I closed my eyes, feeling the stream of time flow around me. The automaton charged me, swinging its two blades wildly. My eyes flashed open, pupils glowing pure gold, as I froze the automaton's leg in time, causing the machine to fall awkwardly. The army of automatons ranged behind it stopped waiting and began rushing towards me. This time, I willed all the automatons to freeze in time.
They all stopped moving, and I grinned at my handiwork. I strode towards the fallen automaton and sliced its head off with Anaklusmos. Unlike the first time I froze time, this action barely affected my energy. I turned back to the frozen army of automatons and released them from the time spell, before immediately concentrating and accelerating the passage of time around the machines. Before long, the automatons eroded and crumbled into dust.
The sound of clapping sounded behind me. I smiled and turned to see Chronus walk over towards me grinning.
"Well Perseus, you have improved tremendously; your control over time is, for a non-deity, flawless. You've learned everything you can from me, it's time for you to return to Earth so you can train even more before facing your destiny."
I nodded, "I am ready to return, Master Chronus."
Chronus waved his hand, forming a glowing golden portal at the edge of the arena I had been training in.
"Perseus, I must warn you. Despite your mastery over time, you still aren't ready to free your mother. Do not fear, however, as she is safe for the time being."
My eyes stung at the mention of my captured mother, but I merely nodded in acknowledgment, "I won't let you down."
He smiled, "I know you won't Perseus. Now go, explore the world."
I glanced one last time at the golden palace that had been my home and training ground for the past hundred years. It had taken several years before I was able to freeze time over a large environment such as when my powers were first unlocked. It took decades before I managed to do so without passing out due to overuse of it. However, the years of training paid off, and now I could control time easily, almost as easily as darkness.
The portal transported me to a location that looked surprisingly familiar: the forest in which I fought against the Romans so many years ago. However, the forest had changed. No longer did it look untouched by mortals. I could see remains of some mortal objects dotting the clearing that once hosted a bloody battle.
During my time off training with Chronus, I had taken it upon myself to learn everything about the world since I had been taken by the Titans millennia ago. I now knew exactly who the Romans were, how much the world had modernized, and how Olympus had moved to the new continent: America.
It still awed me that I had participated in the deciding battle of the American Civil War, and arguably was the cause of the Greek victory. I learned later from Chronus that the gods erased all traces of the opposing demigod groups from each other's minds in order to avoid bloodshed as had happened in the Civil War. Furthermore, it prevented conflicts in the gods' personalities and consequently less conflicts in Olympus itself.
Remembering Chronus' advice to explore the world in order to prepare myself for my destiny, I shook myself out of my deep thoughts and began walking away from the clearing, planning to find a city and begin my travels from there.
(43 years later)
After many, many years of traveling, I had finally returned to America. I had traveled through Canada in order to evade the gods, but Chronus had contacted me a few days before in order to tell me that soon, it was time to reveal myself to the gods, as they would need my aid in the clash against Kronos.
That was how I ended in a forest in terrible weather, sleet and snow pouring down from the sky, threatening to strand me and freeze me to death.
I trudged grudgingly through the snowy forest, hoping to find some sort of shelter, as this weather was far too much for me to deal with. It was easily the most brutal snowstorm I had ever seen.
I glanced up every few moments, trying to look for a building, when I spotted several lights not very far from where I was. A smile played across my lips as I pictured the warm interior of a building, and I accelerated my pace, eager to get to the warmth. The forest began thinning when I heard shouting up ahead. Looking up, I saw a helicopter just hovering in the air. I frowned and slowed down, not willing to barge into a potentially thick situation.
Suddenly, the familiar sound of bullets tore through the night air, clearly coming from the helicopter. I heard more shouts, then a sound I recognized very well pierced the air: Artemis' hunting horn. Surprised, I edged behind a tree and glanced into the clearing where the commotion was happening. The clearing was massive, with a large building that looked like an imposing castle on one side. A few hundred meters ahead of the building, a cliff dropped off the side of the forest into the ocean. Near the cliff, I spotted five figures, two of them lying down on the ground, another two standing in front of them in a defensive position, and the last figure facing them.
I immediately recognized the last figure, given away notably by its tail. It was the manticore, which meant that the other four figures were probably unfortunate demigods. As I debated entering the conflict, a silver arrow flew through the air and stuck in the manticore's shoulders. The monster bellowed in pain as a familiar group of silver wearing girls burst into the clearing. Two girls stepped forward, and I grinned as I recognized Zoe and Artemis.
