Chapter no 30

The Sun and the Star

Near the drop-off, the voices raged even louder than the water.‌

These were not the whispers of lonely souls, like in Gorgyra’s gown. These were angry. Resentful. Frightened. Terrified.

And they were in pain.

She made fun of me! a voice called out. Why am I the one being punished?

I’ll do it again. You can’t stop me. No one can.

Will clutched his ears. ‘I can’t keep them out.’

You deserve to be here, said another voice. This is where you belong.

‘Will,’ Nico said, ‘I know it seems impossible, but you have to try to ignore them.’

‘How?’ His face was scrunched up. ‘They’re so loud.’ ‘Not the voices. Try to ignore the memories.’

‘What does that mean?’

Nico struggled to answer, but he could barely suppress his own tortured thoughts.

He saw Minos and his army of spirits sucked into a void in the floor.

He saw himself slaying Kronos’s demons in Manhattan – cutting down monster after monster with his Stygian iron sword.

He saw his sister Bianca lying in his arms as the life drained out of her … And even though this had never happened, the memory was real. It was

exactly how he had always felt about her death: helpless, useless, completely guilty.

The voices hissed. You have killed so many. You are a murderer.

Nico tried to shake away the accusations. He held out his hand for Will.

‘The river is turning your memories against you,’ he said. ‘I know it’s

awful, but … you’re Will Solace. I’ve never known anyone as good as you in my entire life. Hold on to that.’

Will shuddered. ‘If you say so.’

They clung to each other as the boat picked up speed. The keel began to turn sideways, and Nico instinctively reached for an oar. Something told him they would have to face this drop head-on.

You’ve killed so many, Nico di Angelo, said the voices. What’s a couple more?

Will groaned. ‘But I’ve killed, too,’ he slurred. ‘So many dead by my hands –’

‘No, you’re a healer!’ If they were on any other river, Nico would have splashed his boyfriend’s face with water, but here that would have been a very bad idea. ‘We’ve been through three wars in our lifetime. Of course we’ve had to fight. Of course we’ve lost people. But you’ve done

everything you could to save our friends and family.’ ‘But I let you kill,’ Will mumbled. ‘I let you do it.’

The comment punched Nico in the gut. Then the voices rushed in, pushing their advantage. So cavalier with life, they chided. You take it away so easily. You distribute death like a badge of pride. Even when you tell

your boyfriend you love him, you give him a ring in the shape of a skull.

Nico tried to focus. ‘You – you aren’t responsible for me, Will.’ Will’s eyebrows stitched together in anger. ‘Maybe I am. I let you kill

Octavian. I shouldn’t have allowed that. I contributed to his death. I’m a


‘That’s the Acheron speaking,’ Nico insisted. ‘You need to ignore it.’ ‘You don’t even feel bad about killing him, do you?’

‘I think about it all the time! Now grab the other oar, please – we’re starting to spin!’

Nico’s words were like a crack of lightning in a thunderstorm. They were enough to snap Will out of the trance, and his blue eyes locked onto Nico. ‘The oars –’

‘Grab that one!’ Nico yelled as they slid towards the terrible maw of darkness.

Murderer. Don’t try to fight the truth.

Will took hold of the other oar. ‘What now? We can’t just row over the –’

‘Lock your feet under the thwart,’ Nico ordered, wondering how he knew this to be right. ‘Turn the prow downstream and hold on!’

He’d barely got out the words when their boat slid over the edge of the waterfall. Time seemed to slow, as it does at the top of a roller coaster, as if the universe were teasing them: Should I drop them to their deaths, or not?

‘I hate this,’ Nico grumbled. Then they fell into nothingness.

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