Chapter no 46

The Sun and the Star

Nico frantically searched the floor of the boat. ‘Where are the oars?’ he cried out. ‘Will, do you see them?’‌

‘Nico, I’m really sorry, but I kinda … lost them? Back before the


‘We don’t need them,’ said Bob stoically. ‘We’ll be fine.’

Nyx roared again, then fell to all fours as the darkness she was creating grew bigger and bigger.

‘Are you sure?’ Nico shouted. ‘Because it looks like she’s going to absorb us!’

The boat drifted slowly down the river, and Nyx began to crawl forward, screaming at them, her dress devouring all that it touched.

‘Yes,’ said Bob. ‘She doesn’t realize that we are safe.’

Nico scowled at first, then realized something he hadn’t noticed before. The river wasn’t talking.

He could no longer hear the lamentations of the dead. The punished weren’t crying out to him.

‘Will,’ he said. ‘Will, can you hear the river?’ His boyfriend grimaced. ‘No, not over Nyx.’

Nyx swallowed up a chunk of landscape and reached for them.

Nico shook his head. ‘No, remember before? Even when we were in the boat, we could still hear the voices in the Acheron.’

Will’s face perked up. ‘Oh, you’re right,’ he said. ‘Is it … empty? Like, empty of souls?’

‘No,’ said Bob. ‘You misunderstand the nature of it. It only calls out to you if you let it.’

Nico’s eyes widened. ‘What? That doesn’t make sense.’

Bob looked at him impassively. ‘It does. You are not worthy of punishment, and you do not despair. At least not any more.’

As the epiphany crept through Nico’s mind, he twisted his head around to watch Nyx claw at the riverbank. One of her hands briefly submerged in the gently flowing waters and …

A new scream erupted from her, and she jerked back. Her hand was blistered and smoking.

‘NO!’ she cried. But she didn’t stop coming. She leaped into the river, trying to grasp the stern of the boat. A terrible hiss echoed off the cliff face, and Nyx thrashed wildly. Ultimately, she had to turn around and paddle furiously back towards the shore. She rolled onto the bank, blisters rising on her body, her dress dissipating into wisps of smoke. The stars on her skin flared and then winked out.

‘No,’ she groaned. ‘Impossible!’

The boat continued to float away from her, but Nico moved to the stern. ‘You can’t enter the River of Pain,’ he called out to her, ‘because that is all you know.’

‘I will get you, Nico di Angelo!’ she screamed. ‘I’ll capture you and seal you up, and I’ll force you to … to …’

She went quiet as her body, now just a wizened husk, started sinking into the ground. They watched as her still figure became darkness, evaporating into the shadows.

Meanwhile, Gorgyra’s boat bobbed peacefully along the surface of the water.

Nyx would not be coming after them again anytime soon. We’re free! Nico thought.

He sat down across from Will, who asked, ‘Is she dead?’

Nico shook his head. ‘No. She’s a goddess, remember? But Bob was right. I didn’t get what he meant at first, but … she can’t enter the Acheron. Gorgyra said that pain is the river we must navigate to get where we want to be. Well, Nyx refuses to accept that, so the river … it rejected her.’

Just then a loud screech echoed over Tartarus. Nico peered at the cliff on their left and …

‘Oh, Hades,’ he said, pointing. ‘Look!’

Up on the ledge above them, multiple Cocoa Puffs were crying and calling out as they ran along it to keep up with the moving boat.

‘What do they want?’ asked Will. ‘Did Nyx send them?’ ‘I don’t know!’ said Nico.

‘I don’t think so,’ said Bob, and he stood slowly, his hands extended to the sides to keep the boat from tipping over. ‘But I’m ready to expel them if they try to attack.’

The Cocoa Puffs scrambled over one another as the boat continued down the river. They kept pace with the rushing water, chirping and growling as they did so. Nico glanced at the shore on their right to make sure it was

empty, and he saw only dead tree trunks and wilted grasses.

