Part Forty-Three:

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Part Forty-Three:

Jaz had officially won the prize for having the fastest reflexes. As soon as she had spotted Tartarus lurking behind them, she raised her palms and shot purple flames in his direction. It only seemed to stun him, but it gave Alex and Sammy enough time to climb off Festus and prepare their weapons.

Zoe already had her sword out and Charlie was loading an arrow into his bow. Michael had his short sword ready, Sammy had transformed into a mountain lion and Alex had set her fists ablaze. Jaz grinned and ran into battle.

It should've been easy. Six against one gave them a huge advantage, but Tartarus was a primeval god - and a powerful, evil one at that.

Unfortunately, as Sammy-the-lion went into pounce, Tartarus lazily flicked his finger and Sammy went flying backwards into a stack of rubbish. He transformed back into a human and groaned, clutching his arm.

Zoe charged and had a good twenty seconds of engaged close-quarters fighting before she was knocked down. Charlie notched an arrow and fired, but it went wide. Jaz and Alex ran and sent multiple balls of fire flying towards Tartarus while Michael tried to sneak up behind and stab him.

Puny demigods... Tartarus hissed. You cannot defeat me!

"The prophecy said we will!" Zoe shouted, diving again.

Have you considered the fact that it might not be you who defeats me? Tartarus cackled, obviously enjoying watching them suffer.

"We don't care!" Alex exclaimed. "I'll go up in flames, even if it means damaging my pride!" She lunged again and set Tartarus's foot on fire before being flung backwards.

Ha-ha! You're so funny and stupid at the same time. Tartarus summoned a volley of garbage and sent it at them. Everyone dodged, but Michael went spiralling backwards.

Zoe slashed a chunk of bronze out of the air and Festus set it on fire before the molten bronze landed on Sammy's head and he cried out in pain. He changed into a dog as the metal started to harden and escaped.

Don't you see? Tartarus snarled. As soon as you are defeated, I will take over the Underworld. And then, my armies will kill every mortal on earth! When that's over, I will reawaken Ouranos and Gaea, and the world will be ours!

"Nice plan." Zoe snapped. "Too bad you won't get to play it out.

Tartarus's eyes flashed dangerously. Daughter of the sea. If you survive, you will feel pain and torture. And every time your blood spills, I'll be there beside you. Your blood shall sink into the earth and reawaken the old gods.

"Don't listen to him, Zo!" Jaz shouted. "He's wrong!"

Don't trust your friends. Tartarus whispered. They'll betray you one day. And the one you love will cause you to fall into a state of depression. Join me, Zoë Jackson. We'll rule the world together.

Zoe felt something overcome her. She gasped as Tartarus entered her mind. Scenarios flashed in her head.

•••

Zoe stood, facing Charlie. He had his hands in his pockets, his hair ruffled and his eyes glinting in the sunlight.
"Zoe, I need to tell you something." He said.

"Yeah?" Zoe looked at him with wide eyes.

Charlie scratched the back of his head. "I don't feel anything when I kiss you. I need to break up with you."

A blur of tears covered Zoe's vision. "I can't believe you!" She cried. "I loved you, and you tell me you don't like me anymore!" She pulled the silver ring off her finger. "You can have your stupid promise ring back too. Don't show your face ever again."

•••

Zoe stood in the dining pavilion back at Camp Half-Blood. The camp was in ruins. Bodies lay everywhere, and amongst those were Lily, Ethan, Alex, Sammy, Jaz, Michael and Charlie.

The tears fell.

•••

Don't you see? Tartarus smirked, spreading his arms. If you join me, none of that will happen.

"Stop it!" Zoe cried. "I'll never join you! I'll never desert my friends!" She lunged, and Jaz watched, speechless, as Zoe swung and blocked with her sword. Tartarus didn't have a weapon, but he had fists, and when Zoe got hit, she was almost knocked out.

Jaz had to admire the others for their bravery. They didn't stop fighting. When Zoe went down, they came to her rescue. Charlie helped her back onto her feet and they continued on.

But even with their bravery, it was no use. Whatever they tried, Tartarus only seemed to get stronger.

Jaz remembered the prophecy; 'only when fire and water, the earth and the sky meet'.

What did that mean? Did the other five have to hold hands and chant some stupid ritual? Would they have to do something like -

Wait, no.

Back up.

That was it. That was how they could defeat Tartarus.

Jaz ran at Tartarus and lit his face on fire. Since the flames were magical, it took twice long to extinguish them. She had been doing that for the past few attacks, but this time she poured all of her energy into the flames, which meant that hopefully Tartarus would be occupied for a few moments.

"Guys! You need to link hands!" Jaz yelled. Beside her, Festus breathed fire in Tartarus' face.

"Why?" Zoe yelled back.

"Just do it!" Jaz screamed. Alex, Sammy, Michael, Charlie and Zoe stood in a tight huddle holding the hand of the person beside them.

"Now what?" Alex shouted. Jaz could hear the scowl in her voice but brushed it off.

"Focus your thoughts! You need to be at perfect harmony with each other!" Jaz yelled.

Foolish mortals. Tartarus snarled. And with a flick of his finger, Jaz was sent sprawling backwards. She slammed into a pile of garbage and something that looked like a refrigerator door hit her head.

She fell unconscious watching a glowing white orb hit Tartarus' chest.

•••

Zoe was only concentrating on her breathing. She was holding Charlie and Sammy's hands, and could feel power pulsing from everyone, which felt kind of weird.

Zoe focused on her inner self. She wanted to feel the relaxation that she hadn't felt in over two weeks. Slowly, she shut her eyes and breathed in, then out.

Suddenly, Zoe's eyes flew open. There was a bright, glowing, ball of light in the direct centre of the circle, and the power that was coming from it was growing stronger.

No... Tartarus hissed. Festus blew flames in his face.

The ball of light grew brighter. It rose into the air and flew over Zoe's head and slammed into Tartarus' chest, sending him flying backwards, his body disintegrating into dust.

Zoe broke the circle. She felt completely drained, and so did the others, it seemed. Alex wrapped her arms around Sammy and hugged him, while Michael sat down heavily.

Charlie turned towards Zoe and smiled. "We did it." He said.

"I know." Zoe exclaimed. She hugged him, not wishing to let go.

"Hang on." Charlie gazed around at the others, and then his face went white.

"Charlie, what is it?" Zoe asked urgently.

Charlie gripped Zoe's shoulders and stared into her eyes. "Zoe, the curse. Ogygia. Find Ogygia. I love you."

And then he was gone.

It happened so suddenly, Zoe was lost for words. She turned around to try and look at the others, but they weren't there. Only Jaz who was just waking up, and Festus who was nudging her were there.

The harsh reality set in on Zoe:

The arai had gotten the last laugh. Zoe's friends had been cursed.

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