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Percy Went Where?

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Percy woke up with Annabeth cuddled into his side. They were still in the private room that they had found last night. He sighed and looked around at the cushioned floor they had fallen asleep on. He just really hoped no one had noticed they weren’t there. He turned toward her gently shaking her awake. “Annabeth?”

She groaned turning to see him. “Did Frank come in again?”

He laughed at her brushing some hair from her face. “No Wise girl. But he will come searching soon with everyone else if we don’t get up soon.”

Annabeth sat up looking at Percy’s face. She used her thumb to wipe the corner of his lip and made a face like she’d just drank from the Phlegeton again. “Wash your face. There’s dried drool on it Seaweed brain.”

He shoved her as he climbed up and she laughed leaning on the floor before climbing up and running after him. Together they ran into the hall and both into their rooms before anyone saw them disheveled and in the same clothes as last night. Annabeth reached her room first. Sadie groaned and turned over. She looked up at Annabeth and grinned evilly. “So… how did you sleep?”

“Shut up,” Annabeth told her getting new clothes and putting them on. Sadie laughed as she got up and started to press Annabeth for more details.

Meanwhile Percy was slamming the door to his room where Magnus was coming out of the bathroom and Carter was going through his magician’s bag. Both looked up at him. Magnus growled looking at Percy. “Where’s Annabeth?”

Percy stopped looking sheepish. “She’s in her room Magnus. I swear it was nothing…”

“It better not have been anything,” Magnus said. “You guys are unbearably cute and I don’t want to have to break you up.”

“Dude…” Carter said looking at him. “Just don’t…”

“Nah,” Percy shook his head as he pulled on a new shirt. “It’s fine. Magnus just likes to watch other couples cause he hasn’t made his own mood on Alex yet.”

Magnus scoffed and turned away. Carter was laughing at him and Magnus pushed him back onto his bed as he passed. He looked at Percy. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Even if I did then I wouldn’t talk. From what everyone’s been saying in there you and Annabeth continued being idiots around each other for almost four years.”

“Not saying you should take lessons for me,” Percy said. “Or maybe you should seeing as your cousin is actually my girlfriend.”

Magnus shoved him and Carter laughed harder as he followed Magnus outside. Percy yelped telling them to wait and not say anything as he ran out. He walked into to breakfast behind Magnus and Carter who were laughing with each other. Annabeth was already there in a discussion with Sam. She smiled up at him and he felt his grin grow wider.

Soon enough everyone was at breakfast eating and laughing. Even Nico was in a much better mood now blushing and rolling his eyes with Will’s ever other gesture. Leo was sitting next to Jason and Piper like old times talking animatedly while Calypso was sitting nearby them talking to Hazel and Frank. Percy slid in next to them.

Piper stopped talking and looked up at Jason who she was still leaning on because of their dare. She whispered to him and he looked at Percy. “Piper wants me to tell you she just heard something interesting from Sadie…”

“Magnus said something too,” Leo said. Then he saw Annabeth glaring at him from across the room. “I’m going to shut up now before your girlfriend kills me.”

Percy rolled his eyes at the friend. “We just fell asleep while talking again.”

“I’m not believing that this time,” Frank told him. “No way.”

“Will you all just shut up about it?” Percy complained. “I mean why concentrate on Annabeth’s relationship with me when you all have your own.”

“Dude,” Jason pointed out. “We’re literally watching movies about your life. We kind of want to know everything about it. It’s like following your favorite characters relationships. You just can’t stop.”

Percy shook his head then groaned. “Oh, why did it have to be before this quest? I mean, of all the drama…”

Then he met Calypso’s eyes. She was looking away. Everyone noticed and Hazel’s face grew concerned. “Is everything alright Calypso?”

“Yes,” Calypso said with a sad smile looking up. She reached for Leo’s hand. “It is now.”

Percy looked at her apologetically. The rest of the seven looked at him, besides Annabeth not a lot knew that he’d been at Calypso’s island and that he’d almost stayed. The seven knew they had met but not all the details. He sighed. “About it all…”

“It is fine Percy,” she said. “We both have found our own ways. I am off my Island with my own hero.”

Percy shook his head. “You’ll see. You should still be upset with me…. I don’t know how I forgot, gods… I…”

“Whatever it is dude she said she doesn’t care,” Leo said. “Plus sunshine and I are just fine. Like she said she’s off Ogygia and you and Annabeth, well, you two are literally couple goals.”

“Couple goals?” Hazel asked. “I still don’t understand that.”

“You don’t need to,” Percy told her. “But it will come up Calypso. You should have the warning.”

“I don’t mind people seeing my past or why I am here,” she said soothingly. Leo grinned at her and Piper nudged him winking. He shoved her into Jason who laughed. Frank was rolling his eyes as Hazel giggled and Percy couldn’t but join Jason in laughing. Calypso was right. Both of them were right where they belonged, what if’s or not.

Thalia pushed her plate forward twenty minutes later. “I don’t know about you but I’m ready to see this. I actually have no clue what happened on this quest. Annabeth and Percy wouldn’t spill a thing.”

Annabeth rolled her eyes. “Yeah because we told you what you needed to know.”

“Apparently the fates think we need to know a whole lot more than what you told us,” Clarisse said. “Not a bad thing. I have a lot more black mail on you and Prissy now.”

“Um.. Clarisse?” Percy said rubbing the back of his head.

“What?” she yelled spinning on him raising a fist. She wasn’t really threatening him he could tell.

“You’re kind of in this one too. And the next one, and there might be something in between, remember?”

She growled at him. “You just had to help me.”

Percy shrugged. “I’m pretty sure without a few exceptions there will be something on every person here. Most of you later on, like Carter and Sadie. I haven’t even met you yet Magnus.”

“You think they’ll show us the future?” Annabeth asked him. “The fates I mean.”

Rachel’s eyes widened. “I don’t think they’d do that. At least not enough of the future to affect anything. Plus we have at least a year more of adventures before we get to that stuff. So we should probably start so you can all see me save Percy’s butt at least three more times.”

Percy groaned as he followed everyone into the viewing room and sat down. Why did they have to watch the quest with all the relationship drama? He didn’t want Annabeth trying to kill him for it again. He’d thought they were past it. He might have three girls teaming up to kill him soon enough. The groan turned into a chuckle as an image of the three girls back to back with a blue hairbrush, a drakon bone sword/bronze dagger and ball of thread formed in his head.

 

Chapter Text

Percy settled down next to Tyson who he hadn’t talked to in a while. Tyson’s response was to cheer and strangle him in a hug as Annabeth settled in next to Ella. Chris and Clarisse were nearby and Percy glanced at them both worriedly. A lot would come up for the daughter of Ares in the next few days. He was interrupted by his thoughts by Grover. “Can we sit?”

“Yeah man,” said Percy grinning as Juniper sat down next to Annabeth and Ella. “Come on.”

Grover sat with him and Percy looked around the room. Over the past few days he’d made a lot of new friends and everyone here had really gotten to know each other. With so many friends he felt like he wasn’t making as much time for each of them. That was another thing for him to work on.

Percy sat in the car in front of a large building with his mom. She smiled at him kindly telling him to relax, it was an orientation tour but it was Paul’s school. She asked him to try not to destroy it.

“Recap please?” Jaz asked.

“Easy,” Rachel told her. “Percy’s mom has a boyfriend named Paul Blofis who teaches at Goode High School. He got Percy in and this is his orientation day. Way in the beginning of June. Paul doesn’t know he’s a demigod.”

“What school number is this?” asked Leo. He’d never met anyone who beat his record. Until Percy.

“Eight. Though I graduated from the last one without doing anything too bad,” Percy smiled. “Mom was really proud of that. I’m not at Goode any more though. Several months of absence will do that. AHS now.”

“So nine schools?” Chris asked. “Dude, not even half of my siblings have been through that many and we had the camp record.”

“Key word being had,” Percy told him.

Percy asked her if she’d told Paul the truth about him. She said she thought they should wait. Percy said so it wasn’t that they scared him away. Sally told him orientation would be fine it was only a morning. Percy frowned saying he’d be expelled before he even started.

“I really think you do have some prophecy,” Rachel told him.

“No,” Percy disagreed. “That’s just me knowing myself and how my life works.”

Sally told him to think positive. He would be at camp tomorrow and he had a date after orientation. Percy protested it wasn’t a date. It was just Annabeth.

Every single person started laughing as Percy blushed. “Fine. My mom was right. She usually is. Like Annabeth.”

“Piper says you were still in denial and even your mom was shipping you two,” Jason said as Piper continued to tell him what she wanted to say. “She loves Sally.”

Percy rolled his eyes at her.

Sally pointed out Annabeth was coming out from camp to see him. Percy agreed not seeing the point. She continued saying they were going to the movies. Just the two of them.

Percy blushed harder as everyone wolf whistled. Annabeth just laughed at him.

He protested. She held up her hands and told him to go inside she’d see him tonight. Percy opened the door then paled and climbed back inside looking at his mom. His mom asked what was wrong. He told her nothing asking for the side entrance to the school. He told her it was down the block to right. Then he got out of the car and ran.

“Why are you running from Rachel?” Jason asked.

“I mean you saw what happened at the dam,” Percy excused himself. “She scared me and I didn’t want demigods being exposed, did I?”

Percy walked into the side entrance where two cheerleaders smiled at him. Both said hi. Then the blonde one welcomed him to Goode saying he was going to love it.

“I hate people like that,” Sadie groaned. “They sound like the plastic bags at school.”

Percy didn’t answer. He was gripping Riptide and glaring at the hologram ahead of him. Annabeth was shaking and grabbing for his hand. Grover looked at both of them concerned and Percy took a deep breath nodding he was fine.

Percy squirmed. She asked what his name was calling him fish. He asked what she meant. She explained a freshman. Percy told them his name. The girls looked at each other saying they’d been waiting for him.

“Run,” Hazel advised. “Monsters. Cheerleading monsters.”

Percy was still frozen in a state of shock. Everyone stared at him confused. He shook it off.

Percy put his hand in his pocket then Paul came up calling his name. Percy kneed Kelli by accident as he passed. There was a hollow clanging as se made a pretend ow telling him to watch it. Paul pulled him away then welcoming to Goode. Then he said Percy looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“He can’t see through the mist. Can he?” asked Carter.

“No,” Percy agreed. “But he believes it. And when it’s big enough Mortals still notice. Mom still can tell. I’m not sure if that passes down and my sister will be that way.”

At that thought he got a goofy grin on his face. Annabeth was still clutching his hand and he was pulled back into reality.

Percy agreed. Paul said he understood the nerves. They had lots of kids with ADHD and dyslexia. Percy smiled weakly. Then he looked down the hall and his eyes met Rachel’s. Her eyes widened and Percy quickly asked Paul where orientation was. Paul said the gym pointing the direction. Percy yelled by running off as Paul called his name.

“You know running off like that just made you more obvious and me more determined,” Rachel told him.

Percy groaned. “I know.”

Percy ran into the hall which was hung with banners. He looked around as the marching band started to play then Percy spun when Rachel grabbed his shoulder demanding to know what he was doing there. Percy said her name and she gaped at him before glaring saying he was Percy though she’d never gotten his last name after he tried to kill her.

“Nice!” Thalia said giving Rachel a high five. Percy glared at them both.

Percy asked what she was doing there. She replied orientation. Percy asked if she lived in New York. Rachel asked if he thought she lived in hoover dam. Percy fell silent.

“What was I supposed to think?” Percy turned to her. “It’s full of tourists. I mean Leo was there.”

“I actually lived near New Mexico then though,” Leo said.

Percy ignored him.

Then a guy told them to shut up because the cheerleaders were talking. Tammi and Kelli introduced themselves as Rachel yelped. She turned to Percy and told him to run.

“What are they?” asked Zia. “Some horrible monster in disguise no doubt. But which?”

“Nothing that would hurt you,” Rachel said. “You’re a girl. And a magician. They also have fire magic. You probably don’t need to worry.”

Percy asked her why but she was already going through the crowd. Percy looked at her then paul. After a moment he ran after Rachel. They ended up in the band room. Rachel was hiding behind a drum. She urged him over telling him to keep his head down. She asked if he was followed. Percy asked about the cheerleaders. She nodded and he said he didn’t think so asking what she’d seen. She told him he wouldn’t believe her.

“I get that,” Sadie agreed. “Stupid regular people and the unablitiy to see what’s right in front of them.”

Carter nodded thinking about the time they had been interrogated after their father blew up the Rosetta stone.

Percy told her he would. She could see through the mist. She asked what he meant. He explained what it was and that some mortals could see through it. She agreed that he’d said that at Hoover dam too, what was he if he wasn’t a mortal. There was a pause of silence. She begged him to explain the things she’d seen.

Piper winced looking at her sympathetically. She got what Rachel was talking about. They were too alike sometimes.

She was telling him he didn’t know how hard it had been. She thought she was going crazy. Then she asked who he really was.

“It skipped some stuff,” Rachel frowned.

“Just me explaining greek myths were real. Not to important. Wait,” Percy paused turning to her. “Have you ever seen anything from Egyptian or Norse myths?”

“Maybe,” Rachel hesitated. “Doesn’t matter now.”

Percy said he wasn’t a monster. She told him she’d be able to see if he was. Percy said he was a half blood, half human. Rachel asked half what when Tammi and Kelli came in smiling saying it was time for his orientation.

“That’s just scary,” Frank said shivering.

“It gets scarier,” Percy told him.

Rachel gasped they were horrible. Percy asked what they really looked like. Tammi said to forget her and Percy just stared dumbly as Rachel called his name scared. He made a confused sound.

“It’s magic,” Hazel realized. “They’re enchanting you. You can’t fight them.”

Percy nodded. “Doesn’t work anymore. Not after that first time. But that’s why it’s really useful to have a girl around to fight with you. They’re good at saving my butt.”

The girls looked unsure of whether to thank him or hit him.

Rachel yelled at him to snap out of it. He drew Riptide. Tammi sneered telling him she didn’t need that asking for a kiss. Rachel pinched his arms saying she wanted to bite him. Tammi said Rachel was jealous then asked Kelli for permission to continue. Kelli encouraged her saying she was doing great. Percy held her sword to her chest as Tammi sneered this was their school they could eat who they chose. Her eyes turned red and her skin became white as her teeth became fangs.

“Wait, vampires are real?” Alex asked. “Are you going to stab her with a wooden stake through the heart now?”

“She’ not a vampire,” Reyna said with wrinkled nose in disgust. “Look at her legs.”

“What are those things?” Leo asked freaking out.

“Empousai,” Annabeth growled. “And they’re the worst of the worst. I hate them.”

Percy yelled she was a vampire then saw her legs. He started to say a vampire with weird legs when Tammi snapped at him it was rude to make fun. She kept coming forward. Kelli was telling him those legends were based on them, the empousai. Hecate’s servants.

“They work for Hecate?” asked Hazel turning to Annabeth and Percy. “Shouldn’t they be on our side then?”

“Hecate wasn’t on our side then though. And since the empousai have gone rogue. They care more about getting to feed then working for Hecate from what I’ve seen,” Annabeth told her. Percy’s face was dark and he was scowling. He clutched her hand as she growled.

Tammi agreed saying dark magic made them to feed on young men. She asked for a kiss again. Percy froze then Rachel through a drum at Tammi’s head. The drum was swatted away and Rachel threw a xylophone and the same thing happened. Tammi said she’d make an exception about killing girls for Rachel. She lunged and Percy cut her in half with Riptide. Rachel was covered in monster dust and she yelped it was gross. Percy apologized saying Monster’s did that. Kelli yelled at him that he’d killed her trainee and he need a school spirit lesson. She told him she was a senior empousa that no hero had beat for thousands of years.

“No male hero,” Percy corrected her. “But you’ve been bested twice by the scariest and best demigod I know.”

Annabeth elbowed him. “Thanks but that’s not really true.”

“I can say what I want,” Percy told her. “Especially if it’s a complement to my amazing girlfriend.”

Percy said she was overdue. He jabbed at her and Kelli dodged into the trombones knocking them over. Percy stood in between Kelli and Rachel. Kelli said riptide was so pretty it was a pity it stood between them. Percy squinted at her as Kelli continued saying he didn’t even know what was happening. Soon camp would be destroyed and they’d be enslaved to Kronos and they couldn’t stop it. It’d be better for him to die now.

“You guessed that Luke would do that though,” Will said. “We tried to prepare even before you heard that from Kelli.”

“She still knew more about it than me,” Percy agreed. “I was kind of clueless. I hadn’t been in camp for a few months.”

Then a few voices passed and Kelli smirked saying they’d have company soon. She threw a tuba at them and Percy and Rachel ducked. There was a crash as Kelli shouted asking why Percy had thrown it. She started to make a mess swiping things over as Percy yelled for her to stop. Kelli ran for the door as Percy ran after her with Riptide. Rachel yelled for her not too. Then Kelli opened the door and Paul and a bunch of other teens stared at him.

“And you were right,” Will said with wide eyes. “Before the first day and you destroyed the school. You have the worst luck.”

“You can say that again,” Percy agreed in a bored tone.

“I would just be more worried about your mom’s boyfriend thought,” Sadie told him. “Dropping this all on regular people isn’t very easy. For us or them.”

“Paul’s cool,” Percy grinned with a dopey look on his face. “I’m giving something away but he’s just kept going with it. He’s the best. I’m lucky mom met him. And now I’m getting a little sister anytime in the next few weeks in the deal.”

His face fell then. He hadn’t been home for days though he was sure no time had passed in the mortal world, or less than a few minutes at least. But he could still worry about his mom looking, or what the stress would do about her pregnancy. He couldn’t miss his sister being born. Not even if it was something of the Fates decree. Annabeth seemed to realize what he was thinking and put a reassuring hand on his arm.

Paul asked what he did as the fire alarms blared and the water sprinklers started on the ceiling. Rachel tugged on his sleeve telling him to get out and Percy jumped through the broken window and ran through the alley exiting it onto the street where he bumped into Annabeth.

“I’m guessing no date then,” Thalia asked with an eyebrow raised.

“It wasn’t a date!” Both of them were protesting in exasperation. Everyone rolled their eyes and laughed in amusement.

“Sure…” Leo said. “And Nico here isn’t all doom and gloom all the time. That’s not how it work…”

He stopped midsentence when he saw Nico’s gaze turned on him. He gulped and closed his mouth leaving Percy and Annabeth satisfied. Nico still sent them a glance saying really? making them both annoyed again.

She grabbed his shoulders as he fell forward and stood him up straight laughing he was out early and to watch where he was going. Percy just stared at her dumbly for a second before Rachel ran out yelling for Percy to wait.

Rachel winced looking at Annabeth. “Sorry.”

“Don’t,” Annabeth told her. “We’ve been over that for a long time and we kind of needed that to happen if you don’t remember later that summer.”

Rachel’s eyes twinkled as she grinned in response.

Annabeth frowned and she looked from Percy to Rachel to the school. She frowned at him asking who Rachel was and what he did this time. Percy rubbed the back of his head introducing them saying he guessed Rachel was a friend. Rachel said hi to Annabeth then turned on Percy saying he still owed her an explanation. Then police sirens started and Annabeth told him they should go. Rachel grabbed him as he started to run after Annabeth saying he needed to explain more about mythology and Percy was going to call her to explain. She wrote out her number on his arm.

“So you’re the reason I had to wait a whole more summer for these idiots to get together?” Clarisse growled.

“There were other reasons!” Percy yelled as she put an arm in front of Rachel. “Like I wasn’t sure if I was going to die because of some prophecy and didn’t want to date until I was sure.”

“Uh huh,” Annabeth and Rachel said together.

“Not helping,” Percy groaned looking at them both. Why did everyone have to team up against him?

Percy protested and Rachel told him she’d make up an excuse for him then told him to run as she ran back. Percy and Annabeth were left staring at each other.

“Annabeth’s going to be mad,” Magnus winced. “Good luck dude. Actually never mind. I’m not defending you against her.”

“Thank you so much Magnus,” Percy said sarcastically as Annabeth rolled her eyes telling them both she was right here.

Piper looked at Jason. “Tell Percy Magnus is right though. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of Annabeth’s jealousy.”

Jason sighed. “Piper says Magnus is right and she wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of Annabeth’s jealousy. Neither would I to be honest.”

Calypso, Reyna and Rachel all looked away as Percy blushed and Annabeth growled in annoyance. “Are we done yet?”

Chapter Text

Everyone was laughing at Percy and Annabeth’s still uncomfortable romance. Thalia grinned. “Done making fun of you? Never.”

Annabeth looked like she was considering punching her.

Jason looked between them. “Hey! At least Percy got away without becoming lunch for the Empousa or being arrested.”

“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing compared to facing an angry Annabeth,” Leo shivered. “She’s scary.”

“Better remember that Valdez,” Annabeth told him. Leo squeaked sending everyone into new fits of laughter as the next holographic scene rose.

Percy and Annabeth sat in a taxi which pulled up at the side of Half Blood Hill and the driver asked if they were sure they wanted to get out here where there was nothing. Annabeth agreed paying and they both walked up the hill. Annabeth scratched Peleus under his chin greeting him as they looked out at camp. They walked into the camp together. Annabeth turned to him saying she needed to talk to Clarisse.

“What?”

“Why?” Jason and Carter both asked to be shut up by their girlfriends.

“You’re kidding, right?” Frank asked finally. “I mean no offense to either of you, but neither of you seem to get along.”

Both girls exchanged glances. “Yeah.”

“Most the time.”

“It was necessary though,” Annabeth explained. “You’ll all see.”

Percy asked her why looking surprised and weirded out. Annabeth said she was working on something with her and she’d see Percy later. Percy asked what they were working on. Annabeth ignored him saying she’d tell Chiron he was here. He’d want to talk to Percy before the hearing. Percy asked what hearing but she was already going to archery.

“She’s really pissed,” Sadie grinned. “I mean not that you don’t deserve it.”

“I didn’t though!” Percy protested.

“I can see why Annabeth was mad but she should have answered your questions. Unless there was a good reason she was keeping them secret,” Will commented.

“There was,” Annabeth said.

“I just really want to know what is going on,” Walt said. “Besides all your romantic drama.”

The couple blushed.

Percy was walking into the sparring amphitheater now and froze seeing a huge hellhound which was chewing on a dummy. Percy uncapped his sword.

“But that’s Mrs. O’Leary!” Hazel told him surprised.

“Mrs. Who?” asked Blitz.

“I didn’t know that then,” Percy answered Hazel.

“Percy didn’t hurt her. She is a good doggie,” Tyson said.

“Nice dog. Hell hound. From the underworld,” Ella agreed.

Percy charged and sliced with his sword only to have it blocked. Percy twirled and turned his sword on an older man in armor who parried his attack and called for a truce. Percy protested that was a hellhound. The man told him Mrs. O’Leary was harmless.

“She is,” Percy agreed. “Reyna, do you think she’ll be allowed in New Rome with us next year?”

“I don’t see why not,” Reyna agreed. “I will call a senate meeting to discuss it.”

“I can still watch her with Will if you can’t,” Nico offered. “I mean that’s what we’ve been doing. After…”

Percy’s face darkened at the reminder of Beckendorf and the other things after the Titan war. He nodded at Nico in thanks. “I might just split her half time with you anyway. She’s pretty much your dog as much as mine at this point.”

Nico looked surprised but didn’t disagree. He wore a grin he was trying to hold back but Will saw it and was glowing brighter than ever.

Percy repeated the name in shock. The dog barked again nudging the dummy. The man lugged the dummy away telling her to get it and Mrs. O’Leary pounced away.

“Who is that guy?” asked Frank. “Did Mrs. O’Leary belong to him. I never learnt how you got her.”

Percy was solemn. “You’ll see but you’ve actually heard a little of it in passing. Or at least hinted at by Annabeth.”

Frank looked at Annabeth confused as did the rest of the seven. She shook her head. “You’ll understand soon. Remember Frank, keep it simple.”

His eyes widened a bit and he chuckled.

The man explained Mrs. O’Leary was his pet and he couldn’t let Percy hurt her. Percy asked who he was. The man asked if Percy would kill him if he put away his sword. Percy agreed and the man introduced himself with a handshake as Quintus.

“The fifth,” Reyna translated. “An interesting name.”

“Maybe he’s like the fifth in his family?” suggested Jason. “Like someone being called Junior.”

“Perhaps,” Reyna said but she didn’t seem so sure.

Percy introduced himself asking how he got a hellhound for a pet. Quintus said it was a long story with too many giant chew toys and near death experiences. He then explained he was the new sword instructor to help out Chiron while Mr. D was away. Percy repeated that surprised. Quintus agreed saying in times like these even Mr. D had to help out. He’d gone to make sure some people were on the right side.

“Old friends?” asked Jason skeptically.

“Minor gods,” Thalia told him. “You know how that worked but I’m not going to say more for anyone else.”

Then there was a large bump as Mrs. Leary knocked over several large crates. Percy asked what was in them and Quintus said it was for training tomorrow. Percy would love it. Percy didn’t seem so sure. Quintus huffed saying they needed more challenges, when he was younger camps like that didn’t exist.

“How old is this guy?” Leo demanded. “Camp Half Blood has been around since the Civil War at the least. Probably even earlier.”

“There were other forms of it,” Annabeth agreed. “But you’re right. Let’s just say he’s old.”

Reyna looked at her suspiciously and everyone else didn’t seem to except it so easily either. They all knew people could live that long no matter how they looked. But the way Annabeth answered it meant there was something to the story behind that.

“He said we need to have more challenges,” Thalia scoffed. “You’re kidding, right? Tell me this is a joke.”

“No.”

“Not really,” Percy said. “And the training helped. A lot.”

Percy asked if he was a half-blood. Quintus agreed some survived to be adults not all of them had prophecies over their heads. Percy asked if he knew about the prophecy.

“Which one?” Apollo asked.

Percy glared at him. “That shouldn’t even be a question. I should have been done with this a long time ago. Don’t say which prophecy. There are no more prophecies about me.”

Annabeth and Rachel exchanged glances. Clues were pointing elsewhere. Sadie saw the exchange and was suddenly reminded of what her mother had told her about bigger and worse things coming. Was that why they were all brought together now?

Quintus said he’d heard some stuff. Just as Percy opened his mouth to answer Chiron walked in. He looked in between Quintus and Percy commenting he saw that they’d met. He asked if Quintus minded if Percy came with him. Quintus agreed calling Chiron master. Chiron was pleased but he said there was no need for the title telling Percy they had a lot to do. Percy followed Chiron saying Quintus seemed kind of- Chiron suggested mysterious or heard to read. Percy agreed. Chiron said he was qualified and an excellent swordsman then he quickly changed topic asking about the empousai.

“Okay, seriously. Who is this Quintus dude?” Alex asked. “Because that all seems pretty suspicious to me.”

“He is,” Percy nodded.

“He was,” Annabeth agreed.

Eyes widened at the use of past tense and the agreement. No comments were made. Both Percy’s and Annabeth’s expressions were too standoffish and intimidating for that.

Percy was on Chiron’s back now riding through the woods as Nymphs watched and they trotted past a waterfall and meadows of wildflowers.

“Okay,” Jaz said turning to Percy. “What did we miss?”

“Just Chiron telling me Kelli escaped by exploding into flames, didn’t die and that Grover would want me to be at his hearing for the Council of Cloven Elders. That’s why I was on Chiron’s back to ride there. We needed to get there fast.”

“The council?” signed Hearth.

“They’re the oldest and most respected Satyrs,” Grover explained. “They’re the ones who decide who’s ready to have a searcher’s license or done well enough as a protector.”

“They’re also a bunch of mean spirited, fat, lazy idiots who don’t realize the things that are right in front of them,” Juniper spat.

“Juniper,” Grover started.

“Don’t you Juniper me,” she told him. “It’s true. They were awful to you.”

“It had been a long time since there was any sign,” Grover told her. “Of course they didn’t believe me. And I made a lot mistakes as a protector, they didn’t want to trust me so easily after that.”

“You didn’t make a mistake,” Thalia told him.

“You were the best protector and the best friend,” agreed Percy.

“I’m still here, and alive,” Nico agreed. “Aren’t I? And you found all three of us.”

They ended up in front of several satyrs sitting in a circle. Grover was in the center facing three old, fat satyrs on rose bush thrones. Grover was talking to them and chewing on his t-shirt. Annabeth, Clarisse and Juniper were on one side. Percy dropped behind them. Annabeth was soothing Juniper who was crying it was going terribly. Annabeth told her it would be fine as Percy looked at her questioningly. Annabeth mouthed to Percy Juniper was Grover’s girlfriend.

“You didn’t know?” asked Carter. “I thought you said you were best friends.”

“Couldn’t really use cell phones or facebook,” Percy shrugged. “Iris messages at best.”

“I was pretty busy looking for Pan. Also Juniper and I were only dating for a few weeks at that point. I talked with Percy as much as I could but a lot was happening,” Grover agreed. “Seems kind of crazy, doesn’t it?”

Annabeth nodded. “I mean Percy and I Iris messaged a lot. We talked as often as we could. But like Grover said there was a lot happening for all of us. I was doing my own research. Grover was looking for Pan. And Percy, well… we just wanted to let him have time and give him the chance to survive and live before the prophecy hit.”

A satyr was asking Grover if they expected him to believe that. Grover told Silenus it was the truth. Silenus turned to the other council member muttering. None of them looked at Grover for a few seconds before Silenus pulled his shirt and squirmed his fat belly saying they’d been listening to his claims about Pan for six months. Grover said he had. Maron yelled it was impudence and Chiron called for patience. Maron disagreed saying he had it and didn’t believe Grover would be spoken to by Pan.

“Like Pan would speak to him either,” Clarisse scoffed.

Juniper growled at the older satyrs but Clarisse told her it was the wrong fight. Silenus told Grover they’d indulged him for six months. They let him travel with his searcher’s license looking for proof. Grover pleaded for more time. One elder yelled that he’d found nothing. Chiron leaned in and whispered to them and Silenus sighed. He said they’d give Grover one more chance.

“Thank the gods for Chiron,” Hazel said. “He made them see sense. And now Grover will be able to do it.”

“There’s a catch,” Magnus looked at the greeks. “Isn’t there?”

Grover shrugged but Magnus looked pretty sure.

Grover grinned thanking them. Then Silenus continued it would just be one more week.

“What?” Blitz asked him. “That’s unfair. These satyrs are like all the dwarves in Svartelfheim.”

Samira grunted in agreement. “If they are so desperate for Pan they should be looking to believe anything.”

“But they aren’t,” Zia told her. “Somehow it will work out though. Their luck tells me that much.”

Grover protested that was impossible. Silenus continued saying that if he couldn’t prove it by then Grover would have to find another career, one to suit his dramtics like theater or tap dancing.

“Grover dances even worse than I do,” Percy said. “So no. That won’t work out. Maybe you should have been official enchilada taster man.”

“That would be a good job,” Grover moaned in content. Juniper nudged him and he snapped out of it.

Grover protested his searcher’s license was his whole life. Silenus said the meeting was over it was time for them to eat. Nymphs came out with food and Grover came toward his friends. He looked at Percy greeting him and saying that went well. Juniper stomped her foot angrily saying the stupid old goats didn’t know how hard Grover tried. Clarisse said there was another option.

“What?” asked Leo. “You mean besides tap dancing?”

“Yeah,” Grover agreed. “But tap dancing might have been slightly preferable.”

“That doesn’t sound so good,” Jaz bit her lip.

Juniper protested she wouldn’t let him. He said he’d think about it but he didn’t even know where to look. Percy asked what they were talking about then a conch horn sounded. Annabeth looked at him saying she’d fill him in after inspection.

“Inspection?” Reyna asked.

“Cabin inspection,” explained Will. “Senior counselors do it on rotation. Cleanest cabin gets first showers and messiest washes dinners after.”

“Fair,” Reyna agreed. “Systems like that couldn’t be implemented in New Rome but I agree with the idea.”

“I just want to know what you were talking about,” Sadie demanded. “What’s this option? Where is it and what are you looking for?”

“Something completely insane and dangerous,” Percy told her.

“So pretty much our normal lives,” Grover pointed out.

Chapter Text

 

Percy, Annabeth and Grover were all joking around leaving everyone else clueless except for Thalia, Nico, Tyson, Clarisse and a few others who popped in with comments a few times. Percy had his arm around Annabeth and was laughing at Grover who was looking at him disappointedly. Annabeth smacked Percy’s arm and apologized to Grover. Finally Alex had enough.

“No offense but the rest of us don’t really understand what’s happening,” he said. “So can we move on?”

Percy took a moment to stop laughing. “Sure.”

Percy sat on his bunk. The cabin was dark and he was fiddling with his pen staring up. Then the fountain started to glow near him with an eerie light. Percy looked over and got up looking at the steaming water.

“What’s happening with the water?” asked Will. “I mean.. that’s not normal. Right?”

“Not really,” Percy agreed. “Just watch.”

Nico’s eyes met Percy’s and he gripped his boyfriend’s hands. Will looked at him surprised suddenly understanding this must have something to do with Nico.

Rainbow danced through the room. A voice spoke asking for a drachma. Percy looked behind him at Tyson who was asleep. He picked up a drachma from the bottom of the fountain and threw it back through the mist where it disappeared. He asked Iris to show him whatever he needed to see. The mist shimmered and a boy was poking at blue flames on the side of a river bed surrounded by black rocks. He was throwing something into the fire, his shaggy hair covered his eyes and he was wrapped in an aviator’s jacket over ripped black jeans and a black shirt.

“Nico, is that you?” Jason asked. He suddenly saw part of the Nico he knew in the ten/eleven year old in the vision. Several months had made an astounding change.

Nico sighed and nodded. “I’d ended up in the Underworld and was living there. Not with dad though. I didn’t go near him yet.”

“Are those your mythomagic cards?” Thalia asked him astounded. She turned on Percy. “You didn’t tell me any of this!”

“You were still adjusting to the hunt,” Percy winced. “I know. At least later on we all got together and reconnected.”

“Only because of my psycho stepmother,” Nico grumbled.

Will looked at him. “One question. What’s with the jacket?”

Nico shrugged. “Not really that interesting. It was warm though. And made me feel safer.”

“Were you the one that IMed Percy?” Frank asked lastly.

“No,” both boys said together.

Hazel looked confused. “Then who did?”

Grover, Annabeth, Nico and Percy exchanged looks but said nothing.

Percy stared at him in shock. Nico was still throwing the cards into the fire saying he couldn’t believe he ever liked it. A voice agreed it was childish calling him master.

“What?” asked Leo jumping surprised. “Who the Hades is that?”

“Don’t use that curse,” Nico grumbled. “And you don’t need to worry about him. Yet.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Leo asked. “Yet?”

Percy rolled his eyes. “It’s fine Leo. As for who it is, better if that’s answered with the story.”

“It’s nothing good,” Walt said darkly. “A spirit of some vengeance or something. Probably Nico attracted it with his mix of emotions when he first ran.”

Nico looked at Walt. “Yes. But I won’t say more. I was an idiot to even talk to him.”

Nico was saying he’d failed and there was no way to get her back. There was a moment of silence. Nico turned to it asking if there was a way, demanding he speak. There was a shimmer of smoke, a ghost who said it had never been done but there could be a way.

“Don’t listen to a ghosts advice,” Jason told him remembering his mother’s ghost and the others he’d met. “They have grudges, they’re allowed back so they can seek them. That’s why they haunt the world. There are a lot of ghosts you can never trust.”

“I know,” Nico told him annoyed. “I was the one that told you that.”

“Nico and I handled this ghost along with another,” Percy told Jason. “That one with Thalia.”

Thalia looked down. “I hate her. I’m never going to the underworld again if I have a choice.”

“Good idea,” Grover told her. “Could you just tell Percy that so we don’t have to follow him down there again?”

“Hey!” Percy protested. “I didn’t take you with me last time. In fact I only think you came with me once.”

Nico commanded the ghost tell him. The ghost said an exchange, one soul for another. Nico yelled that he’d offered.

Everyone turned to Nico. He met them all with a stubborn and determined gaze. “Don’t tell me you wouldn’t sacrifice yourself, sacrifice lots of things, to bring someone you loved back.”

No one replied. Several people looked down. Percy was looking at Nico. He got up. “We’re going to talk.”

Everyone looked at them both concerned. Percy let them know with one look that he had this handled. Together they both left the room.

The ghost said not his. Hades couldn’t be offered a soul that he’d get again anyway. Or the soul of his son. They needed a soul that should have died already and had cheated death.

Leo blanched. “Does that mean?”

“No,” Annabeth told him. “At least I don’t think so. You could still die again. You’ll see that the way it seemed was that anyone could be sacrificed if they had almost died or someone had died in their place. That’s not how it works.”

Hazel nodded and spoke to Leo soothingly. “She’s right. But it definitely might seem like Nico could go after anyone. Is that what Percy thought? Nico wanted his soul?”

Annabeth didn’t answer which said everything.

Nico glowered saying he didn’t want to hear that again. He wouldn’t murder someone. The ghost said he was talking about justice, vengeance. Nico pointed out those weren’t the same.

Reyna nodded. Even as lost as he had been Nico still had made better choices and had not let his moral be swayed. He was strong and kept going, a good friend for someone like her. He understood.

Will sighed in relief when he heard that. At least Nico hadn’t been all gone. Almost everyone seemed to be of the same opinion.

The ghost told him he’d learnt different as he got older.

“No,” Nico said as he came back down and sat down next to Will. “I’ve just learnt you were even more wrong.”

“What did you two talk about?” Will whispered as he grabbed his hand.

“He just wanted to let me know he was there. I’m fine Will. I have a good doctor to take care of both my mental and physical health.”

Annabeth looked at Percy questioningly. He gave her a look telling her it was fine and they didn’t need to talk about it.

Nico asked why he couldn’t summon her. He just wanted to talk to her. She could help him. The ghost told him he’d help Nico. He’d saved him a lot already, he led him through the maze and taught him to use his powers. He asked if he wanted revenge for his sister or not.

“He’s manipulative,” Zia’s eyes narrowed. “Spirits are this way. They want a chance at life or to walk the mortal world and away from the Duat. Many of them crave power.”

“Not all spirits,” Sadie disagreed. “Setne was just stupid.”

“Stupid Elvis hairdo and trying to eat everything,” Percy muttered.

Walt, Zia and Jaz looked at him confused. “What?”

“I’m sure they’ll show it,” Annabeth told them. “Like we said. We needed to meet Carter and Sadie somehow.”

“Let’s just focus on the ghost manipulating Nico,” Blitz suggested. As he spoke all the Egyptians exchanged another glance. He acted so much like Bes. It must be a dwarf thing. “My advice kid, don’t listen to him.”

Nico turned away from the ghost trying to hide the tears.

Now Nico looked down. He really didn’t know Percy had seen that. He hated everyone thinking he was weak and couldn’t control his emotions, even though he knew better now.

Then he turned back to the ghost asking if he had a plan.

“No!” Jason shouted.

“Too late,” Nico said. “But I learnt to listen to better advice. I’m here after all. Aren’t I?”

The ghost agreed saying they had many dark paths to go down.

“That didn’t clue you in?” asked Apollo skeptically. “Dark roads?”

“I said it’s over,” Nico grumbled.

Then the image vanished with Nico. Iris’s voice spoke again asking for another drachma for five more minutes. Percy looked in the fountain and felt for his pockets but realized they were pajamas then darted for the nightstand but the Iris message was gone and the room was dark again.

Nico who had been filled in on the conversations when he was gone by Will looked at Percy. “This is why you thought I wanted your soul?”

“Yeah,” Percy said rubbing the back of his head.

“There are a lot of rules of death and life. It’s all laws and politics. You know I meant actually cheating death, like to have lived more than a mortal life span. Not a person who could’ve nearly died several times. You’re fine for now too,” Nico said looking at Leo. Then Hazel. “Both of you.”

“I understand that now!” Percy told him. “I was just worried.”

Nico rolled his eyes. He knew Percy was and understood that a lot more. Especially after their conversation.

Percy pulled him out of the room after everyone started to ask him about exchanging his soul for Bianca’s. They walked into an empty room where he met Nico’s eyes seriously. “Do you know why we’re here?”

“Percy, I’m fine.”

“Answer my question Nico.”

“Yes.”

“I want you to answer all my questions honestly,” Percy told him sternly. “Have you felt like that, that it’d be better to die? Your life isn’t worth anything? Have you considered it? Not just to exchange your soul for Bianca’s but even after you knew she moved on.”

Nico paused for a moment he hadn’t met Percy’s eyes. Then he looked up. “Yes.”

Percy stepped back. He sighed. “How recently?”

“Not since the end of the giant war,” Nico told him. “But after the jar, while you were missing, and after my time in the pit. It’s hard not to think about.”

“I understand.”

Nico’s eyes snapped up in shock. He’d heard a little of Percy’s thoughts before in that second time, right after he’d thought Tyson had died. But it was only for a second.

Percy looked upset, like he was struggling to say anything. “After I found out I was a demigod, especially after I found out about the prophecy… it was hard. And every time something went wrong it felt like it was my fault. The fate of the world rests on my shoulders after all, haven’t you heard?”

“Percy,” Nico started.

“I thought about it after Bianca. I thought about it after Zoe. After the labyrinth. After the Titan war. Each time I thought about it. While I was wandering around California with no memory… and then in Tartarus. I thought about it most then, and after,” Percy told him. “But I’m still here and the only reason I haven’t done it is because I know people need me and I know it would hurt them. And I won’t hurt anyone.”

“When?” Nico asked him.

“Considering I’m feeling the same thing as I’m feeling in these films here,” Percy paused. “Pretty recently. But I’m going to make a deal with you. If we ever, and I mean ever have these feelings again we talk about them. With each other, or even someone else. You can always Iris Message me.”

Nico nodded. “I will. But I’m better now Percy. I have will, and camp. And everyone here. You have to swear on the styx to tell me though. You’ll do anything to protect us, but your mental health shouldn’t come in front of that.”

Percy had nodded. Together they’d sat in silence again. Then they both got up and walked out to join the crowd.

Nico met his eyes now. Percy was looking at him warily and Nico gave him a nod of assurance looking at Percy for a sign he was okay too. He was given a thumbs up. And this time the smile actually seemed to very nearly meet Percy’s eyes.

 

Chapter Text

No one noticed Percy and Nico’s silent interactions. Percy was dreading it coming out, along with everything else. It would. There were more than a few times in Tartarus something had been said or done. Even now everyone was learning more about him than he’d like. He didn’t talk about the things he did for a reason. He didn’t like the attention, and he was scared of the power he had.

That was the scariest thing. He knew they were right about the next thing that would happen, and all the things they said about the power he had. But that would mean having o use his powers, which he used only to fight and never wanted to do. They scared him. He was scared of himself, of what was inside him and everything that was happening. But he was also the Percy Jackson which meant he had to put on a brave face and continue on.

Percy and Tyson were sitting in the dining pavilion eating at the Poseidon table when Grover and Chiron approached. Grover was eating his shirt as he sat next to Percy. Tyson’s eyes widened saying he would go polish his fish ponies.

“Sorry,” Tyson said looking down. “That wasn’t nice to goat boy.”

“It’s okay Tyson,” Grover told him. “After everything on that quest I know you’re not scared of me and I’m not scared of you. Plus I kind of really just needed to talk to Percy and Annabeth.”

Tyson nodded.

Tyson left as Chiron looked down at Percy asking how he slept. Percy looked at him surprised saying fine after a slight pause.

“Did he know about the Iris message?” asked Hazel.

“No. He was just making horrible small talk. Or trying to see if I’d had any dreams about a quest,” Percy assured her. “No one knew about Nico besides us at that point.”

Chiron said he brought Grover over so they could discuss matter. Then he went to go send Iris messages. Percy asked what Chiron was talking about. Grover said Chiron wanted Percy to convince him.

“This is about that third option. What was it?” Jaz said.

“Just be patient and watch,” Annabeth told her. “It’ll come up within a few minutes.”

Annabeth slid in next to Percy saying she’d tell him what it was about. The labyrinth. Every head turned to watch them. Percy was looking at her shocked. He blushed for a few moments and gulped. People started to whisper and stare.

“Really Annabeth?” Rachel raised an eyebrow. “You’re resorting to those tactics.”

“I needed to talk to him and Grover,” Annabeth defended. “I might have broken a few seating rules to do so.”

“That’s not what Rachel was talking about,” Thalia said pointedly. “I mean, look at Percy’s face.”

“Jason tell Annabeth that she was really close,” Piper said.

“Piper wants me to tell you that you were really close,” Jason repeated shifting a bit so he could sit more comfortably with his girlfriend still leaning on him. “And I have to agree. Look at Percy’s face.”

Percy’s face now matched the one in the projection. His arm was no longer around Annabeth and he was red trying to avoid everyone’s stares. He glared at Jason. “It’s nothing.”

“Sure bro.”

“I just can’t believe Annabeth resorted to those tactics,” Sadie shook her head tutting. “Really?”

Annabeth sighed. “Fine. I was getting desperate. And a bit jealous.”

Percy turned redder and squirmed as everyone laughed. Annabeth rolled her eyes. “We’re moving on now. This isn’t even the important part.”

Percy said she wasn’t supposed to be there. She said they needed to talk. He argued the rules but stopped stuttering.

“What are the rules?” asked Magnus.

“You sit at your godly parents table,” Will said. “Unless your Nico.”

“I have a doctor’s note,” Nico argued. “You know that every time I sit alone to eat that suddenly skeletons start to appear.”

Percy rolled his eyes and looked at Magnus. “Besides Nico’s cheating way out of the rules to sit with Will the big three kids usually have to sit alone at Camp. We’ve kind of started to just use the Poseidon table as the Big Three table. There hasn’t been an issue so far. But usually sitting with another cabin is a big break of the rules.”

Quintus raised an eyebrow at them and Annabeth looked back at Percy seeing no one really cared. She explained Grover was in trouble and the Labryinth was the only way to help him. It’s what she’d been investigating with Clarisse.

Only a few older campers noticed Clarisse’s death grip on Chris’s hand with his pale face. Annabeth looked at them worriedly but Clarisse gave her a glare. Basically her way of saying to leave them alone, they were fine.

Percy nodded saying she meant the maze where they used to keep the minotaur. Annabeth agreed. Percy guessed it wasn’t under Crete anymore, probably a building in America.
                                                                 
“Not America,” Hazel said suddenly confused then looked at Percy. “Right?”

“Kind of,” Percy said. “I think that was an older part. Most of the labyrinth… well it’s complicated. Annabeth is the expert.”

“I barely understand it though,” Annabeth shook her head. “But after this quest and the Titan war the labyrinth was a lot different. You’ll understand soon enough.”

Annabeth rolled her eyes saying that the Labyrinth was too huge to fit under a single city or building. Percy paused and asked if it was part of the underworld then. Annabeth frowned saying no but there could be passages in between. The underworld was further down and the Labyrinth is right under the surface growing along with western civilization. It could take you anywhere. Grover pointed out that was if you didn’t get lost or die horribly. Annabeth said there had to be a way. Clarisse lived.

“You were in the Labryinth?” Frank asked her surprised.

“Once and that was the only time I went anywhere near that murder trap again. I was happy when this finished and everyone got what they deserved,” she snarled.

“Clarisse,” Chris told her pleadingly. “Don’t..”

“No. You can’t…. It was horrible for you but you barely even remember it,” Clarisse told him. “I had to watch you suffer because of that maze. I’m glad that man got what was coming to him.”

“What is she talking about?” Leo asked Chris.

Chris was pale. “I can’t say.”

Grover said that Clarisse had barely lived before starting on the other guy. Annabeth pointed out he was insane, not dead. Grover said that made him feel better.

“Death is better,” Chris agreed. People were starting to get it now. A few looked at him with understanding. He ignored them. Those who didn’t get it would realize soon enough. “But Grover’s right. Try and take neither.”

“Thank you!” Grover said looking at Percy and Annabeth. “See? Chris is a voice of reason. We should listen to him more, like you should listen to me.”

“Sorry G-man,” Percy said. “But that’s kind of the way it goes.”

“We never listen and get ourselves almost killed,” Annabeth agreed. “Mostly Percy though.”

“True.”

Percy asked them to back up, what did they mean about Clarisse and a crazy guy. They all looked at Clarisse who lowered her eyebrows looking at them before looking back at her plate. Annabeth lowered her voice explaining that Clarisse had gone on a mission for Chiron last year. Percy nodded he remembered. It was a secret. Annabeth agreed saying that it was secret because she found Chris Rodriguez.

Everyone turned to Chris. Reyna with concern and understanding. “That was how you got away from the Titans. You went mad helping them and Camp helped you return to the way you should be. You realized where you stood.”

Chris nodded. “I wasn’t claimed when I joined. I was mad at the gods for ignoring me and not caring enough. But they showed me that they did like the rest of camp when they helped. Before I thought only Clarisse, some of my friends and my cabin cared.”

“You were together before he joined Kronos?” Will asked surprised.

“Not together,” Clarisse said. “But I knew him.”

“I liked her,” Chris smiled. “And she doesn’t want to be seen as soft but I think she used to like me too.”

Clarisse glared at him but it evaporated into a smirk. “Shut up Chris.”

“For you, sure.”

Percy asked if she meant the guy from the Hermes cabin. Annabeth agreed saying he’d appeared last summer in Phoenix near Clarisse’s moms house. Percy asked what he meant he just appeared.

Percy turned to Clarisse. “I didn’t realize what that meant. This wasn’t that long after Camp ended and we got the fleece. I was so busy with Thalia then that…”

“It was after Camp ended,” Clarisse shrugged. “I went to visit mom for a few weeks. There’s nothing else to talk about.”

Percy looked at her. He understood Clarisse so well now. All the fury and other things inside. She was only two years older than he was. She’d been sixteen when she went into the Labryinth then. So young. Not that he should say that, he was barely half a year above 17.

Percy asked what she meant that Chris just appeared. Annabeth explained she meant he was wondering around the desert in full armor in over a hundred and ten degrees talking about string. Percy repeated the last word confused. Annabeth nodded saying he was completely insane and Chris was brought back to Clarisse’s moms house where she nursed him back to health. Chiron went there to interview him but they only understood one thing. Luke’s men had been exploring the Labyrinth.

“Why? Last we heard Luke had been planning to invade camp,” Alex said. “What would a maze help with that?”

“Because it’s like the world tree, “ Samira said. “It could take you anywhere. Like straight into the camp.”

Annabeth nodded. “Yes. Though I’m not sure how well I understand that metaphor when I barely understand the World Tree.”

Percy asked why they were exploring the labyrinth. Annabeth said that’s why Clarisse went on the solo quest. Chiron didn’t want anyone panicking so no one was told but Annabeth knew about the Labyrinth because it was one of her favorite subjects. Daedalus had been a genius. Either way the point was that there were entrances to the Labyrinth everywhere. If Luke could figure out how to navigate it he could move his army easily.

“So Samira was right,” Zia agreed. “It is much like traveling through portals in the duat. I expect they just didn’t know how to navigate.”

“Which is what the string was about,” Thalia noted. “That’s how it was navigated in the old myth.”

Percy said it was a maze though. Grover agreed full of traps, illusions, dead ends and monsters. Annabeth said if they had Adriane’s string it wouldn’t be. That’s how Theseus had gotten out of the maze. It was something invented by Daedalus to help them get out. Chris Rodriguez had been talking about string.

Percy looked at Annabeth then Rachel. It was Adriane that had been the key. Not the string. Someone who saw through the mist, like Rachel. Or even Demigods who understood it and could control it better like Hazel. Leo meanwhile was looking at Annabeth. “You told me something about Daedalus while we were building the Argo II. A lot of things.”

“Don’t give things away,” Annabeth scolded him. “But yes. You’re right.”

Percy nodded saying Luke was planning of finding the string, but for what? Annabeth shook her head saying she didn’t know. She thought he had wanted to use it to get into camp but they hadn’t found any entrances closer than Manhattan which wouldn’t help Luke. Clarisse had explored the tunnels a little but it was dangerous and there were close calls. All the research she did about Daedalus didn’t help but she did now the Labyrinth could help solve Grover’s problem.

“You think Pan is in the Labyrinth?” Sadie asked. “If he’s the Wild god and the ones satyrs follow and the satyrs hate the underground why would he be there?”

Magnus looked at Annabeth. “I have a guess. It could explain why no Satyr found him too.”

Annabeth said it could explain why he’s been impossible to find. Grover shook saying Satyrs hated the underground no searcher would try there without flowers, sunshine or coffee shops.

“There are coffee shops underground,” Blitz told him. “Good ones too like Starbucks.”

“There are?” Grover asked him.

“While at least underground in some of the 9 realms,” Blitz explained. “I’m not as sure but I know about a few in Midgard.”

Annabeth continued that the Labyrinth could lead you anywhere. It was designed to trick and kill people but if you made it work for you, it could lead him to Pan Percy finished. Grover said he couldn’t do it and thinking about it made him want to throw up his silverware. Annabeth pointed out this was his last chance. They were serious he had a week before he had to learn to tap dance. Quintus cleared his throat and Annabeth looked at him sighing. She squeezed Percy’s arm saying they would talk later and asking him to convince Grover. She walked back to the Athena table with everyone staring.

“Jason ask Annabeth if she really didn’t care about them all looking?” Piper said.

Jason repeated the question.

“No. Not really,” Annabeth said.

“She didn’t care about it because Percy was staring at her as she left as well,” Thalia said.

Annabeth smacked her playfully as Thalia laughed.

Grover said that he couldn’t do it. He was going to lose it all and have to start a puppet theater. Percy yelled at him not to say it they’d figure it out. Grover told Percy he was his best friend and he’d seen Grover underground on Polyphemus’s island he didn’t think he could do it. He paused wiping at his face then saying Juniper was waiting for him, it was good she found cowards attractive. The scene collapsed again.

“I find brave satyrsbwho keep trying at everything attractive,” Juniper told him. “But no more underground. Okay?”

“I’m not arguing with that,” Grover agreed.

The next scene rose with Quintus standing in the middle of a crowd of campers in combat armor. He announced they’d be in teams of two. Immediately people started to pair up before Quintus yelled the teams had already been chosen.

“Bets on who the partners will be?” Leo asked looking around.

“Percy and Annabeth,” Sadie volunteered.

“That doesn’t count,” Leo waved her off. “We all know that they’ll end up working together.”

“No bets,” Annabeth said. “You guys will see. They were good teams either way.”

Everyone made complaining noises. Quintus continued saying their goal was simple, to collect a gold laurel without dying. It was wrapped in the silk package tied to one of the six monsters. Whoever found the wreath first after killing the monster and staying alive.”

“Sounds like good training,” Reyna mused. “Prepares one for how it will work in real life.”

“Yeah,” Percy said.

“Kind of.”

People murmured in excitement. Quintus said he’d announce their partners now and there would be no trading or complaining. Mrs. O’Leary barked in agreement gulping down pizza.

“I miss Mrs. O’Leary,” Percy said.

Piper laughed thinking of Percy and his own pizza. “Like owner like pet I guess.”

Jason passed on the message for her through his laughs making others laugh too. By now they’d all seen Percy gulp down plates of food in his bottomless pit of a stomach.

Quintus started to read names. Beckendorf and Silena Bearegard were first. Beckendorf grinned widely.

“So it’s couples or other reasons,” Leo noted looking at how happy his half brother looked.

Then he announced the Stolls. Then Clarisse with Lee Fletcher.

“Who?” Jason asked.

“My brother,” Will said trying not to show he was too somber. “He was the best archer there then, the cabin head. Him and Clarisse made a pretty scary team.”

Clarisse nodded. “Apollo and Ares can be a good team. I learned that a little to late.”

“You’ve made up for it,” Will told her. “No one in my cabin hates you and we know you’re a lot softer than you seem.”

Then he announced Percy and Annabeth. Percy grinned at Annabeth smoothly saying nice. She rolled her eyes at him telling him his armor was crooked and redid his straps.

“You seriously couldn’t tell?” asked Thalia.

“How desperate were you?” Magnus demanded.

“I wasn’t.”

“I couldn’t.”

Both Percy and Annabeth blushed.

“Seriously,” Alex said. “You couldn’t be any more obvious.”

“Are we talking in song lyrics now?” Sadie asked her.

“What?” Alex asked.

“Skater B0i,” Sadie replied. Then sighed. “Never mind. I agree with Alex.”

Quintus then said Grover and Tyson’s name. Grover jumped trying to protest. Tyson shook saying it had to be a mistake. Quintus ordered no complaining and to get with their partners. They started in two mintues. Tyson and Grover looked at Percy pleadingly. He noted at them gesturing with his hand for them to scoot together. Tyson sneezed and Grover chewed on his wooden club.

“Tough spot man,” Carter told him sympathetically.

Percy shrugged. “They did fine.”

Annabeth soothed him that they’d be fine. Now they had to worry about how they were going to stay alive. They walked into the woods with weapons drawn. Annabeth held up a hand kneeling and pointing to tracks made by something with lots of legs. Percy signaled they follow it and she nodded. They jumped over a creak when some twigs snapped. Both jumped behind a boulder. Then the Stolls tripped through the woods cursing.

“You definitely work a lot more quietly than them,” Walt noted. “As a better team too.”

“Happens when you work with someone so much,” Percy smirked. “And it’s Annabeth. We’re a team.”

Walt toyed with his Djed necklace and Sadie looked down at her own smiling.

Once the Stolls left they kept going until they stood near a marshy pond. Annabeth stopped suddenly saying this is where they had stopped looking.

“Stopped looking for what?” Will asked curiously.

“Where we stopped looking for Nico,” Percy said carefully.

Nico looked at him. “You were close then. I disappeared close by but I think you know that now.”

Percy said that he saw Nico last night. Annabeth asked what he meant and Percy explained his dream. Annabeth said it wasn’t good he was summoning the dead. Percy agreed the ghost was giving him bad advice by telling him to take revenge. Annabeth agreed spirits weren’t good advisers because they had their own grudges and resented the living. Percy said Nico was going to come after him, the spirit mentioned a maze. Annabeth said that settled it. They had to figure out the Labryinth.

Nico shook his head. “You were wrong about me coming after you, though the maze was right. But both of you were right about the spirits.”

“We know.” Both answered at once.

“I’m sure you do, I’m saying this for everyone else.”

Percy asked who could have sent the Iris message if Nico didn’t know he was there then the leaves rustled and a branch snapped. Annabeth said that wasn’t the Stolls and they took out their swords again. They stood near Zeus’s fist.

“Hey, it’s the poop pile!” Thalia grinned.

“What?” asked a very confused Carter.

“It’s what we used to call those rocks before Chiron made us stop. From one side it looks like a poop pile. From the other it looks like a giant fist so it’s called Zeus’s fist. Calling it the poop pile was apparently disrespectful to him,” Percy explained.

“I know where that is,” Jason said. “But I was told that-“

He paused unable to say anything.

“It’s a spoiler,” Juniper told him.

Annabeth whispered it was over there as the scuttling noise came. Percy said it was behind them. Together they circled the boulders with their swords drawn. Then someone said hi. Both demigods jumped pointing their swords at Juniper.

“Sorry,” Percy said sheepishly.

“I scared you,” Juniper told him. “This probably wasn’t the best time to talk about it.”

Juniper yelped telling them to put down the sharp blades. Dryads didn’t like them. Annabeth asked what she was doing there. She responded she lived there. Percy looked at her strangely. Percy asked if she meant in the boulders. She pointed to the clearing saying in the Juniper tree giving him a look asking how stupid he was. She asked if they were busy. Percy said that they were in the middle of a game trying to not die while facing a bunch of monsters.

“So that means no,” Alex smirked. “You’re not busy.”

Percy rolled his eyes at her.

Annabeth said they weren’t busy asking what was up. Juniper sniffed wiping her face saying Grover was upset. He’d been looking for Pan all year each time it was worse. At first she thought he might have another girlfriend. Annabeth said that wasn’t it. Juniper said he had a crush on a blueberry bush once.

Everyone started to laugh as Grover blushed. He looked at his girlfriend frantically. “The only tree I’ve looked at for a while is a Juniper!”

“I know, I was just worried,” she told him.

Annabeth said that Grover wouldn’t even look at a different tree and he was stressed out about his searcher’s license. Juniper said they couldn’t let him go underground. Annabeth’s face was stony as she said it might be the only way to help him if they knew where to start. Juniper wiped a tear off her cheek saying about that. Then the woods rustled and she yelled to hide as she disappeared in green mist.

“You know where the entrance is,” Magnus realized. “Don’t you?”

Juniper nodded. “It will say everything. I don’t want to explain it.”

“Plus I kind of want to see your cousin and her boyfriend kill a bunch of monsters,” Alex told him.

Magnus looked exasperated.

Annabeth and Percy turned to see a giant scorpion coming at them with a red silk package on it’s back. Annabeth held up her sword saying one of them would go behind it and cut off it’s tail while the other distracted it. Percy said he’d distract it and she’d use her invisibility hat.

“You’ll be able to win this easily,” Reyna noted. “You’re well oiled as a team and you both know each others moves and strategies. There should be no trouble there.”

“So that’s why there was trouble,” Thalia said. “This is Percy after all.”

Then two more scorpions came out of the woods.

Everyone looked at Percy and Annabeth worriedly. Three scorpions would be almost impossible. Both of them were good but they couldn’t do it that easily. These things were fast, large, strong, dangerous and poisonous.

Annabeth yelped that it wasn’t possible that half the monsters in all of the woods came after them. Annabeth and Percy scurried to the boulders edging away from the scorpions. He asked if they should climb and she said there was no time. The scorpions were too close. Annabeth yelled for him to watch out as one of them lunged at him with the stinger. Percy stabbed with riptide but the scorpion backed away. They both edged along the boulders as the scorpions followed. Percy slashed again and narrowly dodged a tail strike. When he tried to cut at that the pincers on it tried to grab him.

“You need to get out of there somehow,” Calypso said worriedly. “You won’t be able to fight them off.”

Percy stepped beside him and there was no rock behind him anymore. Behind there was a crack between the boulders. He said to go in there. Annabeth sliced at a scorpion and told him it was too narrow. Percy’s answer was that he would cover her. She ducked into the tunnel squeezing in then yelped grabbing Percy who fell backwards after her in a mess of limbs. There was suddenly a bit.

“It shifted,” Hazel mused. “It’s magical. Regular stone doesn’t do this without magical prompting either. That must’ve been what Juniper was trying to tell you.”

“You found the Labyrinth,” Frank agreed in awe.

“I’m not sure that’s a good thing,” Carter said remembering what he’d already heard about the maze.

Percy lifted riptide to look around with the faint glow of the blade. She asked where they were. Percy said safe from scorpions at least. Percy said it was a long room. Annabeth shook her head saying it was a corridor. She said not to take another step they needed to find the exit. She sounded terrified. Percy started saying it was okay soothingly the exit was right there. Then he paused seeing there was no more entrance.

“You’re sealed in,” Sadie groaned. “This is starting to feel way to much like any of the stupid tombs or other things we’ve had to investigate. Get out. Fast.”

Annabeth held his hand saying they should take two steps back. Together they did so taking each step warily and taking a while to set their foot down and take a complete step. She asked Percy to help her examine the walls. Percy asked for what. She said the mark of Daedalus. Percy started to ask something when she said she got it and put her hand on the wall where a Delta symbol started to glow blue. An entrance opened back up to see the starry night sky. There was a ladder leading up.

“You found it then,” Samira said. “You were in the maze. And you found the exit. Straight into camp.”

“An invasion plan,” Zia agreed. “It’s a weakness in your defenses. You need to guard it, or stop anything from getting through.”

Annabeth nodded. “We handled it. You two would get along great with the Athena cabin.”

Both brightened at the compliment.

Tyson was calling their names and they climbed out. As they got out they ran into Clarisse and several others carrying torches. Clarisse demanded to know where they had been. They’d been looking for them for a long time.

“It was like fifteen minutes,” Sadie pointed out.

“But in a magical place,” Zia started to remind her.

“Time works differently,” Sadie sighed. “I know. Still though. I can point out what if felt like.”

Chiron trotted up with Tyson and Grover running after him. Tyson asked if he was okay. Percy said they fell in a hole. Everyone looked between him and Annabeth.

“I love how that’s the first thing you guys think,” Percy groaned.

“What were we supposed to think?” Will asked. “You were gone for at least an hour. And we were all already making bets on you guys. Some of us thought you were already dating and just managed to keep it secret.”

“But Annabeth and I weren’t like you and Nico,” Percy said.

“Hey!” Will said offended. Nico just smirked.

“What are you talking about?” Hazel frowned. She wasn’t answered as the conversation continued.

“You guys so are,” Leo pointed out. “The stable incident.”

“That wasn’t anything,” Annabeth told him.

“What is this incident you keep mentioning?” asked Magnus looking at his cousin warily.

“It sounds like good blackmail. And maybe a reason for me to yell at Percy,” Thalia agreed.

“It’s not. You’ll see,” Percy told them. “It was nothing.”

“This is why none of us know when to believe you about these things,” Clarisse told him. “This was the point where the bets started to become more serious. The next year they were just desperate. There was no way you guys were just friends and a makeout session in the woods might have been more believable than falling in a hole.”

Percy rolled his eyes.

Annabeth’s eyes twinkled. “I’ll remember that as an excuse next time we disappear on a quest in the middle of school or something.”

“Annabeth!” Percy yelped. Everyone laughed at his embarrassed and shocked expression.

Percy said he was being honest. There had been three scorpions after them where they hid in the rocks. They’d only been gone a minute. Chiron said the game was over and they’d been gone over an hour. Grover said they would’ve have won if a Cyclops hadn’t sat on him. Tyson protested it was an accident then sneezed. Clarisse was wearing the gold laurel but looked at Annabeth suspiciously. Annabeth looked at Chiron saying they should talk about it at the big house. Clarisse asked her if they found it. Annabeth bit her saying yes. A bunch of campers started to talk but Chiron raised his hand signaling for silence. He said tonight was not the time and this wasn’t the place. They all needed to go back to their cabins and beds. It was past curfew.

“Isn’t the Labyrinth more important?” asked Jason. “You should handle it right away.”

“I think we needed time to recollect and recover from the shock of it,” Percy shrugged. “I didn’t sleep much the next few days anyway.”

“Jason ask Percy why,” Piper insisted. Jason did.

“You’ll see.”

Clarisse said that explained a lot, like what Luke was after. Percy asked what she meant. What had they found?

“Really?” asked Magnus looking at Percy doubtfully.

“Hey, I haven’t been getting all the hints you were getting with the conversations going on here,” Percy said. “And it was hard to believe.”

Annabeth turned toward him saying it was an entrance into the Labyrinth, straight into the heart of camp.

“Just like we said then,” commented Reyna. “I think like Percy said we all need a few seconds to absorb it. We should break for lunch.”

“Yes!” Jason cheered. Everyone turned to stare at him. He blushed for a second. “I mean my arms kind of getting sore from Piper leaning on me.”

Piper sat up. “And as fun as that was I’m happy to be able to talk for myself and feed myself and everything else.”

“It shows a lot that you could do that,” Calypso said. “A good team able to depend and read each other. Like Percy with Annabeth.”

“Or you and me,” Leo suggested. Calypso smiled but rolled her eyes trying not to look too pleased.

“I don’t think having to help Piper brush her teeth last night has a lot to do with being a good team,” Jason told them.

Leo grinned laughing madly as Jason and Piper exchanged looks. A minute later he was running out of the room as both of them chased him. Calypso rolled her eyes and followed to watch as everyone else started to go to lunch.

 

Chapter Text

It wasn’t long after that they all returned. Percy was happy to see Leo, Jason and Piper back together again. A trio of friends, Percy had always worked in groups of three as he was supposed to on a quest. Except for the Labryinth. Everyone would see Annabeth’s rule break soon enough.

The scene rose with a boy in a greek tunic crouching alone in a stone room. There were scattered tools spilling out of emptied crates around him. He was shivering and then the two doors opened up. Two men in bronze armor came in with an old man between them. He was flung onto the floor in a heap. The boy ran up yelling Father.

“It’s another vision,” Annabeth said. “Like Hercules. Why have you never told me about these?”

“They never seemed that important.”

“If that’s who I think it is then yes it is,” Annabeth said.

Nico looked at Percy. “I recognize the boy. You saw it, didn’t it? Both of them?”

Percy looked grim as he nodded.

“Wait, who is it?” asked Frank.

“You’ll see.”

