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Pirates of the Mediterranean

Chapter Text

“All hands hoy!” Achilles has to shout just to be heard over the roaring winds, his coat soaked through in the storm, “Ye better batten down the hatches!”

Of course the Myrmidons’ crew had, they were the best sailors Achilles could have asked for.

“Avast, captain!! It looks like the Dread Lord Hades!” Patroclus jumped up to Achilles’ side, holding his spyglass, “He’s a mad man! It’s not even dry enough for gunpowder in these conditions.”

“We’d best try to outrun him!” Achilles’ golden hair was wild in his face, “We’ll show them that the Myrmidon is the fastest brigantine yet! Surely faster than the crusty Chthonic!”

They couldn’t raise a sail, the winds were too strong for that, but one word from Achilles was all it took for the Myrmidon to set to rowing.

Patroclus pulled out his blue kerchief from a coat pocket, “Hold still!”

Achilles froze immediately, letting Patroclus tie it over his hair, “There, can’t have you blinded by your own hair.”

Achilles shot him a ferocious grin that he couldn’t help but laugh at, “Even with the Dread Lord at our backs and heading into a storm, you look after me!”

“What else is a first mate for?”

Their men were fast, strong, and death at the hands of the scourge of the seven seas was motivation enough. They were slowly pulling ahead.

Patroclus was at the bow, Achilles’ silver trimmed tricorn hat on his head to keep the rain off so he could see better through his spyglass. He spotted something chilling, “Captain, they’re planning on boarding us!”

“Are you sure??” As if Achilles had to question Patroulus’ keen eye.

“They’re all armed to the teeth! And the Dread Lord just passed off the wheel to someone else!”

Achilles let out a fine set of swears, “Everyone prepare to be boarded! We’ll show them not to mess with the Myrmidon!!”

Not a moment after the order went out they heard the sickening sound of metal crushing into wood as grappling hooks and ropes were thrown into the deck and over the railing.

“Blimey, they’re trying to pull us in!” Achilles shouted.

The Chthonic was a brig, bigger than the Myrmidon, but not by much. It would take many men to pull it off of its course.

“Patroclus, take the wheel!” Achilles was already dashing off, drawing his sword as Patroclus did just that, steering away from the Chthonic as much as he could to avoid getting rammed.

Achilles wielded his broadsword with all of the power and speed he was famed for, hacking through a rope as thick as a man’s wrist as if it were cheesecloth.

Men were starting to board, jumping down on deck. The Dread Lord obviously had some sort of uniform, each one dressed in dark blacks, accented in golds, blues, reds.

What a bunch of pretentious pirates, who needs a uniform when you’re plundering the seas? Patroclus and he matched, their coats nearly indistinguishable, but that had been a holdover from their navy days.

That particular train of thought was derailed as he ducked to avoid a swinging pirate, set on taking his head clear off.

A figure dropped to the deck in front of him and Achilles recognized him immediately.

Thanatos, often simply called Death Incarnate, the Dread Lord’s first mate. He wielded a scythe, something more fit to a farm than the high seas, but he had made a name for himself for killing every navy man, pirate, or privateer he got his hook on.

He had a long black coat with golden buttons and a hood pulled up against the rain, a golden scarf tucked into his gray vest. There's a human skull on a golden yellow sash around his waist. Achilles briefly wonders who the poor bastard was.

“Death approaches,” he said simply, a razor sharp hook for a right hand, his scythe in his left. The wind had pushed his hood off, revealing shocking white hair and golden eyes that practically glow, “Prepare to meet your end.”

Well. Time to put Achilles’ reputation for being unkillable to the test.

He strikes first, but Thanatos is fast, swinging his scythe around to catch his spear.

Achilles lets his spear slide, lest it get ripped from his grip, spinning out of the way of the blade coming towards his face.

Death Incarnate is fast, and fighting with a scythe is new territory. Achilles’ eyes dart all around as he’s forced on the defensive, only barely able to keep his ground.

He nearly slipped on the rain slicked deck, and Thanatos manages to nick him on the bicep. Achilles hissed, but did not falter. It is a very small wound, but the red stands out against pale skin.

“There’s a rumor that your skin is unbreakable,” Thanatos said in a voice devoid of any feeling, “It’s refreshing to see that that isn’t the case,” he tilts his head just a bit to the cut on his arm.

“No one who’s harmed me has lived to tell another soul,” Achilles spat.

Patroclus felt his heart drop like a stone when he saw Death Incarnate drop in front of his Achilles, but he told himself harshly No, Achilles will survive this. He always does.

He took a length of rope and lashed it to the spokes of the wheel, and tied that to the banister to keep the ship turned away.

They were already trading blows before Patroclus was even done, drawing his own cutlass and vaulting over to his beloved.

He had barely taken a step forward before the deck shook behind him.

“This fight is not for you, Captain,” a deep voice said, freezing Patroclus in place.

He was not captain?

Blood and darkness, he was wearing Achilles’ hat!

He whirled, faced with the Dread Lord Hades himself.

The rumors about him seemed to be true, unfortunately.

Hades was a huge man, his very existence blotting out everything else. His beard was long and his fingers full of rings, he was wearing a coat the color of blood and a navy hat with red feathers stuck in it. He was every bit the imposing figure every pirate said he was.

“It’s the Myrmidon’s time to fall,” Hades boomed, drawing a bident out from under his cloak.

Patroclus knew in his heart of hearts he was no match for Hades. But he’d be damned twice over if he didn’t try.

“Do you expect me to roll over like a kicked dog?” Patroclus taunted as they traded blows.

“I expect you to die,” Hades was barely even exerting himself, Patroclus realized with a sinking feeling.

“Pat! Duck!”

Patroclus didn’t even think about it, he simply did as Achilles asked.

A fishing spear came right for Hades, giving Patroclus just enough time to retreat next to him.

Achilles had a gash on his arm and his deep green coat had a slice in it, but otherwise he didn’t look worse for wear. Patroclus couldn’t help but feel relieved.

“What happened to Thanatos??”

“His self preservation kicked in and he disappeared,” Achilles didn’t sound very pleased by that.

They didn’t have time to converse past that, with Hades coming for them both.

He must have had the power of ten men in his swings for how he tore up the deck of the ship with his strikes.

Achilles was fast on his feet, steering clear of Hades’ swings and returning with the same wild energy.

Patroclus fought close to the Dread Lord, using precision to weave in between the both of them.

“You’re an admirable fighting force,” Hades conceded after Achilles landed a hit right across his face and Patroclus nearly skewered him, “But not as powerful as the Chthonic.”

Achilles let out a savage cry as Thanatos jumped up from the side of the ship and throttled him from behind, Achilles only narrowly avoiding getting his throat ripped out by his hook.

Hades was on Patroclus in an instant, using his surprise to catch his blade and fling it to the side, grabbing him with one huge hand and dragging him to the side of the ship.

Hades had him by the collar, and Patroclus was held over the open ocean, his toes the only thing still in contact with the ship.

The ship was continuing to strain against the grapples, and he felt the banister snap under his foot, now held directly over open water.

“Send Davy Jones my regards,” The Dread Lord said before letting go.

“PATROCLUS!!” Achilles screamed, anguish ripping through him. In a blind rage he ripped free of Thanatos and slashed at Hades with a fury to rival the storm itself before throwing himself forward to try and follow his love.

The last thing Patroclus saw was Achilles, reaching out for him but already far, far too late.

Achilles, my love, I’ll find you Patroclus thought before the world went dark.

Chapter Text

Patroclus had no idea how much time had passed before he finally awakened, but he knew he wasn’t dead. Unless death was accompanied by a pounding headache and a very hard bedroll.

He let out a grunt as he opened his eyes.

“Aye, you’re awake,” a deep voice says off to his right.

Patroclus starts as he’s met with the second largest man he’s seen in far too little time. His hair is close cropped and he’s got a golden nose ring. He looks comically large from the small stool he’s sitting on.

“Erm… ahoy,” he says slowly, “Who are you…?”

“Asterius,” Asterius says, “You’re on the Elysium.”

The Elysium… Patrclus has heard of that ship, but the Myrmidon made sure to steer clear of them, because they all knew how much of a blowhard the ‘Champion of the Sea’ Captain Theseus could be.

“You were clinging to a piece of broken banister,” Asterius informs him, “I was able to grab you. What is your name, sailor?”

“I’m Patroclus,” he said, “Have you heard anything of the ship Myrmidon?? Or her captain, Achilles??”

Asterius lets out a huff of breath, “Perhaps it is best if we go talk to Theseus for him to explain.”

Patroclus does not like the sound of that, but he knows he does not have much of a choice. He grabbed his coat, “Give me a moment,” he sighed. He pats his pocket, pulls out his spyglass and inspects it. No damage, blessedly enough.

There’s salt in his beard, which he does his best to dislodge. He must look frightful, having just gotten dragged out of the ocean like the catch of the day.

