A Reunion, a Choice, and a Parting
I rushed out of the palace and out into the courtyard, wondering what had become of my friends while I was gone. The last I had seen of them, they were about to be overwhelmed by an army of undead soldiers. I could only assume that the worst had happened and that I would find their lifeless bodies, bloody and beaten, sprawled out somewhere on the ground of the courtyard.
As I burst through the doors of the palace, I was surprised to find that the courtyard was empty. The Furies were no longer hovering in the skies above and there was no sign that an army had been there or that a battle had taken place. I could only guess that the Furies and soldiers disappeared after I defeated Hades, but that didn’t explain why the other two weren’t there. Whether they were alive or dead, Justin and Sarah were nowhere to be found.
I started to panic as I scanned the grounds frantically for my friends, hoping for some sign that they were still alive. That was when I heard someone behind me groaning in what sounded like a mixture of pain and relief. I turned around and was suddenly overcome with joy. There, sitting on the ground next to the palace doors, staring at me with a smile on his face, was Justin. His clothes were torn and dirty and he was bleeding in several places, but he was very much alive. Sarah was sitting next to him, being in no better condition than he was. She was asleep, her head resting on Justin’s shoulder, but she was clearly alive.
Justin shook Sarah awake. Her eyes fluttered open and fell on me. Before either me or Justin could say anything, Sarah was on her feet. She dashed over to me and threw her arms around me, nearly tackling me to the ground as she did so. She held me close, not saying a word as she embraced me. I put my arms around her, reassuring her that I was, indeed, still alive. This wasn’t enough for her, as she continued to hold me closer, refusing to let go of me even after Justin had stood up.
“What happened,” Justin and I said at the same time. Sarah finally decided that it was now a good time to let go of me. For a long time, the three of us just stood there and looked at each other. Justin was the first to speak.
“We were nearly overrun,” he said, “I was knocked out at some point. When I came to, we were sitting against the wall over there. Hades’ soldiers were just standing there watching us, like they were waiting for something.”
“When Justin passed out,” Sarah spoke up, “I dragged him over to the palace, hoping to get away from the army, but they just watched us.”
“After a while, the soldiers advanced on us again,” Justin said, “We fought them off for as long as we could, but we were too tired to do anything.” Justin fell silent for a moment. “Just when we thought we were going to die, the soldiers crumbled to dust and dissolved into the ground.” Justin looked up at me. “Then we sat there, this one fell asleep on me,” he indicated Sarah, “After a few minutes, you came bursting through the palace doors.” We were silent again as we went back to staring at each other. “So, yeah,” Justin said, “Like I said before, you didn’t have to worry about us at all.” The three of us, despite being as bruised and bloodied as we were, all managed a laugh. “Anyway, what happened with you?”
I recalled every last detail about my encounter with Hades. I had a hard time talking about everything that had happened between me and Hades, especially about how everything that had happened to us had been manipulated directly by Hades. I spoke slowly as I recited how Hades had tried to use Elice to lure me to the Underworld. Even Justin reacted in anger to this new revelation.
“Bastard,” Justin said through gritted teeth, “I can’t believe he would use her like that. And she threw herself at that hydra to keep us from walking right into his trap.” The two of us stared at the ground, a look of bitter hatred on our faces.
Sarah looked between us with a confused expression. “Who’s Elice?”
Justin and I continued staring at the ground, neither of us wanting to talk about our faithful hellhound that died trying to save us from a hydra. Luckily, Sarah seemed to understand how we felt. I finished telling them about my story, ending on how I learned that Emily had been killed by the Furies and that our journey had been for naught.
“Hirius,” Sarah said breaking the silence that followed the end of my story, “I’m sorry, I mean, I…”
“It’s okay,” I said without looking at her, “I knew all along that she was probably dead. Coming here, hoping that she might be alive…I was a fool to think that any of it was possible.”
I kept my eyes on the doors of the palace, refusing to meet Sarah’s gaze. I tried to look like I really was okay, but, in reality, I was on the verge of tears. After all of the time that passed, I never lost hope that Emily might still be alive. But now I had to face the fact that she really was dead and that there was nothing I could do to change it. However, I didn’t want my friends to worry about me anymore than they already were, so I put on a brave face. I would have time to grieve over my sister later.
“Hirius,” Justin said, pulling me away from my thoughts, “We should probably get out of here, don’t you think?” I nodded.
