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Traitor of Death

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“Fall back!” Zhang boomed, lowering his spear and relaxing as the last monster fell to dust.

               Reyna relaxed and removed her helmet as her legion retreated slowly, leaving she and Frank Zhang standing side by side just across the Little Tiber. “Did that attack look organized to you?” Reyna squinted as the wind scattered the ashes of the huge mass of monsters that had attacked New Rome minutes before. “They came in waves, like they were trying to overwhelm us.”

               Zhang shook his head, he had grown in confidence and size since the last war he had fought the previous year, and with Reyna’s guidance, he had blossomed as a leader as well. “The problem we have is that those monsters acted like, well, monsters. Sometimes they take on patterns like that accidentally. It’s hard to tell with them.”

               Reyna nodded. “Monsters are bloodthirsty and selfish, they attack demigods as feverishly as Percy attacks food. They’re never organized, but that formation was just too precise to be accidental.”

               Zhang turned to Reyna uncertainly. “What should we do? Monster attacks in general have nearly tripled in the last month. I mean, I understand the Hunters and company are still trying to round them all up, but this is almost ridiculous. Not to mention these mass attacks are starting to resemble organized strategy. This is going to be problematic soon.”

               The two children of war stood facing the battleground, meditating upon the strategy of the enemy, as they always did after a battle such as this. Reyna spoke again, trying to reassure Zhang. “I think we can handle this, but we need to act. Our legionnaires are getting demoralized, I’d say three more battles like this and we’ll have protesting on our hands.”

               Zhang nodded. “Let’s go back to camp, I want to map out that battlefield.”

               Reyna rather liked that about Frank Zhang; he was just as interested in the enemy’s strategy as his own, something Reyna struggled to get Octavian and Jason to understand. “Once we map that out maybe it will give us some sort of insight into their patterns.”

               Zhang removed his helmet and turned to Reyna, he was no longer a boy built like an ox with the face of a child; he was a man that truly gave Reyna difficulty in sparring, a feat not many can claim. They calmly made their way back to the Praetors’ quarters, a small cabin-like building, one wing Reyna resided in and the other Zhang inhabited. There was a room they used as a joint office in the center of the house. It had no windows, in fact it rather resembled the White House Crisis Room.

               Reyna took a seat before a scattering of papers while Zhang rolled a large dry erase white board to the front of the room and drew two lines, labelling them the Little Tiber. Zhang then drew a series of circles, arrows, and X’s on their side of the river. “So this is us, how I directed the army, this is to combat these Monster Maneuvers.”

               Reyna smirked. “Is the alliteration necessary?”

               “Accidental, but I think I’ll keep it.” Zhang smiled. “Anyway, this is the main force, meeting us head on down the middle, not a surprising move seeing as that is where the majority of our forces were located. I had the second cohort, as it’s mostly Mars kids move around back and pressure them, but the monsters retaliated by scattering their lines and creating an almost Greek style with the phalanx. But a more monster like way, they didn’t lock shields, but they had the more impervious monsters towards the front and the longer range monsters towards the middle, attacking over the heads of its fellows. You’re right, Reyna, this is way too organized to be just some monster surge.” Zhang stepped back to observe his drawing.

               Reyna sat back and sighed. “This is not good. Monsters don’t just organize you know? Like in the Titan and Giant war, the monsters organized together under some leader.”

               Zhang stared at her. “Are you saying someone is purposefully attacking New Rome?”

               Reyna sighed again, rubbing her temples. “It’s the only logical explanation, Frank. I think the best thing we can do is to talk to the Greeks, see if they’re having similar problems.”

               Zhang nodded and walked over to the other side of the table. “We need to talk to the Senate of course.”

               “I don’t think we should just consult with the Greeks. I think we should talk to their Oracle, uh, Rachel Dare right?”

               “Rachel Elizabeth Dare, I don’t suggest making that mistake around her, she’ll skin you alive.”

               “She didn’t seem that hostile to me.” Reyna smiled.

               Zhang shrugged and picked up one of the papers. “So you think we should actually consult the Greek oracle about this?”

               “I want to go personally, I think you can handle camp alone for a few days while I go to Camp Half Blood, consult with Chiron, Dare, and Jason. I could take a small group of Probatios and make a quest out of it, see about getting some of those Probatios we have sitting around up to legionnaire status. With these monsters surging the way they are we’re going to need every able body we’ve got.” Reyna crossed her arms. “How many casualties have we had in the last few weeks?”

               Zhang consulted the paper he was holding. “Uh, not many apparently, and none today.”

               Reyna scrunched her eyebrows together. “That’s strange. Here, take a look at this report from one of our guards.” She picked up another paper towards her left. “It says, ‘Three Gorgons dispatched with four arrows, one Gorgon screamed as he disintegrated ‘Cursed shall be the Traitor of Death.’ Neither guard understood the meaning of the statement.’”

               Zhang stared for a moment. “Traitor of Death?”

               “I don’t make sense of it. That’s why I want to consult with Dare, maybe she knows something about the Traitor of Death.”

               Zhang nodded. “Okay, you’ve convinced me. This makes no sense and I think we’re going to need all of the help we can get. You want to lead this quest?”

               Reyna nodded. “I want to be there, I’d send others off, but I don’t want some legionnaire going off and finding out something sensitive and spreading it around. Besides, if we have a traitor among us… I don’t want to risk anyone other than you or me, or perhaps even Hazel Levesque, going off on this quest.”

               “Speaking of Hazel, this Traitor of Death, perhaps it’s someone who has escaped Death? Hazel was dead for nearly sixty years before her brother, Nico, brought her out of the Fields of Asphodel. She quite literally escaped Death. Perhaps she’s the Traitor of Death? You know, betraying Thanatos by leaving the Underworld.” Zhang proposed.

               Reyna leaned forward. “That’s a possibility, Frank. Since it’s a possibility, I suggest you prepare yourself, should something happen, if these monsters are after her… New Rome may have to make some sacrifices.”

               For a moment Zhang looked thunderously angry. “No-“ He stopped himself. “I don’t-“

               Reyna laid a hand on his clenched fist. “It would be a last resort of course, but like you said, it’s a possibility. I just want you to be prepared for the worst, but hope for the best, you know? Maybe we’re taking this too literally, I don’t know. This is a situation that truly calls for Oracle consultation, since we’ve lost our only Augur.” Honestly, Reyna wasn’t too heartbroken over the death of Octavian, he had made her life truly difficult, but at the same time, his sight was true and right about now they needed that.

               Zhang calmed almost immediately, though he was obviously still shaken. “I’m sorry, it’s just when it comes to Hazel I’m going to have to forfeit my say in the decisions. I’ll be emotionally compromised.”

               Reyna smiled sympathetically. “I understand.”

               Zhang sighed yet again, rubbing his temples. “Well, that’s one step down, we know what needs to be done, but the trick lies in getting the Senate to back us.”

               Reyna rolled her eyes. “I think they’ll be okay with it, though hesitant about letting one of their Praetors go at such a dangerous time.”

               “Especially you, look, I know I’m capable, you do too. But the Senate still sees me as that baby-faced Frank Zhang who couldn’t manage to hold a sword properly, let alone lead an army alone. They’ll be hesitant to let one of us go, but they’ll be downright protestant at letting you go off. Gods, would they let you go with Probatios no less!” Zhang set his head in his hands.

               “Relax about what they might say and focus on what we’ll say.” Reyna reassured. “Tackle each problem one at a time.”

               Zhang smiled. “Gee, Reyna, how did you manage running this place alone for so long?”

               Reyna chuckled, though internally she winced a bit. “I had a lot of migraine medication and some really good anxiety coping skills.”

               Zhang laughed. “Okay, should we call the meeting soon or…?”

               “We call it tomorrow. Take tonight to rest and plan, I’ll talk to Camp Half Blood tonight.” Reyna sighed. “Traitor of Death, that’s going to eat at me. I think we should keep all of this between the two of us. We’ll keep as much as we can from the Senate. I’ve got a feeling that this case is going to be sensitive.”

               “Anytime there’s a traitor of any sort involved it’s a sensitive case. I guess we should come clean right here, I haven’t been betraying anybody, how about you?”

               Reyna chuckled. “No, I haven’t been doing anything of the sort.”

               Zhang smirked a little and looked back towards his papers. “Tomorrow then, we get the approval of the Senate. When do you plan to leave?”

               Reyna sat back. Preferably tomorrow, but I’ll have to wait until the day after tomorrow. I’ll need to choose my Probatios. I think I’ll have another Legionnaire as well, it always helps to have a veteran train them. I think Grayson Marx would make a good partner. He’s a level headed Son of Apollo, incredible with a bow and arrow, strong, and sets the younger kids at ease. I’m caught between a few long time Probatios and a couple of unclaimed new ones. I want them young, get them into Legionnaire status as soon as possible so they can start training with their cohorts in full.”

               Zhang nodded. “While you’re gone I’ll take on getting whatever Probatios are left promoted. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of time in the sparring ring.”

               Reyna smiled. “You sound almost disappointed, Frank, I take it you don’t quite like your father’s field?”

               Zhang shook his head. “It’s not that, I’ve just never been truly comfortable in my own skin you know?”

               Reyna smiled. “Everybody feels that way, trust me.”

               “You don’t seem to.” Zhang grumbled. “Anyway, I’ll be working on individual fighting, and then I’ll see about getting the Centurions together to train them in some basic maneuvers.”

               “Good, don’t forget about War Games day after tomorrow, I’ll be gone by then, but I think you can handle it after that legendary win of yours.” Reyna winked, smirking at Zhang.

               He blushed a bit. “I- uh, I still can’t quite believe that that was me.”

               Reyna rolled her eyes but smiled none the less. “You’re so modest.”

 

               “Of all the times for a Praetor to leave!” One of the Senators yelled out at Reyna and Zhang. Reyna stood to pace the floor, if there was anything Octavian taught her it’s how to ensnare the simple minded with her words.

               “If I stay, we entrust the fate of New Rome in the hands of much less qualified demigods, and we do not have the bodies to spare to send a stronger group.” She turned to face the other side of the room. “With the attacks getting stronger by the hour, we will need every able body just to hold our ground! I will not allow Rome to fall, we must advance, and we can only do so if we keep our quests small and meaningful. The Greek Oracle may have some information regarding this new insurgence of monster force. In fact, it is to our knowledge that the Greeks face a similar trend in battles. We must unite to find the source and put an end to the insult on our Roman power. I must go to Camp Half Blood and consult with the leaders there, where we will gauge the next best move for both Rome and Greece.”

               “And you expect this Zhang kid to hold his own here in New Rome?”

               Reyna tilted her head dangerously. “This Zhang kid, helped to defeat Gaea. This Zhang kid is the son of Mars, and if you believe it is not a war that we are facing, then you must be fooling yourself. Zhang and I are children of war and it is war we know best. Victory cannot be had if the Senate impedes our decisions. Zhang and I agree that this is a critical and necessary action.”

               Zhang stood, his tall frame towering over Reyna herself by nearly a foot. “All those in favor,” He boomed, his voice rolled through the Senate meeting and Reyna could tell before the first hands began to rise that they had won.

               Reyna walked through the barracks, donning full armor and purple toga. As she passed by each dorm her legionnaires saluted and stood at attention. She reached the back of the barracks to find a few Probatios milling about, teasing and pushing each other. Upon seeing their Praetor staring at them they scrambled to stand at attention.

               Reyna pointed at three of the Probatios, two boys and a girl. “Miles, Nando, and Len, get your things together. Tomorrow you three, Grayson, and I are going on a quest to Camp Half Blood. I expect the three of you ready by breakfast tomorrow morning.”

               Len, a short girl of about thirteen, looked to be Native American, she looked at Reyna levelly. “Yes, Praetor.” She was the only one capable of responding, the other two were too intimidated.

               “This is your chance to prove yourselves worthy of the Great Roman Legion. I hope to bring all three of you back as members of the fourth cohort rather than three Probatios.” Reyna warned. “Now, get some sleep tonight, tomorrow may be more dangerous than the average quest. We will be flying, I trust all three of you know how to fly a Pegasus?”

               “Yes, Praetor.” The three of them answered in unison.

               Reyna nodded. “Have any of you been claimed?”

               Nando hesitantly raised his hand. “Venus,”

               Reyna nodded. “Very well. I’ll be seeing the three of you tomorrow.” She turned around and marched off to find Grayson Marx. “Marx!” She called out, once she found the tall, broad, blonde boy horsing around with a few of his siblings.

               Grayson whipped around and fixed her with a bright, charming smile like the sun god himself. “Praetor!” He greeted.

               “I’m leading a quest out of New Rome tomorrow to Camp Half Blood. I’m bringing three Probatios from your cohort. I want you along as well, I want to challenge them a little, get them promoted to legionnaire soon.” Reyna briefed him quickly. “Have your things ready by tomorrow’s breakfast.”

               “Yes, ma’am.” He grinned. “I’ll be there.”

               Reyna nodded and turned away, sweeping off to her quarters to pack her own things. She nodded to Frank Zhang, as he was just leaving their quarters as she entered.

               Upon entering her sparsely decorated flat she sighed. Removing her armor and sword, setting them on their designated table near the door. She kicked off her sandals and untied her toga, changing into a pair of pajama pants and a purple Camp Jupiter t-shirt. She stretched her back and unbraided her hair, letting it fall down to her mid back in gentle waves.

               She grabbed her newest questing backpack, she had to replace her old one after that last stint with Nico di Angelo and Gleeson Hedge, and opened to find an old, crushed package of ambrosia, which, while unsavory looking, would still perform its duty. She left the package inside, instead opting to add a fresh package to its company. She added a pair of jeans and another t-shirt, an extra pair of boots, and one of her lesser favored daggers. She threw a water bottle and some crackers in for good measure. She also brought out a tent she had been given by one of the Hunters of Artemis. That girl was dead now, but her gifts had been useful and would remain so.

               She dug through her dresser to find her cloak, made impervious with the blessing of Athena. She cherished the cloak, not out of overwhelming respect for the Goddess she risked her life to appease, but for sentimental value, as it had also been key in her single-handed defeat of the Giant Orion. Of course, thinking about him brought unwelcome memories of her sister and following that train of thought right back to her father she simply felt uncomfortable. But of course, she had to deal with it. The cloak was incredibly useful, it had saved her life more than once, and she hoped it would continue doing just that.

               She paced her flat distractedly. She wasn’t sure how long they’d be gone. In a perfect world they’d be back within three days. However, she knew her luck had never been so merciful, and she was positive she’d run into trouble on her way. She just prayed that her Probatios could handle the peril. Though she supposed if they wanted to survive their time in the Legion they would need to learn to.

               She was risking a lot with this quest, though she’d had worse, Reyna could only pray she and Grayson would be able to handle anything too overwhelming.

               Finally with grunt of frustration and copious grumbling, she switched off her lights and curled up in bed. Though her dreams only echoed her worries.

               She heard the yelp of Nando and Miles long before she saw them rushing back. “Praetor,” Miles gasped. “It’s a- well it’s something. Not sure what it is.”

               The figure stepped forward between a break in the trees, and Reyna’s vision blurred until she stood before Nico di Angelo in an unknown place.

               “Hey, Reyna, sorry to bother you and all, in this whole dream thing.” Nico had the decency to look sheepish. “Anyway, there’s been a lot of monster attacks around here. Piper told me you were planning on coming to camp. I thought I’d warn you since Jason’s been basically stranded here. Monsters have been patrolling the perimeter, so you’ll need to come in either by air or underwater. Walking into camp is probably the worst idea.”

               Reyna nodded. “Thank you Nico. I’m not coming with some of the most experienced demigods, but I think we’ll be able to handle it. We’re coming in via Pegasi, so have your archers searching for us. I’d appreciate if we weren’t shot out of the sky.”

Chapter Text

An arrow whizzed past Reyna’s face, just as Guido, her Pegasus, lurched to the side to avoid another two arrows. Reyna shifted to look back at Grayson, who was struggling to stop the venti that were attacking them with volley after volley of arrows.

               “Cease fire!” Reyna boomed as another one of the arrows clipped her cheek. Grayson looked towards his Praetor and paled as a dozen of his own arrows fired back at him at once. In swooped Len, sword slashing. The arrows broke off and missed Grayson, and the venti allowed them to fall as the arrows were now useless.

               Len turned towards Reyna, awaiting orders. Reyna could see Nando and Miles a few yards to the side struggling to remain on their Pegasi. A venti blew a torrent of air straight at Guido, pushing him down rather than up. He lurched back into the sky, struggling against their strength.

               “We need to land!” Reyna shouted over the wind to Grayson and Len. Len nodded and forced her way over to Miles and Nando, spreading the message. It had been nearly eight hours and that girl had already about proven herself to Reyna that she was worthy of promotion. However, she had to allow Grayson to decide that. Reyna led the descent, and as she suspected, the venti did not follow.

               Their Pegasi were happy to touch down. Miles spoke up this time. “I’d say we’re somewhere in Kansas. My aunt used to live there, absolutely nothing to do there.”

               Reyna nodded and dismounted Guido, leading him over to a patch of grass for him to snack on. “We need to scout out some water for the Pegasi. Grayson, take Miles off and see if you can find that stream I saw in the air. It should be around due south.” Reyna pointed the direction. “Len, Nando, and I will see to the Pegasi as best we can and set up camp. We might as well stop here for the night.”

               Reyna stretched a little as Grayson nocked an arrow and nodded for Miles to follow him, sword at the ready. Nando moved to their Pegasi, leading them to where Guido stood grazing. Len set about clearing the meadow of debris from their fall. Reyna dug through her backpack, bringing out the small square of a tent. “It only sleeps four, so we’ll be a little crowded, but I’m sure we’ll be fine.” Reyna spoke to the two. Nando seemed almost shocked at the friendly small talk coming from their Praetor, Reyna supposed he was still a little intimidated by her status.

               Len shrugged, she didn’t seem nearly as intimidated as Nando, but she was at least polite. “If one of us sets up guard at all points during the night, then it would fit us comfortably, we’d have to rotate beds, but it would work out.”

               Reyna nodded. “Then we’ll do just that.”

               Len was surprised, Reyna supposed the Probatios weren’t used to being taken seriously. But if she were to build a strong army, everyone’s voice must be heard. After Len had finished clearing a large enough space, Reyna tossed the square onto the ground. It popped up into a tent resembling that of the Hunters of Artemis, bringing Reyna back to remember Thalia Grace and her fallen Hunters, and of course Hylla. She wondered how Hylla was doing, her Amazons had been wiped out, she hoped that she still had something to go back home to after that disaster in Viejo San Juan. But she supposed she shouldn’t worry about her sister, if there was anyone who could take care of herself it was Hylla Ramirez-Arellano.

               Someone was talking, Reyna brought herself out of her memories to recognize Grayson briefing her on what they found. “It looks like a mortal farm or something, but yeah, there’s some water that way that the Pegasi can use.”

               Reyna nodded. “We’ll take the Pegasi down that way, Len, Nando, stand guard here.” She ordered, patting Guido’s mane and leading Len’s own Pegasus as well. Grayson took charge of his and Nando’s and Miles remained, struggling to gain his Pegasus’ trust.

               They reached the stream and the five Pegasi tromped and whinnied a bit, playing in the water. “I suppose they still have energy to waste.” Reyna smiled, cocking an eyebrow as Guido whinnied at her, as if to say ‘No, no, I’m tired, no need to keep flying.’ Reyna chuckled and turned back. “We should get to camp before something happens that Len and Nando can’t handle.”

               Grayson nodded. “We’ve got some daylight left, maybe I can squeeze in a small swordplay lesson, no?”

               Reyna regarded him, his blonde hair was still disheveled from the difficult flight, but his smile was still the same. She allowed him the freedom and they walked back to camp. Nando and Miles began sparring with Grayson, though they still seemed clumsy with their swords. Grayson took them both on simultaneously, dancing in and out of each attack, dodging when he can, blocking when he had to.

               Reyna regarded Len as she watched, almost bored. “You don’t seem interested at all in sparring.”

               Len shrugged. “Fighting’s always come easily to me.”

               Reyna cocked an eyebrow. “Then spar me.”

               Len regarded the daughter of war and nodded, unsheathing her own sword. The two circled each other before the fight began. Len’s sword flashed out, Reyna had not been expecting it and just barely blocked, narrowly avoiding disembowelment.

               Reyna immediately changed her tactics, Len was not a clumsy, awkward Probatio without any previous experience. She had some idea of what she was doing. Len’s sword flashed again, and again, aiming first for her face and then swinging down to Reyna’s knee. Reyna caught her feint in time to block her sword both times, this time, she took the offensive. She blocked the blow to her knee with as much force as she could muster, sending Len’s arm and sword back enough to open her to attack. Reyna twisted and lunged, but Len was not only fast but flexible. She twisted herself as the right half of her body recovered from the previous blow, her left side moved to avoid Reyna’s blow. Reyna twisted again, sending her sword back up towards Len’s face.

               Len had recovered by then and parried Reyna almost easily. The two separated and regarded each other, both dropped into similar defensive stances. Reyna noticed however that Len’s feet were too linear, a mistake that could be fatal in an actual duel.

               She lunged out at Len’s face again, anticipating the parry to the left, she used the momentum her sword and arm were forced into to swing about, dropping to the ground and sweeping Len’s legs. The girl landed on her back with a grunt, but still managed to recover in enough time to block Reyna’s downward blow towards her throat. Len twisted her arm, sending Reyna’s blade tip first into the ground inches from her throat, and jabbed at Reyna’s shin. Reyna jumped back to avoid the blow, and gave Len just enough space to regain her footing.

               Their swords clashed again with a crash. Len was pushed back more, Reyna had four years and a solid twenty pounds on the younger girl, so there was enough in brute force to make a difference. Reyna glanced back at Len’s footing to find the mistake fixed. She cursed herself a little at allowing the girl the space and time to recover, that maneuver should have taken her down for good, but she supposed that she had been underestimating her the entire fight.

               She smirked a bit, since Len seemed to be relatively evenly matched for her age, size, and experience, she might as well push the girl to her limits. She maneuvered out of another attack to her shoulder and willed her sword into a pilum.

               Len was surprised for only a second before she backed off considerably, waiting for Reyna’s attack. Reyna knew this tactic. Back off until a pattern of attack could be established and countered. A surprisingly sophisticated tactic for someone so young and inexperienced. But she supposed the girl had never faced a pilum before. She took on an entirely new stance, a pilum was not the same as a sword after all.

               She lashed out at Len’s chest, the girl moved to the side trying to check the pilum and missing. A second time Reyna lashed for her face. Len parried the attack just enough for the pilum shaft to pass by her face and gaining an idea, Reyna could see the idea bloom in her eyes and suddenly found her mistake. Reyna was just out of reach for Len’s sword, but her pilum shaft now sat over Len’s left shoulder. As fast as she could, but not fast enough she retracted her pilum, but Len had already wrapped her arm around the shaft and yanked, Reyna lost her balance for only a second, now they were in range and Len’s sword flashed towards Reyna. Reyna ducked beneath her pilum shaft and used it to block the sword coming for her, she sent a side kick to Len’s ribs, doubling her over and forcing her to release the pilum.

               Reyna willed it back to a sword and knocked Len with her shoulder, the girl was knocked clean off of her feet and back flat onto her back. This time Reyna did not allow her to block her sword, she stepped on her right wrist and levelled her blade at Len’s throat. Checkmate.

               Both girls were panting and sweating by the time the fight had ended. Reyna noticed the silence of the area around them and glanced over to find all three of the boys staring in shock at the fight. Reyna sheathed her sword and helped Len up. The girl sheathed her own sword wiped the sweat from her forehead. Reyna cracked a smile and patted Len’s shoulder. “Where in Hades did you learn that?”

               Len for the first time actually smiled. “I told you, fighting comes naturally.”

               As she finished her sentence a light caught Reyna’s eye and she glanced up above Len’s head. The torch and spear emblem of Bellona shined brightly. Reyna had to keep back a smirk. “That much was just a little obvious.”

               Len looked up, her smile fading back to her usual blank expression. “That solves that mystery.”

               Grayson laughed. “So you two are like, sisters?”

               Both girls shrugged. “I suppose.” Reyna answered carefully. “Anyway, it’s getting dark, we should finish setting up camp and set up a guard. Miles, Nando, Len, gather kindling and dry wood for a fire, Grayson, actually set up the fire, show the Probatios how. I’m going to go check on the Pegasi, make sure they’re not getting into trouble. Knowing Guido,” She grumbled a bit to herself as she slinked off to the stream, taking a few water bottles lying around with her to fill up.

               When she returned night had settled. She passed back the water bottles she had filled and assured them that the Pegasi were in fact causing trouble, but not too much trouble. Nando and Miles every so often would get up to gather more wood as they sat around the fire, cooking some of the provisions Grayson had had the idea to bring. Nando and Grayson took to being the personalities of the group, entertaining them with stories and jokes. Miles would join in when he had the chance, but he generally allowed the other two to take over conversation. Len was as quiet as ever, and Reyna sat thinking, her mind drifted back to San Juan and her latest adventure there. As if she hadn’t had enough bad experiences there.

