Of all the things to happen to Percy, this was the last thing he could have expected. He goes ahead and tries to do the right thing. As always, the one thing that could mess up his day, that just started mind you, happened.
"H-Hey, Zo—" he tried, but she just pushed the blade closer to his throat. He could feel his blood dripping down his neck.
"Shut up." Her hand trembled as she tightened her grip. "Three years, Perseus. Three years. All that time we've—I've—been searching and where were you? Staying here with these...these campers, while your family is worried sick!"
"Th-that's not fair! She was going to kill me, Zoe. You were there and you saw it! I had to—"
"I said, SHUT UP!" She kicked him into the snow while pulling out her other knife. Angry tears slid down her face, and Percy was at a lost on what to do. He sat still as she approached him like a predator.
Thalia, who stood silent with Annabeth and Bianca, had other ideas. Aegis expanded from her wrist as she pulled her spear out from her mace can. "Hey, Zoe! I don't know what your problem is, but I'm only gonna say this once. Leave. Him. Alone."
Percy muttered a curse, he knew that wasn't the right thing to say. The way Zoe froze and turned her head slowly reminded him of horror movie trailer he's seen once. Hey eyes wide and crazy, he knew he had to get involved before someone got hurt.
Annabeth, however, readied her own self with her dagger. Bianca moved over to the side, fear in her eyes at seeing the girl she was starting to look up to look so crazy. Right before Zoe lunged, Percy got up and lurched forward.
The moment he got a hand on Zoe, she launched him into the snow with a fierce elbow. Groaning in the snow, he heard the sound of metal clashing with metal. He turned around to see Thalia and her spear meeting Zoe's hunting knives blow for blow. As well as the Daughter of Zeus was faring, Percy knew it was only a matter of time before Zoe's millennia of experience overpowered Thalia.
As he stood up, willing his own knives into existence, he noticed footprints forming in the snow. Annabeth, Percy thought. He ran towards her, pouring on his speed and managed to tackle her invisible form just before she reached his older sister. Her hat fell off, revealing her surprised face.
"Let me handle it," he asserted, answering her unasked question.
Not giving her time to respond, he jumped off of her and made his way to the dueling teenagers and made eye contact with Bianca, who was watching with trepidation. He nodded his head over to Thalia, and even though she hesitated, she nodded herself and began making her way over to the daughter of Zeus.
Percy paused for a second to get a feel of the rhythm. Just like he thought, Thalia's slowly began losing ground and her swings began to slow down. After a vicious overhead swing from Zoe that pushed Thalia back, Percy jumped in and swung his own knives. With immaculate precision, he knocked out both weapons from his sister.
The Lieutenant of the Hunt found her herself sprawled in the snow for a change of pace, though it only served to add more fuel to her fire. In a blink of an eye, she was back on her feet, but Percy was ready. Two silver knives were placed at the back and front of Zoe's throat, effectively trapping her.
"Zoe!" Percy pleaded, "Calm down. We can talk about this."
She responded with a ferocious glare that almost, almost, made him pull his knives away and shadow travel as far away as possible. Instead, he steeled his nerves and looked back with his own glare. She's never acted like this before, he reflected, gripping his knives tighter.
"Zoe, please. This isn't like you. I am sorry, really, I am. But staying out here and fighting is useless when we should actually start on this quest," he tried.
She just glared at him, bringing her hands up to cross over her chest. "Fine," she muttered. Slowly, Percy pulled away from his knives and sheathed them. She turned away to get her belongings, not wanting to look at him. Percy watched, troubled, before following her lead, returning to the other three questmates.
They all watched him advance, and he couldn't help but wince. Bianca had a large cut in her parka and Thalia's face was littered with little nicks and snips. Annabeth's face was flushed, the freezing snow forcing blood rush to her head, making her look like Annabeth, the Red-faced Reindeer. "Listen, I know you all have questions. As friendly as I've been, we all know that I've also kept to myself. Just now, let's get on the road, and I'll answer whatever you have to ask."
Bianca, knowing Percy's words weren't directed towards her, looked over towards her two companions. Annabeth was fine with the agreements, knowing she gets to ask questions. Thalia, however, just stared at him, though without the malice that Zoe had.