"Permission to kill, milady?" asked Zoe. I groaned at their formalities, which I could see was about to cost them. The manticore took advantage of the short delay to grab two figures on the ground behind him I hadn't seen until now.
"Fools! I have my targets! You have lost!" the manticore cackled arrogantly before rushing towards the cliff. Artemis' eyes narrowed,
Zoe immediately fired several arrows into the beast's retreating back, knocking it off its feet. The manticore roared in anger and raised its tail, firing a series of spikes at Zoe, who ducked rapidly to avoid them. The monster got up and began launching spikes incessantly at the hunters, who were forced to duck and roll to avoid the shots. Artemis clenched her fists.
"Enough! I will kill you myself for threatening my hunters."
She sprung forward, hunting knives out, and began slashing at the monster, who stumbled back and dropped the two figures, bellowing in pain. Artemis maintained the pressure, forcing the monster onto the ground before twirling one hunting knife and cutting off its tail. The manticore screamed before Artemis stabbed her other knife into its throat, cutting its shriek of pain abruptly as it burst into a cloud of golden dust.
The four figures I saw initially were now all on the ground, seemingly unconscious. As Artemis finished off the manticore, the helicopter I saw initially had moved closer to the four figures. I gasped, realizing their intentions. Just as they fired the first bullets, I froze the helicopter in time. I grinned, before realizing that I shouldn't've revealed my time powers so soon. I quickly covered it up by solidifying the darkness around the helicopter and then crushing it in the air before striding out confidently into the clearing.
All the hunters gaped at me as I walked over to the four fallen figures and pulled out pieces of ambrosia that I had in my pack, forcing them to eat it. Once I saw them begin to come to, I turned to Artemis, who was glaring at me, and bowed.
"Lady Artemis, what a pleasant surprise."
The goddess' eyes narrowed, "Unfortunately, boy, I cannot say the same."
I grinned, "Cheer up, you didn't lose that competition."
The hunters who hadn't been there when I challenged Artemis to an archery contest just glanced at Artemis questioningly, who was getting more and more angered.
"Where have you been all these years boy? It was foolish to show yourself to me, I will have to take you to Olympus."
"Oh, I've just been wandering around. And actually, I was coming down to visit Olympus myself, so I would appreciate your aid in getting there faster. It really does take a lot to survive in the wilderness."
The four figures along with the two the manticore tried to kidnap were now staring at me in shock, clearly stunned at what looked like a seventeen year old boy talking casually with the man-hating goddess Artemis.
Zoe stepped forward and I flashed her a small smile.
"Enough playing around Perseus, what do you want?" she said with a bemused expression.
"I did not lie to Lady Artemis, I truly intend to go to Olympus."
Her expression immediately turned to one of shock, before she regained her composure.
I looked at her with a grave expression on my face, "It is finally happening."
Zoe gasped loudly, instantly understanding the threat I was referring to. Artemis looked critically at her then glared angrily at me,
"Have you been in contact with my lieutenant, boy?"
I grinned cheekily, "Nope. Not since we saw each other during the civil war. Are you up for another contest Lady?"
The goddess turned away, ignoring my question pointedly before motioning to Zoe to follow her. Zoe glanced back apologetically at me. Artemis walked back towards the forest, pausing a moment by the multiple fallen demigods. She knelt next to a young girl, who seemed around twelve years old, and began talking to her. I knew she was offering her a place in the hunt, which didn't really concern me.
The rest of the figures had finally healed and were gaping at me. One of them stood up and strode confidently towards me.
"Who are you demigod? I have never seen you before."
I quickly took in his appearance, noting his black hair and striking sea-green eyes.
"Ah… A son of Poseidon. Once more, the gods fail to keep it in their pants. To be honest I'm surprised it took this long for them to break the oath," I said casually. "As for who I am, that is none of your business."
Artemis, who had been walking back towards the hunter campsite along with the hunters, Zoe, and the new girl she had picked up, froze before turning back to watch my conversation. She looked interested and slightly impressed at what I had said. I flashed her a small smile before turning back to the son of Poseidon, who was seething in rage.
"Do not disrespect the gods! You have no right to do so! Tell me who you are before I kill you!"
Another of the recovered demigods, a curly-haired blond with striking gray eyes, shouted at the son of Poseidon,
"James! Control your temper! He is clearly not an enemy."
I nodded appreciatively towards the demigod, whose traits marked her clearly as a daughter of Athena. My gaze fell upon the last two figures. One of them was clearly a satyr, defined by his shaggy legs ending in hoofs. The satyr was still unconscious and was muttering gibberish. The other figure, however, caught my gaze. The figure was a girl who had a more dangerous air around her than any of the other demigods, and she was glaring at the hunters through narrowed electric blue eyes. Her spiky hair gave off a punk air, accentuated by deep black eye shadow.
