After the summer of the Battle of Manhattan, weekends at Camp Half-Blood were more crowded than they had any right to be. The construction of the new cabins had not been finished before the summer season ended, even if it had been extended, and any campers with the means made their way to New York to pitch in.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle, Annabeth Chase sat in the Athena cabin with her boyfriend, carefully amending a tiny detail on the 3D plan in front of her. "What do you think?"
Percy Jackson stared at the small replica buildings, tilting his head this way and that way, examining them closely. He stood up and walked around the table, carefully inspecting it from all sides, before turning to her and saying, "What exactly am I looking at?"
Annabeth narrowed her eyes at him. "It's the plans for New Olympus."
"Ah." Percy said, nodding a few times. "It's nice."
Annabeth rolled her eyes and walked out of the cabin, into the mild September evening.
Percy chased after her. "What did I say?"
"Nice?" Annabeth repeated, spinning round to face him. "Nice?! I've been working for three days, and all you can come up with is nice?!"
Percy winced, about to apologise to the furious girl, when he was interrupted by a familiar chuckle. "Oh, bad move, kid."
The two demigods whirled around, argument forgotten, and sank into immediate bows. "Lord Hermes."
The messenger god waved them off almost impatiently. "No time for all of that. Have a message for you, straight from the Fates."
Annabeth, for all her courage, paled and swayed a little on the spot. Percy's hand curled around her elbow, steadying her.
"Since when do they send mail?" He asked.
"Well, it's a special situation." Hermes said, his eyes weary. The loss of his son, Luke, was an almost visible burden, weighing him down. "They want you to go back."
"Back?" Percy asked blankly. "Back where?"
"In time." Hermes elaborated. "To the past. To the beginning of the summer season of 2006."
"That was my first summer." Percy said.
Annabeth was about to argue the logistics (and wisdom) of time travel, but thought better of it. After all, if the Fates themselves were behind it …
Hermes gave her a smile, as though he had seen what she was thinking (and he probably had). "Exactly. I'm going to send you to Olympus 2006. They'll contact you there if they need to. We're just waiting for … Ah, Nico. Excellent timing."
Nico DiAngelo arrived breathless, half-bowing, half-collapsing, sagging against Percy, who propped him up. Shadow-travel always exhausted him, and he had taken it upon himself to help some of the more distant campers – Annabeth included – visit for the weekend. "Got your message. I'm ready."
"Good." Hermes said, clapping his hands together with a smile. "I'll send you on your way then. And … Try to save him. Please?"
"We will." Percy said firmly. "We'll do what we can."
"I know you will." Hermes said as he began to fade from view. "Good luck."
A second later, they were standing outside the closed doors of the throne room. A quick glance around told them that it was early summer and that Olympus had yet to fall.
"Now what?" Annabeth whispered.
Percy shrugged. "We knock." He raised a hand and knocked three times on the great wooden door.
The rumble of voices within stopped, before a booming voice said, "Enter."
Percy pushed the door open and strode inside, his eyes darting along the line of seated gods. To his relief, it appeared that the Fates had already spoken here, as Lord Hades was present, as well as Queen Persephone, seated beside her husband, much to her mother's obvious dismay.
Huddled in the corner, behind Chiron, were Grover and a group of young demigods, about fifteen of them. Percy spotted his younger self hiding among them, trying to be invisible, far too bewildered and scared to have been anything more than a very new camper, and attempted to give him a comforting smile, but did not halt his approach until he was right in front of Lord Zeus and Lady Hera, whereupon he knelt, bowing his head, sensing Annabeth and Nico doing the same thing either side of him.
It was Lady Hera who spoke, rather than her husband, her tone brisk. "Rise, heroes, and identify yourselves. The Fates have brought about this gathering. We will not act against you."
That could change quickly, so Annabeth, with the least to fear, rose first, bowing towards her.
"Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, Architect of Olympus." She bowed again to her mother, who favoured her with a smile, but looked troubled. She did not, however, speak, or ask why Olympus would need an architect.
Nico rose next, also bowing. "Nico DiAngelo, son of Hades."
A murmur of voices came from the campers, but Chiron hastily quietened them.
Zeus began to rise from his throne, but Persephone cleared her throat. "My husband has done nothing wrong."
Demeter stared at her daughter in outrage. "How can you sit there and say that?! He …"
"I am not happy, Mother." Persephone bit out. "I do not like the fact that my husband sought comfort in the arms of other women. I can understand it, given that he is separated from me for half the year, but I do not like it. However, in this case, the reason Father is so angry is because of the pact. And Nico was born before the pact, as Zeus well knows. He is currently in the Lotus Casino with his sister." She gave her stepson a strained smile. "How is Bianca?"
Nico's gaze dropped as he bowed to her and his father, and she stifled a small gasp, pressing her husband's hand and stepping down from her throne, opening her arms to him. Whatever grudges she held towards Maria or her husband could not hold up against her natural compassion.
As Nico hesitantly accepted her embrace, all eyes turned to Percy, who rose and bowed towards Zeus. "Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon."
"POSEIDON!" Zeus roared, over the sharp intake of breath that came from the campers. "How dare you break a sacred oath?!"
"You're one to talk!" Poseidon retorted.
Zeus glared at him. "My daughter will never turn sixteen, thanks to him!"
"My children are locked away thanks to you!" Hades snarled.
"He saved Olympus." Annabeth said loudly, causing all three to fall silent.
