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The Titan's Curse

By Artie Gallezi

Adventure

Thalia and Percy Kill Artie

Artie was somewhat in high spirits.

Appolonia had somehow struck a deal with the Hunters. For the most part they left him alone and he did the same, except for Bianca. Like he told Zoë, Bianca hadn't given him a reason to dislike her and he doubted she would. As much he liked her, Artie didn't want Zoë to give her a hard time. So he spent as much time as he could outside of Cabin Eight which was luckily easy for him. As fate would have it, Beckendorf did have something for Artie, his moonsilver armor. It was near completed. All Artie had to do was put it together attaching and separating the metal with layers of leather. He didn't want to, nor could he, use common leather. He required cured dragon hide for the armor to at its optimal level. Luckily Artie had plenty of experience in tracking and hunting dragon in the camp's forest, but unluckily for him dragon hide is incredibly tough. So much in fact, most simply shaped it and dipped it into wax so it would hold its shape. The problem it become more of a hard shell that refused to bend and flex. Artie had a simple plan to save time and effort. Curing hides required soaking the hides in highly acidic concoctions. Rather than soak the hide multiple times, he would just make the concoction so acidic it would eat through bone.

He had not returned to Cabin Eight the night Appolonia had arrived and went straight to his cave. Since leather working was involved using highly noxious liquids and was quite a noxious process itself, Artie did all of his leather working in a cave that was deep in the woods. He carried the moonsilver pieces to his cave and then hunted for a dragon. It was quite easy tracking a giant lizard in the snow and felled a young male in an hour. He dragged it to the cave, skinned it, and began preparing the hide to be cured. He soaked, pounded, then draped it over a boulder and scraped with a dull knife. Normally he would have to take care not to tear the skin, but dragon hide could take a little punishment. He had to be sure no meat or fat clung to the leather, it would only cause me misery later if he didn't.

Then it was time tan the leather. He punched wooden stakes at intervals around the edges of the hide and drove them into the ground. He made certain not to stretch the hide beyond its original size. He didn't want to stretch the hide, just keep it from shrinking. Using a combination of several smooth and rough stones, a dull knife, and straight razor he used for shaving, he scraped the skin to get every bit of meat or fat off he missed the first time including the tiny veins that clung to the surface of the skin. As he did this, he heated a large cast iron pot. This pot was filled with a mixture of the dragon's brain, Dragon urine from its bladder, dragon stomach acid, centaur blood donated by Chiron, dragon bile, several bottles of Olympus strength vinegar from Mr.D , and fresh spring water. He placed the hide in a stone basin and poured the vile noxious mixture of dragon body fluid over it. He then slid a slab, drilled with holes, on top of it like a lid and lit a small fire around it. The fire would slowly heat the stone and boil the hide in the broth over the course of eight hours. Once the last drop of body fluid had evaporated, he'd soak the hide in warm water overnight. Since the water had to be maintained warm, he stayed out and kept a fire going. Missing meals was not an issue as he had several pound of dragon meat to sate his ravenous hunger and he could melt snow for coffee and water when he was thirsty. He used the downtime to make a leather sheath and belt for his Kopis, using cured deerskin he dyed black last summer. He even had time to add several pouches and clips to it for various tools or weapons. Thalia's comment about his cloak remind her of Batman had given him an idea. If he looked like an ancient Greek version of the dark knight, then he should have a utility belt.

When dawn broke, he removed the hide from the water bath. Using his 'graining' tools, a wooden wedge and a blunt sharpen stick two inches in diameter, Artie restaked the hide and used the wedge to ooze the water out of the hide. He did this until he could not get any more water out of the skin. Then he took the blunt stick grainer and worked every inch of the hide. The object was to stretch and loosen every inch of the hide while it is drying. Once it seemed dry, he unstaked it. He drew a knife from his belt and cut away the edges with the stake holes, since there were areas one couldn't scrape well. He carried the hide outside and looped it over a branch tied between two trees and began to pull it back and forth. This would stretch the hide and the heat and friction would aid in drying the hide farther while breaking up the grain farther. Once he finished, Artie used a smooth stone to rub any imperfect areas. Now the hide was complete, but required one more step. The hide would become stiff and brittle if water fell onto it. So he made a make a tripod of sticks and draped the hide over a small smudge fire. He smoked the hide until it became a dark shade of green, turning it over several time so the smoke to penetrated all the way through the hide.

