History repeats itself.
That has been said myriad times before. Countless history professors and geniuses have pointed out the facts that support this theory, so it was accepted as common logic, because it was. Silena knew better than anyone else.
For years when she was younger, Mr. Brunner had been a history professor at her middle school in Los Angeles. When she had signed up for Greek Mythology and saw him listed as the teacher of that class, she'd been beyond ecstatic. Mr. Brunner was known as the cool in an I'm-old-and-I-make-it-awesome kind of way: tweed jacket, surrounded by a never-fading coffee aroma, and a scruffy, thinning beard were the elements that made up his persona; that, and a genuine interest in his students and true well-wishes for them to succeed in school and, ultimately, life.
It's likely that that's what had first sparked Silena's interest in being a teacher. So she'd followed in her middle-school teacher's footsteps, aspiring to be the same normal, encouraging mentor that he had been. Except for the fact that he hadn't been normal at all, a fact which she learned when he'd scooped up her and another boy at her school onto his centaur behind and had galloped all the way to a place called Camp Half-Blood in New York, never faltering in his constant trot, and causing the two kids to bump up and down on his haunches. When they'd arrived at the strange camp, the boy and girl had been told that they were demigods: children of a mortal parent and a Greek god or goddess. Both had been relatively unsurprised, since their history teacher always seemed to have a way of bring the old Greek myths to life and making them a reality.
Now, six years later, Silena was living out the dream she had had since she was in Mr. Brunner's class: being a schoolteacher. No doubt, it was a very unglamorous life, especially for a daughter of Aphrodite: the pay was awful, the hours were atrocious, and the endless staff meetings that resolved nothing were a nightmare. But the positives outweighed the negatives more than she could have imagined. Seeing the middle school kids' eyes light up when she talked about Greek mythology, passing on stories that had existed for thousands of years, was payment enough. Besides, it was another way to remember her previous life, something to hold onto.
You see, Silena Beauregard no longer existed. She had died six years ago in a war against Kronos and his army, her stand against the Lydian Drakon being her last. She had died quickly and quietly, eager to see her boyfriend who had died a few days before for the same cause. She called him Charlie, but everyone else called him Beckendorf. He had been about to propose to her, she assumed, because he'd hinted several times at what type of ring she'd wanted, and he'd tried on multiple occasions to get her alone in a romantic setting, but she'd been far too busy doing...other things, which she cared not to think about. Some might think it too young to get engaged, but demigods rarely live past 30, and besides, the couple had known each other forever. In fact, Charles Beckendorf was the classmate whom she had been whisked away with when she'd found out of her heritage.
So the prospect of dying hadn't been so terrible. She wound up meeting him in Elysium, as everyone expected, and they had lived together happily. For a few days. Then they'd realized that they would never be able to grow up, get married, have kids, be normal. They were forever stuck as souls in a paradise that was no paradise to them. So, in a "final death wish", they had appealed to Hades, begging him for the chance to be put together in a new life. He had consented, placing their spirits into the bodies of a young couple who had just crashed from alcohol overdose on their wedding night.
He unmangled the bodies in preparation, and ever since then, Silena had been known to the world as Mary Kate Thompson (previously a Campbell, as she was told by her"friends), a petite young lady with long straight blond hair and blue eyes. She was also known by her "friends" and "family" as the loving wife of Mr. Jacob William Thompson, an extremely wealthy man who was the chief engineer down at a car company he had inherited from his father. The happy twosome were expecting a child sometime next year, and had even been told by the doctor that it may be twins., The couple, overcome with money from Mr. Thompson's parents, were fortunate enough to have the funds to live in the cozy and insanely expensive city of Carmel, California.
So life wasn't bad by any means. The only downside was that neither Silena nor Charlie- for they were still themselves on the inside, but only used their secret names in intimate moments with each other- possessed their previous demigod powers like they used to. They were just normal human beings, with the minds and hearts of those who had seen so much more than other average people.
"Has anyone ever heard the name Achilles before?" Mrs. Thompson called out to her final period of the day, a class that was always pumping with enthusiasm, but also giving off waves of anxiety and impatience for the day to be over. This was her most challenging class, so she had to make the lessons extra interesting in order to spark their interest and grab their attention.
A few students who sat up front and noticed more nodded, a few in the middle looked up at the name, and those in the back flung erasers and pencils at each other in a bored manner. They weren't bored with her or the lesson necessarily, but just the idea of school itself.
"Well," she continued enthusiastically, taking special care to meet the eyes of those seated in the back fo the room, "for those of you who haven't, he was one of the greatest Greek heroes of all time. He's famous for many things, but the thing he is perhaps most well-known for was his power of invincibility." This word caused a few heads to look up, the subject finally getting interesting. Silena smiled inwardly, and Mrs. Thompson on the outside.
