Disclaimer: I own none.
Jason looked like his grin was going to crawl off his face (which as painful as that would be- probably wouldn't make it any smaller), Annabeth looked like she was going to be sick, and Leo seemed about twice as hyper as usual.
Super, Piper thought.
Now that it spread across them as the giant ship touched down, Piper could really appreciate what they'd gotten Jason to describe for the last few months, even if her stomach didn't feel right.
Temples and buildings with red tiled roofs and domes mingled with coffee shops and stores and other normal buildings in the city. It was amazing, and the most impressive thing Piper had seen since she'd first seen Camp Half-Blood. Well, not exactly… There was the Argo II that was pretty impressive.
Cabin 9 had worked their butts off on it. Leo had nearly become an insomniac (don't let that fool you- you still couldn't get him to sit down for more than 5 minutes at a time) and Nyssa was on the verge of a nervous breakdown since week 21 of building- which beat most of them, actually. Hephaestus cabin had been overworked, overstressed and barely seen outside the forge or the beach for the last 8 months, yet they still managed to roll out of bed and pick up a hammer every morning. That was the part that blew Piper's mind. She'd never even known Leo had it in him- she'd never known anybody had it in them, actually.
The boat had a low and narrow hull, supposedly to make it go quicker. Rows of paddles lined every side of the ship, and there were ballistas –including something roman that Jason had talked about called a scorpion ballista- mounted on deck, as well as a dozen other fun deadly toys. The mast head was Festus- Leo had insisted on wielding it himself- and it looked like the dragon was wearing a bed sheet because of the billowing white flag. There were two sails- the bigger one in the center, and a smaller one in the back. The front of the ship had a forky bit called a ram, and it was used to punch holes into other ships. It was 114.a lot feet long, and Piper couldn't believe how quickly and effectively cabin 9 had put it together. If there was a curse before, she hadn't seen it in them as they cheered the boat's departure.
A ring of soldiers immediately formed a ring around the ship- yelling to each other in a mix of Latin and English, as they spread out like a well-oiled machine, holding spears pointed towards them.
Fear clogged up Piper's throat- what if something went wrong? If they shot? That was one of their two options at this camp; Chiron, Jason and Annabeth had all said it.
They'd either welcome them, or shoot them. A 50/50 chance supposedly.
Piper noticed a group of people making –although the word should've been more like 'struggling'- their way through the crowd and at some point, something in Latin was shouted and the crowd parted quickly, as if the girl who'd yelled it had a bomb strapped on her chest.
Piper studied Jason's face, a face she knew well now. The scar above his lip, sky blue eyes, close-cropped blond hair. His smile was brighter than ever.
"Well, now what?" Leo asked, joining everyone at the railing.
"Wait." Jason said. The girl in the purple cloak raised her hand and yelled an order in Latin- Piper could hear it so crystal clear it sent a chill down her spine. Pila pone.
It must have meant 'lay down your spear' or something because that's what the ring of legionnaires around the ship did.
"They're not shooting," Jason said. "She ordered it. Come on. You first, Annabeth. I think someone wants to see you."
Eyeing the crowd, Piper saw that one of the people in the group pushing through had black hair and eager and intense green eyes, and the only other time she'd seen him was in a picture. Annabeth's stormy eyes brightened and she tried not to smile.
"O… Okay." For the first time the daughter of Athena seemed nervous. She'd pulled her blond curls out of her face and she was wearing the top of her bronze armour. Her grey eyes were intense and dangerous looking, but she definitely sounded nervous. Piper hoped she had no reason to be, it would destroy her right now…
She took Jason's hand and he jumped over the railing, his wind powers bringing them both smoothly to the ground.
Piper jumped over the edge and landed the fall. She smiled to herself. Tripping would've felt beyond stupid in front of all these Romans.
"Show off." Leo sniggered. But he jumped it too. It was so much faster than a ladder, and so much more convenient.
They walked past the ring of Roman soldiers who looked at them with looks that reminded Piper of Jason when he was sparring- except there were 20 of them and they could all kill her, which Jason wouldn't.
It chilled Piper to the bone- it was like a pack of wolves. Ready to attack any moment- without failure as an option.
She raised her hand in a tiny wave before going on, Leo at her side.
They froze and eyed Percy and Annabeth. Percy smiled and stepped forwards.
"I remember," he reassured her.
Annabeth closed the gap and threw her arms around his neck.