He pauses for a second before picking up Achilles’ hat, his heart squeezing, “I’ll find you, Achilles,” he murmurs before putting it on.

~~~

“I’d rather die than comply with your orders,” Achilles spat, hatred burning from deep inside of him.

“You are a fool,” the woman in charge of interrogating him snarls right back. Megaera, her name was, “Your men were smart to surrender, and the Dread Lord is a merciful man.”

“Merciful?! You call throwing my first mate off of the ship to Davy Jones' locker MERCIFUL?!

“He could have his head on a pike right outside your cell door, cut breast to brisket!” Megaera slams the butt of her whip against the bars, “I’d have him keelhauled myself!”

Achilles is seething, “Is this supposed to make me more willing to accept your ‘deal’?! Kill me in the most painful way possible, I don’t care!”

“This is a waste of time,” Megaera sneers, turning to leave, “I hope the next time I see you, it’s with a hempen halter around your neck as you hang.”

Achilles scoffs at that, wrenching his arms in a fruitless attempt to break free of the shackles keeping him chained in the belly of the Chthonic. His arms were behind his back, locked to the bars of his cell furthest from the door.

His mind still was seething with fury, all he could see was red, the red of the blood of Hades’ men, slaughtered in the storm, Achilles’ hands slick with the stuff as he rendered men apart with nothing but his own grief and the image burned in his mind.

Patroclus, arms outstretched, the waves crashing into him, sweeping his body away…

Hades and Thanatos both had to work together to subdue him, in the end. Achilles can’t quite recall all of the details, but he does know at one point he had managed to rip Death Incarnate’s hook clean off before Hades had knocked him out.

He still had his love’s blue bandanna in his hair, when one of Hades’ crew had tried to take it off he had bitten his hand so hard he drew blood, like a savage animal would.

(Achilles relishes quietly in the look of fear in the lad’s eyes, one a verdant green, the other a deep brown, nearly black)

There was a very, very good chance that Achilles would die down here, of starvation and dehydration, or he’d be tortured to death in some gruesome manner in front of his crew to serve as some sort of warning.

At one point, a lifetime ago he had been a proud navy man, a ship of his own, a glistening reputation, and a promising career. At that time, the idea of such a meaningless, gruesome death would have been appalling. But now, he couldn’t seem to bring himself to care.

He had thrown away his want for glory when he turned to piracy, he supposed, but with the Myrmidon and Patroclus he could at least pretend his infamy was the same thing as the glory of a naval battle.

As tears fell unbidden down his face, Achilles realized it had shifted to more than that, over time.

Under his command had the Myrmidon not done what even gallions could only dream of? He had become close to the sea, to the ship. His crew was his family, his Patroclus the truest sense of glory a pirate could ask for…

He blinked away tears and all he could see was his beloved’s face being erased by the sea in one cruel wave.

Achilles hit his head on the bars of his cell, “Patroclus…” he murmured. Hot tears continued to spill over as he continued his self destructive cycle.

Distantly, he thought how the sound of his skull hitting metal sounded like a funeral bell.

Chapter Text

It turned out that Theseus was exactly as much of a braggart as the stories said he was.

Patroclus desperately wanted to shake him to get the information he wanted about the fate of the Myrmidon, but it seemed like he had to sit through a very long winded introduction first.

“Aye, it seems our impromptu guest has awoken!” Theseus shouts far too loudly, even if the wind is still strong from the storm the night before, “You should count yourself lucky that you’ve been picked up on the grand Elysium! There is no better Captain than I, Theseus, Champion of the Elysium! And, there is no better first mate than kind Asterius! And who may you be, sailor?”

“Patroclus of the ship Myrmidon, I need to know if you know what happened to her and her crew,” Patroclus talks quickly so Theseus can’t interrupt him.

“Why then, you are in the right place! It seems like the ship, she was captured by the Chthonic, but I know not of what happened to the crew or captain,” Theseus squinted at him, “Yourself not included, of course! You’re a dead man walking, at the moment!”

“Come again?! They think I’m dead??”

“Of course! You went overboard, and would certainly be dead if first mate Asterius wasn’t able to pick you up!”

“I need to get there,” Patroclus is mostly talking to himself at this point. Achilles… There's no saying if he’s alive or not... knowing how he might have reacted, and the Dread Lord has not been known to be merciful… but Patroclus had to hold onto hope.

“Ay, are you mad??” Theseus is suddenly shouting even louder, “The Dread Lord has been on our tails, those madmen are not to be trifled with, even for the Champions of Elysium!”

Patroclus was becoming more and more certain that Theseus was a fool, but he couldn’t really argue that taking on the Chthonic would not end well for them.

“You’re free to become part of my crew now, my hearty!” Theseus announced, shaking Patroclus out of his thoughts, “What are your skills, sailor?”

“I worked as a lookout, and I am a proficient doctor, when given the right tools.” Patroclus couldn’t very well face down the Chthonic by himself, he knew his only option was to stay on the Elysium.

“Perfect! You shall be a glorious addition to the finest crew on the sea!”

~~~

“...Are you awake, sir?”

Achilles opened bleary, red-rimmed eyes. It’s night now, and he is no closer to escape than he was when Megaera left.

He recognizes his visitor as the young man he had bitten before, his hand was bandaged and his mis-matched eyes illuminated in the lantern he’s holding. He wore a black tunic, red vest, leather belt across his shoulder, and deep maroon pants. The sash at his waist was adorned with a skull belt buckle. A red scarf is around his head, tied like a headband. No weapon, Achilles mused.

“Leave me be,” Achilles growled, deep in his throat.

“I just- I just wanted to warn you,” he looks anxious, no doubt remembering the ferocity Achilles had fought with, “The Dread Lord… he says if you don’t agree to his terms he’ll kill your crew and sink your ship.”

Something in his shattered heart squeezes. That was the last thing he had left, the closest family he and Pat could have ever made-

“Why me?”

“Well…” Zagreus sighed, “I’m definitely not supposed to be telling you this, mate, but it was supposed to be you that fed the fishes and your first mate would be the one doing the teaching. Said your temper made you less likely to comply.”

“The Dread Lord was right,” Achilles growled and Zagreus had to steel himself not to wince, “Surely Hades can teach his own son the way of the seas and combat, if he’s as good a captain as he claims to be.”

“He… he thinks I’m a bit of a lost cause. And I’d rather not be taught by him again, it didn’t go well.”

Ah. Well. Achilles couldn’t see the family resemblance past the jet black hair and one brown eye, to be fair.

“And if I don’t whip you up into shape he’ll kill my crew,” Achilles said dryly, “Awful lot of work, seeing as he could just have killed them all now.”

“Well… you actually took down a lot of our crew by yourself, mate. Than- er, Thanatos says he’s never seen anything like it and-uh- he wants to build up a fleet,” the boy is rambling now, and probably shouldn’t be telling Achilles all of this, “I’m alright with a sword, but he says I need better discipline before I can help take on responsibilities.”

“A fleet?” he laughs, a single bark of absolute disbelief, “Lad, this isn’t the navy.”

“Just think about it, alright? I don’t want your crew to be killed, and I don’t think you do either,” he was already turning around, his eyes downcast, “Please don’t tell anyone I was here, I’m not supposed to talk to you.”

That was oddly kind for the son of a notorious pirate.

“What’s your name, lad,” Achilles said after a pause.

“Zagreus, sir.”

“I’ll think about it, Zagreus,” Achilles said, but he knew he had already made his decision. He couldn’t just let his crew die, not even for his grief.

~~~

The Dread Lord himself was at his cell door the next morning, along with Thanatos and Zagreus.

“Have you made your decision?” Hades asked, his voice booming, “Train my son here, and I’ll let your crew live and serve me as part of a fleet.”

“I have some conditions”

“You are in NO place to negotiate!” Hades shouted, but Achilles didn’t even flinch.

Achilles barreled on, steel in his voice, “Only my crew is to work on the Myrmidon. None of yours may be there without me on board. And, I train with my own weapons.”

“Half of your crew works on my ship, the other half on the Myrmidon,” Hades retorts.

“Allow them to rotate out,” Achilles shoots back quickly.

Hades grumbled, thinking for a moment before relenting, “Fine. I agree with your conditions.”

“Get it in writing, we sign on it. I’m not a savage.”

“Boy, get us a parchment and quill,” Hades snapped at his son, who ran off.

Thanatos opens the cell door and Achilles seriously considers overpowering them both and running, but no. He has to think of his crew.

They both sign, and Hades grunts, “I expect your training to be exemplary. If my son’s training is subpar, your crew will be at risk.”

Achilles growls, but he grits his teeth, “When do we begin?”

~~~

To be able to stretch after sitting so long chained in the cell is a small relief, as is the sunlight on his face.

“You are to tell the crew of this deal,” Hades tells him in a low voice. There is a threat there, Of what, Achilles cannot tell.

“I will get my weapons as well,” he does not leave room for discussion.

His crew is thrilled to see he is alive, but sobered considerably by what is set forth in front of them. But they trust Achilles, will go along with what he has bargained for them, and for that he is eternally grateful.

They’re all acutely aware of Hades and Thanatos standing right beside him, and they can’t tell what to make of Zagreus, not yet at least.

“Zagreus will hold your weapons,” Hades says, and Achilles finds no reason to argue.

Achilles moves with purpose, keeping his eyes ahead as he heads for the captain’s cabin, “I will train you in spear and sword,” he says to Zagreus, who is the only one who entered the cabin.

He tries not to look at Patroclus’ clothing, or his writing utensils strewn across the desk, or how the unkempt bed is meant for two. No, best not to think of those things. He had to stay strong.

Fear is for the weak.

He handed Zagreus his spear, the head covered by an oilskin cloth. The sword had a matching scabbard, a rarity on the open seas.

As an afterthought he grabs his codex and charcoal pencils, shoving both into his coat pockets when Hades cannot see.

There’s a half empty jug of rum and Achilles swigs it down without a second though, two lime slices hitting the bottom of the now empty bottle. It’s the first thing he’s had since before he was captured, and he doesn’t suspect he’ll get fed much more under the Dread Lord.

“Alright, that’s all lad,” he says gruffly, pushing Zagreus out of the door and grabbing the key to the door on his way out.

“I see no point in prolonging this,” Hades said, “Your first lesson starts back on the Chthonic, Thanatos will oversee your training for the time being.”

Lovely, we’ll have an audience watching our every move, Achilles thinks to himself, but he just replies, “I hope you don’t expect me not to harm the lad, I don’t train that way.”

“I’ll be able to take it,” Zagreus says, much too bright for Achilles’ stormy mood.

“And I’ll make sure nothing is excessive,” Thanatos adds flatly.

Well, that settled that, Achilles supposed. He took the anger boiling under his skin and bottles it up and shoves it deep, deep down to the bottom of the ocean. Where Patroclus-

No. No. Do not think of it.

The deck of the Chthonic has a few levels, and they were currently nearest to the bow, on a small platform that would serve as a training ground.

Achilles took off his coat, leaving him in a lighter green vest and white tunic, folding it on top of a barrel, “Wear this for your hand, lad,” he throws Zagreus an old bracer of his, the leather soft and worn.

“Oh, thank you sir,” It fits Zagreus well, protecting his hand, “I’ve only seen this sort of thing come off dead privateers, is that where it’s from?”

“You said you know a bit of the sword?” Achilles pointedly ignores his question.

“Yes,” Zagreus barely has time to react before Achilles throws it at him, “Don’t put on the scabbard.”

Zagreus draws out the sword, letting out a soft gasp at the symbols inscribed in the blade, “I’ve never seen a sword like this…”

“Ay, we call that Stygius. It’s been retired for a while,” that's a gross understatement, he had shoved that blade away for so long even Patroclus probably didn’t know it existed. That’s probably why it didn’t hurt to see Zagreus with it.

Zagreus tests it out, readjusting his grip.

“I need a gauge for how good you are,” Achilles raises his spear, “Don’t hold back.”

Zagreus is passable for someone of his age, which is to say he lasts about five seconds against Achilles.

As the sword is flung from his grasp it skitters across the deck, Achilles hitting him squarely in the chest with the back of his spear.

Zagreus is sent sprawling, and Achilles steps gently on Stygius to stop its movement.

“You have power and potential, but not enough refinement,” Achilles offers him a hand up, “It just takes practice.”

He had been the one to train some of the pirates the Myrmidon had picked up over the years, and he supposed he had a key eye for it, even if Patroclus often had better insights then he did.

Zagreus grunts as he is pulled up, “You hit really hard, mate.”

“Ay, that’s the point of a fight,” Achilles can’t help but crack a smile.

Zagreus half laughed as he picked back up Stygius.

“Take just one swing,” Achilles said as he readied his stance, “Aim to kill.”

Zagreus’ eyes widened but he did. It was wide but powerful. Achilles blocked it easily, “Keep the curves shorter, you’re cutting your enemy not the air.”

“He spends most of his time climbing up and down from the crows nest,” Thanatos piped up from where he looked rather bored watching, “Great for muscle, terrible for discipline.”

“I beg to differ. Pretend I’m a wind that’s trying to knock you off course. Readjust for it, move with it and through it,” Achilles moved with near superhuman speed, and he barely even sounded out of breath!

Zagreus made his swings shorter, keeping his blade moving.

Achilles swung upwards, catching the blade in his spear and pushing them both upwards. Quick as a whip he barreled forward, throwing his spear away and knocking Zagreus down. He’s pinned in a millisecond as both of their weapons clatter off to the side.

“Oi! What the hell was that, mate!”

