Chapter no 41

The Sun and the Star

There were chimeras and basilisks.‌

Cynocephali and telkhines.

Dark pegasi and pit scorpions.

It was like a Tartarus version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.

Hypnos stepped out from behind Nyx’s left wing and, from the other, Nemesis emerged, a sad look on her face.

‘Sorry, kid,’ she said. ‘Duty calls.’

Every monster Nico had ever encountered and more awaited Nyx’s command, snarling and yapping, growling and hissing.

All but one of them.

A human-looking person was standing next to one of Nyx’s vampire horses. He wore a black uniform with red trim, and his grey hair looked

exactly as it had the last time Nico had seen him. And this time he was not a nightmare conjured up by Epiales.

Nico’s mouth dropped open. ‘Dr Thorn?’

His old vice principal from Westover Hall spat on the ground. ‘I’ve

waited too long for you,’ he said, his accent still thick, his tone still furious. ‘You are the last demigod who shall escape me.’

‘No,’ said Nyx, glancing down at him. ‘Now is not the time.’

But Dr Thorn didn’t listen. He roared in Nico’s direction, and then his body began to change.

It all happened so fast. Dr Thorn’s arms and legs became the furry

appendages of a lion, and from his rear sprouted an enormous scorpion tail, leathery and brown. He sent numerous missile-like spikes towards Nico,

who rolled out of the way just in time.

‘Oh, I don’t think so,’ said Nyx.

Nico watched in horror as she pointed a finger at Dr Thorn. From it, a dark smoke erupted and surrounded the manticore’s body, and then …

Well, it was like Nyx had encased Dr Thorn in a black hole. The manticore screamed, ‘Come on! I’ve been planning this revenge for years!’

Then he folded in on himself and disappeared. Will helped Nico up. ‘Who was that?’ he asked.

‘Nico di Angelo,’ said Nyx, before Nico could answer Will. ‘You

succeeded in bringing me another demigod! The brochures must have worked!’

Nico raised an eyebrow. ‘The what?’

‘The travel brochures!’ she said. ‘The last set of demigods who came through here said I wasn’t advertising enough, so Hypnos helped me design some to spread throughout the Underworld!’

Hypnos drifted forward and held out a few leaflets.

Nico took one. Across the front of it were the words SO YOU’RE THINKING OF VISITING TARTARUS …

Beneath it was a black rectangle.

‘Uh … what’s this?’ said Will, pointing to the cover.

‘That’s the pit,’ said Hypnos proudly. ‘I think it’s a rather flattering depiction.’

‘I think it’s ridiculous,’ said Nemesis. ‘Mother, those demigods were making fun of you.’

But Nyx wasn’t hearing it. ‘We should expect a boost in tourism any day now,’ she said, dismissing Nemesis with a wave. ‘Just you wait and see.’

Nico tossed the brochure aside. ‘We’re not here to visit.’

It was as if he hadn’t spoken. Nyx examined Will’s face, and her dress swirled. ‘You know, I am glad Nico got you here, son of Apollo. Even though I tried to trick you into falling into Chaos. How do you mortals put it? You’re the cherry on top of the Saturday.’

Nemesis hid a laugh in a cough. When Nyx glared at her, she shrugged. ‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘You know how weak I get when I’m in Tartarus.

‘It’s sundae,’ corrected Will. ‘And you’ll regret that I’m here once we escape with Bob.’

‘Oh, you have no idea what you’ve set in motion, Will Solace!’ said Nyx. ‘This will make Nico’s sacrifice all the more worthy.’

This time, Bob arose. ‘There will be no sacrifice,’ he said, and Nico could easily imagine him as a Titan. ‘I will walk out of your realm with these two demigods, and you will leave us alone forevermore.’

Nyx laughed and, when she did so, it sent a horrible chill through Nico’s body, like his blood had been flash-frozen. The stars in Nyx’s dress

sparkled, and Nico found his gaze getting lost in her void.

Fight her, Nico told himself. You can’t lose when you’re so close to rescuing Bob.

‘You underestimate what I have done,’ said Nyx. ‘You do not understand why I have gathered all my children here.’

‘You already told me,’ Nico said through gritted teeth.

Will tugged on the sleeve of Nico’s bomber jacket. ‘Nico, let’s just leave.

We can’t win here.’

‘Your boyfriend is correct,’ said Nyx. ‘There is no winning here for you.

Not only are you outnumbered, Nico di Angelo, but you will ultimately choose not to fight.’

Nyx took a step forward, and Nico’s heart raced.

‘Impossible,’ he said. ‘I would never choose you or this place.’

‘My darling,’ said Nyx, and she moved closer, her wings fluttering. ‘You already have.’

Nico’s sword was at his feet. He bent down and picked it up; it was still warm to the touch after they’d freed Bob.

He pointed it at Nyx. ‘No, I have not,’ he said. ‘And now I’ve got a Titan on my side. Just let us go, Nyx. It’s the easiest solution.’

