Set after the Heroes of Olympus series, assuming that said heroes win and all of them survive. This story won't focus on Jason or Piper or any of the newer characters very much because I don't like them so much. They'll probably pop up every now and then, though.
Once, many years ago now, I was called the greatest demigod ever. The bravest and best hero ever to hold a sword in Greek history. I recovered the master bolt for Zeus, found the long lost golden fleece, held the sky whilst trying not to get killed by an evil giant, navigated the labyrinth, defeated Kronos and all of his armies. I'm not trying to boast, but you've got admit – I had a pretty impressive CV. It was a difficult life, an impossible quest every other day, but mostly a good one. Back then, I had friends. My cyclops half-brother. The rest of the Heroes of Olympus. A beautiful, smart and dangerous girlfriend who had once told me that it didn't matter what we did as long as we were together. Haven't seen her in a while.
What you've got to understand is that I'm an outlaw. After my last mission, the greatest of them all, the Olympians summoned me to their throne room. I told them my story, the story of how I'd managed to fight through an ever replenishing army of monsters in the place where they were most powerful. I'd closed the Doors of Death and stopped the return of Gaea, the being the gods feared most. It wasn't as if I was expecting great rewards of godship and favour (I've already been offered those), but a thank you would've been nice. Instead, Zeus told me that I was too powerful to be kept in the hidden modern Greek world. The king of the gods argued that my stroll through the epitome of suffering and pain (a nice place called Tartarus) had unhinged me and that I was a loose cannon. He narrowly won the vote and that was that. I was given twenty four hours to isolate myself at an acceptable distance from Manhattan. And that's how I got here five years ago - I've been alone ever since.
Where was 'here'? I wasn't quite sure. It was certainly a nice place though, a lovely beach which nobody has seemed to find. I didn't know whether the gods have played some part in making sure that I'd had no visitors, but it certainly seemed strange to me that such a lovely beach had been ignored for half a decade. I could enjoy a relatively comfortable life there. Animals and food were plentiful, I'd managed to build myself a workable shack and for those times that I got really lonely, I could take a dip in the sea and talk to some of the creatures. The sea seemed to go on forever and the water was as clean as any that I'd ever seen. On the top of the beach, where there was soft, yellow sand, I'd built my hut. It was smaller than a single room in a normal house, but there was enough space to keep everything that I needed. The wood seemed good, stable and sturdy and there weren't too many leaks through the straw ceiling. And only about one hundred metres from where I'd laid my base, there was a lush forest full to the brim of untouched materials and food. So my situation could've been worse. Over the last few months I'd been remembering Calypso, who was in a similar state of isolation as me. She had a lovely island, but she got barely a visitor every thousand years. I often wondered how my life would've changed had I decided to stay with her. I wish I had now.
That night, after eating my staple dinner of roasted rabbit with the various herbs that I could pick up in the nearby forest, I had to tuck up into my blanket even more than usual. Winter was coming - my least favourite part of the year. My powers decreased, and I had to use fire more and more, an element that I could never really trust. I squashed myself into a ball and hugged the animal skin blankets tight. On the edge of falling asleep, I heard a low growl on the other side of the thin wooden wall of my shack. It was not the growl of a normal dog, or even a wolf. No, it was even deeper, more raspy and infinitely more sinister. My survival instincts, or what I had left of them after five years of not needing them, told me that it was a mythological creature and that I wouldn't have much time before it was at the entrance to the shack. I took my faithful pen from my pocket, one of the few magic items that I had been allowed to keep, and stepped to the door. Whatever it was, it didn't approach but I could hear it bounding around nearby. Every time its paws it the ground there was an earth shaking thump, and by the pattern of these these bounds I could tell that it was a four legged creature. I stepped out into the darkness, following the sound. It was hardly a subtle animal, and even an abysmal tracker like me could trace it. I kept on its trail for the next few minutes, a few minutes which felt like much longer as I got further and further away from my little home. It wouldn't be long before I'd be in unexplored territory and in the darkness it wouldn't be easy to find my way back. Suddenly, the beast stopped and the forest went quiet. I started to run forwards, knowing that if it had stopped then I'd be able to catch up. I followed the massive paw prints until the trail stopped, but still the creature was nowhere in sight.
It's more subtle than I thought, I silently told myself. It was as if this obviously massive predator had just vanished into thin air. I stood in the centre of the forest clearing, fifty metre tall trees obscuring all but the night sky. There was no sound, not even a rabbit rustling around in the bushes or an owl going out to hunt.
