Grian

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Grian was so engulfed in his own misery that he didn't notice Scar's panicked chatters. Didn't notice Cleo yell out a string of ghost language that he was pretty sure were swear words.

Didn't notice the Fury until it swooped out of nowhere and grabbed him.

Something kept him from trying to escape. Maybe a tiny part of him, despite reason, wanted this to happen.

Grian was forced to his knees at the foot of the throne of Hades. Despite his best efforts to hold onto the Fleece, it was yanked away from him by a Fury. “Hey!” he yelled weakly, grasping to get it back, but the Fury screeched with laughter and held it out of his reach.

The Fury who had the Fleece gave it to Hades.

“Thank you, Alecto,” the god of the dead sneered, examining it.

“Give that back!” Grian demanded, his willpower suddenly back. “It’s mine!”

Hades looked at him in amusement. “The Golden Fleece,” he said in wonder. “How in the world did you manage to get your dirty little hands on this?”

“I stole it,” Grian said simply. “AND YOU CAN’T KIDNAP WHAT I’VE RIGHTFULLY STOLEN!”

“Classic son of Hermes,” Hades mused. “You were trying to bring back the dead, weren’t you? Do you even know why it didn’t work?”

Grian bit his lip and hesitated. “No.”

Hades smiled, but it wasn't a nice smile. Not at all.

“Thalia may have been on the brink of death,” the God of the Dead said with distaste. “But when she was turned into a tree, her soul was still there. I did not have access to it yet.”

Oh.

Oh, I am such an idiot.

“She wasn’t dead,” Grian realized. “And Scar was.”

“Yes,” Hades said, visibly trying not to laugh. “It healed her. But very few things can bring back the dead. And I’m afraid the Fleece is not one of them.”

Grian stared at the stone floor. How had he been so stupid? Why hadn’t he even waited to talk to Thalia before he stole it and ran?

“Now, anyway,” Hades said. “Now that you know what you did wrong, it’s time to not give you a chance for redemption.” He looked to the furies, smiling.

Grian got the feeling that he did not smile often, but he was doing an awful lot of it now. Grian did not like that.

“Tear him apart,” Hades commanded the Furies. “Thank you, Son of Hermes. You definitely brought some... entertainment to an otherwise boring day.”

The two Furies grinned, their claws glinting in the feeble torchlight. They advanced slowly, savoring the moment.

“No!” a voice yelled.

Everyone in the room - Grian, Furies, skeleton guards, and Hades - turned to see the very angry girl wearing red in the doorway.

“You don’t get to kill Grian. His chest monster is too big. I still need to make him organize it,” Pearl said. She had a Netherite axe in hand and was fearlessly standing alone in the doorway. “Also, you can’t kill him before I give him his warped wood! It took too long to get!”

“Pearl, no!” Grian protested. “Go back home, you don’t belong here-”

“Neither do you,” Pearl complained. “And you don’t get to go off and rescue a dead person without me! It took me a minute to figure out how to get here, but once I did, taming the giant dog with a couple of bones was a piece of cake.”

She grinned, and for a minute, Grian thought he saw a wild flash of red in her eyes. He sighed. It’s 5 AM in Hermitcraft, isn’t it?

“Another one,” Hades growled. “Kill them both, then. They both made a mistake by coming here.”

“Guess what?" Pearl blurted. "I'M MORTAL! YOU CAN'T HURT ME! AND THIS PLACE IS TERRIFYING! Grian, think of the Nether."

"AND I'M THE GOD OF DEATH!" Hades roared. "YOUR SOUL IS GOING TO COME TO MY REALM EVENTUALLY!"

Grian tried to concentrate on the fiery dimension, but he had to take out his sword to block the attack of a skeleton warrior. He lost focus as metal and diamond clanged together.

Their swords seemed to radiate death, and they looked oddly similar to Netherite without the sheen of enchantments. Grian decided he did not want to be touched by those blades, much less stabbed.

Pearl grabbed his arm and ran, slashing skeletons aside with her axe. Grian stared at the Netherite, then glanced back at the skeleton's swords. Shaking off the similar auras they gave off, he stumbled after her with new hope, then realized. "Wait! The Fleece!"

Pearl looked back. "What?"

Grian turned back and fought his way through the soldiers of the dead despite Pearl's protests. He couldn't let Hades have the Fleece. He had no idea what the lord of dead people would do with the magic glittery rug that granted healing magic. And he didn't exactly want to find out.

He went right up to the throne and yanked the Fleece out of Hades' hands.

"DEMIGOD-" Hades started to shout, but Grian pushed back through the crowd and found Pearl. Together, they thought of the Nether, saw nether brick and fire. And then the clamor of skeletons desperately trying to kill them was replaced by… the clamor of skeletons desperately trying to kill them.

"Wither skeletons!" Pearl yelled, to state the obvious.

They were much easier to fight off than the warriors of the dead.

The strange aura off of Pearl's axe was gone. "Did... Did those skeletons have Netherite weapons?"

Pearl nodded. "It was weird. Like they've been in the Nether..."

"There's still the whole issue with a crap ton of monsters," Grian said. "Who knows, maybe they have."

Pearl shrugged.

Grian forced the thought out of his head. Something told him that the skeletons' weapons weren't Netherite, but they did look awfully similar.

He changed the subject. "I need to go back."

"What?"

"Not to the Underworld. Back to camp. I need to return the Fleece."

The Mist was weird in Hermitcraft. Sometimes the Fleece looked like the Fleece, and sometimes it looked like a jacket. Right now, it was the Fleece. Grian tossed it over his shoulder like some sort of heavy, glittery towel.

Pearl hesitated, but then she nodded. "Be careful, Grian. Good luck."

If only it were as simple as luck. If only luck could help Grian now.

The only issue now was getting to camp. After that... Grian wasn't sure. Back to Hermitcraft, probably.

Despite his lingering emptiness and guilt, a tiny part of Grian ignited with a spark of hope.

Maybe it's time to let go.

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