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There was a girl with blonde hair flying above me.

It wasn’t the flying thing that got me on edge; it was the hair. It looked exactly like Annabeth’s. Was the flying girl Annabeth? I squinted up and remembered as I did so that Annabeth was below me on the sand, encircled by a ravenous pack of wolves that was most definitely not Lupa’s. I realized, too, that her hair wasn’t blonde, and it wasn’t even hair. It was a green headscarf. And she wasn’t flying, she was riding a horse that looked like it was made of clouds.

I could make out much else. I was tired, so tired, and my vision was turning green and gray around the edges, but I didn't want to leave Annabeth. I couldn't leave Annabeth...

“Percy? Percy!”

I blinked sluggishly, and everything around me was dark. Gods of Olympus, I was so tired. I knew what ‘dead’ felt like, from personal experience, and I definitely felt pretty dead. Incredibly dead. But I couldn’t be completely dead, because I could still hear Annabeth calling for me. Maybe my soul was just being stubborn and hanging around. I had to admire my soul for that. If I was one thing, that thing would be stubborn.

Selfishly, I was glad I wasn’t alone.

When I blinked again, the sky, flecked with clouds and looking perfectly peaceful, was what greeted me. I felt sand rubbing against the backs of my arms. I could hear Annabeth, barely, but I couldn’t see her anywhere. I blinked again and this time the girl on the horse loomed above me. The landscape surrounding us was the same beach I’d just been on, but it was gray. Everything was gray and the air felt so thick.

“Come on!” Horse Girl shouted. “Hold on! If you don’t, I’ll drop you. You don’t want that.” I could tell from the tone of her voice that I most definitely did not want her to drop me, whatever that meant. I tried to move, to reach out to her, to find Annabeth, but I was stiff. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. I couldn’t do anything.

“Percy… Percy, please!”

Annabeth. She was saying my name, she was talking to me, and she was crying. I didn’t like hearing the strongest woman I knew crying, let alone over me. I tried to move again, to get back to her.

"You can't. You can't. The ocean should've... It should've healed you! Why didn't it heal you?"

My heart was in my throat and I tried to move yet another time. I wanted to hold her, to comfort her, to tell her that I was there, but Weird Horse Girl protested. “I can help you!” she said. “I can help you see her again. You just have to take my hand!”

I forced myself to lean up into the thick grayness of the void and take her hand, dying with Annabeth’s voice in my ear.


Sorry, I had to end on a dramatic note like that. I couldn’t help it. Also, that’s about where I passed out. I am no longer ashamed to admit it, because I did sort of die. It’s a normal, demigod reaction to something like that.

Now, now, I know what you’re thinking. But Percy! You’ve died before! You’ve been to Hell more times than I can count, and you’ve come back fine! Why is this time any different?

First of all, I can’t really explain. It just… Felt different, like a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach you can’t explain. It felt a lot different.

Secondly, thanks. The Hell thing is kind of impressive, if I do say so myself. Three mortals have been through Tartarus and survived, and I am now proud to say that I am one of them.

Thirdly, the girl on the cloud horse was new. I’d never seen anyone like that coming to collect my soul before.

Hearing Annabeth was new, too. And incredibly unsettling. It was something I never wanted to hear again, Annabeth crying and begging for me to wake up.

Anyway, back to the real story, another flapjack on the crapstack of pancakes that was my life. Seriously, how does that much crap happen to one guy? Ridiculous…

I woke up, which was nice. I was a little concerned I wasn’t going to wake up. Where I woke up was what was a little concerning. A high, ornate, and vaulted ceiling rose above me.

Annabeth taught me that word, by the way. It meant arched.

It was very much not the sky above the beach where I’d presumably died. I was also very much not my cabin at Camp Half-Blood, the infirmary there, or the hospital at Camp Jupiter. I wasn’t Annabeth and I’s apartment in New Rome or the one we shared with my mom and Paul, all plausible places to wake up after dying or nearly dying. I was looking at a huge vaulted ceiling.

I heaved myself to my feet, feeling surprisingly spry for a guy who’d pretty much just died. My orange Camp Half-Blood t-shirt was perfectly intact and smelt washed. I hadn’t washed it in 3 days, maybe.

Hey, washing clothes is a waste of time. I’m a busy guy.

My dark blue hoodie was softer than when I’d bought it but had that comforting worn feel to it. My jeans were perfect, no holes or stains to speak of, and my converse were better than new. My hand flew to my neck where my leather cord and camp beads still hung. I let out a minuscule sigh of relief.

Next, I pushed one of my sleeves up. My SPQR tattoo remained untouched, although I’m not quite sure what would have happened to it. Those Romans were serious about their ink.

“Alright, Horse Girl,” I said, turning and preparing to chew her out. I assumed she would be there, because normally after you save someone from dying or pull their soul from its one-way street to the Underworld, you stick around to see how they were doing. “What just happened? Seriously, what the f-” I stopped because apparently Horse Girl hadn’t gotten to memo and I was alone in the huge room. Well, I thought I was alone until I spotted a burly-looking guy with a warty face, untamed beard, and bloodshot eyes wearing what looked like a doorman’s uniform.

“You’re Valkyrie had to go,” he explain, “but she should be back in time for dinner.” Hearing the word gave my dyslexia. I didn’t even wanted to ask how it was spelled.

