This fic has been stagnating in my head for three years now. I'm a little out of my comfort zone, I like writing short, more abstract pieces, which is why I prefer the latter half of this chapter. I still couldn't get this over 3,000 words... oh well. Please do tell if there are any errors, spelling, grammar (I'm using my grandmother's twelve year old computer with no spellcheck) and conformity with canon... I don't have the books on hand.
I can be honest when I say that I've spent years trying to Unsuefy my OC... at one point I flawed her to the point where she was a completely unlikeable sociopathic serial killer. No joke. She actually has very little characterization in this scene so I think I'm in the clear... please, please tell me if she starts becoming Bella Swan or anything like that.
Oh, and one thing I forgot to add when I first published this: this story takes quite a lot of inspiration from the Runemark books by Joanne Harris
AND, thank you to my first reviewer who corrected my Nico di Angelo mistake.
Anyway, I've harped on enough. (please review! pleasepleasepleaseplease!) Okay, now I'll stop.
She's dying. Nico can tell by the prickling at the back of his neck.
"Been like this for two weeks," says the medic. "Some kinda venom. Teared onto the camp like a hellhound was after her, then collapsed on our steps. Weird looking, isn't she?"
She is. You wouldn't call her ugly (or pretty, for that matter), but the planes of her face are inescapably foreign, her cheekbones as sharp as knives. She murmurs in a strange language, then turns onto her stomach, eyelids fluttering with dream.
"She won't respond to anything. She refuses to heal."
"She's dying," says Nico, flatly. If the sickbay is going to drag him in here to stare at the patients and report on the state of their health, he'll dispense with the pleasantries. "I give her a couple of days."
"Faðir," sighs the sleeping girl. It sounds vaguely Scandinavian. Her brow furrows and she shifts more, whimpering. "Kaldr. Snær. Andlát."
Nico leans forward, interested. "What is she saying?"
"No clue," comes the reply. "Any manner of things can come out during a fever dream."
"Sási Hel falla," they pause. "Sási Hades falla."
The medic is obviously shocked. "She's never mentioned anything like that before, certainly."
"Olympian forað. Olympian tívar geyma," her voice becomes more urgent. She sits up, her eyes flying open, gaze unfocused. Nico nearly cries out in surprise. "Syna faðir! Olympians geyma! Hades falla! Tell father! The Olympians are watching! Hades will fall!"
She drops back onto the bed, completely unconscious once more.
The prickling at the back of Nico's neck stops. The medic stares at her patient, open-mouthed. "What the hell was that?"
"I don't know," he says, grimly. "But she's not dying anymore."
Percy is now nineteen years old- so what is he doing in the middle of Camp Half-Blood? He'd officially left a year ago, and then spent a few months trekking around the country with Annabeth, fighting monsters and doing other Demi-God type things- but he missed it; he missed the legendary status he'd been enjoying among the others; he missed his younger friends; he even missed the lessons. So when he got the iris message asking him to spend a couple of months as a guest teacher for sword-fighting, how could he refuse? Annabeth would have plenty of fun giving lectures on ancient architecture, anyway.
The place has changed a lot since what they now call 'The Gaea Incident'. The portal doorway to Camp Jupiter is probably the strongest evidence of that, as are the Roman kids running around doing Greek taster sessions. A crowd is gathering around the base of the hill. As Percy approaches he's surrounded by angry drone off gossiping voices; he receives a murmured greeting from the congregation.
"Did you hear?" hisses a daughter of Aphrodite. "About that girl, I mean?" He shakes his head no. "Well, apparently, Nico was called in to check whether a patient- you know, that one that ran in here completely crazily a few weeks ago- was going to die or not, and she burst into flames and started speaking and tongues and she predicted the end of the world and the fall of Olympus, and then she infected Nico and the medic with an evil virus and now they're quarantined."
"No, no," says another girl next to her. "She didn't burst into flames, she started secreting ectoplasm. And Nico didn't get infected, he called up his denizens of the dead to restrain her. It was totally badass."
