Disclaimer: (It's kind of sad that this is the last one of these for this story. I do get a kick out of seeing how long they get...) I do not own PJO, Catch 22,
A/N: Thank you to twi-potter-mokingjay for adding my story. Also thank you to whoever reviewed.
Chapter 17: Airiana Has a Secret, If Only She Knew
Shadow traveling is the worst way to travel. The chariot was surrounded in complete darkness, so thick that I couldn't see my hand. This was good because I couldn't move my hand due to the intense, freezing cold and the fact that we seemed to be moving faster than a jetliner. I was quite sure I was going to leave part of me behind. Maybe my stomach.
Then, just as soon as the world had disappeared, it came back into focus.
The chariot was resting at the base of Half-Blood Hill, facing Thalia's tree. It was almost sunset. Hades urged the shadow horses forward and they inched up the hill easily.
"I, Annabeth Jackson, herby authorize you to enter camp," my mother said. "Once," she added.
"Thank you Ms. Chase," Hades said. Mom ignored it.
The chariot drove past the tree and camp spread out in front of me. I've never been so happy to see camp in my life. The cabins and training fields stretched out, empty, to our left, the Big House stood empty to our right. Hades drove straight toward the Dining Pavilion, which was full of campers eating dinner.
Jim Davis was, unfortunately, the first to see him. "Attack! It's an attack! Ares to me!" he said, pulling his weapon. Most of the Ares table stood and pulled their own weapons. His brother Jeff just kept eating his roast beef.
"Easy, Jim," Chiron said from the staff table. "He's not alone."
Hades pulled up next to the pavilion and we all filed off the chariot. Hades got off last.
"Chiron, may I have a word?" Hades said.
"Of course, my lord Hades," the centaur said. The two went off toward the Big House.
"Annabeth!" the Athena table said in one voice once Hades and Chiron disappeared into the house. They all got up and dog piled my mother.
"Ok, thanks guys," my mother said, muffled from the bottom of the pile. They all got off. That's when I noticed Thalia sitting at table 8. She motioned for us to come over. Airiana and I walked over. I wasn't sure if she was talking to me yet. Jayzon went over to the Apollo table instead.
"When did you get here?" I asked when we'd gotten over to the table.
"About an hour ago," she said. "Once Hades had his information."
"But Hades took my mother here as fast as he could. How did you beat him?" I asked.
Thalia smiled. "I have my ways to travel fast," she said, smirking.
"She prayed to me for help," said a teenage girl with amber hair sitting next to her. "And you, young woman, have a decision to make. I do not like to be kept waiting."
Airiana went pale. "Now?" she said.
Artemis' face softened. "Unfortunately yes, my dear," she said. "We must be off before campfire tonight. I hope you will join us."
It suddenly dawned on me what Artemis was asking. Before the quest, she had asked Airiana if she wanted to join the Hunt. Now she was demanding an answer. Airiana turned to face me, fear in her eyes. I said nothing, for there was nothing to say.
"Leave all this?" she said softly, looking at me, Jayzon, Mr. D. She looked out over the cabins, over the climbing wall and lake. I could almost see her remembering our tour of the camp.
"Not forever," Thalia said. "But we come here sparingly. Bad things happen when we come here. The Apollo cabin had them all speaking in rhyme while we were gone."
"But, friends. I'd have friends. Friends that would never leave me," she said.
"Yes," Thalia said.
"But," she said. She turned to me. "SAY SOMETHING!"
"What is there to say?" I said. "It's not my decision."
"Airiana dear," Artemis said. "A girl is never forced to do anything, but only you can make this decision."
She turned away and stared into the hearth. Then she turned back, a determined look in her face. My stomach did a summersault, prepared for the worst.
"Lady Artemis," she said, still looking at me. "You make an unbeatable offer."
My heart sank.
"Is that a yes?" Artemis asked.
