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The Titan's Curse

By Artie Gallezi

Adventure

If Only Artie Had Fava Beans

Percy did not remember falling asleep when he returned to his cabin, but he remembered the dream.

He was back in the barren cave, the ceiling low and heavy over him. Annabeth was kneeling under the weight of a dark mass that looked like a pile of boulders. She was too tired to cry out as her legs trembled under her. Percy was sure that any second her strength would give out and the giant mass would topple on her.

"How is our mortal guest?" asked a male voice. The voice was deep like a bass guitar with enough force to make the ground tremble from the sound.

Luke emerged from the shadows and knelt by Annabeth. He looked back at the unseen man. "She's fading. We must hurry."

"That shouldn't be a problem." The deep voice chuckled as a hand push someone forward into Percy's view. "You heard the boy. Decide!"

It was Artemis bound with celestial bronze chains and manacles, her silvery dress torn and tattered. Her face and arms were cut in several places as they bled golden ichor, the blood of the immortal beings. She looked at Annabeth and her expression went from concern to outrage. "How dare you torture a maiden like this?"

"She will die soon." said Luke. "You can save her."

Artemis held out her wrist, chains clinking together like a pocket of coins. "Free my hands!"

Luke brought out Backbiter and, with one quick swing, severed the chain that bound the goddess. She ran to Annabeth and took the burden from her. Annabeth collapsed to the floor and shivered, but not from the cold floor. Artemis staggered, trying to support the weight of the black rocks. The unseen man laughed. Artemis had done exactly what he had planned without a single moment of hesitation.

"You surprised me." said Artemis as she struggled under her burden. "It will not happen again."

"Indeed it will not!", said the man. "Now you're out of the way for good! I knew you could not resist helping a maiden. It is your specialty after all, my dear."

Artemis groaned. "You know nothing of mercy, you swine."

"On that we can agree." said the man. "Luke, you may kill the girl now."

"NO!" shouted Artemis.

Luke hesitated, "She may still be useful. For further bait."

"Bah! Do you truly believe that?"

"Don't you remember my lord? A quest was issued for her to be rescue as well."

"Ah yes. It appears we were both incorrect, Artemis. This will surprise you." the man chuckled amusingly. "Your son is on his way here as well."

Artemis looked shocked. "Artie?"

"Yes, but not for you." the man pointed to Annabeth. "He aims to save this pathetic mortal and single-handed at that."

"If one hair is harmed on his head," Artemis snarled. "You'll beg for Tartarus before I'm through with you."

"Its quite amusing." The man chuckled again. "According to our spies, he is more concerned for this girl than you, his mother. After the quest to rescue you was issued, one that will fail, he asked for this girl''s well being. Now why would he do that?"

Artemis tried not to look hurt at that. "I am immortal and she is not. It is simple why he would be more concerned with her than me."

"Or could it be that you have been less than the perfect mother to him." the man said smugly. "I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks so himself. The gods are blind to see how ignoring their children will be their downfall." He looked to Luke. "Very well, have the draceanae guard her. Assuming she does not die from her injuries, you may keep her alive until th solstice. After that, if our sacrifice goes as planned, her life will be meaningless."

Luke gathered Annabeth in his arms and began carrying her away.

"You will never find the monster you seek." Artemis said. "You will fail."

"How little you know, my little goddess." said the man in the shadows. "Even now, your darling attendants begin thier quest to save you. As does your son to save the girl. They will play directly into my hands. Now you'll excuse me, we have a long journey to make. We must make sure that their quest is . . . challenging."

"You underestimate my Hunters and overestimate your minions." said Artemis. "You sent a manticore to kill my son and after eight years, he still cannot accomplish that."

"You have a point." The man seemed to consider it. "As for your son, I might let him live. From I can gather he has quite the axe to grind and is aching to use it. All he requires is a little fatherly guidance."

The man exited with Luke, his laugh echoing so loudly the ceiling seemed to be on the verge of collapsing.

Everything faded to black, only to be filled with light again.

