Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter IX: A Deadly Dose of Déjà Vu
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 16, 2004
For all the fuss that was made about the golden beauty of the west, many would consider the eastern United States to be the most beautiful part of the country. In particular, Long Island Sound was rather appealing. Its sprawling fields dotted the land with colour, as the fall leaves were strewn across it, resting atop the grass like a warm, protective blanket against the oncoming cold of the winter.
If one travelled far enough down an old, country road past countless multitudes of these bright clusters of nature, they would come to the crest of a large hill. It too would be covered in leaves, though the lone pine tree that cast much of the hill into shadow wasn’t stripped of its vibrancy by the cold.
Over this hill, a massive valley unfolded, surrounded by forests and a beach, Long Island Sound twinkling dead ahead. The water churned turbulently, uneasy and agitated. No rain had come, but the sky loomed dark and angry, filled with storm clouds every bit as restless as the water far below them. As did the wind, which nipped bitingly at anyone unfortunate enough to suffer its bitter wrath.
Situated in the centre of this massive valley, dominating a large portion of it and sheltering those within from the cruelties of nature, was a large manor house. It stood four stories tall, including the basement and attic, and was surrounded by an old, wraparound porch. The house’s most striking feature wasn’t architectural, but instead the flamboyant, sky-blue coat of paint — a stark contrast to the stormy sky above.
Currently, the only occupied room was a fairly large recreation room, containing a ping-pong table in its centre. That same ping-pong table was currently in use, not for a game, but for a meeting of what might have been the single-most-important group of teenagers in the world.
Oh, and a centaur… and a god. They were there, too.
The centaur sat at the head of the table. Dionysus — Mr. D, to the campers — sat directly across from him at the far side of the table.
Four head counsellors sat at one side of the table: Clarisse La Rue, Charlus Beckendorf, Katie Gardner, and Castor Morrigan. Sitting across from them were their counterparts: Luke Castellan, Annabeth Chase, Silena Beauregard, and Lee Fletcher.
Even outside of the importance of all of these teens, they were extremely abnormal. Well actually, they were most significant because of their abnormality.
They weren’t exactly… human.
Well, they were half-human, if that counted for anything.
Every single one of them had a godly parent. In some fashion or another, all of them had been sired by one of the Greek gods of Olympus.
In the case of the tall blonde girl with stormy grey eyes, it had been Athena who’d brought her into the world, even if she’d done so in an… unorthodox fashion.
Annabeth surveyed those around her with a pensive countenance. She was the youngest of the gathered counsellors, though she had more beads on her camp necklace — one bead for each year at camp — than almost all of them. Of course, Luke had the same number as her, but he was different. He’d actually been on a quest, for one thing. Nobody else at the table could boast of that.
Meetings of the counsellors and camp directors weren’t particularly frequent, though they weren’t terribly rare, either. Usually, they were scheduled in advance. If they weren’t, something major had necessitated it. Annabeth knew with complete certainty that the latter was the case. Not only because she had no idea of the meeting’s subject, but because Chiron and Mr. D were uncharacteristically stoic.
The centaur, in particular, looked every bit his three thousand years of age. He didn’t look as if he’d slept at all, and the stress of whatever situation was on hand was discernible in his aged, lined countenance. Even Dionysus wasn’t his usual, sarcastic self. He was rather muted and seemed as if he wouldn’t be making any interjections in today’s meeting.
Annabeth could tell she wasn’t the only one who’d noticed, either. Luke had tensed beside her, and Clarisse’s brown eyes darted around as if analyzing a battlefield. Silena seemed nervous, as did Katie. Beckendorf was completely impassive, but he was always that way. Annabeth was the only one who could read him, but she had certain… advantages the others did not.
Chiron cleared his throat. The tension in the room seemed to both thicken and lessen at the same time. It was odd. On one hand, the anticipation had mounted to nearly unbearable levels. On the other, the growing wonder as to who would start the meeting — and when they would do — so had finally been broken.
