Sophomore Year: Winter Break
The diner located off the Montauk Highway was completely unremarkable. It had not changed since it was established in 1956. The vinyl seats were ripped, old foam peeking out of the cracks. There was a jukebox against the wall of the diner, which would have added charm to the place but the only song it played was Tom Jones’s “What’s New Pussycat” so it didn’t get much use.
To the average person, the diner was completely ordinary. However, at a closer glance, it had been the location of multiple events that changed the course of history. It was the diner that Poseidon took Sally Jackson on a date, resulting in the birth of Perseus Jackson. Then a friendship had been formed between two pantheons after an Egyptian magician and a Greek demigod fought a crocodile together and stumbled into the diner to rest. They were there again, but this time the magician had brought his sister and a goddess.
Percy Jackson stared at the cat goddess, Bast, in apprehension. “Normally, when a god asks me for a favor I end up getting hurt.”
“You can trust her, Percy,” Carter reassured.
Bast pulled up a chair to the end of the table, leaving the space next to Percy empty. It made Percy feel marginally better. It meant that he would be free to leave if he didn’t want to help her. He already knew that he would probably help her, but he didn’t need to let Bast know that.
“Are you aware of the nation of Wakanda?” Bast asked.
Percy furrowed his brow at the unexpected question. “Everyone knows about Wakanda. The entire world thought they were a poor country but then they revealed they were actually the most technologically advanced state in the world after the new king took over.”
Bast nodded in affirmation. “That’s correct. However, there’s more to the story than that. When the nation first formed, there were five tribes settled on it. They were at war with each other until I chose a warrior from one of the tribes and gave him the power of the Black Panther through the magic of the Heart-Shaped Herb. He became the king of Wakanda, with four of the five tribes living under his rule. To keep the vibranium safe they decided to hide in plain sight from the outside world.”
“So you’re their patron goddess?” Percy asked. Bast nodded and Percy continued, “I don’t mean to be rude, but what does that have to do with me?”
“When the previous king, T’Chaka, was younger he killed his brother N’Jobu after N’Jobu betrayed Wakanda. He left N’Jobu’s son N’Jadaka, or Erik, in California. Erik grew up to become a black-ops operative under the codename Killmonger. After King T’Chaka died, his son T’Challa went home to take his place. He was only crowned king for a few days before his cousin challenged him for the throne. He defeated T’Challa in ritual combat and became the king of Wakanda. His first act as king was to burn all of the Heart-Shaped Herbs in the kingdom so no one could use the power against him,” Bast explained.
“That’s where I come in, isn’t it?” Percy interrupted. Bast’s silence answered him. “You want me to figure out a way to get into one of the most guarded countries in the world, find the king, convince him I’m not lying and then give him a magical plant, assuming I’m not killed on sight.”
Bast smirked at him.“Yes. This will be beneficial to all of the pantheons. The Wakandans will be powerful allies in the upcoming war.”
Percy sighed in resignation and leaned his head back against the booth. “When do you want me to do this?”
There was a glint in Bast’s eye and her lips quirked upwards. “Your winter break in coming up, right?”
Percy was relieved that he didn’t have to miss school. He mentally shuddered after he finished the thought. He was beginning to enjoy school. His relief faded when Bast slammed a large tome in front of him. Dust rose up from the yellowed pages and Percy coughed as he accidentally inhaled some of it. Percy looked at the book in front of him. It was at least four inches thick. There was a panther head embossed on the cover, surrounded by vines.
The goddess grinned mischievously. “That will give you plenty of time to study Wakanda’s traditions and customs so you don’t end up dead before you reach the throne room.”
A week later, Percy was frantically rereading the book of Wakandan customs as he shoved cereal down his throat. His cousins were sitting around the dining table, Thalia calmly nursed a cup of coffee while Nico ate a bowl of cereal, albeit much slower. They were both staring at him with amused expressions.
Hestia walked into the room and rolled her eyes fondly when she saw him. “You’re going to choke if you keep eating like that.”
“Maybe,” Percy said through a mouthful of cereal, “but Bast is going to be here in five minutes to give me the Herb and drop me off inside the Wakandan jungle.”
Hestia walked over and gently shut the book. She laid a comforting hand on Percy’s shoulder. “You’ll do fine, Percy. You’re a natural leader. Though I don’t understand why she couldn’t just drop you off inside the palace.”
Percy grimaced. He also wished that he could be dropped off inside the palace. Hestia shook her head and gave him a reassuring smile. “I wish I could be there to see you off, but I think it’ll be best if I’m gone before she arrives.”
Percy nodded and stood up to give Hestia a quick hug. After he let go, Hestia started to glow and Percy averted his eyes on instinct. Once the light died down, Hestia was gone.
“How are you getting back?” Nico asked curiously.
“If everything goes well, the Wakandans might offer me a trip home but I’ll summon Mrs. O’Leary if I have to,” Percy said. He didn’t think quests were ever going to be less stress-inducing.
