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Strings Unveil

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    Nico bounced slightly as he sat on the white queen-sized bed, fiddling with his hands and counting in his head. Two hours. Two hours Bianca had been gone. He was becoming agitated, he wasn’t supposed to leave the room until she came back. Alecto, the lawyer who had pulled them aside, asked Bianca if they could have a “small talk.” Two hours didn’t seem small to Nico. He rolled the skull ring Bianca gave him in his pocket, sighing.

    Nico’s attention span wasn’t the longest, he had to do at least something to keep him entertained. Practically running out of the room, he dove into the elevator, scaring its occupants. He ran down corridors and through crowds of people. Bianca was nowhere to be seen. Nico only had one other option.

    Standing in front of the big doors, he hesitantly grabbed the handle and pulled.

    “Oh! Mr. di Angelo. Leaving so soon?” A peppy worker asked, resulting in an unsettling feeling in Nico's stomach.

     Nico nodded quickly, opening the door hastily, and almost stepped outside. He heard the worker once more.

    “Don't forget to visit!” They said, a mysterious glint in their eye, “The world can move on without you.” With a wistful smile, they shut the door, leaving Nico with questions.

    A cool breeze hit Nico's face as he walked out. Advanced-looking cars zoomed past, a few people gliding on what looks like light-up skateboard-dumbbell hybrids. The city seemed much brighter than Nico last saw it. Which was weird, considering he only stayed in the hotel for about five and a half days.

    Nico walked around, wary of strangers on the sidewalk. He didn’t want to stray far from the hotel, but then a distant voice hissed.

     “A demigod?” The voice snarled. Nico spun around, trying to look for the owner of the sinister voice. “Ahh, a cute one too. Don’t worry, I’ll make your death a bit less painful.”

    Nico’s heart stopped, fear crept on him as he started running. He got five yards in before a winged creature with frightening sharp teeth swooped down in front of him. His whole body went cold as the monster looked at him face to face with their milky white eyes.

     “Empousa.” Nico shakily whispered as he realized why the monster looked so familiar. As he made his conclusion, the creature swung their claws at him. He lurched out of the way.

     Eyes widening as he noticed what he did, he started running, high off adrenaline. He ran and ran, vision becoming unfocused as he panicked.

    Slowing down, he realized he had reached a dark dead end.

     “Leaving so soon, are we?” The empousa sneered. Nico’s breath hitched as he backed into a corner. “Don’t worry,” the empousa said, as Nico wished for an escape “ It'll only hurt for a while.” She raised her claws. Nico forced his back into the wall as much as he could. She struck, but Nico was swallowed by the darkness.

 

    Nico had stopped counting the minutes he was in the room for. He had no sense of time while in that disturbingly quiet and dark place. His thoughts had stopped coming up with ways to get out.

     The room was cold, shivers ran through him as he moved around, his face feeling as if it was being pulled off. The dark wasn't a very fun place to be, especially after have a traumatic event happen to you.

    Nico moved around in the seemingly gravity-less darkness. The feeling of fierce wind pushed him back, He didn't know if he was actually moving or not, so he attempted to do what he thought was a backflip. Feeling no impact anywhere, Nico furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.

     Is this where people go when they die? He questioned in his head. Hugging his aviator jacket around himself, he put his hands out, and tried reaching for a surface. Spinning around, his right hand felt warmth around it. Pushing into it, his whole body tumbled out of a shadow into a corner of an unfamiliar building.

    Nico looked around to see emotionless people sitting in rows of rows of chairs. The atmosphere was very glum as he went to the front desk, where a tired man sat in a loose black hooded cloak.

    “Excuse me, mister,” Nico looked at his nameplate, “Charon, sir?”

    “Yes—” He said in a bored tone before looking at Nico, “By the gods.” He said with wide eyes and a shocked voice. “Why, why didn't you say anything sooner, Your Majesty?” He said in a panicked voice as he got up and ushered Nico into an elevator.  

    “What do you mean?” He asked as he stepped into the elevator.

    “Your Majesty, we would've liked to prepare everything for your arrival beforehand.” Charon says, sighing as he pressed a button.

    The elevator chimed, signaling that they reached their desired floor. Nico walked into the warm place, the rivers bubbling and swishing.

    “Woah, there are rivers?” He asked, in awe. Charon pursed his lips and nodded again.

    Charon led him into a small boat, Nico slowly got in. Once he was snug in the boat, Charon grabbed his oar and directed him to a destination Nico didn't know.

    “This is just like in Mythomagic!” Nico said excitedly, “Mister Charon, did you know your name is just like Charon from Greek Mythology? Like in the Underworld Expansion pack! So cool!” He smiled at Charon, who looked pleased at the praise.

    They halted to a stop at a gate guarded by a big dog-like creature with three heads. Frightened a bit by the creature, Nico tried to hide behind Charon, but then the dog laid down as though they wanted to be pet.

    Nico hesitantly approached the dog. Charon wasn't stopping him, so maybe the dog was no threat? He extended his hand to one of the somewhat familiar creature’s heads and softly pet it, resulting in the creature’s tail wagging.

     “Cerberus.”   He gasped, astonished. “It's a Cerberus,” the Italian turned to Charon, “How did you get a Cerberus?” Charon watched in amusement as the boy kept asking questions.

    Charon started walking past the gate, bickering the boy to follow. Nico followed as they went inside a throne room, reanimated skeletons and corpses walking about.

     “Remain hidden,” Charon whispered to the dark haired boy, “I don't want to cause a ruckus.” Nico silently agreed as he hid in Charon's black cloak.

    Nico's head bumped into Charon's back as Charon suddenly stopped walking. Nico peeked from outside the cloak to see Charon opening large doors that lead to a throne room. Nico heard voices from inside.

    “Persephone, listen, I know you're mother is crazy, but this is beyond mad!” A male voice shouted.

    “Honey, please, I am also suffering, you know. The cereal isn't even the least bit tasty.” A female voice said.

    Charon stepped into the humongous room, Nico hidden in the back of his cloak.

    “Lord Hades, I believe I have something you may want to see.” Charon announced to the two voices. The voices stopped their bickering, going silent at Charon's announcement. Charon nudged Nico, signaling him to step out.

   Nico slowly removed himself from the cloak, going into the view of a very tall man and woman. The tall man breathed in sharply as the woman's eyes widened.

     “He looks like Maria.” She whispered to the man. The man tensed and gave her a look, which made her gasp and look at Nico.

     “I thought you said there was only one?” She quietly told the man.

     “One that Alecto took. But I guess there's only one now, considering…” A deaf silence overtook them, their faces solemn. Nico spoke up again.

    “Alecto?” He said to the tall figures, who looked back at him. “Like, as in the lawyer? The one who took Bianca?” Their eyes widened at him.

    “Who are you?” The woman asked.

    “I'm Nico di Angelo!” He said, and then his face lit up as he recognized why they seemed familiar. “You look like Hades and Persephone. Truly a good couple to be similar to.”

    The couple laughed before realizing what Nico had said.

    “Di Angelo?” The woman asked. Nico nodded, and the man coughed

     “I thought you said Maria's kids were safe at the Lotus!” She hissed at the man. “I don't want what happened to Maria and that girl to happen to her—her son!”

     “I didn't know either, it seems Alecto forgot about the other one.” The man spoke gravely.

     “Terrible things are happening to Maria,” she sighed, “Even after death.” The woman stepped down and walked towards Nico. “Maria was truly a wonderful woman.” She bent down to Nico. “Hello there, I'm Persephone.”

    “Woah, just like in Mythomagic…” He said. The man rose an eyebrow at him.

    “Did no one tell him?” He said, looking at Charon.

    “Nope.”

    The man sighed. “Great.” He walked to Nico. “Welcome to the Underworld, Nico. I am Hades, god of the Underworld. You are my son, meaning you are a demigod; half god, half mortal. I believe your Mythomagic knowledge might benefit you in this case.” Nico beamed at this.

    “Mythomagic is real!” He yelled, jumping up and down in excitement, “Do you really have four thousand attack power?” He looked up at Hades, who looked confused at the question.

    Persephone smirked at her husband. “Five thousand if he attacks first.” Nico's grin grew wider at Hades.

     “You're so cool.” Nico whispered, awestruck. Hades was taken back by the compliment. “Wait,” Nico began, “A bit before, did you say I was your son?”

    Hades sighed, “Yes, you are my son.”

    “Does that mean I can prove ghosts are real?” Nico asked, eyes brightening. Hades furrowed his eyebrows at the question.

    “I don't recommend using your powers near mortals.” The tall man stated. “Using them near mortals will raise questions and havoc.” Nico pouted and deflated at Hades’ statement, but then bounced back in joy.

    “I have powers ?” He exclaimed, trying to fly like Superman. Persephone looked amused, while Hades sighed for the umpteenth time.

    “You do have powers.” Hades started making his way to the doors Nico and Charon came out of. “I believe I will make an appointment with someone to help you train and learn your powers.” He then opened the doors, stepped outside, and before closing the door, quietly said, “I want you to protect yourself when we can't.” He then shut the doors closed, leaving Persephone, Charon, and Nico in the room.

    Persephone looked to the doors, then Nico, and smiled. “Charon,” she addressed, “Bring Nico to one of the empty rooms.”

    Charon nodded, going to the rooms, Nico in tow.

    Charon and Nico stayed in the shadows, hidden from the sight of the servants scattered across the Underworld. They passed by rivers and fire, Charon reprimanding Nico every twenty seconds because he tried to touch them.

     “It’s just water!” Nico had protested.

     “Yeah, water that can suck your soul.” Charon snarked.

    Afterwards, they had finally reached Nico’s room. In which Nico had promptly ran inside and praised everything inside. Charon stayed in the doorway, interested in what Nico had to say to the furniture.

    “You should sleep, Young Master.” Charon advised. Nico had stopped his bouncing on the bed to flop onto it and pout. Charon sighed. “Just because you found out you’re half god does not  mean you suddenly deem sleep unnecessary.” Nico just groaned at him. “Go to sleep,” Charon told Nico, “I need to get back to my post, I cannot watch you try to touch fire the whole time.”

 

     “M’kay…”  Nico mumbled into the sheets, already tired. Charon gave a silent chuckle before closing the door, Nico almost asleep.

 

~~~

 

    When Nico dreamed, it was always strange. This time, was not an exception.

     “Hello, Son of Hades.” A voice crept in. “I will grant you a gift I won’t be able to give back.” Footsteps echoed around the empty space. “I believe it will be quite... interesting , from now on.” A chuckle emanated from the darkness. “Have fun.” It whispered.

    Then the scene changed, Nico was standing in front of terrifying looking monsters, but he grabbed onto glowing, wispy, and colorful strings that were tied to his hands, and pulled hard. The strings became taut, and he ran around the creatures, wrapping them up in the strings. The monsters were pulled into each other, faces twisted with confusion. He then yanked, hard. They turned to dust, strings becoming loose.

    The colors of the strings melted into another scene, with cabins and kids running around. A white centaur and then a long table. People flooded the room, sitting down in their chairs.

     “The prophecy has changed.”   The centaur said. A boy with black hair and green eyes spoke up.

     “But...that’s not supposed to happen, right?” He said, looking confused.

     “Obviously, Seaweed Brain,”  A blonde girl spoke up, “The prophecy is tied with fate, fate can’t be changed.”

     The dark-skinned girl with kaleidoscope eyes hummed. “We were in the progress of finishing the prophecy, weren’t we?” She bit her lip, “We got six of the seven, now we need another one?”

     “Yeah,” A Latino boy interjected, “Prophecy of the Eight doesn’t flow as well as Prophecy of the Seven does.”  A collective groan echoed across the room.

     “Not to mention the situation in the Prophecy has totally changed,” A blond boy with a scarred lip states, “Weren’t we supposed to fight Gaea?” The centaur hesitantly nodded.

     “It seems that might still be the case, the words could be...modified in a way.”   The white centaur slowly spoke.

     “Who do you think the two missing people of the Prophecy are, Chiron?” The large Asian boy questioned.

     “It is not for certain who they are, especially since we found half of you in a camp most people here didn't know about.” The centaur, Chiron, said.

     There's a prophecy? Nico's said in his mind. There are camps? A centaur? Are they also from Mythomagic? I don't remember a card called “Seaweed Brain”. He doesn't look much like Seaweed, or a brain. If his brain is made of seaweed, how does it work? His mind rambled on and on.

     “Should we plan a quest to find them?” The blonde girl spoke up again. Nico's attention snapped back to the scene in front of him.

     “It’s up to you,” Chiron declared, “Fate is fate, either way, you will meet them somehow.”

     “How would we plan the quest? Should we call for the Hunters of Artemis?” The black haired boy asked.

     “No, Percy,” The blonde girl narrowed her eyes, and then frowned, “Remember what happened to Bianca and Zoe?”

    Bianca? Nico inquired. It can't be the same one, the chances of that are too low. He doubted, but then realized. But these people do look seem like they are related to Greek Mythology, and I am too. Bianca is...was...my sibling. Is she dead? Gods, please no. Nico’s eyes were filling up with tears. Doubt was increasing on him in hopes of her being alive.

    The boy, Percy, sucked in a breath. “I, I know. They're, they're dead.” Nico fell to his knees, taking in shaky breaths. Curling in on himself, he silently cried. “Bianca, she, she gave me this...Mytho-magick-y thing. She said to give it to her brother.” The little Italian’s eyes widened at that. He sat up, tears still wet and hair still tousled.

     “Bianca?” He said hoarsely. The short boy slowly got up and drifted towards Percy.

     “Oh, Percy…” the blonde girl said sympathetically. “You had nothing to do with her death.”

 

    “But it feels like I did.” Percy stated, choked up. “What if I meet her brother, and he's waiting for her. What do I say? He'll blame me!”

     I don't blame you.

     “How will he react?”

     I did, sorrow. Lots and lots of sorrow. It might not go away, but you weren't the one who caused it.

    “Percy, don't blame yourself.” The girl with kaleidoscope eyes crooned.

    Within her kaleidoscope eyes, the scene changed, expanding and cover the previous one.

    There were three woman, knitting a gigantic sock. The scene closed in on itself, until it focus on one black string that had gotten loose on the sock and had made its way out. The scene had followed the string as it fell, leaving the rest of the thoroughly knit strings behind. Nico's view closed in on the string until the darkness of it overtook and the location had changed once more.

    A girl with golden eyes stood still in a field. The look in her eyes was dull, as was the people around her. None of their eyes showed any sign of happiness or sorrow. They were bleak and uninterested. Nico approached the girl, who had a weirdly familiar aura.

    “Hello there Miss.” he said. She looked older than him, about thirteen. That's only three years difference. He stared in his mind.

    “You remind me of someone, my sister.” He frowned, clutching his aviator jacket. “I wish she was here.” He sat on his knees. “I don't think I can handle all of this ” Gesturing to everything. “She probably wouldn't know either, but at least she would be at my side.” His voice shook, crumbling and becoming unsteady.

    “But now she's gone, and I wasn't by her side.” He let the dam break, and his tears flowed. Sitting there, on his knees, crying his eyes out to a girl who is expressionless.

    When he looked up once more, he was those golden eyes looking down at him.

 

~~~

 

    Nico awoke with a gasp. Heaving and sitting upright, he got out of bed and dashed outside. Ignoring the gasps and shouts he got from the reanimated servants, he ran to the throne room.

    Yanking the door open, he saw Hades and Persephone, and between them there was a red string. A red string? Nico's eyes follow the string to the left of it, seeing that the string had tied itself to Hades’ ring finger. There were many strings tied to his other fingers, different colors for each finger. It was even on his left hand, the colored strings were tied and strewn across. He looked to Persephone, who had the same thing.

    Looking down at his own fingers, he saw the same. There weren't as many as Hades’, but he touched one, specifically, the blue one tied to his thumb.

    A flash of memories went through his mind. The girl with golden eyes, looking down at him. Him crying to her, talking to her. Her expressionless face as he expressed all his pain.

    He gasped, drawing the attention of Persephone and Hades.

    “Nico?” Persephone spoke, “What are you doing here?”

     “This strings.” He gasped out again.

 

    “What strings?” Hades questioned.

