posted by SeaweedBrain101
Absolutely all rights to Rick Riordan! Everything is his! And seriously, buy the book. You’d be crazy if you don’t. It is soooo AWESOME! :D
The snake-haired ladies were starting to annoy Percy.
They should have died three days ago when he dropped a crate of bowling balls on them at the Napa Bargain Mart. They should have died two days ago when he ran over them with a police car in Martinez. They definitely should have died this morning when he cut off their heads in Tilden Park.
No matter how many times Percy killed them and watched them crumble to powder, they just kept re-forming like large evil dust bunnies. He couldn’t even seem to outrun them.
He reached the top of the hill and caught his breath. How long since he’d last killed them? Maybe two hours. They never seemed to stay dead longer than that.
The past few days, he’d hardly slept. He’d eaten whatever he could scrounge —vending machine Gummi Bears, stale bagels, even a Jack in the Crack burrito, which was a new personal low. His clothes were torn, burned, and splattered with monster slime.
He’d only survived this long because the two snake-haired ladies —gorgons, they called themselves —couldn’t seem to kill him either. Their claws didn’t cut his skin. Their teeth broke whenever they tried to bite him. But Percy couldn’t keep going much longer. Soon he’d collapse from exhaustion, and then—as hard as he was to kill, he was pretty sure the gorgons would find a way.
Where to run?
He scanned his surroundings. Under different circumstances, he might’ve enjoyed the view. To his left, golden hills rolled inland, dotted with lakes, woods, and a few herds of cows. To his right, the flatlands of Berkeley and Oakland marched west —a vast checkerboard of neighborhoods, with several million people who probably did not want their morning interrupted by two monsters and a filthy demigod.
Farther west, San Francisco Bay glittered under a silvery haze. Past that, a wall of fog had swallowed most of San Francisco, leaving just the tops of skyscrapers and the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A vague sadness weighed on Percy’s chest. Something told him he’d been to San Francisco before. The city had some connection to Annabeth —the only person he could remember from his past. His memory of her was frustratingly dim.
The wolf had promised he would see her again and regain his memory —if he succeeded in his journey.
Should he try to cross the bay?
It was tempting. He could feel the power of the ocean just over the horizon. Water always revived him. Salt water was the best. He’d discovered that two days ago when he had strangled a sea monster in the Carquinez Strait. If he could reach the bay, he might be able to make a last stand. Maybe he could even drown the gorgons. But the shore was at least two miles away. He’d have to cross an entire city.
He hesitated for another reason. The wolf Lupa had taught him to sharpen his senses —to trust the instincts that had been guiding him south. His homing radar was tingling like crazy now. The end of his journey was close —almost right under his feet. But how could that be? There was nothing on the hilltop.
The wind changed. Percy caught the sour scent of reptile. A hundred yards down the slope, something rustled through the woods —snapping branches, crunching leaves, hissing.
For the millionth time, Percy wished their noses weren’t so good. They had always said they could smell him because he was a demigod —the half-blood son of some old Roman god. Percy had tried rolling in mud, splashing through creeks, even keeping air-freshener sticks in his pockets so he’d have that new car smell; but apparently demigod stink was hard to mask.
He scrambled to the west side of the summit. It was too steep to descend. The slope plummeted eighty feet, straight to the roof of an apartment complex built into the side of the hill. Fifty feet below that, a highway emerged from the base of the hill and wound its way toward Berkeley.
Great. No other way off the hill. He’d managed to get himself cornered.
He stared at the stream of cars flowing west toward San Francisco and wished he were in one of them. Then he realized the highway must cut through the hill. There must be a tunnel . . . right under his feet.
His internal radar went nuts. He was in the right place, just too high up. He had to check out that tunnel. He needed a way down to the highway —fast.
He slung off his backpack. He’d managed to grab a lot of supplies at the Napa Bargain Mart: a portable GPS, duct tape, lighter, superglue, water bottle, camping roll, a comfy panda pillow pet (as seen on TV), and a Swiss army knife —pretty much every tool a modern demigod could want. But he had nothing that would serve as a parachute or a sled.
That left him two options: jump eighty feet to his death, or stand and fight. Both options sounded pretty bad.
He cursed and pulled his pen from his pocket.