“You got everything?” Thalia asked, changing the subject.
Percy nodded, going through the mental checklist he had. “Yeah, I’ve got everything packed in a duffel bag stored inside the Duat.”
Nico rolled his eyes and punched Percy’s shoulder. “I can’t believe you got Sadie to teach you how to use it. Do you know how useful that would be?” Nico complained.
Percy chuckled, getting up from the table and hastily shoving his bowl in the dishwasher. “The only reason I can use it is because I was Nekhbet’s host.”
“Does this mean I can call you Bird Brain from now on?”
Percy smacked the back of his cousin’s head. Before he could retort, there was a bright light in the doorway of the room. The three demigods turned away from the light. In the light’s place was Bast. She was wearing the same leopard-print leotard as the last time Percy saw her. He gave a small nod of respect, rather than bowing. He gestured to Thalia and Nico, who had also stood up. “Lady Bast, these are my cousins, Thalia, daughter of Zeus, and Nico di Angelo, son of Hades.”
Bast smiled at them, but it was all teeth. Percy’s instincts told him that the goddess was on edge. He wasn’t surprised. She was in the apartment of three powerful Greek demigods that normally had an Olympian living there as well. The pantheons spoke every few months about the next Great Prophecy, but there was still a lot of tension. “It’s a pleasure to meet you but there’s no need for the formalities. Percy, I see you’re ready to go.” She took in his appearance and he tried not to squirm under her gaze.
Percy looked down at his outfit which Hestia had chosen for him. He was wearing a normal pair of jeans. He had on his Camp Half-Blood shirt, however, he also had a white cloak draped over his body as a symbol of the Romans. It seemed pretentious to Percy like he was trying to look more important than he actually was, but he supposed that was the point.
Bast walked over to him and held her arm out. Percy took it and turned towards his cousins. “I’ll see you guys in a few days. Please try not to kill each other while I’m gone.”
“No promises,” Thalia responded, exchanging concealed looks of worry with Nico. It was the last thing he heard before his vision went white. When he could see again, he saw that he was surrounded by a lush green jungle. The forest floor was covered in bright colored flowers and other plants.
Bast inhaled deeply next to him. Percy guessed that she was feeling energized from being in a place that still worshipped her. She took a moment to concentrate and her hands reached out into empty space before disappearing. When they reappeared, they were carrying two small glowing plants. They glowing purple plants looked like they had just budded, only a fraction of their true size. Percy gingerly took the plants from her and stored them in his own section of the Duat.
“You’ll need one other thing,” Bast informed him. She gestured for him to step closer and Percy reluctantly stepped forward. She grabbed his chin and squeezed, holding him in place. Percy hissed in pain as it felt like his mouth was on fire. He pried at Bast’s hand but her grip was iron-clad. After another ten seconds, she let go and Percy stumbled back, holding his mouth.
“What was that for?” he mumbled out, glaring at her.
She pulled a small mirror seemingly out of nowhere, holding it out for him to take.“Why don’t you take a look and stop whining?”
Percy sighed, bracing himself for the new tattoo. This was his third one, but it was more like three very tiny ones in a row. There was a cat’s face, an eye of Horus, and an ankh. They glowed blue when he looked, lighting up the inside of his bottom lip. Percy understood the significance of a War Dogs tattoo, but he couldn’t help and roll his eyes.
“Don’t be a child. It’ll help prove that you’re telling the truth when the time comes,” Bast told him, frowning at him.
“I know, and it does look cool as hell. Some warning would have been good though.”
“Thank you for your approval.” Bast crossed her arms, smiling dryly to let him know she took no offense.
Her expression turned serious again. “Did you memorize what I told you to?” She waited for Percy to nod before she continued. “Then good luck. Thank you for doing this for me, Perseus Jackson. Tap the tattoo three times in quick succession and I will come to get you. Try to avoid using that at all costs. It’s there as a last resort.”
Percy nodded, confirming that he understood. Bast offered him one last smile before she disappeared in a bright flash of light. Once she was gone, Percy looked around and analyzed his surroundings. He was surrounded by jungle on all sides. He realized that he didn’t know which direction the city was in.
Sighing, he chose a random direction and started walking. He was tempted to pull out his sword to hack through the thick foliage but something told him not to. Instead, he picked up a sturdy tree branch that had fallen and used it to push the low hanging plants out of his way.
He had been walking in silence for five minutes when there was a low ringing in the base of his skull. Percy stopped, closing his eyes and focusing his hearing on the area surrounding him. He could hear a group of people moving in on his position. He opened his eyes and tried to keep his body posture relaxed to prove he wasn’t a threat while also being ready to fight if he had to.
Eight women came out of the surrounding trees. Their heads were shaved and they were all wearing the same red armor with intricate patterns and detailing. They all had a silver necklace that covered their entire throat. There was extra protection around their shoulders and forearms also in silver. One of the women had orange-toned armor, with a gold necklace and plating that marked her as a higher rank than the others. Percy recognized them as the Dora Milaje from the book. They had spears, which were pointed threateningly at him.