"No," she said, turning to Artemis. "It comes at too high a cost. I can't help but think there's a life for me out there somewhere; a happiness that involves others. I have to maintain the possibility that those others include men. I sorry, my lady. But no."
"Very well," Artemis said. "We must be off."
The pavilion was flooded with light from the Big House as the door opened onto the new night. Hades and Chiron strode out from the house and back to Hades' chariot. Hades loaded up and drove off into the nearest tree. Then Chiron turned to the pavilion. "Campfire's canceled," he said. A large groan came from the campers. "Head Counselors Council in five minutes. You are dismissed!" he said over the noise.
I ran to get changed into fresh clothes that weren't all scratched from the quest. Five minutes later found me, as head counselor of Hera, sitting at the center of the ping-pong/war council table in the Big House living room. Airiana sat next to me, representing Persephone's "cabin." Thalia sat across from me, having spent the last five minutes convincing Artemis to stay a bit longer. Next to her sat an empty chair, where Christopher Nash should have sat representing Hades. It only reinforced that the last week was not a dream.
To Airiana's left, Jayzon sat representing Apollo. He wasn't the head counselor, but Daniel Lee had decided he would be more knowledgeable for this meeting. Next to me was Jim Davis of Ares, who seemed to still be incredibly angry that he hadn't gotten to fight Hades. A short chubby girl of 17 named Mary Bennett sat next to Jim playing with a grapevine that she could grow from almost anything using Mr. D's powers.
Toward the end of the table, my father sat across from Annabeth, who Athena had sent for the same reason Jayzon was here. Next to her was Grace Ayers, daughter of Demeter who was talking across the table with Kim Santos from Hecate.
At that point, a young boy walked into the living room. The boy was handsome, even at about 9 years old, slender with sky blue eyes and strikingly blonde hair. He walked shyly around the far end of the table. He passed by Kat Newsome, who was waving her callused hands at the freshly manicured ones of Meredith King. Apparently they were having the traditional Hephaestus-Aphrodite argument about who cheated on who first. Across from them, Chris Williams was staring into space, not quite here. I didn't blame him, Hermes had lost a camper in the worst way. The boy walked quickly and sat in the empty chair next to Thalia.
"You just get here?" Thalia asked once he had sat down.
"Yeah," he said. "Three days ago."
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Jet Richards," he said. "You're Thalia Grace. I've heard all about you ever since the claiming."
Thalia nodded. "Dad's seat is at the head of the table, next to where Percy's sitting."
"Oh," he said getting back up.
"And Jet," Thalia said. "There's a little alcove near the front where you can sleep without Dad's watchful eye."
"Someone's already there," Jet said.
"I'm not coming back," she said. "Take it." Jet nodded and took Zeus' seat at the head of the table. The room was quiet, which was strange because usually we were doing stupid things like shoving pencils into the Hypno counselor's nose. Apparently everyone could sense the seriousness of this meeting.
Chiron walked into the room, passed the Hypno counselor whose name I had never learned. Honestly I was surprised he had gotten up long enough to come in here.
"I'm sure you're all wondering why this meeting has been called," Chrion said. "Lord Hades has asked me to inform the Olympian Council of a troubling matter. Two of our campers have stolen the Sword of Hades and used it to raise five spirits from the dead."
"But that's impossible," Thalia said.
"Not impossible," said a remarkably beautiful woman in a purple pants suit. She pulled a seat up next to Chiron, who was standing at the head of the table across from Jet. "Thalia, I told you 'One shall succeed where others have failed.' And so he has. Christopher Nash has successfully brought back a soul from the dead."
"Is that the mayor?" Airiana asked in my ear.
"Yes," I whispered. "Here we just call her the Oracle of Delphi."
"And Christopher's true nature has been finally revealed," Rachel continued.
"I didn't think too long on your prophecy to tell you the truth," Thalia said.
"I know," Rachel said. "You Hunters never do."
