Joe sighed and looked at his tea. It was becoming gungy around the edges like when milk goes off. His stomach roiled in disgust.
‘Do I have to drink this?’
He sighed loudly. He hadn’t really got a choice, had he? ‘Deal.’
‘Now drink up.’
‘Do I have to?’
‘It’ll make you feel so much better.’
He looked at it, took a deep breath, and prepared himself.
‘Come on, down the hatch.’
He opened his mouth and took a big gulp. It tasted like mud and sweaty armpits and…eugh…he couldn’t. He couldn’t do it. It was only when he tried to take the cup away from his lips that he realised it was being held firmly in place by Agnes.
‘There’s a boy,’ she said, ‘drink up.’
Agnes only removed her hand from the mug when she was sure Joe had finished every last drop.
Joe felt sick. His stomach was loudly complaining about the vile muck he had been forced to drink. She said it would make him feel better. Well, he didn’t feel better. He felt like crap. He felt like he needed a really good burp.
Joe felt red hot shame crawl across his face.
‘Oh, don’t worry,’ said Agnes, ‘it does that to everyone. Bet you feel better though now, don’t you?’
He thought about it. He didn’t feel sick anymore but he wouldn’t have said he felt better.
‘What’s the plan of attack then?’ Hel asked Joe.
‘I don’t know. Where’s the Woodcutter live?’
Agnes threw the bottle that had contained the green substance into the fire. It smashed into tiny little pieces as the fire devoured the glass.
‘He lives in the Haunted Forest -‘
‘The Haunted Forest? Come on, I mean, really?’
Hades gave another, louder cry.
‘That’s to the east of here, isn’t it?’ asked Hel.
Agnes sighed loudly. ‘Yes.’
‘That’s going to take forever,’ said Hel.
‘About a day’s walk, if we don’t run into trouble.’
‘A day? I haven’t got a day. Can’t we just apparate or something?’
Agnes studied Joe with narrowed eyes. She shook her head. ‘Humans,’ she said to Hel, ‘You know who I blame? J. K. Rowling, that’s who. Everyone thinks that’s how magic works. One click of your finger and you can get anywhere in a second.’
‘I don’t think it works like that,’ said Joe.
Agnes shot him a look. ‘What?’
‘Apparating. It’s not a click of the fingers, it’s -‘
‘Yes. Rowling’s fault. Schools for witchcraft and wizardry, I ask you. Now everyone thinks if they get a stick, wave it around and mutter something incomprehensible in Latin that’s magic! Anywayyyy, rant over.’ She placed her hand on her forehead. ‘I don’t know where that came from. Must be a full moon or something.’
‘So when do we go?’ asked Hel.
Agnes sniffed the air.
‘You reading the signs? Making sure it’s the auspicious time to take the journey?’ asked Joe.
Agnes looked at him with what Joe thought might be disappointment. ‘No,’ she said, ‘I think Hades has dropped one.’