The boy asked what they did to him. Then he yelled at the guards that he’d kill them. A man in white robes with a gold circlet and white robes came in saying there would be no killing today.

“That’s the spirit you were talking too,” Walt commented.

“Minos,” Thalia snarled. “One half brother I never want to meet.”

“What about Hercules?” Jason asked.

“I want to meet him so I can punch him in the face,” Thalia replied.

He said that he’d helped the Athenian kill the minotaur and that Daedalus had turned his own daughter against him.

“That’s Daedalus?” asked Leo. “The super genius who denied the Labyrinth.”

“Yeah.”

“He’s old,” Leo said.

“Yeah but he was also imprisoned by Minos for a long time. This is after he helped Adriane and Theseus escape the labyrinth after Theseus killed the minotaur.”

Daedalus said he’d done that herself. A guard kicked Daedalus and the boy cried for them to stop. The king declared that Daedalus loved his maze so much he would stay there and make it his workshop to amuse Minos. Every maze needed a monster and Daedalus would be the one here. The old man said he wasn’t scared. The king smirked saying if Daedalus didn’t do what he wanted the next time Minos punished someone it would be Daedalus’s son. The king and the guards went out. THe boy asked what they would do Daedalus would be killed. The old man swallowed and gave a gruesome smile saying that he’d find a way.

“Daedalus,” Carter said amazed. “So that’s his son. Icarus. And if they’re talking about their escape then…”

“How do you know this?” Sadie asked him.

“It’s a famous story. Maybe once Percy sees it you’ll recognize it.”

“Icarus,” Sadie repeated. “Oh, like the Bastille song?”

Percy laughed. “Kind of like that.”

The next scene rose with Percy, Clarisse, Annabeth, Quintus, Chiron, Grover, Tyson, Juniper, SIlena, Travis, Connor, Beckendorf, Lee Fletcher and Argus were sitting around a table in the sword arena. Annabeth started by saying Luke must have known about the Labyrinth. He knew everything about camp.

“Not everything,” Annabeth said. “Like Bunker 9, the Ant Hill, the Geysers, the tree grove of Dodona and everything else we’ve discovered recently.”

“I’d like to point out that all those discoveries were made by me,” Apollo said.

“No,” Leo said. “Bunker 9 was all me.”

“And we discovered the Ant hill and a few other things,” Percy told him.

Juniper told them that’s what she’d been trying to say. The entrance had been there for a long time. Luke had used it. SIlena asked if she knew about the entrance why hadn’t she said anything. Juniper turned green with a nymph’s version of a blush. She said she didn’t know it was important she thought it was just a cave. Grover said she had good taste. Then she said she wouldn’t have paid any attention except it was Luke. Grover said to forget what he said it was about good taste.

Juniper was blushing in real life. Alex looked at Percy. “Was every one in love with Luke?”

“No,” Annabeth, Clarisse, Thalia, Juniper and Will said.

“Yes,” Piper answered. “My cabin has a board of the hottest demigods. Look has only been replaced by Jason and Percy. Though I think Nico has gotten up there too recently.”

Nico looked surprised. “What?”

“Really? I really didn’t want to know that,” Percy said.

“Back to the original topic,” Jason said turning to his sister. “Luke?”

“It wasn’t anything. I got over it. Fast.”

Annabeth looked skeptical.

“Basically all the people attracted to guys feel the same way they feel about Percy now,” Will explained. “He was hot.”

“What?” Percy stuttered. He wasn’t someone he’d think was good looking. How Nico had been attracted to him he didn’t know. Annabeth had always been way out of his league. She was beautiful. All he had was the small bits of muscle from all of his training. Nothing too amazing.

“Don’t worry about it seaweed brain,” Annabeth told him. “But I do agree. And you’re better than Luke.”

Percy looked away.

Quintus asked if they thought Luke would dare to use the Labryinth to get in to camp. Clarisse said for sure if he could just get an army into camp without worrying about the boundaries they wouldn’t stand a chance, especially if Luke had been planning this for months. Annabeth said he’d been sending scouts, they knew because they’d found one. Chiron said Chris rodriguez looking at Quintus. Quintus nodded saying the one in the… he understood. Percy asked what they were talking about. Clarisse glared at him. She continued saying that Luke had been looking for a way to navigate the maze through Daedalus’s workshop.

“His workshop?” asked Leo. “Man, that place must be awesome.”

Annabeth, Nico, Rachel and Percy exchanged looks.

Percy said the guy who created the maze. Annabeth agreed he was the greatest architect and inventor of all time. His workshop should be in the center of the Labryinth. He was the only one who knew how to get through the maze perfectly. If Luke found the workshop and convinced Daedalus to help him they wouldn’t have to search for paths or risk getting lost. They could get to Camp and then Olympus.

“Daedalus is dead,” Reyna pointed out.

“I’ll explain what I meant,” Annabeth assured her.

Beckendorf told Annabeth to back up and explain. Wasn’t Daedalus dead? Quintus said he hoped so, he lived three thousand years ago and then if he was still alive the stories said he fled from the Labyrinth. Chiron said the issue was that no one knew, there were a lot of disturbing rumors about him like that he went back in the Labyrinth at the end of his life.

“Do you think that could have kept him alive?” asked Calypso. “Like Ogygia. His life lasts as long as he is in the maze.”

Annabeth didn’t answer.

“It’s an interesting idea,” Will said. “Maybe.”

Annabeth said they needed to go in and find the workshop before Luke did. They had to convince Daedalus to help them if he was still alive, and if Adriane’s string still existed they had to keep it away from Luke.

“This plan exists on a lot of hypotheticals,” Samira said.

“Don’t they always?” Annabeth asked her.

Samira looked like she wanted to argue but didn’t.

Percy said if they were worried about the attack why don’t they just blow up the tunnel. Grover agreed saying he’d get the dynamite. Clarisse said it wasn’t so easy, they tried that in the entrance at Phoenix. It didn’t go well. Annabeth agreed telling Percy the Labyrinth was magical architecture. It would take huge power to seal even one entrance. In Phoenix Clarisse wrecked a building and it just moved a few feet.

“That’s really not good for you,” Jaz said. “There’s no way to block them from coming in then. Only trying to stop them from finding their way.”

“Which made this so important.”

Lee Fletcher suggested that they fight. They knew where the entrance was. They could set up a defensive line and any army coming would find them waiting with their bows. Chiron agreed they’d set up defenses but Clarisse was right. Magical borders had kept them safe for hundreds of years. If Luke managed to get them in without the borders they might not be able to beat them. Annabeth said they had to get Daedalus’s workshop first to stop Luke. Percy said if nobody could navigate in there what chance did they have. Annabeth said she’d been studying architecture for years. No one knew Daedalus’s labyrinth better than her.

“I was so stupid,” Annabeth groaned. “Studying the labyrinth means nothing.”

“You did an amazing job leading the quest,” Percy told her. “I know it didn’t go how you wanted it too but you can do anything. Your latest solo quest proved that to everyone. You did something no one has been able to do for a long time.”

“Still,” Annabeth said. “I was an idiot. Vlacas!”

Percy asked if she meant from reading about it. She said yes. He said that wasn’t enough. She said it had to be. Percy said it wasn’t. She asked if was going to help her or not.

“Wow,” Alex said. “You guys had a lot of tension.”

“No one has more than you and Magnus though,” Sam whispered to her. She was elbowed and glared at.

Chiron cleared his throat saying first they needed a quest. Someone had to go into the Labyrinth find Daedalus’s workshop and stop Luke from using the maze to invade camp. Clarisse said they all knew Annabeth should lead the quest. She said Clarisse had done as much as her. She should go first.

Clarisse looked at her. “I might’ve been at camp nearly as long as you but the only one who’s done as much as you have is Percy. And you know my other argument.”

Clarisse said she wasn’t going back in. Travis laughed asking if she was being a chicken. Clarisse got to her feet saying shakily that he didn’t understand. She was never going in again. Then she stormed away. Travis looked around saying he didn’t mean to. Chiron said that she’d had a tough year, but asked if they all agreed Annabeth should lead the quest. They all nodded. Chiron turned to Annabeth and said it was her time to visit the oracle. If she returned well they’d talk about what to do next.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Piper said. “Was visitning the oracle really so dangerous?”

“It used to be,” Percy, Annabeth and Clarisse said.

Percy continued. “The oracle of Delphi isn’t so much anymore. The other ones might be.”

“They are,” Apollo agreed.

The scene changed to Percy pacing the arena as everyone talked around him. Then he stormed out looking up at the big house impatiently. Then he was startled by Juniper saying is name. She gestured him over. She told him that Luke wasn’t the only one she’d seen around there. Percy asked what she meant. She said she’d tried to say something before but someone had been right there. Percy asked who. Juniper said the sword master had been poking around the rocks. Percy asked when. Juniper said she hadn’t paid attention to time bu tit was around a week ago when he first came. Percy asked what he was doing and if he went in. She said she wasn’t sure but he was creepy. She didn’t even see him walk in. Percy had to tell Grover it was to dangerous. Juniper then called from the arena asking where she went. Juniper said to remember what she said and not to trust him.

“I have to agree,” Blitz said. “That guy didn’t seem like good news.”

Suspiscious,” Hearth agreed.

Percy looked up to the big house again nervously. He looked around then ran down the hill and towards the big house. He walked in and down the hallway as floor boards creaked. He stood at the base of the stairs and stopped. He looked up and listened.

“Percy,” Annabeth said in a warning tone.

“I know. I shouldn’t have done it. I just needed to talk to you. I was worried,” Percy said.

He heard sobbing which came from below him. He looked down confused and walked around to the basement stairs where the door was open. He looked inside where two figures sat among storage cases of ambrosia and Chris.

Clarisse turned on him upset and surprised. “You didn’t…”

“I didn’t say anything or tell anyone. And it was an honest accident. I heard crying and though Annabeth might be in trouble and was crying there,” Percy said. “I’m really sorry about it.”

“It’s fine dude,” Chris said. “I know you didn’t mean it.”

“It’s not fine. That was private!”

“It’s really fine,” Chris said again rubbing his girlfriends back.

Clarisse told Chris to try a little more nectar. He yelled she was an illusion calling her Mary and telling her to go away as he backed up. Clarisse said that her name wasn’t mary but Clarisse and begged him to remember.

Everyone looked at Clarisse surprised she could be so tender. She glared at all of them growling until they looked away.

Chris yelled it was so dark. Clarisse told him to come outside where the sunlight would help him. He told her there were a thousand skulls. THe earth kept healing him.

Annabeth gasped. “You were…. About….”

“I’m guessing you guys met him,” Chris said darkly.

“Yeah. Percy fought him,” Rachel said.

“Who?” asked Jason.

“Someone,” Nico told him.

Clarisse pleaded with chris to get better soon. Mr. D would be back and he was na expert. Until then he just had to hang on. Chris looked around wildly saying there was no way out still calling her Mary. Then he looked right at Percy saying the son of Poseidon, he was horrible.

Chris winced. “Sorry man.”

“It’s fine,” Percy said. “I know you weren’t talking about me.”

“Are you sure about that?” Thalia asked. “I think he might have been right.”

Percy rolled his eyes.

Percy backed away. Then as he got to the bottom of the steps he heard a creak from above. He dashed to the front door and back to the Arena arriving unnoticed right before Annabeth.

“I still don’t know how you did that, I can’t believe you followed me,” Annabeth told him with a shake of the head.

“I was worried. The oracle and propehcies aren’t anything to mess with. They’d messed up my life several times before, I didn’t want it doing that to you.”

Annabeth gave him a look and he sighed. She could protect herself, he knew that. But he would never, never, stop trying to prevent her from ever getting hurt.

 

Chapter Text

 

Chiron looked at her saying she’d made it. Annabeth looked at Percy first scared then at Quintus and Chiron. She said she’d got the prophecy and would lead the quest to find the workshop. Everyone just stared. Chiron’s hoof made a scraping sound against the door as he asked what the prophecy said explaining that the wording was important.

Ella squawked in agreement. “Different orders. Different things. Don’t intreperet. More dangerous than to begin.”

Annabeth said that she would delve into an endless maze, the dead, traitor and lost one raise. Grover cheered saying that the lost one must mean Pan, that was good!

“Yeah but the traitor?” asked Magnus. “That doesn’t sound as good.”

“At least raising the dead is probably talking about Nico,” Will said. “Which isn’t bad as long as he doesn’t hurt himself doing it.”

Nico rolled his eyes but didn’t look to upset.

Percy said it didn’t sound so good with the dead and the traitor. Chiron asked what the rest was. To rise or fall by the ghost kings stand and the child of Athena’s final stand.

“It couldn’t have meant you,” Thalia said.

“She’s still here,” Piper agreed. “So it was a different child of Athena. Or it meant something different.”

Everyone squirmed. Silena said not to jump to conclusions because Annabeth wasn’t Athena’s only child. Beckendorf asked who this ghost king was.

Everyone looked at Nico. “I’m not sure exactly. It could be Minos.”

“But it could be you,” Hazel told him.

He didn’t reply.

There was no answer and Percy looked uncomfortable. Chiron asked if there were any more lines. The prophecy didn’t sound finished. Annabeth said she didn’t exactly remember. Chiron raised an eyebrow. She shifted saying it was destroy with a hero’s final breath.

“This is sounding like one of the worst prophecies I’ve ever heard,” Thalia said. “And I’ve heard a lot of bad ones. What was the last line?”

Annabeth didn’t answer.

“Lose a love worse than death,” Ella squawked.

Everyone looked at Percy. He looked back. “There were several meanings for that line. Just watch.”

Chiron asked for the next line. She said the point was she had to go in and stop Luke and she needed help. She looked at Percy asking if he’d come. He said he was in immediately as she smiled and Percy’s face brightened.

“You guys are so cute,” Jaz squealed.

Percy kissed Annabeth’s hair as she cuddled into his side.

She asked Grover too saying Pan was waiting. He said he’d pack extra snacks. Then she looked at Tyson saying she needed him too. He cheered saying it was blow things up time.

“I like the way you think,” Sadie told him.

“No,” Carter told her.

“Aw, come on.”

“It’s actually kind of endearing the explosion spell is her favorite,” Walt said.

“This is why I love you.”

Carter pulled a face.

Chiron said that went against the ancient law of having two companions. She insisted she needed them all. Chiron said to think it over. She was breaking the ancient laws which were there for a reason. There were five people on the quest last winter and three came back. Three was a sacred number. The three fates, three furies, three sons and daughter of Kronos. It stood up against dangers. Four was risky.

“Seven on the Argo,” Hazel agreed. “Six came back. Two pairs of three.”

“That one worked out in the end though,” Annabeth said. “And this one did too. We’ve done quests with four and two before.”

Annabeth said she needed to, please. Chiron sighed saying very well then said they’d end the meeting so the people could prepare for the quest. They’d go into the Labyrinth tomorrow at dawn.

“At least you’re starting during the day,” Jaz tried to say brightly.

“No time of day will matter in the Labyrinth.” Hazel shook her head.

“At least you’re all still alive,” Frank looked at Percy and Annabeth thankfully. Then blushed and grinned at Tyson and Grover.

“How that is I have no idea,” Percy said honestly. “But hey, let’s hope that luck holds! Especially cause it seems we have two world ending events coming soon.”

“Which you seem like you’ll be the center of after,” Annabeth said writing down something. “Let’s finish this. We’re almost done with this I think, the Titan War. Maybe that’s all they want us to see.”

“I have a feeling not,” Percy shook his head. “My part might not have been as big in the Giant War but it’s there, so is all that stuff after which is how we met Carter and Sadie. We’re not done for a very long time.”

Everyone exchanged glances at Percy’s words. Being here for a lot longer didn’t necessarily sound too good. But they had to be here for a reason, and it didn’t seem like they would be missed. Magical places had different versions of times, right? Still there were things going on in the mortal world at the moment, things they needed to be there for. Hopefully this wouldn’t affect too much.

The silence gave a chance for the next scene to rise. Percy was hugging Annabeth close suddenly feeling worried again, a lot like he had first hearing about her quest. She held his hand ad gave him a kiss before turning to the projection as it started.

Percy was pulled aside by Quintus as the war council left. Quintus explained he had a bad feeling and stopped when Mrs. Leary came up with a shield in her mouth dropping it by Percy. He threw it and she chased after it. Quintus watched her and said he didn’t like the idea of the quest. He wanted them to know the Labyrinth was made to fool and distract people, especially dangerous for Half-bloods who were easily distracted.

“You could say that again,” Leo muttered.

“How does he know so much about this Labyrinth?” asked Zia. “It doesn’t sound right.”

“He’s probably tripped in,” Samira told her. “Like Annabeth and Percy did.”

“Yeah but Juniper saw him poking around too,” Magnus pointed out. “Not sure how good that sounds.”

Percy asked if he had been in there. Quintus said long ago, he barely escaped alive and he was a lucky one. He grabbed Percy by the shoulder telling him to keep his mind on what mattered most, then he could find the way. Then he said he had something to give to Percy.

“So what did you focus on?” asked Sadie curiously.

“The same thing I always do, helping my friends,” Percy replied honestly looking at Annabeth for just a split second.

Zia shook her head. “I still do not feel good about him.”

Percy looked at him and asked a whistle? Quintus replied it was for Mrs. O’Leary. Percy thanked him hesistantly starting to question Quintus who interrupted. He explained a lot like Percy was thinking he wasn’t sure it would work in the maze. But hellhounds could appear whenever called no matter how far away they were. Quintus would feel better knowing Percy had the whistle but he had to be careful it was made of Stygian ice. Percy asked what ice? Quintus explained it was from the river styx and would shatter as soon as it was blown so it could only be used once.

“Is it that useful then?” asked Piper. “I mean Blackjack can appear almost as fast. And for him it doesn’t work just once.”

“Just being able to have help is a good thing,” Percy shrugged. “Whether it’s from Blackjack, Mrs. O’Leary or others. There are times I didn’t realize I’ve called for help but I got it. I’m lucky I’ve had the help I’ve had. And Mrs. O’Leary’s shadow travel is helpful, a lot. You’ll probably see Nico show me about it.”

Nico groaned. “I do not need to see that again.”

Percy’s eyes widened. “I kind of forgot about that after everything that happened after. I-“

He found then that he couldn’t say more. Annabeth looked at him curiously but Nico gave him an understanding glance. They both forgot as they had promised never too. They had been forgotten too many times themselves for them to let it happen to any one else.

Percy looked at Quintus and narrowed his eyes and stiffened. After a moment he returned to normal, happening so fast it was barely noticeable. Then he thanked Quintus pocketing the whistle running off.

“What were you thinking?” Thalia asked him.

“Just about the last gift I got before a quest,” Percy said. “And how I was sure that person was my friend then. Gifts aren’t easy to trust.”

Annabeth nodded thinking of a certain coin and a few others exchanged glances. Thalia’s gaze darkened as she thought of Luke and Grover’s bleat of annoyance made her fingers spark. With a deep breath she calmed down again.

Percy ran from the stadium and to the cabins seeing the Athena cabin. The silvery stone building was plain. He called inside and got no response. Percy stepped in looking around at the bookshelves and workbenches in slight surprise. Then he saw Annabeth looking through scrolls. He knocked on the wood saying the words Knock knock as she turned to look at him saying she hadn’t heard him.

“Tell me you’re actually going to kiss, or at least something,” Sadie said. “I can’t stand to see you guys keep circling each other.”

“I can’t stand to see them together,” Magnus wrinkled his nose. “Too much PDA. She’s my cousin dude, even if you’re my new friend. All the cuteness could overload the world, let alone me.”

“Thanks?” Percy said.

“Deal with it Magnus,” Annabeth said giving him a look he wasn’t sure he knew how to interpret. Beside him Hearth and Samira were laughing as Blitz gave him a look of pity. Alex however thankfully looked as confused as him.

He asked if she was okay and she frowned at he papers he had. She said that she was doing research but the labyrinth was huge and there was nothing useful. She blew a piece of hair out of her face, it was no longer in a pony tail. He told her they’d figure it out. She told him she’d wanted a quest since she was seven and he assured her she was going to do awesome.

Annabeth leaned on him and he kissed the top of her head. He put her arms around her and hugged her close. He knew right now that she was safe but he was feeling like he had then. He breathed her scent in again, lemon just like it had been that night. She used it because spiders hated lemons, or at least that’s what he’d been told. They were safe now at least.

She replied she was worried. She shouldn’t have asked him to do this, same with Tyson and Grover.

Tyson and Grover both started in protest but Annabeth quickly silenced them. “I was just worried. I didn’t mean it. And Percy was there to assure me that you would be there either way.”

Percy said they were her friends, they’d never miss helping her. She started to protest but stopped. Percy asked her what was wrong, was it the prophecy? She said it was fine but it was quiet and lacking her usual fire. He asked her what the last line was. She sniffed blinking back tears and put out her arms. Percy immediately engulfed her in a hug patting her back and telling her it was okay.

“That last line must be bad,” Magnus said worriedly. He’d never seen his cousin like that. Even when he crashed his own funeral. The closest he had come was at the bottom of the bay of Sirens in this projection but now she just seemed vulnerable.

Everyone was staring at Annabeth who gave them all steely glares from her place in Percy’s arms. They turned away quickly and she gave a satisfied huff. Percy’s mouth twitched and she looked up to glare at him too. His response was another kiss.

She continued muttering into his chest that Chiron could be right but having all three of them along felt wrong. He told her there was no reason to worry then, they’d solve this like they did all their problems. She told him this was different. She didn’t want anything to happen to any of …them.

“We were all safe in the end,” he whispered to her. “I know that line could seem like it was about me, at Mt. St. Helens, but it could’ve been about Luke too. Grover and Tyson both got back fine. We all were safe.”

“I know,” Annabeth told him. “I know.”

Then someone coughed and both of them startled. He apologized now bright red saying that they had archery practice and Chiron had asked him to rind Annabeth. Percy stuttered they had just been looking at maps. Malcolm stared at him and gave a drawn out okay. Annabeth told him to tell Chiron she was coming and he ran out as fast as he could. Then she told Percy to go because she needed to go get ready for archery. He looked like he wanted to run too but he turned from the door and asked Annabeth about the line with a hero’s last breath. Annabeth asked if he wanted to know which hero because she didn’t know.

“I mean that’s a hard one,” Jason said. “All four of you are still here. I couldn’t have meant any of the questers.”

“It didn’t.”

“That wasn’t my question anyway,” Percy finished for Annabeth.

He told her it was something else. The last line should end with that one, the word breath. Did the last line end with the word death. She told him he should go get ready for the quest, she’d see him in the morning. He ran out the door looking and pale and to his cabin where sat on the bed fiddling with riptide and looking at the pictures on his wall, especially the ones of him, Grover, Annabeth and Tyson.

“So Percy was right then,” Thalia said gloomily. “That last line confirms it. And since it already mentions the ghost king and everything I’m guessing death doesn’t mean death breath here.”

Nico glared at her.

“No,” Annabeth said sadly. “It doesn’t.”

“But you’re all alive,” Carter said again. “Unless you got more members on your quest or it addresses something else that’s not what the line is.”

“Don’t try and figure it out,” Percy advised. “It’ll only take too much of your energy. As much as I hate it you just need to let prophecies happen and sometimes your choices impact it more than you think.”

 

Chapter Text

Apollo and Rachel exchanged looks at Percy’s statement. Leo however was nodding with full belief, or at least partially. He’d figured out how to use the great prophecy to his advantage, but like Percy said mostly he and the other had to just let it happen. For Annabeth he had a feeling that was a lot more difficult. His ADHD attention was captured by the bright light coming from the rising scene.

Luke was kneeling in front of the sarcophagus dressed in pure white. He was saying that their spies had reported success and Camp was sending a quest as Kronos predicted. Their side of the bargain was almost finished.

“I still don’t understand how he’s alive,” Jaz shook her head. “He looks too healthy for someone who took a three hundred foot fall three months ago, no matter how magical they are.”

Nico looked at Percy thinking Percy had looked about the same after he’d convinced him to go through with it. Too healthy, too powerful and even know without the curse too godly. But that was Percy naturally and Luke had needed the curse on him to be that way.

“You’ll get it at some point,” Percy promised not looking back at Nico though he’d caught his look.

“Can we focus on the rest of that sentence?” Alex suggested. “Sounds kind of ominous and evil plot-like. Bargains and spies. All of that stuff.”

“So there’s a spy who’s telling them what’s happening in camp,” Reyna noted. “I’m sure we’ll learn who it is. But what about this bargain?”

“Can’t say,” Rachel told her.

“How do you know?” signed a confused Hearth.

“You’ll see.”

Kronos answered that was excellent and that once they had a way to navigate he’d lead the army through himself. Luke closed his eyes saying it was too soon and maybe Hyperion or Krios should lead.

“He’s hesitating,” Thalia breathed in surprise.

“He tried to avoid it,” agreed Percy. “He was the whole time. The signs were there.”

Kronos said with finality that he would lead and once one more person joined them he would rise. Luke shook as he protested talking about Kronos’s form. Kronos ordered Luke show him his sword. Luke pulled the sword out and Kronos said that Luke had pledged himself to Kronos and this sword was proof. Luke agreed then started to protest again. Kronos continued saying Luke had wanted power and now he was unable to be harmed and would rule the world. He would avenge himself and see Olympus destroyed.

“More like Kronos would,” Chris spat.

Clarisse gripped his hand for once calming him down. He took a deep breath and relaxed lying on her shoulder as she also watched the scene in front of them with steely eyes.

Luke agreed and the coffin glowed telling him to make the strike force ready. As soon as the bargain was finished they’d move forward to attack Camp Half Blood then they’d march on Olympus.

“You ruined that plan at least,” Walt noted. “I mean you’re all still here and Camp still exists. So spoiler, you all won.”

“I guess a lot of what happens is obvious now,” Percy agreed.

Luke got up after someone knocked on the door and the light disappeared from the coffin. He told whoever was there to come in. Two dracaenas came in and behind them, Kelli the empousa. She greeted Luke fliritingly. He responded by asking what she wanted, calling her demon and saying he’d told her not to disturb him.

“At least with everything else the guy realizes it’s not smart to hang around an empousai,” Jason said. He didn’t notice what the comment had done to the people that had known Luke.

She complained that wasn’t nice, he seemed tense and then offered him a shoulder massage. Luke stepped back telling her if she didn’t have something to say she needed to leave. She complained she wasn’t sure why he was so huffy when he used to be fun. He said that was before he’d seen what she’d done to a boy in Seattle.

Everyone winced.

Kelli said he meant nothing beside a snack, her heart belonged to Luke. Luke said thanks but no thanks and again told her to report or leave. She said that the team was ready, they could leave. Then she paused frowning. Luke asked what was wrong. Kelli said there was a presence, his senses were getting dull. They were being watched. She turned into her true form and pounced. Then Percy was seen waking up in his bed only calming down when he saw Tyson snoring nearby.

“How did she sense you?” asked Carter. “Even with all the ba dreams I take half the time the gods can’t sense me. Unless they summoned me.”

“She’s a servant of Hecate,” Hazel said startling everyone. “Magical. She knows how to sense that stuff. It comes with being able to manipulate the mist and perceptions.”

“Do you think the bad guys ever dream of us?” Leo asked suddenly.

“Now that,” Sadie pointed at Leo, “Is a very scary thought.”

Percy looked around his gaze falling on a picture of Annabeth. He reached for a sweatshirt that was hanging next to him then turned with confusion seeing the glowing blue green of the fountain. He got up and stood next to it.

“Another Iris message?” Piper asked.

“Something like that,” Percy nodded. “I’m not even sure they were Iris messages.”

“The last one was,” Apollo frowned. “This one doesn’t seem like it is.”

“More like a different type of message,” Nico agreed.

Percy said the fountain was trying to tell him something. Then there was silence. He sighed saying all right asking it to show him Nico. The water shimmered and Nico was in a graveyard in a black cloak surrounded by fog with a walmart bag at his feet.

“I know that graveyard!” Sadie yelped.

“You do?” Carter asked her.

“She does,” Walt agreed. “Anubis took her there to talk the first time you met.”

“New Orleans,” Nico stated. “A city for the dead.”

“Home,” Hazel said wistfully. “It looks the same. There’s still gris gris and mardi gras and riverboats, right? All the people with their ghost stories and everything.”

“Yes,” Walt nodded. “That doesn’t change about that city.”

“We’ll go soon,” Nico told her. “Shadow Travel.”

Hazel smiled at him thankfully.

Nico was watching gravediggers and asked if it was deep enough yet. The same ghost as before said nearly but it was unnecessary, he already had advice from the ghost. Nico said he wanted a second opinion and snapped his fingers where the digging stopped and two skeletons climbed out of the hole. Nico said they were dismissed thanking them and they collapsed into piles of bones.

“Still so cool,” Alex grinned which quickly turned back into a frown. “Never use it on me again.”

“Never,” Magnus pulled a face.

Nico’s look was downright creepy but there was the slightest trace of amusement in his deadpan eyes.

THe ghost complained Nico could thank the shovels they were as smart as the skeletons. Nico pulled a twelve pack of coke out of his Walmart bag and opened a can and poured it into the grave saying to let the dead taste again, rising to take the offering and to remember. Then he emptied more coke into the grave.

“Summoning the dead?” Walt asked. “Spirits.”

“That’s dangerous,” Thalia shivered. “I hate spirits. They’re the worst.”

“I’ve seen you summon without ritualism now,” Reyna looked at Nico. “Your power has increased.”

Nico shrugged but Percy was nodding at him thinking. The increase of the power, the fear, all that came with it, that he understood. Nico looked away now thinking of his talk with Percy before. He’d thought they were worlds apart. They weren’t much different in the end.

He opened a McDonald’s happy meal and shook fries and a hamburger into the grave. The ghost mumbled that they could’ve used animal blood like they did when he was alive, it was good enough. Spirits couldn’t taste the difference. Nico said he’d treat the dead with respect.

“That’s how it should be.” Walt’s tone was absolute.

Nico looked at him. “You’re right. There’s not enough respect for the dead, making sure they get proper burial rights, still are remembered and everything that happens to them.”

“But we can try though,” Percy said. “And we haven’t been trying good enough. I’ve forgotten too many of the dead while I was focused on other things. But you’re right. They’re the reason I fight, Zoe, Bianca and all the others that come after them.”

Nico gave him a look of thankfulness which Percy returned.

THe ghost asked if he could at least keep the toy.

There was a bit of laughter and snorting. Annabeth frowned though, “That doesn’t sound like him.”

“He’s greedy,” Grover said. “Of course it does.”

“Toys are fun,” Tyson agreed.

Nico ordered him to be quiet emptying more soda and three more happy meals into the grave then chanting in ancient greek. The grave bubbled and frothy liquid bubbled over. The fog became thicker as it all became quiet and dozens of figures appeared by the gravestones.

People shivered. Nico looked down twisting his ring and Will laid a hand on his leg looking at him concerned. Nico’s look told him he was fine, he just didn’t want to talk but he held Will’s hand anyway.

The ghost said there were too many, Nico didn’t know his own power. Nico argued weakly he had it under control drawing a black metal sword, the spirits retreated looking at it and Nico commanded they go one at a time. One came up to the pool of food and scooped French fries out. When it stood again it was a guy with curly dark hair and green eyes with a seashell clasp on his cloak over greek armor.

Everyone looked at Percy. Percy rolled his eyes. “It’s a relative.”

“Percy looks more like Poseidon,” Apollo agreed. “Which is why we weren’t sure about…”

Percy’s look shushed him before he spoiled who it was.

Nico asked who he was ordering him to speak. The young ghost looked confused for a minute before saying he was Theseus. Outside the misty iris message Percy gaped.

“Theseus?” asked Piper. “But he’s so young.”

“That’s what I was thinking. This is the guy that went into the labyrinth to fight the minotaur,” Percy agreed. “I thought he was huge and buff.”

Rachel looked at him weirdly. “I don’t think that’ what she meant. I mean you were younger than him with no experience when you fought the minotaur.”

“But—” Percy started but was cut off.

“She’s right. Theseus lived to be a lot older and he became kind of a jerk like we just heard with Adriane,” Piper agreed. “So why is his spirit so young?”

“Because that’s how he was in his prime, how he wanted to be remembered,” Nico explained.

“As an eternal sixteen year old?” Thalia scoffed then she paused. “Never mind. I’ll be fifteen forever.”

There was a bit of nervous laughter.

Nico asked how he could retrieve his sister.

There were a bunch of gasps and whispers as heads turned to look at Nico. With one hand in Will’s and Hazel’s hand on his shoulder he met their looks. “I know it’s wrong. She knew she was going to die, she accepted it. I shouldn’t have tried to bring her back.”

“You were grieving,” Hazel told him. “And you stopped for a bit, then when you tried again you saved me.”

“And without Hazel we wouldn’t have won the war,” Jason agreed. “We might all try and do what you did Nico.”

“You’ve learnt from it. You were grieved and upset,” Percy told him. “But you know what Bianca would think about you now. What we all do.”

Theseus looked at him blankly telling him not to try, it was madness. Nico demanded to be told. Theseus said his stepfather died, he’d thrown himself into the sea thinking Theseus was dead in the Labyrinth. Theseus couldn’t bring him back.

Percy looked down. Theseus was a reminder to him. Always. Theseus was what he could become, someone who let his bigger flaws take over, someone who was a jerk and pushed away those he loved, let his pride get the best of him. Then he became a villain, a world class jerk who no one wanted to be around. One who kidnapped woman, ransacked villiages and ruined peoples lives. Percy wouldn’t become him. He’d never given up on his mother, he’d never done anything to hurt her and remembered a sign to give her. He was not Theseus, not a person who would give up and hurt others when he did.

The ghost next to Nico hissed and told Nico to ask about the soul exchange. Theseus scowled saying he knew that voice . THe ghost yelled he didn’t and all Theseus would do was answer Nico’s questions. Theseus insisted he knew the ghost.

“He knew him?” Piper asked.

Nico looked at her warily. “He knew him.”

“Nico,” she said worriedly. “He’s…”

“I know who he is, better than you,” Nico interrupted. “Don’t tell me what I already know.”

Piper bit her lip and didn’t answer Jason’s questioning glance. Nico nodded looking back at the projected vision in front of him.

Nico demanded to hear about his sister and if the quest in the Labyrinth would bring her back. Theseus was looking around for the other ghost still but couldn’t find him. Then he looked back at Nico, answering. He said the Labyrinth was treacherous and only one thing saw him, through, a mortal girl’s love guided him, not the string.

“You need a mortal to guide you?” Reyna asked Thalia leaning over to whisper. Thalia looked between Percy and Rachel and nodded. She had her suspicions there. Annabeth had made enough calls and ranted plenty of times for that.

The ghost said they didn’t need that, he’d guide Nico. Then he instructed Nico to ask if the exchange between souls was true. Nico repeated asking if a soul for a soul was true.

Hazel gripped her brother’s hand. He looked at her. “I’m done with that Hazel. I’ve been done with it for a long time.”

Theseus said yes but asked again about the ghost. The ghost yelled for him to just answer the question. The other ghosts around the pool of food started to whisper. Nico yelled he wanted to see his sister and asked where she was.

“It’s her ghost you keep trying to summon,” Alex said. “Not just to find out, to talk to her.”

“But she wouldn’t talk to you,” Magnus finished.

“She wouldn’t,” Nico agreed. “Not to me.”

Percy inhaled sharply but no one but Nico, Annabeth, Grover and Tyson noticed. But soon, more people would be noticing. They’d been watching and they’d see every last thing he did. Soon they’d all realize what he really was.

Theseus didn’t answer instead looked around scared saying ‘he’ was coming having sensed Nico’s summons. Nico demanded to know who. Theseus said ‘he’ wanted to know the source of this power, he demanded Nico release them.

“Who’s watching you?” ordered Jason.

Nico looked down. “I don’t know. At least I’m not really sure.”

Percy winced making Will look at him. “You know?”

Percy met his eyes then Nico’s. “Like Nico, I have suspicions. Probably stronger ones than his.”

They waited for him to say more but he just looked down preparing for what he knew was coming in the next few seconds.

Percy was watching the fountain tremble as the whole cabin shaked and the noise with Nico grew louder and the whole Iris message glowed as Percy yelled for it to stop. The trembling grew as Percy cowered backwards and squinted in the purple light as the fountain cracked. Ghostly shadows hit the wall and he uncapped Riptide slashing down as saltwater splashed everywhere and rocks crumbled across the floor. Tyson snorted but kept sleeping.

“Man, you can sleep through anything,” Leo shook his head.

Tyson blushed as Percy chuckled at him though some people could see it wasn’t full of his usual heart. He was shivering and kept sending glances to Nico who was staring at him both confused and concerned. But his face shifted with realization when the scene continued.

Percy was sitting on the ground riptide lied in front of him as he hug himself shivering in shock in the water fountains wreckage. Behind him a sped up time was going and soon it was morning and Tyson sat up and found him sitting there. He helped Percy onto his bed and swept up the stuff as the scene faded.

Percy was staring at Nico now. He was shivering still clenched in his hand was Annabeth’s but he was gripping his other arm with the other hand as he stared. Apollo looked at him. “He’s in shock. He shouldn’t be in shock. That stuff shouldn’t have put him in shock.”

“It did though,” Jaz said. “Get him a blanket. Annabeth talk to him, comfort him, lie him down on your lap.”

Annabeth was already doing all of that long before Jaz had said anything. Percy stopped shivering then snapping out of it. The scene had collapsed, it was done. Annabeth was looking at him. She’d seen Percy go into shock only a few times in her life, all right after a death, but even then it was rare. The only time she’d seen him go into shock like that was during their journey through Tartarus. “That was him, wasn’t it?”

“Kronos?” Thalia asked. “Since when does he do that.”

“No,” Annabeth shook her head. “Not Kronos.”

“A primordial,” Percy agreed. “Not sure which. But they were helping Kronos.”

Apollo drew back. “No wonder you were in shock. Only the elder gods have seen some of the primordials. The only one I’ve ever seen is Gaia.”

“Wait, you’ve only met one?” Percy asked.

“Yeah,” Apollo said. “I mean you can’t have met more than her.”

“I’ve met at least three,” Percy said.

“Three sounds right,” Annabeth agreed. Both of them shut up when they realized everyone was staring at them gaping. Rachel snatched Annabeth’s notebook and wrote down what they had just learnt.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Ladies Choice

 

Percy sat up and looked from person to person. Annabeth centered her glare on all of them too. Everyone was reminded within seconds why they were the most intimidating couple in mythical history. Percy finished looking around his eyes meeting everyone else’s. “There’s a lot of mysteries about my life. A lot that haven’t been solved. There’s a lot I never intended anyone to discover and I never wanted to remember. But can you please stop reacting like that to everything.”

“Dude with your life you kind of have to react like that to everything,” Carter pointed out.

“We react like that to half the stuff in our life too,” Sadie agreed. “It’s just cooler from you because we’re expecting all the bloody horrible stuff to happen to us.”

“I’m going to react like that to everything in everyone’s life ever,” Alex shouted. “No way you can stop me.”

“You really can’t stop her from doing anything,” Magnus agreed. “Like just lying down on the Rainbow Bridge.”

Alex gave him a grin that made him shiver and not just with fear from her mischief. Percy sighed realizing there was no stopping them. He slumped with Annabeth’s hand still in his watching.

Percy stood with the others near the labyrinth entrance. Juniper and Grover were standing together as she fussed over him. Chiron, Quintus and Mrs. O’leary stood nearby with the other campers as they watched a couple of tents being put up. Malcolm was setting up battle plans directing his siblings. Beckendorf and the other Hephaestus campers were setting up trenches and spikes.

Leo cheered as Calypso rolled her eyes at him fondly. He’d only gotten to see his siblings again momentarily but she knew how much he missed them.

Annabeth was looking through her bag as Percy and Tyson came over. She looked at him frowning saying he looked terrible. Tyson nodded solemnly saying he killed the water fountain that night.

Everyone laughed even though seeing what they had seen it wasn’t that funny. But Tyson had this way of cheering everyone up.

Annabeth looked at him demanding to know what he meant. Then Chiron came over trying to sound proud and ready to let them go but instead it came out nervously when he said it seemed like they were ready. Percy looked at him nervously and asked him for a favor while they were gone. Chiron said of course and Percy said he’d be right back.

“You’re asking him a favor?” Chris asked confused.

“Just the one time. It’s not a thing I always do before quests,” Percy said.

“Yeah. Because it looks suspicious,” Piper told him. “You don’t want the whole of camp mad at you again for something ridiculous.”

Percy smiled wryly and Piper rolled her eyes. Now that was the Percy she knew. The troublemaker look and the comforting air with the sarcasm. He acted like an older brother, she suppose she thought of him as one, like Leo was a younger brother. But she supposed she hadn’t known either of them as much as she thought she did. Especially Percy.

The scene changed again to them standing in front of the Labyrinth ready to in.

“Wait, what did you and Chiron talk about?” Frank asked.

“The bargain they were talking about. The possibility of Kronos wanting a new body made by Daedalus. And a little bit about Quintus. Chiron was keeping an eye on him because he doesn’t trust him. And then we left.”

Thalia nodded thinking. “But that wasn’t his new body. Kronos would have thought a machine inferior.”

“You’re right. But we had to think of all the possibilities, didn’t we?” Percy replied.

Chiron told them to take care and have good hunting. Percy said you too as Grover wished sunshine goodbye and Tyson said hello to the rocks. They walked in for a little bit, a round sewer made of red brick with Iron potholes. Annabeth instructed them to keep a hand on the left wall and follow it so that they could find their way back if they needed too. Then the left wall disappeared and they were in circular chamber with eight tunnels.

Zia gasped. “It’s not possible.”

Sadie laughed and took a moment to catch her breath. “Zia you were the one that showed me magic. It’s all possible. No matter how bloody impossible it all seems.”

“She’s right. It’s magic, it changes your mind and perception and everything that happens,” Hazel said shaking her head.

“Especially the labyrinth,” Percy muttered.

Grover asked which way they’d come in. Annabeth said to turn around and they each turned to a different tunnel. Tyson declared left walls were mean and asked which wall now.

“Left walls are very mean,” agreed Leo. “Meaner than floors, ceilings and right walls.”

Tyson nodded very fast in agreement.

Ella was counting on her talons. “Left walls are mean, cheese is mean, brooms are mean…”

“We’d be happy to hear more later Ella but we need to get back to this,” Rachel asked her gently.

Annabeth looked over the tunnels shining her light on all of them before finally choosing one and saying that way. Percy asked how she knew. She replied deductive reasoning. Percy said she was guessing then. She rolled her eyes saying to just come on.

“You were guessing though,” he teased.

“Yes, I was guessing,” she rolled her eyes. “You happy now?”

“Very much.”

Her eyes rolled more. He was always so ridiculous. It was adorable.

The tunnel narrowed and soon the ceilings got low. Tyson crawled and Grover hyperventilated saying he couldn’t stand it asking if they were there yet. Annabeth said they’d only been down there for five minutes. Grover insisted it was longer than that. He asked why Pan would be down here in the opposite of the wild. As they kept going they came into a huge room where Percy shined a light on it making a whoa noise. He was in a room full of mosaic tiles all grimy and faded showing the Olympians.

“That doesn’t look like the gods,” frowned Samira. “Not from what we’ve seen of Percy’s memories.”

“Because they’re not the Greek gods,” Percy said.

“They’re roman,” Reyna said. “Those are our gods. That’s a roman mosaic.”

Percy looked at the fountain in front of him and asked what this place was. Annabeth said it was Roman, like two thousand years old. Percy asked how they could be Roman.

“This is before I knew about the labyrinth or that were Romans in this country,” Percy said before he got several looks.

Annabeth explained the labyrinth was an always expanding patchwork that always added more pieces, it grew by itself. Percy said she made it seem like it was alive. Then something groaned and Grover requested that they didn’t talk about it being alive. Annabeth conceded and said forward. Tyson asked down the hall with bad sounds. Annabeth said the architecture was getting older and that was a good sign, Daedalus’s workshop would be in the oldest part.

Nico, Rachel and Percy exchanged looks then Annabeth glared them all down. Percy just laughed, Nico and Rachel couldn’t help but smirk too as Annabeth sighed with her eyes rolling again. Rachel swore one day Percy would make Annabeth’s eyes roll out of her head.

Fifty feet more down the tunnel they were back in cement with brass pipes and lots of graffiti. Percy noted it wasn’t Roman. Annabeth looked like she wanted to smack him but took a deep breath and carried on. More tunnels branched off and into a wine cellar where they found a skeleton in white clothes with a wooden crate of glass bottles. Annabeth noted it was a milkman. Percy asked what. She told him they used to deliver milk . Percy said he knew that, but milkmen had been around when his mom was young, millions of years ago. He asked what the milkman was doing there.

“Oh, you’re so lucky Aunt Sally didn’t hear that!” Thalia told Percy who put his head in his hands.

“I know,” he groaned.

“It’s almost as bad about the comment you made about her stomach,” Nico told him.

“I thought that comment was what was finally going to kill me,” Percy said. “Never comment on a pregnant lady’s stomach.”

“Especially when they’re not even pregnant,” Sadie agreed.

Walt looked at her disapprovingly.

She sighed. “It wasn’t me. It was him. And it was to Tawaret.”

He nodded understanding then. Sadie and Carter had warned him she wasn’t actually pregnant when he’d first met her. He should have realized.

Annabeth explained people wondered into the labyrinth by mistake. People came exploring it but some never made it back. The Cretans sent people there as sacrifices. Grover pointed to the skeleton who had made marks on the wall trying to claw out and said he’d been there a long time. Tyson said it was only bones, Grover shouldn’t worry. The milkman was dead. Grover said the milkman didn’t bother him, the smell did. He asked Tyson if he sensed it too. Tyson agreed there were a lot of monsters but the underground smells like that.

“I thought you idiots learnt your lesson with that,” Clarisse grumbled. “Especially after Echidna and her Chimera.”

“We always learn our lessons, we just don’t remember them very well,” Grover told her. “Though I wish we did.”

“Punks,” Clarisse shook her head.

Grover whimpered he thought he was wrong adding sarcastically it was good he wasn’t. Annabeth said they had to go deeper into the maze, they had to find a way to the center. They went up some stairs and through a shaft until they arrived back in the room with the fountain.

“You went in a circle,” Hearth signed. “Perception.”

“No. Deception,” Percy shook his head. “We were perceiving the labyrinth exactly like it was. It was just observing us and getting ready to deceive us.”

“More like he was,” Grover said darkly.

“He?” Jaz asked suspicious. “Not Kronos, right?”

“I assume they mean the man or whatever he may be standing in the room with them,” Zia responded with the raise of eyebrows. Indeed in the projection a man or something had appeared.

The man had two faces on either side of his head staring over his shoulders on both sides like a hammerhead shark’s. He wore a doorman’s uniform and the left face opened it’s mouth greeting Annabeth and telling her to hurry up.

“Hurry up with what?” Samira demanded. “There’s nothing happening, at least I don’t think there is.”

“You’re right,” Annabeth said. “There’s not. Which is why I was so stupid.”

Percy turned to her in disbelief. “Tell me you didn’t just say that!”

“Percy, leave it be.”

“No. Because you, Annabeth, are a lot of things, beautiful, fierce, determined, creative, brave, skilled and so many other things. You’ve never been and never will be stupid. You were scared, nervous and confused and unsure but that didn’t make you stupid. After all, you have me to fill that role.”

“Thanks Seaweed Brain,” she said kissing his cheek then whispered to his ear. “And you’re not so dumb either.”

“Thanks,” he laughed as he wrapped his arms around her again.

The other side of the face answered saying not to mind the first one, he was rude. Annabeth should go this way. Annabeth stuttered starting to say she didn’t know. Then Tyson commented the funny man had two faces.

“Not funny,” Tyson shook his head. “Funny man is not funny.”

“Not funny at all,” agreed Percy.

The left face yelled at Tyson saying he had ears. He told Annabeth to come along. The left face argued saying this way, Annabeth should talk to him. Annabeth looked back and forth between the two exits behind a man each with giant locks on them. The man was passing the key from between left and right . The other door had disappeared.

“Monster?” Leo asked.

“Might as well be,” Annabeth said her eyes narrowing and then closing them with a quick sigh.

Annabeth noted the exits were closed and the left face duhhed. Annabeth asked where the passages lead. The right face said one lead where they wanted to go. The other leads to certain death. Annabeth said she knew who they were. The left face sneered saying she was smart but she still didn’t know which way to choose. They didn’t have all day. She demanded to know why he was trying to confuse her.

“Because he’s annoying and he likes to make people miserable.” Apollo was mumbling and Will looked at a bit confused. Then his mouth opened a little as he looked at his father suddenly understanding. That was a god.

The right face said she was in charge and all the decisions were on her. Isn’t that what she wanted? Annabeth said not really and started to reason but the left face interrupted saying they knew here and the indecision she wrestled with every day. She would have to make a choice soon, one that could kill her. Annabeth stuttered looking back at her friends.

Percy buried his face in her hair. “That decision must have been harder than anything I’ve had to make. And you always make the right decisions. I trust you. I always have, I always will.”

Everyone else was staring at Annabeth in shock though. Jason was the one that spoke up first. “You were scared? About leading a quest? But Annabeth you’re the best quest leader I’ve met. You make the best decisions on everything.”

“You should know better than most people what making those decisions means,” Annabeth told him completely devoid of any emotion or anything. “That pressure lays on you and stays there and you always wonder if you made the wrong decision, or when the day comes that you will.”

Everyone was still staring at her unable to say anything. She leaned back into Percy knowing they were absorbing it. Everyone here had to make hard decisions but none of them thought she and Percy had been anywhere near as scared as they had when they did. A lot of choices were easier than others and at the beginning knowing she’d have to make that choice had been the worst of all.

Percy demanded they leave her alone asking who he was. THe right face said he was their best friend, the left face argued he was their worst enemy. Then both said they were Janus, god of Doorways, Beginnings, Endings and choices. The right face told Percy he’d have his own turn later but it was Annabeth’s now. He laughed saying it was so much fun.

“We both made the right choice,” Annabeth said strongly, determined even when her voice shook. “I know I did.”

“I chose to trust you,” Percy said. “And that’s always the right choice.”

Annabeth smirked. “Always.”

The left face told him to shut up. This was serious, the wrong choice would ruin her life and kill her and her friends. There was no pressure though. Then he yelled at her to choose again.

Percy growled hugging her. Annabeth looked at him strangely but figured that it was the past emotions affecting him again.

Percy told her not to do it. The right face said she had to. Annabeth sucked on her lip. She started to say something before a bright light flooded the room and they all covered their eyes. Then there was a woman standing there with long brown hair and dressed in gold and white.

Thalia, Nico, Will, Leo, Piper, Frank, Jason, Hazel and Reyna all groaned though several others also looked upset. Thalia looked at Annabeth. “Really? You have to meet that Bovine B***h now?”

“Language,” Percy chided. “And yeah. Actually on first appearance she wasn’t too bad. At least that’s what it seemed like.”

“No. She’s right. Her Most Annoying Majesty is the worst,” Nico agreed. The others started to shout their own agreements and comments with as many rude nicknames for Hera as they could think of.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Sorry,” interrupted Sadie. “I mean I’m all for the rude nicknames shouting and yelling at stupid people but who exactly is the lady? I mean as soon as we find out who the two headed bloke is we get another person in the way?”

“She’s a goddess,” Carter said. “I would say Isis but she’s not.”

“Definitley the same attitude though,” Apollo commented.

“What?”

Apollo snorted. “It’s the type. Matriachrial goddess, queen of heavens with lots of magic. Tend to be haughty, think they’re making the best decisions and everything else.”

“Happy I wasn’t possessed by Isis now,” Percy muttered.

“Yeah,” Sadie grimaced. “It’s not always very pleasant.”

The woman demanded to know if Janus was causing more trouble. Janus stammered no, but his left face yelled yes. His right face yelled at him to shut up. Indignant the woman asked excuse me and Janus yelped he had been talking to himself. The lady said she knew the visit from Janus was premature. Annabeth’s time to decide hadn’t come yet. She gave Janus a choice, leave Hera with the heroes or she’d turn him into a door and break him down. The left face asked what type of door and the right side yelled for him to shut up as the left side continued that French doors were nice with their natural light. The woman said she’d remember that.

“She doesn’t seem that bad,” Blitz commented. “Better than some of the gods I’ve met.”

“Yeah,” Percy shrugged. “Well this is just the beginning. She just keeps getting worse. As I said, she seems nice for now but later no one’s going to be vouching for her.”

The right face yelled for the left to shut up again. Then he said he didn’t mean Hera, he’d leave now. He was only having fun doing his job. Offering choices. The woman corrected he was causing indecision and demanded he leave. The left face muttered she was a party pooper and turned his key in the air and disappeared.

“What’s with all the dramatics?” Percy asked. “I mean couldn’t he have just vanished without the whole key thing?”

“Dramatics just make it more fun,” Apollo said. “Duh!”

Percy gave him an annoyed look but let it go quickly turning back to the projected image in front of him.

The woman turned toward them and smiled saying they had to be hungry, they should sit and talk. With a wave of her hand the fountain started and a table with food and lemonade appeared. Percy asked who she was. She said in a stately voice she was Hera, Queen of the gods.

“Definitely reminded of Isis,” Walt muttered, or Anubis did. It wasn’t very clear.

“Why are the Greek gods so much nicer than ours?” Sadie complained to her magician friends.

Carter winced seeing Walt look down. Sadie’s eyes widened and she turned to him gripping him. “Oh, not you Walt dear. I mean…”

“It’s fine Sadie,” Walt smiled. “I know what you mean.”

She leaned into him smiling.

“Our gods aren’t really that nice though,” pointed out Frank. “Definitely not the roman ones.”

“Or the Greeks,” Piper agreed ignoring Apollo’s shocked and irritated gasps.

Percy shook his head. “It’s not as simple as that. Trust me. Some of our gods seem a lot nicer. But the Greek, Roman and I guess norse gods are a lot more part of our world than the Egyptians. They need an anchor. Something to host them. The Greek and Norse gods have some kids, they actually care a little. But all gods have their own motives and that’s just the way gods work. And from what you’ve told us you have just as many nice gods as we do. Bast, Bes and Tawaret, right?”

Carter nodded. “Not all of your gods have seemed very nice. Like you said. Motive. It’s to get what they want.”

“Hey!” Apollo protested.

“No,” Walt nodded. “He’s right. The gods are… a good word would be difficult.”

Hera served them all sandwhiches and poured lemonade and sat as they ate. She looked as they ate chiding Grover for eating his napkin and telling him to use it properly. He said yes calling her ma’am, just as Tyson called her nice lady when he said yes to her telling him to eat another sandwhich before he wasted away.

“See?” Sadie said. “She sounds like Bast when she’s doting on us.”

“Bast still thinks the world revolves around her though,” Carter rolled his eyes. “Just stop and watch Sadie.”

Annabeth said she couldn’t believe Hera was in the labyrinth and asked why she was there. Hera flicked a finger smiling as Annabeth was instantly cleaned up. She said she was here to see them. Grover and Percy exchanged nervous looks.

Around the room other people exchanged nervous looks too. If a god came to see people it was usually for a reason. Most likely not a benevolent one.

Annabeth stuttered she didn’t think Hera liked heroes. Hera said that was because of her spat with Hercules and the one fight gave her a lot of bad press. Annabeth said she thought Hera had tried to kill him several times. Hera said it was water under the bridge and he was her husband’s child with a different woman. But Zeus and her had done marriage counseling since then, especially after that last incident.

“Is that all Jason and I are?” Thalia spat. “Incidents?”

Jason put his hand on her arm. “Thalia, take a breath.”

“No. Not when I’m just an incident.”

“That’s just the queen of the cows opinion,” Annabeth told her. “Not any one else’s.”

“Queen of cows literally and figuratively,” Piper said to Leo who snickered.

Percy guessed Hera meant when Thalia was born. Hera turned to him coldly saying his name and stating he was one of Poseidon’s children. Though she paused for a while before saying children making it seem she didn’t think Percy was legitimate. She said she had voted for him to live last winter. She hoped it was the correct vote.

“I get why she hates Zeus’s kids. He cheated on her. Though it’s not the kids fault. But why does she hate you? You haven’t done anything,” Jaz asked Percy.

“She’s the goddess of marriage. She hate’s any kids born out of wedlock and with cheating,” Will answered for him. “Which includes most demigods.”

“Even though it’s not our faults for beign born. As we’ve had to tell the gods over and over again,” Percy grumbled.

Hera told Annabeth she wasn’t mad at her. She understood how hard this quest would be. Especially when there were trouble makers like Janus there. Annabeth asked why Janus was there driving him crazy. Hera corrected he was trying to. They had to understand Janus and the minor gods had always been frustrated by their small roles and didn’t love Olympus because of it. They could be easily swayed to support her father. Percy asked who her father was before blowing it off because he’d remembered.

“Let me guess,” Carter said. “She’s one of the eldest gods. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades’ sister?”

“Demeter and Hestia as well,” Annabeth nodded. “I saw the relationship between that and your stories about Isis, Horus, Osiris, Set and Nephthys when I did some research too.”

“You two can geek out over your research again later,” Percy said. “Let’s just finish this. I want dinner. And to finish for the night.”

“Yeah,” Thalia agreed. “The sooner I can no longer see the Queen B****’s face and stuff my own with a burger the happier I’ll be.”

“One question, what does a minor god mean? They’re all gods,” Jaz asked.

“The twelve Olympians are the main gods. Them and Hades. Then there are the smaller gods in charge of their own domains, ones people haven’t heard of as much. Like in Egypt you’d have your own village gods as well as all the other ones. They aren’t as powerful,” Annabeth explained.

Hera continued they had to watch the minor gods like Janus, Hecate and Morpheus. She explained they serviced Olympus and was about to add something else but Percy interrupted saying that’s where Mr. D had gone. To check on the minor gods. Hera agreed saying the gods could even lose faith in times of trouble putting their trust in the wrong things starting to be selfish instead of looking at the big picture. But as the goddess of marriage she was used to perseverance and rising above squabbling and chaos to keep believing. They had to keep their goals in mind.

“Wait, did she just say that the gods aren’t selfish? Or they start to be?” Nico seemed amused though it was hard to tell when his face was showing no expression. “I mean they always were. And as for rising above the squabbling and chaos, this is Hera talking, right?”

“She’s a jerk and hypocrite,” Alex said. “We get it.”

“No. You really don’t,” Thalia muttered darkly looking between Jason and Percy. Annabeth caught her gaze and growled in agreement with clenched fists as Percy and Jason exchanged looks.

Annabeth asked what her goals were suspiciously but Hera just smiled saying it was to keep the Olympian family together. She said the best way to do that was by helping their quest though Zeus didn’t allow her to interfere often but once every century or so she can grant a wish for a quest she really cares about.

“Zeus barely lets here?”

“Once every century or so?”

“A quest she deeply cares about?”

“A wish?”

All of the seven and several others from the Greeks and Romans started to shout. Percy looked at Annabeth both of them in agreement. “She didn’t have permission from Zeus for any of that. And the whole wish thing? Not true. She definitely cared more about the other quest than this one. After all she’d planned the other one years in advance.”

“So same as always,” Leo said when Annabeth finished. “Don’t trust anything crazy Tia says.”

“Aunt?” A very confused Alex asked Leo.

“Yeah. Not explaining that now. You shall see that at another time.”

Annabeth repeated that last part confused. Hera said before she chose she wished she’d give her her advice which was free. She knew they were looking for Daedalus but his labyrinth was a mystery to the gods as well. But Hephaestus could tell them something if they visited him at his forge. Hephaestus admired Dedalus and kept up with him and maybe able to say what happened to him.

Annabeth frowned. Hephaestus hadn’t been able to say what Daedalus’s fate was. But somehow Percy’s dreams were telling him things about Daedalus that none of the gods had known. She kept silence but Percy had seen the look on her face and he was thinking too, but he wasn’t a child of Athena and he’d take a while to figure it out.

Annabeth asked how they got there and suddenly made her decision. That was her wish, a way to navigate the Labyrinth. Hera’s face fell. She said Annabeth wished for something she already had. Annabeth said she didn’t understand. Hera responded it was already in their grasp. Percy had the answer.

“But as always even when you have the answer it takes you a long time to figure it out,” Grover commented.

“Cause he’s an idiotic punk,” Clarisse rolled her eyes. “One who can’t see a foot in front of him.”

“Why does Percy always have the answer though?” Piper asked. “He has those dreams. Right? He got hints about everything. Somehow. But those aren’t from the gods, right? The gods didn’t know the things in his dreams. How can the gods not know when the gods are in charge of dreams?”

Every turned to Percy. Percy shrugged. “Why not ask the actual god in the room?”

“No clue,” Apollo said. “Even though prophecy is my domain, seeing the past is something different than seeing the future. I have no clue why Percy’s dreams behave the way they do.”

Annabeth’s eyes scanned the room leaving Apollo’s face and leaving her wondering until Carter’s minute reaction caught hers. He saw her staring and mouthed something to her. “You. Percy. Our task force. After.”

Percy asked that he did confused. Annabeth complained that wasn’t fair, Hera wasn’t telling her what it was. Hera said getting something and having the wits to use it were to very different things which Athena would agree upon.

“Yeah, but Annabeth has the wits,” Magnus scoffed. “I mean she’s definitely smarter than most the people in this room.”

“She has the wits, but Percy doesn’t,” Nico teased.

Percy rolled his eyes. Annabeth’s cousin and his own would never stop teasing him.

The room rumbled with thunder and Hera stood saying that was her cue. Zeus was impatient but Annabeth should think about what she had said about finding Hepahestus, though they’d have to go through the ranch. They’d have to keep going with everything they had to use, even if they seemed common.

“What ranch?” Piper asked thinking of her Grandpa Tom’s.

“Not one any of us will be visiting again,” Grover bleated. “Cattle guards!”

“I don’t know. If it’s still under new management it could be fun to check up on,” Percy commented.

“We’ll see Seaweed brain.”

Hera pointed to the two doors which disappeared showing the two halls behind them. She told Annabeth one last thing. Her choice had only been postponed, not prevented. Like Janus said she’d have to make a decision. Then Hera waved a hand and became white smoke along with the food including the sandwich Tyson was taking a bite out of. The fountain stopped and everything dimmed again.

“What’s this choice everyone keeps mentioning?” Sadie asked knowing more about impossible choices though she hadn’t had to make one in the end.

“The best choice I’ve ever made,” Annabeth answered. Percy grabbed her hand giving it a small squeeze. He’d made the best choice too, to trust her and stay with her.

Annabeth stomped her foot angrily asking what kind of help that was. She mimicked Hera saying have a sandwich, make a wish, oh no I can’t help you. Then poof. Tyson repeated poof in a sad voice looking at the empty plate.

“And here starts my life long hate for the worst goddess ever,” Annabeth murmured.

“Cheers to that,” Thalia grumbled.

Grover sighed saying at least she said Percy knew the answer. They had something. They all looked at Percy who said he didn’t know what she was talking about. Annabeth sighed saying they’d just have to keep going.. Percy asked which way and looked at Annabeth curiously.

Percy tensed and Annabeth’s eyebrows wrinkles as she felt his hand tense in hers.

Tyson and Grover both stopped and exchanged glances both standing up and going to one of the corridors saying left. Annabeth asked how they were sure. Grover said there was something big coming from the right. Tyson agreed it was big and coming fast. Percy decided left sounded pretty good and all four ran down the corridor.

The scene collapsed and Percy got up. “Now who’s up for dinner?”

“Dinner that doesn’t go poof,” Tyson agreed.

Everyone laughed going out to the dining room. Annabeth pulled Percy back before he could follow and Carter and Sadie came up beside them. Percy’s eyebrows wrinkled. “What’s up?”

“Carter won’t let me eat.”

“Annabeth won’t let me eat either. They have a theory I bet, or you had a question and Carter theorized. That’s why you were so upset.”

“Shut up seaweed brain! Let’s hear it,” Annabeth said turning to Carter.

Chapter Text

 

Carter looked at the expression on Annabeth’s face and knew he must have a similar looking expression on his face. They both had questions, and it was possible he had part of an answer. Percy, like often recently, had a blank face, nothing was readable, it was as changeable and mysterious as the sea. Unlike Sadie’s very clear annoyed and impatient expression. “I told you guys about the Egyptian soul?”

“A little. Sadie explained the secret name, and we learnt a little otherwise. There was the Ba?” Annabeth asked.

“Right. There are five parts of the soul, not all are important right now. But there’s the Ka the life force, the ba the personality, the ib the heart which is weighed for your deeds upon death, the ren your secret name or real identity, the sum of who and what you are and your life’s experiences and last the Sheut the shadow, which is the mark, the imprint you leave on the world. It’s your existence or meaning.”

“Right, and we’ve learnt this is all important but what does it have to do with not eating?” Sadie snapped at him.

“My theory is even if your not Egyptian that your soul is made of these five parts, which makes sense. But I think the actual essence of Egyptian magic and power is a little more present in Percy.”

“What are you talking about? Definiteley not Egyptian,” Percy said eyes widening as Sadie looked at him eyebrows raised.

“No. My brothers onto something. We theorized you were taking Ba trips before, but Ba trips can also take you to the past. Though that had to do with the gods when I dreamt it,” Sadie muttered.

“So we all take ba trips,” Annabeth looked at Carter and Sadie for confirmation, “when we dream about our enemies or what’s happening.”

“Luckily for you not in chicken form,” Sadie murmured.

“What? Like Carter’s chicken warrior?” Percy asked her.

“Not important now. Yes, you all take Ba trips but not to the past which usually happens with some interference from the gods or something else,” Carter explained.

“The fates,” Percy offered. “This is all just a theory right?”

“Mostly. Though I’m pretty sure about the fact you are taking ba trips,” Carter assured him.

“Great, my soul is leaving my body when I sleep.”

“A fifth of it,” Annabeth told him. “And it’s part of demigod dreams. I guess those are just these ba trips.”

“It doesn’t solve everything. But theory’s are starts to answers,” Carter replied.

“I just need to eat. Whatever part of my soul is hungry wants to be fed,” Percy told them.

Annabeth rolled her eyes. “Fine. Let’s go eat Seaweed Brain.”

 

The four of them arrived as everyone else was finishing up. They grabbed some food piled it on plates, Percy and Annabeth made the necessary sacrifices to the gods as well, then headed back into the main room with everyone else.

They ran down the left tunnel for a hundred yards, straight with no twists turns or exits. It was a dead end. There was a huge boulder in the way. Steps echoed behind them, then heavy breathing. Percy asked Tyson if he could do something. Tyson yelled yes as he slammed his shoulder against the rock and everything shook with dust falling. Grover yelled for him to hurry but not bring the roof down. The boulder grinded and moved as they ran behind it. Annabeth yelled for them to close the entrance and everyone pushed. A wail of frustration came through the other side of the border. Percy breathed in relief as they said they trapped it. Grover said they could have trapped yourselves. They were in a twenty-foot square room and blocked with bars on the opposite walls.

“So you escape death to be put right into a cell?” Leo asked.

“Pretty much.”

“Sounds about right,” Leo murmured.

Annabeth tugged on the bars asking what in hades, they were in three stories of metal doors and catwalks. Percy commented it was a prison. He suggested Tyson could break the bars. Grover shushed him and told him to listen. There was some sobbing and a raspy voice muttering in a strange language. Percy looked at his friends asking what language it was. Tyson’s eyes widened in fright as he said it couldn’t be. Percy looked at him concerned asking what? Tyson bent two cell bars apart and slip through. Grover yelled for him to wait.

“What’s down there that has you so upset?” Blitz asked Tyson.

“Something bad. Scary,” Tyson said and gripped Ella’s claw.

“But Tyson is a brave Cyclops,” Ella informed everyone.

Tyson looked down. His big eye blinked sadly only Percy, Annabeth and Grover caught it as everyone else was engrossed by what was happening in front of them.

Annabeth said she knew where they were. In Alcatraz. Percy asked if she meant the island near San Francisco. She nodded saying she’d taken a field trip here with school, it was similar to a museum.

“How is it you kept ending up in Roman territory and none of us realized?” Jason turned to all of the Greeks there. They all turned to Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Thalia. There were a few seconds of confused silence.

“I guess you were to busy preparing for war with the Titans,” Percy suggested eventually.

“We were watching Mount Tam. We were aware of it’s existence and I believe I heard of everything happening at Alcatraz,” Reyna said. “Yet I did not hear of what happened with either of your incidents in those places.”

