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

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

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  1. ArcanaVitae

    ArcanaVitae Not too sore, are you?

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    Also we don't know how much of both the Fates and Fate actions are of their own volition rather than their own choice because the free will they have is limited. Something I really like about this story is that each character have a reason for being who they are and acting the way the do. But it is terrifying how well things have been nudged, by the Fates/Fate just so that Percy can be exposed to these kind of things because all of these tragedies and life changing events are just moves done to subtly shape Percy in a way to get him into the mindset Fate wants him to be in. Also we know that Fate and the Fates are assholes but the question is how much of it is really their choice because that is really scary and plays the cosmic horror part really well.
     
    Silver W. King and Ku4kin like this.
  2. Oxymoron

    Oxymoron Too lazy to do more

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    Best food on the entire site rn
    Fight me if you think im wrong
     
  3. Aaron_04

    Aaron_04 Making the rounds.

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    So... 40% chance they meet a wendigo, 40% they not, and 20% percy just go all the way and meet the windwalker herself. Put your bets folks.
    Luke just stealing artemis voice as a way to ground her is great and the way you talk about the Night is terrifying and i love it.
    Khione keeps being very lovable and olympus keeps being full of asshats only suprassed by the fates
    The little bits of lore are allways very interesting and i think you weave them into the story very well.
    Also booth luke and percy are slowly shaping to become abslutly ridiculous wich they kinda need if they want a chance
    In conclusion reading this chapter is a delight, i'll wait patiently for the next one.
     
    TIM and ArcanaVitae like this.
  4. HallVA DraoweD

    HallVA DraoweD A random person doing random things

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    No! I'm late to the chapter! Damn real life. Anyway, so crazy monster wolf from an underused culture, Percy got injured, Luke stealing absurd stuff, Khione to the rescue, Artemis being Artemis and a poetic yet fitting way of a goddess of ice crying to end this chapter off. All in all, a good chapter.
     
    Finis_Omnium likes this.
  5. Extras: Camp Half-Blood Tales #3
    Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    THE DEMIGOD had the same tell as his father.

    She would be the first to admit that he was a handsome boy in that familiar sharp edged, arrogant way. His mother must have given him that hair and nose, but everything else was his father. It was too bad Hermes’ pretty head was one she wanted separated from his neck and it took everything in her to not let the spark of hatred burn.

    Be ice.

    It was in the minute twitching of his fingers. To their credit, it could have meant anything. The desire to draw a weapon, to strangle, to indicate in a direction, to steal…which is why she never bothered trying to decipher what it meant.

    Luke Castellan, like his father, suppressed and hid the wrong things.

    The faint crackle and pop as the surveillance cameras watching them died could have been caused by a number of different things, but Khione was a goddess. The way the top layer of reality inverted into a spike right through the mechanical innards might as well have been a bugle horn. She didn’t have to look around the tourist trap to know that they were out of earshot and out of sight of mortals -

    - that white cowboy hat was nice, actually. There were even little light blue buffalo prancing along the hat band! That was adorable. She could make a copy, of course, but having something that wasn’t cold was appealing, once in a while. She set it on her head and turned around.

    There was a sword at her throat.

    She almost rolled her eyes.

    Mortals.

    The next Ice Age could not come fast enough.

    “My criminal justice degree feels compelled to inform you that this is criminal assault in Texas,” she tried.

    The demigod’s cloudy blue eyes (they changed, she noted. Has someone been exposed?) were hard as he spat out, “What do you want?”

    Khione stared at him for a second. “You cannot possibly be this dense.”

    She could tolerate one oblivious demigod, but two would be pushing it.

    Apparently, she was, in fact, dealing with two of them, because the demigod of Hermes simply edged his blade closer to her neck. And he would do it too, she could tell. If she took too deep a breath now, it might cut.

    She inclined her head. “Immortal goddess.”

    He tilted the flat of the blade towards her and the fluorescent lights shined off the threads of greenish white crystal spreading through the centre of the sword like the thin branches of a tree.

    “Adamantine.”

    She didn’t need to spend even a second wondering how Hermes got his hands on the dangerous material (Thief), but she did make a mental note that this demigod was worth more to his father than most.

    A lot more.

    No wonder Hermes offered a favour. She was glad the boy wasn’t dead yet, even if he had the same darkly mocking smile his father had.

    “You won’t be healing from this one,” he finished grimly.

    …Now she was curious.

    ‘Won’t I?’ she wondered inwardly and let the question echo. There was a faint feeling of question from within. ‘Cut forever,’ she thought next and in her mind’s eye an image of a flowering tree branch was cut off and the leftover stump withered away. The feeling turned to reproach and the stump bloomed again right through the rot.

    “Won’t I?” She asked out loud with what she knew was an inappropriate amount of glee. She adored her new mother, truly. Way more useful than her birth one ever was. “You can break the ice,” she admitted easily. “Temporarily.”

    It cost her nothing to admit it. Ice could break. Has broken. Denying it was useless. There was nothing she needed to protect herself from here. He was just like all the rest of his type. Only capable of envisioning a god as something simultaneously powerful enough to own all the ills of mankind, but weak enough to punish for it.

    He had a warrior’s sense. She had seen enough men prancing before her in an effort to impress to be able to discern the wheat from the chaff. He was wary now. For a moment, she thought perhaps her eyes had given it away, but he couldn’t even see through the Mist, could he?

    It didn’t matter.

    “All ice needs is water.”

    The human body is sixty percent water.

    “And cold.”

    The boy cursed as his outstretched arm froze all the way through.

    He was quick.

    Even through what must have been excruciating pain and unresponsive muscles, he flipped his sword into his other hand. She watched him swing the blade right through her neck. Her visage didn’t respond besides raising an eyebrow as the sword passed through harmlessly. One of the symptoms of hypothermia was hallucinations. He immediately turned with a vicious backswing -

    The blade glanced off the wall of ice that hadn’t been there a second before because in the end, it was just metal. Snarling, he spun again and tired of the pirouetting, Khione froze his penis.

    Everyone knows frostbite takes the extremities first.

    The boy’s eyes bugged as he soundlessly dropped to his knees.

    He really did look too much like Hermes. She should know better than to let her wishful thinking slip through.

    “You are fortunate I went to medical school,” she mused as she came back from the counter, a newly purchased white cowboy hat on her head and slowly knelt down in front of him. She just as slowly reversed the freezing. Revelling a little, in the fact that she could reverse it, now that mortal understanding of their own physical limitations allowed for it.

    The demigod glared up at her with tears in his eyes. Khione let herself smile at him. “Or maybe not.”

    “How many degrees do you have?” The demigod demanded, a bit high pitched.

    “Enough.”

    She was especially proud of the latest one in physics, because it was incredibly useful, very interesting and finishing that doctorate was a bitch and a half she never wanted to do again.

    Unfortunately, she probably would have to do it again in a century or two.

    “I won’t kill you,” she reassured the wretch. She would have liked to make him beg for it, but she was not here to make enemies and he was unlikely to do it. Even if killing him wouldn’t have been a step too far for the rules. “I don’t want to and I don’t care that you stole the Master Bolt.”

    His eyes searched her face. To prove her words, she took the lingering pain away as well. The cold deadened nerve endings.

    Slowly, almost too slowly, the demigod relaxed.

    “Of course not,” he drawled. “You’d have to explain to Percy what you did with the body.”

    Khione smiled winningly at him. So he wasn’t that dense, just paranoid.

    “Because you’re a dirty traitor, obviously. You even tried to sabotage the whole thing by attacking me in a souvenir shop when all I wanted was a hat,” she mock chided him. “There won’t be a next time.”

    It wasn’t a question.

    “No,” the mortal said quietly. “There won’t.”

    She let him get up and checked over her work. For obvious reasons, she wasn’t as used to using her abilities to take the cold away. There was a little subdermal bruising, but demigods did heal rather quickly compared to more mundane mortals. It would be fine, no permanent damage. Good. He was useful and she would like to keep it that way.

    “I am curious, though.” She stepped in close and absently fixed his vest collar. He tensed for a second, but the moment passed and he just watched her with lidded eyes. “Is change enough? Or would you rather Olympus burns?”

    “Which one for you?” He ventured cautiously.

    “The second,” she said coldly. “But…it doesn’t matter, does it?” The collar fixed, she let her hands run down to smooth over the creases in the red vest before pulling away. “The son of Fate seems the compassionate type, but at least he has the power to actually do something about it.”

    She doubted Olympus even had the capability to truly change, but she would wait and see. She could be patient. If it proved that it couldn’t? She hoped Fate’s demigod turned out to be a truly just man.

    “You don’t have to put yourself at risk like this,” he said, feeling out her conviction.

    “Yes, I do,” she said immediately. “The moment the shock of his Claiming dissipates, every god on that mountain will realise exactly what he is. They might get ideas,” she said in a low tone. “And I can’t have that.”

    His face scrunched up.

    She scoffed. “Don’t pretend that’s not what you want him for.”

    The demigod’s eyes averted. There was shame there, she thought. Someone was having second thoughts, but what about?

    It didn't matter.