“You really think a pirate’s going to play with swords all day like they do in the navy??” Achilles barely even moved as Zagreus tried to throw him off, “No! You’ve got to protect yourself from all angles!”

Zagreus tried to go for Achilles’ face, which would have been a fantastic move had he not been expecting it, pinning both wrists down.

“Alright, alright, I yield,” Zagreus made a face, and Achilles pulled him to his feet.

As he picks back up Stygius, Zagreus takes a moment to glance at Thanatos, who’s sharpening his scythe, balancing it on his leg and holding it still with his hook.

Achilles knows that look, he wants to show off. Well, that wasn’t going to happen if he kept ending up with his back on the deck.

“Ready your stance,” Achilles said, with Zagreus jumping to comply.

They were training well into the day, with Thanatos getting pulled away to do something or other about an hour in.

Achilles found that this sparring was a good outlet for all of the energy he had bottled up, even if he did have to make sure he didn’t accidentally kill the boy.

“You have stamina,” Achilles was quite tired at this point, but he was surprised Zagreus was standing at all after getting beat every time.

“Thanks, sir,” Zagreus panted, “I’m going to be so sore tomorrow.”

“Ay, that you will be, that’s when training really starts to mean business.”

“We’re doing this tomorrow too??”

“The Dread Lord wants you in tip top shape and I don’t imagine he’s a patient man.”

Chapter Text

For as much as he was insulted by the Dread Lord, Zagreus was actually a fairly good study. The lad learned through experience, and Achilles had nothing but time. Anything to try and keep him from seeing Patroclus everytime he closed his eyes.

He was still (technically) the captain of the commandeered Myrmidon, and he was the one who gave instructions to his crew. Usually Thanatos or Megaera accompanied him, Zagreus didn’t seem to be allowed off of the Chthonic.

It seemed like Hades had some kind of plan in order. Of what, Achilles couldn’t fathom.

He took notes on everyone on the Chthonic in his codex, listening in places he probably shouldn’t have been. Crews talked, and Achilles listened.

Hades was ex-navy, going rogue after the Olympian fleet expanded into a small archipelago and he was left out of the spoils. Not many of his original crew remained, but he made sure that everyone was proficient in battle.

The ship pilot was a tall man by the name of Charon, an imposing figure adorned in golden jewelry with a face full of scars and an eye patch(from grapeshot and a splintering banister according to Zagreus) and the same white hair as Thanatos. He wore a large hat with a bright orange feather sticking out of the multitude of jewelry piled on it.

Achilles learned one day in the belly of the ship that many members of the ship were related. The navigator, a woman by the name of Nyx, was the mother of Charon, Thanatos, his twin Hypnos, and Zagreus.

She wore dresses of deep purples and blacks to match her dark hair, somehow always perfectly put together despite being a pirate. The only thing that could really signify her of her post was the sparse golden skull jewelry she wore around her neck and arms.

In his codex was the smallest of notes on this phenomenon, saying simply Zagreus looks nothing like his brothers or mother.

It was hard to even see Nyx and Hades together, they were not married in any sort of way, official or otherwise. They seemed to have a healthy respect for one another and collaborated well when need be, but not much else.

He heard once, in the underbelly of the ship, that Hades once had a wife with hair the color of sunlight. When he had asked about it the crew member had replied with, “I’m not tryin to get myself hanged,” and that was the end of the conversation.

It was hard to pin an age on Nyx, but evidently she was older than Hades, and had circumnavigated the globe ‘at least once’ before Hades split with the Olympians. When Hades had gone rogue, she stayed loyal to the ship and continued to support him.

Achilles wondered just how much Hades was actually in control of, since Nyx and her children oversaw much of the day to day goings on on the ship.

From what Achilles could tell Hypnos kept ship records, but from the way the man was always wrapped up in a bright red coat with fur trim and napping, he supposed the Chthonic did not have fantastic records. Thanatos often admonished him for napping on the job, saying that Hades very well might decide to keelhaul him if he kept lazing about, but Hypnos didn’t seem worried in the slightest, and there was no punishment from the quartermaster either.

Megaera was the quartermaster, and given how she always carried her cat o’ nine tails, Achilles supposed there was quite a lot of discipline going on. She evidently had had two sisters on the ship as well, but for some unknown reason they were no longer part of the crew.

The boatswain was a small, anxious woman by the name of Dusa. She always seemed nervous around Zagreus, proclaiming that she needed to fix this sail or scrape those barnacles before rushing off. She wasn’t friendless, as Achilles often saw her and Megaera gossip over a bottle of rum. Just. A bit nervous. Understandable, given that it seemed like she was the only one doing all of the work for the ship.

Her work was only increased by the ship’s dog, Cerberus, a large laconian hound who kept fat on the rats that he ate. Sometimes, a crew member was unfortunate enough to find a half eaten carcass in the dark corners of the ship.

Zagreus loved to play with Cerberus, showering him with praise much to the chagrin of the Dread Lord.

In his more… idle hours, Achilles found himself trying to write about Patroclus , shoved in between his observations on the Chthonics and notes on fish he had caught.

But everytime he tried to put pencil to paper it all fell to pieces. Pages of smudged charcoal with Fear is for the weak. Fear is for the weak. Fear is for the weak. Fear is for the weak.

He ripped out the page, starting again. … No more! I cannot risk it all. I cannot risk it all! I cannot risk it all, can I? I have risked everything already, have I not? Then, why not risk it all, again? Am I to risk it all? Why should I? For my own sake, at his own expense?

He couldn’t risk it, he had to think of his crew, of the Myrmidon, of the last living memory of Patroclus. Ah, life's final cruelty! That we still feel!'

His shoulders sagged as he snapped the codex shut. He couldn’t do this, not to Patroclus. Let him live in immortal memory, instead of bastardized in fragile words.

Somehow, some way, Zagreus always knew when to come bounding up to Achilles, his cheeks flushed from the sea air to pull Achilles from the swirling hurricane of his mind.

Achilles would offer him a practiced smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, and they would train until the loss of Patroclus dulled to a distant roar in his mind.

Achilles fell into a routine as the days stretch into weeks and weeks stretch into even longer. His anger is used towards training (although he is sure not to actually take his anger out on Zagreus, he is not cruel), his crew act as solace and they all carry the burden of losing Patroclus together.

He takes note of the odd… relationship… that Thanatos and Zagreus seem to be nurturing, as well as wondering what happened between Zagreus and Megaera that caused him to seek her out during breaks with a kicked-puppy dog look.

Other than training, it doesn’t seem like Zagreus has many other responsibilities. Zagreus mentioned working in ship’s records, but it doesn’t sound like he has a knack for it, among other various things more than likely meant to keep the lad busy.

The Dread Lord was still planning, he spent many hours locked away with various parchments and maps. Perhaps it has something to do with the talk of a fleet that Zagreus mentioned before.

Achilles didn’t really want to be there to find out. He had no idea how he was supposed to do it, but he fully intended to somehow communicate to his crew that they would need to be ready to break away at the first sign that they could.

It was impossible to say aloud, for whenever he went on the ship at least a few of Hades’ crew would come along, and just Megaera or Thanatos’ presence was sure to strike fear into the crew.

In turn, it seemed like Achilles also had a bit more to his reputation. He was regarded with caution by the crew of the Chthonic. Even though he had very little memory of what had come right after Patroclus had been thrown, he evidently had taken down seven crew members with nothing more than his bare hands and grief, their blood washing the ocean below with red as he had tossed them overboard.

He held onto that ferocity, just a glare from him squashed down rumors that the unkillable Achilles was now nothing more than Hades’ lap dog.

Even so, Achilles could feel his anger slipping away, like trying to hold seawater in his hands. It was shifting, twisting into something dark, and slippery, and lonely. He could not shake the melancholy, the fury he presented feeling more and more like an act to protect himself and his crew.

There was no stopping it, Achilles supposed one night, sitting atop the banister of the Chthonic long after everyone was asleep. He could not be angry forever. Now, without his Patroclus, without his anger… he just felt empty.

Chapter Text

It’s been well over half a year, and Achilles is running out of things to teach Zagreus. They have been able to train without someone watching over their shoulder, and Zagreus can spar with Thanatos and Megaera and not be worried about getting skewered.

He (somewhat) hated to admit it, but the lad has made this much, much more manageable.

“Achilles, sir, can I ask you a question?” Zagreus asks as he swabs the deck (even though Dusa insists he doesn’t have to, Zagreus likes to help out).

“Ye just did, lad,” Achilles is sharpening his spear, sitting on a barrel.

“Well, uh-”

“Go ahead, Zagreus,” Achilles chuckled.

“I… understand if this is still a sore subject, even if it’s been a while… I wanted to know a bit about Patroclus, sir. I heard a few of your crewmates talking about him…”

Achilles’ face went blank, the coldness of his loss rising up in his throat.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Zagreus said quickly. Always considerate, “He sounds like a good man.”

“He was,” Achilles murmured, “I miss him very much. But I shouldn’t speak much more of him, I hope you understand.”

“Oh…” Zagreus nods, as if he understands by just looking at his face, “I understand. Thank you sir.”

Thanking him for what, Achilles could not fathom.

Odd behavior on the Chthonic did not stop there, it seemed.

Suddenly, Zagreus no longer had any administrative duties, and he trained more and more with Achilles, to the point that Achilles had to force him to take breaks.

And, he sparred more with Megaera.

Achilles was often meant to oversee these sessions, and at first it seemed as though Megaera was going to be the winner every single time, but slowly Zagreus came up victorious more and more often.

It seemed as though these sparring matches were sanctioned specifically by the Dread Lord. Probably to test his son’s skills, and Achilles’ teaching.

When Zagreus beat Megaera more often than not (with the latter usually being called away immediately to whatever task at hand) the sparring suddenly stopped, and he was back to training with Achilles from dawn until the sun went down and supper was called.

“Lad, a question if you will,” Achilles said as he blocked a swing with his spear, “Why does the Dread Lord have you spar Megaera?”

“He wants to see how good I’m getting,” Zagreus said, but there was something more than that. Zagreus fought with a kind of intensity Achilles knew well.

Patroclus could always point it out, the sharp grunts, strong swings and just enough risk taking to be not quite tactics and more raw emotion. Zagreus was angry about something.

“Is that all?”

“Mhm,” Zagreus was obviously lying. Achilles was silently offended that his ward thought he wouldn’t be able to tell.

Achilles decided he was going to exploit that anger, just a little, to see what was really simmering under his skin.

He exploded in a flurry of offensive moves, pushing Zagreus back. Zagreus was getting more and more agitated in his blows, trying to look for any opening. Achilles gave him none, and he suddenly found his back to the railing.

When Achilles grabbed a fistful of his shirt and shoved him backwards, Zagreus snapped.

“Son of a biscuit eater, what was that for?!” he shouted, before his eyes widened, covering his mouth with a hand, “I’m so-”

“No, none of that,” Achilles was still holding his shirt, “It’s not like you to get angry like that. What’s going on?”

“I…” Zagreus sighed, looking around to see if anyone was paying them any mind, “I learned a few things. About myself, and my family…”

He pursed his lips together before looking at Achilles, his mentor suddenly struck with how much pain there was in them, “Nyx isn’t actually my mother. I… Well I had Hypnos slip some herb into dinner the other night that made everyone fall asleep, and I looked in Father’s desk drawers and found a letter from my real mother saying she’s leaving it all behind and-and,” Zagreus shudders.

