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Saifah and the Mask of Mnemosyne

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“Do you swear it though,” a young man asked. Although his back was straight and his expression proud, his voice cracked ever so slightly. “That if I do this task for you, you’ll-”

 

“Oh… yessssssss…” The sound of shifting flesh and scale echoed in the subterranean chamber. “I will foresee the waysssss you can obtain the heart you desssssssire…” 

 

“And all I have to do is this task.”

 

“I ssswear it on the River Sssstixss…” Thunder boomed overhead. “Kill them… the strongest of hissss blood in both your campssss and it ssssshhall be done.”

 

The young man held out his hand. “And the aid you promised me in this task?”

 

“Foolisssshhh boy. Do not sssseek such aid with empty handssssss…”

 

The young man rolled his eyes and held out a crystal vial. Five drops of viscous fluid fell into the vial, steaming as they fell through the air and smoking upon contact with the crystal. The young man pulled away quickly and put a stopper in the vial. 

 

“And how should I contact you when I’m done?”

 

“Ssssilly boy… Of course I will know… I will contact you…  Who do you think I am?”

-------

Although Saifah was not always the most observant, he was pretty sure he was at the very least aware of all the different shops in the forum of Camp Jupiter. Not once had he ever seen the strange little mask shop that had suddenly taken residence in between Zon’s favorite bookstore and his favorite music shop.

 

But perhaps calling it a shop was being generous.

 

A small stand, barely held together, could hardly count as a proper shop. But there were many masks to choose from, some sturdy and ornate, some cheap and plastic, and some even from video games. Saifah picked up a purple, heart shaped mask, with yellow spikes and patterns drawn across the face in white while yellow and red eyes stared out. Saifah nearly put it on his face before the mask was taken away. 

 

“No, no, no. I’ve already had enough trouble with little kids thinking they can put on this mask and run about. I’ll not let a young man who should know better do the same,” said the shopkeeper. He was thin and hunched over, red hair fading into dull orange and gray, and his eyes were so narrow as to almost look closed. “But please, do look at some of my other selections.” He held up a Pikachu mask. “This one has been popular amongst people your age.”

 

“Oh…” Saifah craned his neck and looked at the other masks. “Actually do you have a Squirtle one? Because my boyfriend likes that one more…” Saifah trailed off as his eyes landed on another mask, carved like the face of a beautiful woman, at least if the shape of the brows and the red of the lips were any indication. 

 

There were no holes to see through, for the mask’s eyes were shut but weeping teal-colored tears. The same teal was used to paint markings across the forehead and down to the temples. Braided gold cords hung from the sides as the means to tie the mask on. The shopkeep followed Saifah’s gaze and frowned.

 

“Oh no, please don’t take that one. I’ve only just gotten it after such a hard search.” The shopkeeper pleaded with his hands together. “Please young sir, it’s such a rare mask, I’d like to enjoy it in my collection for a few days longer.”

 

“What… What mask is it?” Saifah said as he blinked.

 

“This,” said the shopkeep as he took it down with reverent hands, “is the Mask of Mnemosyne. The titan of memory. Finding one of these, a relic of her cult, was so difficult!” He held it out for Saifah to take a closer look at. From the designs across the forehead and temples, thinner and finer lines branched off, trailing down across the face, as if writing in a script long forgotten. “Some even say, her masks give one power over their memories and the memories of others.” The shopkeeper scoffed. “But that’s just a legend. Still, you wanted a Squirtle mask, eh? I’ve a few over here…” He gently placed the mask back in it’s spot before digging behind the stall for Saifah’s requested mask.

 

Saifah continued to stare at the supposed face of Mnemosyne until the Squirtle mask was thrust into his face and payment was demanded.

 

“That was way too much for a Squirtle mask,” Saifah grumbled as he walked away with the plastic mask in hand. “Does that old man think we’re all praetors and centurions or something?”

 

Without thinking, Saifah sidestepped King as he ran towards the Lake of the Little Tibber, Duen not far behind. Saifah then veered around Tine whining about something as Sarawat pet his head, his normally stoic face changed into something else. 

 

“Is the love bug biting everyone lately?” Saifah said around the straw of his iced coffee as he saw Frong put a jasmine flower into Thara’s hair. “Or am I just missing Zon?”

 

“Probably both.” Saifah jumped as Fighter elbowed him in the side. “Your boy’s been busy.”

 

“Don’t scare me like that!” Saifah relaxed from his initial recoil. “And how do you know what Zon’s been up to?”

 

Fighter simply shrugged. “I’ve apparently been recruited to the cause. Centurion’s orders.” Fighter gave a small smirk and Saifah winced just a little at wondering whether Tutor’s orders had been explicit or explicit . “Zon says he’ll meet you at the usual place tonight.” An unholy howl and rattling of bones echoed over the forum and Fighter paused and took it in. “Well, assuming that… doesn’t go poorly.”

 

“He’s… He’s not fucking around with Ram is he?” Saifah shuddered with the memory of the Son of Pluto’s “birthday present.” Pluto apparently had spared no expense in offering his son something Ram enjoyed, dogs. The unfortunate thing being that they were undead dogs. “Those skeleton dogs of his…”

 

Fighter winced. “It’s not… Zon’s fault?”

 

“Whose fault is it?!”

------

Later that night, Saifah waited at the usual spot for Zon, as per Zon’s message that he’d be free to meet. It was strange to see the Son of Mercury be so busy over the course of so many days. Clearly, something had changed since their last excursion to Camp Half-Blood and their visit into, what Kao had called, “The Collective Unconscious.” What exactly Zon was working his way through, the shorter boy wouldn’t say. Instead he often frowned up at Saifah and said, “We all fought our personal demons of sorts back there. Don’t tell me you don’t feel different at all after that.”

 

Saifah winced at the thought. The edges of his psyche that had come up were something he wasn’t keen on revisiting. “What’s worse,” Saifah mumbled to himself as he adjusted his guitar in his lap, “Is that the Wild Doctors had to see that.” Saifah strummed a chord. “I’m never going to live that down, am I?” However one other memory came to mind as Saifah continued to simply run through chords as a warm-up. “I’m also never going to forget the sight of Shadow Kit with cat ears…”

 

Saifah’s fingers stilled on his guitar when a familiar warm weight draped itself over his shoulders. He reached up and ruffled Zon’s hair, earning himself only a mild grumble than the usual yelp.

 

“Tired?” Saifah asked before resuming his strumming, switching to a different song. Zon nodded against Saifah’s head. “Long day?”

 

“Long days ,” Zon said before sitting down and slumping against Saifah’s shoulder. “I don’t know how I ended up at the nexus of everyone’s problems, and yet there I was.”

 

“You could have said no.”

 

“But would I?”

 

Saifah smirked. “I distinctly recall several instances, so… yes.”

 

Zon slapped Saifah’s chest half-heartedly. “Ugh…” Zon followed it up by rubbing his face into Saifah’s shoulder. “I should have said no, but it was really for the best to help…”

 

“How can I help you recover?” Saifah said, the sounds of his guitar changing again.