    Whatever he had doubts about, it wasn't about this. She could see the moment he decided she was a potential ally and trusted a little.

    “He gave me…his boon.” The mortal’s cloudy blue eyes swung back. “From his mother.”

    Khione’s mind went blank for a second.

    “From…his mother,” she repeated. “From his mother?”

    Gods giving a mortal any kind of IOU was almost unheard of, and to have one from Ananke herself?

    Amazing.

    Also terrifying, yes.

    “He’s only good for it if the rabbit survives,” he said with a grimace and Khione turned completely away from him to bite her thumb so she wouldn’t scream.

    “That’s…fine,” she managed to say around the sweet golden blood in her mouth.

    It wasn’t. It wasn’t, it wasn’t!

    “The best I can do is help the Quest in general succeed - “ Because she could not stomach the thought of actually lifting a finger to help Artemis do anything. “ - we can say I’m just helping the son of Fate. Officially.”

    “Officially,” the demigod repeated dutifully.

    She turned back to him. “And unofficially, if you need to cover your tracks so our mutual friend doesn’t know, you have options.”

    “The god of War knows,” he reminded her.

    “The god of War is a brute that the goddess of Love has on a long leash,” Khione said shortly. “If you can talk him into letting you go and keeping the Bolt, then believe that I am capable of much more.” She tilted her head. “Besides, he kept it for this long. If he tells, who will believe him?”

    The demigod waved a hand.

    “He has the Helm too,” he said airily, a challenging look in his eyes.

    The Helm…of Darkness?

    Hades’ Symbol of Power that turned the wearer completely invisible and completely undetectable.

    On a demigod of Hermes, god of Thieves.

    Who just stole from Olympus.

    “You…are an idiot,” Khione hissed at the wretch. “If you had the Helm, why didn’t you wear it instead of fighting the god of War?”

    Fighting and losing.

    The demigod’s face twisted.

    “The Helm was booby trapped to the Pit and back. I didn’t have the time to disarm it all and thinking straight while escaping Olympus was…hard,” he finished lamely and she revised her understanding of the situation.

    At first, she had thought there was some unnamed god acting as his patron. How else would a mere demigod get the actual gumption to steal the Master Bolt of Zeus? A mastermind waiting for Camp Half-Blood field trip during the Winter Solstice to direct a demigod of the god of Thieves into the perfect theft that would set the Olympians against each other. It would allow for them to approach allies and consolidate power while Olympus were distracted.

    Now she knew this boy was as much of an imbecile as his father.

    “Don’t worry,” Khione said drily. “I’ll treat you just like my brothers and be sure to do all the thinking for you.”

    “Hilarious,” the demigod deadpanned.

    “One last thing,” she said and watched his eyebrows raise. “Steal from me.”

    “What? Why?”

    “Just do it.”

    The boy sighed. There was movement a layer beneath the top and she could see a ghostly luminescent white silhouette covered in mouths with long prehensile tongues reach out of his body -

    There was a crackling sound as they sprang apart, stung.

    “Did you just punch me with your soul?” Khione asked incredulously.

    “I was trying to steal something! Like you asked!” The mortal protested, then his brows furrowed. “How’d you do that?”

    How did she do that?

    How the everloving fuck

    Be ice.

    “...I was expecting it,” she managed to say. “And gods have more awareness and control over our soul.”

    Such as it was.

    Her mother called them ‘Hollow’ and she was not wrong.

    “Be careful with that. In how you use it and in who knows you can,” she warned him, because he was useful and she would like to keep it that way. "The wrong person will make you pay for it."

    And maybe she was speaking from personal experience.

    She watched his face flood with understanding.

    “...Percy let me take a bit,” the demigod said quietly as his eyes averted again.

    “He’s a kind boy, isn’t he?” Khione let herself smile as she looped her arm around his and dragged him to the counter where he hesitantly picked out a silk handkerchief at her urging. It was in that vintage style with the state’s flower, the bluebonnet and a decoratively cursive red ‘Texas’ on it. She was surprised. It didn’t seem like his style.

    “For my mother,” he murmured, eyes lowered.

    The mortal woman at the counter remained completely ignorant as she congratulated Khione on having such a handsome, thoughtful boyfriend in hastily scrawled writing. The boy’s answering smile was faint, but passable as Khione simply compelled the woman to not ask too many questions.

    They got a map, discussed their options and she carefully talked around the issue of Roman demigods in California. That one enforcement would not let go if she let it slip, but she said enough to make him suspicious that Olympus was ‘hiding’ something there unrelated to Ares’ temple or the ruins of Mt. Othrys.

    He had been to the latter before. It was where he got the scar on his face.

    At the vending machine, he punched the buttons like the contraption had personally wronged him.

    “It’s Luke,” he said forcefully.

    “Pardon?” Khione turned back to him.

    “My name is Luke,” he said. “Maybe I can’t see you like Percy can, but it’s still in your eyes. It’s not ‘mortal.’ It’s not ‘demigod.’ It’s Luke.”

    She opened her mouth and then closed it, honestly speechless.

    And a sick, hot flush was welling up under her cheeks that she hadn’t felt in centuries.

    “Of course, f - forgive me.” She cursed her tongue for the falter, but he didn’t seem to notice as his shoulders dropped a bit of their tension and he collected the snacks as they dropped. She supposed she should be pleased he was comfortable enough to confront her. She would do him this courtesy. They were allies, after all and he was not bad company.

    (they kept calling me girl)

    It was not the same!​

    She felt sick.

    She quickly offered the feeling to her mother and it was quickly taken.

    Too quickly.

    She could feel it cut away this time instead of a gentle fading, leaving behind an empty, hollow feeling that she didn’t like. It made her…wonder what it was exactly that she was giving away. The next feeling was one of an apology and she forgave her mother.

    She was just restless due to the confluence of events. The Pit was stirring and for the first time, it was happening at the same time as the Night fell. She would not be surprised to hear that there was movement in the ocean depths so of course the earth would yearn to follow suit.

    Not yet, though.

    Just before they returned to the cafeteria, the demig Luke stopped her.

    “So, we’re good?”

    Khione stared at him blankly.

    “Yes?” She frowned. “I can’t think of a reason why we would not be?”

    His face slackened. “Criminal assault in Texas?”

    She frowned harder. “We both agreed that wouldn’t happen again.”

    “That’s it? No hard feelings?”

    “Immortal goddess?”

    They stared at each other.

    “So someone can just leave you to die - “

    “Wait.” Several things clicked into place for her. His paranoia and hostility. “Were you still holding that against me?” He stared at her, baffled. She huffed, almost offended now. “I gave you a reconciliation gift! What more do you want?”

    Luke threw his head back and stared at the ceiling of the Chambers County Rest Area like it held the meaning to life.

    “I get it,” he said eventually. “Gods are insane.”

    “No,” she countered as she eyed the map, mentally marking out godly territory. “Mortals are. It’s all that dying you do.”

    Percy was awake. At first, he looked confused when he saw her, but she could see the moment he remembered that she came to help because his face then lit up. She felt a heady thrum of vindication and internally sighed wistfully.

    He was going to be a beautiful man in a few years.

    Mother did not approve, but Khione hadn’t spent the time convincing her that the enemy of your enemy was a tool to be used to just give up on what she wanted.

    She was less thrilled to see a certain furball again and even as annoying as it was, she welcomed the food clerk’s efforts to get her attention.

    Yes, it was technically against the rules to let mortals know about her. Olympus had a standing policy of non-interference in mortal affairs outside their Domains. Saying she had magic probably wouldn’t fool any enforcement, but it also wasn’t actionable.

    And according to Olympus, she could tell this man whatever she wanted in order to fuck him. Leaving this man with a demigod to raise alone did not count as ‘interference in mortal affairs’ and bastards were not afforded any rights. If you were to ask, you would be told that the country they were in, America did the same thing.

    Who were you to judge?

    Canada did not.

    Except for Nova Scotia, but no one cared about Nova Scotia.

    Sometimes, she wondered who they were trying to fool. Either they were following the mortals, or they weren’t.

    …enough stalling.

    It would be fine. She was a rabbit.

    There was nothing Artemis could do to her anymore.




    She was wrong.​




    The ice had broken again.

    She couldn’t do it.

    She supposed Greek heroes were used to leaving their women behind for one reason or another, but being that woman for a completely oblivious demigod was both a novel and horrid feeling. Either men knew what she wanted or they didn’t care.

    She hesitated at giving the emotion to her mother. Some wretched part of her wasn’t ready to let it go.

    She vividly remembered her own pleading, her voice breaking, the rocks digging into her knees as she begged for the only child she had actually wanted. She had stopped asking for her daughter’s life (what did I do? who have i wronged? what choice should i have made, please) and now was just asking for it to end.

    The Fates denied her.

    In their own words, some lessons only suffering could teach.

    But she wasn’t the one they were punishing with failure. After all these years searching for a reason, a rationale (the terror always came, choking. if she did not care about them, they couldn't be used against her), or some kind of sign that the lightning would not strike twice and burn it all down again.

    But it wasn’t her fault.