Achilles decided to ignore the fact that Hypnos had the capabilities to casually poison everyone on deck, and skipped straight to comforting Zagreus.

“Blimey, that must be very hard on you, lad.” He’s long since let go of Zagreus, standing with concern.

“Yes, I- I want to find my real mother, and that would be impossible on my own, but Nyx gave me a map of an archipelago where my extended family is, they’re the Olympian navy- and she says they could give me help under the guise of trying to become a privateer like they are, to be able to find my mother,” Zagreus is speaking quickly, like if he doesn’t get everything out right this second he’d keel over.

“Quite the plan, I can’t imagine the Dread Lord would be happy to hear about that.”

“I just don’t know what to do. Father must suspect it, he’s been ramping up training so much I’m exhausted every night, to keep me distracted,” Zagreus spat bitterly, “I’ve never been on dry land, and now all I want to do is leave-”

“Then do it, lad,” Achilles put his hand on Zagreus’ shoulder in a comforting gesture, “We’re close enough to land that you could row there on a dinghy using the tides to your advantage in a single night.”

Zagreus looks up at him, “Do you really think it’s a good idea?”

Achilles has to laugh, “It sounds half baked, if you’re asking me, but when has that ever stopped anyone?”

Zagreus looks deflated, and Achilles is quick to add, “I’m sayin’ you have a chance, lad, and if anyone could do it, it’d be you, savvy?”

“I… I understand, sir,”

“There’s a good lad,” Achilles said. Zagreus beamed, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Chapter Text

Patroclus rather liked spending his time up in the crow’s nest.

It gave him a view, and the ability to see as far as possible. And, it had the added benefit of keeping him away from Theseus’ blustering.

He watched the comings and goings of the crew underneath him, comforted by his spyglass and Achilles’ hat shielding his face, analyzing the patterns that popped up underneath him.

It wasn’t long until he understood how the Elysium had gained its fame, and he had to hand it to Theseus. He might have been full of himself, but he got results.

The Elysium was a schooner, a smaller and faster ship than the Myrmidon. Theseus knew how to take advantage of that. It became apparent that the Elysium tended to go after smaller merchant ships, small and fast things that weren’t well equipped for fighting on the open seas. There was no way he could convince the Captain to take on a ship like the Chthonic, nor would they have much of a chance at winning.

Theseus, being Theseus, had to make a show out of things, which was annoyingly effective.

He would challenge the captain, or gunner, or really whoever thought they could beat him and Asterius in a duel. No guns, no artillery, any handheld weapons were on the table.

Patroclus had to admit, they were good. They were coordinated, able to take down as many as six other pirates by themselves.

Theseus fought with a spear and a special net, which looked ridiculous until you realized your sword was hopelessly tangled in it and you were now defenseless. Aesterius barely even needed his broadsword, sometimes opting to simply ram an opponent into whatever obstacle was available.

If the others yielded, they would take spoils and leave. If they were foolish enough not to yield and died, well.

All the more spoils for the Elysium.

Patroclus for his part was adept at finding the ships for Theseus to challenge, even as he furtively looked over the horizon for the Myrmidon’s muted green sails.

He supposed he was spending much more time than strictly necessary to scout ships, but he needed time to think, to process. He hardly spoke to the rest of the crew, not much more than a faceless person in his mind.

The ocean of feelings he harbors sometimes feels like they’re threatening to swallow him, fill his lungs and drag him deep, deep down to where there is no sunlight, no fresh sea air, no Achilles…

The crows nest was also a good place to be because it reminded him that he is not, in fact, at the bottom of the ocean when all he can taste is bitter sea water, and all he can hear is his beloved’s anguish.

They're close to land, waiting for their next challenger (victim) when he spots it.

“Is that...?” he says to himself, a habit he picked up in his self-imposed solitude, “My gods, that’s a dinghy with a boy in it.”

Sure enough, a young man with black hair is fast asleep in a small dinghy, meant for getting to and from shore, not suitable for being all the way out here with not a single ship in sight. There’s no way he could have come from the mainland, and the idea of him coming from a ship is absolutely absurd.

He has some meager supplies, and what looks like a sword cradled in his lap.

Perhaps he was a castaway, or was abandoned? Regardless, Patroclus started down the crow’s nest to tell Theseus.

“Blow me down! A boy in a dinghy??” Theseus sounds incredulous, but Patroclus insists, yes there is in fact a boy floating on the open sea.

“We should fetch him, Captain,” Asterius says after a moment’s contemplation.

“Aye, Asterius, I trust your judgement,” Theseus goes on about being gracious enough to grab any wayward soul he happens upon but Patroclus has tuned him out.

He goes with Asterius in their own dinghy as Theseus sails them as close as he can and drops anchor.

When they approach, Patroclus pats the boy on the shoulder, “Ahoy, stranger, what are you doing in the middle of the briney deep?”

The boy starts, eyes wild as he looks at Asterius and Patroclus, “Oh, uh, sorry!” he apologizes as he looks around at the large schooner behind them, “Who are you??” He's holding the sword with both arms, close to his chest.

“We could ask you the same thing,” Asterius said in his solemn, even tone, “It’s not everyday we find someone by themselves out here.”

“Erm, uh,” the boy's mismatched eyes darted around, “I’m Zagreus. And I’m looking for my mother, on the mainland somewhere. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“Well, you seem to have run right into us, and Captain Theseus wants you to be brought aboard.”

“Something tells me he’s not going to take no for an answer,” Zagreus looks up at the ship, with its crisp white and blue sails, the top flag a bright pink with yellow detailing that looks like waves.

“He is a gracious captain, perhaps we can help you.”

~~~

“Ye say you’re a runaway??” Theseus said, scrutinizing Zagreus up and down, “What sort of scallywag abandons his responsibilities as a pirate??”

 

“Well I wasn’t really allowed to have responsibilities, and I’m not really a runaway. I just need to get to the mainland,” Zagreus shot back, even though he dodged every question of where exactly he had come from.

“No responsibilities?? Well, I can’t have a lily-livered sailor on my ship!”

“Oi, I’m no coward!” Zagreus responded.

“Ay, there’s only one way to prove it! Battle myself and Asterius!”

Zagreus looks at both of them, obviously incredulous, “Ye got to be kidding me.”

“Maybe we can let the stranger rest first,” Patroclus cut in, “He just spent gods knows how long rowing that tiny boat.”

“Two days!” Zagreus supplied helpfully.

“He needs an examination and rest, you wouldn’t want to duel someone who wasn’t in tip-top condition, right?” Patroclus appealed to Theseus’ ‘honorable’ side.

Theseus sighed dramatically, “Fine, fine.”

That was all Patroclus needed before he dragged Zagreus away.

~~~

He took him into the small area in the ship that he uses for medical examination, a bag of tinctures nearby.

“I’m not sick.”

“I know you aren’t, stranger. I just needed to get you away from Theseus before he tried to bash your brains in.”

“That’s really nice of you- uh, sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

“I just go by Shade,” Patroclus said after a pause. Asterius simply calls him ‘lonely one’ and Theseus always called everyone ‘me hearty’ or something of the like. The crew called him Shade because he was always sitting in the crow’s nest, casting a shadow with the large hat he wore.

The last time he heard anyone use his name was Achilles, screaming as he fell.

“Do I really need to fight them? The captain and the first mate?” Zagreus said, shaking Patroclus out of his thoughts.

“Ay, and don’t be fooled by all of Theseus’ bluster. He is a formidable fighter. That’s how they take over ships, challenge the captains to duels and win.”

Zagreus gulped, “I don’t know if I’m that good…”

“Pray to whatever gods you think will help, stranger. He’ll probably insist on fighting you tomorrow morning.”

Luckily, Zagreus was too exhausted to let that notion keep him up at night.

It was a small blessing that his father had made him train so hard before he jumped ship (literally). Zagreus found that he was only marginally sore in the morning, nothing that a bit of stretching couldn’t fix.

There was not one person on the ship that Zagreus knew, and everyone seemed to be giving him a wide berth. He looked up, shading his eyes with his hand.

Patroclus was sitting up in the crow’s nest, and Zagreus decided a little climb wouldn’t kill him.

“Avast, sir!”

From where he was sitting, Patroclus had seen him coming from a mile away, but he was still impressed at how fast he managed to make it up to him.

“Avast, stranger,” he touched the brim of his hat, “I’m afraid this isn’t the place to be if you want to avoid the fight. Try the storage instead.”

“Oh, I’m not looking to avoid dueling the captain, I had a good mentor who trained me well,” Zagreus assured him quickly, “I just wanted to know if you had any pointers…?”

Patroclus let slip the smallest of smiles, “Aye, that I do. Here, eat this while I talk,” he procured some dried meat from a coat pocket, “This should give you extra strength.”

It's a half hour later and Patroclus has given Zagreus the basics of what he knows about how Theseus and Aesterius fight.

“Oh, and here,” Patroclus pulled out what looked like a bit of broken metal, placing it in Zagreus’ hand.

“...A spearhead?”

“Yes, a… bit of a good luck charm, if you will,” Patroclus shrugged, “If you believe in a sort of sea dog’s superstition like I do, of course.”

“Thank you, Shade, sir,” Zagreus rubs the back of his neck, deliberates for just a moment before blurting out, “If I may… Why are you helping me?”

“I’d like to see Theseus lose sometime, and you don’t seem like the kind to want to take over a ship.”

“...Oh.”

Patroclus lets out a single huff of laughter, “Don’t look so crestfallen, stranger, trying to reach your mother is a valiant cause.”

“Thank you, sir.”

When Zagreus climbs down, Theseus and Asterius are waiting for him.

“Ah, the bilge sucker has come to meet his fate!” Theseus says, his spear and net at the ready.

“That’s a bit rude,” Zagreus huffs, “If I win this match, can you take me to the mainland? Instead of, I don’t know, dumping me back into the ocean in my dinghy.”

Theseus considers for a moment, “That is a reasonable request, but you shall not win, blackguard!”

“Let’s hope you’re wrong,” Zagreus draws his sword. A crewmate hits a bell, and Theseus lungs forward.

Theseus is fast, and he moves with practiced strikes. He had lots of experience, and lots of training.

Zagreus is on the defensive, and Patroclus can’t help but be struck by how… familiar his sword work is. He moves quickly, able to roll with the momentum of a spear thrust and avoid getting stabbed.

Zagreus manages to get Theseus right in the face with the flat of his sword, sending him reeling.

Asterius is there in an instant, swinging his sword in broad movements that make it hard to do anything but get out of the way.

Zagreus tries to drop down to avoid the blade, but it cuts across his shoulder, the fabric of his tunic turning dark with blood.

It gives Theseus time to get back to his senses, and they trade off trying to get hits in like a coordinated dance, the clang of metal on metal a song to their footwork.

Zagreus is able to block fairly effectively, but had trouble finding openings without risking his sword getting tangled in Theseus’ net. He’s slowly being backed into a corner, and with how he keeps glancing over his shoulder, Zagreus knows he’s about to be in trouble.

Zagreus hazards a glance at Asterius, eyes widening with realization. Asterius has sheathed his sword. That must mean…

“Blow the man down, Asterius!” Theseus shouts, triumphant glee in his eyes.

