Chapter 1: Heron
Percy didn’t know the target’s name, only his codename. “Heron,” he repeated to himself. He’d received the letter this morning. A scrap of parchment tied to the general’s hawk. A simple scrap of paper delivered to him via bird and now someone was going to die. An important councilman of Miloria was going to die, he reminded himself.
A scrap from a bird and now he was on the roof of Miloria’s safehouse in the countryside. He knew that’s where the Queen’s War Council meets, so he figured that’s where Heron would be.
Fortunately for him, the War Council spoke only in code. He scanned the conversation, listening for the magic password.
“I simply won’t allow it, Robin,” the Queen said to her board.
“My Lady-” Robin protested.
“No,” she snapped. She was quiet for a moment. “I would like to hear from Heron.”
Percy’s attention came into focus. He waited for Heron to speak.
“I think it would be in our best interest to bring the discovered men home. They’ve done their duty and it is time they return to Miloria,” Heron stated, calmly.
Hey, wait a second- Percy thought, dropping down onto the thin ledge under the window. Slowly as he could manage, he leaned down to look through the window. He scanned the room. He spotted the Queen, a few councilmen he’d recognized from his intelligence missions before. But there was someone new, Heron. The conversation inside continued as Percy attempted to catch his breath.
It was Princess Annabeth. Heron was Princess Annabeth. Princess Annabeth, the Queen’s sole heir. Princess Annabeth, the future Queen of Miloria. Princess Annabeth, his ex-fiancée. And now I’m supposed to kill her?
“This probably couldn’t get any worse,” he grumbled to himself.
The meeting had adjourned. The various councilmen were saying their goodbyes. The kissed Princess Annabeth’s hand and Princess Annabeth looked pleasant, but Percy could read her deeper than that. She was bored out of her mind.
And then it got worse.
Princess Annabeth’s eyes met Percy’s. They widened as Percy’s did. He jumped out of her sight, nearly falling from the ledge.
“ Milady, are you alright? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost,” her handmaiden - Piper, Percy remembered - asked.
“I think I may have,” the Princess responded. It didn’t sound reassuring.
“Daughter,” Queen Athena beckoned before Piper had a chance to counter. “I wanted to thank you.”
“I always figured you would eventually join me, but I never imagined it would take you nearly five years to get over that Cethanian boy.”
“Yes, mother. I’m ashamed to say I was quite taken with him,” Annabeth stated, stiffly.
“Yes,” Athena mumbled. She was getting distracted.
Percy could practically hear Annabeth’s eye-roll, just as she always had when her mother began to ignore her.
He peeked back through the window, a little surprised to find Annabeth, staring at him immediately. He’d hoped that if he ever saw her again, however unlikely it’d be, she’d be pleased to see him. Happy that he wasn’t dead after all.
The expression on her face now, after thinking he was dead for five years, was one of pure rage.
Chapter 2: Mother
In which Percy discovers who sent his most recent orders.
“ Did you know ?” Percy had burst into his King’s war room and was surrounded by guards and member’s of his father’s court.
“ Did you know I was being sent to kill my own fiancée ?!” he nearly screamed. The King sighed, getting up from his chair.
“Leave us,” the king commanded the court and guards. Once they had all gone, the King offered Percy a chair. Percy, still fuming, hesitated, but decided it was probably in his best interest to sit.
They were both quiet for a moment. King Poseidon watching Percy, carefully, and Percy refusing to make any eye contact.
“Did you know?” Percy kept his voice low now.
“Percy, you must understand that your orders-”
“Please,” Percy interrupted. “Just answer the question, Father.”
Poseidon let out a sigh. “No, Percy. I did not.”
That caught Percy off guard. His eyes shot up to meet his father’s.
“You didn’t? But then, who-”
“That would be me.” Percy’s head whipped around to the voice from behind him. He stood out of respect, even though he held very little for Queen Amphitrite.
Percy bit back every bit of rage that was stirring inside him.
“ Why , my dear? I am very aware of your dislike for Perseus,” Poseidon questioned. A chill fell down Percy’s back at the use of his full name. “But to ask him to kill his fiancée, it borders on cruel .”
‘Borders’? Percy thought bitterly.
“I would never ,” Amphitrite objected. “I only knew that the codename belonged to someone who is important to Athena.” She tried to sound so innocent. Percy knew his father would see right through it. The real question was whether or not he would do anything about it.
“And besides ,” the Queen continued. “I did have permission from the boy’s mother .” Amphitrite glared at Percy, her words coming out in a hiss.
Percy felt like he’d been tied up and thrown into the ocean. The Queen’s words echoed in his head and he felt a flood of betrayal wash over him. He stood, bowing slightly to the Queen, then the King, not waiting a second longer to go home. His father called for him, warning him not to be too rash.
His anger grew as he worked his way through the castle. He turned a corner and ran straight into Jason.
