On the Road Again
I was not looking forward to discussing my encounter with Kronos with Chiron. I still wanted to destroy him, but I didn’t want anyone to know that he was out there trying to get me on his side. I was already worried about everyone turning on me again when they remembered that I was the son of Hades. I didn’t need to give them another reason to think that I might be untrustworthy. If anyone found out that I had even spoken to Kronos on several occasions that might be all they needed to turn on me again. I had to keep his involvement a secret no matter what.
“So what did happen,” Annabeth asked as we walked toward the Big House.
“Oh, you know,” I said, “Some things.”
Okay, even I thought that was a stupid answer. Annabeth eyed me suspiciously. Being a daughter of Athena, I knew that she saw right through me. I tried my best to look like I wasn’t trying to hide something from her, but I knew that I wasn’t convincing her in the slightest. Luckily, she dropped the subject while we walked the rest of the way to the Big House. Of course, I would have to think up a story before we got there if I wanted to avoid discussing the titan lord.
We entered the Big House and found the usual people there. Chiron and Dionysus were sitting, well, Chiron was standing actually, at a card table and they were locked in some kind of card game. Argus was standing in the corner, leaned up against the wall and being as silent as he always was. Chiron tore himself away from his game when Annabeth and I came in.
“Another interruption,” Dionysus said.
“I’ll only be a minute,” Chiron answered him.
Chiron trotted over to us, his hooves clopping over the floor as he did, and offered us a seat at the card table, which both Annabeth and I declined. I hadn’t known him for very long, but it was clear that Dionysus wasn’t the most popular god on Olympus. Chiron shrugged and trotted back over to the table where he resumed his game with the wine god as though neither of us were there.
“I hear things went well,” Chiron said.
“They did,” Annabeth said, “We managed to drive them off.”
“Excellent news,” Chiron said, “I am sorry that I was not in the heat of the battle, but after that drakon hit me,” he trailed off and tapped on his head a few times. I noticed then that his head, as well as his arms and one of his legs, was wrapped in bandages that were soaked with blood. “Nasty creatures those lizards are,” he said.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” Annabeth said, “We dealt with them, and that’s all that matters.”
“I suppose,” Chiron said, “But I am regretful that I was of little help…Especially since…”
“It was my fault,” I interrupted him. Chiron looked up at me with a bit of shock. I knew what he was going to say. He was going to blame himself for the demigods that died during the battle. “I was the one that took on the leadership of the camp,” I went on, “If anyone is to blame for the deaths that occurred it should be me.”
Chiron stared at me for a long time and I held his gaze. A smile crossed his face. “I guess we could spend all night blaming ourselves for that,” Chiron said with a hint of laughter, “But we would never reach an agreement.”
“Maybe,” I said, “But I still feel like I should be the one held responsible.”
“Peace Hirius,” Chiron said, “There are none to blame here, those who fought chose for themselves to fight and those who died knew the risks.”
I wanted to speak against him, but I knew that he was right. I couldn’t blame myself, or Chiron, or anyone for what happened to the demigods that couldn’t join us after the battle. We knew when we marched up that hill what we were throwing ourselves into and we knew that some or maybe even all of us might not come out of it alive, but we fought none the less.
“It is sad,” Chiron said, “Very sad indeed that anyone had to die tonight.”
“Boo Hoo,” Dionysus said, “So a few demigods died, its not like it’s the first time it’s ever happened.”
A surge of anger passed through me. I stepped forward toward the god, but Annabeth kept me from attacking him. “You think you can speak that way about us,” I asked, “Those demigods were someone’s friend, someone’s family, someone’s son or daughter.” I glared at the god and he glared back. “What gives you the right to say that their deaths were meaningless just because they weren’t your children?”
Dionysus stared at me. He didn’t move and his face showed no emotion at all. “Do not patronize me boy,” he said, “I have lived for thousands of years, I have seen death split family and friends apart a million times over, do not think that I don’t understand that feeling.” The god’s expression remained stale as he went back to his card game. “Death is a part of a demigod’s life. I suggest you get used to that idea now.”
I pushed past Annabeth and darted toward the god sitting in his chair. He didn’t move an inch as I went after him. I was only a second away from punching him right in the nose when Chiron grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me back. I struggled against the centaur’s grip, but he was too strong and I was too exhausted from the battle.
“Enough of this,” Chiron said, “Now is not the time for fighting.”
Chiron let go of my arm and I pulled away from him. I looked at Dionysus. “You got lucky this time,” I said.