Percy held his hands up in the universal gesture of surrender. “I come in peace.”
The main Dora didn’t listen to him, simply thrust her spear in his direction and gestured downwards with it. Percy understood and got down on his knees, his hands still up while his feet were spread apart. She approached him and patted him down, looking for weapons. He didn’t have anything on him, predicting this exact situation. She did find Riptide, still in pen form, and confiscated it.
She clamped a pair of metal cuffs on him that immediately brought his hands together like they were attached by magnets. He tested the weight and found that he could only shift his hands slightly, indicating that the cuffs were most likely made of vibranium. She pushed him up with the end of her spear. The rest of the Dora Milaje formed a semi-circle behind him, herding him forward.
They led him through the jungle in silence, the only sound was the rustling of the jungle around them. Eventually, they made it to a clearing where a futuristic jet was waiting for them. Percy stopped briefly, taking in the frame and design of the plane. As impressive as the plane was, Percy was still apprehensive about getting on it. He prayed that Zeus wouldn’t blast him out of the sky.
One of the Dora nudged him forward with her spear and Percy reluctantly walked into the jet. The inside of the plane was just as, if not more impressive than the exterior. Percy was guided to a chair that was off to the side of the plane. Once he sat down, the seat automatically strapped him in, trapping him there.
Percy sat in silence, observing the Dora Milaje. There were four positioned around him, standing still like statues. The main Dora was in the cockpit of the jet with another Dora. They were murmuring to each other in quiet voices. Percy recognized the language as Xhosa, which was the official language of Wakanda.
He had only learned a few phrases in the language, and they were speaking too quickly for him to understand any of it. The more they spoke it around him, the easier it would be to understand thanks to the blessing Athena had given him. He did manage to catch the name of the main Dora, which was Okoye.
They were only in the air for ten minutes. Before they landed, Percy noticed Okoye communicate with someone who looked like the king of Wakanda through a hologram that appeared in the set of beads she was wearing around her wrist. His gaze flickered to each of the Dora Milaje and saw they all had the same bracelet around their right hand. Based on what he read, the bracelet was made of something they called Kimoyo beads, which allowed them to communicate with each other easily.
They touched down on a landing strip outside of the place and Percy was once again surrounded by the Dora and herded out of the plane. When he got out of the plane, Percy fought the urge to look around and kept his gaze straight ahead. He had read about the beauty of Wakanda’s capital, the Golden City, but there would be time to admire it later. There were more guards and Dora Milaje waiting outside the plane.
Okoye had taken his arm and was marching him through the palace. As they moved through the halls, Percy could feel the eyes of passing workers as they tried to stare discreetly at the stranger who had managed to get past Wakanda’s defenses.
The door to the throne room was opened, revealing the Tribal Council with the King of Wakanda sitting in the center of them. To his right was someone that Percy recognized as Ramonda, the Queen Mother of Wakanda. To his left was the Princess of Wakanda, Shuri.
Percy was moved to the center of the room where Okoye left him. She walked to T’Challa and stood to his left next to Shuri while the rest of the Dora Milaje moved to the side of the room. There were two guards positioned by the door, making any attempt at escape impossible.
T’Challa studied him for a few moments, leaning back in his chair like he was more curious than worried. “How did a supposed American terrorist get past Wakanda’s defenses?”
Percy couldn’t help the scoff that escaped his throat. “Is that what they’re calling me?” He always knew he’d die because he couldn’t stop being a jackass.
“Are they wrong?” Shuri asked. It looked like Okoye was guarding the Princess but Percy recognized someone dangerous when he saw them. Okoye was guarding him just in case he got too mouthy and the Princess decided to take matters into her own hands.
Shuri continued, squinting at him. “Perseus Jackson: suspected of multiple bombings and assault. You were involved in a public gunfight at just twelve years old and have been accused of numerous crimes since then. Somehow, you’ve been exonerated of every crime you’ve committed but you're still on the CIA’s watchlist.”
“That’s not who I am, Princess. They’ve never gotten the full story,” Percy explained. He was being purposefully vague. He needed them to ask who he was. The Council shared uneasy glances with each other. Percy didn’t know that he had said almost the exact thing Erik Stevens had said when he had first arrived in Wakanda.
“Ungubani ngoko?” T’Challa asked, leaning back in his throne with an eyebrow raised.
“‘Who are you then?’” Okoye needlessly translated. Percy was now able to recognize the phrase.
“Igama lam nguPercy Jackson, unyana kaPoseidon,” Percy responded in Xhosa, following the Wakandan custom. T’Challa, who had been impassive, looked surprised, the rest of the Council mirroring his expression. Percy was grateful all of a sudden that Bast had made him memorize the phrase. He continued, “Ndilapha egameni likaBast.” He had said, ‘My name is Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon. I’m here in the name of Bast.’
