The Trial of the Rivers

All is going well for Lea as she finishes her time as a god, but when Nico goes mysteriously missing things take a turn for the worse. No longer welcome at camp, and with new power on the rise, Lea is doubting her decisions to stay mortal. Then when news from the gods comes, saying that Lord Hades has been overthrown, Lea and some other experienced demi-gods must travel west to take back the underworld.


16. 16- Percy and I Visit the Hotel de Monstre

The drive to L.A. was incredibly boring, no signs of mythological creatures anywhere. Not even harpies eating the road kill off the highway, like usual. 
I kept my armor on just in case, but in mist form.
Percy and I didn’t really talk much, he and I communicate better through sighs, groans, and smiles. The silence was nice, it was comfortable. I was so used to having conversations be filled, everyone trying to keep it going or not having conversations at all, but wanting to, not knowing what to say: the awkward silence. 
But with Percy it was easy, we could understand each other fully in three words or less. 
I kept thinking back on all of the good times Percy and I had together, but it hurt more, because whenever I was happy, Nico was always there, maybe not speaking or being fully noticed, but there. 
As hard as I tried not to think about it, my thoughts kept whipping back to the fact that he thought I was beautiful. 
My reaction was a mixture of disbelief and disbelief. Mostly disbelief.
I’d never even looked at Nico twice, I didn’t need to. 
I guess he’s cute, scrawny and gaunt with unfading shadows under his eyes and his hair is absolute mess and his voice cracks a lot, but cute. Not exactly the dark sexy son of the death god. More like that scraggy abandoned puppy you find in a box on the side of the street that you have to take home and give a bath and some food just cause it looked at you ‘that way’. 
There was a little while when I first met him and after talking to Eros, I felt a bit attracted, but still: weird. 
When I rescued him from the underworld I’d look closer. 
We reached L.A. at sunset, earlier than I expected, but that was probably because Percy doesn’t believe in speed limits. 
He and I had eaten sandwiches for lunch, which had been pre-made for a us and wrapped in tin foil. Now that it was late, we were starting get hungry. Percy slowly meandered the car down the streets, which were surprisingly empty. 
All of the shops looked closed and had grates pulled down over the windows, preventing break ins. Judging by the fact that all of the building were cream and simple, with graffiti and tags all over them, we weren’t in the most high-class part of town. 
Suddenly, a man dressed in black darted from one of the alleyways and across the street, Percy couldn’t break in time and there was aloud thunk. 
I cringed, knowing how that felt. 
Not fun. 
There was a second where Percy and I looked at each other, our mouths open in shock. 
Then we both scrambled out of the car. 
I tripped again, not a good day for me.
As soon as Percy was about of foot away from where the man lay, the man jumped up and sprinted down the street. 
“Wha-?” said Percy, but he was interrupted by two car doors slamming. 
Percy and I watched, stupefied,  as two other men drove off in our van.
“I’m gonna let you explain that one to Reyna,” said Percy, “I mean she probably expected it to get destroyed, not stolen by mortals, this is a new low for me.”
“Yeah I’ll explain to Reyna,” I replied, “But who’s gonna explain to those guys when they find the crossbows, nets, maces and Greek fire in the trunk.”
Percy chuckled.
“Well we better find a place to regroup, just not any waterbed emporiums, or furniture places altogether.”
I would’ve thought it would be easy to find a place to stay in Los Angeles, but it appeared to be deserted, not even any hobos. 
About three blocks down, only one place showed any sign of life. Muffled rap music blared, or at least I thought it was rap music, but I couldn’t tell, I could only hear the bass. It was the only place that wasn’t painted crème, but was instead black and deep red, very ornate looking, with floral lace-overlay red curtains drawn over the windows. It appeared to be a club of sorts. Above the doorway, in large Broadway-like light font displayed the club’s name. Don’t ask me what it was, I have no idea, I couldn’t read it. 
Percy and I shrugged.
“It’s probably a trap,” he said.
“Beats starving,” I replied. 
I traced my fingers around the activating jewels on my armor and followed Percy through the large black double doors. 
Somehow the music managed to get louder than it already was. 
My eyes were met with a glorious feast of color. 
Gold, black and deep scarlet adorned every inch of the place. 
It was more elaborate than any place I’d ever seen. 
With three levels, top most being a simple walkway with a detailed black railing, this level was probably designed so visitors could get a better view of the circular stage in the middle of the bottom level that surrounded by tables and chairs. The middle level was only a few steps up from the bottom and surrounded the room, there were circular booths, some with the red curtains drawn. There was also a bar of the left wall. Girls in flapper dresses slinked around serving drinks and fancy dishes. And it was incredibly crowded. So this must be where all of the L.A. population disappeared to. 
“Welcome,” piped a suave voice from my left, “I am your host Atreus.”
Luckily that name did not sound familiar. 
