The house of hades, p.66
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       The House of Hades, p.66
 

         Part #4 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
Page 66

 

  But Pasiphaë was an immortal sorceress with thousands of years of experience in weaving spells. Hazel couldn’t defeat her through sheer willpower. She’d managed to fool the bandit Sciron by showing him what he expected to see. Hazel needed to figure out what Pasiphaë wanted most.

  “Seven minutes now,” Pasiphaë lamented. “If only we had more time! So many indignities I’d like you to suffer. ”

  That was it, Hazel realized. She had to run the gauntlet. She had to make the maze more dangerous, more spectacular—make Pasiphaë focus on the traps rather than the direction the Labyrinth was leading.

  “Leo, we’re going to jump,” Hazel said.

  “But—”

  “It’s not as far as it looks. Go!” She grabbed his hand and they launched themselves across the pit. When they landed, Hazel looked back and saw no pit at all—just a three-inch crack in the floor.

  “Come on!” she urged.

  They ran as the voice of Pasiphaë droned on. “Oh, dear, no. You’ll never survive that way. Six minutes. ”

  The ceiling above them cracked apart. Gale the weasel squeaked in alarm, but Hazel imagined a new tunnel leading off to the left—a tunnel even more dangerous, going the wrong direction. The Mist softened under her will. The tunnel appeared, and they dashed to one side.

  Pasiphaë sighed with disappointment. “You really aren’t very good at this, my dear. ”

  But Hazel felt a spark of hope. She’d created a tunnel. She’d driven a small wedge into the magic fabric of the Labyrinth.

  The floor collapsed under them. Hazel jumped to one side, dragging Leo with her. She imagined another tunnel, veering back the way they’d come, but full of poisonous gas. The maze obliged.

  “Leo, hold your breath,” she warned.

  They plunged through the toxic fog. Hazel’s eyes felt like they were being rinsed in pepper juice, but she kept running.

  “Five minutes,” Pasiphaë said. “Alas! If only I could watch you suffer longer. ”

  They burst into a corridor with fresh air. Leo coughed. “If only she would shut up. ”

  They ducked under a bronze garrote wire. Hazel imagined the tunnel curving back toward Pasiphaë, ever so slightly. The Mist bent to her will.

  The walls of the tunnel began to close in on either side. Hazel didn’t try to stop them. She made them close faster, shaking the floor and cracking the ceiling. She and Leo ran for their lives, following the curve as it brought them closer to what she hoped was the center of the room.

  “A pity,” said Pasiphaë. “I wish I could kill you and your friends in the elevator, but Gaea has insisted that two of you must be kept alive until the Feast of Hope, when your blood will be put to good use! Ah, well. I will have to find other victims for my Labyrinth. You two have been second-rate failures. ”

  Hazel and Leo stumbled to a stop. In front of them stretched a chasm so wide, Hazel couldn’t see the other side. From somewhere below in the darkness came the sound of hissing—thousands and thousands of snakes.

  Hazel was tempted to retreat, but the tunnel was closing behind them, leaving them stranded on a tiny ledge. Gale the weasel paced across Hazel’s shoulders and farted with anxiety.

  “Okay, okay,” Leo muttered. “The walls are moving parts. They gotta be mechanical. Give me a second. ”

  “No, Leo,” Hazel said. “There’s no way back. ”

  “But—”

  “Hold my hand,” she said. “On three. ”

  “But—”

  “Three!”

  “What?”

  Hazel leaped into the pit, pulling Leo with her. She tried to ignore his screaming and the flatulent weasel clinging to her neck. She bent all her will into redirecting the magic of the Labyrinth.

  Pasiphaë laughed with delight, knowing that any moment they would be crushed or bitten to death in a pit of snakes.

  Instead, Hazel imagined a chute in the darkness, just to their left. She twisted in midair and fell toward it. She and Leo hit the chute hard and slid into the cavern, landing right on top of Pasiphaë.

  “Ack!” The sorceress’s head smacked against the floor as Leo sat down hard on her chest.

  For a moment, the three of them and the weasel were a pile of sprawling bodies and flailing limbs. Hazel tried to draw her sword, but Pasiphaë managed to extricate herself first. The sorceress backed away, her hairdo bent sideways like a collapsed cake. Her dress was smeared with grease stains from Leo’s tool belt.

  “You miserable wretches!” she howled.

  The maze was gone. A few feet away, Clytius stood with his back to them, watching the Doors of Death. By Hazel’s calculation, they had about thirty seconds until their friends arrived. Hazel felt exhausted from her run through the maze while controlling the Mist, but she needed to pull off one more trick.

  She had successfully made Pasiphaë see what she most desired. Now Hazel had to make the sorceress see what she most feared.

  “You must really hate demigods,” Hazel said, trying to mimic Pasiphaë’s cruel smile. “We always get the best of you, don’t we, Pasiphaë?”

  “Nonsense!” screamed Pasiphaë. “I will tear you apart! I will—”

  “We’re always pulling the rug out from under your feet,” Hazel sympathized. “Your husband betrayed you. Theseus killed the Minotaur and stole your daughter Ariadne. Now two second-rate failures have turned your own maze against you. But you knew it would come to this, didn’t you? You always fall in the end. ”

  “I am immortal!” Pasiphaë wailed. She took a step back, fingering her necklace. “You cannot stand against me!”

