AN: This fic's set before the Titan War ended and before Jason became a praetor. I've tried to write him the way I think he could have acted when he was slightly younger and a little less mature than we see him in The Lost Hero, and more confident with all his memories intact.
"It's going to be about this Spartan king who was exiled," Jason told his friends excitedly. "I just read about it in War Magazine Monthly, in their 'Must See Movies' section. We're going."
Most of his friends gave him tolerant smiles, used to his action movie obsession. Bobby, however, full out grinned. "I'm in."
Gwendolyn shook her head, looking rueful. "Are you sure this is a good idea? You remember what happened last time you got this excited about a war movie?"
"A Greek war movie," specified Dakota, simultaneously shuddering and smirking at the memory.
"Of course we remember," said Bobby, still grinning. "Why do you think I'm so excited about this new one?"
"Okay," said Gwen, "we all know for Bobby it's more about trying to make Octavian go off the deep end –"
"Literally," muttered Dakota.
"But for Jason . . . I still don't get why he gets so excited about these things."
"The Spartan king, Pleistonanax, is in exile because he was accused of taking bribes from the Athenians to retreat against them after a battle. But he didn't. He just wanted peace, and got suitable surrender terms so he took them, but you remember what Spartans are like from all those other movies I drug you to," said Jason. "So Pleistonanax went into exile. But then the Oracle of Delphi gave an augury saying they needed to bring him back or else they would all die, so he came –"
"You got all this just from a quarter page preview out of War Magazine Monthly?" asked Gwen.
Jason blinked at her. "No. They just wrote that the exiled Spartan king Pleistonanax was returning to save Sparta. I got all the background information from history books."
"But they don't teach Greek history in our courses," said Sampson, a relatively new member of the legion.
"Which is a mistake," said Jason. "I get that they don't like the Greeks, even though what happened at Troy is ancient history. But to completely ignore a civilization that had one of the greatest militaries of the ancient world, just because they don't like them is stupid."
"Jason's kind of a geek when it comes to Greek history," Gwen told Sampson.
"And Greek war movies."
"Or any sort of war movie."
"But the Greek ones are the most fun," said Bobby, smirking.
"Why?" asked Sampson. "If you don't like the Greeks –"
"I don't dislike the Greeks," said Jason. "Why should I? They've never done anything to me."
"But if the camp as a whole doesn't like them, why do you make such a big deal about liking them?" Sampson wanted to know.
Jason opened his mouth to speak, but Bobby cut him off.
"Jason's about to give his big spiel about letting bygones be bygones, and deciding for ourselves who our enemies are, rather than letting ancient traditions dictate them," he said. "And it's a good speech, full of valid points, it really is. But there's another reason to so loudly advocate and advertize Greek war movies, and that is because it annoys the crap out of Octavian.
Octavian stood with perfect posture, hands spread outwards, ready to make his declaration. "I have read the entrails. The auguries proclaim –"
"Tristan McLean was just cast as King Pleistonanax!"
A surprised murmur ran through the crowd, that quickly grew amused as everyone realized who the speaker had been. Octavian gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. That pesky, irritating little insect Jason Grace! It didn't take a strategic genius to figure out what he was prattling on about now. Doubtlessly another war movie was being made. And from the sound of the character's name, as well as the amount of enthusiasm in Jason's voice, Octavian would have bet his position as augur that the war movie was going to be a Greek war movie.
Octavian hated Greek war movies.
"Silence!" ordered Emilio Salvatore, the senior praetor, but he ordered it in an indulgent voice. Despite their age difference, and the fact that they were in separate cohorts, Emilio had always been friends with Jason. Probably just because he wanted to curry favor with Jupiter's son. And if Octavian remembered right, Emilio had been among the sycophantic sheep who'd gone with Jason to the theater the last time a Greek war movie was released. "We must respect our augur and listen when he tells us what he's gleaned of the gods' will . . . even when we have just learned that a kickass actor has just been cast as the lead in King of Sparta."
"I got it! I got it! Am I a genius or what?" asked Sarah, a daughter of Vulcan from Second Cohort.
Jason and his friends looked up with interest as she sat down at their table.
"Depends," said Bobby. "What did you get?"
"The first official King of Sparta trailer!"
"You are a genius," said Bobby immediately.
"Show us, show us!" urged Jason, jumping up and moving beside Sarah.
Sarah set down a Trapper Keeper that had been pimped out with two screens inside, and an old iPod shuffle. She opened it and stood it up on its side, like a folding screen, then used the iPod shuffle's controls to bring up the trailer.
The screens lit up to show the movie producer's logos, then a scruffy looking but well muscled man skinning a bear.
"Tristan McLean! It's Tristan McLean!"
"Shut up! Let us listen!"