I glanced back at the son of Poseidon, who I learned was named James.
"Well James, you would do well to listen to your wiser companion, the daughter of Athena over there. I am an ally, but you would do well not to cross me. I have been through more than you can even begin to imagine."
The blustering demigod scoffed and raised his sword in a challenging position. Immediately, the blue-eyed girl strode forward and pulled out a canister of mace, which extended into a spear. She reached out and disarmed James with a flick of her wrist. I looked at her, mildly impressed.
"James, enough. Adhere to the mission; we're supposed to bring these two demigods back to camp, but one of them has been taken by the hunt, and the other probably died of shock by now," she said, irritated, before glancing at the last figure, who was lying a few meters away.
Artemis yelled across the clearing towards me, "I will be back momentarily. Do not leave this clearing or I will hunt you down this time, boy."
I nodded in acknowledgment before turning to the remaining demigods.
"I would recommend one of you tells what's going on to the poor boy over there. I wouldn't want to be the one explaining where his sister went," I said.
James' eyes narrowed and he called back to his companions, "Annabeth, can you bring the kid over here so we can explain the stuff. And Thalia, how dare you humiliate me like that?"
Thalia's eyes narrowed dangerously, "You fool! If you hadn't tried to prove yourself by rushing after that manticore alone, we wouldn't have had to rely on the hunt's help."
I noticed the bitter tone when she talked about the hunt and raised my eyebrow, curious to know why she despised them so. The demigod glanced momentarily at me before deciding to spare me the explanation. I decided to leave the group of demigods alone and followed the path the hunters had taken.
As I was nearing their camp, I almost ran into Zoe, who had been clearly waiting for me. She grabbed my shirt and dragged me into the shelter of the woods.
"Perseus, where have you been all these years? How do you know the Lord of Time will rise soon?"
I looked at her grimly before answering hesitantly, "I was training and traveling the world, trying to learn everything I missed. My old trainer contacted me a few days ago to tell me that it was time for me to go to Olympus and offer my aid."
She nodded slowly, a scared look on her face, "How can one person make a difference in this war?"
I held her gaze for a moment, then sighed, "Zoe, I haven't told anyone else this. You must understand that this must remain a secret, as it may be our ticket to winning this war against Kronos."
Zoe looked at me intently, signaling that she understood and that I should explain.
"Well, when I regained my memories, I learned that my original trainer was Chronus, primordial of time."
She gasped in shock before motioning me to go on.
"At the end of my decade of training, he gave me his blessing, giving me power over time. However, he explained that only a true life and death situation would be able to unlock the power. After the battle you saw me fight in, the gods appeared, erasing the memories of the Greeks. I hid, but Hecate saw me and began weaving her spell. As I was losing my memories, my time powers released instinctively and froze everything, but drained my energy drastically. Chronus appeared and took over my spell, then offered to train me. For a hundred years, I trained nonstop in order to master the domain of time, which I now can control as well as Kronos."
The beautiful huntress just gaped at me before regaining her composure.
"That certainly explains why the helicopter seemed to pause in midair before you destroyed it."
I looked away sheepishly, "Oh yeah, I forgot about hiding my control of time for a few moments, and I hoped no one noticed it."
She was about to respond before an angry yell arose from the clearing. Zoe got up immediately, "That was milady; she probably found you weren't in the clearing. Come on, let's hurry."
She grabbed my hand and dragged me quickly through the woods. Pausing at the edge of the clearing, she pushed me into the clearing first. I walked rapidly towards the angry figure of Artemis, who was burning a hole in me with her eyes as I moved towards her.
I bowed low, "Lady Artemis, I was merely taking care of some business. I sincerely apologize for having been the cause of your anger."
Her expression softened as she appreciated my respect before her gaze hardened suddenly, "Where is Zoe? What did you do?"
"Milady, I am here. What happened?" a voice called from the side of the clearing. I grinned at Zoe's graceful figure approaching, appreciating the way she made it seem as if we had had no contact.
Artemis' expression became emotionless as she turned to the demigods, who were all huddled around each other for warmth, sitting on a nearby log.
"Demigods, I have called Apollo to take you and the hunters back to camp for now. Zeus has asked me to mount a solo hunt that is of vital importance."
All the hunters groaned at having to travel with Apollo. Zoe stepped forward, "Milady, may I accompany you on this hunt?"
