A/N: This story is a sequel to WJATO: The Queen's Hero. You will probably need to have read that story in order to understand this story. This is the second installment in the Winston Jackson and the Olympians (WJATO) trilogy. Thank you in advance for reading and reviewing.
The Story "An Immortal's Death" is a prologue to this story. It is not necessary to read that before reading this story, but it may help keep you from getting confused in the early going.
As with The Queen's Hero, I am operating in the alternate universe where there is no Heroes of Olympus series. I will use some of my favorite characters from that series, but the Roman camp, Jason and his friends and the events of that series do not exist. This alternate universe also assumes that the Great Prophecy mentioned at the end of the PJO series did not get prophesied, seeing as I have my own Great Prophecy for this trilogy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Percy Jackson and the Olympians (PJO), the song "I'm My Own Grandpa," Google, or Shane Ever Collins (a character from another fan fiction by Mrs. D Criss, used with permission).
Chapter 1: Nico Ruins Thanksgiving Dinner
The Holidays are a time of joyful embrace between family members who have long since been separated by miles and years. It is a time to get together and celebrate family; putting aside those long-standing differences that divide so many families; a time to embrace that, which unites us all.
Or at least that's what I'm told.
Unfortunately, I'm a demigod. That's right, I said demigod. Now, I know what you're thinking, that means I'm a son of a god. Let me assure you, that's not the case: it's worse than that. You see my father is the great Percy Jackson, a son of the Greek god Poseidon. You may remember him for his awesome defeat of Kronos a few years ago, or maybe you just remember him for blowing up Mount St. Helens…again. My mother is Annabeth Jackson, a daughter of the Greek goddess Athena. She was the brains of the operation that saved the world way back when. That makes the gods my grandparents.
However, when I was a baby, my mother dedicated me to Hera in order to avoid an Olympic-sized conflict over me (and, I think, to make up for some choice words Mom had used in her youth). Anyway, that made me Hera's property of sorts, and eventually Hera, Athena's mom, adopted me. So, in other words, my maternal grandmother's mom is therefore my great grandmother but also my mother and great aunt (on my Dad's side). Got it? Neither do I. I've been told I'm my own grandpa.
What I do understand is that I have been gifted with the powers of Hera, making me the world's first actual Supermom. Now I know that sounds really lame and all, and I'll admit, I'd like a few more flashy powers. I mean who wouldn't like to be able to call down a bolt of lightning at will? But Hera can be flashy in her own right. In fact I have the ability to - well, we'll get to that later.
Oh, right, a little more about me. I'm 5 foot 2, scrawny but pure muscle and losing some baby fat. I have my father's (and grandfather's) jet-black hair but my eyes are the light gold of Hera. And I am always wearing my Orange camp half-blood t-shirt and blue jeans ever since I gained the right to do so.
The real story begins on Thanksgiving at Camp Half-Blood. Camp Half-Blood is the only safe place in the world for half-bloods. It is protected by a magical boundary that keeps all monsters and certain gods out unless invited. We have an archery arena, a cabin to represent every Olympian god and all the minor gods and goddesses who have claimed children. We also have a horse stable, a lake, and a large swath of woods. Just like any other youth camp. Only, our horse stable has pegasusi, our forest has monsters, our lake has dryads and nymphs. And did I mention we also have a chariot racing track, an armory with real, deadly weapons and a climbing wall that throws lava at us.
At the center of the camp are the Big House and the dining pavilion. The Big House is a two story house which is bright orange and has a large, wrap around porch with plenty of lounging chairs and a table where the director and activities coordinator often play pinochle (extra points if you know what pinochle is without googling it). The house also has an attic where our oracle used to "live" and where we all store our unwanted quest trophies. Our oracle now has a small cave on the edge of the camp while she is here, but she has a life outside of the camp too: she's the Mayor of New York City.
But this was Thanksgiving Day, so the activity in the camp was centered around the Dining Pavilion, a huge concrete slab ringed by Greek style columns. There's no roof because the weather is always good at Camp Half-Blood: the storm spirits can't enter. The wood nymphs had cooked a massive meal with enough turkey to feed an army (or at least Ares), green bean casserole, potatoes cooked seven different ways, cranberry sauce, toast, rolls, pumpkin bread and several vegetables that I didn't know the name for. And then there was a second table. Enjoying the feast were the eleven campers who stay year-round (rather than attending mortal schools), the camp teachers (Chiron as well as my mother and father who stay in the Hera cabin year round), me (home on Thanksgiving Break), and five gods: Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Hermes and our Director Dionysus (who makes it a REAL party). Normally Hades takes the opportunity to commune with his brothers off of Olympus (plus he brings actual Pilgrims!) but he was nowhere to be found. Poseidon was also absent, but he was dealing with an oil spill in the Upper Atlantic. Also Hestia was present, but she was tending the Hearth.
