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.


19. 19- I’m Put On Trial

Five of them, glaring down at me emotionless. 
They looked like chess pieces divided evenly on their dark thrones. They were made from various materials, with smooth features like marble figurines. Only two variations in composition: male and female. Three of them women, the other two on the outskirts; male. 
Sitting on the largest throne, in the middle, a cloaked woman. She was skeletal but smooth like a statue. Her right hand gripped tightly to Nico shoulder, digging her fingers in. Her nails were like talons and they screeched as she stroked her thrones left armrest. Although her eyes were only sunken sockets I could tell she was looking right at me, or through me, studying me. As if she was trying to figure out the easiest way to rush me. She was partially transparent and all of her body was deep black, her skin and hair the same as her cloak, as if the fabric was an extension of her body. She shined slick and iridescent as if she was made out of spilt oil.. The rainbow of color slid across her skin, beautiful and disgusting. 
In the throne to the right sat an almost identical woman, but instead of being made up of an oil spill she was something much more haunting; she was entirely crimson. Red robes draped over a malformed body that moved like liquid. It was a color red I would always recognize and never forget. It certainly wasn’t fruit punch. It was the color I’d seen come from so many cuts and abrasions. Her entire body was made out of blood. 
Also female the one directly left from the middle throne was probably the most intimidating, at least to me. She was made from smoke, dim grey and common. Like a ghost. But if you looked closer you cloud see was made up that smoke, it sent chills down my spine. Gaunt screaming shades of the dead slid down her robes, screeching and wailing silently. 
There were only two men on the council. The one on the far right was disgusting, again like the others his body was made from a thick viscous material. He looked like the bottom of a riverbed, mud and silt swirling dark grey brown, with bottle caps and empty tin cans bobbing and emerging from his skin. He might want to see a doctor about abnormal growths. 
The other man, to the far left was fairly simple, at least compared to the others. He was completely made out of fire, flickering different colors in the dim light. 
“Welcome, Lea Reclin, Pawn of the Olympians!” announced the oily woman on the middle throne. 

“Pawn?” I asked to myself.
Apparently the entire council heard me because they boomed with laughter. 
“What? Did you think they sent you out first because you were the most important! You need to relearn your battle strategies, girl!” the woman cackled, “The gods always send out the weakest link they can hoping that the enemy will be weaker!”

Ouch. I’d gotten a lot of insults my entire life but this one hurt the most. It was the only one that really made sense. It was logical. I was just the pawn. 
No use dwelling on what part I played just as long as I did the best I could. 

I stood taller, lifting my chin. 

The woman looked taken aback by my lack of argument. 

“Either way, we will treat you with hospitality,” said the woman, standing from her throne gesturing openly towards me, “I am Styx your host and these are my siblings.”

She waved at each one of them announcing their names. First to her right, the blood woman, “Acheron.”

Then the man on the right, the mud, “Lethe.’

She gesticulated to the left, “Kokytus and Phelegethon.” 

I recognized two of the names; Styx and Lethe. Both underworld rivers. The rivers of promises and forgetfulness. 

The prophecy repeated in my head;

Promises, Pain, Forgetfulness, and Fire.
A threat to the gods so very dire. 

It was the rivers, all of them. Phelegethon must have been fire and Acheron, the bloody one, must have been pain. 

But there was one missing from the prophecy, Kokytus, the river of wailing. 
I wondered what that was about. 

“Come closer dear!” called Styx. 
I stood my ground. 

Suddenly my body clenched, locking into place. My feet slid forward as if I was being pulled by some invisible rope. 

I tried to struggle but I was paralyzed. 

“Now, now, where are your manners?” cooed Styx. 

I tried to yell and insult at her, but because my jaw was locked it came out as a growl. 
“Well, then. Might as well get to it,” said Styx grudgingly, like she expected me to be happy about being imprisoned in a giant arena. 

She continued, “You will be tested with five trials, one for each of the Rivers. If you complete all of them successfully we will make a deal with you. But don’t worry, we’ll fix you up before you get started. We’re not mean,” she snapped her fingers and I was instantly healed, still locked in place, but the large cut through my torso sewed itself together and all of the little scratches and bruises. Everything knitting itself back into place. 

