Annabeth looked out of the Big House window. The murky blue waves lashed violently against the battered land, demonstrating Poseidon’s rage against the Earth Mother for what she had done; the sea against the land, the Olympians verses the giants. The beautifully ripe strawberries swayed vigorously from side to side in the strong wind, and for miles around the luscious aroma scented the air. The Camp fire glowed a shocking shade of purple, reflecting the mood of the Camp: tired, proud and hopeful of a better future.
Percy, Annabeth, Piper and Jason sat round one side of a half collapsed Ping-Pong table with only a fraction of a net clinging on to the side, behind them the rather laid-back Greek senior counsellors sat with the Roman centurions. Sitting on the other side were Nico, Reyna, the Coach, Frank and Hazel.
Clarisse was yelling madly at Dakota after he splashed blood-red Kool-Aid on her new ‘Destroy all!’ top, a gruesome skull and cross bones clumsily printed on its front. Reyna was trying to shove an exhausted and heavy Clovis of her shoulder where he’d decided to have a quick nap. Chiron was shouting at the top of his voice, a commanding voice that usually everyone would listen to, but not today. Today was different. Today the wall of noise was unstoppable. This was one war council that was anything but productive.
Even with all this “drama” going on, Annabeth felt as hollow as an empty wooden chest. She’d survived the pits of Tartarus; they’d struggled but still had defeated the giants and Gaia and were home in time for tea, so why did she feel so crushed? Why did she feel like they’d lost the battle then? Why did she feel so guilty?
It was Leo. Annabeth knew his death was her own fault. She was a daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom and Warcraft. Yeah well, her wisdom wasn’t so useful then was it? Tears welled up in her stormy grey eyes. ‘Oh gods of Olympus! How could she live with herself?’ Annabeth thought despairingly. Leo had sacrificed himself just to give them a shot at victory. They had scored, but at such high cost. They had lost him. How could she cope?
“Annabeth, it wasn’t your fault at all,” Percy whispered sadly. His voice sounded vacant. It was as if he was a distant-echo, not even there.
“How did you know what I was thinking about?” Annabeth wept bitterly. She felt a warm tear roll down her cheek. She was glad he knew, Annabeth trusted him not to tell any of the others and to keep it their little secret, still she was glad for the reassurance, the fact she could talk to someone about the guilt and dread she couldn’t leave behind.
“I was thinking about the same thing Annabeth, I just can’t get those disturbing visions out of my head… “Percy sobbed miserably.
She looked into his eyes and saw a distant sadness looming mercilessly. Percy blamed himself for his death. It was clear to see, the way he stared at the ground blinking back tears and slightly shivering. How had she been selfish enough just to think of herself? Percy needed her help in dealing with the painful regret of lives lost.
“Don’t blame yourself seaweed brain. It was my fault not yours if I’d just…” Annabeth could tell she wasn’t making a difference, Percy wasn’t listening.
“Annabeth! It was my fault! If I’d have stopped my nose bleed Gaia wouldn’t have risen, Leo would be here celebrating our victory and telling his awful jokes!” he snapped angrily at Annabeth.
“SILENCE” boomed a loud bossy voice.
Mr D stood at the head of the broken table. He was wearing a purple stripy shirt with a wide straw hat, decorated with wonderfully juicy grape vines. Annabeth guessed his eyes were sunken from being stuck on Olympus arguing with Zeus. He had a splash of purple wine by his bottom lip; no-one had bothered to tell him as they probably would have ended up as a bunch of rejected grapes for a few days.
Everyone went silent except for Clovis who was still snoring heavily. Mr D rolled his eyes and sent a plump grape vine with hundreds of sharp thorns crawling up his chubby arm. "Ow!” a half-asleep voice groaned angrily. The vines withered and died slowly creeping down Clovis' arm. He rubbed it and stared at Mr D like ‘what the heck, dude’. In response Mr D raised an eyebrow as if he was saying ’you had it coming boy’.
Dakota stared at Mr D admiringly. "Cool..."he muttered in pure amazement. As a Roman of the Twelfth Legion, he had never seen a god in person before (except for Hera), much less their stunning powers. Mr D, or Bacchus to the Romans, smiled slightly, obviously impressed that a puny mortal valued his mighty powers over grapes and other things… Well I suppose he might have had a soft spot for Dakota seeing as he was his son.
Annabeth grinned. Was Mr D smiling? Never, not in a million years, he had never smiled since… well ever that she’d known of anyway.
“Anyway…” Chiron stuttered, bewildered. He seemed to be having the same thought, wondering if the god had ever smiled in the past.
”I would like to congratulate our noble heroes on the success of both of their valiant quests.” announced Chiron, gesturing wildly as he spoke.