There were cries of outrage from the Council members. T’Challa abruptly stood up and approached him. The Dora Milaje surrounded him again, their spears leveled at his chest.
“What proof do you have?” T’Challa hissed in his ear, face stoic and untelling.
Percy didn’t say anything, examining everyone in the throne room. This felt like as good a moment as any to share Bast’s tattoos. He smirked before raising his hands and pulling his bottom lip down. He could see the glow from the bottom of his eye.
There was silence before the whole room erupted into noise. Percy felt a bit like an ass, standing there holding his lip, but T’Challa quickly quieted the room. Everyone was staring at him with some combination of awe, fear, and disbelief.
“So you have some tattoos that could lead us to believe you. But you could just as easily be tricking us!” T’Challa said but he seemed to be having an internal debate.
Frowning, he sat back down in his throne and gestured for the Dora Milaje to release Percy. There were a few protests from the Council but he silenced them with a stern look. Okoye walked forwards and took the cuffs off his wrists. When he was free, Percy gingerly rubbed his wrist, where the cuffs had dug slightly into his skin. Several members of the Tribal Council flinched minutely backward.
“Thank you,” Percy said, trying to convey his sincerity. He smiled gratefully, hoping to gain some trust, and started to ramble. “I’m sorry for all of the theatrics but the gods don’t like making things easy. I mean, technically they aren’t supposed to meddle in mortal affairs so they send us instead because we’re half-human. It’s a little different for Bast but I’m not sure exactly how it works in that pantheon because it’s different-”
“Enough,” T’Challa cut him off. “Can you provide any proof past your tattoo?” The whole room seemed to lean both towards and away from him.
“Right, of course. I’m going to… do that now.” The Council members were looking increasingly skeptical. His spider-sense was faintly ringing, warning him of the Dora Milaje who were ready to strike. “Just, don’t freak out.”
Percy slowly reached his hands out, making sure to be as deliberate with his movements as possible. He concentrated on his space in the Duat and his hands disappeared.
“How?” Shuri asked in disbelief, looking curiously at where his hands used to be.
Percy gave a reassuring grin. He carefully picked up the two plants and extracted his hand from the Duat. Everyone in the room gasped at the sight of the Heart-Shaped Herb. “Bast knew that Erik Stevens destroyed the rest of them, and so she decided to give you this gift.”
T’Challa pressed a button on his Kimoyo beads. A woman’s face appeared as a hologram above his hand. He said a few words in Xhosa and waited for the woman to respond before ending the transmission. He turned his attention back to Percy. “You say Bast gave you this gift?”
Percy nodded. “Yes, Your Majesty. She approves of the actions you’ve taken since becoming King. She wanted to help you after the rest of the Herbs were burned so the mantle of Black Panther could be passed down to the next king.”
The Council was in awe of his words. They worshipped Bast, of course, but to know she was real and had been watching over them was amazing. Ramonda was watching her son with a look of pride on her face.
Shuri, however, still looked slightly doubtful. “You said you were the son of Poseidon. Isn’t he from Greek mythology? Does that mean you’re a demigod?”
The Council focused on Percy. He noticed that some of the members looked slightly worried, which made sense if they were concerned with cuffing the son of a powerful god. He tried to appease them. “It’s complicated. While we normally keep our pantheons separate to avoid war, recent circumstances have… forced us to work together. She sent me rather than one of her… wards, for lack of a better term, to speak with you as a gesture of good faith.”
“Why you?” One of the Council members spoke up. Percy noticed that he was wearing a short fur cape with more fur around his wrists. He looked like a member of the Jabari Tribe that he had read about. When Percy didn’t immediately answer he clarified, “Why did they choose you specifically?”
Percy opened his mouth and closed it again, trying to come up with an answer. He was saved when a woman walked into the room. She was wearing a deep blue robe with a matching head wrap. Much like the other Wakandans, when she saw the Heart-Shaped Herbs in Percy’s hand she gasped. She looked at T’Challa in disbelief, as if asking him to confirm it was real. He nodded and gestured to the plants. She approached Percy and he carefully handed her the Herbs. He felt a rush of relief once the Herbs were safely in her hands.
“Make sure they are real,” T’Challa instructed her in Xhosa. He gave a semi-apologetic smile to Percy, though he didn’t sound sorry. “We must be certain you are telling the truth. Perhaps we can postpone our discussion until tomorrow?” It wasn’t a question. “You must be tired from your journey.”
Percy decided not to tell him that he had teleported here. He was still on New York time, where it was only noon. In Wakanda, which was seven hours ahead, the sun was starting to set. Percy simply inclined his head in agreement and followed two Dora Milaje out of the door after T’Challa instructed them to show him to a guest room.
