I've been watching Katniss Everdeen for years now.
Don't give me that look. It's not like that. She's far too young for me, and besides, I'm a married man. Trust me, if Annabeth honestly thought I was using my powers to spy on mortal girls, she'd beat me within an inch of my eternal life. Of all the crazy stuff I've done since becoming a god, creeping on girls isn't one of them.
I've watched her since the day her father died. He died in a mining explosion, that's what people say. I know from the get-go that's crap. Because Phillip Everdeen was no ordinary coal miner. He was a half-blood, a son of the song god Apollo. He was no ordinary son of Apollo either, he was one married to a daughter of Persephone, goddess of spring time. That made Katniss and her sister mixed-bloods, like my kids were. Half-bloods who have two divine grandparents instead of a single divine parent.
Phillips gift for archery and wondrous singing voice had come from the heavens themselves, yet they hadn't been enough to save him from the monstrous wyrms that tunneled into the mines. Wyrm's shells explode when they die; incinerating any who'd managed to survive the initial attack.
That day had shattered Katniss' heart beyond repair, leaving her forever closed off from the rest of the world. That was the day she caught my eye, and from that day on, I've observed her from the shadows, taking in every meticulous detail of her world. She's a stubborn one. Really stubborn. It reminds me of Clarisse, except she lacked Clarisse's rage issues and tendency to break things when angry. That's a plus.
She doesn't notice me of course. To her human eyes I appear to be an old man with a tangled beard limping down the streets with his cane. That's my usual disguise when I'm watching her. It's easy to overlook, and when you're tailing a seasoned hunter, you have to do everything possible to stay hidden.
Other times, when she's in the forest with the Hawthorne boy, I'm a mockingjay soaring above the trees, watching her from the sky. That's really stupid on my part, I know. Taking to sky is practically inviting Zeus to smite me on the spot. But it's worth the risk. She's worth the risk. Because she's the one who's going to save us all. I know it. Her image had been the center point of my dreams for ages. A girl with a bow and a braid, wreathed in flames that wrapped themselves a hundredfold around the earth. Her presence alone will bring great change to the world. Change that's desperately needed.
Every step she takes, every arrow she loses into the hearts of her prey, screams of the destiny laid out before her. Even then, before that terrible day when her sister's name is drawn for the Games, she was ablaze with power. Not my kind of power. Not the power of a god, but a power beyond that. The power of fate.
She doesn't realize it of course. She's always been unaware of the effect she has on people. How she turns eyes as she passes and influences events and people in ways she could never truly understand.
Peeta Mellark understands. From the moment he first heard her sing; his destiny was forever entwined with hers. She stole his heart in that moment. And no amount of monsters, torture or pain would free it from her grasp. That kid's in for a tough love life, I can tell, because Katniss' emotional state takes 'playing hard to get' to a whole new level. Love is a game he'll take to well though. Like Katniss, he has ichor in his veins. A son of Aphrodite, one who unlike his half-siblings inherited a natural understanding of the emotion instead of the vain obsession with physical beauty most of his mother's children have. And, unlike the vast majority of people, he possesses a pure heart untainted by hatred. He too appeared in my dreams, on his knees, drenched in blood, offering a shadowy unknown object to the girl he loved.
The Great prophecy Rachel spoke on her deathbed so many years ago had foretold her coming. A maiden born of sun and shrub. Part of me wonders if this is how the gods felt about me when I was a kid. It's a stupid thing to think, really. Most of the gods saw me as a threat, not a hope, and wanted me disposed of before I could do any damage, ignoring the fact that my prophecy said I might save Olympus instead of destroy it. Another part of me hates myself for watching her likes this, like how the gods watched me during my mortal life. I'd hated feeling like a pawn in their games, and I knew Katniss would hate it twice as much.