He was short man, only about 5’6, so we were at the same eye level, he was wearing a tight black tuxedo, and he had his hair slicked back to look like one of those men from the silent movies. He had a small pencil mustache, dark eyes, and a charming smile. 
Atreus vigorously shook Percy and I hands. 
When he shook mine he looked surprised, “You’re a bit young aren’t you? Well, no discrimination I say. Just don’t go into the back room, alright?”
Percy and I exchanged glances. 
“Listen,” said Percy, “We’re just looking for a meal and a place to spend the night.”
“Alrighty then,” chirped Atreus, “I’ll reserve you two a room and be back with menus in a minute. All of our tables are full so you’ll have to sit at the bar. I’ll tell James you’re minors,” and then he disappeared into the crowd. 
“Not a bad trap,” said Percy. 
Percy and I shoved our way through the crowd and over to the bar. It was beautiful, slick clean black counter tops, and shelves full of brightly colored liquor on a luminous blue background. 
Another man, a bartender, wearing suit pants, a white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a black vest came up to us, and handed us the menus. He was taller than Atreus, but had the same hairstyle, except he wore it much better, he was very handsome. He had that sophisticated look about him, like he listened to authentic jazz records because he preferred the sound. 
He leaned on the counter and said to me, “Demigods I suppose?”
My mouth dropped open, “Yeah.”
“Me too,” he said, “Son of Dionysus.”
“You mean this place isn’t for mortals?” I asked. 
“Hardly,” he replied, “In fact, mortals can’t find it.” 
“Mist?” asked Percy.
“Yes, a very strong deception filter created by the mist, mortals can’t even this place,” explained James. 
“So these are all demi-” I began, but when I looked around I had to stop, gulping, “Monsters.”
A few seats to my right, sat a dracaena, glaring at me while she sipped her martini. As I scanned the room, my eyes began to see through the mist, the flapper girls appeared to be demigod girls, but most of the spectators were Cyclops, telkhines, gods, or centaurs and a few giants. 
“Don’t worry,” assured James, “There are strict menu only eating policies.”
Percy looked equally as panicked as I did. 
“So, as for the menu,” continued James, “You might want to be careful.”
I flipped through the pages, my eyes focusing on dishes such as “Virgin Supreme” and “Lawyer on Lettuce”  guessing that these weren’t just creative names I slowly folded it back up. 
I looked up at James, pretty sure my eyes were wide enough to look like an anime characters and said, “I think I’ll just get a Caesar salad, purely vegetarian.”
“Me too,” managed Percy. 
James chuckled, “That’s what I thought.”
Percy and I sat next to each other, our body so tensed and rigid that if you poked me I’d probably punch you purely out of reflex. 
Percy and I ate our salads in silence, James flitting around occasionally telling a joke in attempt to make us feel more comfortable. It didn’t really work. It’s hard to act natural around creatures who you’ve probably already killed or killed one of their relatives or friends. Awkward. 
Percy and I kept making eye contact, eyes fluttering to each other, checking to see if the other was okay...enough. 
The second we finished our salads I asked James where our rooms were and he called a waitress the lead us. I noticed Percy was particularly uncomfortable around her, she had long blonde hair and was pretty. She smelled like heavy perfume but with an underlying scent of farm animal, strange. I had to blink a few times to see through the mist. I stumbled into a Cyclops when I saw her true form, she had one metal leg and one that looked like that of a mule. She glared at me, but then shot her icy gaze back to Percy. I could tell they had some history. 
She led us down a dimly lit hallway, with shiny scarlet wallpaper and gold trimming. I couldn’t get over how beautiful this place was, it was like a palace. She Led us to one of the doors mark with 306 on the right hand side of a hallway, across the hallways, a werewolf looking guy was flirting with what looked like a evil nymph. 
The blonde centaur/automaton/dancer stopped at the door opened it with a fancy gold key, and opened it for us, “Welcome to your room,”  she said, with a bitter sweetness, stuffing the key into Percy’s hand, “fish,” she growled and then strutted off down the hallway.
Percy and I rushed into our room, he quickly locked the door behind us and exhaled deeply. 
“Whew, “said Percy, “Thank the gods for that no eating the customers rule.”
“You knew her?” I asked,
“Yeah, she’s an Empusa,” he replied, “I killed her just before my freshman year.” 
“That could explain why she looked like she hated you,” I reasoned. 
“Yeaahhh,” replied Percy, but he was looking past me, into the room. 
I turned to see what he was looking at, the room was the same scarlet/gold color scheme, with tasseled curtains and a chandelier. 
It was perfect, except for the bed. 
In the middle of the back wall, like a showpiece, was the king sized mattress. I nearly vomited upon seeing it. Embroidered satin comforter, large poofy pillows, all displayed on a four-poster heart-shaped bed. 
I turned to Percy and said, “I think I’ll sleep on the couch.”
They’re was a very awkward silence as I walked over the feinting couch, sitting down on it. 
“You know, “I said to Percy, contemplating, “I think I’d rather have the monsters be attacking us.”
