We, Nyx and Nic, do not own the Percy Jackson and the Olympians or The Heroes of Olympus series. They belong to Rick Riordan, including the characters Luke Castellan, Ethan Nakamura, Kronos, and Nemesis. None of our characters really show up in this chapter.
Also note that this is a prologue, not necessarily Chapter 1. I'm not sure how to label chapters as prologues…
The boy stumbled through the dark stone-and-dirt tunnel, his hands covering his left eye. Tears welled and spilled over in his right. Blood, black in the low light, seeped through his fingers and down his arm, leaving a trail as he ran. There was a lot of it. He felt its hot temperature, and its foul stench bathed his tongue. He kept panting and running, though, too scared to even glance over his shoulder.
Around him, the tunnels in the distance groaned as they altered. They were constantly changing shape, constantly working against him. The maze read his mind. He knew of the traps its corridors concealed and had spent years avoiding them. This merciless death trap had been his home for so long. It was hard to remember when it hadn't been.
The growls of hidden monsters and groans of shifting tunnels were the only things he heard. Thankfully, they were all in the distance. Nothing was in his corridor. Nothing he could hear, anyway. He knew that death could come in half a second. He half-wished it would. Despite the silence in his tunnel, beside his panicked footfalls, he didn't stop running.
Just then, his foot jammed against something. He went down hard, stifling a scream that would surely only give away his position. He landed on his right side, his one good eye in a pool of water.
He yelped and dragged himself to his knees. The constant, unbearable pain in his left eye had been there ever since he made his escape. Why had she done it? He'd spent years in this darned maze searching for his mother. But their conversation had ended with a knife and a scream and him running away, back into the maze where he'd swore he'd never go again.
He gasped, staring at his reflection. He'd been stealing food to survive, popping out of the maze for short periods of time and always enjoying it.
The face who stared back at him was thin and desperate. Pain and fear was the only thing on the features and lingering in the right eye. Everything was in black and white. The right side of his face shimmered wetly with tears and water, where all the dirt had been washed off by his fall. That side was white. The left side was black, caked with dirt and blood. His fingers were black, too. Solid black. That was a lot of blood. He felt it pooling in his palms again.
He hoped. He hoped that his mother had missed. Head wounds bled a lot, right? She could've hit his cheek really deep instead.
Hope is useless, her words echoed in his head. It gets you nowhere. Hope cannot balance the evil being done!
But I want to do more than hope! He'd begged her. Help me help you!
Her smirk showed white though her long black hair and dark eyes. Balance, child balance. You shall have the fate you wish. If you want to be careless, then fine. But it's an eye for an eye, my son.
He flinched, remembering the knife's evil glint so close to his face. It had hurt so bad, so much more than anything else he'd seen before.
He stared at his reflection determinedly. Who knew how old his mother was? Three thousand years at least. No way she could still aim right.
He slowly took his hands away, letting the blood fall freely onto the ground. It splattered on the stone and dirt, on his knees, into the water, blooming across the image like spilled ink. It clouded and blurred the bottom of his reflection. But it didn't disturb the image of his face.
Go figure. The one part he wished to erase.
Where his left eye had once been was a mess. Blood and darkness was all he could see in its place. Torn skin ringed the edges. It hurt like all heck, and all the more now that he saw the wound.
She hadn't missed.
Dead on. Perfect balance. Just like she'd said. Just like he'd begged for.
Just not the right kind.
He stared at his reflection, jaw dropped. He could only stare. He couldn't move. As the tunnels groaned and shifted around him, he sat there like a dead duck and stared.
He glanced over his shoulder, not bothering to cover his face again. There was no eye left to save. He could hear a slithering sound now, not far down the tunnel. He'd have to act fast if he wanted to live.
He glanced down at his bloodied hands. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and hid along the side of the tunnel. A large diamondback rattlesnake slipped by. Its head alone was the size of minivan.
His fingers clenched a cold cloth and slowly dragged it out of his pocket. The snake's head turned and its tongue flicked, scenting the air. It licked the ground before the puddle, tasting his blood. It hissed and raised its head again, still searching for him. It would attack any prey it could. It already knew he was wounded and scared – he was its next target.
He stared down at the cloth in his fingers, blinking his right eye. He wasn't sure of the proper healing techniques. His eye – his face – hurt really, really bad. Black spots danced across the remains of his vision. He was starving and thirsty and weak. He was convinced he'd be better off if the snake ate him now. Perhaps that was the cruel fate his mother had given him, although he didn't see how balance fit into that at all.
As he stared at the cloth, though, he began to wonder. This was the last thing his mother had given him. She'd given him his fate, taken his eye, then given him this. Why would he need an eye patch if he was going to die, anyway?
He'd spent all this time in that dreaded maze to have a fate worth living for. The cost had been higher than he'd ever expected. Not just the years and his eye – he'd never trust anyone again. Not after what his mother had done. He'd never be the same. But this was what he'd fought for, and we wasn't about to give it up.
He sighed. The snake paused at the sound, but he was no longer worried. He reached behind his head and secured the eye patch into place, tying it firmly like the knot itself was sealing his fate. He opened his right eye and glared at the snake, a snarl curling his lips. Violence didn't bother him anymore.
From around his waist he drew a sword. It was a bright golden color and glowed, shedding an eerie light on his bloody face and immediately attracting the attention of the snake. The creature drew back, then hissed and waited for the first sign of movement.
The sword glimmered in the low light. The tunnels groaned louder and its light reflected in his eye. A name was carved at the blade's base, in a language not English. The sword threw light against his dark hair and highlighted his smirk as a new fire danced in his eye, one that had nothing to do with the sword.
The snake hissed and made its own evil smile, slowly inching forward. Its tongue flickered back and forth and it showed its fangs, which glinted dangerously in the sword's light.
The boy, only thirteen years old, raised his sword. The snake tensed as he braced his foot against the wall, ready. Its beady eyes settled squarely on his face.
At the exact same moment, they lunged for the kill.
Nyx: YES! IT'S UP!
Nyx: Hello, people of ! First of all I'd like to apologize for it taking so long for this to finally show up. You will quickly learn that I am not a patient person. You won't be either, hopefully, once this gets underway. I've been working on this for over two years with my friend Nic. Secondly I'd like to inform you that I am dancing in my seat because I am too excited to sit still. I'm more excited than a starving hellhound in a room full of free hotdogs. There are no words for this.
Nic: I could name a few.
Nyx: Next I would like to say that my name, though also that of the Greek goddess of night, has no reference to this story whatsoever. I was going to go by Mari, and I tried, but I could not bear to see this published under a different name. Nyx is my pen name and always will be, from my artwork to my stories. For anyone interested the name comes from a different story Nic and I write, one that's not a fanfiction, and will become published one day.
Nic: You're rambling.
Nyx: I have too much to say! I've waited two years! Anyway, thank you SO MUCH for all of you who never lost faith in us. I promise you all I'll make it worth the wait. As far as those of you wondering about the character POV swap, maybe even disappointed, do not worry. We will still see PLENTY of Hunter and her humor and even her thoughts, because as you may have guessed, she is not a quiet person.
Nyx: No problem. Now as I wrap this up I have one thing left to say. To all my competition out there… Nico is mine. Mine. Discussion OVER!
Nyx: Really? And there's nothing you'd like to say?
Nic: You kidding? Of course! ETHAN'S MINE, B-
Nyx: Don't finish that sentence.