My frustration and fear got the better of me. "Where are you!" I bellowed into the night. Birds flew from their nests into the sky, I heard the growl again behind me. Slowly, my heart thumping more than it had in years, I turned to face it. I was greeted by a slobbery lick from my favourite hellhound.
"Mrs O'Leary!" I laughed in delight. Smiling literally hurt, I obviously hadn't done it in ages. "You scared the life out of me, girl!"
I couldn't speak dog, but I assumed that an even bigger slobbery lick meant that she missed me too.
"How did you find me, you clever girl?"
She didn't get a chance to reply this time, saving my face from a layer of dog saliva, as a gleaming silver stick came flying through the air and buried itself in the hellhound's side. Panic overtook me again, as the first company that I'd had in as long as I could remember screamed in pain and rage. I controlled her, knowing that the wound would not be too serious. I pulled the silver arrow from her side and examined it, bringing back a long distant memory. Something that I hadn't thought about in a long time.
"Hunters of Artemis!" I pleaded into the night, "Please do not fire. We are not enemies."
There was no response for a few seconds and I was sure that another arrow was going to come flying from the darkness. I threw my sword to the floor. It would appear in my pocket again soon but the gesture was still important.
"I surrender, please don't shoot."
A familiar voice came from the bushes behind me, one of the many voices that I had longed for in my exile. "I never thought I'd hear you say that, Jackson."
I turned around to face my friend, my cousin, Thalia Grace. Her arms were spread, inviting me for a hug. I tried to stop myself from going. Her hunters had just shot my dog, but also I knew that it would get both of us into trouble. I was supposed to stay away from other demigods and she was supposed to stay away from boys. But soon I found myself in the warmth of her arms.
I don't know how long we were there for, it could've been any amount of time between thirty seconds and a few minutes but I ended up breaking the silence. "S'great to see you, Thals."
"You too, Seaweed Brain." She replied coyly.
Of course, our moment had to be interrupted. "Thalia Grace, step away from the boy and come over here. Now."
The voice was calm, yet it was obvious that whoever was speaking was furious. It was cold, yet I got the impression that it could be a lovely and pleasant voice if the speaker was in a different mood. I had heard the proud tones before, they belonged to an Olympian. The very Olympian who's vote had exiled me. Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt.
Thalia looked at me apologetically as she pulled away and started to walk back to the bushes. The hunters were standing up now, their cover ruined, and I realised that I was surrounded. Somehow I didn't feel like it was me in danger, though. I just wanted to get away, escape back to my shack by the sea with the ever faithful Mrs O'Leary. But most importantly, I wanted to get away from the Goddess of the Hunt – my least favourite Olympian. My memory flicked back to that last time that I'd been in front of all of the major Gods and Goddesses.
"All those who vote for the boy to go into exile, raise your hands now." Zeus boomed. His hand was the first to raise, followed swiftly by Ares and Hera's. There were thirteen Gods present for the vote: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Athena, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hestia. Hermes was the next to raise his hand, maybe he was bitter about Luke or something, but I figured that I was relatively safe with the rest of them. I'd done most of them a personal favour at some point. Athena decided to put her hand up. The only thing which surprised me about this was that she hadn't done it earlier. The majority was still with me though, with 7 keeping their hands down. That was until Aphrodite's hand elegantly spiralled into the air. I was shocked by this after all of the flirting, all of the tea parties that she'd invited me to. She winked at me, telling me that she was still on my side but that somehow this was going to help me. It was deadly close, but I was sure that I was going to still escape. I still had Hades, Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Dionysus and Hestia on my side.
Zeus seemed to be doing the same maths as me. "Anybody else?" He asked hopefully.
Poseidon sighed in relief. "The vote is cast, brother. Let us rejoice our victory."
Artemis shifted from her slumped, bored position on her throne and her eyes looked down to the floor. Her foot shifted around some of the dust on the floor. "Wait. I also vote for his exile."
I looked at her in shock, memories of that day when we met the giant Atlas in battle. I had tracked her down with the rest of the team and fought the giant before taking the sky for her, a weight which could've crushed me. Now she was voting that for me to be cast from my world and thrown into the wild, isolated from everybody I loved. I couldn't speak. I had lost the vote.
