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2013 - The Heroes Organization: Incipient has been nominated for the 2013 TEA 3!!!


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"Extreme Awards Winner"
The Twelve Olympians have given you the Best Story Award for the 2013 Extreme Awards. Extremely Fantastic!


Incipient

Written by Hazelcats

Rated PG-13

“So, we have a deal, no?”

A stale, musty smell filled the dark room. The man smiled. “Of course, my dear associate. It would give me no other pleasure in helping you complete your goal. And I do hope you don’t forget my payment, yes?”

A strange, cruel hissing and the sound of two objects clattering filled the air. “Of course. You shall be paid accordingly for your services. I’d see it no other way, friend.”

The smile quickly turned into a smirk. “We’ll start working straight away, then. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”

Chapter 1

It was almost noon on Olympus.

It was a miserable, rainy day. The sky was grey, and though the falling rain had stopped, Stella was sure it was soon start again, and she quickened her pace, quickly walking down the steps from the large, shining brick police station.

“So, where’s the place he mentioned?” The girl next to her asked. “The place we’re staying.”

“Downtown,” Stella replied, glancing over at her. “Less than a ten minute walk.”

She nodded. “Is it nice, at least? Decent enough?”

“Not exactly,” she muttered. The girl-Rachel, the commissioner had said-sighed. “Figures,” she said. “They’re not exactly known for hospitality.”

“Stella, I’d like you to meet your new partner, Rachel Hughes. Rachel, this is Stella Lohse. She’ll be leading the quest you’ve been assigned.” The man had said, introducing the two.

“Where’s the third?” Stella had asked, suspicious. “I need two, not one.”

“I’m afraid that, for this particular quest, we were not able to find another demigod that fit the requirements and was...willing to help on the quest,” he said. “However, seeing as Mr. Whitlock was never officially removed from the quest-”

“He packed his bags and ran in the night. I think that’s enough to say that Jason wasn’t fit for this quest.”

“Be that as it may, you will have to supply your own help with your own sources. That should be easy enough for you, Stella. Good luck to you both.”

Though it took her a moment to figure out Rachel's words, Stella completely agreed with her. Not only had they given her possibly the worst living space she’d ever seen, but they had been completely apathetic when it came to the issue of finding two new members for the quest, only bothering to find one.

If they thought that Jason would for some reason come back, they were wrong. At least Rebecca hadn’t been completely full of herself and had really tried to work on the mission.

But Rebecca was gone. She had disappeared almost without a trace.

When they had walked inside of the old building, coming back from investigating one of the most recent crime scenes, they’d expected to see their fellow co-worker sitting in the more comfortable of the two chairs, head bent over a case file. Instead, they’d found a trashed apartment, an abandoned knife, and a note that had told them to surrender now, or face the same fate as sweet little Rebecca Franzen.

It had been more than a little discouraging. So discouraging that her other partner, the gorgeous and brave Jason Whitlock, had fled the moment he got the chance.

A light rain began to fall, and they walked in silence for a few minutes, trying to ignore the awkwardness that hung in the air, until Rachel spoke up.

“So, who’s your parent?” She asked, glancing up at her.

“Zeus,” she replied. “Yours?”

“Apollo. Do you go to the camp on Long Island? I don’t think I’ve seen you there before, but I’m not sure. I don’t go too often, myself.”

Stella shook her head. “No, I...I live in a different place. I don’t go to the camp here,” she said, not wanting to get far into the topic of her own camp. “You don’t go to the camp here?”

“I used to,” Rachel said. “For about two weeks. I didn’t like it too much, to be honest. Got a job up here at the hospital as a sort of assistant. I do coffee runs, mostly, but I’ve learned some stuff. It’s nice.”

Stella nodded, looking up at the buildings. “We’re here,” she murmured walking towards the old, broken, pathetic excuse for a building.

“Great,” Rachel muttered unenthusiastically, looking around as they walked inside place. “Looks totally safe.” She turned to Stella. “They actually assigned this place to you?”

“Yes,” Stella replied, her voice matching Rachel's.

“Great,” she repeated, shifting the bag that was slung over her shoulder. “This is going to be great.”

Chapter 2

“So, do you know who could be able to help us?”

Truthfully, Rachel had had an idea or two on who they might be able to call for help. But if she should tell Stella that? She wasn’t sure. This situation, and the people involved and who might be involved-very unpredictable. She didn’t know if it was a good idea.

Besides, last time she’d talked to them, they’d been having their own problems. So it probably wasn’t.

“No,” she replied, shaking her head. “I don’t.”

Her voice had been convincible enough, but she wasn’t sure if Stella believed her. But if Stella had any doubt, she didn’t speak up, simply nodding. “My brother would be willing to help,” she said. “He’s a son of Phobos, which will be useful. I’ll call him.”

The plane had gotten in late.

Weather, they had explained, had caused the almost two hour delay, which Rachel didn’t understand. The skies had cleared in New York, and when she checked the weather for Seattle, it hadn’t been horrible-she knew how bad the weather there could get. She still wasn’t happy about going there, not really excited at all.

“He said he would help us,” Stella had told her, her Danish accent thick. “We’ll be able to get on a plane to Seattle tomorrow.”

“Seattle?” Rachel had asked, surprised for more than one reason. “You lived in Seattle?”

“Yes, why?” she questioned.

“Oh,” Rachel looked down. “No reason.”

And now that they were sitting in a car, pulling up into the driveway of a small but nice two story house in the outskirts of Seattle. Stepping outside, Rachel looked up at the grey sky, blinking. She could feel a small amount of rain falling, but not enough to be a bother.

She glanced around. The street was mostly empty-there were only a few other houses, and only the occasional car passed by. But something seemed off-a feeling of....forewarning. A feeling that was enough to be a bother.

Grabbing her bag from the car, she glanced at Stella, who walked up to her. “It’s a nice house,” she said.

Stella nodded, but didn’t say anything, obviously distracted, and they walked up to the door as the taxi drove away. Raising her hand, she knocked on the door.

A few moments later, the door swung open, and standing there was a tall, blonde teenage boy.

“Hey,” he greeted.

“Hi, Lucian,” Stella said, walking inside the door and setting her own bag down on the floor. Rachel followed. “Lucian, this is Rachel-”

“Ssstttteellllaaaaaa!”

There was the sound of running, and suddenly, a small child appeared, tackling and hugging Stella. The boy had brown hair, and looked to be about five years or so.

He was absolutely adorable.

Stella gave a small laugh, hugging the boy. “Hey, buddy,” she said.