"How do you know? You weren't there."
"And you were?" She spots something behind Percy, and smiles in triumph. "Look, here he comes now. Obviously, he's not 'under quarantine'."
Nico walks up to them. He went through a growth spurt when he was fourteen and is now nearly exactly the same height as Percy, which gives the son of Poseidon a strange sense of nostalgia. He looks relieved.
"Percy," he says. "I've been looking for you everywhere!" he tows him towards the building.
"Some weird stuff's been happening, I hear," his friend comments. "Ectoplasm, huh?"
"What?" replies Nico, confusedly. He shoves open the door, and they are accosted with the scent of disinfectant. "Listen," he says, running his fingers through his dark, messy hair, "I'm dropping you off in her room, then I am leaving. You deal with this mess. I am not involving myself with any of this prophecy crap, whether it involves Hades or not."
"Wait," Percy stops. "Prophecy?"
Nico shifts uncomfortably. "It wasn't a prophecy prophecy, but it did feel like she knew... Something. Something not good."
"Something to do with Hades."
"Tell father! The Olympians are watching! Hades will fall!" he mutters, imitating her cadence.
They start moving again. "A threat, maybe?" says Percy. "It doesn't sound like a prophecy. At least not one I've ever heard."
"She was speaking this language before it," Nico shudders. "When I heard it then it just sounded foreign, you know? Scandinavian. But it's imprinted itself in my brain, somehow. I remember each word so clearly. Sási Hel falla. Sási Hades falla."
They reach another area, a hallway Percy's never known was there. A door at the end of it is open. Annabeth pokes her head out of the room it leads to and glares at them. "Hurry," she says. "She's awake."
The girl is a little younger than Nico, maybe fifteen, with straight chestnut hair that's more red than brown and weary grey eyes. Her gaze seems accusatory as the two demigods enter the room, and she pushes herself closer to the wall, away from Chiron, who is using his wheelchair.
"Ara, you say?" asks the centaur.
"Ay-ra," she replies, annoyed. She has an accent that Nico can't place, with harsh consonants and lilting vowels. "Pronounce 'Ay' as in 'hay' and 'ra' as in 'duh'."
"And you don't remember anything?"
"I remember someone telling me to run," she says. "And I remember this thing coming after me, and I remember its teeth around my leg-" she breaks off.
"It's okay to pace yourself," Percy offers her a handshake and a friendly smile, remembering his own bout of amnesia. "I'm Percy Jackson."
She hesitates and then takes his hand. "Ayra Sorensen."
"Unusual name," comments Nico.
She turns to him. "Yes," her tone is laced with hostility. "And you are?"
"Leaving," the son of Hades says. He turns to go, but is stopped by an irate Annabeth.
"This is Nico di Angelo. He's staying," she says.
Something flashes in Ayra's expression. Fear.
Sási Hades falla echoes in Nico's mind.
"Where are you from?" says Chiron, coaxingly.
"Denmark," she answers. "I remember my dad putting those little red flags in my birthday cake."
"So you lived with your father?"
"Yes. My mother died when I was young."
Annabeth cuts in. "So what are you doing in New York?"
Ayra closes her eyes. "Running. I was running from-" she cries out in frustration. "I can't remember!"
"I think we'll start with the basics," sighs the centaur, "What do you know of the Greek myths?"
While Chiron explains, Nico, Annabeth and Percy convene in the hallway.
"She's lying," says Nico, scowling.
"I don't know," Percy glances to the door. "She seemed honest to me."
"Have we considered the possibility that she's Roman? She hasn't been claimed," Annabeth adds. "That reminds me, someone needs to notify Camp Jupiter."
"I already sent a message to Hazel," The other two demigods stare at Nico. "What? And anyway, she could have easily been claimed and then forgotten about it. The whole claiming thing has a lot of loopholes."
Chiron comes out. Percy smiles at him. "How'd it go?"