“Shall we begin?” Chiron asked from his wheelchair situated at the head of the long table, two seats to Annabeth’s right. Nobody objected, so Chiron took that as his cue to begin. “Welcome, everyone, and thank you for coming on such short notice. Mr. D and I have been expecting this meeting for some time, but we know that none of you were aware of it until today, so we are grateful you’re all here.” Dionysus didn’t look particularly grateful, but no one minded much. He was simply there, as usual.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why this meeting was called?” Everybody nodded at Chiron’s question and Annabeth felt herself leaning forward. Damn Athena and her natural thirst for knowledge. That just so happened to mean that her children were blessed — or cursed, depending on how you looked at it — with a natural curiosity that was difficult to manage at times. “We meet today,” Chiron continued, “by the order of Olympus. The King of Olympus, in fact.”
Muttering erupted around the table as soon as Chiron finished speaking. Baffled and awestruck looks were exchanged as the tension thickened even more, something Annabeth hadn’t known was possible. From her right-hand side, Luke was studying Chiron with a suspicious look. Annabeth couldn’t blame him. She’d been at camp for four and a half years now, and had never heard of any Olympian directly ordering anything. Well, except for Luke’s brief quest on behalf of his father. Even then, with full respect to Hermes, he was no Zeus.
“Yes, yes,” Chiron said, attempting to restore a facade of order, “this meeting has been ordered by Zeus himself.” He paused. “Technically speaking, I suppose it is only a quest that was ordered by the King of the Gods. However, it is standard camp procedure to hold these meetings before major quests are permitted. Of course, while there is no question that we will permit a quest ordered by Zeus himself, the question remains as to who shall go on this quest.”
“And what it is,” Clarisse muttered, but not quite quietly enough for Chiron to not hear her. “That would also be helpful.”
“Indeed it would, my dear,” the centaur said with a smile, removing a golden drachma from his pocket. “Mr. D, if you would?” Dionysus merely grunted, waving his hand and creating a shimmering mist of water in the air. “O Iris, goddess of the Rainbow, please accept my offering.” With a well-practiced flick of his wrist, Chiron sent the ancient currency sailing into the mist before intoning, “Show me Ace Iverson, at the Staples Center.”
The mist seemed to flicker before an image displayed itself. Annabeth’s brows knit together. The image showed a boy. An ordinary boy, by all accounts. He looked no older than her, had light brown hair, sky blue eyes and chiselled facial features. Okay, so maybe he was decent-looking, and he had a distinct athletic build, but Annabeth couldn’t imagine why a full meeting of the camp counsellors would be called to watch a middle school student.
Right up until he led a herd of laestrygonian giants headlong into an explosive death trap.
Those around the table started murmuring among themselves, but Chiron silenced them with a look and waved his hand through the misty vapour still hovering in the air.
The scene changed, and Annabeth gaped.
The same boy was standing on what appeared to be the side of a busy highway. She couldn’t tell where they were, but it looked hot, so she assumed somewhere in the southern United States.
This wasn’t what made Annabeth gape though. Nor was it what made Katie Gardner pale and look sick, just as Silena Beauregard let out a high pitched squeal of terror.
This boy was facing down what was unmistakably the Minotaur.
Annabeth had never seen it before, but this monster could be nothing other than the famous foe of Theseus.
They watched in collective awe as the boy leapt straight over the bull, as if it were merely a hurdle, then jumped onto the thing’s back and led it straight into a hastily constructed death trap.
Annabeth forcefully retracted her earlier statement.
Whoever the hell this boy was, he was absolutely not normal.
With another wave of his hand, Chiron changed the scene once more. This time, the campers actually let out exclamations of awe as the boy used a spear to pole-vault into the air, doing a full front flip before landing on his feet as if nothing had happened, throwing the spear to his companion and just moving casually along.
That wasn’t even mentioning how high he’d vaulted from.
His legs should have been shattered.