    There were so many strings as he looked around. He touched all of them, memories flashing through his mind.

     If the strings are connected to each person in the memories I see, maybe I can find the Chiron and Percy! He concluded in his head.

    Touching each and every string, he found no Percy or Chiron. But how come I have the golden eyed girl's string? What does blue even mean? He thought, frowning.

    “Nico, why are you trying to pinch the air?” Hades asked, drawing the attention back to them.

    “Air? What do you mean? Do you not see the strings?” Nico stated, confused.

     “What strings?” Hades rose an eyebrow.

     “The strings! See, there are pink, yellow, black, blue, red, and green strings attached to specific fingers!” He blurted out. “Like how there are so many blue strings tied to your thumb. They're really think though. How come your red string is so thick? It's like they all have varying widenesses.”

    Persephone widened her eyes in realization. “Nico, did someone talk to you in your dream?” Nico nodded hastily. “Hm, I'll bring you to the library, we need to do some researching.” She walked out of the room, muttering “Demigods are so hard to understand.”

    “Don't mind Persephone,” Hades dismissed, “She really likes that library.” The green string on his ring finger pulsed lightly with green. Green means fondness, huh. Nico stated. What do the others mean then?

     “Anyway,” Hades announced, “We need to start your training. Sword and your powers.” Nico beamed with excitement. “And maybe also with your...string powers. But before we do your string powers, we need to learn how they work and what they mean. For now, go do whatever, I'll tell the servants not to spread word about you to the outside. Come back in five hours, Persephone will meet you at the library. And don't lose your new skeleton babysitter.”

     Nico nodded and went outside, a skeleton servant trailing slowly behind.

Chapter Text

    Being in the Underworld was interesting, to say the least. Testing his new power, Nico decided to follow the strings that connected to the beings in the Underworld. Most of the strings tied to the ghosts and skeletons had lead to the outside of the gate, which had a very persistent Cerberus guarding it. Raising his hands, he observed the glimmering strings tied to his hands. Green and yellow strings swirled with blue wrap around his pointer and pinky fingers. The peculiar thing about the strings coiled around his extremities was the yellow string mixed with blue that was tied to his thumb. When he had applied pressure on the string, the memories of the golden eyed girl had filled his thoughts.

    Remembering the red string that had tied Hades and Persephone together, Nico realized there was a possibility that the string could lead to the dark skinned girl.

    Maybe I can find her. Nico thought as he carefully picked up the patterned yellow and blue thread. He pushed the memories filling his head as he grasped the string and followed it to its other end.

    Walking in the direction of the gleaming blue string, he found a familiar field of people standing stationary, a dead look in each of their eyes. The string was on the floor, tangled with the other strings that were tied to the motionless people.

    Pushing past reaction-less humans, he found the girl with golden eyes, the blue string that connect them tied around her thumb.

    “Uh, hello there Miss.” Nico greeted awkwardly. The chocolate-skinned girl’s eyes moved towards him, her body still. “Do you remember me?” A slight nod confirmed his thoughts.

    “Is this,” he carefully asked, “the Field of Asphodel?” Another minor shift of her head indicates that yes, it was. “Why are you here?” He asked. He watched the girl's mouth twitch, but no words had slipped past. “Is the Field restricting you from talking?” Her lip twitched again and Nico made his decision.

    “I'll take you out then!” Nico declared, grabbing her hand and dragging her out, ignoring the silent protest the girl showed through her eyes.

    The moment her body left the field, all her movement was suddenly in her control. She looked at Nico, panicked.

     “Why would you do that?” Her eyes lit up in alarm, burying her face in her hands. “Pluto will certainly banish me!”

    “Pluto? As in the Roman version of my dad?” Nico asked, confused.

    “Your—” a pause, “—Your father?” Hazel looked up at him.

     “Uhm, yeah? That's what he said, anyway.” He scratched the back if his head awkwardly.

    “Pluto is my father too. I am Hazel Levesque, daughter of Pluto.” She stated.

    “No way! There’s a Roman version?” Nico shouted, “Does that mean you're like, my sister?” He bounced happily, but then a cold flash went through him as he thought of Bianca. He looked down at his shoes and frowned.

    “Half-sister, and…” Hazel looked at him sympathetically, “I listened to you before, I am sorry for your loss.”

    “I just, I just wish I had the chance to say goodbye. It was her time, you know?” He sniffles. “It was her fate and I can't change that. But it all happened so fast. I don't know how. She was gone for like, twenty minutes, and then all of a sudden she's dead ? With five other friends who knew her like they were friends for a week? It doesn't make sense!” He yelled, frustrated and sad.

    “I...I don't know what to say to that.” Hazel whispered, shocked. “It does seem strange,” she pondered, “For all of that to happen in such a short period of time.”

     “But,” Nico continued, a miniscule amount of hope hidden deep inside his tone as he looked to the side, “No one has actually confirmed she died.” He backed up, recounting his thoughts, looking the ground. “It’s...it’s not like, like I saw it. Not like, you know? It was just a dream. A—” The young boy paused, “—A dream that—” He looked at Hazel again, “—showed and proved your existence.” The hope had died in his eyes as he came to his conclusion.

    “It is quite saddening to watch someone confront loss.” She whispered pitifully. Hazel then smiled sadly at him. “I will help you.” She concluded. “I will be your rock. I won’t leave, I won’t allow it.” Hazel then put a comforting hand on Nico’s head.

     “Really?” He asked with the threat of tears leaving his eyes. Hazel encased him in a hug.

   “Of course.” She murmured into his hair. “Although I’ll never be Bianca, I’ll be your sister.”

    Looking up into the hug, Nico gave a small, but noticeable smile. “It’s not like you can decide.” He quietly chuckled. “Being related and all that jazz.” Feeling Hazel quietly laugh into the hug, he pulled away, the depressing mood gone.

    “Your big sister.” Hazel smirked, and then a thoughtful expression crosses her face. “How old are you anyway?” She asked, observing him.

   Nico pouted. “I’m ten!” He exclaimed. “Double digits! All grown up.” Hazel looked at him fondly, a green string slowly wrapped around her right pointer finger and slithered to Nico’s, coiling around. He watched the blue and yellow string attached to his thumb unravel, floating slowly to his pinky, the blue fading away, leaving the string pure yellow.

    “A ten year old?” She looked at him, concerned and surprised. “All the way out here?” Furrowing her eyebrows as she looked around. “Is anyone keeping eyes on you?”

    “Of course!” He exclaimed, “I have my skeleton guar—” Seeing no familiar skeleton in sight, he trailed off, “—oops.” He can hear Hazel sigh.

    Sprinting off to find his skeleton guard—to the dismay of Hazel—he ran into the Asphodel Fields.

    Panting, he stopped in the middle of the Field, but strangely, none of the people’s eyes even shifted the slightest near him. Face scrunched in confusion, he walked in front of a young man. He waved his hand in front of his face, hoping for even a twitch, but the glassy eyes didn't even blink. Pursing his lips, he grabbed the young man’s arm. Tugging it, his arm didn't even budge.

    A chattering noise was made behind Nico. Spinning around, he found his skeleton watcher standing behind him. The skeleton slowly walked towards the young man Nico was pulling at. Nico could almost feel the sorrow coming from the bones in front of him.

    “Who was he to you?” Nico asked carefully. The skeleton paused before trying to communicate with Nico. The skeleton dragged a finger through the dirt.

     ‘He was Darien.’   The words were scrawled into the dirt as the skeleton stayed in their crouched position. Looking back at the still young man, Nico asked the skeleton again.

    “Who was he to you?” He inquired. The skeleton put their finger back into the dirt.

     ‘My world.’ It wrote. Nico sharply gasped.

    “What,” breathing out, “What happened?”

    The bony figure’s hand shook before digging words into the ground.

     ‘Execution. For loving me like I was the only person in his world.’ The words felt heavy in Nico’s chest.

    “Who, who are you?” Nico choked out, looking at the skeleton who was almost emanating sadness.

    ‘Mateo.’ The short word was written into the ground.

    “Why is he here and you're a skeleton?” He tilted his head.

    A bony finger dragged into dirt, scratching the dirt.

      ‘I was pulled out of Asphodel. To be a servant for Lord Hades.’

     “Why aren't you guys in Elysium? Didn't Mateo die a heroic death? For someone he loved?” The skeleton shook its head.

    ‘It wasn't enough. There was barely a fight. Not everyone has a happy ending. We have to deal. Anything better than the Field of Punishment is considered a blessing.’  Nico frowned.

     “But he died for love! Isn't that enough?” Nico exclaimed.

    ‘Not everything is fair. Look at the woman in green on your left.’ Nico turned his head to the woman in the old-fashioned green dress. ‘Her daughter was raped and then blamed for cheating on her husband. Her daughter was then executed for adultery.’ Nico exhaled in anger. ‘She fought for the justice of her daughter and for other women.’ Nico pressed his lips together, knowing her death was still in the mix. ‘Executed a month after her daughter. Didn’t go to Elysium. She had still insulted and jeered at injustice people.’

   “That's not right!” Nico yelled, clenching his fists. “Why is nothing ever right?” He exhaled shakily.

    ‘Fate.’ Had been drawn into the dirt. ‘It cannot be altered in any way.”

     “Well I'm here to change that.” He whispered harshly. The skeleton chattered as if it were encouraging him. A yellow string that looked dipped in blue wrapped around Nico’s thumb to Mateo’s.

     “Nico!” A female voice shouted. Nico turned around to see Hazel sprinting at him through the fields.

    “Hazel! How are you not frozen?” Hazel then stopped and looked down at her moving feet on the Field floor.

   “I, I guess I have free will now!” She exclaimed happily as she bounced around. Nico smiled at her.

   “Why are you here though?” He asked Hazel, who stopped jumping to respond.

    She cleared her throat. “You are only ten, it’s dangerous to go around the Underworld, even with your skeleton.” The skeleton seemed to clank its jaw in agreement. Nico huffed.

   “Alright.” He muttered, and then realized that Persephone was probably waiting for him in the Library. “Uh, Mateo, “ he addressed the skeleton, “Bring Hazel to my room.” He looked to Hazel. “Do whatever you want, just don't leave the room.” He watched her nod. “I need to go somewhere for a bit. See ya’!” He sprinted to the Throne Room.

 Once he reached the Throne Room, he walked around and opened random doors until he found the Library.

   He opened the golden door to find Persephone surrounded by open and unopened books.

   “Uh, Mrs. Persephone?” He poked his head in, getting into her line of sight.

   “Ah! Nico, dear. Sit down next to me.” She patted an empty spot next to her. Nico shuffled to the spot and plopped down.

    “I found a small blurb in a book about those ‘strings’ of yours.” She pointed her finger to a small passage in the thick book.

 

     Based on Vedic Mythology, Moon is the god of emotions and feelings. A Greek god was inspired by its ideals and the Red Thread of Fate, that they created the νεύρα των συναισθημάτων (névra ton synaisthimáton). Which roughly translates to “Twines of Feelings.” Which is the ability to see the feelings of people towards others in the form of a string. The strings are assigned to different fingers. Tied to the hand* of one person, to the one who is on the receiving end of said person’s feelings. The thicker and stronger the string is, the stronger the emotion. Also applies with opacity of the string. The string can break by the person with the ability** if not careful. The strings can be used as a weapon if used correctly. The color of string depends on the emotion. If Love/Friendship is one-sided, string will slowly fade into gray as it reaches the other.

Meaning of the strings:

Pink: Attraction; tied to ring finger

Red: Fated Love (Not always True Love); also tied to the ring finger

Yellow: Friendship/Happiness Towards the Person; Pinky finger

Black: Hatred; Middle finger

Swirls of Blue: Acquaintances (Low familiarity with person, yet still feels somewhat of a connection [may it be friendliness or hatred, the feeling isn't strong enough, so swirls of blue mix into the colored string]); Thumb

Green: Fondness; Pointer finger

Once the string is broken, the emotions held in that string cannot be felt by that person again unless tied back together. Apply pressure to the string to see the memories within. (Will it away if not desired.)

*The hand the string is tied to irrelevant. (If without hands, the strings are tied to the soul)

**Only one person has wielded this power, which is the god who created it


    

     Nico blew out a breath, impressed. How did they get all this information? Persephone, on the other hand, had looked at Nico calculatingly.

    “Is this information accurate?” She asked, skimming over the page again.

    “I think. It seems like that's what's this is.” He looked at his fingers and the strings connected to it. “It looks like it was spot on.” He stated, grabbing the strings in his head and willed the memories away. “Yeah, it seems correct.” Persephone chuckled.

    “It looks like you're grabbing nothing.” She stood up. “Which could be an advantage,” she claimed, “No one will see the strings, you can trap and attack stealthily.” The woman then paused. “Not that you need to fight, though.”

    “I found a girl while following the strings.” Nico mentioned. “She said she was a daughter of Pluto. I pulled her out of Asphodel.”

    Persephone paused in her tracks. “Of Pluto? Pulled her out of Asphodel?” Her voice in disbelief. “Does your father know about this?” Nico shook his head. Persephone groaned. “Oh gods, how will we deal with this?” Nico grimaced. “I’ll have a talk with your father, see what we will do. Meet us in the Throne Room in half an hour.” Waving him off, she walked to the Throne Room.

    Exiting the room, he immediately made his way to his room, wanting to talk to Hazel.

    Nico opened the door to his room, finding Hazel sitting on his bed.

    “So,” Hazel made conversation, “Where did you go?” Jumbling the shiny gems in her hands.

    “I went to the library with Persephone.” He answered. “We read about my power.” Hazel rose her eyebrows in surprise.

    “You have powers?” She asked.

    “Yeah, I have these strings. They show the feelings of one person to another. I don't really know how the strings connect. Like, if I saw someone in the television, would the string connect if I developed some sort of feeling?” Nico theorized.

    Hazel hummed. “Well, you found me by following the string. You materialized in front of me, like a rainbow, but you were in the shadows, so maybe not? You looked almost transparent. Faded, almost.”

     “Huh?” Nico bursted out. “I thought that was a dream.” He confessed. “I never walked there.”

    Hazel looked beyond confused. “What do you remember before you were in front of me?” She tilted her head towards Nico.

    Remembering the black string in his dream, he spoke. “There was a black string, and then it closed up on me. I remember darkness. A lot of it, like—oh my gods.” He realized. “It was, it was like when I was running from that empousa and then suddenly I was sucked into this like, something really dark.” He stood up, pacing around the room

    “It was really cold and dark. Just like in the dream! Then I was teleported into this building, where I met Charon. He took me to an elevator where I rode a small boat and it was really unexpected.” He said sheepishly, and then paused and thought for a moments before continuing. “But that doesn't explain how I woke up in my bed. I don't remember any cold or darkness. Well, until the dream ended, I guess.”

    “Strange, very strange.” Hazel commented. “Well, was there anyone else in your dream?” She asked.

    “There was, a lot of teenagers. I didn't have their strings though.” He looked down at his hand, where three strings were tied. One for each member of his new family.

    “I guess that means you have to meet them in real life before the string connects.” Hazel concluded. Nico nodded, agreeing. “But that still doesn't clear the fact that you somehow got to me in your dream. You said you don't remember walking there, right?” Nico nodded again. “Yeah,” she drawled, “I didn't see you walking either. You just came from the darkness. You weren't fully materialized, though. It was like your conscience was there but not your whole body.”

    “You might be onto something there.” Nico muttered thoughtfully. “I might have to talk to Hades about this.” Nico halted. “If he doesn't yell my ear off about you.”

    Hazel looked worried. “What about me? Is he going to punish you?” Nico pressed his lips together.

    “I don't think it'll be that harsh.” He cringed. “Hopefully.”

    “When do you have to meet him?” She questioned, tilting her head.

    “In like, fifteen minutes.” He states, running a hand through his hair. “What do you think he's gonna do?” He rambles, “Ground me? Make me do chores?” He gasps. “Take away my power training classes?” Panicking, he turns to Hazel with wide eyes. “But I wanna learn more about my powers!”

    The teenager shakes her head worriedly, “I don't think they’ll take away your classes, especially since they're supposed to help protect you.” She reassures.

    Nico considers her point for a moment then sighs. “I mean, I guess.” He mutters.

