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This story was written for The Noodle Chronicles, but it is part of the canon of the Ouroboros Merge Series. It is written by DarkCyberWolf.

Chapter One

APOLLO'S POV

"Shimmering golden

Driving the sun chariot

Greatest of the gods."

I finished another amazing haiku about myself and hummed to myself as I continued the drive straight east. Then I saw the scuffle between a pair of monsters.

"No," one said angrily. A... a telkhine, that's what it was. The other looked like... an empousa. "Unless you provide some sort of payment for these services, we will have to destroy you."

"What do you want me to give?" the empousa asked. "What in the world could be a good payment for saving the gods' sorry hides?!"

Now I was interested.

"You know what we want. We help you protect the gods when they need it in a few years. You give us the golden apple of the Hesperides that we can use to talk to Midas in the Underworld."

"Excuse me," I said, flying low. Sure, flying low was "dangerous" but sun flares never killed anyone... anyone important. "What is this about the Hesperides' apple?"

The telkhine glared at me. "This creature thinks your kind shall be in danger in the near future and has decided to protect you."

"And that creature thinks someone like me can steal one of the Hesperides' apples. Look at me!" I obeyed, giving her a quick look over. "This form is not made for fighting, it is made for distracting males."

"How about I solve both of your problems," I suggested. "Say I give some demigod campers a quest for this apple, I get it, I give it to you, and you can resolve your deal bloodlessly."

"Go ahead," the telkhine said.

Chapter Two

JEN'S POV

From about two hundred feet away, I pulled at the edge of the bow, moved it, and released. The arrow went flying fast until it reached the dead center of the target. Bull's eye.

"Great hit," a guy near me said. It was one of the newer campers - Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephaestus.

"Well, my dad is the god of archery," I shrugged. I put another arrow into the bow and watched it fly until it split the first arrow in half.

"Important message!" a voice cried. We looked and saw - my dad, Apollo. "Need three demigods quickly!"

Charles and I walked up to him. "What do you need, Dad?"

"There's a new quest now." He looked around. "It involves stealing the golden apple of the Hesperides. I take it you want to be part of it?"

I nodded vigorously. Charles did so as well. Apollo thought for a moment. "Jen, you started nodding first, so you get to lead this quest. You may now consult the oracle and/or choose your two companions."

"Charles," I said instantly. "Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephaestus. And..." I looked around at the other campers and looked for someone I could bring with me. Then I saw the perfect candidate. "And Luke Castellan, son of Hermes."

Beside Luke, a few campers - Gary, Annabeth, and some others - groaned.

"Great, the three of you should go see the Oracle soon."

I chose Charles because he wasn't just a great friend - he was strong, innovative, and courageous - things that might be needed on a quest. Luke, he was pretty fast - best swordsman at camp, and he had quite the brainpower as well.

We walked into the Big House, past Chiron and Mr. D, and into the attic where the creepy mummified Oracle stood.

The Oracle opened its eyes and released a misty, billowing green fog.

"You shall go west on the path above

Two shall be taken by an ill-fated love

The key to saving lies in the dark

As the leaders gain eternal mark"

Chapter Three

CHARLES'S POV

If there's one thing I know about prophecies, it's that people who sweat about them usually don't survive. So I just focused on the big part - go west to the apple. The garden of the Hesperides was in San Francisco, so that's where we were going.

We walked outside the camp and made our way west. Something started bugging me and forced me to question Jen's decision. "Hey, Jen? Sorry 'bout this, but why exactly did you take me and Luke, instead of, say, Silena Beauregard or Josh Patterson? Either of them could probably get you to San Francisco faster."

She shrank back a bit and said, "I was planning on your strength and Luke's speed coming in handy. I didn't even consider getting a pegasus..."

"Easy solution," Luke said kindly. "Hermes is the god of roads. Time to see if I inherited any of my old man's prowess."

That's when I realized that Luke was serious about this quest. Almost all demigods get the whole parental abandonment deal, but Luke was left alone with his insane mother and hated his dad. I don't think Jen knew that bit about Luke's past, though.

Luke pressed his hand to the ground and watched as a paved path suddenly appeared. And then started moving. Fast.

"Luke, you're a genius," I commended.

"I know," he said. The road went up high above the ground, probably so we can go on it without mortals noticing some serious divine speed.