The pen didn’t look like much, just a regular cheap ballpoint, but when Percy uncapped it, it grew into a glowing bronze sword. The blade balanced perfectly. The leather grip fit his hand like it had been custom designed for him. Etched along the guard was an Ancient Greek word Percy somehow understood: Anaklusmos —Riptide.
He’d woken up with this sword his first night at the Wolf House —two months ago? More? He’d lost track. He’d found himself in the courtyard of a burned-out mansion in the middle of the woods, wearing shorts, an orange T-shirt, and a leather necklace with a bunch of strange clay beads. Riptide had been in his hand, but Percy had had no idea who he was or how he’d gotten there. He’d been barefoot, freezing, and confused. And then the wolves came. . . .
Right next to him, a familiar voice jolted him back to the present: “There you are!”
Percy stumbled away from the gorgon, almost falling off the edge of the hill.
It was the smiley one —Beano.
Okay, her name wasn’t really Beano. As near as Percy could figure, he was dyslexic, because words got twisted around when he tried to read. The first time he’d seen the gorgon, posing as a Bargain Mart greeter with a big green button that read: WELCOME! MY NAME IS STHENO, he’d thought it said BEANO.
She was still wearing her green Bargain Mart employee vest over a flower-print dress. If you just looked at her body, you might think she was somebody’s dumpy old grandmother —until you looked down and realized she had rooster feet. Or you looked up and saw bronze boar tusks sticking out of the corners of her mouth. Her eyes glowed red, and her hair was a writhing nest of bright green snakes.
The most horrible thing about her? She was still holding her big silver platter of free samples: Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wieners. Her platter was all dented from all the times Percy had killed her, but those little samples looked perfectly fine. Stheno just kept toting them across California so she could offer Percy a snack before she killed him. Percy didn’t know why she kept doing that, but if he ever needed a suit of armour, he was going to make it out of Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wieners.
That stuff was indestructible.
“Try one?” Stheno offered.
Percy fended her off with his sword. “Where’s your sister?”
“Oh, put the sword away,” Stheno chided. “You know by now that even Celestial bronze can’t kill us for long. Have a Cheese ’n’ Wiener! They’re on sale this week, and I’d hate to kill you on an empty stomach.”
“Stheno!” The second gorgon appeared on Percy’s right so fast, he didn’t have time to react. Fortunately she was too busy glaring at her sister to pay him much attention. “I told you to sneak up on him and kill him!”
Stheno’s smile wavered. “But, Euryale . . .” She said the name so it rhymed with Muriel. “Can’t I give him a sample first?”
“No, you imbecile!” Euryale turned toward Percy and bared her fangs.
Except for her hair, which was a nest of coral snakes instead of green vipers, she looked exactly like her sister. Her Bargain Mart vest, her flowery dress, even her tusks were decorated with 50% off stickers. Her name badge read: Hello! My name is DIE, DEMIGOD SCUM!
“You’ve led us quite a chase, Percy Jackson,” Euryale said. “But now you’re trapped, and we’ll have our revenge!”
“The Cheese ’n’ Wieners are only $2.99,” Stheno added helpfully. “Grocery department, aisle three.”
Euryale snarled. “Stheno, the Bargain Mart was a front! You’re going native! Now, put down that ridiculous tray and help me kill this demigod. Or have you forgotten that he’s the one who vaporized Medusa?”
Percy stepped back. Six more inches, and he’d be tumbling through thin air. “Look, ladies, we’ve been over this. I don’t even remember killing Medusa. I don’t remember anything! Can’t we just call a truce and talk about your weekly specials?”
Stheno gave her sister a pouty look, which was hard to do with giant bronze tusks. “Can we?”
“No!” Euryale’s red eyes bored into Percy. “I don’t care what you remember, son of the sea god. I can smell Medusa’s blood on you. It’s faint, yes, several years old, but you were the last one to defeat her. She still has not returned from Tartarus.
It’s your fault!”
Percy didn’t really get that. The whole “dying then returning from Tartarus” concept gave him a headache. Of course, so did the idea that a ballpoint pen could turn into a sword, or that monsters could disguise themselves with something called the Mist, or that Percy was the son of a barnacle-encrusted god from five thousand years ago. But he did believe it. Even though his memory was erased, he knew he was a demigod the same way he knew his name was Percy Jackson. From his very first conversation with Lupa the wolf, he’d accepted that this crazy messed-up world of gods and monsters was his reality. Which pretty much sucked.