Percy met her look with pleading eyes. Seeing his look, one that she's honestly never seen before, she smirked at him and fished the keys out of her pocket. Wordlessly, she turned around and went for the van driver's seat. Annabeth gave him a small smile and nod before pulling the passenger's seat door open and entering the van herself.
After receiving a small nod from Bianca, he turned back to the woods to retrieve his own bag. Zoe ended up bringing it with her and shoving it into his chest without holding back any force. "Get in," she demanded.
Blue eyes met with dark brown, "Come on, Zoe. You don't have to be so mean."
She pointed towards the open door to the back seat, "Get in the van, Perseus. Now."
He sighed but followed directions. He tried to sit next to Bianca, who was in the row right behind the driver's seat, but a firm hand pushed him towards the farther back. Percy slid in towards the window, with Zoe right next to him.
Ten minutes later, and the five questers found themselves on the road. They were in a semi-comfortable silence before Thalia's ADHD got the best of her. "So are we gonna ask questions or no? Annabeth?"
Bianca played with the crumbs of her donut. Her mother used to buy these for her and Nico when she was younger. She internally sighed, she hadn't even spoken to him since Apollo dropped them off at the camp. Nico was always so close to her, annoying but endearing, and his distance has been on her mind more than everything.
"I mean, come on this is unbelievable! Him! A child of her!"
"I know Annabeth. This is like your thousandth time telling us."
Well, almost everything, Bianca mused. The main topic that served the three girls attention was largely Zoe and Perseus. Once entering the cafe the famed lieutenant dragged him over to the side and forced him into a booth, giving the rest of them a vicious look that clearly told them to stay away.
If this was a few hours before, Thalia would've walked over and deliberately sat down with them, but they had… a significant conversation that filled them in greatly. More or less, everyone understood the separation, wanting time to process everything themselves. Though Bianca wished that Annabeth could've done a little more processing, quietly.
"Well, what about you Bianca? You're a hunter, how are you taking this?"
She was going to ignore the daughter of Athena but found Thalia's eyes watching her too. "If I'm being honest, I'm really not that surprised."
As she said that gray eyes lit up in anticipation, Bianca wished she used a better choice of words. "Wait, what do you mean? Did the Hunt tell you when you initially joined? Or did they wait until you were picked for the quest?"
"No, no," Bianca answered. "No one told me anything, but I could feel it when I joined. The confidence they showed at Westover kinda disappeared like they were missing something. I never expected anything like Artemis losing her kid though."
Thalia chuckled softly, "Yeah, me neither. A part of me wants to laugh at them, just to get back of them. The raise a male for the first time ever, and what happens? They drive him away. But, on the other hand, I know what it's like losing someone I care about."
Bianca raised an eyebrow at that but saw that both didn't want to answer. She was fine with that, it gave her a chance to think about everything. The hunters were so somber and it was all because they lost Percy. Again, it made her think of Nico and their situation. Though she wasn't the sad one that was Nico. If she stayed with the Hunt long enough, would he soon hater her?
It wasn't long before Percy walked over, announcing it was time to go. A small look glance towards the exit showed that Zoe was already leaving.
"So, how'd it go? Everything alright now?" Thalia asked, Bianca and Annabeth unashamedly listening in.
Percy let out a sigh, "I don't really know. She didn't really talk much, just asked what I've been doing so I told her."
"You look like this is all bothering you," Bianca pointed out. It confused her, honestly, the way he was reacting.
"I...I didn't really think I was gonna see her or any of the Hunt any time soon. But now that she's here, the way she's been acting is a little unsettling. Since I was born I've never seen her this angry. Like ever."
"Well, Thalia said you first showed up when we searched for her father's bolt. Right?" Percy nodded, wondering where Annabeth was taking this. "Well, you helped us find it. You could've cleared your name, and returned to the Hunt. Zoe's been alive for a long time so she's smart, that's probably why she's angry."
Percy thought about it, but Annabeth had other plans. "When were you planning to go back anyway?"
Thalia snorted. "Maybe he didn't want to go back. Probably just live his own life until he dies from old age or monsters or something."
"Can you even die? Or did your mother bless you like us?" Bianca inquired.
