Chapter no 48

The Sun and the Star

Nico dreamed.‌

He was in darkness, and he heard his name being called.

Nico. Nico di Angelo.

He knew who it was, and his heart sank. Had Nyx decided to hurt him through his dreams because they’d managed to escape?

He pulled his dream blanket tighter over his head. ‘I’m sleeping this off,’ he announced. ‘Give it up, Nyx!’

‘I don’t know why you think I’m Nyx,’ said another familiar voice. He slowly prised the blanket back.

He was in the Lotus Hotel once more, but … no, this was different. It wasn’t like the dream that had tormented him all summer. Somehow this

one felt more real. The details weren’t fuzzy around the edges. The blanket he was wrapped in … He ran his fingers over it. He could feel every thread, every fibre that it was made of.


He looked to his left.

Bianca sat next to him in bed, dressed as one of the Hunters of Artemis.

She glowed vaguely, as if … as if … As if she were a ghost.

‘Bianca?’ said Nico, kicking off the blanket. ‘What is this?’

‘Calm down, Nico,’ she said, smiling from ear to ear. ‘I know you’ve been through a terribly difficult experience, and that’s going to make this harder for you to believe.’

She reached over. She touched him.

Her hand was cold, but it was there, her fingertips lightly running over the back of his hand, and it sent goosebumps up and down his skin.

‘This is a dream,’ said Bianca, ‘but it is also very real.’

‘I don’t understand,’ said Nico, and his whole body went still. ‘You will soon,’ she said. ‘An exception was made.’

‘An exception?’ He tried to get out of the bed, but the blanket became tangled with his feet. He tumbled onto the floor, landing so that he faced the leather chair tucked into the corner.

Someone was in it.

Nico backed up until his shoulders hit the mattress, his heart in his throat.

A beautiful woman was sitting in the armchair. She wore a long black skirt that came down to her shins, and there was a veiled black hat on her head.

Even through the veil, he knew those eyes. He had not seen them in …



‘Mamma?’ he uttered, and his voice broke. His heart broke.

Maria di Angelo smiled down at him. ‘Ciao, caro figliuolo,’ she said. ‘It’s been a long time.’

‘This isn’t funny, Nyx,’ he said, his voice trembling. ‘It’s never going to work. If anything, you’re only going to make me more dedicated to resisting you.’

Bianca knelt at his side. ‘This isn’t what you think it is.’

She extended her hand to show him a Mythomagic figurine on her palm.

Zeus. ‘His lightning bolts do six hundred damage,’ Bianca said. ‘He was one of your favourites.’

‘You loved that game,’ said Maria, her dark eyes sparkling beneath the veil. ‘Half the time it was impossible to pull your attention away from it, especially when we moved to the United States.’

Nico rose slowly, then looked from Maria to Bianca and back.

‘You can’t be here,’ he said. ‘It’s not allowed. You both … You both moved on.’

Maria nodded. ‘We did, Nico. I am sorry I was never able to come back to see you before this. It is a regret I had, but … where I went, I had to let go.’

‘Where you went?’ Nico raised an eyebrow at Bianca. ‘How is she here, then? How are you here? Aren’t you in Elysium?’

‘I am,’ said Bianca. ‘But the two of us … We were granted one last visit with you.’

‘What?’ said Nico. ‘Granted by whom?’

Maria ignored that question. She stood, and the sight of her was like a

crashing wave that swept Nico away. He choked out a sob, then covered his mouth.

Tears spilled from Maria’s eyes. ‘We are not truly here,’ she said. ‘Think of us … like an essence. Like the smallest drop of who we once were.’

‘We are still ourselves,’ Bianca added, and she crossed over the room to stand next to her mother. Nico’s mother. ‘But this cannot last long. It is just for you.’

‘Just for me?’ Nico wiped away his tears. ‘Why?’

Maria and Bianca did not answer. Instead, they both cast a glance over Nico’s shoulder and smiled.

The temperature dropped, and Nico sensed another presence in the room.

He didn’t want to turn around. It was Nyx, wasn’t it? Or Epiales, or some other nightmare demon or god. They’d found a way into his mind, to torment him more, or …

‘Turn around, Nico,’ said Bianca. ‘This is not what you think it is.’ He gulped loudly.

