Olympus was a mess.
Earlier that summer, Camp Half-Blood had fallen to Luke’s army, on the summer solstice. The wounded camp had fled to Olympus, and had been scrambling to recover in time to face off against the Titan army’s final strike.
Yeah. Too late.
Even in the most central room of Olympus’s palace, the roar of battle was audible, though dimmed considerably by the marble walls. The Ophiotaurus’s aquarium room was empty, except for the giant tank of water guarded by assorted robots and a group of half-bloods and their allies.
Said group of half-bloods was likely one of the oddest groups of half-bloods ever to gather in one place. Two of Apollo’s daughters, the twin sorceresses Claire and Luna Aestas, had armed themselves with bows and arrows, as well as their magic, and were currently bickering over the best way to kill a Scythian dracaenae. Grover, a satyr, was trying – and failing fairly miserably – to not look like he was about to faint, pipes clutched in his hands. Annabeth Chase, a daughter of Athena, didn’t seem to be there, exactly; she’d donned her Yankees invisibility cap fairly quickly. Percy Jackson, a son of Poseidon and possibly the most dangerous half-blood ever, positioned himself directly in front of the Ophiotaurus’s – commonly known as Bessie – tank, his sword, Anaklusmos, and the shield his half-brother Tyson had made for him in his hands.
Percy did not like waiting in this giant room, waiting for Kronos’s forces to break through. He wanted to be out there and fight, not wait like a good little sheep. The friends he’d made – that weren’t in here, anyway – were out there fighting and risking their lives, while he was just waiting. The Olympians had mustered all of their forces – the younger gods, the nymphs, the half-bloods, Artemis’s Hunters, the Cyclopes. Percy was also sure he’d seen a bright green horse body – had to have been a centaur.
The din outside grew considerably louder, and a wall of fire conjured itself out of thin air – Claire – just in time to block the advancing half-bloods and monsters that had gotten past Olympus’s defense. The leader, a tall blond man with a scar on his face, snarled, “You’re just delaying the inevitable.” Luke.
“‘Course we are,” answered Claire Aestate, nocking four arrows to her bow. With the accuracy that made Apollo’s children deadly, they landed in the Scythian dracaenae to Luke’s left, two in each eye. With a shriek, the monster disintegrated into grains of sand. “That’s our job.” Claire brushed a stray strand of black hair from her face, turned to her twin and grinned. “Beat that.”
Luna rolled her eyes, putting only one arrow to her bow and shoving the rest into the floor, turned temporarily to dirt. She loosed her shot, which sped to land exactly between the right Scythian dracaenae’s eyes. This one didn’t shriek, but only evaporated into more sand before she could open her mouth. “Claire, we’re not trying to show each other up yet,” Luna told her twin, rolling her eyes. “Gods, can’t you pick a time when the fate of humans isn’t hanging in the balance?”
“There’s a balance?” Claire asked, setting an arrow on fire and nailing a hellhound up the sensitive nose – it yelped very loudly.
“Never mind,” Luna sighed, sending another arrow into the same hellhound’s gaping mouth. It keeled over and died.
“Behind you!” Grover yelped, shattering the calm. Both girls whipped around to see a giant vine explode from the earth. One of the half-bloods, a dark-haired boy knelt on the ground, palms flat against the earth. Obviously a son of Demeter.
“Di immortales!” Both girls swore as one. Claire leapt out of the vine’s way, leaving a trail of fire for the vine to remember her. The vine whipped back, towards Luna, who snarled something. The vine didn’t seem affected, but suddenly stiffened, and frost burns appeared on its woody trunk. She’d frozen its moisture.
One after another, more vines appeared. Luna swore again, and both girls were kept too busy battling the vines to pick off the patrol. Another half-blood stepped forward, a young girl. She laid her palm against the wall of fire, ignoring its heat. Slowly, it began to fray, as if it was an old cloth that she was pulling strings from. Child of Hestia.
More vines shot forward, but these were in a circle around the patrol. Grover’s panpipes still whistled through the air, strengthening the vines before he stopped, looking on the verge of collapsing. He then seemed to be levitating out of the way – Annabeth.
The vines wouldn’t last forever. They’d get out. Claire and Luna were still busy with the rest of the vines, Grover was out, and Annabeth and he couldn’t fend off everyone.
“It’s not that bad.” Percy blinked. He could have sworn he’d just heard…Bianca di Angelo? Bianca di Angelo was dead two years ago. She couldn’t be on the top of Mount Olympus.
“It’s me,” the same voice reassured him. The Hunter materialized, standing next to him. She looked the same as she had two years ago, when she was only twelve. “Father gave me permission to come,” she explained casually. “Though I can’t really interact with anything physically. I’m still dead.”
“Percy, you know what’s happening, don’t you? This battle will determine if the Fifth Age ends. If the age of the Olympians ends. And no matter what you say about Hades…well, he doesn’t want it to end any more than you do.”
Did he want it to end?
“This is the turning point. Kronos and his army will either be repelled for at least some millennia, or Olympus will fall. Percy, it’s your birthday, isn’t it? July tenth.”
It was. His sixteenth birthday.
“You still don’t get it?” Percy wondered vaguely if shades could show disbelief. Bianca sure seemed to be doing a good job of showing no emotion at all. “Percy, the prophecy. It was always meant to be you. The Moirae knew it. And you know what you must do.”
Bessie let out a long moo, and Percy would have sworn it sounded smug and sad at the same time, if that wasn’t impossible and that moos couldn’t sound like anything besides sad.
“I can’t.” He did his best to glare at her, but Percy doubted she cared.
“You can. Percy, your fatal flaw now decides the future. Sometimes you just have to sacrifice one for the good of all.”
Percy stiffened. She sounded like Athena, two years ago on the winter solstice. “To save a friend…you would sacrifice the world. In a hero of the prophecy, that is very, very dangerous.”
He would never forget that moment. And he would never forget this.
Bianca closed her eyes. “I can’t convince you. I don’t know how this will end. The Moirae will not say.” She pursed her lips. “Just…follow your heart, then? Everything will work out as the Moirae will it to.”
“That’s your problem. You’re too fatalistic.”
“I’m dead. It’s hard to be anything else when you’re dead,” Bianca said plainly. “I should go.”
He didn’t answer.
“Well…good bye. Live your life as a true hero, Percy. Even if it doesn’t last much longer.” With a ghost of a smile, she was gone.
Percy hefted Anaklusmos, feeling its comforting weight in his hands. Luke was fighting his way through Grover’s vines – it was time to see if the student could defeat his mentor.
And time to see how the world turn.