It when he was just finishing that Appolonia, Thalia, and Percy emerged from the woods. Artie greeted them with a wave and a smile as he kicked snow over the fire. Once they neared, all of them made a face as thier eyes began to water and began coughing and gagging.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Thalia covered her nose to ease her coughing, "What died?"

Percy buried his nose in his jacket, "The Fields of Punishment don't smell this bad."

"¿Cómo pueden soportarlo?" demanded Appolonia.

"Oh, right." Artie removed a small metal tin from a pouch he hung at his belt and tossed it to his friends. "Here, rub it under your nose."

Thalia caught the tin and opened it. She took a dollop the size of penny on her finger and smeared the cream under her nose. She handed the tin to Percy and Appolonia for them to do the same. The cream did not completely erase the smell, but aided greatly in stopping their stomachs from purging themselves. Their coughing subsided but their eyes continued to water.

"Sorry about that." He said kicking snow over the smoking fire. "But its the whole reason I do this so deep in the woods."

"I don't know why I'm asking," said Percy. "But what was that."

Artie slipped the tin back in the pouch. "A mixture of Vick's Vapor Rub, eucalyptus oil, honey, and lots lemon and orange zest."

"No, I mean the smell." said Percy.

"The reason why even today that leather working isn't allowed within a town's limit." Artie explained. "That was just from one small pot. Imagine several hundred vats of the stuff."

Thalia shuddered at the thought, "I don't even know how you stand it with your nose."

Artie shrugged, "You get used to it eventually. I've stopped using that cream a while ago."

"What have you been doing out here?" asked Appolonia. "You weren't at lunch or dinner yesterday."

"And breakfast today either." added Thalia.

Artie jerked a thumb behind him. "Beckendorf finished my armor, but I need to put it together."

Percy glanced at the armor shaped pieces of moonsilver, "You haven't even started."

"Hey!" Artie snapped. "Do you have any idea how hard Dragon hide is to work with?" Artie began counting on hand. "Not only did I have to find, kill, and skin a dragon. I had to make the broth so acidic that he could eat through bone. Hollow out a boulder and drill holes in a slab to boil the hide in the broth for eight hours. Then simmer it overnight in water over a low well kept fire before I could wring it dry and stretch it while I did." Artie motioned to the remnants of the fire and tripod. "I was just finishing smoking it so it would get stiff if it got wet when you got here. So you'll excuse me if I take a small break before I get to the rest."

"Sorry man." said Percy. "I didn't mean anything by it."

"Oh don't mind him." assured Appolonia. "He gets a little cranky when he doesn't eat."

"Ahem," Artie coughed as he pointed to the pile of bones that certain belonged to a giant lizard. "I had plenty to eat. A little gamey, but I've had worse."

"You ate a whole dragon?" asked Thalia.

Artie chuckled and patted his stomach. "It was a small one. I didn't want to take down a full grown dragon. It would have been too much meat and it would have spoiled."

"Well, I say its time you took a break." said Appolonia. "You've been working too long and hard."

Artie suppressed a giggle as well Thalia and Percy.

"Oh, grow up!" she snapped turning crimson.

They all began walking back toward the cabin. As they did, Percy explained his dream about Annabeth, Luke, and the crumbling cave. Artie wasn't sure what it meant, but he was sure of a few things. Annabeth was alive, but in danger. Luke had placed her there. And if Annabeth was alive, then Thorn had to be.

"Zoë had a similar dream." said Percy.

"How do you know?" asked Artie.

"Grover told me." explained Percy. "He was sleeping outside of Cabin Eight."

"But she dreamed your mother was in trouble." added Thalia.

"She's not my — " Artie caught himself. "You mean Artemis? Trouble how?"

Thalia shrugged. "Like she was lost."

"Well, Hermes is the god of travelers." Artie said.

"She means taken." Percy elaborated. "Kidnapped."

