Octavian was having a rotten day even before all of his plans crumbled into nothing. No, scratch that, he was having a rotten week.
It all started when that Greek came. Of course, at first it seemed like he was just another recruit, just a tad older than usual. And, of course, there was that tiny detail that he came in carrying a goddess, but that could be ignored. After all, Juno did like her dramatic entrances. All of the gods did. And the other pesky little detail -that Octavian had gotten a prophecy/warning about him- The Greek has arrived- and the Lairs were skittish around him.
But of course, Octavian still had the upper hand, with his gift of prophecy. He could manipulate this new kid, no problem. Plus, he was sent to the Fifth. Clearly inferior and not a threat. Octavian had continued feeling secure about his position as next praetor.
And then the war games happened. The First and Second defending, the Third, fourth, and Fifth attacking. He hadn't even tried to divine the outcome, since it was pretty much a given: The First and Second Cohorts would win, as always, and the Fifth would get beaten up and laughed at.
Safe inside the walls, Octavian laughed and joked with his fellow number-One'ers. The defenders up on the walls kept calling down progress reports, laughing at the Fifth's efforts. Octavian grinned and clambered up on the wall to watch in amusement. The Fifth Cohort was no match for the water cannons, stumbling back and forth pathetically. He smirked and clapped the nearest water cannon handler on the shoulder. "Good job, Samuel, keep it up."
Octavian strolled behind all of the defenders on the wall, complementing them and sharing jokes. Even if the outcome of the game was already obvious, there was no reason to waste the time. After all, the Feast of Fortuna was coming up fast, and so were the praetor elections. Perfect timing to butter up the others, make sure that they would vote for him. The election was so close to being in the bag, he could almost taste it. Feel himself sitting in the praetor's chair, giving orders and sending campers on that quest he'd always wanted. Overshadowing Reyna, for once and for all. After all, he was the one with the real power.
"Perhaps we should have you guys up here switch places with the others!" Octavian said half-jokingly, grinning. "After all, you can't hog all of the fun!" There was a laugh, and Octavian smiled as agreement came from the legionnaires below. There was a quick shuffle as the campers switched places, laughing and joking.
Octavian smiled. So far, so good. The mood on the battlements was high, and he was greatly responsible for that. He scanned the field- no threats, of course- and descended back down to the main level to continue circulating among the legionnaires.
Then everything went to hell.
It started out slowly enough, to be sure, just the probatio, the returned-from-the-dead Pluto girl, and the Neptune kid somehow getting close to the walls. Really close. Of course it would be no problem at all, they would just get blasted with a water cannon.
That did not take into account the newbie's power over water, which really should have been expected. Son of Neptune. Of course he would have power over the water. And of course that power over water would allow him to blow up the water cannons and extinguish the scorpions, thereby taking out the defender's first line of defense, the long-range weapons.
So suddenly, the cheerful mood and jeering peace in the battlements turned to panic as defenders were thrown into the air in the ensuing explosions, which took out nearly a third of Octavian's forces. He could only watch in disbelief as Frank, the probatio, pulled himself over the wall as proceeded to knock out another good chunk of legionnaires, followed by Hazel, then Percy Jackson. The members of the Fifth that were considered the biggest rejects had gotten over the wall first.
No. Freaking. Way.
Of course, to make matters worse, he had been gaping like a fool while the other legionnaires around him got into formation. His fellow centurion had to elbow him to get Octavian to rouse himself into action.
Matters only we downhill from there. The battlements had been cleared off, and, by the sound of it, they were about to be stormed by the rest of the Fifth Cohort and an elephant. Octavian yelled for his troops to hold steady and take down the three rejects, but his voice, for some unexplainable reason, came out at a really, really high pitch, like a girl screaming.
Then, to complete his image of fearless, invincible leader, Octavian was knocked out by no other but the newbie, the hilt of his sword slammed into Octavian's helmet, and Octavian crumpled, unconscious for the rest of the game.
Once the game was over ("What do you mean the Fifth won? Did we at least injure a couple of them? No? What do you mean, no?") and somebody finally had the presence of mind to give him a little nectar to wake him up and help with the pounding headache Percy had given him (that kid was going down.), it certainly wasn't Octavian's fault if his pilum ended up leaving his hand and spearing one of the Fifth Cohort's members. At least nobody saw him.
That would be very, very bad.
Like, tie-him-up-and-drown-him-in-the-river bad.
Then Mars appeared. This could have been a good thing, but for Octavian it was terrible. First of all, he had to grovel at somebody else's feet, which was always bad for his image, even if it was groveling in front of a god. Even if it was Rome's second-most-important god. Then he made some assumptions that were, according to Mars, wrong, and he was cut down in a most demeaning way. Mars had made him look like an idiot. "Hey, grovel to me and call me great, and I'll make a fool of you. But if you stand up to me and do totally the wrong thing, I'll act like we're old friends."
