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They Told Their Stories, Now We Tell Ours

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Chapter 1: Annabeth Chase - Remembrance

[Annabeth Chase leaned on the Big House's porch railing. Her gray eyes staring out to Half Blood Hill, wisps of blonde hair that escape the ponytail flew across her face. She turned towards me when I stumbled up the stairs. The corner of her mouth twitches upwards. "Annabeth Chase! Oh my gods, this is such a huge honor! You're my hero. I-I heard so much about you!"]

Thank you, but you shouldn't have that camcorder. It'll attract monsters.

["I rigged it. Or, erm, Lou Ellen and Nyssa rigged it. It sends out a wave of frequency similar to mortals or something like that. All I know is that it doesn't attract monsters. Is it okay if I ask you a few questions about the Battle of Manhattan? It's for my parents. They're historians and would love to know more about the war."]

Go ahead.

["What was your role in the Battle of Manhattan?"]

I was the commander alongside Percy. We led the demigods to battle. The fighting lasted for two days. And it was extremely difficult. We were severely outnumbered. For every demigod, there were maybe 30 to 50 monsters to that person. Hellhounds, dracaena, empusae, laistrygonian giants, telekhines were some of the more common ones. The only reason why we weren't overwhelmed was the automatons I had activated throughout Manhattan and Percy's deal with the East and Hudson River Gods to sink any speedboats. The air and wind Gods covered any aerial assault. The monsters just needed to be stopped at the bridges. So we assigned each cabin to a bridge to defend. Percy and I fought wherever we were needed.

[Annabeth paused and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.]

Don't repeat any of the monster names I said outside of the barrier.

["O-Okay. Um, I heard Ares Cabin wasn't there?" Annabeth nodded.]

Right. There was an argument between Clarisse and Michael the day before about a flying chariot and whom it rightfully belong too. Michael won it for his cabin but decided to give it to Ares cabin. Clarisse's pride got in the way and they refuse to fight. Her cabin arrived later in the battle, the second day if I remembered right.

They came at the right time though. We were having trouble with a drakon. Without Clarisse and her cabin, I'm not sure how that day would have ended.

Even so, we were left shorthanded the first day. It was a stroke of luck Thalia and the Hunters showed up and covered Lincoln Tunnel.

["I also heard from one of my friends that all the mortals were asleep?"]

Yes, Morpheus had put a spell over the city. Every mortal that comes within range fell asleep. The only exception being Rachel, our oracle. Have you ever spoke with her? Don't bring up helicopters when you do. It brings back bad memories for her. And she's the one person you definitely don't want to anger. In addition to the spell, Hecate influenced any incoming drivers to steer away from Manhattan. Time was slowed on some freeways as well.

The cars that littered the streets of Manhattan provided some excellent cover. Once the mortal inside is moved to a safer location, of course.

But even with the help of the Hunters and the Party Ponies, we were being pushed backed. The monsters advanced and we fell back to the Empire State Building. And in a surprise attack by the Titan Lord, he broke through our defenses. He headed for the Gods' Throne Room to destroy the connection between Olympus and the mortal world. He wanted to tear Olympus down, brick by brick.

But we stopped him. Me, Percy, Grover, and Thalia.

After the Titan Lord fell, the gods burst through the doors. And that was the end of the war.

["Can you tell me more about how Kronos was defeated?" Annabeth tensed.]

He was defeated. By Luke. Luke died a hero.

And don't say his name. It gives him power.

["But there has to be-" She gave me a look with her steely, gray eyes. "Don't push this topic or you'll regret it," they say. So instead I asked, "Didn't you take a hit for Percy?" Annabeth relaxed and rolled her eyes.]

Seaweed Brain had left his back wide open. There was no time to raise my sword to counter otherwise I would have.

Thank the gods we had Will Solace or I would have died.

["That's so sweet."]

Does that answer all of your questions?

["I guess," Annabeth nodded and pushed off the porch railing. She said goodbye and walked pass me, but she paused on the stairs. She looked back, eyebrows furrowed.]

There's something strange about you. You remind me of someone I once knew.

["Is that good?" Annabeth did not answer right away. Intense eyes bored into mine.]

Yes. You two had the same aura.

I'll see later, Riley. Hope your parents like the video.

["Oh! I got one more question! Can you tell me the story where Clarisse got her Ares Blessing?" Annabeth ruffled my head.]

Go ask her yourself. I'm sure she would love to tell you.

[I pouted, "But she's so scary."]

Yeah, I suppose she is but if you want the story than you have to work for it.

Chapter 2: Regret

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[Clarisse La Rue, sporting the camp's usual orange shirt and khakis, shined her sword on the bench of the Training Center. Surrounding us were campers with various assortments of weaponry. The clang and clatter of metal on metal in the background a constant. Clarisse sat cross-legged towards me, intensely focused, glaring daggers at her perfectly clean weapon. She lifted it and held it parallel to her face, face reflecting in the blade. She tsked at an invisible spot and went back to rubbing and scrubbing.]

You want to know about the Second Titan War, huh? Normally, I would beat up anyone who asks me about this stupid as fuck war but since you're from the Hermes Cabin, I'll make an exception. The only exception. Anyone who comes after me asking for more stories will get a knuckle sandwich.

This war started because of Luke fucking Castellan, ex-counselor of Hermes Cabin. And let me tell you, Luke was a real piece of -wait, does this have to be kid friendly? It does? Well, shit.

[Clarisse muttered a few words underneath her breath.]

Luke was a...he was a...monster? No, that's doing the monsters an injustice. He was a demon, devil, Satan. He was a thousand times worse than any monsters you find on the streets. Worse than any Greek gods. At least nobody expected them to care about us or even give a crap. But Luke, he had so many people believing in him, looking up and adoring him. He was their friend, older brother, leader when most had nothing. And what did he do? He used their trust, manipulated and tricked them, send them to die.

I could never forgive someone who treat their followers like that. I don't care how he died or what he did in the end. He's still a shitty person that should burn in the depths of Tartarus.

Personally, I never felt that way towards that sniveling little piece of cow dung when I was unclaimed but Chris, Silena, practically everyone did. Before she was claimed I used to visit Silena in the Hermes Cabin and every time she had something new to say about Luke. "Oh, Clarisse. Luke taught us how to hold a sword!" "He's so kind. He gave me a sleeping bag and even offered me his bed!" "Oh my gods, you wouldn't believe what Luke did today!"

Total bulldung. I wanted to tear my ears out.

["How did you feel about Luke?" Clarisse scowled.]

Weren't you listening? He's an awful piece of crap that should have never, ever been granted access to Elysium. He's not a real hero. Not after all the deaths and sufferings he caused.

["Then what about Silena? I heard she-" Clarisse snarled. She swung the sword to my neck, blade inches from contact. The clangs and clatters stopped.]

Silena was different! She was blackmailed! Luke, on the other hand, had a choice. And he chose to let Kronus control his body.

Look, anymore word about Silena and I swear I'll dunk your camcorder in the river.

["O-o-okay. Sorry." The sword lowered. The training resumed albeit hesitantly. Anybody who approached us received an icy glare and backed away quickly. Clarisse stared at the ground for a few minutes then groan and bury a hand in her unruly hair. She whispered a few unheard words and rested her chin on her hands.]

I'm going to tell you something about the war. Something I wish I could push behind me.

We at the Ares Cabin are known for our pride and stubbornness. We like to believe we're always right and just like the Athena Cabin, we don't like to think we're in the wrong. Even if the chances are likely. Even if everyone is screaming at our faces that we're wrong. Even if they spell it out for me my friend was nothing but a filthy traitor. Nothing can change our minds. We're just stubborn like that. Maybe it came from our dad.

When Luke left, Chris left with him.

The day he left, he asked me to meet him at Thalia's Pine. He…He tried to convince me to go with him. I didn't understand why back then. The way I saw it he was betraying the camp because his cabin was a teensy bit overcrowded. We departed ways on uneven terms. He told me I'll never understand and I told him to go break a leg and die.

He was my friend, one out of the two, and rather than help him, I got angry and told him Camp doesn't need a guy like him. Maybe if I had been more understanding or sympathetic, Chris wouldn't have left to be with Luke.

I've always been an angry kid, something I'm working on, but after he left it was like the fire was constantly being fed more and more kindling. I never been so bitter and angry in my life.

Every second, I wanted to pick a fight with someone. Whether it be Prissy or Annabeth. Or the Stoll brothers or Michael.

[Clarisse swiped a hand over her face.]

I wasn't proud of who I was. I was a bully. An arrogant piece of shit.

I hurt people because of how similar they look to the guy I hated. Blond hair, crooked smiles, impish features, snotty attitudes. Anything that resembles Luke made me saw red.

Then I found Chris in the Labyrinth. And-and I felt relieved. Even when he was insane, the fire quelled. Because Chris was here. He's alive. And I remember thinking even if Chris never comes back mentally, that's fine because he's alive and that's all that matters.

I try to tell myself that every time I visited him.

To, you know, make it more bearable.

Did you know how hard it was to see this cool, collected boy I had crushed on since I was 11 in that state? I wanted to kill Luke every time I visited Chris. I wanted to stab my spear through his blond little head, dig my hands into his eyes and pull them out, gut him open and stuff his own intestines down his fucking throat. Chris was his brother! How could he do that to his brother? How could he rant about equality and equal treatment when he can't even treat his brother right?

I'm grateful to Mr. D. Never thought he cared about us but I guess he did. Chris was cured because of him and I thought it was over. I can finally hang out with my two friends and maybe things can go back to the way they were before.

I can't believe I was that naive. Of course things can't go back to the way they were before. Chris had a major problem (oh-my-gods, that stupid idiot with his fucking guilt complex), Silena was acting strange and distant, and we were all on the edge, ready for an all-out war.

I thought I became a better person after I found Chris. That I grown somewhat since that day.

[Clarisse looked down at the blade in her lap. Her hands clench the handle of the sword in a vice-like grip, knuckles ice white. Her eyes squeezed shut.]

But I was still the same little idiot.

I'm sure Annabeth told you but the Ares cabin arrived later in the battle. It was over this really dumb flying chariot. I don't even know why I fought so hard for it back then.

The day of the battle when they were boarding the truck, Michael Yew had came up to me and apologized. He actually apologized and if you knew Michael, he wasn't one to crack first. He said I could have the chariot and you know what I did? I shoved Michael in the chest and said my cabin still wasn't fighting, that "you're on your own."

Michael gave me a scathing look. And was probably about to whack me in the head with his bow when Will tapped his shoulder and said "We have to go." Michael gave me one last glare and said he'll deal with me when he came back.

Even now, I could remember their faces. Will's and Michael's disappointed. My siblings' unsure and some angry. They wanted to fight. They wanted to defend their home and our dad. But I stopped them. Because of a chariot.

So for the first day of the battle, I just destroyed sandbags in the training center. Chris was there with me. He tried to convince me to join the battle and to "think about what I'm doing." I ignored him. Such a considering girlfriend.

The only ones still at camp were the older pegasi and some nymphs as well as Peleus. The dining pavilion was ghost quiet. Not a sound. Just the clanking of forks and spoons.

Of course I was worried about them. They were 40 puny demigods versus hundreds, thousands of monsters. There were even 10 and 11 year olds fighting. Not to mention Demeter's and Aphrodite's kids are wimpy and would probably faint from the sight of blood but my pride wouldn't let me go.

I didn't sleep that night. I was afraid of the dreams I would get.

The next day, Silena came to talk to me. She was still in her Greek armor, splattered with blood. I hoped it was the blood of the enemy and not friends. She jumped off the pegasi a few feet above the ground. I guess she tried to act like some kind of cool badass but she stumbled and looked more like a bumbling idiot.

She wasn't cut out for battle. But she still fought. Just like Katie and Drew. Malcolm. Trixie.

Silena tried to convince me to join the fight. She said that they're outnumbered and if the Ares Cabin would join then maybe everybody wouldn't be so terrified.

I didn't listen. I ignored her just like I ignored Chris and locked myself in the cabin. When I heard the fluttering of wings, I thought she went back to Manhattan. I didn't think she would actually…

["Imposter as you and lead the Ares Cabin?"]

Yeah, that.

She took my armor and led my siblings into battle.

Either Silena looked more like me than I thought or I have the dumbest siblings ever. Or maybe they were itching to fight and this was their door in. I don't know. I never bothered asking them.

By the time I noticed, everybody was gone. I spent ten minutes looking for Chris-you know what that idiot was doing? Cleaning the stables. All of camp to himself and he's scooping poop off the ground. But within 5 minutes we were in the air.

As we raced our way to Manhattan-well, raced wouldn't be the right word. More like breezed. The only pegasi left were the two oldest, Buttercup and Leafstorm. They're too old to be in battle but I had no choice. As we breezed our way to Manhattan, we strapped on our battle gear. I looked over to the left at the head of the chariot and would you believe it, the fucking chariot I was riding on was the one I was fighting Michael over.

I made a promise to myself that when I see that little fireball I'll apologized. Give him a little punch in the arm and move on with my life. But it didn't happen like that.

After I arrived and kicked butt, I was searching through the lobby in the Empire State Building, injured demigods left and right-

["Wait, wait, wait. What happened to the drakon slaying? Your Ares Blessing?" Clarisse scowled.]

I'm skipping that. Percy and Annabeth probably remember better than I do what happen. Go bother them for the details. So as I was saying, I was in the lobby. I saw Will tending to the injured. He looked like shit. Like any second he was about to drop dead. I saw Kayla and Austin, chatting by the entrance but their muscles were tight and their eyes were locked outside, prepared for any incoming attacks. But no Michael. So I went over to Will and asked if Michael's around. Kayla, Austin, all of Apollo's kids stiffen. Will looked at me, no looked isn't the right word, he glared at me. And I took a step back. I'm not ashamed to admit I was scared for a bit.

This is Will we're talking about. Laid back, level-headed Will. I've never seen him raise his voice let alone angry before.

He shoved a bow into my hands and spat out, "No, he's not."

[Clarisse looked over to a girl in the shooting range, bow and arrow in hand.]

Another regret in the list of many.

Chapter 3: Anger

 

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[I found Will in the infirmary, alone. He sat in a chair, back turned to me and tossing a roll of gauze in his hands when I approached him. He jumped a mile high in the sky when I tapped his shoulder. His usual smile came forth but it dropped when I asked him about the war. For a brief second, his eyes turned cold and detached then he was back. He forced a smile and gestured to the chair across from him.]

It's not something that I like to talk about.

[Will gave a light chuckle.]

It's something that I'd like to never think about actually.

I was here before Percy. Just a little bit before. Maybe a week or two. And I'm not gonna lie. When I first met Luke, I thought he was the greatest. He was nice and understanding. He gave me a sleeping bag and toiletries, cleared me a space on the floor, and even stopped me from stepping right into a prank from the Stolls. He made sure I was as comfortable as I can be and helped me make friends with the rest of the Hermes Cabin. I knew everybody's name by the end of the day. Then when I was claimed and moved to Apollo's cabin, Luke threw a small party.

Lee Fletcher was the counselor of Apollo cabin at that time. You probably don't know him. Tall dude, really friendly, easiest person to talk too, had a voice like an angel and a knack for every instrument there is. He was actually the lead lyre player and singer back then for the campfire songs.

[His eyes moved to the window.]

I'll admit I did not take the threat as seriously as I could in the beginning.

Luke left, so what? He's angry about the way the gods treated us, who wasn't back then? It wasn't that big of a deal to me. But Michael, Lee, all of the older campers were more concerned. It wasn't until the incident with Thalia's Pine that I became more worried.

It was like a wake-up slap. Everyone was on high alert. We were all scared because Luke nearly took away the only place we ever felt safe in. And we had no idea what he has planned or what he's capable of.

But even with that danger looming over us, camp still felt like camp, you know? We still sang campfire songs. We still play capture-the-flag. The Hermes Cabin was still being a total bother. The Ares kids were still picking on people. It felt like nothing changed and if you try hard enough, you could even forget the crisis we were in.

[Will shook his head and smiled but it lacked the usual spirit.]

I guess Lee, the head counselors, were the reason why. It's hard to dwell about the war when you have no time to just sit and think. They made sure we were busy from sunrise to curfew. Every second of the day, there was always something to do. "Free time" sort of became "cabin time" where we do whatever we want together as a cabin.

I know Athena cabin spent their free time in the arts and crafts building. Ares spend theirs watching old war documentaries and De...Demeter cabin started a vegetable garden and apple orchard. I think Hermes cabin spent their time playing cards or board games. We spent ours just chilling in our cabin and playing instruments or writing poems.

But looking back, it was obvious they were preparing us. Training increased, we had more in-depth lessons about the Greek tales and the monsters. No one really joked around in those classes.

[Will grew more quiet and I had to strain to hear him.]

They all tried so hard. Lee...Lee never stopped smiling. He was always so cheerful and optimistic, always telling us everything will work out in the end. I remember how he used to sing lullabies to us before bed. How he used to give the best hugs. His stupid, corny jokes. The Sunday nights music lessons. His laughs...

[Then Will looked up at me.]

Then the Battle of the Labyrinth happened and Lee died.

Together, we made Lee's burial shroud and Michael lighted it, the flames licking at the twinkling night sky. I remember looking up and wondering if Lee was already up there with the stars. Pollux was beside me. His head was buried in his hands and looped around his arm was Castor's, his brother, bead necklace. He was mumbling something but I couldn't understand what he was saying. I wanted to comfort him but what could I say?

All you could hear that night was the fires roaring and sobbing.

It was...depressing. That day and the days following after.

We stopped having late-night sing-a-alongs, free time was now spent shooting arrows in the range, there was no happy atmosphere.

Michael tried to fill the void Lee left. But

[Will chuckled.]