"This should take us to San Fran faster than walking," Luke figured. "But it won't protect us from flying monsters so be careful. Also, it stops a couple times. One in Chicago, the other in Cheyenne. Like I said, the road's faster than walking, but we'll still need to stop and rest, so we're going to do that there."

"This is amazing," Jen said. "Let's go!"

Jen led the way onto the moving road, with Luke close behind her. I was third.

The ground below us shook. "Uh... Luke, man. Is that supposed to happen?"

"No," Luke said, taking out his knife.

A terrible screech filled my ears - probably Luke's and Jen's, too, but I didn't ask. A group of things came at us. I saw the ferocious wings, claws...

"Stymphalian birds!" Jen realized. "They're man-eaters!"

"Figures," I said. I took a wrench from my pocke and watched it transform into a huge sledgehammer with Greek fire powder on the sides. Jen ripped off her sun necklace. The bronze sun pendant turned into a burning bronze arrow, while the necklace part became a bow.

We were ready to fight.

Chapter Four

LUKE'S POV

My knife sliced against a Stymphalian bird's face.

Beside me, Beckendorf was smashing birds with his lightly-explosive hammer, while Jen shot birds into their beaks with arrows that came out the back.

"They can't stand loud noises," I remembered.

Jen's eyes widened. She pointed her bow at me and shot a burning bronze arrow. Right at my knife.

The knife, now on fire was quickly burning. I had to use it fast before it was completely destroyed. I sliced at Beckendorf's hammer...

Excruciating. Bronze on bronze, audible sharpness, a scraping sound, and then the Greek fire ignited, incinerating all the birds that could take the sound.

The birds fell. "Let's move before they get back," I said, my ears still ringing.

Apollo passed us at one point, saw we were doing all right, then continued driving. Other than that, not much happened on the way to Chicago.

By the time we'd gotten there, the sun chariot had already passed - as in, it was dark. So we got off the road and spent the night in some mortals' house. I manipulated the Mist a little so they wouldn't notice us.

Before any of us went to sleep, a loud burst off wind hit the door before slipping underneath. An anemoi thuellai. A storm spirit.

"So not the time," Jen said as she started shooting. Every arrow went right through the spirit without affecting it.

"Beckendorf, any plans?" I asked.

"They get their power from wind, right?" Beckendorf suggested. "So what would happen if we covered them in stone?"

Crazy, but it might just work.

We went outside, the storm spirits following. Beckendorf pounded his hammer into the ground, setting off an explosion. Oh, well. Chicago's had earthquakes before.

The spirits floated toward us and went inside the fissure that Beckendorf made. I focused my energy to summon another paved road that completely sealed off the anemoi thuellai.

We walked back into the mortals' house and crashed.

Chapter Five

KRONOS'S POV

The snake came up to me and spoke.

"Kronosssss, you know you are doomed to fail," the snake said briefly.

"Nonsense, serpent!" I shouted. "I have many gods, the majority of monsters, and every Titan on my side! There is nothing that can stop me!"

"The Olympiansssss have other godsssss," the snake pointed out. "And powerful heroesssss like Luke Cassssstellan. And the Great Prophecccccy impliesssss that they shall have a more powerful hero. Faccccce it. Unlessssssss you take control of a powerful hero of your own, you have no chancccce of ever defeating the godssssss, even if you can get Atlasssss to ssssssacrificccccccce the Ophiotaurusssss."

"A powerful hero," I mused. "I think I know just the one..."

"You do?" the snake inquired.

"Yes... strong, determined, charismatic, and he already hates the gods, or one of them at least. His name is Luke Castellan, Son of Hermes, and he shall be the one who frees me from Tartarus!"

"Good luck with that," the snake said.

Chapter Six

JEN'S POV

After we defeated the anemoi thuellai, we all went to sleep. Heads up: if you're a demigod, dreams are just a fancy word for visions.

In my dream, I was looking at a man sitting on a black throne, his robes the screams of thousands of souls. My great-uncle Hades.

This was the Underworld, I realized.

Queen Persephone walked up to Hades and gave him information. "Sir, the Titan lord Kronos is coming free. His body is regenerating, coming out of Tartarus. We figure there is maybe a week before he can free himself on his own, unless we can get someone down there to hold him under."