“But we did realize Alcatraz was abandoned and something had happened with Atlas.” Jason looked to Reyna and then Frank and Hazel. “None of you heard about this? There were some conspiracy theories on all of it for a while.”

“See? So you did hear about us,” Percy smirked. “I was offended for a second there bro.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Jason said with wide eyes looking at Percy pleadingly. Percy opened his mouth but was interrupted.

Thalia rolled her eyes. “Lets move on before my brother and cousin continued with their disgusting bromance.”

Grover looked at them and said to freeze. But Tyson kept going until Grover grabbed him back and told him to stop asking if he could see it. Percy and Annabeth turned to where Grover was pointing on the second floor balcoy across the courtyard. It was a monster, a woman’s body from the waist up with hair made of snakes. Her bottom half was a scaly dragon’s bottom with claws and a barbed tail. The legs sprouted snakes looking to bite much like her hair. And around her waist where the woman and dragon merged the skin bubbled every few second a new animal head snarling and growling.

Apollo shivered. “That’s bad. Extremely bad.”

“Why? What is that? Who is she?” Magnus asked looking to Annabeth and Percy.

“Nothing good. Looks even worse than facing a Jotun,” Blitz murmured.

“It’s something ancient. Before the time of men,” Walt guessed. “It’s shape. It’s not formed. It’s too ancient. Something from chaos.”

“That’s a lot of monsters. None of them are good.” Calypso’ voice quavered as she spoke.

“Just watch,” Annabeth said finally after allowing a few moments of their contemplation.

Tyson’s lip trembled as he whispered it was her. Grover yelped for them to get down. All four of them crouched down but the monster passed and hissed up on the second floor where the sobbing was. Percy asked what she was saying and what the language was. Tyson replied it was the tongue of the old times what Mother Earth spoke to her childrens, the titans and the others, all before the gods.

All the Greeks and Romans shivered or paled in some way at the mention of Gaea. And the implications of the language and who spoke it.

Percy asked if he could understand it and translate. Tyson closed his eyes and spoke in a raspy woman’s voice. It said you will work for the master or suffer.

Several more people shuddered.

Annabeth said she hated when he did that. Tyson spoke in a deeper male voice who said he wouldn’t serve. His voice switched back to the raspy womans who said she would then enjoy Briares pain. Tyson’s voice broke on the name with a strangled gasp. Then he continued in the same voice saying that if Briares thought his first imprisonment was torture he was yet to fell true torment from anything. She told him to think about it until he returned. Upstairs the monster stomped away and spread her wings soaring across the courtyards.

“Whose Briares?” asked Sadie. “I mean if he’s that monsters prisoner he can’t be in for anything good.”

“The name sounds familiar,” Jason said suddenly looking at Percy. “I think you said something about it. Or you talked about it with someone.”

“I did,” Percy agreed.

“Briares is—“ Tyson started but nothing else came out. He looked to Percy and Ella questioningly. “Why can’t I talk?”

“It’s the fates bro,” Percy reminded him.

“We can’t talk about what we will be watching in the future.”

“At least they won’t have to wait for more than a few seconds,” Percy soothed after Tyson became upset at Ella’s explanation.

Grover trembled saying it was horrible. He’d never smelled a monster that strong. Tyson murmured it was a Cyclopses’ worst nightmare, Kampe.

“I’ve heard of her,” Piper murmured. “At camp.”

“She’s part of a widely telled story now,” Annabeth agreed. “So you might have.”

Percy asked who. Tyson answered every Cyclops knew about her. They were told scary stories as children. She was their jailer during the bad years. Annabeth nodded saying she now remembered how when the Titans ruled they imprisoned Gaea and Ouranos’s other children. THe cyclpes and the Hekatonkheires.

“At least they don’t seem as evil as her other kids,” Frank said thankfully. THe rest of the seven and roman and greeks murmured their agreement.

“What are the Heka.. the what ever it is you were just saying?” Jaz asked. In response Annabeth pointed to the scene playing in front of them.

Percy tried repeating the word questioningly. Annabeth translated it as the Hundred-Handed ones. They were called that because they had a hundred hands and were the elder brothers of the Cyclops.

“A hundred hands?” Zia raised an eyebrow skeptically. “I have seen many demons and monsters, but a hundred hands on one? Is this possible?”

“Yeah. Quite literally a hundred hands,” Chris answered her.

Zia still looked skeptical. Percy turned to her. “Look, this quest might have been the one where I’d seen the strangest monsters. Ones with strange bodies, extra limbs and parts and a lot of other things. It doesn’t really seem believable until you see it, no matter how many strange things you’ve seen before.”

Zia fell silent and looked ahead as the scene picked up again.

Tyson started to talk animatedly about how powerful the hundred-handed ones were. He said they were wonderful. As tall as the sky and so strong they could break mountains. Percy grinned at his brother’s excitement saying cool unless you were a mountain.

Eyerolls and snorts and other amused and exasperated expressions surrounded the room.

Tyson explained that Kampe was a jailer who worked for KRonos. She lockedup the Cyclops and Hundred-handed ones in Tartarus where she tortured them until Zeus came. He killed Kampe and freed them to help fight the titans. Percy finished the story by saying Kampe was back. Tyson summed up it was bad.

“Slight understatement,” Nico said. “That monster was one of the worst I’ve ever been around.”

Will looked down thinking about how many Kampe had killed, with her forces like his own brother at the battle of the Labyrinth.

Percy asked who was in the cell then. Tyson had said a name. Tyson smiled saying it was Briares, the hundred handed one who was as tall as the sky. Percy nodded finishing by saying they could break mountains. He looked skeptical though looking up at where the sobbing was coming from in the cell.

“How does someone as tall as the sky and who can break mountains stay stuck in a tiny cell like that?” Sam asked.

“Because he’s scared,” Percy answered. “But I was thinking the same thing then.”

Annabeth said she guessed they could check it out before Kampe came back. They climbed up to the second story and the cell. Inside as the weeping got louder they could see the creature inside, a milky pale human sized thing with feet too big and dirty toenails, eight toes on each foot. He was covered with a loincloth and his bare chest had different arms in all directions tangled together like spaghetti. Several of the hands were coving his face.

“He really does have a hundred hands,” Carter gaped.

“Surprisingly it’s not all that disturbing,” Piper agreed. Her boyfriend’s lips were tight as he thought. Jason looked at Percy.

“I remember where I heard of him now. I guess though we don’t think he’s that disturbing she really did. I mean…”

“Yeah,” Percy agreed. He frowned. “Why did I meet so many people with multiple body parts on this quest?”

“It’s weird,” Annabeth agreed. “We did.”

“Like three at least,” Grover nodded.

“I only count two,” Thalia pointed out.

“It’s at least three,” Nico argued. Everyone looked at him questioningly and he glared them all down.

Percy turned to his friends and murmured the sky wasn’t as tall as it used to be or it was short. Annabeth glared at him and Tyson fell to his knees apparently not hearing.

Hearth signed what was apparently a disapproving sentence as Alex laughed and gave Percy a thumbs up. Magnus just sighed and glared down at the pendant at his neck.

Tyson cried out Briares name. The sobbing stopped and briares looked up with a long sad face with a crooked nose and bad teeth. His eyes were completely brown. He looked at Tyson miserably saying to run while he could. He couldn’t even help himself. Tyson insisted he was a hundred-handed one. He could do anything. With five or six hand Tyson wiped his nose as several others played with spare parts building and dissaembling toys as others played rock papers scissors, made shadow puppets or scratched at the ground.

“Is he even controlling his arms?” Frank asked.

“I don’t think so. I think he was too sad, unfocused and terrified,” Annabeth suggested.

Grover nodded miserably. “I could feel it. He was absolutely terrified. To scared to think about anything. Even getting out. He was fading.”

“We got there just in time then,” Percy murmured. “Tyson did.”

Tyson was the only one to hear him beside Annabeth who was still leaning against his chest. Tyson brightened considerably with the thought he had helped save his hero.

He moaned he couldn’t and that Kampe was back with the titans who would rise and throw them all into Tartarus.

Percy, Annabeth and Nico all shivered.

Tyson encouraged him to put on his brave face. His face morphed with the same brown eyes but now an upturned nose, a weird smile like he was trying to act brave contrasting with his arched eyebrows. Then it returned to the way that it was before. He said it was no good. His scared face just kept coming back.

“He has different faces too? I mean I wasn’t paying much attention when—” Will was cut off. “I guess that would be a spoiler.”

Percy asked how he did that. Annabeth elbowed him telling him not to be rude. Hundred-Handed ones had fifty different faces. Percy commented that had to make it hard to have a yearbook picture.

There were more laughs, smirks, snorts and eyerolls.

Tyson was still optimistically looking between his friends and Briares saying it would be okay. They’d help Briares. Then he asked for his autograph.

Every laughed then. Chris smiled at Tyson. “Maybe wait for that until after you help him.”

“It is a sudden topic change,” nodded Hazel.

Briares asked if he had a hundred pens sniffling.

More laughs. Quieter and less amused now.

Grover interrupted saying they needed to get out before Kampe got back. She would sense them sooner or later. Annabeth said to break the bars. Tyson cheered saying Briares could do it. He was strong. Stronger than a Cyclopes. Watch. Briares whimpered and hands started to play patty cake and none of them did anything.

“He might be strong enough, or his hands are. But I don’t think he is right now,” Jaz said sadly. “He’s being imprisoned by the monster that tortutred him for years. He’s paralyzed with his fear.”

Percy asked if he was so strong why didn’t he break out of jail.

A bunch of people looked at him. Percy put up his hands in defense. “I know. I know. I was rude, okay? But ADHD. I can’t stop what I’m thinking sometimes.”

Most of the demigods suddenly looked sympathetic.

Annabeth elbowed him again. She explained Briares was terrified. He’d been impriosend by Kampe in Tartarus for years. How would Percy feel? The hundred- handed one covered his face again. Tyson asked him what was wrong. He pleaded for him to show him their great strength. Annabeth turned to Tyson sadly saying slowly and gently she thought he should break the bars. Tyson’s smile melted. He repeated that he would break the bars and tore the door of it’s hinges.

Tyson was sniffling a little again. Ella held his claw and squawked and Percy moved closer to his brother. “You okay Tyson?”

“Briares was not strong.”

“But you made him strong. Remember? What is he like now? In the forges?” Percy said gently urging Tyson to think this wasn’t the present playing out in front of them.

“Briares is my friend. He is funny and he plays with the Cyclops and teaches us. He is strong and can use all his hands to build and forge.”

“Right,” Percy agreed. “He’s not scared anymore. You know why?”

Tyson looked up, his big eye was less sad but still a little teary and red.

“Because you believed in him.”

Tyson brightened and looked forward. Percy grinned slinging an arm around Tyson (not an easy task). The scene started again.

Annabeth coaxed Briares to come out telling him to come on so they could get him out of there. She held out her hand and Briares’s face shifted to hopeful for a second as several arms reached out. Double the amount slapped them away. He said he could not. Kampe would punish him.

“His fear is still controlling him,” Piper said sadly. “You might need to go or Kampe will return.”

“She’s right. He won’t be leaving easily,” Jaz nodded.

“Oh, I don’t know. It was actually pretty easy,” Percy smirked.

Grover bleated with laughter as Annabeth rolled her eyes in amused exasperation. Tyson clapped happily till Percy stopped him holding a finger to his mouth. Tyson’s eye widened and he nodded putting his hands down.

Annabeth promised it was all right. Briares had fought the titans before and won. Briares face morphed into a furrowed brow and pouting mouth as he said he remembered the war. The lightning shook the earth and they threw many rocks. The titans and monsters almost won. Now they were getting strong again. Kampe told him. Percy urged him not to listen to her and come. But he didn’t move.

“Go. Now,” Reyna said sadly. “Grover was right. Kampe will return soon.”

“Just wait a little. I couldn’t give up on him. Not when it meant so much to Tyson.”

“You couldn’t have given up on him no matter what,” Annabeth said. “That’s just you Percy.”

Percy shrugged. “Whatever.”

“How did you even succeed in getting him to leave?” Juniper asked. “He doesn’t seem like he’ll move.”

“Oh this was hilarious,” Grover whispered to her as Percy pointed to the scene starting up again.

Percy blurted out that they’d play one game of rock paper scissors. If he won Briares would leave with them. If he lost they’d leave him in jail.

Everyone turned to stare at Percy with the same expressions. Something like are you stupid or how insane are you? Several people started yelling saying the same exact things. He just sat looking at them and shrugged. “Hey, we needed a plan.”

“But he has a hundred hands,” Hazel told him.

“He does.”

Everyone just stared at Percy. Annabeth rolled her eyes again holding back more laughter. Thalia saw her. “Maybe we should just watch.”

Annabeth looked at him like he was crazy. Briares face morphed to doubtful as he said he always won rock paper scissors. Percy said lets do it. He pounded his hand into his fist three time and Briares did the same with all a hundred hands which sounded like stomping feet. His hands morphed into dozens of rocks, scissors and mostly paper. He said sadly that he’d told percy he always.. he stopped his face becoming confused asking what Percy had made. Percy was holding out one finger with a thumb out pointed forward. He stayed serious as he said it was a gun. A gun that beat anything.

“That worked? Something that stupid and harebrained worked?” Clarisse said. “I mean, if it did that monster is even stupider than you.”

“It’s a good trick,” Sadie grinned. She looked at Percy and Carter held back a groan. “I approve.”

“It was awesome.” Leo made two finger guns and clicked his tongue at Percy.

“First. Never do that again. Second, thanks. My stepfather showed it to me,” Percy grinned back. “And yeah, it was stupid and risky but sometimes that’s the best type of plan, especially when nothing else works.”

“Which happens a lot around you,” Nico pointed out. Percy huffed as everyone laughed and leaned back again waiting for the scene to finish.

Briares said that wasn’t fair.

“You had a hundred hands, how else was he supposed to win?” Carter asked.

“That’s true. It’s life. Nothings fair. You need to learn to navigate it and get through it with what you have, a hundred hands or a finger gun. But I don’t think Briares is really cheating. Not like me.”

Percy said he didn’t say anything about it being fair. Kampe wasn’t going to be fair if they stayed. Briares was going to be blamed for them ripping off the bars. Percy finished by telling him to come on. Briares sniffled saying demigods are cheaters but got up and followed them out.

“Hey!”

“We’re not cheaters!”

“At least it works.”

Percy exchanged a laughing glance with Annabeth at some of the younger and newer demigods protests. She, himself, Chris, Clarisse, Grover, Juniper, Hearth, Blitz and Rachel had to be the oldest there. At least physically. Calypso, Thalia, Apollo, Nico and Hazel were older too. Though most of them were still children in the mental aspect, (especially the god.)

They started to run to take off but Tyson froze. On the ground floor below Kampe was snarling at them.

“I guess Grover was right,” Rachel said. “You took to long.”

“Grover’s always right,” Juniper insisted. “He’s smart. He’s not the one that leads them into monster traps.”

Grover blushed stammering but didn’t say anything. She was mostly right after all.

“Either way. This isn’t good,” Samira said frowning at the monster snarling in front of them in the scene.

Chapter Text

 

Everyone was frozen as they looked at the snarling green monster, more ancient and more terrifying than anything they could have imagined. Percy took a deep breath and waited.

Percy said to go the other way and they bolted down the catwalk. Briares followed them waving all of his arms. Behind them Kampe spread giant wings and took to the air. She hissed and growled in the ancient language. They ran down some stairs and through a hall into another block of prison cells. Annabeth said to go left. She remembered this from the tour. They burst outside into the prison yard where tourists were taking pictures. San Francisco gleamed with the golden gate bridge but stormy black clouds towered over it near Mt. Tam. Annabeth said it was even worse. The storms had been bad all year but that was.

“You are stopping to look and talk about it?” Zia asked incredulously.

“She’s right. The giant monster is chasing all of you through Alcatraz and you stop to look at the view,” Blitz shook his head. “Not smart.”

“We know.”

Briares interrupted wailing for her to keep moving. Kampe was behind them. They ran to the other end of the courtyard. Percy hopefully said she was too big to get through the doors. Then the wall exploded.

Despite the situation everyone had to laugh. It was a classic situation of Percy jinxing them. Saying one thing and another happening. His luck was such a strange thing. Percy blushed.

Toursists screamed running around as Kampe emerged with spread wings hitting both walls. Her two swords were bent and glowing with green vapor. Grover yelped it was poison and not to let it touch them. Percy guessed it was because they’d die. Grover said yes, after they shriveled to dust. Percy said they should avoid the swords then. Tyson urged Briares to fight and grow to full size. He tried to grow smaller. Kampe thundered forward on her dragon legs. Annabeth said to run.

“That’s what you should have been doing this whole time instead of just standing and watching!” Clarisse yelled. “All of you are idiots. None of you should have survived even minutes on a quest.”

“Actually most of that was true.” Percy had opened his mouth to say something back but had paused thinking before he answered. “Except that last part.”

“No really. I’ve had to save your butts before. Remember that Hydra?”

“One time Clarisse,” Annabeth sighed.

“There’s more,” Clarisse said. “Like—”

“What my girlfriend is trying to say is you’ve helped her and she’s helped you. But maybe this time you should have just ran,” Chris said interrupting Clarisse who glowered for a little longer.

They ran out the gates of the prison and Kampe came behind them as sirens blared and mortals fleed. They hit the wharf as a tour boat arrived and the new group of visitors froze as they saw the mob running toward them. Grover asked if they should take the boat. Tyson said it was too slow. Back into the maze was their only chance. Annabeth said they needed a diversion. Tyson said he’d distract Kampe while they ran ahead. Percy said he’d help. Tyson said no, Percy should go. THe poison would hurt a Cyclopes and cause pain but not kill. Percy asked if he was sure. Tyson told him to go. He’d meet him inside.

“It’s like Scylla and Charbydis all over again,” Will muttered.

“Tyson is a hero though. Sacrificing himself to save us both times,” Percy said. “No matter how much I hate it.”

Tyson frowned. “I am okay. I did not die in the explosion or from Kampe. Percy is okay too. So it is fine.”

“Yeah big guy, it is.”

Percy, Annabeth and Grover all took one of Briares’s hands and drageed him away as Tyson yelled ripping a metal lamppost from the ground and charging Kampe. She glared at Briares and Tyson got her attention as he hit her in the chest with the pole into the wall. She shrieked and slashed as the poison dripped from her sword onto the cement. Tyson jumped back as Kampe’s hair snakes lashed and hissed as the snakes on her ligs did too. A lion roared form her waist. Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Tyson ran for the cellblocks as Tyson picked up a dippin dots stand and threw it into her. Briares huffed he couldn’t make it. Percy yelled Tyson was risking his life for their escape. Briares would make it. THe reached the door to the cellblock as there was an angry roar. Tyson was running towards them. Kampe was behind him covered in ice cream and t-shirts. A bear head on her waist wore sunglasses.

There were a few snickers and laughs. Leo and some others cheered Tyson’s name and high fived him.

Annabeth urged them to hurry. They found the cell where they came in but the was no sign of the entrance. Annabeth yelled for them to look for the mark. Grover yelled there and touched the tiny delta scratch on the wall and the door opened. Tyson was coming through with kampe’s swords slicing behind him. Percy pushed his friends in front of him yelling to Tyson that he could do it but he was frowning. Percy slapped his watch and it became a shield. He threw it into Kampe’s face. It hit her and for enough time she stopped for Tyson then Percy to dive into the maze. Behind them Kampe charged again but the door closed. Behind the wall Kampe pounded and it shook as they ran again.

“I still feel really bad about losing that shield,” Percy commented.

“I will make you a new one. You used it to save me. Don’t be sad,” Tyson told him.

“You saved us first. You did awesome,” Percy grinned.

“It was amazing.”

“Tyson is brave. Tyson fought Kampe. Tyson is the best Cyclops,” Ella declared. Tyson blushed profusely.

They kept going and stopped in a room of water falls a huge pit with a stone walkway with pipes with water tumbling out. Percy shined a light down the pit but there was no bottom. Briares slumped against the wall and scooped up water with lots of his hands and washed his face. He said the pit went straight to Tartarus. He should jump in and save them the trouble.

Percy growled. Annabeth and Nico paled dramatically. Percy’s face was angry, somehow terrified and upset but scarier than most things. “Never say that. Don’t go into the pit. Or jump in.”

“He didn’t Percy,” Grover reminded him. “No one jumped in on purpose. They’re all here.”

Percy calmed down a little but his eyes were still storming.

Annabeth told him not to talk that way. He could come back to camp with them and help them prepare. He knew more about fighting Titans than anybody. Briares said he had nothing to offer. He’d lost everything. Tyson asked what about his brothers. They must stand tall as mountains. They could take Braires to them. Briares face became even sadder. He said they were no more. They had faded.

“Faded?” Magnus asked. “Monsters are immortal right? What’s that mean?”

“They’re forgotten. They lose the will to live,” Sadie answered. “I’ve met gods like that.”

“We’ve helped gods like that,” Carter corrected. “Zia did.”

“Not me. At least not really,” Zia shook her head. “Just the god I was hosting.”

Magnus coughed. “Sorry. Not answering my question.”

“Some gods people forget. No one remembers or believes in them anymore. They lose the will to go on and fade. In the duat, the Egyptian underworld, or more like the mystical dimension or something parallel to the earth, there’s a resting home for them. Sunny Acres.”

“Our friends Tawaret and Bes run it,” Sadie agreed. “It used to be really sad and a lot of the gods had disappeared completely. Not just acted old or lost their memories and minds. But they were rejuvenated during our final battle with Apophis. A lot of them came back and even got better. Some went back to their jobs and left the home completely.”

“I’ve seen people who were supposedly faded return. But most the time I haven’t,” Percy said sadly.

Apollo nodded. “It happens to often. I took Helios’s place as the sun god because people started to forget him and give me his duties. There were a lot of others. Smaller, minor ones. Even some of the larger gods who were no longer important.”

Grover said that even immortality had limits. Monsters get forgotten and lose their will to stay immortal. His face became sad.

He looked down and Juniper gripped his hand wiping away her own green tears. Nico, Rachel, Tyson, Percy and Annabeth all wore the same upset expression looking down.

Briares said he had to go. Tyson pleaded him to help. Kronos army would invade camp. Briares hung his head saying he couldn’t. Tyson argued he was strong. Briares said not anymore as he got up. Percy grabbed one of his hands saying hey and pulling him aside to where no one could hear them. He told Briares they needed him. Tyson believed in him and he risked his life for him. There was a slight skip.

“What did it skip?” asked Frank.

“My explanation about the labyrinth and the quest and everything that had been happening.”

Briares said he couldn’t. He didn’t have a finger gun to win this game. He made all his fingers into finger guns. Percy said maybe that’s why monsters faded. Not because mortals stopped believing. But because they gave up on themselves.

Everyone looked down. Percy’s face was set in a stubborn look with fire in his eyes. They all realized he was right about this. Maybe it was different than with the Egyptian gods but with the Greek and Roman ones it didn’t depend on mortals.

Briares looked shameful and trudged off and disappeared into the shadows leaving Tyson to sob. Grover patted his shoulder nervously shaking himself and saying it was okay.

“That was really brave goat boy,” Thalia told him.

Grover bleated angrily at her. She ignored him.

Tyson sneezed form his allergies saying it wasn’t okay. That was his hero. There were a few seconds of silence. Annabeth got up and said to come on. This pit was making her nervous. They needed a better place to camp for the night.

Percy and Annabeth shivered again. The tension released from Nico and he finally looked up as they moved away from the pit, yet only a few people noticed. Grover looked at all three of them concerned but didn’t make a move. Percy and Annabeth had each other and Will had clearly realized his boyfriend needed help.

They entered a corridor with bronze torch holders made of metal. Annabeth declared they had to be close to Daedalus’s workshop and ordered everyone to get some sleep so they could keep going in the morning. Grover asked how they knew it was morning. She told him to just rest. Grover immediately pulled out some straw ate some then used the rest as a pillow going to sleep.

He blushed a bit as everyone laughed relieving tension in the room. Juniper looked at him fondly he picked up what must have been a silly goat and some other muttering from her.

Tyson tinkered with some metal but kept taking it apart. Percy told him he was sorry he lost the shield after Tyson worked so hard to repair it. Tyson looked up it was clear he had been crying. He told Percy not to worry. He saved him. He wouldn’t have had to though if Briares helped. Percy looked doubtful on both statements (that Tyson had needed him to save him and about Briares). He told Tyson Briares was just scared and he would get over it. Tyson shook his head saying he wasn’t strong or important anymore. He sighed and closed his eye with everything falling out of his hand and he fell asleep snoring.

“How do you and Grover do that?” Chris demanded of him. “I couldn’t fall asleep in that maze, and it’s hard enough on any quest.”

“Grover’s never had much of an issue with that,” Percy answered for the satyr before turning to him. “Which might have made it easier for that thing that happened to you for a few months the next year to happen.”

“Nah,” Nico interrupted, “That was just the magic.”

“Look who’s talking,” Percy scoffed. “What’s that line you used to use?”

“Don’t.” Nico spoke warningly though he didn’t seem to embarrassed. “It’s probably some type of spoiler.”

“Either way you’re a perpetual napper too,” Percy pointed.

“So are you and Thalia,” Annabeth rolled her eyes. “Not to mention the snoring.”

“Yeah, but that’s the times I can get sleep. Then I’m in deep.”

“You should all just come to Brooklyn House and take Bast’s napping class,” Sadie interrupted.

“Napping class?” Apollo asked intrigued.

“Yeah. Bast was our chaperone, supervisor and needed to teach classes. Napping class had a waiting list. Her others weren’t as popular. Though knife fighting was up there grooming was pretty far down,” Carter said.

“She had to stop teaching for a bit,” Sadie said sadly. “But those in napping class use that time to catch up on their actual sleep now.”

“Weren’t they already?” Hazel asked.

Jaz shook her head. “It’s different.”

That just left everyone looking curious.

Percy turned away and tried to lie down on his bedroll. He sat for five minutes with his eyes closed before getting back up and dragging his bedroll to Annabeth’s side. She told him he should sleep. He said he couldn’t and asked how she was doing. She answered great sarcastically, first day leading the quest was awesome. Percy told her they’d get there and find the workshop before luke.

Annabeth turned to look at him and whispered angrily. “That didn’t go as we hoped.”

“It all worked out in the end,” Percy whispered back. Even though they hadn’t had what they thought was the actual goal of their quest fulfilled it worked out for the best in the long term.

Annabeth brushed her hair out of her face and said she just wished the quest was logical. They were traveling with no clue where’d they’d end up. She asked how they could walk from New York to California in a day.

“It’s not actually a day?” Nico suggested. Hazel, Frank, Will, Grover, Percy and Annabeth were the only ones to hear him.

“Possibly.”

Percy said space isn’t the same in the maze.

“That too,” Nico added.

She said she knew it was just that she’d been kidding herself with all the planning and reading. She had no clue where they were going. Percy told her they were doing great. Besides they never knew what they were doing. He asked if she remembered Circe’s island.

Everyone laughed as Percy blushed again thinking about the Guinea pig. He’d rather that had just been kept between him and Annabeth. Like the rest of this. Thalia looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “How’s that a good example?”

“What do you mean?”

“There were plenty of other times you got out of situations because your crazy plans just happened to work in your favor.”

Percy shrugged. “I was thinking about specific times.”

Annabeth smiled at him but it was Piper who spoke up. “He sure made a cute guinea pig.”

Percy stuck his tongue out at her.

Annabeth said he was a cute guinea pig.

“See?” Piper huffed at Percy. “Annabeth agrees.”

Percy continued saying and waterland how she got them thrown off the ride. Annabeth scoffed indignantly saying she got them thrown off. That was his fault. Percy just grinned at her saying see it would be fine.

Annabeth leaned on him whispering up into his ear her breath tickling it. “Thanks seaweed brain.”

He leaned down to kiss her forehead. “Just the truth.”

“Just another reason I love you.”

Annabeth smiled and Percy grinned back.

Percy grinned in real life too. “I’ll do anything to make you smile.”

“You don’t need to do much. I like when you smile too.”

Nearby none of the friends who heard them mentioned how they didn’t see Percy and Annabeth smile much. Not true sincere smiles like the ones they’d just seen on screen. Just intimidating glowers, someone who looked dangerous and someone to be wary off. But when Percy smiled somehow it all disappeared and he seemed like the least dangerous person you could know, just a jokester with a laugh and a little stupidity. It was strange how fast that could shift.

Annabeth’s grin disappeared into a frown and she asked Percy what Hera had been talking about with him knowing how to get through the maze. He replied he honestly didn’t know She asked if he’d tell her if he did.

“That was a stupid question,” she scolded herself.

Percy said sure then started to say maybe. .. Annabeth asked maybe what. He said maybe if she told him the last line of the prophecy it could help. She shivered saying not here, not in the dark. Percy kept pressing asking about the choice Janus mentioned saying that Hera had said. Annabeth snapped interrupting him and telling him to stop. Then she took a shaky breath apologizing and saying she was just stressed. But she had to think about it. Both of them sat in silence not saying anything.

“I was a jerk for pressing you like that.”

“I shouldn’t have been so scared to tell you. I just didn’t want to think about what it could mean,” Annabeth said. “I was scared making the choice would decide which love I lost that was worse then death.”

“You’re not losing me,”

There was a little bit longer of silence before Percy said that Nico was down there somewhere. That was how he’d disappeared from camp, using the labyrinth and finding a path further down to the underworld. He was back in the maze now coming after Percy.

“Most of that was right,” Nico said. “Except the last part.”

“So you’ve said,” Percy winced. “Sorry I keep saying it.”

“You kept,” Nico said.

Annabeth was quiet for a while then said she hoped Percy was wrong but if was right.. she drifted off in silence staring at her flashlight’s beam. Percy suggested he take the first watch. He’d wake her if something happened. She looked like she wanted to argue but she nodded and slumped on her bedroll falling asleep.

“Maybe if we weren’t dating anymore you’d actually sleep and let me sit on guard duty sometimes now,” she whispered to him.

“I do let you do it!”

Annabeth rolled her eyes at him but her interest was suddenly diverted as the next scene came up on the screen.

Chapter Text

Looking at the scene then Percy with a raised an eyebrow Carter silently surveyed the scene yet again. “I’m guessing you fell asleep.”

“Not on my shift. Only when I woke Annabeth up,” Percy said. Her glare was then returned again. He didn’t back down. Yes, he no longer woke her up on quests, not when he could manage with little sleep and she could get the rest she needed. Plus there were no more dreams if he didn’t sleep.

They were back in the labyrinth prison’s workshop. The boy from percy’s last dream now taller was stoking the forge. Outside it was daytime the top of the maze peeking out to the sky. The old man looked sick as he worked, his white hair hanging in his eyes as he bent over the table fitting a piece of bronze into place and then picking it up announcing it was done. It was a large pair of bronze metal wings. One still sat on the table as Daedalus stretched the frame of the wings in his hands to twenty feet. The boy ran over to him and grinned calling his father a genius. The old man smiled and told Icarus to tell him something he didn’t know. He told him to hurry. It would take an hour to attach them. He urged his son to come. Icarus told him to go first.

Annabeth looked at Percy. “Icarus falling.”

Percy nodded grimly.

All the Greeks and romans seemed to have recognized what was about to happen, as well as a few others. Icarus was the subject of many songs, paintings, poems and other things.

Daedalus protested but Icarus insisted that because he made them his father should have the honor of wearing them first. He helped his father into the harness and fastened it using a wax-hot glue gun device. Daedalus said nervously that the wax would hold for several hours, but only if they let it set first. They would have to avoid flying to high or too low. The sea would wet the wax seals. Icarus finished that the sun would loosen them then reminded his father they’d been over so many times.

Many people wince.

Daedalus said they couldn’t be too careful. Icarus exclaimed he had complete faith in his fathers inventions. No one had ever been as smart as Daedalus. Daedalus smiled at him and said he’d to his son’s wings as his set properly. Daedalus fumbled as he kept his own wings in position but he muttered he was too slow. Icarus told him to take his time. THe guards weren’t due yet. Then the workshop doors boomed and Daedalus tried to bar them as Icarus yelled for him to hurry.

“He jinxed them saying that. You never say something, it’ll just ruin your luck,” Percy advised.

“That’s some pretty good advice,” Sadie agreed. “Carter could use it.”

Carter scoffed. “Look who’s talking.”

The door was hit again and it cracked on the left side. Daedalus worked faster and spilt hot wax onto Icarus who winced. THe left wing was sealed and they started on the right one. Daedalus murmured they needed more time. The guards were to early and there hadn’t been enough time for the seal to set. Icarus assured him to be fine as he finished the right wing.

“Just jinxed them again,” Sadie muttered. “The guy should just shut up.”

Carter winced knowing his sister probably didn’t know the story like he did. It was one of their father’s favorites, not of Egyptian origin that is. He’d tried to use it to warn Carter to keep safe. But of course Sadie had never been able to hear it from him.

Icarus asked him for help with the manhole but then the doors splintered open and two armed guards came in with the king who asked if they were going somewhere. Daedalus said they were leaving. Minos chuckled he was curious to how far they’d get on this project before he stopped them. He was impressed. He then said they looked like metal chickens. Perhaps they would be a good soup once plucked. The guards laughed stupidly.

“Don’t worry,” Nico said seeing his sister’s disgust. “He wasn’t like tantalus. At least not in that aspect. In the fact that he was a horrible person, there they’re very similar.”

King minos yelled at Daedalus saying he let his daughter escape, drove his wife insane, killed his monster and made him the laughing stock of the mediteranean. He’d never escape.

Hazel shivered once again at the mention of Pasiphae, Percy however was glaring thinking of the minotaur, Adriane and Theseus.

Icarus sprayed the wax gun at the king but it was intercepted by the guards. He yelled to his father saying the vent. Minos yelled to get them. Daedalus and Icarus pried open the manhole and hot air blasted out. The updraft lifted Daedalus and Icarus by their wings. Minos yelled for someone to shoot them but there were no bows. A sword was thrown but it was to late. They were already soaring over the sea.

Several people cheered but many others winced and looked down.

Icarus said they free. His father had done it! He spread his wings and soared away. Daedalus told him to wait and be careful. Icarus was already far away. He scared an eagle away then plummeted further down again. He pulled out of a nosedive last second and his sandals skimmed the waves.

“I thought going too low was bad,” Alex said. “I mean I don’t usually listen to adults but I think he should probably here.”

Daedalus seemed to agree. He yelled for his son to stop. He tried to catch up over the see when Icarus finally looked back to see his father’s expression. He told his father not to worry he trusted his father’s inventions. He was a genius! Then a feather fell of the wings. Then another. Icarus wobbled.

“Didn’t listen!” Alex said in a sing song voice.

Samira looked at her disapprovingly. Alex had the decency to look a little apologetic.

Icarus lost more bronze feathers. His father yelled at him to glide and try extending the wings and glide by staying as still as possible. Icarus kept flapping though.

This time though sorely tempted Alex didn’t say a thing.

The left wing ripped off the straps. Icarus cried for his father as the other wing stripped off the harness and he flapped his arms desperately, then tried to glide. But without wings it was useless. Percy snapped up sitting suddenly straight panting.

He gasped suddenly in real life then too. “I hate waking up from dreams about falling.”

“Feels like you’re falling yourself,” Thalia agreed.

Zia frowned. “Yes, but unlike Percy falling into the sea wouldn’t do anything for the boy in the dream.”

“Icarus died,” Nico said.

“And his story is used to teach to listen to direction and stay on the middle path, not to fly to close to the sun or to low and put yourself in danger of failing,” Annabeth explained

A few people seemed like they were pondering quite a lot on that advice but everyone else turned their attention back to the scene back in the Labyrinth.

As soon as Percy had woke the scene changed again to them standing in tunnels lined with wooden support beams. Angrily Annabeth said that it couldn’t be right. It should still be stone. They kept walking to where here was a cave of stalactites and a grave like pit. Grover shivered saying it smelled like the underworld.

Everyone turned to Nico who looked down for just the smallest second then back at Grover looking all at once amused, annoyed and curious. “Do I really smell like the underworld?”

“Just a little,” Grover said. “The musty scent, but it’s more like you smell like dirt and underground. It was the spirits I smelled there. You don’t smell as much like underworld magic as much as some complaints may make it seem like.”

“Wait, do all of us smell different to you?” Magnus asked curiously.

“Yeah,” Grover bleated. Tyson nodded as well.

Juniper nudged her boyfriend to say he should probably explain. Grover bleated. “Sorry, it’ll probably take a long time to explain but the more powerful the person or monster the stronger the smell. And I can definitely tell that you two are dead.”

Alex and Magnus looked at each other then him. “We smell dead?”

“Not like a dead body or the underworld. I just can’t explain it. Otherwise Alex smells a lot like clay and animals, Magnus a lot like a summer breeze or something.”

“A summer breeze?” Alex laughed.

Magnus blushed but thought that maybe that’d smell good to her. Alex turned back to Grover though. “So does Samirah smell like a demigod then?”

“Not a greek or Roman one. She smells like Alex mostly. But without being dead. I can tell Blitz and Hearth are definitely not human though.”

Carter looked to Grover then. “Wait, what do we smell like? Cause we’re not demigods or magical creatures.”

“Not like demigods, but I can smell the magic. Walt smells as lot like Nico. Zia smells like fire or heat, kind of like Leo. I can smell the healing herbs and stuff on Jaz. I can tell you and your sister are related and smell really powerful magic from you both.”

“Wait, so we smell like our powers?” Jason asked. “Cause Coach hedge and the fauns in camp Jupiter were never really specific.”

Grover was getting impatient and seemed a bit eager to get it over with. “Fine. You and any of the big three kids smell a bit more powerful. You and Thalia both smell like a lightning storm but a bit more of lightning for her and a bit more of rain and wind for Jason. Hazel smells like underground and magic. But Percy’s scent is a lot stronger. He used to smell just like the ocean but now there’s more a of a hurricane and earth scent too. Kind of similar to Jason, Nico, Thalia and Hazel’s. You five definitely have the strongest scents though. Other demigods have not as much though Annabeth’s scroll and book smell has mixed a lot with Percy’s. Clarisse smells like her spear and anger. Chris, I don’t know how to explain what a child of Hermes smells like, Rachel I can smell the oracle in, and in Will I can smell the sun and the same healing herbs as with Jaz. Calypso smells like flowers, magic and the wind. Piper smells like lots of good things and I already said Leo smells like fire. Which leaves frank who smells like animals but the scent of Ares is there too. It’s similar to the scent Bellona must have that I get from Reyna. Am I done now?”

“Yeah, thanks. I’ve kind of always wanted to ask,” Percy told him. “Either way the important thing is that your sense of smell helps a lot. Like with Nico’s raising the dead here.”

Percy picked up a cheeseburger wrapper floating in the bubbling muck. He said that Nico had been there summoning the dead again.

Grover glared at him for the litter. Nico winced. “Sorry. It usually disappears with the sacrifice.”

Grover made a grudging noise of forgiveness.

Tyson whimpered there were ghosts there. He didn’t like ghosts. Percy insisted they find Nico and started to run.

“Thanks,” Nico told him.

“Hey you’re my cousin and my friend. I felt responsible for you and though I’m not I’ll always come for you. I just wanted to make sure you were safe.”

Annabeth called his name as he ducked into a tunnel. By the time his free friends caught up his was in the streams of daylight shining thorugh a steel grate. He truned and asked where they were. Suddenly the light disappeared and a bright red cow was looking at Percy. It mooed and stepped on the grate then stepped away.

“Those are my sacred cows!” Apollo preened. “Such an awesome color. Am I right?”

“An unusual one for sure,” muttered Piper.

Grover said it was a cattle guard. Percy asked what he meant. Grover explained they were put at the gates of ranches so cow’s couldn’t get out. They couldn’t walk on them. He was asked how he knew that and Grover huffed saying if he had hooves he’d know about cattle guards they were annoying.

“You wear shoes though,” Leo said.

“Only sometimes!” Grover said. “They hurt!”

Everyone laughed.

Percy asked Annabeth asked if Hera had said something about a ranch. They needed to check it out now. Nico could be there.

Nico sent him a grateful look again. He’d have been with in Minos’s clutches still, or even worse with the titan army if it wasn’t for Percy.

Annabeth said all right and asked how they got out. Tyson hit the cattle guard with both of his hands. It popped off with a clang and a large moo. Tyson blushed.

He blushed in real life too as everyone laughed at the distressed moos.

He yelled sorry to the cows then started to boost his friends out of the tunnel. Annabeth looked around the red cattle roaming around and commented they were the cattle of the sun. Percy asked what. She replied they were sacred to Apollo.

“See! Because I’m awesome I have awesome sacred animals.”

“Holy cows?” Leo asked snickering.

Percy said holy cows confused. Annabeth agreed saying exactly but then asked what they were doing there. Grover interrupted her telling the to listen. Then there were several dog barks.

“Leo, truth or dare,” Piper asked.

“Dare!” Leo scoffed as there were any other choice. To be honest he was offended he hadn’t even said the same thing as Percy before now. The guy was intimidating, scary and super powerful. But he also was like Leo, too focused on other things and used humor and the stupid questions to make him underestimated among other things.

The barking got closer. Then there was rustling in the bushes. A dog with two heads broke through snarling at them. Tyson yelled for the bad janus dog to stop. Grover raised a hand in greeting and barked at it. The dog just bared its teeth. Then a man came out of the woods following it. He had white hair beneath a straw hat and a braided white beard. He wore a don’t mess with texas t-shirt, a denim jacket with ripped off sleeves. There was a tattoo on his right bicep of crossed swords. He held a wooden club with spikes on the end. He told the dog, orthus, to heel.

“Monster?”

“No actually,” Percy held back a small grin as he answered Magnus. “But there will be one.”

“So who’s this guy? He has a tattoo like Reyna’s. Is he Roman?” Alex asked.

“No,” Reyna said. “I don’t believe so. Though the tattoo makes me curious. Crossed swords like that could be the symbol of a god, likely a war god.”

Clarisse grinned. “The symbol of Ares.”

“So do you know who he is?” Chris asked. Demigods paid more attention to their famous siblings stories then others.

“No. Just that they shouldn’t mess with him,” she told him grinning evilly.

The dog growled again then sat back at the man’s feet. He asked what they had there. Cattle rustlers? Annabeth said just travelers on a quest. THe man’s eye twitched as he guessed they were half-bloods. Percy asked how they knew but was interrupted by Annabeth introducing herself as the daughter of Athena then her friends the same way. She was interrupted in the middle of her introduction of Tyson by the man saying he could see TYosn was a Cyclops. Then he turned towards Percy and said he knew about half-bloods because he was one. Eurytion, the cowherd and son of Ares. He guessed they came through the Labyrinth like the other one.

Annabeth mused with a thinking face. “Why are there so many mythological figures named Eurytion?”

“There are?” Percy asked.

“Some centaurs and kings,” Annabeth waved them off.

“I only know of the one. Him,” Clarisse said fiercely. Though from what she had heard he’d been killed by Hercules. How he was there she didn’t know.

“I’m more focused on the other thing he said. The other one. He was talking about you,” Jason turned to Nico.

Nico didn’t answer.

Percy asked the other one? Did he mean Nico di Angelo? Eurytion said they got lots of visitors from the labyrinth, though most never left.

“What does that mean?” Thalia asked threateningly. This rancher wasn’t touching her cousins and friends.

“We’re fine,” Annabeth assured her.

Percy said that made him feel welcome. The cowherd glanced behind him warily then lowered his voice speaking to them. He told them he would only say this once. They should get back into the maze before it was too late.

“Why’s he there if this place obviously is so bad?” Piper asked.

“I asked him the same thing,” Percy said which meant he wasn’t giving an answer and they’d have to wait.

Annabeth said they weren’t leaving. Not until they saw the other demigod. She said please again for good measure. Eurytion said that gave him no choice but to take them to the boss. He walked alongside them with his club over his shoulder leading them down a dirt path. They passed stalls of fire breathing horses and several other animals. All of them sweated like crazy. As they passed the horses Percy asked what they were for? Eurytion said they raised horses for lots of clients like Apollo, Diomedes and… others. Percy asked who but he was told no more questions.

Everyone turned to Apollo who was frowning. “I….I asked someone to arrange the keeping of the cows for me. I didn’t look to see where they ended up. If they’re being sold too….”

He trailed off. Percy shook his head. “I think your cows were the one thing they didn’t really sell off, or eat.”

Everyone looked a bit disgusted by that revelation.

They came out of the woods to see a big ranch house on the hill.

Rachel’s and Piper’s eyes widened. “No way.”

“When did he build that?”

“He was a demigod,” Annabeth grinned.

“Who?” Leo interrupted. “This is an architecture thing. Right?”

Annabeth’s response was to point forward at the image before them.

Annabeth yelled it looked like a Frank Lloyd Wright.

There were a few understanding noises but most seemed not to care at all. Though there were a few mumbles about that it was way to fancy to be a regular ranch house.

Chapter Text

 

“Where are you any way?” asked Leo. “It looks like…”

“Texas,” Annabeth nodded. “That’s where I think it is at least.”

“Definitley hot enough to be there,” Grover groaned.

Percy nodded. That was when a few people had noticed that he was already sweating.

They kept hiking up the hill. As they got up to the front porch Eurytion warned them not to break the rules. No fighting. No weapons. No comments about the boss’s appearance.

“Why?” Frank asked. “Is he Terminus?”

All the romans and the seven laughed leaving the others confused.

“No,” Percy said. “I like Terminus a lot better.”

“I’m sure you managed to hold his rules for a bit. We broke them in seconds here,” Annabeth pointed out.

Percy didn’t argue as a few people laughed.

Percy asked why and what he looked like. A new person came out onto the porch giving Percy his answer as he welcomed them to the Triple G Ranch. He was tan with slicked back hair and a mustache like a thin line. He smiled a creepily amused smile at them and he had three bodies with the neck in the middle chest and then two more chests all connected at the shoulders with a few inches in between. On his left chest was a ttached a left arm an d the same thing with his right. He had two arms, four armpits, three chests, and one torso with two regular but beefy legs. Each chest wore a different color, green, yellow and red.

“Not Terminus,” Jason decided frowning.

“Of all the weird people and things you’ve seen on this quest this might be one of the weirdest,” Piper agreed with her boyfriend.

“Not Kampe?” Annabeth asked.

“That’s different. She’s not as humanoid, she’s something else. But between Briares, Janus and this guy I agree. This was weirdest.”

Others looked like they wanted to debate but didn’t say anything.

Eurytion nudged Percy and told him to say hello to Mr. Geyron. Percy said hi and continued by saying what nice chests there were before realizing his mistake and saying what a nice ranch they had here.

Everyone laughed loudly.

Zia frowned. “Annabeth was right. You might be worse than Carter and Sadie. That was less than five seconds and you were warned.”

Carter and Sadie decided to protest they weren’t that bad but Percy spoke over them answering Zia. “I never said I would last very long. ADHD. I say what I think. Most the time at least.”

So Zia turned to Carter and Sadie. “You two have no such excuse.”

Neither of them argued.

“My question is how that type of comment doesn’t get you killed,” Samira interrupted.

“Someone distracts them,” Percy grinned. Nobody heard Nico groan nearby.

Geyron turned to look at Percy but his attention turned when the glass doors opened and told Geyron he wouldn’t wait. Then he saw Percy, Tyson, Grover and Annabeth and froze. He drew his sword and Geyron snarled telling Nico to put it away. His guests wouldn’t be killing each other.

“What are you doing there?” Apollo asked. He’d been in the Labyrinth once for the death race and hated it. He didn’t understand why Nico would go in voluntarily. Especially to this ranch.

“Advice,” Nico said. By the way he frowned everyone could tell it wasn’t particularly good advice. At least no one seemed to mad at him. Yet. Actually a few of them looked relieved he was okay. Jason and Hazel were wearing sad smiles. Nico looked at them to assure them he was fine.

Nico started to protest. Geyron agreed he knew it was Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase and a couple of their monster friends.

“Monster friend?” Hearth signed indignantly. That was offensive. It was like calling him and Blitz monsters too. Magical beings were different then monsters, and Tyson might be a monster but he didn’t act like one. That term was saved for beings who acted less than humane.

Grover protested being called a monster friend.

Hearth nodded at him happy that someone else was just as upset. Blitz whispered a translation to Grover who looked at Hearth with thankful agreement.

Tyson said the man was wearing three shirts like he had just realized.

There were some small chuckles and a little bit of laughter.

Nico’s voice trembled with anger as he yelled they let his sister die and they were here to do the same to him.

Everyone turned to Nico. Hazel was gripping his hand looking at him sadly. “Did you really believe that?”

“No,” Nico shook his head. “It was just easier for me than to face the truth then. Percy didn’t do anything but try to help Bianca. He wasn’t going to hurt me. I was just trying to convince myself the guy I idolized wasn’t…”

His voice cracked. He stopped and took a breath finding comfort in Will’s embrace. He looked back up at Percy. “I’m sorry.”

Percy gave him a sad smile. “Not as much as me.”

Percy raised his hands in a sign of peace saying they weren’t here to kill him. What happened to Bianca was… He was interrupted by Nico who told him not to say her name. He wasn’t worthy of even speaking about her.

“I was wrong there too,” Nico said. “I never should have said that. If you guys had more time you’d have been really good friends. You did everything you could. You were more worthy of saying her name than I was.”

“Nico…,” Percy looked at him his voice full of sadness. “Don’t… We’ve moved past this. We both know what she wanted. We were both scared and you were angry but we made up. It’s not worth bringing up again.”

Annabeth stopped their argument and the conversation saying to wait and looking at Geyron asking how he knew their names.

“He’s a monster, duh!” Leo told her.

“You two are kind of famous too,” pointed out Frank. “I mean every monster seems to have heard of you two.”

“Why do all your monsters know your names? Or at least most of them?” Magnus asked. “None ever really know ours.”

“The ones that know our names are looking for us most the time,” Annabeth pointed out. “Like the Furies, or the Empousa. It’s not random, or we don’t come across them on a quest to get something.”

“But you just came across this ranch,” Magnus pointed out.

“Not random, like I said they know our names they’re looking out for us.”

Geyron winked and called Annabeth darlin’ saying it was his business to stay informed. Everybody popped into the ranch at a point and needed something from ‘ole Geyron.’

“So what do you guys need?” asked Carter.

“Nothing from him,” Percy said.

Nico looked down. “I did.”

“Yeah. But Geyron didn’t really help you. Or us. Still it was a needed stop on our quest,” Percy said. They’d saved Nico after all, helped the animals and in the end got the information they’d needed.

Then he turned to Nico and told ‘Mr. di Angelo’ to put that ugly sword away or Eurytion would take it from him.

Percy snorted.

“What’s so funny?” Jason asked him.

“Nico being treated like an actual kid for once. He’s getting his favorite toy taken away.”

Nico glared at him as other people laughed. Thalia reached over to pinch Nico’s cheek. “He is the baby of the family after all.”

Nico rolled his eyes. Hazel was the same physical age as him. They were both fourteen. He was probably a bit older, though she was born first chronologically. He was the older sibling! But as Thalia pinched his cheek he took in the feeling he missed of being a younger brother, something he was only getting to experience again now with Reyna, Thalia, Jason and Percy.

Eurytion sighed but picked up his club. Orthus growled at his feet as Nico hesistated. He looked thinner and paler than they had seen before in the Iris messages. He was dirty and dusty with eyes full of hate and anger. Percy was frowning at him.

Nico looked at him. “Why were you frowning? I was too mad and scared of the things happening with me before to think it was something other than you being angry at me or something.”

“You weren’t eating,” Percy said. “Probably sleeping either. You were buying all those Happy Meals, over extending your powers to raise the dead with them then not even eating any of the food you bought! You were so young and you looked so angry. It wasn’t even six months before that you were a laughing happy kid. And I failed you.”

“You didn’t fail me.” Nico looked at him trying to make sure Percy took those words to heart. He’d been angry with himself for his feelings. It wasn’t Percy’s fault. But Percy was looking so defeated, so guilty and Nico’s words did nothing. Especially because he didn’t say anything to convince Percy that the rest of his statement wasn’t true. He’d been angry, hungry and tired.

Next to him Will was frowning now too. “If I ever hear of you doing something like that again…”

Nico sighed. “I can take care of myself now Will. And I have you.”

Will wrapped his arm around Nico with that but Nico’s attention wasn’t on him but on a snorting Percy. “It’s true. You don’t have to worry about him sleeping. Especially after he uses his powers. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now but he’ll just fall asleep no matter what’s happening.”

“I’ve seen it and I’ve told him not to use his powers up to the point where that will happen,” Will agreed. “It’s stupid. He could get hurt.”

Now Jason, Reyna, Hazel and Thalia were frowning as well. Some others didn’t look so happy too.

Nico rolled his eyes looking at Will. “I’m fine. You can stop worrying for now. You know I’m starting to be better about it.” Then he turned to look at Percy frowning. “And you. You’re not much better sometimes. It’s just not as easily seen with you.”

Percy frowned and opened his mouth to protest. But Thalia interrupted him. “No. You’re not arguing. We’re going to talk about this later.”

No one argued and she sat back satisfied.

Nico sheathed his sword and told Percy if he came near him he’d summon help. He promised Percy didn’t want to meet his helpers. Percy said he believed him. Geyron patted Nico’s shoulder and declared they’d all made nice.

Nico shivered in disgust feeling the need to wash himself of that slimeball all over again.

Geyron told them to come along. He wanted to give them a tour of the ranch. He lead them to a trolley, more like a kiddie train painted black and white decorated with cowhorns. Nico got in the very back so he could keep an eye on them as Eurytion sat next to him. Orthus got in barking next to Geyron as Annabeth, Tyson, Grover and Percy took the middle cars. Geyron boasted they had a huge operation as the vehicle started to move. He told them it was mostly horses and cattle but they had exotic varieties too.

“Exotic?” asked Piper. Her grandfather’s ranch had had a few horses. But a ranch owned by an ancient greek figure, likely a monster, was sure to be a lot more interesting.

“Yeah,” Annabeth said but she was frowning.

As they came over a hill and looked at the bottom of the fence they saw a pasture full of animals with the front half of a horse and back half of a rooster. Annabeth gasped saying she thought Hippalektryons were extinct! Tyson slowly said rooster ponies amazed then asked if they laid eggs.

“If they do they can be repopulated,” Rachel smiled at the thought. “They’re really cool looking.”

Several people chuckled and some girls cooed at Tyson. Percy frowned. He hadn’t liked the answer to that question, it wasn’t what Tyson wanted to hear and he was sure no one here wanted to hear it either. Grover bleated in distress. The frown still hadn’t left Annabeth’s face and so no one was assured.

Geyron said once a year looking at them through the rearview mirror.

“No wonder they were going extinct,” Samira frowned. “That’s not very often for an animal.”

He said they were very much in demand for omelets.

There were cries of outrage. Several people had to be held back, including those who had been there. Grover wasn’t intimidated by a monsterous rancher at the moment and he was held back by a tearful Juniper.

“That has to be illegalized or something!” Leo yelled.

“They’re magical creatures, not like the government can do anything,” pointed out Magnus.

“No,” agreed a furious Alex. “But gods can.”

That was when Clarisse turned a terrifying glare on Apollo who squeaked wondering why he or Artemis hadn’t known about this. Thalia was frowning and seemed to be thinking the same thing.

Annabeth yelped that was horrible! They had to be an endangered species. Geyron waved his hand and said gold was gold calling her darling. He argued she hadn’t tasted the omelets either.

“And I never want too,” she murmured.

Grover murmured that wasn’t right. But Geyron just kept talking saying on the other side there were fire breathing horses. They were bred for war.

Clarisse smirked. Her dad’s fire breathing horses were the best. But the next question made her smirk fall a second later. These weren’t horses for her dad.

Reyna frowned. “What war?”

Percy asked what war.

“Jar,” Reyna declared taking out some mortal money and dropping it in. It was not the time for a dare or truth, even among friends.

Geyron grinned saying whichever comes along. Then he pointed out, over yonder, were their prized red cows. Hundreds of cows grazed over the side of the hill. Grover looked amazed saying so many.

Apollo nodded proudly.

Geyron explained Apollo was too busy to see to them. They were subcontracted.

“You do that? To this monster?” Calypso said in unapproval. “But they are your sacred animals!”

“I’m driving the sun all day. And then I have other stuff to take care of. If I was the one taking care of them who would be watching them now as I travel with you and Leo? I set it up with some nymphs and more minor immortals. I don’t know why they’re at the ranch,” Apollo frowned.

They breed them vigorously because they were in such demand.

Apollo raised an eyebrow spluttering. He hoped that didn’t mean what he thought it did.

Will looked at his boyfriend, Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Tyson suspiciously. “For what?”

Percy asked for what.

“Truth,” Will said but his attention was still on the image in front of him at which he was glaring angrily.

Geyron said meat of course. Armies had to eat.

Apollo exploded. “He does what? As soon as we get back and find Meg I’m going to that ranch and getting my cows—”

“Your cows are fine now,” Percy promised him. “We made sure they’re under better ownership.”

Apollo smiled gratefully.

Grover protested that they killed the sacred cows of the sun god for hamburger meat! That was against the ancient laws. Geyron told him not to get so worked up. They were just animals. Grover spluttered just animals! Geyron said yes and pointed out if Apollo cared he would tell them. Percy muttered if that was what he knew. Nico said he didn’t care about any of this. They had other business to discuss and that wasn’t it.

Some people chuckled but others frowned. Blitz looked at Nico.

“How old were you here?”

“Eleven.”

“And you’re making business deals?”

Nico shrugged.

Reyna smirked. “At least you seem to have the beginnings of a business sense. Though I suppose this time didn’t end well with such little experience.”

Nico blushed but his eyes searched out Reyna’s thankfully.

Geyron told him all in good time. Then he told them all to look over to his exotic game on one side. There was a field marked in barbed wire crawling with giant scorpions. Percy looked at him saying this was the Triple G Ranch. Their mark was on the crates at Camp. Quintus got his scorpions from them. Geyron wrinkled his eyebrow as if remembering saying quintus, with short gray hair, muscular, a swordsman? Percy agreed. Geyron said he’d never heard of him.

Scoffs echoed across the room.

A few seconds later he pointed out what he said were his prize stables. They had to see them. Before they saw them they smelt them. All their faces wrinkled in disgust as they came over the hill.

Percy pinched his nose then fanned his face. “It won’t go away!”

“I was nearly throwing up,” Annabeth asked. “How did you…”

“Smelly Gabe… He was worse.”

She blanched. The smell then had been the worse she’d smelled yet. Now she could say differently but Gabe must have stunk if Percy said he smelled worse. Still Percy was looking a little green.

Near the banks of the river was a horse corral the size of a football field. There were stables on one side and a hundred horses walking around in their on poop. Annabeth and Grover looked ready to barf. Tyson wasn’t so far behind. Percy was trying to keep the scent away and Nico gagged then retched asking what was that. Geyron said it was his stables! Then he explained they actually belong to Aegas but they watched them for a monthly fee. He grinned saying weren’t they lovely? Annabeth said they were disgusting! Tyson observed there was a lot of poop.

“Understatement,” Percy said in a nasally voice. He was still pinching his nose.

Grover asked how they could keep animals like that? Geyron said they were y’all getting on his nerves. These were flesh eating horses. They liked those conditions. Eurytion mumbled from under his hat adding that he was too cheap to have them cleaned.

I really don’t get that guy.” Piper crossed her arms with a disapproving noise. “He really seems to hate everything about the ranch but he does nothing!”

“He’s trying to help,” Percy assured her. “No matter what it seems like.”

Geyron snapped at him to be quiet. He said right, perhaps they were a bit challenging to clean. They might make him nauseous when the wind blows the wrong way. But so what? His clients still paid well.

“What clients?” Hazel asked. She loved horses but flesh eating ones didn’t seem like they’d be so awesome.

“The Titan army most likely,” Thalia growled.

Percy demanded to know what clients.

Hazel blushed. “Um…Truth?”

Geyron said they’d be surprised how many people would pay for a flesh eating horse. They made great garbage disposals or a wonderful way to terrify their enemies. Great a birthday parties too! They rented them out all the time. Annabeth frowned declaring he was a monster. Geyron stopped the vehicle and turned to look at her asking what gave it away, the three bodies?

“No. Because even if your species is monsterous it’s your actions that make you a monster,” Percy declared.

Annabeth nodded agreeing that’s what she had thought.

Grover said he had to let the animals go! It wasn’t right. Annabeth nodded saying the clients he kept talking about, Geyron worked for Kronos, didn’t he? They were supplying his army with horses, food, whatever they needed. Geyron shrugged with all three sets of shoulders. He said he worked for anyone with gold. He was a business man. And he sold anything he had to over.

Nico cringed. He should have known with that comment. Geyron had been planning to sell him. Will noticed with his arm still around Nico and gave him a questioningly look. He grew even more concerned when his boyfriend didn’t answer.

He climbed out of the vehicle and walked to the stables. Nico got out and stormed over to Geyron. Eurytion pulled his hat off his face and put it back on his head and walked after Nico with his club. Nico was talking to Geyron saying he came here for business and they still hadn’t answered him. Geyron made a thinking noise as he scratched his middle chest saying yes, Nico would get a deal all right.

Nico scoffed. Percy glared at the image of Geyron. Other’s narrowed their eyes suspicious. Will tightened his grip on Nico. Reyna moved in closer, as did Thalia. Hazel looked at him concerned but Nico smiled at her assuredly. That didn’t stop her and Jason from exchanging concerned looks.

Nico said his ghost had said Geyron could help and guide them to the soul they needed.

“You really need to stop taking the ghost’s advice,” Jason told him worriedly. “It’s not going to end well for you.”

Nico scoffed. “Yeah. I kind of figured.”

Jason frowned, a look he hadn’t used from the giant war until they were brought to this place.

Percy told him to wait a second. He thought he was the soul Nico wanted. Nico looked at him like he was insane asking him. Why would he want Percy? Bianca’s soul was worth a thousand of his!

Percy was looking down. Nico winced. “I didn’t mean it.”

“But you were right. She was so much better than me,” Percy murmured. “She should have lived. I should have been the one to go in there.”

“She should have lived, but you shouldn’t have died in her place. You’re my cousin, part of my family just as much as Bianca. I didn’t want to hurt you Percy, and I would never use your soul, or anyone’s like that,” Nico said. His sense of justice had changed. He knew now taking out your grudges didn’t mean justice. Percy seemed to take his words to heart and Nico let himself relax a little.

He turned back to Geyron asking if he could help him or not? Geyron said he imagined he could. He asked where Nico’s ghost friend was. Nico looked uneasy saying he couldn’t form in broad daylight. It was hard but he was around somewhere. Geyron smiled saying he was sure. Minos liked to disappear when things to difficult. Percy yelped Minos? They meant the evil king? That was the ghost who was giving Nico advice? Nico yelled it was none of Percy’s business.

“Nope,” Thalia said turning to Nico and popping the p. “You should listen to Percy this time. Of all children of Zeus Minos might be some of the worst. Percy’s trying to help you and it’s his business then.”

“I know,” Nico rolled his eyes. “This already happened. I’m sorry Percy.”

“No problem,” Percy said to him. “Minos got in your head and twisted the fact you were already angry and scared. I understand.”

Nico sighed but in his head the thought was echoing that every second he was learning how much Percy understood his struggles more than he had ever thought.

Then he turned back to Geyron asking what he meant about things getting difficult. The rancher sighed saying well you see nico, he paused then asking for permission to call the son of Hades by his first name.

“No,” Will growled.

Nico squeezed his hand and held back a smile.

Nico said no.

Everyone chuckled at the no nonsense manner of the eleven year old beside the seriousness of the situation.

Geyron continued saying that Luke Castellan was offering good money for half bloods. Especially powerful ones. When he learnt Nico’s little secret, who he really was, he’d pay very well indeed.

“No!” Hazel yelled.

Nearby Reyna and Jason narrowed their eyes, a familiar glare to any roman who had trained under Lupa. Will was gripping Nico’s hand even tighter. Other people yelled in outrage or looked at Nico to assure themselves he was there. Being sold away to someone for money was horrible, so much they couldn’t even put it into words. Thalia tried to relieve them all. After all she’d seen Nico not six months later and he’d definitely been on their side. “Don’t worry, Percy will do something.”

She didn’t notice Percy’s frown deepen and Nico look at him imploringly as if to tell him that he couldn’t have done anything. After all they’d gotten out in the end mostly due to him.

Nico drew his sword but Eurytion knocked it out of his hand. Percy tried to get up but Orthus pounced on him and growled his faces inches away from Percy’s.

“Oh,” Thalia scowled with a litte bit of electricity crackling on her now. She took a deep breath. They’d get out of it somehow, like they always did.

Geyron warned all of them to stay in the car or Orthus would tear Mr. Jackson’s throat out. He then told Eurytion if he could be so kind to secure Nico. The cowherd spit into the grass asking if he had to. Geyron shouted yes calling his helper a fool. Eurytion looked bored as he wrapped an arm around Nico and lifted him up like a wrestler. Geyron said to pick up the sword too. He hated nothing more than stygian iron. Eurytion picked it up careful not to touch the blade.

“Wish he could actually do something to help you,” Frank murmured. This son of his father’s greek side didn’t seem too bad. But it also seemed he was older and had probably mellowed out over the years. It was too bad someone so horrible had command over him.

Geyron cheerfully turned back to them saying now that they’ve had the tour they could go back to the lodge. He told them they’d have some lunch while he sent an iris message to the Titan army. Annabeth cried out calling him a fiend. Geyron smiled telling her not to worry calling her my dear. He said once he delivered Mr. di Angelo her and her party could go. He didn’t interefere with quests. Plus he’d been paid to give them safe passage but that didn’t include Nico.

“Someone paid him to let you guys pass?” Piper asked. “Is this like last time with the fleece? Kronos is using you again, isn’t he?”

“No,” Annabeth grimaced. “Though I almost wish it was him paying for our passage. He’s easier to be mad at even if he did do it.”

“So who did?” Sam asked her.

Annabeth didn’t answer. She was muttering angrily under her breath. Percy didn’t even try to stop her though around them people could hear a few curses every so often.

Annabeth asked who paid him. What did Geyron mean? He told her never you mind darling, let them be off. Percy cried for them to wait and orthus growled.

“What are you doing?” Zia hissed. “That animal will no doubt rip your throat out.”

“I didn’t move an inch. Me talking didn’t make him that angry and his master was a bit too intrigued and too well paid to really let him,” Percy assured her. Zia sat back to see that Percy indeed hadn’t moved.

Percy stayed perfectly still so he wouldn’t have his throat town out. He offered that since Geyron was a businessman he could make him a deal.

“A deal?” Alex asked slyly. Percy could very well be a child of Loki if he was norse. He’d used trickery and talked his way out of several situations, though people seemed to focus more on his brute strength and power. He also still had that mischief about him.

Percy nodded at her catching what she was thinking. “He’s greedy. Right? Makes him easy to appeal too.”

Other people were starting to realize what Alex had been thinking. Percy would once again get out of something without even drawing his sword. The son of Poseidon’s head wasn’t as full of water as it seemed. Leo held back a grin, he knew that Percy was like him, using all that humor, stupid jokes and stunts to hide parts of himself.

Geyron narrowed his eyes asking what kind of deal, did they have gold? Percy said he had something better. A barter.

“See? Greedy,” Percy said satisfied.

“Just be careful with your words. Deals need to be done exactly,” Carter winced thinking of bloodstained blade. A few spots away Magnus and Samira cringed as well.

“With some monsters,” Percy said. “Geyron wasn’t that crafty.”

Geyron pointed out he had nothing.

Hearth shook his head signing. “Always something.”

Some others seemed doubtful but several nodded in agreement.

Eurytion suggested he could have him clean the stables. Percy grabbed the idea saying he’d do it. If they failed they got all of them to trade to luke for gold.

“Once again you decide to take on a herculean task,” Reyna said pointedly.

“Stables like that will be tough to clean out,” Magnus agreed. He didn’t spend as much time around horses as he might want but he could already tell.

“I didn’t just mean that it would be a large and hard thing to do,” Reyna replied. “Though that’s true. Cleaning out the Aegean stables was another of Hercules’ tasks.”

“There were twelve of those,” Piper agreed. “How many has Percy done?”

