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Hades guided his team to the River Styx where they would meet with Charon. In the spirit of the eventful day, he allowed Del to pilot his chariot, and Lisbon shared the space next to the young charioteer, leaning over the side to take in the view while chatting with Del about the Olympic games.

"I think you could have taken the victory from Zeus," she said plainly. "I don't believe it was bad luck your horse got spooked." She glanced at Hades, pretending to look sheepish, but Hades knew what she was thinking. Z had a reputation for playing by his own rules.

Del shrugged. "I've got plenty of races ahead of me. I'm bound to win one of them."

When they met up with Charon at the river's edge, Hecate was there, decisively escorting an uncooperative soul to the boat. She had tied the soul's arms with the sash from her orange robe, although the fierce look in her eyes told Hades she would rather be strangling the recently deceased man with it. Hades hurried to assist, releasing his sedative breath and causing the spirit to sag into Hecate as she strong-armed him into the boat.

"Your assistance is appreciated but not necessary, Hades."

"I am well aware of your ability to subdue aggressive souls when necessary, Hecate, but I do not think Lexi would appreciate having her guests witness the less than pleasant side of our job while they are here."

His sharpened brows were unnecessary. Hecate had taken her cues from his tone and directed her attention to the faces watching the scene. She retrieved her sash and walked toward the group, switching from her commanding posture to her patronizing one.

"Greetings, honored guests," she said as she made a show of cinching her robe tightly. "I hope you're all having a pleasant day. I know Lord Hades and Lady Lexi will make sure there isn't a moment of boredom while you are here. Now, if you will excuse me. My services are needed back at the gates."

Hecate retreated, walking with purpose toward the path of souls, and when she was out of listening range, Del whispered his comment.

"Hecate is kind of scary."

Hades grinned. "Apparently, you have never met Melinoe. She is on our route today. Let me know how you feel after we pay her a visit."

Charon strolled up in his loosely-tied robe and held out his hand, proffering a gold coin. "All right, you miscreants. I have been instructed to come up with a worthy question at Lady Lexi's request, and I have thought long and hard on it so as not to disappoint her benevolent highness."

He offered a smile to Hades, although Hades read the crudeness behind it. Lexi had easily recognized this trait in Charon and kept her distance from him, threatening to do so until the lascivious god could be convinced to wear some form of clothing beneath his robe.

"Being the important god that I am, this question is about me," Charon went on. "Your challenge is to come up with some obscure bit about me. Whoever impresses me will win the coin."

"Your parents are Nyx and Erebus," Barrett said to his feet. The tall, white-haired god was the most soft-spoken of the group, which made a stark contrast to his sister, Chromia, who had more energy that most nymphs Hades knew.

"Aw, everybody knows that," Del said. "But not everyone knows that his name means 'keen gaze'."

Del planted his arms across his chest, clearly impressed with himself, but Lisbon had a look of confidence as she stepped determinedly forward to give her answer.

"There Charon stands, who rules the dreary coast. A sordid god, down from his chin a length of beard descends, uncombed, unclean. His eyes like hollow furnaces on fire. A girdle, foul with grease, binds his obscene attire."

Charon's mouth hung agape, looking confounded and thoroughly impressed by Lisbon's poetic recitation. He dropped the coin into her hand and offered her a deep bow. "You have taken my ego and pulverized it quite thoroughly, my lady. For this, you win the prize."

Lisbon flushed the color of a pomegranate. "I did not mean to offend, your grace. I have an interest in poetry, and that one has remained with me from the moment I read it."

"Thank you, Charon," Hades said, grateful the coin exchange was swift and without incident. "We should be on our way. There are many stops on our agenda. Too many."

Hades was quite glad to be heading away from Charon and his unpredictable manner, although he knew Melinoe's cottage was listed as their next destination and she imbued her own brand of awkward. The horses had barely reached their stride when they passed the Elysian Fields, and Hades caught sight of The Fates standing at the entrance. He would have happily passed them by, but Clotho waved him over, prompting a long sigh to escape. Hades shouted for his group to follow him, and a moment later they were landing in front of the bridge.

The sisters greeted them in the usual fashion, with pinched grimaces and narrowed eyes, and Hades felt his chest tighten when he noticed a gold thread dangling from Lachesis's fingers. Clothos spoke first as she glanced around at the assembled party of gods.

"Are you offering tours now, Hades? A tactic to cultivate new friendships, perhaps?"

The goddesses chuckled but Hades cut their mirth short. "You wished to impart some information to me? I assume that is why you impeded our progress."

Lachesis held up the thread, which did not have the sheen he originally thought on first glance. "This is the life thread of Poseidon's son, Ink. I believe he is the one who has been lost in the underworld for some weeks now. It appears he has gotten himself into a spot of trouble."

Atropos snatched the thread from Lachesis and held it up to her face, inspecting it. "Yes. It appears life in the underworld does not agree with him. He may have made an enemy while pilfering from their garden."

The Fates offered Hades a collective eyebrow lift, and he could not stop his thoughts from turning to the minotaurs. While he didn't believe they would attack Ink on purpose, even if they caught him stealing from their camp, the minotaurs did wield weaponry capable of taking down a god. Of course, minotaurs were not the only inhabitants who would take measures to protect the herd. It was not a week ago a centaur came to the palace informing Hades of a rogue centaur sighting near Tartarus. At the time, Hades suspected it was Emeron searching for a suitable place for he and Pesca to settle. Now, another possibility surfaced. The son of Poseidon may have inherited his father's gift of manipulating his form. It would explain the reason no one had seen him.

Hades turned to address the curious faces of his young comrades. "My fellows. If you do not mind, we need to diverge from our original scavenger route. It appears you will have the chance to see Tartarus, after all."

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