Percy's POV- Chapter 17

Pep: hi! I never got to formally apologize to you guys for the four month hiatus, but here goes- I'm so, so, so sorry. It's also not Qwerty's fault at all. You guys are so great for keeping up with this story. I hope you enjoy this chapter, because it's not really what you expect.

Disclaimer- neither Qwerty nor I own any characters. :)

The road to Magycan was interminable. I could see in Annabeth's cloudy gray eyes, the Stoll brothers' trudging paces, and the glare Thalia sent my way every time I said "just a little further" (in what I thought was an encouraging fashion) that we desperately needed to stop and set up camp, but we still had miles to go. I wasn't even sure if we had a lot of time left. Also, who knew if the other bandits and- gods forbid, Luke- were following us?

Then a thought occurred to me- why walk when we can fly?

In a swift motion, I brought my fingers to my lips and whistled loudly. They have said Pegasi have even better hearing than dogs and wolves, and I silently hoped that this was true. Along with the whistle, I shouted a telepathic thought to Blackjack: bring your friends!

In only a few moments, large figures appeared in the dawning sky. Blackjack settled next to me, rearing his head and flapping his wings in a welcoming gesture. I looked over to Annabeth, who was petting a pinto Pegasus's nose and murmuring softly to it. Then, I realized something strange. Annabeth was... Talking to the Pegasus?

I looked over to Thalia, and she turned her head to meet my gaze. We shared the same knowing glance as a thought passed between us- only royals can talk to Pegasi. Annabeth must have forgotten our little chat about the ownership of Pegasi. Things kept becoming clearer and clearer, the pieces of the puzzle coming together.

If Annabeth was betrothed to that heinous duke, she was obviously from either a very wealthy family, or... no. She couldn't be royalty.

But, yes. She could be.

Thalia sighed deeply, petting her own Pegasus, Bolt. He was one of the prettier Pegasi coursers that I had ever seen, with shimmering silver wings and an overgrown white mane and tail. As for the Stolls, they were grimacing at their own Pegasi, two identical brown barrel ponies. I snickered, earning a sour look from both of them.

Annabeth smiled at her courser, still murmuring quietly before turning to me. "Isn't Porkpie the sweetest?" She said, her gray eyes now alight and shining.

My smirk fell a little as my thoughts turned back to Annabeth's past, but I was interrupted by Blackjack's telepathic link as I heard his internal sigh.

Oh, yes, she is the sweetest. Blackjack liked Porkpie? This struck me as really funny, and I laughed a little. Blackjack turned to me, folding his ears back.

Be quiet, Boss, he reprimanded. Who wouldn't like Porkpie? Plus, she's one of the only ones out of my flock who helped me, even though she got thrown out along with me.

"Okay, okay, Blackjack, your decisions are completely justified," I said, mounting him. I turned to the rest of our crew, who had also gotten on the backs of their Pegasi.

Annabeth, still completely enamored with Porkpie (along with Blackjack, who couldn't stop filling my mind with love ballads) turned to me, suddenly worried. "I don't know how to ride a Pegasus, Percy."

I smiled slightly. "You rode Blackjack when we first met. You'll be fine."

She bit her lip, her eyebrows furrowing together. "But that was when I had you to cling onto."

Thalia broke in, both concerned and annoyed. "We need to move out, now. Annabeth, you'll be fine. Let's go before the bandits or daylight catch up with us."

Annabeth, a bit sheepish, urged Porkpie to fly. Soon, we all took off, flying into the horizon.

Despite worrying about daylight coming and the fear that people would see us, it turned out our concerns weren't even necessary. A dark purple cloud hung over the kingdom of Magycan, which Blackjack recognized. I felt him tense up- he hated this place.

Boss, he started, Pegasi aren't allowed in the Magycan city limits. Maybe this wasn't the complete truth, but I patted his neck and said, "it's okay, buddy. You can fly off once we land." He relaxed after that.

Once we did land, Annabeth looked very sorry to see Porkpie go. "I'll miss you, too, sweetheart," she said, and Porkpie whinnied sadly in response. The Stolls pretended not to care about the brown ponies, but I distinctly heard Travis say, "I'll steal you a carrot sometime, buddy."

Thalia, however, didn't dismount from Bolt's back. Our group turned to look at her in question. "Guys... I can't come with you." She sounded desperate, like she had to do something.

"Why not?" The Stolls said at the same time. Thalia looked down at her lap as Bolt danced impatiently in place, his shimmering wings dulled by the purple sky.

"The Pegasi are revolting in Aeroside," she reported. "They hate bowing to humans and especially royalty." She gulped. "There may be a war. And there's this boy who's on the Pegasi's side, helping them. Bolt tells me the Pegasi adopted him into their fold because a commoner left him to the wolves to die at a young age."

"Wait," Annabeth said. "How does Bolt know the information if he's not a part of the flock anymore?"

"He's still a part of the flock," Thalia admitted. "He just came back to ask me something."

"What?" I demanded. "What did he ask you?"

"He asked me," Thalia said, taking a shuddering breath, "to join the Pegasi. To join this boy."

"You can't!" I almost screamed. "Don't you remember the first Pegasi war? It was over the same exact thing! Human warriors and Pegasi warriors alike, littering the battleground, dead. Do you think there isn't a risk?" I was screaming now. "You can't, Thalia, you can't. I won't let you!"

"It's not your job to let me!" She argued. "I make my own decisions. And I decide to do what I've been needing to do since day one- go against my father. I have to do this, Percy. You can't stop me. There's no way. Even if you chased after me on Blackjack, he's not part of the flock anymore. And plus, Bolt gave me an ultimatum. Join him, or never see him again."