“Why don’t we decide that after we finish watching all of this?” Annabeth suggested. She figured there might be a few things even she didn’t know about.

“What about we don’t?” Percy said in an effort to stop the comparisons with one of the figures he hated most. He was ignored. He leaned against Annabeth still holding his nose from the smell with a large sigh.

Geyron said that was assuming the horses didn’t eat him. Percy said either way they got his friends, but if he suceeeded then they were all let go. Including Nico. Nico yelled no saying he didn’t want any favors from Percy. He didn’t want his help.

Nico looked down. He was scared of what Percy helping him in his regular heroic fashion would do to Nico’s feelings. Nico had to say that Percy saving him every time had made them stronger. But that was then. “I’m sorry.”

“I thought we decided this was all forgiven,” Percy told him.

Nico opened his mouth again but closed it as he saw that the scene was continuing he closed it.

Percy looked at him sadly but then met Geyron’s eyes still determined. Geyron chuckled saying to Percy those stables hadn’t been cleaned in a thousand years, though it’s true he could probably make more money if the poop was cleared away. Percy challenged asking what he had to lose. Geyron hesitated then agreed saying all right. He’d accept the offer, but it had to be done by sunset. If he failed then his friends got sold and Geyron got rich. Percy said it was a deal.

“How do you manage to clean all that by sunset?” Sadie yelped. “I mean you don’t have the awesome magic we do. And it’s only a few hours.”

“You can probably guess but I found a way.”

“But what?” Blitz asked. “It’s a lot of poop kid.”

“Not arguing that,” Percy grimaced. The smell still hadn’t left his nose.

Geryon nodded saying he was going to take Percy’s friends back to the lodge. They’d wait for him there. Eurytion looked at him sympathetically then whistled. Orthus jumped off Percy and onto Annabeth who yelped.

Percy growled. “You were fine while you were sitting there, right? I knew no one else was going to try anything while you could get hurt.”

“I was just worried about you,” she said running her hand through his hair lowering her voice as she spoke. “You cut it really close.”

Percy’s eyes narrowed and he became more determined as he got out of the car. She told him she hoped he knew what he was doing. He said he hoped so too.

“Gee, that’s reassuring,” Carter told him. “I’ll try not to ask you if you actually have a plan when I’ll get an answer like that.”

“How often do you have an actual plan though?”

“More than you,” Sadie shrugged. “Don’t know why but we do. Though we don’t always have a backup.”

“See? Plans don’t work on the first try, so I just decided not to have one so often in the first place.” Percy seemed like he thought his reasoning was unthinkable. “They always work better when I come up with them as I go.”

Carter and Annabeth exchanged glances having déjà vu of the conversation back when they fought Setne. Percy might be right about plans not always working but it was better than just charging into it. Holding back Sadie and Percy if/when they worked together in the future would be a challenge.

Nico was hauled by Eurytion into the back seat as Geyron got back itno the driver’s seat telling Percy once again sunset, no later. Then he laughed sounded his horn which sounded like a cowbell and the vehicle rumbled off leaving Percy alone.

“You probably get told this a lot, actually I know you do,” Apollo frowned. “But this doesn’t look so good.”

“I hate sunset limits,” Walt agreed thinking of Neith and that last moment with Sadie before he had to accept Anubis forever.

Apollo nodded. “Right? I mean sunset is the worst time. It’s when I leave the sky!”

There were several snorts. That was obviously not what everyone else had been thinking. Jason was looking at Percy though. He was thinking and Percy raised his eyebrow when he noticed, though he gave them a little wiggle making Jason snort. Then he turned serious again.

Chapter Text

 

“How are you going to manage this? I mean you have water powers but I doubt you can do the same thing there as Hercules,” Jason said to him quietly so only Piper, Nico, Thalia, Annabeth and Will who sat between them heard.

“Just watch.”

“You never really said.” Grover who had been sitting on his other side was now giving him a look along with Annabeth. Percy groaned. Moments like these made him feel like he was twelve again with them sharing looks, though this time he was the one with the secret.

Percy put his shirt on over his nose to block the smell. A horse moved forward and neighed angrily at him baring his pointy teeth.

Percy inhaled then gagged. Apparently the shirt over his nose hadn’t blocked much of the smell back then. “Holy hera, that’s still awful!”

Percy eyed the stallion. Then his voice echoed around the area as he looked the horse into the eyes. It said hi, Percy’s voice then continued saying he was going to clean the stables, then asking if that would be great? The horse whinnied saying for Percy to come inside. They would eat him. Tasty half-blood.

“Wait, that’s the horse?” Hazel asked. She’d always wanted to know about Percy’s ability to talk to horses and the sea animals they’d seen.

“Yep,” Percy nodded with a grimace. “That’s him. Not my favorite. I’d rather hear your horses dirty mouth all day than run into these guys again.”

Everyone else seemed to agree. These horses didn’t seem so smart, only hungry and they didn’t seem to care where they got their food from.

Percy’s voice protested he was the son of Poseidon who created horses. The horse nodded whinnying saying Poseidon could come in too. They would eat them both. Seafood! The other horses echoed seafood coming closer to him too.

“I’m guessing that’s not the normal reaction you get from horses,” Magnus winced. They were his father’s sacred animal too. Most of them loved him, like Percy it seemed. These ones seemed to be the exception.

“Yeah.”

“I hope you weren’t relying on that,” Jaz said pointing to the sun in the scene. “Because the sun is starting to go down.”

“I actually was planning to use Hercules’s tactic,” Percy winced. “Which I hate to say because I don’t want to do anything like him.”

Piper nodded in approval. “This time though it’ll work well for you. You could probably do it without as much effort as him.”

“What did Hercules do?” Sadie asked.

“He channeled a river into the stables,” Annabeth answered. Then she frowned and pointed at the scene. “But look, the river is farther from the stables than it seems, down hill too. Maybe a little less than half a mile. And there’s a lot of poop.”

Percy grimaced and grabbed a nearby rusty shovel. He scooped some of the poop away from the fence. Then sighed. It wouldn’t work. He put it back down and started to walk down to the river.

“How are you going to channel a river half a mile uphill?” Chris asked him.

“I’m not,” Percy told him.

Everyone looked at him confused.

“Just watch.”

Percy was now at the river’s edge. A girl in jeans, a green t-shirt with long brown hair braided with river grass stood looking at him sternly with crossed arms. THe first thing to leave her mouth was oh no you don’t. He asked if she was a naiad. She rolled her eyes saying of course. Percy continued questioning that she was speaking English, and she was out of the water. She scoffed asking if she never thought they could act human if they wanted too?

“In my defense all the naiad’s before just stayed in the water and giggled or made sounds like bubbling or streaming water. How was I supposed to know?”

“Because most naiad’s you’ve met are so entranced upon first seeing you and being the son of Poseidon helps the matter,” Annabeth muttered.

“What?” Percy yelped. “What are you saying?”

Everyone was smirking. Annabeth was probably right but she quickly said something so Percy didn’t actually realize what she’d meant. “You’re the son of Poseidon so most of them like you. I guess this Naiad is a bit hardened from something.”

Percy nodded. Annabeth had that right.

Percy frowned. He said he’d just came to ask. She interrupted saying she knew who he was and what he wanted but the answer was no. Her river wasn’t being used again to clean the filthy stable. Percy protested. She told him to save it calling him sea boy. The ocean-god types always think they’re some much more important than a little river. Well she was telling him this little naiad wasn’t being pushed around just because his father was Poseidon. This was freshwater territory, the last guy who asked her this favor, he was way better looking, convinced her and it was the worst mistake she’d made. Did he have any idea what all that horse manure did to her ecosystem? Did she look like a sewage treatment plant to him? Her fish would die, she’d never get it out of her plants. She’d be sick for years. Finally she finished by yelled no thank you.

“She’s right you know,” Juniper crossed her arm huffing. “We nature spirits give our help and are taken for granted. I have to agree with her here Percy. Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. She was right, and so are you,” Percy said. “I just wanted to save everyone, going to her till then was my best idea.”

He continued to talk with Juniper for a few minutes, with Grover’s input, about the rights of nymphs and nature spirits. But he didn’t notice Annabeth frowning next to him. Why had the naiad felt the need to mention that she thought Hercules was better looking? The answer was of course that she didn’t. She thought Percy was good looking too and almost helped him just because she was almost charmed. Sometimes Annabeth couldn’t believe how oblivious her boyfriend was about the power he had over people, especially those who were attracted to him, which was almost everyone attracted to males.

Percy told her his friends were in danger. She told him that was too bad. It wasn’t her problem and he wasn’t going to ruin her river. She balled her fists but Percy sighed hearing the quiver of her voice. He sat down on a tree stump saying she won.

“What? Really?” asked Jason. “But you need to save everyone!”

“Yeah, but she was scared. Her voice was shaking. I’ve had enough of bullies and people throwing their power around and I couldn’t do that to anyone myself. And she was right, it would have polluted her river and poisoned her. Why did she deserve that? I’m not going to hurt her, not like Hercules.”

Jason frowned and Piper stiffened against him. Their quest meeting Hercules had meant stealing another creature’s horn, acting just like Hercules and wronging someone who hadn’t really done anything to them. They’d been saving their friends but could they have found another way? Jason had no doubt Percy and Annabeth might have been able too.

The naiad asked really? Percy said he wasn’t going to fight her, it was her river. She relaxed saying good. Then she said she meant that was good for him, trying to look threatening again. Percy nodded then said but his friends and her were going to get sold to the titans if he didn’t clean the stables by sunset and he didn’t know how.

“You said to Geyron how you did it but I still want to see,” Nico told him.

“You weren’t really detailed,” Grover agreed. He was still grinning that Percy had decided to spare the naiad. The demigod wasn’t his best friend for nothing. Though the multiple times he saved his life might have something to do with it.

“Well now you get to see everything,” Percy said. This was something he didn’t really mind everyone seeing.

THe naiad sighed after a minute saying she’d tell him a secret calling him son of the sea god and telling him to scoop up some dirt. Percy asked her what. She replied she’d heard him. He took a handful of the black dirt spotted with white rock. His eyes widened and he looked at her. She explained those were shells, petrified seashells. Millions of years ago, before even the times of the gods, when Gaea and Ouranos were the rulers, this land had been under water, a part of the sea.

“Wait, so the dinosaurs were around before the gods?” asked Frank.

“I guess. That was the time of the primordial. I wouldn’t be surprised if the meteor that killed them all was Ouranos was killed,” Annabeth said.

“Makes sense,” Blitz murmured. “Our gods weren’t around until later than that too.”

“I guess ours too,” Carter agreed. “Only the primordial ones.”

“I don’t know much about then, or anything before the Olympians” Apollo shrugged. “But it very well could be true.”

Percy picked out a shell and smiled for a second then sighed asking what good that did him. She said he wasn’t so different from her. Even when she was out of the water it was with in her. It was her life source.

Percy winced thinking about the last time he had realized the power of water within him. He carried the sea everywhere, the water was all around him, but the naiads words here had only been the start of showing him that power. He’d scared himself with the water pent up in himself then, but that was nothing compared to now. No one noticed that he was now uncomfortable. Nico gave him a strange look for a second but that was all.

The naiad smiled at him and told him that she hoped he found a way to rescue his friends. She then turned into liquid melting back into the river.

“That was nice and all,” Leo said to him, “but how does that help. You’re not like me? I can just light on fire and make it, but you need water…”

Percy sighed, “I wish that was the case. Just watch then I’ll explain.”

Percy reached the stables as the sun started to touch the hills. The horses were now eating through some animal carcasses. One horse looked at him and bared it’s teeth calling seafood, they were still hungry!

Faces of disgust and noises of the same thing spread across the room.

Percy looked around confused from the stables to the dirt in his hand. Finally he threw it as hard as he could into the poop and sighed.

“That was a huge help,” Magnus told him.

“Actually it was,” Percy said disregarding Magnus’s sarcasm. “I wasn’t going to give up but I didn’t think I had a choice. But that dirt helped me work it out.”

Percy turned then something sputtered. Turning back he saw a tiny spout of water shooting out of the muck.

“No way,” Thalia looked at him.

Percy shrugged. “You’re watching it yourself.”

“But there’s no ocean there anymore,” Jason said looking at him.

“There’s still water, little wells and underground rivers. And the fossils must have brought back that water used to be part of the ocean, and all the salt water with it,” Percy said.

Next to him Annabeth didn’t look so sure about that theory but she knew Percy was feeling uncomfortable with that power. She’d let him keep that belief for now, and let everyone else believe it too.

Percy’s face lit up and he muttered no way.

Thalia groaned. “Dare.”

“I’m surprised it took this long for you to say something the same as him,” Annabeth told her.

Percy stepped toward the fence hesitantly and told the waterspout to get bigger. The water shot three feet into the air. The horses walked over to look at it, one put his mouth to it and drew back. It’s voice echoed saying yuck. Salty. Percy’s grin got bigger.

“You have a plan,” Reyna said in relief. “It will work, the horses seem to hate it and you can free the others.”

Several others relaxed too feeling better about what was going to happen now.

Percy picked up another handful of dirt and picked out the shells. He walked around the stable throwing the shells in. Each time a saltwater spring erupted. The horses cried for him to stop saying meat was good but baths were bad. Around them the water bubbled not flowing down hill or leaving the stables. It dissolved back into the ground with the poop. Finally the wet dirt on the ground was visible again. Percy yelled for more and the water shot twenty feet into the air. The horses ran around like crazy as the poop dissolved from around them and then melted away.

Everyone was watching opened mouthed at the scene. It was insane how fast Percy was cleaning the stables, the sun was still sinking behind him but he’d manage to do it The stables were clean, the naiad wasn’t being hurt like Hercules had, and he was doing it in a shorter time than the said hero too.

Percy’s eyebrow furrowed and he brought his hands to his gut then away quickly clenching his fist. Yet there was a light of adrenaline in his eye and a proud smirk on his face almost mirroring the one on his younger self. Annabeth looked at him worriedly, it was a much tamer version of the look on his face in the Pit meeting Akhlys, the exhilarating power so he could save others.

A horse cried for him to stop going as far to stay please and call him lord. Horses were slipping around all drenched. All the poop was gone. The water was starting to pool and trickle out of the stable and make little streams to the river.

“The naiad!” Juniper yelped. “You’ll poison her.”

“Don’t worry,” Grover assured her. “She’s fine.”

“But the dirty salt water, she’s a freshwater spirit,” Calypso said concerned.

“Don’t worry Cal, like Grover said I’m sure Percy can take care of it,” Leo grinned.

She rolled her eyes at him. “Stop it Leoni—”

“No!” Leo yelped before anyone could here his full name.

Percy told the water to stop. He looked a bit pained but the water kept running downstream.

He grunted again clenching his fist harder.

He yelled stop again. The geysers shut down and Percy collapsed to his knees feeling exhausted.

Percy sighed in relief. Around him the room exploded into cheers, whistles and applause.

But nearby the stable was sparkling as were the horses. THe horses wailed saying they wouldn’t eat him and pleaded for no more salty baths. Percy replied on one condition. They’d only eat the food given to them, not people or he’d be back with more seashells. THe horses whinnied and made more promises about being good. Percy didn’t stay to listen, he instead took off up the hill away from the setting sun.

“You did it,” Apollo said, “but the sun is setting in five minutes or less. If I’d known I might have delayed but you need to run. Fast.”

“He’s already over exhausted from his powers, how is he going to make it in time?” Jaz asked.

“He obviously did,” Nico groaned. ‘Seeing as we’re all sitting right here.”

When Percy got to the deck there was smoke rising from a barbecue. Streamers and balloons decorated the deck. Geyron was flipping burgers and Eurytion was picking his nails with the knife while Orthus the dog sniffed around. In the corner Tyson, Grover, Annnabeth and Nico were tied up and gagged. Percy yelled still panting from his uphill run for them to be let go! He cleaned the stables!

“And of course he’s not actually gonna honor the deal,” Samirah sighed.

“That is how it happens,” Zia nodded.

Geyron turned, he had an apron on each chest so all together it read kiss the chef. He raised and eyebrow and asked he did? How did he manage it? Percy sighed and opened his mouth.

“You left stuff out.”

“He always leaves stuff out,” Grover said in reply to Annabeth’s complaint. “You aren’t always much better!”

“She says more than him,” Thalia argued.

A few seats away Nico and Jason nodded.

Percy rolled his eyes. “Whatever, you all know now.”

Geyron said it was ingenious though he wished the pesky naiad had been poisoned, but it was no matter.

“Wait, what did Percy say?”

“Just explained, it’s fine that it skipped. It was just a recap,” Percy said to Hazel.

Grover was glaring at the image of Geyron for his comment about the naiad, angry but not as angry as his growling girlfriend who he was holding back again.

Percy demanded his friends were let go. They had a deal. Geyron said he’d been thinking about that. If he let them go he wouldn’t get paid. Percy yelled he promised. Geryon made a tutting noise saying he hadn’t been made to swear on the river Styx. No he hadn’t, so it wasn’t binding. When Percy was conducting business he should always get a binding oath.

“Learnt that lesson,” Percy said. Apollo winced, he certainly had. All the gods would remember that.

“You need to be precise with words, I guess not all your monsters are like this but almost all of the giants are, especially under hospitality rights,” Magnus said. “It’s like Carter said before.”

Hospitality rights?” Annabeth mouthed to him.

Later,” he mouthed back.

“He’s right,” Carter agreed. “I learnt that lesson with a demon. One with an axe for a head.”

“Yep, you learnt that lesson,” Sadie glared at him.

Percy drew his sword. Orthus the dog growled leaning down next to Grover with bared fangs.

Juniper held onto Grover tightly. Grover tried and failed, again, to reassure her he was fine and this had already happened.

Geyron told Eurytion Percy was starting to annoy him and ordered him to kill him. Eurytion looked at Percy then back to Geyron saying to kill him himself.

Clarisse grinned smugly. That was more like it.

Geyron raised his eyebrows asking excuse me. Eurytion grumbled he heard him, Geyron kept sending him out to do his dirty work. He picked fights for no good reason and he was getting tired of dying for him. If he wanted to fight the kid he would have to do it himself.

“You sure he’s a son of Ares?” Thalia asked. “What child of Ares doesn’t want to fight?”

“One who wants to fight for themselves and is sick of fighting for nothing,” Clarisse growled at her. Percy looked at her sympathetically. There were times Clarisse was too much like the brother she’d never met, tired and worn out.

Geyron threw down his spatula asking he dared to defy him? He should fire him right now? Eurytion asked who would take care of his cattle then ordered Orthus to heel. The dog stopped growling at Grover and sat by Eurytion.

Juniper sighed in relief.

Geyron snapped fine saying he’d deal with Eurytion later. After Percy was dead. With that he picked up two carving knives and threw them at Percy who knocked them away with his sword. One impaled itself in the picnic table an inch from Eurytion’s hand. Percy lunged. Geryon parried his strike with hot tongs and lunged at his face with the barbecue fork. Percy turned inside the thrust and stabbed him through his middle chest.

People cheered but then realized Annabeth, Grover and Nico didn’t look so happy or relieved and Percy just looked determined and annoyed.

Geyron crumbled to his knees but he just grimaced and stood back up and his chest started to heal. He told Percy nice try but the thing was he had three hearts, a perfect back up system.

“How do you beat that?” Leo demanded indignantly.

“With a lot of help,” Percy told him.

Geyron tipped over the barbecue and coals spilled everywhere. One landed next to Annabeth’s face and she let out a muffled scream. Tyson strained against his ties. Percy’s face grew more determined. He jabbed Geyron in the left chest. Geyron laughed. Percy tried again sticking him in the right stomach.

“You’re not going to be able to pierce all three hearts by yourself at once,” Carter told him. “Maybe if you had a spell, or others to do it with you at the same time.”

Percy shook his head. “Nah. Don’t worry. It gets figured out.”

“Still not really sure how,” Nico mumbled. Only Will heard him. “Percy sucks at archery.”

Will frowned. What in Hades did that mean?

Percy ran into the house. Geyron cried coward telling him to come back and die right. Percy passed through a living room full of hunting trophies and display cases full of stuffed animals and weapons. Geryon entered and threw his barbecue fork, which thudded into the wall next to Percy’s head. He yelled that Percy’s head was going to go right there next to the grizzly bears.

More disgusted looks went around the room. Percy was obviously okay, he was right here after all. But they couldn’t see how he could do the impossible and kill this monster when backed up into a wall and having just used up his luck with his first impossible task that day. Then Will’s eyes widened in realization from Nico’s comment before upon seeing one of the weapons mounted on the wall.

Percy looked around frantically then dropped Riptide and ripped the quiver and bow from the wall. He shut his eyes and nocked an arrow.

Apollo frowned. “That prayer.”

“Yeah. I’m guessing you guys didn’t hear it,” Percy said.

“No.”

“But you…” Nico frowned. Percy’s look quieted him.

“You suck at archery though,” Frank frowned. “How is that going to help you? You can’t make all three of the shots at once.”

Geyron laughed calling him a fool saying one arrow wasn’t any better than one sword. As if to prove that he raised both his swords and charged. Percy dove to the side and shot his arrow into Geyron’s right chest under his arm. There were several thumps as the arrow passed clean through all three chests and hit the forehead of the grizzly bear trophy. Geyron dropped his swords and stared at Percy saying he couldn’t shoot. He’d been told he couldn’t shoot. His face turned green and he collapsed to his knees crumbling into sand until all that was left was the three cooking aprons and large pair of cowboy boots.

Frank stared at Percy wide eyed. Apollo grinned and winked at him. Maybe he had a chance at teaching Percy archery after all, from the sun chariot at sunset like he’d proposed. Then someone clapped. Other people started to cheer and whistle as the whole room celebrated.

Chapter Text

 

 

Nico was one of the only ones not cheering. "But…Apollo said he didn't hear you, and you can't shoot."

"You'll get your answer later Nico," Percy assured him. He wished he could say more but he knew he'd be stopped by the Fates for spoiling something. Nico was probably trying to postpone the next part and what it would bring up.

Nico didn't say anything else though, just sighed and sat back. Percy nodded and took a deep breath, happy it was fresh and not smelly this time, before watching the next part.

Percy untied the others, Eurytion did nothing to stop him. Then he stoked the fire of the barbecue and murmured thanks to Artemis and Apollo by throwing food into the flames saying he owed them one.

"Thanks for the food," Apollo said. "But it wasn't us."

"I know."

That left the question of who it was. Percy himself had admitted he was a horrible shot with testament from others. Percy didn't answer any of the questioning looks though.

The sky thundered and Percy nodded in satisfaction. Now up, Tyson said yay for Percy. Nico looked at him and asked if they could tie up the cowherd now. Grover agreed saying the dog almost killed him. Percy eyed Eurytion who was sitting back at the picnic table. Orthus was resting next to him. Percy asked him how long it would take Geyron to re-form. Eurytion shrugged saying around a hundred years, he wasn't one of the fast re-formers thank the gods. Percy had done him a favor.

Percy's face darkened. The son of Ares had been wrong there. Geyron had reformed in three years. He'd seen that down there. Thinking of that he winced and rubbed his chest thinking about the curse. Annabeth looked at him sympathetically seeming to realize what he was thinking.

Percy said Eurytion had said before that he'd had to die before Geyron. He asked how? Eurytion said he worked for him for thousands of years. He'd started as a regular half-blood but took the immortality when his dad offered. It was the worst mistake he'd ever made. Now he was stuck at the ranch and couldn't leave or quit. He just tended the cows and fought Geryon's fights. They were tied together.

"That sucks," Rachel declared.

"Being immortal has some perks but it has some cons too," Thalia said. She was looking at Percy and ignoring all the looks sent at her. She was wondering how much all these run-ins with immortals had affected his decision then. He didn't seem to notice though and just looked back at her with something unfamiliar swimming in his eyes at her comment.

Percy said maybe he could change things. Eurytion narrowed his eyes and asked how? Percy said to be nice to the animals, take care of them. Stop selling them for food and dealing with the titans. Eurytion took a minute and nodded saying that'd be all right. Percy said to get the animals on his side, they'd help him. Once Geryon got back maybe he'd be working for Eurytion this time. Eurytion grinned saying now he could live with that. Percy asked if he'd try to stop them from leaving, he said no.

"See? Not so bad," Percy said. "Pretty sure he's treating the animals well, though I should check up on that."

"I'll help," Apollo said. "My cows are there and I should have been looking after them responsibly."

Percy nodded, happy that he was now able to look back on all this and resolve things he had forgotten in the long term. Every time he had wanted to, there was a new prophecy, a new quest.

Annabeth rubbed her wrists. She looked at Eurytion suspiciously saying his boss had said somebody paid for their safe passage and asked who? Eurytion shrugged saying that Geyron might have just been saying that to fool them. Percy asked about the titans, had they iris-messaged them about Nico yet? Eurytion said no, Geryon had been waiting till after the barbecue. They didn't know about him.

Around the room there were consecutive sighs of relief. Will finally relaxed his grasp on Nico a bit.

Nico was glaring at Percy who was looking at him back with concern and confusion. Finally he told him that Nico could stay there until they finished with their quest. It would be safe. Nico asked safe, why Percy cared if he was safe, he got his sister killed.

Nico winced again.

Percy sighed. "Look, it's almost over. You learn the truth soon. Just stop worrying about it. We're fine now."

Nico didn't reply. It wasn't almost over, not really. There was that whole incident with his father, and in Camp Jupiter, and…. His thoughts trailed off as Will put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

Annabeth told Nico that wasn't Percy's fault. And Geryon hadn't been lying about Kronos wanting to capture him. If he knew who he was he'd do anything to get Nico on his side. Nico said he wasn't on anyone's side. And he wasn't afraid.

"You sounded like a kid again there," Thalia mused sadly.

"What?" Nico frowned.

"Yeah. Annabeth was like that the few months we were together. She'd say she wasn't scared and pretend she was all grown up and pretend to know what she was talking about."

"But I did," Annabeth told her with a raised eyebrow.

"Fine," Thalia smirked. "You did. But you're a child of Athena. Nico was obviously actually scared."

"I was a stupid kid who didn't know what they were doing," Nico shrugged. "Yeah. I was scared. I'm just glad Percy was there to get me out of the mess I was in."

"I was part of the reason you were in that mess," Percy told him.

Scoffs echoed around the room and Nico rolled his eyes. He'd just try and convince Percy he wasn't right later.

Annabeth said he should be. His sister wouldn't want him. Nico interrupted her saying if they cared for his sister they'd help bring her back.

"Nico," Hazel said to him softly.

"I know, sis. But I learnt it was wrong. You were a different case than Bianca and I don't regret doing that. But the laws of death are there for a reason. You can't defy them."

Glances were exchanged around the room. They were sure they all defied death on a regular basis.

Piper suddenly whispered to Annabeth. "Question. You knew Bianca for five minutes. Less. I'm not sure you should have said what she would have wanted."

"I probably should have left that to Grover. He was in school with them and was supposed to be their protector too. Not the best to hear what his sister wanted from someone who didn't even know her. But I wasn't the best at sensitivity then," Annabeth winced.

Piper raised an eyebrow and held back a laugh making Annabeth nudge her in annoyance.

Percy asked a soul for a soul. Nico shouted yes. Percy asked if he didn't want his soul. Nico interrupted again saying he wasn't going to explain anything to them. He blinked back tears stubbornly saying he would bring her back. Percy shook his head saying Bianca wouldn't want to be brought back. Not like that.

Nico looked down knowing how true that was. His perception had been clouded with grief and anger. Any real hero wouldn't want to be brought back at someone else's expense. It was too sad that by the time he'd found a way to do it without hurting anyone, Bianca had moved on. An arm around him reminded him why exactly that had worked out for the best and Nico smiled at his younger sister.

Nico shouted Percy didn't know her. How would he know what she would want?

"You were right," Nico muttered to him.

Percy didn't say anything. There was no real answer to that.

Percy looked at the barbecue pit and the flames lighting it up. Then he looked at Nico determined saying they should just ask Bianca.

"What?" Jason looked between Percy and Nico. "What does that mean?"

Nico sighed. "The same thing I've been doing this whole time before."

"But it didn't work."

"Because she didn't want it too."

Jason just frowned even more confused. His sister looked even less sure of that statement but next to them Hazel sighed. Behind all of them, Frank, Will and Piper exchanged glances.

Nico said he'd tried. She wouldn't answer. Percy said to try again, he'd got a feeling she'd answer with him there. Nico asked why would she.

"She's been warning him," Chris muttered. "She's been sending him those Iris-messages and those dreams."

"What? Is that even possible?" Will asked his boyfriend who didn't answer before turning back to Chris.

"I'm not sure but probably. It's what seems most likely. My dad's the god of messengers. I'm supposed to know about these things."

Percy said it's because she'd been sending him those Iris Messages. She'd been trying to warn him what Nico had been up to so Percy could protect him.

"Jar please," Chris said pulling several drachmas out of his pockets. None of those from Camp Half Blood looked phased by a son of Hermes having so much money, unlike the Egyptians and Norse.

Nico said that was impossible. Percy said there was only one way to find out. He challenged Nico saying he'd said he wasn't afraid. Then Percy turned to Eurytion saying they needed a pit like a grave. Plus food and drinks. Annabeth said Percy's name warningly starting to say it wasn't good but Nico interrupted yet again saying all right, he would try.

There was an eerie silence as everyone watched with bated breath.

Eurytion scratched his beard and told them there was a hole dug out back for a septic tank they could use. He called Tyson calling him the Cyclops boy to fetch the ice chest from the kitchen. He hoped the dead like root beer.

"Do they?" asked Sadie curiously.

"They like having food," Walt and Nico said together.

At the same time Alex and Magnus answered. "Yes."

Everyone shivered reminded that two of their friends there were actually technically dead. It was hard to tell what was more disturbing, that or the death knowledge and vibes Walt and Nico kept giving off as they simultaneously answered questions.

The pit was twenty feet long. The septic tank behind it was bright yellow with a smiley face and red words on the side reading HAPPY FLUSH DISPOSAL CO. Above them was a full moon. Nico stood in front of the pit saying Minos should be there by now, it was fully dark. Percy not so subtly said maybe he got lost. He looked at Annabeth, Grover and Tyson hopefully.

"No need to sound so disappointed," joked Alex.

"I was disappointed all right," Percy replied then lowering his voice so only Nico and Annabeth heard. "Disappointed he showed up."

Nico didn't reply. He just poured in root beer and then tossed in the barbecue to the pit before starting to chant in Ancient Greek. The world went silent. The bugs stopped chirping and the leaves stopped rustling with the wind.

Percy winced feeling the cold against his leg where the Stygian ice dog whistle had been in his pocket all those years ago during his quest. It grew colder and colder as it had then when Nico had been chanting.

Tyson whispered to Percy to make Nico stop. Percy looked disturbed as well. Spirits were appearing in misty forms out of the ground thickening in human forms. One blue spirit drank from the edge of the pit. Nico stopped chanting to yell for someone to stop him saying only Bianca could drink. Percy drew riptide and the ghosts retreated away from the blade. The first spirit didn't stop though. He was already solidifying into the shape of a bearded man in white robes and a gold circlet around his head. His eyes were filled with malice.

"Minos," Reyna hissed. She looked at Nico to check he was fine. He was trustworthy now, she knew that, but the fact was once there had been a ghost manipulating him. Nico just rolled his eyes at the glances from everyone, not just Reyna.

Nico yelled Minos's name asking what he was doing. The ghost apologized to Nico calling him master though neither of those statements sounded genuine. He said the sacrifice smelled so good he couldn't resist. He looked at his solidifying hands saying it was good to see himself again almost in solid form. Nico interrupted him, protesting he was disrupting the ritual. Around him the spirits of the dead began shimmering and Nico started to chant again so they stayed away.

No one said a thing, too entranced and scared by the ritual performed by a boy just less than twelve years old.

Minos was watching amused saying quite right master, Nico should keep chanting. He'd only come to protect Nico from those liars who would deceive him.

Everyone scoffed. Especially Nico. He knew so much better now about who exactly he could trust.

He looked at Percy distastefully saying his name then tutting my my. Asking that the sons of Poseidon definitely hadn't improved over the centuries, had they?

Calypso saw that Apollo's face had the same expression as hers - Utter disagreement and a small smirk. Percy was definitely an improvement on many previous sons of the sea god. A very large and good improvement.

Percy clenched his fist and said they were looking for Bianca di Angelo. Then he told Minos to get lost.

Percy growled trying to hold back the anger that was affecting him from back then. He hoped he never met Minos again, even when sitting before the judges of the dead where Minos was one of the sons of Zeus on the table. Actually, especially not there.

Minos just chuckled saying he understood Percy had once killed his minotaur with bare hands. But worse things awaited him in the maze. Did he really believe Daedalus would help him? Around them the other spirits stirred annoyed. Annabeth drew her knife to ward the spirits away with Percy. Grover was chattering nervously clinging to Tyson he was so scared.

Juniper laughed at her boyfriend who pouted. "It was scary!"

"I'm sure. You're a very brave goat!"

"Tyson is brave too," Ella told Juniper helpfully but the Harpy seemed to be amused too, even if it was hard to tell.

Minos said that Daedalus cared nothing for the half-bloods. They couldn't trust him. He was so old they couldn't even count and he was crafty. He was bitter from the guilt of murder and had been cursed by the gods.

"And they should trust you?" Zia asked skeptically.

"He can't hear you," Carter pointed out.

"That is not the point Carter," Zia told her boyfriend who raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth but thought better of it when his girlfriend glared.

Percy asked the guilt of murder asking who Daedalus killed. Minos growled for them not to change the subject. They were hindering Nico by trying to persuade him to give up on his goal. Minos was going to make him a lord.

"I was already lord over you," Nico muttered. Will smirked and Nico glared at him thankful of all the people who heard to tease him about it, it was his significant annoyance.

"They were hardly hindering him," Jason said. "Minos was doing that all on his own."

"It's more like we were hindering Minos," Annabeth told Percy who nodded thankful that's what had been actually happening.

Nico told Minos it was enough. The ghost sneered saying these were Nico's enemies. He couldn't listen to them. He should let Minos protect him and turn his mind to madness as he did the others.

Everyone turned to Chris who was pale. Clarisse growled and stood up marching over to Nico. "That was you."

"Nico wouldn't do that," Will said defensively. Clarisse usually listened to him. Besides Chris, and before Silena, Will was one of the only ones who could talk her down, probably because she still felt guilty about Michael Yew. This time she pushed past him and grabbed Nico by the shirt.

"That ghost drove him insane! You knew! Chris was suffering for months. He was dying! He was so scared by what he thought he saw. It's your fault!"

"I hadn't met Minos yet. I didn't know," Nico bit back peeling her hand off of him though, unsuccessfully.

Clarisse held him up higher drawing back a fist.

"Stop!"

Percy had caught her fist. Nico had successfully pulled himself out of Clarisse's grasp as she spun towards Percy.

"What are you doing Prissy?"

"This is all in the past now. Chris is right here. He's fine."

Chris nodded at her though still a bit shaky and pale. Clarisse was still scowling though (more than usual at least.)

Percy continued. "Nico was a kid. Minos was manipulating him and even then he'd never seen Chris. He hadn't even gotten near him. Minos drove almost anyone in the labyrinth mad unless he could use them to suit his own needs. We're lucky it all just turned out fine and Mr. D was able to make everything better."

Clarisse growled once more but sat back down though she was still glaring at Nico.

Annabeth gasped asking the others? He meant Chris Rodriguez? That was him? Minos replied that the maze was his property, not Daedalus'. All who intruded deserved madness. Nico demanded he go away. He wanted to see his sister.

Nico scoffed couldn't believe how childish he'd sounded. Even knowing everything going through his mind then, it didn't justify his whining.

The ghost held back a scoff and though clearly not meaning told Nico as he wished but he warned them, he couldn't trust the heroes. Then Minos faded into the mist. The other spirits came forward but Percy and Annabeth worked together to keep them back. Nico chanted faster calling for Bianca to appear as all the spirits shifted around them.

Percy shivered again as the feeling of the dead rising came over him again. Around him the room was in a similar state though nowhere near as bad, just spooked out by everything they were seeing.

Grover murmured any time now. A slivery light then flickered in the trees. A stronger spirit, lighter and brighter came closer. Percy and Annabeth let it through. It drank from the pit.

"It's her?" Jason asked Nico and Percy, shocked.

"Yes," Hazel answered to his surprise. "That's the spirit of a child of Hades. It's stronger. You can tell. She has more of an anchor to the real world."

Frank gripped Hazel's hand as she spoke knowing that her knowledge was from experience. Nico put his arm around her shoulder and she leaned into him thinking about the sister she never knew, who'd been in the underworld at the same time as her, one fated to Elysium and one to Asphodel. Nico's hand itself was in Will's who was rubbing circles on the back of his palm. Both children of the underworld didn't seem far off from crying.

Nico's chanting faltered as he choked up and Bianca rose. Percy lowered his sword. The other spirits started to crowd forward before Bianca raised her arms and they all retreated into the woods. She turned to Percy with a slight smile telling him hello.

Nico looked down. He should have known by the way she talked to him. It seemed Bianca was just as entranced by Percy as he had been. He'd ignored it then in shock of seeing her looking exactly the same as she had when she was alive.

Percy seemed oblivious to it though Annabeth was exchanging knowing glances with Piper, Calypso, Reyna and Rachel. Nico almost scoffed. It was so typical. But none of that was what really mattered. Instead he decided to drink in the sight of his sister while he could, every last bit.

Percy tried to return her smile but it was sad. His voice was thick and choked up as he said her name looking at her wide-eyed. There was a cry pent up in his throat. He trembled saying he was so sorry.

In real life Percy didn't bother holding back the cry that exited his throat. He choked and kept blinking back the tears muttering over and over again that he was sorry. Annabeth frowned knowing it was the past emotions messing with him and there was nothing she could really do. Thalia moved forward though and Percy leaned into her shoulder and she wrapped an arm around him as Jason sat on her other side both looking worriedly between Percy and Nico. Hazel was doing the same.

Bianca told him he had nothing to apologize for. She made her own choice. She didn't regret it.

"I do," Percy muttered.

"It was her choice," Nico said looking up but never quite meeting Percy's eyes. "Not yours. You can regret it all you want but there's nothing you could have done to change the choice she made."

Percy looked away unsure.

Nico stumbled forward and called his sister's name. She turned towards him with a sad expression saying hello to her brother commenting he'd gotten tall.

Thalia frowned and didn't notice the unconscious action of pulling Jason forward to check he was there and putting her arm around him. Her eyes though searched out Annabeth who was watching with an unreadable expression. She'd missed too much and now all of them had grown up. Like Bianca with Nico. They'd both failed their siblings.

Nico cried out asking why she hadn't answered him sooner. He'd tried for months. She replied she was hoping he'd give up. Nico's voice cracked as he repeated give up, how could she say that? He was trying to her! She told him that he couldn't. He shouldn't do this. Percy was right.

"He usually is," muttered Thalia willing to concede that when it came to their family Percy usually knew what was best. Annabeth had reconciled with her father because of him, Thalia had been able to find peace and happiness, Jason was able to learn from him and he'd saved Nico and Hazel too many times. He just didn't always know what was right for himself in those circumstances.

Nico protested no saying he let her die. He wasn't her friend! Bianca stretched out a hand to stroke her brother's face but her misty hand evaporated as it got close to living skin.

Nico inhaled sharply holding back the tears that threatened to spill and drinking in the touch of the sister that was there with her arm around him.

She told Nico he had to listen to her. Holding a grudge was dangerous for a child of Hades. It was their fatal flaw. They had to forgive. He had to promise her that. Nico protested he couldn't. Never. She told him that Percy had been worried about him. He could help him. That's why she let him see what Nico had been up too hoping he would find Nico.

Will gripped Nico's hand tighter, thankful it had worked and Nico hadn't been in the ghost's grasp much longer. Nico was still mostly unresponsive watching the scene before him in an almost dreamy state.

Percy said that it was her, she had sent those Iris Messages. Bianca nodded. Nico screamed asking why she was helping Percy and not him. It wasn't fair. Bianca told him that he was so close to the truth now. It wasn't Percy he was mad at. It was her. Nico protested.

"I was mad at myself," Nico muttered. All of a sudden Jason was on his other side in between him and Thalia bringing their group of cousins together in a line of arms wrapped around each other and held hands.

It felt like they were in Dalmatian again too. "It's okay bro."

Bianca continued. Nico was mad because she left him to become a hunter of Artemis. Because she died and left him alone. She was so sorry for that, she told Nico. She truly was. But he had to overcome the anger and to stop blaming Percy for his choices. It would be his doom if he didn't.

Nico looked down again before finally meeting Percy's eyes. For another two years his anger at himself and at Percy for his feelings, had controlled him. Now he'd gotten over it all but he'd never forgiven himself and wasn't sure that Percy had either but right now he knew that Percy wanted to put it behind him just as much as he did.

Annabeth agreed she was right. Kronos was rising and he'd twist anyone to join his cause. Nico said he didn't care about Kronos he just wanted his sister back. Bianca told him he couldn't have that. Nico yelled that he was the son of Hades. He could!

Again, he almost scoffed at how naïve he sounded. Of all people, a son of Hades couldn't and shouldn’t bend the rules of death.

She warned him not to try it. If she loved him he couldn't. Her voice trailed off as spirits started to gather around them again seeming agitated. Their shadows shifted and their voices whispered danger. Bianca looked at them and told them that Tartarus stirred. His power drew Kronos's attention. The dead had to go back to the underworld. It wasn't safe for them to remain there.

"The doors of death," Hazel muttered to Frank's surprise. He wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer. The seven plus Calypso, Reyna, Nico, Will and Thalia were all in a tight group now, the big three kids at the center.

Nico told her to wait begging please. She told him goodbye. She loved him and to remember what she said. With that her form shimmered and faded along with all the other spirits leaving the group alone in the night.

Nico smiled sadly. "Goodbye Bianca."

"We should probably pause for sleep. That was probably some of the longest scenes we've watched and it's been a while since dinner," Piper suggested.

"Pausing is smart," Annabeth agreed. "We're all tired and I don't think we're ready for what comes next yet."

Percy blanched and sent an almost invisible look to Calypso, it happened so fast. Leo caught it though and scowled. The daughter of Atlas looked down and Percy looked away before looking down seeing Annabeth was scowling too. Rachel winced knowing her turn came soon after and none of that would be fun.

Everyone started to get up for bed once Annabeth had agreed. Thalia stayed standing where she was and grabbed Jason and Percy's arms. Annabeth and Piper paused too. Hazel, who had been talking to them stopped and sensing something, grabbed Nico's hand.

"We need to have a family meeting. Now."

"A family meeting?" Percy asked Thalia questioningly.

"Yes. We're a family, aren't we? And we need to talk," she said eyeing Nico then him.

"It's over Thalia. It's been over for years."

"Maybe. But I don't think so," she said with crossed arms. "You, me, Nico, Hazel, Jason and Annabeth."

"I'm not a kid of the big three," Annabeth pointed out.

"And Annabeth," Thalia repeated.

"Go ahead," Jason told Piper. Nico nodded toward Will who walked out with Reyna and Frank. That left the six others alone.

 

Chapter Text

"What's this about?" Jason asked his older sister.

He was surprised when the answer was being wrapped in a hug. "I'm sorry Jason."

"What? What are you apologizing for?"

"A lot of things, things I've realized as we've been watching this," she told him.

"Thalia you weren't in this. The only people who should be apologizing are Nico and I and we're done with that."

"Nope. We're all here and we're all going to apologize to each other," Thalia told him.

"For what?" Hazel asked.

"Not so much for you Hazel but I couldn't just ask you to leave," Thalia said. "But I need to apologize for failing."

Everyone looked at her questioningly. Thalia sighed. She'd always been a protector, an older sister, from the moment Jason was born. It was her job to look after him because their mother couldn't. And when he'd been taken that job was gone too.

Then she met Annabeth and she had that job again. She'd like to think she did well there for the few months she had the seven year old in her care. The tiny blonde had reminded her of Jason who would have been just a year younger. Thalia and Luke had taught Annabeth everything they could. They'd played with her, protected her from monsters, told her stories and she was part of their family. Thalia had protected her from monsters, on the run, on Half-Blood Hill and then as a pine tree.

But she'd still missed so much of Annabeth growing up. In fact Annabeth had been there to help her readjust after she woke. For a few months their roles had been reversed until she'd failed Annabeth again. That quest had brought everything back. Seeing Annabeth fall, meeting Luke again, talking with Percy and seeing what happened with the di Angelo's was a trip to her own past in her opinion.

She'd failed at protecting Percy and Nico too. She'd become a hunter leaving the former to the fate of the prophecy. She let the world literally fall on his shoulders and she watched the two kids she should have been responsible become war-hardened leaders.

Nico she'd failed in a different way. They were complicated to say the least. But when Percy was gone, both of them had slipped. Before, the son of Poseidon was the glue between the three of them, making them meet up and hang out. When he'd disappeared they both put their effort into finding him but Thalia should have reached out. She should have noticed Nico was slipping back and talked to him. It was almost too late the next time she saw him.

Now though, she was finally slipping back into the role she belonged. She acted protective and motherly to the other hunters, of whom she was one of the oldest, but it wasn't the same. Here she'd readopted the role with her cousins and Annabeth and it felt right which is why this was necessary.

"I'm supposed to be twenty-two," Thalia told them. "I'm the oldest of you. And I was expected to protect you and I failed."

"Thalia you were never," Percy started but he was cut off.

"No. I was. Jason was taken from me. Trained by wolves at two? That's crazy even for a demigod. You should have been with your family. I'm just happy you were safe in New Rome," she told him. "But I can see you were also put under a lot of pressure there. The son of Jupiter and everything. I'm just happy you're happy now."

"That doesn't mean you failed me," Jason told her. "I would've liked us to be together but—"

"It doesn't change the fact. I failed Annabeth too. She reminded me a lot of you. Both blonde adorable little kids. And she was around your age. But then I left you with Luke. That should have been fine," Thalia spat looking at Annabeth. "But he abandoned our family and you were left without one again."

"You protected me, from all those monsters that night and all those years at camp. You know there were no spiders in Camp after your tree appeared? And even when Luke left I had a family. Camp was my family. Percy and Grover were my family. Then you were back."

"For how long? And it wasn't the same. You were old. I missed so much of both of you growing up," Thalia told Annabeth and Jason. "I felt wrong being so young while you were so old. You didn't need me anymore so I became a hunter. But that meant I failed you and Nico."

"Thalia you needed to do that," Percy told her. "The prophecy wouldn't have been yours."

"No. But everyone might have thought it was. That could have protected you. And Nico, I should have seen what you were going through. When Percy disappeared…."

Nico looked down. The two of them had fought. And badly. "Don't."

"We should have stuck together. A kid of the big three faces things other people don't," Thalia told him. She looked at Percy. "Those times you made us get together, you don't know how much they must have helped both of us. When you disappeared we both were so busy searching for you that we didn't see each other. And if we had I might have noticed."

"I'm fine now Thalia," Nico rolled his eyes. "And when it counted you came through. I'll always remember San Juan."

"But you were back to not eating and sleeping and over extending yourself," Thalia told him.

"We all were doing that," Annabeth told her. "We were so worried about Percy."

Percy looked genuinely touched and worried himself. Thalia grunted. "Fine. But if I see any of you overextending your powers you're going to regret it. And I know how easy it is for any of us to do that."

"You don't need to protect us Thalia," Percy told her.

"You're all just kids," she said then glared at him when he opened his mouth. "Don't use the physically older than me argument. None of you should have had to grow up so fast. Nico was just turning thirteen when you fought the Titan War. Hazel you were the same age when you faced Gaea."

"You became a tree when you were twelve Thalia. You can hardly argue," Annabeth told her.

"And you," she said glowering at Percy and Annabeth. "Don't get me started on the **** you two go through. It's…"

Hazel fanned herself as Thalia went through an impressive amount of curses in Greek and English.

Percy put his hand on her shoulder. "Stop."

Thalia looked at him surprised.

"First, Hazel is about to faint from your language. Second, you're blaming yourself when you don't need too. I do it all the time too. How much do I feel like I failed Nico? And so many others. But it's also the past," Percy said wisely. "We need to move on and keep going. And if moving on for you is going all Mama Bear on us all the time then go ahead."

He received a punch on the arm for that but she was grinning. "Accept it then. We're getting together once a month so I can check in on all of you. And during this you're going to have to expect a lot of it."

"Well there's a lot more of this stuff coming," Nico scowled.

"She'd be proud you know," Percy told him.

"I know."

"And you got a sister back. Just the other one moved on," Jason told him.

"I would never change that," Nico agreed squeezing Hazel's hand. His younger sister smiled at him sadly.

Percy yawned loudly then. Annabeth looked at him. "Okay that's it. One last group hug then bed. We all need it."

"But Annabeth—"

"No. Talking about overloading powers you know what's coming tomorrow. I don't want to think about what that did to you."

The others all turned to Percy curiously. He winced. "Fine. I'll go to the room but I'm not sleeping yet. I was going to judge Magnus and Carter's bet about crazier stories and adventures."

"Falafel?"

"Falafel. Apparently they eat a lot of it in Egypt and Carter's interested in what Magnus thinks is the best falafel," Percy explained.

Annabeth rolled her eyes. "Go ahead Seaweed Brain."

"Come on Nico. Let's see if the others have gone to sleep yet," Jason urged him.

"Want to come with us?" Thalia asked Hazel.

"I think Sadie wanted to talk with Thalia about the mist," Annabeth explained.

"Sure," Hazel smiled happy to be included following Annabeth and Thalia out. Behind them the room turned dark.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18: Dreams and Lost Time

 

“Wait, so who won your bet?” Annabeth asked Magnus the next morning as she and Sadie sat next to them with their breakfasts.

“Magnus surprisingly,” Percy said. “Norse mythology is weird and he’s only been at it for a few months.”

“He’s dead though,” Carter said indignantly.

“True. That makes it easier to win things like this.”

“Uh huh,” Annabeth challenged Magnus. “And who won your last bet?”

“Okay you and Percy literally would win this every time,” Magnus told her. “Just give me a few hundred years to catch up.”

“Right. Call us then,” Percy said sarcastically.

“Either way looks like we’re going to see if duat portal magic works in Boston. We should bring Julian with us to show us around,” Sadie told Carter.

“As long as I get my falafel I’m happy,” Magnus said leaning back.

Breakfast was finished with most of the dares/truths for the day being handed out. Hazel was told at lunch Leo would do her makeup. Leo had grinned maniacally at that and even more when he was told he had till the same time to figure out a person to act as for the rest of the day. Thalia’s dare and Will’s truth were saved for later.

As everyone walked into the room Percy pulled Calyspo and Leo aside. “Hey. I just thought I should give you some warning.”

“There’s no chance it will be skipped?” Calypso asked hopefully.

“I doubt it. I’m sorry.”

“It’s chill dude,” Leo told him. “Cal and I are happy, even if we’re on a death quest again with the most annoying god turned mortal in existence.”

“So now you know how it feels, huh?” Percy told him.

“Shut it. You’re not much better.”

Percy laughed but it quickly stopped. “Really Leo. I’m sorry.”

“Why? You did nothing.”

“I’m going to feel it. I feel everything. Even some of the emotions. And I was on Ogygyia for two weeks.”

“Hephaestus’s hammers,” Leo cursed under his breath. He looked up at Percy. “Thanks for the warning man.”

“Yeah, well I might get the worse end. Between that and the other thing Annabeth’s not going to be too happy.”

Leo winced. “I’d wish you luck but it wouldn’t help a bit.”

Percy’s mouth twitched. “Thanks anyway Leo. And I’m really sorry Calyspo. You didn’t deserve any of what I put you through. I’m sorry it’s coming back up.”

“You tried to free me Percy and you would never hurt me if you could help it. I forgave you long ago,” she told him.

He nodded once again not looking like he believed it. Calypso and Leo walked in and purposefully sat far away from Percy. Percy decided it was probably best if he sat far away from Annabeth and Rachel as well. He found himself with Alex, Magnus, Sam, Sadie and Carter. “It’s okay if I sit here right?”

“Yeah,” Carter replied confused. As Percy sat the scene in front of them started and it was clear it was another dream.

Percy walked along side Luke in the dark halls of the palace on Mount Tam. Green fire burned along the walls reflecting eerily on the black marble as the stormy sky swirled above them. Luke wore camo pants, a white tee and a bronze breastplate. His sword scabbard was empty though it was still strapped to his side. He entered a courtyard with dozens of warriors and dracaenae prepping their armor and weapons. When they saw him the demigods rose and beat their swords on their shields.

Around the room faces filled with disgust at the show of respect Luke was given by the other demigods as the dracanae just stood watching.

One of the dracaena addressed him calling him lord and asked if it was time. Luke promised soon and told them to continue their work. Another voice called him, once again addressing him as my lord. Kelli the empousa was behind him in a blue dress. Her eyes flickered between red and brown and her hair was braided behind her. Percy’s eyes widened as he saw her but she didn’t see him in the dream like last time. She told Luke he had a visitor and stepped aside. Kampe stood in front of him taking up the whole corridor. Luke’s voice sounded shaky as he addressed saying he’d told her to stay on Alcatraz.

“It’s good to know that even those on Kronos’s side are scared of her,” Frank muttered.

Hazel nodded beside him in agreement.

Kampe hissed again in her language. Luke told her she was a jailor. Her job was to.. He was interrupted by Kampe hissing again.

“What’s she saying?”

Tyson opened his mouth but Percy beat him too it. “The first time she said she came to serve and wanted revenge. The second was that she’d make sure we were dead. No one ever escapes her.”

“Wait, you understood that?” Annabeth asked. “This thing with you suddenly picking up languages is getting weird.”

“It’s the dream,” Percy said.

Everyone else looked unconvinced.

Luke paused for a minute. He was sweating. He said fine. Kampe would come with them. She’d carry Ariadne’s string. It was a position of great honor. Kampe hissed again and sheathed her swords then stomped away on her legs. Luke mumbled they should have left her in Tartarus. She was too chaotic. Too powerful.

“They really should have,” Will grumbled for once agreeing with Luke. Kampe had killed several campers, nymphs and satyrs. He’d been unable to do anything to heal her poison.

Kelli laughed telling Luke he shouldn’t fear power but use it.

“It’s wise to fear power, even as you use it,” Reyna stated thinking of those driven mad by it like Octavian. Thalia nodded beside her thinking of how true that was for her.

Luke said the sooner they left the better. He wanted this over with. Kelli awed sympathetically running a finger down his arm asking if he found it unpleasant to destroy his old camp. Luke said he didn’t say that. Kelli asked if he was having second thoughts about his own special part.

“Special part?” Jason asked not liking the way that sounded. All of the Greeks who’d fought in the titan war winced.

“We can’t say anything,” Chris reminded him. “But it’s not something pleasant.”

“Great.”

Luke’s face was stony. He said he knew his duty. The demon nodded that was good. Then she asked was their strike force sufficient or did she need to call mother Hecate for help?

“Hecate?” Hazel asked surprised.

“She’s a titan, even though she’s a minor goddess she’s of titan blood. The empousa are her servants. And though she hadn’t sided with anyone during the war the first time the second time she sided with the Titan’s.”

Percy nodded to Annabeth’s explanation. “It doesn’t matter. She didn’t do to much harm and we shouldn’t hold it against her.”

Luke said they had more than enough. The deal was almost complete. All he needed now was to negotiate safe passage through the arena.

“Arena?” Reyna asked.

Percy nodded but didn’t answer.

Kelli hummed saying that should be interesting. She’d hate to see his handsome head on a spike if he failed.

“What does that mean?” Carter asked. “I mean Kronos won’t kill him now for failing. Right? He’d failed before.”

“Not Kronos.”

“Any explanation then?” Sadie asked annoyed.

“You’ll see.”

She crossed her arms and huffed and Percy chuckled.

Luke said he wouldn’t fail. And then addressing her as demon, asked if she didn’t have any other matters to attend to. Kelli smiled saying yes. She was bringing despair to his eavesdropping enemies. She was doing that right now. Then she turned to Percy as her talons came out and she teared toward him.

“That’s it,” Nico announced suprising everyone. He turned to Percy determined. “Have you even tried to learn?”

“What?” Percy asked confused.

“Control with dreams,” Reyna said. “I start mine all in the same place. I can decide, or control what I see. It doesn’t help with actual nightmares but demigod visions.”

“That actually sounds awesome,” Percy said.

“It could work,” agreed Carter. “Especially if they’re like Ba visions like we thought.”

“I want to learn,” Percy told Nico and Reyna. “Even if Kelli was the only one to really intercept my dreams like that it’s probably smart.”

Percy blinked and now stood at the top of a stone tower over looking rocky cliffs and the ocean. Daedalus was hunched over a work table huddled over an instrument. He cursed in ancient greek squinting like he couldn’t see. Then a voice called uncle and a boy around twelve came running up with a wooden box. Daedalus greeted Perdix and asked if he was done with his projects though he didn’t sound so happy to see him. Perdix said yes happily explaining they were easy. Daedalus scowled and asked easy? The problem of moving water uphill without a pump was easy. Perdix said yes and excitedly dumped his stuff before pulling out a strip of papyrus then shoved the paper into Daedalus’s face who said he saw. Not bad.

“I see? Not bad?” Leo asked Annabeth and Percy surprised. “Who’s this Perdix and why have I never heard of him? If he did that with that kind of thing at twelve he was brilliant. When he grew up he must have been genius.”

“Because he never grew up,” Percy murmured. The only one to hear him was Magnus who frowned. He was getting the same feeling he did whenever he saw kids that age in Valhalla. And it was nothing happy.

“There’s a reason you’ve never heard of him,” Annabeth explained.

Leo frowned but didn’t say anything.

Perdix said the king loved it. He’d said that Perdix might even be smarter than Daedalus. Daedalus seemed unimpressed asking did he now? Perdix said that he didn’t believe that. He was so glad that his mother sent him to study with Daedalus. He wanted to know everything he did. Daedalus asked, so when he died, Perdix could take his place?

Samirah frowned. “Paranoia and jealousy. Something’s going to go wrong.”

“When doesn’t it?” Blitz asked her.

She shrugged.

Perdix said no vehemently. But he was thinking why did a man have to die anyway?

“Overpopulation. So more hunger, sickness, economy issues, lots of unhappiness and worldwide chaos in general,” Nico said.

“Oookay,” Leo said edging away from Nico. Calypso elbowed him with a glare and he stopped.

Daedalus scowled and said it’s the way things were. Everyone died but the gods. Perdix asked why? If the animus was captured, and the soul put in another form…well, Daedalus had told him about his automatons. Bulls, eagles, dragons and horses of bronze. Why not a bronze form for a man?

“I’m not sure whether to be impressed or scared,” Blitz said.

“Both,” Leo suggested looking the same way.

“Both is good,” Blitz agreed.

Daedalus said no. Perdix was naïve. Something like that was impossible.

“Even if it wasn’t it shouldn’t be done,” Walt frowned.

“It’s probably not,” Leo said. “It’d take a lot of work and extreme genius but it might be possible. Magic and good engineering.”

“Leo, it shouldn’t be done,” Hazel said seriously.

“I wasn’t thinking about it,” Leo waved his hands defensively.

Perdix said he didn’t think so with a little use of magic. Daedalus repeated the word magic incredulously. He said yes to his uncle. Magic and mechanics together with a little work, one could make a body that would look human only better. He’d even made some notes. With that Perdix handed Daedalus a thick scroll which he looked at for a long time with narrowed eyes. He closed the scroll and cleared his throat saying it would never work. When perdix was older he’d see.

“It works,” Leo decided.

“Daedalus just said that it doesn’t,” Frank challenged him.

“He was lying,” Alex said matter of factly.

“How do you know?”

“Children of the god of lies, trickery and all of that,” said Samirah. “We know when someone is lying.”

“Okay. So let’s just get back to the point we were ignoring. A kid the same age as Felix discovered how to stop death,” Jaz said loudly obviously freaking out.

“See? Said he was genius,” Leo pointed and looked around everyone. “Why haven’t I heard of him?”

“Let’s just watch,” Annabeth sighed.

Perdix if he could fix the astrolabe then Uncle. He then asked if Daedalus’s joints were swelling up again. Daedalus’s jaw clenched as he said no and thank asking Perdix to run along.

“He should listen,” Reyna said in a low voice. “He should run as far as he can.”

Grover looked at her. “Um… what are you talking about?”

“Nothing good goat boy,” Clarisse told him from her spot nearby. “Now all of you shut it.”

Perdix ran and snatched a beetle from the stuff and ran to the edge of the tower standing by a window as a strong wind came through. The intangible blurry vision of Percy was yelling at him and gesturing to move back but no sound came out. Perdix wound up the beetle and tossed into the sky. It spread it’s wings and flew away as Perdix laughed happily. Daedalus watched and mumbled angrily. Smarter than him. He doubted it. Then Perdix asked if his son really died flying. He’d heard that Daedalus made giant wings but they failed.

Everyone winced. Reyna’s face darkened. Alex’s and Hearth’s did too. One thing they all easily recognized was the signs of uncontrollable anger on someone’s face.

Daedalus’s clenched his hands several times before murmuring take his place angrily. Wind rippled around Perdix. He turned to Daedalus and said he’d love to fly. He’d make his own wings that wouldn’t fail. He asked Daedalus if he thought he could.

Annabeth winced again. Daedalus’s hubris was evident. Not all children of Athena, but most of them need to beware of that fatal flaw. Daedalus’s son had died from it, and it seemed his nephew would too. It would destroy Daedalus himself too, eating himself up for years. Annabeth couldn’t count how many times her hubris almost killed her, like the one that happened right after this.

Then suddenly a shimmering vision of Janus appeared next to Daedalus whispering smiling and tossing a key from hand to hand. He whispered choose over and over to the inventor.

Tyson frowned. “The bad two faced man is back.”

“He’s not really there Tyson,” Hazel reminded him gently. “It’s a dream.”

“He’s in the dream though. And that’s not good,” Thalia grumbled. “Stupid god and stupid decisions.”

Daedalus picked up one of Perdix’s bag with clear anger in his eyes. He looked to Perdix and told him to catch. He threw a bronze beetle to him and Perdix tried to catch but the beetle sailed through the sky and when Perdix tried to reach it he fell to far.

“No!”

Various shouts came from all corners of the rooms. Jason held out his hands. “Calm down. He’s still holding on! He got the edge of the window.”

The yelling stopped but everyone still watched nervously.

Perdix yelled as he held on for his uncle to help him. Daedalus’s face was unreadable and he didn’t move. He spoke softly telling Perdix to go on and make his own wings and be quick about it.

There were a lot of loud reactions to the harsh words. Those who saw it all coming just watched silently.

Perdix cried for his uncle again as he fell back. There was a moment of silence. Thunder shook the sky. A voice spoke saying that Daedalus would pay the price for that.

“Mother,” Annabeth muttered.

“Why she’s talking to Daedalus?” Magnus asked.

“He’s her son,” Annabeth said simply. Magnus didn’t look like he knew what to say to that.

Daedalus scowled up at the sky saying he’d always honored her. He’d sacrificed everything to follow her way. She replied that Perdix had had her blessing to. And then Daedalus killed him. For that he had to pay. Daedalus growled said he had paid and paid. He’d lost everything. He’d suffer in the underworld, no doubt but in the meantime… he trailed off and picked up Perdix’s scroll slipping it into his sleeve.

“No way,” Leo muttered.

Athena continued saying he didn’t understand. He’d pay now and forever. Daedalus collapsed in agony clutching his neck. Then suddenly they were back in the ranch with Percy on a couch holding his neck.

Percy held his neck and winced loudly. Annabeth frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“He’s not the only one feeling it all,” Percy said. “I felt your mother brand him.”

“Brand him?” Reyna asked.

“I mean you Romans still pretty much brand yourselves,” Will pointed out looking pointedly at all the tattoos.

“That’s a bit different,” Jason said. “It’s not a brand. It’s a sign. A mark of the legion accepting you from heaven. Literally.”

“So’s this,” Will challenged eyebrow raised.

“Hurts about the same,” Percy interrupted. Will looked satisfied. Reyna glared at Percy who looked unrepenetant. The pain had lasted for a searing minute as it had when he woke back then. Around the same thing as with the tattoo.

Percy was panting and still clutching his throat when Grover called his name asking if he was okay. Percy’s breath steadied and he looked around at the flickering light of the tv. He croaked asking what time it was? Grover replied two in the morning. He couldn’t sleep so he was watching the nature channel. He sniffled saying he missed Juniper.

Juniper grinned happy to know he thought about her and missed her too. She kissed his cheek then drew back and frowned. “Next time if you miss me you don’t worry me but disappearing for a few more weeks, then months!”

“Agreed,” Annabeth said glaring at Percy. Grover hadn’t been missing nearly as long as Percy had but her and Juniper had bonded and mourned those two weeks both unsure the ones they loved were alive.

“Hey, not my fault,” Percy pointed out.

“He’s right. We were put to sleep. By gods,” Grover bleated panicked at Juniper’s glare.

“Wait, Hera put you to sleep too?” Leo asked confused.

“Not the same god,” Percy told him before turning back to Annabeth. “And we were lost. Him in the labyrinth and me…. Well, we were lost.”

Juniper and Annabeth exchanged glances. The latter didn’t say anything but Juniper kissed Grover’s cheek again. “I missed you too.”

Percy rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and said Grover would see her again soon. Grover shook his head and looked down sadly. He asked if Percy knew what day it was. He just saw it on Tv. It was June 13th. Seven days since they left camp.

“Your deadline,” Blitz frowned. “Those other Satyrs. You haven’t found Pan.”

Grover nodded.

“You lost your searcher’s liscense?” Frank asked surprised. Grover didn’t seem like his dream had been ripped away from him.

“Can’t technically answer that,” Grover said.

“Are we ignoring the fact they said several days had passed?” Alex asked.

“Time passes differently in magical places,” Sadie and Annabeth both said at once before exchanging surprised looks.

“Hours in the duat are different than hours in the mortal world,” agreed Carter.

“We’ve experienced it in a lot of places,” Percy said. “The Lotus Casino, the sea of monsters, sometimes the underworld, Ogy—”

He found he couldn’t say anything and shrugged. “Whatever. It’s just that it happens in a lot of places.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen time do that,” Magnus frowned. “Even in Valhalla.”

“Weird,” decided Piper.

Percy said that couldn’t be right. Grover reminded him time was faster in the Labyrinth. The first time him and Annabeth went down there, he’d thought he was only gone a few minutes but it was an hour. Understanding spread on Percy’s face. Then it went dark a gain and he looked at Grover sadly. Saying it was his deadline with the Council of Cloven Elders.

Everyone looked at Grover questioningly. Grover raised his arms in defense. “Hey! I won’t be able to say anything. Don’t look at me!”

They looked at all the older Greeks plus Tyson and Rachel instead. Thalia rolled her eyes. “Just watch.”

Grover put the tv remote in his mouth and crunched the end of it.

There were a few snickers.

He said he was out of time but as soon as he went back they’d take away his searcher’s license. He’d never be allowed to go out again. Percy looked at Grover seriously saying they’d talk to them. They’d make them give him more time. Grover swallowed the remote saying they’d never go for it. The world was dying. What Percy did today, saving the ranch animals from Geyron, that was amazing. He wished he could be more like him.

“Hey man, the only reason I can do all that stuff is because of you,” Percy told him seriously. “You’re the one who’s helped me from the beginning. I might’ve been a hero, but I would’ve helped people, not the world. You’re the one who’s taught me how much the world matters and every single creature in it.”

Grover opened his mouth and closed it again. Opened it one more time closed it again. There was only one thing really to say. “Thanks.”

Percy told him not to say that. He was just as much a hero as… Grover interrupted saying no he wasn’t. He kept trying but …. He stopped and sighed. Then he said to Percy he couldn’t go back to camp without finding Pan. He just couldn’t. Percy understood that, didn’t he? He couldn’t face Juniper if he failed. He couldn’t even face himself.

“I’d be with you no matter what,” Juniper told him softly.

“I know.”

Percy said they’d figure something out. Grover hadn’t failed. He was the champion goat boy, all right? Juniper knew that and so did he. Grover muttered champion goat boy dejectedly. Then he dozed off as Percy watched the nature channel with his sleeping friend next to him.

“I never said thanks,” Grover told him. “You’re the best friend Percy.”

“That’s the one I’m talking too,” Percy told him. Grover brayed happily.