Artemis shook her head sadly, "No, Zoe. I've been ordered to go alone, and this might prove incredibly dangerous. I cannot put you in such a dangerous situation."
The lieutenant frowned but stepped back in acknowledgment. Artemis looked at her sadly for a moment before turning to them all, "Apollo will be here in the morning. For now, camp out for the rest of the night. Boy, I'd like a word."
I glanced at her, surprised, but followed her into the forest. The goddess turned towards me and sat down on the ground, motioning for me to join her. She looked at me critically before sighing,
"Boy, I do not know who you are nor how you are still alive, but I do know you told Zoe something. I want you to tell me about this threat you are both clearly stricken by."
I hesitated for a few moments.
"Lady Artemis, what I'm telling you now I will tell Olympus when we go there as well. You might find it hard to believe, but I swear on the River Styx that all I will say is true in regards to this threat."
Thunder boomed and Artemis looked at me with newfound curiosity. I inhaled deeply before continuing.
"I was made partially immortal by the Titans 2400 years ago after they captured me and sent me to Tartarus."
Artemis' eyes immediately flashed in anger and she whipped out her two silver hunting knives and pinned me against a tree, her knives at the front and back of my neck. She glared at me angrily,
"You are a servant of the Titans? You've been through Tartarus? Die, boy!"
Anger filled me immediately at her rash actions. I chuckled coldly, "Stab me then."
Surprise adorned her eyes before her face became completely emotionless. Artemis pushed the knife hard against my neck, only for it to slip once it contacted my skin. She recoiled in shock. I pulled myself up from the tree and held her gaze emotionlessly. I walked over and sat down where I had been and spoke coldly,
"Indeed, I bear the blessing of the Styx. Now, I would prefer if you allowed me to finish my tale before trying to kill me."
She nodded once, her eyes filled with shock and a hint of fear. I went on to explain my imprisonment and my subsequent talk with Kronos, then explained my escape and how I arrived near their camp during the Civil War. I left out all parts involving primordials, then told the goddess of the moon how I had traveled the world ever since.
At the end of my story, Artemis was clearly shaken at the confirmation that Kronos was rising. She paced a bit in front of me before turning back to me.
"Do you realize what monster I am hunting boy?"
I held her gaze evenly before replying, "I have my suspicions. It is the Ophiotaurus, is it not?"
She nodded imperceptibly, "I don't know if you heard the prophecy, but I think telling you will aid you in what you need to do. It is as follows:
A half-blood of the eldest gods
Shall reach sixteen against all odds
And see the world in endless sleep
The hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap
A single choice shall end his days
Olympus to preserve or raze
There are currently two demigods that can fulfill this prophecy, and you met both of them."
"Thalia and James, correct?"
She smiled at me for the first time and nodded in acknowledgment, "Thalia was recently freed, as she had been trapped as a tree for seven years. Until then, we believed James would be the one of the prophecy."
I laughed harshly, "That boy is hopeless. Thalia has spirit, I believe she would be a great hero."
Artemis nodded, "I agree with you Perseus; Thalia is our best hope. However, she also wields Zeus' fatal flaw: power-hungriness. I am worried about what may happen."
I smiled at her calling me by my name and not boy, showing that I had garnered her respect.
"That may be, but from what I have seen from her, I believe she has what it takes to conquer this flaw."
"Indeed, she is a strong, one of a kind maiden. I once offered her a position in the hunt, but she refused in favor of remaining with her friends. Her loyalty and skills have always impressed me," Artemis said.
I glanced at the sky and noticed that dawn was breaking out. Artemis looked at the sun and motioned to me to follow her back into the clearing. All the hunters glared at me suspiciously, clearly angered at the fact that I spent so much time alone in the presence of their mistress. Artemis noticed this and waved the hunters off.
"Do not worry hunters. Perseus and I were merely talking about what will occur on Olympus soon."
Zoe looked shocked at the fact that Artemis referred to me by my name instead of by boy. The goddess merely looked at the sun and shouted, "Apollo! Hurry up!"
The sun suddenly glowed bright, forcing everyone to shield their eyes. Warmth enveloped me as I heard the sound of a car coming to a stop. I opened my eyes and eyed a glowing, red Maserati Spyder that had just parked near the edge of the cliff. A blond eighteen year old stepped out of the car and flashed us a blinding smile.
"Little sis, why are you always so impatient?"
Artemis clenched her fists, "I. Am. Not. Your. Little. Sis. I helped with your birth! How many times do I have to tell you?"