“Gonna assume that’s Horse Girl,” I said. “Although I have no idea what that big word that starts with a V means.” The man – I tried to avoid looking at his name tag because it gave me a headaches – shook his head and sighed. “Kids these days… they don’t know anything about Norse mythology until it smacks them in the face…”

Norse? Norse, really? I knew about Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, but Norse gods existed, too? Apparently there was another powerhouse in the ring to deal with. If someone suddenly revealed another religion with real gods to me, I would definitely implode on the spot.

“Um, Mr. Doorman?” I asked. “Can I call you Mr. Doorman? I think my soul got on the wrong train to the Underworld. I’m kind of not really that Norse. And I really need to get back to my girlfriend…” I inched away from him slowly, trying to make an escape. Mr. Doorman rolled his eyes again. “Heard it all before. Now, come on, kid. Have to get you checked in before dinner. Hurry up.”

Reluctantly, I followed. Might as well scope the place out a little. If I waited until this dinner, Horse Girl would be there. She could help me get back to Annabeth. She thought I was either dead or gone, and she’d worry about me. She worried about me a lot. She and my mom got along really well.

I quickened my stride to follow Mr. Doorman, filled with new hope. If I went along with this, it’d lead me to Horse Girl, which would lead me to Annabeth, my life, and my family. Mr. Doorman led me up to a desk with another man sitting behind it.  He had a ridiculous amount of hair. Like with Mr. Doorman, I tried to avoid the nametag. The swirly script and the apparent second language wasn’t helping. I did note an ‘HV’ pin on his lapel. I decided to nickname him Mr. Secretary.

“Checking in?” he asked. I frowned. “Uh… Checking in where?” Mr. Secretary rolled his eyes. “Hotel Valhalla, of course! You’re checking in then, right? Name?” He was poised over the keyboard of his computer, looking expectantly at me. I faltered slightly, panicking. I tended to fold when authority figures asked me simple questions. Jason and Annabeth will tell you about the time I almost got arrested in Central Park because a cop asked what I was doing.

 I was feeding the squirrels.

“Uh… Jackson, Percy?” I said finally. Mr. Secretary nodded and clicked a few keys, sighing at what he saw. “Another of al-Abbas’… No wonder he smells strange. She always picks the strange ones.” I bristled at the insult. I wasn’t strange. Annabeth, Chiron, and my mom said I was special. I was about to point out that he smelt like he hadn’t showered properly in a few decades when the little voice in the back of my head that told me to quit when I was ahead spoke up.

Actually, I didn’t have one of those, so Annabeth took over. I heard her in my head all the time tell me to do the smart thing and not the stupid one. You don’t want to get yourself killed again, she chastised.

I nodded slightly. That was a fair point.

There was something else that Mr. Secretary had said… al-Abbas. That must be the last name of the girl who brought me in here. He interrupted my thoughts with another question. “What are you? Beserker? Half-troll?” I paused. This was definitely a super-weird hotel. “Um… Demigod? I think?” I said uncertainly.

“Oh, great,” Mr. Secretary said. “Hunding, take him to his room and ask for his luggage.”

Hunding! That must be Mr. Doorman’s name. He mumbled something under his breath, turning away. Mr. Secretary leaned forward. “Protocol, Hunding. Ask him for his luggage.”

“Yes, sir,” Hunding said. He grabbed what looked like a dark green rock from the desk and scooted away. Feeling like an idiot, I followed.

It wasn’t a new feeling.

When we were out of earshot, Hunding held out the green rock to me. I took it, stuffing it in my pocket and not looking too closely. My fingers brushed against a pen and I smiled faintly. “Luggage?” Hunding asked politely. “I’ve got a pen,” I volunteered, but he just sighed. “Keep it.” There was a few seconds paused as we approached an elevator before he continued speaking. “You’re on floor-”

He was interrupted when a kid a little younger than me with shaggy blonde hair tumbled out of it and at our feet. He bolted up and shot for the doors as they closed. “TJ, you-” His insult was in a language I didn’t recognize. I assumed it was Norse. Norwegian? I don’t know, man. Either way, the blonde kid was shouting at closing elevator doors.

“Push me out,” Blondie muttered, turning around and brushing off his pants. “Hit all the buttons… Some boyfriend…” I grinned. I had no idea who this TJ was, but I liked him already.

Blondie turned, finally noticing me and my guide. He waved cheerily, sizing me up. “Another for 19?” he asked Hunding. Mr. Doorman nodded. “Another one of al-Abbas’, too.” Blondie grinned. “Oh, this should be fun. Sam always picks the fun ones, like me.”

I relaxed considerably around this kid. He knew Horse Girl and was only friendly terms with her. She had to be pretty nice, then. I was liking my chances of getting back to my life pretty fast. Maybe he could help me find her?

There was something a little unsettling about this kid, too. He looked familiar, in a ‘we were friends in kindergarten but I kind of forgot about you’ kind of way. “Take him up to 19,” Hunding said. “We renovated Odin’s old rooms for him. Bring him to dinner, as well, if the Valkyrie doesn’t show up.” Blondie gave him a thumbs-up. “Gotcha.” He turned to me. “Come, new friend,” he said. “I’m Magnus. Welcome to Hotel Valhalla.”

He paused before adding, “And welcome to being dead.”