Chapter Text

  

 

Chapter 19: Give Her A Real Challenge

 

Several people were still pestering Grover with question about his license and what exactly it meant that he and Percy went missing in the Labyrinth. They were silenced by Clarisse surprisingly enough. It wasn’t as surprising when she was telling them all to shut up so they could watch and get all this stupid stuff over with. Everyone had sat back down quietly after that.

The scene rose with everyone standing by the cattle guard. They were thanking Eurytion and saying goodbye to Nico. Then as Percy stood by he suddenly turned to Nico blurting out he could come with them.

“Please tell me you said no,” Will pleaded. “You know how deadly the labyrinth is and you won’t have your ghost this time.”

“Unless you do,” Thalia muttered darkly so no one could hear her but Reyna who scowled.

“It might be safer for him to be with them though,” Jason pointed out. “That way we know Kronos won’t get him and that he’s protected by people who care.”

“Not that I thought they did,” Nico muttered. “I didn’t go. You know why now.”

Percy winced again at his obliviousness. “Sorry. Shouldn’t have just done that. I feel bad I was so stupid that you didn’t feel like you could trust me.”

“I was scared and that made me the stupid one Percy,” Nico said. “I was angry too, angry Bianca talked to you.”

“I know,” Percy said sadly.

“Okay, knuckleheads one and two, we all agreed we’re stopping the sorryfest so shut up so the rest of us can watch,” Thalia told them.

“We’re good?” Percy asked.

“We’re good.”

Nico shook his head. His eyes were red and his face was pale. He was wrapped in a giant black robe too big for any regular person, let alone an 11 year old. He told Percy he needed time to think but he wouldn’t meet Percy’s eyes. Annabeth told him that Bianca just wanted him to be okay. She put her hand on his shoulder but he shoved it off and he trudged up toward the ranch house with the mist clinging to him.

“Still don’t know how we ever thought it was Annabeth he liked,” Piper muttered to Jason.

Jason nodded in agreement.

Annabeth said she was worried about him. If he started to talk to Minos’s ghost again. Eurytion promised he’d be all right. Nico could stay at the ranch and gather his thoughts as long as he wanted. Nico would be safe, Eurytion continued. He promised. Percy asked what about Eurytion? Eurytion scratched Orthus on his chins then said things would be run differently with all of them for now on. No more sacred cattlemeat. Instead soybean patties. And he was going to befriend the flesh eating horses and might just sign up for the next rodeo. Percy shuddered but said good luck.

“Thank you,” Apollo said suddenly. “For my cows.”

“For making sure all of that was changed. It’s great,” Piper nodded. “Those animals didn’t deserve any of it. And a ranch with any livestock should have a good person running it.”

“I did what was needed,” Percy shrugged. “Nothing special. Just happy I could make things better.”

Eurytion looked at Percy and Annabeth and said he bet they were probably going to look for Daedalus’s workshop now. Annabeth’s eyes lit up as she asked if he could help them. Eurytion looked down at the cattle guard uncomfortably. He said he didn’t know where it was, but Hephaestus probably did.

“You’re going to see dad?” Leo asked. “I mean I know he’s met you but I assumed it was just on Olympus during those meetings.”

“Yeah. I’ve met your dad. I’ve met every Olympian pretty much face to face, though I’m not sure how much you can count Demeter,” Percy mused.

“That was for a few seconds,” Nico agreed. “And she was arguing with the other two.”

“Cereal.”

“Ugh,” Nico shuddered. “Don’t remind me.”

“Okay, weird conversations and vague references aside, I’m guessing most demigods haven’t met most these gods?” Carter asked.

“No.”

“Seen them but not really talked to most of them,” Will explained.

Apollo shook his head sadly. “We’re not supposed to interact or interfere with demigods or mortals who know of our existence. Not really.”

“Percy and I have probably met more gods face to face than any demigod in decades or even centuries,” Annabeth agreed.

Annabeth said that’s what Hera had said. She asked how they could find Hephaestus then? Eurytion pulled a necklace out from the collar of his shirt. There was a small pit the size of a thumb on the middle of a disk hanging from it. He handed the necklace to Annabeth and explained Hephaestus visited the ranch sometimes to study the animals so he could make automaton’s of bronze. Last time Eurytion did him a favor. Hephaeastus had wanted to play a trick on Ares and Aphrodite. He’d given Eurytion the chain as thanks. If he ever needed Hephaestus the disk would lead him to the forges. Only once though.

“You saw Dad’s forges?” Leo asked gaping. “What was he building? I need a list of tools, of everything…”

“A god’s forges.” Blitz got a faraway look in his eyes.

“Forges of the Cyclops are cool. But Hephaestus’s was nicer,” Tyson said in agreement.

“Which hammer was he using? What type of wrench and screwdriver?” Leo asked him.

“You can see for yourself soon Leo,” Annabeth said.

Annabeth asked why he was giving it to her Eurytion blushed saying he didn’t need to see the forges himself. He had enough to do at the ranch. She should just press the button and be on her way. Annabeth pressed the button then and the disk sprang up growing eight legs. Annabeth shrieked and dropped it screaming spider’s.

Everyone winced knowing how bad Annabeth’s fear of spiders was. She herself paled and shivered once again as Arachne appeared in her mind.

Grover explained to Geyron she was a little scared of spiders. The old grudge between Athena and Arachne. Eurytion looked a little embarrassed for not remembering and quickly apologized to Annabeth. The spider scrambled into the cattle guard. Percy looked at his friends and said to hurry. The spider wasn’t going to wait for them. Then Tyson pulled the cattle guard off the hole and they all said a quick goodbye to Eurytion before dropping into the maze.

“Back into the hellhole maze,” Will frowned darkly. Then he looked at Nico. “At least you’re not in there.”

Nico winced, not loud enough that Will noticed but he did notice the tensing only he took it as Nico being uncomfortable with the concern which he still was from time to time.

The scene skipped to them running down a marble tunnel taking a quick left and almost tumbling into the dark hole in front of them. Tyson grabbed Percy right before he fell.

Percy and Annabeth both stiffened on opposite sides of the room meeting each other’s eyes to reassure themselves before looking back to the scene ignoring the looks most the others who knew about their fall were giving them.

In front of them the tunnel continued but there was no floor for a hundred feet only darkness and iron rungs on the ceiling. The spider was halfway across swinging from bar to bar like spiderman. Annabeth grinned at Percy as she told him she was great at monkey bars.

“Scary good for a seven year old,” Thalia agreed. “All the other ones we ever saw try fell at some point. Crying with skinned knees. Annabeth always took right to them when we had the chance.”

“She is the best at the rock wall,” Grover nodded.

“Percy’s not far behind there,” she admitted.

“Thank goodness for that training,” Percy said looking at the picture of the black drop in front of him and remembering scaling the cliffs of the pit, up and down several times.

Annabeth swung easily once she jumped and grabbed the first bars. Percy watched her wide-eyed as she went only dropping at the other side to run after the spider.

“Woo! Go Annabeth!” Sadie cheered.

“That’s impressive,” Sam agreed.

“Uh huh,” Percy said not realizing everyone heard and turned. He blushed.

Annabeth smirked. “You like the monkey bars seaweed brain?”

“Ummm…” Percy said not trying to think of the image of Annabeth swinging he’d just seen. And that had been two years ago. Now it would be a lot more impressive.

“Stop torturing the poor man Annabeth,” Rachel laughed. “No matter how funny it is.”

“Later,” Annabeth said meeting Percy’s eyes. He gulped.

Percy started to follow and got across quickly.

There weren’t as many cheers as for Annabeth but people watched impressed and most watched his arm flex with interest. Annabeth especially. They definitely needed to find some monkey bars soon.

Percy dropped down and saw Tyson giving Grover a piggyback ride across doing it in three swings. Then the last iron bar ripped free under his weight.

There was loud laughter at the awkward sight of Grover on Tyson’s back. Tyson blushed and Grover fidgeted awkwardly trying to stop himself from protesting the laughter, or explain it to Juniper.

They kept running till they passed a skeleton in a tie, dress shirt and nice pants. Percy slipped on a pile of broken pencils getting up as they entered a large room full of blazing lights and skeletons. Some were old and very white. Others were more recent, flies hung on them and other much less pleasant things too. In the center of the room was a glittering dias with a monster with the body of a lion and head of a woman with hair tied back in a bun and way too much makeup. She had a blue ribbon on her chest that read ‘This Monster Has Been Rated Exemplary!’

“A sphinx,” Carter sounded surprised. “They looked almost like Egyptian ones. I’m guessing just as dangerous.”

“Yes,” Tyson said. “Dangerous. Bad sphinxes. Mean.”

“Sphinx won’t hurt Tyson. Ella will help. Tyson is brave but Ella will help him. No more mean monsters.”

“A guardian,” Zia mused ignoring Ella and Tyson.

“Like in the story of Oedipus,” Reyna agreed. “The perfect challenge for the child of the Wisdom goddess.”

“Dad would use that,” Leo frowned. “But I’m not so sure he’d use a monster that would kill everyone.”

“I’m not even sure if she worked for Hephaestus or if she just decided to station herself there and work,” Annabeth shrugged. “We were focused on other things.”

Tyson whimpered that it was a sphinx and Percy looked at it worriedly.

“You okay buddy?” Percy asked suddenly overcome with worry for Tyson. The Cyclopes nodded.

“Why don’t you like sphinxes?” Frank said.

“You don’t have to say Tyson,” Annabeth said quickly.

“It is okay. No more bad sphinxes can hurt me,” Tyson told her before turning to Frank to explain. “I was little. Alley in Manhattan. Bad sphinx found baby Cyclops in her home. Scars are still on my back.”

“Tyson…” Hazel trailed off as Frank looked sorry for asking.

“I am okay. Ella thinks I am brave.”

“Tyson met two sphinxes! He fights bad monsters and is nice! He’s very brave.”

Hazel and Rachel cooed.

Annabeth stepped forward and the sphinx roared showing fangs. Bars came down on both the tunnel exits in front and behind the group. The sphinx’s snarl turned to a brilliant smile. She welcomed the lucky contestants telling them to get ready to play answer that riddle. Applause came from the ceiling like if there were loudspeakers and spotlights swept over the room.

“You won’t get out till you answer whatever question she has,” Piper said then grinned. “But you have Annabeth.”

“Yeah,” Grover brayed sarcastically. “We have Annabeth.”

Said daughter of Athena glared at him. “Don’t…”

Grover raised an eyebrow.

“Fine! Not my proudest moment,” she said so only he, Juniper, Nico, Will, Thalia and Reyna heard. The others exchanged a few glances unsure what Annabeth and Grover were talking about.

The sphinx continued saying there were fabulous prizes. If they passed the test they got to advance. If they failed she got to eat them. She asked who the contestant would be? Annabeth grabbed Percy’s arm and said she had this. She knew what the sphinx was going to ask.

“Wait, is there only one sphinx?” Carter asked. “The one from Oedipus must have asked the same riddle every time because no one had solved it yet. Other sphinxes’ must have other riddles.”

“I’m not sure,” Annabeth said. “There are other sphinxes but you’re right about the riddle. From what I’d heard they all used the same one.”

Carter frowned. Something was wrong about that answer. Something was wrong about the whole thing.

Percy opened his mouth and quickly closed it. Annabeth stepped forward to the contestant’s podium where there was a skeleton in a school uniform hunched over. She pushed the skeleton over and took it’s place telling it sorry. The monster welcomed her calling her by name and asked if she was ready for her test. Annabeth said yes, ask the riddle. The sphinx said there were twenty riddles now.

“Twenty riddles?” Apollo asked. “Wow. When did they change that?”

“Who knows, who cares!” Clarisse growled. “Tell me these riddles didn’t take too long.”

“We won’t be watching them for a long time,” Annabeth said after a moment of silence. The real riddles, if that’s what they were, would have taken a lot longer.

“They better.”

Annabeth protested saying but back in the old days. The sphinx interrupted her sentence and said they raised their standards. To pass she had to show proficiency in all twenty. They she said wasn’t that great very cheerfully.

“Please shut her up soon,” Alex said.

Magnus nodded in agreement. “How does anyone sound so cheerful?”

Applause turned on and off. Annabeth glanced at Percy nervously but he gave her an encouraging nod. She turned and told the sphinx she was ready.

Once again Annabeth met Percy’s eyes. He gave her a smile. That real one he saved just for her. Several people awed. Percy watched as the scene restarted and looked back at Annabeth. In this moment he’d known she wasn’t perfect, something he didn’t often see, or thought and he loved that. He’d fallen in love with her long before this but each little thing made him realize how much more she mattered to him with each small moment like this.

A drumroll sounded. The sphinx’s eyes glittered and she asked Annabeth what, taking a dramatic pause, was the capital of Bulgaria. Annabeth frowned in silence.

“Sofia,” Carter and Ella both said then the egyptian magician looked at Annabeth. “You didn’t know?”

“No. I did. But—”

“That’s not the question,” Thalia realized shaking her head fondly. “Annabeth—”

“Don’t say a thing. Learnt my lesson, haven’t I?”

Thalia didn’t argue with that.

Annabeth finally answered sofia and asked but then the sphinx interrupted saying correct and more applause came from the ceiling. The monster smiled and said to please be sure to mark her answer clearly on her test sheet with a number 2 pencil.

“Not a scantron,” Piper groaned.

“A what?” Jason asked frowning.

“It’s a testing technology. You fill in the bubble to your answer with a pencil,” Sadie said. “It’s annoying.

“It has to be number 2,” Percy said ignoring Leo’s snicker.

“Basically,” Rachel interrupted to explain better. “A scantron is a bunch of bubbles, you fill in the one corresponding to your answers and they feed the paper into a machine where it reads it and scores it. They’re standardized tests and the most annoying things ever. I can’t imagine what it’s like with ADHD.”

“I get extra time on the SATs,” Percy put in. “So that helps. A little.”

“A lot,” Annabeth said.

“Yeah but you’re a genius.”

“You’ve been working hard on it,” she assured him. It was so awkward talking across the room without him right by her side here to kiss him on the cheek, or better his mouth.

Annabeth asked what looking confused until a test booklet and pencil appeared on the podium in front of her. The sphinx said to make sure the bubble was filled in clearly and the mark stayed inside the circle. If she had to erase, erase it completely or the machine wouldn’t be able to read the answers.

“It’s the same speech,” Leo said unbelievingly. “The same exact speech those teachers give before the tests.”

“I think they just read it off a paper or something,” Chris offered. “I hope they do. Or it’s creepy.”

“It’s pretty creepy or annoying any way,” Jason decided thankful for once this was his first year in a normal school and he hadn’t had a scantron test yet.

Annabeth asked what machine. The sphinx pointed with her claw at a bronze box over in the corner marked with the sign of an eta.

“So she works for dad,” Leo frowned. “That’s one of his machines.”

“I believe she found it. Sphinx are natural guardians, if she found a machine she might have decided it was her job to guard the passage and use it. And use it for riddles.”

“Not riddles,” Annabeth muttered.

“I thought you were over that?” Grover asked.

“I can still be angry about it. And about what’s the technically correct term.”

The sphinx said now for the next question. Annabeth protested asking her to wait for a second. What about what walks on four legs in the morning? The sphinx asked she begged her pardon.

What is four legs?” Hearth signed.

“A famous riddle from the Greek tragedies. Specifically the story about Oedipus,” Piper said. Several people stared at her surprised. “What? I’ve done my research.”

“Just not one of the more famous stories,” Rachel told her. “It’s gross too. And sad.”

“What greek myths aren’t?” Percy asked.

Apollo opened his mouth and closed it. “Okay. Maybe there are some issues.”

“At least none of your gods have nine biological mothers,” Magnus pointed out.

“Now that’s weird,” decided Sadie. “Much weirder than gods with names like Nut or Shu.”

“We can have the argument about who’s world is weirdest later,” Jaz said with a tinge of regret for interrupting in her voice. “But can we finish watching?”

Annabeth said the riddle about the man. He walks on four legs in the morning, like a baby, two in the afternoon, like an adult, and three legs in the evening like an old man with a cane. That’s the riddle the sphinx used to ask.

“I’m confused,” Frank frowned.

“I’ll explain it later,” Annabeth assured him and several others with confused looks in their faces.

The sphinx exclaimed that was exactly why they changed the test. She already knew the answer. Now for the second question. What was the square root of sixteen?

“Four. Square root of twenty five is five. Square root of thirty six is six,” Ella said.

“Even I know that now,” Percy frowned. “Now I see why you were mad… these aren’t as hard as I thought.”

“For a child of Athena with a photographic memory not challenging at all,” Will grinned. “You’ll be out of there in no time!”

He was the only one who didn’t catch the glances Percy, Annabeth and Grover were exchanging.

Annabeth answered four then started to say but when she was interrupted again being told she was correct. The sphinx asked which US president signed the Emancipation proclamation.

“Abraham Lincoln,” Hazel said then frowned at Annabeth. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ll probably say but it was just my hubris getting in the way. Like I told Thalia, I learnt my lesson after this.”

Annabeth answered Abraham Lincoln and tried to protest before she was interrupted again as the sphinx said she was correct. She announced riddle number four and started to ask how much before Annabeth interrupted and shouted to hold up.

“I was wondering how long it would take you to complain,” Nico frowned. “Shorter than I thought.”

“That’s five drachmas,” Thalia told him.

“Were you betting on how easily I’d lose my temper on the sphinx?” Annabeth asked.

“No,” Thalia and Nico said in innocent voices. Annabeth glared at them.

She protested they weren’t riddles. The sphinx snapped asking what she meant. Of course they were riddles. This test material was specifically designed to- Annabeth interrupted her again there and said it was just a bunch of dumb, random facts. Riddles were supposed to make you think.

“So are these life and death situations,” Alex pointed out.

“Thought my way out of enough of those,” Annabeth agreed. “And this wasn’t exactly one of them.”

“Let’s just say this quest wasn’t Annabeth’s easiest,” Grover said slowly as if he was scared.

“None of them were exactly easy. And this is the only one where I was leader,” Annabeth argued.

“What about the Argo II?”

“I wasn’t there for parts of that.”

“On our way to Rome you were the leader,” Jason said. “After Epirus things were different but you guys were also healing and there was a lot more going on. None of us were exactly the leader.”

“So basically Annabeth was the only real leader on the quest,” decided Percy. “Because she’s awesome and smart. And she’s mine.”

Annabeth looked at him and he held up his arms.

“Not mine like I own you. Mine like you’re my girlfriend. You’re technically no ones and you can make your own decisions and technically I should be yours because I don’t deserve you,” Percy rambled.

“I love you too seaweed brain,” Annabeth laughed.

The sphinx repeated the word think questioningly. She asked how she was supposed to test whether Annabeth could think. That was ridiculous. Then she started to ask the next question about how much force was needed for something as Annabeth interrupted again. She yelled for the sphinx to stop saying it was a stupid test.

“Annabeth? Maybe save the complaining for after you’ve finished the sphinxes questions,” Piper suggested carefully.

“I know that now,” Annabeth answered as she threw her arms up in annoyance. “Will none of you listen when I say I was a stupid fifteen year old who kept letting my pride get the best of me because lots of stupid reasons.”

Grover interrupted and asked Annabeth if maybe she should just finish the questions first and complain later. Annabeth insisted she was a child of Athena this was an insult to her intelligence. She wouldn’t answer these questions. In the background Percy was gaping at her with wide eyes looking both scared and impressed.

Annabeth groaned desperately. “Is there anyway I can go back in time and slap myself?”

“We all got out of there fine,” Grover reminded her.

“But I was an idiot,” Annabeth argued. Neither one of them noticed Percy staring at her again wide eyed.

The spotlights glared and the Sphinx’s eyes glittered. She called Annabeth my dear and said if she didn’t pass she failed and since she couldn’t allow any children to be held back she’d be eaten.

“I thought you said you got out of there fine?” Walt asked confused. “A sphinx attacking doesn’t strike me as fine.”

“We were all alive and not too hurt,” Percy explained.

“Until an hour and a half later,” Annabeth muttered.

The sphinx bared her claws and pounced at Annabeth. Tyson yelled no and charged. He tackled the sphinx in midair and they crashed into a pile of bones.

“Tyson fought a sphinx. Tyson is super brave. Ella loves Tyson,” Ella said grabbing Tyson’s hand in her talons. She cuddled up into his side and Tyson smiled.

“That was really brave Tyson,” Hazel agreed. “Especially because it was a sphinx.”

“Annabeth was going to get hurt,” Tyson said.

“It was one of the bravest things I’ve seen you do,” Percy said in agreement. “And I’ve seen you do a lot of those, General Tyson.”

Tyson blushed and ducked his face into Ella’s feathers.

Annabeth had enough time to draw her knife and gather herself and Tyson got up with his shirt clawed to shreds. The sphinx growled and looked around. Percy drew riptide and stood in front of Annabeth. He told her to turn invisible and she yelled back she could fight. Percy yelled no the sphinx was after her. She should let them get it.

“Anyone else having flashbacks to that scene on the bus on their first quest?” Rachel asked.

“They’re saying the same exact things,” agreed Jaz.

“Because at one point Percy’s lack of self preservation instincts rubbed off on Annabeth. And so now neither of them will let their friends get hurt for them,” Thalia said.

“That’s accurate,” Annabeth said after a moment.

The sphinx knocked Tyson over and tried to charge past Percy at Annabeth but Grover poked her in the eye with somebody’s leg bone. She screeched in pain. Annabeth sighed and put on her cap and vanished as the sphinx pounced on the spot where Annabeth had been seconds ago. The monster came up with empty paws screeching that it was no fair. Annabeth was a cheater.

“No she’s perfectly fair. You’re just completely insane,” Apollo told the screen.

“She can’t hear you,” Calypso said with a raised eyebrow in an exasperated voice. “This all already happened.”

“I know that,” Apollo said after a moment. Everyone exchanged glances pretty sure the now mortal god had actually forgotten.

The sphinx then turned on Percy who raised his sword but before he could move Tyson ripped the monster’s grading machine out of the floor and threw it at the Sphinx’s head. Her hair bun got ruined and the machine landed in pieces all around her. She cried out that was her grading machine. She couldn’t be exemplary without her test scores.

“How ‘exemplary’ was she even to begin with?” Sadie asked.

“Not a lot. That’s a pretty stupid monster,” Clarisse growled.

The bars lifted from the exits and they all dashed for the tunnel on the other side. Percy looked around frantically for Annabeth but saw the sphinx was following them. Then Grover raised his reed pipes and started to play. The pencils moved towards the sphinx’s paws and suddenly grew, first roots then branches as they wrapped around the monster’s legs. The sphinx ripped through them but Percy and Tyson were already in the tunnel. The Cyclops pulled Grover in just as the bars slammed. Percy looked around frantically yelling Annabeth’s name. She said she was here and to keep moving. They ran off into the dark tunnels as the sphinx roared behind them unable to get towards the bars and complaining about all the tests she’d have to grade by hand without her machines help.

“You’ve gotten a lot better with those pipes,” Magnus noted.

Hearth nodded signing to Grover. “Yes. Hard nature magic. Improved a lot since the beginning.

“Thanks.”

“A lot better than whatever Coach Hedge does for sure,” Leo winced thinking about all the gross things the older Satyr had made him drink.

“Gleeson’s nature magic specializes in healing, it’s unique and not to most people’s taste but it works. As for more active stuff, he’s not as defensive as other satyrs.”

“I think the only type of fighting he knows is attacking people with a baseball bat and whatever mixed martial arts he watches,” Piper said fondly.

“Sounds right,” agreed Nico.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 20: A Mission

 

AN: Bolded and Italicized are my own little expansions on things Rick didn’t write but said slowly. Possible trigger warning.

 

“Crazy coach aside,” Percy said, “I think you all deserve some forewarning that after this visit with Hephaestus things get pretty –”

“Intense,” Annabeth finished.

“Aren’t they already?” Blitz asked confused. “I mean this maze isn’t exactly a nice camping trip.”

“It gets more intense than the maze,” Thalia said remembering how Annabeth had IMed her crying after she’d come back from the Labyrinth alone. “At least from what I heard.”

“That’s why I’m apologizing in advance,” Percy said. “Because I know the next few parts won’t exactly be easy for me or anyone else involved. That’s also why I’m sitting over here.”

Carter, Sadie, Magnus, Alex and Sam looked around at each other.

“These parts are going to be hard for a few people. Specifically Annabeth and I after I lose whatever affects it will have on me.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Frank winced.

“No. It doesn’t,” Magnus agreed looking worriedly at Annabeth. “How hurt were you?”

“Barely at all,” Annabeth said.

“Physically,” Will added on to earn a glare from her. “Percy is a different story. I saw him only a while after whatever I think happened but he was still weak then. Almost as weak as Nico after the Giant war.”

“What on Olympus did you do?” Jason asked Percy concerned.

“Nothing fun.”

Everyone kept looking at Percy and waiting for him to say more. He just stared ahead at the scene still in front of them waiting. It started a second later as everyone else turned to watch.

They kept running down the tunnel. When they were far enough and there were several options of routes to take in front of them Percy turned to his friends to ask where the spider went. They all looked around till Tyson told them he heard it. Annabeth asked where and he told them to be quiet so he could listen. They made a few more turns completely quiet, back tracked a few times and then the pinging got louder as they moved down another hall to find the spider banging its tiny head on a metal door with metal rivets and a wheel to turn to open it, like a submarine. There was a greek eta enscribed on a rusting green brass plaque.

“Dad’s forge,” Leo grinned. “You got there. I get to see Dad’s forge. I mean I won’t be there but seeing it is almost as cool.”

“Didn’t your dad send you a dream? Wasn’t he in his forge then?” Jason asked.

“I only got to see part of it,” Leo said. “Now I’ll get to see all of it. Or maybe it’s a different forge!”

“Calm down,” Piper insisted with a hand on his shoulder. “Just wait and watch. And don’t talk or we’ll never finish.”

“I’ll make sure he shuts up,” Calypso agreed.

“Here,” Rachel said handing him a notebook. “Write down what you need too.”

Leo nodded gripping the pen excitedly.

The group looked at each other and then Grover nervously asked if they were ready to meet Hepahaestus. Percy admitted no. Tyson shouted yes happily as he started to turn the wheel.

“See?” Leo said turning to Piper, Jason and Calypso. “Tyson gets it! High five buddy!”

Tyson gave Leo a high five but the very small latino was knocked back by the unintentional force. He still grinned wildly as he sat back up.

As soon as there was a crack in the door the spider went through. Tyson wasn’t far behind. Grover, Percy and Annabeth followed all not as exited as the robot or Tyson. The room was large with several hydraulic lifts, some with cars on them but one had a bronze hipplektyon without the horse head and wires hanging out of the rooster tail. A metal lion was hooked on to a battery charger and a greek chariot made out of flames stood nearby. Tools hung on the walls with their own outlines but none of them were in the right place. Under the nearest hydraulic lift with a 98 corolla was a pair of legs sticking out with grubby gray pants and one in a metal brace. The spider scuttled to join them and the sounds of banging stopped.

Leo seemed to be hyperventilating as he tried to write things down. Jason and Piper weren’t as surprised as they thought to see Leo’s father’s work habits were very similar to his son. Calypso seemed fondly amused though she was trying not to show it.

Blitz seemed almost as in awe as Leo was and decided to try and look at those notes after. Tyson was less affected than either of them but that was because he’d already been there. He still looked very interested just not as much as the other two smiths.

A deep voice said well well asking what they had there. Hephaestus pulled himself out from under the car. He wore a grimy jumpsuit with his name embroidered over the chest pocket. One shoulder was lower than the other and his leg creaked in it’s brace. His head was misshapen and his beard smoked. He had large hands but he easily disassembled the spider and put it back together in all of five seconds. Hephaestus mumbled that that was much better and the spider did a flip in his pal and shot a metallic web to swing away.

“That’s Hephaestus?” asked a surprised Frank.

“Yeah.”

“I thought he’d look more like Leo, or Leo should look more like him right?” asked Walt. “I mean Annabeth had her mom’s eyes. Percy looks like a younger clone of his dad. Thalia and Clarisse also look a little like theirs. And no offense Nico but you’ve got the same scary look in your eyes as yours.”

“None taken,” Nico said.

“The point is that most of you look a little bit like your godly parents. Except Leo,” Walt finished.

“I probably look the least like dad. The rest of my siblings are a big bigger and tougher looking that me. I mean Harley’s eight and I think he might be as tall as me. His arm muscles might just be as big as my face.”

“Hephaestus worries that his kids will turn out looking like him, though he’d probably love them anyway. He’s not really good at interaction,” Apollo said going off track for a second. “But none of his kids are exactly ugly or deformed like him.”

Hephaestus glowered at the four people in front of them saying he didn’t make them, did he? Annabeth told him no and called him sir. THe god grumbled good, they were shoddy workmanship.

Almost the whole room scoffed at that. Percy looked around confused but Annabeth rolled her eyes. She knew that her and Percy were both attractive. And if the whole camp hadn’t been so intent on getting them together most of them would have tried to get Percy and her on dates. She was eternally grateful that never happened.

Hephaestus noted they were half bloods, could be automatons but they probably weren’t. Percy told him they’d met. Hephaestus asked had they? Then said well if he didn’t smash Percy to a pulp the first time they met then he didn’t have to do it now.

“That’s pleasant,” Jaz said blinking rapidly as if then what she was seeing and hearing would make more sense.

“Like Apollo said before, dad’s not good at interacting with anything that’s not a machine,” Leo shrugged.

He looked at Grover and frowned that he was a satyr then turned to Tyson and his eyes twinkled. He noted he was a Cyclops saying good twice. Then he asked why Tyson was traveling with the others. Tyson just gaped staring up at the god. Hephaestus agreed and told him well said. He then continued saying there had better be a good reason they were disturbing him. The suspension on the corolla was no small matter. Annabeth called him sir hesistantly told him they were looking for Daedalus. Hephaestus’ beard burst into flames and his eyes glows. He yelled Daedalus’s name saying they wanted that old scoundrel. They dared to seek him out. Annabeth answered yes, sir then tagged on a please.

“Good answer,” Piper said trying and failing to sound serious.

Hephaestus said they were wasting their time. He frowned at his worktable and limped over and picked up several springs and metal plates. In a few seconds he held a bronze and silver falcon. It spread it’s metal wings and blinked its obsidian eyes and flew around the room. Tyson laughed and clapped happily. The bird landed on him and nipped his ears. Hephaestus still frowned but there was mirth in his eyes. He told Tyson he sensed he had something to tell him. Tyson’s smile faded and he said yes, they had met a hundred-handed one.

“Do cyclopses work in your father’s forge?” Zia asked Leo.

“No. The Cyclops forges are separate. They cooperate sometimes. But they don’t work for dad.”

“Hephaesus likes working alone but Cyclops help him sometimes,” Tyson agreed.

Hephaestus nodded but didn’t look surprised. He asked if it was Briares. Tyson agreed saying he was scared. He wouldn’t help them. Hephaestus made a humming noise in agreement noting that bothered Tyson. Tyson yelled yes. Briares should be strong. He was older and greater than the Cyclops but he ran away. Hephaestus grunted saying once he had admired he hundred handed ones back in the days of the first war. But people, monsters and even gods change. You can’t trust them. He told Tyson to look at his loving mother hera. They met her, hadn’t they? She’ll smile and talk to you about how important family is but that didn’t stop her from throwing him off Mt. Olympus when she saw his ugly face.

“I thought Jupiter did that?” Reyna asked.

“No. That’s the version she spread,” Annabeth said.

“She’s Hera. She likes everything perfect, especially if it fits into her plans,” Thalia spat out.

Percy said he thought it was Zeus who had done that.

“Jar,” Reyna said before anyone else could say anything. She put some denarii into the jar as it appeared in front of her for a little bit and then watched it disappear again.

Hephaestus cleared his throat spitting into something and snapped his fingers. The falcon flew back to the worktable. He said his mother liked telling that version of that story. It made her seem more likeable to blame it all on his dad. The truth is that his mother liked families but she likes certain kinds of families. Perfect ones. She took one look at him and well, he didn’t fit the image, did he?

Several people looked down and away thinking about the homes they’d lost and the looks they’d gotten among their own families. Percy saw Sadie grip Carter’s arm and Magnus look warily at Alex. Around the room other’s were doing much the same thinking about the perfect picture’s they didn’t fit in.

Hephaestus pulled a feather from the falcon’s back. The whole automaton fell apart. He told Tyson believed him. You couldn’t trust others. All he could trust was the work of his own hands.

“That’s depressing,” Sadie declared.

“Dad’s like that. Doesn’t mean he’s right,” Leo grinned. The other people who had been on the Argo II smiled a bit too, though somewhat sadly all of them thinking of the last time Leo had asked them to trust him.

Percy frowned. Hephaestus turned to him and narrowed his eyes saying this one didn’t like him. But no worries. He was used to that. He addressed Percy as little demigod asking what would he ask of him?

“Wait, you don’t like him?”

“I don’t like what he builds sometimes. He’s definitely one of the better gods though. But what he builds, I mean you’ve seen what I experienced…”

Leo nodded. His father’s automatons weren’t always the best to be around. He understood where Percy was coming from even if he didn’t support it himself.

Percy said they’d told him. They needed to find Daedalus. He explained there was this guy, Luke and he was working for Kronos. He was trying to find a way to navigate the Labyrinth so he could invade their camp. If they didn’t get to Daedalus first. Before Percy could detail what that would mean Hephaestus interrupted saying he’d already told them looking for Daedalus was a waste of time. He wouldn’t help them. Percy asked why not. Hephaestus shrugged and said some of them got thrown off mountainsides some of them… the way they learn not to trust people is more painful. Ask him for gold, a flaming sword or a magical steed. Those he could grant easily. But a way to Daedalus that was an expensive favor.

“Can we get a magical steed?” Percy asked Annabeth across the room excitedly.

“No.”

“But I want one. I have a great idea for one.”

“What?” Nico asked him curiously.

“A golden llama,” Percy said completely seriously as the whole room cracked up. Percy looked around frowning. “What?”

“No golden llamas seaweed brain,” Annabeth said through her laughter.

Annabeth pressed on saying he knew where Daedalus was then. Hephaestus said it wasn’t wise to go looking. Annabeth crossed her arms and said her mother said looking was the nature of wisdom. Hephaestus narrowed his eyes and asked who her mother was. She replied Athena. He said it figured. A fine goddess Athena but she pledged not to marry. He said all right to Annabeth. He could tell her what she wanted to know, but there was a price. He needed a favor done.

“We’re never doing him a favor again,” Annabeth said.

“Agreed.”

“What was the favor?” asked Magnus with a voice full of concern.

He wasn’t answered.

Annabeth said to name it. Hephaestus laughed boomingly. He said heroes were always making rash promises. How refreshing. He then pressed a button on his work bench and metal shutters opened along the wall. They were looking at a gray mountain ringed in forests. Smoke rose from the crest. Hephaestus said it was one of his forges. He had a lot but that used to be his favorite.

Jason stared at Percy. “Tell me that’s not the mountain I think it is. If this was that year and you….”

“Yeah,” Percy said rubbing the back of his neck. “About that…”

“Do you know how much work that was for us? How do you even do that? What kind of monster was in there to cause it?”

“It wasn’t a monster,” Percy mumbled making the others around him confused. No one else heard though and he turned to Jason. “I can’t really say anything. You know that.”

“A whole lot more intense. That’s probably an understatement, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Grover agreed. “And I wasn’t even there for most of it.”

“What does that mean?” Frank asked.

“Now I’m just getting confused,” agreed Leo.

“Just watch,” Percy sighed. “Let’s get this over with as soon as we can.”

Grover said that was Mt. St. Helens. There were great forests around there.

Several people suddenly understood and turned to Percy. He looked at them and shook his head telling them to be silent. Not everyone kept up to date with current events and knew what had happened in Washington that summer.

Percy asked if Grover had been there. Grover said he’d been looking for pan. Annabeth said wait and turned to Hephaestus asking he’d said it used to be his favorite. What happened? Hephasestus scratched his beard and said that was where the monster Typhon was trapped. He used to be under Mt. Etna but when they moved to America he was put under Mt. St. Helens instead. A great source of fire but a bit dangerous. There’s always a chance he will escape. There were lots of eruption these days, smoldering all the time. And Typhon was restless with the Titan rebellion.

“This idea sounds worse and worse the more I hear about it,” Frank said.

“Who’s Typhon exactly?” Carter asked.

“A literal storm. He’s like several hurricanes in a walking giant monster it took almost all of the gods to beat. He’s the father of all those children of Echidna too.”

“Explains a lot of their nastiness,” Percy muttered as Thalia finished her explanation.

“So an active volcano with a monster trapped underneath it and we don’t know why Hephaestus doesn’t use it anymore,” Piper said brightly. “Why was this a good idea?”

“We needed the information,” Percy shrugged.

“If you could even call it that,” Annabeth grumbled. Saying Percy already knew it several times over had not been helpful at all.

Percy asked what they wanted him to do. Fight him.

“Even you couldn’t do that,” Thalia said.

“I know.”

“It literally took all of the gods to do that and a little help,” Nico agreed. “But now I think you’re going to actually have to try and fight him. We just jinxed you.”

Percy groaned. “I really hope not.”

“No way to know for now,” Rachel told him.

Hephasestus snorted that would be suicide. The gods ran from Typhon when he was free. Percy should pray he never had to see him, much less fight him. But lately he’d sensed intruders in his mountain. Someone or something was using the forges. When Hephaestus went there it was empty but he could tell it was being used. They sensed him coming and they disappeared. He sent his automatons to investigate but they didn’t return. Something ancient was there. Evil. He wanted to know who dared invade his territory and if they mean to let loose Typhon.

They didn’t,” Annabeth said.

Percy winced and mouthed sorry at her. She shook her head fondly.

Percy said that he wanted them to find out who it was. Hephaestus said yes. They should go there. They may not sense them coming. They weren’t gods. Percy muttered he was glad they noticed. Hephaestus told him to go and find out what they could. They should report back to him and he’d tell him what he needed to know about Daedalus.

“So you just see what’s going on and get out of there, easy!” Alex rubbed her hands together and grinned.

“When is that ever easy?” Magnus asked.

“It’s not.”

“Especially with Percy,” Nico said in agreement with Carter.

Annabeth agreed and asked how they got there. Hephaestus clapped his hangs and the spider came swinging down from the rafters. Annabeth flinched when it landed. Hephaestus explained the spider would show them the way. It wasn’t far using the Labyrinth. He asked them to try to stay alive too. Humans were much more fragile than automatons.

“I’m not sure about that,” Leo frowned thinking about how much Festus’s systems got messed up.

“You can talk mechanics later. Either way their heading back into the death maze to what’s definitely a super dangerous death quest,” Piper frowned.

“Yeah,” Percy said slowly. “Super dangerous death quest is right.”

“Maybe we should have some snacks before we start again,” Annabeth suggested.

“Desert bar,” requested Jason. “I could use some brownies.”

“With peach preserves,” Frank nodded in agreement.

“Ugh,” Piper and Hazel said together as they watched their boyfriends pile up brownies in peach preserves on the desert bar that appeared.

 

AN: Points if you get the reference to a less often read book by Rick Riordan. It’s in the part about Hephaestus.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 21: Building Tension Has to Explode

 

AN: A while ago someone ( I believe it was Noxlux013) asked me to use the translation of the name Perseus. Luckily I had been planning on it anyway. So here it is!

 

Annabeth watched everyone get ice cream, Sally’s cookies, brownies and a multitude of other deserts. She hadn’t gotten up herself but took one of the cookies that Percy offered her.

“Do you think anyone will mind if we rearrange again?”

“No. Why do we need to?” Percy asked her.

“Chew with your mouth closed, Seaweed brain.”

Percy gulped. “Sorry Wise girl. Why, though?”

“You haven’t told me everything about what happened after I left but I know you got hurt and from the way you looked two weeks after it was bad. I’m just not sure how bad.”

“Very,” Percy admitted. “Worse than the chimera poison at some points. It lasted longer too. It was like I dipped my whole body in the Phlegethon but worse.”

Annabeth stiffened. That was a good way to make her understand it. “I’m asking Jaz and Magnus to move closer. Will too if he wants.”

Percy raised an eyebrow. “It’s not going to help though.”

“No. It won’t but it will make me feel better if you don’t want me with you then.”

Percy stayed silent for a moment before answering. “Fine.”

Annabeth got up then and pulled Jaz, Magnus, Will and Nico aside. The son of Hades had insisted on coming with his boyfriend and Annabeth hadn’t argued.

“What’s up?” Magnus asked her.

“This next part isn’t something I saw all of. I just know it will be bad,” Annabeth said.

“How bad?” Will asked.

“According to Percy around the same as the chimera poison. He compared it to a dip in an underworld river too.”

Nico winced knowing that Percy knew just what that felt like, several times over in several different rivers and some because of him.

“So what can we do?” Jaz asked. “It hasn’t helped before.”

“No,” Annabeth said. “But just in case. I want you and Magnus to sit near Percy.”

“What about me?” Will asked.

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to move from Nico but—”

“We’ll both move,” Nico said. “Percy’s my cousin and if I can help I will. And I can imagine a little bit of what it was like.”

“Good. He doesn’t want me near him. Emotions ran a bit high before and after and I don’t think he knows how he’ll react. Calypso and Leo are also staying away from him after. Probably Rachel too.”

“Oh,” Will said. “This is when he…”

“Yeah.”

“Probably a good idea,” Nico agreed. “Come on Will.”

Will followed his boyfriend towards where Percy was sitting again. Magnus wasn’t far behind taking his old seat with Carter and Sadie nearby. Jaz joined them not soon after. Nico stole a cookie from Percy’s plate and the cousins got in a squabble as Annabeth watched. Percy gave her a double thumbs up with Nico’s head under his arm and a cookie held in his mouth and she held back the nervous laugh allowing herself to grin. They’d be fine, she assured herself as she took her seat in between Thalia and Piper. It’d all be fine.

The scene rose again in front of them with them all running through a new tunnel. Then suddenly the spider raced past a tunnel dug from raw earth and wrapped in roots but didn’t stop. Grover did. Percy asked him what was going on. He didn’t move staring openmouthed in the dark tunnel. Annabeth yelled for him to come one. They had to keep moving. Grover said this was the way. This was it.

“Pan?” Piper asked him.

“You found him?” Magnus asked.

“I can’t really say that,” Grover said after he’d tried.

Percy asked what way before his eyes widened in realization and he asked if Grover meant to Pan. Grover turned to Tyson and asked if he could smell it. Tyson said it was dirt and a lot of plants.

“So like a tunnel made of dirt then,” Leo decided.

“No. Not exactly.”

Grover yelled yes saying this was the way. He was sure of it. The spider was disappearing down the stone corridor. Annabeth looked at it nervously and turned to Grover telling him they’d come back on their way back to Hephaestus.

“If it’s there now it won’t stay for long,” Hazel said decisively.

“I know,” Annabeth agreed.

Grover protested the tunnel would be gone by then. He said he had to follow it. A door like that wouldn’t stay open. Annabeth insisted that they couldn’t. They had to go to the forges. Grover looked at her sadly saying he had to. Didn’t she understand? Annabeth looked at him desperately but Percy was looking between her and Grover and said they’d split up.

“Still can’t believe you did that,” Thalia muttered. “Not smart.”

“We had too.”

“I know but—”

“Splitting up isn’t really smart,” Walt agreed.

“Unless you have magic amulets,” Sadie grinned at him. “We split up all the time!”

“Because we have too!” Carter argued.

“The same here,” Magnus agreed. “But it’s never exactly smart.”

“But it’s needed,” Percy said with such a tone of finality that no one else argued.

Annabeth yelled no. It was way too dangerous. How would they find each other again? And grover couldn’t go alone. Tyson put his hand on Grover’s shoulder and said he’d go with him. Percy looked between them confused and frantically asking if Tyson was sure.

“I thought you were scared of him,” Jason asked confused.

“I was,” Grover responded.

“And I thought you were allergic to him,” Blitz asked Tyson.

“Goat boy is my friend,” Tyson said. “Pan is important to him and the rest of the world. I helped him.”

“We made a pretty good team,” Grover shrugged. “Still do.”

Tyson nodded. Grover had helped him search for Percy until the last time when he’d needed to go himself to go catch up with him by shadow travel on Mrs. O’Leary which Grover didn’t do too well.

Tyson nodded saying Goat boy needed help. They would find the god person. Tyson was not like Hephaestus. He trusted his friends. Grover took a deep breath and looked at Percy telling him they’d find each other again. They’d still got the empathy link. He just had too.

“I did the right thing but man, you got into so much trouble without me! I should never leave you and Annabeth alone again!”

“We already have one crazy satyr chaperoning us and that month was more than enough,” Percy begged. “Or do you want me to third wheel your time with Juniper.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Grover bleated.

“I know dude. I’m messing with you. But I’ve missed almost dying with you too.”

Percy told him he hoped he was right. Grover looked him right in the eye standing up confidently and saying he knew he was.

“That has to be the most confident I’ve heard you sound up until then,” Thalia said.

“It probably was,” Grover shrugged.

“Except about enchiladas and coffee,” Percy put in.

“True.”

Percy told him to be careful and turned to Tyson who held back a sob and hugged Percy hard. He and Grover disappeared through the tunnel of tree roots and disappeared. Annabeth looked at Percy and said this was bad, splitting up was a really really bad idea. Percy said they’d see them again trying to sound upbeat and confident but failed. He told her to come on. Before the spider got away.

“Just let it,” begged Thalia. “Join Grover and Tyson. That’s safer.”

“There were bad monsters. We had to fight them and almost got hurt.”

“I’m sure you guys almost got killed in much worse ways than us,” Grover finished for Tyson.

“You never really told us what happened,” Annabeth said.

“We were a little busy, weren’t we?” Percy asked them.

“If leading a war consists as busy,” Grover asked him.

The scene picked up again further down the stone tunnel as the walls glowed and loud roars filled the air. Annabeth and the spider kept going but Percy called for her to wait up. She glanced back at him and asked yeah? He said Hephaestus said something back there… about Athena.

“Is this really the time for this?” Thalia groaned.

“No,” Annabeth agreed.

“Probably never really a good time for what he’s about to ask,” Will laughed.

“I probably shouldn’t have asked that. I’m just going to take that route and blame my ADHD,” Percy said causing some laughter.

“What are they talking about?” Magnus asked him.

“Something your cousin should probably answer for herself. Or she will in a moment.”

Annabeth said she swore never to marry. Like Artemis and Hestia. She was one of the maiden goddesses. Percy blinked and then frowned saying but then- Annabeth interrupted finishing his question asking how come she has demigod children?

Magnus paled and looked at Annabeth. “Please tell me you’re not talking about how you were born. I’m guessing it wasn’t in the normal way but even if it was I really don’t want to hear it.”

“Grow up Magnus,” Annabeth told him.

“No. You can’t talk about this. Not with him too!” Magnus said pointing to Percy. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Just let us watch it. It’s not like I liked it either,” Annabeth muttered towards the end.

Percy nodded and was blushing but the rest of him was pretty red and sweaty anyway from how hot it was. She asked Percy if he knew how Athena was born. Percy said she sprung from the head of Zeus in full battle armor or something like that.

“Not the weirdest birth I’ve heard about,” Alex said after a second.

“You’ve heard of weirder? I mean even the demon days thing isn’t that weird,” Sadie said.

“Don’t know what that is but we’ve met a god with nine biological mothers, my mother is Sam’s father and also the mother of an eight legged horse, giant sea monster among other things,” Alex said.

“Once again norse mythology is probably one of the weirder things here,” Nico said. “I mean seriously. You guys are dead! How are you here?”

“You’re supposed to be the death expert,” Jason told him.

“Not as much as the guy next to me with the Egyptian god of death possessing him.”

Walt raised a eyebrow at Nico’s reply but didn’t say anything.

Annabeth replied exactly. Athena wasn’t born in the normal way. She was literally born from thoughts. So were her children. When Athena fell in love with mortal men it was all intellectual like she loved Odysseus in the old stories. A meeting of the minds. She’d tell you that’s the purest kind of love.

“That’s actually sweet,” Jaz smiled.

“And explains a lot about Annabeth,” Piper grinned teasingly.

“Shut up.”

“I’m scared to ask what she’s talking about,” Grover said.

“Nothing bad,” Piper promised. “Just Annabeth doesn’t think with emotions. Ever.”

“It also explains why she and prissy took so long to get together,” Clarisse grumbled. “Silen- she complained about it all the time.”

Percy said so her dad and Athena then stopped and blushed saying so Annabeth wasn’t then stopped again fidgeting uncomfortably.

“Really don’t need to think about Uncle Fredrick like that,” Magnus grimaced.

“He’s my dad!” Annabeth shoved him. “And it didn’t happen anyway.”

Annabeth said she was a brain child. Literally. Children of Athena were sprung from the divine thoughts of their mother and the mortal ingenuity of our their father. They were supposed to be a gift, a blessing from Athena to the men she favors.

“Sounds kind of like my mother,” Blitz muttered. “Jewlery instead. And it’s not a meeting of the minds.”

More faces were pulled around the room and Hearth shoved Blitz a little as Alex cackled madly.

Percy muttered but— then Annabeth interrupted saying the spider was getting away. Did he really want her to explain the exact details of how he was born? Percy hesitated for a moment but said no that was okay. She smirked and said she thought not and ran ahead as Percy watched her in wonder and confusion for a moment then ran to catch up.

Percy blushed madly again as Annabeth smirked at him again. He blushed again and ducked down and didn’t look at her squirming uncomfortably.

As they ran the roaring got louder. Soon they came out in a cavern the size of a football stadium. The spider curled into a ball and Percy and Annabeth exchanged glances. There was no floor in front of them, just bubbling lava hundreds of feet below. They stood on a rock ridge that circled the sides of the cavern. A network of metal bridges spanned from side to side. At the center was a huge platform with all sorts of machines, cauldrons, forges and a large anvil the size of a house. Dark shapes moved around it, some type of creature to far to see. Annabeth picked up the metal spider and put it in her pocket and said she could check it out. He should wait there. Percy said to hold it but Annabeth put on her Yankees cap and turned invisible.

“Don’t split up again!” Thalia yelled.

“I never split up with Annabeth if I don’t have too and most the time it’s not by choice,” Percy told her then winced. “Sorry.”

“You’re just across the room,” she told him. “It’s okay. And Thalia’s right. I’m never leaving you alone again on a quest.”

“This just makes me feel better and better about what’s going to happen next,” Leo muttered. “I mean he must have been pretty hurt to end up on Ogygyia.”

“Worse than you,” Calypso agreed.

Percy looked back at the Labyrinth tunnel then around carefully. Finally he got up creeping around the outer rim of the lava lake looking for a better angle.

“Next time just stay put,” Annabeth begged.

“I will,” he agreed.

“And you don’t leave the most ADHD person here besides Leo alone!” Nico scolded Annabeth.

“I deserved that.”

“I didn’t,” Percy said to Annabeth.

“Yes, you did,” agreed Nico, Thalia and Annabeth.

“That’s scary,” Frank shivered.

He was sweaty and hot and blinking the smoke out of his eyes. He moved along the ridge till he found he was blocked by a cart on metal wheels. He lifted up the tarp and found it half full of scrap metal. Then voices emerged ahead and Percy quickly squeezed himself under the cart. One of the voices asked if they should bring it in. Another voice responded saying yes. The movie was just about done. Percy curled in further pulling the tarp over himself and gripped riptide as the cart lurched forward.

“This just keeps getting better and better,” Magnus said in a very obviously sarcastic and falsely cheery voice.

“Especially if that movie is anything like the Camp Half-Blood orientation film,” Annabeth said.

“What? That’s one of the best films I’ve ever made! It’s a piece of art that should have won multiple awards,” Apollo squawked.

“Dad,” Will said gently. “I’m sorry but it’s the worst thing ever made. It’s permanently scarring.”

Then Percy and Nico exchanged devilish grins. And started singing together. “It lets the demigods in! It shuts the monsters out! It keeps the half bloods safe, but turns mortals all about! It’s misty, and it’s magic, and it makes me want to shout—“

“No!” Everyone from Camp Half Blood but Leo yelled as they snapped out of the trance of disgust the song seemed to put them in.

Apollo clapped his hands and finished the song. “The border is all about.”

“No. No one ever sings or talks about that monstrosity again. That’s why we started that guide!” Annabeth yelled.

“I thought you’d all seen it,” Nico said. “Especially when we’ve been watching this. The way Grover talked made it seem like every camper saw the film.”

“No because most of them knew what was happening before they arrived. You were ten. I’m pretty sure that must have scarred you more than any of the other things you’ve seen!” Will said.

“It wasn’t that bad, was it?” Apollo asked. All the Greeks looked at him incredulously and he cringed.

A gruff voice complained the cart weighed a ton. The other one said it was celestial bronze. What did they expect? Percy gripped hard to the cart as they turned a corner. All they could see was the tarp and hear the voices and wheels turning.

“Where are they taking you?” Zia asked curiously. “If you get much closer to the magma the heat should not be easy to stand for long.”

“It was a smaller room. You’ll see for what in a second. You can tell—“

“Because the sound of the wheels doesn’t echo as much against the tunnels,” Thalia finished for him. She turned to Percy surprised. “You knew that?”

“I guess,” Percy shrugged.

There were lots of voices between growls and seal barks talking and what was obviously a narrator as well as the spin of an old projector. One voice said to just set the cart in the back. The voice continued telling the younglings to watch the film. There would be time for questions after. Everything quieted down. The narrator’s voice talked about how changes would happen in a monster’s body as young sea demons matured. Their fangs grew longer and they had desires to eat human beings. These changes were perfectly normal and happens to all monsters.

“No,” groaned Sadie. “Hearing this thing once is always enough.”

“Hearing what?” Carter asked her.

“I envy you for once,” Sadie told him.

“And all of those who didn’t have to go through school health classes,” agreed Rachel.

“What is the film talking about?” Hazel asked.

“No! Don’t tell her!” Frank and Nico yelled. Hazel rolled her eyes. She wasn’t that innocent and naïve and they both knew it.

“It’s the thing every student dreads,” shivered Percy. “The health class puberty and talk.”

Hazel gulped happy for once she hadn’t attended modern school. So did all the others who had never went to school or had left it before they were showed something similar.

“Please tell me you didn’t see the whole thing,” Grover begged. “I was in middle school for several years. I don’t need to see this again.”

“Didn’t see it,” Percy said and everyone sighed in relief. “I heard it all though.”

Everyone groaned.

Exited snarling filled the room. The voice from before told the to be quiet. Percy looked pale and kept turned away from where lights flickering which must have been the screen was. Then the voice stopped and the flickering did too and the voice asked the younglings the proper name of their kind.

Percy interrupted it to cheer. “Yes! It skipped it! All of the acne, growth spurts and flipper hygiene!”

“Flipper hygiene?” asked Reyna slightly amused.

“It’s an issue,” Percy defended. “According to the film which is burned into my mind.”

“And we didn’t have to hear it. Thank the gods,” Thalia said and then thought for a second. “And the fates.”

One of the voices barked sea demons and the teacher’s voice said no asking if anyone else wanted to answer. Another voice growled it was Telekhines!

“Telekhines?” Frank asked. “Like at the aquarium.”

“Nowhere near as docile though,” Percy said then grinned. “Did I use the word right Annabeth?”

“Yes,” she smiled at him.

He fist pumped glad their SAT studying was paying off.

The instructor said very good and asked why they were here. Several voices cheered it was for revenge. The voice said yes but why. Someone said it was because Zeus was evil. He cast them into Tartarus because they used magic.

“Zeus doesn’t punish without reason. His punishments can be harsh but they are never without cause,” Calypso said.

“Cal,” Leo looked at her hesistantly. She smiled weakly at him and he knew she was fine.

“She’s right. The telekhines used their magic for dark things. They served evil with it,” Apollo informed everyone.

The instructor agreed saying even after they made all the gods weapons like Poseidon’s trident and the titans greatest weapons Zeus cast them away. He relied on the Cyclopes instead. That is why they were taking over the forges of Hephaestus. And soon they’d control their ancestors forges the undersea furnaces.

Tyson frowned but didn’t say anything.

Percy clutched riptide and his face turned stormy but he didn’t move as the teachers voice continued. The teachers voice asked the younglings who it was they served. The younglings shouted Kronos. And the teacher continued prompting them asking when they grew up to be big telekhines would they make weapons for the titan army? The telekhines cheered yes. The teacher said excellent. Then she continued they’d brought in scraps for them to practice with to see how ingenious they were.

“Not good,” Chris said.

“Next time just wait for Annabeth,” Thalia advised.

“He’s here, isn’t he?” asked Walt.

Percy frowned. He almost wasn’t.

Percy gripped Riptide ready to uncap it as voices and movement neared the cart. The tarp was thrown back and Percy jumped up as Riptide sprang open and found himself facing the telekhines, creatures with black dog faces and the bodies of sea lions with flippers half flipper, half foot and human hands with sharp claws. One snarled there was a demigod. Another yelled for them to eat it. But Percy slashed an arc and a whole row of monsters evaporated. He yelled for them to back off. The instructor, six feet tall, snarled at Percy who stared him down.

“Has anyone told you how scary you are?” Jaz asked.

“What?” Percy said looking around confused. “I mean… I guess sometimes but here?”

“No. She’s right,” Piper agreed.

“Percy’s one of those few people who looks like a cinnamon roll and could actually kill you but then looks like he could actually kill you and is a cinnamon roll and then there’s the times he looks like he could kill you and will actually kill you,” Thalia said.

“What are you talking about?” Jason asked.

“It’s a meme,” Alex said. “A very accurate one.”

“I’ll explain later,” Thalia said.

“To be more accurate he’s also a sinnamon roll,” Rachel said.

There was a hum of agreement for those who knew what she was talking about and looked at Percy interestedly.

“Okay,” Percy muttered. “Now I’m the one that’s scared.”

Percy got up and theatrically announced there was a new lesson for the class. Most monsters would vaporize with a celestial bronze sword. This change was perfectly normal and it would happen to them right now if they didn’t BACK OFF. All the monsters backed up.

Everyone leaned back too.

“Yeah. Dude, that’s seriously scary,” Jason decided.

“It wouldn’t have lasted for long.”

“You’ve gotten scarier,” Nico told him. “Now it would.”

Percy didn’t seem to know if he was happy with that or not.

Percy looked around at the twenty or so monster assembled and jumped out of the cart yelling class dismissed running for the exit.

Everyone burst out laughing.

“Epic.”

“More than that. It’s legendary.”

Percy grinned and took a bow. He was still sweating though and red faced like he was hotter than he’d ever been in his life or had he had been since he stood inside that volcano.

The monsters charged after him barking and growling. They couldn’t run very fast with the stubby legs and flippers but they did pretty well. But Percy managed to shut the door at the end of the tunnel leading to the main cavern. He slammed it shut and turned the wheel handle locking it. Seconds later things were banging on it. Percy looked around frantically.

“Where were you?” Hazel asked Annabeth.

“Trying to get a look around. Obviously our recon mission was blown.”

“Sorry!” Percy winced.

“You literally yelled seconds later.”

“I know. I’m an idiot.”

“Yes. You are.”

Percy spotted the platform in the center of the volcano and ran towards it. He looked around again and yelled Annabeth’s name. Her voice shushed him and he was pulled down by her behind a bronze cauldron, still invisible as she asked if he wanted her to get them killed.

Percy and Annabeth both stiffened.

“And I thought you couldn’t make it any worse,” Magnus told Percy sarcastically not noticing the glances he was exchanging with his cousin.

“Obviously Prissy doesn’t know the meaning of stealth missions,” Clarisse snorted.

Percy didn’t answer. Sadie frowned and waved a hand in front of his face. “Hello, you in there?”

“What?” Percy asked finally looking away from Annabeth. He could guess what she was thinking as it was probably the same thing he was. This had been their first kiss, his first kiss and he was pretty sure hers too. It was something private, something theirs, even more than all of the things everyone else had already seen.

“Clarisse just dissed you and you didn’t say anything,” Grover told him.

“Spaced out.”

No one seemed to believe that but they didn’t say anything. Percy said one more glance to Annabeth and she seemed to understand the apology he was trying to give her. She nodded at him with a sad smile and he sighed in relief. His girlfriend was amazing.

Percy felt around and found Annabeth’s yankee cap pulling it off. Her hair and face were covered in ash. She brushed her hair back and asked Percy what his problem was. He told her frantically they were going to have company. The scene seemed to skip again and started as Percy finished explaining how he’d been seen. Her eyes widened and she said that’s what they were, telekhines. She should’ve known. And they’re making, here she trailed off and then decided to tell Percy to just look. Both of them looked over the cauldron at the four full grown sea demons, eight feet tall, with glistening skin as they hammered a long piece of metal.

“Not good,” Leo said with a strained voice.

“Two different metals still,” Blitz said. “Different shape though. That’s—”

“It was,” Percy finished for him.

One of the forgers said the blade was almost complete. It needed another cooling in blood to fuse the metals. The second agreed saying it’d be sharper than before.

“Cooling in blood. Definitely not something evil,” Alex said.

Percy asked what it was. Annabeth said they kept talking about fusing metals. She wondered— Percy interrupted her there saying they had been talking about the titan’s greatest weapon. And they had said they made his father’s trident. Annabeth explained the telekhines betrayed the gods. They practiced dark magic, she didn’t know exactly what but Zeus banished them to Tartarus. Percy’s face changed with realization as he said they were with Kronos down there. She nodded saying they had to get out. Again they were interrupted as the door finally opened and the young telekhines came pouring out stumbling over each other trying to find him.

“Stop talking and get going,” Sam urged.

“We finished speaking,” Percy told her.

“But you weren’t moving.”

I wasn’t,” Percy agreed after a moment.

Percy told Annabeth to put her cap back on urging her to get out. Annabeth shrieked what, then said no. She wasn’t leaving him. Percy said he had a plan. He’d distract them. She could use the metal spider to get back to Hephaestus and she could tell him what was going on.

“You never had a plan,” she said to him.

“No,” Percy admitted. “But you needed to get out of there.”

“I’m never leaving you again. You hear me seaweed brain?”

“Fine with me.”

Annabeth said he’d be killed. Percy said he’d be fine. Besides they had no choice. Annabeth glared at him and then she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him forward. Then she kissed him.

The whole room was silent for a second then they exploded into cheers, wolf whistles and clapping. Percy blushed and stared at Annabeth stupidly as she smirked at him. He looked just as confused as he had then and completely astounded.

“Finally!”

“It took you so long!”

“Are you kidding?” Clarisse yelled lastly and louder than everyone. “The whole camp was waiting for years and you kissed before that all and you still weren’t together.”

“There were some issues after,” Annabeth reminded her.

“Silena would have freaked, after she killed you for not telling her,” Clarisse whispered sadly. Chris rubbed her on the back comfortingly.

“Still, your first kiss!” Jaz squealed. Rachel looked between the couple for a moment. So she hadn’t been Percy’s first kiss. That right had always belonged to Annabeth.

“Yeah,” Percy grinned stupidly. “Yeah.”

“You broke him,” accused Reyna with a raised eyebrow.

Annabeth sat back with a grin and crossed arms. “He’ll be fine.”

She pulled away and told him to be careful calling him seaweed brain fondly before putting on her hat and vanishing. Percy just stared in shock for a moment until one of the sea demons pointed at him and yelled there and they all charged at him.

“You kissed him and just left!” Sadie yelled.

“Not really a choice.”

“That’s how it usually works, isn’t it?” Walt agreed with Annabeth.

“Shut up, you,” Sadie grumbled at him knowing Walt and Anubis spoke as one there.

“And they still weren’t together,” Grover added with a groan. “A whole more year of migraines.”

Percy ran for the middle of the platform and the four sea demons working on the blade dropped it. It was six feet long and curved.

“No,” Jason said with wide eyes. “They couldn’t.”

“It is,” Thalia told him.

“And it happened in our territory too,” Reyna growled. “Closer to my sister! Why didn’t we know?”

“Hephaestus didn’t even know,” Annabeth reminded her. “But that’s the least important thing now.”

Percy stared at it for a second but the full grown telekhines each covered one of the four exits off the platform.

“Surrounded and more coming. When will your usual luck with escaping kick in?” Carter asked.

“Not soon enough,” Percy answered. He was sweating still and obviously hot and his muscles were tense. He seemed wary and on edge as the feeling from the past grew stronger.

The tallest snarled asking what they had here? A son of Poseidon? Another growled yes, they could smell the sea in his blood. Percy looked around frantically raising riptide. The third demon dared him to strike one them down, the rest would tear him to shreds. His father had betrayed them. He took their gift and said nothing as they were thrown into tartarus. They would see him sliced to pieces along with all the other Olympians. Percy looked around frantically. The young telekhines were on the platform now snarling and looking at what the older ones were doing with interest.

“I’m sorry,” Percy said suddenly in a pleading voice looking at Annabeth.

“What’s wrong?” Walt asked.

“This is it. I’m so sorry. I needed you to get out.”

“I got out just fine thanks to you. And I’m fine,” she said soothingly but looked at him achingly having trouble just sitting down and not coming over to him. “You’re alive Percy. You lived. And so did I because of you.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled again.

Percy’s hand went to his pocket and he winced but he drew it away when the tallest telekhine said they should see how strong Percy was. They should see how long it took to make him burn.

Percy winced again as his leg flared with the cold feeling of the Stygian ice whistle against the heat of the volcano.

“The whistle,” Nico asked him. “You had the whistle. Why didn’t you call Mrs. O’Leary?”

“Can’t trust Quintus,” Percy said.

“What does it mean though,” asked Frank nervously. “Make you burn?”

Percy stiffened. Annabeth looked at Magnus, Will then Jaz. “Help him.”

Sadie, Carter and Alex moved back letting the healers move closer as Percy sat tensely. Everyone watched wide eyed not happy where this was going.

“G-ds Percy,” muttered Nico still by his cousins side. “How did you get out of this?”

The telekhine that just spoke scooped lave out of the furnace. His fingers were on fire but the Telekhine didn’t seem bothered. The other Telekhines did the same as the first one threw the glop of lava at Percy setting his pants afire. Two more splattered on his chest. Percy’s close were burning off and he stared in scared fascination.

“You’re not burning,” Zia asked. “How are you not burning?”

“Leo’s the only one who can do that,” Piper said wide eyed. “How are you alive? That was burning lava?”

Jaz put her hand to Percy’s forehead as he stayed frozen. “He’s getting hotter. He’ll be burning up soon. I’m not sure how he isn’t now.”

“There’s no hieroglyphs or runes protecting him like they did for us in the duat, right?” Carter asked Sadie.

“Couldn’t be.”

One of the telekhines said that his father’s nature protected him. It made him hard to burn but not impossible. Not impossible.

“How much endurance is that?” Magnus said in awe. He’d been able to survive it alive too, and even now as the son of Frey all temperatures were more moderate to him. But lava thrown on your skin was no joke and it was how he died. He focused ready to help any moment.

More lava was thrown at Percy. He screamed as his hair burned as did his clothes. Most of his shirt and pants were gone. He crumbled to the floor as the telekhine children cheered excitedly.

Several people were turning away. Percy was screaming and twitching. Will started to chant as Magnus started to glow putting his hand on Percy’s chest trying to soothe his pain. Jaz ruffled through her bag and started to chant as well but Percy’s screams got worse and louder. Annabeth was held back by Thalia and Piper as Percy kept screaming.

“How is he alive?” Leo muttered looking at Calypso. He wasn’t sure how much of that he could even survive.

“I do not know. He was close to dead when I found him but I would not have realized this is what happened,” she replied watching with a scared fascination.

Percy’s fists clenched as he kept screaming. His eyes closed tighter.

“What’s happening?” asked Jaz looking at her spell monitor on Percy’s stomach. “That’s not heat or the feeling of it.”

“No. That’s him using his power. He talks about it being in the gut of his stomach,” Nico told her.

“The sea,” Percy muttered in between his screams. “Inside me. Can’t hurt anyone. The sea. Naiad.”

The three healers exchanged confused glances. Nico’s eyes widened and he put a hand on Will’s shoulder. “This is it.”

Will’s eyes narrowed in determination.

He grimaced and tensed twitching harder as he screamed the loudest yet. Suddenly the lava shot up around him, hitting water that was appearing out of nowhere creating steam. Burning rock and the metal of the volcano were washed away by the stream of lava shooting up into the air. Percy flew out of the volcano into the clouds with smoke, fire and more water streamed from him as he fell towards the earth again. He landed in the water which rose up to catch his fall.

