Title: Evening Stars
Characters/Pairing: Silena Beauregard, some Charlena.
Warning/Spoilers: Just because I'm an attention whore, there are some references to future chapters of an unfinished fic. Just letting you know.
A/N: Ohai, people. This is something that I recently had as a plot bunny. Reviews are loved, but not necessary to my survival. Beta'd by Kaleidoscope Flowers. Enjoy! This 'twas written for Bookaholic711's Project PULL challenge. Check it out if you want—it's a lot of fun.
Dedication: My teammates—you put up a hell of a fight. :D
· A Oneshot ·
I am the red in the rose. I am the gray in the ghost. I am the one that haunts your dreams and your memories. I am the event you wish had never happened. You can go anywhere you want, but I'll be there, wherever you are.
The voice belonged to Luke Castellan, the counselor of the Hermes cabin. Silena Beauregard looked up and smiled up at him, getting up from the stone tables to throw away the rest of her dinner. Her half-siblings stared after her curiously, some giggling in a not-so-subtle way. She simply waved them off, turning around and crossing her arms over her chest. "Yeah? What's up, Luke?"
Luke looked around. His face was taut and he looked paler than usual—he looked sick. Her smile soon faded. "Can I talk to you?" he asked, barely audible. She nodded. He looked around again and continued, "Somewhere private?"
She furrowed her brow. "Luke, what's wrong?" He grabbed her hand and led her out of the dining pavilion, towards the woods. She had to jog a little bit to keep up with his long stride. "And why are we going to the woods? Wasn't the dining pavilion private enough? We could've waited for the nymphs to clear out, you know." She wrinkled her nose in confusion.
"This is the only place where we'll have no chance of being overheard," he explained. She shrugged. It would be explained sooner or later; he wasn't the type to keep secrets for very long.
They eventually made it past the first trees of the woods. He stopped and turned to her, running a hand through his pale hair. "Silena, I've been thinking about something serious these past few days," he said. She smiled.
"There's been—I mean, I've been thinking that . . . that the gods aren't all as great as they make us think they are. They're, to put it bluntly, jerks. They don't care about the children of the minor gods, or even their own children. They fight too much, and their lack of care is helping my aide rise every day."
His tone was excited. Her smile disappeared. "What do you mean?"
"I mean when Percy, Annabeth and Grover come back from their quest, I'm going to leave this place. And I want you to be a lookout for me, tell me how everything is going. Do you think you could do that? For me?" He rummaged around in his jeans' pocket and pulled out a pretty silver bracelet with a scythe charm.
She bit her lip. "Why are you running away?"
"Because they won't want me when they get back," he said darkly. She laughed and hit him.
"Don't be silly. You're one of the best swordsmen in five hundred years, all my sisters love you and you're Percy's best friend. Why wouldn't you be wanted?" At his silence, she frowned. "Luke, answer me."
"Just tell me if you'll be the lookout?"
She paused. 'Who's your . . . aide?" she finally asked, using her fingers as air quotes. He smiled.
"Kronos. Dad of Zeus, Poseidon, and most of the elder Olympians."
A cold hand squeezed around her heart. "As in the one who ate his kids because of a prophecy? The one who's supposed to be super evil and only uses people for his own good?" She gasped, her hand automatically coming up to cover her mouth before he could answer. "Why, Luke?"
She needed to tell Chiron—as soon as she found his motives out. It probably wasn't very smart, staying in the middle of the woods when she could barely see anything in front of her, with a traitor.
He sighed. "Come on, Silena. Do you not trust me anymore after what we've been through? Believe me, I know what I'm doing. It'll work. You know the gods need to be knocked off their high horse anyway." At this, she looked up at the sky nervously, waiting for a rumble of thunder to happen or at least a sign that would scare Luke into not saying anything else that blasphemous.
He continued, "They don't care about their kids. When Kronos reigns, he'll build a whole new world for us. The minor gods will have respect, we will never be unclaimed and left to live our whole lives wondering who our parents are, and he'll rule with a just hand. So, me talking to Kronos and helping him overthrow the gods . . . it really isn't that bad."