“Much better,” she said, “Now let’s get to it! I hate to leave my guests waiting.”

I got the feeling I wasn’t the guest she was talking about, I was more of the entertainment. A little rag doll that that toss around until they got bored. 
“The First Trial,” announced Styx, “Will be presented by Acheron! Let’s test your threshold!”

Acheron, the bloody woman, stood and spoke, her cool voice echoing like the acoustics of an indoor pool, “How much pain can you endure?”

A lot, I thought to myself. I’ve nearly been killed multiple times. I’ve broken bones and not noticed. I’ve been thrown down a mountain side for the gods sake. 

I tried to speak again, it still didn’t work. 

My body slackened and I fell to the cool fine dirt. I was released from my binds. 
“Give it all you’ve got,” I spat. 

Acheron smirked, “Don’t be so sure.”

She snapped her fingers and my insides exploded with pain. 
I thought I was going to vomit  or pass out or something. 

It was like my internal organs had gone cannibalistic and were fighting, trying to eat each other. The pain ripped through every limb and I fell to the ground, convulsing. Every inch of my body burned, from my fingertips to my toes, my lungs being the epicenter. 

I writhed on the ground, trying to find a position where I didn’t feel so on fire. I screamed, trying to exhale the pain, but no sound came from my lungs, they were to busy contracting into Barbie doll size. 

I could hear Nico yelling something but I couldn’t hear it over the roaring ocean in my ears. 

I clenched my teeth, like when at the doctor’s getting at shot. You know how they ask you to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. This was somewhere around 200. 
“Stop!” yelled Styx.

The pain ceased immediately. 

I rolled to all fours, gagging, trying to maintain my breathing and get my heart rate down. 

“That was boring,” said Styx distastefully.

For you maybe, I thought. 

“You pass the first trial,” proclaimed Styx, “Congratulations.”
She began to clap half heartedly as if I didn’t deserve the applaud at all. 
I looked up at her, then to Nico, his mouth now gagged. His eyes were wide and he looked at me with despair. 

I gave him a small smile and forced my body to let me stand. 

“Let’s not waste time!” called Styx, she sounded so happy watching me suffer, “Onto the second trial; Lethe.”

Lethe stood, a Lays bag emerged from his jaw and then sunk back in. 

“You must sacrifice a memory dear to you,” he declared “Choose wisely.”

“Mmmm, what fun,” said Styx, resting her chin on her palm. 

I browsed through all of my fond memories;  eating Hamburgers with Henry on the Fourth of July, singing with Percy in the Daemon, eating ice cream with Nico and Percy. 

I realized that a lot of my good memories involved eating with either Percy, Nico or Henry. 

There was one that submerged from my subconscious, from when I was a god. 
I was visiting Nico at camp, we were walking through the forest. Just talking, joking about the gods and what they would look like if they were a sitcom. I must have been in a really good mood because I was laughing more than I usually do. There was a split second where Nico looked at me and grinned, and felt like sunlight on my face during a cold day. I’d never seen him happy like that, just blissful, like nothing else mattered for that split second. 

It hurt to think that I’d have to give it up. But it was the right one, nothing important, not to my life at least. 

“I found it,” I said.

“Well, let’s see!” said Styx.

Lethe snapped his fingers and the memory was torn from m head and displayed for everyone to see. It shimmered on a projected smoke, like an Iris Message. 

It was good to see it for a last time. 

“Awww, how cute!” said Styx. 

Then suddenly it flashed and disappeared.

For a second I forgot where I was and what I was doing. 

I thought to myself, Okay, time for the second trial. Wait, third trial.

“Third trial,” cooed Styx happily, “Let’s get to it!” 
Kokytus stood, her face blank, she spoke but instead of one voice she spoke with thousands, all of the tortured souls in her cloak, speaking for her, screeching in unison, “A duel,” she said. 

“A duel?” I asked, “With who?” 

“An old foe,” replied Kokytus.

On the left side of the arena, a bit of the wall rumbled and opened up, out walked someone I wished I would never see again. 

“Palioxis,” I groaned, “Really?”

