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An Undertow of Sand (Percy Jackson and the Cthulhu Mythos)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Shujin, Jul 28, 2021.

  1. FanaticalReader

    FanaticalReader Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

    Jul 10, 2022
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    A easy way to come back 2
  2. Threadmarks: Trust Me. I Am a Professional

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    An Undertow of Sand
    A PJO Fanfiction
    “She what?” Artemis croaked as she huddled by the headboard of the cheap motel bed. The crumbs of her breakfast were still on her whiskers. We must have gotten five or so hours of rest. It wasn’t enough to get rid of the bags under Luke’s eyes, but at least I no longer felt like every bone in my body was made of splinters.


    One of these days, I’ll remember to thank my mother for my healing factor (and maybe Apollo). It probably wasn’t something she consciously thought of when I was conceived, but it was wild to think that a few hours ago my spine had been broken.

    That’s awesome!

    “She what?” The rabbit looked like a toy stuffed in between the lumpy pillow and my one strap backpack.

    I will be asking my father to send Quintus an invoice for a replacement.

    “Agreed,” I said again before I stuffed the blueberry Eggo waffle into my mouth. My left arm was still really sore. The plastic bag of cold water Luke got me helped, but I was really wishing for the cast of ice Khione had made when I broke my leg. The place where my bone had pushed through the skin was still a dark blackish purplish scar line.

    I wondered if I could actually see through my bones if I ever tried to.

    That would kind of be gross, wouldn’t it? I’d just see my tissues and stuff. “I toldsh you I was gonna ashk someone.”

    “You personally went to the Crossroads - “ The bunny took a big, deep breath. “Consider me now forewarned,” she said quietly. “You are always serious about the nonsense that comes out of your mouth.”

    Luke threw up his hands from where he sat cross legged by the door, nearly throwing his hash brown. “That took long enough.”

    Have I mentioned yet that my party members were both jerks?

    “You should try it sometime,” I said acidly. “It’s amazing what actually following through can get you when you don’t make a habit of not meaning what you say.”

    “Even when it is insane,” Artemis sighed.

    “Especially if it’s insane,” Luke said.

    “Okay,” I said, offended. “What is this, did I miss the memo for ‘pick on Percy day?’”

    “I,” Luke said very deliberately. “Am trying not to freak out about you just invading a god’s territory uninvited alone.”

    Oh right.

    That was a thing.

    “So you,” he continued. “Are going to sit there and take it.”

    I knew it was stupid.

    I still tried to defend myself.

    “...she could have blasted me earlier when Mom accidentally threw me over there, so I figured she was cool - “

    “Percy,” Luke gritted out through clenched teeth.

    I shut up.

    “What did she say, exactly?” Artemis asked, sounding impatient. “She’ll meet us in the meadows…?”

    “She will meet us in the meadows,” I recited. “In the sunlight of new construction. You will not be late.”

    “Sunlight?” Luke said, glancing towards the small motel window partially covered by the too small faded curtain. The Night still reigned.

    “It’s a riddle, duh,” I said. “Problem is, I have no idea what she means. Maybe ‘sunlight’ is referring to an obelisk? Those represent sunlight to the Egyptians. Maybe there is one by a construction site somewhere?”

    “How would we even find it?” Luke asked. “There are a ton of those things around.”

    “Look for a meadow? We are near the Great Plains area?”

    “Wendigos,” Luke said.


    “You will not be late,” Artemis murmured. “You will not be late. You will not be late?”

    Luke pointed at the rabbit. “And that. She didn’t give a deadline? We have less than seven days.”

    “You will not be late…” Artemis said again, with a different emphasis. “Perhaps we cannot be late?”

    Luke glanced at her. “How much you want to bet on that?”

    “I do not want to bet anything,” she insisted. “Much less a potential Name, but…” Artemis sat on the pillow in a thoughtful silence. “Hecate often has an uncommon foresight. She has always been…odd,” Artemis said slowly. “Different.”

    I was starting to get the sinking feeling that Artemis didn’t know how different.

    Hecate was Old.

    In between the Young gods and the Elder gods, there was a third category. I must have mentioned it before, right? The Dreamlands usually knew of them too.

    Oh, so I just kind of left it hanging?


    Old was a category reserved for the ones who used to be Young, but somewhere along the way something happened. Or maybe someone interfered or maybe they did something, but you couldn’t really call them Young gods anymore. They weren’t Elder gods, though. Mom was clear on that.

    They were just different.

    Young god Names could be Taken, but why bother peeling off the layers one at a time when you could just swallow them whole? That was what Old gods were.

    Young god predators.

    Mom gave me a few Names to watch out for. Aphrodite and Hecate from my own pantheon, Ra was another one and maybe meeting Bast would have been a bad idea. The twins of Zurvan were around somewhere and someone in the Shinto ate a bunch of buddhas, but it was anyone’s guess who.

    Mom didn’t have many rules, but she did tell me to be polite if I ever met an Old god.

    They earned it.

    You bet your ass I listened.

    So there you have it. Young, Old and Elder. Don’t worry, those are the only labels that matter. Everything else you can ignore. I was planning to. I had first hand experience now how useless some labels were. Khione spent who knows how long as a nymph, because it was just as Mom said. The word ‘god’ didn’t mean much.

    Mom also told me my first cousin Rhea, the one who had to build suppressors into her house so her presence wouldn’t accidentally kill me, was a star-spawn.

    Beneath me.

    Mom told me a lot of things.

    “Percy?” Luke called out. “You still with us?”

    “Yeah,” I muttered, shaking my head. “I zone out sometimes, you know that.”

    “I also know you had a concussion a few hours ago,” Luke countered.

    “I did?”


    “Oh.” It must have happened when Epona hit me on the forehead, but I didn’t bleed. “Well I’m fine - “

    Luke gave me a look.

    “ - better,” I corrected myself. “Let’s put Hecate’s riddle aside for now. If she didn’t give us a deadline, then maybe we will just be where she needs us to be eventually. We just have to keep an eye out.”

    Luke grimaced, but he didn’t say anything.

    “That leaves the Night,” Artemis sighed. “You were serious about that too.”

    “Uh, yeah?” I said. “Waiting it out is clearly not working fast enough.”

    “What do we need to do?” Luke asked. He uncrossed his legs and leaned forward. “Are we going to the Underworld after all?”

    “We need an appropriate sacrifice,” I explained and then I held up my arms. “Which means you need to take me to the hospital!”

    Luke stared at me.

    I waggled my broken arms at him.

    He blinked and looked around the room like he was searching for cameras.

    I’m sorry, what?”

    “The hospital,” I repeated and then I took pity on him. “We’re going monster hunting. We’ll stop by the hardware store for some supplies and then once we get into the emergency room, you can do your Mist thing - “

    “The hospital?”

    Now it was my turn to blink. “Yeah? The only other nexuses of suffering I can think of are call centers and Walmart during Black Friday - “

    “You are going to need to start from the beginning with this one,” Artemis interrupted me.

    Luke buried his face in his hands. “Please.”

    The beginning.

    That was also a big problem with ADHD. Sometimes I was able to come through like a champ, but other times telling me to start at the beginning meant my mind flew off in fifty different directions of different ways to begin.

    I floundered.

    “Um, okay,” I said. What was even the start? The monster I wanted to sacrifice and why did it like suffering? Maybe why I needed to sacrifice it? Let’s go with that. “Burning food like we do at Camp, doesn’t work.”

    “It doesn’t work,” Luke repeated dully.


    I didn’t mean it like that.

    “I mean, it works for the Olympic gods, but for the gods like the Night? You need more.” I licked my dry lips, trying to piece the words together. “Something with life, preferably with power, that we can use to bridge the gap between us and Her.”

    “Not an altar?” Artemis asked curiously.

    I felt cold.

    “The only one I’m worshiping is my mother,” I said flatly. “If She wants one, She’ll just have to get over it.”

    Luke whimpered.

    “Do not worry,” the bunny crooned at him. “You just need to uninstall your logic - “

    “I said don’t remind me!” Luke snarled and lunged for the rabbit who bolted from the bed. She forgot Luke had telekinesis. “Come here, you little shit!”

    “You pushed the bone back in,” the triage nurse said incredulously.

    The Palo Verde Hospital was right by the border between Arizona and California in a place called Blythe right off of Interstate 10. It looked nothing like the glass and white concrete and chrome buildings I was used to in Manhattan. It was a small local place that had a squat adobe look to it, blending right in with the desert plateau and plains around. You could really see why this place had a state prison just down the street. If anyone ever got out, there was nowhere to go.

    Everyone here looked busy.

    The triage nurse had a weak grip on my left arm. I had both my sleeves rolled up. My right arm was just swollen, but my left was looking pretty lumpy along the forearm. Luke tried, but there was only so much you could do without an x-ray.

    “How long ago was this?”

    “A couple of days?” I guessed. I have no idea how long it takes normal people to scab over. “I wasn’t really keeping track, but the pain wasn’t going away as fast as it usually does.”

    The nice lady continued to stare at me, dressed to the nines in hospital scrubs with comfortable looking shoes, bags under her eyes and a flashing pager. Her name tag said ‘Rica’ and she looked like she regretted asking.

    “I heal fast,” I told her.

    Luke snorted.

    Her eyes slid over to him. “And you?”

    He held up his right hand with a crooked smile where a bunch of bloody napkins were strapped to his wrist.

    “His rabbit bit me.”

    Artemis remained huddled in her annoyed rabbit loaf on the seat next to us, staring stubbornly at the back of the chair with her butt out to the world.

    Rica nodded slowly. “May I?”

    Her face pinched a little when she finished unwrapping the napkins. Artemis really got him good this time.

    “That might need a stitch or two,” she sighed. She bundled up the napkins and fished a packet of gauze from one of her deep pockets. “Keep pressure on it. And this?”

    Luke shrugged. “Got caught in some poison ivy,” he lied as he shifted his bandaged arm away from her. “Don’t worry about it.”

    Rica turned back to the front desk where a heavyset man in business casual was typing away at the computer. “Are they checked in?”

    Luke subtly waved his left hand. “I’m responsible for him. Our father called ahead.”

    The receptionist (is that what they are called?) blinked rapidly. His fingers flew over the keyboard. “I’m just making edits to their file, we were missing some information is all.”

    “Alright,” the nurse turned back to us. “I’m making the call to take Perseus here back to an exam room straight away. I don’t like his fever, so we’re going to take a hard look at those arms.”

    I did not realize I still had a fever.

    “And his foot,” Luke spoke up.

    The nurse looked horrified. “I’ll get a wheelchair.”

    As she hurried off, I muttered under my breath, “You remember why we’re here, right?”

    Luke gave me a nasty smile. “Yup.”

    Get a load of this guy.

    I graciously allowed the ER staff to bundle me into one of those ugly looking blocky hospital wheelchairs after they took my sneakers. They handed them to Luke in a plastic bag as I was handed my official ‘emotional support animal’.

    Who then proceeded to kick me in the gut because I ruffled her ears.

    Artemis is lucky she’s so cute.

    The hallways of the hospital were filled with people. Most of them were nurses or doctors hurrying one way or another, but there were quite a few people with backpacks, water bottles and coats in the exam rooms or resting outside of them. It was a mirror image of the waiting room. All the people looked like they stumbled in from a cross country road trip or hike, carrying supplies with them like it was the end of the world. All of them looked haunted and everyone looked tired. There were a lot of thousand yard stares, people just lost in their heads, staring at the walls.

    The triage nurse stepped between me and a young woman being led back to her room. The patient was talking. She looked like she knew what she was saying, but it was just a stream of sounds that didn’t make any sense.

    “We’re a bit overworked,” the nurse offered weakly. “There was a movie set in the area. The sky is…”

    She didn’t complete the sentence.

    I don’t think she knew how to complete the sentence.

    “We know,” Luke said.

    We were led to an exam room at the very end of the hall. It was just what you’d expect, with a bed and a lot of equipment around including breathing masks and oxygen tanks, shelves and bandages. There was that thing for taking your blood pressure and small hammers to knock your knees with.

    Take it from me, it is actually possible to fail a reflex test.

    “Here we are.” Rica the nurse flipped a tag on the wall by the door. She bustled around in the room in a circle, adjusting chairs and equipment with practiced movements and then came back out. She waved at the room. “Another nurse will come in to get more information, what exactly happened, your medical history, if you have any allergies, that sort of thing. Then the doctor will come in to see you.”

    I glanced at Luke.

    He hesitated.

    I glared at him.

    Luke grudgingly lifted a hand. “We’re in no hurry,” he said smoothly. “You can take your time. Feel free to forget about us.”

    The nurse’s face went blank. She looked around the hall with her eyes passing right over us. She checked her pager and with a muttered curse left us right there out in the open. Luke deftly flipped the tag by the door from red back to green as he pushed me into the room.

    “Okay,” I said. I put Artemis on the gurney. “Give me my shoes.”

    “No,” Luke said. He raised the plastic bag with my sneakers up over his head when I made a grab for it.

    “Oh my god, give me my shoes! I’m not staying here - “

    “How’d you do that?” Someone asked and we all froze in place.

    “How’d I do what?” Luke’s hand dove for the pocket with his dad’s lighter as he turned back to the door. He froze again.

    I twisted in my wheelchair so that I could see who the problem was too.

    The problem looked a lot like a ten year old girl in a baggy pastel green shirt, faded purple jeans, mismatched socks and a baseball cap worn backwards with shoulder length chocolate brown wavy hair. She was cautiously peering into our room from the side, like she was ready to make a run for it at the slightest sign of trouble. The first thought I had was that she was actually pretty cute.

    The second thought I had was ‘what the fuck?’

    Human girls don’t look cute, they just look human. I don’t think Epona broke my arms and knocked me right into sudden puberty, so that meant something was up.

    That ‘something’ was probably the fact that one of her eyes was brown, but the other one was constantly shattering into a kaleidoscope of color. There was some kind of weird pull, but I was able to snap my head back, shoving the sensation away.

    “Cut that shit out,” I barked at her.

    Both of her eyes went wide. “What?”

    Luke stepped forward, frowning, but I caught on to his sleeve. “You’ve got some kind of aura going.” I said. “Stop it.”

    She inched further away behind the door frame. “I - I don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t know how.”

    I felt Luke rock back on his heels.

    “Demigod?” He asked.

    “Demigod,” Artemis confirmed and the girl gaped at the talking rabbit on the gurney. She looked around like she was hoping to wake up from some kind of dream.

    “Yeah, she talks and you’re part god.” I gave her the jazz hands. “Surprise!”

