The wind battered violently around a hunched over figure, snow and hail crashing brutally into it. The weather howled its fury as nature enacted its wrath upon the helpless figure, tossed around like a rag doll in the violent storm. The figure tried to move but it felt frozen in place. Panic coursed through its veins as its mind clawed for it to get to safety. Instinctively it reached out, somehow, to try to affect the storm assaulting him, but its efforts were futile and the results humiliating. Its energy completely drained, it collapsed from its hunched over position, lying still on the cold, snowy ground.
Mountains towered around the figure as it shivered, the ice seeping into its bones, freezing its hopes. This is in your mind! yelled a voice, familiar but at the same time strange, mystifying the figure. It was then that it realized it did not know who or what it was, nor where it was. All the figure felt was an all-encompassing, chilling cold and a torturous feeling of desolation.
The figure wanted to cry out from the sheer loneliness and pain it felt but it could not move, frozen on the ground unyielding. Just as the figure wished to disappear and never return, an incredible warmth surrounded it. An angelic voice rang through the figure's ears, warmth flowing through its veins and revitalizing its body. The figure's body unfroze, feeling tingling in his fingers.
It tried hopelessly to make out what the voice was saying, but it was in vain: all it could make out was an incredibly mesmerizing earthy smell that hung around the warmth that now cocooned it. The figure's mouth twitched into motion, lips curling into what was to be a smile, but the shock of the cold and desolation contrasted with the warmth and safety it felt afterwards proved too much, and with a rush of black the figure disappeared under a sudden stormy onslaught.
Percy's eyes blinked open, the surroundings slowly coming into focus. An odd feeling of dread rose up in his subconscious but Percy brushed it aside, recalling the perilous state of his adopted mother. He found himself once again looking at the bright, white room in the medical wing of Apollo's palace he had rested in after his fight against Mars. He sighed, exasperated, at the now steadily familiar sight. He swung himself over to the side of the bed, standing up cautiously. This habit was beginning to become rather pathetic – twice in two weeks he had completely exhausted himself fighting entities more powerful or more numerous than himself, and he wasn't staying awake.
He padded out of the room, slightly surprised at Apollo's absence, but did not care too much. Percy needed to make sure Hera survived.
Percy strolled down the hall, occasionally glancing into rooms. Inconveniently, none of the rooms were marked with names. Most likely Apollo could detect the inhabitants of each room thanks to his godly powers, which, despite his substantial power, Percy did not have. Finally, after walking past what seemed like a hundred rooms – the demigod was surprised Apollo attended to so many patients, but he supposed the god was the god of healing for a reason – he finally found his adopted mother's room.
He entered it cautiously, an unnerving feeling of helplessness coursing through his veins. Percy looked at the bed, noticing Hera's unconscious form lying across it, out of her traditional queenly clothes. She looked peaceful, her face relaxed for once, unstressed by royal duties or an image that she had to put up. The closest she got to her current state was when she spent time with Percy, but even that time had always been overarched by a fear of being discovered.
Percy sat in the chair next to Hera's bedside and reached his hand out, clasping his adopted mother's hand in his own. He raised it and lowered his forehead to it, a tear dropping from his right eye. Hera's hands were so cold, so limp – she had hung on to life after the draining by a mere fraction of her enormous power, Porphyrion's revival having torn away her godly energy. Despite the expected recovery, Hera's condition was more severe than any in history – Apollo did not have a medical precedent for her situation. In effect, Hera was in a coma for an indeterminate amount of time, and this both angered and saddened Percy.
All his power had been worthless – Porphyrion had shrugged off all his straightforward attacks in his weakest form, and it was only thanks to the secret property of Anaklusmos and a cowardly stab in the back that he had managed to get rid of the King of the Giants temporarily. He had been unable to overpower Gaea's earth prison at a fraction of the primordial's power – she was asleep and he could not budge Hera's prison.
Releasing Hera's hand and narrowing his eyes angrily, Percy stood up and strode towards the wall. In a fluid movement borne of incessant practice, he pulled out Anaklusmos, changing it into its sword form, and buried it into the wall in rage. The celestial bronze blade drove through, several inches digging into the Olympic palace wall, courtesy of Percy's inhuman strength gained from the curse of Achilles. His powers flickered in the wake of his unstable emotions, constantly threatening to bubble up and overtake him, but Percy snarled and overpowered them with his sheer will. He already could not use the power he had mastered to save Hera from this uncertain fate – there was no way he would lose control of what he had gained.
Flexing his fingers around the hilt of Anaklusmos, Percy ripped it out of the wall and held it horizontally upon the palms of his hand. He fell to his knees next to Hera, and spoke in a quiet, hard voice, "I swear upon Anaklusmos and my own life that I will gain the power I need so that no one I care for will never get hurt again."
As he spoke, images flashed through his mind rapidly: Sally, Paul, and Hera. Every parental figure he had ever had seemed to disappear the moment something favorable happened to him, but Percy had enough of being the playthings of the gods and the Fates. He could care less what happened to the rest of Olympus – all that mattered to him was his patrons, Hestia and Athena, as well as Hera amongst the gods. Thalia and Nico had not betrayed him – he would fight for them. The Roman camp had ingratiated itself into his shielded heart as well, but he did not trust them not to betray him as the Greek camp had done yet. Wrapping his left hand around the sharp blade of his trademark sword, Percy stared emotionlessly at his invulnerable skin effortlessly handling one of the deadliest blades in existence. He knew he had the potential to do what he vowed and no one would stop him from doing so.
