Son of the Underworld chapter 16
I don't own anything, ooc, au, dark
The bright light of instant transportation pressed against Percy's eyelids. They turned into red screens with small, dark red, vines. Once the light disappeared, and Percy's sight returned to normal, he opened his eyes. He blinked and squinted against the sunlight. He could hear the talking and laughing campers. A few gawked at them as they passed by on their way to lunch.
"Lord Poseidon," they muttered before scurrying away.
Percy closed and opened his hands. He glanced from the campers to Poseidon to the Big House.
'I don't want to be here,' he thought as he chest tightened. He was conscious of every breath he took. He clenched his fist. 'I'd rather be anywhere than here.'
That's when he noticed that the flowers Persephone had given him were gone. His eyes widened as his heart leaped. He turned frantic eyes to Poseidon.
"Sir," he cried. "The flowers Persephone gave me! They're gone!"
He looked at his feet. "She's going to be so mad."
He was 95% sure that she wouldn't be mad, that it was a ruse, but the other five percent won. His stomach shivered as it twisted. He measured each breath as he studied every dirt particle on the ground.
'What can I do?'
Poseidon sighed and snapped his fingers. The flower bouquet appeared in his hands. He handed them to Percy. "Do what you must."
Percy inspected the bouquet. The last thing he wanted was to give Chiron ruined flowers, have Persephone find out, and get turned into a weed. They seemed perfect.
"I guess you were right," Percy muttered. "They're fine."
"Persephone makes resilient flowers," Poseidon said.
A soft clopping came from the Big House. Chiron walked down the stairs, and over to Poseidon and Percy.
"Lord Poseidon," Chiron said bowing his head. "May I ask what brings you here?"
Poseidon crossed his arms. "Making my claim known."
Percy squashed the warmth in his chest that appeared at those words.
'Remember, he owns you.'
"Sir?" Chiron asked.
"You'll find out when I make my announcement to the camp," Poseidon said. "Make sure all campers are there."
Chiron bowed his head and trotted to the pavilion.
"What did you do, Poseidon?" Mr. D asked. His purple eyes looked at Percy. "You've changed him."
"He asked me to," Poseidon said. "It is his reward for finding the bolt, and finding who stole it."
"Who did it?" Mr. D asked walking beside Poseidon.
"Ares," Poseidon said. "Though I suspect that he had some help or influence."
"Influence?" Mr. D raised an eyebrow. "You think he manipulated someone into stealing it? Not really his style, he's more upfront about his tactics."
Bitterness swelled in Percy's chest. 'Upfront, right.'
He ran over his memories of traveling with Ares. 'There's nothing upfront about him. He's nothing by a coward who pretends to be big. An enemy posing as a friend.' He looked up at the sky. 'I suppose he was the one who the Oracle talked about. The friend who would betray me.'
Poseidon refused to say anything more about it, and they walked in silence to the pavilion.
Percy noticed the hostile glances at him. Heard the mutters about wishing he had died.
'Why did I want a friend again?' Percy asked himself. 'All it did was hurt me.' He remembered the laughs Ares and he had shared. 'Why do I want that back? Why would I willingly go back and pretend none of this had happened if it just meant one more day with him?'
'No,' Percy thought. 'No, I shouldn't want that.' He clenched his fist. 'Why does part of me still like him?'
Poseidon prodded him, drawing Percy from his thoughts. Percy glanced at him before he checked their surroundings. The pavilion.
Poseidon nodded to the line at the sacrificial fire. "Go and make you're offerings. Get your food from my table, and remember to make an offering."
Percy looked at the table made of smoothed coral. Percy saw the curious glances at the table and at Poseidon. His stomach knotted. He wanted to disappear into the shadows, away from the attention, away from this place. He closed his eyes and gathered himself. With a face set into stone, he walked to Poseidon's table.
He filled his plate, feeling the eyes of the demigods burn into his back. He eyed the bench. It looked uncomfortable compared to the other tables. He hoped there wasn't any protruding coral or sandstone. The last thing he needed was a sand burn.
"What the Hades are you wearing, Jackson?" Someone snorted.
Percy tilted his head back and took in a deep breath. The smell of food did nothing for him, since he already ate, but he needed to make a sacrifice. The burn of the fire scorched his lungs, and increased his annoyance. He coughed as he turned around. Clarisse looked him up and down with raised eyebrows and a sneer.
"You're dad's dignity," Percy said, picking up his drink. "Cherry coke."
Clarisse sputtered behind him.
"You mean your own dignity," Clarisse sneered, crossing her arms. "Oh, wait, you don't have any."
"Are we sure we're not talking about you?" Percy asked. He took a sip and moved around her. "You wimped out when offered a quest."
Clarisse's cheeks flamed. She lowered her arms, tapping them against her legs. "I have to run a cabin, unlike you."
"Right," Percy said walking away. "I forgot that running a cabin overtakes saving the world."
He got into line to make his offering. He ignored the looks and whispers. Who cared what they thought? He had done what he had to do, finished the quest, and received Poseidon's protection. They couldn't do anything against him now.
