Chapter Thirty-Three

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I emerged into a large, dimly lit chamber after what felt like hours in the dark. The trickle of water echoed off the cavern walls, and I realized with a start that I stood on the banks of the River Styx. In Greek mythology, souls passed over the River Styx to reach the Underworld. It had never occurred to me until now that Persephone had to follow the same path as the dead to reach her husband. I shuddered, wondering how she handled such a depressing journey year after year.

Why hadn't Persephone done something to help me? I'd been in Greece for over a week; shouldn't she have checked in to make sure I was still alive? My heart constricted painfully. I should have known better than to trust any of the gods. Hadn't they all tried to use me ever since I declared to follow Red magic? Hecate clearly thought my life was worthless; she had set my best friend on me, hoping that I'd end up dead. Why had I thought Persephone would be any better?

I shivered again. What if Persephone had known this would happen from the beginning? What if her mother wasn't the only one with a strong allegiance to Hecate? Angry, I stood there on the edge of the river. My fists clenched and released, and without even realizing what I was doing, I began to weave a spell. Red sparks shot up and down my arms, singeing my skin, but I was oblivious.

The boat was almost fully formed before I noticed it. Low to the water, it was red with a lantern hung off the prow. It looked sturdy, but I hesitated. Wasn't there something weird about the water in the Underworld? I couldn't quite remember, and pieces of myth teased at the back of my mind. Oh, well. Hecate was worse than whatever waited for me down the river. Glancing back over my shoulder one last time, I stepped into the boat.

There was nowhere to sit, but the boat began to move with the current as soon as I was aboard. I braced myself, trying not to fall overboard, and considered my options. Clearly, I would have to deal with Hades soon, and I had better come up with a plan before I met him. Making a decision, I closed my eyes and unbound my glamour.

I had never tried wearing a glamour for so long, and my skin tingled like a day-old sunburn as the spell faded. I glanced down at my arms; they looked familiar. Taking the mirror out of the pouch at my waist, I held it up to my face. My own unremarkable eyes looked back at me. I felt strangely relieved. At least whatever happened would happen to me, not to the girl who had been pretending to be a goddess.

The river cut through cavern after cavern, and the light of the lantern allowed me to make out the features of stalactites and stalagmites around me. Everything was still, except for the gently flowing water, and I didn't see any signs of life. The air around me grew colder, and I thought wistfully of the warmth of the ratty old sweatshirt that was probably still lying in a heap beside my bed, half a world away. I shivered and wrapped my arms around my body, wishing the boat would hurry up.

In the darkness, I worked to summon Red magic. I had nothing else to do, and a faint voice in my mind whispered that I was running out of time to master my powers. I allowed myself to dwell on my fear of Hecate, banishing all thoughts of betrayal or anger. The fear filled me, and I started to shake, but when I felt like I couldn't handle it any more, I extended my arms, palms down, and tried to open myself to Red magic. The boat surged, and I staggered to keep my balance. I peered into the water, startled.

The boat, which had been drifting quietly with the current, had sped up as if I'd attached a motor to it. The inky water was choppy around me, and I could see waves peaking in my wake. I raised my arms slightly, and the boat accelerated even more. I grinned broadly.

Lowering and raising my arms like a bird learning to fly, I played with the force I had summoned. The boat went alternately slow and quick under my command. It was a heady feeling. Sparks danced on my skin, and energy surged through me. I was having so much fun that I almost didn't notice where I was.

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