Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter XV: Cleansing the Sins of the Past
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the PJO universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of Rick Riordan. I make no claim to ownership.
Acknowledgement: Thank you as always to my editor Fezzik, as well as my other betas Luq707, Athena Hope, Yoshi89 and Raven0900 for their incredible work on this story.
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November 18, 2004
The sky above the Long Island Sound was clear and tranquil. The moon was just one day past being full, and it cast a considerable amount of light down upon the earth below. The sky was starkly velvet, giving the impression of peace and safety to all in the area.
Except for the six teenage demigods who stood near Halfblood Hill, all of whom were now bracing themselves as a massive horde of monsters charged towards them.
A battle was set to commence under this clear sky. A battle that could change the course of everything, and a battle that could stain the autumn leaves red if everything were to go wrong; rendering the potentially gory ground as an abrupt juxtaposition to the serene sky above.
Of the six gathered demigods, three of them rushed forward to meet the monsters’ charge, whilst the other three held their ground and took a more defensive stance.
One of the three who rushed forward could feel his heart pounding as he raised his celestial bronze sword. It was odd, Ace thought, how one noticed the smallest things in the most significant of moments. The only things he noticed as he rushed forward was that he felt altogether too calm given the present situation and that the gleam of the moonlight from his sword was quite a sight.
Then, the collision happened.
Ace got within range and sliced through three telkhines before any of them even had the time to lash out. Faster than he could perceive, he cut down an empousai and two dracaena. He was hardly thinking, just allowing his body to react naturally and carry him through battle. If what Annabeth had told Andy on the drive to Camp Halfblood was true, ADHD was a natural component of being a demigod. It supposedly served as a sort of trigger for battle instincts. Ace had no idea whether ADHD was to thank for his natural aptitude, but he was hardly going to question whatever it was.
The most difficult part of the battle’s early stages was resisting the urge to look around him. He could hear weapons colliding as monsters clashed with his friends and companions. He also hadn’t forgotten that Blaze, Andy and Annabeth only seemed to be armed with knives — Blaze and Andy having received theirs courtesy of the Hunters of Artemis. Ace had nothing against them on principle, but he suspected knives would be of little use against monsters who, in some cases, were armed with more long-range weapons such as swords, spears, and javelins.
Ace honestly found himself more nervous for them than for himself, even though he knew exactly who the real target of this ambush was. That thought was doubtlessly going to wrack him with guilt later if he survived and any of his friends had suffered serious injuries, but his brain currently wasn’t processing emotions like guilt. Anything that might result in so much as a moment’s hesitation was ruthlessly shoved to the wayside. Ace knew enough about combat to know one true principle — even if he was extrapolating a hand-to-hand combat philosophy onto sword fighting.
Hesitation got you hurt.
In the heat of battle, thinking could be one’s downfall. That would actually explain the part about ADHD, for it would probably be of some help in this regard. Thinking of strategies and next moves in the heat of battle took time. The brain needed to correctly intake and interpret the information around you, after which it then needed to take time to devise an answer based on a countless number of past experiences, extrapolating data from any relevant sources it could find.
Reacting was different.
It was simply muscle memory, even if that term is flawed in many regards. In reality, it was similar to the previous concept, just with one major twist.
The brain didn’t need to do the extrapolating, cross-referencing, and devising when it’s simply choosing to react. It absorbs the information and falls back on previously formed neurological pathways.
Ace was just reacting, moving this way and that as adrenaline took him over. His heart pumped fast and hard, and blood raced through his system like fast-flowing water down a steeply declining stream.
This was how the first number of minutes went.
Ace didn’t feel the accumulative wear and tear that his body had been subjected to; wear and tear that was now only worsening due to his current activities. He didn’t feel fear, at least not for himself, either. He just moved, reacted, and largely felt invincible. The more monsters he cut down with ruthless efficiency, the more his confidence swelled.
Until the Erinyes showed up.
It started with the heavy beating of wings, and Ace only just managed to duck fast enough to avoid having his throat slit by long, razor-sharp talons.
That was when he turned to see the three torturers of Hades.
To make matters worse, they had him surrounded.
“In the name of Hades, it is time for you to die,” hissed Alecto.
Ace just took a deep breath and prepared to most probably meet his end.