If you ever met Michael, you know he isn't exactly the nurturing type. His temper could match Zeus on his best days. He was a crude, hot-tempered, very sharp-tongued counselor. If you told him Clarisse made fun of your hair, Michael would dye his blue, green, pink, whatever he could get his hands on and prance around the camp. If you tell him an Aphrodite kid made fun of your clothes, he would dress in the most ridiculous outfit he could and march around for maybe a week or two. He was always defending us, like an older, overprotective brother.

I remember this one time Kayla complained to Michael that the Stoll brothers won't stop pranking her. Michael declared a prank war on them. He lost, horribly. He ended up in the infirmary four sometimes five times a day. Bruised and battered, but always up the next day and ready to go.

[Will smiled softly. He toyed with the box of band aids in his hands.]

Only 4'6" but had the spirit of a giant.

To be honest, I can't wait to see Michael and Lee again. I have so many stories to tell them.

I'm sure you heard of the reason why the Ares Cabin arrive later in the battle, right?

[I nodded. The box of band-aids in his hand crinkled. And even though he kept his tone even, the underlying bitterness could not go unnoticed.]

It was the dumbest reason ever. They were fighting over a chariot we had taken from Kronos while Ares Cabin had the army distracted. A chariot! We were in a time of war. Beckendorf just died. There was a spy among us and Michael and Clarisse were dueling it out over a dumb, ancient piece of garbage. And even after Michael came to his senses and gave the chariot to Clarisse, she still refused to fight. I just-it was-I-Argh!

We were fighting for our lives and home. Not just for our parents! If Olympus had fallen what would have happen to us? Kronus would have either killed or enslaved us all! How could she be so selfish, so self-centered, so narrow minded as to abandon us, the camp like that?

[Will rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed.]

I'm not mad at Clarisse. She already apologized. I just wonder how many deaths could have been avoided if they had been there with us from the start. Silena, Michael, Trixie, Henry, Clover.

[In a few seconds, he seemed to age a decade. His voice became bitter.]

When Michael was up at that bridge, waving and guiding Percy. I felt something. Maybe because dad is the God of Prophecy, but there was a tug in my gut.

When the bridge blew up, I knew we were searching for a dead body.

Percy either must have the same sense I did or didn't care about Michael because he spared no time dragging me onto a motorcycle and racing off to Annabeth. I wanted to help my siblings find his body but I guess as one of the few healers that would be a waste of time.

I'm not sure what the others describe me as when they tell their stories but I was a nervous wreck. So many people were getting hurt and there's only so much Ambrosia and Nectar on stock. And the bandages, gauzes, isopropyl alcohol, basically our first aid supplies were draining fast. I nearly killed myself trying to heal Annabeth. There was no choice but to steal from the stores so we don't bleed out on the streets.

And even though I'm sure that wasn't the case back then, I felt like everyone, everything was suffocating me.

"Will, Caleb is bleeding! It's not stopping! Can you patch him up?"

"Will, can you splint Max's arm?"

"Oh my gods, Jeanine twisted her ankle. Her bone is sticking out."

I wanted to help everyone but every second I turned to one patient, another one showed up that needed more help. By the second day, we were out of ambrosia and nectar, as well as mortal first aid supplies. I was drained spiritually. I probably couldn't even heal a paper cut.

When we all fall back to the Empire State Building, the situation wasn't any better. Everybody was hurt in some way or another.

There was so much chaos, so much disorder. It was crazy.

… I remember feeling suffocated and angry. So very angry. Angry that Michael's dead. Angry that Percy dragged me away from my brothers and sisters. Angry that I'm the new counselor. Angry that I'm out of supplies. Angry that my friends are dying when I could have saved them. Angry at Clarisse, at Luke, at Silena, at everybody for being so annoying and bothersome.

I was like a cup being overfilled with water and on the verge of tipping. And I took it all out at the wrong person.

["What did you do?" I asked timidly.]

I shouted at Travis. I screamed at him, called him as many insults as I could, even the crude ones going on through camp about the Hermes cabin that I promised I would never use, and told him he should have been the one to die rather than Lee, Michael.

There was a crowd of demigods surrounding us. They were all shocked as was I. I didn't know why I did it, honestly. Travis and Connor were my oldest friends. I would never hurt them intentionally. But that moment, I saw Travis's face, thought about Hermes, then Luke and next thing I know I'm up in his face.

["What did Travis do?" Will leaned back and looked at the ceiling. He sighed and curl a hand through his hair.]

Nothing.

When I was done, he pressed a bottle of water into my hand, said, "You look like shit," and left.

[Will played with the box of band-aid in his hand. "Did you ever apologize?"]

Tons. Every chance I get. He always told me to forget it. Other times he says I got the wrong Stoll but I know I was speaking with the right one.

I'm so ashamed of myself. I could never forgive what I did.

He and his brother are actually the reason why I accepted my role as head counselor.

["Why?" Will ignored me.]

Have you spoken with either brother yet?

[I shook my head.]

No matter what either of them might say, they were the best head counselor the camp have and will probably ever have.

["Really?" Will nodded.]

Had it been anyone else I'm not sure there would even be a Hermes Cabin left.

Chapter 4: Resentment

 

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[Drew Tanaka scowled as she packed up her equipment.]

What's there to say?

[She pushed past me, walking fast. Her eyes remained forward, cold and hard.]

There was a battle. People died, Luke was defeated, and we won. End of story.

["What about Silena?" Drew walked faster.]

Silena betrayed the camp. She's nothing but a filthy traitor.

Now get out of my way, sweetie. I don't have time to chat with nosy, little unclaims.


[Jake Mason sat in one of the few chairs in the camp's forgery. He sat on the edge, head down, and stared intensely at a Rubik's cube in his hand.]

I don't know what to say. Annabeth, Percy, and Nico can give you all the details of the war. Will, Clarisse, and Malcolm can probably fill everything else in. What's the point of asking me?

["I just want to know what you think of the war. Did you think it was pointless like Clarisse?"]

Pointless? No.

I could understand why Luke did what he did.

I was kicked out of my home when I was ten. A satyr found me by chance and brought me here along with the kid he was picking up. For three years, I stayed in the Hermes Cabin. Three years. If you think the cabin is crowded now, you should see it back then. There wasn't even room to walk to the door and mornings were utter chaos. Luke had to set a limit of three minutes for the bathrooms. Inspections were always borderline passing.

I remember Luke would take an Advil after every morning routine. He looked so tired.

But anyway, I knew who my father is. My mother told me before she slammed the door on my back.

And I was good with my hands and fixing things, so there's that.

But years passed. Dad didn't claim me or answer my prayers. I spent my days sulking and watching kids be claimed before me.

I had given up being claimed but then Beckendorf came along.

Within a day, Hephaestus's symbol, a red hammer, shone above his head and bath the dining pavilion in its red glow. It felt like someone punched me in the chest.

I ran out of there as the cheers began.

I wanted to leave. Anywhere would be better than here, waiting for a sign that's never going to come.

I ran to Half Blood Hill and scaled up Thalia's Pine. When I was at the top, and I could see all of Camp, I took out my Rubik's cube. Mom said it was my father's gift to me when I was born.

I prayed to my father to please show me a sign. To please show that he still remembers me.

There was nothing. I heard nothing. I saw nothing.

He didn't care and I hurled the cube out into the fields.

...

None of them really care. Malcolm, Miranda, Drew stayed just as long as me in the Hermes Cabin. A lot of demigods aged out of camp unclaimed.

Nothing changed after Luke left. Not even when a quarter of the camp went with him.

They didn't try to talk to us. They didn't claim their children. They didn't try to earn our loyalty. They expected everything from us yet gave nothing.

I felt bitter from just being forgotten. I could never begin to imagine how those demigods on the streets felt. It's no wonder why Luke was able to recruit hundreds, thousands of demigods.

I'm not saying Luke was justified in what he did. There must have been a better and less costly alternative. We lost many friends. There were too many casualties. So many people were hurt.

[Jake rubbed the bridge of his nose.]

You said you talked with Drew?

["Yeah, but she didn't really want to talk."]

Drew's actually pretty considerate and a great friend once you get pass her cold, bitchy exterior.

Most of us find a way to cope. Her method isn't one I approve of but I'm not one to judge.

You need to go. Athena's cabin is using the forgery soon and you don't want to see the crazy stuff they can make.

Trust me. There's a 95% chance you'll get your head sliced open.

And I am not dealing with that again.

Chapter 5: Shame

 

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[Malcolm is a small, quiet guy. His matted hair brushing the brim of his black rimmed glasses. With his wiry frame and timidity it was hard to believe this is the guy who led his cabin to battle, who fought toe to toe with Clarisse, who single-handedly slayed 5 laistrygonian giants, who Annabeth said was the most toughest kid in her cabin. We sat in Athena's Cabin library. He played with his camp beads and stare at the bookshelves behind me.]

The Second Titan War.

I wish for nothing more than to forget those four years.

[He paused, eyebrows furrowing.]

We were…we were the most prepared cabin I guess you can say. We had a plan for every monster we face, a way to stop them, kill them, stall, maim, slow. We thought and practiced countless scenarios and situations where one of us was trapped or injured or surrounded. Even our youngest, 13, was well-versed in all of our tactics.

["Was this Annabeth's idea?" Malcolm shook his head, a bitter edge to his tone.]

No. It was mine. Annabeth had nothing to do with the planning. I don't even think she has a clue as to what we were doing. She was too busy being on quests or hanging with Percy. I think I spent more time doing her duties as counselor than she ever did.

It was to be expected though. She had a lot on her shoulders and I was glad to take some of the burden but, I'm going to be honest, she's an abhorrent counselor. A lot of our younger siblings are absolutely terrified of her. They wouldn't even tell her if they're staying year-round or going home.

She's more suited to be a commander than a counselor, I think.

[Oh.]

Athena Cabin is unlike the rest. We don't have Hephaestus cabin innate knowledge of machines nor Ares cabins natural weaponry skills. We can't grow trees, make water move, or unlock doors with our minds.

But what we lacked in godly powers, we made up in intellect. We pick up on crafts, machinery fairly quickly. We can design, plan, and counter faster than any demigod.

We were…the only cabin to go home without a casualty.

["You must have been relieved, happy." Malcolm grimaced and he fisted his camp necklace.]

Relieved? Yes. Happy? No. 16 of my fellow brethren passed away.

["I-I-yeah, I didn't mean-"]

16 died. When it should have been none. When it could have been none.

In a battle it doesn't matter how well-trained you are. What truly matters is luck. There is no guarantee everything won't go exactly hand in hand with your plans. A monster may get a lucky strike in. A demigod may lose focus. Even something as small as an untied shoelace could turn the shift of the battle. So whenever we could, we limit their numbers so less of us had to engage physically.

Mikaela was the one who came up with the idea to line the bridge with pockets of burstable greek fire. Just a little brush against the thin wrapping was enough. And it was not particularly difficult to weave ropes into barriers or traps. We had made woven baskets for shields, pottery for stink bombs, and so many more.

Our more talented crafters could knit and crochet scarves and gloves that were impervious to poison and tears. I couldn't tell you how many times those knittings and crochets saved my life.

We made enough so each of our siblings were well protected and equipped.

We could have made enough for everyone in the camp back then…but we didn't.

["Why didn't you?" Malcolm looked away. His hand holding his necklace tightened.]

Because of a grudge, my grudge.

When Luke left so did a fourth of the camp. Most came from the Hermes cabin but there was still a few from each cabin. It wasn't talked about much but it was easy to see. Less people at a table, empty beds, missing weapons. And although our cabin had less than the others, there was some…comments, to put it lightly, about our loyalty.

Most of it stem from the fact that Annabeth was Luke's closest friend.

Suddenly, it was like middle school all over again. People whispering behind our backs. Pointing and sneering. Spitballs and noogies and wedgies. It was annoying but bearable. I keep telling myself it would be over soon. They'll snap out of it and realize how foolish they're being and we can all go back to being friends. So we endured it.

It grew worse after Thalia's Pine was poisoned. Training sessions became excuses to beat us up. Spiders-black widows and tarantulas and brown recluse-pop up in our beds and bathroom. Our belongings were vandalized and trashed. Monsters would attack us during Capture the Flag games, avoiding all other campers. Clarisse, the biggest bully of them all, would constantly torment me and my younger siblings. Two of my younger brothers said they didn't want to deal with this and left. Maybe to Luke, I have no idea. I never saw them again.

["What did Annabeth do?" Malcolm gave a bitter smile.]

Annabeth, surprisingly, did nothing.

I don't know if she knew about the situation we faced or just assume it's nothing but play. I wish I could say for certain. There's no one idiotic enough to prank her, except for maybe the Stoll brothers but she's used to their tactics. Like I said, she's always on a quest or hanging with Percy.

Most of it came to a halt when we started fighting back. Several dislocated joints, fractured arms, and a close beheading earned us the reputation of being a cabin not to be messed with.

Some apologize. As if that will smooth over the 2 years of bullying.

I could have, no, I should have been the bigger person. I shouldn't have encouraged our behavior. I shouldn't have isolated us. But I harbored a grudge.

For the next two years of the war, we kept to ourselves. Made weapons, armors, plans. We perfected our fighting styles till we were all hyper-aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses. We let monsters into practice, no problem in dispatchment.

We have never been stronger as a unit but...

The day of the battle in Manhattan, we defended our post and we all walk away with just bruises. All alive and together, victorious. When we fall back to the Empire State Building, Annabeth's orders, and faced the others that's when my euphoria begin to dim. Everywhere we see demigods bleeding, abrasions and lacerations common among the standing. The sitting, though, were…

I walked through the chaos while my siblings wandered away in a daze.

I saw Will sitting outside of the Empire State Building, drinking a bottle of water. He stared off into space. He was pale, almost gray. His sunken eyes shifted to me as I near him. "Malcolm, glad to see you're alive," he said, "Anyone injured?"

I shook my head.

"That's great," and he got up and left, most likely to attend to more people.

There was a pit in my stomach, a sinking feeling.

I entered the building. Saw Clarisse, a bow in her hand, leaning over a body in armor. Drew in the corner sobbing into a scarf. Travis and Connor dragging limp bodies over to a pile of covered lumps, taking their necklaces away.

[Malcolm grimaced.]

Katie was over by the lumps. She held one of the hand of the covered bodies.

I didn't know what compelled me to walk over to her but I did.

She was rocking back and forth on her heels, whispering, "I'm sorry," over and over into the hand she held. I knelt beside her. The hand she held was small. The child couldn't have been older than 12. From the side, I stared at her. Blood speckled her cheeks. Bits and pieces of Athena know what littered throughout her hair.

I expected her to be crying but she wasn't. She just stared with wide, glossy eyes at the ground as she rocks back and forth. I wanted to say something. But I didn't know what. All I could do was just stare at her and think.

Before… Katie's like the camp mom, she's used to be so…Katie used to have the warmest eyes. But there, they were so cold, so empty.

A few seconds passed then Katie blinked and turned to me. She let go of the hand-it hit the ground with a thump-and said, "Malcolm?" like she couldn't believe it was me. She gave me a tight hug. Her shirt was wet, plastering to mine. Rusting iron filled my nostrils. She pulled away with a wet squelch.

She asked if I was hurt. If I lost anybody. I said no.

She looked away. Her hands went up to cover her mouth and she lowered her head but I could still hear the pained whimper. When she finally look up there was a shaky smile. "That's amazing, Malcolm. I wish I was as strong as you. I-I need to start helping.."

Something rattled by her hand when she stood up. Five necklaces rattled from her arm.

I never hated myself so much.


Next Chapter: Guilt

Chapter Text

[Katie Gardner sat rigid in the chair, eyes on her hands. Her fidgeting hands tapped an irregular rhythm on the table in front of her. A box of tissue in the center of the table the only object dividing us in the Big House. By her side, Miranda Gardiner and an unknown older man stood. Former rock still and stoic. Latter casting worried glances to Katie every few minutes.]

Chaos. That was the only word to describe it. Absolute chaos. Ichor and blood everywhere. Dead bodies, both demigods and mortals, littered the streets. Monsters in every corner, every alley, and every street. Everybody was scared. They’re lying if they tell you they weren’t.

We weren’t prepared in the slightest. I mean, yes, we were trained to kill monsters. To use a sword, spear, bow and arrows. To use any “godly powers” we had. But it’s one thing to practice on a single sometimes two or three dummies and another to actually kill a dozen, two dozens monsters dripping with your friends’ blood. It’s different. You’re blinded with fear, adrenaline is pumping through your veins, your nerves telling you to slash at anything that so much as breath in your direction.

We weren’t fighters and we’re not powerful. Not like the way Ares, Athena, and Hephaestus cabins are. We used our powers to tend to the strawberry fields and to decorate our cabin. We weren’t super smart or have instinctive weapon fighting skills. Yeah, we had Miranda and Clover who were the best at plant control, but most of us could barely spar one on one with our fellow campers let alone handle three or four monsters.

We were all shaking and crying. Praying to our mom to help us, protect us.

She didn’t answer our prayers.

But we fought. We all stood up when the call was raised (Unlike a certain cabin).

[The drumming grew faster. Miranda narrowed her eyes. Katie’s gaze remained locked on the tissue box as she recounts the tale.]

We were assigned to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the point where the Hudson and East River splits. Right where we could see the speedboats coming our way. I nearly vomited when I saw it was packed from front to back with monsters and demigods.

But something happen. The water swirled and waves rose and envelop the boats. We watched the river gods sink the enemy's boats and drown monsters and demigods alike. We could hear their screams of terror and cries for help from where we were. They treaded water for seconds before they’re sucked down into the water.

I looked away. My brother started weeping. My chest tightened, like someone have their hand on my heart and they’re slowly squeezing. They were our enemy but…

[Katie’s eyes clenched. They reopen after a few moments, cold and controlled.]

We kept the younger children in the back. The older and more experienced on the front lines.

We lined both tunnels with vines and poison ivy and every other plant we could think off. We thought that if we could trickle the flow of monsters down to maybe two or three it would be more manageable.

It didn’t turn out that way. Nothing goes your way when you’re a half-blood.

