I'm so so so sorry for making you wait this long!
Sunlight glared through the window and scorched Percy's retina, and he shielded his eyes to gawk at the girl who stood before him.
"I don't know!" She groaned in reply, throwing her hands up in the air. "I just—in my dream, I saw a teenager with white hair talking to Chiron. They were talking about you, and Chiron called him Jack."
"Why would I have dreams about your father?" She guessed shrewdly. "Your guess is actually as good as mine."
"Well—" Percy felt like the small amount of control he had held over his life was dissolving bit by bit, like a flock of birds taking off from a power line. "What else did they say?"
"They...he..." The words seemed to stick in her mouth. "Your dad was yelling at Chiron. He said something about a quest, and then he said..." She stopped short, her lips pursing.
"What?" Percy pressed.
"It—it can't be true," she stuttered. "But...he said your mom was...a demigod. That she was a daughter of Poseidon."
The floor seemed to jerk out from under Percy's feet.
"But—" he tried again, his mouth suddenly numb and cottony. "My mom...her parents died in a plane crash when—"
"Was she sure they were her birth parents? Both of them?" Annabeth spoke like she already knew the answer. "It actually kind of makes sense." Percy could suddenly see Annabeth regaining her feet, starting to tread a ground full of things she understood and knew. "When Clarisse hit you with her spear? That thing is charged with moderate voltage—enough to stun, but nowhere near enough to do what it did to you. Human flesh is only slightly conductive, and it insulates enough to prevent electrocution. But you were fried. So...what if that's part of it? Water is actually highly conductive. What if being descended from Poseidon..."
Her voice seemed to fade into the distance.
Percy's mind was reeling with a vengeance. Annabeth was wrong—it didn't make sense. His father had wrote about his life with Sally, and Percy was a skadillion percent positive that he hadn't mentioned anything like that in his notes!
...but why would he? The notes started when Sally was in her teen years. His dad had met her when she was a toddler. If he had already come to terms with it, accepted it...he could have just not said it. Like when Percy would forget to tell his mom about that math test he had failed.
He jolted out of his reverie. Annabeth glanced over her shoulder before looking back at him. "They just rang the bells," she explained, heading for the door. "Don't tell anyone about this!" She hissed before vanishing back to her own cabin, and Percy realized he didn't know if she meant the fact that she had been in his cabin or the whole descended-from-multiple-gods thing.
For the entire day, Percy felt like the camp was swathed in a dense fog. He went about his activities with zombie-like efficiency, accidentally almost shooting Chiron in the flank during archery even though the target was about 90 degrees to the right. He ate lunch silently, staring at his blue coke and leaving his food mostly uneaten. He didn't talk to anyone, even though he could feel Annabeth's eyes boring into him whenever they crossed paths.
So...his mom had been like him? A demigod? He didn't even bother wondering why she'd never told him, because even he could come up with at least seven reasons why that would have been a bad idea. With a bad taste in his mouth, Percy found himself wondering how she'd survived. Demigods were usually on the radar of every monster that came close enough and his mom, descended from one of the most powerful gods (and living in the most populated area of New York City), would have a sent that sent up a virtual flare gun to all monsters within ten miles or something (that's what Grover had said, right?).
He'd always felt out of place, no matter where he'd gone. Camp Half Blood was different. Or had been. Even in this world of freaks and monsters and gods, he was still the oddball. He wasn't even supposed to exist.
So wrapped up was he in his gloomy thoughts that he didn't know he was being followed until thin, long fingers clutched his shoulder.
He yelped and spun on the spot, jerking away, his heart racing—
"Oh! I'm sorry! So sorry!" Shrieked Juniper the dryad, looking just as terrified at his reaction, the offending hand clutched to her chest.
Percy sucked in a breath, forcing his heart to slow. Did he just have that effect—scaring everyone around him out of their wits?
"No, no," he desperately tried to reason with the gibbering tree spirit. "It's okay! Juniper—it's—"
But his pleas fell on deaf ears. Juniper was a very nice spirit—kind and cheerful to everyone no matter what. She was just a bit clumsy at times. She inhabited the Juniper tree outside the Demeter cabin and, according to them, had a bad habit of coming to talk to the campers at three in the morning. Every morning. Because she often forgot humans needed sleep.
The hyperactive girl finally calmed enough to tell Percy that Chiron wanted to see him—and then she vanished in a swirl of leaves, leaving Percy to abruptly realize that winter killed green things.
Percy trudged up the hill to the Big House, the sun uncomfortably hot on the back of his neck. As he neared the porch, he saw Chiron standing in the shade, presumably waiting for him, shifting from hoof to hoof, his mouth twisted with anxiety.
Percy tried to suppress the urge to punch something. His melancholy was slowly burning away, leaving frustrated rage strewn among the ashes. When would he finally get a break?
