Getting to the gate was easy enough, especially since Cerberus had been kind enough to clear away all of the spirits so we didn’t have to push through them. Getting through the gates was another story entirely. The minute we passed through one of the metal detectors, alarms, bells, and sirens began blaring from every direction around us, the sounds all apparently coming from nowhere. Before we could make a move to run, one of the ghouls that was manning the gate we tried to pass through appeared in front of us.
We stopped dead in our tracks and the ghoul looked us up and down. He was dressed from head to toe in a black garment that looked like it had been stolen from a tomb, which was entirely possible. His body was completely covered so that even his face was hidden from sight. All I could see from under his hood were two glowing red orbs like two small flames were burning in his eye sockets. I knew that the ghoul must have looked the same as Charon under his garments.
“Magical items detected,” he said. His voice reminded me of a zombie movie I had seen a few years ago.
He stretched his arm out to us, revealing a bony, skeletal hand. In an instance, his arm shot forward and snatched Sarah’s dagger from its sheath. The ghoul held the blade close to his face. I thought that he was staring at it, but it almost looked, and sounded, like he was sniffing it like a dog would when it found something new and strange.
“The work of Aphrodite,” the ghoul said as he lowered the blade, “Such contraband is illegal in the Underworld.”
“Give that back,” Sarah said. Her voice was weak and only barely audible. I could see her trembling as the ghoul turned its eyes to her.
“Who are you to order me around,” the ghoul asked, “I keep watch over the gates of the dead. My job is to keep contraband like this from getting in.” The ghoul sniffed the air. “And you have more, don’t you?”
Justin flinched as the ghoul turned on him next. He tried to back away from him, but two more appeared behind us and kept Justin from going anywhere. The specter in front of us walked up to Justin and its face came within inches of him. It looked him up and down, as if trying to guess where he might try and hide any magical items from security. As fast as he had with Sarah, the phantom’s arm shot forward and snatched the ring off of Justin’s finger. The little piece of jewelry instantly grew into its deadly bow form. The ghouls seemed unfazed by the transformation.
The specter held the weapon up and inspected it in the same manner he had done with Sarah’s dagger. It hissed in disgust at the weapon when it was finished. “The work of the sun god,” it said, “I HATE the sun.” The other two hissed in agreement with their friend. The ghoul dropped the bow and Sarah’s dagger and then looked up at Justin again. “Anything else?”
Justin was shaking and looked like he was having a hard time remembering how to talk. Sarah stood motionless like she was afraid that any slight move would cause our three tormentors to attack us. I stood and looked at the three phantoms in turn, each of them standing silent and motionless, waiting for Justin to turn over his last magical item. I had just about had enough of these three.
The ghoul made a move toward Justin, but I stepped between the two of them. The specter stopped cold and stared at me with his glowing red eyes. None of them had paid any attention to me until now and the one in front of me almost seemed to not care that I was standing in its way. It reached out to grab Justin, but I slapped its arm away causing the thing to hiss in frustration.
“Out of our way,” I said, “We’re done here.”
The ghoul looked at me. I couldn’t tell what it was thinking with its face covered, but I must have caught him off guard because he took a moment to answer me. “And who are you to tell us what to do.” The other two hissed at me.
I knew that these three wouldn’t make it easy, but I hoped to avoid fighting them at least. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure that fighting them was the best course of action. I had never really fought a creature from the Underworld and I had no way of knowing if they could be defeated like monsters could. Either way, they weren’t really giving me much of a choice.
I summoned Heartstopper. As the blade appeared in my hand, the stygian iron began to glow a dim silvery light that grew brighter after a few seconds. I had no idea what was going on, but I guessed that it must have had something to do with me being in the Underworld.
The light of the glowing blade filled the area around us. The three ghouls stumbled backward and hissed at the sight of the weapon. Before any of them could recover, I quickly spun around and cut the two ghouls behind me in half. The four halves fell to the ground but none of them turned to dust. I turned back to the first ghoul and held my blade to his chest so he couldn’t get up.
As I held the ghoul in place, I looked at Justin and Sarah and nodded to them. The two of them retrieved their weapons and then went to check on what had become of the other two specters. I focused back on the one lying on the ground in front of me. I still had no idea what it was thinking, but it didn’t appear to be scared. No, if I had to describe it, the ghoul almost appeared…humbled.