"Oh my gosh- thank the gods, I was so worried!" She said. Percy wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. Percy tilted her chin up and kissed her.
"I'm okay, I'm sorry." He said.
"You better be Percy Jackson, that was insane!" She said letting go of his shoulders. "A few days of total panic and confusion camp-wide until we pieced it together thanks to Jason, 8 months of more confusion because none of us had any idea, then I assume you were on some sort of quest because we couldn't keep a tab on you for the last few days, so wewere panicking because we know how you and quests go!"
"I was," Percy said. "It was so weird without you and Grover. Everything was- but it ended up okay. Right?"
"Guess so," said a girl with curly hair and… were those gold eyes? Whatever they were; they were rigged on Leo behind Piper.
"About," the guy next to her said. He was a bulky Asian boy, with a babyish face- but Piper guessed he was older than he looked.
They walked up next to Jason who was giving a hug to the girl in the purple cape.
"I've missed you," she said.
"I've missed you too."
"I don't need to tell you how stupid it was to let yourself get kidnapped?"
"No," Jason promised.
"Good, I don't have my knife."
"Funny; I hope you're kidding."
"Of course I am, I've missed you."
Another few people ran through the crowd and the first was a girl with thick blonde hair and a radiant smile. She threw her arms around Jason who swung her around to recover from the impact.
"Whoa-Gwen, I'm fine!"
"We were so worried, we thought you were dead, we thought you were gone!" Gwen said, only hugging him harder.
A guy with curly hair stumbled across and tripped, but Jason caught his hand to stabilise him.
"Dakota, don't hurt yourself." Jason said.
"Hey man, good to see you." Dakota said, his mouth stained with red and his eyes looking hazy. The next guy slapped Jason on the back.
"I'm feeling the urge to kill you for that, but that doesn't seem like such a smart move right now." He said.
"Gwen, you'll kill him, he just got back." Reyna said. The blond girl who must've been Gwen let go of Jason, buzzing with energy and smiling up to her ears.
That's when everyone started spazzing. Crowds were pushing against each other and Piper started feeling a little claustrophobic. Whoa-
"Romans!" Reyna called strictly. "Back! He has just come back, no need to overwhelm him, or out visitors! You see that he is unhurt, and you'll be able to talk to him after the senate meeting." Reyna said.
She turned back towards them.
"Percy, Jason- this is the guy you've been replacing." Annabeth told the two in questions once the crowd had backed off a bit. They both turned towards each other.
"So you're-" they both started saying. Piper bit her lip to stop herself from laughing.
"Umm, that guy everyone's been talking about." Percy said.
"I was going to say the same thing. Jason Grace," he said holding out his hand. Percy shook it.
"Percy Jackson," he said. "And I'm assuming you know mostly everybody- but this is Reyna, Hazel and Frank. Gwen, Dakota and Bobby are right here, and the harpy with Tyson is Ella."
Annabeth smiled and inclined her head. Piper followed her example and Leo said 'hi' with a stifled yawn included.
"And this is Leo, Piper and Annabeth for the rest of you." Jason said.
Percy's eyes were hovering from people (read: Annabeth) to the ship.
"Beauty, eh?" Leo asked, still rubbing some oil from his hands. "A pain to build, but beautiful."
"It's amazing." Percy said in total awe. Piper half expected him to start singing 'hallelujah' or something. His eyes swept over it. "Built for manoeuvrability and speed, right?"
"It's a trireme. The best war ship of the Mediterranean." Annabeth said. "I thought you might like it."
"That's the boat you sent the message from?" Hazel asked Leo. "The one the seven are going to go down?"
"The Argo II; that's her." Leo nodded proudly. He had total rights to be proud of that thing.
"Well, now you're all on the same page," Reyna said. "Come; to the senate. We were just about done."
"Umm, Jason… Before we go in, you should know that…"
"You're praetor now?" Jason filled in for Percy.
"Yeah…" Percy said awkwardly.
"Congrats," Jason said. "I've failed them by being away for so long, Reyna couldn't be alone."
"I appreciate that you thought of me," Reyna smiled sadly.
"If you want your job back, no problem I'll just-"
"No, they elected you," Jason cut. "You're the praetor."
"It was your job first."
"It's your job now."
"Stop arguing," Annabeth said. They both shut up.
"Perfect;" Reyna said. "You've had practise. Let's go."
