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Like a Demon Out of Hell

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UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

 

Percy is still reeling from everything. Luke, Annabeth, Kronos, Hestia, Pollux, Castor, Michael Yew. Too many things. Too many dead. An exhausted and harried Will Solace made his rounds through the cabins earlier yesterday, tapping on the door with a slow knock, ensuring that Percy’s wounds were taken care of. Percy had waved him off.

 

So much had happened. It was hard to believe that it was over, in a sense. Rachel had spouted off the next Great Prophecy—an era had come to an end. Percy stared up at the ceiling of Cabin Three and rolled the words that she had spoken over in his head.

 

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,

To storm or fire, the world must fall,

An oath to keep with a final breath,

And foes bear arms at the Doors of Death.

 

Most of Percy had had enough adventure. The camp had lost too many of its best and brightest for him to be craving another battle. But the other half of him, that part that couldn’t sit still, the part of him that never wanted to . . . he couldn’t let something like this happen in the world if he wasn’t a part of it.

 

He sighed and pressed a hand to the small of his back. Don’t get cocky, Jackson.

 

There was a soft knock on Cabin Three. Percy leaned up from bed.

 

Annabeth’s bright blonde head slipped into the cabin. “Mind if I . . .”

 

Percy sat up and reached out for her. Slowly, but not hesitantly, Annabeth grabbed his hand and he gently rocked her into him, so they were curled together next to bed. Their relationship was still so new and yet at the same time it seemed so timeless. Sometimes they had their awkward moments, but most of time they just fell together, easy and simply, like they had always meant to be.

 

“Whacha thinking about, Owlhead?” Percy said.

 

Annabeth tipped her head into the hollow of his shoulder. “Nothing. Everything. Luke. The final battle. It’s just . . .”

 

“Overwhelming,” Percy finished for her. She looked at him with her dangerous gray eyes that were so soft now. “I understand. I’ve been feeling it too. It’s not just what we just left behind either. Like something else is coming.”

 

Annabeth’s eyes sharpened, although her body remained loose in Percy’s embrace. “The new prophecy?”

 

“Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe something else. Maybe everything that has happened has made me paranoid.”

 

But Annabeth’s eyes hadn’t lost that shine that meant that she was thinking hard. “No, you’re a child of the Big Three, I’m sure that it means something . . .” She trailed off and looked off somewhere beyond the edge of Percy’s black hair, looking out onto eternity for a moment before shaking herself back into the present. “Speaking of children of the Big Three, you should know that Nico left today.”

 

“Of course he did,” Percy grumbled. “Hope he doesn’t run into another power-hungry ghost.”

 

“Maybe it’s for the best. He said that he didn’t really feel that he belonged here, and as much as I like the kid, maybe he needs to find a place for himself. A lot of the younger campers look at Nico with pure fear in their eyes. Commanding the army of the dead probably doesn’t get him any favors.”

 

“Still . . .”

 

“Don’t worry too much about it, Seaweed Brain, you’ll hurt yourself.” Despite the words, her tone was almost unbearably fond. Percy wasn’t sure what he did to deserve her. The gods knew that he had screwed up enough times.

 

Percy weaved a hand into her hair and brought her mouth down to his. Kissing Annabeth was still something new and exciting, but he didn’t think that he would ever lose the thrill that he got with her mouth against hers.

 

After a few minutes of her hands deep within his hair and her breath inside his, she pulled back reluctantly. “As much as I enjoy this,” she hummed, licking her lips once, “I did come here for a reason.”

 

Percy groaned as he pushed her hair back into place. “And what would that be?”

 

“We’ve got the end of summer meeting in a few minutes. As head counselors and the heroes of the Titan War, we should probably go, don’t you think?”

 

“If we have to . . .”

 

“We have to,” Annabeth said with a light punch to his shoulder. Well, Annabeth probably thought that it was light. Percy would probably need to ice it later tonight.

 

He was still rubbing his shoulder gingerly as he pushed Riptide into his pocket and followed Annabeth out of his cabin.

 

And they were immediately spotted by Jake Mason, who yelled in sing-song “A BOY AND GIRL WILL NOT BE ALONE IN A CABIN, PERSUES JACKSON!” Percy wasn’t sure if he had been cursed by Will Solace, who had been in particularly (if understandable) bad mood since the battle, or if he was usually that good at yell-singing.

 

Annabeth flipped him off while Percy turned bright red. It had only been three days, but it was universally acknowledged that Annabeth was the true wearer of the pants in their relationship.

 

As if sensing his thoughts (and maybe his insecurities? Percy wasn’t sure), Annabeth laced her fingers through his as they made their way through the cabins.

 

Percy found his eyes lingering towards the daunting figure of the Hades cabin. It looked so much like a stereotypical mausoleum that Nico was likely doing it just to mess with the rest of them. With so many other cabins emptier than usual, there was an aching feeling just behind his breastbone to know that another one was empty. With everyone that they had lost, wasn’t this the time to stand together?

 

The Big House looked just like it always did. So did the strawberry fields. So did the ping-pong table that they had always gathered around to discuss these meetings. The only things that had changed that Will Solace now sat in Michael Yew’s place, Castor was without his brother, and Rachel Dare sat on a stool next to Chiron, fiddling with a sharpie on her already multi-colored jeans. In her other hand, she held a small ornate scroll. She looked haggard, like she had been on Red Bell for three days straight and was only now having her caffeine crash.

 

Percy was about to reach for the chair closest to him when the entire Big House shook.

 

The light of the entire room, even outside, seemed to dim for a moment before a bright wave of something—shimmery and bright, almost like someone had dumped a nuclear reactor into a sparkle-spray bottle—washed through the big house. The bowls of chips and ping pong balls clattered and fell to the ground. The light bulbs exploded in a shower of glass and light.

 

Percy immediately wrapped his arms around Annabeth and brought themselves down to the floor. All around him, he could see the other campers doing the same.  Rachel Elizabeth Dare instead let out an inhuman howl and dropped the scroll that she had in her hands like she was burned. Will immediately got to his feet and headed towards her direction. Percy worried for his safety—who knew what that blast was?

 

But as quick as it had come, the shaking stopped. Will dropped to his knees next to Rachel and tried to heal her now-blistering hands, but she ignored his protests as she elegantly got to her feet, her eyes snake-green and glowing. Smoke billowed out of her open mouth as she spoke.

 

“And so the wheel rolls backwards. Prepare yourselves, Heroes of Olympus, for the actions of one to reflect on you all. Will this have been a boon? Only time will tell.”

 

The light and smoke disappeared as quickly as it came, and Will was lucky to have been so close to Rachel before she collapsed. Percy helped Annabeth to her feet.

 

“What was that?” she said shakily, fingering her knife on her arm.

 

“Yeah, what the hell?” Clarisse grunted from the other side of the room, helping Katie to her feet.

 

“I think that is something that we would all like to know.” Chiron wheeled back up to the head of the ping-pong table and turned to Rachel. “I know that the Oracle is hard on you, dear, but do you have any idea of what has been going on?”

 

“The scroll,” Rachel croaked, in between the sips of water that Will was giving her. “It has something to do with the scroll.”

 

“What scroll?” Annabeth demanded as she elbowed her way to the table.

 

Chiron’s mask of calm was breaking by the second, but he took a determined breath. “It’s the scroll on which we have written the next Great Prophecy.”

 

There was a collective inhale from across the room as all eyes lingered on the ornate scroll that was now laid in the center of the table. Clarisse, more determined that the rest of them combined, unrolled the scroll with a quick shake of her wrist.

 

The writing was gold and glowing, written in Ancient Greek runes. But that wasn’t the important part.

 

“It’s changed,” Rachel said in awe.

 

“That’s impossible,” Chiron protested.

 

The scroll didn’t seem to care about impossibility, because the words that Percy had been pondering just earlier that day had indeed changed.

 

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,

The one from blackened future to aid the world’s fall,

Oaths to break with a final breath,

And the Doors will welcome the open arms of Death.

 

“Chiron . . .” Annabeth exhaled slowly. “Has this ever happened before?”

The centaur’s bearded face was pale with worry and horror that he couldn’t seem to shake. “No. Never in the history of the gods has a prophecy, Great or not, ever been changed. Nor has the Oracle ever spoke in words not prophecies.”

 

“The entire meaning of the prophecy has changed,” Travis pointed out, holding his arm carefully. “The world’s not falling to storm or fire anymore. It’s falling to ‘the one from blackened future.’”

 

“Do we have any idea who that is?” Annabeth asked, searching Chiron’s face for answers.

 

There was complete honesty and openness in his face as he answered.

 

“Annabeth, my dear, I honestly have no idea. But whoever this one is, they clearly have no good intentions for us.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason Grace picked himself out of the rubble of what had been the half-constructed fortress for that night’s war games. “Is everyone okay?” He shouted.

 

Cries of “yes, praetor!” reached his ears and he let out a sigh of relief.

 

Wrapping the winds around his arms, Jason shot himself into the air and landed lightly outside of the debris. The legionaries who were on the assembly team for that day’s games—the Second and Third Cohorts—were scrambling a bit desperately.

 

“Twelfth Legion!” Jason called over the chaos. True to their training, the people who could immediately fell in line.

 

“Yes, Praetor!” they chorused. Jason almost smiled. His entire life was this legion. To see these kids act like a well-oiled machine gave him so much pride—and his hard-won title didn’t hurt anything.

 

“Second Cohort, get anyone who might even be considered wounded to the infirmary. After that, you will assist the Third Cohort in rebuilding the fortress for tonight’s games.”

 

Slight grumbling came after his pronouncement.

 

“Am I understood?” Jason barked.

 

“Yes, Praetor!” They responded immediately before rushing to dig in the rubble.

 

Jason turned away, heading for Praetor House. He needed to talk to Reyna about that shockwave—what was it, and was it a threat? It had only been a few days since Jason had toppled Mount Othrys and brought the Titan Krios to his knees. Although it seemed as though it was over, so many Titans had been unaccounted for—Kronos among them. Could there be another enemy nearby?

 

Reyna, as the more experienced praetor, would know better than he. Jason had been a leader in this camp for a long time and he fit the mantle well—son of Jupiter, powerful in battle, friendly outside of it—but Reyna held the title like she was born for it. Jason hoped that he could get to that point one day.

 

He only got slightly past the barracks before he ran into Reyna, walking calmly with her dogs at her side. Jason turned on his heel to walk beside her. Argentum moved to Jason’s other side, nuzzling his hand as they walked. Perhaps fond of Jason’s straight-forward personality, the dog had latched onto him from the time that he had become centurion of the Fifth.

 

They made their procession through Camp Jupiter. The other legionaries saluted or gave a nod as they passed by, depending on their rank. Until the end of the day, when the purple cloak found its way off of his shoulders and into the closet, Jason had to remember that he was the leader for these people now, not just a friend.

 

“You felt it?” Reyna said, her voice strong no matter how low the pitch.

 

Jason nodded. “It knocked over the war games fortress. I’m pretty sure the entire state of California felt it.”

 

“Octavian just reported that there’s something wrong with Jupiter’s temple. It happened just as the shockwave went off.”

 

“Well, that’s certainly not good,” Jason murmured. Hopefully his father wasn’t involved in this mess. Jason had never met Jupiter and had always been curious, but this seemed a bad situation all around.

 

Jason and Reyna were met outside the temple by Octavian. The man looked even more frantic and bad-tempered than usual, which Jason honestly hadn’t thought was possible. His foot tapped impatiently as he watched the praetors approach, his eyes lingering on Jason’s cloak. Jason had the sudden urge to curl the purple fabric closer to himself, but he squashed it down.

 

“There you are,” Octavian said. “Something’s wrong with the Prophecy of Seven.”

 

“What do you mean something’s wrong with it?” Reyna demanded sharply.

 

Octavian gestured for them to follow him imperiously into the temple as he swept his augur’s cloak behind him. Reyna and Jason shared a glance out of the corner of their eyes.

 

The temple is as grand and imposing as it always was. Despite the child of the king of the gods, Jason tried not to spend any more time in here than he had to. The air seemed to crush his shoulders just by existing. Octavian was gesturing to the square tile where the Prophecy of Seven was located, just to the left of his teddy-bear-murdering alter.

 

Well, Jason could see why Octavian was concerned, considering the prophecy was currently glowing gold.

 

“Why is it doing that?” he asked carefully. 

 

Octavian shrugged. “It’s possible that it’s glowing because it’s finally coming to pass, but it could just be a side effect of the words changing.”

 

Jason looked at Octavian in shock. “The words changing? That doesn’t happen.”

 

Reyna, who had been staring down at the words carefully, swept a hand over the tile with a frazzled look on her face. “Apparently it does.”

 

Jason looked down at the glowing words:

 

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,

The one from blackened future to aid the world’s fall,

Oaths to break with a final breath,

And the Doors will welcome the open arms of Death.

 

“I honestly think that this might be worse than the old Prophecy of Seven, and the old one was pretty bad,” Jason stated deadpan.

 

“We need to do something about this ‘one of blackened future,’” Octavian said. “I think that he must be the one who caused the prophecy to change and from the looks of things, he’s going to be the one who causes the world to fall.”

 

Reyna straightened her shoulders beneath her cloak. “Octavian, try to find out what you can about this one from blackened future from your auguries. If we can get something solid, great. If not, we’re just going to have to be extra vigilant. The last Great Prophecy came at a time of great strife. We can only assume that this will also be one.”

 

Jason nodded.

 

The three of them all stared down at the glowing gold words, the light bringing their faces into sharp relief, almost as though there were already only skeletons.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Far away from both Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter, a figure tossed wood into the fire with a lazy hand. Dressed in black jeans, steel-toed boots and an over-sized black jacket, the man nearly blended into the background.

 

With a sharp snap, the man twisted and had a pitch-black sword out and ready almost faster than the eye could see.

 

“You’ve caused quite a stir,” a melodious voice echoed in the distance.

 

“Show yourself,” the man demanded.

 

A laugh echoed across the clearing, sweet and slow like syrup. “You thought that you could come here, a man out of time, and not awaken me?”

 

“We had considered,” the man said, his voice like ice. “And don’t test me. I’m much stronger than those kids that you had trouble besting.”

 

A scoff. “I suppose that I should thank you. It would have taken a millennia for me to come back to myself without your help. But now, now . . . well, I suppose I should say hello to mother.”

 

The temperature in the clearing dropped from a balmy summer to the middle of winter. “I’d be happy to send her to see you in Tartarus.”

 

The voice scoffed. “If you had considered this possibility, why even come?”

 

“To change things.”

 

“But who says that they needed changing?”

 

The man shook his hooded head slowly. “You wouldn’t understand. I’ve been given a second chance. I’ll be damned if I waste it.”

 

Flipping his sword in his grip, the man plunged his sword into the ground and the clearing was engulfed in darkness.

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Like most things, there was a beginning and there was an end.

 

The beginning was Gaia, the earth itself, surrounded by her monstrous children, smiling at the soul of Tartarus that had given her the best of gifts. The Titans and the giants and the beginning of a world that would endure for millions of years.

 

The end was Gaia, wreathed in her brown cloak and looking down at the altar of the Acropolis where the mutilated bodies of Percy and Annabeth were wreathed by their own blood and failure.

 

Jason had lost arm, Piper an eye. Hazel had come out of it relatively unscathed, protected by the shapeshifter to the best of his ability. Frank, as a dragon, was sporting a gashing wound to his side. Leo was unconscious behind the determined wall Piper and Jason made for him. The Seven were a mess of bodies and broken will. None of them could take their eyes off of the tan hand that draped over the end of the altar, dripping blood down into the sand.

 

Nico had felt the change from around the world. Sitting on Half-Blood Hill with Athena Parthenos, he had sat on beneath the tree that had once been Thalia and felt the Blood of Olympus be spilled.

 

Despite the Romans that were coming on the horizon, despite the war being led by a deluded legacy of Apollo and their own foolish near-sightedness, Nico stood up, avoided Reyna’s gaze, and slipped into the shadows.

 

Nico had never made such a jump before in his life but he appeared before the Acropolis just in time to grab Hazel’s hand, bringing with him a black pit that surrounded the five—only five—of the Seven that were still standing.

 

They disappeared into the darkness just in time for Nico to see Gaia’s blackened eyes open.

 

That was a beginning too, in a sense.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Leo wasn’t quite sure what to do with Piper. She was beautiful—she tried to hide it, but she was—and dangerous and way out of his league, which were honestly everything that he tended to go after in a girl, but two minutes after meeting her, she had fit into everything as his best friend so seamlessly that romance wasn’t even a consideration.

 

The Wilderness School was probably one of the dumbest-named places that he had ever been to, but Leo was nothing if not resourceful. Here, at least, Leo could be a prankster and a creator and everything that brought out the best in him, and wouldn’t get caught, because honestly the security for a place made for juvenile delinquents was awful. It was almost like they weren’t even trying. To be fair, they probably weren’t prepared for the type of Leo-genius that could make a pipe bomb out of a pipe cleaner.

 

What could he say? Leo was just that good.

 

It seemed strange to think that Piper and Leo only met two—maybe three—weeks ago. They hit it off rather quickly after Piper had punched a girl in the nose for insulting her braids and Leo had sold tickets for it.

 

Piper and Leo were sitting on the roof of Leo’s dorm, watching the night sky. If there was one good thing about being in the middle of nowhere, it was the sky.

 

Leo thought that Piper must really trust him, because they were exchanging stories of how they got to be at this school.

 

“ . . . I love him, you know. I don’t think that he’s a bad dad. And I would hate to become just another vapid protagonist who is acting out because Daddy just doesn’t pay her enough attention. But he doesn’t notice me. He doesn’t like to look at me sometimes, he doesn’t want to talk about mom, sometimes he’ll speak to the air above me because I know that I look too much like her and he can’t handle it. So I started doing things that would make him notice me. And the worst part? It was easy.”

 

Leo looked at her out of the corner of his eye. Piper was addressing the stars instead of him, looking out beyond the confines of the school. “Easy?”

 

“Yeah. I didn’t even really steal anything. Not even the BMW. I just ask for things, and people give me them. Then apparently they come to their senses an hour or so later and are convinced that I stole it. Me,” she scoffed, “a sixteen year old girl stealing a brand new car right out of the lot in broad daylight. It was ridiculous, and that’s exactly what happened.”

 

“You can convince people to do things?” Leo couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. This was some X-Men style shit. But, he thought, remembering the fire licking around his fingers, was it anything different from what he could do?

 

“I know,” Piper said, her kaleidoscope eyes moving away from the stars and onto the roof tiles. “I know that it sounds ridiculous, and you don’t have to believe me—“

 

“I believe you.”

 

“—I mean, that’s crazy—wait. You do?” Piper finally met his eyes. She was fierce and shocked and oh so beautiful. It was intimidating, but not alienating.

 

“Of course I believe you, Pipes,” Leo said. He hesitated and considered. His mother’s words flashed through his mind, his own terror and worries but—Piper had trusted him. Piper was probably the first friend that he had made since his mom had died. So he swallowed his fear and made a decision.

 

“I’d be a hypocrite not to,” he said with more confidence than he felt. Piper watched him carefully as he moved a hand between them and snapped, a small flame igniting above his thumb. Piper watched him in awe.

 

“You’re a candle?” she said with false cheer, her eyes not moving away from his flame.

 

“Leo the Candle, that’s me,” he falsely boasted, a big fake grin. He sobered subtly with reminders of all that his powers had done. “Maybe it’s different for you, but I’ve always been able to do this. And . . . I wasn’t always able to control it the way that I can now. Sometimes even now I can’t. People . . . people have gotten hurt.”

 

“Oh, Leo,” Piper exhaled. Without a pause, she wrapped an arm around his shoulders and brought him closer into her embrace. Leo wasn’t sure why he allowed it—he was never one for extended physical contact, especially with people that he didn’t know—but Piper was warm and smelled nice and perhaps understood a modicum of what he was going through.

 

“Aw, look how cute they are!”

 

Leo stiffened. Of course. They were having a good moment, and then it was ruined by Dylan and his asshole friends. Part of him was concerned with how much the bully might have seen—or heard.

 

They stood higher than the two of them on the rough, dressed in their leather jackets with their spikes and their stupid tight jeans and their stupid hair. Typical muscle-bound punks. But something was off. Their eyes were a bit too bright for the lighting, or their teeth were just a little too long, their form a little too blurry.

 

Leo blinked, and whatever he saw was gone.

 

“Go away, Dylan,” Piper stated, not moving her head from the hollow of Leo’s throat. A warmth was building in his stomach at the knowledge that she didn’t mind being seen curled up with Leo. She saw nothing to be ashamed of in being with him. Even he didn’t have that high of a regard for himself.

 

Dylan puffed out his muscular chest and leaned on the shoulder of one of his equally jock-ish buddy. Leo found their combined attractiveness completely unfair.

 

“Piper, babe,” Dylan sneered, “why don’t you come with me? I’ve got business with the small one.”

 

“Go hump a stump, meathead,” Piper said, adjusting her place on Leo’s shoulder to glare at Dylan.

 

Dylan buffed his nails on his leather jacket. “Rather not. Listen, while we’re up here, why don’t we talk about that little display from before, Candle Boy? Or the story that I just heard, Charmspeak Girl?”

 

Leo and Piper both stiffened immediately, curling the slightest bit closer to each other. Piper mouthed the word “Charmspeak” into the empty air, rolling it against her teeth.

 

“I’m a bit early, but Mistress was never one to punish initiative. Two of the Seven, before Hera can mess with things. It’s perfect.” Dylan’s eyes were definitely glowing an unearthly blue.

 

Leo pulled Piper to her feet quickly and placed her behind him. As Dylan talked, Leo tried his best to move them away from the edge of the roof. He didn’t know what was going on, but this sounded much worse than the typical playground-bully stuff.

 

“The gods have receded fully, and Hera hasn’t gambled with fate just yet,” Dylan sneered. Longer teeth, his form blurring into a mess of black. “The Doors haven’t been opened, but I doubt that I’ll die against unarmed, untrained demigods.”

 

Leo moved him and Piper further away from the edge, but it wasn’t far enough. Terror ripped through his senses, but it was background noise. His mind was surprisingly clear. Behind him, Piper had ripped part of the rusting gutter pipe away from the roof and was holding it like a club.

 

This was insane and made absolutely no sense, but all Leo could focus on was that Piper needed to get out of here. She didn’t deserve whatever the monster Dylan had become was going to do to them.

 

Leo sparked flames across his hands, holding them in front of him in a loose guard that he had used on the streets. “Stay back!”

 

The vortex that had once been Dylan merely laughed. “Ha. Boy, don’t you know that wind trumps fire?”

 

And with that comment, he blasted the two of them off the roof.

 

The dorms at the Wilderness School were an uncompromising eight stories tall. From every calculation that Leo’s brain could calculate, there was no way that they would survive the hit of the ground and no matter what the comic books might think, Leo couldn’t be the Human Torch without torching Piper as well.

 

Leo made the split-second decision to grab Piper and wrap his body around her lithe one and angle his back towards the ground. With any luck, she would survive this.

 

Dylan’s laugh echoed in his ears and the ground rapidly approached him.

 

Leo prepared for impact—

 

Muscular arms wrapped around him, and Leo opened his eyes in shock only to realize that instead of splattering on the courtyard concrete, he and Piper had just fallen through it.

 

Blackness raced around him for a moment, impossible wind forcing Leo to close his eyes. He tightened his grip on Piper, the mysterious arms tightened around the both of them, and Leo tried to get a hold of his stomach, which currently seemed to reside inside of his lungs.

 

Then the darkness receded, blurring into a clearing of trees, a small fire pit, a couple tents in the distance—a campground. A campground like the one that was a mile or so from the school. Leo tried to blink away from the shadows as Piper lurched herself out of his grasp to vomit in the grass.

 

Leo moved over to her and held her uneven hair back as she retched a few more times. She took a few shaky breaths before rubbing her mouth roughly with her hand. Leo made a few small circles on her back, unsure of what to do.

 

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” she murmured as she tried to get herself under control, pushing her hair behind her ears, fussing with her shirt.

 

“That’s good,” a voice said from behind the two of them. They whirled to meet the voice.

 

It was understandable that they hadn’t noticed him before. A boy—more a man by the look of his face—of around seventeen was leaning against one of the trees. He was dressed in all black, from his skinny jeans to his faded bomber jacket, apart from his steel-toed boots. He had silver jewelry around his neck and hands, and a sword—a sword—connected to a chain in the loops of his belt loops. His eyes were as dark as his attire and his hair was likely long enough to pull back into a ponytail, falling into his deep-circled eyes. He was pale enough to be corpse, but after everything that had just happened, Leo was just glad that he was human.

 

“Who are you?” Leo demanded, keeping Piper behind him. This guy seemed better than Dylan-vortex, but Leo wasn’t taking any chances.

 

“You can call me Avvenire,” the boy said easily. “I’m like you—I was born special. I’m a demigod.”

 

“A demigod?” Piper said. “Like in the Greek myths?”

 

“Exactly like in the Greek myths,” Avvenire stated. His eyes looked kind, but there was some madness hidden in them, and it came alive with his words. “Which means that you have a godly parent. You both came from single-parent households, didn’t you? The parent that was absent—that was a god.”

 

Leo thought about his mother, how she would talk about his father, about Tia . . . it wasn’t so ridiculous, especially when you factored in his powers. Majorly awesome, but not ridiculous. His enthusiasm was dimmed by the fact that this was likely what had caused his mother to die.

 

“Mom . . .” Piper exhaled. “Mom was a goddess?”

 

Avvenire nodded. “I know that this is a lot to take in, but we don’t have very much time. I can get rid of the venti for you, but you’re not safe anymore. Monsters will be coming from all over, and soon, they won’t be able to die.”

 

Leo’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

 

Avvenire shook his head. “Never mind that. I can show you somewhere safe to stay—they’ll be able to handle the entire situation here. It’s up to you.”

 

Piper and Leo exchanged a glance. Leo was weary, especially after all of his years on the streets, and this was a lot of ask. But going back . . . going back to the school, going back to a time before his powers made sense or before he had a chance to make sense of his life . . . that didn’t seem like an option that was even on the table. Piper nodded slightly—she had more to lose, he knew, a father who cared about her and a life to return to. If she could make this decision, he certainly could.

 

“We’ll trust you for now,” Piper said, speaking for the both of them. As a show of solidarity, she locked his fingers with his. For some reason, Avvenire smiled before a dark shadow passed over his face. He shook it off before addressing them again.

 

“Alright. This is gonna have to be quick, we don’t have much time before the venti catch up to us.” Avvenire pulled out a dagger from one of the inside pockets of his bomber jacket. Leo flinched, preparing for an attack, but Avvenire just flipped the knife in the air once before handing it over to Piper. “I’m going to transport us to just outside of New York City—it’s the closest that I’ll be able to get you. You shouldn’t encounter any monsters on your way to camp, but if you do, it’s best to be armed. Keep the dagger open on your side—anyone who looks at it twice is an enemy.”

 

Piper took the dagger with a determined stance. For some reason, it didn’t look nearly as silly as Leo thought that it would.

 

“I’ve also got some random advice for you that probably won’t make very much sense to the two of you right now,”Avvenire stated. “There’s going to be a bronze dragon in the woods a month or so from now. You need that dragon. Get to it before the other campers and no-one will get hurt.”

 

“What—“ Avvenire stopped Leo’s words with a glare.

 

“Also, there’s going to be a point—I’m not sure when, but it’s going to happen—when you’ll be getting dreams encouraging you to go west. You’ll want to. When you do, let me know. I know some people who can smooth the way.”

 

“But—“ Piper bit down on her words. She took a deep breath. “How can we contact you?”

 

“Where I’m taking you, there’s a place called Zeus’s Fist. Walk around and call my name a few times. I’ll hear you.”

 

The two younger demigods shared a glance and shrugged.

 

Avvenire nodded. “Alright.” He reached inside his jacket and this time, instead of weaponry, held three pieces of paper in his hands. “One of these is a map to get you to Camp Half-Blood. When you get there, one of these needs to get to a man named Chiron. The other needs to go to a young girl named Rachel Elizabeth Dare, who may or may not be there. If she’s not there, give this one to a girl named Annabeth.”

 

Piper took the notes carefully, placing them in the pocket of her fleece. Leo knew that they were going to be looking at all three of those notes once they were out of Avvenire’s hands.

 

Avvenire suddenly flinched to their left and cursed in a language that Leo knew that he didn’t know, but for some reason he knew that it was about his mother doing unfortunate things with a crow.

 

The wind howled, and despite the clear skies, a sound like a crack of lightning crackled across the clearing.

 

Avvenire lunged towards them as soon as Dylan-vortex and his two cronies entered into the clearing. Leo didn’t hear much more than an enraged roar before he was engulfed in darkness again.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Dylan the storm spirit hissed curses in ozone discharges and wind gusts. The Mistress would not be pleased with the loss of two of the Seven especially to an unknown entity. Although, Mistress had been in a particularly good mood for the past few weeks, coming to grace her minions in a partial form much more often than usual. Perhaps the venti would live to find their prey again.

 

Dylan was a ventus that had crawled its way up to the lieutenant’s position in Mistress’s army. He knew her plans. He knew that in less than a month, their army would take advantage of the god’s absence to chain Thanatos and open the Doors of Death. They couldn’t be stopped. With Tartarus and so many monsters under their control, there was no need for them to worry. Especially now that Mistress had the guidance of her most beloved son.

 

He waved a wind-blown arm to the others and was about to shout a retreat when a dark blade pressed against his throat. Dylan choked on his own lightning.

 

Dylan frantically looked to his men, only to find that they were almost dust. Two semi-corporal figures stood in their places, sometimes flickering to reveal only a skeleton. One held a sword, while the other held a bow. Unlike their bodies, their weapons were fully of this world, glowing bronze in the moonlight.

 

“Now,” a slow, soft voice spoke directly into his ear, “we’re going to have a talk about how you’re getting your information.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Reyna walked with purpose as she strode through the camp, her dogs ever faithful behind her. The weeks since the Prophecy of Seven had glowed gold had been ones full of anxiety and worry, but nothing much had happened other than more monsters that were harder to kill. She was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

Jason helped. He was coming into his role a praetor, learning to care for the whole region the way that he had once cared for his Fifth Cohort. He often came and talked advice with Reyna, and they spent many evenings simply discussing their views on life. Reyna admired Jason, his leadership, how he looked at life. Jason admired her drive, her experience, her ability in battle. They would be suited for each other, she thought, if they wanted to pursue something romantic. It would be practical and expected.

 

That’s not how love works, a voice in the back of her mind that sounded suspiciously like Hylla said softly.

 

She wished that she could ignore it.

 

“Praetor!”

 

She turned at the call of her title. Dakota strode towards her with unusually determined steps, the haziness of his eyes gone for the moment.

 

“Dakota, what’s wrong?”

 

“Gaius just came back,” Dakota stated. “He just passed through the tunnel.”

 

“What? He’s been missing for weeks. We assumed the worst.” Reyna moved towards the Little Tiber with her dogs and Dakota falling behind her.

 

“Jason’s already there.”

 

Reyna nodded. “Then we will join him.”

 

There was a small crowd gathered around the bridge of the Little Tiber. At Dakota’s shout of “Praetor attending!” the former and current legionaries spread to both sides to allow them through in a smooth and practiced move. The only ones who remained as they were were Jason and the gaunt man of around twenty that he was holding up.

 

“Gaius!” Reyna said in shock, striding towards him, pulling out the bag of ambrosia that she had in her pocket. Jason took it gratefully and helped Gaius eat it. “We thought that you were dead.”

 

The legacy of Mercury chuckled. “I thought that I was dead too. The cyclops up in Detroit are nothing to scoff at. Nothing like I’ve seen before.”

 

“Gina? Lucien?”

 

Gaius just shook his head. Reyna squeezed her eyes shut for a moment.

 

“How did you make it out, Gaius?” Jason questioned, giving some of Gaius’s weight back to him as the ambrosia did its work.

 

“I didn’t.”

 

Jason waved a hand over to Dakota and murmured in his ear. The red-lipped centurion immediately began dispersing the crowd. As good romans, they departed without much hassle.

 

“What do you mean?” Reyna placed one hand on Aurum, watching the legacy carefully.

 

Gaius exhaled slowly through his nose before running a weary hand through his hair. “I was rescued by an unaffiliated demigod. Wore all black, wielded a black sword. Definitely trained, but not in any style that I’ve seen. Better than anyone I would know. Probably better than Jason.”

 

Jason himself raised an eyebrow. Everyone knew that Jason was the best fighter that they had in the camp right now.

 

“He dispatched the cyclops with little a hassle,” Gaius continued. “Questioned one of them, but I couldn’t hear about what. He grabbed me once it was over. Teleported me somehow to the outer suburbs of Oakland. I don’t know how. All I remember is black.”

 

Reyna pressed her palms together and tapped the side of her fingers against her lips. “This is concerning. Jason, you and I will need to discuss this in more detail later.” Jason gave a curt nod. “Anything else that we should know Gaius?”

 

Gaius reached inside the pocket of his jeans and handed a very crumpled piece of paper over. “He told me to give this to you, Reyna. He knew your name.”

 

Reyna took the paper gingerly and gave the gaunt man her best smile. “Thank you, Gaius. Get some rest and take some time off with your Cohort. We’ll call for you if we need anything else.”

 

Jason clapped a hand against Gaius’s arm. “It’s good to have you back, man.”

 

Gaius returned the gesture with a slight upturning of his lips, before turning away and walking slowly back to the barracks. A few members of the Fourth Cohort came to greet their squad mate, pulling him into a hug.

 

“I hope that he’ll be okay,” Jason ruminated for a moment. “He was gone for a long time in the hands of those monsters.” Jason’s face was unreadable, perhaps awash with memories of his own quests or knowledge of his own past demons. Either way, the look was gone before he directed his gaze down towards the note in Reyna’s hand.

 

Reyna uncurled the note.

 

Praetor,

Consider this:

The Prophecy of Seven is coming to pass.

Divided we fall.

 

I will be coming to the legion soon.

Accept my presence with the knowledge that I rescued one of your own.

 

Avvenire

 

Reyna was jolted out of her daze by Jason’s hand on her shoulder.

 

“Reyna,” Jason implored. “What exactly does ‘divided we fall’ mean?”

 

Reyna took a slow breath. “Jason, we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Percy and Annabeth didn’t get a funeral. Their bodies were never recovered. Nico prayed that they had perished in the fires that burned through Rome and the Mist alike.

 

The rest of the Seven, aided by Nico, made it back to Camp Half-Blood. They entered into a war of Romans against Greeks, aided by the manifestation of Gaia that toppled through the fields.

 

Octavian died by Nico’s hand. Nico didn’t care who was watching. Nico ripped Octavian’s soul out of body and shoved it into the void, with the hopes that it fell all the way down to Tartarus. The grass froze all the way to Thalia’s tree and the Athena Parthenos. Nico watched the legacy’s skin melt and his bones crumble and his muscles shatter as he was dragged by the skeletons of the underworld. Nico watched it all and felt dead.

 

As dead as Percy and Annabeth on the altar.

 

Reyna pressed a hand to his shoulder in comfort—not disgust, what was wrong with her, didn’t she see what Nico was—as she strode past him.

 

“Romans!” she called, hefting her spear in hands. “Have you lost yourselves? The enemy is in front of you!” She pointed decisively towards the walking giant of Gaia. “Steel yourselves, Twelfth Legion! There is work to be done!”

 

An older male with red-stained lips hoisted an eagle high. “In the name of the praetor! In the name of Rome! TWELFTH LEGION FULMINATA!”

 

Lightning crackled across the sky as the Greeks and Romans turned as one on the earth giant.

 

Nico attempted to pull himself to his feet only to crumple. Too much shadow travel. Overuse of his powers. Watching the legion and the campers take on the giant without him, Nico felt even more worthless than he usually did.

 

Warm hands rested on his shoulder and a hymn reached his ears. Nico glanced over his shoulder to see the blonde head of Will Solace.

 

“It’s not much,” Will said through gritted teeth, “but I can get you back in the battle.”

 

“Thank you.” The words weren’t enough. Nico didn’t have a way to explain to Will that the battle was all that he had now. They had lost, they had failed. Gaia had risen. There was nothing left to do but fight and try to find a way.

 

“It’s all that I can do,” Will breathed in between Ancient Greek verses. “We need you more now.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

New campers were less and less common now that the gods had closed off from the world.

 

Annabeth hadn’t heard from her mother in weeks, despite her prayers and her worries. Percy hadn’t heard from his father either. Normally this wouldn’t have been a concern—an average demigod went years without hearing from their parents—but Mr. D had left at the same. No one could get ahold of their godly parents. Isis messaging was more static than words.

 

Perhaps it wasn’t to a level where Annabeth truly needed to be concerned yet . . . but a few more days . . .

 

So, Annabeth was a bit taken aback when two sixteen-year-olds made their way across the tree line.

 

A girl with a ripped fleece jacket and an awkwardly-held knife was supporting a shorter Latino boy who was holding what looked like a three-pound sledge hammer and a gallon of gasoline. The girl, who was shockingly attractive even with the dirt and a bleeding cut above her eye, held the limping boy gingerly due to the wound in his side. Above both of their heads were the fading symbols of godly claiming, too blurry now for Annabeth to see. They must have been claimed right as they crossed over the line.

 

Chiron had already wheeled over to them, holding out ambrosia and likely giving his typical “welcome to camp, young demigods!” spiel. Annabeth made her way over to them. The two of them were eating the buttery squares carefully, straightening unconsciously as the food made its way through their bodies.

 

Just as she came up to the group, the girl was handling a piece of paper over to Chiron, who looked at it with trepidation.

 

“Chiron, what’s going on?” Annabeth said.

 

“Meet our two new demigods,” Chiron said with a sweeping hand. “Leo, a son of Hephaestus, and Piper, a daughter of Aphrodite.”

 

Annabeth glanced behind them. “Where’s your finder?”

 

The black-haired boy’s—Leo’s—brow furrowed. “What do you mean, finder? You mean Avvenire?”

 

Annabeth met the eyes of Chiron immediately. There was no satyr with that name at camp.

 

“Why don’t we head towards the Big House?” Chiron suggested kindly. “We can figure out all of the details there.”

 

Leo and Piper exchanged a meaningful glance before Piper, who seemed to be the spokesperson, nodded. Annabeth remembered that type of connection—she had it with Percy, she had had it with Luke and Thalia. The type of connection that you get from being in battle side-by-side, understanding each other on the deepest level.

 

The quartet made its way across the green. Leo mumbled incessantly to Piper, who attempted to keep a straight face, but snorted once at a joke. Leo brightened upon making her laugh. Annabeth felt herself soften towards them.

 

Chiron brought them back into his office, settling behind his desk, while Leo and Piper placed themselves in the cozy armchairs angled towards him. Piper sat upright and proper, while Leo curled sideways, his knees drape over one of the armrests. Annabeth remained standing.

 

“Let’s start from the beginning,” Chiron said, steepling his fingers in front of his face. “This is Camp Half-Blood, a training camp for demigods. You will be safe here. I am Chiron, the interim director of the camp, and yes, I am that Chiron, the one that trained Achilles and all that. The camp usually sends satyrs out to find young demigods. The fact that you are so old and yet got here without a satyr is astounding.”

 

Piper looked uncomfortably to the side. “I’m not sure that it’s that impressive. We would have been dead if Avvenire hadn’t found us. We had help.”

 

Leo hummed his agreement. “He was the one who got us most of the way there, although that’s not to knock Pipes’s mad skills with the knife or my unique brand of hammer-slaying.”

 

“Avvenire.” Annabeth rolled the name around in her mouth. “You mentioned him before.”

 

Piper nodded. “Leo and I were attending this boarding school for . . . for delinquents. We were up on the roof, swapping stories about how we got there. Then these jerks—Dylan and his friends—“

 

“Complete buttmunches,” Leo contributed.

 

Piper shot him a glare. “They’d been harassing Leo and me for most of the semester, but it was entirely harmless. But Dylan was odd. He had glowing blue eyes and his form blurred and he kept talking about this Mistress of his.”

 

Annabeth’s sharp gray eyes noticed that Chiron turned pale at the mention of this mistress.

 

“He said that it was early, but that it would be okay because it was good timing. Hera hadn’t yet started her meddling, but the gods were already locked down. He said that the Doors of Death weren’t open yet, but he wouldn’t lose to us.” Piper played with her rusty knife as she spoke, drawing her fingers across the flat of the blade. “He was . . . a ventus. Dylan pushed me and Leo off of the roof.”

 

“But then, I guess that Avvenire caught us?” Leo mused. “I was holding Piper, but someone held me. Everything went black, but bam! Suddenly we were in a campground nearly a mile away.”

 

“He said that his name was Avvenire,” Piper continued, “and that he was a demigod like us. He gave me my knife and a map to Camp Half-Blood. He also gave us notes for Chiron and a girl named Rachel Elizabeth Dare.”

 

Chiron’s face had shuttered into a façade of calm. “Rachel has unfortunately gone off to school for the week.”

 

“Then it’s for a girl named Annabeth.”

 

“I’m Annabeth.”

 

Piper’s eyes moved to her and she held the note over without fanfare.

 

Annabeth took it gently. She brushed her fingers over Piper’s hand in a gesture that she hoped was reassuring. Piper’s eyes shot to her face and her colorful eyes dropped their guard just the slightest bit.

 

Annabeth opened the note while Chiron and the two continued to talk logistics and cabins around her. The handwriting was spiky and rushed.

 

Rachel,

 

They’re two of the Seven, along with Annabeth and Percy.

The others are not in this camp.

Chiron knows about the next threat.

Divided we fall.

 

I will come to the camp soon.

Accept me knowing that I mean no harm.

 

Avvenire

 

Annabeth’s eyes flashed up to Chiron, her mind whirling. She’s one of the Seven? Rachel had determined that the Prophecy of Seven was coming to pass, what with the glowing words and all that. Despite that, she had been under no assumptions that she would be a part of it. It had been less than a month since the last Great Prophecy.

 

Chiron’s brown eyes caught her storm-cloud ones and gave the barest hint of a nod.

 

Chiron wheeled out from behind the desk. “Leo, Piper, we will leave you in the care of Jake and Drew, your siblings and head counselors. Despite the circumstances, we are extremely grateful that you came to us in one piece. If you would mind, please head out towards the rings of cabins. Cabin Nine for you, Leo; Cabin Ten for Miss Piper.”

 

Leo and Piper exchanged a nod. Leo smiled in the face of Piper’s nervousness. She grabbed his wrist with the hand that wasn’t curled protectively around her knife and he led her out of the office. Piper glanced back before Leo shut the door behind them. Annabeth wondered how much Piper could glean from the situation.

 

Annabeth handed the note over to Chiron without a word. She watched his face carefully as he read over the black words. The centaur raised a hand to his temple and began rubbing.

 

“We knew that the next Great Prophecy had started,” Annabeth said. “At least now we have the advantage of knowing some of the people who are going to be a part of it.”