"Did you talk to Zoë?" asked Artie.

Percy frowned and did not answer.

"What's wrong with you?"

"Grover found this in Annabeth's pack." Appolonia handed Artie a Hunter's brochure. "The night you met in Westover. Grover thinks they might have been scouting you guys or . . . "

"Annabeth was thinking of joining." said Artie flatly.

Appolonia jumped in front of him. "Hold it right there!"

"What?" asked Thalia.

"I know that look." Appolonia warned Artie. "That's your 'I'm going kill something with my bare hands' look."

Artie took a deep breath and looked back at her. "And now?"

Appolonia didn't buy it. "What are you going to do?"

Artie considered it for a moment. "About Annabeth possibly joining the Hunters? Nothing."

Percy, Thalia, and Appolonia all said, "Nothing?"

"As much I'd prefer she didn't, its her choice." Artie explained. "But she not stupid enough to join because of boy problems. I'm curious why she would consider it, if Zoë hadn't offered first sometime during the year."

"You mean she might not have even been considering it in the first place?" asked Thalia.

Artie nodded, "I spent two weeks with the Hunters during my quest. Zoë hands out those brochures and cards like candy. Pan would probably have a word with her about littering."

Appolonia nodded, "I guess that would explain why she gave me one."

Artie stopped so suddenly, they continued on for a few steps before looking back, "SHE WHAT?"

At his shout, countless critters scattered to get away. Dozen of small birds flew out of trees. Squirrels ran down tree trunk and skittered away while others leaped from branch to branch. Several rabbits came out from the brush and scampered frantically in all directions. All them scared of the possible, if not clearly furious, demigod. Percy and Thalia wondered if Artie would enter his feral state again, but just as quickly, he relaxed and continued walking.

"Artie?" Appolonia walked alongside to read his face. "Are you alright?"

"Fine." he grunted. "Never better."

"You're not mad?" asked Thalia.

"Not at all." Artie even smiled.

Percy didn't believe him for a second. This calm air Artie was putting on was, what meteorologist refereed to as, the calm before the storm. Artie was so beyond furious, he had done a full rotation of emotion and came back at calm and happy. This creeped Percy out a little, but was glad that he entered his feral state.

"What are you going to do?" Percy asked quietly.

"Well, first I'm going to take a long hot shower. I smell like a sewer after curing that dragon hide." Artie tilted his head as considered the rest. "Then a nice lunch. I'm in the mood for some soup, French Onion perhaps."

"French Onion?" Percy wasn't sure he heard right.

"Or Minestrone." added Artie. "I'm not sure yet."

"That's it?" hoped Appolonia.

"Oh, yeah." he snapped his fingers like he just remembered something important. "Then I'm going to find Zoë, reach into her chest, pull out her heart, and eat in front of it her."

That was when Thalia threw herself on top of Artie. He landed face first in the snow as she grabbed his arms and bent them upward. Thalia knew if Artie took off no one could catch him, but even a child of Hermes could restrain him. Still, that didn't stop Artie from trying to get free.

"I'm not gonna let up until you calm down." said Thalia.

"Who's side are you on?" demanded Artie.

"You said it yourself." said Appolonia. "She gives those things out like candy."

"Its different!" he snapped.

"Look, Artie I know how you feel." said Percy calmly. "But you can't kill Zoë. For one thing the Hunters will kill you and we need you to find Annabeth. If anyone besides Artemis can, its you."

Thalia looked at Percy, "He tried already. Thorn left no trail for us to follow." She looked down at Artie. "Right?"

"He didn't, but Artemis will." said Artie. "Let me up and I'll explain."

Thalia hesitated but let him up. "Alright, explain."

"Its a hunting technique." Artie brushed the snow off. "If you can't find a trail for your prey then hunt your prey's natural predator."

"I don't understand." said Percy.

"Yeah, not all of us hunt." added Thalia.

Artie sighed. "You said Thorn mentioned bringing about the fall of Olympus and when you told Artemis, she went hunting for an old monster."

"Yeah, but she went looking for a monster, not Annabeth." Percy said.