The boy detached himself from Stella’s leg and looked at Rachel, face beaming. “Hi! I’m Seth! Who are you? You stay with us? Stella’s friend? Lulu’s?”

Rachel blinked, trying to process what the boy had said, his voice too fast and already being hard to decipher with the same accent as his siblings and even poorer English, before smiling. “I’m Rachel-”

“Cool!” He said, grabbing her hand and beginning to drag her through the hallway. “This’ll be so fun ‘cause you’re staying with us for a while right? ‘Cause Lulu said that Stella was doing something with someone and they’d be here for a few days and....”

Seth continued talking happily as Rachel stumbled after him, trying to understand his fast-talking, casting a somewhat bewildered look (not that she was completely confused or surprised-she'd dealt with children before) at Stella, who was obviously amused, before turning back around.

Rachel almost forgot about the feeling of foreboding.

Chapter 3

“When I was assigned the quest, there were eight reported disappearances, but since then, there’s been four more, including the other girl that was working with me.”

“How many have been confirmed dead?”

“Two, but there were others that were seriously suspected. One can only lose so much blood.”

“Is it suspected that they’re all dead?”

“Too early to tell, but it’s possible.”

There was a reason Lucian had so many weapons hidden in the house.

This reason was to be proven and proudly declared when he caught and beat whoever the hell decided that he could go breaking into his house in the middle of the night and waking him up from a very decent sleep.

Standing on the stairs, Lucian could see the dim light from the kitchen. He could hear someone walking inside the room.

Quietly and quickly stepping down to the floor, Lucian walked to the edge of door, gun at the ready, and quickly stepped inside.

The person-a brown haired girl that was wearing a pair of old sweats-turned, startled, and raised their hands. “Wait wait wait don’t shoot I just wanted a glass of water!”

It was the girl that was working with Stella-Rachel. “I-I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I didn’t think I woke anyone up. I couldn’t sleep and I was, you know, thirsty...” she coughed. “I’m sorry.”

Lucian lowered the gun. “It’s fine.”

Rachel glances up at the ceiling. “I didn’t wake Stella or Seth, did I?” she asked. Lucian shook his head. “Nah,” he said, knowing that if Stella was awake she would’ve gone downstairs, and Seth slept like the dead, and wouldn’t have been woken.

She nodded. “I, um, am sorry about waking you up though. Just....couldn’t take staring at the ceiling for hours.

Lucian nodded. “So, you like Seattle? From, you know, what you saw of it?” She looked a little startled at the question, but nodded. “Yeah, it’s nice. I’ve been here before, actually. It’s nice.”

“When did you visit?”

“Oh, ah, just last year. Didn’t see much of it, but-” She froze suddenly, staring at him. “Okay, don’t move.”

Lucian narrowed his eyes. “What-”

Rachel raised her hands, and the light coming from the lamp started to dim and gather around her palms, which were aimed directly at his head. “Just stay still and-” The thin, hot beam of light shot towards his head.

But Lucian didn’t give it a chance to hit him-he jumped, tackling Rachel to the ground, who screamed, “Wait!” and tried to fire the light of again, but it went to the side, completely missing its target.

He pinned her to the ground, reaching for the gun that had dropped, but Rachel shouted again. “Just wait a goddamn minute, will you?” She demanded, twisting her hand so it faced towards the door, and the light, dimmer this time, shot past him. “Just look!”

With the burn marks on the wall and floor, Lucian almost didn’t see it-the burn mark a little larger than the rest near the kitchen door, a crumpled up pile of ashes.

Lucian opened his mouth angrily,

“What the hell?” Stella was standing in the doorway, hair messy and dark circles under her eyes. “What the hell happened?” She demanded.

Chapter 4

“I was trying to help you,” She said angrily. “There was a freaking black widow spider the size of your inflated head that was about to tear your neck out. If I had been trying to kill you, I wouldn’t have been so obvious about it. So sorry for saving your life, Lohse.” In the morning, Rachel was gone.

Had it not been for the bright green sticky note attached to the guest room’s lampshade, Stella and Lucian would have immediately assumed she was either dead, deserting, or plotting her next light-of-death-burn-the-house down attack.

In a messy, cursive-print writing mix read:

Couldn’t sleep, decided to start working. Be back by noon. -R

Of course, that didn’t mean the two didn’t consider the possibility of her death, desertion, or disloyalty, but at exactly ten to noon, the doorbell rang.

Looking through the door’s peephole, Stella could see Rachel standing in front of the door, leaning against the side of the house, waiting patiently.

And there were two other people with her.

Both were about Stella’s age. The first one was a girl with long dark hair wearing jeans and a scarf, looking at her surroundings curiously. The second was a boy with a computer bag slung over his shoulder, talking to the other two about something. Both girls laughed.

“Who the hell are they?” Lucian muttered, looking through.

“Dunno,” Stella replied. Rachel rang the doorbell again. She opened the door. “Hey, Stella, Lucian,” Rachel greeted.

“Who are they?” Lucian asked, glancing at the two others suspiciously.

“My evil co-conspirators who are planning to kill your family and steal your belongings,” Rachel said matter-of-factly, and sighed. “Oh, really, get over the whole spider thing. I brought them here to help us. I’d appreciate it if you could be thankful.”

This is Kat Murray,” She continued. The girl, Kat, waved. “And Malcolm Parker.” He nodded.

“And despite the very possible fact they could be working for whoever started all of this, you brought them to our house,” Stella said, scowling. Rachel shook her head.

“I’m not stupid. I know they won’t try to kill anybody. I would’ve brought them somewhere else to meet up, but you wouldn’t answer your phones,” She said, obviously annoyed.

You wouldn’t answer yours.”

Rachel frowned. “Hm. If it’s got to do with the quest somehow, it means someone powerful is interfering with our means of communication. Which is exactly why we must buy tickets for Dallas, Texas immediately.”

“There’s this park near Dallas,” Malcolm said. “Where they discovered this huge spider colony a few years back. Mortals just figured it was created because of heavy rains bringing in more spiders, but it was actually Arachne trying to get revenge.” He pulled out a piece of paper from the computer bag and handed it to Lucian. It was a picture of a large tree covered in thousands of transparent, white spider webs. “It was destroyed, but recently there’s been some more activity in that area than usual. More monsters, more disappearances, more spider home-invasions.”

Stella was doubtful. She didn’t trust Kat or Malcolm, and she wasn’t sure she trusted Rachel, either. She glanced at Lucian, who obviously felt the same way. “Look,” she said. “Thanks for the advice, but we can’t know if you’re lying or not, or if you’ve got some ulterior motive, or if this is even a good source to research.”

