As Caitlin and I walked through the same hallway I just passed through, we talked about the last few days of camp I didn’t have the pleasure of spending. I laughed when I heard about the Jackson/Chase hookup.
I mean, come on, everyone at Camp Half-Blood saw it coming. It was obvious they liked each other from the beginning, but they sure didn’t act like it. I missed Percy and Annabeth like crazy, and I was tempted to skip school for a week to hang out in New York with them. I haven’t seen them since the beginning of August 2009. I’d sent Annabeth an e-mail over the summer this year. I haven’t gotten a response from her yet.
I couldn’t bring myself to talk about my encounter with Cronus yet. I guess I was worried about hurting myself more than I already was. I’ll tell ya, when you think someone’s a fictional character and he starts talking to you – kissing you – you become scarred for life.
We stopped at my room’s door. The minute I touched my doorknob, I shuddered. I would lose my sanity if I opened it, and Cronus was there.
Caitlin noticed me shudder. “What’s up?” she asked, looking at me. She caught my attention, and I looked back at her. My best friend wasn’t smiling at me anymore. Instead, concern was written on her face and in her eyes.
“Just a little chilled, that’s all,” I lied smoothly. “No biggie.”
I think Caitlin didn’t believe me. “Sure. There’s more to it,” she replied. We entered my room.
I went and sat on the edge of my bed. No use trying to hide it now. “I don’t really know how to explain it –”
“How to explain what, my dear?” a man’s voice interrupted. I shivered. I knew that voice.
Caitlin jumped to her feet, pulling out a celestial bronze dagger. Her green eyes became dark and determined. I stood with her, and glared at the god who stole my innocence.
“Why the hell are you here?” Caitlin spat. “You realize you can’t manipulate anyone in the same way you did Luke.”
“You’re mistaken, daughter of Hermes. See, poor Luke was misguided by Kronos,” Cronus said pleasantly.
“It’s still you, no matter how you spell it,” she snarled. “Now, answer me: why are you here?”
“You know perfectly well why I’m here, Hurst,” the Titan king sneered. He looked at me, and I was pulled into how Cronus saw everything.
* * *
He saw everything as a chess game
I wasn’t surprised by the fact Cronus was involved, because I saw him standing on the side with five monsters – two minotaurs, two Scythian dracaenae (dragon women), and a giant which was half Hyperborean, half polar bear. A woman stood to his right, possessively clutching his arm.
I knew the woman holding Cronus’s arm was Rhea.
She was dressed in a black Grecian gown. It was floor-length, and compared to her, I felt small and insignificant.
Her earth brown hair was streaked with silver linings, and her grass green eyes were alive with the ghosts of good times and laughter. She smiled kindly at me, but it was hollow, like she never put any real emotion into it.
Believe it or not, I think my heart broke for her. I mean, really, who wouldn’t empathize with the poor goddess for putting up with an unfaithful husband who had a craving for fresh blood?
After staring at her for a few moments, I looked down at myself. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did then, and confounds me to this day.
Rhea and I were dressed in a similar fashion, only I was in a creamy white, and bare-footed. Noticing Cronus’s eyes on me, I turned away from Rhea and him.
It was then that I saw my fairytale ending all over again.
There he stood in all his angelic glory. His dirty blond hair was the way I thought it would be. His dark brown eyes were full of careful concern and quiet determination. His mouth was set in the same stubborn expression I knew well.
Okay, I guess I don’t know this guy quite as well as I should, but, hey, he was familiar to me.
You know that feeling? When you’re searching for a word that’s on the tip of your tongue, but can’t seem to find it? That’s exactly how I felt about this guy. I knew him so well, that I wasn’t so sure of his name.
He was dressed in traditional Greek armor, only his was white and lined with purple. His cloak was a darker shade of violet, and he wore black sandals. He carried a Greek xiphos in his right hand, and a holographic shield in the other. He must have caught me looking at him, because he looked at me and smiled.
I walked over and took my place beside him. Judging by his eyes, he was more focused on the task at hand – taking out Cronus’s army of monsters.
“Um, what’s the big ide–” I started to ask.
“Look at him, Colbie,” the guy from my happy ending said, cutting my question off. “What do you see?”
This him, I figured, meant Cronus, so I looked at the Titan. It didn’t surprise me he was wearing a black toga, no sandals, golden cuffs on his wrists, and a ring on his left hand.
