The Battle of the Labyrinth
By 2003, Nico and I were nowhere different than we had been the year before, and there hadn’t been any more kissing. The year we were four was not good for the half-blood world, as it was the year of the famous Battle of the Labyrinth. Not only was Percy’s life a nightmare, but mine was, too.
My little brother, Jacob, son of Dionysus, was at camp. Being barely 2 when he arrived, he wasn’t ready to train, and Castor and Pollux, the only kids in his cabin at that time, wanted nothing to do with him when they were busy. I was busy too and couldn’t keep him in my cabin because it was against the rules. Whenever he woke up in the middle of the night crying because of bad dreams, which he had a lot as a kid, it was generally Castor who woke up and formed a bond with him. Trying to raise my little brother when I was still a toddler myself was a rude awakening to the problems that Camp Half-Blood’s system had. The camp was geared towards older kids who were essentially self-sufficient, and Nico and I had just gotten lucky that his parents and Percy and Annabeth cared so much for us.
However hard it was, I enjoyed the bond I formed with my brother and discovered that I was pretty good at the whole “mom” thing. It made me want my own children when I grew up.
By the time the Battle of the Labyrinth came around, everyone at camp had serious frayed nerves. Chris Rodriguez losing his mind wasn’t a well-kept secret and none of us had gotten over Luke’s betrayal. Knowing that, if Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson failed that some of us would have to go into the Labyrinth and try to stop Luke/Kronos was a debilitating thought. All we did was train. Some people had trouble eating, others sleeping, and all of us forgot to shower at one point or another. It wasn’t a good way to live.
In that way, it was almost a good thing when the battle finally came around. Sure, it was extremely terrifying, but it meant that the waiting and the “what if” game was over. Nico Jr. and I were assigned to baby duty. We were supposed to stay in the Big House with Jacob while everyone else fought for their lives, and that didn’t sit well with Nico and I.
“What if they die and we don’t?” Nico asked. He hadn’t heard from his own father for months.
“I want to fight with Percy so I can protect him,” I said. Sure, laugh because I was four. But I was a tall kid. I was an entire two feet long when I was born, and by the time I was four, I was four feet tall. Trust me, I’ve slowed down height-wise since, but back then, people always thought I was older than I was. I could protect Percy if I needed to.
Though Nico was shorter by a few inches, he nodded solemnly. “I want to protect my mom.”
We left Jacob in his playpen with a bowl of snacks and a bottle and ran down to Zeus’s fist, where our hearts nearly stopped. The carnage was unreal, and Nico Jr. saw his dad for the first time in months from a distance, looking like a skeleton himself as he summoned undead warriors and defended camp.
Nico Jr. rushed to join his father in defending the cabins and the Big House, where my little brother was supposed to be safe. I rushed into battle, trying to find Percy, but was stopped and had to fight. By the time I did make it to Percy’s side, the battle was pretty much over. Percy hugged me tight afterwards and ended up carrying me, crying and bleeding from a wound in my leg, to the Big House where I was healed and I woke up with Jacob cuddled up next to me.
I was shipped off to my own bed in my cabin not much later, and Jacob was put to bed. I woke up twice that night. Once when Percy came in to go to bed and kissed me on the forehead. Our beds have always been positioned so that our heads are towards each other and our feet are pointing in the other direction, and we have no plans of changing it.
The second time I woke up, I turned to see Nico Jr. standing next to my bed, crying. I moved over and he cuddled up next to me.
“What’s wrong?’ I asked, not telling him the obvious. He shouldn’t have been in my cabin.
“My… my mom,” Nico said.
I held my breath.
“She died fighting.” He broke into fresh sobs and I comforted him, crying some myself. His mother had been like a mother to me while I was away from my biological mother at camp. When Nico could, he also told me that his father had disappeared, too. The fact that we both knew he had survived the battle made it worse, somehow. We both felt abandoned and alone in the world. We knew that we were going to have to fight for ourselves and for each other.