Then, he raised his sword and charged at the incarnation of never-ceasing anger just as dark, grey clouds began to roll in, veiling the land far below.
Meanwhile, in the Big House…
Chiron was suddenly awoken by a loud clap of thunder that shook the old, wood floors of the Big House. It was an odd thing, for such weather never approached the valley their camp sat in the middle of unless they wanted it to.
They had most certainly not chosen for it to happen.
As quickly as he could, Chiron dressed in a nightgown and hastened out onto the house’s wraparound balcony and peered up towards the crest of the hill.
Storm clouds had begun to gather around the outskirts of the valley, and they were darker and more vengeful-looking than any clouds Chiron had seen in many decades. On the hill itself, he could, of course, make out the pine tree that had once been Thalia Grace, but he could also make out an even more disturbing image.
A massive horde of monsters the likes of which he hadn’t seen in years, all swarming forward.
That could only mean one thing.
Ace Iverson had arrived at Camp Halfblood, and very sudden action needed to be taken at once.
With a sigh and a determined expression, Chiron snatched a drachmae off of the nearest table and marched back into the Big House with purpose.
He had some Iris messages to send…
Back on Halfblood Hill…
Ace realized he would die about three seconds after he charged the Erinyes. Alecto swooped out of the way effortlessly, and her talons slashed across Ace’s forearm so fast, her movement had appeared blurred. At the same time, Tisiphone swooped down from behind and raked her own talons down Ace’s back.
With a cry of pain, he fell, and the Erinyes bore down upon before he could move. Ace had no doubt they intended to swarm him and probably tear out his throat or something equally morbid.
But before that could happen, the world suddenly vanished.
Vanished in the metaphorical sense, that was.
There was a loud sound and all of a sudden, the world was hidden behind what seemed to be an impenetrable veil of white light. Even when Ace closed his eyes, the light seemed to shine straight through his eyelids, and its image seemed to be imprinted into his mind, for it was all he could see.
As unpleasant as it was for Ace, it was far worse for the Erinyes.
“Get the fuck up outta here!” screamed Cato, slaying one of them with his spear before driving the other two off. Ace was still seeing stars by the time he slowly and painfully clambered to his feet, but he was cognitive enough to take an educated guess at what had just happened.
Evidently, not all of Cato’s weapons had been packed in his bag and therefore, not all of his weapons had been destroyed when Cerberus had crushed their rented van. If Ace had to guess, he would assume Cato had been carrying that flash grenade in his pocket ever since they had left Nashville. Maybe more than that one, but Ace wouldn’t bet on it. Fitting and concealing one alone was impressive. Any more than that might have been completely implausible.
“You alright, bubba?” asked Cato, his eyes falling at once on Ace’s back.
Ace could feel the blood oozing from where Tisiphone’s talons had slashed across his skin. The shirt he had on underneath his windbreaker was sticking to him, which was his first indication that the cut wasn’t good. His second was the feeling of numb that surrounded the affected area. Most often, the worst cuts actually hurt the least. Usually, because it meant the cut was deep enough to affect the nerves, hence preventing them from sending a warning signal to the brain; a warning signal that just so happened to manifest as the pain we feel after damaging our body.
The sleeve of his windbreaker was wet with blood from the cut on his forearm, but the material didn’t stick to him the same way his t-shirt did.
“I’m fine,” he lied to Cato, noticing that there seemed to be a lull in the action all around them, likely as a result of Cato’s flash grenade. “How are the others doing?”
Judging by the look on Cato’s face, he didn’t know any better than Ace, and both of them turned to search out their companions.
Luke was who Ace spotted first. He was bleeding from a cut on his arm not too dissimilar from Ace’s as he cut down monster after monster as if he were a vengeful whirlwind.
Then, Ace’s searching gaze found the others.
Annabeth and Blaze were slicing at anything that got close to them with their knives — though the latter was doing so with much less practiced movements than the former.
That wasn’t what shocked Ace.
What shocked Ace was Andreia, who now appeared to be wielding a full-sized harpoon as she faced down a herd of telkhines.
“Huh,” said Cato, “I did not expect that.”
Andreia quickly realized that she was grossly unfit to use a knife. Well, she wasn’t horrible with it, but she was nowhere near good enough to survive the battle they were in. Neither was Blaze, in fairness, but both of them were relying heavily on Annabeth — who was doing most of the heavy lifting on their part.