I wasn’t in the mood to stick around in the Underworld any longer. The place just reminded me of all the reasons that I had once wished I was dead. Besides that, I was well aware that Poseidon’s son, Percy Jackson, was on his way to the palace. His reasons for coming here were still a bit of a mystery to me, but, after my talk with Hades, I didn’t want to be around when he showed up, just in case.
We made our way down the steps in front of the palace and walked the path through Persephone’s garden back toward the gates. It wasn’t long before the entrance to the palace grounds came into sight. That was when I stopped cold. Standing just on the other side of the gates, barely visible as she was transparent, was the spirit of a girl. It was almost impossible to make out her features, but I could recognize that face anywhere. It was Emily.
“What are we doing,” Justin asked as he and Sarah stopped behind me. “OW,” he yelled right after that. I didn’t turn to look at them, but I imagined that Sarah must have elbowed Justin in the side. “What was that for…OW…Stop it!” Sarah had grabbed Justin by the wrist and was pulling him away from me and back toward the center of the garden.
I continued to stand and stare silently at the girl standing at the gates, wondering if she was actually there, or if I was just seeing things. I knew that she must real though, Sarah had obviously seen her and put two and two together, but why was she appearing here now. She couldn’t have known that I was in the Underworld and, even if she did, she couldn’t have come here anyway.
It took me some time, but I finally remembered how to use my legs and I walked to the gate. “Emily,” I said in a whisper after a long moment. For a long time, she just stood there and stared at me without a word. I was starting to wonder if she could actually see or hear me when a smile spread across her face.
“It’s been a long time,” she said, “Hasn’t it brother?” She looked up and met my eyes for the first time, “But I guess I can’t call you that anymore, can I?” This sounded more like an actual question, like she was asking me if it was still okay to call me her brother.
“I don’t think it would hurt anything,” I said with a smile.
Emily jumped forward, both of us so overcome with joy that we each forgot that she was still a ghost. We were only reminded of that fact when Emily ran right through me, dispersing into a thin mist and reforming behind me. I turned around to look at her again and she did the same. It was hard to tell what she was thinking because of her misty form, but it was obvious enough that she was crying.
“I never thought that the last time you held me would actually be the last time,” she said, “If I had known…” She broke off as more tears came and she covered her face with her hands. “I missed you so much,” she said.
“I missed you too,” I said, trying to hold back my own sobs. Even as I said that, I was overcome by a tornado of dueling emotions. I thought back on everything that had happened, and I became suddenly angry, and sad, and happy all at the same time. “But,” I found myself saying, “Why did you leave?”
Emily continued sobbing, even harder now if that were possible. I stood and waited for her to stop, waited for her to answer me. I felt bad for her and I was happy to see her, but I couldn’t help but feel the strange anger that I always had whenever I thought about her. I had to know why she left me in the first place, and this could be my only chance to do so. After some time, Emily took her hands away from her face and looked at me.
“I guess you do deserve to know what happened,” she said. Before she told me, however, Emily looked off to the side like she was hearing something, or someone, in that direction. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll be quick.”
I looked in the same direction that she was, but I saw no one. “Who are you talking to?”
Emily looked back at me and waved off the question. “It’s no one,” she said. She stared silently and took a breath before she started.
“I don’t know how much you’ve guessed on your own,” she began, “But I guess it can’t hurt to start from the beginning.” She turned away from me, having trouble meeting my eyes as she told the story. “I never told you,” she went on, “But I started having strange dreams a few weeks before I left.” She stopped for a moment, remembering whatever she had seen in her dreams with a shudder. “I wanted to tell you about it,” she said, “But I figured you would probably think I was crazy.”
“I know how that feels,” I said. Emily turned around and looked at me again. She held my gaze for a moment and kept silent. Then she smiled.
“I’m guessing you’ve seen enough crazy things these last three years to last a lifetime,” she said.
“I’m still kind of holding out hope that it’s all just a really bad dream,” I said. We both managed a laugh.
“Anyway,” Emily continued, “The dreams continued up until that night.” She fell silent for another moment. It looked like she was having trouble saying the next part. “I…was scared to go to sleep that night,” she forced out, “I ended up taking a walk to try and clear my mind. That was when I met Artemis.” She stopped and looked at me, apparently wondering if I knew who she was talking about. “She told me about who I really was,” Emily went on after seeing that I was still following.
“And who are you really,” I asked.
She hesitated for a moment before telling me. “I’m really the daughter of Demeter,” she said, “My father died before I was even born and Demeter couldn’t take care of me, I’m sure you know how the gods are with their children.”