Percy looked passed the shifting demigods in line. He saw Will weaving through the crowd. His blond hair glowed gold in the sun. His smile could have been able to light a thousand homes. Percy killed it with one glare. He turned from Will; he had wasted enough time on people who didn't want him.
"H-Hey, Percy," Will stuttered from beside Percy. Percy glanced at him. He raised his hand to shoulder height and gave a pitiful wave.
"Solace," Percy said, looking at the head in front of him.
"It's good to see you back," Will said, he sounded strange, voice tilted into a question.
"I'd say it's good to be back," Percy surveyed the other campers. They glared at him or avoided his eyes all together. "But I'm not wanted here."
"That's not true," Will said his eyes on the ground. His voice weaker than a new born baby.
"Don't lie to me," Percy snapped. "I'm tired of being lied to."
Will flinched. "I'm not lying."
Percy sighed through his nose at the sound of Luke's voice. An arm wrapped around his shoulders. Percy flinched. His mind went blank. He twisted out of Luke's hold and slammed his plate toward his head. Beef and potatoes splattered against the stone floor. Luke caught Percy's arm and laughed.
"Still a bit twitchy?"
"Don't touch me," Percy said jerking his arm away.
"Alright, just don't brain me," Luke said with a wink and a laugh. "So how did it go?"
"I'm here, aren't I?" Percy asked. He frowned at his empty plate. The juice from the meat dripped off of it.
"Yeah," Luke said with a smile. "Yeah, you are. So want to sit next to me and tell me all about it?"
He tried to punch Percy in the arm. Percy dunked away and returned to Poseidon's table. He kept glancing around him, paying attention to every twitch the demigods made. He wouldn't put it pass them to try something. He grab a new plate and filled it with the same food as before.
"Why are you getting food from Poseidon's table?" Luke asked.
"Because I sit here, now," Percy said.
Luke blinked. "You're a son of Poseidon?"
Several eavesdropping demigods gasped or snorted.
"Him? No way."
"But what if he is?"
Percy suppressed a smirk at the fear in their voices. 'I wonder what they would say if they knew who my real father is.'
Percy kept silent, it felt good to keep something from Luke and Will. He pushed his way between them, and walked to the line. Annoyance tickled at his heart at the fact that he had to go to the end. The eyes of campers followed him.
"Come on," Luke said as he stepped up beside Percy. "Tell us." He nudged Percy. "What are friends for?"
"Friends?" Percy snapped. His emerald eyes burned as they whipped toward Luke. "Considering you've done nothing but harass me?"
"Harass," Luke sputtered. "I'm the one who tried to befriend you unlike sunshine here."
He jabbed his thumb toward Will.
"Hey!" Will glared at Luke. "I've tried to be his friend."
"Oh, right," Luke mocked. "The way you avoided him and bailed on him was so friendly."
"Oh, like you did different?" Will sneered. "You always had this greedy look on your face when you look at him. What are you trying to make yourself feel better by befriending him?"
"What are you talking about?" Luke asked.
"You're not as good a liar as you think," Will said. "I can see right through you. I know somethings off about you, Castellen." He looked Luke up and down. "I don't know what. But I do know that you're not completely honest with your feelings toward Percy. You want something from him."
Percy raised an eyebrow. He had gotten the same feeling when around Luke on more than one occasion. But had over looked the it in favor of a chance at having a friend.
"Doesn't everyone?" Luke scoffed crossing his arms. His eyes hovered on Will's nose. "I mean we all want something. Friendship, love, loyalty."
Will snorted. "Like you would know anything about loyalty. Don't think I don't hear you bad mouthing your dad all the time."
"That person doesn't deserve my loyalty," Luke snapped. "He abandoned my mom and I. I owe him nothing!"
Percy ignored them as he passed the throng of demigods gathering around them. He shuffled his way up the line until it was his turn to offer up his sacrifice. He scraped in food for his dad and Poseidon. He offered it in silence to his dad and raising his voice when offering it to Poseidon. He smirked at the whispers, and sauntered to his new table.
He sat and ate in silence. The table rubbed against his elbows, but it wasn't that bad.
'At least I have room now.'
As demigods finished eating, the chatter grew louder. After a few minutes of talking, Chiron stood up and stomped his foot to get their attention.
"Demigods," Chiron said. His brown eyes flickered toward Poseidon. "I'm certain you've noticed that we have a visitor."
There was some mutterings of agreement. Chiron nodded his head.
"Campers, rise to great Lord Poseidon. Earth shaker. God of the Sea!"
Percy rose with the others and gave a low bow, chanting. "Welcome, Lord Poseidon. How may we be of service?"
Mr. D grumbled. "I don't get greeted like that."
"You live here!"
Giggles broke out. A nervous current shimmered under the humor.
"Brats," Mr. D grumbled. A snapping noise made some of the demigods shriek, but nothing happened. "You're lucky I'm in a generous mood."
Percy raised his eyebrows but kept his eyes on the ground. The campers were to stay in position until addressed as a mass.
'Please make this quick,' Percy prayed. 'I'm tired of being here.'
