“And that is the future me and my father – my true father – hope to achieve. Zeus’s reign has become too absolute,” I stated bluntly. “My favorite human quote, from an excerpt by John E. E. D. Acton; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Truer words have never been spoken, Lord Hades. My father and I hope to correct this.”
It had only been half an hour since my little reveal to the God of the Underworld, and in that time I had carefully explained all that dad and I were planning to achieve. Hades had remained silently the entire time, betraying no emotion, yet clearly listening to every word. It made me slightly nervous seeing his lack of reaction, but as long as he wasn’t screaming in rage, I’ll count it as a win.
“Your nephew, in a spectacular display of his ineptitude, blindly allowed himself to be… convinced by a third party. This party pandered to Ares’ bloodlust, persuading him into stealing the Helm and the Bolt in order to start a war that would destabilize, not only Olympus, but the Underworld and Atlantis as well, and thus directing your attentions from the true threat.”
Hades cocked an eyebrow curiously. “And what threat would that be?”
“Hmph,” Hades grunted, nodding. “I figured as much. I have a contact in Tartarus that keeps me informed on the goings-on in the Pit. He’s told me that something big was going on, but he was unable to gain more information.” He cast me a questioning look. “Would you have any idea which Titan or Titans may be involved?”
I pondered for a moment, reviewing in my mind all that I had been taught of the Ancient Greek myths. There was one figure that stood out the most. “There is only one that would more than likely be the cause of such upset in the Pit, my Lord. Kronos.”
If it were possible, Hades paled even more. “Gamóto… this is not good. Our father is very powerful, and very ancient. He will not be an easy opponent.”
“I will worry about that, Lord Hades,” I replied reassuringly. “If the Great Prophecy is to be believed, then it will be my duty to defeat the Mad Titan. My Aunt’s training was no laughing matter, and my current abilities are but a fraction of my true power. With luck, the prophecy may not be fulfilled for a few more years, which will give us time to prepare.”
The eldest of the Big Three appeared as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders and let loose a sigh of relief. “Despite what your peers may or may not have said, I am not the hateful, spiteful boogeyman they make me out to be. I was tricked into taking the domain of God of the Underworld, while the airhead and barnacle beard got the cushy jobs up top. Admittedly this has made me bitter, but I do care what happens to the demigods. It is in large part why I have not had children in many years.”
“And that, my Lord, is a perfect segue to the next topic I wanted to discuss with you.”
“Oh?” Hades asked simply with surprise.
I adjusted to find a more comfortable position in my chair and affixed a stoic facade. “On our journey here, my friends and I made a pit stop in Las Vegas,” the god cocked an eyebrow curiously. “More specifically, the Lotus Hotel and Casino…”
Panic flashed in Hades’ eyes. His voice was barely a whisper, “you know?”
“I do,” I said with a nod. “And I understand why you did so.”
Again, I nodded. “Maria Di Angelo was one of the rare mortals that caught your eye.” Hades’ eyes widened in surprise, clearly caught off guard that I knew more than was possible. “The ’40’s were tough times for the mortals and gods alike. Between the Axis powers and the Allies, many of the gods, both on the council and off, lost many children. If I’m not mistaken, you lost three children between the years of 1941 and 1943 to bombs and bullets.
“Broken and depressed, you were inconsolable until you met Maria Di Angelo; a beautiful woman, of Sicilian descent, who came to America to escape the ironfisted rule of Mussolini. The two of you met and fell in love. The result of produced two children; Bianca and Nico Di Angelo – both of which are very nice and very polite.
“Zeus, in his jealousy and fear of being called a hypocrite, attempted to kill the Di Angelos with his precious Bolt.” I could tell Hades was just barely holding it together at this point, but I had to push on if I hoped to convince him. I continued in a gentler tone, “Maria was killed immediately, but the children survived thanks to your interference. Zeus, in his rage, attempted to kill the few remaining children of his own brother. The same womanizing bastard would have killed me as well had I not been very lucky.
“And what has that miserable excuse of a King done? He has basked in his delusions of grandeur and proclaimed himself to be so pure and great, when in fact, he broke the same oath the Big Three made, just under 50 years after he attempted to kill your children.” That was the breaking point.
“WHAT!?” Hades roared, looking absolutely furious, the Helm on his head crackling dangerously with black fire.
I nodded calmly. “Zeus is a conniving bastard, and when the day comes, I will personally strip him of all the power he holds. And once I’m done? I’ll send him your way to do with as you please.”
Hades calmed considerably, seemingly placated with this knowledge and nodded with a cruel smile that sent a shiver up my spine. “You have yourself a deal, Perseus Jackson. The side of Chaos will have my support.”
I smiled and bowed my head. “Thank you, Lord Hades. Your cooperation is much appreciated.”
Hades regarded me a moment and nodded as if deciding something. “The night you arrived at camp, you were chased by the Minotaur, yes?”
“I was, Lord Hades.”
“And your mother?”
My face grew dark and I could feel my eyes burning with black fire. “Taken. Most likely by whoever sent that abomination.”