Zagreus has only a split second to react when Asterius charges, vaulting over the pile of crates behind him with inhuman speed, crouched atop them.

Aesterius smashes into them instead. He’s dazed, stumbling for a second. That’s all it takes, with Zagreus pivoting and pouncing on the much larger man, knocking them both down with his sword at his throat.

YIELD!” Zagreus shouts at him, panting hard.

With how hard Asterius’ head hit the deck, he is too disoriented to effectively throw Zagreus off without risking his neck, and Theseus could do nothing without doing the same.

“I yield,” he sighs.

“Asterius!” Theseus shouts with a twinge of something that felt much more real than his normal bluster. He was genuinely worried for him, it seemed.

Zagreus seemed content with this, standing up and offering Asterius a hand.

“Good fight, short one.”

Zagreus smiles, a grin with the glint of victory in it. He could do this.

“Just you and me now, Captain,” he says to Theseus, who shouts.

“You shall be mine, you scallywag!”

From how he danced around Theseus, it looks like Zagreus is trying to avoid a fight, but Patroclus can see it for what it is.

Theseus’ net is only an effective deterrent from the front, and when he had to constantly turn to face Zagreus, he was unable to make more offensive moves.

“Stop pussy-footing around and face me, you lily-livered pirate!” Theseus shouted, fully annoyed.

Zagreus does just that, bouncing on his toes as he swings a flurry of blows that forces Theseus back.

But there’s just the smallest of openings as he raises his sword and Theseus takes it, throwing his net and entangling Zagreus’ blade.

It’s wrenched free from his grasp and both the net and the sword go flying, far out of reach of either combatant.

Theseus is on him in a second, the point of his spear under Zagreus’ chin.

“Yield, bilge rat,” Theseus says through gritted teeth.

“I don’t think I will,” Zagreus smiles a cocksure grin as he does something that makes Patroclus gasp.

He puts one hand directly on the blade of the spear, wrenching it to one side as he uses his other hand to grab the shaft, wrenching it out of Theseus’ hands, who looks too shocked to process what happened as suddenly Zagreus is holding his spear.

Patroclus knows that move. Zagreus didn’t pull it off perfectly, the thinnest streak of red against his Adam’s apple sitting proud like a jewel against pale skin.

But it didn’t have to be perfect. He knows only one pirate insane enough to try a move like that, a pirate who started rumors of impenetrable skin.

“Achilles…” Patroclus murmurs, so quiet no one hears him, but it’s deafening.

It all makes sense now, the jet black hair, the single eye so dark it’s like coal, the reds, golds and blacks Zagreus wears.

Patroclus is so absorbed in this revelation he almost misses Theseus yielding, there’s blood trickling from his nose, and he looks more bitter than the dregs of too old rum.

Zagreus is grinning, and now all Patroclus can see in that smile is Achilles.

Chapter Text

Patroclus has no idea how to go about asking Zagreus about all that he’s discovered, but evidently Zagreus has noticed all of the ‘pointedly not looking in his direction’ Patroclus has been doing.

After allowing Theseus time to lick his wounds and giving the navigator a chance to look over his map, Zagreus finds his way to Patroclus, up in the crows nest once more.

Patroclus isn’t looking through his spy glass, but he has a glassy thousand yard stare looking out at nothing as Zagreus’ black hair peaks over the top of the platform.

He’s mumbling to himself, something about spears and stupidity and ‘no, that’s impossible’. Maybe it’s about the fight?

“Shade? Sir?”

Patroclus starts, looking surprised when Zagreus pulls himself up, sitting with his feet dangling over the edge, “Am I interrupting something?”

“Sorry… just… lost in my thoughts, stranger,” Patroclus sighs.

Zagreus has a glass bottle next to him, and he hesitates a moment before offering it up to Patroclus, “I got this for beating Theseus and Asterius, and… I wanted to give it to you.”

“For what?”

“Well, sir, I wouldn’t have known about Asterius’ rush or how to counteract Captain Theseus’ net without your guidance, and I wanted to thank you,” Zagreus smiles, and it’s so genuine Patroclus can’t help but attempt a weak one in return.

“I’ll have to save this for a special event, thank you, stranger,” Patroclus tucks the bottle away in his jacket, wondering what in the world he’d do with it. There wasn’t much in his life worth celebrating now. But just maybe…

“I do have some things to ask you, if you’d oblige me,” Patroclus says, and Zagreus perks up.

“Of course, sir,” he says immediately.

“You’re from the Chthonic, aren’t you?”

Zagreus goes pale, it's as if every last drop of blood in his body evaporated, “You can’t send me back there,” he says with the desperation of a man with a death sentence.

Patroclus holds up his hand, “Peace, stranger. I’m not going to send you back if you don’t want to go back.”

Zagreus relaxes a bit, but he still looks wary.

“Where did you come from? Not straight from the Chthonic, we haven’t seen the ship.”

“I rowed to the mainland, contacted a few of the ships docked there. I couldn’t ask directly for permission to travel, but I wrote letters to get the Olympians' blessings to travel through their waters.”

To contact the Olympians directly… he was not just some average pirate, or he would have been blasted apart on sight.

“Who are you, really,” Patroclus asks next, and Zagreus looks pained, but he answers.

“I’m the son of the Dread Lord Hades…” Zagreus bites his lip, expecting harsh words to come from Patroclus. No one liked the Dread Lord.

Patroclus doesn’t know how best to say this next part, or really any of this, he halts for a second before shaking his head. Fear is for the weak, is that not what he told Achilles?

“Your mentor… who is he?” He tries not to hope too hard, but he knows his life hangs on this one question.

Zagreus looks down at his hands, a shadow falling over his face as he responds, so quiet his words are nearly stolen by the wind, “Captain Achilles of the Myrmidon, sir. When the ship was captured he was ordered to teach me.”

Patroclus feels such a rush of emotion he actually staggers back, learning against the mast as if it’s the only thing holding him up, and at this moment, it is.

“Sir??” Zagreus jumps to his feet, looking worriedly at Patroclus, “Are you feeling alright??”

“No- I- no,” Patroclus sinks down so he's sitting, overcome with emotion, “Did- did he ever mention his first mate Patroclus?”

Zagreus’ brow furrows, “Well… he did once, he said he missed him terribly, and that it hurt too much to think about him. The crew said he was a good man, and they tell stories, but I’m not allowed to talk to them… Wait, why?”

Patroclus just looks at Zagreus with an expression so broken it’s like shattered glass, eyes brimming with months worth of unshed tears.

The realization is palpable, with Zagreus covering his mouth with both hands, “Oh… gods… you’re Patroclus.”

“That I am, stranger,” it came out strained, and Patroclus knew the dam was about to burst, “The ship, the crew, my beloved… are they all okay?”

“Yes, yes!” Zagreus says quickly, “Achilles, he bargained with Father to keep your crew working on the Myrmidon in exchange for training me because Father said I’m a lost cause, and he obviously trained me very well or I wouldn’t have been able to beat Theseus and Aesterius and he's the one who really pushed me into going to find my mother and… sir, are you ok??”

Tears are flowing from Patroclus as he feels such a deep sense of relief it feels like he’s been pulled off the ocean floor, heart finally light enough to float.

“N-no, not yet. But I think if you keep telling me all about it, I may be a bit better.”

~~~

In the end, Patroclus is comforted by Zagreus’ recounting of Achilles training him, even if he could not imagine the fearsome Achilles being anyone’s mentor that wasn’t a crew member. He can’t bring himself to talk much, but Zagreus seems more than happy to do enough of it for the both of them.

He’s exhausted the need to cry after a while, eyes dry and even managing a small smile at some of the funnier antics Zagreus gets himself in.

“You’d best tell Theseus who you are,” Patroclus says. His voice sounds rough from tears, but it does not feel like weakness.

“I… I know but he already doesn’t like me…”

“He’s already paranoid your father is coming after him, it won’t do any good keeping secrets from him.

“There’s, ah,” Zagreus sighed, “There’s a good chance he is, actually. Father has this dream of having a fleet, and the Elysium could be on that list. The Chthonic is slower, even if it has more fire power.”

“Joyus,” Patroclus hated it when Theseus was right, especially if it endangered his well being, “We should probably tell Theseus that too,” he sighed, looking out over the sun, which at this point is starting to sink.

“We’ll tell him after supper,” Zagreus decides.

~~~

Theseus takes it slightly better than Zagreus feared he would, with only minor yelling about how he was a bilge rat coming to bring the black spot of death upon all of them.

After Asterius reminds him that they will be able to avoid certain death by being proactive, Theseus jumps back into action, telling his hands to double time it to where Zagreus’ map leads.

In Captain Theseus’ mind, the faster they could get the daemon off of their boat, the better.

Patroclus is glad that Zagreus is able to continue his quest to find his mother, but he can’t help but feel a sinking sensation.

Knowing that Achilles was alive was in fact a huge burden lifted off of his chest, but he was no closer to being reunited than before. Perhaps the cruel Fates would keep them apart, paying for some unknown sin.

Zagreus is quick to shut down the thoughts that Partroclus doesn’t notice he’s spoken aloud.

