You could have heard a pin drop; the room had fallen into such an uneasy silence. Sweat beaded on my forehead and my arms trembled slightly. I kept my head bowed and stayed as steady on one knee as I could.
“Rise, Jackson,” Zeus growled.
I felt the Bolt be lifted from my hands and glanced up in time to see it float into Zeus’ outstretched hand. The second the metal met his palm there was a bright flash of light and the rod began to glow, extending to about a five or six-foot-long version of itself. The entire time, the big man’s eyes never left me, anger swimming in their electric-blue pools. I stood slowly, clasped my hands behind my back, and adopted an emotionless expression.
“Pretty foolish of you, boy,” Zeus began, almost trembling in anger. “To journey into the lion’s den with the very weapon you stole-”
“I didn’t steal it.”
I had to stifle a chuckle at the look of momentary surprise on the big airhead’s face. That look of surprise quickly morphed into one of rage. “Lies!” Zeus shouted, rising from his throne, the Master Bolt crackling with barely restrained power. “I know your father sent you to steal-”
Zeus was getting really pissed now… maybe I should stop interrupting him. Oops. “Yes boy!” He roared, his face was red with anger and he had a vein popping out on his forehead. “Poseidon! Your father!”
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms over my chest. “He’s not my father.”
That really brought Zeus up short, his bushy, grey brows furrowed in confusion. He glanced to his left and I followed his gaze to meet the eyes of the man who left me and my mother alone for most of my life.
It was like looking at myself, twenty or so years down the line. Poseidon was tall and tanned, with unruly, black hair, a big, black beard, and powerful sea-green eyes. He wore a red Hawaiian shirt, tan cargo shorts and a pair of flip-flops, and he carried a massive trident that radiated a power on par with Zeus’ Bolt.
“Perseus,” Poseidon’s voice was deep and powerful, yet full of warmth and kindness; as dangerous as a hurricane, with the gentleness of the tide. I could tell he was just as confused as Zeus, and perhaps a tad upset.
“Lord Poseidon,” I returned, giving him a shallow bow. Hurt flashed through his eyes, and I felt a niggle of guilt in my gut, but I didn’t relent. He left us. Turning back to Zeus, I ignored Poseidon’s forlorn expression and the rest of the council’s looks of confusion and curiosity. “If it would please you, Lord Zeus, I would be more than happy to swear on the Styx of my innocence in the theft of your Bolt.”
That brought a collective gasp from a few of the council, and I could see Zeus’ anger begin to slowly melt away.
Zeus didn’t respond right away, his electric-blue eyes searching my face for any sign of deceit. Eventually he nodded, and I noticed his shoulders relax just a bit. “Unnecessary, Jackson. Good work on returning my Bolt,” he blandly said, as if it were nothing but an afterthought. “Now, if there is nothing else…?”
My anger spiked just a bit at being so blatantly ignored and I was ready to pull my sword, when I found support from someone totally unexpected.
“Husband,” Hera, Queen of the Gods, spoke sternly. She was beautiful, as goddesses usually are. Her hair was a deep, chocolate brown, done in a braid that hung over her shoulder. Her face was regal and tanned with deep brown eyes that portrayed the power of a goddess. It was in these eyes that I noticed something kinda strange.
I consider myself pretty good at reading people. Give me a few minutes with a person and I could tell you practically their whole life story. In those chocolate pools, glinting coldly without the slightest hint of emotion, I could see someone who was unhappy with the way her life had turned out. Married to an ungrateful husband for eternity, living in constant embarrassment with the knowledge of that same husband’s many mistresses. Hell, half the council were comprised of her step-children! It saddened me to think that the goddess of marriage was tied down to an unfaithful bastard like Zeus for eternity.
Her brown eyes met mine and I could tell by the way they widened minutely that she knew I could read her like an open book. I shook my head subtly, silently acknowledging that I would keep quiet. Hera nodded subtly in return and patted her husband’s arm.
“Husband, don’t you think we should ask the boy how he came upon your Bolt? And perhaps give him a reward?”
The council, minus a still snoring Dionysus, stared at Hera in bewilderment, clearly wondering why their Queen, a deity who harbors a strong hatred for demigods, was willing to listen to one now. I almost snickered at their gob smacked expressions.
Zeus regarded his wife with a raised eyebrow and nodded in agreement. He shifted his gaze to me. “Well? Answer, boy!”
If someone calls me ‘boy’ one more time, I swear to gods…
My gaze shifted to Ares; the biker was acting as nonchalant and bored as possible, but I could still spot the bead of nervous sweat trailing down the side of his face. I grinned inwardly, outwardly giving the War God a small smirk. I cleared my throat and moved to kneel before the throne of a different god; Hermes, the Messenger God.