Polybotes ran riot through the forward line of the legion. The original divided legions had by now melded together, forming one uniform group, but the giant was far too powerful for them to defeat. Hazel, Frank, and Will, who had brought down Alcyoneus, had done so only a few hours back, and were not strong enough to bring down another giant, one who was even more powerful than the bane of Hades.
Reyna had retrieved Scipio and was once again attempting to distract Polybotes. Her weapon constantly opened small lacerations across the giant's skin, but the bane of Poseidon's incredible regenerative factor made all the minor injuries irrelevant without moments. Diving in, Scipio dodged around the outstretched hand of Polybotes and went into the giant's guard. Reyna leapt off her Pegasus and drove her gladius into where a human's heart would be located, the blade driving completely into the giant up to the hilt. Reyna hung off her weapon, her weight dragging the blade down, opening a rather massive wound.
Meanwhile, Will and his archers took advantage of the situation. The archers fired a hail of arrows at Polybotes' recently wounded chest area, peppering the open tear with arrows upon arrows, causing the giant to roar in fury. Will, however, called upon a power he had recalled with the return of his memories. He had been training for the last few months before he had been abducted from Camp Half-Blood to perfect his photo kinesis, and this was his opportunity to make use of the power. Holding his bow out, line extended and taut, holding one of his arrows, the son of Apollo drew upon his powers and infused the arrow with his demigod energy.
Firing the arrow directly at where Polybotes' heart would have been located, Will rapidly raised both hands and channeled pure light in front of his palms into a ball of light, which he pushed towards Polybotes in the wake of his arrow. During this, the giant plucked Reyna off his chest, the wound beginning to heal, and brought her face up to his face level. He gave her a smirk and said, "Your effort was valiant, but quite futile. Where is –" His question was interrupted when he released an ear piercing roar and fell to his feet. A large arrow stuck out of his chest where the older wound had been healing, pulsating with power. Then, Polybotes screamed again, even louder this time, as he dropped Reyna. The ball of light Will had thrown completely caught Poseidon's bane off guard and had blinded the giant, leaving him very vulnerable.
"This is our chance!" roared Will. "All legionnaires free, attack the giant!"
Reyna landed roughly, pain ripping through her, and fell into a roll to soften the long drop. She glanced up to see the seriously wounded Polybotes kneeling vulnerably before their forces. Looking back over, Reyna saw a unit of legionnaires splitting off from the clash with the Earthborn and heading over to the giant, led by Will Solace himself. Grimacing, the praetor moved to intercept Will, to warn him about how the giants could not be killed unless a god added their power to a demigods, but her left leg failed her, and she collapsed.
What is this? thought Reyna in frustration. I need to stop them! When she tried to move her leg again, piercing pain coursed through her veins, and horror slowly dawned on her. Upon the massive fall, her ankle must've gotten broken during her attempt to soften the landing. She returned her attention to the legionnaires that were heading towards their imminent demise in the form of a heavily wounded Polybotes. Angrily, Reyna glanced at the skies and realized that the gods would not come and aid them despite all the efforts they had put into defeating the giant. It was vulnerable, and if they had even a bit of godly aid, the camp could be saved.
Polybotes' wounds gradually stitched up as the giant glanced up, eyes still ruined by the massive photo kinetic ball Will had thrown at him, but his godly senses could detect a group of demigods moving towards him. Calmly sweeping his hand from the right, the giant controlled the New Tiber effortlessly, the water changing into poison in midair. At incredible speeds the torpedo of poisoned water flew towards the onrushing Roman demigods, crashing into them. It threw them back violently and into disarray, screams of pain arising as the acidic water rapidly burned through their armor and began scalding their skin. Will had attempted to raise a barrier of light, but he did not yet have the endurance necessary to protect himself from the power of Polybotes.
Reyna watched in horror as a weakened Polybotes effortlessly dispatched some of their strongest fighters. Clearly, the giant had been toying with them and that underestimation was what caused his massive injuries at Will's hands. Now, Poseidon's bane was collected and using his true powers. The camp would be lost if more aid did not come soon. Despite the legion and the Amazons having defeated the majority of the Earthborn army and already having gotten rid of the original monster army, they would all be wiped out by Polybotes.
The giant roared in fury as his eyes further healed, rising to his imposing full height. Polybotes snarled, a stark contrast to the mocking laughter he had been taunting them with since the beginning. Maybe they had gained a modicum of respect from the giant, no matter how irrelevant it was, or perhaps the giant was simply furious, but the sight of the once heavily injured giant effortlessly regaining its healthy shape struck fear deep into the core of the Roman legionnaires.
Despite their code and the honor the Romans prided themselves, this sight broke many of the fighters, who felt they were facing the unbeatable, that Polybotes was invincible. With the rapidly diminishing morale, the Earthborn pushed forward, the creations of Gaea mauling through the front lines of the legion, breaking their rigid formation and changing the tide of that battle too.
Polybotes did not let up at Will and his minor unit of legionnaires. Raising his hand as if hailing a leader, Polybotes reanimated all the poisonous water he had just launched at them, coalescing it above them into an enormous bubble. The water was a sickly green, so different from the Little Tiber's clear blue, the giant's twisted, corrupt power infesting the once pure water and turning it into the worst of poisons.
Poseidon's bane smirked and swirled its hand, the ball of warped water bending and writhing into a violent rotating tornado-like form, the poison bubbling and hissing audibly. The injured and helpless demigods that had accompanied Will on his offensive lay prone on the ground, those unlucky enough to be conscious wide-eyed at the effortless display of power. Reyna crawled across the ground in vain, trying to do anything to stop the giant, ignoring her already broken ankle bone digging out of her skin, pushing the pain down. Will, drained of energy and utterly exhausted, half-heartedly threw up his hands. A spark of light flickered above his palms and tried to spread out, but it died out instantly.
