Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson or any of the characters except for little Rhea
A/N After posting the rewrite of this fic, there have been some concerns about whether this fic is abandoned. It is NOT! Like I already wrote in the last AN of Princess of the Sea, I'll write both simultaneously. The rewrite is more about trying to do my first story and idea justice than anything else.
So enjoy the newest chapter.
''…true.'' The god conceded glumly, ''But you are always welcome here if you wish for some time outside that glided cage.''
''Thank you, uncle.''
Hades turned away as if embarrassed by the conversation – and Rhea blinked away the tears gathering in her eyes.
''If we are done with emotional nonsense, let us talk about our next actions…''
As Hades stern voice filled the room, Rhea listened and wondered and smiled.
Chapter 37 – Helm of Darkness
''What do you think, niece?'' Hades smile was the slightest bit mischievous, charcoal eyes bright and imposing as he looked down at her.
Niece was what her uncle had taken to calling her as if their first conversation had been some sort of test, and now that she had passed successfully, he fully acknowledged their familiar relationship and all that came with it.
It suited him. He was not one for endearments like her father, instead Hades called her what she was to him. Neither a demi-god nor the daughter of Poseidon, and not even Rhea Jackson – but simply his niece.
It warmed her immensely, and during the explanation of Hades plan, Rhea had unconsciously relaxed completely in her uncle's presence.
Mulling the plan over in her head once more, Rhea still had the urge to climb into her bed, hide beneath her blankets, and scream.
''Making me fight Ares? Dad's not going to be very happy.'' Those were the words that came out of her mouth instead. Poseidon would most likely drown some poor mortals – and thinking like that made her feel wretched again, so she banned the thought from her mind.
Hades huffed a soft laugh, and Rhea somewhat envied him for that. Not everyone could laugh when confronted with a furious Poseidon.
Then again, Rhea didn't know how it felt to be the recipient by her father's rage. Would she also be so at ease if that ever happened?
She truly doubted it.
''He will calm once he has you close once again.'' The King of the Underworld replied mercilessly, and Rhea came to the quick conclusion that Hades humor was no less brutal than her father's.
''Alright. I'll get you back your Helm.'' Rhea huffed in reluctant amusement – and Hades smirked as if knowing what truly was on her mind.
''Then we are in agreement.''
The sun was hanging up in the sky, its rays bathing the world relentlessly in its warmth.
The sand beneath my shoes, the slight caress of the wind on my face, the way the sunlight was refracted by the breaking waves – it was beautiful.
It was a shame that such a picturesque scene would soon turn into a battlefield.
There was nary a person in sight as I stepped out of the water, and I silently thanked my uncle for agreeing to honour this foolish request of mine.
Hades truly was the most reasonable god I had ever met. Perhaps even more than Hestia, who tried to look at the best in people so much that sometimes reality and her wishes tended to blur and intermix.
Hearing the crunching of sand, I eyed the space to my right where suddenly a person stood where a second before nothing but the wind existed.
Though person was perhaps not the most applicable description.
''Lord Ares.'' I greeted calmly, turning towards the god, sword already in my hands – and I noticed how the flames in his eye sockets seemed to have become a touch dimmer than before. It looked more and more like my uncle's theory could be correct, after all. Not that I doubted my uncle, but I rather dreaded the consequences.
''Girlie.'' Ares voice was still deep, his aura as angry and provoking as before – but with Hades words lingering in my mind; my anger towards him was gone. It would have been foolish of me to cling to such emotions, when I did not even know the whole picture. Only small parts of the puzzle, bits and pieces carelessly scattered – and I was truly irrevocably curious about the finished product.
Ares hand held a gleaming sword, his stance confident and without any holes.
He was undoubtedly stronger than I was. So much that he could eviscerate me in a moment if he were to use his true strength.
But he could not, or rather dared not. Ancient Laws existed for a reason, and Ares was not strong enough to disregard them. Not like my father who did not fear Zeus, but thought of him as an inconvenience rather than a threat to his continued existence.
As long as I was on a quest for Zeus, and in the mortal world, Ares' strength was severely limited. Enough for me to have a chance at succeeding with the plan my uncle had come up with.
The only point I had insisted on was the location. Close to the sea without any bystanders. A reckless, foolish request, but one I had to make. Poseidon would be furious at me, I knew. He would be angry and disappointed, and it caused a sick feeling to well up from deep inside me, but this time I had to be selfish.
Because this quest had shown me how confused and uncertain I still was. Those dead people on the bus, the way their corpses were bloody and charred, so overly still in death – it had torn at me. Would I see such scenes as normal one day? Would I stop caring about the children torn too early from their short lives, seeing their dead bodies as another common occurrence?
I usually tried to avoid thinking of my mother who was kind to a fault, and so very appreciative of life. Sally Jackson had been even more excited than me the few times we went to the zoo, as she marvelled at the sheer magnificence of life present on the earth. It had been beautiful to witness, and I still loved Sally Jackson, no matter how long since her demise.