"Oh, so you care more about Bolt than you care about me?" I said angrily, venom in my tone. "You'd rather go off with Bolt than me, just for the sake of taking revenge on your own father?"

"Percy," she said, her voice dangerously low, "you of all people know what my father did. You of all people know what I'm going through. You of all people know because your father did the exact same thing. You can't tell me you don't feel it, too. You can't tell me you don't feel the anger I feel towards my own father for throwing my mother away, tossing her into a manure heap, like she's manure, too, fit for the pigs. I don't think you understand what our fathers did, Percy. You know your father isn't a saint, obviously, but maybe you were too small to realize what he did. What both of them did."

I was speechless, angry, worried, waiting for her to continue. "They threw them into Mortuus's pit," she seethed, "without a second thought. Although, my father is so much worse than yours. At least your father actually cared for your real mother. He had an affair with her because he felt it was his duty, yes, but he also loved her. He'd loved her but couldn't marry her because she was but a commoner. But my father," she scoffed, "my father didn't love my mother. He wanted some fun, some time away from his queen. He came to my mother's door because he knew she was a drunkard and it was easy. He came because she was already dead inside, because her mind was lost and her heart was withered."

Thalia was crying now, a surreal scene to see, since Thalia was one of the strongest people I knew. "She'd seen her true love get stabbed through the heart because he stole a slice of bread. A slice of bread, Percy, and he gets the death sentence. And she never recovered. And the thing was, she worked at the castle. She was my nurse until I was six, and I didn't even know she was my birth mother. The last words I ever heard her say were 'never fall in love', because she honestly believed them. She believed she was a dead thing, not worthy to be full of anything but a couple bottles of wine. And do you know, Percy, that Hera, my stepmother, believed I was hers? For those first three years of my life, I had her blonde hair, light as sunshine against a window pane. But then a curse fell upon me, and my hair turned black, black as my true mother's heart, and Hera knew. She knew what my father had done. She came in my room that night and beat me because, to her, I was at fault. I was the outcome, the reminder, the thing she wanted gone. So I vowed I would leave. I owed Hera for those first few years, the years when she loved me. And when you sent me that letter, asking me for help, I thought, this is my ticket out. This is my chance to do something, to get back at my father. And all the days we stole, all the days we gave back, I was waiting for us to target the land of my father. But then, I thought, this would hurt Hera. I didn't want to hurt Hera, for in reality she had not done anything wrong. She hated me, but that didn't create a cause for me to hate her back. No. I hated one person and one person only."

Her face hardened. "My father. And now I have even more reason to hate him, because guess what? He had another affair with my birth mother, who he should have left alone. He should have let her die in peace. But, no, he had another child with her. And then he left that very child to the wolves and my mother to lie in wait for death in the worst place on earth- the pit of Mortuus, where things writhe in pain for eternity but never die, a pit created by Magycanians who were paid by the king of Mortuus."

Then it came together- Thalia had a brother she had never met. She was doing this not only for her, but for him and her real mother. For the little bit of family she had left.

I look over to Annabeth, whose mouth is gaping in astonishment as tears roll down her face. I look back at Thalia, whose eyes are closed. "Let me do this, Percy," she says simply, and I could only nod in reply.

She looks at me for a moment before dismounting and calming Bolt, so he would know for sure that she was not reconsidering. She walks over to me and places her hands on my shoulders. "I love you, Percy. And I'm sorry."

"I love you, too," I say, and then I'm five again and I've just met her but I've scraped my knee from running in the corridors and I'm crying and crying and I hardly notice her as she walks up to me and hugs me, a complete stranger. She was only a toddler, but she'd already known more sorrow than I ever had. She told me not to cry because crying doesn't fix your problems. Actions do.

And this was her, taking action. Taking a stand. Who was I to stand in the way of her?

"Don't die," I whimpered, feeling like I was crushed under a giant's boot.

She smiles. Holds my wet cheek, ruffles my hair. She looks at me, sadly, like she knows this might very well be the last moment we'll ever see each other and she's memorizing everything about me. She hugs me for a very long time. Then she takes a silver ring with strange inscriptions from her finger and slips it on my pinky finger, since my hands are bigger than hers. I want to ask her what it means, or what it does, but I felt that if I said anything more she would hug me again and never let go.

"I won't," she says. She turns away from me, like she can't bear to look at me anymore without falling apart. She walks over and hugs Annabeth tightly, then whispers something in her ear. Annabeth nods solemnly. Then she hugs the Stoll brothers, who are crying, too, and she punches them both on their shoulders because she never could bear to see such mischievous people, who were full of laughter and sarcastic comments, look so despairing. She hugs them tight.

Then, in one fluid motion, she mounts Bolt. Gives me one last glance. And we watch her urge Bolt into the sky, up and up and up, until she's only a speck in the purple cloud. And then she's gone.

Annabeth runs over to me and hugs me so hard that I know it's because she's afraid I might leave, too.

"Uh, guys," I hear Connor say. Annabeth releases her hold on me, and we both turn to look at him. "I think we-" He's interrupted by a person in purple robes, one who covers his mouth with a cloth. He whimpers in alarm, but it's too late to warn us.

We're surrounded by guards under the same purple sky, but no longer in the woods we landed in. Suddenly I realize we're somehow standing right in front of an iron clad gate with an inscription on it reading "MAGUS EST SEMPER VICTOR", which the educated part of me translates to mean "The magician is always the winner."

As a cloth fills my mouth, a strange smell enters my nose and I'm suddenly very, very tired. All I can see that registers is a girl cloaked in purple with rage red hair who says my name.

"Percy, so very good to see you again."

please review if you have any questions or comments! Everything will be answered in the end :) -Pep & Qwert