Rachel shook her head. “Stella, this is the place. Malcolm and Kat aren’t going to try and cut our throats while we sleep. They’ll be of use to us. Kat’s a mist-seeing mortal, and a powerful one at that. The monsters won’t be able to sense Kat as well as the rest of us. She’ll be useful. Malcolm’s powerful-he’s a child of Zeus, just like you-and his brother is missing at any rate. He’d be researching this investigation, anyway. Kat would be, too. One of her friends has gone missing, as well. At least look into the lead-it’s the only one we’ve got right now. If either betrays this mission, I take full blame.” She raised hand. “Swear it on the Styx.”

Stella sighed. Rachel had a point-it was their only lead. Even if they couldn’t completely trust Kat or Malcolm....

Well, what other choice did they have? It was only a matter of time before the enemy got them, too.

They’d already gotten into the house. They’d almost killed Lucian, and would’ve killed the rest of them as well. Who’s to say that next time they wouldn’t succeed?

Chapter 5

The flight had been uncomfortable, hot, claustrophobic, and somewhat terrifying.

Turbulence had really never been that nerve-wracking.

The weather in Texas was similar to Seattle, but still considerably better. The sky was mostly cloudy, and the weather was cool. It wasn’t raining, but it appeared as if it could start any minute.

The group had rented a car at the airport and taken the just-over-an-hour drive to Lake Tawakoni, the state park in which the infamous spider colony had resided. The park was mostly empty, being the middle of a weekday, but the occasional tourist still walked around, taking pictures and talking happily with one another. Stella could only imagine how Seth-who was being watched by a friend of hers, Arcana Phan-would be running around here.

“It’s nice,” Kat said. “Not where you’d expect the lair of an ancient monster to be.” “Right in plain site,” Rachel noted. “Alright, where’s this spider colony supposed to be?”

Malcolm was studying one of the maps. “According to this, that way,” he pointed to left at a trail. “Shouldn’t take long to reach it.”

About fifteen minutes of walking later, Malcolm stopped, looking up at one of the larger trees. “Here,” he said. “This is it.”

“Then where are the spiders?” Stella asked, looking around. Not a web in sight. “The colony itself was back in 2007. It would be all underground, now. The entrance would be somewhere around here. Start looking.”

So, they looked-quite unsuccessfully. After about half an hour of searching, Stella was almost ready to quit. There was nothing there. There weren’t many places the entrance could be hiding. She hadn’t seen a single spider or web or anything that could be linked to Arachne. Even if the enemy had been here once, they obviously weren’t now.

She sighed, kneeling down by one of the trees, digging through the dirt. This was absolutely and completely useless. She should’ve known better than to automatically follow the failed lead that had been brought to them by an untrusted source. Even if they hadn’t been deceived on purpose, it didn’t mean-

“Over here!”

Stella looked up to see Kat kneeling next to one of the trees opposite of where the tree that had housed the main part of the colony stood. Her hand sat on the base of the tree, near a collection of roots.

“It’s right here,” she said, nodding confidently. “It’s guarded well by the Mist, but...” She closed her eyes, concentrating, before her eyes snapped open again, and she stumbled back. “It’s the-”

And she disappeared.

Kat simply disappeared, as if she had never been there the second before. Stella blinked, stepping forward but immediately thinking better of it and moving backwards. “What the hell-” Rachel (who had been closest to the missing girl) started, eyes widening, before disappearing herself.

Stella stepped back, looking around at Malcolm and Lucian, who did the same. The air felt different, now-warmer, staler. Harder to breath. The light was getting dimmer and the breeze stopped completely. She turned to run.

The ground disappeared beneath her.

Chapter 6

“Where are we?”

That question seemed to sound in all of their minds. One moment, they had been standing above ground, in the trees, and the next they were stuck at the end of an old, dusty dark tunnel that really needed some cleaning. Small spider webs hung on the ceiling, but their owners were not to be seen.

“Well,” Malcolm said, looking around them. “Looks like we’re stuck going forward, then.”

“How did we get in, though?” Stella muttered, looking up. “It was like we fell in. There must be an exit somewhere.”

“There’s not,” Kat replied quietly. “Whatever brought us here has closed. The Mist is hiding nothing, here.”

So, they walked.

And ask they walked, the tunnel got a little narrower, and the webs got a little bigger. The occasional spider could be seen crawling across the floor.

Each one was immediately squashed underfoot.

“Stop,” Lucian said, slowing down. In front of them were three different tunnels, each one exactly the same as the others.

“Which way?” Rachel muttered, turning to Kat. “Can you tell?”

The mortal shook her head. “No. They’re each built exactly the same. But...” She squinted, frowning. “It’s strange. That way,” She pointed to the tunnel on the left. “Seems to give off some kind of aura. It’s like...”

“Arachne?” Malcolm suggested. “Is that it?”

Kat shook her head again, slower this time. “No. It’s not Arachne. It’s just....” She pursed her lips. “Evil,” she finished finally. There was a short moment of silence before she continued. “The other two, however, give off a different aura, both similar to each other. Dark, but not quite the same as the left. I suggest we take one of those.”

“Wouldn’t Arachne be in the darkest tunnel?” Stella asked, looking down said path. “No,” Kat said immediately. “She’s not. Something else is down there-it would be best if we avoided it completely.”

“Alright,” Rachel said, nodding. “So we try to avoid whatever is down there. Then which way do we go?”

“Like I said, they’re both very similar. I’m wondering if both paths join together again later on, but I’m not sure. Either way could...” She stopped suddenly, turning around. “Something’s following us.”

Not a moment later, six people appeared. Each seemed to be only a teenager, and their outfits ranged in styles-but all of their clothes were torn and dirty, and some of them looked as if they hadn’t showered in weeks. Each moved with slow, almost twitchy movements, and some had grey, tinted skin. But the most haunting characteristic that each shared were the dull, almost glowing completely black eyes.

The group backed up, readying their weapons to attack, but Kat hesitated as they stood here. Something was still there, something they couldn’t see. She stared into the darkness behind the zombie-like demigods, before stepping back. “Split up!” she said, turning to her fellow questers. “There are more-”

And then, all at once, dozens of spiders came crawling through the tunnel behind the enemy demigods. The creatures varied in size and species, each equally horrible and disgusting in their own special way.

And Kat knew that more were probably on their way.

“Split up!” she repeated to her teammates, backing into the tunnel directly behind her. “It’s the only way we’ll beat them! Go!”

The demigods advanced.

She turned and ran.

Chapter 7

There was no other way to describe it; Stella was pissed.