They had some kind of poison, it destroyed and disintegrated our defenses within seconds. And in no time we were swarmed with monsters.

[Her voice held a slight tremble.]

It wasn’t a huge surprise Trixie was the first to die.

A hellhound had rushed past me as I was occupied with an empusae. My sword clipped its shoulder but it continue to ran. I could hear her terrified screams behind me, screeching, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” and the beast snarling and the clanging of metal. When I turned my head, she had her sword deep in the hellhound’s shoulder joint before it turned into dust. Could you believe she didn’t ran away? I…I was so proud.

[A tear trickle down Katie’s cheek and the drumming stopped. Miranda said in a warning tone, “Katie.”]

She was so brave.

The bravest 10 year old I’ve ever met.

Another hellhound tackled her to the ground. Her sword clattered to the ground. She clawed for her weapon, screaming and crying, “Katie, please help me. Katie!” It dragged her from her calf, pulling her off to the side. I tried to save her. But I wasn’t fast enough. Every second a monster would appear from behind, slowing me down. It takes me two strikes to kill them. One strike too many. Trixie was being pulled further away from me. Soon she slipped from my vision. Then her screaming stop. I should have stopped there. It’s clear that she’d d…

But I didn’t.

I still thought I could save her so I followed the trail of blood.

I followed it to an alley. It had bitten her arms off and torn open her chest. It was still buried in her stomach when I walked up to it. The monster looked up right when I plunged my sword into its eye.

[Miranda tensed. She looked over to the right, to the open window, and I followed her gaze. Nothing out of the ordinary---wait, are the strawberry fields...are they...shaking? Katie’s voice grew unsteadier.]

I remember thinking in that alley…

Trixie’s dead. Trixie’s dead. She’s dead. I screwed up. She’s dead because of me. But I’ll be more observant next time. Stronger. Faster. I’ll make sure no one else dies. I’ll protect them.

So I grabbed her necklace and stuff it in my back pocket before I ran back out to the battle.

We fought for so long. More and more monsters flood in. We were being pushed back. Overwhelmed, running only on adrenaline alone. Monsters surrounded us on all sides. No one could help one another. We each probably have two to three monsters. The ones we slayed were soon replaced with another. And behind the lines of monsters, I could see them. Dressed in full Greek armor, shuffling around and kicking cans. Not one looked our way.

Damien was the next to fall. Clubbed to death by a giant, a stain of dark red on asphalt. I chopped the giant’s limbs off, his pained screams did nothing to quell the fire in my chest, before I dug through the mess of what used to be my gardening buddy. I pocketed his necklace after beheading the giant.

I told myself there won’t be a next time.

Then Little Joshua was sliced in half by an empusae. I ripped out her vocal cords not a second after. Joshua’s blank expression stared back at me when I slip the necklace out. I closed his eyes. Green, I remember, like mine. But just a shade darker.

A few moments later Henry was poisoned. By what, we have no idea. We brought him into the closest building. Me and two others were inside, the others were out fighting. Every second, Henry grew worse and worse. Seizures wrack his body, blood was erupting from every orifice of his body. We press our last remaining ambrosia to his lips, urging him to open and swallow. Whatever he eats, he throws up. Ambrosia and nectar don’t work unless it’s in your stomach. There was nothing I could do. I could feel the hand tightened. I stood up and turned to leave when he snagged the tips of my fingers. He gasped out, blood spurting everywhere, “It hurts, Katie. It hurts so bad. Please, please help me.”

Henry looked at me with desperation. I wanted to plead with him. To hold out a bit longer. Maybe Will or some healer will come by. And he’ll be fine. But it was a lie. I haven’t seen Percy or Annabeth all day, who promised they’ll go around and help us all. What are the chances Will is going to come by? He’s with his cabin.

I took his hand into mine and nod my head. I tried to smile. I send the two out.

[More tears streak down her cheeks. Outside the sound of laughter ceased.]

Henry’s necklace was the hardest to get.

We fought for a long time after that. No monster attacked me for some reason. I had to go find some to kill. Gradually, the battlefield began to clear out. I thought we’d won. I had forgotten about them. The demigods. They stood in the back, hiding behind the wall of monsters.

When we cleared the last of the monsters, they attacked.

I was so tired. I didn’t want to fight them. They were just kids.

I would look at their faces and I would see Trixie, Joshua. They wereterrified . And their knees were shaking so badly, I wonder how they ever manage to swing the swords.

I couldn’t kill them. I couldn’t.

But they didn’t feel the same way. They fought with all they had. Every strike aimed to kill, no hesitation whatsoever.

I was careless. I didn’t paid attention to the younger ones, only the older ones. I didn’t see the dagger racing toward me. I thought it was the end but Clover…

Clover…Clover jumped in front of me. He was stabbed in the neck.

There was someone screaming, me or the stabber. Maybe both. Clover slumped against me. I pressed my hand against his wound, other hand digging through my nectar sack. I totally forgot I had used the last of it for Henry.

My chest hurt, burned, cracked when I hold Clover’s body. His life was fading fast. That stupid idiot smiled, a joke as his last words. “Katie. Don’t cry. You look like a tomato, and not a pretty one,”

[Katie’s eyes clench shut.]

My chest hurt. I couldn’t breathe. All I saw was red and Clover’s quick, hot breaths hitting me in the face. Him telling me not to cry. That it’ll be alright. To go and fight.

[The ground tremble.]

I couldn’t breathe. I looked up from Clover’s face---told myself that he wasn’t smiling---and at his killer. It was a little girl, no older than Trixie. She was trembling. She looked at me in horror, the blade close to her chest. Still dripping. She stammered something but I didn’t hear. There was a roaring in my ears. I---

[The walls rumble. The light overhead swayed. The man look around in alarm Miranda shouted, “Katie!”]

She was no older than Trixie. Yet I---.

[There’s screaming outside.]

I---

[Miranda grab Katie’s shoulders. “Breathe, Katie. Breathe.” She instructed in an even tone, but her eyes were wide and her grip a little bit too tight. I looked down, leaves sprouting from between the wooden boards. Vines crawl along the wall, enveloping items in a tight case]

I killed her. I killed them, all of them.

[Katie pressed a hand to her forehead. A tree erupted from the ground beside my chair and I could feel the Big House trembling.]

I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t want to kill them. I-I-I was protecting my friends. My family. The only family I have left. They’re all I have left. I couldn’t let anymore die. I had to do what I had to do.

I had nothing but them. They were all I had. All I had. And I couldn’t even protect that.

[There was a hacking sound and Chiron burst through the door, machete in hand, his face saddened with pity. “Miranda, I believe it is time you and Miss Riley leave.” Miranda already had her hand looped around my arm, leading me out, when Chiron spoke.]


 

[Miranda led me outside, to the back of her cabin. She sat down on the ground, chin resting on folded hands. I looked back at the Big House. The farmhouse was speared through the center by a tree. It hung 10 feet above the ground, still inching its way higher.]

We’re sisters, you know. Katie and my dad are married. Been married for three years. That’s how I met Katie. That’s how I came to Camp Half Blood.

Do you know about that huge hurricane two summers ago?

When Percy blew up Mount Saint Helen, he weakened a seal and Typhon was released. Did you watch the news? He was that hurricane that ravaged the northwest. As soon as I heard, I called home. My dad lived with Katie’s in Idaho along with her grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousin. He told us to stay here at Camp Half Blood because it’s safer.

We stayed year round for the first time. The last we saw our parents was when they dropped us off last summer.

That day…that day, my father went down to Los Angeles to visit his parents. Hours after, Typhon stormed her hometown. Her dad, grandparents, uncle, aunts, and baby cousin. They all died.

That’s what she meant. When she said we were all she had.

After the battle, she resigned. Said I would make a better counselor than her.

[Miranda picked up a rock in her hand and hurled it out into the field.]

I only accepted so she could maybe relax and find a way to deal. She didn’t.

[“What do you mean by that?”]

Just that. She didn’t.

 

Chapter 7: Grudge

 

Chapter Text

[Pollux stood on top of Half Blood Hill, hand on Thalia’s trunk, finger tracing unrecognizable patterns on the bark. He paused when I came up to him. “Hi, Pollux! My name is Riley and I was wondering if I could---”]

No

[And Pollux was heading back down to the camp. I stood on the hill for a few seconds, watching him walk away. “Rude,” I muttered under my breath and switched my camcorder off.]


In the middle of the night, amongst the snoring children, a figure stood by a bed hosting a certain 11 year old. He bends and rummages through the drawer, cursing silently at the clangs and clatters. He found the object and disappear, leaving behind a smell of fermented grapes. 

He travels to Olympus, to a simple house, knocking harshly on the wooden door. A woman, Mnemosyne, answers with a yawn. The man holds up the camcorder. “Can you implant the memories in here?”

She teases, “You ask me of such a simple task? Shame, I thought you know I’m more powerful than that.”

“Can you do it or not? I need to give this back before Apollo drives the sun up,” the man said irritably.

“Give it here.” The man gives the Goddess of Memory the camcorder. She stares at it with an interested expression, slowly turning it over in her hands. “Isn’t it amazing how mortal technology has come so far? No longer do you draw pictures to commemorate ceremonies but you ‘videotape’, was it?”

“Yes, yes. Can you speed it up with the introspection?”

The old goddess pause, “I expect a gift for this. My services do not come freely.”

“Yes, yes, yes.”

Mnemosyne smiles, hands glowing a gentle purple, and the camcorder came alive.


 

--flicker--  

Castor and Pollux, 8, standing side by side on Half Blood Hill looking down in awe.

“Wow,” Castor said.

“Will we really be staying here with dad?” Pollux asked, violet eyes twinkling.

A woman chuckled and patted their heads. “Yup, all summer. This is Camp Half Blood. A place for children just like you.”

--flicker--

Castor and Pollux, 9, watching a girl, a boy, and a satyr stumble down to camp.

Behind them, thunder boomed and a tree grew.

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux, 10, sitting on the floor and shuffling a pack of cards.

“There’s this super fun game we learned at school! Rich Man, Poor Man,” Pollux said.

“How do you play?” Annabeth asked, head tilting to the side. Beside her, Luke put down his magazine.

“Don’t let her get obsessed with the game.”

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux giggling as Annabeth pester Luke.

“Come on, Luke. One more time. I’ll let you win this time if you want,” pleaded Annabeth, knowing glint in her eye.

“That’s what you said last time,”

“But this time for real. I’m not lying. Please, Luke?”

Luke sighed and rolled off his bed. “Alright. Just this one time.”

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux, 11, sneaking with Annabeth into the shed.

“Are you sure you know how to hotwire a car?” Annabeth asked urgently, glancing over her shoulders to the window.

“Yes, yes, yes, I read about it once in school,” Castor said impatiently.

--flicker--  

Castor and Pollux pouting in the corner, sorting files.

Annabeth said from the other side, “This is all your fault.”

“I didn’t know the car was magical.” Castor grumbled.

“You watched it float into the air,” Pollux pointed out.

“Yeah and so? I thought it was the mist.”

“All three of you shut up,” said the fourth member.

All three fell silent. Then, “...you know, Luke, you could have stopped us.”

“It was a flying car. You expect me to sit by and just watch?”

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux, 12, flipping through their math book on Annabeth’s bed.

“We should make a name for you guys. The yearly rounders,” Pollux said suddenly.

“What kind of name is that?” Annabeth snorted.

“A cool one.”

“Luke, do you think the yearly rounders would be a cool name?” Castor piped up.

“No, try again.”

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux clinging to Luke’s shirt, uncertain and afraid.

“We’ll always be friends won’t we?”

Luke smiled and ruffled their hairs, “Of course we will,”

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux, 13.

“Luke...left?”

“To...Kronos?”

“Yeah,” Annabeth stated, blinking back tears. “That no good traitor.”

--flicker--

Castor and Pollux watching Travis and Connor fidget with a pen as they read the camp counselor agreement, eyebrows furrowing in struggle.

“Do you think they’re old enough to be counselors?” Castor asked.

“No, not really, but they’re the oldest in their cabin now. There’s no one else,” Pollux answered.

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux listening as Ares children sneer and push a Hermes child around. One snorted, “What? You gonna cry, you Hermes garbage? What a piece of προδότης.

Pollux rounded the corner, “Leave her alone.”

--flicker--

Castor and Pollux sitting on their bed, “They aren’t Luke. Why do they treat them like they are?”

Castor rolled his eyes. “Cause they’re stupid. I’m sure no one from that cabin is in cohorts with Luke.”

--flicker-- 

Castor and Pollux fighting in a war.

Pollux watched the dagger pierce Castor’s arm, the cry of pain resounding in his mind. He watched the boy pull the knife out, bright with his brother’s blood, and stuck it back into the neck.

The demigod turned and Pollux saw the face. He uttered the words, broken and lost, “Dominic? Why?”

--flicker--

Pollux standing before a shroud, torch in hand. He lowered it, let the flames lick the cloth, and step back. He stared with blank eyes as the shroud burned and burned.

--flicker--

Pollux laying on the bed, his brother’s shirt bundled in his hand. He stared blankly at the ceiling. Then the clock clanged its bells three times. He turned to his side, ignored the knocking on his door and the pleading, “Just tell me you’re alive, Pollux,” and buried his face into the fading scent.

--flicker-- 

Pollux ringing the doorbell with shaky hands. It opened and a woman stood behind it. She smiled and urged him in. Pollux shook his head and planted his feet. “Mom, C-Castor’s dead.”

Her smile faltered. She told him what a weird sense of humor he has.

Pollux repeated the words and was met with confusion, disbelief. And he repeated once more. And again.

For a minute, no words pass between them. Then the mom leaned against the doorway, clutching her heart. Pollux caught her before she fell, shoulders heaving as she sob.

--flicker--

Pollux watching Chris laugh in the distance with his half-brothers. He looked away, muttering underneath his breath, “Why did he get to live?”

--flicker-- 

Pollux standing at his cabin door, frowning at the girl before him, Annie, daughter of Hermes and friend. “Come to our party, Pollux,” she said. Pollux took the card and said he’ll think about it. He closed the door and toss the card into the trash.

--flicker-- 

Pollux clenching his fists as Silena cry.

A girl asked him what happen.

“Luke killed Beckendorf.”

--flicker--

Pollux halting on Katie’s claims. He watched her narrow her eyes as she said, “Yes, like one of Luke’s siblings.” Immediately Travis and Connor argued with her.

“Why would you think that?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Her claims hold merit though,” Pollux said, ignoring the scathing look from Connor. “If there’s a spy in camp of course it’ll be those from Hermes Cabin.”

--flicker--

Pollux watching with annoyance as the gods proclaim their assurance into Elysium.

“Everybody who fought will be allowed into Elysium? Even Luke, Chris? After what they did?” he asked his father.

At the nod, Pollux scoffed.

--flicker--

Pollux eating his breakfast. He stabbed his pancakes and rolled the eggs with his fork, grumbling underneath his breath as he shoot glares at table 11. Connor caught his glares and stuck his tongue out.

Then the ground shook. The campers grew silent, looking around in confusion. The pavilion exploded into whipping vines. Trees erupted from the ground, venus flytraps grew and ensnared panicked campers, screams echo through the crisp morning air, and in the middle of the chaos was Katie, head tucked beneath her arms as ivy encircled her.

Pollux clenched his shirt, above his chest, face twisting in pain.

--flicker--

Pollux asking his dad, “Why did I feel her pain?”

Dionysus grimaced, “It is your gift. A rather unnatural one, unlike any other Greek powers. It is uncontrollable. You cannot train it nor bend it to your will. It can never be paused but...it can be muted with hate.”

--flicker--

Pollux watching Clarisse decimate sandbags one after the other in the training center. Beside him, Annabeth stared in concern, “Don’t you think she’s overdoing herself?”

Pollux shook his head. “It’s helping her.”

Annabeth raised an eyebrow, “Are you sure?”

Pollux clenched his hands, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”  

--flicker--

Pollux yawning as he walks drowsily to the infirmary in the middle of the night. He opened the door and collided headfirst with Will.

He blinked, rubbing his head, “What are you doing up?”

Will blinked back and Pollux looked at what he was wearing, still in his orange shirt and scrub pants.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Will said, “Nightmares.”

Then Will forced a smile and Pollux grimaced.

--flicker--

Pollux wandering absentmindedly back to his cabin.

He felt before he heard. The sorrow. He turned the corner and found Drew glaring daggers at the newcomer.

“Who’s Silena?” The new kid questioned. “Was it true you were best friends with her? I heard she was your only friend before---”

He watched with concern as Drew charmspeaked the boy and made him eat dirt, “Stop. Listen closely, if you ever bother me again I’ll make you eat horse shit. Leave me alone and tell your friends too.”

--flicker--

Pollux standing before Cabin 7’s doors, knocking. Malcolm answered, thin and hollow, and asked abruptly, “What?”

“Are you eating?” Pollux questioned.

“Yes, I am.” The door slammed shut.  

Pollux stood still for a couple seconds and said loudly to the boy on the other side, “Liar.”

Immediately the words, “Go away, Pollux.”

And then a pause, “Tell Annabeth not to be a coward.”

--flicker--

Pollux being drag by Annabeth to his cabin.

“What did he say?” Annabeth demanded behind closed doors.

“For you not to be a coward,”

She scowled, “About eating.”

“He’s not,” Pollux stated, frowning,  “He’s your brother, Annabeth. You should talk to him.”

“You don’t think I know that?”

Pollux shrugged, “You’re not talking to him. That tells me everything.”

--flicker--

Pollux nodding at Cabin 4 Counselor’s request.

“Hang out with Katie for a day. Make her laugh.” Miranda pleaded, deep circles under her eyes.

--flicker--

Pollux picking up flowers and bringing them to Katie. “How do you make a flower chain?” He asked. Katie stared gloomily at the flowers. She took them into her hands and they withered.

“Go buy one at a store,” she said.