Percy saw he was looking at a crowded street in front of a deli. People walked back forth wearing thick coats and hats to ward off the stinging cold and carried Christmas presents piled high in their arms. From what he could gathered, Percy realized he was in New Jersey just outside of New York City. A man emerged from the deli, clad in long trench coat and hat, with coffee in one hand and speaking on a cellphone in the other.

It was Thorn and it looked like he was upset.

"ALIVE!" he shouted into the phone. "You want the boy alive?" A pause as the person on the other side spoke. "I don't care if he might be useful. I spent fours tracking that little runt all throughout South America on your orders, General. And when he finally leaves the safety of that blasted camp, you want him alive?" Another pause as made rude gestures at the phone. "Very well, General. I will be in D.C as soon as I can." Another pause and Thorn rolled his eyes. "No, I am not being followed."

Thorn hung up the phone as a man in black military clothes emerged from a van and spoke to Thorn. "Sir, orders from the General?"

"Unfortunately," Thorn sneered tossed the coffee to the floor in frustration. "We are to report to Washington, D.C."

Without a word Thorn and the man piled into a van that was parked on the curb and drove off. Percy looked up and saw the strangest thing he had seen a long time, even in New York. Tobias was perched on the awning that hung over the entrance of the deli. Percy's view followed Tobias as he fluttered to the roof of the adjacent building opposite the deli. Standing on the edge of roof as leaned forward on one knee, overlooking the street thirty feet below him, was Artie. He was still garbed in his armor and cloak, the white exterior making him nearly invisible with the grayish white clouds behind him in the sky.

Tobias fluttered to his shoulder and chirped, no doubt reporting what Thorn had said. "Washington, D.C?" Tobias nodded and Artie pulled a map from a pouch on his belt and opened it. "I could beat him there in my sleep with my bike, but if this General might tell him to go somewhere else . . . " Tobias chirped and Artie shook his head. "Yes, I could track him down, but that'll take time. Time that Annabeth might not have. No, I'll follow him. He's too confident to expect that."

Tobias took off from Artie's shoulder as Artie slid down the fire escape ladder. His motorcycle was running in the alley between the buildings. Artie threw his leg over the seat, adjusted the cloak so the wind would not blow it off, and sped down the street. Percy could see he made sure not follow Thorn too closely to arouse suspicion, but never let the van out of his sight.

Percy woke with a start.

Then he heard someone banging on his door. He grabbed Riptide and inched towards the door. "Hello?"

THUMP THUMP

Percy threw the door open and found him face to face with a black pegasus, who clopped away from the uncapped sword blade. Like all equestrian animals, Percy heard its voice in his head.

Whoa, boss. said the pegasus. I don't want to be a horse-kebob.

"Blackjack?" Percy was relieved, but a little irritated. "Its the middle of the night."

Ain't either, boss. Its five in the morning. Blackjack huffed. What are ya still sleeping for?"

"How many time do I have to tell you? Stop calling me boss."

Whatever you say, boss. You're the man. You're my number one.

"You're supposed to stay in the stables."

Meh, the stables. Do you see Chiron staying in the stables?

"Well . . . no."

Exactly. Listen, we got another little sea friend that needs your help.

"Again?"

Yeah, I told the hippocampi I'd come get you.

Percy wasn't in the mood. Lately, whenever he went to the beach, the hippocampi would ask him to come help with their problems. And they had a lot of problems. Beached whales, porpoises caught in fishing nets, mermaids with hangnails — they would call on Percy to come underwater and help them.

"Alright. I'm coming."

You're the best, boss.

"And don't call me boss!"

After nearly being trampled by some hippocampi, rescuing something that at best could be called a sea cow, and promising Nico to watch over his sister, Percy and Blackjack set out toward New York City following a van that held one hero, two hunters, and one satyr. It was a bit of problem since they had to fly so high that ice collected in Percy's hair, but it was either that or cause a massive and deadly pile up on the Long Island Expressway. Traffic was bad with the holidays being around the corner, so it was mid morning when the van finally entered the city. Percy had Blackjack land on the Chrysler building since he guessed the van would pull into the bus station, but it didn't.