“But she didn’t leave you alone did she,” I asked like I already knew the answer.
“No,” Emily said, “She wanted to leave me somewhere I would be safe, so she left me with mom.” I started to ask why Demeter picked our mom, but Emily was already answering. “She thought I would be safe there,” she said, “She told me that she could feel a strong presence there and believed that whoever it was would protect me.”
“Some good I did with that,” I said.
Emily smiled at me again. “You did well enough,” she said, “After I left it was out of your hands.”
We both fell silent for a long time at the mention of her leaving. I was the first to speak again. “So Artemis told you about your real parents,” I said, “And then you went with her and joined the hunters?”
“Demeter told me about my father and how I came under mom’s care,” Emily corrected me, “But yes, I did join the hunters after Artemis told me who I was.” She was having trouble getting the words out again. “You have to understand my position Hirius,” she said, speaking quickly, “I was scared and I was questioning everything that I thought was real and…”
“Emily,” I said, stopping her rambling. I smiled. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I get it. I felt the same way when I found out I was a demigod.”
She stared at me with a blank expression for a moment. Then she buried her face in her hands again and began to sob softly. “Oh Hirius,” she said, “I wanted to go back and find you, to tell you what had happened to me and that I was safe, but Artemis wouldn’t let me I…” her sobs grew louder for a second before she calmed herself again. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m so sorry.”
She reached out for me again, forgetting for the second time that we weren’t able to touch. Her hand dispersed into a thin mist just before it came into contact with mine. This only caused Emily’s sobs to grow louder. I stood there, watching her with a stupid look on my face. I wanted to hold her, to tell her to stop crying, and that everything would be okay. Even if I could, I didn’t see any point in it. It wouldn’t be okay anymore.
“Emily,” I heard someone say. That was when I noticed that a woman was standing between us. She was tall with long, flowing black hair. She wore a white dress, or I thought it was white until I realized that it was actually changing colors, red, blue, and yellow flowers blooming from the fabric. Her eyes were the same as the garment, multicolored. I had never met her before, but I somehow knew who she was.
“Persephone,” I said out loud without meaning to.
“It’s time to go,” she said still looking at Emily and ignoring my presence.
Emily took a moment to calm herself before she looked up at the goddess and nodded. “I’m ready,” she said.
“Wait,” I said before either of them could go anywhere, “What…”
“Persephone’s the reason that we could meet,” Emily answered before I could finish my question.
I stood and stared at them, my mouth open in confusion. “So she,” I started, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say, “You…I mean, I…What…You knew about me?”
“Of course,” Persephone said, “Your father thinks himself clever, but he often gets so lost in his plotting that he neglects to realize that he is speaking out loud.”
“Then why didn’t you tell any of the other gods about me?”
“I can keep a secret,” Persephone said, “I know, better than most, how Hades can be, but I thought it better to leave him be.” She smiled at me, for just a moment, but long enough for me to notice. “And besides,” she went on, “I suppose I did rather like the idea of becoming the Queen of Olympus, though I would never plot to overthrow Zeus myself.”
I stared at her again for a time, my mouth still wide open. “But,” I said as I found my voice again, “Why bring Emily here?”
“Ah, yes,” Persephone said, “I suppose you thought I would resent your very existence, and perhaps I do to a small degree, but I am a bit less-er-bitter when I’m not stuck down in this depressing place. And I did feel that you at least deserved to see your dear sister one last time after everything you’d been through.” I was left at a loss for words. Persephone simply smiled at me for a moment. “But we must be off. I should be getting back to my mother soon, and I believe that your friends are on their way back here.”
I looked past the goddess and saw that, sure enough, Sarah and Justin were making their way towards us, both of them wearing an expression of urgency. I looked at Persephone again, but she was beginning to glow now and I was forced to look away from her as a flash of light broke the darkness for a moment before fading into nothing. When I looked up again, the goddess, as well as Emily, was gone, leaving me to stare at where they had been.
“Hirius,” Sarah yelled as she and Justin reached me, “We need to get out of here!”
“Why,” I said, “What happened?”
“We think Hades is up again,” Justin said indicating something behind him.
I looked past the two of them. At first, I saw nothing. Then about a half a dozen skeletal soldiers appeared in the distance, rushing through the garden toward us. I didn’t have to be told again that we needed to run. Unfortunately, at that same moment, the Furies swooped down from the sky and landed between us and the palace gates. We were trapped. Justin and Sarah turned to face the Furies, each drawing their weapons.