--flicker--

Pollux walking through the pavilion. He paused when a girl carrying an arm full of wood trip and fall. She, Annie, looked up and saw him and smiled. “Pollux, help me up?” and she raised a hand. Pollux continued walking back to his cabin, face devoid of emotion, as Connor glared daggers at his back.  

--flicker--

Pollux staring with interest as Malcolm label the necklaces, sticking a post-it note on each one.

“Weren’t these the ones we picked off the d…”

Malcolm nodded hesitantly. “We’re giving them back. It’s been long enough. We can’t hold off their questions forever.”

--flicker--

Pollux shaking his head. “I don’t want to work with him.” Malcolm asked why but Connor talked first.

“Why? Scared of being pranked?”

And Pollux retaliated with, “Scared you’ll stab me in the back.”

--flicker--

Pollux fighting with Connor. The son of Hermes scream at how stereotypical he’s being, how wrong he is, how dimwitted, how---

Travis got in between them, pushing his brother back by the shoulders, “Come on, guys. Stop fighting. Let’s all try to get along for our friends’ sake.” Travis looked back to the others who stood by the sidelines, awkward.

And Pollux muttered the word--- προδότης--- he heard so long ago. Travis faltered and Pollux paused.

Connor glowered, reaching forward in a swoop and breaking his wrist.

--flicker--

Pollux fidgeting with his bandages as they, the counselors, drive to the first house. Will gave him a sympathetic look and asked if the wrappings were too tight. He shook his head no. From the front, Connor continued to glare at him from the rear mirror.

“You should apologize,” Will muttered quietly in his ears.

--flicker--

Pollux looking away when they start screaming.

“Where’s my child? I want my baby back! I don’t want this stupid necklace!” Will stepping back as the parent step away from the house, towards them, fists raised. Will urged the parent to keep their voice down. Doors open and worried neighbors peeked their head out.

“Where’s my child? Where is she?”

“In pieces,” Pollux find him saying, flinching as their eyes move to his, “Scattered along New York’s streets. Nobody we found was fully intact.”

--flicker--

Pollux hating their words. They scream the same words, each parent. “You promise they’ll be safe. You said the camp was the only safe haven for them.”

--flicker--

Pollux leading Katie away from the houses while Miranda talked with them.

“Come on. Let’s go get some Nebraskan pizza. I always wanted to try one of them,” He urged, ignoring how the trees seem to cave towards them and the cement cracking as thick roots slither to the surface.

--flicker--

Pollux feeling anger, rage. His own and others.

“She was your daughter,” Clarisse said between gritted teeth. Her hands shooked.

“She was a nuisance. I’m glad she’s dead.”

And there was a satisfying crack. The man held his bleeding nose, cursing and threatening to call the police.

Will and Percy reined Clarisse back as she screamed and kicked, “You don’t deserve to be Silena’s father!”

--flicker--

Pollux staring incredulously at Travis.

“Here,” Travis said, pressing an ice cream bar into his hands. “My treat and also as a sorry. Connor can get a bit violent sometime.”

Standing behind his brother, Connor mouthed, ‘I’m not sorry.’

--flicker--

Pollux hating how it takes him so much effort to utter two simple words.

“Travis, I-I’m sorry.”

There’s a grin, bright and wholeheartedly, “It’s fine. You’re forgiven.”

--flicker--

Pollux stumbling with words.

“No, I really meant what I said. I’m sorry for the way I acted all those years. I---”

Travis cut him off, “Hey, you apologized that’s enough for me.”

Beside him, Connor shook his head. “Not for me.”

--flicker--

Pollux running a hand through his hair. He couldn’t believe he lost. Clarisse smirked and gather the cards.

“I won. You owe me ten bucks.”

“Again,” Pollux demanded.

Behind him, Malcolm wrote in his notebook, “No time. Break over. We still have four more to go.”

--flicker--

Pollux staring cautiously at Connor.

“I’ll play with you,” he said with an evil smirk.

--flicker--

Pollux grumbling as he pulls out his wallet and handed Connor $200.

“I call this thievery.”

“And I call this retribution.”

--flicker--

Pollux watching the land speed by in the magical bus.

Annabeth tapped his shoulder, “Castor would have loved this bus.”

Pollux paused, “Yeah. He would have.”

“I wonder if we can take it with us to Elysium.”

Pollux chuckled, “And drive it around the block? Crashing into trees and dead heroes?”

Annabeth smiled fondly, “Just like old times.”

--flicker--

Pollux sighing when he could finally see Thalia’s Pine looming in the horizon.

Secretly, he thanked his father for not giving him any half-siblings. One family is enough. One death is enough.

--flicker--

Pollux stopping when Will tapped his shoulder.

He pointed back to Half Blood Hill. Connor stood by Thalia’s Pine, hand on the tree.

“You should try to make up with Connor. He’s one to hold a grudge.”

--flicker-- 

Pollux watching Connor walk down Half-Blood Hill.

“Connor, about what I---”

“I don’t care about apologies.”

--flicker--

Pollux walking up to Half Blood Hill. He stopped at Thalia’s Pine. His hands traced the cravings, the names etched on the bark. Lee and Michael. Silena and Beckendorf. Trixie and Joshua. Henry and Damien. Luke. Ethan. Bianca.

He raised the knife and etched his brother’s name.

--flicker--


 When Riley woke up the next day, there were new clips in the camcorder that wasn’t there the day before.

 

Chapter 8: Repentance

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Chris Rodriguez - Repentance

[Chris Rodriguez is what I call a workaholic. He's easily the most likable guy of Hermes Cabin. I'm 110% sure there's no one on the planet who could say no to Chris when he asks for something. And I'm also an extra 200% sure he could talk his way out of every chore but, I always see him cleaning the stables or draining the pipes or picking the strawberries. He's always busy and it took all of my whinings and begging for him to finally set away a time to talk. And even then he's still working. "Do we have to talk here?" I asked, nose wrinkling at the smell of isopropyl alcohol, "The infirmary?"

Chris shrugged, stuffing something into plastic bags.]

Why not? You get your interview and I can finish packing the medical kits for when you guys go back home.

["But you still have a couple of weeks."]

Why put off work when you can do it now?

["Isn't that the counselers' job?"]

I have free time.

["Why are you always like this? Don't you want to do something more fun?" Chris smiled teasingly.]

So you rather clean the stables yourself?

["...No."]

Anyway, let's go back to the topic. The Second Titan War. I can talk about anything I want?

Then I guess I'll start with the most interesting part. I'm not sure if you heard but I was a traitor. The day Luke left, I left with him. Packed up all my stuff and follow him around. Did everything he asked me too. Then I entered the labyrinth on his command and lost my mind. I don't really recall much about that time. It's all sort of hazy. Like waking up and trying to remember a dream.

Clarisse told me she found me and brought me out. I owe her big time for that. Her and Mr. D.

["Is that why you stayed with her when she refused to fight?" Chris grimaced.]

I thought I could change her mind. Didn't really do a good job.

["Clarisse says it was her fault."]

Clarisse says a lot of things. Doesn't mean they're all true.

["Oh. Okay, um, what was the scariest thing about the Battle at Manhattan?"]

The scariest thing?

Definitely not the monsters. After living with them for four years, I kinda see them as pets. Tekehines are the funniest to mess with. They're like chihuahuas, all yippy and stuff. But that doesn't mean you should go out taming monsters. Disclaimer right here for all you angry parents and Chiron. I, Chris Rodriguez, is in no way endorsing demigods to go monster-taming. In fact, none of you guys should keep monsters as pets. They're not very obedient. I was in charge of making sure the monsters don't eat the demigods and that's nearly like a full-time job.

I'm getting off topic, sorry.

I don't think I was scared during the battle. All I did was just watch Clarisse decimate monsters left and right. She had Ares's Blessing so she pretty much took care of all the monsters for us. When that wore off, I dragged her tired body back to the Empire State Building.

I guess it was pretty horrific, having to drag dead bodies around, but that's sad, not scary. I'm glad I don't know any of them personally. I don't think I would be able to handle it if my friends die.

The scariest thing had to be facing the camp after I...you know...regained my sanity.

They didn't exactly welcome me back with open arms. Everywhere I would go, there were whispers. They would point at me and glare. Some were loud enough for me to hear. None of them would dare approach me though cause Clarisse was with me.

I couldn't be mad at them. I lead a siege on Camp Half Blood. I recruited children as young as nine years old to fight for Luke. I tried to kill my friends and family many times over. I deserve what's coming to me.

If picking on me makes them feel better then I'll be fine with that. If beating me up is what they want then I'll gladly let them do it. I guess that's why Clarisse stuck so close to me. Haha. ha.

[Chris was silent for a moment. He stopped packing the bags and leaned back in the chair. A hand ran through his hair.]

But when I think about it, I didn't really care about what they think. It was my half-siblings I was more worried about. I...when I left, a lot came with me but there's still few that stayed. Travis and Connor, for example. I...I was...scared to see them. What would they say to me? What would I say to them?

The first and a half week I was issued from the infirmary, I did nothing but hid in Ares's cabin. I know it was cowardly but I couldn't face my cabin. I couldn't bear to see hatred in their eyes if they do end up hating me. Just thinking about them not wanting me back was enough to make me want to leave Camp and live with my mom.

Clarisse was understanding, sort of. She allowed me to stayed in her cabin but she constantly pestered me to "grow a pair" and go make up with my cabin. I tried to. But every time I took a step out of their cabin, I get cold feet. So I stayed in. For 10 days, I lived off of the scraps her siblings bring me. Sherman was nice enough to bring me steak once.

After day 11 of solitude, Clarisse had enough and kicked me out of her cabin. Well, more like dragged me by my shirt to my cabin.

As I stood on that old, rickety porch - it was still the same old porch with that same old, creaky board. Anyway, as I stood on that old, rickety porch, I was preparing myself for rejection, humiliation, punishment, all of it. So many thoughts were coursing through my mind. What do I do if Travis and Connor tell me to get out? What if they don't recognize me? What if I trip on the front step like Percy?

I guess I must have waited too long because Clarisse socked me in the shoulder and nodded her head towards the door. "Hurry up," she said but she took my hand into hers and squeezed, the unspoken message, "I'm here for you," drifting between us.

So I took the knob in a shaky hand, turned and pushed.

[Chris paused and stared off into the distance. Impatiently, I rushed him, "So, what happen?"]

I was bombarded with silly string. From the left, right, above, below. I could hear laughter, loud and very familiar, as I pull the sticky string out of my face. I was greeted with a face I haven't seen in over 3 years. Even now, I have trouble telling them apart.

"Welcome back, Chris!" Travis or Connor shouted.

In the back, Clarisse sighed, "Don't scream so loud." but I could hear the smile in her voice.

Both brothers flashed me a big smile. Then they stepped back and I saw our cabin.

They had decorated it. A banner was hung above, spanning from wall to wall, spelling out "welcome home" in these bright neon color. Color-shifting balloons were bundled around the room. And on my old bed was a cake. It was crudely done and taste even worse than it looked but I ate four slices.

[Chris laughed.]

I had expected everything but a welcome.

Lou Ellen told me later Travis and Connor had planned the whole thing.

["I heard they're really good at party planning. Or at least Connor is. That's really nice of them."]

Yeah, it was.

It killed me to not go with them to Manhattan. I could see it in their eyes. They were hurt. After the battle, when we met up again, I tried to apologize and gave them my reasons, but I guess it was actually excuses. Travis patted me on the shoulder and said to forget it. He's the more forgiving brother. Connor, on the other hand, is the more...vengeance-seeking brother. He's the one you really don't want to anger.

Connor had given me a scolding glare. He was about to say something, I know he was, but he looked away, pulling his brother with him by the sleeve.

As they leave, I could hear him mutter, low and quiet, "I knew he's just like the rest."

 

Chapter 9: Fear

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Lou Ellen Blackstone - Fear

Camp Half Blood. The only place where my common sense and self-preservation are thrown out the window. Strange letter appearing at the foot of my bed with a request interview in the middle of the forest? Hm, maybe I should go check it out. Strange, creepy, and concealed person beckoning you from the edge of the forest? Sure, why not. Seems harmless enough. A dark, shimmering wall of black nothingness where the creepy person once was? Yeah, let's follow.


[When I entered the shadow, I was encased in a sphere of black nothingness. The forest disappeared and I was left with the creepy person standing a few feet away. I came closer. I had thought there was a cloak concealing the person but the closer I looked, it appeared to be more of a hazy, gray shadow that flickers between sharpness and blurriness every few seconds. The shadow raised a hand and it took me a while to recognize it was a wave.]

Hi.

[The voice is skewered. I can't tell if it's a boy or a girl. "What...Why are you like that? Who are you?" I asked.]

It's to keep my identity a secret. Is that okay? I'm sorry. I'm not comfortable talking without it.

[The shadow wrings its hands, bouncing on its heels, in clear distress. "Sure, whatever you want," I said. "But where are we?"]

We're in a magic bubble I made. We're still in Camp Half Blood but no one can see us or hear us. And no one can intrude without my permission.

["Woah, that's so cool! Can you teach me how?"]

Sorry, I can't. It can only be taught to children of He-

I-I mean, it can only be taught to children of a specific god.

Anyway, that isn't what I brought you in here for. I want to talk about the war and I want to start with this before anything else. I never hated the camp. None of us did.

["Okay?"]

Okay? You're not angry? Upset?

["Why would I be angry?"]

Maybe I should be clearer. I am … I was … a traitor. I left camp but came back in the end.

["There's more of you? I thought Chris was the only one."]

Our entry back wasn't as public.

And our situation wasn't the same. We didn't idolize Luke the way Chris did. We followed him because the Gods were...er, how can I say this without being killed? We were treated with more "independency" compared to now.

It wasn't because we didn't have our own cabin. The Hermes Cabin wasn't even that bad to live in... most of the time...if you look past the "having no bed" bit and the "no alone time" part and the constant pranking. Actually, I take it back. Living in that cabin was the worst part of camp but it's still very nice in the sense that you're never lonely.

Did you know back then there was no rule of claiming when you were twelve?

You were claimed only and only if you were favored. Beckendorf, Annabeth, Katie, even Travis and Connor, they all had something special, some big role to play in the future, so they were claimed within a month. But Jake, Malcolm, Miranda weren't. They needed to prove their worth, that they are worthy of holding the title of being a son or a daughter of the gods.

Some of them died trying to prove their worth to their parents.

We are their children. Their flesh and blood.

And they treated us like disposables.

When Luke recruited us, he promised change. That "we'll make the Gods realize we too are their children. We'll make them notice us."

["Did you ever think he was lying?"]

He wasn't. I can tell. I can detect liars.

It was after we recovered Kronos's shroud did the lying begin. It was no longer about us, the demigods. It was all about revenge and those "Greek Gods."

["So, what did you do? Did any of you want to leave?"]

A lot of us wanted to leave. But, well, on one side we have a tyrannical leader, bent on getting revenge on the Gods with no care whatsoever about us. And on the other side, we're surrounded by miles and miles of monsters who can fly, teleport, shadow travel, run, basically outpace us in every way possible. And the only thing holding them back from devouring us was Kronos's constant control over them. With just a single word, he can order the monster to eat us. Not to mention there are those who are entirely devoted to him and wouldn't hesitate to kill if they spot even the beginnings of desertion among us.

["What was it like? Being on the other side?"]

Lots and lots of training. Lots and lots of searching.

[The shadow paused. Although I couldn't see the face, there was a clear moment of hesitation and it leaked into the words.]

And a lot of recruiting.

I was part of the recruitment team. When you look young and innocent, even the most hardened criminal would stop to listen to you. Every day we find dozens of half bloods on the streets. Give them food and shelter, and they'll listen to what you have to say. Go even further and tell them the reason why they're homeless or why their life is the way it is is because of their parents and they'll feel even worse. We were ordered to use that contempt to stroke the hatred of the gods.

They were the most loyal to Kronos. They did everything he asked. They had no problem dying for him.

["You led them to that life."]

I know. I'm sorry.

Even though I was ten at that time, I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew and I still did it. I'm sorry.

Eventually, Luke found the labyrinth and I moved from the recruitment team to the "explore the labyrinth" team.

I was among the first to enter the hellhole. There were two others with me, Terry and Mikaela. We used to live together back in Camp Half Blood actually. Mikaela was my bunkmate.

As soon as we entered and took the first corner, we were lost. Kronos didn't give us anything, no string like in the stories, nothing to help guide our way back. It was almost like we were set up for failure. But we followed our orders and wandered back and forth, looking for the entrance to camp.

Mikaela was the first to go. She had stopped to tie her shoelaces but she didn't say anything. So, we kept walking. By the time we noticed, a wall had risen between us. I never knew what happen to her after that. She could have made it out alive. Maybe she found one of those exits, you know. I hope she did.

["What about Terry?" The shadow paused.]

He died.

The labyrinth got to him. It messed with his mind or maybe it reinforced ideas he already had. But after 30 minutes we lost Mikaela, he pulled out a handgun and pressed it under his chin.

Then bang. He was gone.

I tried to stop him. I could have probably saved him. I was right beside him too, but when I reached to pull the gun away, Terry's eyes met mine and I froze. I recognize the look in those eyes. I see it sometimes in myself and my friends. In my pause, he positioned his gun and I watched the lights go out of his eyes.

After that, I turned and ran. I ran till the walls change color and shape. Till the walls became smooth metal then back to rocky caverns then to ancient Greek transcript. I wanted to scream to see if Mikaela was around. I didn't. I was afraid something other than my friend would find me. So, I tried using my powers to find a way out, but it was like the labyrinth was alive. Every pathway I would find, a wall would rise up or cave in to block.

I thought I was going to die in the labyrinth.

But the fates, they don't let you go that easily. I think they treat our lives like soap operas. It needs to have the right amount of drama before they can really be done with it.

A light glowed while I was panting, trying to catch my breath. It lighted up the whole hallway and arrows laid themselves on the floor, pointing towards a direction. I looked to where the light was coming from and can you believe it? It was a symbol. Two torches alit with a red-orange hue, my mother's symbol.

