PERCY watched as Campers trickled in from New York by car, pegasus, and chariot. The wounded were cared for. The dead were given proper funeral rites at the campfire.
Michael Yew was wrapped in a gold shroud. Silena Beauregard and Charles Beckendorf were burnt together, on one pyre, no doubt so they would reach the Underworld together. The Ares, Hephaestus and newly returned Aphrodite cabins all claimed them as heroes, and lit the shroud together.
Even Ethan Nakamura was given a shroud—black silk with a logo of swords crossed under a set of scales. As his shroud went up in flames, Percy turned to glance at Thalia. Her lips were parted slightly, eyes filled with emotion. He knew she hadn't liked Ethan. But at the end, his sacrifice was all that mattered. He'd paid a lot more than an eye, but the minor gods would finally get the respect they deserved.
Dinner at the pavilion was low-key. Percy sat next to Thalia and Luke at the Zeus table. For once, no one said anything about the tables. No one cared.
The only highlight was Juniper the tree nymph, who had screamed, "Grover!" and gave her boyfriend a flying tackle hug, making everybody cheer. They went down to the beach to take a moonlit walk, and even though Percy didn't know them that well, he was happy for Grover.
Mrs. O'Leary romped around happily, eating everybody's table scraps. Nico sat at the main table with Chiron and Mr. D, talking in low tones and nobody seemed to think this was out of place. Everybody was patting Nico on the back, complimenting him on his fighting. Even the Ares kids seemed to think he was 'cool'. Percy hadn't had much interaction with the son of Hades, but seeing him be accepted as a part of the demigods—it was nice.
Slowly, the dinner crowd trickled away. Some went to the campfire for a sing-along. Others went to bed. It was peaceful.
When the others had left, Luke had told them everything that had happened and how he'd ended up in California. He told them about Reyna, and he told them about the Romans, and he spoke of Jason. Thalia had told him about her younger brother, before he'd gone on his Titan-hunt. And he had watched the colour drain from her face as Jason continued his story. He'd watched her clench her jaw, and he'd taken her hand when Luke got to the part where Jason had killed Koios.
Percy had to admit. It hurt, that after all those millennia alone, when he'd gotten out, most of his brothers had been killed in war. But they were immortals. They would reform soon, and he would see them again. They were family, after all.
That evening, in the Zeus cabin, he'd held Thalia close as she'd sobbed, crying from relief, that finally, she had confirmation that her brother was alive. And he'd promised to help her find the Legion, wherever it was, so she and Jason would be reunited again.
He slept there now, sometimes beside Thalia, sometimes on the bunk above her. It was nice, but it was also a sort of "fuck you" to Zeus. A final rub in the face.
Camp went late that summer. It lasted two more weeks, right up to the start of a new school year, and they were the best two weeks of his life. There was no solitude. There was no travelling, no gods hunting him down, no Titans trying to force him to be their blade once more.
There was peace.
There was Thalia.
And Percy found he quite preferred that to the ten years of battle he'd known immediately he was conceived, and then the thousands of years of being alone.
Grover had taken over the satyr seekers and was sending them out across the world to find unclaimed half-bloods. So far, the gods had kept their promise. All of them. They had left the Titans alone. Occasionally, he met up with some of them for some mission or just to hang out and catch up. Gaea knew they needed it. They had agreed to all gather together at Mnemosyne's library at the end of every month—even those who had worked with Kronos—just to make sure they were all fine and that none of them were planning world domination. And also to see how they were getting on. Iapetus and Klymene had opened a casino in Las Vegas. Mnemosyne was a history professor at NYU. Themis had had another child—a demi-titan. Thetys had opened a spa somewhere in Cali. The list went on and on and on. His family wasn't whole. It wouldn't be for a while. But that was fine. They would recover.
They always did.
New demigods were popping up all over the place—not just in America, but in a lot of other countries as well. "We can hardly keep up," Grover admitted one afternoon when they finally managed to get to the top of the lava wall. "We're going to need a bigger travel budget, and I could use a hundred more satyrs."
"Yeah, but the satyrs you have are working super hard," Thalia said. "I think they're scared of you." Grover blushed. "That's silly. I'm not scary." "You're a lord of the Wild, dude. The chosen one of Pan. A member of the Council of—" "Stop it!" Grover protested, cutting Luke short. "You're as bad as Juniper. I think she wants me to run for president next." Percy laughed. He'd learned what a president was, and had marvelled at how wise mortals had become throughout the ages. But he didn't think Grover, brave and headstrong as he was, would be able to man a whole country. Juniper, though…
The satyr chewed on a tin can as they stared across the pond at the line of new cabins under construction. The U-shape would soon be a complete rectangle, and the demigods had really taken to the new task with gusto.