“How about we call it a draw?” he said. “I can’t kill you. You can’t kill me. If you’re Medusa’s sisters —like the Medusa who turned people to stone —shouldn’t I be petrified by now?”
“Heroes!” Euryale said with disgust. “They always bring that up, just like our mother! ‘Why can’t you turn people to stone? Your sister can turn people to stone.’ Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, boy! That was Medusa’s curse alone. She was the most hideous one in the family. She got all the luck!”
Stheno looked hurt. “Mother said I was the most hideous.”
“Quiet!” Euryale snapped. “As for you, Percy Jackson, it’s true you bear the mark of Achilles. That makes you a little tougher to kill. But don’t worry. We’ll find a way.”
“The mark of what?”
“Achilles,” Stheno said cheerfully. “Oh, he was gorgeous! Dipped in the River Styx as a child, you know, so he was invulnerable except for a tiny spot on his ankle. That’s what happened to you, dear. Someone must’ve dumped you in the Styx and made your skin like iron. But not to worry. Heroes like you always have a weak spot. We just have to find it, and then we can kill you. Won’t that be lovely? Have a Cheese’n’ Wiener!”
Percy tried to think. He didn’t remember any dip in the Styx. Then again, he didn’t remember much of anything. His skin didn’t feel like iron, but it would explain how he’d held out so long against the gorgons.
Maybe if he just fell down the mountain . . . would he survive? He didn’t want to risk it —not without something to slow
the fall, or a sled, or . . .
He looked at Stheno’s large silver platter of free samples.
Hmm . . .
“Reconsidering?” Stheno asked. “Very wise, dear. I added some gorgon’s blood to these, so your death will be quick and painless.”
Percy’s throat constricted. “You added your blood to the Cheese ’n’ Wieners?”
“Just a little.” Stheno smiled. “A little nick on my arm, but you’re sweet to be concerned. Blood from our right side can cure anything, you know, but blood from our left side is deadly—”
“You dimwit!” Euryale screeched. “You’re not supposed to tell him that! He won’t eat the wieners if you tell him they’re poisoned!”
Stheno looked stunned. “He won’t? But I said it would be quick and painless.”
“Never mind!” Euryale’s fingernails grew into claws. “We’ll kill him the hard way —just keep slashing until we find the weak spot. Once we defeat Percy Jackson, we’ll be more famous than Medusa! Our patron will reward us greatly!”
Percy gripped his sword. He’d have to time his move perfectly —a few seconds of confusion, grab the platter with his left hand . . .
Keep them talking, he thought.
“Before you slash me to bits,” he said, “who’s this patron you mentioned?”
Euryale sneered. “The goddess Gaea, of course! The one who brought us back from oblivion! You won’t live long enough to meet her, but your friends below will soon face her wrath. Even now, her armies are marching south. At the
Feast of Fortune, she’ll awaken, and the demigods will be cut down like —like—”
“Like our low prices at Bargain Mart!” Stheno suggested.
“Gah!” Euryale stormed toward her sister.
Percy took the opening. He grabbed Stheno’s platter, scattering poisoned Cheese ’n’ Wieners, and slashed Riptide across Euryale’s waist, cutting her in half.
He raised the platter, and Stheno found herself facing her own greasy reflection.
“Medusa!” she screamed.
Her sister Euryale had crumbled to dust, but she was already starting to re-form, like a snowman un-melting.
“Stheno, you fool!” she gurgled as her half-made face rose from the mound of dust. “That’s just your own reflection! Get him!”
Percy slammed the metal tray on top of Stheno’s head, and she passed out cold.
He put the platter behind his butt, said a silent prayer to whatever Roman god oversaw stupid sledding tricks, and jumped off the side of the hill.
The thing about plummeting downhill at fifty miles an hour on a snack platter – if you realize it’s a bad idea when you’re halfway down, it’s too late.
Percy narrowly missed a tree, glanced off a boulder, and spun a three-sixty as he shot towards the highway. The stupid snack tray did not have power steering.
He heard the gorgon sisters screaming and caught a glimpse of Euryale’s coral-snake hair at the top of the hill, but he didn’t have time to worry about it. The roof of the apartment building loomed below him like the prow of a battleship. Head-on collision in ten, nine, eight…
He managed to swivel sideways to avoid breaking his legs on impact. The snack platter skittered across the roof and sailed through the air. The platter went one way. Percy went the other.
