Hello everyone. I know it has been a bit longer than I had promised, but I couldn't really get to this story any sooner. I have spent the last two weeks in Sochi with some friends and enjoyed the great Olympics, so there wasn't much time to write and update. Sorry, but now I'm back to work and give you a new update, not just for this story, but also for 'Romulus and Remus'. So I hope you can forgive me for the long break.
So there is not much else to say, so let's just start with the story...
Percy groaned, as he slowly pushed himself up from the ground. He felt disoriented and his head throbbed painfully. He had no idea what Circe had done to him, but whatever it was, he felt like the Minotaur had hit him... again... not the most pleasant memory.
He looked around warily, expecting an attack from the sorceress. But there was nothing. He was alone. Surrounded by the strange white mist, that prevented him from seeing anything that was further away than a few steps. Neither Ariadne, nor Zoe were anywhere in sight either.
"Ariadne!" He yelled loudly. No answer came. "Zoe!" Again there was no reply. This was most distressing. They had been just behind him mere moments ago. But at least he still had his swords. With both weapons firmly grasped in his hands, he started walking. There was no use in standing around and doing nothing. Not that his ADHD would have allowed him to stay calmly in one spot for long.
But no matter how long he walked, nothing changed. Only the mist around him and the flat ground underneath his feet. He took a deep breath and tried to feel if there was any source of water near him. But there was nothing. But then he saw something. Two lights, approaching him quickly. Only in the last moment he realized that the lights belonged to a car. He was barely able to jump out of the way, before the car would have hit him. He jumped to the side, only to land in the way of yet another car. Like a mad dancer he dashed from safe spot to safe spot, in his attempts to avoid the cars. He barely even noticed that the mist around him had cleared up and revealed a busy street of New York City.
He had finally managed to get off the street, as he finally realized where he was. He looked astonished, as he remembered this street, this place. It was here, years ago. The place where his life had changed for ever. Even the weather was the same as it was on that fateful day. That was when he saw them. His mother... and himself... his seven years old self...
"Perseus..." This whispering... this voice... he remembered it well. It had lured him away from his mother. And he could see that his younger self had heard the voice as well.
"Where are you? Stop this madness!" Percy yelled loudly. But no one answered. No one reacted. Not even the pedestrians that walked past him. It was as if he wasn't even there. A mere spectator in the tragedy that was his childhood.
He saw his younger self run away from his mother. Across the street, as if he was blind to the danger of the heavy traffic. But the boy remained unharmed... the mother though... Percy ran towards her, as fast as his feet would carry him. The cars had stopped because of the accident and the world seemed to stop for a long moment. But when he knelt down next to his mother, he could only look at her in shock. So much blood... her broken form... but no face... where her face should have been, there was only a blank space... not even here he would see the face of his mother, after his memories of her had been lost. He let out a frustrated scream, as he stood up and stumbled away from his dead mother.
It was then, when he saw him. The hooded figure, standing on the other side of the road. Standing at the place, that he had tried to reach as a young boy. And worse, the person was looking directly at him. An eery green glow was all that he could see under that hood. Before he knew what he was doing, he had already started running towards the person, both swords clutched tightly in his hands. He would get answers! He had to get answers.
"YOU! Who are you? Why are you here?" He yelled angrily. But the man mere chuckled. "Don't laugh at me! Why have you caused my mother's death? Answer me."
The man just continued to chuckle, before he pulled down his hood and revealed his pitch black hair and the haunting green eyes that Percy knew all too well. "I remember you anger, your pain. Our pain, Perseus. One day you will understand me... us."
"You... you are me..." Percy stammered in shock. "But why...?"
"Because destiny must run its course." Then he faded. Everything around Percy faded away and he was surrounded by the mist once more.