"Hello, Percy," Chiron greeted, his manner tense and terse. "Have a seat." He motioned to the picnic table. As Percy sat, a dull shine caught his eye and he frowned. Layering the porch railing was a patch of ice, pale and pristine. Percy blinked; the weather was warm at the very least, today...and the ice—the frost—was sparkling, immaculate, and unmelted. Unmelted.
"I suppose you are wondering why I called you here," Chiron said abruptly, pulling Percy out of his thoughts. His old Greek mythology teacher gave him a thin smile. "You aren't in trouble."
Well, that got Percy's attention.
Chiron cleared his throat. "Percy, you know of Zeus's master bolt?"
Percy nodded. Annabeth had gone over that in one of their lessons.
Chiron shifted uneasily, his hooves thumping on the wooden porch. "A few weeks ago, a very serious event transpired on Olympus. Zeus's master bolt—a weapon that would make nuclear bombs look like candles—was stolen from the throne room. I would elaborate, but time is very short. But blame of thievery has fallen onto a few candidates: Hades, the—"
"Dude of the underworld afterlife thing. Yeah," Percy supplied helpfully.
Chiron paused. "Yes," he consented. "Another suspect is the god of the sea, Poseidon—"
He paused again, as if considering his words, and Percy held his breath. Could Chiron confirm it? That Poseidon was his—
"But neither of them are the primary suspect." Percy's heart jolted painfully, like it was trying to make a break from his chest. Was that it? Chiron wasn't going to tell him? He tried to push the thought back, and collect his thoughts. Why was he being told this, anyway? He was just a kid!
"But most gods—perhaps unfairly—believe that you are to blame."
Shock punched him in the gut.
"What?!" He choked. Percy couldn't help it—he leapt to his feet, his palms banging down onto the table. "Why the heck would they blame me? I've known about all..." He struggled for a moment. "...this for what, two days?! And why would I even—!"
Chiron spread his hands placatingly. "I know that you did not, Percy. That you would not. But the other gods, no doubt spurred on by Zeus, are convinced that you acted on the command of your father. And I know," he added quickly, seeing Percy open his mouth, "that you could not of, because you did not even accept that this world existed until very recently. I know. But Zeus, the other gods...they do not. You were in New York—the city where the throne room is located—on the day of the crime. With your father's guide and direction, you could have easily slipped in and slipped out with the concealed bolt. They even have viable motive—Zeus and your father Jack have a legendary rivalry. A rivalry that, while not as long-lived as Zeus's with Poseidon, is arguably twice as bitter. Further more, the nature of the opposition stems from you, Percy. No one knows exactly what transpired, but days before your birth, Jack Frost and Zeus fought bitterly over something concerning you. Whatever it was, it has lasted. Not to mention your father is known for his tricks. This irony—of his son stealing Zeus's most prized possession—fits Jack's personality. Truthfully..." Chiron hesitated, his eyes flashing with something akin to alarm. "Truthfully, if I had not understood your circumstance like I do...I would suspect as much."
For an instant, there was a heavy silence and the temperature seemed to drop.
The argument. Percy knew what had happened. His father had wanted to be a father. That was all. His father had wanted to be a father.
"So what do I do?" Percy shoved down his ever growing shock and huffed sarcastically, rolling his eyes. "March on up to Olympus and beg forgiveness for a crime I didn't even commit?" As soon as it left his mouth, it hit him that that might actually have to happen. But to his relief, Chiron shook his head, a bit too gravely for Percy's liking.
"If only it were that easy, my boy. And perhaps that would suffice, were you actually the perpetrator. That, and returning the bolt to its master. But you were not the thief, so you do not have the bolt."
"So..." Prompted Percy, more apprehensive that ever. Would he have to do, like, godly community service or something?
"I'm afraid the only way to clear your name is to have you find the true criminal. You—it would have to be you. You would go on a quest to retrieve the bolt, and return it to Mount Olympus."
"Something tells me that's easier said than done," Percy guessed.
Chiron nodded grimly. "It would be extremely dangerous. You do have the right to refuse."
Percy blinked. "Something else tells me that's not really an option, though..."
"No," Chiron said gravely, his brown eyes darkening. "Or there will be war. War so intense that the casualties would supersede that of the Holocaust."
"Okay," Percy said, feeling the weight of the word roll heavily off his lips. "Okay, then.
"What do I have to do?"
It wasn't until Percy was climbing the steps to the attic, on his way to visit the Oracle, Chiron's vague warnings of possible insanity fresh in his head...
...that he realized that Chiron had told him more about his father in subtext than anyone else ever had said to him directly.
Your father is known for his tricks...this is his style...
Hundreds of people (all the campers, Chiron, the other gods) had known about his father long before he, Percy, his son, ever did.
