"Did you see that?" Hazel came sprinting as they stared at the floor "It's quick sand. Don't step near it!" The battle screams continued in the background.
"We have to follow him" The group staggered at Nico's voice.
"Dude!" Leo gasped "Don't ever--"
"It's the only way" Jason agreed. Stepping forwards, he looked at his friends. A tear manifested itself in his right gland, reflecting a multicoloured rainbow as he silently mourned the loss of a loved one.
"If this is the end of the world then I am to side with Percy Jackson. He's saved us before. And right now, Percy Jackson is..."
"Stuck in a hole?" Leo suggested,
"In need of our help" Nico corrected. He stared daggers at Leo.
An eagle landed on Leo's shoulder. "Listen Frank, if you're going to morph back into yourself, at least don't --" He toppled under Frank's weight. An arrow zipped over Leo's head, barely missing him. He looked up, amazed as usual "Seriously, what is it with the arrows today?" It was too late before he realised that the earth was rising. Leo became covered in mud and turned into a statue.
"Leo!" Calypso squealed in panic. As though dipped in chocolate, her form solidified under piles of soil. Frank looked shocked at what was happening. He tried to stand up but was caught by the leg and covered in mud. His attempt at escape turned into a Grizzly Bear statue that would have lead most contemporary artists into quitting their jobs. Hazel was next. The earth slowly travelled up her body until there was only a mound left. The Giants weren't spared either. A dozen of them roared in frustration as they turned into skyscraper sized ceramic statues.
Jason and Nico glanced at each other in alarm.
"Well... " Before Nico finished his sentence, Jason pushed him into the quicksand.
"Oh boy. Here goes nothing" Chuckling, he jumped in straight after.
Imagine sinking at the speed of an air plane through a pool of syrup. Now imagine the syrup travelling up your nose, back out of your mouth, and back into your nose. Add the two together, multiply the grossness of that feeling by a million and you'll have a pretty good idea of what it felt like to use the Gaea express. Luckily, it didn't suffer from the awful music service offered by Empire State Building elevators.
Jason landed on top of Nico.
"Don't ever..." Nico paused for a while "Dude, you're still on top of me!"
Jason rolled off. The pitch black cave simply added to the existing awkwardness between them. He didn't fancy his chances with an angry demigod summoning up a zombie army, so he made sure to keep his distance. Don't annoy the son of Hades; the oldest line in the book, and he was nearly crossing it. Truthfully, Jason didn't fear Nico. He sympathised with him. It was hard not to feel sorry for a guy who had been put through so much.
Two meters ahead, something moved. Both froze. The scream of a metal blade put the two on red alert: Someone was drawing their sword. In the corner of the cave, a silver reflection alluded to the silhouette of an intruder. Someone was watching them.
Footsteps. One. Two. Three.
The blade was raised, blinding both of them; their heart beats raised in anticipation, muting the sound as Nico drew his Stygian iron sword.
Four. Five. Six.
"Being a half-blood is dangerous" Percy's voice echoed throughout the cave. Nico and Jason sighed in relief. "It's scary", his voice cracked. "Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways". Nico shed a dry tear. His long lost sister had suffered one such fate. "When Chiron used to tell me about heroes like Perseus and Hercules, I thought that none of this was important. Now, I envy normal kids for being able to believe that none of this ever happened".
"Percy, what's up man?" Jason was becoming nervous of his aura of mysticism.
"Can't you feel it?" Percy asked "We're the sons of the Big Three. One Greek, one Roman... and one outsider" his head waved to Nico. "Once you know that, it's only a matter of time before she senses it too. And she'll come for us." The cave turned cold. Percy lowered his sword, "Don't say I didn't warn you". He started turning around, raising his voice "My name is Percy Jackson. Until a few months ago I didn't even know who I was. Am I a troubled kid? Yeah, you could say that"
He struck Riptide into the ground, lighting the room up with silver. The temperature rose, the scent of ambrosia dominated, and the ground felt like marble. Hope filled the room. They could do it.
