I honestly thought I'd updated this more recently than September. That's a ridiculously long time to make you wait, if any of you are still waiting. I know I'm apologising every time I update, but I truly am sorry. I'll try to do better, because I feel like a total bastard right now.
The world went dark, and Percy fell limply to the ground.
It felt like seconds had passed when Percy regained consciousness, but he realised in only a few moments that the feeling was false. The sun was rising, and he doubted Apollo was simply screwing with him.
That meant it had been, at the very least, the better part of two days since he had been separated from the others in his group. That was unfortunate, and he had a feeling he would come out of his apology worse for wear; he would do well to get back as soon as possible. Truth be told, though, Percy expected that Artemis had kept them calm; two days was nothing to an immortal and she would trust that, whatever the situation Percy was caught up in, he could get himself out of it; Percy felt rather certain that he'd proven himself by now. Still, a bit of rushing would be a good idea.
But he wasn't moving.
Why wasn't he moving?
'Are we paralysed, Boss?' Purge asked, confused and sleepy; that was a first, Purge detested sleep.
'Seems that way,' Percy tried to move his limbs, and his toes twitched, 'okay, not paralysed. Just… temporarily unable to move.'
'Y'know that's what paralysed means, right?'
'Yes, but it makes the situation sound worse than it is. Whatever it was that knocked us out is probably the cause.'
'And why ain't we worried 'bout spontaneously collapsin'?' Purgatory asked, as they stared at the sky.
'Based on the fact that my shoulder feels like it's been coated in lava, and my cheek doesn't feel much better, I'm gonna say it has to do with Keres. She's the goddess of painful deaths, of course it's gonna hurt like hell when she stabs you. Plus, I don't know how serious the cuts Thanatos gave me were, but they were deep and near my spine. Chances are it's taking me a while to shake them.'
'I dunno…' Purge was nervous, where Percy was doing his best to suppress the feeling, 'Moros seemed… significant.' Purge didn't want to say scary. 'Maybe he had something to do with us passing out.'
'Unless you've got more of an idea what that is than I do, I'm going to work on the assumption that we'll be fine once these injuries have cleared up some.'
Purge mentally shrugged. 'Makes sense to me, but maybe we should stop by Athena on the way back. I get that ya don't want the Hunter and her lot to worry, but wouldn't collapsing in front of them because we're cursed or some shit be worse than missing for a bit?'
Percy agreed and, eventually, upon his body obeying his commands again, went about moving to Olympus.
He was mildly surprised- confused, in fact- by the fact that only one symbol came for the three domains, and disappointed by the fact that it did not complete his armour. That disappointment died, though, as he took the weapon in hand.
He over again, with darkness encompassing his senses.
Percy really didn't understand the stares he was getting, as he walked towards Athena's temple. He assumed, eventually, that it had to do with his twirling a jet-black staff as he strolled past. Or maybe it had to do with him being a new face. Or maybe he was famous; he had been once upon a time, and that was back when he was a lowly demigod; now, Percy was an immensely powerful not-god who had beaten several Olympians to a pulp.
Whatever the reason, he didn't put much thought into the fact that a short chubby godling ran sprinting past him. Particularly as he had a look of alarm on his face, surely unrelated to Percy's presence. What had he done to alarm anyone?
What had he done recently to alarm anyone? Percy amended.
He quickly made his way through the white-paved streets to where most of the gods' temples were located and headed towards the grand, old-style building that paid homage to Greek-style architecture amongst many others, such as England's Tudor-period, that Percy only vaguely recognised. He was no architecture buff and felt vaguely proud of himself for remembering that much, assuming he was correct.
He eyed the statues standing guard with some caution, resting his newest symbol casually on his shoulder as he raised his left hand to knock on the door. They didn't move as he rapped his knuckles on the glossed wood, and Percy felt slightly more at ease for all of three seconds before he heard a commotion coming from inside.
It sounded like there was a fight occurring, and in a moment he had thought up any number of alarming scenarios. It wasn't likely that a monster could infiltrate Olympus, and it would be impossible for any of those that could face off with a god, so that ruled them out as a possibility. That was alarming, as it meant it would be an immortal fighting the goddess of wisdom.