Out of the corner of his eye, Percy noticed Shuri follow them out. He could hear T’Challa protesting her exit but the King didn’t follow after her. The princess caught up with him, matching his pace. She waved off the Dora Milaje, who glanced at each other for a moment before stepping back and following them from a distance. Percy quirked an eyebrow at Shuri.
“How old are you?” she asked, forgoing pleasantries.
“Sixteen,” Percy responded. “You?”
“I’m sixteen.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “You don’t seem like the serious type. More of a ‘go with the flow’ person.”
Percy snorted at her pun about his parentage. It was nice to know she wasn’t intimidated by him. He debated how to answer before deciding to tell the truth. Maybe if he was sincere, they would trust him more. “I don’t do well with authority, but even I know when to show respect. I’ve had that beaten into me by enough angry gods and monsters. Besides, it’s not like your brother doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes I wish the gods ruled like him, rather than-” children having a temper tantrum. He couldn’t say that out loud though.
Shuri’s eyes widened at his thinly veiled insult. Percy could hear the Doras’ sharp intake of breath from behind him.
He had already dug himself a deep hole, he might as well throw himself into it head-first. “I do respect a lot of the gods. But after so many years of fighting for them, one thing I learned quickly is that they aren’t perfect. They make just as many mistakes as mortals, if not more.”
Shuri was staring at him in disbelief. She seemed impressed by his candor. Changing the subject, she asked, “When did you find out?”
“About the gods? Or about my dad?”
“I was twelve and my best friend had goat legs. He only told me he was a satyr after I had passed out,” Percy said, smiling at the way Shuri’s jaw dropped, however, she quickly regained her composure. “As for my dad, well, a glowing trident over my head was pretty obvious.”
She stopped him in front of one of the many doors that lined the hallway. They stood outside of the room for a moment. Shuri gained a mischievous glint in her eye. However, her tone was innocent when she asked, “What do you do? As the son of Poseidon?”
Percy thought about answering honestly but he decided to have a little fun. He gave her an impish grin. “I’m the sand guardian. Guardian of the sand.”
Shuri grinned at him. Percy could tell she was trying to keep herself from laughing. “Poseidon quivers before him.”
The two teens looked at each other and burst out laughing, unable to contain it any longer. Shuri smiled at him. “I think we’re going to get along great.”
Percy smirked at her. “I’ll see you in the morning, your highness.”
Percy walked inside his room, shutting the door behind him. When he turned around, he gasped. “Woah.” The room was twice the size of his room in New York. The walls were red and textured in diamonds as well as other patterns. Wooden carved animal heads adorned parts of the walls.
A bookshelf along the far wall was filled with small knick-knacks. A brief glance at the books showed that a majority of them were in Xhosa. The bed was in the center of the room. It had a canopy surrounding it; the gossamer material glinted gold in the setting sun.
One of the walls had a large window overlooking the Golden City. It was breathtaking. There were dozens of tall buildings, each unique in shape. Percy could faintly make out a marketplace with people the size of ants bustling through it. The sun was setting, casting a golden hue on the buildings and people below. Percy thought that Annabeth would probably have gone crazy over the architecture.
Turning away from the window, Percy quickly pulled his bag out of the Duat. He tugged off the cloak he was wearing, leaving him in his Camp Half-Blood shirt and jeans. He rummaged around in his bag until he found a drachma. Percy went through the side door that led to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. He left the door open, the incoming sunlight created a faint rainbow. He tossed the drachma into the mist and watched as it disappeared. “Oh, Fleecy, do me a solid and show me Nico di Angelo, Queens, New York.”
Nico was playing with a pack of cards at the kitchen table. When Percy appeared he looked up and gave a small smile. “You’re not dead.”
“Thank you for the astute observation,” Percy snarked. “Are Thalia and Hestia there?”
Nico put on a look of mock offense. “Do I mean nothing to you?”
Nico flipped him off, though he was grinning which betrayed his amusement.
“Nico,” Hestia warned, appearing behind his shoulder. Nico jumped and ducked his head; his ears turned red with embarrassment. Thalia was also with her, and she was struggling to contain her laughter.
Hestia offered him a reassuring smile before turning her gaze to Percy. She looked worried. “I presume everything turned out alright.”
Percy nodded. “Yeah, after I took out the Herbs they were more open to talking. T’Challa seems like a fair and just King. His sister Shuri is kind of awesome.”
Thalia raised an eyebrow at him. “‘Fair and just?’ I’ve never heard you describe someone like that. Ever.”
Percy shot her a defiant glare. “Shut up, I’m still in diplomatic mode. The Wakandans were nice but one wrong move in there and they probably would have killed me.”
“Speaking of diplomacy…” Hestia trailed off. She was staring at him expectantly.
It was Percy’s turn to be embarrassed. He groaned and ducked his head. He could feel the heat creeping up his neck. “Come on, Hestia, do I have to? I’ll feel humiliated.”
“This alliance is very important, Percy. It will leave a better impression than anything else,” Hestia explained for the tenth time since she had first proposed the plan to him before he left.