I went and filled my plate, making sure to head to the Hearth to sacrifice to a god. I decided to sacrifice to Zeus today because he was here and could zap me if I didn't. I didn't think Hera would mind, but I threw a second portion in for her. Finally I sat down at the one long table set up in the middle of the pavilion. My father sat down right next to me.
"Hey, how's the year going?" he asked.
"Well, you know," I said. "Good I guess."
"Anything special going on?" he asked.
"Special?" I asked as Hera sat down across from me. My mother, who had been headed towards us, decided to sit on the end of the table, by Hermes.
"You know what I mean," Dad said.
"Sorry, no I don't," I said.
"Oh, yes you do," Hera said. "You're getting closer to my territory."
"Your territory?" I asked.
"First comes Aphrodite, then comes Hera..."
"Okay, okay," I said blushing. "So Airiana and I went on some dates in November."
"Dates huh?" Dad said, smiling and winking at me. Perhaps I should say a little about Airiana. Airiana Wilson is the most beautiful person on the planet (although I'd tell Aphrodite she is more beautiful if I was talking to her). My father and I rescued her from a manticore attack last summer and I took a liking to her immediately. Since my god-parent (a phrase which has a whole other meaning as a demigod) is the goddess of marriage I think it is a soul mate thing. She doesn't always agree. She has grown a little over the course of the year, but she's still close to my height, slender but natural-looking overall build. She has soil brown eyes and flowing, auburn hair that has been known to change shades of red with the seasons. She is the daughter of Persephone, goddess of vegetation and Queen of the Underworld so she has mood swings with the seasons. But it's not what I expected: she actually gets much happier when her mother goes to the Underworld. Persephone has begun to be happy recently to get out of Demeter's grip for those months so I guess that makes sense.
"And what dates they were too," Mr. D. said, taking up a seat next to me. I scooted closer to Dad. "Great stuff kid, if I do say so myself." There are points in this world where you are just plain grossed out, and realizing that one of these gods can see you at all times, particularly the private times is one of those points. Especially Mr. D.
"That's my boy," Dad said, winking at Hera while biting a turkey leg.
"I do not know what old Seaweed sees in you," Hera said to him. "If Poseidon didn't like you, I'd turn you into a cow, kill you and make a shish-ca-bob."
"It's the family resemblance," Mr. D. said. Dad just nudged me.
"So, how are the renovations going on Olympus," Dad asked. My mother is the official architect of Olympus. She was hired by the gods to repair the mountain city after the Second Titan War, during which my father feebly fought Kronos while he destroyed the city. Technically, she was done 15 years ago, but each of the gods has had her busy renovating their temples. She doesn't mind though. I'm pretty sure that when she dies, she'll be sent back to Olympus to keep working and they'll call it Elysium.
"Well, your wife needs to get over to my temple eventually," Hera began, "I've got this really great idea for the fountain out-"
She was cut off suddenly by a ripping and tearing noise from the cabin area. Everyone looked out, but all we could see was an encroaching cloud of dust. Then everyone gasped. A man was stumbling out of the cloud. He was wearing a black leather jacket and black jeans with black shoes. He had black, spiked hair that was unusually untidy. His clothes were ripped and stained with blood, both dried and fresh. He ran from the cloud and tripped, bouncing back up in no time at all and continuing to run in our direction. That was when I saw the sword. It was drawn and jet black Stygian Iron with silver ingrained. The sword belonged to Nico Di Angelo. And whatever was making him run that scared could not be good at all.
I bounced from my seat and reached into my pocket. My own weapon, Sabertooth, was made from Celestial Bronze. It was actually two weapons. I carried it around in the form of a toothpick of bronze, but if I turn it in my hand it becomes a gladius: a two and a half foot double-edged blade of monster fighting machine. If I throw the toothpick instead, it grows to a four-foot long javelin. Too bad it's difficult to aim.
I was soon flanked by my father and mother. My father pulled a ballpoint pen from his pocket and uncapped it; turning it into his sword Riptide,which was a three and a half foot Celestial Bronze sword engraved with rolling tides. My mother pulled a small Celestial Bronze knife. In case you're wondering, Celestial Bronze is one of the few metals that can hurt monsters. Stygian Iron is another. I saw a handsome little 10-year-old son of Zeus named Jet Richards set up on the far edge and knock an arrow. He looked to me like he was waiting for instructions. I also heard Jim Davis, head of the Ares Cabin, begin to take charge of the other campers. He knew better than to mess with the Jacksons though.
A shape emerged from the dust cloud as Nico was about half way across the field. I had seen a hell hound last summer and a few in the Underworld when I went there (long story), but never one as large as this. It was at least 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It pounced out of the dust and covered 20 feet immediately. Nico fell over from the earthshaking landing, but he got back up very quickly. If we didn't do something quick, it would kill Nico.