He looked a lot like a business exec., with a sharp looking, grey three-piece suit, and a Bluetooth in his left ear. His eyes were bright blue, and he had a mess of salt-and-pepper hair. In his right hand was a long pole with two bronze snakes wrapped around it… a Caduceus, I think.
“Forgive me, Lord Hermes, the thief was one of your children.” There was a collective gasp and Hermes paled at the implication.
His voice was grim and slightly shaky. “Who?”
“No…” I heard Annabeth’s stunned whisper. Glancing back, my heart clenched when I saw her eyes shining with unshed tears. Grover had grown pale and was shaking his head in denial. Mom… I smirked. Mom was glaring at Poseidon, who was doing his best to look anywhere but her.
I turned back to Hermes to find the Messenger God with a forlorn expression and a pale complexion, as if all the blood had drained from his face, and he was completely speechless.
Zeus took control of the conversation, needing to look like he was doing something while doing nothing. “Luke Castellan must be found. He will be tried before the council for the theft of two master weapons. Any objections?” I saw a few gods and goddesses open their mouths, but Zeus bulldozed right over them. “Good. Now, if there is nothing else, council adjourned.” He slammed the butt of his bolt on the marble floor and flashed out of the throne room. All the gods and goddesses, with the exception of three, flashed out behind him.
Hermes was the first to approach me, shrunk to human size. He looked as though someone had just kicked his puppy, and I my heart went out to the man. Here is one of the few gods who actually care and make an effort to check on their kids, but is unable to half of the time thanks to Zeus’ ban on communicating with demigods… and that lightning rod firmly planted up his-
“How did you find out?” Hermes asked, his blue eyes shining with unshed tears. “How do you know look was the thief?”
“I have my sources,” I reply evasively. “I’m sorry, Lord Hermes. I liked Luke. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy.”
Hermes nodded and gave me a watery, half-hearted smile. “Luke was such a good kid, when he was younger. Mischievous and sneaky, much like me, at times. But he was kind hearted and treated everyone fairly. To think he could have done this…” He trailed off and shook his head sadly. He straightened to wipe away the moisture in his eyes and smiled at me. “Thank you.”
I nodded and smiled back, closing my eyes when Hermes began to glow and flashed out of the throne room.
Hera was next.
She approached me as regally as any Queen, also shrunk to human size. Hera carried herself with a grace and beauty that was unmatched by anyone. Her expression was blank, but I could see the wariness and nervousness in her eyes. “Perseus Jackson.”
I smiled and bowed. “Just Percy, Lady Hera. Or Perseus, if you prefer.”
“Perseus.” It may have been a trick of the light, but I could’ve sworn I saw the corner of her mouth begin to curl up in a smile. “I apologize for my husband’s manners. He is a very… temperamental man,” her lips thinned very briefly, but continued on. “I thank you for finding his Bolt and returning it.”
“It was no trouble, Lady Hera,” I tried to fight the blush that threatened to color my face. “I understand the war between the gods that this would have started. There are more important things than a fight amongst ourselves.”
Hera’s face darkened, and her eyes narrowed. “The Prophecy?”
She turned a critical eye on me and examined me. “You know something. Something about this Prophecy and the war it is sure to bring. Don’t you?”
“I do. I cannot say much, my Lady. All I can say is that we must prepare. We cannot squabble amongst ourselves and turn on one another at this time,” I said solemnly. “There are powerful forces at work,” more than just the Titans, “and we must be ready, my Lady.”
Hera nodded and drew herself up to her full height. “Then ready we shall be.” She smiled, “thank you again, Perseus.” And with that, she flashed out of the throne room.
Then came the encounter I had been dreading.
I felt mom move to stand beside me as the Sea God approached us. I glanced at her to see her face pinched like she’d sucked on a lemon, or one of those super sour candies from her sweet shop. Her arms were crossed and eyes glinting dangerously.
Poseidon had an uneasy, wary smile on his face. He shuffled his feet awkwardly under my mother’s harsh glare and my stony disposition. He cleared his throat and turned to mom. “Uh, hey, Sal…”
“Poseidon,” mom responded coldly. I blinked in surprise and glanced at her with wide eyes. I’d never heard my mom sound so cold and angry.
Poseidon cringed at the bite in my mother’s tone and turned to me. “Percy, my son.”
“Perseus. My friends and family call me Percy,” was my flat reply. That one hit home like a spear to a target.
The Sea God bowed his head slightly, doing his best to hide the hurt in his eyes. “My apologies, Perseus,” he turned to mom. “Sally, could we talk in private for a moment?”
“… I suppose.” Mom said flatly after a long silent moment. The two walked towards a pillar on the other side of the room, allowing Grover and Annabeth to finally approach me.
I breathed a heavy sigh and smiled tiredly at my friends. “Well, that was fun.”
