So, it turned out that the city would be a harder place to search than I had thought. I was planning on doing everything alone, but it appeared that I would need some help. And just where was I supposed to get it? I didn’t have any family. I didn’t have any friends. There was no one that I could turn to since I was still technically a wanted criminal. All I had with me was a picture of me and Emily that had been taken while we were at the orphanage and that wasn’t really much for me to go on. Okay, so I jumped the gun a bit. Maybe I should have made a plan, gotten some supplies first, but I was only twelve.
I went into the city again, after having gotten lost and walking in a huge circle the first time, but this time I was planning for a much longer search. I managed to steal a nice backpack from one of the many stores I had to pick from. I didn’t have much that I needed to carry, but I still thought that it would come in handy. I also got my hands on a bit of money, some food, and a couple of extra sets of clothing. I went back to the alley. I changed into one of the new sets of clothes that I had stolen and packed everything else away. I was ready to leave now, but there was one thing that I wanted to try first.
I looked out at the entryway to the alley. I concentrated. I never could figure out how I had done it before, but I just focused on the memory of it and tried to remember how it felt. It worked. I felt my consciousness reaching out and spreading through the city like wildfire. I couldn’t control where it went, but the fact that I had managed to do it was enough for me. I felt the energy retract and a moment later I heard something running towards me from the street.
Within seconds, a massive dog was standing at the entryway to the alley, glaring at me with its glowing red eyes. I watched it carefully. I had never been attacked by any of the creatures that I had summoned, but that didn’t make them any less dangerous. The dog took a step forward and then another. It cautiously walked into the depths of the alley as though it were afraid of getting too close to me. I stood silently until the beast was standing in front of me with its massive tail wagging.
“Hello,” I said. (So, Hirius, now we’re talking to oversized dogs that might want to kill you?)
The beast stared at me.
“I’m Hirius,” I said. The dog did nothing. “Do you have a name?”
It remained silent and still as ever. I don’t know what I was trying to do. I figured that if I could talk to snakes then maybe I could also communicate with these strange creatures that I was somehow able to summon. However, that was not the case. Either these creatures couldn’t talk, or this one was just really shy.
“I’m looking for my sister,” I told the beast.
It continued to stare at me with its crimson eyes. The creature seemed to have some kind of reaction when I mentioned my sister. I’m not sure why it responded, but it was at least a sign that it was willing to help me. The beast tilted its head forward as though it were nodding to me. That was when I realized that I was looking at the same beast that had helped me when I was nine.
“Can you help me,” I asked, “She looks like this.”
I pulled the picture out of my pocket and showed it to the dog. I didn’t think that it would do any good to show it what Emily looked like, but it was the only thing that I could think to do. The dog stared at the picture for a moment. Then, it stepped forward and began to sniff at the picture. It walked away and over to the mattress that we had used to sleep on. It stepped up onto the mattress and began sniffing it as well.
“No, no,” I said, “This is not the time for a nap. I need your help.”
The dog either didn’t hear me, or it was ignoring me. It continued sniffing at the bed as though I were not even there. After a moment, it jumped off and bounded over to me. It stood so that I was facing its side. I looked at the dog, not knowing what it wanted me to do, and after some time, the dog looked back at me like it was waiting for something. I stepped forward, realizing what the dog wanted from me, and climbed onto its back. I secured myself into a riding position and grabbed onto a handful of fur in front of me, since there was nothing else to hold onto.
The dog stood up straight. I was raddled around a bit, but I managed to stay on it. I imagined that this must have been what riding on a horse would feel like, though a horse would be a bit taller. The dog bounded forward, running at top speed, and took off into the streets of New York. It was faster than I had thought. I held onto it as tightly as I could, but I was just barely staying on. The buildings around me were a blur, I couldn’t even figure out where we were. Every so often, the dog would slow down and sniff at the air, and then it would take off again, nearly throwing me off of its back.
It ran for hours. I wasn’t sure how far we had gone, or even where we were when it stopped, but I was glad to be back on the ground. After I assured myself that I was still alive, I noticed that we were somewhere outside of the city now on the side of the highway leading into the rest of the state. I looked at the dog. Its ears were drooping downward now and its head was lowered. I couldn’t read a dog’s emotions very well, but I guessed that it had lost Emily’s scent. So it was true then. She wasn’t in the city anymore.
The dog whimpered. “It’s okay,” I said.