The twister of poisonous water lowered slowly, deliberately onto the Romans. Polybotes was smirking cruelly, clearly delighted at the horror coursing through his victims. Death was literally hanging over Will and his fellow demigods. The giant sadistically lowered the tornado further, drilling the bottom part accurately through three demigods, who began screaming as their chests and organs were torn apart and eaten through by the poisonous water. Before they could find solace in the arms of death, Polybotes raised the tornado once more. Moans of pain still rang from the three Roman legionnaires hanging on to life by a thread. It was clear their wounds were fatal – the poison still ate away at their bodies.
Several of the other legionnaires could not keep their stomach under control at the sight of their fellow demigods. Even Reyna, with her cold composure, had to take a breath and push back bile. Sweeping his arms around, almost gracefully, Polybotes manipulated the tornado into a wave, then brought it low on the ground. With a flourish that seemed more fitting for the conclusion of a dance routine, he sent the wave rushing at the prone forms of the brave legionnaires. Reyna shut her eyes, rage causing her to ball her fists. She couldn't watch her courageous warriors be devoured by Polybotes' cruel power while she lay here unable to change their fates.
Will watched helplessly as well as the wave began encompassing the Romans he had led towards Polybotes. He cursed himself incessantly about what a fool he had been, about how rashly he acted. Now he would die by the hand of Polybotes, and war would spark between the Greeks and the Romans due to his death.
He paused as the wave came towards him as a torrent, a symphony of screams accompanying his deaths as the deadly acidic water devoured the legionnaires. He could not go down like this. He would forge the alliance between the Greeks and Romans. Humanity would prevail over Gaea. It could not end like this. And now that he had regained his memories, he had to find out more about that praetor Percy Jackson. He had too much to do to die here.
Reaching within himself with unshakable resolve and iron will, the son of Apollo felt his godly side awaken to a greater degree than ever before. He screamed as an influx of power coursed through his veins, barely managing to direct his arms towards the oncoming wave of poisoned water as blinding white light exploded out of his hands like a cannonball. It collided with Polybotes' power with an explosion that echoed across the entire Field of Mars, turning heads from both the main Roman legionnaire body, Amazons, and the Earthborn army. Polybotes cocked an eyebrow in surprise at the power of the puny demigod, but merely channeled more power to overpower him.
Will's last effort had managed to conserve his life and a handful of his fellow legionnaires on the path of the wave, but now he had expended too much. He could not handle such a large change in the composition of his power, and he slipped into blissful unconsciousness.
Polybotes stood above the prone figures of the survivors of his tainted wave, momentarily debating whether or not to kill them. The boy with the power of the sun had impressed him – Poseidon's nemesis did not expect a mere mortal to be able to match his powers – he would not mind facing him again. Killing a warrior like that, despite his weak mortal origin, while they were unable to fight back took the fun out of the killing. Deciding to spare the boy while killing the other legionnaires who had been fortunate to be shielded by the mortal's power, Polybotes swung his massive head over towards the other survivor of the battle with him.
The massive giant absentmindedly launched more corrupted and poisonous water from the Little Tiber towards the main army of legionnaires clashing with the seemingly never-ending river of Earthborn. The fight had originally been largely in the favor of the Romans and Amazons, but since the Earthborn had managed to break the first row of the legionnaire formation, the tide was beginning to turn. Unfortunately for the Romans, the situation worsened drastically as Polybotes' tainted water missile crashed into the reforming front lines. Many Earthborn died, but the rest of their brethren pushed on, uncaring of their comrades' demise. Meanwhile the slowly reforming front line formation utterly shattered upon impact, dozens of legionnaires dying, their last screams echoing across the Field of Mars.
The Earthborn pressed their advantage, innumerable and unyielding, targeting the weak portions of the rigid formation the Romans tried to hold. Slowly, inevitably, the unbending front line began collapsing as the Earthborn managed to force an opening through the flank and middle, attacking the remaining portions of the vanguard from multiple angles and pushing it back towards New Rome. The Amazons, unused to the formation drills the Romans underwent, began splitting from the main body and getting isolated in the fight with the Earthborn army.
Reyna watched in horror as the powerful Twelfth Legion began crumbling under the incessant pressure of the creations of the primordial goddess Gaea, her wounded ankle preventing her from moving and being able to do something – anything – to save the Roman camp that had done so much for her. Her attention from the retreating army turned back to Polybotes as the giant approached her. She no longer had the heart to even look over at the unit of legionnaires that Polybotes massacred and refused to look at the remains of Will Solace, the brave Greek who tried to match the power of a giant.
A tear pooled in the corner of her eye, threatening to trickle down at the downfall of everything that composed her life. She blinked furiously, trying to rid herself of this tear – this weakness that marked her everywhere she went. Her father – Circe's Island – now the Roman camp… Weakness… Even now, when she was meant to be strong, she found herself an ant before the tide, a mere speck of dust unable to affect the world. Defiantly the single tear dripped down onto her cheek, rolling down slowly. Her last tear – Reyna swore this would be the end of her weakness. Whether it be due to her death or due to actions in the future, this would be the end of her shortcomings.
And Percy. Her fellow praetor, her fellow warrior, a man she thought she could trust with leading the legion in times of peril – he was absent, taken away from his duties once more to places unknown. How could he let her down – let the legion down like this? First his grudge with Mars, then his absence following his leaving to save his adopted mother. Reyna could respect the devotion to family, but that had been days ago… His home would soon be ruined because he was not defending what he had sworn to defend when he was marked as a member of the legion, when he accepted the position of praetor.