 

Zon sat up for a moment. “Oh… You’re playing…”

 

“Your favorite song, yes.” Saifah kissed the top of Zon’s head without pausing in his playing. “Is it helping?”

 

“Whenever you play my favorite song I always feel a bit better.” Zon hid his face in Saifah’s shoulder. “Ugh, now I’m being sappy.”

 

“I’m glad.” Saifah smiled softly. “Want to talk about the last couple of days? If it helps, I bought you a Squirtle mask. You can finally stop being Darth Vader when you’re being moody.”

 

“Ass,” Zon huffed, but he accepted the mask and put it on anyway. Saifah gently nudged it and Zon elbowed him back before getting comfortable against Saifah’s side again. “Okay so first Tutor was trying to help Tine…”

 

A few hours later, after finishing his story, Zon sighed in relief. “I promise, I’m done sorting out the lives of others.” Zon took off the Squirtle mask and fiddled with it in his hands. “No matter what the Fates said. It’s time to go back to worrying about my own life.”

 

Saifah smiled down at Zon, happy to see him relaxing despite the ominous tone. “And what did the Fates say?”

 

It was with a strange seriousness that Zon looked back up at Saifah. “The same thing they always say. That all things must end.”

------

The next morning, Saifah strolled through the forum to meet Zon for breakfast. Although Zon found himself free, Zon had insisted it didn’t mean he could stay with Saifah that night.

 

“But my Zon, it’s been a week!”

 

“You’ll live another night!”

 

Still, Saifah was happy to take what he could get. Any time spent with the shorter Son of Mercury was time well spent.

 

“Saifah!” Saifah looked up to see Zon running and waving. Saifah slowed down and waved back. 

 

For a moment, Zon’s face lit up and Saifah wondered if Zon was supposed to be the Son of Apollo when his face could light up the world when he smiled. A moment later, Zon’s eyes widened. With a burst of speed more attributed to Can than Zon, Zon sprinted over, jumping onto Saifah and making him turn around.

 

The unmistakable sound of an arrow sinking into flesh was loud in Saifah’s ears before he felt Zon sag against his body.

 

“Zon!” Saifah held Zon’s body while quickly darting his eyes everywhere he could to catch the archer. “Archer loose in the forum! Take cover!” Saifah yelled before pulling Zon behind the nearest pillar.

 

“AN ARCHER IN MY BOUNDARY? IMPOSSIBLE!” Terminus screeched. His voice echoed from everywhere, as if all his statues screamed in unison. 

 

Other people and campers dove for cover as Saifah yelled, “And I need a medic!”

 

Weapons being forbidden in the forum, several people had picked up tables and trays to use as impromptu shields and were carefully canvassing the area to find the archer. Saifah looked over Zon’s body and allowed himself a brief sigh of relief to see the arrow had only hit Zon’s shoulder. 

 

“A flesh wound… It shouldn’t be…” Saifah paused as he took in the pallor of Zon’s skin. An acrid smell filled his nose. “Poison?”

 

“Let me look.” Saifah whipped his head around, arm up in defense to find Thara looking down at him. “I’ll do what I can to stabilize him, but we need to get him to the medical facility immediately.” Thara crouched down and put a hand over the arrow wound, muttering a prayer before pouring some unicorn draught onto it. The acrid smell intensified and Thara leaned back. “This is…” Thara’s eyes narrowed and he muttered a different prayer, only for sparks and black smoke to lash out from the wound. The arrow itself turned to ash. “How-”

 

“Get up and get moving!” Tutor appeared, breastplate on, before getting on Zon’s other side. “Saifah, help me and let’s go!” Tutor turned to Thara. “Get ahead of us so we’ll be able to cover you. As the medic, we can’t afford to let you get hit covering us.”

 

Thara nodded, and after a brief scan of the area, he ran off, going from cover to cover. It was not long before Frong, armed with a chair leg and a tray table, was at Thara’s side and assisting him. Tutor and Saifah shared a look before they hefted Zon up and ran.

 

The acrid smell did not leave Saifah’s nostrils as they ran despite how fast or shallow Saifah breathed.

------

Saifah sat in a chair in the waiting room with Tutor and Fighter nearby. At the sound of doors opening, Saifah bolted up, but wilted upon finding out it was only Duen. 

 

“I came as soon as I heard.” Duen sat down next to Saifah. “Bohn and Ram are using Ram’s dogs to search for any intruders. King, Boss, and Mek are also on the search.” Duen bit his lip. “Did you manage to see-”

 

“No.” Saifah scrubbed his face with his hands.

 

Duen pulled away and looked to Tutor and Fighter. Tutor continued to make an expression of disdain and as if he’d eaten something sour. Fighter’s expression was terrifyingly emotionless. 

 

The doors opened again and this time Thara emerged, looking exhausted. 

 

“How is he? Is Zon okay?” Saifah said immediately.

 

Thara pat Saifah’s shoulder. “He’s stable for now but…”

 

“But?”

 

“The arrow was poisoned.” Saifah fell back into his seat. “None of the antidotes we’ve tried are working-”

 

“What antidote do you need?” Saifah asked. “I’ll go get it. I’ll go wherever I have to.”

 

“I don’t know,” Thara said softly. Everyone else in the room froze. “It isn’t a poison I’ve ever…”

 

Saifah felt his nails biting into his palm as he clenched his fists. “There has to be something-”

 

“If we could find out what poison it is-”

 

“The archer! Someone has to have found him by now!” Saifah turned to Tutor. “Right?”

 

Tutor clenched his jaw and Saifah watched the muscles move. “I’ll see what I can do.” Tutor stormed off and Fighter followed behind as if he was Tutor’s shadow. 

 

“If only Zon had seen the archer,” Duen said mournfully. “And he could tell us what to look for…”

 

Saifah stopped in his tracks. “Zon did see the archer.” The memory of Zon’s widening eyes hit Saifah like a brick. “He saw the archer behind me! He tackled me so that I wouldn’t get hit!”

 

“But we can’t find out until he wakes up. And he won’t wake up without an antidote. It’s all trapped in his memories for all the good it does,” Thara said wearily. 

 

“In his memories…” Saifah frowned and looked at the door. “There’s no way. That would be a massive coincidence.”

 

“What coincidence?” Duen asked.

 

Saifah turned and squeezed Duen’s shoulders. “Look after Zon for me. I’ve got an idea.”

 

“Hah? Wait!” Duen reached out, but Saifah had already run off.

 

After all the trouble of getting to the hospital, finding the way back to the forum completely empty was almost startling. Only almost because Saifah had his sights set on one thing, the mask stall. 

 

Panting for breath, Saifah found it exactly as it had been yesterday. Still in between the bookstore and record shop, still just as rickety as ever, and yet after all the commotion of earlier, not a single mask was out of place. 

 

All except one.

 

“Excuse me!” Saifah riffled through all the masks available. “You said something about the Mask of Mnemosyne? Hello?”