“But-” Percy cut himself off at Hestia’s stern look.
“No buts, Percy. I don’t know what you’re so worried about,” Hestia reassured him, but her tone was firm.
“Fine,” Percy conceded, dragging out the ‘i’. He gestured towards his head. “But do I have to-”
“Yes.” Hestia’s face softened. “You’ll have a long day ahead of you tomorrow. I suggest you try to get some sleep. Call again in the morning.”
Hestia swiped through the Mist before he could protest that he had been sleeping less than six hours ago. Percy let out a deep sigh and collapsed on top of the bed. He stared at the ceiling, using the rest of his senses to take in the surrounding area. He could feel the individual threads on the fabric underneath his hands. He could see the dust particles floating through the air. Outside, he could hear the heartbeat and breathing of the two Dora Milaje stationed outside his door.
He sat up when he heard footsteps approaching the door. There was a sharp knock against the wood. Percy tensed and slowly approached the door. He wished he had Riptide with him, but he had commanded the pen to stay with Okoye. He relaxed when he smelled the strong scent of turmeric and paprika. Percy opened the door and took the food from the guard standing there. “Enkosi,” Percy muttered a thanks in Xhosa, not really paying attention. It had been a few hours since he had eaten and he needed to keep up his metabolism. His inattention caused him to miss the very brief look of surprise between the Dora and the guard. Percy closed the door and took the tray to the corner of the room where there was a small table.
Percy took the cover off of the dish and found a bowl of rice with some sort of chicken curry. There was no fire for him to sacrifice a portion of his meal so he settled for saying a prayer to the gods. After he had finished his meal, he paced the room for a bit before he got agitated.
Finding nothing better to do, Percy sat down in the center of the room and closed his eyes. He concentrated until he felt the familiar tug in his gut that signified he was using his powers. He focused on the humidity of the air in front of him and imagined the small particles of water vapor condensing until they could reform into liquid.
A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his head but Percy ignored it. There was a build in the pull in his gut until it was released like a dam breaking. Percy opened his eyes and grinned at the small bubbles of water floating in midair. Now that he had formed it, he found it easier to add water from the surrounding air.
Once he had a ball of water the size of his head, Percy focused on making shapes with the water until he could successfully create basic shapes with ease. Percy turned his attention to making weapons with the water. He pulled some more water from the air and divided it in two, the small blobs lengthening out into sharp blades, about six inches long each. Without thinking about it, Percy hardened the water into ice that was an opaque frosted blue. Percy’s chest lurched when he noticed that the blades looked like twin replicas of Annabeth’s dagger that she had lost in Tartarus.
Percy turned the blades back into water, his thoughts still clouded with images of Annabeth and Tartarus. He tried to focus on the next weapon, this time a trident that was only slightly shorter than Percy. However, when the water hardened into ice, it was a much darker blue, almost black with streaks of the lighter blue intertwined in it, though they were few and far in between. Percy stared at it and his concentration broke, causing the trident to fall to the ground.
Percy caught it at the last second, his hand reaching out automatically. He hissed as a burning sensation filled his right arm. The pain intensified and Percy collapsed to the ground, gritting his teeth through the pain. His hand was burning like it was on fire and his forearm felt like the skin was being peeled off.
When the pain finally subsided, Percy opened his eyes (though he couldn’t remember closing them) the trident was gone and his arm was glowing. The trident on his legionnaire tattoo had changed, adjusting to the color of the trident he had made. “You have got to be kidding me?” he thought. Percy held his hand out and the trident on his arm flared before reappearing in his hand, fully formed and made of ice. There was no pain this time.
Percy sighed. He glared at the ceiling. “Thanks a lot for the new weapon, Dad? Could you make it more painful next time?” He glanced down at the weapon. “Now, how do I make you go away?”
It took him a painfully long time to figure out how to put the trident back in his arm. What even was his life that that was a normal sentence for him to think? First, he tried lightly tapping the ground with it. That did nothing except it sent a small shockwave that rattled the things in the room. It seemed to be confined to the room because the Dora didn’t come charging in with spears ready to kill him. After multiple attempts to get rid of the trident, including trying to actually shove it into his arm, Percy dropped it in frustration.
He stared at the trident as it disappeared before it could hit the ground. There was a brief glow from his arm. Percy walked over to the bed and collapsed in it. “Of course it was that easy, and of course I couldn’t figure it out,” he grumbled, his voice muffled by the pillow.
Since he was lying down, the adrenaline quickly left his system until he was left feeling exhausted. His arm was still throbbing and he had used a lot of power. It wasn’t long until Percy felt his eyes slid shut and he drifted off.
“You must be careful, Perseus Jackson.”
Percy turned over on his side, his forehead scrunched in pain.
“War is approaching.”
Percy grabbed the sheets and pulled at them, his fist clutching tightly onto the cloth.
“Only you can fix it.”