She had just aligned herself with Kronos and I guess she decided to claim me.

I was supposed to feel happiness, pride, but all I felt that day was disgust.

For a second, I thought about not following the arrow. Just turn around and walk the other way. But here I am, standing before you, so you know which choice I picked.

I was never sent back to the labyrinth again, at least not until we found where the shroud and Antaeus was.

It took me a while to figure it out but only children of Hermes, Demeter, and Aphrodite were sent in while we were still in the process of searching.

["Why them?"]

It's awful to say it. I know, but don't you notice, Riley? Whenever you're sparring with one of those three? In most cases than not, they lose against other Olympian gods. Apollo, Athena, Ares, Hephaestus, even Hecate and Nike children can win against them.

I'm not saying they're useless but they're not good in combat. Their powers can't help them win in a fight. They can't contribute to the weapon stock like the children of the forge can nor do they have the strategic capability of Athena's. They're, in the worse sense, useless in a war. Kronos had to get rid of them in a way without directly killing them and sparking a revolution.

["How could you say that?"]

It's the truth as horrible as it might sound. I don't think history should be sugarcoated.

But it's ironic.

Children of Demeter were sent to die for being weak and my whole battalion was wiped out by a child of Demeter.

In the Battle of Manhattan, I was charged with a battalion and was to lead them to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. As ordered, we sent the monsters in first. I didn't know what the point of that was. It would have been better to send in the demigods first. To weaken the enemy so the stronger forces could wipe the rest out. Maybe it was Luke influencing Kronos's decision. I don't know and but I do want to know. Maybe Luke was a good person after all.

It didn't matter for my battalion.

She wiped us all out.

There were vines swinging everywhere. Grabbing people by the feet, latching onto arms, pulling people into two. Trees would erupt from under our feet and carry us into the air before decaying in seconds, leaving us suspended 50 feet into the air. Those who don't break their necks, break their legs and left to the vines. Sometimes there would be poison ivy, going up nostrils into mouths, ears, and, oh…. sorry, you probably don't want to know the details.

["How did you make it out?"]

I hid in a dumpster. A tree had sent me flying and I used my powers to land safely in an alley.

["You...didn't help your friends?"]

...

No. I didn't.

I'm sorry. I know I'm an awful person.

[The shadow's voice cracks in an awfully familiar way and judging by the slight hiccups, I knew what was coming. And after my experience with Katie, I learned I do not have a knack for comforting anyone. Like, at all.

So, I changed the subject, "What did you do afterward?" The shadow sniffled, hand brushing along covered face.]

I almost stabbed Travis in the eye.

["You almost what?"]

I almost stabbed my ex-counselor in the eye.

After the screaming had stopped and Demeter cabin left, I got out of the dumpster and wandered the streets of Manhattan. I don't know where I was going, maybe I was hoping to come across one of my comrades. But someone had tapped my shoulder as I was walking. I turned, saw orange, and attacked.

I pulled my switchblade from my pocket and thrust down at the first spot I could reach, the neck. He ducked from my attack and-

[The shadow snorted lightly.]

I remembered he had a tendency to ramble. Even in spars, he's always talking. He used to have a big rule about cursing. Every time I swiped my knife at him, I could hear some weird kind of PG-rated cuss words.

Son of a God, holy sandals and flying shoes, mother Hestia and flaming Ares are the ones I remembered.

He kept telling me to stop attacking and to hear him out. I didn't listen.

His steps are jagged. He must be injured yet he still dodged most of my strikes. It was impressive but there was a reason I wasn't sent back to the labyrinth. I used the mist to blind his vision. He paused in his retreat and I swept my foot over his. He tumbled back, yelling a name I didn't comprehend. I slam a knee into his chest to pin him to the ground. I raised my knife above my head, screamed, yelled, the typical burst you get when you're bringing yourself to do something and brought it down.

But someone tackled me from the side. My knife was ripped from my hands and thrown across the street. I was pinned on my back, both of my hands locked together above me in a vice grip. By reflex, I struggled. My attacker snarled and he tightens his grip on my hands to the point that it hurts. He actually snarled, Riley. I'm not joking. He sounded like an animal for a second. I could feel the hatred rolling off him.

I thought this was the end for me, that I was going to finally die.

I...I was happy in a way. No more Kronos, no more fighting, no more hiding. I closed my eyes and just … I don't know how to describe it, relaxed? Yeah, I relaxed. Just closed my eyes and was about to let fate come to me.

But nothing came except for "Lulu, you dumb idiot. You dumb, dumb, dumb dummy."

Lulu…I hadn't heard that nickname in so long.

There's only one person who calls me that but I still opened my eyes just to make sure. And sure enough, there was Connor, staring down at me with a pair of eyes that says he wants to strangle me.

["How did you know it was Connor?" The shadow scratched the back of its head and chuckled lightly.]

Nicknames. Travis and Connor use different nicknames for me. It's the only way I can tell them apart. I'm Lulu to Connor and Lil' Elly to Travis.

["So, what happened next?"]

They took pity on me and asked if I was still aligned with Kronos.

Connor looked ready to kill me when I didn't answer right away but Travis nudged him with an elbow. I think he mouthed "be nice" because Connor sighed and said in this fake, scarily forced happy voice, "If you say yes, I swear on my flying shoes, I'll tie you up and chain you to our cabin until you come to your senses. So, answer?"

I said, "No."

And that was that.

They led me to an apartment and used their magic powers to unlock the door. And that's where I hid for the rest of the battle. I could hear the booms from Mount Olympus but I had no idea what was going on.

Travis and Connor came back for me in the end. They said they can sneak me back to camp.

["But how? Won't Chiron and Mr. D know?"]

After the war, dozens of new campers were coming in every day. I just pretended to be one of those newbies. They can't keep track of everybody that was ever there or everybody that came in.

I wasn't the only one that came back. Travis and Connor, Chris, and maybe some others had managed to convince some of my friends from the different battalions to put down their weapons and come back to live in camp.

They never got claimed of course. That's why Ju-I mean, that's why some of your cabinmates don't seem to have Hermes's traditional abilities. But I guess the cabin nicknamed the Jack of All Trades should have a variety of traits and powers. So, I suppose it shouldn't be surprising.

["Did you ever think they were mad at never being claimed?"]

I think they expected it. Some had told me they dreamt their parents disowning them before the battle happened. As far as I know, they're fine with being in the Hermes cabin until graduation. I think they're more comfortable over there. Fewer questions from their half-siblings that way.

["But won't you happier if you're with your own cabin? Everybody knows Chris is a traitor but nobody bothers him about it anymore."]

You're wrong. You don't see it, but it's still there. There may not be physical contact but he gets hate mail everyday - telling him to die, to go away, to leave.

The reason it stays hate mail and not anything more is because he has Clarisse.

She'll fight for him and nobody would dare question Clarisse.

But who do we have? Who would help us if they want to kick us out of camp? Every cabin had some kind of traitor in their midst. Silena, Chris, if those cabins were to stick up for us, then the accusations would begin flying. Even cabins like Athena and Hephaestus have people who were close to Luke. It'll make them suspects too. I really like camp. I don't want it to go back to those days of mistrust.

I'm sorry. You don't need to know this. This is my personal problem.

I don't think I can ever make up all my mistakes. I want to. I really do. And I would start to do it too. But whenever I'm on the brink of telling, I get so scared. Cecil, Miranda, all my closest friends are those I had hurt with my actions. What if they don't want me as their friend anymore? What if they want me to leave camp? I don't deserve their friendship. They don't deserve my lies but the thought of them looking at me with hatred in their eyes makes me turn back.

I'm selfish. I'm a horrible friend. I'm the worst demigod to have ever existed.

I tell myself this every day. But no matter how much I berate myself, I can't bring myself to tell them.

I can't get over my fear.

No matter what I do or say, it's always there.

Chapter 10: Worthless

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: Connor Stoll - Worthless

["So, um. Hey. This is me, Riley. Right now — ]

You worthless sack of laundry.

["Right now, I'm — "]

Excuse me? Laundry is extremely valuable. It's worth hundreds of dollars.

["I'm currently stuck in —"]

Okay, Mrs. I'm-so-smart-cause-my-mom-is-the-goddess-of-wisdom. You're a laundry pile of socks then.

With the right material and brand it could be worth a lot.

Then you're a sack full of dirty diapers.

You don't wash diapers.

[I brought my camcorder closer to me, muffling the screaming match outside the door. "So right now, I'm trapped in my cabin's restroom to, you know, finish some business when —" ]

You need to grow up, Connor.

I will when you take back the application, Anniebeth.

Annabeth.

Anniebeth.

["When Connor and Annabeth burst into the cabin. I don't think they know I'm here though because they're saying some really—"]

It's only a few months.

9 months are not a 'few' months.

You can still Iris Message.

You can still Iris Message.

Stop mocking me.

Stop mocking me.

Gods, Connor.

Shit, Annabeth.

["They're saying some really mean stuff. Connor sounds really angry."]

Okay, fine. Whatever, continue being such a child. I can handle the pranks. I can handle whatever you give me. But can you please stop with the spiders? You know how I am with spiders.

Yeah, that's the whole point. Take back the application and I'll stop.

I won't.

Look. Annabeth. I'm going to give you one more chance, as a gesture of our ending friendship. Take. Back. The. Application.

No.

Then you're going through hell. Your time in Tartarus will seem like Elysium.

I'm doing this for you. As your friend — 

Friendship needs to be mutual.

As your friend I want what's best for you. You and Travis.

Blah, blah, blah. Blabbity. Blabbity. Blabbity. Blob. Blob. Blob.

Connor, please stop acting like a child and —↞

[There was a long pause, a very long pause that I thought they must have left. I inched my way to the door, grasping the knob lightly and twisting it ever so slightly — then there's a scream, loud, terrified. Annabeth let out another bloodcurdling scream and I heard thuds of what really sounded like furniture crashing into the wall and the ground. Connor cackled in the background.

I thought of hiding in the shower and praying to the Gods, but curiosity got the best of me. I opened the door a crack, just enough to see what's going on.

Annabeth stood in the center the room, raising a nightstand clear over her head and slamming it into the ground with so much force a leg came flying off. She moved onto the next object, a ladder, and heaved it onto the ground too. Then a lamp. A suitcase. A pillow. Then she unsheathed her sword and Connor stopped laughing.]

Hey! No sharp edges and points in our cabin. That's rule number 3.

[She brought the sword down repeatedly, unheeding of his words.]

And you did it. The receipts to fix this is coming out of your cabin's expenses, not mine. I hope you know that.

[There is a horrible crunching sound and Annabeth stopped stabbing the floor. She glared up at Connor and pulled the sword out with a clean swipe. For a second, I thought she was going to behead my counselor but she sheathed her sword and tore the strap from her waist, throwing it on the nearest bed. Annabeth cracked her knuckles.]

I am going to kill you.

[Then she's running towards Connor with a battle cry. Connor let out a "oof" as Annabeth tackled him. She grabbed Connor by the hair and brought her knee up to his stomach, but he twisted out of the grasp and grabbed her in a chokehold, tightening his hold slightly, and —

Oh gods, they're in a full-on brawl.

Do they even know they're not alone?

They made their way to me, twisting out of each others' grasps. The floorboards creaked painfully beneath their feet till they were inches away from where I hid. Annabeth slipped a hand underneath Connor's arm and with a grunt, heaved Connor over her shoulder, a surprised yelp leaving Connor's lips.

It was like my demigod senses kicked in. I saw Connor coming at me in slow motion, feet first, and I closed the door, locking it as a second thought.

There was the thump, thump of feet hitting solidly and the door creaking at the pressure before splintering, cracking, and caving as Annabeth judo-flipped my counselor into the door.

Connor laid on the broken door. He was reaching up, grabbing Annabeth's arm, and I was scared for a second they were continue their fight in here but Connor paused. His eyes met mine.]

Oh. Riley. Hi.

This, uh, we weren't fighting. We were training. This is how counselors train. Right, Annie?

Right. Okay, just give me a minute and I'll do your interview thing.

[Then Connor promptly latched a hand onto Annabeth's upper arm and dragged her down. She face planted into our throw rug, a nasty carpet full of hair and dust and dirt that our cabin unanimously decided to shove in the corner. She spluttered and scrambled to her feet but Connor was already pushing us out.]

Make sure to clean up what you broke! Put all the stuff you threw back or I'll tell Chiron!

[Connor ran outside, pulling me along by the hand, and in the middle of our cabin, floor ridden with uneven holes and sprayed belongings, was a dark stain of a tarantula cut in half.]


[Connor led me out of our cabin, filling out a piece of paper with a thoughtful look on his face. "So uh, what was that all about?" I asked.]

Just a discussion about Travis. You know how he's going to college in New Rome, right? Well, it's because Annabeth and Percy signed him up without his permission. They didn't tell us until all that Gaia fiasco had passed.

["Why would they do that?"]

Cause they're idiots who, after years of not caring, decided to start now.

[Connor led me to Hypnos cabin. He pulled at the door first. No knocking whatsoever. The knob shook but it refused to turn. Locked. Without pause, Connor pulled out a paper clip from his pocket and unbent it. With a few clicks and clacks, the door opened.

"Are—are you sure this is okay? We're trespassing," I asked, looking around for any onlookers. Connor smiled and pocketed his clip.]

Don't worry. Clovis and the others don't mind. I do this all the time.

["...Maybe because you break in all the time," I mumbled. Connor rolled his eyes and walked into the cabin, locking it after I followed him in. He walked with intention, passed the occupied beds, to the very back. He rounded a corner, me hurriedly following suit, and right into a grade A, 5 star kitchen. Marble counters lined black cupboards. A mahogany table laid in the center, a bowl of fruits placed aesthetically in the middle of an intricate doily. The kitchen was completely spotless. No items out of place, no spots of the ground, not even a speck of dust. Connor noticed me gawking and laughed.]

This cabin has their own kitchen since, sometimes, they can't wake up for dinner. I'm going to make some chicken noodle soup. Do you want some?

["No I'm good." Connor opened the fridge, stocked with a multitude of whatever items you could think of. Carrots, celery, rice, and-can you believe it?-A whole rotisserie chicken.

Connor took the chicken and immediately another chicken popped into its place.

"Woah…"]

Cool, huh? It's charmed. Whatever you want, it'll give you. The same deal with the cabinets.

It's so unfair. This kitchen belongs to the one cabin that's too lazy to cook.

[Connor rummaged through the bottom cupboard, taking out pots and pans. I winced at the clatter and looked over to the adjacent room, but not a single Hypnos child stirred.]

So what is this for? A summer project for Annabeth? A punishment from Chiron?

["It's a Christmas gift for my parents!" Connor paused. He threw a skeptical look over his shoulder. ]

You're giving them a video of the Camp's biggest failure? The camp they entrusted you to?

I don't think this is a good idea if you want to come back next summer.

["I don't think the camp did anything wrong. Besides, they're historians. They'll love this." I protested, leaning on the kitchen island. Connor shrugged, standing with a pot in hand.]

Okay. Whatever you say. So what do you want to know. The Battle of Manhattan? The poisoning of Thalia's Pine?

["Do you have something cool to add?" He placed the pot in the sink and filled it with water. He turned around, resting his elbows on the counter.]

Hm, no. Not really.

So how about Annabeth's biggest blunder in the war? Or Nico's and Clarisse's? I have thousands of stories.

["I want to know more about you." ]

My biggest blunder? Sure, I could tell you loads! I wanted to raid a candy store in the middle of a battle once, the deciding battle of the war actually. When the craving hits, the craving hits, you know! Another time, me and my brother pranked Michael to the point he needed medical attention. Complete accident though, did not mean to take it that far. Oh! And another time, before Katie went full "you are all traitors" on us, we used to wrap ivy around her cabin's bunk beds to make a statue of ivy but it didn't exactly turn out as planned. The nymphs gave us poison ivy as revenge. Supposedly, we destroyed their front lawn when we took some random shrub for a prank two weeks ago.

["Hey, Connor. Do you have anything more important than these random tales?" Connor rolled his eyes, closing the faucet and placing the pot on the stove.]

They're not random tales. They're very dear memories. But fine. What do you want to know?

["Uh, I don't know if I should ask." Mischief flashed in Connor's eyes and he smirked.]

What? Is it a secret?

I'm going to help you edit the video so I'll know everything. You might as well tell me.

["It's just that...sometimes...when people talk about you and Travis, they always make you sound, er…"]

Really stupid? Cause I'm smarter than Travis. A lot smarter, and with better fighting skills, so you can cross out really weak, too.

["Really scary." Connor paused for a millisecond but gave an impish smile.]

Me? Scary?

I think Travis is scarier.

Really, Riley, if you had to pick one of us to anger, who would it be?

["Travis. He always goes easy on us whenever we do something bad. You give harsher punishments."]

Ow, you hurt my feelings. How could you have favorites, Riley? I thought you loved us equally.

Man, the pain.

It hurts.

I'm dying.

You killed me.

["Ah! Forget I said anything! Next question!" Connor raised to his knees, grinning stupidly. He pulled a kitchen knife from a drawer.]

"What is your biggest contribution to the war?"]

My pranks.

Gods know camp doesn't know how to have fun when I'm not around. Those idiots would probably die from boredom if I'm not there to create some excitement in their life.

["There has to be more than that." Connor hummed a song, chopping the chicken into bits and dropping it into the pot.]

Nope! That was all I am. A stress reliever. A jokester.

["You led your cabin to war."]

Anybody could have done that.

["You were a counselor."]

So was Drew and you know how great she is. Too bad she's so mean. She really does have what it takes to be a good leader.

["Connor, do you really want to do this? If you don't, then fine, I'll just go find Travis and — "]

Okay. Okay. Fine. I get it.

[Connor twirled the knife in his right hand, a dangerous smile on his face.]

Your parents want the truth?

No sugarcoating?

Even if it means you probably won't be allowed again?

