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

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

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  1. kabs

    kabs I like well thought out, inspiring stories.

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    Jesus, that was a wild ride. Was Christianity and other Abrahamic religions ever addressed?
     
  2. Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    Hi, welcome to the thread! It comes up in the next update which should come in a day or two. I am willing to touch the subject with a ten foot pole, but I will be mimicking Riordan's approach. It's a thing, but I won't be categorizing it. Hopefully it doesn't disappoint.
     
    kabs and RollingFire like this.
  3. kabs

    kabs I like well thought out, inspiring stories.

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    Cool. Have you read American Gods? Your Names thing here reminds me a lot of that. And maybe a little Diana Wynne Jones.
     
  4. Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    I have not read either of those, but it's not surprising. No new idea under the sun and all that. I got the idea from my mythology research.
     
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  5. Leecifer

    Leecifer (Fan)Fiction Writer

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    This story is God-damn amazing, like Embers is to AtlA. I look forward to the next chapter!
     
  6. Threadmarks: Heart to Heart at the A&W
    Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    An Undertow of Sand
    A PJO Fanfiction
    Apollo definitely knew his sister was a bitch, I complained to Hypnos. He could have told me.

    The Elder God shrugged.

    I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep getting things off my chest, but I wasn’t feeling any better. Dad always told me to talk out my problems, but it wasn’t working right now. Maybe I was doing it wrong. She didn’t owe me anything, right? She didn’t claim to be anything. Lord knows, I’ve forgiven Mom for some shit. It’s just me being stupid. I knew that. That rusted nail of betrayal wasn’t coming out clean though.

    I know it's none of your business, but...how bad is it? Really?

    Hypnos shrugged again, radiating an apology.

    I get it. You guys are a bit out of the loop.

    The gods who called the Underworld home weren’t really outcasts. Technically. They just had their own thing, Olympus had theirs and the only crossover was Hades once a year at Winter Solstice. They were basically their own kingdom. I think it was because, unlike the Sea, all of the big Names of the Underworld could make Zeus really regret pushing the issue.

    Nyx. My brother Erebus. Tartarus who was probably still asleep? My cousin Achlys was still standing before the bridge to the center of Chaos last Mom checked and that’s before you get into all the prisons down there.

    But you’re not surprised either, I commented.

    Hypnos’ presence bobbed with another shrug before I got a brief flash of Mt. Olympus as if to say ‘Olympians...what can you do?’

    Yeah, I was afraid of that.

    I sighed. Girls suck.

    Hypnos blasted me with a bark of amusement before giving me this condescending pat. Before I could call him out on it (he was married and he liked bitching about it) I felt myself being shaken out of his grip.

    Someone was waking me up.

    We exchanged quick goodbyes and then I woke up to Luke peering down at me, hand on my shoulder.

    I was still in the backseat of Corey’s car. We were parked outside of an A&W beside the highway with Apollo’s sun chariot winking at us with morning light. Luke took a step back, leaning a bit on the open door with Artemis tucked under his other arm. Bradley the Idiotic Terrier was bouncing around his legs staring up at the rabbit, letting out little whoofs every three jumps as she silently stared down at the dog with her little nose twitching. I don’t know what she was thinking.

    I don’t care.

    “Bradley!” A piercing whistle sounded as I stretched. I adjusted my sunglasses, wincing a little at the sore bridge of my nose. It was Corey, coming out of the diner with a few bags and bottles under his arm. “Leave the fucking bunny alone already, Christ!”

    Luke was giving me an assessing look. “You alright?”

    He had a newly healed scar cutting through his bottom lip. Maybe in a week or two it wouldn’t look as bad as it did now, still an angry red color with a bit of scabbing in the middle. He changed his shirt to a black T-shirt and I knew his other one was full of blood stains.

    Crossing the border looking like there might be a body in the trunk was probably a bad idea.

    “I’m okay,” I said quietly.

    He nodded. Bradley made a daring jump and he lifted Artemis out of the way like she was a small bag of flour over his shoulder. She didn’t protest. Her little back paws and tail hung limply against his collarbone.

    “We at the border?” I reached out a hand for my backpack. I was going to have to Dream my sword back, but...not now.

    “We’re about an hour from Quebec City,” Corey volunteered as soon as he got close enough, shooing his dog away with a foot. “Luke had your ‘passport.’” He did air quotes with one hand. “So we got through just fine.”

    I glanced at Luke and saw the small smirk he had on. He wiggled his fingers at me.

    An illusion using the Mist.

    “I just -” Corey continued with a self-conscious shrug. “Well, if I dropped you off in Montreal, you would have only been an hour out from...that.” My blood ran a little cold.

    It would heal.

    It was still behind us.

    We were still being hunted.

    Corey’s greenish-hazel eyes shifted color to something more of a blueish-hazel as he squinted up at the sun. He wasn’t particularly tall, maybe two or three inches shorter than Luke with a thinner build. In the light of day, he was the color of espresso with wavy dark hair. He was wearing a long sleeve sports shirt with jeans. I don’t know the team, but its logo looked like an elongated red C with an A or an H in the center.

    “It’s less than a three hour drive back home and it's for a good cause.” He said with his lips pursed. “Luke filled me in a bit. Big guy lost his fucking lightning bolt and you’re putting a stop to El Niño.”

    Basically.

    “I said we’d reimburse him for gas at least,” Luke said, giving me a look.

    “Oh. Yeah.” My fingers curled into the canvas of my bag. “Next gas station. I got you covered.”

    Corey’s eyebrows bounced. “Can I just say how weird it is that a twelve year old is the one that has the money?”

    Luke rolled his eyes. “My job sucks.”

    Corey shook his head, smirking. “Well, thanks. Now, I hope you guys don’t mind some sausage and eggers. Brad needed a break and a walk anyway.” He hefted the bags he was carrying and the smell of bacon hit my nose. “Thought we could all use some breakfast at the same time.”

    I felt this warm feeling spread in my chest. I felt less numb. Mom really was looking out for me. She knew about my choice and she didn’t leave me alone.

    Mom...

    I needed to stop doubting her. Maybe I don’t know the reason for everything, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason. I knew she loved me. She said I would be going back to my school next year and she doesn’t lie.

    I needed…

    I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. I chose my own fate.

    I don’t want to die.

    So I won’t.

    “Hey,” Corey called softly. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay, little man?”

    I took in a deep breath as I unbuckled and stood. Luke hip checked the door closed behind me and Corey awkwardly handed me the raspberry iced tea bottle he had stuffed under his armpit.

    Mom sure knew how to pick ‘em.

    A breeze blew past us, picking its way through our clothes and hair as we headed for one of the outdoor dining tables in the shadow of an eighteen wheeler. I tried not to look into it. Even if it felt like someone pressed a kiss into my hair. Sometimes the wind is just the wind.

    I rubbed at my eyes a little. “I’m fine. Really.”

    Our breakfast neighbor was blasting loud eighties music in his truck as he browsed a newspaper, munching on a wrap. We each had one of those styrofoam plates with sausage, egg and cheese sandwich, some hash browns and two strips of bacon. Luke had a coffee. Corey had these foldable plastic bowls for his dog, filling them with dog food and water from a bottle for the little, lop eared canine. Luke just cut open the small bag of hay with his probably illegal switchblade and set it on the table, trusting the former goddess to know what to do with it as he went back to his bag.

    “You know,” Corey said thoughtfully between sips of orange juice. “I’ve never seen a rabbit with silver eyes before. Did you get her from a breeder or something?”

    “We found her in a trash can,” Luke quipped. Artemis froze mid nibble, slowly turning her head to stare at the demigod of Hermes with grass sticking out of her mouth as he pulled out a pet comb. He shook it at her, and we all watched the rabbit’s eyes narrow.

    Luke mockingly narrowed his eyes right back.

    “It’s true,” I said dryly, backing Luke up. “Guess her family just didn’t care that much.”

    Her head reared back from me with hay falling out of her mouth, straight ears and wide eyes. I then remembered Zeus’ insistence that she can’t fail. Rabbit or no.

    Whoops.

    She slumped and turned back to the hay. I should feel bad about that.

    I don’t.

    “Shitheels,” Corey muttered.

    Truer words have never been spoken as far as I was concerned.

    Luke’s eyebrow quirked. “You’re telling me.”

    Corey’s hand drifted down to ruffle his dog’s ears. “Good on you for taking care of her then.”

    Hermes’ son was smirking as he ran the comb down the rabbit’s small back. She stiffened under it. I was pretty sure Luke was only bothering just to rub it in that she was completely reliant on us right now. He told his brothers Travis and Connor off for that kind of petty payback often enough, but he totally did it too.

    Might be a Hermes thing.

    Tufts of pale red hair pulled free. “Her name’s Artemis.”

    Corey grinned.

    “Like the - “ He waved a hand vaguely towards the sky. “A fucking moon rabbit?” He chuckled as he dropped a piece of bacon on the pavement for Bradley. “Not a fan of anime are you?”

    Luke blinked.

    “Japanese cartoons,” I explained. Close enough. Luke’s been living at Camp since he was fourteen and before that he was on the street. Dude was practically a Greek barbarian. “One of my god brothers is really into their style of comics.”

    Aether, if you’re curious. On one of our Fridays, Mom caught sight of some of the bookshelves in Barnes and Noble and got a few for him. I think it was supposed to be some kind of in-joke between them that she didn’t think all the way through.

    Now he was addicted.

    He had a habit of eating icy moons and asteroids, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.

    “Oh righ’?” Corey turned to me. “Remember what he likes?”

    “He’s on this one about a pirate kid who ate a magic fruit…?”

    Corey nodded. “One Piece. That’s a good one. He has good taste.”

    “Mom got him hooked on it, really,” I shrugged. “I think he just really likes anything new.”

    “Come on,” Luke broke in with this little half-smile. “Your mother gives her immortal children comic books, eh?”

    “Only one of her kids gets manga. She gets me Legos sets.” Luke’s smile slipped off his face. “The Fates used to get new sewing kits and Darkness does watercolor painting - “

    “Stop.” Luke held out a hand. He stopped brushing the rabbit and buried his face in the other hand.

    I blinked. “Gods are people too.

    “Just stop,” he repeated a bit desperately. “Please.”

    What was his problem?

    “Your mom is Fate,” Corey sighed, slumping forward and rubbing his forehead. “Jesus Christ.” He sighed again, rolling his head until his neck cracked. “I almost forgot. Demigods.” Bradley had finished his bacon and was begging for more with his front paws on his owner’s lap. Corey absently scratched the top of his head. “Aliens and monsters.” He huffed. “And they called Mémé crazy,” he murmured tightly.

    His eyes paled from blueish to yellowish when he dropped his head, shadowing them. Wolf eyes. If you weren’t paying attention - if you didn’t know he was clear-sighted - you could be convinced it was just the light hitting his eyes differently. Or maybe other people didn’t notice because Hecate was hiding the results of her handiwork?

    “They called her paranoid. Monsters don’t exist.” He worried at his lip. “My grandmother...locked herself away in her home shortly after my parents had me. She was always talking about… I don’t know. She was hard to understand on bad days. She saw things my parents couldn’t, but I think...” Corey’s brows drew together. “I think I did…I know I did.” He frowned harder. “I was never left alone with her.”

    “I think…” Luke began slowly. “My mother could see too.” He looked down for a moment. “It didn’t do her any favors.”

    “Oh so that’s no longer outlawed?” came out of my mouth.

    Luke gave me a bewildered look. “Outlawed?”

    Shit.

    “Uh, nothing.” He continued to stare at me. “Long story.”

    Made sense, I guess.

    You’d have to explain to Young Gods like Hermes, who didn’t know anything, why demigods with clear-sighted demi-aliens weren't allowed. The whole ‘sometimes nothing happens and sometimes you get freaks of nature’ thing.

    Like Herakles.

    Hermes didn’t even know the gods of Olympus could build altars to Elder Gods.

    Aliens would probably blow his mind.

    Jesus. Is that what I have to look forward - “ Then Corey froze. “Wait a fucking second. It’s not just the Greeks, is it? Does that mean people - gods - like Odin…or Tsukuyomi -” There was a very, very faint flicker of someone’s attention.

    The Japanese moon god would be paying attention to all of Selene’s descendants.

    It was a little personal.

    “Names,” Luke warned, looking spooked right along with Artemis. I was kind of surprised he felt that. I was trained to feel that and it barely felt like anything to me. The attention of a Young God usually felt like nothing unless they put real effort into it. “It’s not just the Greeks,” Luke said faintly. “It’s not just the Greeks. Fucking Styx.”

    This wasn’t my fault.

    Tsukuyomi outed his pantheon all on his own.

    “Sorry,” I muttered and got this wild eyed look from him.

    “You’re sorry?”

    “Okay.” Corey gulped. “I just...when I say God, is he really listening?”

    Luke snapped out of his shock with a shaky scoff. “Not - not that one? He doesn’t exi - “

    “Mom won’t give me a straight answer on what he is,” I cut him off. “But I get the feeling she kind of hates the shit out of him.”

    There had to be something to the whole business or else she wouldn’t have this thing about me going to church with my grandparents. It’s just that, uh, my grandmother also had this thing about it. Long story short: Nana earned the awe and adoration of toddler me by breaking everything in her arm punching out my mother, who I think was still missing a tooth.

    And I went to church.

    Yeah.

    Mom is never going to forgive the Greek Orthodox thing.

    “I still go to mass with my grandparents when we visit. Makes it a little awkward,” I admitted. I munched on the last of my bacon and as I swallowed realized that it had gotten real quiet all of the sudden. I looked up to see both were staring at me.

    In the silence, Artemis let out this oink as she fished another blade of hay out of her bag. Then the bunny paused, seeming to realize what she just did, closing her eyes and slowly leaning over until her nose hit the table.

    “You’re Christian?” Luke asked in disbelief. “Why?”

    “Think about it!” I insisted. My Grandma made a good argument about it this one time at church. “God is such a generic word. There are thousands of those. If he’s really paying attention every time his multi-tasking must be crazy good.” I sipped my juice. “Like, you don’t even know. My mom can’t even do that and his demigod is also super chill.” I frowned. “Jesus stood Thor up for a duel a while back, but I can’t blame him? Thor’s kind of obnoxious.”

    Luke had this scary blank look on his face. He was just still. I think he stopped breathing. Artemis gave him a worried glance. The Canadian Boyfriend’s eyes searched my sunglasses. Then he gave Luke this helpless look.

    “I can’t.” My fellow demigod finally breathed out. “I hate that I can’t tell if you’re fucking with me.”

    “I’m not!” I yelped, a little hurt. “I don’t know everything, but...

    Luke waved me off and then patiently steepled his fingers in front of his face. His mouth opened, then closed. Then he slowly asked, “Tell me something I don’t know about -” He suddenly balked. He swallowed thickly and for a moment he looked almost afraid. You could see him cast about in his mind for something else. Anything else. “Athena.”

    Uh.

    Okay?

    He already knew about the King deal.

    So.

    Something small, I guess?

    “Probably still engaged to Prometheus,” I said after a moment.

    Luke’s eyes closed wearily.

    “I mean, Oceanus and Tethys are her parents, right?” I offered. “I think it was Tethys’ idea.”

    Unlike Hestia, Athena isn’t under any kind of virgin oath. The pantheon was still Old School. The father was responsible for setting marriages up for his kids, but Zeus kind of pissed that right away. Hera convinced him to marry her off to Hephaestus during the Giant War, but Oceanus shut them down pretty hard.

    “They actually tried, but Athena is…” I searched for the words. There were too many. “Athena and Prometheus is a genius idiot.”

    Corey snorted.

    How would Dad explain it?

    ...he would probably say Athena was some kind of divine melee gish skill monkey character with rule breaking stat allotment points roleplayed as an asshole. That made Prometheus the overpowered wizard with sky high INT, but WIS was his dump stat. On paper it was fine. In practice it was a dumpster fire.

    Maybe you didn’t get all that.

    It’s true though.

    He’s lucky Mom’s ex-boyfriend Time has a soft spot for knowledge seekers. The Gate would have eaten him alive otherwise.

    Uh.

    Like that eagle ended up doing because Zeus found out he tried to open it.

    Long story.

    “Their kid was king of Athens for a bit. We covered him in class last week.”

    “Class.” Corey deadpanned with this resigned grin. “...public school class, right?”

    “Summer school.”

    “Erekhtheus,” Luke said dully with his eyes still closed. “Otherwise known as Erikhthonios. The snake eyed child from the earth.”

    “From clay,” I corrected him.

    That was an interesting lesson. Apparently everyone was told Hephaestus was his father instead of Prometheus, somehow? And that the Earth Mother was his mom who gave him to Athena to take care of and then she tried to make him immortal, but it fell through because her priestesses were morons and went mad?

    Like she would adopt anything the Earth Mother gave anybody.

    Goddess of Wisdom, not Stupidity.

    At least that last part was true-ish. Her priestesses were morons and they did go mad, but the ritual didn’t fail because Mom’s ex did show up to help -

    Oh.

    Duh.

    That’s why the story was changed.

    Now that I thought about it, it was obvious. Immortality was complicated. Did you know that kids at Camp Half-Blood read myths in books that tell them ambrosia and nectar makes you immortal? Then they pack it in Ziploc bags and some thermos to help with injuries and no one asks why it doesn’t meet the hype. If it was that easy to make people immortal, there wouldn’t be a huge ass poisonous dragon guarding Hera’s stolen apple tree.

    There was nothing like having every single kid in that classroom stare at me, daring me to open my fucking mouth because I had the audacity to squeak at the blatant lies. However, the whole Earth Mother thing was still a no-no!

    Dude.

    Athena really is smart.

    She kind of hamstrung everything I could say with three sentences.

    I’ll just tell them later!

    “Isn’t she one of those ‘no kids’ goddesses?” Corey asked around a mouthful of sausage.

    “She thinks her kids into existence,” I explained. “Usually. Erik was her first kid, some kind of proof of concept? Joint project.”

    “I am not asking you enough questions,” Luke said with this quiet, intense tone. “I underestimated how much - I need to ask you more questions. About everything. Ever.” He let out a very long sigh. “It is...too early in the day for this.”

    “You asked!” I protested.

    He rubbed his face. “I know.

    The rest of breakfast passed without too much drama. Corey told us about himself. His dad was from South Africa who attended university in Canada where he met his French-Canadian mom. Corey himself studied abroad in Dublin where he met his current girlfriend who had been doing the same thing.

    “ - it was crazy. I almost thought I saw - “ He stopped then groaned. “I probably did see it. Fucking...fuck.”

    He was twenty-seven.

    His sight should have started dimming by now. Maybe he just didn’t notice? It took Luke being told and a few seconds to see the creature hunting Artemis for what it was. Corey saw it right away. His sight should have started dimming by now. It wasn’t really alien puberty like he said, but it was basically alien puberty? By the time they get to around fortyish, they can see a bit less than a normal demigod. It would take effort to pierce the Mist. Eventually, even that goes away.

    It took longer to fade the more eyes they had though. I didn’t really know how that worked. I wasn’t his eye doctor. I was probably worrying over nothing.

    “Welcome to the real world.” Luke drawled at him. He mopped up the rest of his sandwich like nothing was wrong, but he gave me this look while we were cleaning up. It reminded me of that considering look Apollo gave me the day before we left.

    “Sorry,” I apologized to him again as we tossed the bags. Artemis hovered around our feet, keeping a wary eye on Bradley. “About the whole pantheons plural thing - “

    “It’s fine,” he said. His blue eyes examined my sunglasses for a second, before he turned away. “Why did Hermes bring you to Camp?”

    I blinked as I let my napkins fall into the trash can.

    This was the first time anyone asked.

    I snuck him a cautious glance.

    “...because I’m Greek,” I said slowly. “And my father's wife is Celtic.” Luke’s nostrils flared and I shuffled uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “I was raised by The Mórrígan,” I mumbled. “Olympus has some stupid rule against it, so they took me away.”

    “...that explains a lot. Both of your mothers are gods.” His lips twisted unhappily. The scar on the bottom one was flushed an angry red. “Do the demigods of other pantheons go to a ‘Camp Half-Blood’ too?”

    I’m not stupid.

    I knew the question wasn’t about the name of the place.

    “Norse demigods usually don’t get trained until after they die.” I watched his eyes widen. “I guess that’s better,” I murmured. “Because your kid not getting into Valhalla is a big deal and Frigg will probably kick your ass.”

    Luke’s face scrunched.

    “Depends on the god for the Celts, but most of them raise their demigods.” Mom and her - shit, I forget if Manannan mac Lir was still her King or was it technically Jupiter? Anyway, his daughter came to my tenth birthday party. The uh, the one ruined by fucking pixies.

    Her fault, not mine.

    “The Shinto have this internship thing where everyone gets a personal spirit trainer and I heard the Bureaucracy has like three colleges you have to go through after you go through college.” I waved my hands. “It’s crazy! Egyptians don’t really have demigods at all, but then they are kind of on ice, but the House of Life keeps track - “

    “Stop,” Luke choked out.

    I shut the fuck up.

    The son of Hermes waved Corey off as he slowly, shakily sat down right there on the curb by A&W’s outdoor trash bins. He was probably getting leftover chocolate milkshake and a rotting tomato slice on his ass. Our breakfast partner started up his eighteen wheeler truck, his music roaring louder as if it was trying to drown out the massive engine as Luke buried his face in his hands. I stood there, feeling like sludge as I watched his shoulders tremble once.

    “It’s just us, isn’t it?” he said brokenly. “We’re hunted down. We’re lied to. We’re thrown away.” His voice strained. “Just us.”

    “I - “ I didn’t know what to say. “I don’t know about everyone.” It felt like a weak excuse. As far as I know, only demigods of Mt. Olympus were regularly hunted down by monsters at all ages, because our Queen of the Gods was a cunt. “I don’t - I mean maybe - “

    Luke shook his head.

    A drop of water hit the ground between his feet.

    Corey was glancing back over his shoulder at us in concern, distractedly tossing a ball for his dog. We probably looked weird. An older boy having a crisis on the curb of an A&W parking lot with a twelve year old and a rabbit looking over him.

    “All...those...thrones…” Luke said slowly, in this lilting, dark tone. Artemis made the mistake of letting out a worried sounding chittering. His head snapped up as he snarled, “There are fourteen girls sleeping on the floor in Cabin Eleven while yours - “ His voice rose to a roar. - is empty for years at a time!”

    The rabbit recoiled from him.

    Bradley started to bark his little head off as the last of Luke’s shout died in the wind.

    Before I got to Camp, some of those girls would have eaten their meals on the floor, because sitting at Artemis’ empty Table for her Hunters wasn’t allowed. Cabin Eleven had less free time in their schedule, because everything was divided by Cabin. They had rotating shower blocks because the showers were already crowded. Throw in a Cabin with twenty some more kids than the maximum it should have had competing with other populated Cabins like Apollo, Aphrodite and Ares. Try to get them all to breakfast on time. Make sure they all had enough to eat and finished on time. You can’t.

    Luke tried.

    “You are a disappointment, Artemis - “ He paused and then rolled one of her titles off his tongue. It sounded like a hydra’s poison. “Paidotrophos.”