"Surprisingly well, actually. She's getting some rest."
They begin to leave. Nico loiters around the door.
Annabeth turns around. "You coming?"
"In a bit."
The three disappear from view.
Nico steps back into the room. Ayra is curled into the corner of the bed.
"I don't trust you."
"I think you're lying."
She catches his eye. "Why are you telling me this?"
"So that you realise," he replies, "that we're not all Percy Jackson. We're not all going to offer you sympathy and a handshake."
"We both know that, Nico di Angelo, Son of Hades. But I know something you don't. Doesn't that make you angry? Not knowing?" she sounds honestly curious.
"I'll find out eventually."
"Ever patient," she stretches herself out on the bed. "How do you manage it?"
"I have my ways. Olympians geyma, don't they?" He walks out, stopping at the doorway for one last jab. "I was surprised when I plugged that phrase into my laptop a couple of hours ago. I had no idea they still spoke old Norse in Denmark."
Two weeks ago
This forest is endless. By this point all she can hear is the squish of the wet leaves under her boots, and all she can see is the dappled sunlight curling around her. But she can smell the decay, the putrefying flesh, and she can imagine the swathes of skin hanging of the yellowing bones.
The norseling fears death! Comes the cry. Feast with us, little one! Join our ranks. We laugh in the face of Hel! What greater gift could one desire?
The draugar. Their venom is not one of poison, but one of madness. One touch and they crawl into your dreams, wring your brain dry and tear you apart from the inside out. They are not the stuff of nightmares. Nightmares you can wake up from.
She comes face to face with one in the next instant. It is starving, emaciated and rotten. It stinks and her stomach heaves. It has no eyes, just empty cavities of flaking red. It grins a toothless smile.
Her battle axe is in her hand the next instant, summoned with runes. She slices the monster's head off in one, clean motion. The body stumbles but continues to reach out.
Silly little norseling.
Adrenaline shoots through her system. She hacks blindly until she's surrounded by draugr limbs. Holding back sobs of terror she remembers her father's words:
They'll be all over you when you get down there. The first one of Norse blood in centuries. They're not just hungry, they're starving. Your best bet is to run, run as fast as you can.
She runs, but she can sense the other draugar. The gateway to the Greek campsite is near. She reaches for it-
A cold, slimy hand closes around her ankle. We have you now.
It doesn't need to do anything else. It can step away and wait for the madness to kill her, consume her slowly while she writhes on the floor. There is no chance for her when it is so close, it's presence so strong.
If she can get away-
One last chance, then. The madness is worming its way up her spine. It feels like a leech dragging itself across her back. She stands, the world spinning. She can see nonexistent insects crawling up her arm, see skin coloured blobs of flesh hanging from the treetops. The draugr laughs at her, at her futile attempt.
The rune axe has dissipated into nothing. Now all she has is this madness growing inside of her, her bones caging it in.
She wants to let it out.
She has to let it out.
She screams. Not the scream you hear in horror movie theatres, not even in situations of real life terror. It is a scream of necessity. It is primal. It makes even the draugr step back. On the other side of the camp, it makes a boy, a boy who knows more than most of death, step back.
She runs. There are no buts this time. The bugs on her arms fly off with the force of the wind. The leech freezes, for just an instant. There is her, and there is her scream. They are two separate entities, working in conjunction.
She runs. She's in the camp now. There are black spots in her vision, and in each black spot there are eyes watching her. She fights them. They find it amusing.
She runs. She knows that when she reaches the little houses at the bottom of the hill, she will succumb. She accepts it. She will endure the weeks of nightmares. She will endure because the scream is leaving her, flying with the wind behind her as she loses her voice. It caresses her face, gains a voice of its own. It speaks to her.
Tell your father, says the scream, that the Olympians are watching. The Olympians are watching, and Hades will fall.
"Syna faðir," she repeats, as she collapses. "Olympians geyma. Hades falla."