The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus Book 4)
woman smiled serenely.
‘I am Hecate,’ she said. ‘Goddess of magic. We have much to discuss if you’re to live through tonight.’
H AZEL WANTED TO RUN, but her feet seemed to be stuck to the white-glazed ground.
On either side of the crossroads, two dark metal torch-stands erupted from the dirt like plant stalks. Hecate fixed her torches in them, then walked a slow circle around Hazel, regarding her as if they were partners in some eerie dance.
The black dog and the weasel followed in her wake.
‘You are like your mother,’ Hecate decided.
Hazel’s throat constricted. ‘You knew her?’
‘Of course. Marie was a fortune-teller. She dealt in charms and curses and
. I am the goddess of magic.’
Those pure black eyes seemed to pull at Hazel, as if trying to extract her soul. During her
lifetime in New Orleans, Hazel had been tormented by the kids at St Agnes School because of her mother. They’d called Marie Levesque a witch. The nuns had muttered that Hazel’s mother was trading with the Devil.
If the nuns were scared of my mom, Hazel wondered, what would they make of this goddess?
‘Many fear me,’ Hecate said, as if reading her thoughts. ‘But magic is neither good nor evil. It is a tool, like a knife. Is a knife evil? Only if the wielder is evil.’
‘My – my mother …’ Hazel stammered. ‘She didn’t believe in magic. Not really. She was just faking it, for the money.’
The weasel chittered and bared its teeth. Then it made a squeaking sound from its back end. Under other circumstances, a weasel passing gas might have been funny, but Hazel didn’t laugh. The rodent’s red eyes glared at her balefully, like tiny coals.
‘Peace, Gale,’ said Hecate. She gave Hazel an apologetic shrug. ‘Gale does not like hearing about nonbelievers and con artists. She herself was once a witch, you see.’
‘Your weasel was a witch?’
‘She’s a polecat, actually,’ Hecate said. ‘But, yes – Gale was once a disagreeable human witch. She had terrible personal hygiene, plus extreme – ah, digestive issues.’ Hecate waved her hand in front of her nose. ‘It gave my other followers a bad name.’
‘Okay.’ Hazel tried not to look at the weasel. She really didn’t want to know about the rodent’s intestinal problems.
‘At any rate,’ Hecate said, ‘I turned her into a polecat. She’s much better as a polecat.’
Hazel swallowed. She looked at the black dog, which was affectionately nuzzling the goddess’s hand. ‘And your Labrador …?’
‘Oh, she’s Hecuba, the former queen of Troy,’ Hecate said, as if that should be obvious.
The dog grunted.
‘You’re right, Hecuba,’ the goddess said. ‘We don’t have time for long introductions. The point is, Hazel Levesque, your mother may have claimed not to believe, but she had true magic. Eventually, she realized this. When she searched for a spell to summon the god Pluto,
helped her find it.’
‘Yes.’ Hecate continued circling Hazel. ‘I saw potential in your mother. I see even
potential in you.’
Hazel’s head spun. She remembered her mother’s confession just before she had died: how she’d summoned Pluto, how the god had fallen in love with her and how, because of her greedy wish, her daughter Hazel had been born with a curse. Hazel could summon riches from the earth, but anyone who used them would suffer and die.
Now this goddess was saying that
had made all that happen.
‘My mother suffered because of that magic. My whole life –’
‘Your life wouldn’t have happened without me,’ Hecate said flatly. ‘I have no time for your anger. Neither do you. Without my help, you will die.’
The black dog snarled. The polecat snapped its teeth and passed gas.
Hazel felt like her lungs were filling with hot sand.
‘What kind of help?’ she demanded.
Hecate raised her pale arms. The three gateways she’d come from – north, east and west – began to swirl with Mist . A flurry of black-and-white images glowed and flickered, like the old silent movies that were still playing in theatres when Hazel was small.
In the western doorway, Roman and Greek demigods in full armour fought one another on a hillside under a large pine tree. The grass was strewn with the wounded and the dying. Hazel saw herself riding Arion, charging through the melee and shouting – trying to stop the violence.
In the gateway to the east, Hazel saw the
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