That took me by surprise. My head whipped around, and I stared at the god, who looked abashed and slightly sheepish.
“Zeus sent the Minotaur to hunt you. Most likely because he believed you had stolen his bolt,” Hades began. “Admittedly I kept a watchful eye but chose not to interfere. At the time I had believed you had stolen my Helm. However, when the Minotaur made to kill your mother, I felt I should intervene.”
I had my suspicion but remained silent.
Hades rubbed his neck sheepishly and looked me in the eye. “I teleported your mother here, only seconds before the beast would have snapped her neck.”
“… I see.”
“She has been well cared for and spared the decor and ambience of my domain, I assure you,” Hades quickly added. “Honestly, I had a suspicion you would be arriving on my doorstep and had intended to bargain with you. I apologize for any heartache I may have caused you- ”
I raised a hand, cutting Hades off. “No. You did not send the beast, you saved my mother, despite your original intention,” I smiled genuinely. “My mother is one of three people I value most in my life, Lord Hades. You have done me and my father a great service. Thank you.”
Hades smiled warmly, strange considering his usual cold demeanor. “From a son of Chaos, your words carry a lot of weight. Thank you, Perseus Jackson, for your understanding.”
“Of course, my Lord,” I smiled. “I would like to take my mother from here and return her home.” Hades nodded his agreement before I continued. “Before I leave, there is one other thing I must speak to you about. Your children.”
“What of them?” Hades asked with curiosity.
“I believe they should be left in Lotus Casino for the foreseeable future. To release them now, Bianca and I would most likely be in a race against the Fates for who would fulfill the Prophecy. Given another couple of years, I will be older than Bianca, therefore saving her from being the key in said Prophecy.”
Hades’ brow rose in surprise. “Thank you, Jackson. But why? Why would you take her place?”
“Because she is your child,” I responded simply, shrugging. “It has always been my destiny to fulfill the Great Prophecy, since before I was even conceived. I have been trained for the last two years by Lady Order herself, and still my training continues. My father, my true father, does not wish for me to be the one to do this, but it must be done. And, quite frankly, you seem to be the only elder god who genuinely cares for their children. And why shouldn’t you? Every day you live with the knowledge that your children currently reside in Elysium or walking the Fields. You have had enough heartbreak and heartache, my Lord. I do this for family.”
Hades, God of the Underworld, eldest of the Big Three and the god with a heart of brimstone, stared at me with an unreadable expression. His face was as emotionless as stone, yet his eyes conveyed all I needed to see. The pride and gratitude those onyx orbs betrayed let me know I had made the right move and said all the right things.
I nodded and stood, snapping my fingers to vanish my armor and willed my sword back into its charm. “Thank you for your time and support, Lord Hades.” I bowed low and started towards the door.
I turned to find Hades standing before me. Shock ran through me when the god shrank to human size and pulled me into a hug.
“I never cared for humans, and I never cared for my brothers’ children. You may be a son of Chaos, but the sea runs through your veins. You are a good man, Jackson. For whatever reason you refuse to acknowledge your birth father is your own business. But I would be proud to call you nephew. Thank you.” Hades whispered hoarsely. He stood back and offered his hand.
I took it and shook. That single action solidified everything that had been discussed since we entered this room. That single handshake was proof that the world was about to change. For the better.
Before I could react, a brown missile launched itself into me and almost knocked me over. “Oof! Hey Grover, sorry I took so long… could you get off me now?”
Grover blushed and let go, taking a few steps back. “Sorry Perce. You were in there so long, me and Annabeth thought you’d been turned into a hellhound or something.”
I snorted and shook my head. “Nope, I’m all good. Still bipedal and not a dog.” We shared a laugh and I looked around. “By the way, where’s-”
“Where the hell have you been!?” My face burning with a small handprint and a look of surprise, I looked up to see Annabeth glaring at me. “You’ve been gone an hour! We thought you’d been killed or tortured or… or…”
“Turned into a hellhound?” Grover supplied.
“Thank you! Yes, that!” Annabeth growled, her stormy eyes burning a hole through me. “So?”
The daughter of Athena certainly lived up to her parentage, both in her inquisitive nature and her anger. There wasn’t a lie I could fabricate that the blonde wouldn’t be able to suss out. So I made a decision that would probably rock her’s and Grover’s views to the core.
I sighed and nodded, motioning my friends closer. “I can’t say right now. We need to get to Olympus as soon as possible first. Once all this mess is cleared up…” I sighed heavily and prayed to dad that I needed to do this. “I’ll tell you everything. I promise.”
Annabeth examined me with a critical eye, those stormy orbs seemingly searching my soul. After a long, tense moment she nodded alongside Grover. I smiled and started towards the exit. “Now, I wonder where-”
Once again I found myself hit by another brown missile and was knocked flat on my back. “Can’t you people hug like every normal person?!” I said with a groan. I looked up to find the person I’d journeyed through hell to find. “Mom? Mom!” I returned the hug with equal enthusiasm, tears starting to form in my eyes.