    Her senses followed them out of the rest stop, resuming their journey. Artemis was a dull grey blob of insignificance, only distinguishable from a plant by the spark of silver deep within. Luke was a sharp purple haze, the same colour as most demigods of their pantheon, but there was a creeping dark blue colour that shot straight through his core.

    Percy’s was slumbering. A lazily smouldering dark pit that felt like it was just biding its time until it could finally set ablaze and devour everything in sight.

    She pulled her senses back, annoyed at herself for lingering on him. On the warmth. It was a bad habit. When would she learn? Even a dog could only reach out so many times, before it preferred the cold.

    Fire always burns.

    He would be ridiculously influential. She had seen the dark wings from his shadow contemptuously bat Aura away. He would be strong.

    (he’s kind)

    And what would kind get me?​

    She ignored that little voice inside.

    The meek do not only inherit nothing, they are robbed. The unjust will always have the initiative. The weak can accomplish only as much as the strong allow and the good is notoriously slow at coming to the worthy. If it ever arrives at all. Perhaps another plane, another state of existence supped on kindness instead of apathy, but if one such as that existed, it was not this one.

    There was nothing inherently good about living.

    She wished there was.

    But that was the truth of things. She need only look as far as the ones who decided it would be so, to see it would never change. It took longer than she would care to admit, but she learned.

    She learned.

    This is what Olympus made of her. It would be inconsiderate not to let them enjoy the hard earned fruits of their labour. Now, if only she could keep her heart hard and cold and just do what needed to be done, she would be able to enjoy every second of it as well.

    The Hollow Gods grow quickly. Perhaps that was why she was having such a difficult time putting her childhood down like the pathetic creature it was after all these years. That little voice inside had grown quiet, but not completely silent.

    It was fine.

    She could wait.

    And one day.

    Soon.

    The girl she had been would no longer have the strength to break the ice with her pain and compassion, but would

    Finally!

    drown.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2022
  6. Oxymoron

    Oxymoron Too lazy to do more

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    Luke you fucker
     
  7. RollingFire

    RollingFire Getting out there.

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    Thanks for the extra content so soon after the recent chapter.
     
  8. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    It was my pleasure!

    And you'll have to forgive any delays in the next chapter, of course >.>
     
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  9. RollingFire

    RollingFire Getting out there.

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    [​IMG]
    Of course..........
     
  10. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    To be fair, Luke is in kind of an awkward position right now?
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Luke Gets a Crash Course in Demigoding for Dummies
    Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    An Undertow of Sand
    A PJO Fanfiction
    Twenty minutes from the rest stop on our way to Houston, we came across our first roadblock.

    As in.

    The road was blocked.

    “Alright,” Luke drawled as my horse came to a stop beside his own. “I was…kind of wondering how bad it is for the mortals,” he said with a thoughtful frown. “Guess they definitely know.”

    “It’s Night,” I said with a shrug.

    We both looked out at what looked like the biggest traffic jam in America since 1775. You know the one. When that Paul Revere guy had to grab a horse to take the long way around, because the Brits were mad Americans dumped perfectly good tea into the ocean. They were jamming everything in Boston with their slow moving army waiting for the ferry.

    FYI, I aced that test.

    I’m not wrong.

    The highway had gone from empty to stuffed full of cars, SUVs and trucks. No one was going anywhere fast. Police cars on the sides were flashing their lights and road flares were hemming in groups of people stretching their legs, feeding their pets and taking naps in sleeping bags or the backseats of their car.

    It was a callback to ‘ye Olden times’ when humanity would know what was happening. They didn’t know anymore, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the safety in numbers and how important keeping the light on is. I don’t think there’s a human on Earth completely comfortable with not being able to see in the dark. It’s not just because you might step on a rake.

    There are things to be afraid of in the dark.

    “I’m going to find out what they think is going on,” Luke said as he started to dismount. “Stay here.”

    I saluted him.

    Luke’s feet thumped the ground as I found my plastic spoon and unhooked my Strawberry Cheesecake Sonic Blast from my backpack’s front pocket. I absolutely did not make a noise that worried Luke when I saw this on the menu before we left. It was just like my New York Cheesecake Blizzard from Dairy Queen. I had to have it.

    I’m not addicted. I can stop whenever I want.

    Khione must have done something when we said goodbye because the ice cream hasn't melted nearly as much as I thought it would.

    Still my second favorite goddess.

    If Hestia wasn’t careful, she could lose her number one spot!

    I looked up to see that Luke hadn’t actually moved. He was just standing in place, leaning his head on his saddle.

    “Not to rush you or anything…”

    “Yep,” he said. He sounded pained. “She made it last only until I got off, didn’t she?” He asked his horse, who snorted. I think it was a ‘yes.’ Luke huffed and then in an accented, rough tone said,Fucking bitch.”

    My eyebrows shot up.

    I was the one with the Sam Approved Queen’s English here. Luke was hyper aware of all the young, impressionable ears in Cabin 11, so it didn’t come out of him much. Plus, he raised Annabeth for a year, right? Annabeth didn’t swear. Big Brother Luke taught his little sister to just stab you at the drop of a hat, but she won’t cuss you out while sticking you with the pointy end. Last time Luke swore was…

    Finding out the Olympians were Not Alone and More Shit Than Expected.

    I was hard on Luke’s vocabulary.

    “I…thought you guys got along?” I said, a little confused. There was only one ‘she’ he could be talking about. Khione and Luke had looked friendly at the rest stop. Was I just that blind?

    “Oh yeah, best of friends,” Luke tried for something nonchalant, but it still came out tight. And muffled. Because he was speaking to a saddle. “It’s affectionate,” he assured me. “Comes from the absolute bottom of my heart.”

    He sounded like at the bottom of his heart was a pit of tar.

    With spikes.

    “Did something happen?”

    Luke grumbled.

    I thought I heard him say ‘froze mah dick,’ but that couldn’t have been right.

    I heard Artemis’ muffled, ‘What?’

    “...just a little misunderstanding!” Luke said loudly. He was groping blindly into the fanny pack tied to the back of his saddle for a cube of ambrosia. The way he stuffed an entire block in his mouth, I thought he would have gone for two or even three if it didn’t mean he’d be setting himself on fire.

    Luke sighed in relief. He fished Artemis out from his vest and set her on his saddle. The rabbit had her ears flattened against her head as she stared back at him with narrowed eyes, looking as judgy as a small bunny possibly could.

    “Don’t even,” Luke said to her, cuffing her upside the head.

    The look he gave me was…I don’t know what it was. It was a mix of Mom’s Quantum Stupid and Dad’s You Are Embarassing Me In Front of My Son. Then he turned on his heel and faded away.

    I didn’t even know where to start.

    I went back to my ice cream.

    “...I do not understand,” Artemis said into the quiet.

    “What?” Some part of me was glad she said something. I’ve never done well with silence.

    “I…do not understand,” she repeated quietly. “Why have you not simply left me behind? I have not…” She cleared her throat uncomfortably. “I have not made my case very well.”

    “You torpedoed your case and then pissed all over the ashes for thousands of years.”

    Her ears fell. “Why then?”

    I could have said that I was pretty sure I was already on Nemesis’ shitlist. The goddess of Vengeance wasn’t really known for being a forgive and forget type. Who’d have thought? And she warned me. Not sure ditching the rabbit now would actually help. I could have spilled the beans on my Oath on the Styx and the boon I gave Luke.

    “I don’t want to put Apollo through that, if I could,” I said honestly. He’s still my dumbass older brother and I wanted to be a good sibling, just like I wanted to be a good son. I’ve certainly thought about it and really wished otherwise…

    But I wasn’t that far gone.

    “I see. He said he trained you?”

    “Mhm.”

    Artemis shuffled in place, ears flicking back and forth.

    “Please look after him!” She blurted out.

    “You really wanna be asking a spawn that?” I said. Maybe I wasn’t as forgive and forget as I wanted to be either.

    “I - I apologize,” she said, shuffling around on her saddle again. “That was - that was wrong of me.” Her little shoulders dropped. “All of it was. I will not defend it. I only ask that - that Apollo…”

    “I will,” I promised.

    The rabbit nodded and looked out over the traffic jam. “And if - when our mother reintegrates, if you could…be gentle?” The rabbit choked out. “She tried and I do not blame her for anything. And - and maybe,” her voice picked up, getting into it. “You could tell Demeter…!”

    “Wait.” I was sitting on a sparkle pony with a cup of melting ice cream in the middle of a packed Texan highway and this had suddenly become a deathbed confession. “You’re acting like it’s the end of the world,” I said. “Come on, dying isn’t great, but if anyone could get some strings pulled on their judgment, it would be - “

    “Oh,” Artemis breathed, looking at me with wide silver eyes. “I would have thought…your mother would have told you?”

    I clenched my ice cream cup. “Told me what?”

    “...your mother enjoys irony,” Artemis said instead and the rabbit would know. “Her immortal, beautiful, glorious golden gods…” she trailed off. “There is nothing after, for us.”

    What?

    “You don’t go to the Underworld?”

    “No,” she said miserably. “Upon true death, there is just your grandfather. And his hunger.” She blinked up at me. “You truly did not know?”