Suddenly the man on screen, Tristan McLean stiffened and spun around, holding a sword that was red with bear blood out in front of him, toward two men who'd appeared behind him.
"King Pleistonanax?" one of the men asked.
Tristan McLean kept his sword warily raised as he answered. "King no longer."
"Not true, my liege. The Oracle of Delphi has given a prophecy. You must return. Or all of Sparta shall fall."
The screen cut to a montage, a series of clips from the film showing Tristan McLean riding a horse with those two men as the citadel that was probably meant to be Sparta came in sight. Then he was pushing open a set of double doors and striding through, washed and dressed like what the filmmakers had decided to portray Greek nobles as, bare chested, wearing a Greek war-kilt, a purple cape flowing from his shoulders, and a sheathed xiphos sword hanging from his belt.
"He was a king in exile . . ." said the trailer's narrator, as the montage showed Tristan McLean standing on a dais in front of a crowd. "But he was the only man who could save his homeland."
"Power is right there for the taking, but you Spartans are too ignorant to even know what that means!" declared a girly-looking man dressed in silk robes and lots of jewelry.
"What you say is true," Tristan McLean told him. "We alone of all the Greeks have learned none of your evil ways."
"There will be war," said someone else. Warningly, not menacingly, so perhaps this actor was supposed to be one of the king's advisors. Like many trailers, it seemed to be pulling clips from various places in the film and stringing them together in the way that had the most dramatic effect.
"As long as there are warriors, there will always be war!" roared Tristan McLean. "And we Spartans are nothing if not warriors!"
The montage jumped to a clip of Spartan soldiers raising their swords and roaring as well, but from the lighting, and the way they were on a battlefield, all blood-splattered and streaked with grime, that clip probably didn't even occur on the same day in the movie, but the effect was still moving.
"This March," said the narrator as Tristan McLean did some badass sword-work, fighting his way across a battlefield. "Tristan McLean . . . IS . . . The King of Sparta."
The screen darkened to show the movie title.
"This film is not yet rated."
"Sick," said Jason, turning to give Sarah a high five.
"Word," agreed Bobby.
"That film looks totally awesome," said another member of the legion . . . one who was from First Cohort.
Jason turned to see that a bunch of people had flocked over to see the trailer play while they were watching it.
"Play it again!" urged someone. "Play it again!"
Soon half the legion was clammering around them, trying to see the trailer. Bobby elbowed Jason and tilted his head toward where most of the First Cohort usually sat. They both grinned to see Octavian giving them a death glare.
Octavian stood before the legion to reveal what he'd discerned from his latest augury but before he could even speak music began playing and strange moving lights lit up the area. At first Octavian thought that it was a vision, the gods communicating with him directly. Then he realized that it was some sort of projection, like at the movies . . . no it was the projection of a movie trailer!
"King no longer."
"Not true, my liege. The Oracle of Delphi has given a prophecy. You must return. Or all of Sparta shall fall."
"What is this?" demanded Octavian, glaring at the wall behind him that showed that mediocre meat-headed actor Tristan McLean dressed ridiculously in a skirt and cape, pushing open a set of doors. But even as he asked the question, he realized what it was. The trailer to The King of Sparta. The one that everyone had been clamoring to watch the previous night when one of that insect Jason Grace's friends somehow managed to download a copy of it despite the fact that Camp Jupiter had no internet!
"He was a king in exile . . . But he was the only man who could save his homeland."
"Turn this off!" ordered Octavian. "Turn it off at once!"
But no one made any moves to turn it off. Half the campers were laughing. The other half were watching the trailer with rapt attention.
"Power is right there for the taking, but you Spartans are too ignorant to even know what that means!"
"What you say is true. We alone of all the Greeks have learned none of your evil ways."
"There will be war."
"As long as there are warriors, there will always be war! And we Spartans are nothing if not warriors!"
"When I find out who did this, I'll see to it that you'll be conjugating Latin verbs for months!"
"This March . . . Tristan McLean . . . IS . . . The King of Sparta. This film is not yet rated."
A search of the area where the trailer had to be coming from yielded a homemade projector fashioned from nothing but parts of stuffed animals that Octavian had sacrificed in his auguries. A voice-box from a talking rabbit plushy, batteries and wiring from a Furby, and the lens from a nanny-cam that had been hidden in a teddy bear Octavian had sacrificed. All of that combined to make a short lived but powerful projector, for the sole purpose of broadcasting The King of Sparta trailer to the entire legion!
"When I get my hands on those brats –"
"These auguries need no interpretation," said Emilio Salvatore. "The gods' will is clear, even to me. They wish for us all to see The King of Sparta. When the film is released, I shall make arrangements for a field trip."
"What?" howled Octavian, but his voice was lost amidst a roar of cheers.