She stared at the scythe bracelet, still uncertain. "I don't know, Luke . . . I don't have a reason to hate the gods. I have Charlie, my mom claimed me and my life's pretty good. Why should I help you? I could count this as treason against the gods."
"Silena, bear with me. Imagine a world where we don't have to worry about who your parents are anyway. Imagine a world where everyone got what they wanted. Imagine a world where nobody gets hurt, no one gets punished for being curious, and all bad things from the world are banished, leaving only the good in its place."
She narrowed her eyes and chewed on her lower lip again. Then her eyes met his and she made her decision. "Will anyone get hurt? What about Charlie?"
"Nobody's gonna get hurt, Silena, not even Beckendorf."
His smile was much more relaxed now and he breathed a sigh of relief. "I promise."
She licked her lips and held out her hand. "Then . . . give me the bracelet."
He betrayed Percy with the pit scorpion.
He poisoned Thalia's pine.
He tricked Annabeth into holding the sky up for him.
He ordered an invasion of the camp, which took so many of her friends' lives.
He wasn't Luke anymore. He was a fiend. He was a jerk. He was heartless.
He was Kronos.
She was reading a book when Lacy ran in, face flushed. Apparently, it was important if she ran all the way from wherever she was. "They're back!" she gushed. At once, she knew who her half-sister was talking about. Silena closed the book and straightened, giving herself a quick look in the mirror and putting the novel back on her bunk. Before she could gauge whether or not she needed to apply some mascara and brush her hair, Lacy rolled her eyes and grabbed her half-sister's wrist. "You look fine. C'mon, let's go!"
They ran out of the Aphrodite cabin together. She was feeling lightheaded at the prospect of seeing Charlie again. The two exchanged a glance again and burst into fits of laughter, Silena now pulling Lacy along. They climbed to the top of Half-Blood Hill, where a large crowd was gathered. She pushed through the numerous half-bloods and stopped when she only saw Percy climbing up the hill.
"Where's Charlie?" she asked, looking around. Percy exchanged a glance with Chiron and looked back at her, his face pained.
Chiron's horse-half skittered and she stiffened, knowing what had happened as soon as he said the first word. "Silena, my dear, let's talk about this at the Big House—"
"No," she muttered. "No. No!" Her voice cracked. Fat, salty tears dribbled down her cheeks. Lacy twiddled her thumbs helplessly, giving Silena a pitiful look.
Someone put an arm around Silena's shoulders. "Come on, girl," Clarisse whispered to her. "Let's get to the Big House. I'll make you some hot chocolate." She continued crying and allowed her friend to lead her away.
Later, she sat at a table, sobbing quietly. Clarisse was bustling in the kitchen and started swearing when the machine started making odd noises. Finally, she came out looking smug, a tray with two steaming cups in her hands. She handed a cup to Silena wordlessly and sat down, sipping at her drink. The daughter of Aphrodite's tears subsided until she was just staring at the tabletop, dead to the world.
Nobody's gonna get hurt, Silena, not even Beckendorf.
She whispered, "He lied to me."
Too late, she realized that she had become an unwilling pawn to the Titan's games, and she wished that she would just curl up and die.
She snuck behind the Big House, holding a drachma. Scowling, she grabbed the garden hose and sprayed the air with water, waiting for a mist to form. She turned off the hose when it did and tossed the drachma in. "O Goddess, accept my offering," she whispered. "Show me Luke Castellan."
The scene shifted to show some boys arm wrestling in a clearing. Tents were everywhere, but she could see Luke—Kronos, she corrected herself—clearly. He was sitting on a crate, a scythe on his lap, staring off into space.
"Kronos," she spat.
Kronos looked up and smiled. "Ah, Silena, my dear," he said softly. "How are you?"
She took off the bracelet and shook it. "I'm done."
His expression turned to one of confusion. "What do you mean?"
"I'm done spying for you. You lied to me, Luke. Kronos has corrupted you. You promised you wouldn't hurt Beckendorf!" Tears appeared at the corner of her eyes, but she refused to cry in front of him.
Kronos frowned, golden eyes flickering. However, it was Luke's voice who spoke, not the deep rasp of the Titan Lord's. "Silena, you can't."
"What do you mean, I can't?" She dropped the bracelet and crushed it under her heel. "See, I just did."