    “We haven’t reached that part yet,” I said blankly. I knew what happened when a Celtic or Nordic God dies.

    The same thing that happened to everyone else.

    Mom was the Celtic goddess of Future Victory and Death in Battle. Her foster-son Manannán mac Lir ruled over the living and the dead gods as the Celtic god of Violent Deaths on Land and Sea and lord of their Otherworld. Celtic Hades, if he was also King of the Gods. They had a professional understanding.

    That meant every Samhain, the harvest festival everybody knows as Halloween, he came over our place just to bitch about my mother to my mother’s face.

    Because she’s Not Funny.

    Yes, he knows what she is.

    Thor would always laugh his reckless stunts off with a loud ‘NOT TODAY’ he stole from somewhere. If it wasn’t against a giant snake, he was good. If it was, the end of the world was happening and he was due for a long sleepover at his first cousin’s place. The goddess of Death, Hela, ruler of Niflheim, the land of the dead would take him in just like any other mortal.

    I assumed the Greeks were the same.

    “It wasn’t important? You guys usually don’t - “

    “Die?” Artemis finished sadly. I didn’t know what to say. I guess it was the end of the line for the rabbit. I said earlier that Mom’s judgment was final, I just didn’t know how much.

    “We can’t anchor you somewhere else?” I asked uncomfortably. I was grasping at straws. “Didn’t Selene - “

    The rabbit shuddered.

    “...I thought I wanted that once, to Hunt forever, but now I would rather take nothingness.” Artemis shrunk into the saddle and buried her face underneath her front paws. “...my brother went through this twice,” she moaned in realization. “I am an awful sister.

    “Not really. I mean, yeah, probably to the sister part.” Not gonna lie. “But I don’t think Apollo ever thought that far ahead while mortal - “

    Wait.

    Apollo.

    “How did Apollo and Poseidon build the walls of Troy in a single day?” I asked suddenly. I told my Greek Mythology class that at Camp Half-Blood. Poseidon still had that favor hanging over his head and sheep-hating Apollo will never let me forget it.

    “I…” Artemis’ furry face peeked out from under her paws. “I assume they were allowed some measure of their strength still.”

    Putting aside that letting them be superhuman during a punishment was kind of weird:

    “While mortal.”

    “Ye-es,” the moon rabbit said slowly.

    They still had some of their powers. Super strength and stamina at least to build city walls in a day.

    They still had powers.

    “It is not what you think,” the bunny said quickly. “It is not the same.”

    I don’t think Artemis ever saw a party she didn’t want to poop on. Not even her own parties were spared.

    “You’re mortal,” I said. “They were mortal.”

    Artemis’ ears flattened. “I am a rabbit.”

    “Didn’t stop the Beast of Caerbannog,” I brushed off.

    Her ears popped up hopefully. “I am…not familiar with that creature. Celtic?”

    My God.

    “No, it’s - it’s from Monty Python. How can you not know - never mind.”

    Olympus was irredeemable.

    Some small, wrinkled shrieking thing burst out of the bushes lining the highway. A plastic spoon hit it in its wrinkled face first, then my sword did. The sprite burst into red dust. My Spidey Sense didn’t even say anything, so nice that it was kind enough to give itself away for me. Why couldn’t more monsters be so considerate?

    “It’s not different,” I said as I put my sword away. I spent a second trying to find my spoon. I take it back. That monster was an asshole.

    “It is,” Artemis insisted. “Your mother punished me, not your sisters.”

    “So? You can still eat ambrosia.” I pointed out. “It’s not different.”

    “It is! I am an animal!”

    “Ambrosia!”

    “That does not change anything! You cannot fight Fate!”

    I threw my head back and groaned. And who are you talking to?”

    “Her demigod.”

    Apollo was a fucking saint.

    “It just isn’t, okay!” I snapped at her.

    “Says who! You?”

    I hesitated. “Rhea, I think.”

    The fight drained from the bunny. “...truly?”

    “I asked,” I admitted. “She said she can’t petition my Mom for you because you’re Young.” Artemis’ nose twitched as I realized that maybe the Matriarch of the Swarms actually snuck me a clue on defying my mother. “Not because you’re mortal.”

    Rhea never said she can’t do anything for her granddaughter. She said I was just as right as I was wrong. Whatever she was hinting at, it bypasses my mother entirely.

    “It’s not like all Young Gods are immortal,” I thought out loud.

    I remembered being so proud that Mom’s Chosen were better than everyone else’s when I was little. Her beautiful, immortal, glorious, golden gods, just like Artemis said. I thought it was a sign of how good my mother was. Or at least how much she cared about them.

    I never really had a reason to go back and rethink that.

    Now I did.

    “I am still a…Young goddess?” Artemis asked awkwardly, like she never heard the term before.

    “Yeah,” I said. “I think so. Just rabbit shaped.”

    “But I - “ Artemis said painfully. “I cannot feel any of my Domains. They are gone.”

    “What have you been taught?” I asked and then a second later, I felt stupid.

    She’s been taught the same thing Apollo was.

    “Your Domains aren’t yours, you’re just connected to it…” I trailed off.

    Mortals could receive and use Names.

    If Names needed Domains to exist first, then how did Kronos and Herakles get anywhere with theirs without being gods that actually had Domains? When they ascended, both of them got a Domain associated with their mortal Name.

    Time and Heroes.

    That couldn’t be a coincidence.

    “Connected to it?” Artemis prodded me.

    “I’m thinking,” I answered. “What would happen if someone Gave you a Name associated with one of your old Domains?”

    “...does it matter?” Artemis was sad again. “There is no one who would.”

    For a minute there, I forgot there wasn’t anyone Artemis hadn’t screwed over.

    “If we get out of this alive, you gotta stop that fucking people over shit,” I said flatly. Seabiscuit looked over his shoulder at me in amusement as the rabbit shrunk into a small ball. “You helped Britomartis ascend. So she owes you, right?”

    Artemis tried to make herself even smaller.

    “I hate you.” I’m not even going to ask what she did. “Kore?”

    We both knew who I was talking about. Calling on ‘Persephone’ during the Night was risky. I had no idea of knowing who or what would answer right now.

    Artemis didn’t respond.

    So maybe a few thousand years of watching your sister vote for screwing over the husband you actually like, Hades, wouldn’t give you warm and fuzzy feelings.

    Apollo?”

    “I will not take Archery from him!” She uncurled enough to spit.

    “Do you want to die?” I spat back. “Are you a moron?”

    “I will not do that to him!”

    “It’s just a Name!”

    “Am I interrupting?” Luke’s voice came from an empty patch of pavement before he walked into sight.

    “No!” We both snapped.

    Luke raised his eyebrows, but moved on. “We’re going to have to go off the road a bit, they’ve got checkpoints into the city. Governor’s orders, some kind of state of emergency.” He nudged Artemis over and swung back onto his horse. She didn’t look happy to be sitting in front of Luke’s crotch, but it was that, his butt or back in his vest. She’ll get over it.

    “It’s…bad.

    “How bad?” I asked. Artemis was glaring daggers at me, but I ignored her. “Is it just as dark for them? Is Apollo taking the blame for this one?”

    “They can’t talk,” Luke said slowly. “It seems to be better in some parts of the country for some reason. Whatever is helping, it starts in Houston going southwest towards Vegas and southern California.” Artemis’ ears flicked curiously. “That’s why everyone is going. They can see that.” Luke pointed up. I followed his finger, but there was just the void above us. “They don’t know what’s causing it. The Mist isn’t doing anything.”

    “How can it?” Artemis murmured. “It cannot hide a lack of light because a protogenoi is eating it!

    “I mean, you can always ask my step-dad to give his Mist a boost - “

    “No!” Artemis shouted at me, sitting up in alarm like just me opening my mouth was going to summon demons. Then she shrunk into herself, paws on her face. “Please no.”

    Now that I brought it up.

    What do I call Time? From what Mom said, it sounded like she only wanted children out of him that weren’t weak, not a relationship. So ex-boyfriend was probably wrong. What do I call my mother’s baby daddy?

    Does step-dad still work?

    We weren’t able to go off road, by the way.

    The interstate highway we were on led right to a giant lake or river we had to cross. It was just like crossing into Quebec City or Manhattan. I wouldn’t have expected it. I guess the Gulf of Mexico went further inland than I thought. We planned on swimming across for about ten seconds. That’s how long it took for some kind of Loch Ness Monster Wannabe to decide to take a long look at us.

    If I have to fight a monster underwater anytime this century, that’s too soon.

    It did jog my memory though.

    “Oh right,” I said, halfway across the bridge. My Sonic Blast was mostly slush, but the cheesecake was still good. “I think Kronos is in my freezer.”

    Luke choked on his Snickers.

    Artemis might have had a heart attack.

    “Pretty sure,” I said. I tried to fish a piece of cheesecake out of my slush. I appreciated Seabiscuit trying to make it easier on me by not bouncing as much.

    “You’re fucking with me,” Luke sighed as he waved his hand at the cars we passed and the people inside looked away.

    I really am terrible on his vocabulary.

    “No,” I said, giving up and just tilted the entire thing into my mouth. “Longsh shtory.”

