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.

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20. 20- I Test my Archery Skills on a River


Flames erupted around me, twenty foot high walls reaching temperatures much higher. 
“Come and find us!” called Styx, her voices echoing through out the entire stadium. 
Luckily I have naturally good bearings, and knew I was still facing forward. Unfortunately I would inevitably get turned around quickly. The usual tricks wouldn’t work, no marking the walls. It’s pretty hard to draw on fire the last time I checked and the ground was solid rock. Also I got the suspicious feeling this wouldn’t be a dormant labyrinth. There would be no way of telling, though, since the walls aren’t exactly distinguishable. I could be going in circles without even realizing. Also, I didn’t have any string to drag behind me or any bread in my pockets. 
So I figured I try the follow a single wall trick. I raced following the wall on my right, twisting and turning. It only took a few minutes to get out of breath, the smoke filling my lungs. It was so thick I felt like I was drinking syrup. 
I began to sweat profusely and cough so hard my lungs felt like they were lined with little landmines and every time I tried to exhale smoke it set them explosives off. I cursed repeatedly under my breath, which was more painful but strangely relaxing. 
I considered yelling out, hoping that Styx’s snide reply would lead me towards her, but then I remembered the echo trick she’d used. No such luck. 
I stopped following the wall for a second, kneeling. I tried to catch my breath, looking at the cavern ceiling above me. Displayed on a smoky projected screen, it showed me, in live time. That’s how the Rivers must have been monitoring. For a second it flickered, and then went out. 
I exhaled in question; confused. 
Then something appeared in front of me; dark in contrast to the flames. 
“Hop up little miss,” said a posh sounding voice, “I don’t fancy having debts.”
“Shadow?” I gasped, staring up at the black horse, his mane blending into the fire.
“Indeed,” he replied.
“What are you doing here?” I breathed.
“Apparently, saving your life,” he replied, “You’re dying of heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.”
“Oh.”
“Quite.”
“Why can I talk to you?” I asked. 
“Most likely it’s because you’re a member of the Oneiroi, they are the only ones who can telepathically communicate with Nightmares like me,” he explained, nudging me with his nose, ushering me to stand up. 
I tried to reply but all that came out was a cough. 
Suddenly, Styx’s chilling voice cut through the air, “Lea? Show yourself1 nobody likes a cheater!”
“Are you doing that?” I asked Shadow. 
“Yes, but I can’t hide the Mirage Mirror for long,” he said, as I clambered onto his sturdy back.
The second I was secure Shadow bolted. 
So this is what light speed feels like, I thought. 
We darted back and forth, him navigating the maze effortlessly. 
Everything around us was a blur of fiery light, I’d never felt so exhilarated. 
This was way better than speed boating, faster too, it was so much faster. 
I almost cried out with joy, but held myself back. 
Within seconds we’d reach out destination. I wanted to keep riding, zoom out of that arena and far far away, but I knew I had to stay. For Nico, for the Gods, for the world. 
Shadow stopped abruptly and I hopped off, he said into my head, “just around the left corner, down the corridor, a right, then forward.”
“Thanks,” I whispered. 
“Just paying you back,” he assured me. 
“Maybe I’ll see you again,” I offered. 
“Perhaps,” he replied, smirking as much as a horse can, then jumped into the flames, disappearing. 
I followed his directions exactly and found myself at the opening. I stepped out cautiously. 
The council applauded grudgingly. 
“Nice job,” said Styx bitterly, “Although I don’t know how you masked the Mirror.” 
“I don’t know how I did that either,” I said lightly, laughing at their expense. 
Styx jumped to her feet, leaning over the arena’s age, looking down on me, grinning maliciously, “My turn!”
“What now?” I replied happily, “Are you gonna make me play hopscotch with cannibals.  I’d win you know, I was always the best at hopscotch in my class; all of the first graders hated me! Plus, cannibals are horribly uncoordinated, trust me, I’d know! You should have seen that one you sent try to drive a bus!” 