“It’s no use,” I told them, “We won’t get through them in time and there are bound to be reinforcements on the way.”
“Then what are we supposed to do,” Justin yelled without looking at me, “Stand here and die!?”
The soldiers were about to reach us. The Furies had yet to move, their only intent being to keep us from escaping. Through the darkness all around us, more soldiers were appearing almost out of thin air. Justin and Sarah were both shaking, but I was somehow managing to remain completely calm.
Sarah and Justin had noticed the arrival of the new soldiers and began backing away from the Furies until they had backed right into me. They looked around anxiously, wondering how we were going to get away from this one. I finally got the feeling that I should end this. I turned around and grabbed the two of them by the shoulder, causing each of them to jump.
“This is going to feel weird,” I said.
I began pulling the darkness in around us and tried to think of somewhere to take us. All I could think about was Emily though. With the thought of our recent conversation still fresh in my mind, it was difficult to think of anything other than the very spot that I was standing where we had parted ways. Just as I felt the darkness pulling us down, an image of a place from a long time ago came into my mind, but there was no way that I could take us that far. I tried to think of somewhere else, somewhere closer, but it was too late. The shadows pulled us down and I felt myself being shot forward into the darkness to the sound of Justin’s and Sarah’s terrified screaming.
Within seconds, the darkness melted away and I found myself standing in a deserted alleyway somewhere in New York. Justin and Sarah were standing in front of me, my hands each on one of each of their shoulders and the two of them still screaming like they were about to be attacked by some horrible creature. It took them a moment to realize that they weren’t in any danger. Once they did, they both turned to look at me, my arms falling from my grip on them and falling limply to my sides.
“What just…” Justin began to say, but his words fell short.
I smiled and tried to take a step forward. I realized too late that it was a mistake. The moment I tried to move, my body seemed to remember how much energy it took to shadow travel. My legs turned to jelly and I suddenly found myself on my hands and knees, my mind fighting to keep my body from failing on me completely. My vision went blurry and then black as I fell forward.
I felt like I must have been out for just a few seconds, but, when I woke up, the sun was beginning to rise, despite it being the middle of the night when I passed out. I was lying on the mattress that Emily and I had used when we lived here. It was surprising to me that it was still there given how long we were gone. I stood up as Justin and Sarah appeared at the entrance of the alleyway.
“Look whose up already,” Justin said when he caught sight of me, his arms full of all kinds of snacks. “We figured you would be out a lot longer,” He went on as he handed me some food, which I took and ate gratefully.
“So,” Justin said as I finished the rest of the snack he had given me and made a grab for more, “Where in the world are we?”
I looked up at him, my mouth full of half the chocolate bar in my hand. “I thought it was obvious,” I said swallowing the chocolate in my mouth and biting into the half still in my hand, “This is the alleyway Emily and I lived in for a few months before she disappeared.”
Justin dropped the subject and the three of us ate quietly. After we finished, we went on to discuss what we should do next. We all agreed that, even though things might go wrong when we got there, the best thing to do was to head straight for Camp Half-Blood and tell Chiron what had happened. I wasn’t sure how much had changed since I left, and I was sure that everyone was convinced that Hades had stolen Zeus’ master bolt by that point, which may have led the others to be a bit more hostile towards us.
We walked through the streets of the city in silence as I lead the way to the camp. We trudged through Long Island and eventually found ourselves standing at the foot of Half-Blood Hill. We scaled the hill and walked over the crest and into the camp. I had hoped to go straight to the Big House without being noticed by anyone, but, unlucky for us, the campers were just waking up when we arrived. And Clarisse had already caught sight of us.
The head of Ares cabin fixed me with a hard glare as she approached us. I was clearly right in guessing that the others thought that Hades had stolen the master bolt. “You’ve got some nerve showing your face again,” Clarisse said as we stopped just two feet from each other.
“Look,” I said, “I don’t know what you were told or…”
“You stole the master bolt,” Clarisse yelled.
She approached, clearly preparing to attack me. I quickly summoned my sword and brought the tip of it up to Clarisse’s chest, just inches from her heart. She stopped at the sight of my blade, remembering how skilled of a swordsman I was. Even in her anger, she wasn’t stupid enough to try and fight me. The other kids, including Silena Beuregard, were beginning to crowd around us, wondering what was going on.