There was silence in the room as everybody realised that the decision had been made. My father made one last attempt to save me but I knew that he was mostly powerless to help me, an odd word to use for a god. "Artemis, are you sure?"
Her eyes still didn't look up from the floor, unable to meet anybody else's. If she had a reason then she wasn't sharing it. Apollo was looking at her with a strange expression on his face.
My memory ended there, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Before that particular incident, Artemis had always seemed to be one of the better Olympians to me. She was one of the few Olympians who were both moralistic and amiable. But then that vote had come and, well, you know what happened after that. I felt the eyes of tens of hunters on me, looks of disgust doubtlessly on their faces. I'd my fair share of time with the hunt and I knew their ways, the fundamental idea which was drilled into them from day one – men are pigs.
"Come on, girl." I said quietly to my oversized pet, which the hunters had been following. The arrow didn't seem to have affected her too much, her pelt being strong enough to deflect it, but perhaps staying would be tempting fate. And so it was that I left that forest clearing and made my way back, with company, to the wooden shelter that I called home.
I got on well with Artemis, don't get me wrong. She was a good friend, a relative, and also my leader. She was the perfect companion for a battle, cool-headed, calm, crafty and also a fighter to be feared. I always respected a good fighter. But that night, I felt my respect for her go down in a landslide.
"I don't see why you can't let me talk to him." I argued stubbornly. "He's my friend, my cousin, and I haven't spoken to him for five years."
Artemis shook her head calmly, deflecting the anger which was being thrown at her. "He is a boy and an outlaw."
My stance represented the epitome of aggression – clenched fists, crossed arms and a stomping foot. "Don't make me bring this up again. Why is he an outlaw? What has he done to deserve it? Why didn't you stop them from making this happen?"
Never had I been this hostile to my leader, but if it was shocking or unsettling her then she didn't let it show. "Thalia, I am going to tell you something that I probably should've told you a very, very long time ago." She said with a deep sigh, taking a seat by the strategy table in her tent. She gestured for me to do so too. "For all of this time I have wrongly lead you to believe that I tried to stop them from outlawing your friend. But I will tell you the truth if you promise to hear me out."
I nodded stiffly.
"Your friend was winning the discussion with seven votes to Zeus' six. I didn't know what to do because in truth, Thalia, I was scared. Of all of the boys that I have ever met, Poseidon's son is probably the only one who I respect. But at the same time, I knew that he could be dangerous. I got the feeling that he was sitting on the fence between being on our side and not."
I couldn't hold myself any longer and I interrupted with an impolite outburst. "That's ridiculous! Percy would never join the Titans."
"That's not what I said, Thalia." Artemis replied with Chiron-like patience. "Please, let me finish. I felt that he only fought for us because we were better than the Titans, the lesser of two evils. Somebody with the amount of power that he had and his feelings towards us on Olympus could be dangerous. I had to make a split-second decision and I eventually sided with Zeus. My vote was the one that send your friend into exile."
"Why won't you say his name, my lady?" I asked quietly. "His name is Percy!"
An expression ghosted very briefly across her face, it looked very much to me like regret or guilt but soon it was gone. "Go and see your friend. I expect you back and ready to leave at dawn."
Sleeping doesn't come easy when there's a massive black beast with matted fur inches away from you, or when a parade of man-hating lethal archer women are camped within range of your bed. The night was cold and my head was full or resurfacing memories which I didn't want to face. So you can see that I wasn't set to have a peaceful snooze. Mrs O'Leary next to me, however, she was doing just fine. She seemed to have forgotten about the fact that a large silver arrow had been sticking out of her only about an hour ago. I couldn't believe that I was finding myself jealous of a dog. There came a knock at the entrance to my humble abode, only around a couple of metres from where I was sleeping.
"I'm asleep." I shouted dryly.
"Can I come in?" A voice which I instantly recognised as being Thalia's came from outside.
She seemed to take my silence as me saying, 'yes! Come in and make yourself comfortable', as she strolled in casually and took a seat by the side of my makeshift bed.
I rolled my eyes, trying to hide how ridiculously happy I was to see her. "What are you doing here?"
She seemed to take this as an insult and I realise that I probably did sound a bit hostile. "I can go if you want." She offered, standing up.
I mentally slapped myself. "No, Thalia. That came out wrong, I guess I haven't talked to another person for so long."
She smiled at me sympathetically. Or maybe it was a glare. It was difficult to see in the darkness. "Still a charmer, 'ey, Seaweed Brain?"
