The house of hades, p.65
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       The House of Hades, p.65
 

         Part #4 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
Page 65

 

  Leo coughed. “You two know each other? Like Underworld chums, or—”

  “Silence, fool. ” Pasiphaë’s voice was soft, but full of venom. “I have no use for demigod boys—always so full of themselves, so brash and destructive. ”

  “Hey, lady,” Leo protested. “I don’t destroy things much. I’m a son of Hephaestus. ”

  “A tinkerer,” snapped Pasiphaë. “Even worse. I knew Daedalus. His inventions brought me nothing but trouble. ”

  Leo blinked. “Daedalus…like, the Daedalus? Well, then, you should know all about us tinkerers. We’re more into fixing, building, occasionally sticking wads of oilcloth in the mouths of rude ladies—”

  “Leo. ” Hazel put her arm across his chest. She had a feeling the sorceress was about to turn him into something unpleasant if he didn’t shut up. “Let me take this, okay?”

  “Listen to your friend,” Pasiphaë said. “Be a good boy and let the women talk. ”

  Pasiphaë paced in front of them, examining Hazel, her eyes so full of hate it made Hazel’s skin tingle. The sorceress’s power radiated from her like heat from a furnace. Her expression was unsettling and vaguely familiar. …

  Somehow, though, the giant Clytius unnerved Hazel more.

  He stood in the background, silent and motionless except for the dark smoke pouring from his body, pooling around his feet. He was the cold presence Hazel had felt earlier—like a vast deposit of obsidian, so heavy that Hazel couldn’t possibly move it, powerful and indestructible and completely devoid of emotion.

  “Your—your friend doesn’t say much,” Hazel noted.

  Pasiphaë looked back at the giant and sniffed with disdain. “Pray he stays silent, my dear. Gaea has given me the pleasure of dealing with you; but Clytius is my, ah, insurance. Just between you and me, as sister sorceresses, I think he’s also here to keep my powers in check, in case I forget my new mistress’s orders. Gaea is careful that way. ”

  Hazel was tempted to protest that she wasn’t a sorceress. She didn’t want to know how Pasiphaë planned to “deal” with them, or how the giant kept her magic in check. But she straightened her back and tried to look confident.

  “Whatever you’re planning,” Hazel said, “it won’t work. We’ve cut through every monster Gaea’s put in our path. If you’re smart, you’ll get out of our way. ”

  Gale the polecat gnashed her teeth in approval, but Pasiphaë didn’t seem impressed.

  “You don’t look like much,” the sorceress mused. “But then you demigods never do. My husband, Minos, king of Crete? He was a son of Zeus. You would never have known it by looking at him. He was almost as scrawny as that one. ” She flicked a hand toward Leo.

  “Wow,” muttered Leo. “Minos must’ve done something really horrible to deserve you. ”

  Pasiphaë’s nostrils flared. “Oh…you have no idea. He was too proud to make the proper sacrifices to Poseidon, so the gods punished me for his arrogance. ”

  “The Minotaur,” Hazel suddenly remembered.

  The story was so revolting and grotesque Hazel had always shut her ears when they told it at Camp Jupiter. Pasiphaë had been cursed to fall in love with her husband’s prize bull. She’d given birth to the Minotaur—half man, half bull.

  Now, as Pasiphaë glared daggers at her, Hazel realized why her expression was so familiar.

  The sorceress had the same bitterness and hatred in her eyes that Hazel’s mother sometimes had. In her worst moments, Marie Levesque would look at Hazel as if Hazel were a monstrous child, a curse from the gods, the source of all Marie’s problems. That’s why the Minotaur story bothered Hazel—not just the repellent idea of Pasiphaë and the bull, but the idea that a child, any child, could be considered a monster, a punishment to its parents, to be locked away and hated. To Hazel, the Minotaur had always seemed like a victim in the story.

  “Yes,” Pasiphaë said at last. “My disgrace was unbearable. After my son was born and locked in the Labyrinth, Minos refused to have anything to do with me. He said I had ruined his reputation! And do you know what happened to Minos, Hazel Levesque? For his crimes and his pride? He was rewarded. He was made a judge of the dead in the Underworld, as if he had any right to judge others! Hades gave him that position. Your father. ”

  “Pluto, actually. ”

  Pasiphaë sneered. “Irrelevant. So you see, I hate demigods as much as I hate the gods. Any of your brethren who survive the war, Gaea has promised to me, so that I may watch them die slowly in my new domain. I only wish I had more time to torture you two properly. Alas—”

  In the center of the room, the Doors of Death made a pleasant chiming sound. The green UP button on the right side of the frame began to glow. The chains shook.

  “There, you see?” Pasiphaë shrugged apologetically. “The Doors are in use. Twelve minutes, and they will open. ”

  Hazel’s gut trembled almost as much as the chains. “More giants?”