    The mission took a backseat. Maybe it was the distraction from ADHD, but I’d like to think that maybe I was trying to pay a debt or at least make up for another girl in baggy clothes that I left at a train station in New York City almost five years ago. The one I changed my mind and went back for way too fucking late. The one Mom left us over.

    The Night had lasted this long. It could wait a little while longer.

    So ten minutes of a rushed explanation later about the whole god business (Yes, they are real. I’m of Fate, he’s of Thieves. Your parent was one. No idea who it is or what pantheons they are from. Yes, pantheons, plural. The rabbit is a rabbit because she was an idiot). There we were, Luke and I, a bunny and Problem Child -

    “Piper,” she said, annoyed.

    “Um,” I began. “I didn’t say anything.”

    “You were thinking it,” she insisted in the mysterious all-knowing annoying way of preteen girls. “It was all over your face.”

    “No, it wasn’t.”

    “Yes, it was.”

    “You just admitted to using your powers to steal stuff five minutes ago,” I pointed out. “Why are you complaining?”

    “I didn’t know what I was doing!”

    “You still did it,” Luke pointed out mildly with a slight grin, because he would approve of petty thievery to get back at an absentee parent. “Repeatedly.”

    Piper crossed her arms, a mulish set to her chin. “You know you sound crazy right?”

    “Says the girl who’s been talking people into giving her shit for the past year?” I said sarcastically.

    “Look, I didn’t - “ Her face twisted up. “I didn’t really think about it. I just thought they were creeps.”

    …aaannnnd she’s got a ‘look at me, I’m pretty’ energy field she didn’t know existed.

    That sucks.

    “So that’s why you look like you got dressed in the dark,” I said. Piper’s face twisted up further into something pinched and pale.

    Luke cuffed me over the head.

    “So why are you here?” I changed the subject only for Luke to hit me again. “What?”

    “This…is a hospital,” he hissed.

    Piper looked away. She was practically swimming in her clothes, looking more like a drowned kitten than anything else. “None of your business.”

    I have discovered that I don’t like the taste of my own feet.

    “Sorry,” I said awkwardly. I searched for a way out of this. “Want to hunt a monster?” That got her to turn her head back a little with raised eyebrows. Luke palmed his face.

    “We just met her.”

    “Yeah, and she’s got voice powers,” I said. “That’ll make everything so much easier. So how about it? Do I hear a yes?”

    Piper bit her lip. “It’s a maybe.”

    I knew it.

    “You’re totally a demigod,” I told her. “We live for danger.”

    I reached for my bag. Piper seemed to wince a little when she saw it, but that was probably because it still looked like the victim of a dog attack. “We just grabbed some stuff at a hardware store, so it’s not traditional but I still think it will work - “

    “A dream catcher?” Piper blurted out. She snatched the hoop of tied together sticks with the rope webbing in the middle right out of my hand.

    “Cool, you know what it is.”

    Problem Child gave me a very cool look.

    What’d I say?

    “Ye-es,” she said slowly. “I know what it is. Do you know what it is?”

    Asabikeshiinh,” I said and watched her eyebrows fly up. “From the Anishinaabe. It’s supposed to hang between the dreamer and the Moon to protect them from dark influences - “ Artemis cringed on the gurney. “ - but uh, we’re kind of just going to whack a dark spirit that eats suffering over the head with it.”

    Piper stared at me, then her neck almost creaked as she looked over my head at Luke.

    “Yes,” he said, slowly closing his eyes. “He’s serious.”

    “Unfortunately,” Artemis chimed in.

    “It’ll work,” I insisted.

    Piper’s cheeks puffed, before she let it out in one breath.

    Anishinaabe?” she asked. She was studying me with some kind of look that I couldn’t understand.


    “Aren’t they called Chippewa in the US?”

    “So?” I shrugged as I muttered, “Names are important.”

    The Originals always had the most power.

    The girl smiled at me. I felt my face heat up without my permission, which was annoying. Piper’s smile dropped immediately.

    “I’m sorry,” she murmured.

    “You didn’t mean it,” I shrugged. “I get it.”

    She glanced down at her hands. She turned the dreamcatcher over and over in her slim fingers to avoid looking at me. “Well, first - “ she started to untie the rope and undo all of my five minutes of hard work. “Let’s fix this up. Do you have any beads or feathers?”

    “I do,” Luke the Packrat volunteered as he unslung his own purple and black backpack from his shoulders. He had plain wooden ones. Three of them were etched with little designs made with a sharp pencil. “Ideas,” he said as he reached for his own Camp Half-Blood necklace where four painted beads were strung. At the end of every summer, there was a camp tradition. All the Counselors got together and voted on behalf of their Cabin what the most important event of the summer was. Two of the beads on his neck were pretty unremarkable, but one had a winged sandal and the other a lightning bolt. I picked up one of the wooden beads. The clear graphite picture of a spindle was on it.

    That was Mom’s symbol.

    “Aww,” I said.

    Luke snatched it from me. “Don’t push it.”

    In the end, it was really all very anticlimactic. Piper made us a bona fide Cherokee style dream catcher.

    (“It’s about intent,” she said. The colors in her right eye were spinning slowly as she worked. “It’s for protection and love and care. You can’t mass produce that.”

    “And you’ll do that for us?” I asked.

    “I don’t want you to die,” she said primly. “So yes, I will.”)

    We snuck up to the hospital roof under the cloak of Luke’s sneaking ability thing where he unlocked the door.

    (“We still have to be careful,” Luke insisted. “We can still be seen, we’re just…in the background. It gets rid of noise, but not smell or touch, okay?”)

    And then Luke put the rabbit down and just fucking jumped off the roof, tackling the dark shadow that was phased half in and half out of the side of the building with Reclaim in one hand and wooden hoop of rope and beads in the other. Artemis immediately bounded to the side of the roof after him, looking like she was about to jump off too.

    Why am I surrounded by suicidal morons?

    I could have screamed.

    Piper did scream.


    It didn’t come out sounding like English. It came out sounding a lot like what I imagine an octopus underwater trying to speak English might have sounded like. A watery burbling of chiming notes.

    She sounded like Weird Girl, Drew Tanaka.

    The dark shadow froze and Luke did too, caught in the blast radius of her voice.

    “G- get down - “ she wheezed.

    “Easy,” I murmured.

    Piper gave me a wild look, like she had just reached into a bonfire and finally realized that nothing had been a coincidence. She didn’t burn. But now she had a fistful of embers that she couldn’t put back and couldn’t put down.

    “It is not foreign,” Artemis said shakily. She was still looking over the side, not even moving. “It is part of you. It was always a part of you. Think about how it feels,” she said. I tried to swallow my own panic and fear down. “Reach for it and then try again.”

    Piper inhaled deeply.

    Climb down, she said and we all watched the shadow move to obey. Luke clung to what could pass for a back.

    Wait there, she commanded next. Luckily for us, the hospital was only three stories, so the rush back down wasn’t long. I tried not to think about how I attempted to follow along with Artemis’ advice.

    And got nothing.

    Just a yawning empty feeling.

    The dark spirit, when we got to it, was a horrendous shape. It was tall, easily topping ten feet and barely humanoid. It looked like the idea of a human being but it was tattered and ruined, wisps drifted off the creature like dead leaves in the wind. You know those Halloween costumes where you put on black cloth overlaid with the picture of your skeleton? Well, invert that. Instead it’s a skeleton around an overlay of emptiness. The ‘face’ was a skeletal shadow with deep pits for eyes and nose. A gaping mouth was jagged with phantom teeth.

    These things were parasites. Attracted to suffering and desolation and they only exist to make it worse. Side effects include: unease, insomnia, nightmares and then waking hallucinations where the victims completely lose their grip on reality.

    They weren’t common, exactly, but they weren’t rare either. Everything was going wrong, which meant they would be there.

    “Behold,” I said, waving a hand at it. “A n’athm.”

    Luke gingerly climbed off it, a white knuckled grip on his sword.

    Stay still, Piper commanded.

    “I’m not going to ask what you were thinking,” I said as Luke sidled around it. He had his blade pointed at it like he was just waiting for an excuse.

    “I was thinking I don’t want to see what you’d come up with,” he snarked unsteadily.

    I was thinking we could find who it was haunting and confront it in the room where we could set a trap. Who does he think I am? Rambo?

    “My plans are fine.”

    “Your plans are shit.”

    Like he was one to talk. “You jumped off a perfectly good building - “

    “Boys!” Artemis snapped.

    Piper looked like she was about to pass out as she stared up at the n’athm. I saw her pinch herself a few times. Now that I think about it, this was a rough introduction to the mythological world.

    My bad.

    “Give me the dream catcher,” I prodded Luke.

    “Just tell me what to do.”

    “I’m not an invalid.”

    “Tell. Me.”

    I sighed. I lifted a hand in demonstration and brought it down. “Bonk.”

    That got me an incredulous look.

    “That’s it,” I said and then because I couldn’t help myself, added, “You had to go and make it difficult.”

    Three pairs of eyes turned and glared at me.

    I was feeling very underappreciated.

    Luke stepped closer to the n’athm. It exhaled noisily. Its breath smelled like rotten meat and old gym socks. The pits it had for eyes shrunk into little pin pricks of darkness when it saw the hoop in Luke’s hand and it started screeching. You know, the way all monsters do when they realize their time is up.

    Why was it always some version of ‘my god’s going to kick your ass for this!’

    “Sure, buddy,” I said back. “Whatever you say.”

    It kept spitting and snarling until Piper shut it up with a simple,


    Luke bopped it with the dream catcher and it got sucked into the protective web of the talisman. One minute big scary, the next it was trapped in our pokeball.

    Luke dropped it like it burned him.

    “Cold,” he hissed.

    “It would be,” Artemis murmured. “That is usually one of the signs of something that does not belong…”

    I picked it up from the ground. Piper’s creation was smaller than the one I made. A tighter hoop with a more intricate web with five wooden beads woven into it and one of her shoelaces around the edge.

    It felt warm.

    “Thanks for this,” I turned to Piper.

    “I…” Piper’s lips pursed as she stared at the empty space where the n’athm used to be. “...am going to make a lot more dream catchers.”

    “Good idea,” I told her.

    She nodded slowly. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I never want to see you again.”

    “Smart,” Luke said.

    “Oof.” I mimed being hit in the chest. “I thought we really connected on, like, a fundamental level.”

    “You’re both crazy.”

    “No, I’m not,” I said.

    “It’s his fault,” Luke said.

    Artemis sighed.

    “Do I want to know…why you wanted that, that thing?” she asked, looking up at the dark sky. The boiling clouds of Ouranos’ prison were right above us, lightning flashing along the steel gray bellies with no thunder. I wondered if she could see it. If she could see all of it or if the Mist was barely clinging on or if she could see through it anyway with that right eye of hers. It looked like mine, kinda. She still had the whites of the eye like it was almost a physical structure, but right where the iris would have been just dissolved inwards into that dizzying pattern of colors.

    Piper hadn’t known she was a demigod. Did the Mist hide it from herself or did someone else step in?

    “We’re trying to stop the Night,” I offered. “This whole no sunlight thing.”

    Piper dropped her gaze. Her face had fallen, something achingly vulnerable in her expression as she looked at us. “The whole ‘people go to sleep and they don’t wake up’ thing?” she asked in a small voice. “That?”

    We were at a hospital.

    “Yeah,” I said, feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach. “That.”

    “Good luck,” she said simply and then she turned away.

    I didn’t much feel like the conquering hero after that.

    That was okay.

    I was going to fix everything.

    Yeah, I know.

    I jinxed it.

    We went out into the desert. I wasn’t nearly stupid enough to make a sacrifice like this right next to a bunch of unsuspecting people. If anything went wrong, either I took enough precautions or it didn’t matter what precautions I took.

    “This is far enough,” I said. I looked behind us from the back of the horse Luke had stolen from the Romans. The beast was so well trained, it didn’t seem to even register that anything had changed. Behind us was just the horizon of the desert plains of this part of California. The interstate and the town of Blythe was left far behind.

    Luke blew out a harsh breath as he searched the shrubs with the light of Rhea’s electronic torch. “You sure about this?”

    Not really.

    “Don’t really have a choice,” I muttered as I slid off the saddle. My previously broken foot twinged painfully when I hit the ground. “This would be safer than going into the Underworld, at least.”

    It should be.

    I walked in a circle, feeling the crunch of the gravelly ground and tough grass against the bottom of my shoes. I unsheathed Damocles and it flashed silver, reflecting the lightning raging overhead. Artemis’ silver eyes watched as I drew in the sand with the silver-gold rippled edges. The Night Winds didn’t blow out here. It was completely silent as I scratched out the circle and then the ten sided star design in the center.

    Something settled in my chest. This was familiar territory.

    I set my sword aside and bent down.

    “Open the way,” I whispered as I drew the symbolic eyes at the points with a finger. “Grant us clarity, grant us vision…”

    Knife, I thought. Erebus’ dagger fell into my open hand. I cut my palm and let the blood trickle down to my index finger. I kept drawing. I needed this symbol here for the Greek aspect. Don’t forget the praise words and then the bridge. We just needed a sliver of the Night’s attention. I wasn’t asking for much.

    Luke was almost milk white. “That’s hurting my eyes.”

    I glanced over it.

    Huh, really?

    “Hey, Artemis, wanna proofread?”

    The bunny sucked in a breath and then hopped over. She inspected it, walking around the circle to take it in. “It looks…fine,” she said a bit helplessly. “But…the offering language is…?”

    “Killing it in the circle works,” I admitted as I took out the occupied dream catcher. “But if She’s anything like Mom, it’s so much better keeping them alive.”

    I tossed the dream catcher into the center.

    The world inverted.

    Pure darkness fell upon us like we had actually been standing in the noon day sun this entire time. Now, I could see nothing. The beams of Rhea’s flashlights sputtered out, the sky vanished and the void closed in until there was nothing but the ground under our feet like we had been scooped up from the face of the earth and brought into the depths of a black hole. My ritual circle glowed with a soft unlight, the dream catcher smoked as the n’athm within screamed.

    ‘Hush,’ a feminine voice called out from the darkness. It was as soft as the velvet of a coffin lining. A shadow picked up the dream catcher, easily bypassing the circle. ‘Hush,’ it crooned as it brought it closer.

    There was a crunch.

    Artemis pressed her face into the ground as a figure coalesced from the darkness, drawing the smoke into itself as a giant of smoke and ash. It was vaguely shaped like a woman with no face, but stars for eyes with large black wings and a dress splattered with the colors of a red nebula, spotted with stars. With every heavy beat of the wings, a pressure battered us with waves of billowing shadow and an odd sleepiness.