Not. Fair. Of course, Lord Mars would threaten him. Make him retrace his steps and look like a fool. But not with Percy, noooo. Of course not.
And Frank. He got claimed. By the second-most-important Roman god. Octavian was proud to be a legacy, but the god he was descended from wasn't really all that important to the Romans, compared to some of the other gods. Archery was for wimps, according to most Romans, and Apollo was the god of archery (and poetry, and the sun). And Octavian wasn't half-god, or even a quarter-god, or an eighth-god. Frank was lucky, being claimed. And so of course he got all sorts of attention.
Octavian was not a happy camper. The only high point of the evening was that the camper he'd not-so-accidently skewered had come back to life, so it appeared that there would be no investigation. Which was good. Not as good as being elected praetor would be, but much, much better than getting tossed in the river to drown.
The next morning started out fine. Senate meetings were Octavian's domain, as he also had a gift of persuading others with his words. After using Frank's promotion to his advantage and making fun of the questers and Percy Jackson in particular- he would get his revenge for Percy making a fool out of him during war games- Octavian was feeling quite good. Not even some of his cohort-mates making fun of his shrill screams the night before could ruin his mood. At least, not by much.
After the three questers left, Octavian could breathe freely. He could make fun of them, try to ruin the image that they had gained last night as good fighters.
It would have normally been a perfectly good plan, but the others were grudgingly admiring of the three upstart demigods. Somehow, they had gotten close enough to the wall to use their respective skills and take out the best cohorts in the legion. And they had to admit that Percy was a good fighter, even if his fighting was un-Roman.
Octavian glowered with jealousy. But he let it go -or tried to, at least- and did his best to show that he was a worthy leader during their activities, to try to erase the no-so-flattering memory of him screaming the previous night from his cohort's memory.
His plan failed. Epically.
First, during eagle training, he tried a little too hard to show off and do a smooth somersault on landing, but he waited too long before curling into a ball and dislocated his shoulder. His high-pitched shriek of pain was unlikely to fade from anyone's mind soon. To add insult to injury, he noticed several legionnaires snickering at his misfortune.
If that wasn't enough, bad luck seemed to be plaguing Octavian throughout his activities. First he made a really bad mistake in Latin class, then he tripped over his gladius during sword fighting, then the leather strap on the back of his shield broke due to neglectance ("Really, Octavian, you need to take better care of your equipment. Perhaps you should spend more time doing your basic chores instead of trying to overshadow Reyna," a Vulcan boy told him after Octavian complained to him about the quality of the shield), then he spilled his juice at dinner all over himself. Instead of looking like a steely and determined leader, he looked like an idiot.
The rest of the week was no better. He got beaten (really, really badly) by a Third Cohort boy in his second year of service during fighting practice, and it was such an epic fail that he couldn't even pass it off as "I let him win." Oh, no, it was clear that Octavian had been fighting his hardest- or, rather, that he was doing some showy fighting that looked good until the much younger kid had given him several gashes and he was disarmed and on the ground. He spent the rest of the day nursing both his wounds and his pride, holed up in Jupiter's temple.
The next day, Octavian was trying to show off again, this time during archery. He figured that he couldn't possibly go wrong there, what with him being related to Apollo and all. He was wrong. After trying to correct a younger camper's grip and finally declaring that he would just have to show her the proper way, he missed the target. Three times in a row. Well, not the target exactly, but he had missed the bull's eye. And the ring outside the bull's eye. And the ring outside the ring outside the bull's eye. And the ring outside the ring outside….well, you get the picture. His arrows had all landed on the very edge. The younger girl almost fell over laughing until he gave her his best glare.
The day after that, he tripped during legion assembly, and since the First Cohort was in the place of honor, it was in front of everybody. It certainly didn't help his mood when several of the ghosts from the lower cohorts- ghosts he had laughed at before for belonging to wimpier cohorts- snickered at his misfortune.
The day of the Feast of Fortuna, Octavian decided to retire to Jupiter's temple for the first half of the day to- in his words- "try to divine anything that might help us; battle strategies, outside help, special preparations, the like", which had the double bonus of looking good for him and his loyalty, and keeping him from being further embarrassed. Nobody could outdo him in the area of prophecies. He had also asked that he be left alone, so he could concentrate better.