"Demigods," Poseidon said as he stood. "Please, sit. Relax. We are all friends here."
He chuckled, prompting the demigods to titter as they sat.
Poseidon motioned for Percy to come to him. "Percy, if you, please."
Percy got up and walked over to Poseidon. He stood next to him, and tried to keep a straight face as Poseidon put his hand on his shoulder. The envious stares of the demigods made his toes curl.
'They might retaliate.'
'Let them try,' Percy decided. 'I'm under Poseidon's protection now. They can't touch me.'
"Perseus has done us all a great favor," Poseidon said. "He returned Zeus's lighting bolt to him. We all owe him our thanks."
Reluctant grumbles of thanks bubbled up from the crowd. Percy smirked with narrowed eyes.
"In relation to that," Poseidon said. "I have decided to take Percy and his mother under my wing. Any slight against him, is a slight against me."
There was an intake of breath. Whispers broke out like sardines jumping out of water.
Percy spotted Luke's pale face. He tilted his head.
'What's with him?' Percy looked up at the sky. 'He's probably scared that I'll complain to Poseidon about his weird behavior.'
"He will be moved into my cabin today." Poseidon continued as if the demigods had not taken in most of the planet's air supply in shock.
"That is unprecedented," Chiron mentioned. As Poseidon and Percy turned to look at Chiron, he explained. "Usually, demigods only move into the cabins of their parents."
"I am his Patron," Poseidon said. "He will answer to me. He will sacrifice to me. He will live in my cabin." Poseidon made eye contact with the demigods. "You all will give him the same deference you give me. A slight against him, is a slight against me."
Percy smirked and crossed his arms at the small splattering of nods.
"Good," Poseidon said. He turned to Chiron. "I expect you will continue keeping the campers safe."
"Of course," Chiron said with an incline of his head. "Thank you for the visit, Lord Poseidon."
Percy echoed Chiron's thanks.
Poseidon nodded, walking toward the cabins. "Come, Perseus."
Percy nodded and followed Poseidon. A silent shadow. He was a few steps away from the steps when a dull thud rattled through his brain. He jerked forward. An apple rolled at his feet. He turned to look at the crowd when the demigods screamed, scattering. There in the middle of the crowd was a flopping fish.
"As I said," Poseidon said. "Anything done against him is done against me."
"Lord Poseidon," Chiron said. Worry ran under his calm voice held an undercurrent of worry as he eyed the flopping fish. "If you would be so kind, please, return the demigod to their natural state."
Poseidon snapped his fingers, and Clarisse La Rue appeared gasping for breath.
"I assume you've learned your lesson?" Poseidon asked. He only received gasping as an answer. "Come, Percy."
Percy left the worried mutters of the demigods for the empty cabins. He followed Poseidon to Cabin number 3. The bronze 3 shone like a lighthouse beacon from its place on the door. Poseidon tried to open the door, it refused to budge. He growled and slammed his shoulder against it. The door creaked as it swung in.
He grunted. "It's been a while since it's been opened. I'll need to fix that."
Percy touched the wall as he entered. Sand stuck to his palm.
"What is this?" He asked dusting his hands off. The floor boards squeaked underneath his feet.
"A mixture of sand, coral, and sandstone scraped from the bottom of the ocean," Poseidon said. He hummed. "This place needs some spring cleaning."
Percy agreed. He wondered how long the cabin had remained empty. Like the cabin Poseidon had transformed into a home for Percy and his mom, sand covered the floor and beds. Cobwebs laced their way across the ceiling into the corners.
Poseidon snapped his fingers. In the blink of an eye a storm wind blew through the cabin. Sand swirled up into a twister that collected the cobwebs. Percy jumped to the side as it twisted its way though the door.
"Where is it going?" Percy asked.
Poseidon smirked. "I think the Ares cabin could do with some redecorating."
"There are some changes I need to make to this cabin," Poseidon said. He waved his hand toward Percy. "Pick out a bed, and sit on it, keep your feet off the floor."
Percy sat on the nearest bed, underneath a small window. Lace netted the window, giving Percy gauzy privacy. He crossed his legs and watched Poseidon as he leaned against the wall. The strawberry scented breeze caressed the side of his face.
Poseidon summoned his trident. He tapped it against the ground. A small earthquake erupted. Percy's fingers dug into the wall as he stared up at the ceiling, the last thing he wanted was for it to cave in. A whining sound drew his attention toward the floor. It buckled and broke, splintering apart. The ragged ends smoothed over until a square hole laid there. The earth there parted, like the red sea, into a square tunnel. Sea water filled it.
"There," Poseidon said. "A direct channel to the ocean. When you get in, the current will suck you out into the ocean and pull you to my palace."
"Fun," Percy said eyeing the water. "Is a sea monster going to come up out of there in the middle of the night and attack me?"
"What? No, no, of course not," Poseidon said. He knelt and touched the water. It glowed for a second. "There. See? It's been warded against monsters."
"Thanks," Percy said.
'Would he have remembered that if I hadn't said anything?'
"How will I know when I need to?" Percy mimed diving.