That was until Andreia found herself facing down a pack of telkhines. She glanced around but immediately realized both Blaze and Annabeth were engaged in their own battles. As for Ace, Luke, and Cato… she had no idea. She hadn’t caught sight of any of them since they had disappeared into the main herd of beasts, she had been too busy with her own forms of mortal peril.
She needed to do something or this was going to be it; there was no way she could face down this many armed telkhines with a silver dagger.
Her first thought was to draw on the power of the ocean. She could hear it churning even from here, but she had always had a sort of superhuman ability to detect with water with all five senses. She instinctively knew it was much too far away to be wielded, which meant she was without her greatest weapon.
Andy’s eyes fell to her collar, beneath which was a necklace she had possessed for a number of years.
A gift from who she had believed to be her brother in all but blood, Triton.
Now, she realized that Triton might well be the Triton, and her thoughts on the necklace had suddenly shifted quite drastically.
September 2, 2001
New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA
The sun was beginning to slowly descend in the sky, causing its light to more directly beam down into the water, causing a harsh glare to blind those who looked from the wrong angle.
From her spot perched upon a rock a ways out in the water, Andreia was cognizant of this, even if she wasn’t paying the most attention to it. Most of her attention was focused on the older boy sitting beside her on the rock.
He was eighteen — six years older than Andy herself — and he had the type of body one might expect from a surfer. His skin was deeply and perfectly tanned, and he was well-muscled. He looked just as young as he was, with vibrant green eyes and long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. Andreia had mocked him for the look in her younger years, but she had secretly come to appreciate it over time.
“What’s got you so down?” asked Triton, eyeing Andy with obvious concern.
She bit her lip and did her best not to fidget. “School’s starting soon,” she muttered.
Triton raised an eyebrow. “And?”
“And it means I won’t be able to spend time out here or with you. Not much of it, anyway. You’re never around any time other than the summers, and I’m not much either. I’ll be spending most of my time at school or studying and soon enough, it’ll be too cold to even swim.” Triton chuckled, which only made Andreia glare at him with the intensity of Medusa attempting to petrify her next victim. “It’s not funny!”
“It’s not,” admitted Triton, “but your reaction is hilarious.” Andy tried to shove him off the rock but Triton just shrugged her off. “Seriously, Andy, it’ll be fine. Just think how nice it will make next summer feel.”
She pouted. “That means I have to wait until next summer though.”
Triton sighed in an obviously hyperbolized and overly theatrical manner. “Will you shut up with your whining if I gave you something?” His voice was a mixture of teasing and mischievous, and it drew Andy’s attention at once.
“That depends on what you give me,” she retorted.
Triton smiled and reached into the pocket of his shorts, withdrawing a necklace that made Andy’s breath catch.
It was an elegant necklace with two charms. The first of which was a rooster and the second was an ocean-blue whaling harpoon.
“Do you like it?” asked Triton.
“It’s beautiful,” breathed Andy, looking up at her brother in all but blood with wide eyes. “You’re giving this to me?”
Triton smiled and nodded. “Should hopefully give you some good luck. The rooster is a sign of good luck. It’s even been used in the past as a symbol to ward off evil.”
“And the harpoon?”
Triton’s grin broadened. “If you’re ever in trouble, just pull the charm off the necklace.” He winked as Andreia laughed at the unbelievable, fairytale-esque statement, but she gratefully took the necklace nonetheless.
Back in the present…
In a moment of what was surely foolish desperation born from watching far too many Disney movies as a little girl, Andreia reached up and pulled off the harpoon charm.
Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head when, within a second, she was suddenly holding a full-sized harpoon at the ready.
Even the telkhines were taken aback. They faltered, now unsure of how to proceed.
Then Andreia sent the harpoon straight through one of their chests and to her utter awe, the weapon flew back into her hand with a resounding ‘smack’ after striking down its target.
The telkhines fled, and Andy spun around, eyes intently searching out her next target.
Ace didn’t have a whole lot of time to watch Andreia as she began dismantling her — very taken aback-looking — opposition with a harpoon she had seemingly pulled from nowhere. The small bit he did get to see amazed him, but he was, at present, more concerned about not dying.