"I know Thorn." Artie's voice was calm but cold. "He'll hold a grudge against the Hunters and me. And what better way to hurt the Hunters than to hurt Artemis."

"But Artemis is a god." Appolonia pointed out. "She can't be killed."

"Immortality means no death, not no pain." Artie explained. "The gods can still feel pain." Artie thought how he would do it. "She'll be somewhat of an easy target. She'll be focused on following the monster's trail and not care about leaving her own. After all, who would be dumb enough to hunt a goddess?"

"And how does finding Artemis help us find Annabeth." asked Thalia.

"While Thorn hunts Artemis, we'll hunt him."Artie explained. "Then its just a matter of making him talk."

"I get it." Percy smiled. "We just pull the same trick he is, but instead of Artemis, we capture Thorn."

"That might actually work." admitted Thalia. "But Chiron won't let us. If he won't let Zoë and the Hunters leave, he definatly won't let us."

"Last time I checked," Appolonia said. "None of you are year round campers."

"She has a point." Artie pointed out. "We were only there to bring back the Di Angelos. After that we should be free to leave. To be honest, I was gonna leave today, but then Beckendorf had finished my armor and Appolonia arrived."

"How soon can you finish it?" Thalia asked eagerly.

"I should be finished by tonight. The hard part was curing the hide, the rest I can do in a couple of hours. I could probably finish it during the capture the flag game with the Hunters."

"Do that." said Thalia. "I have a feeling we might have to sneak out if Chiron says no to the quest."

Artie nodded. "Alright, but first things first." He tapped his Kopis that hung in a leather sheath on his belt

Thalia tried tackle Artie but he simply moved to the side. "Not this time."

Appolonia stood in front of him, "I told her no. You don't have to kill her."

"Alright, but I was going to the training arena." Artie told them. "I need some practice with this."

"What do you mean Clarisse is missing?" Artie demanded.

The Ares camper yawned. "Went on a quest for Chiron. Haven't heard from her in a month."

"She okay?" he asked.

"Don't know."

Artie walked the steps of the Ares cabin and joined his friends. "Você deve estar brincando comigo."

"What?" asked Thalia.

Artie shook his head, "Clarisse went on a mission for Chiron and hasn't been heard from in a month."

"You don't think she's been kidnapped too?" said Appolonia.

"I doubt it." answered Percy. "I hate to admit it, but it would take a lot to take her down."

"The one time I actually need a favor from her and she's gone." Artie sighed. "Thalia, how good are you with hand to hand combat?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I'm not much of a swordsman." he admitted. "Hell, I'm not that good at close combat period. I need someone to teach me how use the Kopis. All Artemis told was that it works like a machete."

"Why not Percy?" wondered Appolonia. "Everyone knows he's the best fighter we have."

"You haven't seen me fight." said Thalia.

"I don't care who." Artie continued to the training arena. "I'll be at the arena when you decide."

Artie found himself a training dummy and began hacking at it. He swung the sword at different angles as he tried to get a feel for it. Even to his inexperienced eye, he knew something was wrong. He looked at it and mentally measured the blade to be just under two feet. He was grateful for a weapon other than his claws, but he wished he still had his bolo knives. Those, at least, had some experience and perhaps even some talent. Then he got an idea. Rather than holding the blade upward like a traditional sword, he pointed it down like he had with his knives. It somehow felt more natural. He was about to experiment when he heard and smelt Thalia coming up behind him. He turned to see Percy was with her, while Appolonia sat on the bleachers that surrounded the arena.

"We agreed." said Thalia.

"We'll both teach you." said Percy.

Artie glanced down at the Kopis, curious to try it with a familiar grip. "Where do we start?"

"Well, from what Percy's told me. You're not that strong, but good luck to anyone who can see you coming."

"Luke said the same thing when he taught me," Artie admitted. "Though he said it was important for me to learn proper fighting than to focus on my speed."

"Not nessasarly." Thalia corrected. "All the fancy moves in the world won't help, if you're too slow to react. That's you're advantage."

"So he needs to aim for vital parts." added Percy. "Like major arteries and stuff?"