    “We have time!” The rabbit snapped at me.

    I tossed the cup over the side of the bridge. There was a splashing ‘snap!’ as Nessie’s cousin went for the Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream leftovers. Monster after my own heart.

    “Met him in a Dream,” I explained and Luke’s eyes widened. “The Dreamlands - you know it,” I said to Artemis, who maybe looked a little sick. Can rabbits throw up? “I’ve got a house there and he stopped by. We talked a bit - “ Oh, right. “Okay, before you say anything, pulling him out of the Pit was an accident.”

    “...you what!?” Artemis exploded.

    “I said it was an accident!”

    Luke didn’t seem to realize he was chewing on his Snickers’ wrapper as he stared at me. He noticed a second later and pulled it out of his mouth.

    “An…accident.” He said it weirdly.

    “An accident,” I said firmly. “And he’s still in pieces, so that was awkward.”

    “Awkward,” Luke repeated blandly with a strange smile. “I bet.”

    I think he was just amazed I was willing to admit it.

    Which, yeah?

    Of course I’ll admit it. I had nothing to hide. What was Zeus gonna do, smite me? I was going to pick a fight with my older sisters and hopefully figure out how to survive my mother.

    The Titan Lord had never been my problem.

    “Mom and him go way back, remember?” I shrugged.

    Luke had asked on the train after Nemesis about the Titans. I didn’t break Athena’s rules (I think), but I did tell him the truth. He ruled well for a long time. Mom approved of him. Before the whole baby-eating dumbassery.

    Luke’s little smile got wider. “I remember. The Dreamlands, you said?”

    “Morpheus usually guards the place,” I told him. “When it’s safer, I can show you around with Clovis and Ethan. They know it too.”

    Just because he wasn’t my problem didn’t mean the other demigods of Camp Half-Blood would be fine with being on the same plane of existence as the OG Worst Dad of the Year. I only remembered after it had already come out of my mouth. Luckily, Luke was used to me by now, so he just raised his eyebrows.

    “You - I cannot believe you - why did you - how did - “ Meanwhile, Artemis lost the ability to speak English. “How could you?”

    “I said it was an accident.”

    “And you did not warn anyone?”

    A little annoyed, I said, “Do I look like an Olympic demigod to you, daughter of Zeus?”

    “He’s right,” Luke said mildly. “He’s not.”

    “Thank you,” I told Luke. “Besides, Dreamlands? I don’t think he’s going anywhere fast.

    Artemis wasn’t going to give up. “You just put everything at risk. Olympus has been a stabilizing force for Western Civilization - “

    “Don’t you mean the other way around - “

    We crossed some kind of barrier or territory marker because something shifted its attention to us. It felt demanding, angry. Between the giant tentacle murder dog and this rabbit, I was not in the mood.

    I opened my mind to it and snapped,

    ‘What!?’

    Whatever entity was watching over Houston, Texas just did what felt like a spit take.

    It backed off and when it reached out to me again, it felt real polite.

    Then it left.

    Our argument died when this pressure in the air changed. I realized it was sound. It was still unnaturally hushed, but the ambient sound of a city was still there. There was a cool wind blowing. I couldn’t hear tire treads on the road, but the wind carried the sound of faint car horns. I had no way of knowing if they were from far away or right next to us.

    I meant that literally, by the way. When the wind stopped, the sound did too.

    I held up a finger. “I thought Tezcatlipoca was asleep?”

    The presence was there again, once again demanding, bloodthirsty and angry enough that Artemis’ fur stood up on end as Luke hissed, “Names!”

    Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec god of Magic, Cold, Death, Darkness and the Night Winds, the Smoking Mirror, paused.

    This time the feeling I got was an ‘oh, it’s you’ and then he was gone again.

    “Tezcatlipoca.” I said.

    Yeah, he’s decided to ignore me.

    “Percy,” Luke said, exasperated. “I could understand not caring about Olympian Names - “

    “You think no one else knows my Mom is around?” I pointed out. “Kind of a Big Deal and not just to Greeks.” Not sure why the Aztec reacted like that though. I didn’t even get to introduce myself. “We’re good. So…sleeping?” I prodded the rabbit.

    “...I thought he was gone,” Artemis said hesitantly. “I suppose the Night must have revitalized him…?”

    Good point. Monsters weren’t the only ones that would get a boost from the Night falling. Various gods of Darkness and Night would be able to do a little something. That was why Luke said it was ‘better’ in Houston and other parts of the country. Quetzalcoatl’s brother was feeling protective of all the humans he was now aware of and I’m sure he’s not the only one.

    It wasn’t like Night was actually trying to make things worse for everyone. Mom being a jerk was why we couldn’t have nice things. Like sunlight. Night wouldn’t be pushing back. The world going dark and quiet was just a little bit of collateral damage.

    That made me feel better about the whole thing. Maybe Hypnos being grounded was okay too? All of the Young just had to earn their keep for a little bit.

    Maybe Hypnos being grounded was okay.

    I had a hard time believing that.

    “Hey look.” I pointed. “An obelisk!”

    Luke humored me, looking. “Where?”

    I bit my lip.

    “Oh, right. It’s a bit far. And dark.”

    The frozen ray of Ra’s sunlight sparkled on the horizon as we rode our Thracians right into Houston, Texas. We dismounted in one of the lush urban gardens after passing about five police cordons, a few fires and fire trucks, some doomsday prophets with crowds and a llama.

    I think they are native to Texas.

    It was the highway sign above the traffic jam still reading, ‘YALL NEED TO SLOW DOWN’ that stood out.

    The mix of gardens, trees and glass and stainless steel high rises along massive raised highways in Houston was weirding me out. It was pretty, but maybe that was just because the reflective buildings had taken on the appearance of a solid void in geometric shapes. State of emergency was right, police were everywhere, the streets were practically empty of people, the roads were full of cars and some storefronts were freshly looted with smashed windows leaving sparkling shards of glass on the dark pavement.

    Luke looked around at the bright lights straining against the darkness (the power bill this month for everyone was going to be crazy) and the lines of cars on the highway looping around the center of the city. The quiet wail of sirens drifted on the wind.

    Luke watched the thick plume of smoke from a building on fire blend right into the Night sky. “People lose their minds when something happens they don’t understand.”

    “Mortals are weird,” I offered. The bloodthirsty Aztec probably wasn’t helping, but who knows?

    He turned to me. “Now what?”

    I thought about it.

    “How do you feel about owing some gods a favor?”

    He made a face.

    Yeah, I wasn’t thrilled about that either.

    “Thanks for taking us this far,” I told the horses. “Are you sticking around, in case we need a Plan F?” For Fail. Seabiscuit nuzzled me, blowing hot air on my face. “Thanks. Couldn’t have made it without you.”

    I looked out at the skyscrapers and neon lights. This was starting to remind me of the first time I met Cliff. The sensation of being absolutely completely fucking lost on how I was going to do what Mom wanted me to do. That same kind of desperate, ‘But I have to somehow’ feeling was almost familiar enough to be comforting.

    I guess there was no ‘almost’ about it. It was comforting. I just had to do whatever it took. Mom had no rules.

    I squared my shoulders the best I could. Elder Gods not related to me were even more dangerous than the ones that were. We didn’t want to owe any Young Gods. We’d get ripped off. Don’t have any Texan demigods on speed dial. Dragging regular mortals into this as meatshields if we do get any unwanted attention was No.

    I still hated Mom’s tests.

    But.

    If I treated this Quest like one?

    “Leave it to me. I have an idea.”




    “You have the worst ideas - !” Luke hissed from behind me as two kids and a rabbit walked the empty streets of Houston towards an Asian couple.

    It was a good idea! Luke doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    If I had a nickel for everytime I had to ask a monster for help, I’d have fifteen cents. Which is not a lot, but the point is, it works. Cliff thought I was a dumbass (he’s not wrong), but the smarter monsters were just like people.

    And if this doesn’t work out, they tend to die like people too.

    “It’s fine,” I hissed back before raising my voice. “We’ve been walking around for a half hour, don’t screw this up.”

    “Were you just walking around hoping to get attacked - “

    And no one did! I heard Texans were nice, but even the monsters? What does a demigod have to do to get jumped around here?

    “Excuse me, ma’am?” I spoke up. “Do you have a minute?”

    The couple turned to us in surprise.

    Well, the man did. The woman had already seen us coming and I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to try to kill us in broad - uh, okay. There were lights everywhere. That counted. If I was wrong, Luke has the right to say he told me so.

    Artemis can keep her mouth shut.

    The woman pointed a slim finger at herself in a silent question. She looked like one of those shampoo commercial people with wavy dark hair. She had those kinds of nails that were just long enough to almost be creepy and you were sure they were fake. Hers weren’t, pitch black and sharp enough to gut a rabbit. They were dressed like they were going somewhere nice with business casual, even though a couple of streets over, the shopping district looked like it had been trashed in a recent riot. That street was blocked off by police and the entire area looked newly abandoned.

    It’s just the kind of life I have that I was thinking ‘one of ‘em’s a monster’ instead of ‘people are stupid.’

    The hairs on the back of my neck shivered as the woman’s purplish eyes looked me over.