As I follow her through the dirty streets of District twelve, eager to see her life and what it is that makes her what she is, my heart is filled with sadness. The poverty, the violence. This terrible, terrible place that the world has become under the reign of the Capitol. I wonder how it is that in the short millennia since my lifetime as a man, that North America was reduced from a western superpower to a dystopian hell scape dominated by greed and fear. Anger fills me at the site of it alone. Then there are the Hunger Games…What society, no matter how barbaric, could find entertainment in the deaths of innocent children? What kind of monsters demanded a child as sacrifice, a sacrifice doomed to either die or butcher other kids? The Hunger Games are an event so heinous, that I want to reveal myself to the world. I want to float above the capitol and pour out upon it my divine wrath. To burn the glass towers to the ground and revel in the deaths of these despicable creatures that dared call themselves human beings.
But I can't do that. Divine law prohibits a god from interfering directly in the human world. Unfortunately, demolishing a heavily populated city counted as 'interfering'. Worse even than this was the fact that camp half-blood, along with Olympus itself, moved with the flame of the west. This meant that instead of being on the east coast near Ney York, the camp was now right beside the Capitol in a place called district one, and had been repurposed as a training center for careers, children raised to kill and be killed in the games. Zeus and the other gods somehow saw this as fulfilling the their promise to me to look after their demigod children. The majority of them were born into the wealthier districts and the capitol, giving them greater opportunities in life than they'd ever had. The mist surrounding the camp had been thickened and changed so that even mortals were trained at the camp now, unaware of it's true nature.
Most tributes out of the career districts were half-bloods. The children of Hermes, Athena, Ares, and all the others were represented among their ranks, and they almost always won. How the gods became so twisted in the way they perceive their promises, I have no idea. Whatever their reason, my fellow gods make me sick to my stomach. If they'd allowed the world to fall so far they hadn't been doing their jobs.
The Games were the reason I'd become a god in the first place, the reason I'd taken the god's offer of divinity and left behind my peaceful existence in the afterlife.
My mortal life ended much like any other mans. Thankfully it lacked being mauled by an attacking monster, and included old age, and being surrounded by friends and loved ones. My kids and grandkids, Grover, Thalia, who looks young as ever, Tyson, Chiron, Clarisse, and of course, Annabeth.
"Wait for me"she told me as she grasped my withered old hands, her wise gray eyes fixing me with the look that had so entranced me when we were kids at summer camp. Age had added wrinkles to her face and grayed her golden princess hair, but she still looked the same to me. Dear gods, she was beautiful.
"Of course" I say grinning up at her. Not even once had I considered trying for three lifetimes. Wouldn't be worth it. "It wouldn't be Elysium without you." She smiles and presses her lips to mine. My son and daughters move to her side. Their hands come together atop mine, and for a single moment we simply sit there as a family, basking in each other's presence. Cheesy as it probably sounds, it was a moment of purest bliss. This was what life was all about. The people you shared it with.
The people I loved were here beside me. A pouch of dramchas was in my pocket for the ferry ride into the underworld. I was ready to go.
"Percy" my father's voice reaches my ears. Suddenly he appears at my side, his radiant tan skin standing out among my kid's pale New Yorker coloring.
"Hey dad" I say weakly. It feels kinda weird calling him that when physically he looks like he could be my son. Not aging really knocks the family dynamic out of whack. "Come to see me off?" He nods solemnly.
"That, and to ask you one last time to join me in Olympus." I'd been given this offer twice before. First after the defeat of Kronos. Second the night before my wedding. "I'd love to have you by my side, son. The decision is yours." Despite his godly features, I can see sadness form in his sea-green eyes, the ones I shared, as he looked down at the ground. He knew what my answer would be. Even if I could bring my family with me to the heavens, I would still turn him down. For a moment I just stare at him, before slowly looking to Annabeth and her loving eyes, then on to my kids and grandkids. It was the easiest decision in the world.