As he fell towards the highway, a horrible scenario flashed through his mind: his body smashing against an SUV’s windshield, some annoyed commuter trying to push him off with the wipers. Stupid sixteen-year-old kid falling from the sky! I’m late!
Miraculously, a gust of wind blew him to one side – just enough to miss the highway and crash into a clump of bushes. It wasn’t a soft landing, but it was better than tarmac.
Percy groaned. He wanted to lie there and pass out, but he had to keep moving.
He struggled to his feet. His hands were scratched up, but no bones seemed to be broken. He still had his backpack. Somewhere on the sled ride he’d lost his sword, but Percy knew it would eventually reappear in his pocket in pen form. That was part of its magic.
He glanced up the hill. The gorgons were hard to miss, with their colourful snake hair and their colourful snake hair and there bright green Bargain Mart vests. They were picking their way down the slope, going slower than Percy but with a lot more control. Those chicken feet must’ve been good for climbing. Percy figured he had maybe five minutes before they reached him.
Next to him, a tall chain-link fence separated the highway from a neighbourhood of winding streets, cosy houses and eucalyptus trees. The fence was probably there to keep people from getting onto the highway and doing stupid things – like sledding into the fast land on snack trays – but the chain link was full of big holes. Percy could easily slip through into the neighbourhood. Maybe he could find a car and drive west to the ocean. He didn’t like stealing cars, but over the past few weeks, in life-and-death situations, he’s ‘borrowed’ several, including a police cruiser. He’d meant to return them, but they never seem to last very long.
He glanced east. Just as he’d figured, a hundred yards uphill the highway cut through the base of the cliff. Two tunnel entrances, one for each direction of traffic, stared down at him like eye sockets of a giant skull. In the middle, where the nose would have been, a cement wall jutted from the hillside, with a metal door like the entrance to a bunker.
It might have been a maintenance tunnel. That’s probably what mortals thought, if they noticed the door at all. But they couldn’t see through the Mist. Percy knew the door was more than that.
Two kids in armour flanked the entrance. They wore a bizarre mix of plumed Roman helmets, breastplates, scabbards, blue jeans, purple T-shirts and white trainers. The guard on the right looked like a girl, though it was hard to tell for sure with all the armour. The one to the left was a stocky guy with a bow and quiver on his back. Both kids held long wooden staffs with iron spear tips, like old-fashioned harpoons.
Percy’s internal radar was pinging like crazy. After so many horrible days, he’d finally reached his goal. His instincts told him that if he could make it inside that door he might find safety for the first time since the wolves had sent him south.
So why did he feel such dread?
Further up the hill, the gorgons were scrambling over the roof of the apartment complex. Three minutes away – maybe less.
Part of him wanted to run to the door in the hill. He’d have to cross the median of the highway, but then it would be a short sprint. He could make it before the gorgons reached him.
Part of him wanted to head west to the ocean, that’s where he’d be safest. That’s where his power would be greatest. Those Roman guards at the door made him uneasy. Something inside him said: This isn’t my territory. This is dangerous.
‘You’re right, of course,’ said a voice next to him.
Percy jumped. At first he thought Beano had managed to sneak up on him again, but the old lady sitting in the bushes was even more repulsive then a gorgon. She looked like a hippie who’d been kicked to the side of the road maybe forty years ago, where she’d been collecting trash and rags ever since. She wore a dress made of tie-die cloth, ripped-up quilts, and plastic grocery bags. Her frizzy mop of hair was grey-brown, like root-beer foam, tied back with a peace sign headband. Warts and moles covered her face. When she smiled, she showed exactly three teeth.
‘It isn’t a maintenance tunnel,’ she confided. ‘It’s the entrance to camp.’
A jolt went up Percy’s spine. Camp. Yes, that’s where he was from. A camp. Maybe this was home. Maybe Annabeth was close by.
But something felt wrong.
The gorgons were still on the roof of the apartment building. Then Stheno shrieked in delight and pointed in Percy’s direction.
The old hippie lady raised her eyebrows. ‘Not much time, child. You need to make your choice.’
‘Who are you?’ Percy asked, though he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. The last thing he needed was another harmless mortal who turned out to be a monster.
‘Oh, you can call me June.’ The old lady’s eyes sparkled as if she’d just made an excellent joke. ‘It is June, isn’t it? They named the month after me!’
