My newest fic in the Alliance AU. Set after Escape From Camp Half-Blood, and during Rick Riordan's book Throne of Fire. This fic will contain spoilers for Throne of Fire, so if you haven't read it yet, and you don't want to be told what happens, please take this chance to stop reading.
"Nico, wake up!"
Nico didn't want to. He was sleeping.
"Nico! Please! Wake up! Nico, wake up!"
It was the primal fear more than anything else that cut through the sleepy haze obscuring Nico's mind. Someone was scared. He was too out of it to be able to tell who it was yet, but he knew that he couldn't leave them like that. It wasn't in his nature to turn away when someone needed help.
"Hang on. I'll save you." He struggled to open his eyes which wasn't easy. All of his muscles seemed heavy, somehow. Almost numb. This realization alarmed him and helped him fight off the sleep haze. Something was wrong with him, he realized. He wondered if he'd been poisoned as he tried to remember where he was and what he'd been doing.
A sigh of relief was heaved by someone close by. "Thank the eternal sun. Are you awake now?"
"Anubis?" Nico recognized the voice but something about it seemed strange. I'm hearing it with my ears, he realized suddenly. Not in my head the way he usually speaks to me.
"I'm here. Can you open your eyes?"
Nico made a monumental effort and was rewarded by a face-full of stinging sharp bright light that had him squeezing his eyelids shut again. "No."
"You just did."
Nico swallowed, suddenly aware of how dry his mouth was. "What happened?" he asked. "What hit me?"
He could still feel his connection to Anubis in his mind. Nico thought he would have known instantly if that was gone, he'd grown so used to being the death god's host. But Anubis was also physically beside him which meant that they were either in a place of death, like a funeral home or public school . . . or . . .
"We're in the Duat," Anubis told him right before Nico's mind could come to that conclusion on its own. "Remember? We came here to do the locator ritual."
Translation: Nico had come there to be a tool for Anubis while he did the locator ritual.
"Did it work?" Nico tried opening his eyes again but winced against the brightness of the light once more. "Did you find the book?"
Anubis was silent.
"Argh!" Nico cried out in frustration. Then he started coughing violently. He felt as though he'd inhaled a desert. The kind that was spelled with only one 'S' and was usually associated with sand and heat-strokes. Not the kind spelled with two 'S's that were made out of sweet sugary stuff, which Nico inhaled on a regular basis.
"Are you alright?" Anubis sounded worried again.
You stupid jackal-headed freak! Nico raged in his mind, sending his thoughts through their fused souls since he didn't have to physically speak to convey his message to Anubis this way. What the crap? You dragged me on another acid trip into the Duat for nothing? You put me through all that for nothing?
'All that' was the process that had left Nico limp and worn out, and obviously, up until just a minute ago, unconscious. As Anubus' host, Nico could serve as a conduit for the god, enabling Anubis to do things that he couldn't normally do. Unless he was acting through Nico, Anubis' powers were restricted to places of mourning while he was on earth. In the Duat he had more freedom, but there were still things that the Egyptian gods required hosts for to direct their magic properly, just as magicians required staves and wands for maximum efficiency in their spells. Had Anubis tried the locator ritual without Nico there to use as a conduit, he might have ended up blasting himself off to some far corner of the Duat which would take weeks to get back from. Nico didn't mind a little pain. Or a lot of pain. What he'd just gone through was nothing compared to some of the things that had happened to him in the past. But channeling the full force of Anubis' magic had left him so drained that it was impossible for frustration not to set in. Now he felt like crying. He had no energy, they had no idea where the Book of Ra, the one artifact that could save their world was, and the world was two weeks away from being destroyed by Apophis' next move in the chaotic chess game they were playing with him.
"No, Nico, I found the locations of the book," said Anubis just as Nico had started to give in to despair.
What? But then . . . wait, locations? Plural?
"Yes. I've found that the book was split into three pieces. That was why I paused before answering. The situation has grown more complicated."
I don't see how, Nico sent his thoughts to Anubis while swallowing hard, trying to moisten his throat after his coughing spell ended. You know all three locations, right? So all we have to do is cause three times as much trouble as we were planning to. That's a piece of cake for us.
Anubis laughed out loud. "I wish it were that easy." Nico felt the god grip his arms and pull him into a seated position, pressing his back against what felt like a stone wall. "Here. Drink." The canteen that Nico kept his nectar in was pressed to his lips.
Nico opened his eyes and jerkily reached up to take it from Anubis. I don't need you treating me like an invalid.
"Isn't that what you are?" teased Anubis as Nico took a sip of nectar of his own accord.
Says the guy who needed my power to do the ritual.
"I didn't need your power," said Anubis, correcting what he must have thought was a slip on Nico's part. "I needed your body."
Nico scowled. "When you say it like that you sound like a pervert!"