Chapter Text

 I wasn’t 100% sure how reputable Magnus was but he seemed nice enough, if a little crazy.

Basically, my kind of guy.

I didn’t know if I trusted him, but I did like him.

“You should be honored,” he said, leading me towards a simple door, nestled in the corner of the ornate room. In comparison to the massive, ornately-decorated room, the door was… Simple. It was nothing but solid wood with a good knob and a plate across the top reading MATINENCE with a string of shapes beneath it. It wasn’t Greek, so I pushed it out of my mind. It was probably a translation, anyway. “Getting Odin’s old room and all,” my guide said, ushering me through the door and up the stairs.

“I have absolutely no clue who that is,” I said honestly, but I was prepared to roll with whatever Magnus told me. I was pretty good about absorbing weird. It was another one of my demigod abilities. “I keep telling people that I don’t know anything about Norse mythology. I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not Norse, I’m-” Magnus cut me off. “I did the whole ‘I don’t deserve to be here’ thing, too, man. But trust me. No one gets Valhalla who doesn’t deserve it. And Sam – she was your Valkyrie, the girl who brought you here – knows her stuff.” I smiled at that. Yeah, I did like Magnus.

I liked him less when I looked up and saw all the stairs we were going to have to climb and the stairwell they were in. It looked like a scene from a horror movie where the defenseless girl or demigod goes to climb up to her or his apartment and gets mugged and murdered. “At least the gods had the curtesy to put in an elevator,” I muttered. Magnus laughed. “Elevators are great, especially since there’s, like, 500 something floors here. However, my boyfriend is an idiot, so we’re climbing.”

He paused as we rounded to the next flight of stairs. “I told you my name, right?” I nodded, and Magnus smiled. “Rhymes with swagness, by the way.”

He was definitely my people.

“I’m Percy,” I said. “Rhymes with…” I faltered. “I don’t actually know. It doesn’t rhyme with much. I really just go by Percy.” My new companion smiled. “That’s kinda funny,” he said. “My cousin has a boyfriend named Percy and now I get to spend eternity with a Percy.”

“Irony,” I quipped. However, I did pause a bit on eternity. If I couldn’t find a way out, was I going to be stuck here for eternity? I shook my head. No, no. I’d get out. I’d find a way to my family, to Annabeth. She was probably worrying right now, or upset over my death. I kind of needed her more than she needed me. She would be a-okay without me, but if she left me? Well, let’s just say she’s 99% of my impulse control and my Annabeth voice is the other 1%. “About the whole eternity thing,” I said slightly. “What’s that all about?”

“Oh!” Magnus said. “You’re not Norse, are you?” he asked. I nodded. “Not at all,” I said. “Usually I have a powerpoint,” Magnus explained. “It’s cool, man,” I said. “Talk while we walk.” Magnus grinned again. “Thanks.”

So, like I was saying, welcome to Hotel Valhalla. This is, like… The hotel of the dead people. We all died bravely in battle or whatever, so a Valkyrie came along and picked up our souls and brought us here. As a reward. We go on missions and kill monsters and stuff and wait for the apocalypse, where we, the einherjar, will fight as Odin’s army.”

I paused on a landing, absorbing the new knowledge before trudging upward again. So, I was now an undead warrior of this Odin guy until the end of the world. Joy.

“You had me at monster killing,” I said. “I’m all about that.” Magnus laughed again. “We’re gonna be good friends, you and I,” he promised, clapping me on the back. “We’re gonna get along real well.”

I flashed him a grin as we approached the last landing before floor 19. I thought we would, too.

“Floor 19,” Magnus said. “You’re gonna fit right in here, new best friend.”

Magnus pushed the door open and my new best friend led me towards my new home.

Magnus led me across the hall. Doors lined each side, each with a nameplate beside them. I caught sight of two names – Thomas Jefferson, Jr. and Mallory Keen – before Magnus stopped. “I’m next door,” he said. “This is you.”

I studied my nameplate for a moment and sighed. Perseus Jackson, it read. “Really?” I told it. “It’s just Percy…” I trailed off. At least I knew now that it wasn’t a mistake. They even spelt my first name right. Maybe this was just my gods tricking me again. I went through my mental list of gods I’d met and tried to figure out who I’d irritated lately.

There were a lot.

I didn’t get far, however, as Magnus interrupted. “Got a key?” he asked. “Oh,” I said. “Oh, yeah. One sec.” I stuck my hands in my jeans’ pocket and came up with a pen. I put Riptide back and pulled out the dark green rock out instead. “This it?” I said, finally studying it closer. Inscribed on the top was some sort of ruin. It looked kind of like a vase or a cup on its side. Magnus’ eyes softened when he saw it. “Perthro,” he said. “Empty cup.”

I didn’t like the sound of empty cup, but Magnus looked fond of it. It couldn’t be that bad. “So, do I just…” I waved my hand, miming pressing the key to the matching rune on the door. Magnus nodded. “Yeah. Go for it, man.”

I took the dark green stone and pressed it to the rune. A ring of different runes glowed the same shade of green as, with a muted click, the door swung open.

“Holy,” I said, stepping into the room.

“Ship,” Magnus finished.

It did kind of look like a ship.

My main portion of my room at the Hotel Valhalla looked exactly like my cabin at Camp Half-Blood, down to the smallest detail. My bed, my fountain, my dresser. The view outside the window was the same. I could see Camp Half-Blood’s lake glistening just out of reach. I felt like I could reach out the window and dive in.