There were, of course, crueler and ruder ways to word it, but that wasn’t the point. She’d been captured and now she was going to be killed or tortured or turned into a mindless slave or some other unimaginable thing that made her want to punch the zombified demigod that was currently escorting her to the prison cells.

But she couldn’t. She’d been bitten by one of the many spiders that had appeared with the guards, and she’d barely made it five yards into the tunnel before she’d collapsed.


Kat had screamed at them to flee, and then she had disappeared. Stella-she wasn’t one to run, but the mortal girl was right about splitting up, so she turned into the closest tunnel, but the spiders rushed her, and the next thing she knew her leg was on fire and she couldn’t see properly.

She had fallen on the ground, and everyone was shouting and she could hear their footsteps growing fainter and fainter. Someone-Malcolm, she thought-was trying to help her, telling her to get up, but then he disappeared and the guards took his place and then they were gone, too.

And now she could barely walk without tripping every three steps, and the guard certainly wasn’t helping with that matter. There were prison cell bars on either side of her, and she could see a few people in them from the corner of her eye, but the talking was quiet and muted. She wasn’t sure if they just weren’t talking, or if her hearing was still affected by the spider’s venom.

And then, the guard stopped, and there was the squeaking sound of a door opening. Stella turned to see the cell door next to them opening, but only a moment later, hands pushed on her back, and she fell into the cell.

She swore, this having been one of several falls to the dirt floor, and turned to try to escape, but the door had already closed.

She sighed angrily, sitting back up and scowling as she looked around the cell. Dirty, dark, and it smelled disgusting. There were a few people she could see clearly, but many, Stella noticed, were crouched by the walls, hidden in the shadows. The few she could see had looked over at her when she’d been pushed in, but they had quickly gone back to their own hushed conversations.

The arrival of new prisoners was obviously not an uncommon event.

Stella sat back, leaning against the closest empty wall, looking around for any escape. She could try to use her powers to escape, but that was risky; she was already weak, and there was probably some kind of enchantment to prevent any unauthorized demigod superpowers. It was possible she could try to dig her way out, since the room was entirely made of earth, but it was likely others had tried that before her.

Yet, it was the only idea she had right now. And she wasn’t about to become spider food. She moved into one of the darker areas of the wall, farther hidden from sight of the guards, and began to dig, but she’d barely scratched the surface before a voice stopped her.

“You know that’s not gonna work, right?”

Stella looked up, startled and expecting one of the guards to be standing above her, but no one was there. She looked around for a moment, searching, before she spotted him. The kid was about her age, maybe a little older. He was sitting a few feet away, leaning against the wall. Tall, with messy black hair with skin that had probably used to be tan, but had turned pale with dark spots that could’ve been bruises or dirt. He glanced over at her, and Stella noticed that his eyes were a dark blue.

He looked familiar. Very, very familiar, but she couldn’t quite figure out where she had seen him before.

And despite the torn clothes, bruises, and other signs of a prisoner who had been in captivity for a few days, Stella also noticed he was attractive, to say the least. “Most of us have tried that already,” he continued. “Including myself. And I can assure you the moment you get three inches deep, the guards will be on you and the damn spiders will be back. So for the sake of us all here, I’d ask that you stop and save all of us the trouble.”

Stella scowled, but moved her hands away. The boy nodded. “Thanks,” he said, nodding. “I’m Matt, by the way.”

Stella blinked, eyes wide with realization. “You’re Malcolm’s brother, aren’t you? That’s why you look familiar.”

“Ah, so you know Malcolm. Well, that probably lowers my chances of forming a decent friendship with you, but we can work through those minor issues. How do you know him?”


“I was researching the kidnappings,” Stella replied, somewhat struggling to keep up with the English. She still wasn't great with the damned language. “And one of the other investigators brought in Malcolm to help us.”

“Who’s the other investigator?” He asked.

"Girl named Rachel.”

He nodded. “Makes sense. And your name would be?”

She hesitated for a moment, wondering if she should give him her real name or not. “Stella,” she said. “I’m Stella.”

“Parent?” He asked, and smirked at the suspicious look on her face. “Ah, come on. You’re the first person in here I’ve had a decent conversation with. I’m not going to try to kill you in your sleep. My dad’s Hades.”

“Zeus,” she said. “It’s Zeus.”

“Well, Stella, daughter of Zeus, I officially welcome you to the first step to hell. How would you like to escape before we continue the inevitable path to indifferent stoicism?”


“I thought you said it was impossible to escape,” she said skeptically, choosing to ignore whatever the hell "inevitable" and "stoicism" meant. 

“Well, yeah, by ourselves. The rest of them are too impassive or insane to actually work with. I’d like to get out of here before their fate becomes ours. So, you in?” He extended his hand. Stella looked down, and nodded.

“Sure,” she said, shaking his hand. “I’m in.”

Chapter 8

Rachel had almost stayed to fight. Really, she had.

But Rachel was realistic. And she knew that there was no way they’d be able to fight all of them at once. The only way to beat them was to split up and take them on in smaller numbers.

Even then, she was pretty sure they’d all almost died.

Maybe some of them had died. She didn’t know. They were completely lost.

But, she at least knew Lucian was alive.

“Stay still, will you?” Rachel muttered irritably as she tried to pour nector on one of the spider bites on his arm. Her hands were shaking too much, causing some of the medicine to fall to the ground. “You at least managed not to be bitten too many times. What a miracle.”

Yeah, she was still kind of pissed at him for the whole spider thing. Which, in hindsight, she supposed was partly her fault. But at least she’d been trying to save him. He hadn’t even given her a thank you, for gods’ sake.

Lucian crushed one of the last remaining spiders under his foot. The rest had been unceremoniously burnt, their charred remains lining the floor of the tunnel behind them.

“You seem to be failing to notice the several wounds you’ve acquired for yourself,” Lucian said, an edge of cold and sarcasticness in his voice.

Rachel winced slightly, scowling. Yes, she wasn’t exactly one to be pointing out anybody else’s injuries. Though she’d managed to fry most of the spiders that had followed them down the tunnel, it had also meant the surviving ones had decided she was a living buffet. She figured it was only the Apollo immunity and the ambrosia that was keeping her conscious.

She’d live, though. She’d had worse.

She sighed, stuffing the medical supplies back into the bag she had taken. “Where are we?” She muttered, looking around. The tunnel had narrowed as they had run down it, and the air seemed to be much warmer, but Rachel dismissed this as a side effect of the fight and the spider’s venom.

“Dunno,” Lucian muttered, looking down the half of the tunnel they had yet to go through. “I saw Kat run down the tunnel in the middle. I’m pretty sure I saw Stella go down the tunnel to the right. Same with Malcolm. So we must’ve gone down the tunnel on the left.”