“Look,” I said growing more impatient with her, “I’m sure you all think you know what’s going on, but you’re wrong.” I looked around at the others, daring any of them to speak out against me. Few of them looked like they were on my side, but none of them were bold enough to speak up. “Now,” I continued on still looking around at the others and not focusing on anyone in particular, “I need to speak to Chiron, so step aside.”
The whole of the camp must have been out there by then. I caught sight of Sarena, her boyfriend next to her, a look of fear on her face, of anticipation on his. Silena was trying to get the others to disperse, but had little luck. I didn’t see Annabeth anywhere, but, of course, she was in the Underworld with Poseidon’s son. Clarisse stood in front of me, unmoved by anything I had said.
“You think you can scare me,” Clarisse said, “I’m not going anywhere until you explain yourself.”
What little patience I had with her was gone by then. I didn’t have time to sit there and discuss everything that had happened with Clarisse, not before I talked to Chiron anyway. There was just too much I still didn’t understand. I had just resolved to use my powers to force Clarisse out of my way when Silena stepped forward and pushed my blade away from the girl. She stood between the two of us and faced me.
“That’s enough,” she said in a harsh tone, the first time I had seen her speak to anyone in such a way, “Both of you,” she added turning to face Clarisse. The two of them fixed each other with a harsh glare. “Look,” Silena yelled addressing the whole of the crowd, “None of us has any idea what’s really going on, and before any of us goes blaming Hirius for anything we should at least give him a chance to speak with Chiron!”
Clarisse was apparently not listening to Silena. Her eyes had shifted away from her and were now fixed on me again. It was clear that she did not share Silena’s ideals and was ready to beat the answers she wanted out of me if she needed to. The others looked more on her side than Silena’s. I gripped my sword, ready to take on Clarisse, or anyone else, if she decided to attack me. Sarah and Justin had remained still and silent the whole time, but I knew that neither of them had taken their eyes off of Clarisse. Luckily, before anyone could make a move, Chiron came galloping out of the Big House and rushed over to the scene.
“Hey,” Chiron yelled as he approached the crowd. Everyone’s attention turned to him. “What’s going on…” he fell off short of what he was going to ask. His eyes fell on me and a sudden understanding passed over him. “Back to your cabins,” he called to the others, “all of you!” The others made their way back to their cabins, Silena and Clarisse being the last to leave. Once the others were gone, Chiron looked at me. “You three should come to the Big House,” he said. He turned toward the place, but added quickly, “And you won’t need your sword anymore Hirius.”
I followed Chiron, sending my sword back to its hiding place as I did. Justin and Sarah fell in pace with me. None of us spoke even as Chiron led us into the Big House, which appeared to be empty. Even Dionysus, the counselor, and Argus, the head of security, were nowhere to be found despite the fact that they could almost always be found in the Big House.
“So where’s Dionysus,” I asked when the silence became unbearable.
“He’s not in camp,” Chiron said after a moment, “Zeus summoned him to Olympus for reasons he would not speak of to anyone, though I expect him to return soon enough.” Silence fell on the room again, this time broken by Chiron. “You three went to great lengths to leave camp,” Chiron said, “Care to explain why?”
I looked at Justin and Sarah. Neither one of them was looking at me, apparently leaving this decision up to me. I looked at Chiron again. I told him about our journey into the Underworld and my encounter with my father. I left out the part where I met Emily, I didn’t want to talk about the last time I would ever see my sister again. The last thing I told Chiron was my encounter with the titan Kronos.
“You dueled with Kronos,” he asked, speaking for the first time since I started my story.
“Well, kind of,” I said, “I’m not really sure what happened. One minute, I’m standing over the entrance to Tartaurus, the next, I’m in the pit fighting Kronos, and then, just as suddenly, I was waking up at the mouth of the pit with Sarah and Justin kneeling over me.”
Chiron looked up at my friends at the mention of their names. They had remained silent through most of the story, speaking up only to tell Chiron what they had seen of me while I was fighting the titan lord. Chiron stared at me silently for a long time after I finished telling him about the battle.
“I’m afraid that I have no idea what you experienced either,” Chiron said, “The simple mention of the titan lord is disturbing enough.” He looked at me as if waiting for a response. “Do you believe him defeated?”
I shook my head, knowing the answer right away. “No,” I said, “I think I stalled him, delayed his full rise to power, but I think he’s still alive, waiting for another chance.”
Chiron raised an eyebrow at me, but otherwise seemed unfazed by my answer. “You are very wise in saying so,” Chiron said, “The titan lord would not be defeated so easily, in fact, he probably already had a backup plan, though I am not sure what it might be.”
