[Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Percy Jackson characters nor the settings that will appear in this story.]
What if I tell you gods exist? You know those gods of the myths, Zeus and Poseidon and Hades and all that? Will you believe me? Or will you tell me I’m crazy? I’m not. And along with the gods are the monsters and Titans and demigods. Demigods are the children of these gods with mortals. Half-god, half-mortal, they’re also called half-bloods. And I’m one of them.
Being a demigod isn’t fun. In fact it’s the worst thing that can happen to you. Well, not exactly the worst. You can be accused of being the lightning thief, or be compelled to sail the Bermuda Triangle (which demigods call the Sea of Monsters, for obvious purposes), or be forced to hold up the sky, or get lost wandering the maze of the labyrinth, or be the hero of a great prophecy in which you are destined to destroy or save the world with a choice or maybe even fight an evil ancient goddess in the most dangerous place in the world for demigods. Being a demigod can lead to any or all of these things. I’m just thankful they didn’t happen to me but they did to Percy Jackson, the greatest hero of my time, maybe of all time.
I’m pretty much your typical demigod. I mean, only the normal demigod things are what’s just happening to me, like being chased by a monster many times my size, getting singe by lava on my everyday wall climbing exercise and having fireballs hurled at me every which way while avoiding a Pegasus stampede.
You may think “Oh how cool! I wish my life is like yours, blah, blah, blah.” Well, you wouldn’t want that if I were you. It’s not cool and it’s not funny. It’s tiring, it’s frightening and it’s frustrating. You always have to look behind your back.
There might be a time when you don’t but now is not that time. Recently, our camp, Camp Half-Blood, discovered another refuge for demigods but they won’t accept Greeks, except for Percy and Nico but that’s a story for another time and another writer. The other camp, Camp Jupiter, is for the Romans and they have just declared war on us. I don’t know what happened when the Argo II reached that camp but the Romans sure are angry.
And you may think this is immature and selfish but all I can think about, with the coming war and all, is that my godly parent, whoever that was, haven’t claimed me yet. And for a demigod with no mortal parent anymore that kind of sucks.
I’ve been staying in Camp Half-Blood for six years now but I still receive no sign whatsoever regarding the identity of my father. I know it’s my father because my mom was mortal. When the Olympians made a promise to claim their children when they reached thirteen my dad obviously didn’t get the memo. So like it or not, I’m going to be staying in the Hermes cabin for the rest of my life unless I’m claimed or dead. I prefer the former.
Everything changes the moment Nico and Coach Hedge arrive to camp with a large Athena statue and a girl in purple robes. Obviously a Roman. Wait. A Roman in camp?
My thoughts turn murderous when I see the Roman girl holding Nico’s hand so I haven’t dwelled on her being a Roman for long. Not that I have a right to be jealous of her. I bet Nico doesn’t even know I exist. I have a knack for blending in but whatever. You don’t want to hear that.
Anyway I have a crush—a big one at that—on Nico since like, forever. The first time I saw him he fascinated me already. He was so mischievous and carefree and very much like a ten-year-old. He was after all. Well, not technically exactly. He and his sister were made to stay in a magic hotel called Lotus Hotel and Casino that has a screwy time pattern so they thought they were only there for a few weeks when in reality several decades have passed. So when they came out they were still who they were when they entered. Out came Nico with his Mythomagic cards and that mischievous glint in his eyes.
Back to the story. Since I’m unclaimed I reside in Cabin 11 which belongs to Hermes, the god of travelers and thieves and gamblers. It means I’m surrounded by the daredevils of camp. No one beats the counselors, the Stoll brothers, in being the most cunning devils in camp. They are mischievous alright. But what did Nico have that made me develop a crush on him that I didn’t see on my cabin mates? Innocence. They don’t have that certain innocence Nico used to have back then. And now that innocence is gone too. Along with Bianca, his sister.
I haven’t seen him for months after that and when I finally did he is already a different person. Sure he still has his aviator jacket and dark clothes and same face but the aura around him is not the same anymore. He is more reserved, more deadly. And he never stays anymore. He just visits for short whiles.
I stop reminiscing when the Roman speaks loudly. “Greeks! Hear me well. You may know this already but the Roman demigods are coming here and they thirst for war. My name is Reyna, daughter of the goddess Bellona. I am the praetor of those Romans. I know each cabin has a counselor and I wish to have a meeting. Chiron has been informed and he approves. Please cooperate. We have to save both camps and there is this other war coming, a war with the ancient goddess Gaea. My camp never listens much to my words anymore. They are too worked up to see reason as to why we should cooperate. Cabin counselors, please proceed to the Rec Room, as Chiron calls it,” she says in a short clipped tone that doesn’t quite mask the fatigue she is definitely trying to hide.