"I'll call you," Poseidon said with a wave of his hand. "You're tattoo will burn, and that will be your signal to come. If I need to I can create a mental link and tell you want I need or just IM you."
"Okay," Percy said looking at the water. It lapped at the wood surrounding it until Poseidon lowered the trap door.
'Oh, thank, Fates,' Percy thought. 'I won't have to try to remember there's a hole in the floor in the mornings.'
"I'll leave you to get used to the cabin," Poseidon said. He wagged a finger at Percy. "And remember, because of our link, I'm always aware of what you do." He smiled and winked at Percy. "Don't do anything I would."
His belly laugh echoed in the cabin. He disappeared with a rush of sea breeze.
"Like anyone would get within ten feet of me," Percy muttered as he laid on his bunk. He closed his eyes and wished he could sleep forever.
'I'm so tired of all of this.'
Percy got up early at the sound of the conch horn the next day. He slipped into his morning routine as if he had never left. He went to breakfast alone, and enjoyed his meal, ignoring the looks, until someone sat next to him.
"What do you want?" Percy asked, cutting into his waffle.
"What's with that tattoo?" Luke asked. He touched it, gentle fingers caressing the colored skin.
Percy slapped his hand. "It's a gift from Lord Poseidon."
"A gift huh?" Luke said leaning back so that he could see Percy's face.
Percy refused to make eye contact with him, focusing on his breakfast.
"So what does it do?" Luke asked.
"Nothing," Percy said, his tone flat.
"What? No way," Luke said. "It has to do something!"
Percy tightened his hold on his silverware. 'There he goes again, trying to control what I do.'
"It's just a tattoo," Percy said. "A perk."
"A perk?" Luke repeated. "Pretty lame perk after becoming a patron for a god."
Percy shrugged. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, Luke pull away, he could feel Luke's indignation beating against his skin.
Percy got up.
"Where are you going?" Luke asked, standing up.
"I'm done," Percy said heading for the exit.
"You can train with us," Luke said jogging beside him. "Just because you live in Poseidon's cabin now, doesn't mean you can't roll with the Hermes cabin."
"No, thanks," Percy said, leaving Luke behind. "I'm fine on my own."
Percy remembered that the Hermes cabin always had sword practice in the morning on this day. So he went to the archery range. Even if he sucks at archery, at least he'll be alone. Percy picked the first bow he saw. Its splintering wood attacked his fingers, but he ignored it. He grabbed a quiver and carried it to the targets. He stood the appropriate distance, notched his arrow, and let it fly. It veered to the left.
Percy stared at it, dissatisfaction pressing his lips into a line. 'Well, if nothing else, maybe I'll hit someone's butt besides Chiron's this time.'
Percy's lips twitched at the thought. Chiron had been alright, and hadn't been angry at him at all, so the memory amused Percy.
Percy notched another arrow as he heard someone step up behind him. He prayed it was a passing camper as he let the arrow fly.
"That bow's not right for you," a voice said.
Percy closed his eyes and tightened his grip on the bow. He had forgotten that the Apollo cabin had free time. It figured that Will would come to the archer range.
"It's fine," Percy said.
"The arrows might be a little lopsided, the fletchlings look a bit ruff."
"It's fine," Percy said through gritted teeth.
"I can try to help you, if you want," Will muttered.
"No," Percy said. "I don't want nor need your help."
"Okay," Will whispered. He walked off, but soon returned with his own quiver and bow. He notched his arrow and hit a bullseye.
Percy continued to struggle for several minutes. Will hit a bullseye every time. He remained silent, but still Percy's irritation grew. With a disgusted look he lowered his bow and gathered his stuff.
"Where are you going?" Will asked. Another bullseye, splitting one of his other arrows.
"My cabin," Percy snapped.
Will lowered his bow and turned to look at Percy. "Percy–"
"I don't want your help," Percy said.
"Percy, I'm sorry," Will said. "I should have stood up for you. I should have gone with you. You wanted to be friends, and I was crappy."
'You weren't that crappy,' Percy thought, but he pushed that away.
"I don't care anymore," Percy said before stomping off.
Percy decided to go to the pegasus stable as more Apollo children flooded the archery range.
'It must be time to change activities,' Percy thought. 'All the more reason to go.'
The Aphrodite children made quick work of the available pegasi as soon as they saw him walking over. They flew into the air over the forest surrounding camp, as far from him as possible. Percy ignored them as he shoved his hands into his pockets and slumped his shoulders.
He walked into the stable, expecting the pegasi to go into a panic, instead their nostrils flared. They seemed to sniff the air, stomping their feet and tossing their heads. They watched him as he went to get the saddle. He got all the equipment he needed, and turned around to stare at the pegasi. He approached the closes one.
"Please don't stomp on me," Percy muttered as he approached the Pegasus.
The Pegasus moved back and forth as Percy drew near. Percy stopped.
"Come on," he sighed. "I need to learn how to do this. What kind of hero doesn't know how to ride a Pegasus?"
"Lots of heroes," a voice came from behind him. "Pegasus are good for travel, but they're not always used."