    Luke choked, falling to his knees.

    I sighed.

    “Oh, it’s you.”


    At least she didn't bring her dumbass horses.

    “Perseus!” Artemis snapped, panicked. “Show respect!”

    ‘Perseus?’ The figure asked suddenly. The stars it had for eyes flattened as if she was squinting. ‘You!’

    I waved. “Hiya, cuz. How’s it hanging?”

    ‘How is it hanging?’ It repeated.

    “You know,” I said. “How’s it going? What have you been up to? The stuff you usually say when meeting family members.”

    ‘Are you making fun of me again?’ The figure demanded.

    I winced.

    Boys and girls, meet the personification of Deception, Apate. One of my cousins.

    Kind of.

    If you’re wondering why a ritual to call upon the Night turned up this?

    No, I didn’t screw up.

    This was the Night. Apate was just like my eldest sister.

    A spawn.

    “I’m really not this time,” I promised, wishing I could go back in time to strangle the arrogant little toe rag that had been toddler me. Remember when I said I had to be convinced to play with mortal kids when I was younger? It didn’t stop there. When Mom set up some playdates for me. Hypnos was fine, but god forbid a dirty spawn gets to touch my toys.

    I know exactly how Artemis and Zeus got into the messes they made for themselves thousands of years down the line.

    It starts with being an asshole.

    I made an x across my chest. “I’m not teasing you. Cross my heart.”

    The star-eyes narrowed even further.

    “Look, let me start over.” I cleared my throat. “Hello, Mighty One. What Name are we using this decade?”

    The figure crossed her arms petulantly. ‘Night.’

    I boggled. “And everyone’s just letting you get away with that?”

    ‘Of course they are! I’m her favorite!’ was the indignant answer. ‘And you just ruined it!’

    That means, no one knows if the actual Night was ever going to take over her spawn, or if she was aware of everything said spawn did.

    So they spoiled Apate rotten.

    ‘You’re supposed to be trembling in fear before me!’

    “Why would I do that?” I asked. Luke was jerking his head so hard I was afraid he’d snap his own neck. I don’t know if he was trying to tell me to run or trying to get me to shut up. “I literally called you here?”

    ‘I am the Night!’

    “I wouldn’t be cowering before your mother either.”

    She blinked. ‘You wouldn’t?’

    “God, no,” I said. So maybe it was an itty bitty white lie. I just wasn’t planning on it, but if the actual Night showed up pissed, I was going to do whatever kept me alive. “Last time I saw her, I got permission to call her Aunty.”

    I think that sound I just heard was Artemis, but I wasn’t sure.

    Apate hemmed and hawed for a bit as she slowly processed the Night not scaring the bejesus out of someone. She was shifting around as a formless shape. The only constant was her star-eyes.

    “It’s okay,” I said. “You are very scary.”

    ‘I am!’

    “Yup, look at my party members.” I pointed at Luke, who was frozen like a deer in headlights and Artemis who had gotten as far away from me as she could without being noticed. “They’re terrified.”

    Apate’s giant form loomed closer. ‘They do look appropriately awed.’

    “Exactly. You can hang this over Hemera’s head next time you see her.”

    ‘She’s my daughter!’ Apate crowed.

    “Right,” I said, playing along. I’d almost forgotten Elderquette 101. They are who they say they are. Always. Apate was easily distracted, easily confused, easily angered and easily appeased. The simple explanation was that she was still a toddler. I grew up. I don’t know if she even can.

    “Day came to my birthday and I gotta tell you, that girl doesn’t know how to pull off a good spook. Not like you do.”

    Satisfied, she leaned back into the void. ‘What did you want then?’

    “The Night,” I said. “It needs to stop. Any way you can make that happen?”

    The star-eyes narrowed again. ‘Maybe. What do I get for it?’

    “What do you want?” I had an idea. “I could make Hypnos tell everyone at the House that Apate is your favorite child? Or maybe I could talk to my mother about doing you a favor?”

    ‘Hmmm,’ Apate hummed long and loud, thinking it over. Then she brightened, the stars for her eyes lighting up like quasars. ‘Nope!’

    The ground opened up beneath us.

    We fell.

    Have fun in the Pit, cousin!’ Deception cackled from far above, her voice echoing.

    “Wait!” I screamed. The wind whistling past as we fell down and down and down stole my words. “Wait! Please! I can do something else for you! Anything! Can’t we come to some kind of deal - !”

    Something shot out of the walls, grabbing on to us. I heard Luke’s scream cut off as we were slammed back into the side of the hole. Artemis cried out. I choked as the air was crushed out of my lungs as my momentum came to a sudden stop. Now my Spidey Senses started to fucking shriek. I looked down and wished I didn’t.

    I was being held against the wall of the hole by dozens of rotting hands.

    The entire wall around us was made out of dead limbs. Most had only a few strips of rotting flesh still attached with papery tendons keeping the joints together. Maggots and beetles crawled all over them as they jutted out of the wall like we had fallen into the world’s largest mass grave and no one here wanted to remain dead.

    A long moment passed as I tried to catch my breath.

    My head was ringing.

    “Perce,” was Luke’s ragged cry.

    “I’m here,” I rasped back. The back of my throat was tickling like I inhaled a spider. The air was tinged with the molten taste of the Underworld. “Artemis?”

    “Yes,” the rabbit said from somewhere. I couldn’t see her.

    There was movement in the wall of hands. Like a snake moving underneath a pile of fallen leaves, there was a bulge in the wall slowly spiraling down towards us. I held my breath when it finally reached our level. It paused to my right. The hands fluttered apart like an opening eyelid and all I could register was









    D e a l


    Something asked.

    “Yes,” I said. I had no choice. The red glow of the Underworld river, Phleglethon, burned beneath us. We’d fallen far enough beneath the earth that we could see it. “An exchange or a bargain between parties. I’m willing to make one.”

    Silence answered me. The eye closed. The thing beneath the wall of hands kept moving, like a shark underneath the surface of the ocean. I felt my stomach cramp up in fear the closer it got to me. I felt it pass under me feeling like my spine had just been brushed by a thousand tiny fingers of lightning and then it was on the other side directly across from us.

    It stopped and then the wall opened. Artemis let out a cry as a large gnarled hand blackened with rot and decay reached out. The hand was all wrong. There were seven fingers and four joints on each one, swollen and twisted. I caught a glimpse of the owner, but I can’t tell you what it was because my brain just recoiled backwards. That lizard hindbrain was wailing hysterically as I forced my eyes onto the woman that stood on the palm of that hand. She was a pale skinned brunette with long black hair. She had an old 1940s looking dress with colorful flower patterns all over it in soft reds and yellows. A simple headband held back her hair and tucked into it was a single, blooming pomegranate flower.

    She didn’t have eyes. Smooth flaps of skin covered where the eye sockets should have been. Instead, there were eyes strung throughout her long hair like rhinestone decorations, each one trapped in a small glass ball allowing them to endlessly spin around, focusing in all directions at once.

    “Deals are nice. Everyone is always so eager to make one with me.”

    The Dread Persephone had a voice like bone dust and honey. Her presence was almost crushing.

    “Aren’t they?”

    “How could they not?” I croaked. “You have an excellent sense of timing.”

    She laughed.

    “Oh, I like you, boy.”

    “I aim to please.”

    “Then you’d better get on with it,” she said with an amused tilt of her lips as all the eyes in her hair focused on me. “You have my attention.”


    I did.
  3. NounNoun

    NounNoun Gather, Purify, Condense, Repeat Gone for Good

    Jul 26, 2022
    Likes Received:
    Piper being The Cute here, highlight of the chapter(everything else was pretty dark, lol)
    senkise19 and Ku4kin like this.
  4. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    Of course, it's dark, it's the Night! /missing the point
  5. Aaron_04

    Aaron_04 Making the rounds.

    Apr 7, 2022
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    So... trusting the personification of deceit is a bit of a bad idea, mister know-what-i'm-doing. Lesson learned for the next plan.
    Also i thought that the god that stopped them from falling was geras because the whole rot thin, but SIKE, Dread Persephone, wich is even worse, gonna have fun with that
    senkise19 and ArcanaVitae like this.
  6. Oxymoron

    Oxymoron Too lazy to do more

    Feb 5, 2019
    Likes Received:
    The only thing I think is worth on Swf qq is here
    Swear to god shujin lemme get out of college and get a job, and you will have cash.
    And maybe you'll use that cash to commission artwork that I can use as a wallpaper or something.
    senkise19 and ArcanaVitae like this.
  7. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    Speaking of artwork, I actually have three pieces for this story so far. We have the book cover, made by duckduck#3344 on the Emerald Library discord server where I have a channel:

    We have the Stele family portrait commissioned by a reader Ezra on Spacebattles:

    And finally The Morrigan drawn by frog_out_of_water on Spacebattles:
    TIM, senkise19, Alturial and 2 others like this.
  8. DeathShade

    DeathShade Dol Amroth Comes

    Apr 3, 2016
    Likes Received:
    That last one is only visible in the reply box for some reason.
    senkise19 and LordGoliath512 like this.
  9. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    Yeah, I have no idea why. I just edited it to have just the link. It shows up in the preview, dunno what's wrong.
    senkise19 likes this.
  10. senkise19

    senkise19 Getting sticky.

    Feb 6, 2022
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    Was that Phthisis?
  11. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    Whuzza? Who are you talking about?
  12. senkise19

    senkise19 Getting sticky.

    Feb 6, 2022
    Likes Received:
    Never mind then. I just tried to google "who is the greek god of decay"
    NinjaOfOrthanc likes this.
  13. Threadmarks: A Child of Prophecy

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    AN: Holy shit, nearly forgot about this site somehow! Sorry about the late post!
    An Undertow of Sand
    A PJO Fanfiction

    So, uh.


    This wasn’t even remotely part of the plan.


    Apate showing up wasn’t in the plan either.

    Look, I’m going to level with you. In hindsight, I really should have expected her to still be holding a grudge. Maybe an asshole toddler needling you over not really being ‘alive’ so who’d care if you ‘died’ was a bit memorable, you know?

    And Apate’s Greek.

    I should have known from the start that it was going to come back to bite me.

    Apate was smart enough not to just smite me, but that meant I was dumb enough to believe that changed anything. I knew better than to try to ask Mom for help here. If there was anything I could do to disappoint my mother, it would be asking to be saved from my own stupidity.

    I was on my own here.

    If you’re just like ‘isn’t Persephone that one chick that got kidnapped and forced to marry Hades with that fruit thing? What’s the problem?’

    Debts are not toys.

    You can’t just put them down and stop playing with them whenever you feel like it. And you better know what the other party is getting out of it, or you’ll end up paying interest you can’t afford.

    Two, she had no fucking eyes.

    Persephone was standing on a giant decayed mutant hand belonging to something in the walls beneath the earth, literally hanging us by rotting threads above the Greek Super Hell, Tartarus like we just stopped by for cookies and hot chocolate.


    If you haven’t figured out that there is an awful lot missing from that version of the myth we both heard, I don’t know what to tell you.

    I didn’t know what to tell Persephone either.

    This was the worst time in the history of ever for my mind to just go blank.

    You know that thing that happens when you open your mouth to say something, anything, and fucking nothing comes out?

    I was completely at the Dread Persephone’s mercy with my mouth open and I couldn’t think of a single word to say. My brain just checked out. I tried to bank on my ADHD to pick up the slack, but it didn’t know what to do either.

    The silence dragged on long enough to get awkward. My blood turned cold when Persephone’s slight smile started to falter.

    You might be wondering how I was going to smooth talk my way out of this one.

    There was no way.

    Luckily for me, I was traveling with the absolute dumbest fucking rodent known to mankind.

    “You - Persephone?” Arty the Wonder Rabbit, She-Who-Voted-To-Torture-This-Woman’s-Husband-Because-She’s-a-Petty-Baby gasped.

    I gasped in a greedy breath of air as the dangling eyes of the dark goddess shifted off me. I watched the corner of her red lips curl in a familiar way as she slightly inclined her head, like she was acknowledging the existence of a dog.

    Or a rabbit.

    “...in the flesh,” she said softly.

    “But it’s summer!” Artemis cried out.

    “Really?” Persephone’s slim dark eyebrow raised over blank skin instead of a right eye.

    She absently shook out a wrinkle in her skirt, lifting it up over her bare feet as she stepped towards us. She would have fallen right off the hand, if one of the fingers hadn’t moved on its own to catch her. The loud ‘crack’ of the swollen, rotting joint made my stomach lurch.

    “I hadn’t noticed,” she said with a lazy wave of her hand. “You know, with all the utter dark darkness going on.”


    She’s likable.

    “You can’t - “ Artemis wheezed, having just as much trouble breathing as I did. “But you can’t - “

    “Be free?” Persephone finished the sentence still with her soft, mild tone. She turned her head back towards the hole in the wall where the putrid arm came from, a hand to her mouth as she stage whispered, “I do believe our mother has been keeping secrets. And we love her for it, don’t we?”

    Something spoke.

    I felt like a bubble in my head just popped, a warm feeling of water trickling down the inside of my skull as I blinked. I looked around and everything felt off. I felt confused. There was blood in my mouth and I realized that I had slipped further down the wall somehow. Had I just -

    Had I just blacked out?

    “Well, now.” Persephone was suddenly there right in front of me. The rusted nails and pressure was back. I felt her gently grasp my chin between her fingers. Her touch was so cold, it burned.

    Staring her in the face was hard.

    It wasn’t because she didn’t have eyes. She almost looked like one of those old school actresses from the 30s, a real classical long dark haired look. It wasn’t the ADHD making me notice the small mole on her right cheekbone or the diamond studs in her ears or even the odd scar that made a divot in her bottom lip. I had to settle for focusing on the tip of her button nose.

    It was because she didn’t have eyes, but I could feel her gaze cut right through me. I felt like she was looking at me with two ice cold needles of vision, gently drawing blood. Everytime I tried to raise my eyes, something about the blank where her eyes should have been was…


    I had the sudden thought that maybe she did have eyes and maybe I really didn’t want to look at her without my sunglasses.

    “You heard my brother, didn’t you?” Persephone mused as she slowly turned my face this way and that. I felt like I was a horse being inspected for bad teeth. “What a pleasant surprise. You just keep getting more interesting.”


    Just what I wanted to hear.

    “But where are my manners?” she asked herself as the hand platform she was standing on smoothly drew away.

    Her face turned, as if she was glancing to the side and the hands holding me to the wall moved, clamping onto my wrists and shins. My stomach swooped as I was peeled away from the wall. For one terrifying moment, I was suspended in mid air with just creaking bones as support and then I was deposited onto the rotting hand.

