A roar of cheers rolled over the crowd as they finished off the retreating enemy army. Hunter looked into the hard gaze of Artemis and he knew he was in trouble, but he couldn’t help, but smile. He was alive. He heard the sound of fast footsteps and then the collision of a body into his as arms wrapped around his neck and lips slammed into his. Hunter wrapped his arms around Philippa and kissed her back, leaning into her like he was worried that this coming back to life thing was temporary. That any moment now he was going to be yanked back into the waiting room where he would sit for thousands of years. At that moment, he didn’t care that Artemis was staring him down. He was just happy to be alive.
“I love you, Philippa.” Hunter said, cradling her face in his hand. She gasped and her eyes widened. Hunter froze for a second. He couldn’t say that. If he said that then he wasn’t a Hunter. He looked up at the crowd where the campers were parting. Through the crowd, several people walked toward him. They emanated power and immediately, Hunter recognized them as the gods. Aphrodite stood to the left of Ares who stood next to Zeus. When Hunter caught her eye she gave him a little wink and giggled a little. Hunter was a little taken aback. It seemed that all eyes were on him and he had no idea what to do. Hunter took a step forward, but was met with another set of arms and a warm body.
“Oh thank gods…” Marina muttered as she buried her face in his chest, hugging him in a bearhug. He looked over as Will and Kyle gathered around him and started patting him on the back. Soon more and more people step forward to celebrate and thank each other and mourn and express all the emotion that they wanted to but couldn’t because of the war and because of the presence of the gods among them. Hunter was finally smiling and finally he felt that he could relax.
“Quiet!” That ended quickly. The booming voice of the thunder god rang out through the city block and probably the city street where they had gathered. “Campers, gather the injured and return to camp. Take care of any monsters that may still be around. Chiron, make sure they go straight to camp.” Zeus said firmly. The campers froze for a second before scrambling to action. Hunter was lost as his friends were swept away and he looked for Philippa, but she didn’t hang around for whatever reason. Hunter found himself standing there looking right at the gods with Artemis and the hunters to his left.
“Hunters, assist the campers and meet at the cabin. I’ll be by shortly.” Artemis said and the hunter slowly dispersed, being sure to give Hunter a hateful look as they passed. Hunter was about to turn and leave, but Artemis spoke again. “Hunter…a word.” Hunter hung his head and turned to her.
“We wish to speak to you, as well, Hunter.” Zeus said, sounding slightly less perturbed than Artemis. Hunter looked up at Artemis and snapped her fingers. The scene changed and suddenly they stood in the throne room in Olympus. Hunter had only been there once. It had been a couple of years. “We have allowed you into Olympus once, Hunter. Feel grateful. You’re the only mortal to ever see this room.” Hunter scanned the room. Zeus sat semi-calmly in his seat while Poseidon at his right sat calmly, looking at Hunter plainly. Ares was shifting uncomfortably as was the majority of the gods. There was a tense feeling in the air as mental words were exchanged between the gods. Hunter’s eyes landed on Aphrodite who sat back, a smile on her face and a content look in her eye. She looked at Hunter and blew him a little kiss before turning to Zeus. Hunter finally let his eyes wander to Artemis who was leaned forward in her chair, eyes locked on Hunter like she was trying to make him burst into flames just by looking at him. Either that or she was trying to see through him to the wall on the other side. Hunter turned to Zeus who looked back at him. “Artemis, state your peace.”
“Hunter, how dare you! You disobeyed a DIRECT order! You were directly insubordinate! Hunter, I’m tempted to break your oath and turn you into an animal!” Artemis shouted, standing from her throne and staring angrily down at Hunter. “I’ll turn you into the wild animal you are and then I’ll hunt you like the beast you have become!”
“Nope.” Hunter looked up from his cowering and saw Artemis looking angrily at Aphrodite who was filing her nails calmly.
“What?” Artemis said, her voice raspy like she was trying not to burst out in rage. Aphrodite finished up her thumb and looked up at her.
“Hunter doesn’t belong to you anymore, babe.” Aphrodite said, clearing her throat. “You’ve got that whole…They’re immortal unless they make whoopee or die, right? Well, Hunter is still a virgin, unfortunately.” Aphrodite said, giving Hunter a wink. Hunter swallowed and looked at Artemis, hoping she wouldn’t turn him into an animal. “However, he did die. That means he didn’t break your contract, but it broke naturally. That means that—“
“I KNOW WHAT IT MEANS!” Artemis growled, her fists clenched and a vein in her neck seemingly ready to burst. She took deep breaths and glared at Hunter before letting out a low rumble and disappearing. Aphrodite turned to Hunter and smiled a little, giving him a look of quiet celebration. Hunter couldn’t help, but smile back and then turn to Zeus.