Percy looked over, surprise widening his eyes. Selena glanced at him as she brushed a Pegasus's coat. Her gaze scurried back to the Pegasus in front of her.
"In fact, I can't remember the last time a Pegasus was used outside of camp," she said. The words rushed over each other, tripping and slipping from her mouth. "I think we mostly learn how to ride them because it's traditional."
Percy stayed quiet as he turned to the Pegasus. Its chestnut hair gleamed in the sunlight that filtered through the wooden ceiling.
'Why is she talking to me?' Percy wondered, nerves buzzing in his chest.
"You might try talking to him," Selena offered. Her voice higher than normal, tighter. "His name is Peanut. Maybe give him a quick brush down, he likes that, before you try to ride him."
Percy glanced at her, but her eyes stuck to the job in front of her. They could use her to build a new cabin with how tense she was.
'Is this a trick?' Percy wondered looking at Peanut. 'Is she trying to get me kicked?'
He decided that if it was Poseidon could deal with her. He sat the saddle down; the straw twitched as he moved, but other than that was still. He went to grab a grooming kit, head down. The straw littering the ground, whispered as he stepped on it. He failed to see how the stiff bristles of the brush could feel good, but figured it was worth a shot.
He crept over to Peanut, keeping an eye on Peanut's hind legs. Peanut shied away from the brush after a few strokes. He snorted, his ears pinning back. His hind leg stomped twice, and his tail swished.
"Will you hold still?" Percy said frustration tightening his throat.
"You're using the wrong brush," Selena said as she put her brush away. "Here, let me show you want to do."
She grabbed a rubber brush from the grooming kit. "You want to use this first. It's called a curry comb, and it helps dislodge dirty and loose hair. Move it in a circular motion all the way to the rump, make sure to get the belly as well since we'll put a saddle on him." She demonstrated until she got to the end. She handed the brush to Percy. "You try."
Percy went to the other side of Peanut. With cautious movements, he did as Selena had. Peanut stayed still as he brushed him, using circular movements. He relaxed as his mind went blank. Things were going well, until Peanut wiggled in place. He turned his head, and tried to nip at Percy.
"What is he doing?" Percy yelped as he jumped away. His heart pounded in his chest as he stared at Peanut with wide eyes.
"He's trying to groom you," Selena said with a laugh. She failed to suppress her smile. "You found a spot that feels good when brushed. Just push his head away."
Hesitant, Percy pushed Peanut's head away from him, until he took the hint and stopped trying to nip Percy. Percy finished brushing Peanut with the Curling brush.
"What now?" He asked, handing it to Selena.
She put it away. "We use this," she took out the hard bristled brush. "It's called a Dandy Brush. We use it on the sides, never the tail or mane or legs. We do short fast strokes." She demonstrated. "Here, you try."
Percy copied her movements. As he worked she offered to clean Peanut's face and bottom.
"Alright," Percy said. 'Why is she being so nice? Why didn't she leave like the rest?'
They worked in silence for a moment.
"I'm sorry, Percy," Selena said, her voice wobbled. "I wanted to go with you on the quest. No one should have to face the world alone." Her voice shrank to a whisper as she said the last word.
Percy clenched his jaw. His nostrils flared as he left out a hot, angry, breath. "Then why didn't you?"
"My brothers wouldn't let me," Selena muttered. Her head hung low as she cleaned Peanut's face. He pressed his face to her's. Selena hugged him, closing her eyes tight.
Percy remembered how they had placed their hands on her shoulders. He frowned, conflicted.
"You could have spoken up."
"I could have," Selena agreed. Her voice clogged with emotion. "Percy, I'm going to be honest. You kind of scare me."
"What?" Percy blinked. This was someone said that without cursing his existence.
"You kind of scare me," she said. "You have this aura about you." She shivered, moving closer to Peanut as if he could protect her. "It's cold around you, and it almost feels empty."
Percy slowed his brushing as he listened, interested in what she had to say. He could use this to his advantage.
"Honestly, I can't help but think about dead people when I'm around you," She said. She glanced up. When she made eye contact with Percy, she looked down. Her shoulders were tense, if Percy had to guess she was uncomfortable. "But, I believe in giving people a chance. That's why I tried to help you with the Pegasus before. It's hard to be around you, but they comfort me."
Her voice shook as she avoided looking at him. "It scared me when the Pegasuses reacted the way they did to you. I've never see them like that. I'm sorry. I tried, but I couldn't stand to be around you. I should have stood up to my brothers and sisters who told me to stay away from you. I should have gone on the quest with you."
Percy stayed silent, as he focused on brushing Peanut. It hurt to hear her say that.
'Little too late,' he thought trying to hold onto his bitterness.
She took in a deep breath. "Let me make it up to you. Let me teach your how to ride a Pegasus."
Percy paused in his brushing. It was tempting, to see what the other campers experienced. 'This could be a trap.'
"What makes things different?" Percy asked. Suspicious turning his voice into a steely defense. "Why are you telling me this?"