They all fell through to the senate, blending in with a procession of kids in togas. Actually they didn't blend in; Piper felt so self conscient, as everyone looked over at her. Was she not walking straight enough or something? Either way, her stomach was missing in action.
Jason drifted in the line, closer to Reyna and the other Romans. Piper had sort of seen that coming. He was bound to miss his friends, and they'd have missed him. She tried not to let it bother her.
Percy and Annabeth hung in the back, holding hands. Annabeth looking half stunned seeing her fingers laced with another's hand, but she smiled whenever she looked up at Percy's face. Piper smiled herself but looked forwards.
The younger Roman girl drifted behind to her and Leo.
"I'm Hazel Levesque," she said, looking Leo in the eyes.
"Sweet, I'm Leo V and this is Piper McLean." Leo introduced. Hazel nodded, but Piper could tell that was not the answer she'd been looking for. Did she know Leo already? He had traveled around a lot, maybe she was from a foster home he'd forgotten.
Hazel's intense gold eyes and the crowd of romans intimidated her, so she looked down, like that'd make them go away. Just as Piper was reasoning to herself that this was like school, looking down made nothing go away, she saw a diamond in the grass.
"You have diamonds here?" She asked.
Hazel looked down sprawl-eyed at the stone.
"That's… That's just from the feast, last night, it must be, guess they missed one." She smiled even if it looked fake to Piper. "Just… Don't touch it. Don't touch any of the diamonds you see. Or any other jewel or metal lying on the ground. Especially if they look suspicious." Hazel said nervously.
"Do jewels on the ground ever not look suspicious?" Leo asked. She bit her lip and turned around. Leo and Piper exchanged looks.
"Is that a Roman thing?" Leo asked Piper quietly.
"I don't know; ask Jason." Piper whispered back. She didn't think it was. She and Annabeth had read up on a lot about Rome recently; sitting in corners of cabin 6 when they weren't needed elsewhere and exchanging factoids, and taking notes in Hilroy notebooks. Sure; Piper had felt way behind because Annabeth seemed to know everything already; but it'd been fun. It reminded Piper a bit about learning so much about mythology with her Dad.
Thinking about Dad made Piper feel a little guilty- but not the same guilt as last winter. This time she was lying to him. About why she couldn't come home for Christmas and Easter, why she couldn't spend summer in LA with the handful of okay girls she'd made ties with… It was a lose-lose situation with Dad, apparently, and with being a half-blood. Someway you ended up lying to someone.
Piper pushed those thoughts away.
"So Hazel, who's your parent?"
Hazel smiled glumly.
"Pluto. I think you call him, umm…"
"Hades," Leo said. Hazel blushed but she seemed hooked to his voice.
"Yeah, that's him." Hazel said.
"Cool, you're Nico's sister!" Piper said. "Where did he go off to, anyways? He was supposed to be here, once he sort-of mentioned that there was a Roman camp to the rest of us." Hazel looked at the ground, which didn't make Piper feel too encouraged.
"Complicated," she mumbled.
"Hey! You there! Newcomers! Boat people!" Someone yelled. Piper spun around and she saw a marble statue- a man from the waist up with curly hair and no arms. "Over here!" He said.
"Is that a god?" Piper asked.
"Terminus," Percy nodded. "The OCD god of boundaries. Come on, you really don't want to get him mad. He killed a giant."
"Killed a what?" Leo asked in shock.
"Long story," Reyna said. She shooed the senators to the senate house and accompanied the others to the god.
"We should fix him." Leo said. "Extreme plastic surgery, umm, marble surgery."
"ID ready, single file, and I heard that, short boy in the back!" Leo's eyes sprawled for a second and Hazel bit her lips as if to keep herself from laughing. Piper eyed her suspiciously. Spending 8 months in Aphrodite cabin, she'd heard her fair share of gossip and then some, so she was seriously wondering if Hazel…
"What do we do for ID?" Piper asked, snapping herself back to the important thing, not the Cabin 8 thing.
"Camp necklace," Annabeth said, fingering hers. "It's the Greek identification. But you two don't have any… Well, Chiron said to wait but…"
She took two letter strings from her one-shouldered bag.
"No beads yet; but Chiron said that if we were still on ship and, well, alive by August, you two should get these."
"Oh yeay, string. That's fully credible."
"You're talking to the girl who has 9 beads, Leo." Percy reminded him. "She takes these things seriously." Annabeth turned to him and smile.