 

“My dear, I fear that the situation is much worse than I could have anticipated. I’m not sure who this Avvenire is, but I don’t like it. He knows far too much, especially if he is a demigod like he claims.”

 

Annabeth breathed out sharply from her nose. “And what does he know too much about? He says that you know about the next threat. If the Great Prophecy has started, especially as one of the Seven, I need to know what I’m up against.”

 

Chiron shook his head. “There are certain things that even I am forbidden to mention. Annabeth, you need to be prepared, so I will give you this: the myths call the war against the Titans to be the First Olympian War.”

 

Annabeth wanted to tear her hair out with Chiron’s ambiguity, but she just looked in his eyes and saw care and concern, the same concern that had saved her life over and over again, the same care that had raised her since she was eleven.

 

Annabeth nodded, when a thought occurred to her.

 

“Chiron . . .” she said slowly. “The note said that only four of the Seven were at this camp. If four are here, where are the other three?”

 

Chiron gave her one of the proudest looks that she had seen, including the one that he had given Percy at the end of the Titan War.

 

“Now, my dear, you’re asking the right questions.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The worst thing about the Fields of Asphodel was the boredom.

 

Maybe it was her punishment as a child of the Underworld, for what she had done in Alaska, for what she had done to her mother . . . 

 

For some reason, Hazel was perfectly aware of all the years passing in the fields, aware in a way that the slow-moving and eternally silent ghosts around her weren’t. She had spent the first decade or so of her time frantically searching every ghost that she could see for her mother. But the fields had no end and were constantly expanding. After eleven years, she had found her place sitting underneath this tree and lingering there.

 

Hazel started up at the faded yellow of the tree above her. There were exactly 23,457 leaves on the tree. She had counted.

 

No one bothered her. No one noticed her. No one talked to her. No one touched her.

 

Surrounded by the ghosts of millions, Hazel was truly alone.

 

A body plopped down next to her. Hazel startled so badly that half of her body floated into the tree. She pulled herself out of the bark to stare at the older teenager who was sitting next to her.

 

The most striking thing about him was that he was alive. Very pale, almost paper white, but he was alive. He glowed in the way that only truly living things did. His hair was a shaggy black and pulled into a small ponytail at the crown of his head. He wore a black tank top with skulls on it and over-sized faded grey jeans tucked into combat boots. His hands were covered in black fingerless gloves. A dark sheathed blade was strung on a silver chain wrapped through his belt loops. His eyes were closed as Hazel examined him, but the teenager opened one eye to look at her and she startled.

 

“Hey.”

 

Hazel paused for a moment. “Me? You’re talking to me?”

 

“Of course,” the stranger said easily. “You’re the only child of the Underworld left in these Fields.”

 

Hazel drew her gold eyes across him. “Not anymore, it seems.”

 

He gave her a toothy grin. “Let’s keep that between the two of us for now. People aren’t supposed to know that I’m here.”

 

Hazel shrugged. It wasn’t as if she had anyone to tell. “Why are you here?”

 

“I’ve always been more comfortable in the Underworld. Figured that while I’m down here, I could keep my sister company.” He paused for a moment. “I’m Avvenire.”

 

“Hazel Levesque.”

 

The right side of Avvenire’s mouth turned up just the slightest bit. Hazel felt that this was a much more honest smile that the blatant one that he had given before. “I know.”

 

Hazel wondered what he was doing here. Was it really to keep her company? She had never known anyone to care about her well-being like that—especially not now, especially since she had died. Not even her mother had cared that much. But maybe . . . Hazel looked at the boy who claimed to be her brother. Maybe he was just as lonely as she was.

 

“I wish that I could do more for you,” Avvenire murmured. Hazel wasn’t sure if he was even talking to her.

 

“I’m fine where I am,” Hazel said, almost offended. “I made my choices and I will deal with the consequences.”

 

“But they weren’t your choices, were they?”

 

Hazel stopped. Her whole being paused.

 

Avvenire placed a hand on her upper arm. “I understand. I have spent a long time atoning for my own actions as well.”

 

For a moment, everything was silent between them. They sat in companionable silence for a long time, simply waiting together, watching the other souls shift and sway like stalks of wheat.

 

“So . . .” Hazel broke the silence haltingly. “You said that you were here to pass the time. What did you have in mind?”

 

Avvenire pulled himself into a cross-legged position. “I thought that you would never ask. Now, I was never as good at this as y—as my sister was, but you should learn.”

 

“Learn what?”

 

Avvenire snapped his fingers and a shimmery substance curled around his fingers. For a moment his hand looked like it wasn’t there, before coming back into focus. “It’s Mist Manipulation.”

 

Hazel focused on the actions. She followed them exactly, made sure that she was doing it right—and then—nothing happened.

 

Hazel shot a determined look at Avvenire.

 

“Do it again.”

 

Avvenire gave her a full, honest smile. He was a beacon of light among the dead.

 

“Of course.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

“You won. That is what matters, mother.”

 

{No.}

 

{What matters is that I win.}

 

{He changes everything.}

 

“But I also can change everything.”

 

{Bring me him.}

 

{He can’t be allowed to go on.}

 

“Mother, I don’t have a physical form yet. I can’t.”

 

{Hmmmmm.}

 

“Mother?”

 

{We must bide our time then.}

 

{And plan.}

 

{There is one of the Seven still left.}

 

“Mars’s son?”

 

{Burn him to ashes.}

 

{Open the Doors.}

 

{Bring the camps to their knees.}

 

“Of course.”

 

{Wait.}

 

{Someone is listening.}

 

“You noticed me.”

 

“You’re supposed to be dead.”

 

“In the world that we live in, is death really the end?”

 

“Such cheek. I should have been the one to kill you.”

 

“You used me well enough. I was weak. But you were weaker.”

 

A swing of a blade.

 

With pain like a bullet through the head, Percy Jackson shot up in bed.

 

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

In the end, resistance against the earth itself was a futile attempt. Bolstered by Will’s healing, his hand a constant influx of power on his shoulder, Nico did his best to gather the remaining soldiers to the Athena Parthenos.

 

“Come on!” Nico grabbed one of the kids by the belt and shoved him out of the way of the Earthborn. “Move!”

 

Jason, doing his best to fight with only his left hand, came up to Nico. Piper, sporting an eyepatch that she had stolen off of the body of one of the legionaries, and Leo, who was carrying the unconscious body of Hazel in a fireman’s carry across his shoulders, flanked his sides.

 

“Where’s Frank?” Nico asked. A dormouse popped out of the pocket in Hazel’s jacket as a response.

 

“Reyna!” He called over the chaos. “We have to retreat!”

 

The praetor, alight with the glow of her battle malice, gave him a short nod. “Twelfth Legion! To the statue!”

 

The thirty or so legionaries still standing grabbed those who weren’t mortally wounded and made a desperate flee for the Athena Parthenos.

 

The giant form of Gaia moved steadily closer and closer. Her footsteps shook the earth. She reached out a hand to the collective—

 

Only to be lose a finger to a decisive sword thrust.

 

Clarisse La Rue, flanked by her fellow children of Ares and Mars, stood tall and proud before the earth deity.

 

Her eyes flickered back to Nico. “Take care of him for me,” she mouthed. His dark eyes followed hers to the wounded body of Chris Rodriguez, supported by the marble foot of Athena and an Apollo camper.

 

He struggled and tried to move. “Clarisse! No!”

 

Nico closed his eyes. Two hands touched his shoulders. Will on his left side, granting him healing. Reyna on his right, granting him strength. Nico took a deep breath and gathered the shadows once again.

 

“CHILDREN OF THE WAR GOD!” Clarisse bellowed across Camp Half-Blood, now a sight of blood and corpses and fire. Roman and Greek alike, twenty six soldiers surrounded her and shouted out as one. They were green army men compared to the monstrosity that stood above them.

 

“STAND FIRM.”

 

Clarisse’s eyes were alight with fire as she hoisted her spear above her head. She glowed with the red-hot blessing of Ares.

 

“Today we make our final stand.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Frank Zhang had no idea how this was his life.

 

The good thing was that Frank now had a pretty good idea of how to shapeshift, given that deadly, terrifying basilisks had come into his house and near decapitated his grandmother, who has having none of that. She had slapped him upside the head with her fan, told him “Fai, turn into a weasel, you foolish child,” and then sat in her rocking chair surrounded by monsters, content to die doing what she did best—being disappointed in her grandson.

 

So Frank had attempted his best weasel impression and had managed to shapeshift—shapeshift. What was his life?

 

Of course, he could only keep it up for so long, and there was no way that he was keeping these things in his house with his grandma, which was probably the reason that he was running through the Canadian wilderness, sometimes as a human, sometimes as a weasel. When he had left the house, he thought that his grandma had shed a tear.

 

Well. He loved her, but never let it be said that Grandma Zhang wasn’t crazy.

 

He had his bow on his back, the piece of firewood that kept him alive in his pocket, two fives and sixty-three cents, and he was supposed to make it all the way to California.

 

To meet with wolves.

 

And beg them to accept him into their pack because of something that his also-shapeshifting ancestor had done, which had apparently killed a lot of people.

 

Frank Zhang had no idea how this was his life, but he hated it.

 

Logically, it would likely take him months to make it all the way across the country. Especially since he could only go by foot—or paw, if necessary.

 

Frank caught a slither behind him. Slipping into his weasel form was still a bit like shoving his skeleton into a shoebox, but he managed.

 

Bearing his ferocious weasel teeth, Frank entered into the fray.

 

Nothing like biting snake tails as a weasel to make a guy feel powerful. It sort of helped that the monsters were completely and utterly terrified of him.

 

From what he could tell, Frank had been doing this for about eight hours. He could spend about an hour as a weasel before he was forcibly turned back into a human, and then he had about an hour to recharge, during which he couldn’t shapeshift at all. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep this up, but he would be damned if that got back to his grandma.

 

Even if she was crazy and expected him to walk to California.

 

The next hour was full of biting and chasing and weasel screeches and basilisk blood in his mouth, which he would write a very bad Yelp review about later. 0/10, would not recommend.

 

Frank had made himself a little circle of safety by the time that the shifting clock ran out. He morphed back into his lumbering body panting hard and regretting most of his life decisions.

 

Frank placed his palms on his knees and tried to get his breathing under control. He had about a half an hour before the basilisks realized that he wasn’t a weasel anymore and circled back around.

 

He couldn’t keep this up forever. He needed to sleep. He needed to rest. And he needed these basilisks either dead or chasing him. Frank only prayed that his grandma had the good sense to get away from the house.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by a slither—less than fifty feet away.

 

Did he miss one? Were there more than he thought?

 

Frank drew his bow in a last ditch effort—he knew that arrow wouldn’t work. He’d had half of his quiver incinerated by their poison.

 

A basilisk slithered out from the underbrush. They were such small things, comparatively. Only about the length of his arm. But it didn’t matter. They could lunge the forty feet between it and Frank within the time for him to bring his bow up.

 

Frank tensed.

 

The basilisk jumped.

 

Suddenly, a glowing form entered into the clearing, cutting the basilisk in half.

 

Frank stood in shock. The glowing figure paused before turning towards him.

 

It looked like a man—maybe around twenty two or three years old. Blond hair, strong build. A hint of a scar on the face. Frank couldn’t tell much more than that. His form was glowing with a ghostly light, and every once in a while, his form would shimmer to a skeleton.

 

“Th-thank you,” Frank stuttered out.

 

The figure nodded. “I worried that I wouldn’t get here in time. Nir should be here soon to get you out.”

 

As he said that, the shadows from one of the trees condensed into a man. Walking out of the darkness casually was a teenager with bomber jacket and a sheathed sword. There was a rucksack across his back. He looked over to Frank.

 

“Frank Zhang?” the stranger asked, holding out a hand. “I’m Avvenire. I’m here to get you out.”

 

Frank took his head dazedly. His hands were like ice. “Thank you. I don’t really understand—“

 

Avvenire shook his head. “We don’t have that much time. Your questions will be answered when we get there.”

 

But where was there? Frank’s head was a mess.

 

Avvenire turned towards the glowing figure. “Thanks.”

 

The figure cracked its neck. “Always happy to help, you know that.”

 

Avvenire just snorted.

 

Frank almost missed what happened next. Avvenire held out his hand beneath the figure’s chin, and suddenly his form and light vanished, leaving only the skeleton behind. The skeleton, as if held up by invisible strings, crumbled almost immediately. Avvenire let most of it fall, but caught the skull in one scarred hand, the sword in his other. The skull was bone white and free of any flesh, which was lucky considering that Avvenire slipped both it and the sword into his rucksack.

 

“What was that?” Frank demanded.

 

“A shade,” Avvenire said distractedly. “That doesn’t matter. We’re out of time. The basilisks are beginning to reform.”

 

The two halves of the snake were swirling around each other, flopping back to the other half. Frank suppressed a shudder as they moved.

 

“What do you mean that we’re out—“

 

Before Frank could finish, Avvenire had gripped hand around his forearm and dropped them both into the shadow, just missing the snake that leaped above his head.

 

“—of time?” Frank placed one hand on his stomach and one hand over his mouth. Avvenire grimaced and patted his back in solidarity.

 

“Sorry. It’s always rough the first time that you shadow-travel.”

 

They seemed to be in a decrepit mansion of some sort. There were pillars and the remnants of a grand staircase and where the front door should have been was an open hole welcoming in the air and the elements.

 

They were definitely no longer in the woods anymore.

 

In the better lighting, Frank could tell that Avvenire was definitely older than him, probably in his late teens somewhere. His hair was longer than he had thought, brushing the edges of his jacket. He also looked like he had never had a good night’s sleep. His hands were scarred badly. He was lithely muscled and wore his sword like he knew how to use it.

 

All in all, Avvenire did not look like someone that Frank would want to meet in a back alley. Despite that, the man pulled out a flask and held it over to Frank.

 

“Take a couple of sips. It’ll make you feel better.”

 

Frank took the flask carefully and took a gulp. It tasted like his grandmother’s green tea. It tasted like his mother’s sugar cookies. It tasted like a million things that Frank had loved.

 

Avvenire took back the flask quickly. “And that’s enough. That’s nectar. Too much of god food and you’ll be ashes.”

 

Alright then. Noted.

 

“Where are we?” Frank asked in wonder.

 

You are in my clutches, now, pup, a snarl echoed through the house.

 

Frank startled, but Avvenire looked as relaxed as he could be, so Frank did his best to release the tension in his shoulders.

 

A large grey wolf made its way across the middle of the foyer to them. Its eyes were unnaturally yellow. Around the largest wolf were around a dozen smaller wolves, in varying different colors.

 

“Lupa, I would imagine?” Avvenire stated formally, bowing slightly. “I have brought a demigod that I would like you to train.”

 

Yellow eyes flickered over to Frank. We shall see. If he makes it that long.

 

“He will,” Avvenire insisted. “Thank you for taking him.”

 

Do not thank me, Time-Monger. I would have taken him anyway. Lupa’s attention focused on Frank. The dark one already seems familiar with our customs, but let me explain this to you. I will train you. I will make sure that you survive. But if you are weak, if you refuse to be taught, I will cast you out and you will die. If you make it to the end of my training, you will join the legion and the legion will be your life. Do you understand?

 

Heavy with the weight of both Lupa’s and Avvenire’s eyes on him, Frank nodded solemnly.

 

Good. Her ears flickered forward in satisfaction. We’ll make a Roman of you yet, Frank Zhang.

 

Avvenire nodded towards Frank. “My work here is done then. I’ll see you at camp sometime.”

 

Avvenire turned to leave, only to have Lupa grab the back of his bomber jacket in her jaw. Avvenire whipped a solid black knife out from underneath his jacket, and was about to plunge it into the wolf’s eyeball when he stopped himself—or rather, was stopped by Lupa’s glare.

 

You too, Time-Monger, Lupa said. There was somehow laughter in her tone, as if she was pleased with Avvenire’s attempts to permanently blind her. You also need some Roman training beat into you.

 

The wolf turned away for a moment before fixing the both of them with a glare that froze all the blood in Frank’s body. And don’t even think of leaving.  

 

Avvenire sighed as the wolf walked away. “I didn’t sign up for this.”

 

Frank patted his army in sympathy.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

They were having an emergency council.

 

Piper sat in a circle along with Leo, Percy and Annabeth. It had only been a week since she had come to camp, but she felt at home with the other three, all connected by the Prophecy of Seven.

 

She didn’t feel at home in the Aphrodite cabin. She was going to brain Drew Tanaka with one of her pumps and roll her up in the picture of her father so that she could be taken out with the trash. Annabeth had given her a rather nice knife with a rather morbid history and told her to use it responsibly, and Piper think that she could responsibly get away with murdering her half-sister.

 

Leo was having a better time of it, with his Hephaestus siblings, but he said that something was off. They had recently lost their counselor, and they were having a hard time bouncing back from it. His siblings also seemed to have an ingrained fear of the fire part of the “Fire-and-Forge” Hephaestus legacy, which made Leo feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Piper didn’t want to smack them as much as she wanted to smack her own siblings, but it had occurred to her. Leo deserved to have a place that he belonged, after all of this.

 

They were sitting on the floor of Cabin Three, which was the best place to be alone, considering that Percy had no siblings. Piper found the gargling water in the background to be kind of distracting, but that could have just been her lack of attention.

 

Annabeth was definitely the leader of this party. She had a laptop that looked like a Mac other than a Greek Delta being where the apple should have been and a notepad in her lap. Two pens were shoved in her blood ponytail.

 

“Alright. So we’re here to talk about everything that we know about the Prophecy.”

 

“Should we consider the old prophecy invalid now?” Piper contributed. “I think that the Doors of Death which were mentioned in the first part are the Doors that are talked about in the second part.”

 

“I think that that’s a good assumption,” Annabeth said, “but after that, we can’t be sure. Let’s go with the new Prophecy of Seven for now. We know that we’re all a part of it, but that’s three people that are still missing. Where are they?”

 

Percy ran a hand through his black hair. “I told all of you about my dream, right?”

 

Nods around the circle.

“I remember something that one of the people said, the ‘Mother,’ that I didn’t really think was important at the time, but now I think that it is.”

 

Annabeth poked him expectantly. “Well, don’t keep us in suspense.”

 

Percy batted her hand away fondly. “She said that Mars’s son was the only one of the Seven unaccounted for. Which means that the other two are out there, and she knows where.”

 

“That’s been bothering me too,” Annabeth said. “Why did she say Mars? Why wouldn’t she have said Ares?”

 

Leo tapped a screwdriver incessantly against his thigh. “Well, you were talking last time about how the Greek and Roman gods are basically different people crammed into the same body. We only have Greek demigods here. Where do the Roman demigods go?”

 

Annabeth stopped writing. “The note. It said that the other three weren’t at this camp. Not that they weren’t at camp. That means that there’s more than one.”

 

“Which means that it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to think that there’s a Roman camp out there somewhere,” Piper said.

 

Annabeth began writing again, furiously. “That’s it! The other three demigods aren’t here, because they’re Roman! They’re at the Roman camp.”

 

Leo gestured with his screwdriver. “Which is great and all, but we have no way of figuring out where the Roman camp is. Especially if everyone has been working pretty hard to make sure that the two of you don’t meet.”

 

Percy’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

 

“Think about it, Seaweed Brain!” Annabeth exclaimed. “In all of this time, Greek and Roman demigods have never met, not once? It’s just not possible, especially on quests. The gods must not want us to meet. Chiron said that he couldn’t talk about it when I brought up the other three. The only person above Chiron are the gods and other deities.”

 

Piper exhaled. “That doesn’t solve the problem that we have no idea where the other camp is.”

 

Leo tapped the head of his screwdriver against Piper’s arm. “But we know someone who does.”

 

“Avvenire,” Piper agreed.

 

“He seems to know about both camps. He knew how to get us here, and it’s implied in the note that he knows the identity of all of the Seven.”

 

Annabeth’s grey eyes were flashing. “You’re right. The other problem is, Avvenire is a missing element as well. We have no way to contact him.”

 

Piper wasn’t going to volunteer that she knew how to contact him. For some reason, she and Leo had agreed not to mention the advice that he had given the two of them. It just . . . It seemed like something that wasn’t meant to be shared.

 

“The note said that he would be coming soon,” Percy said. “We can wait for him to come then.” He placed an arm on Annabeth’s shoulder and she seemed to soak up calm from his touch.

 

Piper adored their relationship. Maybe it was the love goddess side of her, but she believed that the two of them were honestly perfect for each other.

 

“Percy’s right,” Leo contributed. “I’ve never one to advocate waiting for anything, but I don’t think that we should rush this prophecy. Piper and I aren’t like you guys—we need a little bit more time to become combat ready if we’re going to be facing off against the demon hoards.”

 

Piper was so glad that Leo said it so that she didn’t have to. She pretty much had her charmspeak under control, but her last knife session with Annabeth had involved her dropping it, so she didn’t think that she was winning any points in that department.  

 

“That’s something else that we need to talk about,” Annabeth ruminated. “The Great Prophecies always have some sort of enemy to defeat. In the first one, it was the Titans. Who’s the enemy now?”

 

Piper tapped her finger against her lips. “I think that Chiron gave you a clue. The Titan War in mythology was the First Olympian War. If it was the first, what was the second?”

 

“Ain’t that the question of the day,” Percy murmured.

 

“I can’t find too much on it in the literature,” Annabeth stated. “But it doesn’t look good. It mentions Giants, made to be the antithesis of the gods. I don’t have that many specifics. I’m going to keep trying, but likely, out best bet is going to be to try and get someone to talk.”

 

“Chiron’s out.”

 

“Haven’t seen Mr. D in weeks.”

 

“Rachel has no idea what’s going on; Apollo’s definitely not helping her out.”

 

Annabeth sighed. “Looks like we’re waiting for Avvenire again.”

 

“I have to admit, I’m finding the Avvenire fellow to be kinda shady,” Percy volunteered.

 

“Doesn’t really go away after you meet him,” Leo said, “but he does seem like a good guy. Why on earth would he have rescued us if he was a bad guy?”

 

Annabeth looked like she had so many answers for that, but knew that Leo wouldn’t accept any of them. “I just don’t understand what he means to do with these notes. They’re cryptic. Now we know that there’s another camp out there. But how did he know? Why did the gods keep us separate? How did he know who the Seven are? And why is sending notes instead of just talking to us?”

 

Piper suddenly had a thought. “That reminds me. Did you ever read Chiron’s note?”

 

Annabeth shook her head, making her blonde curls bounce. “No. I just assumed that it was the same as the one that Rachel had.”

 

“No, it was completely different,” Leo stated. “We read them before we handed them over. Didn’t make much sense to us, but we figured that it was best to be safe.”

 

Percy sat up a little bit straighter. “What did it say?”

 

Piper shrugged. “Not much compared to the other one. Just one line: Your father’s back.

 

Annabeth’s laptop crashed to the floor.

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

They bunkered down in New Rome. It was the last stronghold that they had left. The Athena Parthenos stood tall on the hill, and Nico could only pray that it did its job for as long as possible.

 

The ensuing Senate meeting was a riot.

 

“Greeks! Here!” One of the centurions shouted.

 

“Where do you expect us to go?” Katie Gardner had shot back, tears in her eyes. “We have lost everything!” 

 

“And now you would have us lose everything—“

 

Jason brought his pilum down on the altar with a crash. His praetor cloak—which had been reinstated to him at Frank’s insistence—was artfully draped, likely by Piper, to cover his missing arm. His hair crackled with electricity.

 

“You will all listen to me now,” he said in a voice that was deadly calm. “I have been at this camp for thirteen years, I have fought among Greeks and Romans alike, I was there at the altar where we lost everything. We will not have this fight. We don’t have the time to have this fight.”

 

Frank moved to stand at Jason’s back, her arms crossed over his large chest. “Jason is right. We fight the very earth itself. The gods—Greek and Roman—are all that we have to help us against the very earth itself. We are fighting the oldest being in existence. We don’t have time to fight ourselves.”

 

“We don’t have enough troops,” Nathan, a centurion from the Second Cohort, said. “We’re at most two hundred strong if you include the Greek camp. We don’t have enough—“

 

“Everyone who wants to leave, can leave,” Jason said in a low tone. Nico had barely known him before the world had crumbled, but he had known him. He suddenly understood why he had been praetor. “We’re not going to hold it against you. I’m asking all of New Rome to make a decision. Stand and fight with us, legionnaire or not, Roman or Greek, old or young. Or run.

 

“The world is crumbling around us, heroes. Those are the only two options that we have left.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The bottom dropped out of Percy’s stomach. “Kronos? We have to deal with Kronos? Luke killed himself to get rid of the bastard!”

 

Annabeth looked the verge of tears. “It’s been less than a month since he was scattered! There’s no way that he could come back that fast. Right? Right?”

 

Piper and Leo looked confused and exchanged a weighted glance. “Percy, Annabeth, we don’t know what’s going on, but we have to take this with a grain of salt. Avvenire’s done nothing to make us think that he’s intentionally lying to us—but he’s done nothing to convince us that he’s telling the truth. We need to all calm down and think about this rationally.”

 

Piper must have infused some charmspeak in her words, because Percy would feel some of the tension leaving his shoulders. He moved over to Annabeth and wrapped his arm around her shoulders while she took some deep breaths.

 

“Alright,” she said slowly, “let’s think this through. Kronos may or may not be back. If he is, there’s no doubt that he’s messing with the enemies of the Prophecy of Seven. Our priority should be to figure out who those are, and then go from there. To that end, we need to find Avvenire.”

 

Percy looked over at the two younger demigods. “Do you remember what he looked like?”

 

“He was older than us,” Piper mused. “Probably around seventeen or so? Longer hair, black, could probably be pulled back into a ponytail if it needed to be.  Black jacket, black jeans, steel-toed boots.”

 

Leo jabbed at the circle with a pipe cleaner—where can the screwdriver gone? “Looked like he hadn’t slept in a year. Had a sword with a black hilt. He didn’t draw it though.”

 

Percy grimaced. They had basically described any demigod with black hair. At least they had a rough estimate now. “What about powers? You guys said that he teleported?”

 

Leo nodded. “That was the only thing that I saw him do.”

 

“Children of Isis can teleport,” Annabeth murmured, pulling her laptop back onto her knees. “And children of any Underworld god can shadow travel.”

 

“If I was going to guess, shadow travel seems more likely,” Piper contributed.

 

Percy’s thought immediately shot to Nico. But no, Nico was twelve, Bianca was dead, and there was no way that another child of Hades could be wandering around. Maybe Nico could age? He had been gone the proper amount of time. Percy shook his head. Randomly aging was definitely not in Nico’s powers.

 

Annabeth hummed. “Which likely means that Avvenire’s a rouge child of the Underworld. Maybe Thanatos or Nyx? He can’t be Hades’s son, he would have activated the prophecy before Percy if he’s actually seventeen.”

 

Leo raised a hand like he was asking a question. “Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know anything about this first Great Prophecy stuff. Anybody want to fill me in?”

 

Annabeth stiffened. Percy locked hands with hers. He knew that she still didn’t like to talk about the war, especially the end. He knocked his knuckles against her thigh gently. Her storm grey eyes immediately locked onto his.

 

“Why don’t you see if Chiron’s being any more forthcoming with information?” Percy murmured.

 

Annabeth pressed a grateful kiss against Percy’s cheek before gracefully coming up from her crouch and heading out of Cabin Three.

 

Percy sat back down and leaned back on the heels of his palms.

 

“Alright then. Let me tell you the story of the Titan War. I guess that my part started when I accidentally murdered my math teacher . . .”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

By the time that Frank had made it out of the Wolf House, he was a bit in awe of Avvenire.

 

Frank wasn’t really sure why Avvenire was in the Wolf House, because he had clearly been trained before. Lupa had made him take off his weapons before they had begun training and gods did he have a lot of them. There was the sword around his waist and the dagger at his back, but there was also a dirk in one of his boots, the butterfly knives in the pocket of his jacket and a hairpin of all things that he pulled out of his shaggy mane. All of them were made of the same black iron that his sword was made of, and Avvenire had told him in a no-nonsense voice that if Frank touched them, he would lose part of his life essence.

 

Thinking about the piece of firewood in his jacket, Frank thought that he didn’t have very much life essence to spare.

 

Frank wasn’t necessarily comfortable in the Wolf House, but he learned things. His reflexes had improved, as had his battle instincts. Lupa taught them the Roman way of life—conquer or die. She taught them the life was unyielding so you had to be unyielding in return. Strong, loyal, a part of something bigger than yourself. Frank felt the teachings resonate inside him. He had had a hard time the first day of their week there, but then he decided to turn into a wolf and talk with the others. That expedited the process quick nicely.

 

Avvenire didn’t seem to need a learning curve. He had battle instincts that even Lupa was impressed with, although he wasn’t very good at hand-to-hand. He didn’t always lose, but Frank had both height and weight on him. Avvenire was scrappy though, and Frank would have hated to face him with a weapon in his hands.

 

He learned things about the other boy as well. Avvenire was cautious with him for the first few days on interaction, almost seeming to flinch in his presence, before warming up to him. Frank still wasn’t sure if they could even be called friends, but Frank definitely wanted them to be.

 

Lupa called Avvenire Time-Monger and refused to call him anything else. Avvenire grimaced when she said it, but didn’t ask her to stop.

 

Avvenire almost seemed to wear sadness like a cloak. Once, during a sparring match, he had frozen and limped off to the side, dragging his leg behind him like it was weighted. He sat there with one hand over his mouth and one hand laced in his hair for nearly an hour.

 

Frank didn’t push. His mom had been in armed combat. He knew what PTSD looked like.

 

The fact that Frank hadn’t pushed seemed to endear him to the other boy more than anything else. Frank had just sat down next to him and whittled at an arrow for that hour, probably mutilating it beyond recognition. At the end, Avvenire had lifted his hand and placed a cold hand against Frank’s shoulder. Frank had just smiled down at his arrow.

 

The night before Frank and Avvenire left the Wolf House, he heard something interesting.

 

Avvenire probably thought that he was asleep, although there was no way that Lupa would have mistaken him for anything other than awake. The wolf was curled around Avvenire’s form as he sat on the bottom of the decrepit staircase, his black sword around his knees. Her head was pillowed on her front paws and she only had one eye open, watching the dark boy curiously.

 

You know that the gods will not help you, no matter what you say.

 

Avvenire’s eyes were out beyond the empty part of the front foyer. They were as black as the night between the stars. “I know,” he murmured. “They never want to hear what we have to say.”

 

You have put this world into a pickle, cub, Lupa said carelessly. In all of eternity, there has never been someone like you. Someone who has walked this path. Your enemies cannot be defeated with the help of the gods. How will you overcome that hurdle?

 

“I’m hoping that I won’t be the one who has to call on them.”

 

Ah. The Seven. You are collecting them early, it seems.

 

“Her gamble doesn’t work. I needed a new path.”

 

Interesting. Without a doubt, you have made things less boring, cub. It’s why I have taken you in.

 

Avvenire glanced over at her white-grey head. “What do you mean?”

 

How do you mean to gain the trust of the Romans if you aren’t one?

 

Avvenire stilled. “You’re helping me.”

 

It’s what I do. With any luck, it will save your life. I know what you are, Time-Monger. There are not many who will in this world, and most of those that do will want you gone. We teachers spend our lives on the sidelines of the tales of heroes, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t do all that we can.

 

“Thank you. Honestly.”

 

I wish for you to succeed. Your cause is just, your motives are correct. We will likely not weather this storm without you. You are out to heal the world.

 

Avvenire’s scarred hands tightened on the grip of his sword. “I have to try.”

 

Lupa bit one of hands. Too gentle to be an attack, too hard to be loving. You have to succeed. Do not doubt yourself. You have a mission to heal the world. Along the way, I hope that you can heal yourself.

 

“Do you mean . . .”

 

Not that. You’ve been scarred by something that only you remember. You have lost many people. Perhaps this experience will not just be for the world. Perhaps it will be for you, too.

 

Frank was suddenly reminded that Lupa was a teacher. She was strict, and could sometimes be cruel, but ultimately she raised demigods, considered them all her cubs in her own way.

 

Avvenire didn’t respond, but when Lupa moved her head to lay it against his knee, Avvenire just moved his sword and let her be.

 

The next morning, the two of them packed up what belongings that they had and prepared to leave the Wolf House. Frank just had his purple sweatshirt and ratty jeans which he had cleaned in the river the week before. He shoved his unstrung bow in his quiver and shoved his quiver on his back. Avvenire, who seemed to just be a walking armory, had given him a normal bronze knife that he hoped would not suck out his soul, so Frank slipped that into the waistband of his jeans.

 

Avvenire had a lot more. He had his skull tee under a black sweatshirt under his faded bomber jacket. His black jeans were ripped and clean. Two of his dark knives found their way into his boot, the butterfly knives into the pocket of his sweatshirt, and his sword around his waist. He had pulled his hair up into a ponytail at the crown his head and shoved his hairpin into it. He glared at Frank while he did it as if daring him to comment.

 

His bag was also . . . interesting. A pouch of something that looked like butterscotch brownies, two flasks, a pouch of solid gold coins, two more bronze daggers, a gold short sword, a bow and a scattered amount of arrows, a half-eaten bag of Cheetos, and two skulls.

 

Avvenire hadn’t said anything about his godly parentage, but Frank knew that it was Pluto.

 

Frank thought that maybe if their introduction had led with “oh, hey, my dad’s lord of the dead!” maybe he would have been a bit scared of the other boy, but now that he knew Avvenire without it, it didn’t seem intimidating. Hell, the only reason that Frank was alive was because of one of his shades.

 

Still, Frank wanted it noted that he was not, under any circumstances, going to hold one of the skulls. Not even if it had saved his life.

 

The two of them waited in the archway that had used to be a front door for Lupa to come and bid them farewell.

 

Frank took a deep breath and turned to Avvenire. “I know that you’re different from other demigods.”

 

Avvenire was never one to waste excess motion, but he seemed to get even stiller, waiting for Frank to continue.

 

“I’m not foolish, I’ve noticed. But I’m not going to ask.”

 

Avvenire’s thin shoulders came down just the slightest bit, the barest hint of relief.

 

Frank looked him dead in the eye. “I trust you. You saved my life. Just . . . just don’t lie to me.”

 

Avvenire paused, before nodding. “Okay.”

 

Lupa padded up behind them. Males and their rituals, she scoffed.

 

The dozen other wolves flanked either of her sides. Lupa squared her shoulders. At this point, I usually tell my students that they must find their own way to the legion, prove their strength by finding their own way to New Rome. I have the feeling that it’s going to be a bit easier on you now. She shot Avvenire a glare. He gave a shrug in response.

 

Make your way to New Rome, my cubs. The Legion awaits you there.

 

Avvenire and Frank bowed to her as they left, a chorus of howls behind them.

 

“Well, the hard part’s over now,” Frank breathed, happy to leave Lupa’s rigorous training behind.

 

Avvenire gave a put-upon sign. “You just had to say it, didn’t you?”

 

Naturally, they walked straight into a nest of dracaena a half an hour later.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Piper stared up at the top of her bunk. Lacey was asleep above her. On the top of the trunk at the end of her bed, the Shoes of Shame lay in wait for her tomorrow. Piper had a monopoly on the Shoes of Shame for the next two months based upon the following list of transgressions:

  1. Being resistant to Drew’s charmspeak
  2. Deciding to participate in combat practice
  3. Refusing to wear makeup to said combat practice
  4. Wearing jeans with holes in them
  5. Associating with “Hephaestus Cabin trash”
  6. Punching Drew in the face for calling Leo “Hephaestus Cabin trash”

 

It was late. Piper should have been sleeping.

 

The Prophecy of Seven kept rolling around in her mind. How, exactly, was she supposed to be a part of all of this? She was nobody. A vapid daughter of Aphrodite, like the girls that surrounded her. A failed beauty queen, a fighter who couldn’t really fight, a warrior whose only weapon was to talk her opponents into submission.

 

She wasn’t Percy. She wasn’t Annabeth. She wasn’t any of those heroes that Percy had talked about earlier that day. Not Thalia, not Zoe Nightshade, not Nico di Angelo, not Luke Castellan.

 

Piper turned over harshly. No. She was not going to be worried about her own worth. She never had before, content to deck anyone who said that she was less because of her heritage or her actions or her clothes. She was a part of the Prophecy of Seven, even if she didn’t understand it. She was going to try her hardest not to let everyone down.

 

Annabeth was teaching her how to wield Katoptris. The older girl had said that she would likely never be a frontline fighter, but that didn’t matter. “You could make a difference without carving through your enemies,” she had said. “Percy is the strongest demigod in this camp. But he’s alive because of me and Grover, who aren’t as powerful, but we get him where he needs to go.”

 

Piper kind of hated the thought that she was going to be someone’s backup, but she was pleased that she would be able to do her part. Being second fiddle to Leo wouldn’t be so bad, she mused, especially since he had fire powers and could probably do so major damage on his own.

 

There was suddenly a bang and a crash outside the cabin. Piper’s hand wrapped around the smooth hilt of Katoptris under her pillow, drawing out the blade slowly. The other Aphrodite campers were groggily getting up. Piper rolled to the side of her bed and shoved her bare feet into worn brown combat boots. She was making quite the fashion statement in men’s pajama pants covered in pineapples and a black sports bra.

 

Drew got up from the other side of the room. “What exactly is going on here?”

 

Obviously, at that particular moment, Leo burst into the Aphrodite Cabin, covered in grease and wearing a very large tool belt. His hair seemed wilder than usual, curling in ever which direction, and his bright brown eyes were manic.

 

Leo Valdez! What do you think you’re doing?” Drew’s shriek was loud and abnormally high-pitched.

 

Leo waved her off without even looking her direction. His eyes roamed the cabin until his eye’s caught Piper’s. “I’m not here for you. Just need Pipes for a second.”

 

Piper just rolled her eyes, slipping Katoptris into a holster. “What’s up?”

 

Leo just turned around and headed towards the door, gesturing for Piper to follow him. Piper gave a jaunty wave to her dumb-struck siblings and followed him out of the door.

 

Leo walked briskly towards the woods. Piper scrambled to keep up, latching her dagger on her upper arm as she jogged.

 

“Leo! What’s going on?”

 

Leo turned his manic smile back to her. “Remember what Avvenire said?”

 

“Yeah, why?”

 

There was a roar that echoed across the camp, followed by a mechanical screech.

 

Leo’s grin turned that much brighter as Piper’s eyes widened. “I’ve found myself a dragon.”

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Some did leave. In the two weeks since Gaia’s resurrection, legionaries and camper alike left the boundaries of Camp Jupiter, protected by the Athena Parthenos, for different reasons.

 

Katie Gardner had to find her mother.

 

Nathan, the centurion from the Second Cohort, took a squad of four others and headed for Utah, determined to protect his hometown.

 

Chris Rodriguez just walked across the borders one day with no explanation. No one asked for one.

 

Still others disappeared in the night. Every day, the headcount was smaller and smaller as people trained and worried.

 

Nico stood next to the three praetors as they overlooked everything from the Temple of Jupiter.

 

“We’ve steadied out at about one-twenty strong,” Reyna commented. “We might lose a few more, but that’s all that we’ve got.”

 

“The question is,” Jason mused, “is what we want to do with the people and time that we have left.”

 

There was a pause.

 

Nico exhaled, drawing their eyes. He wasn’t sure why he had become part of their inner circle, part of the chain of command right under the praetors, as important and valued as those who were left from the Prophecy of Seven. But here he was.

“We have to try to save people.”

 

Frank and Jason looked almost offended by the notion. Reyna just watched him curiously.

 

“We aren’t going to win this,” Nico spoke in a deadpan tone. “Gaia is awake. Per . . . . Percy and Annabeth are dead. Who knows how many demigods have fallen. We can petition the gods and wait for the war, but right now, we need to get as many people—mortals, legacies, families—out of the blast zone as possible.”

 

Reyna nodded. “We need to as many people as possible out of America. Nymphs, spirits, lesser gods. Mortals too, if we can convince them.”

 

“High-jack boats,” Jason suggested, “compromise radios and televisions. Make New Rome a stopping point for leaving. We have to stop thinking about this as a demigod’s fight. It’s not. It’s a fight for humanity and civilization now.”

 

Frank nodded. His eyes were dark. “You’re right. It’s not a demigod’s fight anymore. It’s a world war. So we’re going to have fight it like it’s a war.”

 

“What do you mean?” Reyna asked, eyes like steel.

 

“I learned many things from my father. Wars aren’t honorable. Wars are messy and bloody and we may be fighting monsters but we’re also fighting for our lives. That brings out the worst in people. We’re going to have to think logistics and training and not just be a Roman legion but a modern military.”

 

Frank let out an exhale of breath.

 

“We don’t need heroes anymore. We need soldiers.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

 

Leo and Piper kept sneaking off into the woods. They thought that they were being subtle, but they weren’t. Annabeth could always tell.

 

It was the beginning of the second week of September. She was supposed to be in school right now. So was Percy. So were they all really. The Prophecy of Seven had put the mortal world on hold for them now. Annabeth had gotten accepted to an online school that she attempted to put some effort into when she wasn’t busy training or worrying.

 

Percy came to join her some days and attempted to bluster his way through his Ancient Greek lessons. She knew that he came to spend time with her, but he never said anything and she never acknowledged it.

 

One day, while Percy was tapping Riptide impatiently against a copy of the Iliad, he said, “Do you think that we should be concerned at where Leo and Piper keep wandering off too?”

 

Annabeth didn’t look up from the schematics chart that she was reading. “Percy, they’re only a couple months younger than us. If we were sneaking off into the woods at night, would you want anyone to follow us?”

 

Percy blinked. “I did not peg them as a couple.”

 

“Maybe they aren’t. Maybe they are. Either way, do you really want to find out by following them when they sneak off into the woods?”

 

A beat of silence. Two.

 

“Are you to kill me if I say yes?”

 

Annabeth closed her book and tied her hair up into a ponytail. “Sounds like an adventure.”

 

Percy gave her the lopsided smile that was one of the main reasons that she had fallen in love with him.

 

Percy had slipped Riptide into his pocket and Annabeth slipped her knife into her belt. They shared an open-mouthed kiss that probably lasted a little bit too long before they wandered out into the woods, chasing teenagers just like them.

 

Whatever Leo and Piper were doing out in the woods, they weren’t being subtle about it. Annabeth and Percy found them pretty quickly, walking a few trees behind them and being careful to cover up their footsteps. Leo was carrying a mess of wiring in his hands, while Piper had a small drum of oil hoisted over one shoulder. Percy raised an eyebrow at Annabeth. Definitely not sneaking out to make out then.

 

Annabeth nodded and they continued to follow the pair.

 

The pair stopped in a clearing, surprisingly close to the Myrmyke’s lair. Annabeth wanted none of that. If they got any closer, Annabeth was dragging Leo and Piper out of there by the ear.

 

Luckily, the two of them made a sharp left when they came upon the ant hill, moving towards a deeper depression in the earth, likely a dent from the testing of the Greek fire bombs for the war.