Soon enough the counselors are going to the Big House. A terse silence lingers in the air. Everyone is nervous.
“Oh, well. Nothing to do here,” I mutter to myself. Even as a demigod among demigods I’m kind of a loner so I decide to go to the only place I know other half-bloods won’t come to. Cabin 13, Hades. No one lives there now so it’s better than staying in Hermes Cabin with that rambunctious lot.
As I arrive in front of the cabin I stop to marvel at it. The skull that hangs on the doorway just looks so real and it always amazes me how those green Greek fires are so constant. I circle around it until I see the ivy that crawls from the wall to the roof. The vine is strong enough to support my weight last time, I hope it still is. I start climbing to the top hoping Hades won’t mind again. I make myself comfortable when I reach the tiles. I’ll offer a portion of my food to him tonight for thanks like I do most of the times since I do not know who to offer to.
As solace creep to me the emotions I have been hiding rise to the surface.
I miss my mom. When she was still alive we were inseparable. I loved her so much that even now that seven years have passed I still miss her. There is not a day that pass that I don’t remember her. She was so full of mirth and light and love. She was everything to me. Then an illness took over her and she was just gone. I remember crying over her for weeks, the days and night I spent in the streets until my satyr came for me and brought me—
“What are you doing here?” a voice asks behind me, making me jump and almost fall off the roof if the owner of said voice has not grabbed my arm. I look over and wish I have fallen of the roof instead. Nico doesn’t look angry though only curious and surprised.
“Um, nothing. Just thinking and sitting uselessly,” I answer. “Sorry. I needed to be alone. I’ll just go now.” He still has not released my arm and I can feel my face turn tomato red. He notices and lets go of me immediately. He motions for me to sit so I do.
“It’s okay. I’m merely surprised my dad didn’t send ghouls to get you off his roof,” he says.
I laugh to lighten the mood. “We sort of reached a compromise. I offer to him my portion of food sacrifice and he’d let me alone here.”
“Don’t you offer it to your parent?”
“I’m unclaimed,” I explain.
“Oh,” is all he say and doesn’t speak for a long time. “I’m Nico. You are?”
Is this conversation for real? “I-I’m Karen and I know who you are.”
“Huh. Okay, Karen. So what were you thinking?”
“Why are you talking to me?” I ask in return.
He shrugs at me. “I don’t know. It just feels nice to.”
“Oh, okay. I was thinking about mom. I miss her,” I confess. Whoa. Di Immortales! I really am crazy about him, aren’t I? I just admitted something very personal to Nico. On our very first conversation.
“Then why not visit her?”
That makes me laugh but the sound comes out hollow. “The only way I can possibly do that is if I die.” Being the son of the Underworld I know he would get it. What can I say? I like surprising people.
“Oh,” he says again. “I can take you there if you want to.”
I look at him sharply. “I—” The horn blows in the distance cutting me off.
“Dinnertime!” Nico announces and I see the old Nico very briefly. We get up from where we sit and before I can protest he touches my shoulder and blackness envelopes me.
In a blink of an eye we are back to the world at the back of the cabin next to the ivy. “Ugh! Di Immortales, Nico. I’m gonna puke. Why do you have to shadowtravel?”
“Sorry. I didn’t think.” He has the nerve to look sheepish. “So…I guess I’ll see you around.” He shadowtravels again before I can even say “Yeah,” or “Goodbye,” or “Whatever.” Not that I’ll say “Whatever,” to him.
The problem with being alone again is that I’m left with my thoughts. I hadn’t even realized it but with Nico my philosophical thinking vanished and I’m merely a normal hormonal girl. It is a nice change.
I start walking towards the Dining Pavilion wondering if tonight will be the night my father will claim me.
The Hermes table is easy to spot. It is the most boisterous and messiest table of all.
I take my place on the table and come face to face with Connor and Travis Stoll, my cabin counselors. They are looking at me with a not-so-innocent smile on both of their faces. Oh gods, what now?
I sit on where I think the bench is and I go straight down with the ground kissing my backside. I hear the brothers’ chortle. Ugh! I should have known they are up to something. They stand up and run to my sides.