 

“My what a noisy young man you are.” Saifah jolted before spinning around. The mask seller had returned, his hair still the same orange and red fading into gray but his eyes were more open than ever, revealing a piercing blue. A far too familiar piercing blue for Saifah’s tastes followed with a smile he’d seen more times than he could count. 

 

Especially when Zon thought he was being particularly clever.

 

“Lord Mercury,” Saifah said quietly. 

 

“Indeed.” Mercury shook his head and his fading hair took on a rich dark color once more. “Are you here about another mask you’d like to purchase? Or perhaps…” The mirth in Mercury’s face faded just a bit. “Have you come to ask me to help my son?”

 

“Both,” Saifah said in a rush. “I can use the mask to help Zon. Please, Lord Mercury.”

 

Mercury revealed the mask from behind his back. The expression of Mnemosyne seemed different, if only just a tiny bit less serene. “I was actually asked by your father to bring this here…” 

 

“M-my father?”

 

“Mm… Apollo seems to think you might need it. And perhaps, you might help a few more people if you do.” Mercury held the mask up towards the sky, blocking the mid-day sun from his face. “But I must warn you, young demigod, if you take this mask, if you use it to help my son, this will start you on a journey which you cannot stop until it ends.”

 

“And when does it end?”

 

“A tricky question, that.” Mercury’s smile returned. “Apollo was vague, so unlike him… I suppose it’s the Greek in him.” Mercury’s lips twitched. “And perhaps my care for Zon is the same.” 

 

“I am thankful that you care,” Saifah said softly.

 

“Hmm… My business here today is not to gauge the level of your affections for my son. My business is to give you this.” Mercury held out the mask. “Use it wisely and use it well. You have only one chance, for all those who have invoked the power of Mnemosyne have only one chance.” Saifah took the mask as Mercury continued. It felt far too light for something as powerful as Mercury claimed it to be. “Memories are powerful and dangerous. Mnemosyne is the same. The only other thing I can guarantee is that Apollo will be watching you. You are, afterall, one of his favored sons.”

 

“Father has many favored sons. He listens to many of us,” Saifah said, almost by rote.

 

“Yes, your father has sowed many seeds. A field of wheat and all the grain it produces would pale in comparison, perhaps matched only by my father.” And this time Mercury’s mirth was far too similar to Zon’s expression when he thought he’d told a particularly funny joke. Another common thing between him and Can. Saifah personally thought Mercury had little room to talk about who had more demigod children. “But there are a select few of you that he has been particularly proud of, has particularly blessed....” Thunder boomed above them suddenly and Mercury’s mouth snapped shut. “I suppose I’ve said too much. Goodbye, Saifah, Son of Apollo.” Mercury turned away. “I hope this is not the last time I will see you.”

 

In a flash and a bang, Mercury disappeared and Saifah stared at the smudge on the pavement where he’d previously been for a moment before turning around and finding the mask stand gone without a trace. Saifah then turned to peer up at the bright sky, sun still slowly moving overhead.

 

“Thank you, father.” 

 

And without another moment of hesitation, Saifah ran off.

------

On Saifah’s return, magic guitar case on his back as a quiver and mask around his neck, Zon had been moved to a private care room. Tine had taken up a vigil with Tanthai and Blue under Thara’s permission.

 

“Duen said he was going to go help Bohn search,” Tine offered by way of explanation. “By the way, this fell off of Zon’s wrist while they were moving him… I managed to catch it.” Tine held up a tell-tale silver bracelet with a guitar pick on it. Saifah swallowed down a remark about ill omens before taking it from Tine.

 

“Thanks…” Saifah put the bracelet on his left wrist. “I’ll hold it for him until he wakes up.”

 

“What’s that mask around your neck?” Blue asked as he stood up to poke it.

 

Saifah jerked out of the way. “Keep Zon safe for me,” Saifah said as he held the mask close to his face. “And wish me luck.”

 

“Wait! Sai, what are you-”

 

Saifah didn’t hear the rest as he pressed the mask to his face and touched Zon’s shoulder.

 

The world spun and tilted. Saifah felt as if he was tumbling even though his feet were firmly on the ground. Laughter, light and just slightly to the left of melodious to Saifah’s ears rang all around him. When the world stopped spinning, Saifah found himself in the Caldecott maintenance service tunnel. 

 

“Oh? You’re much more handsome than the previous men that have used my mask.” Saifah spun attempting to find the source of the voice only to find a tiny woman, dressed in green, teal, blue, and white, floating in midair with her face a near exact copy of the one Saifah wore with the mask. “Mnemosyne, she that knows the burden of memory.” The tiny image of Mnemosyne gave a tiny bow which gave off a great amount of sarcasm. “Tell me young demigod, what do you seek here, in the world of memory?”

 

“I need to see what Zon saw.” Saifah shifted and finally realized the mask was still on his face. He moved to remove it.

 

“Ah ah ah! You’ll need to leave that on. If it falls off your face, you’ll leave the memory.” Mnemosyne smiled and the tunnel shuddered around them. “After all, this isn’t your memory. So long as you’re here, you’ll be taking the place of your unfortunate friend.”

 

“What do you mean? Zon’s going to be fine,” Saifah said as he started walking in the direction of New Rome and Camp Jupiter.

 

“Silly boy, can’t you see it? The memory is unstable.” Mnemosyne flitted around Saifah’s head and Saifah fought the urge to slap her down like a fly. “But if you insist, then I won’t say a thing.”

 

Saifah bit back his retort and instead continued on. As he stepped out of the tunnel, he found himself walking out of a doorway and into the forum proper. Saifah glanced around him but no one seemed to care. Trying to place himself with a date and time, Saifah attempted to walk around the forum in the least conspicuous manner. And as Zon had often chastised him for before, Saifah failed to pay attention and tripped over himself, immediately drawing attention. A second later, Saifah found himself being hefted up by Tutor’s strong grip.

 

“Geez, get a hold of yourself,” Tutor muttered under his breath. “Are you spending too much time around Saifah?” 

 

Saifah opened his mouth to retort that Zon was most definitely not spending enough time around him lately when Tine also ran up to him. “Oh Zon! You’re back!” Saifah bit his lip to hide his giggle at how Tine was looking down at his chest when normally he and Tine saw eye to eye just fine. “Is uh… everything okay?” Tine’s full set of blindingly white teeth flashed in Saifah’s eyes and Saifah was momentarily blinded. 

 

“Gods damn Children of Venus,” Saifah muttered under his breath as he tried to blink his eyes clear.

 

“Hey, watch your mouth, Zon,” Tutor said while elbowing him gently. “I thought you knew better than to talk about Children of Venus like that.” 

 

Saifah groaned at the secondary assault. “Tor… Give me a break.” Saifah rubbed his side. “I’ve been blinded by Tine’s pearly whites and then your bony elbow.”

 

Tutor looked at Saifah strangely and the world wobbled for a moment. Mnemosyne laughed in Saifah’s ear, but did not say a thing. Gritting his teeth, Saifah got back up.