Apollo just grinned mockingly, "Okay little sis. Whatever you say."
The goddess of the moon took a deep breath before speaking, "Indeed, it is whatever I say. I want you to take these campers and my hunters to Camp Half-Blood. Remember, no flirting, touching, or even looking at my hunters. You try anything and I will hunt you down mercilessly."
Apollo raised his hands in a pacifying gesture, "Woah sis, don't get mad! I know the rules."
He glanced at a particularly attractive hunter who was holding her equipment and smiled, "Hey there beautiful, do you want some help with that?"
A silver arrow flew over Apollo's head, slicing through his sandy blond hair. Artemis growled at him, "I will kill you!"
Apollo sighed and turned to his Maserati, "I guess we need some more room."
The god of the sun snapped his fingers. The beautiful convertible glowed brilliantly before expanding into the shape of a shuttle bus. He strode over and settled into the driving seat before calling out to the campers and hunters, "Come on! We don't have all day!"
With a lot of grumbling, the hunters slipped onto the bus and settled at the back. The campers followed them and sat in the front near Apollo. Artemis and I watched as Apollo grinned cheekily at his sibling and waved before he drove off into the air. Artemis turned towards me immediately,
"Perseus, I will flash us to Olympus. Just repeat what you told me, I will vouch for you in case Zeus tries to kill you due to your power."
I looked at her, shock evident in my eyes. She merely sighed,
"You have, despite my efforts, managed to garner my respect. Not many people can go through what you have and still be so collected. I need not mention your skill with the bow, which, by the way, I excel."
She let a small smile play across her lips, and I grinned at her. Artemis grabbed my shoulder and flashed us right outside of the throne room. She glanced at me while I took in the massive double doors.
"Why are you not astounded by the beauty of our city?" she asked, surprised. I shook my head bitterly,
"When I was in Tartarus, I was taken to the ruins of Othrys. Despite the obvious state of disrepair, the double doors of their throne room were even more extraordinary than this. Their throne room was the greatest architectural vestige I have ever seen."
Artemis just nodded and pushed open the doors. As I walked into the massive throne room, I immediately took in the twelve massive thrones set up in a U-shape around the room. The room was beautiful, but not in the same awe-inspiring way as the throne room in Othrys. Artemis grew to her godly size of fifteen feet and walked over to her throne, which was pure silver and adorned with images of her hunts. She raised her hand and called for an Olympian meeting. A few minutes later, the gods began flashing into their thrones.
All of them looked quite bored. Apollo was absent, but that was due to him transporting the campers and the hunters. Zeus, settling in his throne at the apex of the U, looked over at his daughter.
"Artemis, what is the meaning of this emergency call? And who is this mortal?"
Artemis looked slightly fearful, "I have information about the war that is coming. Actually, Perseus here knows more about the rise of your father."
The gods that hadn't been paying attention immediately dropped the things they were playing around with and all stared at me in shock.
I stepped forward confidently, standing straight and looking directly at Zeus before bowing, "Lord Zeus."
He nodded in acknowledgment, "Well demigod, tell us your information."
I immediately launched into a description of exactly what I had told Artemis the night before. When I finally finished, Apollo flashed onto his throne and asked, "What did I miss?"
Zeus just glared at him for a couple seconds before settling back into his throne, clearly deep in thought. As I waited patiently for him to say something, Apollo suddenly stood up. His eyes glowed green and green mist escaped his mouth.
He opened his mouth, and a different voice hissed,
"Five shall go west to the goddess in chains,
One shall be lost in the land without rain,
The bane of Olympus shows the trail,
Campers and Hunters combined prevail,
The Titan's curse must one withstand,
And one shall perish by a parent's hand."
Apollo fell back against his throne and rubbed his hand against his forehead.
"Well, that was an unfortunate prophecy."
I just raised my eyebrow and contemplated the council. None of the goddesses were missing, which meant the prophecy was not meant to occur yet. Artemis then stood up, "I must go pursue my solo hunt; it is of the utmost importance I get my hands on that monster before the enemy. We can worry about this new prophecy later."
She flashed out immediately. The rest of the gods talked among themselves briefly, then began following suit, until only Zeus remained. He rose from his throne and walked over to me, shrinking to human height. I tensed and placed a hand on my ring, which was Anaklusmos. Zeus looked at me in the eyes and said, "I will have to send you to Camp Half-Blood for now. I will think about the information you have brought us. Your power, however, impresses me. I want you to swear an oath of loyalty to Olympus so that we can be assured that you are not working for Kronos. If you refuse, you will be killed."