  “Thankfully, no,” said the sorceress. “They are all accounted for—back in the mortal world and in place for the final assault. ” Pasiphaë gave her a cold smile. “No, I would imagine the Doors are being used by someone else…someone unauthorized. ”

  Leo inched forward. Smoke rose from his fists. “Percy and Annabeth. ”

  Hazel couldn’t speak. She wasn’t sure whether the lump in her throat was from joy or frustration. If their friends had made it to the Doors, if they were really going to show up here in twelve minutes…

  “Oh, not to worry. ” Pasiphaë waved her hand dismissively. “Clytius will handle them. You see, when the chime sounds again, someone on our side needs to push the UP button or the Doors will fail to open and whoever is inside—poof. Gone. Or perhaps Clytius will let them out and deal with them in person. That depends on you two. ”

  Hazel’s mouth tasted like tin. She didn’t want to ask, but she had to. “How exactly does it depend on us?”

  “Well, obviously, we need only one set of demigods alive,” Pasiphaë said. “The lucky two will be taken to Athens and sacrificed to Gaea at the Feast of Hope. ”

  “Obviously,” Leo muttered.

  “So will it be you two, or your friends in the elevator?” The sorceress spread her hands. “Let’s see who is still alive in twelve…actually, eleven minutes, now. ”

  The cavern dissolved into darkness.

  HAZEL’S INTERNAL COMPASS SPUN WILDLY.

  She remembered when she was very small, in New Orleans in the late 1930s, her mother had taken her to the dentist to get a bad tooth pulled. It was the first and only time Hazel had ever received ether. The dentist promised it would make her sleepy and relaxed, but Hazel felt like she was floating away from her own body, panicky and out of control. When the ether wore off, she’d been sick for three days.

  This felt like a massive dose of ether.

  Part of her knew she was still in the cavern. Pasiphaë stood only a few feet in front of them. Clytius waited silently at the Doors of Death.

  But layers of Mist enfolded Hazel, twisting her sense of reality. She took one step forward and bumped into a wall that shouldn’t have been there.

  Leo pressed his hands against the stone. “What the heck? Where are we?”

  A corridor stretched out to their left and right. Torches guttered in iron sconces. The air smelled of mildew, as in an old tomb. On Hazel’s shoulder, Gale barked angrily, digging her claws into Hazel’s collarbone.

  “Yes, I know,” Hazel muttered to the weasel. “It’s an illusion. ”

  Leo pounded on the wall. “Pretty solid illusion. ”

  Pasiphaë laughed. Her voice sounded watery and far away. “Is it an illusion, Hazel Levesque, or something more? Don’t you see what I have created?”

  Hazel felt so off-balance she could barely stand, much less think straight. She tried to extend her senses, to see through the Mist and find the cavern again, but all she felt were tunnels splitting off in a dozen directions, going everywhere exce
pt forward.

  Random thoughts glinted in her mind, like gold nuggets coming to the surface: Daedalus. The Minotaur locked away. Die slowly in my new domain.

  “The Labyrinth,” Hazel said. “She’s remaking the Labyrinth. ”

  “What now?” Leo had been tapping the wall with a ball-peen hammer, but he turned and frowned at her. “I thought the Labyrinth collapsed during that battle at Camp Half-Blood—like, it was connected to Daedalus’s life force or something, and then he died. ”

  Pasiphaë’s voice clucked disapprovingly. “Ah, but I am still alive. You credit Daedalus with all the maze’s secrets? I breathed magical life into his Labyrinth. Daedalus was nothing compared to me—the immortal sorceress, daughter of Helios, sister of Circe! Now the Labyrinth will be my domain. ”

  “It’s an illusion,” Hazel insisted. “We just have to break through it. ”

  Even as she said it, the walls seemed to grow more solid, the smell of mildew more intense.

  “Too late, too late,” Pasiphaë crooned. “The maze is already awake. It will spread under the skin of the earth once more while your mortal world is leveled. You demigods…you heroes… will wander its corridors, dying slowly of thirst and fear and misery. Or perhaps, if I am feeling merciful, you will die quickly, in great pain!”

  Holes opened in the floor beneath Hazel’s feet. She grabbed Leo and pushed him aside as a row of spikes shot upward, impaling the ceiling.

  “Run!” she yelled.

  Pasiphaë’s laughter echoed down the corridor. “Where are you going, young sorceress? Running from an illusion?”

  Hazel didn’t answer. She was too busy trying to stay alive. Behind them, row after row of spikes shot toward the ceiling with a persistent thunk, thunk, thunk.

  She pulled Leo down a side corridor, leaped over a trip wire, then stumbled to a halt in front of a pit twenty feet across.

  “How deep is that?” Leo gasped for breath. His pants leg was ripped where one of the spikes had grazed him.

  Hazel’s senses told her that the pit was at least fifty feet straight down, with a pool of poison at the bottom. Could she trust her senses? Whether or not Pasiphaë had created a new Labyrinth, Hazel believed they were still in the same cavern, being made to run aimlessly back and forth while Pasiphaë and Clytius watched in amusement. Illusion or not: unless Hazel could figure out how to get out of this maze, the traps would kill them.

  “Eight minutes now,” said the voice of Pasiphaë. “I’d love to see you survive, truly. That would prove you worthy sacrifices to Gaea in Athens. But then, of course, we wouldn’t need your friends in the elevator. ”

  Hazel’s heart pounded. She faced the wall to her left. Despite what her senses told her, that should be the direction of the Doors. Pasiphaë should be right in front of her.

  Hazel wanted to burst through the wall and throttle the sorceress. In eight minutes, she and Leo needed to be at the Doors of Death to let their friends out.

 
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