“Hunter, you have done great things for Olympus and for camp and for the gods.” Zeus said, scowling slightly like each word left a bad taste in his mouth. “The honor we are about to offer you is the highest that we can bestow. Hunter, we have watched you. You fought bravely and you fought for what was right, no matter what. You fought against chaos and deceit. Hunter, we are offering you a position among us in Olympus. You would live forever and be the god of peace, truth, and bravery.” Hunter felt like all the air vacated his lungs at once. He couldn’t think. The offer seemed to hang in front of his face, blurring his clarity. “Will you join us?” Hunter thought about everything that had happened in the past. The loneliness he felt at camp and how much he just wanted a place to belong. He thought about how much he wished that his parents would just tell him they still cared about him. He thought about how awful it felt to find out that his parents were dead and that he wasn’t even a demigod. He thought about how great it felt to join the hunters and how great it felt to finally feel at home. He thought about his first kiss with Philippa. He thought about Marina. He thought about Arabella and Kyle and Will and Penny and Dana and Jack and Clovis and Chiron and Mrs. O’Leary and the family that he never had, but found at camp. He thought about how much he didn’t want to give that away.
“I’m honored, sir, and there was a time that I wanted nothing more than to be a god, but I’m going to have to decline.” Hunter said, taking a deep breath. Zeus clenched his fists and seemed to grimace a little more angrily then before. “Thank you, sir.”
“Look, I’m getting sick and tired of you heroes turning down deification. We used to not make it a question, but some people got upset and now we ask you. First your kid and now this one.” Zeus said under his breath at Poseidon who shook himself and looked over.
“Oh, sorry. I was doing a Sudoku.” Poseidon said, clearing his throat. Zeus grumbled and turned to Hunter.
“We are going to owe you one. In the future, you can come to us and you can ask us for something. Assuming it’s not too terrible we will grant it. Now, get back to camp. Goodbye, Hunter.” Zeus snapped his fingers and the throne room was gone. Hunter opened his eyes and was looking down at Camp Half-Blood from Thalia’s Pine. Peleus snoozed soundly at the base of the tree and the camp was busy setting up makeshift cots for the injured and making arrangements for the deceased. Hunter seemed disoriented, but right at home at the same time. Camp was where he needed to be.
Hunter walked down the hill to the middle of camp and looked around. Dana was rushing from person to person, healing and treating what she could, her hair a wild mess. Rory sat next to Vera, holding her hand and looking down at her.
“I’m fine, Rory.” Vera said, starting to get up. Rory pushed her back down.
“Just relax. Take your time.” Hunter smiled at the two of them and saw her. She was sitting on the porch of Aphrodite Cabin, her brown hair a tangled mess. He smiled a little and started to walk toward her when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Hunter turned and found Chiron looking down at him.
“A word?” Chiron said, offering him a smile. Hunter glanced back at Philippa a moment and then nodded. Chiron led him toward the Big house and walked inside, sitting into his wheelchair. “Hunter, I believe we should talk about your time in Olympus.”
“Nothing happened. I’m not a hunter anymore. They offered me godhood. I declined. I was written an IOU.” Hunter took a deep breath and nodded. Chiron thought for a moment and was about to speak, but Hunter interrupted him. “Look, sir. With all due respect, I have had a really long day and there’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I can finally do it now and I’d really like to just do it. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” Chiron took a deep breath and then finally nodded.
“We’ll speak tom—“ Chiron was interrupted by the door to the Big house slamming open. Rachel looked urgently around the room a moment before hunching over the table.
A misplaced half-blood of the golden age
Will go against the great enemy being freed from the cage.
Olympus' bane will rise or fall
Family or friends is the choice to save them all
Former foes will turn the tide
The great battle, an arrow will decide.
She spoke quickly and Hunter looked at her in shock. When she finally stood back up, she was breathing heavily and she looked exhausted. Hunter let his gaze move to Chiron who seemed calm, but he looked worried.
“Sir, what does—“
“Go.” Chiron said with a nod. “I’ll have a word with Miss Dare, but if I’m correct we have our next Great Prophecy.” Hunter nodded and reluctantly started toward the exit. He wasn’t sure he would be able to relax after that, but it didn’t take long for him to relax. He looked around and after a moment, he finally found her. Philippa was standing there gossiping with a few of her siblings. Hunter walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her middle. She almost jumped out of her skin.
“Oh! Hunter uh…” Philippa stammered. Hunter furrowed his brow and glanced at the group who looked at the two of them.
“You alright?” Hunter asked Philippa, turning her around.
“Hunter, what are you doing?” She said, stepping away from him. Hunter started shaking a little and he stepped forward.
“Philippa, what’s going on?” Hunter said quietly, taking her hand and pulling her toward him. “Is everything okay?”
“Everything is great, Hunter.” Philippa said, walking back to his group of sisters. “What do you want from me?”
“Well, I figured that since you’re my girlfriends that—“
“Oh, that’s rich.” One of Arabella’s sisters interjected. “Tell her, Philippa.”
“We’re uh…We’re…” Philippa looked at him with sad eyes before studying the ground. “We’re through, Hunter.” Hunter’s heart shattered. It felt like Philippa reached into his chest, ripped his heart out and stomped it to pieces. Hunter stumbled backward and caught himself on one of the cabins, his breathing heavy. His ears rushed with blood and he couldn’t hear anything except for the cackling laughter of Philippa’s sisters. Hunter looked up at Philippa who mouthed ‘I’m sorry,’ a tear coasting down her cheek. Hunter wasn’t sure why she was doing it, but he just…He couldn’t be around it anymore. Hunter took off toward the woods.
“Hunter, wait!” He heard Marina shout to him as he passed and Kyle tried to stop him, but Hunter didn’t stop until he was in the woods, quietly sobbing, letting himself go, and feeling more alone than ever.