‘Okay … Look, I should go. Two gorgons are coming. I don’t want them to hurt you.’
June clasped her hands over her heart. ‘How sweet! But that’s part of your choice!’
‘My choice …’ Percy glanced nervously towards the hill.
~ ‘Yup, yer choice. Now HURRY THE @&#% UP AND CHOOSE!!!’
But it was too late. The gorgons dove at Percy, ripped him to shreds, found his weak spot, and killed him.
Eventually the world died because Percy wasn’t there to stop Gaia. ~
The End :)
The gorgons had taken off their green vests. Wings sprouted from their backs – small bat wings, which glinted like brass.
Since when did they have wings? Maybe they were ornamental. Maybe they were too small to get a gorgon into the air. Then the two sisters leaped off the apartment building and soared towards him.
Great. Just great.
‘Yes, a choice,’ June said, as if she were in no hurry. ‘You could leave me here at the mercy of the gorgons and go to the ocean. You’d make it there safely, I guarantee. The gorgons will be quite happy to attack me and let you go. In the sea, no monster would bother you. You could begin a new life, live to a ripe age, and escape a great deal of pain and misery that is your future.’
Percy was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like the second option. ‘Or?’
‘Or you could do a good deed for an old lady,’ she said. ‘Carry me to camp with you.’
‘Carry you?’ Percy hoped she was kidding. Then June hiked up her skirts and showed him her swollen purple feet.
‘I can’t get there by myself,’ she said. ‘Carry me to camp – across the highway, through the tunnel, across the river.’
Percy didn’t know what river she meant, but it didn’t sound easy. June looked pretty heavy.
The gorgons were only fifty yards away now – leisurely gliding towards him as if they knew the hunt was almost over.
Percy looked at the old lady. ‘And I’d carry you to this camp because –?’
‘Because it’s a kindness!’ she said. ‘And if you don’t the gods will die, the world we know will perish and everyone from your old life will be destroyed. Of course, you wouldn’t remember them, so I suppose it won’t matter. You’d be safe at the bottom of the sea…’
Percy swallowed. The gorgons shrieked with laughter as they soared in for the kill.
‘If I go to the camp,’ he said, ‘will I get my memory back?’
‘Eventually,’ June said. ‘But be warned, you will sacrifice much! You’ll lose the mark of Achilles. You’ll feel pain, misery and loss beyond anything you’ve ever known. But you might have a chance to save your old friends and family, to reclaim your old life.’
The gorgons were circling right overhead. They were probably studying the old woman, trying to figure out who the new player was before they struck.
‘What about those guards at the door?’ Percy asked.
June smiled. ‘Oh, they’ll let you in, dear. You can trust those two. So, what do you say? Will you help a defenceless old woman?’
Percy doubted June was defenceless. At worst, this was a trap. At best, it was some kind of test.
Percy hated tests. Since he’d lost his memory, his whole life was one big fill-in-the-blank. He was [blank], from [blank]. He felt like [blank], and if the monsters caught him, he’d be [blank].
~ Let us fill that in for Percy: He was PERCY JACKSON, from CAMP HALF-BLOOD. He felt like CRAP, and if the monsters caught him, he’d be IN EVEN BIGGER CRAP. ~
… Sorry, had to say that (sorry for swearing). Continuing…
Then he thought about Annabeth, the only part of his old life he was sure about. He had to find her.
‘I’ll carry you.’ He scooped up the old woman.
She was lighter than he expected. Percy tried to ignore her sour breath and her calloused hands clinging to his neck. He made it across the first lane of traffic. A driver honked. Another yelled something that was lost in the wind. Most just swerved and looked irritated, as if they had to deal with a lot of ratty teenagers carrying old hippie women across the highway in Berkeley.
A shadow fell over him. Stheno called down gleefully, ‘Clever boy! Found a goddess to carry, did you?’
June cackled with delight, muttering, ‘Whoops!’ as a car almost killed them.
Somewhere off to his left, Euryale screamed, ‘Get them! Two prizes are better than one!’
Percy bolted across the remaining lanes. Somehow he made it to the median alive. He saw the gorgons swooping down, cars swerving as the monsters passed overhead. He wondered what the mortals saw through the Mist – giant pelicans? Off-course hang gliders? The wolf Lupa had told him that mortal minds could believe just about anything – except the truth.