“Did I,” the god asked, “Or are you the lucky one?”
Before I could ask what he was talking about, I felt something moving around my legs that felt like a snake trying to wrap itself around my ankle. I looked down and saw several grape vines slithering around my feet. As I watched them, the vines retracted and disappeared into the cracks in the floorboards. I looked up at Dionysus. I couldn’t see his face clearly, but I could tell that he was smiling.
“Now that that’s settled,” Chiron said, “Let’s talk about what happened with the Minotaur, shall we?”
“Oh yeah,” I said as I turned away from the centaur in an attempt to hide my face from him, “That was all Hades’ doing.”
“It was,” Chiron asked.
“Yeah,” I said my voice a bit shaky, “He, um, he trapped me and the Minotaur in some kind of time loop. Everyone was frozen and couldn’t move and stuff.”
I could feel sweat forming on my forehead and running down the sides of my face as the room went silent. I was still facing away from Chiron, but I could feel him staring at me, evaluating the validity of what I had said. Annabeth was watching me too and was probably wondering why I hadn’t told her anything earlier. Dionysus, I was sure, wasn’t paying any attention and was probably just waiting for Chiron to make his move in their little card game. I imagined that Argus was still standing in the corner watching us all closely.
“Interesting,” Chiron commented after a long time of silence, “I suppose that it is possible, but how could Hades have accomplished such a thing.”
I felt my eyebrow twitch as Chiron spoke. I hadn’t considered that Hades couldn’t control time like Kronos could, so it wouldn’t make any sense for him to have frozen everyone other than myself and the Minotaur the way that I explained it. Luckily, I thought of an explanation that I hoped Chiron would buy.
“He used the master bolt,” I said turning around. Chiron gave me a quizzical look. “Yeah, he still has Zeus’ master bolt, with that combined with his power he was able to control time.”
Chiron continued to stare at me like I was some kind of lunatic. I knew that I was in over my head trying to convince him that something like this was possible. He had lived almost as long as the gods had. He knew more about this stuff than anyone. All I had to go by were a bunch of books, most of which were written by mortals so there was no telling how accurate they actually were. I just had to hope that something that I was saying was making sense.
“I don’t know how he could’ve done that,” Chiron said, “Zeus’ master bolt shouldn’t give him that kind of power.”
“Maybe it was something else,” Annabeth spoke up, “Maybe he has something that could give him that kind of power and he doesn’t want us to know about it.”
Chiron thought for a moment. “Perhaps,” he said, “He may have gone into Tartarus and recovered his father’s scythe, but I doubt that.” He looked out the window. “At any rate,” he went on, “How he has acquired this power is not important, the fact that he has it is what we should be worried about.”
“Do you really think that it was him that organized the monsters to attack us,” Annabeth asked.
“It very well could have been,” Chiron said, “And it might have been somebody else. Hirius claims that Hades was the one that isolated him and the Minotaur, but that is the best we can go off of.”
“So what do we do now,” Annabeth asked.
Chiron thought about the question. “We wait,” he answered.
“Wait for what,” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Chiron said, “But there is nothing that we can do until we know for sure that Hades stole Zeus’ master bolt.”
“Why don’t we just go after him,” I suggested, “If he has it, then we should just take it back.”
“IF he has it,” Chiron said, “If he doesn’t however, we would be walking right into his hands, not to mention we would be falsely accusing him, which would most likely end very badly for us.”
“So we’re just going to wait until something happens,” Annabeth asked.
“Yes,” Chiron said, “And it’s late now, so off to bed for the night, we will discuss our next move tomorrow.”
“Annabeth,” Chiron scolded.
Annabeth looked like she was prepared to argue with him all night, but she eventually gave in and left the Big House, apparently understanding why Chiron wanted her to leave. After she was gone, I stood around and waited for someone to say something, I was, of course, assuming that Chiron and Dionysus wanted to talk to me alone and that was why Annabeth was sent off, but no one spoke up. Instead, the two just continued with their game without a word.
“So,” Dionysus said after a long time, “You’ve been through a lot to get here, so I’ve heard anyway.”
I looked over at him, caught off guard by the fact that anyone had decided to speak. “Yeah,” I said, “You could say that.”
“Demigods don’t normally survive as long as you have on their own,” the god said, “And most don’t come here once they’re your age.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“It is indeed true,” Chiron said without looking up from their game, “Most half-bloods are killed off if they don’t reach camp by the time they turn twelve.” He paused for a moment as he made a move in the game. “And once they pass twelve,” he continued, “They usually stay on the outside.” He looked up at me. “So Hirius,” Chiron asked, “I’ve been wondering, why have you come to Camp Half-Blood?”
