"There lay the bulk of giant Geryon dead mid his kine . . . Before him slain lay that most murderous hound Orthros, in furious might like Kerberos his brother-hound: a herdman lay thereby, Eurytion, all bedabbled with his blood."
Percy watched his companions' faces go slack. Taking the lead, he respectfully bowed his head and slid into the booth. "Lord Ares."
Area grinned, and Percy noticed the fire behind his eyes grow a bit. "Ah, Percy Jackson. The demigod that has Olympus in an uproar."
Percy remained quiet as the rest of his questmates filed into the booth. He felt the compulsion of Ares' presence heighten his bloodlust. He took a deep breath to calm down, or else the frenzy he was feeling might just catapult him into beating the tar out of the next person to look at him funny.
Bloodlust was an interesting concept. It was, for the most part, what Percy considered to be the difference between murderers and heroes. It was what wiped away the last of one's humanity if not repressed well enough.
That being said, bloodlust was also integral to battle. Obviously enough, you had to want to kill the person in front of you more than they wanted to kill you, or you'd be the one getting run through with a sword rather than them.
Everything in moderation, Athena used to say.
"I do my best," Percy replied casually, shocking his companions who were doing their best to seem respectful to the War God.
Ares let out a booming laugh that made everyone else in the diner briefly look at their table. He gave Percy his dangerous grin again. "I like you, kid. You got spunk. That's to be expected, I suppose, given your old man."
"His old man?" Nico asked abruptly.
Ares turned to him, his grin fading and turning into a grimace. "Hey, kid, zip it. The grown ups are talking here. Regardless, I'm surprised. You didn't even tell your little posse your parentage?"
"I want my achievements and feats to be my own," Percy lied convincingly.
Ares gave him a small nod of respect. "Making your own legacy, I get that. Hell, I respect it. If anyone knows about growing up under a huge shadow your pops casts, it's me."
Growing up under a shadow? Percy replayed that line in his head a few times.
Suddenly, Ares being behind this seemed more plausible. Percy could see the motive now- after being under his father's shadow for a millennia, Ares made a desperate gamble in order to get the respect he thought he deserved.
"Hey, let's get some grub, huh?" Ares said as he looked around. His eyes landed on a waitress. "Hey, bitch, we're ready to order!"
"Y-yes sir." She said as she shakily took out her notepad.
"Let's get, uh, I'm thinking 10 orders of fries and a couple dozen burgers. Throw in a soda or two." Ares listed off. "You kids want anything? It's on me."
"Yeah, I'll take the burger and fries as well. Strawberry shake sounds good." Percy added.
Percy also ordered for Annabeth, Nico, and Grover, who were still paralyzed at being so close to an Olympian.
Percy could understand that. After all, Ares was exuding a pretty intense I will kill you vibe.
After the food arrived, Ares dug in. Percy calmly ate his burger, and Ares took a break from inhaling his food to speak.
"I'm gonna cut to the chase, Percy. I need your help." He said, wiping some ketchup off of his face.
"I would be honored to help an Olympian." Percy replied politely.
"Heh. Good kid." Ares muttered.
"But," Percy countered. "I would like something in return. Gods aren't allowed to just interfere with mortals right? There has to be a deal."
"Not necessarily," Ares shifted. He nodded at Percy. "Name your terms."
Percy thought for a moment before speaking. "Lord Ares, I would like to have your blessing in battle so that I can learn to use weapons faster and wield them better."
Ares laughed for a moment. "That's it? Deal. Hell, I'll do you one better. I know the truth, Perseus. I'm a part of your plan. I'll tell you something Zoe isn't had the stomach to tell you yet."
Percy's jaw opened slightly. Part of his plan? Hades. Any theory Percy may have had about Ares being the culprit behind this seemed very faulty all of a sudden.
Ares chuckled, sipping his soda. "I know what's going through that hyperactive mind of yours. I didn't do it. Honest to Zeus- I just need a favor. Plus, I wanted to be the one to tell you. So, do we have a deal?"
He held out his hand.
Percy mentally shrugged. If he trusted Ares enough to keep him in the loop with Zoe back in the day, he could trust him now. He shook it.
"Alright," Ares waved a hand, and the empty plates disappeared. "Let's talk business."
"I'm game." Percy replied.
"I'm gonna be brutally honest, here, kid." Ares started. "This is a tough one. Just kidding."
"Well, what is it?"
"I was on a date, and I left my wallet at the place we went. I need you to go get it." Ares said. "Sound easy enough?"
