A breeze past through the forest, rustling the leaves of the ancient trees. The moon was full, shining beautifully down on the forest. The shadows under a large tree suddenly began swirling in a vortex, then disappeared in flash of darkness. Where the shadows had been rotating lay a boy.
After a few minutes, the boy woke up and stretched. He gazed around blankly, apparently not knowing what had happened to him. He began walking aimlessly through the forest, pausing only occasionally to glance at the sky, as if something attracted him to the star-filled night sky. He maintained his direction for a while, not noticing the shadows encircling him.
Eventually, the boy reached a pristine pond in a clearing and contemplated his reflection. He looked to be fifteen, with messy, black hair. His features were pleasant to look at; many girls would swoon over his finely sculptured face. The boy was also lean. Overall, he had the looks to break many hearts. However, there was one curious aspect about this boy: his eyes were a mixture of gold and black that contrasted the whites of his eyes sharply.
After having looked at himself for a few moments, the boy took a long drink from the clean pool and stood once more. His acute senses suddenly sensed danger was nearby; his ears detected the cracking of some dried leaves within a hundred meters of his current location and he could sense a presence. The boy took a few steps away from the lake in the direction he heard the cracking when suddenly he was hit in the back by what felt like a massive rock. The boy flew into a nearby tree, and fell in a painful heap at the base of the tree. Groaning, he saw his aggressor charge at him once more. In a fluid motion, he leaped up and deftly twisted out of the way as his aggressor collided into the tree he had been leaning on.
The boy paused, stunned at his own reflexes. They had felt natural, as if he had been training to fight for the entirety of his life, despite the fact that he couldn't remember anything. Snapping out of his thoughts, the boy looked over to his aggressor. He gasped at what he saw: it was a wolf, and it was quite angry. The wolf growled angrily, irritated that its easy prey had managed to avoid him.
"You won't be able to fight me boy, I am a werewolf. Give it up," the wolf hissed. The boy simply narrowed his eyes, as his muscles itched for a fight. He took a few steps forward, then swung his fist at the wolf, who stepped back to avoid the blow. The boy grinned and feinted a punch once again, but as the wolf backed up again, he used his momentum to throw himself onto the wolf. Quick as lightning, he wrapped his arms around the wolf's neck in a death grip. The wolf's eyes widened, and he panicked as he tried to shake off his unwanted rider and saw that he couldn't.
The boy smiled genuinely for the first time since he woke up under the tree despite not remembering anything about his life. He felt right in his element, under the shining full moon. The wolf suddenly changed into his human form and flipped the boy over, expecting him to be smashed on the forest floor. To his horror, the shadows rapidly solidified behind the boy and cushioned his impact.
The boy raised an eyebrow in surprise at the turn of events, then raised his hand through instinct. The werewolf flew into the air, thrown by the shadows that had just saved the boy. He grinned and clenched his fist, causing the werewolf to get caught in the air by the shadows. The werewolf's eyes were wide as he tried to ignore the fear that was crawling down his spine.
"What are you?" he asked, horrified at the power rolling off the boy. The boy merely laughed and snapped his fingers. The werewolf's neck snapped and he died instantly. The boy released the dead werewolf from the grip of the shadows in the air, smiling at the power coursing through him. These powers of his seemed familiar, as if he had been trained in the art of manipulating the shadows. He growled in frustration as his mind turned back to the fact that he had no idea where he was nor who he was, not to mention what he was to do.
The boy had been wandering for several days in the forest when he finally arrived at a village, where he determined that he was in Greece. He decided to remain there for the night, as he was weary of sleeping in the forest, having been lost for a week. He checked into an inn and obtained a room. As he lay back on his threadbare bed, the boy was suddenly gripped by an intense headache. Memories flashed through his mind, quicker than he could grasp. After a few minutes, the pain subsided, but one piece of information remained in his mine. Almost instantly, the boy knew what it was.
2 Years Later
I woke up wearily from my makeshift bed in the forest. It had been two years since I'd woken up without any memories, but my past remained an enigma. I could not recall details about my past; the only remnants I had were the brief flashes of memories and my training.
