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Fates Intervention: The Poisoned Tree

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Previously, in Fates Intervention:

She sucked in a shaky breath. “Jason?”

For the first time in thirteen years, her brother smiled at her. “Hey Thalia.”

 


Once everyone else had filed out of the room, and Will was alone with the gods, Apollo turned to him with a smile. “So,” he said, “what’s wrong?”

“It’s not exactly anything that’s wrong,” Will said carefully. “It’s just that … Well, you know I can’t go into great detail, but last year was difficult.”

“Yes, I can see that,” Apollo said, his smile fading as he looked at his son, somehow much older than his fourteen years.

“We couldn’t deal with it on our own,” Will said. “Neither could Camp Jupiter. So we had to team up.”

There was a sharp intake of breath. Hera put a calming hand on her husband’s arm.

“Was this successful, Will?”

“For the most part, ma’am,” Will said. “I mean, it is now. There were a few … rocky moments. I can’t go into it. Honestly, even if I could, I wouldn’t, because I really don’t know everything.”

“You’re not warning us now for the sake of it,” Athena said, glancing at the books. “We have four more books before that point.”

“I know,” Will said. “But Rachel said that there would be three more readers, right?”

“Who would bridge the empires,” Apollo confirmed. “They’re Roman?”

“Some of them,” Will agreed. “Our theory is that we don’t tell the campers that they’re Roman. Let them believe that they’re Greek and then, by the time the books out them, they’re already like them and everything will be fine.”

“Ambitious,” Athena said. “And very risky. How can you be so sure it will work?”

“Well, if I was dealing with Romans, I wouldn’t be,” Will admitted. “But we’re Greek. Of both sides, we accepted it when we found out and – honestly that’s kind of what happened with us anyway. But I …”
“You can’t go into detail,” Apollo finished. “We know.”

At that point, there was a knock on the throne room door, and Will smiled. “Excellent timing.”

“Come in,” Hera called.

Three demigods entered; a young man of fifteen with blond hair and shockingly blue eyes, and two young women of about the same age, one Native American with choppy brown hair split into two braids, the other Latino in appearance with dark hair in a single braid down her back.

Aphrodite hid a smile, drinking in the sight of one of her younger daughters.

“This is Piper, Reyna and Jason,” Will said, as they bowed. “Piper’s Greek, Reyna’s Roman, and Jason’s kind of got a foot in both camps because of his sister.”

“And who are your parents?” Hestia asked the girls kindly.

“My mother is Bellona,” Reyna answered.

“And mine is Aphrodite,” Piper added, curtseying to her mother.

Aphrodite smiled at her. “How are you, darling? You look tired.”
“I am tired,” Piper admitted. “Exhausted. It’s been a long few weeks.”

“You can sleep in a minute,” Will said. “In a proper bed. For the whole night.”

“Don’t!” Piper said, stifling a yawn. “I’ll never get anything done.”

Jason gave her an affectionate smile. “The plan is to tell the other campers that we can’t tell them who our parents are because it will come up in the books and it’s important.”

“Which isn’t untrue,” Reyna put in.

“Thalia knows,” Hera said. “I would suggest you tell her. Then at least you have someone from that time who is aware.”

“Hera, why does Thalia know?” Zeus asked.

 “Because she needed to know about her brother,” Hera said. “It’s not her fault you were an idiot.”
“Well, we have a great deal to discuss,” Apollo said hastily. “You all look exhausted; go and talk to Thalia and then get some sleep.”

Will was happy to agree quickly, having no wish to get caught up in Zeus’s inevitable protest.

Hestia rose from her spot by the fire. “I will show you to the quarters – will you be alright in the same quarters as the others?”

“I’m sure we’ll manage, ma’am,” Will said. “We can always reassess later if we need to.”

Hestia showed them to the end of the corridor and pointed out the door, before excusing herself to hurry back to help keep the peace.

“Alright, let me go in first,” Will said quietly. “I’ll explain everything to Thalia, and then send Jason in.”

“Got it,” Jason said. “Who else is here?”

Will ran through all of the campers, trying not to stumble over the names of people who had died. Judging by the sympathy on Piper’s face, he wasn’t successful.

“And from after Kronos?” Reyna asked. “Thalia, obviously. And your Oracle.”

“Rachel, yes,” Will confirmed. “And Percy, Annabeth, Nico and Luke Castellan.”

“Luke Castellan?” Piper repeated. “Where do I know that name from?”

Will glanced up and down the corridor to make sure they were definitely alone. “He’s the son of Hermes  who let Kronos out and then got possessed. He died to stop him.”

Piper frowned. “Then how is he here? And why?”

“Fates,” Will said with a shrug. “As for why … I really don’t know. Maybe so his past-self doesn’t get yelled at. Maybe to talk his past self round. It’s certainly worked so far.”