“Woah, Percy, where’s the fire?” he said, steadying himself before looking at Percy’s expression. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing, Jason,” Percy emphasized. He was really wasn’t in the mood to talk to someone who once tried to kill him.
“Percy, you need to take a breath. At least tell me where you’re going. I could go with you,” Jason suggested.
Trying not to explode at his friend, Percy gritted his teeth. “To see my mother.”
Jason simply nodded, falling into step with Percy as he continued to make his way to his mother’s rooms.
“So, what happened? I can’t remember the last time- no, that’s not true, I can remember the last time I saw you this pissed and it was when I tried to kill you.”
“Amphitrite sent orders to kill a Milorian councilman by the codename ‘Heron’,” Percy grumbled.
Jason seemed confused. “Percy, I understand you don’t like taking orders from the Queen, but-”
“It was Annabeth.”
They were quiet as Percy stormed through the halls, Jason not too far behind.
Chapter 3: Letter
In which Percy confronts his mother about her involvement in his orders.
She’d known he was coming. She knew he’d be there. Percy had stormed into his mother’s room shouting about her betrayal. She sat calmly, continuing the letter she was writing and when she’d had enough, she shot him a warning look. He shut his mouth immediately. Now he sat at his mother’s table, an untouched cup of tea in front of him. He studied the steam coming off it, trying to concentrate on nearly anything but the situation at hand.
“So, how many rooms have you burst into like that?” Sally asked gently.
“Just two,” Percy said, not looking up.
“I see. You’re channeling your misguided anger into dramatic entrances and huffing around the castle now? And I thought the spying and assassinations would hold your attention longer.”
“Mom, the spying and assassinations are the reason I’m angry. How could you-”
“Percy, I’m going to stop you right there. I knew you’d be upset, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. I didn’t think you’d get this angry .”
“You didn’t think I’d get angry? Mom, what-” she shot him another look that made him bite his tongue.
“I wasn’t going to change Amphitrite’s mind and she had already told a few generals her idea. They were agreeing with her, Percy. I knew you’d be upset, so I had to make sure that when you started questioning up the line, you’d come to me.”
Percy felt like an idiot. Of course, his mother wouldn’t tell him to just kill his fiancee with no plan in mind.
“Percy, everyone outside of this castle thinks you’re dead.”
His gut twisted. He knew that. He was part of that plan, yet hearing it stung him in a way he couldn’t describe.
“I figure, why not let them continue to think so and let them do the same for Annabeth.”
It seemed so obvious now that she’d said it. The pieces had come together.
“She’s not going to like it,” Percy commented, remembering the icy look he’d gotten from Annabeth the night before.
“That’s why you need to get this to her before you see her.” Sally slid the letter she’d been writing across the table. “You can read it if you want, but you must get it to her.”
Percy tentatively opened the note.
I know this seems sudden, but Percy is still alive. He’s been functioning undercover for five years as an assassin. He has been ordered by our generals and Queen Amphitrite to kill you. You are in no danger, Annabeth. You know him as well as I do and you know he’d never intentionally hurt you. Your supposed death will allow you and Percy to escape to a safe place in the country to wait out the rest of the war. If I know your mother as well as I think I might, the loss of you will weigh on her and will end the war or, at the very least, call for a cease-fire, at which point King Poseidon can attempt to start a negotiation. Annabeth, please understand that if Percy defies his orders, he could be killed, Prince or not.
Annabeth, this is our only chance.
Percy felt like his blood had turned to ice. She was right, he could be killed. If he disobeyed his orders at all he would be reprimanded, but this order came from the Queen . Disobeying this order was treason. If he didn’t follow through with this order, there would be nothing his father could do. Annabeth’s cooperation was the only way out of this.
“I have a map of their castle, Jason pointed out where Annabeth’s private study is and-”
“Mom, I remember where Annabeth’s study is.” He’d spent a lot of time at the castle in Miloria. Probably more than any other Cethanian. That’s what happens when you actually like the person you’ve been engaged to since you were twelve. You spend a lot of time with them, as much as possible. Months at a time, even. He knew especially about her private study. There were a few things they’d done, well, privately , when they were teenagers.
“So you’ll sneak in and leave the note there and wait for her to read it,” Sally said with a small smile. “Do you remember where the cottage is?”
“Yes, I’ll leave for Miloria tonight.” Percy stood, heading for the door.
“Percy,” Sally called.
Percy turned around, coming back to his mother, who was now standing with her arms open.
He wasn’t sure how long their hug lasted. They always lasted longer than most; with Percy’s job, they never knew if a hug might be their last. Before pulling away, Percy planted a light kiss on his mother’s cheek.
“Thank you, mom. For everything.”
“Of course. Listen, should Annabeth agree, you’ll need something to make those around her believe that she is dead. Stop in town here,” she said, handing him a small piece of folded paper she’d retrieved from her writing table.
Percy opened it, reading it, raising an eyebrow.