"Hey, wait," Percy interrupted. "I'm glad you all of your thoughts about my life and such, but I think I can handle it."
"Okay, fine, but I still got one more question. Are you fine with rescuing your mother, even though you haven't spoken with her in so long."
Percy's face scrunched up, "What do you mean, 'rescuing'? Why would my mom need to be rescued?"
"Wait a minute. Do you not know what this quest is about?" At Percy's blank look Bianca sighed, "We are tasked with saving the goddess Artemis from holding the weight of the world."
They watched as the son of Artemis tensed, his hands beginning to tremble. "But that's not possible… Atlas! Atlas is supposed to be doing that! That's his curse! Wh-why would my mother being stuck there when Atlas should be at Othrys holding the freaking weight!"
He was beginning to cause a scene as the other customers began looking at him like he was crazy. Even the bored teenage cashier started sending them weird looks. Thalia grabbed his shoulder in an attempt to calm him down. "Percy, after everything that happened at Maine, Artemis left on a solo hunt for some old beast she almost forgot about. It wasn't until after Capture the Flag yesterday that we learned she was caught by Kronos' forces and forced to hold the weight."
"Do you even know the Prophecy?" Annabeth questioned. Again the girls were met with a blank look. "Here I'll tell you. Five shall go west to the goddess in chains, One shall be lost in the land without rain, The bane of Olympus shows the trail, Campers and Hunters combined prevail, The Titan's curse must one withstand, And one shall perish by a parent's hand."
Percy wouldn't move, standing so still they didn't even know if he was still breathing. "You think you're gonna be alright Perce?"
He didn't have a choice as Zoe beeped the horn rather aggressively. Percy flinched back into the present before looking at everyone and said, "Come on, let's not make her angry at you all when it really just me."
He left without another word as the girls went to throw their trash away. "She wants to be all mad but doesn't even tell him what we're freaking doing," Thalia muttered.
"But weren't you the one who invited him in the first place?" Annabeth observed.
"I mean yeah, but still. She can be angry, doesn't mean she can be a prick though."
Annabeth nodded her opinion, snatching a muffin from the display before following the daughter of Zeus. Bianca did the same, grabbing about four donuts before leaving, getting in the van, and sitting in the back of the van. She planned to get some sleep, something she couldn't do on the first trip. After eating, the low sound of the motor slowly lured her into Morpheus' realm.
Percy silently made his way to the Museum of Natural History. When Zoe had parked their van near the Washington Monument, claiming this was where they needed to head next, Percy thought differently. Or at least, his gut did. So when he claimed to have left something in their vehicle, imagine the surprise when a black sedan pulled up and a very familiar figure popped up.
Military buzz cut, dark shades, and a black overcoat, which shouldn't be anything special given they are in Washington. But the son of Artemis wasn't one to be fooled, because when he caught a glimpse of his face, Percy recognized him immediately. The Manticore, though now he goes as Dr. Thorn. Percy watched as the monster followed his group into the mall, and Percy began his hunt.
He stayed a few ways back from Thorn as Annabeth was leading the girls around eventually stopping in front of a big building that said NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM. Thalia checked the door. It was open, but there weren't many people going in. Most likely because of the weather being too cold, and school appeared to be out of session.
Dr. Thorn, however, decided this was where he'll stop following them, because Percy watched as he paused in front of the building, take out a phone, and leave to go enter another building.
This one said, Museum of Natural History, and had another sign stating the building was supposed to be closed for a private event.
Percy followed Dr. Thorn inside, blending in with the chamber full of mastodons and dinosaur
Skeletons. His enhanced hearing picked up voices ahead, behind a set of closed doors. The guards standing by opened up the door for Thorn. Percy had to sprint to make it before they shut the doors behind him… well, he tried to.
"What in Hades name do you think you are doing!"
Percy quickly spun around and shushed the person, and stifled a groan at the sight of Zoe. He missed her, truly, but the attitude and hostile behaviors had put a damper on their little "family reunion".
"I'm trying to figure out what they're doing in that room, but you had to stop me."
Zoe rolled her eyes, "If you thought I wasn't going to keep an eye on you, you thought wrong. Now let's go, spying on random mortals helps no one. Annabeth believes—"
"No, you don't get it!" Percy whispered, "That was the Manticore, the same one from Maine."