Unless it was an Olympian, there were not many gods who could give her a run for her money, so it wasn't likely a resident of Olympus.
Had it been a Primordial, the fight would be over by now and, most likely, there would be a large crater marking the spot instead of the glorious building. That meant, then, that it was one of the other members of the opposing side.
That meant a Titan.
The gods were stronger, now, than they had been during the second Titan war; Athena would be able to face all but the strongest of them in an open area, given that she was one of the most powerful even gods even amongst the Olympians. In her own temple, the home field advantage would mean she'd almost certainly survive and come out on top.
But the almost in that sentence was significant. She might be pissed at him for the damage done to her fancy building, but it was better that than a goddess being taken out of commission for the next hundred years. They didn't have the luxury of time.
Percy raised his left fist, and called to mind the desire to destroy and with it a raging domain. As power gathered in his knuckles, the immortal Hero caught sight of the statues coming to life. They wouldn't have time to stop him, luckily, when he punched forwards.
The door swung open, and Percy blinked.
The scene he was presented with wasn't what he expected. Instead of a brawl occurring, it was a corridor with a table and two coat racks haphazardly strewn over the floor. Between him and them stood a goddess in worse condition than Percy had ever seen her before.
Athena's eyes were wide, below her messy hair, and she had the look of a mortal who had not gotten any sleep the night before. As he opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, Percy wondered how long a goddess would have to be awake for such a countenance. He would have thought that they could undo the condition with a thought… maybe Athena was too distracted by whatever she was working on.
'Perseus?' Athena's voice was soft, yet surprised, 'How… Where have you been?!'
Thalia Grace felt like Hell. Based on the fact that Zoe's eyes had bags as though Atlas had punched her repeatedly in the face, again, her fellow lieutenant felt no better. Neither had been able to sleep for longer than it took to reach REM since Percy had vanished from the face of the Earth, and an hour of sleep was not enough to sustain anyone. Let alone the Lieutenants of the Hunt, who were as active as anybody in the world.
Because of this, the spar they were in was rather slow paced. Neither had the energy or motivation to move at their usual pace, and that was obvious even to the campers; Hunters were supposed to be far more skilled than this, and the Lieutenants were the cream of the crop. Usually, anyway.
Not that the other Hunters were in tip-top condition. They all had tiredness in bloodshot eyes, and a few of them were handling the situation nearly as poorly as Thalia; no matter their nature, every one of them owed Percy their life and with that cared for the man even without the toll their mistress' mourning took on them. Six months was nothing, to those who would live for hundreds of years, and neither Lieutenant was in the right state of mind to question how haggard their friends had become and how long their sadness had lingered. One was handling it worse than anyone, though she had a damn good reason.
Jasmine had lost the closest thing she had to both a brother and a father, and had held out the hope that he would walk over the hill for longer than any of them. Eventually, though, the young girl had been forced to face the truth; Percy Jackson was not coming back. He was either a prisoner or dead, and the reassurances Thalia and Zoe had both given the girl that he would reform had done nothing to quell her sorrow.
Probably because they didn't believe it themselves.
As Hunters, both had learned to read their mistress as well as she could read herself. They knew when something was wrong, and they knew when she did not wish to talk about it. They knew when she was angry, and remembered well the few times they had seen her sad; always at the death of one of her hunters. The memory of the goddess after Prophyrion's attack would never leave them, and had haunted Thalia's dreams more than once before Percy vanished.
Because they took their cues from Artemis above even their own instincts, they could see the look in her eyes as easily as a Mortal could see that the sky was blue. They had known on very day the goddess had lost hope, and had seen the effect it had on her. The light behind her silver eyes had vanished, and part of Artemis had died with the man she had fallen for.
Thalia sighed, as their spar stopped. She knew that they needed to recover, that there was a war about to break out, but that was easier said than done. Percy had been… he had meant more to her than anything, and if Thalia did recover she would never be the same again. Worse, Artemis seemed forever changed as well. She was a goddess and had been without love or infatuation for five-thousand years, and when she finally experienced it it was torn away? The Fates were cruel.