“Oh, poow wittle sister, she fewl on hew ass fow not wooking,” Travis—or is it Connor? I can’t tell, they’re identical—mocks me with his stupid baby talk.
“Shut up. And for the record I am not your sister,” I say as I try to get up. Whoa. Di Immortales, what have they done now? I can’t get up. I’m stuck!
They ignore me and continue on their blabber. “Sis can’t get up. Want help?” I glare at them asking with my eyes why they would even present. Thank the gods one of them is smart enough to understand. “Because we wuv you.” Then they pinch my cheeks until I’m sure they are going to fall off my face.
“Just help me already. How many times do I have to tell you I’m not your sister?” I remind them as I hold my arms out for them to grab.
“Don’t worry. We won’t hold a grudge on you if our old man claims you,” one of them says. “Besides you might as well be since aside from us you are the only one who have stayed longer than any in Hermes cabin.” They tug me off the ground with a grunt.
“Oh my gods, Sis. Did you just soiled on your pants? Tsk, tsk, tsk.”
“What? I did no such—” I stop as I patted my backside and realize…the dirt isn’t coming off! “What in Hades have you done, Stolls?” I scream. The other campers look at us as I try to pat off the soil from me, to no use of course.
“Super adhesive double-sided tape,” a Stoll says before bursting into a laugh along with his brother.
“Karen soiled herself! Karen soiled herself!” they singsong as they circle me. The others start laughing. You might think I’m wishing for the ground to swallow me whole and straight to the depths of Tartarus but I’m not. I am so used to being their target that I stop being embarrassed. I have learned to look at the bigger picture. Admittedly this is kind of funny, though not as funny as they usually do. But in dire times like this we need a laugh. I need a laugh. So I do.
After the mirth dies down I start to pry off the tape with some difficulty and by the time I flick away the last strip naiads and nymphs have started giving out plates and cups.
I sit on the bench—I make sure there is one this time—and look at my best friends.
“You’re not angry, are you, Sis?”
I smile at them. “No, I’m not.” True. I can never get angry at them. Aside from being used to being their target of their jokes and tricks, I owe them my life. They’ve saved me countless times. I’m more than grateful for that.
Plates and utensils make their way under the noses of the Hermes campers, including mine. Tonight, I decide on lamb chops and mashed potatoes and root beer.
I stand up with my plate along with most campers. I proceed to the fire in the middle of the pavilion and throw a portion of my lamb chops. “For Hades.” Immediately the smell of sulfur and death reaches my nostrils, telling me my food offering has been received. Demigods do this all the time. We offer our godly parents a part of our food as thanks. In my case, since I don’t know who my parent is, I offer to the gods in general or when I owe a god I offer to him, like now.
I go back to my table. I see Chiron and the Roman eating on the same table. Chiron is our camp activities director or something. Does his name sound familiar? If you’re a mortal who’s fond of reading Greek mythology then it should be. He’s a centaur but not only that. He mentored the greatest heroes of legends. He mentored Achilles, Hercules and Percy Jackson.
As for the Roman, you might think I’m so racist but no, I’m not. If you know your history then you would know that Greeks and Romans aren’t really “simpatico” to each other. Every time we meet we clash. We’re enemies and it’s kind of hard to not think of Reyna as anything but Roman.
The Stoll brothers leave me alone so I can study the two of them, Chiron and Reyna. Both their faces are grave. I worry for Chiron. He seems to age due to the wrinkles and lines on his face from stress.
After eating comes the sing along, led by the Apollo cabin. We aren’t even finished with the second verse when Rachel entered oracle mode. Rachel is our very own Oracle of Delphi. Instead of sitting on her three-footed chair like she usually does she stands up and starts walking to our table. Her eyes turn into green glowing orbs and that creepy green mist pours out of her mouth, pooling at her feet like a snake.
She stops at our table and guess what? She looks at me. Then the dreaded prophecy comes out at last:
“A journey you have unfolds at home
Death from hands of a child of Rome
Eyes uncloud from lying sight
Blood denied shall be your right”
She collapses and a camper catches her, but I’m not paying attention anymore. I stand abruptly and say, “I have to go.” I take off before anyone can object.
I run as fast as I can to my cabin. I’m going to die. The prophecy tells I’m going to die. Blood denied shall be your right… Does that mean my parent?I just want to know who my parent is and now I’m going to die for it? Remember when I told you I’m going to be staying in the Hermes cabin until I’m claimed or dead? Looks like the Fates want both for me. Damn.