"You see now, young demigod, we are our own worst nightmare. Not the Gods, not the Titans, not the Monsters. You judge me for what I have done to your niece, yet you have directly caused the death of your own mother. Don't deny it, we both saw your own memory right now." Circe appeared suddenly and whispered in his ear. He lashed out in his anger and tried to hit her with his sword, but she evaded it with ease and laughed at him. "You are more than just a mere demigod. A champion, that is what you are. But whose champion will you be? "Olympus? Othrys? Mine? Would it be such a bad world, where I would rule instead of the gods? Think about it, Perseus." She snapped with her fingers and everything went black once more.
Back in Circe's mansion, Lou followed her sister, as the immortal sorceress left the atrium in a sedated pace. Lou could not understand what had happened moments ago. She saw her friends disappear after Percy's aggression against her sister. Who was at fault here? Her sister? Percy? She had no idea. But she hoped that Circe had not killed them...
"You must be confused about what has happened just now, my young apprentice." Circe said calmly, as she continued walking. "Do not fret, your friends are not dead. But I cannot allow them to come to my island, to my house and threaten me with bodily harm. I had to teach them a valuable lesson about life and judgment."
"No buts." Circe chided harshly. "I won't have my apprentice question my methods." The sorceress knew that she could easily control her younger sister if she wished to do so, but this wasn't a question of power, but one of loyalty. She would drill the necessary loyalty into the younger girl's head if necessary. She wanted her sister to obey out of willingly given loyalty and not because she was forced to. Daughters of the same blood should not fight each other if it could be avoided. And Lou'S potential would be squandered otherwise. "Your friends will not come to unnecessary harm, you have my word on that. But this does not concern you at the moment. We had to skip your lesson this morning, time to resume where we have left off."
Lou shuddered lightly, when she saw the cold look on Circe's face. The next lesson would not be a pleasant experience. It would be educational, at least Circe would claim that, but these kind of lessons always left a profound mark on the younger daughter of Hecate. It would be a long day, without a doubt.
Once more Percy woke up, surrounded by the mist and a resounding buzzing in his head. But this time he shot up from the ground and pulled out his weapons. Circe had been close to him, too close. And he had not even realized it. She was truly a dangerous foe. But what was the purpose of this charade? Why this effort, if she could kill him just like that? Why show him the worst day of his short life, only to rub it in that his mother's death was his own fault?
"NO! Get away from her, you damn bastard." He definitely knew that voice. Only one person would yell with such a fervor. Zoe. He just wondered who the poor guy was, who was about to get neutered by the angry Hunter. He hoped that it wasn't him.
He quickly ran through the thick mist, always heading towards the angry snarl that he had heard from Zoe. And soon the mist clear up and he could see her. It was easy to see her agitation. She stood stiffly, her bow in hand, an arrow already notched, as she stared at something not far from her. Percy followed her gaze and saw what enraged her so.
Hercules. The most famous son of Zeus stood there, a cocky grin on his face and an all too familiar sword in his hand. This confused Percy, because the very same sword was firmly in his grasp right now.
Then he saw that Hercules was not alone. There was a young girl with him, one that looked so familiar... the same silky black hair, caramel colored skin and volcanic black eyes. But the eyes of this girl lacked the hardness and loathing that he had grown accustomed to. And the girl did not wear the customary hunting outfit of Artemis' attendants, but a white Ancient Greek chiton. But there was no doubt, the girl in front of Hercules was Zoe... a younger version of her at least.
Two Zoes... Percy was not sure, whether he would survive a world with more than one angry Hunter breathing down his neck the entire time... but this younger Zoe was also different. She looked much warmer and happier than the one he knew.
"You did it, Hercules. You got the apples. The plan has worked." the younger Zoe exclaimed happily, as she hugged the son of Zeus.
"Indeed. A hard fight, but well worth it." He said, as he held up his trophy, the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. A victorious smirk appeared on Hercules face, as he relished the moment. Another labor completed. Another step closer to repentance.
"What will we do now? What will be the next task?" Zoe asked curiously.
"We?" Hercules asked.
The young Zoe looked unsure, confused by the sudden shift in his demeanor. "Well... you said..."