Thalia nodded, "With the right moves, Artie could take down multiple opponents before they even have a chance to draw their swords." Thalia rested her hand on a mock sword. "I'm going to draw this as fast as I can. I want you to force the sword back in the scabbard, okay?"

Artie sheathed his Kopis, "Alright."

Percy watched as Thalia managed to draw the sword an inch before Artie materialized in front her. He forced the sword back with his right hand and held his left under her throat, his claws half an inch from her skin.

"Whoa," said Thalia. "You are fast. But — " Thalia kicked her right leg up, hooking Artie's left leg, and sent him to the ground. "You leave yourself open."

Percy got an idea, "Hey, Thalia. You know any, what's the word?, surprise moves?"

"Surprise moves?"

"Yeah, " Percy nodded. "Moves that throw you off balance. Annabeth told me its the only way she managed to beat any of the Ares campers."

Thalia smiled, "Only Athena herself could have thought that. Yeah, I know a few moves."

From there Thalia taught a few simple moves. Using Percy as a mock opponent to demonstrate. Artie learned quickly and found he enjoyed it. Like Percy had said, all of them were meant to throw much larger, and likely to be stronger, opponents off balance and create openings. Either to finish off, or in Artie's case, give him time to create distance and use his bow. It suited Artie perfectly. Since most of them required speed and not power, the only problem was knowing which techniques to use in combat. Thalia assured that was what their ADHD was for, granted Artie didn't have ADHD, but with his speed he doubted it would make a difference. Thalia also assured that with his speed, Artie could take out multiple opponents, even if they were better armed than him. She decided to demonstrate this. She and Percy would be each armed with a sword, a shield, and a knife. While Artie had a single sword. Since she wanted Artie to go for the kill, all weapons would be mock wood with the edges painted red so they would know where the blades would have hit. They also agreed once a weapon or shield was dropped, it could not be used again.

Artie stood ready, his mock Kopis held down like a knife, with Percy and Thalia only a few feet away from him. Percy charged swinging his mock sword left, right, forward, and backward. With cool calm practice Artie stepped back twisting his torso left and right, waiting for the right moment. Then it came. As Percy delivered a backhand swing, Artie grabbed his wrist with his right hand, the one that gripped his mock Kopis, and pulled hard. Like Thalia had shown him, Percy stumbled allowing Artie smash his right elbow into Percy;s before slashing the side of his neck barely a half second afterward. Percy dropped his sword and was now left with a knife and shield. Artie hardly managed the time to grin before he felt something fly through the air behind him. Instinctively, he moved just as Thalia's mock sword left a red gash across Percy's back. Now he had Thalia to deal with and she was, in Artie's opinion, the more experience and brutal fighter. She alternated her strikes between her sword and shield, showing how versatile the shield could be in offense and defense. Like before he stepped back and twisted his torso left to right. But she was different than Percy and attacked both his legs and head, forcing him to duck and weave as moved back. Then he saw another chance and went for it. As Thalia slashed diagonally downward, Artie went over her forearm and under just above her elbow with his right arm. Using her momentum, he moved to the side and pushed as he swept his leg under hers and sent her to the floor. Like Percy, Thalia dropped her sword. Then he felt something glide across his back before he felt jab him. Artie dove forward and turned to see Percy, he had just slashed and stabbed his back. Had this been a real fight, Artie would have been severely injured, perhaps even fatal.

He made a mental note to be more careful.

Percy helped Thalia to her feet and charge Artie again, this time with only a knife and shield. Artie prepared himself and saw Percy was holding the knife downward, the way he did to slash and stab. Though he guessed Percy was not expert knife fight like Annabeth, Artie knew to be careful. Like Thalia had done earlier, Percy began slashing and stabbing, using his shield in between blows. Like usual, Percy was finding it difficult to hit his mark. Quick as lightning, just as Percy went to strike with his shield, Artie went on the offensive. He slipped his Kopis just below Percy's rib, or would have if the blade had been real, placed his right leg behind Percy's, and kicked back hard. This used Percy's own weight against him and sent him to the floor. Artie then quickly slashed and left a red stain below his collarbone. In the fall, Percy had lost his shield. In his haste, Artie had forgotten about Thalia was rewarded with red gash from a slash and a painful jab on his sternum.