"Best. Movie. Ever!" exulted Jason as he and the rest of Fifth Cohort returned from the theater after the 12:01 AM showing had ended. He was so glad they'd won the honor of getting to go the very first showing, by having the best accumulated performance in the war games over the past month. It just went to show that Fifth Cohort could be counted on to pull together when something important was on the line. And going to the 12:01 AM showing of King of Sparta was very important. Otherwise the other campers would have told them spoilers.
"I can't believe Tristan McLean died at the end!"
"Not listening, not listening!" said the guard at the camp entrance, a member of Second Cohort, covering her hands with her ears. "Not listening!"
"I liked it over-all, but I wasn't real crazy about some of the casting. Like that guy who played that one guy."
"You mean Logan Lerman?"
"But I loved him! He's got the bluest, most gorgeous eyes I've ever seen."
"Which was inconsistent with the part where that one guy said his eyes were green."
"I think the best part was where Tristan McLean had his final fight."
"That fight was sick."
Everyone jumped as an enraged Octavian stormed up to them and grabbed Jason by the front of his shirt.
"I know it was you!"
"What was me?" asked Jason, doing his very best to look bewildered.
"At midnight some sort of hidden speaker activated in my room!" screamed Octavian. "The audio-track of that blasted Greek war movie played for two hours! You went in to the theater with a wire, I know you did!"
Jason shook his head. "I didn't. I wouldn't. That would be movie piracy, Octavian."
"Movie piracy is bad," agreed Bobby.
"And Jason is a law abiding Roman citizen," put in Dakota.
"Are you formally accusing Jason of breaking the law?" asked Gwendolyn. "Because if you are, you're not following procedure."
Octavian glared at them all through bloodshot eyes then abruptly turned and stormed away.
It was cold. Scratch that, it was freaking freezing. The Bay Area was always freezing, especially in the winter, and even though spring was on the horizon, they couldn't feel it.
So it took a very dedicated man to stride out into the fortress for the war games wearing nothing but a skirt (borrowed from Gwen) and a bed-sheet. A very confident man too, especially since said bed-sheet had been dyed purple with Kool-aide. But Jason Grace was very dedicated to endorsing Greek war movies, and confident in his ability to annoy Octavian.
Fifth and Fourth Cohorts were defending that night. In order to keep Octavian from hearing about the stunt they were about to pull, Jason and his friends had kept the plan to themselves until only minutes ago, but it hadn't been hard to convince everyone else in the two cohorts to go along with it, even on such short notice. Half a dozen other boys from Fifth Cohort were in impromptu cosplay as well, including Bobby and Dakota. There were a lot of laughs as they strode to the walls of the fortress wearing skirts, and climbed up the walls to give the troops their pre-battle address. Normally, it would only be centurions doing that duty, but today was a special occasion.
The attack horn sounded right as Jason and his friends reached the top, so Jason had to give his address quickly.
"As long as there are warriors, there will always be war!" he roared, quoting Tristan McLean's lines from the movie. "And we Spartans are nothing if not warriors! And though the men outside our walls may try to make war and profess themselves to be warriors, they are not! They are nothing! And now we will make them nothing!"
His troops erupted in cheers and shouts . . . and a few wolf whistles, and one cry of, "Take it off! Take it all off!" from that girl in Fourth Cohort who'd had a crush on Jason forever.
"So commands your king!" shouted Bobby over their roars, stepping up beside Jason to say his lines. "The king of Sparta!"
It was a good game. The First, Second, and Third Cohorts attacked full on, but the Fourth and Fifth held their ground. In fact, they fought better than night than usual. Jason couldn't say for sure that it had anything to do with his quoting of Tristan McLean, but later people would suggest it had been so.
While the attackers would win if they succeeded in breaching the fortress, capturing the defenders' banners, making it back outside the walls, and forming ranks around the captured standards, the defenders could only win by holding out. The length of time they were required to successfully defend their walls varied, but for that night the allotted amount of time had been set at two hours.
Jason led his Cohort in repelling attack after attack of the enemy's forces, and he did it while wearing a skirt. The skirt might have actually been more of an advantage than armor would have, because there were many times when the invaders drew up short and stared at him dumbfounded. And Jason never failed to take advantage of their mistake and send them promptly back down to their side of the walls.
They were in the final minutes of the game, with every attack thus far successfully turned back, when Octavian finally made an attempt at breaching. Normally he just gave orders and hung back like the wuss he was instead of leading by example, which was Jason's preferred method. But either Octavian's troops had finally gotten tired of him sitting back and watching while they took a beating, or he foolishly believed that he could do what all of them had been failing to do for the past few hours. Or maybe the gods were just smiling on Jason that night and decided to deliver his nemesis to him. But no matter the reason, Octavian gave a battle cry as he climbed up one of the ladders that his allies had set up, that Jason and his allies hadn't gotten the chance to knock down yet.