How come I didn’t notice it before? Why would this psychopath remove such a valuable item from his finger when he met me? The ruby had to be at least three carats. The gold had to be pure. Now, I wondered if that ring of his symbolized he was bound to Rhea for the rest of his immortal life, no matter what he did.
“Not him,” the boy of my dreams murmured. “What’s in his hands?”
Taking the hint, I looked at what was in Cronus’s hands. The item was a scythe.
The scythe’s handle – which was approximately two feet long – was a sinister black with Greek designs in bronze on it. The curved blade – that had to be a good three feet long – shimmered gold.
I recognized the metal on the spot.
The metal the blade was made of was gold.
I put the pieces together.
“So, you’re the one who cut me,” I snarled at Cronus, “you no good piece of –”
“Wait!” the boy called, cutting off my insult. He was holding my upper arm in his shield hand. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I’d taken a step forward.
“What is there to wait for?” I asked him. “He cut me.” I pointed at Cronus to indicate the culprit. I swear I could see Cronus’s smug grin from the corner of my eye. I could imagine Rhea’s sympathetic expression as she stood next to her cheating husband.
“Look, I can only imagine how much damage Cronus inflicted on you, Colbie,” the boy said as he let go of my arm. He put his shield arm around my shoulders, like he was asserting I was his territory. I guess he could see the suspicion in my eyes, but he didn’t really address them. “Here’s the thing, you can’t move, yet. My chess game was just reset. White always moves first, remember?” The boy turned from me and looked around for available moves. With something in mind, he called, “Pawn! Move out!”
The warrior in front of a girl with waist-length strawberry blond hair walked forward a few spaces. The hideous creatures in front of Cronus’s elite hissed, and bared their fangs.
Cronus smiled coldly in our direction. “Jay, you realize everything you do for her will be in vain?” he asked.
“Not if I hide her first,” the boy – Jay – replied. His beautiful face was distorted with a shrewd expression.
“You know that’s impossible. I will have her eventually, Jay.”
“She’s not going to be taken. Not without me.”
“No, Jay,” Cronus sighed mockingly. “Not without you.”
* * *
Maybe I was hallucinating. Or maybe I wasn’t the only one who saw what I saw. Caitlin snarled at Cronus, almost like she did see what Cronus was planning on that chess board. “So, you expect me to believe that you’re not that into Colbie, like she’s just another toy to break and throw away?” she asked.
“I didn’t say that, daughter of Hermes,” Cronus denied.
I glared at him. Yeah, my courage was definitely improving. “Riiight. Like you never sliced me open with that freakin’ scythe of yours. Like you never smooched me almost an hour ago,” I sneered. “Jay will stop you, Cronus. He’s done it before.”
“Is that what this is about?” the Titan asked.
“You know damn well it is about him, Cronus. The prophecy number may be nine, but it will come down to a showdown between you and Jay,” Caitlin answered, backing me up.
“And what makes you think that?” Cronus spat.
“Jay, Percy, and I were the ones to hear the last prophecy of Camp Half-Blood’s mummy oracle. Jay was at camp for a higher level of instruction,” she said. “I saw Jay’s reaction after he heard the prophecy. I know him better than you do, Cronus. He’ll do anything to protect Colbie from you.”
“He’s a little late, Hurst,” Cronus retorted. No matter how heated it got, his voice got dangerously quiet. I could see the smirk on his face. I felt a chill go down my spine in the same way an ice cube would. I shuddered.
“Explain, Great Grandpa,” she snarled. Jeez, it must suck to be related to a jerk like Cronus.
“It’s because I’m strong, Caitlin,” I said, knowing full well it was the answer before Cronus could even speak. “He slashed me. I didn’t cry. It’s a matter of testing to find the breaking point in me.”
“No matter what the prophecy says, she will reign with me,” Cronus added. He was smirking now. I really wanted to curl up in a ball and hide under my bed, I was so terrified. “She wishes for a future with Young Jason, Hurst. I fell in love with her because she’s a strong mortal. That’s what I find, ah, sexy about her.”
Oh, great. First he tests to see if I’m strong enough to stand a cut from imperial gold, then gushes about me to my best friend? That’s the stuff tweens do. Not an ancient god.
I still turned red as a beet, no matter how absurd that sounded.