“I’ll find a way to reunite you with Achilles, sir,” Zagreus announces with such finality a tiny sliver of Patroclus believes him wholeheartedly.

~~~

Patroclus still spent much of his time up in the crow’s nest, but now he had Theseus’ explicit command to look for the Chthonic. They were still slowly making their way around the coast to try and find the elusive place that Zagreus swore his mother would be at, and there seemed to be no way that the Chthonic would find them.

Then, one day, he spotted two ships on the horizon. One, a brig with black and red alternating sails. The other, a brigantine with unmistakable green sails.

“Captain Theseus!” he’s shouting, the first time he’s raised his voice above a mumble in months, “The Chthonic and Myrmidon are on the horizon!”

This startles Theseus out of the training he was doing, whipping around to face Patroclus, “The Chthonic?? And the Myrmidon??”

“Is that not what I just said?” Patroclus replies dryly, “They appear to be heading our way, and quite quickly.”

“Well, that cannot do! We must change direction and lose them!” Theseus is already shouting orders before Patroclus can react.

“Wait!! I need to get back to the Myrmidon!”

“Are you mad?? They’re probably looking for their hellspawn!” Theseus gestures wildly to Zagreus, who has the sense not to respond to that, “I will not be sunk by the likes of the Dread Lord Hades!”

Patroclus had half a mind to go out to the ship himself, but that would be a sure way to feed the fishes. He hates when Theseus is right.

“We can’t possibly outrun them,” Zagreus pointed out quietly. He was pale in the face, everything threatening to come crashing down on his head.

“We can try!” Theseus is shouting orders for his crew to do everything they can to go as fast as possible.

They have the wind to their backs and the ship’s moving as fast as humanly possible, but they all know it may not be enough.

“They’re nearly within range to scuttle us!” Patroclus shouts to Zagreus, who in turns relays it to another crew member before it gets to Theseus, “We’ll go sink in seconds with that much firepower!”

Theseus shouts so loudly even Patroclus can hear it.

He’s telling his crew to arm the cannons.

Chapter Text

The Dread Lord Hades tells Achilles to get the Myrmidon ready for battle.

It’s one of the first things he’s said to Achilles in quite some time, ever since he threatened to put a black spot on Achilles the morning after Zagreus escaped. Somehow, he’s managed to stay alive for this long. Perhaps because his crew would mutiny if the Dread Lord killed their captain.

To Achilles, it seemed more than a bit unfair. For two large ships to go baring down on a small schooner like the Elysium, it feels dishonourable, but he supposed not many pirates cared for that kind of thing. Certainly, the Dread Lord doesn’t care. He has one thing in mind: conquest.

It didn’t escape Achilles’ notice that Theseus was also known to be a former navy man, it was like Hades was going after those he thought would be most skilled.

They’re to prepare to board, not blast the ship into a thousand pieces. Hades wants the ship, and as much of the crew as possible, and Achilles’ crew is to work with the Chthonics to subdue the Elysium.

His crew works like a well oiled machine, but he knows they are all waiting for some unspoken thing.

This would be the perfect time for the Myrmidon to turn on the Chthonic. The Elysium is trying to run for it, but Megaera reported that she saw them loading cannons. There’s a good chance they’d go straight for the Chthonic, and if the Myrmidon also turned… well, it would be two against one.

The only problem was that half of Achilles’ crew was on the Chthonic, as they were obligated to be, and half of his crew were on the Chthonic. That could prove disastrous, and the last thing Achilles wanted is for all his patience to be wasted and half his men to be slaughtered, or the Chthonic having a mutiny on his ship.

Mutiny is a very strong possibility, what with Thanatos being on the Myrmidon with Achilles.

For being seen as the imposing figure of death across the high seas, Achilles found that there were still things that made him very much human.

He had been grievously upset when Zagreus had left, having to be convinced by his mother, Hypnos, and Megaera not to try and find him, even as their searches for the Dread Lord’s wayward son came up empty.

Nowadays he seemed even more resigned, bitterness seeping into a rather young soul. Achilles figured that it had been Zagreus who kept the grimness away from Thanatos, with him no longer there, the man had little else to do but fall back on the harsh image he had cultivated.

(Achilles had heard stories about Death Incarnate for nearly a decade now, and he did not want to think of how much of Thanatos’ life had been nothing but killing and inducing fear).

But alas, the words of advice he could give the man were not ones that would be well received, and he would rather bite his tongue than get it cut out by a hook.

Thanatos almost seemed to glide over the deck as he strode over to Achilles, hood pulled up to obscure his face from the sun.

“Can I help you?” Achilles asked, a bundle of rope in his arms.

“The Dread Lord Hades wants you to help dispatch Captain Theseus and his first mate, Asterius. I’m to stay on the Myrmidon with you.”

Achilles can’t help but put on a grin for that, “Oh really? That’s an awful tall order, even with your help.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Thanatos scoffs, “Almost all of the hands are ex-navy, with actual training and battle experience. They won’t go down without a fight, and Hades does not wish to lose more men if he can help it.”

“Aye, but us Myrmidons, we’re expendable,” Achilles doesn’t mean it to have as much bite as it does, but he sees the hint of a flinch in Thanatos’ expression.

“Just be ready, we expect you to perform at your best.”

Achilles nods. He contemplated giving a salute just to piss him off, but Thanatos has already turned around, heading to check with the navigator. He never did stay in one place for long.

~~~

The Elysium was hellbent on running, it seemed. Achilles would have called the move cowardly if he knew that that was really the only viable option to them.

The Chthonic and the Myrmidon were sailing next to one another, the smaller ship keeping up easily.

“Captain Achilles!” one of his crew members called, pointing up at the Chthonic, “They want us to pull ahead!”

Achilles’ eyes widened. The Dread Lord had insisted they all learn a few new flags to communicate, and this one’s meaning and implication was clear. You board the Elysium first, we’ll follow.

Achilles grit his teeth, this was about to be a bloodbath. If he was lucky, he could bargain with Theseus to surrender. If he couldn’t… it would be Theseus’ unlucky day.

“All hands on deck! We’re pulling ahead and preparing to board!”

The Myrmidon is pulling ahead of the Chthonic now, and wouldn’t it just be the perfect time to run…

No, that was the coward’s way out, abandoning half of his crew. The Chthonic on board all looked wary, and Thanatos is here as well. No doubt he’d have Achilles killed in moments if he suspected foul play. More than likely Thanatos would relish in ripping out his throat himself.

He sighed to himself, stealing himself for battle.

~~~

“The Myrmidon is pulling ahead!” Patroclus can’t help but feel a rush of… something in his gut as he relays the information to Zagreus, who sped off to tell Theseus.

He’s right on his heels, “You can’t fire on them!”

“And why not, good Shade??” Theseus asks, incredulous, “It’s clear they mean to commandeer the Elysium, that they’ve sided with the Chthonic!”

“They haven’t loaded their cannons or prepared to ram us,” Patroclus is speaking with passion Theseus had never heard before. The chance to see Achilles, to show him he wasn’t dead had rekindled a fire within him.

“Then they mean to board us!”

“Please, if they see Zagreus and myself on board, we will be able to negotiate with them!”

“That’s nonsense! There’s no bargaining with the likes of the Dread Lord!”

“Achilles did, sir,” Zagreus pipes up, “I’m sure we can too.”

“It is a better plan than running, or fighting, both of which cannot be maintained,” Asterius adds, his careful voice silencing Theseus’ objections, “We are in a good place to make a pact.”

Theseus threw up his hands, “Outvoted by my own crew! Very well, we shall try to bargain!”

Patroclus felt his heart soar. He could finally break through his grief.

Zagreus was very nervous, and for good reason. He kept pacing, back and force, swinging his sword in practice drills.

“You're going to run a groove straight through the deck,” Patroclus said, as if his own stomach wasn’t in knots.

“At least it’s not Father, right?” Zagreus murmured, not realizing Patroclus is sitting next to him.

“Aye, the Dread Lord doesn’t really seem like the bargaining type.”

“Oh! Patroclus sir, I was lost in my thoughts,” Zagreus chuckled, self conscious, “I’m sure Achilles will be thrilled to see you!!”

Patroclus bit back a sigh, “...I hope so, stranger.”

Zagreus tilted his head to one side, “What makes you think he won’t?”

“It has been… a long time, since I have seen him. I am a changed man, and I can’t say that that change has been for the better.”

“I’m sure Achilles won’t be bothered by that!” So quick to reassure.

“He has also changed plenty, I’m sure, I don’t know if he’ll be the same...”

The Achilles that Patroclus knew would have throttled the Dread Lord by the throat and plunged them both into the ocean. He shakes his head vigorously to rid himself of that particular thought.

“That sounds like fear talking,” Zagreus said with a sudden seriousness that made Patroclus’ eyes widen.

“Aye, it does,” Patroclus nodded, “You know, I’m the one who told Achilles ‘fear is for the weak’.”

“There sounds like there’s a story that goes with that.”

“Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you about it soon.”

~~~

The wind has shifted, just a bit, and they’re catching up to the Elysium. If he wasn’t so preoccupied with the fight ahead, Achilles might have noticed that the schooner seems to be slowing.

“What are you planning, Captain?”

Thanatos’ monotone startles Achilles, and he picks up the edge of suspicion in his voice.

“Captain Theseus must be a reasonable man,” Achilles says in a roundabout way of answering.

Thanatos raises an eyebrow at him.

“Bargaining is a better option than bloodshed, for everyone involved,” Achilles adds.

“Theseus is prideful, at the very least we will have to kill him,” Thanatos says with such finality it makes Achilles believe he’s never really thought of other options, “He won’t just hand over his ship for the sake of his crew.”

Achilles laughs, but there is no humor in it, “You’re speaking to a prideful captain who did just that.”

“For Theseus’ sake, let’s hope he is as smart as you are.”

Chapter Text

Achilles looked over the ship, with it’s sailors armed to the teeth with an array of swords, spears and the like. There was something peculiar about it, however, even if they were speeding away at close to top speeds.

He couldn’t pin what it was, but he already had his sights on Theseus, who had made eye contact with him.

As they approached Theseus started to turn away, to avoid getting a full broadside of the Myrmidon ramming into them.

Achilles, being the brave soul he was, was perched on the banister, a predator ready to pounce.

Theseus has maintained eye contact with him very nearly the whole time, and Achilles is just about to wonder why when the other Captain tilts his head up as if telling Achilles: look up there.

Before he can quite figure out why he follows this silent order, Achilles’ eyes fall on a sight he never thought he’d see again.

Patroclus, his dear, beloved Patroclus is swinging down from the crow’s nest to land neatly on the deck of the Elysium like he’s been doing it his entire life.

Achilles is frozen, even though he knows that this spector in front of him must be Patroclus for a few reasons he picks out within milliseconds.

One, he is still wearing Achilles’ tricorn hat, the rim of silver catching the light even if it is a bit worse for wear now.

Two, he recognizes the deep greenish blue of his coat, near identical to the one Achilles himself wore.

Three, and most important of all, no one but he has that look in his eyes when he looks at Achilles. It looks like home.

Achilles is snapped out of his reverence by the announcement that they’re close enough to board, and Patroclus hears it too, but there is no fear in his eyes.

His beloved holds out his hands and now… now Achilles is able to jump to him.

~~~

Achilles lands on the deck so hard he pitches forward onto his knees, which makes it all the easier for Patroclus to hold him in a tight embrace, blunt nails digging into the softness of his coat.

“You’re alive… you’re here, oh gods, you’re alive,” Achilles doesn’t even understand the words falling from his lips, and he suspects Patroclus can’t understand them either, since his face is buried in his chest to hear his heartbeat.

“You’re alive too, my love,” and for a moment, all they can do is bask in that fact.

Patroclus is carding his fingers through Achilles’ golden hair, holding him close. Right now they’re the only two people who matter in the world, tears streaming down their faces.

“You’ve still got my kerchief,” Patroclus points out quietly, as if it was the most precious thing in the world.

“And you my hat,” Achilles looks up at him now, cheeks flushed red and tears blurring his vision.

“It served me well,” it’s a bit awkward, but he bends down without letting go of Achilles, kissing him gently.

When they part Achilles lets out a broken laugh, ducking his head, “I’m so…” he waivers, shaking his head.

“That better not be an apology. You did nothing wrong,” Patroclus said with such conviction, leaning back just enough to give Achilles a look that was warm and gentle like the calmest sea. Achilles feels like he is swept away in Patroclus’ eyes, but he is not lost. No, no. Here, he is found once more.

Achilles has no words, looking up to the familiar faces that are all staring at them both. Patroclus does the same.

Achilles catches sight of another familiar face, “Zagreus?” he breathes, wondering if this truly is a dream.

“Hello, sir,” Zagreus waves, not really sure what to do.

“He’s the one who told me you were alive, and convinced the Elysium to allow themselves to be boarded,” Patroclus murmured just loud enough for Achilles to hear.

“Thank you, lad, If there’s anything we can do to repay you-” Achilles can’t bring himself to let go of Patroclus just yet, but Zagreus understands.

“Of course, sir,” he’s smiling, “I’m glad I could help.”

Achilles and Patroclus are finally able to comprehend the commotion going on around them and Patroclus can’t help but laugh quietly at the shocked faces of his crew, who are much too stunned to do much more than look surprised.

“I’m here, I’m alive,” Patroclus says, both to Achilles and the crew of the Myrmidon, “I’m not going anywhere.”