I reach my cabin and stop in front of it. I double over and put my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath.
I jump when someone spoke next to me. “Karen?”
Obviously, I look and see a Stoll brother standing next to me. “Finally realized I’m not a sister of yours huh?”
He shakes his head. “Only Travis calls you that. I never did, Karen. Are you okay?” Okay, so he is Connor.
“What do you think?” I look at his face as I say it. He is unsmiling, a very rare occurrence for a Stoll. My vision blurs as tears fill my eyes. The next thing I know strong arms surround me. I lay my head on Connor’s chest as the tears fall. “I’m going to die, Connor. The prophecy says so. I just want to be claimed by my parent. Is that too much to ask that I have to give my life for it?” I manage to get out between sobs. This is the first time I cry after my mourning for my mother’s death. Why does it all have to be about death?
Connor is a few inches taller than me so he is able to tuck my head under his chin. Then he smooths my hair from up to down in a comforting manner. “I don’t know, Karen. I just don’t.”
I bunch his shirt in my fist, frustrated with myself for even asking. Of course he doesn’t know. He’s just as clueless as I am.
I don’t know how long we stay like that but I do know people walk by us. Well, I don’t care. Everyone needs their moments. Besides I feel safe with Connor’s arms around me. Wait. What?!
I quickly push myself away from him when I realize that. “Thanks, Connor. I needed that,” I sniff.
He smiles, bringing back the Connor I know. “Anytime.”
“Karen, right?” someone asks from behind him. He moves to my side but doesn’t remove the arm he has draped over my shoulders, which I am very aware of. Rachel Dare and Chiron come into view.
“Yes, that’s me.”
Rachel takes my hand and says, “I am really sorry.”
“No, it’s okay. I’ve had it all out.”
“Just remember. Prophecies have their ways. Just because it states your ‘death’ doesn’t mean you are really going to die. They’re vague that way. They’re not really what they’re stated most of the time, ‘kay?” I have nothing to say to that so just nod.
She releases my hand and smiles at me. I look over to Chiron and he gives me what is supposed to be a reassuring smile but his eyes are sad and resigned like, “Oh dear, another one of my students is going to die. What a shame.”
I watch them go to the direction of the Big House and I might’ve stood there if Connor doesn’t speak. “Come on. It’s time to sleep.” So together we enter our cabin.
The next day, they’re at it again, the cabin counselors, Reyna and Chiron. I have nothing much to do so I go to the Sword Arena. I take out my weapon when I get there. At first it looks like a small golden stick but it’s more than that. It’s magic. I got it during my first quest, a journey out of camp, when I was eleven. It turns into three different weapons, a halberd, a chakram and a sword. I think it’s pretty cool. It’s celestial bronze so it’s not harmful to mortals; it passes through them. I named it Omega because I want it to be the last thing monsters see before I kill them.
This time I will it into a sword. I regulate my breathing and close my eyes. I imagine my enemies around me; minotaur, telkhines, hydras, manticores and all that. I open my eyes and start attacking here and there. I cut a hydra head in half (which is probably not a good idea since they multiply). I slash a minotaur’s horn. I nick, stab, and hack. I parried and feinted. Sweat pours down my back and adrenalin rushes through my veins. It was glorious. I only have to act and react. It is just me and Omega and the monsters. No Nico. No death. No Romans… No Connor.
I deflect a non-existent claw then swing my sword to lop off a telkhine in—
“Di immortales, Stoll! I could’ve killed you,” I shout, my sword less than an inch from his neck. And guess what? The moron just smiles at me. “What is it now?”
He shrugs. “Nothing. I just want to update you. Nico and Reyna left for Camp Jupiter. They’re going to fetch their centurions or something. They’re like the cabin counselors. They have twelve cohorts, whatever that means, so there are twelve centurions plus another one called augur, their oracle. Hopefully they’ll be back this afternoon.”
“Oh, great. And with it comes the probability of 6.67% that one of them will kill me.”
He looks at me like I have grown another head. “You’re weird. Anyway, want a match?”
“Take your pick.” He quickly goes to the rack and picks a plain celestial bronze sword testing its feel on his hand. Satisfied with his choice, he walks in front of me and took his fighting stance.
