The worst of it was the bodies. Monsters turn to dust when you kill them – people don't whichever side they're on. My brother and my best friends were okay but so very many people I knew, at least by sight, were not. Every cabin except Number Three had dead. I saw Annabeth fold a shroud over the face of one of her sisters with shaking hands. Four kids from Cabin Seven solemnly carried Lee Fletcher's body off the field and one of the twin sons of Dionysus sobbed inconsolably over the bloody corpse of the other... One by one our dead were taken away by their siblings leaving only the enemy – who had also been our brothers or sisters or cousins. Some of the older campers walked among them, straightening them out, studying faces. Looking, I realized with a sick sinking in the pit of my stomach, for people they'd known - even liked.
Beckendorf was one of them, Clarisse another, and I recognized a couple of girls from Hermes Cabin but I couldn't remember their names. Suddenly I wondered if Ethan Nakamura was one of the kids lying there dead for Kronos. I don't know why I cared but I did. He'd betrayed us, but could you blame him for turning on Olympus seeing the way he'd been treated?
Well, yeah, you could. But all the same I sort of understood how a half-blood could turn against Olympus, even his own godly parent. My very first day at camp Annabeth had told me how sometimes the gods ignored their kids, or didn't care about them. Even when they did care, like Poseidon cared about me, they were never there. Not for you or for your mortal parent.
If Poseidon had never claimed me, if I'd never seen him standing up to the other gods for me, if he'd never so much as talked to me – I might have been one of those kids from the Princess Andromeda. I hated to admit it, even to myself, but I could have made a mistake that horrible just to get back at my dad. I walked over and started looking at dead people's faces along with the others.
"Ethan isn't here," a girl's voice said in my ear.
I looked up startled. It was one of the two girls from Hermes, as tall as me and a little older. Pretty I guess, but with gray streaks in her long red hair. I'd noticed them before and wondered if she'd gotten them anything like the way I'd gotten mine. "How –"I started.
"I can't think of anybody else you'd be looking for," she shrugged. "We know Luke won't be here."
Yeah, I did. But how did she? I looked her in the eye and realized with a shock that she had only one - icy blue - the other was blank and white, dead.
She nodded like I'd said something instead of staring like a stunned mackerel. "Yes. I am Evadne daughter of Nemesis, and I thank you Percy Jackson for saving my brother's life."
I gobbled a bit then came out with; "What is it with your mom and eyes?" I wouldn't have blamed her if she'd slugged me, instead she laughed.
"It's – complicated." Her smile faded. "Percy, what happened to Luke is my fault."
"Our fault," the other Hermes girl corrected coming to stand next to Evadne. She was African American, probably the same age as her friend, and I remembered her. "You're Jennifer something daughter of - of…"
"Hecate, goddess of witches." She finished for me.
"Your mom's working with Kronos," I told her.
"I know," she hugged herself looking miserable, "so is my sister Lou Ellen. But at least she's still alive – she's not here."
"Your hair used to be curly," I said – good old ADHD, the minute something pops into my head out it comes!
"It got scared straight," Evadne said with this sidelong look, like it was some kind of private joke. Jennifer rolled her eyes.
Beckendorf joined the huddle with Clarisse. She looked furious he just looked sad and tired. "What are we going to do about them?" and he looked right at me - gods only knew why.
"Burn 'em," Clarisse said flatly.
"Yeah," I agreed. I didn't know why Beckendorf was asking me but I did know exactly what we should do about these other half-bloods. "Get bed sheets for shrouds, and don't forget the drachma in the mouth. They're going to have tough enough a time in the Underworld we don't need to make it any worse for them."
"I didn't mean with our dead!" Clarisse snarled.
"No, that wouldn't be right," I agreed. "We'll burn them in the arena." I met her angry glare steadily. "And we'll remember that any one of us might have been fighting with them instead against them."
She looked away and she didn't argue. Neither did the others.