“You know Charlie’s protective of her,” Caitlin sneered. “You know damn well he’d shoot you if you’ve ever crossed the line.”
“How the –”
“We know you,” I added, cutting him off. “We know full well what you’re trying to do. It’s kinda a little late to start with the wooing, ‘cause you know where I sided.”
“Don’t rob her of her innocence,” Caitlin inputted. Judging by the tension in her muscles, I could easily tell you she was ready to kill Cronus.
Cronus looked at her slyly. “Again, a very late reaction, Hurst,” he sneered. “I’ve already done it.” At that, he tried to kiss me again.
This time, I gave him a knuckle sandwich to the face. He wasn’t getting close to me again.
“Do that again, and I’m vanquishing you back to your stepfather,” I snarled. “Got it?”
Cronus’s mouth curled up into a cruel smile. “You’ll change the next time I see you,” he replied. “It was nice to finally meet you, darling.”
I mocked vomiting. Ewww! No one was allowed to call me darling. Especially the Titan king.
“Get the hell out of this house,” Caitlin barked, “and never return.”
Cronus smiled viciously at my best friend. “You know, just as well as her and I, that this is where the final battle will be fought.”
With that, he disapperated as quickly as he’d come.
Caitlin looked at me as soon as he was gone. “What the hell was that about? It’s like he knew you were going to tell me about your interactions with him. Why would he show up like that?” my friend asked. She shook her head, then cursed out loud: “The bastard! It’s a wonder why the other Titans were jealous of him. He always gets what he wants.”
“The hell if I know what he wants. You know I want nothing to do with him,” I answered. “He kissed me over an hour ago, Caitlin. He wouldn’t tell me what was happening. It was just a: Oh, you’re just as noble and annoying as those brats in New Olympia. Especially their leader. You should know about it. I was hearing something about a prophecy like I’m destined to be trapped by Cronus.” I looked at my feet as I sat back down on the edge of my bed. “What does he want from me?”
Her expression eased a little. She was feeling a twinge of empathy. I could sense it. “I see where you’re coming from, but, riddle me this: What does he mean by she wishes for a future with Young Jason?” She tucked her knife back in the hilt I never saw until that moment.
“Umm, I think he’s been creeping on me in my dreams.”
“Cronus tries to kill me. Jay saves me, saves the day with pure wit, and proposes marriage to me.” I shook my head. “I have no idea how I would come to know Jay to begin with. I haven’t seen Class of the Titans since it ended in 2009.”
“You don’t think Jay exists?”
“Yes. You beg to differ?”
There was a moment of silence as I absorbed the absurd information. I waited for her to burst out laughing, “Gotcha!”
Instead, there was seriousness in her expression.
“So,” I started awkwardly, “you know him. Explain how you met him.”
She sighed in exasperation. “It’s not important.” She looked at my bulletin board, at the one photo I had of my godfather. “What is important, however, you’re being relocated.”
I moved toward the photo, and touched the pale face of Severus Snape. “To where, may I ask? And would my incredibly important bulletin board and laptop come with me?”
Looking back on it, I think I knew I was being moved. There was something about the teachers of Parasuco High that might have been a hint I was going away and wasn’t coming back. There was something about the way my guy friends acted around me, like they knew I was going to be leaving them. They laughed half-heartedly at half-ass Twilight jokes.
And Melissa? How much did she know about what was happening around me? Did she purposely skip the last few classes of the day, cancel coming over because she didn’t want to say goodbye?
Jeez, I’m making it sound like I’m dying.
“You know where. Why else would Jay be coming to get you? And, yeah, he mentioned if you wanted to bring anything at all to make you feel more at home, do that.”
I rolled my eyes. Of all the sorry excuses Caitlin can make up for fiction being reality, Jay coming for me had to be one of them.
“New Olympia isn’t real,” I groaned. “You know that.”
She shook her head. “Oh, it’s real all right,” she said, taking down my bulletin board, setting it beside my laptop bag. “You just haven’t looked for it yet.”
I shook my head. “Seriously, Caitlin. It’s. Not. Real.”
She took a seat behind me. “You’ll be e-mailing me soon, apologizing for disbelieving me to begin with. Besides that, relax.”
I was about to ask her what she meant when the side of her hand hit the right nerve for putting someone out of commission. I didn’t even have time to blink.
As far as I knew, I was never coming back to my home.