"Sorry dad" I tell him sincerely. "Godhood just doesn't sound like my kind of thing. I've got old friends to visit." I chuckle a bit. "Compared to you I know I'm young, but I feel…tired. It'll be good to just rest for a while. I really am sorry, dad." The sea god smiles sadly.
"I understand. Goodbye son. Go forth into the next life, with all my love." Leaning down, he pressed a bearded kiss to my forehead. Everything had been said and done. So it was time to be.
"I love you all" I say to room around me. As they say it back, I feel myself fading away, and I'm enveloped in an ethereal white light.
The ride on Charon's ferry is a blur to me now. I can barely remember anything of it apart from the vague shadows shifting on the banks of the river Styx. The end of the ferry ride however, I remember clear as crystal. Suddenly I find myself sitting up on a snow white shore. Salty smells of the sea tickled my nose, and a calm warmth hung in the air around me. Slowly, I turn to see a forest of fruit bearing trees spread out across a beautiful island. Mountains rise in the distance, and songbirds shout their cries high above. And, approaching me from beneath the trees, was a group of familiar faces.
Everyone was there. All those who I'd loved in life gathered there to greet me. My mother and Paul. Beckendorf and Selina, hand in hand. Nico Di'Angelo, who looked more at home here in the land of the dead than he ever had on earth. His sister Bianca and Zoe Nightshade, still wearing the silver uniforms of Artemis' huntresses. The Stoll brothers, and Rachel, now free of the oracles spirit.
As I stand they envelop me in a tight, pig-pile like embrace. I smile. This really is paradise. This was a place I could spend eternity.
Three years later I kissed Annabeth on those same white shores. That was when my paradise was made complete. Eternity didn't sound long at all when it was with her. And so we lived there in Elysium for many, many years. As time passed our children and grandchildren began to join us, and our happiness only grew. Those years are somewhat of a haze to me now. I remember them, but like a dream that I'd just woken up from. Those dream-like memories hold nothing but happiness, until the first I peered into the well of viewing, the portal through which the dead view the living.
Over seven hundred I'd gone without looking, and when I finally did, I would never regret anything more. The world was burning. Continents had been mangled beyond recognition, forests burned and the skies billowed thick with smog. The seas had risen up to swallow bits of the land, including Manhattan. The United states were gone, replaced by a nation called Panem. An uprising of it's thirteen districts is crushed by a tyrannical capitol, and the survivors and their descendants are forced to watch as their children are thrown into a game of gladiator style combat to the death as punishment. What in the gods' names had happened to the world I'd saved twice? What had happened to the world where I'd raised my children and met those I called friends? That world was gone now. Burned to ashes by the passing of time and the neglectfulness of the deities I call family.
In devastated anguish I stumbled to the white shores. The breaking waves tickle my toes. The sensation fills me with guilt. Can I honestly live here forever while the world lies in ruin, and the human race decays in misery and suffering? Annabeth comes to my side, wearing the same horrified look. For more than an hour we just stood there, eyes locked. We could have entire conversations like this, just with body language and eye movements. We knew each other so well no words were needed. Solemnly, I turned away from her, taking her hand in mine, and looked skyward. There was only one way I could make a difference. I had to re-enter the world. But I couldn't do it as a mortal man. My time as a man was up. There was only one way.
"Father!" I screamed to the heavens. "Does your offer still stand?"
A long moment passes in silence. Then, just as had happened when I first entered the afterlife, a white light bloomed around me.
When I opened my eyes this time, I was standing. I still held Annabeth's hand, and in the other hand I held Riptide. An unearthly golden glow shimmered around the blade. It had grown larger and longer, yet it still felt light as a feather in my hand. My clothes had been replaced by white armor gilded with gold, and a green laurel crown sat atop my head. Power unlike anything I'd ever felt before pulsed beneath my skin. Surging, pulsing power. My wife wore a glorious white gown just like her wedding dress. She looked young again, and just as beautiful as ever. Looking up, I realized where we were. We stood in the center of the Olympian throne room. Gathered around us was the congregation of the heavens. The twelve great Olympian thrones, as well as the thrones of the minor gods built between them, were all occupied.