"Where is Argus taking them?" asked Percy.

Oh Argus isn't driving boss. said Blackjack. The girl is.

"Which girl?"

The Hunter girl. The one with the silver crown thing in her hair.

"Zoë?"

That's the one. Hey look, there's a donutshop. Can we get something to go?

Percy tried explaining that a horse ordering doughnut would give just every cop in the place a heart attack, but didn't seem to understand. Speaking of cops, Percy wondered how Zoë could drive without being pulled over every block. She may be older than world war II veterans, but she didn't look sixteen. Percy wasn't even sure if she even had a driver's license and if she did, he wondered what her birth date would be. That was when he saw the van snaking its way to the Lincoln Tunnel.

"Well," he said. "Let's go after them."

They were about to leap off when Blackjack whinnied in alarm and nearly threw Percy. He felt something curling around his ankle like a snake. He reached for his sword when he saw it wasn't a snake, but vines. Grape vines to be exact and they were wrapping around Blackjack's leg and around Percy's ankles, stopping them from moving even the slightest inch.

"Going somewhere?" Mr. D asked. He was leaning against the building with his feet levitating in the air. His leopard skin warm up suit and black hair flapping in the wind.

God alert. yelled Blackjack. Its the wine dude.

Mr. D sighed in exasperation. "The next person, or horse, that calls me the wine dude will end up in a bottle of Merlot."

"Mr.D!" said Percy. "What do you want?"

"What do I want? You thought, perhaps, that the immortal, all powerful director of camp would not notice you leaving without permission?"

"Well . . . maybe."

"I should throw you off this building, minus the flying horse, and see how heroic you sound on the way down."

"Why do you hate me so much?" Percy demanded from the god. "What did I ever do to you?"

Purple flames flickered in his eyes. "You're a hero, boy. I need no other reason."

"I have to go on this quest. I need to help my friends. That's something you wouldn't understand."

Uh, Boss? said Blackjack. Seeing as how we're wrapped in vines nine hundred feet off the ground, you might wanna talk nice.

Mr.D waved his hand dismissively. "Go. Follow your silly friends."

The vines uncoiled around Percy and Blackjack and disappeared. Percy blinked in disbelief. "You're . . . you're letting me go? Just like that?"

"The prophecy says at least two will die. Perhaps I'll be lucky and one of them will be you. But mark my words Son of Poseidon, live or die, you will prove no better than any other hero."

With that, Dionysus snapped his fingers and disappeared. All that was left was the faint scent of grapes and grape vines that was quickly swept away in the wind. Percy had an uneasy feeling about being let go. If Dionysus had not dragged him back to camp, then there was a good chance that he might actually die. He stuffed the thought back into his skull and looked for the van.

"Come on, Blackjack." he said trying to sound upbeat. "I'll buy you donuts in Jersey."

Artie was having that uneasy feeling that something was following him. It wasn't out of the question, he was the only one on a motorcycle as far as he could see on the highway. But since Thorn had not changed directions and no one had tried to ram him from behind, Artie figured it was just his nerves and continued following the black van from a distance. After a few minutes, Artie internal radar continued to buzz like a bee in his ear. Perhaps it wasn't just blind luck that he had caught Thorn's scent when he drove off the Verazano bridge and drove across the water in New Jersey. Artie tried to reassure himself he wasn't walking into a trap. Had it been, Thorn wouldn't wait so long and drive to D.C without either capturing or killing him. He also severely doubted it was just his nerves. He had learned to trust his instincts. He was being followed, but he didn't know by whom. He turned his gaze to the sky, not exactly the safest thing to do while driving sixty miles and hour on a motorcycle, and saw what looked like a black pegasus. He glanced back the road for a moment, so not run into a car at sixty miles an hour without a helmet, and saw it was gone. He shook his head and continued following the black van. It was roughly an hour later that Thorn and his entourage parked. Artie dismounted, pressed a button on the motorcycle's dashboard, and slipped the tiny metal figurine into one the various pouches and pockets that decorated his belt. He bent down behind a car as Thorn and three men exited the car and gazed around. Though most of the car hid him from sight, he made it looked like he was bending down to tie his boot. He knew from their scent that the men were mortal, therefore unable to see Artie as he was in his armor and white cloak. He figured they saw kid wearing a white hoodie tying his shoe and wouldn't give him a second thought.