"Wait," said Jason as Sampson moved to topple the ladder with Octavian on it. "Let him get up. We'll take him captive."
"And give him a front row seat for the finale," said Gwen, grinning wickedly.
With another scream, Octavian leapt the remaining distance over the wall. Then he gave yet another scream as a net was thrown over him and pulled tight, dragging him to the ground.
"Forty seconds left," said Gwen.
Jason nodded, understanding. No matter what the attackers did now, there was no way they could win. The game had been won, and so now they could afford to have a little fun.
With the loudest battle cries they could muster, Jason and Bobby threw themselves at each other, their swords meeting with a deafening clang. Then reigned several lightning fast strikes down on one another, and each one was blocked. Then they started fighting in slow motion.
With the defenders taking it easy for this last half minute of the game, pausing in their duties to watch the show, several of the bolder, more committed soldiers of the First, Second, and Third Cohorts managed to breach the walls. But then they too just stopped and watched the performance with much amusement.
At the exact moment that a horn was blown to signify the end of the game, Bobby dealt a grotesquely exaggerated fake death blow. Jason caught his friend's blade between his side and his left arm, holding it there, so that to anyone watching, it appeared almost as though he'd been stabbed. Jason gave the loudest gasp that he could and froze. Then Bobby pulled his blade free only to "stab" him again. Then again.
"My king!" screamed Dakota, and he charged Bobby, sword held high.
Bobby spun and "stabbed" Dakota the same way he'd allegedly stabbed Jason, and when he pulled the blade free Dakota fell to his knees, then to his side, playing dead.
"How now, Spartans?" shouted Bobby, waving his sword above his head. "Your walls are breached! Your king has fallen, and your entire city shall follow. Only one path for survival remains. Throw down your weapons! Let –" he paused as Jason staggered to his feet and clamped a hand down on his shoulder. And then he turned around and this time it was Jason's turn to pretend to run him through with a sword.
"Fool!" spat out Jason. "If I could be killed so easily, the gods would never have made me the king of Sparta to begin with!"
He wrenched his sword free and made a great sweeping motion, like he was slashing at Bobby's chest, though his blade never made contact. In the movie, Tristan McLean had decapitated his foe, but Jason and Bobby didn't have the means to do any real special effects. So Bobby had suggested that Jason just act like he slashed open his throat, but Jason had vetoed that idea. He wasn't going to pretend to cut his friend's throat with a real blade, since a stunt like that would have been asking for trouble. So instead they'd decided to just have Jason slash at his torso, since with a motion like the one he was using, he wasn't likely to hurt his friend, even if he accidentally did knick him.
Bobby fell to the floor beside Dakota, also pretending to be dead, and Jason drew himself up, grabbing onto the wall like he needed it for balance.
"Spartans!" he shouted, "your king gives you one final command, and that is to fight! Fight for your city! Fight for her future! Do not lay down your arms while you still draw breath, for there shall be time enough for laying down when you are dead! Fight to the last man to uphold Sparta's sacred law: Never surrender!"
All of Jason's troops roared their approval, even though the game was technically over, and they weren't fighting anymore. And when Jason turned, two of his other friends who'd come out wearing skirts charged at him, pretending to be enemy invaders. Jason held his sword in one hand, pressing the other against his chest as though to stem blood flow from his wounds, just as Tristan McLean had done in the movie. Then he slashed at his two friends, hitting only empty air, but they fell down as though he'd killed them. His final two friends who were cosplaying with him charged as well, and Jason took them down too. Then some of the invaders from the First, Second, and Third decided to get in on the fun. They raised their weapons as though planning to attack Jason, then fell down dead dramatically, acting as though he'd cut them down.
Everyone was laughing. Lots of people started applauding.
Then Octavian got loose and charged Jason from behind, screaming in his ridiculous high pitched voice. Jason sensed the danger and spun around at the last second, blocking a blow that would have seriously hurt him if it had connected. He could see immediately, from the look in Octavian's eyes, that the older boy wasn't just playing around like everyone else was, so he disarmed him at once.
Octavian gave another howl and wrapped his hands around Jason's throat. The guy was really trying to strangle him!
"I have had enough of that gods-damned Tristan McLean King of Sparta movie!" screamed Octavian, his entire body shaking as he attempted to choke Jason. "I am so sick of that – kill you – shut you up –"
Jason jerked his head forward quickly and head-butted Octavian so hard, he knocked the augur out. "That's not how the movie went."
But suddenly his audience had erupted in cheers again, even louder than before. If he didn't know better, he would have thought it was because of what he'd done to Octavian rather than because of his performance. But of course he knew better. It had been a really astounding performance.