“Um… a god?”
Zeus rolled his eyes. “A dimwitted god, apparently. But yes.” He kept talking, but I was hardly listening. The word echoed in my head, god, god god. I could have immortality, and all I had to do was say so. I could hear the other gods bickering above me while Zeus drummed his fingers on his throne impatiently. I turned, and locked eyes with Annabeth. She was shaking, and I thought of a time not too long ago when I’d been afraid I would lose her to the hunters.
But the memories didn’t stop there. I thought of Bianca and Zoe and Charles and Michael and Silena and Ethan and Luke and all the other ones that were gone that I hadn’t known personally. I thought of the ones that were still living, living in a hell created by the gods that sat before me. I thought of Calypso, trapped in eternal isolation. Most importantly, I thought of my mother whose suffering had greatened only because a god had fallen in love with her.
Annabeth’s eyes pleaded with me to say no. I almost did, but I shook my head. Trust me, I mouthed. I turned to face Zeus.
“I accept your most generous gift. Thank you, Lord Zeus,” The only sound was Annabeth’s hollow footsteps as she staggered to stand next to Thalia and Artemis. The gods clapped, the Cyclops’ banged their clubs and swords on the floor, and I wanted to disappear. My father nodded approvingly.
This was their get out of jail guilt free card. I knew that. Make a troubled kid from New York City a god, and call it a day, right? Wrong. Everything they had ever touched ended up cursed or pregnant or dead. Trust me, I’d said. Maybe Luke had the right idea. Maybe he didn’t. But he sure as hell is going to be sorry he had to miss what’s going to happen.
The gods are going to have to face a storm bigger than anything they could ever dream up, but this time they won’t see it coming.
- His mom takes it hard. No mother wants her son to die, but having her son become immortal isn’t the desired outcome either. Percy will watch her and Paul as their hair turns grey, and then white, and as they are lowered into the ground years later. He will never join them.
- It takes decades before Grover notices he hasn’t aged a day since that fateful meeting in the labyrinth with Pan, even by saytr standards. He lives quietly, aiding naiads and nymphs and his brothers as they carry on Pan’s word preaching peace and eco-friendliness. Grover says the same, but can’t deny the pit in his stomach when he thinks of those that had the power to stop this absolute destruction.
- Annabeth joins the hunt. There’s no point in weeping over lost teenage love forever, and she doesn’t want to leave her best friends behind. She redesigns The City of The Gods, but resents the way her patrons bicker over their temples and homes while their children are drowning in their own blood, fighting for their narcissistic parents. There is a brick labeled “Luke Castellan” in a back alley, hand carved with a bronze dagger.
- Percy returns to camp. The Poseidon cabin no longer feels like home, and Dionysus snores too loud for him to consider The Big House, so he builds a hut on the lake. He jokes and he trains and he gives advice and he helps his father when called and the new campers find it hard to believe this Percy is one and the same with Perseus Jackson, the boy blessed by Zeus himself. They find it hard to believe until they watch him light the shroud of another lost camper with eyes full of rage and the lake churning in the distance. Their blood runs cold.
- There is a new prophecy, and Percy is thankful to be free of it. Will Solace has been gone for nearly a month before there’s even a hint, which comes in the form of 2 confused demigods, a boy with a forearm tattoo, and a missing shoe. Nico Di Angelo finds Will months later at the wrong camp, carrying a goddess through a river with properties that mean nothing to him. Will’s usefulness in battle is minimal and his quest experience is zero, and Nico knows this. When Will, Hazel and Frank leave for Alaska, they are trailed by a ghost.
- The outcome is just as Percy had expected. The heroes fight valiantly, nearly fail, but ultimately prevail. Of course, not without help. Percy is young, he remembers the pain and the suffering and the hopelessness that comes with being a pawn in the god’s game. He steps in, only occasionally, only when he hears a hoarse whisper from across the sea, “I can’t lose another sister.” Percy cannot let that happen. He cannot become his forefathers.
- Apollo is humbled by his time as a mortal, just as Zeus had planned. However, he hadn’t planned on Apollo sympathizing with the demigods, regretting how he’s treated hundreds of his children throughout the eons. He begins to make amends wherever he can, fully aware it will never be enough. He confesses all this to Artemis, who has been aware of their faults for years, though not as long as she’d pretend. She thinks of her lieutenants and scouts who served her for decades, sometimes centuries, only to die in vain due to the carelessness of the gods, or worse; her. Artemis hears rumors of revenge whispered through her rank. The twins pledge their allegiance to Jackson behind closed doors, promises sealed with ichor.