    Which was so much worse.

    The flesh under my sneakers was putrefying. Almost goopy in some areas and hard as a rock in others. She didn’t seem to care about the slurry squishing between her toes. I almost gagged at the smell.

    “There we are.” Persephone affectionately ruffled my hair and it felt like getting a brain freeze after eating too much ice cream. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find icicles in my hair. “We were about to make a deal, weren’t we?”

    “...any chance we could relocate to someplace nicer?” I risked asking.

    She raised a dark eyebrow again as the eyes decorating her hair pointedly looked around.

    She said nothing.

    “Fair,” I said weakly, curling into myself.

    “P-perseus,” Artemis coughed out. I looked over and saw the rabbit trapped in a cage of bones. Two large skeletal hands were clasped together like a clam shell of interlocking finger bones around her, holding her above the abyss.

    Luke was held to the wall like I was, with a large rotten limb bent across his chest and hands held his head still, but one of his legs had disappeared into the grave. At first, I thought he was unconscious, but then I realized he had his eyes screwed shut. Every inch of him was tense, the muscle in his jaw straining like he was furiously pretending he was somewhere else.

    Anywhere else.

    “Perseus,” Artemis said again. “Don’t.”

    Persephone frowned.


    We weren’t going to the Pit or getting into debt, because this rabbit was going to get us killed in horrible ways.

    “Arty,” I said, feeling tired. “Please shut up.”

    The Dreaded let out an amused huff of air.

    “You heard him, ‘temis,” she said with an odd smile as she watched me curiously. The pomegranate flower in her hair wilted and withered away to dust. A single, crinkled gray petal landed on my sneaker.


    Artemis obeyed.

    Perseus, is it? Like my title, Persephone?” She asked idly. “I prefer to think it means ‘Murderer.’”

    Take it from me, pick a nickname.

    Live it, breathe it until it’s just as real to you as the name you were born with. I told you before, didn’t I? Names are important. Some beings out there can really make you regret giving yours away.

    “Ravager, or perhaps ‘one who destroys.’ Good name.”

    I swallowed thickly.

    “So, uh,” I began.

    My brain felt like it was made of mush. I felt like I was stuck in a trap room with the walls closing in. My fingers were numb and I was trying really hard to not think about the last time I took on a debt even as the back of my neck kept screaming like an air raid siren. My forearms were prickling in warning too. I felt like that moment back at Rhea’s where reality itself seemed to buckle under the threat of the Matriarch of Swarms paying attention to me. My Spidey Sense let me react to mortal danger I couldn’t even see, but right now it didn’t need to warn me. I already had Persephone’s attention.

    I knew I was looking Death in the face.

    “What are - “ I stopped myself. I didn’t like people asking me that question, why would I go and do it to someone else? “Sorry.”

    Persephone shrugged a careless shoulder. “What have you heard about me?”

    I shuffled, and then stopped when my shoes squelched. “What…everyone does, I guess?” When she waved me on, I kept going. “So, Hades was a huge dork - “

    “The biggest,” she agreed.

    “And for some reason thought asking Zeus for help with you was a good idea - “

    “It wasn’t.”

    “And then your mom did the…” I waved a hand vaguely. “The whole thing with trying to kill everyone and Olympus was panicking because it was all going to shit until you made…”

    My brain finally caught up to the words coming out of my mouth.

    A slow smile was spreading across Persephone’s face. “The deal?”

    The pomegranate flower in her headband bloomed as the endless hands stretched out towards us, their skeletal remains mimicking the opening of the flower petals as they grasped at thin air, begging.

    The cavern around us shuddered, pelting me with dust and rocks.

    The version of the story I heard was that she was forced to stay in the Underworld for six months of the year, one month for each pomegranate seed she ate.

    But the pomegranate flower was Persephone’s symbol, like the spindle was for Mom. It made me wonder how many times gods were represented by their chains. But Persephone was in the Underworld now, in the middle of June and Artemis didn’t seem happy about that at all.

    Maybe it was the other way around. It wasn’t that Persephone was forced to stay in the Underworld, it was that for six months of the year, she was supposed to be locked out of it.

    She called it ‘being free.’

    “I thought Demeter was your mom,” I whispered.

    “She is,” Persephone said simply. She smiled a bit sadly. “Her…occupation has its risks when it comes to getting attention.” As the Earth Mother’s Warden. “She was not given a choice, I’m afraid.”

    “You have a brother?”

    Another hole in the wall opened and I didn’t look into it as a ragged, slimy looking tendril snaked past me and seemed to almost questioningly poke the goddess’ cheek. Her hand came up absently, petting it. “What’d you think?”

    She turned away from me towards the holes in the wall. I barely had the time to brace myself before the world pulsed, like I’d been caught in the shockwave of an airplane breaking the sound barrier. The only reason I didn’t fall right into the Pit was Persephone’s steady, burning hand around my upper arm.

    “Easy,” she said and then with a twist of her fingers, she was gently dabbing at my face with a cloth. “Literally. It will be simpler if you just open your mind to him. Blow your nose.”

    I did. The cloth was stained with my blood.

    “Can I - “ Persephone didn’t stop me from making a grab for the napkin. If Hiraya had taught me anything, it was that there was nothing I could take for granted. I pinched my bloody nose shut. “Thanksh you.”

    She was still looking at me. “...you’re not one of Poseidon’s, are you?”

    “Uh,” I said dumbly. “No.”

    At this rate, I was going to have to ask my father to turn in a paternity test.

    “And you’re not of Demeter, Dionysus or Hephaestus,” she mused as the hands in the wall fluttered, like long blades of grass bending before an unfelt breeze. “No, don’t tell me, let me guess.” I felt like there was some kind of pattern or logic in who she was Naming. If she had eyes, I was sure I would have seen them looking me over from head to toe. “You’re pretty enough to be Aphrodite’s.”


    Call me old-fashioned, but that did not feel like a compliment.

    “If only I was younger,” she said wistfully.

    “...and less married?”

    Persephone burst out laughing.

    She had one of those movie star laughs, the kind that was all charm, perfect white teeth and the partly raised hand, like she thought about covering her mouth to be polite but couldn’t quite bring herself to care.

    I forced a laugh. “Right, haha. I - I was kidding. Greek, right?”

    “Oh, you’re adorable,” she chuckled, wiping a non-existent tear from the corner of a non-existent eye. “Tell me you’re Rhea’s.”

    “...does she actually have demigods?” I had to ask.

    “Of course.” Persephone’s lips curled again. “Technically speaking.”

    How do you technically have a demigod?

    “And you are certainly not mine. I would remember that,” she continued matter of factly. She made a frustrated sound. “I give up. Who do you remind us of?”

    “Um.” I licked my lips. My jaw was still throbbing. “Are you going to drop me if I give the wrong answer?”

    Her lips pursed. “Hmm, I think not. You still interest me.” She turned her head towards my party members and I felt my heart stop. I could swear Luke started praying. “But if you don’t answer, I will just drop them.”


    That’s fair, I guess.

    “Fate,” I said quietly. “My mother is Fate.”

    My stomach scrunched into a ball when Persephone pulled back, her nose wrinkling. “Those - your mother is a Fate?”

    “Not…a Fate.”

    Persephone’s face went blank the same way Rhea’s did, the same way Mom’s did, in surprise. Like the guiding intelligence had just zoned out and went fishing for a second. The molten red glow of Phlegethon, the river of fire running through the heart of Tartarus burned below as all the eyes strung in her hair focused on me.

    Persephone stared.

    I felt like an ant looking up into the magnifying glass, seeing the radiant edge of the sun just come into focus.

    “...well met, Perseus of the Bloody Tongue, son of Ananke,” she said softly.

    Nothing happened.

    My stomach, lungs and heart dropped out of my ass simultaneously.

    Nothing happened.

    Mom didn’t answer.

    She wasn’t here.

    “I am Persephone of the Endless Abyss, Priestess of my father, Tartarus.”

    The Name felt like being dropped into a black hole.

    My blood turned to fire and steam and evaporating gas. I could feel my body stretch like it was on a torture rack, my spine was popping, my feet being pulled down by an impossible gravity towards the mind of a malevolent galaxy. I felt like screaming. I think I tried. I was coming apart at the seams, separating into strands like spaghetti as the molecules that held me together began to fail -

    And then it was over.

    “He sleeps still,” Persephone said with the air of someone explaining why it was raining outside. “Not forever, but, for now.”

    I was shaking. I couldn’t help it.

    Mom kept me from most of my cousins for a reason.

    “Hi,” I croaked.

    If I was a dog, my tail would be tucked so far between my legs, it would have fused with the crack of my ass.

    “Hello,” Persephone nearly chirped, amused. “Perhaps a change in locale is in order. How are you with curry? I know a nice Indian place.”

    She was offering to feed me.


    I almost lunged for the promise of safety, but at the last second, I pulled myself back. “My - my friends…”

    Her eyebrows rose. “You are…including ‘temis in that?”

    I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.

    Persephone’s eyebrows rose higher. She turned towards the cage of bone holding a still and quiet bunny rabbit. “Oh, very well,” she sighed. “It might be for the better, actually. How long has it been since we had a real conversation, sister?” She asked the rabbit. “Like this, I mean. Face to face.”

    “...Rome,” Artemis said very quietly.

    That’s right,” Persephone said. “That was a bit of a mess, wasn’t it?” It must have been a rhetorical question because in the next instant, the dead limbs pulled Artemis and Luke into the wall. I swallowed a yell. There was nothing I could do. “Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “They’re your friends. I am not…” She tilted her head with a thoughtful frown. “Metaphorically heartless. It’s always nice meeting family members.”



    “And you haven’t changed your mind, have you?” She asked. “I was rather looking forward to making a new deal with someone.”

    “I would…really like it if we didn’t end up in the Pit.”

    “Nothing wrong with the classics,” Persephone reassured me with a numbing touch to the shoulder.

    If you asked me yesterday what I would have done if I got tossed into the Pit, I would have said ‘sit down and scream for Erebus.’ Now, the very thought made my skin crawl with fear. The Mist wouldn’t hide anything from me. I wanted to staple my sunglasses to my head.

    I was now probably the last person on earth that wanted to look my uncle in the face.

    “And…still alive to tell my grandkids about the close call,” I continued hopefully, because not going to Super Hell because she thought killing us solved our problems would be Super Lame.

    Gotta cover all my bases.

    “All of us intact and unchanged.” I hesitated. “Would it be too much to ask to be deposited within a horizontal mile of our previous location on the surface?”

    Persephone’s eyebrows jumped a little. “Done this before, have you?”

    “You could say that,” I mumbled.

    I’ve failed at it before. Lost a game I was too stupid and arrogant to realize I was playing in a den full of monsters.

    Those pixies were - were never going to leave Eva alone -

    Don’t think about it.

    I felt sick.

    “Are you sure that’s all you want?” Persephone sounded disappointed.

    I panicked.

    “We’re doing Hades a favor!” I blurted out. “Alekto came to ask if we wouldn’t mind looking around for something he lost, so we’re doing that but the Night is making it hard - “

    “For the love of - “ Persephone’s hand came up to massage at a temple. “‘I’ve got it under control, Persephone. I can handle my own problems, Persephone. I know what my siblings are like, Persephone’ and he just goes asking random people for help?”

    “Well, I mean - “

    She wasn’t listening. She leaned over the edge of the hand and shouted down the hole, “I am right here, you insufferable man!”

    Silence answered her.

    “We really need the Night to stop,” I whispered. “I called, but Apate answered - “

    “Of course she would,” Persephone said. “Nyx is currently suffering - hmm,” she thought over her word choice with furrowed brows and I abruptly remembered that Rhea and Nyx were her sisters. “Let’s call it ‘a bout of melancholy.’ She will only respond to something that interests Her and you are not it.”

    I felt completely helpless.

    So that -

    That’s it then.

    “No need for the long face,” Persephone said, bumping my chin up with a cold finger. “We can kill three towns with one plague.”

    I think that meant the same thing as the saying ‘kill two birds with one stone.’

    Don’t - don’t quote me on that.

    “Sometime ago, my husband stashed a pair of children away with the Lotus Eater in fear Olympus would continue to be as stupid as we all know it is. A boy and a girl.”

    A boy and a girl?

    What she was saying was tickling something in my memory. Something I heard at Camp, but it took me a bit to place it. Zeus had murdered a pair of children, a boy and a girl, back in the 1940s after WW2, after the oracle of Delphi gave her Great Prophecy. Children of Hades.

    “You will retrieve them for me and in return, I will intercede on your behalf with Nyx in my official capacity.” Persephone’s lips twitched up into a brief smile. “The Night is nice, don’t get me wrong, but it is, perhaps, too early.”

    I wasn’t sure what she meant by that.

    “You…want your husband’s demigods?” I asked, just to be sure I understood what she was saying and what was going on. Maybe those kids didn’t die, but were smuggled away.


    That must have been about sixty years ago.

    “Why can’t you get them?”

    “I am not Hera,” Persephone said coolly. “And I will not trespass lightly. It would be more trouble than it is worth, but you should be…more or less fine.”

    “More or less?”

    “There’s an entry fee to Its abode,” Persephone admitted easily. She pinched the air with her index finger and thumb. “Just a small amount of your time, nothing you cannot afford easily. They will be easy enough to spot and they have aged…slowly.”

    So they were - they were still kids?

    After all this time?

    “Go in, get them, get out. Simple.”

    “Simple,” I repeated dully.

    I didn’t miss the Name. The Lotus Eater. We were going to have to walk into another old god’s territory to swipe some children of Hades right out from under its nose.

    Fuck me.

    “Well?” Persephone asked. “Do we have a deal?”

    I told you before.

    I didn’t really have a choice.

    “We do.”

    “Excellent!” Persephone was genuinely pleased, but I felt like I just made a bargain with the devil. “He won’t say it, but I know he’ll be thrilled to see his daughter again.”

    …just the daughter?

    Right as I thought that, Persephone’s face soured. “Almost as thrilled as Nyx would be with her son.”

    And my world fell out from under my feet as giant putrid fingers closed over us.

    I think I dissociated.

    Or maybe I had an aneurysm.

    It’s happened before. Dad took me in to meet with a therapist a few days after Mom left. I wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t eating. That’s where I first heard the term to describe this hazy, separated feeling, like everything was just shy of being real. Or maybe I was the one who wasn’t quite real, just going through the motions, hoping that any moment now, I would just wake up and everything would be back to normal.

    It’s really all a blur.