"Impossible," Hades groaned. "Tartarus is always either permanent or lasts millennia. Nobody would ever willingly go down there to fight Kronos, even if he could reawaken Typhon or Atlas. And we can't use someone who's already there, because they would hate the gods by now. No, there is no way we can stop his rising now, only wait until he has emerged."

Persephone sighed and walked away - this was her summer, after all.

Hades put his face in his hands and began sobbing when his wife wasn't looking. "How..."

Chapter Seven

CHARLES'S POV

After we defeated the anemoi thuellai, we all went to sleep. First rule of dreams: if you're a demigod, dreams are just visions.

I stood in front of a blazing fire, beside my dad, Hephaestus. "Hello, son. How's it goin'?"

"Great. I'm already on my first quest."

"Way to go," he said, then looked at the cyclopes in the forges. "Hey, remember we have a quota for sharp weapons, no blunt objects!" Looking at me, he added, "Cyclopes. Best forgers in the business, but they've been really on edge lately, now that one of their brothers - Polyphemus, his name was - has gotten hold of some dangerous magic. So what's your quest about?"

"Jen Rosser, Luke Castellan, and I are going for the golden apple of the Hesperides."

"I see..." Hephaestus said. "Tell you what, here's a word of advice: Remember that you can always have a backup plan. Always. And whatever you do, do not..."

I couldn't tell what I was supposed to not do because it was then that my eyes shot open.

Chapter Eight

LUKE'S POV

I fell asleep almost immediately - building that road when I was already exhausted knocked me out.

In my dream, I stood on board a ship, staring at a golden coffin. A voice was coming from within the coffin.

You were always unloved by the gods, the voice said. Hermes could have helped you at any time. He could have taken you from your deranged mother. He could have told you why she was so dangerous. He could have told you how to survive. He could have loved you. But he never did any of those things.

"So?" I demanded.

You want revenge. Justice. I know, everyone does. I could help you... I only need for you to free me.

"But you're going to destroy the gods?" I asked.

The gods always thought themselves so high and mighty, so pure. Hermes was never that. Neither was Zeus. None of them were. I was cast off to the shadows, but that does not make me evil. Please... join me, Luke. You don't know the power of the dark side.

"No. You want to kill my father."

No, Luke. I am your great-grandfather.

Chapter Nine

SILENA'S POV

I couldn't sleep.

I wish I could say that the reason I couldn't sleep is because I was worried about Luke on his quest. But in truth, even though I did think about Luke, I couldn't help worrying about the other guy he was with. Charlie Beckendorf.

Luke would probably be upset about that, but what could he do about it exactly? Nobody at camp knew that Luke and I had been seeing each other - that Athena girl would be completely heartbroken if she'd found out. And besides, how would he know that I'd been thinking about Charlie? What he doesn't know couldn't hurt him, right?

Gods, I sounded so much like my sister Drew.

I slowly and quietly got up and left the cabin, making sure I didn't wake anyone up. If I ruined my siblings' beauty sleep... it would be a nightmare. The centaur incident all over again.

I stood outside, looking at the stars. "Silena?" a voice asked. It was Annabeth Chase, the little Athena girl who practically worshipped Luke.

"Hey, Annabeth," I said. "Couldn't sleep either, huh?"

She shook her head. "No."

"Don't worry," I assured her. "Luke and Charlie and Jen will be back soon. Trust me."

She smiled and mumbled a quick "Thanks" before following my gaze and looking up at the stars.

Chapter Ten

JEN'S POV

I woke up and found my hand grasping Luke's. I quickly released him, feeling my face heating up.

Looking outside, I noted what time it was: my dad was just starting to come out over the horizon.

"Morning, Jen." Charles was already awake. "I'm headed out to grab some food from a Monster Donut store nearby. You want to come with?"

"Um... what about Luke?" I asked.

"He built a road across the entire country, ran across it from Long Island to Chicago, fought Stymphalian birds and anemoi thuellai, and built another road all in one day. No doubt, it'll be a while before he wakes up. This way, he can wake up with some donuts in front of him."

So Charles and I left and went to the Monster Donut store nearby. We picked up some to-go and left.

Then came the fire.

A massive serpent with seven heads came up out of nowhere and attacked. "Hydra!" I realized.