“I…” my mouth went dry as I forgot what I was going to say.
To be honest, I had completely forgotten the reason that I had gone to the camp in the first place. After the dragon attacked us, all I had been worried about was finding somewhere safe. I never even considered the fact that there was another reason that I had been trying to find Camp Half-Blood. I knew that I had come here for reasons other than attempting to escape Kronos, but what were they?
I reached into my pocket, almost unconsciously, like my body was acting on its own, telling me that the answer was with me already. I felt something, a piece of paper maybe. I pulled it out and looked at the picture of me and my sister that I had been carrying with me all this time. I couldn’t believe that I had nearly forgotten about her again. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about the picture that I was carrying too.
“I was looking for someone,” I said as it all came back to me, “My sister.”
Chiron walked over to me and looked at the picture that I was still holding. “I don’t recognize her,” he said after he studied the image for a minute, “I don’t think she’s in the camp.”
“She isn’t,” I said, “I had a little…conversation with Hades, he told me to come here, that she would show up soon.”
“Hades sent you,” Chiron inquired, “Why would he do that?”
I felt like I was going to be sick as I realized that I had just nearly condemned myself. Chiron could only come to two conclusions, the very wrong one that I was actually helping Hades and the events of the last few days were a ruse to gain everyone’s trust, or the very correct conclusion that I had been lying about Hades’ involvement in everything and that it was actually Kronos that I had been having dealings with. Either way, I was going to have to do some serious lying to dig myself out of this hole.
“Who knows,” Dionysus said before I could say anything, “The way he thinks, the boy could be here for any number of reasons.”
Chiron thought for a long moment. “I suppose,” he said, “But we’ll save it for another time. Continue, Hirius.”
“Right,” I said speaking slowly at first, “Anyway, he told me that my sister would come to this camp soon.”
Chiron continued to stare at the picture for a long time without saying a word. I was looking at the picture as I thought about how much I had changed over the years and wondered how Emily had changed as well. I thought about how many times I had seen her in my dreams and how little she appeared to have changed since we had been apart. I had to wonder if it had anything to do with the group of girls she was with.
“I wonder if she’s even alive,” Chiron said, “I would be amazed if she found her way here on her own.”
“She is,” I said, “And she isn’t alone.”
I gave Chiron a quick rundown of the dreams I had seen Emily in and described the group of girls that she was with. I didn’t know any of the girls that she was with, but I was sure that they were all demigods. I wasn’t sure how I knew that, but even in my dreams I could tell that they were all beyond normal mortals. There was only one that confused me, a woman that seemed to be the leader of the group who radiated a powerful aura, an almost god-like one.
After I finished speaking, Chiron was silent for a moment as he went into deep thought. “If I had to guess,” he said, “I would say that your sister has joined the Hunters of Artemis.”
“Artemis,” I asked, “Like the goddess of the hunt Artemis.”
“Yes,” Chiron said, “She only allows girls to join. She is the goddess of maidens as well after all.” He paused for a moment and looked at me. “I could tell you all about them, but we are short on time,” he went on, “However, you can take comfort knowing that your sister is in good hands.”
I looked down at the picture again. I thought back on everything that I had gone through since leaving New York. I had a hard time believing that I was so close to seeing Emily again. I had spent close to the last four years wandering around the country, trying to find a clue to where my sister had gone off to and now I was finally looking at the end of my journey. All I had to do now was wait.
“I’m not sure how Hades would know her location,” Chiron said, “But the hunters do show up at camp every so often, so I guess your best option is to wait here.”
“Looks like it,” I said. I put the picture back in my pocket. Dionysus stood from his seat and joined Chiron as the centaur walked toward the door of the Big House. “Wait,” I said stopping the two of them before they left. Chiron looked back at me, but Dionysus ignored me and left the room. “What about me staying here,” I asked, “I mean, I can’t stay here forever, can I?”
Chiron looked away from me as he spoke. “We are…discussing your situation,” he said, “If the gods will allow it, you could stay here as long as you like.”
“I doubt that will happen,” I said.
“Unfortunately,” Chiron said, “The gods do not look kindly on children of Hades.”