    I sort of remember a cozy, but exotic looking restaurant where everyone sat on the floor in front of low tables and Ottoman carpets with cushions. I remember smelling spiced meat, but all I can remember tasting was blood and cinnamon, like I just chewed on my own tongue with every bite. I remember seeing Artemis’ auburn fur turn an aged gray underneath Persephone’s fingers, before the Priestess of the Endless Abyss changed forms. Pale skin warming to olive. Black hair lightening to the color of that dirt that was sold with grass squares.

    I remember Luke breaking three glasses in a row with his white knuckled grip, before the server settled on a plastic cup. For some reason, Persephone offering to let Artemis live out the rest of her punishment as a flower really stuck with me. I don’t remember if I said anything. I don’t remember if anyone said anything back.

    ‘A half-blood child of the eldest gods, shall reach sixteen against all odds,’ was on a never-ending loop in my head.

    Nyx has a demigod.

    I wasn’t the only one.

    I’ve known since Apollo told me when I was nine years old that I was the Prophecy child. I had a destiny. I wasn’t like everyone else. I was important.

    Mom never said otherwise.

    I knew now that she needed me. That she had to have me. All I had to do was figure out how to break my Prophecy.

    And it turns out, my Prophecy might not even be mine.

    I know my mother is not perfect. She’s not all powerful. She’s not all-knowing. But there was a difference between not being omnipotent and being helpless. There was a difference between Mom’s plan going so wrong, she didn’t know what was going to happen anymore and thinking that maybe Mom’s plan had always been a desperate shot in the dark.

    I felt the same way she must have.

    I could see all my plans for fixing Camp, for fixing Olympus fracturing into tiny, little pieces.

    Maybe Nyx’s son was the wiser choice for Athena. Maybe he wouldn’t put his foot in it so much, maybe he would know what to say to Khione or know what to do when there was a problem instead of standing there, running his mouth like an idiot. Maybe he could actually focus and listen and didn’t - didn’t trust the wrong people or make risky bets and made better decisions that didn’t hurt people.

    Didn’t hurt Clovis or Annabeth or Luke.

    Maybe he was more careful or knew more or was just -

    Just better.

    Maybe the future wasn’t up to me at all.

    Maybe that was a good thing.

    I felt like I was watching myself through a TV screen. I saw a hand that didn’t feel like mine pack away leftover schwarma and I saw it reach out and take the bus tickets from Persephone’s (or was it Kore, the Maiden now?) warm hand. I know I stared at them. I couldn’t read. The letters were just impressions of ink, a blur. It was like I was Dreaming, when I knew I should have been wide awake.

    My mouth opened and I didn’t know what I was going to say.

    “So that could have gone bet - “

    Luke punched me.

    I snapped back to myself as stars exploded in my eyes and I fell over.

    I looked up at him from the pavement of the parking lot somewhere in California. I felt numb as he loomed over me. At six feet tall, both of his hands curled into shaking fists with a street light at his back throwing his scar into sharp relief, Luke looked menacing.


    I didn’t realize how lucky I was that he didn’t pull Reclaim on me until I saw the tears in his eyes.

    “You - “ He breathed. “You fucking - “

    He didn’t finish.

    Luke turned and ran away from me.

    I sat there like a bump on a log.

    I didn’t move until a cold, wet rabbit nose nudged my hand. I lifted it automatically and it just hung there in the air. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, so then I put it back down. Instead of rough tar, it fell on fur.

    I pet the rabbit.

    “...I messed up,” I said. I felt like it was killing me to have said it out loud. I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt tight and it hurt like I had broken every one of my ribs. A cramp was forming in my side. I felt light headed.

    I nearly got us thrown into Tartarus.

    Once you’re in there, the only way out were the Doors of Death.

    And that could only be opened from both ends.

    Artemis sighed under my hand. “No, you did not.”

    I turned disbelieving eyes onto her. “You can’t be serious.”

    “We are alive, intact, unchanged and sane,” she said bluntly. “I believe this is what is called a ‘win.’”

    “What’d I win?” I snapped at her. I waved my hand in the direction Luke ran off in. “What did I fucking win?”

    “Luke is not angry with you.”

    I was barely able to restrain myself to just pushing her away. She still hit the ground hard. “Fuck off.”

    He’s furious.

    “He’s scared,” Artemis said quietly as she got back to her feet.

    I stared at her mutely.

    “It is…so much easier -” she said in a rush. “When you are scared, or worried, or hurt or sad to just - just get angry instead. It makes you feel powerful. It makes you feel like you can do something about it. And it does not - “ her voice hitched. “And it hardly matters anymore if it will even solve the problem. If you are hurting someone else, you cannot be a victim.”

    “...I don’t think that’s how it works,” I rasped. There was a frog in my throat. My eyes burned.

    My father was not like my mother.

    Dad got angry, but I always knew it was because he cared.

    “It feels like it does,” Artemis said. She risked coming closer again. “He’s not angry with you. I promise.”

    “I messed up,” I said again. I waved around the bus tickets still in my hand. “You told me - to not make a deal - “

    “I was wrong to do so,” Artemis cut me off. Her ears drooped. “I have not seen Kore in a very long time,” she admitted softly. “We both wanted to be…more than we were. All three of us, actually.” Artemis stared off into the distance, seeing nothing. “Athena changed her mind quickly and stopped seeking Time’s attention altogether. I…struggled.” She laid a paw over her eyes. “To this day, I am amazed Selene did not just kill me.”

    “She loved you,” I said thickly. “She was your mother.”

    Artemis sighed. “She was incapable of communicating with words. I learned directly from concepts implanted in the mind, so believe me when I say that does not mean what you think it does.”

    I frowned.

    I wasn’t sure how to take that.

    The rabbit looked away again. “Kore despite all advice, caution, warnings went to her father. And she thrived.”

    Those words hung in the air.

    “Athena saw the abyss for what it was. I was - was stupid and ignorant until I found myself standing at the edge. I do not want to know if Kore just…slipped or if she did not fall so much as just…” Artemis looked up at the dark Night Sky and the boiling thunderclouds of Ouranos’ prison. “Our last real conversation was just - “ She fought with her words. “I was disappointingly human,” Artemis said. “I said things I regret.” She huffed. “A lot of things I regret, because I was scared.”

    “You still are,” I said.

    “I am terrified,” Artemis said. “I gave up on my sister that day and I - I did not see her today either.”

    “...she offered to turn you into a flower,” I said because I’m stupid and don’t know where half the shit that comes out of my mouth comes from. “Hijack your punishment from Mom. Doesn’t that mean anything?”

    “...I do not know.” The rabbit looked up at me with solemn, silver eyes. “Demeter blames Hades. She has to. I - I blame myself.”

    I didn’t know what to say to that.

    “She seems happy,” I said.

    “That is what scares me,” Artemis replied. “This…feeling you have, that you failed. You did not.”

    I couldn’t say anything.

    “We are intact, so that means you won. This is what being a demigod means.” She was a six month old bunny rabbit, but I felt like she was ten feet tall. “The odds are always against you. You are one grain of sand before an uncaring ocean. You can sweat and bleed and die and sometimes it will mean nothing beyond what you make of it.”

    Artemis paused.

    “This is what being mortal means,” she said quietly, almost like she wasn’t talking to me anymore.


    When it truly matters, we’re dust in the wind.

    Sometimes I forget.

    Artemis is several thousand years old.

    “Kore listened to you,” Artemis murmured. “You have a foot in both worlds, but I think….one day, you will have to choose.”


    ‘A single choice shall end his days, Olympus to preserve or raze.’


    I wasn’t so sure about that anymore.

    After a bit, Artemis went to find Luke.

    I didn’t stop her.

    I stayed out of it entirely.

    I don’t know what they said to each other, if they said anything. I wasn’t keeping track of time either. I should have been. We had bus tickets. Those had departure times and everything.

    My ADHD was all out of fucks to give.

    I was getting gravel down my sneakers and I think I had California dirt fused into my jeans by the time I heard heavy footsteps approach. I stood up. Brushing my pants off was automatic, I wasn’t even looking. I don’t know if I got anything off as I watched Luke stalk across the parking lot.

    He stopped a good five or six feet away.

    His blond brow furrowed. He was getting stubble on his cheeks now. His face was too angular, like in the week and a half since we left Camp, he had lost weight he didn’t have to lose. I swallowed hard, but I didn’t say anything.

    I felt like trying to apologize would just make things worse.

    Luke looked down at the rabbit at his heels, then he looked back up at me. Then he slowly got down on one knee, like I was some kind of wild animal. I didn’t know what he was doing until he opened his arms.

    I crashed into him.

    Luke hugged me, hard. He hugged like my grandfather did, with a hand cupping the back of my head and I’m going to blame that for why I just started bawling into his shoulder. I tried to stop, but my emotions were out of control. The tears wouldn’t stop coming.

    “You’re fucking twelve,” Luke almost whined, like this was the first time since he’s laid eyes on me that he finally figured it out. “You’re twelve.”

    “A-and a half,” I hiccuped.

    Luke cursed a blue streak. There were something in there about ‘fucking nuclear waste mountain’ and ‘King Thundercunt,’ a bit about this ‘piece of shit reality’ and a fifteen second piece that was just one cuss word after another before he finally calmed down.

    I stared at him, sniffling as Luke put both hands on my shoulders. “Repeat after me.”

    I nodded.

    “I don’t want to die.”

    I stared.

    Luke shook me. “Say it.”

    “I don’t want to die.”

    Luke sagged.

    “I don’t want to die,” I insisted. “I don’t.”

    “No,” he agreed sadly. “You were just taught to do whatever will work first and to worry about getting through it alive later.”

    My throat closed up.

    Luke sighed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have hit you. I was just - “

    “Worried,” I finished for him.

    Luke gave me a weak smile. Then he yelped, and glared down at the rabbit.

    Artemis had her ears flat against her head in a bunny glare as she looked back up at him. “Tell him,” she hissed.

    Luke looked away.

    “...I fell into the Pit once,” he said roughly. “In my sleep.”

    Even though we were on solid ground and out of danger, the thought still made my blood run cold.

    “Something noticed me before I could get away and I - I had nightmares for weeks when I didn’t do what it wanted me to.” Luke was still looking away. “It showed me what it was like down there and I - I never - “ His voice broke.

    I’m sorry,” I said thickly.

    Luke shook his head. “It - it should never have been up to us to end something like this.” He flung a hand out at the sky above us. “That’s - that’s fucked up.”

    “If we don’t, who will?” I asked.

    Luke shook his head again. “You still have…the tickets?”

    I dug them out of my pocket and handed them over. Luke took them like they were coated in acid.

    He blew out a breath. “Okay. Tell me…what the objective is.”

    “Rescuing demigods,” I said. “A daughter of Hades and a son of Night.”

    Luke did a double take.

    “Of Night?” Artemis squawked.

    “Yeah,” I said, feeling like I was going to explode.

    “Another half-blood of the eldest gods.”

    We found the nearest bus station. Persephone had left us on her doorstep in Los Angeles. Way more than a mile away from Blythe, but then we hadn’t settled that deal either. I had gotten distracted, remembering the last deal I made and I had been too scared to think straight and I had panicked, letting Persephone make a counter offer.

    This could have turned out so, so badly.

    It still might.

    Luke found the Greyhound bus after squinting at the tickets. “Go over the border, go back across the border, go over the border…” he griped as he stuffed his backpack underneath his legs. Artemis peeked out from his vest, her little nose twitching furiously as she sniffed around for monsters.

    “Where are we going?” I spoke up. My voice sounded small. Young.

    “Las Vegas,” Luke said. He glanced over at me. “Should be about four hours. Are you going to sleep?”

    I shook my head mutely.

    “Yeah,” Luke sighed. “Me neither.”

    The other passengers looked as haunted as I felt. Here behind the Roman border things were better. Kind of. People could talk and it wasn’t nearly as dark. The pale harvest moon in the sky was almost radiant and Vesta cast a golden glow far and wide. I don’t know if the mortals could really see it, but some people were plastered to their windows, staring out with wide eyes.

    “It’s all over, if you’re trying to find someplace sane,” an older man turned in his seat to look at us from underneath heavy salt and pepper brows.

    “That’s fine,” Luke said smoothly. “As long as it’s away from here.”

    “Amen to that,” the man said, making a sign of the cross. He handed Luke a small pocket Bible, but didn’t try to preach, just settling back in his seat. Luke frowned at the book.

    I fiddled with Damocles on my necklace.

    Luke’s told me more about…what hurt than I’ve told him. I’ve told you some of it, but it's not the same, is it?

    It’s not the same.

    “Debts are bad,” I said.

    Luke looked at me and it felt like I had just jabbed a needle right into a pus filled sac in my heart. I watched him wave a hand at the people close by.

    “Debts are bad, but I’m a Celt.”

    I’m Greek. I’m Egyptian.

    “Greek demigods have dyslexia pretty bad and Norse are - are stifled in mortal flesh so usually their abilities don’t emerge until they die. Shinto demigods are shadowed, like they are more real to the mythological world and that causes all sorts of trouble.”

    I was rambling. I knew I was, but neither Luke or Artemis stopped me. “Celts are similar, too bright, too noticeable by things that shouldn’t notice.”

    I tried to find the words.

    “Going with - with what will work is how Celts do things,” I said. “There’s no room for half-assing anything. It’s like climbing a sheer cliff, but you were always just - just leaping for the next foot or hand hold, no time to plan out your moves because the foundation you were standing on was going to break at any moment.”

    My eyes burned.

    “I don’t know how to - “

    I didn’t know how to say that I wasn’t sure any other approach would work at all.

    Not with gods like the Night or the Pit or Persephone.

    Or Mom.

    “This is how we survive, I - “

    My voice died.

    I was so scared.

    Luke swore under his breath and pulled me close to his side.

    I hiccuped.

    “...how old were you?” Luke asked softly.


    “Eight,” Luke said tightly.

    But I already had training, I didn’t say. He was thinking about Annabeth. I knew he was. I was already learning about the mythological world and the pantheons. I had a safe, warm home with nice clothes.

    I was eight when I taught myself how to clean up an arm amputation. You gotta - arteries feel different from veins. They’re thicker and rubbery and there’s pressure from the heart so you can’t just pinch -

    It’s better to even the wound out and then -

    Burning works.

    Not with an open flame. Just heat up some metal and press -

    I got three of my friends killed going to the moon of the Dreamlands. Cost Willie his arm. Cost Sam an eye and got him banished from his home.

    Carl, he was another Dreamer. I knew - I knew that teleporter was a bad idea because the Dreamlands only pretended to work by logical rules, but I didn’t - I didn’t say anything because it’s not like we were close, he was in that spot in my brain that said ‘Willie’s friend’ and then what came out the other end wasn’t him.