Now things had become complicated. If Emily wasn’t in the city anymore then I would have to search the rest of the state and maybe even the rest of the world if it came to that. I looked at the highway trying to figure out where I should go to next. The logical step would be to go to the nearest town or city and search there. Emily couldn’t have gotten far in just four days, not by herself anyway, so she had to be nearby. I looked at the dog still whimpering in front of me.
“Hey,” I said, “Maybe there’s something else that you can help me with.”
I patted the beast on the head. It perked up right away and its tail began wagging again. It sat waiting for a new command. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the creature was little more than a loyal dog like any other, though this dog seemed to be something straight from hell. I guess that was a good name for it then, a hellhound.
“My sister isn’t in the city anymore,” I said though I was sure that the hellhound already knew that, “But that doesn’t mean anything, I still have to find her, but I’ll need your help. Do you think you can take me to the nearest city?”
The hellhound stared at me for awhile like it was wondering how to go about its new command. It turned so that I was facing its side once again. It looked at me as if to say, hop on. I climbed onto its back and held on tight again. I was prepared for the creature’s immense speed this time. Well, I would have been, if it hadn’t taken off before I could secure myself properly. Before I knew it, the hellhound was charging along at top speed down the busy highway, leaving me to hold onto its fur with one hand.
I watched as the cars around us, which had to be traveling pretty fast themselves, were left behind in the hellhound’s dust. I’m sure that most of them saw us, but it didn’t’ seem like there was any type of reaction. The hellhound slowed down so that it was speeding along right next to one of the cars on the road. In the driver’s seat of the car next to us sat a fat, middle-aged, bald man wearing a large pair of glasses. I waved to him, but he didn’t seem to notice me. Maybe none of these people could see us.
I tightened my grip on the hellhound so that I would be able to hold on when it sped up again. I wasn’t sure what it was doing, but it appeared to be sniffing the air again. It must have been trying to pick up Emily’s scent once more. I was kind of happy to see it working so hard to help me. It felt like I actually had a friend for once, a big scary dog friend, yes, but a friend none the less.
I pulled myself up so that I could speak to the hellhound again. “Hey,” I said, “You never said whether or not you had a name.” It didn’t say anything. I knew that it couldn’t talk, but it felt right to ask it about this. After all, if it was going to help me, it would need a name, I couldn’t just keep referring to it as ‘the hellhound’ the entire time. “Okay then,” I said, “How about I name you?” It remained silent, but I guessed that meant that it was okay with my idea. I thought for a moment. I wasn’t sure what a good name for a gigantic dog was, but I figured that any dog name would work. Then it hit me that I didn’t even know what gender the hellhound was, though I had some ideas. It didn’t take me long to figure out what I wanted to name it, though I was unsure why I picked that name. “How about Elice,” I said to the hellhound. It didn’t seem to have any bias about the name, but I noticed its tail wagging violently behind me. “That’s a good name,” I said, “That was my mom’s name.”
I was silent for the rest of the trip. Elice the hellhound bounded past cars and trucks and various other vehicles as she sped faster and faster down the highway. She slowed down a few times and would begin to sniff the air again in an attempt to pick up Emily’s scent. A city came into view, but Elice showed no signs of slowing down. She sped through the streets and before I knew it we were back to traversing down the highway again. Elice must have picked up on Emily’s scent again because we ended up traveling through multiple cities before she decided to stop in one.
I stepped down from Elice’s back. The buildings around me were huge, just as big as those in New York City. Then again, I hadn’t even seen the majority of New York, so I wasn’t exactly the best source. Elice stared at me intently as I looked around the city. I was starting to be able to communicate with her by seeing how she looked at me. This one was pretty clear. The trail stops here.
“Good job girl,” I said to Elice, “I guess I’ll have to see if I can find Emily here.”
I was surprised that Emily had made it that far in such a short time. I wondered if Elice was even right about her being there, but I wasn’t going to question her tracking abilities. Emily couldn’t have made it there on her own though, so there had to be another explanation. It scared me to think about it, but the only way that she could have gotten there so fast was if she had been kidnapped. If that was the case then she was in danger. I had to find her before something really bad happened.
“I’ll be back girl,” I said.
I took off down the street, but I soon found that Elice was following me. I didn’t want her to do that. I needed to search the city alone. Walking around with a giant dog would draw too much attention, even if it seemed that no one was noticing her. Despite that, I wasn’t going to take any chances. I stopped and turned to Elice. She sat down in front of me and waited. I began to scold her, but all she did was sit there and whimper.