But when he looked back at the cliff …

It was shrinking. No longer did the stone wall tower over them. As the Cocoa Puffs got closer, Nico’s heart raced as quickly as they did.

‘What should we do?’ said Will. ‘They can’t reach us, can they?’

The current picked up speed, so the cacodemons practically rolled down the last bit of the decline to keep up. They snarled and yapped and appeared to be shoving each other aside in an effort to …



‘Bob, stop the boat.’

The Titan looked down at Nico. ‘What?’

‘Use your broom or whatever,’ he said. ‘Please!’

‘Nico, what are you doing?’ cried Will. ‘They’re going to get us!’ ‘Please, Bob!’ Nico shouted.

Bob raised an eyebrow. Then he lifted his broom, spun it around so the bristles pointed up, and jammed it into the water. The boat swerved to a


Nico turned back to Will. ‘They’re not trying to fight us,’ he said. ‘They’re trying to escape.’

Sure enough, as soon as the cacodemons caught up to them, they began to throw themselves aboard. The boat rocked back and forth as they did so, but Bob kept it steady with his broom. When the last Cocoa Puff leaped in, Nico nodded to Bob, who yanked the broom handle free.

The cacodemons cowered in the bow, shrinking away from Will. They grouped together so closely that they looked like a single blob of darkness with multiple eyes and mouths. Small Bob hissed at the Cocoa Puffs from Bob’s shoulders.

‘Well,’ said Will, moving to sit next to Nico. ‘Now what?’

‘They’re free to go where they want,’ said Nico. ‘That was the whole point of me letting them go. It’s just … well, I didn’t think they’d want to come with us.’

Will smiled. ‘Well, if they’re going to be sticking around, then I want you to know that I accept them.’

‘Thanks,’ said Nico. ‘I mean, I don’t know that they’re actually sticking around. Maybe they just want an express ticket out of Tartarus.’

‘Fair,’ said Will. ‘I still like the idea of you having a perpetual band of little demons following you around, though.’

‘Don’t you dare call it cute.’ ‘Nico and the Cocoa Puffs.’ ‘Don’t do that, either.’

‘Sounds like a great power-pop band.’ ‘I swear, Will …’

‘Catch them opening for Paramore this winter.’

Nico gently slugged Will’s arm. ‘Glad to see you’re back to being your annoying self.’

Will held out his hand, and Nico took it. ‘Glad to see you didn’t give yourself over to Nyx.’

‘In a way, I feel sorry for her,’ said Nico. ‘She’s stuck. All she knows is pain. And I get the appeal of constantly holding on to the darkness.’

‘Nico, you don’t have to explain her actions away.’

‘I’m not. I just think … well, it was her way of being in control. She was born of Chaos – literally. Her parents are Chaos and Tartarus. Her whole

existence is darkness and suffering and death.’ He swallowed his own grief as his eyes blurred with tears. ‘I think I relate to that a little too much.’

Will scooted close and wrapped Nico in his arms. Finally, Nico let go of the tension he’d been holding and he cried into Will. Cried with relief, cried from fatigue, cried because his life had been so very, very hard.

It was still hard.

But maybe this part … Maybe this part could be easier.

Nico curled up in his boyfriend’s arms, and Small Bob purred at his feet. Tartarus was quiet around them. Nico wondered if maybe the old god had drifted off to sleep … And then exhaustion began to pull at Nico’s own


As his eyelids grew heavy, he took one last look around them. A

seemingly endless expanse of barren, arid land stretched out in either

direction, like they were travelling through a sunless desert split by the river. This time he saw no monsters or creatures, no gods or protogenoi, nothing lurking in the shadows.

Even so, Nico still worried. What if something else awaited them? Could this terrible journey truly be nearing its end? It had been so torturous just to enter Tartarus. Surely it wouldn’t be easy to leave it.

But they had come so far – too far to fail. Nico clung to that thought –alongside the reformed Titan, his ghost cat, a band of newly born

cacodemons and Will – as the canoe passed silently into darkness.

You'll Also Like