 

“Pearly whites? Bony elbow? Zon, are you feeling okay?” Tutor lifted a hand up to reach Saifah’s forehead, but continued to stare directly in front as if meeting Zon’s eyes. Saifah stifled a laugh and gently pushed Tutor’s hand away. 

 

“I’m fine, I promise. Just uh… bit disoriented. Didn’t sleep well.” Saifah smiled. “By the way, what day is it today?”

 

Tutor blinked. “It’s Wednesday.”

 

“WHAT?”

 

This time Tine put a hand on Saifah’s shoulder. “Is everything okay? Did you forget to do something today?”

 

“Uh no! No, I’ve got…” Saifah frowned. “If today is the morning of Wednesday, I’ve got at least two whole days.” Saifah tilted his head up and groaned. “What am I supposed to do with two whole days?”

 

“If you don’t have any work to do,” Tutor said cautiously, a specific voice he used for new campers that weren’t adjusting to the Fifth Cohort that well. “Then maybe you should see about training Phu, Ting, and Tang for me. They could use some help on their close combat and you’re doing better at it lately.” Tutor tapped his chin. “Maybe Blue too. If you can get him away from Dew and Champ.”

 

“I’ll uh, think about it. Thanks, Tor.” 

 

“Sure.” Tutor nodded before pulling Tine away. “So like I was saying…”

 

Saifah sighed and sat on the nearest chair. “Two whole days of memories? Really?” Mnemosyne only continued to smile. “Fine. If you won’t explain anything, then I’ll wait.”

 

“Waiting, what an interesting strategy.” Mnemosyne landed on the table next to Saifah. “I wonder how well it will work?”

 

“You could just tell me.”

 

“Oh, but I tried to tell you the rules before and you refused to listen.”

 

Saifah said nothing and only crossed his arms and stewed for the rest of the day before spending the night in Zon’s room. The next day, Saifah did not leave and simply let the day pass as he picked at his guitar strings. True to form, Mnemosyne did not say anything.

 

On the final day, Saifah rushed out of Zon’s room for the forum only to find everyone in the forum standing still in exactly the same positions they were the first day he’d arrived. 

 

“What? But… They should have kept on going! This is Zon’s memory!” Saifah twisted and turned, looking all around him, but everyone was as still as stone. “No!”

 

“Silly boy…” Mnemosyne sighed over Saifah’s shoulder. “Did you think all memories exist in a vacuum? That they just exist like pictures in a book?” Saifah grit his teeth as Mnemosyne giggled. His fists shook in repressed motion as she tossed her hair and continued. “Memories are more like a chain of links or bricks in a wall. If one is removed, eventually the rest will decay and fall apart. You thought you could use my mask, come into this poor boy’s dying memories, and just happen to find what you like?”

 

Saifah stared stubbornly ahead as the colors of Zon’s memory slowly started to turn gray. “Say something useful or shut up!”

 

“So rude…” Mnemosyne giggled again. “His dying means the links are falling apart. If you wanted him to remember, you would have had to restore each link until he did remember the details you want.” Her lips formed a sharp smirk. “But it seems our time together is up. You can only see this far and now my mask will be useless to you.”

 

Saifah felt the sting of his nails splitting the skin of his palm and looked at his wrist to see Zon’s guitar pick bracelet that he’d taken for courage and luck. 

 

“Whenever you play my favorite song I always feel a bit better.”

 

“A song… To make Zon feel better… A song to remember…” Saifah whispered. He quickly put his quiver on the ground, turning it back into a guitar case. Saifah pulled out his guitar and immediately began to strum.

 

“A song can’t help you now!” Mnemosyne laughed. “You can’t see more than three days worth with my mask!”

 

“I can’t see more,” Saifah said softly as his strumming continued. The notes of Zon’s favorite song began to travel, attracting the notice of those in Zon’s memory and they turned their heads. “But I can make Zon remember these three days again.”

 

“What?!”

 

“Zon…” Saifah whispered as the sound of his guitar seemed to reverberate through the space, growing louder and louder. “Remember for me. Help me.”

 

A gust of wind blew past, like a breathy exhale of an aurae. “Saifah…” it seemed to whisper as it passed by Saifah’s ear. Color returned to the memory, the sun paused and slowly began to move backwards. Saifah could not help the smile growing on his face. 

 

“That’s it. That’s my Zon… My best Zon… Come on!” Saifah shouted. Never had Saifah felt his fingers move so fast on his guitar. Not even after several shots of espresso while attempting to play Through Fire and Flames. Note after note, chord after chord, all flowed with an ease. Saifah focused on the feeling of the music, trying to capture the fleeting blessing of Apollo in his mind.

 

“No! This is… No one has ever…” Mnemosyne looked in wonder as people in Zon’s memory began to walk backwards. The air around them shimmered and vibrated. “What is this?!”

 

“You who are a fragment of what you were, a titan of memory now just a whisper,” said Saifah as his song continued. “Watch me pull these links back together, the fragment made whole through a song.” Saifah strummed one final chord and the world became a blur around him and the now miniscule titan floating over his shoulder. 

 

When everything stopped, the sun was in the sky as if it had just become morning. Just as it had been two days ago in Zon’s memories. All the little details Saifah had ignored before, he took in now. Tutor sat at the fountain in the forum, attempting to counsel Tine. Somewhere in the distance, the rumbling that usually preceded Bohn and Ram disagreeing was happening, but the way to that area of the forum was still fuzzy and indistinct. Thara passed by, a basket of sweet jasmine in one arm while Frong frowned from under the awning of his family’s flower shop. 

 

“Would you look at that,” Saifah said airily as he put his guitar away and returned the case to his back, turning it back into a quiver. “Looks like my three days aren’t over just yet.”

 

Saifah was immediately thankful he was the only one who could see Mnemosyne because of her ear piercing shriek that followed.

 

As Mnemosyne raged in a circular path around his head, Saifah focused on the first story Zon had told him. 

 

“...Tutor was trying to help Tine…”

 

It wasn’t as if Tutor was always standoff-ish. Tutor was as nice as anyone else really. More so perhaps if Saifah thought about how frequently Tutor had offered extra training or lessons to anyone falling behind in their cohort. Saifah had taken advantage of that plenty of times. 

 

But Tutor was not one that Saifah would describe as always… in tune with his emotions, especially romantic ones. The contradiction of emotional intelligence versus parentage was the one way Saifah could tell Tutor from his “twin,” Pete. Tutor had spent years avoiding and dancing around Fighter’s puppy eyes and overtures. The tension between them had gotten better after their adventure into the depths of the Collective Unconscious, if his slowly blooming relationship with Fighter was any indication. But to see Tutor sitting with Tine, his fellow son of Venus, by the forum fountain was particularly jarring. Especially considering Tine’s most recent woes.