    “Back to the main topic,” She sighs, “How do you think you found me in your...dream?” Hazel falls back onto the bed. “For me, it wasn't a dream. I would know, I never dreamed in the Field. Didn't have the luxury of it.”

    “I don't know.” He shrugged. “It seems I might have—well—unconsciously done it? It's a likely possibility. I didn't really do the dark-travel thing on purpose either.”

    Hazel perked up. “Maybe they'll teach you on it!” She chimed in. Nico beamed.

    A sudden knock on the door startled the siblings’ conversation. The boy sent a panicked look towards Hazel. ‘They don’t know about you.’ He mouthed. Hazel took the hint and hid under the bed.

    Opening the door, his skeleton guard, Mateo, at the door. The skeleton clicked its jaw together. Lifting a scroll and unrolling it.

     ‘King Hades requests for your presence.’ It read in Greek, the skeleton nodded and rolled the scroll up again. Gesturing their arms to follow, Mateo walked towards the Courtroom. Nico hesitantly followed.

    As they were walking to their destination Mateo unrolled his scroll. ‘Use me as your alibi. Say you were with me, running errands. Nowhere near the Fields.’ It read in Greek.

    “Huh?” Nico tilted his head, confused.

    Mateo rolled his scroll up, waited a few seconds, and then unrolled it again, revealing a new message.

     ‘Your going to be tested for your innocence in stealing a soul from the Field of Asphodel.’ It stated, Nico tensed, but kept reading. ‘Although I should report such a crime,’ Nico could almost feel the hesitance hidden away in the words, ‘I am supposed to keep you safe. If this is what I have to do to keep you unscathed, then so be it.’ The demigod looked back at the skeleton with surprised eyes. A bony hand patted his head before it went back to rolling the scroll up.

    “Thanks.” He said bashfully. The skeleton gave a quick nod, not moving away from the Courtroom doors as Nico walked inside.

    Nico made his way to the middle of the Courtroom, where Hades, Persephone, Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus sat in their assigned chairs.

    “Son.” Hades addressed, voice strong. Nico gulped nervously. “It has come to my attention that you have taken a soul out of the Field of Asphodel.” He stated, tone unwavering. “ But, it seems that there is no proof other than your words.” Hades gave him a knowing look, indicating that he should lie.

    Nico almost sobbed in relief. “I was unaware of these false accusations.” He glanced around the room, catching the eye of Minos, who glared at him intensely. “I did not remove a soul from the Field. In fact,” He added, “I was with Mateo the whole time. Running errands”

    “You could have been near the Fields while doing that.” Minos addressed coolly, raising an eyebrow.

    “I wasn—” He stopped himself. Feign ignorance, Nico. “I don’t know where the Fields are, but I didn’t see any grass around.” Stating it with faux innocence, knowing full well the “Field” meant “field of people.”

    “And what ‘errands’ did you run?” Rhadamanthus queried.

     A rush of cold fell over him as he internally panicked. He and Mateo did not plan that far ahead. He took deep breaths, calming himself before speaking again. Remember, Nico, no witnesses. He took a shuddering breath. What’s a place most undead don’t go? A sudden idea came into his mind and he spoke.

     “We went to the front gates with the big three headed dog.” Nico finalized, pursing his lips as he looked each judge in the eye.

    Aeacus sputtered. “Isn’t that impossible?” Scrunching his eyebrows together as he looked to Hades, who silently approved of Nico’s choice of alibi. “Wouldn’t Cerberus attack him on sight? Not to mention that skeleton guard of his.” Hades rose an eyebrow, looking to Persephone and then Aeacus.

    “No.” Hades answered. “Cerberus is trained to not attack anyone with my bloodline, and anyone that is leaving the Underworld alive .”  

    Rhadamanthus looked interested. “How did you manage this?”

    Hades looked tired just at that question. “It was...a long process.” The god said with a slight shudder. Rhadamanthus nodded at him.

    Minos didn’t seem convinced. “Why were they there in the first place?”

    Persephone cut in. “They might have been feeding and taking care of Cerberus.” She looked over to Nico and mouthed “Rubber balls.” Nico gave a confused look but then covered it up quickly before anyone else but Persephone could see.

    Nico braced himself. “We were giving Cerberus these,” He hesitated, “Rubber balls.” The nervous demigod gulped harshly as he saw Minos glare at him.

     “Rubber balls?” Minos questioned with a hint of mock and disdain. “Why would Cerberus need these rubber balls? Why would a ferocious guard of the Underworld need rubber balls ?” Nico stopped himself from flinching intensely.

    Rhadamanthus held up a hand. “I do not think it is disinformation.” Nico clenched and unclenched his hand as Rhadamanthus talked. “In fact, I witnessed two demigods reveal Cerberus’ love for rubber toys.”

    Hades rubbed his temples. “Was it that Percy Jackson and Chase girl?” Nico perked up at those names.

     Percy was here? Nico mused as he watched Rhadamanthus confirm Hades’ question. So those dreams are real. A sinking feeling fell over him. Does that mean Bianca—” A cough from Minos broke him from his thoughts.

    “Wouldn’t the skeleton still be attacked once Cerberus catches sight of them?” Aeacus asked as he rose a finger.

    “Perhaps the skeleton was using Nico to take care of Cerberus.” Hades offered. “It’s not unlikely, especially since most skeletons have witnessed Persephone and I make Cerberus tame. They might have concluded that Nico here would calm Cerberus down.” Hades looked to Nico. “And if not, there were no witnesses near the gate to see Nico get attacked. The skeleton would be found not guilty without evidence against them.”

    “I see.” Aeacus rubbing his chin as he thought.

    Minos gave a calculating gaze to Hades and Persephone. “Doesn’t that mean that Nico’s alibi could be spurious?” Nico secretly bit his lip, holding his breath.

    Rhadamanthus shook his head. “We could bring in the skeleton. Not mention anything. See what they say.”

   Waves of panic attacked him all at once. He looked to his hands that were shaking. He paused as he realized that Matoe’s string on his hand wasn’t as taut as Hazel’s. Strange. He thought as he looked at the strings on both his thumbs. His eyes followed Mateo’s blue and yellow string. It lay on the floor, strewn across until it reached the Courtroom doors. The string seemed to go upwards as it reached the doors. The panic receded as he realized something. Mateo didn’t move from the doors. He gasped quietly. Mateo was listening in.

   Minos grinned gleefully after watching Nico panicking. “I agree. We should bring the skeleton. See if the alibis line up.” Nico looked Minos firmly in the eyes and nodded in agreement.

    “Yes, we should.” He stared Minos down. “Maybe then I can prove my innocence against your prejudicing.” He masked his fear as he watched Minos scowl. A string of black swirled with blue made its way from Minos to Nico. Nico couldn’t care less. He felt accomplished, he felt as if he just made a power move.

    Aeacus sighed. “Bring in the skeleton.” He directed to two skeletons standing watch in the Courtroom. The skeletons nodded as they scurried out of the room. Five seconds later, Mateo, with his scroll in hand walked in with the two skeletons.

    “So,” Rhadamanthus prompted, “What were you and Nico doing this morning?” Mateo showed as much expression as a skeleton could, which was none. The skeleton unrolled their scroll, displaying a message.

    ‘We were entertaining Cerberus, with red rubber balls.’ It said. Nico watched Minos scan over the message, eyes narrowing as the message matched Nico’s words. Persephone looked to Nico, surprised but proud. The same could go for Hades, but it was more covered.

    “Why did you bring Nico along?” Aeacus prodded, leaning forward. Mateo jerkily nodded, rolling up his scroll and then unfurled it again.

     ‘I had witnessed from afar that Nico had calmed Cerberus when he first arrived. The animal was growling, but once the young demigod had come close, then the dog had become completely compliant.’ Nico’s eyes widened at that.

     He really came prepared. He said in his head as he looked to Mateo gratefully. Nico let go of a breath he didn’t realize he kept holding.

    “You do realize that this risked the life of the son of Hades, correct?” Minos pointed out snobbishly. “He could have died !” The king of Crete said with fake offense, putting on an innocent face that made Nico cringe.

    Mateo didn’t respond.

    “He should be punished.” Minos concluded with a hidden smile only Nico could notice.

    Aeacus and Rhadamanthus hummed in agreement. Nico looked at his father in alarm, only to see that Hades was looking at him pitifully.

    “But Mateo knew Cerberus wouldn’t hurt me!” Nico argued, the black and blue string connecting Minos and him turned almost fully black.

    “What if something went wrong?” Rhadamanthus queried, looking to Nico, who tensed. “This skeleton went to a place with no witnesses, and put you in harm’s way. Which is unacceptable.”

   Nico was about to refute again, but then saw Mateo shaking his head, which made him falter. He stepped back and didn’t speak, which made Minos grin.

    “It is decided,” Hades said, a regretful tone in his words, “Nico di Angelo is not guilty!” Hades declared then looked down. “Mateo Kalochaireti will be punished. He will be put in the Fields of Punishment, but his punishment will be light.” Nico clenched his jaw.

    “Dismissed.” Persephone said, waving her hand as the meeting dispersed.

     Once everyone left, Nico went to talk to Mateo.

     “Why?”  Nico pleaded, “Whywhywhywhywhy—” He hugged Mateo, who didn’t hug back. He heard the rustling of paper. He looked up.

    Mateo was standing there with his message scroll in hand. ‘Fate.’ His message said. ‘I knew this was going to happen.’ It was only a matter of time. I’ve done worse.’ Nico was about to ask what he had done, but then skeletons grabbed Mateo and dragged him away. Nico still felt like he lost another family member.

    

    Nico burst into the Courtroom, aleting Persephone and Hades of his presence.

    “Why didn’t you help him?” Nico looked to Hades, tears threatening to fall.

    “He had done worse crimes,” Hades stated, “The court was going to find out, if we covered it up with another crime, the court would leave him alone.”

    “What crimes did he do?” Nico asked with uncertainty.

    “Where do you think he got all of that information of those people?” Persephone quizzed, smiling slightly but sadly. “He kept finding ways to get information, he was trying to find his lover’s executioner.”

    “Why?” He whispered, putting his head down.

     “Revenge.” Nico couldn’t believe it. It made sense, but it seems that denial would get him nowhere. So Nico nodded,taking a few steps back.

    “While I am—” The god of the Underworld paused, “— proud of you for coming up with such a good story, you need to watch your actions.”

     Nico realized that he could ask Hades a question he wanted to ask for a while.

    “Dad?” Hades flinched at this, but Nico ignored it, not wanting to correct himself. “Where’s Bianca?” At such an innocent question and tone, Persephone tensed up, and looked away.

    “I…” Nico held his breath at his father’s hesitance. “I’m sorry.” Nico looked up quickly, his face twisted in sadness that made Hades breath in sharply. “She has passed away.”

      “Can I see her ghost one more time?” Nico put his hands in his hair, looking down.

     The god shakes his head. “She has chosen rebirth.”

     “Oh.” He croaks. “I—” Nico swallows. “I need a moment in my room.” He hurried off before they could say another word.

    He burst into the room and fell onto the bed, almost crashing into Hazel.

    “Nico?” She asked worriedly. “What's wrong?”

     “I just want everything to go back to normal.” He sobs into the pillow.

    “Oh Nico,” she coos, “Bianca would be happy for you.” She threads a hand into his hair, petting it lightly. “Look, you got two parental figures now, and a skeleton guard, and me. Who all love you very much. ” She smiles sadly. “I found out Bianca chose rebirth.” Nico lets out another sniffle. “I know you miss her, but you’ll meet her again. Maybe as your child.” Nico turns into Hazel’s lap. “Rebirth takes time.” Whispering softly, she shifted into a more comfortable position.

    The tired Italian’s eyelids were drooping as Hazel hummed a peaceful tune. Running a hand through his hair, she let him sleep.

 

~~~

 

     The dream took place in the same area with the cabins and centaur.

    A blond boy with a bow and arrow stood in front of Nico.

    “Hey there! I'm—” A muted silence. “—how about you?” The dark haired boy looked down to see a red line connecting them. With wide eyes, he looked back at the tall boy.

    “My name is Nico di Angelo.” He averts his eyes, playing with his hands.

    The blond smiles at him, holding out a hand. The small boy takes it slowly, shaking hands with the cheerful boy.

    The scene fades out to darkness. A bright red light bursts into the dark. It's a string. Nico thinks.He presses his hand to the string. An almost immediate flash of memories play.

    The Fates are sewing the strings as they cruelly smile.

     “Not everyone can have a happy ending.” One chimes, holding the red string while another cuts a different string from the sock.

    He pulls back with a gasp, pulling at the red string hard until it snaps. Watching as the broken string reveals the same girl with kaleidoscope eyes and the boy with a scarred lip. The pink affection string fades between them as they both stare at each other.

     “Jason…” The multi-colored eyed girl addressed, which made the boy in question turn around.

    “Yeah?” The blond, Jason, asks, looking at her.

    “Do you think his relationship is going to work?” She interrogated, looking to him.

    “I—” He paused, “—I don’t know.” He answered, scared of her reaction, but the girl only gave a slight chuckle.

    “I don’t know if this is healthy or not.” She whispered with uncertainty. “I’m basing this off of fake memories and you’re probably feeling pressured or something.”

    “I’m sorry.” Was the only thing Jason said.

   “Is it okay if we break up?” She offered. Jason looked at her in surprise, but after a few moments, he slowly nodded, looking away.

   “If I were to ask you to date again,” Jason breathed in, “Would you say yes?”

    The girl laughed, “I just might.” She smirked. “Thanks Jason.” She said quietly.

    “Anything for you, Piper.” The girl, Piper, takes his hands and hugs him. The boy hugs him back, and Nico watches the image in front of him fade.

 He's back at the Fates’ place, watching them sew and cut. The string that had been cut slowly rises from behind and reforms, quietly making its way into the large sock unnoticed.

     It must've been Jason's string. He concludes. Does that mean he doesn't die? Nico furrows his eyebrows as the string rests in its place.

    “Very good. Very good.” The voice from the previous dream praises. “It seems someone found a way to use my gift in a way I haven't found.” Nico looks around to find the owner of the voice. “It seems you found your fated mate.” The voice chuckles. “But from your actions, it seems you found out that being fated mates does not always mean it's healthy.”

    Nico takes a breath. Does that mean that boy he saw might not work out for him?

    The voice titters. “Ah, young Son of Hades, Isn’t that what everyone in a relationship worries about? Fear not, love is love, there's nothing stopping you.” A sinister pause in their speech makes Nico feel uneasy. “But you prevented a death, did you not?” His breath hitches. The clack of footsteps circle around him. “That's against the rules? Isn't it?

    “Please don't say anything.” Nico pleads. “I really don't want to go on a trial with Minos again.” Nico can almost feel the voice throw back its head and laugh. They really do like laughing. Nico comments in his mind.

    “That I do.” They respond. “But you're just so entertaining. You might just turn the tables on fate.”

    The black fades and Nico watches as it transforms into himself.

    The dream him turned and stared directly at him.

    “The strings can be weapons.” His double says emotionlessly as it stares him down.

    His double steps forward.

    “Force your emotions into the strings.” It says.

    Step. Nico steps back.

   “Until it shines like a million stars.”

   Step.

   The double stops, looking up to the nonexistent sky.

   “The stronger the emotion, the stronger the string.”

   A gust of wind blows hair into Nico’s face, but the moment he pushes it away, his double is nowhere to be seen.

  

~~~

 

    Nico wakes up with a jolt, startling Hazel from her stupor.

    “Demigod dreams?” She guessed.

    “Demigod wha—?” He uttered, still half-asleep.

    She chortled. “Demigod dreams. You're a demigod, which means you get a bit of future vision. ” The golden eyed girl sang with her jazz hands.

     “Woah.” He voiced in awe. “Does that mean all my dreams are visions of the future?” Grinning, he looked up at Hazel. “Does that mean pigs will fly?” The boy questioned excitedly.

    Hazel smiled awkwardly. “I think only some dreams are visions.” Patting him on the head as he visibly deflated.

    A knock on the door has Hazel diving under the bed. Nico gets up and opens the door, revealing a new skeleton, who unrolls its scroll.

    ‘Lord Hades declares it’s time for your training.’