I sat down at the card table and looked down at the floor. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay at camp for very long, but I still hated to hear it being said out loud. Even if Emily was on her way there, I might not be able to stay long enough to meet her when she arrived. And what about my friends? I couldn’t drag them out of this place with me when I left. It looked like I was going to be alone again once I left.
“Don’t worry,” Chiron said, “I should be able to delay them for a little while. You can stay in the Big House until then.” I looked up at Chiron, having more to say, but he was already gone.
I made my way to the room that was set aside for me and lay down in the bed, but I didn’t sleep. I stared up at the ceiling and thought about what would happen when I was forced to leave camp. Maybe I could go with Emily if she was there. Chiron said that Artemis only accepted girls into the Hunters, but I might be able to convince her to let me tag along somehow. It didn’t seem likely, but it was the only option that I had left to me…aside from going it alone again.
I looked out the window and up at Thalia’s tree. I was starting to hate that girl for convincing me to take this journey in the first place. I still thought that it would have been better if I had died in the alleyway back then. I wondered why Thalia, or her spirit, or whatever it was, had appeared to me that day. What reason would she have to keep me from rotting like I had wanted to? Thinking about it was making me go mad, so I pulled my blanket over me and fell asleep.
The weeks passed by faster than I would have liked. The other campers had to participate in scheduled events everyday, but, since I wasn’t technically one of the campers, I was exempt from all of them. I would usually spend my days in the arena, brushing up on my swordplay and generally just messing around. At night, after dinner, everyone gathered for a sing-along. I chose not to join them and instead spent my nights up on Half-Blood Hill watching the stars and hoping that I might see Thalia again, but I never did.
The only event that I participated in was the games of capture the flag. I was the most popular player in the games. Both sides were ready to give up just about anything to get me on their side. Normally, the teams would trade chores or privileges with a cabin to gain their loyalty. The difference with me was that I didn’t have a cabin and I wasn’t actually a camper, so I didn’t have any chores or privileges to trade. Instead, I was treated kind of like a free agent. The teams would negotiate with each other, a meeting that I never got to hear about, and would decide which one of them would get me as a player. The attention was kind of nice, I almost felt like a celebrity when we played games on Friday night, but it was also really annoying. The fact that everyone treated me differently just reminded me of the fact that I didn’t belong there.
Aside from the games, I mostly kept to myself. The others were free for most of the days on the weekends, so that was the only time that I got to spend with my friends, with the exclusion of Justin and Silena. The two of them seemed to spend a lot of time with each other while we were at camp, which was mostly due to Justin’s persistent nagging for a chance to be alone with her. I wasn’t surprised that Justin was acting the way that he usually did. I did notice that he wasn’t his usual flirtatious self with Silena though. I had never seen him being shy about that kind of thing, but he was having a hard time being as open as he normally was.
I could at least count on Sarah to keep me company. I still felt weird when the two of us were alone together, but it was an easy thing to ignore. Actually, the more time that I spent with her, the more I started to think of our relationship as just being friends again. The idea of us being more was still in the back of my mind though, but I chose to ignore that too. I didn’t want to start thinking that way, especially when we might have to part ways soon.
I was getting comfortable with the life that I was building at camp, but I always kept it in my mind that I couldn’t stay there forever. Everyday, I would ask Chiron what my situation was and everyday it seemed to get worse. The longer I stayed there, the more I thought about the idea that I was going to be alone again. I was actually starting to become okay with the idea. I had gone on my own once already, it wouldn’t be hard to do it again.
We stayed at camp for almost three months. It was June when the Hunters showed up, just a few weeks before I turned sixteen. Those last few weeks kept me on edge every second. The prophecy was supposed to be fulfilled once I reached sixteen, which meant that whatever I was supposed to do to save or destroy Olympus, I was going to have to do it soon. I still had no idea what to expect, but I was on alert twenty four seven, until the Hunters arrived.
I was up on Half-Blood Hill when it happened. I was lying next to Thailia’s tree and staring up at the stars like I always did at night. I could hear the sound of the other campers singing off in the distance. As I listened to them, a different sound cut through the night air. It was hard to place, but it sounded like a cross between a bat screeching and a woman screaming.
I stood up and looked down the hill. In the field below, I saw about a dozen demigods, I assumed that they were at least. They were heading toward the camp, but something was after them. Three creatures with leathery wings flew through the air above them and swooped down at the group. They tried to shoot the creatures out of the air, but they had no luck.
From where I was standing, I could see that all of the demigods in the group were girls. I realized that they were the same group that I had seen Emily with in my dreams, although there seemed to be fewer of them than I remembered. I searched the group for my sister, but I didn’t see her anywhere. With all of the girls scattered the way they were, it would be impossible to find one person in all of the chaos.