 

Tine had spent most of his time at Camp Jupiter with minimal issues until recently when Sarawat, a new son of Apollo, had joined. Suddenly Tine’s life of just barely getting by in training and managing to look “chic” at the same time had suddenly gone into a tumult. Saifah didn’t have all the details, but Sarawat was involved in multiple ways and perhaps, if the jersey in Tine’s hands was any indication, the main cause of Tine’s distress. While Tutor often gave good advice, Tutor was not the one Saifah would run to for relationship advice.

 

Saifah politely suppressed the memory of Tutor brushing him off when Saifah had wanted to ask for advice in pursuing Zon before stepping closer to listen in while whistling in an approximation of the way that Zon did when acting like he wasn’t up to anything.

 

“I just… he keeps giving me all these mixed signals and…” Tine sighed. “I don’t know if I should take him seriously…”

 

“Well, if it’s mixed signals, then maybe it’s best that you leave it be,” Tutor said firmly. “He’s clearly not thought it through either.”

 

Saifah winced and thought back to the day he’d caught Sarawat staring at an old picture while laying on his bed. An oddly familiar hairstyle and stylish figure were all he was able to catch before Sarawat stuffed the picture under his pillow and demanded what Saifah had wanted.

 

Leaving Tine and Tutor alone, Saifah edged to where Sarawat was staring at them from behind a few pillars. His expression was as stoic as ever, but Saifah could feel the jealousy coming off of him in waves.

 

“Hi, Sarawat.” Saifah smiled and waved. Sarawat turned and acknowledged him cautiously and only then did Saifah remember that he currently looked like Zon. “I’m Zon! A senior legionnaire here in the Legion. If you need help with anything, you should feel free to ask me,” Saifah said, attempting to interject as much Zon-like cheer into his words as possible. 

 

“Thanks, uh Zon.” Sarawat turned right back to staring at Tine and Saifah frowned and made a note to see what could be done about fixing Sarawat’s attitude when he was out of Zon’s memories. 

 

“Is something over there bothering you?” Sarawat stayed silent. “Or perhaps… you have a crush on Centurion Tutor?” Sarawat whipped around to glare at Saifah. “I have to warn you, if it’s Tor you’re after, he’s already got someone…” 

 

“Of course it’s not Centurion Tutor!”

 

“Then?”

 

“Then, what does it matter to you?”

 

“Well, I’m just saying…” Saifah let a cocky grin cross his face. “If it’s the first time you’ve been exposed to Children of Venus… I mean, they are very pretty, but you’d be in big trouble if you tried to take advantage of that-” Saifah was cut off by being pulled by the collar. 

 

“Tine is not just a pretty face-”

 

“Oh, so it’s Tine!” Saifah reached up and casually twisted Sarawat’s hand, twisting his arm and freeing himself from Sarawat’s novice grip in the process. Sarawat could only squawk. “I hear Tine likes music. And you’re a Son of Apollo after all, have you even tried playing him some music?”

 

“You-”

 

“Here, I’ll even lend you my guitar this once.” Saifah let go of Sarawat to offer him his guitar. “Go on. I bet if you play Everything by Scrubb, Tine will come running right now.”

 

Sarawat scowled as he took the guitar from Saifah. “It’s so loud here, there’s no way-”

 

“Try it. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll persuade Centurion Tutor to get you out of probatio status faster. Think about it. Finally getting treated like your own person. You get to have a room to yourself in the barracks!” 

 

Sarawat didn’t even think twice before strumming the first chord. His singing was strong and clear. Saifah took a moment to enjoy the artistry of a fellow musician before he heard the sound of running.

 

“Oh my gosh, are you playing, ‘Everything?!’” Tine’s eyes were sparkling. “No one else in camp has heard of the song! Do you know any other Scrubb songs?”

 

“So you’ll talk to me now?”

 

Tine had the decency to blush and Saifah took it as his cue to casually take the guitar away from Sarawat and step back. “Well… I… I’m… You see...”

 

Sarawat sighed. “If you meet me later tonight, I’ll play any Scrubb song you can name.”

 

“Really?!”

 

“But you have to promise to listen to me first.”

 

Mnemosyne frowned. “This… This is not how his memories go…” She almost danced in front of Saifah’s face, but only if stomping was a dance. “How did you-”

 

“It’s kind of the same but different.” Saifah shrugged. “Zon doesn’t know Sarawat like I do. I don’t blame him. We stay in different parts of the barracks for Cohort Five. But I know what Zon told me about Tine. And that’s plenty to play with.”

 

“...your approach disturbs me.” 

 

“I’m not here to satisfy you. I’m here to get through this.”

 

“This isn’t a game,” Mnemosyne said as she flicked Saifah’s forehead. “If you mess up, you might do worse than ignoring the passage of the days.” She smirked. “Do you think your little trick with your song will help you again?” Saifah stopped in his tracks. “So careless… What will you do then, if you have to start over? Did you even pay attention to what Zon said since you claim to remember everything he did?”

 

“Zon didn’t give specifics,” Saifah hissed as he rubbed his forehead. “So even though I know what Zon said he did, I don’t know how he did it.” Saifah swatted at the titan of memory and Mnemosyne barely managed to avoid his hand. “But for all your naysaying and chastising, it’s not doing anything to Zon’s memory. So how much of what you told me is the truth and how much is a lie?”

 

Mnemosyne remained silent and that was enough for Saifah.

 

Meanwhile, Tine had happily run off, humming another Scrub song while Sarawat scowled and blushed before walking off. But even he had a particular jaunt to his step, as if he was incredibly pleased with himself. Only Tutor remained, mildly stunned and staring at the empty space the odd couple had left. Saifah casually wandered up and tapped him on the shoulder.

 

“So, still got those new recruits that need training?”

------

Saifah groaned as he slowly walked to the place Tine and Sarawat were supposed to meet. 

 

After training the newest batch of probatio ( “You’re evil, Zon….” Ting said as she collapsed into a heap in the training ring. Tang fell next to her, and Phu was the only one bending over, hands on his knees gasping for breath. ), Saifah ran over to Frong’s flower shop and made a nuisance of himself until Thara came around for his afternoon batch of jasmine flowers ( “You should join our D&D game, Frong. I don’t understand why you’re resisting… Oh, is it because Thara joins us? He’s not playing Cleric. He’s playing Barbarian… Maybe you should give him something else to use that Rage ability on...” “GET OUT!” ). 

 

Mnemosyne had been suspiciously quiet throughout it all. Not a single word about how Saifah’s methods had deviated if any from Zon’s original memories. Saifah paid her no mind anyway except to occasionally check if her glowing form was still hovering somewhere around his head. Exhaustion from the day’s events was finally sinking in and Saifah wondered if he was out of shape or if his boyfriend was simply far too energetic for his own good.

 

Still, Mnemosyne’s threat of memories paused and locked was enough to keep Saifah going to see the first day through to completion. Climbing up into a tree, Saifah rested on a sturdy branch and waited, softly plucking at guitar strings to pass the time. Soon enough, Sarawat appeared, guitar strapped to his back, a strange cross between anxiety and a scowl on his face. A few minutes later, a nervous Tine appeared, the only proof of which was the bruise bitten into his lip. 