               She mentally shook her mind, she couldn’t dwell on the past anymore. But this Traitor of Death, she didn’t know what to make of it. Who was this person? Why were they a traitor and who were they betraying? How did this involve New Rome and Camp-

               Reyna heard Nando and Miles yelp before she saw them rushing forward. She stood and unsheathed her sword in seconds, Grayson had an arrow nocked in the blink of an eye and Len remained crouched and prepared to leap into battle at the slightest provocation.

               “Praetor!” Miles reported, gasping. “It was a- well, I don’t know what it was. It looked like a-“

               A figure appeared in the shadows, just outside the ring of firelight, between the trees. Boots clunked on the ground and Reyna could make out wings in the shadows. As it approached the firelight Reyna could make out more of the figure, it looked to be a female, but she gave the impression that she was much more powerful than any normal demigod. Finally, her body was bathed in firelight, the first thing Reyna noticed was her glistening, black wings.

               She had icy eyes that flashed harshly in the light, a straight nose and fine cocked eyebrows, she stood tall and straight as if she demanded to be feared. She wore black jeans and a black, death metal t-shirt, reminding Reyna vaguely of Nico di Angelo. She had a worn black leather jacket that she tucked a piece of cloth in one of the inside pockets, and tilted her head, seeming to notice the four swords aimed at her and an arrow ready to pierce her throat if she made any sudden movements.

               Reyna noticed as her dogs, Aurum and Argentum appeared from behind the tent, poised to attack. “Who are you and what is your purpose?” She spoke.

               The girl stepped forward, her wings ruffling a bit, moving as she moved. “Romans eh?” She smirked, challenging Reyna with her body language. “I take it that kid isn’t in charge.” She pointed at Miles.

               Reyna growled a bit. “Reyna, Praetor of New Rome. Who are you and what is your purpose?”

               The girl kept advancing, making no movements to attack, but her body language screamed at Reyna that she was trying to intimidate. “Reyna, Reyna, Reyna, Reyna,” She tasted the name on her tongue, smirk growing. “Ah, you have a sister don’t you? Queen of the Amazons, I believe. Hylla Twice-Kill no? You are Reyna Avila Ramirez-Arellano.” She looked pleased with herself. “Perfect, you’re just the Roman Praetor I’ve been looking for.”

               Reyna was taken aback, but refused to show this person that. “I repeat-“

               “Yeah, I heard you.” The girl rolled her eyes, spying the dogs. “Oh look, puppies.”

               Aurum growled. “They’re hardly just dogs. State your name and purpose.”

               “Oh, they’re lie detectors with teeth are they not?” She was truly pleased with herself now. “Well, I am Messoria, and I want to join your legion!” She flashed a smile, which quickly faltered as Aurum and Argentum snarled, advancing upon her. “Ah, okay, in fact, joining your little legion there is not my purpose, in fact I’d rather lobotomize myself with a rusty screwdriver.”

               Reyna called her dogs back. “Your purpose then.”

               “I wanted to get to know you.” The dogs snarled again. “Okay, not at all. Fine. My father is not happy with the Romans, I’ve been sent to investigate a theft.”

               Reyna’s dogs did not growl at this. She was finally telling the truth. “Theft?”

               Messoria gave an irritating, patronizing smile. “Ah, well dear Praetor, your legion has been avoiding death, and my father is very, very angry about this.”

               “Pluto has been sending those monsters?” Reyna questioned, surprised.

               Messoria laughed. “Oh no, my father is Thanatos. No, he has not been sending monsters, though if you’re having a monster problem you might want to do something about it. No, someone, a Roman, has stolen five hundred of my sibling’s invisibility capes. Not to mention Thanatos himself seems to be missing his own cape. It’s been causing some real issues in the mortal world. We can’t round up all those souls and keep them in the underworld if they can see us coming and hide from us.” She smiled and approached Reyna. “You are our prime suspect dear Praetor.”

               Reyna stared at Messoria. “I’ve done no such thing.”

               Messoria smirked. “Hm, it seems your dogs haven’t growled at that. Though I can’t trust them. Praetor, I’ve been ordered to investigate this theft. If you refuse, send me off, kill me, or the like, well. Expect much worse than monsters and death at your precious New Rome.”

               Reyna glared. “Put down your weapons.” Immediately, Grayson, Miles, and Nando put their weapons down. Len reluctantly lowered her own sword after another few seconds. “You must investigate me? Very well. Do not expect to find anything.”

               Messoria cracked a smile. “Well, dear Praetor, we’ll see about that.”

               Reyna took first guard and set up a rotation, Grayson would guard next, then Nando, Len, and finally Miles. Messoria did not speak up as they set about sleeping. But Reyna found herself sitting across the fire from her for the first two hour shift.

               “Too nervous to sleep?” Reyna quipped, hoping to irritate the winged girl before her.

               Messoria snickered. “Not at all. I just function better at night. Travelling with you tomorrow will probably give me a world of pain, but hey, I’m nocturnal and you’re not. One of us is going to suffer.”

               Reyna grunted. “So you’re some sort of demigod?”

               Messoria almost took offense. “No! Gods no!” She smiled a white smile across the fire. “I’m a Reaper. Similar to a demigod as we’re the product of Thanatos and various mortals, though some of my more powerful brothers and sisters have demigod mothers, we don’t have the same power. We’re much more powerful than that. Thanatos, as you know is a primordial god. He’s less a controlling power and more a state of being. So his children tend to have a lot more power than a normal demigod. For example, I can kill on contact. I can literally poke you and you would drop dead. Gods it’s the worst when the little kids find out they can do that and they don’t know how to control it. It’s a real pain. And of course, we have wings, I think that automatically makes us superior to demigods don’t you think?”

               Reyna fixed her with a level stare. “I guess that means you don’t need a Pegasus.”

               Messoria laughed. “You’re pretty serious for a seventeen year old kid.” She gave a lopsided smile. “But yes, I don’t need a Pegasus. Where are we going anyway?”

               Reyna hesitated. “Camp Half Blood, as I’ve said, there’s been an increase in monster attacks and we’re hoping to get some answers.”

               Messoria nodded. “There’s more to that, but I’ll let it go for now.”

               Reyna fixed her with another glare. “Are you always this agitating?”

               “Actually, yes. Most of my siblings positively abhor me.”

               Reyna nodded. “What does a Reaper do exactly?”

               Messoria shrugged. “Mostly we do Thanatos’ bidding. We round up souls as they die throughout the world, guide them to the underworld. Keep souls from leaving the underworld as best we can. That’s why we need those capes. When souls are invisible they can escape through the doors of death without our knowledge. Your legion has had very few casualties in the last month or so correct? That’s because your legionnaires have these capes and are escaping the underworld when they die.” Messoria sent an agitating smile Reyna’s way. “Being the Praetor, you wouldn’t want high casualties would you? The more blades you have the more powerful you can become, no? We’re thinking you stole the capes in hopes of gaining power.”

               “I didn’t steal anything.” Reyna spat. “I can’t help you.”

               “Ah, well, that’s too bad. I’m going to have to follow you around anyway until I can tell my father for sure that you aren’t the one who stole them.”

Chapter Text

Reyna spat blood. “Gah! Len, move around to their flank! Grayson fall back and shoot!” Reyna commanded, sword prepared to take down the gorgon attacking her. “Miles, Nando, hold center. Messoria!”

Messoria glanced down from a spot in one of the trees. “No, no, I’m just here to do my own thing. I’m not involved. Pretend I’m not here!”

“If you don’t help us, you’ll never find out if I stole the capes!” Reyna shouted. “I know you’re much more powerful than these pathetic monsters. Now get down here!”

Messoria rolled her eyes and stepped down, landing between Reyna and the gorgon. Her wings flashed up and the gorgon stumbled backwards. In her hands a staff of black iron formed with the flick of her wrist. She sent it upwards, catching the gorgon in the jaw and sending it backwards into its fellows before it disintegrated.

Reyna watched in shock as she whipped around to face two more gorgons, in a second they had disintegrated. “Cursed shall be the Traitor of Death!” One of the gorgons screamed as one of Grayson’s arrows pierced its throat. Reyna pitched forward, taking on another gorgon herself.

It took several minutes, but they had finally finished off the group of monsters. Reducing them to a huge pile of ashes. Messoria’s staff disappeared and she fixed Reyna with a disapproving glare. “Don’t expect that every time you guys run into a problem. I’m just here to observe.”

Reyna rolled her eyes and shrugged with one shoulder, moving her jaw around to stretch it out. “I could care less. If you’re going to follow us around you’re going to chip in when we need it. Think of it as compensation for us having to put up with you.”

“Where are we anyway?” Messoria questioned, looking around. They had landed in some suburban neighborhood. “I hate the suburbs. Everything is so routine.”

Reyna looked to Grayson. “Did you see any signs while we descended?”

Miles spoke up. “We’re in New York. Camp Half Blood is only a few miles from here.”

Grayson clenched his bow. “Of course, our Pegasi spooked.”

Reyna groaned. “Camp Half Blood is surrounded by monsters, it’s too dangerous for a few Probatios to fight their way through. Nico told me to get us through via air or water.”

Messoria rolled her eyes. “Have you tried shadow travel?”

“Does it look like any of us can shadow travel?” Grayson snapped.

“If you had those invisibility capes you’d get in fine. Any comment Praetor?”

Reyna glared. “You can shadow travel?”

“One of my many skills.” Messoria boasted with a smirk.

“Great, you can get us in.” Nando grumbled.

“Ah,” Messoria laughed. “I can’t, you see, technically, I’m a monster. I can’t get within Camp Half Blood’s perimeter unless I’m invited.”

Reyna could feel the migraine coming. “Grayson, Iris Message Piper McLean, tell her to invite Messoria, Daughter of Thanatos, into Camp Half Blood’s perimeter. Tell her our Pegasi spooked and we’ll be coming in via shadow travel.” Grayson nodded, sent Messoria a filthy look, and stalked off towards one of the houses, turning on a hose.

Reyna glared at Messoria. “You are possibly the worst thing to happen to us on this quest.”

Messoria smirked. “I’m feeling the appreciation for that awesome gorgon victory right about now.”

Len growled. “Can I run her through?”

Messoria laughed and walked away, taking off into the sky. “Don’t worry Reyna, I’ll scout out the area for you.” She taunted.

 

They appeared before the Big House, where Piper, Jason, and Nico awaited their arrival. Nico was the first to greet Reyna with a hug, something that still caught her off guard. Nico had really come out of his shell in the last year. Jason came second, and finally Piper greeted her as an old friend. Reyna could tell that Jason still shifted uncomfortably when the two girls greeted each other.

Reyna introduced her group, and finally she came to Messoria. “And this is Messoria.” She couldn’t help but to glare at her yet again.

“Hey, I’ve done much more for you than I should have, you should stop the glaring and thank me.” Messoria scoffed.

“You are absolutely insufferable.”

“Oh you hurt me so.”

“Anyway, there’s some things I need to discuss with Dare.”

“So I’ve heard.” Rachel Elizabeth Dare came forward from behind, obviously having come down from her cave. She walked beside Chiron, who greeted Reyna warmly and diplomatically. He immediately brought his eyes to Messoria.

“A Reaper?” He looked greatly concerned.

“You don’t happen to have any invisibility capes do you?” Messoria smirked.

“No I don’t believe I do-“

“Ignore her.” Reyna glared once more at Messoria. “She has business with the Romans and should keep her mouth shut from now on.” She added as warning to the Reaper herself.

Dare smiled and shook Reyna’s hand. “So you have some important things to ask me about.”

Reyna glanced around. “We should keep this private. Grayson, Probatios, ready the Roman cabin for us to stay the night. I’ll return when our business is concluded.”

Grayson and the three Probatios saluted and trooped off. “Grayson huh?” Jason smirked.

“He’s part of their cohort, and is tasked with training Probatios anyway. Now, Rachel,” Reyna turned to Dare. “We need to find a private place to talk. This is a sensitive topic.”

Dare nodded and led them off to her cave. Piper and Jason held hands as they walked, something that used to bother Reyna, but nowadays she hardly noticed. Messoria kept pace, ignoring the glares Reyna sent her way. She offered them seats around a table and Dare sat at the head.

“Okay, so what did you need to ask?”

“My first question Nico actually answered earlier. You’ve been having surges in monster attacks as well, correct?” The Greeks around the table nodded grimly. “Have any of the monsters been acting weirdly?”

Nico nodded. “They’re organized, it’s starting to get unnerving.”

“Do any of you know anything about the Traitor of Death?”

Messoria beside her stiffened. “Traitor of Death. That definitely sounds like my business, Praetor.”

Nico watched her carefully. “I have heard it during my visits to my father. But only grumblings, it’s an undertone kind of thing.”

Suddenly Dare slumped forward as green smoke plumed from her mouth. Her red hair made the green glow look even eerier. Her whole demeanor changed as she gave a prophecy:

Ancient evils threaten,

Recovered by Rome, and

Protected in destruction,

Freed, a risk Death shall take,

Will gain a power none can face,

The Traitor of Death doomed to loss,

Shall aid a new king to seize the throne,

And a new era shall dawn at the fall of a God.

 

The six witnesses stared as Dare recovered from her sudden psychosis. “First prophecy in months!” She gasped.

Reyna was visibly shaken. There was the Traitor of Death again. This time, a God shall fall.

Messoria paled. “That prophecy is about Thanatos isn’t it? At least, part of it.”

“Well there’s the answers to my questions.” Reyna mumbled sitting back. “I believe this calls for a quest. I, of course, volunteer myself and my questers.”

Nico nodded. “I’ll join in. If there’s something going on with Death I could give you guys an upper hand.”

“Well, I have orders to follow you around anyway.” Messoria bumped Reyna’s shoulder. “If it means helping my father I suppose it’s my duty to help you in any way I can.”

“Great, that’s two experts on the underworld alongside you.” Nico crossed his arms. “That’s way more than three people though.”

“Lately, the rule of three has been largely ignored in the questing.” Chiron sighed. “But I suppose this quest requires working together between the two camps.”

Reyna nodded. “We should have three Romans and three Greeks on this quest. At least we can preserve some semblance of the rule of three. I’ll go myself, along with Grayson and Len.”

“We should extend this to the rest of the Greeks.” Chiron suggested. “We insist you join us for a feast tonight, and then at the campfire we’ll ask for volunteers.”

The seven of them stood and filed from the cave, a grave cloud hanging over each head. Messoria replaced her scowl with a cocky smirk. “Well hey, at least I won’t be bored while I’m incriminating you.”

“I didn’t steal them!” Reyna growled whipping around to face Messoria.

“You think I should believe you?”

“Seeing as I’m telling the truth yes!”

“And how do I know that huh? You’re the most likely to have stolen them. My father will have me executed if I go back without those capes. You think I’ll risk my throat just because you’re annoyed?” Messoria flashed with anger. “This Traitor of Death is the person who stole those capes and I’m sure of it. We find the person who stole the capes and I’ll get off your back and perhaps you can stop those evils from being released!”

“You’ve been nothing but agitating the last two days, do you think I’ll be sympathetic to your cause? Leave me be!” Reyna snarled.

Piper, Jason, and Nico watched the argument like a tennis game. None of them knowing what to do about the two bickering girls.

Messoria rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll give you the next few hours to yourself. You could really use an attitude check.”

Reyna was personally offended. “You are truly insufferable.” But Messoria had already took to the air before Reyna could complain any further. Reyna turned to her three witnesses. “I hate her.”

“We can tell.” Piper smirked.

 

Reyna sat through the entirety of the campfire, putting up with the cheerful Apollo songs that Grayson so gallantly enjoyed himself with. She hadn’t seen Messoria at all since their spat outside Dare’s cave, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. Towards the end, Chiron stood. He told the Greeks surrounding him of the prophecy and their desperate need for three Greek volunteers.

“I formally volunteer!” Nico immediately spoke up, sending Reyna a charming smile. His smiling still caught her off guard, though the Greeks seemed to be used to it by now. She made a mental note to visit him more often. “It’ll be just like old times, no?”

“I volunteer as well!” A tall and handsome blonde boy stood, sending a shy smile to the Praetor. “I’m Will Solace, son of Apollo. Pleasure to quest with you.”

“Thank you, Solace.”

“Please, call me Will.” He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, glancing to Nico. Nico, on the other hand, looked pleasantly surprised, if not slightly embarrassed.

Finally, a tall, incredibly muscular girl stood from beneath the Ares banner. “I’ll go.” She smirked. “Clarisse,”

Reyna nodded. “Very well. We plan to leave the day after tomorrow. Be prepared.”

As the campers scattered back towards their respective cabins, Reyna and her team filed back and entered the newly built Roman cabin. Reyna knew for a fact that Annabeth had designed the architecture for it and she found that she absolutely adored it. The cabin had a high dome with tasteful arches. It felt like she was walking into a building in New Rome.

Along the walls lined two rows of bunk beds on either side of the room. The cabin was originally unused, as she and Zhang had yet to put together an exchange and internship program with Camp Half Blood, Grayson and the Probatios had made the room as livable as they could. Reyna set down on one of the lower bunks near the door. Her team had chosen bunks near the back of the cabin. Messoria crouched on one of the top bunks like some sort of vulture or crow, her black wings spread out, ready to take flight at any moment.

As her fellow Romans slowly made their ways into bed, Reyna noticed the Reaper switch from crouching to sitting on the top bunk, staring into space with such an intensity that she may have been hunting something.

“Oh, uh, Messoria.” Grayson spoke up before lights were turned out. “I thought I’d tip you off, but some of the Hermes kids have been boasting about their thievery. Maybe you should check up on them.”

“The Romans are the ones who have been cheating Death.” Messoria murmured, not taking her eyes off of the opposite wall.

“Perhaps the Roman equivalent then?”

“Why are you helping me?”

“The sooner you leave the better my life gets.” Grayson replied flippantly. “Never mind.”

The lights went out and the room fell into silence. Reyna’s dreams were fitful, though nothing of any use appeared in her own dreams. It was a terrifying mixture of past events, ranging from her father in San Juan to the gorgons just today.

 

The next day Miles was claimed by his mother, Ceres. The Demeter children swamped him and took up most of his time with growing and gardening, something he didn’t particularly mind. However, Reyna ordered him back to training after a few hours.

Grayson spent a lot of time with Will Solace, as the two were children of Apollo, they had a lot in common. Messoria, though she’d refuse to admit it, took up Grayson’s advice and followed the Stoll brothers around, though they seemed to rather like her. She was irritating and charismatic, something both boys rather admired in others.

Reyna walked with Piper and Nico as they planned out her quest. They’d need to decide what this prophecy meant and then take action. “It sounds like it’s just you Romans, Reyna,” Nico sighed glumly.

“Yes, but Death is the same for both of us.” Piper pointed out. “I think you need to be there Nico, it could be talking about either Thanatos or Hades.”

“I don’t know.” Nico shook his head. “What about these ancient evils being unleashed?”

“There’s too many evils in the world for me to distinguish which one we have to fight this time.” Reyna rubbed her temples.

“Evils in the world, what if it’s talking about Pandora’s box?” Piper perked up. “That was one of my favorite stories! Zeus ordered for a woman to be made to punish man, and then she ended up opening the jar carrying all of the world’s evils, plaguing mankind with horrors beyond imagine. Of course, she also released Hope.”

Reyna nodded. “That makes sense, but I don’t particularly want to recover a box full of evils with the prophecy talking about destruction and the falling of a God.”

“So, are you going to try and retrieve Pandora’s Box?” Piper asked.

“I suppose so.” Reyna sighed. “I have no idea where it would be though, or who’s seeking to take it. I think I have to defend it against someone who wants to open it, but I have no idea who will be after it. This Traitor of Death might know something. I’m not sure. This is a nightmare. There is nothing positive about this prophecy.”

“Maybe we should focus on Pandora’s Box.” Nico comforted. “Then we’ll move on from there.”

She nodded and ruffled his hair. Nico smiled and Reyna, for the first time, noticed his dimples, and how tall he had gotten. He wasn’t so skinny any more. He almost looked like he was gaining muscle. Nico was still as pale as ever, but the bags beneath his eyes had lessened a great deal. He looked happy. Or as happy as a kid who had gone through the things he did could look.

The three of them sighed and separated, Reyna leaving to find someone to spar. She ended up taking on a couple of Ares kids simultaneously. The end result was not pretty for them. She knew they were adapting their style to her Roman tactics, so she threw in a couple of moves that she saw Hylla pull on the pirate ship, catching them entirely off guard.

She hoped that the rest of the quest would go as smoothly. But she knew her hopes would most likely be in vain. Piper had warned her that Clarisse La Rue, while incredibly brave, talented, and strong, was also moody and harsh. Coupled with Messoria’s tendency to grate on everyone’s nerves, she was sure there would be internal strife in her team. Nico had informed her that Will was more of a battlefield medic than a warrior, which was good, because she had enough warriors on her team already. There were going to be injuries. She could guarantee that much.

Len was largely a mystery, though on the voyage thus far she had proven to be invaluable and resourceful. She could use that. Grayson as she had already known was loyal and capable, if not a little impulsive. She hoped that the two groups could mesh together. With three children of war, two kids straight out of the underworld and two sons of Apollo, she could only pray that they could pull together and work as a team.

Clarisse had been watching Reyna duel with her siblings with an intensity Reyna rarely saw in any Greek, usually they were laid back and calm, rather than harsh and strict. But after Reyna had taken them down, Clarisse approached her. “You’re leading this quest correct?”

Reyna stood upright again, prepared to match Clarisse in attitude, though the other girl was taller than Reyna by about three inches. “Yes, I am.”

Clarisse nodded. “I don’t like taking orders, not from Romans, but I respect you. Don’t think for a moment that I won’t question your calls.”

Reyna tilted her head. “By all means. Question them. If you can convince me that another plan of action is better, then I’ll change them. But my orders are final. Failure to comply could result in death. And not just your own death.”

Clarisse stared for another moment before she nodded. “Alright, Roman, I’ll play your game. But I do want to know what the point of this quest is.”

Reyna shook her head. “I’m not entirely positive, but Nico, Piper, and I are in good faith that we’re required to retrieve Pandora’s Box.”

“That can only result in trouble.”

Reyna cracked a smile. “I agree. But the prophecy isn’t clear about it. I think we’ll find answers in retrieving it and protecting it from the Traitor of Death, they seem to be trying to take down the gods. Specifically, either Thanatos or Pluto, Hades in your case.”

“Pandora’s Box, huh?” An aggravating voice sounded from nearby. Reyna turned to find Messoria strolling towards them. “That sounds like fun.”

Clarisse rolled her eyes. “She’s coming too?”

“She has business with the Romans, and she actually may be very useful.” Reyna explained, rubbing her temples.

“Hey, cheer up, soldiers. I’m happy to announce that I can help you with that. I happen to know where the box is generally located. But to get through there we’d have to run some errands first.” Messoria smirked. “And good news! The Roman who stole the invisibility capes is, in fact, not the Traitor of Death.”

The two daughters of war stared at the Reaper. “Explain.” Clarisse demanded.

“Well, you see, it doesn’t make much sense for a demigod to be the Traitor of Death. In order to be a traitor, you have to betray someone. You can’t betray someone you were never on the same side with, you know? Demigods don’t like death. You do everything you can not to die. So, how can a demigod, who doesn’t want to die, betray death?” Messoria explained. “So, that’s a good thing, but it does mean that once I find the thief, we still have to find the traitor.”

Reyna nodded. “That’s probably the least irritating thing you’ve said to me thus far.”

Messoria smirked. “Oh wait a few minutes, I’m sure that’ll change.”

Chapter Text

Reyna sat on one of the hills overlooking the water. She liked the way the sunset shimmered on the water, she had a little while before curfew, and she figured she’d get some time alone. Today had been a difficult day, pulling together a team, preparing for a dangerous mission, and struggling to understand a prophecy that made little sense took a lot of energy from her. But it kept her mind off of what today was, the day she had killed her own father.

               Nico had told her that she hadn’t really killed her father, and that it was just a shade of what he used to be. But it felt like him. It felt like him.

               She felt a presence sit down beside her. Reyna glanced to the side to find Messoria sitting there, content, for once not bothering her and she lacked that aggravating smirk. Reyna was suddenly struck with the feeling that perhaps that smirk wasn’t the real Messoria. Just like how she was hardly a hardened leader and soldier, Reyna was secretly a scared little girl.

               “You look,” Messoria searched for the right word. “Sad? No, not sad. You look haunted.”

               Reyna grunted. “Everyone has their ghosts.”

               “Some more than others. If there’s anything I know well, it’s ghosts. Yours look to be pretty grievous.”