["They're historians. I'm pretty sure they can handle anything—" A cutting board slammed down in front of me. Connor tilted his head to the side and grinned in a slightly too manic manner.]

Great. Fantastic. Awesome. You're probably wrong, but I'll humor you.

[He stabbed the knife into the wood and headed for the fridge, coming back with carrots and celery. He pulled the knife out of the wood and began chopping, pace set and steady.]

Do you know the responsibility of counselors?

We greet newbies. Get them accustomed to camp, get them some friends, get them some weapons, get them some toiletry. Basically, we do everything in our power to get them to stay and get some formal training.

Those who stayed for even a summer raised their survival rates by 50%, so you can see why it's so important for them to stay, right?

Anybody who was a counselor could tell you how stressful that freaking job was.

You're in charge of a dozen to two dozen children. You need to make sure they are all going to the events. That they are all eating and sleeping well. You need to keep an eye out for signs of mental strain and trauma, if they're avoiding home or are eager to go home. You need to keep any eye out for any discontentment towards the gods. You need to do so many things for so many kids and if they take even one step out of line, you're the first to be blamed.

Travis was twelve when he was forced into that role.

Twelve, just a year older than you. He could barely keep track of his own clothes at that time, always taking mine or Chris's since his clothes were, and I quote, "taken by magical gnomes every week."

How could he possibly watch over a dozen kids?

Did you know, before Luke left, there were forty kids? After that, there were just ten. Those remaining ten were all a year or two younger than Travis.

Do you honestly think anybody would listen to him? When he was so young and unsure of himself?

Look, Travis is a great person. He has the biggest heart of anybody I know. He's an amazing older brother who's always quick at picking up emotional distress. And his leadership skills are pretty… well, decent is the only way to describe it. But he's absolutely shit at keeping order.

I don't know what Chiron was thinking. It would have been a thousand times more responsible to merge Hermes cabin with another cabin while Travis gained experience. We were small enough back then. It would have worked but I'm digressing.

Travis couldn't keep order but I could. We looked alike back then too so I just pretended to be Travis. But pretending can only get you so far. The kids pretty much stopped listening to both of us since they refuse to listen to "wimpy" Travis and "pretend" Travis.

So I went to Chiron and become a co-counselor.

Not that it meant much. I didn't do anything noteworthy.

["Will said you were a fantastic counselor." Connor scoffed. He picks up the cutting board with the chopped vegetables and swept them into the boiling pot.]

Will? Will Solace?

As in, Will, the idiot who can't swing a sword, or shoot an arrow to save his life?

Everything that leaves his self-righteous mouth is garbage.

["What? That was a compliment! How could you say something so mean to Will who said something so nice?" ]

You wanted the truth. This is the truth.

Besides, he's lying to you. He probably said that to make himself look good. Wouldn't want his image ruined after all the work he put in to become Mr. Good Guy.

["I thought you were friends."]

We were.

Best of friends.

Then war happened and he showed his true colors.

When the war ended, he wanted to pretend none of it happened.

Travis happily agreed but I'm not so forgiving.

None of them are getting my forgiveness. Sure, I'll be nice to them in public, but I want them all to drown.

["Them being….." Connor shrugged.]

Everybody basically.

Will, Katie, Annabeth, Clarisse, oh man, especially Clarisse.

Even Chris can leave forever.

["Okay. I'm lost. You're saying all these mean things but I don't understand why these people deserve it. Katie—" Connor slammed another pot into the sink harshly, a sharp ring of metal against metal. He reached over to a cupboard and pulled out a carton of pasta.]

Yeah, yeah, I know. Katie is in a rough spot right now. I'm trying to help her right now like a good fellow counselor should, even though I really don't want too.

["Why are you being such an— such an— such— " Connor smirked over his shoulder.]

I wouldn't use ass around Travis.

You know how he is about cuss words.

["What exactly did they do to make you hate them so much?"]

After Luke left, ten of us stayed. Ten. Don't you think the ten of us would be loyal to camp? We stayed so we must have loved camp. Right? That logic makes sense, doesn't it?

Not to Clarisse.

We were all traitors in her eyes. And she tell us this everyday.

She would pull us aside, dunk our heads in the toilets, mud, horse feces, every gross thing you can think of, and tell us to scram while her crappy followers laugh beside her. She do this to everyone from our cabin, even our nine year old.

A nine year old.

One by one, I watched my half-siblings call home, begging their parents to pick them up. I could hear the scorning in their mom's or dad's voice become hesitant, to disbelieving, to rage. They would hand the phone to me and I would have to listen to their mom or dad screeched at me how bad I am and how awful and how incompetent and how everything. I would have to watch them march up to Half Blood Hill with this bloodlust in their eyes, demanding for me and my brother. They always falter when they realize we're not much older than their children.

They just looked at us, shook their head, and take their kid back without another word.

The original ten who stayed all left by next summer.

Of course, we would always get new demigods, so our cabin was never empty but living in Hermes Cabin was hell.

I don't know the situation of the other cabins, but we were Clarisse's favorite toys.

If the gods really loved their children, they would have taken them out of our cabin. But nope! We all suffered together, the claimed and the unclaimed. Just like one big family!

[Connor slammed green onions onto the cutting board. He went back to the sink for his knife, flipping it in his hands on his way back. He lined the onions up and began cutting.]

I could understand Clarisse though. She has such a nasty and abhorrent personality that it's super hard for anyone to like her. Her only friends were Chris and Silena back then and when Chris left, she didn't know how to handle that emotion of being rejected.

Her, I can understand. The others, not so much.

One by one, my friends turned their backs on me. They let Clarisse do whatever. They refused to hang out. They stopped talking to me and start talking behind my back, saying we were all thieves, all liars. Even went so far to vandalized our cabin one time.

We had to get everybody new clothes. The parents were so mad. I had so many complaints and so many angry letters that I thought about dumping all of them into the pavilion's burning altar, to kinda give the gods a taste of their partners' disappointment. Maybe that would have motivated their dumb, haha, sorry, busy selfs to claim their children.

One time they wrote "death to traitors" on our walls in bright, red paint. It's obviously supposed to be intimidation tactics. I guess to scare us into leaving. Do you know how long it took to scrub that gunk off? Luckily only me and brother saw it. Could you imagine the hysteria if ten year olds saw something like that? I could and I would drown myself in the river before I face the angry moms and dads.

It was probably Clarisse's doing. I could recognize her chicken scratches anywhere.

My friendship with Katie and Will officially ended when they accused me and my brother of being spies.

Around that same time, Chris came back and Clarisse stopped her bullying. Guess she didn't want him to know how much of a demon she really is. But they're perfect for each other. Both are lying, scheming, two-faced—

["That's it. I'm calling it. No more bashing. Only factual truth from now on."]

The factual truth?

Of course!

Did you know 90% of newcomers in those 4 years of war left after one and a half month? Did you know 80% of major injuries requiring the use of ambrosia and nectar came from my cabin? Did you know Silena Beauregard, Daughter of Aphrodite, was an actual confirmed traitor but there was not a peep about her cabin all being filthy spies that should just rot? Did you know much it fucking killed me to have my friends turn on me? To have my siblings come to me in tears because Kayla took their favorite doll or Clarisse shoved them into a thorn bush? To be blamed for everything your half-brother did?

Everything Luke did, the Pine tree's poisoning, the Battle of the Labyrinth, we were blamed for it. Like we supported him. Like we rooted for him.

Like I wanted it to happen.

Like I wanted my friends to die.

[Connor sniffled and I tensed.]

Lee and Charlie. Silena. Castor. They were my—

["H-hey, are you going to cry?"]

They were my friends. I didn't want them to die.

I didn't want anyone to die.

But they did and we were blamed.

["Don't cry! Don't cry! M-Maybe you should stop cutting, you might hurt yourself…"]

The bullying got worse.

More and more parents come to pick up their kids.

They all give me the same look. The same disappointed look.

[Connor blinked angrily, swiping a hand across his cheeks. He went back to cutting vigorously.]

I was a counselor.

I was supposed to keep us together.

I planned parties. I learned how to bake and cook. I learned how to knit and embroider. I learned new languages. I thought of everything we could do together as a cabin. I pranked their bullies so they'd come for me. I complained to Chiron. I bribed minor gods to be their bodyguards. I even taught them judo so they could defend themselves a bit.

But they still continued to leave.

Everything I did had no meaning. I couldn't help anyone. Not my cabin. Not my siblings. Not even my brother. All I did was make it easier for them to hate us, give them more reasons to blame us. No one liked me just like no one liked Clarisse. Except she doesn't have a sister who looks exactly like her.

Travis...he needed my help and I did nothing but make it harder for him. If I wasn't so grudge-holding, if I was more like him, maybe he wouldn't have…maybe he wouldn't have —

Huh?

[Connor blinked, staring at the knife lodged in the table, several cuts away from the cutting board. It took a couple of seconds for Connor to process what he did but when he did, he pulled the knife free from the table and groaned.]

I can't believe I did this again.

Crap.

Chiron is going to be so mad at me.

[Connor frowned at the spot, fingers tracing the the indents. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.]

It's not that bad. I'll just fill it with some clay and paint it brown.

Er, you didn't hear me say that.

["No. I didn't." I repeated back. Hermes Code #2: You never saw what happened. Connor takes the board of chopped green onions and swept them with the knife into the pot. He stirred the boiling pot with a wooden spoon, silent. "Are you okay now?" I prodded.]

Yeah. I'm always okay. Always okey dokey.

Haha, you know, after the war, some were sorry for the way they acted. They wanted to be friends again and pretend that four years never happened. I never wanted anything to do with them but they're counselors too and it's bad for people to see counselors fighting so I sucked it up and pretended we were friends again.

[Connor turned and placed the pot in front of me with a lopsided grin and he was back to being the counselor I know.]

In public at least.

I'm great at acting aren't I? You probably can't even tell I hate their guts.

["So you don't want to make up with them?" Connor smiled wider.]

Nope! As soon as I graduate, I'm leaving and never coming back to this hellhole again.

["You're never coming back to visit?"]

Never.

["But I'll miss you."]

Yeah, well, I missed Luke before he went all evil macho on me.

Hey, what time is it?

[Boom.]

Never mind.

[There was a very familiar scream. "What was that?" I asked, scrambling off the chair.]

A prank for my old friend.

I got to go. Soup is ready, take as much as you want.

Percy's going to be here any second for my head.

[On cue, there was a roar. Connor dumped all the utensils into the sink. He laid a dish towel over the indents. At my raised eyebrows, he pressed a finger to his lips.]

Shh. Rarely anybody uses this kitchen so if we keep quiet, I can fix this before anybody finds out.

[The roaring is now clearly a single voice, "CONNOR!"

There is a pounding at the door. Each slam splintered the door. Connor, for his credit, doesn't seem to be scared. If anything he seems amused, excited even.]

Hey, Riley.

Do you want to know what I learn from this war?

[He pulled out a cap, twirling it on a finger.]

The only person I can trust in this world is my brother.

Everyone else just disappoints.

[Then he tugged the cap on and disappeared.

The door flied from its hinges, landing on an occupied bed. Percy Jackson stood on the other side, Riptide in hand. His eyes zero in on me and I never wanted to run more than anything. He took a single step towards me, growling out, "Where is he?"

Before I could answer, the window scraped open, shoes scurrying over wood and Connor's voice, already departing.]

Bye, Percy!

Tell Anniebeth I'm just warming up!


[If it were any other day, I would be ecstatic. Here I am, walking side by side with the great Perseus Jackson. The Hero of Olympus. Defeater of the Minotaur, of Antares, of Ares. It used to be my dream to be able to have a one on one conversation with the son of Poseidon. Now, my dream is to go back to the days when I didn't have to worry about my counselor one day upping and leaving us forever.

Percy is fuming, cheeks full of chicken noodle soup. He walked briskly, towards the infirmary and I ran to keep up with him.

"What did Connor do?"]

He put 10 jars of spiders in Annabeth's trunk. I don't know how he did it, but he taped the lids to the trunk so when she open it, kapunk, all the lids come off. She's in the infirmary right now with Will. He says the bites are 100% venom free, but still, Connor knows Annabeth hates spiders. When I get my hands on that little idiot…

[Percy shoved another spoonful of soup into his mouth. I think he's supposed to look menacing, but with full cheeks, he looked more childish than anything.]

So what did you guys talk about?

["He said he never want to come back to camp."]

He's joking.

["Percy, why did you and Annabeth sign Travis up for New Rome College?"]

Cause a college education is important for living a half-decent life.

["No, I mean. Why did you want to separate them?"]

It's complicated. It's not good for their mental health for them to be together now.

["What did Travis say?"]

He wasn't too happy but what can he do? He got accepted. It's not like he can refuse and drop the full scholarship. New Rome is not like any college. They're equipped to deal with monsters. He'll be perfectly safe while finishing his studies.

And, hey, they know we're demigods with dyslexia. They'll accommodate us.

He wanted to take Connor with him but someone needs to stay to be counselor. Cecil is in training right now but he's not ready to take on the role yet.

["He's fourteen. I'm pretty sure he's ready."]

That's too young to be in-charge of four dozen children.

["I guess but he'll find a co-counselor. I still don't understand why you guys did what you did." Percy sighed, running a hand through his hair, looking extremely uncomfortable. We stopped at the infirmary's entrance.]

Luke was counselor for four years before he revolted. Travis and Connor are nearing their sixth anniversary.

["I don't think they would betray us like Luke did." I mumbled. From the door, Will coughed to get our attention. He pointed inside to Annabeth glowering on the bed with crossed arms, band-aids covering nearly every patch of skin.

Intense, slate eyes met mine.]

You barely know them, Riley. Don't act like you do.

Chapter 11: Temptation


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: Travis Stoll - Temptation


—really sorry. It wasn't like I planned for it to happen! It just did. Don't blame me, blame Holly and Laurel for not being able to—

["Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait!"]

—get a substitute in time. And blame Chiron, too, for telling me out of the blue.

["Hold on! I didn't get the begi—"]

And blame Annabeth for putting Connor in hiding. Now there's no one to watch my cabin because Chris is busy, Cecil is studying, and everybody else is way too young.

Why am I always the one free?

Grrr, Connor, this is not the time to be pulling this on me. You're probably hiding in the attic. Nobody knows we have an attic.

You did not hear me say that. He is definitely not hiding in the attic. We don't even have an attic. (Please don't tell Annabeth. I don't want to lose a brother.)

["Travis, wait!" I screamed, putting his rambling to a halt. We stood on Half Blood Hill, Travis paused mid-rant. I shuffled my camcorder from one hand to the other for a better hold. "I didn't get the first part. You talked too fast."]

Ah, sorry. I'll start from the top again.

I can't stay for the full hour I promised you. I'm watching the Nike Cabin in a little bit because somebody, (cough cough Holly and Laurel cough cough), forgot to get someone to man their cabin while they go to a meeting.

Chiron told me I'm watching them for this hour. But nobody is covering my cabin so now I have to watch both.

It's unfair. I'm leaving soon. Can't they give me a break already?

["Hey, Travis, why do you have gas bombs in your bag?"

Travis chuckled and tugged his duffel bag behind his back.]

Oh, yeah, that.

We're playing some board games together. I gotta have a few tricks so that, you know, I actually stand a chance of winning against them?

["Isn't that cheating? Nike doesn't like cheaters."]

There's no rules in the game that says I can't knock the players out. So technically ... No, I'm not cheating.

["Chiron will get mad."

Travis waved his hand, dismissing what I said.]

Chiron has bigger fish to fry than me putting a few demigods down for a nap.

Besides, Chiron loves me. I can get away with everything as long as I whine a little, bribe a little, beg a — wait, what am I doing? I have a cabin to watch. Let's start. What do you want to know?

["Okay, um, what was it like to be a counselor in a period of war?"]

An absolute pain in my behind. Too many war strategy meetings to go to. Too many extra training sessions to attend. Too many touchy topics we all had to tread carefully on.

Yup.

A total pain.

["There's got to be more."]

If you mean war stuff, nah. I didn't pay attention unless it affected me or my cabin. Don't tell Annabeth this, but she is such a bore to listen to. If she would just liven up her presentations with, I don't know, fireworks or whatever, she'd be a lot more fun to listen to.

Now, if you mean pranks, I have plenty of pranking stories. Want to hear some?

["Connor said a lot of stuff."]

Did he? Perfect! So I don't have to, right? I really don't have anything to add other than stories of my incredibly awesome pranks and what happened on my side of the battle in Manhattan. I totally scored some goods when we raided those candy stores—

Hey, what's with that look? We were out there risking our butts. I'm sure a candy store can spare a few pieces for the greater good. I was dying, okay? If I didn't have any sweets, I would have—

["Connor said it was a difficult time for you."]

Rude. I wasn't even done talking.

I think it was a difficult time for everybody. I mean, we all had to deal with almost losing our homes. And a lot of us lost childhood friends to the Titans. Some lost their siblings, partners, and well… Everyone suffered.

["He said the bullying was bad."]

Everybody got bullied.

I remember this one time Malcolm was in sword training with this kid from Apollo's. I don't know what happened or what they said, but Malcolm nearly beheaded the guy. By accident though, it wasn't intentional... I think.

After that, Chiron made sure Malcolm always used a very blunt wooden sword. He's the second scariest person in Camp, right next to Annabeth.

["Annabeth said you were a traitor."]

Really now?

And you actually believed her?

Then again, we thought she was the spy so I guess we shouldn't feel offended.

["I talked with someone who said you helped them get back into camp."]

Are you sure they aren't lying?

["Pollu–I saw a video where Connor broke someone's wrist because they called you a–"

Travis immediately cut me off, leaping from his spot to cover my mouth.]

Ahhhahah, Riley! Riley, Riley, Riley, that's a bad word! I don't like bad words, remember? I don't want a thousand angry parents on my back and you don't want that for me, either, right? Chiron would lecture me, and then the moms would, too! Then I'd have to write apology letters, and that's so much work when I already have more than enough to do.

