That night, I had my worst dream yet. I was in an air field. Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase, Artemis , and a girl in punk clothes knelt over the broken body of Zoe Nightshade. "No..." I said quietly, but they couldn't hear me. "Have I... served thee well?" Zoe asked. "With great honor. The finest of my attendants." Artemis replied. Zoe's face relaxed. I felt tears streaming down my cheeks. "Rest. At last. "
"I could try to heal the the poison, my brave one." Artemis offered. But they locked eyes, and some sort of silent understanding passed between them. She looked over at the girl in punk clothes, and took her hand.
"I am sorry we argued. We could have been sisters."
The punk girl blinked hard. "It's my fault. You were right about Luke, about heroes, men-everything."
"Perhaps not all men." Zoe smiled weakly at Percy. "Do you still have the sword, Percy?" He pulled out a ballpoint pen and handed it to her. "You spoke the truth, Percy Jackson. You are nothing like-like Hercules. I am honored that you carry this sword." A shudder ran through her body. "Zoe-" Percy started.
"Stars." Zoe whispered. "I can see the stars again, my lady."
A tear trickled down Artemis's cheek. "Yes, my brave one. They are beautiful tonight."
"Stars" Zoe repeated. Her eyes fixed on the night sky for the last time. The punk girl lowered her head. Artemis cupped her hand over Zoe's mouth and spoke a few words in ancient Greek. A silvery whisp of smoke exhaled from Zoe's mouth. Artemis caught it in her hand as Zoe's body shimmered and dissapeared. Artemis stood, said a blessing, breathed into her cupped hand, and released the silver dust into the sky. Annabeth gasped. A new constellation had appeared in the sky-a girl with a bow, running across the sky. "Let the world honor you, my Huntress. Live forever in the stars."
I woke up crying. The next day, I decided to visit Camp Half-Blood. When I flashed there, I came up in front of a pile of boulders in the middle of the woods. At the time, I didn't know why, but now I think some deity was either trying to help me orreally trying to mess with me. An unusually strong gust of wind pushed me backward into the rocks. The ground dissapeared out from under me.
The next thing I knew, I was lying in a dark hall. "What the..." I shrugged and tried to flash back to camp, but I came up in a dirt-packed hall with tree roots moving like feelers. I yelped and flashed out, but just came up in another hallway. I tried walking once, but came to a trap at the third turn. I was in some kind of maze. And it was janking up my magical travel. I kept flashing around for what seemed like hours. What was I supposed to do, walk through the thing? It was a death trap!
After a while, I flashed into something. Or should I say, someone. The boy had been walking down the hall when I flashed right in front of him. We both bumped heads and stumbled back. "Watch where youre going. " I said, rubbing my nose.
"You just appeared out of no where! " the boy protested.
"Well, you should watch more closely for people appearing out of no where."
He hesitated, as if trying to figure something out. "That makes no sense. " he said finally.
I smirked. "Oh, well."
"Why are you here?" The boy asked. He had messy black hair, pale skin, and dark eyes that looked strangely familiar.
"Well, I got stuck in the stupid maze, and it's messing up the navigation on my magical traveling so I can't get out. I just kept flashing around 'cause I was kind of hoping I'd run into someone who-" I narrowed my eyes at the boy. "Ya wouldn't happen to know the way out of here, would you? "
"Will you show me? "
"Why not? "
"I have important things to do and I don't have time for detours."
"You wouldn't have to take any detours. As soon as I'm out of the maze I can flash back home. "
"Come on! Please? "
"I'm not going to leave you alone until you help me. ."
He glared at me. "Fine."
He started down the hallway, and I followed.
"Thanks. So what's your name?"
He looked irratated, but he stopped walking and held out his hand. "Nico di Angelo"
I shook, but stifled a laugh. "Nico the Angel? Seriously? "
"di Angelo." He said through clenched teeth.
"Which is Italian for the Angel." I replied
He blinked, like this had never occurred to him, then started back down the corridor, a little quicker than before. I followed, supressing a smile. "I'm Stella. " I said. "That means star, constellation, sun, fire-bringer, sea star, grave marker,-"
"Grave marker?" Nico interupted me.
"Ya. As in, stele?"
We walked in silence for a while. "So, what brings you to the maze?" I asked finally.
He looked at me like he was making a decision. He shook his head. "You'd think I was crazy. "
"I highly doubt that. "
He raised an eyebrow. "Alright. I'm trying to bring my sister back from the dead."
I couldn't figure out what to say to that, so I looked at him in the Duat. His aura was pure pitch black. I'd never seen one like that before, and I'd seen most demigod auras. Except... "Your a son of Hades. " I said, suddenly sure of it.
"How did you know?"
I told him about how I could look into the Duat and see people's magical auras. "And if anyone stands a chance at bringing someone back from the dead it's you." I said.
"Thanks. Most people just tell me to give up."
"Well, I know what it's like to face an impossible goal."
"What do you mean? " I told him about retrieving the secret names of the Olympians. "So Hestia brought you back to life?"
"Ya, but I was only dead for a few seconds. And I don't think you have the blessing of a goddess on hand. "
Nico looked troubled. "But Bianca had the blessing of Artemis. "
"Had she already used it?"
"No. She'd just become a Hunter."
Well that made no sense. Unless..."Did she sacrifice herself for some one?"
Nico scowled. "Well, that's what Percy said, but-"
"Wait, Percy Jackson?"
Nico nodded grimly. "He was on the quest with her. He let her die. And now he's trying to kill me."
I shook my head in disbelief. "Are you sure?"
"Don't feel bad, he fooled me at first too."
"But why would he do something like that?"
Nico shrugged miserably. "Hades and Posiedon have never really liked each other. Maybe his father put him up to it. But that still doesn't justify it."
I felt horrible. If I'd left Percy in Lotus, Nico's sister might have still been alive. "I'm sorry, Nico."
"Ya, well, hopefully I'll have her back soon. "
I looked into his eyes and smiled. "I know you will. " he started to smile back, but then his eyes widened. He realized something at the same moment I did.
"You!" we screamed simultaneously.
He was the boy the man had gotten out of Lotus.
"You're the girl from the Hotel," he said, taking a step back. "You tried to make us stay there!"
I cringed, but nodded. "That's my job. I keep people trapped inside the Hotel," I looked away, towards the dusty stone floor. For the first time since I took my job with the Lotus Eaters, I felt bad. I'd always thought living in a stress-free paradise forever outweighed the cost of losing contact with the outside world, but the sudden fear and distance in Nico's voice made me think twice.
"You should just leave me here," I continued. "Then we'd be even." I slumped against the wall.
Nico just stood there for a minute, tapping the midnight black sword hanging at his side.
"No." He finally said. He held out his hand.
I took it and let him help me up. "Why-"
"I've been stuck in here before. It sucks," he said bluntly, starting to walk again, and I followed closely. "And we're almost there, any way."
Soon the ceiling opened up to metal bars. The darkness of the hall wrapped around them and tore them down. "Did you-"
"Just get up." A few minutes later, we were both standing in the middle of a green pastuer filled with red cows. "Well... see ya, I guess." I said.
"See ya." Nico said.
I hesitated for a moment, wanting to say something, not quite sure what. Maybe I felt like I needed to apologize again for Lotus, thank him again for helping me despite it. But he had already turned to go, and after another moment's pause, I flashed away.