Fabric of Fate
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.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena, as well as my other betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.
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Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
December 23, 2004
Caldecott Tunnel, Berkeley, California
“Pussies,” Caleb muttered as another car sped past them so fast that their hair blew back from its wind.
“May I ask what that poor, innocent car did to draw your ire?” Cadmus asked.
“Oh, the car’s fine, it’s the guy inside of it.”
“Did you not see him?”
“I can’t say I was paying attention, no. Half my mind is on sleep and the other half is on alcohol. I could use both right about now.”
“He was wearing a winter jacket, Cadmus! A winter jacket?”
“Ha!” Cadmus laughed. “Gods, imagine wearing a winter jacket in California.”
“I’d rather not. I quite like my dignity, thank you very much.”
The two of them were actually wearing jackets of their own, but they were thin and were windbreakers as opposed to true winter coats. December here felt mild after what they had grown up with in Canada, but they had been walking for a long time. Lupa had told them they would need to approach Camp Jupiter on foot and so they had.
They had ditched their hotwired car that morning. A thick veil of fog had fallen over the sprawling hills and golden valleys and served as their signal to abandon the vehicle whilst others’ visibility was low. It was often foggy in the morning here, but that had been the worst. It was so dense that the two of them could hardly see ten feet in front of them. Both of them had been relieved to vacate the vehicle because neither were sure Cadmus wouldn’t end up crashing if he continued driving.
Then they’d walked for the rest of the day and finally, they were here.
Both of them stood just off to the left of State Route 24 as they climbed the hill and spotted the Caldecott Tunnel up ahead of them. It burrowed straight through the Berkeley hills just like Lupa had told them it would.
“Am I the only one who finds this weird?” asked Caleb.
“No, not at all. It felt like we’d never get here.”
The month since winding up stranded in California had been long and filled with trials. The first days had been the worst. They had escaped the giants only to run into other troubles. Caleb had just about had a heart attack when he’d seen the snake women or whatever the hell they were called. The sphinx had been cool for about ten seconds before they realized it would kill them if they failed its test regardless of how esteemed it was in mythology, and there had been far more.
The most jarring part about those few days had been when the two of them had stolen newspapers only to find a familiar face staring out at them from the publication’s front page.
“Oh, for fuck sake, Ace!” Cadmus had cursed whilst Caleb shouted louder and for different reasons.
“What do you mean he blew up the Staples Center?”
“Yeah, not entirely sure how he managed—“
“We escaped giants and he still manages to one-up us! How dare he?”
A smile came to Caleb’s lips at the thought, but it died just as quickly. They had been unable to keep up with that particular news story, for they had lost contact with the outside world soon after they had begun traipsing around California.
They’d had no real destination. Caleb had his ideas and Cadmus had his. Neither of them had manifested because the aforementioned monsters had ideas of their own. Soon, the duo found themselves cornered by the snake women when a piercing howl had cut through the night air like oars slicing through a glassy lake’s surface. The snake women had fled before the source of the howls had arrived, but Caleb and Cadmus had not been fast enough. They wondered what to expect next. Werewolves, perhaps? That had seemed par for the course, but what had next greeted them was the most normal thing they had seen in days.
Things had become less normal very quickly. The wolf pack had all but marched the two of them north. Caleb and Cadmus had tried to break from the pack that first night, but doing so had proven next to impossible. They eventually realized it would be easier to go along and so were led to the Wolf House where they met Lupa.
They had spent a full month at the Wolf House, where Lupa had taught them who they were, what it all meant, and how to live up to their parentage. That last part had been the sticking point. It wasn’t that Cadmus and Caleb were inept or slow learners — it was that they wanted to learn and do things their way. Both of them suspected Lupa would happily have kept them there longer, but the other wolves had begun growing restless and they supposed the shewolf had decided they were as tamed as they were ever going to get.
They had parted from the Wolf House with simple instructions — reach Camp Jupiter.
The wolves had come with them for some of the way, but they had parted some time ago and now the pair of boys were here, at the mouth of the tunnel that would lead them to what they had been promised.