“Stygian iron,” the ghoul whispered. I looked down at it quizzically. “You wield the metal that only those from the Underworld can wield,” It said. It looked up at me, turning its attention away from Heartstopper. “Then you are his son?”
I pulled my sword away from it, but I kept my blade arm ready. “You mean Hades,” I asked, “As much as I hate to admit it, I am his son.”
The ghoul stood up slowly like it was showing that it meant no harm to us. Once on its feet, it lowered its head as if it were bowing to me. “Forgive me,” it said, “I meant no disrespect to the son of our master. You may pass if you wish.”
I looked back at the two ghouls still cut in half and still lying motionless on the ground. “What about them? And Cerberus?”
“Those two will be fine,” the ghoul said, “Should only take them a few minutes to pull themselves back together. They will not impede you once they do.”
I looked at the two ghouls again. Justin had taken to poking one of them in the eye socket with an arrow. “Yeah,” Justin said, “You guys aren’t so…AHHHH!” He jumped back suddenly as the specters arm reached out and grabbed him by the ankle. He broke free of its grip and started stomping on the torso and screaming like a little kid stuck in a haunted house.
“As for Cerberus,” the ghoul said, “He will not bother you either, I assure you.”
I turned back to the ghoul and eyed him suspiciously. I had a hard time trusting anything that wasn’t human, especially when I was in the Underworld, but I knew that the phantom was being honest. Whether it was obligated to help me because of who I was or not, I knew that Hades still wanted me deeper in the Underworld. He would want me to walk up to him and offer myself on a silver platter. Not that I planned on doing that anytime soon.
“Where is my father’s palace,” I asked.
The ghoul turned and looked into the distance. “You will find my master’s palace if you follow this path through the Fields of Asphodel.”
I turned to Justin and Sarah again, the former of which was still kicking at an unmoving torso while the latter tried to calm him down. “Will you knock it off already,” I said. Justin stopped his mad ranting and looked over at me. “We need to keep moving.”
With that, the three of us started down the path. The ghoul I had talked to kept still and silent as we passed him. As we made our way down the path, I kept looking back to find him still standing in the same spot, watching us make our way towards the palace. Eventually, the fog hid him from sight, but I was sure that he, and the other two, were standing there watching us still.
It felt like we had been walking for hours before we finally came upon the Fields of Asphodel. Fog covered most of the place, but we could see enough to make our way around. The fields looked like the planes of Kansas, big, open, and empty. All that I could see for miles were nothing but spirits with empty looks on their faces, stumbling around like children in the dark. It was probably the most depressing place I had ever seen.
“Woah,” Justin said, “This place is huge.”
“No kidding,” Sarah commented.
“It doesn’t actually have an end,” I told them. They both looked at me. “Don’t worry,” I added quickly, “We’ll be able to get out if we keep walking, it’ll take a bit of time though.”
“What about the spirits,” Sarah asked.
“The fields have no end for them,” I said, “No matter how far they wonder, they’ll never be able to find a way out.”
We kept walking in silence. Justin and Sarah looked all around the fields with a mixture of wonder and alertness. Neither one of them had even sheathed their weapon since they got them back from those ghouls. I couldn’t really blame them though. Even I was tensing up more than usual. Plus, I was still holding Heartstopper and I refused to let go of it until I had dealt with Hades.
“Hey Hirius,” Sarah asked as a spirit passed in front of her seemingly unaware of her presence, “Can these spirits see us?”
“I’m not really sure,” I said after thinking about it for a minute, “To be honest, I have no idea if spirits can see the living when we’re in the Underworld or not.” Another spirit floated past us. “Some of them appear to be able to,” I said, “Others just ignore us like we don’t even exist.”
Sarah fell silent after that and we made the remainder of the trip like that. After walking for several more hours, the fog began to lift around us and the number of spirits began to dwindle until there were none to be seen.
“Glad we’re out of there,” Justin said as we left the fields behind.
“Agreed,” Sarah said.
I smiled, but I kept silent. As I looked out in front of us, the fog finally cleared away enough that I could see. I saw a massive palace that looked as though it had grown out of the stone that it was built from. I had never seen my father’s palace from the outside and the majesty of the building was enough to leave anyone short of breath, but I didn’t have time to marvel at it now. The sight of the palace meant only one thing to me. I would soon have to face Hades.