~~~

Zagreus, who has never been seasick a day in his life, feels like he’s about to throw up as he sees familiar figures swing onto the deck of the Elysium.

Around him, no one really knows what to do, not with the crew of the Myrmidon coming to a grinding halt at seeing their first mate alive and well, and no one in the Elysium wanting to start a fight that would definitely end in their death.

Even the Chthonic have stopped boarding, but Zagreus only can see one hooded figure as he lands on the deck so lightly it’s like he’s floated down.

“Blood and darkness, Than??”

Thanatos froze, spinning around, his scythe raised. He can’t believe it.

“ZAGREUS?!”

“I-uh-I didn’t expect to see you here,” Zagreus says lamely, “It’s nice to see you.”

Thanatos is at a complete loss for words, stalking across the deck with such intensity that Zagreus instinctively backs up, hands up in a placating gesture.

“You left without even a goodbye,” Thanatos sounds hurt, looks hurt, his golden eyes filled with something broken.

“I… I’m sorry, Than, I truly am, but I knew that if I told you you would have stopped me,” Zagreus is sure not to back himself into a corner, not sure if Thanatos is more likely to hug him, cry, or skewer him alive.

He did none of those things, “What could possibly be so important that you leave in a dinghy in the middle of the briney deep??”

“I…” Zagreus sighed, “Is this really the place to be having this conversation?? In the middle of a ship Father is trying to commandeer??”

“Do you plan on running from me here too,” Thanatos asked with a cold fury that made Zagreus wince like he was struck. Perhaps that would hurt less.

“I think that’d be a one way trip to Davy Jones' locker,” Zagreus admitted.

“Come back with me, he wouldn’t be so brazen as to punish his own son too greatly.”

Zagreus’ expression hardened into something Thanatos hadn’t seen in him before, “I have a mission. If I have to bargain, fight or run, I will complete it.”

“Then come to an arrangement!” Thanatos was very much overwhelmed by all that was going on, but he fought to keep his expression neutral, “You must have some sort of self preservation.”

“Can I negotiate with Father??” Zagreus suddenly looks so overwhelmed. Thanatos felt a pang deep in his chest that wasn't anger or hurt, “He’s spent my whole life doing nothing but put me down and ignore me, he’s not going to listen to demands!”

“It… worked for Achilles.”

“What?” Zagreus looks at him sharply, but Thanatos knows he’s not upset at him.

“It worked for Achilles. Twice,” Thanatos uses his hook to gesture to where Achilles, Patroclus, Asterius and Theseus are all trying to hash out the details, “Look, the Chthonic will be here any moment, and I need to make sure this all goes as smoothly as possible, ok?”

“...Ok, Than,” Zagreus says, but Thanatos is already leaving him with his thoughts.

Chapter Text

Things were moving fast, so fast that even Achilles didn’t have much time to process. They didn't have much time until the Chthonic would be there, and it took Patroclus, Achilles, and Thanatos all to convince (and threaten) Theseus to not challenge the Dread Lord to a duel and bargain instead.

No one had any idea what to do with Zagreus at this point, as he refused to simply go back to how things were before, but they all knew very well that Hades learning he wanted to get to the mainland was not going to go over well.

“Lad, that face tells me you’re planning something,” Achilles said when he finally got a moment away from the talks with Theseus and Thanatos.

“Aye, that I do, sirs,” Zagreus smiled distractedly at Achilles and Patroclus, “Father’s going to be mighty confused by all of this… and I was thinking…”

“A rare occurrence,” Patroclus joked and Achilles affectionately pushed him.

“What if I dueled my father?”

“Lad, are ye trying to start a mutiny??”

“No, no, never! Just… explaining to him won’t work, he doesn’t listen. But if I can beat him in a duel like I did with Theseus and Asterius and tell him I need to find Mother, he’ll have to listen, right?”

Achilles took a moment to process that his charge was able to beat Theseus and Asterius one on two, before answering, “Aye…. I suppose… but that’s going to be much harder, lad, I’m sure you know that.”

“Make the terms first, then duel him, so he knows what’s at stake,” Patroclus offered.

“I… I can do that” Zagreus said, his normal confidence shining through his doubt.

~~~

It’s quite a commotion when the Chthonic finally catches up.

First, Patroclus not being dead caused a huge uproar from the rest of the Myrmidon, with him having to speak more than he had in months to retell the story.

While this insanity was going down, Theseus and Asterius had to wait to negotiate with Hades, since the Dread Lord had to deal with his son first.

Achilles had gone with him, insisting, “You shouldn’t have to do this alone, lad.”

“But Patroclus-”

“Is right there on the Myrmidon,” Achilles said with finality, but they both knew it was to calm his nerves as well.

Achilles went first to collect Nyx and Hades together in the captain’s quarters, which Zagreus thought made him the absolute bravest pirate on the seven seas.

Zagreus is bouncing on the balls of his feet before Achilles beckons him in. He sucks in a breath and goes inside.

“Boy, what in the bloody hell were you thinking?!” Hades is furious, as was expected, but Zagreus does not let himself waver in front of his father, “You could be feeding the fishes, and I have half a mind to send you there myself!”

Nyx is standing nearby, hands folded in front of herself. She at least looks relieved he isn’t at the bottom of the ocean.

“I found out the truth about Mother,” Zagreus says coldly. That stops Hades in his tracks, the Dread Lord’s face twitching with something that could have been fear.

“I knew I had to go find her, and I was rowing for the mainland-”

ROWING to the MAINLAND??” Hades was incredulous.

“And I would have made it! Patroclus is the one who spotted me, and the Elysium picked me up!” Zagreus forced himself not to lose his cool, he had a point to get across, “Captain Theseus challenged me to a duel, him and Asterius versus me.”

“You beat them in a duel??” Hades crossed his arms, “Even you are not foolhardy enough to do that without a reason.”

“Isn’t that why I’ve been training with Achilles?? To be a better swordsman??”

Achilles cleared his throat and Zagreus shook his head a bit to get back on track.

“In any case, the bargain was if I beat them they would take me to the island that Mother is supposed to be.”

“And how did you know this??” it was clear from his tone even the Dread Lord himself did not know.

“I found a map,” Zagreus said carefully, not wanting to implicate Nyx in all of this madness. She’s the one who gave him the maps to find the Olympians and his mother, but Hades doesn’t need to know that.

“So what, you’re going off a map and your instincts, boy?”

“Well, I was hoping to go off of more than just that,” Zagreus closes his eyes for the briefest of moments. Fear is for the weak, “I have a proposition for you. We duel, one on one. If I win, the Chthonic goes to find Mother. If you win you can punish me however you’d like.”

He never said he'd stop, of course. He didn’t think anything could truly make him stop looking for his mother.

“Bah!” Hades waves a ring covered hand, “Your hubris knows no bounds, boy! Achilles may have been an adequate teacher for subpar captains, but you are not a match for me.”

“Then it should be easy for you to beat me.”

There's a flash in the Dread Lord’s eyes. Zagreus is challenging him more now than he has ever done.

“Fine, I will entertain this notion of yours,” Hades decides and Zagreus feels simultaneously relieved and very, very anxious, “After the negotiations with Captain Theseus, then we shall duel.”

Zagreus moved in a bit of a trance as he left, only shocking back to himself when Achilles put a hand on his shoulder.

“Good work, lad,” he said reassuringly, “You’ll be able to do it.”

“I hope so, sir,” Zagreus’ voice was shaky, but his resolve was firm.

~~~

“You have quite the worried look about you, stranger,” Patroclus pointed out as Zagreus sharpened Stygius.

“I’m hoping I can do this,” Zagreus didn’t look up, bouncing his leg nervously.

“I watched you fight Theseus and Asterius, and you beat them handily,” Patroclus smiles at Achilles, “And I’m sure my Achilles taught you well.”

“Do you think you could beat Father, sir?” he asked Achilles.

“I believe I could, yes,” Achilles said without hesitation. He still remembers the bite of anger that Hades and the rest of the crew had leveled at him, thinking that it was him who pushed Zagreus to leave. That fury alone could drive Achilles to victory, more than anything.

Not that he’d tell Zagreus that, of course. He need not know the hell his mentor went through at the hands of his father.

“So modest,” Patroclus said slyly, “But between you and me, he definitely could, and so can you. I’d be so bold as to bet my last gold doubloon on you.”

