips and I know how to take care of myself,” I replied.
Well, maybe I was stretching the truth a bit. To be totally honest I should have said that things could have gone a lot worse and that there was a great deal of luck involved in getting myself out of some sticky situations.
«You confirmed the truth of what our ancestor, Ulisse Chiorri,
wrote in his diary about the parallel crystals being inhabited by mythological creatures, not all of which are necessarily friendly. And then there are the gods, some of whom are not exactly benevolent.” “That’s all true but something serious is happening and we need to understand what it is.” “Why?”
“I don’t know, but Mr. Filippotti is very worried about it. I’m sure that for someone who’s lived such a long life there’s nothing he hasn’t seen before. So if he’s concerned, it must be something really horrible.”
“By the way, how old is Mr. Filippotti?”
“Who knows. He won’t tell me, but I think his age is best calculated in centuries.”
I nodded. “Do you know who Ulisse Chiorri’s Master of Knowledge, Pitagora Oltremondo, was? Our dear Archimede Filippotti, my own Master of Knowledge. That means he was around two centuries ago and from the stories he’s told me, I can assure you he has been around a lot longer than that.”
“He must have lived through all sorts of experiences.”
“Yes, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. If he’s concerned, it means that something really bad could happen. I promise I’ll be very careful and I’ll tell you everything when I get back,” I assured him, knowing just how curious dad was to learn about all the gods and creatures that dwelt on the parallel crystals. I still remember the third degree he gave me after I got back from the crystal of Rea Silvia. He kept on asking one question after another!
I could tell from dad’s expression that he was beginning to come around. I waited, knowing it wouldn’t be long before he agreed to let me go. It hadn’t been easy, but I had done it! Now for the tricky part. I had to be careful not to mess it all up.
“I was telling you about Lilith... She’s an Heir, like me,” I picked up from where I had left off earlier.
“Yes, I got that. Will she be coming with you?” he asked me. “Well, that’s the problem. Lilith would like to come with me, but she can’t stay away from home for too long. Her father is very strict and doesn’t allow her to go out much. He would be furious with Lilith if she didn’t get home when she’s supposed to. I don’t know exactly what he’s capable of, but he would probably go so far as to turn Pieve Olimpia’s sewers inside out looking for her,” I said.
“I guess it means that if it’s absolutely necessary for you to go, and I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case, then you will have to go on your own.”
“Actually, I thought...”
Dad looked at me suspiciously. “You thought what?” “That maybe you could help us out,” I blurted.
He frowned at me, like he wasn’t sure what I meant.
“You mean, you want me to...” he began, but broke off as he tried to understand.
“You want me to help you, is that it?” he asked. I nodded.
“But how? Do you want me to kidnap your girlfriend?” he exclaimed sarcastically.
“Kidnapping seems to be a little over the top. And anyway, she’s not my girlfriend,” I replied.
“Well then, let’s hear it, what did you have in mind?”
“Well... You’re a respectable vet... Everyone in Pieve Olimpia knows who you are and you have a good reputation, so I thought... I thought you could talk Lilith’s father into...”
“Oh, sure, no big deal. Listen, Mr. Lilith’s father, you have to let your daughter embark on a journey to an unknown world because the gods, the ones that no one has believed in for thousands of years, are enraged. Done. What could be easier?” dad mocked me. “And good-bye reputation,” he added.
“But, dad,” I tried to insist.
“That’s enough! I need to reopen the clinic,” he snapped
“I thought you could tell him that you would take us on a trek through the woods to learn about the wildlife in our area. To help us with a science project,” I whined.
“It won’t work, Achille. Now go home. I’ll see you tonight,” he said, lifting the sign from the clinic door.
That evening I sat at the dinner table with my head hanging over my plate and didn’t say a word. I didn’t even react when Aurora landed a meatball she no longer wanted on my plate, splattering tomato sauce everywhere.
After dinner I said I had to finish my homework and went to my room.
I was totally disheartened.
I had played my last card and lost. Now what?
Lilith seemed determined to go to the crystal no matter what. But I was afraid that if she did it without anyone covering for her, afterwards I would never see her again. I was convinced that Lilith’s father would punish her by locking her in her room until she was twenty-five years old!
Was there really no solution?
Lilith and I had thought about it a lot, but we hadn’t been able to figure out a way that would have been totally above board.
Dad knocked on my door and came in before I had time to answer.
He walked in, closing the door behind him. “You didn’t say a word at dinner,” he said.
“I didn’t really feel like talking. We did enough talking this afternoon,” I said dryly.
“But that’s exactly what we need to discuss.”
“Again? I thought the subject was closed!” I exclaimed. “Let’s say, not entirely.”
He sat on my bed. “What do you mean?”
«I’ve been thinking about it.” “And?”
“It’s not entirely clear to me why this journey you want to go on is so important, but perhaps Mr. Filippotti could explain it better.”