"I said a lot of things, girl. All I had to fulfill my labor." Hercules replied without even a hint of sympathy or understanding for the girl before him. "You were merely a way to complete this dangerous task, but I won't take you with me. No one may ever hear of your involvement, lest Hera will have another chance to punish me."
"Go back to your family, girl."
"But I can't... I want to go with you. You said..."
"You would be a burden, girl," Hercules said firmly, "Where I go, you cannot follow." And with that he turned around and left her behind. A quivering mess, a shell shocked girl that had not expected this turn of events...
"You... you damn bastard! I trusted you and you betrayed me like this!" This time it wasn't the younger Zoe, but the one Percy knew, that spoke. Her voice was void of any emotion bar loathing and hatred. She dropped her bow and pulled out her hunting knives, as she ran after Hercules.
Percy watched the scene in shock, but did not follow her at first. Instead he watched her younger self. The young Zoe wasn't alone any more. Four more girls were with her now. All of them looked eerily similar to her...
"Zoe, you have betrayed us. You have dared to help this man defile our garden and steal our apples. Our father is disgusted with your actions." One of the other girls said sternly.
"No buts. You are hereby banished from our garden and our family. Begone, stranger. You no longer have a place here." Hesperia said, before she turned around and left without looking back.
"Aegele, Erytheia, Arethusa..." She pleaded with the other girls, before they all left, one after another. Only one remained for some more moments, a sad look on her face.
"Sister..." Zoe whimpered.
"You are no sister of mine. Leave now, Zoe, and never come back." Aegele said, before she followed her other sisters. All that remained now was a broken girl, a former Hesperide that had been banished from her home. Percy could almost see the sorrow radiate off her.
Then he heard two screams. One filled with pain and anguish, the other full of anger and frustration. Both came from a Zoe. Percy watched the younger one for a moment, before he ran after the Hunter the young girl would become one day.
He saw Zoe, as she almost desperately tried to hit Hercules, as the demigod walked away from her without a care in the world. She couldn't hit him, no matter what she tried, it was as if he wasn't really there. A shade, an illusion. But Zoe still attacked him. At this rate it was only a matter of time before she would hurt herself.
"Zoe! Stop this. This isn't real, it's one of Circe's tricks." Percy yelled, as he ran after her.
He heard a mirthful chuckle, before he heard, "A trick? Maybe it is, maybe not. Maybe you are dreaming, maybe not. Maybe this is real, but you two are not." Circe whispered in his ear. He could literally feel her warm breath on his ear, but when he turned around she wasn't there.
"Why are you doing this, Circe?" Percy asked angrily.
"Still so angry. Don't you understand?" Circe asked him seriously. She suddenly appeared next to him, like an illusion created from the mist. For a moment he trough about introducing her to his swords, but he decided against it. Chances were high, that she was an illusion, just like Hercules, so an attack would have been a futile waste of energy. He would find her later and force her to free Scylla from whatever curse she had placed on his niece. "You condemn those you don't know for actions that you have not seen. Just look at Hercules and tell me what you see, demigod."
He did as she told him and watched Hercules more closely. He quickly walked away from garden, almost as if he fled from the scene. But why would he flee? He had succeeded. He had fulfilled his task and stolen the apples with Zoe's help... but then... then he saw Hercules' face and his expression... remorse...
"Why would he feel remorse? He is the most arrogant hero of all time and has wronged countless people. Why would he..."
"You, Perseus, are a narrow minded idiot." Circe stated evenly.
"This is a trick. You won't fool me, witch." Percy retorted stubbornly. "I won't be deceived by the likes of you."
Circe laughed darkly, much to his growing annoyance. "So you don't believe me? Your friend though..."
Percy's attention snapped back towards Zoe, who was still exhausting herself in the futile attempt to hurt Hercules. He knew that at this rate the only one getting hurt would be Zoe herself. He ignored Circe's mocking laughter, as he ran after Zoe, to calm her down.