               Reyna made no move to comment. Though with the strange manner Messoria presented herself in, she felt like she could trust her. She reminded her of Nico. The kid had become her little brother of sorts when they hauled the Athena Parthenos halfway across the world, nearly dying multiple times in the process. But Messoria was also different. She had met her three days ago, and for two of those days Messoria had done nothing but bother her. Reyna had no reason to trust her at all. In fact she really shouldn’t trust her.

               But the way Messoria sat there, as if she had her own demons, as if she were actually another person, the sympathetic side of Reyna got the better of her and she relaxed a bit. She hesitated once more before she exhaled, and told her the story.

               Messoria listened carefully, she kept her face void of any true emotion other than acceptance. Once Reyna had finished talking, there was a moment of silence before Messoria spoke. “I agree with di Angelo. That wasn’t your father.”

               Reyna shook her head. “I suppose it doesn’t matter if I really killed him or not, it felt like it, and I don’t think I’ll ever get it out of my head.”

               Messoria shrugged with one shoulder. “Yeah, I can understand that’ll mess with anybody’s head. But you’re dwelling on it you know. Dwelling on ghosts never does anybody any good.”

               “You don’t think I don’t know that?” Reyna sighed.

               There was silence for a long time, just as the sky began to darken, and the lands around them fell into shadows, Messoria spoke again. “Do you want to see him?”

               The question jarred Reyna. “W-What?”

               “I know where he is. I can take you to him. Only for a few minutes, of course. But it’s enough time for you to get some closure.” Messoria offered.

               Reyna sat in silent shock. “I-I don’t know.”

               “You don’t have to!” Messoria rushed to explain. “I don’t mean to put you on the spot or anything. Just, the Fields of Asphodel are easy to navigate if you’re still alive and know where to look.”

               “A-Asphodel?”

               Messoria nodded and stood. “Do you want to go?”

               “Won’t it tire you out?”

               Messoria cracked a smile. “Demigods might get tired shadow traveling. But I function better in the shadows see?”

               Reyna nodded. “O-Okay,” She was the same insecure girl on Circe’s island, on the pirate ship, in San Juan. She took Messoria’s hand and soon the rest of her body churned as much as her stomach.

               They reappeared in one of the most terrifying places in the world. Reyna had never been to the underworld, and she hadn’t wanted to. But now she saw the terrors that struck fear into every mortal’s heart. Messoria held her hand and guided her along the stone wall. Reyna looked down into a fiery pit that could only be the Fields of Punishment. Reapers that looked much like Messoria flapped around the mouth of the pit, cracking whips over the poor creatures, keeping the tortured souls tamed and contained. She looked forward, unable to keep watching as Messoria guided her to a more mysterious and confusing field. The field swirled and changed the longer Reyna looked at it. She could see wisps of people milling about, calling for loved ones, walking in circles, occasionally a soul or two would become panicked and run about, screaming for a child, a parent, or a spouse.

               “So this is where Hazel Levesque spent sixty years?”

               Messoria nodded. “Your father is down there somewhere, hold on.”

               Reyna flinched, accidentally squeezing Messoria’s hand. Messoria looked back at her, checking on her. “It’ll be okay. You can talk to him. There’ll be closure.” She reached back and flicked a tear off of Reyna’s cheek. “I’ll be right here.” She looked back at the Fields of Asphodel. “There,” She whispered, pointing to a speck in the grass, he was walking aimlessly, calling out. Reyna couldn’t make out what he was saying until Messoria brought her closer.

               “Hylla! Reyna! Hijas! ¿Dónde estás?” He shouted into the sky. He sounded desperate rather than angry. “Reyna! Hija!”

               Reyna’s stomach leaped to her throat. “Papa!”

               He whipped around. Messoria brought Reyna closer and released her hand. “Reyna! Is that you?”

               “Si, Papa.”

               Julian Ramirez-Arellano brought her into a hug that Reyna was most definitely not prepared for. “Ah! Where have you been? I told you not to wonder off like that. There are things out there that would delight in killing you!”

               Reyna flinched. “Papa…”

               “Where’s Hylla? Is she off with that boy again?” He grumbled. “I told her to stay away from him…”

               “Papa, Hylla is with the Amazons.”

               “The Amazons! What is she doing there?”

               “She’s their queen.”

               “Queen? That’s my girl!” He threw back his head and laughed. “What were you doing Reyna? You two just ran off!”

               “I’m Praetor of New Rome, Papa.”

“¿Es eso cierto?” He demanded. “It’s true isn’t it?”

               “Si, Papa.”

               “See? See I told you my daughters would be queens! My daughter, Praetor at age seven! It should be impossible!”

               “Papa, tengo diecisiete anos.”

               “No, no, I saw you just two hours ago. You’re seven years old. You can’t have aged ten years in two hours.” He shook his head.

               “Papa, I’m seventeen!”

               “Reyna,” Messoria called to her. “Time is difficult in the Fields of Asphodel. He saw you two hours ago, when you were seven. The last time you saw him, you were seven years old. He’s been here for ten years.”

               “Papa,” Reyna choked. “I’m sorry.”

               “Reyna, we have to go now.” Messoria yelped. “The Reapers have seen us. Let’s go. Say goodbye.”

               “Adios,” Reyna sobbed. Julian wrapped her in a hug.

               “Where are you going, chica?”

               Reyna held back another sob. “I’m going to the market. I’ll get Hylla while I’m out alright? I’ll get some tortillas, how’s quesadillas for dinner sound?”

               “We usually have those for special occasions Reyna, you know that.”

               “Today is a special occasion, no? I’ll be right back, Papa.”

               “Alright, be back in twenty minutes.”

               “Si-“

               “We have to go now!” Messoria lunged, grabbing Reyna’s hand again and twisting into the shadows.

               They landed back on the hill they had left and Reyna fell to her knees. Messoria fell with her to the ground, allowing Reyna to grip at her t-shirt and sob herself into exhaustion. Her bawling wracked her body as her shoulders tensed and shook and her core muscles ached from overuse. Messoria stroked her hair and apologized repeatedly.

               “I’m sorry, I thought it would help.”

               Reyna finally calmed to occasional shivers and hiccups, sitting back she shook her head, pressing the heels of her palms to her eyes. “I-I,” She tried to speak, but she couldn’t make sense of the last hour or so, nothing made sense anymore.

               “I’m sorry, Reyna.” Messoria sighed. “I genuinely thought it would help, but I mean, obviously I’m not good at that. I should stop, I just-“ Messoria stopped abruptly and took a breath. “I’ve never been good at making friends, you know? I just, wanted to help.”

               Reyna didn’t move. She couldn’t look up. She couldn’t face Messoria, not after she had seen such vulnerability, such weakness in Reyna. She shivered again. “No, no.” She whispered. “It’s okay, I-I just didn’t expect him to be so, so fatherly.”

               Messoria sighed, and moved over to put her arm around Reyna’s shoulders. “Look, now you know, he was truly gone when you were seven. He had turned into a mania right about then due to the paranoia. You, you didn’t kill your father, and he obviously doesn’t blame you for anything. See, he’s proud. He’s proud of you and your sister.”

               Reyna allowed some of the tension in her shoulders to relax. “I was living with a ghost for three years. I let him hurt me for three years.”

               “Hey now, that doesn’t reflect badly on you at all.”

               “I need some rest.”

               “Alright, we should be quiet sneaking into the cabin, it’s past curfew.”

               “And the harpies haven’t seen us yet?”

               “They probably have, but I found out that they don’t like to come near me. I probably stink of death.”

               Reyna nodded, allowing Messoria to pull her to her feet and lead her to the cabins. “Th-Thank you, Messoria.” She whispered, just before they reached the Roman cabin.

               Messoria gave her a half-hearted smile. “No worries, my pleasure.”

 

               Reyna had just finished strapping on the last of her armor and tying on her blessed cloak when Clarisse tried to swing at Messoria. The Reaper ducked and sent a cocky smile, as if the previous night hadn’t even happened, taunting the angry war child further.

               “Hey, come now, Clarisse, no need for violence!”

               Nico rolled his eyes. “So, Messoria, you said you know where Pandora’s Box is?”

               “Well, yes,” She gave a lopsided smile. “But we need to get a few things first. Like, um, approval from a god, and um, some invisibility capes. My sibling’s invisibility capes, to be more specific.”

               “Approval from a god?” Clarisse snapped. “That must be so easy huh?” She snarled, glaring at Messoria.

               “Give it a rest.” Reyna ordered, standing to her full height and looking straight at Messoria. The Reaper looked as if she had had no sleep at all the last night, and she knew for a fact that she hadn’t slept the previous day or the night before. “You don’t look to be in any shape for shadow travel.”

               “Not this large a group, no.” Messoria yawned involuntarily. “But, I do think I can get us approval from a god. The trick is finding him. My father, he’s difficult to catch. We may have to spend a few nights searching for him. The other trick to catching him… someone has to die.”

               All six of the demigods paled. “How should we do that then?” Solace had the gall to ask.

               “Usually we can find some dying people in a hospital. I happen to know he has three or four favorites that he visits often. So we can visit them, see about finding my father, since he’s visible it takes a load off our shoulders, and then talk to him. The problem is getting to them. They’re scattered across the country and I’m not going to be able to do any shadow traveling.”

               “I can get us to the first one at least, but I’ll be almost incapacitated as soon as we get there.” Nico volunteered.

               “You are not over extending yourself you hear me di Angelo? Last time you volunteered to shadow travel a group of people long distances you nearly became a puddle of darkness.” Solace lectured.

               “Ah, well, it’ll be one hospital, we can spend the night there waiting for him and then move on, if I could rest up a little, and maybe wait until nightfall for our next jump, then I can get us the rest of the way. Shadow travel doesn’t exhaust me as much as it does Nico.” Messoria assured.

               “Okay, where’s the first hospital?”

               “New York City.”

 

               They arrived just outside of the main lobby of the Langone Medical Center. Nico swayed, caught by Solace, and Reyna told him to sit on a bench and stay there while the other five went into the hospital to visit the most terminal patients. Reyna followed as Messoria wandered the halls confidently, as if she knew exactly where she was going.

               “Where are we going?” Clarisse grumbled.

               “Towards that death smell.” Messoria mumbled, turning a hall sharply. “Here we are. My father doesn’t particularly deal with violent deaths, so the emergency ward wouldn’t be his number one destination. But here, the cancer ward, that’s where his fun is at.”

               She smiled back at the group. Len shook her head. “You’re sick.” There was an emotion behind her words that Reyna had never heard before. Clarisse rolled her eyes and Grayson pressed his lips together in anger. Only Messoria could be cheerful surrounded by such tragedy.

               Messoria chose to ignore the others and continued forth, listening at the doors. Nurses hardly paid them mind, Reyna silently thanked the Mist. Messoria hesitated at the door of one specific room. “Uh, you guys, you should stay outside in the halls. I’ll go in.”

               “Why should we trust you?” Clarisse snarled.

               “Leave it.” Reyna ordered. She nodded at Messoria, allowing her to take a step inside.

               “Hi there-“ Messoria’s cooing voice was cut off by the door closing.

               Reyna’s stomach churned as she took a step forward and glanced through the small window in the door. Inside, she saw a painfully thin little boy curled up, hooked to beeping machines and a dozen cables and wires linked to him in various places. He looked to be in immense pain. Messoria kneeled by his bed, smiling a bright smile that the boy returned. He had his two front teeth missing and she motioned to them with a smile. Her blue eyes dancing in the fluorescent lighting. He giggled and nodded.

               She said a few things that made the little boy laugh. With a halfhearted, weak gesture, he pointed to her wings. Messoria laughed again and began to talk to him, making wide gestures and funny faces. The little boy laughed and smiled, suddenly very engaged in what Messoria had to say. Slowly, his paper thin eyelids began to droop and his movements became smaller and weaker until finally he just laid there, listening to Messoria, giggling at certain moments. Finally, in the middle of her story, he closed his eyes and fell gently into sleep.

               Reyna gripped at her throat, knowing what came next. She watched as the beeping of the monitors flat lined and alarms went off in the corridors. The four of them pushed themselves against the walls to get out of the way of the nurses rushing to his aid. There was chaos in the ward and Reyna could hardly make sense of it all. Nurses rushed back and forth, ordering back and forth, snapping equipment and weaving between each other. His room filled with people working their monitors and machines with such precision and control that Reyna could imagine herself using that kind of skill with weapons.

               Reyna pushed Len back as she and Clarisse watched them struggle to reanimate the little boy. Messoria had disappeared, but the God of Death remained unseen as well. The nurses struggled, shocking his heart, trying to force it into activity but to no avail, the boy was gone. Reyna gulped down any pity she felt and sighed.

               “No Thanatos, tsk.” Clarisse rolled her eyes. “That mess is gone too. Thank the gods.”

               Reyna shook her head. “He was too young to die.”

               “There’s no such thing as too young.” Messoria mumbled, reappearing beside Reyna, watching the organized chaos before them with sad eyes. Two panicked mortals rushed by them, into the room. They were held back by a larger nurse as what Reyna assumed to be the mother fell to her knees in agony, wailing and clawing towards her son. The father stood in shock, his anguish enveloping his facial expressions, his hands limp at his sides. Silent tears streaked down his face and he didn’t wipe them away. He had long since forsaken his son, and now that nightmare, that inevitable pain, had become a reality.

               Messoria put a hand on Reyna’s shoulder. “He’s gone already. Whoever took his soul had an invisibility cape, it wasn’t Thanatos himself. A sibling of mine guided him. He’ll go to Elysium though.” She smiled. “He was a good kid.”

               Clarisse was somber as she turned her back away. “Yeah well, he won’t be the only good kid to die if we don’t get a move on.”

               Messoria shook her head. “I’m too tired to get us out of here, and Skelekid really shouldn’t push himself too much either. There’s an old man down the hall who should be dying later tonight, we’ll wait there.”

               Clarisse sighed. “This is a lot of death to take all at once.”

               A shadow fell over Messoria’s face that seemed to go unnoticed by everyone else. Reyna could tell that this nagged at Messoria. “Yes, well. Death happens every day. Everyone must die.” She whispered. “We must go. That boy is gone. There will be no returning for him.”

               Len was unnaturally pale as she followed the other three, though Grayson wasn’t looking too happy either. “I don’t suppose this next person is a child?” Grayson whined.

               “No, this man is much older. I’d say eighties.”

               Reyna took a deep breath and followed. She hadn’t expected to feel so depressed while searching for Death. Messoria seemed to have a spring in her step, though Reyna saw the shadow in her expression. An uncomfortable silence fell over the group after the alarms stopped in the hallways.

               Clarisse stood across the hall, her arms crossed and eyebrows pulled down. “What do we do if he doesn’t show up tonight?”

               “Then we go to the next hospital.” Messoria shrugged, yawning. “Here, I’m gonna take a nap. Wake me up in three hours. I want to be up before the sunset.”

               Reyna nodded. “We’ll wake you. Get some rest.” Reyna turned to Grayson. “You, go message Praetor Zhang, inform him of the information we have on the prophecy and come back. Check on Nico while you’re out.”

               Clarisse looked up to fix a harsh gaze on Reyna. “I don’t trust her.”

               Len shrugged with one shoulder. “I second,”

               Reyna shook her head. “We don’t have much of a choice, she knows where Pandora’s Box is, and she knows how to get it. We can’t just leave her.”

               Clarisse groaned. “She’s messed up.”

               Len began to gain a greenish tinge to her skin tone and Reyna began to worry. “Len, are you okay?” Len tried to nod, but Reyna saw right through her lie. “Go get some air. You’re not looking too good.”

               Len did not have to be told twice and she nearly ran from the corridor.

               This left Clarisse and Reyna standing across the hall from a sleeping Messoria. “Roman, do you know what else we need after approval of a god? Why do we have to talk to a god anyway?”

               Reyna shook her head. “My best guess is that the Gods might be able to tell us how to get the box, or give us something to help in our quest.”

 

               Reyna shook Messoria’s shoulder lightly. Her blue eyes opened immediately and Reyna nearly stumbled backwards. “The sun’s due to set in about half an hour.”

               Messoria cracked a smile. “You really do keep your word don’t you, Praetor?”

               Reyna glared at her stonily. “Yes, I do. Perhaps you should remember that when you’re investigating that theft.”

               Messoria laughed and jumped to her feet, fixing her hair and entering the room. Reyna decided, this time, to follow her. Messoria didn’t shoo her away so she took that as further encouragement to enter.

               An old man sat in the stiff hospital bed, every now and then he’d cough or clear his throat. When his door opened, he looked up. “Well, who are these two lovely visitors?” He rasped.

               Reyna stepped forward, but Messoria beat her to answering. “We’re here to assist you, Mr. Hans.”

               “You know me, but I don’t believe I have the pleasure of knowing you.”

               “Messoria, sir.” She smiled a bright smile Reyna swore lit up the room. “Would you like to see the sunset?”

               Reyna was caught off guard. Sunset? Shouldn’t this man be dying? “M-“

               “I would love to.” He chuckled, his laughter turning into a harsh cough that wracked his frail body.

               Messoria walked over to his bedside. “Reyna, could you help me?” Reyna remained speechless and rushed to her side to help move the bed to the window behind the man. Messoria moved the blinds so that Mr. Hans could see the sunset.

               Reyna wasn’t positive that she had ever seen a more beautiful sunset. Messoria sat at his side, pointing to the sunset.

               “It’s beautiful.” He choked. “I haven’t seen the sunset in several months, it feels like an eternity.” Messoria smiled at him sadly.

               “Don’t focus on what you miss.” She spoke softly, as if she were soothing the man into sleep. “Look at the hues of orange, that purple sky closer to the horizon. Look at the blood red, that indigo just beyond that building. Gods, isn’t it beautiful? If there’s one thing I love here, it’s the sunsets.”

               Mr. Hans sighed. “Yes, it’s quite wonderful. Though I’ve seen real beauty.”

               “As have I.”

               “My wife, back before the both of us got old and moldy at the joints,” He cracked an ironic smile. “She was something to behold. The men around the block called her Aphrodite. But I knew her as Helena. We grew up together. I’d seen her in every phase of life, from adorable little girl to buck-toothed, lanky, awkward child, to a blossoming, young woman. I loved her.” His voice cracked. “Messoria, this is my last sunset is it not?”

               Messoria smiled sadly. “It is.”

               “You said you loved the sunsets here. Where are you from?”

               Messoria took a deep breath. “I’m a Reaper, I’ve come to guide your soul to the Underworld. But I thought I’d give you the ability to see your final sunset. I live in the Underworld you see, in the places that don’t have sunsets. Where you’re going though, that place has sunsets and it’s the kind of place we all dream of achieving the honor to be in.”

               Reyna was rooted to the spot, watching Messoria talk so candidly about such philosophical revelations with this dying man, as if she knew him, as if she cared for him, it warmed Reyna’s heart. Messoria paid Reyna no mind and gazed out the window.

               “Mr. Hans, tonight, just after sunset, you will die. I’ve done more than I’m technically supposed to do. People like me don’t have the luxury of making the world a better place. But you, Mr. Hans, have changed the world for the better and people like you deserve a bit better.”

               “Is death a prison?” He asked.

               “For me, yes. But you, you have happiness ahead of you, for eternity.”

               “I don’t want happiness for eternity. Happiness is not worth feeling unless you can also feel the sadness that makes happiness so sweet.”

               “And that, Mr. Hans, is the great tragedy of death.” Messoria said wistfully. “The Fields of Punishment, for the truly evil must suffer eternal pain and sorrow, with no hope of happiness to endure such terror and destruction, Elysium, eternal happiness, with no sadness or tragedy to make such happiness truly enjoyable and finally, there is the Fields of Asphodel, where souls are stuck in eternal apathy and confusion, terror filling their hearts as they can’t make since of their fates, nothing to make them hope, nothing to make them dread, and nothing to make them feel. Death, death is no prison for those lucky enough to be you. For you, when you die, may have the luxury of forgetting this conversation, however, my fate is tied to the agonizing knowledge of the truth. Mr. Hans, please, savor the sunset, savor the ups and downs of your life, Mr. Hans, grip your humanity tight, and enjoy its texture, because when you reach the end, you will only live in your memories.”

               Mr. Hans coughed once. “Well, Messoria, if that is the case, then I died long ago.”

               Mr. Hans turned to the sunset once more in silence. As the yellow disk turned red and dipped below the sunset, he took Messoria’s hand. Slowly, he drifted to sleep and Messoria stroked the back of his hand with her thumb, letting him drift. Before he slipped into oblivion he whispered something to Messoria, Reyna didn’t realize what he had said until after the monitors had flat lined.

               “Messoria, take what you care about and cling to it, because your life will never mean anything unless you have something to love. Don’t let death hang over you the way it does, it clouds your eyes and dampens your voice, give yourself a chance to hope for happiness, otherwise Elysium will seem like your own personal Hell, rather than heaven.”

Chapter Text

They had travelled to three hospitals and never found Thanatos. Messoria grew frustrated and even more aggravating, and Clarisse often tried to kill her.

               “Messoria, why do we even need the approval of a god?” Nico asked over dinner on the fourth night. They had stopped at a small café to eat and now all eyes had turned to Messoria and Reyna. Reyna sat beside the Reaper awkwardly, Messoria looked truly haggard, though no one seemed to notice her exhaustion.

               Messoria sighed. “When the Gods rounded up all those evils, or at least the really important, damaging ones, they sealed the box away in the safest place imaginable. Now obviously, the only way we can ever get to it is if the Gods deem us worthy of reaching the Box in the first place. Whether we know where the Box is or not, we still need Divine Right to reach it. Without that approval we won’t be physically capable of getting to the Box. Basically, we’d die in the most painful way imaginable, and forget about going to anywhere but the Fields of Punishment.”

               Silence fell over the table. “Gods, how are we going to get permission?”

               “I told you, we’d have to find my father. But I suppose he’s decided not to leave the Underworld now that he’s visible. I have a few things I think we should get before we go to the box.”

               “Such as?” Reyna demanded.

               “Uh, invisibility capes. My siblings have a few of them, and since I’m a Reaper, I can go in and get them without nearly killing myself. We’ll need to go there to get permission from my father anyway. I can get him to hear you out.” Messoria coughed. “However, my siblings don’t particularly like me.”

               “I wonder why.” Clarisse snarled.

               Reyna shivered, she hadn’t noticed how cold it had gotten in the café. “We can’t just walk into the underworld.”

               “Why not?” Nico and Messoria chorused.

               “We’re not all chums with Hades, Nico.” Solace chuckled.

               Messoria fell silent, something Reyna was genuinely shocked at, as the table broke into feeble jokes and calm discussion. Messoria shook her head and stood. “I’m going to get some air.”

               “Don’t get lost. Oh wait no, go ahead.” Clarisse sneered.

               Reyna watched as she left and turned to her party. “Do any of you know anything about the Box?”

               Clarisse rolled her eyes. “Wow, Roman, you seem even more incompetent up close.” Shortly after the words left her mouth, she found herself being strangled by a detached skeleton hand.

               Nico stood, dark eyes like an abyss, reminding Reyna of the horrible things he can do. “Do not speak to her that way.”

               “Nico,” Reyna barked. His attention turned to her and the hand slacked, Clarisse slapped it away and stood from the table. “Sit down, Clarisse, we need to discuss things.”

               Clarisse opened her mouth to snarl something Reyna was sure to dislike, but was stopped by a body crashing into her. Clarisse flew into the table next to them, knocking all of the food and dishes the family of five were enjoying. Reyna watched with a sense of dread as the family stood up, morphing slowly into a group of monsters, ready to attack Clarisse. The body that had crashed into Clarisse revealed itself to be a wild centaur.

               Reyna lunged, knocking the monsters surrounding Clarisse out of the way, brandishing her sword and covering the daughter of War until she could recover from her fall. Clarisse jumped up, lashing out at one of the monsters with her own sword. She made quick work of it, but the other monsters were on her in seconds.

               Someone, Reyna wasn’t sure who, threw the table they had been sitting at across the restaurant, smashing into the front counter where the mortal employees crouched, hiding away from the threat. Reyna’s group of well-trained demigods sprang into action, arming themselves and rushing into the fray of the battle as more and more monsters flooded through the café, rushing to kill them. Reyna hadn’t noticed the huge centaur’s hooves making their way towards the back of her head until the room grew ice cold and the centaur disintegrated into dust. Messoria stood tall, staff in hand, glaring around at all of the monsters.

               “This doesn’t make sense.” She mumbled before using her staff like a baseball bat and knocking a harpy out of the air.

Reyna grabbed the Reaper and pulled her to the ground, both of them just barely missing a stinger of some sort belonging to one of the dozens of monsters surrounding them. “There are too many.” Reyna grumbled, she’d been saying that a lot recently. “One of these days I’ll retire.”

Messoria laughed, stabbing another monster through the throat. “No you won’t, you like the adventure!”

Reyna, slightly taken aback, decided to focus on the fight around her. Monsters had stopped flooding in, but the monsters they faced were not of the desirable kind. Not that any monsters are particularly desirable.