Nyx rolled her eyes. Well, Nico wasn’t quite sure that’s what she was doing – he felt more than saw it. Still, he could tell she was annoyed, and she waved a hand in his direction.

‘Fine, then. Kill the son of Apollo and the Titan.’ At her word, the telkhines in the front charged.

The sea demons looked a little silly, what with their dog heads, flipper hands and flopping rhythm as they galloped towards Nico, Will and Bob. Nico wondered if they knew that. They certainly didn’t inspire the kind of fear Nyx was hoping for. He kept his sword up, not sure which one he’d

attack first and, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Will bringing his finger up to his lips.

Before the telkhines could do any damage at all, Bob stepped forward.

He raised his enormous broom high, then swept it to the side. With that one

swoop he managed to smack the telkhines so hard that they flew off into Nyx’s garden, howling as they sailed through the air.

‘You are a bully,’ Bob said to Nyx. ‘I won’t let you hurt my friends.’

Without a word from Nyx, more monsters charged forward. The basilisks slithered over the ground, and Bob stomped on one of them, grinding his heel into the dirt. Small Bob was now a glowing sabre-toothed tiger, roaring and hissing, tearing at the throats of telkhines and wolves. Nico cried out as he brought down his Stygian iron blade and chopped a basilisk in two. He turned and watched as Will slammed a large rock into the head of a

snapping cynocephalus.

‘Behind me!’ Nico called to Will. ‘We have to do it together!’

Will’s face broke out in a smile, and he twisted out of the path of a manticore’s spines. Nico swiped and slashed as Will started singing. Nico felt the notes vibrate in his sword, and he channelled them through the iron until the blade began to glow purple and hum again.

He stabbed another basilisk as Bob roared and tossed a blood-red pegasus at Nyx. She didn’t even flinch. The creature simply disappeared within the void of her dress.

Nico didn’t let the disturbing image distract him from the onslaught. He slammed the tip of his blade into the ground. ‘I am the ghost king!’ he

cried, and the earth erupted beneath him. A hand clawed at the dirt, and then the dead began to pull themselves up, one after the other. Soon Nyx’s army was very occupied with the many skeletons that were assaulting them. A rotting human ripped a pit scorpion in half, and Bob used the handle of his broom to impale them both, creating the world’s weirdest kebab in the process.

Nico pointed his sword at Nyx and …

Smoke rose from the end of it. The purple glow was intact, but it no longer hummed with Will’s music.


He turned around to see Will’s face twisted in rage. ‘I’m sick of you tormenting my boyfriend through his dreams!’ he cried. ‘Leave. Him. Alone!’

Before Nico could stop him, a ray of light shot out of Will. It crossed the space between him and Nyx in an instant, and Nico could tell the primordial goddess was genuinely shocked. The beam hit an upper joint on one of her

wings and she shrieked loudly. Her wing was singed, and she pulled it tighter to her body.

‘I … I got her,’ said Will.

Then he dropped like a sack of potatoes.

‘Will!’ Nico sprang forward, but he wasn’t quick enough.

Will’s head smacked the ground, and he groaned, his eyes fluttering. ‘Nico,’ he slurred.

‘I’m here,’ said Nico, cradling Will’s head with one hand. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’

‘No, you’re not,’ said Nyx, and then, just as before, Nico was lifted into the air. His sword fell out of his right hand, and he thrashed against Nyx’s hold.

But it was no use.

‘Now,’ she said, twisting Nico around until he stared into those horrible burning eyes of hers, ‘are you ready to accept your fate?’

‘No!’ he screamed. He shut his eyes tightly, but he couldn’t get the image of Nyx’s non-face out of his thoughts. ‘There’s nothing you could say or do that would make me give up my life!’

He opened his eyes and saw Will’s limp body on the ground on his right.

To the left he saw Bob thrashing and flailing as he was swarmed by pit

scorpions. He turned back to face Nyx, whose very posture was a promise.

She would do anything to force him to stay in Tartarus.

Nico’s skin tingled all over. He knew that more dead were about to rise.

He hoped they’d be enough to at least distract the goddess.

But nothing happened. Nyx threw back her head in a laugh. ‘Oh, Nico, you really should have read my brochure,’ she said, then cackled more. ‘I mean, it literally spells out that there is no greater force of darkness in the world than me. Did you think your paltry trauma and your brooding gothic sensibilities were any match for this?’ On the last word, her wings


A chariot appeared out of the shadows around Nyx, and her two vampire horses whinnied and reared. From the void that was her body the goddess pulled a whip made of fiercely burning stars. She snapped it towards Bob, and the end of it wrapped around one of his legs. When she yanked it, he flipped over, slamming into the ground.

‘I am the darkness,’ she boomed, and Nico felt like he was being

screamed at by a black hole. ‘And you will never return to a world you

don’t belong in.’

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