Percy stared at him for a moment, before realized why he couldn't go. If Ares went on a date, he probably went on a date with Aphrodite. And if he went with Aphrodite, her husband Hephaestus probably wasn't very happy. And if he wasn't happy...well…
"Yeah," Percy agreed hastily. "Piece of cake."
"I'm glad you think so. Go to this address, and you'll know it's my wallet when you see it. And also- get ready for a fight." Ares added. "And I mean you, Perseus. Any of these other weaklings would be decimated in a second. Good luck!"
He snapped his fingers and they were all back in the car, the radio blaring rock music and the tank completely full.
"What was that?" Nico asked, voicing the thoughts of the whole group.
"An Olympian asked used to do him a favor, and, as I don't want to end up a grease spot the floor, I agreed."
"No, no. We want to know about the rest of it!" Grover stressed. "Who is Zoe?"
"Zoe is my teacher," Percy replied instantly, having thought of the excuse long ago. He looked at Annabeth. "That's why I haven't been to camp a lot. I'm being mentored by a goddess."
Everyone's jaws simultaneously dropped.
"A...a goddess?" Nico found his voice first. "You're being trained by a goddess?"
"Yep." Percy affirmed. "She's a minor one, so you probably don't know her, but she assists Lady Artemis with the Hunt."
"Those are the people that my sister went with." Nico said sadly. Percy noticed the shadows from the road waved for a moment.
Changing the subject, Percy tried to talk to them about where they were going. "So, this address that Lord Ares gave me leads to a park. Not like a state park, but a kid park. With slides and swings and a jungle gym."
Annabeth looked at him weirdly. "Why would a god be at a kids park?"
Percy shrugged. The better question was why would two gods be at a kids park together?
Finding the park was easy enough. Percy pulled into an open parking spot by the swingset and took the keys out of the ignition. "Alright, guys. Keep your eyes peeled."
As they exited the car, Percy instantly spotted Ares' wallet. It was sort of hard to miss, considering it had a glowing Ω on it. It was currently in the hands of a small boy, who was playing with it as if it were an airplane.
"Hey, kid." Percy said kindly as he walked up to the boy and knelt. "That wallet belongs to a friend of mine. Can I have it so that I can give it back to him?"
The boy's face lit up. "You know Papa too?"
"Papa?" Percy repeated with a confused expression.
Just then, the boy's mother walked over. She picked him up, and made a tsk noise as she took the wallet. Her eyes met Percy's. "Looks like he left his wallet again."
"Uh...yeah. I can take it back to him. That's actually why he sent me here."
The woman smiled and handed it to him.
Percy's brain had been trying to analyze the woman since he met her, and so far, he was drawing a blank. There wasn't anything that jumped out at him. No glow, or charmspeak. Sure, the woman was pretty but Percy doubted she was Aphrodite.
"Send Matthew my love." She said, as she ruffled the boy's hair. "And tell him to come home soon so Thomas doesn't miss him."
Matthew? Percy wondered bewilderedly. As he looked closer at the kid, he noticed that he bore a slight resemblance to Ares.
"I'm sorry, who are you?" Percy asked abruptly.
"Oh, he didn't tell you?" The woman asked. "I'm Matthew's wife. This little guy right here is our son, Drew Deimos. I don't know why Matthew insisted his middle name be Deimos, but his middle name is Ares so it could be a family thing."
"Yeah, it could be." Percy agreed.
Matthew Ares? From what Percy could glean, this little kid was Ares' son. What he couldn't understand is why Ares had taken on a mortal counterpart to actually be a family. Not many, if any gods or goddesses did that, if Percy remembered correctly.
Especially not gods like Ares and Apollo. They prided themselves on hooking with many, many different women. So why would Ares go to the trouble of supporting this family?
Before he could think any longer, the ground next to them split open.
Remembering Ares' warning, Percy stepped in front of the woman holding Drew. "You need to go. Now."
She didn't linger, sprinting towards her car.
Percy was forced to cover his eyes as an enormous shape jumped out of the split and landed, causing dust to go flying everywhere.
"Hm...a demigod. You are not the kin of Ares." He heard a deep voice rumble.
Percy strained to see past the dust. He could vaguely make out the shape of a large, dog like body. The only difference was that this dog seemed to be easily 10 feet tall. His jaw dropped when two heads came shooting forward from the dust until they were inches away from his.
As Percy gazed into 2 sets of blood red eyes, he felt, for the first time since the Minotaur, uncertainty that he would survive.