Clarisse slashed her way back to Reyna. “Any orders, Roman?”

“Yeah, don’t die.” Reyna snapped back. She didn’t like the tone Clarisse used.

The room grew colder and colder and Reyna noticed Grayson and Solace jumping on the counter, bows drawn, trying to gain high enough ground to shoot. Clarisse was ducking and weaving roughly, pushing and kicking the monsters snapping at her ankles and throat. Len weaved through almost as if she were dancing, the girl could make battle almost graceful, something Reyna could never achieve herself, though she supposed whether her battle looked pretty or not hardly mattered, so long as she won them. Nico slashed with his Stygian Iron sword and occasionally a skeleton would raise from the ground and distract an enemy from behind long enough for Nico to whip around and take care of it.

Reyna needed to gain control of the room. “Solace, get the mortals out of here, Grayson, shoot the centaurs, if you can’t kill them, their hooves will do. Clarisse seal the room, keep any more monsters from getting inside, we’re setting up shop right here. Len, provide back up for Solace and make sure he doesn’t die.”

Messoria knew her job. She and Reyna fought nearly back to back, swerving and weaving, ducking when need be and always bringing the other to the ground with the maneuver. Reyna only switched to her pilum when the room started to clear more, but then a strangled scream caught her attention.

Nico clasped as his chest, gasping for air. He was terrified, like he wasn’t ready for death. It was Solace’s screech that had brought her attention to him. The blonde rushed to Nico’s side, forgetting about the harpy he had been fighting off, Len dispatched it as quickly as she could, getting scratched down her face in the process. Reyna finished her duel and ran to Nico herself. She couldn’t lose him, not Nico.

Messoria didn’t hesitate in finishing off the final three monsters with Clarisse and Grayson’s help. Clarisse watched the drama unfold with a grim expression, she rather liked the son of Hades. Len guarded the door, careful not to let anyone in. Messoria remained across the room, watching like a crow in puzzlement as Solace panicked.

Reyna had tears running down her face, she couldn’t help it. Nico was like a younger brother to her, and she knew, she knew that she shouldn’t show this emotion to her team, but the Gods have mercy she couldn’t stop herself.

Nico had fallen to his knees, it was as if time stood still as Reyna’s heart pounded in her ears. “Nico!” She yelped, trying to staunch the flow of blood, but his wound had an entry and an exit wound and Gods there was so much blood.

Reyna lent some of her own strength in the hopes that perhaps he could hold on long enough for Solace to get some ambrosia down his throat, but the anguish and terror that washed over her as a result nearly strangled her. Will scrambled to his backpack but before he could force one of the squares into Nico’s mouth, Messoria intervened.

“Stop.” Her voice was clear as ice water, as if unaffected by the near death of one of her comrades. She seemed unshakable, even as Nico began to hyperventilate. Solace froze as Messoria approached, removing her coat.

Reyna’s throat clenched, she couldn’t believe her, now of all times to be a true monster? “Why-“

“You can’t fix that kind of injury with ambrosia.” She explained, dropping beside Nico, the knees of her jeans soaking in the blood around them. “Demigods can’t fix this.” She muttered as Nico began to convulse. She sighed, hesitating only a moment, she glanced at Reyna but looked away quickly. “Reyna, hold him down. As Reyna moved to position herself, Messoria glared at Solace. “I assume you know CPR? Good, you need to perform it on him while I’m repairing him. His body is going to stop functioning once I remove his soul, so keep his heart and lungs working.” She was calm and collected, if not a bit reluctant.

Reyna held him down and Solace moved to perform CPR, gagging a bit as Messoria plunged her hand into the wound. A wispy blue shape followed her hand as she yanked backwards. Messoria wrestled with it a bit before she finally managed to pin the shape down, pulling something that looked like a needle from her pocket. As Messoria yanked a single hair from her own head, Reyna noticed the wisp begin to take form of the boy she was holding down. Nico had grown still after the blue wisp had been removed, and Solace, dutifully pounding on his chest and puffing into his mouth, grew paler by the second.

Messoria threaded the needle in her hand with her own hair and slammed her shoulder down onto the bucking wisp. She worked just out of sight of Reyna, but she could guess what Messoria was up to.

It felt like eons before Messoria dragged the wisp roughly to Nico’s body, she looked to be growing weaker by the minute. The wisp grew more fervent in its thrashing and convulsing as she brought it closer to Nico. Finally with a grunt she slammed the wisp back into Nico’s wound and held his wound down. “Will, the ambrosia.” She snapped.

Solace rushed to fulfill her orders, feeding the thrashing boy chunk after chunk of ambrosia. Nico slowly stopped thrashing, and blood stopped pumping between Messoria’s fingers. She sat back, panting slightly. “Reyna,” She spoke gently this time, as if finally, taking pity on Solace. “Get him to stop, Nico will burn up.”

Reyna had to drag the blonde away before he finally stopped shoving ambrosia down Nico’s throat. Nico twitched once before going still. Messoria’s eyebrows drew together in concern. She moved to listen to Nico’s heart before moving to his chest and pumping.

She grimaced in pain before she took a deep breath and puffed into Nico’s mouth. Reyna could have sworn that she saw a flash of blue, but then Messoria leaned back and Nico gasped back to life, he clawed at his newly healed chest and panted, looking around the destroyed café in panic. Messoria seemed to sag in her exhaustion.

“We need a safe place to heal.” Reyna announced.

This time Clarisse stepped forward. “My mom lives a few blocks from here. Assuming we can survive the trip there, we’ll be relatively safe.”

Reyna nodded. “We’ll go there.”

Solace brought Nico to his feet, Grayson aided him in propping him up, the two sons of Apollo dragging Nico to the door. Len opened the door for them, acting as their guide. Clarisse led the group back to her childhood home. Messoria made no move to get up.

“Messoria,” The Reaper didn’t look up. Reyna noticed, not for the first time, how tired the girl was. But this was more than exhaustion. “Messoria, we have to get out of here, we don’t want more monsters coming around.”

Messoria’s head lolled to the side to look at Reyna. “I’m tired.” She mumbled.

Reyna supported the girl across her shoulders, finding it much more difficult due to her wings, but managing to keep up with the group all the same. Even Clarisse lent a helping hand to get the two children of the underworld into her home and onto her bed.

Clarisse’s room was very Clarisse. Weapons hung on the walls and bits and pieces of dirty and broken armor littered the floor, she had clothes overflowing her dresser, but nothing fancier than a t-shirt and ripped jeans. The most personal thing, Reyna noticed, was a set of picture frames with a few people in them, none of which she recognized. There was a beautiful girl in a few of them, Clarisse had an arm around her and they were laughing and otherwise being happy occupants of another time. The others had Clarisse with an even taller boy and a bandana, the very same bandana Clarisse herself had on her head at that very moment.

As she passed by, as if by instinct, Clarisse flipped one particular picture of the two of them holding hands and the same beautiful girl with her own boyfriend over, so that the picture couldn’t be seen. It wasn’t Reyna’s place to even be looking at these pictures, let alone ask about them, so she pretended she hadn’t noticed them and focused on lowering Messoria to the floor.

Nico, pulling overwhelming majority favor without even speaking, was placed on Clarisse’s bed. Solace kissed his forehead before Clarisse ushered them out of her room. “Mom should be home soon, she’s going to kick my ass.”

Reyna smirked. “Can’t say you don’t need it.”

Clarisse grumbled something unintelligible before storming away. Len took a seat next to Grayson at the dining room table and Reyna leaned against the wall, taking a deep breath for the first time since the attack. Len watched her carefully, like a hawk hunting for field mice.

“You really care about Nico don’t you?”

Reyna glanced over at her half-sister. “Yeah, we’re pretty close.”

“Clarisse la Rue, what the hell do you think you’re doing here?” A woman yelled from the front door.

“Hey mom,”

Reyna followed the noise to find Clarisse being hugged tightly by an older woman who looked very similar to the Spartan. They parted and her mother began to fret. “Who beat you this time? Why are you here right now? How did you get here?”

Clarisse glanced over at Reyna. “Wanna explain this one, Praetor?”

Clarisse’s mother noticed Reyna for the first time and straightened her back. “Um, hello.”

Reyna stepped forward, aware of how intimidating she could look and stretched out her hand for a handshake. “Reyna, Praetor of New Rome.”

“Rome?” Clarisse’s mother looked over at Clarisse.

“Ah, I didn’t explain that one, did I?”

Reyna smirked. “I’ll let you tackle that explanation. For now, I’ll give you the run down.”

Clarisse’s mother glared at her daughter. “I swear Clarisse if you nearly died last summer and didn’t tell me about it again, I’ll have your skin.”

Clarisse gave her mother a sheepish look before ushering them back to the dining room, introducing Len and Grayson. “Mom, you need to listen to her story without interrupting, please it’ll go smoother if you do.” Clarisse sighed as if she struggled to explain things to her mom frequently.

“Well, Mrs. La Rue, we’re on a quest to investigate a prophecy that has been given. Two of our members have been injured and we came here for shelter. We’ll be out of your hair shortly. The quest requires us to retrieve a few items and negotiate with a couple of Gods, but for the most part our quest is straight-forward.” Clarisse shot Reyna a grateful look for the white lies.

“See, mom, no big deal.”

“No big deal? Clarisse I have two injured kids in my house and you’re not concerned? You, what in the hell is a Praetor and what does that mean?”

Reyna straightened. “I am one of two Praetors of an army in California, a Praetor is a general of sorts. I also hold a seat in the Senate of New Rome, where we make decisions regarding the livelihood of thousands of demigods and their descendants living there. I worked very hard to achieve this honor and I have held my seat through two wars within two years, I have served for five years myself. I assure you, I am a capable leader and will aid your daughter in every way I can to survive this quest.”

“This prophecy, what does it say?”

Reyna hesitated. “Mom, it doesn’t really matter-“ Clarisse tried.

“No, Clarisse, it does matter. Tell me the prophecy.”

Reyna sighed before reciting the prophecy:

“Ancient evils threaten,

Recovered by Rome, and

Protected in destruction,

Freed, a risk Death shall take,

Will gain a power none can face,

The Traitor of Death doomed to loss,

Shall aid a new king to seize the throne,

And a new era shall dawn at the fall of a God.”

 

Clarisse’s mother paled. “And you have to do this?”

Reyna hesitated once more. “Yes ma’am, we do.”

“I don’t like this at all. But I suppose if you have no one else to do this for you, I’ll help you guys. But I swear to the Gods Clarisse you be careful.”

“I will mom.” Clarisse rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I think we should all get some rest. We’ve had a long few days.”

Clarisse hugged her mother before motioning the other demigods to the other room, handing out blankets and pillows, Grayson collecting a set for his brother. They trooped back to Clarisse’s room and piled onto the floor, each of them collapsing almost instantly in exhaustion. Reyna, as the pattern went, ended up taking a spot next to Messoria, Len curled up at her feet.

Chapter Text

The explosion shook the house so violently Nico was knocked off the bed and into the laps of the four people sleeping beside it. Clarisse and Reyna were the first ones to their feet and Clarisse lunged for her weapon. Reyna grabbed her sword to her side and blinked away her confusion.

“What in Hades-“

“Get up!” Reyna ordered, grabbing up Len and Messoria by the collars of their shirts and pushed them towards the door. “We’re in trouble.”

Clarisse burst through the door to find a wall of flames coming towards them. She yelped and jumped back, nearly tripping over Nico as he stumbled to his own feet. Messoria nearly tipped, but regained her balance with the help of Grayson.

A deafening roar sounded before a crash that sounded suspiciously like something tearing apart the entire house. A bull appeared, crashing through the flames, aiming straight for Reyna. The Demigods scattered as the bull crashed through the opposite wall, providing them a new exit.

“Out, now, we’ll need space for this one!” Reyna shouted over the roaring flames and cracking foundation. Her team followed her lead, jumping through the hole in the wall into the night air, its peace somewhat marred by the rampaging, fire-breathing bull preparing to charge them again.

“It’s slow, but hot, we can’t get in front of it!” Len called out to Reyna.

“It’s a Khalkotauroi!” Clarisse snarled. “The last time I had to fight one of these bad boys we needed a Cyclops to take him down.”

“Well,” Reyna growled. “We don’t have a Cyclops handy, and he’s made of metal, perfect.”

Messoria finally developed her own staff to be used in the fight. “Orders then?”

The bull charged directly at Messoria, she took to the sky just in time for the bull to pass under her. Its huge horn scraped the bricks as it lumbered back around to face them with a mighty roar. Reyna came back down, stabbing at the back of its neck, but that didn’t seem to do anything and Messoria was thrown off and back into the house.

Reyna squinted. “Grayson, Solace, find upper ground and shoot for its eyes, maybe we have half a chance if it can’t see!”

The bull charged towards Clarisse this time, but she ducked and rolled, allowing for the bull to crash into her neighbor’s house. “Oops, sorry cat lady.” She muttered with a smirk as the bull had to struggle to back its huge horns from the brick foundation.

Grayson and Solace had scaled a nearby house, standing side by side on the roof they nocked their arrows and shot. Most of their arrows missed their targets and bounced off of its armored body.

“Reyna!” Len called out again after dodging one of its massive hooves. “Jason used a fire-proof potion, and the Greeks used a Cyclops, I don’t think we can kill this thing without being able to withstand heat!”

Reyna thought fast. “Len, the hose!”

“It’ll evaporate!”

“We need to freeze it.” Nico yelped, clutching at his chest.

“I got that covered.” Messoria snarled as the air seemed to drop in temperature.

The bull let out a roar, throwing flame several yards outwards. “Len, get the hose, and turn it on him!” Reyna ordered. Len opened her mouth to argue. “That’s an order Probatio!” She snapped.

Len flushed with anger, but fulfilled her duties anyway. She sprayed herself in the face at first, but she was able to turn the hose on towards the bull. Reyna, without hesitation, darted towards the bull and caught its attention. Meanwhile the temperature dropped considerably, so much so that Reyna could see her breath as she maneuvered the bull’s head from looking at Len. “Aim for his hooves, Len!”

Len did as she was told and doused the bull’s front legs with cold water, splashing Reyna a bit in the process, but all of the water evaporated into steam almost immediately. She shivered and slashed her sword at its horns. “We need more water!” She yelled. “Nico! Messoria!”

The two children of the underworld dashed to the two nearest working houses and immediately began turning on the hoses, preparing to aim it at the bull’s hooves. Clarisse joined Reyna in confusing the bull. “Hey! Looking for a real fight?” Clarisse shouted at the bull, turning its fiery attention from Reyna.

Just as it reared back to shoot flames towards Clarisse, Reyna slashed one of its horns entirely off. It roared in Reyna’s face, dousing her with the acrid odor of gasoline. Reyna held her ground, ready to die if she had to.

Just then the three hoses doused the bull’s front hooves with so much cold water, it burned Reyna with steam. But she watched as the bull’s hooves began to warp, slowly but surely, it fell to its face, hooves pointing the wrong way and bending at the wrong angles. Reyna jumped away just as a torrent of flames shot straight at her. The bull jerked its massive head to the side, nearly goring her in the process.

Reyna, clutching at her side, fell to the ground, rolled back to her feet and continued to stumble away. Grayson and Solace finally manage to pierce the bull’s eyes with their arrows. Confusing it further. The three working the hoses splashed at the bull’s massive nostrils and muzzle until it had warped so much that it could no longer spit fire.

While Reyna clutched at the bloody gash in her side, she watched as Len yanked her hose forward and sprayed its now gaping eyes, short circuiting the automaton and ending the battle. She huffed and stood up, pressing her wound and turning to their now burning safe house.

Clarisse, upon just noticing her burning home yelped and rushed forward. Reyna grabbed her arm before she could rush into the fire. “Clarisse!”

“No!” She snarled, pushing Reyna violently away, causing her to stumble to the ground. “I have lost everyone I care about! I will not lose my mother!” She stormed off, jumping through the wall of flames and disappearing.

Reyna glanced down to notice a charred picture frame. She picked it up and turned it over. Through the shattered glass she could see the picture Clarisse had flipped over, she removed it and placed it in her pocket to return to Clarisse later. Supposing that she made it out alive.

Reyna waved her team away from the house as they all anxiously awaited for Clarisse to return.

It was a terrifying several minutes before they heard coughing, loud thunks, and finally two ash and soot covered figures slammed through the front door and stumbled out into the street. Reyna and Len rushed forward to help the two women away from the imposing flames.

“We have to leave.” Reyna snapped to her team, looking to Messoria and Nico. “Are either of you-“

“Yeah, I can get us there.” Messoria sighed. “But it better be a good place because I don’t have the energy to get us out of anymore sticky situations.”

Reyna nodded as Grayson and Solace rejoined the group. Nico limped forward and was quickly embraced by Solace. Grayson smirked and slung an arm around Len’s shoulders. She promptly shrugged him and elbowed his gut. “Where do we need to go?” Clarisse’s voice was hoarse and raspy, and she doubled over in a coughing fit after speaking.

“The underworld,” Messoria muttered. “I know of a relatively safer entrance that will get us to Thanatos quicker without having to go through Charon.”

“Where is it?” Reyna demanded.

“I can’t explain it, I’ll get us nearby, but I’ll have to rest before we can risk it.”

 

Upon arrival, Messoria collapsed to the ground, and Nico wasn’t far behind her. Neither were quite healthy enough for travel, even with two days of rest, but Reyna supposed they had no other choice. Clarisse tossed Reyna a square of ambrosia for her wound. But with the fire and Nico’s injury, they were running low, the ambrosia was enough to stop the bleeding and close the wound a little bit but Solace gave her stitches anyway, just in case.

Messoria woke up a day later, a few hours before Nico, but she hadn’t been impaled like he had. Reyna found her empty bedding and immediately went to search for her. She finally found Messoria sitting slightly above the camp in a tree overlooking the west. Reyna climbed up and sat on a branch near her and they watched the sunset together.

“You like sunsets huh?” Reyna spoke first, Messoria was looking too dull and haggard to start a conversation.

Messoria smirked before she let it drop from her face, replacing it with a dreary sigh. “Yeah, I don’t get to see them very often. Actually, the first time I ever saw a sunset was at the hill in Camp Half Blood, you know the one you were sitting at?”

Reyna nodded. Where they had met before she had visited her father. Suddenly, Reyna felt as gloomy as Messoria looked. “You’d never seen a sunset before?”

“Nope,” Messoria sent a small smile towards Reyna. “I live in the Underworld, and Thanatos only ever lets us out to collect souls, I’m hardly paying attention to my surroundings when I do that kind of thing. Reaping takes a lot more concentration than you’d think, you have to get to the person at just the right time and catch their souls as it leaves their bodies, and wrangle it back to the Underworld. It’s hard work.”

“So why did Thanatos send you to investigate the theft?”

Messoria chuckled darkly. “He thinks I’m too dimwitted to mess things up, but he thinks I’m smart enough to figure it out.”

“Sounds complicated, and offensive.”

“It is, both I mean. I’m not an idiot, but according to everyone else I’m dimmer than a broken light bulb.”

“I doubt that.” Reyna nudged her shoulder. “So, explain to me what you did to fix Nico, what happened?”

Messoria inhaled carefully. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” She began hesitantly. “That was a deliberate wound made by a Reaper’s weapon.” Messoria conjured her staff. “You see this?” She allowed Reyna to hold it. “That’s a certain kind of weapon, it’s specifically meant to sever the soul and force it from the body. Now, this weapon is only made by Reapers, once I make it though, anyone can use it. However, I can make it disintegrate without being in contact with it.” To demonstrate, the staff disintegrated in Reyna’s hand. “See? Well, since Nico held on so long, shockingly long honestly. I think it’s because he’s Skelekid and Skelekid can do some pretty cool things. I was able to remove his soul, keep it with us, and repair it. If you were watching, I used one of my needles and threaded it with my hair, it’s because my hair has the magical ability to keep souls intact. I can’t cut my hair or anything, but it’s the only substance strong enough and delicate enough to deal with souls.”

Reyna listened carefully. “So you repaired Nico’s soul, but the wound was done by a Reaper?”

“Or someone who got ahold of a Reaper’s weapon. But that’s highly unlikely, since we Reapers tend to avoid allowing our weapons to remain solid long enough to lose track of them. The monsters at the café were swamping Nico and I, I’m starting to wonder if we’re the ones attracting them.” Messoria finished miserably.

“Why’d you save him? None of them like you.” Reyna asked.

Messoria chuckled. “Gee, I feel loved. I saved him because you need him.”

Reyna shook her head. “You’re helping us immensely, Messoria. When should we prepare to go down to the Underworld?”

“Well, first of all, the fewer that go with me the better, I’d be most comfortable if you were the only one who came along. But I’d say tomorrow afternoon we should make the trip, visit my father, see about the invisibility capes, and gather some tokens that will help us in fetching Pandora’s Box.”

“What tokens?”

“A Chromandae head,” Messoria sighed. “Its scream will help us in the cave. We’ll need wax as well but we can get that from a local general store. Also, the teeth of the Ismenus Drakon.”

“What would that do?”

“It would provide us a full Spartan army. I don’t think it’ll be as easy to kill the second time around, though.” Messoria shook her head. “Anyway, we’ll need those pretty desperately. This is going to be a dangerous mission.”

Reyna shrugged. “I knew that coming into this quest, no point in backing out now.”

The sun dipped below the horizon and Messoria yawned. “We should get down from here. I could use some more sleep.”

Messoria grabbed Reyna’s shoulders and lifted up into the air, gently landing on the ground. She walked slowly, as if her feet were made of lead, but Messoria in all, looked healthy enough. “Hey, Princess Jasmine!” Clarisse sneered. “You done flying around? We await your highness’s royal word!”

Reyna rolled her eyes and stalked forward, seating herself at the campfire. “Messoria and I are in agreement that the fewer that go to the underworld the better our results.”

“Sweet, I’ll stay here.” Solace mumbled.

“Well, I can be of use-“ Nico began.

“That’s not a good idea.” Messoria interrupted Nico. “I have some theories as to why the monsters are targeting you and the last thing you should do is enter a monster breeding ground.”

“Oh really? Tell me these theories.” Nico sighed.

“That’s, um, that’s hard to explain. Look we’ll worry about it once I get some proof.” Messoria stammered. “Anyway, I’m taking Reyna down to the Reapers’ Hive. It’s highly dangerous-“

“Like that’s stopped any of us before.” Len mumbled, sharing a smirk with Reyna and Clarisse.

“Yeah, well, the thing is…” Messoria hesitated, scratching the back of her neck awkwardly. “Some Reapers, uh, like the taste of demigod flesh. Honestly the fewer demigods following me into their living space the better.”

Reyna was suddenly aware of the way Messoria referred to her home. As if excluding herself from her siblings. “So, why take anyone?”

“You’re Praetor aren’t you?” Messoria smirked. “Thanatos would only want to talk to the one in charge rather than just taking my word for it. Keep in mind what my family thinks of me.”

Reyna nodded, glancing around at her team. “So, Nico can’t go because he’ll get attacked, Solace doesn’t want to go and I’m not sending a Probatio into the underworld. That leaves Grayson and Clarisse.”

Clarisse stretched. “I’ll go if it means I get to fight something.”

“That is the absolute worst idea.” Messoria dead-panned. “The slightest provocation will get us killed in the Hive. Trust me, I’ve been there before.”

“How many are there?”

“Thousands.”

“Wow, your dad’s been busy.” Grayson laughed.

Messoria did not laugh and honestly Reyna couldn’t blame her. “So, are you only going to be visiting the Hive?” Nico asked suspiciously.

“No, we’ll be getting a few other things on the way.” Reyna answered. “Grayson, I’m leaving you here, being the only other full legionnaire you’ll succeed this quest from me should I die, obviously a Probatio can’t run a mission and I can’t risk you dying as well.”

“Well, gee, the Greeks on this quest are feeling left out.”

“The Greeks aren’t prophesized to retrieve the Box. The Romans are.” Messoria shook her head.

“That reminds me!” Grayson suddenly spoke, a bit louder than was called for, but Reyna let it slide. “Len shouldn’t be a Probatio, seriously kid, you’ve got skill.”

Len cracked a smile. “Is that so?”

Reyna nodded. “I agree, you think she’s ready to be a legionnaire?”

Grayson nodded. “Yeah,”

“Alright, congrats Len.”

Len smiled, elbowing Grayson’s gut in retaliation to him ruffling her hair. “Wait, that’s it?” Solace laughed, looking to Reyna. “You Romans in your splendor and glory and that’s a promotion?”

Reyna shrugged. “Sorry, we couldn’t get cake, we’re in the middle of the woods in Pennsylvania.”

“Here, no, the Graecus is right.” Grayson sent a smug look towards his brother. “Len, I don’t know your last name let’s just pretend that I do, Daughter of Bellona, I hereby deem you worthy for the luxurious, honorable, fantastic status of Legionnaire in the Roman, Twelfth Legion Fulminata. I, your superior, promote you to said really awesome, awesome simply because I’ve run out of synonyms, position. Now, serve the Gods with every drop of the blood, sweat, and tears that you produce.” He unsheathed his sword and tapped both of her shoulders like a knighting.