“I can’t take any chances here,” I said, “If someone does see you, it’ll slow down my search.” Elice walked up and began nudging my shoulder with her head. “Stop that,” I said, but she ignored me. “You really want to help don’t you?” She sat up and stared at me. “Alright,” I said. I thought for a minute. I couldn’t take the chance of someone seeing Elice and slowing my search, and possibly having the police after me, but she was determined to help me no matter what I said. “Here’s what we’ll do,” I began, “We can split up, you search part of the city and I’ll search the rest, but we meet back here when the sun starts to set, okay?”
Elice let out a loud yelp, which I assumed to mean that she was okay with my plan. She bounded off down the opposite direction of the street, leaving me to continue on the way that I had been going. I looked back at Elice as she disappeared from my sight with a crowd of people seemingly unaware of her presence all around her. I hoped that it would stay that way. I couldn’t even imagine what would happen to this city if someone saw Elice running around on the streets.
It wasn’t exactly easy to search for a ten-year old girl in any large city, but I did what I could. I went to any buildings that I thought a child might find amusing. I also went around to all of the abandoned buildings and any of the cheap looking hotels, basically anywhere that a criminal might try to hide. Of course, I knew nothing of this city, so I was probably going to all the wrong places. I started asking people if they had seen Emily, using the picture I had of us as a reference, after I ran out of places to search. Nobody I asked had ever seen her before.
From the information I could gather from the people, I was in the city of Albany, New York, the capital. It wasn’t as big as Manhattan was, at least from what it looked like to me, but it was still a rather large city. Moving on from the buildings that seemed like the obvious places for me to search, and having given up on the possibility that anyone might have seen Emily, I started looking through the alleyways of the city. I thought that, if she were on her own, Emily would probably resort to the one place that we had to resort to when we ran away.
I was on the verge of giving up. The sun was beginning to set. I didn’t have any way of telling what time it was, but I at least knew that it was getting late and that it would be night soon enough. I was exhausting what little I could searching the streets and I was getting lost at every turn. Actually I wasn’t even sure that I knew where I was anymore, but I didn’t really care. I turned down another empty alley. It was a dead end. I turned to leave, but I was trapped. At the end of the alley were three massive dogs, each as big as Elice.
I stepped back into the alleyway and pinned myself against the wall at the end. There was nowhere that I could run. The beasts closed in on me. I could tell that they were all hellhounds just like Elice, but they did not look as friendly as she was. They growled at me, each showing off its razor sharp teeth. I tried calling out to Elice like I had done before, but I was too afraid to concentrate and I failed to extend the reach of my power beyond the three hellhounds. Then a different idea came to me.
“Hey there guys,” I said to them. It wasn’t the best plan in the world, but I thought that if I could control one of them, maybe I could control more. “How are you,” I asked trying to speak calmly, “You know, I have a friend that you guys would love. Her name’s Elice. Have you met her?”
One of the hellhound’s snapped at me. Well, that plan was getting me nowhere. So, what to do now? I had to think of something fast. The hellhounds were drawing closer to me with every second and something told me that they were not going to continue playing with me for long. The largest of the three charged forward and pounced. I had only a few seconds. I controlled the shadows, the only one of my strange abilities that I had ever used with some degree of control, and the hellhound was thrown into the wall.
I surrounded myself. I was hidden like I had been when I escaped the orphanage with Emily, but I knew that I couldn’t trick them for long. I could sneak past while they were confused, but they would pick up my scent soon, or however it was that these things could find me, and then my stealth would be useless. I dashed forward and ran between the other two hellhounds. The first one was back on its feet and charging towards me again, the others were coming out of there momentary surprise and joined their friend in his charge.
I had to buy myself some time if I was going to survive. I turned around and willed the darkness surrounding me to charge forward. The shadows slammed into the hellhounds simultaneously and they were all thrown into the wall at the end of the alleyway. Someone behind me let out a scream as I must have appeared right in front of them, but I didn’t pay them any attention. I sprinted down the street, hiding myself in a crowd of people on the sidewalk.
It was hard to get through the mass crowds of people in the city, but I managed to find a way. I knew that I could not hide from these things; they would sniff me out eventually. The only solution was to find a way to kill them somehow, but what was I supposed to do? I had no weapons. I was helpless. I tried to call Elice again, but I was still unable to concentrate properly. I ran and ran, trying to think of something, anything, that I could use to kill these creatures.
