An Alternative Ending to The Blood of Olympus
The fight was furious, and many demigods lost control of their powers because of the fierce concentration; water geysers sprouted ten feet tall out of nowhere; precious metals and gemstones unearthed themselves underfoot; lightning crackled overhead; flames engulfed any monster that dared attack their conjurer, and skeleton warriors burst from the cracked and beaten earth. Monster dust flew in multiple directions as many were slain, but reinforcements repeatedly filled gaps in the offensive lines.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Percy saw another camper run up to Nico, who was stabbing left, right and centre at monsters. He whispered something in the son of Hades’ ear, and Nico nodded. They raced off somewhere, and Percy would have followed but he noticed Annabeth surrounded by dracanae, and he rushed off to defend her.
A break in the fighting was to the relief of both sides. The demigods were winning by a slight margin, thanks to the sacrifices of several noble fighters. All of a sudden, without any warning, a gryphon screeched, interrupting the tactics being discussed on the campers’ side of the field of battle. With the body of a lion and the head, wings and talons of an eagle, it was certainly a formidable force to be reckoned with. It seemed to have been attracted by the piles of gemstones and precious metals that had been cleared from the battleground. Flaming arrows flew through the air and pierced the beast’s hide, but it only roared in irritation and swiped at the nearest demigods, who tried to keep it at sword-arm’s length.
Minutes later, they were still no closer to defeating it, and the enemy was laughing in glee.
“Someone small and agile might be able to slip past its guard...” Dakota suggested.
A considerable amount of volunteers raised their voices, but they all argued amongst themselves, attempting to win glory from the fight.
“I will go.” A small voice raised itself in an attempt to be heard. Percy turned to see Hazel standing defiantly, hand on the hilt of her cavalry sword.
“Hazel, no. I promised Nico...”
She folded her arms in determination. “I am going, Percy.” She glared.
It was decided, and there was no time to lose. The daughter of Pluto would not be deterred from her firm decision.
“It’s my fault it came in the first place.” She explained, shrugging off Frank’s concerned hand on her shoulder. “It is my duty to deal with it and ensure the survival of the legion.” She readjusted her hold on the hilt of her sword, now drawn, her palms sweating in apprehension.
“Hazel, I can’t let you go,” Percy began. “Nico would-”
She interrupted him mid-sentence. “It’s my choice.” Then, her resolve slipping, her voice wavered. “If...” she gulped. “If I don’t make it...”
It was Frank’s turn to interrupt. “You will.” He assured her.
“If I don’t make it,” she repeated, regardless. “Tell Nico I’m sorry. Tell him I love him.”
Percy nodded, something blocking his throat and preventing his voice from emerging. “Good luck.” He managed, then watched as Hazel sank into the ground, creating her own underground miniature Labyrinth. A mere minute later, the gryphon screeched as the earth collapsed underneath it, enveloping it in its mistress’ domain forever. All the demigods cheered, and the enemy charged again.
Shouts, both monster and demigod in origin, fell from a deafening racket to pin-drop silence. All watched in amazement as the fiery missile, shot from the onager, flew into the earthen form of Gaia. Octavian’s screams were silence upon impact. And all cheered as Festus, as mighty as his demigod rider, soared above the explosion, roaring and blasting fire from his mechanical jaws as Leo whooped in delight.
Percy stood, legs shaking from stress and relief. They had done it. They had won. Gaia was gone, no thanks to the refusal of help from the gods. He rallied the demigods, Romans and Greeks alike, and counted injuries and losses. Nothing extremely major. And anything that was... that could come later, as harsh as it sounded.
Ambrosia was distributed, the healing squares of godly food contained in a zip-up freezer bag, and a canteen of nectar was also passed around.
Percy wrapped an arm around Annabeth’s shoulders and helped her limp back towards the rest of the group, avoiding the burning remains of an onager as they did so. Leo flew down on Festus, his sooty face grinning with delight. Frank (for some reason in the shape of a wild boar) transformed back into his human shape, cradling what looked like an agonisingly painful broken wrist. Reyna was supporting Dakota, who looked as if he had been badly beaten in a fight with an extremely crazed Chihuahua. Jason pointed Calypso towards Leo, and she hurried over, her normally neat caramel coloured braid singed and chaotic. How she had arrived, Percy would never know but he still smiled as she wiped Leo’s face like an overprotective mother, while Coach Hedge escorted a tearful Frank off to get his wrist set.
As they all walked back through the trampled strawberry plants, Percy’s eyes hazed in and out of focus, the only thing anchoring him to the present was Annabeth’s tight embrace. Her arm was wrapped firmly around him, as though she believed that is she loosened her hold, he would slip away and be lost to her. Complicated thoughts swirled around his brain, many lives had been lost in that final battle, so many that it was hard for Percy to acknowledge them all without a lump swelling in his throat, tears welling in his eyes or dwelling on what could have been. Perhaps, if he denied it for long enough, it would prove false, the evidence and memories would disappear, and... But he knew, in his heart of hearts, that that wouldn't happen.