The worst part about all of this was that neither of them knew what had happened to Ace. There had been no news of him since their reemergence into the real world. Neither of them were foolish. They knew this either meant he had been arrested, had escaped, or had died. That last one did not warrant thought. If they had scuttled their way here, Ace had surely escaped with his own life. He really did have an annoying tendency to outdo those around him, though Caleb thought he would have his work cut out for him this time around.
“Do you think he’s a demigod, too?” he had asked Cadmus weeks earlier one night at the Wolf House whilst the two of them laid on hard earth and stared up at the blinking stars far above. They were distorted by the veil of clouds so that only some of them shone. They were less like stars in the night sky and more like sporadic splashes of bright paint against a velvety black canvas.
“Must be,” Cadmus had answered. “I can hardly imagine him being anything else.”
“It is also just a bit too convenient, isn’t it? All this happens to us the same night Ace blows up the Staples Center?”
“Yeah, that too. Knowing him, he’ll be waiting for us and wondering why we took so long.”
“Dick,” Caleb had muttered, turning his head away from Cadmus to hide the fond smile that had spread across his lips.
The hope of seeing their friend again had been one of the reasons they had agreed to Lupa’s demands that they flee to camp. That and the fact to do anything else would endanger them and their families, not to mention the fact that — as Cadmus had put it — “Who the hell has never wanted to live in Ancient Rome?”
Night had fallen by the time they crested the hill and came within striking distance of the Caldecott Tunnel. The clouds still hung in the sky but their curtain was thinner than it had been earlier in the day. They seemed to leap this way and that, opening up patches of velvety black in the spaces they left behind and occasionally allowing the moon to beam down upon the lands below.
They parted then in such a way and Caleb noticed what had to be the entrance to Camp Jupiter. It was a small and nondescript service tunnel a bit before the main pass through the Berkeley Hills. Any chance of subtlety was lost by the two figures standing guard. The moon illuminated their armour and both of them carried archaic weapons. The boy on the left was tall and thickly built, but he looked young to Caleb. The one on the right was older and carried a bow whereas his companion loosely held the hilt of a long, golden sword that shone like molton fire in the moonlight.
“You know,” Caleb muttered to Cadmus as they approached the pair of guards, “I’ve never felt so superior to everyone else around me.”
“You sure? That’s saying a lot coming from you.”
“Mhm. Just think of how obvious this is and that almost no one else alive can see it.”
“Depressing is what I call it, but to each their own, I suppose.”
“I personally find there to be nothing depressing about being better than other people.”
“Well no, that’s because you’re a narcissist.”
“Hard not to be when you’re me.”
“Of course. Just look at me.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Hey!” It was one of the guards standing on either side of the tunnel — the one with the loaded bow. It was raised in a ready position, but not yet aimed. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The two boys exchanged looks. “We,” Caleb called, “are the two finest examples of demigods you will ever meet.”
“If they shoot us for that, I will kill you.” Cadmus hissed as the bemused-looking guard gestured them forward.
It took Caleb and Cadmus less than ten minutes to lose their guards after being led across the Little Tiber and into New Rome proper.
It was a breathtaking view.
The moon had come out again so that all the marble gleamed like pale crystal in the low light of the evening. Yet many of the buildings were alight and there were so many of them at a centrally located pavilion that it looked like the hall had been overrun by a hoard of restless fireflies.
“Saturnalia,” Cadmus breathed in wonder, glancing all around the camp. There did seem to be an air of splendour about the place.
“Christmas celebration, right?” asked Caleb. Cadmus planned to become a history major if professional hockey failed him so it was expected he would know these things.
“Well, Christmas wasn’t invented yet, but something like that, yes. Think feasts, gifts, gags, the like.”
“Sounds like my kind of night,” Caleb said with a mischievous smirk.
“I would say it’s six nights, but for all I know, this could be the last of them.”
“Yes, could be. I lost track of the date ages ago. Don’t tell me you didn’t.”