Chapter Text

 

    He practically ran to the Throne Room in excitement, even though the new skeleton guard was attempting to slow him down.

    Nico opened the doors to reveal Hades and a ghost conversing quietly. Hades looked up to see the commotion and the ghost turns his head to face Nico.

    “Ah, Nico.” Hades says, “You're just in time.” The king gestures to the ghost. “This is Perseus, he will be your trainer.”

   The young boy’s eyes widen before exclaiming, “Perseus? Like, the Perseus who killed Medusa?” Hades nods and Nico almost explodes in happiness, rushing to the ghost to observe him up close. He thought he saw Hades’ mouth twitch into a smile as he bombarded the ghost with questions and praises.

    “Nico,” The King of the Underworld signaled for the Italian to calm himself, “I think Perseus is a bit overwhelmed with all your questions.” Hades watches as the Greek hero sighs in relief until Nico’s eyes widen and then the hero is hit with strings of apologies. Perseus shoots the god a glare when he sees Hades smirk at his demise.

    “Calm, little demigod.” Perseus lifts an almost-transparent hand wrapped in those glowing strings that shine only in Nico’s eyes. “Let’s go to a clearing and start your training there.” The ghost floats to a clearing far off in the distance as Nico ecstatically follows. Nico was almost sure he saw Hades breath a sigh and smile.  

    They came to a stop forty yards away from the castle as Perseus’ ghost stated that this area of land was perfect for his training.

    “Let us first establish something.” Perseus prompted. “Sword or bow?” The spirit floats to a display of weapons that the skeletons dragged in. “You are going to both, do not be misconstrued. I need to know whatever the main weapon of yours is.” The ghost fixes the boy with a quiet, yet calculating stare.

    “Uhm,” Nico murmured, “Sword?”

    “Then so be it, a sword it is then.” Perseus declares in an approving demeanor. “A wise choice, good thing I am quite skilled with a sword.” The Greek hero’s spirit became less translucent and more life-like. Once the hero wasn’t see-through, Perseus lifted a sword that had a sudden curve near the end.

    “This is a Harpe .” Perseus stated gesturing to his sword, he was about to continue but then Nico interrupted.

    “Like, the musical instrument?” He questioned.

    “No, this is a sword, similar to the one I had used to slay Medusa.” The hero recalls thoughtfully. Perseus then shifts into a stance, feet apart and sword gripped tightly. “I will first teach you how your stance should be before fighting.” Nico looks at him confused as he slowly attempts to match his pose. “You are too tense.” The tall man says. “Bend your knees more,” he instructs, “You will need to distribute your body weight evenly.”

    “Can I have a sword?” The younger demigod asks. “I think it'll help to have the sword.”

    Perseus nods in agreement. He walks to the sword display and grabs a slightly curved wooden sword.

    “This is a Falcata sword.” Perseus tosses it to Nico, who fumbles before catching it. The Son of Hades slowly adjusts himself into the position Perseus had shown him. The older demigod hums in approval. “Hades made me study the more modern ways of sword fighting. It may not match with your time, but it is better than some Greek techniques from long ago.”

    The sword is heavy, Nico will admit. Even if it is wooden, it still feels like he's carrying a baby. Not too heavy, but not light either. He lifts the Falcata sword up slowly, listening to Perseus drone on about his research on German and other sword fighting ways.

    “This is an Oberhau .” The warrior demonstrates, “Your left foot should be in front,” Nico copies the tall demigod, putting his left in front, “And point your hips towards your opponent, hold your sword should be near shoulder-level.” Shifting his hips towards Perseus, he held his sword’s hilt rather below his shoulders, the blade near his head. “It is basically a strike from above,” Perseus pointed out, motioning a strike with his sword, “Your head is away from the danger of getting cut and the sword blocks any counterstrikes.”

     “Woah.” Nico gasps in awe as he followed the hero’s instructions. “So cool! ” He says, as he swings his sword. He stuck a little too hard, losing grip on his sword, causing it to go flying, landing five yards or so away. “Whoops.” He murmured loudly. He could hear Perseus sigh as the hero watched the sword soar through the air.

     “I fear for your safety.” Nico heard Perseus mutter as he went to retrieve the sword.

    Once Nico reached the sword, he had an idea. Just like the dream. Nico thought as he focused on directing the black string that connected him and Minos to wrap around the sword handle. As predicted, it phased right through it. Focus on your feeling for Minos. He said in his head. Hatred directed towards Minos flooded through him as the black string glowed significantly. He string became more visible as Nico rolled it around the wooden sword’s handle. Don’t lose focus. He told himself.

    He grasped the strings hard, memories of hating Minos flowed through his head that fueled his forced anger. He tested his new power, using the strings to pick up the sword. Nico smirked, another idea appearing in his head. Holding the string, he swung in around, the sword coming with it, looking like a helicopter’s blades in motion. He could faintly hear Perseus gasping loudly.

   “ Child!”   Perseus’ voice cracked. “What are you doing?!” The hero started stomping over, but stopped before he was too close. “The sword,” He paused, “is flying?” The hero asked confused. Nico directed his attention to Perseus, which made his black string fade slightly, making the sword bop him on the head.

   “Uh, no.” Nico said, picking his sword up with his hand. “I have these—” Nico paused, thinking of what to say, “—strings? They are made of emotions and well, if I focus hard enough on the emotion, the strings materialize. When they glow, they can touch things without phasing through them. It’s pretty cool, but I probably look crazy since no one else can see them—”

    Perseus made a stopping motion with his hand and cleared his throat. “So no one else can see them, huh?” The hero scanned him over. “What part of you are they connected to?”

    Nico lifted his hands, spreading his fingers as he watched the strings tied to his fingers shift slightly due to the sudden movement. “My fingers.”

    The warrior raised an eyebrow. “I see.” He touched Nico’s fingers. “Mind if I give you some advice?”

    Nico’s eyes followed Perseus’ movement. “I mean, isn’t that the reason you’re here in the first place?”

   The hero ignored Nico’s words, holding one of his fingers. “Do you think you could tie some strings around the handle of the sword? If your opponent unarms you, or you lose your grip— as you gracefully had done not moments ago —you could use your strings to pull the sword towards you again. Or to keep it in your hand. Either way, it would benefit you.” Once Perseus finished, Nico looked to him in awe.

   “That knowledge was so enthralling I want to cry.” Nico stated, looking to Perseus, who looked at him with wide eyes.

   “Please do not, I do not know how to care for a small Hades spawn.” The hero said, backing away slightly.

    “Anyway,” the son of Hades began, “How should I tie it?” He grabbed the slightly glowing strings, “There are no loose ends on these strings.”

    “Hmm.” Pondered Perseus as he scratched his chin. “You will have to wrap your string around your sword very loosely and then step inside.”

    Nico halted, mouth open, “Uh—” He bit his lip, “—how loose do I tie it?”

    Perseus blinked, pressing his lips together. “I will hold the sword upright,” He demonstrated by digging the wooden sword’s tip into the dirt, palm flat against the top of the pommel, “You will make the string circle around this, do not forget to leave enough space for you to step inside.”

   The younger demigod nodded, strings in hand. Nico moved around the strings, circling around until all the strings had surrounded the sword. He stepped inside and looked at his instructor for directions.

   “Now pick up a side of the circle and put your threads over, then under.” Perseus instructs, pointing to a side of the circle of gleaming strings.

    He walks over to the left of the spiraled twines, walked over the strings, dragging the ones tied to his hand over them, then picked up the strings lying on the ground and went under, then over and pulled. The strings were drawn together, almost touching the blade, Nico directed the strings to tie around the grip of the sword. He squeezed the string, the feelings inside intensifying while the strings shined brightly. Giving one final tug, the glowing strands were fastened against the sword. Perseus stepped away from the sword to let Nico hold it.

    “Woah.” Picking up the sword and wrapping the colorful cords around his wrist for extra measure.

   “Try to throw it and pull it back.” Perseus suggested from a few feet away.

   The young boy gripped the wooden weapon and threw it as far as he could. It landed about ten yards away.

   “Now pull it towards you, but it has to be fast, so your opponent does not notice.” The hero instructed.

   Nico reached for a far portion of the strings, clasping his hand around the farthest part of the strings he can grab and yanked hard.

   The sword went flying, “Now that it is in the air pull it down and catch it.” Perseus hastily added. Nico jerked the sword downwards. He opened his hand as the sword came flying towards him. “The strings are tied to the hilt, so you should be able to catch the sword without impaling yourself.” He heard a sigh. “Hopefully.” Perseus supplied.

   The pommel and hilt were facing Nico as he directed the sword to him. The sword was soaring through the air, zooming to Nico. The strings are only taut if I force more emotions onto them. Wanting the sword to come to him faster, Nico squeezed the already-glowing threads and forcibly shoved more hatred and happiness into his mind. The emotions swirling in his chest were increased tenfold. Heaving, he watched as the distance between the him and the sword became shorter and shorter. Once the grip of the sword was a foot away from his face, he quickly caught it.

   Gasping, he looked to Perseus in joyful surprise. Perseus, who watched the ordeal, smiled fondly at Nico.

    “I—” Taking a deep breath, “—I DID IT!” He yelled, raising his sword in the air.

   The warrior shook his head, chuckling. “You should get used to it, this will definitely come in handy later.” Perseus then stepped forwards, his sword in hand. “Now, let us get back to sword techniques.” Nico grinned brightly as he followed Perseus.

 

~~~

 

   Once training was over, Nico was halfway to passing out. He walked to the Throne Room, to say goodnight before he went to bed. Trudging to the room, he slowly opened the door.

   “Ah, Nico.” Hades greeted. “How was training?”

   “Awesome!” He exclaimed tiredly. Persephone chuckled.

   “You seem to be sleepy, were you bouncing off the walls during your session with Perseus?” She smirked, taking in Nico’s slumped form.

   “Mhm.” He mumbled before walking off. “Goodnight.” Hearing his parents say their goodnights to him, he walked to his room.

   Reaching the door to his room, he opened the door, which resulted in a stream of light hitting Hazel in the face.

   “Mmmphgh. Nico?” She squinted up at him.

    “Hey, Hazel.” Nico whispered before kicking off his shoes and passing out on the bed.

 

~~~

 

   Nico opened his eyes to see his surroundings in a dream-like state.

   “Oh come on! Not again!” He groaned as he realized he was in another demigod dream.

   His complaining came to a halt as he recognized where the dream was taking place.

    “Hello there, my name is Alecto.”

   Nico swerved around, his eyes focusing on a pale woman—Alecto—talking to Bianca, with a much happier version of himself hiding behind her.

   “Bianca.” He whispered, stumbling over his own feet as he raced to her.

    “I need to talk to you, Ms. di Angelo.” Alecto smiled at Bianca, gesturing to follow her.

    “Don’t go.” Nico said, getting closer to the dream version of Bianca.

    “Alright.” Bianca looked towards her younger brother, who Alecto didn’t seem to notice. “Nico, go back to our room, we’ll be back soon.”

    “No, no, no.” He picked up his pace. “You won’t come back. You’ll leave. You’ll die. Please, please.” Nico extended his hand to his deceased sister who seemed alive.

    “Okay.” The fake version of him mumbled, walking away.

   “Oh.” Bianca slipped off her skull ring. “Here, just in case you miss me.” She winked as she stepped back.

   “I miss you.” Nico’s voice cracked as he watched the imitation of himself huff and stuff the ring in their pocket.

    “It’ll be quick.” She pat his head and followed Alecto.

    “You die!” He screamed as he reached his sister. Nico extended his hand, reaching for Bianca’s, only to phase through. “Don’t go.” He looked to Bianca’s retreating form. “I don’t want you to die.”  He sobbed.

    The group reached the front doors.

   “Uh,” Bianca started, “I thought we were just talking?”

    Alecto smiled creepily. “We are, but not here.” She opened the doors and yanked Bianca outside.

   “But my brother—” Alecto cut her off.

   “Isn’t important right now.”

   “Excuse me, but—” Alecto raised a finger to quiet her.

   “I’ve been informed to enroll you in Westover Hall.” Alecto guided Bianca to a car. “But you must...forget...some things.”

   “What do you mean by that?” Bianca questioned.

   Alecto smiled gleefully, which sent chills down Nico’s spine. “Oh, you’ll see.”

   Then the scene turned black.

   Taking shortened breaths, Nico choked on a sob. The setting went to a junkyard, where Bianca, Percy, and three others were walking.

    Nico followed Bianca as she looked around warily before picking something up. He swallowed, watching as Bianca scurried back to the group, pretending as if nothing happened.

    “And you tell me to not steal.”   Nico murmured as he walked silently beside his sister. Loud creaking and rumbling sounded as a giant golden statue that looked like Talos rose. “What?” He breathed as he watched the golden figure peer down at the demigods, before raising their fist and slamming down. The group disbanded, running in different directions.

    “Why is it attacking us?” Percy yelled. “Did anyone steal anything?” He looked to his group. Nico saw Bianca’s face twist in guilt before it became passive again. Percy jerked back, avoiding the Golden Talos’ feet again.  

   “I don’t think we can defeat it, dude!” The satyr—Bianca met a satyr?—yelped, moving out of the way.

   Percy and Bianca crouched down beside some garbage.

  “Percy.” Bianca gripped the item in her pocket as she brought Percy’s attention on her. “Percy, I need you to give this to my brother.” She handed him a Mythomagic statue. “It’s the only one he doesn’t have.” She smiled sadly.

  Nico’s eyes widened as he watched Bianca run towards the golden Talos.

   “BIANCA!” Nico ran after her, lungs on fire, “BIANCA!” He tried and tried to grab her. “STOP! PLEASE!” His tears were swept into the wind as he staggered and stumbled, gasping for air as he tried to follow her into the hole in the statue’s foot.

   He followed her up the ladder, into the Control Room of the golden Talos.

    “How to do this, how to do this.” Bianca mumbled as she fiddled with the controls. “There!” She exclaimed as she slammed down on several buttons. The statue came to a halt. “Yes!” She pumped her fist in the air. “Let’s do a dance.” She played with the controls more as the statue did a little dance.

    Nico smiled, watching Bianca be a kid for so long after watching her keep a serious front for Nico for so long. But that didn’t last long as the statue started to malfunction.

   His breath hitched. “No.” As he realized what was going to happen.

    “Huh?” She panicked as she tried to get down the ladder. The statue shifted, throwing her off balance. “What? What’s happening? Percy!” She called out. The dim lights inside the Talos flickered on and off as the structure shuddered. “I don’t want to die!” She cried out as she tried to get out. She screamed as a part of the structure fell on her leg, but her cries were muffled by the grating of the effigy.

    “Bianca!” Nico tried to get the gold rubble off her leg, but he went right through it. “No!” He hit the floor, losing balance. “You’re fine, you’re fine.” He tried to reassure her, but she kept biting her tongue, scraping her nails on the ground.

    Another piece of a building fell, and then another. Soon it was collapsing on every side, making dents and holes on the ground.

   Bianca heaved. “I just wanted to see my brother.” Before the ceiling fell all together.

 

    Once it was over, Nico couldn’t form words. He fell to his knees, where Bianca was, and bawled. A clattering sound echoed across the empty space. Nico opened his eyes to see the skull ring on the floor, sitting their in its peaceful glory.

   Nico carefully held the ring. ‘Just in case you miss me.’ He gave a small, but painful laugh.

    “I guess you can say I miss you.” Nico curled into himself, holding the ring close.