"Zoe! Zoe, calm down." He yelled, as he reached her. But she ignored him. He grabbed her arm, in a futile attempt to stop her from lashing out, but she quickly broke free from his hold and resumed her one-sided fight.
"Stay out of this, Perseus. This is my fight!" She snarled angrily.
"This isn't him. This is not real, Zoe!" He tried to reason with her... but she wouldn't listen. Too great was her anger at Hercules. Too deep was the hurt she felt because of his actions. "This is a deception. Circe is messing with our minds!"
"So the little demigod has figured it out. Too bad that your companion is too far gone to realize the truth." Circe whispered in his ear.
"You won't win, witch!" He meant his words. He wouldn't allow Circe to use their memories against them. Not like this. But he had no idea what he could do for Zoe... so he did the first thing that came to his mind. He tackled Zoe to the ground and tried to keep her there until she would calm down.
"Let go of me, you damn boy!" She snarled, as she struggled against his hold. He knew that she would eventually break free. The half-titan girl was stronger than him in terms of pure physical strength. But he still tried to pin her down.
Suddenly her struggles ceased and Percy allowed himself a relieved sigh. But then he realized that she had not calmed down, but that it was a sudden shock that made her stop. Shock because of something he had done. Only belatedly he realized that in his attempts to keep her down, he had placed one of his hands very carelessly... on her chest...
He gulped as he saw the dark look on her face. He knew he should feel ashamed of literally groping her... but all he felt was dread and a premonition of impending doom. Will would most likely congratulate him for this... if he survived the next few minutes that is.
"Perseus!" Zoe growled darkly. But despite the obvious anger, he could still see the shock and the blush on her cheeks. He had no doubt that only very few people had ever touched her like this... and now he would pay the price for this unfortunate mishap. "You damn! I knew that you are just like the rest of them! Just another despicable..."
He barely managed to avoid the first fist that sailed his way. But the second impacted painfully with his chin.
"Ouch! Calm down, will you." Percy said, as he jumped off her. Now a knife missed his head by mere inches. "Calm down. I'm sorry." It was a highly volatile situation. Zoe was enraged and emotionally unstable. This would end very badly for him... He had to distract her from her anger at him. "But what was that? Is this why you hate all men? Is it Hercules fault?"
She stopped momentarily, looking at him with an odd mixture of shock and pain. "That... I..."
"He betrayed you, didn't he?" Percy pressed on.
"He told me that he would take me with him... if I helped him with his task..."
"And you believed him. You helped him, but he broke his promise." He could see the pain on her face, in her eyes increase with every word. He didn't want to open up old wounds like this, but this was his only chance to escape this situation without loosing essential parts of the male anatomy. And it obviously worked. Never before had he seen the austere lieutenant of Artemis' hunters this vulnerable. "But I am not like him, Zoe. I am not Hercules. I won't betray your trust like he did. When I promised you to follow you to Olympus after my Quest, I kept my promise. You trusted me and I did not disappoint you. Despite all your misconceptions about me, I never acted in the way you expected me to. I am better than him, as a man and as a hero."
"No... you are just like the rest..." Zoe whispered almost inaudibly.
"No! This right now was an accident. I tried to help you."
"YES!" He insisted stubbornly. "And none of this is real. This is Circe's doing. She is messing with our heads"
"Dammit, Zoe. Stop being so god damn stubborn. This is an illusion. She uses our worst memories to torture us. Trust me, Zoe." He looked imploringly at her. She had obviously calmed down by now... but he couldn't be sure whether she would still seek retribution for his wandering hands before...
"This isn't real?" She asked. He nodded. "But why?"
"Beats me. But this witch is evil. I have seen what she has done to my niece and no matter the reason, her actions were despicable and cruel. Who knows what she plans to achieve with this."