I summoned Heartstopper and charged down the hill to help the girls. A surge of anger was passing through me. I knew that the creatures attacking the girls were the Furies, the three earth goddesses of revenge and retribution. I also happened to know that the Furies served Hades, which meant that, once again, my father was trying to manipulate things. Whatever his game was this time, I was going to end it before he went too far.
One of the Furies dove down and tried to grab at one of the younger looking girls. An arrow soared at the creature and it retreated back into the sky, barely avoiding being turned to dust. The other two sisters dove and attacked the girls. More arrows were fired at the two sisters. One of them was forced to retreat, but the other managed to grab one of the girls and pull her off of the ground.
The girl struggled to break free of the monster’s grip, but she wasn’t strong enough. The other girls turned to help, but one of them, an older one with long dark hair and coppery colored skin who appeared to be the one in charge, told them to keep going. The dark haired girl stayed behind as the others headed toward the camp again.
I passed the group, all of them ignoring my presence as they made their way up Half-Blood Hill. The girl that stayed behind was trying to get a shot at the Fury that was holding her ally captive, but the other two were keeping her busy. The two Furies that were free dove at the girl in turn, forcing her to turn and dodge each of their attacks just so she could stay alive.
One of the Furies dove at the girl again. Now that I was close enough, I was able to get between the Fury and her prey. The monster retreated back as I appeared and tried to fly into the air again, but I grabbed her by the leg and slammed her into the ground. The monster stood and jumped at me, but I dodged around her claws and stabbed her in the chest. The Fury let out a pain filled screech as she turned to dust.
I turned around and saw that the girl had her bow aimed at the second Fury who had taken flight and now hovered several feet over the ground in front of her enemy. The third Fury appeared to be taunting the two of us while her captive continued to struggle against her grip. The free Fury eyed the girl in front of me with a murderous intent in her gaze.
The Fury flew forward. The girl fired an arrow, but the Fury dodged it with ease. She darted toward the girl and swiped at her with her claws. The girl rolled away from her attacker and tried to hit the monster with her bow, but the monster moved out of her reach. I jumped in and slashed at the Fury. The monster ducked under my sword and tried to cut me with her claws. I sidestepped the attack and kicked the Fury in the chest, forcing her to take flight again and retreat.
The dark haired girl appeared next to me and took aim at the monster again. “What do you think you’re doing,” she asked me.
“Ummm,” I said, “I think I’m saving your life.”
The girl kept her eyes on the Fury, but I could tell that she would be staring daggers at me if she could. “Your assistance is welcomed,” she said, “But don’t think that I need it.”
“You’re welcome,” I said.
The Fury let out a screech as if reminding us that she was still there. It flew forward, dodging another arrow as the girl shot at it. I jumped forward and used Heartstopper to block the monster’s claws as she swung at us. I pulled away and slashed at the monster, but she dodged my attack and swiped at me. I stepped back, but her claws raked across my chest, drawing a bit of blood, but not enough to cause any real damage.
I ducked under the monster’s claws as she swung at me a second time. I stepped forward and slammed the butt of my sword into the creature’s nose. She stumbled back and began swinging her claws at me in a wild frenzy. I dodged each attack in turn and waited for an opening, but the Fury was too fast. She swung at me over and over, forcing me to back off of her until I was just barely able to keep from getting my head taken off.
I used my sword to block the monster’s attacks, but she was too fast and a lot stronger than she looked. Before I knew it, my feet fell out from under me and I was on my back with the Fury over me, a smile on her face. The monster moved in closer, but then suddenly let out a painful screech and turned to dust as she did. In her place was the girl, a bronze dagger in her hand.
Before I could thank her for saving me, she turned around and looked off into the distance. I stood up. “Don’t help me up or anything,” I said as I stood, “I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself.”
The girl ignored me and scanned the skyline. “The other one’s gone,” she said. She stomped her foot in frustration. “I promised I wouldn’t lose anyone else.”
I stood next to her and looked over the horizon. I saw the last Fury. It was far off, too far for anyone that couldn’t see through the darkness to be able to see it, but it was still close enough for me. It was still holding the girl it had grabbed, but she appeared to be unconscious now since she wasn’t moving at all.
“There it is,” I said.
The girl looked to where I was pointing. “Where?”