 

The pair were a bit too far for Saifah to hear clearly while talking, but Sarawat’s song was strong and clear. Saifah strummed along by ear, weaving his notes between Sarawat’s. Tine’s eyes seemed to sparkle and gleam in a way that Saifah had only seen with Pete or Yo, something that seemed more Aphrodite than Venus. But regardless, such a gaze hooked into Sarawat’s soul cleanly and deeply. Sarawat continued to play. Tine continued his soft gaze. Saifah sighed to himself and continued to enjoy the secret duet, counting Sarawat’s parting line to Tine as a victory.

 

“You don’t have to have me in your heart yet, but just keep your heart open for me.” Tine’s red face was apparently a sufficient answer as Sarawat let him run off. 

 

“Well I’d say that’s a day well sorted,” Saifah said as he put his guitar back into his magic case, turning the whole thing back into his quiver. “Now I can actually eat something… ugh… What did Zon eat today anyway?” Saifah racked his brain. “He’s been going on and on about some noodle place King took Ram to, and apparently Kao said it was good when he dragged Phu there so…”

 

“...You really do listen to him, don’t you?” 

 

Saifah tiredly turned to look at Mnemosyne, casually sitting with her legs crossed on his shoulder. “Of course I do,” he said as he scoffed before climbing back down the tree. “What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t?”

 

“Interesting… very interesting…”

 

“Aren’t you a titan of memory?” Saifah slowly began his walk in the direction of the noodle restaurant in the forum. “Since when do you concern yourself with the sincerities of love?”

 

“Don’t be foolish, mortal.” Mnemosyne dusted off her incorporeal skirt. “Of all the kinds of memories that endure, memories of love and pain endure the longest. I would be a fool to not acknowledge that. And it has been a very long time since a mortal has dared to ask for my blessing out of love.”

 

“Were there many that did?” Saifah sighed as he sat down. A waiter ran over immediately and Saifah pointed to the nearest thing on the menu before continuing his conversation. “Didn’t most people come to you for visions of the future or past?”

 

“A few did. Though those I rarely blessed. But…” Mnemosyne slowly fluttered down to stand on the table, looking at the various condiments available to dress the noodle dishes. “The ones that truly impressed me were those who wanted to remember less painful times, not for power or glory, but to keep one last beautiful memory.”

 

“That’s surprisingly mortal of you.”

 

Mnemosyne scoffed. “I suppose my years of interacting with you lot have made me soft. I never was fond of Prometheus and his overbearing heart. Shame Jupiter did not punish him to have that clawed out every day.”

 

Saifah paused, noodles halfway to his lips. “Never mind, you’re still very much a titan.”

 

Mnemosyne waved her hand at him dismissively. “Eat your fill, mortal.” She snapped her fingers and a surprising stack of coins appeared out of thin air onto the table. “This once, it’s on me.” Mnemosine hovered back in front of Saifah’s face and Saifah nearly went cross-eyed to look at her. “I am interested to see how you will finish your three days now.”

------

Saifah was out like a light the minute his head hit the pillow, but was surprised to find himself waking up to Mnemosyne’s insistent tugging on his hair fully refreshed. After preparing himself for the day, Saifah ran into the forum to feel the ground rumbling under his feet and the sounds of bones rattling. 

 

“Oh. Shit.” Saifah turned his head left and right until he caught King and Duen running towards the commotion. “Fuck! I’m late!” Saifah bolted, attempting to use his longer legs to get him to the scene of Bohn and Ram’s fight before King and Duen could get there. It was crucial that “Zon” resolve the fight between the sons of Neptune and Pluto before King and Duen got involved. Or at least, Zon had claimed he managed to resolve the fight before King and Duen got there. However, Zon had been especially vague on how he managed that.

 

Out of the four children of the Big Three at Camp Jupiter, Bohn and Ram had one of the most intense rivalries and disagreements that Camp Jupiter had seen for a long time. Saifah attributed it to the fact that at least all the Camp Half-Blood Big Three campers had boyfriends to work their extra energy out on. As far as Saifah was aware, neither Bohn or Ram had managed to make complete overtures to Duen (in Bohn’s case) or King (in Ram’s case) as the other was always interfering. On the other hand, Solo had only ever had eyes for Gui after Gui had greeted the newest probatio of Jupiter with a cup of warm milk a year ago. Phu would forever deny that the sunny Kao managed to worm his way into his steely heart, but Kao’s constant songs about the eldest son of Pluto would prove otherwise.

 

Gasping for breath after managing to get ahead of Duen and King, Saifah watched as Bohn raised a large wave from the lake of the Little Tibber and Ram continued to whistle, summoning an army of skeletal dogs. 

 

“I hate when Big Three kids fight,” Saifah yelled over the howling and rattling of skeletal dogs and the roar of rushing water. “I hate it.” Saifah then reached for his quiver, turning it back into a guitar case.

 

“What are you doing?!” Mnemosyne yelled as Saifah pulled out his guitar. “I don’t think a camp song is going to help you now!”

 

“I saw this on a Chinese drama once!” 

 

“WHAT?!”

 

Saifah held a chord and focused his energy into his guitar with intent before strumming in the direction of the impending crash of water and bone. A wave of sound and energy seemed to fire off from his guitar, colliding with the other two forces and dispersing them. Saifah cheered and pumped a fist in the air. Bohn and Ram turned their furious gazes on Saifah, who ignored them.

 

“FUCK YEAH! SOUND OF VANQUISHING! I knew watching that drama would come in handy one day.”

 

“Zon! Don’t interfere!” Bohn yelled as he pulled up another wave of water. “Gonna teach this graveyard punk to leave me alone!”

 

Ram said nothing but continued his low and menacing whistle, making his dogs reassemble themselves. 

 

“Are you sure you want to do that?” Saifah absently strummed another chord on his guitar and the water and skeletons went still. “Duen and King are coming… And if I remember right, they were both reaaaaaaly mad you two are still fighting….”

 

“Wait! Don’t let them-”

 

At that very moment King and Duen ran onto the field. Bohn hastily put his hands up, making the wave crash back into the lake. Ram cut his whistle short, making all his skeletal dogs heel.

 

“Cool boy, are you two fighting again?!” King threw his arm over Ram’s shoulders and started to haul him away. “Come on, put your creepy dogs away and just trust me when I say Bohn isn’t going to hurt your friend.”

 

“King.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, come on. I’ll buy you a coffee and you can glare it aaaalllll out…”

 

Ram, in a rare display of difference, did not roll his eyes and instead kept his gaze firmly fixed on the Son of Ceres and allowed himself to be pulled away. Bohn was less fortunate. 

 

“Bohn!” Duen reached out and managed to grab and twist Bohn’s ear. “Again?! How many times do I have to tell you-”

 

“He challenged me first! Ow! Hey! Come on! Let’s talk this out!”

 

“Oh, now you want to talk?”

 

“Duen! Please!”

 

Saifah sighed as Bohn’s protests faded into the distance. “Finally…” Saifah slumped to the ground. “Okay… I think… Short of a few other things… Zon didn’t really do anything else too crazy today.”