But what if it was?

‘You have to let go of that fear,’ his mother said. ‘Fear is not always a bad thing, but sometimes it can hold you back.’

She stepped forward and placed a ghostly hand on his cheek. ‘Turn around,’ she said.

He swallowed his terror and turned.

Hades stood behind him, dressed in a black pinstripe suit. He was holding a wide-brim hat in both hands, rotating it nervously. Despite the fact that he was metres taller than everyone else in the room, he seemed …

Like an embarrassed child.

But wasn’t Nico the one in trouble? For defying his father’s wishes? For entering Tartarus even though it was forbidden?

‘Father,’ said Nico. ‘What is this?’

At first, Hades did not speak. His glittering dark eyes jumped from Nico to the floor, then to Maria.

‘Go ahead, Hades,’ prompted Maria.

‘This is my doing,’ Hades finally said. ‘This dream.’ ‘Wait,’ said Nico. ‘If this is really you –’

‘It is, my son,’ said Hades, cutting him off. ‘If you don’t believe, I can prove it to you –’

This time, Nico didn’t let him finish. He lurched forward and wrapped his arms around his father.

Who was solid.

Who was really there.

Nico had never been one to show affection towards Hades in the past, but he was raw from what he’d just been through. He was also afraid. If the god was here in his dream, then he had to know where Nico was in real life.

‘Father,’ he muttered into Hades’s suit, ‘I’m sorry. I know you said not to return to Tartarus, but I had to.’

‘I know, Nico,’ he said, and Nico felt his father’s hands on his back, running up and down his bomber jacket.

‘I promise I wouldn’t have done it if –’ ‘I said I know.’

Those words sounded more like the Hades that Nico knew – gruff and cold. He pulled away. ‘Are you mad at me?’

Hades sighed. ‘I could hardly be angry with you after I sent you that prophecy.’


Hades gestured to the bed. ‘Sit, my son. We must talk.’ ‘You sent it to me?’

His father raised an eyebrow. ‘You have no idea how loud Bob was getting towards the end.’

Nico sat on the edge of the bed nearest his mother, and she immediately reached out to him. When he took Maria’s hand, he trembled.

Somehow she was both there and not there.

‘I don’t understand,’ said Nico. ‘The prophecy, Bob, this. What’s going on?’

‘Though the Underworld is my realm, I am often restricted in my movements,’ said Hades. He sat to Nico’s left and put his hat aside, then gazed at him with his dark eyes. ‘I believed there was no demigod better suited to rescuing Bob from Nyx’s clutches than you.’

Nico barked a laugh – he couldn’t help himself. ‘I fail to see what is so amusing,’ said Hades.

Nico grinned. ‘I just remember a time when you were annoyed that I wasn’t as good as Bianca at being a demigod.’

Hades frowned. ‘I never said that.’ ‘Totally did,’ said Nico.

‘That doesn’t sound like me.’

Bianca hid a laugh in a cough, and Maria scowled at Hades.

‘Okay, perhaps that is true,’ the god allowed. ‘But you have grown so much over the years and have proven yourself time and time again.’

‘But … Father, it’s Tartarus,’ said Nico. ‘You know I got captured there once. You know what I went through. Why would you want to send me back?’

Hades looked to Maria again, and this time she glared at him, as if to say

I’d like to know the answer, too.

Hades squared his broad shoulders and turned back to Nico. ‘Sometimes we gods can be a bit … calculating. We see things in a way that makes logical sense to us, yet our actions can have disastrous consequences for mortals.’

He nodded at Maria. ‘And sometimes mortals end up paying the price for our actions.’

‘Okay,’ said Nico. ‘I get it. You’re not human or mortal. Our world confuses you.’

‘Sometimes,’ Hades said sternly. ‘But other times … well, my child, that demigod friend of yours, Percy Jackson? He changed things for a lot of us.

Made us rethink our priorities, our behaviours, our standards. I did have

second thoughts in this case, but only after I sent you that prophecy. When you came to the Underworld with Will Solace, I was worried that I had

asked too much of you.’

He sighed and lowered his head. ‘You have lost so very much, my child. Your mother. Your sister. Jason Grace. And I worried that you would lose Will as well.’

‘But I didn’t,’ said Nico.