“The one Kat said was evil?” Rachel asked. “Great. We go back, now? Or keep moving forward?”

“Forward,” Lucian replied. “Their friends,” he pointed to the unconscious demigods lying on the ground a few feet away. “Might be waiting for us. Plus, we’ll have a better chance of meeting up with the others if we go straight.”

“Great,” Rachel said again, looking down the path skeptically. Despite the seriousness of the situation, she couldn’t help but think of the yellow brick road. They started to walk, and she sighed, muttering under her breath, “We’re off to see the wizard...”


***THO***


“You see that?”

Rachel looked up. Lucian had stopped, staring down at the path. “What is it?” She asked.

“There’s a light,” he said. “At the end.”

Rachel squinted, dulling the ball of light she’d been holding in her hand to see, and noticed the dim, faintly red light at the very end of the tunnel. “What do you think it is?”

“Not sure,” he said, starting to walk again. “Let’s go find out.”

Rachel frowned, thinking immediately of what was usually associated with the bright light at the end of the black tunnel. “That’s not a good idea.”

“And why’s that?” He asked, not stopping but glancing back, somewhat skeptical and irritable. “Aside from the obvious, I mean.”

She scowled at him. “Aside from the obvious, I’m not getting a good vibe, here. I’ve got a bad feeling. If we keep walking, we’re probably gonna get ourselves killed.”

“What tells you that?” He said, leaning against the side of the tunnel.

“Apollo precognition. Usually, I’ve got a better idea of what it is, but...” She frowned. “I dunno. It’s like something’s blocking out my powers. It’s weird.”

“Right. And, I totally agree with you here, but we can’t just turn around now. So, if we end up dying, at least we know we tried.”

Rachel glared at him, annoyed with the obvious sarcastic tone in his voice. “Fine. If we do get ambushed or killed because we just walked on down here, though, it sure as hell won’t be my fault.”

They continued walking. The light stayed the same, a small, red dot at the end of the tunnel. It was like they were walking in place.

And it stayed like that, for over half an hour, until suddenly, it started getting hot. The ball of light seemed like fire in her hands, instead of the normal, dull warmth. She was sweating and when she tried to lean against the wall for support, it hurt to touch.

“Do you...” She glanced up at Lucian weakly, to see he had disappeared, as if taken out of thin air. “Lucian?” She started to panick. Had he left her? Gone ahead without realizing she was down? Or has he been captured? “Lucian! Where-”

“Rachel!” A distant shout, echoing down the tunnel. It sounded like Lucian, but at the same time, the voice was off-different. Could it have been Malcolm? Or someone else entirely?

She opened her mouth to speak, before freezing, a long, drawn-out scream coming from the direction of the first voice interrupting her. She took a short, quick breath. “What-”

There was a sharp, burning pain in her neck, and the screaming stopped.

Chapter 9

The plan almost worked.

Almost.

It had been so simple, it was an almost insane act to try it. The next time the guards went into the cell to bring in or take out another prisoner, Malcolm and Arthur, a son of Alke, would take them down while Annie, a daughter of Hermes, would pick the locks of the doors. Then they’d make their escape while any guards who came to help would be stuck with the other, near insane prisoners who’d been stuck in their for Zeus knows how long.

Annie and Arthur had been some of the most recent prisoners to be captured.

They’d also been the most sane.

And it had worked, it really had. They’d gotten out with few scratches and the guards had been too distracted, and now they just needed to find the others and get out before they were captured again, and then they could work on continuing the quest.

Apparently, someone else had already had the same idea, because there had already been several guards sent out, and they’d been ambushed half-way down the tunnel they’d chosen.

Yeah, sure, they’d defeated them, easily. Annie had been able to detect the trap before they’d reached it. But this meant someone else had already tried to escape, making their situation slightly more complicated.

“You guys know where the other prisons are?” Malcolm asked, looking down the tunnel.

“There’s a few down that way,” Arthur said, pointing down the path.

“I think that’s where the guards are coming from,” Annie said, frowning slightly.

“Whatever happened that sent them out is down that way. So, if it was another escape attempt, chances are we’ll run into them.”

Malcolm nodded. “Let’s head that way then and see what we find.” He reached down and grabbed a sword that one of the guards had. “Be ready to attack.” He started walking, the other two following directly behind him. Nothing reached out to attack them, but still, they had the inevitable feeling that someone was watching them. But the trip was done mostly alone, and only the occasional escaping prisoner would pass them, running past them with insane laughter. And when they reached the end of the tunnel, no one was there.

“Which way?” Arthur muttered, looking down at the two paths that lay ahead of them. “There’s prison cells both ways, but the closest one is that way,” He pointed to the right.

“The closest exit is that way, though, from what I can gather,” Annie pointed to the left. “But we can’t just leave without helping the others. We’re probably the only ones sane enough to do anything.”

Malcolm nodded in agreement. “And we need to find the others that were on the quest and my brother. You guys didn’t know anyone else in here, right?” Both shook their heads. “Right. Let’s go that way then,” He gestured to the right. “And see if we can find anything. Let’s go.”

And then, they heard the footsteps behind them, and the tunnel went cold.

"Hello, children. It's a pleasure having you here. Why don't you stay awhile, and we can all have a nice little chat."

Chapter 10

“Just wait,” the first guard laughed with the other one. “Just wait until he serves out the real punishments. You’ll wish you’d cooperated like the rest of us.”

“Your friends will pay, too,” The second one sneered. “Your little girly-friend and the rest of the brats you were with.”

“If they’re nice, he might let them keep their sanity and serve him, here,” The first one smirked.

“Serve us, too,” the other grinned, evil in his eyes. “I get the blonde one.”

“I get the blonde girl,” The first argued, turning angrily and shoving his fellow guard. “You get the brunette. We already agreed to this, you dumbass.”

“I changed my mind,” the second snarled, turning on his friend. “And once we get her, she’ll be mine. Lucas will agree with me. I’ve been with him longer.”

“I’m more valuable,” the other retorted, both guards beginning to forget about their prisoner, who stood by the side, watching the two somewhat boredly.

He probably could’ve just taken them both out now. Would’ve fought back when they tried to insult them. But, he was smart-he waited. And, it wasn’t like he could talk-the venom had made it so he couldn’t say anything without it slurring.

That didn’t mean, however, that he was powerless.

The guards, arguing with each other over who was better and who got which servant, almost did not notice the dark, growing shadows around them. The guards, when about to grab their swords and charge at the other, almost did not notice the glowing eyes and muffled screams.