I heard Jet's bow twang as he released the arrow and knocked another. The arrow found it's mark, but the hellhound didn't appear to feel it.
"I don't think swords are going to do much against that," Dad said. I was two steps ahead of him. I said a quick prayer to Apollo for help, looked to see if he answered it, which he did with a wink, and threw my toothpick. It grew to javelin form as Jet unloaded his third arrow and the weapon floated effortlessly into the hellhound's eye socket. Jet's arrow hit his open mouth.
He seemed to feel that at least, but the weapons didn't stop it, they only made him angry. He got ready to pounce again as Nico passed the lake, headed to the Big House. That's when I got the idea, but my mother had it a few seconds before me.
"Jet," she said. "The lake!"
Comprehension dawned on Jet's face and he dropped the bow. He took one look at Zeus before turning and facing the battle.
The dog pounced and landed in the lake, dispersing half the water and earning a few curses from the fleeing nymphs. Jet stuck out his hand and the air became significantly thicker. Then a massive lightning bolt struck from the air into the lake, shaking the pavilion and breaking the attic windows in the Big House with its power. The hellhound glowed from the electricity and wailed in pain before disintegrating into monster dust.
The blast had knocked Nico down and also cleared the original cloud of dust he had come in, revealing a massive chasm in the ground near the center of the cabins. Nico turned and stretched his own hand out before closing it into a fist. The chasm shuddered and crashed in on itself just as another massive paw was beginning to crawl its way out. Then Nico passed out.
Nico woke a few days later, during which time my father had retrieved Sabertooth from the lake, fresh with waterproof makeup from the nymphs. It took twelve hours to get it off. Nico ordered Chiron to call a meeting and, therefore, I found myself sitting next to the ping-pong table in the Big House living room with Nico, my Dad, Chiron, my Mother, Jet, Jim and the Hypno councilor Sarah Gray who was sleeping. Nico was doing much better thanks to the daily ambrosia.
"Nico has important news," Chiron said once we all got settled and Sarah was awake.
"I was in the Underworld, Thanksgiving night," Nico began. "We were preparing to come up for the meal when there was a rumbling from the Styx. Dad sent some soldiers to investigate. Luckily one of them got to the horn and sent warning. The army had breached the walls by the time we got down there, but it wouldn't have mattered much if we were quicker."
"Wait," I said. "What army?"
"Chris' army," Nico said. "My brother Christopher Nash has been recruiting. He's slowly taken the worst of the souls from the fields of punishment and placed the newly dead in their place to fool the Kindly Ones."
"How can he do that?" my mother asked.
"The Sword," Chiron said. "Persephone was foolish to make it. Christopher stole the Sword of Hades last summer and has been using it ever since. The sword has a key to the Underworld embedded in it, enabling it to send a soul to the Underworld or call one from it."
"Apparently," Nico continued Chiron's thought, "He infiltrated DOA Recording studios a month ago, convincing Charon that he was just a manifestation of my father. He then used the sword to perform the switches when Charon had left with full ferries. It seemed that most of the souls were willing to go to the fields of punishment to get out of that room. They were promised freedom after Chris took control, a promise he kept if he was wise.
"Originally, I thought we might have a chance. We held up pretty good, Dad's personal army against Christopher's untrained and rusty fighters. Shane was there with me. She caused the Styx to swallow the back third of his army. She was bringing the river back on the rest of them when..." Nico trailed off. Shane Ever Collins was his wife and a daughter of Poseidon. I could only imagine what happened, and it was confirmed after Nico regained his composure. "Two arrows found their mark in her chest." More silence as Nico pursed his lips. I had always wondered what could possibly get Nico to cry; now I knew. "I should be dead too. But, I mean, we had two gods, including Persephone, so a mortal's attack shouldn't have stood a chance," he said, his anger beginning to show. "We should have had Charon too, but the coward saw the army crossing behind him and ran past us toward the castle. I don't know what happened to him. But the gods never took their true form. The few chances I could, I took a glimpse at my father. He was glowing, but it wasn't his true form. Almost like something was holding him back. And he wasn't moving at god-like speed either. The ground at his feet was flowing with Ichor fresh from wounds inflicted by mere mortals." Ichor is the golden blood of immortals if you didn't know.
"What could cause that to happen?" my mother asked.
"I'm not sure," Nico said. "All I saw was one group that wasn't fighting. They were holding some kind of white device and were being guarded by about fifty spirits. Still, we could have won if we could have gotten to them. I'm convinced that device slowed my father down and prevented him from taking his true, immortal form."
"Do you know who the group was with?" Chiron asked.
"No, I didn't get a good look at them," Nico said. "I was too busy fighting."
"I can take a good guess," I said. Everyone looked at me. "Last summer I had dreams in which I heard Christopher planning with a spirit to take over Olympus. In one of the dreams, Daedalus pledged his loyalty to the group. I think it is him. Who else could even dream of producing a device to defeat a god?"