 

Piper and Leo disappeared into the crater. Annabeth gestured for Percy to follow her as she moved to crouch at the edge of the crater, peering over the earth.

 

Annabeth had to stifle a gasp.

 

In the middle of the crater was a giant golden dragon, curled up into a ball, resting its head on its small metal claws. Its left red eye twinkled on as Leo approached, Piper hanging back. The dragon made a happy sound before blasting Leo with a fire from his nostrils.

 

Percy bolted to his feet, but Annabeth dragged him right back down, when she heard Leo’s laughter from within the flames.

 

The flames dissipated, leaving Leo brushing off ash from his white mechanic’s shirt. “Alright, alright, Festus, simmer down. We’re going to have to fix that before you accidentally roast Piper.”

 

“Thank you!” Piper called from her safe distance away.

 

Leo pulled a hammer out of his belt and started fussing around the dragon’s head. Suddenly, he slammed the hammer into the dragon’s eye. The right eye suddenly flickered back on. Leo rotated the eye sockets of each eye once and the dragon gave a content little squirm. Leo gestured for Piper to come forward.

 

“Alright then, Festus, you’re going to drink this nice Tabasco-flavored oil while I play around in your brain. You okay with that, buddy?”

 

The dragon hummed. Apparently Leo considered this an agreement, because he started prying off the plate on the back of Festus’s head. Piper approached and dropped the oil in front of the dragon’s nostrils before rubbing a hand across its snout. The dragon seemed to nuzzle her for a moment before becoming absorbed in the oil. Piper moved to join Leo in the back of Festus’s head, handing him tools and asking the boy questions.

 

Percy gave Annabeth a shocked look. “They’re going out in the woods to tinker with a dragon?”

 

Annabeth was trying to take all of this in stride. “Hey, we were doing worse when we were twelve. I’m pretty sure that reckless suicidal stunts are part of the game.”

 

Percy still looked baffled. “How did they even know that it was here?”

 

Annabeth shrugged. “Maybe they stumbled across it?”

 

“And didn’t get roasted?”

 

“Apparently Leo is immune from being cooked well-done.”

 

“I am immensely disappointed that my reign as most-stupid demigod may be coming to an end.”

 

Annabeth flicked him in the forehead. “That’ll never happen, Seaweed Brain.”

 

Leo did something in the back of Festus’s brain that seemed to make the dragon go limp, which meant that it was likely a good time for Annabeth and Percy to make their presence known.

 

Percy stood up and gave Annabeth a hand up. Annabeth gave a sharp whistle to get Leo and Piper’s attention before sliding down the side of the crater, Percy right behind her. To Leo and Piper’s credit, neither of them had looked surprised that they had been followed.

 

Piper raised a hand in greeting. Leo didn’t look up from the console that he was playing with and Festus remained happily limp, although he occasionally rolled his shoulders, making Piper and Leo lock their fingers into the chinks in his armor.

 

“So how long has this been going on?” Annabeth said as an opening volley.

 

“Since Leo burst into the Aphrodite Cabin last week like a person possessed,” Piper volunteered, handing Leo a wrench.

 

“To be fair, you would have killed me if I hadn’t brought you in on the action,” Leo grunted as he pushed his weight behind the screw.

 

“I heard about that,” Percy chuckled. “Drew was ranting for days.”

 

Piper smirked but didn’t say anything. Annabeth knew that there was no love lost between those two.

 

Annabeth moved behind Festus’s head to get a look at what Leo was doing with the console. She had nothing on a son of Hephaestus when it came to mechanics, but she was smart enough to help.

 

Festus’s head was a mess of wires. Most of it looked like it had been rewired or taped together in a different arrangement.

 

“Wow,” Annabeth said in awe of the destruction that occurred.

 

Leo gestured for a screwdriver from Piper without looking over at her. They had obviously been at this for a while and had a routine down. Leo placed the screwdriver in his mouth and he dug one of his hands arm-deep into the dragon’s head.

 

“I know right,” Leo said from around the metal. “You should have seen him when we found him five days ago. Pipes and I have been out here every day, trying to make him safe for humans.”

 

Percy came to stand by Annabeth’s side. “Safe for humans?”

 

Piper nodded. “Leo says that this dragon was definitely meant to be a guardian for the camp, which means that it’s got the capabilities to learn and assist humans, in any capacity.”

 

“You could even weaponize him,” Leo said easily, dragging his grease-covered arm out of the head and removing the screwdriver from his mouth.

 

“He seems pretty weaponized already,” Percy said wearily.

 

Leo snorted. “That’s nothing. Give me five hours and some decent resources and this dragon could have nukes.”

 

“Let’s . . . not do that.”

 

“You take the fun out of everything, Annabeth.”

 

Leo caused sparks to fly tapping two wires together. Piper wordlessly handed over a roll of black electrical tape. “Nuclear warheads aside, I’m running a little low on supplies, and there’s lots of stuff that I don’t have in the Hephaestus Cabin that could really make this go a lot smoother. This dragon’s brain was made out of old, old tech. Not saying that it’s bad, just saying that we don’t have a lot of it anymore. I wish I could know where he was made . . .”

 

Festus suddenly moved, his plates interlocking as he got back up on his legs. Leo smacked the control panel closed, before jumping off of Festus’s back, a steady stream of “what are you doing now, buddy, this is not how these sessions are supposed to go, Festus, sit back down” coming from his mouth.

 

Leo landed lightly on his feet. “Alright, everyone get behind me. If he breathes fire, I’ll contain the blast.”

 

Annabeth glanced at him. “Leo, I know that we’ve never had this discussion, but how good exactly are your fire powers?”

 

He gave her a cocksure grin. “I guess we’re going to find out.”

 

Annabeth wanted her obituary to read “died from exposure to too much demigod stupidity.”

 

Festus didn’t seem very concerned with them. He fixed Leo with a look before lumbering off into the woods with his uneven gait. It looked like one of his back legs was shorter than the others.

 

“I think that it wants us to follow it,” Percy said.

 

“He, Percy, don’t diss my animatronic dragon,” Leo said testily. “And yes, I think that we got that.”

 

Annabeth rolled her eyes, exchanging a glance with Piper, before running after Festus’s bronze and gold tail. The boys quickly followed behind.

 

Festus made them run through half of the woods. Annabeth was winded by the time that Festus curled up into a ball next to a cliff face. Leo stopped and hand to place his hands on his knees for a while.

 

“Well, that was invigorating,” Leo said once he had caught his breath. Leo turned towards Festus. “What was that about, buddy?”

 

The dragon pointed one of his claws toward the rock.

 

Leo moved forward and began to trace the cliff face with his fingers, murmuring to himself. Annabeth wasn’t sure what Leo could see that they couldn’t but he seemed to be fascinated by it.

 

“I wonder . . .” Leo ruminated before pressing one of his hands to the rock face and igniting it with blue flames.

 

The rock shuddered and cracked. Percy had his arms around Annabeth before she could move, his sword up and ready. The rock fell away to reveal a steel door, like the ones that you would see inside of a bank vault. It was large enough that even Festus would have no problems entering into it.

 

Leo whooped. “Called it!”

 

Piper went to help him open the door. With a few grunts and turns of the wheel, there was a resounding click. Percy released Annabeth and they helped to push the door open.

 

The air inside was cool and musty. Annabeth held down a cough. Leo snapped and summoned a rather large flame above his thumb. It wasn’t perfect lighting, but until they could find a light switch, it was better than nothing.

 

By the air quality, Annabeth could tell that wherever they were, it was a very large space, likely mostly empty. It had the dust quality that meant that this place hadn’t been opened in a very long time.

 

Piper let out a noise of surprise before hitting the side of wall. Lights suddenly flickered on in succession.

 

“Wow,” Leo exhaled.

 

Bunker 9, the wall in front of them claimed, painted in black, military-style. It was the size and shape of an aircraft hanger, and by the drooling noises that Leo was making, the junk that filled most of the space was definitely fun toys. There were schematics hung on the walls and half-finished projects spread out on tables, along with a frightening set of industrial equipment and what looked like a fully functioning forge.

 

There was a series of clashes and clangs as Festus lumbered into the bunker and made himself at home in one of the corners that was covered in what looked like airplane covers, underneath a pair of suspended metal wings.

 

“This is his home,” Leo said in wonder.

 

Percy’s eyes were glued to one of the walls. “This is a war bunker.”

 

Annabeth followed his eyes, seeing the maps of the United States spread across the wall. “But who were they fighting?”

 

Piper pulled a golden sword out of one of the junk piles. “I think that they were fighting the Roman camp.”

 

“Well, that would be a good reason to keep us apart,” Annabeth mused.

 

Annabeth did another sweep of the bunker, and her eyes caught on one of the tables. Unlike everything else in the bunker, this one wasn’t covered in dust. “Guys, I think that I’ve found something.”

 

The four of them gathered around the one clean table. When Leo came near, he inhaled sharply.

 

“Is that—“ He reached out and grasped what looked to Annabeth like a ball, about the size of a cantaloupe, made entirely of metal. He turned it over and over in his hands, looking like he held the answer to all the world’s secrets.

 

“What is it?” Piper asked.

 

“It’s an Archimedes Sphere,” Leo breathed. “I’ve only read about these. They’re legendary; people don’t think that they exist anymore.”

 

“I’ve heard of those,” Annabeth exclaimed. “They’re incredible—can hijack any system, improve any mechanical design. They’re a bomb and a puzzle-solver and a medical miracle all rolled into one. What’s one of them doing here?”

 

Percy, whose eyes could never stay still, reached over and grasped a piece of paper off of the table. “It’s got a note.”

 

Leo dragged his eyes off of the sphere for a moment as Percy unfolded to note, revealing an already familiar scrawl.

 

Leo,

You’ll find this useful.

Also useful will be the tool belt on the back wall and the wings for Festus.

 

As always, I have a request and advice all rolled into one.

Try to use the sphere to prevent spiritual possession. It’ll be useful later on, trust me.

Also, use the sphere with the designs for your ship.

The designs are around here somewhere.

You’ll know the one.

 

Avvenire

 

“Well, that’s incredibly creepy,” Percy contributed to the conversation, breaking the silence that surrounded them while they looked at the note.

 

“How did he know the bunker was here?” Piper wondered.

 

“More than that, how did he get in?” Annabeth asked.

 

“And how did he get his hands on one of these legendary soccer balls?” Annabeth flicked Percy for that one.

 

“Guys.”

 

Everyone turned to Leo, who looked shell-shocked, staring down at the note. His dark Latino skin looked unnaturally pale. He met all of their eyes when he looked up from the slip of paper.

 

“This sphere has been for days. It’s not dusty compared to the rest of the place, but it definitely wasn’t just placed here. So . . . I only found the dragon five days ago, the Sphere’s likely been here for longer than that.”

 

Leo looked completely and utterly freaked.

 

“So how did he know that I named the dragon Festus?”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason wandered around the banks of the Little Tiber, throwing stones across the water. If he used some of his powers to make the stones skip just a little bit further, well no one had to know.

 

Jason was wearing a laid-back assemble of blue jeans and an old band t-shirt from the time when he and Dakota had snuck out and visited downtown San Francisco for a night. When he had gotten back and told the stories to his fellow bunkmates, no one had believed that Jason Grace—their centurion, the golden boy—had had the nerve to sneak out for the night. He had been fourteen.

 

That hadn’t been the first time that people had placed their expectation upon him. It wasn’t the last. Jason had grew up with this, as the son of Jupiter. And as much as it chaffed sometimes, that mantle was what had allowed him to protect his friends time and time again. He would take the expectation that came with it if he still had the ability to protect people.

 

It had been nearly two weeks since Reyna had told him about the Greek demigods. She had a history with them, but didn’t seem overly burdened by it. They had a camp somewhere, somewhere where they trained as well, somewhere where they became battle-ready. And according to this Avvenire, the Prophecy of Seven involved them uniting.

 

Jason had to admit, the first time that he had heard about the Greek camp, his only thought was Thalia.

 

Jason didn’t have many memories of his sister, but when he was old enough to understand the danger of a demigod he realized—if Thalia wasn’t at Camp Jupiter, she was likely dead.

 

But now. She could be at the Greek camp.

 

Jason chucked another smooth stone across the water. It went all the way to the other bank.

 

It was good that the Greeks were out there, Jason thought, after he got over the xenophobic stories of his childhood. It was good that future demigods had options, that demigods weren’t just dropped off in the middle of wolves when they were two years old and made to serve the legion . . .

 

Jason sighed. He loved the legion. His life was the legion. The day that he became a praetor was probably one of the best memories that he had. He was Roman, and he enjoyed being Roman. The Twelfth Legion and the people in it meant everything to him and he was going to do his damnedest to make sure that it was the best goddamn legion possible.

 

But that didn’t mean that he didn’t wish that he could shake off the mantle of being Jason Grace, son of Jupiter, praetor, as easily as he took off the cloak sometimes.

 

Or maybe he just needed a vacation.

 

Quests were nice. Deadly and terrifying, but nice. Maybe he should convince Reyna have him and few others go kill a monster or two. He needed a break from the weight of what other people thought of him.

 

The sun was setting. He should get back to the barracks.

 

Just as he was about to move away from the Little Tiber, he saw two people making their way through the Caldecott Tunnel. It wasn’t time for a rotation of the guard—they must be new campers.

 

Jason flew over to the other side of the river bank and made his way to the newcomers. His fingers wrapped around Ivlvis in his pocket. Due to the fading light, he couldn’t see them very well, but tried to gather what he could.

 

One of them, a larger, muscular and vaguely-Asian boy, was being supported by an older, smaller boy. Despite their sizes, Jason got the distinctive and immediate feeling that the smaller boy was the more dangerous of the two. He looked to be a year or so older than Jason himself, sporting longer hair and a black sword around his waist. He seemed to be unharmed, while the Asian boy was definitely having a hard time leaning on one of his ankles.

 

The older boy leaned his companion against the wall of the tunnel and pulled a flask out of his bag. The wounded boy drank some, and immediately color returned to his face. Nectar, probably.

 

Jason made his way over to the two of them. When he got within thirty feet of them, Jason cleared his throat.

 

The older boy must not have heard him approach, because upon the announcement of Jason’s presence, his hand flashed up to his hair and flicked.

 

It was only Jason’s battle-won instincts that made the winds stop the—hairpin? Deadly, deadly hairpin—when it was only a foot or so from his face. It was made out of a pure black metal that Jason had never seen before and seemed to leech the heat from the air.

 

“Alrighty,” Jason said casually. “That’s one way to greet someone.”

 

The boy rolled his eyes and stalked over to Jason, grabbing the hairpin out of the air and shoving it back into his ponytail. “Sorry about that,” he said roughly.

 

Now that he was closer to the guy, Jason could see that he had a significant amount of muscle mass on him. His hands and arms were significantly scarred, the worst being a bullet-like wound to the left shoulder that he could see underneath the tank top. His jacket was tied around the waist, revealing another black knife at the small of his back. Jason could respect a man that was overly-armed.

 

The Asian boy, his ankle apparently healed, approached on the other side. He was taller and broader, with significant more muscle and a hint of baby fat. He had a bow strapped over his purple sweatshirt and a black bag—the darker boy’s—in his other hand.

 

“We’re new recruits for the Legion,” the older teenager offered. “Lupa sent us.”

 

As with all new recruits, Jason gave him a weaker wolf stare (Gwen had told him in his early days that his full stare made the unsuspecting faint) and they responded in turn. No one had told the darker boy to hold back, apparently, because even Jason felt a slight hint of intimidation.

 

“I’m Jason Grace, praetor of the Twelfth Legion,” he offered with a smile.

 

“Frank Zhang,” the Asian boy said with a wave.

 

The dark boy gave a hint of a smile before looking Jason straight in the eye.

 

“I’m Avvenire.”

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Of all the gods to fall, Iris was the first.

 

Nico could remember Butch clawing at the tattoo of a rainbow on his arm, cursing the gods and everything that they had stood for. As demigods, none of them were particularly close to their godly parent, but there was something terrifyingly soul-crushing about losing something that you thought was eternal.

 

Perhaps the giants remembered her rebellion against them. Perhaps it was more logistical—perhaps they knew how badly they had crippled the demigod alliance without their steady source of mythical communication. Perhaps she was merely the first person that they found.

 

Even without Iris’s communications, Camp Jupiter had some idea of what was going on outside its borders from the steady stream of refugees that they tried to funnel through their borders.

 

Mass chaos as the boundaries between the mythical and mortal worlds started to collapse.

 

Giants rampaging through sites of mythical importance, from the Hoover Dam to Venice.

 

The gods holding their stronghold of Olympus at the expense of the entirety of Hell’s Kitchen.

 

Fires were raging all across America and Europe.

 

To storm or fire, the world must fall.

 

One day, watching Leo and Piper face off against a few lesser hellhounds that had made it into the Caldecott Tunnel, Nico saw a fire burn from the foot of Mouth Othrys.

 

 Will found him there long after the battle had ended.

 

Will placed a hand on his shoulder, the same way that he had done months ago, on Half-Blood Hill.

 

“You’ve been here all night.”

 

Nico didn’t answer, just watched the fires lick the mountain of evil and pushed back into Will’s hand.

 

Feeling the death count of the world rise with every moment—too fast, too fast, like having static suddenly become too loud, so loud that you thought you could hear words in it—Nico was too tired and too lost to make himself not need Will.

 

Will sat down next to him and wrapped Nico in his embrace.

 

The world fell to fire.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason dragged the two of them before Reyna.

 

Well, he dragged Frank Zhang. Jason had the distinct feeling that Avvenire would never let himself be dragged anywhere against his will.

 

Reyna was sitting in one of the praetor’s chairs, looking over a scroll and eating from the bowl of jelly beans that Marius put there originally. Her two metallic dogs were curled up at her feet. She looked up sharply as Jason made his way into the room.

 

“Praetor Grace.”

 

Jason gave a short bow. “Praetor Ramirez-Arellano. Two new recruits have been accepted by Lupa and made their way to Camp Jupiter.”

 

“And?” Reyna said almost testily. New recruits was not an after-hours topic of conversation.

 

Jason waved a hand towards the darker boy. “This one claims to be Avvenire.”

 

The aforementioned boy raised an eyebrow. “Claims to be?” He did the air-quotes and everything. Jason didn’t know that people still did that. “Harsh.” His deep eyes turned to Reyna, who was looking more and more intrigued by the conversation as it went on. “I am the one who gave you that note. I saved the legacy of Mercury as well.”

 

Reyna gestured to one of the guards. “Take the other boy to the barracks. He can stay in the visitor’s quarters for now. We will bring both of them before the augur tomorrow.” She gave a glare to Avvenire that read very clearly “If you make it that long.” She turned back to the guards, dismissing them with a wave of her hand.

 

Frank looked back to Avvenire, who gave him the slightest of nods. Frank didn’t struggle as he followed the two guards out of the room. Avvenire didn’t seem perturbed.

 

Reyna straightened in her chair, placing a hand on Argentum’s hand. The wolfdog growled menacingly. “I have questions for you. My dogs will know if you lie.”

 

Avvenire nodded. “I assumed as much. I’ll tell you what I can. What would you like to know?”

 

“How do you know about the two camps?”

 

Avvenire answered without hesitation. “I’ve met both Greek and Roman demigods. I’ve known about the two camps for years, although I originally learned of it from my father.”

 

“Your father?” Jason inquired.

 

“Pluto.”

 

Aurum bared its teeth, but didn’t growl. Not a full lie, then.

 

Another child of the Big Three? Jason almost itched to fight him. He had never known any other legionaries who were children of the elder gods.

 

Reyna placed a polished nail to her lips. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a death god’s child here. And you were trained by Lupa?”

 

Avvenire nodded.

 

Reyna glanced over to Jason, who was behind Avvenire. He shrugged. If he was trained by Lupa, it wasn’t like they could kick him out.

 

“You said in your note that the Prophecy of Seven is coming to pass.”

 

“I did.”

 

“How would you know that?”

 

Avvenire stood the slightest bit straighter. “I can’t answer that right now.”

 

Reyna fixed him with a glare. “What?”

 

“I would, but I can’t.” Avvenire looked truly regretful. Jason wasn’t sure how good of an actor he was, but he definitely didn’t seem like one.

 

“And why can’t you tell me?” Reyna tightened her grip on Argentum’s collar.

 

Avvenire simply shook his head. “I’ll make you a compromise. I’ll tell you by October. I’m not sure when. Give me a month to earn your trust.”

 

Reyna looked him up and down—took in his weapons, his scars, the shadows under his eyes. That’s what Jason saw when he looked at him. A warrior who had fought too long and too hard. Jason could relate with that. He wasn’t sure what Reyna saw when she looked at him, but she nodded. “A month. We’ll see what the augur makes of you tomorrow.”

 

Avvenire grimaced, like he already knew what a treat he was in for with Octavian tomorrow.

 

“Since Frank’s in the visitor’s quarters tonight,” Reyna said easily, “you will stay in the empty bedroom in Praetor Grace’s quarters.”

 

All Jason heard was “Keep an eye on him.” Jason responded with a subtle nod. Reyna seemed pleased.

 

Avvenire looked like he would rather eat a bucket of nails. He seemed to be keeping up a perpetual frown.

 

“I’ll take him there now,” Jason said easily.

 

Reyna simply nodded. If he had been any rank other than her own, she would have had to dismiss him,  but as it was, Jason simply grabbed Avvenire by the elbow—to which he gave a startled yelp—and hauled him out of the room.

 

Well, it looked like Jason could drag Avvenire where he wanted him to go.

 

Avvenire shook him off as soon as they made it out of the room. Jason let him. He walked three feet ahead of the praetor and seemed to know exactly where he was going, which was curious.

 

Avvenire kept glancing back at Jason as they walked, waiting for questions, but Jason was content to be quiet. He had good instincts and a predisposition for silence; Avvenire wasn’t going to talk and Jason was fine not asking him too.

 

Surprisingly, Avvenire was the one who broke the silence as they walked into the barracks. “It’s lucky that you didn’t touch the hairpin.” His voice was quiet, but strong. Jason had the feeling that he didn’t really have the disposition to be a leader, but could do it if the role was forced on him.

 

“Hmmm?”

 

Avvenire tapped a finger against the sheath of his word. “All of my weapons are made out of Stygian Iron. They can only be wielded by children of the Underworld. They’ll suck the life essence out of anyone else. They’re . . . they’re not things that should be thrown around lightly.”

 

Jason figured that that was the closest that he was going to get to an apology. “Good thing that you’ve got such good aim,” Jason commented. “We should spar sometime.”

 

“You’d let me go near you with weapons drawn?”

 

Avvenire stopped outside of Jason’s newly-acquired praetor house. He didn’t even pause before Reyna’s which looked exactly like it. Interesting.

 

Jason fished the keys out of one of his pockets.  A locked door wouldn’t really be a deterrent for even the weakest of demigods, but that was no reason to leave things unlocked.

 

“I’ve never met another child of the Big Three,” Jason admitted, “and honestly, that’s a bit fascinating for me. Besides, I’d like to see what you can do. Gaius said that you might be a swordsman to match me.”

 

He unlocked the door but placed himself inside the doorway, not allowing Avvenire to pass through. Jason fixed Avvenire with his untampered Wolf Stare and was gratified to see the older boy flinch for a moment before straightening and giving it back as good as he got.

 

“Don’t get me wrong,” Jason said coldly. “If you try to harm my legion in any way, I don’t care how powerful you are. I will put you down. But until then, you’re a new recruit. You’re a part of the legion. And I would protect every part of the Twelfth Legion with my life.”

 

For some reason, his proclamation made Avvenire smile, just a little bit friendly, just a little bit wistful.

 

“What?” Jason said with a curious turn of his head.

 

“I don’t know. I guess I didn’t expect you to be so . . . Roman.”

 

With that, Avvenire pushed past Jason and into the house. Jason just watched him go with bewilderment. What did he mean, he didn’t expect Jason to be Roman? He had spent twelve years of his life here. Of course he would be Roman.

 

Jason closed the door behind him. The main room was clean. Avvenire hadn’t dropped any of his belonging, not even his boots.

 

When Jason moved to lean against the doorframe, he caught Avvenire pulling out two skulls from his bag.

 

Alright. Not the oddest thing that he’d even seen a demigod do. Probably not even in the top 100 if he factored in the “father is a death god” part.

 

“What are those?” Jason asked quietly.

 

Avvenire didn’t flinch—he had known that Jason was there. The silence stretched on as Avvenire continued to unpack his bag. When the last of the weapons and godly food had been removed, Jason straightened and prepared to leave.

 

“They’re my familiars.”

 

Avvenire’s voice was soft and quiet, tracing the edge of one of the skulls.

 

“Familiars?” Jason’s voice was quiet. He wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed. He thought it was lucky that he had gotten as much information as he had.

 

Avvenire didn’t look up from where his pale fingers were running over the bone. “Yes. Heroes who have died and chosen not to go on to rebirth—or those who were not worthy of it. I asked if they would help me. They agreed.”

 

Jason looked down at the skulls.

 

They were both bleached white and cracked—not from a blow. Jason had been too enough funerals to know flame cracking when he saw it.

 

Either Avvenire had been on particular good terms with the families, or he had spent some quality time grave-robbing.

 

Avvenire turned. Jason hadn’t noticed his eyes, but they were pitch black, almost alight with madness and strength. He gave a nod before shutting the door in Jason’s face.

 

The son of Jupiter blinked once. He didn’t think that anyone had ever slammed a door in his face in his life. A smile started to creep across Jason’s face.

 

Oh yes. Jason would definitely be keeping an eye on him.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Octavian looked like he hadn’t sleep in a week.

 

He also looked like he had never gotten enough sunlight or enough food in his life. If it wasn’t for the muscle corded through his arms, Frank would have thought that a strong wind would have knocked him over.

 

Even Avvenire, who was sitting in the middle of the temple, looking like he would rather be anywhere else, didn’t look so malnourished. And if it wasn’t for the copious amounts of junk food that Frank had seen the older boy eat during the five days it had taken to get them to camp, he would have thought that Avvenire had never eaten a full meal in his life.

 

Octavian was currently peering at the fluffy entrails of a stuffed dragon that Frank had picked out of Octavian’s alarmingly large collection of stuffed animals. If Frank hadn’t been told by Reyna earlier that they were there to be mutilated, Frank would have thought that it was cute.

 

Avvenire looked like he had gotten absolutely no sleep last night, but he tended to always look like that, so Frank assumed that nothing bad had happened after he had been unceremoniously escorted out of the praetor’s room. He had his usual assortment of weapons and his bag was constantly on his shoulder. His hair was down, curling against the collar of his jacket, but the hairpin was still there, tucked behind his ear. The end that wasn’t sharpened like a blade had three strings of metal flowers hanging down from it, each touched with a golden gem.

 

Not for the first time, Frank had wondered where he had gotten it.

 

Jason and Reyna were lingering a little way behind Frank and Avvenire, both donned in purple cloaks. Reyna looked just as intimidating as she had looked last night, with a sword around her waist and a spear on her back instead of her dogs at her side. Jason looked a lot more formal, standing rigidly in Roman armor. He didn’t necessarily look unapproachable, but he was definitely a commander in his element.

 

Octavian hummed above the altar. “Well, you, Frank Zhang, have some bad family history.”

 

Frank winced. He had tried to explain about the Shen Lun to Reyna and Jason on their way over to the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, but Reyna had simply said not to mention it to anyone else and Jason had just given him a clap on the shoulder and said that it was about what he did, not what anyone else had done.

 

“And absolutely no letters of recommendation.”

 

Jason, for some reason, broke his stance to roll his eyes.

 

“And you don’t even know who your godly parent is!”

 

Avvenire scoffed. “Like anyone knows who their godly parent is when they first get to camp.”

 

Frank didn’t know what he was talking about. From what he could gather, Avvenire knew who his godly parent was from the womb.

 

Octavian looked pained. “However, you augury looks to be fine. You may join the Fifth Cohort on probatio.”

 

Frank breathed out a sigh of relief. Jason shot him a smile and mouthed “Best Cohort.” Frank assumed that that was where he was from.

 

Octavian jabbed his knife at Avvenire. “Go pick yourself a stuffed animal.”

 

Avvenire gave a look of distaste as he wandered over to the pile. Frank wasn’t sure why, but Avvenire really didn’t like Octavian. He keep avoiding the augur’s gaze, and when they did look eyes, Avvenire looked ready to skin the Roman with his bare hands.

 

The older boy came back with a black bear in his hands, tossing it onto the altar with little a glance before rearranging himself on the floor of the temple lazily. Octavian shot him an acidic look. “Thank you very much.”

 

Avvenire gave a lazy wave of his hand. “You’re quite welcome.”

 

Behind him, Jason was attempting to keep a straight face. Even Reyna’s mouth was twitching at the corners.

 

Octavian just huffed and started to hack open the black bear. For some reason, even the stuffing of the animal was black. Octavian looked at the entrails for a long time before suddenly shooting a glare in Avvenire’s direction.

 

“You’re Greek?” He demanded. Both Reyna and Jason straightened behind Frank.

 

Avvenire gave a shrug, seemingly unconcerned. “Depends. My father is Hades, yes, but I was trained by Lupa. Perhaps it would be a better assessment to say that I’m both?”

 

Octavian scoffed before looking back at the stuffing. “That will remain to be seen. Hmmmm . . . well, the augury says that you’re fine to remain here for the time being. But watch your back. All Romans know that you can’t trust a Greek.”

 

Avvenire shrugged, glancing at Frank and dramatically rolling his eyes. Frank had to admit, Avvenire, for all his mysteries, was a pretty trustworthy guy. During their time getting to camp, there were multiple instances when Avvenire could have left him behind, but he didn’t.

 

Octavian swept the black stuffing off the altar and into a bin filled with the remains of every lovable thing in the tristate area. “Alright then. Fifth Cohort for you too.” He jabbed his knife in their direction. “Now get out of my temple.”

 

Avvenire came up to his feet in a fluid dancer’s motion. He and Frank followed the praetors as they made their way out of the temple.

 

Frank listened raptly to Reyna as she explained the different facets of the camp, from New Rome to the Roman baths. Avvenire started to slow behind him, giving them a bit of space. Out of the corner of his eyes, Frank saw that Jason had slipped back as well, moving next to Avvenire.

 

“You’re Greek?” Frank heard Jason murmur.

 

“What’s it to you?”

 

“The other camp . . . Have you ever . . .”

 

“The Underworld was mostly my home, but yes, I have been there.”

 

Jason seemed to pause for a moment. “Never mind.”

 

The praetor came back into their fold, bringing Avvenire back with him into the conversation. “Now that you guys are Fifth Cohort, we might have a chance of winning the war games for once! They won’t know what hit them tomorrow!”

 

“War games?” Frank said carefully.

 

Jason, whose face had been serious for most the time that Frank had known him, suddenly broke out into a smile and wrapped an arm around Frank’s shoulder. “Oh, let me tell you about war games.”

 

Avvenire and Reyna just shook their heads.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Hazel snapped her fingers. Almost, but not quite. She could feel the Mist there, just outside of her fingertips. But it kept eluding her. Maybe because she was a spirit herself.

 

At least she could feel it now. A week ago, she was just snapping her fingers and hoping.

 

She owed Avvenire everything. Her boredom would have killed her, made her dead to the world. There was only so long that you could stare a field of swaying souls before going insane. But now she had a purpose, a goal. Even if it was as simple as trying to make her hand appear to be a different color.

 

Hazel paused as she sensed a shift between the shadows.

 

To her left, Avvenire solidified out of the shadows the tree cast. He wearing his typical steel-toed boots and dark jeans, but today he had a loose purple t-shirt one proclaiming Camp Jupiter. Hazel didn’t think that she had ever seen a color other than black on him. He didn’t even have his typical faded bomber jacket—his butterfly knives were located in a holster on his thigh.

 

“Nice shirt.”

 

Avvenire huffed. “Blame stupid praetors with their stupid ideas of ‘camp bonding.’ He’s just giving me shit. Always has.”

 

Hazel just laughed. “Somebody’s made a friend.”

 

Avvenire looked out across the distance, over the souls of the average. “He was my first friend last time, too,” Avvenire murmured.

 

Maybe it was because he was her sister, but Avvenire didn’t seem to keep his guard up around her as much as he did everyone else. Hazel didn’t know all of the story, but from the times that he had visited over the past few weeks, Hazel guessed that he had some sort of gift of prophecy—blessed by an Oracle maybe. He mentioned people from a time both “before” and “after” and Hazel thought that perhaps his prophecies were so realistic that he had a hard time distinguishing between them.

 

He had told her that a new Great Prophecy had begun, and she was to be a part of it. Together with six other demigods, she was going to stop forces that wanted to take over the world. “It’s going to be hard,” Avvenire had said, “but children of Pluto don’t give up. And I’ll get you ready the best that I can.”

 

A few days after that conversation, he had come by with a long black sword. He said that it was a spatha, and that only a child of the Underworld could use the dark metal known as Stygian Iron. He said to be careful, because it could hurt mortals just as well as monsters.

 

And then he had solemnly beat her into the ground.

 

Hazel had never met anyone so strong. He never used any powers around her—he was always careful not to—but Avvenire had already become her ideal of what a demigod should be. He was strong, intelligent, loyal. Perhaps he wasn’t the best teacher or leader in the world, but Avvenire was everything that Hazel aspired to be. Independent. Powerful. Burdened by mistakes but making up for them.

 

Avvenire had given Hazel goals. Learn how to manipulate the Mist. Run through her training drills every day, attempting to build memory and muscle. Spar with Avvenire, if he came that day.

 

“You with someone new, up there?” Hazel asked curiously.

 

“Remember that camp that I told you about, all those weeks ago? The one for Roman demigods that you’ll eventually go to?”

 

Hazel nodded.

 

The left corner of Avvenire’s mouth turned up. “I’ve made my way there and somehow got myself enlisted. I’m apparently ‘suspicious’ so one of the praetors is watching me. He’s making me wear their camp gear because it’s ‘good for me.’ I managed to sneak away while he was in a meeting.”

 

“It’s good that you have people up there on the surface,” Hazel said longingly. “I can’t help but worry about you when you’re not down here.”

 

Avvenire gave her a fond look. She had never met her father while he was in Hades form, but she imagined that his eyes were never as soft as Avvenire’s were now. “I’ll be fine, sister.”

 

No matter how many times Avvenire said it, she always warmed when he said that.

 

The companionable silence spread between them for a few minutes, both of them watching the Underworld which was their home in different ways.

 

“Hazel,” Avvenire said softly, “I have a question for you.”

 

“Hmmmm?”

 

“You know that both of us come from times when many things weren’t accepted. Being black, being mixed race, being . . . being homosexual.”

 

Hazel focused on Avvenire. She could sense that this was important to him. “Yes?”

 

He took a deep breath, keeping his gaze on the blackness of the Underworld’s sky. “Hazel . . . if I told you that I was gay, how would you respond?”

 

Hazel paused for a moment. She was reminded of her mother, who lived in the seedier parts of New Orleans and handed out her diamonds and rubies to the drag queens and prostitutes who walked through her doors as easily as she would have given it to the richest businessman. She remembered Sammy breaking up a fight after school when two boys had been caught in the locker room together. She remembered the rich women who walked by the cornerstore that she had cleaned for extra pennies, discussing the deviancy of man who had remained a bachelor for his life, along with one of his closest friends. She remembered the lynching that was spoken of when she was forced to attend mass with her mother, only twice a year.

 

She remembered that up there, up on the surface, it wasn’t that time anymore.

 

Hazel scooted over and wrapped her arms around him. Avvenire startled at the contact, but didn’t push away. Hazel pushed her head into his chest.

 

“I would say thank you for trusting me. I would say that I’m sorry that your life might be hard, and I might not understand all of it, but I hope that you’re happy.”

 

Avvenire smiled softly into her curls. “It’s not for me, Hazel. I found people who supported me, people who cared for me, people who loved me. I’m pretty happy with how I am, but I wasn’t always. You . . . you know how I know things?”

 

Hazel nodded against his collarbones.

 

“There’s going to be a boy who comes here, a boy who comes for you. He’s not going to be happy with how he is. He’s going to be convinced that there’s something wrong with him, something that’s broken inside of him that can’t be fixed. It can, and it will, but he needs people who will remind him of that. I would like you to be one of those people.”

 

Hazel chuckled. “Homework for acceptance of homosexuality?”

 

Avvenire laughed with her, the sound resonating in her skull. “If you would like to think of it that way.”

 

Hazel wasn’t sure how long that she and Avvenire stayed in their makeshift embrace. From what she could tell, time worked differently in the Underworld. Sometimes slower, sometimes faster.

 

Eventually, Hazel pushed back. “Thank you for trusting me to be fair.”

 

Avvenire kissed her forehead. It was the first time that he had done it, but it seemed like a practiced gesture. “I always knew that you would understand.”

 

Hazel placed a hand against the place his lips had touched and smiled.

 

A rumble echoed across the Fields. Both Avvenire and Hazel shot to their feet. Hazel grabbed her spatha. Avvenire put a hand on his sword.

 

In the distance, just beyond the Palace of Hades, a glow like fire began to resonate.

 

Avvenire cursed in Ancient Greek. “They’re early.”

 

He rumbled around in his bag for a moment before pulling out a skull. He tossed it in the air. Halfway into its arch, it hovered, the rest of the skeleton condensing around it out of thin air. It was only bones for a moment, before a solid form flickered around, condensing into a normal-looking boy.

 

He was probably around fifteen years of age, with a faded orange t-shirt and a pair of cargo shorts. He had black hair and was incredibly short for a boy his age—Hazel probably matched him in height. He wasn’t unnaturally handsome, his face sort of scrunched up, but Hazel could admit that he was a good-looking fella, bright brown eyes and a strong jaw.

 

He cracked his knuckles and began to stretch out his shoulders. “Been a while since you’ve called me. Need some archery this time, Nir?” The boy turned to Hazel. “Who’s this?”

 

Avvenire pulled a bow and a quiver out of his bag. His bag must be bigger on the inside than the outside, because there was no way that all of that fit in there comfortably. He tossed them over to the ghost-skeleton-boy thing.

 

“Hazel, this is Michael, one of my familiars. He’s a shade, a hero who died in the Titan War. He’s a son of Apollo, and luckily his skills seemed to have passed on to the afterlife with him. Michael, this is my sister, Hazel, daughter of Pluto. Touch her and I’ll bury you dishonorably.”

 

“Yikes. Well, then, whatcha need from me?” Michael laced the quiver over his shoulder with practiced motions. Hazel wondered if he was always this solid or if the Underworld helped him out. Either way, Avvenire’s powers were impressive.

 

“Her army is on the move. I need you to check on the Doors from this side and report back to me when they’re open.”

 

Michael grimaced. “Are you sure that I can’t check on the Doors from the mortal side?”

 

Avvenire shook his head. “I don’t have enough power for you to get there. You’ll be too far away.  This way, you’re feeding from the Underworld ley lines more than me, and your skull will come back to me when you tap out.”

 

“And you couldn’t have made the other asshole do this instead?”

 

Avvenire just shook his head. “I don’t want him down there anymore than he has to.”

 

Michael gave a put-upon sigh before giving an over-done salute. He started jogging across the fields, heading towards the fire in the distance. “Whatever you say, Nir. Just be sure to get me out!”

 

“I don’t know, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to locate such a small target!”

 

“Oh, go fuck a duck!”

 

“Language!”

 

Michael just flipped him off as he disappeared into the crowd of souls.

 

Hazel looked at Avvenire. “Where’s he heading?”

 

Avvenire just shook his head. “Not the time for that. This is good and bad. They’re early, which means that I’m going to have to accelerate my time schedule a bit, but it also means that you’ll be able to get out of here that much sooner.”

 

“What do you—“

 

Avvenire cut her off by pressing another kiss to her temple. “Be safe, keep training, and remember what I said about the boy who’s coming for you. I probably won’t be able to see you until we’re both back up on the surface.”

 

“But—“

 

Hazel didn’t have the time to finish her thought, because Avvenire had faded away.

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Will and Nico made the best of things.

 

Jason, who didn’t have the ability to pull both of them into a hug anymore, had grabbed Nico in the messiest one-armed hug that he had ever gotten and gave Will a glare worse than any “I’ve-got-a-shotgun-and-a-shovel” talk could be.

 

Reyna smiled, almost wistfully, and kissed Nico on the cheek.

 

Hazel seemed a bit flabbergasted by it all, but she had congratulated him and said solemnly that they all needed someone in these times. Frank had recently been laid up by an attack on the northern border of San Francisco.

 

They did their best to hold out. Camp Jupiter was now a fortress within a fortress, the Demigod Alliance (as they were now called) expanding their borders to just outside the San Francisco metropolitan area. Most of the people who flooded through the black stone walls that Hazel and Nico had set up around their territory came and boarded a boat but some—spirits, gods and mortals alike—stayed behind and trained.

 

The Demigod Alliance did its best to get people away, far away. Of the gods that stayed, minor Roman and Greek gods, they tried to train with the humans, for the inevitable moment where they would face off against Gaia and her spawn once again. Demigods learned the mortal side of weapons, learned to shoot a handgun with a celestial bronze blade in the other hand.

 

They prepared.

 

For two months after the end, things had settled into an uneasy routine.

 

Nico and Will spent their time as best as they could. Nico joined him while he healed the wounded; Will watched him while he spared with the other demigods. Occasionally, they would sneak to the Caldecott Tunnel, where they had watched the world burn only a few months ago, and Nico would try to condense the scope of his world to Will’s eyes and Will’s lips and Will’s hands.

 

Perhaps it was too early, and maybe it was too soon, but it was a war, for all of the silence, and Nico didn’t have the luxury of worrying that he was falling too hard.

 

He just fell. Will met him at the bottom.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

“It’s siege day!”

 

Jason tossed his arms around Avvenire and Frank as they sat down for dinner. Frank was sure that Jason had praetor-y duties that meant that he was supposed to be somewhere else, but he always seemed to find his way over to where Avvenire and Frank were lingering with the Fifth Cohort.

 

Frank guessed that it made sense. From what he heard, Jason brought the Fifth Cohort out of the gutters. He always spent time with the new recruits that were brought into it and liked to hang out with its senior officers.

 

Even Avvenire didn’t flinch away when Jason touched him anymore, although that was likely persistence more than anything else.

 

“Siege day?” Frank asked, stealing more of the really good flatbread from the table.

 

“Yep.” Jason popped the “p” at the end before settling onto the cushion next to Avvenire. He was wearing his purple cloak over a fitted jacket and some of those pants that seemed to have endless pockets. “It’s when two of the Cohorts make a fortress, and the other three Cohorts have to attack it. Unfortunately for the Fifth Cohort, we are, as always, the cannon fodder.”

 

Frank tore off another piece of the flatbread with his teeth. “And this is fun how?”

 

“Because if you breach the wall first, you bring a ton of honor and the good shower times to your Cohort.”