“They’re friends. You’ll have to hide your face in town, but we can trust them, they’ll keep your secrets.”
“What do I say? ‘Hey, I need something to make my fiancee seem dead’? What can they do?”
Sally moved closer to him, speaking softly now. “Just tell them what you need. They will help.”
Chapter 4: Shop
In which Percy meets with friends of his mother to work towards a solution that will hopefully not kill anyone.
Percy made his way through the quiet town. The usual bustle of the market square dying down with the sunset. He kept his dark hood over his face, as he’d done for most of his life. Percy used to love coming into town, but now it was a burden. He arrived at the doorstep of a store he’d not remembered seeing before.
“Lotus Apothecary” he read the sign, matching the text to his mother’s note.
He took a deep breath before pushing open the door to the shop. A bell dinged as he stepped in. A man stood behind the counter, mixing something on the table in front of him.
“We’re closed now, we’ll be open again in the morning,” the man said, not turning.
“Please, I-” Percy started.
“Sir, we are closed,” the man emphasized, turning to look at Percy now. His jaw fell a little. Percy wasn’t exactly a non intimidating figure. He was tall and dressed head to toe in dark gray, black, and midnight blue. His hood hung over his face, casting a shadow. If someone looked close enough, they could probably see the outlines of his short sword and daggers under his cloak. If he were to undress, the many scars he’d received over the years would be enough to make most people want to stay far, far away from him.
Percy went against all instinct and removed his hood, trusting his mother’s word.
“You’re-” the man started.
“Nico, who was at the door?” A woman came from the backroom, a book in her hand, her eyes not leaving the page.
Nico didn’t respond, his eyes wide.
“Nico?” the woman dragged her eyes from the page to the man, then followed his gaze to Percy. She assumed a similar expression to Nico’s.
“The prince,” Nico mumbled, his brow furrowing in confusion.
“I was told you could help me,” Percy said, taking a step towards the counter.
“You’re alive ?”
“Seems like it,” Percy shrugged.
“Sir,” the woman cut in. “What my brother means to say is ‘how can we be of assistance?’”
“Hazel-” Nico growled.
“Hazel, that’s not what I meant to say. What I meant to say is how this man is responsible for Bianca’s death. How his death spurred the king into war.”
“No, ma’am. Let him speak,” Percy stated, his eyes only flitting to Hazel for a second. “Bianca, she was…?”
“My older sister. She joined General Artemis’ archer's brigade a few years ago.”
“What was her surname?”
“Bianca di Angelo. She was one of Artemis’ best shots. She fell in battle last fall, at Sherwick. She fought bravely.”
“How did you-” Hazel started, leaving the rest of her sentence hanging.
Percy took a deep breath. “I make it my business to know the names of the fallen. As your brother said, I am responsible.”
Nico watched Percy for a moment before turning and exiting to the back room.
“I’m sorry, sir, for my brother. He gets defensive about his sister.”
He waved her off. “That’s alright. Hazel, wasn’t it?”
“You don’t need to call me ‘sir’. I’m not technically the prince anymore. Please, just call me Percy.”
Hazel nodded. “How can I help, Percy?”
“My mother, Sally Jackson sent me here. She said you could help me.”
“Yes, Sally is wonderful. I haven’t seen her in ages, how is she?”
“She’s well,” Percy smiled.
“What do you need help with?”
“Well,” Percy’s smile was replaced with a scowl. “I need people to believe that Princess Annabeth of Miloria is dead.”
Hazel’s eyebrows shot up. “Well, I,” she stammered.
“I don’t want to kill her. Just,” Percy searched for the right words. “If Annabeth and I are to continue living, she needs to seem dead.”
Hazel looked away, nodding slowly. She started mumbling to herself as she flipped pages in the book she had been reading before. She moved around the shop with decent speed, grabbing various items and ingredients from the shelves and cabinets, crushing, pouring and mixing them in a small bowl. After a while, she poured the resulting liquid into a small bottle.
“This should do what you need it to. About twenty minutes after she drinks it, she’ll appear dead, like she was poisoned. She’ll seem that way for about twenty-four hours. Then she’ll wake up, perfectly fine,” Hazel had a look on her face like she was either going to sob or vomit.
Percy took the bottle, clasping Hazel’s hand in his own. “Thank you, very much, Hazel.” He reached for his pocket, pulling out a coin bag.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary. This will end the war, right?”
She caught him off guard. “I don’t-” he started. “We hope so.”
“Then all I ask for payment is that you take a message to Miloria for me.”
“Find Frank Zhang. He’s one of the Princess’s guards. Tell him that I’m still waiting for him.”
He planted a light kiss on the back of her hand in gratitude. “I will,” he turned to leave, but hesitated, turning back before opening the door. “Tell Nico I’m sorry?” he asked.
Tucking the potion into his bag and pulling his hood up, Percy left the shop, walking out into the darkness quickly overcoming the town.