A small smile appeared on his face. "Really? Well. If you don't continue being my lookout—c'mon, you're not spying, so stop being a drama queen about it—I'll send a delegate to expose you." His face was hard. She gasped and his eyes softened. "Honestly, Silena. Fewer people will get hurt. How was I supposed to know that Beckendorf was going to be killed? I'm sorry about that, but really, Silena. He's just a guy."
She looked up at him and sneered. "I loved him. I doubt you'd know what that feeling's about."
He laughed. "Silena, you don't know anything about what love is. Grow up, will you?"
She took a step back as if slapped. A tear made its way down her cheek and she quickly wiped it away. "Grow up? Ha. I don't know you anymore. You're just a pawn in Kronos's games, and I'm sick of it. You betrayed Percy, who called you his friend. Then you poisoned Thalia's pine—I still remember when you came across the border holding Annabeth, who was kicking and screaming, and when you cried in the Hermes cabin, days before I was claimed. Later you ordered an attack on our camp. Who does that? Was it Kronos? Kronos is the one talking to me, isn't he? You sick bastard—give me my friend back!"
Her voice was stronger than she felt, but she stared him in the eye through the mist. Kronos was silent.
"More lives will be saved this way, Silena. Don't you understand? Fewer people will be hurt."
She curled her hand into a fist. "Like who?"
He hesitated. "Just trust me, okay?"
She spat on the ground. "Why would I trust you? Thalia trusted you, Annabeth trusted you—hell, she still does—and look what you've done to them. Even if I were to ignore that," her voice wavered, but she continued speaking, "you're still responsible for the death of Charlie."
Kronos smirked. "He chose to go on the mission, you know. If he was so devoted to you like you are to him, he wouldn't have gone off to the ship with Jackson. I think you're deluding yourself, child. I have so much more to offer. If you continue to be my lookout, you'll have whatever you want."
"You can't bring people back from the dead," she said, staring at the silver charm bracelet, still underneath her heel. The fight was left out of her, leaving her dead and apathetic.
The Titan tilted his head, his eyes cold. "Believe me, Beauregard. Staying with me, on my side, is better than what they will do to you when they find out of your betrayal."
She sat down, hugging the knees to her chest. Kronos stared down at her in contempt. Malcolm's voice sounded from behind the corner of the Big House. "Silena? Clarisse sent me to look for you—she wants you to be her patrol buddy for today. Silena? Where are you?"
Kronos smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "I expect a report in two days' time."
She stood up and waved her hand through the misty image without answering. She grabbed the bracelet again and put it in her shorts' pocket, right before Malcolm rounded the corner.
"There you are," he said gently, taking her arm as if she might break down crying again. Everyone treated her like a doll these days. It pissed her off. "C'mon. Clarisse is looking for you."
She jerked away from his touch, but followed him to where Clarisse was.
That encounter was the last she saw of Luke Castellan.
Her heart slammed into her throat in the Lincoln Tunnel when Mitchell fell. The Laistrygonian giant laughed and picked up a boulder of rubble to finish him off. "No!" she screamed, darting and stabbing it in its thigh.
The monster bellowed and turned around, turning its attention to her, knocking her over with its calf. A black arrow embedded itself in the monster's chest before he could crush her. When it disintegrated, no one behind it was holding a bow.
Lacy ran over to Silena, lower lip trembling, and helped up the head counselor. "Mitchell," Silena gasped. She looked up to the groaning boy. They were alone. For now.
"Silena, do you have any nectar or ambrosia?" Lacy asked.
She looked to where the Laistrygonian giant had disintegrated and blinked in surprise when the arrow was gone. "You saw the arrow too, right?" she asked, voice shaky. Lacy pursed her lips.
Mitchell groaned, snapping them back to reality. Silena rushed to his side and helped him up, wrapping his arm around her neck. "Hold your positions," she said sternly. "Don't get too spread out and use whatever you can. I'm taking him back to the Plaza to the medics. Do you understand me?"
Lacy swallowed hard. "Yes."
She nodded and led him away. They managed to get up the steps and put him in a cot before he collapsed. Kayla Alexander pushed her away and met her eyes. "Annabeth's hurt. Could you go help out over there?"