Jason caught himself from blurting "But the prophecy!". The fates had fled. Now it was up to them. It was their turn to take their own destiny into their hands and weave the defining features of their future.
"Take my hand" Percy said.
"Whu?" Nico frowned, as though he'd just been hit by a racehorse.
"I know this will sound weird, but for us to triumph over Gaea we have to fight as a unit." He nodded to Jason, whose Roman ways he'd picked up over the last few months. "Yesterday, I had a dream. Your good old step-mum, Hera, showed up and gave me advise. She used some pretty big words. There was something about a telephonic linked."
"You mean a telepathic link, as in we'll know whatever each one of us is thinking?" Jason frowned, looking in Nico's direction. Percy nodded.
The plan was well thought out, even by Hera's standards. If they all knew each other's thoughts, as well as they knew their own, then beating Gaea wouldn't be as suicidal as if, say, Percy fought her on his own. A typical Roman plan -- fighting as a unit had helped Jason this long. Surely it wouldn't fail him this time.
Jason stepped forwards and took Percy's hand. "For Camp Half-Blood" he announced.
"For Camp Jupiter" Percy said. Nico took a deep breath and reluctantly stepped forth.
"For... " his voice failed him. "For the gods" he announced, with revoked confidence.
The cave transformed. From Riptide's silver aura, a wall of force propelled outwards as clouds of water swirled into existence. Turbulent air flow violently crashed against the ground, speeding up and blending together oceanic colours to shape the artwork of the century. Shades of green erupted from beneath the hurricane, blowing Percy two feet above the surface -- barely clinging on to Jason and Nico, he was lit up by a surge of Poseidon's energy. A blue tidal wave parted from the whirlpool and spun at infinity speeds. Colliding with Jason, it ripped his eyes open as lightning thundered from his blonde hair and struck the water surface. Every fisher's worst nightmare had manifested itself, and Nico was standing next to it. He was the eye of the storm; the calm corner to turn to when the atmosphere is saturated with anger.
"It's not working" Jason shouted at the top of his lungs. "Nico! You're blocking out your thoughts!". Nico squinted. Jason's words meant nothing; he'd have to make his own decision. Slowly, his knees buckled and he dropped to the ground.
For a moment the world stood still. Percy squeezed his hand. Please get up, he thought, Don't be scared.
I can hear you, Nico's eyes burst open.
A thick black cloud erupted from his feet, quickly dispersing to the most distant edges of the cave. A pure swarm of death erupted across the storm. The sea green waves crashed against the violent blue skies and were caught by death, giving birth to a purple haze. Their thoughts were one. The sons of the Big Three had united.
Nico diAngelo. He smiled at Jason's memories, now brighter than his own reality. Battles, defeated monsters, rediscovered family and... lost friends.
Jason Grace. His heart raised as he felt Jackson's countless victories. Ares, Hyperion, Kronos. His loyal friends. Anabeth, Grover, Frank, Hazel... and Jason.
Percy Jackson. His eyes burst open as his shoulders tensed. Tinkering, his brain began to understand. To his right he sensed an aura of nervousness. No. He searched deeper, sensing the story of a lost boy. He relaxed again, coming to an internal agreement over the son of Hades.
How cute Gaea's voice resonated within their minds. The deafening shrill unsettled even the restless Hurricane. The side of the cave sunk, etching in facial features. Her face appeared ageless; the same form that all three had to endure for so long on their own. Too little to late she taunted A pitiful get-together will not stop me. As though one of her faces hadn't been bad enough, another sprang into existence on the far right of the cave. Embrace whatever remains of your lives while you can. With every new word, another version of her appeared, eventually producing a deafening shrill that resonated across the complex. Come. Join me.
A killer wave cut through her face, eradicating it from the wall.
"No" the three answered at once as an iceberg exploded in every direction imaginable.
Percy Nico thought I must search for the weapon. Silence. Percy let go of Nico's hand. Instantly, the ground began to cling onto his feet, trying to suck him in. Looking back one last time at his friends, he melted into the goo.