Whatever Zoe was gonna say was lost to the wind as she paused and narrowed her eyes. Anyone else would think she would scream obscenities at him, but Percy knew that look, she was listening in just as she's done.
Her eyes didn't blink for at least thirty seconds before she lost her facial expression, "I hear them."
"Good. Now you get what I'm trying to do—"
"Just when were you going to tell us?"
"Wh-what?" Percy stuttered, his hand reaching to scratch the back of his head. "I have everything handled, I would've come back and told you all everything that I found."
Zoe just stared at him emotionlessly, waiting for the actual answer. After another ten seconds, she rolled her eyes and said, "So how are we getting in?"
Percy paused in his rant to gauge his surroundings. There was only one way he could fathom getting in. "Give me your hand but stay close even after we jump."
She raised an eyebrow but listened anyway. Her eyes widened as she felt her being sucked into a shadow and deposited them both on an upper balcony looking over the occupants in the room. Zoe was going to let out a sound of shock but fortunately, Percy placed his hands over her mouth to muffle her. She looked over to see him with a finger over his mouth, with his eyes darting over to Thorn and company.
Percy looked over the room and held in a growl. Standing around was a bunch of mortal guards, with Scythian dracaenae next to them, which were basically reptilian women with double-snake trunks for legs.
They all surrounded Dr. Thorn and his friend, a friend that Percy hadn't seen in an extensive amount of time. Luke Castellan, also known as the man who attempted to murder him in cold blood. It was the first time Percy ever had a male double-cross him, having him finally recognize just how evil men could be. Of course, he couldn't allow hatred of men to be centered in his life, he was a male himself after all.
"You are much too fragile to risk. Let me finish them off."
"No." A deep, ancient voice thundered. A chill froze its way down Percy's spine, as he got a look at the man who was speaking. The man was tall and muscular, with light brown skin and slicked-back dark hair. He wore an expensive brown silk suit with a brutal face, huge shoulders, and hands that could snap a flagpole in half. His eyes were like stone but reminded Percy of someone. It was like looking at a living statue. Percy was slightly amazed this man could even move.
This must be the General. Who did Hades say he was again? Percy listened in as the new powerful man began to threaten the Manticore. Obliviously missing the trembling of the woman next to him.
"You have already failed me, Thorn," he said.
Percy jumped as Zoe visibly flinched, though before he could question her actions the General spoke again.
"I should throw you into the pits of Tartarus for your incompetence," the General said. "I send you to capture a child of the three elder gods, and you bring me nothing but a scrawny group of nymphs."
"But you promised me revenge.'" Thorn protested. "A command of my own!"
"I am Lord Kronos's senior commander," the General said. "And I will choose lieutenants who get me results! It was only thanks to Luke that we salvaged our plan at all. Now get out of my sight, Thorn, until I find some other menial task for you."
Thorn's face turned purple with rage, but he didn't retaliate, further solidifying how dangerous the General really is. Thorn just bowed awkwardly before shuffling out of the room.
"Now, my boy." The General turned to Luke. "The first thing we must do is isolate the half-blood Thalia. The monster we seek will then come to her."
"The Hunters will be difficult to dispose of," Luke said. "Zoe Nightshade—"
"Do not speak her name!"
Like a flip was switched, Zoe woke up from her reverie. Shaken from her stupor, her body went into overdrive, senses begin to heightened, adrenaline pumping through her veins. "Perseus it's time to go."
"Do you have the teeth?" The General pointed to a guard, who popped up with the teeth in a ceramic pot.
"Wait, why?" Percy hissed, "What do the teeth do? I wanna know!"
"I will tell you, first return us to the group. This is our best course of action, trust me."
"What type of teeth are they? Just hurry and tell me."
Zoe let out a frustrated sound and grabbed him by his collar. She dragged him from the shadows and pulled him to the edge of the balcony. "Can you not feel it. The ancient power that's flowing through the room? Those teeth are not of dinosaurs, but dragons Perseus. This is why we must leave now."
Percy's eyes widened in fear as he quickly grabbed her hand and hauled her into the shadows. They ended up outside of the Mall but before Percy could figure out where to go, Zoe was already dragging him along.