“I’ll prove you right, sirs,” Zagreus nodded, feeling more confident.
~~~

It’s all too quick that the Dread Lord is ready for this duel.

Zagreus is called onto the deck, and Hades isn’t even looking at him, staring out at sea to something distant on the horizon. There’s no one up here to witness this. It’s just them and the wide blue sea.

Stygius in hand, Zagreus stops a fair distance away from his father, waiting for him to speak first.

“This is foolhardy, boy. I may as well publicly flog you for how humiliating this will be.”

“I must find Mother, and if this is the only way to get that through your head, so be it.” There’s not a lick of fear in his voice. He’s come this far, he can get a little bit farther.

“I shall make this quick,” Hades pulls out his bident, throwing off his hat as he does so.

Zagreus expects him to run for him and feints to the side, raising his sword to meet the spearhead with a terrific clang.

It’s lucky, Zagreus thinks to himself, that Achilles fought primarily with a spear. He’s ready for the attacks and the extra reach the spear gives his father, how to spin away and duck out of the way of a razor sharp blade.

The Dread Lord isn’t pulling his punches, as if he sees his son as no more than another enemy pirate.

Their fight leaves scores in the deck, and Zagreus has the distinct thought if these were to actually connect with me, I’d be losing teeth right now.

It’s a sobering realization that keeps the adrenaline pumping in his veins.

Zagreus had managed to keep an even balance of offense and defense, making sure to keep his distance from Hades, darting back in to try and land hits.

And land hits he did, once on his arm, another across the opposite leg. Hades lets out a sound of pain that sounds more than half angry.

Zagreus lets his guard drop for just a microsecond and Hades manages to hit him head on with the flat end of his spear across the chest.

It sends Zagreus reeling, allowing him to slice across his left forearm. Zagreus sees stars for just a moment as he runs out of reach, trying to collect himself.

He gets his wits about him just as Hades is raising his spear and ducks under it, running past his father for a swift kick to his back.

Hades whirls, and Zagreus catches the teeth of the bident on his crossguard, twisting hard and wrenching it out of his father’s grip with enough force to pull a yell of pain out with it.

The spear goes flying, end over end until it buries itself into the deck on the other side of the ship, far out of reach.

“Yield,” Zagreus is panting, Hades looking up at him with nothing but contempt.

“Don’t be so brazen to think that’s the end,” Hades said with a huff that tells Zagreus he’s tired too.

Zagreus realizes what’s coming a fraction before it happens, backing up as Hades pulls a sword out from under his coat, throwing it off as he slashes at Zagreus.

“I feel like that’s a bit unfair!” Zagreus shouted as metal clangs together.

“I’ll teach you the meaning of the word, boy,” Hades is using more power than Zagreus thinks is strictly necessary to try and drive him back.

But luckily for him, Achilles prioritized teaching him speed over power, and Zagreus is able to dash away from hits. He’s come up with the half insane idea to try and let Hades tire himself out, making him slower, clumsier, and most importantly angry.

Two steps, that’s all he had to do. One, avoid getting hit, two, exploiting weaknesses as he could.

Zagreus got the flat of the blade to the side of his head and for a moment sees nothing but white as he staggers, blood gushing from his hairline and dripping down his face.

Zagreus is on his back before he knows what’s happened, Stygius skidding across the deck.

It would be all over for him if a small part of him doesn’t scream: A pirate isn’t going to play swords all day!

That was his father’s weakness. He relied heavily on formal training, and his weapons.

And Zagreus was just crazy enough to throw all of that out the window and let instincts take over as he jumps to his feet.

He let out a scream that could only be described as feral, using the palm of his hand and driving it directly into Hades’ face.

The indignation alone makes Hades back off, and he’s definitely going to have a black eye after this.

Zagreus scrambles to his feet, a second wave of adrenaline coursing through him.

“You have no honor in your fight!” Hades roars as Zagreus aims a well placed kick you-know-where.

“We’re bloody pirates, Father!” Zagreus spits blood, “We don’t have honor, not even with mismatched fleets and practiced swordsmanship!”

Hades runs at him again but Zagreus ducks his blade and throws a body punch to disorient him.

“All we have is family, and all I want is my mother back!” Zagreus is screaming, running to grab Stygius and attacking with a ferocity Hades had never seen in his son.

Hades understands now what Zagreus so desperately needs.

He may not want to admit it just yet, and Zagreus is even less willing to hear it now, but in some tiny way, this fight truly was the only way to make the Dread Lord understand.

Zagreus finds a tiny opening and exploits it, catching his blade and forcing it to the ground, stepping on it so Hades could not sweep it back up.

Hades can pick out a whirlwind of emotions in his son’s mismatched eyes as he holds Stygius under his throat, and for one fleeting moment he wonders if the duel will turn deadly.

They’re both panting hard, bloody and bruised, but Zagreus does not falter for a moment, staring Hades down.

“I yield,” The Dread Lord said.

Chapter Text

It certainly was an odd precession, the Elysium, the Myrmidon and the Chthonic all following like the world’s most mismatched fleet heading towards an archipelago with most islands far too small for any civilization.

“I want to go alone,” Zagreus said when he was sure they were close, the map matching up perfectly with the islands on the horizon, “I don’t want her to get worried.”

He took Hades' silence as a yes, as well as Nyx’s encouraging smile. The Dread Lord had been uncharacteristically quiet, ever since the duel. Zagreus figured it was better than being yelled at, even if it was unnerving.

The dinghy was ready for him and Zagreus was about to climb down the Jacob’s ladder when Thanatos approached him.

He had been staying away from Zagreus since their ‘talk’ aboard the Myrmidon, and now he looked at Zagreus with the stony cold look that Zagreus knew meant turmoil was under the surface.

“Look, Zag,” Thanatos began off harsher than he meant, biting his tongue before continuing, “Come back quick. With your mother.”

Zagreus knew Thanatos didn’t do goodbyes, but given how he was running his fingers over the bell of his hook, he could tell he was nervous.

“I’ll be back before you even know it, Than,” Zagreus threw his arms around him without thinking about it.

Thanatos stiffened before awkwardly patting his back, “Yes. Well. We’ll be here when you do.”

Zagreus beamed and Thanatos wished desperately that he had reciprocated the hug and never let go. But it was too late, Zagreus was determined. And who was Thanatos to deny him his goals?

~~~

Zagreus, in truth, has next to no idea where he’s going. He has a map, Nyx’s guiding words and his heart to guide him.

To finally be free of the sea, his feet on the sand is so exhilarating in itself he takes off his shoes to feel the sand on his toes.

He’s pulled the dinghy high up on the beach so it won’t get swept away by the tides.

According to Nyx there had been a society here at one point, evident by the ancient outcropping of stone pillars that had once been the entrance to something, but now only served as homes for tropical plants.

He turns right when he sees it, delighted to find that there’s a just barely visible trail not too far away. It was just big enough to be used by one woman and her faithful wheelbarrow.

Zagreus is too caught up in running along the path that he almost misses the little offshoot.

He backtracks, peaking over the thick tropical plants he had only ever seen from afar.

A woman with blonde hair in a simple white cotton dress has her back to him, tending to a garden full of so many varieties of fruits and vegetables.

Zagreus takes a step forward, the ground crunching beneath him and she looks up sharply.

“Who’s there?” she asks, her eyes falling on Zagreus.

“Um… hello,” Zagreus is suddenly bashful, coming out into the open and very glad he left Stygius behind in the dinghy.

“Hello indeed!” she looks him over, from his sand covered bare feet up to the red scarf that fails to keep his hair orderly, “Who are you, to be trespassing all the way out here on private property?”

“I… You’re Persephone, yes? I’m Zagreus and… I think I may be your son…”

This sparks outrage in her green eyes, and she starts waving her arms at him as if shooing away flies, "What?! How dare...! Get out of here! Get out, or I shall make you!! Out with you!"

Zagreus was taken aback, desperation creeping into his voice, "No!! So then you are her. I, I don't care if you hate me, but I'm not leaving until I get some answers! I never even knew you existed. Why did you leave me?"

Persephone’s eyes are wide, realization dawning, "You died! You, you died...!” She shakes her head to try and rid herself of the nightmares of a stillborn boy in her arms, “Your lips were blue when you were born… you weren’t breathing! But... Now you're standing here before me. How...?"

"I died? I died… but I'm alive! Oh, gods... you never even knew I existed, either."

Persephone is running towards him now, arms outstretched, "Alive! Zagreus, he... even kept your name! You live, how can this be, you live? You live...! Oh, the cruel Fates! My son!"

Zagreus accepts the crushing hug with tears in his eyes, both are rocking back and forth, mother and son, "Mother...!"

~~~

Zagreus could talk to his mother forever, he decides. It’s certainly been a long while, he explains how he got here, that he had Father’s blessing (he does tell her about the duel, but spares the details).

“You sound like you’ve got a knack for bringing people back together, my son,” Persephone says and Zagreus can’t help but beam at the term of endearment.

“Well, I suppose so. Achilles and Patroclus are very happy now,” They’re sitting in the little cottage that Persephone had made out of another ancient building, with two stone walls and a thatched roof.

“Mother…” Zagreus begins, scratching the back of his neck as a nervous habit, “Will… will you come back with me? On the Chthonic?”

Persephone looks startled, but not overly surprised, “Zagreus, I- I don’t know if I’ll be wanted there. It’s been such a long time…”

“I had Father’s blessing, and Nyx is the one who urged me to go first, and Achilles and Patroclus both said if anyone could do it it’d be me!” Zagreus speaks quickly, he can’t leave his mother, not now!

“I… I must admit I’m afraid, my son,” Persephone’s biting her lip, looking out over the horizon where the sun has traveled quite the distance since they first met, “When I ran away from the Olympian Navy, with your father, everyone assumed I had died… their grief was immense! My mother… there are still stories of the destruction her fleet causes.”

“Achilles says fear is for the weak, mother,” Zagreus says, so gently, “We don’t have to tell the Olympians you’re here, yet.”

Persephone looks at him, looking so very fragile yet insurmountably powerful. To be fueled by the mere idea of her to seek her out, over all of this…

“I shall be strong for you, Zagreus,” she decides, standing up, “Help me pack my things, we should get going so we can get back to the Chthonic before sunset.”

Chapter Text

The Myrmidon is still as a statue on the glassy smooth sea, weighing anchor in a small bay next to the Chthonic and the Elysium. There’s activity on board, because a pirate ship is never still, but there’s a certain peace in the air ever since Persephone came back.

Hades’ grim nature is… different, the iron fist he uses on his crew steadied by Persephone’s presence. Fear is slowly turning to respect, anger into determination. It gives Zagreus a pep in his step and lifts a weight from his shoulders that he didn’t even know existed.

“Captain Achilles!! Patroclus!!”

They both look up and see Zagreus running over the gangplank to them, looking even wilder than usual.

“Whoa, lad, it looks like you’ve had a clap of thunder or two!” Achilles laughs, pointing out Zagreus’ flushed cheeks.

“Oh, no, I haven’t had anything to drink but I have great news!!”

Achilles didn’t know what could possibly be better than everything else that has transpired, but he wouldn’t put it past Zagreus to somehow one-up himself.

“Mother and I-” Zagreus is grinning even brighter now, “Wow, that feels nice to say. But! Mother and I convinced Father to disband his fleet!”

Achilles and Patroclus both shared shocked looks with each other.

“It was mostly Mother’s doing, she said that having a fleet of pirates is too suspicious, and she doesn’t want the Olympians to find out she’s alive until she’s ready to, so you're free to leave on the Myrmidon!!”

“Is there nothing you can’t accomplish, Zagreus?” Achilles is laughing, and Patroclus is smiling and it’s the happiest either have been in far too long.

“I’m starting to think there isn’t!” Zagreus replies, “Father asked for me to come and get you for an alliance of sorts, if that’s alright.”

“More than alright, stranger,” Patroclus nodded, “If you were to call on us, the Myrmidon will be here to aid you, it’s the least we can do.”

~~~

It’s not too long until everything is in order.

A sort of alliance is struck between the captains of the three ships. There’s no diviving of booty or building of powers, but more of a mutual understanding.

It seems like the Dread Lord has finally accepted that his son has become a formidable pirate under Achilles. Hades respected Achilles as an ally, rather than an enemy to be subjugated.

The Myrmidon, Elysium, and Chthonic will go their separate ways in peace, and if one of them needs help they are more than welcome to ask for help.

Everyone is thankful for Zagreus, even Theseus must admit he is much better off with the backing of two much larger ships thanks to Zagreus.

“Where do you think you’ll go, sirs?” Zagreus asks Achilles and Patroclus before they are going to set out.

Theseus has already taken his leave, blue sails in the distance.

“Not really sure, stranger,” Patroclus answered, “But is that not the way of pirates?”

“Aye, but we will be staying local, if you have any need for us,” Achilles claps him on the shoulder, “We are in your debt.”

Zagreus looks embarrassed at that, “Thank you too, sirs, I would never have been able to fight as well as I did without you.”

“Aye, you’ve got a good heart, Zagreus. Don’t forget that,” Patroclus nods.

“Oh! We have one last parting gift,” Achilles rifles around in his coat pocket, “Here.”

In his hand is a stuffed animal, a little brown thing in the shape of an ant. He has a tag on him.

“Oh, he’s adorable!” Zagreus can’t help but laugh.

“His name… is Antos,” Achilles seems proud of his pun, but Patroclus just rolls his eyes.

“I’ll be sure to keep him safe.” Zagreus tucks him into his pocket.

Patroclus and Achilles share a look that must have been a full conversation because in the next second they’re all hugging him, and Zagreus can’t help but laugh as he’s nearly picked up by the two of them.

“Goodbye, stranger,” Patroclus murmurs as they pull away. Zagreus just nods, not trusting himself to speak just yet.

“Goodbye, lad!” Achilles shouts as the Myrmidon starts to pull away, sails full and picking up speed.

“Goodbye!!” Zagreus watches as they speed away, his heart feeling full for the first time.