"Lady Lupa!" Julia exclaimed in surprise. Jason looked up from the stake he had been working on. He hadn't seen Lupa in nearly six years, just after his fifth birthday, when she sent him to Camp Jupiter. The She-Wolf was standing tall and proud as usual, a boy standing by her side. He looked to be Jason's age, maybe a little older, and his eyes scanned the Campus Martius for any threats. Jason had been the same when he first arrived. "To what do we owe the honour?"
"I bring a new recruit for the legion," she stated, "consider my word to be his recommendations."
"Of course, Lady Lupa," Julia bowed slightly, "and who is the recruit?"
By now, a large majority of the legion had stopped what they were doing to watch the proceedings. Maria, co-praetor and Julia's girlfriend ambled over, her fingers thrumming on the pommel of her gladius.
"This is Perseus Jackson, son of Neptune," Lupa said, and someone gasped in shock. Jason blinked several times.
"Perseus…" Maria tested the name, "that's Greek."
"It is his name, nothing more!" Lupa snapped, "Roman blood flows through his veins, and it is the blood of Neptune. It would be wise not to upset to lord of storms, especially not so close to the sea."
"How long have you trained him, Lady Lupa?" Julia stepped in to defuse the situation.
"Six years," the wolf-goddess replied simply, "at his father's request. But it is time he joined the legion. I can teach him no more."
"Six years? Jupiter's balls! How is the kid still alive?" Someone hissed, causing several others to snicker. Lupa's ears flicked, a sign Jason had learned meant that she had heard whatever had been said. The son of Neptune—Perseus—sighed deeply, making Jason wonder if he had heard what they said as well.
"We will introduce him to the centurions shortly, my lady," Maria said, "but if we may first get a glimpse at his skills?"
Lupa didn't reply, instead turning to Perseus. He shrugged.
"Very well," she said, "he will fight Jason Grace. They are of an age."
"My lady, are you sure—" Maria tried.
"I was not asking for permission, Praetor," Lupa growled, "Perseus will fight Jason. It is my command."
"Of course, my lady," Maria said, though her tone was clipped. "Grab two rudii and—"
"No," Lupa interrupted again, "they both have swords. Let them use them."
"Mother Lupa—" Perseus tried. Jason had never heard anyone address her that way.
"Do you wish to argue me as well, Percy?" Lupa's voice had an amused tinge to it. The son of Neptune didn't reply. "I thought not. Besides, is this not what mortal boys do? Show off their toys?"
"You literally told me it wasn't a toy twenty minutes ago," Perseus—Percy—whatever his name was, noted.
"That was twenty minutes ago. This is now," Perseus groaned at the expression. He must have heard it before. Lupa had said it once to him as well, when he asked why he was learning a sword technique he hadn't been allowed to learn the day before. "Go on now, pup. You have a legion to impress."
Perseus strode forward, the large signet ring on his right hand expanding into the most beautiful sword that Jason had ever seen. It was a gladius hispaniensis, the earliest form of Gladius the Romans knew of. The hand-guard and pommel were made of Imperial gold, and Jason could just barely make out engraved lines in the metal. The sword itself seemed to be a composite of Imperial Gold and what looked like Adamantine, thus making it deadly to both mortals and monsters alike. That also made it doubly dangerous to any demigod.
Jason flipped Ivlivs, snatching the sword out of the air once it formed. He had finally managed to get that particular trick down, but now wasn't the time to crow over it. The legion formed a circle around the two, creating a makeshift arena. Shields were given to those standing in the front rows, creating a studier wall between them.
"The match goes until either I or Julia call it," Maria stated, "and if we do, you are to desist right away and retreat ten paces. Am I understood?"
"Ma'am," Perseus nodded.
"Understood," Jason affirmed.
"Good. Then begin."
The two started circling each other. Jason wasn't sure how Perseus fought, so he didn't want to be the first to find out. Perseus didn't have such compunctions. He strode forward, his blade flicking slightly as he moved, the tip doing tiny circles in the air. When he was maybe three feet from Jason, he suddenly jerked to his right
Jason followed the movement but realised his mistake too late. Perseus cut back, moving towards Jason's open right side. His blade snapped forward, and it was only by throwing himself out of the way did he prevent getting his ribcage sliced open. Jason decided to try a different tactic. He rushed forward, before diving into a roll, popping up right under Perseus' chin. He came straight up, but the son of Neptune shifted slightly, before closing his arms around Jason's waist. He felt a slight heave and he was in the air. Then he was slamming into the ground. He heard the 'ooh's' from the assembled legion. He rolled to his right and thrust his elbow down, hitting sand, before Perseus came rolling back, driving his own fist right into Jason's kidney He grunted before slamming his arm back again, this time catching Perseus in the jaw.