Yesterday had been six months, and Thalia did not know whether Artemis had ventured from her tent. She doubted it. Zoe, at least, had avoided everyone and everything; the demititan had feigned sleep as Thalia rose, but when the daughter of Zeus returned the room had been decimated by her anger, and Zoe's bed had been empty long into the night.
Thalia had been in the forest for the day, trying to remember the good times instead of the bad as she sat in the creek where she and Percy had once bickered. That hadn't worked; three months mourning, after the period denying that Percy was gone, was not enough. Not even long enough to remember the time before his death, instead of imagining him caged back in the underworld.
Thalia had gone to the beach, and screamed at the sea. She had nothing to blame, but Poseidon made a good stand in for whomever had taken- taken Percy away from her.
As she sat on the spectator bench, breathless and exhausted, Thalia heard the long note of a conch horn sound over the camp. The other Hunters stopped what they were doing, and Thalia looked up with some interest and rose to her feet as another note followed. If a third reached them, it meant there was an attack. And if not it meant there was something very strange happening; two blasts meant a camper was incoming, and that was not possible. They would be dead long before the camp came into sight.
As she and Zoe slowly exited the amphitheatre, Thalia heard shouts. Most of the words were indistinct, but they came from the top of the hill and were filled with confusion. One word, however, she made sense of.
She wondered why Thanatos would be visiting, and sighed; this would not be good news. The god of death did not deliver good news, and it must be exceptionally bad if Thanatos was coming himself instead of having Hermes pass on the message.
Artemis walked out of the woods as Chiron wheeled himself from the Big House, and Thalia winced. The change was hardly noticeable, from the outside. The campers likely had no idea that she had cared any for the dead hero; if they guessed something was wrong from her isolation they wouldn't think twice about Percy Jackson's fall. They could not see the pain she hid so well. They couldn't see the absence of moonlight in her eyes.
'Why are you laughing?!' It was rare that Percy saw the wisdom goddess in such a frenzy, but he supposed that if she didn't see the humour in the situation it would frustrate her. Athena hated not understanding anything.
'It's-' Percy chuckled again before forming an answer, but even then it was tricky concentrating with Purge laughing raucously inside his skull, he continued. 'I couldn't place his expression before- the chubby little godling I saw run past on the way here- and now I do. It was half "Christmas has come early" and half "holy shit-stained undies, who do I tell?!"' His laughter was soft, but it felt nice to find some humour in the situation after the rather serious events of the past few… months. Fuck.
'Six months?' Percy cringed, and rubbed his shoulder with concern. He didn't understand how it could knock him down for six months; he didn't die, or he would have reformed instead of waking up in the same spot. But if the injuries were serious enough that he was comatose for that long, how didn't he die? He had taken massive amounts of punishment, and been fine minutes later, before this… what was special about this time?
'That freaky Mormon.' Purge offered, 'I told ya that that fucker had somethin' off about 'im. He probably thought his freaky voodoo bullshit would take us out for good. But we ain't that easy to kill, eh boss?'
'Athena,' Percy began, the goddess in question staring at his hand with an inquisitive expression, 'what do you know about Moros? The god of… doom, I think.' Athena's eyes snapped up again, and this time her searching gaze was on Percy's face.
'Moros?' Her gaze had a hunger in it Percy just barely recognised, though he struggled to place where from for a moment. 'He's older than Olympus. At least as old as Kronos, supposedly. Why? Have you seen him? Where? When? Is he the reason you've been gone so long? What was he like? Did you speak with him? What did he say?' Percy placed the expression, now; it was the look Annabeth had gotten when she had the scent of some new interesting factoid.
'Uh… I don't know which question to answer.' Percy blinked, as Purge's roars of jubilation turned to giggles, him being interested in her sudden shift in attitude also.
'Did you meet with him?' Athena calmed herself visibly, but the eager interest was still in her eyes.
'Yeah… we had a concerning chat,' he replied, with caution; Percy didn't know what he should tell the wisdom goddess, and the council with her. Some of what had happened was… private. And would worry the gods if they found out. Then again… they did need to know what they were up against, 'and I'll tell you what it was about later… but I think the whole council will need to be there when I divulge the topic.'
Athena opened her mouth to object, thought better of it and closed it, and then began again after a half-minute.