Becoming a person who she wouldn't recognize at one point in my life, it caused another kind of pain to echo through my body. I didn't want to lose sight of the person I was now. The person who had made Poseidon so happy by merely accepting him, the person who had mourned her mother's passing with bitter tears, found good friends in Clarisse and Grover – and still occasionally had nightmares about the atrocities she had witnessed.
I liked the person I had become. A little spoiled, and a little arrogant; but still fundamentally human with all the faults and doubts and uncertainties and kindness that came with such a fleeting existence.
Ares would be able to use more power without any mortals in sight, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief when I noticed that I was still…
…able to disappoint Poseidon and go against his will.
I was still myself, and for the moment, that would have to be enough.
Now I just had to fight the god of war, and come out of it intact, everything else would follow afterwards.
''Then let's get this over with. If I win, I'll take the other object you have so carefully hidden away. Agreed, Lord Ares?''
A pause, then a bold laugh tore through the air effortlessly.
''I like your spunk, girlie. Shame old Corpse Breathe didn't let himself get fooled. What about your friends though?''
I narrowed my eyes, but instead of anger I felt pleased on my friends' behalf as I took note of the seemingly offhanded question. Perhaps Ares was not such a useless father, after all.
''Insurance.'' I called back, muscles loosening from their previous tension. I was ready. ''Let's begin, Lord Ares.''
The flames in the god's eyes burned a blood red, as he answered.
''Then we shall begin, daughter of Poseidon.''
''…following along so far?'' Hades peered down at her and Rhea tried her best to not let her apprehension show.
''This plan…'' Rhea trailed off haltingly, a slightly helpless expression on her face as she went through her uncle's last few sentences again.
Hades huffed in amusement at his niece's expression, the way she very carefully tried and more importantly failed to hide her grimace. The King of the Underworld realized that his niece truly was uncommonly fun to tease.
''Don't worry, niece.'' Hades explained, trying not to feel all pathetically warm inside as he saw the way his niece trusted him so openly, not the faintest hint of suspicion aimed at him even after she listened to his - for her - very dangerous plan.
The god was beginning to see more and more just why his younger brother was so attached to this child of his.
''Ares is an Olympian god. As such he is forbidden from using more than a certain amount of power when confronted by a demi-god on an official quest.'' Hades smirked maliciously and Rhea resolved to never get on her uncle's bad side if she could avoid it.
''Zeus added that law when many quests failed because demi-gods ran afoul of a random god's temper, and were either eviscerated or otherwise indisposed. Naturally those demi-gods that were unlucky enough to encounter such a situation after the Law was formed still died pretty quickly after they finished their quests, but at least they had completed their quest then.''
The faintly sadistic curl of her uncle's lips did little to dispel her pity for those unlucky demi-gods. Hades continued uninterrupted though. Rhea had long accepted that dwelling on those souls would do no good to anyone. ''It granted quest bearers a certain amount of protection back in the days, and the Law though obscure is still restricting us gods today. So fighting against Ares especially if we choose a suitable location is actually very feasible.''
Rhea relaxed slightly, unconsciously clutching the necklace her father had given her years ago – feeling the unending well of strength inside, and resolved herself. This quest was finally coming to an end, and it had shown her how insecure and confused she still was.
She still lacked resolve.
Carnage and blood and death and sins were so very prominent where gods' were concerned, she had known that. Rhea had already taken one step towards her father's blood-stained world when she killed Medusa so ruthlessly, and now she would take one step towards her mothers'.
At least Rhea owed her mother to at least try to preserve her humanity.
There was no going back now. And even if it was just for her own self-satisfaction, she had to make sure… that she hadn't lost herself yet.
''I have a request regarding the location, Uncle…''
Fighting Ares was akin to flinging their selves into a maelstrom of echoing whispers urging them to take up weapons and fight, swing their weapons until they had taken whatever their hearts desired.
Every clash of metal was like a spark fuelling the flame of war, and Rhea had never felt so alive before.
Every stab, every swing, every single movement of Ares was meant to kill her – and every single of her movements were executed in order to stay alive.
It was exhausting, the way Ares blocked her swings, and his pure strength nearly tore her arms apart. But it was also exhilarating.
Rhea had never fought someone stronger than her who truly wanted to end her existence, and this feeling made her arms just a little bit stronger, her legs just a little bit faster – and Rhea barely even noticed the grin slipping on her face.
A silver but nearly tore a line through her bare throat, and Rhea dodged the swing by a hair's breath, something in her whispering and urging, and screaming, faster.
Deflecting the next thrust, Rhea automatically drew strength from the ocean only a few feet away; her heavy limbs suddenly so much lighter than before – her feet propelling her forward with a speed she had not possessed only seconds ago, and another clash sounded through the air.
Rhea did not notice the way her pendant felt uncommonly warm against her skin, she only felt the strength cursing through her body like another set of veins, pulsing like a second heartbeat – and it felt glorious.
Suddenly the world was so much clearer than before, Rhea feeling every muscle in her body so acutely it was indescribable – and she knew with utter certainty that if she wanted to move half an inch forwards, her muscles would execute it perfectly. The feeling of control spreading through her was so alien it took her by surprise.