We come for each other and our swords clash, sparks flying from where our swords meet. We part and I feint to the right. As I expect he turns to his left, leaving his right side vulnerable to an attack. I spin around, my sword aiming for his side. He is quick though and manages to block my sword with his. I jump back and he takes a step towards me, his sword ready. He swipes at my legs so I jump in the air while thrusting my sword forward. Trust me it isn’t as easy as it sounds. He lifts his sword arm as he retreats and I lower Omega, causing a nick on his skin. Blood drips from the wound to the floor but we ignore it. We come for each other again and the battle continues. We fight for a long time my muscles start to ache and Omega grows heavier in my hand. I decide to end our practice.
I assume an unguarded stance, lowering the point of my sword to the ground. He lunges for me while I waited, not breaking eye contact. I duck and push my hilt to his stomach with a speed that rivals that of his quick pickpocketing hands and a force enough for him to release his sword. When he does I pirouetted as I stand so I can grab his fallen sword. I place my arm on his shoulder so the sword he used is on the back of his neck and the point of Omega I place on the base of his throat.
“Checkmate,” I say triumphantly and drag my eyes to his face. His lips are parted as he pants from the exercise. His upper lip and the bridge of his nose are beaded with sweat. His eyes are serious and a mesmerizing color of—
I pull away as I realize I am checking him out. What in Hades? Where are my thoughts taking me?
“I’m thirsty,” he says as he takes the sword from me and returned it to the rack among other celestial bronze weapons, oblivious to my treacherous thoughts.
“Hey are you Connor or are you Travis? Sorry I didn’t ask earlier.” I know he’s Connor, I just want confirmation.
“Connor,” he answers. I flush with embarrassment as I remember the night earlier. He notices then he laughs. “Come on. Let’s take a walk.”
I nod then will Omega into that little stick and put it in my pocket. I walk on the beach, the sea lapping at my feet on intervals, Connor besides me. I haven’t mention the camp is in Long Island beach, have I? “Connor,” I begin, “why are you being nice to me? Is it because I’m going to die?”
He stops and faces me, so I do the same to him. I notice the gash on his arm I made earlier. “Let me take care of that,” I say and make a gesture at the wound. When he doesn’t move I grab his arm, though not roughly. I hover my hand on his wound.
Warmth makes my palm tingle so I know the healing is taking place. I don’t know how I do that, I just can. The tingling stops and my hand returns to its clammy self. I remove my hand and no sign of ever having a wound can be seen.
“This is why guessing about who your godly parent is, is hard. I mean, earlier you spouted out some statistics like an Athenian child then the match or any other match for that matter. I have never beaten you before, it’s like you’re a child of Athena, the goddess of battle strategies and war, or Ares, the god of war. And now you’ve healed me like a child of Apollo. It’s confusing.”
I don’t tell him I can’t be Athena’s. In all my years here I have never told anyone, except Nico, that it’s my father that’s godly. I just told Nico because I know he isn’t a blabbermouth. Though I suspect Chiron knows it’s my dad.
“I know right. It’s frustrating.” Then I remember. “Why are you being nice to me?” I ask him again.
“What do you mean? I’m always nice to you.” When I don’t answer he puffs his cheeks and exhales slowly. “Karen, I, um, well you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” I still don’t answer. I learned that years ago. If you want someone to speak up, stay silent. “Fine. I like you, Karen. A lot.”
I stop in my tracks and turn to look at him with wide eyes. I don’t get to react further though. He traps my head between his hands and kisses me. I close my eyes involuntarily and all thoughts fled my mind. I kiss him back. He moves a hand to my nape, tilting my head to deepen the kiss. The other one snakes to the small of my back, pulling me closer to him. His lips are soft and sweet, like cotton candy with muted flavors. I wrap my arms around his neck and the world ceases to exist.
I have never thought I will fall in love with someone.
The unwanted thought brings me back to reality. I break the kiss, untangling myself from him quickly, like my life depended on it. He looks incredulous. “I’m sorry. I just can’t do this. We shouldn’t have done that. There’s no time for us! Forgive me,” I apologize. I can’t lead him on. I’m destined to die.
I step away from him and run to the direction we just came from. He doesn’t follow me and I’m grateful for that.
In the Sword Arena, I take Omega from my pocket. As I do several things run on my mind. I’m falling for Connor. How can I be? I mean, I’m harboring my feelings for Nico for three years now. It shouldn’t be this easy to neglect them, right? Right? Why am I falling for him? And why now, when my death is imminent? Curse the gods and the Fates for being unfair!