“I think that’s enough to get the point across,” Chiron decided and with one final wave of his hand, the images ceased as the shimmering water vanished with a snap of Mr. D’s fingers. Chiron peered across the table at all of them, studying each individual in turn. “Can anyone guess why I am showing you all of this?”
Annabeth had ideas. She suspected Luke might as well but it was hard to be sure. His expression was guarded and he was looking anywhere but at her, which made it a lot more difficult to get a read on him.
Evidently, Chiron noticed her suspicions. Or, he just called her out seeing as she was the daughter of the wisdom goddess. That was also possible. “Any ideas, Annabeth, my dear?”
She didn’t speak for about ten seconds as she stared at the centaur intently. “He’s a son of Zeus, isn’t he? That fall should have been devastating.”
Sombrely, Chiron nodded, and the room fell into complete and utter chaos as the campers were struck by that revelation with all the force of a speeding train.
“Impossible,” one of them said.
“Again?” said another.
“What are we going to do?”
“Can’t Zeus just keep it in his pants?”
That last one was Clarisse and it did a rather admirable job of easing the tension in the room. Annabeth was sure the daughter of Ares hadn’t planned for it to happen that way, but she was equally sure the girl in question would happily take credit for it if the point ever arose.
“I know that you doubtlessly have questions,” Chiron said tiredly. “Some of them can be answered now. Others will not be elaborated on until later. Some because I cannot speak on them, others because I don’t know myself. I will answer what I can, but you must have patience.” He looked sternly at each of them in turn. “Above all else, this cannot leave this room. I cannot force any of you to swear it on the River Styx, nor would I make you if I could. But this information is too sensitive — too important. No matter what happens, none of you are to speak of this to anybody who was not privy to this meeting. Do I make myself clear?” They all nodded and he sighed. “Very well then. Questions?”
The room exploded into chatter all at once, and it took several minutes to begin answering the questions. In the end, Lee Fletcher got to ask first. “Shouldn’t this be impossible? Didn’t the Big Three swear off children like… sixty years ago?”
Chiron scratched his beard. “They did, yes. Near the end of World War II. Their children were too powerful. They were changing the course of human history too drastically. Unfortunately, when three immortal beings swear on the Styx, it means much less than you might think.”
“Because there’s nothing that binds them,” Luke said darkly. “They can’t die; they’re immortal. What do they have to fear from breaking their vow?”
“Precisely,” Chiron agreed. “Which is why Zeus has now broken the pact twice. To our knowledge, both Hades and Poseidon have stayed true to their word, at least for now.”
“So what do we do?” Clarisse asked, looking more alert than Annabeth had ever seen her outside of the sword arena or during a game of capture the flag.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Luke asked, his voice hard and determined. When he received mostly blank stares his jaw tightened. “We find him and bring him to camp.” He turned his head to look directly and pointedly towards Chiron. “That was Zeus’s command, wasn’t it? He ordered a quest to get his son safely to camp. He didn’t want to take any chances after… last time.”
Luke’s words hung in the air and Annabeth felt a painful pull in her gut at the implications of their failure to get Thalia safely to Camp Halfblood. It might have been four and a half years ago, but Annabeth still had horrible nightmares from that adventure. The final night, in particular. Between the encounter with the cyclops and the crushing loss of one of her first true friends, she easily considered that night as the worst of her life.
Chiron nodded; there was no point in denying it. The cat was out of the bag and a heavy silence fell over the table. “I’m going.” Luke’s voice was firm and seemed to broach no arguments.
“You can’t just say you’re going,” Clarisse said hotly with a roll of her eyes. “That isn’t how this works. We discuss it and then vote on who is the most capable—”
“Would you argue that I’m not the most capable, Clarisse?”
Everybody knew that it was a rhetorical question. Luke was the best swordsman the camp had seen in the past three hundred years. He also had more experience than any of them. No matter the results of his single quest, its mere existence meant that Luke had been on exactly one more expedition than the rest of them.
“I would tend to agree that Luke is likely most well-suited for this challenge,” Chiron said carefully. “As he knows very well, a child of Zeus is bound to attract a ridiculous number of monsters. That is assuming Hades or Hera has not already sought to it that the boy is eliminated on principle. If they have, this task will only be even more daunting.”
