Leo had fallen asleep at Hazel's side. He was still sitting in the same chair that he'd refused to budge from and was resting his head on the cot, his hand still holding hers. Hazel took in a deep breath, and slowly, her eyes fluttered open; the first thing she saw was Leo at her side. She squeezed his hand, which brought him out of his sleep.
Leo yawned then smiled when he saw that Hazel's eyes were open, "Sleeping Beauty's awake."
Hazel rubbed her eyes, "How long was I out?"
"A couple of days."
"You were hurt pretty badly, but you're okay now," he assured.
"Leo, I…I thought I wouldn't make it out alive. The fire, it…"
"I saw what happened. I thought I'd lost you," Leo wiped a tear from his eye.
Hazel slowly sat up with Leo's help, and he sat down on the cot beside her.
Hazel cupped her hand over Leo's cheek, "But you didn't lose me. And I didn't lose you. We're still here…together."
"I don't know what I'd have done without you," Leo said as he rested his forehead against hers. "Because I love you like crazy."
Hazel looked into his eyes, "I love you, too, Leo."
Leo wiped a tear from her cheek and kissed his girlfriend for the first time in weeks.
Annabeth walked toward the sound to find Percy sitting on the beach looking out at the ocean. The sun was setting behind them, and the waves broke softly upon the sand.
Annabeth sat down beside her boyfriend and nudged his shoulder with her own, "What's up?"
"Thinking, huh? Well, don't hurt yourself," she teased.
Percy rolled his eyes, "Ha, ha, very funny."
Annabeth laced her fingers with his and leaned against him, "So, what are you thinking about?"
"You," he grinned.
"Smooth, very smooth, Seaweed Brain."
"So, I talked to my mom today," he began. "She wants me to come home in a few weeks."
Annabeth was surprised and a little disappointed. She thought they'd have the rest of the summer to spend together. She was looking forward to two whole months without wars or quests or prophecies; two months of relaxation with her boyfriend.
"You're going home?" she asked.
"Well, not exactly," Percy said. "She and Paul want to go on a little family vacation to Montauk for a few days."
"Oh," Annabeth tried to hide her relief. "So you'll only be gone for a few days."
Percy turned to her and smirked, "We'll only be gone for a few days."
He nodded, "Mom, Paul, and I agreed, we want you to come, too."
Annabeth kissed Percy, "I'd love to go on vacation with you and your family."
Dinner was quiet that evening. Everyone sat at their tables, but no one really ate. No one had an appetite that night. As soon as dinner was over they would be going to the campfire to burn Piper's shroud, making the mood a somber one.
When dinner was over, everyone made their way to the amphitheatre. Torches lit the path to the modestly decorated amphitheatre. White lilies adorned the theatre and sitting on a pedestal near the campfire was a white shroud. In the center of the solid white sheet of silk was the image of a dove outlined in black. It was simple, yet elegant.
Piper's closest friends sat in the front row while the rest of the campers filled the other seats. Everyone at camp was there that night, everyone except Jason.
Chiron was standing near the campfire when he began, "Can I have everyone's attention?"
The amphitheatre fell silent.
Chiron continued, "As you all know, we lost one of our campers in the Giant War, and tonight we will honor her bravery and her sacrifice. I've asked one of her best friends to say a few words. Leo…"
Leo was sitting next to Hazel, and she gave him a confident nod as he stood and walked toward Piper's shroud.
Leo looked sadly upon the silk cloth, then turned to the audience, "Piper was the closest thing I've ever had to a sister…an overbearing and bossy sister, but a sister, nonetheless. And I loved her as if she and I shared the same blood. She looked out for me and always had my back, and I always tried to do the same for her. Piper was a hero…my hero. She fought bravely, she loved deeply, and she never gave up hope. She would want us to celebrate her life, not mourn her death, and that's what I will do. I loved Piper, and I'll make sure she'll always be remembered."