And gods! Is that why Travis calls me sis? Because it annoys his brother because he knew Connor likes me? Is that why they always target me? So I can notice a Stoll?
This shouldn’t have happened. We’re only hurting ourselves in the process. I hack at the dummy with all the frustration I can muster. I repeat it again and again. I must have stayed like that for a long time. I must’ve looked pathetic.
“You want a duel?” a blond skinny pale boy with stuffed toys on his waist says, his grip on the hilt of a familiar-looking sword hanging also on his waist.
I haven’t seen him before. “Sure, I answer before I can change my mind. I assume a fighting stance, a different one from the one I used on Connor, this one more relaxed.
The boy draws his sword, its color black as night. Stygian iron. A blade so deadly touch it and you’ll die. No camper has a sword like that except one and that is Nico, child of the Lord of the Dead.
“You’re not Greek, are you?” I ask the boy.
He laughs maniacally and I adjust my stance with apprehension. “If I’m Greek then you must be a goddess.”
Okay that is insulting but if he’s not Greek then he must be Roman. Can he be the one who will kill me? “Are you going to kill me?” Of course he will. I need the reason why.
“Why else am I here but?”
“Why?” I stall as we circle each other.
“Trouble, of course. Greeks and Romans are enemies and I prefer to keep it that way.”
“Then why not do your own or maybe even another one of you?”
He laughs again, bringing shivers down my spine. “Why would I, when there are Greeks? Enough of this! It’s time for you to die.”
The line of the prophecy comes to me. Death from hands of a child of Rome. The kid is Roman. He’s the one in the prophecy, alright.
I want to fight but if I win it would be against the prophecy and usually going against the prophecy means tragedy. It already has death in it I don’t want to add some more. I don’t want to put my friends in trouble. I hope they won’t get in trouble for this. I’m going to die anyway, why prolong the inevitable? But if I die, it might cause war between the two groups. What shall I do?
You’re going to die anyway…
Breathing a deep breath I keep my emotions from my face. I advance to him. He must have been surprised for I put Omega in my pocket. I step in front of him, my hand inches from the sword.
I smile at him my most malevolent teeth-baring smile. Then I touch the sword and die.
I am surrounded by darkness so profound I can imagine touching it then everything clears and I’m standing in front of a set of doors. What is this place?
“You’re here at last,” a male voice says behind me. I turn around and standing there is the most beautiful man I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. He has a regal face with golden eyes not unlike mine and black hair cascading down his shoulders. He has wings of black and blue and purple.
“Who are you? What is this place? Aren’t I supposed to be standing by a river since I’m dead?”
The man―or maybe he’s a god―shakes his regal head. “You are not dead, not quite. But you do not have much time to be truly dead. You are in front of the Doors of Death, if you must know. My name is Thanatos and I am your father.”
My mind becomes a void when he says the last word. Death is my father? That’s impossible!
“That’s not right. You’re seclusive and hate everything. You cannot be my father. No offense but I really don’t think you are capable of loving. They say your spirit is as pitiless as bronze. How could you possibly love my mom? Did you love her?”
I expect him to be angry or irritated even, but I see none of that. He’s as expressionless as ever and his eyes are still as cold as the glaciers in the poles. “Love and Death are very similar but sometimes Love is more cruel than Death.”
I have a feeling he is talking about Eros and himself as gods.
“Why are you doing this now? The gods had an agreement last winter solstice that all of you should claim your children by the time they reach thirteen and since I was fifteen at that time I should’ve been claimed then and there, right? Why now?” I ask, seriously wanting to know the answer. I know I am being such a brat but I don’t care.
“Because not long after that I fell into a trap and was imprisoned in Alaska. And I never intended to claim you, too. Not until I think and know that you are deserving.”
Telling me that makes rage boil in my stomach. How dare he?! “Oh, yeah? And what made me deserving, Father?” I practically spit the last two words as I sneer. Still, he remains indifferent.
“My child should never be afraid of death and I see that you are not.”
“That’s all?” I say, taken aback.
“Not fearing death is not something mortals do easily. What did you feel when you knew you’d die shortly after hearing the prophecy?”
Okay. It kind of devastated me. But I’m not about to tell the one who caused it that. Even if he’s my father.
“You haveyour life ahead of you and yet you are willing to throw it all away because you know what would happen if you contradict a prophecy. I am proud of that. I am proud of you. A very fitting demigod for a child of Death.” Then he shows me the first emotion of the day. He smiles. I’m still not convinced though.