I was so caught up with those thoughts that I didn’t even notice that one of them had gotten in front of me. Before I could think about it, I was pinned to the ground with the largest of the three dogs trying to bite at my neck. I don’t know how I was able to do it, but I somehow managed to grab the hellhound by its throat and was holding it back, though just barely so. I was losing it fast. It wouldn’t be long before the creature broke my grip.
I closed my eyes, but just then I felt the weight on top of me being flung off. I sat up and saw Elice pinning the hellhound that had attacked me to the ground and biting into its jugular. The creature turned to dust before my eyes, just as the two snake women had done in the alleyway three months ago. Elice turned around just in time to swat away one of the other hellhounds as it attempted to jump on her back. The last of the three joined the fight as well. Elice stood her ground against the two. She was a bit larger than they were, but she wouldn’t be able to beat both of them.
One of them pounced. Elice smacked him away with her paw, but the second one was closing in. I stood up and charged at the second hellhound and grabbed it by its neck. I wasn’t able to kill them, but I could at least even the odds a little bit. The first hellhound stood up and tried to attack me, but Elice managed to tackle him and he turned to dust as Elice bit into his neck. I tried to hold the last one in place, but I was tossed to the ground like a useless rag doll.
The last of the hellhounds began to close in on me. I willed the shadows around me forward and the beast slammed into the shield that I had created. I pushed the darkness outward and the hellhound flew back and rolled across the ground. The sun had set now. The street was dark, illuminated only by the streetlights. I felt stronger, faster, and more confident. I don’t’ know what it was, but something about the nighttime air was making me feel…better.
Elice charged at the last hellhound as it got to its feet, but the beast threw her aside. I charged forward, hoping that it would remain distracted, but I had no such luck. The creature turned and tried to swat me away with its massive paw. I was able to duck under his attack, just barely avoiding having my head taken off. I willed the darkness to surround the hellhound. The beast tried to attack me again, but it ran into the wall of the prison that the shadows were creating. It tried to escape, but it was trapped. The darkness converged on the hellhound, compressing its prison. Tighter, tighter, the beast let out a pain filled yelp as its prison of dusk crushed it and it turned into dust.
Elice got to her feet, but something was off about her. She walked over to me and I noticed that she was walking with a limp. I had never thought of it before, but I guess it was possible for her to get hurt. She stood in front of me so I was facing her side. She couldn’t possibly be suggesting this. There was no way that she could run, let alone carry me, with a broken leg.
“No,” I said, “Elice, you can’t carry me in your condition.” Elice gave me a hard stare. I knew what she was telling me. I’ll be fine. I didn’t think so. She looked bad. If we didn’t wrap up that leg soon, then she was going to end up hurting herself even worse. “Elice,” I said. She wouldn’t let me continue. She let out a loud yelp. I knew that there was no way to convince her otherwise. I climbed on her back and she took off.
I knew that it was a bad idea. It was obvious from the start that she wouldn’t be able to get very far. I already started to notice that she was moving slower than before. Her leg was making it harder for her to jump too. She even had trouble getting over the smaller cars, even though she would have easily gotten over them before. I had to put an end to this before something bad happened.
“Elice,” I screamed, “Stop!”
I was surprised that she actually listened to me. I had expected to have to scream at her multiple times, but she stopped as soon as I yelled it the first time. I climbed off of her back and Elice fell over on her side. She wasn’t badly injured, but running the short distance that she had must have taken a lot out of her. I looked at her broken leg. It didn’t look good. I could see where the bone had fractured and it was already starting to turn a dark purple color.
I inspected the area around us. We were already outside of the city, so there was nowhere that I could go to get a splint. Luckily, this had happened before. Emily had broken her arm once and the caretakers refused to take us to the hospital. Instead, I fashioned a splint for her arm myself. It took longer to heal than it should have, but it worked all the same. I got started. I found a nice sized, sturdy stick, one that I hoped Elice wouldn’t be able to break. I ripped off pieces of the shirt that I was wearing and began tying the strips around Elice’s leg so that the stick would be kept in place and she would keep her leg straight. I surveyed my work when I was finished.
“Stand up,” I told Elice.
She did so. It appeared that she was having trouble, but she managed to stand up and walk around on her new leg with the crudely made splint holding in place. Despite the trouble she was having, it did seem like she was in less pain, which was at least good for a start. After a little trot around the area, Elice laid down on her side again. I lay down with her, using her as a pillow.
