Nico glanced up at the castle as they got closer and shivered. He could see why Scipio was creeped out, something about the castle wasn't right, and it had nothing to do with shadows or the prospect of ghosts. It didn't seem quite evil, but something about it was not sitting right with Nico, and it was starting to drive him nuts that he couldn't put his finger on it, a name to this feeling. The entire group seemed to sense the same thing, and managed to huddle even closer than they thought they could in the tiny boat. Percy had struck up a conversation with Mosca about finding his dad, but it was silenced far too soon. A few minutes later, the silence was starting to get on Nico's nerves and he turned to say something, anything, to break the unnatural silence when Scipio spoke.
"We're here," he muttered calmly, almost too quietly. Everyone forced themselves to glance up, the castle a sinister jet black against the rosy sunset sky.
"Who could have lived in such a place?" Susan asked, glancing between Jay Cooper and Nico, wondering if either one could have an answer.
"I don't know," Scipio muttered as he moved quickly to moor the boat with Percy's help. "I searched and searched, went through every record I could find, this castle just doesn't exist." As if to prove his point, the castle seemed to flicker like a candle flame, making the others even more uneasy.
"Could it be a portal to another world?" gasped Lucy, a spark of hope and longing in her eyes. Scipio shot her a funny look, a look that Nico figured meant that she wasn't too far from the truth.
"I-I can't say for sure, but it is a possibility that entered my mind. We didn't explore it too much, especially after we saw . . ." Scipio glanced at Nico, as if there was something else, another reason why they had been called out to the islands of Venice. "I don't know, there's just something . . . off about it."
"Well yeah, we kinda figured that, your note did say you found something creepier than Nico di Angelo," quipped Leo.
Scipio's mouth curled up slightly, "That I did, and this is it. Still think I'm exaggerating, Valdez?" Leo grinned sheepishly before glancing up worriedly at a supposedly, non existent castle.
"Well, what say we hurry up and get this over with? I don't like the looks of this any more than you do," he replied. He glanced at Nico, "And I promise to stop calling you the creepiest thing this side of the Mist, you're just the creepiest person."
"Oh, thanks," grumbled Nico as he rolled his eyes and jumped out of the boat.
"Ow!" came Leo's instant cry as he rubbed his shoulder.
"Be nice to him, or else," stated Susan. Leo grinned sheepishly at the otherwise Gentle Queen, she could get rather protective of her family, blood or adopted. Will was grinning with approval as he gave her a hand out of the boat. At that moment, Nico's vision began to blur and he could feel himself losing his balance.
"Nico, Nico!" His vision snapped back, as if someone had pulled a blurry blindfold off, and he saw Lucy had him by his left arm and Scipio by his right.
"Are you alright, little brother?"
"Y-yeah, I just got dizzy all of a sudden . . ." He paused, a faint sound caught his ears, sending chills up his spine. What was up with this place?
"What is it?" Lucy asked, her voice barely above a whisper. It felt like the island was ordering them to be quiet so that Nico could hear the next sound.
"Nico . . . Nico di Angelo," whispered a voice on the wind. Nico's head swiveled around, looking for the speaker.
"Did any of you hear that?"
"Someone just said my name. Ow, Scip!" Scipio's hand had clenched Nico's arm even tighter, worry and fear coming to the front in his eyes.
"M-maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all," he began, only to be stopped by Nico, his eyes fixed on the castle doors. A figure wrapped in a pale green light stood there, and beckoned to him to follow. As if in a trance, Nico's feet obeyed, taking him closer to the ghostly figure. As he got closer, he could see the figure more clearly, a man with silvery grey hair dressed in Victorian style clothes.
"Come, young master, there is not much time, you must travel through the portal."
"Portal? What? What are you talking about? What is this place?"
"The Cassil du Porim, Castle of Portals, there is nothing for you to fear here, only what lies behind the door that has opened for you." As he spoke, the ghostly figure opened the castle doors and walked inside, Nico followed not far behind.
Nico gulped, "Wh-what lies behind what door?"
"I do not know what lies beyond the door, what I do know is that you must go through. As to which door, it will let you know. It calls to you, even now. Do you not hear? Listen." Nico did, and he thought he could hear something, something calling him.
"B-but why me?"
"Why not you?" Nico blinked, he could kinda come up with several reasons why, actually. The ghost sighed, catching his drift, "Perhaps it is because someone knows what you are capable of doing and is trying to prove to you that you can do it, and that this power could not be in better hands." Nico was taken back by that statement, he had to prove something to himself? His thoughts immediately turned to the time he destroyed the Weeping Angels, was there more he could do? Could he in fact be stronger than what even he imagined, stronger than even Percy Jackson, who was by far the strongest demigod he knew? He thought that would be cool, to be stronger than Percy, but then his thoughts slipped into fear. What if he couldn't control his power and someone important, someone dear to him was destroyed by it? The ghost's voice shook him from his thoughts.
"You see? It must be proven to you that you are capable of great things, regardless of your mistakes, if you even make any. Now go." Nico's head turned towards where the faint calling was coming from, but when he turned back to the ghost climbing the stairs to the second floor, he was surprised by something that should have been obvious.
"But you . . . your legs!" The second half of the ghost had wolf-like legs and a tail!
The ghost laughed, "Go, young master, the quicker you go, the quicker the answers will come. Do not fret, this is not the last you have seen of me." And with that, he disappeared down the hall. Nico didn't know how long he stood there, staring off into the direction the wolf-legged ghost took, before he realized he was being called in the two different directions.