'It must be serious, in that case,' she looked for confirmation, and apparently found it from some feature of Percy's expression. 'Then… I suppose I will have to make peace with it. But, Perseus, I have to say that your absence has been concerning everyone. The war has escalated in the time since you've been gone, and… and we're losing.'
Percy was only vaguely aware of the fact that a crowd was beginning to gather to watch he and Athena talk on her doorstep, as the defeated tone in the goddess' voice inspired concern.
'How can you be losing? And, more importantly, how has it escalated?' He asked.
'The monsters have discarded any pretence of subtlety, in favour of intimidation. And that tactic has been very successful, with the addition of some level of… coordination behind their movements. They have cut off the vast majority of our forces from being able to stop them from terrorising the mortal world. Multiple armies worth have covered the land around camp Half Blood, and we can do nothing to stop them; they make sure to keep a hundred mortals alive and present at all times… it would be against the Ancient Laws for us to help the campers out of their predicament.
'So the Greeks have been isolated, unable to help the outside world and unable to receive help in return. It has left the Romans over-worked, and they are suffering because of it. I can only assume that that was the plan of whoever is orchestrating the monsters' movements. To weaken our forces and demoralise the gods by forcing them to send their children to their deaths.'
Percy resisted the temptation to say they don't need you demoralised, and instead stayed quiet to think on the true motivation of the Primordials. He couldn't see why they would need to weaken the gods, when their victory was certain already. With their forces and allies and own personal strength they could fell the gods without effort. A pair of them could waltz up to Olympus and slaughter all of its occupants with one hand behind each's back.
Perhaps it was because of their allies, then, that the Primordials were prolonging the war. The Titans would want their revenge, as would the Gigantes, and so it would appease the other immortals in the short term. And their opinions in the long term were unimportant, Percy was sure, to the Primordials; he knew the Titans would be dealt with after the gods were defeated, if Tartarus and the others had their way.
Percy couldn't bring himself to be saddened by the thought.
But for the fight to reach that point, other things would have to happen. Things Percy couldn't let happen.
The hybridic immortal felt his other side suppress the urge to say something, and did not ask Purge to tell him what he was thinking. Percy could guess, quite easily, that Purge wished to correct that statement.
Percy thought and examined his options. Six fucking months… he would feel awful about leaving it any longer, and… it was six months. No matter how powerful Moros might have been, there was no way Percy would be out of the game for that long. No, the Primordials must have been to blame and that meant it was nothing to do with Percy and his health; the only threat to his health now was leaving the hunters in their current situation for any longer than they'd already been there. If Tartarus was keeping him separate from them for so long, there had to be a reason.
As he focused on the goddess before him, again, Percy saw that she was equally lost in thought. He took a breath, and spoke slowly.
'I should… head out. Can you let the other Council-members know I stopped by, and that I regret the fact that I missed such a large gap of time?' He vanished, with a thought and a swirl of darkness. As Percy dematerialised he heard the goddess say one last, confused word.
Percy frowned, as he hung in the air above Half-Blood Hill.
These monsters were truly a horde, and there was only one person… not person, one entity that could keep them from breaking apart or turning on the others and killing each other until all that covered the hill was monster-ash. He had seen others direct monsters, but that was only directing them; giving them a particular target and unleashing their fury onto it. For them to be sitting still, it had to be their father who was pulling the strings.
Tartarus was exerting his influence, even if he was not getting physically involved just yet.
Floating through the air, Percy landed behind the majority of their number, with his new staff still sitting on his shoulder. They either did not notice him, or were instructed to ignore the threat behind them. Percy did not know which was more likely, until the whines of a Hellhound reached his ears.
The monsters knew, then, that he was here. They were afraid, but not enough to break the orders of their creator.
He had the perfect idea of how to change that.
Purgatory's grin was as large as ever, as their shared body thinned and their face became gaunt. Percy had been wearing his armour, and Purge dismissed it with a thought; they didn't need it in this, it wasn't even a fight.
It was a culling, and Purge had six months of violence to bequeath unto the monsters who wanted to do Percy's loved ones harm.