‘No, you did not.’ And for the first time Nico had seen in many, many years, a smile broke out on Hades’s face. ‘You survived. You were resilient. You made me proud to be your father.’

‘Vita mia,’ Maria whispered, and Nico saw that she was crying.

‘And so I wanted you to have this respite. A reward to show you how proud I am.’ He gestured towards Maria and Bianca with his right hand. ‘What good is it being a god if I can’t break the rules for my son once in a while?’

‘We cannot be here long,’ said Bianca, ‘but we needed you to know … we are proud of you, too, Nico.’

A tear spilled down Nico’s cheek. ‘I miss you, Bianca, Mom. I miss you both so much.’

‘We know,’ said Maria, her wet eyes sparkling. ‘It has been hard, and you’ve been through so much heartbreak … and yet you have not given up. You are very strong, caro figliuolo.’

‘I once told you something, Nico.’ Hades picked up his hat and placed it atop his oil-slicked hair. ‘I hoped you would finally be the exception to a legacy of children who struggled to find happiness.’

The god of the Underworld reached over and grabbed Nico’s left hand. ‘Go,’ he said. ‘Go be with Will Solace, and now that Nyx has plucked your demons from you … choose happiness. Not for me, not for your sister or mother, but for yourself. You deserve it, Nico.’

Hades went quiet, and his next words sounded like they’d got stuck in his throat.

‘You deserve everything, my son.’

Nico hesitated for a moment. ‘Everything?’ he said. Hades frowned. ‘Yes.’

He gave his father a mischievous smirk. ‘So, if I ask for something, you’ll give it to me?’

‘Perhaps I did not mean “everything” quite so literally, but go ahead.


‘There’s a soul in Tartarus,’ Nico said. ‘Amphithemis. Zeus sent him to protect Dionysus, and Hera cursed him with the form of a Lamian centaur, and now his soul is a mania, trapped in that place. Could you … could you find a way to set him free? It’s not fair that he has to suffer forever.’

Hades smiled. ‘You finally have me in a place where I can grant you

whatever you desire, and your wish is to help someone else. You continue

to make me proud.’ He adjusted his hat. ‘I will make it so.’

Then his father stood, and Nico’s heart leaped as the walls of the Lotus Hotel began to dissipate, wisping away like smoke in the wind as Hades walked into the quickly approaching darkness.

Nico turned back to his sister and mother, expecting to feel anguish and rage, expecting to beg them to stay just one more minute.

But Maria and Bianca di Angelo glowed.

And they looked so happy. Completely at peace.

‘I’m glad I got to see you again,’ he said. ‘And it’s time for me to let you go.’

‘Thank you,’ said Maria, and she caressed his cheek one last time as

Bianca beamed at him. Then they both blew away, mist into darkness, and Nico fell deep, deep into a dreamless rest.


When he awoke some time later, the sky was a red orange. He felt warmth on his face, and he blinked, adjusting to the light and shadows.

Bob looked down at him. ‘Go back to sleep, my friend,’ he said. ‘You should not be awake here.’

Nico sat up. Will was curled up on the bottom of the boat, surrounded by Cocoa Puffs, who also snoozed soundlessly.

And in the distance Nico could see Erebos.

The great black walls of his father’s palace were the best thing Nico had seen in a long time. A wide smile spread over his face.

‘We do not need your father knowing where you have been.’ ‘He already does,’ said Nico.

Bob raised an eyebrow. ‘And he’s not going to stop us?’ ‘Bob, he was the one who sent me the prophecy to find you.’

The Titan was silent, and then he smiled, too. ‘Always did like working for your father,’ he said.

The Acheron was bringing them closer and closer to the palace, and Nico lay back down, snuggling closer to Will. ‘Wake me when we need to head to the Door of Orpheus.’

Bob shook his head. ‘Not going that way.’

Nico stitched his eyebrows together. ‘But … how else are we getting out of the Underworld?’

‘I am still a Titan, Nico,’ he said. ‘I still possess some of the knowledge, even if the Lethe wiped my memories. Rest, friend. As I told Will, it is my turn to take care of you.’

Nico didn’t argue. He put his head on Will’s chest, and moments later he fell asleep to the rhythmic up-and-down of his boyfriend’s breathing.

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