Helen could see what she guessed was the River Styx just off to her left. It was a roaring torrent, riddled with ice burgs. No sane person would dare to swim across it. Feeling stranded, she limped around in a tight circle. A quick scan of the horizon showed that there was no one else on the barren plain.
“Dammit,” she swore to herself, her voice breaking. Her vocal chords were not completely healed. Less than an hour ago Ares had slit her throat, and although it still hurt when she spoke, cussing made her feel better. “So typical.”
Not even an hour ago she’d made a promise to her friend Zach. He was dying in her arms, and she swore that she would make sure that he drank from the River of Joy in the afterlife. Zach had sacrificed himself to help her, and in his final moments, he’d given her the clue that allowed her to kill Automedon and save Lucas and Orion.
Helen intended to keep her promise to Zach even if she had to carry him to the Elysian Field and right up to the banks of the River of Joy herself—broken ribs, wonky leg and all. But for some reason, her usual way of navigating in the Underworld wasn’t working. Normally all she had to do was say what she wanted aloud and it just happened.
She was the Descender, which meant that she was one of the exceedingly few Scions who could go down to the Underworld in her living body, and not just as a spirit. She could even control the landscape to a certain extent, but of course just when she needed that talent the most, it found a way to go on the fritz. It was just so Greek. One of the things Helen resented the most about being a Scion was that it meant that there was an appalling amount of irony in her life.
Helen pinched her bruised lips together in frustration and raised her hoarse voice to the empty sky. “I said-- I want to appear by Zach’s spirit!”
“I have that one’s soul, niece.”
Helen spun around and saw Hades, Lord of the Underworld, standing several paces behind her. Tall and poised, he was wreathed in shadows that dissipated like fingers of fog relaxing their grip. The Helm of Darkness, and the extra yards of fabric from the black toga that he wore obscured most of his face, but she could just make out his lush mouth and square chin. The rest of his toga was draped over his body like a decorative afterthought. Half of his smooth chest and his powerful arms and legs were bare. Helen swallowed and concentrated on focusing her swollen eyes.