They both rolled away from each other before shooting to their feet. Swords were drawn again, and while Jason felt an ache every time he moved, the blood that Perseus spat out gave him some satisfaction. They began circling one another again, but this time, they moved as one when they attacked. Their swords collided hard enough for sparks to fly, and were they made of any other metal, they would have been dented by the impact.
Each strike was parried, each blow redirected. They were getting nowhere, and they both knew it.
"You're good," Perseus muttered under his breath, "better than anyone I've fought before."
"Fought many demigods, have you?" Jason asked. Perseus chuckled.
"Mermen and water spirits," he answered, "this is my first time meeting any demigods."
That almost made Jason pause. Did that mean he had been alone when he was with Lupa? He couldn't imagine something so lonely. Another strike was parried, this one Jason's, and they backed off from each other, trying to find some new opening. There weren't any. Jason had to agree with Perseus' assessment. He was much better than any of the other demigods he had fought—even the older ones. Neither Maria nor Julia, normally his toughest opponents, reached Perseus' level of skill.
Another series of attacks were fought off, and Jason found himself more and more impressed with his cousin. It was an odd thought, but since Perseus was the son of his uncle, more so than anyone else at Camp Jupiter, they were family. He wondered what that would change.
"All right, cease!" Maria called out, and they both stepped back. "First of all, that was amazing. Second of all, Perseus—"
"Percy," he interrupted, "people only call me Perseus when I'm in trouble or are trying to kill me."
Maria blinked at the statement, clearly not used to being interrupted, but nodded.
"Percy," she emphasized, "did you really suplex Jason?"
"It was instinct," he answered, before grinning, "but yeah, I did."
"That wouldn't work in a real fight, but I'm impressed with the speed with which you reacted," Maria admitted. "I think we're going to have some fun with you, Percy Jackson."
"Centurions!" Julia called out. The crowd parted as five men and women pushed their way to the front.
Michaela Haley was the Primus Pilus, the Centurion of the First Cohort, and the legions most senior officer under the Praetors. Norman Cross was the Pilus Posterior, the Centurion of the Second. Then there was Daniel Tan, the Princeps Prior, Centurion of the Third. He was followed by Tony Giles, the Centurion of the Fourth, also known as the Princeps Posterior. Finally, there was Abigail Jones, the Hastatus Prior, the Centurion of the Fifth, and lowest ranking officer in the legion.
"We have a potential recruit here, Percy Jackson, Son of Neptune," Julia said, "you just watched him fight our very own Jason Grace, Son of Jupiter. Now, the choice must be made for which cohort he is to join. Bear in mind, in lieu of recommendation letters, we instead have Lady Lupa's endorsement of the potential legionary. You have five minutes to discuss and decide."
It didn't take Tony Giles five seconds before he stepped forward.
"We made our decision already, Praetor," he said, "the Fourth will take Percy Jackson into our cohort as a probatio tirone. Once his first year is up, we will induct him into the legion proper."
"And you all agree to this?" Maria asked the others, who nodded. "Very well, probatio Jackson goes to the Fourth."
There were no cheers or jeers like when Jason had joined the Fifth, but instead, someone began rapping their fist against their scutum, and the sound filled the Campus Martius. Tony Giles strolled over to Percy, grabbing his chin gently and moving it from side to side.
"Let's get you to a medic, Probie," he said, before turning to Jason. "Good elbow, kid."
Percy let himself be led away by his new Centurion, following silently. That was when Jason noticed the tattoo on the inside of his arm, the SPQR, and six bars. How he had already gotten that, Jason didn't know, but he suspected Lupa had something to do with it. Still, he was a probatio, and he would be getting his tablet soon enough. More than anything else, however, Jason was eager to meet with his cousin properly, and find out what he could about him.
Michaela came over once the legion began splitting back into cohorts.
"You alright?" She asked, "I've never seen you fight that hard before."
"Truthfully, ma'am, I've never had to," he admitted. "Lady Lupa trained him very well. I've no doubt he'd be able to kill many before they realised what a threat he was."
"Is that so?" Michaela hummed, "well, it's up to Tony to teach him to fight in formation. Let's see how that goes, at least. How's your side? That looked like a wicked punch."