He cursed himself.

For the second time, had this been a real fight he would have died.

She charged for the third time, rather than do what he had been since the beginning, Artie tried something new. As went to strike with her shield, Artie rammed hard against it. It was nowhere near enough to send flying into the wall, but was sufficient in causing her to stumble backward. Ignoring the pain his shoulder, Artie turned so his back was against Thalia's front, grabbed her right arm that gripped her knife, and pulled forward. When she first taught him, Artie thought he would not have enough strength perform it, but Thalia explained how it was possible. The opponent's arm, in this case Thalia's, would serve as a lever while his back would serve as a pivot point. The stability and reasonable strength of Artie's back would allow him throw a heavier opponent, provided the opponent's weight was not in the quadruple digits, rather than in a move that required him to lift. So using that same technique, Artie threw Thalia over his shoulder and to the ground, causing her to also lose her shield.

Artie turned just in time to stop Percy. Like Thalia had warned countless times, he didn't block the knife in Percy's hand, but rather blocked Percy's wrist with his own. Following up, Artie rushed forward and placed his free hand on Percy's chest,as he hooked his leg behind Percy's knee, and shoved hard. Once again, Percy was thrown off balance and was sent to the floor. Artie then dove on top and painted a red line on Percy's throat. Artie had, theoretically, killed Percy and turned this two on one mock fight into a one one mock fight. This went through his head just before he felt a painful jab between the base of his neck and shoulder. He rolled forward to avoid anymore strikes. He turned and saw that, for the forth and frustrating time, he had let his guard down and would have died had the weapons been real. He snarled in frustration and charged, but Thalia had planned head. She saw how frustrated Artie had become each time he received a strike and used it against him. As Artie charged, Thalia fell back as she stuck out her leg. Artie saw what she was planning and slid to a stop. But the wet ground proved to be his undoing as well as his anger. He slid right into her as she grabbed his shirt and her leg drove right into his midsection. Using Artie's momentum, Thalia fell back and sent Artie flying over her. As Artie landed, Thalia sprung to her feet with surprising agility, ran to Artie, and slit his throat.

"Danação!" he curse and pounded his fist on the ground.

"Not bad." Thalia helped Artie to his feet with an impressed smile. "But lets try that again. This time try to keep moving."

Percy pushed himself up, rubbing below his ribs. "Any chance we can take a break?"

Then suddenly a conch horn blew, signaling the campers to lunch.

Thalia chuckled, "Alright, but we'll pick up right after lunch."

They quickly wiped off the red lipstick and returned the mock weapons to the racks. Appolonia joined them and began fussing over Artie, checking to see if had sustain any injuries, no mater how minor. Artie had an idea and fell to the floor.

"Artie!" Appolonia cradled his head in her arms. "What happened? Are you alight"

Artie gripped the front of her shirt and pulled her closer. He slipped into a hillbilly accent. "Hold me closer, Ed, it's getting dark."

"What?" Appolonia looked at Percy and Thalia, both who shrugged.

Artie pretended to cough before he continued the accent. "Tell Auntie Em to let Old Yeller out"

"Old Yeller?" asked Thalia. "That sounds famila — "

Artie interrupted with another bout of coughing. He then slipped into a cockney accent. "Tell Tiny Tim I won't be coming home this Christmas."

"I think you threw him to hard, Thalia." said Percy sounding concerned and confused.

Artie coughed once more. This time he sounded like Sean Connery, "Tell Scarlett I do give a damn."

Artie then pulled Appolonia close and planted a big wet kiss on her lips. Then he burst out laughing, not caring that Appolonia dropped his head on the ground and stomped off towards the dining pavilion. Thalia and Percy just stared as Artie got up and brushed the snow of his shirt, chuckling to himself as he did.

"What was that about?" asked Percy.

"Quoting The Mask." Artie explained.

"A movie?" asked Thalia.

"Yeah"

"No,I mean why did you do that?" Percy explained.

"What can I say?" Artie winked as quoted the move once more, slipping into a thick french accent. "Our love is like a red, red rose . . . and I am a little thorny."

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