    Wilhelm killed whatever it was. Sam and I trashed the machine and we threw the pieces into a tar pit and then we burned the house down.

    Mom left.

    A scared girl in an oversized hoodie in New York died for nothing.

    Dad tried so hard - so fucking hard that year, raising me alone. I just made one dumb decision after another, alternating between thinking I was invincible to feeling like I should just keel over and die.

    Evangeline gave her right arm to pay a debt for a stupid kid. She could have died right in front of me. She should have died, but she didn’t and that was -

    That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    She wasn’t the same.

    And I couldn’t be.

    Then Apollo kidnapped me.

    He drugged me, left a note on the refrigerator door, packed a bag of my stuff, hopped continents and threw me at Saule, the most patient goddess I’ve ever met.

    I won’t say I healed.

    That implies going back to normal, or close to it. I know Saule didn’t mean it how I took it. I think I knew it then too, but I had already made up my mind.

    I went into the Dreamlands.

    The place where logic didn’t matter and the subconscious ruled and ripped it all out.

    My home in the Dreamlands used to be a black beach of razor fossils and coarse sand. A tower in the distance, the crashing of waves and deep, dark water. Now I have my apartment. It’s mortal and normal and filled with mementos of my family.

    It’s better.

    One of my windows stubbornly won’t change from that beach. From the old me, but I try to keep the blinds closed on it as much as I can.

    Sometimes I fail.

    “Hey,” Luke said softly, squeezing my shoulders. I realized I was crying again. “We’re going to get through this and then - and then I’ll use my boon to punch your mother in the mouth.”

    I snorted and nearly choked.

    Artemis did choke.

    “I’ll do it too,” Luke said with a grin and soft eyes. He ruffled the rabbit’s ears and avoided her bite.

    I found him. Later. The one who betrayed Eva. The person I trusted. After Mom came back. It was the first step in getting our relationship back to normal. Mom…didn’t seem to understand me anymore, but that -

    That she knew about.

    She helped.

    I told you, right? If I flipped my shit over how the Greeks beat the Romans, if I clutched my non-existent pearls at the guy feeding himself to a cannibal getting exactly what he wanted, if I felt bad about the Oracle of Delphi…

    I’d be a hypocrite.

    I ate him.

    I still don’t feel like it was wrong.

    I’d do it again.

    “Do it,” I said. “You won’t.”

    “Betcha twenty,” Luke said.

    “No.” Artemis sounded exasperated.

    The Greyhound bus rumbled out of the station. I looked out the window and saw my face reflected back. A half-blood child of the eldest gods. A child of Prophecy.

    Not 'the.'

    Hey, um, thanks.

    For listening. For being here.

  14. Aaron_04

    Aaron_04 Making the rounds.

    Apr 7, 2022
    Likes Received:
    Okay that was worth the wait and there are many MANY little tidbits to cover but firstly... was he speaking to 'us' at the end? We know from the apollo intrlude we are something, but I thought percy was not entirely aware we were there.
  15. Oxymoron

    Oxymoron Too lazy to do more

    Feb 5, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Once again im lamenting my brokeness
    imo this fic is carrying the pjo fandom on qq
  16. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    The main story chapter that was posted after the Apollo chapter has Percy welcoming his audience back so...
    Lol, thank you. Don't worry, this story is fun to write.
  17. Silver W. King

    Silver W. King King of Adventures

    Feb 19, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Holy shit that was heavy. Almost felt like crying but was too emotionally exhausted by the end.

    Also I'm with Luke about punching Ananke in the mouth. But no, need to be responsible and use the boon right. Then punch her in the mouth.

    Also damn does seeing how the initial set up of Percy's life that we see after first chapter hit differently now. Things weren't okay, it was like a caricature picture of okay. Sheesh.
    ClassyCobra and ArcanaVitae like this.
  18. Aaron_04

    Aaron_04 Making the rounds.

    Apr 7, 2022
    Likes Received:
    Oh, I had forgotten about that. What the hell are we?
    ClassyCobra likes this.
  19. Silver W. King

    Silver W. King King of Adventures

    Feb 19, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Some kinda Demigod Suicide Squad?
    ClassyCobra likes this.
  20. Aaron_04

    Aaron_04 Making the rounds.

    Apr 7, 2022
    Likes Received:
    No no, "we", the weird mind presence in percy´s head that can casualy jump to young gods heads and look what they do
  21. Hashirama1710

    Hashirama1710 What am I even doing anymore....

    Dec 24, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Nah the Demigod Suicide Squad is in a different story
  22. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    ...is it an actual story or are you memeing?
  23. Silver W. King

    Silver W. King King of Adventures

    Feb 19, 2013
    Likes Received:
    I this it was called "Impractical Guide to Godhood". Yes, Percy does lead the Suicide Squad. Not the DC one.
    BookReader333 and Shujin like this.
  24. Hashirama1710

    Hashirama1710 What am I even doing anymore....

    Dec 24, 2019
    Likes Received:
  25. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    To be fair, they were kind of okay, it's just that Percy...the kid had a bad year and getting to the point we saw in the first chapter took some doing and there are still scars. Scars are wounds that have healed over as best as they can, but I know from experience that doesn't mean scars can't still hurt when you move a certain way.
    GuestLurker and Silver W. King like this.
  26. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    Gotta ask, did anyone see Nico's situation coming?
  27. GuestLurker

    GuestLurker Know what you're doing yet?

    Nov 7, 2021
    Likes Received:
    It does explain why you kept brining up how weird Nico is in relation of Hades.
    Shujin likes this.
  28. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    Once or twice!
  29. Threadmarks: On Borrowed Time

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

    Jul 27, 2021
    Likes Received:
    An Undertow of Sand
    A PJO Fanfiction

    “I see why you like the Christian god,” Luke said eventually.

    At some point, he must have gotten tired of failing at Harvest Moon on my Gameboy Advance (don’t ask) because he had the small Bible propped up on Artemis’ back as she snored away on Greyhound’s cheap overnight pillow. If you told me two weeks ago that Artemis would take a nap on Luke of her own free will, and that he would let her after grumbling a bit, of his own free will, I would have thought you were either crazy or had my mother’s sense of humor.

    Or both.

    “He actually tells his demigods what to do sometimes,” he finished thoughtfully.

    “Uh,” I said. “Demigods as in plural?” I had to stop myself from looking over at him, because I was trying not to get killed by a zombie in my own game. “I’m pretty sure it’s just Jesus?”

    “Nah,” Luke said easily. I heard him turn the page. “I would bet my sneakers Moses was his too.”

    “That guy is Cliff’s role model,” I threw out there.

    Not because it was important or anything. My brain tended to take a subject and just run with it through everything remotely related and when I was distracted, all of that came out of my mouth. And I was distracted because this game’s whack-a-mole combat was the most cursed version of First Person Shooter I have ever seen. You know that game at carnivals and malls where there’s this slider constantly moving back and forth and you have to smack the button to make it stop on the mark?

    That’s how I’m shooting zombies.

    I hope someone was fired.

    “Your friend, the monster looks up to a hero?” Luke asked, just to be sure. “..that’s still weird, by the way.”

    I shrugged. “Moses was the greatest Magician on record - “ and those records weren’t buried because it turns out when you get your pharaoh, your gods and your entire organization humiliated by a former prince of Egypt turned hobo, people notice. “- with the worst fashion sense. Very melodramatic, but good dude.”

    “I refuse to believe he was a random unrelated schmuck,” Luke declared. “There’s no way.”

    “Hey, don’t judge every god by Olympic standards,” I pointed out. In Greek mythology, everybody was related to somebody. A lot of the time, that somebody was Zeus. Because Zeus, but he definitely wasn’t the only one showing up in hero’s family trees and Olympus played favorites like whoa. “Just because Moses kicked a lot of ass doesn’t mean - “

    Hold up.

    Doesn’t it, though?

    Egyptian Magicians had pharaohs, incarnations of a god in their lineage.

    It was the reason my Magician status went from You’re Kidding, Right? to Oh, Shit.

    Because Mom had an Egyptian Name.

    As far as I knew, it was Egyptian legacies or bust for their kind of magic. Even Cliff wouldn’t get anywhere if it hadn’t been for Anubis way back when. Moses was a prince of Egypt and his brother a pharaoh, but he’d been adopted.

    And he still tore the entire House of Life a new one.


    Was it heresy or blasphemy if I said that maybe Luke had a point?

    I wasn’t what you’d call devout by any stretch of the imagination. I only went to mass when I was visiting my grandparents. The holidays were nice, I never remembered Lent and this one time I prayed to Lucifer for some help. The Roman one. If that helps. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe there’s two of them?

    I would not recommend it.

    The Morningstar is a prick.

    Mom came first, but the Big G was always just kind of - okay, so ‘backup plan’ sounds really bad and I don’t mean it the way you’re thinking. It should be obvious by now that I’d follow Mom’s lead into a lot of shit and it should be really obvious right now that she was perfectly willing to let me do that. Telling me what it was all for and who or what she wanted me to be was clearly not a priority. A kid can get really turned around. You know what a pole star is, right? It always points north, no matter how lost you get.

    I like to think that maybe God doesn’t mind.

    “So I need to introduce you to my grandmother,” I said blankly as I looked over, feeling a bit overwhelmed.

    Luke glanced at me with a raised eyebrow. “Your grandmother?”

    “It’ll be great. She knows a lot more than I do and you can, like, bond over wanting to punch Mom in the face,” I said with a cheeky grin to make him think I wasn’t totally serious.

    Except I was totally serious.

    “You gotta be quick if you want the first shot though,” I continued thoughtfully. “Nana doesn’t fuck around.”

    Luke’s eyebrows flew up.

    “Broke every bone in her arm punching Mom a few years ago,” I confirmed. “She had to have surgery and still needs a wrist brace, but as far as she’s concerned, worth it - shit!”

    I pouted at the pixelated bloody You Died screen on my Gameboy. Get distracted for a single second, forget everything I had just been doing. Get the main character Leon Kennedy ate by undead.


    I sighed as I chose to reload from the last save and then I frowned as I moved the character around a bit. What was - I didn’t even remember this level - weren’t there autosaves? There were no autosaves. Are you telling me that my only saves were the incredibly stingy manual ones?

    You know what?

    Resident Evil Gaiden is a dumb fucking game.

    Who bought me this?

    I put my Gameboy Color down. “How are you reading that, by the way?”

    Luke shrugged. “Got curious.”

    “No, I mean, how?” I waved a hand at the tiny book and its infinitely smaller letters that even from just one seat away were giving me a headache with how they seemed to float off the pages. The neon orange book cover wasn’t helping either. “Without wanting to murder yourself.”

    “Oh I - “ Luke paused and then he eyed the pocket Bible suspiciously, holding it a bit away from him. “...I have no idea.”

    “Oh,” I said too. “So, it’s not one of your random powers?”

    “I - what - ‘the get rid of my dyslexia’ power?” Luke drawled sarcastically as he closed the book. He glanced at the sleeping passenger in front of us like he was debating tossing it back, but then I guess he changed his mind because he hurriedly stuffed it back into one of the pockets on his vest like it might bite him. “And one of my random - “

    I could see it coming, I just wasn’t expecting it as he flicked my forehead.


    You have no room to talk.”

    “Okay, no.” I scowled, rubbing my forehead. I don’t understand. That hurt more than taking a spear handle to the head from a goddess. “You have, like, three different kinds of super-stealing, super athletics, telekinesis, super swording - “

    Luke blinked. “Super swording?”

    “Can unlock things from a distance - “

    “That’s just the tele - “

    “No,” I said. Throwing things with your mind was not the same thing. “Your stealth thing and do you have super speed? Could your eyes track Epona - “ shit.

    Hope she wasn’t paying attention to me saying her Name, because murder Romans out of nowhere would kind of suck right now. Maybe I should get out of the saying Names habit.


    “Like, actually see where she was at all times,” I explained and then I watched Luke hesitate to answer. “You’ve got super speed,” I said flatly. “So that’s bullshit. How many fucking Names did your dad let you inherit from?”

    “That’s - how many did your mother let you?” Luke hissed and that was a question I didn’t even want to know the answer to.

    I was kind of curious and kind of not if there was some kind of ‘official’ word for what kind of demigod I was.

    Some kind of gestalt demigod?

    A mutt?

    Was it an Elder God demigod thing? Was Nyx’s demigod half Norse, half Hurrian, half Greek and who knows what else?

    “This isn’t about me,” I said.

    “You can teleport,” Luke said through clenched teeth.

    I blinked.

    “Uh, what?” I said, thrown.

    “You’ve gotta be - “ Luke aborted throwing up his hands to hurriedly hunch over when he nearly launched Artemis off his lap. “Damn - uh, we’re fine,” and it was pretty funny watching him wave his hands over the rabbit like he was trying to hypnotize her. “Go back to sleep.”

    Maybe he was hypnotizing her.

    Luke held his breath until the rabbit began to softly snore again.

    “This is not what I imagined happening when we left Camp,” I pointed out. “You. Artemis. Just saying.”

    “You’re telling me,” Luke said. His voice was teasing, but his smile was tight. “We’ve got an understanding. I tell her when she’s being shit - “

    “And she tells you when you’re being shit?”

    I almost winced as soon as I said it. Too soon. It’s only been a couple of hours since Luke punched me for being an idiot. The bruise was long gone, but my face was still swollen a bit. I think he cracked my cheekbone.

    Luke lifted his nose into the air snootily. “Well, excuse you.”

    “You both tell me when I’m being a moron again,” I said with a weak smile, relieved that my mouth hadn’t gotten me into trouble again. “So that’s fair.”

    Luke’s smile loosened slowly, until it fell into a small, thoughtful frown. “I blame her brother, really.”

    “Um.” My eyebrows rose. “Blame him for what?”

    Don’t get me wrong.

    I’m sure Apollo is guilty of a lot of things.

    “It’s - “ he blew out a breath and looked away. “I get that you grew up way differently, but Camp…” he trailed off as I frowned, already uncomfortable. I was now very, very aware of how differently I grew up from everyone else. “You get used to the idea that no one cares or not as much as they should and then - then there’s Fred.” Luke shrugged almost sheepishly. “It actually took me a bit to figure out who that was.”

    I boggled. “How?”

    Blond and blue eyed idiot mystery Camper, who else could that possibly be but Apollo in ‘disguise?’

    “Hard to believe,” Luke said softly.

    My chest hurt.

    “Apollo’s good people,” I croaked.