Perhaps he would fly in to save the day at the end, but that would not bring back the hundreds of legionnaires who had already perished, whether it be in battle against Polybotes or the monster army. His absence when it truly matters engraved itself into Reyna's heart. Shamefully, the once proud praetor dropped her head in submission and defeat to the bane of Poseidon towering in front of her.
"Haha!" chuckled Polybotes as he observed Reyna's subdued form. "I see even the mighty praetor has conceded and has been vanquished." Dropping to one knee and kneeling in front of her, lowering his head, Polybotes hissed, "Where is all your spirit and defiance now, Reyna Avila Ramirez Arellano?"
Clenching her fists, Reyna felt adrenaline and fury course through her veins, but remained silent. Unless a god appeared, nothing she could do would affect the giant.
Polybotes let the silence hang for a while longer before laughing again, rising back up to his full imposing height, "But of course… It hasn't dissipated completely, has it? No… You still nurture a pathetic hope – you still think a god will appear – you still think that they care…"
Reyna lifted her head and met the giant's gaze despite the fear she felt.
"You are a fool," murmured Polybotes. "Your puny gods cannot defeat us – not now, not when they are so weak! It is fear that keeps them from interfering, mortal. This same fear that governs us all has imprisoned those who you worship."
Reyna's eyes widened slightly at Polybotes' words. She thought the giants were insane beings, only focused upon their goal, and had expected their years of isolation to have exacerbated their ill mentality, but the giant was proving to be far more rational and sane than she expected since he had stopped underestimating them. Perhaps his words were true… but she could not reveal her doubts now.
The praetor's voice came out slightly shaky, undercurrents of fear running through, but regardless she did not stutter.
"You believe I am wrong?" asked Polybotes mockingly.
"Yes," replied Reyna, gaining confidence. "It may not be the gods, and many of them may be cowards. I may die before it occurs. But we – demigods – we will fight you. Despite our mortality, despite our weakness… You will always have enemies in us."
Polybotes chuckled softly before roaring with laughter, "You have the spirit of a warrior, mortal! A shame you are on the wrong side! I will give you this opportunity to join us, and Gaea will gift you a land which you may rule over once the war is over."
"…No," answered Reyna. "You say I have the spirit of a warrior? A true warrior fights to the end for the side they have chosen."
"As expected, nonetheless disappointing. Then face your death like a warrior as well, Reyna Avila Ramirez Arellano."
Polybotes raised his hand and exerted his surreal power, pulling water out of the clouds far above them. The pure condensed water corrupted in the air on its way down, changing once again into a tainted color of water, before coalescing into a massive spear the length of the giant's height. The spear froze into ice, poisonous tip facing downwards, before Polybotes gripped it powerfully. Reyna felt her hands shake, but did not close her eyes.
The bane of Poseidon smirked before raising the spear he had formed, releasing a wave of his godly energy, the intense pressure forcing Reyna down onto her back.
And he stabbed downwards.
"So you're here. I'd wondered where you'd gone."
Percy remained unmoving next to Hera's bed, Anaklusmos sheathed into its pen form and replaced in his pocket. Apollo moved forward from standing in the outline of the door, stopping next to Percy and looking down at the unmoving form of the Queen of the Heavens.
"When will she wake?" asked Percy in a hoarse voice.
Apollo remained silent for a few moments, before speaking, "I've never seen this severity before. I don't know how she survived her core being completely drained."
The god extended his hand, a golden glow forming around it as he moved it up and down above Hera's body, scanning her vitals.
"Her core isn't replenishing for some reason…" Apollo shook his head shamefully, unable to provide a solution.
"What use are you then as a god of medicine?" Percy hissed, his tone slowly getting angrier. "You're supposed to be Olympus' healer –"
Apollo turned sharply towards the demigod, eyes narrowing at his impertinence.
"Are you aware of who you're talking to like this?"
"I am addressing the one who was meant to heal my mother," he replied coldly.
The tension mounted in the air as the two stared each other down, unyielding. This lasted until Apollo sighed, his formerly taut face relaxing into an expression Percy had never seen on him.
"I understand, Percy. You're furious because your mother might be taken away from you again."
Percy's fists clenched and he opened his mouth, but Apollo cut across him.
"I'm not finished yet." The sun god began walking towards the window of the room letting out onto the grounds of his palace. "Millennia ago I felt the same thing, you know. When Artemis and I became Olympians… We had to leave our mother, who went through so much hardship for us two."
Percy remained silent, surprised at Apollo's sudden bout of reminiscing.
"It was Hera who tormented her so – who caused our pains during childhood… but regardless – regardless of who caused that pain, when we had to leave her, I felt more pain than I ever have. I left the one woman who loved me unconditionally. And when I learned of her fate – that she was dying slowly – I could not go save her."
The god spun around furiously, eyes piercing Percy's, "Do you know how I felt? All this healing power – I am the god of medicine – but I wasn't allowed to go help her. I tore landscapes apart in my rage – my relationship with Artemis began disappearing after this – but above all, I had lost my mother. You are furious right now at the wrong person; do not forget that I am doing everything I can to bring back Hera."
The demigod blinked, shocked at how much Apollo differed from the persona he projected around everyone normally. His own rage ebbed away during the story, realizing how irrational he was being.
"I…" Percy paused awkwardly. "I'm sorry. I let my emotions control me again."
Apollo's eyes softened, "Listen kid – I will save Hera. Believe it."
Raising his hand, a golden glow enveloped Percy. The demigod, already getting familiar with this, relaxed as the god scanned his vitals.
"You're good to go, Percy. I'll send you back to Camp Jupiter."