    The bunny’s eyes went huge.

    That meant Caretaker or Nurse of Children.

    “Your throne is a waste. Only fit to be ground to dust under the whimsical cruelty of Fate,” Luke said softly. “I like the sound of that.” He stood up and absently brushed off his pants. “Come on,” he muttered. “The faster we figure out how to get the Bolt, the sooner I can do something about our worthless lot in life.”

    I kind of just stood there like a dumbass.

    “My mother always gives me a boon after a Quest,” my mouth said numbly. Proportional, so I couldn’t ask to be President of the United States because I chased off a dryad’s stubborn ex. My biggest wish so far was healing my grandfather. “I don’t know what I would have asked for this time.”

    Maybe making Dad immortal? Was that allowed? Their marriage vows were the ‘until death do us part’ version. If Mom meant forever, wouldn’t it be forever?

    Yeah, I know.

    My father put a ring on it.

    I do not need to be having secondhand angst over her commitment issues.

    I’m pathetic.

    “I gave it to Luke.” Artemis looked up at me sadly. “So that he would help me protect you.” I snorted, trying to hold back tears. “He was fucking right. About everything.”

    Her eyes dropped to the ground.

    Corey wandered over, casting questioning looks at Luke’s back as he clutched Bradley tightly to his chest. “Is everything okay?”

    “Yeah,” I croaked. I just realized Luke had been festering in rage this entire time and maybe Mom’s going to end up wiping Olympus off the map because of my stupid crush, but otherwise I was fine.

    The lop eared terrier stretched to sniff my face and reeled back with a whine.

    Take it back.

    Otherwise, I was stinky.

    “It’s just...been a long day.”

    Corey’s head bobbed. “I hear that.”

    We stood there a little while longer in silence.

    “Thanks for helping us out, Corey,” I murmured.

    The Canadian Boyfriend shot me a look, but he shrugged, bouncing his dog. “Not a fucking problem, believe me.” He lowered his voice. “And you’re twelve. I couldn’t not do something.”

    “Age doesn’t matter,” I muttered as I headed back to the car. Luke was leaning against it, flipping his switchblade. “I’m a demigod.”

    Of Fate.

    As promised, we were only an hour out from the outskirts of Quebec City. We didn’t carry the tension with us all the way. Corey wouldn’t let us. I don’t even know how it started, but somewhen between fighting over the radio, his awful Greek mythology Dad Jokes (who’s the Greek god of regret? Apollogies. I was using that one) and Luke’s list of pranks, we drove right over the bridge leading into the city arguing Disney movies.

    “They’re terrible,” I insisted. “Not suited for children. Abominations.”

    Luke snorted. “Have you ever seen a Disney movie?”

    “I saw Bambi.”

    “Oh shit,” Corey said as Artemis buried her face in her paws.

    I don’t know who was more traumatized.

    Me or my mother.

    “Abominations,” I repeated.

    Luke thumbed his bottom lip, checking the scab. “I liked Hercules,” he said quietly. “Speaking of, how is he?”

    “How is he?” Corey asked too. He had this exasperated expression on in the rear view mirror. “Sure, okay, why the fuck not.”

    “Demigod bullshit,” I reminded our Good Samaritan. “Guarding the Old World.” Luke gave me a questioning look. “Greece. The Earth Mother is imprisoned there, so he was exiled to the border.” I thought of another way to phrase it. “Like a prison guard posting transfer from cushy New York to Bumfuck, Alaska.”

    Luke made a silent ‘ah’ face. “What’d he do to earn that?”

    “Athena was his King.”

    “Wait, what?” Corey asked as Luke settled back, thoughtful. “Herc - Ath - Earth - you can’t just drop that shit on me!”

    “He’s been doing that for as long as I’ve known him,” Luke said dryly.

    “That doesn’t make it okay!”

    “Dude,” I said. “Chill.”

    “Fuck no!”

    Apparently the other stuff he could swallow with a few strips of bacon and some orange juice but Heracles still being around was what got him.

    Mortals are weird.

    But you know the saying. All good things come to an end. Corey pulled into a Shell gas station off the main highway. I swiped my card for him.

    Quebec City was a cool place. It didn’t have the same claustrophobic, super modern look of Manhattan. It was a North American metropolis on the bank of the Saint-Charles River that looked more like a French city than Paris. Everything had this really classical look of red and brown brick walls and few high rises. Once you got off the highway, the thoroughfare narrowed to cobblestone streets with the same kind of traditional hanging signs and awnings I saw in Plattsburgh, New York. The whole place was built around a massive hill, where a castle stood on top behind an honest to god walled upper town. If you took out all the MacDonald’s, cars and electric lights, it would look like we were still in the 1700s at the latest.

    “Nice place,” Luke whistled.

    Corey grinned at us from over the hood of his Volvo. “If you ever come back with some free time, take the chance to look around. I could give you a tour.” He looked around himself, absently shoving Bradley’s head back into the car as a white limo turned into the gas station. “Got any idea where you’re headed?”

    Uh.

    Good question.

    Luke raised his eyebrows at me.

    “Boreas has a penthouse,” I muttered at him. It’d be so much easier if the North Wind’s palace was like Mt. Olympus on the Empire State Building: hidden by the Mist. I’m pretty sure a floating building would be easy enough to spot on the Quebec City skyline. “Give me a minute to remember the address.”

    All my brain was spitting out right now was 112 French Name French Road which wasn’t helpful.

    112...Something French...Sainte-Anne…?

    Or was it Champlain?

    “I can probably run around screaming his Name,” Luke volunteered dryly. “If he doesn’t smite me on principle, he might just send someone.”

    I sighed. “He can’t just - “

    “Hey guys?” Corey interrupted us absently. “I think he just did.”

    We both looked.

    Oh okay.

    Wind spirit in a tuxedo.

    That was kind of a dead giveaway. Not gonna lie.

    We watched the person-shaped swirling breeze in a black tuxedo with white gloves open the door on the white limousine that had been conspicuously parked across from us.

    And that was a goddess.

    With a dress made out of snow and high heels made of ice, she wasn’t even trying to hide it. I glanced at Luke only to see his eyeballs were trying to escape his skull. Corey looked like he had been slapped with a pool noodle and it was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

    “She has snowflakes in her eyes!” He hissed excitedly.

    “I know!” I hissed back.

    The goddess finished stepping out of the limo, absentmindedly shortening the length of her dress so it wouldn’t touch the ground. She kind of looked like a sixteen year old Snow White with long black hair and milk white skin. The only spots of color being her pink cheeks and lips. Snowflakes danced in her eyes as ever-changing geometric patterns that never repeated.

    “Khione,” she introduced herself simply as the goddess of Ice and Snow. She had a soft French accent. That didn’t mean she was French or French-Canadian though. Still Greek. The accent thing was a choice, just like their appearance was.

    The Mórrígan sounded Irish. Athena was British. Mr. D was from a Jersey trailer park and Apollo from Beverly Hills. Before pissing my mother off, Artemis had the classic Greek accent, but most people would probably mistake it for Spanish.

    “I understand you have business with my father.”

    Her dress was that kind of high fashion shoulder cut away thing, but I felt like she was wearing it inside out. It exposed the dark ugly, puckered puncture wound scar under her right collarbone where something had punched right between her second and third rib and then cauterized it.

    I feel like I should know what caused that.

    ...Apo...llo…?

    Which was weird. I was assuming she was pretty. Gods usually aren’t not pretty unless they’re weirdos like Mr. D. And in Apollo’s own words he tried not to hurt pretty girls if he could help it. His definition of ‘if he could help it’ was a little fucked, but Dad’s been working on him for years.

    Two words: My mother.

    Dad had experience.

    The staring contest was broken by a tiny, high-pitched squeal.

    “...shut up Bradley.” Corey muttered.

    “That was you,” Luke whispered.

    Corey ignored him.

    “Demigods on a quest to save the Eastern Seaboard for Mt. Olympus are met by the daughter of the North Wind,” he narrated, clearly having a whoa moment.

    Khione’s lips twitched as she inclined her head.

    “That does sum it up, yes.” Her eyes roamed over us. “Luke Castellan, son of Hermes. Perseus Stele, son of...Fate.” I waved a little awkwardly with a muttered ‘Percy.’ She glanced over Corey.

    “Extra,” he volunteered.

    “Are you not missing someone?” she asked leadingly. Luke reached backwards through the open passenger side window and hauled out a small auburn fur ball.

    “Behold,” he deadpanned. “Our mascot.”

    Artemis cringed in his hands.

    “How absolutely...delicious.” Khione did not smile, but it looked like she really wanted to. “The fierce huntress, defender of her own virtue, beauty and pride.” Her lip curled into a sneer as she brushed fingers over her scar. “You certainly won’t be mauling anyone who dares take pride in their appearance like that.” Her gaze flicked away dismissively. “Behold, indeed.”

    Oh my fucking GOD!

    “Wait.” Corey caught on. “The fucking rabbit?”

    Yes.

    The fucking rabbit.

    “Okay.” I sighed. “Is there anyone you haven’t screwed over?”

    Artemis gave me a wounded look.

    “Honest question.”

    Khione let out this musical little laugh. “I can see why Olympus has been so...lively, as of late.”

    “He has no filter,” Luke agreed.

    Which, uh, excuse me -

    “For the better.” Khione cracked a small smile. “You have ended father’s silence on certain matters and for that, I will be forever grateful.”

    Right.

    So if I had to guess...

    “Like why the fuck Aeolus?”

    Luke groaned as Khione blinked with a surprised bark of a laugh.

    “No. Filter,” he repeated.

    “I have a perfectly working filter,” I made sure to correct my hugely mistaken friend. “You have no idea what no filter looks like.”

    Corey raised his hand like he was in a classroom. “Sorry, who’s - “

    “The Master of the Winds,” Khione answered calmly with a slight shift of her eyes to him, then back to me. “He commands gods while not being one himself.” Her expression didn’t really warm so much as it got less cold. “Thank you, truly. I have found myself revisiting much of what I thought I knew. Weakness became pragmatism. Hesitation to patience.”

    “Uh, don’t mention it?” I tried. What the fuck did I say? Was this about him choosing Athena over Zeus and being on house arrest for the last few millennia? Or did Boreas just decide shit was fucked so he spilled the beans on everything? Was I reading too much into this? “I wouldn’t put Aeolus in charge of a popsicle stand so it was kind of - ”

    Corey pointed at me. “Is there some rule I’m not getting about the Names thing? I thought that was a bad idea - “

    “It is a bad idea,” Luke admitted, stuffing Artemis under his arm. “Unless you don’t care about the consequences.”

    “Or the consequences do not exist,” Khione said smoothly but her lips twitched, amused. “There are many who would avenge a careless invocation of their Name, but this is the son of Fate.” I’m not sure if it was just the swirling snowflakes in her eyes that made her stare uncomfortably intense or what. “There are very few who would dare.”

    On that cheery note, Khione gestured towards her limo. “Please. Allow me to offer you a tour of our beautiful city and we can discuss your business in a few hours over lunch.”

    We were...kind of on a time limit?

    One a bit more urgent than Zeus’.

    Khione’s eyebrows furrowed a tiny bit. “I do have my father’s full confidence and can tell you everything you need to know about the theft on Mt. Olympus.” Her eyes shifted to Luke. The snowflakes in her eyes slowed their turning into an icy kaleidoscope. “And perhaps offer my assistance in retrieving it? In place of...your mascot.”

    Artemis squirmed a little, growling but Luke just squeezed, trapping her against his bicep.

    “Sounds great,” he said with a winning grin. She didn’t smile back, pinning me with a questioning raised eyebrow.

    I squinted.

    She’s been nice so far. My last godly Quest member tried to kill me so it can’t get much worse than that.

    “I guess…?”

    The goddess spun on her heel, throwing herself back into her limo seat in this boneless flop that just managed to not look stupid. “Excellent!”

    Luke grumbled wordlessly.

    The gas pump thunked as it kicked off and Corey started, before rushing to pull it from the nozzle from the tank.

    “You said yes first,” I hissed at Luke as we got our bags from the backseat of Corey’s car.

    “Not the point,” he hissed back, as he tossed Artemis onto the seat and strapped his yellow fanny pack back around his waist.

    “Then what was the point!”

    “Ask me again in a few years!”

    I hate it when Dad says that and I hate it now too.

    “Guess this is it, huh?” Corey murmured, patting Bradley on the back as the dog leaned out of his window to watch us.

    “Yeah,” I said sadly. “You’ve been great, Corey. I - “ had an idea and if Iris didn’t allow it, I’d just ask Cliff. “What’s your last name?”

    The Canadian Boyfriend raised his eyebrows. “Achebe.”

    “I don’t have a cellphone but I will call you.” Then came the self-consciousness. “I mean, if I’m ever in the area again and you don’t mind our kind of weird butting in…”

    “I won’t mind.” He smiled. “No phone, no number but will call, huh? More demigod bullshit?”

    I grinned back. “You get it.”

    He held out his hand and when I shook it: “One last thing,” Corey said with a mischievous smirk. “The Illuminati still doesn’t exist, right?”

    “The whole triangle and all seeing eye of enlightenment shit? Course not,” I said and as Corey started to nod, I continued with, “The pyramid is a metaphor for the three founding members who’ve been around since Rome and some dumbfuck in the 1700s added the eye bit. No idea why it stuck.”

    Corey’s grin disappeared. “...what?”

    “If you’re really curious, they’re like super corporate now, publicly traded and everything - “

    “Hurry it up!” Luke called back.

    Corey let go of my hand and pinched the bridge of his nose. It was an expression I saw a lot at Camp.

    But, uh, Corey wasn’t a Camper. I was just used to -

    My bad.

    I probably fucked up.

    “You asked?” I tried.

    “Yup.” He said shortly. “I sure fucking did.”

    “Right.” I was getting the feeling saying anything else was just going to make it worse. “Bye!”

    He waved half-heartedly as I crossed the gas station aisle to the white limo.

    “Whoa.” Stepping inside was like stepping into the inside of a snow globe. Flurries of snow fell around us, blown by unfelt winds like the doors of the limo were made out of the same material as the Star Trek holodeck. The chairs were definitely made out of real leather (white, duh) along with the typical ‘I’m so rich, I replaced my brain cells with money and no longer know what’s a good idea’ accessory pack.

    “Do you like it?” Khione asked me curiously.

    Have you ever tried to play Ping Pong in a moving vehicle?

    Why?

    “It looks...expensive,” I said honestly as I sat down. I glanced out the window as the limo began to move and saw Corey still standing outside, but with his head buried in his folded arms on the top of his car.

    Yeah, I fucked up.

    As soon as Luke loosened his grip, Artemis wriggled free and made a beeline for the back of the limo as far from us as she could get.

    All three of us rolled our eyes.

    “You will love our city,” Khione said, ignoring the grumpy rabbit. “A tour of Old Quebec, a walk among the fortifications and divine wards at the Edge, perhaps the cable car over the Montmorency. It is taller than even your Niagra Falls.”

    That actually sounded really cool. I loved my trip to the Falls with Dad.

    Sensing she was winning me over, Khione offered, “There is a ferry along the river St. Lawrence. Of course, the ice flows have melted, but…” She gave me a little sly smile. “Winter can return for one day.”

    I chewed on my lip. “We can’t take too long.”

    “Of course. A few hours and then to the Old Port for lunch at the finest restaurant in the city. We will make our preparations there.” She shifted in her seat, crossing her legs making part of her split dress fall and Luke turned to look out the window. “Do not fear. The Bolt is as good as recovered. Olympus will shower you in praise soon enough.”

    Yeah,” I muttered. “All hail the conquering hero.”

    Zeus was still on my shit list.

    I was pretty sure he would continue to be himself, so I don’t think the current King of the Gods was moving off my shit list any time soon.

    Which put me in a bit of a pickle.

    When Khione looked at me then, something happened in her eyes. It was like the never-ending rotating snowflake kaleidoscope had, for just a second, messed up or jumbled and made an altogether different weird pattern. It was jarring. It didn’t belong, like a random trumpet in a string symphony. It was beautiful though. She turned her head to the side absently, as if listening to a gust of wind.

    “Yes,” she said softly. “All hail.”

    The hairs on the back of my neck shivered.

    Fuck.

    I twisted in my seat to look out the window again, scanning the highway even though whatever it had been passed. My neck felt fine. I wasn’t sure it was even a warning. It felt different. I wasn’t taking any chances though.

    “Hey, there wouldn’t happen to be an obelisk in this place?” I asked tightly.

    Luke gave me this bewildered look.

    Oh.

    I never actually told him what I needed obelisks for.

    “...there is the Wolfe–Montcalm Monument,” Khione said after a moment. “The second oldest war monument in Canada and not too far from the Old Port.”

    That’ll do.

    She gave me a puzzled look. “Is something wrong?”

    Yes.

    “No,” I said. I reached for the seatbelt with shaking fingers. I was supposed to buckle in as soon as I sat down. Dad’d be so upset with me.

    Safety First.
     
    Nerve, AoD_Patr, wargonzola and 17 others like this.
  7. liquid_oni

    liquid_oni Just chilling

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    That was a really good chapter I especially loved the ending with Khione.
     
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  8. NuclearBirb

    NuclearBirb A mysterious birb.

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    This is juet consistenly SO well written and enjoyable.
     
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    Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    An Undertow of Sand
    A PJO Fanfiction
    Alright.

    I will admit it.

    I didn’t think much of the icky, wet, cold and boring winter unless we’re ice skating, but the crash of ice flows on top of a rushing river and crunching underneath the bow of the ship was nothing short of,

    “Absolutely awesome!” I yelled, pumping both of my fists and ignored the chuckling from an older couple nearby.

    “Of course it is.” Khione gave me a small, satisfied smile before looking back out over the water herself and absently snapping a picture on a white camera. “I would expect nothing less from my city. It is my home.”

    The St. Lawrence was a beautiful river. I insisted on buying our tickets for the ferry legitimately and in no time we were bobbing along with what felt like the whole city on display on the banks. Maybe I was too used to Manhattan, but there was something about the brick walls with the splashes of color and old fashioned roofs that just looked more real to me. Manhattan from the water looked like a toy city, like you could reach out and flick a shining glass and chrome skyscraper over with a finger.

    Khione had traded out the ball gown for this loose pale blue turtleneck shirt with white pants and dress shoes. Silver snowflake earrings hung from her ears. Our ferry was one of those huge triple story half boats where one side looked like a cruise liner and the other like a parking lot with cars and everything. It was packed with people enjoying the summer breeze while also being completely fucking dumbfounded at the ice clogging the river in the middle of June. I was pretty sure people were just taking pictures to make sure the ice wasn’t going to disappear on them.

    The captain of the ship had a little mental breakdown over the radio, but, uh, he’ll get over it.

    Global warming, amirite?

    “There is nothing better than - ow!” Khione yelped and pitched forward, bringing up her right leg reflexively before turning on the culprit. “Why, you little -

    A small auburn rabbit in a red sweater darted back across the deck of the ship, running through legs and around bags right back to Luke, who looked like he was either going to laugh, or throw himself over the railing to drown in the river.

    He snatched her up.

    “What is wrong with you - “ He cuffed the rabbit upside the head. “Can’t you understand English?” He hissed at the offended bunny now looking like he had decided on throwing Artemis over the railing. “What part of - “ Luke bit down on the rest of his words, gave us an awkward smile and turned back to the river, grumbling.

    Khione clucked her tongue as she inspected her right ankle. There was a tiny welt flushed a tarnished gold color. Yikes. Greek gods were durable. Artemis must have chomped super hard. “Miserable creature.

    “Um, yeah,” I said lamely. “She does that.”

    I was beginning to think Artemis had some kind of legitimate brain issue. Could that happen to gods? Was that a thing? Did she just spend way too much time as an animal over the years? Was the bunny thing getting to her? This was the third time in two days. I finally learned not to bite people in second grade.

    Thousands-year-old goddess everyone.

    “She does,” Khione said sourly, straightening. “Everyone knew the moment your mother acted,” she continued and I winced.

    The entire pantheon would know when a goddess died.

    She was just a rabbit now.

    “We could feel it,” she murmured. “Just what was done...well.”

    She glanced back to where Luke had grumpily stuffed the rabbit back into his red vest and then Artemis just as grumpily poked her head out again. With their matching colors and his backpack, he looked like a high school graduate on a summer tour before college who just couldn’t leave his pet bunny behind.

    Either that, or a wannabe Pokemon trainer.

    “There are few better it could have happened to.”

    I winced again.

    Khione turned back to me with a small, brittle smile. “You don’t know the story, do you?”

    “I, uh,” I cleared my throat. “I’m still learning,” I mumbled. “Covered major events in world history and identifying gods of the pantheons.”

    The smaller details, like who had built the infamous walls of Troy and why were extracurriculars I learned from my Bardson. It was a scale thing, I think. Mom thought I should know that Athena had been King for a while and that there was a crack in Ouranos’ prison.

    It was Apollo who quietly told me that Athena’s pride wouldn’t let her admit defeat in fixing that crack until her ‘solution’ had already consumed a few ten million mortals, give or take.

    At least Atlas got to stretch his legs!

    Fucking ungrateful bastard.

    “World history,” Khione repeated. The snow in her eyes was really pretty and it took all I had not to stare. “The true history.” She looked out over the water. “You know about the prisons.”

    I nodded.

    Khione smiled wryly. “Demigods had always struck me as so...blissfully ignorant. Too weak, too fragile, too stupid. Most couldn’t even see the truth if it was shown to them.” Her accent thickened as she tilted her head to the side. “Imagine the unpleasant surprise, when it is I who have been so blissfully ignorant. Too weak. Too fragile. Too stupid.”

    I shuffled uncomfortably.

    “A few months ago, I would have envied you.”

    It wasn’t just Hermes who didn’t know anything.

    “Now I…” Her lips pursed as her swirling eyes dropped to where a large block of ice bobbed on the water, bumping into the hull of our ship. “The story is short and simple,” she said abruptly. “Under Olympic Law, only deities are full citizens.” She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye. “And a deity is not a state of birth or being. It must be recognized and ratified.”

    Uh, wait.

    “You had to apply?”

    I wish I could say I was surprised. Mom told me the word ‘god’ didn’t really mean anything. I thought she meant that it was overused. Not that it was fucking political.

    “My mother applied for me. She did everything she could, even sacrificing her Name for me.” Khione inclined her head. “It was rejected.”

    Of course it was.

    “My mother was only a nymph, after all,” the goddess of Ice and Snow said calmly. “The facts of my lineage were against me. My grandfather Erekhtheus, son of Athena was unrecognized. He married a nymph. His children narrowly avoided being labeled demigods of Praxithea instead. I was powerful, for a nymph, and that was all I was allowed to be.” She frowned slightly. “It is only now, after thousands of years, that I finally know why it was my mother and not my father that applied.” There was ice slowly creeping across the railing under her fingers. “It would not have mattered. I never stood a chance.”

    A harsh, cold wind blew across the deck of the ship like it was the middle of January, not June.

    “And as a nymph the only mercy I could rely on was my father’s.”

