"Don't get so excited, Jackson," he said, and I realized he was saying my name correctly. "I still plan on making your life miserable."
I couldn't help smiling. "Naturally."
"Just so we understand each other." He turned and began repairing his grapevine throne, which had been singed by fire.
Grover stayed at my side. From time to time he would break down in tears. "So many nature spirits dead, Percy. So many."
I put my arm around his shoulders and gave him a rag to blow his nose. "You did a great job, G-man. We will come back from this. We'll plant new trees. We'll clean up the parks. Your friends will be reincarnated into a better world."
He sniffled dejectedly. "I . . . I suppose. But it was hard enough to rally them before. I'm still an outcast. I could barely get anyone to listen to me about Pan. Now will they ever listen to me again? I led them into a slaughter."
"They will listen," I promised. "Because you care about them. You care about the Wild more than anyone."
He tried for a smile. "Thanks, Percy. I hope . . . I hope you know I'm really proud to be your friend."
I patted his arm. "Luke was right about one thing, G-man. You're the bravest satyr I ever met."
He blushed, but before he could say anything, conch horns blew. The army of Poseidon marched into the throne room.
"Percy!" Tyson yelled. He charged toward me with his arms open. Fortunately he'd shrunk back to normal size, so his hug was like getting hit by a tractor, not the entire farm.
"You are not dead!" he said.
"Yeah!" I agreed. "Amazing, huh?"
He clapped his hands and laughed happily. "I am not dead either. Yay! We chained Typhon. It was fun!"
Behind him, fifty other armored Cyclopes laughed and nodded and gave each other high fives.
"Tyson led us," one rumbled. "He is brave!"
"Bravest of the Cyclopes!" another bellowed.
Tyson blushed. "Was nothing."
"I saw you!" I said. "You were incredible!"
I thought poor Grover would pass out. He's deathly afraid of Cyclopes. But he steeled his nerves and said, "Yes. Um . . . three cheers for Tyson!"
"YAAARRRRR!" the Cyclopes roared.
"Please don't eat me," Grover muttered, but I don't think anyone heard him.
The conch horns blasted again. The Cyclopes parted, and my father strode into the throne room in his battle armor, his trident glowing in his hands.
"Tyson!" he roared. "Well done, my son. And Percy—" His face turned stern. He wagged his finger at me, and for a second I was afraid he was going to zap me. "I even forgive you for sitting on my throne. You have saved Olympus!"
He held out his arms and gave me a hug. I realized, a little embarrassed, that I'd never actually hugged my dad before. He was warm—like a regular human—and he smelled of a salty beach and fresh sea air.
When he pulled away, he smiled kindly at me. I felt so good, I'll admit I teared up a little. I guess until that moment I hadn't allowed myself to realize just how terrified I had been the last few days.
"Shhh," he said. "No hero is above fear, Percy. And you have risen above every hero. Not even Hercules—"
"POSEIDON!" a voice roared.
Zeus had taken his throne. He glared across the room at my dad while all the other gods filed in and took their seats. Even Hades was present, sitting on a simple stone guest chair at the foot of the hearth. Nico sat cross-legged on the ground at his dad's feet.
"Well, Poseidon?" Zeus grumped. "Are you too proud to join us in council, my brother?"
I thought Poseidon was going to get mad, but he just looked at me and winked. "I would be honored, Lord Zeus."
I guess miracles do happen. Poseidon strode over to his fishing seat, and the Olympian Council convened.
While Zeus was talking—some long speech about the bravery of the gods, etc.—Annabeth walked in and stood next to me. She looked good for someone who'd recently passed out.
"Miss much?" she whispered.
"Nobody's planning to kill us, so far," I whispered back.
"First time today."
I cracked up, but Grover nudged me because Hera was giving us a dirty look.
"As for my brothers," Zeus said, "we are thankful"—he cleared his throat like the words were hard to get out—"erm, thankful for the aid of Hades."
The lord of the dead nodded. He had a smug look on his face, but I figure he'd earned the right. He patted his son Nico on the shoulders, and Nico looked happier than I'd ever seen him.
"And, of course," Zeus continued, though he looked like his pants were smoldering, "we must . . . um . . . thank Poseidon."
"I'm sorry, brother," Poseidon said. "What was that?"
"We must thank Poseidon," Zeus growled. "Without whom . . . it would've been difficult—"
"Difficult?" Poseidon asked innocently.
"Impossible," Zeus said. "Impossible to defeat Typhon."
The gods murmured agreement and pounded their weapons in approval.
"Which leaves us," Zeus said, "only the matter of thanking our young demigod heroes, who defended Olympus so well—even if there are a few dents in my throne."
He called Thalia forward first, since she was his daughter, and promised her help in filling the Hunters' ranks.
Artemis smiled. "You have done well, my lieutenant. You have made me proud, and all those Hunters who perished in my service will never be forgotten. They will achieve Elysium, I am sure."
She glared pointedly at Hades.
He shrugged. "Probably."
Artemis glared at him some more.