    “And I’m…willing to entertain the thought…” Luke started haltingly. His jaw worked and the words just weren’t coming out like they went against everything he stood for.

    “She swore an oath.”

    “Yeah,” Luke blew out quickly, relieved that I said it for him and then he grimaced. “I want to say it doesn’t change anything, but it does.”

    “That’s not a bad thing,” I ventured. “Right?”

    He tossed his head back against the bus seat hard enough to make our row rock a little, squeaking. “Ask me again after we get through this.”

    “I will,” I assured him.

    We fell into a comfortable silence. Luke started up his Harvest Moon save again and I dug around in my backpack for the rest of my Gameboy Color games.

    “...did I really teleport?”

    “D’you remember back right before we met Corey? Running after Artemis?” Luke asked, distracted. I nodded. “You teleported in front of me. I saw it. That’s how you got there in time.”

    …I did?

    I must have said that out loud because Luke nodded at me. “You did. I assumed it was hard to do, like mine.”

    I looked at him in surprise. “You - ?”

    Luke grimaced. “I can…run on the wind. A bit,” he said, making a vague swooping motion with his free hand like it was a kite catching a breeze. “It hurts. Chiron warned me off practicing.” About fucking time that centaur was good for something. “Said only for emergencies because, get this.” Luke turned towards me, sneering. “Apparently sometimes demigods inherit powers that could kill them.”

    “Ye - up,” I drawled. “Lucky us, right?”

    Luke snorted.

    “Two guesses who also get no warning that’s a thing until after they nearly have a heart attack and the first one doesn’t count.” Ouch. “I was out for days,” he whispered harshly. “Throwing up and with a fever and - and I thought now - now surely my father would show up, or send someone else, or give me a message telling me off for being stupid or…”

    Something, I heard in the silence.

    “That was the last straw,” Luke whispered. “I gave him an ultimatum, demanded a Quest and…” Luke’s eyes were shadowed. “You know the rest.”

    I turned back to my Gameboy Color, convinced he was done talking about this pretty depressing topic, but I should have known better.

    Luke didn’t know how to let anything go.

    “Your mom didn’t teach you about your powers.” He said. It wasn’t a question. He just looked at me, expecting me to confirm what he already suspected.

    I didn’t know I could teleport (and still not sure how. Or why) and I knew either my back or my shadow (or both?) could sprout wings, but no idea how to make that happen without Luke bleeding on me because the last time I tried, I just farted and maybe I could do something with my voice other than sound scary but who knows what -

    “No,” I mumbled, my Gameboy hanging limply in my hand. "She didn’t think I’d need it,” I offered in her defense.

    At the time, it was a pretty good defense because Mom was that little thing called Fate, so her not seeing something coming was a big deal. But for some strange reason, when I repeated it out loud?

    Not gonna lie. It sounded pretty lame.

    Luke didn’t buy it.

    Which was fair.

    I wasn’t sure I bought it either.

    “I - “ he breathed. “Am going to punch her so hard.”

    “It’s not that big a deal - “ I tried.

    “Fate loses out to Hermes in parenting right now,” Luke said flatly. “And he’s terrible.”

    I gave up.

    “Maybe we should be talking about our demigod heist,” I changed the subject. “Since we’re, what, an hour away from the city of Lost Wages?”

    Luke cracked a smile. “City of Lost - “ He stopped, eyes going unfocused.


    He refocused. “Might be nothing.” He sighed as our Greyhound bus rolled over a rough pothole or bump and Artemis stretched on her pillow, groggily waking up. “Any details on the op?”

    I grimaced and finally put my Gameboy down. I brought it up to get away from Mom’s parenting skills, and it still tanked my mood down into the basement. I didn’t feel like even trying to play through this conversation.

    “The Lotus Eater,” I mumbled.

    “What?” Artemis stiffened, suddenly wide awake.

    “The Lotus Eater,” I muttered. “Kore said entering its abode is going to cost me time.” I didn’t need to see Luke’s face to remember that we didn’t have a lot of that. “Only what I can afford,” I said then too, but I was well aware that I didn’t ask if she meant ‘afford’ as in it won’t kill me or ‘afford’ as in our Quest’s deadline, if she was actually aware the Quest was even a thing. “A little bit?”

    “Perseus,” Artemis said and her voice was thick with either sleep or horror. “Even gods avoid paying the Lotus Eater’s toll.” Her silver eyes were wide as she sat up. “How are we supposed to escape it? Were you given - ” The rabbit read the answer on my face.

    Persephone expected us to succeed without her divine help.

    I swallowed hard.

    I thought…

    That was when I realized that maybe I was better off not making any deals with anyone else for the rest of my life.

    Luke sucked on his teeth. “There’s gotta be a way. Didn’t - “ I wondered why he stopped when Luke held up a hand with a growing, mean smirk on his face. And then he pointed at me and my stomach sank. “Pop quiz.”

    Oh no.

    “Who escaped the lotus eaters in Greek myth?”

    Of all the -

    “I don’t know?” I said with a shrug and innocent smile.

    Luke was unamused. “Guess.”


    “Um.” I wracked my brain. It didn’t take too long, because there wasn’t much in there.


    I meant about ancient demigods. I only knew a few names and I could count them off on one hand, a thumb and a pinky finger. Two of those were now gods, one was Apollo’s dead boyfriend (he has a lot of those), Theseus, my namesake Perseus and Daedalus. I already forgot who the crashed sun chariot dude was and I still don’t know who Achilles is or what he did.

    Luke never actually said.

    “O - “ I started and Luke nodded encouragingly. “O…deee…?” He waved his hands in a ‘come on’ gesture. So I was on the right track! “Oedipus?”

    “Wait.” Luke dropped his hands and his smile to look at me incredulously as Artemis snorted. “You don’t know Odysseus, but you know Oedipus?”

    So I wasn’t on the right track.

    “Okay, look, dyslexic and they start with the same letters,” I said in my defense. Or close enough to the same letters. Don’t you start - Oedipus has an extra letter, but dyslexic. “It’s not my fault.”

    “Where’d you even hear about Oedipus?”


    “Good question,” I said stiffly. “It’s a long story that we really don’t have the time for - “

    Luke’s smile was too wide and plastic looking as he leaned over me, boxing me in against the bus window. “Try me.”

    “Artemis?” I called for help.

    The rabbit sighed as she huddled in her loaf on Luke’s lap. “I am afraid Perseus is right.”

    “Thank you.”

    Her ears bounced. “Which is why he should say it in as few words as possible.”

    “I hate you.”

    “Out with it,” Luke demanded. “Was it a Prophecy thing?”

    “There was a Proph - “ shit. “Uh, sure, yeah, duh, of course. Gotta make sure I know all about those…”

    My party members silently stared at me.

    I groaned and copied Luke by throwing my head back against the back of my seat. I palmed my face with both hands and felt like sinking right into the floor. Have you ever been put on the spot like this, your friends both looking at you expectantly waiting to hear about that time you escaped the house wearing no underwear and your pants on your head as a kid? And it’s all ‘haha I was a dumb kid’ whenever your grandmother brings it up, but when faced with telling someone else, it suddenly feels like you should be surprised you could even breathe without instructions?

    I think this was revenge for the Pit thing.

    “Okay, so, you’re not telling anyone else, got it?” I ordered.

    Luke crossed an x over his heart.

    I rolled my eyes. I didn’t ask Artemis, because between this Quest and Apollo, I’ve got mountains of dirt on her. “Okay, so, I must have been five or six - no five.” Apollo had just arrived, so it had to be right after I turned five. “And my parents, well Dad, went all out on their engagement party.”

    “Your parents are married?” Luke cut in.


    Pure disbelief and what looked uncomfortably like awe was on his face.

    I cleared my throat.

    “And that’s great and all, but I was five and no one told me what was happening.”

    I don’t think it was really anyone’s fault there. Dad and I were…not and Mom was literally older than marriage as a concept.

    “So I ask and my father explains that he and Mom are getting married and what that means and I was like, but, Mom.” I widened my eyes dramatically in an incredulous look. “You could do so much better.”

    Luke made a strange huffing sound that was probably an aborted laugh.

    I waved my hands. “I spent the rest of that fucking dinner trying to change her mind.”

    I love my father, but I didn’t always and he’s still kind of a loser. Yeah, sure, corporate lawyer, but also super nerd and if Mom hadn’t picked him, I don’t know if he would have ever gotten a girlfriend.

    “So I’m there tossing out a bunch of Names she could marry instead like ‘whatever Time did so that you guys broke up, I’m sure he’s sorry’ - “ and the Shiva suggestion was Dead on Arrival and I was still a little butthurt about it. Who wouldn’t want my mother? Assholes, that’s who. “ - and Dad’s super bummed and everybody else is laughing - “ And five year old me hated being laughed at. “And I’m like ‘Mom, don’t do this!’

    I threw up my hands.

    I’ll marry you!”

    Phhhhhhhbbbbt!” Luke cracked.

    Loud, right from the belly laughs came out of him drowning out Artemis’ snickers and making other passengers in the bus turn their heads. The laugh creased up his entire face.

    “I was five!” I protested as he dropped his face into his hands, still chuckling.

    Mom had been of negative help during all this, by the way. Did you know the Earth Mother had kids with her own kids Ouranos and Phanes?

    I wish I didn’t.

    “It gets worse.”

    “Nooo,” Luke moaned.

    “Yup,” I popped the ‘p’. I pointed at Artemis and the rabbit had the sense to look alarmed. “Your dumbass brother told me to marry one of my sisters instead.”

    According to Apollo, going after your mom was tasteless, but your aunt is fine.

    Do not look at me.

    Gods are gonna god.

    “And Mom’s like ‘that is such a bad idea’ - “

    I’m talking full on Quantum Stupid face and maybe a little PTSD. That’s when I learned three of them tried to abort me, tried again with a Pit Scorpion two years ago and the last one would kill me just by proximity.

    “So then - heh, then I ask - “ I started cracking up too, because Luke’s snort giggling was infectious and now that it was out there, it was actually hilarious. “So I ask Apollo if he has any spare sisters - “ I flapped my hand obnoxiously and put on an exaggerated Valley Girl accent. “Like, wasn’t there, like, this huntress chick?”

    That set Luke off again.

    Artemis looked like she regretted everything.


    I don’t know how much of that stupidity was responsible for the crush later, but you know how that went. Saying it crashed and burned would be an understatement.

    “And that’s how I learned about Oedipus,” I finished. “Any questions? I am here all week.”

    “How are you still alive?” Artemis asked tiredly.

    She was right to ask. Apollo had something of a reputation regarding Artemis’ would-be boyfriends. By that I mean he was well known for skipping the shovel talk part and going right to the digging a shallow grave part.

    “Mom was right there and I’m adorable.” Probably more of one than the other, but who cares?

    Not me.

    “Eh heh, eh heh heh.” Luke was having trouble breathing.

    “Lotus eater,” I offered.

    “Right,” he wheezed into his hands. “Lotus eater.”

    “Odysseus did not escape,” Artemis said quickly, clearly eager to move on for reasons that escape all of us, I’m sure. “He was never caught in the first place. It used to rely on lotus fruit to ensnare its victims. People could choose to not partake. They could drag others away.”

    “And now?” I asked, my good mood draining away.

    “It joined the 21st century,” she replied dryly. “A place of recreation that exacts the toll the moment you step within. Mortals enter. They do not leave.”

    I bit my lip.

    That was going to be a problem.

    “Time…” she murmured. Artemis’ ears wiggled thoughtfully then as she tilted her head left, then right as she stared at me. “And Kore listened to you. You had her attention. The deal was with you.

    There was a ball of ice in my stomach.


    I wasn’t sure I wanted to understand what she was saying. Whatever it was, Luke had caught on. He finished wiping the tears from his eyes as he asked, “Houston?”


    “You were aware during a time stop,” Artemis said, her voice low and I remembered the possessed body of the mercenary Torus, and the ticking fractal patterns in her eyes before she stole Luke’s…steal.

    Luke was still mad about that.

    “There are minor gods unable to replicate such a feat,” Artemis said and that made me blink, because that -

    That didn’t sound right.

    “I couldn’t do anything though?” I said thickly.

    “And he’s not going in alone,” Luke nearly snapped at her.

    Artemis’ ears fell as she curled into herself and I knew that she was right. I offered to make a deal and Persephone answered. Luke and Artemis hadn’t even been on her radar. If I hadn’t said anything, we might have just fell.

    “Actually,” I said miserably. “I think I am.”

    Luke’s head snapped towards me. “No - “

    “You went into that school alone because you’re the thief,” I said and watched him grit his teeth.

    “That’s not the same - “

    “Isn’t it?”

    Isn’t it?

    “If I don’t get out in time, you can just come get me,” I said quietly. “Right?”

    Luke’s face scrunched into an angry neutral, but then it slowly softened out of it into something determined and sad. “I’ll come get you.”

    The rest of the bus ride passed by slowly, like I was the one stretching out time itself to try to make it last.

    But I was just a demigod. There was only so much I could do.

    Our bus tickets took us to a bus stop right in front of where Persephone wanted us to go. Luke and I shared a despairing look, before we grabbed our bags and got off.

    The Lotus Hotel and Casino looked like all the other buildings on the street.

    Las Vegas, Nevada had an architectural style that was timeless, remaining just as much of a tacky eyesore now as it had been five decades ago. It was like everyone had just collectively decided that movie theaters, carnivals, tasteless hotels and casinos had this one look and this place took that look and ran it right out of bounds. Purple, yellow and orange were the dominant colors, entire awnings made out of hundreds of brilliant fluorescent bulbs, the blocky fifties lettering lined in white or red light, the constant moving pictures, endless booming music, cars clogging the streets and honking horns, flashing lights everywhere demanding your attention -

    It was an ADHD nightmare.

    “I am actually getting a headache,” Luke marveled. Artemis whimpered, curling down into his vest to try to save her ears.

    What no one else could see was the rippling, giant tube sticking out the top of the casino in front of us. It reminded me of an eel, or a lamprey worm or one of those nasty looking lipstick tube worms from the ocean growing out of the neon lit roof. As I stared, a contraction rippled up the tube like it had just swallowed.

    I tore my eyes away.

    I learned from Artemis that when someone said the Lotus Eater took your time, they didn’t mean ‘caused you to waste it.’ The demigods we were after were still kids because the Lotus Eater took your time. No one could be born and no one died. You didn’t age and you didn’t change. You wouldn’t need to cut your toenails or hair. Your body still worked, but it was like you were living the same day over and over again.