"You–" she stopped. "You changed. You're meaner to others, you used to try to befriend others, but now. It's as if a light has gone out inside of you." She bowed her head, avoiding his eyes. Her voice a whisper. "I contributed to that. It's partially my fault, so I want to ratify my actions, and try to befriend you. At the very least help you."
"And this has nothing to do with Poseidon's protection over me, right?" Percy drawled as he turned toward her. 'Of course, that must be it. If she gets on my good side, Poseidon might favor her too.'
A bitter viper coiled in the pit of his stomach. 'No one can want to be my friend. I'm too freakish. Or they want something.'
She winced, bit her lip, and looked down. "Maybe a little."
Her honesty surprised him, making him raise his eyebrows. The bitter viper grew to swallow his heart. 'Of course.'
She looked up at him. "But it's also because the Pegasuses are more at ease around you. Before you couldn't even get into the stall, and now you're able to brush them." She straightened up. Her brown eyes determined. "I know I might not be able to make things right, but I want to try. Will you let me?"
Percy stared at her. His breath hesitated in his chest. "Why?" He demanded, his hold on the brush tightened until his knuckles where white. "Why should I trust you?"
She blinked at him and raised her chin. "That's for you to decide. Whatever you chose, I'll accept it."
'No one's told me that.' Percy thought as he read her closed his throat. 'She seems to be honest, and she doesn't seem to be hiding anything.'
"If this is a trick," Percy said. He stopped. He had nothing to threaten her with.
"It's not," Selena said relaxing. She petted Peanut. "I think that's enough cleaning." She smiled at Percy with straight, white, teeth. "You want to try riding him?"
Percy hesitated, unease and worry wrestling in his stomach. "Sure."
"Now, on a normal horse you would put a saddle on them, but since Pegasus have wings we can't do that." She said. "We have to ride bare back."
"I remember," Percy muttered.
'I'm not dumb,' Percy thought defensiveness adding a bite to it.
"Come on, Peanut," Selena cooed leading the Pegasus from the stable. She gestured with an open hand. "Down, please."
Peanut laid down to allow Percy to get on him. Percy eyed him, making no move to mount him. Peanut nickered, and tossed his head the longer he had to wait.
"Come on, Percy," Selena said as she climbed on. "Get on."
Percy sighed through his nose. He slid in front of her. She wrapped her arms around him. Percy yelped as Peanut got to his feet.
"It's okay," Selena said against his shoulder. "Relax. Keep your legs tight against him, and thread your fingers into his mane. Just don't pull any hair out. He won't like that."
Percy swallowed and did as she said. His hands shook. He took in deep, nervous, breaths.
"Now, lightly nudge him with your heels."
Percy did. Peanut trotted forward.
Percy's eyes widened at the feel of Peanut's strength. His muscles rolled underneath him. Percy leaned forward holding onto Peanut's neck. The ground bobbed around, and Percy's stomach rolled. It would have rolled out of his mouth if he hadn't clenched his jaw shut.
"Relax," Selena said. She rubbed his back. "You're fine. We can just trot around until you're more comfortable."
Percy nodded, so fast his neck hurt. He couldn't imagine trusting this thing, that before, had tried to stomp on him, to carry him in the air.
'There's no way this is safe,' Percy thought. He was certain that he would fall off at any moment.
After Pegasus training, the day passed in a peaceful way. As the days passed by the other campers left Percy alone. Luke still tried to get Percy to train with him, or asked him questions about the tattoo, but Percy ignored him. He also ignored Will, who always showed up at the archery range. He never pressed Percy to talk or tried to train him, but he also never left. Selena taught him how to ride a Pegasus. Peanut seemed to warm up to him, especially after he brought him some sugar cubes. Flying wasn't as bad as he thought, either.
Then one day, as summer closed its green velveteen curtains, Luke approached Percy.
'Again?' Percy mentally sighed as he ate his eggs. "I don't have any information about my tattoo."
"I wasn't going to ask," Luke said sitting next to him. "I wanted to know if you wanted to train with me?"
"Please?" Luke interrupted. "I promise I won't ask about the tattoo. Scouts honor." He held up three fingers.
"Fine," Percy relented. 'As long as it got you off my back, plus I need to practice.'
Luke brightened. "Great! I just need to go get my sword."
Percy squinted as Luke walked away. 'He doesn't keep his weapon on him?'
Percy wasn't about to walk around without protection. Percy shook his head and finished eating. He met Luke in the sand pit. Luke drew his sword.
"Cool, huh?" Luke asked. He spun it so that the light bounced off of it. "I forged it myself. Half steel, half Celestial Bronze."
"Why?" Percy asked as he stared.
Luke chuckled. "I would think you would understand the most." He got into a fighting stance. "It's not just monsters that demigods have to fear out there."
Percy tilted his head, and squinted his eyes. "So you merged steel into your sword? Why not buy a knife? Or steal a gun? You are a son of Hermes, right?"
Luke turned red. "I thought it was cool."
Percy snorted. "Kind of useless. Demigods already die from the Celestial bronze, so what's the point? It's not like mortals will let you near them with a sword."
Luke shook his head. "Look, can we just fight?"