My training. That was one thing that had come to me very rapidly. I knew, even without memories, that I had been training in my powers and in the usage of weapons since I was a mere child. Whenever I engaged in a fight, adrenaline immediately coursed through my veins like it was meant to be there. Every fight my instinct and muscle memory took over, and I fought like a god. My travels these last couple of years had shown me that I was a significantly powerful character, even though I didn't know my parentage.
Ever since I had discovered my fighting skills, I became a sort of vigilante; I hunted down criminals mercilessly and brought justice upon them. I reserved my most brutal punishments upon those who would defile women or abuse children, often severely maiming the offender then killing said offender. My actions had sprung a rumor around Greece about a dark angel that appeared out of the night to wreak havoc upon criminals.
As I stretched, a grin came to my face as I thought about the title I had been given. Arrow of the Night. The title came from the fact that my preferred ranged weapon was the bow, and my old training allowed me to claim to be one of the best mortal archers in Greece. Despite my love of the bow, I was most adept at sword wielding. Somehow, I had an inner sense for sword fighting, but the weapon I had stolen and now wielded was a pitiful excuse. It was terribly made, but despite my most thorough efforts, I was unable to find a better sword to use in all of my travels.
Snapping out of my thoughts, I began moving towards the next city. I asked myself occasionally what the point of wandering was, but with my secret identity and the fact that I wanted to find my memories more than anything, there was no chance for me to be able to settle down somewhere.
After an hour of walking, the forest finally began thinning, and the night began to darken the sky. The moon wasn't shining, and there was a sinister air about the whole place. As I slowed my pace a bit, I noticed a mountain rising in the distance. Before the mountain lay a beautiful field of flowers, whose intoxicating smell was attracting me. The night was pitch black, but my powers over the darkness allowed me to see as clear as I would during the day. I narrowed my eyes, ignoring the smells of the flowers. This place reminded me of a forbidden garden I had heard many tales about during my travels: the Garden of the Hesperides. I looked more closely at the mountain, using my control during the night to improve my vision. What I saw disturbed me: at the top of the mountain, the Titan Atlas was holding the sky up. There was no doubt anymore, I had stumbled upon the legendary garden itself.
As I reveled in my discovery, I heard a couple voices coming nearby
"Hurry!" a voice said, clearly female. "He will find us!"
"I'm not afraid," the other voice spoke up, this one the tones of a male. I could sense he was a demigod, his energy sparking out towards me. Two figures burst out of the forest and began sprinting through the flowers. The woman, identified clearly by her slender, graceful stature, was pulling a massive man as though their lives were in danger. The man was sporting a bizarre lion's pelt and had massive muscles.
They raced up the side of the hill, then dove into a thorn bush as they both disappeared from my sight. I advanced slowly across the flowers, picking my way through the path the two had beat down. There was only one reason the man was there: he was attempting to obtain the Apples of Immortality. As I trekked through the flowers to the base of the mountain, I gasped and realized who the man was. There was only one man who would be foolish enough to challenge the dragon Ladon, and that one man was Heracles. I had heard many tales about the challenges set upon him, the so-called twelve labors. If my assumption was correct, then this was one of the challenges that Heracles seeked to complete. Briefly I wondered why the girl was aiding the demigod; he was notorious for being a womanizer and for the way he took advantage of people to his gain. Surely she knew, surely she had not been charmed by the narcissistic demigod.
Movement up ahead caught my attention. I slipped into some cover and observed the scene in front of me with fascination. Heracles was advancing towards the tree, holding a large celestial bronze sword that glowed in the moonlight that he had not had as he was running across the field earlier. I spotted Ladon's dormant figure lying around the tree and stifled a gasp. The legends did not do the beast justice. It was absolutely massive, easily towering over the advancing Heracles. Suddenly, its hundred heads arose from their seemingly sleeping position. Two hundred pairs of eyes locked onto the advancing Greek hero as Ladon let out a roar. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the girl from earlier looking on the scene with unease etched across her face. I realized in a flash that she must be one of the Hesperides, which explained her nervousness. She had betrayed her family and had to hope that Heracles took her with him. I shook my head disgustedly, knowing Heracles would never take her with him.