    I gave her my best toothy smile.

    The feeling faded as she huffed in amusement and turned to her guy. “This will only take a minute, love.”

    There was a slight accent on the words, turning ‘will’ to ‘bill’ and making the ‘th’ of this harsh. He smiled at her blankly and just mentally checked out, looking east and not moving. If he had ever really been there in the first place.

    Okay.

    Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

    Luke made a move for his lighter and I stepped on his foot making him hiss out, “Thank you, ma’am.”

    “So polite,” she murmured as her eyes traveled over our little group. “You are, ah, kalahating diyos?”

    A long barbed black tongue snaked through her lips to taste the air. I heard Artemis squeak from behind us as Luke shifted his weight from one foot to the other. The darker skinned Asiatic look she had was probably not a worn corpse, but I had no idea what she called us.

    “Must be, to smell of stars.”

    “What?” I blurted out.

    She could smell me? How?

    “Oh?” She said idly and absently brushed back her long, black hair.The back of my neck shivered again as her voice dropped. “Do you not know your parent, little one?”

    She took a step forward. I had Damocles out in a flash and Luke wasn’t even a second behind.

    “Let’s not and say we did,” I said brightly. “Come on, you seem like a smart monster.”

    “I am.” She pouted even as she preened, eyeing our blades. “Were you not sired by Pinoy?”

    “I’m Greek,” I said quickly.

    She’s Filipino.

    Great.

    Monsters don’t just move away from their Origin without something to sustain their myth. That was suicide. The Filipino pantheon was still in the Philippines and I don’t think Texas has the population to substitute. Which meant…

    I…

    I actually do not want to fight this chick.

    “Hemitheos?” She said curiously.

    Artemis sucked in a breath and I could feel her press her head against my ankle in warning. It was the old Greek term for ‘half-god’ before everyone got punched in the face by Latin. The mangled French/English ‘demigod’ was standard now. Has been for centuries.

    Age Estimation for this Monster: Pretty Fucking Old.

    I really don’t want to fight this chick.

    Either she had enough of a Name to respawn endlessly (annoying) or she’s been getting away with preying on humanity for that long (scary).

    “Yes,” I nodded sharply and lowered my sunglasses for a second as proof. Her eyebrows jumped in surprise and her eyes lowered to my neck with greed. A second was enough to see she would eventually burn. So she could die. That was good. “My parent is one of the protogenoi.”

    “Ah,” she said with a gentle close-lipped smile as she lifted her eyes from my jugular. “That explains the stars. What is it you wished from me, child?”

    “We need an escort to California,” I said bluntly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Luke’s face make some interesting expressions. “Standard neutrality rules.”

    “Standard neutrality, of course.” She laughed lightly like I wasn’t serious, with a hand over her sharp teeth. “Sanatana Dharma or Shintō?”

    “Shintō,” I answered because Apollo had nothing but good things to say about Amaterasu. The Hindus scared him and Mom didn’t like them either.

    I said the words calling on the Japanese sun goddess. My accent wasn’t just bad, it was aggressively American-bad. The nearby street light flared a brilliant sun yellow for a second anyway even though the head of the Japanese pantheon must be super busy.

    Amaterasu’s Bro Status: Confirmed.

    “And you know what I am?” The monster asked lightly.

    Mandurugo.”

    The obvious predator in the monster’s stance relaxed. It wasn’t entirely gone, but I think I moved from ‘prey’ to ‘curiosity.’ So far, so good.

    Luke didn’t agree.

    “What the Styx are you doing?” He hissed at me when I dragged my group to the other side of the road and knelt on the warm pavement to dig into my backpack.

    “Getting us a ride out of here,” I said. I pulled out the Ziploc bags of ambrosia and started stuffing all of the cubes into the biggest bag. “I’m going to need some of your blood. Yours too, Artemis.”

    “...she thought you were bluffing,” the bunny said.

    “I wasn’t.”

    “Yes…” she said slowly. “You were not. Why do you know this? Are you sure you are a Greek demigod?”

    I am very certain,” I said back to her in the ‘Olympic’ Greek she had been born knowing and watched the rabbit’s ears go straight up in shock. I repeated what I said to Cliff a month ago after I shit my pants at school (thanks, Mom).

    “Grecian born, Celt raised.”

    “What are standard neutrality rules?” Luke asked and it came out quickly. I looked up at him and he looked like he just realized he was drowning. He ran a hand through his hair as he paced on the sidewalk next to us. “What does being Celt have to do with anything?”

    “It’s everything. You’re Greek. If she - “ I waved my hands back at the monster. “Saw you on the train in Manhattan on a normal day, she would probably pretend she didn’t see you.”

    Luke blinked, thrown. “Isn’t the Curse just for - “

    “Not having the Curse doesn’t mean safe. You have blood and demigods are always healthier than the average human.” I waved at her again. “Filipino vampire.”

    Luke’s head swiveled back towards the monster who was inspecting her long nails. I knew what he was thinking. Greek vampires were Empousa and they had a donkey leg and a shining Celestial Bronze one.

    Not subtle.

    And each and every one of them were as sharp as a marble with the personality to match.

    The aswang looked like a normal Asian woman with long nails and long hair. She even had the business casual blue blouse and gray-blue skirt with modest heels on. A nice purse was slung on her shoulder. As long as she didn’t open her mouth all the way, you’d never know.

    “Shapeshifters suck,” I said as I helped Artemis cut her forearm and lifted her paw. “So do corpse users.”

    “Monsters…avoid us?” Luke said disbelievingly. “From other pantheons?”

    “If an Egyptian roughed up Ethan, his mom - “

    “Won’t even care - “ Luke tried to interrupt as he watched me add my blood to the plastic bag.

    “Has siblings and cousins and connections including Hades and her parents that might do something about it!” I was getting angry, but not at him. He didn’t know so he couldn’t understand.

    “You can always trust a Greek to be a petty asshole when it matters.“ I glared at Artemis when she looked like she wanted to say something. “They’re shit, but some demigods would take being Greek over their own anyway. Because they’re alive to be shit.”

    The Baltic pantheon had a single goddess, Saulė, left. The Yoruba were the only ones on the African continent that weren’t wisps and the Egyptian pantheon has been locked away for millennia. The Celestial Bureaucracy tried not to screw their demigods over too much because they needed them. Just like the Norse needed the World Tree, Yggdrasil.

    Luke took the Ziploc bag numbly. “What?”

    “There are only a few Celts left.” And some of those aren’t even Celt anymore. “We don’t have that safety net. We do what we have to. There’s this girl, Evangeline. Her father is the Celtic King, Manannán mac Lir. She came to my tenth birthday party to say goodbye. The pixies ruined everything.” Damocles refused to cut me, so I had to use Erebus’ dagger. The Stygian Iron cut burned. “Her fault.”

    “Why was she saying goodbye?” Luke asked softly.

    I brought it up and I still found myself hesitating. It felt personal. I didn’t want to go into detail because it wasn’t my story to tell. The truth is, if you have the power to spare, the obvious answer is to just make your kid a god too.

    Manannán mac Lir would, but Eva knew that would cripple her father.

    “She’s throwing her humanity away.” I shrugged uncomfortably. “Sometimes, you want to be a monster, if it means you live.”

    We just don’t know if she’ll even remember me afterwards.

    It’s okay. I wasn’t surprised. Olympus used to outlaw demigod children with clear-sighted demi-aliens. The whole ‘sometimes nothing happens and sometimes you get freaks of nature’ thing. Even monsters could tell Eva was both powerful and nuttier than a box of peanuts, but that’s because she’s a clear-sighted demigod.

    It wasn’t mixing well.

    I don’t want to talk about this.

    “Do you understand?” I said quickly.

    Luke’s eyes lowered.

    “Borders don’t matter during the Night. Anything goes. This isn’t your world - “ I stopped before I said the rest of what I was going to. It had just come to me automatically and I realized it was true, even though I didn’t finish saying it. It wasn’t Luke’s world. It was mine.

    “I get it,” he said roughly. He stared at the bag. “This is normal.”

    “There are neutrality rules.” Changing the subject was good. “The Sanatana Dharma are the Hindus.” I made an exploding motion with my hands as my backpack balanced against my leg. “Big Deal, like my Mom. You remember Tsukuyomi with Corey?”

    Luke nodded jerkily. Unlike before, we didn’t get any attention. Only the clear-sighted with us mattered to the moon god.

    “Some pantheons volunteered to be referees. The Hindu, Shintō, the Yoruba and the - “ crap, can’t remember the actual name! “The Babylonians. I used a Norito to call on Amaterasu to witness and by their rules, we pay for the favor. She gives us a token that we give back when we get what we paid for. It’s just like swearing on the Styx.”

    Luke swallowed. “That was the light?”

    “She’s a sun goddess.”

    Luke’s blue eyes darted between us, looking like his world view had just tilted again.

    “...bargaining with monsters is normal,” he said quietly like a weight fell off his shoulders. “Everyone else does it. There are rules. Without the Curse, monsters avoid us.

    Was he okay?