“Date? Who is this date you speak of? I’ve never met her.”
Cadmus laughed. “I despise you.”
“Cadmus, let’s be honest. We could have let the other one die any time in the last month and neither of us did. It’s a bit hard for either one of us to argue that we despise the other one at this point.”
“I can dream, damnit!”
Caleb smirked; there was always something satisfying about these wars of words. Both Cadmus and himself were two of the best he knew at the game.
“And why ever would you want to despise such a perfect specimen like me?”
“Because hating you is easier than not.”
“You’re like LSD from what I’ve heard. It’s a hell of a lot of fun until you wake up and wonder what the fuck just happened.”
“That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” said Caleb, batting his eyelashes and trying to force a blush into his cheeks.
“Oh, sod off,” said Cadmus. “Anyway, I didn’t go through all the trouble to shake our guards just to stand beside a river and banter with you all night.”
“True. So… Saturnalia?”
Caleb knew his friend’s answer before he gave it, but there was still something amusing about watching that manic glee come alive in Cadmus’s eyes. It was a very unique spark he had never seen anywhere else. It always made Cadmus look unhinged, but Caleb found it strangely hysterical.
It came alive with force and his lips tugged upwards into a shit-eating grin at the same time. “Saturnalia indeed.”
The two of them exchanged looks before darting towards the mass of marble buildings, trying to find the most unobstructed path and to not run into any guard along the way. Caleb wondered exactly how long they would go undiscovered in the city. Somehow, he had the distinct feeling it might depend on how swiftly Cadmus acquired a copious amount of alcohol.
Caleb supposed both he and Cadmus must have acquired a copious amount of alcohol soon after they had entered the city because the charge towards New Rome was the last thing he remembered until he awoke somewhere unfamiliar.
It was a rich-looking room. It took Caleb a moment to remember where he was. His first impression upon seeing the marble floors and rich velvet walls were that he and Cadmus must have broken into a manor along the way, stolen a mountain of alcohol, and indulged harder than they had planned. Then, he remembered where they were when he spotted the other surroundings in the room and the pieces began to fit together.
The ceiling glittered with a stunning mosaic depicting two men who could be no one but Romulus and Remus. One of the walls was covered from floor to ceiling in rich banners and wooden polls with elaborate bronze markings. There was something akin to a display podium near the room’s centre, but it was empty. This place seemed like an ancient palace with its primary bit of treasure missing, but then Caleb saw the table in the room’s centre.
“Awake, are we?” The voice belonged to a lithe girl with silvery blonde hair that shone almost as brightly as the marble. She had a soft, regal face, but the look was ruined some by the harsh expression she wore as she glared down at Caleb from her high-backed chair.
Caleb felt the need to look away from her, so he did, glancing to his side and noticing that Cadmus was sprawled out beside him. He appeared to be stirring, but he was not yet fully awake. Caleb elbowed him hard in the ribs and felt him tense when impact was struck. It was a mark of how calm Cadmus could stay in the face of fire that he did not rise to the challenge, instead realizing exactly how severe the situation was despite his fatigue.
“I didn’t ask a rhetorical question,” the girl said. Her voice was sharper now and it demanded both boys’ attention.
Caleb didn’t know what made him do it. He had become aware that there was another chair filled by a boy who was built like a tank and several years his elder, not to mention the armed guards flanking the room and the five other people sitting around the table behind which the two chairs loomed. Caleb knew that snark was a bad idea, the opportunity was just too perfect.
“Sorry,” he said, rubbing sleep from his eyes and trying to ignore the furious pounding in his skull when he moved to sit up. “I thought you could see that for yourself. Your hair’s pretty bright though. It’s perfectly understandable how a strand or two of it in your eyes could blind you. My bad.”
A pin drop could be heard in the room once the sound of Caleb’s mocking quip died. The silence was thicker than the fog had been the previous day, thicker and more viscous than anything Caleb could think of. It was polluting the air. His chest was growing tight and he thought he might choke; though the alcohol and burning sensation in his throat might also have had something to do with that.