“There,” I said pointing at the palace, “We’re almost…” My voice trailed off and I stopped dead in my tracks.
Justin and Sarah stopped next to me. “Hey,” Justin said, “What’s up with you?”
“Didn’t you hear that,” I asked.
“Hear what,” Sarah asked.
Of course they didn’t hear it, this was meant for me alone.
Ever since the fields I had been hearing someone whispering my name. I had taken it to be one of the spirits at first, but I could still hear it now that we were away from the Fields of Asphodel and it was much louder than it was before. I looked around, trying to find the source of the voice, but there was no one but the three of us. He wasn’t there, but I could hear him clear as day. Kronos was calling for me.
A rumbling laughter filled the air. Justin and Sarah didn’t seem to hear it. “That’s right,” Kronos said, “Come, fulfill your destiny.”
I tried to block his voice out, but it was impossible. My body felt like it was going numb, like someone was trying to take control of it. I wanted to ignore the desire to listen to the titan lord, but something inside of me wanted to adhere to his voice. My whole body began shaking and, before I knew it, I was taking a step forward, and then another, and another.
“Good,” Kronos said, “Come to me. Together we will destroy the gods.”
I took another step forward, but then I stopped. Don’t do it, I told myself, You’re stronger than he is. I held still. Sarah and Justin appeared next to me again. I could see them trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear anything but the sound of Kronos’ voice tempting me to continue moving forward. I took another step and stopped again. You can beat him, I told myself.
“Such foolish resistance,” Kronos said, “Now come to me.”
All at once, my entire body went numb. Before I could even think, I found myself sprinting forward at top speed down the path toward Hades’ palace. My body moved of its own accord, taking turns and forks that I could only guess at where they led. Before long, I was running into a cave that I was all too familiar with. Once inside, I stopped and simply stared down into the abyss of Tartarus.
I felt myself slowly regaining control of my own movements again, but at the same time I was feeling dizzy and my body was shaking like I was about to pass out. I stared down into the darkness of the pit, unable to see what was waiting for me below. Kronos continued his talk about destroying the gods. The longer I stood and listened to him, the more his ideas started to make sense.
Fight it, I told myself, He can’t control you.
“That’s it,” Kronos chided, “Just take one more step.”
My legs tried to move forward again, but I used every bit of strength that I had left to keep them planted firmly in place. I tried to pull my eyes away from the pit and focus on something else, anything else, but I couldn’t look away from it. I wrestled back and forth with the titan lord’s conscious, trying to keep him from controlling my actions again. I was starting to feel like I was going to collapse at any moment.
“Why do you resist,” Kronos asked. His voice had somehow become soothing all of a sudden. “I only offer salvation from that which you despise the most.”
The cave started to spin. My knees were shaking violently. My eyelids became heavy suddenly. I fought off the urge to pass out, but it was no use. I watched the pit below me as my knees gave out and I fell over. I was out before I saw what happened. Whether I had fallen into the pit or not, I had no idea.
When I woke up, I felt like I was in a dream, but, at the same time, it felt too real to be one. Of course, I was used to having vivid dreams, but, if I really was dreaming, this was the most realistic one yet. I was lying on the ground at the bottom of Tartarus. The place looked just how I remembered from the last time I dreamed about it. Above me was blood red clouds, surrounding me was a darkness so thick that even I couldn’t see through it, and in front of me was the golden sarcophagus.
I pushed myself to my feet and searched around for my sword, but it was nowhere to be seen. I stared forward at the sarcophagus. That was when I realized that something was wrong. The sarcophagus was missing its lid, and whatever was inside of it before wasn’t there anymore. The sarcophagus was no longer glowing like it had been before. Its light was so dim that it appeared almost non-existent.
A familiar laugh filled the room. “Welcome,” I heard the voice of Kronos say, “Welcome to my prison, where I spent an eternity piecing myself back together.” The voice paused for just a moment. “And now my final piece has arrived.”
I looked all around me for the source of the voice and my eyes fell on something that I hadn’t seen before. Standing behind the coffin, his appearance shadowed over, was a creature at least ten feet in height. He was holding what looked like a surf board but I could only assume it was some kind of weapon. I couldn’t see what he was wearing or what he looked like. All I could see were two golden colored eyes staring right at me.