"Thanks. I'm sorry again about earlier – just tell me if you have any progress with my mother."
"I will. Take care, kid."
Apollo smiled blindingly, snapping his fingers as Percy disappeared into a golden light.
Fifteen Earthborn surrounded her from every side, her head spinning at the sight of all the enemies encircling her. The six armed clay monsters all clutching sharpened rock creations they formed in approached her viciously, but she sprang into action despite her depleted energy. Golden blades glinting in the deceptive sunlight, she swirled, dismembering the closest Earthborn effortlessly, the monster roaring in pain as its six arms dropped to the ground. Without pausing, she spun once more, dual blades slashing through the air, bisecting another Earthborn, the top half of the body soaring with the momentum and colliding with the armless Earthborn, knocking it down into the path of another charging one. As it fell, she leapt on its head, forcing it down, then twisted in the air, dual blades extending and beheading two more Earthborn.
She landed powerfully, now outside of the encircling ring of monsters, having eliminated a third of her direct enemies. Without giving the surprised Earthborn a time to regroup and reform, she dove back into the bunch, swords swinging swiftly and precisely into the killing points of the Earthborn. In a matter of minutes mounds of gold dust surrounded her. Raising a hand to her forehead during this brief moment of respite, she wiped off the gold dust and blood that had gotten on her face.
Piper smirked at her success once more and glanced behind her, at her pride, her First Cohort. Despite everything piled against them, all the odds against them, they were still fighting – still giving their all. They held the line strong against the numerous Earthborn while rallying the other faltering cohorts where the Earthborn had gained footholds offensively. She roared provocatively, chanting a traditional Camp Jupiter victory chant to rouse the Roman spirit of her legionnaires. She was rewarded with a mighty roar followed by an echoing chant from the First Cohort which spread to the other retreating Cohorts, reviving their fire.
The daughter of Venus raised one golden blade to the sky, and directed it towards the thin division of monsters dividing the main Roman body with the smaller Amazon force, which was getting assaulted from multiple sides and had dug into the side of the Fields of Mars in order to repel attacks as safely as possible.
"We need to link up with them!" she shouted to the First Cohort legionnaires closest to her. "Follow my lead!"
She received attention from a handful of the most daring legionnaires of the entirety of Camp Jupiter, and smiled at them. Once their attention was on her, she plunged into the thin group of monsters, dual blades already slashing with deadly accuracy causing her enemies to dissipate into clouds of golden dust. Following her lead were a dozen First Cohort legionnaires who flanked her powerfully, the unit ripping a path through prone Earthborn rapidly straight to the Amazon group, easing off pressure there. Taking advantage of the weakness, the Amazons struck at the off guard Earthborn, pinning them between the Roman unit and themselves.
With the initiative led by Piper, the rest of the Amazon force blitzed the leftover Earthborn from the group that was keeping them on the defensive, tearing them to shreds with minimal casualties, gaining them a flank. This minor victory rejuvenated the entire Camp Jupiter army as they once again gained the advantage in the ground battle. Despite their success, Piper used a short break from the battle to look over towards Polybotes, who was further away from the main fighting, clutching a massive spear in his hand. It was pointed downwards, and as he stabbed downwards, Piper gasped in horror. Somehow the daughter of the goddess of beauty had a horrible feeling that one of her friends was about to be killed.
Frank tore furiously through the Earthborn, leading the Fifth Cohort charge enveloped in a maddening red aura. Sword out and armor bloody, the son of Mars seemed utterly untouchable, monsters disappearing into dust due to his fighting moments after they came within range. The blessing of Mars had made the chubby Asian boy a killing machine, gold dust raining down around, almost as it was a thick, golden mist.
He roared bestially, tearing and shredding everything in his path, senses only controlled enough to recognize the difference between friend and foe. Despite his attempts to be a one man army, the sheer number of enemies rendered his efforts much less visible, though Frank's tenacity kept the flickering embers of hope of the rest of his cohort alive.
Spinning around, Frank instinctively pulled a knife out of his vest and threw it at insane speeds, blade coated with the crimson red aura of Mars' blessing as it hurtled through an Earthborn and continued, piercing through five more consecutively, all the monsters exploding into golden dust. After releasing the knife, he slashed through several Earthborn before raising his hand and calling back the weapon he had just thrown, the blessing of Mars increasing his control over all of his weapons.
Suddenly, a massive explosion of light drew his sharpened attention over to the side. Below the feral, instinctive warrior mentality incurred by the blessing of Mars, Frank recognized the godly powers of his now close friend Will Solace. Somehow the demigod could feel his friend had just given his all in a last effort to defeat the behemoth of the battlefield. Eyes narrowing into mere slits, his fury multiplying exponentially, Frank plunged back into the fray, sword and knife stabbing and dismembering with a vengeance, a sight so extraordinary some legionnaires just stopped and stared in awe during breaks in the fighting. Despite the innumerable Romans falling, a greater amount gained conviction and followed Frank's deadly lead.
After having eliminated another series of Earthborn, the son of Mars attention was unconsciously attracted back to Polybotes – and he froze in shock. Snapping out his brutal killing mentality induced by his powers, Frank stared wide-eyed as an enormous frozen spear descended from the clouds into the giant's powerful grasp. Moments later, the weapon plunged down.
He could not think of anything else to say except: "Oh gods…"
A golden flash through the woods marked the return of Percy Jackson to the mortal world from Olympus. The demigod slowly stood from his kneeling position, facing the Caldecott Tunnel–
Except it wasn't there. The guarded tunnel that was the entrance to Camp Jupiter was in ruins, a wide opening with a ground filled with rubble the only remnant. Looking around wildly, Percy saw the traces of trees destroyed around the remains of the tunnel, and despite not being a god, he knew instinctively the magical barrier shielding the camp was no more. With haste he began sprinting, picking a quick path through the rubble of the Caldecott Tunnel.