  “You can’t stand at all,” Hazel countered. “Look. ”

  She pointed at the feet of the sorceress. A trapdoor opened underneath Pasiphaë. She fell, screaming, into a bottomless pit that didn’t really exist.

  The floor solidified. The sorceress was gone.

  Leo stared at Hazel in amazement. “How did you—”

  Just then the elevator dinged. Rather than pushing the UP button, Clytius stepped back from the controls, keeping their friends trapped inside.

  “Leo!” Hazel yelled.

  They were thirty feet away—much too far to reach the elevator—but Leo pulled out a screwdriver and chucked it like a throwing knife. An impossible shot. The screwdriver spun straight past Clytius and slammed into the UP button.

  The Doors of Death opened with a hiss. Black smoke billowed out, and two bodies spilled face-first onto the floor—Percy and Annabeth, limp as corpses.

  Hazel sobbed. “Oh, gods…”

  She and Leo started forward, but Clytius raised his hand in an unmistakable gesture—stop. He lifted his massive reptilian foot over Percy’s head.

  The giant’s smoky shroud poured over the floor, covering Annabeth and Percy in a pool of dark fog.

  “Clytius, you’ve lost,” Hazel snarled. “Let them go, or you’ll end up like Pasiphaë. ”

  The giant tilted his head. His diamond eyes gleamed. At his feet, Annabeth lurched like she’d hit a power line. She rolled on her back, black smoke coiling from her mouth.

  “I am not Pasiphaë. ” Annabeth spoke in a voice that wasn’t hers—the words as deep as a bass guitar. “You have won nothing. ”

  “Stop that!” Even from thirty feet away, Hazel could sense Annabeth’s life force waning, her pulse becoming thready. Whatever Clytius was doing, pulling words from her mouth—it was killing her.

  Clytius nudged Percy’s head with his foot. Percy’s face lolled to one side.

  “Not quite dead. ” The giant’s words boomed from Percy’s mouth. “A terrible shock to the mortal body, I would imagine, coming back from Tartarus. They’ll be out for a while. ”

  He turned his attention back to Annabeth. More smoke poured from between her lips. “I’ll tie them up and take them to Porphyrion in Athens. Just the sacrifice we need. Unfortunately, that means I have no further use for you two. ”

 
Oh, yeah?” Leo growled. “Well, maybe you got the smoke, buddy, but I’ve got the fire. ”

  His hands blazed. He shot white-hot columns of flame at the giant, but Clytius’s smoky aura absorbed them on impact. Tendrils of black haze traveled back up the lines of fire, snuffing out the light and heat and covering Leo in darkness.

  Leo fell to his knees, clutching at his throat.

  “No!” Hazel ran toward him, but Gale chattered urgently on her shoulder—a clear warning.

  “I would not. ” Clytius’s voice reverberated from Leo’s mouth. “You do not understand, Hazel Levesque. I devour magic. I destroy the voice and the soul. You cannot oppose me. ”

  Black fog spread farther across the room, covering Annabeth and Percy, billowing toward Hazel.

  Blood roared in Hazel’s ears. She had to act—but how? If that black smoke could incapacitate Leo so quickly, what chance did she have?

  “F-fire,” she stammered in a small voice. “You’re supposed to be weak against it. ”

  The giant chuckled, using Annabeth’s vocal cords this time. “You were counting on that, eh? It is true I do not like fire. But Leo Valdez’s flames are not strong enough to trouble me. ”

  Somewhere behind Hazel, a soft, lyrical voice said, “What about my flames, old friend?”

  Gale squeaked excitedly and jumped from Hazel’s shoulder, scampering to the entrance of the cavern where a blond woman stood in a black dress, the Mist swirling around her.

  The giant stumbled backward, bumping into the Doors of Death.

  “You,” he said from Percy’s mouth.

  “Me,” Hecate agreed. She spread her arms. Blazing torches appeared in her hands. “It has been millennia since I fought at the side of a demigod, but Hazel Levesque has proven herself worthy. What do you say, Clytius? Shall we play with fire?”

  IF THE GIANT HAD RUN AWAY SCREAMING, Hazel would’ve been grateful. Then they all could have taken the rest of the day off.

  Clytius disappointed her.

  When he saw the goddess’s torches blazing, the giant seemed to recover his wits. He stomped his foot, shaking the floor and almost stepping on Annabeth’s arm. Dark smoke billowed around him until Annabeth and Percy were totally hidden. Hazel could see nothing but the giant’s gleaming eyes.

  “Bold words. ” Clytius spoke from Leo’s mouth. “You forget, goddess. When we last met, you had the help of Hercules and Dionysus—the most powerful heroes in the world, both of them destined to become gods. Now you bring…these?”

  Leo’s unconscious body contorted in pain.

  “Stop it!” Hazel yelled.

  She didn’t plan what happened next. She simply knew she had to protect her friends. She imagined them behind her, the same way she’d imagined new tunnels appearing in Pasiphaë’s Labyrinth. Leo dissolved. He reappeared at Hazel’s feet, along with Percy and Annabeth. The Mist whirled around her, spilling over the stones and enveloping her friends. Where the white Mist met the dark smoke of Clytius, it steamed and sizzled, like lava rolling into the sea.

 
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