But, they did. They noticed the shadows and screams and growing panic, and the suffocating darkness that it brought.

And, the guards, stricken with pure horror and fear, ran screaming.

Kneeling down, he quickly grabbed the shining, metal key laying on the floor, abandoned by its owner. He smirked, taking it and unlocking the chains on his wrists and feet. Then, grabbing the two swords the guards had dropped, he looked down the hallway, turning left and right between the two paths.

They had been taking him forward, to the path on the right-that was the best idea he had of where the prisoners were. But, to the left, the path where they had come from, there had been a small hallway they’d passed, dark, hot, and the sense of pure evil.

Was that where this ‘Lucas’ the guards had spoken of was?

If he found and defeated this Lucas, he could get information on his sister and the others. If Lucas had actually been the one behind these kidnappings instead of Arachne, he could end all of this right now.

But, what if that hallway wasn’t where Lucas was? What if it lead to a dead end? To an abyss? To death?

And then, the prisons-that was his best chance he had at finding the others, if they had been taken prisoner. He knew Rachel had to be there, they’d been separated and most likely attacked by the same group. And if Rachel was in the prisons, she was probably being interrogated and tortured for information. And, in these prisoners, could very well be everyone else.

Of course, everything lead to death. And if he could stop this right now...

He turned to the left.

Chapter 11

“This place is like a maze,” Matt muttered. “But worse.”

Stella nodded in agreement, looking up at the walls around them. They’d been walking through the paths for Zeus knows how long, and they were very obviously lost.

They hadn’t really had a chance to stop and map the place out, after all. The second they’d broken out of the cells, they had run for it, the ringing, flashing alarms quickly following them. The few guards that had run after them were easily defeated-the other guards were too busy with the other prisoners that had escaped along with them.

More than once, she had been uncertain if they were really going somewhere, or just walking in circles. Despite the paths being endlessly similar, there was always something familiar about the places they passed.

Or maybe, that was a good sign. Maybe they were making their way back to the place they’d all been separated. If they managed to find that, they could find the others.

She had no idea what had happened to them all. Where was Lucian? Was he dead? Alive? Knowing him, he’d probably found some lost girl wandering around the tunnels and gone macho-man.

“Stop,” Matt said suddenly, holding his hand out. “There’s something out there.” “What?” Stella murmured, glancing at him.

“I dunno,” he replied, placing his hand on the wall next to him. “The tunnels...they’re changing.”

“Changing?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Moving. It’s like it’s trying to lead us somewhere.”

“To our death,” Stella offered.

“Yeah, probably. But, this could be our only lead.”

“Better than walking in circles for hours. Let’s go,” She said, and began walking again, weapon ready to attack.

The tunnel continued straight, only the occasional turn appearing before them. Behind them was only darkness, and Stella figured, if they tried to go back, they’d meet only a dead end.

The tunnels were getting narrower.

So far, she’d been able to ignore the darkness and the closed in spaces. Stella had been able to ignore it due to the situation at hand and the distractions that came up. But now, it was only silence and footsteps and the almost-blackness, and there was no way out, not one, and they were probably being led to their inevitable deaths and-

She stopped walking.

It was happening again.

“Stella?” Who was that? Who was talking? And then, there were footsteps, and they came closer, and the person-the person grabbed her wrist.

“Stella, what’s wrong?”

She backed up, snapping her hand out of the person’s grip, eyes wide in terror, but she couldn’t see ahead of her. And there was darkness, that was all there was, darkness and the outline of someone’s face, and they started laughing. Laughing at her and hitting her and yelling at her and hurting her, and she couldn’t take it, and she just wanted to die, die, die, die, die.

“Stella, snap out of it. You’re fine. Nothing’s going to hurt you. You’re okay.”

And then she screamed, closing her eyes, and falling straight to the floor, gripping her head and staring at the ground, wanting it to be over, but it wasn’t, and it wouldn’t stop. It wouldn’t stop, it wouldn’t stop, they wouldn’t stop, and-

And then she was falling, for real, through space, as if the ground below her had disappeared, and the screaming wouldn’t stop.

It didn’t stop. It never stopped.

And then, she hit the floor, and she couldn’t breath, and then it all just....

Stopped.


***THO***


“Stella. Stella, wake up. You’re safe now. Wake up. Wake up.”

Stella gasped, almost bolting straight up the moment her eyes opened. But something-someone-held her back.

“Don’t try to get up. You’ll be sick.”

She blinked several times, trying to adjust to the light shining in her eyes. It was bright. She could hear birds chirping somewhere off in the distance.

“What...” She lifted her head to see who was next to her, to see a boy sitting there. “Who...”

And then, she remembered.

“Oh,” she muttered. It was Matt. Just Matt. “What...where are we?” She tried looking around, to see grass, bushes, and a few patches of snow on the ground. The sky was blue with the occasional white, fluffy cloud.

“Denver,” Matt replied. “Denver City Park, to be specific. Shadow traveled here when you were out.” He gave her a slightly questioning look, but asked nothing about her mental breakdown, which Stella was grateful for.

“How long was I out?” She asked, frowning.

“Almost twenty-four hours. We’ve only been here for a few, though. Didn’t get a chance to escape until then.”

“What happened?” She asked, slowly sitting up.

“It was a trap, obviously,” he said. “Just a more unexpected one-the entire floor disappeared. We ended up in another room.” He scowled. “My brother and two other people were in there, too. Unconscious. And so was Arachne.”

“Arachne...” she muttered. “So it is her.”

“It’s not just her,” Matt said. “Someone else is collaborating with her. But who, I don’t know.”

“We have to get back there,” Stella said, standing up and dusting the grass off of her jeans. “They could be dead, for all we know.”

“They’re not dead,” he said. “At least, the my brother, the people he was with, and Rachel aren’t. I’m not sure about the others that were with you. Have to have met them, first, to be able to tell.”

“Do you know who your brother was with?” She asked. He shook his head.

“No. Probably some others he met in the prison cells-teenagers, dark hair, girl and a guy. Sound familiar?”

She frowned, shaking her head. The girl could have been Kat, she supposed, but something else told her otherwise. She sighed. “We need to get back there. The sooner we do, the better chances we have of getting them all out alive. But we need help first. Can you shadow travel us back to Seattle? I know someone that can help us.” He nodded. “Sure.” He offered his hand, and she took it reluctantly. They would getthe help, and then go back to the tunnels. In no way did she ever want to go back in those tunnels again, but...

“Let’s go.”

Chapter 12

Matt knew something was wrong the moment Stella stopped walking.