    Her brittle little smile came back.

    “But I am beautiful.”

    Shit.

    We stood together in silence as the wind slowly faded. The ferry boat crunched and groaned as it broke through the ice on top of the rushing St. Lawrence.

    “You don’t have to - “ I started, but Khione shook her head once.

    “I will make no excuses for my sins. I was young and very stupid.” Her eyes flickered to me, then away. There was a long quiet moment before she whispered, “And afraid.” The ice on the river cracked loudly and our boat lurched into the opening. “It was easier if I just accepted it. Poseidon was kind in his own way, by making it public. Few would dare to cross him by treating me poorly. Everything was almost as it should have been.”

    Yeah.

    Almost.

    “Father despised him.” Her brow furrowed thoughtfully. “Even if I had known why, I don’t think I would have chosen differently. Father could not protect me. I had what I wanted.” She leaned over the railing and stared down into the icy water. “I didn’t want the boy,” she said distantly. “The sea was receding from me and I didn’t know what else to do. I thought - “ she caught herself with a sudden intake of breath. “It does not matter. I learned a harsh lesson. I knew what I had to do. It was easier to just accept it. I could even take a certain kind of...pride in it. I was beautiful.”

    And I felt sick.

    “I made the mistake of comparing myself to the King’s unobtainable daughter. The goddess of the Hunt. And for my hubris, I was gifted with an arrow.”

    It had left a dark ugly, puckered scar under her right collarbone where it had punched right between her second and third rib and then cauterized the puncture wound.

    You would think that Artemis, goddess of Maidens, who had pushy suitors and at one point defended her own mother Leto from an asshole would -

    I wasn’t even angry.

    I was just tired.

    “Can you imagine what that looked like for the King of Olympus?” She murmured. “His favorite daughter, a goddess of a throne, an Olympian struck at a mere nymph in a public fit of rage and the nymph failed to die.

    I could imagine.

    I could see Zeus thinking that would reflect poorly on him. Worse, I could see how everyone else would see it. If the thrones of the Olympians weren’t for the most powerful of the gods, then what were they for?

    “Let me guess,” I said softly. “Olympus mysteriously discovered that it had rejected your application by mistake?”

    Khione smiled coldly and bowed her head.

    “Khione, goddess of Ice and Snow,” she introduced herself again. “That Artemis was chosen for this Quest is well known, just as it is known that it is her second chance. If I were there in her place before the thrones of Olympus…” She shrugged a little. “It is petty,” she admitted easily. “Perhaps there will even be consequences for me.”

    Oh, right. “The Fates…”

    “I have complete control over decreasing temperatures, cold winds, ice, snow, hail, sleet and blizzards,” she rattled off. “I can induce any and all symptoms of hypothermia at will, including confusion and hallucinations. I am sensitive to heat signatures and can see infrared light. I do not have any ongoing feuds against me and I know how to navigate the mortal world. I even have a mortal doctorate in physics with a focus in thermodynamics.”

    I blinked. The rest was cool and all, but the important bit was that this goddess actually went to a normal college. “You did homework?”

    Her lips twitched. “I did.

    Alright.

    New second favorite goddess.

    I stared at her in awe. “It sucked, didn’t it?”

    “Yes.”

    We shared small smiles.

    “While there is much I cannot do, there are loopholes. I won’t be a burden. And if your sisters object?” That song in her eyes spun as her voice turned so cold, you could hear the water in the air around us freeze. They owe me.”

    There was definitely a story there.

    Not a happy one.

    “Her name was Sais,” Khione whispered so quietly to the river, I almost thought I imagined it. “Do not be concerned about my ability to contribute,” she continued with her voice back to normal. Dry, cold and French. “I am prepared to make the commitment.”

    “Welcome aboard,” I said awkwardly. I don’t know why I opened my mouth again. “Sorry things were shit for a while.”

    Really.

    Really?

    Olympus was a shithole and her life was fucked up and I said sorry?

    “It - it shouldn’t have happened,” I tried again.

    No fucking duh!

    “I mean, of course it shouldn’t have happened, but Olympus sucks and I - “

    What is it about my brain that just can’t when it comes to girls?

    “You can stop me at any time.” I gave up.

    Khione let out a short, tinkling laugh. “I love heroes,” she said fondly. “You’re very sweet.” She leaned against the railing, absently brushing the coating of ice off it. “Will you tell me about yourself, Perseus?”

    “Percy,” I corrected her.

    “Percy.” She flashed a smile. “Which god taught you? And how did you come to be here, on a Quest for Olympus?”

    “Mom and Mom,” I summed it up.

    “Fate herself?” Khione asked in surprise. “Really?” When I nodded, I found myself studied by eyes full of dancing snowflakes like I was an interesting science experiment - a specimen she was both excited about and dreading having to dissect. “What is she like?”

    I sighed and leaned against the railing myself. “Well, she thinks she’s hilarious…she’s not.”

    Judging from the look on Khione’s face, she wasn’t expecting me to start with that. No one expects to be told that about the cosmic serpent.

    Too bad.

    It’s fucking true.

    “And is probably the biggest troll this side of the Milky Way....”

    The ferry ride just flew by. I think I heard it was supposed to take an hour and the ice probably added some time, but it didn’t matter. Between the ice flows, the sights of the city, rescuing Artemis from Luke and Khione’s dry sense of humor, I had fun.

    I actually forgot we were on a time limit.

    “So... you and the Boreide…” Luke ventured as we washed our hands in the public bathroom on the other side of the river after getting off the ferry. “Getting a little chummy, are we?”

    I shrugged. “She’s cool.”

    Pun intended.

    Luke’s eyebrows scrunched together.

    “You don’t think it's weird? You’re twelve,” he pointed out as he dried his hands.

    I’m not sure what that had to do with anything?

    “My mom?” I reminded him right back. “I’m kind of used to it?” If there was a totem pole of god power levels or something somewhere, Mom was pretty much at the top of it. Gods like Khione would be at the very bottom. “It would be weird if she knew who I was and wasn’t nice to me for some reason.”

    Luke’s mouth opened and then he closed it. He palmed his face. “I’m overthinking this,” he muttered. “I am overthinking this. I’m overthinking this and I...am pathetic.”

    Uh.

    Little harsh there.

    Luke sighed. He grabbed a few extra sheets of paper towels from the dispenser, casually folding them to put into his pocket. I’ve seen him do that a few times. At Camp, it was usually just swiping some fruit right before it was cleared away to stash for later. Even though meals were three times a day, every day like clockwork. We stopped at Wendy’s yesterday and I saw him tuck away some napkins and packs of ketchup into his backpack. Seemed like a good idea this time though, so I grabbed some too.

    Luke flushed, self-consciously straightening his red vest in the mirror. “You never know,” he mumbled. “When you might need some.”

    Luke grew up on the street.

    “Right,” was all I said, deliberately taking one more and stuffing it into my pocket.

    He nodded stiffly.

    We left the bathroom and returned to where our godly Quest member was having a staring contest with the rabbit perched on the table in front of her.

    “Who’s winning?” I asked.

    “Me,” Khione said immediately and the rabbit growled. Then she blinked and frowned at us. “Winning what?”

    Luke snorted as he scooped Artemis up from the table. “Never you mind, princess.”

    “Very well.” The shapes of the snowflakes in her eyes turned thin and sharp looking for a moment, but she glanced at me, before shrugging it off. “I hope you don't mind a bit of a walk?” She asked as she stood. “I could transport us to the top, but I promise you, the view is worth the hike.”

    “Sure,” I said.

    And I got a bright, triumphant smile with the sun shining down on her, sparkling off her earrings and the twirling symphony in her eyes. I didn’t realize I was staring after her - why were her eyes so gorgeous? What was happening? - until Luke bumped me with a snicker.

    “Get a move on, Romeo.”

    “What - no. I - no.”

    “Uh huh.”

    “It’s not like that. ”

    “I’m sure.”

    “It’s just - if you could see her eyes - “

    “Need to write some poetry about ‘em?.”

    I’m sure I said it before, but Luke was a bit of a bastard.

    And Khione was one hundred percent right.

    The view was worth the hike.

    The Montmorency Falls was a gorgeous looking waterfall crashing over some steep rocky cliffs covered in evergreens with a suspension bridge above it. It was like the falls had been carved right out of the rock, leaving a perfect sheet of water tumbling down. A permanent rainbow hovered, rippling in the clouds at the bottom of the drop. It almost didn’t look real. Like someone had painted it into existence, complete with a wide, burbling river winding through flat, open plain. Our hike took us along the banks of the river along a wooden walkway with some other tourists, but the best part?

    You could climb the cliffs! And there was a zipline!

    “The Climbing Wall has justified its existence,” I told Luke as I strapped my helmet on. Chiron had said something about the value of finding stable footholds, unconventional approaches and balance adjustments, but whatever. “I’ll try harder to stop breaking it.”

    Zipline.

    Luke rapped his knuckles on my helmet.

    “Because this is what it was made for,” he drawled sarcastically as he checked his knee pads. “I’m sure Chiron’ll be thrilled.”

    That centaur better be.

    Because we went twice.

    “Had fun?” Khione asked, soaking up the sun on the terrace as we got back from our second trip. Luke had set out a few blades of hay on the ground for Artemis before the second go and she was still nibbling under the table as the goddess of Ice and Snow sat at the round table overlooking the cliffs and waterfall.

    “I am definitely coming back here,” I said.

    I could see Dad in Luke’s place, eyes bright and grinning as he ruffled my hair and Mom in Khione’s, waiting for us to get back with that soft, indulgent smile.

    My chest tightened a little, but it wasn’t a bad feeling.

    I would come back.

    “Good,” the Boreide said as she absently stretched, squinting at the sun. “We will make our way to Old Quebec for lunch then, as it is time for - “ She did a double take at the sky. Then she closed her eyes and a muscle jumped in her jaw as she ground her teeth. “For my brothers to ruin everything.”

    There in the sky were two figures I thought were birds, but as they got closer, I realized one bird was a three hundred pound quarterback and the other belonged in an 80s hair metal band.

    With a loud sigh, Khione snapped her fingers as the two winged men with dusky wings shimmering with golden scales landed on the terrace and all of the other confused tourists suddenly had other things to do and other places to be. Artemis huddled further into the shadow of the table.

    What,” the goddess gritted out. “Are you doing here?”

    “Saving you,” the Canadian Quarterback said simply and apparently Canadian Quarterbacks were hockey jocks. He had on a red hockey jersey with sweatpants and black cleats.

    “From making a mistake!” French Hair Metal said hotly, with ice-white hair feathered into a mullet, tight designer jeans, leather boots with a million buckles and this eye-searing pastel green silk shirt with the top three buttons undone. “You did not think Father would not know you planned to go with him?”

    He marched up to Luke with frozen eyes. He would have been more menacing if Luke didn’t have fifty pounds, four inches, no acne and a better fashion sense on him.

    Yellow fanny pack and all.

    “Sorry,” Luke said dryly. “Who are you again?”

    “Do not play dumb, son of Fate!” Hair Metal snarled in Luke’s face. His quarterback brother grunted, doing a better job of looking like a threat as he tapped a hockey stick he pulled out from nowhere in his hands. “You think you can come here and - “

    “As always, you are an idiot, Zethes.” Khione cut her brother off with a voice hitting sub-zero temperatures. “This one is Hermes’ demigod.”

    Both of her brothers paused, then as one they turned to me.

    “So…” Zethes began. “That one?”

    “Yes,” his sister said.

    “...and he is…”

    “Also a demigod,” Khione said patiently. “Yes.”

    There was this awkward moment where we kind of just stared at each other. I didn’t know what their problem with me was and they looked like their script just up and set itself on fire right in front of them.

    “Tiny,” Quarterback finally said.

    “What the fuck?” Zethes mumbled. “Is he not supposed to be some kind of - why is he so small?”

    Luke’s cheeks puffed.

    “Late bloomer,” I offered sourly. Dad said it was normal and it happened to him too and right now even Annabeth was taller than me and I wasn’t bitter about it at all.

    Nope.

    “He is small, because he is a child.” Khione stressed. That stung a bit. I wasn’t that little.

    Right?

    “You would know that if you paid any attention to the wind and weren’t a moron.”

    Zethes squinted at me, then at Luke like he was waiting for someone to shout Psych! His sister rolled her eyes.

    “If I may, Percy, these are my brothers, Calais and Zethes. They come in a pair,” she explained. “Otherwise the singular braincell they each possess will get lonely.”

    Zethes let out an indignant squawk.”You take that back - “

    “Didn’t Heracles kill you?” Luke asked curiously. “On the Golden Fleece trip?”

    Wait, really?

    They used to be mortal? I guess that explained why they felt so weird. Khione felt as solid as an icicle. Her brothers felt like echoes.

    Like puppets.

    Poor man’s immortality.

    Hair Metal turned on Luke. “As if that stupid, unfashionable brute could ever - “

    “Yes,” Khione said dryly and her brothers winced.

    “We got better,” Zethes changed his tune.

    “Ouch,” Calais agreed.

    “He cheated anyway,” Zethes continued, sticking his pointed nose up in the air. “No one told us he was a god already - what was he doing running around doing grunt work with mortals, who even does that?”

    Heracles, apparently.

    Golden Fleece though...wasn’t that - I know him. His name is on the tip of my tongue. That one dude Hera liked. If this was after Athena’s rule, and Heracles was doing ‘grunt work’ with mortals like Hera’s favored hero, then I...don’t think he was there willingly.

    He might have temporarily not even been a god at all.

    “Now that we have established that you are embarrassments,” Khione said loudly. “Why are you still here?”

    Her brothers looked at each other.

    “He is just a kid…” Zethes said slowly.

    “Tiny,” Calais nodded.

    But…” The Boread’s voice turned dark. “Kids grow up, do they not? He might get ideas about our sister.

    “Pound him?” The other one perked up like a dog spotting a ball about to be thrown.

    “Not yet,” Zethes soothed his brother. “But should he overstep…”

    Was this…

    Dad warned me about this a month ago.

    If I saw a shotgun or a shovel, I was supposed to leg it.

    “I... promise not to?” I volunteered quickly. I thought about throwing in a line about how she wasn’t that pretty, but I was only stupid sometimes. “Pinky swear.”

    Zethes gave me a serious nod, like I had just offered to swear an oath on the Styx. “Consider this your only warning, demigod.”

    “One warning.” Calais glared. With two black eyes and a freshly broken nose in a red hockey jersey.

    Zethes conjured a sword of ice, jagged and gleaming wickedly in the sunlight.

    That was not a shovel.

    He pointed it at me. He might look like a disco era reject, but that thing looked like it would hurt.

    “I do not care whose spawn you are, Ananke or no - “

    He shouldn’t have said that.

    Mom was there for a split second. Overwhelming power, restrained and fleeting, but caustic with annoyance.

    I felt myself smile, even as the wooden terrace underneath our feet rotted into dust. It felt like she had been paying attention on some level, and she knew better and didn’t like that she couldn’t help responding to her Name around me.

    It’s okay, Mom, I thought in her general direction. I know.

    “- t holy shit.”

    The three children of Boreas, the North Wind had different responses to Mom’s appearance. Calais lost any and all control over his appearance, leaving behind a bulky ice sculpture with wide, frozen eyes and gaping mouth. Zethes still looked like he was going to audition for Journey or Hall & Oates or something, but his sword had melted into a drooping popsicle and I think he pissed himself.

    Khione laughed.

    Oh, that was…” she searched for the words with a giant grin on her face. “Bracing.” With a wet crack and a thunk, her brother’s sword fell apart as he stared dumbly at her. She ignored him, her swirling eyes pinning me to the terrace. “You are just perfect.”

    Mom’s called me that before.

    Felt different coming from someone else.

    It was a good kind of different though.

    I eyed her brothers. “So about that warning...”

    “C’est tiguidou!” Zethes blurted out as he tossed the hilt of his sword over his shoulder, narrowly missing beaning his brother in the face. “Father knows what he’s doing, we’re done here.” He turned on his heel, took a step and then spun back around. “Fuck you,” he said to me. He turned to his sister. “Good luck.”

    Then he threw himself over the railing and flew away.

    “Scary,” Calais whimpered.

    Khione cleared her throat, prompting her brother to look at her. She made a shooing motion with both hands. It still took a moment for him to realize the other one had left, but when he did, a flying leap over the cliff edge saw him frantically flapping away too.

    Luke coughed. He was pale, with sweat beading his forehead, but otherwise seemed unaffected.

    “So your brothers seem…” He trailed off.

    “They are imbeciles,” Khione said simply. She turned away from us and with a slim index finger, directed a small breeze at the ground. She examined the sawdust it kicked up thoughtfully. “Glorified gatekeepers with no real responsibilities for good reason. They aren’t worth your time.” She glanced back over her shoulder at me. “Forget them and everything they said,” she said strongly. “We have a Quest to discuss.”

    My heart sunk in my chest.

    Yeah.

    I guess we did.

    I watched Luke coax a trembling Artemis out from under the newly rusted table. He accidentally knocked over one of the potted plants on the terrace, and it shattered into fine grains of sand that mixed with the dark soil and the ash that had once been the plant.

    The fun was over.

    Khione caught me glancing back out the rear window of the limo, watching the Montmorency Falls fall further and further back into the distance. I could still see it. Dad would be laughing in the sun as he took the helmet off, gushing about the zipline as the panoramic view of the cliffs and river stretched infinitely behind him. It would be one of his good days, where he stopped worrying and work wasn’t stressing him out and he slept well the night before...and Mom would look at him like she was a second away from reaching out and trapping the moment in time forever.

    “You will come back,” Khione said and it sounded like a promise.

    I will.

    Maybe spending a few hours accomplishing nothing was dumb. We could have insisted on seeing Boreas, or getting on with the Quest. Maybe we should have. We weren’t on vacation. We were demigods with something we had to do and only twelve days to do it in.

    But...

    It was nice while it lasted.

    Our limo sped down the highway and turned onto smaller, cozier streets between traditional buildings, museums, studios and galleries. Old Quebec was just what it sounded like. Everything tried to keep up that traditional feel and if anything was renovated, it was just to replace construction hazards, not to modernize anything. The side streets were packed with people on a summer afternoon shopping trip, flitting in and out of the stores. Eventually we reached the Old Port.

    Don’t let the word ‘old’ fool you. There were boats everywhere. Luke craned his neck to peer over my head.

    “I want a boat,” I muttered. “Eventually.”

    Luke hummed as he eyed the sailing yachts moored at the long piers, but didn’t say anything.

    The Old Port seemed to be the main tourist trap. Flashy hotels, brightly lit signs, taxi cabs and more modern high rises with concrete and steel designs seemed to broadcast that this was where all the tasteless yuppies were supposed to go.

    With a ‘please don’t stink up the rest of our city’ thrown in somewhere.

    Our destination was one of those tall buildings by the water. It had a wide sloping pyramid base with a half moon shape leading up to a gold capped pillar. It was still way flashier than brown brick with Victorian towers like the rest of the city, but it wasn’t nearly as gaudy as the Hilton hotel across the street.

    We were led by our driver, the wind spirit in a tux, to the top floor where a really fancy looking dine-in restaurant greeted us.

    Greeted Khione, I guess.

    Because I didn’t understand a word the waiter said. Luke didn’t look as lost? More like a deer in headlights. It was like he was listening and barely understood what the words meant, but it was a spelling bee and it was his turn and he was just fucked.

    After a brief exchange, we were led through a soft beige, dark wood and gold parlor to a private section by the large windows overlooking the Old Port. The whole place bordered that line between classy and too much. There were golden vine trellis on top of polished mirrors that functioned as the southern walls. The carpet was plush with soft earthy brown colors in rippling wave-like patterns. The tables were all dark wood with a brighter wood streak at the ends with soft velvet covered beige chairs. The lighting was hanging light bulbs in blown glass orbs with twisting patterns, but there were a lot of them, making the gold gleam.

    We sat down. Luke plopped Artemis onto the table and stared down at the cutlery.

    “There are four forks,” he hissed.

    Khione made a sound that was too polite to be a snort as she talked with the waiter who made a valiant effort at just ignoring the random rabbit on the table. I pointed at my own set up. “These are for dessert. Bread plate and knife. This and this is for fish. Soup spoon.”

    He listened as I told him what was for what with a slightly pained expression. “Lawyer dad, right.”

    I shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s really the grandparents.”

    “...it’s weird.” His blue eyes flickered to me, then back to the decorated napkin. “This is the second time we’re eating on a god’s tab. In two days.”

    “Yes?” I asked, confused.

    There was a reason I told him to let me talk when we met Nemesis.

    “It is not surprising,” Khione said with a small smile as she sent our waiter away with a flick of her wrist. “For anyone else, but one such as you, Castellan.” Luke glanced up at her, lips thinning. “This is ξενία, the laws of hospitality that we have carried through the ages and holds even now.”

    “Never heard of it,” Luke grunted and I just kind of…

    My brain stalled.

    “You never heard of it,” I repeated dumbly and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Artemis flinch away from us.

    “Why would he?” Khione said evenly. “The laws hold for citizens, the gods of Olympus.” The snow in her eyes glinted. “And demigods are stateless vagrants.”

    Luke’s fingers on his napkin spasmed and I bit my lip.

    Of course.

    They didn’t know because it didn’t matter anyway.

    No one would bother.

    This black, ugly feeling began to crawl around in my stomach.

    I had never been worried about myself. I thought it was weird when gods weren’t nice to me.

    Luke thought it was weird to be treated like he was a person.

    How fucking much was I taking for granted?

    All demigods?” He asked softly.

    “The Claimed are afforded exactly one basic right: to no longer be a vagrant,” Khione said smoothly. “Instead, they are considered to be temporarily attached to a divine household instead of Olympus, much like a seasonal laborer and the worth of that status depends entirely on the head of the house.”

    Luke breathed in through his nose, then let it out his mouth. The scar on his bottom lip was flushed a livid red. “Seasonal laborer?” He asked bitterly. “Are you sure it isn’t ktêma empsuchon?”

    That was Greek for ‘property that breathes.’

    Slave.

    Khione wrinkled her nose in distaste. “You have divine blood. That would be...gauche.”

    “I see,” he said.

    So did I.

    Camp was fucked because Olympus was fucked.

    The goddess studied Luke like it was the first time she was seeing him.

    “So you do,” she said eventually, before her eyes shifted to me. “Fate Claimed you, Percy. As a demigod, usually this would mean little but - “

    “Mom’s too big a deal,” I said hollowly.

    “She is above Olympus and its Laws.” Khione confirmed. “You have...diplomatic immunity.” She leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs and tossing her long black hair back over her shoulder. “As a visiting prince.”

    I didn’t really feel like any kind of royalty right now.

    I felt like a spoiled shit.

    The waiter came back with a bread basket and Luke and I scrambled to figure out what to order. I am not going to lie. I was hankering for a chili dog and some fries, but I don’t think I was getting one in a place where the menu didn’t have any prices listed, there were four forks and everything was in French.

    Steak was good. Steak was fine.

    Can’t go wrong ordering one of those.

