Smoke on the Horizon

XVI. Hazel

XVI. HAZEL

It was dark, yet Hazel somehow knew she was in a confined space. It was damp and breezy, and there was a smell that crossed somewhere between fresh linen and bad hairspray.

“Ouch!” echoed somewhere to her left.

“Sorry, Piper,” Frank’s voice said roughly, followed by loud shuffling and grunting as he and four other bodies tried to reposition themselves in the tight space. “Hazel, you good?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” she said, her voice sounding too loud. “Nico?”

“Uh huh.” His soft voice came from right beside her and she jumped.

“Jason?” Piper said, her movement along the wall still audible.

“Hey! Yeah, I’m here - right here,” he yelped in the darkness.

“Oh, sorry.”

“Yeah, but where is ‘right here,’ exactly?” Hazel said, finding a cold wall behind her and running her hand cautiously along its surface.

“Over here,” Jason said a little louder. “Oh, yeah, right. You don’t mean - yeah. I don’t know. Momus’ dungeon?”

It was a joke, but the word “dungeon” resonated a little too loudly through the cavern. Hazel shuddered.

“Wherever we are, there has to be an exit,” Calypso said. Hazel had almost forgotten she was there. She’d been so quiet on the trip so far, flying near Leo and all but avoiding everyone else.

“Well, has to isn’t always a fair assumption,” Piper said quietly.

“Everyone search the walls,” Hazel said. “Maybe there’s a door or a window or something.”

They made their way around the room, bumping into one another and moving their feet flat on the ground to avoid stepping on toes.

The surface was stone, that much was clear, and it had a strange texture like it had just been watered down. Hazel reached up and felt towards what she thought was the top of the wall, only to find her hand running across an indentation in the rock.

“Hey, over here.”

“Where is ‘over here’ exactly?” Jason said sarcastically.

“Haha, just stay there. I think I found something.” She traced a finger along the mark, a deep gash in the wall that arched down at a sharp angle and back up again, looping at the center and connecting back at the top. There were two small circles in the center and a curved line separate from the rest.

Some of the stone appeared to be loose. It jiggled under her fingertips and crumbled away.

“What the - ” A small bit of light bled out of the hole she’d created and grew until it flooded the cavern, coloring the walls green.

“Woah,” Jason said, backing up and covering his eyes.

Hazel turned around and faced the interior of the cavern. The stone shimmered eerily in the strange light and she realized that the six of them were trapped inside a small, circular room about eight feet across.

The walls were smooth as glass and almost as reflective, the only disruptions in the face the mark Hazel had found which was now glowing green.

“Cool,” Jason said. “Green is supposed to be a calming color, right? Tranquil?”

“Yeah, and it’s also the color of every movie villain ever,” Nico added cheerfully.

“Well at least now we can see where we’re looking. Everyone try searching the walls some more. Maybe there’s something else here,” Hazel said, trying to be optimistic.

“Who suddenly made you the leader?” Jason said, more aggressively than Hazel liked.

“No one,” she said slowly, cautiously.

“Oh, okay. So you’ve just taken it upon yourself to lead us all to victory, then? That’s good. Cause you’re definitely the one I’d have chosen.” His normally amiable voice was riddled with judgement, his face stoic and irritated.

“Jason, cut it out,” Piper said, but he continued to glare in Hazel’s direction.

“Lay off her,” Frank said through gritted teeth, advancing toward Jason. “She’s just as capable of leading as you are and you know it.”

“Oh, okay, Praetor. Whatever you say.”

They looked like they were both getting ready for a fight.

“Okay guys, back it up,” Piper said again, her voice more commanding. Hazel saw something in their eyes clear.

Jason and Frank seemed to return to their senses and stepped back from one another.

“I said all that out loud, didn’t I?” Jason said. Piper nodded, watching both of them worriedly. “Hazel, I - I’m so sorry. I don’t know - ”

“It’s okay.”

“But it wasn’t me. I’d never think those things.”

Hazel shook her head. “It’s this place. I feel it too. It’s making us angry. Bringing out our ugliest criticisms.”

“Awesome. Becoming a Mini-Momus was exactly what I was hoping would happen today,” Piper said, a little too forcefully and she looked shocked as the words left her mouth.

“Definitely,” Jason, Nico, and Frank said, much too sincerely.

Nico shook his head as if there were something in his face. “Gods, Piper! Really with the Charmspeak?”

A dark look overcame Piper again. “Well, sorry, Deathboy! I can’t always control it!” she spat back.

If looks could kill (no pun intended) Nico’s could’ve wiped out a small town.

“Okay! Why don’t we all just stop talking for now? Okay? Okay. Good.” Hazel scrambled for ideas. She was open to anything at this point. If they didn’t get themselves under control they’d tear themselves apart.

“You all need to learn to control your emotions,” Calypso said quietly. She was calmly circling the room inspecting the walls. She didn’t seem to be effected at all by the magic.

“Oh yeah? What is an immortal goddess supposed to know about emotional control?” Jason said with a scowl, shifting his feet like a little kid who'd been proven wrong.

“You learn a lot about a lot of things when you’re imprisoned on an island for a few thousand years,” she glared, effectively shutting Jason up. “Just try to block everything out. Tell yourselves it doesn’t matter how you feel right now, as long as we find an exit.”

Her advice seemed to do the trick. They all turned in silence back to the walls and restarted their search.

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