Percie had to admit it: Some gods knew how to make an entrance. Not all, mind you. Hades showing up at the Battle of Manhattan with an undead army? Great example. Ares dropping in for Elena's birthday party by parachute, which proceeded to get caught on the arena's outer rim, leaving the war god hanging like a banana? A lot less impressive. And annoying to deal with.
So she could at least respect Poseidon showing up with a light show. Apollo surely would have recommended some sort of epic chorus singing in the background, but her dad had made it clear he wasn't a fan of musical accompaniment. Not like that made the situation any less nerve-wracking.
"Lord Poseidon," Chiron said slowly, not moving from his spot at the head of the mess hall. "You... honor us with your presence."
The sea god didn't answer. His eyes were focused entirely on Percie, who felt a sudden desire to crawl under the table and hide. The demigod felt like she and her father got along well, better than a lot of kids did with their godly parent, but that didn't mean she was immune to his ire. If the look in his pupils were anything to go by, Poseidon seemed to be alternating between hugging her, or blasting her into a puddle of seawater. The worse part is, she didn't know which she'd prefer to the other.
"Sooooo...," Dionysus finally said, rocking back and forth on his heels. "Old Barnacle Beard went and had two, did he?"
That finally was enough to get the sea god's attention. "Excuse me?" he rumbled.
"I really should have seen it, now that I think about it. The green eyes, the black hair, the crummy attitude. She's got 'ocean' written all over her," the wine god mused, drinking the last of his Diet Coke. "Guess someone's got to tell Percy he's got another sister; who wants to draw straws for i-"
Poseidon must have teleported, because he went from right in front of Percie to across the hall before she even had a chance to register the movement. Looking over, she was treated to the sight of her father literally backing Mr. D into a corner.
"No one will tell Percy anything," he growled at the wine god. "And no one will tell anything about this to the rest of the gods, either. In fact, no is going to mention this to anyone whatsoever, no matter who they may be. Is. That. Clear?"
For the first time since meeting him, Dionysus looked genuinely rattled. Percie could relate; she hadn't been the focus of that speech, but if she had been, no doubt she would have melted into a sad puddle of Percie-goop. Most demigods would have.
The ocean god maintained his posture for a few more seconds before turning back around, facing the rest of the mess hall. His gaze swept over the room, before he closed his eyes, letting out a frustrated exhale. "Chiron, I ask forgiveness for the... suddenness of my arrival, but I must speak to my... daughter... alone."
The centaur bowed his head. "Of course, sir. We can clear out."
"No, no need for that. The two of us can go. I'd hate to put you all out for something like this."
Percie blinked. It was rare for a god to be so... gracious to a group of demigods. Sure, she'd talked to her dad about the Olympians trying to curb their more hardened edges, but this was a different Poseidon. She'd been expecting... well, not that.
"We can go to the cabin," she said, rising from her seat.
Poseidon raised no objections to that suggestion, so neither did Chiron. Before she left, Percie made eye contact with Annabeth. The daughter of Athena's expression was a mix of anticipation and support, so at least Percie could focus on the matter on hand. The walk back to the cabin was awkward, to say the least. Poseidon didn't turn to glance at her once the entire way back, which only gave Percie more alone time in her head. Images of people being turned into pufferfish made her want to call for Blackjack and fly away, but there was no running from this.
Poseidon reached the door first, and opened it without going in, his expression clear that he wanted her to enter first. It was either a gentlemanly gesture, or a threat, or both. Percie's money was on both.
At least Percy seemed to have the exact same taste as her when it came to organizing the Poseidon cabin. The beds were pushed off to the walls, with the saltwater fountain taking up most of the space on the main floor. Percie made herself comfortable on one of the bunk beds, while Poseidon waved his hand, causing a rocking chair made of sea shells to materialize. As her dad sat down, the demigod was struck by how human he really looked in this light. With his shaved beard, dorky shirt, and flip flops, he looked like some middle-aged newlywed enjoying his honeymoon at St. Kitts.
"Sorry about the mess; I would have tidied up if I knew you were coming," she commented, hoping Poseidon was in a laughing mood. He wasn't.