I held his gaze evenly for a few moments, thinking. After contemplating my options, I nodded tersely at Zeus.
"Very well, Lord Zeus. I understand why you make such demands. I swear on the River Styx to serve Olympus against the Titans as long as their threat remains, unless I am betrayed."
Zeus tilted his head sideways curiously before nodding approvingly. He placed his hand on my shoulder and flashed me to the edge of Camp Half-Blood. I immediately glanced around at my surroundings, taking in the position of the camp. I noticed a massive pine tree with the Golden Fleece on it, guarded by a massive dragon. Looking further, I saw what looked like a large barn and a series of cabins, shaped in a similar fashion to the throne room.
I strode into camp, head held up high. A few campers milling around the various locations just looked at me and whispered to each other, probably asking themselves who I was and who my parent was. A clip clop sound shook me out of my thoughts and I spotted a centaur coming towards me. I recognized him instantly: it was Chiron, the legendary trainer of heroes.
I respected the centaur a lot for the way he trained so many heroes and cared for them all, which led me to bow to him as he approached. Flanking him were the three demigods I had seen fail their mission yesterday. James, the son of Poseidon, glared at me bitterly while Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, nodded appreciatively. Thalia, the daughter of Zeus, kept an emotionless face on and looked at me indifferently.
"Hello child, what's your name?" Chiron asked.
I smiled, "My name is Perseus, and I am far from young."
The centaur looked at me quizzically, raising an eyebrow. I chuckled, "Chiron, if the gods are willing, they will tell you my story."
Chiron looked very surprised, but nodded anyways, "Well then Perseus, make yourself at home. Since you are undetermined, you'll have to sleep in the Hermes cabin. It seems like these three met you on their last extraction mission, so I'll let them show you around."
I merely blinked in acknowledgment, and the centaur turned and returned to the barn structure. I looked back at the three demigods, each sporting a different facial expression. I decided to approach the daughter of Athena, as she seemed friendliest. I could tell she was dying to ask me questions as well, so I walked over.
"Annabeth was your name, right?"
She nodded shyly, blushing slightly. I realized she might be harboring a crush on me, especially since I had complimented her when they were on their mission.
"Don't be shy, I guess your two friends aren't as welcoming, so I decided to talk to the one person who doesn't seem to hate my guts."
Her face broke into a smile. I could see her shyness was beginning to evaporate rapidly.
"How could you talk so casually with Lady Artemis? You are a male mortal and she is a man-hating goddess?" she asked. I grinned, "Me and Artemis go way back, millennia in fact. Although I doubt she remembers me as having aided her then."
The daughter of Athena was absolutely stunned, a look of shock paralyzing her face. I realized instantly that I had revealed my immortality, which would obviously shock her. I waved my hand in front of her face and said, "Anyone there? Annabeth? I probably should've warned you, but I'm not just a mortal demigod, I'm actually immortal. I was born in ancient Greece, at the peak of the gods' era."
Annabeth slowly began snapping out of her mental paralysis as she processed what I said. However, her first question surprised me.
"Which Greek structure do you like the most? I love architecture, and since you were there, at least I think, which was your favorite?"
I thought for a moment before replying, "To be honest, the greatest Greek structure I have ever seen was the throne room of Othrys. It was something surreal, absolutely stunning."
Annabeth gasped and backed away from me. I raised an eyebrow questioningly, but then recalled that she probably thought I was in league with the Titans.
"You actually believe I am allied with the Titans? That I would let that info slip so easily? I expected more from the daughter of a wisdom goddess. In fact, I have an extreme grudge against the Titans, especially Hyperion."
The daughter of Athena nodded slowly, but was clearly intimidated of me anyways by now. She squeaked, "Okay bye now!"
I shook my head sadly; no one ever wanted to trust me above ground. Even a hundred fifty years after Tartarus, I had found no one. Except Zoe. But she was from my time before Tartarus, the greatest era I lived in. I found myself reminiscing deeply about ancient Greece. Nostalgia invaded my being, and I sighed sadly before retiring to the Hermes cabin.
(Several days later)
I was observing the campers and the hunters play capture the flag from a comfortable position in a tree. The last few days had been rather uneventful, and camp was boring. No one posed enough of a challenge for me, so I didn't bother fighting anyone. The hunt, who had been staying at the camp, merely pranked the campers constantly. I had no chance to have time alone with Zoe, my only friend.
The hunters were tearing the campers apart like what apparently was the norm, but James had impressed me. Apparently since his humiliation at the hands of the manticore, he had decided to improve himself. He had trained nonstop while I had been there, and now he had almost given the campers their closest chance at winning in years.