Of course. Monster Donut stores were actually hydras - monsters who famously regenerated double-time whenever their necks were severed. That explains why these stores are everywhere.

"Whatever you do, don't sever a neck. That only makes them stronger," I said.

"No need to worry about that," Charles said as he smashed his hammer against the hydra. A small explosion appeared on the monster's chest.

The hydra staggered back as the smoke cleared. I noticed the marks left by the Greek fire left an exposed zone in the chest. I aimed my bow carefully and shot a flaming arrow right in the exposed organs. Hydras have blade-resistant necks, but stabbing them anywhere else is fair game.

The hydra died. Excellent, we weren't total idiots that created new Monster Donuts by killing hydras. "So now what?" I asked.

"We're keeping the donuts," Charles said adamantly.

Chapter Eleven

CHARLES'S POV

Luke was just waking up when Jen and I got back from the hydra.

"Were you two out?" he asked.

"We picked up some donuts," I said. "You'd better enjoy them, 'cause picking them up was murder. Well, almost." Jen chuckled a little at my joke.

"We can eat on the way," Luke said. "To the road!"

Luke, Jen, and I started running along the road. We had maybe a day before we got to Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was best to move faster.

Another shake came on the road. "I think we got more Stymphalian birds!" I called.

But before we could see any birds, the road collapsed where we stood. "No way!" I said. "The road just... broke?"

"That's what happens sometimes," Luke said. "The road after Cheyenne should still be intact, so we should get moving."

Before we could, the roar of a lion interrupted the quest. We looked to see a lion's head atop a goat's body with a reptilian tail. A chimera.

"How was the chimera defeated in the old days?" Luke asked.

"It took a pegasus and a melted chunk of lead," I told him. The chimera exhaled a beam of flame. Right, these things breathed fire.

But children of Hephaestus rule fire.

I brought its head between my bare hands and scraped its teeth with my hammer. Jen fired an arrow at the chimera's mouth as it tried to breath fire...

And its mouth exploded when the fire touched the Greek fire my hammer left on its teeth.

"An excellent battle," a girl's voice said.

"Hello, Jen Rosser, and her associates," the girl said. "My name is Artemis, goddess of the hunt. I had just been hunting that chimera that you defeated."

Chapter Twelve

LUKE'S POV

"Way to go, Beckendorf," I said. "You beat a monster worthy of a goddess. And an incredibly powerful and amazing goddess, as well." In my experience, it's better to compliment the people who can blast you to bits.

"Yes... Charles. You and Jen both fought well. Jen Rosser, if you wish, you may join my Hunters. At the price of eternal maidenhood, you shall serve by my side, never aging, never sickening, and die only on the unlikely chance that you fall in battle. Do you wish to join?"

"Um... what exactly does that mean?" Jen asked.

"You shall be immortal," Artemis said. "You will live a life of adventure, never grow old, and serve with the other Hunters for all time. However, to join, you must match the Hunters' oath of eternal maidenhood, and swear off men forever."

Jen considered for a few moments before glancing at me. "No, thank you," she told Artemis politely. "I'm honored, but I don't think I can accept your offer."

She seemed to understand. "Jen Rosser, your reasons may have been foolish ones, but know that you made a wise choice, one that will affect everything well."

Artemis ran off and vanished.

"C-come on. Let's keep moving," Jen said.

We'd managed to get some distance before the road collapsed, so we weren't too far from Cheyenne. Still, we didn't get there until nightfall.

"Why?" I asked Jen when we got to the next mortals' house. "Why'd you turn down immortality and a life of awesomeness?"

She shifted awkwardly. "The swearing-off-men part. I... I mean you... I mean... can I start over? Uh, I didn't want to leave you." Woah. What?! I'd never even considered... this entire time?

And then Beckendorf walked in. "Hey. I found the road. We should be able to get to the garden of the Hesperides by tomorrow."

Chapter Thirteen

ARTEMIS'S POV

After I left Jen and... those other two, I came across a particularly pungent odor - specifically that of an old manticore.

"Thorn," I grunted.

Thorn, a manticore for whom I had a particular distaste, walked up to me. "Ah, Artemis," he said casually. "Pleasant to see you again, this last time."

"What do you mean? You shall be reborn upon your demise, so our encounters can never surely end."

Thorn grinned. "You won't be saying that for long. Someone far more powerful than you is going to be coming soon, once the Great Stirring begins."