“Reyna Ramirez-Arellano, Nico Di Angelo and Gleeson Hedge, you brought back the legendary Athena Parthenos to its rightful home, here at Camp half blood. You healed the ancient rift between the Greek and the Roman Camps and united the god’s two sides. It is my privilege and honour to present these Greek golden laurel wreaths, the sign of a true hero and also a Roman medal of valour, an honour only awarded to the bravest of soldiers. You have all done your duty to your Camps, your family and your gods.”
Hooray! There was a colossal cheer from the crowd as the team stood up and sauntered over to the head of green ping pong table to claim their honours. Chiron held out the golden crowns as the three heroes knelt in front of him. He respectfully placed one on each of their heads.
”Congratulations, you deserve this honour.”
Chiron pulled out three ruby embedded sparkling silver medals and pinned them on to their new mixed Camp T-shirt, half orange, half purple. Everyone was given one to wear after the battle to symbolise the friendship between the two Camps. Reyna, Nico and the Coach looked flattered as they merrily strolled back to their seats.
“Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Frank and Hazel, we all are more than relieved on your safe return. Percy and Jason waking up in a different Camp with no memory must have been hard. Percy we’ve been so worried about you for since you went missing from our Camp and I’m sure Camp Jupiter will say the same about Jason. Truly you have achieved the impossible, you closed the door of death from both sides, stopped the giants over throwing the Olympians and prevented Gaia from coming to power and turning the world into an waste land where he giants rule. Never forget you are the true heroes of Olympus! We are eternally in your debt and I’m sure the gods agree with me when I say we couldn’t have done it without any of you.”
Together the six Demigods stood together as a team for the last time as after the celebrations the Romans were leaving with Frank and Hazel. They knelt in one line facing the centaur. After draping a golden wreath over each of their heads he was left holding one in his hands.
‘Leo’s’ Annabeth thought. Chiron turned to face the hearth of Hestia.
” Leo Valdez, you sacrificed yourself to destroy Gaia; you did the noblest thing possible to stop her. Thank you!” Chiron solemnly announced. He saluted and threw the remaining laurel wreath into the roaring flames.
The Demi-gods sat back down. Annabeth saw out of the corner of her eye that Percy was discreetly crying, she guessed he was thinking of their lost friends. Annabeth clung tightly to him trying to avoid wailing in despair. Bob, Damasen, Phoebe and many more had all gone but especially Leo. Had it really been worth it? YES! Annabeth thought. Thinking anything else would crush her and Percy.
Mr D pulled out a long scroll from his leopard print bag slung over his left shoulder. As he read it, his eyes widened in pure horror.
“Zeus has ordered me to thank you for helping fight the Gaia’s army,” Mr D scowled, he clipped off every word as if he was being manipulated into saying the crude words. ”Appreciate Peter Jonson and Annabelle? Dream on Dad,” he yelled to the sky. Thunder boomed above. Lightning shot down from the heavens, roasting a nearby tree. Mr D pulled out a can of Diet Coke from an ice chest that he was standing next to, popped it open and rolled his drunken eyes.
Annabeth couldn’t resist laughing, not with Mr D, but at his stupidity.
"Council dismissed,” Chiron wisely decided. They were getting nowhere anyway. “Please go and enjoy the party outside on the basketball court and later on, the Hephaestus and Vulcan cabins will be launching their new range of fireworks in an 'explosive' display. I’m sure you will all enjoy it,” Chiron looked pleased with his terrible pun. Really?
Annabeth breathed in and out slowly. No regrets. “Come on Percy lets go join the party!” she decided. She was trying to lighten both of their spirits as they desperately needed it anyway. She grabbed his hand and pulled him up. He smiled, but it was only a cold smile, an empty smile with no pleasure enclosed with in.
"Let’s go!" he muttered sadly.
Rows of tables were unseen under layer upon layer of the sweetest delicacies provided by Demeter’s catering service. Hundreds of Roman and Greek demi-gods were scattered around the basketball court standing in little crowds chatting about war, weapons and gossip. Thankfully, no fights had broken out, that was good as everyone was armed with swords and daggers, though the atmosphere was very tense.
"Yo! Percy dude!” Grover yelled with joy from the other side of the basketball court. A lump of misery melted inside Annabeth. His curly horns spiralled out of his bushy black hair. He used to be able to put a cap over them but not anymore, they were far too large now. He wore a baggy red t-shirt emblazoned with ‘goat any last words?’ He sat with Juniper the tree nymph, his girlfriend. Her green skin had become slightly browner since Annabeth had seen her last; she guessed it was from the stress of the battle. Grover had said Gaia had been trying to stop the allies of the gods of joining together. Maybe she had stopped the nymphs at the source of the tree.