I flinched at the pet name that Annabeth had invented for me. More unwelcome memories flowed through my mind. "Are you not going to get into trouble for being here?" I asked, ignoring her previous statement.
She shook her head, examining the interior of my shack. "I've got permission this time, but only for a few hours. Thought you might like a chat."
I nodded gratefully. "Thank you. I've got a lot of questions."
We talked about how the world had changed in the last five years, how the camp was going, what it was like being exiled, the hunt and tonnes more. A stream of questions, complaints and suggestions flew from my mouth, excited by the fact that I didn't just have to talk to myself now. Thalia was a surprisingly good listener. But by the time that Thalia had to go back, I still hadn't asked the one question that I needed to ask.
"One last thing, Thals." I took her hand, preventing her from leaving. Not for the first time that evening, I noticed how weird it was for her to still be fifteen and me to be twenty two. "How's Annabeth?"
For the first time in the conversation, Thalia's eyes left mine. "I... I don't really know. I only see her a few times a year."
I looked at her questioningly, my expression showing her that I knew she wasn't telling the full truth.
"Look, Percy. You probably don't need to know." Her fingers began to fiddle with the bracelet on her arm, always a sign of her nervousness.
"Just tell me, Thals." I pleaded, pushing her chin up so that our eyes met again.
Thalia sighed, I almost felt guilty for making her say this, but I needed know. "She's moved on, found herself a new boyfriend and a new life. But Percy, it's not her fault. Why would she ever assume that you'll ever return?"
"Why couldn't she have come with me in the first place, eh?" I snapped angrily, losing my temper pretty fast.
Thalia shook her head as if a little disappointed in me. "That's a bit unfair, Percy. Nobody wants to be outlawed, I would've thought that you'd know that better than anyone. I bet that losing you was a really difficult choice for her."
My anger didn't waver and my grip on her hand tightened. "You know what she promised me, just before we went into Tartarus? She told me that it doesn't matter what we do, as long as we're together. I followed her into the worst hell on earth, she won't come with me on an extended camping trip."
Thalia looked at me, interest and pity on her face. "You're like me, now. I can feel it. You've decided that you don't want any relationships any more, haven't you?"
I simply nodded, not enquiring how she could possibly have 'felt' that. A wolf howled in the distance and we both knew that it was time for her to return to her hunters. Time for me to return to my state of loneliness.
"Go on," I said, resignedly with a gesture to the door. "Go back to her."
A new look washed over Thalia's face, I could almost see a light bulb pop up above her head. "I've got an idea. Come with me."
Before I could object, Thalia pulled me from the hut and towards the hunter camp. I was amazed at how well she could find her way in the pitch black – her sense of direction was obviously incredible. There was silence for a few minutes of the journey before she saw fit to actually grace me with the details of her master plan.
"She, is the only one who can get you out of exile." Thalia explained. "I'm going to take you to my lady. Charm her, beg her, plead with her for a re-vote, and persuade her that she voted incorrectly last time."
Thalia was very accomplished at making extremely complicated things seem easy, to persuade the stubborn goddess who hated guys that I was a good guy, that was definitely not easy. And not to mention the problem of getting me to the goddess in the first place, considering that she'd be surrounded by fellow guy-hating, long ranged killing machines.
"State your name and business!" A loud, feminine voice came from fifteen metres in front of us.
"Thalia Grace, I am a hunter like you."
"There is somebody with you."
Thalia hesitated, probably wondering whether she should try to sneak me through the camp or just tell the truth. "His name is Percy Jackson and he has an audience with our lady." She decided the latter.
"Thalia," I hissed angrily into her ear. "This isn't going to work."
"No males are allowed inside camp boundaries unless with express permission from Artemis." The watch woman told us gruffly. "Thalia, you can pass but if your friend takes another step forward then I will open fire."
"Just go," I told Thalia bitterly. Although I'd always had my misgivings with the plan, I'd really hoped that we were on to something.
She sighed and started her way forward. I reached out to grab her with the intention of rebuking her for not giving me a goodbye hug, but there was the swift swish of an arrow sailing through the air. I let out a scream as it embedded itself in my shoulder with a low thump. I could vaguely hear Thalia screaming at the watch woman and the latter trying to defend herself by saying that I'd taken a step forward. I fell to my knees, my senses dumbing.
"Was this part of the plan?" I managed to ask Thalia before my eyes closed and everything was black.
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