Leo lifted a burning torch from it placement and touched it to the white shroud. The silk cloth began to burn in the most beautiful array of colors. Everyone in the amphitheatre watched with sorrow.
Jason, with a full backpack slung over his shoulder, stopped walking when he reached the hill behind the amphitheatre. He looked down at the glowing fire that was Piper's burning shroud then closed his eyes tight; he wasn't going to cry.
"Going somewhere?" a voice from behind him rang.
Jason jumped with surprise at the sound of the voice and turned to see Nico standing behind him.
"Nico, what are you doing here?"
"I came to show my respects. I've been watching the ceremony from up here," Nico told him. "What about you? Looks like you're about to sneak out of camp without saying goodbye."
"Don't try to stop me, Nico."
Nico shrugged his shoulders, "I wasn't going to. How you deal with your grief is your business. Sometimes you just have to get away from it all. Believe me, I've been there."
"I…I can't stay here. It's too hard," Jason admitted.
"Then go. But remember, there are people at both camps who care about you. You don't have to stay gone forever," Nico said. "Do what you have to do, Jason. Grieve for her, let it out, but then let it go. Because if you let it, it will consume you, and we both know she wouldn't want that."
Jason took a deep breath, "She's…she's okay, right, Nico?"
Nico nodded, "She's on the Isles of the Blest, the most peaceful place in the Underworld. She's just fine. She'll wait for you there, but she wants be waiting a long time. She wants you to live long, happy lives to their fullest."
Jason closed his eyes tight again, and when he opened them, Nico was gone. Jason looked down at the burning shroud one last time then left Camp Half-Blood without saying goodbye.
After the burning of Piper's shroud, the campers mingled a bit before returning to their cabins for the night.
Thalia made her way over to Percy and Annabeth, "Hey, guys."
"Hey, Thalia," Annabeth smiled. "What's up?"
"I just wanted to come say goodbye."
"Goodbye?" Percy asked.
"It's time for me to rejoin the Hunt," Thalia nodded. "The girls need me. I'm their lieutenant."
"But so soon?" Annabeth sighed.
"Yeah, I'll be leaving first thing in the morning. The Hunters are out west, and Lady Artemis has arranged a ride for me, so I'll have to be up with the sun."
"Up with the…" Annabeth paused. "Ah, Apollo."
Thalia rolled her eyes, "Unfortunately."
"Well," Percy began. "You could always stay at camp, leave the Hunt."
"Yeah, right, like Lady Artemis would ever allow that, and besides, it gets too dull around here. There's always excitement on the Hunt."
Annabeth smiled, "You always were all go, no quit."
Thalia smirked, "Damn right."
Annabeth hugged her friend, "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you, too."
Thalia hugged Percy, "Take care of Annabeth."
"Always," Percy assured her.
Thalia walked into cabin one to say goodbye to her brother, but he wasn't there; the cabin was empty except for a note lying on Jason's bunk. Thalia sat down on the bunk and picked up the note.
She read it aloud, "Thalia, I'm sorry for leaving without saying goodbye, but I was afraid you'd try to stop me. I need to clear my head, and I can't do that here. I don't know where I'll go, but wherever I end up, I'll be okay. You don't have to worry. Stay safe on the Hunt, Sis. Your brother, Jason."
Thalia folded the note and stuffed it into her pocket, then lied down on Jason's bunk. She had just gotten her brother back, and now he was gone. She wondered if she would ever see him again.
"I'll keep an eye out for you, little brother," she whispered to herself. "I'll find you again."
Thalia curled up under the covers and was asleep within minutes.
Thalia walked out of cabin one at sunrise to see a red Maserati convertible sitting in the courtyard. Apollo was standing outside the car leaning against the driver's door. He looked the same as he did the first time she'd met him: jeans, sleeveless t-shirt, rugged good looks. He gave Thalia a playful smile, and her heart took an extra beat.
