Grian

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"Cleo? Scar!"

Grian wanted to call louder. He wanted to yell at the top of his lungs, both in frustration, and to find his friends faster.

But he also wanted to blow up Hades' palace.

There were some things he couldn't risk doing for fear of being caught.

There were only two Furies circling above Asphodel and Punishment now. Grian didn't know where the third one had gone, but all the better for him. They were less likely to see him if there were only two of them.

He kept finding himself looking out for things that were different from last time. Any sign that a Watcher had been there. Any sign that he was being followed, or hunted.

Watchers didn't have a physical form, and thank goodness Grian wasn't one of them anymore. But they were masters at controlling the mind, including those of mobs, and Grian knew how to tell when their powers were in play.

He glanced back toward the entrance. It was barely visible now. Cerberus was the only way he could tell it was there.

Hmm... Cerberus was a skeletal dog with three heads. The Wither also was a skeletal being with three heads.

If Cerberus died, would he drop a Nether Star?

Grian forced himself not to think about killing dogs and continued further into Asphodel.

He wandered for a while through legions of ghosts that all blended together. He swore he saw the same twisted poplar tree about three times. He tripped over a bunch of rocks and watched a stalagmite fall in the distance, wincing as he imagined anyone who was under that.

He scanned every face. All were unfamiliar, aimlessly wandering the plains like wandering traders.

Grian stopped to rest for a minute under a poplar tree.

And then he felt another tug. He pulled away again, grumbling about ghosts and being clingy to life, and the ghost started chattering in a very familiar tone. Kind of offended, kind of angry, but in the most ridiculous way possible.

Grian looked at the ghost and saw the concerned face of Mr. GoodTimes himself staring back. Behind him was another ghost, which upon further inspection was Cleo.

Grian's heart skipped a beat in excitement. Finally!

"You're both here?" he asked.

Cleo crossed her arms and chattered. Scar made a confused noise.

Grian couldn't hide his relief. "You're here," he repeated, holding out the Fleece. "I have a way to bring you back. Put this on!"

Scar, looking hopeful, reached out a glowing hand to touch the pelt. Grian held his breath. Here it was. His best friend was coming back.

He wondered what it would look like. Would they just suddenly not be transparent anymore? Or would it be more dramatic - Grian wasn't sure what he was expecting. A flash of light, maybe.

Scar's hand passed right through it.

Grian felt like he had been punched.

That couldn't be right. Nothing was happening.

Cleo chattered angrily and tried to grab it as well. That didn't work either.

"I don't..." Grian said, watching them. "It worked for Thalia! This has to work. Please... maybe we have to leave the Underworld before it works..."

He was talking more to himself than the ghost Hermits now. Well, actually he didn't really know who he was talking to. The gods, maybe.

Scar put a hand on Grian's arm to get his attention and shook his head. As if saying that he knew it wasn't going to work.

If a few seconds ago had been a punch to the gut, this was a full-on beating.

Grian sank to the ground and leaned against the tree, feeling the tears coming. He heard the faint rustle of grass as Scar and Cleo sat next to him. Scar gave him a hug, trying to be comforting, but it was cold and only served as a reminder of the friends that Grian would never have back.

This had been a mistake. This whole demigod thing, going to Camp Half-Blood, stealing the Fleece...

That stupid glittery sheep skin, shimmering innocently in the grass next to him, had been his last hope.

He had tried so hard.

But it was all for nothing.

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