[Travis pulled back.]

Besides, Connor's my brother. We're the only ones allowed to be mean to each other. Nobody else is allowed to.

["Travis, Annabeth said you were a traitor. Aren't you going to deny it?"]

Okay, I wasn't a traitor.

["...It doesn't bother you that someone close to you said that?" Travis shrugged, not seeming to care.]

It was natural. We were in a time of war. Everybody was stressed. There was obviously a spy sabotaging our plans. Katie accused us. Connor accused Annabeth. I accused Clarisse and Clarisse thought we were all stupid and should all go rot in a hole. I can't blame her. We all started the accusations when Silena just lost Beckendorf. It probably wasn't the most sensitive thing to do.

But we all accused each other.

Just one big group of old friends accusing the other.

["That's not right." ]

Well, everything is okay now. There's no hard feelings.

["...Is that all you really have to say?"]

I guess so. Huh, that was quicker than I thought.

And, look, I got 15 minutes to spare.

Time to go bother Will!

[I watched Travis walked down Half Blood hill. With a heavy heart, I closed my camcorder, letting it fall into my lap.

So much for talking to Travis. Ah, well. Mom and Dad should be happy with what I have.]


[Mom and Dad will not be happy with what I have.

Especially when they see this part.

Look, I'm not a bad person.

I'm not, okay? I never meant to make Katie cry or take Pollux's memories. I didn't mean to make Will sad or Clarisse angry. It just happened. I only wanted to give my parents a gift like any good kid would.

So this?

This right here?

Again, unintentional.

I didn't mean to be crouched down, to have my side pressed firmly against my bed as I followed a blanked face Travis through a sea of bodies. I didn't mean to scurry out of a window and jump down into a bush. I didn't mean to break a gazillion camp rules just to follow my head counselor out of my cabin in the middle of the night.

I flinched at a deafening caw, looking up at the flying figure illuminated by the moonlight. The guard's feathers were gleaming. Even from afar, they were so creepy.

"So...um...the harpies?" I mumbled.

Travis didn't look back at me. He kept staring overhead. His eyes narrowed in thought.]

Keep close to me and run when I say run, okay?

["O-oka–"]

Let's go!

[I wouldn't have reacted fast enough if Travis didn't grab my hand and dragged me with him. I could barely keep up with how fast he was running. No, I couldn't keep up. My feet actually dug into the ground as Travis hauled me with him. I could only do my best to stay upright.

So this is what it takes to get past the harpies if you can't shadow travel... It was a good reference, I guess, if I ever needed to sneak out.

We reached Half Blood Hill with me shaking in my slippers and Travis not even out of breath.

"What-what happened to 'run?'" I wheezed.

He laughed, plopped down on the grass, and stretched.]

Wasn't that exciting?

["We... We're out past curfew," I said, swallowing the knot stuck in my throat.

Travis only laughed harder.]

It's fine. We won't get into trouble if we don't get caught. Don't show the tape to Chiron and we'll be good.

[I didn't say anything about how Chiron asked for a copy of the finished product.

"I... I... What am I doing out here?"

Travis shot me a leisurely grin from his spot on the ground.]

I had a change of heart. I'll do your interview thing seriously.

["Really?" I perked up. "What made you change your mind?"]

Connor.

Told me since he did it, I have to, too. Otherwise, he's not playing poker with me when I get back home. P.S. he's just scared he'll lose all his drachmas. I am amazing at poker. Do you want me to teach you? I can totally teach you how to cheat — I mean, play your way to victory.

["Why now? Couldn't we do it tomorrow? It's the middle of the night." I yawned for extra effect, but Travis doesn't seem at all concerned like he usually would. He did look a bit apologetic though.]

Sorry, I just think it'll be easier this way.

Having nobody around, when everything is dead silent, and not a single thing moving... It's easier for me to say what's on my mind. But only on one condition! You can't judge me.

["Of course I won't. With Malcolm and Katie, I didn't—"]

Oh, come on, Riley. You weren't comfortable interrupting. You didn't know them, so you didn't dare. But you're sassy with people you know. I can count on one hand the number of times you never interrupted me in the one year I was your counselor.

[He got me. I dropped the smile off my face and nodded. "Okay. I got it. No judging."

Travis grunted and pulled his upper body up from the ground. I sat down next to him. He turned towards me with a crooked smile.]

Okay, shoot.

["So what was it like to lead a cabin in a time of war?"]

The same question again?

Okay.

It was difficult.

I wasn't kidding when I said there were a lot of topics we had to tread carefully on.

Do you remember how many emergency meetings there were when the Romans were coming? Well, double that amount and imagine it spanned over four years, and you'll have the idea.

I guess we were all a lot more stressed because there were so few of us back then. Especially when it wasn't summer and it was just us yearrounders. Back then we were lucky to have ten yearrounders, not like now where we have more than forty. Oh, and experience too. None of us had any experience actually strategizing or whatever people do in wars.

Chiron did most of the planning and we all listened and followed his orders.

I don't know if it was a good thing that all the major events happened during summer when we had a lot of people. On one hand, we finally had enough to do espionage and carry out attacks. On the other one, the parents could see that Camp wasn't exactly what they had expected.

Our numbers really hit a toll when Thalia's Pine was threatened.

Cause, you know, that's our barrier. You break that and any monster could just waltz in. And with all these demigods gathered into one convenient location... Well, Camp must have seemed like an all-you-can-eat buffet. The whole reason why parents send their kids here is to train in a safe place. You take away the safe and well…

What was the point of coming to Camp? They might as well just stay at home.

We had to patrol the borders, a couple demigods from each cabin rather than a single cabin. I guess not to disrupt activities. I think it was a great idea. I really got to know some campers who got claimed right away or are Summer only.

Then again, Chiron also had the brilliant idea to pair the veteran campers with the newbies so they could get firsthand experience at monster killing with someone who was trained.

It was fine if the veteran was seventeen or eighteen and the newbie twelve, but if the veteran was twelve and the newbie a lot older... Well, that was a simple recipe for trouble.

Like Annabeth, I came to Camp when I was around seven. I spent 6 long years at camp doing nothing but harsh, grueling training. But then, here come these fifteen-year olds who took some stupid defense class sometime back in middle school who think they know so much more than you.

They doubt you. They think you're incompetent. They don't listen to you.

I can't count the number of times I had to save some tough guy's butt back when we were guarding the border, because "I won't take orders from a little brat."

I should have just let the hellhound grab a little taste of that calf. That would have taught him a lesson.

["I...I think Connor told me, but I forgot. How old were you when you became a counselor?"]

Twelve.

Just like Percy, my life kinda went downhill when I was twelve. I remember that day pretty well.

[Travis laid down on his back and closed his eyes.]

It was the last day of Summer Break. Everyone who wasn't a yearrounder had already left.

It was just me and Connor in our cabin. We were arguing over who would get the top bunk this year, like we do every year.

Connor said I would roll over and crack my skull open. And I told his lazy butt he would call it quits after a week of climbing the ladder.

We were in the middle of a rock-paper-scissors match when Chiron knocked on our door. I didn't say anything because who the heck \knocks on our door? No one. Everyone kind of bursts in like they live here. Campers, satyrs, naiads... It's like an unwritten rule for this cabin.

He knocked again, more insistent this time, and I rolled my eyes and yelled, "Come in." I went right back to arguing with Connor. For a long minute, nobody entered. I thought it was a prank or something, like one of those ring a doorbell and run thing.

Then the door creaked open and I was blasted with this beam of light. It felt like Apollo walked in, but nope, just the setting sun burning my retinas.

Even with that in the background though, it was easy to see it was Chiron. Especially with the bow slung across his back and his height and the clip-clops of his hooves.

Connor and I shut up and leaped to our feet when we realized who it was.

Even though everybody left, our cabin was a mess. Snack wrappers were everywhere, socks and forgotten memorabilia strung on counters and beds. We were actually supposed to clean up rather than argue. But hey. It's such a nice, blissful feeling when everybody leaves for school and there's finally peace and quiet in your own cabin.

Anyway, I welcomed Chiron in as I kicked cracker crumbs under the bed.

But Chiron wasn't paying attention to me. His eyes swept past me and Connor and he surveyed every inch of the room in a slow, meticulous manner.

It was the most awkward two minutes of my life. Here I was trying to clean up without making it seem like I was and the Camp Supervisor was witnessing my cabin in all its glorious filth.

I piped up after a couple minutes, because he was obviously looking for something and that something wasn't us.

"Are you looking for Luke? I think he's in the forest with Percy," I asked.

Chiron swept through the room one more time before they rested on me.

"Are you Travis?" he said.

I nodded and then he asked me if any of my older siblings were here: Chris, Devin, Monique, Kalisa, Elizen... I said no.

Chiron seems to age a decade then. He sighed and rubbed his nose. In that gravelly, spooky voice of his, he said, "Come with me, Travis Stoll, son of Hermes, God of Thieves. You are now the counselor of Cabin 11."

[Travis shot back up from the ground, turning to face me with a wide grin.]

And just like that I was a counselor! Coincidentally, happy times were also over.

Phew. Kapow. Kaboom. Whoosh.

No more hijacking the camp's van. No more staying up past curfew. No more breaking into the camp store. No more doing anything even remotely fun.

As a counselor, I needed to set an example.

And I did...for like the first week.

After that, I kinda do what I usually do. I let everyone do whatever they want as long as they listen to what I say every now and then.

I know, I know.

That sounds like what a terrible counselor would do, but you had no idea how hard it was in the beginning.

It's easy for Clarisse and Pollux to say Luke was dumb for believing in Kronos. But they didn't live long enough in our cabin to understand why.

Pollux and Castor were claimed as soon as they stepped foot into camp, one of the perks of having their Dad on Camp. Do you know how awkward it would be if they were claimed a week or a month later when they saw their Dad every day? Clarisse only spent a day in our cabin before she was claimed. It was in training practice after judo-flipping me to the floor. Her dad claimed her right there. I still remember groaning on the floor. And then, this hellish, red light was glowing over Clarisse's head like a halo, a nasty, triumphant grin on her nasty, triumphant face. She looked like a devil.

Hey, are Chris and Clarisse going to see this part? If they are, well, sorry in advance. Don't kill me.

Both of them, Clarisse and Pollux... They never lived in a cabin where you always had to be bunched together. Where you had no free space to move, and where you never had any privacy. I couldn't even whisper to Connor without someone overhearing us back then.

Pranking was so hard. Someone would always warn our victim and it made everything so much more difficult. Connor thought it made it more fun, more planning for him, I guess, but I only wanted to see the shock on their faces.

And. There's. No. Shock. If. They. Know. It's. Coming.

But that was years ago. I'm over it already. Haha, no, I'm not. Miranda was the biggest tattletale back when she lived in Hermes Cabin. And Katie always ratted me out to Chiron.

If me and Connor were the troublesome troublemakers, then Katie and Miranda were the tattling twits. I was glad when they were both claimed and moved out. We had three whole months to prank in peace before Luke went all 'revolution time' on us.

[Travis leaned back on his arms, gazing at the stars.]

I miss those days. Everything was so much fun. We all had fun together.

Luke was such a cool counselor. You know, before he went to the dark side.

Even when nobody was here, he would decorate our cabin for Halloween, Christmas, New Years, St. Patricks... Every single holiday. All because he wanted to give us something to do. It's boring as yearrounders, you know?

He would give us personal lessons on sword fighting, on dealing with stress, and even pranking. He was an awful prankster, but that's not important.

Luke was so cool and awesome that when he left, we all wondered if we should go too. Cause Luke is the best and he's always right.

[Travis looked down at camp.]

Sometimes I wonder if it was all an act, if he cared about us at all.

[Then he paused, eyes darting to the camcorder. He turned to face me directly and smiled.]

Well, there's no point in caring now since he's dead.

The point is we were left confused and under their confusion I led everyone around.

After the first week, though, some doubted the Gods and wondered whether Luke was right.

As a counselor, I was supposed to stop those fears and reassure them Luke was wrong, but I don't know what I did exactly. It gotta be something I said. I seemed to only make it worse.

Thank Hermes, I had Connor. If it was just me, our cabin would have been empty by the second week.

["So you and Connor were loyal till the end!"]

What now?

["Annabeth says you and Connor were like Luke. That you would end up becoming like Luke. But that's not true."

Travis coughed, scratching his cheek.]

W-well. Ahahahaha, funny thing, that topic.

["It's not true, right?"

Travis refused to meet my eyes, instead boring holes into the grass.

"Travis?"]

Look, I'll tell you everything. Just keep our promise in mind. You can't judge me, okay?

The first month I was counselor wasn't all that bad.

All I needed to do was comfort my siblings and welcome the newbies. Connor took care of roll care and the daily schedule. Not hard at all.

Everything went so smooth.

Then the rumors started after news of Luke spread.

We would get some stares, but no one outright confronted us. Except for Clarisse. But that was Clarisse being Clarisse.

Then Thalia's Pine was poisoned. With that I lost half of my friends. Michael, Beckendorf, even Kit-Kat Katie didn't want anything to do with me.

I lost the other half of my pals too, but that was later on. I don't know if it was because they thought I had something to do with the poisoning or if they were busy with their cabin. I like thinking it's the latter because I'm optimistic like that. Connor thinks it's the former.

Either way, most of the camp seemed to think we were associated with Luke.

It's unfair. It wasn't like we poisoned the tree. Why did they act like we did? Everywhere I go, people glared at me and the daring ones would walk right up to me and say stuff like — well, it wasn't nice. I can tell you that.

I handled my problems pretty well. Connor is pretty capable too, but I was more worried about my half-siblings. The only thing we had going for us was our pranks. We can't argue well like Malcolm and Annabeth or be intimidating enough like Michael and Clarisse. We could only prank anyone who messed with our cabin.

But the bullying never stopped. One by one all the original ten announced they were leaving. I never felt so much a failure. I tried doubling down on my pranks. I also tried having a one on one talk with some of them because we used to be cabinmates. Even tried to bribe some of them to leave us alone.

None of it worked.

One night, after a particularly cruel chant from Clarisse — she was a real wisecrack back then. Her chants were some of the most creative things I heard from her cabin. I think her best one was "11, 11, Jack of all trades, master of none, losers in all shades." Did not make sense at all, but it was catchy. I doubt she has enough brain cells to create those songs herself, but, hey. I guess Clarisse is always full of surprises. Do you know she's actually a great gymnast? Yeah, I saw her doing some amazing flips in the middle of the night when I snuck out to raid the camp store.

Anyway, one night, two weeks before Thalia came into the picture, I... I remember feeling so angry. Like an angry that ruins your whole mood. And it's hard to not shout at the littlest inconvenience or slam the door or... something. I was kind of scared I might take it out on the wrong person. So I ordered my cabin's lights out a good hour earlier than curfew time.

No one questioned me. I think it's because they thought I was Connor and a pissed off Connor is someone you do not want to anger further.

I remember jumping into my bed, pulling the covers over my head and thinking — Oh, that's right, I won! I got the top bunk! Hah, suck it, Connor!

Sorry. I kinda ruined the moment, didn't I? It's important to the story. Trust me. That's my first personal victory in the list of none. Probably the most important victory in my life. Because Connor always gets his way even though I'm older. I should put down my foot more. Yeah, I can do that. Be more assertive, you know? Don't let people push me over. Yeah, be more like Connor. Can you imagine? Two Connors? Two times the punishments?

[There's something everyone in the Hermes cabin knows. When Travis is nervous, he talks. He just rambles and rambles and rambles. An hour long session of Greek Myths can easily become three with Travis as the instructor. I hate to admit it, but when we have a training session with the Ares cabin or archery with Apollo, my friends and I would bait Travis until he was flustered. Most times it works. Other times Connor jumps in and finishes the lesson.]

You know people still think Connor is the older brother? No, I am. Just because he's more strict doesn't mean I can't be strict either.

["Travis, we all love you the way you are. If it doesn't bother you, though, I would like to remind you that you have a counselor meeting this morning. So could you get going... please?"]

I do?

Oh, no.

I know what it's going to be about. Dang it. This always happens when we take a prank goes too far. I'm gonna have to impersonate Connor, because he can't keep his mouth shut at the right time. I'm on everyone's good side this week so I guess I can rack up some bad points. I doubt anyone notices when we do that. Which reminds me, sometimes me and Connor roleplay as each other when we're doing our jobs. Can you guys tell or—

["Travis."]

Got it, rambling. Time to move on. Sorry, I don't want to talk about — I just don't like remembering this part.

But, yeah.

That day, as I curled up in my covers, all I could think about was how Dad could let this happen. How Mr. D could turn a blind eye like that. How Chiron told me to deal with it on my own, that 'there are bigger problems at hand.' How my friends didn't care to help.

I knew they were busy with their duties, but I always made time to be nice to their cabin. Why couldn't they tell their siblings to be nice to ours?

I was so angry, thinking how it's so unfair and so stupid and how much I hated the adults for letting this happen. How I hated my dad for letting Luke do what he's doing. How I hated Mr. D for being so useless. Chiron, Clarisse, Percy, Anniebeth, Chris for doing nothing. How I hated how weak I was, how I couldn't do anything when Connor was doing everything.

I went to bed that night with thoughts of giving the Gods their own medicine. A whole childhood's worth of negligence to make them understand we weren't toys.

And, well, you can guess what happened that night.

["You dreamt of pranking?" I offered weakly. Travis refused to meet my eyes.]

I dreamt of Kronos.

["And you told him off, right? Right?"]

Luke was there.

We were in a dark room, surrounded by monsters on all sides. Luke's back was turned to me, his hand stroking a coffin.

He was talking to the box, speaking way too low for me to understand.

Even so, 12 years old me was about to pee his pants. I had never seen a horror movie in my sheltered life at Camp, let alone experienced this weird, horror-esque dream.

Luke turned around and rather than blue eyes, I saw gold.

"Seek revenge, son of Hermes. For your forgotten breathens and cruel companions. Seven days from today, on the night of a new moon, come to Fisherman's Wharf and I will give you the power to change the world."