 

“Which you are no longer a part of, so no mooching,” Avvenire said with a roll of his eyes.

 

“Excuse you, I am with you all in spirit.”

 

“Admit it, you got promoted because you got sick and tired of losing.”

 

Gwendolyn popped down on Frank’s other side. “He got promoted because the world finally figured out the Fifth Cohort was too small a place for Jason Grace, Avvenire. He’s the only reason we’ve got the tiny amount of respect that we have.”

 

Jason flicked Gwen in the arm, although it seemed a little more sluggish than usual. “Not true. Fifth Cohort has always been just as good as all the other ones. The higher-ups are just idiots.”

 

“Jason, you are a higher-up,” Avvenire drawled.

 

“Nir, you are too cruel.”

 

Avvenire just rolled his eyes.

 

Frank wasn’t sure what it was about Jason, but Avvenire warmed up to him much easier than the rest of the camp. Frank knew that he was right up there in Avvenire’s esteem, along with Reyna, who had a surprising amount of things in common with the darker boy, but Jason just seemed to click with Avvenire the way that few others seemed to. Avvenire himself didn’t seem to have his guard up as often.

 

Frank had asked why, a couple nights ago, in a batch of bluntness.

 

Avvenire had just shrugged his shoulders. “Jason just doesn’t hold any bad memories for me.”

 

And wasn’t that just the most cryptic answer ever. But Avvenire had promised not to lie, so Frank took it as it was.

 

Dinner was over quickly and the mess buzzed with an energy that it didn’t seem to have on other nights. Jason made sure that Frank and Avvenire made it through to the front of the Fifth Cohort. Avvenire always had his weapons with him, but Frank pulled his quiver and bow onto his back. Avvenire pushed a spear into his hands with a sharp “Always have a hand-to-hand weapon.” Jason looked approving.

 

Jason followed them up the point where the Cohorts were gathering behind Hannibal. He sighed. “And this is where I leave you. One of the parts I hate the most about being the praetor is not being able to participate. I’ll be up in the skies with Reyna if you need me.”

 

With that, Jason summoned the winds around himself and gracefully flew over to where Reyna was waiting on her Pegasus. After seeing what both Avvenire and Jason could do, Frank was kind of jealous of the children of the Big Three. They had all of the cool powers while he still didn’t have the slightest clue who his dad was.

 

“Fifth Cohort!” Dakota yelled above the masses, toasting with a glass of Kool-Aid. “We have been given the great honor of going first so that the others can step over our mutilated bodies after their ammunition has been depleted—I mean, the great honor of having the first attack. A week off from bathroom duty if one of us gets over the wall before those smarmy assholes in the upper Cohorts!”

 

“Dakota!”

 

“Sorry, sorry, Gwendolyn, you’re right. A month off from bathroom duty!”

 

Avvenire looked straight at Frank. “I’m going to make sure that you get over that wall first.”

 

“What?”

 

Avvenire drew his pitch black sword. “It’s important, trust me. You need to be the first one to breach that wall. From what I can see, they’ve got water cannons, ballistae and flame throwers. I can shadow travel you inside their range, but we still need to get over the wall. Can you handle that?”

 

Frank nodded. Dragon was one of his most comfortable forms now.

 

A horn rang out across the field of Mars.

 

Avvenire rolled the sleeves of his bomber jacket up. “That would be my cue.”

 

Avvenire grabbed Frank’s arm and they dropped into the shadows. When Frank opened his eyes again, they were right up against the wall of the fortress. Dakota and the rest of the Fifth Cohort were looking at them in shock. Jason was sitting on the rump of Reyna’s Pegasus, watching with rapt attention.

 

Avvenire pulled a parrying knife into his other hand. “Let’s give them something to gawk at.”

 

Frank transformed into a dragon and flew over the falls, breathing fire over the turrets like a fairy tale come to life. When he had made himself a good hole in their defenses, Frank dropped out of his dragon form onto the rough-hewn bricks and pulled his spear off of his back. Far below him, Avvenire nodded and disappeared into the shadows. From below him, he could hear shouting and screams. Frank could only assumed the water cannons and the flamethrowers had been disabled. Frank dispatched the two ballistae that he was close to.

 

“Fifth Cohort!” He called over the chaos. “Advance!”

 

Dakota scrambled for his sword. “What he said!”

 

Frank was alive like he hadn’t been in the week that he had been at Camp Jupiter. He had already started getting a reputation as a loner and a loser alone with Avvenire—Avvenire because of his parentage, Frank because his lack of one. Avvenire didn’t socialize, Frank tripped over his words and liked archery a bit too much for a Roman. They were a pair.

 

But here? Here on the battlefield it felt like Frank had found his place. He had never been a particularly good spearman, yet the First and Second Cohort seemed to have nothing on him. He destroyed two more ballistae and knocked Nathan, the centurion for the Second Cohort, on his ass before Avvenire faded out of the shadows next to him.

 

Avvenire whistled. “Well I was going to come up to help, but you seem to have things sorted.”

 

Frank just gave him a wicked smile.

 

The Fifth Cohort was started to breach the walls behind them, grappling hooks latching within the archer’s nooks. The Fourth and Third Cohorts right behind.

 

“We’re getting that flag,” Frank said determinedly.

 

“I’ll handle the guards, you grab the flag?”

 

“Sounds like a plan.”

 

Avvenire didn’t fight like a Roman. Instinctually, Frank also knew that he didn’t fight like a Greek. He had no discernible style, just flowed through moves like they were water, making a style that was truly all his own. Some Greek, some Roman, something that looked almost Chinese or Arabic in style. Frank guessed that Avvenire hadn’t been joking when he said that he wasn’t just Greek or Roman.

 

Frank had grabbed the flag and shoved it into one of his pockets, to the groans of the Second and First and the cheers of the Fifth. Frank readied his spear and started the process of getting back over that wall.

 

Frank had thrown one leg over the wall when he realized—Avvenire wasn’t behind him.

 

Avvenire was locked in combat with Octavian.

 

Now, Frank could see where the other legionaries could get the idea that Avvenire was scary. He was dark and brooding and deadly. They didn’t know that he was unintentionally funny and a total geek about Mythomagic and honestly frighteningly loyal.

 

But now, now Frank could truly see why people said that Avvenire was terrifying.

 

Avvenire must have been holding back all the times that they had sparred, because he fought much better now. He was on another level of skill from the rest of the legionaries, even the ones who had been in the legion for over a decade. His eyes were like ice and poison mixed into one, all focused on Octavian. The temperature seemed to have dropped a good twenty degrees.

 

Frank shivered, and he wasn’t sure whether it was because of the cold or the look on Avvenire’s face.

 

The other legionaries had stepped back, no longer willing to fight the demon attacking their augur. The game seemed to be over now, and silence was reigning as the Twelfth Legion paused to watch the fight.

 

Frank had a suspicion that even if Octavian had been at his best—and he wasn’t, not with the circles that he had under his eyes—he would have been no match for Avvenire. Avvenire pushed back on Octavian relentless. The fight was entirely one-sided.

 

Something was wrong. Avvenire’s eyes were dead, dark.

 

Frank wasn’t sure where he found the courage, but he moved towards the two of them.

 

Avvenire swept Octavian’s legs, and he landed on his knees, hard. Frank got to the edge of the circle just in time to see Avvenire tug a hand through the augur’s hair and pull his blade sword towards his throat.

 

“STOP!” Frank called, and there was a quality to his voice that wasn’t there before, a glow of red in the air that just suddenly appeared. The campers were no longer looking at the execution that was about to happen before their very eyes, they were looking at him.

 

Jason, on the other hand, had fallen out of the sky and had a hand wrapped around Avvenire’s elbow, preventing him from moving. Avvenire flinched in shock and nearly dropped his blade. He looked at his position, looked at Octavian, looked down at his hands.

 

His expression was one of heartbreaking vulnerability and fear, before it slammed shut like a door.

 

Avvenire dropped Octavian and sheathed his sword in one fluid move before he stalked away from the group that was still looking at Frank in shock. He must have been truly rattled, because he didn’t shadow travel, just strode away on his own two feet.

 

Reyna landed her Pegasus in the middle of the crowd and intoned loudly, “Ave, Frank Zhang, son of Mars!”

 

Frank looked above his head to see the glowing shape of a blood red spear.

 

He looked back down just in time to see Jason chasing after Avvenire.

 

The crowd repeated Reyna’s words.

 

“Ave, Frank Zhang!”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason found Avvenire on top of the temple of Pluto. He flew up to the roof with little hassle, but paused before he got any closer to the older boy.

 

Avvenire had been iridescent on the battlefield—powerful, talented, fluid. Jason had watched him with the intense hunger to cross blades with him himself, to make good on the offer to have a match. It didn’t have to be public. Jason just had the intense desire to figure out which one of them was better.

 

Avvenire had been iridescent—until he hadn’t.

 

Avvenire had tugged his hair out of his ponytail and it now obscured most of his face and he leaned over his sword, which was draped across his knees. He rotated a silver ring, plain, unadorned, around and around on his finger. That deadly hairpin was tucked behind his left ear.

 

Without saying anything, Jason sat down next to Avvenire and leaned back on the heels of his palms, watching the sun set over New Rome.

 

After a few minutes of silence, Avvenire asked quietly:

 

“Have you ever killed anyone?”

 

Jason knew that he didn’t mean monsters. “Once.” He exhaled slowly. “I was twelve. It was my first quest, to slay the Trojan Sea Monster. I traveled alone. To mortals, I must have looked like a rich kid running away. I . . . I got jumped in the back alley. I had never been around mortals for very long—I had forgotten how fragile they could be. In defending myself, I had accidently broken one of their necks.”

 

Avvenire’s eyes were locked on the ring he kept rotating. “Mortals are a hard thing to predict.”

 

“I’ll never forget it. I never want to forget it. I’ve killed a man. That sits with me.”

 

“I’ve killed more than once,” Avvenire said slowly. Jason’s eyes flashed to his face, which was still mostly covered by his hair. “Where I come from . . . it’s a warzone. You fight for your life, and it’s not just monsters that you fought against. Sometimes people are monsters too.”

 

Jason knew that Avvenire had had altercations with mortals. He remembered the first time they had met, just a little bit over a week ago now, between a deadly hairpin and a smirked introduction, he remembered that puckered scar over his left shoulder. The type of scar that could only have come from a bullet.

 

“And sometimes I’m still there. Octavian . . . Octavian looks and acts like someone that I knew. Someone who killed because he killed my friends, he burned my home, he brought destruction down on us . . . and I’d kill him again, I know that I’d do it anyway—“ Avvenire cut himself off with a gasp of breath. He regulated his breathing for a few moments before turning his dark eyes to Jason. “I’m . . . I’m not a threat to your legion. But . . .”

 

Avvenire had tolerated all of his physical contact until now, so Jason didn’t feel too bad about putting his hand on his arm. Avvenire looked down on it like he wasn’t sure what to do with it.

 

“I know,” Jason said easily. “You’ve obviously been through a lot, most of which you’re not telling me. And that’s fine. But the part of you that was about to kill Octavian is not all of you. It’s not even the most important part of you. You’re an incredibly strong warrior, Nir. But you’re also a good person, and an important one.”

 

The look in Avvenire’s eyes was as intense as it was unreadable. “We’ll see.”

 

“Yes,” Jason said confidently, “we will.”

 

The son of Hades obviously didn’t know whether to believe Jason or not. Eventually, he dropped his eyes back to his ring. Jason didn’t press, and just moved his eyes off to the sunset.

 

“You’re one of the Seven, you know that?”

 

 Jason’s attention immediately flashed back to Avvenire, who was now watching him intently. “Of the prophecy?”

 

Avvenire nodded.

 

“I bet Frank Zhang is one too,” Jason mused, returning Avvenire’s watchful gaze. “You’re gathering us, aren’t you? And I bet that the other camp has the other half of us, and that’s why you want us to get along.”

 

Behind his mask of calm, Jason could see something almost frantic in his gaze.

 

“I’ll wait until you’re ready to talk about it with Reyna. And I’m going to stand by what I told you that first night. You hurt Camp Jupiter, and I’ll put you down.” Jason gave a slight smile. “But we’re also friends, which means that there needs to be a little trust. I trust you, Avvenire.”

 

“You might regret that.” He said it solemnly, like there was no “might” about it.

 

Jason just shook his head. “No, I don’t think that I will.”

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

That third month after the end, everything changed.

 

Refugees were still coming, the Demigod Alliance was still training, the outer walls of their safe haven had still remained. Jason and Piper walked through the camp holding hands. Sometimes Nico found it a bit odd to see them—Piper had always walked on Jason’s other side, before. Will and Nico spent their time on the bridge above Caldecott Tunnel, sharing stories, talking about their pasts and their foolish hopes for a future that didn’t exist. Leo scurried about even faster than he could before, determined to get Calypso off her island. Frank was back on his feet, the entire muscly six and a half feet of him, now with the added bonus of a massive sword scar across his shoulder blades. Hazel looked so delicate and small next to him and all Nico could think was good. She has a protector.

 

Together with Reyna, they were called the New Seven. Jason, Piper, Leo, Frank, Hazel, Nico and Reyna. A New Seven for the Prophecy of Seven, buffed up all shiny and new.

 

Reyna could probably do her best to step up into Annabeth’s place, but Nico could never be Percy.

 

Every time that they were called that, Nico felt the aura around him grow just a little bit darker, a little bit heavier. Will did his best not to let him wallow in his own misery.

 

They tried to do what they could. The monsters were endless and all-consuming. It was as much as the Demigod Alliance could do to keep things steady. They made no ground, but they didn’t lose any either.

 

Then Gaia decided that her destruction of the world wasn’t enough.

 

It wasn’t going fast enough.

 

Under the full force of the earth mother, the Mist just . . .

 

. . . disappeared.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason found himself wandering around the Wolf House.

 

He was wearing shoes. That was the first thing that tipped him off that he was dreaming. A lot of times, little things made Jason aware that he was in a demigod dream instead of a normal one.

 

His dream was a little bit fuzzy, blurring around the edges, but Jason could still recognize the Wolf House where had spent the first few months of his new life as a Roman.

 

Lupa suddenly materialized from the void. Surprisingly, she was alone, and around her neck, there was a solid silver chain.

 

Jason had always been extremely fond of Lupa. He had only been two or three when he had found his ways into her clutches and honestly, he considered her his mother more than any mortal could have possibly been.

 

Cub, Lupa said almost pleasingly. It’s been a while.

 

“Hello, Lupa.”

 

Have you been well?

 

Now that was an odd question. Lupa didn’t tend to care about what Jason was doing.

 

“I’ve been well,” he said cautiously. “I was made praetor about a mouth and a half ago.”

 

Lupa chuffed. That I knew, cub. Occasionally I will prick my ears towards my two-legged children. She walked in a circle for a moment before sitting down, the chains across her back tinkling as she settled. I sent other cubs to see you two weeks ago. Did you find something interesting?

 

“Avvenire?” His name came to Jason’s lips without him thinking about it.

 

That would be the name that the Time-Monger is calling himself now.

 

Time-Monger? Jason had never heard Lupa call anyone something other than their name or cub, if she was feeling affectionate in her own way.

 

“Are you warning me against him?” Jason’s fingers brushed the coin in his pocket. He didn’t think that Lupa would have sent the mysterious teenager to Camp Jupiter if he was a threat, but at the same time, Avvenire had more secrets than there were legionaries in the Fifth Cohort.

 

Nothing like that. I just thought that it would be good to meet someone who could match you.

 

Jason licked his lips. “He’s that powerful?”

 

He will be good for you, Jason Grace. Lupa’s eyes were deep with meaning, and Jason knew that he only understood part of it. Her body rocked again, making the chains grind against the worn tile of the floor.

 

“Lupa. Why are you chained?”

 

The wolf’s eyes turned dark. Yes. This. It is why I have called you to my side. I am . . . perhaps in a predicament.

 

Jason’s eyes hardened. “Who?”

 

One of your new enemies. He has decided that he would like to attempt to chain me. I will not be kept for long, not by his diluted power, but it would be for the best if you would come and release me.

 

“Consider it done.”

 

Lupa’s lips pulled back in what might have been a smile, had it been less terrifying.

 

And this is why I chose you, cub.

 

Jason’s dream faded on the sight of her smile, just lingering long enough for him to see the shadow of a humanoid figure behind her, holding a curved blade.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Reyna found Jason outside the armory, strapping on his golden breastplate. Jason had demanded that he go as soon as possible to get Lupa out, which meant that there hadn’t been time to give him an augury or a team.

 

She leaned one of the wooden supports. The armory was open to the air, like a Roman lupus, leading out to the Fifth Cohort’s training grounds. Even though as praetors, they had their own armory separate from the other campers, Jason still preferred to suit up here.

 

Reyna crossed her arms over her own breastplate. “You know, these things usually happen with more than one person heading out.”

 

Jason swirled his purple cloak around his shoulders. “You know that I can go faster on my own.”

 

“Even with your speed, it’ll take at least four days by foot. You can’t fly for that long.”

 

Jason shoved a normal hunting knife into his belt. Mythical weapons were great until you got attacked by a wolf or a coyote, then you were screwed. “And it would take six days with extras. I can only fly with a passenger for thirty minutes. I can fly by myself for two hours.”

 

Reyna sighed. “We are Romans, Jason. Teamwork is a part of us.”

 

“So is knowing when you’re better off alone. Lupa didn’t seem very concerned, just inconvenienced. It shouldn’t be dangerous.”

 

Jason strapped on the last of his armor—light, pretty patchwork in the style that he proffered. He looked regal and imposing in his full regalia, even if that regalia involved well-worn jeans.

 

Reyna just exhaled slowly. “When are you planning on leaving?”

 

“As soon as I’m done here. I’ll stop by the mess too, grab some food.”

 

Jason grabbed a bag before looking back at Reyna and giving the slight smile that Reyna thought she might eventually have come to love. His eyes moved beyond her for a moment, glancing back on the training group. Reyna angled her body to look out at the sparing matches.

 

The Fifth Cohort usually spared in the morning and then did their lessons in the afternoons. Jason’s attention was caught by Avvenire, without a doubt, as he was dominating the playing field. He was obviously the most skilled swordsman on the field.

 

In the week and a half that Reyna had come to know Avvenire, she found that he was a solid presence, quiet and closed off. And yet, she had somehow found herself falling into a friendship with the boy. They had complimentary personalities and a surprising amount of things in common. Avvenire would come by during the afternoon, skipping the training and classes, and they would play chess or talk battle strategy, which Avvenire seemed to have experience with, if not necessarily the mind for.

 

Reyna liked Avvenire—she didn’t like his secrets. If he told her what he was playing so close to the chest, she thought that perhaps they could be close friends.

 

Maybe more, the part of her that sounded like Hylla whispered.

 

No. Reyna wasn’t doing that. She had a position of responsibility that she adored. It didn’t matter if it left her no openings for relationships. It didn’t matter that she had never been in a relationship, that she had never felt “butterflies” for anyone, that she had never been kissed. But that vacuum of romantic experience occasionally ate away inside of her, occasionally whispering that there was something wrong with her, that that was the only explanation for her being along after all this time. That vacuum also made her wonder if anyone new—or anyone old—could possibly be her shot at finally finding love . . .

 

Reyna mentally shook her head. It was bad enough that she contemplated Jason every once in a while. Avvenire wasn’t even someone that she wanted, he was just new and powerful and mysterious. She was just getting caught up in a wave of her fantasized possibilities.

 

Although, Reyna said as she looked across the training field, she had to admit that Avvenire was a very attractive man.

 

His bomber jacket was off in the corner of the training field with his bag, leaving him in a black tank tops covered in skulls. It was hot enough that it stuck to Avvenire’s skin. The shoulder scar and the lacework of thinner marks across his arms were in full display. Although Avvenire was rather skinny, he had definitely worked to get his skill, and it showed in his physique. His assortment of weapons were all there—Reyna had never seen him take them off—from the long dagger at the small of his back to the knives holstered on his thighs. His hands were covered in black fingerless gloves as they held his sword. His hair was up in a top-knot, his characteristic hairpin shoved through the bulk of the black hair. Reyna supposed that it feminized him the slightest bit, while also making him seem even sharper and deadlier than before. The gold gems sparkled as he fought with his partner—Gwendolyn, who was considered one of the best in the legion, struggling to keep up.

 

So yes, Reyna supposed that she could have chosen worse to occasionally wonder about.

 

And Reyna wasn’t the only one staring.

 

“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Avvenire, lately, haven’t you?” She asked Jason innocently.

 

To Jason’s credit, it wasn’t like he needed to grab his jaw off of the floor or anything. The only hint that he hadn’t been entirely focused on the conversation was the slightest pause that he had while processing her words. Reyna felt a slight twinge of sadness, but it was mostly because she had lost yet another possibility.

 

“Yeah,” he said, pulling his eyes back to her. “I needed to keep an eye on him, and it turns out that he’s a pretty good guy regardless. I only hope that it doesn’t come to the point where he’s our enemy.”

 

Reyna’s thoughts sharpened like a blade. “You don’t think that you would be able to handle him?”

 

Jason shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. He’s powerful. But we haven’t been tested against each other. I’m powerful too.”

 

She hummed. “And what do you make of him as a person?”

 

Jason didn’t have to think before speaking. “He’s been through a lot, most of which he doesn’t like to talk about. He’s been in a hostile environment for a long time, a kill-or-be-killed type of style, and he’s likely got some mild PTSD from that. He’s strong-willed and kind when he needs to be. Serious. Probably has a problem with authority. Strong.”

 

The description was almost clinical, but Reyna could tell that there was honest admiration and affection underneath his even tone. Jason probably didn’t even notice it himself.

 

“Good. I can deal with that. Just make sure that he doesn’t do anything overly suspicious.”

 

“More than his usual level of suspicious?”

 

Reyna’s lips tried to quirk into a smile. “More than his usual level of suspicious,” she agreed.

 

Jason zipped up his bag, which he had placed a whetstone and an extra dagger into, along with the bag of ambrosia and some nectar. Which looked like someone had shoved orange pudding in a water bottle. Jason pulled the backpack over his shoulder.

 

“I’m going to grab some food and then I’m going to head out.”

 

Reyna clapped him on his shoulder. “You better be careful. If you’re not back in eight days, I’m sending a squad out after you.”

 

Jason nodded solemnly.

 

“You’re going to be spending a lot of time out there alone with your thoughts,” Reyna said with a smirk. “You might want to spend some time thinking about how you’re looking more at Avvenire’s ass than his sword form.”

 

Jason turned ridiculously red for someone so tan.

 

Reyna swept out onto the training field to the sounds of Jason choking behind her.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Sleep was for the weak.

 

That was Leo’s motto and he was sticking to it.

 

Which was why he was currently sitting on the nape of Festus’s neck at three in the morning, connecting control relays so that his wings would work.

 

Avvenire’s prescience was scary. The sphere was helpful in pretty much all of the calculations that Leo was running. It was making Festus better, faster, stronger—and impenetrable to outside magic. As soon as Leo was able to make the wings work right, which was his last order of business, Festus would be a lean, mean, fighting machine.

 

The tool belt was also pretty much the bomb dot com. With the sphere and the wings and everything else, Leo couldn’t help but be suspicious. Especially with the designs for the ship.

 

They were just like they were in his childhood, the boat that he had drawn when he couldn’t have been more than five. Everything was exactly how he had thought of when he had been a child in the hands of Tia Claudia, god rest her soul hopefully, but with the Archimedes Sphere everything could be better. The designs could be improved into a bigger, more powerful warship. And the masthead? Well, that looked an awful lot like Festus.

 

Leo wasn’t sure how Avvenire knew all of this information. Annabeth said that he likely had some gift of prophecy, that he was blessed by the Oracle or Apollo in some way. Piper had suggested that maybe he was a son of Apollo, with an odd ability to teleport.

 

Leo had said, in a voice that he hadn’t quite recognized as his own, that maybe Avvenire wasn’t a demigod at all.

 

It hadn’t really come up in their meetings, where they had discussed the new Great Prophecy. The four of them mainly bounced ideas off of each other about various different concepts: why the Great Prophecy had changed, who the next enemy was, where the Roman camp might be located, who or what Avvenire was. After that first meeting, they had decided that Avvenire was likely a demigod, and hadn’t touched on the discussion since.

 

Now the four of them weren’t so sure.

 

They had nothing but Avvenire’s word that he was a demigod. He could have been a minor god or a spirit or a nymph and all of those would make more sense considering what he knew. It was suspicious, but the four of the Seven had decided: Avvenire was also probably on their side. Oh sure, it could have been an elaborate ruse to gain their trust, but it seemed too genuine. Avvenire seemed to care too much.

 

Leo was going to be cautious, but Avvenire said that he should make a giant warship, so Leo was making a giant warship.

 

Even if Avvenire’s info turned out to be bogus, or they found out that they really couldn’t trust the guy after all, they would still have a kick-ass warship and Leo would have had spent his time doing something interesting and worthwhile.

 

Speaking of interesting, trying to stop spiritual possession with mechanics was a pain in the ass.

 

It was also amazing and made Leo’s brain hurt in the best way, but still a pain in the ass.

 

So Leo was pulling extra time in the bunker. It also gave him some time away from his siblings, who weren’t super tolerant of his personality or his fire powers and all seemed to be languishing under the weight of Charles Beckendorf, who had died only a few months ago, leaving a hole that no new sibling could fill. They weren’t bad guys—definitely not as bad as the Aphrodite kids—but Leo would take some time with Piper or Percy and Annabeth any day.

 

Speaking of company, a little light was flickering in his peripheral vision that meant that someone other than him had entered into the bunker.

 

It had to be one of the other Seven. The four of them had decided to keep the bunker a secret for the time being. Eventually, Annabeth said, they would have to tell Chiron, but there was no need to cause more questions about Avvenire than they could answer. Leo still wasn’t sure how Avvenire knew that Festus was in the woods in the first place, but Leo was pleased that he had found the dragon, so he wasn’t arguing.

 

Piper was the one who came into the main area of Bunker 9, and honestly, Leo was glad that it was her. Not that he didn’t enjoy Percy or Annabeth, but Piper was his best friend, the one person who seemed to understand everything about him. She would always be his first choice for company.

 

Leo caught a glance of her face and slid off of the dragon. He was probably covered in grease and who knows what, but in the short time that they had known each other, they had already lost all of their boundaries.

 

“Pipes? You okay? You don’t look so good.”

 

And she didn’t. Piper was still unnaturally beautiful, even more than the rest of her cabin because Leo knew that she wasn’t putting the effort in. But now it was more of a tragic beauty than anything else. The color had faded from her face and her eyes looked haunted. Her hair was frizzing and sticking up, like she had been clawing her hair through it.

 

Her constantly-changing eyes found their way to Leo’s brown ones. They were dry, but there were tear tracks across her cheeks. “Leo?” Her voice was quiet and subdued. “Remember what Avvenire told us? That we would get dreams encouraging us to go west?”

 

“Yeah?” He said hesitantly, placing a comforting hand around her shoulder.

 

“I got one of those dreams tonight. And . . . I think that I have to go.”

 

A hard lump seemed to be settling in the bottom of Leo’s stomach. “What do you mean?”

 

Tears seemed to well up under her eyes when she spoke again. “I think that they . . . the enemies, whoever we’re going to be fighting . . . I think that they have my father.”

 

Leo pulled Piper fully into his embrace. Piper and Leo were of a height, but she still shoved her face into his shoulder and he placed a messy hand into her messy hair. It was so much like that time on the roof a month and a half ago, the day that everything changed for them, that Leo had a strange sense of déjà vu.

 

“Then we’re going to get him back. And we’re going to need to call Avvenire.”

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The world wasn’t ready for mythical and magical to combine.

 

Even demigods occasionally saw things through the Mist. Nico would know best of all. Tartarus haunted his dreams in a way that no one else could understand. Before they had . . . Before Annabeth and Percy passed on, she had mentioned that they had only seen a watered down version of Tartarus. Hopefully, in Elysium, they weren’t burdened by the memories that Nico was.

 

Will would hold Nico during the nights that he would wake up screaming, pressing his hands into the smaller boy’s back, singing the Ancient Greek hymns that were so different from Nico’s chants, yet he knew them by heart all the same. Nico knew that Will didn’t understand, truly; Will knew that he could never understand, just being a salve for the wounds, not a cure.

 

Nico loved him for that.

 

He didn’t need a savior. If he could be saved at all, he would do it himself.

 

Without the Mist, mortals were left dumbfounded by the mythical world. Councils were called, cults were created, nuclear weapons were primed, flyers blazoned with “THE APOCALYPSE IS NOW” floating down street corners. Cities too close to mythical sites were abandoned.

 

The praetors did their best to extend their territory, to protect the mortals who no longer had ignorance to keep them away from danger. Jason lost a finger to meet his arm in the void. Hazel acquired a sudden fear of drowning after a terrifying experience with a sea monster to save thousands in Seattle—a fear that mirrored Percy’s, she said, way back when they had all fought Alcyoneus.

 

She spoke of it as if it had been decades ago. It had only been six months.

 

It might as well have been decades.

 

Five months after the End, two months after the Mist broke, world leaders reached out to the Demigod Alliance. They wanted to know the last stand for the good side of the mythical world. And when Reyna, a praetor, the leader of the Demigod Alliance, daughter of Bellona and hero of the War of the End, came to meet with them, they laughed in her face.

 

Who was an eighteen year old girl to stand in the way of an apocalypse?

 

Reyna gritted her teeth and reminded them—the world was under a threat from a mythical source. It could only be killed by mythical means. The world needed the teenaged demigods that they scorned.

 

Apparently mortals had forgotten that.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Avvenire seemed to only be half-paying attention to the tactics for the night’s war games.

 

Frank couldn’t blame him. Frank could now understand why siege nights were the best nights, because gladiator nights, in which they found against the mythical monster of their centurion’s choosing, were a pain the behind. Not only were they not nearly as tactically demanding, the fights could be anything from a snooze-fest to someone-is-actively-dying. Not really Frank’s cup of tea.

 

Frank being the son of the war god had surprised a lot of people, along with his sudden claiming. Frank was pleased to have a place, but at the same time he wondered if being the war god’s son was really right. Frank was clumsy and kind and compared to a teddy bear more often than not. How was he the son of the god of aggression?

 

But since he had been claimed by Mars, his fighting had improved, just like his archery and his muscle mass. Maybe it was a sense of belonging that came from finally knowing who his father was, maybe it was a mystical gift from his father himself, but Frank felt better than he had since he had left the Zhang Mansion.

 

Avvenire, when Jason had dragged him back after that fiasco with Octavian, hadn’t seem surprised. The older boy had just clapped Frank on the back and told him that he knew that Frank could do it.

 

Frank had the nagging suspicion that being claimed by his father was the real reason why Avvenire had wanted him to go over the wall first. But how could Avvenire had known?

 

Avvenire was a puzzle in another puzzle, but as long as Avvenire didn’t lie to him like he had promised, Frank was okay with trusting him.

 

Frank watched the other boy out of the corner of his eyes while he pretended to take notes. Avvenire was slumped on his cushions and wasn’t even pretending to pay attention. Frank didn’t want to say that he had been in a funk since Jason had left to go on his quest two days ago, but he had definitely been more subdued than usual. It was understandable, really; the relationship that he had with Frank and Reyna was one of quiet acknowledgement and friendship, while the one that he had with Jason was a mix of teasing, death glares, competition and friendship built on experience.

 

Avvenire and Frank were in the back of the room, almost shoved against the wall, because Avvenire was a stereotype of a bored rebel and Frank was admittedly easily led. So when Avvenire’s back suddenly became ruler-straight, Frank was probably the only one who noticed.

 

Frank’s eyes shot to him, his body tensing. “What’s wrong?”

 

Avvenire just waved him off. The older boy looked around at the others then out the window to how high the sun was in the sky. He sighed before opening his bag and pulling out one of his skulls. He murmured a few soft paragraphs to the bone before tipping his hand and allowing the skull to fall to the ground.

 

It faded under the shadow of one of the pillows and disappeared.

 

“What was that about?” Frank whispered.

 

“Someone called for me elsewhere,” Avvenire responded. “The sun’s too high and it’s too crowded in here for me to make the jump myself. Someone would notice.”

 

Which meant that wherever he sent the skull wasn’t a place he wanted to be caught at—not physically, and not by the Romans either.

 

Frank tucked that information away with everything that he knew of Avvenire, giving the boy a watchful glance before turning his attention back to Michael, the centurion of the First Cohort, who was talking about how they were going to be fighting drakons.

 

Gladiator fights were a pain.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Piper paced back and forth in front of Zeus’s Fist, calling out Avvenire’s name as loud as possible in the hazy morning air. Not really sure what she was getting into, Leo and Piper has stopped for a few hours of sleep before packing a bag and their weapons. She didn’t want to get caught unawares again, and with Avvenire, who knew what was going to happen.

 

Leo was sitting on the top of Zeus’s fist behind her, playing with the Archimedes Sphere. He had been quietly supportive since she had told him all of five hours ago. Leo had asked insightful questions and tried to figure out the logistics of saving Tristan McLean.

 

Piper could remember her dream with frightening accuracy. Her father, being held in some sort of ruined mansion, by a shadowed man with a scythe.

 

The man, whose form was more shadow than shape, had drawn his scythe almost lovingly across her father’s throat. “You have three days. Come west, meet me where the wolf-children train, and I may be persuaded to spare his life.”

 

Piper could remember demanding details, saying that he was lying and this was all a figment of her imagination.

 

And then the figure had twisted a hand in her father’s hair and drew the scythe over his throat oh so slowly, Piper’s body frozen, sluggish, she had only began to reach out her hand when the scythe had cut all the way across.

 

“Three days.” The voice had intoned.

 

Piper had woke up screaming to the sound of her father’s blood dripping down off of the blade.

 

She had spent the last six hours frantically calling anyone who had any connection with her father—his personal phone, his professional phone, his PA, his agent—nothing. All of them had assured her that her father was perfectly fine, he was just out of contact. None of them were able to let her speak to him.

 

That would have made her worried. But Avvenire had warned her that she would get dreams urging her to go west and that she would want to.

 

This was one hell of persuasive technique.

 

Avvenire had been right about the bunker, and the ship, and even Festus’s name. She was not going to doubt his precognition and leave her father out with some scythe-bastard to die. Especially not if it had something to do with her and her recently-acquired demigodliness.

 

Piper was about to pull out her hair with frustration with Avvenire’s lack on answer when the shadows of the trees darkened to her right.

 

Leo slid down off of the rock.

 

Instead of Avvenire, a skull, bleached white, popped out of the shadows instead.

 

Leo and Piper exchanged a bewildered glance.

 

The skull shuddered for a moment before levitating the air by itself, the rest of a skeleton pulling itself out of thin air. The skeleton flickered with a pale yellow light for a few moments, before solidifying into man.

 

Piper had her knife in her hands and Leo had pulled a three-pound sledge hammer out of his belt. They stood next to each other as the man cracked his neck.

 

He didn’t look terribly threatening. He was probably around twenty three or twenty four, with an attractive face marred by a scar on one side. He had an orange t-shirt that was becoming increasingly familiar to Piper and didn’t seem to be armed.

 

The man put up his hands in a gesture of innocence. “Alright, everybody relax. I’m one of Nir’s familiars, a shade. He sent me here because he’s not in a position to shadow travel right now.”

 

Piper hesitated for a moment before putting her knife back into the holster on her belt. Leo did the same next to her.

 

The shade continued. “I’m assuming that you’re looking for Avvenire because you’ve got some dreams about heading west, right?”

 

Piper nodded. “I think my father’s been kidnapped. I can’t get a hold of him.”

 

The man nodded. “Avvenire told me that that was a possibility.”

 

A fury suddenly swept over Piper. “He knew?! Why did he tell me?! I could have protected—“

 

Leo placed a calming hand on her shoulder and her fury fled as quick as it came, replaced by sadness and helplessness. Piper swallowed down a sob. What was she doing? She had to be composed. She had to be on the top of her game to rescue her father.

 

“He didn’t know that this would happen,” the shade said evenly. “It was one of the many possibilities to get you to go to the Wolf House. Nir also didn’t think that it would be this soon.”

 

Piper squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. Leo took up the mantle of talking.

 

“So, skeleton man, what should we do?”

 

“Go west obviously.” He raised a hand against their protests. “Avvenire is physically close to the Wolf House. He’s got connections there, and he’ll be able to help you once you get west. Did your dream give you a time scale?”

 

“Three days,” Leo answered for her.

 

“Then you have a couple options. Nir can make the jump from here, to the Wolf House and back, but he won’t be much help in combat after that. He’d have to make it at night, so you’d wouldn’t able to do anything until that time. He’d have to jump here, wait a day, jump to the Wolf House. He does not particularly want to go with this option.”

 

Piper didn’t like the idea of doing nothing, nor did she like the idea of facing off with whoever was there without Avvenire’s help. She and Leo only had a couple of weeks of combat experience under their belt.

 

“Our other option?”

 

“You find your own way there. Meet Avvenire in Oakland and he’ll take you the rest of the way to the Wolf House and help you get your father back.”

 

“Wait a second,” Leo interrupted. “Avvenire didn’t seem to have a problem making the jump all the way from the Wilderness School and back. Why is it different this time?”

 

The man rolled his eyes at the questions. “Nir can make, at most, two cross-country jumps at night or one during the day. Smaller amounts of shadow travel, like what he did to rescue you and sending me across the country, don’t cost him that much. The more people that are present, the more draining it is. If he’s carrying something powerful with him, whether it be a person or an object, it takes a lot more out of him. He’s also . . . a bit weaker now.”

 

Piper’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

 

“He’s got two familiars. Me and the archer douchebag. Said archer douchebag is currently doing some intelligence-gathering for Nir. It drains him significantly to use too many aspects of his powers at once, especially since familiars are a constant drain on his powers, especially when we’re fighting. Until Michael comes back to him, he’s missing a good chuck of his powers. He won’t be able to make any big jumps and he’ll need a longer recharge time after each one.”

 

“So until his second familiar gets back, he’s a sitting duck?” Leo summarized.

 

The shade scoffed. “Not really. Avvenire’s more than just his powers. He could definitely wipe the floor with you two—it’s just probably not in his best interest to get you to the Wolf House.”

 

Piper breathed out slowly. “Okay. It sounds like we need to find our own way there. That’s fine. Between Leo and me, we’ll manage to get there. Once we’re there, how do we contact Avvenire?”

 

“Avvenire can hear you if you’re in a graveyard,” the familiar said, tapping his foot against the ground. “It’s how he was able to send me to you today.”

 

“This isn’t a graveyard,” Leo said astutely.

 

“No,” Piper breathed, “it is. This was the site of the Battle of the Labyrinth that Annabeth was talking about the other day. There must be a bunch of dead located here.”

 

Piper might have imagined it, but the shade seemed to flinch at the name of the battle and about the dead. He seemed to recover quickly, his form only flickering once. “So—go to Oakland, find a graveyard, contact Avvenire. Think you can handle that in three days?”

 

Piper and Leo nodded.

 

“You got a way to get there?”

 

Leo flipped a screwdriver in the air. “I’ve got it handled.”

 

“Oh,” the shade said, “just as a reminder. This isn’t a quest. You don’t have a prophecy. You normally wouldn’t be able to leave camp. So either you’re going to need to lie really convincingly to Chiron, or you’re going to need to be really subtle sneaking out.”

 

For the first time since Piper had had her dream, her mouth split into a smile.

 

“Don’t worry. I can be persuasive.”

 

The shade just shook his head, before dissolving, his skull sinking back into the shadows from whence he came.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Percy was personally of the opinion that being up before noon on a Saturday should be a punishable offence by law, but apparently Annabeth didn’t agree, because she came barreling into his cabin at ten in the morning, shouldering his door open and stalking over to his water basin.

 

Percy let out a completely manly squeak, which was totally justified, because no one wanted their girlfriend to witness them in extremely manly starfish boxers and nothing else.

 

Annabeth didn’t even glance his way, just dug a golden drachma out of the fountain and tossed it like a football through the rainbow.

 

“Oh, Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow, accept my offering,” she ground out through her teeth. “Show me Nico di Angelo.”

 

And that was a bit weird. Nico hadn’t really crossed Percy’s mind since the Prophecy of Seven stuff started. Why on earth would Annabeth bring him up now?
 

The rainbow flickered for a moment before showing Nico, looking just as underfed and deadly as ever, sitting in the black sand of the Styx’s banks and rubbing his hands over the skull of a skeletal cat that was perched in his lab. He was holding a lengthy scroll in his other hand and was reading it intently.

 

“NICO DI ANGELO!” Annabeth shouted.

 

Percy himself shrunk back a little—Annabeth was pissed.

 

Within the mist, Nico flinched, causing the skeletal cat to jump dissolve back into bones in the river. His hand immediately went to the sword that was lying next to him, dropping the scroll into the blackness. His mad eyes flickered towards the rainbow.

 

“Annabeth? Percy? What’s going on?”

 

Annabeth’s hands clenched the sides of the basin. Percy moved from his spot on the bed to kneel next to Annabeth, wrapping a hand around her waist. Annabeth didn’t react to his touch.

 

“Nico, I was walking through the woods this morning when I saw something interesting,” Annabeth said in measuredly calm voice. “Someone who shouldn’t have been there and I need your opinion on it.”

 

Nico looked confused and more than little bit weary, as anyone would in the face of Annabeth’s anger. “On what?”

 

Annabeth’s gray eyes were manic.

 

“Nico, is there any way that Luke Castellan could have come back from the dead?”

 

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

In the war, in that one-against-many kind of war, sometimes it was hard to remember that people lived outside of it.

 

That Hazel and Frank were navigating their new leadership positions during times of turmoil and sometimes needed help and reassurance.

 

That Piper was dealing with a crisis of consciousness due to missing an eye and two fingers of her right hand. How was she supposed to be the daughter of Aphrodite now? How was she supposed to be a fighter without the ability to hold her knife? She had spent three days in a stupor after her hand had been bandaged that even Jason couldn’t bring her out of before Will came and showed her how to wield a bow—you didn’t need a pinky or ring finger to draw back an arrow.

 

That Reyna still wanted love despite everything, that sometimes she sat down next to Nico and told him that she just wanted to be wanted, wanted to be loved, just once, before she and the rest of the world died.

 

That Jason was still missing most of his memories—Hera couldn’t return them while she was being sieged. That occasionally one of the Roman soldiers would approach and call out his name and he would stare blankly and fumble and wonder if he had truly met them before—because surely he would have remembered? Jason had once told Nico that he was never sure if he belonged anywhere, because how did you know who you were if you only had half of what made you that way? He had decided that he was more Greek than Roman, but was that only because he could only remember the Greek half of things?

 

That the Greek campers had to find a way to fit in with a Roman legion that they barely knew had existed, and the Twelfth Legion had to overcome centuries of prejudice that had never truly been solved.

