Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the PJO universe. All recognizable characters, plots, and settings are the exclusive property of Rick Riordan. I make no claim to ownership.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena, as well as my other betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.
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Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter I: Future Aspirations
September 7, 2004
Elmdale Public School
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Ace could sense the students around him growing restless as the end of the day came nearer and nearer with every silent click from the clock hanging above the classroom door. Ace himself had his hands under the table, tossing a pencil from one hand to the other.
Mrs. Marquardt was giving a lecture on the Indian Act and how the aboriginal people had been cheated out of their lands in western Canada. Ace had a difficult time paying attention during school at the best of times, but he knew all of this already. Ace had struggled in school when he was much younger due to his dyslexia and ADHD, but he had learned to work around it since then and had become one of the school's top students. Hanging around with older friends who could explain things to him probably helped, as did the amount of time he spent either reading or listening to audiobooks when his dyslexia became especially problematic.
Ace sensed movement behind him and turned his head when Mrs. Marquartd's eyes shifted to a different part of the room. An old classmate of his was crumpling up a piece of paper behind him and eyeing his desk. Ace knew he would use it to pass along some kind of message even before the boy threw it. Ace quietly reached out and snagged the offending paper from the air. He waited for their teacher to turn away again before unravelling it and reading it as quickly as he could.
When's your next game?
If not for the deathly quiet of the room, Ace would have sighed aloud. Why was it that people his own age seemed either to despise him or treat him like some kind of celebrity? It was no wonder the majority of his companions were older than he was. His best friends — Caleb and Cadmus — were high school juniors. It made getting along with kids his own age more difficult than he would like. The tall blond boy sitting next to him named Colton was one of the few Ace would willingly engage with on a regular basis.
Not that he actually wondered why people treated him the way they did. It was really quite simple. Ace had gained local stardom some years earlier for prodigious talents out on the ice as a young hockey phenom. His step-father, Thomas, had introduced him to the sport so long ago Ace could never remember watching it for the first time. By the time he was three, Ace was more than an adequate skater, and by the time he was seven, he had qualified for an elite travelling team consisting of children between the ages of nine and eleven.
It had been off to the races ever since. Now, Ace was thirteen, in the eighth grade, and almost certain he would one day play the game he loved at a professional level.
Ace frowned at the memories but quickly scribbled his response under Ben's question on the same bit of paper before discreetly passing it to Colton, who would doubtlessly get it to the row of desks behind them at some point in the next few minutes.
Plenty had changed the year Ace made that first elite travelling team. He thought that, in many ways, it was the year most responsible for shaping the life he led today. That had been when he started to make older friends, but it was also when those his age began isolating him, or worse. Ace had taken up martial arts to defend himself from spiteful bullies, but soon every confrontation seemed to result in Ace being the one to get in trouble.
Two years ago, Ace had actually been expelled from his old public school because of an incident linked to a bully named Jeff White. He had done his best to make Ace's life a living hell all year until one day, he had been hurling basketballs at Ace's head from the highest branch of an old oak tree in the centre of the school's yard.
It was the strangest thing. Ace could remember it well. One moment, there had scarcely been any wind at all; the thick green leaves had hardly even rustled. A heartbeat later, Ace's hair was whipping in the wind as Jeff threw yet another basketball after Ace. The wind's gust had been so strong that the ball flew back and hit Jeff in the face with enough force to knock him from his perch atop the tree.
Ace had tried to explain to both the teachers and the principal that he had never laid a hand on Jeff or the offending basketball and that he could not possibly have caused the fall, but it didn't matter. Jeff had suffered a concussion and Ace would not be invited back that next year. The two boys had also gotten into a heated brawl in the hallway on the last day, but that was different. The ass had it coming and if Ace was going to get expelled anyway, it hardly mattered.
Last year had been even more ridiculous. How Mr. Hansen thought Ace had rigged a light switch to deliver a shock so powerful it flung Jason Maleek across the classroom, Ace would never know. That one had resulted in a stern warning when the principal had seen things the same way as Mr. Hansen. It had made him wonder if teachers just had it out for him.
"Prick," Ace muttered when his eyes found Jason in the far corner of the room. He had at least avoided Ace like the plague ever since, but seeing him every day still made Ace feel sick.
Colton gave an amused exhale from beside him. "Just shock him so hard he flies again."
Ace just rolled his eyes and looked to the clock just as the minute hand reached the number eight. Right on cue, a bell rang through the school to signify the end of classes for the day and everyone scrambled to their feet.