She nodded and put a hand on Mitchell's shoulder. "You will live," she said fiercely.
He wheezed in response. Kayla grabbed a canteen filled with nectar and grimaced. "Your wound doesn't look that bad—just a major bruise. Was this from a club or something?" She glanced at the daughter of Aphrodite as she said this.
She nodded. "I'll be fine, Silena," he managed to grind out. "I can still fight."
She kissed his knuckles. "Be safe, okay? I'm going to go help out with Annabeth." She glanced at Kayla. "Where is she?"
Kayla pointed towards the terrace and she practically sprinted in that direction. Will Solace was with Percy Jackson. Percy was clutching Annabeth's hand as Will cleaned out her wound. They didn't notice her entrance. She drifted towards the water bowl, grabbing a washcloth and wringing it out.
"Ow. Ow. Ow!"
Will and Percy had a quick discussion she didn't bother listening to. Then Will left through the terrace doors and they were alone.
She went over to Annabeth's side and pressed the cloth to her sweaty forehead. "This is all my fault," she whispered. Her mind went to that stupid night when she agreed to be the spy. She regretted everything that followed after that.
Were the Fates laughing at her now?
"No," said Annabeth. Her voice was barely audible, she was so weak. "Silena, how is it your fault?"
She considered telling the truth, but shook her head and continued wiping at the wounded girl's forehead. "I've never been any good at camp. Not like you or Percy. If I was a better fighter . . ." she trailed off, her voice also soft.
She could feel herself shaking. She couldn't control it, but she could tell that they both saw it. There was a pause and then, "You're a great camper. You're the best pegasus rider we have. And you get along with people—believe me; anyone who can make friends with Clarisse has talent," Percy said.
Silena stared at him. Then something clicked in her mind. "That's it! We need the Ares cabin. I can talk to Clarisse. I can convince her to help us."
"Whoa, Silena. Even if you could get off the island, Clarisse is pretty stubborn. Once she gets angry—"
"Please," she said, cutting him off. "I can take a pegasus. I know I can make it back to camp. Let me try."
He exchanged a look with Annabeth. Silena crossed her fingers and smiled when the daughter of Athena nodded. "All right," he said with a sour expression. "I can't think of anybody better to try."
She threw her arms around him in a hug. Almost as quickly, she pulled away and gave a sheepish look at Annabeth. "Um, sorry. Thank you, Percy! I won't let you down!"
She stood up and ran out of the terrace, pushing Will out of the way in her haste. She waved to Kayla and a better-looking Mitchell before stopping at the entrance outside of the Plaza. "Do you know where a pegasus is?" she asked a passing Hunter.
She frowned, brushing brown hair out of her face. "I saw one tethered to a lamppost when we were going back to Olympus from 37th Street. None of the Aphrodite girls recognized it and we have no idea where the owner is. You can use that if you have a note of apology or tell it to go back."
"Thanks," she said, rushing off. Time was of the essence. She passed a horde of monsters and flashed them her charm bracelet when they started to try to block her. They stopped and nodded and she cursed herself for stooping to such measures. So much for proving she wasn't a coward. Her side was already burning, but she pushed herself further until she was a block down 37th Street.
She had to go in a bit farther before she saw it. The sight of the pegasus made her smile, even though she was wheezing for breath and it was tethered to a lamppost.
It gazed at her with hostile eyes and reared up, wings stirring up a gust. She wiped the sweat from her brow away and made her way toward the animal. It was snow-white, with the reins of a golden bridle tied around the lamppost tightly. "Hey, bud," she said, calming it. "I'm your friend."
It was at times like this when she wished she could reach in her leather pouch and give the pegasus a sugar cube. She reached up and untied the bridle's knotted reins, giving herself a boost by a jump. "Riding bareback, huh? I've never done that before. Listen, I have friends that are in trouble and I need to convince others to help the Olympians. Can you help me with that?"
The pegasus snorted, but didn't try to throw her off. "Don't worry, I'll lead you to Camp Half-Blood. Hip!" She pulled back the reins and nudged the sides of the animal gently. It pranced and threw its head, eventually getting a running start and launching itself into the air.