"Sore," he said, "I'll probably need to soak in the baths before icing it some, but it shouldn't be too bad."
"Get to it then, legionarius Grace," Michaela grinned at him, "we've got a war game in a week, and we're up against the Third and Fourth. I'm eager to see what happens between you and your cousin."
So Jason wasn't the only one who had tied Percy to him via family bonds. That was good to know at least.
"You have the rest of the day off to relax and heal," she continued, "but you're back to work tomorrow morning, understood?"
"Crystal, ma'am." He replied.
"Good. Go get some rest, Jason," she said, "if your side is worse tomorrow, let me know, okay?"
"Of course," he smiled at her, before making his way towards the barracks. He would change out of his clothes into swim trunks and a tank top before making his way to the baths. Better to do so in clean clothes than in sweaty ones. He had been yelled at by Terminus the last time he did that, and he didn't want a repeat performance.
But when he arrived at the barracks, the longing for a shower became overwhelming, screwing his time table by ten minutes. That meant there'd by more people in the baths by the time he arrived. Styx, that hadn't been what he wanted. Jason held in a groan and made his way there regardless. He really did need to soak in the warm water.
The Bathhouses were starting to fill up when he arrived, so he slipped to a side door and went to one of the smaller, lesser known buildings. It was more of a hot-tub, which was why most people avoided it. When he arrived, there were two others present in the bath, both staring at a spot in the centre. They looked up at his arrival. They were both probatio's, though they were from two different Cohorts. Reyna hadn't explained how she got to New Rome, but she had letters of recommendation that got her into the Second Cohort. Leila came from a family of New Romans, and she had been snagged up by the Fourth when she first joined, her family's traditional cohort since the days of Julius Caesar himself.
"Ladies," he greeted, slipping into the water and letting out a content sigh. "What's so interesting about the middle of the pool?"
"Percy's there!" Leila chirped, "he went under five minutes ago, and he's just sitting there. He waved at me a moment ago."
"Five minutes?" Jason blinked. Reyna nodded slowly.
"He saw us come in and then just… slipped down. Is he antisocial?"
"I wouldn't know," he shrugged, "I've only fought him. Maybe he is?"
"I'm not antisocial," the amused voice of the son of Neptune said, his face just barely breaking the surface of the water, "I was getting some peace and quiet. Lupa ran me ragged to get here."
The rest of his body rose above the water, and Jason noticed several jagged scars across his arms, chest, and back, almost like… almost like he had been whipped. He wasn't the only one to notice them, as both the other girls had recoiled in surprise, Leila even letting out a little squeak.
"What happened to you?" Reyna was the only one brave enough to ask, it seemed, "did a monster do that to you?"
Percy laughed, but there was no humour behind it.
"I suppose," he said, "the one thing I learned long before I became aware of my heritage is that not all monsters are mythological."
And then he sank below the water once more, several large bubbles rising to the surface.
"I think we scared him off," Leila said quietly.
"Should… should I have not asked him?" Reyna sounded unsure.
"Maybe not," Jason admitted to her, "but you did, and he answered, in a way. I'd leave it alone beyond that. But he could use some friends, I bet. I think we stand the best chance of becoming them at the moment."
"I hate how smart you are," Leila groaned.
Jason grinned. If there was one thing he hated, it was bullies, and Percy had clearly suffered under someone. If he needed a friend, Jason would be here for him. He was family, and Lupa always said that families made the strongest packs. Jason would be Percy's pack.
And so it begins! I know I should be working on Eternal, but at the moment, I'm burned out from writing it, so instead I'm going to start with Vas Bellicosum, my rewrite of Son of Neptune. Please don't hate me. At this point in the story, Percy is twelve, like in TLT, and Jason is about eleven and a quarter. Leila is twelve, like Percy, and Reyna is eleven and three quarters. Percy still had a bad childhood with Smelly Gabe, who I think did beat him, though in this story, it was much worse, to the point that it scarred and can't be healed by the water. When Percy was six, something happened, and Neptune took him to Lupa, asking him to train him for as long as she could, offering to assist in any way. That assistance came in several forms, the most important being sparring partners for Percy, from Camp Fish-Blood. The second was his sword, which is based on a historically mentioned sword, though I won't give that away for a bit. It is a Roman blade, however, and since I specifically mentioned the type of Gladius it is, I'll be interested to see if you guys can figure it out. As always, feel free to leave a comment or send me a PM! Even with my crazy college schedule, I'll try to get back to you sooner rather than later.