"I am Orthrus, son of Echidna and Typhon," Orthrus growled out as the dust settled, a giant diamondback snake protruding from his back. "But you already were aware of that, right, Perseus?"
Percy swallowed nervously. His danger gauge was skyrocketing into the you're screwed portion.
"Oh, yes, Perseus. I do not forget. You slew me many years ago, and I have been biding my time. Granted, I was here to kill the spawn of Ares, but this is much better. You look so weak."
"Enough talk," Perseus called out as he rushed towards Orthrus. Orthrus chuckled, and the snake tail came out and rammed Percy in the chest, stopping him in his tracks.
Percy gasped out in pain as he felt a few of his ribs crack. Orthrus' tail wrapped around him a few times, and he felt more of his bones crack under the heavy force. "So weak."
Orthrus slammed Percy down onto the ground and leapt onto him. Percy cried out as blood began seeping out of his mouth.
Through the haze of pain, Percy all but guessed that his ribs were shattered, and one of them had punctured his lungs.
If he didn't have godly blood in him, Percy knew he'd be dead.
"I am going to slaughter you here, Perseus. And then, I am going to kill all of your friends and family, one by one." Orthrus taunted.
Normally, Percy wouldn't worry about his threat. His family was all immortal and so were his friends, but then he realized Orthrus meant Annabeth, Nico, and Grover.
All of a sudden, he felt himself being thrown backwards into a memory.
"There are three stages in the Games: strength, agility, and mind. Lord Zeus has decided to test you in strength and agility in a different form than usual for we do not have much time. You were tested on strength when you fought that man and freed those women." Melinoe explained. Pass these tests and you will become a full-fledged member of Olympus rather than just a god. It has already been decided by Lord Zeus that you will participate in the mind stage in the Games. There is usually more than one man in the strength stage, but we did not have a lot of time, so you shall pass the strength stage."
Perseus's expression hardened. "How do the games work?"
"There is one rule to the games." Melinoe said as they reached another door. "You can't help Astraea, another prospective citizen, while she is overcoming the strength stage, nor I when I overcome the agility stage. You can only participate when you are overcoming the mind stage."
"What's the first rule?" Perseus asked.
"Do not fail." Astraea said, appearing next to Perseus. She winked at him. "That is a one way portal to Hades."
"Do not use my father's name in such a manner. You will likely go to Elysium. You do know what that is, right?" Melinoe asked.
"Yes, I do, daughter of Hades. As much as I would love to taste your father's hospitality, I do not wish to do so right now. Let us get started." Perseus smirked.
"Once we enter, there is no going back. The only way out is at the end of the mind stage." Melinoe added as the three walked into a small hallway with another door in front of them. Her staff shortened to its sword form as green smoke swirled around it. Astraea opened the second door as well to an open, circular room with three fires burning in three different spots up against the wall. The door closed behind them. "Remember, you can not help Astraea . This is her challenge."
"But what if she… dies?" Perseus asked.
"Then the challenge is over and you move on." Astraea said, unphased at the idea of death.
The fires went out and three giant white wolves came out from corridors hidden behind the fires. The fires re-lit once the wolves were out of the corridors. Melinoe and Perseus stood to the side as Astraea approached the three giant wolves. She took out a sword and began to fight.
The first wolf launched itself at her. She ducked and stabbed it's underbelly.
"Nice," Perseus commented.
It got back up easily, and jumped on her shoulder. She punched it's snout, knocking it to the ground unconscious. The other two wolves advanced on her. They circled around her, one to the left, one to the right. The one on the left went to pounce, and Astraea ducked and rolled to the side. The wolf on the right ran toward Astraea and she struck it with the hilt of her sword. It fell, but was not down for good. By then, the second wolf had come up behind Astraea and pounced on her back. She reached up and grabbed the wolf, throwing it down in front of her. The third wolf got up slowly, and Astraea let it come at her. It ran at her and when it was close enough, Astraea dropped to a knee and stuck her other leg out, tripping the wolf. After that, all of the wolves were done with the fight and the fires went out again. The three wolves slowly walked back down their separate corridors and the fire lit itself again.
"Now what?" Perseus asked as the floor opened up beneath them. He levitated as Melinoe made herself and Astraea disappear. "Over here is a cliff that you can stand on while you wait." Melinoe said from a few feet below Perseus, Astraea next to her.
Perseus went down to the cliff.
"Want to give me some light?" Melinoe asked. They were in a dark abyss that seemed to be bottomless.