“Behold,” Kronos said, “I am the lord of time.”
My knees started shaking again. Who am I kidding, my entire body was shaking. I wanted to summon my sword, I wanted to run away, I wanted to do something other than stand there and stare at him, but I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move, I wasn’t even sure that I could breathe. All I knew was that I had finally come face to face with the titan lord Kronos, and I didn’t think that I was going to live long enough to tell anyone about it.
“You,” I managed to squeak out, but that was all the farther I got. Kronos simply stared at me.
I looked into his eyes. The eyes of the one that had caused me so much trouble, the one that tried to kill me and my friends more times than I could count, the one that hadn’t given me a break in the last three years, and the one that I wanted to destroy more than anyone else. My initial fear began to melt away as I held onto that thought. I had vowed that I would destroy Kronos no matter what it took. Now that I was standing there in front of him, I couldn’t go back on my word.
“I don’t get it,” I said trying to stall him while I summoned my weapon, “You’re here. You escaped from the prison the gods threw you in. What do you need me for?”
Kronos shook his head. “Ignorant demigod,” he said, “You’re kind will never understand anything.” He continued to babble on while I tried to concentrate. “I thought it would be easier to take control of you while you were unconscious, but here you are still fighting against me.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I wasn’t listening to him anyway. For some reason, I couldn’t seem to summon Heartstopper. I tried concentrating as hard as I could on the image of the sword, but it wouldn’t appear in my hand. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was in Tartarus, or maybe it was something that Kronos was doing. Oh well, either way, I would figure it out and find a way to overcome it.
“Why won’t you just submit,” Kronos asked, “It would be much easier on the both of us.”
“And watch you kill all of my friends,” I asked, “I don’t think so.”
Kronos began laughing again. “Friends,” he said like it was a question, “Is that what you call them?” He stared at me, his laughter fading from the air. “You and I both know what will become of you in the end,” the titan went on, “Even if you shield them from my wrath, they will abandon you.”
The air fell silent as Kronos’ words lingered. Those words struck me hard. I had been thinking for a long time about how I would end up on my own again, but I always managed to push it out of my head somehow. Hearing someone saying it out loud was the final straw. I knew that he was right. Eventually, I would be alone again. My friends would all abandon me one way or another. That was the curse of being a child of Hades.
“You’re wrong,” I said not really knowing why I was denying what I knew was true, “They won’t.”
Kronos laughed again. “Still holding on to that small hope of yours,” he taunted, “You know it is true. They will abandon you. Some of them already have haven’t they?”
Kronos stepped forward. I gave another shot at summoning my sword, but it was still no use. The titan stepped into the dim light of his now empty sarcophagus, but then he seemed to disappear. No, actually he just shrunk. He had gone from being ten feet tall to being only slightly shorter than I was. And he didn’t really look like a titan. He looked like a teenage girl with long blond hair. He looked like Sarena.
“It’s a shame isn’t it,” Sarena said. I heard both her voice and Kronos’. “You put so much into a relationship: trust, hope, even love, and what happens in the end?” The two voices paused. “They forget about you,” Sarena and Kronos said, “They find someone else to love, and you’re left with nothing but your own self pity.”
“Shut up,” I said barely loud enough for me to hear.
“She could have waited for you,” The two voices spoke, “She could have ignored the fact that she thought she would never see you again, and then, when you returned, the two of you would have been happy.” Sarena stared at me and drew her dagger. “But no,” Sarena and Kronos said, “She decided that she was better off without you in her life.”
“I said shut up,” I screamed.
I charged at Sarena, completely unsure of what I was going to do. I threw a punch at her, but she dodged me and swung her dagger at my stomach. I managed to get far enough away to avoid getting killed, but her dagger pierced the skin and left a nice scar across my stomach. I let out an enraged scream and pushed Sarena away from me before she could attack me again.
I lost sight of her for a second. When I found her again, she looked different. She was still mostly the same, blond hair, storm gray eyes, but she was shorter now and appeared to be a year or two younger somehow. It took me a moment to realize that Kronos had now turned into Annabeth.
“And what of the camp,” Annabeth asked with Kronos’ voice asking the same, “What do you think they will do with you?” As she talked, Annabeth seemed to flicker, like I was watching her on a television monitor that was starting to go bad. When I blinked, she had somehow turned into Clarisse. “They might accept you now,” Clarisse and Kronos said. I blinked again and Luke stood in place of Ares’ daughter. “But remember when you first arrived,” the titan said along with Luke. Silena was their after I blinked this time. “Do you remember what this one told you?”
