A/N: Hello again, dear readers! I know I said I wouldn't be writing anymore fanfiction (besides Points in the Right Direction) in order to concentrate on my own original works but I read The Lost Hero this summer and once again, I couldn't help myself. I hope that this will help pass the time to the release of The Son of Neptune!
Like a Trident
Chapter 1: Know Thyself
Her finger caressed the smooth surface of the bead once more, tracing the lines of the green trident almost as carefully as if it was the demigod it represented. She brushed her wind-tangled hair back from her face, the strands damp from the swirling cloud mist they were currently sailing through.
Annabeth didn't turn as she heard footsteps approach. She knew who they belonged to. "Hey Piper," she said quietly, continuing to alternate her gaze between the necklace she held in her hand and the grey mass undulating around the Argo II.
"How can you always tell it's me?" Piper leant her forearms on the railing, peering over into the gloom below.
Annabeth snorted. "Your footsteps," she replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Leo rattles everywhere because of his tool belt and Jason clomps around like a Roman legion of one. Therefore, it had to be you." Annabeth gave a noncommittal shrug.
Piper smiled, but her forehead creased in concern when she saw the dejected look on Annabeth's face as she stared at the leather cord in her hand.
"Are the necklaces something special?" she asked, partially out of curiosity and partly as an attempt to distract her distant demigod friend. "I see a lot of the campers wearing them, but not all of them. Like me," she chuckled lightly, but Annabeth could sense her poor attempt to cover up her insecurity about missing out on a camp tradition. Piper still wasn't sure she quite fit in. However, the truth was that everyone had been so busy preparing for this voyage to the Roman camp that most people forgot that Piper, Jason, and Leo hadn't always been there.
"You'll get one too," Annabeth reassured her. "One bead for every summer you're at Camp Half-Blood." Piper scooted closer to inspect the intricately painted beads, but didn't reach out to touch them. "The picture on it usually has something to do with the major event of that summer," Annabeth explained.
"Like this one," Annabeth's thumb landed on the golden empire state building. "It commemorates the end of the Titan war."
Piper's kaleidoscope eyes landed on the brilliant green trident and suddenly understood. "This one," she gestured to the bead, "that was…"
"The first summer he came," Annabeth murmured.
"And all the beads since, you were with him on a quest," Piper stared at her, wide-eyed with admiration and sympathy. Annabeth clasped the leather cord around her throat once more, nodding briskly. Piper looped her arm through Annabeth's, feeling a sense of solidarity with the older blonde.
"We're almost there," Piper informed her bracingly. "Leo said we should be there by tomorrow." Annabeth translated the subtext of her sentence easily; Tomorrow you'll be with Percy.
There was a long silence during which Annabeth did not reply. Piper nudged her shoulder companionably. "It will be okay," she said, fairly bursting with conviction. "Percy will remember you."
"Of course he will." Annabeth's said automatically, her tone mirroring Piper's. The smaller brunette grinned in triumph until Ananbeth turned her head towards Piper, grey eyes dazed. Piper quickly pinched the skin of Annabeth's hand.
"Did you just charm speak me?" Annabeth demanded, drawing back slightly and shaking her head as if warding off a pesky mosquito.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to." Piper looked at her pleadingly. "I'm still working on controlling it. It just sort of happens automatically when I really believe in what I'm saying."
Piper fiddled with one of the little braids in her hair absentmindedly, and stared at the hole in the arm of her favorite jacket, mortified at her inability to control her power. Piper didn't like to admit it, but Annabeth's opinion really mattered to her. She looked up to the older girl for her ability and her strength, not to mention her long list of experience.
She was relieved when Annabeth fixed her with a rueful smile. "You really believe it that much?"
"Yes," Piper said emphatically. "After all I've heard about the two of you, I think it'll take more than a little Hera-induced amnesia to keep the two of you apart."
Annabeth's eyebrow arched. "You know Piper, you're really starting to sound like a simpering daughter of Aphrodite."
"Hey," Piper retorted indignantly, "I'm proud of it. I just wish my birthright would give me a little more luck," she added in an undertone. Annabeth followed her glance to where Jason stood at the bow, dictating their course to Leo who was tinkering with the ship's autopilot function. The son of Jupiter looked up from his map and sent a blinding smile toward Piper who eagerly returned it.
"I'm not sure you need much luck," Annabeth commented as she watched the exchange. Piper heaved a sigh and folded her arms over the railing once more. Annabeth mimicked her posture.
"Tell me," she insisted, eyeing Piper critically. It was clear that Piper was thinking about something she definitely wanted to spill. Desperate to avoid thinking about her own potential romantic disaster looming in the near future, Annabeth nudged Piper adamantly, urging her on. She was rewarded when Piper shifted closer, her voice low.
"I overheard Jason talking to Leo last night about what he remembers about his friends. He mentioned this girl—Reyna," Piper swallowed, attempting to maintain the appearance of nonchalance as she picked at nonexistent dirt under her fingernails. "The way he said her name made me wonder if…well, if she's his Annabeth."
Annabeth wrapped her arm around Piper consolingly. "We'll just have to make your mother proud and fight for them," her voice was filled with the fiery certainty generally associated with the legendary daughter of Athena.