They were barely a foot off the ground and still a heavy gust sent Cloud—what she'd impulsively decided to name him—back ten feet. He snorted and she said, loudly, "We're on the gods' team. We're getting backup to defend Manhattan. You can surely sense that I'm telling the truth."
There was a pause and then a whispery voice said in her mind: Very well. Go with Pegasus to get these . . . reinforcements.
"Pegasus? The Pegasus? You're kidding."
The wind gods didn't answer her. Pegasus gave her a dark look and snorted again, prancing in the air. She gripped his bridle and led him away from the city of Manhattan, towards Camp Half-Blood.
Storms were brewing. Thunder rumbled overhead and she could see her breath coming out in short, icy puffs; they were that high up in the sky. She refused to look down unless necessary. "When you see a large pine tree and a scaly thing curled up next to it, drop down," she told Pegasus.
Immediately, he nosedived, tucking in his wings to make the drop sharper. She shrieked and tightened her grip on the golden bridle, pulling it up with a yank. Pegasus snorted and flew straight above Peleus. The dragon looked up as they sailed by and there was an unintelligible, surprised shout. Silena closed her eyes and relaxed her body. They crash-landed into the clearing in front of the cabins, Pegasus's weight knocking the wind out of her.
Pegasus whinnied and was up in minutes, shaking his head and stretching his wings. Silena stayed on the ground, clutching her side and concentrating on not letting tears of pain escape.
Eventually, after breathing deeply in counts of seven, she got up and grabbed the bridle of Pegasus. She pressed her forehead against his velvet nose, looking him directly in the eye. She knew that usually scared a horse, but Pegasus was no ordinary animal. He returned her stare, his eyes stormy and challenging.
"Go back to the lamppost," she commanded. "Back to whoever brought you, and wait for them. Do you understand me, Pegasus?"
He pulled away from her and tossed his head, rearing up into the air and running away. She watched him jump into the air and glide into the air. He sailed farther and higher into the sky until he only became a speck of white among black thunderclouds.
She took a deep breath and turned around, looking at the familiar place. It looked so barren, desolate and abandoned—nothing like the camp she'd grown to love. She picked at her tattered jeans and looked around.
She had to find Clarisse.
"Hey, you! Who are you, thinking you can invade Camp Half-Blood under the guard of Ares?" a voice bellowed behind her. She turned around to see Sherman, an older brother of Clarisse's. She blinked and ran to him, stopping when he grabbed her wrists.
"Sherman!" she gasped. "You have to help us—we're on the backbone of our defense. People are dying every day. Kronos is getting close to Olympus. You have to come with me, help me convince Clarisse to—"
"Silena," he cut her off, brows furrowing in confusion, "what are you doing here?"
She stomped her foot. "That doesn't matter! You have to help me convince Clarisse to—"
"What? Help the others? Help the Apollo cabin?" Sherman sneered. She nodded. "Please. I'm sure they can handle themselves. They weren't thinking of needing our help when they insulted my father's honor. We've been degraded too many times, Silena. We won't go unless Clarisse leads us or Apollo himself is begging on his knees."
"Lou Ellen was stabbed," she said, thinking fast and tapping her abdomen. "Right here. We're running out of ambrosia and nectar, too."
His eyes turned cold. "I don't care about Lou Ellen," he whispered. She gave him a look and he glanced away, muttering something under his breath.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "At least tell me where Clarisse is."
"She's in the Big House with Chris. They've been having arguments lately."
She didn't give him any acknowledgment, just ran off in the direction to the Big House. As she climbed up the porch steps, she could hear shouting.
"Shut up, Chris! You don't know anything! They'll live, trust me."
"You're deluding yourself, Clarisse. All of our friends are over there, defending Manhattan and Olympus. There's no point guarding camp if there's nothing to guard. Your siblings want to fight as much as we do, and you know it."
"They respect my leadership. They'll do anything if I say so, even staying back and saving their lives by protecting camp."
"They can save their friends' lives, their own, and their father's! What's a better way to prove yourself than by saving your dad's life, huh? Don't you want to be loved and recognized as an important fighter in his eyes?"