Percy screamed getting louder jerking like a person having a stroke until he passed out. Magnus, Will and Jaz were still working but Apollo shook his head. “It won’t help. Just let him rest.”

The scene behind them had collapsed. Everyone was looking between where it was and where Percy lay passed out now. Several of them were crying and almost everyone looked to be in shock. Annabeth was in tears leaning on Thalia who rubbed her back looking at Percy with a steely glance. All the healers had finally stopped, Will the last one too. He turned to Nico. “How?”

“I don’t know.”

“That power. The exhaustion was like yours. It should have killed him.”

“He landed in the water though. That probably helped him,” Jaz told him as she looked through her bag from the duat for some potions and draughts. She handed one to Will. “Make him drink that.”

Percy groaned and sat up as soon as the potion touched his lips and pushed it away. “I’m fine.”

“Percy there’s no way anyone is fine after what just happened,” Carter told him. “The power you released… you should be dead.”

Percy winced. “I should have died.”

“Yeah. Between that and the lava,” Grover almost yelled.

“Now what I meant,” Percy shook his head. “I hate the power I have. The first time I started to realize was when I fought with Thalia.”

“That wasn’t bad though. We both went insane,” Thalia told him. “I struck you with lightning.”

“I lifted a river,” Percy frowned. “But then when the naiad told me the water was inside me, it woke something up within me. I almost let the power go at the stables and poisoned the river. I did let it go inside the forge. How many lives did I destroy? How many died? People were killed, displaced and put through so much. I should have died but I let myself go and I don’t think it even killed those telekhines.”

“Percy…” Nico told him wide eyed. “Don’t…”

“No,” Apollo said. “He’s right. That’s the thing about demigods. You have power. Especially children of the big three. From what I’ve seen you’ve experienced that Nico. You almost died from it several times.”

Nico didn’t argue. Will scoffed. “That’s an understatement.”

Apollo continued, now looking at Percy. “It’s also part of the reason the gods were so scared of you. The big three made the oath for a reason. Their kids are powerful. But Percy’s a whole different class. This was the first time we saw that. And it scared us.”

Everyone stared at Percy who wasn’t meeting anyone’s eyes but looking down. Annabeth looked at Apollo. “Explain.”

“Percy did things no demigod has. We were scared. And we had reason. Do you know what the name Perseus means?”

Annabeth’s eyes widened. She didn’t say anything though but next to her Piper did. “Destroyer.”

Percy’s eyes widened. “What? I don’t mean too, I didn’t want too…”

“Still, names say a lot about who you are and what you do,” Apollo told him.

“My mom called me Perseus because he was the only hero who had a happy ending. She wants me to have one too. If that’s ever has been a possibility.”

“Percy,” Annabeth said softly.

“Has it?” He asked her then looked up at the ceiling. “Is that why we’re here? To show everyone what a monster I am? What a threat?”

“Percy, don’t,” Nico told him. He was too late though. Percy was already weakly getting up, first sitting up shakily then wobbling onto his legs and walking out of the room. No one moved except Annabeth who begged him to wait but Percy was gone.

Thalia frowned. “I know it’s a bit early for lunch but I think we should all take a break.”

 

AN: Yes, Percy does guess where he’s going on that cart in the book by sound. And yes, the song from the orientation film is real too. Doesn’t belong to me but to RR. Read camp half-blood confidential!

 

Chapter Text

 

Though everyone had left the room after Thalia's suggestion no one had been able to find Percy. They were all in some sort of dazed state having seen what they just had. It was clear they all needed a break but no one had much of an appetite. Instead everyone filtered out of the room slowly and silently.

Will had helped Jaz gather up her potions and with a nod from Nico walked with the Egyptian to try and figure out something that wouldhelp next time. Magnus hadn't followed instead going with Blitz and Hearth having slight flashbacks to his own death. An unusually somber Alex followed Samirah out as she went to pray, for Percy and all of them, hoping that she would get some guidance.

Rachel was the one who tugged Apollo out to talk about saying tings that wouldn't set people off, like telling them that everyone thought they were world wrecking destroyers. Clarisse had gone to beat something up, with Chris following close behind to make sure she didn't hurt herself in the process. Sadie was gripping her older brother's hand and trying to holdback tears. Carter had hugged her to his side and they'd wandered off together leaving Walt and Zia behind. Zia had gone with Reyna, both of them stoic and silent even more stiff than usual. Walt had disappeared into the shadows.

Leo, Piper, Frank and Hazel were still gaping. Percy had been amazing on their quest on the Argo II. He'd been so many things; all making a great leader. But they hadn't seen anything near that much power, though they'd heard the stories. Hazel was openly crying as Frank helped her up and they walked out together. Piper had a feeling the next time she'd see them Frank would be cuddled up as a bulldog in Hazel's lap as she sketched. She already knew Leo, who had been on fire, had been dragged off by Calypso. They were probably in the room with the forge Leo hammering out his feelings as Calypso sang it all away.

Piper didn't know how she felt herself so she focused on what she did best, helping others. The people most affected by the scene were still here with her. Tyson was bawling and Ella had been unable to console him. Juniper had gone out with her. Grover was bewailing his inability to protect Percy next to Tyson both of them feeling more guilty than the other. Nico hadn't moved from his spot where Percy had been. Now though Annabeth was there. She'd run as soon as Percy left the room and collapsed in that spot not moving. Both her and Nico were scary still.

Right now Piper was more concerned about Jason and Thalia. Both of them were crackling with electricity and glaring at where the scene had collapsed. Finally Thalia let out a cry and threw here arms around Jason and the lightning around them send a pulse five feet around them raising everyone's hair with static.

Jason was the first to speak again. "Have you ever gone that far? Let out so much power and…"

"The closest I've ever come was Half Blood Hill," Thalia said softly. "And that wasn't even close to what Percy did. I don't think any demigod in history has released that much power at once, let alone survived it."

Jason frowned and if Piper didn't know better she would say he was confused. Both of them knew Jason had never done anything like it. The closest thing they had seen was Nico's exhaustion with the statue but that was a buildup of several events and after he was healing from Tartarus.

"Piper, mind taking care of these two?" Thalia asked suddenly gesturing to Grover and Tyson. "I think Jason and I need to talk."

Piper looked over at the Satyr and Cyclops then the two other demigods in the room. "What about Annabeth and Nico?"

Nico gave the slightest shake of his head. Annabeth met Piper's eyes and looked at Nico before nodding back at Piper.

Thalia sighed. "Good."

Piper watched her and Jason leave whispering before turning back to Grover and Tyson. She knew both were very close to Percy. She'd met them both several times before their quest on the Argo and a few times after. Tyson was sweet but she hadn't gotten as good of a sense of Grover, that was until now. These sessions had shown her how much the whole mythical community owed them and she knew Jason and Frank had come to like him a lot sharing a room with him.

"Tyson, why don't you go join Leo in the forge? Maybe you can make something for Percy."

"For Percy?" Tyson sniffled. "Leo will help?"

"I'm sure he could use a good project. Grover?"

"I'm okay," the satyr said after a minute. "Percy's not though."

"Your empathy link," Piper said. "You feel all of it?"

"Really strong emotions. And when Percy wants me too. And right now he's in turmoil."

"Is there a way to stop you from feeling the link?"

"I'll be okay after a nap. I think Percy is doing the same thing. He's calming down," Grover told her and looked at Annabeth.

Percy didn't know how he'd walked to the room he was now in. The pain hadn't lingered. The Fates spell made it last as long as the scene played. But the memory was there and he felt tense, strange and none of the things anyone had done to help worked. What helped was the water.

No matter how much he hated his powers right now the water was still comforting wrapping like an embrace around him. He willed himself to get wet but didn't even shiver and closed his eyes and sighed. No one would come in here. He was pretty sure none of them could. And all he wanted was to be alone.

Still, being alone meant letting his thoughts overwhelm him. Percy hadn't been alone often since discovering he was a half blood, not in the ways that mattered. The only real time he'd been alone were when Hera took his memory. All the other times someone was nearby, or he was on a quest and he was able to ground himself with the fact that the world, his friends, Annabeth needed him. Btu at the same time familiar thoughts came back. Did they really need him? Was it his powers? Did they even like him? Because now it seemed like they were all terrified of him.

He was terrified of himself too. Everyone else in that room was learning truths about him but he was realizing more about himself as the adrenaline faded as soon as the memories in front of him had. He'd never really had time to think about everything that had happened since that Yancy Field trip. Not like he was able too right now. After all, time was supposedly frozen which meant he had all the time in the world.

With one more deep pufferfish like breath filling his cheeks with air and letting it out he lied back spreading his arms and legs letting himself float, in the water and in between sleep, dreams, thoughts and nightmares.

When everyone else had left the room Annabeth turned to Nico. "You know something?"

"How bad do you think he is right now? Mentally?" Nico asked her honestly.

"Better now. Much better than after the war," Annabeth said then frowned. "But this is probably bringing it all back. Has he said anything to you?"

"A few times. I don't think he'll do anything deliberate but—"

"He's hurting," she agreed. "And if it comes to saving others he'd give himself up easily."

Nico nodded. "This is also the first time people are seeing what he could really do. He's always been somewhat scary but he makes people at ease by joking and pretending he's not as smart as he is. His powers aren't obviously terrifying ot most people like mine."

"The camps except you now though."

"Because of Percy. And because I've helped them. But Percy is scared of himself and what he can do, and that power…. Annabeth you can't even know how easy it is to get drunk on it."

She nodded pursing her lips. "What else?"

"I don't think any of us have really realized, not until now, he disguises it to well but Percy has self confidence issues. I think he thinks once everyone realizes what he can do they'll hate him, and even if they don't he might think the only reason they like him is because he's helped us all to many times."

Annabeth lips became even thinner recognizing Nico talked from his own feelings from the past and maybe even now. "I love Percy because he's Percy. The other parts factor in but it's him that matters."

"He knows that but this whole experience…" Nico trailed off.

"We thought we were done. And it seems like it might only get worse. With Percy, his power has just kept growing… he's never liked it but since the giants it's been worse and worse. Just make sure he's okay. That you both are," Annabeth said softly.

"I will," Nico promised. Annabeth nodded not letting her eyes leave his. She had a lot more questions but right now she needed to find Percy.

Chapter Text

 

Percy had woken when the water had disappeared from the room. It must have happened while he was asleep because he was on a bed, probably having floated there as the water had gone. He was in awe again of the fates magic before he remembered what had happening before he went to sleep. Before his thoughts could spiral again there was a knock on the door.

Percy looked up as Annabeth walked in and sat down next to him. "Better?"

"I think," Percy said after a moment.

"Good. I know how hard that was. How difficult this all is for you."

Percy frowned. "Can I ask you a question?"

"You just did Seaweed Brain."

Percy rolled his eyes before returning to his serious look and looking into Annabeth's eyes. "Why are you still here? Any of you? I know the others are a little scared from me and I want the truth. Do I scare you too?"

"Percy…."

"I do, don't I?"

"I'm not scared of you. I'm scared for you," she said gripping his hand.

"What?"

"You're powerful Percy. But I know that you can control it. I realized that when we were down there. You were mad, drunk on power but you stopped, for me. I don't doubt you would stop for anyone else either. You always do what's best for everyone, not yourself and that's why I'm scared for you. What does that cost you? What do these powers take away from you? I know you can control it but I don't want to let any of this control you anymore."

Percy slumped in relief against Annabeth's shoulder. She ran her hand through his hair as he cuddled into her side. "Thank you."

"I love you."

"I don't know how," Percy said one more time. "And I don't think you will after this next part."

"I've been over that for years Percy," Annabeth told him. "We worked it out together. We'll do that with everything else too. You just need to talk to me. Promise me you'll talk to me."

"I'll talk to you wise girl. Though I probably shouldn't when we're watching this."

"Percy," she sighed.

"An-na-beth!" he said back slowly then stuck out his tongue. She rolled her eyes fondly too and leaned her head against his trying to enjoy the last few minutes before they dived into another emotional rollercoaster.

They weren't the only couple having a serious conversation. Though everyone had needed to decompress a little Leo had done it by channeling his emotions through the forge as Calypso sang soothingly. He'd let his pieces cool and sat down to take a long drink of water when Calypso snapped him out of the zone.

"Leo."

He didn't answer.

"Leo."

Again no answer.

"Leonidas Valdez," she yelled grabbing his water from out of his hand.

"What?"

"We need to talk."

"I'm good now."

"I know. I'm just scared about how much the next part might upset you."

"It's in the past Cal. I know that."

"But when we watch it Percy won't," she reminded him.

"What matters is you and me," he told her. "We're together for now, we're happy, we're on a break from another killer quest and travelling with an annoying more mortal god. Let's try and enjoy it."

"For once you don't sound like a complete idiot," Calypso said kissing his cheek.

When Percy walked into the room later and sat back in his seat everyone was watching him. He took a deep breath and sat back as the scene started then groaned when it did.

"I forgot the pain part of this." Percy's words were almost inconherent with the pain and drugged tiredness sound.

Percy woke coughing. He was on the beach under the blue sky surrounded by trees and beautiful plants. There was a gurgling fountain behind him and waves lapping on the shore. He tried to sit up but sat back down.

"Ugh," Percy groaned again as his muscles twitched with pain.

A girl with almond eyes and caramel colored hair braided over her shoulder around Percy's eyes approached and laid a wet cloth on Percy's forhead. She told him to stay still he was too weak to rise. The girl grabbed a spoon and dribbled nectar into his mouth. Then she began singing. Percy sighed and his eyes fluttered closed as he tried to stay awake.

Percy sighed and leaned back.

"You look so much like Zoe," Thalia said after a moment. "I never realized."

"I have never met my other sisters but I have been told much the same before I was banished and since I left Ogygia," Calypso replied softly.

"It must be a daughter of atlas thing. Along with pretending to hate the most handsome god," Apollo said.

"Pretending?" Calypso laughed musically as the singing still in the background.

Percy was staring at her with heavily lidded eyes. Leo shifted closer to his girlfriend and Annabeth braced herself for a long hour.

Percy croaked asking who. She shushed him calling him brave one and told him to rest and heal. She told him that no harm would come to him here. She was Calypso. As she smiled softly Percy's eyes fluttered for the last time and he fell asleep.

"This is going to be interesting," Piper said.

"I'm not sure that's the right word," Hazel murmured back looking at the faces of Annabeth, Leo and Calypso.

Percy woke again in a cave with a ceiling glittering with a mix of purple, white and green crystals. He was lying on a bed behind white silk curtain. Against one wall stood a loom and a harp. The other wall was bordered with shelves with jars of fruit preserves. Dried herbs hung from the ceiling and a fireplace in the wall had a pot bubbling over the flames.

Percy took a deep breath smelling the delicious food. Beef stew. Calypso was a great chef. At the same time he rubbed his head, which throbbed with pain.

Percy looked at his arms surprised to see he wasn't burned and scarred just pink. He wore a loose white t-shirt and cotton drawstring pants and had bare feet.

"You changed him?" Leo yelped at Calyspo. Annabeth must have heard because she was glaring.

Calypso blushed. "His pants and shirt. But my servants did it. Not me."

His eyes widened until he felt his pocket and sighed when he brought out Riptide and the Stygian ice dog whistle. With a groan Percy stood looking in the mirror. He was ghastly thin, twenty pounds or so lost. His hair was rat's nest singed at the ends. He had large bags under his eyes and a slightly crazed, tired and confused look muttering holy Poseidon. Then he turned from the mirror and out of the cave into a green meadow surrounded by Cedar trees and a huge flower garden. Four fountains gargled decorated by stone satyrs shooting water out of their pipes. The grass ahead sloped onto a beach of a lake. Calypso stood there talking and Percy squinted unable to see who but they seemed to be arguing.

"Who was it?" Percy asked. "I never learnt."

"Hermes. Like I said. He visited me often enough bringing news. And with you the explanation and plea for you to be brought back soon."

"But I don't—" Percy started then shook his head as if remembering something then stopped.

Percy walked towards Calypso slowly trying to keep his balance. She wore a white sleeveless chiton trimmed in gold. She'd obviously been crying but tried to hide it with a smile at Percy teasing that the sleeper finally woke up. Percy asked who she was talking to? His voice was croaky again. She said just a messenger and asked how he felt. Percy asked how long he'd been out. Calypso frowned. She replied time was difficult here. She honestly didn't know the answer.

"My guess as to when you arrived back is that you were out four or five days. You must have been awake a week," Annabeth said.

"She's right. You can tell by Percy's weight loss and muscle deterioration," Will agreed.

Percy asked how she knew his name. She laughed simply saying he talked in his sleep. Percy blushed saying he'd been told that before.

"What's with pretty girls commenting on your sleep habits?" asked Chris.

"No clue."

"He's just too easy to make fun of," Annabeth said.

"He's pretty lucky," Apollo muttered. "Waking up with beautiful women nursing you is the way to do it."

"Especially if they watch you drool in your sleep," cackled Thalia.

Calypso agreed. She asked who Annabeth. Percy gaped and searched for an answer saying she was a friend. They were together when… then he told her to wait he asked how he got here. Where was he?

"A friend?" Grover asked.

"Together?" Thalia teased.

"Should have been," Clarisse muttered. "They just decided to hide the fact they kissed from every single one of us."

"As for how you got there you just exploded a volcano and shot yourself into the sky," Alex told him.

"I know," Percy groaned in pain. "Believe me."

Calyspo reached up and ran her hand through his hair. Percy stepped back startled by her touch.

Annabeth smirked a little happy to see Percy wasn't comftorable with Calyspo's touch. She wanted to cuddle up with him again and run her hands through his hair and wrap her arms around him.

Calypso quickly apologized. She'd grown used to caring for Percy. As for how he got there he fell from the sky. He landed in the water over there. She didn't know how he survived but the water seemed to cushion his fall. As to where he was, this was Ogygyia.

"Another magical place. Fun," commented Sadie.

"This one more than others," Percy agreed looking at Calypso who looked down.

Percy asked if that was near Mt. St. Helens. Calyspo laughed and percy smiled a little in wonder. She told him it wasn't near anything. She called him brave one as she explained Ogygia was a phantom island existing on it's own everywhere and nowhere all at once. Percy could heal here safety without fear. Percy protested asking about his friends.

"You're always worrying about us," Grover said.

"Meanwhile Annabeth was panicking about you making the rest of us worried that you were dead," Thalia complained.

"Well we're all here and fine."

Calyspo said Annabeth, Grover and Tyson. Percy said yes. He had to get back to them. They were in danger. Calypso touched Percy's face but this time he didn't back away. She told him to rest first. He was no good to anyone until he healed. Percy slumped stuttering with exhaustion. He asked if she wasn't an evil sorceress. Was he?

Percy yawned and his eyes fluttered again.

Calypso smiled and asked why he would think that. Percy said he'd met Circe once and she was nice and had a pretty island until she turned him and other men into Guinea pigs. Calypso laughed again and promised she wouldn't turn him into a guinea pig. Percy prompted asking or anything else. Calypso said she wasn't an evil sorceress. Calling him brave one again she said she wasn't his enemy. She told him his eyes were already closing.

With that Percy collapsed backward and with a sigh and soft smile on his face he fell asleep. He took another deep yawn as he fell asleep.

Percy fell forward into Calypso's arms and therefore not face first into the gravel. She managed to get Percy back to the cushion bench and helped him lie down. She ordered him to rest and Percy fell asleep with a small smile on his face.

"How'd you carry him?" Leo asked. "Why don't you ever do these things for me."

"You weren't mostly dead when I found you. You also didn't lose all the weight Percy did," Calypso told him.

Percy woke once again the next night and walked out of the bed wrapping a robe around himself. He walked out looking at the stars and smiled sadly at the constellation of Zoe towards the south.

Everyone else smiled sadly too now knowing the significance of those stars.

Percy looked back down when Calypso spoke up nearby asking what Percy saw. Percy stared at the girl holding delicate silver flowers in front of her. Pecy said he was just looking at then he stopped gaping at her for a few seconds before blushing and saying he forgot.

Percy turned red still staring at Calypso. Leo growled until his girlfriend put a soothing hand on his arm. He gripped her hand possessively and took a deep breath as it continued.

Calypso laughed gently and said as long as he was up she could use the help planting the flowers she held. Percy was handed a plant with a clump of dirt and roots. The flowers glowed and Calypso picked up her spade and directed him to the edge of the garden where she started to dig. She explained it was moonlace. It could only be planted at night. Percy watched Calypso and the flowers entranced and asked what it did. Calypso repeated that in amusement before replying it didn't do anything. It lived, it gave light and provided beauty. Did it have to do anything else? Percy said he supposed not. Calypso took the plant and her hand touched Percy who froze. Calypso did too for a second when she stepped back and smiled planting the flower saying she loved her gardens. Percy agreed it was awesome but he stared straight at Calypso.

Piper had to wince as she looked between Annabeth and Calypso. Percy's attention was usually never far from Annabeth. He was so in love with her you could see it. He seemed to think her beautiful no matter what state she was in, he was impressed, terrified and completely entranced by her. Right now though he was staring at Calypso like a dog a bone with a begging and pleading look.

But Piper knew emotions and she knew her friends. Calypso was hard to resist. That was part of her old curse. Everyone loved her. And at this moment though Percy seemed to be head over heels there was something wrong. There wasn't the same feel as when he was with Annabeth. He was entranced but he was also drifting, seemingly confused and unaware.

Percy said back home his mom had always wanted a garden. Calypso asked why she never planted one. Percy said they lived in Manhattan. In an apartment.

"Percy she's even more out of time than me and Hazel. She's not going to know what Manhattan and apartments are!" Nico told him.

"I know that now. And you try to think when you're healing from an exploding volcano and there's other stuff going on," Percy said blushing again.

Percy stared at her confused asking if she didn't know what he was talking about. Calypso said she was afraid not. She hadn't left Ogygia in a long time. Percy explained manhattan was a big city and there wasn't a lot of gardening space. Calypso frowned saying that was sad. Hermes visited from time to time and tells her the world outside had changed a lot. She hadn't realized it changed so much there weren't gardens.

"The changes were much greater than I even thought," Calypso muttered thinking of the states of shock she had gone through as she traveled with Leo. He'd had to ease her slowly into the world first by small towns in the south of Italy then moving to bigger cities like paris and London.

Finally after the sea of monsters as they'd flown up the united states she'd been a little more ready to see the world as it was but New York City had been a huge shock. By the time they landed in camp she'd been fine again, or as fine as she could be with Percy standing in front of her for the first time for three years.

Percy asked why she hadn't left her island. Calypso told him it was her punishment. Percy asked why, what had she done? Calypso said she herself hadn't done anything but her father had. His name was Atlas. Percy gaped aat her for a second surprised before frowning.

Alex huffed. "Enough with judging kids by their parents! We're not all like them."

"Agreed," Nico told her. Pinecone face and lightning boy might have power issues sometimes but they didn't try to kill me."

Jason and Thalia looked at him strangely but didn't say anything.

"No one should be judged by anything but their own actions. Even then we need to give other chances. Who knows their reasons? Or what's happened to them?" Percy agreed.

Percy told her it still wasn't fair to punish her for what her father had done. He'd known another daughter of Atlas named zoe. She was one of the bravest people he'd ever met.

Apollo looked down thinking of his sister. He mumbled a quiet thank you on her behalf that no one heard.

Calypso looked carefully at Percy for a few mintues with a sad eyes before he asked her what was up. She asked if he was healed yet, calling him her brave one again. Did he think he'd be ready to leave soon. Percy appeared startled by her question and tried to move his legs with a groan. He seemed confused and dizzy when he turned to her and asked sadly if she wanted him to go.

"You really didn't actually want me to stay, did you?" Percy asked with a cracked voice.

"What?"

"You wanted me off the island. I was a pain to take care off. Plus you didn't stay waiting for me long. Not like the others. You met Leo a year later."

"I sent you home because you had a quest to accomplish. You had another in your heart and your place was always with her. It made me sad to do this but it was right for the both of us. We've both gotten our happy endings. The Fates set us on the right path," Calypso told him.

Percy frowned. "But—"

"Remember where you are Percy. When you are. This is not Ogygia."

Percy blinked for a few seconds and looked between Calypso, Leo and Annabeth before looking away again quickly unable to meet any of their eyes.

Calypso started to say something with a strangled voice and turned around quickly saying she would see him in the morning bidding him to sleep well. Then she ran off to the beach leaving a confused Percy to stare at where she had gone.

"It took him a while to get a clue with you too, didn't he?" Rachel said sympathetically.

Calypso nodded and smiled semi fondly before responding. "Yes. He's really very oblivious. More than most men."

Leo rolled his eyes. Reyna who had also overheard the conversation narrowed her eyes at Percy. He had picked up at her thoughts quite quickly back when he was at Camp Jupiter. What had happened between his quest in the Labyrinth and then to change that so much?

The next scene had percy trying to contact his friends through his empathy link with Grover. He sat on the bed with his eyes closed and seemed to concentrate hard. His thoughts echoed.

"Grover!"

There was no answer. Percy clenched his fists harder and concentrated on some of his best memories with Grover. Every part of their past and connections he tried to feel, think and imagine. But no answer came.

Eventually he got up in anger but he was still weak. He stumbled as he walked out to the beach and sat there staring in the distance and mumbled to the sea.

"I just hope you're all okay."

"You see? You couldn't stay. You had a life, a purpose and most importantly people to go back too," Calypso told him softly. "My island's magic would not make you forget that. That's my curse."

Percy sighed. "You're right. I thought about them all the time. It wasn't like the Lotus hotel in vegas where I forgot about everything but enjoying myself. I needed to know if you were okay."

His eyes met Grover's, Tyson's and lastly and most shortly Annabeth's. He closed his eyes and turned his head back down. He felt so confused. So hurt. He couldn't look at them, at anyone.

The scene changed to Percy sitting in the meadow sipping nectar and looking at the flowers and into the lake but then Calypso would come by, brushing her hair over her shoulder, especially the one strand that fell in her face as she kneeled to dig in her garden. As she did she would talk to the birds and then she'd look at Percy when they flew away with a small smile before her face turned sad again leaving Percy confused.

Leo gripped his girlfriends hand. She leaned on his shoulder. "Thank you."

"Anything to make you smile sunshine."

Again the scene changed to the beach as invisible servants set a table with beef stew and apple cider. Calypso and Percy sat down in the candle light which glimmered off her honey and caramel colored hair. Percy was explaining how to play sack to her before telling her about how Grover ate the apple they were playing with. She'd laughed musically and her eyes met Percy's before she looked away sadly. He frowned saying there it was again.

"We actually do have to give him credit. He realized how you were feeling," Piper noted. "Just not why."

"Isn't that always the case?" Annabeth retorted.

Calypso asked what. Percy said she kept pulling away like she was trying not to enjoy herself. Calypso kept her eyes down on her food as she spoke saying she had told him that she was punished, cursed he could say. Percy asked how asking her to tell him. He wanted to help.

Calypso looked up at Percy again. He had helped, even though he no longer felt for her that way he'd thought of her. He'd thought of her more than anyone else and asked for her to be free. That was the reason she was happy with Leo right now, because Percy had helped.

Calypso told him not to say that pleading. Percy met her eyes stubbornly and seriously telling her to tell him what the punishment was. Calyspo sighed and covered her stew with a napkin signaling she was finished so an invisible servant could come and take it. She explained this island, Ogygia was her home. Her birthplace. But it was also her prison. She was under how arrest you could say. She could never visit manhattan or anywhere else. She was alone here. Percy growled because her father was Atlas. She nodded and said the gods didn't trust their enemies and they were right not to. She shouldn't complain. Some prisons weren't as nice as hers.

Percy, Annabeth and Nico shivered now all knowing how right she was about that. They'd seen those prisons first hand. And Percy had seen more like Kym's under the medditeranean.

Percy protested that wasn't fair. Just because they were related doesn't mean you support him. The other daughter he knew Zoe Nightshade had fought against him, she wasn't imprisoned.

"Prissy if she's talking like that it means one thing. Don't let her pretty face distract you."

"Shut it Clarisse," Leo said seeing his girlfriend's hurt.

"I didn't say anything bad about her. It's the salt brained idiot over there!"

Calypso gently told him she had supported him in the first war. Atlas was her father after all. Percy drew back a little surprise asking why, the titans were evil!

Percy and Annabeth both looked down and away from each other now. That was a naïve thought. This quest had taught them more than anything else the world wasn't black and white. Giants, monsters, titans and gods weren't either good and bad. At least not most the time. Percy knew that people had layers and Calypso had known that. After all she'd had millennia to think about such things.

Calypso challenged him asking if they really all were? All the time? She asked Percy to tell her because she didn't want to argue with him but did he support the gods because they were good or because they were his family? Percy looked down too.

He knew the answer to that now. They weren't good, or great but they were the best option. There were times he would fight them and hadn't because Poseidon was his dad but other times none of that mattered. He'd tell the gods what was right. But no matter what they were a better option than most the titans and giants.

Calypso said maybe she had been wrong in the war. In fairness the gods have treated her well and even visited her once in a while telling her about the outside world. But they left and she never could.

Calypso glowered now knowing she had been more than wrong in the first war. Especially after seeing her father's treatment of Zoe and what family loyalty meant to the rest of her relatives.

Percy asked if she didn't have any friends. Didn't anyone else want to live here with her? It was a nice place. A tear fell from Calypso's eye as she said she promised she wouldn't talk about it but.. she was interrupted then as a rumbling sound came from the lake. A glow appeared becoming brighter until it was a column of fire moving across the water towards them. Percy grabbed his sword and asked what that was. Calypso sighed saying a visitor.

"What were you saying? You never finished your sentence," Zia reminded her.

"It's a promise I make to myself anytime someone comes to my island. I always break it. It's part of my curse. I'll finish explaining it to Percy later. Right now it isn't important."

Chapter Text

 

Those who didn’t know Calypso’s complete story were still a bit bewildered by what was going on but the tension in the room was clear. No one asked and nothing was said. Percy was looking at Calypso strangely still but everyone was trying to ignore it.

The column of fire reached the beach wehre Calypso stood and bowed to it. The flames erupted leaving Hephaestus. Calypso greeted him stating this was a rare honor. The fire god grunted her name saying beautiful as always. But would she please excuse them? He needed a word with young Perdy Jackson.

Leo pulled a little face at hearing his dad call his girlfriend beautiful but then thought better of it. He seemed to refer to her affectionately as a niece or distant relative, not anything else. He liked to think his dad would approve of them.

Hepahestus sat down clumsily at the dinner table and ordered a pepsi. An invisible servant brought one and it exploded all over the gods clothes. Hephaestus roared and spat a few curses swatting the can away. He muttered stupid servants. Calypso needed good automatons. They never act up.

“Do you want?” Leo asked suddenly. “I can make!”

“I think we have other things to focus on right now,” Calypso reminded him.

“Fine., When we get our garage and stew shop?”

“Then,” Calyspo said leaning onto his shoulder.

Percy asked Hephaestus what was going on then took a deep breath and started to ask if Annabeth was okay. Hephaestus interrupted him to tell Percy Annabeth was fine. She was a resourceful girl. She’d found her way back and told the whole story. She was worried sick.

Percy was frowning and looked at Annabeth who turned away didn’t want anyone to see the small tear on her face. He’d missed her, he’d thought about her. He was worried.

The scene changed from them at the beach back to the god’s forge.

“I don’t remember this,” Percy frowned.

 Annabeth ran into Hephaestus’s workshop. The god stopped his project and looked at her. “Weren’t there two of you?”

“Telekhines! The Scythe,” Annabeth gasped. “Percy’s still there.”

Hephaestus’s frown grew as he got up. “That is worse than I thought.”

“I need to go back! We need to help hi—”

She was interrupted by an explosion blasting through the tunnel behind her. Her eyes widened and she screamed Percy’s names at the top of her lungs taking a leap forward as ash and rock rushed toward her. Hephaestus grabbed her and a invisible field stopped anything from hitting her. Annabeth started hitting his arms crying Percy’s name and saying she needed to help him. He needed help.

Hepahestus closed his eyes. “You can’t help him. That was Mt. St. Helens. It exploded.”

“The telekhines? They killed him?” she yelped drawing her knife. “I’ll go back and…”

“No. You won’t. The explosion wasn’t the sea demons either,” Hephaestus explained. “You need to go back girl. Tell everyone what happened. If the boy is alive he’ll show up eventually.”

“He’s alive,” Annabeth sniffed. “He has to be.”

“The spider will lead you again. There is nothing you can do now.”

“I can go back. I can see if he’s still there. I need to find him.”

“You won’t survive if you go anywhere near. Your quest is not over yet but you need to take a break from it for now.”

“But—”

“I know what you are thinking. I know you’re worried but the rest of your friends would do good knowing at least you are safe.”

Annabeth sighed and took the Automaton leaving out the opposite end of the workshop with tears streaming down her face. She looked back at the tunnel where the explosion had come from. “Please be safe Percy. I can’t do any of this with out you. None of us can.”

“Annabeth,” Percy gasped as if he was no longer affected by the past. “Oh gods, Annabeth.”

“It’s okay Percy. It’s all okay.”

“It’s not. It’s really not,” Percy said. “Oh gods. I feel awful.”

“Percy… remember where you are.”

“No. I left you. And this wasn’t the last time. You guys all must have waited and worried about me…” Percy gasped. “Oh, gods.”

“No. The next time I knew you were alive still. I was worried but it’s not your fault Percy. You can’t blame yourself for it,” Annabeth told him.

Percy frowned and didn’t answer. She sighed. They’d need to talk again.

Back with Percy and Hephaestus Percy asked he hadn’t told her he was okay. Hephaestus said that wasn’t for him to say. Everyone thought he was dead. He had to be sure Percy was coming back before he started to tell everyone where he was. Percy looked confused asking what he meant. His eyes flashed as he yelled of course he was coming back.

“Like there’s anything that could keep him away,” Thalia scoffed.

“I don’t know,” Nico muttered so no one could hear. If Hephaestus showed Percy his impact with the explosion he would have seconds thoughts wondering if it was better for him to stay away for everyone else’s safety.

Hephaestus studied Percy skeptically. He fished a metal disk out of his pocket and clicked a button until it became a miniature bronze tv.  An exploding Mt. St. Helens with lots of fire and ash trialed in the back ground as the news caster talked. She said they were still uncertain about further eruptions. Authorities ordered a half a million peoples evacuation as precaution. Ash has fallen as far as Lake Tahoe and Vancouver. No deaths had been reported but there were minor injuries and illnesses. Hephaestus switched it off and said he’d caused quite an explosion.

“That’s an understatement,” Percy scoffed in a very clearly self-depreciating voice.

“Percy,” Sadie said slowly. “No one died. Do you know how much destruction Carter and I have caused?”

“Enough to displace 50,000 people?” Percy asked.

“Well, no. But what matters is everyone is okay.”

Percy stared blankly at the screen in shock. Hephaestus continued telling him that the telekhines were scattered. Some were vaporized. Some got away though. But they wouldn’t be using the forge any time soon. On the other hand neither would Hephaestus. The explosion caused Typhon to stir in his sleep. They’d have to wait and see. Percy interrupted and said he couldn’t release Typhon, could he? He wasn’t that powerful.

Percy looked down and away as everyone else looked towards him. It was too clear how powerful Percy was, even if he didn’t believe it himself.  The son of Poseidon’s face was stormy and unreadable as the scene continued in front of him.

Hephaestus grunted asking not that powerful. Could have fooled him. He was the son of the earthshaker. He didn’t know his own strength. Percy’s face turned dark and for a second fear ran across his face before it became unreadable again. He took a deep breath and asked about Grover and Tyson.

Nico sighed. He’d been right. Percy had thought about staying just because he’d thought he put everyone else in danger. His cousin had been so much more like him than he’d ever thought.

Hephaestus shook his head and said there was no word from them. He supposed the labyrinth had them.

“Nope,” Grover said. “Not yet!”

Rachel flinched suddenly. Not yet.That sounded wrong and right all at once.

Percy asked what he was supposed to do. Hephaestus winced and said never to ask an old cripple like him for advice. But he’d tell him this. He asked if Percy had met his wife. Aphrodite, Percy noted.

Piper frowned. Leo looked at her again and winked. Technically if things were normal in their lives they were step-siblings. It made sense. Leo had always felt like her brother. But Hephaestus giving advice about Aphrodite couldn’t mean anything good.

Hephaestus agreed that was her. She was a tricky one. He had to beware of love. It would twist his brain around and leave him thinking up is down and right is wrong. Percy frowned and looked at Hephaestus asking if this was part of her plan. Did she land him here?

“Oh it was definitely part of her plan,” Annabeth stated.

“She said something about that,” Hazel remembered.

“She still hasn’t stopped. She enjoys it too much,” Percy said. “Not that we do.”

“In her opinion you’re the best love story of all time,” Piper said.

“I really hope our mothers have never met,” Blitz shivered.

“I really don’t think that would be good,” agreed Magnus.

Hephaestus said it was possible. It was hard to say with her. But if he decided to leave this place and he didn’t say what was right or wrong.  Then he promised an answer to his quest and the way to Daedalus. He was the thing. It had nothing to do with Ariadne’s string. Not really. Sure the string worked. That’s what the titan army would want. But the best way through the maze was well… Theseus had the princess’s help. And the princess was a regular mortal with out any godly blood. Yet she was clever and she could see. Very clearly. So what he was saying is he thought Percy knew how to navigate the maze.

“Did that make sense to anyone?” Frank asked.

“I think,” Piper told him.

“Sort of,” Sadie agreed.

“Not really.”

“A little,” Jaz argued with Carter.

“A lot,” Hearth signed.

Samirah nodded. Certain mortals were more receptive, especially once their eyes had been opened. Like her Amir. She wished he was here now.

Percy’s eyes widened in realization. He nodded saying yeah. Yeah he knew. Hephaestus said then he’d need to decide whether or not he’d be leaving. Percy stuttered for a moment looking out at the lake. Hephaestus advised he didn’t decide yet but wait until morning. That was good time for decisions.

“The best,” Apollo said proudly.

Percy asked if Daedalus would even help them. If he gave Luke a way to navigate the Labyrinth they were dead. Percy had dreams about…. He stopped and paused before saying Daedalus had killed his nephew. He’d become bitter and angry. Hephaestus replied it wasn’t easy to be a brilliant inventor. Always alone. Always misunderstood. Easy to turn bitter and make horrible mistakes. People were more difficult to work with then machines. And when you break a person you can’t fix them.

The room went quiet as they contemplated the world and the god of the forges words. Too many of them knew how true they were. Yet somehow they were all still here, unbitter and still moving on. Probably because of their friends.

Hephaestus brushed the last of pepsi off his work clothes. He said Daedalus started well enough helping Theseus and Ariadne because he felt sorry for them. He tried to do a good deed. And everything in his life became horrible because of that. Was it fair? Hephaestus shrugged in reply to his own question. He didn’t know if Daedalus would help them but don’t’ judge someone until you’ve stood at his forge and worked with his hammer. Percy responded he would try.

“Your dad gives good advice Leo,” Hazel noted.

“Much better than mine,” Frank agreed.

“Or mine,” Alex agreed.

“Or most of ours,” agreed Thalia.

Hephaestus said goodbye and told him he’d done well destroying the telekhines. He’d always remember him for that. Percy nodded again as Hephaestus erupted back into flame heading across the water. Percy got up then walking off along the beach with a deep sigh.

“Definitely one of the better gods you’ve met,” Carter commented.

Apollo coughed.

Will sighed. “Present company not included dad.”

Percy was still walking along the beach as the sky got a little lighter but the sun hadn’t even started to rise yet. He finally arrived back at the meadow where Calypso was tending the moonlace as it glowed silver. The other flowers glowed in kind as Calypso looked up. She said Hephaestus had ordered him to return.

“Not ordered.”

“Even if someone ordered Percy to do anything he wouldn’t exactly listen,” Grover said.

“Not unless he wanted too,” agreed Jason.

Percy said he wasn’t ordered. He was given a choice. Calypso finally met Percy’s eyes and said she’d promised she wouldn’t offer. Percy looked confused and asked offer what. She responded for him to stay. Percy’s confusion didn’t lighten. He asked stay, like forever?

“Okay obviously Percy came back. But nothing else makes sense after that with you,” Alex noted. “Leo, Cómo te las arreglaste? (How’d you manage that?)

Leo looked offended. The only other ones fluent in Spanish, Chris and Reyna both snorted.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Leo said pouting. “You don’t deserve it.”

Calypso explained he would be immortal on this island. He’d never age or die. He could leave the fight to others and escape the prophecy.

“This is Percy we’re talking about though,” Rachel said.

“I had to make the offer. I knew he wouldn’t accept.”

“I don’t think I ever could,” Percy said honestly. “Even now. I’ve thought about it a lot. But I’ve had plenty of chances and I haven’t taken them.”

“There’s more important things,” Magnus agreed.

Percy asked just like that? She agreed just like that. Percy hesitated saying but his friends. Calypso got up and took Percy’s hand. He looked at her shocked but didn’t pull away. She replied he’d asked about his curse. She didn’t want to tell him but the truth was from time to time the gods sent her someone. They let a hero wash up on the shore every hundred or thousands of years. Someone who needed her help. She would tend to him and befriend him but it was never random. The fates make sure the sort of hero they sent was… Calypso’s voice trembled and she stopped.

“It is never random,” she agreed whispering into Leo’s shoulder. “Especially you.”

Leo didn’t answer but she knew by his squeeze of her hand it was exactly what he’d needed to hear.

Percy gripped her hand tighter pulling it closer to him and asked what had he done to make her so sad? Calypso whispered they sent a person who could never stay or accept her offer for more than a little while. They sent the sort of person who she couldn’t just help falling in love with. Percy stared at her for a few seconds in surprise before asking him? She still had teary eyes but she giggled as she said he should see his face, of course him.

“Seaweed brain,” Annabeth said exasperated but happily. Percy not noticing meant that he was kept focused on her.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Rachel told him.

“It’s obviously something.”

“Not something you’d get.”

“Hey!”

“What’s the longest someone has stayed?” Jaz interrupted to ask Calypso softly.

“Odysseus. For seven years I was told though time is different for me.”

Percy asked if that’s why she’d pulled away this whole time. Calypso said she’d tried very hard. But she couldn’t help it. The fates were cruel to send him to her knowing he’d break her heart.

“Calypso…”

“Hush. Now is not the time Percy. We shall talk after.”

Percy looked even more confused there saying he was just… he menat he was just him.

“Just you?” Sadie asked brow raised. She turned to Annabeth, Calypso and Rachel. “Is he really this oblivious?”

“Yes.”

“No surprisingly.”

“It’s better that way,” Annabeth said before frowning and looking at Reyna. “What did you mean no?”

“I meant your boyfriend is loyal. And picks up on subtle hints. Though I suppose it was only after you started to date.”

“I’m not sure that was an occurrence that’s likely to repeat,” Annabeth said. “But it’s good to know.”

“What are you guys even talking about?”  Percy asked as majority of the room groaned.

“Just leave it,” Nico advised.

“But—”

“Leave it,” Thalia repeated.

Calypso said just him was enough. She told herself she wouldn’t speak of it and wouldn’t even offer but she couldn’t. She guessed the fates knew that too. He could stay with her. She was afraid that was the only way he could help her. Percy didn’t answer for a moment staring at the ocean and then back at the island before meeting her eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

“You needed to return.”

“I hurt you.”

“I’ve been hurt before and I’ve been healed as well,” she told him. “You made the correct choice.”

Percy told her he couldn’t. She looked down sadly. He continued that he’d never do anything to hurt her but his friends needed him. He knew how to help them now. He had to get back.

“Took you long enough too,” Clarisse muttered. “I had enough on my plate.”

“Wow, uh… thanks Clarisse.”

“Don’t say a thing punk.”

Calypso picked a flower from her garden, some moonlace. It’s glow was fading as the sun rose. She tucked the flower into his T-shirt pocket and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him on the forehead. She told him to come to the beach and they could send him on his way.

“Thank you.”

“He has always been yours,” Calypso replied to Annabeth. “He could not have been happy unless I sent him home. I wouldn’t have been happy either then.”

They reached a raft of logs lashed together with a mast and a simple sail. Calypso promised it would take him wherever he desired. It was quite safe. Percy took her hand but she pulled away. He tried to cheer her up and said maybe he could visit her. She shook her head saying no man ever found Ogygia twice. When he left she’d never see him again.

“I was wrong there I suppose,” Calypso said. “I’ve seen you again. And a man found Ogygia again. The right man.”

“Thanks Cal,” Leo whispered.

Percy protested. She told him to please go. The fates were cruel. Just remember him. Then a small smile reappeared as she asked him to plant a garden in Manhattan for her. Percy said he promised as he stepped on the raft and it sailed away. He stared back as he sailed away and Ogygia was lost in the mist and Percy headed into the sunrise. Finally he took a deep breath and said to sail him to Camp Half Blood, to sail him home.

“I am sorry,” Percy said as the spell over him broke as the scene faded.

“You don’t need to be.”

“I kept my promise to you. There’s a garden. But I didn’t keep my promise to myself. I never forgot but I…”

“I was wrong before you know,” Calypso interrupted. “The fates were kind to send you to me. Then you could make the gods vow to free me and that’s why I was sent Leo. To free me. The Fates were kind there. You never forgot and never abandoned anyone. Especially me.”

“We’re good then?” Percy asked her and Leo.

“We are good.”

“We already talked about this. It’s all cool now water boy,” Leo said with a grin.

Percy looked at Annabeth questioningly and she smiled walking over and pulling him up. “Come on Seaweed brain. Let’s go eat lunch.”

Chapter Text

 

“Okay. I think after the last few things we need something lighter, to make us laugh at least. Which I why it’s the perfect time to work on these truths and dares,” Rachel announced clapping her hands together as she stood in front of everyone at lunch.

“You already have them?” Thalia asked surprised.

“I mean yeah,” Sadie shrugged. “There wasn’t a lot of time so our truth’s aren’t so good. But truths are boring anyway.”

“True,” Alex said.

“Not funny.”

“No,” she told Magnus. “It’s punny.”

“We’ll do one truth and then one dare,” Jason announced.

“So who first, Will or Hazel?” Nico asked curiously. Both his boyfriend and sister glared at him.

“Let’s start with Will,” decided Percy.

Will groaned.

“Who was your first kiss?” Thalia asked him drawing a note that she was handed to read.

Will put his head in his hands and moaned louder. “Really? Nico’s here! And my dad!”

“Yes. You still need to answer,” Rachel wiggled her eyebrows.

“And I’ll know if you’re lying ,” added Apollo.

“Dad!”

“So? Who was it?” Nico prompted. “You already know my answer. What’s yours?”

“Mitchell,” Will murmured.

“Louder,” nudged Percy.

“It was Mitchell! I was the only out kid at Camp at the time and he was curious. I wasn’t going to say no to Aphrodite’s son,” Will blushed.

Nico hummed. “Was it good?”

“Nico!” Hazel and Will both yelled. Thalia and Percy cackled. Jason stared at his cousin wide eyed as he high fived Alex.

“Explains a few things about my brother though,” Piper noted. “But moving on. It’s Thalia’s turn.”

“I can take anything you throw at me. Bring it,” Thalia grinned.

“Leo has to do your make up.”

“Okay. Maybe I can’t handle that,” Thalia blanched.

“Awesome. Is that my dare too?” Leo asked.

“No,” Piper told him. “But you’ll like it.”

“Work on her while Hazel has her truth.”

“Joy, oh joy,” Thalia muttered.

“Okay Hazel.  Who are the four most attractive guys here besides Frank,” Jaz asked excitedly.

“I need to answer this?”

“Yes.”

“And I can’t put Frank on the list?”

“No.”

“Okay. Last to first?”

“Yes.”

“Um… I don’t want to make anyone mad.”

“It’s a game Hazel,” Thalia said from where she was turned around. Then she winced. “Ouch. Be careful!”

“You move too much,” Leo replied with an intense look of focus on his face.

“Okay. Carter then,” Hazel said after a moment.

“What?”

“Just take the compliment,” Sadie told him.

“I don’t know,” Hazel shrugged. “After you it’s Leo.”

“No one can resist the bad boy supreme,” Leo boasted flexing both arms.

“I can and I’ll shock him back to the underworld if he isn’t more careful!” Thalia threatened.

“I thought he’d be higher on the list,” Frank said slightly surprised. “I mean… because of Sammy.”

“You’re always the highest though,” Hazel told him. “But this is besides you.”

“Two more,” Jaz urged.

“Walt.”

“Understandable,” Piper said.

“Very,” Rachel nodded. “The only one I really don’t get so far is Leo.”

“I don’t think any of us do,” Sadie agreed. “But yes, my boyfriend is incredibly hot and so is the god that possesses him so you all should be incredibly jealous.”

“So who’s first on the list?” Juniper asked. “After Frank of course.”

“Percy.”

Every single person attracted to men in the room nodded or hummed in agreement.  Percy looked at Hazel flabbergasted. “Me?”

“You’re my cousin so I don’t think of you that way but the first time I saw you I almost mistook you for a god,” Hazel admitted.

“Easy mistake to make,” Nico told her.

“It’s happened before,” Annabeth agreed.

“It has?” Percy asked.

“Just keep thinking what you want Seaweed brain. And remember, you’re all mine,” Annabeth said kissing his cheek.

“I can do that.”

“Leo, is Thalia ready?” Jason asked suddenly. “We have to start your dare too.”

“She’s ready.” Leo said turning her around. “Ta da.”

Thalia had black eyeliner dripping down her face and eyelashes hanging off her eyes. She wore purple lipstick smudged up her cheek clashing with the very deep red blush that really didn’t match her complexion. Her blue highlights clashed with it all very well too.  There was blue, gray and black on her forehead too that kind of looked like a bruise but was also sparkly.

“Not as bad as I thought it would be,” Piper admitted.

“No. Not so bad,” agreed Calypso. Then she saw Leo’s face. “You shouldn’t help any of us with our make up though.”

“I think there could have been a little more eyeliner,” Sadie said to Thalia.

“I feel like my eyes are already stuck shut between that, the fake eyelashes and mascara,” Thalia groaned. “Please no more. Just give this idiot his dare.”

“Finally,”  Leo grinned madly.

“I’m giving you three choices of people in your ear,” Chris spoke up. “You choose one to act like for the next hour.”

Chris whispered in Leo’s ear and then Leo stomped with his arms crossed. “You can’t make me do anything! I have a doctor’s note!”

“Why?” Nico asked bluntly.

“It’s funny,” Percy said through laughter.

“Very,” agreed Reyna to Nico’s protest.

“You’re lucky he didn’t choose the other ones,” Chris said to her. “You were one of the other choices.”

“Thank the gods he chose to do you,” Reyna said gratefully.

“I’m done,” Nico groaned. “No more.”

“I could just kill you,” Leo mused. “Then raise from the dead to torture you some more.”

Nico groaned again. “I thought these dares were punishments for the people taking them. Not for others.”

“Don’t worry,” soothed Will. “It’s only until dinner.”

“It’s good we’re done with lunch then,” Nico said. “THe sooner we watch the sooner I can get rid of him.”

“And I can get rid of all this,” Thalia said gesturing to her face.

“I agree. You’ve needed a new face for a while,” Percy teased.

“Shut it Kelp head.”

“I think you should replace it with a pinecone. That way the nickname’s literal.”

“Okay. Moving on,” Grover said pushing them away from each other.

“If I remember correctly it’s not us you’re going to have to worry about right now,” Thalia pointed out looking at Annabeth.

“I’m fine.”

“You called me complaining at least twice a week in the next month after this,” Thalia pointed out.

“You did?” Percy asked.

“That was then and this is now,” Annabeth said. “I’m not upset with Percy and he doesn’t have any reason to be upset with me. And Rachel’s my friend. One of my best now.”

“We’re all cool,” Rachel agreed walking up. “You ready to relive all the cat fights and the oblivious fourteen year old it was all for?”

“Maybe the last part,” Annabeth mused. “He was cute then.”

“But now?”

“Mine,” Annabeth reminded.

“Oracle. No dating,” Rachel said shaking both hands. “Remember?”

“You’d better.”

Both girls walked in chattering and Percy sighed looking at Grover. “How much worse do you think this will get bud?”

“I don’t want to know. I just know you’ll get it worse then I will. Juniper gets to stop worrying soon enough.”

“Dude, you really think we’re done?”

“A satyr can hope, can’t he?” Grover bleated as they sat with Juniper, Rachel and Annabeth. Magnus had sat next to his cousin again for the first time in a while.

“Good,” Annabeth said as he sat with Hearth and Blitz next to Tyson and Ella. “You’ll like this part.”

“I will?”

“Let’s just watch.”

Percy’s raft washed up on Camp Half Blood’s shore waking him up. A couple of great white sharks circled him and steered him toward the beach with Percy talking and petting them.

‘How are you even near those things?” asked Walt shivering.

“Are you scared of sharks?” Sadie asked him surprised.

“I don’t like them, so what?”

“They’re fine. Especially if you’re with me,” Percy promised. “It’s like having several huge dogs.”

“Except they won’t attack if they smell blood,” Walt grumbled.

“It’s okay dear. I’ll protect you,” Sadie told him.

“I love you but no.”

Sadie pouted and Walt rolled his eyes putting an arm around her. She grinned madly as she cuddled into his side and the others sighed.

Percy landed to a strangely empty camp. He walked in to the empty archery range, past the empty climbing wall, empty cabins and then he saw smoke by the amphitheater. He frowned and ran towards it cursing. Then he heard Chiron’s voice and stopped. Chiron was saying they could only assume he was dead. After such a long silence it was unlikely their prayers would be answers. So he would have to ask Percy’s best surviving friend to do the final honors.

“They’re burying you,” Walt muttered too familiar with funeral procedures.

“Awesome move. Interrupting your own funeral,” Alex agreed.

“No,” Magnus said looking at Annabeth.

“Yes,” Annabeth said. “Too often for my liking.”

“What in Hel’s name does that mean?”

Percy snuck up to the back of the amphitheater as the campers all looked forward as Annabeth took a long green burial cloth the same color as Percy’s eyes and embroidered with a trident and lit it on fire. She turned to face the audience with puffy red eyes from crying. She looked at them saying he was the bravest friend she ever had. Then she looked up to continue starting to say he was then frowned and her face turned red as she yelled he was right there.

“You literally just interrupted your own funeral,” Carter said impressed. “I’m not sure what to say.”

“You just move on and deal with it. It happens,” Annabeth said.

“You would know, wouldn’t you?” Samirah asked her.

“Ah, he told you then,” Annabeth noted.

“We all heard,” Blitz agreed.

“Yes, it’s happened to me all to often,” she agreed.

“What’s going on?” asked Jason confused.

“People find it necessary to interrupt their own funeral’s when I’m there.”

“I’m not the only person who’s interrupted their own funeral in front of Annabeth,” Percy explained for her as everyone just got more confused. “She was looking at her cousin’s open casket when his afterlife form walked in.”

“Einjheri form,” Samirah corrected.

“I’m just gonna keep saying the other thing. It’s too confusing otherwise,” Percy muttered.

“You forgot Leo’s scroll too,” Annabeth reminded him.

“Oh. Yeah. I wasn’t sure that counted,” he said.

“But that brings it up to three,” she said. “And I’m jinxing myself by hoping it’s only that amount.”

Everyone’s heads turned and gasps and whispers broke out from everywhere. Beckendorf grinned and called Percy’s name bringing him over as the others crowded around and clapped him on the back. Clarisse just looked at him and cursed rolling her eyes seeming to mutter the world typical.

“That’s nice,” commented Piper.

“It’s Prissy, if anyone has the nerve to survive that all it’s him. I had better things to do now that we didn’t have to do a funeral anymore.”

“Thanks Clarisse,” Percy said. “I’m touched.”

“Shut it.”

Chiron cantered over and everyone parted for him. He sighed with relief saying he’d never been happier to see a camper return but he had to tell him— just then Chiron was interrupted by Annabeth yelling where had he been charging forward and shoving the other campers away. Percy braced himself for a punch but was tackled in a large hug instead as everyone stared at them silently. Suddenly Annabeth realized she’d got everyone’s attention and pulled away.

“That’s how we all knew something had happened by the way,” Will said.

“What?” Percy asked.

“Annabeth had never just hugged you. She ususally would have punched you or something. There was a little less violence than expected.”

“Once we started dating she started to do that all again,”  Percy assured him.

“Hey!” Annabeth yelped whacking him.

“See?”

Finally she told him they though he was dead and she made sure to call him seaweed brain while at it. Percy winced and apologized softly saying he’d gotten lost.

Everyone sputtered.

“Lost? This is what you call lost?” asked Zia.

“It’s what Leo called it too,” Percy said.

“Do you want to be sent to the underworld?” Leo threatened as Nico groaned again.

“I mean, Grover you too! It’s happened with several of us,” Percy excused.

“Yeah and it’s never happening again,” Grover said. “Death by Juniper isn’t the way I wanna go.”

Annabeth yelled lost questioningly. She asked two weeks. Where in the world had he. She’d been interrupted by Chiron saying her name.

Grover winced at Annabeth’s yelling. “Yeah. Like that. So not going to happen again.”

Juniper nodded firmly.

Chiron suggested perhaps they should discuss this somewhere more private. The rest of camp should go back to their normal activities. Then without waiting for them to say anything Percy and Annabeth  were slung across the centaurs back as he galloped for the big house.

“Why do you guys get to ride on Chiron’s back?” Apollo complained. “He’s only let me do it twice in millennia.”

“They’re his favorites. That’s why,” Clarisse muttered. “Percy’s rode on him several times by my count.”

“We’re not his favorites,” Percy aragued.

“You are,” Piper said.

“Totally.”

“Out of anyone,” agreed Grover. “But Annabeth has always been his favorite. Since she first got to camp. I wasn’t that surprised after Yancy and you became his favorite too.”

“I guess it makes sense,” Annabeth said. “Chiron was like my dad for years. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

“Chiron’s the best,” Percy agreed.

“And this is why you’re his favorites.”

“I still don’t agree to that,” Percy argued.

“Dude. He has your pictures all over his wall. And all your medals, Annabeth’s designs, everything,” Jason said. “More than anyone else and Chiron’s been around forever.”

And then the magic raft carried me back to Camp,” Percy finished looking at Annabeth and Chiron.

“You managed to forget the magical girl on the island.”

“I shouldn’t have even tried to lie about it,” Percy muttered. “Nothing gets past you.”

“You’ve learnt since then,” Annabeth said.

Annabeth said slowly he’d been gone two weeks. She looked at him with a haunted emotion in her eyes saying when she’d heard the explosion she’d thought— Percy interrupted saying he knew. He was sorry. But he’d figured out how to get out of the labyrinth. He’d talked to Hephaestus. She looked surprised as she asked if he’d told Percy the answer. Percy rubbed the back of his head and said he’d sort of been told what he already knew. And he did. He understood now.

“Understood what?” Blitz asked. “I’m still confused.”

Hearth facepalmed and started to sign at him rapidly. Blitz’s eyes widened as he looked at Rachel. “Oh.”

“What’s oh?” Leo asked Piper dropping the Nico façade for a minute.

“Just watch.”

“We call Rachel Dare. She can see through the mist. She could see where the Labyrinth leads. We need a mortal, not a demigod or anything else.”

Annabeth proclaimed that was crazy. Chiron sat back and stroked his beard and said there was precedent. Theseus had Ariadne’s help. Harriet Tubman was a daughter of Hermes and she used plenty of mortals on the underground railroad. Annabeth frowned and said this was her quest. She needed to lead it.

“Do you still think like that?” asked Piper.

“No way. I’ve had too many quests to lead,” Annabeth said. “I know when to take the lead now and when to relinquish it.”

Chiron looked uncomfortable as he told her it was her quest but she needed help. She yelled this was supposed to help? It was wrong. It was cowardly. Percy interrupted her there and said it was hard to admit they needed a mortal’s help but it was true.

“You’ll always need this mortals help,” Rachel said proudly.

“And I’m glad to have it. Honestly, you probably keep camp sane,” Annabeth said.

“Really, cause I don’t feel that way,” Rachel said. “I feel like it’s driving me insane.”

“I think it has for all of us at some point.”

Annabeth glared at Percy getting up and yelling he was the single most annoying person she’d ever met. She then stormed out of the room.

“I’m sorry.”

“I know,” he told her taking a deep breath. “We both needed a breath there. There was a lot going on, a lot of it my fault. But we’re both good now. We have been for years.”

Percy stared at the doorway and clenched his fists against the table looking up at Chiron angrily saying so much for being the bravest friend she’d ever had. Chiron promised she would calm down. She was jealous.

“Dad Chiron is back at it, question is does his advice make it worse this time again or better?” Thalia questioned.

“I honestly don’t think it did anything,”  Percy said. “I wasn’t going to do anything yet. I knew deep down about what was coming. I couldn’t let anyone get hurt because I decided I wanted to enjoy myself before it all went down.”

Percy said that was stupid. She wasn’t… It wasn’t like… Chiron chuckled at Percy’s confused blabbered reply saying it hardly mattered. Annabeth was territorial about her friends in case he hadn’t noticed. She was quite worried about him and now that he was back she probably suspected where he was marooned.

“There’s signs,” Hazel agreed.

“Too many, “ Piper nodded.

“Though I’m sure Percy wasn’t as bad as Leo,” Jason noted.

“For sure not.”

Percy met Chiron’s eyes and winced. Chiron told him they wouldn’t dwell on his choices. He came back and that is what mattered. Percy muttered to tell that to Annabeth.

“He was right,” she muttered.

“Still shouldn’t have tried to hide it.”

“I don’t even know why you attempted it,” Grover said honestly. “I’d ask if you were insane but I already know the reply.”

“Geez. Thanks.”

“What are friends for?”

Chiron smiled and said he’d have Argus take them into Manhattan in the morning so they could stop by his mom’s. She was very upset. Percy looked startled and then paused for a second and asked Chiron what about Grover and Tyson.

“Wait if Percy was gone for two weeks you and Tyson were stuck together on the Labyrinth for that long too. Maybe even longer,” Frank realized.

“Yeah,” Grover said. “Honestly with what we went through and the amount we slept it felt more like a few days.”

“Not fun,” agreed Tyson. “It was really scary. Goat boy was brave.”

“I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for you,” Grover bleated. “Like with that—”

“No,” Juniper interrupted. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Tyson is brave and strong. Grover too,” Ella said. “But no more bad and scary things.”

Chiron said he didn’t know. Juniper was very distressed though. Her branches were turning yellow. The council of cloven elders had taken away his searcher’s license in absentia. If he came back alive he would be forced into shameful exile. But Grover and Tyson were resourceful. They could still hope.

“Thanks Chiron,” Grover muttered knowing their mentor wouldn’t be able to hear him.

Percy muttered he shouldn’t have let them run off.

“I needed to,” Grover told Percy.

“I know G-man. I was just worried. I felt like I abandoned you when I was gone for that long.”

“It all ended well,” Grover assured him. “Nothing to worry about.”

Percy raised an eyebrow. Grover bleated knowing what his friend was insinuating. He didn’t worry anymore! Not like he’d used too!

Chiron assured him that Grover had his own destiny and Tyson was brave enough to follow him. But Percy would know if Grover was in mortal danger wouldn’t he. Percy said he supposed because the empathy link.

“You would know,” Grover confirmed.

Percy winced. “Yeah. I’ve realized that now.”

Chiron said there was something else he should tell Percy. Two unpleasant things actually. Percy said great flatly. Chiron said first Chris Rodriguez their guest and Percy’s eyes widened and asked if he was dead.

“Are you alright man?” Carter asked him.

“Now I am.”

No one missed the now in that statement.

Chiron said not yet. But he was much worse. Now he was in the infirmary too weak to move. Clarisse had to be ordered back to her regular schedule because she wouldn’t leave his side. He didn’t respond to anything, eat or drink. None of Chiron’s medicines helped. He had simply lost the will to live. Percy looked haunted and back at the amphitheater and then to the arena. 

Clarisse didn’t pull away when Chris pulled her hand into his and squeezed. She took a deep breath and kept watching.

Chiron said that the other news was even less pleasant. Quintus had disappeared. Percy asked disappeared, how? Chiron replied he’d slipped into the Labyrinth three nights ago. Juniper saw it. Percy must have been right about him. Percy said he was a spy for look.

He bought his scorpions at the Triple G Ranch. Geyron was also supplying Kronos’s army.”

Percy insisted that couldn’t be a coincidence.

“No. But didn’t really mean anything except Geyron was evil and doing deals with anyone who offered,” Percy said.

Chiron sighed saying there were so many betrayals. He had hoped Quintus would prove a friend but his judgment had been bad. Percy asked about Mrs. O’Leary. Chiron said she was still in the arena. But it wouldn’t elt anyone approach but Chiron didn’t have the heart to put her in a cage or destroy her. Percy argued that Quintus wouldn’t just leave her.

“Is that how you got her? Quintus left her and she needed an owner so you took over?” Frank asked.

“More or less.”

Chiron said they seemed to have been wrong about him. Now he should go prepare himself for the morning. He and Annabeth still had a lot to do. Percy looked behind him at Chiron one last time as he went out.

“That’s it? You get back and are sent straight back out on this death quest?” Alex asked.

“Saving the world doesn’t exactly wait for anyone,” Percy said.

“No. It doesn’t,” agreed Carter.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 26:

 

It took a few more seconds for the scene to stop and the next to rise in front of them. Everyone shifted in silence for a second as the scene in camp Half Blood started in front of them.

Percy stood in the sword arena where Mrs. O’Leary was curled up in the middle of the stadium chewing on a warrior dummy. When she saw Percy she got up and came barking over. Percy just had the time to say whoa as he was knocked down and the hellhound started to lick his face. He yelled whoa and panted that she couldn’t breathe begging the dog to let him up.

Everyone laughed at Percy and the hellhound. Percy had a faraway look on his face. “I miss her. And Blackjack. I haven’t visited Bessie in a while either.”

“I know,” Annabeth said. “We’ll see them soon. Though I’m not sure about Bessie. Maybe the next time I’m working on Olympus you can come.”

Percy finally managed to get off. He scratched her ears and dragged over a very large dog biscuit. He asked her where hear master was. He couldn’t just leave her could he? Mrs. O’leary whimpered in answer. Percy took a sad look at her and toweled off his face and the dog spit on it. Behind him Clarisse appeared with her sword and shield and said that he was lucky the dog didn’t bite his head off.

“Not lucky,” Percy grinned. “Just favoritism.”

Clarisse rolled her eyes.

She told him she came to practice yesterday and the dog had tried to chew her up. Percy replied that she was an intelligent dog.

There were a few chuckles as Clarisse huffed again crossing her arms.

Clarisse retorted funny as she walked forward. Mrs. O’leary growled but Percy calmed her by patting her on the head and calming her down. Clarisse muttered she was a stupid hellhound. She wasn’t going to keep her from practicing.

“She can sense your unease,” Reyna said. “She’s scared of you because of that.”

“Yeah. Whatever.”

Percy frowned and told her he heard about Chris. He was sorry. Clarisse paced in a circle around the arena. As she reached the closest dummy she attacked within a second chopping off the dummy’s head with a swift movement before quickly pushing the sword through it’s stomach and pulling it out again and pacing again.

Everyone stared at Clarisse in surprise. Until now they hadn’t seen even a little bit of the daughter of Ares’ fighting skills. She didn’t look at any of them her arms were still crossed and she glared at the scene in front of her waiting for it to continue.

She said that yeah, well sometimes things went wrong. Her voice got shaky as she continued. Heroes got hurt. They died and the monsters just kept coming back. Clarisse picked up a javelin and nailed another dummy straight in between it’s helmets eyeholes. Percy just stared for a second before saying that Chris was brave. He hoped he got better.

“Thanks,” Chris said.

“You didn’t deserve any of what you went through man,” Percy told him.

Chris didn’t reply.

Clarisse glared at him and Mrs. O’Leary growled protectively. Clarisse said to do her a favor. Percy replied sure. Clarisse said if he found Daedalus he shouldn’t trust him. He shouldn’t ask him for help. Just kill him.

Everyone stared at her for a few minutes. She grumbled. “I don’t regret it.”

Chris squeezed her hand as the stares died down under her glare.

Percy looked at her surprised and said her name.  She interrupted him and said because anybody who could make the Labyrinth, that person was evil. Plain evil.