Ace stepped out into the hallway a moment later and began working his way through the tight clusters of bodies. Both his locker and the classroom he had just exited were on the building's first floor. Having his locker be one of the nearest to the school's entrance was convenient. It was also quite near the principal's office. Ace suspected that was the real reason it had been given to him, but he would take the silver linings as they appeared.
"Hey, Ace! Wait up!"
Ace's face twitched; he recognized the voice and had no need to look backwards over his shoulder. The last thing he wanted to do was wait up, but he slowed his stride and allowed the red-haired girl to move up beside him.
"How are you, Isabelle?"
Isabelle was small and slim, with dark red hair and bright green eyes that always appeared wider than usual any time they were fixated on Ace. She had joined the track and field team last spring simply so she could flirt with him, which Ace had not entirely appreciated. Isabelle was incredibly persistent and whilst that was admirable, Ace wished she would just leave him alone.
"Good!" Isabelle answered, half skipping to keep up with Ace's brisk march. "How'd you find the first day?"
He shrugged. "It was school. Mrs. Marquardt seems a decent teacher, so there's that."
"I loved Mrs. M! Did any of your older friends have her?"
"Caleb and Cadmus did. They said she was surprisingly lenient with them." If anyone got in as much trouble at school as Ace, it was those two agents of chaos. How they had made it halfway through high school without being expelled was a mystery Ace would never solve.
"Look at it on the bright side," said Isabelle as Ace's locker loomed up ahead, "she can't be worse than Mr. Hansen."
Ace scowled. "Don't get me started on Hansen. I'd like to be home at some point tonight."
"Will you be at Adriana's party on Friday?"
"I won't, no. We have a practice that night and a game the one after."
"It's just a preseason game, isn't it?" Ace reluctantly nodded. "Oh, come on, Ace, you'll be fine. Your practices don't run that late and the party will still be going. You don't need to worry about a preseason game."
He turned his sky-blue eyes towards her for the first time and could practically see the confidence leave her. "I'm the captain, Isabelle. What kind of message does it send the rest of the team if I show up exhausted and off my game?"
She had no answer and he knew it, so he unlocked his locker and began shoving his books into his bag. He didn't need to look back over his shoulder to see that Isabelle was pouting, but he felt no remorse. Everything he had told her was true, but he had left out the part about not wanting to go to the party in the first place. The only gatherings of its like he ever went to were ones attended by Caleb and Cadmus.
"You don't have cross country tonight, do you?" Isabelle asked, frowning towards the large windows at the school's entrance. "It looks miserable out there."
"We don't, no. I do have to get home in it, though. I plan to run and spend as little time in that mess as possible."
"You have to get yourself home? Does the bus not go past your place?"
Ace frowned as he pulled his bag from the locker and slung it over his shoulder. "I'm out of its jurisdiction. The only reason I'm here at all is that I was expelled from Ridgemont, remember?"
"Oh," Isabelle blushed as her gaze fell towards the floor.
"I'm going to head out and get the worst over with. It was nice talking with you."
"You too," said Isabelle, looking up and smiling as Ace made his way towards the large glass doors.
He was protected from the rain for about ten metres once he exited the school. A canopy of stone overhead covered the start of the path, but Ace could hear the raindrops pattering against the ledge like a thousand liquified bullets against the side of an armoured vehicle. The sky was grey and bleak, but there were even darker clouds rolling in from the east. Ace made a face; it was the same direction he had to travel if he wanted to get home and that bank of clouds did not look at all inviting.
Some students leaning against a nearby fence called out to him, but Ace ignored them as he slipped a pair of earbuds into his ears and pulled an MP3 player from his pocket. There were few things he enjoyed more than just letting his mind wander whilst his feet carried him swiftly along and the sound of music played in his ears.
It took about five minutes for Ace to realize he ought to have worn a jacket. The air was warm, but his shirt was heavy and stuck to him within minutes thanks to the pouring rain. His socks were no better. Not all of the puddles were avoidable and some of them had soaked through his shoes and reduced his socks to waterlogged pieces of cotton that squished under his feet.
The city must have agreed about the weather, for Ace scarcely saw any cars at all. There was a silver van that took several of the same turns he did, but it was gone when he darted across the street and into a dense patch of forest. It would lengthen his run, but the thick foliage overhead would keep him dry from the worst of the rain, though the sound of it savaging the leaves above his head was loud enough that he heard some of it even over the sound of his music.
Ace burst out of the forest some time later and sprinted up a hill, leaping right over a ditch and landing on the sidewalk only to come up short. He stopped so suddenly that he felt a sharp stab of pain in his knee as though someone had stuck it with a needle, but he ignored it.