"For someone who's been on his quest a few days ago; your memory is really good." She said, kissing him on the cheek. He put and arm around her and kept her near as they walked.
Piper tied the string around her neck. She wondered what the bead would look like. Some of them were cool, and some of them confused her profoundly- like the centaur in the dress? Piper didn't even want to know. While others made her sad just by looking at them, like last summer's bead with the Empire state building, and all those names in Greek. Piper really hoped this summer wouldn't be sad; but the chances weren't looking good.
"Complete ID for anybody who comes in this city, and I don't care how! On foot, chariot, horse, Pegasus, pogo stick, boat- do I honestly need a sign? Good; now who do we have here? Reyna, praetor of course- and oh look, it's Jason! Finally my boy!" The statue said.
"Hello Terminus," Jason said, his tattooed arm still held out.
"Where have you been? You know; they don't tell me anything anymore. I've just heard the gossip. 'Gone, disappeared, disaster, government conspiracy, died in battle, kidnapped'."
"More like stepmom conspiracy…" Jason mumbled. "I'm fine, Terminus- and you're still a god to us. Pass the others?"
"ID?" Terminus asked.
Piper fingered her necklace.
"Sorry, we don't take that kind." Terminus said. "But we do take international passports, health cards or blood samples."
"I've got it," Annabeth said. She took out 3 passports from her bag and handed them to Terminus.
"No hands," he said annoyed.
"Oops," Annabeth said opening them each. Terminus scanned them.
"Get your arms tattooed for the next time." The statue said. "So much easier- get with the times, I say. Percy Jackson, second praetor, of course, I saw you earlier, nice tattoo by the way."
"You got it?" Annabeth asked.
"Umm, yeah." Percy said holding out his arm.
"It's very nice, been a while since I've seen the trident on one's arm… And listen up, you 3, weapons aren't allowed in the senate."
"Since Julius Caesar, right?" Annabeth guessed.
"My, someone's smart." Terminus said. "That was a bad day. Julia- Julia!" He called. The cutest little girl pounced out of a bush and held up a tray for them.
"All weapons?" Annabeth asked.
"All of them." He nodded. Piper untied Katoptris from her waist, but it was too long to fit in Julia's tray.
"Can you hold onto that for me?" She asked. Julia nodded with a smile- her two front teeth were coming in.
Piper thought she shouldn't be giving this 6 year old a deadly weapon but she was most likely trained not to touch it, and Terminus seemed strict enough. Besides, Romans didn't like celestial bronze. Piper had never seen Jason touch the stuff during his whole stay at Camp.
Annabeth dropped her knife, and Leo took off his tool belt as she wrestled with something in her hair. She finally took out a few simple grey clips.
"What?" Terminus asked, confused himself.
"They connect to human brains," Annabeth said. "One thought and whoever is touching my head gets an electric shock that makes Zeus think 'owe'. A good-luck gift I guess, from Malcolm."
Why Annabeth kept that in her hair, she didn't know, but it seemed like one accessory Piper could live with.
"Yesterday that little girl was all like 'I want to be Percy Jackson when I grow up'." Hazel told Piper and Annabeth. Piper cooed and Annabeth laughed.
"What?" Percy said.
"Nothing, that's just really cute." Annabeth said. "Bet she doesn't know you drool in your sleep."
They continued into the city and sat in the senate- which Piper thought looked like a High School lecture room.
Piper watched what everyone was doing before she sat down, as Percy and Reyna took the stage in 3 seats, and Percy made Jason go up too. They didn't sit in the chair next to Reyna, they both stood behind. Reyna rolled her eyes and made a comment in Latin. When everyone seemed seated, she got up.
"Well, we're back." She said. "With the Greek delegates this time, if we may call you that. We welcome Piper McLean, Leo Valdez and Annabeth Chase into our camp."
There was a polite round of applause, but that's what it sounded like to Piper. Polite.
"And of course our returning soldier, Jason Grace, son of Jupiter, consul to Rome." Reyna said. Jason got better reception, which Piper wasn't much surprised at. She clapped too.
Stories were exchanged. Jason told the senates about the quest to find Hera. He invited Leo to talk about the Argo II's planning and construction. The harpy behind Piper mumbled.
"Trireme- minimal marines, many oars, too many oars for marines."
"Shh Ella." Tyson said softly.