Once he could see the Field of Mars in the distance, his eyes widened in horror as he spotted an enormous figure similar to Porphyrion's, which meant that it had to be a giant. It clutched a giant spear in its hand. Further to the right of the giant there was an enormous clash between the Roman legionnaires, Amazons and monsters. The barracks were trampled and in ruins, the ground was coated with golden dust, corpses, and blood, and Percy knew his absence was costly. He was the most powerful man in the entire legion and he had not been present when their home had been thus assaulted. Why hadn't the gods helped? Why hadn't Apollo warned him?
He began teleporting short distances, disappearing and reappearing in columns of flames. He could not afford to teleport further in case he appeared in a life threatening situation. As Percy approached the giant, he pulled out his trusty pen and flicked the cap off, transforming it into the legendary Anaklusmos. However, before his eyes, the giant drove the spear downwards, and a horrifying scream tore across the camp.
Pain beyond pain, torture the likes of which she had never felt before. Reyna's eyes were wide open as the spear tore down into her body. Someone was screaming but she couldn't make out who it was through the white hot blinding agony she was going through. With growing horror she realized it was herself. Stabbing pain drove up her arm and she glanced down to see her lower arm completely shredded with a gaping hole in the middle. Reyna had rolled aside at the last moment and dodged the spear stab to the heart, but she couldn't avoid it completely. Her hand was barely hanging off her arm, and she couldn't move it.
However, Polybotes did not merely wield a large spear – it was composed of the corrupted water he wielded, and this corruption had spread into Reyna's body upon contact. She watched helplessly as her arm began burning from the inside as if her bones and muscles were being torn apart cell by cell. Her screams multiplied as she felt the corruption and poison move up her lower arm towards her upper arm. Glancing up through the pain she could see a small smirk on the giant's face as he enjoyed her slow death – Reyna could not give up. She had sworn not to be weak. Gritting her teeth as the poison moved up her arm, Reyna twisted back over and reached out for her gladius, forsaking the pain to clutch the sword with her right hand.
Rolling over again, missing the flash of orange flames in her peripheral vision, the praetor braced herself and slashed down. She clamped her teeth down as pain ripped through her body before her shoulder numbed. Opening her eyes that she had not noticed she had even closed, Reyna looked down at her arm – or where her arm used to be. Bile rose to her mouth, the taste making her want to vomit. The wound was bleeding violently, and the forcefully amputated arm on the ground was still shriveling and corrupting from Polybotes' spear.
Moving as quickly as she could with merely one arm, she tore off her praetor robes and tried to tie it around her shoulder, pulling on the knot to stop the blood flow. The tourniquet was awkwardly placed but it would hopefully do the job until she could make it to a healer. Momentarily during her rapid reaction she wondered why Polybotes hadn't tried to kill her again when suddenly the air around her began heating up tremendously.
"Well, well, well," Polybotes chuckled. "The star attraction – the son of my bane – has arrived. You are a bit late, do you not think so?"
Percy! Reyna felt the heat skyrocket and looked on disbelievingly at the sight of her fellow praetor – who was absent throughout the battle – erupting in a furious column of flames between her and the bane of Poseidon.
"You'll regret hurting Reyna," Percy said coldly.
Polybotes laughed, "You are an amusing mortal, Perseus Jackson. I can see why mother is interested in you."
"A shame I'm only interested in killing her for what she did to my mother," replied Percy, unfazed. "And you're in the way."
Launching himself forward, Percy raised Anaklusmos in an offensive position as he charged Polybotes, incurring the giant to raise his own weapon in order to spear the demigod. However, to the surprise of the giant and Reyna, Percy disappeared into a fine mist and reappeared next to Reyna in a split second, before wrapping his arms around her firmly and teleported away to the medical tents they had set up in New Rome in a flash of flames.
"We need someone quick!" Percy yelled upon appearing, shifting Reyna into a bridal carry. The nearest healers, a son and daughter of Apollo, immediately moved into action at the sight of their prone position of their praetor. Laying her down onto a medical bed, Percy turned away to return to the battlefield and legitimately fight Polybotes, but felt a grip on his arm. Reyna. He shoved away the guilt at what his absence had cost her, knowing this was not the time for it.
"Percy," Reyna whispered. It conveyed so much, the pain, the betrayal she felt, and simply the question behind it all. Why wasn't he there? Closing his eyes, Percy pushed down the guilt again.
"I have to go fight him, Reyna."
The female praetor finally lost her grip on consciousness, the exhaustion from the lengthy battle and the shock of losing her arm and blood too much, and the healers were immediately at work, minor powers of healing on max in order to stem the blood flow without a tourniquet and to work on alleviating the stump wound.
Percy disappeared in a pillar of flames and reappeared in front of Polybotes, an icy, detached expression on his face. Normally he enjoyed fighting a lot, especially the challenge of facing a more powerful opponent, but considering what the giant had done to Reyna – no, there would be no fun in this battle… There was hell to pay.
Polybotes chuckled again, "A warrior she was to the end, still trying to escape death. Not many can forcefully amputate themselves. For a mortal that is a feat worthy of respect. A shame that with no arm she can no longer fi –"
"Shut the fuck up," Percy interrupted. "I – I am going to tear you apart – limb from limb, giant!"
"Big words for one so small," the bane of Poseidon mocked. "Do you know who I am? I was the giant made to oppose your father! What can you possibly do to stop me?"
Percy's eyes flashed, "He is not my father."
