The Seven, Rachel and Grover all gathered at the top of Half-Blood Hill, under Thalia’s pine tree, with their plates of nymph-made barbeque and Olympian style pizza (with, besides peperoni and tomato, Percy’s favourite topping: olives). Piper had her special vegetarian enchiladas, of which Grover heartily approved, although the others thought she was missing out. Nico was supposed to have joined them, but he was busy making the Hades cabin habitable. The seven were unfathomably pleased that he’d decided to stay at Camp Half-Blood, as one of them. Friendship was incredible powerful, as they had discovered. They sat in silence, Frank eating as though he had to feed every possible animal incarnation, Hazel absently making jewels pop out of the earth and then sink again, and Percy twirling Riptide (thankfully in pen form) between his fingers. He was brooding, too distracted to do much else.
Down in the dining pavilion, mixed assortments of Greek and Roman demigods, nymphs, naiads, dryads, Amazons and even some Hunters of Artemis were all laughing and chatting, shouting over one another, occasionally throwing edible projectiles and generally celebrating their victory over Gaia. Nonetheless, the seven preferred to sit at the top of the hill, feeling the magic of the Golden Fleece- restored to its rightful place- wash over them in waves of peace and healing.
“Well,” Annabeth said eventually, breaking the silence, “we survived.” The others nodded mutely. They were tired and beaten up, and none of them was quite sure what to make of their new world since the war was over. Even Leo didn’t crack a joke, but that was probably because he was busy fiddling with an ancient astrolabe and a chunk of familiar-looking crystal. Percy figured it was supposed to eventually lead him back to Calypso, although he didn’t dare mention it. He and Leo had made their peace, but he figured the subject of Calypso was best left untouched. Only Leo had a right to meddle there.
Percy felt a million miles away from who he’d been last year, sharing a blue chocolate brick of a cupcake with Annabeth to celebrate his birthday, and even further from the boy who’d drooled in his sleep and travelled hundreds of miles to retrieve Zeus’ lighting bolt and meet his father. Nevertheless, no matter what he did, one thing was for certain: Kronos, the titans, Gaea and all her most bloodthirsty minions… None of them could keep Perseus Jackson from defending his home, his friends, and most of all his Wise Girl. He was a Greek hero, a praetor of the Twelfth Legion and a-
“Seaweed brain,” Annabeth interrupted, taking his hand. “Since when are you the brooding type?” Percy cracked a smile.
“Oh, well, you know. I’m just waiting for Rachel to spew green smoke again and send us off on another quest. I mean, Tartarus was great and all, but I want to see something really spectacular, you know?” Jason started choking on his drink.
“Don’t you think some peace would be nice,” he spluttered. Piper patted him on the back, maybe a little harder than he needed, and he managed to breathe again. Percy and Annabeth shared a look, and answered him simultaneously.
“It wouldn’t be Camp Half-Blood if it was peaceful.” They both laughed at each other, while the other five watched them and wondered what the joke was. Annabeth pointed at Rachel.
“Next prophecy, not our problem. Now that even the Romans will be trying to honour all the gods, there are plenty of other demigods to go save the world. I’d like to spend my senior year in peace,” she warned. Rachel smiled and shrugged.
“That’s fine by me! I’ll be at Clarion anyway, foretelling the upcoming examination questions.” She grinned broadly at everyone, and Percy mentally braced himself, feeling the tension that suddenly descended on the party. It would be just like the gods to land something on them just as they’d settled down and decided to relax.
No golden glow lit the hills. No dazzling supernova announced the arrival of one of the Olympians. No green smoke started to spew from Rachel’s mouth. The demigods in the dining pavilion carried on with their riotous noise. Frank and Hazel exchanged a look.
“They’re not even sending muffing simulations,” Hazel said nervously. Percy snorted, remembering Iris’ ‘gift’ to New Rome after the war with the giants. Jason shrugged.
“I’d much rather have salt-water brownies with peach preserves anyway,” Jason said. Frank and Percy heartily agreed, while Annabeth shook her head at them ruefully. Piper and Hazel just looked disgusted, which Percy thought was a shame. All they had to do was try them, and their lives would be so much better. Of course, it would be even better if the brownies were blue, but he supposed they tasted just as good without the food dye.
Suddenly, there was a commotion from the Big House. It sounded something like Chuck Norris and Godzilla having a playful wrestle. Percy jumped up nervously, while they others all scrambled for their weapons, when they saw Coach Hedge stumble out of the door with a tiny satyr on his shoulders, clinging to his ears for support.
“I’m not a pack animal!” Hedge yelled, dancing around in random circles trying to get his son to let go of his ears so he could get him off his shoulders. Mellie the nymph- somehow magically already looking as though she’d never been pregnant- ran out behind him and gently lifted their son down. He made cute baby satyr noises and snuggled into his mother’s shoulder. Hedge’s face softened as he looked down at his baby, in a way Percy wouldn’t have thought possible of the old satyr. He looked at Frank out of the corner of his eye. He had the biggest, goofiest grin on his face as the seven relaxed and sat down again.