 

That Nico, when he wasn’t out fighting, had to deal with the constant static of an Underworld that was under siege from the depths of a hell that he knew all too well. That Nico, when he remembered that hell, had arms to embrace him, had a lover that cared.

 

That Will, who couldn’t really fight and didn’t want to, was more than just a field medic, more than just a singer of ancient hymns. That he could be a midwife or a caretaker for children or the setter for more than one reckless broken arm.

 

That people had worries other than war. That people had dreams other than war—some that burned all the brighter for the fact that the entire world was coming to an end.

 

Eight months after the end, just after Hazel had turned fifteen, she came to her older brother blushing and stammering and asked if he would give her away.

 

Nico didn’t even hesitate before he said yes.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

“No.”

 

Nico’s voice was flat and cold. If he hadn’t just been an apparition in the mist, Annabeth was sure that she would have been able to feel the temperature drop around her.

 

She didn’t know what to think. She had been jogging through the woods, armed to teeth, the way that she usually did in the mornings before the monsters really woke up. But then she had paused by Zeus’s Fist when she had seen Piper and Leo talking with a mysterious man.

 

A man who looked exactly like Luke.

 

She hadn’t stayed to listen to their conversation. Annabeth had just ran, back to Percy, back to the life that she knew, where Luke was dead and Luke would stay dead.

 

“Nico, listen, I know what I saw—“

 

“No, you listen to me.” The younger boy’s voice was sharp like a blade of ice. “If there was some way to bring a person back to life, I would know it. What do you think that I did during that year running around with Minos? Unless someone had bribed my father or one of the other death gods, Luke Castellan is dead and will stay dead. And honestly, do you know of anyone who would stake their soul for his?”

 

“Nico, that’s incredibly harsh,” Percy said testily from behind her.

 

Nico scoffed. “What’s incredibly harsh is that the one time that you all think of me in months is because you want to know about my experiences attempting to bring my dead sister back to life.”

 

Annabeth winced. She hadn’t even thought about what this conversation would seem like to Nico. She thought that the younger boy was better, that he had come out on the other side of the Titan War happier, which was something that very few people could say. But apparently not. Nico was still overlooked, just another person on the side of her memories. She had called him because she needed something, not because she had actually cared to see how he was doing.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean for it to seem like that. I just saw someone in the woods who looked exactly like him . . . from the scar to his shirt, everything.”

 

Nico seemed to be frozen for a moment, caught between rage and sympathy, before he sighed, placing his sword back on his hip. “Was he wearing what he was when he died?”

 

Annabeth shook her head. There had been no sign of the brass armor on the man that she had seen in the wood.

 

“And you don’t think that you were under any sort of illusion? A trick of the Mist, something like that?”

 

Annabeth breathed out slowly. “It’s possible, but I didn’t feel like I was under any sort of illusion. Luke—or whoever I saw—he was solid but occasionally, for the little time that I watched him, he would . . . flicker.”

 

Nico stilled. “Flicker?”

 

Annabeth nodded. She couldn’t decide what the look on his face meant.

 

“That’s a shade then. Different clothes, usually solid form. If you really saw Luke, he’s entered into a familiar contract.”

 

“A what?” Percy asked. He had been still and watchful for most of the conversation, which was pretty unlike him.

 

Nico suddenly looked a tad more irritated when Percy opened his mouth. “A familiar contract. Children of the Underworld can make contracts with heroes who can’t or aren’t able to go on to rebirth. They give up a bit of their power to maintain the connection, and the dead hero gets to walk the earth again. Depending on how strict the bargain between them was, it’s possible that Luke has anywhere from complete autonomy to simply being a slave to his master’s wishes.”

 

Annabeth didn’t particularly like either of those options. Luke being another’s slave was a bad idea in and of itself, but the idea that Luke was completely free, able to make his own choices after death unchecked by anything, not even the threat of dying . . . Annabeth didn’t think that that was a good option either.

 

“I wasn’t aware that there were any other children of the Underworld running around though,” Nico continued. “I should be the only son of Hades. Children of Thanatos and other minor death gods would also be able to create familiars, but controlling someone as powerful as Luke takes a lot of energy.”

 

Annabeth paused. She also felt Percy still behind her. She glanced back at her boyfriend, who gave her a decisive nod.

 

“Deposit another drachma to continue your connection,” the fountain burbled at her.

 

Percy flipped another coin in the mist as Annabeth began to speak again.

 

“Nico, the Prophecy of Seven is coming to pass. Me and Percy, along with two new demigods known as Leo and Piper, are part of the Seven. There’s . . . there’s someone trying to gather all of us, we think, and that person seems to be a child of the Underworld.”

 

Nico looked like someone had sucker-punched him. “What?”

 

Percy nodded. “From what we’ve heard, he can shadow travel. He’s older than us, maybe seventeen, which means that he can’t be a child of Hades, otherwise he would have set off the Prophecy before me.”

 

Nico was rotating his skull ring around his finger. “Children of Thanatos and Nyx can also shadow travel, so it could be one of them. I haven’t heard of either of them lingering long enough in the human world to have children, but it’s possible.”

 

Annabeth ran a hand through her hair. “What I want to know is if Luke really is a familiar, how on earth did Avvenire get him to enter into a familiar contract? Luke told us that he was trying for rebirth.”

 

“Wait. Avvenire?”

 

Percy and Annabeth’s eyes immediately locked on Nico in the mist.

 

“You know him?” Percy demanded.

 

Nico shook his head. “No, but that’s not a name. It’s just Italian for ‘future.’”

 

Annabeth flinched, like she had been electrocuted.

 

The one from blackened future to aid the world’s fall.

 

Percy seemed to be on a similar train of thought.

 

“Shit.”

 

That summed things up rather nicely.

 

Before either Annabeth or Percy could continue the conversation, a mechanical roar echoed across camp, followed by a quake, like a giant’s footsteps. It was enough to dislodge the rainbow in the mist, causing Nico’s confused face to disappear.

 

Percy clicked Riptide, which came to full sword form in his hands. Annabeth drew her knife out of her arm holster as they burst as one out of Cabin Three, just in time to see Festus taking off into the sky, Leo and Piper on its back.

 

What was truly confusing was the smiles and waves of the campers who were outside, wishing the two new demigods farewell. Annabeth stalked over to Chiron, who was in full horse form, raising a hand in goodbye.

 

“Chiron! What is going on?”

 

The centaur seemed dazed. “Oh yes. Young Piper approached me about going on a vacation to see her father with Leo and their magical mechanical bronze dragon. Naturally, I approved.”

 

Annabeth pinched the bridge of her nose. “You agreed to let two barely-trained demigods cross an entire country on the back of a barely-functional dragon?”

 

“Why of course my dear.”

 

Percy came out to her, his adorably confused expression on his face. “What’s up, Annabeth?”

 

Annabeth just shook her head.

 

“Goddamn Piper and her goddamn charmspeak.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason was making good time.

 

Typically, he took four days to get to the Wolf House, but it looked like he was going to make it in three. He probably had about an hour of walking left—he wanted to save all of his strength for the fight that he knew was coming.

 

Like Reyna had said, he had had plenty of time to think during his travels. Although Jason usually went on quests in the typical three-man squad, he was no stranger to solo adventuring, or time alone. And if maybe, maybe, he thought about Reyna told him about, well, there was no one that needed to know.

 

So Jason found Avvenire fascinating, and powerful, and, he would admit it, very attractive.

 

(It was easier to admit when he remembered his admiration for Marius, the previous praetor, all those years ago, who had curly black hair and a strong frame and incredible arms, and yeah, in hindsight, that admiration was not entirely heterosexual.

 

And hey, he was Roman, born and raised. Homosexuality or bisexuality had never been an issue in Camp Jupiter. Jason could remember Alex coming back from a scouting mission to Mount Othrys and spending a few days wrapped in Mickey’s arms because he had seen rallies for something called Proposition 8. That was Jason’s first touch with intolerance and suddenly understood what it meant to be scared of yourself.)

 

Jason could admit to himself that he may have an . . . infatuation.

 

But Jason was also a Roman praetor, the pride of the Twelfth Legion, the destroyer of Mount Othrys’s black throne. Avvenire was powerful and intriguing, but that didn’t mean that he had stopped being suspicious or a possible threat to the legion.

 

Jason was logical enough to know that there was no way an infatuation could become anything more in his mind while he only knew half of what Avvenire was. It would do neither him nor Avvenire no favors for him to fall in—to become attached to only half of who he was.

 

And Jason would never fall for someone who could be a threat to his home.

 

So as Jason walked through the woods he had decided that he would be okay stretching the boundaries of his sexuality (as if he didn’t already know that they had been well and truly stretched already) and wait until October, when Avvenire had promised to explain.

 

If Jason liked what Avvenire had said about himself, maybe he could go for something.

 

But Jason was getting ahead of himself. Gods, he didn’t even know if Avvenire was straight or not. Sometimes he thought that he saw the older boy’s eyes linger on him, or Frank when he was sparring (and Frank had too much muscle mass for Jason to be even the slightest bit worried or jealous about that. Jason had stared too). 

 

For now, he had the closest thing he could call a mother to save.

 

The anticipation for a fight burned in his veins. The Wolf House was just on the horizon—Jason could see the abandoned mansion through the trees. He grabbed Ivlvis out of his pockets and flipped it quickly.

 

Heads.

 

Jason’s grip met the firm handle of his gladius and he began a slow, steady trek down the hill to the Wolf House.

 

There was something particularly exhilarating about walking into a fight that you know is coming. Jason wouldn’t say that he lived for fighting—he was too disciplined for that—but he could admit that there was a rush from fighting a good opponent, even when the stakes were high. Jason was too confident in his abilities to not enjoy fighting.

 

Before Jason could enter the Wolf House, there was a mechanical screech in the air. Jason ducked behind a tree just as a giant bronze dragon settled in a clearing less than half a mile from the Wolf House. The dragon had two passengers—a girl in a parka who seemed to radiate beauty with an impressive couple of knives and a Latino boy with a tool belt and mechanic’s googles on his face.

 

“I can’t believe that Avvenire’s not here by now,” the girl said.

 

Jason perked up at the name. Avvenire knew them? Enemies or friends?

 

“Apparently transporting Festus out of that graveyard took more than he thought,” the boy said easily, moving his googles off of his eyes, so that they acted as a headband in his dark hair. “I guess that he’s going to need a bit more recharging time than he expected. His shade-thingie did say that transporting magical objects was more difficult.”

 

The girl, who looked vaguely Native American, restlessly fingered at the knife around her waist. “Should we wait for him, Leo?”

 

The boy, Leo, ran his hand across the back of the dragon’s head for a moment before the mechanically beast seemed to slacken, his eyes dimming to a dull rust instead of bright red. “I suppose so. Avvenire did say that he had a friend that was going to help us out.”

 

Jason moved out from behind the tree, holding his sword carefully. “I think that he might have been talking about me.”

 

The girl had whipped out her knife impressively quickly. The boy had pulled a three-pound sledge hammer out of seemingly nowhere. They were definitely demigods, with how quickly they had snapped into battle positions.

 

However, Jason could tell that he was the most powerful of the three. He was pretty comfortable when he raised his hands in a gesture of surrender and flipped his gladius up into the air, grabbing the coin when it started to fall. He wasn’t foolish however, keeping the coin in his hand. The two of them did have a rather large dragon on their hands.

 

“Who are you?” the girl demanded.

 

“I’m Jason Grace, son of Jupiter, praetor of the Twelfth Legion. I assume that you’re Greek.”

 

“And I assume that you’re Roman, hotshot,” the boy replied. “I’m Leo Valdez, son of Hephaestus, no extraneous titles. Beauty queen over there is a daughter of Aphrodite.”

 

The girl rolled her eyes. “Piper McLean. Yes, related to Tristian McLean.”

 

Jason just looked at her funny. Why would he care that she was related to someone that he had never heard of?

 

Leo must have seen the expression on his face because he burst out laughing. “Don’t think that the Twelfth Legion gets out much, beauty queen. He doesn’t have any idea who your dad is.”

 

Piper looked inordinately pleased with this news, which made her seem even prettier. Jason had friends who were sons and daughters of Venus, so he was used to their charms, but it seemed even stronger with Piper because she wasn’t trying to do it.

 

“You guys know Avvenire?” Jason asked.

 

Piper nodded. “He saved me and Leo about a month and a half ago. Told me that I would have dreams encouraging me to go west, and that I should contact him for help when I did.”

 

“Demigod dreams are a pain in the ass,” Leo said concisely. “How do you know Avvenire?”

 

Jason was pretty impressed with his self-control, because he didn’t blush at all. “He showed up at the legion a couple of weeks ago, after saving one of our demigods from some cyclops up in Detroit. He’s been with us ever since.”

 

Piper mouthed the word “cyclops” for a moment before shaking it off. If Jason had to guess, he would say that the two in front of him were new demigods, not used to their powers or their new world.

 

“We knew that Avvenire had access to both camps,” Piper said thoughtfully, “but I guess it never crossed our mind that he had been in the Roman camp the entire time. He was never around Camp Half-Blood, so I guess that we just thought that he wouldn’t be at the other camp either.”

 

“Not that it really would have helped,” Leo contributed, “considering that we have no idea where your camp is anyway.”

 

Knowing that Avvenire was going back and forth pinged a warning inside of Jason’s brain. Jason knew that he was trying to collect the Seven of them together, but why not pull them all together and just be done with it? What did he have to benefit from going back and forth?

 

Before they could continue their conversation, there was a scream from inside the Wolf House, followed immediately by a wolf’s growl.

 

“Dad!” Piper shouted, whipping out her knife.

 

“Lupa!” Jason flipped his coin again, catching his spear in midair.

 

Leo pulled his hammer back out of the tool belt. “Alright, hotshot. You’re in charge. We want Piper’s dad back. Help us out?”

 

Jason nodded. “We don’t know much about how each other fight, but I’ll do my best. Let’s move!”

 

The three of them entered into the Wolf House as one.

 

Lupa’s wolf legion wasn’t there—it was possible that she had sent them away before she had been captured. Lupa herself was at the base of the broken grand staircase, languishing in silver chains that glowed every time that they dug into her neck and paws. She was fighting to get to the other side of the room, where a Hollywood-handsome man was tied to a wooden crucifix Jesus-style. 

 

Piper lunged forward. “Dad!”

 

Jason caught her around the waist. She whipped her head towards him and snarled. “That’s my father!”

 

“You have god instincts, son of Jupiter,” a voice echoed from the shadows behind Tristan McLean. The voice was likely honey though thick glass—slow and rolling and making the entire world seem a little heavier.

 

Piper immediately stilled in Jason’s grasp. Leo stepped forward and his hands ignited into flames—and okay, lots of weird things were happening today, especially with these demigods—illuminating the shadowed figure.

 

Jason knew him.

 

“Bryce?” He said in astonishment.

 

“You know him?” Leo exclaimed.

 

“You know him!” Piper accused.

 

“I used to,” Jason said. “He was a member of the legion before Reyna kicked him out three years ago for murdering his centurion in cold blood. He’s a son of Orcus, the god of punishment.”

 

But there was something different about Bryce. His nose, which had been perpetually crooked, was now fixed. His teeth were no longer yellowed and his greasy hair was no longer weighed down with oil. His posture was straight and he held himself regally. Despite looking like Bryce 2.0, there were degradation sores around his eyes, which were solid gold. They trailed down his face and under the leather jacket that he was wearing. From what Jason could see, they looked like peeling scabs surrounded by the blackest eyeliner.

 

“The better connotation would be that you knew him, son of Jupiter,” Bryce said nastily. His voice was like slow-rolling honey, just sinister enough to be like an ice cube down his spine. “For Bryce is gone now. Not a perfect vessel, I’ll admit, and not one that I’ll want to keep for long, but he’ll do for now.”

 

Well, that wasn’t creepy at all.

 

“I needed a body so that I could gather you—the three of the Seven that could cause so much trouble,” not-Bryce sneered. “Mother will still have Percy and Annabeth for the sacrifice, but without you, there is nothing stopping war between Roman and Greek camps, nothing stopping Mother’s return. I feel that I should almost thank the little angel for returning.”

 

Jason, Piper and Leo exchanged a glance. At this point, not-Bryce’s words were in one ear and out the other. But the longer that he kept monologue-ing in an extremely stereotypical villain type way, the longer that they had to plan. Piper readied her knife and gave the other two a look like “you boys keep him distracted and I’ll remove his head from his body.”

 

Jason could appreciate a woman who considered murder first.

 

Jason readied his gladius but before he could even move, he was frozen. Jason had actually been frozen before, but this was different. He could feel his muscles still moving, still straining against this invisible power, but he was just moving impossibly slowly. A glance to the side, which took almost a minute, showed that Leo and Piper were in the same situation.

 

Reaching a hand out, a scythe appeared out of the void, suddenly popping into not-Bryce’s palm. It radiated the same chill that of Avvenire’s weapons. He readied the scythe and stared at them with his deep, fathomless golden eyes.

 

And Jason knew fear.

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

People tended to forget that Hazel and Nico came from a different time.

 

The “scandal” of Frank and Hazel’s wedding was the gossip of New Rome. A fifteen-year-old girl marrying? How preposterous, she’s so young!

 

But it didn’t matter how young she was. Because who knew how much time that she would have left? With Gaia steadily making her way through the murder of the Olympians, destroying towns and worlds in her way, how much time would any of them have left?

 

Hazel was only born a few years before Nico himself, despite him being a couple biological years older than her. Nico remembered the wartime couples from when he was young, when they had married before the soldier boys had made their way off to war. Hazel would not be the youngest bride that he had seen walk down the aisle.

 

And Nico could understand it. One of Hazel’s dreams was to get married, to be a bride with a loving husband. Some would say that her goal was just a product of her time, but Nico just saw it as another thing that made Hazel Hazel, and he couldn’t begrudge her the tiniest bit of happiness amid the sorrow of their times.

 

It was a good two months, preparing for the wedding. Wars on the borders still occurred, and they had frightening news that Hestia had fallen in battle. The wedding was something that the Demigod Alliance could look forward to, a slight moment of normalcy in their very abnormal lives.

 

A few days before the wedding, Nico went to the Underworld and talked to his bedraggled father, who looked even paler and more like a corpse than usual, and convinced him to make just one more weapon for him—Nico had been down here before collecting knives and swords from the fallen.

 

Hades, perhaps softening towards his children now that their lives were so short, agreed.

 

 Two weeks before the wedding, Hazel tried on her dress. It was a gorgeous configuration of lace and pearls, mermaid style with delicate sleeves. Modest, Reyna had told him with pins in her mouth, not really the style in fashion these days. Then she gave a grimace around the needles—not that there is a fashion these days. Nico hadn’t expected Hazel to choose any different type of style.

 

Reyna picked herself off of her knees and had Hazel do a few turns, making sure that the slight train of the dress fell naturally. She smiled when she saw Nico leaning against the doorway.

 

“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” the praetor said.

 

“Yes, she is.”

 

Hazel’s eyes met Nico’s in the mirror and he could see tears in her golden eyes, tears of happiness, tears of joy. So much better than the other tears that had been shed during the war.

 

Nico reached behind him and slipped a Stygian iron hairpin into her up-do. The gold on the draping metal flowers matched her eyes.

 

Hazel touched a hand to the pin. “What?”

 

“A gift to the bride, from your brother.”

 

Hazel just reached behind her and pulled Nico into an embrace, watching their intertwined forms in the three-panel mirror.

 

Nico just placed a kiss on her forehead.

 

                UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason’s mind was a constant liturgy of shit shit shit shit shit.

 

He had never been so helpless. He didn’t think that he had ever been in such a position in his life—he was the son of Jupiter, lord of the air, able to fly. He was one of the most powerful demigods of his generation, a backbone for Camp Jupiter, a praetor that the entire camp looked up to. He had never before been helpless. In helpless situations, yes, but he himself had never been helpless.

 

And now he was, to this figure controlling Bryce, to this unknown deity with golden eyes and an eroding presence.

 

Jason, and these two demigods that he just met, were going to die, stuck in their own time.

 

His hand had moved about an inch to the left, drawing back his gladius into a fighting stance. Piper’s knife had adjusted the smallest amount to be reflecting light straight into Leo’s eyes, and Jason was sure that he would have been saying something about it, if his face hadn’t been only half-way there to squinting.

 

Jason really hoped that Leo didn’t die with that look on his face. If he did, there would be no justice in the world.

 

Not-Bryce seemed rather pleased with his work. He sharpened his scythe twice with a rock, making an eerie screeching noise, before languidly moving towards the three of them.

 

Before he could speak, a shadow shot out from behind them and tugged roughly on Jason’s collar. He was dragged about two feet behind where he was currently standing in the blink of a non-slo-mo eye and suddenly his time was back to normal. Jason finished his original movement of raising his gladius before wiping around to look at what had happened.

 

It was Avvenire, of course. Leo said that he would have been on his way, and Jason thanked the gods that he was right on time. He seemed to have pulled Piper out of her own time as well, while Leo had been dragged back by a solid man who occasionally flickered into a skeleton—Jason assumed that it was one of Avvenire’s familiars.

 

The swordsman, he remembered from when Avvenire had explained his two companions. That had been a good day—Avvenire was looser than usual, more willing to talk about himself, although always vaguely. He told Jason about his two familiars, who had names apparently, but those weren’t shared with Jason. They were apparently two of Avvenire’s closest friends, although Jason hoped to add some living people to the mix (preferably himself, if he was being selfish, but honestly he just wanted the teenager to have some connections to the living world).

 

Jason had a thought in the split second that he was taking in the information—if the swordsman was here, where was the archer?

 

The swordsman faded back into the void—like the other summons, Avvenire caught the skull his hand and quickly placed it into his pack before throwing the entire rucksack behind him.

 

Avvenire herded Leo and Piper behind him and Jason. Jason silently nodded at him as the older boy drew his sword in one fluid motion.

 

“Well, if it isn’t the boy out of time?” not-Bryce sneered. “Here to save the day. You making up for lost time? Lost chances maybe?”

 

Avvenire’s grip tightened on the sword just the slightest bit. His face was nearly blank. “No. I’m doing what I came here to do.”

 

Jason didn’t have time to worry about their conversation. He knew what Avvenire was doing—he was drawing not-Bryce’s attention away from the three of them, making himself the biggest target. Avvenire had freed them from not-Bryce’s powers, but there was no telling when the spirit’s attention would come back to them. Jason gestured to Leo and Piper.

 

“Get out of here,” he hissed. “Avvenire and I will distract him. Get your father, get your dragon, and then go. Avvenire can shadow-travel me out.”

 

Piper gave a determined nod. Leo’s fire seemed to shine just a little bit brighter. “You got it, Flyboy,” Leo murmured. “Just get her and her dad out of here.”

 

The scythe slashed out of the dark, but Jason reacted quickly and caught the dark blade on his gladius in a deadlock, careful to make sure that the blade didn’t touch his arm. Not-Bryce snarled, the rotting corners of his eyes crinkling.

 

“As if I would let you!” the deity cried. “I have spent too long trying to find a host for me to be stopped now. You will die trying to stop me!”

 

Not-Bryce dodged the slash that Avvenire had aimed at his legs, catching the dark boy’s knife on the handle of his scythe before moving darting back. Avvenire jumped back, coming even with Jason. Without speaking, they launched into another assault.

 

Although they hadn’t fought against each other, if there was one thing that Romans did well, it was teamwork. Jason had seen Avvenire fight in enough situations that he knew how the older boy would react enough to fall into the gaps in his fighting style. Avvenire himself seemed to have an intrinsic knowledge of where Jason was going to be, pulling away when Jason was ready to lunge, covering him effortlessly when Jason pulled back to flip Ivlivs into javelin, needing the longer reach, or back into the sword, needing the longer blade.  

 

Jason was a heavy hitter. Not necessarily the fastest of fighters, he made up with his lack of speed with technique and discipline, backed up by raw power. He was not necessarily a berserker, the way that Frank could be when riled. He was a soldier, a commander, his fighting style rooted in a strong stance, a hearty defense and carefully-timed offence. He was the type of all-rounder that carried a Roman squad. He was the type of solider to support his teammate’s unique fighting style with the adaptable and solid nature of his own.

 

Avvenire’s fighting style was definitely unique. It seemed to have been perfected for solo fighting but wasn’t hindered at all by Jason’s support. Avvenire had pulled out the dagger that he had on the small of his back and was using it in tandem with his longer blade. Occasionally, when slipping underneath both Jason’s and not-Bryce’s spheres of attack, he flipped his grip on his sword and dropped into a different style, most suited for the close combat fighting. The grip switch was flawless, something that Jason knew took lots of practice.

 

Avvenire was built for speed. He was all fancy footwork and quick accurate strikes. His defense was built more on glancing blows off of his sword or dagger than getting in a deadlock. It was almost a style reminiscent of fencing, but Jason could recognize aspect of the standardized Roman fighting style. There was also something that Jason assumed was Greek. Avvenire was a mix of quick moves from all different types of swordplay effortlessly performed.

 

Jason had trained himself to be able to support any fighter but Avvenire’s skill made it easier than most.

 

It was unfortunate that they were up against such a skilled opponent.

 

Not-Bryce—and Jason really needed to get a new name for the possessed ex-legionnaire—was ridiculously skilled with his scythe, enough to hold off both of them without exerting particular effort. Every few moments of so, Jason could feel time slow down for him and he struggled against the pull. Avvenire always lunged in at that moment, breaking the spell, and Jason made sure to do the same for him.

 

Not-Bryce spun his scythe, glancing Avvenire’s sword off of the blade and Jason’s off of the hilt. Jason ducked in order to avoid the backswing of the edge of the scythe. In that flash of a moment, Avvenire took the initiative to jump off of Jason’s crouched form and slashed his dagger across the bridge of not-Bryce’s nose.

 

A howl rent the air and golden-red blood splattered across the floor, a conglomeration of godly and mortal.

 

Avvenire landed next to him as Jason moved up from his crouch.

 

“Shit,” the older teenager murmured. “Too shallow.”

 

“Which means we probably only made him mad,” Jason commented lowly.

 

Jason’s attention flicked over to the other two demigods, who were currently working on Tristan McLean’s ropes. Piper was cutting through the thick rope carefully but quickly, while Leo supported the man’s dead weight. The Latino boy’s eyes met Jason’s briefly. Jason glanced towards Lupa, snarling and attacking her own chains with her teeth, then back to Leo. The son of Hephaestus nodded once.

 

“You dare!” not-Bryce snarled, the rotting corners of his eyes cracking as his face narrowed in distaste. “You will die painfully for that one, son of Hades.”

 

“You can try,” Avvenire spat back, glancing at Jason. With his nod, they broke into their next round of fighting.

 

Swordfights, particularly demigod-on-deity swordfights, went in rounds. There would be a momentary pause, a natural stop in the fighting, welcoming trash talk or a catch of breath. Neither Avvenire nor Jason were particularly gifted in trash-talking—Jason’s worst insult to date had been stolen from a Monty Python movie (thank Jupiter that primordial deities tended not to be up to date on their pop culture)—but not-Bryce doled it out like it was cheap.

 

Avvenire took all of it in stride, for the most part, and Jason, with trained Roman stoicism, didn’t even flinch. Gold and dark steel flashed in metallic clangs as they made their way through the battle, both demigods under intense focus, the deity seething with rage.

 

During the pauses in their deadlock, Jason took careful time to let his eyes flicked over the landscape, not lingering on anything, but watching as Piper hoisted her father onto her slim shoulders and moved out towards the entrance. Leo separated from her with a nod as he moved towards Lupa. Lupa snarled as Leo approached.

 

“Calm down, wolf-momma,” the son of Hephaestus murmured. “I’m gonna get you out of here.” With that, Leo pulled on thick plated leather gloves out of the bag and pulled them on. Oddly, they left his fingers free. He then pulled out an over-sized chisel and hammer and began pounding.

 

The sound was loud enough to draw not-Bryce’s attention, but Jason took advantage of the distraction to add another line of golden-red on his collarbone to match the one on his face.

 

Not-Bryce jumped back immediately to dodge Avvenire’s follow-up strike with his sword, aimed towards the ex-legionnaire’s knees. For a moment, not-Bryce took one hand off of the handle of his scythe and rubbed it across the edge of his rotting and bleeding shoulder.

 

“You were going to die anyway, Jason Grace,” he said nonchalantly, “but now I have decided that you will die so much slower. People tend to underestimate good torture these days. However, I will enjoy feeding you your own rotting flesh before you die.”

 

And wasn’t that a lovely image?

 

Avvenire stepped in front of Jason, his stance wide and protective, so much different than the more closed footwork he used normally. “I won’t let that happen.”

 

Not-Bryce leaned forward, leaning on the handle of his scythe. “Well, then, son of angels, why wouldn’t it? You think that you could stop it? That you could save them all? The Fates are not so fickle. After all, isn’t that what happened before?”

 

Avvenire stilled just the slightest amount. “What?” His voice was as dead and black as the god he was the son of.

 

“You never learned how he died, did you?” not-Bryce taunted. “Of course, you didn’t. They never recovered his body. But oh, I saw it all. I saw every moment of his death, every moment of his agony. Just like yours, just like your—“

 

“Shut up!”Avvenire roared, his eyes wild and manic. Jason flinched as his tone of voice and sudden chill in the air. Frost curled on the tile, spreading from the soles of Avvenire’s combat boots. Ice condensed on the edge of his pitch black sword.

 

Jason moved to Avvenire’s side. The two of them had grown closer over the past few weeks, and Jason knew that the older boy had had a rough life and had lost rather a lot of people. Demigods alone had tendency to bring misfortune around them and Avvenire had likely seen more than most—had both taken lives and lost them. Whatever was going on, whatever he was being taunted with, it was likely a part of that misfortune, and Jason would stand behind him.

 

“You don’t like to hear of it?” not-Bryce sneered. “I thought that as the child of Hades you would want to hear every single—“

 

Avvenire flicked his wrist sharply and the deity spiraled his scythe in a quick maneuver to block the throwing knife off of the handle. Jason caught the blade swiftly by the handle as it spun back to them. The black metal burned his palm for a moment before Jason tossed the blade back to Avvenire. Avvenire caught it in his free hand.

 

Behind them, Leo caught his hands on fire and wrapped his fingers around the chain on Lupa’s right paw. The wolf growled. Be careful, pup.

 

“Okay, okay, talking scary wolf,” Leo babbled while the metal glowed red-hot. “Give me a moment.”

 

He prepared the hammer and chisel and brought the hammer down. With a resounding crack, the heated metal snapped under the weight of Leo’s tools. Lupa roared in freedom while Leo moved over to her other paw, saying, “You’re more frightening when you’re happy, momma wolf. Calm down, I have to get the other side . . .”

 

Not-Bryce snarled and looked back at the two of them. Leo’s actions suddenly became impossibly slow while Lupa merely snarled and bared her teeth towards the scythe-wielder.

 

Your half-cocked power has nothing on me. Lupa pushed the full force of her wolf-stare at not-Bryce. You will have to do better than the power of a half-possession.

 

Catching Jason’s blue eyes in his own dark ones, Avvenire nodded once. Jason gave a minute nod. This would be the last round.

 

Avvenire flipped the throwing knife in his hand to switch the grip. That was the only warning that both Jason and not-Bryce had before the frenzy began. Avvenire snapped his wrist and threw the knife before pulling his long dagger out of its sheath at his back, lunging forward into his next attack. Jason snapped into formation a second later.

 

Not-Bryce deflected the dagger off his scythe and moved back to dodge Avvenire’s strike, pushing himself almost into a backbend to avoid Jason’s follow-up. His scythe came down in a deadly arch that Jason barely avoided, the edge of the blade catching Jason across the arm. Jason hissed in pain as he moved out of not-Bryce’s range, Avvenire covering for him.

 

Another deafening clang echoed through the Wolf House. Leo whooped in celebration before Lupa grabbed him by the scruff of his jacket and hauled him out of the house, towards the golden mechanical dragon outside.

 

Jason tossed his gladius into the air hard. Extra air time, no switching back into a coin, heading straight into his javelin. Jason was about to call out to Avvenire when the dark boy leaped back to Jason’s side. On his way back, the side of the scythe caught him in the side. Avvenire grunted in pain before landing on his knee just in front of Jason.

 

He reached out with a clawed hand, pulling harshly towards himself. The ground around not-Bryce grew dark and cold, a round circle of blackness and death. Skeleton hands, bleached white, reached out of the void and grabbed at not-Bryce’s clothes and skin. The deity stared down at the hands of the dead with annoyance.

 

“Shit,” Avvenire murmured. “He’s too powerful for me to banish him to Tartarus. Your turn, Jason.”

 

Jason was unaware that Avvenire could do that completely terrifying feat, but he took his cue nonetheless.

 

“You got it, Nir.”

 

Jason immediately stepped in front of the older boy, who was holding his side gingerly. He lifted his javelin towards the sky with all of the power of the son of the king of the gods, lord of the sky, the highest of the Olympians.

 

Lightning rained down like divine intervention, called down by a mortal hand.

 

Not-Bryce screamed as the lightning shocked through his body, his limbs racked with spasms. The lighting died as quick as it came, the only sounds echoing in the aftermath of the thunder crack being Avvenire’s and Jason’s ragged breathing.

 

Avvenire winced as he made his way to his feet, shoving his dagger into its sheath and holding his black sword in a loose grip. Jason moved and wrapped his free hand around Avvenire’s waist, supporting the smaller man. For someone who could radiate the chill of death, Jason could feel the warmth of his side all the way through his jacket. Jason tried not to dwell on it as he looked down at the ex-legionnaire.

 

His skin was burned black and already crumbling, especially at his feet where the skeletons had touched him. His eyes were open and untouched by the lightning, eerie in their existence and blankness.

 

Avvenire let a sharp breath out from his nose. “Green eyes. He escaped.”

 

“What?”

 

“The deity that was controlling Bryce must have switched out of his body just before you called the lightning down. It was an imperfect possession—he wouldn’t have survived.”

 

Avvenire watched the corpse with distaste, too much for someone so accustomed to death, but Jason in turn watched him. He looked exhausted as he always did, even more so from the fight, and was covered in the dust that seemed to just spawn in the Wolf House. His skin looked even paler than usual, probably from an overuse of his powers. Although Jason couldn’t recall Avvenire getting cut, his lower lip was covered in a thin layer of blood.

 

Jason let out a sigh. “You’re explaining this later.”

 

Avvenire took another sharp breath. “Let’s do that. Right now, I think that I cracked a rib.”

 

Jason helped Avvenire hobble out of the Wolf House, joining their collected allies, surrounded by the protective barrier of their metallic dragon. Piper was tending to her father’s wounds with an odd look on her face while Leo handed off bandages. Lupa gave a lazy wolf-smile when she saw the two of them making their way out of the Wolf House.

 

Avvenire’s landing was unintentionally hard as Jason helped him to lean against the dragon’s side. Leo pulled ambrosia out of Avvenire’s rucksack and handed it to him.

 

“Sorry for going through your stuff, man,” he said, “but my magic tool belt can only handle so much before it needs to recharge, and that chisel was a bit too much for it.”

 

“The chisel?” Jason asked.

 

“Straight from Hephaestus’s forge, flyboy, do you think that just anything can make its way through magicked metal?”

 

Jason made a sound of agreement. He couldn’t say that he had ever thought of it like that, not even when he trained with the Vulcan kids at camp.

 

Avvenire nibbled at the edge of an ambrosia square and color washed back into his face. “It’s fine. My familiar’s skull is still in there?”

 

Leo nodded. “Although have we talked about that is both incredibly cool and incredibly freaky?”

 

Avvenire let out a snort of amusement. “No, but it’s a common thread of conversation when you’re around me.”

 

“Speaking of common threads of conversation,” Piper stated from her place at her father’s side, “we still need to have a conversation about what the Holy Hera is going on here.”

 

Leo’s levity dropped off into a seriousness that Jason could already tell was unusual. “We do. You’re a good guy, Avvenire, you’ve saved us twice now. But you’re leaving way too many questions in your wake. Like how the hell did you know what I was going to name the dragon before I actually named the dragon?”

 

Piper nodded from behind them. “And how do you know so much about the Prophecy of Seven?”

 

Jason paused. “Wait, you guys know about the Prophecy of Seven?”

 

Leo and Piper exchanged another of their glances, the ones that made Jason think that they had been fighting together for years. Piper nodded. “It’s called the Second Great Prophecy in Camp Half-Blood. We didn’t know that it was called the Prophecy of Seven until Avvenire gave a note about it.”

 

Jason’s attention flickered back to the older teenager, who was looking torn between indifference and awkwardness. “Nir, it seems that you’ve been busy. This really isn’t helping my trust issues.”

 

Avvenire gave a sigh, but before he could speak, he flinched violently. Jason immediately dropped to his knees before him, reaching out to help him.

 

Avvenire shook his head and bat his hands away. “Give me some space!” he barked.

 

Jason immediately moved back, being around too many soldiers to question it. But it seemed that it wasn’t a mere aversion to touch. Avvenire snapped once, the sound ringing out unnaturally across the hills.

 

The shadows suddenly seemed to be pulled from the trees, the Wolf House, even their own. All darkness from the clearance seemed to condense in front of Avvenire, forming into a well of shadows. The shadow form solidified into Avvenire’s second familiar, the archer.

 

The archer was panting harshly, his broken bow across his back. His clothes were torn in multiple places and although Jason knew that the familiars couldn’t bleed, there were portions of his form stripped away, leaving only the bones behind.

 

The familiar breathed raggedly. “I tried to get here earlier, but you didn’t have enough power to provide for me.”

 

“What’s going on?” Jason demanded.

 

“They’ve opened,” the archer exhaled softly, his words likely intended for Avvenire only.

 

Jason, who considered himself to know Avvenire quite well by this point, could sense what was about to happen a moment before it occurred.

 

Avvenire gave him a slight half-smile. “When I come back next, I’ll explain everything.”

 

And then he immediately dropped into the shadows, his familiar following behind him into darkness.

 

Jason squeezed his eyes shut.

 

“Well, isn’t that just typical?” Leo grumbled from behind him.

 

Chapter Text

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

A week before the wedding, two things happened.

 

Nico turned sixteen. Will, Jason, Hazel and Reyna had a small party, just the five of them. It was more subdued than any birthday party had a right to be, but Nico himself wasn’t particularly fond of his birthday. He had lived one more year. Was he sixteen or one hundred and sixteen? Was one more year important in the face of this huge adversary?

 

Jason and Reyna had a good talk that eventually devolved into debates about battle strategy. Nico just shook his head at the two of them. Their relationship had repaired by leaps and bounds through the war effort, something that the two praetors were extremely comfortable with. That mutual respect was enough for them to springboard themselves back into what could almost be considered a functional relationship.

 

Hazel was telling Nico about Leo’s latest attempts to get back to the island of Ogygia. The son of Hephaestus was pulling his hair out to get back to Calypso, worried to the point of losing sleep about what was happing on her island, an island that was oh so mythical, in a time when mythical things were disappearing.

 

Nico’s birthday was normal in a way that he never expected. His life had fallen into the routine of fighting and training the troops—mortals and demigods alike—spending time with Will and his friends that he never thought that he had, mourning those that he had lost, trying to plan to survive the next day, the next week, the next month. The war was almost in a lull, the gods holding a steady foothold against the forces of Gaia.

 

There were still reports of the dead—Jake Mason had died three days ago. Leo had come out of his workshop to give a short speech, broken up by tears near the end. Nyssa did an even worse job after him.

 

The unfortunate part was that it was a sadness that had almost become commonplace.

 

The other thing that happened . . .

 

Nike became the second of the gods to fall.

 

No one wanted to consider what it meant that the goddess of victory had already fallen.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Leo looked at the spot where Avvenire had disappeared. “Well if that wasn’t just par for the course.”

 

Piper moved her father onto the back of Festus. “He was simply a wealth of answers, that one.” She adjusted her father’s limbs carefully, with a sense of a family that Leo had been missing for so long. “My father’s going to be out for the rest of the day, likely. I’ll get him back to his apartment. With any luck, he’s not going to remember any of this.”

 

Leo, in his eternal awkwardness, placed a hand on her upper arm in comfort. Emotional support would never be his strong suit. Despite his stilted attempt, Piper seemed to be comforted anyway, leaning into his touch.

 

Jason, extremely ambiguous Roman entity that he was, seemed to be having a conversation with the she-wolf that Leo had freed entirely though extremely intimidating stares.

 

“Yo, flyboy,” Leo called out, causing both the wolf and Roman to turn to look at him. “That was some fancy fighting that you and the dark one got into there. Any idea who that creepy dude was?”

 

Jason shook his head, blowing out a huff of frustrated air. “No. Nir does though, but he’s keeping the secrets as close to the chest as he can.”

 

Piper sat down in the dirt next to Festus and began re-braiding her mangled hair. Jason looked at with a mix of bafflement and approval, which was a point in his favor in Leo’s book. “You haven’t told us what’s up with you and Avvenire anyway.”

 

Jason sat down a distance away from the two of them, making a circle with their bodies, lopsided towards Leo and Piper. Far enough to not be pushing any boundaries, close enough to still be included.

 

“I’m a praetor in the Twelfth Legion,” Jason explained. “One of the two leaders of the Roman camp, the head of the legion. Avvenire came to us three weeks ago with a new recruit in tow, one of the Seven, and asked to join the legion.”

 

“One of the Seven?” Piper glanced over to Leo. “We’re two of the Seven.”

 

“Make that three,” Jason said without surprise, “because from what I’ve gotten out of Nir, I’m also a part of that merry band.”

 

Leo pulled out the Archimedes Sphere from his toolbelt. As interesting as this conversation was—and don’t get him wrong, it was definitely interesting—nothing was ever quite interesting enough. The Archimedes Sphere bounced between his hands as he typed in algorithms. Piper gave him a cautious glance, but didn’t say anything.

 

“So he’s collecting us, just like we thought,” Piper mused. “Two of the others are also in the Greek camp. That means that Avvenire knows the location of at least six of us. What’s going to happen when he gets all Seven?”

 

Jason exhaled slowly. “Avvenire has until the end of October, only a week and a half away now, to explain himself to Reyna, the older praetor, before his status at the Roman camp will be revoked. Reyna and I need answers before then or we can’t justify harboring a threat to the legion any longer.”

 

“So we’ll get answers eventually,” Piper said with a huff. “I’m not sure if I like that, especially with possessed demigods stealing my father and making us sneak across the entire freaking country.”

 

“He is a bit suspicious,” Jason agreed. “But mysterious seems to be his thing. He is a son of Hades, you know.”

 

Leo paused immediately. He remembered those war councils that they had had, where they had determined that under no circumstances could Avvenire be a son of Hades, because he would have triggered the Great Prophecy before Percy did. And yet here, Jason was confirming it. He was a son of Jupiter as well, maybe he was over sixteen? Did Percy activate the Prophecy as a fluke?

 

Piper seemed to be on the same train of thought as him. “A son of Hades? Are you sure?”

 

Jason’s brow furrowed. “I’m pretty sure. We have lie-detecting metal dogs.”