“I’m ready,” Luke said without hesitating. “I accept the challenge from Lord Zeus if the council will allow me.”
Chiron glanced around the room. “Do we have any objections?”
Nobody said a word. Even Clarisse seemed suitably cowed.
“Very well. It seems as if our quest has its leader.” A mutter of assent shot down the table. “So long as there are no groundbreaking objections to your choice, it is your right to choose companions, Luke.” He paused. “Or in this case, a companion.”
“I thought if a quest was to be carried out in a group, it was supposed to be three?” Annabeth asked. “It’s a powerful number about fate, is it not?”
Chiron smiled. “It is indeed, my dear, as you well know. There are three Fates, three Furies, and three great Olympian sons of Kronos, among other things.”
“Then why aren’t three going on this quest?”
“Fewer people attract fewer monsters,” Luke said quietly. “If we’re going after a son of Zeus and his friend — who also doesn’t exactly look like a pushover, by the way — then our numbers should be limited.”
“Two is a precaution,” Chiron admitted. “Just in case… the worst were to happen.” The atmosphere in the room darkened, but Chiron didn’t allow the silence to stretch on for too long. “Well, Luke, do you have a counterpart in mind?”
Annabeth’s heart raced as Luke’s blue eyes roamed calculatingly over the gathered counsellors. Dread filled her when they never landed on her, but a second later, Luke cracked an easy smile and nodded. “Annabeth,” he said simply.
Chiron seemed to age in front of Annabeth’s very eyes. She’d asked him to go on quests for years. Practically ever since Thalia had perished that fateful night years earlier. He had always turned her down. Not because he didn’t think her ready, but because “her time had yet to come”. She would get her chance, the centaur had assured her, but it would come when somebody special arrived at camp.
Now she knew that this Ace Iverson was that somebody special.
Not exactly hard to work out when one considered that he was the son of Zeus, defeater of Kronos and King of the Gods.
“You’re… quite sure, Luke? She is young.”
“There was never any doubt.” The confidence in Luke’s voice made Annabeth beam at him, practically glowing with pride under his proclamation.
Chiron sighed. “Well then, I suppose there is only one thing left for you to do, my child. It is time for you to consult the Oracle.”
Several hours later, in Buffalo…
Ace had gone through his fair share of shitty days in his life.
Major losses in sports, particularly gruesome days of bullying, the day he’d been expelled from Ridgemont… the list went on.
But without doubt, this was the shittiest day of his life thus far. Simply because of how close he’d been to freedom, just to have it forcefully stripped away from him at the last possible second. It was as if fate itself had chosen to taunt him. It seemed too cruel to be a simple coincidence and in a world where Greek monsters were real, he saw no reason why divine intervention was an unreasonable target of blame.
Just as they’d neared the bridge that would take them into Canada, everything had gone wrong.
It was completely blocked off by monsters of every variety. Not only were there dracaena, telkhines, Laestrygonian giants and empousai, but there were things Ace hadn’t seen. He recognized several hellhounds on sight. They were pretty much exactly as they sounded and had been described in the myths, but that didn’t make them any less terrifying.
“Fuck!” Cato screamed and in the single stupidest yet doubtlessly the coolest thing Ace had ever seen, Cato slammed on the hand brake and spun his wheel furiously.
The top of the line Porsche 911 executed a perfect, one-hundred-eighty degree drift, turning into the correct lane of traffic and accelerating once more, taking them away from the packs of monsters that were leering at them, calling for their bloody, gory deaths.
It was all quite morbid, actually.
“What do we do now?” Ace moaned.
Cato seemed to be thinking hard. “You live in Ontario, right?” Ace nodded. “Well, if they know that, they’ll have all entrances to Ontario blocked off. Maybe even Quebec, too.” He thought for a moment. “We could cross by water, but the nearest place I could think that wouldn’t take us into Ontario or Quebec directly would be Boston. I assume monsters aren’t as bad on the Canadian side, since you didn’t get swarmed until coming to the US. Once we get ya across, it should be smooth sailing.”