I was surprised at how many campers turned out for the enemy Half-bloods' funeral. The whole Hermes cabin seemed to be there and all the counselors came, including Michael Yew for Apollo. Even Chiron was there in his wheelchair, pushed by the pretty brown haired woman who ran the camp store. Three teenaged girls stood close beside them, not campers - nymphs, which meant they were a whole lot older than they looked.
I put the torch to the wood stacked under the shrouded bodies and stood back as the pyre caught and the flames roared up. Annabeth slipped her hand into mine as we watched them burn. Brothers and sisters we'd never known. We'd killed them and some of them had killed us. Kronos had turned us against our own. It made me feel sad and sick with anger.
The flames died down to embers and people started to leave. One of the nymphs standing with Chiron came up to Annabeth and me. "Father wants to talk to you," she said pointing to him – father? Chiron had kids?
He looked tired and grieved and almost as old as he was. Now I knew what he'd meant when he'd called his job 'Horribly depressing at times.' He tried to smile at us but it didn't quite work. "Ah, Percy, Evadne and Jennifer have something to tell us that I think you and Annabeth should hear."
"Like how what happened to Luke is their fault?" I guessed.
Annabeth looked astonished, then hostile. "What do you mean?"
"Please sit down," said Chiron.
We all found seats in the bleachers and Evadne began; "After you got back last year, Percy, rumors started circulating about what had happened to you all on your quest and about how Kronos was returning bit by bit. So it occurred to me that the way to keep him from coming back was to destroy the bits before they could reintegrate -"
"Which was impossible because they were either aboard the Princess Andromeda surrounded by Luke's army or in Tartarus," Annabeth interrupted sharply.
Evadne just shrugged. "I decided we should try for the bits in Tartarus."
Even Chiron's jaw dropped at that. I groped for my voice. "Go into Tartarus?" I managed to blurt. "You gotta be crazy!"
"Yes," said Jennifer.
"No," said Evadne.
They looked at each other. Jennifer sort of wriggled her eyebrows at her friend then turned back to the rest of us. "It was crazy all right but doable – for us. I am a daughter of Hecate meaning I have the freedom of the three spheres; Heaven, Sea and Underworld. And, well, ghosts and such don't give me the horrors like they do other people."
"And I am the daughter of Nemesis," Evadne said. Reaching over her shoulder she drew this huge sword, more than four feet long, from the scabbard strapped to her back. It was dead black - blade and hilt alike - with a white stone the size of a walnut in the pommel. "This is Adresteia the Inescapable, my mother's sword." She looked at me with her one eye. "You wanted to know what happened to Ethan's eye and mine? They were sacrifices to our mother. And in return Nemesis gave us her power and the right to judge between gods and titans."
"She doesn't trust herself to decide, you see," Evadne went on. "She's too emotionally involved. But Ethan and I made opposite choices so the two sides are in tension. There can be no resolution until we both chose the same – or one of us dies leaving the decision to the other."
My heart sank. "So if I'd killed Ethan…."
"You would have secured our victory," Evadne said flatly. "But I'm glad you didn't Percy." Her voice shook a little, "He's the only brother I have. I really don't want to win that way."
Annabeth swallowed hard. "You couldn't have known, Percy."
Ethan had, he'd told me mercy was a mistake. But I had a brother too and I knew just how Evadne felt. I'd never sacrifice Tyson, even if it meant losing this war. Maybe that was wrong - Athena'd surely say it was - but I don't care. I'm not that cold and I don't want to be.
"Adresteia is Stygian iron," Evadne continued.
"Like Nico's sword," I said.
She nodded, "But older much, much older. Stygian iron kills differently from Celestial bronze it doesn't just disintegrate the body it absorbs the spirit, the power of the monster so it can never reform." Evadne looked down at the blade across her knees. "Adresteia has drunk the lives of monsters, daimones and even gods. I was pretty sure it could destroy the remaining bits of Kronos so he could never fully reform."