Piper laughed, slinging her arm around Annabeth in return. "And how exactly do you propose we do that?" She stared expectantly up at her friend.
"Survey the situation, plan a strategy, and eliminate the obstacles. Don't worry," she squeezed Piper's shoulder briefly, her eyes as steely as the clouds around them, "Athena always has a plan."
Annabeth tried to block out the guilt she felt at having just lied bold- faced to Piper, especially when her friend felt so insecure.
For the first time, in as long as she could remember, Annabeth Chase didn't have a plan. More importantly, she didn't have a Seaweed Brain around to impulsively ruin said plan.
The very thought terrified her.
The sun was waning, painting the western sky an identical shade to their t-shirts as the small band of demigods worked to bring the Argo II in for a gentle landing. They had chosen a clearing about a half a mile away from the site of the Roman camp. They were sure their entrance had be noticed by now, and anchoring the ship a distance away would probably seem less hostile than landing in the middle of the Roman's sword arena. Also, Annabeth had chosen the clearing because it was located on slightly higher ground and easily defensible using the ship's wealth of weapons systems.
"Are we sure they won't attack us first and ask questions later?" Piper asked as she helped Leo hoist the white flag bearing the olive branch of truce up the mast, followed by an orange banner emblazoned with the words Camp Half-blood. Annabeth looked at the smaller banners which already fluttered airily in the wind, one honoring the godly parent of each demigod currently on board. Jason's, Leo's, and Piper's insignias waved cheerily on the same mast, while Annabeth's, adorned with a silver owl, sat lonely. She hoped soon it would be displayed next to its companion which was lovingly stowed away in her small cabin, an emerald green banner bearing the trident of Poseidon.
"We'll find out when the patrol gets here," Jason replied. He started punching in the code to lower the gangplank.
"Two, five, nine," Annabeth supplied when Jason's hand paused on the controls. He shot her a self-conscious grin. He always had trouble remembering the code, which Annabeth thought was understandable as he was just barely beginning to remember who he was. His brain had bigger things to deal with. Annabeth returned to scanning the surrounding forest with the heat-sensing binoculars Leo had built one night when he was bored.
"Why doesn't that sound comforting?" Leo drawled, his fingers twisting small metal parts together, a sure sign that he was nervous.
The three demigods stood at the top of the gangplank, looking for any sign of approaching legionnaires. "What if they do attack us?" Piper asked, her eyes on Jason. Annabeth and Leo turned to survey the son of Jupiter as well, the unspoken part of the question hanging heaving the in air. Which side would Jason take if it did come to a fight?
"They won't," Jason said shortly. Annabeth noted Leo's raised eyebrow as she returned the binoculars to their former position.
"What if they already found out who Percy is and went all Brutus on him?" Leo asked bluntly before he cast a guilty glance at Annabeth whose spine had bristled at the suggestion.
"Then Hera will just have to find another way of defeating the giants, because there won't be any Romans left when I'm finished with them," Annabeth replied darkly.
Piper paused in the middle of forming a placating sentence as all the demigods eyes turned to the trees, where figures were emerging. Annabeth lowered the binoculars, staring as the small band slowly moved toward the Argo II. They all had their weapons draw and shields raised, forming a protective barrier around the unit. It was a typical Roman style of warfare, but a completely impractical approach considering they had just placed all of their fighters in range of the front cannon of a possibly hostile flying ship. Annabeth shook her head at the poor strategy.
"I don't think we have to worry about Percy being alive," Piper said softly, staring as the demigods halted. Annabeth didn't have to ask why, as the warriors lowered their shields, revealing their faces. There, at the head of the group, riptide glimmering in his hand, was Percy.
Annabeth gaped. She had somehow expected Percy to have been secreted away someplace highly guarded and being held ransom for Jason. She had not thought to find him leading the advance guard. She felt like earth had just opened up and swallowed her into the Fields of Punishment as the horrible truth sank in. After all Jason had told them about what he remembered from life at the Roman camp, Percy would only be accepted in such a way if he still had no idea who he was.
Piper nudged her on her right, prompting her to follow Jason down the gangplank, his hands proffered to show that he was unarmed.
"And I thought our helmets were ridiculous," Leo whispered under his breath as he surveyed the armor of the Roman campers. Piper shushed him and cast a worried glance in Annabeth's direction.
They came to a halt behind Jason at the bottom of the gangplank. Annabeth shook her head, fighting through the sea of shock to grasp for some form of clarity. "Raise the gangplank," she murmured to Leo under her breath, "in case they try to take the ship."
"I'd like to see them try," he muttered back, but drew the remote control out of his belt and hit the button to raise the gangplank.
"My name is Jason Grace, Son of Jupiter and Praetor of the First Legion," he proclaimed with the air of one subduing a wild animal. "We're here on a diplomatic mission."
There was a tense moment filled with the sound of shifting armor as neither side spoke, not knowing the protocol for encountering strangers who were obviously demigods. Finally, Percy lowered his sword.
"So you're the famous Jason Grace," he proclaimed, lifting his helmet off with a grin. "Nice ship."