“What did you just say?” the girl asked in a low, dangerous voice.
“Hm,” Caleb hummed, “you should really tie that hair up. I know it’s long, but there’s really no excuse for it to fall in your ears.”
There was no silence this time. One of the five figure seated around the table began to laugh uproariously. The laughter belonged to a boy who appeared to be of an age with Caleb. He had black hair, dark eyes, and tanned skin. It was difficult to see much more of him from Caleb’s position on the floor and because his head was doubled over laughing, but he could tell that much at least.
The boy’s laughter seemed contagious. It swept through the room like wildfire until most of the guards and even one or two of the others at the table began to laugh. The silver-haired girl seemed incensed by it all. She rose from her chair and had taken several quick steps towards Caleb when the boy who occupied the other high-backed chair rose and put a hand on her arm.
“Not now, Olivia,” he said. He had a deep, booming voice but despite that and his build, his glare unnerved Caleb less than Olivia’s. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that despite his best efforts, this man’s lips were upturned as he clearly tried to fight laughter of his own.
The look Olivia gave Caleb as she lowered herself back into the chair was poisonous, but it didn’t stop him from standing and offering Cadmus a hand up.
“Who are you two?” the hulking man asked, still standing. He had to be at least six and a half feet tall and he was built like a professional wrestler. All muscle that seemed to poke and protrude out from under the purple cloak he wore.
Caleb opened his mouth to give the same line he had offered the guards last night, but Cadmus was faster. “We were sent by Lupa.”
Olivia’s lips thinned. “She may finally have chosen wrong.”
“I don’t know,” said the black-haired boy who had laughed a moment earlier. “I think they’ve got real potential.”
Her glare switched to him. “You would, Hank. Now, be quiet. You’re here to oversee things, not to interrupt.”
“What are your names?” asked the towering man.
“Caleb and Cadmus,” the latter answered, gesturing at each of them in turn.
“And your parents?”
“No idea,” said Caleb, finally sensing the time for quips had passed. “We were found by wolves and told to come here. We made it in admirable time.”
“See?” the boy asked as he retook his seat and glanced towards Olivia. “Just a pair of new recruits.”
She frowned. “New recruits who are going to need to learn how things work around here.”
“They will, just give them time.”
“Gods have mercy on whichever cohort takes them in before then.”
“Make it the third,” said the black-haired boy as he stood to his feet.
“You’re sure, Hank?” asked the man in the other chair before Olivia could speak. “You know next to nothing about them.”
“I know they have personality and I know they have spunk. That’s good enough for me. We need more recruits like them. Too many of them are just satisfied with being around.”
Caleb felt his lips curve upwards. This had potential. “I can assure you I will settle only for the best,” he said, puffing out his chest.
“I’ll hold you to that,” said Hank, stepping forward and extending a hand. “Hank Steen. I’m the Centurian of the Third Cohort.”
“Caleb, a pleasure.”
“Cadmus, and the same.”
“And I’m Chad,” said the towering man from before. “The girl to my right is Olivia. We’re the Praetors of the Twelfth Legion.”
“Powerful name for a powerful man,” Caleb said with a bow whilst Cadmus tried hard to choke back his laughter.
“Do the two of you have any questions before your new Centurian takes you away and shows you around camp?” asked Olivia.
“One,” Cadmus said, “is there a demigod here named Ace Iverson?”
The Praetors exchanged looks before sweeping their eyes over Hank and the other four people who Caleb could only assume must have been the other Centuriants. None of them spoke, nor did any of the guards, and Caleb felt his heart sink as a horrible twisting sensation built in the pit of his stomach even before Chad spoke his next words.
“I’m afraid I’ve never heard of anyone with that name.”
The next interlude will focus on Ace and co back at Camp Halfblood. You may or may not get one more Camp Jupiter interlude before season II begins. Once it does, you won’t see Camp Jupiter again until it concludes, but season III will actually take place around New Rome, so it’s important to get all the setup done.
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