    Luke sucked in a breath. With a flash of Reclaim, spilled a bit of blood into the bag. “What are you going to do, when we get back the Bolt?”

    “Shove it up Zeus’ ass,” I muttered. Dad told me not to make decisions when angry. I wanted to, though.

    Imagine going out to eat at Olive Garden every day just to eat the breadsticks and you dump the rest out on the floor knowing just outside people were waiting by the dumpsters for the scraps. That was Olympus. Camp Half-Blood was an orphanage.

    For no good reason.

    My brain knew some demigods had it rough and before Mom left, I don’t think I cared too much. I didn’t realize that I was spoiled. My parents don’t just love me, one is a lawyer and the other is a god. Apollo is my brother. I go to a private school and I really have to figure out how to describe my home without being awkward about it. I’m working on it.

    But it was like knowing there were starving kids in Africa. Then you go to summer camp. You meet an ice goddess and actually, yeah, the gutter trash third world country was your own pantheon all along. The small hill I thought I was standing on suddenly became Mt. Everest. The bottom was a stupid long way down.

    It hurts, like a splinter I couldn’t remove.

    “I meant with the thief.” Luke double checked the seal on the bag. “The god of War had to steal it somehow?”

    “The thief that’s come the closest to triggering a civil war nobody can afford since Troy? One that would endanger my father? And millions of other people?” I said. “That thief.”

    “That thief,” He said quietly.

    I took a deep breath.

    I don’t know. I want to ask why they did it first.

    “Okay, to be clear, you will help us get an escort to California.” I said loudly as I stood up and took the bag from Luke. It was half-full of dark red mortal blood and I held it out in front of me as I walked back across the yellow divider line on the street.

    “Yes.” The vampire’s eyes were locked onto the small plastic bag like a cat with a laser pointer. “I will personally introduce you to a...friend.” She raised her purple eyes. “He will assist you. You have my word.”

    I’ll take that. A personal introduction was more than I expected, but maybe we just smelled really tasty.

    I tossed her the bag and in return, I snatched the ‘coin’ she tossed me out of the air. It was a shining gold bead, stamped with a symbol. It felt warm.

    The aswang handled the Ziploc bag like it was full of liquid platinum. She also checked the seal on it, before gently placing it inside her purse. She took her thrall’s hand again. He ‘woke up’ and blinked sleepily. He looked around and both of his eyebrows jumped when he saw us still there.

    He said something to her, sounding confused, but relieved. She laughed, leaning into him. He nodded to us politely. “Tell me I didn’t look too much like an idiot.”

    I blinked.

    “You looked like you zoned out completely,” I offered carefully. I didn’t want to freak him out.

    The man sighed and turned to the vampire. He shrugged and the movement of his collar showed some circular scars on his neck that would match her barbed tongue. “At least you didn’t make me drool on myself this time.”

    I think he knows what she is.

    Huh.

    She is a smart monster. Not sure I like that.

    She snorted and pulled him alongside her. “Come along,” she tossed over her shoulder. “Aaron will drive us.”

    “When did I agree to this?” The man said, amused. She tilted her head towards him, giving him a look and he chuckled. “Just now, I see.” He twisted around in her grip so he was walking backwards, giving us a polite nod of the head. “Aaron and this is Hiraya.”

    She hissed, turning him back around.

    “What?” He asked, teasing. “You never introduce yourself…”

    We walked behind them just far enough so we had to raise our voice a little for them to hear us. Luke’s eyebrows were sharply drawn together. He wasn’t even watching where we were going, which wasn’t like him.

    “You okay?” I asked.

    He blinked up at me. “Just…wondering how many Greek demigods found a common cause with monsters.”

    “Greek demigods kill monsters,” Artemis said strongly from his vest, poking her head out. We learned the hard way that rabbit feet couldn’t handle the pavement for very long.

    “Herakles’ Scythian Dracanae girlfriend,” I said dryly and watched her ears flatten in embarrassment.

    “Apollo would tell you that story,” she muttered.

    If you’re wondering, Scythian Dracanae were human women from the waist up, but had snakes for legs. Watching them walk-slither on living skis can give you motion sickness.

    No idea what Herakles was thinking.

    Don’t you ‘but she stole his horse’ me. They had three kids and they weren’t triplets. He even left his bow and belt with them. Dude has super strength and Athena on speed dial. If he didn’t wanna, he ain’t gotta.

    But he did.

    “It is just…” Artemis lowered her head. “We have never allowed demigods to presume obligations upon us. Any such agreement will not have any authority beyond their own and with the Curse....”

    “When given the choice, Olympus will always choose the jerk option.” I nodded sagely.

    Her ears popped up. “That is not true!”

    Really?”

    Yes!” She hissed back.

    “You’re right,” I admitted and watched her rear back in surprise. “They also choose the horny option.”

    Her ears flattened again as she took a steadying breath. “My Hunters are open to all pantheons. It took decades, but I negotiated for that, precisely for the reasons you described.”

    “They just have to leave all the boys behind to die,” Luke scoffed. Then he grunted, so I think she kicked him in the stomach.

    “Your friend - “

    I held up a hand. “Don’t. It was her choice.”

    Maybe being bound to Selene’s heir would have helped, but we’ll never know.

    I doubt it.

    “The Celts gave their permission,” the rabbit said quietly. “I would have welcomed her.”

    “Yeah, well,” I shrugged. “Not your fault, but it kind of is your fault, you know? You killed her mother about eight years ago.”

    The rabbit froze and Luke almost tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.

    “What?” Artemis sounded rattled and almost scared. “I - no, I - I would not have- “

    “It was your job,” I said. “Sometimes, the clear-sighted go rabid and have to be put down. It happens.”

    “...do you hold that against me?” She asked, sounding tired.

    “No? Why?” I was honestly confused. It happens. I thought they would have more time is all. “Just…don’t expect them to thank you for it?”

    Luke opened his mouth. I remembered he said his mother could See and that it wasn’t doing her any favors, but then his face shut down and he said nothing.

    We kept walking.

    I usually don’t do well with silence, but this time, I found it easy to keep my mouth shut.

    You’d think driving deeper into the Houston metropolis with a vampire and her thrall would be awkward.

    You would be right.

    It wasn’t as awkward as it could have been though, because Aaron was the kind of guy that would take falling out of a plane calmly as long as he had his morning coffee. He definitely knew what she was, they’re engaged to be married in December and enthusiastic murder walks at night were a fact of life.

    Some people were just made for tweed jackets and glasses and it was a tragedy that he didn’t have either.

    We were taken to a downtown area where all the lights on the side of the tall buildings were reflecting off the glass like rave party rainbows. The pitch black sky just made it seem even brighter, but you could see the line where the light died. Where the reflections up the glass windows on the high rises on either side of us just stopped and it was dark the rest of the way. Luke was squinting as he looked around. It was pretty empty here too with pockets of people that were stubbornly keeping their eyes forward and pretending everything was fine. We got some looks, an older teenager with a rabbit and a younger kid wearing backpacks following a woman that looked like she was in Time’s Fortune 500, but no one stopped us.

    The bar we eventually got to was one of those classy looking part dance club places that you see in the movies all the time. It said it was closed with a Public Safety Reminder sign that I didn’t even try to read, but there was a stick figure man sleeping and being woken up by an alarm clock every two hours. There was a symbol on the door though. It reminded me of one of those optical illusions of a never ending staircase or maybe a little of Rhea’s quirky sandcastle before the crowbar and was lit up with something that wasn’t light.

    Luke cried out, stumbling backwards as he clapped a hand over his eyes.

    “His eyes are not fully open yet?” Hiraya clucked her long tongue as she opened the door. “Not like you then.”

    “Uh, no,” I said. “He’s…normal,” I finished lamely. She sounded like you could learn how to see through the Mist. I didn’t know that was possible. “Is that going to be a problem?”

    The vampire’s lips pursed.

    “Not here,” she said eventually. “Give it a few days,” she told Luke as he blinked carefully like he’d been flashbanged. Her voice was too amused to be sympathetic. “The Night does not tolerate half-measures for long.”

    “What - “ I started, but she had already moved on.

    “This is the worst idea a demigod has ever had,” Luke said flatly. “Ever. Of all time.” This son of a bitch was stealing phrases from me now. “Artemis?”

    “Do not make me agree with you,” the bunny mumbled.

    So my Quest members were jerks.

    “It’s fine!”

    I almost took it back when just past the second set of doors this pale screeching thing lunged for Luke.

    We both had our swords out before it ran out of its iron chain leash, causing it to crash back onto the floor in a tangled pile of pale, skeletal thin limbs. It looked like a two foot tall tick partially transformed into a person with brittle looking claws tipping its gnarled hands and a blood red protruding stomach. Blind eyes were fixated on Luke as it struggled to get back to its feet, screaming before Hiraya stepped in front of it.

    The creature shrunk away from her and went quiet. Luke turned to me with an eyebrow raised.

    I sheathed Damocles and ignored him.

    “It has been a while since you brought anyone to me,” the lone man at the bar with a bottle and a shot glass said.