“You’re probably right there,” Piper agreed.

“No. It’s not the creation that’s evil but who uses it and what for,” Blitz told her.

“No. It’s evil,” Leo agreed as his face darkened with a haunted look similar to Nico’s. “I know what you’re talking about but that place is a death trap. And I know death.”

 She sheathed her sword in a harsh movement and said practice time was over. From now on it was for real.

“You were right there,” Annabeth muttered.

“It’s been real since the beginning. We’ve been training to survive and that makes it real. It’s what kept us all alive,” Percy argued.

The scene changed. Percy was dreaming. He stood in a courtroom chamber of white marble. A red haired pudgy guy with a laurel crown sat in the throne surrounded by three girls in blue robes who looked like they were his daughters. The door creaked open and the herald announced Minos, the king of Crete.

People glared, hissed and booed. Nico gave a small smirk at the show of support. Will gripped him closer especially as he glared at the screen.

The king on the throne smiled at his daughters and said he couldn’t wait to see the expression on Minos’s face. Minos came into the room then with his tall stature and pointed beard. He was thinner and splattered with a little bit of mud on his feet and the bottom of his robe. He bowed and greeted the other king calling him King Cocalus. He understood he’d solved his little riddle.

“Riddle?” Sadie asked curiously.

“This is my last dream about Daedalus. It’ll explain in a second.”

Cocalus smiled and said it was hardly little. Especially when he advertised it across the world that he was going to pay a thousand gold talents to the person who could solve it. He then asked if that offer was genuine? Minos clapped his hands and two guards walked in with a wooden crate. They opened it at Cocalus’s feet and opened it to show glittering gold bars.

 “It’s a lot of money.” Leo had whistled impressed then seemed to remember he needed to be in character. “I could use it to buy new mythomagic figures.”

 “Around a few million,” Hazel agreed.

Cocalus whistled and said he must have bankrupted his kingdom to give a reward like that out. Minos said that wasn’t his concern. Cocalus said the riddle was actually simple. One of his staff had solved it. One of the girls, the oldest said her Father’s name warningly. She was ignored as Cocalus took out a spiral seashell from his robes with a silver string threaded through.

“Wait, what’s that shell go to do anything?”

“It’s not a word riddle in the sense we’re used to,” Annabeth answered Jaz. “More like a puzzle.”

 Minos stepped forward and took it. He asked that it was one of his staff? How did he thread the string without breaking the shell. Cocalus said he used an ant tied to a silk string and bribed him through the shell with some honey on the other end.

“Smart and simple,” Magnus said appreciatively.

Minos said ingenious. Cocalus agreed saying it was his daughters tutor. They were really fond of him. Minos’s eyes became icy as he said he should be careful of that.

“Yeah, well he deserved it from his daughter,” Rachel said.

Other girls nodded in agreement.

Cocalus laughed and said not to worry. His daughters were wise beyond their years. Then he started to ask about the gold before Minos interrupted. He said the gold was for the man who solved the riddle. And there was only one man like that. He was harboring Daedalus. Cocalus shifted and asked how he knew the man’s name.

“Finally the man get’s something’s up,” muttered Thalia. “Took him too long.”

Minos said he was a thief. He’d once worked for him. He’d turned his own daughter against him. He helped someone else make a fool of him in his own palace and then he escaped. Minos had pursued him for ten years.

“That’s dedicated,” Walt muttered wide eyed.

Cocalus said he didn’t know anything of this but he’d already given the man his protection. He’d been useful. Minos interrupted again and said he’d offer him a choice. Turn over the fugitive and this gold was his, or he could risk making him his enemy. He didn’t want Crete as his enemy.

“If Cocalus is a king shouldn’t he just have precedence? He could have Minos stopped from threatening from him while he’s in his kingdom right?” Sadie asked.

“Not how it works,” Apollo said. “If he imprisoned the king of Crete or did anything to upset him it would harm his country. Crete was the most powerful kingdom at the time. Or until Athens started to rise.”

Cocalus paled. His oldest daughter interrupted and said he couldn’t. Cocalus ordered her silence and twisted his beard and looked again at the gold. He turned to Minos and said it pained him to do it. The gods didn’t like when people broke their oath of hospitality. Minos said the gods didn’t like the ones who harbored criminals either.

“Says the criminal himself,” Grover grumbled.

Cocalus agreed and said fine. He should have the man he wanted in chains. His oldest daughter protested again before stopping again and taking a nicer tone and saying they should at least feast first with their guest. After his long journey he should have a hot bath, new clothes and a good meal. She’d draw the bath herself.

“Finally the man gets what he deserves,” Reyna said. “Thank the gods justice is served.”

“Somewhat,” Jason said.

The princess gave Minos a pretty smile and he said that he supposed a bath wouldn’t be bad. He looked at Cocalus and said he’d see him at dinner with the prisoner. The princess smiled at Minos and led him away with her sisters.

“Feels like one of those crime tv shows. You know the murders gonna happen. You just don’t know how,” Sadie muttered.

“I just hope they take care of it,” Samirah agreed.

They went into a bath chamber filled with steam and decorated with mosaic tiles.  The girls filled the tub with rose petals and a liquid. Soon the bath was filled with foam in several colors.

Uh,” Percy said waiting for it to pause as he winced. “You might all want to look away for a few seconds.”

There were groans and exclamations of why as they all closed their eyes.

The girls turned away as Minos dropped his robe and sighed and said it was an excellent bath and thanked them calling them his dears. He complained the journey had been long indeed.

“You can all look again,” Percy told them. There were sighs of relief all around the room.

The oldest princess batted her eyelashes and said he must be very determined if he’d been chasing his prey ten years. Minos grinned he never forgot a debt.  Their father was wise to agree to his demands. The eldest princess said indeed in a very thick flattering tone. Her younger sisters trickled scented oil over Minos’s head. The old guy sighed.

“Mom must’ve been very proud here,” Piper said with a feral grin.

The eldest princess continued and said that Daedalus had thought he would come. He knew the riddle might be a trap but he couldn’t resist solving it. Minos frowned and asked if Daedalus had spoke to them about him? She replied yes. Minos said Daedalus was bad man. His own daughter had fallen under his spell. They shouldn’t listen to him. The princess said he was a genius. He believed women were just as smart as men and they were the first to teach them as if they had their own minds. Maybe his daughter had felt the same.

“She had the right too,” Zia said fiercely. “All women should.”

“The god of wisdom is a women after all,” agreed Piper.

“It’s just common sense whose the smarter gender,” Rachel agreed.

“Maybe that’s why men don’t understand. Because they don’t have common sense,” Thalia cackled.

“Hey.”

“Don’t worry. I think you have some Seaweed brain.”

Minos tried to sit up but the two younger daughters pushed him into the water. The eldest came back up behind him. She held three bronze orbs and threw them in. They sprouted bronze threads that wrapped around the king tying his ankles up and then his wrists to his sides before circling to his neck. He thrashed and yelled but the girls held him down. Only his head was exposed soon enough and he lay helpless as the strands kept tightening around him. He demanded to know what they wanted and why they did this?  The eldest princess said Daedalus had been kind to them. They also didn’t like him threatening their father. Minos growled for them to tell Daedalus he’d continued even after he died. If there was justice in the Underworld his soul would haunt him for eternity.

“I guess that’s how he ended up a judge then,” Grover sighed.

“That and Dad playing favoritism,” Thalia said.

“We have awful brothers,” Jason agreed.

“Which of us doesn’t?” Percy argued.

“True,” Nico agreed.

  The oldest daughter told him they were brave words. She wished him luck finding his justice in the Underworld. Then the bronze threads finished wrapping around him.

“He didn’t get justice in the underworld. Not true justice,” Reyna growled.

“He did after,” Nico assured her. “Dad made sure of it.”

“I think I might like our judgment system better,” Sadie said. “No matter how terrifying it is. At least it’s mostly fair.”

“It’s very fair. We have the feather of truth after all,” Walt said puffing up his chest.

 Daedalus stepped in as soon as  Minos was completely wrapped up. He held a traveling bag. He trimmed his hair short and his beard was completely white. He leaned down and touched the mummy’s forehead. The threads unraveled and sank but there was nothing inside them. Minos was gone. Daedalus said it was a painless death. More than he deserved. He thanked the princesses.

“That’s painless?” Frank asked incredulously.

“According to that maniac,” Clarisse grumbled. “But we knew he was evil.”

“Somewhat,” Chris told her.

“At least it was what he deserved,” Alex said cheerfully making others question her sanity.

The eldest princess hugged him and said he couldn’t stay here. When their father found out.  Daedalus interrupted with a yes.  He feared he’d brought them trouble. She replied they shouldn’t worry for them. Their father would be happy enough with the old man’s gold. Crete was a very long way away. But Daedalus would be blamed for Minos’s death. He had to flee somewhere safe. The old man repeated the last two words. He said for years he had fled from kingdom to kingdom looking for somewhere safe. He feared Minos told the truth. Death wouldn’t stop him from coming after Daedalus. There was no place under the sun he’d be safe. Not once word of Minos’s death came out.

“No place under the sun,” Hazel repeated quietly. “The labyrinth.”

The princess asked where he would go. Daedalus said a place he’d sworn never to enter again. His old prison would now be his only sanctuary. The princess said she didn’t understand. He replied it was best she didn’t. One of the other sisters asked what about the underworld. A terrible judgment waited for him there. Every man had to die. Deadalus said perhaps as he drew a scroll from his bag. Or perhaps not. He patted each of the sisters shoulders bidding them goodbye. He looked back at the threads glinting at the tubs bottom and said to find him if he dared calling Minos the king of the ghosts. He then turned to the wall and touched a tile. A glowing delta mark appeared and the wall slid open. The princesses gasped saying that they’d never been told of secret passages. He’d been busy. Daedalus corrected that the Labyrinth had been busy. He told them not to try and follow him if they valued their safety.

“So he did it then,” Leo grumbled in a bad imitation of Nico. “He cheated death. No one should do that.”

The real Nico scowled. “Stop talking.”

“At least you know he’s actually in the labyrinth,” Jaz said.

“But it’s the Labyrinth,” Blitz interrupted. “It’s a death trap.”

“Obviously they all lived though,” Alex said. “More than Maggie and I have.”

“Please don’t,” Magnus begged.

“Why, you don’t like the name?” Alex teased.

“You can carry on your gross flirting later,” Sam told them.

“We’re the ones who have to come along with you and Amir,” Alex said.

“They’re not so bad though,” Magnus said.

“Little known fact Maggie’s a hardcore shipper,” Alex teased.

“So are the rest of us when it comes to the two of you,” Percy winked.

 

Chapter Text

 

Another few minutes was spent arguing between Magnus, Alex, Percy, and Samirah with others like Annabeth, Sadie, Blitz, Hearth, Thalia and Piper throwing in their opinions. Finally they stopped when  Grover, Reyna and Carter managed to remind them what they were actually doing in that room. They settled back down to watch Percy’s next dream.

Percy’s dream changed so he stood underground in a stone chamber. Luke and another half blood were studying a map with flashlight. Luke cursed saying it should have been that last turn. He crumpled up the map and tossed it away. The other demigod protested. Luke said maps were useless here but they shouldn’t worry. He’d find it.

Haven’t figured it out,” Hearth signed. “You have advantage.”

“For now,” agreed Percy.

The demigod asked if it was true that the larger the group— Luke then interrupted to finish that it was more likely they’d get lost. Why did they think they sent out solo explorer to begin with? But not to worry. As soon as they had the thread they could lead the army through.

“But they don’t have the thread. You have a way to get in and find Daedalus before they do,” Jason said optimistically.

 “Yeah,” Percy said trying to mask the fact that nothing went the way he wanted it to. None of their hopes had happened and nothing he wanted ever would.

The demigod asked how they would get the thread. Luke flexed his hand and said Quintus would would come through. All they had to do was reach the arena and it was there. Impossible to get anywhere without passing it. That’s why they had to have a truce with it’s master. They just had to stay alive until… Another half blood interrupted calling Luke sir and saying a Dracaneae had found a half blood.

“In the labyrinth?”  Hazel asked troubled.

“Yes,” Percy said. Her gaze turned to Nico who was just looking at the scene not anything else. She didn’t see any hint of recognition from him but he brother was good at hiding what he wanted too.

Luke scowled and demanded to know if this half blood was wondering the maze alone.  The demigod agreed saying yes. They’d better come quick. The half blood was in the next chamber. They had him cornered. Luke asked who it was. The half blood said it was no one he’d ever seen before. Luke nodded and his mouth twitched as he said it was a blessing from Kronos. They may be able to use the half blood. Then they ran down the corridor and Percy shot awake and looked at the spot where the fountain had been in the beginning of the summer.

“No,” Jason said.

“Why would you go back in?” Reyna demanded.

“To help the others,” Nico said simply before looking at Grover, Tyson, Rachel, Percy and Annabeth.  He hadn’t given anything away.

“How in the gods name are you okay?” Walt asked.

“I had friends who helped me,” Nico answered with a shrug.

“Not that you didn’t help us too. A lot,” Percy said back.

The scene changed to Percy giving Mrs. O’Leary dog biscuits and asked Beckendorf to watch her. He then climbed over half blood hill and met Annabeth and Argus. They sat in silence for a while. Annabeth looked tired and nauseous. Finally Percy broke the silence and asked if she’d had bad dreams.

“Not as bad as yours,” she told him.

“We both know that’s a lie,” he said.

“No. I slept fine for the first time since you disappeared after the Telekhines. Before that I dreamed about the explosion all the time. For two weeks you had no dreams and all I had were nightmares. Then it switched.”

 He nodded. “I don’t have the dreams you know. Not so much when you’re nearby.”

“I know,” she told him. “I know.”

She shook her head and said no. There was an iris message from Eurytion. Percy looked alarmed as if immediately he knew what was wrong and asked if something had happened to Nico. She said he left the ranch last night and went back into the maze. He was gone before Eurytion woke. Orthus tracked his scent as far as the cattle guard. But apparently he’d heard Nico talking to himself the last few nights. Now he thinks Nico was talking to Minos again.

“No more trusting strange ghosts,” Thalia scolded. “You hear me?”

“I’ve got it,” Nico sighed. “Not that I’ve done it since.”

“Still,” Jason said using his older sister’s tone though not to the same affect.

“I won’t!” Nico cried defensively.

“No. I’ll only raise the murderous, vampirous zombie ones,” Leo said monotonously. The tension dissolved a little as people laughed at the bad impression.

Percy said worriedly that he was in danger. Annabeth said no kidding. Minos was one of the judges of the dead but he had a vicious streak. She didn’t know what he wanted with Nico. Percy said that’s not what he meant. He had a dream last night. Percy proceeded to explain his dream. At the end Annabeth spoke with a clenched jaw and said simply that it was very bad. Percy asked what did they do. She raised an eyebrow and said it’s a good thing he had a plan to guide them wasn’t it.

“That’s what’s so strange about this,” Grover said. “It’s Percy making the plan. Not Annabeth.”

“Probably a big part of why she was so mad,” Clarisse nodded. “She couldn’t stand being shown up.”

Annabeth leveled a glare at both of them.

The scene changed to Percy and Annabeth knocking on the door of his apartment for Sally to only open it up and jump on Percy with a hug saying she told them all he was all right.

“Mom, gods, how many times am I going to have to put her through this stuff?” Percy groaned.

“Aunt Sally worries,” Thalia agreed. “But she also knows you can take care of yourself. We talked a lot during that time…”

“You did?” Jason asked.

“Artemis was gone. I needed advice. Aunt Sally’s been like the mom we never had,” Thalia said. “She gets the responsibility and worry I have and I get some of hers. Even if I’m not a mom I’m responsible for the hunters.”

“And all of us Mama bear,” Percy teased.

“That being concluded Aunt Sally is the best,” Nico said.

“And therefore she doesn’t blame you for any of the stuff that has happened,” Annabeth said pointedly looking at the boy next to her. “So you can’t blame yourself.”

“Fine,” he groaned once more.

Sally sat them down at the table with blue chocolate chip cookies as they explained what had happened on their quest. Percy tried to not use any details but he just couldn’t lie to her. His face showed it all.

“Really?” Grover asked. “You know you suck at lying to Sally. And Annabeth.”

“Watering it down just makes it worse,” agreed Rachel.

Sally made remarks through it like as he spoke about cleaning Geyron’s stables and she lamented she couldn’t get him to clean his room but he did that. As Annabeth laughed Percy looked happier in that few seconds than they had all seen in a while.

“Dude how did you not realize,” Carter asked looking at the lovestruck expression on Percy’s face at the scene. “How have either of you not realized?”

“Sally did though. She looks like she wants to take pictures and scrapbook it,” Magnus commented.

“Sally noticed the second she met Annabeth just  like the rest of us the moment we saw the two of them together,” Will smirked.

Sally looked at them both when he finished the story saying he’d wrecked Alcatraz, made Mt. St. Helens explode and displaced millions. Then she smiled and said but at least he was safe. Percy said that pretty much covered it. Sally sighed saying she wished Paul was here. He wanted to talk to him. Percy winced saying yeah, right, the school.

“How can you even forget about that?” Samirah gaped.

“How couldn’t I with everything else happening?” Percy shot back.

Percy asked what she told Paul. Sally shook her head and asked what she could have said? He knew something was different about Percy. He was a smart man. He believed Percy wasn’t a bad person but he didn’t know what was going on. The school was pressuring, after all he’d gotten Percy admitted.  He needed to convince them the fire wasn’t Percy’s fault but he ran away and that looked bad.

“Isn’t that always the story?” Carter asked rhetorically.

“Me more than you,” Sadie said.

“I’m not arguing that.”

Annabeth winced. Percy promised he’d talk to Paul after they were done with the quest. He’d even tell him the truth if Sally wanted. His mom put her hand on his shoulder asked seriously if he would do that. Percy said yeah but he would think they were crazy. Percy said then there was nothing to lose.

“True,” Frank muttered. He definitely had thought his grandmother was at first.

“How often do people have success with telling mortals?” Hazel asked. “I mean besides the ones who can see through the mist.”

“All of us are mortals,” Zia answered. “Yet we are also magicians, more like the people who see through the mist. Especially the blood of the pharaohs.”

“We’ve had success,” Blitz said.

“Yeah but we almost fried Sam’s betrothed’s mind in the process,” Alex pointed out.

He survived,” Hearth signed.

“Yes, but only because Magnus helped with his powers,” Samirah sighed. “It isn’t very successful for us. Not unless your family has a history with the gods. Like mine or Magnus’s. Similar to your blood of the pharaohs.”

“My mom didn’t do well with the truth,” Jason answered.

“Neither did my dad.”

“It works,” Percy said finally wincing knowing how Piper still felt about that particular issue. “It works but only with certain people, those who want to accept it mostly. I guess Paul did because he wanted to believe I was a good kid and that the things happening weren’t my fault.”

 Sally thanked him. She said she’d tell Paul he’d be home then she frowned and asked when. What was their plan now. Annabeth broke her cookie in half not meeting anyones eyes and said Percy had a plan. The scene skipped and Sally finally nodded and said it sounded dangerous but it could work.

“What exactly is the plan?”  Piper asked. “It has something to do with Rachel right?”

“Pretty much.”

Percy asked if she had the same abilities, she could see through the mist, couldn’t she? Sally sighed and said not so much now. It was clearer when she was younger but yes, she always saw more than was good for her. It was one of the things that had caught his father’s attention when they first met. She asked him to just be careful and said to promise her he’d be safe.

“Is that possible in our life?” Magnus asked.

“Nope,” Alex, Sadie and Leo said cheerfully.

Then Leo frowned suddenly moping and repeated it angrily sending everyone into laughter at another bad Nico impression.

Annabeth was the one who answered. She said they’d try. Keeping Percy safe was a big job though. She folded her arms then and glared out the kitchen’s window. Percy played with his napkin and looked down.

“Can you guys be any more obvious?”  Piper asked. “I mean that something was happening.”

“We were fourteen and fifteen, just barely though. We were hormonal, stressed and going through a war with a lot of pressure on us. A love triangle wasn’t helping,” Percy said after a moment.

“If that’s your excuse it doesn’t work. I’m in a healthy relationship and I’m fifteen,” Nico pointed out.

“You can’t say that during the war though,” Percy argued.

“Yeah but Hazel can. Her and Frank started dating in the middle of the war and she was thirteen.”

“Same with Sadie and Walt,” Carter agreed.

“Yeah but our relationship isn’t exactly normal,”  Walt said. “Sadie and I only started dating after the war. Before that there was a love triangle with the both of us and the god I’m hosting.”

“Hazel and Frank are  probably the most normal and healthy relationship here,” Annabeth said as the two Romans blushed as they cuddled. “And Percy is trying to excuse our behavior but yeah, simply we had issues and we weren’t ready to work them out.”

Sally asked what was going on with them. Had they been fighting. Neither teen and answered and Sally drew out an I see and sighed again saying to remember that Grover and Tyson were counting on the both of them.

“Thanks Sally,” Grover grinned.

“Hey, we remembered you too!” Percy said.

“Yeah but you and Annabeth weren’t going to cooperate. That just kicked up your fatal flaw and Annabeth might be able to beat her hubris for us too. Sally’s a genius. She got you guys to work through it.”

Annabeth and Percy both said they knew at the same time which caused Annabeth to look away and Percy to blush.

The tension dissolved again as the room laughed, snorted and snickered. There were also a few catcalls though no one was sure where they were from. Annabeth rolled her eyes but Percy smirked a little for that.

Sally smiled and said Percy had better use the phone in the hall. She wished him good luck. Percy’s shoulders slumped with relief as he went out of the kitchen and to the phone and dialed the number.

“You remembered it?” asked Sadie. “I barely remember Carter’s or Uncle Amos’s. How do you remember a number like that?”

“You heard that we can’t use cell phones. I have to memorize the numbers of anyone I need to. And I’m not sure I just did.”

“Sure,” Thalia snorted.

“Shut it.”

The scene changed to Percy and Annabeth in times square in front of a Marriot hotel. Rachel stood on a podium painted completely gold from head to feet. Her and several other kids stood like statues as tourist walked by. The sign by the money collection for the tarp said Urban art for kids, donations were appreciated. 

Piper, Jason and Leo all winced. There were too many flashbacks seeing someone all gold like that.  

“Nice,” Alex said appreciatively.

“Do you guys get a lot of money?” Hazel asked. “Or do a lot of projects? You have pictures?”

“We do a lot of projects, with what money we have. Some fundraisers bring in more than others. I’ll show you plenty of pictures later,” Rachel promised. Hazel smiled in return. Alex nodded.

Annabeth and Percy stared at Rachel for a few minutes. She didn’t move or even blink. Percy and Annabeth paced. The former circled around Rachel as he did and waved at her face. Annabeth tapped her feet and sighed.  Finally Annabeth suggested they push her over. Percy looked at her with a disapproving glance.

“Sorry about that,” Annabeth said.

“No problem. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been waiting for me with your ADHD. “

“I can’t imagine sitting there and not moving.”

Rachel nodded. Since being an oracle she’d started to research ADHD and ADD and other things Demigods had or went through. She didn’t want to be a lady but artist, art therapy, or psychiatry or anything like that might work as a job. She was just starting to actually understand how hard all of the things her friends went through was.

Another minute after a kid in silver walked up and took up a pose next to Rachel like he was lecturing the crowd. Rachel unfroze and stepped forward greeting Percy. She said they had some good timing. They should all go get some coffee.

“Good timing? We were waiting forever!”

“It was five minutes Percy.”

“It was like a half hour.”

“It was five minutes,” Sam agreed.

“Felt a lot longer.”

The three of them walked into a coffee shop called the Java Moose and Rachel got an Espresso Extreme. Annabeth and Percy got fruit smoothies and sat at a table under a stuffed moose. No one even looked weirdly at Rachel.

“Good taste in drinks,” Grover complimented. “That cup looks good too.”

“I don’t know about that last part. But yeah. It’s a good espresso.”

When they were all sitting Rachel turned to Annabeth and said so, her name was Annabell, right? Annabeth corrected her and asked if she always dressed in gold. Rachel said not usually. They were just raising money for their group to do volunteer art projects for elementary kids because they were cutting art from schools. They did this once a month and took in five hundred dollars on a good weekend. Then she paused and said she was guessing they didn’t want to talk about that. Was she a halfblood too? Annabeth shushed her saying sarcastically to just announce it to the world.

“You guys really didn’t understand how much the gigungunap helps, do you?” Sam asked.

“I’m no mist expert,” Annabeth shrugged. “Though I know more about it now.”

“Not all of us have the skill to use it. We actually don’t know that much about it,” Thalia said.

“The only reason we know much more is because of what we’ve heard from you guys,” Percy said gesturing to the Egyptians and Norse.  “I think out of the people here the one who understands it best is Hazel.”

“Out of all the Egyptians and Romans. Our mist, you mean,” Annabeth corrected him.

Rachel shrugged and said that no one seemed to care.

“Way to be nonchalant,” Alex snickered.

Rachel slipped her a small high five with a grin.

Annabeth whisper shouted it wasn’t funny. Calling Rachel mortal girl she said it wasn’t a joke. Percy said for them to hold it and just calm down.

“You’re oblivious to the real problem,” groaned Thalia again. “So oblivious.”

“I know,” Percy groaned.

“He is.”

“It wasn’t just Percy I was talking about,” Thalia muttered and only Grover heard her. He quickly seemed to catch on to it. They were demigods. They all had issues especially when they had hard pasts. One of Annabeth’s issues was that when she friends she didn’t like anyone else getting near them. She didn’t want to be replaced or abandoned in the way she had felt when she was little. It was obviously one of the issues she’d had with Rachel. Thalia could see that and Grover could read the emotions right off her too.

Rachel insisted she was calm. Every time she was around Percy some monster attacked them. What was there to be nervous about? Percy said he was really sorry about the band room. He really hoped they didn’t kick her out or anything. Rachel said no. They’d asked her a lot of questions about him but she’d played dumb. Annabeth asked if it was hard.

“Really?” Magnus asked.

“Shut it.”

“Seriously though?”

Annabeth leveled her glare at him and he stared back. Percy sighed. “Do I really need to keep breaking up fights?”

Percy yelled for them to stop. Then he sighed and said to Rachel they had a problem. And they needed her help. Rachel narrowed her eyes and looked at Annabeth and asked if she needed her help. Annabeth  stirred her smoothie with her straw and said yeah. Maybe.

“Thank you for actually admitting it,” Thalia said in exasperation.

Annabeth turned her glare onto her.

The scene moved forward a bit to Rachel looking between the both of them and asked if they actually wanted her to guide them through a place she’d never been.

“You do know how insane you guys sounded right?” Rachel asked.

“Yes. But you did agree.”

“Only because you made me feel like I wasn’t crazy either.”

“Let’s face it,” Grover interrupted her and Percy. “We’re all slightly crazy. Some of us more than others.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Annabeth asked.

“Don’t get me started on you and Percy.”

Percy explained she could see through the mist like Ariadne. He was betting she could see the right path. The Labyrinth wouldn’t be able to fool her as easily. Rachel asked what if he was wrong? Percy said that then they’d get lost. Either way it was very dangerous. Rachel asked if she could die. Percy said yeah.

“You don’t seem to care that much,”  Magnus noted.

“No. Not really.”

“Which is why the goat over there was right to question all of you people’s sanity,” Blitz muttered. Grover sent him an appreciative and understanding look.

Rachel said she’d though monsters didn’t care about mortals. Percy’s sword hadn’t… Percy interrupted her to say celestial bronze didn’t hurt mortals. Most monsters would ignore her but Luke wouldn’t care. He’d use mortals, demigods and monsters. He’d kill anyone who got in his way. Rachel commented he sounded like a nice guy. Annabeth burst in that he was under the influence of a titan and had been deceived.

Thalia sent her a look and Annabeth shrugged. “Hey. If I hadn’t been just a little optimistic about that we wouldn’t have won.”

Thalia slumped. “Fine. But—”

“It’s fine Thalia,” Percy interrupted.

“Even though it assured me that you were both even more crazy than I thought,” Rachel said.

“Not helping,” Annabeth hissed.

Rachel looked back and forth between the two of them and said okay. She was in.

“That’s how you were convinced?” Piper asked incredulously.

“I just happen to like crazy people. They’re the best kind of people.”

Percy blinked and asked if she was sure. Rachel said her summer was going to be boring. This was the best offer she’d gotten yet. She asked what to look for?

“Definitely the best offer yet,” Apollo agreed. “After all that’s how you ended up able to work for me.”

Rachel gave a slightly amused smile.  “Whatever you say.”

Apollo nodded pleasantly while everyone else held back their laughs and other snickers or scoffs. Obviously he hadn’t gotten the things behind Rachel’s words.

Annabeth said they had to find a entrance to the Labyrinth. There was one at Camp but she couldn’t go there. It was off limits to mortals. Rachel nodded and asked what an entrance to the Labyrinth looked like. Annabeth said it could be anything. A wall, a boulder, a door, a sewer entrance. But it would have the mark of Daedalus on it. A glowing blue delta. Rachel drew a delta on the table with a wet finger. Annabeth agreed that was it and asked if Rachel knew Greek. Rachel said no as she pulled out a big blue plastic hairbrush and brushed the gold from her hair and said she’d better get changed. They should come with her to the Marriott.

Seeing Rachel brushing her hair Percy and Nico started to crack up. Annabeth looked amused.

“Okay. The rest of us are obviously missing something. What is it?” Will asked.

“This is what you talked about when you met with us in Manhattan?” Reyna asked Rachel and Grover.

Rachel looked surprised she remembered. “Yeah.”

“That wasn’t a joke?” Jason asked when everyone looked at him. He shrugged apologetically, “I saw it in a dream.”

“Why don’t we just watch and see?”

“Best moment of the quest,” Nico said after a second.

“Besides getting to kiss Annabeth,” Percy agreed.

“Really Percy? You have to keep making the rest of us look bad!” Leo groaned.

“In character,” Percy reminded before he shrugged. “I wasn’t trying to do anything.”

Annabeth asked why? Rachel said because there was an entrance like that in the hotel basement where they store the costumes. It had the mark of Daedalus.

“If that isn’t a mark you’re on the right track I don’t know what is,”  Jaz commented.

“True.”

“Definitely fate,” Sadie muttered.

Chapter Text

 

Everyone settled in now realizing they were reaching the climax. Annabeth’ s resolution was that none of them would get up until dinner. She didn’t mention it though she was fairly sure everyone else had something similar in mind. Either that or they were contemplating the providence that had made Rachel’s group store their stuff in that basement.

Rachel showed them a metal door hidden beneath a laundry bin of dirty towels. The symbol glowed faintly as Annabeth said the entrance hadn’t been used in a long time. Rachel said she’d tried to open it once out of curiousity but it was rusted shut. Annabeth stepped forward and said no it just needed the touch of a half-blood. She put her hand on the mark which glowed blue. The metal door unsealed and opened showing a dark staircase down.

“No going back now,” commented Chris.

“Not that I was going too,” Rachel muttered.

Rachel said wow in a scary calm voice. She now wore a museum of modern art t-shirt and regular jeans with her hair brush sticking out of her pocket. She said after them. Annabeth in a very obviously fake voice said Rachel was the guide. She should lead on.

“When are you going to stop being so mean?” Hazel asked. She’d never seen her friend like this.

“Not until after I became the oracle and wasn’t a threat to her and Percy,” Rachel told her.

“I was awful,” Annabeth agreed.

“You were jealous. It happens to all of us.”

They went down the stairs into a large brick tunnel. Percy and Annabeth pulled out flashlights and switched them on which made Rachel yelp. In front of them was a Cyclops skeleton, ten feet tall, and strung up by it’s wrist and ankles like an x over the tunnel. Annabeth said it was a Cyclops. It was old though. Not anyone they knew.

“Tyson is here. Tyson is safe because Tyson is brave. He is general Tyson,” Ella said ruffling her feathers as she snuggled into Tyson.

Tyson blushed then frowned. “The people that did that, they didn’t like cyclopes?”

“Probably,” Percy told him. “But we do.”

Rachel looked at them incredulously and asked if they had a friend who was a cyclops. Percy replied yeah, Tyson. His Half brother. Rachel repeated those last three words and an oblivious Percy continued saying hopefully they’d find him down here and Grover. He was a satyr. She said oh and then paused saying they’d better keep moving.

“You were okay with all of this until Percy brought up Tyson,” Alex said. “Really?”

“Tyson is his half brother.”

“And so is Hazel’s horse.  And the whirlpool Charbydis. And Pegasus. And the golden Fleece.”

“And Blitz is my cousin. Even though he’s a dwarf.”

“And Sam and I have a giant sea monster, an eight legged horse, the goddess of death, and the wolf that’s going to eat the king of gods and end the world for siblings,” Alex added to Magnus’s comment.

“And that’s not even going to the weirdness of how Horus is both Isis’s sister and son among several other things,” Sadie agreed.

“I get it. Mythology is deeply weird.  I was still processing.”

Rachel stepped under the skeleton’s arm and over it’s leg and kept walking. Annabeth and Percy exchanged looks and then she shrugged. They followed Rachel into the maze. 

“You know it creeps the rest of us out when you do that,” commented Nico.

“Do what?”

“Exchange looks and have a completely silent conversation,” Piper explained.

“We do that?” Annabeth asked.

“I mean I’ve seen Wise Girl do it with Chiron and other people but we do it?” Percy asked.

“All the time,” Nico said.

Both of them shrugged and exchanged glances and Nico pointed. “See?”

“What?”

“Just leave it,” Will encouraged.

They kept walking until they came to a crossroads. At one place the brick tunnel continued and on the right the walls were made of marble slabs. On the left the tunnel was dirt and tree roots. Percy pointed to the last and said it looked like the tunnel Grover and Tyson took. Annabeth frowned and said the archeticture to the right. The old marble stones were more likely to lead to an ancient part of the maze, toward Daedalus’s workshop. Rachel said they needed to go straight. Annabeth and Percy both looked at her. 

“See?” Nico said. “There it is again!”

Annabeth pointed out that was the least likely choice. Rachel asked if they couldn’t see it and to look at the floor.

“It’s a muddy brick floor,” Frank said confused.

“No. There’s something else there,” Sadie said. The other magicians all nodded in agreement.

Rachel said there was a brightness there. It was faint but forward was the right way. To the left, farther down the tunnel the tree roots were moving around like on feelers. She insisted she didn’t like that. She continued that to the right there was a trap twenty feet down. Holes in the walls, maybe for spikes. She didn’t think she could risk it.

Everyone was staring at Rachel now. “What?”

“You could sense all that?” Piper asked.

“It wasn’t so hard actually. It was all just there.”

Percy nodded and said okay. Forward. Annabeth asked if he believed her. Percy said yeah. Didn’t she? Annabeth opened her mouth to argue and closed it waving Rachel to move on.

“It was kind of hard too. I wasn’t sure how she could sense all of that,” Annabeth said apologetically to Percy and Rachel.

 They kept walking down the brick corridor as it twisted and turned downhill. Percy asked her a few minutes in if there were any traps. Rachel said nothing and asked if it should be that easy.  Percy said he didn’t know. It never had been before.

“Prissy’s luck never holds out for long. You’re going to run across some trouble soon,” Clarisse said suspiciously then looked at Percy. “There better be some good action.”

“Don’t worry. It’s definitely something you’ll like,” Percy told her. “No matter how much I didn’t like it.”

Clarisse nodded back at him.

Annabeth asked Rachel where she was exactly from.

“Do you mean what planet?” Alex asked. “Because that’s what it sounded like.”

“I know. I’m mean. I did it to Percy, then to Tyson and now to Rachel.”

“You’re not mean. You have a hard time trusting people but that isn’t a bad thing,” Percy told her quietly. “It just means the friends you have are actually the best ones.”

Rachel said Brooklyn.

The magicians grinned and Jaz and Sadie high fived each other then Rachel who smiled.

Percy asked if her parents were going to be worried if she was out late. Annabeth asked why not for once sounding serious. Rachel started to answer but there was a creaking noise in front of them. Annabeth asked what it was? Rachel said she didn’t know. Some metal hinges. Annabeth said that was helpful, but she meant what was it. Then heavy footsteps started shaking the corridor echoing and Percy asked run and Rachel agreed run.

“Thank the gods you’re actually sensible and running for once,” Grover muttered.

“Hey! We’ve run before,” Percy protested.

“Really? When?”

“Um…. We ran away or rode away on the boar.”

“That was once! It’s not a thing you ever do,” Grover said.

“I have.”

“Not enough,” Grover said again.

They hadn’t run far when they were met by two armored dracanae who pointed javelin’s at their chests. In between them was Kelli who smiled saying well well.

“I really hate her,” Annabeth groaned. “And we’ve met her too many times.”

“She isn’t to fast at reforming. She was still… well…. there when she was last killed. Until we got here. She must have reformed got reinforcements and come straight after me.”

“I really hate her,” Annabeth repeated.

Percy uncapped riptide and Annabeth pulled out her knife but before Riptide was fully sprung Kelli had pounced on Rachel holding her talons at her neck. Kelli asked if they were taking their mortal pet for a walk. Mortals were such fragile things and so easy to break.

Rachel scoffed. “Says the creatures that dissolve with dust.”

Behind the three teens the pounding footsteps came closer and a huge laistrygonian giant arrived behind them licking his lips and asking if he could eat them.  Kelli said no. His master would want them. They’d provide a lot of entertainment. She smiled and told them to march or they all died there starting with Rachel.

“They didn’t just kill you there? Or try too?” Magnus asked confused. That didn’t sound like any of the monsters they’d seen yet.

“You heard what she said about entertainment. They’re still going to try and kill them with an audience,” Carter told him.

They were marched down the tunnel until they reached bronze doors ten feet tall and emblazoned with crossed swords. From behind them came the muffled roar of a crowd. The snake woman hissed that they’d be very popular with their host.

“An arena,” Frank said eyes widening.

Jason groaned.

Percy nodded also looking annoyed. “I really hate fighting for entertainment.”

Clarisse was smirking though. Percy might not like it, it was still entertaining.

Percy looked up at the Dracnae and asked who her host was. She hissed in a way that sounded kind of like mocking/amused laughter. She told him he’d see. They’d get along furiously. He was Percy’s brother after all. Percy said his what?

“You really have the worst luck with your siblings monstrous and not,” Will said.

“You’ve run into a lot of them.”

“You’re both right,” Percy said to Jason and Will. “I’ve actually talked to dad about this. His children tend to be a bit territorial. Like with Polyphemus. We’re possessive. It explains how I reacted to Tyson though I still shouldn’t have. We still get along better than I do with any  of my other half siblings. Dad says they all take after his more destructive and possessive side. I have that side too but I try to keep a hold of it.”

“And you do well,” Annabeth told him.

“Yeah. I’m especially happy I’m not like this brother.”

“That’s also because of his mother,” Annabeth reminded him.

“Still.”

The giant pushed past them and opened the doors. He picked up Annabeth by her shirt and told her to stay here. She protested but their knives and swords were already confiscated. Kelli laughed with her claws at Rachel’s neck telling Percy to go on and entertain them. They’d wait here with his friends to make sure he behaved.

“And that’s how they always get Percy to do something,” Grover said. “Especially his mom and Annabeth.”

“Yeah but he always finds a way out too,” Rachel said. “This one was impressive.”

Clarisse rubbed her hands together in anticipation. 

Percy looked at Rachel and apologized saying he’d find a way to get her out of this. Rachel nodded and winced at the claws at her throat and said that would be nice.

“You really have too  much faith in him,” Apollo said.

“How can you not?” Thalia asked for Rachel. “He’s Percy.”

“Gee. Thanks. Though that’s not true.”

Almost everyone in the room scoffed.

Percy was prodded out the front door by the Dracaenae’s javelin points and walked out into the floor of an arena. In the centaur a giant and a centaur were fighting. The centaur used a sword and shield while the giant had a javelin the size of a telephone pole. Seats twelve feet above the arena floor were filled with monsters and even humans. Skulls ringed the edge of the railing. They were put between the benches and grinned from pikes at the back of the stands and hung on chains from the ceiling.

“That’s disgusting,” Jaz said.

“You’re a doctor? Aren’t you used to gross stuff?” Sadie asked though she looked sick too.

“It’s cruel,” Walt said in agreement. “It’s no way to treat the dead.”

“There’s so many of them. Almost as many as in Ran’s net,” Magnus said.

“It was gross,” Percy agreed.

In the middle of the seats was a green banner with  Poseidon’s trident and above it sat Luke wearing camoflouge pants a white shirt and a bronze breastplate. Net to him was a fifteen foot tall giant taking up three seats who only wore a loincloth and had dark red skin tattoed with blue wave designs.

“Why is your fathers symbol under Luke?” Carter asked.

“Actually, I think it’s under that other guy,” Frank pointed out. “He has wave tattoos. That must be the brother.”

Everyone looked at Percy.

“Yeah. That’s him.”

“You’re really the only one that looks like your dad,” Sadie commented.

“I think I only look like his modern form. I don’t know what he looked like in ancient times.”

“You’re the one that looks like your dad,” Apollo confirmed. “Though Theseus also had some of it. And Bellerophon.”

There was a cry from the arena floor as the centaur crashed beside Percy who jumped away just in time. He looked at Percy and begged for help. Percy looked for Riptide in his pocket but it wasn’t there.

“It still wasn’t back?”

“No. Most the time Riptide returns as soon as I need it. There are times that it doesn’t though.”

The centaur struggled to stand as the giant came forward with his javelin ready. The Dracaena gripped Percy’s shoulder and said if he valued his friends lives he wouldn’t interfere. It wasn’t his fight. He needed to wait his turn.

Everyone winced knowing that must have been hard for Percy who’s first instinct was to always help. Percy frowned thinking there must have been something he could’ve done. He sighed after knowing he couldn’t change it now.

The centaur couldn’t get up. On of his legs was twisted in an obviously broken  position. The giant put his foot on the centaur’s chest and raised the Javelin and looked up at look as the crowd cheered for death.

“I know it’s a really roman thing but I hate arena fights,” Hazel said wincing at the cheers for death.

“Agreed,” Jason and Percy both said.

Luke didn’t move but the giant next to him rose and smiled down and the centaur who whimpered and pleaded not too. The tattooed giant held out his hand and gave the thumbs down. Percy clenched his eyes closed as the javelin was pushed into the centaurs chest. He disintegrated and all that was left was a hoof which his opponent took and showed the crowd who cheered.

“Disgusting,” Zia spat. Everyone else looked sick and seemed to agree.

Another gate opened opposite them and the giant marched out. The tattooed giant in the stands raised his hands for silence. He bellowed it was good entertainment but he’d seen it all before. He asked Luke what else he had making sure to address him as the son of Hermes. Luke grimaced but rose.

“He didn’t like that,” muttered Piper who completely seemed to understand.

Luke called the tattoed giants name, addressing him as Lord Antaeus and saying he had been an excellent host. They’d be happy to amuse him to return the favor of passing through his territory. Antaeus growled he hadn’t granted it yet. He wanted entertainment.

“Good. Don’t grant it,” Blitz said.

You know you can’t change it. Right?” Hearth signed at him.

“I can hope.”

Luke bowed and said he had something better than centaurs to fight in his arena now. He had a borther of his. He pointed at Percy and said Percy Jackson the son of Poseidon. The crowd started to bow and threw stones at him which he mostly dodged till one hit his cheek.

Percy winced bringing his hand to his cheek expecting to see blood but it came away without any.

Antaeus grinned and asked a son of Poseidon? He should either fight well or die well.

“Right,” Nico snorted. “Doesn’t matter as long as it’s entertaining.”

Luke said if his death pleased Antaeus would he let his armies cross over his territory. Antaeus said perhaps. Luke didn’t look too happy and he glared down at Percy. Annabeth yelled Luke’s name and told her to stop this and to let them go.  Luke noticed her as if for the first time and looked confused asking her name in a question?  

Annabeth looked down and felt Percy reach her hand and grip it. Thalia and Grover were also looking at  her questioningly and she gave her a nod telling them she was good.

Antaeus interrupted and said there was enough time for the females to fight after. First what weapons did Percy choose. The Dracaenae pushed him into the middle of the arena. Percy stared up at Antaeus and asked how he could be a son of Poseidon. Antaeus boomed he was his favorite son. Look at his temple to the earthshaker built from the skulls of those he’d he killed in Poseidon’s name. Percy’s skull would join them. Percy looked around him in horror.

“False,” Apollo laughed. “His favorite son is Percy. Uncle P hates that kind of stuff.”

“That giant is insane,” Thalia agreed.

Annabeth yelled Percy’s name. He turned to her and she started to say that Antaeus’s mother was Gaea! She repeated the name before she was interrupted by the laistrygonian putting her name over his mouth.

All the Greeks and romans blanched. Even the Egyptians and Norse recognized the name from mentions before and what Percy had went through in his childhood with Gabe though they had only watched that a few days ago it had seemed like years. Possibly because they were watching years.

Leo and Reyna were very creatively cursing in Spanish though halfway Leo started to use fake Italian curses like different types of pastas, Mario and luigi and Mama mia. Jason was blanched and Piper muttered a few things in French clenching her fists. Nico muttered a few things in Italian as Percy and Annabeth watched. Frank and Hazel were both discoulered but didn’t say anything.

“I’ve heard of him,” Piper said after she’d calmed down. “How did you beat him? You’re better than Hercules but you’re not as strong.”

“Don’t worry. I managed.”

 Percy was left looking at her confused before he looked at Antaeus and said he was crazy. If he thought this was a good tribute he knew nothing about Poseidon. The crowd started to shout insults at Percy again but Antaeus raised his hand again for silence and said weapons and then they’d see how he’d die. Axes, shields, nets and even flamethrowers were offered but Percy said just his sword. The monsters started to laugh but as they did Riptide reappeared in Percy’s hands and a hush fell across them.

“You were already scary but you just became several times more,” Carter muttered to him. “The way your sword glows….”

Carter had stopped in a shiver and Percy just looked confused.

Antaeus yelled round one.  The gates open and a Dracaena slithered out with a trident and a weighted net. She jabbed at Percy who stepped away.  She threw her net and Percy stepped away again slipping forward in an almost invisible move it was so fast to slice her spear in half. Now that he was through her defenses he stabbed Riptide and she vaporized with a wail as the crowds cheering died.

“That might be one of the fastest fights I’ve ever seen,” Jason muttered.

“Best swordsman in three hundred years,” Chris commented.

“That was Luke,” Percy said.

Several voices chimed, “It’s you.”

Percy shrugged but didn’t argue. There was other things to focus on and none of them seemed to be able to give up on their argument for now.

Antaeus yelled now. It was too fast. He had to wait for the kill. Only he gave that order. Percy looked at Annabeth and Rachel. Luke smiled down at him and said nice job. He’d gotten better with the sword. He’d grant him that.

“But he won’t grant the fact that you’re better than him,” Thalia scoffed.

“Cause I wasn’t.”

Thalia and Annabeth who knew Luke’s swordfighting skills best exchanged looks.

Antaeus yelled round two. And slower this time for more entertainment. Wait for his call before killing anyone or else. The gates opened again and a warrior came out then a little older than Percy with black hair and an eye patch. The armor hung on him loosely and he stabbed his sword in the dirt and adjusted his shield before pulling on his helmet.  

“That’s –“ Will started. He’d hear about the guy but never actually met him. Besides the interaction after Annabeth had taken his knife in the back.

“Yeah,” Percy agreed. “That’s him.”

He introduced himself as Ethan Nakumura. Then he said he had to kill Percy. Percy asked why he was doing this. Ethan didn’t answer. Instead a monster at the stands jeered and yelled for them to stop talking and just fight already. Ethan looked at Percy and said he had to prove himself. It was the only way to join up.

“And why would you want to do that?” Alex muttered.

“Cause he’s an idiot. Or evil. It’s the eyepatch,” Sadie muttered back from next to her.

Alex grinned back wolfishly.

Ethan charged and their swords met in midair. The crowd cheered. Percy frowned and Ethan moved forward pressing on his sword. Percy pulled down and made a strike which Ethan parried and tried to slam Percy with his shield. Percy just managed to jump back. Ethan slashed and Percy rolled to the side. One of them thrusted the other parried and it continued. Percy stayed on the side of Ethan’s eyepatch but it didn’t help much. A monster cried for blood. Ethan looked up at the stands and gave a battle cry as he charged at Percy who parried and backed away. His eyes flicked back and forth several times in a scary wave.

“You’ve figured something out,” Magnus said.

“Yeah. It’s like Annabeth told me on my first quest. Strength needs to bow to wisdom sometimes.”

“Seeing how you win almost all your fights that’s true,” commented Carter.

“Thanks,” Percy said for once taking the compliment.

Antaeus booed telling him to stand and fight. Ethan pressed forward as the crowd jeered and threw rocks. Ethan made lots of stabs and moves but Percy wasn’t loaded down with armor and a shield like he was. He was able to roll and flip out of the way and hadn’t been hurt once. Then Ethan jabbed at Percy’s stomach and Percy locked the sword hilt in his as he stepped out of the way and twisted. It was the move Luke had shown him his first lesson. Percy slammed the butt of his sword into Ethan’s helmet and pushed him down. He fell on his back and Percy put his sword onto his chest.

The whole room cheered. “I bet Luke regretted teaching you that now!”

“Take him down!”

Percy looked down and blushed though he did agree that Luke had been furious with the use of that move.

Ethan told him to get it over with. Percy looked up at Antaeus who looked angry but he held up a thumbs. Percy’s face became stony and he said to forget it as he sheathed his sword.

“What are you doing?” Reyna asked him wide eyed.

“The right thing,” Percy said stubbornly as he crossed his arms. “And I don’t fight for anyone’s entertainment either.”

“I don’t know,” Alex mused. “It’s pretty entertaining.”

“She’s right,” Clarisse said. “Shove the sword in—”

Before she could say anything else Chris put a hand in front of her mouth.

Ethan told him not to be a fool. They’d both be killed. Percy offered him his hand. Surprised and confused Ethan took it after a second. Percy helped him up. Antaeus yelled no one dishonored the games. Both their heads would be tributes to Poseidon.

“Maybe Ethan’s, but definitely not Percy’s. Then Antaeus’s head would be on a stake,” Apollo muttered. He’d heard to many yelling matches about Percy with Poseidon in his defense. The god was incredibly over protective of his demigod son and when any of the other gods made comments there was a lot of consequences.

Percy looked at Ethan and said when he saw his chance run. Then he turned to Antaeus and asked him why he didn’t fight him hisself. If he had Poseidon’s favor then he should come down and prove it.

“I should really stop doing that?”

“Helping the person you’re fighting or threatening someone and almost getting yourself killed?” Magnus asked.

“I meant the first one. I should mean both but we all know I’ll never stop with the second one,” Percy said frowning. “But doing the first one feels right. Though it’s almost gotten me killed several times.”

“You’re too nice,” Clarisse grunted.

“You should try it sometime.”

Antaeus loked around as the other monsters grumbled in the stand.

“You put him in between a rock and hard place,” said Zia approvingly. “He can’t refuse now.”

“Not what I was trying to do but I’m glad I succeeded.”

Antaeus warned he was the greatest wrestler in the world. He’d been doing it since the first pankration.

“Pankration?” repeated Blitz.

“It’ll explain,” Percy promised.

Percy asked Pankration?

“Give me the jar,” Blitz said. The blue cookie jar appeared and Blitz dropped some money in.

Etahn said he meant fighting to the death with no rules and nothing barred. It used to be an Olympic sport. Percy told him thanks for the tip. Ethan replied don’t mention it.

“Okay. Maybe you didn’t make a mistake saving him,” commented Jason.

“I didn’t. I wish I knew that’s what he thought was payback for saving his life though,” Percy said muttering the last part.

Rachel was watching with wide eyes and Annabeth shook her head in warning. Percy pointed his sword at Antaeus saying the winner would take all. If he won they all got to go free. Antaeus wins and he dies. He told him to swear upon the river styx. Antaeus laughed and said that wouldn’t take long. He swore to his terms. With that he leapt over the railing into the arena.

“This guys specialty is wrestling, not sword fighting right? So it shouldn’t be too hard,” Carter noted.

“I wish. Just because he doesn’t sword fight doesn’t mean he’s hard to beat.”

Ethan wished him good luck. He’d need it. Antaeus cracked his knuckles and grinned. His teeth had wave patterns etched on them as well.

“Uch,” Piper said blinking away. “Who would do that to their teeth?”

“My insane half brother who’s also Gaea’s child,” Percy replied.

Antaeus asked weapons. Percy said he’d stick with his sword and asked what about him? He held up his hands in reply wiggling the fingers saying he didn’t need anything else. He looked up at Luke telling him to referee this one. Luke replied with pleasure. Then the fight started and Antaeus lunged. Percy rolled under his legs and stabbed him in the back of the thigh as Antaeus yelled in pain.

The room cheered. Percy held up a hand. “Wait, just watch before cheering.”

Instead of blood or ichor the wound spouted dirt. The dirt collected and formed a cast which fell away and the wound was gone.

“He’s like his mom,” Leo realized. “If he’s touching the ground it heals him. Like Piper said before, you need too…”

He tried to continue and couldn’t realizing it must’ve been a spoiler.

Antaeus charged again. Percy dodged sideways stabbing him under the arm. Riptide was buried to the hilt in his ribs. Antaeus turned and Riptide was ripped out of his hands and Percy was thrown across the ground. Antaeus screamed but managed to grope for the hilt and pulled it out of him tossing it to the floor and more sand poured from the wound as the earth covered it up. Dirt made a cast up to his shoulders again and then Antaeus was fine again. He yelled at Percy that now he could see why he could never lose. Come close and let him crush Percy. He’d make it quick.

“How do you beat that guy?” Jaz asked with a frown.

“With Annabeth’s favorite tactics. Smarts.”

“You have those?” Thalia and Nico both asked before turning to each other with a glare.

“That’s how he’s won most of his battles,” Reyna said. “We have over looked that Percy is a battle strategist. He knows to find his opponents weaknesses and uses them. There are plenty of times where he has used force and power but when he is out matched he used his brains.”

“Wow, thanks Reyna.”

“Just an analyzation.”

Riptide was still behind Antaeus and Percy looked around and met Annabeth’s eyes. His own eyes widened with realization and he narrowed them looking back at the giant.

“Reyna was right. That’s his I have an idea face,” Frank said.

“I have that face? I thought only Annabeth and a few other people have that.”

“You have one,” Annabeth confirmed. “I like it.”

“I like yours. Your eyebrows scrunch up and your lips purse. It’s really cute.”

“Stop being gross,” Grover told them.

“You have a girlfriend.”

“I don’t,” Thalia said. “Stop being gross.”

Percy tried to go around Antaeus but he turned and blocked him wherever he turned. Percy looked around and then up at the ceiling at the dangling chains with hooks and skulls on some. Percy faked a move to one side and Antaeus blocked. The crowd screamed and yelled for Antaeus to kill him but the giantwas laughing and smiling. He looked down at Percy and said he was puny, not a worthy son of the sea god.

“If anyone’s worthy of it it’s him,” Jason defended.

“Thanks bro.”

“No problem dude.”

Nico mimed barfing.

Percy looked over at the dirt and his expression turned for the smallest second.

“Riptide’s back?”

“Yeah. Right on time and to my advantage,” Percy said.

Percy charged forward crouching and Antaeus stooped ready to catch him and Percy leapt using Antaeus’s forearm as a springboard to jump to his shoulder and onto his head as Antaeus straightened up and yelled which Percy used to launch him to the ceiling and the top of the chain as the skulls and hooks jangled under him. He wrapped his legs on the chain and took out Riptide starting to cut off the chain next to him.

“Nice move.”

“That was sick.”

“How do you even do something like that?”

“It’s not that hard,” Percy said.

“Like flipping off the minotaur and pulling off it’s horn isn’t,” Will said incredulously.

“That was the water.”

“There’s no water here,” pointed out Hazel. “And you’re off the ground which is smart.”

“It was the only way to beat him,” Percy said simply.

“Still that flip was epic,” Apollo said. “Something worthy of a poem or haiku. Maybe even a song. I could do that and the flip once my powers return.”

“I’m good. Thanks.”

Antaeus yelled for him to come down calling him a coward. He reached up for Percy and at his large height he was close to him but unable to get Percy though he tried. Percy yelled for him  to come up and get him or was he to slow and fat?

 “Good,” Zia said again. “He wants to please the crowd.  Though it will be bad for him if he does.”

Percy grinned which grew wider as Annabeth whispered in his ear.

 “I always knew you were smart.” He kissed the top of her head but pushed away when she continued talking. “Maybe just put that into your SAT learning or DSTOMPs.”

Antaeus howled in outrage and reached again for Percy. Finally he caught one of the chains and pulled himself up. As he struggled too Percy lowered the chain he’d sawed off and tried to hook the giant. After two tries he got his loincloth.

“You’re better at that,” he commented to Annabeth.

“Like grabber arms?”

“Yeah. Those clichés about the boyfriend winning the toys suck. You always get them for me. The only ones I win are the squirting games.”

“Are you for real?” Alex asked.

“I really can’t tell. I think they might be faking,” Nico told her.

“You and Will aren’t any better,” Thalia said. “But yeah. That’s like a sweetness overload.”

“Are we not going to talk about the awesome wedgie Percy just gave that guy?” Sadie asked reaching out for a high five. Percy happily complied.

“How do you lift him? He’s got to weigh a ton,” Walt asked.

“Physics.”

“You know what that is?” Rachel asked.

Percy pretended to look hurt.

Antaeus yelped and Percy slipped the end of the chain he held through another like a pulley before fastening it. Antaeus tried to slip off to the ground but was stuck. He held onto the chain with both hands as he started to flip upside down managing to prevent it with all his strength. Percy surveyed the situation drawing Riptide again as he climbed to another chain. He cut one then stopped climbed to another and cut some there. He started to weave them together tying knots and links. He swept through the metal jungle fast each time he cut achain and swung to a new one it got tangled and he looped it again through what held Antaeus up beforew swinging again from one chain to another to repeat the process. Each time he passed it through the chain already tied to Antaeus until he was swinging tied in metal chains. Percy dropped to the ground in a mess of sweat as he panted and surveyed his work after rubbing his raw hands on his pants.

Percy winced flexing his hands again and pushed Annabeth away. It wasn’t fun having her lean on him when he was covered in sweat. Then he realized the room was quiet and everyone was staring at him. “What?”

“Dude,” Leo started then started to glare like Nico catching himself. “How…”

“Those chains looked like they were heavy stuff. To cut them and do that weaving is—” Blitz started.

“Percy is good at tying knots,” Tyson said approvingly. “Knots of metal.”

“That was crazy,” Chris said. “You beat him. I didn’t think anyone could beat him.”

“Hercules had to lift him above his head to stab him,” Thalia agreed. “That was amazing Percy.”

“It was nothing.”

“It was a smart battle. One you won easily,” Sam said.

“Annabeth could have done it. So could most of you.”

“No. I’m pretty sure only your or Annabeth could or would do something like that,” Grover said after another few seconds of silence.

“Not sure I could either.”

“You’re better at grabber arms.”

“But what about that jump? Or hoisting him up? Or those chains?”

“You’re good at monkey bars?”

“So are you apparently.”

“That’s more like Spiderman,” pointed out Frank making everyone stare at him.

“Either way I still haven’t won,” Percy said finally. Everyone just gave him a look and he sighed. “Fine. I still think most of you could have done it.”

Antaeus yelled for him to get him down. Luke ordered Percy to free him. He was their host.

“Like he’s going to listen to either of you,” snorted Thalia.

“You’re talking to the projection.”

“Shut it,” she told her brother.

Percy uncapped Riptide and said he’d free him.

“Why would you do that?” Jaz asked alarmed then she blushed as she realized what Percy must really mean. “Oh.”

Percy stabbed Antaeus and he yelled as the sand poured out but unlike previously no dirt cast formed around him. He dissolved into the dirt pouring out little by little until all that was left was the loincloth on swinging chains with skulls.

Now the room cheered again and Percy let them grinning a little. Maybe all the souls sacrificed for his father would finally get some peace.

Luke yelled Percy’s last name saying he should have killed him a long time ago.

“You tried,” Nico pointed out. “And failed. Several times.”

The laughter and snorts continued in agreement.

Percy told him he’d tried. Then he demanded Luke let them go. They had a sworn agreement with Antaeus. Percy was the winner.

Nico frowned. “Really?”

“Just choose.”

“Fine. Dare.”

Percy and Thalia exchanged evil glances. Jason even looked a little excited too not to mention some other in the room.

“Either way, do you really expect him to let you go?” Alex asked after a moment.

“No. But I can try.”

Luke said Antaeus was dead and so was his oath. But since Luke felt merciful he’d have him killed quickly. Then he pointed at Annabeth and said to spare her. His voice started to shake as he said he needed to speak with her before their triumph.

“Oh Luke,” Thalia sighed.

Annabeth squeezed her hand and Jason gave her a concerned glance. Grover brayed and looked down. Percy sighed as well looking between his cousin, girlfriend and best friend.

Both girls were looking worse and worse as the moment approached. Not that Percy or Grover were doing much better.

All the monsters drew weapons or growled baring their teeth or their claws. Percy reached for his pocket and froze.

“You already have Riptide, what are you reaching for?”

“Mrs. O’Leary. The dog whistle,” Nico answered for Percy to Juniper.

“Yay for Mrs. O’Leary! She is a good doggie,” Tyson cheered.

“The best,” Percy agreed.

Percy drew the ice whistle and put it to his lips blowing and no sound came as it shattered to the shards of ice which all melted fast. Luke laughed and asked what that was supposed to do.

“Dogs hear pitches we don’t,” Walt said wincing a little. Percy remembered he hosted a jackal headed dog. “It should work.”

“I know. But then it really felt like it wouldn’t.”

Luke laughed and asked what that was supposed to do. There was a yelp then and the Laistrygonian guarding Annabeth slammed into the wall and a large whoof erupted. Kelli the empousa screamed as Mrs. O’Leary picked her up and tossed her into the air, into Luke’s lap. The dog snarled and the Dracanae guards backed away.

“Best dog ever,” Percy grinned.

“Cerberus is pretty great too.”

“We really need to go play with him again,” Annabeth said to Nico’s comment.

Grover opened his mouth to protest and closed it. It wouldn’t work.

Percy yelled for his friends to go and for Mrs. O’Leary to heel. Rachel yelled the far exit was the right way. Ethan Nakamura ran across the arena with Percy and out with them and Mrs. O’Leary behind them all. The army behind them all scrambled from their shock with their weapons.

“Great. You escaped. Back on path. You’re done,” Magnus said.

“And you have an extra person to help,” Jaz said.

“Not really.”

“He didn’t help.”

“The opposite really,” Percy muttered under his breath before picking up his voice again. “Either way, back into the death maze.”

Chapter Text

 

 “Why is that place never going to leave me alone?” Grover groaned. He glared at Apollo especially. He had a feeling where the sun god was going to come after he was done in the Midwest.

“I don’t think it will leave any of us alone. Harley’s started to use it as place for an obstacle race,” Will said.

“I’m so happy I don’t go year round,” Percy said thankfully. “That kid is demonic.”

“He also punches hard,” Leo winced.

“You broke character,” Nico pointed out. “And you deserved that punch. Now can we move on?”

Rachel yelled for them to go this way. Annabeth demanded to know why they should follow her. She’d led them straight into that death trap. Rachel said it was the way they’d needed to go and so was this. She yelled for them to come on.

“That sounds cryptically wise,” Magnus commented.

“Like Hearth,” agreed Sam.

Thanks?”

“Thanks,” Rachel said as Hearth signed.

“It’s a compliment,” Blitz assured them.

The scene skipped and they stood in a room the size of a gym with marble collumns. Percy looked around frantically and then looked down upset. Next to him Ethan collapsed. He said they were all crazy as he pulled off his helmet.

“You got that right,” snorted Frank.

“It’s a good thing.”

“A great one,” Alex agreed.

“The plans that work best are the crazy ones,” Sadie agreed. “You have to be absolutely insane to do most the stuff we do.”

“All the best people are crazy,” Rachel agreed.

Most the demigods nodded.

“Yet somehow they drag the sane people into their plans,” Sam sighed. Grover seemed to sympathize.

“What’s that mean?”

“Have you met Magnus? Or yourself?” she asked Alex.

“Okay. Crazy conversation aside. What happened to Mrs. O’Leary?” Walt asked. A dog of the underworld stirred something inside himself and Anubis.

“She’s okay. She probably left the same way she came after we were safe,” Percy assured him.

Annabeth gasped saying she remembered him. He was one of the undetermined kids in the Hermes cabin years ago. He glared back and said she was Annabeth, he remembered. She asked what happened to his eye.

Hazel frowned. “His mom isn’t Nemesis, is she?”

Percy looked at her surprised. “How’d you know?”

“We met her at the Great Salt Lake,” Leo said thinking of that fortune cookie again.

“She mentioned she had a son sacrifice an eye to her,” Hazel clarified.

“Yeah,” said Percy. “That would be Ethan.”

“She made her son do that?”

“Ethan and his mom have…. issues,” decided Percy. “Definitely not normal. Not even for a demigod.”

Everyone still looked disturbed.

Ethan turned away. Percy frowned and said that Ethan had to be the half-blood from his dream. The one Luke’s army had cornered. It hadn’t been Nico after all.

Most of the room sighed in relief.

“Good,” Will said. “Though I know you don’t stay out of that maze.”

“I’m not apologizing.”

“Why should I?”

“For making me worry.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“If that means overusing your powers, exhausting yourself, then pulling more stupid stunts.”

Nico glared at him.

Will glared back.

Apollo squeaked. “Aww.”

“Gross,” Thalia decided. “Stop infecting the room with your weird romance.”

Nico stuck out his tongue at her.

She reciprocated.

Will just rolled his eyes and watched the scene continue.

Ethan asked who Nico was.

“Good, they still don’t know of you,” Reyna decided.

Percy and Nico exchanged glances. That didn’t last much longer.

Annabeth said never mind. She asked why Ethan was trying to join up with the wrong side. Ethan sneered there was no right side. The gods never cared about them. Why shouldn’t he—Annabeth interrupted and finished by saying sign up with an army that made him fight to the death for entertainment. She wondered.

“He’s not wrong,” Percy muttered so lowly no one heard him. He knew similar thoughts ran through the others minds. The gods didn’t seem to care most the time. There were exceptions like his father but the only reason a lot of demigods had sided with them was they realized that the titans would mean destruction and death for most of them and the world.

Ethan had been right about lots of things. So was Luke. There was no recognition or anything from the gods for most of them. Ethan and Luke, like so many others, all of them had been hurt and they’d been driven by that hurt. Percy was lucky. He had a good parent. He didn’t need recognition from his godly parent though he had it as well.

But he also understood. There was times he’d been there himself. But that had also blinded them. Blinded them to what would happen in their quest to get recognition.

Ethan got on his feet and said he wasn’t going to argue. He thanked them for the help but he was out of there.

“Good,” said Juniper shivering. “He creeps me out.”

Percy said they were going after Daedalus. He should come with them. Once they got through Ethan would be welcome back at Camp.

“Not then,” Nico said. “Not till—”

“You won’t be able to say it,” Percy reminded him. “And maybe but I also know Camp is a home for a lot of us who haven’t had homes before. Or just need a place to be accepted. It had it’s issues then and it’s now but we needed to try.”

Nico wanted to scoff. Percy was too forgiving sometimes. Though that might be his flaw of holding grudges speaking. Most of camp wasn’t so accepting. They hadn’t been to Percy when he’d first arrived and killed a minotaur or when he’d been claimed. They were all part human and the might even be the less flawed part because the gods weren’t accepting either. Not until Percy put them all in place.

Ethan said he was crazy if he though Daedalus would help them. Annabeth said he had too. They’d make him listen. Ethan snorted and said good luck with that. Percy grabbed his arm and asked if he was going to go off alone into the maze. It was suicide. Ethan looked at Percy angrily and said he shouldn’t have spared him. Mercy had no place in this war.

“This is Percy,” snorted Grover. “He’s gonna try and save everyone.”

“As much as I can.”

With those last words Ethan ran off into the darkness. The other three exchanged glances. There were a few minutes of silence. “That was a lot for today. We should make camp.”

“Sounds good to me,” Rachel replied to Percy.