Yes, Gaia was gone, the earth that had formed her shape buried under the mounds of monster dust that had one been her army from the deepest, darkest depths of Tartarus. But that didn't shake the heavy burden of loss from his shoulders.
A gentle voice roused Percy from his thoughts. "Percy?" Annabeth's understanding grey eyes looked into his, respectful and also mournful. "Come on." She gave him a sad smile and encouraged him up over the top of Half-Blood Hill, into camp. Chiron trotted over, beaming. "Well done!" He stowed his longbow away, and was opening his mouth to speak again when two other figures raced over. Percy recognised them as Nico and a son of Apollo, Will Solace, he thought his name was.
"Hey, Nico, can we... talk?" He addressed the younger demigod.
"Sure! Just let me- wait." He anxiously scanned the faces of the demigods that milled behind his friends. "Where's... Where's my sister?"
Dead silence. Everyone, even Chiron, froze.
"Let's take a walk." Percy beckoned, and Nico followed, a tangle of emotions flooding through his ivory features, the flush from the sprint fading to snow white, bloodless flesh.
"Where is she, Percy?" He demanded when they were a distance away from the others, tears springing to the dark pools that were his normally emotionless eyes. "Don't you dare tell me she's-"
"You promised!" Nico's voice broke as he shouted at the older demigod. "You promised, Percy! This is just like last time! You lied to me, Percy! I can't believe I..."
He scrubbed at his eyes furiously, as if determined not to show any emotion. "I trusted you!" He spat.
Percy looked down and bit his lip. "I'm sorry, Nico."
"No you're not!" The other yelled, voice cracking and becoming hoarse. “You wouldn’t have let her fight! You should have sent her back with me instead, like I asked! I would have protected her! Then she wouldn’t be...” he broke down, crumbling to the grass like a puppet that had had its strings brutally sliced.
“Nico...” Percy knelt and tried to console him, but he was pushed away. “I tried!” He shouted as Nico stood and started to stumble away, an emotional wreck. Nico pivoted on his heel, a broken look covering his face, eyes dead and lost.
Then he opened his mouth and spoke the words that Percy would never forget. The words that would wound him worse than all of his injuries piled into one. The words that would stay with him until the day he died.
“You tried?!” Nico laughed. Then, all of a sudden, his face turned sour. “I wish. I wish she was here and you were in her place, under that shroud!” he gestured wildly to where the black, cloth-covered body of Hazel Levesque was being borne up the hill from the scene of the battle, watched by many, including a confused-looking Will Solace, Piper, Jason, Leo, Frank and Annabeth, who all knelt in respect as the numerous shrouded forms passed by.
Nico turned back to Percy. “I wish you were DEAD!” he roared, tears streaming down his distraught face. He turned and fled down the hill, taking nothing with him but his Stygian Iron sword and the clothes he was wearing.
Nico di Angelo, son of Hades, was never seen alive again.
That night, the lives of many demigods were honoured as their shrouds burnt on the pyres. Even the Gods came down to mourn, some, like Zeus and Dionysus, just stood quietly in vigil. Others, Hermes, Apollo and Artemis among them, walked with the siblings, comforting and consoling them. Hades stood in the shadows, ashen-faced. As Percy watched, the God of the Underworld shivered as a fragment of Hazel’s coal-black shroud, embers glowing around the edges, fluttered past and up into the sky. Then, as silently as the shadows that he ruled, Hades slipped away, dissolving into the night.
Percy turned away as a heavy hand fell upon his shoulder.
“You are strong, Percy.” Poseidon rumbled. “Others have lost more than friends and siblings tonight. They may not be as strong as you. Go. Hazel would understand.”
Percy nodded. Poseidon patted his shoulder and withdrew. Percy saw him wander over to Ella and Tyson and receive a bone-crushing hug from the latter. Smiling, Percy turned back to observe the others. Frank, it seemed, was taken care of, and was happily grinning along with Clarisse and the rest of the Ares Cabin. Drew appeared to have gotten over her animosity towards Piper and Jason, and was toasting marshmallows and s’mores with them, conversing in friendly tones. Annabeth was talking animatedly with Athena; Leo had snuck off somewhere to be with Calypso; in fact, everyone seemed to be honouring their fallen comrades with pride and celebrations.
But even as he watched, Percy spotted two figures sitting away from the towering, joyous flames of the campfire. As he walked towards the pair, he recognised Apollo, sitting with his arm around Will Solace, his son. When he neared, Apollo stood, nodded once to Percy, patted Will on the shoulder and left. Percy took the seat that the god had just been sitting in, and faced Will. The usually cheerful, sunny disposition was turned grey and sour, his limp blonde hair framed a pale face flushed from weeping, and his sparkling eyes dull and depressed. Percy wrapped an arm around Will, accepting two drinks from a passing dryad. After passing one to Will, he raised in a toast, silencing everyone.
"To those that fell honourably."
"Those that fell."
Percy sat down again, and raised his glass in a smaller toast, almost drowned out by the noise that had grown from the silence of the toast. He looked directly into Will's eyes. Although Annabeth called him 'Seaweed Brain', he did notice some things.
Will stared at him in astonishment, but then raised his own drink and returned the toast in a trembling, hoarse voice.