I wrapped a shade around the Fury, which taxed me more than I thought it would since I was so far from it. I willed the darkness to move toward me and it obeyed, pulling the Fury and its captive with it. After a few seconds, the Fury was only a couple of inches from where we were standing. The girl she was holding fell from the monster’s grip and rolled down to the foot of the hill.
“Right there,” I said in answer to the dark haired girl’s question.
“Phoebe,” she said ignoring me for the second time. She ran past the Fury and down to the girl it had been holding.
“Oh thanks for saving her,” I whispered to myself, “Oh no problem, it was my pleasure.”
The Fury stared at me, a hint of anger in her eyes. I looked her over, wondering if she had any tricks to pull on me. Even when they were tied down, monsters almost always had a way to turn the tables on you. That was why I never trusted any of them even when they didn’t seem to stand a chance.
“My father sent you,” I said. The Fury continued to stare at me without a word. “Didn’t he?”
The Fury was silent for a time. “He did,” she said.
She laughed. “You think I would tell you?”
I stared the creature in the eye and put all of my strength into my words. “I do,” I said, “And you will.”
The Fury’s look became dazed and she stumbled with her words for a moment. “I don’t remember,” she said, “Only that we were meant to force the Hunters to Camp Half-Blood.”
“You don’t remember,” I asked, “What do you mean?”
The monster shook her head at me. “Simply that,” she said, “I cannot recall every detail.”
I stared at the Fury. It was entirely possible that she was lying to me, that I wasn’t controlling her and that she was trying to lead me astray, but I was sure that I was in control. Maybe she really didn’t remember why they were sent after the Hunters. Maybe Hades had somehow erased their memories after the task was complete knowing that I would be able to force them to tell me their intentions. It might have sounded crazy, but anything was possible when you were dealing with a god.
I had more questions, a lot more, but the Hunter girl had other ideas. Before I could say any more to the Fury, she appeared behind the monster and used her dagger to cut its throat. The monster screeched in the same way that its sisters had done and turned to dust the same as they had.
I looked at the girl, her friend conscious and standing next to her. “I wasn’t done,” I said.
She sheathed her dagger and looked at me. “Well I was,” she said.
Our eyes locked in a violent stare. I didn’t know what her problem was, not that I wasn’t used to people hating me, but she was acting like a brat if you asked me. I mean, I know I’m not the most likeable person in the world, but a bit of appreciation for saving her from being sliced to pieces would’ve been nice. Besides, I did not have time to deal with this.
“Well…thanks,” I said, “For helping me.”
The girl’s face went from anger to shock in a matter of seconds. Clearly I had caught her off guard. “Well,” she said, “I suppose I would’ve been in trouble if you hadn’t been there.”
“Was that your version of a thank you,” I asked.
The girl looked at me and her shock was replaced by anger again. “Did you expect more,” the girl said, “You helped me, I am showing my appreciation.”
I backed off, holding my hands up as if I were surrendering to her. “Okay, no need to get angry with me,” I said, “Look, just tell me this, are you with the Hunters of Artemis?”
“We are,” the girl answered.
“Good,” I said. I pulled the picture of me and Emily from my pocket and showed it to the girl. “My sister and I have been separated for a long time,” I told her, “I think she might be with your group.”
The girl looked at the picture closely. She nodded for her friend to take a look at it as well. “Do you know her,” she asked her, “I don’t remember her.”
“I do recognize her,” the other one said, her name was Phoebe I remembered, “I think her name was Emily.”
“Yes,” I said a little more enthusiastic than I would have liked, “Is she with you?”
Phoebe looked at me, a bit of sympathy in her eyes. She shook her head at me. “The Furies have been plaguing us for several days, almost chasing us to the camp,” she explained, “They carried off more than a few of our friends and I think your sister was one of them.” She went silent as her words lingered. “I’m sorry,” she said after a moment, “But your sister is probably dead.”
The picture slipped from my hand as I stood there in disbelief. That couldn’t be true. Emily couldn’t be dead, not after everything I had gone through to find her, not after how much I suffered to get this far. It couldn’t end like this, it just couldn’t. She had to be alive. I didn’t care what this girl said, Emily was still alive. Somehow, someway, she must have found a way to survive, even if she was taken by the Furies.
A new wave of anger surged through me. I wasn’t even sure who I should be angry at. I was angry at Thalia for setting me off on this hopeless journey in the first place. I was angry with Artemis for stealing my sister away from me. I was angry with Hades for sending the Furies after the Hunters. I was angry at the gods, at the Hunters, at everyone at Camp Half-Blood, and even at Sarah and Justin even though I wasn’t sure why I was. I didn’t know who deserved my hatred, but, right now, I was angry at the whole world.