 

“Take a breather, Son of Apollo,” Mnemosyne said as she sat on Saifah’s head. “I suppose you’ve earned it this morning.”

 

Saifah didn’t argue and closed his eyes before they flew open. “Wait! Tonight Zon and I are supposed to…”

 

“Supposed to?”

 

“Er… Does this mean I’m going to meet myself?” Mnemosyne’s pause and lack of answer was enough. “This is… going to be interesting.”

------

Thursday night, the night of the second day, descended with only a small amount of Saifah induced chaos which included, but was not limited to: Thara catching Frong as he nearly fell off a ladder; this lead to Sarawat catching a loose flower from the arrangements Frong was trying to display and tucking it into Tine’s hair; Mek getting tackled by Boss after a casual foot in the right place to trip Boss in the first place; and lastly, Tutor catching Fighter parading around in a pair of very short basketball shorts. Fighter’s choice in shorts had not directly been Saifah’s doing, but more caused by his delivery of a package sent by Pete.

 

Saifah walked slowly to the place where he had met Zon that night. However, no matter how hard he strained his ears, he could not pick up the expected strains of his own guitar playing. Saifah frowned and peeked around the corner to find someone else he didn’t expect waiting.

 

“Zon? Zon!” Saifah rushed in and picked up the shorter boy and swung him around. “Is this really…”

 

“Saifah!” Saifah tried not to shiver after not hearing Zon say his name for what felt like nearly an entire week worth of memories. “Put me down!”

 

“But how?! I thought you-” Mnemosyne simply cleared her throat before flying off into a tree. “Thank you, Lady Mnemosyne,” Saifah said in her direction. Mnemosyne’s only response was to pretend to retch. 

 

“Saifah? How are you…”

 

“It’s a long story.” Saifah pulled away to fully take in Zon’s face. It had become a little paler, a little more gaunt, but there was still a liveliness to his eyes. Zon, or at least the way he felt or saw himself, was still fighting. “Do you… Can you tell me who…”

 

Zon shook his head before resting it against Saifah’s chest. “I don’t… I can’t remember his name.” Zon closed his eyes and Saifah pulled him closer. “I’m dying, aren’t I? I… I feel cold…”

 

“I’m going to fix it,” Saifah said as he stroked the back of Zon’s head, comforting Zon and himself. “I’ll find out what poison he used on you and you’ll be fine.”

 

“Saifah… If you can’t…”

 

“No. I’m going to do it. I can do it..”

 

Zon fisted his hands in Saifah’s shirt. “If you can’t save me,” Zon said again firmly, “Don’t blame yourself.”

 

“Zon.”

 

“I chose to jump in the way. I chose it because…”

 

“I love you too, my best Zon,” Saifah said into Zon’s hair before kissing the top of his head. “I love you so much.”

 

Zon said nothing more and the two held each other in the quiet until Mnemosyne came back down from the tree and told Saifah it was time to leave.

------

After a restless night, Saifah bolted out of bed with a manic energy. Friday morning had arrived. 

 

Hours before Zon would have met him, Saifah prowled the entire perimeter of the forum, looking for all possible positions an archer could hide to snipe shots. Not many could be found, least of all from the back of where he had been standing. Soon, Saifah could do nothing but wait for the proper moment to step out into the forum and attempt to see his would be assassin.

 

As Saifah stepped out, he had hoped for a repeat of the previous night, that Mnemosine would bless him once more with a moment with Zon, but it was not to be. A smiling image of himself was waiting for him instead. Saifah looked past the memory of himself as he walked with haste, but there was not even a hint of where the shot might come from. 

 

A foot away from his own image, Saifah finally spotted it. A glimmer before the shot was released. Jumping, Saifah tackled himself, reached into the air, prayed, and grasped. 

 

The burn of a wooden arrow shaft coming to a halt in his fist was an odd relief to Saifah as he tumbled to the ground. Stuffing the poisoned arrow into his quiver, Saifah ran in the direction of the fired shot, ignoring his own screams about an archer in the forum. But as Saifah ran, the memory started to slow and fade.

 

“No!” Saifah tried to run faster, but it was as if running through syrup. “Let me see him! Let me see who did this!”

 

“You are pushing the limits,” Mnemosyne said sadly. “I commend you, Saifah, for doing so much.”

 

“Please! Just one more moment,” Saifah begged. “Let me see his face! Zon saw it! You have that much power!” Mnemosyne sighed. The moment hung in the air. An image swam in front of Saifah’s face. Saifah’s eyes widened once he realized what he was looking at. “This is… He’s…”

 

“Good bye, Saifah, Son of Apollo.” Mnemosyne’s body grew until she was the size of a human and she lifted the mask off of Saifah’s face. “I can do no more for you.”

 

“Lady Mnemosyne…”

 

“Thank you for sharing with me the memory of your love. May you save him. And yourself.” Mnemosyne then flicked Saifah’s forehead with her finger. And with that, Saifah fell into darkness.

-----

“Saifah! Saifah!” Saifah awoke to Tine shaking his shoulder. “Saifah wake up!”

 

Saifah sat up and looked around. Zon was still as pale as ever, lying in his infirmary bed. Tanthai and Blue were also standing around Saifah’s spot on the floor. “What? How long was I-”

 

“You just… fainted the second you touched Zon. Tine started trying to wake you up immediately.” Blue said while blinking. “You were just out for a minute.”

 

“A… a minute?!” Saifah rubbed his eyes. “But I…” Saifah touched his face, the Mask of Mnemosyne was gone. “Damn it.”

 

“What happened? Why did you- Shit! Saifah! Your quiver is smoking!” Tanthai shouted as he moved to pull it off of his shoulder.

 

Saifah yelped before pulling out all the arrows from his quiver. Thankfully, the magic quiver itself had not been damaged, but all his remaining arrows but one had melted. Saifah eyed it with disdain and held it carefully.

 

“Call Thara in. Now. I’ve got the poison.”

 

Blue bolted into the hallway, shouting at the top of his lungs while Tine and Tanthai took a respectful step back. Saifah did not let go of the arrow until Thara came to whisk him away with it.

------

After several prayers and Thara’s fervent mixing of herbs and other tinctures, Saifah watched as Thara administered a concoction into Zon’s IV drip. Moments stretched like soft caramel candy until Zon’s breathing became deep and easy. Thara and Saifah both sighed with relief before Thara left Saifah to his vigil as he went to see more patients. Saifah took Zon’s hand and put his bracelet back around his wrist before kissing his knuckles. 

 

“I’ve got you,” Saifah whispered against Zon’s hand. “You’re going to be fine.” Zon’s hand seemed to squeeze back in reply and Saifah was more than happy to admit tears of relief at the gesture.

 

When Saifah allowed himself to relax from his vigil, hours had passed. The door opened to reveal Thara again to do his regular vitals check. 

 

“Thank you, Thara,” Saifah said as Thara scribbled on Zon’s chart. 