"Come on man, snap out of it!"
Scipio sighed with relief when Nico glanced at them, "Don't scare us like that."
"Nico, what did you see?" asked Hazel, glancing in the direction the ghost had taken.
"A-a ghost, I guess."
"You guess?" quipped Will.
"He had the legs and tail of a wolf, for crying out loud, how could I be sure?" snapped Nico. He glanced down after he saw everyone's surprised faces, "Sorry, it's just, supposedly there's this portal calling me." Though everybody's eyes were widening, the eyes of the Pevensies were widening as well as their grins. Nico sighed, "Yes, this castle is full of portals. Wolf-Legs said so, and we have to go to the one that's calling me. Ready for another trip through space and time?"
"Always," blurted Lucy.
"I know you and your siblings would, I was primarily asking everyone else."
Jason wiped his glasses as he spoke, 'Well, sounds like that's the reason why we're here, so let's do this."
Leo sighed, "I was afraid you were going to say that."
"Or would you rather stay in this creepy castle all by yourself?" grinned Percy.
Leo crossed his arms, "As if, this is omething more up Nico's and Jay's alley."
"And Scip's and ours," commented Riccio.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever."
Nico glanced at Scipio, "You knew it was calling for me?"
Scipio sighed, sorrow apparent in his voice, "No, I didn't there's, there's something else, but I guess it isn't time for you to know yet. You see, everytime I try to tell you, well, I can't say anything about it."
"Good or bad?"
Scipio shrugged, "I'm inclined to think good." Nico looked like he was going to say something, but then his head swiveled towards the staircase that led down to the living room. He took off down the stairs, his eyes nearly in a panic.
Percy froze, his own eyes widening, "Oh no."
"Nico wait, it's not Bianca! Nico, wait!" Hazel shouted, tearing after her brother, followed closely by Frank, Reyna, Will, and the Pevensies. A wall of ice sprung up between him and the set of doors he was running towards.
Lucy glanced up, "Jack, Peter! Thank Aslan!" The two Guardians floated to the ground as Hazel and Reyna dropped to the ground next to Nico.
"What are you doing here? Why . . ."
"That was Pitch, he's back, and he's looking for you," came Jack's blunt reply. Nico backed up from the wall of ice and turned towards the doors on the other side of the room. Jack lifted his staff as if to create another wall of ice, but Lucy stopped him.
"Wait, we were told that there's a door we have to go through, and Nico is the only one who can hear it calling."
"But . . ."
"I should have realized that voice wasn't Bianca's, these portals lead to other worlds, not different times," grumbled Nico as he rose. He walked straight to one door in particular, and cracked it open. "This is it." He gave a yelp as the door swung open with such force that it sent him sprawling on the floor. Before anyone could react, a mighty wind blew up, and it began sucking people into the portal it housed. First went Jack, then Leo, Calypso, Jason, Piper, Reyna, Will, Eustace, Jill, Peter, Edmund, Susan, Frank, Hazel, Percy, Annabeth, Lucy, and finally Nico.
"No!" shouted both Peter Pan and Scipio as the door swung shut in their faces. Both grabbed a hold of the handle, but it refused to budge.
"What should we do?" asked Jay after he tried to help, but to no avail.
"This is the Cassil du Porim, isn't it?" The others glanced at Peter in shock.
"How?" began Jesse.
"I'll explain on the way, just follow me!"
Meanwhile, the others found themselves on a train speeding through a tunnel. While everyone else was trying to find each other in the dark, numerous voices calling out names and replying with 'here', Nico stood stock still. He was shaking, either from dread, fear, anger, or all of the above, but there was no denying it, he knew that smell, he knew this feeling. Death surrounded him, in fact, it seemed like the whole planet was dying, so saturated with death as it was. What did they expect a son of Hades to do, save a planet from the inevitable? Everything must die eventually, even the planet. Even the White Witch of Narnia could have told anyone that, seeing as how she did in fact destroy her home planet before invading Narnia. He didn't even flinch when a hand found his shoulder.
"Wh-why? What could a son of Hades do to save a dying world? I'll only speed it up!"
"Unless you have to kill the people destroying the world," Lucy ventured.
"What good would that do?" he snapped as he turned around. He paused, a dim grenish light began to flood the train, allowing them to see each other. The others gasped, now seeing what Nico had sensed, a dying world. The train, though, came as even more of a shock, it was twisted up in dying, thorny vines that didn't seem to be able to provide any reassurance that they wouldn't fall out.
"Wait, where's Jack?" asked Lucy. Everyone called out for the winter sprite, but when he gave no reply nor did they see his his silly grin pop out, letting them know he was playing a prank, they began to worry.
"Did he fall off the train?" asked Calypso as she grasped at Leo's arm, glancing at the vine-covered windows.
"Jack can fly," commented Jason. "He must have flown off to see what was going on, especially if he knew we were coming through."
Nico nodded, "He's the Guardian of Fun, he would have wanted to make sure everything was safe for us." He paused, glancing out one of the windows before continuing, "Though, I would have preferred it if he waited for us." Everyone nodded, though the very next minute they were shrieking. The vines had come alive and wrapped each person up in its coils.
"What's going on?"
"Get this thing off of me!" Everyone struggled against the vines, until Lucy screamed as she was thrown from the train.
"Lucy!" Nico gave a scream as well as he too was flung from the train. The cries of everyone on board faded into the distance as the train continued on, before Nico drifted into shadows.