All the gods were there. Ares snarled at me threateningly. He couldn't be that happy to see me, even though he was finally getting his wish for a version of me he could use as a punching bag without killing it. My father smiled at us warmly. Aphrodite gave a friendly if not flirtatious wave. Artemis nodded her head respectfully, and Thalia smiled at her side. My mother-in-laws eyes were trying to bore into my skull. She looked the least pleased to see me. No doubt she had voted against my ascension. Anything concerning me, especially my marriage to her daughter, was negative in the wisdom goddess' eyes.
Then the gods stood as one, and each of them fell to one knee. Some of them did this quite reluctantly, only half kneeling.
"Hail" Zeus proclaimed in a loud voice that thundered across Olympus. "Perseus, God of heroes." The gods rose and reseated themselves in their thrones.
And so began my life as a god.
A feast was given in honor of my appointment, and a mansion like-palace was set aside for us, but I hardly paid attention to them. As soon as was possible I left the heavens and ventured down to see the earth myself. The horrors I saw are forever etched into my memory. I vowed on that day I would make a difference. That I would help mankind in ways the other gods refused to. Even if it meant breaking every divine law, even if it meant provoking the hatred of the other gods, including my father. He'd fallen from grace in my eyes. No being who would let the world suffer like this was any kin of mine.
For nearly two decades I searched for the world for any sign of a way to save it. Anything that could help mankind without direct interference. I found nothing. Then the dreams had started. Like the dreams that had haunted me as a half-blood, they showed shadowed images of what was to come. Stunted prophecy with only a hint of truth to them. And those images led me to Katniss Everdeen. The girl meant to save us all. Or so I hope. Bits of the prophecy matched up with her life, and trust me, speaking as a guy who's been through the whole 'destined to save the world' thing, that meant something really important.
On the day of the 74th reaping I'm among the crowd gathered in front of the hall of justice, this time disguised a middle aged man in the drab clothing of the Seam. No one would notice me like this. My eyes are fixed on the platform with as much hatred as I can muster. The reaping are my least favorite part of the games. Watching families being torn apart as the children are thrust into battle, it breaks my heart.
At this point I knew Katniss had a destiny. But what exactly it was I had no idea. I'd expected this to be just another reaping. Another gesture of relentless evil by the capitol. Then Primrose Everdeen's name was called. My heart, pumping with ichor, seized in my chest. I watch frozen as Katniss dashes through the crowd to her sister's side, face painted with horror beyond comprehension.
"I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!" When those words leave her lips, I close my eyes. This was her destiny coming to a head. The image of her wreathed in flames danced across my mind. This was meant to happen. Terrible as it was. I open my eyes, and watch Katniss climb atop the stage. The stupidly dressed capitol woman calls for applause for district twelve's first ever volunteer. There's no response. Only silence. Pressing three fingers to my lips, I raised them high for all to see. A sign of love, honor, and respect. Then just as I expect, Peeta Mellark's name is called. The great prophecy at work.
I turn my gaze to the drunken heap that was Haymitch Abernanthy, the district's only victor. He slurs something barely audible before tumbling forward off the stage. Pitiful. He'd be their only lifeline in the arena. If I was to help them, it would have to be through him. Despite his drunkenness, Haymitch was a valuable asset by himself. He was smart. He was a half-blood too. A son of Athena, naturally, considering his brains. My brother-in-law. He hates the gods, hates them for doing nothing while the world burned. I can't blame him of course. He's right. Perhaps I'll convince him to help me help them. It would take an awful lot of persuasion, but perhaps.
Turning away from the platform I stalked from the crowd and into a nearby alleyway. No one noticed the light popping noise I gave off as I teleport back to my palace on Olympus. I have to prepare for the games.
A new hero's journey was beginning. And I would be there to guide her on it.