"How could he do that though?" a voice said behind Chiron. I looked up to see Nico Di Angelo striding confidently to the Hades chair next to Thalia. "Even I can't raise the dead to true life."
"He said the sword let him," I said.
"It would," Chiron said. "That is more than just a sword. It is a symbol of Hades' power."
"What does that matter?" my father said.
"Oh, think, Seaweed Brain," my mother said. "Why do you think Zeus was so worried when his Master Bolt was stolen all those years ago?"
"Because he couldn't make lightning?" Dad said.
"No, he could still make lightning; he almost blew us up on that bus," Mom said. "He was worried because it was a symbol of power. If someone had stolen it from him, they could make a claim to his throne."
"What?" I said, not hiding the shock in my voice.
Chiron sighed. "Take Poseidon for example. The sea obviously obeys Poseidon because he sits on the throne of the sea. But, if someone showed up with his Trident in hand and told the sea spirits to do something else, it would create a serious problem. The spirits would have to make a choice between Poseidon and the holder of the Trident."
"But," Percy said. "It's just a weapon. Wouldn't they side with the god?"
"Possibly in the sea," Nico said. "But in the Underworld, there are several spirits who are not very happy with Hades. I'm afraid they will likely be looking for an excuse to betray him. With the symbol of power in his hand, Christopher could stake a claim to Hades' throne. He would likely have a small army of the worst spirits from the Fields of Punishment as well as the worst monsters that Dad keeps locked in Tartarus on his side."
"Would it be enough?" Airiana asked.
"It could be." Nico said. "Depending on how many monsters he freed."
"Then we need to do something," I urged.
"No," Chiron said.
"But this could be the beginning of the Great Prophecy!" I exclaimed. "I'm not going to look on and do nothing!"
"Wait," Nico said. "There's another Great Prophecy?"
Rachel looked at Chiron, who simply looked down in defeat. Then she pulled a locket out of her pocket and opened it:
New rulers matched up as one to one
Heroes discover what's been undone.
Destruction reaches the hallowed halls,
Heroes look on as Olympus falls;
Fight from without and fight from within,
All start anew; returning again
"Olympus falls?" Thalia said weakly.
"Don't worry, we will fight for Olympus," I said.
"Winston, don't try to think too hard. Even I can't figure it out," Rachel said.
"But we will do nothing," Chiron said. "For now. Hades instructed me to inform the Olympians. They will decide the proper course of action."
"And when will that be?" I snapped.
"Probably the winter solstice," Chiron said. "It is the next time they will all be there, including Hades."
"Then that's the perfect time to attack," I said. I caught my mother smiling.
"Mr. D. has ensured me that there will be heightened security," Chiron said. "Sword or not, Chris would stand no chance this December. I thought the camp should know. You are dismissed."
Everyone got up and left. I stayed.
"Mr. Jackson?" Chiron asked, walking to stand next to me. Airiana stopped at the door to see if I was ok. I nodded. "i assume there is a reason you have not left," Chiron continued.
"Who's missing?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" Chiron asked.
"You said Chris raised five spirits from the dead. Who?"
"Zoe Nightshade I believe you met already," Chiron said. I nodded, not liking the memory. "He also raised Daedalus, Andrew Jackson, King Minos and Michael Yew."
"Artemis, Athena, Ares, Zeus and Apollo," I said. "Combined with Hades and Hermes from our two campers. One to One; and more than half of what he'd need."
"I do not normally attempt to figure out prophecies," Chiron said. Then he chuckled, "at least before they happen. But I agree: Mr. Nash seems to be forming an new Olympian Council."
"He said that was what he was planning: to rule from Olympus in the gods place," I said. "The Olympians must be told."
"I agree. And I would like you to be there on the solstice, to help explain what has happened," Chiron said.
"I can do that," I said.
"Good. Now run along play like a good boy," Chiron said.