    The Lotus Eater was some ancient pre-Greek civilization’s ideal of a benevolent god. You were compensated. All the distractions and entertainment you could want. All your needs met. Even if something traumatic happened to you in there, you’d quickly forget it and revert back to how you were when you first entered.

    Like blissfully happy fattened cattle.

    Two guesses on how likely anyone was going to figure out something was wrong in the first place and the first doesn’t count.

    “So how long are we talking before you come in?” I asked and then I frowned. “And how bad’s the time dilation?”

    “I do not know,” Artemis mumbled.

    “So…six hours?” I guessed. Get in, get them, get out, right? Persephone did say finding them would be obvious…Aannnnd now I’m really hoping she didn’t think my godly eyes came with actual god vision installed and could see auras. Demigods would be super obvious if I could, but I can’t.


    I was half-tempted to ask Mom for a refund. If Quintus was right and you could learn to see through the Mist anyway, what have my eyes really done for me lately?

    “Twelve hours?” I tried. “You gotta have some faith in me, right?”

    “Two days,” Artemis said and Luke grimaced.


    “I won’t need two days,” I said in false confidence. “Watch me.”

    I marched right up to the giant neon flower entrance. The petals were lighting up in a strobe effect that made my temples pulse and the flowery air-conditioning spilling out of the glittering chrome doors did not help.

    Just inside, there was a doorman who had a friendly smile, a professional haircut and closed eyes. “Hey, aren’t you going to bring your friends?”

    I looked back.

    Luke stood on the other side of the street with his purple and black backpack slung over one of his shoulders, his yellow fanny pack on his waist and a rabbit in his red vest. He raised a hand. A black SUV drove by and when it passed, he was gone.

    I swallowed. “Later, maybe.”

    The doorman nodded agreeably. “Alright then, come on in!”

    The second I stepped inside, I could feel it. My vision swam and I stumbled forward, but the weird vertigo passed so quickly, I almost thought I imagined it.

    “Easy there, son,” the doorman said. His smile had shrunk but his eyes were still closed. “You got a reservation?”

    “...not exactly,” I said warily.

    He looked like an ordinary guy, just in a white-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt with lotus flower and watermelon designs on it, jean shorts and pink flip flops. I knew that didn’t actually mean anything. Hiraya could look like an ordinary person too and my sensitivity wasn’t enough to really be sure who was a monster and who wasn’t. Relying on my Spidey Sense to tell me when I was in trouble had its risks.

    It only reacted to things that would kill me.

    No one could die in the Lotus Casino.

    “Well,” the doorman said slowly. “If you want to stay, you’re going to have to check in at the front desk.”

    He pointed.

    The whole lobby was a giant game room and I’m not talking about cheesy old Pac-Man games or even the expected slot machines. It looked like an entire theme park, a water park, a carnival fair, a video game store and the New York Roosevelt Field’s food court were all occupying the same space. There were even tourist attractions like rock climbing here, completely taking up one side of the ground floor and an indoor bungee-jumping bridge. As I looked around at the water slide snaking around the glass elevator, the virtual reality suits with working laser guns, wide screen TVs hooked up to every game console on the market, snack bars with little holographic flags telling you what country the food came from, my mouth hung open.

    I suddenly understood why the Lotus Eater was considered a cool dude. No wonder Hades and Night stashed their kids here. My childhood was starting to look like a missed opportunity.

    Because this was awesome.

    At the far, very far end of the lobby was a lonely looking, shadowed semi-circle desk with a blocky 1990s computer screen on it. There was a banner of a smiling woman eating a lotus fruit hanging off the edge, but there was no receptionist and I could swear the computer was black, but it looked like it was gray from dust.

    There was no way I would have even noticed the desk was there without it being pointed out.

    I turned back to the doorman. “There’s no one there?”

    “There will be,” he said.


    With nothing better to do, I started walking.

    It turned out, walking in a straight line from the entrance to the front desk was a lot harder than it looked. The casino didn’t pull any spatial shenanigans. It just took a lot of willpower to walk past all the games and fun things on both sides of the lobby. There were even a few kids around, laughing and having a great time.

    “You new?”

    I turned and saw a small black haired boy a couple years younger than me with that Mediterranean tan I had. He looked like he dressed himself in the dark with a bright pink shirt, khaki shorts and lime green flip flops.

    He had godly eyes.

    They were pure black. The only hint of white were his pupils, a pearl floating in a moonless, starless night sky. As I watched, he seemed to shift, reminding me strongly of Persephone on how he turned pale and the color of his eyes inverted to pure white like a full moon with black pupils.


    His head whipped around. “Coming, Bianca!” He shouted guiltily. He gave me a hopeful look. “You play any card games? No one else does, it’s all about the telly.”

    “Yeah,” I said thickly. “I’ve got a deck too. Mythomagic, I could show you.”

    He lit up.

    “Finally someone who isn’t a drip!Nico grinned, open and friendly. “I keep telling people that the old stuff is still reet killer diller and a gas to play!”

    I think I got all that?

    The 1940s was a strange place.

    I had absolutely no idea what to feel standing in front of Night’s demigod son.

    I would say it looked like he was happy, safe and looked after. The kind of kid you could tell was growing up without a care in the world, but that was the problem.

    He wasn’t growing up.

    Can I just…grab him and book it? I looked around. There were bellhops in tropical beachwear all over, waitresses behind the snack bar and the doorman was still by the door. “I - uh, I’ve been sent to get you, actually,” I said quietly so I wouldn’t be overheard.

    Nico looked at me like I just sprouted a second head. “Get me from where?”


    He’s been here for sixty fucking years.

    “I - “

    I almost jumped out of my skin when a large hand came down on my shoulder.

    “You’re looking a little lost, buddy!” A bellhop from out of nowhere had a wide grin as he looked down at me and a necklace of flowers around his neck. His eyes were closed. “Loitering isn’t allowed.”

    Of course it isn’t.

    “This one has got to check in first, prince,” the bellhop told Nico with a soft smile. “You two can catch up later.”

    “Later,” Nico told me, just accepting being shooed off.

    I started walking again immediately, not wanting to give the bellhop any reason to do something drastic. The hotel was at least forty stories tall, making it much bigger on the inside than it was on the outside with every floor going up and up, lining the insides of the gullet I had seen. I had no idea how I was going to do this.

    Best case scenario, this took five minutes and Nico was right where I left him so I could tell him what was up. And then find Hades’ daughter, somehow.

    I could only hope they kept some kind of guest registry.

    Something like Victim #56874, demigod of Hades, room 401, Third Floor. No room service.

    It was just like the doorman said. I arrived in front of an empty desk. I blinked and there was a receptionist.

    “Checking in?” She said with a bright smile with her eyes closed. Like everyone else, she was in beach clothes, a tie dye cut off shirt and a straw hat with lotus flowers on the rim.

    “Sure,” I said as casually as I could. “You take Mastercard, right?”

    She laughed like that was the funniest joke in the world.

    “Good one!” She beamed. “Don’t worry, we do take payment up front, but there won’t be any extra charges or fees and you don’t have to tip!”

    I sucked air in through my teeth.

    “Okay, so, it’s not that I don’t want to pay - “ I just don’t want to pay. “It’s that I don’t know how to.”

    The receptionist’s smile wilted. “Oh.”

    There was a really awkward moment where we both just stood there.

    “You are locked up pretty tight,” she said eventually, with a thoughtful purse to her lips and wrinkle on her forehead. “Can’t you just relax?”

    I gave her an incredulous stare.

    Just relax?


    “Right,” she sighed, somehow seeing the look I gave her through closed eyelids. “If it were up to me, I’d give you a freebie, might help loosen those shackles you have, nothing like a little fun to make the time just pass you by!”

    I bet.

    “But I really don’t want to be unmade again,” she sighed for a second time.

    “Uh, yeah,” I said, shifting uncomfortably. The plan I had of talking her into giving me that freebie had just evaporated. “Unmade? That’s a little excessive.” That doesn’t mean killed. “Free samples is just good business sense.”

    “Exactly!” The receptionist smiled. “You’re very sweet, prince, but I shouldn’t keep you.” She pointed, like the doorman had earlier and there was an elevator door I completely missed somehow right by her in the wall.

    “The manager will see you now.”

    The elevator door slid open smoothly with a soft chime. There was just one button to push.


    …so what are my chances of not ending up in the Pit if I just walked out of here and asked Persephone for a do over?


    I pushed the button.

    The doors closed, my stomach did that flip from the g-force of the metal carriage lurching into motion and bland elevator music started playing through the speakers. There was no indicator of how far down I was going, but I could almost feel the minutes crawl past. By the time the elevator finally stopped, my stomach felt like it was eating itself with nerves making me feel nauseous.

    The door opened and the doorman from the entrance was there.


    He smiled, eyes closed. “Well, come on then. Don’t want to be late to your appointment.”

    I don’t think I was in Las Vegas anymore.

    The hallway past the elevator doors was made out of sunken brick, the kind of damp, moist clay of a recently flooded tunnel covered in algae and lined with the mosaic carvings of primitive people. My footsteps sounded wet, bouncing back through the hallway sounding like splashing puddles. I could see where the murals had been painted once, but the colors had long chipped away and washed out. The etchings were smooth with erosion, but the bowing figures venerating an octopus like creature were clear to see. A blooming lotus flower was carefully etched at the top of each mural, rays coming from it like it was replacing the sun.

    You wouldn’t think childish cave etchings of stick figure people throwing an unlucky dude into a maze where the vague, tentacled form dwelled would be scary, but uh.


    “Nice art,” my mouth said.

    “Wouldn’t do to forget our history,” the doorman chuckled.

    “And it is history,” I said. My stomach was starting to cramp. “Right?”

    “These were made thousands of years ago,” he said, waving a hand at the walls we walked past.

    That wasn’t what I was asking.

    “Don’t you worry, prince,” he said reassuringly. “The manager will just clear up this little issue you’re having with payment. We have no intention of crossing your father.”



    I kept my mouth shut. I was figuring that being told ‘we won’t hurt you because your dad is badass’ going ‘my dad’s a mortal lawyer’ would be pretty stupid of me.

    “Here we are.”

    We stepped out of the hallway into a section that looked like it came from Waterworld. The stone was replaced with glass revealing dark water all around, a pale, almost translucent jellyfish was lazily floating along with tendrils so long they continued out of sight past the stone floor and on the other side closer to the stone doors at the end was a weird, starfish looking thing hanging on to the glass.

    “See you on the other side!”

    I looked at the doorman.

    He smiled brightly.

    I hated every bit of this. My stomach gurgled and not in the hungry kind of way. I was starting to feel like that curry I couldn’t remember eating was threatening to make a great escape through my ass. The fact that the back of my neck had been completely silent through everything wasn’t comforting. As I approached the doors, I saw that there was a little laminated orange plastic paper attached to the left side with duct tape saying ‘Maanegr.’

    I know it was my dyslexia, but come on.

    Really killing the vibe here.

    Beyond the doors wasn’t an office. It was a giant basin of dark water in the middle of the stone floor and a giant shockingly ugly statue of something like looked almost like a prehistoric shark if it had been crossed with an octopus, tentacles with detailed toothy suckers curling off the squat main body, almost dripping with disgusting flesh rolls of fat into the air. I was glad it was made out of stone so I didn’t have to see it move. There were broad fins and the whole thing looked almost curled around the giant blood red gemstone centerpiece as its long snout grinned, showing off sharp triangular shark teeth.

    There was no one here.


    Vibe is not dead, it is very much alive.

    “Hello?” I called out. I took a few more steps inside, trying to see if there was anything I was missing.

    Something pushed me into the water basin in the center of the room.

    I gasped, choked, tried to swim back out, but it was much deeper than it seemed. My sneakers felt like they had turned to lead, dragging me down as the light circle of the surface got further and further away no matter how hard I flailed my arms.

    I remembered the bottom of the ocean in a dream. The prickling feeling of doom approaching.

    At ease, a ponderous, deep slow voice burbled. At ease. Our lord takes only what freely flows from the faucet. You need only to turn off the spigot.

    I remembered Erebus’ burning touch to my head.

    I yelled.

    The tension in my stomach snapped.

    The water exploded.


    Nico leaned over our table and picked up the holographic mythic Hecate, Goddess of Magic card. It was a really pretty card, the silver film flashing all the colors of the rainbow when you tilted it towards the light. Hecate herself was a shrouded female figure on an obsidian throne with a black dog at her feet and a polecat on her shoulder. Twin torches burned at the sides of her chair. She was looking off to the side in the art, dismissive.

    She also had a whopping twenty thousand points of defense for no logical reason.

    Sure, okay, she had zero offense but that didn’t mean anything because her special let you spam spell cards and trigger spell effects like they were going out of style. Every player who focused on spell cards and caster monsters wanted a Hecate in their deck, because putting her on the playing field was shorthand for,

    ‘Get fucked, loser.’

    Too bad getting your hands on one was going to cost you a couple grand on eBay or your grandkids are going to be the ones with a completed Spell deck, because you’re going to be opening booster packs for the rest of your fucking life.

    I’m choosing to believe Mom tossed me a bone so I wouldn’t suffer, but I…

    Can’t remember when.

    Christmas, maybe?

    “I didn’t know cards could be so…”

    “Told you,” I said smugly.

    “Now you’re just gammin’.” Nico rolled his monochrome eyes.

    “He’s not bothering you is he?” Nico’s sister Bianca swung by our little table with a pina colada looking drink, pink with sliced strawberries and a yellow umbrella sticking out the top. She had black hair like her brother, but it was more like hair, you know? Less shadow. She had black eyes too, but in the normal way. The color was confined to her irises.

    “He’s fine,” I said a bit sharply and Bianca flushed.

    “It’s not - usually people don’t want to hang out here, always have something to do or play so I’m just…” She bit her lip. “I know he talks a lot.”

    Nico dropped his head.

    “But if you don’t mind, then I’m glad he’s found a friend,” she finished with a soft smile.

    Nico’s head shot up.

    “I don’t mind,” I said. “I’m having a lot of fun.”

    Nico shifted in his seat. “Do you wanna…try out bungee jumping?”

    “You promised to teach me how to play Crazy Eights,” I reminded him and I grinned.

    Nico’s answering smile trembled. “Sure.”

    “Awesome. Let me just get these…” I started packing away my Mythomagic deck back into their aluminum tin. There was some kind of trick of the light, or maybe a feature in her holographic card, because for a second when I picked it up, I thought Hecate turned her head to look at me.

    I put the card away with the others, feeling like I was forgetting something important.
  30. Mandoanon

    Mandoanon Not too sore, are you?

    Jan 14, 2022
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    Well, this can't be good