“You don’t think he’s a threat?” Jason asked.

Will sighed. “Not anymore, no. I think if he was, Thalia would be a lot more jumpy. They were best friends, once upon a time.” He stopped at the door and listened intently. “Okay, she’s still awake, which is good, and talking to Luke, which … might not be. Wait here.”

Jason began fidgeting the moment the door was closed.

“Calm down,” Piper said, without even looking at him.

“He was her best friend,” Jason whispered. “Why haven’t I heard about him?”

“Because you’ve spent maybe a couple of hours with her in total and she probably didn’t want to talk about it,” Piper guessed. “I mean, I’m guessing they were friends before the tree incident, in which case she woke up, found out she’d lost her best friend and then he died. And all the while she’s trying to mourn surrounded by girls who hate men.”

“She didn’t strike me as someone in mourning last December,” Jason said.

“No,” Piper agreed. “And burying something like that isn’t healthy.”

Thalia’s voice floated out through the door. “Will, that’s risky. What makes you think it will work?”

Piper poked Jason in the back. “That’s your cue, Sparky.”

Jason took a deep breath and pushed open the door. “It worked for me,” he said, letting the door close behind him.

Thalia looked like she was about to argue, but something stopped her. She rose from the couch and approached him slowly, drinking in the sight of him.

“Jason?”

Jason smiled at her. “Hey Thalia.”

Thalia sucked in a shaky breath, like all the oxygen in her body had suddenly decided to desert her.

The first time he had met her, she had immediately thrown her arms around him, like she was afraid he would disappear.

Then again, she had likely been running on adrenaline, had believed he was dead until she saw him, and – if Piper was right – had been burying at least three months’ worth of grief on top of that.

This version of his sister had known he was alive, but had also known about Camp Jupiter, so had probably been convincing herself that she probably wouldn’t see him again anyway. She moved slowly, reaching out to touch his shoulder.

He stood still, letting her press against the muscle, then grasp his shoulder, then, finally, step right into his space, wrapping her arms around him tightly.

This, at least, was familiar.

Thalia didn’t hug like a sister – at least, not how he imagined a sister.

Reyna was the closest thing he had, and they didn’t hug – and anyway there had been a whole lot of ‘what-if’s surrounding them right up until his disappearance.

Thalia hugged like a mother – or, at least, how he had always imagined a mother would hug.

He was proved right when he met Sally Jackson and, despite his discomfort and stammering apologies, she had swept him in to an embrace, telling him it wasn’t his fault and that she was glad she had at least some answers.

Like Sally, Thalia wrapped her arms around his shoulders, even though he was taller than her, tucking his face into the crook of her neck, where a child’s head would rest.

This hadn’t changed, and Jason hugged her back just as tightly. He hadn’t seen his sister since her last Iris-Message – knowing she was alive only went so far.

After a few moments, Thalia pulled back, taking his face in her hands. “Oh, gods, look at you. You’re all grown up.” She paused. “I told you that stapler would scar.”
Jason chuckled. “I really don’t remember.”

“Well, you were only two,” Thalia said, ushering him over to the sofa. “You look tired, are you okay?”

“It’s been a long few weeks,” Jason said. “We’re all tired.”

“Have you left people out there?” Thalia asked.

“Yeah,” Jason admitted. “They pushed me in first.”
“I’ll go,” Will offered.

“And have I told you everything?” Thalia asked.

“Well, I thought you did,” Jason said. “You told me about the tree and everything. You didn’t mention losing your best friend though. Are you okay?”

“I never told you that part?” Thalia asked.

“No,” Jason said. “But then it’s been a bit of a strange eight months since we met. And, now I think about it, that explains the photos left in Cabin One.”

“Yeah, I didn’t want to take them with me,” Thalia admitted.

“I don’t blame you,” Jason said quietly. “I mean, Camp Jupiter did deal with the Titan War, a little bit – we just figured the gods dealt with Saturn – uh, Kronos. Don’t think I didn’t notice you avoiding the question.”

Thalia smiled weakly. “I’m fine, Jason. At least, I am at the moment; we’ll see how we go. Now are you going to introduce me?”

“Only if you promise me that you’ll talk to someone if you need to,” Jason said.

Thalia’s smile became far more genuine. “I promise.”

“Great.” Jason jumped to his feet. “So this is Reyna Ramirez-Arellano, one of my best friends, and Piper McLean, my girlfriend. One of them’s Greek and the other one’s Roman.”

Thalia shook their hands. “Can I guess?”

Jason shrugged. “If you like.”

Thalia surveyed the two girls. Neither of them was wearing a Camp Half-Blood t-shirt and neither had a beaded necklace, although Piper had feathers woven into her choppy braids.

Reyna was holding herself a little more stiffly, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything.

Something niggled, and another glance at Jason confirmed it.

“Piper’s Greek.”