Without further ado, he leapt into the air, Anaklusmos unsheathing in a split second and raised high. Polybotes swung his spear down and met Percy's blow, surprised by the demigod's unyielding strength. The giant jabbed forward, but it was deflected with some difficulty by Percy. They engaged in a duel of weapons, Polybotes driving the son of Hera back due his superior strength.
"You surprise me," Polybotes said while batting away a series of swings by Percy. "Your strength is enough to go head to head with me, and you are but a mortal."
Percy remained emotionless and silent, merely opting to change the tempo of the battle. Flipping over Polybotes' swinging spear, he threw Anaklusmos at the giant's hand, the spinning sword slicing cleanly through his thumb. Polybotes roared in fury, shifting his hand position to adjust to the loss of his thumb. Snarling, Polybotes took advantage of Percy's weaponless state to mount an incessant attack, forcing Percy to constantly dodge the blows, waiting for his blade to return to him. However, despite the giant's reduced spear mobility, he was skilled enough to finally predict Percy's path, and stabbed forward to the right while Percy was anticipating an attack on the left.
The spearhead drove into Percy's chest, slamming into him with tremendous force and sending him flying back into the dust, breath completely knocked out. He gasped for air, ribs feeling as if they had been broken. Despite his curse of Achilles, enough pressure still damaged the inside of his body since the invincibility only affected the outside, and Polybotes certainly had enough to deal major damage.
"You are lucky you have that wretched curse, mortal," the bane of Poseidon taunted. "My poison would have torn through your body had it pierced your skin even a bit."
Gritting his teeth at how outmatched he was in a straight weapons fight, Percy felt Anaklusmos return to him. He could not simply attack the giant with water either – despite the bravado he had projected, the fact that Polybotes could effortlessly corrupt and manipulate any of that water around him made his trump card much less effective. In fact, it would be giving his opponent a weapon. He had only one choice to fight on par with this giant, and it was something he had only thought about, never truly practiced.
He had to, for the sake of this camp, which had taken him in when he had nowhere to go. All secrets were exposed with time anyways – he couldn't afford to hold back any longer.
Struggling back to his feet, Percy was greeted with the sight of Polybotes leisurely walking towards him, confident in his absolute victory.
"Ready to give up?"
Channeling all his power from the blessing of Hestia, Percy felt a tremendous pit of fire building in his gut, flames merely fanned by the utter rage he felt. Manipulating his powers courtesy of Hera, he sharpened his attention and released all the built up power. Fire exploded outwards from his form, tailoring upwards and enveloping him completely. Polybotes took a step backwards in surprise while Percy just kept channeling his power, making the flames expand and tower to the height of the giant himself.
Now focusing, he imposed his will onto the bestial nature of the flames, bending it to his desires and forming into a massive figure of fire. Ironically, the design that came to his mind was that of Porphyrion – the king of the giants would be an accomplice to strike down his own fellow giant. The flames roared as arms erupted from the mass of fire, clenching a massive Anaklusmos.
Percy stood inside of the massive fire giant, eyes closed with his inheritance from Hera contributing to his impeccable control over the wild fire. He could feel through the figure somehow – it wasn't true vision like with his eyes, but a sort of sensory perception. Polybotes appeared as a massive blurry figure, defined enough for Percy to fight.
Despite the initial surprise, the giant did not let it distract him. He let his spear dissipate back into corrupted water and instead held out his hand, summoning back his true weapon, his trident. The tri-pronged weapon dripped with venom and looked terrifying. With a roar the two clashed, Anaklusmos meeting the trident.
As he got used to manipulating the giant of fire, Percy accelerated his blows, translating his own superior mobility into an incredible barrage of slashes and slices, forcing Polybotes on the defensive. The thumb that Percy had sliced off had yet to return, and it obliged the giant to merely defend, taking advantage of the lengthy trident as a staff to deal with the demigods swift and powerful blows.
The flaming figure advanced on the giant, strikes merely speeding up. Percy was fully healed and rested, and his energy had never felt better – Polybotes had been regenerating from wounds for hours now, the lengthy battle haven taken a toll on him.
With an agility awe-inspiring for such a large being, Polybotes twisted his trident as he deflected Percy's blow towards his arm with the butt of the weapon, angling the trident towards the fire giant, and plunged it through, the powers of the giant so intense it tore through the connection of the flames, making Percy's projection's arm fall off. Gritting his teeth and eyes still closed, Percy tried to channel more flames to make up for the lost arm, but Polybotes gave him no time as he pressed his advantage, trident twirling and stabbing, forcing Percy to commit fully to defense.
With impeccable skill the demigod parried and deflected countless blows from the giant, but he could not mount a single counterattack due to his current state of disability.
There was only one solution.
Quick as lightning, Percy reached out with Anaklusmos just as Polybotes stabbed forward with his trident, catching the sword between two prongs of the giant's weapon. Heading strength to strength, Percy pushed forward, knowing he was weaker and unable to maintain this for too long. He focused on his powers inherited from his estranged father and formed an arm of ice where Polybotes had dismembered him, a massive sword of ice forming in its palm.
"How foolish are you, son of Neptune? Attempting to wield water in the presence of me?" spat Polybotes through the deadlock.
Percy spun around, disengaging Anaklusmos and letting the bane of Poseidon to stumble forward at the sudden loss of opposing force, and using the momentum of his spin, tore into Polybotes' chest armor with the ice sword, his speed thus that the giant could not corrupt the frozen water fast enough. By the time his powers began corrupting the sword, Percy had discarded it and the wound was already gaping. Finishing his rotation, Percy slashed down into the wound again, making the giant scream in pain.