"Perseus!" a girl with long dark hair braided down her back snapped from his right. Percy rolled his eyes.
"What?" he demanded as he turned to face the girl.
The girl dug the butt of her spear into the earth and glared up at Percy from underneath side swept bangs. Totally impractical hairstyle for combat, Annabeth thought to herself.
"Jason has been missing for over six months and he suddenly shows up with three strange—" the girl began in a harsh whisper which was easily audible in the stillness.
"They said they were on a diplomatic mission," Percy interjected as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "And all you've done since I've got here is compare me to Jason. Shouldn't you be in the middle of a touching reunion?" Annabeth bit down on her lip to keep from laughing at the look on the other girl's face.
"Perseus," the girls said softly. "If you don't adhere to procedure, Lupa will force you to face punishment again." Beside her, Jason visibly blanched. He obviously remembered what punishment meant and it definitely wasn't something good. Annabeth's heart clenched in anger at the thought of Percy being punished.
Percy snorted derisively. "Reyna, it's not as if punishment actually hurts me."
"It did the last time," the girl, Reyna untucked something from the neck of her t-shirt. "This time she will not hesitate to use your greatest weakness against you and you could lose something even more important." She placed a hand comfortingly on Percy's arm, drawing attention from not only the Greeks but a few of the Roman guards as well.
Percy glared at the ground by Reyna's feet. "I wouldn't have lost had I not been forced to fight in a style I don't like," he muttered defensively. Reyna shook her head, her face firm, but her eyes sympathetic.
"It's how you were born to fight, Perseus, I don't know why you insist otherwise." She raised her eyebrows at him expectantly and he turned back to the group, his jaw clenched.
"You have entered the territory of our camp and as such are now subject to its laws," Percy proclaimed in a much louder voice than he'd used in his hushed conversation with Reyna. "You must remove and hand over all weapons until you have an audience with our leader at which point they may or may not be returned. State your purpose before we escort you further." He rattled all this off in a monotone, staring stonily over Jason's left shoulder. A few of the Roman campers stepped forward cautiously, their hands held out for the demigods' weapons.
"Annabeth, Leo, and Piper are children of the gods in their Greek aspects," Jason said carefully, answering Percy's request. "We were sent here on a quest by Juno and to…get back a missing friend." Jason gingerly handed over his golden coin, and nodded at Piper to do the same.
"What are you talking about?" Reyna demanded sharply. This time, it was Percy who raised a surprised eyebrow. Annabeth supposed that talking to those being "escorted" into camp also went against procedure. She rolled her eyes, tired of the poor charade of authority.
"Him," she declared pointing at Percy, "he's one of us and we've come to take him back." Percy looked at her for the first time, his sea green eyes full of surprise and confusion. He hadn't been expecting that, apparently.
No one, however, was expecting what happened next.
There was the slide of metal against leather, Reyna's armor, as she sank into a fighting stance, her spear pointed directly at Annabeth. "You will not take Perseus from where he belongs."
Annabeth's eyes narrowed as she stared at the girl with growing dislike. "His name is Percy," she snarled, her fingers curling around the handle of the dagger she had yet to hand over.
Reyna swung her spear in a downward arc toward Annabeth's head. Annabeth parried the blow with her forearm, refusing to wince as the force ricocheted up her arm. Jason spluttered protests as Reyna drew back her spear to thrust at Annabeth's chest. Annabeth dodged, ducking under the tip to land a slice across Reyna's forearm. Reyna gasped as blood blossomed across the unarmored part of her skin. Annabeth danced out of reach again as Reyna reared back for another attack.
There was suddenly a shape in between them and a reverberating clang as Percy intercepted Annabeth's knife, Reyna's spear glancing harmlessly off of his shoulder. "Stop it!" he glared over his shoulder at Reyna.
"That parry was weak, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth said, causing Percy to turn and stare down at her. "You've gone rusty." Percy's eyes sparkled as his smirk blossomed into a full blown grin, and Annabeth couldn't help but return it. For a moment, it was just them, as natural as it had been on the last night she had seen him before his disappearance.
He bound her blade away, his free arm wrapping around her waist in one familiar movement before he lifted her off of her feet and kissed her soundly.
This was what Elysium must feel like, Annabeth was sure. She let her knife fall to the earth in order to tug Percy more fully against her, tangling her hands in his every-messy hair. She heard a clatter and knew that Riptide had just followed her dagger to the ground. Annabeth felt like she was flying, her heart bursting with hope in a way it hadn't been able to in months.
Then, Percy was pulling away from her and she was on her feet once more, his green eyes boring into hers, not with the passion he'd just kissed her with, but with more confusion than ever before.
He released her abruptly. "I-I don't know why I just did that," he stammered into the shocked silence. He grabbed riptide up from the ground, his face a brilliant shade of red. "Take them to Lupa," he commanded his voice hollow.
Annabeth's eyes followed him as she allowed the stunned legion to usher her away. She had thought, just for a moment that Percy might remember who he was, who she was. And the crushing disappointment made her feel like she was holding up the sky once more.
A/N: Reviews encourage me to post things faster...just so you know.