I began to laugh so hard my stomach hurt. 
I think the smoke was making me a bit loopy. 
“A SACRIFICE!” Styx yelled as loud as she could, which was loud, “A climax to end the age!” 
“Alright,” I said, growing quiet, “Let’s make a deal.”
“Fine,” she snapped jumping on the interesting possibility, “I’ll give you the boy in return for something of equal worth.”
“No,” I objected. 
“What?” gasped Styx, looking taken aback, “Isn’t he the one you came for?”
“I came to take back the underworld,” I announced proudly, looking apologetically to Nico. He nodded in understanding. 
“In return for the greatest thing I have to sacrifice you give me the underworld, no loopholes, no cheating,” I said.
“Deal,” replied Styx, her lips curling in pleasure. 
“You have to swear,” I continued, “I would say swear on the river Styx but that would be a little strange to swear on yourself, so instead swear on your immortality.”
“I swear on my immortality,” she began, “To give you the underworld in return for your greatest sacrifice.”
I nodded.
I didn’t really have much with my to give up, my sword was gone, Nico was imprisoned, my shield wasn’t exactly the biggest sacrifice, all I had besides that was my powers. 
"My powers," I cleared my throat, “In return for the underworld, I will sacrifice every trace of my immortal lineage that is in my body.”
There was a shocked silence, and then Nico began to shout and struggle through his gag. 
I looked at him, saying with my eyes ‘I know what I’m doing.’
He quieted immediately. 
“Deal,” she snarled.
I watched as pink light began to curl off my body like steam. 
This was my chance, all of my power at once. 
I snapped my hands up my palms level with the councils faces, the light blared at them. 
Everyone but Styx looked away from the light, blinded, falling into a heavy sleep. 
Styx however was determined to stay awake. 
She glared at me, “You broke your oath!” 
“No I didn’t!” I yelled back at her, “I never said I wouldn’t have one last hoorah!” 
She struggled to keep her eyes open. 
The last curls of my divinity curled from my finger tips, collecting in a pink sphere of light in between Styx and I. 
“Fine!” she spat, “Fine! Fine! Fine!”
She leaned forward drunkenly. 
“If you have a loophole, than so do I! If you want the underworld than have it!” she screamed. 
The ground began to shake and split open. Stalactites began to fall from above I dodged, avoiding being impaled. I was expected things to go into slow motion like usual, but nothing happened. Instead I watched as the underworld crumbled around me. 
Suddenly there was a new light blazing bright then the pink sphere of my immortal essence. 
Styx was cracking, little hairlines cracks cut through her oily body, brilliant white light pouring from them. 
“No! No!” she cried, watching herself fall apart. 
“You swore on your immortality no loopholes, I didn’t!” I yelled at her victoriously. 
She whipped her head up, and light exploded around her. 
I though it was over, all the other were fast asleep and Styx was mostly like vaporized. 
But the light faded and she still remained, “Neither you or I are immortal anymore! Finally, a fair fight!” 
She grabbed a staff from behind her throne and pulled off her hood revealing hollow socket eyes and greasy black hair. 
She jumped from the stadium, onto the dirt in front of me. 
She began to stalk forward. 
“Fair fight?” I challenged, “I don’t have a weapon and you do!” 
She pointed shakily at the weapons rack that had been left from my duel with Palioxis. 
I sprinted as fast as I could towards it. 
Styx chased me with incredible speed for someone more than 3000 years old. 
I closed my fingers on the first weapon that was there, drawing a silver bow in front of me. 
I spun into a kneel and whispered a prayer under my breath, “Artemis, Apollo, you owe me from last year. Make it up now and bless me with a straight shot.”
Then I fired. 
A silver beam of light shot forward, veering slightly to the right, but correcting itself as if pushed back on course by the wind. 
It touched Styx in the middle of the forehead, but did not enter her skull. 
Instead she burst into the white light on the spot. 
I closed my eyes, breathing deeply, curling onto the ground assuming I was safe. 
I didn’t notice the other Rivers waking.

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