“Good idea girl,” I said, “It’s been a long day.” I had no idea that it was going to be an even longer night.
It was the strangest dream ever. Nothing could possibly beat it. I was in this…well, it was definitely a place. To be honest, I have no idea where the hell I was. It could only be described as a dark room that looked like it was somewhere underground. All around me were armed guards. Now, these were no ordinary armed guards. They weren’t ordinary because they were all dead, like rotted down to skeletons dead. There had to be at least a dozen of them, each holding a different weapon, from a spear all the way up to an AK-47.
The best that I could guess was that I was going to die. So I did the natural thing, I hid. I willed the darkness around me, and there was a lot of it, to converge and shroud me. It must have worked. None of the guards made a step to attack me. Then again, none of them had moved since I had appeared in that room. Maybe they were all really dead and I was completely blowing this situation out of proportion.
“He has arrived,” A ghostly voice filled the room, “Finally.”
I looked around to see which one of them was talking. It wasn’t long before I realized that someone else was in the room as well. In front of me was a set of stairs that was made out of what I was pretty sure were bones. At the top of the stairs was a throne and on the throne sat a man dressed in pure black robes. Something was off about those robes. Was I seeing faces in the threads of his garment?
“Your efforts are worthless,” The ghost voice said. The man’s face was shadowed over, but I saw enough that I could now tell that it was him that was talking. “You cannot hide from me in my own palace.”
I felt something strange in that moment. I tried to pull the shadows closer to me, but something was wrong. It felt like they were fighting against me somehow. It was like they didn’t want me to control them. This must have been the man on the throne’s doing. So there were others like me then, other people that had the same abilities. I continued to try and pull the darkness tighter around me, but I was just barely able to keep them where they were. All at once the shade dispersed and I was exposed.
“There, isn’t that better,” the man said, “A conversation is clearer when you can see the one you are conversing with.”
“Who are you,” I asked. I tried to sound confident, but I was failing at it.
“Impressive,” the man said, “Even in the presence of one so powerful you can keep up a brave front, any mortal would easily fall for your bravado.”
I didn’t like the way that he said the word ‘mortal.’ He said it like he was somehow exempt from the category. The man began tapping the armrest of his chair with one of his long, scraggy fingernails. I didn’t know what it was that he was waiting for, but I wasn’t going to speak. This man obviously wanted something from me though. Whatever it was, I wasn’t going to give it up.
“I must say,” the man said, “You put up quite the impressive fight. I didn’t expect to have to use my full strength to expose you.”
“You never answered my question,” I said, “Who are you?”
The man was silent for a time, as though he were contemplating how best to answer me. “Hirius,” he said. I was too scared to wonder how he knew my name. “Have you ever wondered where you came from, what you are?”
“That didn’t answer my question either,” I said.
The man allowed himself a low chuckle. “No,” he said, “I suppose it didn’t, but answer my questions and you will find the answer to yours.”
He was silent again. I thought about his questions for a time. Where I came from? What I was? I guess I never had thought about that before. Where I had come from? My mom was poor. We lived in the slums of the city, the worst part of town. The orphanage was worse though. I never got a very good education, but I was able to teach myself well enough. Was that the answer he was looking for? What I was? I had thought about it before. The only answer I could give him was that I wasn’t human, or at least, I wasn’t like other humans.
“Well,” the man said, “Have you?”
“No,” I said, “All I know is that I’m not like everyone else.”
“Exactly,” the man said, “But have you ever wondered what you are?”
“I,” I began to speak, but I hesitated. What am I, I thought. I wasn’t human, that was the only answer I could come up with. That word earlier, ‘mortal,’ this man spoke as though he were not one. “I am not a mortal,” I said.
“Yes,” the man said, “You are closer to the answer. So again I ask, where did you come from?”
“I was poor,” I said not hesitating to answer this time, “My mom did her best to raise us, but she died when I was young.”
“Think on how she died,” the man said.
“She was killed by some strange creature; it was, like a half-bull half-man type of thing, I’m not sure what it was.”
“You know what it was.”
I did know what it was, but could something like that really exist? All of those books I read back at the orphanage, could my favorite of those stories really have been true? The ancient Greek myths, the heroes, the monsters, the gods, were it actually possible for any of that to exist? Was the thing that killed my mother actually the Minotaur?
“It was the Minotaur,” I said, “The monster that lived in the labyrinth on the island of Crete. It served King Minos.”