Anubis stared at him confused, with eyes that were so much like his own that Nico found it a little disturbing. Looking at Anubis was almost like looking at a mirror that showed him what he could expect to look like in three years. Anubis seemed to be thinking about what he'd said and trying to figure out what had come out wrong, then seemed to give up.
"There is another problem aside from the book being split into three pieces," said Anubis after giving up.
"No, it just thinks it's a problem, mainly because it hasn't met me yet." With the nectar starting to work, Nico was feeling better already. "Don't worry, Anubis, I'll set it straight."
Anubis smiled. "I'm glad you're feeling better. I was worried that the ritual was too much for you to handle." His smile faded. "I'm sorry. I miscalculated. The book being split into three pieces caused me to use as much . . . as much mana as I would need to cast it three times."
"Because after you commit to a spell there's no going back," said Nico to prove that he had learned something from his magic lessons, during which he always frustrated Sadie, Carter, Anubis, and Bast to no end with his lack of progress and inability to stay still long enough to concentrate. He had warned them that demigods made horrible students, but they hadn't believed until trying to actually teach him. Like with most demigods, Nico's battle-wired reflexes made book learning a nightmare for him. They'd only been able to make progress after Sadie, amazed by how he'd memorized all the intricate rules and strategies of Mythomagic when he tried to teach it to her, got the idea of teaching him using terms from the game. He'd begun making noticibly more progress after that, but since he had been making almost none before, that didn't necessarily mean too much.
Anubis' face grew very sober and he clenched his jaw.
"What's wrong?" Nico asked.
"I thought that I had killed you."
Oh. Nico guessed right then that he must have been worse off than he'd thought before waking up. "Well . . . sorry, but you don't get to inherit my Mythomagic decks quite yet."
Anubis glared at him.
"You shouldn't make light of the situation. That was a Great Spell, magnified three times and channeled through your body. What we did shouldn't have been possible. By all rights you should have been destroyed so completely that I shouldn't have been able to bring back even a handful of your ashes to Percy."
"By all rights I should be over eighty years old and nearing death's door on my own, without anyone's help," Nico pointed out. "And why are you of all people getting upset about this?"
"Why aren't you?" countered Anubis.
"Because it didn't happen," said Nico. "What do you want? Me to be angry at you for something completely unforeseen happening and putting me in danger? Newsflash: that happens every single time I go out to Dairy Queen. Which is why I usually stick to McDonalds now, because it's safer for some reason. I think those golden arches might be some sort of protective talisman. So what's this thing that you think is going to be a problem?"
"You're changing the subject."
Nico heaved a sigh. "Are you trying to make me angry at you?"
"I put you in mortal peril," said Anubis. "You have a right to be angry with me."
"But I'm not. So you don't need to feel guilty about this. Now can we please move on? We need to get back to the normal world and tell Sadie and Carter about the book. Then we have to go get the pieces of the book and blow some stuff up." Nico got to his feet, using the wall for support. "Two weeks until the equinox . . . so if we allot two days to finding each piece that will still give us a week to figure out how to use it and –"
"That's wrong," said Anubis.
"Fine," huffed Nico. "A week and a day to figure out how to –"
"I know how to add and subtract you know."
"Do you remember how I told you that time moves differently in some parts of the Duat, and can speed up or slow down at certain times depending on multitudes of factors?" asked Anubis.
That's when it clicked for Nico what the problem was. "How much time do we have?" he asked.
"Then why are we just standing here?" demanded Nico.
"You are standing here. Along with the largest part of my consciousness. Other parts of my consciousness have been working to aid Sadie and Carter and the stupid cat ever since I learned the location of the three pieces of the book, and it has not been easy." Anubis bared his teeth and looked furious for a moment. "I even had to make nice with my cousin Horus to get him to pass a message along for me, the obnoxious, loud-mouthed , would-be dictator. By now the Kanes should have one third of the book."
"Well that's good. I – oh no!" Something horrible occurred to Nico. "Oh no, no, no."
"What?" Anubis made a move as though to grab his arm but drew up short before he actually touched Nico. "Are you alright?"
"I forgot to get Sadie something for her birthday!" Nico felt a wave of disgust at himself. "I can't believe I forgot! What kind of a friend am I?"
Anubis looked at him very oddly. "This gift-giving ritual on one's birthday . . . it's that important?"
"Yes!" snapped Nico. "Especially when the someone's a girl! Especially when the girl is someone you care about in any way, shape, or form! She'll think you don't care about her if you don't get her something good enough, trust me, I know. Bianca and I couldn't remember our real birthdays, so she chose one for herself, out of the blue, and since I didn't even know I couldn't get her anything, and I don't even want to remember what happened then! And Bianca was just a normal girl back then with no super powers!" Nico gripped his head in both hands. "I don't even want to think about what Sadie's going to do!"