There was a crash and she went inside before more damage could be inflicted. "Clarisse," she breathed. The brunette's eyes met hers in surprise. Her chest was heaving. Chris was straightening by the wall across the room, picking up pieces of expensive-looking china.
"Clarisse, people are dying. Every day."
"I told you so," Chris said. Clarisse glared at him, and he shut up.
"Why should I care about this? No one likes Ares anyway. I know what they say about me behind my back, Silena," she said darkly.
Silena shook her head. "Please, Clarisse. You'll get the love and respect you deserve for helping us out. If Olympus falls, so will Camp Half-Blood, so will your father, and everything good will cease to exist—because, let's face it, Kronos is an utter bastard."
She let out a chuckle at that. "Your point? Percy already asked. I owe him a favor, but this is not the expense of it. I told him that Ares's kids have been the butt of too many jokes, and I'll say that to you, too."
"Please," she begged, clasping her hands. "Please, you have to help. We've lost too many people to this war. Lee, Bianca, Charlie, Michael—"
"Whoa, hold up. Michael? Michael Yew? He's gone?" Chris asked, going over to join Clarisse's side.
She nodded. "Percy destroyed a bridge and the only thing he could find that hinted to Michael's location was his bow. He's dead."
Clarisse sneered. "Not my problem."
"You won't even think about it? Your siblings—they have loved ones who are fighting about it and you're sitting here like a coward."
The daughter of Ares curled her hand into a fist, and Silena truly thought she was going to punch her. Then she sighed and relaxed. "Go back to Manhattan, Silena. You're not needed here."
"Clarisse, I may not be needed here . . . but you are needed there," she said quietly, going to the doors and slipping past them. "Don't let another Charlie tragedy happen."
Clarisse didn't respond.
She was sitting in her cabin, alone and despairing. It had been two days—time was running out. The Ares cabin was out eating breakfast. She didn't know what to do. She was going to fail Percy, and she knew it.
She looked up into her reflection. Before the war, she would've cringed at the dark bags under her eyes, her chapped lips, the pallid complexion, the messy ponytail she'd put her hair in. But now, she simply didn't care. She wanted to throw the bracelet against the wall—there was no use in exposing her now, was there? The war was pretty much won.
She blinked, standing up as she remembered something. Clarisse only used her spear in battle, with a dagger on her at all times. Her spear would be with her armor, and her boar helmet, back in her corner of the Ares cabin. And the Ares cabin was at breakfast.
She darted out of the door and to the Ares cabin. She burst through the door, breathing a sigh of relief to see that it was empty. The cabin reeked of sweat, blood, and men. She searched around until she got to a blood-red bunk. Beside it was a boar head sitting on the blunt end of a spear, and matching scarlet-colored armor was hanging on pegs.
She grabbed the boar's head and spear, running back to her cabin and hoping no one saw her. Silena continued with the stealing of armor until everything had been placed in her cabin. She collapsed on the bunk, a plan already forming in the mind. Clarisse likely wouldn't be visiting her cabin until it was time for bed, and by then it would be too late.
Her only chance would be when Clarisse was out patrolling. She looked at the mirror and smiled for the first time in weeks. It was time to use some of the boys to her advantage.
She went to the dining pavilion and sat next to Mark. They greeted her with rowdy slaps on the back and crows of, "So you decide to finally join us?" Clarisse glared at her and stood up, dumping her food in the fire and leaving the pavilion. Chris got up and followed her after shooting an apologetic look at Silena.
She stared guiltily after her friend and turned to Mark, who was tearing through a piece of sausage. "When's the time for Clarisse's patrol?"
He chewed thoughtfully and responded, spraying her with chunks of food. "'Round noon. Why?"
"Just wondering. Thanks." She wiped the meat from her nose, pressed a kiss to his cheek and got up to get a glass of orange juice. Wolf whistles followed her out when she was finished with her breakfast.
It was time to act.
12:00 exactly. It was her chance. They were probably leaving this second. She looked at the armor, set out so neatly for her to wear. She slowly put on the armor, looking at herself in the mirror every so often. Her hair was in a messy bun, and she would've laughed at what she was doing years ago, but no trace of humor touched her features now.
All she had left was the boar helmet. She held it in her hands, staring at herself in the mirror.