Chiron broke the silence that followed that remark in a thin, strained voice. "I would never have permitted such a quest."
Jennifer nodded. "We know. That's why we went after camp, on Halloween when the walls between the worlds are weak –"
"They are?" I interrupted.
She nodded. "Oh yes, that's the real reason mortals dress up on that night, so the spirits won't recognize them. Evadne and I both live in New York City it wasn't hard to get together. We used the Doors of Night on Coney Island –"
"Coney Island?" she had to be kidding.
"What about Nyx?" Annabeth demanded at the same time. "She wouldn't just let you walk through her house!"
"As a matter of fact she would," Evadne said calmly.
"She is our grandmother after all," Jennifer added.
"Huh?" I said. Hey you try keeping track of who's related to whom mythologically speaking!
Chiron gave me this disappointed look. He knows I'm dumb but he refuses to accept it. "Remember your cosmology, Percy. Who was born from Chaos?"
"Uh, um," I racked my brains. "Uh Gaea and Ouranus and uh – Pontus..."
"But first came Darkness and Night," Jennifer said, almost chanted. "Erebus and Nyx of whom were born Light and Day, Death and Sleep, the Three Fates, Nemesis and Hecate. They are the eldest gods, older than the Olympians or Titans, older even than Earth and Sky."
"And they don't much like being dismissed as 'minor gods'," Evadne added, grimly.
I just bet they didn't.
"Anyway, we went through the doors in the daytime so Grandmother was home," Jennifer continued. "We asked her advice on how to get from her place to Tartarus."
Evadne smiled faintly. "She didn't like the idea any more than you do Chiron but she's no fan of Kronos."
"Impudent upstart was the most printable thing she had to say about him," Jennifer agreed with grin.
"She advised us to go through Dreamland, the kingdom of Morpheus," Evadne went on. "We'd have to avoid the Oneiroi but that would be easier than trying to evade security ghouls and the border between Dreamland and the Underworld proper isn't guarded."
I raised a hesitant hand, knowing I was going to get jumped on but - "Oneiroi?"
"Dream spirits!" Evadne, Annabeth and Chiron all said together.
"Okay," I said. I mean how can they expect me to remember all this stuff?
Jennifer decided to go into more detail. "They're human sized and human shaped except for the wings. It was night time in Dreamland, Grandmother being in her house on its border, but of course Oneiroi don't sleep."
"From what we saw they spend their nights partying," Evadne added.
"So I gave us wings to make us look like Oneiroi, "said Jennifer. As a daughter of the goddess of magic she could do stuff like that. In fact, as I remembered from my time in Cabin 11, she could do all kinds of cool stuff and was the only camper that the Stoll twins didn't prank. Story was she'd turned them into a pair of moles for a week the one and only time they'd tried.
"And every guy between Grandmother's house and the river tried to hit on us," Evadne said, disgusted.
Jennifer laughed. "It wasn't that bad. But we did get invited to do things that would have been a lot more fun than breaking into Tartarus. Like good heroes we stayed on mission."
"You mean I did," Evadne grumbled. "Anyway we finally made it to the Lethe and flew over into the Asphodel fields –"
"Where we promptly lost the wings and I made us look as much like spirits as I could," Jennifer finished. She shivered a little. "Not a fun place!"
I've been there, and I couldn't agree more. Grover once compared the underworld to a dark field in Kansas but you could scarcely see the black poplars and white asphodel for all the ghosts drifting and twittering around. But – "I thought spirits didn't scare you?" I said.
"They don't, but they depress the Hades out of me," She answered.
I could identify with that.
"So, thoroughly creeped out, we made it to the pit of Tartarus without being stopped or even noticed," Evadne went on.
Annabeth interrupted: "Then what? It's not like there's an elevator, or even a ladder!"
Evadne looked at her with her one eye and raised both brows. "Then we jumped, of course."