The silver van from earlier was parked exactly where he had come up onto the sidewalk as though it had been waiting for him. A man was stepping out of the vehicle and Ace slid into a combat-ready stance. It was probably nothing, but the circumstances were suspicious enough that he would rather be ready.
Ace's mouth fell open. That wasn't possible; human beings simply were not that tall. The tallest NBA player of all time would have looked like a child beside this monstrosity, who slowly turned to look at Ace, large golden Chaim shining in the dim light and… one dark brown eye positioned in the middle of his forehead.
Cyclops was all Ace could think as the monster stared him down. It could be nothing else. Ace was fond of social studies and had taken to mythology several years ago. Ancient Greece had been an interest of his ever since.
Yet it could not be. Cyclopes were mythical monsters who had never existed. This creature's presence made no sense. Ace thought for a moment that he was dreaming. Odd, vivid dreams plagued him regularly, but it took only a moment for him to realize this was no dream. He raised one foot and brought it sharply down on the other only for a white-hot pain to lance up his leg.
The cyclops took a step towards Ace, who slid gracefully backwards by about a metre. He contemplated running, but dismissed it. The monster would only get in the van again and run him down. There would be no easy escape from this.
Ace lunged forward and slipped under a massive, grasping hand, throwing a lead hook to the liver as hard as he could. His punch connected and he slid backwards only to kick the thing in the calf, then lunge out of range again.
Neither of his blows appeared to have phased the monster at all. It lumbered towards him as though Ace had never hit it. He adopted a defensive stance. He had always been a defensive-minded fighter who preferred to counter; he would just need to avoid damage and hoped the monster fatigued…
Weightlessness gripped him without warning and the next thing he knew, Ace was gasping for breath as a spasm of pain closed around his spine. His breaths came in great heaves as he sucked in oxygen with difficulty and tried to figure out what had happened.
Something grabbed him before he could and the feeling of flight came over him again as he was hoisted into the air as easily as though he was an infant. Thunder rumbled overhead as Ace tried to piece together what exactly was happening. It took him a moment to realize the cyclops had a hold of him. Ace struggled and hoped someone who was armed would stumble across the scene right about now, but it appeared he would not be that fortunate. The creature had placed one of its massive hands on the side of his head and Ace knew instinctively that it planned to snap his neck.
Ace thought it was thunder, but he couldn't be sure; never had he heard thunder so loud, thunder that shook the very earth and made the bones rattle inside him like delicate glasses resting atop an unsteady perch.
This time, Ace did not remember flying, but he must have. He didn't really remember much of anything; just the unearthly boom of something and then he was lying face up in the ditch about a dozen metres from where the cyclops had held him captive.
Deep, guttural coughs wracked Ace's lungs as he struggled to climb to his feet. The world around him spun as the ground beneath his feet twisted and contorted as though he was standing on a sheet of paper whilst someone folded it over, and over, and over again. Twice he fell before he finally felt somewhat steady on his feet and still his head ached like never before.
He also realized right about then that he was missing one of his shoes. It took him a moment to find it; it was lying another twenty metres away from him, but the shock of that paled in comparison to how Ace felt when he saw that it was smoking!
Then, his memory jogged and he whirled, looking this way and that for the beast that had attacked him, but it appeared to be nowhere in sight. Ace might have thought someone had poisoned him and he'd imagined the whole thing if not for the glint of gold on the ground where he remembered the cyclops standing.
The heavy gold chain gleamed in the sand between the sidewalk and the ditch, appearing even brighter against the bleak backdrop of a rain-filled sky. Ace hesitated. This chain was not his and it was richer than anything he owned, yet…
If it really had been a cyclops that had attacked him, surely he was not the first. For all he knew, this had belonged to another victim — one less fortunate than Ace had been, and by god had he been fortunate.
He realized by now that he and the cyclops must have been struck by lightning and that he had not only survived, but come out almost completely unscathed sans the nasty scrapes on his elbow that were leaking small droplets of blood. They stood out in the sand around his feet like miniature rubies.
Ace decided to take the chain. It would be a reminder that the events of today had actually happened and that he wasn't going completely insane. It was a reminder he thought he might need any time he thought about today's events in the near future.
Later, in the depths of Erebus…
Far beneath the mundane world, another realm was situated. In many ways, the Underworld was considered to be the world beyond death. Death was the bridge between Erebus and the world that we all know.
But in some other ways, the Underworld was the bridge.