A chorus of voices began chattering all around me. I recognized them as my friends from Camp Half-Blood. They all spoke words of distrust to me. “I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Sarah,” I heard Silena Beuregard’s voice, “We’re taught to not trust Hades or his children,” I heard from Annabeth, “The others don’t trust you,” Clarisse taunted. I closed my ears and tried to ignore the voices, but it was impossible. It felt like they were coming from inside my head. I fell to my knees and tried to bury my head in them.
“Leave me alone,” I said. The voices continued to speak and taunt me. “Just leave me alone!”
I stood up and finally managed to find my powers again. The scar on my stomach burned as I moved, but I ignored the pain and the blood soaking my shirt. I pushed a wave of darkness out in all directions. The voices ceased all at once and I heard Kronos let out a grunt as my attack pushed him off of his feet. I tried to use the opportunity to summon my sword, but I still couldn’t seem to get it to appear no matter how much I needed it to. My concentration was broken by the sound of someone clapping slowly in the darkness.
“Very good,” I heard Kronos say. No other voice accompanied his this time. “I didn’t expect you to remain in control for this long.”
“You’re wrong about me,” I said, “Even if the others don’t trust me I still have Sarah and Justin. They won’t…”
“Won’t what,” Kronos said cutting me off. This time I heard another voice along with his, one that I recognized all too well.
I turned around slowly and saw him standing there, his bow drawn, his quiver strapped to his back, and dressed in the same clothes he was wearing while we were in the Underworld. Justin was staring right at me, a smile on his face. He was still clapping in that slow rhythm.
“No,” I said trying to sound confident, “They won’t.”
“Poor Hirius,” Kronos and Justin said as the clapping ceased, “Of course they will.” He paused and stared at me. “Don’t you remember what Justin did when he found out who your father was,” they continued, “Did you really forget about that?”
“Justin accepts that I’m a son of Hades,” I said, “He doesn’t care!”
“He accepts that you lied to him about it,” the two said, “You really think that he trusts a child of Hades, that he accepts you as you are? He keeps a watchful eye on you all the time. He’s afraid of you.” He paused and stared at me again. “And what about Silena,” they asked, “You know how Justin feels about her. What’s to stop him from staying with her and leaving you behind?”
“I’ve had enough of you,” I screamed.
I charged at Justin. Don’t think like that, I told myself, This is Kronos, he’s just trying to mess with you. Kronos smiled and moved away from me, but I saw through his movement. I jumped toward him and landed a hit right on his cheek. I swung my other arm to hit him again, but a sharp pain shot through my shoulder suddenly and I was forced to retreat.
I pulled out the arrow that Kronos had stabbed into me and my left arm went limp. I looked up at him again and he had changed his appearance once more. This one might have been the hardest for me to take. I was looking at a young girl, no more than ten. She had curly brown hair and light brown eyes to match. She was dressed in the same garbs that the hunters wore and she held a dagger in her hand.
“Emily,” I said.
Kronos smiled. “Yes,” He said his and Emily’s voice echoing through the darkness. That was the first time I had heard her voice in three years. “Perhaps the biggest betrayal of all,” Kronos went on, “What kind of sister leaves her own brother to rot on the streets of New York alone, and to top it off, she was having fun with her new family, I would never do that to my brothers.” Kronos stopped and looked down at me, a hint of pity showing in his eyes. “Oh wait,” he said, “She wasn’t REALLY your sister now was she?” A new wave of anger was burning inside me. “Maybe that was why she hated you.”
“SHUT UP!” I charged Kronos again. The titan dodged my attacks with a smile on his face. “Who are you to talk,” I screamed at him as I fought, “You don’t know anything about my friends. How can you say what they think of me? They won’t betray me. They’re not…” Kronos ducked under my attack. He pulled his dagger up and stabbed it into my side. I let out a scream as the pain shot through my body.
“You really are a fool,” Kronos said as he held me in place, “You already know that it’s true.”