 

Leo was distracted by that for a moment, and promised himself that if he ever made it to the Roman camp, he was going to go through their inner workings. Gently, of course, and with their consent, because he wasn’t a savage.

 

Piper bulldozed through Leo’s distraction. “And how old is he?”

 

Jason looked even more confused. “Seventeen, as far as I know. Might be a bit older, the lack of sleep and proper food makes him look kind of younger than he actually is.”

 

Leo and Piper exchanged a glance. This wasn’t looking good for any of their theories. And Leo knew that they should probably get back to camp and tell Annabeth about this latest development, including the confirmed existence of the Roman camp, but Leo was not looking forward to the ass-whooping that he knew was going to occur for breaking the rules.

 

“That’s not good,” Piper said. “That means that he should have activated the last Great Prophecy.”

 

“What Great Prophecy?” Jason asked.

 

Before Piper could answer, Leo’s stomach rumbled loudly, followed by Festus’s answering roar. Leo patted the dragon’s head in embarrassment, while Piper just shook her head and Jason looked vaguely amused.

 

“Sooo . . .” Leo drew out the word. “Long, intricately detailed discussion about prophecies and our weird mutual acquaintance over food?”

 

Jason gave a hint of a smile. “Food.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Nico walked through the Fields of Asphodel aimlessly, his mind riddled with the new world that he had been opened to.

 

Hades had called him into his palace only two days ago and explained about how there were two of him—no, two aspects of him—that resides in one body, the same way that there was for all gods. His father had told him about the two camps and how the Doors had been opened and how there was an important prophecy that was coming to pass—an important prophecy that he would not be a part of, but that he was necessary for.

 

And wasn’t that the story of Nico’s life. Being required, but not being needed. Being the unwanted, reviled extra on the side of the story of heroes. Being the spare, the unwanted, the disgusting. Being present, but being apart. If Bianca, if Mother had known what he was now, on the inside or the outside, he knew that he wouldn’t even be wanted by them.

 

The way that he wasn’t wanted by the camps, by the gods, by Per—

 

No. He had told himself that he was done with that filthy infatuation. What had Percy ever done for him? He had tried to be that type of hero that Percy would look up to, the kind that Percy would see—Percy didn’t have to like him the way that he wanted, he just had to see Nico, to recognize that Nico existed—but that hadn’t worked out.

 

So, no. He would squash this. It did nothing for him.

 

And why did Nico even like him in the first place? From the romance novels that Bianca had read, Nico knew that love—he hated to even think the word—could flourish even without that much affection, but under none? Under almost active distaste and distrust? Did Nico want to be with someone whose girlfriend thought of him first, and then only when she needed something?

 

Apparently his heart wasn’t really on the same page as his brain.

 

And then half of him was debating if he even wanted his feelings to be requited—or if he just wanted Percy to notice him, to recognize that Nico had been important to their quests, to the war. Sometimes Nico just wanted to grab Percy and scream at him “I was there too! I fought, I battled, I was important! I’m good enough to be noticed, I’m good enough to be a friend!”

 

And then there was the part of him that had Percy’s voice without any of his kindness, the voice that Percy had had when the son of Poseidon had nearly choked him in the black tomb of Hades, murmuring “no you’re not.

 

Nico shook it off. He would survive through all of this.

 

When Hades had first told him about everything, especially the Doors being opened, Nico’s first thought had flittered over to Bianca. There was a chance, a slim chance, that she hadn’t gone on to rebirth yet, that he could find a way to find her again in this lifetime. But when Nico searched through the Fields and Elysium yesterday, he could sense that she had already moved on.

 

Bianca, always leaving him behind.

 

Nico now walked through the Fields without purpose. There was no way to find his mother in this mess, even though he would probably recognize her face now that his memories from his life before had come back. Neither of them would be coming back into his life.

 

A brighter shade lit up in the distance of the fields—a young girl somehow aware enough to be going through practice forms with a longer sword. Nico had never seen the sword before but he knew the look of the girl—she was another child of the Underworld.

 

And somehow, he didn’t know how he could tell, Nico knew instinctively that she was Roman.

 

Perhaps it was just because, even though she was dead, she just didn’t have that aura of death that he knew that he radiated.

 

The girl paused and sheathed her sword in a fluid motion when she saw the Nico was approaching.

 

“Hello,” she called to him.

 

Nico paused. “Hello. You’re a child of the Underworld, aren’t you? Wrongfully killed as well. A hero.”

 

The girl grimaced. She was unusually pretty, like chocolate covered in gold. Nico wished that he could appreciate the way that he was supposed to, rather than simply aesthetically.

 

“I’m no hero,” she stated. “I’m just trying to do the best that I can.”

 

“Aren’t we all,” Nico murmured.

 

The girl kept looking at him curiously, searching for something in his face.

 

“What?” Nico demanded.

 

The girl shook her head. “A boy who looked like you came by here a few weeks ago. Gave me this sword. Gave me a purpose. He told me that someone was going to come for me, someone who need me as much as I needed them. I think he meant you.”

 

Someone who knew that he would come across this girl in the Underworld? Someone who knew that as soon as he had seen the girl, he had thought she doesn’t deserve this and I can fix it?

 

Nico wasn’t sure if he liked that at all.

 

Still . . .

 

“I’m Nico di Angelo. I can get you out of here. You’re my sister, too, and you deserve a second chance.”

 

The girl swung her sheathed sword over her shoulder in a move that was practiced but not quite fluent.

 

“I’m Hazel Levesque. And I think that you deserve someone who cares for you.”

 

Nico reached out his pale, unmarked hand and brought his new family member into the shadows with him.

 

And then . . . something happened.

 

Nico wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but he was suddenly pushed to the side. He could feel the shadow’s path that he was on veer sharply to the right, pushing both him and Hazel away from their intended destination, which was just outside the Roman Camp. Instead he felt the shadows pushing him east, pushing him away.

 

Nico tried to fight against it, but he had never encountered power like this before, had never encountered someone who had manipulated shadows that were actually under his control. Nico’s strength paled against the power pushing against him now, and his struggles were overwhelmed.

 

Giving in to the inevitable, he pulled one hand away from Hazel’s small form to grip the handle of the blade on his hip. Wherever they were headed, he knew that this wasn’t going to be a good meeting.

 

The shadows brought them into a clearing in a forest. Nico didn’t pay attention to time in the Underworld, so it seemed to be the dead of night wherever they were, illuminated by the almost unnaturally bright moonlight that shone through the levels. The clearing was scattered with large boulders and small rocks. On the largest, a young man was waiting for them.

 

He was probably four years older than Nico with the same dark hair, although the man’s was long enough to be pulled into a ponytail impaled with a hairpin that sparkled in the moonlight. Dark jacket, dark jeans, pale skin, deep circles, too many scars, lithe but strong build. Stygian iron weapons, from the sword to the hairpin.

 

A child of the Underworld.

 

A child of the Underworld who looked like him.

 

Nico tightened his grip on his sword, preparing to strike.

 

“Avvenire!” Hazel exclaimed from behind Nico. She almost seemed to bubble up at the presence of the unknown teenager. She turned to Nico with her liquid gold eyes. “He’s the one who told me that you were going to be coming for me.”

 

Avvenire slid down off of the rock, waving a hand in their direction. “I thought that it would be a good idea to collect you before the others. You deserve your own explanation.”

 

“What do you mean by that?” Nico said wearily, his hand already inching closer to his sword.

 

Avvenire had the same death aura that he did. Even Bianca had never felt like he had. Nico had assumed that he was the only child of the Underworld with such an unwanted presence. Nico, who had battle-readiness beaten into him and a knack for survival, could also tell that whoever this Avvenire was, he was a lot stronger than him. And considering Hazel’s reactions, Nico definitely wouldn’t be getting any back-up from here.

 

“We’ve got about half an hour before the others come and I’m not really sure how to explain this other than straight-up.”

 

Avvenire seemed to take a steadying breath.

 

“Nico, I’m you.”

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Reyna found him before the wedding.

 

“Are you alright?” Nico asked without preamble, knowing how Reyna was about love.

 

The praetor just shrugged, her gaze distant. “I don’t think anyone is alright these days. But yes, I am okay with others finding happiness in this time of darkness. People leave so easily now. We need to hold onto what we have. We don’t have a lot.”

 

Nico wondered what she was thinking of. Hylla had fallen two months ago, in a skirmish in the north, falling to Otis, one of the revived giants. They were nigh-unstoppable now, with the gods too busy to give any assistance. Not one of the revived giants had been defeated, not in over a year since the end.

 

Reyna had broken down in her office, with only Jason and Nico to bear witness, her dogs circling around her with worry that they didn’t know how to lessen. The two boys had just bundled Reyna up into their arms and let her cry. They were all becoming a bit too accustomed to comforting the grieving.

 

Nico knew that even now, Reyna felt the loss of her sister that she had spent most of her teenaged years fighting with. Nico was the son of the god of death and had learned that he wasn’t the best person to be around those who were grieving the loss of loved ones, but Reyna was the opposite. She spent even more time in his presence, seemingly pleased to be around the young demigod. Reyna never pushed him away.

 

Jason may have been his first friend, but Nico thinks that Reyna was his closest.

 

Nico pulled Reyna into a one-armed hug. He found himself easier with physical affection these days. Whether it was the comfort of having Will and his friends or a desperate attempt to fill the time that they had left with touch, Nico was unsure.

 

“We have each other,” Nico murmured. Reyna sighed and leaned only slightly into his embrace.

 

Will found them like that, approaching in his reasonably fancy suit. He laced his fingers into the hand that was not around Reyna.

 

“You ready to go?”

 

Nico nodded, pulling Reyna around with him.

 

Reyna, in all of her power and grief, allowed herself to be lead.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Nico didn’t say anything for a moment. The air seemed to grow colder between the two of them and Hazel couldn’t tell if it was just perception or if the temperature was actually dropping. Hazel shivered, and a golden nugget appeared under her feet. Hazel pushed it down.

 

“You’re . . . me?” Nico sounded like something that Hazel couldn’t place—disbelieving or shell-shocked or resigned or angry. He stared at Avvenire like the man was a puzzle that he was trying to solve. “How?”

 

“I’ll get to that bit later—but I’m sure that you have a pretty good guess,” Avvenire said easily. Now that it was brought up to her, the resemblance between the two was almost uncanny—same pale skin, same dark hair, same mad eyes—both haunted in different ways. Hazel could see how they could be related. Brothers.

 

Hazel considered that both her and Nico were taking the revelation almost too well. Was it being a demigod that made her immune to these surprises? Avvenire shouldn’t—couldn’t—possibly be the same person as the boy standing in front her—barely over thirteen, bridging puberty awkwardly.

 

Nico just kept shaking his head. “No. No. That’s not how this works.”

 

Avvenire took in a deep breath and visibly steadied himself. “We don’t have that much time before the others arrive, like I said, which is why I need to keep this brief, but you were owed a moment to get used to the shock. I’ll explain with the rest of them and you get to make your choice whether or not to believe me—you all do.”

 

Nico spun around towards him, snarling suddenly. “You owed me? You owed me to stay wherever you came from! As if my life . . . as if I wasn’t . . . You shouldn’t be here! There doesn’t need to be more Nico di Angelo in the world!”

 

Avvernire winced and looked away, like he couldn’t bear to watch Nico anymore. Hazel had the distinct feeling that it both was and wasn’t out of distaste. Now that she could see the interactions between the two of them—distorted mirrors of each other, each reaction not quite right—Hazel’s head seemed foggy between parallels that existed that shouldn’t and compliments that should have been there but weren’t.

 

Avvenire’s hand had dropped to his sword when he turned away, which caused Nico to instinctively grasp his own weapon, but it seemed more of a fidget than a movement of intent. The older boy exhaled sharply.

 

“I didn’t come to cause you pain,” Avvenire said, rough and clipped, almost in a tone of command. “I came here because I had too, because it was what I needed to do. I came here because there wasn’t a world for Nico di Angelo”—and Avvenire said the name both with too much familiarity and too little—“to be in. This is bigger than you—bigger than us. And I need you on my side. So I gave you warning. You get to decide what to do with it.”

 

Nico just continued to shake his head. Hazel stood between the two of them, unsure as how to handle the situation. The two of them were going through emotions too fast for Hazel to see. She was getting secondhand whiplash from the whirling thoughts of the boys in front of her.  It was too strange for her, and she was born in the forties.

 

“This is ridiculous,” Nico demanded. “No one would send me back. No one should have sent you back. What do I care of the world? The world doesn’t care for me.”

 

Avvenire took a deep breath and looked to the heavens, drawing the emotions off of his face. “I’m not sure how to get you to believe me so . . .” Avvenire took a few steps closer and leaned into Nico’s space. The younger boy flinched back. “Percy Jackson. I’m you. I know.”

 

The little color that Nico had had drained out of his face and he looked at Avvenire with wide frantic eyes. His hand drew his pitch-blade sword—a mirror for Avvenire’s—a few inches out of the sheath before he slammed it back in and stalked into the forest.

 

Avvenire and Hazel paused for a moment, looking at each other. Hazel didn’t know what to think. She . . . wasn’t even sure if she could believe him. What did she know about Avvenire anyway? What did she know about Nico?

 

Avvenire tipped his head towards Nico’s retreat. “Go after him for me. Make sure that he doesn’t leave.”

 

Hazel crossed her arms. “I think that you’ve already proven that that won’t work out well for Nico.”

 

“Yeah, but grabbing people out of shadow travel takes a lot more out of me than I thought it would. And honestly, it probably wouldn’t be doing our relationship any favors.”

 

A relationship . . . with his younger self. Because time travel—and obviously it was time travel. Hazel supposed that it wasn’t any worse than the fact that she was technically dead and that Avvenire—Nico? —and Nico—younger Avvenire? —were born only a few years after her and yet still walked around in the flesh.

 

But time travel. Hazel didn’t even understand how this was possible.

 

A thought occurred to her.

 

“The sister . . . the one who was good at Mist manipulation? That was . . .”

 

“You,” Avvenire said. “In about a year.”

 

Hazel squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t think that she could handle this. Her, a year from now? Her, a girl from the past, talking to a man from the future?

 

Hazel turned away sharply. “I’m going to get Nico.”

 

Avvenire backed away and sat back on top of the boulder. “Try to be back within ten minutes. The others are coming.”

 

Hazel didn’t want to know what he meant.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Reyna was alone when the skeleton came to get her.

 

The bones appeared out of the shadows of one of the praetor’s chairs. The only warning that she had was Argent’s growling for a moment. It was enough time for her to whip out of the chair and pull her gladius out of its sheath. By the time that the form had solidified around the skull, Reyna had the figure pushed against the wall, the tip of her sword against its throat.

 

It was condensed into a boy probably a year or two younger than her—maybe fifteen? But who knew how old the dead were—wearing a too-familiar orange t-shirt and necklace. He had loose black hair and an oddly long face. His form flickered back to bones for a moment out of shock. He didn’t seem to be armed and upon the touch of her Imperial gold to his throat, he brought up his hands in a symbol of innocence.

 

“Calm down,” the figure said. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

 

Reyna merely tightened her grip. “I’m not the one who should be worried about getting hurt. What are you doing here?”

 

The flesh on the boy’s hand disappeared as he touched the flat of her blade and pushed it away from his throat. Argent and Aurum came to her sides, growling at the figure.

 

“I’m Michael, one of Avvenire’s shades. He sent me to come get you.”

 

Argent and Aurum were still, so Reyna lowered her blade by the lowest amount. “And what does Avvenire want from me?”

 

“He said that he had agreed to tell you what was going on. His time table has been moved up, so now’s the time to fill you all in.”

 

Reyna watched Michael carefully. She knew that Avvenire had familiars—Jason had passed along at least that much of his conversations with the older boy. An archer and a swordsman. Michael didn’t seem to be armed. Which one was he?

 

Reyna moved away from the wall, giving Michael space, dropping her guard but keeping her sword in her hands. “Don’t try anything. My dogs can tear you apart, no matter how dead you are.”

 

“Noted. Can I just say that you’re terrifying and it’s strangely working for me?”

 

Reyna scoffed. Of course the undead skeleton was a shameless flirt. “You said that you were coming to get me. Where exactly do you want to take me?”

 

“Nir’s gathering the rest of the Seven. As the leader of the Roman camp, he feels that you need to be included. The situation is . . . worse than he expected.” Michael grimaced and rubbed his hand over his shoulder unthinkingly. The wound that had killed him, maybe?

 

“I’ve already talked to the war kid, he’s waiting outside.”

 

 “You still haven’t told me where you were taking me.”

 

Michael let out a huff. “You know, the other kid was a lot easier to convince. You certainly have trust issues, don’t you?”

 

Reyna pinned him with a glare. “You’re obviously Greek. I’m not overly fond of Greek demigods, although I’ve got nothing against them. You’re suspicious and questionable and I barely trust Avvenire enough to stay in my legion. Why would I go anywhere with you?”

 

“Because you want answers?” Michael glared back just as strong. “Because you need answers? Maybe because I’m taking the other kid with or without you, and you’re responsible for him?”

 

Reyna tightened the grip on her sword. “That sounds like a threat.”

 

Michael gave a careless shrug. “I’m okay with threats at this point. I’m on a time crunch. And I’m not good-natured enough to deal with this.”

 

Reyna was battle-hardened and ready, so when Michael lunged towards her, her gladius was up and ready, but Michael just dissolved into shadows, dragging Reyna down with her.

 

She heard her dogs growling as she sank into the floor.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Piper didn’t really know what to think of Jason Grace. It had been a few hours since the incident that Leo had now dubbed as the “Great Rescue Mission of 2009.” They had found their way into a neighboring town—more like a gas-station-riddled highway exit—and sat in the back of a McDonalds while the employees watched them carefully.

 

They certainly weren’t doing themselves any favors when it came to looks. They all looked frazzled and disheveled from being in the fight, Jason was sporting more than one wound, and Leo was dragging the giant gold suitcase that was once Festus behind him. Leo had apparently been able to make Festus lighter through the Archimedes Sphere but he still had to wheel the thing behind him like the world’s largest carry-on.

 

Her dad was on a plane back to Hollywood. Piper . . . wasn’t sure how she felt convincing him to forget the whole encounter. But at the same time, Piper knew her father. She wasn’t just doing this for kicks. She was being carted all around the world by various mythological beings. Part of taking her dad’s memories was to make sure that he was safe and separate from all of the nonsense, but the other part was that she needed that freedom—she needed the freedom to do what she had to do. And while her dad had never paid that much attention to her, someone was always aware of where she was, due to her status as a minor.

 

If she was going to go on a world-gallivanting quest, if she was going to learn how to be a proper demigod, she couldn’t be limited by her dad.

 

And, if she was being honest with herself, Piper thought that she had finally given up her need for his attention and had slung-shot straight into needing distance for him. She was embracing a world that he had been hiding from his entire life.

 

She needed to find out who she was without having his name tacked on the end.

 

Jason Grace was . . . interesting. Piper was going to admit that he was the type of guy that she would have gravitated towards under different, more normal, circumstances. He was good-looking and kind. (Good in a fight, the new demigod part of her whispered.) He was cool with Leo and didn’t bat an eye about either her beauty or her lack of care about it.

 

He also seemed . . . too straight-laced. She could see parts of himself that he kept under the mask of confidence and unflappability. He was rather excited about Festus and cheerfully informed them that they had named the dragon Happy. But at the same time, Piper could sense the Roman discipline that she had heard so much of in him. He was always in control. Perhaps some people might have found that attractive, but for Piper’s mess of a life, she only found it daunting.

 

Leo seemed to like him, although he had the same wariness that she herself had. Piper was pleased that they were on the same wavelength.

 

They had spent the past hour or so discussing the camps. Jason didn’t tell them its location and Piper and Leo responded in turn. But Jason also had a good amount of information about the war between the two camps and explained about the attack on Mount Orythus that he had lead earlier in the summer, the one that had made him praetor. Leo, after sharing a look with Piper, had decided to tell them the story they had heard about the Battle of Manhattan and how the Greeks had toppled Kronos.

 

Jason was messing with a French fry. He had ordered a ton of them, saying “we never get to eat junk food.” Leo had nodded in solidarity and patted his shoulder. Apparently nymph-forced healthiness was all-inclusive.

 

“We had just assumed that the rest of the Titans had been destroyed when we took out their base,” Jason said.

 

“The Greeks assumed that the base collapsed with Kronos,” Piper contributed. “It seems that we’re both trying to forget that the other exists.”

 

“Which makes Death-boy an anomaly,” Leo stated while making an impressive architectural structure out of their wrappers, straws and a ton of those ketchup cups. Jason seemed impressed; Piper had been around Leo too long to think anything of it.

 

“Avvenire certainly seems to like defying expectations,” Jason agreed.

 

Piper laced her fingers together. “We’ve got some problems though. Avvenire is a confirmed child of Hades, you said that your auger had vetted him. Which means that there has to be some reason why he didn’t activate the First Great Prophecy.”

 

Leo added another ketchup cup to his stack. “Percy Jackson—the guy that we told you about—was definitely the one who set it off. So either Avvenire’s younger than he looks, or we’ve got a major case of prophecy-skipping occurring. You know his age, Jason?”

 

Jason shrugged. “I wouldn’t be able to tell you. We all assumed that he was about seventeen, maybe eighteen, but it’s entirely possible that he’s younger. He’s definitely got that old soul vibe. At least as old as me though.”

 

“And you’re only ten months younger than Percy, so you were already cutting it close,” Leo observed. “That’s a very small and unlikely window for him to be born in.”

 

Piper sighed. “Which means that as always, we’ve got more questions than answers.”

 

Jason bit into another French fry. “Well, at least we’ve met some other of the Seven and know some definite info about each other’s camp. That’s more than we had a week ago.”

 

“And we’ve got a new enemy, who can apparently take ten thousand volts of lightning to the chest.” Leo grimaced. “That part is pretty unfortunate.”

 

“And it still means that we need Avvenire for answers. Nir’s good people, but he’s not doing himself any favors in the trust department.”

 

“That’s an understatement.”

 

Piper felt that they were all bonding through their mutual frustration with Avvenire when a giant ass dog crashed through the windows and lunged straight at them.

 

The three of them immediately jumped out of the booth. Jason was battle-hardened enough to land in a roll, coming up in a crouch, but Piper and Leo just landed on each other in a pile.

 

The employees scrambled and screamed as the three demigods rushed to their feet. Jason flipped that golden coin of his, pulling his javelin out of the air. “What’s a hellhound doing here?”

 

Piper pulled out her knife and Leo his hammer, but before they could do anything, the dog lunged with the shadows. Jason was about the lunge when the shadows engulfed them.

 

Piper knew this sensation, and she could tell from the lack of Jason and Leo’s yells that they did as well.

 

Freaking Avvenire.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

It had been four days, and Annabeth was no closer to understanding what the hell was going on with the world.

 

Avvenire, whoever the hell he was, was the one from blackened future apparently, if his name was anything to go on. But there was the possibility that he wasn’t, because prophecies were dumb like that. Also, there was the fact that he was a son of the Underworld that apparently has control of the one of the most powerful demigods of their generation.

 

Annabeth didn’t like this at all. She especially didn’t like that it had been nearly four days since Piper and Leo had flown out of the camp on a golden dragon. Chiron and the camp had come out of Piper’s charmspeech about two hours after they had left. The centaur had just sighed and rubbed his temples, saying that it was basically Percy all over again.

 

She and Percy had decided not to tell Chiron about their suspicions and problems with Avvenire and possibly Luke. Annabeth wasn’t sure how Chiron would take it, and she didn’t want to be held back from the adventure that she knew was building.

 

And she would admit that she got satisfaction from keeping information from Chiron when he wasn’t being honest with her either.

 

Percy stayed by her side while she obsessively researched. He kept giving her concerned looks and coffee as she steadily made her way through thick tomes of Ancient Greek. She appreciated his efforts but she couldn’t focus on him. There was so much else for her to learn, so much for her to learn.

 

That night, she burned the midnight oil with Percy at her side. Percy sat on her bed, clicking Riptide in and out of sword form. Annabeth licked her fingers and turned another page. She had her knife on the desk in front of her and when the lights in the cabin flickered, Annabeth’s hand automatically reached for it.

 

A chill seeped through the walls of the Athena cabin. It wasn’t odd—it was the front end of October, after all. But something pinged her senses that told her this was unnatural.

 

Her eyes caught a form walk past her cabin—a blond haired form.

 

She was up and running before she thought about it, Percy calling her name and following her.

 

Was it Luke?

 

She didn’t know, she couldn’t know, but she had to find out. So much had been shoved in their last moments together and some mornings she woke up completely baffled by the idea that he was gone, that he had turned.

 

Annabeth had had closure. Now she didn’t and she didn’t know what to do with herself.

 

The figure—Luke?—was fast as he moved away from the cabins and into the woods. Annabeth was lucky that she had grabbed her knife. Percy was keeping pace with her, obviously, but her eyes were trained on the man in front of her. The more that she watched him move, the more that she was convinced that he was Luke, but a voice reminded her that she needed to be careful of wishful thinking.

 

But was it really wishful thinking?

 

The figure stopped suddenly, keeping its back towards them.

 

“Luke?” she whispered quietly into the frigid night air.

 

The figure flickered to bones for a moment at the sound of the name before turning.

 

The blond hair. The scar on his face. The cool gray eyes.

 

Everything was him. But not him the moment he had died. It was Luke in his prime. Just before he had turned. Before he had begun to doubt.

 

He smiled just the tiniest bit, the sadness in his eyes unfathomable. “Hey, Annabeth.”

 

Percy had a protective grip on her forearm that she barely noticed. She was about to open her mouth to ask him what the hell was going on before Luke spoke again.

 

“Sorry about this.”

 

The darkness swallowed them up.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

In the clearing, seven figures were pulled out of the shadows.

 

The golden girl and the dark boy walked out of the woods and back to the boulder. A trio of almost-there heroes solidified with a large dog who sat around the boulder, curled and content. A powerful praetor and a green recruit came with an archer with a death wish, hurrying to his master’s side. A girl and her hero followed an old enemy and an older friend, desperate for a reconnection and answers.

 

In the middle of it all sat a boy with wisdom beyond his years and years beyond understanding.

 

He sat on that boulder with his dog and his familiars, gathering the hope of the world.

 

Perhaps this time it would be enough.

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The wedding was beautiful but it was sparse.

 

Sparse in wealth, sparse in amenities, sparse in people. There had been a small battle that had broken out closer to the border of San Francisco, and anyone who didn’t personally have a stake in the wedding and wasn’t wounded headed out to fight the dracaena and the cyclops.

 

Nico walked Hazel down the aisle, watching the light reflect off of the gold gems of the hairpin that he had given her. It was a good thing that Frank was already at the altar, because he still walked with a pronounced limp from the injury that he had sustained earlier in the year.

 

Both Hazel and Frank had tears in their eyes when they said their vows. Reyna officiated. She had thrown herself into the wedding, helping in any capacity that she could. Jason and Piper stood in the front row with smiles on their faces, despite their multitude of mutilations.

 

They all slow-danced with their respective partners. Nico placed his head on Will’s chest and tried to hear his heart beat. Leo watched them all wistfully, dancing alone with the sphere that he held between his palms, a flower tucked in the middle of the contraption. The last hopes that he had for his love.

 

The wedding was a moment of peace among the darkness that their lives, their world, had become.

 

Nico looked at them and thought “we’re so young.”

 

So young to get married. So young to be a part of the war. So young to be dying and injured and scarred. So young to have nightmares both sleeping and waking.

 

They were accelerating their lives without brakes, knowing that they were heading towards a cliff.

 

And fall over the cliff they did.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Percy was not okay with so much right now.

 

Luke coming back wasn’t something he knew how to deal with. Percy didn’t want to believe that he could be subject to something like jealousy, but there was the fact that his relationship with Annabeth had only come about after his rival for her affections had martyred himself, so him being back on the playing field, even as an undead (?) zombie/shade thing did not make him feel any better. Nor did the fact that Annabeth was obsessed in a style that he hadn’t seen since the Labyrinth quest. Percy didn’t like the Luke situation.

 

Percy also didn’t like the Luke-somehow-transporting-them-to-different-locations situation either. He had been standing with Annabeth for a moment before Luke dropped them into shadows.

 

Percy could recognize shadow travel from the time that Nico had taken it. Luke having the ability brought back memories of Mary Castellan’s broken home, of the scattered mother who was still baking cookies for her child to come home . . .

 

Percy wrapped his arms around Annabeth as they rode through the shadows at breakneck speed. It was hard to see anything during shadow travel, but Percy had the distinct feeling that Luke, or whoever he was, had left them—it was only the two of them in the shadows. Percy felt her shake in his arms and held all the tighter.

 

The shadows pulled them into a forest clearing. It could have been anywhere in the United States—or outside of it. A skull sat at their feet. Percy moved away quickly. Annabeth leaned heavily against him, panting into his shirt. Percy himself felt steadier the first time that he had shadow-traveled, more rooted to the ground. Percy rubbed Annabeth’s back.

 

“What’s going on?” she murmured fiercely, despite her panting.

 

Percy looked across the clearing, where others were gathering—some he recognized, some that he didn’t. “I don’t know, but we’re gonna find out.”

 

Leo and Piper appeared out on the other side of the clearing with a large metal suitcase, a blond-haired guy in battle armor and a hellhou—wait, was that Mrs. O’Leary? The hellhound gave a bright bark in his direction, so Percy assumed that that was the case.

 

Both of them looked a little worse for wear but mostly unharmed. They were leaning on each other comfortably, but neither of them looked particularly fatigued. Percy was reminded that they had shadow-traveled before and were likely used to the sensation.

 

The blond guy next to them was new. He looked like a stereotypical military kid—rigid stance, close-cropped hair, light scars on his arms. He had a golden blade out and ready. Percy tensed for a moment, reaching for Riptide, and the guy’s blue eyes flashed to him. He quickly took in Annabeth’s knife and Percy’s stance and narrowed his eyes. Something electric flashed down Percy’s spine—this guy was a fighter, and a good one.

 

Piper shot the blond guy a look. Hesitantly, the guy flipped his sword in midair like life was a video game. He caught a golden coin on its way down. Percy relaxed the tiniest bit. Annabeth, who had followed Percy’s eyes, sheathed her knife.

 

Percy guessed that they were all going to be nice and civilized for the time being.

 

Between Piper’s group and Percy and Annabeth, there were two others. One was Nico di Angelo, looking just as goth and angry as he did when Percy had seen him last, in the mist of Annabeth’s desperate phone call. The boy wore his typical aviator’s jacket and Stygian Iron sword. He was staring at the ground with a complicated expression on his face, watching the grass in front of him wither and die because of his aura.

 

And people wondered why he called the kid creepy.

 

The other was a shorter girl with darker skin and crazy black-brown hair. She had a dark hilted longsword—Percy didn’t recognize the type, and wasn’t that weird—over her shoulder. Her eyes were the same color as the blond boy’s blade. She looked younger than the rest of them, even Nico—maybe thirteen or so? She had an otherworldly-ness about her that Percy couldn’t identity. She kept tapping the ground oddly with her foot, like she was shoving spikes into the earth.

 

The last group in the glade, a girl and a boy with a skull at their feet, was unknown to him. The boy was younger than him, maybe fourteen or fifteen, but he probably had thirty pounds on Percy in pure muscle. His face was vaguely Asian—Percy wouldn’t pretend to know what nationality—and still carried the hint of baby fat, which was at odds with his muscular physique. He had both a quiver and a spear across his back, over a purple t-shirt emblazoned with the words CAMP JUPITER. The girl was probably the oldest present—maybe seventeen or eighteen. She was wearing a deep purple sheet in a toga, with battle armor peeking out from the gaps. Her face was stern, her hair long and dark, braided back behind her. She had a blade on her hip and an aura of command that Percy automatically wanted to rebel against. The girl’s eyes met his and he saw them widen and close off, her face suddenly becoming emotionless.

 

She recognized me, Percy thought.

 

At that moment, Annabeth grabbed his arm. “I know her,” she murmured, her voice tense. “She was one of the handmaidens on Circe’s Island.”

 

Percy tensed. This was not looking like a fortunate situation, between Luke, an evil sorceress chick and the blond boy with a trigger finger.

 

“Good, we’re all here.”

 

They all turned towards the voice.

 

Sitting on the boulder in the middle of the clearing was a boy, probably the oldest of them all, except for the evil sorcerous chick. He had a black leather jacket and jeans, dark combat boots and shaggy black hair loose around his face. His skin was a pale olive and his eyes were the haunted deep color that Percy saw in the mirror sometimes, even though this guy’s were black and his were green. He was the most well-armed of them all, with a sword on his waist, a long dagger at the small of his back and hint of knives in his jacket. A hair pin was tucked behind his ear—Percy thought that was odd and weird. What would this guy be doing with a hairpin? He looked familiar. Someone that Percy should know.

 

Mrs. O’Leary barked and settled herself around the boulder, taller than the rock itself. The guy absently reached out a hand and scratched her behind the ears. With the other hand, he made a fast “come-hither” gesture to no-one in particular. The two skulls lurched off of the ground towards the boulder, solidifying into warriors on either side of the rock. One of them was Luke, the other was . . .

 

“Michael Yew?” Percy said.

 

The boy gave a salute. “Hey, Percy.”

 

The guy on the boulder cleared his throat. Percy’s attention refocused on him.

 

“Some of you know me,” the guy started off, “some of you don’t. I’m Avvenire.”

 

Annabeth took in an almost silent gasp. Percy could feel it reflected in himself. Finally, they might get some answers.

 

“And these are my familiars, Michael Yew and Luke Castellan, both of whom died in the Battle of Manhattan.” Avvenire paused for a moment. “I suppose that this can’t get that much more awkward, so you all should probably introduce yourselves.”

 

“Way to kill the mood, Nir,” the blond boy scoffed. Avvenire gave him a glare.

 

The blond boy rolled his eyes. “I’m Jason Grace, praetor of the Twelfth Legion Fulminata. Son of Jupiter.”

 

A Roman. And a child of the Big Three.

 

The girl, evil sorcerous chick, rose to Jason’s side. “I’m Reyna Avila Ramirez-Arellano, also praetor of the Twelfth Legion Fulminata. Daughter of Bellona.” Ex-evil sorcerous chick.

 

“Frank Zhang, son of Mars.” Another Roman, son of his least favorite god. Percy was loving this.

 

“Leo Valdez, smoking hot son of Hephaestus, no extraneous titles!”  

 

Piper rolled her eyes. “Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite.”

 

“Nico di Angelo,” he said with a glare at Avvenire. “Son of Hades.”

 

The golden eyed girl glanced at Nico and then Avvenire before speaking. “Hazel Levesque. I’m . . . new, you might say, but I’m Roman, so . . . daughter of Pluto.”

 

Well, Percy guessed that that meant that Nico wasn’t alone? That was comforting, although Hazel didn’t seem very death-god-y. She seemed really normal, actually.

 

Annabeth straightened herself out and spoke clearly, with a defiant look at Luke. “Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena.”

 

“Percy Jackson. Son of Poseidon.”

 

Percy saw Jason raise any eyebrow at his parentage. Ah. So they both could sense another contender in the ring.

 

It had circled back to Avvenire, who placed an elbow on the knee pulled up to his chest, the other dangling down the rock. Percy didn’t like how relaxed the guy was. Percy was also hyper-aware of the fact that if this group started splitting into factions, Avvenire’s was both the largest and the most well-armed.

 

“And, for now, I’m Avvenire. Son of Hades.”

 

Nico flinched, but didn’t look surprised. Percy felt his hackles rise—did Nico know? And lied to their faces about it?

 

“But how?” Annabeth demanded. “You’re obviously older than Percy—you should have set off the Great Prophecy if that was the case.”

 

Avvenire waved a hand. “Loopholes. We’ll get around to that later.”

 

Annabeth’s eyes sparked with fury. She opened her mouth to retort, but Avvenire just steamrolled over her. He was not earning any bonus points with Percy’s girlfriend.

 

“Try to listen to what I’m saying. I need a little bit of trust to get through it all. And then you can ask what you want from me.” Avvenire’s voice was firm, but there was the slightest hint of desperation behind it. He needed them to listen, Percy realized. He needed the nine demigods that he had gathered to hear him out.

 

Jason Grace, praetor of the Twelfth Legion, sat down in the grass, looked up at Avvenire and said, “We’ll listen.”

 

Hazel Levesque nodded, her gold eyes bright, wrapping a hand around Nico’s. “We’ll listen.” Nico looked up to Avvenire with apprehension before nodding.

 

Reyna nodded and Frank sat down next to his praetor.

 

“Try us, death boy,” Leo said for both him and Piper.

 

Annabeth glanced at Percy, before her eyes flickered to Luke. Percy tried to give her a reaffirming smile and squeezed her slightly with the arm that was around her shoulders. She nodded towards Avvenire.

 

Avvenire nodded decisively. “I’ve gathered you for a reason. Jason. Hazel. Frank. Leo. Piper. Annabeth. Percy. You are the Seven of the Prophecy. I’ve told most of you this. Reyna, Nico. You aren’t a part of the Prophecy of Seven, but without you, it won’t get far enough off of the ground for it to ever begin.” Avvenire’s gaze moved to Nico. “You know that, considering that you brought Hazel back.”

 

Brought Hazel back from where? Hazel also said that she was “new.”

 

“Brought her back?” Leo said. Hazel looked over to him and flinched.

 

Hazel looked down to the ground, which was suddenly shinier than it once was. Percy saw her shove down a diamond with the toe of her boot. “I . . . was dead for a while.”

 

Well, Percy couldn’t say he’d heard that one before.

 

Reyna looked between Hazel and Nico. “And I assume that you were the one who was able to bring her back?”

 

Nico nodded. “But only because the Doors of Death have been opened.”

 

Percy shivered. “The Doors of Death like in the Prophecy?”

 

Nico gritted his teeth and looked just to the right of Percy’s ear. “Yes. Exactly like in the Prophecy. They’re Thanatos’s main way of getting in and out of the Underworld. They’ve been opened.”

 

“Not only that,” Avvenire contributed, “but Thanatos himself has been chained. People who die have no reason to stay. If they have strong enough will, they can come back.”

 

“Wait,” Leo said. “Isn’t that . . . a good thing?”

 

“Maybe,” Avvenire conceded. “But you have to think about it like this. Those who are seeking revenge or evil or chaos . . . they have strong wills too. And they’ll be helped. Every mortal villain from the myths? They can come back now. And the monsters that you fight? They can’t die anymore.”

 

“When did this happen?” Piper asked.

 

“About three hours ago. It’s why I’m in a hurry.”

 

Annabeth tapped a finger against her lips. “There must be someone who chained Thanatos, who opened the doors, who’s calling the enemies back to the surface. The one that we need to fight.”

 

“Let’s start here: First was the Titans. Then comes the Giants, or the Gigantes. The enemy of your Prophecy. They can only be killed through the effort of both a mortal and a god.”

 

Percy grimaced. “Which might be difficult, considering that the gods have closed themselves off.”

 

“Which might be even more difficult by the fact that most Romans never meet their parents,” Jason contributed.

 

“Which might be made even more difficult by the fact that the gods are also warring between their Roman and Greek sides, with the two camps coming together,” Reyna said sharply.

 

Avvenire raised his hands. “It was going to happen anyway—it needed to happen anyway. I was just the catalyst this time.”

 

“Gigantes,” Annabeth said. “You mean the children of Gaia and Tartarus.”

 

The guy nodded. “Each one crafted to face off against one of the gods. The Olympians plus a few extras. There are a few gods who can still be reached—Apollo, Hecate, Artemis. Not sure who else. But if you ever get into a tough spot, try to call on one who is purely Greek or purely Roman. Like Bellona,” he said, nodding towards Reyna.

 

“But it’s not really the Gigantes that we need to worry about—they’re a pain in the ass, sure. But we’ve got a larger—much larger—problem. Their mother is pissed.”

 

Annabeth was the quickest on the draw. “Gaia? The earth mother?”

 

Hazel and Leo’s faces went blank with remembrance.

 

“Mother Earth is pissed?” Percy said. “What is she going to make us do? Braid flower crowns?”

 

Avvenire spun and snarled at Percy, so quickly that he was taken aback. His eyes were alit with a madness—the madness that Percy had seen in Hades, in Nico sometimes, but so much worse and so much more dead.

 

“She is going to destroy humanity. She is going to rip apart the world. She is going to find the person that you love most in the world and rip. them. into. shreds. And she’s going to do it because she can—not because you matter, not because you’re important, but because you live on this earth that she calls her body and considers you a disease. She is going to pull the pantheon down on top of your heads and watch as you scream under the rubble.

 

“And you’re going to wish for death. But you’re not going to get it. Because there is no more death the way that you know it. You can’t die. You don’t get rest at the end. You crumble, like the world around you, like the gods that are your parents, like your hopes and dreams. You fade into dust, after your friends, after your family. You fade with the knowledge that the people who have died previously didn’t get rest—they got obliteration. You fade knowing that the people you fought for are following you, if they aren’t there already. You fade with the knowledge that you could have stopped it if you didn’t do something SO STUPID AS TO DIE.”

 

The clearing was silent after Avvenire’s outburst. Somewhere in the middle he had stood up and moved off of the boulder, clenching his hands into fists. Jason had gotten up and had a grip on the coin that was his weapon, but he didn’t seem nervous, just concerned.

 

“Nir . . . what do you mean?” Jason’s voice was soft and clear in the silence that sat over them like a weight.

 

Avvenire turned away and took a deep breath through his nose, his eyes squeezed shut. One breath, then another, before his eyes opened slowly.

 

“That’s what happened to me,” Avvenire said slowly, softly. “That’s what happened where I’m from. We fought and we lost. And everything was gone. So I came back. Because we have to do it better this time.”

 

Frank took a step towards Avvenire. “What do you mean this time?”

 

Avvenire looked at all of them, Nico the longest. The younger boy nodded the slightest bit. He looked at them all in turn, ending with Percy.

 

“I . . . am from the time after we lost against Gaia. 2013, the year when there’s nothing left. Nothing but me and a goddess, hoping for the best. So she sent me back. So I came back. And I’m doing my best.

 

“Why didn’t I set off the great Prophecy? Because I was thirteen when it came true. Because before I came back, I was Nico di Angelo.”

Chapter Text

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The wedding had been two hours into the reception when the Gigantes attacked. Led by Polybotes, they marched past of border guards, a host of evil hell-bent on destruction.

 

Reyna insisted that Hazel and Frank were not to fight.

 

Hazel insisted. Frank just tossed his praetor’s cloak over his shoulder and pushed forward.

 

Will and Jason stood at Nico’s side while they approached the hoard. Leo was sitting on top of his golden dragon, Piper behind him.

 

The New Seven, people murmured as the headed off into battle.

 

Nico wished that they were the old Seven, because then they would have had Percy, in all of his power and experience. He wished that they were the old Seven, because then they would have had Annabeth, with her cleverness and brilliance. He wished that they were the old Seven, because then they wouldn’t have lost.