The effects of Cato’s flash grenade had long since worn off, and the two of them were now once more locked in a battle for their life. Ace could feel his movements slowing down as his back began to protest. The skin seemed to groan each time it was stretched as Ace avoided another blow or repositioned himself. He could only imagine the way his movements were slowly peeling the wound open wider and wider. It wasn’t a pleasant image, but death was far less pleasant in his opinion, so he would take what he could get.
The pain of his wound had been one thing, but the pain of getting kicked in the chest by a fifteen-foot tall being was another thing altogether. Ace became airborne and was sent flying ten or so feet. His back slammed hard into the ground, but it was noticeably not as hard as it probably should have been. Internally muttering a quick thanks to his newly discovered father, he clambered to his feet and had to resist the urge to flinch.
Half a dozen cyclopes were marching towards him, each of them between twelve and eighteen feet tall. Some of them wielded massive axes, whereas others carried roughly-hewn bats of wood or whatever other material they had managed to acquire. Two of them were actually unarmed, but Ace doubted it would matter. One of them would just have to grab him, at which point there would be very little he could do to stop them from doing whatever they liked.
This was it; he was actually going to die this time.
Cato didn’t even seem to see him, so intent he was on fighting the empousai that was trying to kill him at every turn. Luke was nowhere to be seen and Andy, Blaze, and Annabeth were much too far behind to help him.
His eyes searched out all of his friends. Morbid as the thought might have been, he wanted a good glimpse at each of them before he made what would likely be his final stand. When his eyes found Andy, they widened in horror. A dracaena was sneaking up behind her, and Ace could see it would kill her before she even noticed it.
Several things happened all at once.
Ace screamed “NO!” louder than he had ever screamed anything in his life and thunder shook the sky as a jagged barb of lightning arced out of the heavens, striking and incinerating the empousai before it could so much as touch Andy.
Oh, and a tornado touched down on Halfblood Hill.
That was also a thing.
It just so happened to be a thing that touched down all around Ace.
He hadn’t willed it to happen — not consciously, at the very least — but it had. Before the army of giant, one-eyed beasts could murder him, the wind picked up all at once, so strong that they struggled to move forward, looking all the world like they were trapped in quicksand. Ace felt his feet lift off the ground faster than he could put together what was going on, but he quickly realized that a literal tornado had formed around him and was slowly elevating him into the sky.
Before he knew it, Ace seemed to be standing atop the tornado, even though he knew no such thing should have been possible. The craziest thing about it all was that he didn’t even feel off-balance. He felt as though his feet were firmly planted on the ground and from this height, he could survey the entire battlefield.
That was when he made yet another realization as he noticed something about himself when he tried to look around.
He was glowing.
Or, more accurately, he was surrounded by — and encompassed in — a bright, golden light. His hair was whipping ethereally in the wind and, all of a sudden, he felt no pain from his back or forearm. He didn’t feel weary, either. He felt like he had slept for days, suddenly feeling more energized than he had ever felt before.
When he saw an empousai slash its claws across Cato’s shoulder, he somehow didn’t even feel nervous. He knew what to do; he couldn’t explain how he just did.
Ace pointed at the empousai, and she was suddenly and immediately obliterated by another bolt of lightning.
Ace intuitively knew this wasn’t something he was likely ever going to be able to replicate. Somehow, he knew divine intervention was at play, so he naturally decided to take advantage of the situation and blast the ever-loving shit out of every monster he could point to that was a safe distance away from his friends.
In essence, Ace went nuclear.
Blaze was not having a good time.
He had virtually no practice fighting with knives, and a knife was all he had at his disposal to hopefully help him not die.
Granted, the whole ‘not dying thing’ had gotten a lot easier when Ace had suddenly ascended into the sky atop a tornado as if he were some sort of god and began ruthlessly smiting their enemies with lightning.
Blaze lived in England. He had been through his fair share of rainy days and even thunderstorms, but he had never seen anything like this. He was no environmental scientist, but he was pretty sure lightning wasn’t supposed to blast out of the sky repetitively and without more than a two-second delay before the next blast for a period of about ten minutes.
Yet still, they hadn’t won.
The horde of monsters had thinned dramatically and by now, all three of the (in)famous Erinyes were dead, but there were still plenty of monsters to deal with.
One of which just so happened to be a massive hellhound that made Blaze’s blood run cold.