They had been walking in almost silence, only footsteps for the background noise, so when that quieted, it hadn’t been hard to miss. “Stella?” He asked, turning around, to see her standing there, staring straight ahead with wide eyes. He stepped towards her, reaching his hand out and touching her wrist. “Stella, what’s wrong?” He asked, trying to snap her out of whatever was going on.

Immediately, Stella stepped back, snapping her hand back in fear, eyes wide and seeing, but not what was in front of her-something else, something that wasn’t there, but what he did not know. And she was frozen, just standing there, so still it was like she wasn’t even breathing.

He took a small step back, but otherwise did not move. “Stella,” Matt said. “Snap out of it. You’re fine. Nothing’s going to hurt you. You’re okay.”

And then, almost out of nowhere, she screamed, stumbling back and falling to the ground, eyes closed tightly and holding her head in her hands.

Matt took a slow, cautious step towards her, kneeling on the ground a few feet away from her. “Stella? Stella, are you-”

And then, a deafening crack sounded through the air, and suddenly they were falling through it, weightless, wind screaming past them, and then it stopped, the ground crashing into the two with bone-shattering speed.

He gasped, unable to move or breath, gasping for air. It hurt. Was something broken? No, no, he was fine, it hurt, but he was fine-he’d felt worse, much worse, in the past. Slowly sitting up, Matt swore under his breath, gritting his teeth, and quickly looked around for Stella. She lay a few feet away, unconscious, blonde hair covered in dirt. Her forehead was covered in blood. Crawling over to her, he kneeled next to her and checked her pulse, already knowing she was still alive-for how long, though, he didn’t know.

Looking up, he stared up to the place they had fallen from. In the place of an empty, dark void, like he had expected, was a ceiling made of dirt and stone, just as the walls were. There was a large, gaping hole in the ceiling above, where they must have fallen in from. It seemed as if almost every corner was covered in transparent white webs, but where their inhabitants were, Matt wasn’t sure, but he knew they wouldn’t be far off.

Suddenly, from the corner behind him, there was the sound of coughing. Ready to fight, he turned quickly, to see three teenagers laying on the ground, unconscious and covered in dirt.

Standing, he walked over to the group, tripping a few times but never falling, and kneeled. All three were dark haired, two guys and a girl, looking as if they’d been through hell and back.

“Malcolm,” he muttered, seeing the closest one. There was his brother, unconscious, arm at a crooked angle, hair matted with blood, but alive all the same.

He glanced back at Stella, who still lay on the ground, unmoving, and back to his brother and the two that were with him. They needed to get out now, but how? He couldn’t shadow travel all of them out here. All of them being unconscious, himself already being injured, and who knows how long they had before he was caught? Someone could be watching him, right now, but at the same time, there might not be. But there was no other escape. The only possible exits in this room were several small, dark holes near the ceiling, too far up and too small to climb through. There was the hole they had fallen through to get in, but there was no way to get back up to it or climb through it without some type of equipment.

Standing again, he walked back over to Stella, to take her over to the others so they could escape at the same time, and...

Matt stopped, freezing in place.

Someone was watching him.

It was the inevitable feeling of being watched, of paranoia, the hairs on the back of his neck and arms standing up. He turned, wishing he had some kind of weapon, watching.

But, it was too late. There was the cruel, ominous sound of hissing and fangs clattering, and he had barely turned around before a sharp, burning pain hit his neck.

His hand shot up to the spot, reaching for the thing that had bit him, but it was already gone. Almost immediately, his vision went blurry, and the hissing sounds stopped, everything stopped, and he couldn’t see or hear, only feeling the mind-numbing pain, but it was already fading, the room darkening, and for the second time, the ground below seemed disappeared.

Chapter 13

Kat was probably going to die out here.

She didn’t know how long it had been. It felt like weeks. She’d been living off of three protein bars and a bottle of plastic-flavored water. She was starving and scared and she didn’t know where any of the others were.

She was completely alone.

The tunnels were a maze. Twisting and turning and completely dark, only a dimming flashlight as a guide.

Sometimes, she would hear footsteps.But when she turned around, no one was there. Her powers hadn’t helped either.

They had in the beginning, when she had used them to attack the guards with their own weapons. But now, celestial bronze was useless, and the mist hid nothing. All she had to defend herself was her sword and a small knife she had managed to snatch from one of the guards.

But right now, they wouldn’t help her survive. Nothing was coming after her-or at least, nothing she could see and fight. There was no celestial bronze to manipulate. It was useless. And as for seeing through the Mist, perhaps that was helping, but so far, nothing was hidden with the magic veil. Now, she was nothing but an over-glorified mortal.

But perhaps....

Perhaps that was her chance, her key to survival: She was just a mortal. Monsters couldn’t track her as easily as they could demigods. And demigods? Most demigods and their parents looked down on her, for what damage could a silly mortal do? She was weak, inferior, and powerless. So whenever she fought, they would go easy on her, take their time, as if they were sparring a small child. Kat was much stronger than she looked.

She stopped, looking around, not for the first time, at the area around her. Darkness everywhere, dirt walls and ceilings, and the sinking feeling that someone or something was following her.

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and focused. See, she thought. See something. It felt as if she had been walking in circles this entire time, but that couldn’t be true-had the walls moved? It was possible. But there had to be something, some kind of mistake. that would allow her escape. Nothing, not one thing, was completely foolproof.

Opening her eyes suddenly, she took a step forward. Something was there, something ahead. But what? Was it good? Evil? Would it help her, or try to kill her? Either way, it had gotten inside somehow, so it would be able to help her somehow, whether it wanted to or not. And it would help her. Kat was determined to do something.

If she did do something, then maybe, just maybe, they’d show respect for her. Acknowledge that she was not below them, and that they had absolutely no right to think that way.

She would show them, and she would prove them all wrong. Prove that maybe, she wasn’t just a mortal.

Chapter 14

The hallway was very long. It was small, narrow, and dark, with the occasional torch to light the way. The air was warm, and it was somewhat difficult to get a good breath. It was barely tolerable, but Lucian easily managed.

He’d been walking for maybe seven minutes, and so far there had been no alarms, no guards chasing him, but he knew it wouldn’t last. He only needed enough time to find this “Lucas” that the guards had mentioned, and from there, if the guards finally caught up to him, he would already have the information he needed.

The problem was, he didn’t know how long this tunnel lasted. And what would be at the end? A cave? An abyss? Arachne’s spiders? Or something else? Or perhaps, somehow almost worse than the others, a dead end? If it was a dead end, it would have all been for nothing, and by the time he would turn around, the guards would already be here. Not to say he couldn’t easily defeat them, but it wasn’t exactly convenient.