"Stirring of what?" I demanded.

"Why, if I told you, then it wouldn't be a surprise," Thorn pointed out gleefully.

I drew my bow. "Tell me now who is rising or suffer the consequences."

He grinned. "A grandparent, a great-grandparent, and a cousin removed."

Thorn disappeared just as the arrow left my bow.

Chapter Fourteen

JEN'S POV

We found the intact piece of the road in Cheyenne.

As we started running along the road, a powerful gust of wind pushed me off the road. Luke grabbed my arm right before I fell more than three feet.

"You alright?" he asked. I nodded.

Charles took my other arm and helped Luke pull me up. "Gonna have to be more careful," he said.

And then we started to hear screams. We simultaneously raised our weapons.

"Help," someone said. It was another demigod. "Please, there's a Scorpion..."

A pair of huge claws came up over the side of the road. It was followed by a bulging, octopedal body with a huge, wicked tail barbed at the end.

Luke was the first to rush into the battle, stabbing each of the Scorpion's eyes with his knife. I fired an arrow at the Scorpion's tail, watching it slowly burn up. Beckendorf smashed it some, but it was clear the arrows were doing the most damage to the giant arachnid.

I shot the claws off and set the eyes alight. The Scorpion writhed in pain for a little while before falling off the road. For good measure, I sent one more arrow into the Scorpion's body. Luke took one of the fallen Scorpion's claws. A spoil of battle.

"Thanks," the demigod gasped.

"What's your name?" Charles asked.

"Hailley, daughter of Demeter. Gary told me about Camp Half-Blood before the Scorpion..."

Gary. That must have been this girl's satyr guardian. She must have been scared out of her mind.

"You want to get to Camp fast?" I asked.

Chapter Fifteen

CHARLES'S POV

The demigod girl - Hailley - nodded vigorously.

I knew there was one way. "I'll take you there," I offered. "To Camp Half-Blood."

"What?" Luke and Jen chorused.

I looked at them. "Look, I know you two don't need me so much. I saw. When Artemis offered to make you a Hunter, when you two were talking at those mortals' house, when you fell and you saved her. I saw. You two finish this quest together. I'm taking Hailley back to Camp before another monster shows up for her."

"Here, take this," Luke said. He put the giant Scorpion claw in my hand before looking up at the sky. "Hermes... Dad... I know you and I don't exactly see eye to eye, but could you please accept this offering and protect Hailley and Beckendorf along your domain?"

The claw vanished in the wind. I took that as a good sign that Hermes accepted the offering. Thanks, Uncle Hermes.

Hailley and I made our way to Camp Half-Blood along Luke's road. I caught glimpses of monsters who couldn't see us, pitfalls we didn't fall in. Tartarus, we even floated over the broken part of the road. That was the final proof that Hermes was looking out for us.

It'll still take us awhile to get back to camp, but it should be smooth sailing from here on out.

Chapter Sixteen

LUKE'S POV

We said our goodbyes to Beckendorf and Hailley, then we kept moving as Apollo kept flying across the sky.

Then we saw it. Near Mount Tamalpais, standing there, was the Garden of the Hesperides. The Hesperides, I remembered, were kin of the Titans who kept this garden with its famous magic golden apples. There were three of them who didn't exactly have names. Then I remembered something else - Ladon.

Ladon was a dragon who lived inside the Garden of the Hesperides. Big, multi-headed, and poisonous. And his sole task was to guard the golden apples. He was eventually defeated by Hercules when he was doing his twelve labors. Then Jason came and heard one of the Hesperides crying over Ladon's death. But, being a monster, he got reborn eventually. I seriously hoped he wasn't here now.

"What are you doing here?" a voice asked. One of the Hesperides.

"The god Apollo has sent us on a quest," I told her. "We seek a single golden apple to give him."

"It's part of a peace treaty," Jen added.

The Hesperid screeched angrily. "I hate that! Ever since that pathetic 'hero' Hercules came here and stole one of our apples, killing our dragon in the process, just so he can be accepted by the gods, and stole our sister and betrayed her, every stinking demigod hero thinks he - or she" she added, looking at Jen. "- can just waltz into our garden, steal one of our apples that we grew with hard effort, and just walk out scot-free!" She paused her rant and looked right at Jen when she said, "Turn back now if you want to live."