Piper’s mouth fell open. “How’d you guess?”

“Well, first of all, you just confirmed it,” Thalia said with a grin. “Secondly, the odds are that Jason would have known a best friend longer than his girlfriend. But thirdly, Jason and Reyna both have a tattoo on their left forearms. I’m not happy about that,” she added to Jason.

“Don’t really have much of a choice,” Jason admitted, holding his arm out. “I guess we’d better cover them.”

“You’re probably right,” Reyna admitted, although she didn’t look happy about it.

“You don’t have to cover them,” Thalia said. “Just wear long sleeves and don’t draw attention to them. SPQR … that was the motto of Rome, right?”

Senatus Populesque Romanus,Jason recited, his voice becoming almost ritualistic. “The Senate and People of Rome. You get your tattoo before your first quest or after your first year of service, whichever comes first, and then you get a bar every year after that.”

Jason’s tattoo had twelve bars.

“Okay,” Thalia said slowly. “I am trying – very hard – not to cast any kind of judgement over the way you guys do things, because, let’s face it, it’s a different culture and you do things differently, but … Tell me they didn’t do that when you were three.”

“I wasn’t in service at three,” Jason assured her. “I was … ten, I think. They just backdated the bars.”

“You were ten,” Reyna said, quietly. “We got ours at the same time.”

Reyna’s had four bars. Also, rather than an eagle, which was on Jason’s arm, she had a crossed torch and sword.

“And the picture?” Thalia asked. “What does that symbolise?”

“That’s our parent,” Jason answered. “The eagle is Jupiter, obviously. We’re not telling you Reyna’s.”

“Is it one I can guess?” Thalia asked.

“Not this time,” Reyna said. “I don’t think there’s a Greek equivalent.”

“No, there kind of is,” Piper disagreed. “It’s just not the alter-ego.”

“Actually, there is a Greek equivalent,” Jason said. “But we’re talking a minor one. Like, really minor.”

“Okay, well, my knowledge of the Roman gods is shaky at best,” Thalia admitted. “So I won’t embarrass myself.”

“Also,” Piper said, “and I may as well say it now before you figure it out, it’s not technically a tattoo.”

Thalia frowned, examining Jason’s arm more closely. Piper was right – now she looked at it, it looked more like a burn. “They brand you?”

“Technically the gods do,” Reyna said. “I think. It comes from the heavens anyway.”

“Doesn’t it hurt?” Thalia asked.

“Well, yeah,” Jason said. “That’s kind of the point.”

Thalia took a deep breath. “Okay. Okay, I can handle that. Different culture and all that. I’m sure there are things that we do that seem weird to you guys.”

Jason cracked a smile. “You can say that again.”

“Be honest with me,” Thalia said, sitting down again. “Do you three – four,” she amended, glancing at Will, “honestly believe that the two camps can co-exist? From what Lady Hera said, things got real messy before.”

“I’m a medic,” Will said, shrugging. “I treat whoever comes through the door, Roman or Greek.”

“I think that having the two camps back under one roof, so to speak, will never work,” Jason admitted. “Especially not the teenagers. We’re too different to force us to live in the same way, which is what was happening before.”

“Genius,” Thalia muttered. The sky rumbled outside the window. “Oh, stop it; I wasn’t talking about you.” She shook her head. “Paranoid.”

Jason smiled. “I do think, though, that visits are possible. Maybe even longer exchange visits when we’re talking about older people, because the older you get, the easier it is for you to respect other cultures and the way they do things.”

“So we’re not mentioning anyone’s parent,” Thalia summarised. “And that way, when the book outs you, everyone is going to be fine, because they got to know you as Greek, so why should Roman be any different.”

“Like I said,” Jason said, “it wasn’t exactly my choice, and I can’t go into it, but it worked for me.”

“You see, that worries me immediately,” Thalia said with a sigh. “I won’t ask.”

“Really?” Jason asked.

Thalia smiled wryly. “I guess Will hasn’t told you about the spoiler alarm? Even if I did wear you down to the point where you’d tell me, you wouldn’t be able to.”

“Well, that helps,” Piper said brightly. “We can just say the Fates don’t want us to say.”

“They’ll guess,” Thalia cautioned.

Piper shrugged. “That’s fine. They’ll never guess Reyna’s, especially if the Greek alter-ego is that obscure, and it doesn’t really matter if they guess mine. Not that anyone ever does.”

Thalia turned her attention to her brother’s girlfriend. Admittedly, it did seem impossible to guess from her appearance; Piper was a very pretty girl, although she seemed to go out of her way to disguise that.
Her eyes were her most distinguishing feature – they didn’t seem to have any one colour, changing from blue to green to brown even as Thalia looked at her.

Something tugged at her memory, and she tried to follow it.

“Can I ask questions before I guess?”