Dear _Winston Johnson_
If you intend to stay at Camp Half-Blood year-round, you must inform the Big House by noon today. If you do not announce your intentions, we will assume you have vacated your cabin or died a horrible death. Cleaning harpies will begin work at sundown. They will be authorized to eat any unregistered campers. All personal articles left behind will be incinerated in the lava pit.
Have a nice day!
Mr. D (Dionysus)
Camp Director, Olympian Council #12
The letter was left on my bed table every year, but this was the first year that I really paid it any attention. I had never had any reason to leave before, my whole family was here and I had a daughter of Athena offering to home school me. But this summer I had experienced all the outside world had to offer. This summer, I had a decision to make. So, I did what really helps to make such a difficult decision: I went to play basketball.
Jayzon was already at the court, waiting for me when I arrived. "'Bout time you showed up," he said. "Now we can start. I pick Alex!" The other students just groaned.
I was playing a bit absentmindedly. Without Jim and Jeff Davis facing us, there really wasn't anything for me to do except pass to Jayzon and watch him make baskets. It really was unfair.
"Ok, we win," Jayzon said after making his twelfth three point basket.
"You made a decision yet?" I asked as we walked away from the court.
"On what?" Jayzon asked.
"You know what," I said.
"I always go back to Oklahoma, you know that," he said.
"Right," I said.
"Hey you two," Airiana said, coming up behind us. "What's up?"
"Alex still can't decide if he wants to stay or not," Jayzon said.
"What? You haven't decided yet?" she asked.
"No," I said. "What are you doing?"
"I've enrolled in your Grandfather's school," she said. "You should come too. I mean half the camp goes there. I'm sure he holds a spot open for you."
"You mean that?" I asked.
"With all my heart," she said.
"Maybe I will," I said, and then I left to start packing.
A few hours later I was standing near Thalia's pine, watching the campers file into Argus' van. "You ready?" I asked, motioning to the van.
"I'm not going by van," she said.
"Then how are you getting to Chicago?" I asked.
"I'm going home first," she said. "Iowa. Your grandfather is personally picking us up tomorrow morning. If you want to join me, that is. We have a guest bedroom for you. I want one more day with you before they make us stay 6 inches apart at that boarding school."
"Again, how are you getting there?" I asked.
"Shadow travel," she said. "Nico's been training me and I think I'm ready."
"You think?" I asked.
"You trust me?" she asked. I took her hand and she stepped into the shadow of the tree. I felt the rush of cold air, the feeling of traveling faster than light, as if the shadow itself was bending around me and then I saw the world reform.
We were standing in front of an ornate, single floor farm house with a small field of flowers growing in the yard. Rows upon rows of corn stretched behind it, just beginning to yield fruit. It was going to be a good harvest. A bee buzzed up and landed upon Airiana's shoulder. It buzzed around her ear and flew off. She smiled and knocked.
The door quickly opened to two men in wheelchairs. One was a power wheelchair or scooter, like you'd see in the commercials. It appeared to hover up to the door; just far enough to allow Airiana to give her father a hug. He appeared frail, but not weak, as if he was surviving on sheer will alone. I would later learn he had been fighting MS for 14 years, but his eyes still glowed with life. The second I recognized as Chiron in his mortal world disguise.
"My daughter has returned," the first man said. "I can truly be happy again."
"Dad, you know I'm leaving for school tomorrow," Airiana said. "You'll make me feel guilty."
"No, I'll be the happiest man in the world tomorrow," he said.
"You must be Will Wilson," I said. "Airiana speaks highly of you."
"Call me Billy, please," he said. "It's the only one that doesn't sound strange."
"Why are you named William anyway?" I asked, following him into the house.
"My father was an obsessed fan of the book Catch 22," he said. "Particularly of the character Major Major Major Major. He thought the name William Wilson would be fun."
Billy Wilson moved into the living room and motioned to chairs for Airiana and me. "Chiron, you have not mentioned why you have decided to grace us with your presence."