The Greeks and Len were laughing by the end of his speech, but Reyna only smiled crookedly. “Yeah, I think I’ll leave the ceremonial things to Jason and Frank, they’re better at all of that than either of us.”

Nico coughed. “Alright, who’s first watch?”

Reyna nodded at him. “I’ll take first watch, I’m taking you off of watch, you need to sleep as much as possible so that you can heal faster.”

Nico began to protest. “No, she’s right.” Solace slapped Nico’s arm lightly. “You need to get rest or you’ll never heal.”

Her team filtered off to bed, finding softer spots in the grass surrounding the fire to sleep, since Reyna lost her tent in the fire. With that realization, she remembered with a twisting stomach the many Amazons and Huntresses that had given their lives in San Juan.

She rubbed at her temples trying to put the images out of her mind. Not for the first time, she wondered what Hylla was doing, but she supposed she’ll find out eventually. She also wondered about Thalia Grace, Jason’s sister.

That had been the only time they met, and Reyna wondered if Thalia had any huntresses survive Orion as well. Did Artemis forgive Thalia for her mistakes? Reyna knew, as Praetor, that her decisions involve thousands of lives, and one slip up could cause so much death. She didn’t want to have to send those letters to that many families. The pressure of leading soldiers was almost like holding up the world, and Reyna knew the guilt of casualties. Every day she mourned the soldiers she lost in the last two wars, and she hoped Thalia was doing well despite her own loss.

Reyna shook herself from her thoughts and hummed at the quiet. Everyone had fallen asleep and Reyna was left alone, and she felt tired. She watched the fire, relying on her hearing for any threats around them. Just beyond the fire, Messoria twitched in her sleep and pulled Reyna’s attention from the crackling flame.

The Reaper wasn’t as agitating as she usually was, though Reyna supposed it had to do with the fact that Messoria had been unconscious for most of the week. She smiled slightly, most of her team had respect for Messoria because she saved Nico’s life, but Reyna wasn’t sure any of them would actually like her. She wasn’t sure that this prophecy could be fulfilled if they didn’t fully trust each other.

And Gods, the prophecy. It was so ominous, and no one understood what it meant, their only lead being Pandora’s Box. Protected in destruction. Reyna’s stomach twisted, she had a horrible feeling that her camp could be destroyed.

Reyna shook herself from her thoughts once more, stood up, and woke up Clarisse to take the next watch and get some sleep. She needed to get some rest before her mission the next morning.

Chapter Text

Reyna kneeled beside the Reaper and gently shook her shoulder. “Messoria, we need to get up. Wake up, Messoria.”

Messoria jerked awake, icy eyes startled, finding Reyna hovering over her. “Wh-“ She spluttered.

“Time to go, we need to get into the underworld.”

Messoria nodded, looking around in the confused haze of her sleep. “We should get moving.”

Reyna laughed. “That’s what I’m saying.”

“Well, get up then.”

Reyna shook her head. “I’ll give you a minute.” She stood again and turned to her team, Clarisse and Len were already up and trading light blows in a half-hearted, wake-up match. Grayson was still spread eagle on his back, while Solace yawned and ruffled his hair, Reyna noticed with a smirk that he had been curled up next to Nico.

Reyna paced, Clarisse and Len watched her with mild amusement, but any joke died before it could leave their throats, knowing where Reyna was heading with a Reaper they hardly trusted. “C’mon, calm down Reyna. If you go in there anxious, you’re going to get hurt.” Clarisse rolled her eyes.

“I know,” Reyna mumbled. “Messoria! You ready?”

The girl’s wings fluttered as she wondered about. “Yeah, let’s go.”

Messoria led Reyna into the woods and they hiked for a few minutes before they came to an incredibly tall tree with a trunk so thick that Reyna couldn’t wrap her arms around it and have her hands touch. Messoria’s staff appeared in her hands and with one swift motion she slashed at the bark of the tree.

The tree opened up slowly, like elevator doors, until they stopped moving with a ding. “I apologize in advance for the terrible music, but hey, not everything about death can be great.”

“Nothing about death sounds great at all.” Reyna mumbled as they stepped inside and Messoria jammed her finger on the down button.

The doors closed again with a ding and the elevator shuddered to life, slowly lowering itself. Reyna waited, hoping that they were going faster than it felt, but anything felt like an eternity when La Bamba played over and over from a crackling and dying stereo near Reyna’s ear. “You weren’t lying about the music.”

Messoria chuckled nervously. “Oh!” She spoke suddenly, taking her jacket off quickly. “Here put that on.”

Reyna took the jacket from her hands with an odd look. “Why?”

“Because when Reapers are excited, emotional, or fighting or something along those lines the temperature drops, you know?” Messoria shifted awkwardly. “You won’t be able to survive the low temperatures-“ Reyna shivered, as if on cue. “Yeah see? That jacket is magical, it will keep you warm enough to function, just be careful about your hands and face. Your extremities can freeze very quickly.”

“What about you?”

“I can survive without it, I’ll just be a little uncomfortable.” Messoria waved her off.

“You sure?”

“Yeah.” Messoria sent a sideways smile. “Anyway, you know the risks? Just stick close okay? When we get down there, you’ll go around to the bottom caves and just get the capes. No one will notice you, those caves are for the lowest of the low, most of them are children so don’t worry, and I’ll fetch my father.”

Reyna slipped on the jacket, it was big enough to fit over her armor comfortably, and she immediately felt warm and relaxed. “Okay, and the other monsters?”

“Well…”

“Well what?” Reyna snapped.

Messoria scratched the back of her neck awkwardly. “Um, they’re out of Tartarus, but I know where they are, it’s going to be difficult. They’ll be surrounded by other monsters.”

Reyna sighed. “Fine, anything else you just decided not to mention?”

Messoria looked like she was about to say something. “Eh, n-no.”

“No, tell me what you were going to say.”

“Give me a bit okay? I have to be sure.” Messoria growled.

Just then the doors dinged, and slowly opened, a wall of freezing air hit Reyna like a train made of ice. Messoria hesitated, but stepped forward, leading Reyna into the Hive.

Reyna craned her neck up with awe, the ceiling stretched so high she couldn’t see it from the ground. It was dark and damp and so, so cold. She looked about the huge atrium, finding small caves carved into the rock walls around her in a ring of living spaces. She didn’t imagine them to be deep and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness she saw that each cave had a single cot and a nightstand inside. She heard the clinking of metal and the ruffling of wings echoing about her. Messoria led her closer to one of the caves.

“Top drawer of the dresser.” She whispered. “That’s where they keep them. Just go in, be quiet, and grab them. Don’t draw your sword, don’t try to hurt anyone, if they lunge at you there will be no stopping them, not here, they’re too powerful here for a demigod.”

Reyna nodded, still gaping about at the Hive. She followed the walls upwards, these caves continued all the way up and there were no ladders. A single, rusty, metal walkway screwed roughly into the rock walls ringed every level, but the walkways were hardly wide enough for a single person.

Reyna slinked towards the nearest cave, and the clinking of metal got louder as a small Reaper emerged from the cave she approached. The kid had two shackles hooked to her ankles and her clothes were ratty and torn, she had a black jacket much like Messoria’s, and the same icy eyes, but her hair was ashen rather than pitch black.

The girl turned her icy orbs on Messoria as she positioned herself to take to the air. “Messoria,” She called, loud enough for her raspy voice to echo about the atrium. The clinking stopped. Messoria stopped. The ruffling stopped. Reyna’s heart stopped.

Messoria put on a cheesy smile before turning to the girl. The girl had no expression whatsoever, and neither girls winced when the entire Hive erupted into chaos. Reyna yelped as black wings and bent and gangly bodies filled the open space. The racket from a thousand chained Reapers taking to the air was deafening. A Reaper with long disgusting fingernails limped to her from behind and gripped her braid, sniffing it.

“Ah, a demigod, I haven’t had such a delicacy in twenty years!” He cawed.

Reyna yanked herself from his grasp as Messoria lunged forward at him, pushing him away. “Get off, Oranas!”

The girl turned to Reyna, her blank face unnerving her almost more than the thousands and thousands of vultures staring down at her. They perched, much like Messoria tended to do, along the walkways and at the edges of the caves. Reyna’s blood chilled, and the temperature seemed to sink like a brick in the water.

Messoria stood protectively as one Reaper marched forward, shackles scraping across the stone floors. He had bright blonde hair like Grayson and Will’s, and piercing blue eyes like Messoria, but his chest was thick and broad and his arms wider around than Reyna’s head. His thighs were massive and Reyna swore that she could see the muscles rippling even through his jeans. He had a black t-shirt that seemed to strain at the seams. He dwarfed Messoria, and Reyna bet that if he stood next to Zhang he would dwarf him as well. He summoned his staff, slamming it onto the ground, its startling crack echoing about the chamber, ceasing all movement and noise. No one breathed.

“I believe I told you never to return, Messoria.” He rumbled, a blood curdling smile stretching across his face. His teeth were perhaps too white, perhaps too sharp.

Messoria fidgeted. “I uh, follow father’s orders first, he told me to-“

“Bring the thief did he not?” He raised his voice. “You bring that scum here after what you did?” He was booming now. “You have broken our sacred laws!”

“I have done no such thing!”

He paced around Messoria like a panther. “I should slay you here and now.”

“I’d like to see you try, Bloodbath.”

Bloodbath smirked. “You always were foolish, Messoria.”

Messoria said nothing, she grit her teeth and stood tall. Suddenly, Reyna was lifted by the back of her collar, by Messoria’s jacket. “Look at this, brother.” Reyna looked up at her attacker to see Bloodbath’s face, or, his twin brother’s face.

“Put her down!” Messoria snapped, glaring holes in the man’s face. “Put her down now!”

“What are you going to do weakling?” Bloodbath growled.

“I challenge you.” Messoria whirled around, facing Bloodbath angrily.

“To a duel? You know those are to the death right?” Bloodbath cackled. The vultures around him echoing until the atrium was filled with the roar of a thousand vultures laughing and mocking Messoria, Reyna kicked out, trying to get back to the ground.

Messoria noticed the struggle. “Put her down already.” She snarled.

“Down,” Bloodbath flicked his head curtly. “Fine, to your death.”

“There are conditions.” Messoria straightened her back once Reyna was safely back on the ground. “We are not harmed, or inhibited in our mission. None of the Reapers will threaten us, hurt us, try to stop us, or otherwise talk to us should I win this duel. If I lose, well, do what you like with Reyna and the demigods outside.”

Bloodbath tilted his head. “I have the overwhelming advantage. I will take your terms.”

“Guardian swears on the Styx with these terms.” Messoria snarled.

“Don’t trust me?” Bloodbath simpered, still circling Messoria like she was his prey.

“Never.”

“Good, you’re smarter than that I suppose. Guardian, swear it.”

The Reaper who had picked Reyna up rumbled. “I swear to these terms on the River Styx.”

Messoria nodded as if satisfied, and Bloodbath lunged with his staff. Like lightning, Messoria blocked the attack with her own weapon, sparks and shards of their weapons flew as they broke apart from the sheer power and force behind the attack and the defense.

Their weapons reformed immediately and they collided again, this time Bloodbath beat Messoria backwards entirely, her staff chipping. It grew back once more and Messoria was back in the fray, ducking and weaving as Bloodbath swung his behemoth arms at her head. Bloodbath was tall and bulky and powerful, but he was slow, something Messoria took full advantage of.

Slowly, Reyna noticed Messoria’s staff take on a weird shape unlike her usual weapon. Messoria exhausted most of her concentration and energy on this endeavor. Bloodbath clipped her shoulders and nearly hit her multiple times, but he never noticed the changing nature of Messoria’s staff until a fully formed scythe barely missed his throat.

Bloodbath gaped, and the Reapers all took a collective gasp. Messoria stood in a fighting stance, scythe in hand, icy eyes trained on her target. Her muscular body pulled tight with tension. She lashed out again at his face, Bloodbath brought his staff upwards to block, but instead of preventing the attack, his weapon shattered in his hands and he had to jump back to prevent his own decapitation.

Messoria lunged for another devastating attack but Bloodbath kicked her away and in a desperate attempt to pin her, he threw a newly formed staff her way. Messoria dodged easily, paying no mind to the strangled scream as a spectating Reaper was impaled and pinned to the wall.

Reyna looked up to find Thanatos amongst his children, looking down at the spectacle playing out below them. Dread filled her veins, but at the same time, hope.

Messoria faked a swing to Bloodbath’s legs and twisted herself, bringing her scythe up to behead him before he could think to defend himself. Silence fell with his body. None of the vultures moved or breathed.

A moment passed before Thanatos stepped into the center of the room, over the body of his son, facing his daughter. “Incredible dueling, Messoria.” He rumbled deeply, his obsidian eyes like an abyss.

Messoria, and every other vulture kneeled before him, bending their heads in respect. “Father,”

Thanatos approached her. “Stand.”

Messoria stood to face him, only to be met with a slap across the face so harsh that her head turned, she fell to her knees, and her scythe went skittering across the floor, disappearing after a few seconds. She looked up, a cut made in her cheek began to bleed.

“F-father-“

“You have betrayed us!” He boomed, his godly voice shaking the walls. The vultures leaned forward like rabid animals, ready to sink their teeth into the flesh of the wounded animal before them. “You have broken our sacred laws! The rules I have set for you to live by! You have saved Nico di Angelo’s life and destroyed the balance between life and death!”

Messoria’s lips curled, baring her teeth. “Nothing you didn’t do for my mother.”

The walls and the floors shook and the vultures grew restless, the clinking of the chains striking fear through Reyna’s heart. The temperature dropped even further and she could feel herself losing feeling in her legs and face, her hands shook as she stuffed them into Messoria’s jacket and snuggled further into the leather. It smelled like her and it quelled her fears just slightly.

Thanatos flashed with anger. “You shall not return to this place, you are no longer a daughter of mine!” With a single, startling motion, Thanatos leapt forward and tore the wings from Messoria’s back with a sickening ripping sound.

Messoria shook on the ground, her body supported by her hands and knees as blood gushed from the two gashes stretching down her back, tracing her shoulder blades and down the muscles of her back. Her metal band t-shirt hung off of her body in tatters, no longer fitting her properly.

Thanatos threw the wings to the side, the vultures swooping for them, quickly tearing them apart with cackles and blood thirsty growls. Reyna rushed to Messoria’s side, but the wounds seemed to heal quickly. She looked up, icy eyes wet with tears and alight with fear and anger, Reyna’s stomach flipped. She looked up as Thanatos turned his back. “Be gone, scum.”

Reyna pulled Messoria to her wobbly feet, allowing the girl to get used to the lack of weight on her back. They turned towards the exit, only to see a pair of studded, combat boots standing in the way.

Reyna followed the legs upwards to meet the eyes of a strange god, but the image seemed to flicker between Pluto and this god. “Lord Hades!” Messoria gasped, trying to bow. The movement in the Hive stopped entirely once more, silence falling heavier than before. Thanatos turned, very slowly, as if he were cold and angry with the god.

“Ah yes,” Hades smiled a charming smile that looked out of place in this hell. “I don’t usually fetch my servants personally, but I do believe this is a special case. I hope you don’t mind Thanatos?”

Thanatos glared. “No, My Lord.”

Hades’ smile stretched. “Good, now come along, Messoria, Roman, I believe a discussion is due.”

 

Reyna couldn’t process what was happening anymore, as Plut- Hades himself led them through the Underworld, caverns stretching over them, stalagmites and stalactites threatening to impale them. Messoria leaned heavily on Reyna, as if all energy had been drained from her body, which Reyna could understand entirely.

Plut- Hades was silent as he marched them towards an obsidian palace, flames licked at the walls and skeletons patrolled the perimeter. Reyna held Messoria perhaps a bit closer than necessary as they crossed a draw bridge over the Styx. Hades entered the grand double doors, cape fluttering behind him like a shadow. He ran a hand through his hair, much like Nico did, as he navigated the twisting and turning halls.

Finally, Plut- Hades entered a sophisticated-looking study. The fire place roared to life as he entered, illuminating a couch and two armchairs, and a table sat by a blackened window, holding a chess set made of black and white marble, a beautiful woman lounged lazily and miserably on the couch and looked up upon their entrance. A bookcase furnished the walls opposite the door and fireplace, holding huge tomes of Greek and Roman history and culture. Reyna swore she even saw a few books on the Egyptians and Norse as well.

Messoria looked to be well at home here, she just seemed to fit in better, but Reyna couldn’t look more out of place. With the way Hades flickered, Reyna was reminded, rather horrendously, of the Giant War and the split personalities of the Gods. But Hades seemed to have no problems talking as Hades rather than Pluto.

“Oh hun, that shirt’s torn to pieces!” Persephone cooed. “Here,” She snapped her fingers, conjuring a black t-shirt before Messoria. “It’s my step-son’s, I’m sure he won’t mind.” With another snap of her fingers, Messoria had the t-shirt on and the tatters of her old t-shirt disappeared. She turned to her husband and glared. “I suppose my evening’s shot.” She quickly left the room, leaving the three to their discussions.

“What a battle, young Reaper!” Hades smiled, conjuring a crystal glass with an amber liquid inside as he took a seat in one of the arm chairs beside the fire. “Have a seat, we have a few things to discuss.”

Messoria slumped down on the couch, in the seat furthest from Hades, and stared into the fire. Reyna noticed with horror, as the flames took the shapes of various skeletons and their positions of death. Messoria shook her head. “Lord Hades, I don’t understand what you want with me.”

Hades’ smile turned malignant. “Well, Reaper, I’ve heard about this prophecy you’ve been assisting the demigods with. I’m curious, just how much have you figured out?”

Messoria shrugged. “Bits and pieces.”

Hades’ smile slowly turned into a frown. “You’re much more powerful than your father would prefer.”

Messoria sneered. “Yes, well, he shouldn’t have sent his most powerful Reaper to go babysit some demigods.”

Reyna, quite frankly, was slightly offended. “Some demigods?” She mumbled. Neither noticed her words.

“Quite, risky if I may supply.” Hades smirked.

Messoria paled. “I suppose it is, he was never able to control me as well as my siblings.”

Hades sighed dramatically. “It must be such a pain, living your entire life in chains, not knowing the beauty you’re missing in life.”

Reyna didn’t understand. Hades was trying to manipulate Messoria, and honestly it was working, but what was he trying to get her to do? “It was,”

“He just disowned you as well, stripped you of your wings!”

Messoria caught on. “Lord Hades, I know what you want.”

His face contorted wickedly. “Yes? Then explain to me, shall I get it?”

Messoria took a deep breath. “Yes, my Lord.”

Hades’ smile widened until Reyna could see every tooth in his skull, she could see why so many works of art portrayed Hades with horns and fangs. “I don’t understand.”

Hades’ attention fell on Reyna. “Ah, yes, the Roman my son speaks so highly of. You are leading this quest no?”

Reyna nodded the affirmative. “I am.”

“Great, Messoria, perhaps you should explain then, what is it that you have just agreed to.”

Messoria never broke eye contact with Hades as she spoke. “My father, Thanatos, is angry with Lord Hades. He is tired of being the second in command, tired of being ordered around, tired of being feared and hated. Thanatos is gathering an army of all the monsters and souls in the Fields of Punishment and Tartarus. He’s seeking out the destruction of Lord Hades himself so that he may take the throne.”

Hades sneered. “Go on,”

“If this falls to war, the underworld will be torn apart, and monsters and misguided souls alike will flood into the world of the living, with Thanatos growing his own personal army of Reapers, the Reapers will be too busy fighting to contain the souls in the underworld. Terrible things such as the return of the Titans, the Giants, Gaia could reawaken, and Chaos could escape and the Olympians themselves would be destroyed. Life as we know it would simply cease.”

Reyna gaped at Messoria. “You knew all of this-“

“I didn’t know all of it. But I figured it out. Thanatos was sending monsters after me and Nico because he wanted the son of Hades dead, and he wanted to tie up any dangerous loose ends such as myself.” Messoria growled.

“Ah,” Hades sat back. “Tell me, Messoria, whose side are you on?”

“That’s just it isn’t it?” Messoria snarled, her voice cracking. She winced as she shifted uncomfortably. “You want me on your side do you not? And Thanatos hasn’t done much for me at all, in fact I’ve lost my entire family and home because of him. Why should I fight for him?” Messoria broke eye contact with the King of the Underworld to send Reyna a helpless glance. “I don’t have much choice, do I? I serve my Lord Hades.”

Hades smiled triumphantly. “Very well chosen Messoria.”

Messoria’s expression did not seem to agree with her statement. “My pleasure,”

There was a lull in conversation as Hades and Messoria stared at each other. “Messoria, I will be building an army of my own.”

“Fighting Thanatos will end your reign whether you win or lose.”

“I have nothing to lose then!” Hades belted out a harsh, deep laugh. “Tell me about your quest.”

“We must retrieve Pandora’s Box.” Reyna supplied.

Messoria took a sharp intake of breath. “We need to reach Pandora’s Box very soon, my father sent an army of a hundred Reapers to fetch it. He wants to unleash the evils on Hades and use the resulting chaos to seize the throne.”

Reyna couldn’t believe Messoria hadn’t told her this sooner. “You-“

“You have my permission then.” Hades dismissed quickly. “Protect that Box with your life. If it is opened you can guess that your afterlife will not be pleasant.” He smiled, discreetly pointing to his knee, where a poor soul yelped out, having been sewn into his very clothes.

Reyna shuddered. She wasn’t sure the Roman God was any better, but the Greeks could be intimidating when they want to be. “Yes sir,”

“Perfect! Fetch the box and stop Thanatos, easy enough? Great. Off you go!” Hades clapped his hands. Hades smile warped into a smirk. “Good luck, Traitor of Death.”

“Wait! We need to-“ Messoria reached out her hand as she and Reyna sank into the shadows.

They arrived outside the tree they had entered the Hive in. The bright lights blinded Reyna and for a moment she could only blink in confusion. The forest surrounded them and Messoria fell to her knees, grumbling in frustration.

“We needed to get something!” She shouted to the tree, her voice cracking in agony.

Reyna blinked the daze away and noticed two, filled backpacks at her feet. She picked one up, opening it to find more ambrosia, a tent, and some medical supplies, as well as a weird looking tooth or bone fragment. The other backpack contained a furry, dog-like head with its mouth firmly taped shut.

“Messoria, everything we need is in here.” She spoke up, interrupting Messoria’s ranting.

Messoria turned her head to look at Reyna, she had fallen to her hands now, and her eyes were wet with tears. “Everything?”

Reyna nodded, throwing the backpack to her side. She put her hands on her hips and glared down at the Reaper. “You’ve been holding back information from us.”

Messoria’s facial expression did not change. “I have.”

Reyna’s lip curled in disgust. “Let’s get back to camp and you can explain yourself better.”

Messoria stared up at Reyna almost fearfully. “Reyna, I-“

“Not now,” Reyna growled, looking the other direction. She didn’t move to help Messoria as she struggled to her feet. She conjured her scythe once more to hold her weight up and Reyna felt her icy eyes on her once more. “Let’s go.”

Reyna picked up her backpack and waited for Messoria to follow her with the other backpack. “I can’t believe that I trusted you.” Reyna grumbled, leading Messoria through the woods. The Reaper needed to stop and rest every few minutes, but they made it back to camp quickly.

Messoria limped to the team as they sat about. “We didn’t expect you back so early.” Nico called out as Reyna stormed over. She threw her backpack to the ground at his feet and she turned to Messoria sharply. For the first time, they noticed the changes in Messoria, her lack of wings mostly, not to mention the huge scythe supporting her weight.

“Explain yourself!” Reyna yelled, her voice cracking. “Explain what in the Gods’ names you just explained to Hades himself!”

Messoria flinched. “Reyna I-“

It took everything in her not to punch Messoria until her knuckles bled. No, that would be unprofessional, the world may be ending, again, but she still had to be Praetor. Gods, the world was ending again and she had to stop it. Why does this happen to her? Couldn’t it be someone else for a change? “Explain,” She growled. Messoria seemed to shrink from her gaze, she had stood her ground against two gods and a Reaper four times her size but this Roman demigod had her quaking in her shoes.

Messoria sighed. “There’s going to be a war. Thanatos wants to take the throne from Hades and he’s seeking Pandora’s Box to kick off the war, get the demigods out of the way so that they couldn’t come to his rescue. The Reapers are fighting for our father and are abandoning their posts at the Doors of Death and around the Underworld. If we can’t keep Pandora’s Box safe and stop Thanatos essentially life will cease to exist.”

Reyna turned to the rest of her team. They all stood around them, various stages of shock and outrage written across their faces. “There’s more, no?”

Messoria looked to the ground in shame. “I’m the Traitor of Death.”