"I'm surprised that you can find the time and the willpower to make wisecracks at a time like this, daughter," he muttered, lacing his hands under his chin. The sea god leaned forward, his movement apparently increasing the water pressure inside the fountain. Guess Percy had found time to repair it after cutting it in half. Percie was still putting that one off.
"So... how much do you know?" Percie finally asked.
"About as much as you might expect," he answered. "Imagine my shock when I get a visit from Hecate, of all people. She blabbed about not having much time to sweat the finer details, but told me to talk to you for the full story. That was the second big shock of the day; I have not been the most attentive father, but even I keep track of my children. You... are not one I remember having."
The demigod's face was a sheepish one at that statement. "I guess the most accurate response would be... you didn't." It all came spilling out: the spell, the switch, Rachel, and everything in between. Percie really ought to have been used to it by now, but this was her dad. And she had to tell him not only was he now responsible for another child, but his favorite son had been ripped away to an unknown fate.
The god listened attentively, his face a mask of calm. Percie knew how deceiving the ocean could be, though; one minute everything's fine, the next you're fighting for your life. Her father was the reason for that. His mood could change on a dime, for the slightest reason.
When she finished, that expression didn't change immediatly. "I see," was all he said.
Poseidon chewed on this information, his chair rocking back and forth. His trident appeared next to him, and he absentmindedly grabbed it with his right hand, draping it over his lap. The longer she waited, the more antsy Percie got. Her dad usually wasn't the quiet sort. More of a 'tsunami smash' kind of god.
"Then, both of you filled the same role, in the prophecies?" he asked out of the blue.
"Uh, yeah, I think so. I fought Kronos in the throne room. He did too, right?"
"Yes, he did." Poseidon crossed his legs, shifting his trident so it was resting under his arm. "Did you sit on my throne, too?"
Of course he still remembered. "Yeah, I did that too."
The god made a sound in his throat that sounded like a combination of a chuckle and a sneer. "Did I almost kill you before I realized who you were?"
The memory still made Percie shiver. "A few more seconds, and I probably would have internally combusted. Somehow."
"No, not internal combustion. That's more Hephaestus's thing. I would have just flattened you with a giant yacht. Much cleaner," the god responded, finally giving her a small grin and a wink.
Thank the Fates, he just made a joke! Percie could feel her tension decrease by more than ninety percent with that little gesture.
"I appreciate your commitment to keeping the throne room of Olympus from getting too splattered, war or no war," she laughed back. The laugh was returned, which sapped the rest of her tension away completely.
They both composed themselves, Poseidon standing to his feet. "So, you're really him, huh?"
"In a way. But I like to think I'm at least a little better looking, right?"
"As the father to both of you, I cannot answer that without it being creepy."
Her dad was actually making her feel better, despite the situation. "So, Hecate was the one who told you something was up with me and Percy?"
The sea god nodded. "Dropped in, shouted a few curses about wild magic, and told me Percy was involved. Said I needed to check in at camp."
Percie returned his nod. "But... how did she know about it? We were trying to keep everything quiet until we knew more about what we were dealing with."
Poseidon thought about it. "She probably got clued in by whatever crazy spell you mentioned, and did her own investigation. Hecate's mind seemed to be... scattered, when she spoke to me, so odds are she's running herself haggard trying to counter it. We'd be best keeping out of her hair for the moment."
The demigod shrugged. "Fair enough. If anyone's got the know-how to fix this, it would be her."
"Fixing is a very strong word. I'd say she's just holding it together. With duct tape."
Magic duct tape sounded simultaneously like the best and worst invention of all time, but Percie ignored the potential entrepreneurial opportunity. "So she's got an idea of what's going on, and she told you because it was your kids involved?" she guessed.
Poseidon's gaze stretched. "Presumably. Rather kind of her, if it's true. She didn't have to, though I am grateful she did."
Her dad actually looked a little hurt by that. "Yes, grateful. Percie," he said, putting a hand to her shoulder, "I know how disappointing it can be; we, can be. We do love our children, as much as we tend to forget to show it."
Percie placed her own hand over his, not moving it. "I know, and it means a lot that you guys have been trying harder since Kronos. But... trying isn't always enough. For every demigod we've been able to help recently, there's another ten that slip away. We can't do everything, just like you."