“Revenge at last,” she snarled. 

“Yeah sure, go for it,” I said, too exhausted to care much. I’d beaten her once, I could do it again. 

“No Son of Poseidon to help you now,” she cooed at me. She edged around the arena like a puma about to pounce, head held low and her shoulders hunched. 
She wore a torn black toga and had rusty black chains rapping around her arms, dragging on the dirt. 

I stared at her for minute and realized she was right, I was alone. Just me against a powerful goddess and you know what? I wasn’t scared. 

I laughed at her gaudily, imitating many enemies from my past. 

“Your right, I am  alone. But guess what it doesn’t matter! For so long so many people have told me that ‘m strong and I never listened. I should have, because now I know. I kick major butt!” I shouted at her, “Come at me!” 

“Wait!” shouted Styx, “First you must choose your weapon.”

A rack appeared to my left glittering with fancy spears and bows. 

“I’m good with this!” I said, reaching into my pocket pulling out my shield and sword, opening it. 

I looked up at Styx. I smirked confidently, she looked very displeased and a little shocked, which made me even happier. 

“Are you sure?” she said.

“Very,” I replied. 

“Alright,” she sighed, and then snapped her fingers lazily, “Get to it!” 

Instantly Palioxis sent a chain flying at me. I had anticipated her rash move and knew to dodge to the left. The chain whizzed past me so fast that not only could I feel the gust of air, but the heat of friction. 

Seeing that her trick wouldn’t work on me, she snapped the chain back to her and began to spin both piece of rusty metal in circles, making a strong whooshing sound. We circled each other, both waiting for an opportunity. She grew impatient quickly, not bothering to bide her time. She flicked her right chain at me again, it shot forward wrapping around my torso. It was stuck like a fly in a spider’s web, but only for a second, my sword had also been caught with me, giving me the ability to cut through the jagged links easily.  A few feet of black metal dropped to the ground, freeing me. 
Palioxis howled in rage. She didn’t like people messing with her weapons, I didn’t blame her. 

She launched the chains at me again two at once. I used the skills I had learned from so many hours of playing Zelda. I spun and watched in slow motion as the chains, which happened to have small spiked maces on the end, collided with my shield and ricocheted off, back towards Palioxis stunned face. 

Her weapons flung back whapping her with twice the normal force, straight in the chest. I sprint forward, double slammed her with my shield to the chest then to the face with the hilt of my sword. She was pinned to the wall. I grabbed her face with my hand, using strength that I didn’t know I had, lifted her up, like a bully lift a nerd up against his locker. Then I sucked as much energy essence from her through my finger tips. My entire body glowed a bright shade of pink. 

Then with her drowsy, I swung my sword in a full circle and chopped off her head. 
She exploded into a million tattered black pieces, like black fabric that had been through a paper shredder. It smelled like roadkill.
I looked up and Styx, who seemed mildly impressed and then Nico, whose expression mostly showed horror. 
I wiped a few bits of the black remains off my face.

Third trial complete. 

Palioxis lay a pile of ash on the ground, not fully dead because she’s immortal, just rendered useless for the next few millennia. 

I raised my sword above my head and grinned victoriously. 

I’m sure I looked like I’d just been run over my a herd of cattle, but I stood like a trophy tall and proud. 

Styx was determined to ruin this happiness. 

She waved her hand dismissively. 

Instantly my sword shot out of my grip as if pulled by some magnetic force. It flew out of the arena and became a gold sparkle in the distance. 

I still had a shield but that wouldn’t to me much good. It takes a while to bash someone’s head in, and I hadn’t mastered the Captain America Frisbee thing yet. 

“You won’t be needing that!” chirped Styx. 

“But…my sword,” I stuttered. What would I do without a weapon? 

Styx cleared her throat, “Fourth trial!” she cheered. 

Phelegethon (the one fire) stood, and announced, his voice deep and crackling, “You must navigate a labyrinth.”

“Let me guess, it’s made out of fire,” I said snarkily, rolling my eyes. 
Phelegethon looked shock, taken aback by the fact that I had guessed his big surprise, “Y-yes,”  he stuttered. 

“Bring it.”

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