It was Hades fault, I knew that. It was always his fault. He had manipulated everything from the very beginning. Somehow, he must have been the one that sent me on this journey. He sent me to the camp, he sent the Furies after my sister and the Hunters, and he was the one that wanted to use me to destroy Olympus.
I looked out into the field. That was when I saw him. A man was standing far away in the field. He was wearing a black robe and he almost appeared to be a ghost in the dark field. I saw his eyes, two red orbs that looked like two small flames glowing in the distance. It was Hades. He was standing there just out of my reach like he always was mocking me because I would never catch him. My vision began to turn red as my anger burned brighter. Before I knew what was happening, I was running toward the ghostly Hades with the two girls calling after me.
I didn’t care about anything anymore. All I wanted was for Hades to pay for everything he had done. I wanted him to suffer as much as I had. I ran toward him, but no matter how far I ran, I never got any closer to him and, eventually, I collapsed from exhaustion.
I lay there for a long time. I wasn’t sure where I was anymore, or what I was doing, all I wanted to do was lay there and die. It didn’t matter what I did anymore. If Emily really was dead, then I had no reason to go on. I had no reason to fight. Sure, I could go after Hades, or Kronos, but what difference did it make if Emily was dead. The one thing keeping me alive was gone now.
“The gods can be cruel can’t they,” I heard someone say.
I stood up and looked to the sound of the voice. There I saw a man standing just a few feet away from me. He was wearing a pin-striped suit and he had long, thick, gray hair and a neatly trimmed beard to match. He looked down at me, his eyes looking like two grey storm clouds, like thunder might shoot out of his eyes at any moment.
“Yes,” the man continued, “We can be indeed.”
I rubbed my eyes and stared at the man, wondering if I was dreaming. “You’re…” my voice trailed off before I could finish.
“Zeus,” the man said like it was a question, “Yes.”
I stood in awe of the man, the god of the sky, the king of Olympus, the supreme god of the Olympians, and the one god that scared me more than any other, Zeus. A million ideas passed through my mind for why he was there, none of them good. My entire life, I had lived with the fear that Zeus might decide to vaporize me into a pile of demigod dust at any moment, and now he was here, standing right in front of me. The only explanation was that he had finally decided to get rid of me.
I gripped my sword, reminding myself that it was still in my hand. I held the blade up so I could defend myself. “You’re here to kill me right,” I asked. The god didn’t answer me. “I won’t go down without a fight,” I said.
I felt like a total hypocrite as I spoke to him. A moment ago, I was lying on the ground thinking that the only option left to me was to die and now I was getting ready to fight a god in order to stay alive. I don’t know what was compelling me to do it, but part of me still wanted to live.
Zeus stared at me, his expression hard. “Peace,” the god said, “We will not fight, not now.”
I was surprised by his words, but I kept my sword ready just in case. “Then why are you here,” I asked.
“To keep you from giving up,” Zeus said.
“What,” I asked, “Why?” The god was silent and simply stared at me as if he were wondering the very same thing. “Why keep me alive,” I asked, “Why not kill me and get it over with? Wouldn’t that be easier than waiting to see if I’m a threat or not? WHY AM I STILL ALIVE!?”
Zeus stared at me for a long time in silence. “I often wonder the same thing,” he said, “I could have been rid of you at any time, but I have allowed you to live. Why? I cannot be sure myself, but my daughter seems to think that you will be our ally.”
“Your daughter,” I asked, “You mean Thalia?”
Zeus nodded. “She went out of her way to contact you after your sister disappeared,” he said, “I do not know myself how she managed it, but she must believe that you will do something great if she did, and I trust her judgment.”
I looked at the god in surprise. “But what should I do now,” I asked, “I mean, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, or where I should go, or…anything.”
“You know where to go,” Zeus said, “You must find your sister.”
I was about to ask him what he meant, but I understood. Whether Emily was still alive somehow or if she was dead, one thing was definitely true. She was with Hades. That must have been what the Furies were sent for. Hades must have sent them to either capture or kill Emily. Either way, she was in the Underworld and that was where I had to go. Of course, I also knew that, if I was right, then Hades wanted me to go to the Underworld and that I was playing right into his hands, but I would have to deal with that once I got there. Even if I didn’t want to play his game, I didn’t have much of a choice.