Meanwhile, the foolish demigod had engaged the dragon in combat. He was wielding the blade decently, slashing out and wounding Ladon all while avoiding the hundred heads. However, there was something wrong with the picture, almost as if Ladon was holding back from fighting full on. It suddenly hit me that the Hesperide had gifted Heracles with the blade, and Ladon clearly refused to fight at its strongest, unable to detect that this was not one of its guardians.
Heracles ducked under two stabbing heads then rolled under a few more heads into stabbing range of the dragon. He twirled the sword before stabbing Ladon, then cut through the dragon's body. Ladon let out a roar of fury as blood poured out of its large wound. It attempted to attack Heracles once more, but the man avoided its strikes, then ran towards the tree. He grabbed an apple and ran off the hill as fast as he could. The demigod didn't slow down as he passed the bush in which the girl was hiding in, as he continued his streak down the mountain.
"Wait!" cried the Hesperide, tears running down her face. "Don't leave me! I thought you were going to take me away from here! I have nowhere else to go now that I betrayed my family!"
Heracles stopped at the foot of the mountain and looked back at her, then smirked.
"Pretty one, did you truly believe I would take you. You were merely a means to an end."
I seethed at this cold figure standing just below me. Rage bubbled throughout my body as I heard those arrogant words, and anger took hold of me. Letting out a bellow of madness, I unleashed my full powers for the first time.
My black and gold eyes glowed with light as the night suddenly seemed to suck itself towards me, as if I were a black hole. The more of the shadows that came into me the more powerful I felt. I covered my body with an armor made of the shadows, conjured my bow, and fired four arrows rapidly at the retreating figure. The four arrows screamed through the air and landed true, each piercing Heracles' hands and feet, pinning him to the ground. Leaping from my vantage point, I punched the ground as I landed, releasing a shockwave of dark energy at the hated demigod and forcing him to scream in pain. Pulling out a dagger, I stalked angrily over to him. Heracles, still pinned to the ground by my arrows, actually looked fearful as he looked at my ominous figure moving towards him. He struggled to break free as I fired two more arrows, each through his shoulders. The man screamed in pain as he was thrown back once more. I stood above him, looking at him in disgust. As quick as lightning, I stabbed my dagger into Heracles' thigh, eliciting a roar of pain. Smirking slightly, I twisted my blade as the so-called hero howled. Pulling out the dagger, I moved up and cut into his biceps as he flexed to free himself from my arrows. My quick, surgical cuts each caused screams of pain to erupt from Heracles. Once my task done, I stepped back and contemplated the result of my work. On his biceps, I had carved "Angel of the Night". The sight brought a grin to my face, then I turned and dismissed the shadows I had called to encircle me as I walked calmly towards to the waiting Hesperide, holding the sword I had taken from Heracles.
I couldn't believe it. I betrayed my family to allow this supposed hero to accomplish another of his challenges, expecting him to honor his promise to take me to see the world. Instead, after I gave him the key to defeating Ladon, he passed me uncaringly, only to stop and mock me. I wiped my tears as I watched his receding figure from my vantage point, when suddenly I spotted darkness suddenly converging on a point below me, but still on the hill. Suddenly, four arrows flew out from that point and hit Heracles, piercing the dishonest demigod and pinning him to the ground brutally. Glancing at where the arrows came from, I saw a figure jump off the hill and land devastatingly in the field below. I watched in awe as the figure, concealed by an armor that seemed to be composed of swirling darkness, began torturing Heracles, causing the hero to scream in pain multiple times. After a few minutes, the figure turned away from the man and began walking in my direction. The shadows that were encircling the seemed to slip away, and it allowed me to see who it was. The torturer of Heracles was a tall, striking boy, well-muscled but not overly so. He sported black, messy hair, and seemed to be around seventeen years old. I should've been fearful of him, seeing as he just tore Heracles apart like he was nothing, but I felt more at peace with him than I had ever been. I also noticed he was bringing back Anaklusmos, the sword I had mistakenly given to the disgusting figure now bleeding out in the field below me.
I approached the Hesperide cautiously, knowing she would be on edge considering what had just occurred. I held out the sword in a pacifying gesture, trying to convey my peaceful intentions.