It looked like… Well, it looked like home. I brushed my eyes with the back of my hand in a very manly way. I definitely wasn’t crying because it felt like I hadn’t seen my home in forever and I’d just died, so that was traumatizing. The whole thing was really incredibly manly and I was definitely in no way at even about to cry.

There were a few additions, though. There was a doorframe that opened to an added room. Inside it was a huge TV and at least 3 different gaming systems. A large, comfortable looking couch rested in front of the TV. On the other side of the main room was another door, which I’d discover later was the bathroom.

Magnus dragged me out of my stupor and thrust me back into the real world. (Real afterlife?) “Cool place you got,” he said. “Kind of looks like a cabin, but a really cool one…”

“Back h-” I stopped. “Out there, there was this place I stayed every summer. Sometimes during the year. A camp. My cabin looked like this.” Magnus whistled. “Some camp.” I smiled. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, it w- Is. It’s amazing. It’s the first place I ever felt really…” I faltered. I was pouring my heart out to an almost perfect stranger. “Really home,” I decided on finally.

My new friend nodded. “I get that,” he said. “This place was kind of like that for me.” He might’ve said something else, but I’d missed it, because I’d just noticed something across the room. A flash of silver… A line of photographs in silver frames lined the edge of the fountain.

I picked the first one up. It was of me and my mom on my 10th birthday at the candy store she’d worked at. She had her arm around me and I was leaning up to do the same, my mop of black hair messy. I could almost forget that there was a bruise peeking out from under my collar.

The next one was of Grover and I when we were 12 and at some kind of school dance. The third picture on the rim of the fountain was of me and Tyson.

My breath caught in my throat at the fourth one. It was of Annabeth and I. We were underwater, enclosed in one of my bubbles, kissing. That was one of my fondest memories, actually. I had almost forgotten that the naids liked to steal cameras from the campers.

The fifth photo showed Jason and I on the beach at camp. We were building sand castles together, laughing.

The sixth one was curtesy of Coach Hedge, because you could see the corner of his hoof in the shot. It was of the entire crew of the Argo II. We were all smiling, laughing. We were all happy and we looked like the teenagers we should have been were we not thrust into the world of gods and monsters.

The next one was probably due to Chiron. It was of me and Jason again. I’d jumped off of porch of the Big House, tackling Jason and forcing him into giving me a piggyback ride. I recalled correctly that I was trying to convince him to fly with me riding him.

The second-to-last one was of Annabeth and I on top of the Eiffel Tower. (Thanks, Hermes.) We were watching the lights of the city below. It looked super majestic, honestly.

The last one was my handiwork. It was a close-up of Annabeth’s face. She was laughing, probably at something stupid I’d said. I could practically see her lips framing, I love you, Seaweed Brain.

My heart tightened as I ran my fingers over the glass. These pictures… These are what I’d lost. Once again, I was super manly and not crying.

I’d completely forgotten that Magnus was with me until I turned around, hearing a shuffle of movement. He had stepped forward and was staring, transfixed, at the picture of Annabeth and I kissing underwater. I put the last photo down and took a step over to him. “Who’s that?” he asked, pointing to my girlfriend. “That’s Annabeth,” I said. “She’s my girlfriend. She was… She was there when I died.” I tightened my fist. “I only came with that horse girl because she said I would be able to see Annabeth again…”

Magnus interrupted me. He’d gone a few shades paler. “Annabeth,” he said. “Is her last name Chase?” I frowned. “Yeah… How’d you know?” I said, suddenly suspicious.

“Because she’s…” Magnus trailed off, picking up the frame and studied it before looking at me. “This is my Annabeth. My cousin Annabeth.”

A lot had happened to me today. Seriously, a lot. So maybe figuring out my new best friend was my Greek demigod girlfriend’s Norse demigod cousin was a little bit more than I could handle. I tried to my hardest to roll with the punches and absorb all the weird, but I’d absorbed a lot of weird today. I’d hit my limit.

I put the last picture down and threw my hands up. “Whoa,” I said. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up.” I paused, recalling that Annabeth aha once mentioned that she had a cousin from Boston she wanted me to meet sometime…  She’d never said he was a demigod, though. “You’re the Red Sox cousin? And you’re a demigod?”

Magnus nodded, putting the framed picture down. “Uh, yeah. But I’m not Greek,” he added hurriedly. “I’m not a son of Athena like she is. Son of Frey.”

I had no idea who that was.

I was about to ask him approximately 800 questions before he asked one of his own. “You’re Percy, then. Percy Jackson. The Percy. Son of Poseidon, defeated Kronos, helped save the world from Gaea and about a million other super heroic things? That Percy?” I nodded and my new friend plowed onward. “Then that pen you had must be your sword, and-” He went whiter. “Oh no,” he said softly. “No, no, no… You’re dead. You shouldn’t be dead. You shouldn’t be here! Annabeth is going to be so pissed…”

He had that right. I was glad we both understood her.

“Sam is the girl who brought you here, right?” Magnus said. “Girl on the horse with the green headscarf?” I nodded eagerly. “Yeah! Her. She told me that if I came with her I’d see Annabeth again. Is there a way to, like, break out of this place? Get me out of here or bring me back to life? I was kind of on a date.”