    Service was decently quick and it got even faster when our waiter realized we were barbarians relying on Khione as the only cultured one and switched to an accented English.

    I stewed all the way through my meal.

    I was - I was going to have to talk to Dad. He would know what to do, what I could do after the Quest. Make a lesson plan, instead of just answering random questions. Something organized. Make Chiron give me a block with all of the Cabins. I could get Athena’s Cabin to help. I could -

    I could do something.

    “Why are you helping us?” Luke asked tightly as he put down his fork with a clink.. “Why go through all this trouble?”

    “This city is my home. I act with my father’s authority. Have I not been a good host?” she asked around a sip of wine, sounding genuinely curious and a little concerned.

    “It was fun,” I admitted quietly.

    She broke into a relieved smile. “Non-material gifts.” She gestured at our surroundings in the golden restaurant. “Food. Lodging. Safety.” I don’t think I was imagining the emphasis on that word. “And information, as promised.”

    Her cold gaze slid over to Luke, who stiffened as her smile turned secretive.

    I could feel a pulse of cold divine energy emanate from her.

    A ward?

    “The Master Bolt is held by the God of War.”

    Oh.

    Fuck.

    There was a second where we just absorbed the kind of shit we were in when Artemis lunged at Khione, furiously screeching. Luke caught her mid-leap, earning a few nasty scratches on his forearms.

    “Calm down!” he growled at her. “Unless you want to die?

    She struggled until Khione clucked her tongue, disappointed. “I am willing to swear that I tell the truth. But, your manners, girl.” You could tell she relished saying that. “Have you forgotten? You are no longer a goddess of a throne, Artemis Prôtothroniê.”

    Artemis froze in place. The use of her Name, of the First Throne, got through. Her eyes went wide. I could see her pupils dilate as she seemed to realize something. She twisted around in Luke’s hands again, but not to attack anyone. She looked down at our plates and then began to chitter, muttering at Luke and I in an endless stream of noise.

    “I - we don’t speak rabbit,” I had to tell her.

    Artemis got louder, more desperate. Khione reached across the table with delicate fingers and gently placed an index finger on the rabbit’s nose.

    “Shhh,” she hushed the bunny with a smile. “I have been a good host. I am helping on the Quest for the prestige and for the opportunity.”

    “Opportunity for what?” I snapped. My stomach roiled. “The favored son wants a war!”

    Athena. Apollo. Artemis. All went searching for their father’s Master Bolt. All failed. All former revolutionaries.

    There was no way Zeus was going to believe us over Ares. Luke’s word didn’t mean much and he couldn’t really prove it on his own anyway. No one would believe a demigod of Hermes could tell Ares had the Master Bolt when Zeus himself couldn’t.

    Zeus probably wouldn’t spit on me if I was on fire (feeling was mutual). Boreas was still on house arrest forever, we couldn’t use his word as evidence. Even if by some miracle, Athena talked the Dodekatheon into believing he wasn’t a rebel anymore, the fact that it’s been months and he didn’t volunteer to rat Ares out would count against him.

    We couldn’t use the word of his daughter as evidence either.

    Ares Domain was War.

    We couldn’t fight him, not unless he wanted to fight us.

    He wouldn’t.

    I was still the son of Fate. I had nothing he wanted to beat out of me.

    Artemis was a rabbit.

    All he had to do was wait twelve days.

    “He does,” Khione said calmly. “And he is no fool. He doesn’t physically hold the item. The winds bore witness to a mention of hiding the weapon, but we did not hear where nor how.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Best guess? A place sacred to the patron of Sparta, where he can easily detect intruders and would be able to kill without restriction or question.” She gave us a thin smile. “Father thinks it is still within the States. To make it easier to produce the weapon after the war has begun with a suitable scapegoat. Intercontinental demigods have not been particularly popular with anyone but the goddess of Love since World War Two.”

    “Elegant,” Luke said in a low tone.

    “Uncharacteristically so,” Khione agreed. Her eyes found mine. “I have told you what I can do. Consider the ability to completely map out a structure using heat and air flow without stepping a foot inside and putting the god on alert.” Her voice turned pleading. “You need me.”

    Artemis was shaking her head like she was trying to bob it right off.

    “This doesn’t revolve around you,” I pointed out and watched her ears fall. “...you mentioned an opportunity?”

    “Once the Bolt is retrieved, we can return it.” That haunting melody was in her eyes again. “...but not for free,” Khione whispered.

    I felt a jolt go down my spine.

    ...not for free.

    Luke caught on right away. “If he attacks you, he loses everything anyway. If he refuses to pay, he doesn’t get his weapon back, but everyone will know the sea god doesn’t have it.”

    “You are mortal,” Khione said gently. “You can keep it.”

    “And I can hold him to a bargain,” I said slowly.

    By making him swear on the Voice of Heaven, the Bones of the Earth and the River Styx.

    This time the shiver went up from my toes to the back of my neck.

    I liked this idea.

    “I can make Camp better.” I whispered. “I can make everything better.”

    Without a war.

    I liked this idea.

    “A meticulously worded contract. Witnesses. An oath,” Khione said leadingly. “The wording of the King’s ultimatum was only that his Symbol of Power must be presented to him by the Summer Solstice.”

    Guess I should be happy it’s Zeus.

    Athena would never leave a loophole like that lying around.

    “You want a bloodless revolution,” Luke said.

    “I want change,” Khione snarled.

    It wasn’t perfect.

    If Hermes didn’t know about true oaths, then it's been at least four thousand years since anyone has sworn one.

    Since anyone has broken one.

    It didn’t matter what the consequences of a broken oath would be, if I still died. That would still be terrible. For one, I would be dead. That’s always a bummer. Two, I knew Mom would go to war with Olympus if I got murdered, because unlike Hades, she could.

    The back of my neck shivered.

    Fuck.

    Hades.

    He was missing a Symbol of Power too, wasn’t he? And an oath would only bind Zeus’ actions. It wouldn’t do anything to Ares. Or Hera.

    Or Athena.

    Kronos.

    The Great Prophecy still had some years left on it.

    But what if I just did this? What if I blackmailed Zeus?



    What if I did and it all came crashing down in four years anyway?

    “We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Luke warned, but there was a light in his eyes. I remembered my own oath and his boon. “This all means nothing if we can’t steal the Bolt back.”

    “Yes, of course.” Khione breathed out. “The only sacred place belonging to the god of War that I know of is the Metropolis Temple. It used to be in what is now Turkey and unfortunately, since the Migration, it has never stayed in one place.”

    “...where is it now?” Luke asked.

    “In the most violent American city.”

    Figures.

    “...Detroit?” I guessed.

    Khione gave me a strange look.

    “Baltimore?”

    “Compton,” she said dryly. “Compton, California.”

    Huh.

    The more you know.

    “I can’t teleport directly to the city,” Khione said regretfully. “Leaving my territory in such a way would send up a flare on Olympus and my ability to travel through godly Domains is restricted. I still can,” she rushed to assure me. “If a cold wind can go there, so can I. But.”

    “It’s the middle of June,” I finished for her.

    “We will have to travel somewhat traditionally south of the border.”

    “Somewhat?” Luke quirked an eyebrow.

    Khione shrugged. “My Father has a stable full of Thracian horses. I am sure he would not mind if I borrowed a few.” I think this was really happening. We knew who took the Bolt. How was a question for later, but for now, we just had to find it. We had a lead.

    And...an idea of what to do once we had it.

    Artemis, agitated, pulled on the sleeve of my shirt with her teeth.

    I sighed. “What do you want?”

    “How are you with killing monsters?” Luke was asking the goddess.

    “In the event they ever manage to even break through my ice?” she replied evenly. “As long as we do not run into any fire based creatures, such as the son of the Mother of Monsters - “

    Artemis stared up at me with soulful silver eyes and the fur on her back bristled.

    And I was suddenly aware that the hairs on the back of my neck had been standing up.

    “ - all that’s left is getting rid of the dead weight.”

    I jumped to my feet, hand flying to my necklace where my fingers clumsily crashed against my chest.

    Damocles.

    I didn’t Dream it back.

    Luke pushed back from the table. His chair screeched on the grey tile lining the floor by the windows as one hand dug into his pocket.

    Khione was watching me with a wintery smile and beautiful snow filled eyes. “Not you,” she murmured. “Did I not offer my assistance in place of your mascot?” She asked innocently. “Have I not been a good host?”

    Yeah.

    To me.

    Now that I thought back, she ignored Luke’s acceptance of her offer. She paid him the bare minimum of attention to not break the rules, as if he was my servant. We did what I wanted to do. We -

    I wasted time.

    Even Nemesis fed Artemis as part of hospitality.

    Khione didn’t.

    “Do not deny me this,” Khione hissed, slowly rising from her seat. “Don’t you dare.”

    I was tempted.

    But I wasn’t that far gone.

    “It’s been fun,” I said instead. “Really, but uh, we gotta go. Now.”

    Luke grabbed his bag and grabbed the rabbit. “It’s here?”

    “Yeah, it’s - “

    In the mirror finish of the southern walls of the restaurant, I saw the dark shape close in.

    My Spidey Sense screamed.

    The restaurant windows exploded.

    “Fuck!”

    We dove onto the floor as alarms rang out, blaring and I could barely hear the screams of everyone else in the restaurant over the blood rushing in my ears and the tinkling of glass shards. Artemis squirmed out from under Luke’s arm and bolted, a red blur under the tables and I had a moment of thinking -

    Where is she going?

    We were on the top floor of a thirty story building.

    Where was there to go?

    And I felt dizzy and breathless and my limbs felt like lead, like I was trying to move underwater or through a blizzard as I watched the black fractured blur break across the room - and then it was there.

    The ropy scar tissue wasn’t scar tissue. They were eyelids. Hundreds of bloodshot eyes glared out from between each flayed muscle fiber and large rotting gangrenous wings flared out from its back, pocketed with weeping sores and exposed black bone.

    The bulldozer had just made it uglier.

    And mad.

    It screamed and my head exploded into stars. I saw Luke reach out with his hands and the tables and chairs moved, crashing into each other in its way as a small red blur ducked and weaved through the dining room.

    It slammed through the furniture, letting out barks of black void sound like sonar that pulsed down my throat and squeezed.

    I tried to reach into my stomach, but I felt sick and I think I farted. I didn’t know how my powers worked. I didn’t know how to control them. I just knew they were there.

    I did it once. I can do it again.

    There was nothing.

    Not this time.

    I couldn’t breathe -

    A cold shock slapped my face.

    I was hauled to my feet by the front of my shirt.

    “I can save you. I can teleport you out of here.” My vision swam as I tried to lock on to Khione’s icy expression. “Last chance, Perseus Stele.”

    Luke was on the other side of the room, jumping over a table with Reclaim flashing in his hands and the table silently shattered behind him as the creature swiped through it. Blood was already starting to drip from his nose. A scratch from a shard of glass had carved up his temple.

    Another pulse of sound.

    Luke stumbled, but he brought up his Celestial Bronze and Adamantine blade just in time to take the hit.

    He went flying.

    The creature glitched, a single arm appearing almost ten feet away, spearing down and my heart leapt into my throat as I saw the little auburn furball frantically throw herself to the side.

    It almost wasn’t enough.

    There was a wet snap. Artemis screamed, sounding just like a terrified child as the black claw scraped, skidded down her flank covered by the little red sweater.

    I can’t leave them.

    I didn’t have to say anything.

    “Of course. How could I forget?” Khione gave me a small, sad smile, already dissolving into a flurry of sleet and snow. At first, I was scared she was going to take me with her anyway, but then...she let me go. In a heartbeat, just her voice on a cold wind was left. “Heroes.”

    Knife, I thought and the weight of Erebus’ Stygian Iron dagger fell into my hands. It was Nemesis’ creature. It came through the shadows in the darkness of night. This might work.

    This was crazy.

    I was crazy.

    I ran right at the living nightmare. I thought I was ready for the sound.

    I wasn’t.

    It ripped through my head again, like it had shoved barbed wire into the inside of my skull and was pulling. I saw it turn, casually shattering a table as it raised a claw to swipe at me. I didn’t duck so much as I fell under it, getting what was probably a really bad rug burn.

    Small head covered in eyes, probably weak point.

    I stabbed it.

    The pitch black blade bounced off.

    Okay.

    Didn’t work, was all I had the time to think before that feeling at the back of my neck blared.

    I twisted blindly, just trying to get out of the way.

    Fire seared up my side, racing to my back as the claw grazed me. Loosening my body was a practiced reflex, even as I bit back the scream. Don’t freeze. Don’t freeze. Never freeze. I reversed my grip on my brother’s gift as I threw myself away from the creature. I hit the corner of a knocked over chair hard, rolling over it as the floor right where I just was crumpled under the blow. A large table with some art piece bronze tree in the middle of it wobbled in place, and then shot across the room, beaning the monster upside the head.

    It whipped around.

    Another pulse. My eyes felt like they were going to explode.

    The monster glitched its torso after Luke, leaving its legs behind and I don’t know what I was thinking -

    I don’t know why I thought it -

    I raised my dagger and stabbed at the empty air in between.

    It screeched.

    The world itself shook and bent, like a black hole had just opened in the middle of the dining room floor.

    And it was halfway between us, shuddering on the floor as if its two halves had snapped together and met somewhere in the middle. My knife was burning my hand and then it was getting up and I tried to move, but everything in my side wailed as my leg gave out and then Luke was there -

    Percy, move!”

    Blood splashed onto my face.

    Don’t freeze, was the dim thought as my world shrunk down to Luke’s red vest and the rapidly spreading dark stain. It had got him right between his shoulder and neck. He was bleeding in spurts.

    Don’t freeze.

    My stomach yawned open. The fire on my back burned cold. I felt weightless. There was a flash of black, lashing out from behind me to in front of me and it simply…

    Batted the nightmare away.

    The remarkably pristine mirror finish of the southern walls silently shattered under its weight.

    I can fight it.

    But it won’t die.

    Luke grasped at the air with a weak hand, and a small unconscious bundle of fur was shoved into my chest. Realty snapped back to normal.

    “Luke!”

    He pulled at me, face set with a mulish jaw and tears streaming from his eyes as we stumbled towards the windows leading to a thirty story drop onto the pavement.

    No where else to go.

    Luke tightened his grip on me as the nightmare dug itself out of the wall, screaming, stabbing at my mind with dark, flaying knives.

    Then he threw us out the window.

    My world tilted.

    Quebec City disappeared. In its place was a rugged mountain top. It was night time, a gorgeous avalanche of stars were strewn about the sky. There was a girl in front of me rocking the punk look with black hair and electric blue eyes, looking shocked. Behind her there was a girl that looked a lot like Annabeth’s older sister with blonde curls and Athena’s grey eyes, screaming. And beside her was a boy.

    His sea green eyes widened in shock and disbelief when our eyes met, like he could see me from the other side of reality. He had windswept black hair and was wearing what looked a lot like my face.

    Then I was falling down…

    Down…

    Down...

    I could hear the crash of the sea against the cliff face. The wind was rushing by and I was so tired. I felt like a furnace that had burned hot and bright and hard for so long and now there were only embers left.

    I had a thought. I don’t know if it was even mine.

    I’m so scared…

    Lady Rhea...Luke’s voice gurgled wetly.

    My vision broke apart, scattering like flower petals on the wind. I felt it break. My stomach throbbed painfully, everything hurt and I felt like I was drifting. Like if I just stopped thinking for long enough, gravity would turn itself off and we could just float away.

    It was as if...what I just saw had already happened.

    Was happening.

    Would always happen.

    And now, would never be.

    Luke sighed into my ear. “Now would be good.”

    The water of Quebec City’s Old Port rose up with a roar and right before we hit the ground, it swept us away.

    There was nothing like going from falling to death to drowning in the span of two seconds. I have no idea how my sunglasses stayed on.

    I kicked and struggled, clutching my Quest members to me, but I was only twelve. The water had shocked Artemis awake, so I pushed her up towards the surface as best I could with one hand. The other was firmly wrapped around Luke’s wrist. My lungs burned as I tried to drag his dead weight up from the depths.

    Bad -

    Bad choice of words.

    Please, I sent out to anyone who was listening. Mom!

    The water surged.

    We were spat out on some cold beach somewhere. I hacked up half a lung as I crawled over to Luke. He wasn’t moving.

    “No, no, no, please.” I turned him over onto his back, some half forgotten CPR lessons moving my hands. I think he was still bleeding, but sluggishly. I hoped he was still bleeding. That meant a heartbeat. He was too pale. I gently tapped his face. “Don’t do this to me Luke. Come on.”

    I slapped him a little harder when he didn’t respond. “Come on!”

    My throat was beginning to close up. I tried to swallow and it hurt and I was panting as I shook him. “Luke, please. Don’t do this to me. Luke!”

    We were in the middle of nowhere.

    I blindly reached out for my backpack. Just two squares, I thought dimly. I would just eat until I felt better but there was - hadn’t Grover said something once, I think? Just two or he’ll burn up and that won’t help anyone at all.

    I crushed the small cubes in my fingers and pushed the pulp into his mouth.

    He didn’t swallow.

    I heard a slight whimper somewhere to my left and I just -

    I saw red.

    “Shut up!” I roared at Artemis. I didn’t care that there was a bone sticking out of her back leg. “This is your fucking fault! If he fucking dies - “

    My voice broke.

    Something else broke too.

    “If he dies,” I said slowly. “You die.”

    I turned back to Luke.

    “Come on, Luke. Show me those baby blues.” I didn’t - I didn’t want to take off my glasses. Not even to check. I pressed my hands against the gash in his chest and shoulder and neck. It was - it was a bit too late for pressure but I didn’t know what else to do. “Come on, you can’t give up just like that. We have a plan for Olympus. For the Camp.” There was snot coming out of my nose. “Well, maybe a quarter of a plan. You have to make it through this. You’ll get to dunk on all your haters - not that you have any because you’re awesome - and you even - “ I was crying. “I can’t believe you - Rhea actually answered you, you son of a bitch?”

    Then from above me a woman’s voice said, “I did.”

    My head snapped up.

    Standing there like we had washed up at some music festival in the Bahamas was a dark haired woman with flowers braided into her hair, a brass Peace sign hung around her neck with a brightly colored shirt and short pants with a gossamer train.

    There was also a fucking lion sitting by her.

    Because why not.

    “Uh. Hi.” I said dumbly.

    She raised a hand and slipped her round iridescent sunglasses down her nose. Behind them were the green compound eyes of the Matriarch of the Swarm.

    “Looks nasty,” she said casually as she lifted her glasses back into place. “Mind if I give you a hand?”

    I nearly jumped away from Luke.

    “Yes! I mean - no, no I don’t mind. Please help me.”

    She knelt down on Luke’s other side. She gently closed his mouth and then trailed fingers down to his chest. This energy welled up, flickering off her skin in streams of smokeless fire. It sunk into Luke and lit him up from within. I swallowed as I saw what looked a lot like his lungs behind dim bands of his ribs and a brighter spot that looked like a very slowly beating heart.

    With a twist of her fingers, the tiny shuddering strengthened. Beneath him, the water of the sea or lake surged.

    I snuck glances at the former Queen of the Gods.

    This was kind of awkward.

    “Not what you expected?” Rhea asked as she worked.

    I shrugged and felt my back and side burn. “I...kind of expected you to have a bad luck penny glued to your ass or something.”

    “Ha!” She barked. She glanced up at me with an amused quirk to her lips. “Ain’t that the fucking truth.”

    Glowing, writhing energy slowly filled up Luke’s wound.

    “He’ll be okay?” I said and it came out very small.

    “In time.”

    I could have fallen over in relief.

    “Thank you,” I said. “If there is anything I can do to repay you - “

    “What do you see?” She asked me.

    Oh.

    The sea water crashed onto the beach in a small wave. Seagulls cried out in the distance. My hand flew to my sunglasses.

    I paused. “...how things die.”

    Rhea looked at me thoughtfully. “Tell me?”

    I took my glasses off.

    I choked on a sob.

    “Peaceful,” I croaked. I have never seen a death like hers. Content. Ready to go. It was like she was just going to sleep after a long, hard day and she could finally - finally rest.

    It was how I wanted Dad to go.

    “Thank you.” Rhea smiled, even as she studied me from behind her own glasses. “You do have your mother’s eyes. I can even see her in the perfected look of your face, but the rest…” She rose and Luke floated up with her. She gently set him on the back of her lion and then turned to gather the pathetic furball that was her granddaughter up in her arms. “The rest reminds me so very much of my son, Poseidon.”

    The boy on the mountaintop. Black hair. Sea green eyes.

    Rhea paused, looking over her shoulder at me.

    “Coming?”

    I followed her.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2021
    Nerve, Skorm4545, AoD_Patr and 16 others like this.
  10. Oddric

    Oddric Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Anybody who hadn't found this already over there is in for a treat.
     
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  11. Lone-sith

    Lone-sith Getting sticky.

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    I just read the whole thread and I’m not sure I understand everything.
    is morrigan his mom? Is it Anake?
    also where can I find extra lore?
     
  12. Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    They are both his mother. This of it this way. A Young God is the image of an apple in photoshop. Their Names, like Zeus Olympios or Zeus Xenios are the layers that went into making the apple. One is the shadows, one is the color red, etc. When they split up, its the same as sending a Photoshop layer to do something. An Elder God is you at the computer with Photoshop open. You create the banana. You create the orange. They are both your creations. Percy's birth mother Ananke is the banana. His mother The Morrigan is the orange. They are both creations of the Elder God at the computer desk.

    For extra lore, on which part? Greek mythology? Cthulhu mythos or a compendium on An Undertow of Sand setting in particular?
     
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  13. Lone-sith

    Lone-sith Getting sticky.

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    Cthulhu mythos and the undertow of sand setting
     
  14. Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    Here is the wiki I use for the Cthulhu Mythos. As for the Undertow of Sand, we do have discussions on the background of AUoS on Spacebattles. Alternatively, I will be posting the Informational page from SB here so you can read the cast list and corresponding details in one place.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2021
  15. Extras: Who's Who in An Undertow of Sand
    Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    This will be updated and changed as we go along with the story and learn more. There are also secrets hidden within.

    Cast List:

    Ananke
    Primordial of Fate, Destiny, Compulsion, Necessity, Circumstance and Inevitability. Confirmed Name of an Elder God Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos.

    Greek Titles: First of Chaos. Mother of the Moirae, of Darkness, of the Celestial Sky. The Great Serpent. Eater of the Bloody Tongues. The Ruiner. The Beautiful One. The Thousand Mirrors. She Who Stalks Stars.

    Symbol: Blood Red Spindle of Golden Thread.

    Myth: Ananke is believed to have formed ex-nihilo from Chaos as the first being. Along with her younger 'twin' and consort Chronus, mingling together in serpent form, crushed the primal egg of creation to form the ordered universe.

    Truth: Was said to have owned slaves, among whom she chose favorites to ascend by feeding them the still living flesh of 'Phanes' at the conclusion of the 'rebellion' by the star-spawn. These became the first generation of Greek Young Gods. The Titans.