Her words must have been striking the right chords, because the sea god pulled his daughter into an embrace, one of the first ones in a long time. It was startling, to be hugged by her father so suddenly like that, and Percie choked on her words. Gods, she did not want to cry in front of her dad right now.
"I'm okay," she tried to mumble through the hug, but her own voice tremor betrayed her. Either Poseidon had learned how to control a person's tear ducts, or she'd been secretly missing her dad more than she wanted to admit.
"I know you are," he reassured her, his hug only getting stronger. "But that doesn't mean you're not allowed to feel less than perfect all the time. You've seen too much for someone your age, Percie."
"Is this for me, or for your son?"
"Both of you. When Hecate told me something had happened to him... I may have acted a little harshly to her in return," he admitted. "She had the decency to tell me, and I snapped at her for it. I may regret my actions now, but I know that won't undo it."
"You could always apologize when you see her again," Percie pointed out.
"Apologies amongst the gods... Percie, the others wo-"
"Learn to accept it!" she insisted, her hands curling into fists. "Grudges have been the bane of many a demigod's life! Fighting for squabbles that aren't theirs! We've died for you and your pathetic arguments." Percie's tears didn't subside as she continued. "Is your pride really so fragile that it can't be bothered to apologize? What are the others gonna do? Tease you about it? Why do their words mean so much to you?!"
Poseidon didn't answer. His eyes narrowed, but he just sighed. "Percie... I can admit the wisdom in what you say, but you're asking us to completely defy our natures. Such a thing is hard enough for mortals; how do you think immortals fare in that regard?"
"So that's enough to not even try?" Percie asked, her voice hard.
"This... is not the conversation I wanted to have with you," he answered.
"Then what? Why are you here?"
The sea god pursed his lips. "Because I wanted to make sure my son was safe. Because I didn't want him to get embroiled in something that could... take him away from me. I didn't have a say the first two times; we can't fight prophecies, without making things worse. But there was no prophecy stopping me from acting this time."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying I would have stood between him and any madman foolish enough to try either of us," the god said, his voice steady. "Percy, like all of you, deserves more. And better. I came here to give him that."
Percie's mouth dropped, to her embarrassment. She'd never seen her father look so resolute. She fully believed him. Zeus preserve her, she believed her dad's words.
"He might not be here now, but you are," Poseidon continued. "Allow me to extend the same offer. If you need me, for anything, all you have to do is ask," he finished, reaching into his pocket and producing a sand dollar. "Take this. It's essentially an instant-message for those in my court. Throw it into any body of water, no matter the size, and I'll come."
Percie handled the tiny trinket with delicate hands. She... had her dad in her corner. A corner he could actually defend openly. And he'd do it without any strings attached. "I... thank you."
Poseidon's gaze softened. "You don't need to thank me. I'm just doing something I should have done a long time ago." The sea god kissed Percie on her forehead, and headed for the door.
"Dad?" Percie whispered, her voice barely audible.
"I know I'm not what you were expecting, but I'm close. Percy may not exactly be me, but may I make a request on his behalf?"
"Stop by, and see him when he's back. On a more regular basis, I mean. I know relationships between gods and their kids can be complicated, but I'm sure he'd appreciate seeing you more. Just to know you're in his corner, at least."
The sea god gave her a smile full of sorrow. "I can do that. No problem. Thank you, daughter."
With that, he was gone.
Percie flopped down on her bed, tears now fully streaming down her face. Sure, she could have used some of her own powers to keep her face dry, but she didn't want to. The daughter of Poseidon had a lot of feelings she needed to let out. And let them out she did.
She must have cried herself to sleep at some point, because her mind registered that she was dreaming when she looked up and found herself in the middle of a crowded street. The sun was up, allowing her to see that the city in question was by no means New York. The streets were too wide, and the buildings weren't tall enough. Pressing herself for whatever craziness was going to be awaiting her, she rose to her feet and began walking.
None of the mortals registered her as being there, assuring her that this was a dream. Percie followed her gut, winding through some side streets before coming out on a sight even she recognized; the Liberty Bell. So this was Philadelphia.