Nico stepped forward. “If you’re the Traitor of Death then that means that you’re on Hades’ side, isn’t it?”

Messoria nodded weakly. “I was going to tell you, Reyna, I just-“

“What?” Reyna snarled, allowing her anger to wash over her as she stalked closer. “What made you think that withholding that kind of information would be acceptable?”

“Gods don’t you understand?” Messoria lashed out, Reyna had pushed her too hard, the temperature plummeted and Reyna’s team shivered, taking several steps backwards. In their haste, Reyna had forgotten to take off Messoria’s jacket and the temperature didn’t affect her. “Don’t you understand Reyna? I’ve just betrayed my family!” Messoria’s voice cracked, tears began to streak down her face, but they froze before they could drip to the ground, forming small icicles on her cheeks. “Everything I’ve ever known is gone! I’ve lost everything!”

Reyna grit her teeth. “They had you in chains-“

“I didn’t know!” Messoria yelped. “I didn’t know what freedom was like, I thought that life was supposed to be like that!” Her voice rose an octave. “They were all I had! I betrayed them for you!” She jabbed Reyna with her finger.

Reyna did not back down. “Why are you even here Messoria? Why did you bother?”

Messoria frowned. “You need me, I’m helping you.”

“Oh sure you are!” Reyna threw her hands up in exasperation. “Attracting monsters, withholding information, explain to me just what’s so helpful about that?”

Messoria opened her mouth. “I-“

“What? You think we need you to find Pandora’s Box? Not anymore!” Reyna laughed coldly. “Not anymore! You told me yourself Thanatos sent an entire army of your siblings off to get the Box. So what do we do? We follow the huge, abnormal temperature drops until we find the Box! We have the supplies, what good are you now? You have nothing to offer anymore.”

Messoria stared in horror as Reyna glared at her. “I-“

“You can’t even claim to continue investigating us!” Reyna snarled. “You’re a traitor! You don’t report to your father anymore, unless you want to get killed. What good are you then?” Messoria remained silent. “Why are you still here?” Reyna’s voice cracked. “Gods, you’re the Traitor of Death? Makes sense no? Once a traitor, always a traitor.”

The team had fled the two livid girls to huddle around a fire Grayson had started in panic. They shook and shivered as the temperature plummeted. “Reyna, I didn’t mean to-“

“You didn’t mean to screw this up so badly? Well congratulations, Messoria, you exceeded expectations.” Reyna growled. “I’m done with you right now.” She turned on her heel and stalked back towards her team, sitting by the fire.

Messoria remained standing, watching as Reyna deliberately sat with her back to the Reaper. The other demigods stared at her in absolute shock, but they didn’t look on with hatred anymore. Messoria had messed up badly. These demigods had trusted her and she blew it. Messoria did not leave however. She sat down in the field, closer to the trees and away from the fire, but she kept her eyes on them. She shivered, her back was cold and she snuggled closer into the t-shirt Persephone had given to her, realizing with slight hope that Reyna was still wearing her jacket.

The campfire was quiet as it got darker, Reyna was fuming and no one wanted to risk talking to her and setting her off. Her anger began to ebb and it was quickly replaced with shame and guilt. She shouldn’t have blown up the way she did, now her team was afraid of her, she had lost the trust they had in her emotional stability. Perfect.

Clarisse sat beside her quietly, looking at her spear carefully. Her face a mixture of emotions Reyna couldn’t comprehend. Suddenly, she remembered the picture she had found outside of Clarisse’s house. “Clarisse,” Her voice cracked, she had worn her throat raw with yelling. “I, um, found this, outside your house, the fire hadn’t gotten to it.” Reyna pulled the picture from her pocket and handed it to the Daughter of War.

Clarisse’s face crumpled as her head dropped. Reyna could see that she was fighting tears. “You’re wrong you know.” She growled. Reyna knew it wasn’t anger she was carefully containing. It was anguish. “Traitors, they don’t always stay that way. I- Take it from me, some of the best people I’ve ever known betrayed someone or something at some point. It’s what makes us human, fallible. I mean, I know being children of war it’s our job to pound out every ounce of weakness, but we can’t strangle out simple mistakes.”

Reyna was hit with another wave of guilt, she gripped at her sleeves, the sleeves of Messoria’s jacket. She looked down at the cuffs and snuggled closer into the collar. Maybe, Messoria meant well. She looked across the fire as Len and Nico went through their twentieth round of rock, paper, scissors.

Nico wouldn’t be alive without her. Reyna wouldn’t be alive without her she was sure. She shook her head. She’d have to apologize tomorrow, she was the Traitor of Death, which only solidified her role in the prophecy. She was stupid for telling her that she was useless.

And that’s another rush of guilt. Messoria had spent her entire life being told she was worthless and useless and replaceable, and what did Reyna do? She told her the same thing.

Nico stood suddenly. “I’m going to go talk to her.” He grunted, nodding to Messoria. “Look, Reyna, you may not trust her, but she saved my life at the cost of her own.”

“What do you mean?” Solace asked. “She’s alive now isn’t she?”

Nico shook his head, squatting so that he could talk quietly. “She told you, didn’t she?” He asked Reyna. “My soul was severed and she repaired it right? Well, you can’t just repair a soul, that’s not how it works. She had to replace some of it with a shred of her own soul. She probably shortened her own life span in the process by at least fifteen to twenty years.”

Gods, they were really pounding her into the ground with the guilt. She thought Hylla was good at guilt tripping, no, she had met the masters. “Why would she-“

“I have no idea.” Nico shrugged. “I just know that I wouldn’t be here without her, and I never thanked her. If she’s leaving the quest, I’d better thank her now.”

Nico stood again and approached Messoria, who was slumped against a tree trunk, moping. Reyna turned back to the fire, a faint smile appearing on her face at the next words Reyna heard come from Nico.

“Wait, is that my t-shirt?”

Chapter Text

The next morning was tense. No one spoke, not Reyna, nor Messoria, nor any of Reyna’s team members. Reyna struggled to function around Messoria as she organized her team, honestly she hadn’t expected the Reaper to continue on in the quest.

Messoria cleared her throat, and the demigods turned to her, all but Reyna giving her an awed look, she had the gall to speak when Reyna had been so angry with her the night before? “Um, are we shadow traveling to the Box?”

Nico squared his shoulders. “Um, if you don’t want to, I can…” It wasn’t quite a volunteer.

“No,” Reyna shook her head. “Nico, you’ll be rendered unconscious by the time we get there and we’ll need everybody to fight if we encounter any problems.”

“Which we will.” Messoria mumbled.

Reyna nodded, she didn’t glare at Messoria. Instead, she hoped that the girl would understand that she had forgiven her. “Messoria can shadow travel longer distances without tiring.”

Nico nodded. “Okay, you’re the boss.”

Reyna chuckled. “Here’s the deal. We’re going into a hostile zone with a hundred monsters ready to tear us to shreds, we need an escape plan in case things go down.”

“As if we’re not prepared to die if this goes wrong?” Clarisse rolled her eyes. “If I die, I die.”

Len raised her eyebrows. “I mean, I’ll die if need be, but I’d really rather avoid death.”

“If we die then Thanatos will wage war.” Messoria grumbled darkly. “We can’t fail, if something goes on, we need to be able to escape and go back in with a new plan.”

“Right,” Reyna nodded to the Reaper. “So, I’m going to group us so that we’re all close to either Nico or Messoria, since they can shadow travel us away from the Box.”

“We need a meeting spot.” Nico nodded.

“Well, we’ll be around Grand Rapids, Michigan, so maybe somewhere far enough away that we can avoid getting killed long enough for us to meet up but close enough that Nico can shadow travel again after a short rest in case something happens to me.” Messoria suggested. “Detroit seems like a good choice to me.”

Nico shrugged. “I can do that.”

“So, I want Len covering Solace at all times, we need our medic up and running in case someone gets hurt and I trust you to do that.” Reyna tore her eyes from Len’s own. It wouldn’t be fair of her to separate Nico and Solace in such a dangerous mission, so she would keep them close. But she wanted Grayson in back with his arrows, which means he needed to be nearer to Nico since Messoria would be leading them with Reyna. “Grayson, I want you in the back, covering us in retreat and as we surge forward, I trust your aim better than anyone else’s. I’ll be at the front, Clarisse and Messoria with me. Nico, keep near Grayson. I want Solace in the middle so that he can rush to anyone’s aid. So, that means that Grayson, Solace, and Len are to find Nico in case of retreat. Clarisse and I will find Messoria. If you find yourself away from your post, just get to the nearest one and fast. When I call retreat, I mean retreat, don’t try to be a hero.”

The six of them nodded. This was one of their most dangerous missions yet, and it had Reyna fidgeting and nervous, itching for a fight. Len and Clarisse got themselves pumped up with a rough, quick sparring match. Len was getting better, Clarisse had somewhat taken her under her wing during the quest, but she was only proficient using her sword. For all Reyna knew, Len had never touched a spear or bow.

Reyna was suddenly struck with curiosity. She hardly knew anything about Len, yet they were half siblings. It’s an odd situation, she realized, being a demigod. Reyna didn’t know of any other children of Bellona aside from Hylla and herself, but she wondered, perhaps she should reach out to Len? Mentor her maybe?

Messoria approached Reyna silently, standing at her side, watching the sparring match just as Reyna was. Reyna thought that she looked odd without her wings. She looked less crow-like and more human. Reyna could see the muscles that threaded her body, no longer dwarfed and distracted from by her wings. She still seemed a bit at odds with her own legs, simply because she no longer had weights on her back. Messoria was less of a monster.

Reyna caught herself staring at Messoria for a beat too long, but refused to look away as the Reaper rolled her head to give Reyna a sideways glance. “Reyna, I’m sorry.”

Reyna scratched the back of her neck awkwardly. “Yeah, er, I’m sorry too. I freaked out and you didn’t deserve it-“

“Didn’t deserve it?” Messoria rolled her eyes. “I could have gotten us all killed. It was a stupid decision. But I was thinking about my father last night, and why I’m here…”

“And?”

“And, we have another advantage that the Reapers don’t know about.”

“What is it?” Reyna was suddenly fascinated.

“We have two invisibility capes, rather than one. Mine, and Grayson’s-“

“Grayson?”

Messoria winced. “Yeah, he’s the thief. The one who stole my father’s cape.”

Reyna glared. “That’s a very serious accusation, you better have thorough proof.”

“It’s in his backpack.” She shrugged. Messoria’s blue eyes danced. “I went through everyone’s things the first night at Camp Half Blood, while you guys were at the bonfire thing.”

Reyna gaped. “You went through our things?”

Messoria shrugged. “I’m sorry. But I figured it’d be easier to just find out then and there rather than following you guys around for months.”

Reyna rolled her eyes, crossing her arms. “You’re very irritating you know that?”

Messoria cracked a smile. “Of course I do. But you love it anyway.” Before Reyna could reply Messoria gathered everyone together to shadow travel. “Ready, Praetor?” The way Messoria said her title irked Reyna, like she was mocking her.

“Yeah,” Reyna snapped. “Let’s go.”

They appeared in the middle of nowhere. As Reyna began to take in her surroundings, scanning the trees and looking for somewhere the Box could be hidden in, she was pulled down to the ground roughly.

“Stay down.” Messoria hissed, staring intently at what Reyna had thought was a boulder covered in vines. “That’s the cave, now look closer.”

Reyna, squinting, saw a slight movement, suddenly realizing that two creatures stood at the mouth of the hidden cave. They were cloaked in black, and they looked similar to Messoria in size, but Reyna was sure Messoria was more powerful. She gripped at her cloak. That was one of the few things of Reyna’s that had survived the fire. She hadn’t taken it off since the quest began for that exact reason. Her cloak was too valuable to lose, but a tent? Not so much.

Reyna looked over, noticing the rest of her team hidden in the grass behind her. She nodded towards her team and she crawled towards the cave. She pulled Messoria closer to her as they approached the mouth. “Guards, will the others know if we take them out right now?”

Messoria nodded. “We can sense death and see souls.”

“Best if we don’t alert them to our presence until absolutely necessary.”

“We can use the capes to get into the cave.” Messoria whispered back. “Two of us will go into the cave and one will remove their cape in wait while the other brings it back to the next person.”

Reyna nodded. “Go on.”

Grayson pretended to be shocked and adamant about his innocence, but there was no use. He had saved the cape from the fire, and Messoria had known about it from the start. Reyna wondered, as she watched with baited breath the procedure being carried out, just why was Messoria here and why had she started the quest with them? But she supposed she couldn’t have all of her questions answered right now, she couldn’t dwell on it in the middle of one of the single-most dangerous missions of her life. And that included transporting the Athena Parthenos across the world.

Reyna waited until her entire team was inside the cave before she entered, but when Messoria came back with the cape, Reyna couldn’t help the question. “Why didn’t we shadow travel inside?”

She imagined that Messoria shook her head with a smirk, but she couldn’t see her. “Magical barriers, gee if we could do that the Box would be too easy to get.”

Reyna rolled her eyes, though she knew Messoria couldn’t see her. She held her breath as she snuck by the guards. Hoping that nothing happened while they were outside. She found her way to the group of demigods and removed the cape.

She nodded her head towards an alcove in the cave. They fell into position and Clarisse and Messoria fell to her sides. Swords and scythe drawn, ready for battle.

Reyna’s heart thundered as she stepped into an atrium inside, twenty or so Reapers flitted about the room, cackling and mocking a monstrous Manticore, its tail shooting spikes at them but never hitting them. Several Reaper corpses littered the room, but none of the taunting vultures paid them mind, as if they were nothing but decoration.

Reyna noticed that the corpses were kept company with dozens of other skeletons, obviously others had tried to retrieve the Box before this. Reyna looked back at her team. Clarisse glared at the scene before them, teeth bared, ready to attack. She almost looked wolfish.

Messoria awaited Reyna’s decision. “The Reapers can be killed with Imperial Gold here, they’re not in the Hive.”

Reyna motioned to Grayson and Solace to shoot the Reapers down immediately. She caught Len and Nico’s eye, telling them to watch out for the guards.

It was a blink of an eye and all twenty of the Reapers dropped to the ground, twenty birds shot from the sky. The Manticore roared, freed from his tormentors, but now, he had other visitors.

Reyna nodded and the seven jumped forward. Solace and Grayson blinded the Manticore immediately and Len jumped up, removing its stinger from its tail. Clarisse and Reyna slashed at its face to distract it as Nico injured a foot and Messoria came falling from one of the Reaper’s perches, decapitating it with one slash of her scythe.

They had no need for regrouping, Reyna didn’t need to call out orders as they all immediately advanced further, through another hole in the wall. Reyna crouched beside a curve in the tunnel and peered around the corner, finding a field of skulls. A pile of dead Reapers to the side of an open door.

“Wow, this place sure did pick em off like flies.” Messoria mumbled, more to herself than Reyna. “Guess we don’t need that head we have.”

Reyna crept forward, ready for an ambush at any moment. Gods, this mission was getting to her. “Clear,” She called out, hesitantly.

Clarisse walked towards the walls, running her hand across the stone. “They have markings on them. They look similar to the Greek stories.”

Reyna shrugged. “I don’t care much for what all of this means, the Reapers I suppose are acting as the mine flails here.”

Clarisse nodded. “I guess it would hurt more than help to dwell.”

Reyna kicked the door open rapidly, sweeping her eyes across the entrance, clear again. As the last of her team entered she realized her mistake.

What felt like thousands, but was really only about two dozen or so Reapers ambushed them from above, flapping like bats and swinging their deadly staffs.

Messoria slashed the wings of one of her siblings and stomped on his face, crushing his skull. Reyna took down three with a series of slashes, aiming mostly at their wings, but defending against them was difficult.

Len was disarmed, her sword clattering into the dark. She kicked forward, taking on the Reaper in hand-to-hand in a near suicidal move. She kicked her knee caps, sending the Reaper down face first. Len lunged for the staff before it could dissipate and she impaled the Reaper with one swift motion. She now had a staff, more powerful than the sword she had originally, but Reyna wondered if she could figure out how to use it.

But it was as if the staff were an extension of her body, Len danced between two Reapers and simultaneously beat the two of them in the back of the head, knocking one Reaper’s knee down with a quick push kick to the back of his knee and swinging the staff again, knocking the temple of the other Reaper inward, killing him. She brought the staff down on the first one once more, killing it as well.

Len with both hands on her newly acquired staff, was unstoppable. Reyna jumped into the fray once more, trying to relieve Messoria a bit, finding herself back to back with the Reaper once more. Messoria shoved Reyna down, swinging her scythe full circle and catching a few of Reyna’s opponents with her blade. Reyna popped back up, jabbing another Reaper in the throat with her pilum.

Slowly, not without injury, her team dispatched all of the Reapers. Nico got a gash down the side of his cheek stitched up by Solace as Reyna paced anxiously. This has been too easy. Two thirds of the Reapers were dead and only one of the obstacles even bothered them at all.

They stalked forward through the cave, Reyna tried to ignore the suffocating darkness, but she supposed she couldn’t do anything about it. “Hold on,” Grayson spoke, cringing as his voice echoed about the cavern. He stepped forward and took a deep breath. Slowly, slowly, his skin began to glow like sunlight, his hair glistening like fire, his armor helped to reflect some of the light coming from him and when he smiled, Reyna swore his white teeth nearly blinded her.

Solace gaped. “I can’t do that!”

“Well, let’s go LED Boy,” Len smirked, shoving Grayson forward as he pouted at her.

“Clever, but I would have called him Sunburn.” Clarisse chuckled.

Grayson, grumbling something Reyna couldn’t quite catch, took a new position beside Reyna, his post replaced with Clarisse and her spear. Reyna crept forward, any second now things were going to turn, and she knew it.

The trembling of the ground was the last thing that she expected, but she took charge anyway. “To the walls!” She shouted over the crumbling of the ceiling. Her team followed her lead as she slammed herself into the rocks surrounding them.

Rocks crumbled around them and Grayson lost his concentration. What little light they had faded, leaving them in darkness. Reyna grabbed the wrist of the person behind her, not sure just who it was, but she suspected that it was Messoria or Grayson, and dragged them forward. Each person grabbed the wrist of the person behind them and followed Reyna as she inched herself around the circumference of the cavern, rocks and dust raining and roaring around them.

She burst through a cloud of debris and found herself in a new room. This one made of gold. Reyna stopped, dropping Messoria’s wrist and stepping forward. A figure stood in the center of the room, and Reyna’s heart stopped.

The sphinx opened her eyes, staring directly at Reyna, her claws clicked on the floor as she approached, drawing herself to her full height. Her lion’s body paced and the muscles rippled across her back, but her face was blank. “Praetor of New Rome, I’ve been waiting.”

Her team froze beside her, weapons at the ready. “Er,”

“A riddle, you must answer, to pass through into the next room. I bid you good luck.”

“It’s mankind.” Messoria smirked. “Is that not the answer?”

The sphinx turned her head slowly, staring at the Reaper. “I have learned many riddles since that embarrassment!” She roared.

“Oh jeez!” Grayson yelped, stumbling back a little bit. “Calm down!”

“Or find a cliff…” Messoria chuckled.

“The riddle?” Reyna stepped closer, coming within swiping distance of her huge paws. If she were to get this riddle wrong, she wanted the person the sphinx would eat to be her.

The sphinx’s face stretched into a blood-chilling smile. “Strived by all who breathe, none shall reach me, for I dance along, just out of grasp. Children dream of me and old men weep over me. I shan’t be caught for I can’t be caged, when you die I shall die as well, though I am different to all, none can ever tell when I am near. When I am within reach, you deny me. For when I am cornered none truly want me. What am I?”

Reyna’s heart dropped. There was no way she could come up with the answer! It’s either answer her riddle or kill her in combat, and she wasn’t sure her measly team of seven, already exhausted and weak from the battle up to this point, could take her.

Reyna pulled her team together. Grayson was stroking his chin as if he had facial hair and Solace had a look of absolute concentration on his face. Nico furrowed his eyebrows and stared at the ground with his arms crossed. Len watched as Reyna shifted awkwardly. “You don’t know do you?”

Reyna shrugged. “Who does?”

Everyone shook their head. “We can’t get past her if we answer wrong. She won’t let us go if we don’t answer either.” Clarisse grumbled. “Gods, I didn’t sign up for this.”

“Actually, you did.” Solace smirked. “You volunteered, no?”

“Oh shut up, I thought there’d be war and destruction, not philosophical discussions with a sphinx.”

Messoria rolled her eyes. “So, answers?”

Reyna regarded the sphinx. “What are her weaknesses?”

Her six teammates stared at her in shock. “You want to-“ Len couldn’t finish her sentence.

“What are her weaknesses?” Reyna asked again, more forcefully this time.

Len peered over Reyna’s shoulders. “Well, eyes are always a good weakness, she can’t catch us if she can’t see us.”

“Oh she so can.” Clarisse, ever the optimist, grumbled.

“Well, it gives us a better chance.” Messoria shrugged. “With the Apollo twins over here we can handle taking her eyes, and then it should make it easier for some of us to stay behind and keep her confused. The floor and walls should make echoing a real pain.”

“Who stays behind?”

The group fell silent once more and Reyna took the time to study each of her teammates’ faces. “The Greeks.” Her voice cracked a bit, but she covered it up with an awkward cough. “I’m sorry,” The three Greeks standing around her looked to the ground. Reyna’s stomach twisted. It was sentencing them to death. “The prophecy says that the Box will be retrieved by Romans. Nico will stay with you two, if something happens before we get back, shadow travel out. I mean it Nico!” She snapped, stopping the boy before he could start an argument. “Don’t you dare start playing the hero.”

“Reyna-“

“Nico.” Reyna stopped him. “Don’t play the hero.”

Nico’s face filled with anguish. Reyna could guess he was afraid of losing his own life, alongside that of his boyfriend-not-boyfriend. Reyna sighed, sharing her strength with the rest of the group, allowing it to echo and amplify amongst the seven of them. Her heart quickened with fear and nerves, she, as always, felt the wave of anguish from Nico, but with Grayson’s near-idiotic optimism and Clarisse’s bold confidence, she was able to shoulder the burden more. She steadied herself and shared a knowing look with Nico.

“Now, I’ll distract her, tell her I have an answer, and then I’ll duck, you two better have an arrow ready by the end of my sentence.” She told the Apollo kids.

They nodded, and Reyna turned on her heel, almost startling the sphinx as she waited patiently. “We are ready!” She announced with practiced grandeur, the kind of façade she played when charming the Senate. “You see, you’re very intelligent, but we are the best of the best.” Reyna smiled. She heard a clink, the arrows were loaded. The sphinx began to turn her head toward the noise and Reyna rushed to distract her. “Clever! Very clever, but not clever enough!” Reyna fell to the ground like she were about to do a push up and watched with baited breath as two arrows flew towards the sphinx’s skull.

Her roaring nearly deafened her, and as she swiped her great paws, Reyna pressed herself to the ground further, only barely avoiding certain death. “Here, kitty, kitty!” Clarisse shouted tapping her spear end on the wall beside her as Nico and Solace scattered about the room.

Reyna, her Romans, and Messoria rushed to the door. Messoria reached the door first and slammed her shoulder into the wood, forcing it open.

They stumbled through, slamming the door behind Len. Len was covered in golden Ichor, shockingly enough. “I cut her paw before we got out.”

Reyna nodded and pushed herself further into the cave. They had to be getting close by now. Grayson lit the way as they plunged deeper in deeper, light disappearing once more. Len gripped at her newly acquired staff and Messoria kept close as well. They walked for a long time with no disturbance.

Just as Reyna began to get antsy, and her sword tip began to get heavy, she heard a rustling in the distance. The same sound she heard in the Hive. A sound she was sure would haunt her in her nightmares. Her stomach clenched and her jaw began to ache as she ground her teeth in fear. Gods, she was terrified, and grateful for the relative darkness. If Len and Grayson could see her now, they’d be incapable of fighting. She’d be to blame for the failure of the mission. Not that she wouldn’t be had the mission failed for any other reason. But she refused to allow this quest to fail because of her pitiful emotions.

“Wings,” Reyna breathed.

Messoria glanced at her with concern. “Hm?”

“More Reapers ahead,” Reyna whispered, Len gripped her staff tightly.

“Let’s go then.” She growled.

They took off into a run, chasing after the sound. They burst into the final room. Blue light emitting from the center. Forty Reapers flit about the center, but none of them ever broke within a six foot radius of the center. Reyna couldn’t see why, but she didn’t have time to look, because the Reapers took notice of the three poorly prepared demigods and disgraced Reaper almost immediately.

The chaos that erupted ended any and all hope for Reyna. She did not plan to live, but she supposed she might as well give it her best shot. Messoria slashed her way towards Reyna, only able to fend off one or two Reapers before the gap was closed around them.

“Reyna!” She shouted over the din. “Plan?”