 

Nico tucked his knife behind his back as they watched the horde approach the thick black walls that protected one of the last strongholds for humanity. Will notched an arrow in his bow.

 

Jason stood fierce and strong next to Reyna. Oh so carefully, he made a fist towards the troops behind him. A son of Apollo—a Roman one, his name was Brad, Nico thought—came behind Jason with a sniper rifle tucked underneath his chin. Carefully, he knelt down behind Jason and lined up his shot.

 

“No warning shots. Straight between the eyes.”

 

“Yes, praetor.”

 

Brad cocked the gun in a smooth move that was familiar to Nico. Although distance weapons had never been his specialty, Will now spent a good time in their makeshift gun range. They had melted down most of Jupiter’s temple in order to make bullets.

 

Brad’s shot was the beginning of the battle. It echoed across the clearing, across the tension, and Nico thought that he could almost hear it when the bullet lodged itself between Polybotes’ eyes. The Gigante pulled it out like it was an annoying bug, but Nico could see the ichor that flowed from the wound.

 

Brad’s shot was the beginning of the battle.

 

Despite their readiness, Nico didn’t think that anyone was prepared for what happened next.

 

Across the clearing, a humanoid form—no, it was a human—cocked a gun and fired back.

 

Because inside the mess of monsters and myth, there were people.

 

Mortals.

 

In the worst way possible, the mortals of the world had finally chosen a side.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason supposed that the news would be more shocking if he hadn’t only met the smaller (younger? Past self?) Nico di Angelo about three minutes ago.

 

Avvenire—Nico? Did he want to be called Nico? Jason was particularly concerned about that for no particular reason, which was probably the first indication that he wasn’t processing this as well as he should have been—was apparently a time-traveler.

 

Which was . . . a bit a leap, even for the demigod craziness that was his life. The part of his that trusted Avvenire—the part of him that wanted Avvernire—told him that of course it was true! It made so much sense! The part of him that had become praetor four months ago, barely fifteen, raised by a legion and wolves, said that they needed to strap the older boy down and interrogate him for all that he was worth. The Twelfth Legion needed answers and the Twelfth Legion was going to get them.

 

Jason himself just wanted to know. He wanted to understand.

 

Percy’s face was shocked and appeared to be stuck like that. Annabeth had one hand on his shoulder, but her eyes were piercing through Avvenire, who didn’t seem to be too bothered by it, although he was still breathing hard and looking away due to his outburst.

 

Hazel and small Nico already knew, Jason could tell. Small Nico, who as far as Jason was concerned should be the one most worried about this, was staring at the ground lackluster. Hazel had dropped to sitby him companionably.

 

Leo and Piper were having a conversation entirely through facial expressions. Jason knew from his time with them that they hadn’t been in each other’s company for long—three months, they had said—but Jason was envious of the immediate and complete connection that wandered between the two of them.

 

Reyna’s face was the compartmentalized façade that she got whenever taking on a particularly hard battle. She would deal with whatever emotions she was having once this was through.

 

Frank, who was probably closest to Jason’s position in this mess, just looked confused.

 

Avvenire closed his eyes and took a deep breath, cooling his emotions, deadening his responses. Jason had seen him do it a few times. Part of him admired Avvenire’s control. Part of him wondered what had ever made him learn it in the first place. Jason assumed that it had been in a battle, but looking at the smaller (?) Nico, he saw that it was something he had had for a long time.

 

Percy was the one who broke the tense silence.

 

“NICO?” He shouted, looking frantically between Avvenire and the smaller boy, who glared at the older demigod.

 

Avvenire rolled his eyes. “I forgot how annoying you were. Yes, Nico. My dramatic entrance apparently meant nothing to you.”

 

Smaller Nico glanced at Avvenire and they seemed to share a moment of mutual frustration with Percy. Avvenire looked hopeful for a moment, but at that exact moment, smaller Nico’s face dissolved into annoyance and a complicated grimace and he directed his gaze towards the ground.

 

Percy trout-fished for a moment before shaking his head. “Okay, that was hurtful. But more important than that, if you are some time traveling version of Nico, how?”

 

Avvenire moved back and sat back on the rock. The swordsman shade, Luke, placed a hand on Avvenire’s shoulder for a moment before dropping his hand. The archer waited protectively at the son of Hades’s shoulder, a silent show of support.

 

Avvenire drew a knee up to his chest and laced a hand around it. It seemed effortless and easy, but Jason could identify it as what is was. By giving away half of his footing and sitting down, Avvenire had taken himself from a strong stance into a more vulnerable one. His shades were a watchful but nonaggressive guard around him.

 

Avvenire took a moment to compose himself. The other Seven watched both each other and him with various expressions of unease. Leo was uncharacteristically still, one of Piper’s hands laced inside of his, watching the demigod they had known first out of all of them. Annabeth and Percy looked almost betrayed by the knowledge—Jason got the sense that they, at least, knew the smaller Nico di Angelo previous to Avvenire’s meddling. The children of the Underworld seemed to have been taking it best, but Jason couldn’t tell. He may have been close to Avvenire, but he had the feeling that Avvenire was a very, very different person than the younger boy who sat in the grass, watching it die.

 

He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.

 

Jason himself had moved to Reyna’s side, Frank lingering behind them. He was aware that he and Reyna represented more than just themselves; he wasn’t sure how the Greeks did things, but they were the backbone of the camp and they made decisions beyond themselves. They were the stronghold of Ancient Rome.

 

Avvenire paused. “Hmmm. Let’s try to see how this works. I am Nico di Angelo and I was thirteen during the Battle of Manhattan about two months ago. A lot of the things that have happened already—the gods closing themselves off, the Prophecy of Seven being spoken out-loud, the Doors of Death being opened—happened from the timeline that I came from as well.”

 

Leo held up a hand like they were in a classroom. Avvenire just raised an eyebrow at him.

 

“What?”

 

“I just need the general facts first. You’re from 2013, you’re seventeen, but your thirteen-year-old self is hanging around right here with us?”

 

Avvenire nodded.

 

“Okay, that is blowing so much of modern physics and mythical physics out of proportion. The fact that your consciousness is existing in two different planes at the same time—or maybe you’ve diverged some time across your timelines—like you’re a parallel Nico or something—which would mean that parallel universes did exist and—“

 

Annabeth, who seemed unable to resist an intellectual conversation, responded: “But then that would beg the question of whether or not there is a singularity in the fact that Nico came back from this universe—whether that diverged the timeline, creating our universe, or if our universe existed independently from his the entire time and he has just hijacked himself into the stream—“

 

Avvenire held up his hands in an exasperated gesture that paused the two of them. “I did not debate the physics of time-travel before I did it. You can argue about this later. We’re running low on time.”

 

Reyna gave the time-traveler a sharp gaze. “What do you mean we’re running low on time? Before, you had nothing but time to spare, making us wait for answers. Which we still haven’t gotten, by the way.”

 

“I had to wait for the Doors of Death to open, because I needed Hazel to be brought back to the living world,” Avvenire explained, a flicker of a softening expression in his face for just a moment. “Most of my plans—including bringing all of you together—had to wait until she was back with us. However, now that they’re open, we’ve don’t have very much time.”

 

“Why?” Percy asked. “You’re a time-traveler. Shouldn’t you already know what’s going to happen?”

 

Frank was the one to shake his head. “Not really. Haven’t you ever read any science fiction stuff? Things change once you go back. Apparently, he’s changed a lot.”

 

Avvenire nodded. “And unfortunately, I didn’t get to pick an exact landing point. Ideally, I was supposed to land about two weeks from now—when the Doors of Death opened the first time. Instead, I came back four days after the Battle of Manhattan. Which was not an ideal situation in any case.”

 

Something clicked inside of Jason’s mind. He wasn’t the only one.

 

“Four days after the Battle of Manhattan?” Annabeth mused. “That was when the Prophecy of Seven changed.”

 

“That shockwave . . .” Reyna murmured.

 

Avvenire bit his lip. “That may or may not have been me.”

 

Annabeth’s brow furrowed. “You caused a shockwave that apparently echoed across the entire country by allegedly coming back from the future and changed a Great Prophecy merely by existing. Not to mention the fact that you are a son of the Big Three and probably the “one from blackened future” that will bring the world’s fall in the new Prophecy. There’s a lot of things that are telling me you’re not here under quite pure motives.”

 

“Is being powerful alone a reason for you to be suspicious?” Jason parried back. Reyna had a hand on his elbow, ready to pull him back if necessary, but Annabeth’s jab hit a bit close to home. Jason knew that people distanced themselves or distrusted him because he was a son of Jupiter, just because he was a son of Jupiter. “Your boyfriend is the son of Poseidon, brought down a Titan and is practically invulnerable,” Jason quoted from the story that Leo and Piper had told him. “Should we be concerned about his loyalties because he’s powerful?”

 

Annabeth’s gray gaze was arresting. “No. But are you so foolish as to believe that we can trust him, full stop?”

 

Jason, aware of his own doubts concerning Avvenire’s loyalties, didn’t have a response.

 

All eyes in the clearing turned to Avvenire, looking for an answer, but it was one of his shades that answered for him this time.

 

“Annabeth,” the swordsman said with an expression of both severity and pleading, “Nir is the best shot that all of you have of making out of this alive. You don’t need to trust him, but you need to hear him out.”

 

Annabeth whirled on the shade, full of righteous fire. “Trust him? The way that I trusted you? What did you do? You abandoned us to host Kronos!”

 

The leader of the Titans? Jason’s hand immediately fell to his coin. He didn’t flip it—not yet. But what was Avvenire doing with someone who had been against them in the war only two months ago? Behind him, he could sense that Reyna had a grip on the handle of her gladius.

 

The swordsman looked like someone had smacked him in the face. “Annabeth . . .”

 

Annabeth suddenly had a hand on her knife. “I loved you, Luke! And you abandoned me!”

 

Percy moved to Annabeth’s side and placed a hand on her shoulder which she roughly pushed off. Percy’s expression immediately shuddered closed.

 

The archer, likely sensing that the situation was rapidly deteriorating, reached in the abyss and pulled out a bow, a quiver materializing from shadows onto his back. An arrow, fletched with unusually black and pointed feathers, was already in the bow. The bow was pointed towards the ground—merely a precaution, not a threat—but everyone in the clearing immediately tensed.

 

Percy, who was starting between Annabeth’s fire and Luke’s averted gaze, was the first one to make a move, probably out of nervousness.

 

He clicked a pen.

 

Before the sword had fully materialized, Jason had flipped his coin, pulling a spear out of the air. Reyna unsheathed her gladius. Leo grabbed his hammer out of his belt and had a vial of what looked like gasoline in his other hand. Frank moved behind Reyna, but he had his bow strung in a flash, un-notched. Of all of them, he seemed to be the most hesitant of the situation. Hazel had a hand on her spatha, but Nico had pushed in front of her and pulled a pitch-black blade—the same as Avvenire’s—two inches out of its sheath.

 

Avvenire just sat on his rock and pressed an exasperated hand against his eyes.

 

It was Piper who handled the situation.

 

“We’re all going to calm down now,” she said in a deceitfully quiet tone.

 

Jason, who was braced for it and already pretty relaxed, didn’t feel that much a change, but Reyna lowered her gladius for a moment before stiffening and glaring at Piper like she had personally offended everything that she had ever believed in. Despite that, Jason could see the forced calm working its way through her defenses. Percy’s sword shrank back into a pen. Annabeth dropped her hands from her knife.

 

Leo didn’t move from his protective stance. Jason wasn’t sure if Piper had intentionally excluded him from her control or if he also had the will to shake it off.

 

Neither one of the familiars moved from their tense stances. Avvenire snapped his fingers and caused Michael’s weapon to dissolve but otherwise the shades were unaffected.

 

“We’re all going to talk about this peacefully,” Piper insisted. “Then we can break out the weapons.”

 

Avvenire nodded. “Despite my ambiguity, I do need your help. As it’s clearly been shown, I don’t have much concern about keeping things the same, because they’ve been thrown to the dogs by this point. I’ve changed so many things simply by existing that I can’t pull them back in. All I’ve got now is information.”

 

He waved a hand to the shades behind him. “These are my shades. I need them to keep my information up to date. And yes, Luke was once the host of Kronos. However, he voluntarily entered into a contract with me, which means that he is, ultimately, under my control, as the severance of this contract means the disappearance from not only the world of the living, but from the Underworld as well. You don’t have to worry about him going rogue, and he’s going to be valuable in the coming months.”

 

“And why is that?” Annabeth said. Her voice was small, but fierce. Apparently Piper’s calm was only superficial for Annabeth.

 

Avvenire looked straight at Jason with his manic eyes. “Because we’ve got a new enemy in the works who wasn’t around last time. And I’m pretty sure that it’s—“

 

“Kronos,” Percy supplied, his grip white on his blade. “Kronos, right? Only a few months after we gave everything to stop him, that bastard’s back.”

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Jason could see Luke make an aborted gesture to reach out to Percy. Jason felt like perhaps he didn’t understand all of the history that was between everyone.

 

Avvenire paused. “I have a feeling that we’ve got a case of Saturn, actually.”

 

“Saturn?”

 

Avvenire nodded. “Kronos could only possess Greek demigods. Bryce Lawrence, who was possessed less than 4 hours ago, was a Roman demigod. It was an imperfect possession, but it was definitely a possession. It’s pretty likely that we have a Roman Titan out for our head this time.”

 

“And Roman gods are worse than the Greeks,” Piper grumbled.

 

“More disciplined,” Frank contributed. “More warlike. Not necessarily worse.”

 

“But definitely a worse opponent to be up against. He’s got a vague impression of what happened in the future—that’s what I got out of my interactions with him. We’ve got my intelligence from the future, but we also have Saturn that has roughly the same intelligence and awareness that I have this information.”

 

“So what use are you?” Annabeth said. The words had bite, but the tone was as distracted as her gray eyes.

 

Avvenire gritted his teeth. Jason got the impression that Nir wasn’t particularly fond of Annabeth for whatever reason. “The use that I am is because you would have lost without my interference—because where I came from, you did.”

 

Small Nico, who had been unusually quiet during all of this, was the one to step forward. He stared at Avvenire for a few moments before speaking. Jason took a moment to understand the parallels between the two, the same person separated by four years of time and experiences.

 

“Avvenire,” Nico said, with the light Italian phrasing that Avvenire had introduced himself with. “I think that you need to tell us what happened.”

 

There was a moment, just a moment, when Avvenire’s expression hardened and Jason thought that he was going to refuse. His face was one of calculated defiance and wounded pride. Then he took a deep breath and began to explain.

 

Hera, taking Jason and Percy and switching their places. Making new friends among the Seven, connecting the camps. Jason and Piper and Leo going through America, fighting the king of the Gigantes and freeing the queen of the gods from her cage, while Percy and Frank and Hazel heading to the north to free Thanatos from his chains.

 

About how Annabeth had to work through the Mark of Athena, fighting using on her wits, until the Doors of Death were closed.

 

How they had made it to Greece, had made it to the original Mount Olympus.

 

And how they had lost.

 

“Gaia rose anyway. She needed the blood of two demigods of the Seven, one male and female, to be sacrificed for her return. She choose Percy and Annabeth, and with their deaths, she rose to full power. And that was when the worlds, both mortal and mythical, began to crumble.

 

“I can’t let that happen again. So there are things that we need to do. Things that have to happen so that we can change things for the better.”

 

Reyna, ever the pragmatic one, ever the stoic leader, stood tall. “Then let’s talk about what we need to do.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The story was bare-boned. Avvenire clearly wasn’t a storyteller, which meant that it spiraled and twisted and a lot of it seemed to be told from hearsay, which meant that Avvenire wasn’t there for most of it. There was something about the Athena Parthenos and how it was used to defend the camps, but ultimately it didn’t work. There was something about the Doors being closed from both sides, but Avvenire brushed over it easily. There was something about the fact that Percy and Annabeth were missing for most of the story. It could have been because they were dead, but something didn’t add up.

 

Annabeth couldn’t tell when it had occurred, or even what it was, but she knew:

 

Avvenire was lying to them. 

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The battle was chaos.

 

Nico had read that phrase before, in books, in novels, in newspaper articles. What they all seemed to ignore was the fact that all battles were chaos. There was no order in people fighting for their lives, no matter the rigid line of Roman legion. There was no order in spilled blood and flesh and loyalty. No order in death, in obliteration.

 

No order in betrayal.

 

Nico liked to stay next to Will during the battles. Will wasn’t a fighter, although any mortal would say that he was a crack shot with a bow. But any Apollo kid would say that he was the worst of the bunch.

 

Will wasn’t a fighter, but he liked to be useful, liked to push the limits between being an effective field medic and being a reckless one. He would do anything to save a patient, anything, and most of the fights between the two of them came from Nico insisting that this time, this time, Will would get too close to something that he couldn’t handle, and Will stating that he didn’t care. Nico didn’t understand how to explain that he, despite being the son of the god of death, wouldn’t be able to handle it if Will died, wouldn’t be able to be sure that he would even make it to the Underworld with the way that things were.

 

Wasn’t sure if there would be an Underworld to accept the soul of Nico’s love.

 

Nico didn’t sleep very well after those arguments.

 

If Nico couldn’t be next to Will—if he was needed on the front lines, or if by some miracle, Nico had convinced Will to take a battle off—he fought next to Jason. Jason and Nico had complimentary fighting styles, even with Jason’s missing arm.

 

Sometimes, after a battle, Jason would watch Piper from across the field. Piper, who was missing two fingers and one eye and insisted that she was just as much of a fighter without them. Jason didn’t—or perhaps couldn’t—argue with her.

 

Jason would come by and sit next to Nico some days. “She doesn’t understand,” Jason insisted with a rough hand through his hair. “She ISN’T as much of a fighter as she once was. It has nothing to do with pride. I’m not the fighter that I once was. You lose a limb, an eye, a finger, and, in the world of fighting, you ARE less than you were previously. That doesn’t mean that you’re worse, but it means that you have to fight smarter, have to be faster, have to take help, have to have a teammate.” Jason nudged Nico with his shoulder, a phantom of lightheartedness, but his eyes were still stone.

 

“This can’t be a matter of pride. That’s how you die.”

 

Jason stumbled over the next words. “That’s how I’ll lose her.”

 

Nico and Jason understood each other. They spent most of their battles with the ones that they couldn’t afford to lose. When they fought together, Nico made sure to keep an eye on Piper. Nico was sure that Jason did the same for Will, although neither of them would ever admit it.

 

This battle, Nico slipped away from the Jason and the other commanders. Jason was the general for this fight—he couldn’t leave. Nico would have to look out for both of them.

 

Luckily, he found both Piper and Will in the line of archers, which were quickly being immersed into different squabbles of fighting. Will had abandoned his bow for his med pack and the lullaby of Greek hymns, Piper standing protectively over him, her bow knocked carefully. Occasionally she would fire an arrow into the fray. Her cornucopia lingered at her side.

 

A gunshot as Nico approached. Nico quickly deflected it off the flat of his blade.

 

The mortals had breached the front lines, and Will and Piper were far far too close.

 

“Stay behind me!” Nico placed a protective stance in front of the two. Will, Nico knew, would refuse to move until his patient could or his patient was dead. Damn him and his soft heart. Peripherally, Nico recognized the wounded as one of Will’s siblings, but paid it no mind, crossing blades with a dracnea briefly before shoving a knife into its neck.

 

The spray of blood was acid in his mouth.

 

Nico had never thought of himself as a protector, but that’s what he was in this battle, because he had something to protect.

 

Something that wanted to be protected by him.

 

Will’s brother began to move up from his position on the ground and Will looped his arm around his shoulder as quickly and efficiently as possible. Piper began to shift to cover Will’s back, momentarily checking the front for threats when—

 

Nico saw it before her, because Piper was missing an eye—

 

A flash of a memory of months before, of “that’s how I’ll lose her”—

 

The tarnished sliver of a gun, Nico could swear that he could see down the barrel for moment because—

 

Piper was protecting the person that meant the most to him so—

 

The least that he could do was to protect her.

 

Nico flashed forward and felt the bullet rip through flesh.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Reyna was going to handle all of this like a praetor.

 

Not because there wasn’t some part of her that was rebelling against this ridiculous notion of time travel, but because she had been in leadership position for long enough to realize that she HAD to believe Avvenire. She had no choice in the matter.

 

Because, if she hadn’t believed in Roman gods when she was a child, she would be dead now.

 

Reyna knew that if she didn’t believe in time travel now, the world would fall later.

 

So she stood there, the prideful leader, prepared to do whatever was necessary to protect the world from the threats.

 

Even work with Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase.

 

She knew that Annabeth, at least, had recognized her. And there was no way that she hadn’t recognized them. It was hard to forget the people who had ruined your life, even if they had done it with good intentions.

 

It was almost like they hadn’t thought about the fact that the two of them had blasted through Circe’s island and released nearly two dozen bloodthirsty and revenge-hungry pirates. Released them on a group of girls who were just looking for a home, who had just lost the only amount of protection that they had had, who were the handmaidens of a women who might have been immoral but had still treated them like family.

 

It took Reyna two years before she stopped flinching at male contact.

 

But she would stoop even to working with the people who had exposed her to hell, if that meant saving the camp that she had slaved for since she was free.

 

When Avvenire began discussing how the two camps had fallen apart into an all-out war, aided by invisible spirits which could possess people, Reyna became very, very worried. The Roman legions were strong, but there was no one unharmed by war.

 

War was not something that she would allow to be brought to the door of her home.

 

Reyna stepped forward and insisted that they would do what needed to do—she would, and she would make sure that her Romans did, and she hoped that the Greeks could find the spine to follow her lead.

 

That was cruel, the voice that sounded like Hylla murmured in her ear. Be open to possibilities. The Greeks might surprise you.

 

Avvenire laced his fingers together under his chin. “Alright. There are some constants which are going to occur that need us to combat them. One: We need to free Thanatos. We can’t close the Doors of Death without them, and we can’t win with the Doors of Death open.”

 

He trained his eyes on the golden girl, the Roman child of Pluto. “Hazel. You have to go. It’s in Alaska.”

 

The color drained out of the girl’s tanned face. Reyna wondered what Alaska held for her, but knew better than to even consider asking. Some demons were your own.

 

“Two: We have to create some sort of solidarity between the two camps before we leave for Greece. It didn’t work when we exchanged leaders who had amnesia, go figure. I don’t know why Hera thought that was a good idea. Hopefully, with logical, upstanding people who know what’s at risk advocating for peace between Romans and Greeks, we can have some sort of peace before we leave.”

 

Avvenire looked over to Reyna and Jason. “Which means that someone needs to handle Octavian.”

 

Reyna knew that to be true. Octavian liked to stir up the Senate and make sure that Reyna had even less power than normal. Reyna had never been sure whether it had been because she was girl or because she had rose through the ranks so quickly. It was likely a mixture of both.

 

Octavian would raise hell at the idea of Greeks and Romans joining together. He had been raised in New Rome since he was a child and had a prejudice against Greeks which bordered on a fanatical racism. Reyna certainly didn’t have any lost love for Octavian, but the way that Avvenire had phrased it . . .

 

“Wait,” Reyna stated. “Who handled Octavian the first time around?”

 

Avvenire didn’t flinch. “Me. After the end. Permanently.”

 

Reyna should have expected that.

 

Jason caught her eye and nodded. He already knew.

 

She appreciated his honesty, and his dedication to solving a problematic situation efficiently, but as she looked around at the faces of the other heroes, she could tell that some of the others had issues with the idea of killing—Percy and Frank particularly. Piper and Leo, both of whom were new demigods, Reyna knew, seemed to be reasonably okay with the news—probably because they had never met Octavian. Hazel and Nico didn’t seem surprised or bothered in the least, as children of the death god.

 

Annabeth just seemed distracted, but not too bothered by the idea of death.

 

Good. Reyna didn’t want her to. Reyna didn’t want her to be a hypocrite.

 

“Let’s not handle it that way this time,” Jason said. “We don’t want to start off an attempt at peace with murder.”

 

Reyna nodded. “Octavian isn’t my favorite person, but he hasn’t done anything to the camp deserving of punishment yet. We’ll cross that bridge only if we need to.”

 

Avvenire nodded. His expression was calm and shuttered, in control of his reactions. Reyna was friends with the time traveler, but their interactions were of the guarded kind. Jason could probably get a better read on what he was thinking.

 

Reyna had the thought that Avvenire could likely read all of them better than they could read him—because Avvenire seemed like a very different person from the secluded and silent boy next to Hazel.

 

“Three: We need the Athena Parthenos.”

 

Avvenire turned to Annabeth. She looked at him with steely gray eyes. He looked back at her with guarded black ones. There was no love lost there.

 

“You never liked me that much,” Avvenire said. “Even back when I was a kid.” His eyes flickered to Nico, who was looking murderous. “The most I got from you pity. Which was fine. I didn’t particularly like you either. But I need you to help me.”

 

Annabeth took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I don’t like this situation. I don’t like how much control you have, I don’t like how much I don’t know. I don’t like the fact that you brought Luke Castellan back from the dead and have control over him. I don’t like the idea of a war hinging on your knowledge.

 

“But I see the logic of what you’re doing. And I’m willing to help. So I’ll help. I’ll go on your quest. I’ll save your statue. Because I’ve always had too much pride and I’m willing to put my life on the line for what I care about.”

 

Annabeth’s eyes were cold with resolve, but that wasn’t quite the same thing as cold.

 

“I’ll do what I can to help.”

 

Avvenire nodded. “Then we need a game plan, because we’ve got to get on this ball fast. The Doors of Death have already opened early, and I have a feeling that events are going to accelerate.”

 

Frank, surprisingly, was the one who stepped forward. “Then we need to split up. And not into Greek and Roman groups. One group to head to Camp Jupiter, and then head to Alaska. One group to head to Camp Half-Blood and then onto the Athena Parthenos. The Alaskan group will hopefully meet up with the Athena Parthenos group, and then we’ll take Rome and Greece by storm.”

 

Hazel stepped forward. “I need to go to Alaska, I have unfinished business there.”

 

“And I am the only one able to go to get the Athena Parthenos,” Annabeth contributed.

 

“I’m going with Annabeth,” Percy stated, like it wasn’t even a consideration. For him, it probably wasn’t.

 

“I am the praetor of Camp Jupiter,” Reyna said. “It’s best if I went with that group. They’ll trust my word over anyone else’s.” Reyna glanced over to Jason.

 

“I’ll go with the Greek group,” Jason contributed. “I’m a child of the Big Three and a Roman praetor. I can help ease the way.”

 

“It’s probably best if some Greeks joined the Roman party, so me and Pipes will join that group,” Leo stated. “With Festus, we’ve got the best mobility, so we can catch up the other group easier.”

 

“Then I’ll go with the Camp Half-Blood group,” Frank stated.

 

Avvenire nodded. “It’s best if one shadow-traveler went with each of the groups so . . .” He looked at his future self and paused, considering for a moment. “Nico, which group would you like to go with?”

 

Nico started. “What do you mean? You’re more powerful than me. Which group would be better assisted by you?”

 

Avvenire shrugged. “Not that much more powerful, trust me. You’ll do fine with either.”

 

Nico glanced around at the faces. “I’d . . . rather go with my sister.”

 

Avvenire smiled just the tiniest amount and hid it quickly, before his younger self noticed. “Alright then. Nico will go with the Roman group and I’ll go with the Greek. Nico will take one of my familiars as well, so we have an extra line of communication. Probably Michael, since he requires less power and is more user-friendly.”

 

“Not a cell phone, Nir,” the archer grumbled. Luke rolled his eyes and slapped the archer upside the head. Michael’s form shivered for a moment as he barked out a laugh.

 

Reyna realized with relief that she had been separated from Annabeth and Percy. They would have that conversation at a later date then. Good.

 

“What should we tell Chiron?” Percy asked.

 

“And what should I tell the Senate?” Reyna contributed.

 

“I’ll handle Chiron. Lupa knew most of it anyway, Chiron likely knows more than he let on. He’ll believe me. He can sense that the gods have turned their eyes away from my actions, which is as much of an approval as I’ll ever get. The Senate . . .” Avvenire hummed. “Spin whatever you want. It would probably be best to keep the time travel portion to yourself however. The Prophecy of Seven has activated. Go on a quest.”

 

Reyna sighed. “I’ll do what I have to.”

 

Avvenire gave her one of his rare smiles, and Reyna knew that he understood the burden that he had just placed on her shoulders and appreciated her. It was more than most people gave her.

 

She understood why they would be friends in the future.

 

Avvenire snapped his fingers and Luke and Michael faded, leaving behind skeletons. The bones began to crumble into dust, returning to the earth, but the skull fell into each of his outstretched hands. Although they looked indistinguishable to Reyna, Avvenire held out one to Nico, slipping the other into his bag.

 

Nico took the skull gingerly, before pressing it between his two palms. The skull was incased in a layer of black. Nico closed his eyes for a moment before pushing his hand together, the skull slipping slowly into the darkness as he pressed.

 

The skull disappeared completely and Nico opened his eyes. “I’ve transferred Michael’s contract over to me, just so it’s not too much of a drain on your power. If I’m even incapacitated, it’ll go back to you.”

 

Avvenire just nodded.

 

Not that much more powerful indeed.

 

“Mrs. O’Leary and I can take the Greek group back to Camp Half-Blood,” Avvenire said, “while Nico, Hazel and Festus should be able to get the rest of you to Camp Jupiter. Out of interest of time, let’s all plan to meet up in Rome no later than two weeks from now. Nico and I will be in constant contact with each other, at least once a day.

 

“If Nico or I are incapacitated for any reason, tap one of our familiar’s skulls against the ground twice. They’ll contact the other and we should be able to communicate. If for some reason we are completely out of contact with the other group for more than three days, we can assume that something has gone terribly wrong and operate under the assumption that the other group has failed.”

 

Avvenire pushed off of the rock and looked at the rest of them. “I’m going to be completely honest—I don’t know where we go from here. But I’ve given us the best shot that we have. So let’s not waste it.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Somewhere deep in the Canadian wilderness, a basilisk was being obliterated up by an impossible young girl.

 

Someone whistled behind her. The young girl didn’t react to the sound. “My lady, you are a terror.”

 

The brown-haired girl dusted the monster ash off of her hands. A pelt of bear fur was draped around her shoulders, not completely hiding the full quiver and bow strapped across her back. Underneath, the girl had a plain silver dress, almost like she was dressed for Easter Sunday.

 

The young girl looked back to her watcher. The girl couldn’t have been older than sixteen, but her eyes were lined and her ensemble was strikingly aggressive. The silver tiara above her electric eyes just added to her otherworldness.

 

But she was not the most unworldly of the pair.

 

“What kept you?” Artemis asked her lieutenant.

 

The daughter of Zeus broke into a manic grin.

 

“My lady, I’ve recently had the most interesting conversation with someone who . . . shouldn’t be here,” Thalia Grace responded.

 

The goddess of the hunt hummed. “Tell me more.”

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The world was pain for a long time. When Nico’s world steadied, it was to Will’s face, flushed with exertion and happiness.

 

Will placed a hand on Nico’s cheek and tapped his forehead to the younger demigod’s. “Oh thank the gods. It was touch-and-go there for a while.”

 

Nico had been out for three days, recovering from a bullet wound to the shoulder. The wound had got infected on the battlefield before Piper and Will could get him to safety. Jason had abandoned his post to Frank to protect their retreat.

 

Thanks to Will, he would make a full recovery, but he would likely have the scar for the rest of his life.

 

Nico was fine with that. When he saw Jason’s missing arm or Piper’s missing eye, he knew that he had nothing to complain about.

 

Of their command group, Nico had been the worst. Piper had some superficial wounds and Leo had rolled his ankle in the middle of the battle, but Nico was definitely the most badly wounded to come out of their skirmish. Jason and Reyna had taken to keeping vigil over Nico’s bedside with Will, but after the second day, when it seemed that Nico was going to improve, it had degraded into the two of them playing card games.

 

Reyna, to absolutely no one’s surprise, was merciless.

 

They had lost another two blocks of the border. The mortal’s presence in the battle had caused too much chaos, but it had fared better than Nico had expected. Hazel had exhausted herself moving the walls back without his help, but she was always better with earth than he had, and he assumed that she was fine.

 

He hoped that she and Frank had spent time together anyway. They had just gotten married—the battle didn’t destroy that.

 

Nico was ordered on bed rest for three days after he woke up, something that he fumed at. Will had just kissed the crease between his brows and promised that, in exchange, he would take the next battle off.

 

Nico was sure that Will felt guilty about the position that he had put the son of Hades in.

 

Nico just shook his head. Favors and guilt were too complicated in this war.

 

Piper came by on the last day of his forced bedrest.

 

She sat silently on the chair next to his bed.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Nico murmured, into the endless silence. “Don’t ever think that this was your fault.”

 

The only warning that he got was the slightest tremble in her frame.

 

Piper, whom he had never been particularly close to, and then only through Jason, placed her head on Nico’s chest and cried.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Frank felt like an outsider to this entire experience.

 

Avvenire told him that he was one of the Seven but part of him was thinking—really?

 

It had been less than two months since he had ran from his grandmother’s house in fear for basilisks. Less than two months since he was trained by Lupa, found out that he was a shapeshifter, made a place for himself both at Camp Jupiter and at Avvenire’s side.

 

He was the son of Mars and he knew that that meant something. He trained in war and found that it came easily to him. He fit in with the Roman manner of life and could see how it would be the only way for him.

 

He was beginning to understand strategy and fighting. He was beginning to understand how his place in the Roman world worked. But now . . .

 

Now he was walking around the Greek camp. A second world that he understood even less of, one that he knew that he didn’t belong in.

 

The two groups had split up immediately upon the end of their little meeting. Avvenire had pulled the younger Nico away from the group for a moment, likely to discuss in more detail about the fact that he was an older version of the boy.

 

The rest of them had stood in that clearing—eight demigods, four Greek and four Roman, and two Greek shades with questionable pasts—and sized each other up.

 

Frank didn’t know any of them apart from the Romans that he had already met.

 

Jason and Reyna, standing stoic and competent, a symbol of the Roman camp and not themselves. They were like a blank wall as they looked around at the rest of the group, but there were moments when the composure broke—Jason as he looked back to where Avvenire had disappeared and Reyna as she flinched momentarily upon looking at Percy and Annabeth.

 

The Greek demigods Leo and Piper had also paired up. Frank felt a sense of comradery—they were new to the world that they had found, just like Frank. Leo stood in front of Piper, perhaps unconsciously. Frank could tell that neither of them were frontline fighters but Leo must have been the more combat-oriented of the two. Piper lingered at his right shoulder, a hand on his arm. She had that weird power that Frank had seen sometimes in the Venus kids rarely—charmspeak. The mediator of the group.

 

The two shades had disappeared, back to their unresponsive skulls. Frank knew the two of them from his time with Avvenire. Luke and Michael had been friendly to him. Luke had trained with him for a while—this had been before Frank discovered that swords were never going to be his first choice in weapon—and Michael, although a bit prickly, was always quick to discuss strategy or give his opinions on things. They were both dead but Frank had never asked how they had died.

 

Luke had previously hosted Kronos—the big bad in this situation. Frank wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Luke had never felt particularly evil or angry to him but he was sad for some unexplainable reason a lot and Avvenire had spent long nights in his room, talking with his shades.

 

Frank knew that everyone had the capacity for evil. Everyone had the capacity for anger. Everyone had the capacity for war.

 

Annabeth wouldn’t stop looking at the spot where Luke had been standing. Annabeth mentioned she had loved him. Past tense, which likely explained why Percy was hovering near her shoulder, but with emotion that spoke of complications, which explained why Percy looked like someone was pulling his teeth. Her gaze was distracted and she seemed to be forcibly reigning in her emotions—she didn’t have the control that Jason or Reyna had—but she was alert and sharp. Intelligence brewed underneath her skin and her words.

 

She would be the worst one to make an enemy out of.

 

Percy would probably have to fight Jason one-on-one in order for Frank to decide who was the strongest but he was definitely up there with the power. Unless Jason’s rigidity, he was all loose action and response. His black hair was long enough to fall into his eyes and his shirt had at least one hole in it. Discipline was not something that would come easy to Percy, Frank could tell.

 

Hazel sat alone, after Nico had left her, and made no secret that she was watching the place where they had disappeared into the shadows. She was likely the youngest of the bunch but seemed old the way that Avvenire seemed old, in a way that didn’t seem to align with the rest of the world. Frank couldn’t stop the thought that she was beautiful, all golden eyes and cinnamon skin.

 

For a moment, the clearing was silent as the heroes looked at each other.

 

Frank wondered what they thought when they looked at him.

 

Percy was the first to move. He held his hand out to Jason. “Looks like you’re coming to our group, Jason.”

 

Jason took the peace offering for what it was and shook Percy’s hand without hesitation. “It’ll be cool to see how the Greeks do things.”

 

After that moment, the two groups began to split off. Piper and Leo drug their extremely heavy-looking suitcase through the earth of the clearing to talk to Reyna, who looked at Piper with caution and Leo with confusion. Leo bustled about her, all energy and fast-talk, and eventually Reyna broke her stoicism with an exasperated smile and started explaining how Roman camp worked. Hazel got up from the ground and shook Reyna’s had as well, explaining her situation in quiet tones. Frank couldn’t hear what he was saying as he made his way over to the Greek group.

 

“Alrighty, looks like we’re all here, apart from Nico,” Percy stated.

 

“Avvenire,” Frank corrected as he approached. “Nico’s going with the other group.”

 

Percy dragged his hand through his hair. “It’s still Nico, man, if the whole time-travel thing is true. I’ve known Nico since he was a kid.”

 

The tone didn’t sound too complimentary but it wasn’t aggressive either. More like the tone someone had with a little sibling that they couldn’t quite figure out.

 

Jason’s brow furrowed for a moment.

 

Frank reached out and shook Percy’s hand. “I’m Frank. I’m a bit new. Just got to camp a couple months ago.”

 

Annabeth raised an eyebrow. “Really? That’s a bit old for a demigod to get to camp.”

 

“My grandmother protected me for a long time. We’re legacies as well, so we’ve got a long history of the whole Roman gods thing. She knew what was coming.”

 

“Legacies?” Annabeth asked.

 

“People who are descended from demigods,” Jason supplied. “Not as powerful as the first generation, but still touched by divinity. At least that’s the definition provided in class. About sixty percent of Camp Jupiter are legacies.”

 

“Demigods . . . have children?” Percy said slowly, glancing over to Annabeth. He caught her eyes when he did and Annabeth broke into a soft smile.

 

Jason nodded. “I’m assuming that’s uncommon on the Greek side?”

 

“Demigods usually die once before they get that old.”

 

Avvenire had come back with Nico a few minutes later. They both had matching expressions of shuttered emotion but Avvenire gave a slight smile as he walked over to the group.

 

“We’re shadow-travelling to Camp Half-Blood. Nico’s going to take the rest of them to Camp Jupiter with Hazel’s help. I should be powerful enough on my own to get us to New York,” Avvenire said. “I’m gonna try to drop us right outside of the Big House but I know my own strength, so I’m probably going to pass out immediately upon dropping you all. I shouldn’t, but if I start to sublime, get healers and force-feed me nectar until I solidify again.”

 

“Sublime?” Jason demanded.

 

“Happens when I use my powers too much. It’s only happened a couple of times before, and it’s nothing that rest won’t fix. Believe me, I know how far I can push.”

 

Frank and Jason were slightly mollified by that.

 

“Alright guys. We all need to be touching, so grab the person nearest to you.”

 

Annabeth wrapped an arm around Percy’s waist and laced her hand with Frank’s with a slight smile. Frank returned it. Frank touched his other hand to Avvenire’s shoulder while Percy did the same with Jason. Jason, to Avvenire’s surprise, grabbed the time-traveler’s hand.

 

Avvenire shot him a surprised look that made the praetor’s ears turn just the slightest bit red. Avvenire broke his confused gaze to glance at the ground. The hellhound curved her body around their little band.

 

And then they dropped into darkness.

 

As promised, Avvenire had immediately passed out on the grass in front of a large white house with a wrap-around porch. Then his edges began to blur slightly, the dark edges of his limbs beginning to slip into shadows.

 

Jason dropped to his knees and began to turn Avvenire’s head, touching his fingers to the pulse on either side of throat, testing the solidity of his arms. Jason glanced back at Percy. “Like he said, we need to find nectar and a healer fast.”

 

Percy nodded, and after a glance with Annabeth, began to run towards a ring of cabins. Annabeth disappeared inside of the Big House.

 

Frank crouched down next to his praetor in the dark grass. They were lucky it was deep in the night, otherwise they would have been swarmed with others, but there was a light that flickered on in the house above them. They wouldn’t be alone for long.

 

“He needs a proper healer,” Jason said, removing his fingers from Avvenire’s neck. “I just know battlefield-type stuff. He’s got a pulse, he’s got all of his limbs, he’s breathing. That’s all I got.”

 

Behind them, Percy came walking up with two blond kids, one male and one female, carrying medical packs. Annabeth walked out with her hands full of nectar and ambrosia.

 

The older of the two—which wasn’t saying much, considering they both looked to be around Frank’s age—moved next to Avvenire’s unconscious form and began checking him over, with much more experienced hands than Jason’s. The boy wrapped his arms underneath Avvenire’s shoulders and knees and lifted him up. He faltered momentarily. Frank knew from experience that Avvenire was heavier than he looked.

 

“Victoria, bring my pack. We’ll move him into the Big House.”

 

The girl nodded and shouldered her brother’s pack in addition to her own. They moved as a well-trained unit into the Big House.

 

“That’s Will Solace and Victoria Converse,” Percy supplied. “Will’s the head counselor of the Apollo Cabin, so Nico—Avvenire—will be in good hands.”

 

Annabeth, who looked a little green from the shadow-travel, nibbled on a corner of an ambrosia square. “Based on what Avvenire told us, he should probably wake up relatively soon, so we should make a plan. For now, I suppose that the two of you can stay in the Big House.”

 

“Shouldn’t that decision be left up to me, my dear?”

 

An older man in a wheelchair rolled to the edge of the porch. His beard was streaked with gray and his eyes were stern but friendly.

 

“Oh. Yes.” Annabeth fumbled with her hands for a moment. “Chiron, a lot seems to have happened in the past few days.”

 

“I’d say so,” Chiron rumbled. “Two of our newest ran away from camp and less than a day later, I found that you and Percy had disappeared as well. Naturally, I had assumed that you had gone on some fool-hardy quest to go rescue them, but it seems that I was wrong, because instead of returning with Leo and Piper, I have a strange boy and two Romans in my camp.”

 

Frank was suddenly hyper-aware to the fact that he was the only person who was visibly armed, with both his bow and his spear across his back. Avvenire had his multitude of weapons on him and Jason was fingering his coin.

 

Chiron’s age-old eyes skewered him for a moment, before he sighed and turned, waving a hand over his shoulders.