"Does anyone not know what invincibility is?" she asked before proceeding. A small, shy boy in the third row raised his hand tentatively. She gave him a warm, reassuring smile. "Invincibility is the state of being too powerful to hurt," she explained. Something clicked inside her head. "Unable to be defeated, or overcome." A memory, painful and shameful, surfaced. "Able to withstand any amount of pressure, no matter how unbearable." A pounding aching in her head began to throb, "One moment, please," she said, and she pretended to lean down in her desk to look for a marker. But in reality, an unavoidable memory from her past had seized her thoughts, squeezing her mind tight like a boa constrictor until she was forced to focus on the tasteless scene she dreaded to see.
"ARES!" she cried in a shrill, frightened voice, unusually high even for her. She thrust her- well, Clarisse's- electric spear that crackled with energy into the air in a triumphant manner that was a little early, considering they hadn't won yet. She charged head-forward into a raging battle, demigods versus drakon, with twelve chariots following in a formation behind her. She and half of the forces took on the brute force of the monster, slashing at its hideous hide and maw with deadly weapons. She heard a few cries of astoundment and some murmurs of awe and surprise ripple through the demigods' lines, amazed that Clarisse herself had admitted she was wrong and led her cabin into battle.
Little did they know how wrong they were.
As soon as they began to charge, something went wrong: two of the chariots were caught under the drakon's gaze and crashed into a row of cars lined up on the street. Though it definitely put their side at less of an advantage, Silena pressed forward, knowing that she had to succeed to recompense for everything she'd done wrong recently.
The weapons did little against the drakon's tough exterior, so an unspoken decision to aim for its mouth passed through the troop of Ares kids- and Silena. The monster's maw was soon a slimy mix of poison and weapons, which apparently did not feel good to the drakon, because it let out a terrifying cry that roughly translated to "Ow!"
"Ares, to me!" called Silena. She tried to make her voice sound deeper to match her friend's, but she feared she had given herself away with her high-pitched voice.
The battle proceeded, but the arrival of the Ares' cabin and their supposed leader was a short-lived advantage, for as they charged deeper into the fray, favor turned sour for them. The lances broke against the drakon's skin. Two more chariots overturned. One Ares camper was simply swallowed up by the beast. Another camper was knocked aside with a sickening crunch. A third received a shower in boiling hot drakon poison.
This isn't working, Silena thought. There's too much defense, not enough offense. Remember what it takes to win Capture the Flag? Go for it.
The Clarisse look-alike grabbed a shield off of the ground and raced at the drakon in a direct sprint. Through the blur of her peripheral vision, she could barely make out Percy screaming to her, "You can do it! A child of Ares is destined to kill it!"
Silena faltered for a moment. And you were destined to be invincible, she thought to herself, remembering what Kronos had told her the boy had done two days earlier. Why can't I be strong like you, and resist the pressure to be one in Kronos's army? she wondered bitterly. Ever since she'd discovered through her "master" what the son of Poseidon had done by bathing in the River Styx, Silena had had a steely resolve to change her ways. To do that, she would have to give up everything: her friends, her family, her future. She would die young. She would have to sacrifice everything. But she would die repented, hopefully. She would be a hero, like Percy, whom she admired greatly for his will power.
She would get to see Charlie again.
Her mind made up, she shouted "ARES!" in a terrifying voice, leveled her spear, and charged the drakon, her eyes no longer filled with fear, but with the hope of seeing Charlie again. She dimly wa aware of someone calling out behind her to wait, but there was no stopping her now. She couldn't even stop herself or dodge out of the way when she saw the drakon turn towards her and spit poison directly in her face. She screamed, fell, and waited for the moment when she would again see Charlie. Maybe, she thought as she drifted, I will die a hero, like Percy.
Silena sat up from her desk with a start, and was surprised to see from the still-expectant faces of her students that only a few seconds had passed. She stood up and passed out a few pages of homework, which her kids never minded, about the life of Achilles.
"Achilles," she finalized, writing his name on the board in Expo marker in both the English and Greek spellings. Ἀχιλλεύς, it said. Something about the Greek letters was very haunting. But she brushed off those memories: the pain and sorrow that was affiliated with them. She turned to face her class. She spread her hands. A strong silence rose. Before things could become awkward, she had a sudden moment of inspiration.
"Boys and girls," she said brilliantly, "we've studied the lives of tons of ancient Greek heroes in this class, haven't we?" They agreed with some murmurs and nods. "Well, as part of our new unit on demigods, I thought I would introduce the topic to you in the form of a story." The class got quite excited, for their teacher, like her teacher before her, was known throughout the school for her ability to make stories come to life in a new, realistic way, as if they were more than silly old myths.
The students watched as their teacher walked to the board and wrote something on it in marker, two words in Greek, it looked like. She then wrote a name down in English next to it. Then she set down the marker, walked around her desk to the front of the classroom, and leaned against her desk, her arms clasped in excitement.
"There once was a boy named Percy Jackson..."