Reyna slammed all over her weight into a thrust, forcing the tip of her blade through the diaphragm of the Reaper slashing at her face and throwing him backwards with her shoulder.

Messoria fought tooth and nail with her back to Reyna, but that couldn’t stop them. Reyna prayed her cloak would work, and was quickly assured when a Reaper’s staff bounced off of her back. Messoria’s deadly scythe worked wonders against the Reapers. They gasped and cackled and mocked her, but she said nothing, instead, slashing them down like swine.

Reyna found a hole in the swarm and dashed through it, not waiting for Messoria to back her up. Instead she found herself in Len’s circle, she was cut and bleeding and her clothes torn to pieces. She gripped her staff like it was her lifeline but the Reapers were pouring in.

Reyna lunged, taking a Reaper from behind as he tried to land a blow on Len’s back. Len was unaware, she was overwhelmed and she needed Reyna’s help. She tried to ignore that nagging feeling that perhaps this was how Hylla felt whenever they were separated in battle with other monsters. Reyna felt and Reyna felt hard, she felt like an older sister protecting her family, she felt like a leader aiding her subordinates, she felt like a child swinging a plastic toy uselessly at a never-ending enemy army.

Len whipped around blocking a powerful attack, knocking her own weapon into shards. “Len!” Messoria shouted over the flapping of wings and clamor of weapons. She tossed her own scythe to her and spun to face the Reaper before her, creating a new scythe from air just as an attack came down on her towards her throat. Len caught the weapon out of the air before someone else could and held it awkwardly. Reyna’s heart jumped to her throat. Len had never used a scythe before. Hell, neither had Reyna.

But after three successive kills, Reyna figured that Len had things under control now. Her weapon smashed through the other Reapers’ pitiful attempts at weapons and slashed through them, severing their souls as if they were vapor.

“Have you ever even touched a scythe before?” Reyna shouted, taking another Reaper.

Len laughed. “Nope, call it a gift.”

A gift was exactly what Reyna would call it. A gift from the gods. Reyna supposed that was just something Len had because of her parentage. Reyna had seen stranger.

Something knocked into her side, scrambling, scratching, and tearing at her. Reyna kicked and slammed her arms back, grateful for her cloak and her armor. Gods, she should be dead about now. The vulture above her didn’t look nearly as human as Messoria, but Reyna didn’t have time to look at him, he immediately began to snap at her face. The temperature dropped dramatically in those few seconds and the Reaper was ripped from her and slammed away.

Reyna didn’t take time to assess her savior, instead she jumped to her feet, grabbed her sword and swung, hoping she’d hit something. Slowly, she was pushed further and further back towards the center of the room, until she stumbled through into open space. No Reapers came after her. She glanced up to find herself within the six foot radius the Reapers had been avoiding.

The Reapers following her flit about in frustration, snarling and screeching at her. She willed her sword into a pilum and stabbed at them through the invisible barrier. “Romans fall back! Into the center!”

Like machinery, all three of her partners fell into the circle, watching as the Reapers circled them with growing agitation. Reyna was grateful that both Len and Grayson were still alive, though looking quite the worse for wear. Reyna turned to the center of the room, the source of the blue light. She found Pandora’s Box.

And it was a shoe box.

Reyna couldn’t believe her eyes. A shoe box? She risked life and limb, Thanatos himself sent an army after a shoe box? She approached the box, full intent on finding out if this pathetic, cardboard box actually held the evils of the world when she stopped herself, hand on the lid.

“This is exactly what it wants.” She gasped, pulling her hand back like it had been burned. The Box beckoned at her to open it. I mean, how could they be sure that it was actually Pandora’s Box? It’s made of cardboard!

“C’mon Reyna, get the box, we need to get out of here.”

Reyna didn’t know who said it, but she reached for the Box once more. The Reapers were throwing themselves at the barrier and Reyna could swear there were fractures in the air. “Reyna,” Len had a shaky voice. “They’re breaking through!”

Reyna saw a flash of gold. Len’s sword.

“I’m going to make a hole.” Messoria snapped rapidly. “You three need to book it through and get back to Nico. Get out of here now!”

The Reaper with Len’s sword fluttered towards the barrier. “Messoria you can’t-“

“I can and I will!” Messoria shouted, grabbing Reyna’s chest plate and pushing her closer to the edge, still gripping the Box tightly. “Now go! I’ll catch up with you.”

The sword pierced the barrier and Reyna watched as it cracked like glass. The Reaper pulled back again and struck the barrier, over and over. Finally, it shattered and Messoria burst through directly at the collection of Reapers. “Go!” Reyna shouted, ushering her legionnaires away from Messoria. The Reaper looked like she was about to be ripped apart by the claws and teeth of her animalistic brethren the last time Reyna saw her.

They burst through, sprinting through the dark after the faintest glow of the golden room of the sphinx chased by Reapers and hoping that Nico and the Greeks hadn’t already left.

Chapter Text

They slammed through the door to find the three Greeks dancing about the sphinx with grace and skill. Grayson yelped, rolling along the wall. The sphinx turned, swiping a paw at the newcomers, roaring loud enough to shake the walls. Reyna grabbed Len and they crashed to the floor, barely avoiding the huge paw coming their way. However, two of the Reapers behind them weren’t lucky enough to avoid her paw.

Reyna and Len, struggling to find traction on the slick, golden floor, dashed between the paws of the sphinx and to the door. Reyna collected her legionnaire and threw both of her Romans before her towards Nico. Solace stood beside him, arrows flying at the Reapers at their backs. Clarisse vaulted over the back of the sphinx and pounded over, the two daughters of war reached Nico at the same time and they shrank into the shadows.

They collapsed into a heap at their safe house in Detroit. Reyna panted as she fell to her knees, she clutched at the Box and closed her eyes. She hadn’t expected things to go that well, given the situation. Her Romans had survived, and the Greeks as well, the only person they had lost was-

“Messoria!” Reyna jolted back into movement, her pulse quickened and she jumped to her feet, ignoring the pile of demigods beside her, all of them exhausted and panting. Nico had already fallen asleep.

Reyna set Pandora’s Box down, searching about the small town house they had landed in. They had agreed on one of Len’s former childhood homes, but Reyna prayed she’d find Messoria around here. She dashed into the kitchen, and found nothing but dust inches thick and decaying countertops.

Reyna glanced to the left and risked dusty steps, taking them two at a time and praying that her feet wouldn’t fall through the rotten wood. “Messoria!” She called out, trying to fight off the feeling of panic and doom. They wouldn’t be able to stay long, she was sure the Reapers would find them within the hour.

She burst through, ignoring patches of dust and debris. She checked every door and with every empty room she found her heart dropped a little closer to her stomach. Her hands shook as she came to the final room. Nothing.

Reyna fell to her knees once more in the center of the room. She tried to blink back tears as she thought about the crappy things she had said to Messoria before she- No, Reyna couldn’t think about it.

Her fist connected with the wall before she could stop herself. She needed to stop before she hurt herself. She needed to stop before one of her legionnaires saw her and she lost validity, she needed to stop before she hurt someone else. Her fist had gone straight through the old, crumbling dry wall. But by now there was nothing she could do. She brought her fist back and there was another hole in the wall in the blink of an eye.

She grunted before sliding down the wall again and curling up on the floor, knees tucked to her chest and forehead resting on her legs. Gods, she had lost yet another friend. She looked up again, staring at the opposite wall, chin resting on her knees, her eyes were dry and she felt numb. This wasn’t the kind of feeling a Praetor gets after losing subordinates. She’d lost something more dear to her than her trusting, loyal soldiers.

Reyna lost track of time, until Len found her in the back room. The younger girl looked about with a slight pained expression. “This used to be my bedroom.” She coughed, before she noticed the emotional state of her sister. Len said nothing as she sat down beside Reyna in a similar position. “It wasn’t your fault you know.”

Reyna nodded. “I know.” She rasped so lowly she wasn’t sure that Len had heard her.

“She wanted to help us, I mean, come on she was the Traitor of Death.” Len bumped Reyna’s shoulder with her elbow. “You didn’t make her do anything.”

Reyna sighed. “She lived her entire life in a cave, chained to rock walls, surrounded by her animalistic siblings. And none of them ever bothered to hide their desire to rip her to shreds. She wanted to escape that and helping us was the only way to do that. Instead, she died exactly how she feared she would, in a dark, dank cave, destroyed by her siblings.”

A cloud hung over both of their heads as Reyna stewed in her vat of emotions. “You really liked her didn’t you?”

Reyna chose not to answer, she had no idea what the question meant anyway. “Do you think she’s-“ Gods she really was pathetic, she couldn’t even finish her sentence.

Len barely breathed. “Reyna, the likelihood of survival is so low it’d be foolish to hope.”

Reyna sighed. “I know.”

Reyna didn’t know how long they sat there, and she wasn’t sure just when she had leaned her head on Len’s shoulder, or just how long until Nico was ready to move on. But Reyna was sure that she was never going to get over the guilt of Messoria’s death.

They both jolted to their feet at the sound of commotion downstairs. Reyna had her sword ready and she was across the room before Len could process what was going on. Gods, how dare they? How dare those damned Reapers find them after killing their friend? How dare they push Reyna beyond her limits? No, she’ll make them pay.

Reyna stormed down the steps, ready to kill when instead Clarisse met her at the bottom of the steps, hair tousled slightly, but spear slacked in her grasp. She opened her mouth to say something, but instead she closed it. She shook her head and pressed one hand to the bridge of her nose. “Praetor, she-“

Reyna did not wait for Clarisse to finish before she pushed by Clarisse and found Nico and Grayson lifting a mangled body onto the counter top while Solace rushed about the kitchen readying his medical supplies. Reyna rushed to Messoria’s side. She was bleeding and grimy. She had a hand pressed to her stomach, where Reyna could see that she was keeping her own intestines inside of her body.

Messoria moved her head to look at Reyna, winced, and then lost consciousness. “Messoria!” Solace shouted. “Stay awake you idiot!”

She jerked back to consciousness, mouthing something that only came out as a gurgle of blood. Reyna tried to avoid looking at her extensive injuries, but once Solace was finished setting up, Nico ushered everyone out of the room.

Reyna paced like a panther as Nico was kicked out as well, she wasn’t sure how competent Solace was on the surgical table, but she supposed that anything would be better than just letting her die. Gods, Messoria had a chance!

Grayson had left as well, stating that he was much better at music and glowing than important things like medicine. Clarisse took a seat on the floor, polishing her weaponry with careful precision. Len watched Reyna carefully, she knew what she was thinking and Reyna felt slightly uncomfortable about it.

“The Box,” Reyna rasped, looking about. “Where is it?”

“Relax, Reyna.” Clarisse drawled, holding up the Box. “I have it. Man, Silena used to-“ The Spartan winced setting the Box down quickly. “Erm, I hear these shoes are like really expensive and ‘cool.’”

Nico turned to Clarisse, a shadow fell over his face. “You can talk about her-“

“Shut up, Skelekid!” Clarisse snarled, meaner than usual.

Nico put up his hands in surrender and leaned back against the wall, enveloped in shadow. “We need to leave soon.”

“As soon as Messoria is in stable condition.” Reyna snapped.

Grayson looked up. “Praetor, what do we do now?”

“We have the Box.” Len scratched the back of her neck. “Thanatos will be after it I’m sure. We need to get it somewhere safer.”

“New Rome.” Reyna sighed, allowing the wall to support her. “Gods I told myself this wouldn’t happen! We have to take the Box to New Rome where we can protect it with the rest of the Legion. Grayson, while we’re sitting here doing nothing, Iris message Praetor Zhang, explain things. Clarisse, Nico, we’re going to need every person available. We need the Greeks-“

“We’re there.” Nico affirmed with power in his voice. “We’re allies, when someone wages war against you, they wage war against us.”

“Reyna,” Len called from the ground. “How are we going to prevent this war from happening? We fight, we die, and Thanatos gets stronger.”

“New king rises right?” Clarisse coughed. “Someone is going to have to replace either Thanatos or Hades, so, I guess we’re going to have to kill a god.”

“A new era shall dawn at the fall of a god.”

“Not just any god.” Nico snorted. “We have to kill death. That’ll work out well I’m sure.”

Just then, Solace walked through the door, covered in blood up to his elbows and grime smeared on his shirt. “Good news guys, she’s stable, well, her intestines won’t fall out. But I’m not sure she’s ready to travel anywhere. I can’t give her anymore ambrosia for at least another hour or she’ll burn up. Even Reapers have their limits. Anyway, I think you guys should move on, leave us here and we’ll catch up.”

Reyna shook her head. “No, Solace, we’re about to have some real issues in New Rome that will require each and every medical expert the two camps have on hand. I’ll stay with her. Er, Len will stay as well. Grayson, Nico, and Solace need to get to Camp Jupiter, I assume Clarisse will need to reach Camp Half Blood and propose reinforcements.”

Clarisse stood. “I don’t have to. Get me to Camp Jupiter and I’ll message Chiron and the Cabin Leaders. I doubt we’ll have problems.”

Nico nodded. “I can shadow travel to Camp Jupiter, but I’ll be practically useless for a few hours, I’m tired enough as it is.”

Grayson reappeared. “Praetor Zhang is aware of the situation and is currently organizing the legion to prepare for our arrival.”

“Grayson, I’m entrusting Pandora’s Box to you. I don’t believe I have to stress to you the importance that you do not open that Box. Get it to the center of New Rome, when you get there, tell Frank that we’re going to have to call in the veterans as well.” Reyna sighed. “Aid hasn’t been required of the New Rome Veterans since the Civil War, but we have no other choice. New Rome will most likely be destroyed and we will need every able body at our disposal. Solace, what more can you do for Messoria?”

“Just give her more ambrosia in an hour.” Solace shrugged. “Hope she can make it on her own.”

Reyna nodded gravely. “Get going, we’ll follow behind you when she’s ready to travel.”

Clarisse walked up to Reyna. “Good luck, Praetor. It was an honor fighting at your side.”

Reyna nodded, not trusting her own words, instead, she shook Clarisse’s outstretched hand and patted her shoulder as she walked away. Nico hugged Reyna tightly. “Be careful, Reyna.”

He felt even skinnier than he looked, but Reyna felt almost comforted at his presence. “C’mon di Angelo, you know me.”

“Exactly, that’s why I’m telling you, don’t be the hero.”

Reyna chuckled and pushed him over to where his group awaited. “Go on Nico, I’m trusting my legionnaire with you.”

He mock saluted with a wry smile and the four of them shrunk into the shadows. Len stood and followed Reyna in the kitchen. Dust clotted around the room with blood, and Len nearly slipped more than once.

Messoria was asleep on the counter, her breathing ragged and her fingers twitched every now and then. Her hair stuck to her forehead and face with blood and sweat, and her shirt was torn to pieces. “Gross,” Len shook her head. “I’m washing her up. That’s just, ew.”

Reyna silently agreed and helped her younger sister clean some of the dried blood from the Reaper. “Well, this is a nice twist.” She smiled sheepishly over at Reyna. “At least she’s alive.”

Reyna cleared her throat. “At least,”

“What’s up? C’mon you can’t keep everything bottle up, trust me.”

Reyna was reminded of the quiet, reserved probatio she had started this quest with. “You’re one to talk.”

“How about I tell you mine if you tell me yours.” Len proposed, wiping some of the soiled water from the counter. “Fair trade no?”

Reyna glared. “Fine, I need to contact all of the allies of New Rome, which includes my sister, Queen of the Amazons, however, I’m not sure she’ll enjoy that conversation, seeing as most of her subordinates were killed in the Giant War, fighting Orion.”

Len’s eyebrows shot up. “That won’t be fun. But, she’s your sister, she’ll come to our aid. Unless, of course, she wants the world to be torn apart from the inside out.”

Reyna shook her head. “We’ve got a lot of history between the two of us. Things are complicated. I worry sometimes.”

Len shrugged. “You shouldn’t worry so much. Things aren’t as bad as they seem. You also tend to assume people think the worst of you, when it’s really quite the opposite.”

Reyna winced. “Yeah, I do tend to do that. Anyway, I’ve said enough. What about you?”

Len shrugged. “Lived pretty normally up until a couple of years ago, my little brother got cancer, died, it was tragic.” Len tried to pull off the indifferent attitude, but she failed, miserably. “My dad got kind of lethargic and I just couldn’t take it anymore, left and found myself with the wolves.”

Reyna nodded. “Do you ever talk to your father anymore?”

Len chuckled. “No, he, um.” Her voice cracked and she looked away in shame. “He thinks it was suicide.”

Reyna stared at Len. “How?”

“I got really angry at him once, and I just stormed off. Found myself in a swarm of harpies and I tried to escape by darting into an office building, but they followed me. So I ran up to the roof and when I got to the edge, I grabbed an old pipe and jumped at one of the harpies. I mean, it caught me and I made it to the ground a couple of blocks away nice and safe, but my dad just saw me falling from the building, and a body hit the ground, one of the harpies I hit. So he thinks I’m dead, and I just. I couldn’t bring myself to show up afterwards.” Len bit her lip. “If I came back, he’d probably have a panic attack of some sort.”

Reyna pulled Len in for a hug. “You have a new family now.”

Reyna heard a single sob from the younger girl before she was capable of collecting herself and moving away. She cleared her throat. “Thanks, Reyna.”

Reyna nodded and turned back to Messoria, moving her hair from her face. “How long until we give her more ambrosia?”

“About ten minutes.”

Reyna ran her fingers through the Reaper’s hair, forcing the tangles out. She didn’t notice when Messoria woke up, but when she did notice her icy eyes on her, Reyna couldn’t help the blush that crept up the back of her neck. “Er,”

Messoria shook her head, a small smile dancing on her chapped lips. “You’re cute.” She rasped. Reyna could hardly tell what she had said, but she knew it embarrassed her.

Len tossed the bag of ambrosia, hitting Reyna in the side of her head. “Focus,” She smirked.

Reyna rolled her eyes and handed Messoria a square of ambrosia. “The others are taking the Box back to New Rome.”

“Why are you still here?” She croaked, shoving the ambrosia into her mouth.

Reyna rolled her eyes. “To take care of you obviously.”

“Yeah,” She swallowed. “But you’re Praetor. Shouldn’t you be back there?”

“Yeah, probably, but I’m not.”

“You need to learn to prioritize.”

“I already know how to do that.”

“Debatable.” Messoria chuckled. “Help me up.”

“I don’t think you should-“ Before Reyna could stop her, Messoria was grunting in pain as she tried to sit up.

“Ugh, my liver finally popped back into place!”

Len placed a hand over her own abdomen. “Ow,”

Messoria, through her pain, managed a smirk. “Yeah, it hurt quite a bit.” She finally managed to get herself upright on the counter, body propped up by her own arms behind her. “So, have we got a plan once the three of us get out of here?”

“We get back to Camp Jupiter, evacuate the young and elderly from New Rome and wage war.” Reyna shrugged. “There’s not much else that can be done.”

Messoria stared at her, Reyna felt like her eyes were piercing her skull. “You can’t just wage war against the God of Death. His forces literally will not die.”

“We’ll kill him then.” Len suggested. “Kill death, I mean it’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one but what other choice do we have?”

Messoria put a hand to her forehead. “No, it’s possible. If we have someone to take his place. I can’t even begin to tell you how dangerous it would be without having the God of Death for even five minutes. No, he has to be killed by the person who will replace him, and then they have to drain every ounce of ichor in his body to replace their own mortal blood.”

“You’re being a bit dramatic don’t you think?” Len laughed nervously.

“With good reason!” Messoria yelped, raising her voice had caused some sort of pain in her abdomen. “You said so yourself, we can’t just kill a god unless we have a way of balancing out the world with his absence!”

Reyna rubbed at her temple. She’d had a very stressful twenty four hours. “The question isn’t why, how, or even what, but who will take over?”

“Obviously someone we can trust.” Messoria froze.

“Someone who already has an extensive knowledge of death.” Len suggested.

“Preferably someone responsible and in control of themselves.” Reyna continued.

“We all have the same idea then?”

The other two girls nodded, chorusing, “You.” While Messoria croaked out, “Nico.”

“Okay, so no, we’re not on the same page.”

Chapter Text

When they appeared just across the Little Tiber, Messoria fell to the ground, exhausted. Perhaps she wasn’t quite ready for travel.

Reyna pulled her up and she and Len helped her across the river and into New Rome, chaos had erupted. “Len, take Messoria to the Praetor’s living quarters, tell Zhang she needs to be present for our discussion.” Len nodded and took Messoria off in a different direction.

Almost immediately after the warmth of Messoria’s body had disappeared from Reyna’s body, a large group of legionnaires swamped her. “Praetor! Zhang, he’s ordered-“

“Dakota,” Reyna snapped, a different legionnaire stepped forward. “Control him. I need information on the progress of the evacuation-“ A large bald eagle swooped down from the sky, landing as Frank Zhang. “Praetor Zhang.” Reyna greeted, shaking his hand and giving him a half hug. “How are things going? It looks as if chaos-“

“Yeah,” Zhang glared at a small group of stagnant legionnaires, they burst into motion, back to the work they had been assigned to do. “The veterans aren’t thrilled about jumping back into service, and we have nowhere safe to evacuate the others.”

“I think we should send them to Camp Half Blood. They have a magical barrier that will keep monsters from catching them, and all of Thanatos’ forces will be concentrated here.”

“Why here? And what in Pluto’s name is going on?”

“That’s a story for somewhere safer. I believe you understand the gravity of the cargo Grayson Marx is carrying?”

“I’m aware, and I have it in the safest place I can think of, the castle we use for War Games.”

“Perfect, we know all of the weaknesses and can defend it well.”

“I called in Percy and Annabeth. They’re on their way.”

“Good, we have to keep things moving. I need to contact our allies.”

“I’ll organize the evacuation more. Children and elderly to Camp Half Blood!” He boomed, his voice carrying over and catching the attention of the nearest legionnaires. Mothers were torn away from their children and husbands from their wives. Reyna caught a glimpse or two of people she had known during the Titan War, who had retired shortly after for the sake of their own sanity. Guilt wrenched her gut and she nearly doubled over as she marched to find a safe place to message her sister.

She found herself back at her own Praetor’s quarters. Len waiting beside a barely conscious Messoria. “Orders, Praetor?” Len stood ramrod straight.

“Find the Seven, they’ll be a wealth of information. Bring me Nico di Angelo, Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase, Clarisse la Rue, if you run into Zhang ask him for Jason Grace and Piper McLean. I need the best of the best to help me with this.” Reyna ran a hand over her face. “Go,”

Len took off running, scythe, given to her by Messoria, bouncing on her back and clinking against the metal of her dented and grimy armor. Reyna turned to study Messoria, she had fallen asleep during her orders, but she supposed it wouldn’t matter, she was only of use to them if she were ready for battle.

Reyna moved Messoria herself to the couch in her own flat, finding her way back into the Crisis Room. Reyna spread out huge maps over the table, studying the layout of her own Camp. She already knew every stone and blade of grass by heart, but she needed to be sure. Percy and Annabeth arrived first, in full Greek battle gear, weapons sheathed at their sides.

Reyna spared them a greeting and immediately turned back to her maps. “New Rome is going to be attacked by an incredibly powerful force and I need everyone to be here before I can explain anything in detail.” Reyna was in full battle mode by now. She had taken charge of her own emotions, put aside her worry for the Reaper asleep on her couch, and instead allowed the feeling of being back in her comfort zone to wash over her. She knew what needed to be done. She was a daughter of Bellona, the one thing she knew how to do was wage war.

Annabeth and Percy nodded and took a seat, Annabeth carefully eyeing the maps with as much attention as Reyna herself. “We’ve heard you’re evacuating New Rome.”

“I’m evacuating those who can’t fight, we’ve recruited every single able bodied person in all of New Rome and it’s still not enough. I’ve got to message the Amazons, I’ve got to gather every ounce of demigod that could possibly fight on our behalf and get them here, now.”

“What in Hades is going on?” Piper McLean demanded, as she entered the Crisis Room alongside a very pale Jason Grace. Clarisse followed shortly after, but she already knew the state of affairs. Nico was the last to appear and Reyna felt even more guilt at the sight of him. Reyna started to make markings on her maps with the help of Annabeth, she may not know what was going on but her natural brilliance in battle strategy was starting to get to her.

Reyna gestured for her to sit and wait as Clarisse joined them with strategy. “I can get the Spartans over this way, hold off that entrance.”

“We’ll need a patrol, the arrows seemed to work well with them, I’m thinking Apollo kids on the roofs of buildings and a patrol of archers, if we can get the Hunters with us-“

“Praetor, what are we going to do about the temperature?” Len asked from the back of the room. Reyna hadn’t noticed her entrance, and she didn’t mind, the kid was surely gifted enough and her question was very valid and very distressing. The other members of the room looked at the kid in surprise.

“Oh gods,” Reyna rubbed at her temple, gripping the sleeve of Messoria’s jacket with her other hand. She hadn’t noticed the temperature in the cave, simply because she had yet to give Messoria her jacket back. “They’ll freeze to death with that many Reapers.”