- Years pass. Campers come and go. Most don’t return. The people Percy recognizes from his days as a camper are either grown or dead. He spends his evenings on the Big House porch with Dionysus, trading tales and names of those they had lost. Dionysus’ list of name is only slightly longer than Percy’s. He grows restless and reckless, and the campers exchange uneasy glances when he turns up for meals with ichor staining his clothing. They can’t tell if it belongs to him, or a monster that dared to cross him.
- The day Nico Di Angelo dies, beaches are flooded and cities succumb to earthquakes internationally. Chiron eyes the stormcloud hovering above the camp, so intense it threatens to break the barrier. The Hunters of Artemis return to the camp for the first time in decades for the funeral, and before the shroud is burned Percy presses a pack of dusty trading cards in his hands. Even all these years later, he still sees a child in an oversized jacket and eyes brimming with hope. Annabeth, Thalia and Grover crowd into Percy’s hut that night. Artemis pretends not to notice.
- The world is dying. Grover is in a panic as national forests turn to concrete and asphalt and the icecaps all but disappear. He pleads with the gods for help, to fix the mess they’ve allowed to happen. The gods watch him beg, and do nothing.
- The Hunters of Artemis grow in rank. There are too many girls with crushed dreams, crushed childhoods, and lost faith in the world they live in. They split into sections by continent, and Artemis fears there will be a day where she will not know each of them personally. Their camps are haunted by screams from past traumas. Annabeth and Thalia know that not all the past abuse was from a mortal.
- The Ghost King continues to serve his father after death. He doesn’t know what else to do. He guides lost souls to the River Styx, and feels a phantom pain in his chest when he takes the hand of the ones he knew. The demigods from the prophecy of seven arrive with fire in their eyes but no faith in the world they left behind or the gods they fought for, died for. Nico brings them to Elysium, where they dream of revenge.
- They wait until everyone they know and love are dead and gone, save an elderly Estelle and a woman with olive skin and a floppy green hat. Artemis and Apollo and Dionysus fight for everyone they watched die gruesome deaths at the hands of one deity or another, and in hope of redemption for all the ones they made suffer themselves. Hermes lends quiet support running messages back and forth, remembering the face of every child housed in his cabin who went unclaimed and unwanted. Chiron protects the demigods and himself; this is not his fight, this is not his family. And Hestia all but vanishes, ignoring her siblings as they speak to her for the first time in eons. They need her help. She does not give it.
- Nico raises the dead, raises himself, one last time. Legendary heroes from the ages spring from the ground with a battle cry that shakes the earth. They strike down the beings that wronged them in life. The gods are given the same lack of mercy the demigods were given. The gods fight, but their effort is in vain. How can you kill something that’s already dead?
- Grover fights for the world, his world, that the gods saw crash and burn and melt as they stood idly by. Annabeth and Thalia fight for the boy with blond hair and a scar who died for them, who died too soon. And Percy fights for the woman buried in New York City who gave everything and got nothing, who was left stranded on an Atlantic beach with a baby on the way and nowhere to go. Percy strikes down Poseidon himself.
- They place Hestia on the throne, though it’s more ceremonial than anything. Grover builds the world back up, not that many of the mortals notice. Apollo doesn’t boast of their victory, he instead tends to the wounded side by side with his children. The Hunt shrinks in size, and Artemis is thankful that she once again lives in a world where her sisters are not afraid to live without her protection. Hermes tracks down the last generation of demigods, and guides them to safety. Dionysus returns to run Camp Halfblood of his own free will, and reminisce about the “good old days” with Chiron with sad eyes.
- Thalia retains her role of lieutenant, but Annabeth leaves the Hunt for good. Hestia grants her immortality, and Annabeth remembers the last time she stood in the throne room when that gift was given. She finds Percy exactly where she suspected she would; Montauk. He stood with his feet in the water, gazing out at the sea. It was his now. His face still had flecks of gold, his shirt had more holes than fabric, and he wore only one shoe.
- He was beautiful, and Annabeth felt 16 again. She ran to him, and it was as if they had never been apart. They fell into the sea, holding each other tight as the waves pulled them away from shore. He let them sink to the ocean floor before he kissed her for the first time in decades.
- And it was pretty much the best underwater kiss of all time.