    "Only Fate (Eimarmene), or universal necessity (Ananke), the inevitable 'Adrasteia,' the faceless countenance and hollow sound of unknown Destiny, was absolute." - Vyacheslav Ivanov, Russian philosopher

    Known Children:
    Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, the Fates
    Adrasteia, the Inescapable
    Erebus, the Darkness
    Aether, the Celestial Sky
    Percy Stele, demigod

    Chronus
    Primordial of Eternal Time. Confirmed Name of an Elder God Yog-Sothoth, the Lurker At The Threshold.

    Greek Titles: Kronos, Khronos, Chronos

    Symbol: Greek Zodiac Wheel

    Myth: Chronus is believed to have formed ex-nihilo from Chaos as the second being. His elder 'twin' and consort is Ananke.

    Truth: In an unspecified sequence of events, gave Zagreus his mortal Name of Kronos. Presumably owned slaves of humanity.

    "For me, whatever share of excellence the throne of Fate endowed, I know full well that Khronos (Chronos, Time), although his foot be slow, shall bring it to the end ordained." - Pindar, Nemean Ode 4. 41 ff

    Nyx
    Primordial of Night. Confirmed Name of an Elder God Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.

    Greek Titles: Night

    Symbol: Three Black Wings in a Star

    Myth: Nyx is believed to have formed ex-nihilo from Chaos as the younger 'sibling' of Ananke, Chronus, Tartarus within the newly formed ordered universe.

    Truth: Lives in the House of Night in the Underworld, at the place where Tartarus collides with the Devouring Void of Chaos. Presumably owned slaves of humanity.

    "Be present, Goddess, to thy suppliant's prayer, desired by all, whom all alike revere, blessed, benevolent, with friendly aid dispel the fears of twilight's dreadful shade." - Orphic Hymn 3 to Nyx (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.)

    Known Children:
    Nemesis, goddess of Retribution
    Thanatos, god of Death
    Hypnos, personification of Sleep
    Geras, personification of Old Age
    Apate, personification of Deceit
    Alecto, Megaera and Tisiphone, the Furies
    Unnamed demigod
    Hellhounds
    Many others...

    Tartarus
    Primordial of the Abyss. Confirmed Name of an Elder God Magnum Tenebrosum, the Unnamed Darkness.

    Greek Titles: The Pit, Tartaros

    Symbol: A Red Eye in a Sinkhole

    Myth: Tartarus is believed to have formed ex-nihilo from Chaos as the younger 'sibling' of Ananke and Chronus within the newly formed ordered universe.

    Truth: Presumably owned slaves of humanity.

    "The defeat of the Gigantes (Giants) by the gods angered Ge (Gaea, Earth) all the more, so she had intercourse with Tartaros (Tartarus) and bore Typhoeus in Kilikia (Cilicia)." - Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 39 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.)

    Known Children:
    Typhoeus (Typhon)
    Unnamed demigod

    Gaia
    Primordial of the Earth

    Greek Titles: The Earth Mother. Gaea

    Symbol: A Perfect Sphere

    Myth: Gaia is believed to have formed ex-nihilo from Chaos as the younger 'sibling' of Ananke, Chronus, Tartarus and Nyx within the newly formed ordered universe.

    Truth: Was part of the 'rebellion' by the star-spawn. It took three nights to cover the campaign against her.

    "Khronos (Chronos, Time) ... [also called] Herakles (Heracles) generated a huge egg, which, being filled full, by the force of its engenderer was broken in two from friction. Its crown became Ouranos (Heaven), and what had sunk downwards, Gaia (Gaea, Earth). There also came forth an incorporeal god [Phanes or the primordial Eros]." - Orphica, Theogonies Fragment 57 (from Athenogoras)

    Known Children:
    The Hekatonkheires
    The Cyclopes
    Typhoeus (Typhon)
    Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea

    Ouranos
    Primordial of the Sky

    Greek Titles: The Sky Father, The Voice of Heaven, Uranus

    Symbol: Eight Pointed Star

    Myth: Believed to have been created by Gaia to be her consort. Father of the majority of Gaia's children, including the Titans who eventually overthrew him via castration and dismemberment.

    Truth: Was part of the 'rebellion' by the star-spawn. Was said to have surrendered.

    "He [Orpheus] sang of that past age when Gaia (Gaea, Earth) and Ouranos (Uranus, Sky) and Pontos (Pontus, Sea) were knit together in a single mould; how they were sundered after deadly strife." - Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 498 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.)

    Pontus
    Primordial of the Sea

    Greek Titles: Pontos

    Symbol: Ten Limbed Octopus

    Myth: Believed to have been birthed from Gaia with no father. Together with his female counterpart, Thalassa, created the first of the sea life and Telekhines.

    Truth: Is an alien, who came to earth and was adopted into the Greek pantheon.

    "And Sea begat Nereus, the eldest of his children, who is true and lies not: and men call him the Old Man because he is trusty and gentle and does not forget the laws of righteousness, but thinks just and kindly thoughts. And yet again he got great Thaumas and proud Phorcys, being mated with Earth, and fair-cheeked Ceto and Eurybia who has a heart of flint within her." - Hesiod, Theogony (231–239)

    Known Children:
    Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea
    Kronos
    Titan of Time and the Harvest

    Greek Names: The Crooked One, The Titan Lord, An Ass (by Percy), Zagreus
    Roman Name: Saturn

    Symbol: A Scythe

    Myth: Son of Ouranos, the Sky and Gaia, the Earth. Overthrew his father Ouranos at the command of his mother with the aid of his brothers and his mother's gift of a sickle, which he used to castrate the Sky. His father foretold he would be overthrown by his children in turn and so he swallowed his own children born to him by Rhea. His youngest, Zeus was swapped for a stone and hidden away by his mother. Zeus returned when grown, and with the help of his childhood friend Metis, made his father vomit up his siblings and began the Titan War to overthrow him.

    Truth: An Earthborn slave of Ananke, descendant of slave warriors originating from somewhere else in the cosmos. He fought against a race of beings referred to as 'star-spawn' and other creatures that might be part of the same group such as the Spinner, the Dweller, Devourer in the Mist, the Earth Mother and Sky Father. Consumed a living part of a star-spawn known as 'Phanes' and was ascended as a Young God. A Titan. For as yet unknown reasons, he received a Prophecy from the Sky Father that foretold his children would overthrow him, prompting him to swallow them as they were born.

    Metis
    Titaness of Good Counsel, Planning, Cunning and Wisdom

    Daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, Mother of Athena, former Queen of Olympus, former wife of Zeus. Was prophesied by Ouranos, the Sky to bear a wise child to her husband Zeus. A warrior stronger than his lightning bolt that would be the snake to take his throne. In an attempt to avert the Prophecy, her husband tricked her into assuming the forms of prey animals to escape a chase. She almost made it, but was finally caught in the form of a fly and swallowed. Ensured her daughter was born wearing armor.

    Mnemosyne
    Titaness of Remembrance

    Keeps a library holding records of the true history of the world on Mt. Othrys

    Leto
    Titaness of Demurity and Protector of the Young

    Raised her twins Apollo and Artemis. Tried to protect them from the wrath of their father, Zeus, when he took back his throne but was burned completely through by his lightning bolt. Her children hope she will eventually reform.

    Rhea
    Titaness of Motherhood, Legacy, Comfort, Ease and Female Fertility

    Greek Names: Matriarch of Swarms
    Roman Name: Ops.

    Kronos' wife, mother of his six godly children. Patron of the Grove of Dodona, an ancient grove of prophetic trees. Was 'ripped off big time' by Ananke, according to Percy.

    Hecate
    Titaness of Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, Night, Moon and the Crossroads

    Greek Names: Goddess of the Mist
    Roman Name: Trivia

    Symbol: A Strophalos (Hecate's Wheel)
    A third generation Titan born to Perses of Destruction and Asteria of Falling Stars, Oneiromancy and Astrology. Sided with Zeus and the Olympians during the Titan War to overthrow Kronos. Was a candidate for the throne of Olympus.

    Selene
    Titaness of the Moon, Radiance and Insanity

    Myth: The sister of Helios, Titan of the Sun.

    Truth: An 'alien' who came to earth from several galaxies over that was adopted into the Greek pantheon during the reign of Mt. Othyrs. Her legacies are 'demi-aliens' otherwise known as clear-sighted mortals. Artemis inherited the Moon Chariot from her.
    Zeus
    God of the Sky, Lightning, Thunder, Law, Order and Justice

    Greek Names: Zeus Olympios, King of Olympus. Zeus Astrapios of the Sky, Zeus Agoraeus Protector of the Agora (assembly), the Dodekatheon, Zeus Anax, The High King. A Fucking Idiot (by Percy)
    Roman Name: Jupiter

    Youngest child of the Titan Lord Kronos. Was hidden away by his mother Rhea so that his father wouldn't swallow him. Was raised by the nymph Amaltheia, Daughter of Oceanus and Tethys in the shadow of Adrasteia, the Inescapable on Mt. Dikte in Crete. With the cunning of his childhood friend Metis tricked his father Kronos into vomiting up his siblings. After the Titan War, ascended to the throne as second choice with Metis after his eldest sibling Hestia abdicated. Was overthrown by his daughter Athena, but retook his throne thanks to his current wife, Hera. Is now known as one of the 'Big Three' of the Olympic Pantheon.

    Hera
    Goddess of Motherhood, Marriage, Women, Childbirth, Familial Love and Legitimacy of Rule

    Greek Names: Hera Aigophagos, the Goat-Eater
    Roman Name: Juno

    Sister Wife of Zeus, thirdborn child of Kronos, the Titan Lord. Fought in the Titan War. Was on 'Team Zeus' during the Olympiomachy and vital in the capture of Athena with the help of her son Hephaestus' chains.

    Demeter
    Goddess of the Harvest, Cycle of Life and Death, Sacred Law, Fertility and Agriculture

    Roman Name: Ceres

    Second born child of Kronos. Was a candidate for the throne of Olympus but recused herself to become the Earth Mother's prison warden. Mother of Persephone. Once attempted to kill all life on Earth in response to her daughter's abduction by Hades and nearly broke the Earth Mother free in the process. Was on 'Team Athena' during the Olympiomachy.

    Poseidon
    God of the Sea, Storms and Earthquakes

    Greek Names: Father of Horses, Uncle Sea (by Apollo)
    Roman Name: Neptune

    Fifth born child of Kronos. Lived in the Underworld with Hades until he was eventually married off by Zeus to Amphitrite, Granddaughter of Pontus and Gaia to become Lord of Atlantis. Was on 'Team Athena' during the Olympiomachy and served as a high ranking official and key advisor in her court. When Zeus retook his throne, was forced to undergo a mortal trial serving a Trojan king and built the walls of Troy. Is feuding with Athena over her decision to surrender during the Olympiomachy and is now known as one of the 'Big Three' of the Olympic Pantheon.

    Phoebe Artemis
    Goddess of the Hunt, Moon, Maidens, Archery, Wilderness, Radiance, Forests, Childbirth and Insanity

    Greek Names: Artemis
    Roman Name: Diana

    Symbol: A Silver Bow Against a Moon

    Firstborn child of Leto. Illegitimate daughter of Zeus. When she was born, she rapidly aged to the maturity of a six year old child and was able to assist her mother in the birth of her twin brother, Phoebus Apollon. For this, she was granted the Domain of Childbirth. At 3 years of age, convinced her father Zeus to swear an oath to grant her one wish. Upon getting his vow, revealed that her one wish was to get six wishes fulfilled. Was a childhood friend of Persephone, who also wished to be a virgin goddess as a triad with her and Athena. Was on 'Team Athena' during the Olympiomachy. When Zeus retook his throne, nearly had her essence burned through by her father's lightning bolt as punishment. Inherited the Moon Chariot from Selene. Is a Quester.

    Phoebus Apollon
    God of Prophecy, Poetry, Music, Knowledge, Healing, Sun, Truth, Archery, Art, Disease and Plague

    Greek Names: Apollo
    Roman Name: Apollo

    Symbol: A Golden Bow Against a Sun

    Second born child of Leto. Illegitimate son of Zeus. Was granted the Domain of Prophecy upon his defeat of the mighty serpent Python. Is the patron of four oracle spirits, the Oracle of Cumae, the Oracle of Trophonius, the Oracle of Delphi and the Oracle of Erythaea. Was on 'Team Athena' during the Olympiomachy and was protected from Zeus' wrath by his mother and sister. Was forced to undergo a mortal trial with Poseidon, serving a Trojan king as a sheep herder as punishment. Found Percy when he was five and trained his prophetic talents. Plays Dungeons and Dragons as a bard, but his dice have been cursed by Tyche, goddess of fortune. Inherited the Sun Chariot from Helios.

    Ares
    God of War, Bloodlust, Courage and Civil Order

    Roman Name: Mars

    Legitimate son of Zeus by Hera. Was on 'Team Zeus' during the Olympiomachy. Lover of Aphrodite.

    Hephaestus
    God of the Forge, Volcanoes, Fire, Smiths, Craftsmen, Stonemasons, Sculpture, Metals, Magnetism and Gravity.

    Roman Name: Vulcan

    Firstborn son of Hera alone. The nature of his mother's divinity tainted the pathogenesis and Hephaestus was born with a genetic 'father' in the star-spawn Phanes-Dionysus. His father's influence proved dominant, enough to allow him to kill the Gigantes Mimas by himself without demigod help. A feat impossible for a Young god. He was raised from two weeks old by the nereid Thetis. He provided Hera with chains unable to be broken by the one ensnared in return for her solemn oath to love him as a mother should. Freed Athena from imprisonment with his foster mother Thetis and was hurled from Olympus, breaking every bone in his body by Zeus as punishment. Husband of Aphrodite.

    Aphrodite
    Goddess of Love, Beauty, Sexuality, Physical Pleasure and Procreation.

    Sumerian Name: Inanna, Queen of Heaven
    Akkadian/Babylonian/Assyrian Name: Ishtar
    Hurrian/Hittite Name: Šauška
    Canaanite Name: Astarte
    Roman Name: Venus

    Symbol: A Crowned Dove

    Myth: Daughter of Ouranos, created when the blood of his castrated genitals met Thalassa of Deep Waters, birthing the goddess from the sea foam.

    Truth: An foreign goddess ascended into an Old God by a Name of the god behind Greek Primordial of Fate was originally of the Sumerian pantheon known as the Queen of Heaven. Her presence in the Greek pantheon is unexplained, but it is known that she attempted to ascend beyond her means by way of consuming Ouranos. The attempt failed leaving a broken goddess behind. Was on 'Team Zeus' during the Olympiomachy. Lover of Ares, wife of Hephaestus. Has 'defective' demigods that possess an ability similar to Siren Song. Her typical children have a wide variety of talents born from her various Names.

    Hermes
    God of Travelers, Thieves, Messengers, Commerce, Trade, Diplomacy, Orators, Athletes, Trade and Invention

    Roman Name: Mercury

    Son of Maia, eldest of the Pleiades nymphs. Illegitimate son of Zeus. Born within a cavern near the peaks of Mount Kyllene in Arkadia. Shortly after birth, he snuck out and stole from the herds of Apollo. When Apollo was mocked for accusing a newborn godling of theft, Hermes promptly blew his own cover to eloquently argue before Zeus that he was too young and cute to possibly be the thief. This amused his father so much he was given the task of herding departed souls to the Underworld and was elevated to a throne as a member of the Dodekatheon. Has an assistant named Milos. Ticketed Percy's mother for a cross-pantheon violation.

    Dionysus
    God of Religious Fervor, Ritual Madness, Wine, Grape Vines, Theatre and Revelry

    Greek Names: The Twice-Born, Chubster God (by Percy)
    Roman Name: Bacchus

    Myth: Illegitimate son of Zeus by Semele. Former demigod. Was raised by his mortal aunt and uncle until they were driven mad by Hera, making them kill their children save Dionysus and then themselves. Was driven mad by Hera as punishment for his existence but was able to have it lifted by the Titaness Rhea. Rescued his mother Semele and wife Ariadne from the Underworld. Invented wine. Wandered Egypt for a time. Invaded India and was eventually forced to retreat, but returned having achieved apotheosis as a god. Ascended to Mount Olympus and was given the throne of former Olympian Hestia. Is the current Director of Camp Half-Blood.

    Athena
    Goddess of Wisdom, Strategic War, Handicrafts and Kings

    Greek Names: Athena Promachus, Who Fights on the Front Line. Athena Areia, the Judge/the Warlike. Athena Polias, the Protector of Cities. Athena Hygieia, the Inspiration of Physicians. Athena Glaukopis, the Owl Eyed or Bright Eyed. Athena Apatouria, the Deceiver. Athena Ageleia, Leader of the People. Pallas Athena. Patron of Heroes. Wanax, the High King. Owl-Head (by Apollo)
    Roman Name: Minerva

    Firstborn of Zeus and Metis. Was prophesied to overthrow her father which lead to her mother's demise. Was born from Zeus' head after it was split open by Hephaestus in full armor and was promptly blasted off Mt. Olympus by the Master Bolt. Was named 'Athena' by the Titaness of Fresh Water Tethys and fostered with Triton, the son of Amphitrite and Poseidon. Hoping to break the sea's protection of Athena, Zeus interfered in a duel between her and her childhood friend, the sea nymph Pallas, causing her to land a fatal blow. Was escorted to Olympus by Oceanus where she confronted her father and received her Prophecy. Was able to convince Olympus that she was not the subject until it came time for her coup that led to the Olympiomachy. Was forced to give Names to the Devouring Void by Zeus after capture and eventually surrendered. Is feuding with Poseidon over her decision to do so. The architect of the Olympiomachy cover up. Lied before Adrasteia, the Inescapable and received the Name Apatouria by the Daughter of Ananke herself.
    The Mórrígan
    Tuatha de of Victory and Death in Battle

    Celtic Titles: Morrigu, Anand, Mór-Ríoghain (Modern Irish), Phantom Queen, Harbinger of Fate
    Mortal Alias: Mórrígan Stele

    Was the consort of the Dagda. Is a confirmed Name of the god behind the Greek Primordial of Fate. Married mortal Dorian Stele and raised his son, the Greek demigod Percy Stele. Was ticketed for a cross-pantheon violation and is currently missing.

    Boreas
    God of the North Wind and Winter

    Was a revolutionary on Team Athena during the Olympiomachy and has been on house arrest under the command of Aeolus, Master of the Winds ever since. Stole away Oreithyia, nymph daughter of Erekhteus, King of Athens to be his wife. Father of the Boreads, Zetes and Kalais and the Boreides, Kleopatra and Khione.

    Khione
    Goddess of Ice and Snow

    Daughter of Boreas, the North Wind. Unlike her siblings, she was born an immortal deity and received the Name of Khione from her mother in an effort to sway Olympus in granting citizenship to her daughter. The application was rejected and Khione was classified a nymph without the full protection of the law. She was loved by many gods, most notably Poseidon to whom she gave birth to the hero Eumolpus who was cast into the sea and given to his half-sister to raise by his father. Boasted of her beauty in comparison to Artemis, and survived the subsequent murder attempt. To save face, her application for godhood was reconsidered by Olympus. Wished to help on the search for the Master Bolt, but holds a severe grudge against the goddess of the Hunt.

    Unknown
    Unknown deity of the Egyptian pantheon. Confirmed Name of an Elder God Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos.

    Egyptian Titles: The Black Pharaoh

    Odin
    Æsir of Wisdom, Death, Knowledge, War, Sorcery, Poetry, Frenzy and the Gallows.

    Germanic Names: Wōden, Wōdan, Wuotan, Wuodan, Wōđanaz, Óðinn, the All-Father

    Was Named as a contemporary of Kronos.

    Atum
    Unknown deity of an unknown pantheon.

    Was Named as a contemporary of Kronos.

    Apophis

    Egyptian Names: Apep, Lord of Chaos, Enemy of Ra

    An alien that came to earth and was adopted into the Egyptian pantheon.

    Hestia
    Goddess of the Hearth, Family, Home, Domesticity, Virginity, Existence of State and the Sacrificial Flames

    Greek Names: Hestia Prytaneia, of the Hearth. Hestia Potheinotáti, the Beloved. Beckendorf 2.0 (by Campers)
    Roman Name: Vesta

    Firstborn of Kronos and Rhea. Was offered the throne to be King of the Gods, but turned it down in favor of Zeus and Metis. Regretted doing so after Zeus swallowed Metis and became a poor ruler. Was on 'Team Athena' during the Olympiomachy. Was a member of the Dodekatheon, but stepped down from her throne in favor of Dionysus and carved out her Queenly name of Hestia Basileia. Was a key advisor and high ranking official in Athena's court. Is currently being aggressively befriended by Campers at Camp Half-Blood in an attempt to keep her from Fading.

    Hades
    God of Riches and of the Dead

    Greek Titles: Uncle Dead (by Hermes)
    Roman Name: Pluto

    Fourth born child of Kronos and Rhea. Was made administrator of the Underworld and is considered the Lord of it. Is suspected by Olympus to still be gathering Names via his dead worshippers. Has the influence of Nyx, the Night, on him making it difficult for other gods to sense him. Husband of Persephone. Owner of Spot (Cerberus).

    Persephone
    Goddess of Spring Growth, Flowers, Vegetation and of Withering

    Greek Names: Despoina, of Mystery. Kore, the Maiden. Lady of the Underworld.
    Roman Name: Proserpina

    Symbol: A Pomegranate Flower

    Myth: Illegitimate child of Zeus. Ate six pomegranate seeds while in the Underworld, compelling her to remain for at least six months of the year.
    Firstborn child of Demeter. Wife of Hades. Wished to be a virgin goddess as a triad with Artemis and Athena, but was abducted by Hades.

    Hypnos
    Personification of Sleep

    Roman Name: Somnus

    Child of Nyx and Erebus. Younger twin brother of Thanatos, the God of Death. Friend of Percy.

    Erebus
    Personification of Darkness

    Roman Name: Scotus

    Child of Ananke. Consort of Nyx. Gave Percy a Stygian Iron dagger.
    Perseus “Percy” D. Stele
    Son of Primordial Fate and mortal father, the lawyer Dorian Stele. Raised by The Mórrigan. Currently the Oracle of Chthon. Prophecies are given via 'tarot' using Mythomagic cards. Has a crush on Artemis. Has a non-standard biology of protruding spine, extra ribs and undefined organs. Had additional sets of teeth, but they were removed by his mother. Is a Quester.

    Clovis
    Son of Hypnos, sleeps through Sundays visiting his father. Calls Percy his cousin and vice versa. Also has non-standard biology, such as a protruding spine, extra ribs, a second heart, the ability to sleep with half his brain, and three sets of teeth. Non-reflective eyes.

    Ethan Nakamura
    Son of Nemesis. Percy calls him first cousin once removed. Also has non-standard biology such as a visibly protruding spine with oddly shaped vertebrae, fangs and moving patches within his non-reflective eyes.

    Bianca and Nico di Angelo
    Children of Hades. Were alive when the Great Prophecy was given by the Oracle of Delphi. Presumed dead after being struck by Zeus.