Could she do this? Was she strong enough to face death in the eye?
She closed her eyes as a warm memory entered her mind.
She and Charles Beckendorf were sitting at the lake's edge, watching the sunset. It was three days before he left on the doomed mission to destroy the Princess Andromeda. "I don't think I can do this," she said softly. "They'll laugh when they win. I'm . . . I'm not strong enough. I can't do this."
Charlie laughed and took her hand in his. "Silena," he said firmly. "You can do anything, but only if you put your mind to it. I have faith in you."
She bit her lip. "You think so? You think I can lead a team of Capture the Flag into victory? I mean, I'm just a daughter of Aphrodite. People think that the only things we do all day is giggle, do our makeup and look at our reflections."
"Convince them," he said, warm breath tickling her ear. "Convince them that the Aphrodite kids are better than they think, like you convinced me. It isn't hard, love. I have faith in you."
She blinked and was snapped back into reality. She was still holding the boar helmet. Slowly, she raised it over her head and put it on. Blue, fearless eyes in foreign armor stared back at her. She didn't recognize herself anymore.
She found it funny that she didn't care.
"For you, Charlie, I buy time for Olympus," she whispered.
"Ares!" she shouted, striding into the fighting arena, where a rough majority of the Ares kids were practicing. They all stopped and looked at her. "Prepare for battle—for today, we defend Olympus!"
"Clarisse?" Sherman asked, stepping forward and tilting his head to the side. He blinked. "Is that really you? I thought you went out on patrol."
Silena sighed and closed her eyes, rubbing her forehead. "I am ready to defend Manhattan with my friends, Sherman. Yes. It is me. Chris convinced me that this is stupid. All of our friends are there. It's useless to defend an empty camp. Brothers, sisters! Do you join or rebuke me?" She made her voice deep and gruff, like Clarisse's voice actually sounded like.
The Ares cabin cheered. "I'll get the chariots," Mark said, passing her. She grunted and bit back a smile.
In no time, they were in twelve chariots in pairs, save for Silena. She hoped her shaking wasn't too severe as she banged the spear on the floor of the chariot to gain Clarisse's siblings' attention. "Ares, to me!" she shrieked. She grabbed the reins of her skeletal horses and said, "Bring us to the Empire State Building. You know the way."
The horses reared up and whinnied, breathing fire, and took off galloping. People whooped and she raised her spear in encouragement. As they thundered past Thalia's tree, she could've sworn that she heard a shout. But over the whinnying of the horses and noise of the chariots' wheels, she had a hard time deciding if it had happened or not.
They cheered each other on, urging the horses to go faster. After fifteen minutes, they came within view of Manhattan. They rounded a building, only to see a wall of scaly armor as tall as the skyscrapers. Silena yanked the reins and directed her chariot into another street, taking a left. Ahead of her, a crowd of demigods facing off against a giant serpent-like thing and monsters were looking around. She screamed, "Ares!" and everything was launched into chaos.
They poured into the clearing where the scaly armor was, along with Kronos' army and defending demigods. The reinforcements threw javelins at the drakon—only a minute of staring at it and she knew what it was. They'd had training classes, but nothing could've prepared her for the real thing. Mark charged it, but it spit poison at him. He retreated, his armor melting from the toxin. Silena stopped her chariot and got out, clutching Clarisse's spear so hard her knuckles were white.
Convince them—convince them the Aphrodite kids can do more than they think.
Javelin wood was stuck in the monster's teeth. Its mouth was a mess of foamy yellow poison, wood, and green blood. Her throat went dry just looking out of it, and then Percy's voice snapped her out of her trance. "You can do it!" he screamed. "A child of Ares is destined to kill it!"
She didn't respond to him. She only shrieked "Ares!"—the pitch probably blew her cover, but she didn't care. She leveled Clarisse's spear and charged the drakon.
Before she could even jab at it, it looked down at her and spit poison. The toxic substance hit her face dead-on and she fell. Her face was on fire. The pain was nothing she'd come close to before in her life. She could barely hear her scream and Percy's challenges over the burning in her ears.
All she could smell was smoke, and she knew that she was going to die. She issued a quick to prayer to every Olympian, asking for forgiveness for her mistake that was the cause of this all. "No! Curse you, why?" Clarisse's cracked voice said, breaking through the haze of pain.