Silence met this statement, indicating that everyone agreed. My mother sat in silence and I knew why. I had just indicted her hero and she couldn't defend him. I had a feeling I'd find laptop parts all over Hera's cabin tonight.
"Nico, you said you were winning," Jim Davis said. "What happened to turn the tide?"
"Christopher happened," Nico said. "He had spent most of the battle fighting Persephone, who was masterfully using her power over vegetation to stop his sword from hitting her. A couple of times I even thought she'd captured it. But eventually, he surprised her and nicked her side. One little cut and it was enough. Her howl of pain shook the cavern. She rose from the ground and began to glow. Then she turned into fine yellow dust and flew off to Tartarus.
"My father bellowed in rage and found some new life, but he was too late. I fought through a couple of Chris's minions just in time to see him enter Tartarus' cave. Next thing I knew, all sorts of the worst creatures I had heard about were flying toward me and I panicked. I turned and ran toward my Dad's castle. One of the hell hounds he'd released followed me. I did the only thing I could, I stabbed my sword into the ground and created a pathway through the earth to Camp. The dog followed me and...well, you know the rest of the story I guess."
Everyone leaned back and just looked at each other.
Finally, Chiron said "Do you know the fate of Hades?"
"No," Nico said. "But he was weak. Maybe he got to his chariot, maybe not. I'm not holding my breath though. Chris got Persephone without the monsters of Tartarus. Hades wouldn't stand a chance alone."
"You have done well, Nico," Chiron said.
"I should have died defending my father," Nico said. "It's what a hero would do."
"Because you escaped, we now know what happened. This is a great advantage. Again, you have done well," Chiron said.
"What could be gained by this?" Jet asked. "If the goal is Olympus, it seems like a massive waste of life."
"A lot can be gained," Nico said. "With Dad out of the way, Chris controls the Underworld. He'll just regrow all of the dead he lost."
"And remember the War," Percy said. "Hades showed up right outside Olympus. It would be impossible to defend the mountain for us."
"Heroes look on as Olympus falls...," I said, recalling the Great Prophecy. I'll tell you more about that later. "How can we fight if Chris can just show up behind our lines?"
"A problem, but not the problem," my mother said.
"What could possibly be worse than someone having access to Olympus with a god-defeating machine?" Jim Davis asked.
"The real reason he would attack Hades," my mother said.
"What's that?" Jet asked. "What else could there be?"
"Because the throne...well, Chiron, you'd know more," she said.
Chiron nodded. "When the metaphysical, big G God created the universe, He established governors over all the planets to ensure that the worlds ran properly. The governors had to answer to Him for their actions, but they were allowed to do what they saw fit. He created Ouranos to govern this world."
"Then Kronos killed him," I said.
"Don't say the name," Chiron said as thunder rolled overhead. "But yes, my father, the Lord of Time, killed him. But an ancient law stipulates that there must always be someone on the throne. Therefore, he sat on his father's throne and took it over. He moved it to Mount Orthys. Then Zeus defeated him and again took over as governor of the Earth."
"But Zeus' throne is on Olympus, why attack the Underworld?" I asked.
"Because Zeus' throne is not the only one to act like that," my mother said. "Remember that after the defeat of the Lord of Time; Zeus, Poseidon and Hades cast lots for their respective domains. That implies that the domains existed."
"Every throne wants to be filled," Chiron said. "So once someone dies, the first person alive to sit on the throne gains its power. Hades would make sense considering his is the strongest true seat of power outside of Olympus."
"So wait," Percy said. "Once Chris sits on Hades' throne he becomes god of the Underworld? Like with a true immortal form and everything?"
"Let's hope he tries it," Chiron said.
"Why?" my mother asked.
"Because it would work," Chiron said. "And it would vaporize anything around him and himself. He is Master of the Underworld, but not a god. Only Zeus' throne has the power to make a mortal immortal. He will be god-like though, with every power necessary to do the job except immortality. That power is why he would attack the Underworld now."
"So, in other words, he's taking Hades place," Jet said.
"In a nutshell, yes," Chiron said.
"And if he dies before capturing Zeus' throne?" Jet asked some hope in his voice.
"Then the next person alive to sit on Hades' throne would become Master of the Underworld," Chiron said. "Let us hope that will be Nico."
"So he controls Death?" Jim asked. "His army can't die?"
"No, Death is something completely different," Nico said. "Hopefully Death can avoid Chris's forces. But he'd be able to summon them back pretty quickly."
"What should we do?" I asked.
"It's already been done," Chiron said. "I've called an emergency meeting of the gods on Olympus. Nico, you will need to come with me. I urge anyone of you willing to fight for Olympus to follow me as well." Chiron got up onto his four horse legs and walked out the door. Everyone followed.