 

“Well, I suppose that you had better bring them in.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Nico had dropped the Camp Jupiter group in the middle of the Cadott Tunnel.

 

Like, in the actual center of the roadway of Cadott Tunnel.

 

There were honks and screeching tires and echoes of yelling voices, and in the chaos, Piper could see Nico di Angelo drop like a rock, crumpling into the pavement.

 

Nico had warned them that shadow travel made him tired, but had never said anything about shadow travel making him pass out.

 

Piper moved to help him up. Reyna looked around at the rest of them. She was saying something, probably trying to direct them, but Piper couldn't hear her voice over the chaos. Reyna shrugged in frustration before grabbing Leo’s hand and dragging him over to a small, hidden doorway in the side of the tunnel.

 

Piper struggled for a moment, trying to find strength to pull Nico up—considering that he was skin and bones, Piper should really start working out—when Hazel came on Piper’s other side. Piper shot the Roman girl a grateful smile, and between the two of them, they carried Nico through the waves of messy traffic.

 

Reyna had placed her hands behind her back and was talking professionally to the two Roman guards, who stepped back at their approach, allowing them to enter into a dimly-lit earthy tunnel. Leo grabbed Nico’s legs.

 

Hazel looked at Leo for a moment and started, almost dropping Nico’s arm.

 

Leo flinched. “You alright there? Something on my face?”

 

“No . . . you just look like someone that I once knew is all.”

 

Leo gave a flirty over-the-top smile. “Someone awesome, I hope.”

 

Hazel’s golden eyes were deep with sadness. “Yeah . . . he definitely was.” Those eyes flickered over to Leo. “You remind me of him.”

 

Piper didn’t have to be the child of the love goddess to understand that Hazel had lost someone that she loved. She had mentioned that she had been dead, walking around the Underworld—Piper wondered how long she had been down there, if everyone that she ever knew was gone from this world.

 

Piper suddenly felt a calm, unshakeable sadness deep within her soul that she didn’t quite understand. It wasn’t like her to get so worked up about something that she wasn’t even a part of. She mentally shook her head, trying to dislodge the feeling.

 

She also felt a twinge of something she didn’t want to identify.

 

She shoved it down.

 

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Leo said sincerely.

 

Hazel gave a fractured glass smile. “It’s okay. I didn’t mention it before now, but I was born in the 1920s. Most of the people that I knew are gone now. But I understood the price of what I had to do when I did it.”

 

Before Piper could ask what she did, the tunnel opened up into a green clearing. She could see a wide river, flowing a U in front of them, crossed by solid stone bridges. Circled by the mountains, the river and the bay, the world felt isolated here.

 

Nestled within the river was a city made of white stone and what looked to be a soldier’s encampment. Dirt roads were trampled under the feet of what looked to be a casually-dressed regiment. Satyrs—or where they fauns here?—walked in between the soldiers, looking for something, although Piper didn’t know what. In between the glowing city and the encampment were temples, probably for the gods. Piper wondered if there was a temple to Venus here. Piper wondered if she would visit it if there was.

 

Reyna moved to the front of the four of them. “I’ll be able to get you inside the city, but be careful. All of you are unknowns here. Try to stay close to me and don’t tell anyone where you came from. Some people, especially O—“

 

“Reyna!”

 

The four of them glanced toward the group rapidly coming towards them. Five of them—two in wrapped white togas over purple t-shirts; one in loose jeans, no weapons in sight; and two more in a haphazard mix of armor and clothes, holding onto thin spears and rounded shields. One of the boys in the togas, blond-haired with deep circles under his eyes, was obviously in charge of the bunch.

 

“Octavian,” Reyna said.

 

The boy—man actually, he was probably eighteen or so—ran a hand through his hair. “You missed the morning Senate meeting! We were about to send out a search for you!”

 

“I’m sorry, Octavian, I was held up.” She waved a hand to the demigods surrounding her, bringing Octavian’s attention to them at once. “The gods seem to have a plan for us.”

 

Octavian stiffened. “The gods? They would have at least told me something! What exactly is going on?”

 

“I’ll explain at the Senate meeting. It’s better than going over it twice.”

 

“Reyna,” Octavian said, steel now in his voice. “Who are these people?”

 

“Friends. I told you that I’ll explain later. Don’t push me on this, Octavian. I’ve been given a quest by something higher than you, or the Senate. We need them.”

 

Reyna turned back to their group. Piper could see a flicker of fatigue in Reyna’s eyes before they shuttered again. The praetor looked like she wanted to sigh for a moment, but she straightened.

 

Piper was suddenly aware that Reyna had no friends in their group—she had met none of them, not even Hazel, before a few hours ago.

 

The faith that Reyna must have had in Avvenire and their plan was more than Piper could have expected for the stoic praetor.

 

“Michael and Nathan will take Nico to the praetor’s house and I’ll find a healer to look after him. Leo, Hazel, you stay with him. Piper, you’ll come with me to the Senate as a representative for your interests.”

 

The loosely-armored boys from Octavian’s group stepped forward. One of them, a dark-skinned boy with black hair, glanced over at her and smiled. She felt a flicker of familiarity—this boy must be a son of Venus. They took Nico out of Leo and Hazel’s arms, carrying him like he was nothing more than a sack of potatoes.

 

Yeah, Piper and Leo really needed to start working out.

 

Piper made sure to catch Leo’s eyes before they separated. Two hours, Leo mouthed in her direction, giving a suspicious glance to the Romans around them.

 

Piper understood and nodded.

 

Reyna placed a brief hand on her shoulder before heading after Octavian, who was already marching off towards the city of white stone with his other two companions. Piper fell into step behind her easily.

 

“Try not to . . . persuade any of the Senate members,” Reyna said—not sharply, necessarily, but sternly. “There are wards that prevent any magical coercion within the city walls.”

 

Piper tried not to be offended. It didn’t work. “You have known me for less than five hours. What makes you think you know me?”

 

Reyna simply raised an eyebrow. “Exactly. I’ve known you less than five hours. What makes you think I know you?”

 

Reyna turned and stalked away, expecting Piper to follow.

 

Piper bit her lip and crossed her arms for a moment in defiance before following behind Reyna at a good distance.

 

Piper didn’t think that getting along was going to be as easy as Avvenire thought it would be.

Chapter Text

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Nico shouldered his way out of the hospital as soon as Will would allow him. He held his boyfriend to the fact that he would be sitting out for the next weekend—if Nico had his way, Will would only be on the battlefield after it was over, but he knew that Will would never stand for that.

 

Frank, Hazel and Reyna were off planning with what was left of the Senate and Jason was leading a patrol on the border, so Nico found himself wandering around, looking for Leo.

 

All of them had been changed by the war. Piper was probably the most noticeable, with her disfigurements, her silence, and her preference for a bow now. The Roman leaders—Jason, Reyna, Frank, Hazel—hadn’t changed that much, noticeably or not, just hardened by the war. Nico thought for a moment that maybe the Romans were just made of sterner stuff but it was more that the Romans were just accustomed to war. They trained for it all their lives, being so close to Mount Orthys. The Greeks didn’t.

 

Of all of the New Seven, Leo would be the one that an outsider would say had changed the least.

 

Leo was always quick on the draw with a joke or a smile or a laugh. He was still fast with his words and fast with his hands. One of his earliest projects in the war was making better guns, which then turned into a two-month-long spree of trying to create a gun/sword hybrid. It was unfortunately extremely successful. Jason was still working with him, trying to create a one-handed version.

 

But for the people who knew him, Leo was probably the person who had changed the most.

 

Leo, whose smiled fractured more often now, whose bravado seemed to fail him more often than not, whose jokes felt short, whose ability to read the room had left with the hope.

 

Leo, who rarely ever left the left-over siege battlement that he called a workshop anymore. Leo, who rarely slept, who hardly ate.

 

There was a white, glowing flower in the abyss that was Leo’s makeshift garage.

 

Sometimes, in the night, too early for anyone to be awake but the haunted and the dead, Nico would join Leo in his workshop and try to read the emotions of Leo’s face through the light of the fire in his hands, the flower in the window, and the moon.

 

Leo didn’t talk anymore when he was in the workshop. He was quiet yet frantic with his work. If something went wrong, he didn’t groan or crack a joke or start hypothesizing new theories. Leo would take whatever he was working on, crack it using the strength he had acquired from working in the forge and then throw it all—not just the broken parts, all of it—into the fire with a calmness that concerned Nico more than anger ever could.

 

Nico understood cold fury. Nico understood detached emotion. Nico understood feeling alone in the world and, even more than that, Nico understood being alone in the world.

 

Somehow, in their moments of silence at night, Nico had acquired a friend.

 

“The magical world is deteriorating,” Leo said softly that night. It shocked Nico, although he made sure to stay absolutely still, perched on a pile of broken rubble and scrap.

 

“Yeah?” Nico ventured calmly. Everyone knew that the mythical world was breaking down. The Mist had only been the beginning.

 

Leo looked away from Nico, eyes drifting towards the moonflowers next to him. They glowed softly in the dark, and unlike the fire, cast an eerie, unnaturally contrasted light over everything.

 

“Calypso is magical. I have to make it in time.”

 

Nico had thought that it was that. No one had heard from those that the gods had punished—unless they were on Gaia’s side. For Leo’s sake, Nico hoped that the barriers around Calypso’s island could protect her until he managed to get there.

 

Leo shoved a smoldering piece of metal into the water, smothering another source of light in the darkness. His face was hollow and gaunt as he looked down at the bubbling water.

 

“I have to make it in time.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Jason and Frank were herded quickly into the Big House by Chiron, flanked by Annabeth. Percy lingered behind them, watching the two Romans with—not hostility, Percy didn’t want to think that he was that distrustful. But wariness.

 

Annabeth was willing to throw her lot in with this adventure, and Percy was too, but there was so much going on that worried him.

 

Percy wouldn’t have said that he was naturally anxious—being laid-back was sort of his thing. But if there were two things that worried him, it would be Luke Castellan and Nico di Angelo.

 

Luke in a he-was-my-friend-is-now-my-enemy-I-don’t-want-him-to-be-he-saved-us-my-girlfriend’s-first-love sort of way. It had been easy, once the war was over on Olympus, to declare that Luke had been a hero. He had been a hero. But it was harder to look Luke in the face, see the shade of the counselor who had befriended him, of the man who had betrayed him, of the warrior who was no longer being controlled by a force beyond his control, and say it’s all in the past. Because it wasn’t. Death had a way of easily cutting all of the loose strings.

 

Percy felt that it would have been easier if he had just been worried about Annabeth’s reaction to the news. Her old flame coming back from the dead, of course he was supposed to be jealous. But it wasn’t about what Luke meant to Annabeth. Percy trusted her to make her own choices—even if he ended with the short stick at the end.

 

He knew that it was more about Luke and him. The friends-now-enemies, the rivals. On the same side only just before death. That was no closure.

 

He had a chance to find absolution with Luke now, but did he want a different ending?

 

Life would have been so much easier if Luke had faded back into the void.

 

Nico was different. Nico was the little brother he had never had and definitely didn’t want. And Percy had no idea how to be a brother. Somehow, Percy had the creeping feeling that he was doing wrong by the kid—but he didn’t know how to fix it, because he didn’t know what he was doing wrong. Combined with his otherworldliness that Percy knew that he didn’t deal with well, being around Nico always gave Percy a bad taste in his mouth and sense of guilt that he could never shove down.

 

Younger Nico and older Nico. That was a new situation that Percy honestly never thought that he would have to deal with. He hadn’t seen the younger Nico in person for months before he appeared in the clearing with the rest of the Seven, a time-traveler and a Roman praetor.

 

Percy had honestly thought that he had done right by the son of Hades after the Battle of Manhattan. Nico had a cabin, he had a place to stay—everything that would make a person feeling like home was Camp Half-Blood. But it had only taken a few days after the battle for Nico to disappear again. He didn’t even come seek Percy out before he left. He just vanished, as he always did.

 

And now there was the older Nico. Who seemed well-adjusted and sane, before he started spewing some of the weirdest things that Percy had ever heard. But hey, at this point in his life, it’s probably best to just roll with it.

 

Older Nico was different.

 

Percy had mixed feelings on the older Nico. Probably because it seemed like the older Nico had mixed feelings about him. The time-traveler didn’t seem to treat him differently, but Percy just got the feeling that there was something about him that caused the older Nico to not like him.

 

What really plagued Percy’s mind was: was that something that happened before or after this point in the timeline?

 

Percy didn’t have a good answer. And for once in his life, he thought that Annabeth might not have a good answer either.

 

Annabeth worried him. Annabeth was so much stronger than he would ever be in so many ways. She was insightful and brilliant and strategic and his first choice of a partner in a fight. But sometimes she was fragile in the most unexpectedly expected ways—like when her pride got the best of her. When her past encroached on her present. When her first love came back from the dead.

 

If Percy knew Annabeth, and he would like to think that he did, there were two solutions to this problem—Annabeth was going to let it go, or Annabeth was going to try to fix it.

 

Percy dreaded Annabeth choosing the second one.

 

Percy followed the Romans into the Big House. Chiron wheeled next to Jason, who was explaining the situation in curt, soft tones. Frank lingered slightly behind Jason.

 

Will and Victoria had placed the older Nico on the ping-pong table, which was standard practice at Camp Half-Blood for the injured in the Big House. Jason kept glancing over at it, and Percy couldn’t decide if he was doing it because he was concerned about his friend or if he was judging their situation.

 

Will shoved an IV drip of glowing nectar into older Nico’s arm and began to chant, as Victoria took a small dagger and cut the subliming t-shirt off him. The black skull pattern had faded into mere white streaks, but Percy recognized it—younger Nico already had it with him in this timeline.

 

“—And now we’re here, trying to prevent the future that Avvenire spoke,” Jason concluded in a soft tone, watching Chiron’s face.

 

Chiron rubbed a weathered hand on his temples. “The Romans and the Greeks have been kept apart for centuries. I guess that it’s the best that we could do that the gods are taking a blind eye to this. Lupa and I have done our best to prevent another civil war like the last one—“

 

“Civil war?” Annabeth asked sharply.

 

“Greeks and Romans have never gotten along,” Jason explained, with the ease of something being common knowledge. “We’re more disciplined and warlike, which clashes with the Greeks’ easier personality, but we’re also harsher and unwilling to admit that most of our monuments, traditions and beliefs came from the Greeks. You don’t understand our discipline, we don’t understand your creativity.”

 

Chiron nodded. “And unfortunately, in this sense, history has repeated itself with generations of demigods. Whenever the Roman and Greek camps have came into contact, there has been bloodshed. Lupa and I decided over one hundred and fifty years ago that it would be in the best interest of our survival to make you invisible to each other. Only a select few demigods on either side even know of each other’s existence.”

 

“Reyna knew,” Jason said aloud, pondering quietly, “but I didn’t, which means that it might be a secret passed onto only the head Praetor. Octavian doesn’t know, or he would have marched against you already.”

 

“Which makes the future that Avvenire came back to tell us all the more likely,” Frank stated sharply. For all that the larger boy looked like a teddy bear, he could come hitting with the hard truths. “It’s obvious that where he came from, it was a bleak future. We need to make some changes, which means that we can’t lose.”

 

All eyes in the room flickered over to older Nico’s form on the ping pong table. With his t-shirt and jacket removed, his plethora of scars were visible—the ragged bullet wound to his shoulder, the mess of scars that travelled down his arm. Thin scars across the flesh of his stomach and arms, like paper cuts bleached white. The biggest and most noticeable scar was across his side—a mess of tissue and half-healed skin that didn’t quite cover up that part of it was . . . Percy didn’t want to think of it, but part of Nico’s side was missing.

 

Chiron cleared his throat. “Another thing that we need to take into account is the masses here. The Greeks are dangerous when roused, but we’re not the first to take action. Right now, this is a quest—I won’t be able to rouse the cabins into war unless we’re looking at a war. We can build up Roman goodwill, but that only lasts until the Romans come knocking. For now, it would be best to reveal that there is another camp, discuss how we’re trying to bridge the differences, and not mention that this could lead to war. That will do nothing to bridge trust.”

 

“I agree,” Annabeth stated. “The nine of us should work towards closing the Doors of Death as quick as possible. That’s step one.”  

 

“No, step one is all of you getting out of my fricking operating room,” Will Solace demanded with his arms crossed over his chest.

 

Chiron and Annabeth winced. Percy had the suspicion that they had forgotten that Victoria and Will were present. The two of them nodded and continued conversing as they made their way out of the door, Frank following silently, brow furrowed at whatever Chiron and Annabeth were saying.

 

Percy was usually content to leave Chiron and Annabeth to the plotting but it seemed that Frank wasn’t, and a challenged Annabeth was an Annabeth ready to explode.

 

Percy was about to move to follow them when he noticed that Jason hadn’t moved.

 

The Roman Praetor was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest, watching Will and Victoria chant over older Nico’s body. The expression on his face wasn’t necessarily worried but it was definitely one of concern.

 

“You coming, man?” Percy offered, breaking into the humming of the Greek hymns.

 

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather like to wait with Nir,” Jason said softly.

 

Will glanced up from his healing. Victoria took over the bulk of the chants, nodding at her older brother to speak. “It’s okay. There’s no harm with him staying here.”

 

Percy nodded. Jason and older Nico seemed friendly and Percy understood being worried about a friend—about wondering if a friend was going to make it out. He turned to go and several things happened in succession.

 

Will moved to pull the hairpin out of older Nico’s hair, to lay him more comfortably on his side. At that moment, older Nico’s form seemed to solidify and his eyes shot open. Between one second and the next, Nico had ripped the hairpin out of his own hair and brought it to Will’s neck. Will seemed to freeze between one second and the next, along with the room, where the temperature had dropped to slightly-above-the-North-Pole.

 

Percy grabbed Riptide out of his pocket and clicked it without a second thought and moved to break Nico’s hold. Jason seemed to be just as battle-hardened, because he flipped a golden coin in his pocket, bringing out a golden longsword.

 

But instead of placing himself between Nico and Will, Jason pulled himself between Nico and Percy.

 

Lightning sparked against the golden blade. Jason’s eyes were hard.

 

Do not move any closer to him, everything about the Roman said.

 

After that split second of tension, Nico threw himself forcibly backwards, stumbling off of the ping pong table, the hairpin clattering on the wooden floor. Will coughed and tried to regain his breath. Victoria immediately moved towards her brother and began to massage his neck, humming softly.

 

Jason immediately tossed his sword into the air and caught the coin while moving towards older Nico’s side. Nico had a hand over his mouth and a hand wrapped harshly into his long black hair. He curled into a ball, breathing staccato and uneven. Jason dropped to one knee next to him and just murmured over and over, “You’re in the Big House of Camp Halfblood. Today is October Fifth. You’re in Big House of . . .”

 

Nico shook like a leaf. Percy spared another glance towards Nico before moving towards Will.

 

“Are you alright? Did he cut you?” Percy inquired.

 

Will paused for a moment. “No. Technically he didn’t even touch me. But . . . I don’t know. It felt like something was being ripped out of me.”

 

Oh gods. Percy had seen the younger Nico rip souls and life force out of monsters. Had the older Nico figured out how to do it with humans?

 

He clapped a hand against the Apollo councilor’s arm and met his eyes, storm to sky. “It might be best if you left for now.”

 

Will nodded and gestured silently to his sister. “Avvenire—Nico—is essentially recovered. There’s nothing I can do for him now that rest can’t. Let me know if there are complications.”

 

Will and Victoria gathered up their materials efficiently and swung at least three bags over two sets of shoulders. As Will walked out the door, he murmured, at just a slightly lower volume than Jason’s melodious chanting, “Tell Nico not to worry about it.”

 

Percy nodded robotically, still watching Nico. Jason was crouched away from him and didn’t touch the son of Hades despite his shaking.

 

Nico might not need to worried about it, but Percy definitely was.

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Hazel knew that they were here on a mission and had things to achieve and Nico was unconscious and slightly smoking, but she couldn’t help to be distracted by the Roman buildings as she walked her way through.

 

Avvenire had kept her pretty up to date on the modern world and informed her of how things had been changed—she had been idly aware of technology and opinions changing down in the Underworld, with the disinterest of someone never being affected by it. And the cars that nearly ran her over in Cadott Tunnel had definitely been a culture shock, but there was something even more otherworldly about the Roman camp—but it also felt like her world.

 

She passed fauns who begged for coins and ghosts who floated calmly through the streets, talking to mortals and the undead alike. Teenage soldiers in haphazard uniforms marching to the beat of an officers chant while others leaned against building and had discussions or flirtations. One younger boy was trying to get his long dagger back from his group of friends who seemed determined to play keep-away with it.

 

The two soldiers who escorted them—Michael and Nathan, Hazel remembered—both had a gold badge pinned to their chests. They must be some form of higher-ranking officer, Hazel thought to herself. Nathan, the dark-haired one with the good smile, had Nico wrapped gently in his arms. Hazel’s eye kept flickering back to her brother, especially the misty edges of his form.

 

Leo was chattering on, asking various technical questions about the camp. He had explained in the first three minutes that he was a Greek son of Hephaestus, asked if there were any Vulcan children wandering about, and had promptly got distracted asking about the make-up of the magical barriers surrounding New Rome.

 

Nathan adjusted Nico in his grip. “Don’t worry, we have healers.”

 

Hazel nodded. “It’s okay. Avvenire—my . . . older brother—he said that Netherworld-subliming can usually be stopped with nectar and rest. It’s not really an illness or injury, so to speak. It can’t be cured magically or normally.”

 

“Netherworld-subliming?” Nathan tilted his head. Wow, he really was striking.

 

“Yeah,” Hazel said absently, “Nico’s a son of Hades. Children of the Underworld have this problem when we use our powers too much.”

 

“And this Avvenire—“ Nathan said with a dazzling smile.

 

Before Hazel could say another word, Leo grabbed her arm harshly—hard enough that it caused pain. Hazel blinked twice before looking at Leo in confusion. Leo wasn’t looking at her, though. He was staring at Nathan with a thunderous expression on his face.

 

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, pretty boy?” Leo snarled. As a thin, short teenager, he shouldn’t have been intimidating, but his expression was startling in its blatant anger.

 

Nathan stopped walking for a moment and gave a wry smile. “How did you know?”

 

“My best friend is way better than charmspeak than you, buddy. Prettier too. So how about you shut your mouth for the rest of this trip and I don’t set your bargain-brand girls’ skinny jeans on fire for being a dick?”

 

Michael moved in front of Nathan. Hazel hadn’t been paying attention to him as much—her attention must have been captivated by Nathan—but he seemed to be the tenser of the two. And tenser meant easier to snap.

 

“Let’s all calm down. We don’t want to start anything.” Michael’s words were calm and rational, but his hand was too close to the hilt of his sword. “Let’s just get the boy to the praetor house and forget this happened.”

 

Nathan opened his mouth to speak, but Leo bared his teeth and snapped his tan fingers once, alighting a lick of flame. The Roman rolled his eyes and pushed forward. Leo released the flame.

 

“Pro-tip, Hazel,” Leo murmured as they followed slightly behind the Romans, “if you ever think a child of Aphrodite is just really, really pretty randomly in the conversation, you’re being charmspoken.”

 

“You mean—“

 

“Pretty boy doesn’t have the control that Piper has. I was getting ‘oh God, I wonder if he would like to father my children’ vibes from ten feet away.”

 

Hazel cracked a smile at that one. “I guess we need to be a bit more careful.”

 

Leo shrugged. “Take it from someone who’s gotten out of a lot of hostile situations by being funny or thinking fast—talking only works if you’re not talking about anything important.”

 

Piper and Reyna were in the Roman Forum right now, discussing why the new demigods were in the camp, Hazel realized suddenly. They were in New Rome, in front of the council, “spinning a story,” as Avvenire had put it. Anything that Hazel said would be put against what Reyna and Piper had spun. And they hadn’t had the time to plan a story between the four of them.

 

Leo had been chattering on about the magical barriers in New Rome for a good five minutes—but before that Michael had asked a well-placed question about how Leo had gotten to the Greek camp.

 

Talking only works when you’re talking about nothing important.

 

“Yeah,” Hazel said softly, “let’s do that.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Annabeth looked at Chiron with calm eyes. “You understand why I’m concerned?”

 

Chiron laced his fingers under his chin. “I understand, dear, but we have to also consider that he IS a time traveler. What he’s not telling us is obviously intentionally, but it doesn’t have to be malicious.”

 

Annabeth bit her lip once before turning. “I’m not saying that what I did was right or anything but . . . I was curious. I had to see.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Annabeth reached into the black bag under her chair. “I just wanted to see his . . . I don’t know why I wanted to see his . . . remains. But I just . . . I just took the bag.”

 

“Annabeth . . .”

 

“But that’s not the point! He gave Michael’s skull to the younger Nico, I saw it.”

 

Annabeth pulled a bleached bone skull out of the bag and placed it on the desk. Chiron looked at it with vaguely interested eyes. Annabeth reached back into the bag.

 

“So why does he have two?”

 

She set another skull on the desk. This one was the same bleached white but instead of being plain, it was covered in curls of black, etched like tattoos into the skull, curling around a central design of a rounded cross.

 

Chiron, who had been reaching for the skull, pulled his hand back slowly.

 

“Well. This could be an issue.”

Chapter Text

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

Death touched everyone in the war. And the Mist touched no one.

 

It didn’t touch the demigods, it didn’t touch the mortals, it didn’t touch the gods. The Mist was gone, and with it was the blanket of security that had always been taken for granted and never truly appreciated.

 

Hazel and Nico had been on lookout duty when another layer had been added to the world. Another layer that shouldn’t have been there.

 

That wouldn’t have been there if the world was what it was.

 

Now that mortals had sided with Gaia, the Demigod Alliance had to be more careful when they allowed refugees into their camp. They spread the word as far as they could—that there was a stronghold for those who needed help from the monsters, a stopping place to get out of the battleground that was now America. But when refugees actually came, there was a moment of uncertainty, a moment of—will this person turn out to be a spy?

 

Four days ago, two mortals had been let into the walls.

 

By the time that Jason had realized what had been going on, three of the soldiers were dead and they weren’t sure how many of their plans and schematics had been taken by the eidolon inside one of the humans.

 

The other man had just been a normal mortal. Nico thought that that was worse.

 

A group—maybe twelve or so people—had been approaching the black walls for a few hours now. Nico and Hazel would have before approached them and shadow-traveled them inside, but now it was better for them to approach first. There was something odd about them—familiar but off. Like a favorite childhood food made by someone who wasn’t family.

 

When they came to the base of the ring, Nico and Hazel dropped into shadows and appeared at their feet.

 

Now that they were closer, Nico could recognize the soot-covered silver parkas of the Hunters of Artemis.

 

Nico stepped back and let Hazel do the talking. He had changed a lot since the days when he refused to even look at a silver coat, but he could stand to be backseat to the action. He scanned the Hunters though, looking for Thalia. He couldn’t find the tiara.

 

“It’s good to see you all. I’m Hazel Zhang, centurion for the Demigod Alliance. I need everyone to show me their eyes before they can enter into the city.”

 

The Hunters were battle-hardened and obedient—there was no discontent. One by one, the Hunters came forward and entered into the pitch-black walls, opened by Hazel.

 

Nico grabbed the arm of one of the larger girls in the back, someone he recognized—Phoebe, from all those years ago.

 

“Where’s Thalia?” he asked softly. “And where’s your mistress?”

 

“That’s why we’re here. They’ve been taken.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

 

It had taken a few minutes for Avvenire to come out of his flashback, or whatever trauma had escaped when the healer had tried to pull the hairpin away from him. The older boy had been breathing so shallowly that Jason had been concerned for a few minutes that the time-traveler was going to pass out or vomit.

 

But Jason had waited and repeated the time and place over and over and over again, the way that he had been taught in the battlefield medic courses required for any officer of Rome. Slowly, slowly, Avvenire’s breathing had slowed and evened and his dark eyes had cleared.

 

“I’m okay,” Avvenire huffed after a few more minutes. “I’m okay.” His head was still buried in his bare arms, black hair providing a curtain between him and the rest of the room.

 

Jason joined Avvenire on the floor, pushing his back against the wall. “It’s okay, it’s just me. Percy and the healers left.”

 

“Will . . .” Avvenire murmured into his arms.

 

“You know him,” Jason mused, staring at the ceiling. “If I’m not overstepping any bounds, I’m betting that he means a lot more than the rest of us.”

 

Avvenire’s breath stopped for a beat. “ . . . what makes you say that?”

 

It was a struggle to keep his eyes from flickering to the other man. “I’ve woken you up before. You’ve had your jumpy moments, but that never threw you into a flashback. Will, he was important to you before you came back? More than the rest of us.”

 

Avvenire was silent, but he was slightly turned towards Jason, which wasn’t a denial.

 

“You love him, don’t you?”

 

A huff of amused air. “You were the first one to know the first time around too. We were in the middle of the war and all you and Piper did was give me shit about dating the son of Apollo.”

 

Jason smiled up at the wooden planks of the Big House. “I’m glad that you have someone.”

 

And Jason was surprised to realize that he meant it. His feelings were probably starting to pull past crush territory and past infatuation, he knew. He wasn’t blind to Avvenire’s flaws and issues, but he was starting to realize that it didn’t hinder his attraction. But he wasn’t a jealous person, by nature. And after all of the glimpses that he had seen of Avvenire’s past, he was glad that the son of Hades had had someone, anyone, to take away part of the pain. Even now, Avvenire still deserved someone while he suffered through his trials a second time.

 

Jason looked down at Avvenire for a moment and met pitch-black eyes and small, sad smile.

 

“Had.”

 

“What?”

 

He sighed. “I had someone. Will—right now, he doesn’t even really know who I am. We came together after the end.”

 

“You could reform that bond.”

 

Avvenire just shook his head. “Nico—my younger self—he’s what Will needs right now. And he needs Will.”

 

“So you’ll be alone?”

 

“. . . Don’t worry about me. I made my peace with Will before I came back.”

 

Jason was about to comment that it didn’t seem like Avvenire had made his peace with Will, but he bit his tongue. Who was Jason to comment on relationships of others?

 

Avvenire’s eyes were bloodshot, despite the fact that he hadn’t been crying, but he rolled them all the same. He licked his overly-red lips. “Calm down, praetor. You’ve always liked to take care of everyone in a mix of pack-mom and strong-leader mentality. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that I’m a lot different from my younger self. Nico might not agree with me, but I think I was steadier and happier, even in the months after the End. And most of that was because of Will. I’m here to make the future a better place, not rehash a romance.”

 

“I’m not saying that anyone needs romance to be complete,” Jason argued. “I’m saying that you seem lonely.”

 

“You know Lupa calls me the Time-Monger?” Avvenire steam-rolled over Jason’s response. “The gods have abandoned my plight. Percy and Annabeth are suffering from cognitive dissonance that I’m the same as the angsty kid that they ignored for most of their adventures. Hazel is my sister, but she’s halfway across the country and has another brother to care for her now. Piper, Leo, and Frank are not the hardened and solemn warriors that I made friends with during the war. Reyna hasn’t changed, but she’ll never trust me.

 

“I came back here knowing that I was going to be alone. I started alone and I’ll end alone and I’m okay with that. I don’t care to survive. I want Hazel to survive. I want Will to survive. I want to know that Bianca, who has been reborn into this world, will live enough to grow and become a hero again. I want the rest of the Seven to survive. I don’t care about me.”

 

“Well, I do.”

 

Avvenire flinched at Jason’s angry tone and removed his head from his arms fully, straightening up. “What?”

 

“I care if you survive. I want you to survive. You’re going this far for us and I want you to be there at the end of it.”

 

Avvenire opened his mouth for a moment before biting down on his words.

 

Jason placed a hand on Avvenire’s shoulder. He was colder than Jason expected, but still warm. Jason could feel the scar tissue and the blood pumping underneath his hand. “You didn’t mention me in that list of people who are different. I don’t want to know what happened in the future. I’m here for you now.”

 

Avvenire stilled. Slowly, Avvenire placed his pale hand over Jason’s tanned one. Jason was suddenly hyperaware that this was the first time that Avvenire had touched him when it wasn’t required.

 

“I know.”

 

If this had been a romance, if Jason had been bold and reckless in the way that he never was, he would have leaned forward and kissed him. But it wasn’t. Avvenire had just had a flashback about his previous lover. Avvenire was admitting that Jason was his friend, not that Jason was his lover.

 

Will had Avvenire. Even if Avvenire wasn’t going to have Will.

 

So Jason squeezed his shoulder once in the universal-bro-friendship way, stood up and reached that hand down to help Avvenire up.

 

Avvenire nodded and taken the hand.

 

Standing on his feet, Avvenire looked as strong as he had before his flashback, still corded with muscle, still scarred and battle-hardened. The only indication of his episode was his bloodshot eyes and his messy hair. No, he was as strong as he was before the flashback, because after everything that the older teenager had been a part of, his trauma didn’t make him weak.

 

“Your hairpin,” Jason reminded, gesturing down to the thin piece of Stygian iron smoking on the floor. A black ring of wood surrounded it.

 

“Learning your lesson about those Underworld weapons, aren’t you?” Avvenire pulled his hair into a quick bun and shoved the pin through it. Not all of his black locks were long enough to stay in the bun and fell in uneven bangs around his face. Despite smoking on the floor, the hairpin didn’t seem to affect Avvenire’s hair at all. Jason had always been impressed with the girls back in Camp Jupiter who had been able to hold their hair up with chopsticks, and watched the process with bafflement.

 

“I’ll get there eventually, Nir.” Jason paused. “I was wondering. Now that we know about you and Nico di Angelo’s connection, do you want us to call you Nico?”

 

Avvenire shook his head. “The Nico of this time needs that name. I guess it’s just another thing that I’ve left behind. I’ll stay with Avvenire, it suits me better.”

 

“Whatever you say.”

 

Avvenire moved around the room for a few more moments, pulling up the tablecloth and looking underneath the ping-pong table.

 

“Jason. Where’s my bag?”

 

“ . . . I don’t know. Someone must have taken it after you became unconscious.”

 

The holstered worry in Avvenire’s eyes gave way to fury. In a quick motion, he pulled a clawed hand out in front of him and pushed it back suddenly.

 

There were at least two screams, one flustered panther head on the wall and the sound of breaking glass before Avvenire’s rucksack came flying through the doorway. The sack was being pulled along by something inside of it. Jason did a swan dive to the left to avoid being brained by a freaking backpack. What a way to go.

 

Avvenire caught the backpack and opening it quickly. He rummaged around it for a few moments before becoming more and more anxious.

 

“No, no, no, no, no, no . . .”

 

He pulled Luke’s skull out of the bag and threw it. Before the swordsman had even fully solidified, Avvenire demanded:

 

“WHO HAS IT?”

 

Luke leaned away and blinked twice. “Annabeth and Chiron.”

 

“GET IT BACK.”

 

Luke grimaced and ducked into his shadow. Avvenire shouldered his pack and began to stomp deeper into the Big House. Jason had never seen Avvenire this emotional outside of his flashbacks.

 

Or mad. Nico didn’t even pause before moving towards a room in the back of the house. The door was closed. It wasn’t locked, but that didn’t seem to matter to Avvenire, because he kicked the thing down anyway. It slammed against the wall with a crack of wood.

 

Inside, Chiron was sitting behind a desk, Annabeth across from him. Annabeth’s hair was wild, like she had been dragging her hands through it, but she had slipped her knife out of her holster and turned to the door. She must have previously been looking at Luke, who was against the perpendicular wall, holding another skull, this one covered in dark markings in his hands. The gruff swordsman was treating the skull like something fragile and dangerous, like an atomic bomb about to explode.

 

Avvenire held a hand out for it. Luke placed it in the outstretched palm without question before disappearing completely into his shadow—he hadn’t been deactivated, just gone somewhere else.

 

Based on Avvenire’s thunderous expression, Jason thought that he had made the right choice.

 

“I don’t care about your reasons. I don’t care what you think of me. You will NEVER. EVER. Touch that skull again. I don’t care if you’re one of the Seven. Never.”

 

Avvenire looked at Annabeth with fury in his eyes—the kind of cold fury that held more than emotion behind it. The kind of fury that held a promise.

 

Annabeth refused to look cowed, although she seemed slightly guilty. “I just wanted answers. I’m sorry, Nico—“

 

“Don’t take liberties. Don’t do it again. Don’t call me Nico like I’m the little boy that you abandoned for six months in the Underworld.” 

 

Annabeth flinched for a moment before bristling. “If you answered some goddamn questions instead of tip-toeing around them, maybe I wouldn’t be snooping and looking around! You’re not giving us answers, only more questions, and you’re not giving us any reasons to trust you!”

 

“I’m allowed to have secrets,” Avvenire rumbled. “Just because I came back, to save you all, I might add, doesn’t give you immediate access to all of the information that I have. You’re not even asking questions, you’re just demanding answers.”

 

“Information is important!” Annabeth clenched her hands tighter around the knife. “Information stops the past from repeating itself. And you’re not giving us the tools we need to succeed! We need that information—it can’t just be yours—“

 

Annabeth’s words cut off as an unnatural silence blanketed the room. Frost started to curl around Avvenire’s boats.

 

“You think that you will be able to use my information better than I can,” Avvenire said blankly. “That’s what this is. You think that I’m not able to see the patterns, that I was given a manual like ‘things you need to bring back to the past to save the future’ and I can just hand it off to someone else. That someone handed me all this information that I’m using to change the world.”

 

Jason’s breath came out in a mist. Annabeth shivered involuntarily. Chiron looked like he wanted to move in between the two of them, but couldn’t. Jason would find out later that his wheelchair had been frozen to the ground.

 

“Well they didn’t. I got my ‘information’ by surviving when my comrades died. I didn’t come back with information, I came back with experiences. Tell me, could you use my experiences better than I could? I didn’t give you a free pass to everything in my life. I’ve made sacrifices for this world. That doesn’t mean that you have the right to demand me to sacrifice more.

 

“Trust goes both ways. I’m older than you, Annabeth. In truth, I know you and Percy the least of the Seven. I trust you the least. Because you died before we all had our loyalties tested.”

 

“Avvenire,” Chiron said softly, “she overstepped. But curiosity is a weakness of the children of Athena and you’ve made us all very curious.” He paused. “That skull has binding enchantments on it. You’re holding something very powerful in your hands and we would be remiss if we didn’t care about the nuclear bomb you’ve brought into the camp.”

 

Annabeth didn’t say anything, which was probably wise, considering that Avvenire seemed to be more of a nuclear bomb than the skull was. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Unlike the rest, his breath didn’t come out in a cloud.

 

The time-traveler raised the skull to eye-level. “This skull is not a familiar. It’s not another hero that I’ve brought back to fight for us. It’s just . . . important to me. The binding enchantments? They’re protection from outside magic. Because I didn’t pull this skull out of the ground or the fire once I came back.

 

“I brought this skull back with me from the future.”

 

UoUoUoUoUoUoU

 

The Senate was in an uproar. Greeks? A new quest? A second camp that had defeated Kronos?

 

Reyna resisted the urge to rub her temples. Octavian had steered the conversation away from its intended course mere moments into the conversation, speaking of possible betrayals and how they couldn’t be sure of the intentions of demigods outside of the camp. How could their loyalties lie with New Rome when the Greeks didn’t even know that New Rome existed?

 

“Council,” Reyna called over the mutterings, “I did not call you here to discuss the Greeks. Their presence is irrefutable and necessary for the completion of a quest that has been given by the Prophecy of Seven. The gods themselves came to me and the Seven and announced this to be so. The war will not be won without the Greeks. And who are the Romans if we do not win wars?”

 

The murmurs quieted for a moment.

 

Octavian stepped forward again. “Reyna, I don’t doubt your judgement, but we have to consider that the Greeks may be tricking us. You may believe them, but that’s why the Senate exists—to show caution in the face of adversity. We have no proof that the prophecy is indeed coming to pass—“

 

“You didn’t have a change in your prophecy?” Piper inserted. Reyna tightened her grip on her cloak. It had been a risk to bring the Greek girl here. She had a way with words and was charismatic without charmspeak—obviously the best of the newcomers to advocate for the Greeks—but she had no knowledge of their customs or way of life.

 

Octavian—who was looking frail, Reyna noticed absentmindedly—crossed his arms over his toga. “Girl, you may have been invited to a Senate meeting but that does not give you the right to speak out of turn. You are a guest, not a guest speaker.” Several of the more old-fashioned praetors or the particularly disgruntled seemed to agree.

 

Piper backtracked quickly with a calm smile. “I’m sorry, I was unaware of your customs although I know that it’s not an excuse. I was simply interested. The Greek camp also has a record of the Prophecy of Seven. The reason that we believe that the Prophecy has now come to pass is that it changed on our scroll and the Oracle told us of a new encounter that would cause the Prophecy to begin. After Hera saw it fit to bring us together, we assumed—at least on the Greek side—that the gods had deemed us worthy to complete the Prophecy.”

 

Reyna hid a smirk. Well done, child of Aphrodite.

 

She cleared her throat. “Praetor Grace and I agreed as well. Along with Frank Zhang, we Romans must not show weakness to the gods. We will show them that we are worthy of the name Twelfth Legion Fulminata. To not complete this Prophecy would be remiss of the Legion.”

 

Dakota stood up. “I agree with Praetor Ramirez-Arellano. When the gods send a message, we should not hesitate. The Greeks have shown courage in coming here, we should allow them to continue.”

 

“I agree,” Leila said. Octavian seemed shocked for a moment, and with good reason, Leila was a quiet centurion, but she was usually on the augur’s side. This time, her honey-gold eyes were resolved, but cold. “We should wait and see. This is one quest—one Prophecy—that we cannot afford to leave in other’s hands. We are sending our best and can only hope the Greeks can do the same. Sending a few—that is better than risking the entire camp.”

 

Well, not necessarily a nice reason to agree, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

 

“Reyna surely cannot—“

 

“And I will not,” Reyna intoned. “I am not a part of the Seven, simply their messenger and an advocate for this quest. I must stay here and complete my duties as praetor. We will leave this in the hands of the Seven.”

 

“But no Roman supervision—“ Octavian floundered.

 

“Does Praetor Grace not exist?” Reyna inserted smoothly. “He is as much of praetor as I am. There will be Roman leadership on this quest—and after Praetor Grace toppled Mount Orthys earlier this summer, no one can doubt his quailifications.”

 

Octavian shut his mouth with a clack.

 

“And so, I call for a vote. All in favor of allowing the Greeks to remain in the camp and assisting in the completion of the Prophecy of Seven?”

 

Some of the senators seemed reluctant and there were those who didn’t move but in total . . . three, four, Reyna’s hand was obviously raised.

 

Seven!

 

Enough for a majority.

 

Reyna allowed a smile to crack through her stoic façade. She caught Piper’s eye, who was beaming and gave the girl a smile just for her.

 

Octavian crossed his arms and tried to keep his murderous expression under control.

 

This was one battle that they had won.