Nico had some undead builders working on the Hades cabin. Even though he was still the only kid in it, it was going to look pretty cool: solid obsidian walls with a skull over the door and torches that burned with green fire twenty-four hours a day. Bianca didn't approve, and she'd said as much before she and Zoë had left for their next adventure with the Hunt. But she had also told him to be happy, and Nico was pretty happy with the cabin, so she hadn't complained much. Beside the son of Hades was an Apollo kid with bright blue eyes, and Nico looked like he was enduring a lecture, a frown on his face.
Next to the Hades cabin were the cabins of Iris, Nemesis, Hecate, and several others Percy didn't recognise. They kept adding new ones to the blueprints every day. It was going so well, and Luke, the bloody Deputy Director and Chiron were talking about adding an entirely new wing of cabins just so they could have enough room.
The Hermes cabin was a lot less crowded now, because most of the unclaimed kids had received signs from their godly parents. It happened almost every night, and every night more demigods straggled over the property line with the satyr guides, usually with some nasty monsters pursuing them, but almost all of them made it through.
The Aphrodite and Athena cabins had been tentative when they'd arrived. They hadn't expected to be asked to return. Some of them hadn't. But most had, and the Camp had welcomed them with open arms, although they were all wary of one another. But after a few days, everything was normal again, and it was like their betrayal had never happened. They had learnt their lesson.
"It's going to be a lot different next summer," Thalia said. "Chiron's expecting we'll have twice as many campers."
"Yeah," Grover agreed, "but it'll be the same old place."
He sighed contentedly.
Tyson, who Percy had struck up an odd friendship with, led a group of Cyclops builders. They were hoisting huge stones in place for the Hecate cabin, and he knew it was a delicate job. Each stone was engraved with magical writing, and if they dropped one, it would either explode or turn everyone within half a mile into a tree. Percy smiled to himself. He really had to find Hecate, wherever she was hiding, and thank her. She and Morpheus had been behind his dream travels, and he knew without them, he wouldn't be off Ogygia.
Over at the arena, Clarisse and Chris were training the new demigods in sword wielding—which he and Luke helped with occasionally—and making googly eyes-and-a-half at each other. Clarisse had recovered slowly from Silena's death, with Chris' support, and she occasionally liked to challenge him to duels to test her strength.
"I'll be traveling a lot," Grover warned, "between protecting nature and finding half-bloods. I may not see you as much."
"Won't change anything," Luke said. "You're still our best friend."
"Of course," Thalia agreed. That evening was the last night of camp—the bead ceremony.
Percy hadn't wanted to be there, but Luke had insisted, and Thalia had pointed out that he was as much a part of them as she was. Chiron had made him an honorary camper, and though some of the demigods had been wary about his presence before, they had eventually warmed up to him.
The Hephaestus cabin had designed the bead this year. It showed the Empire State Building, and etched in tiny Greek letters, spiralling around the image, were the names of all the heroes who had died defending Olympus and Manhattan. There were too many names, and if he was his old self, before Ogygia and the loneliness had changed him, he wouldn't have cared. But he did now. Slowly, he placed it on. His first camp necklace.
Before, it would have felt like a betrayal, to himself, his family and his mother.
Before, he would have allowed Thalia to defeat Kronos, then Typhon to destroy the gods, and then taken control of the world himself.
But he wasn't the Perseus the stories spoke of. Not anymore.
Camp Half-Blood wasn't home. That was an apartment he'd gotten on East 83rd, which he would share with Thalia and Luke during the school year. But, it was a close second. A home away from home, if you like.
Chiron had insisted they all needed an education, him most of all. Something to take their minds off the war.
He would be sharing the apartment with his girlfriend and her best friend. They were his 'roommates,' a concept which Thalia had explained to him with great difficulty. Luke was there to chaperone them, and Percy had rolled his eyes at the notion. But, Luke, was in his senior year, and he'd turn nineteen in September. For all intents and purposes, he was the adult amongst them, even though Percy was thousands of years older. And besides, only Gaea knew the things he'd get up to with Thalia if they had a whole house to themselves. It was already hard trying to keep his hands from straying too much when they kissed, or to resist the urges he got when he slept next to her in the Zeus cabin. They'd never gotten past kissing, but he could wait. He'd been waiting for millennia.
Thalia forced him to enrol at Goode, and he had to admit, he was a bit intrigued by this mortal institution. He just hoped he wouldn't regret it later.