 

“Thank you, father,” Thara muttered as he put Zon’s chart back. “Asclepius be praised.” Thara then put a hand on Saifah’s shoulder. “You’re both very lucky. You got the arrow and Zon kept fighting.” Thara then squeezed Saifah’s shoulder. “Let Zon rest. I need to tell you something outside.”

 

Saifah followed Thara and was confronted with the remains of the arrowhead in a vial. “Just who is trying to kill you, Saifah.”

 

Saifah pinched the bridge of his nose as the image of a face came to the forefront of his thoughts. “Thara…”

 

“There is no average person or demigod that would get their hands on something like this. And the gods themselves would simply smite you off the earth.”

 

“Thara, please.”

 

“This is Python’s poison, Saifah. Your father’s mortal enemy.” The rattle of the arrowhead took on a different tone as the great snake’s name was spoken, setting Saifah’s thoughts into place. “Saifah, who wants you dead? Who did you see in Zon’s memories?”

 

“You have to promise you won’t tell Tutor, the other Centurions, or the Praetors,” Saifah said quietly. “We don’t need to start another war.”

 

Thara’s eyes widened. “No, after so many years of peace? Someone from Camp Half-Blood?”

 

Saifah winced. “Not… quite. Last time we visited… Pete told me this camper had run away from camp. After…”

 

“After?”

 

“He… He attempted something with another camper, Techno. Type and Chiron were not pleased. Before they could discipline him, he ran away.”

 

“Techno isn’t a son of Apollo.”

 

“No.” Saifah closed his eyes. “Techno isn’t.”

 

“And you aren’t interested in Techno.”

 

“This person... is targeting specific people. Not people blocking his way to Techno.” Saifah frowned. “People in the way of Python.” Mercury’s words floated to the surface of Saifah’s mind. “Thara… Do you remember where Kao was sent on a quest a few days ago?”

 

“Kao? Why would someone go after Kao?” Thara frowned. “Kao isn’t particularly-”

 

“There are many children of Apollo, Thara.” Saifah pulled off his quiver and stared at the embossed leather and gold before tracing the bold sun in the center. “Some of us are more blessed than others.” Saifah pulled his quiver back on. “Python must want us out of the way and this person targeting me is his agent. Which means… Kao is next, at least.”

 

“Kao is next?” Tutor said as he turned the corner followed by Fighter. “What exactly are you talking about, Saifah?”

 

Secret revealed, Saifah forced himself to make the most formal posture he had ever done in his entire life before saluting Tutor. “Centurion Tutor, I request permission to pursue today’s attacker to prevent a larger disaster, the hunting of several children of Apollo.”

 

Noting the formality, Tutor also stood a bit straighter. “You know I can’t authorize that.”

 

“If you don’t try, I’m going anyway.”

 

“You’ll be called a deserter.”

 

“Then that means you’ll just have to argue harder for me, Tor.”

 

Tutor pulled Saifah down to stare him in the eyes. “You can’t go alone, even if I wanted to let you.”

 

“I won’t be alone. I’ll pick up Kao on my way,” Saifah said calmly. “And I’m calling for backup from Camp Half-Blood. I’ll need the Wild Doctors too.”

 

“The Wild Doctors? Chiron won’t-”

 

“He won’t have a choice, Tor.” Saifah’s expression softened to pleading. “Please Tutor, I need to do this. I think… I think we need to do this as children of Apollo.”

 

Fighter put a hand on Tutor’s shoulder. “It sounds like a quest to me.”

 

“It was not given as a prophecy,” Tutor growled as he turned on Fighter. “You know that.”

 

“It… kind of was.” Saifah rubbed the back of his neck. “Lord Mercury came to see me before I tried to help Zon. He warned me… that if I helped Zon, I would start a journey that must be finished. And I think that journey is to deal with this. And whoever else is behind him.”

 

“You could sell that to the Praetors, you know,” Fighter said with a slight nudge to Tutor’s side. “A request from a god is as valid as anything after the last war when Mars showed up and made Frank Zhang go on a quest.”

 

Tutor groaned and scrubbed at his face. “Just once. Just ONCE I’d like you all to not start something ridiculous.”

 

Saifah squeezed Tutor’s shoulder. “Thank you, Tor.”

 

Tutor waved him off. “Last I remember, Kao was deployed to Ohio for a request for assistance from a former legatus. Khai and Third should be heading out that way on another assistance run tomorrow morning. Catch a ride with them.” Saifah quickly saluted Tutor before running off. “And for gods sake pack some more arrows!”

 

Fighter put his arm over Tutor’s shoulder. “You did the right thing.”

 

Tutor huffed. “Don’t you start. I still need to punish you for public indecency.”

 

“Do you promise?”

 

Tutor said nothing but stomped off to find Thara to hear about Zon’s condition while Fighter laughed.

------

The next morning, Saifah stood by Zon’s bedside again, carding his fingers through Zon’s hair. Zon stirred a little, eyes barely cracking open, but apparently seeing enough to be able to smile at Saifah.

 

“I’ll be back soon,” Saifah said before kissing Zon’s forehead. “Rest up well.”

 

Saifah then tracked down Junior, Tanthai, Natee, and Zen.

 

“I’m pulling rank. Keep an eye on Zon and don’t let him overexert himself while I’m gone.” The four looked at each other and then back to Saifah. “I’m serious!”

 

“Sai, you know how hard it is to make Zon do anything he doesn’t want to do,” Junior said around the straw for his iced coffee. “Unless you want us to handcuff him to his infirmary bed.”

 

“Then do that.”

 

“He’d be even madder if we did do that,” Natee pointed out. “And he said Can’s been teaching him how to lockpick.”

 

Saifah huffed before checking the time. “Look, under no circumstances is he to come chasing after me while I’m on this mission, got it? That’s all I’m asking for.”

 

Zen looked at the stand off between Saifah and the three other boys. “We’ll do what we can, but we’re not making any promises it’ll be successful.”

 

“That’s all I need. Thara doesn’t think Zon’s getting out of bed for another week at least. And hopefully, this doesn’t last longer than that.” Saifah saluted his friends before running off to catch up with Third and Khai.

------

“Welcome aboard, Saifah,” Third said as he buckled himself into his seat. “Long time no see.”

 

“So, I thought you swore you’d never get into my plane again,” Khai said over the intercom as he began the procedure for take off from Sonoma County Airport. 

 

Saifah stopped piling several vomit bags near him to reply, “Desperate times call for desperate measures, Khai.”

 

“You little shit. If it weren’t for legion rules-”

 

“Khai!”

 

The second Third’s shout came in over the headset, Khai’s expression immediately changed. “Welcome to KhaiThird Air! We hope you enjoy your flight! Now departing for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport! Please keep your seat trays in the upright position for takeoff. Thank you for choosing KhaiThird Air! Senatus Populusque Romanus!”

 

Saifah closed his eyes and took a deep breath to steel himself.

 

“I’m coming for you, Klengkla. You’re not getting what you want. Python isn’t either.”