There was a sheen of sweat covering Percy’s body, beads of it rolling down his temples and into his hairline.
“The universe must die to be reborn.”
Percy’s back arched as an invisible force pulled his body up and slammed it back down onto the bed.
“Free me, Perseus Jackson.”
Percy gasped as his eyes flew open and turned pitch black, the color spreading from his pupil until it covered his irises and sclera. The black moved past his eyes, small veins branching out across his face.
Percy woke up with a gasp. His head was pounding and there was a tightness around his eyes. He wiped the drool off of his mouth and stumbled to the bathroom to splash some water on his face. He sighed in relief as the water rejuvenated him. He glanced at the mirror and grimaced at the somewhat dark circles under his eyes, though he looked fine otherwise.
He was covered in sweat, enough that his hair had been matted down by it. Percy sighed and stripped down, stepping into the shower. The hot water poured over him, easing the tense muscles in his back. He tried to recall the dream he had but found his memory blank. Normally, whenever he had a dream that left him that rattled, he could remember it in stark detail because it was a nightmare or memory. He couldn’t remember anything about the dream he had last night, making him think that he must have had a normal dream for once.
Percy shoved thoughts about the dream to the back of his mind. He would worry about it later. Percy got out of the shower and stepped into the room, getting ready as quickly as possible. The Duat really was one of the more helpful things to come from the world of gods and monsters. When he was done, he dragged himself back into the bathroom to see how he looked.
Percy was wearing a dark blue chiton that came down to his knees with sleeves that went three-quarters of the way down his arm, exposing his forearms and consequently, his tattoos. He had a lighter blue chlamys draped around his neck, covering his left arm. It was held in place by a golden brooch that had a trident engraved on it. He had a golden laurel wrapped around his head but his hair was covering half of it. He was wearing gladiator-style sandals made of brown leather that wrapped around his ankle. He groaned and placed his head in his hands. He couldn't believe Hestia was making him wear something so horrible.
“You look spectacular,” Hestia complimented from behind him. Percy jumped and whipped around to face the goddess. There was an Iris Message floating behind him, showing Hestia and his cousins in the living room of their apartment. Thalia and Nico were both stifling laughter.
Thalia cleared her throat and tried to keep a blank face. “Yes, you look… very majestic.”
“Like royalty,” Nico chimed in. He and Thalia glanced at each and started to snicker at Percy’s expense.
“Oh, haha, you’re both hilarious. I’m dying of laughter,” Percy deadpanned.
Hestia shushed the two but she had a smile on her face. She took a closer look at him and her expression turned worried. “Did you sleep last night?”
“Yeah, but I used a lot of energy last night.” Percy decided to not tell her about the dream. He couldn’t remember it so there was no reason for her to worry. Hestia gazed at him expectantly; Percy decided to just show them rather than explain. He held his arm out and watched as the trident materialized in his hand.
Thalia whistled. “Impressive.”
Hestia furrowed her brows. “I’m a bit concerned about the black in the ice. Did you try to make anything else?”
Percy thought about the twin daggers he had made and his eyes darkened. “No, I only made the trident. As soon as I picked it up, my arm started to rip itself apart. Not literally, but that’s what it felt like. It doesn’t hurt now though. I’m thinking it was just the initial reaction of the trident linking itself to the tattoo on my arm.”
Hestia looked skeptical but let the matter drop. “Let me know if it starts to hurt again. That’s a very outstanding use of your powers, though. If you are left without a weapon, you automatically have one to use.”
Percy grinned and showed her his new ability to pull water from the surrounding air. Hestia smiled and praised him. They continued to talk, about Wakanda and what he was going to do once he got back until there was a knock at the door. Percy said goodbye and slashed through the mist.
He walked to the door and opened it to reveal Shuri standing there with her hand raised like she was about to knock again. She raised an eyebrow and took in his appearance. “What’s up with the formal wear, fish boy?”
Percy shrugged helplessly, smiling at her quip. “My guardian is a goddess and she wanted me to wear this. I try not to argue with her.”
Shuri looked at him curiously. “What about your mother?”
Percy pursed his lips. “I love my mom, but she’s just a mortal. She deserves to live a normal life. I decided to leave once my little sister was born. Hestia volunteered to watch over us in the mortal world.”
Shuri opened her mouth to ask another question but they had made it to the dining room. Like every other room in the palace, it was grand without being ostentatious. After Percy murmured a greeting to T’Challa and Ramonda he took a seat next to Shuri. T’Challa was at the head of the table while Ramonda was sitting on his right. There was already food waiting for them and Shuri started to eat immediately.
Percy lifted his fork up but his enhanced hearing could hear the faint sound of thunder in the sky. He figured that he wouldn’t be able to get away with not sacrificing part of his meal for more than one night. He regretfully put the fork down and turned to T’Challa, his ears tinged red from embarrassment. “Excuse me, Your Majesty but is there any way that I could burn a portion of my meal before I eat it?”