Cruelly, the demigod twisted his celestial bronze blade before tearing it out viciously, enjoying the blurred figure of the giant collapsing to his knees.
"That's right, Polybotes," Percy murmured darkly. "Kneel before your superior."
Without giving him any breathing room, the flaming figure Percy controlled slashed down and cut off the giant's right arm, eliciting a roar of pain.
"That was for Reyna."
Percy switched his grip on Anaklusmos, holding the blade alongside his forearm to deflect Polybotes' last ditch effort to tear into him with his trident.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk…" Percy chided. "Didn't Mother Gaea teach you to respect your betters? I don't think attacking them with a trident is very respectful."
Fury coursed through the giant, but Percy was merciless. Now that he held all the advantage, the demigod dissipated the arm of ice and reformed the original arm of fire, now able to grip the giant. He grabbed his remaining arm and raised it to the sky before taking Anaklusmos and slicing from Polybotes' fingers all the way down to the shoulder, making the giants arm split apart.
A scream the likes of which went down into history resonated across the battlefield, attracting all eyes to a scene that seemed so surreal a couple legionnaires had to pinch themselves to make sure they weren't hallucinating.
Taking advantage of the general distraction of the Earthborn army, Hazel once more channeled her substantial power and roared, "TWELFTH LEGION FULMINATA."
The clouds darkened as the world lit up, lightning crackling and dancing through rows and rows of monsters, disintegrating them until even their dust no longer stained the Field of Mars. When the lightning subsided, the legionnaires and Amazons were treated to a marvelous sight – the entire center of the army had been completely obliterated. Yelling and shouting with glee, they returned to battle with glee. The rest of the army had been broken up and was fleeing, but the legionnaires and Amazons were merciless, striking down every Earthborn possible.
"You see, Polybotes?"
Percy grabbed the bane of Poseidon's head and twisted it forcefully to coerce him into watching as the monster army was completely wiped out.
"You came here expecting an easy victory, but instead you're here – broken, humiliated. A being like yourself doesn't deserve to be called a giant – you couldn't even defeat the son of the one you were meant to kill. I don't think Gaea will be very happy with you once I send you back to Tartarus!"
Polybotes snarled and tried to stand once more, but Percy was too fast. Anaklusmos glinted as he slashed twice. At first it didn't seem like anything had happened, but then Polybotes' torso slid off his legs and crashed on to the ground earth shatteringly, face down.
The fire giant bent over and seized the giant's hair, raising the mere torso of the once majestic Polybotes, bleeding from a gaping wound on his upper chest.
"Observe and take this message back to your dear mother," Percy said, voice icy once more. "I will kill anyone she sends who threatens anyone me or mine painfully."
He threw Polybotes down to the ground and raised the foot of the flaming figure, stomping on the giant's face and further disgracing him.
"And this isn't an empty threat, you know," he continued somewhat conversationally. "I said I would tear you limb from limb, and look – what are you now? Limbless. Remember my words."
Removing his foot from Polybotes' face, Percy clenched his celestial bronze blade with both hands and bisected Polybotes' body vertically, then horizontally, leaving the giant in four pieces. Somehow Gaea had managed to force the giants to survive and regenerate unless hit by a godly and mortal attack – quite an impressive piece of work – but Percy didn't want to worry about constantly cutting up the giant.
Releasing his tight hold on his powers and letting the fire giant he had created dissipate into the air, he prayed to Minerva, knowing that she deserved recognition from the Romans – the way they had marginalized her was surprising and rather foolish. This would be the first step in bringing Minerva to the position she deserved, and as her champion, he owed her for her blessing.
A few moments later, a blinding flash of light marked the arrival of Minerva, dressed in full battle regalia.
Percy inclined his head in acknowledgment and respect, and his patron replied with a nod.
"I killed him – but you know how giants are."
Minerva smirked, "Cockroaches." Her eyes softened and voice lowered. "Good job, Percy. I know you're worried about Hera – she's a strong woman. If she survived being swallowed by Kronos something like this won't bring her down."
The demigod offered her a small smile, "No, it won't. Now, please, do the honors."
Minerva raised her spear and pierced half of Polybotes' bisected face.
"Good riddance," Percy spat, and Minerva nodded in agreement. Suddenly, wild cheering ensued from behind them, startling both god and demigod. They turned around to see most of the surviving uninjured legionnaires and Amazons standing behind them at a distance, having watched the end of the battle.
The Romans began to chant in respect for their praetor, and the goddess who had helped him kill the giant, "Percy! Percy! Lady Minerva! Lady Minerva!"
Minerva gave Percy a small smirk, glad at the acknowledgment, before flashing out, leaving the demigod to the mercy of the overjoyed legionnaires. Their cheer was understandable – their praetor had managed to defeat a giant singlehandedly with his remarkable powers, and put a decisive end to the battle.
Allowing himself to be swept up in the tide of Romans as they headed towards New Rome, towards celebration and the injured, Percy knew that he had erred wrong with his absence this time. Had he been there earlier, this battle could've been much shorter. A mere glance at the battlefield showed countless dead legionnaires, a degree of death greater than the fight at Manhattan against Kronos' army.
And Reyna. She had trusted him to be there, to lead Rome and to be their praetor – but no, he had been absent when it counted – and it cost her arm and her life as a fighter.
Regardless, he had to face his mistakes – and prepare for the arrival of the Greeks, because that situation would be as bad as this battle.
A/N: It's been a long time since I update this story, and I'm sorry for the wait. I hit some major writer's block and life, and I wasn't sure where I wanted this to go, but I figured it out last week so hopefully I'm back to writing this story. I hope you enjoyed!