"Who are you? Why did you do that to him? What do you want?"
The Hesperide was clearly untrustworthy, not that I would blame her. After all, she just aided a supposed hero and was betrayed in repayment. Briefly I wondered whether I should conceal my identity from her like I had done on all my travels, but something told me I should not deceive her any more than she already had been.
"My name is Perseus. I was traveling through the nearby forest when I noticed this was the famous Garden of the Hesperides, so I decided to visit. I saw what happened with Heracles; I saw how he betrayed you. I despise people who merely manipulate and use others to achieve things they are unable to accomplish themselves. He was one of those people; he deserved punishment. To me, that worthless son of Zeus is no better than a criminal from the gutter. I don't want anything from you, I merely intend to return this sword. If I am not mistaken, it belongs to you."
The Hesperide hesitated, then took the blade and changed it into a hairpin.
"I thank you, Perseus. What am I to do now? I have betrayed my family."
"If I may inquire, and I intend no offense, but are you still a maiden?"
The Hesperide's eyes narrowed dangerously, and her hand went to the hairpin. I realized she was shaken at the core by Heracles' betrayal, making the destination I had in mind an even more suitable destination. I quickly added, "I am not like Heracles. I merely asked as I have a possibility for where you can go."
She visibly relaxed, then replied, "I am indeed still a maiden."
"In that case, I have the perfect plan for where you can go. You can join the Hunters of Artemis! To be honest, it really seems like the perfect place for you, and from what I've heard, it is an honor to serve Lady Artemis."
I clenched my fist, hoping she would like the idea as much as I thought it suited her. The Hesperide thought for a moment, then decided.
"Very well Perseus. Without my family and anyone else, with my trust shaken so, your plan appears to be optimal."
I smiled genuinely as I heard this. I successfully saved someone who could now turn into a legend; I gave this girl a purpose in life again.
"I'm glad to have found a solution to your problem. Allow me to take you to the hunters, where you can have audience with Lady Artemis," I said.
"Uh… How do you intend to find them and deliver me to them?" she asked curiously.
"Over my years of traveling, I have saved a couple girls from abusive childhoods and delivered them to the hunters. I encountered them on accident after saving the first girl, and as a result the first girl gave me a charm I could use to determine their location if I ever found more potential recruits. I can also teleport using my powers, so we can be on our way."
The Hesperide smiled for the first time, and nodded in response.
"Take me to the hunters then Perseus." I held out my hand and she placed hers in mine. I felt a small spark go through me, but I shook it off. I'm delivering her to the hunters, I have no past, I can't remain with her I thought furiously. I touched the charm given to me by the girl and traced where the hunters were, then flashed out in a burst of black light.
We reappeared in a forest similar to the one I had woken up two years previously, on the edge of a small lake. I let go of the Hesperide's hand and touched the charm again, determining that the hunters were a few hundred meters north of us. I turned to the girl and said,
"You can find the hunters north of here, about three hundred meters away. I cannot come closer, since I am a male, and the hunters don't know that I have been saving these girls as a sort of self-employed job. I hope this is the future you want and deserve."
She smiled at me, clearly quite eager to join the hunters. To my surprise, she came over and hugged me tightly.
"Thank you Perseus. You avenged me against Heracles, saved me from being punished by my family, and gave me a chance at a new future. I know this isn't enough as repayment, but I would like you to have my sword."
She slid the hairpin out of her hair and willed it into the shape of the sword from earlier.
"My mother once told me I should give this blade to a true hero. I mistakenly believed that true hero to be Heracles, but now I know you were the true hero that was meant to wield my sword. You shall from now on be Perseus, wielder of Anaklusmos."
She slipped the sword into my hand and closed my hand around the hilt, flashing me a small smile. Then, she turned and began walking towards the hunters' camp.
"Wait!" I called. She glanced back questioningly. "You never told me what your name is. How can I thank you without knowing your name?"
"My name is Zoe Nightshade," the Hesperide replied.
"Zoe, I cannot thank you enough for entrusting me with this blade. I hope I can wield the way it deserves to. I bid you farewell, and perhaps, in the future, we can meet again."