“But what’s the point of it all though? If I’m dead anyway?”
He shakes his head, his smile gone. “You are not dead. Your soul is just not inside your body. You’ll understand soon enough. Now give me your weapon. It’s in your pocket. We don’t have much time.”
How he knows that I don’t know but I do as I am told nevertheless. I put Omega on his outstretched palm. He closes it and whispers some Greek words I don’t catch to it. When he opens his hand my little golden stick is gone. In its place are three golden rings and a black charm that looks like a miniature scythe. “Take them, child. My gift to you.”
I take them and study them one by one. One has a carved halberd, one has a chakram and the last a sword. With realization, they are my weapons that formed Omega. I fit them on my fingers. At first they are sizes too big but when I have them settled on they adjust until they wrap around my respective fingers snugly. The scythe was a bracelet.
“What’s with the scythe thingie?” I ask my father.
“Toss it and see it for yourself,” he answers. Huh, go figure.
I do as he told me and guess what? It grows bigger and bigger until it’s longer than me. The blunt edge of the miniature scythe grows sharper, too. Simply put, it is one wicked looking scythe. If I am not my father’s child I would have been disturbed by the carved images of death on the body. Only a small loop of black jewel remains that reminds me it is an accessory.
“Wow, Dad. This is awesome.” I mean it.
“Glad you like it,” he says with the same blank face. It would’ve been funny if the circumstances are different. “Now off you go.”
He doesn’t give me a chance to reply or protest—not that I will—everything turns black and suddenly I am at a different location.
A woman has her back on me, her long wavy hair cascading down her back. I would know her anywhere. “Mom,” I said.
She turns around, and her blue eyes meet my yellow ones. Obviously, I get teary-eyed but hey, who wouldn’t be, after long years of separation? I hug her fiercely and she hugs me back, laughing as she does so.
“Oh, Karen! I’ve missed you so much. I have so many things to tell you. But we don’t have much time.”
“I missed you too, Mom. And I don’t really know what’s going on? I’m not dead?”
“Yes and no. You’re in a comatose death, okay. Your father made this possible. I believe you’ve met him?” When I nod, she continues. “I know you have many questions but I can only answer so few. You’re running out of time! The rest you have to find out for yourself. ”
“I’m a daughter of Apollo, but not only that. Our line has always been touched by the gods. You’re a legacy, Karen. A legacy of Apollo, Ares, and Athena.”
“Legacy?” What in Hades is a legacy?
“A legacy is a second or further generation descendant of the gods. Usually an ability from that god diminishes through each generation but with you it’s different. I don’t know why.
When I was young I had a glimpse of my future. My death. I saw a girl in that image too. You. Being a legacy is hard, I knew that from my Mother. She died before you were born and I realized what I was going to do. I knew that whatever I do I would come to that moment in my dream and I made a decision. Your father should be a god.”
“I know honey. I did all that to keep you safe. If I had married a mortal the Camp wouldn’t have accepted you. They don’t let legacies in. I just didn’t think Thanatos would be that one. Eros is such a cruel god.”
“Didn’t you ever think being a demigod is harder? Mom, I’ve been alone for years! You were my only family. Maybe you—”
“I was a demigod too! We’re running out of time!” She looks left and right but no one is there. Not that I can see. “Go. Go back and live your life. Go!”
Everything fades to black again. I don’t understand her. Live my life? I’m dead!
Suddenly I get dizzy. Everything in my head goes foggy and out of focus. Then I’m gone.
Voices hover over me but my mind is still asleep to recognize to whom they belong or what are they saying. I feel so tired…
Blackness envelopes me and I’m under again.
“She’s stirring,” someone says. I feel like I should know the owner of the voice but I don’t.
“Karen? Please wake up. Please?” another begs and the voice immediately brings comfort to me…
Something is brought forth to my lips and I taste—nectar! I manage to open my eyes and I see faces above mine. Chiron, Nico, Travis, Connor…and Reyna. Real concern is on her face.
“Karen, you’re awake at last! Thank the gods,” Chiron says and smiles, lifting the weight of ages from his face.
Nico spoke next. “I’m sorry, Karen. If I had just been more alert this wouldn’t have happened.” My eyes fly to his head and I see it is bandaged. The boy must’ve knocked him out.
I shake my head. “’S’okay,” I croaked. My voice sounds funny, like I haven’t used it in days.
“It’s not okay, sis. No offense, Nico. We have to find the culprit,” Travis says formally. Why is he speaking like that? Weird.