   

~~~

 

   “Nico!” He flinched as a hand rested on his shoulder. “Nico, wake up!”

   He slowly opened his eyes. “Hazel?” The blurry figure of Hazel moved.

   “You were screaming in your sleep.” She stated softly as she raked her hands through his hair. “Do you want to talk about it?” Nico shook his head, giving a soft “No.” before burrowing his way back into the covers. He heard Hazel sigh.

   “This isn’t good for you, Nico.” He grunted in response, covering his face more. Another sigh. “Come on,” He was pulled away from the bed, “father wants you to meet him in the Throne Room.”

   “Did you eat breakfast?” He managed to get out. I don’t want to lose someone else.

   Hazel laughed. “Of course, I know how to take care of myself. You, on the other hand, need to eat and meet father in the Throne Room.”

   “Don’ wanna.” He mumbled into the pillow as he crawled back into the bed.

   “Sorry, but you need to.” Hazel hauled him over her shoulder. She put him in front of the door, knocked twice, alerting the skeletons, before leaving.

   Through his haze, he felt bony hands pick him up and carry him to the Throne Room. He couldn’t bring himself to care, not after what he saw. He heard the doors creak open, a different light cast onto his face.

   “What’s wrong?” He heard Hades ask the skeleton.

   After a few minutes, he felt hands with actual flesh hold him.

   “Nico?” A deep voice asked. “Persephone, is he broken? He isn’t moving.” Nico heard Persephone huff a laugh.

   “No, I don’t think so.” He heard footsteps and then a hand on his cheek. “Nico, honey, are you okay?” Nico pressed his cheek into the hand more, giving a shaky breath. “Oh, Nico,” he heard Persephone say, “what happened?”

    “Bianca. I—” He sucked in a breath, “—saw her die.” The hands holding him went rigid. “She was screaming and crying and she was hurting—” He was encased in a hug.

   “Oh Nico, baby, I’m so sorry.” Persephone squeezed him tighter. “No one should go through that.” He cried harder.

   “I will cancel the training sessions for today.” Hades hesitantly said, but then Nico grasped his shirt.

    “No, please.” Nico pleaded. “I wanna go.” Hades stopped, pressing his lips together and moving his hand up Nico’s back.

   “Alright.” Hades gave in. “But if you don’t feel good, please come here.” Nico silently nodded.

   Persephone slowly let him go, as did Hades.

   “Alright,” His father sighed reluctantly, “go meet Perseus at the spot you were both at before.” Nico got up and walked away.

 

~~~

 

  “Your form is lacking.” Perseus shouted as he struck his sword again.

   Nico backed up and blocked.

   Perseus switched his grip and performed a move he had never seen before.

   Nico bit back a gasp and ducked, lurching out of the way.

   He saw Perseus grin and perform another unknown action.

   The sword was coming down on him. Fear fueled him. The ceiling was falling down again. Someone please— He closed his eyes, but not even the slightest of pressure touched him. An audible “Oh.” Was heard from Perseus.

   Nico looked up to see a the strings had formed a shield in the form of two faces facing opposite directions in a circle.

    “What…?” Nico got up and inspected the shield made by the brightly glowing threads. “Can you see this too?” He vocalized to Perseus, who came up closer to observe the shield.

    The warrior nodded, reaching out to touch the shield, but the image immediately fell to the floor, the twines losing their bright glow.

    “I've seen that symbols before,” Perseus commented, “I just don't remember what it's for.” Picking up the sword, Perseus continued. “Let's continue our spar, we need to see if you are ready for quests. Judging by how far you've advanced in such little time, you might be ready soon.” Nico perked up.

    “Quests?” A churning feeling overlapped the excitement bubbling. You could die. “Really?” He asked in exhilaration and fear.

   Perseus simpered, flipping his sword over his shoulder. “Hades said he might assign you a quest if your skilled enough.” He drew his sword to the front again. “So,” Perseus prompted, “Let us get back to training”

    Nico happily obliged.

Chapter Text

    After weeks of training with Perseus, and researching random things in the Library with Persephone, Hades deemed it time for Nico’s first quest.

   “Aren’t I too young?” Nico asked once Hades announced his thoughts.

   Hades sighed, rubbing his temples. “If there was an age limit for quests, there would be less demigod casualties. Alas, the world does not work that way, we need as many demigods as us gods can.” Nico hummed at that.

   “What will be my quest?” He tilted his head in question, mind swirling in unease and eagerness.

   “It will be a simple one.” The god stated. “You will acquire a Stygian Iron sword. How you will and how you forge the iron into a sword is for you to find out.” Hades had a strange glint in his eyes as he spoke the next sentence. “You might need a certain gem-finding demigod .”

    Nico furrowed his eyebrows. Gem-finding demigod? Where would I get one of those? He bit his lip. I might go to the Library for that.

     “Is that all?” He questioned.

    “Yes, that is all.” Hades dismissed, waving his hand. Nico nodded, walking to his room.

    

    The moment he got to his room, he almost talked Hazel’s ear off.

    “—and then he said I needed a ‘gem-finding demigod’! Where am I supposed to get one of those?” He flipped onto his back. “Do I have to perform a ritual? With blood and stuff? Why do rituals require such weird stuff anyway? Why can’t I use like, Krispy Kreme or something?” Rambling, he gesticulated his emotions and kicked his legs.

   Hazel seemed to have realized something. “Did you say ‘gem-finding demigod’? ” Nico nodded wildly, about to go on another rant, but Hazel spoke again. “I am able to find and locate gems. Does that count?” Nico’s head shot up, staring at Hazel.

    “What.”   Nico stared at her in surprise and disbelief.

   “No, really, I can. Watch.” Hazel closed her eyes, her eyebrows pinching together. Suddenly, a slight tremor erupted in the room. One royal dark blue stone—almost black—with miniature white dots ripped through the floor and rested on the ground.

    “Woah.” He said, eyes wide. Hazel looked at the gem with surprise.

   She picked up the stone, observing it from all sides. “This is a Blue Goldstone! These are really pretty.”

   Nico came up close to the gemstone. “It’s like a portable night sky! That you can hold in your hands. ” He exclaimed, in awe. His sister made a quick laugh at that. “Why are they called Blue Goldstones though? They don’t look very gold.” Hazel shrugged, pocketing the gem.

   “I don’t quite know either,” She said, walking around the small bedroom, “but does that mean I can assist you in your quest?”

   Nico beamed. “Yeah! I think so. Do we start our quest now? Is there a time limit?” Aimlessly talking about his thoughts, he put his hands in the air and unconsciously started rapidly gesticulating.  

   Hazel chuckled, lowering Nico’s hands with hers. “I think we should go and prepare first. Do you have a weapon?” He halted all his movement, deep in thought.

   “Uh, no?” He laughed sheepishly. “The quest is to get a weapon? What should I get in the meantime?”

   Hazel crossed her arms. “Hmm, you should ask your trainer for our weapons.”

   Nico bobbed his head in response. “I’ll go to Perseus and ask for two weapons.” He yanked the door open, pausing before look to Hazel over his shoulder. “Meet me at the Library.” He called to her as he walked to the training grounds, where Perseus was inspecting his swords.

  The moment Nico stepped within hearing range, Perseus lifted his head.

   “Ah, Nico.” The Greek hero greeted. “What is it that you need?” Nico shuffled his feet as Perseus put his swords down.

   “I need two swords for my quest.” He requested. Nico bit the inside of his cheek as Perseus hummed.

   Perseus rearranged his sword collection, deep in thought. “Here.” The taller demigod tossed Nico a sword. “That one is for you.”

  He looked at the sword held clumsily in his hands. Nico rearranged his grip on the weapon. “It’s a Falcata. ” Nico remarked, recalling the first sword Perseus gave him for training. Perseus smiled, nodding. “What about the other sword?” He asked, looking to Perseus.

   “Well,” Perseus lifted several sword into his arms, “You should give these to whoever you are going on your quest with, test them out, whichever one feels right.” Before Nico could ask how he knew about all that, Perseus placed the bundle of swords in his arms and spoke again. “I may have only known you for a brief while, but I know for a fact you do not fight dual-wielded.” Perseus paused for a moment. “Although we should start doing that.” He added thoughtfully before continuing.

   The hero seemed to realize something as he hurriedly searched for something in the clutter of swords and other items. Rummaging through the mess, Perseus pulled a satchel from under the swords. “Here.” He handed Nico the ragged bag. Nico looked at it questionably, eying the old bag. “It is a gift from Athena. She bestowed it upon me to help me with my quest. It can hold whatever you put in it.” The look Nico had on the bag had changed from suspicious to unadulterated awe.

   “Be safe, alright Nico?” The Greek hero put a hand on his shoulder. Nico looked up at him and nodded. Perseus squeezed his shoulder, and then pulled him into hug.

   “Bye!” Nico waved as he left, leaving Perseus to his decreased sword collection.

   He walked into the castle, stuffing the swords into the magic satchel. I wonder if I can stuff a human in here. Nico thought as he walked the hallways to the Library. He opened the grand golden doors, revealing Hazel, browsing through books.

   “Bia—Hazel, Hazel.” Nico bounded towards her excitedly, ignoring his slip-up. “I got a magic tote.” Hazel looked to him in confusion. He held up the gift Perseus gave him. “Oh, and—” He dug through the bag, “—Perseus gave me some swords for you to try out.” Nico paused. “Do you know how to use a sword?”

   The dark-skinned girl rested her chin on the back of her hand. “I know some things.” She tilted her head, which stayed balancing on her hand. “I will be fine.” Hazel insisted, staring at the satchel.

   Nico handed her the stash of swords, all varying in size and style. He watched Hazel view her options. She decided on a gold sword that was extremely long.

   He scanned the sword tentatively. “That seems really...long. Can you wield that comfortably?” Hazel lifted the sword, twisting her wrist as she looked at the golden weapon from different angles.

   “I’ve been reading up on swords.” She commented, putting her chosen sword down. “That was most likely a sword to use during a cavalry battle. It will be just fine. More range the better.” Nico made an unsure noise.

   They decided on keeping extra swords in the bag just in case. Nico walked to a section of the Library nearby, looking for books based on Stygian Iron and other Underworldly metals, for good measure.

   “Do you think there would be books on your other power?” Hazel asked, carefully skimming her finger across the spines of several books. Her finger paused on one specific book. Nico couldn’t see the title, but she seemed to have found what she needed.

   Nico walked closer to Hazel. “What other power?” He came up beside her and skimmed through the page of the book she was on.

    Demigods are a strange things. They acquire powers that are relative to their godly parent. For example, Aphrodite children can develop the ability to Charmspeak. This power is based on the attraction and mental stability of a subject. Charmspeak can make the subject do whatever the Aphrodite child wants it to do. This power, however, can be negated. Someone with strong will or mindset can block this power.

  There are many other powers demigods can have. Nevertheless, we are here to talk about demigod children of Hades.

    Nico let out an almost audible “Oh.”  He realized why Hazel chose this book in particular.

    Coming from an almost-ancient son of Athena, who has observed many demigods in their life, I have never seen a demigod who’s godly parent is Hades. Yes, Hades has children: Zagreus, Macaria, etc. But demigods? No. If there was one, I have never heard or seen them. If there was one, I believe that their power must be corresponding to Hades’ godly powers.

   Hades is the god of the Underworld, that much is widely known. His demigod children must have access to the dead or dark things. (Although demigod children of Nyx may also be able to manipulate darkness.) There were theories that demigod children of Hades could control or banish skeletons and souls.

    “Oh my gods, oh my gods.” He gushed, shaking Hazel’s arm. “I could control the dead. ” Hazel made an affirmative noise and Nico kept reading.

    Stygian Iron is another issue. Stygian iron is only found in the mines of the Underworld. It is then forged and cooled in the RIver Styx. This type of iron is similar to Celestial Bronze. They both are able to disintegrate monsters, except Stygian Iron is able to harm both mortals and immortals. This metal is feared all throughout the monster community. The iron sucks the soul from the targeted subject. If the subject is a monster, they will not be able to reform in Tartarus.

    “Hazel,” Her eyes stopped moving from left to right, instead, they went to Nico. “is there any information on where you can find the iron?” He watched his sister shake her head, indicating no.

    Hazel’s eyes continued their scan on the page. “There’s no information on what I wanted either.” She mumbled, furthering Nico’s confusion.

    What was it she needed? He pondered before his thoughts were snapped by Hazel shutting the book.

    “Let’s put these types of books in your bag. Extra precautions.” Hazel decided, stuffing three books with similar covers into the bag. Nico silently agreed with her, reading the titles of the books as he moves around the shelf.

   Let’s see, Nico read the words on the spines of the books,   when he found one he was looking for. Stygian Iron: Locations, Origins and History. He plucked the book from the nicely-kept shelf and placed it in the bag with no bottom.

    Hazel ruffled his hair as she put more books about Greek monsters and the Underworld. Nico followed Hazel while she looked around the several towering shelves filled with old and new books. They didn’t find that many books on Stygian Iron. Nico sighed, shouldering the satchel.

    His attention was pulled towards his foot landing lower than usual and then a loud grating sound.

   Hazel hurried over to Nico. “What was that?” She halted, wide eyed as she looked behind Nico. He looked down, where a floorboard seemed to go lower than all the rest. He then whirled around to see where the creaking sound was coming from.

   There it stood, an entrance that was covered by the bookshelves. Nico lifted his foot, watching as the floorboard slowly lifted into its place, no longer on a different level as the rest of the boards. Soon after, the shelves had started closing in. Hazel shook his shoulder, stepping back on the board, making the bookcases shift away from the entrance.

    Nico observed the entryway. It was about the size of a door, with a Δ symbol marking the top. He side eyed Hazel, who look hesitantly at the door-sized opening. They didn’t have time to decide whether or not to go for it when the Library doors slammed open.

   “I will not give in to his lies!” A raucous voice exclaimed, their words hitting Nico like a cold wave. That’s Minos’ voice. He panicked, head turning to Hazel, who seemed to sense his fear.

    “I believe it is foolish, Minos.” The gruff tone of Rhadamanthus spoke. Careful footsteps countered loud and careless ones. “The son of Hades had an alibi. The skeleton had proven it.”

   “That does not mean he should be exonerated!” Minos growled. “For all we know they could have rehearsed that. I’ll find a way to show the truth. ” Their voices were getting closer to the two demigods, who were still frozen in shock in the back of the Library.

   Hazel grabbed his hand and squeezed. She directed his eyes to look at hers. Gesturing her head to the gaping entry, Nico nodded, gripping his bag and getting ready to run.

   Hazel used her hands to count to three.

    1...2...3! Once Hazel lifted her ring finger, the children of Hades darted inside the secret entrance, their hands in a tight grip. The moment they were both safely inside, the bookshelves shut them inside. Nico could vaguely hear the questioning noises of Rhadamanthus and Minos, a bright white light blinding him.

   They stood there, panting. After the panic had drained from Nico, Hazel dragged her right hand across the walls of the interior of the new space while stepping around. He was confused on what she was trying to achieve until he realized that they don’t have a way back out.

   He went beside Hazel, eyeing the floor and walls. Hazel gritted her teeth. Her eyes scanning every crevice in the dusty gray walls. Nico saw her expression change from panicked and annoyed to one of surprise. Her hand slowly started to point to the wall behind Nico.

   Turning around, he watched glowing blue letters write themselves onto the plain wall. There was something off with the letters, Nico noticed. They didn’t seem to be in any language Nico could understand. Furrowing his eyebrows, he went closer, brushing his fingertips across the shining words. He trailed his hand down and across the message until the last of the letters had been placed.

   He read the sentence over and over again. “What language is—”

    “It’s in Latin.” Hazel noticed breathlessly. She slowly walked up to the message. “Tui nervos sunt magis quam capaces ducit in via.” Glancing to Nico over her shoulder, she translated, “Your strings are more than capable of leading the way.” Nico’s eyes widened.

   “Does…” He paused, mulling it over, “does that mean that the god that gave me this power is Roman?” How would the strings lead the way? A memory hit him like a brick. The white light. Lifting hand quickly, he realized there was an almost blinding white string. Curiosity took over. Where could it lead? He gave the string a squeeze.

   Almost instantly, a flood of unfamiliar memories raced through his mind. Titans, gods, Kronos, Gaea, a burning maze, Eros with his arrows, Tartaru—

   Yelping, Nico jumped back, dropping the string as if it burned him, his head hitting the wall. Hazel asked questions in concern, but all Nico could think about was those images.

   The 600th floor, Olympus.

   A boy with a scar down his cheek, eyes glowing.

   An older version of him, looking disconnected in a glass jar.

   Him again, a golden arrow that disappeared into his arm, forcing him to yell something that seems to tear him apart.

   Fire filling a maze with the same colored walls as the room he is in.

    “Nico?” The visuals shattered. “Nico, are you okay?” Those memories weren’t his. They definitely weren’t. It felt as if they were several people’s. “Nico!” Hazel shook him, hands clasped around his shoulders. He blinked blearily at her, looking directly into her worry-filled eyes. “Are you okay?” She whispered gently, about to say something else, but a blue light flashed behind her. They looked over, realizing the words had changed, message changed and no longer Latin.