Zoe remained silent for several more minutes, as she calmed herself down. When she finally moved again, she quickly approached Percy, who watched with slight unease as she got closer. Before he could react, she punched him in the face. Then she said, "That was for groping me. Be glad that I will not tell milady about this incident or else you would spend the rest of your days as a critter."
He massaged his aching jaw, as he watched he warily. But he was truly glad that none of this would reach Lady Artemis' ears. And now that Zoe was at least back to her man-hating self and acted at least as sane as possible for a hunter, there was only one question left unanswered. "Any idea how we might escape this place?"
Will looked around in exasperation, as he searched for the elusive little demigoddess, that had escaped their group. So far Diana had proven to be more than a hand full. She was extremely curious and energetic. Never before had he encountered a child like her. Not at camp, not even back home.
Home. Under different circumstances he would be home right now. With his mother and her family, his half siblings and cousins. He should be at school right now, waiting eagerly for the summer break, so he could return to Camp Half-blood. But instead he was here, on an island in the middle of a monster infested ocean, searching for a child he had tried to kill not long ago... not his most pleasant memory... He sure loved this adventure, but he could see how the constant danger and trouble had started to change him and the others. Especially Percy.
He pushed the negative thoughts aside with a weary sigh and tried to think of something much more pleasant. Like the fact that apparently all other people on this island happened to be female. Young and beautiful girls, with an exotic allure that he could barely ignore.
He heard someone giggle not far from him. A youthful, bell like sound. A sound he knew well enough by now. It came from the other side of the building he stood next to at the moment. So he looked for a way to the back, finding an open door that allowed him access to the small house. Only in hindsight he realized that he had just ran into a changing room, without paying attention to his surroundings. He truly thanked his good luck, the last thing he would have needed was to cause a scene by running into some girl, while she was changing. That would have been very awkward to explain.
When he arrived at the other side, he found a large pool and two people swimming in it. One of the happened to be Diana. The daughter of Nike obviously enjoyed herself, as she competed with a woman in swimming. The girl obviously had no chance, but that only caused Diana to try harder.
"Diana" Will called her loudly. The girl smiled happily, when she saw the son of Apollo and swam over to him.
"Will. Come, swim with us."
"Nah, I'm not much of a swimmer. And we really should go and find the others." Will said patiently, as he helped the small girl getting out of the pool.
But the girl had other ideas. She smirked impishly, as she took his offered hand. Instead of allowing him to pull her out, she tried to pull him down into the water. And she would have succeeded, had it not been for the interference of the other person in the pool.
"Diana, what are you doing?" The girl asked accusingly.
"Was that a question or an answer?" The girl inquired further. But then she looked at Will and her gaze turned several degrees colder. "Oh, it's you." She stated simply.
"Nede... what a surprise... this is most... unexpected." Will said nervously. "Are your sisters here as well?"
"Why do I get the feeling that you are following me, demigod? I came here to relax after having to deal with you and now you show up again." Nede was obviously not amused by meeting Will again, only days after she had to get him out of a tight spot.
"This is not what it looks like. I did not know that you are here, I swear. I was just looking for this little troublemaker. I'll just take her with me and we'll be gone."
"And you would leave your sister here?" Nede asked.
"Your sister. This Ariadne girl. She is inside, resting."
"That... is unexpected. I thought she was with Percy right now..." Will said, a puzzled look on his face. If Ariadne was here, was Percy nearby as well?
"Yeah we found her sleeping under a tree not far from here. But we couldn't wake her up, so we brought her here to rest and went swimming to pass the time." Diana chirped cheerfully, unwittingly causing the boy great worry.
"Unconscious? But why? And where are Percy and that crazy Hunter?"
"We found only your sister. Your friend and Artemis' lackey are not here." Nede said, as she climbed out of the pool. "Come, I'll take you to her."
Will nodded and allowed her to lead him back inside the house. And true enough, inside he found Ariadne, lying on a bench. But she was tossing restlessly in her sleep and he quickly ran to her side, worried for his sister's well being.