I woke up in a cold sweat and tumbled off my bed to get real intimate with the toilet, but I completely forgot where I was.

Even at 11, Connor has amazing foresight.

I rolled over the bed, realized a good two seconds too late I had the top bunk, and bonked my head on the corner of the nightstand. Woke up my entire cabin when I fell and they woke up the entire camp.

Supposedly, I cracked my head open and there was a lot of blood. They thought I was dying and I had to see Will and... yeah... I wasn't allowed on the top bunk anymore.

Which is not fair. What happened to the three strikes rule?

["3 times to crack your head open? I doubt the rule applies to that."]

I can't believe you took their side, Riley.

I thought you loved me.

The pain.

It's so real.

["You and Connor are so dramatic."

Travis stuck his tongue out at me.]

No, we're not. You're just mean.

Anyway, as soon as Will saw me, I told Chiron and Mr. D about the whole event and do you know what they said?

"Don't listen to him, Travis. Kronos will destroy the world."

Yup. That's all. Just that. Like I didn't know Kronos was bad.

Look, I know I was a bit of an airhead when I was twelve, but I wasn't completely dumb.

They didn't do anything about the situation at all. Just gave me that stupid piece of advice and sent me on my way. Sometimes Chiron would check up on me to see if I still have these dreams. At one point I started lying to him and saying no. He wasn't doing anything helpful and I think Chiron would be glad to have one less demigod to worry about.

["Did Connor know about your dreams?"]

Of course.

I can't keep anything from him, not that I would. I don't know if you know this, Riley, but Connor has a nose of a bloodhound. He can sniff out every lie, every secret. Maybe it was a gift from our dad. I wish I had that skill. He agreed that our supervisors sucked and we spent a good half hour complaining about them.

I didn't tell anyone else, though. It's bad enough we were accused of being traitors. They didn't need to know I was having these dreams.

Sometimes I wondered why Kronos wanted me. Connor is a lot smarter than me. Maybe they got the wrong brother. Wouldn't it be cool if our dream waves are so similar that it's hard to tell us apart in dream-mode?

["You didn't go, right?"]

Nope. At the time, I didn't want to prove them right, that all Hermes children are traitors.

The day came and passed with me still behind Camp's deteriorating borders. Kronos tried again that night, offering me riches and powers "beyond my imagination."

You know, typical villain lines.

He did this every night. Every time I drift off to sleep for even a second, there he was. Even with a nap in the daytime, I wasn't safe from him.

Man, someone needs to teach him how to take a hint.

He was so persistent like a... Like a… Like a salesman.

["Did you compare the Lord of Time to a salesman?" Travis shrugged.]

Hey, act like a salesman, and you'll be called one.

He bothered me every night I slept, insisting I joined his league of the Anti-Gods or whatever his group was. No matter how much I said no, he persisted, and well, after, like, the fifteenth day of waking up nauseous, I tried to find a loophole.

So I stopped sleeping.

["That's not a loophole."]

That's what you say, but I say it's a loophole.

One of the newbies was a kid of Hypnos so I had them make me a potion to forego sleep. Too bad it only worked for a week and a half. After that, I crashed for two entire days. I don't know what's worse. 3 hours of Kronos every night or two whole days with him.

["That... That's not good for you."]

It wasn't. I scared Connor when I slumped over asleep in the middle of training.

I don't recommend drinking the potion more than once a year. It messes with your appetite and digestion. I had such a huge headache after waking up from that two days, not sure if it was from Kronos or the drink.

["Please tell me you didn't continue using it."]

No, Connor took it away from me. He told me to find another method.

What a worrywart.

That first night happened because I thought some bad thoughts. So I figured, if I let all the negativity go, the dreams would stop.

Whenever someone did something mean, I forced myself to forgive it and move on.

It probably wasn't right for some cases, but it made me a lot happier. Didn't stop Kronos, but I was happier somewhat.

["Will said you say that to him a lot."]

Will is such a nice guy. He needs to learn to let the past go and live in the moment. I let my past go all the time and I'm so stress-free.

Sort of.

Now that I think about it, though, Will is always worrying about the present too. He needs to learn to live in the future then, forget the past and present.

["When Connor talked about Will, he was so... I don't think harsh is the right word. He was mean. Everybody always makes him sound so…"]

Lazy? Stupid? Cause as his older brother I can confirm that is 60% tr—

["Scary." ]

Really?

Huh.

Connor is a big, soft teddy bear, though.

Who says he's scary?

["Makes him sound scary," I corrected. " Chris. Annabeth. Lou—Um. Pollux." Travis leaned back on his arms.]

Those three? I can imagine why.

Connor doesn't do well with controlling his emotions. People say I'm more impulsive and I guess that's true, but so is Connor when he loses his cool.

The way he spoke of our friends was uncomfortable. I wanted to leave the cabin after he started with Will. I like Will and he's a nice guy, but I guess Connor is right in a way. Will does have an 'I'm always right' mindset that leads him to be kind of pushy —

["No way. You were there with us when I was talking with Connor? You kept quiet that long? Why were you there? Were you eavesdropping?"]

No! It's called keeping an eye on my little brother! There's a reason we older campers direct all the questions about that stuff to Chiron. I mean look at what Katie did to the poor Big House. Do you know who's going to fix it? Us counselors!

["I didn't mean too!"]

Yeah, I know, but it still happened. No one blamed you.

Connor is as capable of blowing a gasket and setting the Hypnos cabin on fire. One huge enough that it'll catch onto the other cabins and we all have no place to sleep.

It almost happened once.

Connor had a nightmare and woke me up so we could sneak into Hypnos cabin. I made the mistake of falling asleep and woke up to the kitchen on fire. I can't believe the one cabin with a kitchen doesn't have a working fire extinguisher.

Look, the point is, a lot of us have bad memories of the war and we all have our own coping methods. Clarisse has her punching bag. Katie has her crying. And Connor has his cooking.

["Still...Connor said some pretty mean stuff. He said everybody could drown and he wouldn't care."]

He does care otherwise he wouldn't help Katie or throw that party for Chris. Do you think I made that party? No, if I was in charge all Chris would have gotten is a welcome card and a messed up cake he would need to help clean up.

It's... just hurtful, I guess, to have your closest friends doubt you.

We were yearrounders, Riley.

That means for nine months we spent every waking moment of our life with other yearrounders. We wake up, eat breakfast together, go to class together, train together, eat lunch together, spend free time together, joke together, eat dinner together, sing songs together, even sleep over at the Hermes cabin for almost every night because of how few of us there are.

Annabeth, Jake, Will, Clarisse, they were all yearrounders like us and later Katie and Miranda. We spent years together: training, fighting, and having fun before the war. And then to have your loyalty questioned?

So what if Luke and Chris left, who also happened to be yearrounders, too and sons of Hermes to boot? And so what if the majority of those who ditched Camp came from our cabin? And so what if we looked up to Luke? And so what if I don't like to bad mouth my brother along with the rest of camp? And so what if I defend him a little when people bring him up as a psychopathic murderer?

We didn't leave.

That should say something about us. All yearrounders were close. They should have been accused too. Why single us out? I mean, sure, I love riling people up and making them suffer for my enjoyment, but that doesn't mean I like actually hurting people. Does it? There's gotta be a distinction, right?

["Does Connor mean what he said?"]

Who knows?

All I know is that he was hurt. Ranting is how he expresses anger. Punching the living soul out of a sandbag or bawling his eyes out isn't his way.

I hope he'll be okay when I leave... Maybe I can ditch class to sneak back to camp every now and then. College can't be too hard, right?

["Why weren't you mad?"]

Who said I wasn't? I forced myself to forgive them and move on. Prank them a little and call it even. Some of my friends think I still have a vendetta against them. I don't and no matter what I say, Will won't get that memo. He was so stressed during that battle; I feel like he would have bitten off the head of the next person he talked too. That sorry person just had to be me. I don't even know what he said exactly, kinda too occupied staring at how ugly and tired he looked.

Anyway that was basically what my first two years of counseling were like. Luke did something, my cabin suffered for him, and Connor and I sent our tormentors to the infirmary.

Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

Then the Battle of the Labyrinth happened and my friends died.

It must have hit me after their deaths. I thought Luke cared about us enough to not kill us, still stuck in the past, haha. Death was now a viable option and it scared me. I guess Kronos must have realized it at that point too.

I no longer dreamt of riches or treasures. I dreamt of my friends' dead bodies. Torn limbs, slit throats, charred corpses, acid washed faces, clubbed heads.

Katie. Will. Malcolm. Jake. Silena and Beckendorf. Chris. My half-siblings. Clarisse and Annie.

It terrified me. I would wake up and sneak into their cabins to make sure it was only a dream and not reality. With the end of every dream, Kronos said none of it will become true if I served as a spy and messed with my friends for a bit. Stop Percy on going on quests. Sabotage camp's weaponry. Convince my cabin to join him, too. Stuff like that.

It made sense why he wanted us. We were still the biggest cabin in Camp and losing us was like losing 40% of Camp's fighting force.

I still ignored him though.

They'll all end up dead even if I did that. I know you can't protect everybody. If you try, you'll end up losing more. I thought it was better to cling to that little hope Percy and Annabeth would save everybody.

Then Connor became one of those bodies.

He made a new offer that night.

No one would hurt my brother. No monster, no demigod, no one.

He swore on the River Styx and his own honor as a titan.

["...What did you do? You said no, right? Didn't you?"

Travis averted his eyes, picking at the dirt with his hands.]

(Your promise, remember?)

["There's no way you could have..."]

Connor... He's my entire world.

I would send the whole camp, the whole world, to Tartarus for him.

["But you didn't, right?" Travis winced at my question and looked at me with guilt in his eyes.]

No.

After that promise, I packed my bags and left Camp Half Blood.

Chapter 12: This Is The End

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: This Is The End


 

Travis

I left Camp Half Blood, but I didn't get far.

Because right here, right on this very spot, Annabeth judo-flipped me and rolled me back down to camp.

She spun around from Thalia's Pine out of nowhere like a ‘Nico’, grabbed me by the shoulder, lifted my butt into the air like I’m not 20 pounds heavier, and slammed me back down to the ground.

Oh Riley, the way Annabeth was leering down at me... my life sorta flashed through my eyes. My birth. My childhood. My pranks. My list of pranks that still needed to be done. My secret vault of snacks I never got around to finishing.

From the corner of my eyes, Connor came behind the tree and marched towards us with this angry look. He started to say, "I told you not to judo flip hi—"

Then Annabeth interrupted him, "Connor told me everything. You're staying here, Travis, even if I have to glue your hand to mine and drag your butt to all my missions."

Then she kicked me down Half-Blood Hill.

It was gentle, though. It wasn't like a strong, as-hard-as-you-can kick. It was like a nudge.

Annabeth and Chiron grounded me indefinitely for my little 'attempted escapade.'

Gods, the way she kept an eye on me for the rest of the year was freaky. I couldn't even go to the restroom without Jake or Will outside my door. It’s nice though in a way. If I forgot my towel or something, I can make them go fetch it!

If Annabeth wanted something done, she's going to get it done.

But I'm glad. If she didn't, I would have been fighting on the other side come the Battle of Manhattan.


 

Connor

Annabeth scratched her band-aids, frowning. "Connor is strong. But he's too dependent on Travis. Everywhere he goes, Connor will follow. Whatever he does, Connor will do. When it comes to his brother, his morals go out the window. It's great that he loves his brother so much but–" Annabeth paused, eyes darting to Percy before coming back to mine. "This willingness to do anything, to sacrifice anything is bad. This independence will be good for both of them. It'll strengthen their own individual identities. Now, if you excuse me, I have an old friend to hunt down for stealing my baseball cap.

Wait, that smell. Percy, did Connor make that?"

Percy nodded and Annabeth slid off the bed despite Will's exclamation, "Wait! I'm not done with the ointment! Annabeth!"

Annabeth didn't heed his word. She accepted the bowl from Percy's outreached hand and taking a whiff with a smile. "Gods, Connor can really cook."

She handed the bowl to Will. "Here. Have some of Connor's chicken noodle soup. It's awesome and great for stress."

"After I apply the ointment."

Annabeth shrugged and slurped a spoonful as Will rubbed the solution on her arm. He rattled off his orders. "Remove the band-aids when you're done trampling through the forest. Don't apply them again so they'll heal quicker. But as the camp's doctor, I really do advise you not to go trampling through the dirt with open bites. Because you will get an infection and it will hurt."

Annabeth gave an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, Will."

But that was all and Annabeth slurped another spoonful of soup.

Will sighed in resignation and went to the cabinet to put away the supplies.

I watched from the sidelines, feet fidgeting before mumbling, "Was it worth it? You ruined your relationship with Connor."

Annabeth paused mid-slurp. She turned towards me with an amused half smile. "You really don't know him, do you? Connor is a big softie. You just have to keep nudging him a bit and he'll forgive you. We've had bigger quarrels in the past. Did you know he once accused me of being a spy for Kronos? I didn't speak to him for months afterward and twice dislocated his shoulder in training, but we're still friends. We'll always be friends."


Lou Ellen

No matter what I do or say, it's always there.

I live in fear.

I live in lies.

And I'm tired of it.

I'm living like a coward. I don't want to die a coward too.

[The shadow raised a shaky hand, curling around its chest.]

So... so... this is why I'm doing this.

I'm facing my fears head-on, as a daughter of Hecate.

I refuse... refuse to–

[The darkness dispersed slowly from the bottom, revealing purple sneakers.]

I refuse to cower anymore!

[The tips of the orange shirt.]

I know what I did was wrong and I'll atone for them.

[A beaded necklace.]

I would rather live a life in shame than a life in cowardice.


 

Chris

Connor hates me, I think. Travis, probably too.

I can't blame them.

They have every reason to hate me.

But I'll do whatever it takes to regain their trust, to make up for my mistakes.

I'll make it right between us.


 

Pollux

There was the pit-pat of shoes on wood board and Pollux rounded a corner. He speaks first without looking at anyone, eyes darting uncomfortably to the ceiling as he stood partially behind the door frame. "Chris, let's go canoeing together while Clarisse is busy. I can't swim so I need someone to save me if—" then his eyes drifted down, "Oh, you're busy."

Chris turned around, eyes widening. "Pollux? You want to go canoeing? With me?"

Pollux nodded and scratched his head. He's already leaning back. "Yeah, but if you're busy—"

"No! No, no, no. I'm free. I'm always free if you want to hang out." Chris stood with a wide, unbelieving smile. The med packs laid forgotten on the table.

"Great." Pollux smiled back, but it looked unsure compared to Chris's beaming smile. He turned around and let out a shaky sigh, tense shoulders relaxing somewhat, unseen to Chris but not to me. He noticed my stare, frowning slightly as recognition dawn on him. "Riley, right? From Hermes? I'm sorry for being rude earlier. It was uncalled for."

Then he turned to Chris, smiled awkwardly, and pointed outside, "Come on, Chris. I want to get to know you a bit better."


 

Katie

Miranda hugged her knees, glaring at the sky in defiance.

"It's not over yet.

Katie is strong. She’ll get through this.

But at her own pace. We'll be here for her every step of the way."


 

Malcolm

I hid in my cabin for a few weeks after the war.

But shame brings nothing but pity and undeserved worry.

Annabeth fretted constantly over me. Pollux had to check up on me often. Miranda, even though she had more troubling matters, made time to visit me.

I troubled everyone.

I thought about leaving camp, but that's the coward's way out.

After everything I didn't do, I can't let that be my leaving gift for the camp that gave me everything.


 

Jake

I know I'm pretty average compared to the seven. Even to Will and Clarisse, I pale in comparison.

But even so, even when I thought no one cared, when I don't matter, Beckendorf waited for me.

He said he wouldn't move out of Hermes Cabin unless I came with him.

Father claimed me the same night as Beckendorf and we moved into Hephaestus together.

He changed the world for me, made me realized that the Gods don't really matter. What does matter is your friends, your companions. They're the ones who'll stand up for you. They're the ones worth fighting a war for and they're the ones worth dying for.


 

Will

Will tossed the roll of gauze between his fingertips, countenance solemn. "Had it been anyone else I'm not sure there would even be a Hermes Cabin left."

"Do you really mean that?" Travis said, leaning outside the infirmary door with a wide grin.

Will spun around in his chair so fast he almost tipped over, cheeks reddening, "Ahh! Travis! Wh—what—how—oh gods—how much did you hear?"

Travis's smile widened. "All of it. I wanted to see if you have any band-aids but saw you were busy. So I waited."

"I-I'm really sorry about what I said. I meant all of it," Will said adamantly.

Travis rolled his eyes and swung an arm over Will's shoulder. "Dude, I told you to forget about that. That's in the past and you're already forgiven."

Will knocked the arm away. "Not by Connor, I'm not. As far as I know, you could still be mad at me too. I've seen you act and lie."

"Hahaha! Do you see this, Riley? This is why he'll make a great counselor, so virtuous and stubborn. Come on! We're having a party for the leaving seniors. You need to come and make sure we're all behaving."

"Don't change the subject, Travis. I know you're — wait." Will pouted. "You make it sound like I'm a party-pooper."

"You are one, Mr. Leave-Money-Even-Though-We're-In-A-War."

"Hey! Those are small businesses we're stealing from. They can't afford to lose supplies."

Travis rolled his eyes again. They met mine and he mouthed, 'Can you believe this guy?'

But the creases in Will's eyebrows were gone, replaced with a slight smile.


 

Clarisse

I'm trying to repent for my mistake.

I was an ass back then, but I'm changing. Camp Half Blood doesn't need a counselor like me.

Don't let your pride take over your morals. Don't ever let things end on a bad note. Own up to your mistakes. This is my advice for you.

And I swear if we come back from college to find camp a mess, I'll beat up each and every one of you.

I have to go.

Training's over! Everybody get out.

There's someone I have to visit at Thalia's Pine.

End