Magnus shook his head. “Unfortunately, there’s not really a way either of us could bring you back to life. But there is someone who could, especially since you aren’t supposed to be here.” I was still, which was a rarity for me, still processing the onslaught of information that had just been flung at me.

“I have so many questions,” he said finally. I was planning on grilling Magnus until Doomsday about him and Annabeth and how to get out of here, but a dark-skinned guy knocking on my door stopped me. “Hey, Swagness,” he called in. “You and newbie coming to dinner?”

Magnus swore in what I assumed was Norse. Norwegian? Whatever. “I almost forgot. I’ll tell you anything and everything at dinner,” he promised. “Hopefully we can get you out of here pretty fast…” He led me out of my room, leaning up to kiss the dark-skinned guy in the Civil War uniform on the cheek.

I followed Magnus Chase, my girlfriend’s cousin, out of the room, slipping my key into my pocket with Riptide. I could feel the already familiar weight of the empty cup against my leg.

Chapter Text

"So you're saying," I said slowly, "that there's an entire deer in that tree?" For some reason, the deer was what stumped me. I had been briefed on Ragnarok, which was nothing new, really. The Apocalypse? Old news. I had been briefed on Norse mythology, which was, shockingly enough, not a surprise. I'd meet Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Why not Vikings, too? Simple enough. But the deer in the tree? That stumped me.  

Magnus nodded and took a sip of his drink. "Uh-huh," he said. "There's a deer and a goat and a squirrel. A huge squirrel." I shook my head again. "What the heck," I whispered to myself. "What the heck." I had so many questions about the logistics of that many animals living in a giant tree, but I didn't have time to ask them, because Mr. Secretary had declared, "Let the presentation of the dead commence!"  

My new best friend – shh, don't tell Jason – was sitting at the top table with me so I didn't have to brave this alone, since Horse G- I'm sorry, Sam, the nickname stuck – hadn't reappeared yet. "What's that?" I asked curiously. "It sounds like a beauty pagent. And let me tell you, I am not very beautiful." Magnus shrugged. "I don't know about that. You're pretty good looking to me. But either way, you don't have anything to worry about. We just watch your death on TV and then some old dudes decide if you're worthy enough to stay dead." I considered that for a few moments before I nodded. "Seems legit," I said. I glanced down the table, breathing a sigh of relief when I realized we were last. Good. I was that kid who would never turn their test in first and would always wait for someone else. Either that or I just marked c for every single question and yelled a lot. 

I tried to pay attention. I really did, but it was just too hard to focus. I gathered, with my very limited attention span and Magnus muttering in my ear, that your death was judged worthy or not, you were asked about your parentage if you didn't already know, and then some creepy fortune teller oracle types would pick up some rocks and read your future or something.  

The kid two down from me was being judged when my Valkyrie finally decided to join the party. At that point I wasn't even pretending to pay attention, folding my napkin into an origami horse under the table. I didn't even notice her slinking to my side until I felt a brush on the back of my shoulder. Immediately, I dropped the horse and went for Riptide in my pocket. The gentle squeeze of her hand on my shoulder stopped me.  

"Stay," she whispered. "Don't move." 

I was feeling rebellious, so I decided to dip down and reach under the table for the horse I had dropped. When I came back up, she was speaking softly to Magnus. He mouthed good luck at me before slinking away, Sam taking his seat. I felt a little bad about how tired she looked. IT must be exhausting to raise people from the dead  

"Samirah al-Abbas, at your service," she whispered. "Call me Sam." I nodded a little, opening my mouth to start peppering her with questions. I wanted to get back to Annabeth as soon as possible. She shushed me, not as forgiving as Magnus had been. "Pay attention. We're up next." In the time the short exchange had taken place, the fourth teenager had gone. Wow. I really did need to pay attention.  

"Perseus Jackson!" Mr. Secretary called. "Rise and impress us with your courage!" 

Courage. That was something I had, right? I rose to my feet, waving. The hall was silent except for a voice in the back of the room that yelled, "WOO!" Really loudly. Thanks, Magnus. "Percy is fine," I told him. "Really." Mr. Secretary rolled his eyes a little. "We are prepared to be dazzled by your heroic deeds," he said. He didn't seem like he expected much from me or Sam, which made me frown. "Hey," I said. "Why don't you-" I stopped when Sam kicked the back of my leg. "Shut up," she muttered quietly. I was starting to think Sam would like Annabeth.  

The screens around the tree flickered to life, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the weirdness of it all. Sure, I'd died before, or came really close. What demigod didn't? But... It was strange watching myself die on a flatscreen TV. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I wanted to scream at myself, but it wouldn't do any good.  

I seemed so happy on the screen because I was. I jogged along the beach, a good few yards ahead of Annabeth. She was laughing, too, before she slowed to a stop and brushed a curl of blonde hair behind her ear. "Annabeth!" I called. "I think I see the hippocampi! Come on, hurry!" I stopped, stepping into the surf, burying my toes in the sand. "Percy!" Annabeth said as she started to follow behind me again, and gods, my heart started aching. I wanted her back. I wanted her back so badly. "They'll still be there when I get there. Give me a second. Calm down, Seaweed Brain!" 