    You’re going to help them. The cryptic sentence read.

    Who is ‘them’? Was a question that seemed to go through both his and Hazel’s minds. They didn’t have time to think it over, as the message burst with light, burning Nico’s eyes. He stumbles back with a brutal flinch, slipping and falling onto his back. Nico lets out a yell, covering his eyes. He could vaguely make out Hazel blocking her eyes with her arm. Nico could hear her gasp and roughly scratch the wall.

   When they gained their sight again, the blue-lettered words were gone. Hazel blinked, hoisting Nico back up. Nico squeezed his eyes shut.

    You’re going to help them.

   Nico opened his eyes so quickly his eyes hurt. What was that?

   He blinked again.

    You’re going to help them.

    Blink.

    You’re going to help them.

    Another blink.

    You’re going to—

    Nico stared into the ground. Fist clenching and unclenching. No blinking, he decided, no blinking.

   “Do you see it?” He asked. “Do you see it?” Nico demanded desperately.

   Hazel gives him a confused look. “See what?”

   “Every time I blink—” He chokes back a feeling he can’t identify, “—every time, every time. I just, I see the message.” He blinks several times, his eyes dry, yet watery. You’re going to help them. “I can’t.”

   He puts his back to the wall. “I’m so confused. What were those memories? Who’s ‘them’ ? Why are we helping them? Why does the message keep coming back? Why won’t it go away?” Nico stares directly into Hazel’s puzzled eyes. “Why does nothing make sense?”

   Still perplexed, Hazel put a somewhat-sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “Nico, whatever is going on with you, I’ll be there.” She seemed to have more than pity in her voice. “I’m sorry,” Hazel sighed, “First Bianca, now this.”

   His body appeared to wilt at her words. Hazel had a flash of panic go across her face before she engulfed him in a hug. “You don’t have to act strong.” She breathed out. “No one expects anyone to always be strong.” She smiled, squeezing him for extra measure. “I’ll make sure Persephone and Father give you the biggest hug.” She let him go, but continued talking.

    “But first,” Hazel said, a glint in her eyes, “let’s get out of here.” Nico nodded.

    The walls had said the strings would lead the way, and it did. The white string had guided them through many paths. Nico knew they were far from leaving this place, but at least they made progress.

   The peculiar thing about the strings is that they phase through doors, but not walls. Which is strange in its own way. If the strings can’t go through solid objects, why can they go through doors? Nico huffed, trying to avoid contact with the white string as much as possible. He didn’t need to see those memories again. Never again. Nico realized why that unknown feeling was so familiar. Fear. He closed his eyes.

     You’re going to help them. He holds back a shudder.

 

~~~

    

   A loud sound of cannon fire shakes the floor. The sharp sound of spikes and spears can be heard, but they’re running. They’re running and running. He dodges a spear as it aims for his shoulder, keeping the satchel close to his chest. Hazel jumps as spikes pop up where she was about to step. No blood has spilled yet, but it’s close, so very close.

    Their breaths are labored, heaving for more air after all the path had no more traps in sight. Nico has his strings tied tightly around his sword, Hazel’s grasped tightly in her own hand. Then the ground spins, the walls expanding, a rush of wind as the floor under them goes forward. Him and Hazel both lodge their sword into the ground as much as they can, keeping a solid grip as their bodies are swept by the force. They’re disheveled, tired, and hungry; but they keep going.

    The floor brings them to an almost arena-looking area. Confusion between the two siblings was very present, but then a booming roar reverberated throughout the large room. A cow creature with two large ram horns stomps towards them, gigantic axe in hand.

    “The Minotaur. ” Nico gasps in disbelief, immediately moving himself into a defensive stance, his skin tingling and breath somewhat caught in his throat. “Are we actually going to fight it?” He looks to Hazel, whose face is frozen in reluctance, but she still gets into position. Nico throws Perseus’ satchel on the floor, making it slide away from them.

    “We have no choice.” Then they both dive into fight.

    The fight is in no way graceful or smooth. It is all chaos, slashing and hacking. Their adrenaline telling them to run. Run and escape.

    Nico dives, narrowly avoiding the Minotaur’s axe as he swipes his sword at the monster’s feet. The monster howls. Hazel takes that as an advantage and stabs it straight in the gut.

    But it isn’t deep enough.

    The Minotaur gets up, angry as ever. Its stomps get louder, and Nico’s blood is screaming, his hands feeling numb. Nico switches his grip on his sword and throws it over the Minotaur’s shoulder.

    “Nico!” Hazel screams, slashing at the bullheaded monster,  “What are you doing?!” She nearly makes it out of the axe’s path, her focus going back to the fight.

    He slides under the Minotaur's arm, making the string loop loosely around the arm of the beat. His right hand snatchs the sword on the ground. Focus. He squints, the blue words faintly appearing in his vision. He squeezes the strings, letting the yellow string of Hazel glow brightly along with the rest. The string is tied to his sword and Hazel, he makes a quick decision and runs around the Minotaur, wrapping the blinding strings around the monster.

    Confused and frustrated, the Minotaur thrashes about, growling as it tries to break the strings’ hold. Hazel looks at the scene in awe, frozen in place.

    Nico tugs the strings as hard as he can, making the monster lose its balance. The Minotaur falls onto its side.

    “Hazel!” He grabs her attention. “Now!” Hazel faces the enraged monster with a determined face, and drives her sword right into its head.

    Dust blows into their face, and suddenly their coughing it up, adrenaline fading away. Nico’s lungs are on fire as he stuffs his sword into the bag he lifted from the ground.

    “We need to find the iron.” Hazel states, her voice shaky from all that has happened. “The quest had started just hours ago but I’m already tired.” She taps her sword against the floor, shaking the dust off the blade.

    Nico agrees wholeheartedly, wiping the sweat off the forehead and continued to follow the white string, Hazel guarding his back the whole way. Corridors and rooms change multiple times while they managed their way through the confusing maze.

    On their trek, Hazel grabs his shoulder out of the blue, making him jump. He turns his head to look at her.

    “I feel it.” She voices. “I feel some sort of metal. It has to be it.” Nico knows she’s talking about the Stygian Iron, a fire made of hope lights inside him.

    “How does it feel?” He rests his sword on his shoulder, walking in step with Hazel.

    Hazel hums thoughtfully, looking for that one feeling, looking for where the iron might be. “It feels like death, I guess. As morbid as it sounds, it’s similar to a being dunked into cold water.” She pauses. “It also feels similar to relief. Relief of everything .” Hazel adds, tapping her blade against the floor with each step.

    “Hm,” Nico felt a strange aura, “interesting.”

    Then Hazel stopped in her tracks.

    “It’s here.” She frantically looked around the area. “The iron is definitely here.” Nico begins to look around the room with Hazel, scanning for a door or button.

    Nico noticed a faint drawing of a hammer on the wall. He traced his hand over the drawing and slowly pressed on it. Suddenly, the room shifted, groaning and creaking. Hazel grabbed Nico on instinct, both of them almost losing their footing.

    It felt like they were spinning downwards. Dizzy, Nico’s legs gave out, making Hazel go down with him. Their bodies went tumbling, hitting the walls and bumping into each other. Nico’s world spins and suddenly it all goes black.

 

~~~

 

    “Pleased to meet you,” A shaken-up and older version of him said, “I’m Nico di Angelo.”  He held out a hand to a battered-looking Percy. Hazel standing beside them.

    Why was he there? Nico couldn’t help but wonder. Is this him in the future? He glanced at Hazel, who seemed to not have aged a day. It can’t be. She looks almost the exact same, except for the purple shirt she wore. He took a better look at it. SPQR. Nico’s mouth twisted in confusion, his eyebrows furrowing. What does ‘SPQR’ mean? Scanning the shirt again, he saw the smaller words under the logo, Camp Jupiter. His confusion furthers, but there is no space for it as a new scene begins.

     Nico looked sullen as he drank from the golden chalice. “You asked me about trust, and taking a risk?” He extended the cup to Jason. “Well, here you go, son of Jupiter. How much do you trust me?”

    Nico watched the dream play out, questions swirling in his head.

     The reluctance was clear in the tall Asian's eyes. Jason, on the other hand, had eyes that seemed to brim with pure confidence and determination as he took the chalice and drank. Nico's tired face lit up in shock, mouth parting slightly.

     Why was it so surprising to the other version of him? Nico wondered during the scene. He could be trusted! Although, the other him had an air of lassitude to him. With his sunken eyes and dark circles, the almost dark and broken look in his eyes as he said the word “trust.” What made him turn out like that?

    “Who are you people?” Demanded a girl who looked so similar to—

     “Bianca?” Nico drew closer to the image. Is this another flashback? He assumed it was until someone else spoke up.

     “A manticore?” Gasped Nico. “He’s got three thousand attack power and plus five to saving

throws!"

     Nico stepped back in surprise. He took in the boy’s appearance. The copy of him had the same aviator jacket, but no ring. I don’t remember this happening. Observing the duplicate of himself and his sister, perplexity made his thoughts jumble together. What is happening?

    Annabeth—or who he assumed was Annabeth—pushed the di Angelo siblings down into the snow. Percy pulled out a damaged, but detailed, shield. The thorns stabbed into the metal, Percy wincing. The satyr fell behind the shield, right next to Percy.

    “Yield!” The weird looking monster screamed.

    A Manticore, Nico remembered what his dream-version said.

      A girl with short black hair yelled back. “Never!” She charged after the monster, the dream turned into the same field. Instead of a Manticore, there was a group of girls in similar attire, bows in hand.

    The almost mirror version of him looked at one of the girls in admiration, “Thank you Lady Artemis! You’re so...you’re so...Wow!” His eyes lit up, his body bounced up and down.

     “Lady Artemis?” Nico narrowed his eyes. As in, Artemis the goddess? She looked different from the Mythomagic cards. When did he meet Artemis? When did he meet a Manticore? This dream made him so confused. There were multiple events that seemed so real yet so fake. This could actually just be a dream and not a demigod dream. But why would people he’s never seen appear? Usually dreams would come up with a name for the person. Nico pursed his lips, attention back on the scene.

     “Whoa,” Bianca held her hands up in a ‘stop’ motion, “Hold up. Time out.” She glanced around, scrutinizing the group in front of her. “Who...who are you people?” Pointing at each and every one of them.

    “Artemis” moved her eyes to the girl. “It might be a better question, my dear girl, to ask who are you. Who are your parents?"

    The back-and-forth continued for a while. When Bianca explained that they were apparently orphans, everyone gave disbelieving looks. Bianca, in turn, became defensive and demanded what the problem was.

   “You are a half-blood.” A heavily-accented girl stated. She shifted her weight, staring at Bianca. "One of thy parents was mortal. The other was an Olympian.”

     Nico already knew that. He theorized, thinking that maybe, just maybe Bianca was still alive. He could have possibly met her later. He held onto that thought, hoping.

     “An Olympian...athlete?” She doubtfully questioned, her pointed finger faltering.

    “No,” The heavily-accented girl shook her head, her dark braid following her movements, “One of the gods.”

    “Cool!” Nico exclaimed, face lit with so much joy.

    Bianca revolved to face Nico. “No!” She snapped, voice trembling, “This is not cool!”

     That wasn’t like Bianca. She kept herself level-headed. The realization hit Nico hard. This isn’t the future. Keeping his gaze on his feet, his emotions a storm. He just watched “Nico” react to his parent being a god. That didn’t seem very much like a second reaction. He grit his teeth, Much like a first.

    His sad eyes focused on his dead sister’s frustrated face. You should probably let go. Dread filling him to the bone, tears prominent in his eyes, but he refused to cry. Tears will get you nowhere. Said a voice that had a tone not like his own. Nico flinched back as an extremely bright light blinded him.

    His eyes slowly looked back to the dream in front of him.

     A red convertible car was now surrounded by melting snow. The snow melted around the car in a perfect circle. The driver got out, blond hair and a shining smile. He wore jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt.

    “Wow,” murmured the short haired girl, whose name Nico didn’t know, although her eyes looked strikingly similar to Jason’s, “Apollo is hot.”

     Apollo? As in the sun god? Nico sighed, his brain never got a break ever since this “demigod” stuff started.

    “He’s the sun god.”— Yep, Nico’s thoughts were confirmed— Percy spoke, an almost questioning lilt to his voice.

   “That’s not what I meant.”

     Nico let the conversation slip through his ears, groaning internally. Why can’t I get an explanation for whatever this is? He lolled his head back, letting out a deep sigh. He should’ve paid attention in school, or mythomagic cards more, or whatever he needed for this.

     “I feel a haiku coming on.” Apollo announced, hands in descending jazz hands.

     He cleared his throat, hand coming up.

      "Green grass breaks through snow.

Artemis pleads for my help.

I am so cool."

     Instead of internally, Nico let out a resounding groan, cringing. I thought he was the god of poetry? Why is it so...bad? “Not to mention the last line was only four syllables.” He muttered, crossing his arms. Nico noticed the confused and the almost scandalized look on everyone’s faces as Apollo belted out his “haiku.” He could relate to all of them.

     “That last line was only four syllables.” Artemis pointed out, frowning.

      Yes! ” Nico exclaimed, arms extended towards Artemis, “Thank you!” Throwing his arms up, his balance fell backwards, making him step back. He realized yelling at a non-concrete dream that may not be a vision looked slightly crazy. But when isn’t demigod stuff not crazy.

     He continued to watch the dream. The group drove in a shapeshifting vehicle across the sky. They traveled for a while, the Nico of his dreams screeched every four seconds on how “cool” everything was. Nico could relate. They went to a place called “Camp Half-Blood.” Which had the same uniform as the people in his other dream. Orange shirts and all.

      A white satyr with a gentle expression conversed with them. They eventually gave a tour of Camp Half-Blood to Nico and Bianca. The satyr talked to Percy about the missing appearance of Annabeth.

      There was so much more that happened and Nico couldn’t keep up. What is this place? An abrupt change in setting startled Nico.

     It was still Camp Half-Blood, with more snow than before. Nico and Percy stood in the Dining Pavilion, the wind blowing their hair into their face.

    “She wanted you to have this.” Percy held out a small figurine.

    Nico walked next to Percy, examined the small item in Percy’s hand. It was definitely a Mythomagic figure. He put his face closer. Then, he recognized the figurine. It was Hades. I don’t have that one yet! Nico looked to his dream version’s face, but only saw desolation.

      “You promised you would protect her.” The quiet yet broken voice of Nico spoke.

       With that, Nico knew. Bianca was dead. He had seen it in a previous dream, a version of it that belonged to his world. How did she die here? He really didn’t want to see it. Never again.

       Percy’s face contorted in a way where he looked as is if he was stabbed. Grimacing, he tried to calm Nico. “Nico,” Percy tried to reason, “I tried. But Bianca gave herself up to save the rest of us. I told her not to. But she—”

      “You promised! ” Nico screamed, voice cracking. He lifted his head, staring at Percy with angry watery eyes. His hand clenched around the Hades figure. “I shouldn’t have trusted you.” Inconsolable frustration and sadness in his voice. “You lied to me. My nightmares were right!”

     Percy’s defeated face changed in puzzlement. “Wait. What nightmares?”

     Nico hurled the small statue onto the marble floor. The small clatters the statue made was loud in the still silence.

     “I hate you!” He bawled, fists covering his face.

     Percy desperately tried to convince him. “She might be alive,” His posture wavered. “I don’t know for sure—”

     “She’s dead.” He affirmed, closing his eyes. His body trembled with rage. "I should've known it earlier. She's in the Fields of Asphodel, standing before the judges right now, being

evaluated. I can feel it."

     Percy was perplexed, “What do you mean, you can feel it?”

    The exchange was interrupted by a rattling, clanking noise. The two swiveling around in fear.

      All he saw was “Nico’s” furious face before the dream’s location switched again.

     The snowy campgrounds shifted to the same dark expanse from previous dreams.

    “Hello there, Nico.” The voice crooned.

     “Who are you?” Nico asked for the umpteenth time.