“Gods, Perce!” Grover exclaimed, looking a little shaky and pale. “I thought Zeus was going to fry you!”
“That was pretty brave, Seaweed Brain,” Annabeth admitted, somehow looking both impressed and annoyed at the same time. “Stupid, but brave.”
I shrugged and buried my hands in my jeans pocket, my gazing sliding over to my mom and the Sea God. “This whole quest has been nothing but stupid bravery.”
Mom appeared to be reading Poseidon the riot act, if the way her face was set with a stern look and her wildly gesticulating arms were any indication. Poseidon was looking thoroughly chastised, his face and body language just screaming guilt. His hands were anxiously clenching and unclenching on his trident and his eyes were downcast.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and glanced over to find Annabeth looking at me with concern. “You okay?”
“I guess,” I say with a shrug, turning back to watch my mom. “It’s just…” trailing off, I was debating whether or not to air out my issues. I mean, it’s not like it matters to Annabeth. And with this whole Prophecy thing going on, we have more important things to worry about.
“They are your friends, my son,” Dad whispered in my mind. “If there were ever people to trust more in your life, it is those that stand beside you, no matter what.”
He’s got a point, I suppose. I nodded and continued, keeping my eyes locked on my mom and Poseidon. “This is the first time I remember seeing my… seeing him. I understand the gods aren’t really allowed to visit their children… but he could have done something.” I was glaring at Poseidon now. The floodgates had opened, there was no stopping this torrent now. “For almost twelve years, there was no sign of him. No birthdays or Christmases… the first day of school. I can forgive him for that. I don’t care that much about that stuff, but…” I trailed off again and felt Annabeth squeeze my shoulder.
“What?” She asked gently.
My stony look softened and I gazed at my mother sadly. “He didn’t just leave me. He left mom too.” My voice was shaky, whether from anger or sadness, I wasn’t sure which. “I remember being five years old and finding my mother in her room, her eyes red from crying, staring at a picture of her and a smiling, black-haired man. He broke my mother’s heart.” I turned my head to look Annabeth in the eyes, and I could tell from the slight fear I saw, that my eyes had begun to darken. “And I will never forgive him for that.”
Annabeth didn’t respond, she just put and arm around my waist and hugged me. Grover, having heard my little rant, came up on my other side and slung an arm over my shoulder. My heart swelled as my anger abated, full of the love and comfort my friends were giving me.
A few minutes later I saw Poseidon nod his head sadly at something mom had sad before flashing out of the room. As mom approached our little huddle I could see her eyes were slightly red and there was a thin tear track running down her cheek. She smiled warmly when our eyes met and pulled me into a warm hug. We stood there for a long moment in that tight embrace, silently providing each other with all the love and support we needed.
“You okay, mom?” I mumbled quietly in her arm.
Mom sniffed and kissed the top of my head. “I’m okay, Percy.” She pulled away with a smile and made an attempt to move some of my messy hair out of my face. “Let’s go home.”
Chaos reclined back in his throne and raised a glass of golden ale to his lips. The sweet, honeyed mead flowed down his throat, leaving behind a pleasant burn that had him sighing in content.
Everything was going smoothly! His pride and joy was making allies left and right, playing the part of ignorance to perfection and, most importantly, making his father proud.
The Creator took another sip and rolled the liquid around with his tongue, savoring the sweetness of both the mead and the recent success of his son’s quest.
“I see someone is celebrating,” an amused, feminine voice rang out.
Chaos smiled at the sight of his sister and raised his glass. “Of course, sister! My son’s exploits are worth celebrating. Would you care to join me?”
“Hmm… oh, I suppose,” Order complied with a shrug, taking a seat on her throne and a glass of the golden drink. She took a sip and sighed at the pleasant burn. “He really is a good boy,” she said after a moment. “So brave and smart, and kind-hearted.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Chaos agreed, raising his glass in a mini-toast. “Perseus is everything I could hope for in a son and more.” The creator sighed and stared into his glass. “I wish I could sing such praise about my other children.”
Order reached across the small gap and placed a comforting hand on her brother’s should. “Do not be so hard on yourself. They chose their owns paths. It’s not your fault those paths they chose were the wrong ones.”
“But I could have pointed them down the proper path!” Chaos exclaimed, lurching from his throne and beginning to pace. “I left them to their own devices. Abandoned them, neglected them! By my inaction, I have become no better than the Gods themselves!”
“Stop that this instant!” Order shouted, her voice as sharp and quick as the crack of a whip. Chaos halted in his tracks and gave Order his full attention. Her bright, white eyes were narrowed, and her brow was furrowed in annoyance and frustration. “You, my brother, my best friend and partner, are nothing like those arrogant, selfish, sorry excuses for immortals.” Her stern expression softened, and she stood from her throne and crossed to Chaos to pull him into a hug. “You are a kind and wise man. You have been a wonderful father to Percy, and an excellent teacher. You are a good man, one I am proud to claim as my brother.”