They entered the Air and Space Museum and barreled through the museum. Percy himself had no idea where the others were, but Zoe was a woman on a mission. Who was he to deny her sense of direction? The main part of the museum was one huge room with rockets and airplanes hanging from the ceiling.
He probably should've paid more attention to where he was going, because it wasn't long until he ran into Annabeth—literally. Luckily, Zoe let his hand go and by the time Annabeth was going to crash into a nearby space capsule, he was able to catch her.
"Who the heck…" the words died in her mouth at the sight of Percy.
"Sorry, Annabeth. Looks like I have a habit of just running you over, don't I?" Percy frowned as her face got all red, It's not even cold in here. "You alright, Annabeth?"
"She's fine," Thalia interrupted, wrapping her arm around the girl and bringing her closer to her side. "But what about you two? We figured you both would want to talk again but you both look like you've seen a ghost." Bianca nodded her agreement, eyebrow arch included.
"The traitor boy," Zoe explained. "He's here."
The confusion was brushed off of Thalia's face, replaced with pure anger. "Where?"
"In the Natural History Museum, but listen we have to go now I'll explain later. Right now we have to go before the General sends something at us and slows us down." Percy advised, eager to get as far away as possible.
However, one cannot just leave without quenching Annabeth's curiosity. "What's coming? And did you say the General, as in—"
"Look, mommy!" A little kid shrieked with delight. "It's a kitty!"
Something enormous bounded up the ramp. It was the size of a pick-up truck, with silver claws and golden glittering fur. The Nemean Lion. It roared louder than any megaphone, it's fangs gleaming like stainless steel.
"Separate on my mark," Zoe ordered. "We need to keep it distracted."
"For how long?" Bianca asked. She wanted to run and hide, but this was her first monster and first chance to prove she belonged with the Hunt. No turning back now, she thought.
"Until I think of a way to kill it. Go!"
Percy rolled to the left, summoning his swords. Annabeth put on her cap and disappeared from view, and Bianca and Zoe began to climb the space capsule to gain a vantage point over the beast. Of course, Thalia just had to ignore everything Zoe said and stepped right into the lion's path.
She held up Aegis and for a moment the lion recoiled. Then it started to growl and crouch, its leg muscle tensing. Before it could pounce though, a black haired blur crashed into its side and sent it tumbling down to the main part of the museum, which, thanks to the mortals, was utter pandemonium.
"Perseus!" Zoe shouted abandoning her position to jump down and aid her brother.
"Zoe! Bianca! Aim for the mouth!" Annabeth shouted. Zoe couldn't see where but as the flailing mortals were "mysteriously" pushed towards the exit, one could guess the daughter of Athena was making the area a mortal free zone.
The Lieutenant landed down with Percy and the beast and saw that he was surprisingly holding his own. Though the Nemean Lion was undoubtedly stronger than him, Percy proved to be the faster one. The huntresses poured on the arrows but the lion's maw was sewn shut as it tried to lay a hit on Percy.
"Perseus! I don't have a shot, you need to get it to open its mouth more!" Zoe yelled.
Suddenly the room was flooded with the smell of ozone as all combatants stopped to look up. An electrified Thalia leaped from the upper balcony, holding Aegis with both hands and slammed it down on the lion.
Everyone was sent flying back from the pure force of the blast. Percy was sent flying into a nearby gift shop. Zoe and Bianca into the big globe that was placed in the room, and Athena knows where Annabeth crashed into.
"ROOOOAR!" Unfortunately, the intended victim of the attack was unharmed and up and running.
"Bring it, furball." Thalia, undeterred, pulled out her sphere and met the lion as it charged. The electric shot from coming into contact made the lion howl in pain and was met with a well-placed arrow in the mouth by one Bianca di Angelo.
"Go!" Bianca yelled as she notched another arrow. The adrenaline from the battle giving her a wild look in her eyes. "Check on Percy, we can handle this."
Zoe hesitated a moment before nodding and sprinting towards the gift shop. Inside, the sales clerk was hiding behind her cash register while Percy was up and destroying the place.
"Perseus! What are you doing!" Zoe scolded as he knocked down a table with glow-in-the-dark planets on it.