"Don't give in," Jen said. "We're not letting Apollo down."

The Hesperid sighed. "I tried to spare you. LADON!!!!!"

A powerful noise, the sound of an awakening dragon, shook the ground.

Ladon was coming for us.

Chapter Seventeen

MINOS'S POV

It was all of a sudden when a miracle occurred. A blue triangle - a Greek delta - appeared in front of me in the Underworld. The delta that stood for Daedalus.

This was a new entrance to the Labyrinth, which means that the Labyrinth is expanding. And Daedalus had yet to show up in the Underworld, so he must be hiding from Thanatos. He couldn't have evaded him the same way that Sisyphus did, since he is not nearly strong enough. So that means Daedalus was still inside the Labyrinth... so I now had a chance to find him and exact my revenge.

I took a step inside the Labyrinth and let the visions guide me... Yes... a child of Hades will be needed... and I need someone to enter through the demigod camp, Camp Half-Blood. I channeled a little bit more magic into the Labyrinth from the Underworld - it's not like anyone would try to escape from here.

There. A new path in the Labyrinth was slowly coming, independent of the rest of the expansion. And it was headed straight for the woods around Camp Half-Blood.

Chapter Eighteen

JEN'S POV

"I'll hold off Ladon, you get the apple," Luke said.

I looked around until I saw the tree bearing the golden apples. I ran up to grab one when I heard a scream.

Luke!

I immediately turned around and shot an arrow at Ladon. I could see Luke clearly now. He was being outmatched. I had to help.

"Switch positions," I said. He looked at me like I was insane. "Luke, you're faster than I am. And I can shoot from a distance so I don't have to get up close. Just get the apple."

I gestured in the direction of the tree before facing Ladon. I shot maybe three burning arrows onto its heavily armored body before it got close and I ran.

Ladon was definitely distracted enough - Luke already had his hand around one of the golden apples. He gently pulled the apple off and held it in his inner elbow when he looked at me.

Swearing under his breath, Luke ran after Ladon, knife in hand. "Hey, Ladon! Over here! I got your apple!"

Ladon evidently heard him and turned around, one of his teeth scratching my arm in the motion. Ladon slashed at Luke across his face.

I ran up to help him, but I fell over. I shot one more arrow that hit Ladon in the back of the head before Luke ran after me.

Luke picked me up and started running fast. Perhaps he'd taken the Hesperid's words to heart and didn't want to kill her dragon. Just took the apple - and me - and ran quickly.

Now that we were out of the garden, Ladon didn't bother continuing after us.

"We did it," Luke muttered.

"Luke, your face..."

He put his hand against the mark that Ladon's claws had scratched. That scar, we both knew, would be there for the rest of his life.

"And your arm," he pointed out. The scrape where Ladon's tooth scratched me was starting to swell. "Oh, damn. Ladon's venomous!"

Venomous? So... I was...

His tears were all the confirmation I needed. They told me that I wasn't going to last much longer. I'd never seen him cry before now.

"Luke, get back to camp," I said. "You're strong enough, just take the road and leave me behind."

Choking on his tears, Luke whispered, "Goodbye."

And I closed my eyes.

Chapter Nineteen

CHARLES'S POV

Hailley and I were a little east of Cheyenne when Luke came.

"Luke," I welcomed. "But... where's...?"

"Jen was a hero," Luke said in a scratchy voice. "That's all that matters now. I've got the apple, and you protected Hailley this far."

"That girl who was with you..." Hailley realized. "Jen... she died?"

"The dragon Ladon. The wound wouldn't have been as serious if he wasn't venomous." Luke looked up at the sky to see that it was high noon. "Apollo!"

Apollo came down at Luke's cry. "Ah, Luke, Charles. But where is my daughter?"

"She was a hero," Luke repeated. "A real hero. Not just a demigod who could hold her own in a fight, but one who fought even though she couldn't."

"Beautiful," Apollo said. "I will go to the garden. Bring her back to camp for a proper funeral."

"Sorry I couldn't be helpful," I said to Luke and Apollo.

"It's alright," Apollo said. Luke was just silent.

Chapter Twenty

LUKE'S POV

Jen was dead.