“I have an idea,” I said. Chiron eyed me closely, but said nothing. “Everyone thinks that Hades stole Zeus’ master bolt,” I said, “But Hades didn’t seem to know anything about it, he even looked surprised when I accused him of it. Plus, he mentioned something about his helm of darkness missing.”
“Oh,” said Chiron, “So you believe that Kronos is the true thief.” It was more of a statement than a question.
I nodded. “He wanted to start a war between the gods while he rose to full power,” I said confidently, “And I think that he has someone, likely in camp, that stole it for him. And I think that Percy Jackson will confirm my suspicions when he gets back.”
Chiron stared at me for a moment, drinking in my words, before he spoke again. “Then the prophecy must have…”
“The prophecy,” I questioned cutting Chiron off, “I thought the prophecy had been fulfilled. I turned sixteen today.” Much to my surprise, Chiron was shaking his head before I had even finished speaking.
“No,” he said, “The prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, for no child of the elder gods has yet to reach sixteen.”
I looked up at him, confused. “How is that possible?”
“Think back,” Chiron said, “Do you remember the last words Hades spoke to you?” I recalled the very words and nodded. “You may not have understood them,” Chiron went on, “But they were a curse, perhaps, one of the most feared curses a god can put upon a mortal.” The look I gave Chiron clearly gave me away. “Immortality,” he said, “Well, eternal youth at the least.”
Justin was the first to break the silence. A howl of laughter escaped him. “That’s not a very good curse,” he laughed. He made as if he was trying to act like a tyrant, “Fear me or I will grant you immortality.” He laughed again, falling onto his back as he did so.
I actually had to agree with Justin for once. I couldn’t see how being given something like eternal life could be a bad thing. Apparently Chiron and Sarah had a different idea. While I was looking at Justin with a smile, and even suppressing a bit of laughter myself, Sarah and Chiron had a look of clear worry upon them. However, neither of them spoke until Justin had stopped laughing.
“It may seem that way,” Chiron said, “But immortality is a curse as much as a blessing.” Justin and I looked at him, but it was Sarah who answered.
“Hirius,” she said. I looked back at her. Tears were in her eyes. “Don’t you get it,” she went on having trouble holding back her sobs, “You won’t ever die…But we will.”
The reality of it all hit me at once, and Justin as well as his face turned from humor to horror. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. If I couldn’t die, then I would, one day, have to watch my friends die. And no matter how many people I met over the years, all of them would die and I would be left to deal with the pain of their loss. I looked up at Chiron as the only person that could possibly understand what this kind of thing could be like. The look of pity he was giving me was no source of reassurance. And Sarah’s crying wasn’t helping much either.
“Chiron,” I said, “Is there…I mean, is it possible to get rid of a curse like this.”
“You wouldn’t be the first to ask,” Chiron said, “I have never heard of such a thing being done, but that does not mean it is impossible.” I looked away from him, wanting time to think about what I had just been told. However, Chiron had more to tell me. “On another note,” Chiron said, “I also have news of the gods decision for you.” I wasn’t listening to him. “Unfortunately,” Chiron said, “The gods have decided against you staying here.”
“What,” Sarah and Justin exclaimed together. I was barely listening to any of them.
“Furthermore,” Chiron said ignoring Justin and Sarah, “They have also forbidden you from interfering in any way with Olympus, the gods, or the camp.” Sarah and Justin were silent again. “I’m sorry,” Chiron said simply, “But they believe that it would be best if he were completely ignored, in fact, as of today, Hirius, technically, no longer exists.”
“But,” Sarah said, “That’s not fair, it’s…”
“The gods have decided,” Chiron said, “They believe this the correct course of action…for everyone’s safety.”
“But they can’t do that,” Justin screamed, “They can’t just throw him out of camp like this!”
Chiron, Sarah, and Justin continued to argue, but I still wasn’t paying any attention. Of course, I understood what was going on, I understood that I was being thrown out of camp, but I didn’t care. I was still lost on the thought of Hades’ curse, which must’ve been put on me just before midnight so that I remained fifteen and never had the chance to fulfill the prophecy.
What did it matter if I could stay in camp if I had this curse. While all of my friends would grow up and fade out of my life, either dying or leaving me, I would be left alone like I always knew that I would. If I stayed in camp, it would only get worse. Here, I would watch friend after friend disappear while I remained, but if I were alone…If I were alone…
“Stop it,” I yelled at the others as the argument began to annoy me, “There’s no reason for this!” The others looked at me and my eyes scanned over them. “I’ll go without a fight,” I said. Sarah and Justin began to argue, but I stopped them. “I have to go,” I said feeling that it was true.