Zoe smiled. "I hope we meet again as well, Perseus." At this, we parted, and I headed towards the lake to get a drink. I remembered the spark that went through me when I grasped Zoe's hand, but once again shook off the memory. Zoe was probably getting sworn in as an eternal maiden at this very moment and I still needed to discover the truth about my past.
As I walked, I looked over Anaklusmos. The blade was beautiful, three feet long, perfect craftsmanship. Its celestial bronze gave off an intimidating glow. I wrapped my hands around the hilt and willed it to turn into a simple circular ring like I saw Zoe willing it into a hairpin. The blade shrunk and morphed into a ring, which I placed on my ring finger.
At the edge of the water, I kneeled down and drank some of the water. Something was severely off about the water, however. Instead of a pacifying coolness I had come to expect from the remote bodies of water I had encountered on my travels, the water tasted very bitter.
"Well, well, well… What do we have here? A silly demigod?" a cold voice rumbled from behind me. I turned and gasped in horror. My eyes beheld a massive, twelve foot tall figure cladded in light blue armor. It had a beautifully designed helmet that covered his face apart from two slits for the eyes, which were two dark blue flames that struck fear into my core. The figure wielded two blades both around four feet long. The two blades were also striking, pitch black with geometric blue lines arcing throughout. I immediately knew who I was facing: the Titan Oceanus.
"Ahh... I sense your fear, and it is not misplaced. I am, after all, one of the most powerful Titans. Now, let's get down to business, shall we?"
I was stunned. What did a Titan want with me?
"Listen little demigod. I may have not joined my brothers during the first Titan War, but the way I have been exiled since then have shown me I made a mistake. Perhaps, with my aid, my brethren wouldn't've fallen. That, however, is a matter of the past. As of now, we are returning. The Titans will soon all return from Tartarus and regain control, as we rightfully deserve."
To be honest, I couldn't see where Oceanus was going with this. What do I have to do with the rise of the Titans?
Oceanus smirked visibly.
"Little demigod, you have everything to do with the fall of Olympus and the rise of me and my brethren. And, before you ask, yes, I can sense your thoughts just like the gods of Olympus can. We are a much older race. Now, regarding your role in this mess, I have come with an offer to make. I know that you aren't an ordinary demigod. We have been observing you for a while: your powers are unique. You, more than most, are almost in tune with the darkness. You seem to have no ties to the worthless Olympians. Kronos needs a mortal body to inhabit in order to return from Tartarus as a result of the punishment he was inflicted with after the Titan War. We ask you to allow Kronos to inhabit your body until he can reform his own. Then, we will wage war on Olympus. If you aid us in this cause, we will reward you handsomely, perhaps even allow you to become a Titan by making one of our neutral Titans fade. I would recommend considering this offer."
My jaw dropped as I listened to Oceanus outline their plot for revenge. I had heard many good things about the Golden Age in which Kronos and Rhea had ruled fairly, but I had also heard that before his fall, Kronos' old self had been destroyed by his power hungry, brutal personality developed notably after hearing the prophecy about his impending doom at the hands of his children. However, what this Titan was telling me seemed to be based entirely around revenge; he clearly did not care for whether their rule was to be better or worse than the Olympians.
I frowned, thinking about my connection to the Olympians. Oceanus did not lie when he informed me that I was different, that I had no ties to the gods. Now that I thought about it, my powers differed from those of Hades. My control over the darkness and the shadows far exceeded that of the offspring of Hades, and the way the night strengthened me was unheard of.
However, the Olympians had never done me wrong. Artemis, despite her hatred of males, had not mistreated him when he delivered the first girl to her hunters. None of the gods had tried to stop me because I was supposedly too powerful for a regular demigod. Why would I give up my vigilante lifestyle that was so fulfilling for me? I glanced at the Titan, who was clearly trying to observe my thoughts. I grinned; after he told me about his mind reading powers, I had drawn upon my powers to complete shield my mind. Even a being as strong as Oceanus couldn't break the barrier I had set up.