“Yes,” the man said, “Sometimes those monsters do get out of control when they escape.”
“Who are you,” I asked.
“You already know the answer to that,” the man said, “So tell me, who am I?”
My head swirled with so many questions. None of this could be real, it was just a dream, of course. I was still sleeping in that field with Elice. I would wake up any moment and be riding off into the distance once again. This was way too real though. It all felt too real to be a dream. But it had to be. How could this person really exist otherwise?
“You are Hades,” I said, “The Greek god of the underworld.”
I still couldn’t see his face clearly, but I could see the smile that spread across it. I looked at the room again. I was in the underworld, the land of the dead. The place where the Greek claimed the human spirit went once the body died. Was I dead then? Had I died somehow during the night?
“Good,” Hades said, “So I ask once more, what are you?”
“I…I don’t know,” I answered.
“You do,” Hades said.
“You are a demigod.”
There was that word again. It was the second time that I had heard someone use it. That was what the two snake women had called me the night me and Emily had escaped from the orphanage. What the hell did it mean though? What in the world was I? What the hell was a demigod?
“I still don’t know,” I said, “What are you talking about?”
“A demigod,” Hades said, “You are half-human, and half-god.”
“That’s,” I said. I was going to say impossible, but I really didn’t know what that word meant anymore. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Doesn’t it,” Hades said, “Think about it, you know your mother’s fate, but what about your father, have you ever met him before?”
I started to speak, but I cut myself short. It was true. I had never met my father before. In fact, I had never even known what his name was. My mother had never said anything about him. It was almost like he had never existed. No, I thought, that can’t be true. Think, there has to be something about him that mom had mentioned. There was nothing. I went through everything I could remember about mom, but there was not a single mention of my father.
“You cannot answer me,” Hades said, “Because you never knew your father. Do you know why? It is because he is a god, Hirius. He couldn’t stay with you, none of us can. That is why you never knew him.”
I was at a loss for words. My father was a god. Was that really true? I was a demigod. Was that true as well? Was I really one of the heroes that I had read so much about when I was young? A hero like Theseus, or Hercules, or Perseus, could I be like one of the men that I had so often wanted to be? So many questions were lingering in my head, so many questions I wanted to ask, but there was one that I had to know the answer to.
“How,” I said, “How do you know my name? WHO ARE YOU?!”
The smile returned to Hades’ face. “Come now, Hirius,” he said, “haven’t you figured it out already?”
Again he answers my question with another question. He was right though. I already knew the answer. “You’re my father,” I said. The smile on his face grew wider.
“Yes, Hirius,” Hades said, “And I have been watching you for a long time. You may be exactly what I need.”
“Wait,” I said, “Before we go on, I want my questions answered now.”
Hades lost his grin. Two lights glowed over his face, two fires that ignited in his eyes, but they faded quickly. “Very well,” Hades said, “I suppose that I owe you a few answers anyway.”
This was my chance. It was my chance to find out everything about my past. Why had my father abandoned me? Why was my mother killed? Why was my life cursed? I began to speak, but I never asked any of those questions. I thought about it, and those questions had already been answered. I was a demigod. That was the answer to every question that I had. So then, what was the point in asking any of them?
“Why the secrecy,” I asked, “Why contact me in a dream?”
Hades seemed caught off guard by my question. He must have guessed that I would raise one of the questions that I was thinking about. He hesitated at first, but he spoke his answer.
“You do not wish to inquire about your mother’s death, or me abandoning you, or any of that dramatic crap?”
“No,” I said, “I already know the answers.”
“Very well,” Hades said, “My brothers are the answer to your question. I couldn’t have them knowing about you.”
“The prophecy,” he said.
The word caught me off guard. I thought about all of the stories I had read. Prophecies were usually bad. They usually ended with someone getting hurt, or worse. If I remembered correctly, a prophecy would usually give some kind of indication of coming events. The events could happen within a few days or may not happen for a century or two. Either way, they always came to pass. The only question was what this prophecy was, and what I had to do with it.
“What prophecy,” I asked.
“The big one,” Hades said.
“Not specific enough.”
“No,” Hades said, “I suppose that it isn’t, but that’s all that I can tell you.”
It was hard to read what he was thinking since his face was shadowed over. I suppose that it would be hard to tell what a god was thinking whether I could see his face or not. Regardless of that, I could tell that he didn’t want me to know something. All I could gather was that there was some kind of major prophecy and I was involved in it somehow. I should have pressed Hades for more answers, but I didn’t’ think it would do me any good. I wasn’t getting anything more from him no matter how hard I tried.
