Chapter XV: The infection

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Cornelia could hear the chanting of the Romans as they snaked their way beneath the tunnels of the Coliseum. They chanted a name that did not yet feel like it belonged to her. 'Persephone, Persephone, Persephone," they chanted over and over, and while it was not the name she had chosen nor was it the name she had grown up with. It was a name that meant more to her than any before. It was with this name that she had forged her new identity. The identity of a warrior, a female one at that, it was with the name Persephone that she truly identified. She looked one last time back at the tunnel that called to her. One last time at the fame that could have been, as she was dragged further and further away by Apollo.

"Ouch!" She squeaked in pain as she tripped over a sword, and her crippled and bleeding ankle collapsed under her. She grabbed the offending instrument knowing full well she needed to replace the one she lost just as she felt herself heaved over Hercules' shoulder.

"I can walk!" She protested, but as she protested she looked back to see several guards pouring into the hallways behind them. Their heavily armored bodies feat created a rhythmic drumming sound racket as they pounded in unison towards them. She gulped back her pride and yelled, "Never mind, carry on!" Hercules then heaved Apollo over his other shoulder and ran. He wove them through the intricate tunnels with ease. Never stumbling never questioning his direction. His analytical mind already had a detailed map of the corridors. After all, he had been living here for weeks.

"Herc!" Cornelia yelled over the pounding of his feet as they cleared the Coliseum walls and were wove through the crowds of the Roman streets. No one even looked up as they passed. Of course, they wouldn't Cornelia cursed her own vanity for thinking they would. It was almost daily that prisoners of all kinds ran through the streets from the clutches of the city guards. It was a side effect of a lopsided and desperate civilization. "Herc!" She called again, and he continued to ignore her. So she continued to push her point as he carried them out of the city. The wind pushing the skin on their faces uncomfortably tight. "Herc! I think we lost them!" She said gasping and coughing as bugs clogged her throat each time she opened her mouth.

Despite her pounding fists and powerful protests, he continued to ignore her. So she resolutely flopped over and accepted the ride that she was on, to gods know where. She recognized some of the landscape as they thundered by. The small village she had trudged through on her way to her new life. The same paths that lead her to this insane adventure. Soon though, they had passed everything that was familiar. Hercules never tiring, never slowing, his android legs pumping harder with each stride. His only goal was to put as much distance between them and Zeus as he could.

As the sun began to set he finally slowed and allowed them to rest. He placed Cornelia gently on the ground. As her feet touched the earth she was able to absorb every complaint her body had been voicing the entire trip. Every part of her body protested in aberrant agony. It was like she had ridden a wild and reckless stallion while strapped helplessly to its back on her stomach. Parts of her hurt that she did not even know existed, and by Apollo's groans he was feeling much the same as her.

Cornelia plunked herself on the soft sweet grass that surrounded them and just spread her arms out rejoicing in the solitary moment she had to relax. She watched the sunset coat the hills in a honey gold and vibrant orange light and smiled at the simplicity and beauty of the moment. "I wish Hades was here." She mistakenly said allowed.

"I make an excellent substitute!" Apollo said plunking down next to her striking a pose with his head on his arm and he batted his eyes at her flirtatiously. She groaned and pushed him over.

"Shut up no one cares." She could not help but laugh at the thought of him trying to imitate Hades. Which, did not need to remain much of a thought, because Apollo decided to follow through with his words.

He sat up and scowled, flipped his hair over his face and then opened his mouth. "Blah, blah, blah something technical blah, blah, blah." ANd then imitated one of the many fits of anger that Hades exhibited in exuberance. "blah, blah, blah you are all useless!" The whole effect pushed Cornelia into a hysterical fit of laughter.

"That was actually fairly accurate." She said chuckling as she played with an asphodel flower, enjoying the familiar sweet scent and ghostly appearance. A chorus of screams sounded in the distance. One distinctly feminine and two distinctly male. "Ah Cacare" Cornelia cursed and got up, "that was fun while it lasted."

All three of their heads tilted toward the sound, Hercules balled his fists up and his muscles tensed, Apollo readied his bow, and Cornelia's fingers ticked around the sword she had stolen from the Coliseum. Two bodies erupted from the forest, a beautiful woman and a young man who looked to be a demi-god in his own right. They were screaming and running hand in hand in a mad dash from whatever was behind them.

Hercules, Apollo, and Cornelia The three looked at each other in confusion since nothing seemed to be following them. Then Hercules' eyes spread wide in alarm and Apollo gasped. They looked as if they had seen a ghost. Cornelia saw nothing but the shifting of the grass behind them. Hercules and Apollo made a mad dash towards the couple. Apollo was launching a series of arrows at the grass, while Cornelia limped behind them trying to keep up. Whatever they fought against though was in vain. Before they ever made it across the field the woman screamed and collapsed to the ground.

Just as the three of them got up to the spot where the man was another burst from the forest waving a machete. He took one look at the unconscious woman and laughed at the man. "Serves you right, Orpheus." With those words, he disappeared back into the forest.

Cornelia's eyes traced back to the woman. Her hair looked to be made of living fire and her skin was the color of the moon on a starless night. Her beauty would shame the gods, and she wore nothing to enhance it. She was simply gorgeous.

Cornelia looked at Apollo expecting the familiar lustful hunger that always seemed to accompany his first view of a beautiful woman, but his eyes only showed pity. His gaze was ardently focused on her ankle. Cornelia's eyes traced where he was looking. Two small holes rested on her Achilles tendon, her leg was beginning to change color, as Cornelia watched the venom creep its way through her body. Her mouth began to foam and her alabaster skin began to turn the color of Ash.

"Please, you have to help her," The man begged.

Apollo looked at him to the dying woman prone on the ground, and then back to Hercules. "How far are we?"

Hercules nodded towards the forest. "Half a mile at most," The look Apollo and Hercules shared was not one of hope. Hercules picked up the girl and walked gingerly towards the sunset.

"You must hurry!" The man screamed alarmed at Hercules' slow progress.

Hercules' voice sounded like it was made of emotionless stone. "The more we move her the worse it gets." He held her like she would shatter into a million pieces at any moment. "We have to get her to the Inferis."

Cornelia heard something in the distance and looked once more to find the source of the wound. Her eyes caught sight of the largest serpent she had ever seen. With grey scales and vivid red eyes. She shook in fear grateful the serpent never caught sight of her stare. There was something hauntingly familiar about it.

Apollo caught her stare and shoved glasses on her face. "Don't look at it."

"What is that thing?" Cornelia asked with trepidation. Why did she always ask she really never wanted to know?

"That," He whispered never taking his eyes off of it, "is a basilisk."

"Why is it just letting us go?"

"I do not know," He said his voice laced with fear, "but, it cannot be good."

[A/N] Thank you for reading please do not forget to vote/share. I know you all love the romance myths of the underworld. My take on this one will blow your mind. I have been holding the upcoming chapter tightly to my chest until the absolute perfect point in the story. Thank you _lovepenny for the Myth suggestion.

Basilisk: In European bestiaries and legends, a basilisk is a legendary reptile reputed to be King of serpents and said to have the power to cause death with a single glance. The basilisk is often paired with Medusa. Do not get too excited she is not coming yet; but, these are closely tied as well as the next myth that is coming out. No more spoilers. Just keep reading!

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