And that was exactly what happened because they all turned to Thorn who ordered them to go on ahead and he would meet them there. As Thorn watched his men, Artie walked to a group of teenagers huddled around a coffee vendor and his cart. They didn't pay him any mind as he laid down some money and bought a coffee. While it wasn't his plan to warm up, his cloak had kept him warm like Artemis had said, the teenagers provided the perfect camouflage as Thorn strode past them. Unless he had inspected the group closely, Thorn didn't see Artie, armed to the teeth, casually sipping coffee as he stalked him in plain sight. He continued to follow Thorn, though it was quite challenging. Not only could Thorn see through the Mist, but Artie had to make sure he stayed downwind. If Thorn caught even the faintest hint that Artie was in Maryland, he knew it wasn't to visit the nation's capitol and buy a replica of the Declaration of Independence. Artie continued following Thorn as best he could, but cursed under his breath when Thorn entered a building with guard flanked at the entrance.

Artie made his way around the building, trying to look as casual as he could. He saw there were guard stationed at every entrance. He sat on a bench that faced the building and planned out his next move. The guard were mortal, but garbed in the same black military uniforms that the men Thorn's van had worn. That meant while he could easily incapacitate any of the two guards at any random entrance, he might as well announce his presence to whomever was inside. He had to slip in undetected and unseen. He could try simply walking in and bluffing his way through, but Thorn had flashed something to identify himself. He could steal one, but he had no way of knowing who carried one and he doubted he could pickpocket someone without being discovered. It was times like this he wished he could have had a companion or two with him. Travis or Connor Stoll could accomplish something like that in their sleep. So a ground entrance was out of the question.

Artie stood up and leaned against a tree. "Check out the roof. See if there's a way inside."

Artie watched as Tobias took off and flew over the building. One might question how a red tailed hawk had gotten this far north, but anyone had looked up and saw Tobias, they would have seen a small bird like speck in the sky and dismiss him as a sparrow or something equally small. Tobias returned and perched on a branch overhead and reported with a combinations of quiet squawks and chirps.

"A maintenance entrance with no guards?" Artie asked. "No one at all?" Tobias chirped. "I guess you're right. How could anyone sneak up there?"

That was when Tobias told him about a blind spot in the defenses.

He followed Tobias to the north side of the building. Artie had noticed the building had no entrance on the north side, but there were guards posted nonetheless. But there was a tree that had been nearly ripped up from the roots from a recent storm. It leaned towards the building and all Artie had to was scale the tree and then climb the rest of the way up. Artie plucked a small tube, roughly the size of and width of his thumb, from his belt. Using his quiver, Artie had drawn dozen of arrows and unscrewed the head from the shaft. The arrow heads would work exactly like the would if they had remained attached to the shafts. Artie was reminded of batman's utility belt since he had plenty of little gadgets sitting in the pouches on his belt. He had reasoned if he had lost his quiver and was forced to use his Kopis, then he could still the gadgets and tools from the arrowheads. Some could obscure, and some would distract, and others could even kill. Of course the lethal ones would only work on monsters and pass through the mortal guards unmolested. Artie handed the tube to Tobias who flew overhead the group of guard that were posted on the north side and dropped the tube at their feet. They all gazed down as the tube began to beep. Artie used that opportunity to reach the tree and hide in its foliage.

"What the . . ." said one of the guards

Then the tube exploded and the guards were showered with blood. Artie knew from the smell it was pig's blood, but the guards didn't and screamed like cheerleaders in a cheap slasher flick. Artie leaped out of the tree and began climbing the remaining twenty feet to the roof as the guard began recovering.

One of the guard opened his shirt. "I'm not dead. It ain't my blood."