“I do,” I said in answer to the god, “And thank you.”
“Do not thank me,” Zeus said, “Simply pray that Thalia was not wrong about you.” The tone of his voice told me that I was going to be in trouble if his daughter was wrong.
I had more to say to Zeus, but I was interrupted when I heard someone call to me. I looked over and saw a group heading toward me. When they were close enough, I realized that it was Sarah, Justin, Silena, Annabeth, and Clarisse. They were waving to me and apparently didn’t notice the fact that Zeus was standing next to me. I guess that I should have realized that he had disappeared already.
“Where’d you run off to man,” Justin asked, “You had those two girls scared silly.” I told the others what had happened, what Phoebe told me, seeing Hades, my talk with Zeus, who I tried to introduce before finally realizing that he was gone. After I finished, everyone was silent.
“Hirius,” Sarah said after a long time, “I’m sorry.”
“She’s still alive,” I said, which put everyone into shock, “I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but I know she’s still alive and she’s with Hades.” The others went silent again.
“Dude,” Justin said, “I think you’ve lost it this time.”
“He might be right,” Annabeth said. Everyone looked at her. “I’ve heard that Hades’ children can sense whenever someone dies,” she explained, “If anyone can be sure that she’s still alive, it’s Hirius.” The air fell silent for the final time.
“So what does this mean,” Sarah asked.
I didn’t want to answer her, but I knew what it meant. “It means that it’s time for me to leave,” I said, “I have to go to the Underworld and find Emily.”
The others looked at each other. None of them wanted me to leave, but they knew better than to try and convince me otherwise. “Then we’re coming with you,” Sarah said.
“No,” I said, “I knew that you would want to, but I’m going alone this time. Besides, you guys can’t leave camp without getting a quest.”
“Well, yeah, but…”
“He’s right,” Annabeth said interrupting Sarah, “We’re not allowed to leave, but Hirius can do whatever he wants. We can’t stop him or go with him.”
“That sucks,” Clarisse said, “Why shouldn’t we be able to go with him?”
“I hate it as much as you do,” Annabeth said, “But we can’t do anything about it.”
I looked over them. “I’m sorry,” I said, “But this is good-bye.” I turned to walk away, but I didn’t get very far.
“Hirius,” I heard Justin and Sarah say in unison. I turned to look at them. They looked like they were ready to punch me. “Why do you keep forgetting about our promise,” Sarah asked.
“Yeah,” Justin said, “You’re not going anywhere without us.”
“Save it,” Sarah said, “I don’t care what the camp rules say, we’re coming with you. End of story.”
I looked over the two of them. They looked as determined as ever. I didn’t think that I would ever get over how stubborn those two were. Usually, it was pretty annoying, but times like that made me glad that they were the way that they were. Even if I thought that I could do it alone, I knew that I would fail if those two weren’t with me.
“Well,” Annabeth said, “I guess I might be able to convince Chiron that you guys got lost or something.”
I looked up at her, a smile on her face and mine. “Thanks,” I said.
“Hey,” she said, “Thank me when you guys get back.” She was quiet for a moment. “You are coming back right?”
“Definitely,” I said.
“Good,” she said, “Then I’ll make sure that you’ll be welcome when you get here.”
I smiled. “Thanks,” I said.
Clarisse grabbed me by the neck and wrapped me in a one armed head lock. “You better hurry back,” she said, “We need you to keep the blue team in their place.” She let go of me and looked at Sarah. “You too,” she said, “Someone needs to bring some spunk to that sissy Aphrodite cabin.”
“I resent that,” Silena said. She looked at me. “But I will miss you guys.” She came up and hugged each of us in turn, ending with Justin. Those two shared a moment. I didn’t hear anything that was said between them, but I was fine with giving them their space.
With our good-byes over with, Annabeth, Clarisse, and Silena turned and started back for the camp. Sarah, Justin, and I stood and watched them until they disappeared beyond our sight. The three of us continued to stare at Half-Blood Hill as we stood there, wondering how long it would be until we could return.
Justin was the first to break the silence. “Well,” he said, “I guess it’s off to the land of the dead now.” He turned around and started walking. Before he had taken more than two steps, he stopped and turned to me and Sarah. “So,” he said, “How do we get to the Underworld anyway?”
“DOA Recording Studios,” I said. I didn’t know where that had come from, or how I knew that it was true, but I was sure that was how we were getting into the Underworld.
“Alright then,” Justin said, “Time to go back to Los Angeles.” With that, we started down the road.