T’Challa looked puzzled by the request but gestured for once to be brought anyway. A few minutes later a brazier was brought in and set at the end of the table. Percy got up and dumped a portion of the food into the flames, whispering a prayer to Hestia. He would have prayed to his dad, but he was still upset about the lack of warning regarding his trident.
A burst of warmth filled him like Hestia was hugging him, reassuring that she was still there. Percy sat back down and started to eat. Shuri had regained her curiosity and asked, “How does the food not smell bad when it burns?”
Percy shrugged. “I’m not sure. I wondered the same thing when I first did it.”
The rest of breakfast passed in relative silence. Once they had all finished, Percy was led back into the throne room. This time, there were more seats placed down. Percy waited for everyone to sit down before he took the last remaining seat. The Council was positioned to face him, causing Percy’s heart to beat in his chest as he stared at them.
The woman in the blue robe from the day before walked in, though her robe was green this time. “The Herb is real. We can now pass on the power of the Black Panther to the next King. Thank you,” she announced, directing the last part to Percy.
Percy nodded his head while there were sighs of relief from the Council. T’Challa gestured to Percy, “Now that we have determined that you are telling the truth, perhaps you could explain and answer our questions.”
Percy took a deep breath. “It all started when I went on a field trip with my class to the museum…”
By the time Percy was done summarizing, with the Council interjecting every two minutes with a question, lunch had come and gone. Even Okoye looked impressed at the end of it.
“This prophecy you speak of, what are the exact words?” One of the Council members, Percy had learned his name was M’Baku, asked.
“A demigod with ties to all the gods,
Shall be their champion and face the odds,
The four pantheons united under one foe,
Together their strength will only grow,
In two years time, the Mad Titan will rise,
With his search for the stones comes half the universe's demise,
An ally long forgotten shall live again,
And with them heralds the Dark Lord's end.”
“How are you currently tracking the stones?” Shuri asked.
“With the help of the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Steven Strange,” Percy said. “He has some sort of magic ritual that allows us to keep track of the stones that are currently on Earth. Thor is out searching for the rest of the stones while the tesseract is being held on Asgard.”
“If I could examine the time stone, I could track the other stones by searching for the same type of radiation. I would need to build a sensor that could scan into deep space,” Shuri contemplated, turning to look at her brother expectantly.
T’Challa had a thoughtful look on his face. Percy tried to keep the hopeful expression off his face.
“Wakanda will gladly help the four pantheons,” T’Challa declared. None of the council disagreed with him. Percy let out a near silent exhale of relief. He couldn’t imagine T’Challa saying no but he was still worried.
“I’m glad to hear that, Your Majesty.”
Percy stood outside the palace with the Dora Milaje and the Royal family. The sun was setting in the distance, once again casting a golden glow on everything. To his surprise, Okoye approached him.
“I have your pen,” Okoye informed him, handing him Riptide. “Though, I’m not sure what good it does.”
Percy grinned at her and pocketed the pen. “Thank you. It’s actually my sword.”
“Your what?” Shuri asked, joining the conversation.
“My sword, Riptide. It was a gift from my mentor when I first discovered I was a demigod.”
Shuri gazed closer at the pen as if it would turn into a sword any minute. “There is no possible way that it can turn into a sword. That defies the laws of physics!”
Percy chuckled. “I can show you next time.”
“Yes, maybe we can spar next you are here as well. I would love to see how vibranium does against your weapon,” Okoye offered with a small smile. Percy grinned at her before turning to T’Challa.
“Thank you for having me, Your Majesty. I look forward to working with you in the future,” Percy said sincerely, grasping T’Challa’s hand.
“You can call me T’Challa,” he said kindly.
Percy nodded. He repeated, “T’Challa.” He knew he should probably have asked for a ride, but it was too little too late. “Just a warning, don’t shoot.”
Percy turned and let out a sharp whistle. After a moment passed, one of the shadows from a nearby overhang warped and Mrs. O’Leary jumped out and barreled into Percy. The Dora Milaje had their weapons raised and ready to strike but none of them had actually made a move to attack. Percy rubbed her head and then mounted, clutching onto the back of her giant collar.
“Get yo’ fucking dog bitch!” Shuri yelled but her laughter ruined it.
Percy played along. In a monotone voice, he said, “It don’t bite.”
“Yes it do!” They laughed in unison. The rest of the Wakandans were staring at them like they were crazy.
“But seriously, are you sure that’s safe?” Shuri asked, eyeing the giant hellhound with guarded apprehension. The Wakandans had startled pretty badly when she had appeared, but his warning had actually helped.
“Perfectly safe,” Percy reassured her. “Mrs. O’Leary is a giant teddy bear.”
He offered the gathered Wakandans one last smile before he gently patted Mrs. O’Leary on the head to urge her forward. Mrs. O’Leary bounded into the nearest shadow and Percy’s entire world went dark, the light from Wakanda’s sunset fading out behind him.