Ace hated this plan.
He hated this plan with a passion.
He and water didn’t get along.
He knew how to swim; that wasn’t the problem.
He’d had an incident with his stepfather when he was three-years-old that had involved the flipping of a canoe. By his stepfather’s own admission, he’d nearly drowned. To this day, Ace still remembered the impossible sensation he’d felt. As if the water itself were grabbing him, pulling him downwards.
Swimming indoors was one thing.
He’d been forced to do that for hockey as part of his conditioning, but outdoors… that was a no-go.
Ace hated water outdoors. It was one of the few things that genuinely scared him.
But it wasn’t exactly like he had much of a choice in the matter.
Between dying at the claws of some vicious monster and risking the open waters… well, he didn’t have to like it, but it was really his only option.
Great — not only had he been this close to freedom, now he had to brave open waters.
Gods, this day sucked!
Ace was so distracted by the horrors of the day, and Cato likewise with not crashing while driving about a hundred miles an hour over the speed limit, that neither of them noticed the pack of silver-coated wolves suspiciously tailing them. Nor the fact that the wolves seemed to have no trouble keeping up with one of the faster cars available for purchase on the planet.
Meanwhile, on a Greyhound bus out of New York…
Luke was deeply shaken and he knew it. Worse still, was that Annabeth knew it. She had mentioned as much to him, and it had come as no surprise. She was better at reading people than anyone he’d ever met. It wasn’t even close. Hell, it wasn’t even close to being close.
The worst part about all of it was that he wanted to tell her.
She was perhaps his only true friend at Camp Halfblood.
But he couldn’t tell her this.
Not on her first quest.
How could he possibly tell her that the prophecy he’d heard earlier that day seemed to ordain that he would tread a path that would make her shiver in her boots?
Earlier that day, in the Big House’s attic…
For the second time in his life, Luke stared, transfixed, at the old mummy which contained the spirit of Delphi, Oracle of Apollo, Messenger of Fate, and Speaker of Prophecies.
Dust seemed to cling to the figure, coating it lightly like the first snow of winter.
“I am the spirit of Delphi, speaker of the prophecies of Phoebus Apollo, slayer of the mighty Python. Approach, seeker, and ask.”
With a deep, shuddering breath, Luke spoke. “How do I find Ace Iverson and bring him to Camp Halfblood?”
All dust seemed to vanish at once as if the metaphorical snow had been subjected to the heat of a supernova. The air around him seemed to thicken. Not with tension, but with… something else.
His skin crawled and every hair stood on end as an irrational feeling of dread and terror stopped his heart. Perhaps this was the price for mortals calling upon the forces of what might well be another realm. Everything about the room felt unnatural as the oracle began to move and Luke felt a presence seductively snake its way into his mind before sinisterly hissing the secrets of the future in a cryptic, ominous tongue that he had no hope of truly deciphering before its spoken truths came to pass.
“Fate’s herald shall be found by the oldest of friends,
His life shall be halted as his goals meet their end.
His journey’s climax draws near as great forces unite,
Together with friends, he shall wait in the light.
The final night comes, cleansing the sins of the past,
As the fated pawn steps onto his long foresworn path.”
And there it is! The first major (ish) cliffhanger in Fabric of Fate. Fair warning, I take sadistic pleasure in leaving readers on cliffhangers, so it will be far from the last.
In canon, Castor and Pollux — the sons of Dionysus — were never given last names. It would have been odd to have only them referred to without them, so I chose one for them.
In other news, Ace’s godly parent is now in the open. Not that it was ever a mystery, nor was it really meant to be. I had him take a blast of lightning, for Olympus’s sake. Anyway, a lot of other foreshadowings in this chapter for an idea that I don’t think has been used in a PJO fic. Granted, I haven’t read many of them, but I feel as if this would be a trope if it had been.
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