"Okay," Hades grumbled. "I'll streamline their application process."
Thalia beamed with pride. "Thank you, my lady." She bowed to the gods, even Hades, and then limped over to stand by Artemis's side.
"Tyson, son of Poseidon!" Zeus called. Tyson looked nervous, but he went to stand in the middle of the Council, and Zeus grunted.
"Doesn't miss many meals, does he?" Zeus muttered. "Tyson, for your bravery in the war, and for leading the Cyclopes, you are appointed a general in the armies of Olympus. You shall henceforth lead your brethren into war whenever required by the gods. And you shall have a new . . . um . . . what kind of weapon would you like? A sword? An axe?"
"Stick!" Tyson said, showing his broken club.
"Very well," Zeus said. "We will grant you a new, er, stick. The best stick that may be found."
"Hooray!" Tyson cried, and all the Cyclopes cheered and pounded him on the back as he rejoined them.
"Grover Underwood of the satyrs!" Dionysus called.
Grover came forward nervously.
"Oh, stop chewing your shirt," Dionysus chided. "Honestly, I'm not going to blast you. For your bravery and sacrifice, blah, blah, blah, and since we have an unfortunate vacancy, the gods have seen fit to name you a member of the Council of Cloven Elders."
Grover collapsed on the spot.
"Oh, wonderful," Dionysus sighed, as several naiads came forward to help Grover. "Well, when he wakes up, someone tell him that he will no longer be an outcast, and that all satyrs, naiads, and other spirits of nature will henceforth treat him as a lord of the Wild, with all rights, privileges, and honors, blah, blah, blah. Now please, drag him off before he wakes up and starts groveling."
"FOOOOOD," Grover moaned, as the nature spirits carried him away.
I figured he'd be okay. He would wake up as a lord of the Wild with a bunch of beautiful naiads taking care of him. Life could be worse.
Athena called, "Annabeth Chase, my own daughter."
Annabeth squeezed my arm, then walked forward and knelt at her mother's feet.
Athena smiled. "You, my daughter, have exceeded all expectations. You have used your wits, your strength, and your courage to defend this city, and our seat of power. It has come to our attention that Olympus is . . . well, trashed. The Titan lord did much damage that will have to be repaired. We could rebuild it by magic, of course, and make it just as it was. But the gods feel that the city could be improved. We will take this as an opportunity. And you, my daughter, will design these improvements."
Annabeth looked up, stunned. "My . . . my lady?"
Athena smiled wryly. "You are an architect, are you not? You have studied the techniques of Daedalus himself. Who better to redesign Olympus and make it a monument that will last for another eon?"
"You mean . . . I can design whatever I want?"
"As your heart desires," the goddess said. "Make us a city for the ages."
"As long as you have plenty of statues of me," Apollo added.
"And me," Aphrodite agreed.
"Hey, and me!" Ares said. "Big statues with huge wicked swords and—"
"All right!" Athena interrupted. "She gets the point. Rise, my daughter, official architect of Olympus."
Annabeth rose in a trance and walked back toward me.
"Way to go," I told her, grinning.
For once she was at a loss for words. "I'll . . . I'll have to start planning . . . Drafting paper, and, um, pencils—"
"PERCY JACKSON!" Poseidon announced. My name echoed around the chamber.
All talking died down. The room was silent except for the crackle of the hearth fire. Everyone's eyes were on me—all the gods, the demigods, the Cyclopes, the spirits. I walked into the middle of the throne room. Hestia smiled at me reassuringly. She was in the form of a girl now, and she seemed happy and content to be sitting by her fire again. Her smile gave me courage to keep walking.
First I bowed to Zeus. Then I knelt at my father's feet.
"Rise, my son," Poseidon said.
I stood uneasily.
"A great hero must be rewarded," Poseidon said. "Is there anyone here who would deny that my son is deserving?"
I waited for someone to pipe up. The gods never agreed on anything, and many of them still didn't like me, but not a single one protested.
"The Council agrees," Zeus said. "Percy Jackson, you will have one gift from the gods."
I hesitated. "Any gift?"
Zeus nodded grimly. "I know what you will ask. The greatest gift of all. Yes, if you want it, it shall be yours. The gods have not bestowed this gift on a mortal hero in many centuries, but, Perseus Jackson—if you wish it—you shall be made a god. Immortal. Undying. You shall serve as your father's lieutenant for all time."
I stared at him, stunned. "Um . . . a god?"
Zeus rolled his eyes. "A dimwitted god, apparently. But yes. With the consensus of the entire Council, I can make you immortal. Then I will have to put up with you forever."
"Hmm," Ares mused. "That means I can smash him to a pulp as often as I want, and he'll just keep coming back for more. I like this idea."
"I approve as well," Athena said, though she was looking at Annabeth.
I glanced back. Annabeth was trying not to meet my eyes. Her face was pale. I flashed back to two years ago, when I'd thought she was going to take the pledge to Artemis and become a Hunter. I'd been on the edge of a panic attack, thinking that I'd lose her. Now, she looked pretty much the same way.