Chapter no 9

The Sun and the Star

Nico rushed to Will and pulled him to his feet. ‘Are you okay? What happened?’‌

Will dusted himself off. ‘I suddenly felt sleepy … like I hadn’t slept in a million years.’ Then he looked around. ‘Uh, Nico … why are we back in Central Park?’

‘I don’t know,’ he admitted. ‘It shouldn’t be possible.’

And yet he could hear leaves rustling in the wind and the distant sound of traffic.

‘But … we went down all those steps!’ said Will. ‘Like, twice.’ ‘Maybe you were right,’ Nico said. ‘Maybe my father is preventing us

from going into the Underworld somehow.’

He walked up to the massive rocks that made up the Door of Orpheus. He placed his hand on them. They felt very real: rough, solid and cool to the touch. ‘Can you try to open this again?’

Will shook himself like a wet dog. ‘Just trying to wake up.’

He approached the door and began humming the same melody as before.

Slowly, the schist rumbled and split apart, revealing the dank, dark steps

again. Will plugged his nose. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that smell.’

Nico held his purple-glowing sword in front of him as he led the way down the steps. As before, the door closed behind them, filling the space with terrible silence.

‘We’re going to have to do this all over, aren’t we?’ said Will. ‘I’m already so tired …’

‘It doesn’t make sense,’ said Nico, descending. ‘I’ve never had anything like this happen before, which makes me think it isn’t Hades. He wouldn’t

toy with us like this.’

Will gave him a sceptical look. ‘Then what is it?’ he asked. ‘Is there someone or something else that could make this happen in the


Nico sighed. ‘Are you asking me if there are terrible creatures who can do awful things to us down here? Sure. But I don’t know if you really want me to list them all.’

He turned to face Will, but … Will wasn’t there.

Nico stared at the empty space behind him. No Will, no stairway, no tunnel, just … darkness.

His heart climbed into his throat. ‘Will?’ ‘I’m right here,’ said Will.

Nico jumped. Will was, in fact, standing right in front of him – exactly

where he hadn’t been a moment before. The steps, the tunnel … were where they should be.

What is going on? Nico wondered.

He remembered an old stereoscope his mother had owned back in the 1930s. At the time, it had seemed like magic to Nico. He would put his eyes in the view-mask as his mother changed 3-D photo cards at the other end of a guide stick. One moment Nico was in Paris; then, in the blink of an eye, he was at the Great Wall of China, then the Grand Canyon.

Nico felt like that now: stuck in a stereoscope he couldn’t control. And he wasn’t sure who was changing the cards.

‘Are you okay?’ Will asked. ‘You looked panicky there for a second.’ ‘You … You weren’t there. Nothing was. It was just me in the darkness.’

In the purple glow of Nico’s blade, Will’s face seemed to float in and out of focus. ‘But I’ve been here the whole time. I didn’t see anything change.’

Nico tried to think. It wasn’t easy with the adrenalin buzzing through his system.

‘Something doesn’t want us to make it to the Underworld,’ he decided. ‘Will, I think you were right from the start. Can you … do the glowing thing? Maybe a better light source will help us see what’s actually going on.’

‘Okay,’ said Will, his voice trembling ever so slightly. ‘Whatever you say.’

His skin began to glow like rice paper lit from behind by a candle. Nico found the sight both beautiful and unsettling, as if his boyfriend were about to burst into flames.

They descended once more. For the third attempt, the dim light of the

Underworld began to shine at the end of the long passage, but it seemed to happen much more quickly this time. Maybe Will’s glow was helping? Nico could make out the roar of the River Styx below. Finally, the steps gave way to the uneven ground of the cavern, and Nico reached back for Will’s hand.

‘Don’t let go of me,’ he said, holding his Stygian iron sword before him. ‘No matter what happens.’

Will clutched him tightly. ‘I’ve got you.’

Nico managed a few steps towards the river’s edge, and that’s when a

wave of exhaustion rolled over him, and an uncontrollable desire to curl up and sleep.

It was an unusual sensation for him, because he wasn’t much of a sleeper.

He’d spent many a night at Camp Half-Blood wandering the grounds instead of lying in bed. Anything to avoid the dreams he’d been having. And if his dreams in the mortal world were so terrible, he thought with a shudder, what would they be like in the Underworld?

‘Will, keep your eyes open,’ he said. ‘Don’t close them.’

‘Why do I feel so sleepy?’ Will’s grip on Nico’s hand was already loosening. ‘Should we rest?’

Nico forced himself to look across the river to the black ramparts of Erebos. Was this his father’s doing? Had Hades somehow discovered that Nico was trying to cross his realm and deliberately enter Tartarus? Maybe this was his way of saying No way, Jose.

‘We can’t rest yet,’ said Nico. ‘We have to follow the river and make our way down those cliffs. It’s not too far. Then we can find the troglodytes and rest, I promise.’

Thump. Will’s hand slipped out of Nico’s, and when Nico turned he found that his boyfriend – whose illumination was much dimmer – had fallen to the ground again.

‘No!’ Nico cried. ‘Not here, please!’ ‘I can’t,’ said Will. ‘I can’t be here.’

‘Please, get up,’ begged Nico, his arms under Will’s armpits, trying to lift him, but it was hopeless.

‘This place,’ said Will. ‘It’s not meant for someone like me.’

‘Do you need your sunlamp?’ Nico’s heart raced faster. ‘Why is this happening so suddenly?’

Nico looked up and –No. No!

Darkness was seeping into his field of vision. The world around him –the cavern walls, Erebos, the River Styx – began to fade away.

‘Not again!’ Nico called out. ‘Stop it!’

When he looked down at Will, his boyfriend’s internal light had extinguished and he seemed to be completely asleep on the –


The grass. Will was curled up on a bed of wet grass.

With a rising wave of horror, Nico scanned his surroundings. They were back in Central Park.


A voice floated through the trees: Help me, Nico!


It was Bob.

Why won’t you help me, Nico?

Nico screamed in frustration, his eyes squeezed tight, and then –

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