As it turned out, this was a very good idea. The auguries were simply not behaving. Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, stuffing poured out of teddy bears like a waterfall, but all Octavian got were the warnings that a huge army was coming, and there would be an unexpected hero. Octavian pounced hopefully on the "unexpected hero" part. Any clues there? He slit open a Medusa beanie baby and spread the stuffing out carefully. He would likely only get initials, but…. Octavian chanted in Latin, trying to focus. He inspected the stuffing.
A "P"? No, no, that couldn't be it. After all, Octavian didn't have a "P" in his name. He prodded it and chanted a bit more. He looked again. The stuffing still wasn't indicating that he, Octavian, would be the hero.
Perhaps he was just looking at it from the wrong angle. He shuffled to the right a couple inches and squinted. No, not quite. To the left, and a tilted head. Still, no. Octavian growled in frustration after trying various angles for several minutes and still not getting an "O". He poked the fluff around, then tried looking at it upside-down from a handstand. Now…if he tilted is head ever-so-slightly and squinted a bit… yes, now it was most clearly an "O". O for Octavian.
"For the love of the gods, what are you doing?" Reyna's voice cut through Octavian's thoughts. He promptly fell over and skinned his knee.
"New auger techniques, wouldn't expect you to understand," Octavian lied smoothly, trying to get his toga to hang correctly again. A couple hard tugs, and it straightened out.
"I see." Reyna didn't look like she completely believed him. "Did you learn anything new, then, from this new technique?"
"Oh, yes," Octavian claimed, his mind racing for some new tidbit he had gleaned. "There will be wild centaurs with the attackers' ranks."
Reyna sighed in exasperation. "I already knew that from the scouts' reports, and you would have too, had you been listening rather than trying to sell yourself as praetor. I came up to tell you that lunch is being served early, then everybody is to prepare for battle this afternoon. Finish up with whatever you were doing, then I think it would be best if you joined us." She cast a quick, disparaging glance at the piles of fluff, then left, her purple cape fluttering behind her. Octavian muttered a couple choice words about self-righteous interfering praetors, then pulled off his toga and stomped down the path towards the dining area.
Lunch was, rather predictably, subdued, and armor was placed as close to chairs as possible, in case the attack started while people were still eating, even though Octavian had told them that the attack would start early to mid-afternoon, most likely at two o' clock. He was a tad ticked that certain people- like Reyna- seemed to have so little faith in his powers. Sentries guarded the doors, and lookouts had been posted all over camp.
Ok, granted the auguries had been a tad murky as of late, and he had had a little bit of trouble with the last one- The Greek has arrived verses The goose has cried and maybe it hadn't been the best idea to relay that little mix-up to Reyna (he thought it would be funny and make her a little less hostile to him; after all, camp wouldn't run smoothly if the praetors couldn't stand each other. Instead, she saw the misreading as a poor reflection on his powers), but that didn't mean that Octavian was incompetent. It just meant that he needed a better supply of teddy bears. Yes, perhaps they were expensive, but could anyone really blame him if it was hard to read that low-quality, Made-in-China fluff? It wasn't even proper stuffing in most of the bears; it was scratchy plastic-y stuff. Terrible quality.
The battle wasn't going quite as Octavian had expected, either. It was better than it could have been, for sure- his voice hadn't gone into the upper register at all, instead sounding commanding and- dare he say it- manly, just right for the praetor post. His weapons and various pieces of armor stayed intact, with the small exception of the edges being a tad corroded because of those blasted basilisks. The Romans were losing, but they weren't getting slaughtered, rather just separated and being pushed back, slowly but surely.
But Octavian had lost a fight with his cohort-mates about the proper place for a centurion during the battle. Octavian thought in the middle of the ranks, far enough forward that he could see what was going on, but not be in danger of being injured and unable to lead.
Of course, he didn't say it exactly like that. First he had wondered what would happen if both centurions were injured, or-gods have mercy-killed. There would be complete and utter chaos if there was no leader for the cohort. They wouldn't be as strong as a group! And they needed to be strong, so that the terrible giant and his army could be defeated. So, he wondered, perhaps the centurions should be a tad bit back, so that there would be less chance of such a terrible event occurring?
They didn't buy it.
He couldn't completely blame them- after all, if he was in their place, he wouldn't especially want to be sticking his neck out when the leaders weren't, but he didn't want to die before he could become praetor.
Then, after about a half-hour of fighting, Octavian subconsciously noticed that Percy, Hazel, and Frank had returned from their quest. Or, at least Percy and Hazel had. Probably had gotten too scared to continue and had decided to come sulking back to camp in disgrace. He didn't see Frank. Perhaps he had been killed. Octavian turned his attention back to the monster he was fighting and speared it into dust.
They would never win at this rate.