Perseus nodded. He held up his hand and an orb of light shot out and illuminated everything within a few yards. They were able to see multiple cliffs along the sides and a long serpent on one of the cliffs.
The serpent "climbed" the cliffs, getting closer to Melinoe. Melinoe began to jump from cliff to cliff, getting closer to the serpent.
She pulled out her sword and began to fight the serpent. It slithered away from most of her strikes but she kept up with it and dodged all of it's attacks. As the serpent lunged at her, Melinoe jumped up, putting her hands on it's head and launching herself onto it's back. She stabbed the serpent's neck with her sword and pulled it out as the serpent reared back from the pain.
Melinoe jumped off the serpent's back to a nearby cliff. The serpent turned to her and breathed fire. She quickly rolled to the side. Melinoe jumped to a higher cliff and when the serpent opened its mouth to breath fire again, she threw a dagger down it's throat and it collapsed into the abyss.
Melinoe then flew to the cliff where Astraea and Perseus were watching. "The next doorway is at the bottom. It is not as deep once you finish the challenge." Melinoe said. She made herself and Astraea disappear.
Perseus went to the bottom where he found Melinoe and Astraea , and they appeared in an open room with two giant stone men holding stone hammers. There was a door behind the second stone giant.
Perseus walked up to the first statue. The stone giant in front of Perseus shifted and spoke. "If my opposite is given free, you may never know me. If given effort, you may. What am I?"
"Riddles?" Perseus asked, excited. As a son of Athena, this was his bread and butter. "Umm. Opposite given free, given effort I may know you." He repeated to himself. "Oh, you're failure."
The stone giant crumbled to debris at the correct answer. Perseus stepped in front of the second stone giant. It also shifted and spoke. "I am worthy but disregarded. My land is strange yet home. Who am I?"
"My uncle," He seemed very surprised by the idea, but it came out nonetheless. "Hades." Perseus said.
The stone giant crumbled to debris. "Wow. You got that right the first time." Melinoe said, impressed. "It took your mother two tries to get it right."
"Well, I'm not my mother." He said plainly, but was secretly amazed that he'd beaten his mother at something.
"Well, you passed the challenge. All that is left is for you to be tested in agility and you will be a citizen of Olympus." Melinoe said as they walked to the door and appeared outside.
"You can not use your powers to help you pass the challenge. I did not use mine when I was doing my challenge." Melinoe said as she led Perseus towards the final stage of the games with Astraea following. "Basically, you will have the entire army of Olympus shoot arrows at you."
"Cake. Is there a limit to how much I can be hit though?" Perseus asked.
"Each guard will fire twice. And they will fire randomly. There may be five arrows coming at you from different directions at times and one at others." Melinoe said
"Alright." Perseus stretched.
The three walked the guards saw them, they stopped their sparring and got a bow and two arrows each from the racks and assembled themselves on one side of the courtyard-like area they were in. Astraea moved to the side and Melinoe showed Perseus where to stand before she joined her.
"Are you ready?" Melinoe asked from the side.
"One second." Perseus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes. "Bring it."
"Remember, you can not use your powers." Melinoe reminded him.
"Begin!" Melinoe told the guards. They began firing at Perseus, high and low, sometimes five at a time, sometimes one. Perseus dodged all of them.
Perseus jumped up and down, spryly avoiding each arrow that was shot towards him.
Melinoe noticed, but did not say anything. The guards went back to their sparring.
"Well done. You are now a citizen of Olympus." Melinoe said. "I hope you never need to use this, but…"
She touched Perseus' shoulder briefly, and it glowed black. "A gift from me, to you, son of Athena."
Orthrus went flying off of Percy, and Percy was levitating off the ground. Slowly, a black shroud began to form around him.
"Oh yeah," Percy smirked as the shroud thickened. "Let's party."
(1)- Melinoe was a daughter of Hades in Greek Mythology, and was not someone whose attention you would want to draw. In the Orphic hymns, she brings terror at night to mortals by taking strange forms, and could drive mortals insane. The only reason for a hymn mentioning her, is to placate her, by showing that her nature is known and recognized, so averting the harm she is capable of causing if she wanted to educate you herself.
(2)- Astraea was the goddess of innocence in Greek mythology, daughter of the Titans Astraeus, god of dusk, and Eos, goddess of dawn. Her name meant "star-maiden" and she was on the earth alongside humans during the Golden Age of Man. When the Iron Age dawned, bringing along misery and wickedness, Astraea abandoned the earth and went to the skies where she transformed into the constellation Virgo.