"Fine." Percy said shrugged, summoning his knives.
Luke charged at him, swinging high. Percy disappeared into the shadows, and reappeared behind him. His earring bit at his flesh with icy determination. He swiped at Luke, who arched out of the way.
"You know," Luke said as he spun on his heel. "I never wanted to be a demigod."
'Join the club,' Percy thought as he dodged Luke's attack.
"This place is a shit hole."
'It's not that bad.' Percy thought swiping at Luke.
"They abandoned us," Luke spat. "Every one of them."
Percy thought of his father and Poseidon, the gifts they gave.
"They use us like tools!"
Percy agreed with that, but at the same time, before his quest, it had been years since the last quest. Luke had been the one before him, and it had been even longer before them.
"Did you ask?" Percy said with a voice as soft as mist.
"What?" Luke squinted at him.
"Did you ask for a quest?"
"Of course I did!" Luke jabbed at him, Percy slipped under his attack.
"Why?" Percy tilted his head. 'If Luke begged for a quest, why is he so angry? Surely, he knew there would be danger.'
"I wanted recognition," Luke panted. "Everyone looked down on me." He parried Percy's attack. "They pitied me!" His face red face darkened into a ruddy color. "I hated it! I needed to be seen. I needed to show them that I could lead! I could protect myself and others! I'm not a failure!"
Percy shadow traveled away from his swing. He tossed a knife at Luke, who deflected it.
Luke marched toward Percy, his sword flashing in the sunlight. "So I prayed for one." He swung his sword over his head. "I prayed for a quest!"
Percy dodged, and swiped at Luke. He felt like a cat taking pot shots at a tiger.
"I thought he would give me something prestigious. Something that would prove to the others, that I wasn't a failure!" Luke stabbed at the circling Percy. "And you know what he gave me? A repeat quest!" Luke panted stabbing at the sand. "He sent me after a stupid golden apple."
Sweat dripped off Luke's bangs, anger burned in his blue eyes. "Do you know how that made me feel? Sure, everyone congratulated me, but I could see it in their eyes. They were mocking me." He snarled and changed his voice as he tilted his head from side to side. "Luke, the Copycat. Luke, the Loser."
He raised his sword and stormed at Percy again. Percy nicked his arm, as he dodged another blow. Luke snarled and slammed the flat of his sword against Percy's ribs. Percy fell to the ground, winded.
"Then I came back, alone," Luke panted pressing the tip of his sword to Percy's throat. "I didn't even get the apple. That dragon slaughtered my crew." He touched his scar. "I still have nightmares about it."
He shook his head. "To make things worse. People pitied me. I couldn't even do a simple copycat quest." Percy couldn't see Luke's face, the sun in his eyes, but he heard his voice raise. "He abandoned me and my mom! Then he has the nerve to try to buy my love. Then he embarrassed me! He ruined me, and everything I worked for! He destroyed everything I wanted in life!"
'Get over yourself,' Percy thought. He swallowed. "You won. Ease up on the sword."
Luke stared at him silent before barking out a laugh. He sheathed his sword, and helped Percy up.
"That's why I like you, Percy," Luke said, slapping Percy on his sweaty back. "You don't pity me. Come on, I got some coke hidden in the bleachers, we can drink while we cool down."
Percy hesitated for a split second.
"Sure," he said. 'What's the worst that can happen?'
They sat there for several minutes, drinking Diet Coke, chatting about nothing.
'This must be what it feels like to hang out with a friend,' Percy thought. 'Maybe I was too harsh with him?'
Campers walked down the steps to train.
"Aw man," Luke said. He tapped Percy on the arm. "You want to go to the forest?"
"Aren't there monsters there?" Percy asked.
"Oh, no, monsters," Luke said stuffing the Cokes under his shirt. "What ever will we do?"
Percy flushed but got up and followed Luke. Part of him hated that he was falling into old habits. The other part of him still clung to the hope that Luke is his friend.
'Sure, he left us hanging during the quest, but he has a cabin to run, so...I wonder if it's a bad thing I referred to myself as us?'
He shook his head as they went deeper into the forest. The shadows grew around them, a comfort to the son of Hades. Small glimmers of sunlight winked at the demigods, watching as they passed underneath.
"Here, this is far enough," Luke said sitting at the roots of a tree.
He passed a Coke to Percy.
"Thanks," Percy said, the coke hissed at him as he opened it.
They sat and talked for a while. Luke changing positions all the while. He leaned back with his arms behind his head. He sat up, crossing his legs. He stretched out, plucking at grass. Until finally, he stood up, looming over Percy. Even though he talked about his plans for capture the flag, the way he acted made Percy's skin crawl. That's when Luke stomped on Percy's ankle, and pinned him against the tree with his sword at his throat.
"You know Percy," Luke said. His smile weak, teeth appearing and disappearing behind quivering lips. "At first, you were suppose to be a pawn, a useful one but a pawn."
'I told you.'
'And now I'm talking to myself. Great.'
"But then you got under my skin. I like you. I consider you my friend." Luke said. He frowned, his lower lip protruding. "But then you became a slave to Poseidon. What's worse you refused to tell me what that tattoo meant, so I had to find out from someone else."