"I have some questions for you and Airiana. Questions that couldn't be asked at camp," he said.
"Questions?" Airiana asked.
"Yes," Chiron said. "But first, I think you must hear about young Mr. Jackson's dream.
I told her about my dread with Hades and Hermes, how they had talked about a child of Hades returning from the dead.
"Returning from the dead?" Airiana asked.
Chiron nodded. "First, when is your birthday?" he asked.
"November 2nd, why?"
"And how old will you be this November?" he asked.
"Then it fits," he said frowning.
"Then what fits?" she asked.
"When you were in the underworld, did you see a large pavilion?" he asked.
"Entered it," Airiana said.
"Well, that's unfortunate," Chiron said. "That is the Judgment Pavilion. There, souls get judged on how well they lived their lives. If they have been evil, they go to the Fields of Punishment. If they were extra good, heroic even, they go to Elysium."
"The happy, colorful place?" Airiana asked.
"Yes. Some souls decide to stay there. Some do not. Instead they choose to attempt to reach the Isles of the Blest. In order to do that, they are reborn. If they achieve Elysium three times, they can live in the Isles."
"What does this have to do with me?" Airiana asked.
"The gods have forbidden me to tell you," Chiron said, preparing to leave. "But I think I've said enough for Alex to clue you in." Then he left.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"When a soul wishes to be reborn, they are taken to the River Lythe, a river on the edge of the Underworld. The waters of the Lythe wash away their memories from their previous life so they can live a new life, free of influence. They are always reborn on November 2: the Day of the Dead."
"Ok, so I have the right birthday," she said. "So what?"
"The gods do not allow a single demigod to have more than one power," I said. "That was why they had so many problems with me. Poseidon and Athena both had the ability to claim me, but only one could. How to choose? Normally, the weaker god yields to the stronger. But I was the first grandchild of two Olympians. That's why Hera had me dedicated to her: to avoid Olympic sized conflict."
"Still doesn't involve me," Airiana said.
"You have the powers of two gods," I said.
"Persephone and Hades, you have the powers of two gods," I said.
"But you said Persephone might have both powers. She is Queen of the Underworld," she said.
"You said that," I said. "Hermes was right. It should be one or the other: flowers or zombies. You should have to choose."
"Then why don't I?" she asked to no one in particular.
"You have chosen," I said. "I didn't know for sure until my dream. When demigods are born, their abilities are in their souls, not their DNA. After all gods don't have DNA to pass on. Therefore, when demigod souls come back from Elysium, they may not have their memories, but they still have their powers. They just have to rediscover them. Therefore, if a child of Hermes is reborn into a child of Poseidon, the gods would have a problem."
"The child would have the powers of both," she said, looking at her hands like they would explode.
"Exactly. So, they don't take the risk. Hermes explained it in the dream. On the night that the souls leave the Underworld, the gods have another affair and have another child. Then the fates make sure the souls go to the right place. That way the demigods have only one god's powers."
"You're saying I'm back from the dead?" she said.
"Yes," I said. "You were the girl they were talking about in my dream. 15 years ago, you bathed in the River Lythe, removing your previous life from your soul, purifying it for a new life. That same night, Hades left the Underworld to have an affair to prepare a body for you. Also, Persephone left, angry, and had an affair of her own. And then the fates placed you, for a reason I'm sure, in the wrong body. Airiana Wilson's life has chosen powers of vegetation because your soul already had the powers of Hades."
"What happened to Hades' child?" she asked.
"You don't want to know," I said.
"Yes I do!" she insisted.
"It was Christopher Nash," I said.
"Then that's the reason I was placed in this body. I must defeat him," she said.
"It could be," I said. "But would you be needed if he hadn't been born at all?"
She couldn't answer. Finally she asked, "Do you know who I was before?"
I took a deep breath. "Yes. Only one child of Hades has been reborn in the last century," I said.
"Who?" she asked.
"Nico's sister, Bianca Di Angelo."