Then Ares arm moved – and had he always been so slow? – his muscles bulging, and Rhea heard a wordless murmur in her mind, the voice familiar but unknown, leading her through her next movement, whispering incessantly, there and don't you see?
Her sword darted forward, a blur of silver through the minute gap in the god's defences and a golden drop fell onto the sand a heartbeat later.
Rhea drew back swiftly, pausing when she noticed the way the god was staring at the small bleeding scratch on his left forearm.
The flames in Ares eyes grew dimmer, as he observed the slip of a girl standing a few feet away from him, sword angled away from her body, stance loose and comfortable. His face seemed conflicted for but a moment, before he sighed audibly.
''This is my loss.'' The sword in Ares hand dissolved into nothingness, the god carding his free hand though his hair – still eying Rhea with the same conflicted expression as before. Eventually, he clicked his tongue in annoyance. ''You drew first blood. If we go any further, I'll probably kill you – and I'm not in a hurry to cease existing just yet.''
Rhea shrugged, grimacing in discomfort when she noticed how exhausted she was. Her whole body seemed to ache and pulse with sudden pain.
Ignoring her dignity, Rhea let herself fall onto the sand gracelessly, peering up at Clarisse's father with tired eyes. ''Sounds good…''
Ares eyebrows twitched, and before he changed his mind forgot about restraint, simply killing this disrespectful child – he concentrated on his hand, darkness congealing into a pitch black something that he lobbed at Rhea.
Catching what was probably the missing Helm of Darkness, Rhea was certain of her conjecture when the black object fell into her hands and her minds was assaulted by tendrils of darkness, crooning of shadows and death and whispering, hidehidehide-
''Why this whole farce?'' Rhea frowned, some pieces of the puzzle still unclear.
Ares grinned at her, bright and predatory – and this smile was teeth and terror rolled into a seemingly friendly expression. But Rhea had seen worse from Poseidon, who was far more cruel and violent than even Ares.
Seemingly realizing that trying to intimidate her was a lost cause, Ares was on the verge of simply ignoring the impudent question of this little child – when he looked into the girl's eyes and noted the absence of fear.
For the first time, Ares really looked at the daughter of Poseidon. He saw the curiosity in her eyes, the exhaustion in her limbs – and the way she was nearly defenceless in front of him, but did not doubt his previous words.
Ares remembered that child's joy when they fought, the protectiveness she displayed towards his child – and for some reason, the god stayed.
''Since your father dotes on you so disgustingly, you should know a bit about a god's domain, right?'' Ares shrugged uncomfortably. ''There hasn't been a decent divine war in a long time, and the few times it came close… needless to say it never happened.''
''Trying to prevent war again and again…'' The god of war clicked his tongue in annoyance. ''It makes me sick. I'm war, girlie. War makes me stronger, better – and the more violent it is, the more comfortable I feel. My domain was weakening, so I thought I'd try inciting a war for a bit.''
Ares wasn't lying. It had been one of the two reasons. As the personification of war, Ares keenly felt the absence of his domain. The few mortal wars and skirmishes over the years barely even counted. His second reason, Ares would never mention his want for acknowledgement from his parents to anyone. He hadn't fallen that low, yet.
''Now that I answered your question, girlie. I'm off, got things to do and all that shit.''
A second later, the god was gone – and Rhea peered down at the object in her hands. The Helm of Darkness.
Now she only had to get the lightning bolt to her uncle above the Empire State building, and then she could finally go home.
The thought lifted her spirits enough for her to rummage in her pocket, her fingers gingerly fingering a small round nearly translucent object. Applying a bit of force, Rhea crushed it instantly – unsurprised when she was able to hear the beat of wings only half a minute later.
Alecto's leathery wings displaced the air with every beat, the fury hovering above her, a blue bag pack clutched in one hand.
''Our lord sends his regards.'' Alecto called down, her words formal and seemingly without emotion. But Rhea knew that this little circus show was necessary – same with keeping her friends and companion as 'insurance'. Officially Rhea had retrieved Lord Hades symbol of power and in exchange he had released them from his domain.
Clarisse and Grover hadn't liked it, Arashi even less so – but more importantly they understood why they had to sit the last bit of the quest out. Hades aligning himself too strongly with Poseidon could make Zeus feel even more threatened and paranoid.
War was something they were trying to avoid at all costs, especially now that their theory seemed more and more feasible.
''I have retrieved it.'' Rhea answered, throwing the Helm of Darkness at the flying fury, the blue bag pack falling towards her only moment later.
Alecto caught the pitch black symbol of power with a reverent expression, before regaining her previous calm. ''Your friends will be released. They shall await you at the Camp.''
Holstering the bag containing the lightning bolt over her shoulder, Rhea eyed the towering skyscrapers visible over the forest separating this lone unvisited beach from the popular tourist spots – and with a furious sigh started walking.
At least she was already close to New York. Somewhat.
A/N This chapter was incredibly difficult for me to write. I started it several times, deleted pages of words over and over again – until I settled on this version. I hope you liked it. Next chapter: Rhea finally arrives on Olympus!