Thanks for ten chapters of awesomeness. You guys are so amazing!
Sorry about typos/OOCness (Which, for those who keep bugging me about this, mean Out Of Character)
Coach Hedge went a little overboard on the 'baby-sitting'.
Right after the six of them had left the ship, Hedge vanished from their sight. Nico thought this was a bit weird, but he wasn't about to call the satyr over to them just to make sure he was still there. Maybe he had decided to go watch some honey badger nature specials. It didn't affect Nico one way to the other.
"Over the hills and through the woods to Hades' house we go," sang Leo softly, obviously ignoring the glares from everyone. That kid was getting on his nerves almost as much as Percy used to.
Frank and Hazel walked next to Nico, probably trying to keep him company, even thought he was perfectly fine being by himself. He didn't say anything though; it was nice to have someone with him for a change. Especially since they were his only friends out of everyone on this quest. Everyone else was nice enough, but these guys were his… buddies. He couldn't even believe he had thought that word.
"The death kid knows the way, but doesn't seem to like the word 'hey'," continued Leo. Nico grumbled unkind words. "Through the trees to… to…" Leo apparently couldn't think of anything that rhymed. He quit the song, and Nico's ears finally stopped bleeding.
Ahead of him, Piper and Jason were holding hands and whispering things to each other. Nico wondered what they were talking about, and he felt a little self-conscious, even thought he was 99 percent sure their conversation wasn't about him.
"Why am I leading the way?" Leo finally asked.
"I thought you were the Supreme Commander," Piper pointed out.
"No, I'm just the Repair Boy," countered Leo, rolling his eyes. It seemed like an inside joke between the three of them, and Nico didn't want a back story. "But really, I have no idea where we are supposed to go. Nico, why don't you lead the way?"
The simpler option would be for them to all just shadow travel to House, but Nico didn't have enough experience with it to that. The trip to Tartarus and days in a jar and pretty much drained his powers. Even if he tried, he would probably lose someone's arm in the process, and no one would enjoy that. And option C was for Nico to ditch them and take a nice trip to China or something.
But he wouldn't bail on them. This quest was much too important.
"Truth be told you guys," he started. "Those days of… torture did not do wonders for me. I'm not sure if I could even shadow travel there to tell you it's real. So I can only guess where to go from here on out."
"Well, your guess is better than mine," said Frank. "You actually know what the House of Hades is."
"I do, yet I don't. Persephone once told me a story about the place during one of the few moments she wasn't turning me into flowers. In ancient times, people were sacrificed to Hades inside, hoping he would be pleased with one death instead of killing a whole village or something."
"I wonder what kind of flower you would be," someone giggled.
Nico's face turned red. "Who said that?" he demanded.
All of them shook their heads, just as dumbfounded as he was. He heard a chorus of giggles coming from the trees. Then they were silent.
Nico ignored the nature spirits. They were just as annoying in Greece as they were at the camps. "Some tales also say that those who wanted their life to end could go there. It was a one way door to the Underworld. As long as someone was guarding the doors, spirits would not be able to escape."
"The doors…" Frank trailed off. "Oh, you mean the Doors."
He nodded. "The Doors of Death have always been in Epirus, right inside of the House of Hades. Of course, I have no idea if any of this is even true. I've collected this information from my own travels. The stories are always told different. It's like comparing Greek Mythology to Clash of the Titans. No one knows what's real and what isn't."
"So, in other words," Piper reasoned. "We have no idea whether this place is real or not?"
"Except for the fact that I've been there in my dreams," countered Nico, shrugging his shoulders. "It is the best lead we have."
"You could always ask one of us," sighed a nature spirit. A nymph with bright green hair and purple clothes came stepping out of the trees. She super short and frail, but looked to be in her mid thirties. She casually strolled toward them like she had all the time in the world. They all turned to face her. She blushed bright green. "Well, it's true. We've lived here longer than you have; we know every nook and cranny of Greece, and we love to talk."
"What's your name?" asked Hazel.
"Tulip," she answered, studying her nails. "And if I'm correct, you don't have all day to talk to me either. So why not just ask me what needs to be asked, and you can be on your merry way?"
"Sounds pretty good to me," muttered Jason. Then he coughed and nudged Nico forward. "I think he has all of the questions for you."
Nico turned around and glared and Jason, but the nymph didn't care. "Ah, Mr. di Angelo, Son of Hades. Pleasure to meet you. As I said before, my name is Tulip, and I'll show you to the place that you need to be. It's the least I can do for Gleeson."
"You know Hedge?"
"Just met him when he asked me to watch over a group of demigods that he assumed would be walking around in circles, wondering where to go. I guessed that it was you guys, so I told him I'd love to help. I love a tall guy."