How was that fair? Or not even fair, but justifiable? Or right, or...
He had reached the top of the attic.
A battered wooden door greeted him, and Percy took care not to pitch backwards down the steep staircase. Even just outside of the top room, he could practically taste the mustiness of the air, the staleness. When he reached out to turn the doorknob, he could hear the gritty grains of dust squeak under the pressure of his palm. Apprehensive, he entered the attic like one would enter the cave of a sleeping bear, carefully easing the creaky-hinged door open and shut. He didn't know what to expect—oh, gods, especially not that.
Something that could only be described as a mummy sat stiffly on a stool in the epicenter of what appeared to be a junk-quake. Rusty, dusty trophies and camper memorabilia were lumped together and on top of each other on all sides, and smack in the middle was a young woman, clearly dead and long-dead. Her skin was cracked and worn like an old leather car seat and her eyes were marble-glassy. Brittle strings of dark, papery hair that looked like they'd dissolve with one touch clung to her scalp like dying weeds, hanging limply in her face.
Percy couldn't help but be a tiny bit freaked out.
He then decided to abandon all pretense of fear when green smoke began to dribble from her open mouth. Okay, he told himself. A world of monsters and egotistical gods who acted like hormonal teenage girls at summer camp. Okay. He could handle this.
The mist seemed to seep up from the uneven floorboards like steam off of water before snaking up the rotting walls and pooling around his feet (Percy remembered to breathe and then was afraid to breathe). His throat seemed to close entirely when the dead girl's chin jerked off her chest like some sort of 'Thriller' music video reject, her wide, empty eyes boring into him. But instead of busting out some Michael Jackson or pulling a sparkling fedora from thin air, she stood jerkily to her feet and a tiny, grating voice resonated in the back of his skull.
I am the Oracle of Delphi, speaker of Apollo. Approach, seeker, and ask.
(Okay, Percy reminded himself. It's all good. He's okay.)
Summoning up his courage, he opened his mouth—and froze. What was he asking, exactly? What did he need to know? How to clear his name? How to clear his father's name? Maybe where the bolt was (he guessed it wasn't that simple, though)? He had a feeling that there were no second chances with this. What was the right thing to say?
"How do I fix this?"
He instantly regretted the words, and panic seized his chest. That couldn't be right! He wasn't trying to fix anything, he was trying to change it! That was stupid! That was—
Abruptly, the thickest, darkest, densest pillar of smoke poured from the girl's mouth like a huge python, coiling at Percy's feet. It stretched and contorted, forming a scene that Percy instantly recognized: his mom's apartment.
Color bled into the picture like a paper towel soaking up colored water—perfect color, too, down to the exact shade of dirty, worn maroon that fit Smelly Gabe's favorite couch, or even the perfect shade of sea green in his mother's eyes in the off-center photo of her graduation from high school, which was perched on the faded brown coffee table.
Everything stilled, and if Percy concentrated, he could imagine he was back home. School had just been let out. His mom was in her room or something, home from the sweet shop, and Smelly Gabe was somewhere that wasn't here. Everything was fine.
But then the scene shifted—and suddenly there was a young man, maybe about twenty-five years old, lounging in his mom's favorite blue armchair, his bare feet thrown over one armrest and the back of his neck resting on the other. His messy, windblown hair was snowy white and his eyes, fiercely concentrating on the words he was writing in a spiral notebook, were bright blue. His body was lithe and thin, and he was clothed in a baggy blue sweatshirt and brown leggings.
Something smarted oddly in his chest when he realized he was looking at his father. The way he had been right before Percy was born.
Instantly, Percy noticed things—the way Jack Frost craned his neck, how his tongue tried to poke out of his lips when he was focusing, the way his hair stood up at every possible angle—that mirrored his own habits. His ears were shaped exactly like Percy's, too.
Suddenly, Jack's furiously writing hand froze and the pen fell from his fingers. His head snapped up, looking straight at Percy, and his eyes were bright, too bright. When Percy's father spoke, the voice was the same tinny rasp in the back of his head.
A half-blood, journeying at the word of this seer
will travel to the realm of terror and fear
guided by a circle of their own foresight
and innocence entangled in sacred crime
Fire and ice will combat or prevail
Depending on their harmony is war on a massive scale
They will find and return what was lost
Or never reveal the true legacy of frost.
After the final word, Jack blinked like he was surprised and reached down, picking the pen up again and continuing like nothing had happened. The color and then the scene faded away. The green mist twisted and contorted again, sucked with a roar back into the mouth of the girl's corpse, which sat heavily back down in the stool before her chin thumped back down on her chest.
Percy was left alone in silence, trying to burn his father's face into his memory.
Hey! So sorry again! Review please? Interpretations of the prophecy!review! Review! Review!