"Ella will sshhh for Tyson."
"We've had some sour patches here and there because of Gaia, but we got the boat blessed my Hephaestus and stuff-" Leo said.
"Who?" Someone called out. "Speak Latin, man."
"I can't," Leo said annoyed. "Anyways, Hephaestus is the Greek Spock."
"Vulcan." Jason said.
"Yes!" Leo said. "Anyways, we should be okay now."
"Should?" Piper swerved around to look at a tall and blond senator. Piper guessed he was older than he looked by the number of bars on his arm, and everyone listened when he spoke. But not everyone looked comfortable with that.
"Octavian…" Percy said.
"I'm Senator- I can talk, Jackson." He said.
"You also respect the praetors." Jason said. Octavian carried on.
"This is your boat, yes?" Octavian said.
"Leo frowned. "I like to think it belongs to cabin 9 of Camp Half-Blood, but okay. Yes."
Piper bit her cheek. She did not like the sound of Leo matching up to this guy in the speech domain. Just the way he made his words looked so superior and sophisticated…
"Then how do you not know if it's blessed or not?"
"Umm- we're sort of in a silence. Gods don't talk to us, we don't talk to gods much, that kind of thing?" Leo said.
"Wouldn't it be better if someone with a clue led the ship?" Octavian said. Leo scowled and opened his mouth but Piper got up to stop Leo from saying something rash.
"Leo here is the best Camp's got for this ship," she said quickly before Leo could speak. "He has this ship weaved in his destiny, and he's senior counsellor of Cabin 9, the Hephaestus cabin. If Leo can't be sure of the ship's blessing then nobody can." She tried to put every single ounce of belief in Leo she had in her words. Yes, Leo was an idiot sometimes, but this was something he was good, born and devoted for.
"I'm an Augur by the way," Octavian said. "I-"
"See the future," Piper finished. "Yes I know, but our oracle wouldn't be able to fly that ship so I don't see why you would. No offence." She added at the end.
A whisper went around the room worried, like when it started raining.
"I know things, Piper McLean." Octavian said. It sounded more like a threat than anything else. "I could find out the future… Or the past. Of things… Or people."
Piper felt herself pale.
"Octavian, sit down," Reyna said sharply. Sharper than she'd spoken yet.
Octavian did. Annabeth leaned into Piper.
"I don't like him. His words are venomous when you look past."
She nodded and listened again as Percy explained his part of the story. From waking up in the Spring, making his way South, the quest up North, the girl Hazel who'd come back from the death, Centurion Frank… Piper looked at Annabeth who shut her eyes and held her forehead in her hand like 'oh boy'. When she opened her eyes; Piper saw the gears spinning so hard they smoked.
The silence was a bit awkward and Piper surprised herself when she broke it with a 'now what?'
"Leo, Piper and Jason are prophecy children. I'm guessing so are Hazel, Frank and Percy." Annabeth said. "They have to go back to Greece and Rome."
"What about the seventh?" A senator asked.
"We have to assume that it'll come clear." Annabeth asked.
"Do you expect yourself to be part of it?" Octavian asked. Annabeth stood to match his level and just then, Piper remembered and appreciated how imposing the daughter of Athena could be, when you weren't her friend. Her intense grey eyes, the grey streak of hair, the stern expression, killer look… Octavian didn't budge though.
"No. I don't. I don't see greatness for myself in this prophecy."
"Are you implying that I do?"
"Your ideas are filtering in my words," she shrugged. "You suggested it- do you think so? I said nothing against you, Octavian."
There was a bit of a stare down that had the rest of the senate uncomfortable.
"We have a flight path already drafted," Piper said to break it. She could feel the tension between Octavian and Annabeth, and she didn't like it one bit. It made her feel like she was watching two very chemical substances being mixed right under her nose.
"We'll see to it," Reyna said. "In the meantime; today isn't the day to think of those things."
"She's right," Jason said. "If Percy only got his memory back and confirmed the rumours yesterday- there's still a lot you guys don't know that you should, and a lot that Camp Half-Blood's people don't know either. Secrets I was honour-bound to keep. I think everyone is willing to give this a shot. Everyone realises what would happen if we don't. If not, speak up freely and we'll figure something out."
The senate was quiet but Piper was sure Octavian was biting his tongue against the 'I!'
Frankly, if this guy was the high-held Centurion role model for all the other Romans, she was biting her lips nearly as hard.