However, only a few minutes later, his question was answered. Standing just a few feet in front of him was a simple black door. Studying it for a few moments, he reached his hand out towards the handle, but did not touch it. The air’s temperature had not increased, but there was something different about it-tense, and as if something was watching him from behind.

He grabbed the handle and turned; the door refused to move.

Lucian stepped back, contemplating his next step. The key from the guard: Would it fit the lock? It was possible, definitely possible, that the key would open the door. But it was also very possible that it wouldn’t fit, that the key would not work, and the door would continue to stay shut.

Taking the key, he inserted it into the lock. Though there was some resistance, he continued to try and open the lock. It wasn’t as if the key didn’t fit, and that was the problem, it was different-it was more like something was pushing against his hand, a force that was trying to throw the key as far away as possible from the lock. But Lucian ignored it, and after a moment, he turned the key, and the door popped open.

Inside was a large room decorated in an almost eerie mix of red and black shades. A large desk sat in the middle of the room, facing the door. A fireplace sat to the side of it, the flames inside emitting a cackling sound. Shelves lined the walls, with old, thick books and ancient relics inside of them.

Stepping inside with weapon at the ready, he immediately began the search for this Lucas. Though the man obviously was not here, that didn’t mean any information he could find on him was missing as well. Continuing to keep watch for any guards, Lucian began to search through the room. He looked through the shelves, the desk, behind furniture, and anywhere else information might be hidden, but it was as if anything that might be of some value or knowledge had disappeared.

Leaning against the wall, Lucian sighed, staring around the room’s interior carefully. He had carefully double checked, and even triple checked some of the room for anything. But the desk had only black paper and pens, and the books only told what was the best mythical spot for a summer vacation, and recipes on how to turn yourself into a chimera.

(He’d actually taken one of the books. It gave some pretty...useful ideas he would try later.)

Glancing to the closed door, he walked over to it, opening it and looking out. Still the same quiet, long and empty hallway. He had been certain guards would have come down this hallway by now, which meant chances were, they would be here any moment or he was already being watched.

“Oh, you are, sweetie,” a sudden voice said behind him. “But don’t worry, I am so not going to hurt you.”

Chapter 15

Matt wasn’t sure where they were at first.

It was probably the headache. Definitely the headache. He couldn’t think straight, couldn’t move his head without a fresh wave of pain, and couldn’t focus without his vision going blurry once more.

Finally, when it dulled enough to actually be able to see, he tried to turn-to find himself somehow restrained. He couldn’t move his arms more than a few inches, and his head would only turn so far.

“The hell?” He muttered, eyes narrowed. His voice sounded almost slurred. His hands were tied down to the side with some sort of sticky, transparent material. The material was everywhere, stretching from wall to wall. The room, he noticed, was the same one as they had been in before, though it seemed as if the amount of webs had increased...

Oh. Webs. It’s a web.

He swore.

Managing to turn his head, there were the others: Malcolm, Stella, and the other two teenagers, all unconscious and injured with their wrists and legs tying them to the spider web.

Turning back to the rest of the room, he quickly looked for any escape route or object that could be used to help. But with blurry vision and the still-present effects of the venom, Matt figured if there actually was something that would be of use, he was either still unable to see it, or it was too hidden to be of quick use. His powers? It was very possible that his powers would not work, whether it was due to their surroundings, the side effects of the venom, or even both, but it was also possible that he would still be able to escape using his abilities.

Well, there was only one thing to do but try it.

Taking a deep breath and pushing the pain aside, he concentrated, closing his eyes and trying to move his wrists to create some kind of control over the power, and....

There was a sudden coldness that surrounded his arms, the quick sound of something snapping, and the sensation of falling. Quickly opening his eyes, Matt grabbed back onto the web, his hands now free from the substance. Strings of near translucent white material laid on the ground below.

“Yes,” He said, leaning down and placing his hands above his ankles. Making a quick slashing motion, a dark, indistinct shape appeared, swiftly cutting the web and disappearing as quickly as it had appeared.

Falling down to the floor a few feet below, Matt looked up at the others, none of them looking like they would wake up anytime soon.

Sighing, he grabbed back onto the web and began climbing towards Stella, who was closest. Quickly cutting the web away, he carefully lowered Stella to the ground. “Going somewhere?” A sudden voice spoke out just as he began to reach for the web. The voice was cold and uninviting, and the sound raspy and hoarse, as it wasn’t used to being used.

Turning quickly, Matt stared around into the room, searching for the cause of the voice. But the room was as empty as it had been before; there wasn’t a single person-or thing-in sight, aside from Malcolm, Stella, and the two teenagers. “Show yourself,” Matt demanded. “Who are you?”

Laughter. “I think you know that, son of Hades,” the voice hissed. “Arachne,” Matt spoke. It wasn’t a question.

“Yes,” the voice confirmed. “I am Arachne, and I am afraid my children will not appreciate their food being stolen from them.”

“If I remember correctly, you were the ones that kidnapped us,” Matt replied irritably.

Arachne hissed, still unseen and hiding. “Do not show insolence to me, boy. You may think you are powerful because of your father, but I can assure you, your father will not bother to save your life and risk angering my ally”

“Well, considering that you must be too afraid to even show yourself or your position to a weak and inferior demigod such as myself, it’s absolutely terrifying to even consider who this almighty and powerful ally might be.”

There was a loud, snarling sound. “You will die at the wrath of my children, impertinent demigod! Kill him!”

There was the sudden, rapid sound of tapping from almost all sides of the room, its volume quickly increasing. Swearing under his breath, Matt backed up closer to the web, glancing up at his brother and his two companions. They needed to get out now, but he’d never be able to climb up, cut them all free, and be able to shadow travel all four of them out without becoming spider food. He’d have only enough time to grab Stella and get away, but he couldn’t, wouldn’t, just leave them here to die.

They’re not going to die.

The voice echoed in the back of his mind, repeating itself over and over. They’re not going to die. They’re not going to die. None of them will die today.

It wasn’t the first time he’d heard that, of course-and it also wasn’t the first time he’d heard the exact opposite. It was a sort of death sense or premonition that came with being a child of Hades that sometimes allowed him to be able to tell if there would be a death soon, or if one would survive something.

It had never (unfortunately) been wrong before.

It made sense, at any rate. Arachne would want to lure him back with the rescue of his brother and the two other teenagers so that she could kill him. If they were dead, why go back? It made the chances of her capturing and killing him much less if he were to simply never return and go into hiding.

And just as hundreds of the little creatures crawled into the room, Matt grabbed Stella, turned around, and disappeared.

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