There was a commotion behind him, back across the field where the Fifth and Third Cohorts were fighting for their lives. Octavian figured that the cohorts- the Fifth, at least, what a bunch of losers- must have fallen. He snorted and dodged a flying rock, then chopped a grain spirit to pieces.
A couple minutes later, there were cheers from where the Fifth and Third cohorts fought- Octavian guessed that maybe the Fifth had managed to survive-what a shame- or maybe the Third had come to their aid somehow.
How very wrong he was.
Soon after that, Reyna was yelling for them to rally to the eagle-What eagle? Octavian thought. It's been gone for ages, Polybotes' poison must be affecting her brain- and then, next thing he knew, lightning was flashing across the valley, incinerating monsters all over the place. Percy, the Greek, held the eagle's pole.
No, thought Octavian. He can't be the hero. It was implied in the fluff that the hero would have a large chance of becoming praetor. I've worked harder for this than he has. No. Just no.
But of course he had to cheer, because a good Roman supports his allies and celebrates his successes. And Octavian was a good Roman, despite anything certain others might say.
The battle honestly went a lot better after that, and after the Amazons showed up- Why couldn't they have showed up earlier so that Percy and his friends didn't look like such big heroes? Octavian wondered grouchily, stabbing a Cyclops. Unfortunately, he missed, and had to be saved by the giant hellhound that Percy had been riding. One snap from those huge jaws, and the Cyclops was dust. Octavian was tempted to stab the hellhound- honestly, who did it think it was, defeating a Cyclops that he, the great Octavian, couldn't?
Out of the corner of his eye, Octavian saw Percy running away from Polybotes. He swung around and stared in disbelief. This was rich- the boy (almost) everyone considered a hero, running? Granted, it was from a giant, but still. Running was cowardly. Romans were not cowards. Ergo, Percy was not a true Roman.
The next few minutes were a blur as the Romans finished off the monsters, and then Octavian could see clearly what was going on. The giant was still after Percy, but they were getting close to the Pomerian Line. Octavian smirked. Percy was an idiot. Like he could fight a giant and a ticked-off border god at the same time.
Then things went sideways- instead of Percy getting himself killed by ticking off a giant and a god, the god got ticked off at the giant and took Percy's side. Percy bounded around a bit, Polybotes kicked over and broke Terminus's statue. Percy managed to knock Polybotes over, and then smashed Terminus's head into Polybotes' nose.
The giant dissolved. Percy was the hero. Octavian stared in disbelief as the Romans mobbed Percy, lifting him on a shield and chanting "praetor" over and over.
No. This had to be a nightmare. It had to be. Octavian hadn't worked so hard, and risked so much, for the praetor position to be taken away like this. He hated the whole "raised-on-a-shield" thing- people didn't think clearly after a battle, in his opinion. Feelings were too high, and rash decisions were made. Like this one, and before when Jason was made praetor after Sammy died in battle against the Titans. Both times, Octavian was clearly the best choice, but someone managed to outshow him on the battlefield.
The next few hours were a blur of denial, even as Octavian burned Neptune's symbol, SPQR, and a stripe onto Percy's arm and promoted him to praetor. He listened jealously as his fellow campers cheered Percy, even as he protested that he wasn't the best person. Darn right you aren't, Octavian just barely managed to keep from growling.
Then, just to top off his week, there was a senate meeting the next day. He was already in a sour mood, and a lack of sleep didn't help, nor did hearing others praise Percy's bravery on the battlefield, nor did hearing Terminus being so nice to Percy- downright friendly, really- and then he, Octavian, got told off for having his toga rumpled and his hair uncombed. Never mind that Percy's hair was messy as anything, oh no, just praise for the hero of yesterday's battle!
The senate meeting, normally Octavian's place of power since Reyna wasn't really one for talking, ended up with another humiliation for him. When Percy mentioned the Greeks that were coming, Octavian pounced, seeing on opportunity. All Romans hated Greeks, those scheming low-downs. Except for Percy. He seemed fine that a Greek warship was coming to the Roman camp. Octavian decided to go with a long-standing tactic- use the common enemy to unite your people, get them riled up, and they'll follow you. He was really getting into his stride when Percy interrupted him, and Octavian's façade of power crumbled as Percy took the floor. All of Octavian's well-thought-out arguments were pushed aside, and the Senate and Reyna took Percy's side.
The only bright point was that Percy had sworn on his life that the Greeks meant no harm. Octavian wouldn't let him forget that, you could be sure of that. Perhaps this next week would be better, and he would get that praetor spot after all.
I hope you liked this! I didn't mean for it to get so long, but oh well… And I apologize for any misspellings or odd words. My computer is acting up and not catching letters sometimes, and some things do get through spell check.