Krikou unwrapped from his arm and Purge whined back at the creatures, the noise slipping past his bared teeth as the immortal rolled his shoulders and walked forwards.
His foot hit the floor, and both their whines increased in pitch as Purge held the staff perpendicular from his body. The poison-green of his eyes burned as the end of the blade melted to form the blade of a grim-reaper's scythe.
A Cyclops screamed something gibberish, and Purge cackled.
A Hydra screeched something else, as Hounds began to snarl and snap and growl.
Purge continued to laugh, and whipped Krikou with single snapping motion.
Flames licked over the chain, burning bright even in the sunlight. It struck the floor, the grass burned and the dirt below sizzled. The monsters squirmed.
Purge leapt into the air.
Pandemonium broke out on the ground, as the immortal fell into the midsts of the Horde with a devilish grin on his face.
The chain followed Purge's movements, as the monstrous immortal punched the floor, and left a trail of fire as it cut through all monsters directly before Purgatory. Krikou burned through them like a white-hot knife through ugly-ass butter, and the monsters screamed.
Purge spun, and the chain whipped through the air and through monster after monster. Cyclops were cut at the waist as Hounds burst into ash and Empousa heads were taken off without a sound. Then, the chain rose into the air and rocketed towards Purge, the tip poised to pierce his chest.
The aspect spun out of its path, and the Giant who had been about to bash him over the head screamed as it stabbed through his thigh. Krikou shot into the air as the Giant fell to one knee, and wrapped around its neck. The symbol squeezed, and Purge laughed as its head popped off.
Krikou vanished, and Purge wrapped his other hand around the scythe's haft.
The immortal spun, and the platinum blade of his weapon flashed. The Cyclops' arm fell to the floor with the weapon he had been holding, and Purge grinned at the Monster as he spun the scythe over his head. It slashed across the monster's torso, and Purge dashed past as its body fell to the floor in two halves.
Purge twirled the weapon in hand as he danced around a Hellhound and its snapping jaws, under the outstretched arm of a Giant and beneath the legs of another. The light danced off the blade, and was consumed by the darkness of the staff itself, as Purge's shadow touched Empousa, Dracanae, Scorpions, Bats, and Harpies. Cyclops stumbled away as he rushed them and did not stop, and Purge ended his flurry of motions in front of a full-grown Hydra.
Purge tossed the scythe into the air with his eyes still on the seven-headed monster. It tumbled end-over-end in the air, and Purge let out a bark of laughter.
A cloud of gold dust burst into being, as Anaklusmos appeared in his left hand.
Purge did not summon fire as he charged the Hydra, and the serpentine creature hissed. Four heads sprang at Purge, and Riptide glinted in the sunlight as blood sprayed the immortal.
Eleven heads reared back, and Purgatory followed. He leapt into the air and his grinning face was covered in blood as he cut off head after head, hacking and slashing at the creature with wild movements that would have appeared random to any who might have been watching. Heads fell shrivelled to the floor and two more grew for each one the monster lost. Purge cut those off, too. Riptide's grip grew slick with blood, and the Hydra screamed as Purge laughed.
When he dropped to the ground, and stepped away from the monster, Purge was drenched in blood.
He spat a glob of its blood from his mouth, and tilted his head back. He grinned to the sky, and any immortals who might've been watching, as the Hydra screeched and yelled its indignation at what had been done to it.
In place of seven heads, there now sat closer to a thousand. All of which were squirming on a body no bigger than it had been to start.
Purge laughed, as he raised his right hand with the palm facing to the sky.
The scythe landed in his waiting grip, and Purge was happy as his stronger aspect gave him a name for the weapon.
Purge swung the blade overhead, and brought it down. The blade cut through the Hydra's tough skin, and the creature's angry sounds died as it fell lifelessly to the ground.
Purge turned to the remaining sea of monsters, and Riptide was replaced with a golden battleaxe.
Covered in dust and with mementos from the monsters littering the field behind him, Purge laughed again, and charged forwards without a care in the world as shadow dripped off him and his scythe like poison from the Pit itself. He was a single spot of darkness in the sunlight, and one could be excused for mistaking the shadows drifting from his back as the wings of Thanatos.