"Good morning, sunshine," Apollo greeted her.
Thalia bowed her head to the god, "Lord Apollo."
"Are you ready to fly?" he asked her.
Thalia's stomach flipped at the thought, "Not exactly."
Apollo cocked his head slightly and smirked, "I'll let you drive again."
"Uh, no thank you," she declined.
Apollo laughed as he walked around the car and opened the passenger door for her. Thalia climbed in, and Apollo hopped into the driver's seat, not even bothering to open the door.
"Buckle up," he said as he started the engine.
As Thalia buckled her seatbelt, Apollo looked toward cabin seven and saw Reyna standing in the open doorway leaning against the frame. He lowered his sunglasses and winked at his daughter. She gave him a smile and a nod before he took off into the sky. Reyna watched her father fly away, and when she looked back down at the courtyard, she saw Dakota walking toward her cabin.
"You're up awfully early," she smiled at her boyfriend.
"And you're up with the sun, as always."
Reyna shrugged her shoulders, "Family curse, I guess. So, what's got you up so early?"
Dakota rubbed the back of his neck nervously, "I need to talk to you about something."
The smile faded from her face, "What is it, Kota?"
"Let's take a walk."
Reyna and Dakota walked through the courtyard toward the strawberry fields. Dakota seemed nervous, and it was starting to worry Reyna.
"I'm not going to lie to you ever again," Dakota began. "I'm going to be completely honest with you, starting now."
Reyna's heart sank. She didn't know what he was about to tell her, but whatever it was, it couldn't be good.
"I'm not going back to the First Legion," he told her.
She stopped walking, "What?"
"It's time for me to leave camp, time for me to move on."
Reyna raised her eyebrows, "Move on?"
"I accepted a scholarship to UC Berkeley," he told her.
"You…wait, what?" she asked.
"I'm going to college in September, Reyna."
"Wow, that's great, Kota," she said, but she quickly became frustrated when she realized what that meant. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"Well, when I made the decision, you and I weren't exactly on speaking terms," Dakota explained. "And I really didn't think you'd care…until now."
"I can't believe this," Reyna said putting her hands on her hips. "We just got this thing started again, and now you're leaving."
"Reyna, it's Berkeley," Dakota half-laughed. "It's thirty minutes from camp."
"I know, but you'll be busy with your classes, and I won't get to see you very often, and-"
"I've been thinking about that," Dakota interrupted her rambling. "And I think I know how to solve that problem?"
"How?" she asked.
Dakota smiled, "Come with me."
Reyna was surprised, "To Berkeley?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "Enroll. I know you'll get in; your test scores were better than mine, and you're eighteen now, you can leave camp whenever you want."
Reyna thought about the idea for a moment, then a smile began to play across her lips, "You know, they do have a pretty good med program."
"So, you're in?" Dakota asked hopefully.
"I'll apply, and if I'm accepted…I'll go with you."
Dakota breathed a sigh of relief, "You don't know how happy that makes me."
Reyna wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a sly grin, "Well, you'll just have to show me then, won't you?"
"With pleasure," Dakota smiled then leaned in and kissed his girlfriend.
Camp was pretty much back to normal after a few weeks. Most of the Roman demigods had gone back to the First Legion, and the Greeks had returned to Camp Half-Blood. They celebrated the Fourth of July on the beach with a barbecue and an impressive fireworks display put on by the Hermes and Hephaestus cabins. The campers were enjoying camp for a change. It had been three weeks since the end of the Giant War, and everything was quiet: no monsters, no prophecies, nothing. It was actually beginning to be quite boring, and many campers were planning to take a short leave from camp to see their families since things were so uneventful.
A white van driven by Argus was parked at the bottom of Half-Blood Hill. Dakota, Reyna, Hazel, and Leo would be sharing a ride to the airport. Dakota and Reyna were flying out to Iowa to spend the rest of the summer with Dakota's mother and step-father on their farm before returning to California for college. Hazel and Leo would be headed to Texas. Hazel's mother was anxious to meet Leo, apparently. He'd also been granted permission to attend school at the First Legion's educational facility, so he would be joining Hazel at the Roman camp in the fall, which they were both so excited about.