I started off down the beach again, this time walking in the surf as the tide licked at my heels. Annabeth, though, did not follow. She froze again before backing away from the water, her hand going to her belt where I knew her knife was hidden. "Percy?" She called. "Come back here. Get out of the water!" 

I stopped and turned to face her, crossing my arms. "What?" I shouted back. "Get out of the water!" Annabeth yelled. "Percy, get back! Get back!" I could see the confusion on my own face as Annabeth screamed across the gap. The ocean was salt water. My blood was practically salt water. Why would I get out? But I did see myself reach into my pocket for Riptide, and it was then that the serpent burst from the sea.  

This thing was absolutely massive, and I say that even having seen what I'd seen. It was far bigger than any dragon I'd ever fought. (And, yes, I'd fought a few.) It was built like a tank, with thick, emerald green scales. Its eyes were solid white, as were its teeth, some of which I swear were bigger than I was. It a long, forked tongue. How did I know what its tongue looked like? It opened its mouth and tried to eat me whole. 

Naturally, neither I nor Annabeth wanted that to happen. Annabeth screamed and darted forward, yelling my name. The water around me started bubbling as I clicked my pen, ready to charge the thing. With one sweep of the thing's massive head, it smacked me and sent my flying probably nearly half a mile away from Annabeth. I smacked into the wet sand, my orange t-shirt stained with blood and something green. I seemed to be turning green, too. Whatever it was crept up my veins. It was already starting to change the color of the blood in my arms.  

I sat up, wincing in pain and starting to scramble towards the ocean. If I could get in it before the serpent came back... I pulled myself into the surf, hauling myself to my feet. The green stopped snaking farther and farther up my veins, and for that I was grateful. I was not grateful for the giant snake pursuing me across the ocean. I tightened one hand into a fist, waiting as the serpent grew closer. When it got close enough, I thrust my fist into the air. The water followed my movements and a watery fist large enough to rival the thing's head slammed into the underside of its neck, sending it reeling. It opened its mouth and bellowed.  

I chanced a glance back the other way and saw Annabeth, sprinting towards me as fast as she could. The look on my face softened for a moment until the serpent saw her, too. It screamed again, smashing its head into the water. The force of the impact sent sea water everywhere, but luckily, I was the son of the sea god. I waved my hand and the spray sunk back into the ocean. The serpent was stretching out of the ocean, trying to reach Annabeth. It didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that we were practically on shore and reached out for her anyway. "Annabeth!" I shouted.  

My heart clenched again with anticipation. I knew what was going to happen. "NO!" I screamed on the screen. The ocean exploded around me, almost immediately forming a hurricane, of which I was the eye. My storm whipped and whirled around me, the water streaked with blood and whatever green venom stained my t-shirt and my blood. I hurtled out of the ocean towards the serpent, the storm and the ocean following me. I only got more powerful as I left it behind. "NOT HER!"  

I had to admit, I probably looked really cool, but in the moment, all I had been thinking about was saving Annabeth. I yelled something else that was swallowed by the swirling winds and crashing waves around me. The serpent raised its head and looked me in the eyes. It roared again, a lot like a dragon would, and started to slink back into the sea. I never saw the thing's tail, but its head disappeared and my hurricane imploded.  

My body started falling from the sky, and I knew that impact would hurt. I cringed a little when I hit the ground with a wet thud. Annabeth was at my side in second, sobbing and cradling my head. "Percy," she said. "Percy, Percy, please..." The green venom that oozed from where the serpent's teeth had scraped my chest was everywhere now. Every vein in my arms and legs was green and it was quickly going up my neck, too. I tried to speak but my voice failed me. All that came out was a wet gurgling sound. "You can't. You can't. The ocean should've... It should've healed you! Why didn't it heal you?" She shook her head and pulled me closer, still crying. "Percy, please..." 

It was then that Sam's voice came from seemingly out of nowhere in the recording of my death. "I can help you!" she shouted. "I can help you see her again! You just have to take my hand!" She reached forward, her hand entering the screen. My body in Annabeth's arms shifted slightly and reached up, but the hand that took Sam's was gray and my body was still on the sand. Then, the screen went black.  

Chapter Text

I have to say, I think I won the award for most dramatic death of the night. Giant serpents and exploding hurricanes and pen swords and saving a girlfriend – I ticked all of the boxes. I was really going to be mad if someone beat me out on Coolest Death.  

Look at me, covering up my pain with humor. Ha, ha. Yeah, it was touch watching myself die again. But the worst part was seeing Annabeth.  

Sam had gone silent beside me. "What's the big deal?" I whispered to her. "That's the World Serpent," she said softly. "I've seen him before, just... Never that far inland. That could mean something really bad." I made a mental note to ask her about her experience with this World Serpent later. Mr. Secretary's grip on his goblet was white-knuckled as he spoke the serpent's name again to the whispering crowd. "Jormungand," he said. "The World Serpent." 

Thanks for the heads up, but I already got that much.  

"I've never seen him that far inland, Mr. Secretary said. Sam sighed. "I just said that..." I cracked a smile. "But, uh... What's the big deal about the giant snake thing?" I asked. My new friend shook her head. "He's a son of Loki," she said, "the guy who is currently trying to start the apocalypse." The apocalypse didn't sound good, but I was used to those. I fixated on another part of that. "Loki?" I questioned. "Like... Like Tom Hiddleston?" Somehow, I doubted that. I really did. But it was worth a shot. Sam swatted my arm. "Not that Loki," she said. "The real one."  

