"I will," he told her, refusing to believe he would fail, and if he did, they'd find another way. Now that he had Jo back, he wasn't going to let her go so easily as he had once before. There was no time for mushy farewells, and even if there were, he knew Ellen and Bobby would rather he were brave. "Be ready," he told them both as he laid himself down beside Jo, too cold beside him. Death's Scythe was heavy and all too familiar in Dean's hands.
"Don't you worry. We'll give him one hell of a fight, boy," Bobby assured him, which was about as sentimental as the older man was going to get.
Ellen nodded, stepping back to stand beside her husband, as ready for a fight as he was, though neither of them could promise to be able to kill an Olympian without severe injury to themselves in the process. Artemis watched them quietly, waiting with the patience of a hunter for the moment when Dean's soul would leave his body and allow her to take him to the Underworld.
"Bottoms up," Dean muttered before tossing back the potion in the vial Artemis had given him. It wasn't the worst-tasting stuff he'd ever had, but it wasn't exactly pleasant either. That done, he handed Bobby the vial and laid back his head, ready for the worst. There was no preparing for a trip to the Underworld, and even if there was, he couldn't be sure what to expect.
It wasn't spectacular, that much was for sure. For a long moment, it seemed as though nothing was happening. Then a deep heaviness settled over his body, a sensation of movement even though he wasn't moving, and Artemis reached out, her hand passing into his mortal form to take hold of his soul and pull him forth, unseen by the people he loved.
"Are you ready?" she asked, ignoring the confusion on Bobby and Ellen's faces.
It was a strange sensation, to be sure, but it wasn't the first time Dean Winchester had died prematurely or forced his own death in order to accomplish some goal. There were some who probably thought he was a little bit crazy, but as the old saying goes, there was a method to his madness. He felt strange, almost weightless for a moment, until Artemis spoke, reminding him he wasn't really dead - not yet.
"Ready as I'll ever be," he replied. The thought of traveling to the Underworld wasn't a pleasant one, seeing as how he'd already been to Hell, but he had a feeling he was going to find the Underworld a very different place.
"Then brace yourself."
As his soul took form, she gripped his shoulder, and the world went white. When the brightness faded, they were in a strange, shadowy place, filled with darkness, illuminated only by the flicker of torches that burned with a sickly green light. The air was filled with the muted cries of souls in torment. Artemis shuddered, looking around them.
"Tartarus," she said in disgust. "Of course he would be here, rather than any other of his realms." Glancing about, she gestured ahead of them, to where a glowing line of silver blue stretched out ahead of them. "Your wife's thread," she told him. "We should follow it."
Dean had to close his eyes against the brightness, which was in stark contrast to the darkness that followed. He mirrored Artemis' shudder, mostly at the hopeless cries of the souls in torment. Once upon a time, he had been one of those souls, and though it had been a different time and place, the horror of it had been burned upon his soul so that he'd never forget it. "Why here?" he asked, hoping to God - if He even still existed - that Jo wasn't one of the souls in torment.
"He's become darker, more twisted, since we were last in the cycle," Artemis shrugged, moving to follow the thread. Here, in this place, she was no longer garbed as a modern woman; here, she wore leather armor, soft boots, and was armed with daggers, and a bow and arrows. "His throne used to be in a realm of its own. Now, it would seem, he prefers to be among the tormented."
Dean might not know much about the Underworld, but he knew from his studies that Tartarus was the deepest and darkest of Hades' realms. It would be the hardest to find, and the hardest to escape from if anyone - like them - was foolish enough to dare go there uninvited. Dean made no comment on Hades' preference regarding the location of his throne. It didn't much matter to him where it was so long as they left with Jo. If he had any ideas why the God of the Underworld might prefer this realm over others, he kept it to himself. "I've always wondered how Zeus ended up with Olympus and Hades ended up here. I know what the legends say, but I mean, what's the real story? I can't say I much blame him for being angry at drawing the short straw."
Artemis smirked faintly. "I wasn't born then," she told him, "but I know the real story, as you call it. Hades didn't choose sides in the fight against the Titans. Zeus and Poseidon did; they sided with the angels and the demons against their own parents, because they loved humanity. But when the fighting was over, and the angels had been cast down, Hades demanded an equal share in the ruling of the world. So Zeus and Poseidon suggested that he have the portion that contained the most souls." She flickered a grin toward Dean. "He was too greedy to think about it properly, or he would have realized that meant the realms of the dead. He snatched at what he saw as a great prize, and has resented it ever since. But it was his own stupidity that put him here."
"That sucks for him, I guess," Dean remarked. One stupid mistake, and Hades had made himself the self-proclaimed Ruler of the Dead. He didn't exactly feel sorry for him, but it helped him understand him a little better.
"He was allowed to keep Persephone more out of pity for him than any bargain that was struck," Artemis added. "None of us believed she would ever love him, and yet she did. There is something of the noble in him, still, though it may have been utterly destroyed by her death. I do not know this being who is my uncle, Dean. I can no more understand him than you can." She paused, laying a hand on his arm. "When you retrieve Jo, you must follow her thread back to this point. Make sure you are holding onto her when you get here. When she reaches the end of her thread, she will be thrown back into her body. If you are not in contact with her at that point, you will be trapped here - there is no thread for you to follow."
"Don't worry. I have no intention of staying here any longer than I have to," he assured her, touched by her concern, even if he didn't let her know it. He paused a moment before continuing. "You realize we're probably gonna have to kill him ... unless you can come up with a better idea," he said, feeling she at least deserved to know that, considering how she was helping them. It didn't matter much to Dean either way what happened to Hades, so long as his family was safe and the world wouldn't burn under his rule, but he thought Artemis might feel differently.
"If I can kill him here and save you the trouble, I will," was the surprising response to his honesty. Silver eyes found his calmly. "I am the Watcher, the Huntress. I preside over all hunters. Hades has harmed those I pride myself on watching over. If I can end him and save that task falling to one of my own, then I will. If not ... it will fall to you and yours to do it."