“Fine,” I said, “Then tell me this, why did you call me here?”
“The prophecy,” Hades said again.
Hades’ lips curved into a smile once again. “Trust me,” he said, “You will learn of it, and your role in it, in due time, but that time is not now. I have called you here to ensure that you are the demigod mentioned in the prophecy.” He took a pause like he was waiting for a response from me. “You need to survive,” he continued on, “Another few years at least, and with your current level of skill…well, let’s just say that you’ll be dead within a week.”
“Then you intend to keep me here until then?”
“No,” Hades said, “I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to, not unless you were physically here. No, I simply intend to train you. I will teach you how to survive, how to fight, and, hopefully, how to control your powers.”
“That’s it,” I asked.
“What about Emily,” I asked, “Isn’t she your child as well?”
“No,” Hades said, “She is indeed a demigod, but she is not my child. In fact, she isn’t even your sister.”
I was at a loss for words. He had to be lying to me by that point, it was the only explanation. Emily and I had been together ever since she was a baby. How could she not be my sister? Maybe this was some kind of trick. Hades wanted me to survive for a few more years, as he put it, so he could have been trying to keep me from looking for her. Whatever his intentions were, I had to figure them out.
“How is that possible?”
“A long story hers is,” Hades said, “But it is not mine to tell. She will tell you when you find her, but only then.”
“You intend for me to continue searching for her?”
“I do,” Hades said, “In fact, I need you to continue searching for her. It is the only way that you will get the training that you need, outside of my own involvement of course.”
“And why didn’t Emily say anything about this before?”
“She has only recently acquired the knowledge; it is the reason that she abandoned you.”
That was a hard blow to deal with. Emily actually had abandoned me. She left me sitting in that alleyway alone to die. She didn’t even have the heart to tell me she was leaving. I couldn’t believe it. There was no reason to go after her anymore, she didn’t care about me, and I wasn’t going just because Hades wanted me to. But, a part of me still wanted to find her. Something told me that I couldn’t give up yet. Despite what Hades said, despite whatever our relationship was, Emily and I had been together since we were little. It didn’t matter whether we were blood relatives or not, Emily was my sister, and nothing could change that fact.
I wanted to change the subject as soon as possible. “How can I believe any of this,” I asked though I believed every word of it, “How can I be sure that any of this is actually happening?”
“I thought you would ask that question.”
Hades lifted his arm so that he was pointing at me. His fingers stretched outward so that I was looking at his open palm. His skin was so pale that it actually appeared to be glowing in the darkness of the room. The shadows around me began to converge, but it was not in the way that I was used to. They began to form around my hand and they started to form a shape. The shape became more and more defined until I was sure I was looking at a sword. I reached out and grabbed the handle of the sword which assumed a physical form at my touch.
The blade was large, at least five feet in length, but it was not heavy. In fact, I could swing it around with the same ease that I would swing a large stick. The metal shined in the darkness. It appeared to be made of steel, but it was black for some reason. The hilt was in the shape of a human skull, a bit smaller than an average one, which had sparkling rubies encrusted in place of its eyes. I looked the blade over and discovered a word glowing in bright golden letters on the side. It was some form of writing, I assumed that it was ancient Greek, but I could read it somehow. The word read: Kardiabisma.
“What,” I began, but I was at a loss for words.
“That is the sword, Kardiabisma, Heartstopper,” Hades said, “Forged of Stygian Iron, only a child of the underworld can wield it. Consider it a gift from your father. I will teach you to use it.”
I looked up at Hades. “How does this answer my question?”
“Simple,” Hades said, “When you wake up, the blade will be in your hands as solid as it is now. That should be enough proof that what transpired here is nothing short of the truth.”
I looked over the blade again. The golden letters shined brightly, illuminating the whole of the room. The skeletal guards around me drew back a few steps as the light cut through the dark. Then, as I stared at it, the word faded away, leaving no trace that it had ever been emblazoned upon the blade. I looked back up at Hades. I wasn’t sure what to make of everything, but I was so sure that it was all true. Somehow, I just knew that I truly was a demigod, the son of Hades.
I swung Heartstopper through the air, testing its weight. I pointed the tip of it in Hades’ direction. “Very well,” I said, “Let the training begin.”