I nodded once. "Ah," I said. "Yes. The real one. One more follow-up question... How do Norse gods feel about the ocean?" Sam locked eyes with me. "What greater enemy is there than the sea?" She said. My eyes widened but Sam cracked a faint smile. "No, I'm kidding. We're indifferent." I let out a breath. "Good," I said. "Cause I went to a camp one time, and they were not very friendly to sons of Neptune. Or son, I guess. I was the only one."  

Sam hummed in acknowledgement. "Just hang tight," she said. "If they don't take you of their own accord, he should be here soon." I opened my mouth, prepared to ask who exactly was he, but Mr. Secretary cut me off.  

"Samirah al-Abbas," he said. "You've brought us another strange case. The Allfather, Magnus Chase, and now a boy who can control the ocean and has drawn the World Serpent inland." Somehow, I gathered that he wasn't too fond of Sam. I felt the sudden need to defend myself. "Hey," I said. "I'm right here, man. You don't have to talk above me. And I'm not a boy! I'm, like..." I trailed off. "Almost not a teenager!"  

Mr. Secretary rolled his eyes dismissively. "As impressive as that hurricane was," he drawled, "Perseus Jackson didn't die with a weapon in his hand. As you could see, he dropped his sword. And he didn't actually harm the beast at all." My blood was starting to boil.  

"No way," I said. "Look, pal. I-" Sam cut me off again. "Let me take this one," she whispered before she stepped in front of me and started to speak. "Maybe he didn't have his sword in his hand when he died," she said. "But he summoned that hurricane. He made that hurricane! Couldn't that be considered a weapon? And, okay, maybe he didn't actually hurt the serpent. But he sure tried. He charged that thing with nothing but his storm to save the girl that he loved. If that's not bravery, what is? He's braver than all of you." 

She huffed when she was finished, crossing her arms like she was through with all of them. "Nice," I said. There was another loud shout from the back of the hall. "WOO! Go Sam!" She rolled her eyes, shifting her weight to face Mr. Secretary again. "He deserves to be here more than you do."  

Savage, I thought. Mr. Secretary was fuming now as he finally rose to his feet. "Alright," he said. "You've made your case. But who is this? He doesn't smell Norse at all. Who is he and-"  

A deep voice from the back of the massive hall cut him off. "He's Percy Jackson. Son of Poseidon."  

He immediately whipped around to face whoever had spoken. How did anyone here know who I was? It seemed everyone else in the hall had done the exact same thing. The man who had spoken was pretty impressive-looking. He was tall and buff, wearing a really sweet suit. When he shifted the fabric caught the light and seemed to glitter, and his vest and tie were made of what looked like chainmail. He had an eyepatch over one eye, too. He was accompanied by some interesting looking guys. To his immediate right was a very tall, very pale blonde wearing all black leather and a red and white scarf. H was holding the hand of a short dark-skinned guy who was really snappily dressed.  

"Odin Allfather," Sam said reverently. There was a really loud scraping noise as everyone in the hall pushed their chairs back and moved to kneel. The only people still standing were me, the blonde, and the short guy. "But you're not Anthony Hopkins," I said stupidly. Sam rolled her eyes again. I got the impression that she did that a lot.  

Eyepatch – I assumed that was Odin – laughed. "Oh, thank you, thank you," he said. "This is why I come down here every few hundred years. Go on, get back in your seats." The assembled warriors all sat back down but Sam rose to stand at my side. Odin turned to the two guys with him and said, "Thanks for the help. Dismissed." The tall blonde dipped his head but didn't speak. The shorter one said something I couldn't make out and then tugged the taller one's hand. They disappeared into the crowd, try as I might to follow the brightly-colored scarf.  

I looked back at Odin, who had started picking his way through the crowd. "Sorry about that," he said, taking a seat in the large, empty throne in the center of the high table. "The moment was there, I had to take it." The hall seemed to wait with bated breath for him to speak again. "Where are we?" he asked. "Have we read the runes yet? I do love a good rune-reading." Mr. Secretary rose nervously from his chair and it made me smile to see him look like that. "Lord Odin," he began, "would you mind... Elaborating? Son of Poseidon?"  

Odin waved one hand. "Oh, an old friend. He helped me out of a tight spot a few millennia ago. Now, go on. Read the runes!"   

I made another mental note to ask my old man when exactly he'd met Odin next time I saw him.  

No one had moved yet. The Allfather sighed and shook his head. "Do I need to get my own magician? Really, no one is prepared. Hearthstone?" There was silence for a few moments before I saw Magnus tug on the blonde's sleeve. He popped up from the crowd, waving his hand. He made his way quickly to the front, one hand wrapped around what looked like a cloth pouch, but what was in it, I had no idea.  

Mr. Secretary eyed him suspiciously. "An elf?" He said. Odin arched an eyebrow. "Do you doubt the Allfather? I've chosen, now call him up." Mr. Secretary flushed. "...Hearthstone, come forward. We wish to seek your wisdom from the runes."  

The elf tripped over someone's chair right before he made it to the front, but he collected himself quickly, nodding at the Allfather. He made eye contact with Sam first, waving with his free hand. He looked at me next and I got the impression he was looking deeper than just my eyes, but then he smiled. He reached into the pouch he held in one hand, rummaging around in it for a few moments before he pulled out a handful of stones. He tucked the pouch away before he brought his other hand up, letting the stones spill into both of his cupped hands. He tossed them up into the air before letting his hands fall back to his sides.  