I noticed the daughter of Zeus, Thalia, stomped over towards James, clearly angry about something. I chuckled lightly before shadow traveling out of the tree and between them. Thalia looked at me with shock before narrowing her eyes, "Move out of the way Perseus, unless you want to be shocked too."
I just looked at her with a bemused expression on my face, "Why are you so mad?"
By this time all the campers had gathered around to watch us. Thalia growled, "He was supposed to stay on defense! He cost us the game!"
She quickly raised her spear and fired a bolt of lightning at James, who was standing with his back to the creek. The son of Poseidon quickly dodged, before summoning his powers and raising the creek completely in the air over Thalia. I nodded appreciatively at the son of Poseidon, "Nice James, that's some quality control you got there." Perhaps I was hasty in judging his capabilities with Artemis I thought.
James nodded in acknowledgment before dropping the water on Thalia, who screamed at being drenched.
"I will kill you, Kelp Head." As she prepared to shoot more lightning at James, a gasp suddenly arose from the campers and hunters. I spun around and instantly spotted the disturbance: the Oracle was floating towards our congregation of demigods, glowing with an unearthly green glow. The campers parted for the moving Oracle as it headed straight for the hunters before stopping in front of Zoe. Then, the mummy spoke in our minds, green mist oozing out of its rotted mouth,
"I am the sprit of Delphi. Speaker of the prophecies of Phoebus Apollo, slayer of the mighty Python. Approach, Seeker, and ask."
Zoe swallowed, "What must I do to help my goddess?"
More green mist appeared, as suddenly I saw the vague image of a mountain that I recognized, and a girl standing at the barren peak. It was Artemis, but she was wrapped in chains, tethered to the rocks. She was kneeling, her hands raised as if to fend off an attacker, and it looked like she was in pain. The Oracle spoke,
"Five shall go west to the goddess in chains,
One shall be lost in the land without rain,
The bane of Olympus shows the trail,
Campers and Hunters combined prevail,
The Titan's curse must one withstand,
And one shall perish by a parent's hand."
Then, the mist swirled and retreated like a great green serpent into the mummy's mouth, leaving no trace of movement.
Zoe gulped visibly; I instantly realized what this prophecy meant. I hadn't thought about it much since Apollo had delivered it, but now it made sense. The goddess in chains was clearly Artemis, probably captured on her solo hunt. The bane of Olympus had to be the Ophiotaurus, Artemis' targeted monster. From the visions shown by the Oracle, Artemis was trapped under some sort of burden. The only one that made sense from the clues would mean that she was lifting the sky, which meant that Zoe's quest's destination was none other than her former home.
The place where her father lifted the sky.
The Garden of the Hesperides.
Which meant that the last line… No. I won't allow it.
Everyone was still quiet, shocked by the appearance of the Oracle. Finally, Chiron decided to break the dangerous silence, "Zoe? Who will you take for this quest?"
The huntress just stood still, clearly trying to recover from the prophecy. I could tell she knew exactly what the last line meant. Her beautiful face was contorted with worry; I doubt I could be as incredibly brave as her. A prophecy just decreed her guaranteed death, and I could tell she knew that too.
"Zoe?" Chiron prompted. She immediately made her face blank, not betraying any of the emotion that had been plaguing her for the last few moments.
"I see I have no choice but to take campers. Since five people are required, I will take three hunters and two campers," Zoe commanded coldly. Chiron nodded in acknowledgment, seeing the wisdom in her words.
She continued, "In that case, I will go, along with Phoebe and Bianca." The two named hunters stepped forward. The first one was a bulky girl, clearly strong and gave off the air of a spawn of Ares. The other girl looked much younger, and she was shielding her face within her dark black hair. Her olive skin immediately reminded me of Nico, the kid we had saved the week before. I realized this was his sister, the one who joined the hunt.
Meanwhile, Zoe had been contemplating the campers. Her gaze focused on Thalia before she spoke again, glancing at me slightly, "The campers I want are Thalia and Perseus."
A look of disbelief crossed the face of the daughter of Zeus while Phoebe immediately started complaining about having to travel with a boy, especially one as disrespectful as me. She was probably there when I tied Artemis and evaded the hunt, the memory of which brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately, the angry huntress noticed.
"Boy, why are you smiling? You are useless, disrespectful swine, and I will teach you a lesson. Why would Artemis even want you saving her?"
To my surprise, Thalia intervened, "What are you talking about? He hasn't done anything disrespectful as far as I've seen."