Those on top of the Hill made that very mistake. Campers, hunters, teachers, and even a goddess failed to properly see through the cloud of golden dust as a shadow moved through with a scythe in hand that was occasionally thrown up into the air. They didn't know how Thanatos thought he could interfere, or how he was able to show himself in front of the mortals the monsters had trapped in cages on the edge of the hill. They were there for that very reason- to prevent the gods from interfering down here, as their enemies cut off their foot soldiers from getting involved.
Artemis had the best eyes amongst them, but even she was struggling to see the figure beyond his weapon and the shadows on his back. Had it been Percy involved, he would have used his abilities to finish things soon. She would have recognised his powers, if he had used them. But Purge wasn't Percy. He didn't want to finish things quickly, he was looking to have fun with the task at hand and there was no better way to have fun than to slaughter them all by hand.
Artemis' first clue to his identity, beyond the mayhem on the field, came when she heard laughter. It was distant, barely audible beneath the roars and screams of monsters, but it stood out to her. There was no reason for a monster to be laughing at a time like this, and she hadn't seen any Titans or gods, and the partial-immortals she could see looked panic stricken and were fleeing- they weren't compelled by the same force as the monsters- only to be struck down by their allies. It sounded like Thanatos was the one who was laughing, but Thanatos never laughed. And it was too hoarse to belong to the calm god.
The second clue, related to the first, was that she perked up when that sound reached her. That chilling, intimidating sound made her heart skip a beat and Artemis had no idea why. It was like Diana recognised it, and her emotions were coursing through Artemis' brain without an explanation. But Diana was just as confused as Artemis by the feeling. It was a subconscious recognition, and that confused Artemis quite a bit.
The third clue was the one that made Artemis take a hesitant step forwards, staring at the spot of glowing platinum light and telling herself to stop. How could she still hope, after so many months? Percy was dead. But she'd seen that light so many times before… who else had a light like that?
The fourth clue came when a particularly strong-willed Cyclops came running out of the golden cloud, thundering away and knocking its allies out of the way in fear. The laughter spiked for a moment, beneath the Cyclops' scream, and a thin, black chain wrapped around its neck. The Cyclops exploded in a puff of gold, and the chain vanished back into the obscured area of the field.
The fifth clue came as a charging Cyclops- they were all beginning to scatter, now- slowed to a crawl. It moved like the air was syrup, and then a screaming Hellhound slammed into the back of its head. A bronze javelin followed, and stapled the hound to the back of its head as the two of them shrieked, fell to the floor at a regular speed, and burst into dust. She recognised a weapon, and a power. Artemis felt relief and urgency rise up in her chest, and it felt like she released a breath that had been held for six months.
The sixth came with a shock. The sky darkened, and clouds turned to fire as every hunter and camper looked up with concern. Rocks passed through the flaming clouds, and they began to scream as Artemis looked worriedly at their trajectory. Each and every one of them was heading for the golden cloud, and Artemis wondered who was responsible. Then, the ground split open and geisters of sapphire blue water shot into the sky. More and more of them came, spraying hundreds of feet into the sky, and the fire was suddenly extinguished. The rocks kept falling, until headless arrows shot into the air and shattered them into a thousand specks apiece.
The seventh came as every monster turned and fled, their orders suddenly changed as the clouds parted and the sun looked down upon them. There was a flash of shadow and platinum, and the ground began to quake below them. Fissures appeared, following the path of the monsters, and fire erupted from the earth. The monsters ran faster, as the fire rolled over the Earth in pursuit of them.
The eighth was hardly a clue. Artemis was already running down the hill, her strides graceful as a gazelle and faster than a cheetah. She heard the voices of Thalia and Zoe behind her- her loyal Lieutenants who had stuck with her through six months of nonsense- as she vanished into the settling dust cloud. She could see a shadowed figure before her, and saw an odd picture on his chest as the shadows dispersed from their owner. On Percy's chest, decorating dark armour, was a full moon.
And, finally, Artemis saw Percy standing there, covered head-to-toe in dust and staring up at the sun challengingly. Then, he looked at her, smiled, and Artemis felt emotion rise in her stomach. She ran to him, not sure how she was going to greet him, as Percy's eyes widened.