I felt myself passing out slowly. My eyes closed and my world was enveloped by darkness. For a few seconds, I knew what death felt like, but I fought the feeling off. I wasn’t sure what was going on, I didn’t know if I was dreaming or what, but I knew that I couldn’t let Kronos win. I had to beat him no matter what it took. My eyes shot open. This time, Sarah was standing in front of me, her dagger still stabbed into my side.
“Even the girl you love will abandon you in the end,” Kronos said.
Sarah’s dagger was pulled from my body and I fell down to my hands and knees. I coughed up a mouthful of blood and spat it into the ground below me. I watched as more blood dripped from my wounds and began to form a puddle of crimson under me. My shirt had been torn to shreds and what was left of it was soaked in blood. I tried to move, to stand up again, but I felt like my limbs had turned to jelly.
“And despite all of that,” Kronos said, a different voice joining his, a voice that I couldn’t seem to place, “Do you know who the biggest traitor of all is?”
Kronos stepped in front of me so that I was looking at his feet. He lifted his foot and kicked me away from him. I stumbled back and fell over. My vision was going blurry, but I was able to see Kronos. He had now taken the form of a young boy with shoulder-length black hair, dark brown eyes, and was dressed from head to toe in black clothing. In his hand he held a sword with a blade five feet in length made of stygian iron. The hilt of the blade was shaped like a small human skull with two sparkling rubies encrusted in its eye sockets. I shook my head, unwilling to believe that I was looking at myself.
Kronos smiled. “You let yourself believe that your friends care about you, that they would never leave you,” the titan said, “You blind yourself to what you know is true.” His smile disappeared. “And because of that,” he went on, “You are your own worst enemy.”
I closed my eyes and tried to find my powers again, but it was no use. I was either too tired, or something was keeping me from fighting back. I looked up at the titan lord, an image of myself standing in his place. This was what he wanted. I was the key to releasing him. He needed me to escape from his prison. Maybe this was the choice I was supposed to make then. If I let Kronos take control of me then he could use my body to destroy Olympus and the gods. It was just a matter of whether I wanted that or not.
I lay on the ground and looked up into the endless abyss of Tartarus above me. I knew that Kronos would destroy everything if he won, Olympus, the gods, my friends, all of them were doomed if he won. But I didn’t care anymore. Kronos was right. No matter how much I wished it wasn’t true, all of my friends would abandon me in the end, some of them already had. The gods didn’t care about me, not even my own father cared about me. Even Emily, the one person that I thought I could rely on, had abandoned me. So what did I care what happened to them anymore. They could all just die.
Kronos smiled again. He held his sword, my sword, up and looked down at me. “And so with this,” he said, “It ends.” I closed my eyes.
I waited for the blade to pierce my chest. I waited for the icy sting that would shoot through my body once the sword cut me down. I waited for the pool of blood to surround me as I knew it would. But none of it ever came. I lay there, my eyes closed, for what felt like forever. I felt like time had slowed to a stop.
That was when I heard it. A voice. Two voices actually. I thought for sure that Kronos was just playing with me again, but what reason would he have for doing that now. No, it couldn’t be him. But there was no one else there besides the two of us. Unless…those two wouldn’t be stupid enough to jump in after me, would they?
“Fight back, Hirius,” I heard Justin yelling from somewhere in the darkness, “You have to fight back!”
“Please, Hirius,” I heard Sarah screaming, “We don’t want to lose you! I don’t want to lose you!”
My eyes shot open. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew that I wasn’t going to give up. Not yet. I swung my arm forward as if to fend off Kronos’ attack. At the last second, Heartstopper appeared from out of the shadows. I gripped the blade and the two identical swords slammed into each other sending a loud clang through the darkness and a shower of sparks into the air.
“What,” Kronos managed as he realized that I was still alive.
I looked up at him, my wounds burning and blood pouring from them. “It doesn’t matter,” I said to him, “No matter what happens to me, even if my friends do abandon me in the end, I won’t let you win.” I stood up, forcing the titan to retreat a couple of steps. “I will destroy you.”
Kronos stared at me, his eyes wide. “This is impossible,” he managed, “I am in control!”
I shook my head at him. “Not anymore.”
Kronos’ expression turned to blind fury as he ran at me. I brought my sword up and blocked his attacks as they came at me. “You really think its okay,” Kronos screamed as he swung at me again and again, “Are you really fine with being alone for the rest of your life!?”