The huntress looked like she was about to retort angrily, but then a flash of light signaling a god's arrival interrupted her. Everyone shielded their eyes as the light took shape. Standing before us was Hermes. The messenger smiled at the campers, all of whom were now bowing low to him. He winked at his children, some of whom returned his wink. He then turned to me and grinned, seeing I hadn't bowed.
"Well Perseus, I see you're not easily impressed."
I laughed. Hermes chuckled a bit too before a serious look took over his face,
"Listen, Perseus, I'm sure you'd love to accompany three man-hating girls and a punk across the country to save a man-hating goddess, Zeus wants to give you a special mission. I'll take you to Olympus."
I raised my eyebrow curiously before nodding my acknowledgment. The daughter of Ares choked, clearly offended at Hermes' descriptions. I turned to Zoe, an apologetic look on my face, "Sorry Zoe, I guess the Fates really do hate me."
She gave me a hidden smile before turning on her cold demeanor immediately. She turned back to the campers, glaring at the boys, all of whom flinched under her harsh glare. Zoe finally decided, "Very well then, I'll take the daughter of Athena."
She nodded to Annabeth, who merely replied, "Okay, I'll come."
Hermes smiled at the group who were to go on the quest before turning back to me and placing a hand on my shoulder, flashing us back to the throne room of Olympus. The council was already assembled, and Zeus looked at me gravely before he began speaking, "Perseus, it has come to our attention that Artemis has been captured. I am beginning to believe the rumors I've heard of my father's attempts at rising. I know you are powerful, your story speaks for itself, and I suspect my father is clever enough to plant spies in Camp Half-Blood."
I nodded; for once, Zeus was being remarkably intelligent. I had a faint suspicion Athena had aided her father, but the King of the Gods seemed rather edgy.
"My daughter Athena proposed we send you to shadow the quest. Apollo has had visions of the quest, and the enemy seemed to know about them. Your aid in supporting them in the dark will be invaluable," he explained. I smirked slightly: I was right about this being Athena's idea.
"Lord Zeus, this idea is indeed an intelligent one. I am willing to help protect the quest," I announced to the council. Zeus looked satisfied, sitting back in his throne while being less tense.
"Very well then Perseus. You can rest for the night here in Olympus and we will send you to the quest's location tomorrow. Remember to remain hidden unless there is a life and death situation."
I blinked in acknowledgment. The gods began flashing out of their thrones until no one remained in the throne room. I glanced at the hearth and immediately corrected myself. A girl no older than nine was tending to the warm flames, her eyes two flaming pits. I instantly recognized her as none other than Hestia. She looked up and saw me looking at her. The goddess's eyes widened in shock initially before a look of pleasant surprise occupied her face.
As I approached her, I bowed low, "Lady Hestia, it is a pleasure."
Her surprised face broke into a wide grin, "Perseus, I have heard your stories. I know you have been through more than most demigods. It has been a long, long time since a demigod last saw me."
Her face turned downcast at her last sentence. I looked at her sad expression and realized that the hearth was flickering, not as solid or as warm as the flames of the legends I heard back in ancient Greece. Hesitantly, I spoke, "Lady Hestia, I fail to understand why demigods cannot see you. Your role at the heart of Olympus is unique and vital. Is that why the hearth seems dimmer than what I had heard?"
She looked at me for a few moments, then said, "It is not only that. I can feel demigods losing hope, turning on their parents. They want respect, they want recognition. Hope is the fuel of the hearth; these demigods are joining my father. With each soul that loses hope, each one that joins him, the hearth dies a bit."
I was astounded by this information. I had known demigods were joining Kronos, but not to the degree where they would affect the hearth of Olympus. I just looked sadly at Hestia and her dying hearth.
"The inability of the gods to control themselves will be the end of them," I said softly. She merely nodded, unable to take her eyes off of the faint flames.
"You are wise, Perseus. I know that if there is one person that can change the course of this soon-to-come war, it is you."
I smiled at her praise, bowing gratefully, "You are truly flattering me, Lady Hestia. I am but a mere demigod."
She waved away my attempts to not accept the praise, before smiling widely, "Do not lose hope, Perseus. No matter the darkest situation, hope will always accompany you and lead you down the right path. Now go rest Perseus, you have a long quest ahead of you."
I nodded in acknowledgment, then she placed her hand on my shoulder and flashed me into a dark room. I realized this was probably the quarters Zeus had given me, so I walked over to the bed and fell asleep, thinking about Artemis' predicament, the quest, and what bothered me the most of all: