A/N: I just finished reading "The Sea of Monsters," so although I appreciate (and really hope for!) reviews, please refrain from spoilers. I want to enjoy the remaining three books to the full. This is truly a fantastic series, and I'm rapidly becoming a full-fledged fan. I'm already beginning to refer to myself as a half-blood, daughter of Athena, just for the heck of it! Hahaha... so, yeah. Please, no spoilers.
May the gods be ever in your favor!
(sorry... Hunger Games reference... I love that series, too..."
Now, on to the story!
The salty sea air stings like tiny pinpricks in your lungs. Struggling to keep your breathing steady, you even out your shoulders. A tremor starts at the base of your spine and slithers up the skin of your back, but you fight the shaking as best you can.
Somehow, you never thought that you'd meet your death surrounded by plush sofas, a canopied bed, and a mahogany table loaded with snack food. On the other hand, you always did anticipate that, should you die young, he would die with you.
But wrong again. He would deal the killing blow.
You're the goddess Athena's daughter, for goodness sake! Strategies and perception are second-nature to you. How could you not see this coming? How could you have trusted him? Trusted anyone, for that matter?
Better to handle this yourself. You're strong enough; brave enough; skilled enough. You can stop him. You can change things, build a better world yourself. Bring reform, revival, renewal. You can stop this treachery before all Olympus is forced to pay the price.
Face it, you tell yourself. You don't need him. You try to convince yourself that you never did, but the lie is so obvious, so totally wrong, it feels like a slap in the face.
Of course you needed him.
And sometimes, you thought it was more than that. Sometimes, you thought you could be more than friends. But that was what you were – for the time being, at least. Friends.
He was your friend.
The dais at the back of the room is elegant in structure – the gold must have cost a ridiculous sum of drachmas, you're sure of it – but your ex-friend has rested it on a fairly simple table, although the velvet cloth that he's draped over it certainly helps the overall look. The tablecloth is purple. The color of royalty.
Is that what he thinks he's become – royalty?
Will the agonized cries of the Olympians serenade his rise to power? Will his title be sealed by the blood of the demigods, spilled out like dark crimson paint on a palace floor?
The dais rises like a fallen angel's throne.
Standing erect, and very still – too still, it frightens you, though you would never admit it – a golden casket twice your height is upon it. The casket glows with a dark, otherworldly power, even in the sunlight. Grotesque images are engraved with sickening detail in its surface.
Bellerophon's fall from the Pegasus, struck down by Zeus's bolt, his heroic armor streaking sparks as he plummets like a stone to the earth below. Hercules, writhing in insatiable agony as poison courses through his veins, though the flames dancing around him will soon put an end to his misery. Hector, his pallid skin cold and clammy, jerking and thrashing about in the dirt as Achilles' drags him behind his chariot, pell-mell fury and vengeance in the Argive warrior's wild eyes.
The detail in the carvings is sadistic. You feel vomit rising in the back of your throat, a heavy heaving in your stomach, and you swallow hard. No weakness. Not here.
Not with him watching you.
You stare the casket down as if your grey eyes could burn holes in it.
Ten feet tall, says that matter-of-fact, little voice in the back of your mind that's always running ahead of the rest of you. That's one of the perks of being Athena's daughter. Philosophy is easy. Math is even easier. Another second, and the little voice adds, approximately a foot-and-a-half wide.
Ancient power rolls out of the casket, cold and sinister, like a thick mist snaking up through cracks in the Underworld. Its presence closes around you like a fist, and suddenly it's hard to breathe. Chills shudder down your spine. The air feels colder, thinner. Like that thing in the casket – but it's not a thing, it's the Titan Lord, the Father of Zeus, the Crooked One, Kronos – is draining the life from everything around him.
"Well?" Luke spreads his arms proudly, showing off his menagerie of ill-gotten gains. "A little nicer than Cabin Eleven, huh?"
Why must he address Percy, not you? How long has Luke even known Percy? Only a summer. But you – he's known you since you were seven. You've been friends ever since your arrival at Camp Half-Blood. And he's forgotten you. Tossed you aside to deal with Percy, like the Son of the Sea God is a more prominent threat.
Luke underestimates you. Even thinks he can toy with you. It's infuriating. You will not be played with, but for now, you bide your time. That's the wiser thing to do.
Sometimes, you hate yourself for being so logical. If you were a daughter of Ares, you'd be clawing Luke's heart out with your bare fingernails; a child of Aphrodite, and Luke would still be paralyzed by your beauty; a demigod born of Hermes, and you might even be trying to make Luke see reason.
But thanks to Athena's bloodline, you know that Luke would never listen. You know that attacking would be futile. You're a stone warrior, suppressing the shakes that have started rolling down your spine, your eyes blazing.
"Sit," Luke says.
He waves his hand. Three dining chairs move into position.
Percy and Tyson don't even twitch.
You swallow. Luke's ugly new... not friends, you're his friend, not these... things... the comparison is hideous, it's wrong, it's so wrong...
Luke's... pets, that's what they should be called... still have their ashen javelins aimed for the kill. They're so nasty. Eight feet tall, only half-clothed, covered in matted, shaggy brown hair. Claws like switchblades adorn their paws. Their snouts dribble saliva, and something red glints on their pointed, wolf-like teeth.
You refuse to acknowledge that it might be demigod blood.
"Where are my manners?" Luke is cordial. Even smooth. "These are my assistants, Agrius and Oreius. Perhaps you've heard of them."
Okay. So long as they don't count as friends.
The silence around you thickens into a kind of fog. You stare Luke down, taking him in inch by inch.
The boy who saved you from Underworld monsters is dead. The teenager who smiled playfully, ruthlessly as he decapitated straw dummies with a fake sword is gone. This man... this man is not Luke.
This man is not your friend.
He's changed since the last camp session. No summer break clothes here – he's garbed in a button-down shirt, khaki pants, and leather loafers – but he looks ready to kill. Capable of killing. That's part of what scares you. You always knew he was strong, but now he's reveling in that strength. His sandy hair is cropped neatly. He looks almost professional, prepared to run anyone through without even getting blood on his new shoes.
His knife-slash scar is still there. It never bothered you, you always thought he was handsome, brave, and strong, but suddenly that scar disturbs you. It shows that he has fought, and been wounded. Been wounded, and survived. Survived, and is prepared to fight again.
But to win.
"You don't know Agrius and Oreius's story?" Luke says, snapping you out of your thoughts. "Their mother... well, it's sad, really. Aphrodite ordered the young woman to fall in love. She refused and ran to Artemis for help. Artemis let her become one of her maiden huntresses, but Aphrodite got her revenge. She bewitched the young woman into falling in love with a bear."
The thought is puke-inducing.
"When Artemis found out," Luke goes on, "she abandoned the girl in disgust. Typical of the gods, wouldn't you say? They fight with one another and the poor humans get caught in the middle. The girl's twin sons here, Agrius and Oreius, have no love for Olympus. They like half-bloods well enough, though..."
"For lunch," Agrius growls, his voice gruff and rumbling.
His brother laughs, his spit-covered tongue licking his furry lips. "Hehe! Hehe!" He keeps laughing to the point where it looks like he's breaking from sanity, choking on a hairball, or having a violent allergic reaction to our presence... or maybe all of the above. Either way, the thing looks like he could use an inhaler or a barf bag. Or maybe solitary confinement in a rubber room.
Luke and Agrius both give Oreius a death glare.
"Shut up, you idiot!" Agrius roars. "Go punish yourself!"
With a pitiful whimper, Oreius trudges over to a stool in the corner of a room, promptly proceeding to bang his forehead against the dining table. The silver plates rattle. Oreius moans like an unloved puppy.
You would think that this happened every day, gauging Luke's reaction. The traitor slouches down on the plush sofa. He stretches out his legs with a tired sigh, resting his feet on the coffee table.
"Well, Percy, we let you survive another year. I hope you appreciated it."
The dark sarcasm is insulting, and Luke's still pretending that you don't exist. You wish you could slap that smirk right off of his face. But again, you're far too wise to do something so impulsive.
Under your breath, you swear in Ancient Greek. Thankfully, Agrius doesn't notice.
Luke smiles casually at Percy. "How's your mom? How's school?"
"You poisoned Thalia's tree," Percy says.
A/N: I apologize for the abrupt ending, but it's getting late and I don't have time to write any more tonight. It's 10:13 PM right now, and I need to be in bed by 10:30, so the rest of the scene will have to wait.
If you like what I have so far, please leave me some feedback on it. Advice, comments, things you liked, things you didn't (explained civilly, of course – I have no tolerance for flamers) are all welcome. Please review. It's what keeps me going, and I'll be more inclined to continue if I get some feedback.