"Ariadne!" He shook her shoulder roughly, in an attempt to wake her up, but she just continued tossing. "Come on, sis, wake up."
"We already tried, but she wouldn't wake. We have to wait until this dream is over or whatever or whoever controls her sleep stops." Nede watched with irritation, as Will ignored her and continued his futile efforts to wake his sister up.
He gently took her face in his hands and tried to pry her eyes open with his thumbs. His effort was quickly rewarded, though not like he had intended. A knee was rammed into his stomach and he landed on the ground, underneath his sister, who no stared at him, her eyes wide open, but slightly out of focus. She had her hands on his collar.
"Ariadne. Hey, relax, it's me, Will." The boy said.
"Will... but..." She let go of him and rolled to the side. She still looked completely disoriented. "Where am I?"
"In a changing room, somewhere in this resort. I kinda lost orientation a while ago..." Will admitted, albeit abashed.
"PERCY! Where is he?"
"Not here. Why? What has happened?"
"Circe... she did something when Percy tried to attack her... She..."
Suddenly the front door of the small house was thrown open and a staff member of the resort entered. The woman look distressed, near panic even. And just judging by her haggard breath, it was obvious that she had been in great hurry.
"Everyone must leave the resort at once. It is no longer safe to be here. The administration has ordered an island wide evacuation." The woman said in between long breaths.
"What? But why? I paid for my stay here, why should I leave?" Nede asked suspiciously.
"The island is under attack. All guests must leave, it is for your own safety."
Nede frowned even more when she heard this. "Who would attack a resort full of immortals and minor gods?"
"Pirates? What the hell?" Will couldn't help himself but wonder. The stay on this island couldn't get any weirder. Now he would have to find his friends and get passed these... pirates... somehow he couldn't shake the feeling that he was in the wrong movie...
A/N: And so the trouble begins. But that is for the next chapter. Please don't try to kill me, this time it isn't such a bad cliffhanger...
At this point I believe that it is necessary for me to actually talk a bit about Hercules. Most stories here on FF like to show him as an arrogant chauvinist, but don't care to understand why he left Zoe behind. First of all, Hercules is one of the, if not the greatest of all greek heroes. But he is also one of those who have suffered the most in their life. Hera did everything in her power to make him suffer for being a son of Zeus. Hera cursed him with insanity, making him kill his first wife, Megara, and his three children. His second wife, Omphale, kept him as a slave. His third wife, Deianira, was later tricked into killing him in the most painful way imaginable, by the Centaur Nessus. He really had no luck in his life and only suffered most of the time.
But what he did to Zoe was rather understandable and easily explained. First of all the Hesperides rarely left their garden, so the daughter's of Atlas were rather... fond of males that visited their garden. So fond they would do anything to keep them in the garden. So it is believable that Zoe helped him willingly, without much convincing on his part. But when he left her behind, the reasons for that can be rather understandable. His life was dangerous. He was in the middle of his labours, dangerous tasks that were life threatening. So taking an unwitting girl with him would not have been very wise. Not to mention that he had just killed his first wife before he had to do his labours as atonement, so he was most likely not fond of permanent female company at that time. And about him denying her involvement in completing his labour is just as understandable. Eurystheus, the man who had forced Hercules to do the labors to atone for killing his own family, had originally given him ten labours to fulfill. But Eurystheus hated Hercules and wouldn't see two of the tasks as fulfilled. One of them was not accepted, because Hercules had the help of his nephew Iolaus. So admitting that Zoe had helped him get the apples would have given Eurystheus the chance to force Hercules to do another task, something that Hercules did not want to happen. So it is very likely that Zoe's treatment had not been out of arrogance or spite, but for very understandable reasons. So please, people, don't just go and bash him in every single story you write with him. I have seen it in so many Pertemis or Percy/Zoe stories that Hercules is nothing more than a chauvinist pig and that is just plain wrong.
Ah well, I'm babbling again and some people have complained before that they don't care about my ANs... oh well.
Until next time then...