The other opened his shirt. "I'm fine too, its not mine either."

"Then who's is it?"

"Beats me."

"Probably some young punk with a water balloon. Mixed some water and red dye with flour to make it look like blood."

They wiped their faces and looked around to look for the pranksters that had pulled one over them. Artie watched them gaze around, but never once glanced upward. He walked to the roof entrance and found it was locked. Though he had seen this done countess time in films, he doubted it would work here. Still, he had nothing to lose. He knocked on the door loudly and stepped to the side.

A second later the door flew open as guard came from inside and brandished a sidearm. "Freeze!"

Artie suppressed a laugh and slipped inside as the door swung close behind the guard and quietly walked down the steps. As he listened for the sound of approaching footsteps, Artie unbuckled the silver fibula from under his neck and threw the cloak off and around before rebuckling the fibula under his neck. Now he wore the cloak black half on the outside. Artie hid a smile at the fact he looked like Sith lord from Star Wars the way the hood hid his face from view and the cloak nearly dragged on the floor as it hid the rest of his body.

"Hey, you there!" called a voice. "Stop right there!"

Artie froze and figured it was time for another life or death test of his acting skills. He had done this before when he was accidentally mistaken for a runaway demigod aboard the Princess Andromeda. Using some cheap make up and red hair dye, Artie had passed himself along as an Irish demigod, Arnold Benedict. He was sure after that Luke would have had warned his soldiers not to fall for that same trick. But a thought came to him. Luke was no child of Athena and probably only on the look out for disguised demigods, not monsters. With that in mind, Artie quickly removed his sunglasses and extended his claws. The hood would hide his face from view as glowing silver eyes would seem to float in shadow. Like the accent and idioms had worked to sell Arnold Benedict, Artie figured good old Hannibal Lector would be best. Monster tended to act and put on heirs that they were highly civilized and sophisticated, at least the really powerful ones.

A girl, thirteen by the looks of her and clad in full Greek armor, stepped in front of Artie. "What were you doing on the roof?"

"I wasn't aware I had to report in to a little girl." Artie faked an amused chuckle. "Very well, I was simply grabbing a quick snack." He made snack sound as sinister as he could.

The girl shuddered, but recovered. "A snack?"

"Well, more a meal." Artie kissed fingers as one would do to indicate one just had the most exquisite meal. "It has been ages since I had one as . . . delectable as him."

The girl laid her hand on her sword, but gulped. "H-h-him?"

Artie nodded slowly. "Best thing for him, really." Artie examined a claw curiously."From what he told me, his therapy was going nowhere. At least think that was he said. It is quite a challenge when one's lungs begin to fill with blood." Artie motioned to the girl. "And who are you, my dear? Why is such a sweet girl like you here?"

The girl looked she was debating whether to attack or run. "S-s-s-s-sweet?"

Artie smacked his lip loudly. "It is a shame. I have the most appetizing recipe, but where can I find fresh fava beans and the perfect chianti this close to dinner?"

"W-w-w-what are you?"

Artie inclined his head politely, "I do wish we could chat longer, but . . . I'm having an old friend for dinner. Bye."

Artie began walking away, but stopped after a few steps and turned around. "A manticore entered here not too long ago. Be a dear and tell me where he is?"

"H-h-h-he's probably here to report to the G-g-general." said the terrified demigod. "He s-s-s-should be in main chamber. The one with all the dinosaurs bones."

"Dinosaurs?" Artie sighed as he thought of a fond memory. "Ahh, now those were fun. Nothing like a quick fight to get the appetite flowing." Artie inclined his head. "Thank you, I hope I see you again. Perhaps for dinner?"

The girl looked like she was about to faint or scream. "I . . . um . . . I don't think . . ."

"Yes, you're quite right." Artie said menacingly smooth. "People will say we're in love." Artie looked her up and down. "But are you ever my taste. So to speak." Artie chuckled sinisterly and rounded the corner, leaving the girl where she stood.

As he walked to the main chamber, Artie couldn't help think to himself. Hopkins, eat your heart out.

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