"Oceanus, with all due respect, I don't see the purpose of this war. I know that the Golden Age was the greatest period of peace the world ever saw, but Kronos has changed. Even without the Olympians, I doubt he would have remained in power for very long, as he was becoming brutal and ruthless. I have no qualms with the rule of the Olympians, although I do not agree with the way they have treated the remaining Titans, such as yourself. I decline your offer, and in this upcoming war, I would prefer to remain neutral."
The Titan's eyes flamed, and his face contorted in anger as I explained to him my reasons for rejection. After a few moments, he regained control of his emotions and replied in a flat voice,
"Very well. Foolish demigod, you leave me with no choice." Oceanus snapped his fingers, causing two other Titans to emerge from the woods. I recognized one as being Tethys and the other as being Epimetheus. Neither of the two were exceedingly powerful, but I had no chance to take on all three of the Titans. I noticed all three of them hadn't participated in the first war. Clearly, the gods had been quite distasteful as rulers if all the Titans, even the once neutral ones, were enraged.
I willed Anaklusmos into existence and charged Oceanus. The Titan of the oceans raised one of his blades and deflected mine to the side, then stabbed at me with his other blade. I twisted out of the path of his sword and used the momentum from my diverted blade to send my body to the side of his. As I flew past him, I instinctively punched his extended wrist, hitting a nerve I had clearly trained many times to aim for. The damaged nerve numbed Oceanus' hand and forced him to drop the second blade. The Titan roared and whirled around, slashing at me in anger. I ducked his sword and we began clashing, each trying to force the other into making a mistake. However, my extensive training made me a superior sword wielder, and the power of Anaklusmos merely served to improve my fighting. After a few minutes, I saw an opening, launching a feint to the right. Oceanus raised his remaining sword to deflect my blow, while I whirled and launched a spinning kick with tremendous power into his chest, sending him flying into a tree. In a flash, I pulled out a couple throwing knives I had, and threw them at the Titan, who raised his blade and sliced one of the knives out of the air. The other pierced his shoulder and elicited another roar of anger. Golden ichor dripped from the wound I had just dealt him. As the Titan yanked my knife out of his shoulder, I ran towards him at full speed, hoping to end the fight then. However, I felt a tremendous force impact my side right before I could kill Oceanus. Epimetheus had joined in the fight, and my body was thrown unceremoniously into the lake. Tethys froze the water around me and trapped me in the ice. I drew on all my power, trying to absorb shadows and channel the night like I did against Hercules, but dawn had risen during my sword fighting against Oceanus, which meant I no longer had the strength to stand up to the Titans.
Oceanus got up and smirked at Percy, "You impress me puny demigod. It truly is a shame you refused our generous offer. Now you shall reap the rewards of your refusal."
The Titan snapped his fingers, causing a massive crevice to form right in front of them.
"It is time to unite you with our brothers and sisters that are undeservedly stuck in Tartarus. After you, my dear wife," Oceanus said, motioning to Tethys. The Titan of the Sea smiled at her husband as the two lifted me up out of the water, still imprisoned in the block of ice, and threw me into the crack in the ground.
Epimetheus peered over the edge and shouted, "Look at the sky one last time demigod! Now you are on your way to Tartarus, and you will never come back!"
I plunged into the pitch black hole in the ground, accelerating incessantly. This is the end I thought sadly. I am cursed to die in Tartarus, friendless and alone, with no memory of my past. I kept falling for several minutes, causing me to think that this hole was infinitely deep. After what seemed like forever, the hole opened up into a massive cavern, with the ground several miles below me. Despite the darkness, I could easily see the ground rush up to meet me. I braced myself for impact, as I revisited my life during these final moments. My thoughts swirled around from one criminal I had dealt with to another, from one child I had saved to another. My mind settled on a picture of Zoe smiling as she thanked me for what I had done for her as I closed my eyes and prepared to die.
To my surprise, I suddenly began slowing down. I groaned; clearly I was not fortunate enough to escape torture by means of an easy death. After a few moments, my feet touched the ground, and I fell to my knees, shaken by the near endless fall I had just experienced. I tried standing up shakily, but my legs gave way and I collapsed helplessly onto the ground. I looked around for the first time since I had entered the cavern.
It was true.
I was trapped in Tartarus.