Silena tried to lick her lips to answer, but she couldn't move. Her lips and throat were too dry. She watched with awe as Clarisse stood up, grabbed her spear, and single-handedly charged the drakon with no armor. She shimmied up the scales of the monsters, something Silena knew she would have never been able to do, and slammed the electric spear into an eye of the drakon with so much force it broke.
Clarisse jumped off the drakon as electricity arced up its body, making the whole thing shudder. It dissolved the flesh, leaving a hollow tunnel of scales. It felt like an hour later when someone managed to take off the boar helmet. People crowded around her. Her hair had come loose from the bun and she took a deep, burning breath.
"What were you thinking?" Clarisse demanded, supporting her friend's head in her lap. She didn't seem to care that she'd taken on a millennial-old monster and won.
She managed to lick her lips and swallow, but it was still hard to speak. Waves of pain occurred every couple of seconds. "Wouldn't . . . listen. Cabin would . . . only follow you."
Clarisse's voice was incredulous. "So you stole my armor? You waited until Chris and I went out on patrol; you stole my armor and pretended to be me—wait, and none of you noticed?" The last part was directed at her siblings. She would've smiled at the Ares children's interest in their shoes if it didn't hurt too much.
"Don't blame them," she rasped. Clarisse glared at her, her brown eyes glassy with unshed tears. "They wanted to . . . believe I was you."
Clarisse hugged her friend tightly. "You stupid Aphrodite girl," she said, sounding like she was trying not to cry. "You charged a drakon? Why?"
It was now or never. "All my fault," Silena whispered, positioning her fist so that the charm on the bracelet would show when she opened it. "The drakon, Charlie's death," she hiccupped, "camp endangered—"
"Stop it!" Clarisse said forcefully. "That's not true."
She sucked in a shuddering breath and opened her palm. Percy blanched at the sight of the scythe charm. "You were the spy," he said in a vacant tone. It was the first time he'd spoken.
She tried to nod, but settled for closing her eyes. "Before . . . before I liked Charlie, Luke was nice to me. He was so . . . charming. Handsome. Later, I wanted to stop helping him, but he threatened to tell. He promised . . . he promised I was saving lives." She swallowed, ignoring the burning taste of her spit. "Fewer people would get hurt. He told me he wouldn't hurt . . . Charlie." She would've hiccupped again if it didn't hurt so much. "He lied to me."
A look of realization dawned on Clarisse's face, and her mouth fell open into a small 'o'—but then a hellhound howled, making them aware of the battle again. She scowled at her cabin-mates and told them to help the centaurs and protect the doors. Annabeth looked like someone had punched her in the gut.
She took a heavy breath, the air burning her throat. Charlie. Mother. Percy. Clarisse. Everyone whose life I caused to be taken. "Forgive me."
"You're not dying," the daughter of Ares insisted. Silena took another breath.
There was a small movement in front of her. Charles Beckendorf slowly appeared, looking as if he hadn't been blown to pieces because of her. "Charlie," she breathed. He smiled in response. Then she remembered that she had company. "See Charlie . . ."
He held out a hand for her. She took it fearlessly and was lifted up by him. There was a faint sucking sound and then she was fully standing. There was no pain, there were no scars of battle, there was no fear—only peace. Charlie stood next to her, waiting for her to do something.
She looked down to see her body below her. She looked down at her transparent feet and her gaze traveled back to Charlie. "Am I dead?"
He grinned. "Yes, love. I've been waiting for you."
Then she remembered everything and she was in his arms, sobbing. Tears never actually came, but the feeling was just as bad. "Charlie, I'm so sorry. Your death was all my fault. I'm going to the Fields of Punishment, I know I am—please, forgive me for my wrongs."
He stroked her hair. "Ssh, love. There's nothing to forgive. You've done nothing wrong." She sniffed, wiping away a tear. "No, listen," he insisted. She looked back at her body, which was being held by Clarisse.
Clarisse said in a choked voice, "She was a hero, understand? A hero."
If I could only turn back time, I'd change everything and make you mine; I'm doing the best that I can do without you but I'm falling, falling...