"Actually, Coach Hedge has a girlfriend," said Piper, but all Nico could think was, Tall? I'm taller than him!
"You said you were to show us to the place we need to be?" asked Frank. "By that, you do mean the House of Hades, right?"
"Perhaps," she said mysteriously. "But I'm not going to hand you over to the Giants or anything, if that's what you're worried about. I would never try to help them. They tend to put us in slavery. Ugh, the thought! I will help you guys in any way that I can, and right now, that is showing you to where you need to be!"
She skipped off happily, obviously expecting them to follow her. Nico started to go after her, but Hazel laid a hand down on his shoulder. "Nico, are you sure this is a good thing?"
"It's the only way we'll get there." This time, they all went after Nico and Tulip.
The whole way through the forest, Tulip wouldn't quit talking to them. She asked them questions about what had happened before they got to Greece, how much they knew already from the brewing war, Coach Hedge, and what camps they went to (even though she clearly knew the answer). Jason said, "Do you have any idea how long it is from here to the House."
Tulip laughed like she knew something they didn't. "My version of long and your version of long are two different things, Son of Jupiter. We'll get there when we get there."
They walked on for a little while longer before saying, "If I was a demigod, I'd say about an hour or so longer, but time is very hard for me."
Someone popped out from the trees. She walked up to Leo and took his face in her hands. "No bruises, no cuts, okay, okay, you look good. Gleeson will be pleased." She vanished in a puff of green smoke than smelled like pine and cedar.
This happened about five other times, each time focused on a different half-blood. The nymphs really wanted to make sure they were safe. It was like that overprotective mom that wouldn't let you out of her sight, even if it meant a few feet. Soon Nico felt like they had attached a collar to his neck to make sure he wouldn't get away.
A breeze blew, and Nico pulled his jacket around him tighter. He hated being in foreign places and not knowing where he was going. It was like the labyrinth all over again. He'd felt so small and vulnerable inside of it, just on little kid in a huge maze full of creeps and monsters.
"And here we are at the edge. Welcome to the Epirus region," she greeted waving her arms. "It's a beautiful little city. We're in Ioannina, right now."
"We're in a lake," Nico said dully.
It was true; all he could see was water in every direction, except for behind him. But there was a little land, way off in the distance, but Nico couldn't make out anything about it.
"Actually," she continued, ignoring him, "Ioannina was the capital of the Principality of Epirus, during the Byzantine Empire. But we're not staying on the mainland. We're going out onto Ioannina Island! Oh, and by we, I mean you."
"But we need your help," objected Hazel.
"No you don't. I took you as far as I could go. I must be getting back to my home now. My sisters will be worried. I'll make sure to tell Coach Handsome that you all made it here safely. But I really must be on my way. Toodle-loo!" She waved at them.
"Wait!" Nico stopped her. "How are we supposed to get onto the island? We don't have a boat. Only Jason can fly."
"Hm." She considered this. "Well, you are the Son of Hades, why don't you tell me?"
She was gone before he could even answer. Nico thought about that. What was she trying to say? He was the Son of Hades, but that wasn't going to help them in this situation.
"What was that all about?" asked Jason. He looked at Nico like he was holding out on them.
He put up his hands. "I don't know. Maybe we should try to find a boat." They were on the edge of a cliff, a small beach below them. "It wouldn't hurt to try, you know. Let's go check it out." It was stupid, considering he didn't have any weapons, but still worth a try.
Leo was looking at the Archimedes Sphere. "I'm afraid to risk using this right now," he admitted. "I don't think magical boats or jet packs come out of it."
"Yeah, wouldn't that be nice," scoffed Frank shaking his head. Leo gave him the evil eye in return.
"I'm just saying-"
"You don't need to," Frank cut him off. Hazel put a hand on Frank's shoulder while Nico laughed inside. Watching Leo and Frank get it a 'fight' was like watching two middle school girls on a cliché Disney Channel show.
"Break it up," Nico mumbled loud enough for everyone to hear. "This isn't getting us anywhere. If we didn't take risks, then none of us would be here. And don't even try to object to that."
"But what if Tulip was lying?" asked Piper. "I can't believe I didn't use my charmspeak on her to make sure she was telling the truth. But really, what if the House of Hades isn't on that island? We'll have wasted so much time for nothing."
Nico didn't want to think like that, but she was right. The House of Hades may not even be on the island. It could be underneath them, or still on the mainland. Nico stuck his head up defiantly. "We have no other choice right now other than to believe the nymph and find a way over there."
Nico really hoped that Tulip had stayed true to her word.
Do you guys think Tulip is bad or good? Tell me what you think!
Wow, the world may end in 16 days. Gods, that would suck, but you'd totally catch me taking picture!
Reviews and ideas are loved!