“It doesn’t matter if I’m alone,” I screamed back at him, “Because I’ll always have the memories from the time I spent with them.” Kronos spun around and swung his blade at me again. I blocked the attack and held his gaze for a moment. “And that’s enough for me.”
Kronos disengaged and retreated a few steps. “How can you care so little about it,” he yelled as he charged me again, “You place your trust in these people just so they can spit on it and leave you for dead!?”
“You just don’t get it do you,” I asked as I parried another attack, “I don’t need them to be next to me to feel like I’m not alone.” I blocked the titan’s sword. “I’ll always be able to remember them and look back on the time we spent together fondly, because I know that they still care about me, even if we’re forced to be apart.” I batted Kronos’ blade away from me, sending him off balance. “But as for you.” I stepped forward and pushed my blade into his chest. The titan let out a scream. “No one will care about you.”
The air went silent. The light from the sarcophagus faded into nothing and my surroundings plunged into darkness. The only light left was the red glow from the clouds above us. We stood like that for a long time, almost like we would be frozen in place like that forever. And then I heard something strange. Kronos started laughing. A low, rumbling, barely audible sound at first, but it grew loud quickly.
“You think you have won,” Kronos asked, “This is only the beginning.” I watched as the scene around me began to melt away. Kronos began to dissolve into a golden dust. Before he disappeared completely, he looked up at me and stared right into my eyes. His eyes had turned back to his own, the color of gold. He spoke one last time as we stood like that. “I…am not…vanquished.” With that, he and the area around me melted into nothing. And my world fell into complete blackness once again.
If I said that I woke up after that I would be lying. It’s hard to explain exactly what happened to me. I felt like I was thrown from one spot to another. It was almost like shadow travel, but I had absolutely no control over where I was going instead of the slight amount of control I usually had. Anyway, I closed my eyes for just a second after Kronos disappeared and when I opened them I was back in the cave with Sarah and Justin kneeling over on either side of me.
“Hirius,” They said at the same time.
I tried to stand up, but Sarah tackled me back to the ground as she threw her arms around me. I held her for a moment and she started to sob. I wasn’t sure exactly what had just happened, but I was glad that I was back from wherever I had gone. All I was worried about now was making sure that Sarah knew that I was going to be alright. And to think it only took about twenty minutes of her nearly squeezing the life out of me.
“You scared us half to death,” she said as she pulled away from me and wiped the last of her tears from her face.
“Yeah man,” Justin said, “By the time we caught up to you, you were already passed out on the floor.”
Sarah nodded. “We tried to wake you up,” she explained, “But then you started having a seizure or something…” her voice trailed off for a moment. “And then…” she buried her face in her hands and started sobbing again.
“Then you went limp as a rag doll,” Justin finished for her, “We thought that…well, we were sure that…” his voice trailed off as well. He did his best to hide it, but even Justin was having a hard time holding back his tears. “We thought you were dead,” he finally managed.
“I don’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t woken up,” Sarah said between her sobs.
I looked at the two of them in turn. I found it hard to believe that only a few moments ago I had been thinking about letting Kronos get rid of them for me. These two had promised to go through hell with me if they had to and here they were doing just that. How could I have ever brought myself to hate them in any way? How could I have ever thought that they might do anything to hurt me?
“But, hey, its okay now,” Justin said trying to bring the mood up, “You’re still alive, right?”
I looked up at him and smiled. “Yeah,” I said, “And we still have a job to do.”
Sarah looked at me. “Are you still,” she stopped and stared at me for a moment. “Of course you are,” she said with a smile.
I stood up and helped Sarah to her feet. As I got up, I noticed that my wounds from my fight with Kronos had disappeared. At first, I thought that either Justin or Sarah had given me nectar while I was unconscious, but then I realized that we hadn’t brought any with us. I had to wonder how my wounds could have healed that quickly, but it didn’t really matter.
“Alright,” I said, “Let’s get moving.”
“Yeah,” Justin said, “I guess we still have one more fight left.”
Sarah nodded and the three of us walked out of the cave. Before I left, I looked back at the opening to Tartarus. I could still feel his presence. It was weak, almost non-existent now, but I could still feel Kronos stirring down at the bottom of the pit. I knew that I should have done something, but what could be done. All I could do was hope that he would stay locked up in his prison for another millennia or two. I turned away from the cave and followed my friends towards the palace.