Percy sighed, took the opportunity to bow to his father, and turned to her in exasperation. "Must you?"
"Well, you did." Nico pointed out, as his stepmother released him.
"Besides, best we say it now, before Lord Zeus blasts you because he thinks you stole the Master Bolt." Annabeth added.
Percy winced. "I'd been hoping we could avoid that whole subject, actually."
"Thinks?" Zeus asked dangerously.
Percy took a deep breath and turned to face him. "Lord Zeus, I swear on the River Styx, I did not steal your Master Bolt and nor did my father. But I know who did."
If anyone had been paying attention to the younger campers, they might have noticed the way Luke's face paled.
But the trio had been intentionally drawing attention away from the children to make sure that younger Percy wasn't vaporised, so no one did.
"Now, dear," Hera said, putting a calming hand over her husband's, "the Fates told us about this, remember? The books?"
"Books?" Percy repeated.
"We were informed," Athena said, a touch icily, "that the easiest way for you to divulge the future was for your thoughts and memories to be made into books."
Annabeth frowned thoughtfully. "But then why would we need to be here? Unless … Mother, may I see those books please?"
Some of the campers sucked in a breath at her boldness to directly address her godly parent without invitation, but Athena merely smiled in acknowledgement of her daughter's (correct) assumption, and handed her the small box. "Of course, my dear."
"Thank you." Annabeth sat down on the couch that appeared behind her and rifled through the books, counting and muttering to herself. "That makes sense."
"What does?" Percy asked.
"Well, the first five titles look familiar." Annabeth explained. "I can guess what they refer to. The last five don't."
"Maybe they're obscure references." Percy suggested.
"I don't think so." Annabeth disagreed. "They sound like quests to me. The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan's Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian."
Percy looked thoughtful. "Last Olympian … That must mean this summer just gone, so … What's the next one?"
Annabeth glanced down. "The Lost Hero. Then, before you asked, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades and The Blood of Olympus."
"You're right." Percy concluded, taking the seat beside her. "Not that that surprises me – you're always right – but this must mean …"
"The Fates aren't just trying to change our past." Nico said.
"They want to change our future." Percy agreed, his face pale. "But that must mean …"
"More people are going to die." Annabeth concluded grimly.
"People we care about." Nico muttered, his hand clenching around the tiny figurine in his pocket, the figurine Bianca had died for.
Even the gods looked a little nervous at this, but before anyone could say anything more, a hunting horn sounded outside.
"You bring your sisters, sis?" Apollo asked.
Artemis frowned. "No. And they cannot enter Olympus without me."
Percy and Annabeth looked at one another.
"You don't think …"
What, exactly, Annabeth thought was never discovered, because they were interrupted at that moment by another knock at the door.
"Enter." Zeus called.
The doors swung open and a young woman strode in, a bow slung across her back, her black hair tied back in a long braid, a silver circlet resting atop her head.
Chiron held out an arm to keep Annabeth and Luke back, but neither of them could move, rooted to the floor in shock.
In any case, the girl had eyes only for the gods as she approached and knelt before them.
"Rise and identify yourself." Hera said, her voice a little faint. She knew who this was, but … that was impossible, wasn't it?
The girl stood and bowed. "Thalia Grace, daughter of Zeus, lieutenant of Artemis."
The moon goddess smiled when the girl bowed to her as well, but was troubled. What had happened to Zoe?
"Thalia?" Zeus asked. "How are you alive? Not even I could bring you back."
Thalia smiled at him. "I know, Father. It's part of a long story. The Fates filled me in when they collected me, so I'm sure it will appear – when do you think, Annabeth?"
"Second book." Annabeth said, setting the box aside to stand up. "Maybe the third."
The two sisters embraced for a second, then Thalia released Annabeth and turned to Percy. He offered her a smile and she sighed, ruffling Nico's hair.
"Get over here, Kelp Head, you don't count."
Percy rolled his eyes, hugging her. "Thanks."
Percy and Thalia didn't see each other very often, but despite that – and despite their sometimes volatile interactions – they understood each other in ways that no one else could. They were both children of the Big Three, both had the prophecy hanging over their heads for a short while, both were not supposed to exist and yet did.
As a result, however much they fought, there was an underlying bond that would never truly break.
Thalia pressed a chaste kiss to Percy's cheek and released him, taking the seat on Annabeth's other side. "Now are we going to get started? I'm sure our parents have a lot to do."
"Nothing that cannot wait." Hestia said, giving her youngest brother a stern look. "The Fates have brought this about; we will give it the time and attention that deserves. Besides, I am certain they mentioned five demigods from the future, not four."
The four present exchanged mystified looks and huddled closer together.
"What do you think?" Percy asked. "Grover?"
"Not a demigod." Thalia said immediately. "Maybe Clarisse … Or the Stolls?"
"No, they wouldn't bring one without the other." Annabeth disagreed. "And it doesn't feel like it should be Clarisse … Nico?"
Nico was staring at a piece of paper in his hands. At Annabeth's query, he sighed, closing his eyes in resignation. "Alright, he's on his way."
As if on cue, there was a third knock on the door.
"Enter." Hera called, since her husband was still staring at Thalia.
The figure that walked in was shrouded in shadows and, as they gradually cleared, was revealed to be a young man, but he was knelt at the foot of the thrones before anyone could clearly see his face.
"Rise." Hera said tiredly. "Identify yourself."
The young man rose, bowing to her and her husband. "Luke Castellan, son of Hermes."