“You are indeed wise,” Chiron said as an understanding passed over him and I knew that he realized why I was doing this.
I made to leave, but caught sight of Sarah before I did. Tears were in her eyes again and I suddenly remembered what she had almost said to me before I went to face Hades. I tore my gaze away from her and looked at Justin. The look on his face was distant, like he was trying to convince himself that none of this was really happening. Unable to bear saying goodbye to them, I sprinted out of the door as fast as I could.
I ran for the crest of Half-Blood Hill, telling myself over and over that this was the right thing to do. I wasn’t allowed to stay in camp anymore, and I wouldn’t even if I could. Not if my fate was already decided for me. Not if I had to watch my friends die while I lived on with the pain of their loss. No, I would cut away any connection that I had to them, any ties that I had to anyone, and live alone, where the gods wanted me to be.
I stopped at the crest of the hill without really meaning to. I breathed in heavily and, having exhausted myself after my mad sprint, I put my hand on the tree for support. I felt the presence inside of the tree almost immediately. I looked at it and a smile spread across my face.
“Hey Thalia,” I said, not knowing if she could actually hear me, “You know, I never got the chance to thank you.” I fell silent for a moment, wondering what I should be expecting. “If you hadn’t found me that day,” I went on, “Well, I don’t like to think about where I would be if you hadn’t. Things didn’t really go the way that I expected them to, and I might be worse off now than I was before,” my breathing slowed down a bit and I found myself holding back tears, “But, you know, I never would’ve met all of these great people, I never would’ve found out who I was, or that I wasn’t hated by everyone in the world.” I looked at the tree silently again, still wondering if I was being stupid doing this. “I honestly don’t even think that was you,” I said, “It was probably a trick of Kronos’s.” A short chuckle escaped me. “Even if it was you,” I went on, “You probably can’t even hear me.” I waited again, hoping for some kind of acknowledgement that my words weren’t for nothing. “Well, anyway,” I said after a long time, “Thanks.”
I stood and stared at the tree again, my hand still on it despite the fact that I no longer needed it for support. For a long time, nothing happened. I was about to walk away, feeling that there was no reason for me to stay there, but then I was suddenly filled with a warm feeling, like, for some reason, I was struck with a sudden happiness despite feeling like the most miserable person in the world. I looked back at Thalia’s tree and smiled.
Before I left, I risked one final look back at the camp. The sun had finally risen so that its full light could shine down on the camp. The water in the sound was sparkling, the cabins were all quiet, the campers probably wondering what would become of me, the trees in the forest were swaying in the wind. Everything in camp looked normal, peaceful. It was hard to believe that I would never see the place again.
I’m not sure what I was expecting as I stood there staring down at the camp. Maybe Chiron would come running up the hill to tell me that the gods had changed their mind, or that what they said didn’t matter, or something like that. Maybe Annabeth would come running to tell me some way to get rid of my curse, she wasn’t at camp though, of course. I even would’ve been glad to see Clarisse coming to apologize for accusing me of stealing the master bolt. But there was no one there. It was just me up there. I turned around to face my future.
So, yeah, I guess you could say that I’m okay with being alone. I always knew that it would end up like this. I was sad that I had to leave my friends. No matter how much I tried to prepare myself for this, it was still hard to face it. But I knew that I had to. There was nothing else for me. The Greeks had a word for things like this. They called it fate…well, I guess there are some people that like to defy it.
“HIRIUS,” I heard someone scream at the top of their lungs, “WHERE THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING!?”
I turned around quickly. A single person was making her way up Half-Blood Hill, her gaze fixed on me and me alone. And I don’t think I’d ever seen her so mad.
“Sarah…” I started to say, but I never got any further. Sarah stormed up to me and pushed me as hard as she could. My feet gave out from under me and, before I knew it, I was rolling down Half-Blood hill on the side opposite the camp. When I gathered myself together, I looked up to find Sarah standing at the crest of the hill, her hands on her hips and an angry glare fixed on me.
“YOU REALLY THINK YOU CAN JUST LEAVE,” she yelled as she walked toward me, “YOU REALLY THINK IT’S THAT EASY!?”
I stood up to face her, but I knew right away that it was a losing battle. “I don’t have a choice,” I said, “There’s nothing I could do about it.”