"Never forget this summer!" Chiron told them. He had healed remarkably well, but he still trotted in front of the fire with a slight limp. "We have discovered bravery and friendship and courage this summer. We have upheld the honour of the camp. We have made unlikely friends, and allies along the way."
He smiled at Percy and Thalia, and everybody cheered. As he looked at the fire, he saw a little girl in a brown dress tending the flames. The Titan laughed, and waved at his niece, the most likeable of Rhea's brood. She winked at him and Thalia with red glowing eyes. Beside him, Thalia smiled back. No one else seemed to notice Hestia, but he realised maybe she preferred it that way.
"And now," Chiron said, "early to bed! Remember, you must vacate your cabins by noon tomorrow unless you've made arrangements to stay the year with us. The cleaning harpies will eat any stragglers, and I'd hate to end the summer on a sour note!"
The next morning, Percy, Luke, Rachel and Thalia stood at the top of Half-Blood Hill. They watched the buses and vans pull away, taking most of the campers back to the real world. A few old-timers would be staying behind, and a few of the newcomers, but they would be headed for their apartment and then for Goode.
The son of Hermes had been busy, trying to locate the Legion, although Percy had an inkling that it was more to see Reyna again than to find Jason. He'd noticed the way Luke spoke about her, although it seemed the son of Hermes was oblivious to his own growing crush. Luke was intrigued by the new Praetor of the Legion, and Percy hadn't tried to stop him from searching, even when Zoë had told the three of them it was unsafe and it could lead to another war.
"Good-bye," Rachel said to them as she shouldered her bag. She looked pretty nervous, but she was keeping a promise to her father and attending Clarion Academy in New Hampshire. It would be next summer before the camp got their Oracle back.
"You'll do great." Luke hugged her, with a smile on his face.
Rachel bit her lip. "I hope you're right. I'm a little worried. What if somebody asks what's on the next test and I start spouting a prophecy in the middle of physics class? Gods, that would be embarrassing."
Percy laughed, making Rachel smile. He didn't know what Physics was yet, and he made a mental note to ask later.
"Well," she said, "you two be good to each other." She looked at Thalia pointedly, and the daughter of Zeus grinned, before catching Rachel in a hug. "Don't worry," He heard Thalia murmur. Rachel wished them well and ran down the hill to catch her ride.
The guard dragon Peleus curled contentedly around the pine tree underneath the Golden Fleece and began to snore, blowing steam with every breath. He glanced at the demigod by his side as she watched the retreating oracle.
"You've been thinking about Rachel's prophecy?" He asked Thalia, intertwining their fingers.
She frowned. "How did you know?"
"Because I know you."
She bumped him with her shoulder. "Okay, so I have. Seven half-bloods shall answer the call. I wonder who they'll be. We're going to have so many new faces next summer."
"Yeah," He agreed. "And all that stuff about the world falling in storm or fire." She pursed her lips. Percy's thoughts drifted. The prophecy didn't sit well with him. "And foes at the Doors of Death. I don't know, Percy, but I don't like it. I thought…well, maybe we'd get some peace for a change."
"Wouldn't be Camp Half-Blood if it was peaceful," Luke snorted from beside them.
"I guess you're right . . . Or maybe the prophecy won't happen for years."
"Could be a problem for another generation of demigods," He told them. Percy glanced at the moving vans. His mind drifted to the red blood coursing through his veins. He'd been trying to find answers for so long but had turned up with nothing. But he knew, that one way or another, it would all come to light. He just hoped it had nothing to do with the next Great Prophecy.
Thalia nodded at his words, though she still seemed uneasy. He didn't blame her, but it was hard to feel too upset on a nice day, with her next to him. He leant down and connected their lips, and Thalia immediately infiltrated his mouth with her tongue.
"Get a room, you two," Luke sounded disgusted. Thalia flipped him off, and Percy grinned through the kiss, wrapping his hands around her waist. After a few seconds, he pulled away, and said, innocently, "We already have one in the new apartment, don't we?"
"No, you don't," Luke looked stricken, and Thalia chortled. "You two are not sharing a room!"
"I'm the oldest," Percy waved him aside. "I'm in charge." He kissed Thalia again.
The son of Hermes made a choking sound, and throwing his hands up, descended down the hill, muttering curses in ancient greek but he caught the words "Annoyingly nasty" and "exasperating." Percy smiled, nipping at Thalia's bottom lip.
"Race you to the road?" he whispered. "You are so going to lose." She broke away and took off down Half-Blood Hill and he sprinted after her, laughing as she tumbled into Luke. And he didn't look back.