      The voice sighed. “I am slowly giving you hints of to who I am.” A ghost of a hand pat his head.

    He huffed, “Why can't you just tell me? It's not like it's a big deal or anything...right?”

      “That is the thing.” Another sigh. “The power I had given you is most definitely dangerous. Changing fate is no small matter. Jupiter would have my head.”

    “So you are Roman.” Nico concluded thoughtfully. All that came from the voice was silence.

     After a moment, the voice continued.

     “Mhm.” Clapping was heard. “You got it!” A few quick footsteps echoed across. “I believe you have several questions about the scenes you just saw.”

     His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “So you were the one who showed me those.”

     “Yes. I was. Allow me to explain,” The same white string Nico had followed through the maze appeared in front of him. “Those were definitely real memories. Of who? Well, you're going to find out real soon.” There was a laugh in that tone of theirs.

     Nico had a sudden thought. “Could you remove the blue lettered message that keeps popping up every time I blink?”

      “I'm sorry.” An almost sorrowful tone had taken over. “It may be scary, but it is a good message to keep until then.” The vocals of the being were fading away, seeming distant.

     “Wait, wait,” Nico tried to keep them from leaving, “Who's ‘them ’? Why do I have to help?” No answer. “Hello?”

     Then he woke up.

 

~~~

 

     “Nico?” A hand jolted him. “Nico! Finally!” The kind voice of Hazel woke him, full of relief. He made a questioning noise, blearily sitting up.

    He rubbed at his eyes. “What...where are we?” The room had changed. There were tables with multiple things strewn across them. More questionable items were on the floor. Nico hadn’t noticed it before, but the strange aura from before was completely enveloping him now. “What is that weird feeling?” His disoriented brain still at a loss.

     Hazel was taken aback, still surprised Nico woke up, before she realized what he was asking. “That’s the Stygian Iron.” She stood, shuffling could be heard as she scourged through the various metals. “We will need a way to forge it.” Her voice rose in excitement, “Luckily, this might actually be a reject Hephaestus forge and workshop!”

     Nico scanned the area better. The place was actually very neat and advanced. “Why is this a reject?” He asked, standing up.

     Hazel’s grin faltered. “Might be because of the fact that people kept falling down here.” She pointed to the dents and scuff marks in the corner with a table. “It appears to me that we are not the only ones who fell here. Must have been annoying.” Nico could agree with that. Having people fall from the ceiling and into your work would make you want to move.

     “How would we forge the sword though?” Curious, he walked around the room.

     Hazel grabbed the satchel from the floor. “I stuffed some books about that in here.” Her hand reached deep into the magic bag. “Aha!” She pulled out a book titled The Pattern-Welded Blade: Artistry in Iron. “This had diagrams and very detailed instruction. Hopefully we have everything we need.”

     Nico stared at the book. “Will it work for Stygian Iron?”

     “We can only hope.”

     The book had helped a lot. Nico silently praised his sister for that. They took the Stygian Iron metal and melted it in the fire pot in the middle of the room.

     “How are we supposed to hit it?” Nico panicked, metal bright with heat.

     “Like this.” Hazel pointed to one diagram. “Over there.” She directed the hammer to the designated spot. Nico pounded the iron, making it stretch.

     They continued the shaping of the iron for a while. The Stygian Iron stretched and shaped itself as Nico drove the hammer into the metal. Eventually, it had shaped into something resembling a Falcata. The blade curved slightly, still burning hot. The children of the Underworld made note not to touch it.

     “...Is it supposed to look like that?” Hazel asked, observing the sword from a distance.

     Nico pulled out his previous sword, comparing it side to side with the new one. “Seems pretty accurate.” He commented putting Perseus’ sword back into the bag. “And if it’s not, I still have a sword that looks like a pirate’s!” Nico remarked, a happy pitch to his voice. “I like pirates.” He added.

     Hazel slowly nodded her head. “That...that you do.” She then realized the blade of the Stygian Iron sword was not cooling down. “Uhm,” She interjected. “Should the sword have cooled down by now?”

      Nico kept the sword at an arm’s length. “I think? Check the books.”

     Hazel hurriedly read through a page of the book, Stygian Iron: Locations, Origins and History. Flipping through pages, mumbling quietly to herself.

     “Found it!” She trailed her finger across the words. “‘Stygian Iron is forged normally, but is cooled in the waters of the Styx.’”

     Nico held the glowing white string again. “Let’s go.” He dismissed, already ready. Hazel followed him, organizing the place as she passed.

     As they walked the corridors of the maze, Nico’s mind wandered. “Do you think if I hit something with this sword,” He lifted the still-burning sword, “the shape would change and we’d have to do it all over again?”

     Hazel put her hand over his, slowly pushing it down. “You should use your other sword just in case.” Nico nodded, continuing to follow the white string.

 

~~~

 

     Nico and Hazel found the exit to the strange maze. The exit was still located within the Underworld. The rushing of water was heard when they stepped onto Underworld ground. When they turned their heads to the sound, the River Styx was right there.

      How convenient. Nico thought, Thanks “Mysterious Power Person.”  He dipped the ablazed sword into the river, making it instantly cool down into a dark color. Pulling it out of the water, he raised it up triumphantly.

     “It’s so cool! ” He yelled twirling and swinging it around. Hazel moved her body back warily, not wanted to be hit.

    “Nico, you...you should put that down now.” She directed nervously. “And we should go back to our room.”

     Nico stopped his swinging to ask, “Do you think the string will lead to home?” Hazel considered that for a moment before agreeing.

     “I believe so.”

     So they followed the string, which lead them to a cliff. Looking down, it was a dark abyss leading to who knows where.

    Suddenly, all the strings tied to his hands glowed brightly, confusing Nico.

    “Wha..?” But he didn’t have time to ask Hazel as they wrapped around his arms and pulled him into the darkness.

    “NICO!” Hazel screamed in horror as she exerted herself, reaching out to Nico.

    “Get dad!” He yelled before the blackness enveloped him.

     

    When he opened his eyes, he saw a blond boy with a scarred lip fighting a thin man with an almost all-white outfit with a captain’s hat. The arrows were coming down on the blond.

    He blinked.

     You’re going to help them.

     Nico jumped in front the boy, shield summoning to block the arrows.

Chapter Text

    The low whistle of the sailing arrows was all Nico could hear as he jumped in front of the boy with the scarred lip. Shutting his eyes tight, he felt the arrows close in on him.

     Clang, clang, clang!

    His eyes opened to see the shield in all its glowing glory. Surprised noises came from both of the unknown teens. When Nico looked up from the shield, he saw the boy in the captain’s hat growl. The next thing he heard was the boy with the scarred lip yelling at him, voice drowned out as Nico—

     Chck! Nico screamed as an arrow made contact with his leg, going almost all the way in. Leg unable to support his weight, it gave up, causing Nico to fall onto his other knee. The shield disassembled, going back to regular strings. Glaring at the now-grinning teen in an almost all-white outfit, Nico attempted to move. He couldn’t.

    “Hey,” the teen behind him said, “are you okay?”

    Nico swerved his head around, a snarky response bubbling in his throat. “Oh, I don’t know, do I look oka—” The words in his throat died as he faced the teen. Now Nico realized why something was off. “— Jason?” He whispered, disbelieving.

    Jason’s mouth opened in surprise, wincing slightly when he moved too suddenly. “Wait. How do you,” A sudden realization painted his face, “you look so much like—” The sound of sailing arrows stopped him from saying more, making Jason go back to glaring at the other teen.

    “As much as I hate interrupting whatever…” The teen loosely gestured to them, snarl and sarcastic lilt prominent, “... this is, I have more things I need to do. Important things. ” More arrows came flying at them.

    Nico dipped down as much as he could. “Oh yeah, like what? Chucking arrows? Well you can take those arrows and —”

    Jason jumped in. “Caligula. Don’t hurt him.” His eyes went to Nico. “He isn’t involved.” Nico forced himself to not cringe, Jason could work on his reasoning skills.

    When Nico moved his head to face Caligula again, he was even closer than before.

      “Just another hindrance then!” He hollered as he lifted his spear to strike Nico. A powerful blast of air knocked him back.

    Nico almost lost all hope there. Although Jason was cool— he could control air, like a cool person could— they wouldn’t last much longer with unusually large puffs of air. His strings were something Nico didn’t trust himself to control. The satchel. Nico remembered. But what could I use? All there was inside it were books. Breathing out as Caligula rose his spear again, he waited for the inevitable.

    Until a loud crash echoed across the room. Caligula’s attention was diverted to the hole in the wall.

     “Jason!” A dark-skinned girl yelled. “Get on!” She sat on a black horse with another boy, wind going crazy around them.

    Nico took his chance, and, grabbing his satchel (still filled with thick books), he shrieked, “KNOWLEDGE!” Putting all his weight onto his throw, he clobbered Caligula hard on his head.

    Caligula fell with a thud. Not enough to knock him out, but enough to stun him long enough for their escape. Jason heaved Nico over his shoulder and grabbed the girl’s hand. They blasted to the surface, wind blowing Nico’s hair into his eyes. Jason manhandled Nico warily, avoiding his injured leg.

    “Piper,” Jason turned his head to the girl. Piper, huh. She looks...older, than usual. “Why’d you come back?”

    Piper glared at him. “Are you kidding me?” Her eyes told them not to answer. “Even if we’re no longer in love, you’re still my friend.” The tone in her voice became more frustrated. “Dying isn’t going to help save the world.” She smiled, drawing attention to her split lip.

    Now that Nico isn’t in mortal danger, he can focus on the more “minor” details of the teens. Piper’s sporting bruises on her face and a split lip, face battered and tired. Jason just looks all around exhausted, bruises and cuts spread around his body. Then there’s one other boy who Nico doesn’t recognize. Brown hair and eyes, a skinny body, and pale skin. Taller than Nico, no doubt, but when his eyes shift to Nico, an expression of surprise appears on his face.

    “Jason,” the boy drew Jason’s attention to him. “Who’s this?” He pointed to Nico, who was subtly clinging for his life on the horse.

    Nico decided to interrupt Jason before he could say anything. He already knew Jason probably didn’t know his name. Swinging his damaged leg onto the other side of the flying horse, he offered a hand to the boy. “Nico di Angelo,” he was jostled on the horse as it sped up, his other hand keeping a white-knuckled grip on the saddle, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

    The muted bickering from Piper and Jason halted, both their faces showing disbelief.

Piper approached Nico as if he was a scared animal. “Could...could you repeat that?”

    “I’m…” His eyebrows furrowed, questioning in his mind why they were acting so weird, “Nico di Angelo?” Stating it like a question, he watched as Piper glanced at Jason, her eyes screaming panic . He could hear them whisper to each other.

     “I knew he looked familiar.”

    “Is it really him?”

    “How is this possible.”

    There were more hushed whispers, too quiet for Nico to hear. Their conversation lasted until the horse landed on a beach, another girl already present there.

    “ Thanks, Tempest.” He heard Jason whisper to the horse.

    The other girl—whose face Nico couldn't put a name to—charged at them, soaking wet and clothes a mess. She went to the other boy first, the one who had their introduction ruined.

    “Apollo!” Her tone was reprimanding, yet held a hint of concern. Grabbing the boy, she checked for injuries while talking to him.

     Apollo? Like, as in the sun god? The boy Nico saw didn't seem so...hot, Nico wouldn't say it out loud, but in both ways. Everything was already extremely confusing, Nico's mind could barely take it.

    The light taps on his shoulder broke him from his incessant amounts of contemplation. When he turned to see who tapped him, however, he saw the hesitant faces of Piper and Jason.

    “Uh, Nico,” Piper gave a crooked smile. “We wanted to ask.” Sideways glances were exchanged between the two. “Do you happen to have...a sister ?”
    Nico felt like someone was choking him. The dull burning of tears welled up in his eyes. Hitched breaths and rapid blinking aside, trying not to cry in front of people was a feeling no one enjoyed. Piper’s eyes were fixated on him, still oblivious to his internal struggle. Taking slow, calming breaths, Nico spoke, even though he was definitely not ready to.

    “Had,” He responded, berating himself when his voice came out unsteady and faltering. Even with his eyes downcast to an extent, he could still see Piper and Jason’s distressed gazes. Panicked, he tried to cover it up, not wanting the mood to drop even further. “But I have another sister!” Gesturing with his trembling hands, he moved to a different topic. “She might never be Bianca,” he continued, even as Jason and Piper froze, “because she’s her own person. A very good person, might I add.”

    Sensing that Nico could perceive their incredulity, Jason stepped in. Placing a hand on Nico’s shoulder, he gave his condolences.

   “I’m sorry for your loss.” While Nico had never experienced the loss of a loved one until recently, he still felt as if the statement wasn’t hollow as usual. “If you don’t mind me asking,” Jason dubiously asked, “what is the name of your other sister?”

    Letting out a breath, Nico fiddled with the yellow string that connected him and Hazel. “Hazel,” He smiled affectionately. A squeeze on the string and a flash of memories erupted.

     Nico, who looked older, stood in front of Hazel's spirit. Arm extended as he spoke, “You’re my sister too. You deserve another chance. Come with me.”

    Hazel helping him out of the wooden rubble, the ship they're on, gliding in the air.

    Saving Hazel from a giant, kissing her forehead. “You would have made Dad proud.”

    There were more memories, memories that didn't belong to him. Staying motionless as his thoughts circled ‘round. Those memories were definitely not mine. I'm not that cool. His voice whispered in his head. Unless it's that voice in dream doing this. That was a stable conclusion, but Nico's pretty sure a god can't mess up that bad to make him look totally different.

     “Oh my gods,” Piper's worried voice cut in, “I think we broke him.” Hands waved in front of his face, making him blink.

    Jason's relieved exhale made the other girl, who Nico didn't know the name of, put a hand on her hip.

     “Well dam,” she said, “So they didn't kill a kid.”

     “Apollo” scoffed, elbowing the girl. “Meg, he wouldn't have died from, uh, whatever they were doing.”

    Demigod stuff is confusing, Nico concluded. Nothing ever made sense. He hadn’t gone to school in a while, so his brain was still getting used to learning things other than button combinations. Wrapping his head around something bizarre as fake memories was wildly beyond what he could even attempt to do.

    He heard Piper suck in a breath. “I think we need to tell Chiron.” she said, opening her hand to Jason, who put a golden coin in her hand. Her footprints trailed behind her in the sand while she walked towards the ocean. Throwing the coin in the ocean, she chanted

     “Oh Fleecy, do me a solid. Show Chiron at Camp Half-Blood.”

     Once she had said those words, an almost translucent screen appeared from thin air. A man appeared in the middle of the screen, expression surprised. He backed up slowly, showing off his lower half. A centaur. But not just any centaur, no, Nico saw him in his dreams. Chiron.

“Ah, Piper,” Chiron politely inclined his head, “to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?” There was lots of muffled screams and rustling in the background. Nico presumed those were the campers being rowdy.

    On the other hand, Piper didn’t have the leisure of observing the background. She looked distressed, like Jason. “Chiron, there’s something you need to see.” Before Chiron could speak, she grabbed Nico’s arm and pulled him into frame.

    At first, Chiron seemed to have no reaction, observing Nico. Then, his face changed with recognition. “Oh my.” Going back to Piper, he pointed at Nico. “Is this—?” His question was answered by Piper nodding her head. Although Chiron and Piper appeared to be on the same page, Chiron’s gaze gave an impression of “are you sure?”  

    To that, Piper confirmed. “He said he had a sister named Bianca and a half-sister name Hazel.” Her hand rested on his shoulder, neither consoling nor sympathetic. “Not only that, but he has his Stygian Iron sword.”

    Chiron mulled over her statement for a while. “I see,” he said. “Go to Camp Half-Blood. I’ll arrange a meeting with the Seven.” With that, he swiped his hand over the message, making it disappear.

    Meg spoke up, crossing her arms. “You heard him, let’s get to Camp Half-Blood.”

    Sighing, Jason pat Tempest. “Alright everybody,” he gave Tempest a sympathetic glance, “get on.”