    Thalia Grace
    Daughter of Zeus, currently a pine tree. Zeus turned her into a tree to save her soul from Hades' retribution. Hestia accepted her dying wish to protect her friends, Luke and Annabeth, creating the barrier of protection around Camp Half-Blood powered by her Sacrifice.

    Luke Castellan
    Son of Hermes and May Castellan, a prophet who went mad while trying to become the Oracle of Delphi, and ran against Hades’ curse. Luke still holds a grudge against Hermes for this. Definitely did not steal the Master Bolt and doesn’t work for Kronos. Was previously on a quest that failed, he made it out with a scar, the other two didn’t make it out at all. The camp counselor for Cabin 11, which means he’s also the counselor for the unclaimed and those without a cabin, and also Percy. Is a Quester.

    Annabeth Chase
    Daughter of Athena and the mortal Frederick Chase, a Military History professor. Friends with Luke, is the counselor for Athena Cabin despite being really young. Enthusiastic about learning more, a major character in canon, though hasn’t been as much here. Has a cousin who’s a Norse demigod.

    Malcolm Pace
    Son of Athena.

    Masayuki
    Son of Athena. Black hair.

    Silena Beauregard
    Daughter of Aphrodite's Name of Astarte. 'Horse-pigeon' whisperer, great Archer.

    Drew Tanaka
    An Aphrodite 'defect.' The cover story is that she inherited more from the Sea than usual, has a divine gift of a pearl bracelet. Percy speculates it's a Mist cloak. Called Percy a weirdo.

    Maximilian
    Son of Aphrodite's Name of Ishtar. Sense of fairness, flips a drachma when he can’t decide things.

    Jacqueline
    Daughter of Aphrodite's Name of Šauška. Her mood changes based on what feathers are in her hair, has feathers of endangered birds.

    Lace/Lacy
    Child of Aphrodite's Name of Šauška. Genderfluid, with scarily good healing powers, especially for a seven-year-old.

    Renico
    Claimed as son of Aphrodite, but Percy thinks he’s actually son of a Hindu deity. He has a perfect internal clock and rises with the sun.

    Michael Yew
    Son of Apollo. Does music and archery.

    Lee Fletcher
    Son of Apollo, very freeform with his Dungeon Mastering.

    Castor and Pollux
    Children of Dionysus, identical twins. Percy's friends. Play D&D as a Druid and a Cleric.

    Katie Gardner
    Daughter of Demeter, counselor. Play D&D as a Monk.

    Charles Beckendorf
    Son of Hephaestus. Has his '2.0' sidekick Hestia helping him around Camp.

    Angelina
    Daughter of Hephaestus

    Everett
    Son of Hephaestus

    Clarisse La Rue
    Daughter of Ares, likes hazing new kids. Threatened to put her foot up Hestia's ass, in an encouraging way.

    Ryan
    Son of Ares. Admired Percy’s sword.

    Alabaster and Liza
    Hecate’s children. Get a polecat from their mother.

    Lou Ellen and Moni
    Also probably Hecate’s children, though they get a puppy.

    Butch
    Child of Iris, can IM for free.
    Clifford Randall
    A Cynocephali 'Dog-headed' boy aged 3. Has the maturity of a 15 year old human boy and looks like a Golden Labrador from the shoulders up. Has a mastiff-headed mother. Called Cliff by his friend Percy. Is an Egyptian 'magician.'

    Chiron
    A centaur son of Kronos and Oceanid Philyra. Was trained by Apollo in his youth and in turn became a trainer of heroes. The gods returned him to life and granted him immortality as long as he teaches. Is the Activities Director at Camp Half-Blood.

    Sam
    An orange tabby cat of the Dreamlands. Has a crook in his tail due to Percy (age 2) pulling on it. Will not let this go, calling Percy 'Lil Fucker and 'His Royal Tail Puller.' Has the title of Master Sorceror. Went to the moon with Percy and was banished from his home of Ulthar because of it.

    Argus
    Watchman of Camp Half-Blood. Disowned son of Hera, known as a 'pseudo-Giant' servant. Like his brother Hephaestus, the nature of Hera's divinity tainted the process and he was born with a genetic 'father' in Phanes.
    Dorian Stele
    Father of Percy Stele, husband of Mórrígan Stele. A Manhattan lawyer born of Greek immigrants who somehow drew the attention of Ananke. It cost him his sanity for several years, but eventually recovered.

    Corey Achebe
    Good Samaritan that gave our Questers a ride to Quebec City. A demi-alien clear sighted Canadian who lives in Montreal, attended college in Dublin, Ireland, has an American girlfriend, a Volvo and a dog named Bradley.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
  16. Threadmarks: A Couple of Gods Say They Are Sorry
    Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

    Joined:
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    An Undertow of Sand
    A PJO Fanfiction

    It was about two in the afternoon on the second day of our Quest.

    Fuck.

    How sure was I that Argus didn’t drive us out of Camp Half-Blood years ago?

    It felt like it had been years.

    Maybe a decade or two.

    I was a strange kind of numb. I should be feeling a lot of things and I think I was, but there were too many feelings and too much to feel and I had just stopped processing everything. My emotions were waiting for the next shoe to drop.

    I felt like, and probably looked like, a drowned rat clinging to the mane of the lion carrying Luke. Everything dripped. Water was still making tracks down my face (but at least it’s not blood). My shoes squelched. I was cold. It was overcast, wherever we were, with only occasional god rays of sunlight peeking through. The gravel road we walked on felt abandoned. Grass and weeds were closing in from the sides and there were puddles of water leftover from rain. I stepped over a pothole and pulled a little on the lion’s mane to keep my balance.

    It chuffed, glancing at me.

    “Sorry,” I told Sam’s six hundred pound second cousin, relaxing my grip. “My bad.”

    “You’re fine,” Rhea said as she flicked the lion’s ear. “Widdle just bein’ a drama queen.”

    I gave the lion a look.

    It was literally as tall as I was.

    “Widdle?”

    There were many things you could name your pet lion and then there was that.

    Her lips twisted unhappily as she raised her sunglasses to settle in her braided dark hair. She might have given her pet a look too, but it was hard to tell exactly where she was looking with those fly eyes of hers.

    “He won’t answer to anything else.”

    The lion arrogantly lifted its nose into the air and walked a little faster.

    I get it.

    Cat.

    We fell into silence again. I fidgeted.

    “Where are we?”

    “Long Beach,” she answered. “Mississippi.”

    I stumbled a bit as my spine liquified. We were almost literally on the other side of the North American continent from Quebec City.

    Safe.

    At least for a bit.

    I sniffled a little. I don’t know why. We had some leeway. If we were lucky, we’d ditched the nightmare for good. I don’t think we would get lucky, but there was no sign of it and we just had to keep moving as soon as Luke was back on his feet and get the Master Bolt and go home. Easy. We had our break and I was an experienced demigod adventurer. This wasn’t worth crying over.

    I shivered. I sniffled again.

    Rhea bowed her head.

    She said nothing.

    “How long - “ my voice embarrassingly cracked. I stared down at my shoes. “Are we almost…?”

    “We’re here,” was the soft reply.

    I looked up.

    “Um.” I winced, but said it anyway. “Nice place?”

    Rhea squinted, like she had to check if anything changed, before she directed a wry smile my way.

    “It’s a mess,” she said bluntly.

    Yeah, I lied.

    It was a mess.

    We had finally reached the home of the former Queen of the Gods. And it was a small light blue bungalow home that had vomited out its insides onto the front lawn. It was half spring cleaning in the wrong month and half garage sale. There was an antique grandfather clock that looked like Big Ben right beside a Volkswagen safari van decorated with swirling black frond designs on burnt orange like a Greek Mystery Machine. There were random pieces of furniture (coffee table, nightstand, dresser, lamp, lamp, la - what is that? Weird lamp) sitting on the grass among the jungle of cardboard boxes that weren’t all taped shut and giant cat toys. A lot of them.

    Along with the giant cats.

    An entire pride of lions lounged around in what little free space remained, or made free space like only a cat would, sleeping on unfolded boxes, crushing folded boxes under their butts, and reclining on the ratty sofa in the driveway. There were some cubs playing with a weathered soccer ball underneath the U-Haul wagon. It was a mess, but it looked like a comfortable kind of mess.

    I guess that wasn’t saying much.

    Cats could make a paper bag look comfy.

    “You’re...moving?” I guessed. I stepped through what was definitely a barrier or some kind around her property. I could feel it taste me, raising the hairs on my arms.

    “You got it,” Rhea said easily. “I just closed on a nice place in upstate New York with this Indian cafe right down the street?” She let out a happy little sigh, absentmindedly bopping a curious lion on the nose as her granddaughter bled all over her blue and yellow shirt. “Their butter chicken? Amazing.” The second step leading up to her front door creaked a little. “Mind the pottery.”

    Uh.

    Right.

    “Can’t you just - uh.” I waved a hand around my head as I stepped around the large Grecian vase in the middle of the foyer. The inside of the bungalow looked completely normal, like it belonged to a normal pottery enthusiast with a few exotic pets that were probably illegal and was moving out like a normal person. Half of the living room was cramped and crowded with boxes and a moved sofa while the rest of the room was blank and empty. There were glass cases with old school Minoan bowls and vases right alongside boxes filled with faded 1960s magazines proudly standing against the Vietnam War. There were photo albums stuffed almost to bursting. Stamp and coin collections were carefully packed away underneath a few paint splattered easels.

    Why was she even bothering?

    “Can’t you just zap this all over there, or something?”

    “And deprive myself of that ‘finally moved in’ feel?” She asked incredulously as we both made way for the lion carrying Luke’s limp body (Luke was okay, he was okay, we’re fine - ) to pad past us into a side room. “That’s, like, an entire seven month process, man. You wouldn’t believe how bummed out I would be if I skipped it.”

    The Queen of the Titans just used the word ‘bummed.’

    “Bummed out.”

    She raised an eyebrow. “Is that not in use anymore? You know, it would be a total mood killer, a downer, a complete drag - “

    “ - where’d you learn to talk like that?” I interrupted her.

    “Woodstock.”

    That makes sense.

    Wait.

    “Why were you - “ On second thought - “Never mind.”

    “It’s the little things,” Rhea explained patiently as we stepped into what looked like the kitchen. It was homey, dirty dishes still in the sink and everything. “Effort. Meaning. Time. It’s all relative. Reality is a frame of mind.”

    Sometimes Mom did things like this. Like driving instead of teleporting me around. Putting just enough effort into burning our penthouse down so Dad would try to help cook or listen to me talk about my day. It helped keep her here. With us. Grounded.

    “Trying to keep yourself from drifting?” I ventured.

    “Trying to keep the Dream alive.”

    “Oh right, you’re - “ I had the word on the tip of my tongue and as soon as I went to say it, it disappeared. I quickly threw out another one. “Hibernating?”

    She accepted that, nodding. “Repetition helps.”

    That took me right back to my childhood, in that weird word association way your brain sometimes does. Or maybe just my brain. Back to the audiobook Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and the smell of freshly cut strawberries.

    There was a certain safety in repetition.

    I don’t think that’s what Rhea meant though.

    “Like boring yourself to bed?”

    That got me one of those softly amused looks, like I was this little yapping Pomeranian puppy she was sizing up for a sweater and booties. I watched her set Artemis on the counter and for a moment, I thought she was going to break out the cutting board and knives to put the rabbit out of her misery.

    I felt bad for thinking that. Then I felt mad for feeling bad about it. Then I felt guilty for feeling mad about feeling bad.

    It was -

    It was a thing.

    “Go on,” Zeus’ mother said as her hands lit up with that smokeless, writhing fire again as she prodded the bunny’s broken leg. “Have a seat.”

    The kitchen table was a round, wooden piece covered in doilies with mismatched chairs, like she had just gradually added to the collection from garage sales. I picked a wooden chair with an overstuffed green cushion that looked like it had been chewed on a little. One of the legs was short, making me wobble.

    Everything about this was awkward.

    Rhea married into the Greek pantheon, but Mom...never explained what that meant beyond the obvious. Did she outrank me? Was it the other way around? Was it one of those things where we didn’t want to piss each other off because I had Mom and she had the Pit?

    Except he was asleep, while Mom wasn’t so…

    I don’t know.

    This was like the first time I met Hypnos, but worse. It was like going to one of those parties with Grandpa and getting introduced to his friends’ kids who were all way older than me. I was supposed to play nice, but I was in sixth grade and they were already halfway through their college majors.

    And I had to make friends anyway.

    I was just a demigod at the end of the day. I was important to Mom, but I was mortal. Was I being dumb if I assumed Rhea thought I was any different from Luke, her great grandson?

    I was probably being stupid.

    Mom never told me anything personal about the other Elder Gods. Did she even like the god beneath the Pit? Was she friends with the god behind the Night? What were the rules with their Greek Names? There was this traditional greeting thing, and yeah I blew it, but Rhea spoke English first so it wasn’t my fault? And it kind of made my throat hurt and my head feel weird, but it just wasn’t the same in American and I…

    I was a little worried about Kronos.

    I don’t think he was on Mom’s side anymore.

    That probably didn’t mean anything, right? It would be like assuming Luke would jump to defend Zeus just because Hermes did. Maybe the Titan Lord was just like me. He didn’t have the whole picture and what he did see was through a human lens and he misunderstood.

    But Rhea...

    Rhea was loyal.

    Not all of the star spawn rebelled.

    I was just being paranoid.

    I breathed out, trying to calm my racing thoughts.

    I was being paranoid.

    The Matriarch of the Swarm had stepped in to save us (Luke was fine - he’s okay), but her granddaughter was a piece of work and her son was mad at me.

    I didn’t know what to say.

    So I just kept my mouth shut as Rhea quietly worked on putting the rabbit back together.

    I don’t do well with silence.

    In a desperate attempt to keep my ADHD from making me deliberately rock my chair - because that shit got annoying quickly and if I did it I would only be annoying myself - I started leafing through the doilies on the table. They were all ridiculously elaborate, floral designs made to mimic actual flowers. You could tell that this was a hibiscus and this one was a lotus just by the pattern.

    I found myself picking at a loose thread in a lace dandelion when my back twinged. Something shifted in my bones. It felt like I pulled a long splinter out from underneath my ribs. I grunted, hunching over and accidentally pulled on the thread too hard. The corner of the dandelion visibly unraveled in my hands.

    Fuck.

    “That ought to do it.” Apollo’s grandmother hummed. I grabbed the nearest magazine and pretended to have been reading it (lingerie catalog, why) and casually slid the sloppy dandelion underneath it as she turned around. “How about you? Hurt anywhere?”

    I shrugged. My back and side were already itching. Scabbed over already. My stomach felt a bit better, but it still throbbed grumpily.

    “I heal quickly,” I mumbled.

    I was fine.

    Again.

    “Naturally.” Rhea knelt beside my chair and laid her head on folded arms. She had multicolored bangles and bracelets with all kinds of feel good messages on them, from the lavender ‘Peace is a Journey’ to the silver ‘Wake up. Kick Ass. Sleep. Repeat.’

    “Would you say no to some nectar?” She asked softly.

    I swallowed and mutely shook my head.

    Then I stared as a Dora the Explorer sippy cup was placed in front of me.

    “I - I’m - I’m twelve?” I had to say it. “Not two.”

    “There’s a difference?” Rhea sounded genuinely confused, turning back to me from the pantry.

    “Uh, yes.” I said blandly. “A big one.”

    She crossed her arms. “Really?”

    “A humongous differ - look, how do you not know this?”

    “It’s...been a while,” she retorted dryly. “So you’re twelve. Big whoop. I should’ve given you a bottle. Adrasteia was still nursing at your age.”

    That brought me up short.

    “Oh,” I said dumbly.

    I tried to imagine the Inescapable in a high chair with a fucking sippy cup and I just can’t. I couldn’t even do it with Aether or Erebus.

    The Fates in diapers??

    Rhea was around for the birth of Mom’s firstborn.

    Rhea was older than the current sun.

    You ever have that moment when you look at someone and realize they grew up before vinyl and just go ‘shit, you’re literally old as hell?’ I have that moment a few times a year with Apollo and Mom and I am straight useless for about ten seconds each time.

    No idea how Dad keeps his head wrapped around it.

    With a click of her fingers, the sippy cup was replaced with a Stayin’ Alive Bee Gees mug. After a moment of consideration, Rhea got her own mug with a rainbow ‘Imagine’ emblazoned on the side.

    “Twelve years…” She mused out loud. She chopped her index finger through the air, as if counting on an invisible white board. “Your birthday ain’t August 18th, is it?”

    I blinked as I sipped the chouchen taste-a-like. “No, November.” Right day though. “Why?”

    She shrugged one shoulder.

    “The Grove screamed on that day,” she said airily, leaning back against her counter like trees just do that sometimes. Scream. “Scared me half to fucking death - I thought it had been gone forever but then - “ She stopped herself with an odd little smile playing around her mouth as she absently petted her conked out granddaughter. “Your mother has always gotten a real kick out of doing what no one expects her to.”

    That sounded like Mom alright.

    “She ripped you off,” I mumbled into my mug. I winced as soon as it came out of my mouth. I probably should be more respectful. She might be touchy about that.

    “Oh, hun.” Rhea said softly, looking a bit pained. “I let those trees burn for a reason.”

    I almost choked. “Bwhat? But that’s - “

    “They put me through the age of telemarketing fifteen hundred years in advance.”

    “ - completely understandable.”

    There is no way Mom didn’t do that on purpose.

    Come on. Taking talking prophetic tree seeds in return for fighting the Earth Mother and then tens of thousands of years later you find out it was all for a fucking telemarketing gag? That was Mom’s sense of humor in a nutshell.

    She’s still not funny.

    “So Mom didn’t just rip you off,” I concluded as Rhea lifted her mug to her lips. “She also gave you the middle finger.”

    I could have kicked myself. Didn’t I just say I needed to be respectful -

    Rhea spat out her drink and laughed.

    She laughed like Mom did. It didn’t matter that it was a wheezing cackle like a pig with asthma, she was completely unashamed of it. She laughed like she had been waiting to laugh for centuries.

    “You are so much like your sister!” She wheezed. “Oh, so much.” Her voice turned wistful. “So much…”

    “Yeah?” I asked softly, smiling.

    “Totally,” Rhea said with a toothy grin that showed a few too many teeth. “Absolutely righteous, in every possible way. Your mother deserves little shits for kids.”

    I mean.

    That’s fair.

    “Your brothers are so boring,” Rhea continued as that lingering awkwardness in the air faded away. I guess we had both been waiting for some kind of clue that the other didn’t have a stick up our ass. “Aether had some promise, but Erebus…” She shook her head as she cleaned up with a napkin. “Took too much after his father that one.” She means Chronus. Time. Mom’s ex. “And don’t get me started on - on - oh what is her name.” She clicked her fingers a few times. “What is - the anal retentive one. The eldest of the triplets.”

    Rhea straight forgot the names of the Fates.

    “Clotho,” I offered.

    “That’s the one!” At first she was happy to finally have the name, but then...she had the name. The look her face shifted to afterwards was the most exhausted, put upon look I have ever seen in my life. It was like she had stared into the Abyss, wondering if it could get any worse and then the Abyss said ‘Hold my beer.’

    It had all the energy of Mom’s Quantum Stupid face. Just with foreseeing obnoxious as fuck instead of dumb as fuck.

    “...that’s the one,” Rhea sing-songed softly as she tossed the napkin. “That’s the one.”

    “They are kind of…” I began, but then I realized the mother of the elder Olympians would probably know a lot more than me about my sisters’...everything. “Yeah.”

    “Absolutely,” she agreed with the unsaid. She cast a thoughtful look at the rabbit on the counter and then conjured up a small wicker basket with a blanket inside. She picked Artemis up and the former goddess of the Hunt was a complete ragdoll, totally out of it and actually snoring with her mouth open.

    “If you chew on this, I will tell your father to ground you,” Rhea whispered as she gently placed the rabbit inside. “So what Domains do you have?” She asked me as she tucked her granddaughter in. “You feel...similar to your eldest sibling. Something from the Eimarmene Name?”

    What?

    “You’re Young, right?” You could hear the capital Y. “Have to be, spawns take longer to grow - “

    “I’m a demigod,” I said sharply.

    I’m not a spawn.

    “I - I’m mortal,” I said softer. “My father is human.”

    “Your fath - “ Rhea blinked, like she had lost track of the conversation for a second. “Different Name, right,” she waved off. “Mortal father.” Her compound eyes changed color from green to a rainbow of blues and purples. “Unreal. I didn’t think that was possible.”

    “...could you explain?” I asked, uneasy. Hadn’t Kronos said something similar? He didn’t, right?

    He didn’t.

    “Wellll,” Rhea drawled. “I imagine it was still a Tab A in Slot B kind of - “

    “Oh my god, not that explanation!” I yelped. She was definitely related to Apollo. “I don’t need that explanation!”

    “And she raised a prude!” Rhea practically squealed. “How did that happen? Are you sure you’re Greek?”

    “I’m twelve!”

    “Mortal, duh,” she remembered. “Shit. Sorry.” She ran fingers through the ends of her dark hair, transforming the flowers into golden bands engraved with flower designs instead. “A mortal child. With those eyes?” She hummed, looking up at the ceiling and then she shook her head. “That should have been lethal.”

    “My Dad’s fine,” I grumped.

    “Not him, humanity isn’t that far gone,” she dismissed and then paused. “I think. Maybe. No, I meant you.”

    That hung in the air like a dead skunk in a garbage bag.

    You.

    I swallowed hard.

    My sisters. The Fates.

    They tried to get Mom to abort me once.

    “Well it wasn’t,” I said weakly. “Mom would never let that happen.”

    “...I suppose,” Rhea allowed. She tilted her head in this diagonal, sudden inhuman movement as her eyes shimmered a deep maroon color. “There’s a Prophecy about you…” she murmured softly. “I almost missed it.”

    “Uh,” I said, surprised. “Yeah? I mean, technically two, but - “

    She grabbed a chair at her table, a worn dark wood piece with bleached cushions and flipped it around to sit on it backwards.

    “Tell me,” she almost barked before softening her voice to a near whisper. “Please.”

    I fiddled with my mug.

    It’s not a big deal.

    It’s not like it was some kind of secret. I’m sure everyone on Olympus knows already. And Prophecies mean whatever we think they mean.

    So she didn’t just ask me to recite my eulogy.

    “A half-blood child of the eldest gods,” I said slowly. “Shall reach sixteen against all odds. And see the world in endless sleep. The hero’s soul, cursed blade shall reap.” A shiver went down my spine, like a goose had just tap danced on my grave. “A single choice shall end his days, Olympus to preserve or raze.”

    It wasn’t the same without Apollo stumbling through it, going on tangents to try to explain how it wasn’t that bad compared to some of the other Prophecies he witnessed.

    After all, at best, there would be only one death.

    The Oracle of Delphi gave this one out sometime in 1945 after WWII which was just about sixty years ago. That was a pretty quick turn around, really. Some Prophecies have been waiting to kick in for millennia by now.

    That didn’t make me feel any better.

    Rhea silently tipped her head back, gazing at the ceiling with her lips pursed.

    I stared into my cup.

    “Prophecies mean what we think they mean,” I said stubbornly.