Now Anubis was starting to look alarmed. "But . . . in your defense, you were incapacitated and stuck in a time warp."
"Trust me, that's not going to matter," Nico told him. "Gods help me."
Anubis stared at him for several seconds. Then he spoke again. "I have been waiting for an opportunity to speak with Sadie or Carter, but so far they have not passed close enough to any cemeteries."
"Just stand in the doorway of my room and yell at them or their trainees until they come," suggested Nico. "Wait, just yell at Carter. It's Sadie's birthday, you shouldn't make her mad or bad things will befall you."
"I would have done that already if I could have," said Anubis. "But we seem to have hit a snag there. It seems that while you are in the Duat I cannot access your room."
"I was only ever able to claim it as my territory –"
"It's my territory, not yours."
"Because it was your room. Whether that was because you are the son of a death god or because you are my host, I do not know. But it seems that while you are in the Duat, whatever ownership rights you have over that room have been nullified," Anubis said. "I cannot enter it."
"They're not nullified, I'm not giving it up, it's my room," said Nico, glad to have something else to worry about to distract him from his problem of Sadie and her birthday. "None of those trainees better try to move in while I'm gone. I swear to Dad, if I get back and there are penguins in my room . . ."
Anubis looked like he was trying not to smile. "Getting you out of the Duat will take some time. Perhaps you will find a suitable gift along the way."
"That won't work, Anubis. I can't just be like, 'Happy birthday Sadie, here's a rock from the Duat.' I might die. Wait." Nico's eyes widened. "How long do you think it will take me to get out of here?"
"A couple days," said Anubis. "Don't worry, you'll be out before the equinox."
"But Sadie and Carter –"
"Will be okay," Anubis said. "They already have one third of the book. As soon as they come close enough to one of my territories for me to call out to them, they'll be on their way to the next piece. Once they find it . . . I'll send them to the final piece."
"What's wrong with the final piece?" Nico wanted to know.
"Nothing's wrong with the final piece."
"Then why did you pause?"
Anubis frowned at him. "I didn't."
"You did. You definitely paused."
Anubis hesitated, and Nico could tell he was about to lie. "It will be difficult for them to get to. If we can get you back to your world before they need that information then you could shadow travel them. But I don't think we'll make it in time," said the death god.
"We can try," said Nico, deciding to let the matter pass. Even if Anubis wasn't being truthful to him, he couldn't do anything about it to help Sadie and Carter where he was right now. He took a step away from the wall then wavered. Channeling all of Anubis' powers was still taking its toll on him, it seemed, and leaving him with bad balance.
Anubis started to reach for Nico but stopped when Nico gave him a glare. "Perhaps you should take more nectar or eat some ambrosia?"
"I already took as much as I should risk," Nico told him. "Anymore and I'll have increased chances of burning up."
"Well then," said Anubis. And he held out a hand toward Nico.
At first Nico thought that the god wanted him to hold his hand, and he was about to tell Anubis exactly what he could do with that offer. But then Anubis' hand began glowing with green light, and the light in his palm stretched outward, taking shape. Before Nico's eyes, it transformed into a black wooden staff, carved with hieroglyphics and symbols of death and rebirth, like ankhs, scarabs, and scales. At the top was the head of a jackal with red stones set in its eyes.
"I was going to wait until you were a little better at magic to make you a staff, but now's as good a time as ever," said Anubis. "You can use it to help you not fall on your stubborn face."
Nico took the staff. "Thanks."
"But you cannot give this to Sadie for her birthday present. The power I put in here is not compatible with hers and –"
"And if a girl finds out that you re-gifted them something the results can be even worse than if you just outright forgot," Nico cut him off. "Contrary to popular belief, I'm not suicidal, even if I do think constantly about death. Now let's go. I want to get out of here."
"Come then," said Anubis. He took the lead.
Nico followed using his new staff to help him. There was no time to waste. He had a world to save, and a birthday present for Sadie to find, and failing either task would give rise to chaos and cause copious amounts of pain.
AN: Just as a warning, chapter 2 probably won't be up until next week or the week after. I'm not abandoning the fic, nor have I been grounded again, I just have school work that requires a very large amount of time and results in very little actual learning, or in other words, projects. I just finished one where I had to build a three-foot-long cathedral out of sugar cubes. Because it was really educational. The others are just as pointless and time consuming, but there's no getting out of doing them.
But about the fics: I'm still working out how to make this AU fit as close as possible to the real Kane Chronicles, because that's part of what makes writing these fics fun for me. The timeline is a little messed up, I know, but I'm not going to go back and try to fix that because I'll probably overlook some references to how many weeks or months have passed and end up confusing anyone who's just started reading it. But I do plan to fix a few things that Throne of Fire proved me wrong about, like Sadie and Carter not having found any trainees in 'Escape from Camp Half-Blood'