Mom hauled me to my feet and kissed the top of my head like she’d done since I was a little kid. “Oh Percy. Gods I’ve missed you, kiddo.”
“I missed you too, mom,” my voice was hoarse and happy tears tracked down my face. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
Mom gave me a watery smile and turned to Grover and Annabeth. Taking her cue, I introduced Annabeth, chuckling quietly with Grover when mom pulled the blonde into a warm hug and thanked her profusely for watching out for her little boy, much to mine and Annabeth’s embarrassment.
“Okay,” I chimed in, drawing everyone’s attention. “We need to get to Olympus, a.s.a.p. The Solstice ends in less than an hour and we need to go. Mom, Grover, Annabeth – take a pearl.” I handed each of them a pearl and explained how they worked. “Step on them, crush them, and picture the Empire State Building.”
“Percy, there’s only three.”
I looked at Grover and nodded. “I know. I got on Hades good side, he offered to flash me to Olympus,” lying through my teeth. “I’ll be right behind you, I promise.”
They all looked reluctant but nodded. As one, they dropped their pearls and stomped on them, three simultaneous crunches and a swirl of blue light formed around the three. In the blink of an eye, my mom and friends disappeared.
Rolling my shoulders and calling on my dad’s power, I pictured Olympus in my mind. “My turn.”
For those of you unfamiliar with teleportation, imagine trying to squeeze through a garden hose with a full stomach. It was constricting, nauseating, and altogether uncomfortable. In the span of a few seconds, which felt more like hours, I opened my eyes to find myself standing on the observation platform of the Empire State Building. It was dark out, the Sun had clearly been down for several hours, which meant the Solstice was about to begin.
“Perce! Over here!”
I turned to find my friends and mom standing next to an old service elevator. I jogged over and slid into the lift just as the three of them piled in. Smiling, I sighed in relief. “Almost there. Just a few thousand feet and this will all be over.”
“Seaweed Brain, maybe now would be a good idea to explain what the plan is?” Annabeth asked, looking rather anxious. “The Solstice starts in less than an hour and we still don’t have the Bolt!”
“Au contraire, Wise Girl,” I remarked with a sly grin. I reached into my pack and pulled out a two-foot-long, celestial bronze tube, with caps on both ends. You could literally feel the air crackle and pulse with how much godly radiation this thing was putting off.
Everyone’s jaws dropped, and I could swear Annabeth was going to have a meltdown with the incomprehensibility of the Bolt just suddenly being in my possession. I decided to cut her a break.
“That night we stayed in that motel near the Garden of The Gods in Colorado, I made a run to the gas station for some road snacks and happened upon Ares. He stole the Bolt and the Helm,” I explained, and dove into a quick rundown of that little encounter, omitting a few minor details of course.
“So, you kicked the God of War’s ass, and he just gave you two of the most dangerous Master Weapons ever created?” Annabeth’s voice was practically dripping with doubt and incredulity.
“Pretty much,” was my simple reply.
Annabeth, mom and Grover just kind of… stared for a moment. Not quite believing it but deciding to just roll with the whole thing.
The doors opened and there was a collective intake of breath. Olympus was absolutely beautiful, I honestly have no idea how to describe it. The closest I could manage would probably be, imagine a gorgeous utopia, with Greek architecture… and clouds. Lots of clouds.
No one spoke as we walked along the street towards the center of the city, we were too focused on the sights and sounds. Olympus was bristling with minor gods and goddesses, all kinds of nymphs and satyrs, bustling about in markets and small neighborhoods. It got a little unnerving when people would stop and stare at us as we walked by, clearly curious about the three mortals and the satyr taking a stroll through Olympus.
It took a few minutes, but eventually we found ourselves standing in front of a set of massive, gleaming bronze doors, and… oh, you have got to be kidding me. Embossed in gold, dead center of each door, was a large lightning bolt motif in the middle of a circle. Yet another example of that stupid bastard and his damn ego.
“He seems a little full of himself, doesn’t he?” I muttered to no one in particular. Shaking my head, I pushed on one of the doors and the four of us entered the throne room of the Gods.
As I suspected, the council was already in attendance. The gods and goddesses were arranged in a semicircle of thrones, all standing fifteen-feet tall and sitting regally upon their seats of power. Well, most of them anyway. Zeus and Poseidon were glaring at each other, shouting and cursing one another. Dionysus was passed out and snoring. And the other nine Olympians looked either bored or irritated.
“Ahem,” clearing my throat, I was able to amplify my voice to cut across the rather thunderous argument and gain the council’s attention’s. I gave a jaunty wave and smiled. “Hi. I’m Perseus Jackson. These are my friends, Grover Underwood and Annabeth Chase, and my mother, Sally Jackson. We’re here to return something very important to Ze… Lord Zeus.”
As expected, airhead spoke first. “And what would that be, Perseus Jackson?”
I really, really didn’t want to, but I had to keep up appearances and play the part. I approached the center of the room and kneeled, reluctantly before Zeus, and held up the Bolt. “Your Master Weapon, Lord Zeus.”