“Can we have an explanation now?” Zhang entered, still miffed about the chaos going on outside. “I left Dakota in charge, he should be okay.”

Reyna sprang into action, moving the white board, as if giving a presentation for school. Not that she had even attended a school since she was ten.

“Thanatos, the God of Death is about to wage war on New Rome.” Reyna stated simply. “He wants to take the throne from the King of the Underworld, depending on who you are, that’s either Hades or Pluto. However, in order to do so he wants to unleash the evils contained in Pandora’s Box, which my team and I recovered earlier today.” That statement only reminded Reyna of her own exhaustion. “The Box is hidden within New Rome right here in this castle. We will be defending it against the strongest army we’ve ever had to face. You don’t want to know what will happen if we fail.”

Annabeth and Percy both had matching looks of disappointment and terror. “Reyna-“ Percy began.

“Should I explain to them?” Reyna looked to her sister and then to Nico and Clarisse. Each gave a single nod. “This war, if it is directed at the King of the Underworld will tear apart the Underworld. Ghosts you will never want to meet will rise. Gaia will rise, the Titans will rise, the Giants will rise, the only people, basically, that won’t rise will be the Olympians. Even worse, they will all rise at the same time. It was hard enough with them one at a time!” Reyna in frustration turned away from the two. “I understand, believe me, I understand that you’re tired of fighting. I am too. But the world is at stake and the Gods best line of defense is a group of teenagers.”

“Then, if this army is so powerful, how are we going to defend ourselves?” Piper asked carefully.

“Don’t worry about that,” A tired voice from the back of the room spoke. “I have a plan.” Messoria stepped forward. “There’s a few catches, I mean, there always will be. But that’s not the point. The point is, we need to engage Thanatos himself before the battle gets too bad. It won’t just save lives but it will keep our army moving. If we can kill him quickly, then the temperature won’t drop so bad-“

“Temperature?” Jason asked. “You keep mentioning the temperature?”

Percy and Annabeth were completely bewildered, they didn’t know Messoria, and they were shocked Reyna allowed such a low ranking legionnaire in this discussion. “Hold on, who are you?”

Messoria flashed a smile. “Yeah, I’m a Reaper, prime example of what’s to come, however, I don’t have wings, kinda sucks but we can’t all be perfect.”

Reyna snapped her fingers to catch Messoria’s attention. “Stay on task. Percy, Annabeth, Frank, Hazel, this is Messoria, she’s a Reaper, one of Thanatos’ children. Her siblings are this army that is coming after us. They have a few things that make it much more difficult to fight them.”

“Such as, the ability to kill on contact, the ability to spawn our own weapons, these weapons are super deadly by the way, and we can fly. Well, ‘they’ can fly.” Messoria pouted slightly. “Anyway, I don’t suspect Thanatos to leave any Reapers guarding the underworld. So that should make it easier for us to avoid death, but that does mean that these Reapers won’t be dying either. Also, when we fight, get emotional, and such, the temperature drops a huge amount, especially when there’s a large group of us. These temperatures are difficult for even us to function in, each of my siblings have a magical jacket just like that one,” She pointed to Reyna, who in turn blushed a little. “To protect ourselves. However, demigods like you will freeze to death way before any of us get even slightly uncomfortable, that is, without our jackets. But they’ll be wearing them which means they’re pretty much good for subzero temperatures downwards of thousands below.”

“Good Gods,” Annabeth rubbed her temple. “How long has this been in the making?”

“Only since Frank over there freed my father from his chains a year or so ago.”

“You didn’t tell anyone-“

Messoria turned to Frank abruptly. “Traitor of Death, pleasure to meet you.” Her words were like ice and everyone in the room froze. “I didn’t know any of you two weeks ago, so give me a break would you?”

The silence in the room was unsettling. Reyna sighed. “Jason, could you get into contact with your sister and ask her for aid? Clarisse, we’re going to need every bit of backup you can pull together, any allies of the Greeks will be greatly appreciated.”

“We’re in the process of transporting all of the Greeks this way. They should be here soon enough, by tomorrow if we’re lucky.”

“Gods we don’t have until tomorrow.” Reyna mumbled to herself. “Thank you, Clarisse. We should move this meeting closer to the Box, we’ll decide our course of action there.”

They nodded and the entire room stood, shuffling out of the door, fear evident on their faces. Reyna gathered her maps and a few other useful papers and followed. Messoria waited for her at the door as the others walked on ahead. “Reyna, we can’t hold them off for long. You know that.”

“Messoria, you can’t possibly expect Nico to-“

“I know!” Messoria growled. “I know, look, I hate myself for it too, but the prophecy states clearly that I’ll only be aiding a new king. I can’t take the throne and you know that. Nico’s the only option-“

“And it’ll destroy his life.” Reyna snarled. “If you knew half of the things that kid has gone through, gods if you knew you wouldn’t suggest him.”

“Reyna, I know, believe me I know. But if he doesn’t take the throne then who else will? No one else has the power or the control that he does!”

“You do!”

“I’m the Traitor!”

“You can’t do that to him!”

“You’re letting your feelings get to you.” Her entire body language changed. Messoria straightened her back, jutting her chin out slightly and squaring her shoulders. “Are you emotionally compromised Praetor?”

Annabeth and Piper had noticed their hushed arguments and stood a distance off, waiting for them to catch up. Reyna could see the curiosity on their faces. “Of course not.”

“It seems like you are.”

Reyna wanted to punch her, but she knew she couldn’t. “Messoria-“

“Reyna.”

She looked away from the icy eyes boring into her skull. “Messoria, he’s broken enough as it is. Becoming a god, tearing him away from the friends he only just began to trust, uprooting his entire life, that’s worse than the Fields of Punishment.”

Messoria seemed to sag. “I know.” Her voice cracked. “But there’s no one else.”

Reyna marched away, joining Annabeth and Piper. “Everything alright, Reyna?” Annabeth asked carefully.

“Not really,” She snapped, picking up a fast pace as she scanned the streets.

“I don’t think that’s what she meant.” Piper smirked. “What was that argument about?”

“Very dark things,” Reyna grumbled. “We have to get moving, we need to be organized by nightfall tonight, I’d hate to see what happens if they attack us while we’re so vulnerable.”

Both girls dropped the subject and allowed their friend to lead them to the castle. Legionnaires parted like the seas for Reyna as she led everyone up several flights of stairs and onto a veranda overlooking the battle fields. Soldiers dashed back and forth, preparing projectiles and moving weapons back and forth across the field. Arrangements had to be made to make the castle better equipped for defense against an actual army, but Reyna knew it was very possible. With all of the Fauns now working under her control she had rudimentary mechanics capable of climbing walls and fixing damage made by projectiles.

Zhang was talking, explaining things to their centurions, making battle plans. Reyna didn’t really want to listen to him, she was engulfed in her own worries. She looked over at Nico, who was smiling and talking to Annabeth and Percy, he still looked tired but gods he didn’t look so sad anymore.

She couldn’t let his life be destroyed again.

“Reyna,” Messoria called out. “Do you have any ideas on how to keep things warm enough for the legion?”

“Fire?” Zhang suggested.

A shadow fell over everyone as they remembered their dead friend. “That would do it.” Messoria shrugged. “But how would we keep the fire, one, from killing your legionnaires, and two, spread evenly around New Rome?”

Annabeth snapped her fingers. “Trenches, we dig trenches a few feet deep and fill it halfway with flammable material, set fire to it and we’ve got warmth. If we design them just right, the layout of the trenches could even help us in the long run.”

“What would we put in it?” Percy asked.

Reyna groaned. “Of course!” She glared slightly at Annabeth. “The buildings of New Rome are pretty flammable.” She growled, looking away. “I do everything I can to build this place up and look what happens…” She rolled her eyes. “Why do I bother?”

“Because you love New Rome.” Messoria rolled her eyes. “Now let’s get over this whole ‘I hate my job’ thing because we all know it’s garbage.” She teased.

Reyna glared a little more before she turned back to Annabeth. “I trust you can design the trenches? I’ll give you the authority to command a few hundred soldiers in the digging.”

“I’ve got another idea!” Percy smiled. “You said these Reaper guys can’t get killed right? Thanatos won’t let them. Well, if the temperature drops then water freezes! I can soak them in water and let them just freeze solid! That’ll work right?”

Piper shrugged. “Worth a shot right?”

Percy nodded. “We have those water cannons from the War Games, they’re not uninstalling them are they?”

Reyna shook her head. “No worries. You don’t happen to have any fish friends you can recruit from your father’s side?”

Percy tilted his head. “I might be able to get a few people in…”

“Go then,” Reyna flicked her wrist. Annabeth had already buried herself in designs and Zhang was working with Clarisse on defensive designs. Jason stood near Reyna with Piper beside him. “Jason,” She nodded. “I need someone down there who can direct the legionnaires in evacuation procedures.”

Jason saluted and took off. “I’m going with him, I can keep people calm.”

“Go,” Reyna nodded. “Nico, Messoria, I believe we need to talk.”

The two children of the underworld followed her a distance from the rest of the group. “Yes, Reyna?”

“Why don’t you explain this one?” Reyna sent a pointed glare at Messoria.

Messoria cleared her throat. “As you’ve probably guessed, you can’t really kill a god. Much less the god of death.”

“So?”

“So, er, we need to replace him. With someone who already has power over the dead.” Messoria scratched the back of her neck awkwardly. “You,”

Nico stared at them, and for a moment Reyna thought he might kill them. She had seen some of the things that he could do and it was terrifying. “Nico-“

“No!” He shouted, tears streaming down his face. “No, you can’t do that to me!” His fists were balled at his sides, his black eyes glared holes and Reyna flinched. “You can’t do that to me! I’ve just-“

“Nico,” Messoria spoke softly, softer than Reyna was aware that she was capable of. “Nico, listen to me. I don’t want this anymore than you do. But you’re the only one who can.”

“No,” His voice was hoarse, and he’d attracted the attention of everyone around them. “No I can’t! You can’t do this to me! I- I have friends, I have a boyfriend, and family, and you can’t do this to me!” He screamed.

“Nico-“ Messoria began, but Reyna cut her off with a light backfist to her gut. Probably a much worse hit than she deserved, she was still working on getting her intestines in the right place, but it shut her up all the same.

“Nico, we don’t want to ask this of you.”

“No, you can’t.”

Reyna allowed him to storm away. She allowed him to run off and she forced Messoria back. She knew she’d lost Nico’s trust in that moment. He probably thought that she wanted this. He probably hated her and honestly she couldn’t really blame him, she’d supported Messoria in a way.

Messoria slumped against the railing. “What are we going to do, Reyna? He’s literally our only choice!”

Reyna rounded on the Reaper with a withering glare. “He’s been through enough, it isn’t fair.”

“Gods none of this is fair!” Messoria shouted. “None of it! It’s not fair that Thanatos was Hades’ slave for thousands of years, and it isn’t fair that I was Thanatos’ slave for nineteen years! It isn’t fair that I’ve betrayed my family, and it isn’t fair that you think that you have too! It’s not fair that Nico has had a crappy life, and it’s not fair that Clarisse lost everyone she loves, it’s not fair that Len has nowhere to go, and it’s not fair that Grayson is ignored so much, it’s not fair that Frank is thought of as weak when he’s clearly not, and it’s not fair that your home will be destroyed, again! It’s not fair, it never will be! If you want someone to blame, blame the gods, because I can’t control them. Gods if I could make things easier for you, I would, but I can’t!”

Reyna was speechless. Messoria glared just a little longer before looking away. “Messoria, we can’t force Nico to do anything.”

Messoria snorted. “Well, we’d better figure something out.”

“C’mon, I have to go talk to my sister.”

“And you need me to come along?”

“No, but it’s better you come with me than risk someone beating you to death for something you said.” Reyna smirked, pulling Messoria along. “C’mon, we have to go to San Juan.”

Chapter Text

After leaving a few orders for her legionnaires, Reyna and Messoria were off again, this time landing in San Juan. Reyna tried to hide how on edge everything made her feel, and instead walked forward, navigating the familiar streets until she reached her childhood home, all the while images of dead Huntresses and Amazons, and glimpses of her childhood flashed across her eyes. She hadn’t noticed that Messoria had taken ahold of her hand, and she didn’t make any moves to remove it.

Reyna approached the door, trying to avoid looking upwards. “Those are ghosts.” Messoria mumbled to herself. “No wonder you’re so freaked out by this place.”

“Thank you, for saying that aloud.” Reyna grumbled, knocking on the door.

Upon opening the door, the girl in camo pants revealed that she had a very threatening gun pointed at their faces. Reyna did not hesitate to offer her hand. “Reyna Avila Ramirez-Arellano, Praetor of New Rome, I wish to discuss things with your Queen.”

The girl immediately lowered her gun, paling slightly at the realization that she had just had a gun pointed at her Queen’s younger sister. “Come with me,”

Reyna tried not to hesitate noticeably as she reentered her old childhood home. Messoria followed along, linked by their hands, but Reyna was sure she had squeezed all of the blood circulation from the Reaper’s hand.

The girl led them to the fireplace. “Oh wait I know this, is this the part where we throw the powder into the flames and shout out where we want to go?” Messoria asked, smirking at Reyna as the younger girl stiffened.

“Just go through the fireplace and follow the hallway, you’ll reach Queen Hylla at the end of the hall.” She stated simply. “I apologize for my rude welcoming, we’ve had quite a few monster attacks in the last few weeks.”

“I understand.” Reyna assured. “Thank you…”

“Meg,”

Reyna smiled gracefully. “Thank you, Meg.”

The girl nodded and returned to her post by the door. Reyna briefly wandered why there was only one guard, but when she remembered the last time she was here, she realized that perhaps Hylla doesn’t have the bodies to spare with backup.

She followed the hallway hesitantly, there were still scorch marks every few paces and Reyna tried not to think of how those scorch marks got there. She remembered Thalia leading her down that hallway, Phoebe at her side. She knew that Phoebe had died, and that set the many faces of the women that had died here flashing across her eyes.

Reyna slowly entered the room that Hylla occupied. It was like looking in a mirror, that is, if the mirror showed her an older version of herself. Hylla had aged quite a bit in the last year. Reyna knew from firsthand experience that it was stress that caused her premature worry lines.

Upon noticing the door opening, Hylla glanced up from the many files before her. A nymph stood next to her, skin like honey and startling green eyes. She held out a file to her Queen and turned to Reyna and Messoria. Hylla’s own brown eyes widened slightly. “Hello sister, what brings you here today of all days?”

Reyna couldn’t bite back her sarcasm as she replied: “I missed Christmas, thought I’d drop by.”

Hylla laughed. With the way her voice crackled as she did so, Reyna could tell that it had been a long time since she had last laughed like that. As her own amusement died down, her eyes dropped to Reyna and Messoria’s clasped hands and on instinct, Reyna nearly through her hand away. “No, really Reyna. What are you doing here in San Juan? It must be important, knowing how much you hate this place.”

Reyna took the chance to approach Hylla. The room was large, and she had felt like she was shouting at her sister, and these things are not something to be shouting. “Well, er, the world’s in danger yet again.”

Hylla’s eyebrows shot up and the corners of her mouth shot down. “Reyna-“

“Hylla, New Rome is under attack, or well, it will be. Your doorman, or woman I should say, told us of the frequent monster attacks you’ve been dealing with? Well, we know why. Thanatos is angry and is waging war. We stole his key piece away from him and now we have to defend against his army of Reapers to keep him from essentially destroying all life on Earth.” Reyna moved about as she spoke, making her proposals as if she were talking to the Senate back home. “Hylla, we need everyone we can get to aid us.”

Reyna wasn’t sure just how Hylla was going to react, and honestly Hylla probably didn’t know herself. A mixture of emotions shuttered across her face like one of those disjointed clay-mations on TV. Grief, sorrow, worry, anger. Reyna immediately felt guilty for even asking. She wanted to laugh and say “No worries, changed my mind we’ll just be going now, see you never.” But she knew that she couldn’t do that. She needed her sister now, as much as she hated to admit it.

“Reyna,” Hylla sighed, her eyebrows drew down and her lips even further south. “I don’t have the manpower to spare.”

Reyna winced. She knew this would happen. “Hylla, we’re desperate-“

And then Hylla blew up, just like their father. Gods, just like their father. “Well why did you let things get that way? You think I’m in a so much better position? I can’t come to your aid all the time Reyna! I have my own people to worry about!”

Reyna cringed. “You think I had a choice in the matter? I had nothing to do with this, it’s the Gods. Hylla, New Rome is going to be destroyed, in fact it’s prophesized, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll lose. I’ve seen these monsters, I’ve fought them, they’re impossible-“

“So send my people off to die then!” Hylla glared holes in Reyna’s forehead. “This is outrageous-“

“I don’t want anyone to die! We need the numbers to prevent more deaths! I have an army of children, you are the Queen of the Amazons, Hylla you’ve got power that we desperately need! Without you, the Reapers can get Pandora’s Box-“

“You have Pandora’s Box?” Hylla shrieked. “Reyna, are you crazy?”

“I do what is necessary.” Reyna stood taller, her chin lifted. “I do what I have to. That’s what a leader does Hylla, I know the consequences, the casualties, they’ll be on my shoulders. But without you Hylla, our failure, it will be carried with you.” Reyna willed the tears that began to well up away, she swallowed the lump in her throat and squared her shoulders. “I’ve lost many soldiers myself. I know your grief, don’t think that you’re alone in what you feel. I’ve fought two wars as Praetor, neither of them my fault. My decisions have cost lives, but those casualties ultimately saved billions. Very well, Hylla, if you don’t wish to send aid, we will not expect your cooperation. Consider this the termination of our alliance between New Rome and the Amazons.”

“That’s extreme, sister.”

“Don’t belittle me!” Reyna shouted. “Do not patronize me. I’ve come to you for aid on behalf of my people, and on behalf of your people you have decided against it. You know just as well the politics behind this! The Senate, whether I try to stop them or not, will terminate our alliance anyway. Unlike you, I must cooperate with fellow leaders. And I have to tell you Hylla, when the Senate demands our alliance to be broken, I can’t say that I’ll defend you.”

Reyna did not wait for Hylla’s reaction, she did not wait for dismissal, she did not wait to say goodbye, instead, she turned on her heel and stormed from the room, too angry and disappointed to think any further on her past here in this place. She could only think of the dismal future.

It took her a moment to realize that Messoria had not followed her, and therefore she had to wait, outside of her childhood home, beneath a banana tree for her transportation home. Messoria was only a few minutes behind her, but that was long enough for Reyna to know she had stayed to discuss things further with her sister. She didn’t care that her leaving in such haste was childish, she didn’t care that her professionalism was slowly diminishing the longer this quest has eaten at her. She didn’t care.

Instead, in silence, they melted into the shadows together and stepped across the Little Tiber. Reyna marched in silence, watching as her soldiers began to erect watch towers around the perimeter of New Rome. Camp Jupiter was nearly deserted, all of their supplies and people having been moved to the castle, Reyna once again felt lonely. Messoria stood beside her, but she seemed much further away to Reyna.

“I think she’ll send reinforcements.” Messoria shrugged. “She’s your sister, she loves you, you know.”

“Sure feels like it.” Reyna grumbled. She needed to focus. “We have to get back.”

Messoria shrugged. “I don’t see a point. Without Nico taking over, what’s the point in resisting? They’ll level us completely.”

Reyna rubbed at her temples. “I know,” She whispered.

 

 

“Reyna, for the Gods’ sake take a nap or something!” Messoria groaned. “It’s like nine PM and we’ve been up for hours. Don’t you think we deserve some sleep?”

Reyna shook her head, marking something on her map. “You go to sleep then.”

“Not until you do!”

“Why me?”

“Because you’re kind of the mastermind behind all of this, Annabeth gave up for the night, and you’ve been functioning for far too long. Gods help me if we all die because Ms. Sleep-is-for-the-weak over here takes a cat nap at the wrong time, I will personally haunt you in the depths of Tartarus. Assuming he doesn’t rise as well.” Messoria grumbled, glaring at Reyna with a slight pout. “Because you’re obviously stressed-“

“Oh really?”

And you’re all emotionally upset and such.”

“Emotionally upset?”

“See? We both need sleep. Come on I just barely got away from death and you recovered Pandora’s freaking Box. Sleep!”

Reyna rolled her eyes. “Fine, but only for a couple of hours.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll wake you up at the crack of dawn, the moment the sun touches the horizon you shall be up and functioning and not tired at all.” Messoria glared. “Go!”

Reyna glared back before curling up in the corner on an armchair and Messoria passed out on the floor at her feet. Reyna’s dreamed included dragons, blood, and fire. It was not a pleasant dream, especially since she was sure that her dreams were more prophetic than fiction.

 

“Should we wake her?” A deep voice rumbled, it seemed to rattle the walls.

“No, you idiot! Do you have any idea how hard it was to get her to go to sleep in the first place? Let her sleep as long as we can get away with.” An agitating voice that most definitely belonged to Messoria hissed. “Anyway, any word on Nico? You seen him around yet?”

“No, he’s just up and disappeared. He’s probably just hiding from us.”

Reyna yawned and stretched, feeling her joints pop. She shouldn’t have slept on the armchair. “Time is it?”

“About eleven thirty.” Messoria answered with a smug smirk. “Told you, you needed sleep.”

Reyna jumped to her feet. “Eleven thirty? Messoria!”

“Yes?”

Reyna couldn’t bring herself to glare any longer at her stupid face. Reyna knew she was right, she was already feeling better. “We have things to do.”

“I have the fourth and fifth cohort spread about in New Rome, the second and third cohort are within the walls of the castle ready to fight, and I have the first cohort on the battlefield around the castle. The Huntresses arrived late last night, Thalia should be up here any minute now, but they’re manning the watch towers, we have runners waiting at each tower to deliver the message at any moment. Clarisse told me that the Greeks were dispersed according to their cabins, putting their various abilities to use. The Ares kids and the Athenians are waiting down with the first cohort, and we have the Apollo kids dispersed between the medical teams and aboard the walls, manning the archery and artillery stations. Things like that. The trenches are just about done, I have to say Annabeth is really efficient in getting those things done.” Zhang reported, he had been the deeper voice.

“Good, good.” Reyna rubbed at her temples. “The Amazons won’t be coming.”

“They will be, just you wait.”

“They’re not coming.” Reyna snapped. “Don’t argue with me.”

“I’m not your subordinate!”

“Yes, but we’re in a tall tower and you no longer have wings so shut it.”

Messoria looked immensely offended, but it slowly ebbed away to amusement instead. “Okay, I can deal with that.”

“Anyway, preparations for invasion are almost in place.” Zhang nodded. “We need to finish up the trenches and finish gathering together our allies, but we’re about as prepared as we’re going to be.”

“Very well,” Reyna sighed. “We’re going to need to start setting fires soon.”

“We’ll handle that when it comes.”

“Okay, Frank, I suppose you’ll be finalizing the preparations? I need to deal with Nico di Angelo.”

“Hey Reyna,” Messoria called vaguely.

“Not now,”

“No, Reyna, look.”

Reyna blanched, no, not yet, they’re not ready. Reyna rushed to the window beside Messoria, but she wasn’t prepared for what she saw. It was an odd blue glow on the fields, though it looked more like a field of millions of souls. “What in the Gods’ names is that?”

Messoria set a hand on Reyna’s shoulder and set her jaw. “It’s Hades’ army.”

“And that means?”

“All of the dead souls still on his side, so I’m assuming Elysium, the Isles of the Blessed, and whatever souls he could scrounge up from the Fields of Asphodel. I don’t know if you noticed, but- That’s billions of people.”

“If they can fight we’re set!” Zhang called.

“No, you don’t understand.” Messoria turned to him. “Think about all of those soldiers down there who have lost comrades and loved ones…”

Zhang paled. “Oh gods,”

Reyna stared down as her soldiers began to take notice, some dropping their weapons, others running towards a specific point in the crowd. They were starting to notice. “Do you think-?”

“Probably.” Messoria said softly. “But that doesn’t mean he’ll be staying.”

Reyna grit her teeth. “Good.”

“We have to find Nico.” Messoria mumbled beneath her breath. “We have to convince him before Thanatos reaches us.”

“Oh gods,”

“What?” Messoria and Zhang chorused.

“What if Bianca di Angelo is down there? Nico, he’ll- He’ll be devastated, or elated. Or, I don’t know, but can you imagine trying to convince a kid to become a god after all of his old wounds have reopened?” Reyna stammered. “I mean, it just reminds us all of our own mortality, but Nico, he has to go on to take the throne.”

Messoria shook her head. “He’s probably already noticed them by now. He’s the son of Hades.”

Reyna groaned. “It’s just one thing after another with this isn’t it?”

Messoria shook her head. “Sorry my family is such a pain.”

“But are they really your family?”

Messoria sent her a lopsided smile. “Nah,”