    His back was to us, but he looked like he could be one of Dad’s coworkers with a tailored suit, briefcase at his side and boring haircut. He talked like his mother never taught him to swallow before speaking. The wrought iron cage on his head looked like it was all the rage among prisoners on death row back in the 1400s.

    “I bring them only for you to speed them on their way out of my city,” Hiraya said, rolling her eyes. “Desert escort to California. I am under neutrality,” she warned the man. “No debts.”

    “Hmm.” He reached for his lit cigarette and tapped the ash off of it. “California. A long way. Who are my passengers?”

    Was he eating something? What was in his mouth?

    “Greek demigods of Fate and Thieves,” I spoke up. “And rabbit.”

    Artemis was dead silent and still, ears pinned back and rigid as she stared at the man’s back.

    “Fate?” He turned half-way around in the swivel chair so he could look at us with a slight turn of his head.

    And was just a person.

    He looked like one of those soap opera stars on the show my grandmother loves to hate watching with wavy blond hair, sharp jawline, a smile of straight white teeth and dark green eyes that shone in the dim light. Not like they were lit from within, but like they were reflecting themselves with an odd diamond shaped sheen.

    Like they echoed somehow.

    “Have you the talent?” He asked, still sounding like he was speaking around a golf ball.

    We wouldn’t be on this Quest if I didn’t. The ‘oracle of Chthon’ crap still sucked.

    “Yeah.”

    He flashed another movie star grin at me. “A simple courier task and a reading will do for payment.”

    “We’ll do the courier first,” I said. “You have the details?”

    As the man opened his briefcase, Luke caught my shoulder. “Perce…”

    “Mercenary work. Demigods are good at that.” I said. “It isn’t uncommon for mortals to work with monsters either.”

    Nnnnoooot the best idea if you don’t know what you are doing and can’t see through the Mist, but cold hard cash will get even monsters pretty far.

    “That is no mortal,” Artemis murmured.

    “That is going to get us out of here.” I didn’t see what the problem was. Okay sure, dude was a little odd. Anyone wearing a cage on their head was going to be a few french fries short of a Happy Meal. That was just how it is. “Look, I know this seems sketchy, but neutrality rules. He will help us and we leave with no debts. That’s what we wanted.”

    Luke pulled back. His face was scrunched up unhappily.

    “That’s what we wanted,” he repeated slowly.

    “You show no hesitation,” Artemis observed very quietly. “Do you not feel that?”

    Feel what?

    It was a little cold in here, I guess.

    “I’ve been doing this since I was eight,” I told them with a shrug. “True foresight is rare.”

    There was a reason why Oracles were usually hoarded in one location. Well, okay, so, Greek Oracles were usually in one place because someone or something inevitably fucks them over so they can’t just pack up and leave, but that doesn’t count.

    “That’s going to pay for most of it, the errand will be nothing.”

    Luke ground his teeth. His blue eyes darted around the room one last time, taking in Hiraya leaning against the wall in the dark corner behind us. The tick thing was huddled at her feet, twitching in Luke’s direction just to flinch away immediately. There was a full-length mirror on the wall on the opposite side reflecting a completely empty bar. Luke looked into it and went rigid.

    The man found whatever it was he was looking for with a soft ‘ah ha.’

    “As promised, a simple fetch quest.” The man smiled to himself. “I had this one earmarked for mortals, but your kind tends to be more effective.”

    Because he was facing us directly this time as he spoke, I saw what was in his mouth.

    Slimy, green-black tentacles with pale white suckers writhed behind his straight white teeth like his tongue had been replaced with a deep sea squid. I wondered if he had been human at one point, but it didn’t matter. He held out the paper and I stepped forward to take it. I didn’t hesitate because there was nothing to hesitate over. The paper was just as he said. A fetch quest with directions, details, dimensions of the package, everything. It didn’t look too bad. 4-5 mortals because the safe was guarded, but Luke could probably do this with his eyes closed.

    “Thanks, man. We’ll be back soon.” I said.

    Sometimes the best way forward was through, you know. It was the Night.

    If you freeze, you die.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2022
  12. Mquz

    Mquz Versed in the lewd.

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    Oh. A full on cultist. Is Cthulhu a part of a normal pantheon in this world? Is Oceanus in any way related?
     
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  13. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    There is a certain 'Greek' god called Pontus that is currently sleeping/dead within his sunken city in the deep ocean. Amphitrite from the Hermes' PoV in the side story is his eldest granddaughter.
     
  14. LordMentat

    LordMentat I Push Button

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    The lore of this AU is fascinating as hell.
     
  15. Chen Long

    Chen Long Wishes for a R.O.B to give Essence Meta

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    Well. This... Good Luck, Percy.
     
  16. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    Glad you think so!
     
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  17. ArcanaVitae

    ArcanaVitae Not too sore, are you?

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    It is one of the best parts of this fic, and it is among the best examples of world building in a fic I have ever seen rivaled for me personally only by Virtuous Sons. The lore/worldbuilding/and characters is make makes it really great.
     
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  18. Oxymoron

    Oxymoron Too lazy to do more

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    If you decided to rewrite the entire PJO series is actually but the books instead of pirating them
    Hell if more authors wrote shit like this then libgen would be out of service
     
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  19. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    This is my rewrite of the entire PJO series. This whole part of the story was inspired by the random human mercenaries working for Atlas in canon. The whole implications that there are paramilitary organizations of normal people with the money for helicopters that know is basically a dead limb in canon with absolutely no support and never comes up again.
     
  20. Oxymoron

    Oxymoron Too lazy to do more

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    Now that I think about it you're right, the fact that it isn't expanded on or even brought up is honestly a big plot hole
     
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  21. Aaron_04

    Aaron_04 Making the rounds.

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    It´s really intersting the change to precy´s attitude in this chapter. Up until now he has been kind of off balance with new things happening constantly keeping him that way and his main purpose was a few unreliable bursts of power and, mainly, being an encyclopedia of knowlege and background explanation (in a very charming way of - something happens/ someone says something we don´t exactly understand - percy adhd acts up and he thinks a bit about that matter before giving a personal oppinion and hints a few reasons why; it gives lore in a pretty consistent way with humor and a way of phrasing it that avoid making it boring exposition).
    That way of eplaining is being kept wich is great, but he looks like he has found his footing and is in his element, and it really shows with him being much more proactive.
    It feels like he has mautred, coming to terms with several unwanted realizations, and I absolutely love it.

    I also like his relationship with artemis, he has lost pretty much all the adoration and throwing shade at her for being stupid but he still cares for her and show worry. It also goes a bit the other way around but in a lesser degree due to the curremt difference in power. Once the whole quest is over and they are in a similar level i can see them becoming pretty good friends.
     
  22. DeathShade

    DeathShade Dol Amroth Comes

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    Just an idle thought that took me, but the description of Kronos and the Titans rise from mortality to divinity reminds me of how Godhood works in Elden Ring, with Empyreans only being candidates for godhood until they acquire an Outer God as a sponsor.
     
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  23. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    I have the game, but have not played through it yet. If it's anything like Bloodborne in lore, that's a good thing as this story can't really take many more crossovers :>
     
  24. DeathShade

    DeathShade Dol Amroth Comes

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    I don’t think any of the Outer Gods from Elden Ring would quite work with what you have going on.

    I mean there are two different Outer Gods of the Moon. The Full Moon and Dark Moon are explicitly different Outer Gods, and can even be seen side by side in the sky at certain times, so I don’t think they would quite gel with your Selene stuff.

    The Outer Gods of Elden Ring also seem to be all similar to Oeden from Bloodborne in that they are formless. They have things that symbolise their influence, but they don’t explicitly have any physical form, which is why they sponsor Empyreans to become Gods and acts as Champions, or use other Vassals to act through like the Elden Beast. They are very much presences that you can feel the influence of, but serving them also seems to be a voluntary thing with the exception of the Goddess of Rot’s whole deal and that is explicitly called out as an exception due to special circumstances.
     
  25. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    While the moon thing wouldn't work, nothing precludes cameos. The gods of Lovecraft range from physically interfering Nyarly to the far more abstract, but don't tell me anything more so I'm not tempted >.<
     
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  26. DeathShade

    DeathShade Dol Amroth Comes

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    But what if that is precisely what I am after? :p
     
  27. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    I'm already halfway convinced to include Dead Space in this :( Think of my suffering.
     
  28. Aaron_04

    Aaron_04 Making the rounds.

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    Wait, what?.... How?
     
  29. DeathShade

    DeathShade Dol Amroth Comes

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    I have absolutely no knowledge of Dead Space at all, so it would likely just go over my head without spending ages wiki walking.

    Elden Ring on the other hand I at least have a functional/working knowledge of, and a knowledge of some of the contradicting theories for some of the parts of the lore where things are weird and vague and people are coming up with differing interpretations. Like the whole Radagon and Marika malarkey.
     
  30. Shujin

    Shujin Know what you're doing yet?

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    The HP Lovecraft moon has, for reasons, alien inscriptions that have caused a body-snatching species known as the Mi-Go to follow it to our solar system. They are typical early 1900s OG aliens with putting human brains into jars and using bronze and crystal weapons that shoot lasers. It would honestly be rather trivial to merge them into the Necromorphs.
     
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