Annabeth opened her mouth to argue but didn’t. “Go see if you can start a fire. I’ll start setting up here.”

  Percy looked around and found some wood and built a fire which Annabeth poked at. She muttered something was wrong with Luke. Did he notice how Luke had been acting?

“There was something wrong,” Thalia agreed.

“Really? He seemed to be happy watching people fight to their deaths,” Piper said.

“No. There was something up,” Grover agreed.

Everyone else looked skeptical too.

Percy said Luke looked pretty pleased to him. Like he’d spent a whole nice day torturing heroes.

“Percy agrees,” Carter pointed out.

“Yeah. But I also didn’t know Luke as well as Annabeth did, even if she was being a little too hopeful about him.”

“Would you say that in the end of this all?”

“We both are. We were both completely insane,” Percy said. “But that’s mostly you. I did what you asked.”

“No. You’re crazy without me.”

“You both scare me,” Grover said. “Then and now.”

“Anyone know what they’re talking about?” Jason asked.

“No clue.”

“Not really.”

“Nope.”

Annabeth said that wasn’t ture. There was something wrong with him. He looked nervous. He’d also told the monsters to spell her like he wanted to tell her something.

“You were speaking about before that summer weren’t you?” asked Percy. “The thing you told me about.”

“Yeah.”

“It was kind of disorienting,” Thalia agreed.

“Still no clue what they’re speaking about,” muttered Will.

“Same here,” Nico agreed.

Percy said it probably was hi Annabeth. She should sit here and watch while he tore his friends apart it’d be fun.

A few more snorts and snickers erupted.

Annabeth said he was impossible and then sheathed her dagger now looking at Rachel and asked her which way now calling her Sacagawea. Rachel was drawing on the floor with a burned stick making images of a dracanaea with the ash.  She said they followed the ash. The brightness on the floor. Annabeth asked the brightness on the floor that led them into a trap?  Percy said to lay off. She was doing the best she could.

Everyone winced again.

Annabeth stood and said the fire was getting low. She was going to look for some scraps while they talked strategy. Withthat Annabeth marched off.

“You went off alone?”

“In the Labyrinth?”

“It’s fine I stayed in the room. I just left Percy with Rachel,” Annabeth shrugged.

“Still separating gets you killed! We’ve all watched horror movies.”

“Yet we’re all alive,” Percy pointed out. “Lay off.”

Rachel drew Antaeus on the ground now as Percy said Annabeth wasn’t usually like this. He didn’t know what her problem was.

All the girls snorted as well as a few of the guys.

“What?”

“You really are so oblivious.”

Rachel asked if he was sure he didn’t know.

“See? Rachel knows.”

“The only one who didn’t was Percy,” Nico pointed out.

“We get it. I’m an idiot.”

Percy asked what she meant. Rachel muttered boys. They were totally blind.

“You’ve got that right,” snorted Piper.

Most of the girls nodded.

“Not that girls are always much better,” Walt said looking pointedly at Sadie.

“What?”

He pulled her closer and she didn’t protest though she was sure she’d pay him back for that comment later.

Percy told her not to get on his case either. He apologized for getting her involved in all of this. Rachel told him no. He had been right. She could see the path. She couldn’t explain it but it was clear. She pointed to the opposite end of the room and said the workshop was that way in the heart of the maze. They were close now. She didn’t know why the path led through that arena. She was sorry about it. She thought he was going to die.

“You are human then,” commented Sadie. “You were taking this so calmly I had no clue what to think.”

“Definitely human. Though I do happen to get over taken but an ancient spirit every now and then.”

Percy said he was usually about to die. She shouldn’t feel bad.

“Not sure that makes anyone feel better,” Magnus said with a raised eyebrow as the rest of the room laughed.

“It’s true,” Percy said.

“Yeah. But that’s not how you make a person feel better.”

“How do you then?”

“Not like that!”

She said he did this every summer? Fight monsters and save the world? Didn’t he ever just get to do normal stuff.

“I wish.”

“Seemed like it was finally going to happen. Until this,” Percy said gesturing to the room at large. “You know before that question I hadn’t even though of it as not normal.”

More snorts and looks of disbelief came from that statement.

“And it’s not just every summer. It’s most of the year too.”

“Basically if Percy isn’t saving the world he’s not Percy,” summed up Grover.

“Something like that.”

Percy shifted and said Half bloods got used to it he guessed. Or maybe not, but, then he paused and shifted again and asked what about her. What did she do normally? Rachel shrugged and said she painted and read a lot. Percy paused looking unsure what to say to that.

“This is getting more awkward every minute.”

“What are you talking about?” Percy asked Piper.

“You’re trying to find something in common. It’s not working.”

“We have stuff in common.”

“Just not hobbies or backgrounds.”

“Only the lives you have now,” Annabeth pointed out. “But Percy and I don’t have so much in common either.”

“Shared trauma,” suggested Magnus.

“Yeah. That would do it.”

Percy asked what about her family. Rachel stiffenedshe said they were just, then paused before saying family.

No one said anything though they all wore uncomfortable looks on their faces. It was clear Rachel had the same issues with families as most of them did. They all knew someone like that at the very least.

Percy pointed out he’d said that they wouldn’t notice if  she was gone. Rachel put down the stick she was drawing with and said she was really tired. She said she was going to sleep for a while. Percy said sure and started to apologize but Rachel was already curling up with her backpack for a pillow and he fell quite.

“Way to avoid the topic,” Alex said.

“Won’t be able to for long. Percy has a way of always finding out.”

“She’s right,” Nico agreed. Next to him Thalia nodded as did Annabeth, Grover, Reyna, Clarisse and the rest of the seven.

Annabeth came back and tossed some more sticks in the fire and  said she’d take the first watch. Percy should get some sleep too. Percy said she didn’t have to act like that. She asked like what? Percy started to say like and grumbled never mind. He fell asleep the second he lied down with his eyes closed.

 “More dreams,” muttered Hazel.

“Joy,” Leo said again in his best Nico imitation.

Chapter Text

 

“How bad is it this time? From the ones on your first quest to the ones about Hercules and Zoe?” Piper asked. She’d had bad dreams but Percy’s seemed to be worse most the time.

“More of the Luke on my first quest variant,” Percy said.

The whole room winced.

Percy stood at the edge of the pit of Tartarus and cold laughter echoed.

Once again Percy stiffened as did Annabeth against him.  Each time they saw that pit it felt more and more like that quest and their fall. He doubted they’d ever get over it.

Kronos’s voice spoke and said Percy was so close to his own destruction. He called him little hero again and said he was still so blind. He continued saying he had a lot to thank Percy for. He assured his rise.

“How?”

“By being too nice,” grumbled Nico.

“He is,” Annabeth agreed.

Percy shrugged. “I guess it’s a bad thing but I think it’s mostly good.”

“That made no sense,” pointed out Carter.

“What does these days?”

Kronos continued and said a favor. The titan lord paid his debts. A glipse of the friends Percy had abandoned. Then darkness rippled against Percy and he opened his eyes in a different cave.

“Abandoned?” Grover scoffed.

Percy sighed. “I left you guys alone.”

“We were together. And we were fine.”

Percy looked at him hesistantly.

Thalia interrupted. “What did Kronos mean repaying debts?”

“He is the crooked one. It wouldn’t be him if he wasn’t lying to me.”

Tyson was yelling for Grover to hurry as he came barreling into the new cave in the dream. Grover stumbled in behind him then next a large rumble and an enormous snake head with coppery scales that lashed out at Grover. He ran out of the way as the snake’s mouth hit the dirt. Tyson picked up a boulder and threw it at the monster and it hit it between the eyes. The snake recoiled and hissed. Grover said it was going to eat him. Tyson asked how he knew.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Chris asked blinking. “I mean he’s already trying.”

“Maybe he was angry?” Tyson asked.

No one gave that an answer.

Grover said the snake just told him and yelled to run.

“You need to understand it to know?” asked Frank.

“I don’t know!” Grover yelledclutchign the hair around his horns.

Tyson ran to the side but the snake used it’s head to knock him off his feet. Grover yelled no but the snake was wrapped around Tyson and squeezing. Tyson tried to push and wiggle but nothing happened except the snake squeezing tighter. Grover hit the snake with his reed pipes. The snake strained again against Tyson but nothing happened until Grover put his pipes to his mouth and stalactites started to crash. Then the scene went dark as Percy shot up.

“What happened?” Juniper asked.

“I’m right here,” Grover reminded her.

“Still.”

“Goat Boy’s music made the snake stop and the rocks crushed him.”

“Tyson stopped them from crushing us too.”

“Then we ran.”

“Yeah. That’s pretty much it.”

Percy’s shoulder was being shook by Annabeth as she yelped for him to wake up. Percy yelped Tyson was in trouble. They had to help him.

“What about me?” Grover pouted.

“You weren’t being strangled by a snake,” Percy reminded him. “I’ll worry about you when you are. Until then you can take care of yourself.”

Grover crossed his arms and huffed but they all knew it was in jest.

Annabeth said first things first was an earthquake. Percy looked around and yelled Rachel’s name. She shot up instantly grabbing her bag and they all ran. They ran to the far tunnel as a column crashed next to them. As they ran out of the corridor tons of marble crashed behind them. A cloud of white dust flew over them as Annabeth looked at Rachel and said you know what? She liked this way after all.

“That’s what it took?” Piper asked her.

“That doesn’t matter. What caused the earthquake?” Hazel asked.

“Maybe the snake?” Grover suggested.

“I don’t think we were that close,” Rachel said.

“Could have just been the labyrinth,” Annabeth put in.

“If you’re suggesting it was me,” Percy interrupted, “Then that’s not it. I think the only earthquake I’ve caused was the one when the Volcano exploded.”

They were still running when they reached a stainless steel hallway with fluorescent lights. Rachel told them this way and started to run saying they were close. Annabeth said that it was all wrong. The workshop had to be in the oldest part of the maze. Then she stopped as they reached huge metal doors with a large blue delta inscribed in front of them.

“You just agreed with her only to disagree again?” Piper sighed at her best girl friend.

“I’m logical. Everything I thought was wrong.”

“You know that happens,” Piper said.

“I know now. Then I wasn’t so willing to accept that,” Annabeth shrugged.

“Wait,” Percy said. “Just for a second we’re going to put Leo’s dare on pause here. He’s not going to be very Nico like for the next scene or two.”

“What?”

“That’s not fair.”

“It wouldn’t be fair for him not to be himself during this scene,” Annabeth agreed. “Just don’t go overboard.”

Leo’s eyes widened and he shook with anticipation of what was behind that door.

Rachel looked behind her at Percy and Annabeth and said they were here. Daedalus’s workshop. Annabeth pressed the symbol on the doors which hissed open. Percy said so much for ancient architecture. Annabeth scowled and they all walked inside.

“Don’t antagonize her,” Magnus said scooting back as Annabeth glared at him too.

Lots of sun came through giant windows along the wall. There was industrial lighting and thirty-foot ceilings and polished stone floors. Workbenches were along the windows and a spiral staircase went onto a second story loft. Several easels had diagrams and buildings and sketches. There were laptop computers on all the tables across the room and on one shelf there was jars of greek fire.  In one corner was a brass chair with lots of electrical wires. There was a giant metal egg in another corner and a glass grandfather clock nearby. Hanging on the walls over it were lots of bronze and silver wings and nearby were several more metal machines.

“Woah.”

“Woah is right.”

Leo, Blitz and Hazel were trying to capture everything on notepads they’d pulled out. A few other people were talking and adding notes or questioning Annabeth, Percy and Rachel about everything they’d seen.

“Quiet!” Percy said. “We can talk later! You can ask as many questions as you want then.”

There were some noises of protest but a serious look from Percy stopped it.

Annabeth muttered di immortales. She ran to an easel and declared Daedalus was a genius. They should look at the curves on this building. Rachel proclaimed he was an artist too and said those wings are amazing.

“He’s the literal renaissance man,” agreed Carter.

“Like Leonardo Di Vinci if he lived several more millennia,” agreed Alex.

“It’s amazing. I mean look at the gears at that thing!” Leo said. “The –”

“Rant later,” Jason told him.

“But just look at that—”

Percy ran his hand on the counter. He reached a half-eaten blueberry muffin and coffee cup. He walked to the window and looked out the window to the moutnains. Below them was a valley of red mesas, boulders and stones.

“Where are you?” Hearth signed.

Percy held up a finger in reply.

Percy asked where they were.

Hearth thought for a second. “Truth, please?”

A voice answered Colorado Springs. The Garden of the Gods. Standing on the staircase was Quintus with his sword drawn.

Leo looked at Annabeth and Percy. “I knew—”

Percy mouthed no at him.

Leo sighed but stopped speaking.

Annabeth said him. What had he done with Daedalus? Quintus said to trust him, calling him his dear and said he didn’t want to meet him. She called him Mr. Traitor and said to look. She didn’t fight a dragon woman and a three-bodied man and a psychotic sphinx to see him. Now where was Daedalus?

Everyone winced.

“If we already didn’t know just don’t make Annabeth angry,” Jason cringed.

Quintus came down the stairs with his sword at his side. He wore his Camp Half-Blood shirt with jeans and boots. Percy was moving forward in front of his friends. Quintus continued and said they thought he was an agent of Kronos, that he worked for Luke. Annabeth said well, duh.

“Okay,” Annabeth whispered to Percy. “That was a lie.”

“Not really.”

“Kind of though.”

“Whatever.”

“Stop arguing about whatever it is your arguing about,” Grover told them.

“Fine.”

“Okay.”

Quintus said she was an intelligent girl but she was wrong. He only worked for himself. Percy said Luke mentioned him. Geyron knew about him too. He’d been to the ranch. Quinuts said of course. He’d been almost everywhere. Even here.

“That might be the only reason I’d want to live that long,” Annabeth said. “To be able to see everything.”

Percy nodded as he leaned against her. He was getting tired and they weren’t nearly done.

Quintus walked right past Percy and stood by the window. He said the view changed from day to day. It always was some place high up. Yesterday it was a skyscraper looking over Manhattan. The day before that it was a view of Lake Michigan and it kept coming back here to the Garden of the gods. He thought the Labyrinth liked it there. It was a fitting name he supposed.

“That’s so cool.”

“The Labyrinth can get you anywhere. But it’s dangerous,” Percy said. “So I probably wouldn’t do it.”

“Sound like travelling through the nine worlds.”

“Thank the gods for the Duat then,” Sadie said.

“It’s the best for dates,” agreed Walt pulling her closer.

“Show offs,” grumbled Nico. “Travel travel works too.”

“If it doesn’t kill you,” Percy said. “And then you need to sleep.”

“Sleep’s awesome.”

“If these conversations aren’t proof these guys are ADHD I don’t know what is,” Magnus whispered to Sam.

“Like you and Alex aren’t just as bad sometimes.”

“That’s just Alex. And you’re a Norse demigod too,” Magnus pointed out.

“Proof,” Hearth signed at Blitz.

Blitz just sighed and nodded. There were at least five conversations happening right now. It took him looking at Grover and the satyr yelling and blowing a shrill note on his reed pipes to make them quiet down again.

Percy said Quintus had been here before. Quintus agreed. Percy asked if that was an illusion out there. A projection or something?

“Like this?” Nico asked him with an eye raise. That got a few snickers and laughs again.

Rachel muttered no and said it was real. They were really in Colorado. Quintus looked at her and said she really had clear vision, didn’t she? She reminded him of another mortal girl he knew once. Another princess who came to grief.

“Princess?” Sadie asked her.

“Yeah,” Rachel snorted. “Princess.”

No one asked for an answer.

Percy said enough games. He asked what had he done with Daedalus? Quintus said Percy needed lessons from his friend on seeing clearly he was Daedalus.

“What?”

“How?”

“He looks nothing like him.”

“He should be a lot older anyway.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Leo interrupted again.

“His name,” agreed Reyna. “Quintus.”

“The fifth,” Leo agreed. “It’s what he said before.”

“Another body,” Blitz asked wide eyed. “But the magic it would take to do that.”

“It’s not something anyone else should try,” agreed Leo. “But that guy’s alive somehow in an automaton.”

“It’s just….”

“The whole thing is crazy,” agreed Annabeth. “But it’s…”

She didn’t need to finish. Her tone was enough they all believed her.

Percy didn’t speak for a second then he said Quintus wasn’t an inventor! He was a swordsman.

“Being one doesn’t mean you can’t be the other,” pointed out Carter.

“I know!”

Quintus said he was both. And an architect and a scholar. He also played basketball pretty well for a guy who didn’t start until he was two thousand. A real artist had to be good at many things. Rachel said that was true. Like she could paint with her feet as well as her hands.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant,” Hazel said.

“That is cool though. Can you teach me?” Alex asked. “Maybe pottery would be easier if I used Chimpanzee feet at the same time as real hands.”

“That would be interesting to see but none of that is the point,” Frank said. “That guys is Daedalus. He’s what they needed.”

Quintus said see? A girl with many talents. Percy protested he didn’t even look like Daedalus. Percy saw him in a dream. Then Percy stopped midsentence gasping and gaping at Daedalus who said yes. He’d finally guessed the truth. Percy said he was an Automaton. He made himself a new body.

“And again Percy is the one to figure it out.”

“I am the one who gets all the dreams,” Percy said. “Or it would be Annabeth.”

“No. You’re pretty intuitive.”

“Did you just call me smart?”

“You’re still a seaweed brain.”

Annabeth said Percy’s name uneasily and said that wasn’t possible. That couldn’t be an automaton. Quintus chuckled and asked if she knew what Quintus meant. She said the fifth in Latin. The swordsman said this was his fifth body. He held out his arm and pressed his elbow. A part of his wrist popped open and underneath bronze gears whirred and wires glowed.

“Cool,” Leo said.

“It works,” Tyson nodded.

“It’s gross,” Jaz said squeamishly. “Unnatural.”

“It is,” Reyna agreed.

“Very,” Nico frowned again.

Rachel said that was amazing. Percy said it was weird. Annabeth stared and said he found a way to transfer his animus into a machine? That wasn’t natural.

“Love how one of them agrees with every one of our opinions.”

Will nodded in agreement with Chris.

Quintus said he assured her it was still him. He was still very much Daedalus. Their mother Athena made sure he never forgot that. Then he tugged back the collar of his shirt. At the base of his neck was the mark of a bird. Annabeth said a murderer’s brand. Percy said it was for his nephew, Perdix who he’d pushed off the tower. Quintus’s face darkened and he said he didn’t push him. He simply made him lose his balance. Let him die.

“So … murder,” Nico said simply.

“What degree though?”

“We’re not discussing the laws of this right now,” Will hissed at Thalia and Nico.

Quintus looked back out the windows and he said he regretted what he’d done. He was angry and bitter but he couldn’t take it back and Athena never let him forget. When Perdix died he was turned into a small bird, a partdrige. The same shape was branded on his neck. No matter what body he was in the brand was on his skin.

“There’s no escaping the things you’ve done,” Apollo said. “Fate catches up and eventually so does it’s judgement.”

The room fell quiet at the gods words suddenly thinking about what that meant for themselves and the lives they had left.

Percy looked at him carefully and slumped before saying he really was Daedalus. But why did he come to camp? Why spy on them? Daedalus said it was to see if camp was worth saving. Luke had given him one story and he preferred to come to his own conclusions.

“Smart,” Reyna said.

“Didn’t we already establish he’s a genius?” Nico teased.

She elbowed him and he glared back but there was nothing behind either sides attacks.

Percy said so he had talked to Luke. Daedalus agreed and said several times. He was quite persuasive. Annabeth said but he’d also seen that camp now. He knew they needed his help. Daedalus couldn’t let Luke through the maze. Daedalus said the maze was no longer his to control. He created it and it was in fact tied to his life force but he let it live and grow by it’s self. It was the price he paid for privacy. Annabeth asked privacy from what? Daedalus said from the gods and death. He’d been alive two millennia hiding from death.

“He gets everyone in the end,” Hazel said. “No matter how long you escape for you’ll end up back with him.”

“Not just yet though,” Frank whispered to her holding her close. “Not for either of us.”

Percy asked how he could hide from Hades. Hades had the furies.

“Doesn’t death mean the other guy?” Percy asked frowning. “I was wrong here.”

“It means both,” Nico told him.

Daedalus said they didn’t know everything or see it. Percy had encountered them. He knew it was true. A clever person could hide and Daedalus had buried himself very deep. Only his greatest enemy kept chasing him and he’d thwarted even him. Percy said he meant Minos.

“Minos chasing him meant Minos was in the maze. Preying on demigods,” pointed out Jason who looked at Nico.

“And driving most of them insane,” Clarisse growled. “Stupid ghost and stupid inventor can eat my –”

“Hey! I’m right here,” Chris reminded her.

“They still can—”

Chris stopped her again and slapped a hand on her mouth before she could say anything. She glared at him and took his hand away but stopped.

Daedalus agreed that Minos hunted him relentlessly. He was a judge of the dead and he wanted Daedalus brought before him to be punished. After he was killed Minos’s ghost started to torture Daedalus in his dreams. He promised to hunt Daedalus down. So he did the only thing he could and retreated from the world completely. He went into the labyrinth and decided he would cheat death. Annabeth looked awed as she said he did for two thousand years.Percy’s face was a bit disgusted but he didn’t comment.

“Who did it longer?” Sadie asked Carter, Walt and Zia. “Him or Elvis?”

“Elvis cheated death?” asked Apollo. “Why didn’t I know this?”

“No. It’s just a guy who’d like to think he’s Elvis,” Percy said. He looked at Carter. “Is that why he was—“

“Partially,” Carter said. “And I think he might have cheated death a little longer, but not actual death. Just judgement. Daedalus was actually alive.”

“Yeah. The other dude was ghosty.” Percy agreed.

“I’m still so confused,” Grover whispered to Thalia.

“Tell me about it.”

Then the sound of paws thumping came as Mrs. O’Leary bounded into the workshop and licked Percy’s face once and knocked over Daedalus with a leap. Daedalus scratched behind her ears saying there was his old friend. His only companion the long lonely years.

“She’s the best companion,” Percy said wistfully.

“When do we finally get to see how you got her?” asked Frank.

“Soon.”

Frank didn’t look happy with that answer.

Percy said he’d let her save him. The whistle worked. Daedalus nodded and said of course it did. Percy had a good heart and he knew Mrs. O’Leary liked him. He wanted to help him. Perhaps he also felt a little guilty. Percy asked about what? Daedalus said that their quest would be in vain.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Apollo said.

“Not at all,” said Calypso in complete agreement for once.

Annabeth asked what? But he could still help them. He had to. She demanded he give the Ariadne’s string so Luke couldn’t get it. Daedalus said yes, the string. He’d told Luke the eys of a clear sighted mortal were the best guide but he didn’t trust him. He was so focused on the idea of the magic item. The string worked but it wasn’t as accurate as their mortal friend. But it was good enough. Good enough.

“Thanks. Mortal friend,” Rachel huffed.

“It’s not like we ever introduced you by name,” Annabeth pointed out.

“Luke has the string. How was this quest even successful if he had the string?” asked Sam.

“Could you even say it’s a successful quest?” Annabeth whispered to Percy.

“We didn’t do what we planned to on the quest but I feel like several of our quests are like that,” Percy told her.

“Yeah but it resulted in a battle.”

“Which was unavoidable,” Percy said.

She sighed. “I guess.”

“You led an amazing quest,” Percy told her kissing her cheek. “More than once.”

She pushed him away. “Thanks.”

Everyone else was still making a commotion about Luke having the string. Percy sighed and shouted. “If you wanna see what happened and how it all worked out I’d sit down and be quiet!”

Percy asked where was it. Daedalus said with Luke. He apologized and said they were several hours too late.

“While you were asleep?” asked Zia.

“No. Not even. He already had it in the arena. Killing Antaeus cleared the way for them to move through the Labyrinth,” Percy explained.

“Though the way that fight worked win or lose Luke would have passed,” Annabeth pointed out.

“How are you going to get back and save Camp before Luke gets there though?” Magnus asked.

“Hey!” Clarisse growled. “Camp can protect itself without Prissy and the princess.”

“We can help though,” Percy pointed out.

“More than help,” Will muttered. Nico nodded in agreement.

Daedalus said Kronos had promised him freedom. Once Hades was overthrown Daedalus would be set over the Underworld. He would reclaim his son Icarus and make things right with Perdix. He’d watch Minos’s soul cast into Tartarus where it couldn’t bother him again and he would no longer have to run from death.

“That’s insane.”

“That is not how an afterlife should be run,” agreed Walt.

“It’s preferential,” Sam frowned. “No fair judgement with that. And people shouldn’t be raised from death.”

“It’s wrong,” Nico agreed. “Death should be left to the gods and so should it’s judgement. It should be unbiased and fair.”

“If not in life then in death,” Leo growled trying to sound like Nico. He failed and coughed sending everyone back into laughter.

Annabeth said that was his brilliant idea. He was going to let Luke destroy camp, kill hundreds of demigods and then attack Olympus and bring down the whole world to get what he wanted? Daedalus told her their cause was doom. He saw that as soon as he came to camp. There was no way you could hold back the might of Kronos.

“There is if you have Percy Jackson,” Grover said.

“Dude, what?”

“Feeling like using the ‘we have a hulk’ line,” Magnus muttered.

“Save it,” Alex grinned at him.

Annabeth cried that wasn’t true. Daedalus said he was doing what he had too. The offer was too sweet to refuse. He was sorry. Annabeth knocked over an easel and yelled saying she used to respect him. He was her hero! He built amazing things and solved problems. Now she didn’t know what he was. Children of Athena should be wise not just clever. Maybe he was just a machine. He should have died two thousand years ago.

“Now I’m getting Harry Potter vibes from the scene in Dumbledore’s office,” Magnus said.

“Need more throwing and yelling. If Percy did it possibly. He’d be more destructive,” mused Sadie.

“Either way Annabeth literally just gave the speech that shows, never meet your heroes,” Rachel said.

“In most cases,” Nico told her.

“There’s like five exceptions,” Jason told him frowning. “And one isn’t Hercules.”

Daedalus hung his head and said they should go warn their camp. Now that Luke had the string, he paused as Mrs. O’Leary pricked up her ears. Rachel warned someone was coming.

“Great.”

“Why does that always happen when you need to get back somewhere?” asked Carter.

“All the time,” Sadie agreed with him.

“Life of a mythological hero,” Percy shrugged at them.

The doors of the workshop burst open and Nico came in stumbling like he was pushed. His hands were in chains and Kelli and two Laistrygonians were behind him with the ghost of Minos who seemed more solid just with the Mist trembling off him.

“And it manages to get even worse,” Thalia said simply.

Chapter Text

 

“I thought you weren’t the demigod they caught,” Hazel said to her brothers with wide eyes.

“I wasn’t.”

“But you were caught,” Reyna said pointedly.

“And I ended up just fine.”

“Like being in the middle of a battle and almost exhausting yourself while in the Labyrinth is just fine,” Will scoffed.

“I don’t think him or Percy know the meaning of that word,” Jason said with furrowed eyebrows in worries.

“Neither do you,” Piper said.

I’m fine,”Nico huffed.

Percy, Thalia, Jason and Hazel exchanged looks. Will and Reyna looked extremely skeptical too.

Minos looked right at Daedalus and said there was his old friend. Daedalus clenched his jaw and looked at the Empousa and asked her what the meaning of that was. Kelli said Luke sent his compliments. He thought Daedalus might want to see his old employer. Daedalus said that wasn’t part of their agreement.

“Like that agreement was ever going to happen,” Clarisse grumbled.

“Kronos is a liar,” Tyson agreed.

Kelli said no indeed. But they already had what they wanted from him and they had no other agreements to honor. Minos required something else from them in order to turn over the demigod, she said that as she ran a finger under Nico’s chin.

Nico shivered. He’d hated that feeling. Will clutched his hand possessively and the rest of the world looked disgusted. Nico had been a kid. Barely under twelve as this happened.

She said he’d be quite useful and Minos only asked for the old man’s head in return.

“Wow,” said Grover. “That’s nice.”

Daedalus paled and said treachery. Kelli said to get used to it. Percy looked at Nico and asked if he was okay. He nodded and said he was sorry. Minos told him Percy was in danger and convinced him to go back to the Labyrinth.

“Again,” sighed Jason. “Don’t listen to ghosts.”

“But it was noble of him to try and save Percy. Many of us would rush into trouble if we believed our friends to be in danger,” pointed out Reyna.

“But you don’t do it alone at the age of twelve or eleven,” Will grumbled.

“Unless you’re a kid of the big three,” Annabeth told him. She looked at Frank and Piper as well. “You’ll need to get used to it.”

Percy said surprised he’d been trying to help them. Nico said he was tricked. He’d tricked them all.  Percy glared at Kelli and asked where Luke was. Why wasn’t he here? Kelli smiled and said Luke was busy preparing for the assault. They shouldn’t worry. They had more friends on the way and in the meantime she’d have a wonderful snack. With that she transformed into her form of flaming hair, clawed hands, sharp teeth and one donkey leg and one bronze.

“Preparing,” muttered Annabeth. “That’s what you call it?”

Percy rubbed her arm with the hand slung around her trying to be soothing. She leaned into him. Thalia, Chris and Grover looked just as pained at the words. They’d known Luke best out of the others. His brother, his best friend and companion, the satyr guide that had led him and the girl that was his little sister and later a possibility for more. They’d see what had happened and when he’d gone.

Rachel whispered to Percy and said the wings. Did he think, he interrupted her to say get them and said he’d try and buy her some time.

“Are you insane?” Apollo asked. “You and Nico, flying?”

“And the wings looked improved but they probably won’t work again,” agreed Blitz. “There’s no guarantee.”

“You’ll fall. You have no idea how to work them and you aren’t even supposed to go into the sky,” Sam said simply. “Fly takes skill.”

“Practice at the least,” Jason agreed. He looked at Sam. “I didn’t know you could fly.”

“Later Superman,” Piper reminded him. “Annabeth, tell me you didn’t let these three do something so crazy? You’re logical.”

Annabeth didn’t argue and the whole room slumped in resignation.

Percy and Annabeth exchanged looks then both charged at Kelli. Both the giants came right at Daedalus but Mrs. O’Leary jumped in front of him. At the same time Nico was pushed to the ground as he squirmed and tried to get out of the chains. Minos wailed for them to kill the inventor. No one paid attention to Rachel grabbing the wings off the wall. Kelli was slashing at Annabeth who was in close. Percy tried to get to her butKelliwas circling fast slashing and diving. Annabeth managed to deflect with her knife though she had a few scratches. Kelli back up and threw over tables and inventions to divert their path. Mrs. O’Leary was biting the giants who cried out and flung her around as she held onto his arm as he shook it around. Daedalus reached for his sword but the other giant smashed the workbench and the sword went flying as the jar of greek fire broke and the green flames started to spread.

“Get out of there before the fire spreads,” Thalia said. “Even you’re not immune to Greek fire.”

“No,” Percy agreed. “But we had some good help.”

Nico ducked his head and blushed which only Will noticed as he squeezed his hand with a proud grin. “Just promise you didn’t over exert yourself.”

“It’s the past. I didn’t have my significant annoyance then,” Nico told him.

Minos cried out for the spirits of the dead to come to him. He raised his hands and around him the mist swirled.

“Weird,” Percy said. “The air’s humming again.”

“It does that.”

“No,” said Annabeth looking strangely at both of them. “It doesn’t.”

“It does,” Hazel agreed. Jason and Reyna also nodded.

“Weird,” Percy repeated.

Nico cried out no. His hands were free and he was standing. Minos said that he didn’t control him. He called Nico a young fool. He said all this time he’d been controlling Nico. A soul for a soul but it wasn’t his sister that would return from the dead. It was him as soon as he killed Daedalus.

Though most of them had already inferred this the room was filled with cursing and yelling and a few nasty screams in several languages.  

“I shouldn’t have tried resurrecting anyway,” Nico sighed. “That’s left to fate and the gods.”

“Not always,” Hazel told him.

“Not always,” he agreed.

Spirits started to appear around Minos. The forms multiplied into Cretan soldiers over and over. Nico said defiantly he was the son of Hades and he yelled for the ghost to be gone.

The room was disrupted again by cheers this time instead of curses. Once again Nico blushed under the show of support and friendship. He looked down but spied Percy among several others giving him a thumbs up and Hazel smiling proudly. Jason was grinning ear to ear and next to him Reyna just looked smug.

“I’m the son of Hades. I can control all the dead,” Leo interrupted the cheers. “Magnus, kiss Alex.”

“No,” Magnus said though he blushed. “Shut it Valdez.”

“My name is Nico di Angelo and I’m the son of Hades,” Leo repeated. “Who’s this Valdez? Though he sounds annoyingly handsome and awesome.”

“More  like sneaky, twisted and annoyingly another noble idiot,” Nico muttered thinking again of the end of the giant war. “And short. Very short.”

Minos laughed at him and said he had no power over him. He was the lord of the spirits. The ghost king.

“Rise or fall by the ghost kings hand,” Ella quoted.

“It’s Minos,” said Jaz. “You’re going to lose?”

“No,” said Walt who had once again been quite. “It’s Nico. They’re going to win.”

Nico drew his sword and said no. He was. He stabbed his sword into the floor which split. Minos yelled never but his formed rippled. He said he wouldn’t but was interrupted as the ground rumbled and the windows cracked and shattered. Minos and all the ghosts were sucked into the fissure which had split into the floor.

The whole room cheered.

Leo coughed. “Shut it or I’ll banish all your souls to Hades.”

Nico was blushing even harder now but not to much to glare at Leo.

“Ghost King,” Will whispered into his ear. “I like the ring of that. I’ve always wanted to treat you like royalty.”

“See? You were all getting worried about him for nothing,” Alex grinned. “That was sick.”

Nico was getting blasted with compliments from every side. After a few minutes he’d finally had enough. “You guys know the fight wasn’t finished?”

Still buzzing with excitement everyone turned back to the screen.

Percy was gaping at Nico and not looking as Kelli pounced on him. He fell and Riptide skid away as Percy’s head hit a worktable. He tried to reach out but couldn’t lift his arms. Kelli laughed he’d taste wonderful.

Percy frowned. “Everything’s all blurry and hurts. Why’s it all ringing?.”

“That’s not good.”

“She’s going to bite you.”

“Dude, are you a vampire?”

“Empousa, that’s an empousa and Percy is not one.”

Kelli bared her fangs and went rigid as Annabeth pounced forward with her knife. She gasped and with each word rasped no school spirit as her red eyes widened. Annabeth pulled out her knife and Kelli dissolved.

“And that’s why she’ll eternally hate me,” Annabeth said.

“It was pretty awesome though.”

“Literal stab in the back.”

“And your boyfriend wasn’t eaten so that was a plus.”

“We weren’t dating,” Percy and Annabeth both said.

“Whatever. Percy was out of it and Annabeth saved the day. That’s what matters.”

Annabeth helped Percy up though he still looked disoriented. Mrs. O’Leary was still biting and scratching at the giants and Daedalus had managed to get his sword. Behind them Rachel was finishing the last straps on her wings and started on Nico who was pale, sweaty and looked like he had trouble standing. Shouting came from the tunnel and Percy yelled they had to help Daedalus. Rachel said there was no time. There were too many coming. The wings were fitted on Nico and instantly grafted on his back and arms.

“So we’re going with the flying plan,” Thalia groaned. “There’s too much flying in your quests.”

“I don’t enjoy it either. Unless it’s on Blackjack.”

“I just can’t believe you’re leaving Daedalus and Mrs. O’Leary behind,” Jason said then winced. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine. I shouldn’t have.”

“We needed too,” Rachel said.

“I left too many people behind on that quest.”

“You didn’t leave anyone behind. It was all their choices,” Annabeth said.

“It wasn’t Mrs. O’Leary’s or Daedalus’s.”

“The man had just betrayed you and we all would have probably died if we’d stayed,” Annabeth pointed out.

“You don’t know that.”

“I don’t but I know no one blames you and it all ended up fine.”

Rachel yelled now you at Percy and he started on some wings. Annabeth did the same. The wind fluttered the feathers but behind them the Greek fire was spreading even up the circular stairs. Percy yelled for Daedalus to come on. He was cut up and bleeding golden oil and using a smashed table against the giants. Daedalus yelled he wouldn’t leave Mrs. O’Leary. He yelled for them to go.

“See?” Annabeth said.

“Fine.”

“And now you wouldn’t leave Mrs. O’Leary either.”

“He wouldn’t,” Nico agreed.

“Question. Anyone else creeped out by the dude bleeding oil?”

Most of the room agreed with hums or nods an even a yell of yes.

Nico protested none of them knew how to fly.

“Thank you Nico for making some sense!”

“I don’t like leaving the ground. The sky is worse than the ocean though.”

“Both are bad,” Hazel said looking queasy.

“Thank the gods no one can kill us for standing on the ground,” Thalia said. “Cause that’s the only place I’ll be.”

“How did Dad not kill you again?” Jason asked.

“It was pretty low.”

“Percy’s only flown super high on a Pegasus or the Argo. Or that time with the plane.”

“And the angels,” Thalia reminded him. “And Dad probably didn’t kill you then because we were together.”

“Same with the Argo. It was imperative to the quest.”

“Nah,” Grover said. “Zeus wouldn’t kill Percy anymore even if he wants too. It would cause too much issues with everyone.”

“He’s scared of my dad.”

“It’s not just your dad,” Grover muttered but they were already moving on.

Percy said it was a great time to find out. Together all four of them jumped out the window into the sky. Percy flapped his arms like crazy and he plummeted. Above him Annabeth yelled to spread his arms and keep them extended. He did it and the wings caught the wind. He soared downward and flapped his wings once arcing into the sky. Percy yelled yeah and soared again before plunging with another swoop.

“Once again,” said Magnus. “Percy would have died without Annabeth.”

“I think I would die all the time if I didn’t have Annabeth,” Percy said. “I couldn’t live without her.”

“Not what he meant,” Annabeth said though she kissed his cheek. “But that was sweet.”

“Either way you’re flying,” Sadie said eyes wide. “Those wings still around? I want to try!”

“I want to try making some,” Blitz said.

“Me too,” agreed Leo. Both exchanged a glance and somehow Annabeth knew she and Rachel would be consulted later.

“Yeah, but now that they can fly they’re in danger of becoming Icarus,” Frank said. “No offense Percy.”

“I got a little high on the adrenaline rush,” the older teen admitted. “I’m feeling it right now.”

“You were the only one who wanted to even try pulling those crazy stunts,” Annabeth said. “Though maybe Nico would have tried if he wasn’t so tired.”

“I wouldn’t have,” Nico said. “That’s just a Percy level of insanity.”

“He got pretty good at those tricks after he figured it out though,” Jason said impressed.

“More than. Most of those take a while,” agreed Sam.

Percy dove again swooping before spreading and arcing. He did it several times. Rachel, Annabeth and Nico spiraled above him. Smoke billowed from the mountains behind them. Annabeth yelled for them to land. The wings wouldn’t last forever. Rachel asked how long and Annabeth said she didn’t want to find out. They all went down though Percy did another circle around a rock spire and freaked out a couple of climbers before soaring back down across the valley and over the road before landing on the terrace of a visitors center. They all ripped off their wings which were shedding some bronze feathers. Percy sighed and stuffed his into a trash bin. The others followed.

“Didn’t those climbers fall?”

“You probably scared them to their deaths.”

“Nah,” Percy said. “They were all attatched to a rope. Probably thought I was hand gliding or something.”

“I guess that answers my question of what happened to the wings though,” Sadie said sadly.

“They were marvelous,” agreed Sam. “I want to try them as well.”

“What, an airplane and Valkyrie powers or transforming into something with wings isn’t enough for you?” Magnus asked.

She glared back at him.

Percy went to a binocular and looked up at the hill where the smoke had been but there was nothing there anymore. Annabeth guessed the workshop moved and there was no telling where. Percy asked what they did now? How did they get back into the maze? Annabeth looked at the mountain in the distance and said maybe they couldn’t. If Daedalus died he said his life force had been tied into the Labyrinth. The whole thing might have been destroyed. That would stop Luke’s invasion.

“But the Labyrinth isn’t destroyed,” Apollo said. “I just ran a three-legged death race through it.”

“But it was,” Hazel remembered. “Percy said that it had been.”

“Was that now?” asked Piper. Then she frowned. It couldn’t be. There was still the Battle of the Labyrinth at Camp. She knew that for a fact.

Nico said no. He wasn’t dead.  Percy said how he could be sure. Nico replied he knew when people died. It was a feeling he got. Like a buzzing in his ears.

“Every time someone dies?” Sadie asked. She looked at Walt. “Do you have that too?”

“Not every time,” Nico told her. “Just people I’ve interacted with. Somehow it only works when I deem that person important. I can sense it more the closer I am to someone.”

“And I don’t. Anubis isn’t all here. Just a sliver of his power. And he usually makes sure most of his actual underworld duties and powers don’t disturb our life.”

“Good,” Sadie said promptly.

Percy asked what about Tyson and Grover. Nico shook his head and said it was harder. They weren’t humans or half-bloods. They didn’t have mortal souls.

“I mean I could probably still sense something,” Nico mused. “I just might not be sure what it was unless I saw it. But that would only be with the satyrs I know like Coach Hedge and Grover and the monsters like Tyson, Ella and Mrs. O’Leary. I don’t think I could sense other monsters deaths.”

“Once again,” Grover sighed. “Not a monster.”

“Not the point,” Nico told him.

“I know. And I think you complimented me, or at least said we were good friends. So thanks,” Grover grinned.

Nico just sighed again.

Annabeth said they had to get into town. Their chances of finding an entrance to the maze would be better there and they had to make it back to camp before Luke and his army. Rachel said they could take a plane. Percy said he didn’t fly.

“We already had this conversation,” pointed out Chris.

“Not then,” Rachel said.

Rachel said he just did. Percy explained that was low flying and that was risky too. Flying up high was Zeus’s territory and he couldn’t do that. And they didn’t have time to fly. The Labyrinth was the fastest way back. Annabeth said they needed a car to take them into the city.

“You gonna pull out your lotus card again?” Sadie grinned.

“No. Someone else took care of this ride.”

Rachel looked at the parking lot and grimaced before saying she’d take care of it. Annabeth asked how. Rachel said to trust her. Annabeth looked like she was hesitating but she nodded. She said she was going to buy a prism in the gift shop and try and make a rainbow to send an iris message to camp. Nico said he’d go with her. He was hungry.

“Let me guess,” Piper said with an eye roll. “You got a burger.”

“No actually. But that would have been nice.

Percy said he’d stick with Rachel then. They’d meet in the parking lot.  Rachel frowned but Percy followed her anyway.  She went to a big black Lexus and in front the driver read a newspaper and was dressed in a dark suit and tie. Percy asked Rachel what she was going to do and she sighed and just told him to wait there before adding a please in the end. She went right up to the driver and talked to her. He frowned folded up his magazine and took out his cell phone. A second later he opened the door and the driver nodded his head as well.

“What was that?”

“Did you like charmspeak him?” asked Jaz.

“Jedi mind trick you mean,” snickered Magnus.

“No,” Rachel said. “I’m just fabulous that way.”

“She’ll explain it to me later,” promised Percy.

Annabeth returned with Nico and said she’d talked to Chiron. They’d do their best to prepare for battle but he still wanted them back. They needed everyone they could get. Then she asked if they got a ride. Rachel said the driver was ready when they were.

“The driver doesn’t look ready,” Juniper frowned.

“It won’t be an issue,” Rachel said simply.

The driver was arguing with an angry guy in khakis and a polo. The driver seemed to be apologizing in. Rachel said come on and got right in the car. The teens immediately all looked at the mini-fridge and snack bar and a second later they were all eating. Rachel was asked where they were going. Rachel said  they weren’t sure yet. They just needed to drive through town and look around.

“Would that not seem strange?” frowned Zia.

“It should,” Annabeth agreed. “We were just lucky we had Rachel.”

Rachel grinned back at her.

“Wow. A lot has changed in two and a half years,” muttered Thalia.

The driver said whatever she said. Percy looked at her and asked if he knew this guy. She said no. Percy looked confused and said he dropped everything to help her. Why? She said to keep his eyes peeled and help her look.

“Once again everyone’s avoiding talking,” sighed Grover. “You guys just never learn.”

“Like you’re so great,” Percy said.

“Actually, satyr, empathy reader, I know how to talk to people,”  Grover reminded him.

Chapter Text

Percy and Grover had a stare off for a few minutes though there was no animosity. It ended with Percy bursting into laughter and Grover bleating with a grin as Percy slung an arm around his shoulder.

The scene had obviously skipped. They were leaving the city onto the highway when Rachel sat up and said to get off the highway. The driver asked Miss? Rachel said she saw something. She thought. They should get off there. The driver swerved and Percy asked what she saw. Rachel told the driver to turn down the road and they drove past a sign. Rachel read it as the Western Museum  of Mining and Industry.

“It would make sense for an entrance to be underground in a mining  museum.”

“Most of the entrances were underground,” Annabeth said.

Rachel pointed to a hole at a nearby hill a boarded up and chained tunnel and said the old mine entrance. Annabeth said a door to the labyrinth? How was she sure? Rachel said just look at it then she slumped and said she meant she could just see it. She thanked the driver and they all got out. The driver asked if she was sure she’d be all right. He’d be happy to call her- Rachel interrupted with an alarmed no and said no thanks and they were fine.

“You just get sketchier and sketchier,” Thalia said. “If I didn’t know then…”

“I’m gonna take it as a compliment.”

They climbed the mine to the hill shaft and they got to the entrance. There was a delta engraved on the padlock. Percy touched the padlock and the chains fell away. They kicked down a few boards and walked right in. The dirt tunnels quickly turned to stone ones that split off but Rachel walked in confidently. In the front Annabeth and Rachel were talking about architecture in New York. Percy walked behind with Nico and told him thanks for coming after them.

“They’re getting along? They got along before you dated?” Thalia asked surprised.

“We’re friends.”

“We just have a lot in common,” Annabeth said. “Or interests at least.”

“Like Percy,” snickered Sadie.

“Mature,” Carter muttered.

“Thank you brother dear.”

Carter let out a deep breath and slumped with an eyeroll.

“We got along when I wanted too,” Annabeth said. “And I was horrible most the time but there were times I put the effort in.”

Nico wasn’t paying attention but drifting back off into thought. He’d been over his anger then. Percy had been worried about him. Concerned and thanked him which had made Nico’s heart flutter and him feel even more scared. He knew Percy still regretted those days but Nico just regretted letting Percy believe he didn’t like him. He was the best cousin/older brother one could have. That was when he and Jason weren’t smothering him.

Nico’s eyes narrowed and he said he owed them for the ranch. Plus he wanted to see Daedalus himself. Minos was right in some way. Daedalus should die. Nobody should avoid death that long. It wasn’t natural.

“Definitely not,” shivered Frank.

“The guy bled oil!” Jaz yelped. “Oil!”

Percy said that’s what he was after all along. Trading Daedalus’s soul for his sisters.

“Not Percy then.”

“I’ve never wanted to kill Percy,” Nico sighed. “It’s a common misconception. I guess people get scared of me but I’ve never tried to harm Percy or do anything like that no matter how it seems. But Percy has tried to kill me.”

Everyone looked at Percy. “Hey! That was justified. You guys will all see. I thought Nico was in on a plan to kill me.”

“I wasn’t,” Nico said. “Never have been.”

“I know.”

Nico was quiet for a bit before he answered. He said it hadn’t been easy having only the dead for company. Knowing that he’d never be accepted by the living and that only the dead respected him and they only did that out of fear.

“You know it’s not like that,” Will frowned.

“I do know. You know I had issues. I still do with all of this stuff sometimes,” Nico told him. “But I know I have you. I have friends.”

“Good.”

Percy said he could be accepted. He could have friends at camp.

Nico sighed again. He knew. He’d run away to early to even try, to scared by the discovery of his powers, his father, the dreams he’d had and what had happened to his sister among his feelings and the new world around him.

He stared at Percy silently for a second and asked if Percy really believed that. Percy stayed silent for a second but he ran right into Rachel who stopped in front of them as they stood at the T in a tunnel.

“I took way too long to say anything,” Percy apologized. “I’m sorry for not being honest. Then I was a bit scared what your powers could mean. But people feel the same way about me. I look scary when I fight, or so I’ve heard. When you use your powers your eyes look like your fathers. We can all be scary but we’re all people and we shouldn’t be judged for what we can do only what we chooseto do.”

“That was deep.”

“Thanks,” Nico told him.

Percy asked what was going on. Rachel stared down the tunnel with a  dim flashlight. Annabeth asked if that was the way. Rachel said no. Not at all. Percy asked why they were stopping then. Nico said to listen. There was wind coming down the tunnel and Percy sniffed before his eyes widened and he said Eucalyptus trees like back in California.

“Everyone likes that smell but us,” Percy said to Annabeth. He smelt it right now. He also had goosebumps on his arms from the wind that wasn’t blowing. “Too many bad memories.”

“Not good.”

“Eucalyptus grows everywhere,” pointed out Magnus hopefully for once. “It could be Australia. Maybe you’ll see some koalas or something?”

“Nah. Too sinsister,” Alex told him.

“This isn’t good.”

“None of you are going down that tunnel,” Thalia said. “You hear me?”

“Too late for that.”

Everyone sighed then stiffened in anticipation.

Rachel said there was something evil down that tunnel. Something very powerful. Nico added the smell of death as well.

“And that’s not creepy,” Sadie said sarcastically.

“You’re literally dating a mostly dead guy possessing the god of death,” Carter reminded her.

“But he smells like vanilla.”

“I didn’t need to know that.”

Annabeth and Percy exchanged glances. She said it was Luke’s entrance. The one to Mt. Othrys and the titan’s palace. Percy said he had to check it out.

“No.”

“Why would you even say that?” groaned Grover.

“I just needed too.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Thalia demanded.

“I just needed to go. I can’t really explain it but Rachel also lead us there. We were there for a reason.”

“She literally said not to go down that tunnel,” Carter told him.

“We were there for a reason and I needed to go,” Percy said again. Apollo and Rachel exchanged glances again. Annabeth caught on. It was the prophecy, the fates had put it in play then, or even long before.

Annabeth said no pleadingly saying Percy’s name. Percy said Luke could be right there or Kronos. He had to find out what was going on.

“How about both of them?” Percy muttered bitterly. Annabeth was gripping his hand tighter than ever again.  He gripped it back.

Annabeth paused then said they would all go. Percy said it was too dangerous. If they got Nico or Rachel he could use them. Annabeth should stay and guard them.

“What about you?” Thalia asked. “You didn’t think he’d try and use you?”

“He’d already tried and failed.”

“Against your will then,” Thalia said. “And he could’ve used Annabeth. All of you. Which is why you all should have ran.”

“But we didn’t. This already happened.”

“I can dream.”

“Still. Nico can defend himself and Rachel. No splitting up again. Why not take Annabeth?” Thalia demanded.

“We’ve talked about this,” Percy said. “Luke.”

Annabeth sighed. “Percy.”

“I was worried about you. I couldn’t let you get hurt.”

Annabeth just sighed again unsure how to answer.

Rachel said Percy don’t and asked for him not to go up there alone. Percy promised he’d be quick and wouldn’t do anything stupid.

“Percy’s literally the definition of that internet thing,” Sadie mused.

“Which?”

“Percy, no. Percy, yes!”

“Annabeth too,” Percy said. “Just wait. Telling Wise Girl she can’t do something is a challenge to do it.”

“You take it the same way.”

“And again I see why you think any kids you have might be like Sadie,” Carter frowned. “Good luck.”

Annabeth took out her Yankees cap and said to at least take that and be careful. Percy said thanks and paused. He looked down at her lips and face before saying and putting the hat on and saying there went nothing.

“You wanted another goodbye kiss,” Annabeth sighed. “Didn’t you.”

“Kind of. All I got was the hat.”

Rachel winced. “Sorry. Probably my fault.”

“We needed you.”

“Was everyone there in love with Percy?” Juniper whispered to Calypso. Nico’s past crush was an open secret now.

“It’s hard not to be.”

Percy almost reached the end when the grumbling, growling and barking voices of telekhines spoke. One said at least they salvaged the blade. They would still be rewarded. Another shrieked and said yes rewards beyond measure.

“So they survived then.”

“With the scythe,” added Chris.

“Most of them,” Apollo said. “H said most of them died. And most of their work and stuff was destroyed.”

Once again everyone fell silent in awe of Percy’s explosion.

A human voice said that was great and asked if they were done with him.  A telekhine called him half-blood and said no. He had to help them make the presentation. It was a great honor. The half blood said gee thanks.

“That’s the pirate, right?” Leo asked.

“Ethan,” Percy agreed. “Yeah.”

Percy came out at the top of Mt. Tam with the pacific spread out below him. Twenty feet dpwn hill two telekhines were placing something wrapped in a black cloth on a big rock. Ethan helped them open it.

Percy shivered.

“What’s wrong?”

“The wind. Just it all. It’s all wrong.”

“What are they carrying?” Hazel asked.

“Like he said,” Clarisse gestured with a shake of her shoulder to Chris. “The titan’s weapon.”

The telekhine called him a fool, scolding him and telling him to be careful. One touch and the blade would sever his soul from his body.

Percy winced.

Annabeth frowned. “You didn’t.”

“Um…that time on the Princess Andromeda.”

“Which?”

“Um…I guess when it was still Backbiter and he scratched me with it before the Party Ponies showed up.”

“You were really drained,” Annabeth agreed but her eyes were still narrowed. She figured that wasn’t the only time.

Ethan swallowed and said maybe he’d let them unwrap it then.  Percy looked up at the peak of the mountain and the black marble building there surrounded by both Mist and mist. There was groaning and the mist shifted a little beyond the fortress.

“Father,” Calypso noted null of any emotion or even type of tone.

“He’s still there,” Leo said not asking.

“I have no wish to see him.”

The telekhine said there as he lifted the weapon and the scythe glinted. TIw as still steel and bronze like it had been as backbiter.  The telekhine said it had to be sanctified in blood then the half-blood would help present it when Kronos woke.

Percy was stiff. The only thing he felt was the squeeze Annabeth gave his hand again. She was staring straight ahead but he could feel the concern coming from her though she was still frozen staring at the screen.

Percy ran toward the fortrees and through a main hall. The floor shined and marble statues lined the walls. Between two bronze braziers at the end of the room was a dias and on top of that was a golden sarcophagus. Percy walked forward. They could hear his footsteps. The sarcophagus was ten feet long and carved with images of death, destruction and gods pushed under feet and chariots as well as famous sites being destroyed. Percy’s breath was visible against the cold air around the golden sarcophagus.

Percy shivered harder.

Everyone took a deep breath. This was obviously it.

Percy drew Riptide. He stood over the coffin the top of which was inscribed with words that weren’t greek.

“What’s it say?” asked Jason.

“It’s a magical language,” Annabeth frowned. “The ancient one. Not greek.”

“It says his name and the lord of time,” Percy muttered.

Apollo stared at him. “How’d you know that?”

“I just did.”

“Tyson knew the language too,” pointed out Blitz. “So it shouldn’t be a big deal.”

“Tyson’s a Cyclops. Percy’s a half-blood. Though not a normal one,” Apollo frowned.

Percy grumbled something no one could hear.

Percy’s hand touched the lid and his sword gathered frost and his fingertips turned blue.

Percy blew on his fingers trying to warm them up but it didn’t help. He wanted to absorb the warmth from Annabeth’s hand still squeezing his own but it didn’t work. None of him was warm. Kronos’s cold seeped into his soul.

Voices grumbled in the background but they were indecipherable. Percy looked back then back at the coffin and he pushed off the lid which fell to  the floor with a bang. He lifted his sword and looked inside then froze. In front of him in gray pants and a white shirt with his hands till folded over him was Luke. A small black hole the size of a bullet wound was right were his heart was leaving a gap right through him. His eyes were close and his skin paler than usual. Percy took a stumbling step back and didn’t make a move otherwise.

“Someone want to explain why Luke is in the coffin?” Magnus asked after a pause. “He’s supposed to be on the way to invading camp. He has the string doesn’t he?”

 He looked at his cousin and immediately regretted it. Her eyes were steely in the way when she was both angry and sad and determined not to let anyone see. Percy’s face was unreadable. He had his ‘resting face’ on again, the scary one where he just stared straight forward thinking with his eyebrows slightly furrowed. Both their knuckles were white as they clutched each other’s hands.

“Oh gods,” Grover said after a second. “I was his protector too. I shouldn’t have ever been a protector. I hurt all the ones I touch.”

“If anything this was my fault for dying,” Thalia muttered. She sniffled then glared as if daring anyone to comment. “But he was such an idiot! Why did he think I would agree? Why did he even think was a good idea? It wouldn’t have fixed anything. It just made it worse.”

“I was at camp with him. I spent a lot of time with Luke. I idolized him. I should have realized. I could have stopped him. But I didn’t.”

“Annabeth you were a kid,” Thalia said.

“I was a demigod.”

“You all need to stop blaming each other,” Nico said.

“He’s right,” Chris interrupted. “Luke…. He was so determined. He refused to believe anything anyone else tried to tell him. I think he’d been too broken inside for too long and he just wanted a way to fix it. He just lost himself even more trying.”

“Can I just ask what happened to him? Why are you all blaming yourselves?” Jason looked between all the older campers. He looked at Percy especially but he was still frozen staring forward.

“I think it’s best if we just watch,” Rachel said quietly.

One of the telekhines screamed what happened when he saw the lid. Percy stumbled further away from the dias and hid behind a column  leaning on it and trying to catch his breath.

“You’re invisible,” Sadie reminded him. “Why are you hiding?”

“You had a panic attack,” Sam noted in answer.

Percy took a deep breath and looked at her. She reeled back as he spoke. “Wouldn’t you?”

The other one yelled careful. Maybe he stirred. They had to present the gifts now. He yelled immediately. Both the telekhines shuffled forward before kneeling and holding up the wrapped scythe. One said my lord and as it was offered said his symbol of power had been remade. The other telekhine muttered fool. He required the half-blood first.

“They know you’re there?” Frank questioned Percy.

“I think he meant Ethan,” Hazel said quickly.

“Oh,” Frank blushed. “Why do they need him though? It’s not like a sacrifice or something.”

“No. It’s not,” assured Rachel.

“It kind of is,” Percy muttered so no one heard. “Just not like you’re thinking.”

Ethan stepped back and said what did they mean he required him?

“Are you sure this isn’t a sacrifice?” Alex asked.

“Yes.”

The first telekhine yelled not to be a coward. He didn’t require his death. Only his allegiance. He had to pledge his service and renounce the gods. That was it.

“Each time he grows stronger,” remembered Piper.

Everyone watched carefully.

Percy yelled no. He ran in and took off the cap yelling Ethan don’t.

“Percy!”

“You idiot!”

“What are you thinking?”

Percy turned to look at them but Annabeth was already standing. “All of you are going to shut up and save your comments. He did nothing. That one action didn’t change anything. You’ve all done some pretty stupid stuff yourselves. Just ask your friends. So no comments.”

The telekhines bared their teeth yelling trespasser, The master would death with him soon enough. He turned to Ethan and yelled for him to hurry.

“The master. He means Luke right?”

After none of the older Greeks or at least those who knew the story answered Piper sighed and nodded. “Yeah. I guess it’s after he’s done taking his creepy nap in the coffin.”

Percy pleaded not to listen and to help him destroy it. Ethan turned to him and he looked at Percy pitifully. He said he had said not to spare him. An eye for an eye. Had he ever heard that saying? He learnt what it meant the hard way when he discovered his godly parent. Nemesis the goddess of revenge. And this is what he was made to do.

“Okay,” Will said frowning. “First of all, no. Second of all, no.”

“Not exactly sure what that means but I agree,” Apollo nodded and crossed his arms but he wore an identical expression to will.

“Nemisis told us she balances out Tyche’s luck,” Hazel looked at Leo.

“That’s one opinion,” Annabeth agreed. “She’s literally a nemesis. That means lots of things.”

Ethan turned to the dias and said he renounced the gods. What had they even done for him? He’d see them destroyed. He would serve Kronos.  With that the building rumbled and a blue light rose at Ethan’s feet. It drifted toward the coffin and shimmered before descending.

“What in Osiris’s nameis that?”

“The last piece,” Annabeth answered Carter.

Luke sat up fast and a rigid fashion and opened his eyes. They were now the same gold as the coffin and the hole in his chest had been gone. He was completed. He leapt out of the coffin and the floor around his feet froze. He looked at Ethan and the Telekhines blankly and turned to Percy when a smirk, barely the smallest twitch of the lips spread across his face.

“Creepy,” shivered Jaz.

“What happened to him?” Jason repeated.

“His eyes are glowing. Like an Eidolon,” Frank grimaced.

“Then it’s not Luke,” Leo said simply. “It’s something else.”

“The way he was looking at Percy,” Piper paused. “What is that?”

 “Who is that?” Sadie phrased.

“I believe we all already know,” said Reyna grimly.

“No.”

The voice that came out was Luke’s but wasn’t more ancient and cold like metal scraping against rocks. He said a body had been well prepared. He asked if Percy though so. Percy stared unmoving.

“I thought it couldn’t get worse,” Thalia choked. “I wasn’t ever too close when I saw him but…”

“This is worse,” Grover agreed.

“Not the absolute worse though,” Annabeth said. “That was—”

“Yeah,” Grover said. “I think they might be tied.”

“This one was more out my nightmares,” Percy muttered. “But both were pretty awful.”

“Stop confusing us,” Clarisse grumbled. “The punk needs to get over his shock and fight!”

“Percy is good at fighting. But the new body was powerful,” Tyson said. “And scary.”

“Agreed,” Chris muttered again.

Kronos threw back his head and laughed making the scar on his face rippling.

“It just gets creepier,” Juniper squeaked into Grover’s shoulder.

Kronos’s voice spoke again saying Luke feared him. His jealousy and hatred had been powerful tools. It kept him obedient and for that he thanked him.

“Now he’s making it out to be Percy’s fault,” groaned Nico. “And it’s not.”

“It kind of is if what we theorized before is true,” Percy said. “Luke could still be here.”

“You wouldn’t,” Annabeth told him. “Luke was jealous because Thalia and I sided with you still. He was right to be scared of you as well. But Kronos was wrong. It didn’t keep him obedient. Maybe even the opposite.”

“Jealousy and Hatred. To the dark side they lead,” Percy said in his best Yoda voice. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

“And Yoda wasn’t always right about the hold of the dark side, was he?” Annabeth reasoned.

“No.”

“Did she just use Star Wars as logic?” Sadie asked.

Alex sighed in reply, “I shouldn’t be surprised. She’s Maggie’s cousin.”

“Percy did it too though,” Magnus pointed out at them.

“But Percy’s not a dork like you,” Alex said to him.

Annabeth snorted. “Sure, he isn’t.”

Ethan collapsed and covered his face with his hands. The telekhines trembled as they held up the scythe further up. Percy’s face grew determined and he lunged with riptide and the blade bounced off his chest. He looked at Percy amused. He flicked his hand and Percy flew across the room. Percy slammed into a pillar. He dropped to the floor and struggled to his feet. Kronos was holding his scythe on the opposite side of the room.

“Great,” Magnus groaned. “Now the guy actually has force powers.”

“And he seems to be invulnerable,” Sam added.

“But I’ve only seen—” Frank looked at Percy as he was cut off.

“Yeah.” The son of Poseidon was rubbing his head. He’d been groaning as the force of the throw against the marble hit him again.

“Wasn’t that only temporary?” Hazel asked. “It was gone in camp.”

“Not exactly.”

“Are they talking about what I think they are?” asked Piper.

“Yes,” Annabeth agreed

“You won’t be able to do anything then,” Jason groaned. Annabeth had been constantly reassured in his first months at camp by the fact Percy couldn’t be hurt.

“Could you please stop arguing and explain?” Calyspo demanded.

“Fates won’t let. And I don’t have to listen to you! I do what I want,” Leo said before he dropped the Nico façade for a second. “Sorry Sunshine.”

She glared at him.

“Seriously though. If that’s Kronos, how do you beat him?” Carter asked.

“Not for a while.”

Kronos said much better as he clutched the scythe. Luke had called it backbiter an appropriate name. Now that it was reforged it would really bite back. Percy groaned and asked what he had done to Luke. Kronos raised his weapon and said Luke served him with his whole being as he required. The difference was Luke feared Percy and he didn’t.

“That’s a lie,” Nico smirked.

“All of it was just plain BS,” agreed Thalia. She then snorted. “Like really, Kronos doesn’t know anything about mortals, demigods or just plain humans if he thinks they serve with their whole beings.”

Apollo hummed curiously. The longer he spent as a human the more he realized what being mortal meant. How stubborn and resilient it made these creatures with short life spans. How it made them caring and willing to do things out for others, not like Kronos thought, but out of love, companionship, friendship and just plain selflessness. Mortals were mystifying.

Percy ran.

“Good! Get back in the labyrinth and get away,” Thalia said.

“Is it ever that easy?”

“But you did get away.”

 Around him the world slowed and Kronos laughed. He said to run little hero yelling run. Percy looked back as Kronos approached lazily swinging his scythe.

“How did you get out of this mess?” Jason asked him.

“Good friends.”

Kronos was ten feet away when Rachel yelled his name. She flung a blue plastic hairbrush and it flew past Percy and hit Kronos in the eye.

“Did you just—just….um..” stuttered Frank. “I mean—”

“Mortals are helpless,” Rachel grinned. “That shows them.”

The room gaped for a few minutes before breaking into cheers and laughter.

 “So you weren’t lying,” Reyna grinned. “A hairbrush. Who would think it would make a useful weapon?”

“That was the best thing I’ve seen yet.”

“I’m trying it,” Alex agreed. “Arming myself with a hairbrush. Could be fun.”

“Isn’t that a bit girly for you?”

“What did I say about gendering things?” Alex growled.

“Very good aim,” Apollo grinned at Rachel. “That’s my oracle.”

 

He yelled ow and it was only Luke’s voice again for a second. Percy didn’t pause to look back as he picked up the hair brushrunning straight to the other three teens. Annabeth stared in shock and said Luke’s name asking what and was interrupted when Percy grabbed her by the shirt dragging her away. He ran fast and the others followed when Kronos screamed after them in a thunderous echoing yell.

“Again,” asked Carter. “How are you here? I don’t think a hairbrush can do it twice.”

“I still had my friends though,” Percy grinned. Nico’s lips twitched in response.

Nico yelled no and he clapped his hands together and a spire of rock the size of a truck came out of the ground in front of the fortress. It caused a tremor and the columns crashed down. Telekhines gave muffled screams and dust billowed everywhere.

“And this is when it started,” Will sighed as he watched Nicostumblein the projection. The rest of the room cheered.

“That was epic.”

“Are you kidding? It was world-shaking.”

“Literally.”

“I thought the ground was Hazel’s thing,” Piper asked. “Yours was the more greek side of your dad’s powers.”

“I can still control both.”

“Ones just stronger than the other,” agreed Hazel.

The four of them ran into the Labyrinth as Kronos yelled and the world kept shaking behind them.

“You got out of it.”

“Once again, never thought I’d say this but you’re safe back in the Labyrinth,” Grover bleated in relief.

“But Kronos is back,” pointed out Blitz. “That’s not good.”

“You can still defeat an enemy even if they’re back at full power,” Carter said. He thought of Aphophis swallowing Zia.

“Yeah,” Sadie nodded. “Sometime you need to lose to win.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“It makes a lot more sense than you think.”

“I just want to point something out again,” Rachel said waving her index finger in front of her.

“What?”

“So this is your fourth quest right?”

“Yeah.”

“And you fought a dragon lady, and after going through a maze you were brought in front of your arch enemy who was raised from the dead and you had to fight them before narrowly making it away. Oh, there were also some traitors from your past there.”

“She’s basically saying your life just parralled the fourth Harry Potter book,” Annabeth laughed.

“It what?”

“It’s so true though.”

“You think the Fates are fans?” Will snorted.

Apollo shrugged. “It’s possible.”

“Missing a friend dying and a few other things.”

“It’s close enough. There’s even the semi awkward romantic subplot right in the middle of everything.”

Calyspo looked a little offended by that.

“Enough with the comparisons!” Percy yelled after another few.

“It’s a good time to break anyway,” Nico pointed out.

“So dinner then.”

“And we can choose the truth for Hearth and the dare for you,” grinned Will.

“You’re the worst.”

“I love you too.”