I expected them to fall to the ground, but they didn't. They hovered there, maybe a foot or two above the elf's head. What had Odin called him? Hearthstone? He reached above his hand, standing on the tips of his toes, and tapped each of the stones once. They spun in the air a little, rising and falling before they resumed their places, hovering in a clump just above his head.  

I only recognized the symbol on one of the stones. It was perthro, the empty cup. I liked the empty cup. But the rest of them... Hearthstone's hands started moving quickly in front of him, gestures I recognized as ASL but couldn't decipher. Odin nodded, seeming pleased. "Son of the water!" He declared to the room at large. "Son of chaos." I frowned a little, pulling my eyes from the display to Sam.  

"Where did he get that?" I whispered. She shook her head slightly. "It's one of the runes," she said. "Laguz. It's... It represents chaos, liquefying, water." I nodded a little. That was a sufficient explanation for then. I'd take it.  

"And what else do the runes tell us?" Odin asked, leaning forward. Hearth tilted his head slightly, frowning, studying the stones in the air like they could tell him something new. His hands started to move again and I felt bad that I couldn't understand the guy.  

Odin nodded again, speaking while Hearthstone signed.  

"The hero shall be the son of the sea 

The hammer of the eldest son to free.  

By enemies from both sides they shall be pursued,  

Pulled into an icy feud.  

The sea shall not be alone,   

F or to find him an owl hath flown.   

With air and light, magic and stone."  

I sighed louder and longer than I ever had before. Sam smacked me in the arm, but I wasn't to be deterred. A prophecy! Another freaking prophecy! I thought for sure I was done with those things, but no. Not today. Not ever again, apparently. "A prophecy," I muttered. "Another stinking prophecy..."  

Odin clapped his hands together once, the noise echoing throughout the hall. "Wonderful!" He said. "That was fun. Alright, that's dinner! Go on, off to decapitation!"  

There was a brief moment of silence before the warriors all rose to their feet and started leaving the dining hall. I spotted Magnus and the short guy who had come in with Odin and Hearthstone. Odin leaned off of his throne towards them. "Hey!" He called. "You there! No, not you. Behind you. Blondie!" Magnus looked up, pointing at his chest. He mouthed, Me? Odin nodded. "Yes, you! Bring him, too!" Magnus grabbed the short guy's sleeve and steered them both towards the front of the table. Magnus met my eyes and nodded, kind of like 'Sup? I nodded back.  

I turned to look at Sam. "What in the name of Zeus just happened?" I asked. "Honestly?" Sam said. "That's a good question. I think you just got issued a quest."  

A quest. "Zeus Almighty," I whispered. I did not want to go on another quest. But there was one line of the prophecy that I enjoyed - the part about the owl. Athena's animal was the owl. Annabeth was a daughter of Athena. I hoped that meant that I'd get to see Annabeth again soon.  

"Annabeth," I told Sam. "The girl on the beach with me. You said if I went with you, I'd get to see her again. Being a sort of dead warrior is kind of cool and all, but... I'd rather just go back to being a demigod. I have a baby sister and... I was going to go to college. Is there any way to reverse this?" Sam shrugged. "Not really," she said. "It's kind of permanent." I frowned. "Then why'd you bring me?" She shook her head again. "Odin asked me to personally," she said. "You're going to have to take it up with him after the quest. If anyone can get you back, it's him."  

Magnus tapped me on the shoulder and I grinned as I turned to meet him. "Awesome, man," he said. We fist bumped because we're cool like that. "I should probably introduce you to the rest of my friends." He peered over my shoulder. "Hey, Blitz! Come here!" A few seconds later, the two guys who had accompanied Odin into the room were at Magnus' side. "This is night dad and day mom," Magnus said, gesturing to them. "This is Blitz." The nicely dressed guy stuck his hand out and shook mine. "Nice to meet you," he said, smiling. "And this here is Hearth," Magnus said, gesturing to the other, the tall blonde. "He's a magician. And a pinball wizard. But mostly we just call him Hearth."  

He made eye contact with me again. He waved hello before letting his hand go loose, one finger pointed out. Then he let his fingers touch, his thumb extended upward, and he moved his hand like a fish swimming through water before he extended it to shake mine.  

Magnus made an aw sound from behind me. "Dude, that's so cool. You get a name sign!" I didn't know a whole lot about the deaf culture, but I knew that was a pretty big deal. He looked at me before he kept signing. I appreciated that he was talking directly to me even though I hadn't a clue what he was saying. Magnus translated fluently beside me. "He says you get a name sign because any family of his brother is his family." 

I was quiet for a few moments before I spoke. "Whoa," I saidd "Thanks, man. That's... That's awesome."  

Hearth gave me a thumbs-up and smiled again before taking Blitz's hand. Sure, dying wasn't so hot, but maybe there were some good things about it.  

Odin cleared his throat. "Now that you've all met," he said with a smile, "Percy, could I use your entertainment center?" I shrugged. "Yeah, sure," I said. "Knock yourself out."  

"Great," Odin said, beaming. "Up to Percy's room. Time for the presentation!"