 

~~~

 

    Camp Half-Blood looked just like it did in his dream, minus the snow. Meg and Apollo left their group, wandering off somewhere else. Nico was told to walk next to Piper and Jason, quietly. Well, as quietly as he could with one leg. Something about “not revealing his presence.”, which was something Charon did, except this time Nico didn’t hide under a cloak, unfortunately.

    There were many extremely cool things in the camp. A lava wall, a horse stable, a dragon guarding a tree with the real Golden Fleece, a lava wall. Nico could see why his dream version of him was having a seizure over this place.

     Although he wanted to explore more, they reached their destination. In all its big, baby blue glory, the “Big House” towered over them. Watching Piper suck in a breath, Jason pushed the door open. Several voices poured out.

    “Chiron,” a familiar voice spoke, “why are we here?” She sounded a whole lot like Annabeth from his dream. Curious, he poked his head in.

    There was that meeting table, teens crowded around it. He could recognize several people, like Percy and Annabeth. Except, they looked older. Different. Nico knew people could change overtime, but it wasn’t that long, right? Questions swirled in his mind, scanning the face of every recognizable teen there, until he reached one that made him gasp.

    A boy that was very close to being a mirror image of him. Except, he was pale, taller, and had dark circles under his eyes. But one trait stood out from the rest. He looked so cool. Which was something Nico wasn’t. Thumb brushing the yellow string connecting him and Hazel, he realized why he looked so familiar. That was the boy in the visions. The cool version of him.

    Next to him was another boy Nico hadn’t seen in a long time. Blond, blue-eyed, and tan, but older. His “fated one.” When Nico looked at the boy’s hand, he saw that the string didn’t connect to him at all. Instead, it connected to the cool version of him. Interesting.

    “Ah,” Chiron said, clapping his hand together. “Piper, Jason, you’re here. Sit down. Did you bring your guest?”

    Leo—or at least he looked like it—spoke up. “Why are we here?” He kicked his feet up onto the table. “The Seven haven’t been needed for a while.” Quiet murmurs of agreement spread through the room.

    “Yeah,” Percy agreed. “And if this is a meeting for The Seven, why is Will here?” His thumb went to Will, who smirked and  put his hand on the cool version of him.

    “I’m his doctor.” Will answered, leaning on him. The other version of him only rolled his eyes.

    Chiron cleared his throat, grabbing the attention of everyone. “There is an important reason everyone is here.” His eyes went to Nico, then did everyone else’s. An outbreak of confused gazes and questions broke out. “Everyone,” his hand gestured to Nico, “meet Nico di Angelo.”

    Silence echoed throughout the room, making Nico uncomfortable. Calculating and puzzled gazes were zeroed in on him. Not only were they confused, but so was Nico. Is there a manual for demigods? If so, he groaned in his mind, I really need it.

    Leo was the first one to speak again. “Wait, wait, wait.” Shaking his hands, he interrupted, “are you trying to tell me that, that is Death Breath?” Pointing to Nico, he spoke with an incredulous tone. When Chiron nodded, he spoke again. “But—but that’s Death Breath!” He pointed to the other boy, who Nico dubbed “the cool one.”

    Chiron rubbed his temples. “I know it might be confusing, but yes, there are two Nicos.”

     Two? Nico thought. His head turned to the “other Nico.” Is that also me? The other version of him caught his gaze, eye widening.

    “This is impossible.” Annabeth uttered, her body in a thinking position. “Jason,” her eyes met Jason, “how did you find him?”

    Many could probably see that the group’s clothes weren’t in perfect condition. Piper appeared worse for wear, with a split lip and bruises littered all over her body. Jason had many cuts and nicks scattered throughout, clothes torn and damp. Nico, well Nico had an arrow through his leg. “We used all our ambrosia.” Piper had said. “We’ll patch you up as soon as we can.”  Right now felt like a good time to heal him, but no one seemed to help him.

     “Oh my gods.” Will swiftly walked to them. “He has an arrow through his leg!”  Picking him up, he looked back to everyone. “Meeting is postponed. I’m getting him to the medbay.”

    Being scooped up was something Nico should probably get used to, considering how much it had happened to him. He was placed in a bed, with Will and the rest of the teens circled around him.

     Percy piped up. “Jason, why does he have an arrow in his leg?”

     Jason had the gall to look sheepish. “He had a shield, he blocked most of the arrows,” eyes went down to his bloody leg, “but not all.”

     Nico was going to interrupt, saying things about how he had saved Jason’s life, but Will put something up to his lips, light brown and square shaped.

    “Eat,” he directed, “it will help with the wound.”

    Nico complied, eating the square food. When it met his tongue, he tasted chocolate truffles. Slowly savoring the food, he chewed slowly. Medicine wasn’t supposed to taste good. Well, Nico guessed demigod medicine was the exception. The wound on his leg slowly closed up. Will worked fast to extract the arrow, Nico felt almost no pain at all.

    “You missed the best part,” Piper said to Jason, “he beat up Caligula with his bag.”  

    The others directed their eyes to Jason, as if asking for confirmation.

    Jason smiled, nodding. “Yep, he yelled knowledge and all.”

    Nico could see everyone wanted to ask more, but Will shooed everyone out, telling them he needed to sleep. Realizing how tired he actually was, he closed his eyes and drifted off.

    

~~~

 

     The Underworld was in chaos. Skeletons were scurrying about, zombies trying their best to keep up the pace.

    “Find my son!” Hades ordered to a gaggle of Underworldly monsters. Persephone was by his side, looking almost as murderous as Hades. A powerful aura surrounded them, making no one question them as the monsters dispersed.

    When they were back in the castle, Hades put his hands in his hair. “What are we going to do?” He asked Persephone, whose face was as distressed. “I felt his soul disappear, but it wasn’t death.”

    Persephone gave her husband a kiss on his cheek. “We’ll find him,” she whispered, “it’s our duty to protect them, Maria would want that.”

    Hades berated himself silently. “I should’ve known he wasn’t ready. He even asked.”

    “We’ll stop at nothing to find him,” Persephone stated. She brushed her hair out of her face. “Maybe one of the gods interfered.” Her face turned thoughtful. “But no one should have known about him.”

    Hades’ face lit up with realization. “The strings, Persephone. Someone must have given him the strings.”

    Persephone nodded. “Now only to find out who.”

    The scene changed, going to Hazel, who had tears streaming down her face.

    “He’s gone…” She whispered. Her eyes clenched.

    Get dad.

    She couldn’t get her father, he wasn’t supposed to know she was there.

    “The surface.” She whispered again, sitting up. “I just need to find those demigods in my dream.” Her dreams were something she didn’t  share, showing visions of demigods and camps.

    She packed up her belongings, which weren’t a lot. Sneakily, she got ready to run to the gate that led to the outside world.



Chapter Text

  When he awoke, the first thing Nico saw was the faces of both Will and his older self. His older self appeared as if he were trying to analyze him, a calculating gaze picking apart every piece of him.

    Will, on the other hand, got right down to business, inquiring Nico about his symptoms.

    “Hey, Nico,” He gently addressed, leaning forward, “how do you feel?”

    Nico thought about it for a moment, fiddling with the white bed sheet that covered him. “I'm fine.”

    Will nodded and proceeded to grab a paper and pen off the table on the side and jot down something. “Your body is in good condition,” he said, “if you don’t count the moderate to almost mild vitamin D deficiency, the massive amounts of missed vaccinations, and your bandaged leg.” The sidelong glance he gave Nico went ignored.

    “Awesome!” He shot up in the bed, “Does that mean I can explore?”

    In response, Will raised an eyebrow. Nico saw his mouth twitch into a smile for half a second. His fingers massaged his temples as he sighed. “No. You need to stay here.” Will stated, unmoved by the groan Nico gave in response. Will gestured to his older self as they both walked through the door.

    While they walked away, Nico heard parts of their conversation.

    “His accent—” Will’s voice echoed.

    “Solace, no—” Groaned his older self as their voices drifted farther away.

   “—was so cute!”

   “You already spent half the time talking about my younger self. ‘ What should I call him? Nico? Little Nico? ’” His older self mocked Will in the best impression he could. “I know, it’s confusing, but you know what Chiron said—”

    Then Nico couldn’t hear their conversation anymore. What Chiron said? What did Chiron say? After finding out that he couldn’t leave, Nico collapsed back onto the bed. What was he supposed to do now? Everyone was taking action. His father and Persephone were searching for him, Hazel went to the surface, and the mysterious voice disappeared along with the message that kept appearing.

    Nico was a demigod. Demigods are supposed to take action. Or at least, that’s what Nico thought. He couldn’t stand around and do nothing. Perseus trained him for a quest he didn’t really complete—because of getting dragged off a cliff by magical glowing strings—and Hazel didn’t know where he went. As far as Nico knew, there wasn’t really anything for cross-dimension communication.

    Stuck in his thoughts, Nico sunk down further into the bed as he exaggeratedly huffed. He was just itching to do something. His eyes met a weird looking vase with a plant, sitting on a table in front of a window. Boring, he thought, wanting to talk to someone.

    His prayers were answered when Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase walked in a few minutes later. Percy seemed both tired and excited, while Annabeth appeared extremely eager to ask questions. They pulled up two chairs and sat next to him.

    “So, uh,” Percy fumbled over his words before speaking again, “ Nico, ” he emphasized, pausing. “How did you get here?” He waved his hand at the last word.

    Nico hummed, wondering how to word his response. “I was...pulled?” He ended his sentence in a questioning tone. “Yeah,” he nodded, “yeah, I was definitely pulled. It was into this dark chasm in the Underworld. I don’t remember anything about Universe-Traveling doors in the Underworld, but uh, yeah.” Nico ended his rambling with another nod.

    Apparently his explanation left more questions than answers for the two next to him, if Percy’s bewildered face and Annabeth’s furrowed eyebrows were anything to go by. Suddenly, Annabeth spoke up.

    “So, you were pulled,” she stated, “but by what?”

    “Strings.” Nico waved his hands. When Annabeth parroted his response, he remembered no one besides himself could see the strings. “They were gifted to me by a god, I don’t know which one, but they symbolize relationships.” He could see that Annabeth wanted to ask more, but Will came into the room and shooed them away.

    “Sleep.” Will told him, Nico grumbled and reluctantly went to sleep.

 

~~~

 

    There on the hill stood Hazel, fighting off several monsters with ease, gems rising from the ground and aiming for the weak spots in the monsters. She ducked and dodged several hits while parrying some with her own. Although she was fighting extremely well, she faltered as a yell was heard across the hill.

     “Hey! Do you need some help?” A faint figure in a purple shirt was running down the hill, bow held in one hand.

    Due to the distraction, Hazel lost her rhythm and begun to lose her advantage in the fight. She blocked a monster’s axe with her sword, but another was coming down on her, too fast for her to block.

    Before it could kill her, an arrow zipped through the air and impaled the monster. Once it had turned to dust she threw the other monster off balance and stabbed it.

    The person who had shot the monster finally approached, towering over Hazel. He was panting and smiling.

     “Hi, welcome to Camp Half-Blood.” He greeted. “Come with me, I’ll introduce you to the campers.”

 

    Then it transitioned to Hazel in the Big House, standing in front of the demigods Nico had just met, but they looked younger, less worn down.

     “I’m looking for my brother.” She stated, voice hard. “He was taken and I need to find him.”

    Annabeth curiously raised her eyebrow. “Taken? By whom?”

    Hazel’s stone face faltered, her voice growing weaker. “I, I don’t know,” her voice wavered. “I don’t know.”

    Now it was Piper’s turn to speak up. “Where was he taken?”

     “I was with him in the Underworld, we had just finished a quest when he was dragged by an invisible force into a dark chasm.”

    Most of the demigods in that room looked surprised or bewildered. Hazel continued nonetheless.

     “I don’t know how to even locate him in any way. I just need to know if he’s alive.”

    Percy fidgeted around, appearing thoughtful for a while before he spoke up.

    “Have you tried Iris Messaging him?”

    Hazel blinked at him. “Iris Messaging? What is that?”

    Annabeth rose a finger. “It’s a messaging system that uses a drachma and a rainbow to message a demigod as long as you know their location to an extent.” She fiddled with her necklace, “Which means...if he was taken deeper into the Underworld it probably could count as a location—Percy you’re a genius!” She hurriedly grabbed a coin from her pocket. “Someone get me a rainbow, we’re doing this.”

     When the preparation was complete, the group stood around the small rainbow. Annabeth carefully handed Hazel the golden coin.

     “Now, we have a direct line, so you say, Oh Fleecy, do me a solid. Show—and then say the name and location of the person. Then throw the drachma into the rainbow.” Annabeth explained softly.

    Hazel took a deep breath, stepping towards the rainbow. “Oh Fleecy, do me a solid. Show Nico di Angelo in the Underworld.” She tossed the coin, oblivious to Annabeth and Percy’s wide eyes at the name that had left her lips.

    When the Iris Message materialized it shook Nico to his core. That was him, passed out on the infirmary bed. Hazel started talking to him and he was so shocked to see him a different perspective as if it was an outer body experience—

 

~~~

 

    —He woke up with a harsh gasp. Eyes wide as he laid frozen in his bed. His throat felt closed up as he breathed heavily.

     Nico? Nico! Are you okay?” The worried voice of Hazel slowly eased his panic. His head swerved to the Iris Message beside him.

    “Hazel?” His throat clogging up again. He took a deep breath as he spoke again. “Hazel! You cannot believe where I ended up!” Shuffling around in his bed, he got onto his knees and talked excitedly into the Iris Message. “A different universe, Hazel, u - ni-verse! There’s an older version of you! An older version of me! I’m taller than you! Oh my gods, I’m gonna be taller than you —”

     “A different universe?” The Leo on the other side of the Iris Message said. “Are you sure your brother didn’t get hit on the head?”

    “Not that I know of!” Nico shot back, still smiling. “The only injury I know of is an arrow wound in the leg!”

     “A what.” Hazel immediately responded. She went up closer to the Iris Message. “You have a what in your leg?”

    Nico nervously chuckled, backing up. He averted his eyes. “It’s not that bad, Hazel.” He watched as Hazel opened her mouth but Annabeth interrupted her.

     “He’s probably gotten it treated, as you can see by the infirmary bed and...the walls and potted plant with the vase —” Annabeth looked to Percy, who seemed to understand what she was saying.

     “He’s in the infirmary,” Percy spoke for her, “but that plant’s vase was the one Malcolm was talking about. But that design is supposed to come out later.”

     Piper seemed to take the hint, speaking to Nico.

     “Nico, did you meet anyone there?”

    “Uhm, obviously? I met my older self, Hazel, Leo, Jason, Meg, and so many others.” He listed, counting on his fingers.

   Jason’s eyebrows rose. “Could you...get one of them for us?”

   Nico smiled even more. “Yes! Of course!” He answered eagerly. “I’m gonna go get them!” Jumping out of his bed, he tried to sprint to the door, wounded leg protesting. He fell on his face, shouting, before getting up again and limping towards the door. “I’m okay!” He yelled to the Iris Message.

    “Strange how that wound didn’t heal, considering he’s probably had ambrosia.” He heard Annabeth mutter before he exited the room.

    When Nico was making his painfully slow journey to who knows where, he heard voices in the meeting room. Familiar voices, he noted. Once he realized those voices belonged to the people he’s after, he opened the door. Immediately, all eyes turned towards him.

    “Heh,” he awkwardly laughed, “hi?”

    Will started striding towards him, muttering. “He’s just as stubborn as you, Nico, I can’t believe even as a fetus you’re still stubborn.” He picked Nico up, ready to throw him back into the bed.

    “Wait, wait, wait!” Nico flailed. “I got an Iris Message from my sister!”

    That got Will to stop. Blue eyes met his.

    “Your sister?” Chiron questioned. “Do you mean from your universe?”

    Nico looked over Will’s shoulder to see Chiron. “Yeah, there were younger version of all of you. So cool.” He answered, voice trailing off towards the end. “Come, come, look!” He flailed again in Will’s arms.

    Keeping a tight grip on him, Will started walking back to the room Nico was staying in, all the other demigods—plus Chiron—in town. When they got there, the Iris Message was still present, voices coming from it.

    “See!” He yelled, catching the attention of the demigods on the other side of the Iris Message. “I told you!” His arms gestured to the older demigods next to him. Nico watched in glee as shock flooded everyone’s faces.