“Me too,” sighed Percy, flopping onto the bed. 
“So,” I started, “tomorrow.”
He sighed even louder, “I don’t want to leave you.”
“Everything sucks,” I groaned into a circular pillow. 
“Octavian said you must enter Hades alone, he never said I can’t follow,” suggested Percy, but he was just as hopeless as me. 
“You know what he meant.”
We both lay for a minute staring at the chandelier, listening to each other breathe, thinking of ways to get around the stupid prophecy. 
There was nothing we could do, and we both feel asleep knowing that. 
I woke up to smooth jazz, grimacing, a charming voice resonated through the room, he announced the song title and artist, both I didn’t bother to remember.  
There was crashing outside and few shrieks. 
Percy jumped awake. 
“Just a bar fight,” I assured him. 
He sat up, groggily rubbing at his eyes, “I forgot we were here.”
“I wish we weren’t,” I replied, readjusting my mist form armor, which had twisted itself severely. 
Percy looked out the window, “It’s not a far jump, just about twenty feet, and there’s a fire escape.”
Within a matter of minutes her and I were scaling the wall, and jumping off the fire escape. 
I know that might seem a bit dramatic to you mortals, but seriously, when you’ve got around thirty of your enemies in one room, the majority of them hungover, you tend to avoid that at all costs. 
Also, I pretty sure that wasn’t a night’s stay on the house, and Atreus was the kind of guy who got his moneys worth. 
Percy and I jogged down the street. 
There were only on few people out, they didn’t look at us twice, they probably figured we were just two teens out for a morning run. 
It was cool and clear but the air was heavy. A haze hung over the city making everything look slightly saturated. Percy seemed to know where he was going, and when I asked him how  , he replied between breathes, “dream.”
“Oh cool,” I replied and continued following him. 
After about fifteen minutes, we had made it out of the city, there was a slight hill, up a winding road and tucked into the desert mountainside, was a small windowed building. It looked like some boring place, an insurance company or D.M.V. 
We walked up hesitantly, we were told that our journey would be undisturbed up to this point but for all we know as soon as we stepped through the door we could be attacked.  
When we were a few feet away from the door, we stopped looked at each other. 
I flung my arms around Percy, he squeezed me in return, I tried to hold back tears but it didn’t work. I sobbed into his shoulder, not from sadness of our oncoming  separation but because I was scared. Really, really scared. Scared for what the future might hold, scared for what would happen if I failed, scared that I couldn’t do it. 
Percy whispered encouragements and tucked stray hairs behind my ears and then rested his chin on top of my head. 
I composed myself, sniffling. 
Percy took my face in his hands, making me look directly at him and he said with full confidence, “You can do this.”
“I can do this,” I replied weakly, my voice cracking. I grinned up at him, he kissed my forehead and I let go. 
We both took a minute to prep ourselves, he only had to go a few more feet, but I had a lot more coming. I activated my armor and checked my back pocket to see if both my sword and shield were there. Of course they were. 
Percy held the door open for me and we stepped into the refreshingly chilled air. About thirty dead people met my stare. Some looked sad, some confused, a lot of blank expressions, but mostly they looked jealous. If I were a ghost I would be too. I felt bad, if anyone it’s me, not a seven year old girl in pigtails neatly tied with ribbons. 
“Recently redesigned,” said Percy, looking around.
To me it just looked like your regular dentists waiting room; grey-blue walls and large clean windows. At the desk was a man in what looked like a C.I.A. uniform, suit, sunglasses, earpiece and all. 
Hearing Percy speak he looked up, “I’m glad you noticed, under our new authority we’ve undergone many great revisions. I finally got that much deserved pay raise, but unfortunately you cannot see the result of that; my finest Italian suit. But of course I have a dress code to follow.”
He tapped a name plate on his suit that read in Greek, “CHARON.”
He adjusted his tie, and regarded Percy, “Do I know you?”
“No,” replied Percy hastily. 
Charon furrowed his brow but continued signing the papers on his desk. 
“I’d like to enter the underworld,” I said loudly, trying to be confident but not demanding. 
“Are you dead?” he asked, sounding bored. 
“Then no can do,” he replied, not even looking up at me. 
“Well, what would I do if I were dead?” 
He looked up at me confused, “If your were dead, then you’d wait till the next elevator arrives. Which should be in about…” he checked his watch, “three minutes.”
“Thanks,” I said, then I took two fingers, pulled as much energy essence as I could from myself and transferred it to Percy.
My vision went blurry and I almost fell, but Percy caught me. 
Before I had the chance to pass out, I grabbed Charon, putting my palm on his forehead, and took as much essence from him as I could hold. 
My vision sharpened and I felt like I’d just downed four shots of espresso. 
Charon’s head hit the desk with a loud thunk.
He was out cold. 
Percy and I stood for a minute looking at each other, quivering with anticipation, and then the elevator dinged.

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