Percy ran for the door in the hill side. June got heavier with every step. Percy’s heart pounded. His ribs ached.
One of the guards yelled. The guy with the bow nocked an arrow. Percy shouted, ‘Wait!’
But the boy wasn’t aiming at him. The arrow flew over Percy’s head. A gorgon wailed in pain. The second guard readied her spear, gesturing frantically at Percy to hurry.
Fifty feet from the door. Thirty feet.
‘Gotcha!’ shrieked Euryale. Percy turned as an arrow thudded into her forehead. Euryale tumbled into the fast lane. A truck slammed into her and carried her backwards a hundred yards, but she just climbed over the cab, pulled the arrow out of her head, and launched back into the air.
Percy reached the door. ‘Thanks,’ he told the guards. ‘Good shot.’
‘That should’ve killed her!’ the archer protested.
‘Welcome to my world,’ Percy muttered.
‘Frank,’ the girl said. ‘Get them inside, quick! Those are gorgons.’
‘Gorgons?’ The archer’s voice squeaked. It was hard to tell much about him under the helmet, but he looked stout like a wrestler, maybe fourteen of fifteen. ‘Will the door hold them?’
In Percy’s arms, June cackled. ‘No, no it won’t. Onward, Percy Jackson! Through the tunnel, over the river!’
‘Percy Jackson?’ The female guard was darker skinned, with curly hair sticking out the sides of her helmet. She looked younger than Frank – maybe thirteen. Her sword scabbard came down almost to her ankle. Still, she sounded she was the one in charge. ‘Okay, you’re obviously a demigod. But who’s the –?’ She glanced at June. ‘Never mind. Just get inside. I’ll hold them off.’
‘Hazel,’ the boy said. ‘Don’t be crazy.’
‘Go!’ she demanded.
Frank cursed in another language – was that Latin? – and opened the door. ‘Come on!’
Percy followed, staggering under the weight of the old lady, who was definitely getting heavier. He didn’t know how that girl Hazel would hold off the gorgons by herself, but he was too tired to argue.
The tunnel cut through solid rock, about the width and height of a school hallway. At first, it looked like a typical maintenance tunnel, with electric cables, warning signs, fuse boxes on the walls and lightbulbs in wire cages along the ceiling. As they ran deeper into the hillside, the cement floor changed to tiled mosaic. The lights changed to reed torches, which burned but didn’t smoke. A few hundred yards ahead, Percy saw a square of daylight.
The old lady was heavier now than a pile of sandbags. Percy’s arms shook from the strain. June mumbled a song in Latin, like a lullaby, which didn’t help Percy concentrate.
Behind them, the gorgons’ voices echoed in the tunnel. Hazel shouted. Percy was tempted to dump June and run back to help, but then the entire tunnel shook with the rumble of falling stone. There was a squawking sound, just like the gorgons had made when Percy had dropped a crate of bowling balls on them in Napa. He glanced back. The west end of the tunnel was now filled with dust.
‘Shouldn’t we check on Hazel?’ he asked.
‘She’ll be okay – I hope,’ Frank said. ‘She’s good underground. Just keep moving! We’re almost there.’
June chuckled. ‘All roads lead there, child. You should know that.’
‘Detention?’ Percy asked.
‘Rome, child,’ the old woman said. ‘Rome.’
Percy wasn’t sure he’d heard her right. True, his memory was gone. His brain hadn’t felt right since he had woken up at the Wolf House. But he was pretty sure Rome wasn’t in California.
They kept running. The glow at the end of the tunnel grew brighter, and finally they burst into sunlight.
Percy froze. Spread out at his feet was a bowl-shaped valley several miles wide. The basin floor was rumpled with smaller hills, golden plains and stretched forest. A small clear river cut a winding course from a lake in the centre and around the perimeter, like a capital G.
The geography could have been anywhere in northern California – live oaks and eucalyptus trees, golden hills and blue skies. That big inland mountain – what was it called, Mount Diablo? – rose in the distance, right where it should be.
But Percy felt like he’d stepped into a secret world. In the centre of the valley, nestled by the lake, was a small city of white marble buildings with red-tiled roofs. Some had domes and columned porticoes, like national monuments. Others looked like places, with golden doors and large gardens. He could see an open plaza with freestanding columns, fountains and statues. A five-story-tall Roman coliseum gleamed in the sun, next to a long oval arena like a racetrack.