Piper grinned, a kind of mischievous smile that reminded Thalia of Jason when he was a toddler, about to do something he wasn’t supposed to. “Sure, but they have to be yes-no questions.”

“That’s fair enough,” Thalia agreed, unable to help smiling back. “Is it your mom?”

“Yes.”

“Are you good with a sword?” Thalia asked.

Piper shrugged. “I like to think so.”

“She is,” Jason said. “Sometimes, she can almost beat me.”

“Excuse you,” Piper said, in mock offence, “I did beat you last time we sparred.”

The tug on Thalia’s memory suddenly settled; a girl having a pretend argument at the head counsellors meeting, distracting everyone from Thalia’s sudden presence among them, so they would stop pretending not to stare at her. Her eyes hadn’t swirled in the same way as Piper’s were doing, but they did change from day-to-day.

“Aphrodite,” Thalia said.

Piper sighed. “Alright, be honest. You’re a mind-reader, aren’t you?”

Thalia laughed. “No. Once I knew it was your mom, it narrowed down quite a bit. Honestly, your mistake was saying that no one ever guesses it. Once I knew that, and I knew that you were good with a sword, I thought about which goddess I would never associate with sword-fighting.”

“How did you know I wasn’t one of Demeter’s?” Piper asked curiously.

“Well, I don’t know how you’re going to take this,” Thalia said. “But … I’ve only ever seen one other person’s eyes change colour like that. And that was Silena Beauregard.”

Piper sucked in a breath. “No one really talks about her. Drew runs her mouth a lot.”

Thalia rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Piper, my dealings with Drew are few and far between, and that’s how I like it.”

“I’m her sister,” Piper said, “and I feel exactly the same way.”

“Silena …” Thalia trailed off. “Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of conversations with Silena. When I was at Camp, I didn’t have a lot of conversations with many people. But there were people that tried to help me deal with what had happened. Silena was very good at drawing the attention away from me, without making it look like that was what she was doing. And she did know what she was doing. I don’t know why she listened. Your mother is one of the better ones when it comes to claiming her kids, and being involved, although …” she frowned. “You’re, what, fifteen?”

“That’s right,” Piper said quietly.

“So you should have been claimed by my time then,” Thalia said. “And I’m certain you haven’t been.”

“No,” Piper said. “Not for another few months.”

“Unlike her,” Thalia said, her frown deepening. “I don’t know what made Silena take his side, Piper. I’ll need to find out if Luke knows, because I’d like to have an answer when we get to that part, but … she was a good person. And she was brave with it. So don’t listen to Drew, whatever she’s saying.”

“That tends to be my motto in life,” Piper said, stifling a yawn.

Thalia didn’t miss it. “You all look exhausted. C’mon, bed.”

“I’m fine,” Reyna said immediately. “I’m a Praetor of the Twelfth Legion.”

“I don’t care if you’re the Empress of Rome,” Thalia said. “You look exhausted and believe me when I say that tomorrow will be mentally draining, even if you’re not emotionally involved with what we’re reading about.” She glanced at Jason. “You’re going to have fun tomorrow.”

“Why?” Jason asked. “What happened to you?”

“The pine tree got sick,” Thalia said, “which I wouldn’t normally worry about, but the Minotaur slammed into it a few days ago and I got winded, so … Yeah, I’m not looking forward to that.”

“Okay, before anyone goes to sleep,” Reyna said, “what does a pine three have to do with anything?”

“I got attacked on the way in to Camp Half-Blood with Luke and Annabeth,” Thalia said. “I made the decision to stand and fight, got killed, and then Father turned me into a pine tree.”

“Why?” Reyna asked blankly.

Thalia shrugged. “What else do you turn your dying daughter in to?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Reyna admitted. “I mean …”

“Roman gods aren’t really known for intervening,” Jason said.

“Neither are the Greeks,” Thalia said. “Well, some of them find their loopholes.”

“The Greeks are more involved than the Romans,” Jason said. “But for the main part, I’ve never heard a Roman demigod get upset about it.”

“So is that because they’re Roman or because Camp Jupiter is just a different way of life?” Thalia asked.

“That’s a good question,” Reyna said. “I guess we’ll find out.”

“Tomorrow,” Thalia said firmly. “I’m putting my foot down.”

“Okay,” Will said. “Goodnight.”

“You’re not arguing?” Piper asked.

“You do not argue with the Mom Voice,” Will told her seriously. “Even when it’s not your Mom.”

Thalia rolled her eyes. “You’re hilarious. Go on, girls through that door; boys through that one. Goodnight.”

Jason hung back, even when the others had said goodnight.

“Jason …” Thalia began, unable to help a smile.

“I know,” Jason interrupted. “I am going; I’m exhausted. I just … I love you.”

Thalia hugged him tightly, closing her eyes against the onslaught of tears. “I love you too. Welcome home.”