“Considering how crazy he was as our teacher at the Wilderness School,” Piper smiled, “I never imagined he could be a father. I think he’s doing a great job.” Percy had to agree that Hedge was a great dad, baseball bats, cage fights and all. It made him happy, watching Hedge and Mellie with their three little satyrs running around causing havoc, just like regular babies. The thought of being able to just go down to the campfire and sing all the same songs that had made him feel at home back when he was twelve and had just arrived warmed his heart. The hope that maybe the gods would finally let them enjoy their lives was bright, and he could feel it in all of his friends. Annabeth squeezed his hand as if she knew what he was thinking. She probably did, she’d been through everything he had and more. They’d been together since the very beginning and now- having defeated the earth mother herself- he felt like they had reached the final chapter. Maybe it would be okay for them to relax a little. To kill the odd monster every now and then, but not battle giants and titans and other immortal beings they couldn’t possibly kill.
Grover cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Well,” he said, “it’s been nice finally meeting you all. Juniper will be waiting for me though, and tomorrow the Council of the Cloven Elders will be convening to pass judgement on the spirits who supported Gaea.” He got to his hooves and smiled at everyone. Annabeth hugged him quickly, and Percy gave him a fist-bump.
“You’re still the best satyr ever, G-man,” he said. Grover bleated his nervous laugh, but looked pleased as he trotted off down the hill. Percy figured he’d earned the right to. After all, Grover was the satyr who had found the lost god Pan, brought children of all the Big Three to camp and gone with Rachel to tell Reyna what needed to be done to restore peace between the camps. He may have been a little self-conscious and nervous, but Percy knew he was still a hero.
“I should go too,” Rachel decided. “It’s getting late, and I want a word with that infuriating Roman augur before curfew.”
“If you waited,” Jason suggested brightly, “maybe the harpies would catch him and eat him for being out!” They all laughed and smiled at that, and Percy thanked the gods that he wouldn’t be going back to the Roman camp, where he would have to put up with Octavian for years to come.
“You’re going to try him for, like, betraying the legion and stuff, aren’t you,” he asked Frank. It felt weird asking Frank, of all people, but Percy had to admit the rank of praetor suited him. Frank had grown up a lot over the course of the quest, and he radiated a sort of powerful confidence that made people want to trust him. Frank nodded cheerfully, saying he hoped Octavian would have to take inventory in the armory and sweep the streets for the rest of his time in the legion.
“Rachel, I think Reyna sent him to clean up in the stables,” Annabeth said. Rachel thanked her and set off down the hill. Despite the fact that Octavian was a jerk, he did have at least a little prophetic gifting, and Rachel was curious about how it worked without the spirit of Delphi possessing him.
“Reyna set him to cleaning horse poop?” Jason sounded liked he really liked the idea.
“Actually, I feel kind of sorry for him,” Annabeth said. “Jason, if you see the immortal heavenly witch, could you ask her to quit with the cows? I thought I might have escaped, but they seem to have followed me from San Francisco. After going on this stupid quest for her, and having her kidnap Percy, I think she owes me a clear pavement, at least.” Jason looked confused but agreed. Percy was pretty sure that none of them would be seeing Hera again though. Now that they’d done what she wanted them for, she was probably going to just ignore them, and he was just fine with that. He’d had quite enough of her immortal majesty, and wouldn’t mind if he completely dropped off her radar. All he really wanted was to settle into regular demigod life with Annabeth and his new friends, teach sword-fighting to the new campers and generally not have to worry about dying every moment of his life.
Next to him, Leo spontaneously burst into flames.
“Guys, I’ve got it!!!” His flaming hand waved the astrolabe in the air, the crystal fitted into it and glowing. He leapt to his feet as he shut his flames down. “Well, it was lovely eating with you all, but the Leo ship is leaving the harbor!”
“What?” Hazel looked confused. “Leo, what do you mean, are you going somewhere?”
“Calypso’s island! I fixed the astrolabe. Odysseus made it, but he never managed to get it to work. The super-sized McShizzle is going to find Ogygia twice, and no one can stop him!” Leo was so excited his nose burst back into flame. Percy grinned at him. He still felt guilty about not making sure Calypso had been released from her exile on Ogygia, but he knew Leo could do what he’d never been able to: Leo could set her free from her prison and her loneliness. She deserved it, too. Finally, a hero she could have.
“I’ve got to go! Festus will be waiting for me! Dang, I’m glad I managed to fix that dragon!” Leo set off down the hill so fast he almost fell.
“Hey Leo, be careful!” Piper called after him. The other demigods echoed her agreement. The war was over, but there was no knowing with prophecy and one line still hadn’t been clearly fulfilled. An oath to keep with a final breath. Percy knew that loyal demigods had died fighting monsters and Gaea and even demigods from the opposite camp, and it was likely some of them had sworn to protect their home. But still…
“He’ll be okay,” Annabeth said reassuringly. “We’re the heroes of the gods! We defeated Gaea, for pity’s sake! He can manage a short flight to an imaginary island.”
“Well, if Wise Girl says it, it must be true,” Percy grinned. Then, because Hedge wasn’t there to stop them, he leant in and kissed her gently. Annabeth smiled from ear to ear.
“I take it you won’t have any objection if I apply to Goode for my senior year, then?” She asked. Percy had to resist the urge to go running down the hill whooping for joy. He looked round at the six remaining demigods. Piper and Jason were holding hands, Frank had his arm around Hazel, Annabeth and he weren’t ever going to let themselves get separated again, and they had no more enemies left to fight. The two aspects of the gods were reconciled, the camps were united, Annabeth was drawing up plans for a temple to her mum, where the Athena Parthenos could be housed… For that moment, at least, their world of gods and monsters and crazy adventures was perfect, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He looked out towards the sea and smiled.
“Thanks dad.” He caught a whiff of salty sea smell, and knew- even without Rachel’s gift of prophecy- that everything was going to be okay.