Sarah continued to glare at me. “Don’t give me that excuse,” She said, her voice returning to normal volume, “You know that you’re not going anywhere without me.”
“Sarah,” I said. Somehow I expected this, but I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was. I wasn’t going to let her do this again. “You can’t come with me this time,” I told her, “Nobody can, not anymore.”
Sarah was quiet for a moment, the anger in her subsiding a little. “I already told you once that I’m always going to be there for you,” she said, “Because I…I…” Whatever she said next was lost to me as she mumbled it.
“Sorry,” I said, “I didn’t catch that.”
“I SAID I LOVE YOU, YOU IDIOT,” Sarah screamed, her voice rising to the point that the whole camp must have heard her. Her hands came up to cover her mouth as she realized how loud she had just screamed. She had a hard time meeting my eyes.
I was struck silent for a long time as I stood there and stared at Sarah. The whole thing had caught me off guard, but I already knew how I felt about it. It might have taken me a moment, but I knew what I needed to do.
“Sarah,” I said. She finally managed to look at me again. “I love you too.”
The words seemed almost foreign to her, like she couldn’t believe she was actually hearing them. Before she could say anything, though, I put my hands on her shoulders, pulled her toward me, and kissed her. And, even though I knew that it would be the last memory I would have of her, it was the best one I could have asked for. I just wished that it could’ve lasted longer.
“Awwww,” I heard Justin mocking us from the crest of the hill, “Isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.”
Sarah and I pulled away from each other almost mechanically. Her face was redder than I had ever seen it. I saw Justin walking down the hill toward us, a smirk on his face.
“You pick the worst times,” I said to him, “Did you come to say goodbye too?”
“Goodbye,” Justin questioned, “Weren’t you listening to Sarah? We’re coming with you.”
I shook my head at him. Even if I wanted them to come with me, and I actually did, I just couldn’t do that. “No you’re not,” I said making my voice as firm as I could, “You guys are staying here, where you’ll be safe. I’m not dragging you guys into danger again.”
“Hirius,” Justin said looking at me like he thought I was crazy, “You know you’re not going to win this.” I started to protest him, but he wouldn’t give me the chance. “We’re coming with you whether you want us to or not.”
“And besides,” Sarah cut me off and looking at me for the first time since Justin had shown up, “You can’t just tell a girl you love her and then leave her behind.”
“But don’t you guys get it,” I said with a hint of anger, “It’s not like it was before. You have somewhere where you can be safe, you have other friends. What about Silena, Justin? And aside from that, this curse will make it impossible for us to be together.” The last statement was mostly directed at Sarah.
The two of them looked at each other, and then back at me. Apparently they had planned their argument ahead of time.
“Camp Half-Blood isn’t really all that safe,” Sarah said, “I mean, yeah, we’ve had our fair share of near death experiences over the years, but we never had to face an entire army until we got here.”
“We haven’t made that many friends here, and what kind of friends would we look like if we let you go out into the world alone,” Justin said, “As for Silena, well, I said my goodbye to her already, she understands. Besides, I’m pretty sure she has the hots for that Beckendorf guy in Hephaestus cabin.” He looked off for a moment, a distance look on his face. Then he turned back to me and smiled.
“And Hirius,” Sarah said, “We know you didn’t ask Chiron about a way to remove your curse for no reason.”
I looked between the two of them as they both beamed at me. I wanted to argue it with them more, to show them how ridiculous they were being, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. Sarah was right about me asking Chiron about removing the curse. I did plan on finding a way to break it, even if I was the first to accomplish such a thing. Besides, if memory served, I knew that there was no winning with them.
“You two have got to be the most stubborn people I have ever met,” I said choosing my words carefully, “But I guess that’s why I’ll never be rid of you.”
It didn’t register with either of them for a moment. When it did, Sarah ran forward, threw her arms around me, and kissed me. Justin walked past us as our embrace broke, a triumphant smile on his face. He looked off into the distance for a minute before turning to me.
“So,” he said, “Where to first?”
I looked over at Sarah. She smiled as her hand slid into mine. I turned to Justin again.
“Should be obvious right,” I said, “We start looking for a way to rid myself of this stupid curse.”
I walked forward, Sarah’s hand still in mine. Justin followed next to us. I didn’t know where we were going or what we were getting ourselves into, none of us did. I didn’t really care though. For once, it didn’t matter to me what the future was going to bring. All that mattered was that I was holding hands with the greatest girl in the world, and I had my best friend at my side. As long as I had them, I could get through anything that the world had to throw at me.
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