The scene shifted; Percie was transported to outside the city, alongside the river that seemed to go through Philly. The name of the river didn't spring to mind, but knowing New England, it was probably unpronounceable by someone who hadn't grown up in the area. Percie traveled along the river's coast, until she came upon a campsite. A blonde boy was sitting down outside a tent, his hands fiddling with a package of bandages.
Percie angled herself closer to the unknown teen, knowing enough about her dreams to figure this guy had to be important for her to be focused on him. If he was a demigod, she probably knew a female version of him from her own world. Percie ran the possibilities through her head, eliminating people as they came to her. Blonde was a big help, and the boy didn't look angry or sullen enough to be one of the Romans. So from Camp Half-Blood, then. Now, who did she know was blonde, a woman, and a healer?
"Willamina!" Percie announced out loud, to no response from the boy. Okay, so this wasn't really happening. She'd said that loud enough to wake the dead... oh gods, why did she think of that phrase? If this was Willamina's counterpart, then that could only mean...
The tent the boy was sitting with his back to shifted, and a moment later, another boy stuck his head out, looking annoyed. Good grief, was this kid a perfect match for Nicola. He even had her shaggy hair!
"You're supposed to be sleeping," Will said, not bothering to look back at his boyfriend. "Give it another few hours."
"I'm ready now," Nico insisted, crawling out of the tent. "It's not a huge jump; we're just going from Philadelphia to New Orleans."
"Last time you said that, you overshot it, and dropped us off at that baby shower in St. Paul," the son of Apollo shot back. "We didn't even have a gift! Do you know how embarrassing that was? Not as bad as the cheese factory, granted, but I have enough nightmares about delivering Hedge's kid without being reminded of it."
Gods, they were so cute. Nice to see that hadn't changed.
The son of Hades rolled his eyes at Will. "The women at that baby shower were smitten with you. Just be happy I didn't accidentally raise an army of dead children when that girl asked you to dance with her."
"You did raise an army of dead children!"
"Yeah, but on purpose! I said accidentally."
As fun as it was watching these two, Percie had to wonder why her dreams were showing her this. It wasn't happening this moment, since it seemed to be around early nightfall in her dream. So this was either going to happen, or had happened already.
Will was about to chastise Nico again, but his eyes were drawn to something else on the other side of the river. Looking over, Percie spotted what had gotten his attention. A woman, wearing a white robe that hung past her ankles. It was too far to make out her face, but Percie would swear she knew this woman from somewhere.
"Who's she?" she heard Nico ask, before the woman raised her arms, and the dirt around the two demigods began to swirl under their feet.
"What th-?" the son of Hades managed to blurt out before he was buried up to his neck in the soil. Will suffered a similar fate not a second later. With a flourish, the woman snapped her fingers, and the two demigods vanished under the ground. Flabbergasted, Percie tried to march across the river, but found herself held back by an unknown force. The woman looked directly at her, and chuckled.
"You want them back, daughter of Poseidon? You know where to find me," she called out, and with a flick of her wrist, Percie shot up in her bed, wide awake. Oh, dear. That was no accident of a dream. And Percie knew exactly who it was she had just seen abduct Nico and Will.
She had no time to stop and think; the sorceress would not be patient with her captives. The daughter of Poseidon leapt to her feet, grabbing the sand dollar her dad had given her, as well as a few small provisions of ambrosia. With that, she sprinted for the pegasus stables.
"Percie!' Blackjack cried as she ran in. "Kind of early for a visit, though. Oh, is this a doughnut run?"
"No time, Blackjack!" she said, hopping onto the pegasus. "We need to get to Philadelphia; now!"
"And why are you headed for Philadelphia?" Annabeth asked, stepping into the stable and scaring Percie nearly to death.
"Gah! How long have you been there?" she bleated out.
"I figured this is where you'd come if anything came to you in your dreams. You wouldn't stop by the Athena cabin and tell me, because you wouldn't want to risk my safety," Annabeth responded, her voice a monotone.
"So what did you see?"
"Oh, nothing too shocking. The Liberty Bell, some river, oh!- and Nico and Will getting abducted."
Annabeth's eyes widened. "Abducted?!"
"Yeah, and you'll never guess by who."
"Then tell me."
Percie sneered as she thought about the woman's taunting voice, and the look of conceit on her face. She'd seen it only once before, and once had been enough. "Circe. She's back."