Across the lake to the south, another hill was dotted with even more impressive buildings – temples, Percy guessed. Several stone bridges crossed the river as it wound through the valley and, in the north, a long line of brickwork arches stretched from the hills into the town. Percy thought it looked like an elevated train track. Then he realized it must be an aqueduct.
The strangest part of the valley was right below him. About two hundred yards away, just across the river, was some sort of military encampment. It was about a quarter mile square, with earthen ramparts on all four sides, the tops lined with sharpened spikes. Outside the walls ran a dry moat, also studded with spikes. Wooden watchtowers rose at each corner, manned by sentries with oversized mounted crossbows. Purple banners hung from the towers. A wide gateway opened at the far side of the camp, leading towards the city. A narrow gate stood close on the riverbank side. Inside, the fortress bustled with activity: dozens of kids going to and from barracks, carrying weapons, polishing armour. Percy heard the clank of hammers at a forge and smelled meat cooking over a fire.
Something about this place felt very familiar, yet not quite right.
‘Camp Jupiter,’ Frank said. ‘We’ll be safe once –’
Footsteps echoed in the tunnel behind them. Hazel burst into the light. She was covered in stone dust and breathing hard. She’d lost her helmet, so her curly brown hair fell around her shoulders. Her armour had long slash marks in front from the claws of a gorgon. One of the monsters had tagged her with a 50% sticker.
‘I slowed them down,’ she said. ‘But they’ll be here any second.’
Frank cursed. ‘We have to get across the river.’
June squeezed Percy’s neck tighter. Oh, yes, please. I can’t get my dress wet.’
Percy bit his tongue. If this lady was a goddess, she must have been the goddess of smelly, heavy, useless hippies. But he’d come this far. He’d better keep lugging her along.
It’s a kindness, she’d said. And if you don’t the gods will die, the world we know will perish and everyone from your old life will be destroyed.
If this was a test, he couldn’t afford to get an F.
He stumbled a few times as they ran for the river. Frank and Hazel kept him on his feet.
They reached the riverbank, and Percy stopped to catch his breath. The current was fast, but the river didn’t look deep. Only a stone’s throw across stood the gates to the fort.
‘Go, Hazel.’ Frank nocked two arrows at once. ‘Escort Percy so the sentries don’t shoot him. It’s my turn to hold off the baddies.’
Hazel nodded and waded into the stream.
Percy started to follow, but something made him hesitate. Usually he loved the water, but this river seemed… powerful, and not necessarily friendly.
‘The Little Tiber,’ said June sympathetically. ‘It flows with the power of the original Tiber, river of the empire. This is your last chance to back out, child. The mark of Achilles is a Greek blessing. You can’t retain it if you cross into Roman territory. The Tiber will wash it away.’
Percy was too exhausted to understand all that, but he got the main point. ‘If I cross, I won’t have iron skin anymore?’
June smiled. ‘So what will it be? Safety, or a future of pain and possibility?’
Behind him, the gorgons screeched as they flew from the tunnel. Frank let his arrows fly.
From the middle of the river, Hazel yelled, ‘Percy, come on!’
Up on the watchtowers, horns blew. The sentries shouted and swivelled their crossbows towards the gorgons.
Annabeth, Percy thought. He forged into the river. It was icy cold, much swifter than he’d imagined, but that didn’t bother him. New strength surged through his limbs. His senses tingled like he’d been injected with caffeine. He reached the other side and put the old woman down as the camp gates opened. Dozens of kids in armour poured out.
Hazel turned with a relieved smile. Then she looked over Percy’s shoulder, and her expression changed to horror.
Frank was halfway across the river when the gorgons caught him. They swooped out of the sky and grabbed him by the either arm. He screamed in pain as their claws dug into his skin.
The sentries yelled, but Percy knew they couldn’t get a clear shot. They’d end up killing Frank. The other kids drew their swords and got ready to charge into the water, but they’d be too late.
There was only one way.
Percy thrust out his hands. An intense tugging sensation filled his gut, and the Tiber obeyed his will. The river surged. Whirlpools formed on either side of Frank. Giant watery hands erupted from the stream, copying Percy’s movements. The giant hands grabbed the gorgons, who dropped Frank in surprise. Then then the hands lifted the squawking monsters in a liquid vice grip.