One of my dad's jobs was taking the dead to see Charon, ferryman of the dead. I didn't see my father, but thanks to the whole powers-are-hereditary thing, I felt her go as I held her in my arms.

This was all Ladon's fault. If he hadn't bitten Jen, she'd still be alive.

No, it was all the Hesperid's fault. She woke up Ladon and got me to spare him before he killed Jen.

On second thought, this was Hailley's fault. If she hadn't arrived, we'd still have had Beckendorf to help us get the apple. Or was it Beckendorf's fault for leaving us to help Hailley.

No, it was Apollo's fault. If he hadn't sent us on this stupid quest, Jen would still be alive. He's an Olympian! A Greek god! That's all they ever do. Sit around in their fancy thrones and sun chariots and send their own children on quests to get themselves killed! Have relations with mortals who give them everything, then abandon them to be the single parents of kids that the gods send to get killed!

Apollo sent Jen on a quest that got her killed for nothing. Hermes abandoned my mother and I when my mother was all insane and shrieking about my fate. Hephaestus visited Beckendorf a total of once, in a dream, just to give him some cryptic advice that ended up not mattering.

Our demigod blood makes us outcasts in the mortal world, attracts monsters who want to kill us, and gives us a family connection to the Greek gods that don't care.

The gods always thought of themselves as so mighty, so pure. But they were never like that. My great-grandfather, Kronos, I knew, had said that. And he was right. The gods had no right to rule.

And that was why, immediately after returning to Camp Half-Blood, the first thing I did was send Kronos an Iris message, saying, "I'm in."

Chapter Twenty-One

GAEA'S POV

I watched my great-grandson, the god Apollo, descend to the Earth to speak with a telkhine and an empousa. He handed the empousa a golden apple of the Hesperides. As part of a peace agreement.

I knew what I had to do.

The instant Apollo left, I reached forth and took the apple from the empousa's hand.

"A trick!" the empousa screeched. "Apollo has tricked his protector!"

"And you fail to provide an apple," the telkhine added. "Thus, our agreement is off, and we shall side with Kronos in the upcoming war."

"As shall we," the empousa agreed. "No one shall trick us and believe he can get away with it."

Smiling to myself, I proceeded to move onto the Underworld. There was a man named Midas who would love to see this...

Also, there was a group of anemoi thuellai buried in the Earth. I wondered what I could convince them to do for me...

JEN'S POV

The Greek Underworld.

After I paid Charon and sailed across the River Styx, the first thing I said was, "I want to talk to Hades."

Hades looked at me. "What do you want, half-blood?"

"I had a demigod dream," I started lamely. "Kronos is rising, and coming out of Tartarus in less than a week. You can't stop him because nobody wants to go into Tartarus to seal him there. I'll go. I will go to Tartarus to delay Kronos's rising long enough for the hero of the Great Prophecy to arrive."

"Very well," Hades looked at me. "You are a very brave demigod. I hope you know just how important your actions today were, are, and will be."

"Thank you," I said as I willingly climbed into the depths of the Underworld that even the gods fear.

SILENA'S POV

"What happened?" I asked Charlie. "Luke hasn't said a word since you got back."

"Jen died at the Garden," Charlie said. "Before that, your mom was kinda working her magic on them."

My mom. Aphrodite. Goddess of love. Luke and Jen... Luke and Jen?!

On the bright side, I didn't have to worry about leaving Luke for Charlie now. Luke's the one who left first.

KRONOS'S POV

Luke Castellan, Son of Hermes...

Ethan Nakamura, Son of Nemesis...

Kaye Torrin, Daughter of Athena...

New demigods were joining my cause every day. Sure, I could not fight my way out of Tartarus, not with Jen Rosser holding me back.

But as a Titan, my power draws from belief. And with so many new demigods aiding me, I grow stronger with each passing day.

It will be a few years before I rise, but rise I shall.

And the hero of the Great Prophecy shall be by my side destroying the gods.

Fun Facts

  • This story was written for the Noodle Chronicles.
  • This story exists in the same continuity as Ouroboros Merge.
  • The stuff Hephaestus was trying to tell Beckendorf? Take a guess...
  • Jen Rosser was supposed to appear in Elemental Stones, and will in something else...
  • The golden apple cures Ladon's poison. Now reread the part about Jen dying while Luke had the apple and just TRY not to cry.

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