“He’s right, Karen,” Reyna interjects, surprising me. “I’m sorry to inconvenient you, but can you tell us who attacked you? We need to punish him. He deserves it.”
“Um, is that necessary?”
She looks serious. “Yes. It’s a good thing Greeks aren’t as bloodthirsty as my Roman companions,” she says icily. “The culprit?”
“Oh, yes. I don’t know his name but he’s blond, skinny and has stuffed toys on his waist.”
Her brows furrow. “Octavian. I should’ve known. That augur has always been nothing but trouble. He has been unmanageable as of late.” She has been looking at the distance and she turns her gaze on me. “Oh, Mars Almighty.”
The others follow suit. Most have awe in their eyes but Chiron’s are fearful—for me or of me, I don’t know—and Nico’s in sympathy. “What?” I ask. Nico pointed above me, his eyes now a tad sad. I look up and see a fading inverted torch symbol. I’m being claimed.
“It is determined,” Chiron says. “Thanatos. Master of the Doors of Death. Reaper of Souls. Hail Karen Devaughn, daughter of Death.” The moment doesn’t pass as quickly as I like.
“I must go see Octavian now.” Reyna’s eyes hardened. “Chiron would you like to come with me?” she asks as she rises.
“Yes, I would like that. Boys let us give Karen space to rest.”
“Okay,” they say in unison and started to file out.
“Connor, please stay,” I request but don’t look if he will. I don’t know what we are to each other now.
“Yeah?” He sits on the edge of my bed and waited. And waited. And waited. If you want someone to speak, then don’t. “What happened?” he says at last.
“I touched the Stygian sword,” I simply say, as if I am talking about the weather.
“What?” he exploded. “You were in a coma for two weeks! Two weeks, we waited. Do you know how hard that was? For Chiron? For your friends? For me?” he rambles, his eyes shining with unshed tears. “You don’t know how hard it is. Hoping you would wake up and then having a part of me die when you faded away and died?”
“Two weeks? I had been unconscious for two weeks?” I say, ignoring the butterflies in my stomach he has caused.
“Yes! What if you really really died? What if it wasn’t that Octavian that was supposed to kill you?”
“DEATH FROM HANDS OF A CHILD OF ROME , remember? It’s done now, Con. He killed me. Or tried to, at least.”
“He didn’t just try, he did kill you. Your heart stopped beating, you stopped breathing. Di Immortales, I don’t care—” he starts but I interrupt him.
“You know what? Nevermind that. C’mere.” His expression quickly becomes suspicious. “Come here,” I say more forcefully when he doesn’t move.
He moves his feet and when he is in reaching distance I sit as quickly as I can and hook my arm around his neck. I pull him closer to me and our lips meet.
Kissing Connor the second time around is even better. This time I leave my feelings unguarded. I don’t know how long we stay like that but when we break the kiss we are both out of breath. He rests my forehead on his and doesn’t remove his hand on my nape.
“Don’t you ever do that again,” he scolds.
“What? Are you telling me not to kiss you again?” I teased. “I can’t do that. I don’t think I will be able to stop myself from kissing you from time to time.”
He laughs. “Not that, silly. I mean the other one. Don’t you ever risk your life like that again.” He pauses. Then: “You’re my girlfriend.”
I laugh. “You didn’t even ask.”
“I’m a prince of thieves. I don’t ask.” He kisses me again.
“Do I have to be built a cabin?” I ask Chiron three days later as we stand on Half-Blood Hill.
“It’s part of the rules. You’ll have Cabin 21 all by yourself.”
“Thank you, Chiron.”
“Hm? What do you mean? I’m just doing my job.”
I shake my head. “No. Thank you for everything. I was so desperate to know I still have a family that I didn’t realize they were here all along. We aren’t blood related and even if we share the same godly parents it wouldn’t have mattered, gods don’t have DNA. And besides, our bonds are stronger than blood. We are a family and that’s more important than anything,” I say a I look at him. He smiles at me and pats my head, like a father would his child.
I wave at him and climb down the Hill, making my way in front of my former cabin. The Stolls are there. I beam at them. Travis looks at me incredulously while Connor seems to hold himself back. I motion for them to come nearer.
“What?” Travis asks.
I hug them, my boyfriend and his brother, and I feel something I haven’t felt in a long time since my mother died. I feel peace as it settles over me, surrounding me with comfort as I find my place in our big family picture.