Percy, Annabeth, and Rachel were there under that towering pine to see the four of them off.
After everyone exchanged hugs, Annabeth said, "Don't be strangers, guys. Come back and visit."
"Count on it," Dakota smiled.
"And Hazel and I will be back next summer," Leo added. "That is, if I survive meeting her mother."
Hazel nudged Leo with her elbow, "Hey, she's not that bad."
Argus honked the horn to get the demigods to hurry.
"Well, I guess we'd better get going," Reyna said, then turned to Rachel. "Keep Percy and Annabeth in line."
"Yeah, like that'll ever happen," Rachel laughed.
The horn honked again as Argus was losing patience.
"You guys better go before Argus leaves without you," Percy said.
They waved at their friends as they walked to the bottom of the hill. The four demigods climbed into the van, and disappeared behind a trail of dust down the dirt road.
Percy, Annabeth, and Rachel began to walk down the path toward the Big House.
"I'm going to miss those guys," Annabeth said as hooked her arm with Percy's.
"Yeah, me too," Percy agreed.
"So," Rachel began. "I hear you two are going to be leaving, too."
"Just for a few days," Percy said.
"I wish I could go on vacation," Rachel pouted. "It's going to be so boring around here until you two get back."
"Oh, it won't be that bad," Percy smiled. "I'm sure the Stoll brothers could keep you entertained."
"I think I'll pass on that," Rachel said. "Maybe I'll get a prophecy to stir up some excitement."
"Oh, gods, let's hope not," Annabeth shook her head.
Percy nodded, "I've got to agree with Wise Girl."
"Besides," Annabeth started. "We've already fulfilled two Great Prophecies; I doubt we'll get another one."
"What do you think, Rachel?" Percy asked. "Do you think we'll get another Great Prophecy?"
"Percy," Annabeth swatted his shoulder. "Watch what you say to her."
Annabeth's warning came too late, because Rachel's eyes began to glow serpent green.
When she spoke, her words were in the tripled voice of the Oracle,
"The cursed one with pure birthright will sink to lows and raise to heights,
The mortal enemy will rock the core of love and family with seeds of war,
The loss of a hero will bring to light the need to choose: fight or flight,
Friend's and enemy's views must bend or see a war without an end."
Percy and Annabeth were there to catch Rachel before she collapsed; they looked at each other and shook their heads, "Not again…"
And it's complete! 3 books, 55 chapters, 147k words, and 10 months later, this series is finally complete!
I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review this series. And to all of my faithful readers who stuck it out with me from day one, I can't thank you enough. My readers are what keep me going. Each and every one of you helped make this series a success, and for that, I'm truly grateful. I also want to offer a special thanks to those of you who nominated and voted for my stories in the Veritas Awards. It's an honor to be included in such an elite group of authors and fics.
I hope everyone enjoyed reading this series as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'm going to take a short break from writing to catch up on some reading and enjoy SoN, but I hope to see everyone back for my next series which I plan to begin in late November. That series, entitled Heroes and Legacies, will be a next-gen series and plans to be six books. I'll go ahead and give you guys a sneak-peek at the summary for the first installment:
Heroes and Legacies Book 1: The Prodigal Son
When the dreams began, I knew my life was about to change. My parents warned me this day might come, but still, I wasn't quite prepared for everything that was about to happen. My name is Chase Jackson, and this is where my adventure begins.
Thanks again, guys!
P.S. I know you guys are upset and probably hate me for killing Piper and for closing this series with a cliffhanger (I love cliffhangers), but trust me, there's a method to my madness. Read my next series to find out why I elected to kill Piper and what the next Great Prophecy is all about.