He wasn’t afraid of many things, but even just being near a dog was enough to make his heartbeat quicken. When he was a kid, he had been bitten and scratched by a large dog owned by some drunk asshole at the park. It hadn’t even really been the dog’s fault. Its owner had been yelling at it and it was clearly on edge. Young Blaze had just had the misfortune of startling it as he ran past, but his mind had never quite been able to forget that memory.
Even now, twelve and a half years later, it still haunted him. Just being near a normal dog made his breathing speed up. Being this close to a hellhound was actually making him shake.
“Blaze!” Annabeth exclaimed, “watch out!”
Blaze didn’t question her, he just listened. Thankfully he did, for a trident whizzed past his head. Annabeth was less fortunate. She had taken her attention off of the hellhound long enough to warn Blaze, and that had apparently been all the opening the beast had needed.
It swatted Annabeth with its paw and sent her flying as if she were a toy. Blaze could see it tense, ready to finish her off. He glanced towards Ace but immediately realized there was no chance he would be able to save their new acquaintance. The tornado holding him aloft was quickly sputtering out and Blaze could see, even from a distance, that Ace looked utterly exhausted.
He didn’t think about what he did next, it just happened.
The world seemed to a panicked blur of motion as he charged towards the hellhound. Next thing he knew, he was atop the thing’s back as fear gave way to fury and indignance. Whether he trusted Annabeth or not, he was not going to let her die moments after she had saved his life. Even outside of the moral dilemmas that would pose, he would also feel as though he owed her a debt he could never repay.
Benedict Lane paid his debts.
This one just so happened to be paid by driving his knife into the hellhound’s mane and taking a sick sort of satisfaction at the way it whimpered and melted into shadows.
When he hit the ground, Blaze turned to check up on Ace.
But it wasn’t the sight of Ace that took his breath away…
Soaring high above the battlefield and hurling lightning at will had been really cool until it wasn’t.
Ace had quickly realized he could actually control the tornado’s movements with mere thoughts, and he basically became a god amongst men for those few minutes of glory. Monsters rushed towards the tornado or threw weapons at him, but nothing worked. Any oncoming weapons were just blown away before they could even reach him, and he was far too high in the air to fear any short-range attacks.
Unfortunately, commanding the forces of nature was apparently really tiring.
Within five minutes, Ace was covered in sweat and breathing as if he had just run a mile. Within ten, his legs were shaking and struggling to hold him up, and within twelve, the tornado was not-so-slowly blowing itself out.
And then it did, and Ace fell a long way to the ground. If he was anyone but the son of Zeus, the fall would have killed him. As it was, the air did seem to slow his fall a bit, but it still hurt like hell and he found it impossible to stand after he landed.
Breath wouldn’t come and he felt stabbing pain on either side of his abdomen every time he tried to intake oxygen. Moving was even worse and monsters were not bearing down upon him.
This was the end.
Or at least it would have been, had their saviours not arrived.
The sound of pounding footsteps and war cries could suddenly be heard, and the monsters seemed to realize what was happening before any of the six demigods on the hill.
And then every single camper residing at Camp Halfblood poured over the crest of the hill, most of them dressed to the nines in full Greek battle armour.
Volleys of arrows flew through the sky, cutting down about half the remaining monsters before they could regroup. Many others fell to campers wielding swords, spears, javelins, tridents, knives, and other weapons Ace didn’t even have names for.
His vision was swimming as blackness began to close in on all sides, and his last thought before succumbing to unconsciousness was that he really hoped the monsters didn’t have reinforcements of their own.
This is probably my favourite chapter yet, so I really hope you enjoy it. Very different from my typical style, but I would like to think I made it work quite well, in my completely unbiased opinion…
I promise I didn’t just make Ace worldbreakingly overpowered. That tornado scene was sort of a one-time thing that will be explained in the next chapter, which will actually be season 1’s penultimate instalment. If any of you can guess what that scene was in the reviews before the next chapter, all the more power to you.
Please read and review.
A massive thank you is also extended to my first top-tier Patron, Κυρία της φωτιάς, Lily of Dreams, for her generous support on that platform! An additional shoutout is extended to my Oracle-level Patron, 3CP, for his unwavering support as well. Your guys’ support means the world to me.
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