"Yeah?" 'How does he know about that?' Percy said. He tried to move the sword from his neck. "Well, from one friend to another, can you take the sword away from my neck?"
Luke jabbed the tip closer. Percy's neck hissed in pain. His body froze, and his heart ran in his chest.
'Luke's serious,' Percy thought with wide eyes.
"He must have tricked you or something," Luke rambled. "Gods are always doing that. They're selfish, only thinking about themselves." He stared at Percy. "I wanted you to come with us. I wanted you to be by my side when the Titans rose once more."
Percy swallowed. "What are you talking about?"
Luke smiled, a crooked smiled. "I'm sorry, Percy. Sorry that it has to be this way. Really, I'm doing you a favor."
"Favor?" Percy asked, his voice higher than normal.
"I'm going to kill you," Luke said. "It's better than being a servant to the gods."
'Wow, what a friendly thing to do.'
"You don't have to do this," Percy said. He pressed his fingers into the earth.
"But I do," Luke said. "They need to be taught a lesson." He tilted his head. "I suppose I could cut off your arm." He grinned. "We can stop the bleeding, and patch you up. Then we can topple the gods, together. You'd make a powerful ally."
Percy stared at him, silent. For a moment it seemed tempting, even if it was crazy. "It's the demigods who've hurt me more than the gods."
Luke's smile fell. "So be it," he sighed. He raised his sword to cut Percy's head off.
A trident stopped Luke's sword from hitting Percy. Percy stopped his attempts to shadow travel, as he stared wide-eyed. Surprise sparked in his stomach.
"Lord Poseidon," Luke gasped with wide eyes.
"Don't do this, Luke Castellen," Poseidon said. "It is not too late."
Luke pushed away from Poseidon, his sword shrieking. He stared with wide eyes between Poseidon and Percy.
"I-I don't understand," Luke said. "The gods don't care."
Poseidon stared at Luke, stone faced.
Luke's eyes glazed over. A cold shiver went up Percy's spine, as Luke mouthed words, as if he was talking. Luke's eyes cleared and he shook his head.
"There is no going back," he said. He stepped back.
"So be it," Poseidon said. His tone of voice much like Sally's when Percy annoyed her too much, and she gave in to get him to stop.
The river roared to life, rising up to grab Luke. Luke whipped around, time slowing around him. Percy could count the falling individual drops.
"What?" He gasped.
"You're not the only one with someone protecting you," Luke said. Golden flecks shined in his eyes. "You're also not the only one with their blood in you." He lifted his shirt. A small scythe tattoo rested on his hip.
"What did you do?" Percy asked. "When? How?"
Luke gave a grim smile. One that would make Charon look cheerful. "It was the only way for me to get back." He touched his scar, his shirt dropping. "The only way I survived."
"Enough of this," Poseidon charged at Luke, aiming the points of his trident at Luke's chest.
Luke's eyes widened. He cut into the air. At first, Percy didn't think anything of it, until he could see the background through Luke.
"What?" Percy whispered as Poseidon stabbed into Luke, but it passed through.
"I'm not here anymore," he taunted. "The gods will fall!"
"Lord Poseidon?" Percy glance between the god and where Luke had been.
Poseidon stood still. The water fell to the ground in a wave. Bits of grass and earth ran into the stream. Poseidon turned stepping into a muddy puddle.
"Return to the cabin," he ordered. "Stay there until I return."
Percy got up. His tattoo burned. He gasped and pressed down on it. His limbs didn't feel like his own. They moved without his permission going toward the cabin. Once he reached the cabin, he could control himself again. He stretched, massaging them, to make sure they were his.
'That was weird,' Percy thought. He glanced at the door. 'Maybe?'
He walked to the door, but as soon as he tried to raise his arm to open it, his arm locked in place.
Percy gave up after a couple of minutes. He sat down and waited. He ended up playing with the water under the trap door, splashing and tracing patterns. He looked up when a deep voice cleared its throat.
"Lord Poseidon," he said getting to his feet. His eyes drifted to the person behind Poseidon.
'He's not human,' Percy thought.
The stranger stepped up beside Poseidon. He had green skin, and shoulder length black hair. Small crab claws played with his bangs, braiding them. He smirked, showing off shark teeth.
"This is my son, Triton," Poseidon said as he laid a hand on his shoulder. "He will be your teacher for the school semester, your guide, and trainer."
"Trainer?" Percy asked.
Poseidon's frown deepened. "The traitor has vanished. Triton will be keeping your skills sharp, encase the worse befalls us."
"Hey," Percy said nodding to Triton.
"Sup," Triton nodded back. He offered his hand and shook Percy's. "So you're my dad's new slave, huh?"
"Servant," Poseidon corrected. His hand on Triton tightened. "You will treat him with respect."
Triton rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah," he looked at Percy, and gave a vicious grinned. He seemed more like a shark than a god. "We're going to have fun."
Percy had a feeling it wouldn't be much fun.
To be Continued in Son of the Underworld 2.