    “They do.” The patron of the Grove of Dodona murmured and something in my chest loosened. She agreed with me. Mom doesn’t lie. “They can be interpreted differently. They can be...manipulated, to a certain extent. Forced down a path.” Her gaze lowered, settling on me heavily. “A half-blood of the eldest gods…” The right corner of her lips pulled. Almost a smile. “Well. I suppose it had to happen eventually.”

    I frowned. “What had to happen?”

    “An overreach,” she said simply. Did she mean the Fates? “And the second Prophecy?”

    “Um.” The request caught me off guard a little. I leaned down, reaching out with my left hand for my backpack. It was dry and everything in it would be dry too. Mom knew her shit. I found my tin of cards and started laying them out on the table. I hesitated on number thirteen, but Rhea was a big girl. She could handle it.

    “It’s our Quest,” I said as she gently picked up The Right Hand of Kronos card. She looked a bit sad, but that was it. I guess a few ten thousand years was enough time to get over one dumb motherfucker.

    “Your son lost his sparkler and one of your grandkids swiped it somehow to frame your other son to start a war - “ and I’m sure she wants to hear her family is being a bunch of idiots again. I cleared my throat uncomfortably. “We’re, uh, we gotta find it.”

    “I see,” she said softly as she put the card back down. “I had wondered.”

    I found myself staring at the card. The Right Hand of Kronos. It was a little skewed compared to the others and it felt right, somehow. Like this one card wasn’t really like the others.

    “I met him,” my mouth said. “In the Dreamlands.” I bit my lip. “A few days ago.”

    Had it really only been a few days?

    Rhea hummed. “I can imagine what he told you.”

    I squirmed in my seat and wobbled on and off the short leg of my chair. I blurted out, “Were they really slaves?”

    “Yes,” she said simply.

    “But they were freed,” I said like a drowning man clings to a brick. Mom had slaves and they fought for her, but she wasn’t like that anymore. “Right? They won their freedom. No more masters.”

    “Yes,” Rhea said again softly, but she was giving me this sad, pitying look I didn’t like. “No more masters.”

    I went quiet again. The easy atmosphere had died. I fiddled with my mug.

    “Would you like some more?”

    I nodded. “Yes, please.” As she got up, I threw in, “Thank you, again, for saving us, I mean.” I just wanted to not think about it. Mom was not perfect, but she never pretended to be and she doesn’t lie. I don’t - I don’t want to be sitting here thinking about the answers to questions I never asked. “We were - there was one of - I think it was one of Artemis’ former Hunters chasing us, but she was some kind of monster - “

    “Ah.” Rhea turned back to me with raised eyebrows. “Which one?”

    Which -

    I stood up so fast, my chair screeched across the linoleum floor.

    My blood was boiling.

    Which one.

    “I - I need - “ I couldn’t breathe. I could barely see. “I need to - “ I barely hear myself over the roar of the black feeling in my stomach. “I gotta go.”

    And I left.

    I walked right out.

    And as soon as I was through the barrier I broke into a run.

    I found myself right back at the shore, throwing rocks into the violently crashing waves. I threw them harder, listening to them whistle as I threw them and hearing the sharp crack as the stones hit the water. Every part of me burned.

    I was angry. I was hurt.

    I felt smothered. The waves sounded weird. Warped. The rocks felt fragile and wrong in my hands, like there was something else I should have been holding. I felt like I was pressing up against an invisible curtain and if I stopped to really feel it would - I would -

    I kept searching for rocks to throw, not even really seeing them. I barely registered the water climbing higher, getting my feet wet all over again. I just -

    If I stopped -

    It wasn’t about Artemis.

    The next rock I grabbed crumbled in the palm of my hand. Chunks of silt and debris dripped through my fingers.

    I don’t know what happened next.

    There was a scream.

    I snapped back into focus as soon as I felt him behind me. I didn’t care what kind of excuses he had. He was the Greek god of the sun. It was two in the afternoon. He saw everything. My throat ached and my stomach was cramping as I turned around and launched myself at him with a roar.

    Á̴̹̣͈̤̖̤͐̅P̴͖̥̱͍̯̆̿͆̋̀͂Ò̷̡̨̘̳͓L̴̙͚̑L̷͚̯̃̀̏Ō̶͇̝̻̙͑̾̎͝

    The Greek sun god let out a pained grunt as I buried a fist in his gut. My heartbeat was pounding in my ears. I swung again, catching him right in the jaw as he straightened. He caught my hand on the third punch, yanking me close into a suffocating hug. I snarled and spit, kicking at him until he picked me up, so I headbutted him. He hissed and threw us back onto the ground, trapping me against the wet sand.

    The hole in my stomach roared open as I thrashed, trying to break his grip. The sun flared, white and blinding and burning -

    The next wave came in hard, washing over us.

    We both sputtered and coughed.

    My stomach painfully shut tight. I ached down to my bones. I felt sick and cold and tired. The fire in my blood guttered out.

    I beat against Apollo’s chest weakly.

    “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

    Yeah.

    Me too.

    “What else don’t I know,” I whispered back. Apollo was the one who taught me what the gods of Olympus are like as people. Not as footnotes in Mom’s history book.

    And now I didn’t know if I could trust anything he had said.

    “Hey, English again,” he said and I growled. He sighed. “Thousands and thousands of years worth,” he said softly. “Even if I tried to tell you everything, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a couple of centuries, at least. Your mother’s probably forgotten more time than I’ve been alive.”

    And I felt so incredibly small.

    “How many times did you lie to me?”

    “I didn’t - I didn’t lie, I just - “ He sighed again. “I didn’t think it - they would ever come up. I focused on - I thought - I thought if you knew enough to make your own decision before you hit sixteen…”

    “The Prophecy?” I snarled.

    “All my stuff is on Olympus!” He defended himself. “Artemis is my twin. If the first time you met me, you knew in a few years I would either save or put your father in danger, wouldn’t you do the same thing?”

    I bit my tongue and dropped my forehead onto his collar bone.

    I guess I would.

    “I didn’t lie.”

    “Just didn’t tell me.”

    “We’re on a deadline!” He grunted. “If I started telling you stupid stories about all the other gods, we’d be here for decades.”

    That was probably true.

    It was my turn to grunt. “You could have said Olympus is fucked up.”

    “It’s...not all bad,” he tried half-heartedly. “We’re not all bad. Dad’s second time is doing a lot better. He kept a lot of Athena’s rules - “

    “Like not murdering nymphs for saying something you don’t like?”

    Apollo flinched hard enough that I knew there was a lot more there than just his sister.

    “...yeah,” he said softly. He hugged me tighter, trapping my head under his chin. “Artemis...she’s changed. She’s not - “ I could hear him swallow. “She’s not like that anymore. I promise. She’s changed,” he insisted. “She’ll prove it.”

    “She’s a fucking rabbit.” I said.

    He sighed heavily.

    “Have you changed?” I asked him quietly. I was thinking about all the times he said something a little off. About hurting people. Things that worried Dad and made him sit the sun god down and kept them in the living room late at night with mugs of hot chocolate. I wondered if it was because Apollo had been born a god of Olympus and just didn’t know any better. Or maybe he knew enough to try to hide it, but it still leaked, because what he thought was okay was just that bad.

    It was different with Mom. Most of the time, she followed Dad’s moral compass. But sometimes I got the feeling that she was like a sentient black hole aping right from wrong.

    She thinks I don’t notice.

    I do.

    Apollo squeezed me once. “...I like to think so.”

    “Have you been telling Dad, at least?”

    “No,” he said shortly. He pulled away from me. “He’s just a mortal. Why - would I?” I heard that catch in his voice. That was the only thing that kept me from losing my shit. I raised my hand and patted around to make sure I knew where everything on his face was. “Finger out of the nostril please.”

    Then I hit him. Hard.

    “Gah!”

    “I swear to god, Apollo…”

    “I don’t want to,” he said like he was four years old. “You can’t make me.”

    I waited.

    “I like your Dad,” he admitted softly. “I don’t want - Why ruin a good thing?” He rationalized. “He’s only got - what? Five or six more decades?”

    “Don’t fucking remind me,” I grumbled.

    “Sorry.” He shifted, hugging me close again. “He already gives me enough shit on my bard. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”

    “Like it won’t hurt me?”

    He didn’t answer.

    “He won’t hate you,” I whispered.

    I didn’t.

    Maybe it really was that bad, but at some point over the years, gods like Apollo had learned to feel ashamed about it. Or maybe I was just being selfish and I wasn’t ready to let my brother go.

    “Maybe,” he whispered back.

    The water came in again, drenching us both. It didn’t seem to drain back out again properly, leaving us ass deep in a lukewarm puddle. I craned my neck to look around and saw walls of sand. We were in some kind of crater or hole I definitely didn’t remember being here. The sand under us was a bleached wet slurry like mud made of ash.

    It must have happened when Apollo teleported in.

    “I’m sorry,” Apollo said again. “You’re not just - I don’t think you’re just the Prophecy brat or whatever,” he admitted and I reluctantly relaxed. “You were a small little shit and now you’re a bigger little shit - “ I snorted. “But you didn’t deserve finding out like this.”

    No one did.

    “What are their names?”

    Apollo didn’t speak immediately. “...you met Aura. The other is Kallisto.”

    I breathed out harshly.

    “Kallisto is supposed to be a bear.”

    “Mist,” he said simply.

    Like how Luke saw a Minotaur at first. How many other transformations written in myth, lost to history, were really the twisted nightmares of divine cruelty?

    My heart was lodged somewhere in my left big toe.

    We just escaped one.

    I shivered, swallowing the hard lump forming in my throat.

    But there was another.

    My stupid older brother shifted, sitting up carefully and had apparently decided to carry me like he hadn’t since I was five. I wasn’t going to complain. I’m pretty sure if I tried to stand on my own two feet right now, I was going to just fall over.

    “I’m going to get you out of this puddle,” he mumbled. I noticed then that he was actually in a classic Greek chiton with radiant markings, like he had bolted down right from the heart of Olympus. “Before you catch a cold.”

    “I don’t get sick,” I reminded him.

    “Yeaaaaah,” he drawled as he stood. “Another thing weird about you.”

    Dad always said it was because even viruses knew better than to piss off my mother.

    “I’m just that awesome.”

    “You learned from the best,” Apollo said unironically as he hopped out of the hole.

    “You mean the Greek god of regret.”

    He made a confused noise in his throat. “No…? We don’t have - who - you mean Aiskhyne?”

    I sleepily smiled. “Apollogies.”

    He stopped walking.

    I was able to count to four seconds before he dropped me.

    My Bardson is an ass.

    I led the way back along the cold beach. In hindsight, coming out here as a young demigod without Damocles was pretty stupid. I could have gotten jumped by anything out here. A vacant, out of the way beach right by the water? Just a demigod burger serving himself up for a hungry hydra.

    Hold the ketchup.

    Right at the tree line, where the beach ended and the rough gravel road began was a dark haired woman kneeling in the sand and a napping lion.

    “What the - “ Apollo’s eyes went huge.

    “Huh,” Rhea said, turning away from the ugliest sand castle I have ever seen. It was detailed. She had clearly put some work into it. But it looked like it could have been one of those fancy gingerbread homes with dizzying wave-like patterns that looped into themselves like that optical illusion with the staircase? But someone took an artistic crowbar to it. “I thought I felt someone come around.”

    “Rhea?” Her grandson gasped incredulously. “How - “ He turned to me and gestured at the star-spawn with both hands. “How. Do you know how long we’ve - you’ve been on a Quest for two days.”

    “Yeah?”

    He whirled back around. “Where have you been!?”

    “Around,” she answered easily, drawing a shallow moat around her lopsided sand castle. “I moved south to help Huracan with - “ she blinked slowly. “Did you just ask me something or was I having a flashback?”

    “He asked where you were,” I offered. The trees were probably whispering to her.

    “South,” She repeated. “There were a few seals breaking so I thought to lend a hand and I think that was this century.”

    “It’s 2005,” I said helpfully.

    Rhea’s eyebrows furrowed.

    “Woodstock was in the sixties.”

    Her expression cleared. “Last century, then.”

    I think at this point, Rhea was keeping time by the power of Jimi Hendrix.

    “But - we - “ Apollo growled, tugging at his blond curls with sandy hands. “Do you know how many disasters we could have avoided if we had known where you were?”

    Her lips twitched into a frown. “You give me far too much credit.”

    “I’m serious!” The Greek sun god looked like he didn’t know if he wanted to hug the woman or strangle her. “Father has - “

    “Made it very clear how much he digs his throne,” Rhea finished for him. “If it was an emergency, you know how to draw my attention.”

    “We don’t!” He cried out and his frustration echoed down the cold beach.

    Rhea paused. She sat back on her haunches. Her dark hair was still braided with the gold bands decorated with flower designs and she had her round sunglasses on. Her blue and yellow shirt was pristine and so were her red pants even as she was getting sand all over her shins and knees.

    “You don’t,” she echoed softly.

    “Most of us don’t,” Apollo said painfully. “My mother - all she taught us was how to wake you. We don’t even know all your Names.”

    I winced.

    That was kind of like teaching your kids how to unlock the nuclear football as a fun activity with none of the safety measures.

    “Oh, Leto,” Rhea sighed.

    “And then we were on Olympus and no one else seemed to know and the only ones who do are the ones causing the problem!”

    Zeus, I’m guessing. By virtue of not being swallowed, he knew his mother the best out of all his siblings. Athena probably knew. Hera I was less sure. She did get fostered with Oceanus and Tethys for a while and they were first generation Titans. They could ask the Sky Father and I knew why absolutely no one would. And then Aphrodite fucked him, and herself, over so then they couldn’t. Apollo didn’t join my lessons until he figured out I was being taught things he didn’t already know.

    Demeter could ask, but the Earth Mother would probably just lie. Poseidon was on everyone’s shit list. Aphrodite was barely Greek.

    Hecate?

    But she’s the Queen of Those Below. The Underworld is basically its own kingdom with the only crossover being Hades once a year at Winter Solstice. Dead men do tell tales, but why tell Olympus who shunned you? Who classified you as minor gods and goddesses? When your realm will remain even if Olympus falls?

    There were no neutral or Olympus-friendly Titans left. Between Zeus not taking no for an answer, there was the Titanomachy and the Olympiomachy. If they weren’t in a prison somewhere, they were on house arrest like Boreas and Calypso. Mnemosyne wouldn’t spit on Zeus if he were on fire.

    Who was left?

    My siblings? Who either hadn’t been paying attention until Mom was or were the Fates?

    Luke didn’t know other pantheons even existed.

    “Is everyone just...hoarding knowledge?” I asked incredulously. “Or covering it up or losing it or forgetting?”

    Rhea looked tired.

    “I’m sorry,” she said heavily.

    Apollo must have heard something in that apology I didn’t because his shoulders slumped.

    “...you’ve given up on us, haven’t you?”

    “Never,” she corrected him gently. “And that is exactly the problem.”

    She rose to her feet, brushing the loose sand off her right shin with her left foot and then swapping. Her lion yawned as it got to its feet. For a moment, where there should have been orangey-brown big cat eyes, I thought I saw the eyes of a dragonfly.

    “What is wrong with us?” Apollo said slowly.

    “You are Young,” Rhea said simply. “You are dependent on humanity. It is an uneven symbiotic relationship. You have elevated thousands of humans to a semblance of power, leeching off you. Parasites.”

    “Asclepius is my son,” Apollo snarled.

    Like Zetes and Calais were Boreas’ sons.

    “Apollo. Grandson,” Rhea said softly. “Beautiful boy. I am not sleeping because I am tired. I am the Queen. The Matriarch. I can not and will not be caged beneath anyone. And it has been too long since I could recognize humanity as anything more than defective.

    Apollo and I both winced.

    I remembered biology with Mr. Pretty at Trinity. Bugs usually weren’t kind to defects.

    Rhea gave us a sad, resigned smile.

    “I will teach you what you should know,” the mother of the eldest Olympians said as she turned away from us. “But do not ask me to fix Olympus, because you will not like the solution.”

    The rest of the walk back to Rhea’s light blue bungalow was made in silence.

    “You can’t help Luke,” I murmured as I stepped around the giant vase in the foyer for the third time today. “Can you?”

    Rhea saved his life but getting him back on his feet was still going to take a while. Apollo shot me a small smile and a faint white glow began to leak off the God of Healing. I could feel the warmth of it pulse against my skin.

    “He would have to pay for it,” he said airily. “I’m not here on business. Don’t you demigods heal fast anyway?”

    In return, I showed him Artemis still sleeping with her mouth open in her wicker basket and made sure he got a few good pictures before his grandmother roped him into helping her pack for her move the boring mortal way. He complained right up until he got his hands on her photo albums.

    “Is that...Elvis Presley?” He flipped through the next two pages quickly. “That is! This was in Montgomery!”

    “He wasn’t one of yours, right?” Rhea’s voice was muffled from the box her head was buried in.

    “Nah, third generation legacy or something - “ He stopped himself and looked around guiltily. “But if anyone asks, yes.”

    “Ha!” Rhea barked. “When did you stop formally adopting mortals again?”

    “Rome.”

    “That’s right.”

    He pried the photo out of the old plastic casing and lifted the entire thing out of the reach of a curious lion’s wet nose. “Montgomery, 77’” he read off. “I can’t believe it. We just missed each other.”

    Rhea hummed a few bars of some rockabilly song, prompting Apollo to hum with her. “Fate does tend to work in strange ways.”

    “Apollo was probably eyeing up a pretty girl and zoned out,” I protested as I wrapped the fine china mug in more newspapers and ignored his indignant squawk. He could complain all he wants. We both knew that’s what happened. “You can’t blame Mom for that.”

    That got me another one of those ‘you are a chihuahua in need of rocket ship costume’ looks from her that I didn’t really appreciate.

    “Blaming your mother for everything is much like being a theoretical physicist,” Rhea explained wryly. “There are only three options: You can’t prove me wrong. I am not right yet or not even god herself knows what the fuck is going on.”

    Apollo snorted.

    I wish I knew more about theoretical physics so that I could, in fact, prove her wrong.

    I started flagging around the same time Phoebus Apollon in his sun chariot started eyeing up the horizon for a parking space, painting the clouds with light purples and pink colors. We had made a lot of progress. Helping Apollo’s grandmother pack up her shit was definitely not something I saw myself doing on a Quest for Olympus, but I wasn’t complaining.

    It was normal.

    Even dinner was some good ol’ lasagna and some chocolate chip cookies.

    After my third yawn, Apollo started ushering me off to bed in the guest room we just cleared out. It smelled a little stale with moth balls and the ceiling fan creaked, but I was dead on my feet. I made him promise to call Dad for me.

    I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

    I didn’t meet Hypnos.

    Instead, I spun straight into a Dream.

    I was in a forest clearing. It was a lopsided rectangular area bordered by trees in various stages of autumn leaf fall. There was a carpet of brown, orange and the rare green leaf on the ground crunching under my feet as ravens watched me from their perch on thin branches. The sky above me was pitch black and empty. There was a sick tree, tall and gnarled looking with large woodlice crawling over the cancerous bulges in the tree trunk.

    At the base of the tree, an old woman sat on a rock. She was hunched over and bundled up in rough spun clothes dyed dark blue with wooden beads and black feather decoration. Her eyes were milky white with cataracts. Her wrinkles didn’t even look like wrinkles. They were so deep, they were more like grooves worn into rock. A playful breeze kicked up, rustling a few leaves off their branches. One bright orange one landed on her lap and as she went to pick it up, she changed.

    She shrunk. Her face smoothed out. Her white hair and skin darkened to black and coppery tones. Even the clothes changed, bleaching white as gold decorations shined on his arms and around his neck.

    The young prince patted the empty space next to him on the rock.

    I took the invitation.

    I recognized the subtle smirk on his face.

    Mom stopped guiding me in my Dreams years ago. This felt like taking the school bus home every day for most of the school year and then one day you walk out the doors and see your mother there to pick you up without a hint of warning. It could be a good thing and maybe they just wanted to spend some time with you.

    But the first thing my mind jumped to was ‘Fuck, who died?’

    “You were scared last night,” the young prince said childishly and I winced. “So I watched you today.”

    “I’m fine,” I mumbled, looking down at my shoes.

    “You are,” he agreed. Out of the corner of my eye, the boy grew up. The young prince became a wizened pharaoh. He set a warm hand on my head and spoke in a deep rumble, “And yet…”

    I shrunk in on myself.

    One of the ravens cried out and there was a flutter of black wings. The Morrígan sighed.

    “What is the first rule of my tests?” Mom asked.

    I swallowed hard. “You wouldn’t give me a task you didn’t know I could do.”

    “Yes,” she said. “And I have broken it.”

    I felt my blood freeze.

    No no nonono...

    “You are having a more difficult time than I - “

    “I can do it!” I blurted out. I felt like my stomach was trying to eat itself as my heart beat against my rib cage like it was trying to escape. “I can do it, it’s fine, we don’t have to change anything.”

    Mom sighed again.

    I felt like crying.

    “Percy. Perseus.” She gently lifted my chin so I could look her in the eye. I shuddered. Those black diamond eyes weren’t showing me my deaths anymore. They were showing me Luke’s. “This is not your fault. It’s mine. And I am sorry.

    I’m too weak. She overestimated me. She thought I could do it, but now she doesn’t believe I can. I’m not good enough. There was too much riding on this, she had plans upon plans for this and I wasn’t going to make the cut. I thought about the Dream last night with Mom and Dad and how she said I took after my grandfather and would never disappoint her.

    It tasted like ash in my mouth now.

    Mom made a little exasperated sound, then suddenly gathered me up in her arms so I was sitting on her lap.

    “Definitely your father’s son,” she murmured into my hair. “Not listening to a single thing I’m saying.”

    “It is my fault. You can’t be wrong,” I croaked. “You’re Fate. You’re never wrong.”

    Mom sucked in a sharp breath as her grip on me tightened.

    Then slowly, painfully, she whispered. “...I wish that were true.”

    “It is.” I pressed against her as much as I dared. “I’ll do better! I’m - I’m figuring out my abilities and can do stuff with it now. We lost one of the monsters, so I can practice while Luke is recovering and it will be fine. I can do it.”

    “Percy, your abilities are what I am worried about.”

    Hearing that was like being stabbed in the chest.

    “You were tired and right now you are running a fever in your sleep, because you overextended yourself.”

    Oh.

    “That should not have happened, unless you are too - “ she cut herself off.

    “Too mortal.”

    “No,” Mom sighed. “No, that is not fair. You are exactly as I made you to be.”

    So I’m just a failure then.

    “Please don’t leave me again,” I begged. “We can figure something out. Maybe you can check and find out what’s wrong and you can fix it!”

    “Percy - “ Mom started, but I cut her off.

    “Just check!” I sniffled, angry at myself for crying now of all times. “Please. I can take it.”

    Mom leaned her head against mine, giving in. “Stubborn boy.”

    She raised her hand to hover over my abdomen. I waited for the excruciating feeling of my soul being flayed open so that my divinity could float to the top. Instead I felt like my stomach plunged right into an endless pit.