Chaos returned the embrace and kissed the top of Order’s head. “Thank you, sister. You always know just what to say to keep my head on straight.”
Order laughed and lightly slapped her brother’s arm. “Well someone has to! Can’t have you wallowing in self-pity. Me and Percy both have to slap some sense into you every once in a while.”
Chaos chuckled. “And I will deserve every one of them.”
“So, in a nutshell, I am the last son of Chaos, and I am executing a plan to right the wrongs of the world.”
After we left Olympus, our quartet, consisting of me, Grover, Annabeth and mom, all took a cab to our apartment in Queens…
Where we promptly collapsed on various beds, couches and chairs, and slept until well past noon the next day. After a very late breakfast of blue pancakes, (and tin cans for Grover after he ate three of our forks) me, Grover and Annabeth piled into a cab once more and endured the two hour drive back to camp.
It’s closer to dusk now. The three of us are gathered in my cabin, Annabeth and Grover are captivated, their eyes wide with the tale I’d just told them. They didn’t say anything once I’d finished, simply staring at me.
I buried my hands in my pockets and scuffed my shoe on the floorboards. “I’ll understand if you guys don’t want to be my friends anymore. I’m basically engineering a coup and overthrowing the Olympian council.”
“Percy…” I glanced up to see an anxious looking Grover. “Taking over the council? Uprooting the gods?! That’s… that’s…” Grover gestured wildly, searching for the right word.
“Insane,” Annabeth finished. She had been studying me with those all-seeing grey orbs through my entire story. Her face was a blank slate, but her eyes were practically shining with intrigue and curiosity. “Which gods were you planning on replacing?”
“Oh relax, Grover! I’m curious. Percy has this big plan to change some of the gods job descriptions, and I want to know which ones.” She turned back to me with an eyebrow cocked. “So?”
I took a deep breath and let it out slow. “Dionysus, for one. Zeus for sure. Possibly Poseidon. This won’t happen for another five or six years at least, so there’s no rush. In that time though, I’ll need to interact with the gods and goddesses of the council. Gauge how loyal to Zeus they are.”
“Why Zeus?” Annabeth asked, her brow furrowed in confusion.
“Zeus is the oil in the water, the flea on the dog’s back. He is the reason why most of the council is too cowed to do anything more than their duties. He is the reason why all those unclaimed kids are currently overflowing from the Hermes cabin! He’s the reason why Luke turned traitor!”
Shortly after we returned to camp, we found Luke had jumped ship and snuck away in the night. No one had seen him leave, and all of his stuff was gone. Chiron was disappointed and grief-stricken to learn of one of his best student’s betrayal.
Annabeth flinched at that last part, looking as if she’d been struck. Tears swam in her stormy eyes and her lip trembled slightly. I forced myself to calm down and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Annabeth. But Luke is just one example of Zeus and his tyranny. His strict enforcement of the ancient laws is why so many demigods harbor such hatred for the gods. This isn’t about destroying all the gods, it’s about balance.”
The tears were flowing now, staining her cheeks and make her eyes red. I wiped them away with my thumbs and hugged her close. “I know how you felt about him.” I said softly.
Annabeth stiffened. I rubbed a hand on her back, trying to make her relax.
“It’s okay. I understand. It’s hard to believe someone you cared about could turn their backs on you, on everything. I’m doing this so that that won’t happen anymore. Where everything is balanced.” Slowly, thin, but toned, arms wrapped around my back and Annabeth laid her head against my chest. “Can I count on you?” I looked at Grover. “Both of you?”
Grover had obviously been having an argument with himself, warring over all that he’d known and all that I had said. He finally locked eyes with me and nodded. “I’m with you, Perce.”
I grinned at my best friend. “Thanks, G-Man.” I looked down at the blonde girl in my arms and tilted her head up to meet her eyes. “And what about you, Wise Girl?”
Annabeth stared up at me with wide, teary eyes, and did that soul-searching thing with those overly-observant eyes of hers. After a long moment she nodded her head. “I’m in… Seaweed Brain,” she said with a small smile.
“Great,” I replied with a wide grin. I pulled Grover to me and wrapped my arms around the both of them. “Group hug!”
“Oh, c’mon Perce!”
“Nuh-uh! I don’t do group hugs, Seaweed Brain!”
I laughed as my friends struggled to escape myembrace, rather unsuccessfully. Amidst the whining and cries of release, Icouldn’t help but grin widely at my friends, more than ecstatic that they wouldbe standing by my side through it all. “I love you guys.”