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What Makes a Hero

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The world ends in a flurry of fire, and ground being ripped into the air of its own will. The mountains, her shoulders, rumble as they part away from the earth and a sound moans as a hole opens in the middle of a city. The buildings crumble under the loss of their foundations, toppling almost like a pile of dominoes. People scream as fixtures of cement dissolve into putty and electrical fixtures snap like strings, their posts bending and creaking unnaturally. A cyclops holds up a stick the size of a small house over his head, a human held limply in his left fist, and roars his victory to the sky as people scattered in the streets, scream and cry running like mice unearthed before they’re crushed or suffocated by the ground.

Millions scream with them.

Camp Half Blood is torn into literal pieces, and demigods are either running for their lives, dying in or on the ground, or fighting monsters as they storm the borders of the camp. The ground under the thirteen cabins bucks like a live animal, bends like putty before swallowing the structures into the dirt. Mr.D is nowhere to be found and when a member of the Hermes cabin runs into the Big House in order to get help-something, anything- he’s swallowed by the earth and never makes it back outside to confess the betrayal. The others don’t even get to see him go inside before the ground opens up and swallows them whole.
Camp Jupiter’s buildings smash into each other, as the earth roils, coils like a mound of snakes. The earth leaps up and swamps the streets, earth rushing into any opening or breaking through windows and wood like it were tissue paper. The hills on both sides of the valley flow down their sides like waves, and flood to cover the valley. Four minutes later, there’s nothing left except for shards of a broken building lying half-buried under dirt.

Some heroes die with clubs battering them against trees, or each other. Others die with bite wounds visible on their arms and poison creeping through their bloodstream towards their heart. Most die because the ground underneath them turns to quicksand and then they just can’t breathe anymore.

Planes are not safe either, as is evident when a pilot thinks he can escape and takes to the air, wind roaring. There’s a smile on his face stretching his features. His eyes are wild, hands in front of him on the wheel, and his laughter would’ve landed him in an asylum or arrested either as a danger to himself or to society had he been seen doing this just two hours earlier. (He’s clawed out of the sky, still raving about freedom as an earthen fist shatters his windpipe and leaves him dying on land as the earth continues to rampage.)

Most of humanity is either mad or raving at this point, Percy thinks. Everything screams, cries, yells, claws. He raises a hand trembling, face impassive at the crimson leaking around his fingers.  He cannot breathe, almost cannot see, but knows in a sort of twisted wonder that this is the last thing he will see. Annabeth is across the pavilion, body broken like some tossed ceramic doll with her limbs askew and a pair of glazed eyes staring disbelievingly at the sky. Far off, the rest of the seven are in similar states, either unconscious or dead entirely. Jason is either somewhere behind one of the fallen columns or on the ground either unconscious or barely alive.
The ground swerves up from under Percy’s torso, clay like as it molds itself into the outline of a woman. He watches as the figure materializes next to him, eyes blank and the curve to the side of her mouth a wicked slant.She bends at the waist, curls carved out of stone waving like real hair, and dust flies away from her form to meet the budding chaos roiling in the sky. He watches in the roaring wind as the mass above coalesces into a single mass of earth shaped like a double-edged spear.

Gaea, mother of earth and life itself, whispers, “Where are your gods now Percy Jackson?”

The spear falls, and all is black.

That should be all, right? The world breaking as the mother of the world rampages, her anger spilling across the continents, killing millions before her rage settles to simmer under her skin. And this time she sits upon a throne of her element, awake and temper called upon whenever triggered.

This is the world where the heroes lose, the ultimate villain wins and society is left to stay in disbelief as the few hundred humans left who manage to survive despite all odds are put under horrific circumstances and forced to live. The gods never move from where they are hidden, and most just put it up to the immortals being just as dead as the rest of humankind or refusing to move in fear of being destroyed.

‘This is the apocalypse’, a man says before he’s tossed into the air like so many others, killed by earth itself.

And it’s true for everyone.

But Percy.

And a few others.

Make that a few hundred, and all because they’re very lucky or very stubborn.

For, yes, Gaea is one of the strongest immortals ever to exist, and she did help found life itself on this planet. However, she’s not the only strongest immortal; others do exist.

It’s just that not all of them are Greek or Roman.