Or perhaps, the barrier would be more apt.
Many men, women, and children fear death above all else. They fear the uncertainty. They have no idea what will come after death, and even if they knew where the reaper would guide them, they would fear it. To not exist in the way you have become accustomed to existing is a natural thing for humans to fear.
Yet there are things worse than death, things worse than the Underworld, and things tucked away in the darkest, most desolate corners of the Earth in hopes their evil may never seep into the reality which we have sought to keep stable for so long.
One of these corners was located in the depths of Erebus, hidden away thoroughly enough so that not even the dead would stumble upon it.
In a dark, deserted cave situated somewhere off of the Fields of Asphodel, an open, endless pit stretched wide as if to engulf everything. If one managed to fend off the irrational panic that accompanied getting close to such a place and looked down, they would think the black, all-consuming hole was endless and that the drop one would experience if dragged into the abyss would never end.
They would be wrong.
At the bottom of that pit was a place far worse than Erebus — a place that made the fear triggered by its entrance akin to a firecracker compared to a nuclear warhead.
This was a place so inherently evil that Erebus itself had to serve as a buffer between it and the mortal world.
Many things lurked within the depths of this unspeakable place. Things that would haunt the nightmares of children and others that would drive stable adults to insanity. Some things were just cruel, powerful, and quintessentially evil. Other things would simply cause cataclysmic problems.
Other things still, if they ever escaped the clutches of Tartarus, would serve as a threat to reality itself.
Something was stirring deep within this infernal place.
Its obsidious nature was such that even standing in Erebus, peering down into the pit of damnation, one would feel the shift in the world. They would feel how all hope seemed to be sucked towards the pit like a helpless photon of light being vacuumed into a black hole. They would feel the temperature in the cave drop just from such an evil being taking its first breath in centuries.
But most of all, they would know two things.
Something immensely powerful was waking, and this simple event had the potential to change the world forever.
1-18: Season I - The Veil of Reality
19-24: Interlues 1-6
25-? - Season II - The Precipice of Peril
There are a few things you should know before getting too far into this story:
This fic will mostly be OC-centric. Percy, Annabeth, and the others will play major roles, but more chapters than not will be from the perspective of original characters. I'm aware this may turn people away, but it is the story I want to tell and I will be upfront about that from the start. I should also mention that all of the teenage-ish characters from Riordan's original series have been aged up by a year for narrative reasons.
I think it is also worth commenting about this story's writing style because I think it may be different from this community's norm.
I lean more towards the writing styles of people like George Martin and Robert Jordan than I do that of Rick Riordan. Not in terms of actual talent or ability, of course, but in the ways I try to tell my stories. I tend to use prose filled with imagery and am not afraid to flesh things out. I am going to tone that down somewhat for this story, but I will make no efforts at all to write in Riordan's style. This story will be told from limited third-person perspective. I do my best to work in more humour to this story than any of my others and it will have a lighthearted feel early on. Though I will never completely abandon that, the tone of this story will get significantly darker and more serious as it moves onto later years and more dire arcs.
This will be one of the longest PJO fanfictions ever written to my knowledge. This first season takes place the fall before Lightning Thief and the story will cover up until at least the end of Last Olympian. I will more than likely continue it after that as well, but we'll see.
Everything will be posted under this one story, so you only need to follow this fic to keep up with it all. When this story is updating, it will update regularly, but there may be long breaks between seasons. Don't worry when these come. They are not a sign of abandonment, simply me plotting the next season whilst working on a plethora of other things.
If you want more details about what to expect from this story, there is a blog posted on my website. The site can be found either via the link on my profile or by doing a generic Google search of my pen name. The Discord link is also on that site's homepage if you have troubles with the one on my profile.
That's about it from me. Future ANs will be much shorter than this one, but I had some things I wanted to get out of the way.
Please read and review.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editor Asmodeus Stahl for his corrections/contributions this week!
PS: The next chapter will be posted here next Sunday, November 15th, 2020. The next three chapters can be found on my Discord server right now, and the story's first twelve chapters are available to those who support me on at the $5 level or higher.
PPS: I have begun revising the season I chapters with the goal of cleaning up prose and tightening up the dialogue. I can't say I took a large portion of season I too seriously from a technical writing standpoint, so I am slowly remedying those deficiencies. Keep in mind that it is low on my long list of priorities, so the edits will be done when time to do them presents itself.
As of the end of 2021, I have revised the first three chapters with the help of my editor, Athena, and a fellow PJO author and long-time reader of mine by the name of Asmodeus Stahl.