He bleated happily and bolted towards them. Halfway there he tripped over his hooves and tumbled over. He jumped up, grinned like a mad man and casually strolled over to them as if nothing had happened. Annabeth was so relieved to see Grover still in one goatee piece. Percy smiled a smile full of pure joy. Annabeth could read Percy like an open book. He hadn't seen his best friend in over eight months and missed him a lot. He had told Annabeth about the dreams about him. As for Grover, he was easier to read. He hadn't known if Percy was alive or dead, he'd been looking for him, talking to nearly every nature spirit nearly everywhere trying to find him. Annabeth hadn’t seen Percy this joyful since they’d been reunited.
He tackled Percy with a bear hug, and then gave Annabeth a giant one too. “Oh my gods, I am so glad to see you both alive and well. For the last few months I've just been eating old Coke cans that I been finding in the wild. I knew you were alive because of our empathy link but... But... when I got your message from Tartarus…"he blurted and then abruptly stopped and listened to the pumping music." Hey! Hey! Hey! Is that one of Apollo’s own tracks? Wow! That dude is good! Well shame his poetry isn't as good as his vocals!"
He would never change' Annabeth thought 'same old Grover’. Annabeth was glad he hadn't changed; it was a way of pretending nothing had happened: no death, no loss, and no misery. Juniper jogged over to them.
He pointed to a nearby tree and it suddenly spouted massive red juicy apples. As a Satyr from the council of the cloven elders, he could do that. Also, it was clear he was trying to impress all of them.
“Wow dude, you been practicing?” Percy muttered admiringly. Grover smiled pleased for the attention. Usually the others got the compliments as he wasn’t very powerful compared to Percy or Annabeth.
“Grover!” Juniper scolded. He rolled his eyes. Annabeth was glad to see Grover so happy but it also hurt her to see him so grown up. He’d moved on with his life, leaving the two of them behind. After all, he was a respected member of the council of cloven elders and had to serve his duty.
“There is a cloven elders meeting in a few minutes Grover we need to get going now!” Juniper reminded him. Grover’s face was hilarious; it was so obvious he’d forgotten. Annabeth laughed.
“Well any way see you later,” He gave Percy another hug, winked at Annabeth and bolted off with Juniper.
The night was starting to lighten up when the fireworks started. Chiron was right, they were spectacular. Shapes of the seven demi-gods illuminated the stunning night sky. One image showed Piper burying Hercules in organic fresh produce, another showed Percy slaying the two gorgons over the little Tiber. Many more similar images exploded in the night sky. As she saw one of herself trapping Arachne, Annabeth felt her mouth form a smile. She was quite good wasn’t she?
After talking to Tyson, Travis and Nyssa the camps vast horn blew, the rich sound echoed throughout the camp walls. It was time for the biggest campfire Camp half-blood had ever had.
The Greeks and Romans sat side by side proving the impossible was in fact possible. The central campfire flew thirty feet into the air as everyone sang ‘I’m a little satyr’ or ‘I’m a little faun’ for the Romans which was extremely confusing so they sang each version separately.
Although both groups were enjoying the celebration, a slight sadness hung in the air. There had been too many deaths, friend and family lost for good. Annabeth knew that Nico had made sure that Hades sent all the allies of the gods to the Iles of the Blest. But was Leo Valdez among them? Nico had pulled her aside and explained that he’d felt the intense burning in his veins of Leos death. It defiantly killed him but did he use the physicians cure? If so where was he? Tons of questions crowded together in Annabeth’s head. She knew it was worse not knowing if he was alive or not, it felt like false hope but she knew Leo always had a plan, she couldn’t and wouldn’t give up on him. Ever…
Together they had spent many months building a robust warship, the Argo II. She had grown to admire his skill and determination; he proved he would do anything for his friends, no matter what the cost… Blood sweat and many tears went into the construction of the ship, now there was nothing left but the odd shard of shrapnel. It was all gone. Even Leo’s dragon, Festus never came home.
As the traditional ‘round and round Olympus’ song drew to a close, Chiron ordered the crowd to stand and pay their respects to all the lost... Percy turned to face Annabeth.
“No regrets!” he decided with such certainty Annabeth almost believed him. Almost…
Annabeth gazed despondently into the night sky. Could she really forget and move on?
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a glint of gold in the sky. Annabeth spun round still staring into the darkness. A colossal figure shone in the moon light. Creak! Creak! Creak! The creatures ruby eyes glowed with warmth. On its back a scrawny figure held on to the beasts neck, another behind clung on for dear life, her hair long golden hair flew behind them.