    “What?” Mom said faintly. “What is - Who did this?“ Her voice began to darken and I froze in place. I tried to make myself as small as I could. I have never heard Mom get angry before. Annoyed, yes. Mad? No.

    “Who touched you?”

    “Uh,” I said intelligently.

    Shit.

    Nyx.

    “Who...dared - “ her voice suddenly boomed like thunder, hissed like it came from a giant snake and shattered the Dream from the sheer pressure of Ananke’s presence. I spun out, tumbling ass over teakettle into darkness, feeling my very soul shake as a dark nebula uncoiled behind me. “INTERFERE WITH WHAT ISSSS MINE!”

    A current caught me.

    It didn’t take me to the Dreamlands.

    It took me to the usual demigod haunt, except I knew better than to let it carry me through to the Beyond. The uneducated (Greek) would call it Tartarus, because everything poorly understood and vaguely scary was thought to be part of the Pit. Cliff called it the Duat. Time and space got weird there. You know that movie where they could see what would happen in the future by bending light around the planet so you could see yourself?

    I dug in my metaphorical heels and the current obediently dropped me off to the side of the pale Crossroads.

    But not before it got in a parting shot.

    I saw a three eyed black goat fighting with a giant vicious looking bat and with each clash, there were ripples echoing out over the world. Waking the world. The ground trembled. It broke open with screaming vents of steam. The sea churned, beginning to form a massive whirlpool. The stars in the sky danced and I could see where they would align -

    “ - didn’t you tell me?” Luke’s voice drifted past me.

    “It was not necessary,” a deeper, darker voice snarled. “You did not sacrifice. You did not lose. You did not suffer! You don’t look at a man and want to both weep over the pale reflection and rip out its throat for the mockery! You do not get to. Lecture. Me!”

    “Careful,” a woman’s voice said and I jerked away from the flowing, twisting roads with a gasp. That was close. I patted my face and sighed in relief. Cliff said I would sprout a bird head, but obviously he lied.

    Around my feet, yellow daisies bloomed.

    The Curse of Delos.

    The flowers that only grew on the island corpse of Asteria, the Titaness of Astrology, Oneiromancy and Falling Stars.

    I turned, already knowing who I would see.

    Asteria’s daughter, Hecate stood behind me, holding twin torches in one hand as a pitch black dog with red eyes prowled around her feet and a polecat rested about her neck. She was wearing a white classic Greek chiton with silver runic designs and a white cloak. She looked like her son, Alabaster, with long black hair and pale skin but her eyes were shrouded in shadows.

    Be polite.

    “Your grace.”

    The goddess of the Crossroads inclined her head.

    “You do not belong here, son of Fate.”

    “Yeah, I know,” I mumbled. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”

    “Then I will escort you out,” she offered. I walked over, careful not to crush any of the yellow flowers underneath my feet. I don’t know if she approved. What I could see of her face was like a still pool.

    With piranhas in it.

    “Thank you,” I tried politely.

    “You are overthinking it,” she said out of the blue. I stared blankly.

    “I’m - I’m overthinking what?”

    “It is not some platitude.” Her pole cat hissed at me. “You have always possessed the ability to choose your destiny.” She raised her free hand, but...it wasn’t free. In her hand was a fucking black and silver Mythomagic card. She handed it to me. “Perhaps you should try using it.”

    I flipped it over.

    Moros, the God of Doom.

    “Hey, wait - “

    I woke up.

    For a moment, I just laid there and stared at the ceiling. I felt like I had gotten no sleep at all but I must have gotten a few hours in. The only window in Rhea’s guest room showed a moonless, starless night. I rolled out of bed, immediately feeling what Mom had been talking about. I was shivering. My toes were cold as hell, but I also felt flushed and very thirsty.

    I walked over to my room door and opened it.

    It swung open soundlessly.

    A bolt of adrenaline ran down my spine, because from the time I spent cleaning this room out today, I remembered this door had an annoyingly squeaky hinge. I strained my ears for the creaking of the ceiling fan, but there was nothing, even though I could see the shadow of it twirl around above the bed. I immediately thought of the nightmare, Aura and its absolute silence.

    Still don’t have my sword.

    God damn it.

    I crept down the hall towards the light coming from the foyer.

    Knife, I thought. Erebus’ gift settled into my hands. It was still warm to the touch. My heart thudded in my chest as I took a careful step and peeked around the corner.

    “You’re up,” Rhea’s voice was quiet. Hushed like everything else. It was like the world had been muffled.

    Like when Mom had Claimed me.

    The front door was open. Rhea sat on her front step in a long shirt with one leg bent up just enough to rest her head on it. It was a dark night. I couldn’t see if there were any clouds or if there was anything at all. No moon. No clouds. No stars. Not even the lights of an airplane. You looked up at the sky…

    And saw nothing.

    “What’s going on?” I couldn’t even hear myself.

    Rhea could though.

    “The Night’s undivided attention,” she answered. “It is not safe to be out right now.”

    I shivered.

    The star-spawn turned to look at me and frowned. “You’re feverish?”

    I mutely nodded.

    She got up and we went to the kitchen for a glass of ice cold water and some more nectar. I went back to bed.

    As soon as I fell asleep, Hypnos pulled me close. He didn’t say anything, but he felt scared.

    I was scared too.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
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  17. NuclearBirb

    NuclearBirb A mysterious birb.

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    God you are such an amazing author. When this is done, id you just change up names and PJO references you could self publish this - its utterly amazing.
     
  18. liquid_oni

    liquid_oni Just chilling

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    These chapters literally make my day brighter.
    See what I did there?
    But seriously that was amazing.
     
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  19. Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    Oh hey Birb! I thought I lost you with the last chapter. Glad to see you are still around reading :) I think filing off the serial numbers would be a bit too much work for self publish, unless I'm underestimating how much original content there is in this fanfiction. But first, I have to finish!
    Thank you!
     
  20. NuclearBirb

    NuclearBirb A mysterious birb.

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    Oh you wont be losing me unless you make terrible storytelling decisions for like, twelve updates in a row at this point. This stor is enthralling.
     
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  21. Leecifer

    Leecifer (Fan)Fiction Writer

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    I haven't read the entire PJO series, as I'm sure most haven't (stopped after book 2 as a kid), so if you're pulling from later books that explains things, but the deeper aspects of the gods, with hidden histories (Athena was king!?!), and what name used pulling in different aspects, and all the things like that (like the cross pantheon parenting being not allowed) are both fascinating and seem to be original (unless the PJO books got a LOT more complex over time). So, if those aren't from the later PJO books, you really are making that much original content.

    You would need to rework sections (like camp Half-Blood) quite a bit to 'file off the serial numbers', so to speak. Because of that, personally, I'd suggest refining the general concepts of a more eldritchly complex Olympus here, and then writing something original that uses them, but doesn't have the uniquely PJO elements (like instead of Camp, all the demigods might have their own insular town in rural Montana or something, but it's a screwed up, topsy turvy town because of godly politics (Like Hermes' place being a trailer park (with actual houses intersperesed), because each god gets a different part of town, so tons of people are crammed into Hermes' part, but there are grand houses with no occupants for the Big Three+Hera, because they're assholes)). This way you could also have adults, but ones that've gone on their quest, survived, and given up on the godhood thing, just trying to get by and live quietly (so not helping the kids (and maybe not having kids of their own (divine decree to keep the bloodlines from mixing/having too much Divine in them?))), or maybe the ones who were never called to adventure at all, and know they won't ever be (Because the Gods prefer younger heroes, and these adults are thus jealous of the kids (and thus won't help)). Keep the base concepts, and even things like the Nemesis Train issue wholesale, just manifest them in slightly different ways.

    The gods themselves are public domain, so you wouldn't be 'stealing' them anymore than PJO does (and maybe staying truer to the myths, IMO), and there's a lot of things you could pull from other than Zeus's bolt getting nabbed, that would result in the same scenario.

    Just a thought, and I wanted to tell you that I really enjoy this story (to the point I'd buy the (legally different) book when you get around to writing it)!
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
  22. Bluesnowman

    Bluesnowman I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    It is awesome. Completely hooked.
     
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  23. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    If there is a not right yet option, there is by necessity a not wrong yet which means she could be wrong :p

    Edit:
    Why would the Primordial God of Time been called "Glory to Hera?" She didn't even exist at this point.:confused:

    Isn't that the name of an old Egyptian god?
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
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  24. Cheshirek4t

    Cheshirek4t [Verified cat] [Verified trope connoisseur]

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    My man!
     
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  25. Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    She could be, but you can't prove it!
    The name 'Hera' itself has several possible etymological origins, one of which is ὥρα or hora which means 'season.'
     
  26. Cheshirek4t

    Cheshirek4t [Verified cat] [Verified trope connoisseur]

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    If i remember correctly, Riordan did mention something about Thor being pissed with Jesus for not showing up for a duel on the magnus series.

    I particularly think that that would be an interesting one to aproach, if done correctly there could be so much cool stuff to explore.
    But i'm sure that there are a majority of people who'd disagree
     
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  27. Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    Lol, no they have not gotten any more complex. That was me. I guess I'm just forgetting how much I put in inspired by my mythology research, but I guess that's public domain as well, isn't it? Hmm. Glad you enjoy the story!
     
  28. Extras: Camp Half-Blood Tales #1
    Shujin

    Shujin Making the rounds.

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    Castor

    TWO DAYS AFTER Percy left on his Quest, the planet fell into a black hole and Pops turned into the freaking Silver Surfer. Maybe he shouldn’t think of it like that. ‘Two days after Percy left.’ That made it seem like this was Percy’s fault.

    He wouldn’t be surprised if it was Percy’s fault.

    Castor, like most demigods, had a list. It was a very nice list. It made sure he still had his feet planted in the 21st century even as he polished shields and struggled through Doric Greek because Pops was old as hell and a slave driver. It was a list of what was normal and what was not normal. Percy Stele came to Camp Half-Blood and then he ate the freaking list!

    The boy also really needed some braces, but damn. It had been a month since Castor found out Athena used to be King of the Gods of Olympus and his head was still spinning.

    Everyone had sat down for dinner in the Dining Pavilion like Not-Normal. It was a little weird still without Percy there. The first day, he had been a bit worried that without the son of Fate around, everything would snap back to the way things had been like a crusty rubber band, but that hadn’t happened. Ares Cabin still bullied Hestia around and she was still too nice to stop them. Fred had gone, but not before chaperoning their super close Hunter vs Camper Capture the Flag game yesterday (56 to 0) and seeing them all back out of the infirmary. Hermes had shown up again today and was keeping a half-hearted eye on the Stoll twins in Luke’s absence. Then Ethan had sat down at Table 12 and Pops still didn’t say anything, so it looked like it was here to stay.

    Bizarre.

    “Think he’s okay?” Pollux asked as he sat down just like he had yesterday.

    “He’s fine,” Castor replied with a shrug. He had to be. Or else his burial shroud was going to make him so mad. “He’s better than both of us with a sword. And, like, freakishly strong sometimes. And he’s got Luke.”

    Brandon of Athena and Chloe of Ares had Luke too, but it would be stupid to bring that failed Quest up right now.

    “Yeah,” Pollux murmured. “He’s got Luke.” His brother smiled weakly. “And a pet rabbit.”

    Castor snorted and then shoved a bite of BBQ in his mouth so that he could pretend he hadn’t. He didn’t think Chris was trying to be mean about it, but the Hunters were really sensitive about the rabbit thing. Probably because they didn’t glow silver anymore.

    Like ‘break your arm and threaten to crush your balls’ sensitive.

    Maybe they couldn’t hear them from all the way across the Pavilion, but he wasn’t taking any chances!

    Pollux chewed on his lip and then, to both of their surprise, Pops leaned over and put a hand on Pollux’s shoulder.

    “He’s not like you two,” their father, Dionysus, said bluntly. “Take it from me.”

    “‘Cause his Ma?” Castor asked after swallowing, even though he was pretty sure that was the answer.

    He’d never seen a Claiming go like that, where no one could even make a sound. Pops even knelt for it and didn’t try to correct Percy’s manners and even Chiron didn’t seem to like disciplining him for breaking the Climbing Wall. Twice. Somehow. Sometimes the son of Fate was kind of pathetic, like he was just hiding behind his mother’s skirts (coils? scales?) and then sometimes it seemed like he could headbutt reality and reality was the one who’d walk away with a black eye.

    He was also really smart and still an idiot, but he cared and that meant a lot.

    He made Castor feel selfish.

    Pops frowned into his Diet Coke. “Yes. No.”

    “Helpful,” Castor drawled.

    Pollux shot him a warning look. Castor pulled a face back. Whatever else he was, Pops was Pops. Treating him differently just because they were at Camp now - sure maybe he’d still call the other gods Lord and Lady and whatever, but Ethan had been eating on the floor because they didn’t treat their father like he was their father.

    Pops sighed. “If he’s anything like I think he is, the boy’s a cockroach.”

    “Nuke him to be sure?” Castor quipped.

    The smile his father gave him made his blood run cold. “And even then…”

    When Pops turned to shoo a nymph away, Castor leaned towards his twin to whisper, “That was still a compliment, right?”

    “The cockroach thing?” Pollux whispered back. “Definitely.”

    They both took a moment to digest this.

    “Weird,” they both declared.

    “What is?” Clovis huffed as he sat in his new seat right next to them. He’d been evicted from his old one by Ethan who needed to be close enough to argue with Annabeth and Masayuki without anyone else getting in his way. And Percy didn’t need the seat anymore - right now.

    “Percy,” Castor said. “I think Pops doesn’t hate him as much.”

    Hypnos’ kid blinked his blue eyes owlishly. “Glowing recommendation.”

    Pollux snort giggled into his apple juice.

    Maybe he could blame Pollux for it.

    Because then the sky turned pitch black.

    Everything went quiet, just like it had when Percy had first come to Camp. The fire in the central brazier silently jumped up a good five feet and what he could see of Hestia’s face was pale and worried. Ethan went still. Pollux had his mouth open in a soundless cry. Everyone reacted, but the only one who made a sound was Hermes, swearing. Pops froze and then as he stood up he turned into a shining porcelain statue.

    He wasn’t kidding.

    An actual statue.

    Pops was Dionysus now. A super pretty beardless man just wearing a marble loincloth and a spinning silver halo over his porcelain curls and electric, almost sparking blue eyes. There were seams of silver running along his muscles, like just underneath the porcelain was a stainless steel machine.

    “What’s going on?” Castor tried to ask, but nothing came out of his mouth. He tried again. “Pops?”

    Dionysus’ glowing blue eyes flicked over him dispassionately, then rose to the dark sky. There was a series of resonating notes like someone was playing a pipe organ underwater, but he didn’t answer.

    Hermes shakily rose from his seat. “Alright, everyone calm down.” He began, sounding like a school teacher who just got news of a shooter in the building. “We’ll figure this out - “

    He was cut off by the blinding flash of yellow light.

    At first, Castor didn’t recognize the new god. He had golden blonde hair, but his eyes were also a burning yellow color like miniature suns and he had dark freckles on the bridge of his proud nose. He was wearing classic robes decorated with glowing yellow markings like he was wearing neon lights. The only thing giving him away was the golden bow in his hand.

    “Split up.” Apollo barked and Castor almost couldn’t believe it. Goofy Fred sounded like a drill sergeant. “Hephaestus. Apollo. Aphrodite. Dionysus. Demeter.”

    Hermes shakily raised a hand. “I can - “

    “You can’t.” Apollo said sharply. “None of the other Cabins will be safe.” A few of the Hunters began to look mutinous, but there was a faint thump as the Lieutenant’s hand slammed the table, staring them down. “Split up. Now.”

    An eerie howling noise rose up on a cold wind.

    Castor glanced at his silent and still father, and grabbed his plate.

    Just outside the Pavilion where the hill started to slope down into the Camp they were met with what had to be another goddess, because she was the most beautiful woman Castor had seen in his entire life. And he saw Hera once! She even looked like the Queen of the Gods a bit too and, strangely, a bit like Silena, with dark hair in hundreds of looping braids and golden bangles on her wrists and ankles. She had a long cloak one, proudly displaying a crowned dove.

    Out the corner of his eye, he saw nearly the entire Aphrodite Table gape.

    “Run along then, darlings,” the goddess said with a lazy smile as she waved them off. She didn’t look worried at all, just mildly inconvenienced with Silena’s amused sky blue eyes and a darker skin tone. “It is going to be a long, long night.”

    It wasn’t until he was back in Cabin Twelve, sitting on his bed with a plate of barbeque that everything caught up. He clenched his hands into fists to stop the shaking as he looked outside the window.

    It was just like Apollo said. Cabin 10, Aphrodite was surrounded by a barrier of glowing gold lettering. It didn’t look like Greek, but maybe he was just too far away. Cabin 9, Hephaestus looked like it was on fire, throwing sparks up into the air. Cabin 4, Demeter looked just like it always did, except looking at it now made him feel sick to his stomach with a ringing in his ears. The sun god’s Cabin 7 had always been a little tacky with gold everywhere, but now it burned like the gold had been molten, throwing off literal rays of sunlight against the darkness. In comparison, his twin Artemis’ silver Cabin looked dead.

    It was jarring. The soft moonlight had been gone for two days, but the silver walls from a distance looked pitted and tarnished or rusted, like the void of the night sky was eating away at it. It was like that for all of them. Hermes’ run down building looked hollow and condemned. The windows on Athena’s Cabin were just as dark as the sky, making his skin crawl the longer he stared. The gaudy Hellenic Cabins of the King and Queen of Olympus were dull and washed out. Poseidon’s longhouse looked like it was rotting away right before his eyes.

    “Testing?” Castor heard faintly and he snapped his head around. Annabeth sighed in relief. “You heard me?”

    “Yeah,” Pollux croaked. He had his knees drawn up to his chest on his own bed across the room from Castor. Castor knew he was trying not to rock. “I heard you.”

    The howling was still drifting on the wind right outside the glowing walls of Cabin 12.

    Ethan was looking outside too, with his face plastered right up against the glass. Clovis looked ill. There were some other kids from Cabin 11, like Chris and Lou Ellen with them and others he didn’t really know personally because they were younger, hesitantly picking out a bed to sit on.

    “What - I mean how - “ Annabeth licked her lips. “That sound is getting to me,” she admitted. No kidding. Castor's goosebumps had goosebumps. “I keep losing track of what I’m thinking.”

    “It’s Hellhounds,” Ethan said absently.

    Annabeth shot a look at his back. “And how do you know that? I’ve never heard them sound like that before.”

    Castor figured Annabeth would know. She was on the run from monsters with Thalia of Zeus for a year. Pops pushed them hard, but he left all the training for fighting monsters until they got to Camp. Annabeth had been out there at seven years old.

    “You wouldn’t,” Ethan scoffed. “It’s a happy sound, I think.”

    “You think?” Castor asked.

    A happy Hellhound sounded like a Hellhound that was chowing down on a demigod.

    Ethan turned to look at them for a second, then back out the window. “I had one when I was little. Kind of.”

    He had a Hellhound?

    Like a pet?

    “Kind of?” Annabeth drawled. “How do you kind of have a man-eating monster?”

    “It hung around my father’s place a lot. Always the same one. When - “ his breath hitched. “I left, I think it helped me. It howled like this, but not as long and not with so many.”

    Annabeth’s mouth opened, but then she closed it. Her grey eyes narrowed in the dim cabin lighting as she studied Ethan’s thin frame against the window. Then her eyes turned to Clovis, who shrugged.

    “I don’t think we should go outside,” Hypnos’ son said blandly.

    “I know that!” Ethan snapped, turning on them. Castor could see that there was something wrong with his eyes. His pupils were slitted, but they got bigger into circles before shrinking again like gasping mouths. Ethan looked down at his feet. “I know that.”

    “But you want to,” Clovis said calmly. Ethan didn’t say anything. “It’s okay. We are grandchildren of the Night. We’re just not monsters.”

    “Yeah.” Ethan looked up at them through his black bangs. He didn’t look convinced. “Not monsters.”

    He tore himself away from the window and threw himself on an unclaimed bunk, burying his head in the pillow.

    “But what is going on?” Annabeth murmured. “What exactly is happening? Why now? Why - why are only five cabins out of twelve safe?” She started to pace. “Safe from what?”

    Castor listened to her mumble to herself and numbly picked out some bread from his plate.

    “What happened to Mr. D, Castor?”

    He looked up.

    “I don’t know.”

    And that was the worst part.

    “Maybe that’s what he looks like, when he ain’t pretending?” Pollux weakly threw in. Is that what he acts like, when he isn’t pretending? Maybe Pollux didn’t mean it like that. Maybe he was just being unfair and the god that was their father had a lot on his mind with the world falling off a cliff and all. “The sun god looked different too.”

    When things got back to normal, Pops was going to have to do some explaining for sure.

    “A long night…” Annabeth murmured. “Do you think...Clovis, do you think we could ask your father?”

    Ethan perked up a little. Castor knew he had been chomping at the bit to go back after the first time, and if he was completely honest, Castor kind of was too. Imagine turning your dreams into a virtual reality classroom. Last night, Clovis was able to get Morpheus to start them off with something simple: Athena’s doomed inauguration. It was like they were really there off to the side of the grand room, watching it all unfold.

    Everything Percy had told them just seemed a lot more real after that.

    “He probably knows,” Clovis allowed after a moment. “But I don’t think - “

    “We’ll be sleeping anyway,” Annabeth pointed out. “We can either have useless dreams or nightmares and not know anything until someone decides to tell us.” She frowned darkly. Annabeth did not take Olympus’ lies well. “And they won’t, or….”

    “We can find out ourselves,” Castor finished for her.

    “What are you guys talking about?” A new voice entered the conversation and they all turned to see a suspicious looking Chris Rodriguez squinting at them.

    “The god of Sleep,” Pollux said softly. “We can ask him what’s happening.”

    “Just like that, huh?” Chris sneered and Castor winced.

    Hermes just Claimed him today after a race, after years of not knowing who his godly parent was. He had been living in Hermes Cabin as one of the Unclaimed, as a child of Hermes. Castor didn’t know what that felt like, but he imagined it stung.

    “He always makes time for me,” Clovis said defensively. “Him or my brothers.”

    “Lucky you.

    “Not helping,” Annabeth said sharply. “We’ll tell you what we know once we find out. Just...finish eating and act normal,” she dismissed Chris, who didn’t look happy.

    “I want to find out why Pops looks like that,” Castor blurted out.

    “Me two,” Pollux said.

    “And maybe…” Annabeth’s eyes were calculating. “We should come up with a list of the questions we want to ask. About tonight. Just so we don’t overstay our welcome.”

    “Good idea,” Castor said.

    None of it was.
     
    Pascal1995, thisisyes, TGOD and 15 others like this.
  29. Mistroz

    Mistroz Getting sticky.

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    Jul 26, 2021
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    Excellent chapter
     
  30. Skorm4545

    Skorm4545 Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    He's not even the son of Posiedon but this is the best damn Percy Jackson story I've read that hasn't been written by Uncle Rick himself. I eagerly await your next installment. ;)
     
    Holocene32 likes this.
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