"Assessing my options. We got to get that thing to open it's mouth somehow. I just don't know what… maybe… maybe this will do it." He pulled out a small packet that glittered silver. He ran over to the sales lady and presented the items. "Hey, do these taste any good?"
She peeked over the cover of her cash register before squeaking, "If you gave me the option to eat peas or space food, I'm taking peas every time."
Percy beamed, "Good enough for me! Zoe grab as many as you can and throw it in its mouth!"
Seeing where he was getting at, she followed suit and grabbed an armful of the silver packages and went back out to help. It wasn't looking good, as the lion seemed to have learned to keep its mouth shut to avoid Bianca's arrows.
"Hey Percy," Thalia called, "whatever you're going to do—"
The lion roared and swatted her like a cat toy, sending her flying into the side of a Titan rocket. Her head hit the metal and she slid to the floor.
Percy growled and charged, his footsteps garnering the attention of the beast. It turned towards him and snarled. Once he got close enough, he leaped in the air and threw one of the packages just as the Nemean Lion was about to eat him.
The lion's eyes got wide and it gagged like a cat with a hairball.
"You know I don't blame you, they don't look good at all. Plus the lady said they taste worst than peas, so they must be plain nasty." Percy acknowledged.
"By the gods, Perseus!" Zoe yelled as she began throwing the food she had in her hand. "Keep shooting the space food into its mouth! Bianca, get ready!"
"Sorry!" Percy responded as he continued to pelt the beast with different flavors of ice cream, freeze-dried spaghetti, and a strawberry parfait.
The lion choked it down and looked at Percy and Zoe with pure hate. It opened its mouth wide to let out another roar.
"Now!" Percy yelled.
Immediately, arrows pierced the lion's maw—two, four, six. The lion thrashed wildly, turned, and fell backward. And then it was still.
Annabeth took off her cap and appeared next to Thalia, helping her up. Zoe and Bianca walked up to Percy as the lion began to melt until nothing was left but its fur coat.
"Well, what are you doing. Take it, it's yours."
Percy whipped his head up, "Why would it just be mine? We all took our part in killing it together."
She shook her head, almost smiling as if remembering old times. "I think your ice-cream did that. Perseus, Take the fur."
A small fire appeared out of thin air behind them, and Percy gave a soft chuckle. Always the subtle one, aren't you Hestia? The fire burned brighter at the thought and Percy picked up the pelt. He walked over to the fire and tossed in the pelt.
"Artemis," he murmured. For a moment, the fire changed colors, into a fiery silver. He turned around to look at the others, mainly Zoe, and for a moment he swore and saw a bit of pride in her eyes.
Annabeth was the first to break the silence, "We have to get out of here. The security guards won't be fooled by the Mist for long."
Percy nodded with a small sigh. No doubt this quest was already proving to be the hardest he's ever partaken in, but he would see it to the very end.
"Yeah, let's go. One monster was more than enough for the night."
A/N: Hey guys and gals... been a while.
You have no idea how excited I am to be writing again. The reason why I couldn't write earlier was that initially, I was doing it on my school laptop. But at the start of the school year, they got rid of the use of personal accounts. That basically ended all my means of writing for the time being. Yesterday, however, the laptop that I recently bought finally came in. I wasted no time into finishing my chapter and getting it to you all. So I'm sorry, not because I wasn't posting, but because I didn't let you all know why I wasn't posting.
You all weren't any slouches though, as I see a large number of followers and favorites. Thank you all, you have no idea how much it means to me. I'm glad to be writing for you all again. Unfortunately, I'm not going to respond to reviews this time, just because there's so many and from so long ago. I will do it for my next chapters though, so don't forget to review. I love you all, and interacting with you all is the best part.
As for the other stories, The Unseen Immortal will be heading out to the trash bin. We have no clue on what we are doing with that story so trashing it is our safest bet for now. We all have personal projects as well so we don't want to be bogged down.
I want to know what you thought of the chapter though, I know I left you all at a pretty mean cliffhanger. I almost did again this chapter as well. Thanks for the support though, really. It means the world.
Again thanks for even reading. Share to others, like it, add it to your library.
You won't regret it.