Percy heard the other kids yelping and backing away, but he stayed focused on his task. He made a smashing gesture with his fists, and the giant hands plunged the gorgons into the Tiber. The monsters hit bottom and broke into dust. Glittering clouds of gorgon essence struggled to re-form, but the river pulled them apart like a blender. Soon every trace of the gorgons was swept downstream. The whirlpools vanished, and the current returned to normal.
Percy stood on the riverbank. His clothes and his skin steamed as if the Tiber’s waters had given him an acid bath. He felt exposed, raw… vulnerable.
In the middle of the Tiber, Frank stumbled around, looking stunned but perfectly fine. Hazel waded out and helped him ashore. Only then did Percy realize how quiet the other kids had become.
Everyone was staring at him. Only the old lady June looked unfazed.
‘Well, that was a lovely trip,’ she said. ‘Thank you, Percy Jackson, for bringing me to Camp Jupiter.’
One of the girls made a choking sound. ‘Percy … Jackson?’ She sounded as if she recognized his name. Percy focused on her, hoping to see a familiar face.
She was obviously a leader. She wore a regal purple cloak over her armour. Her chest was decorated with medals. She must have been about Percy’s age, with dark, piercing eyes and long black hair. Percy didn’t recognise her, but the girl stared at him as if she’d seen him in her nightmares.
June laughed with delight. ‘Oh yes. You’ll have such fun together!’
Then, just because the day hadn’t been weird enough already, the old lady began to glow and change form. She grew until she was a shining seven-foot-tall goddess in a blue dress, with a cloak that looked like goat’s skin over her shoulders. Her face was stern and stately. In her hand was a staff topped with a lotus flower.
If it was possible for the campers to look more stunned, they did. The girl with the purple cloak knelt. The others followed her lead. One kid got down so hastily he almost impaled himself on his sword.
Hazel was the first to speak. ‘Juno.’
She and Frank also fell to their knees, leaving Percy the only one standing. He knew he should probably kneel too, but after carrying the old lady so far, he didn’t feel like showing that much respect.
‘Juno, huh?’ he said. ‘If I passed your test, can I have my memory and my life back?’
The goddess smiled. ‘In time, Percy Jackson, if you succeed here at camp. You’ve done well today, which is a good start. Perhaps there’s hope for you yet.’
She turned to the other kids. ‘Romans, I present you the son of Neptune. For months he has been slumbering, but now he is awake. His fate is in your hands. The Feast of Fortune comes quickly, and Death must be unleashed if you are to stand any hope in the battle. Do not fail me!’
Juno shimmered and disappeared. Percy looked at Hazel and Frank for some kind of explanation, but they seemed just as confused as he was. Frank was holding something Percy hadn’t noticed before – two small clay flasks with cork stoppers, like potions, one in each hand. Percy had no idea where they’d come from, but he saw Frank slip them into his pockets. Frank gave him a look like: We’ll talk about it later.
The girl in the purple cloak stepped forward. She examined Percy warily, and Percy couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted to run him through with her dagger.
‘So,’ she said coldly, ‘a son of Neptune, who comes to us with the blessing of Juno.’
‘Look,’ he said, ‘my memory’s a little fuzzy. Um, it’s gone, actually. Do I know you?’
The girl hesitated. ‘I am Reyna, praetor of the twelfth Legion. And… no, I don’t know you.’
That last part was a lie. Percy could tell from her eyes. But he also understood that if he argued with her about it here, in front of her soldiers, she wouldn’t appreciate it.
‘Hazel,’ said Reyna, ‘bring him inside. I want to question him at the principia. Then we’ll send him to Octavian. We must consult the auguries before we decide what to do with him.’
‘What do you mean,’ Percy asked, ‘“decide what to do with” me?’
Reyna’s hands tightened on her dagger. Obviously she was not used to having her orders questioned. ‘Before we accept anyone into camp, we must interrogate them and read the auguries. Juno said your fate is in our hands. We have to know whether the goddess has brought us a new recruit …’
Reyna studied Percy as if she found that doubtful.
‘Or,’ she said more hopefully, ‘if she’s brought us an enemy to kill.’
I’m not posting any more. So hurry up and buy the book! You’re missing out!!!
Buy the book.
Well? What are you still doing here? Hurry up and buy the Son of Neptune!