Prologue : Not Again
After his little mishap with a couple of empousa during his orientation at Goode High School, which ended with the usual fleeing from the police of New York City, which he followed up by a long quiet taxi ride with a furious Annabeth Chase before arriving at Camp Half Blood, Percy was not in a good mood. The empousa had hinted about the camp being in flames and all of his friends imprisoned, but he had no idea what she meant or how she burst into flames.
Annabeth left him at Thalia's Pine, saying she had to see Clarisse La Rue about something they had been working on. As he made his way through camp, Percy said hi to some hie friends. In the Big House driveway, Connor and Travis Stoll from the Hermes cabin were hotwire the camp's SUV. Silena Beauregard, the head counselor for the Aphrodite cabin, waved to him while riding a pegasus. He looked for Grover, but he couldn't find him. Finally, he wandered into the sword training area. It was usually where he went whenever he was in a bad mood. Practicing always seemed to calm him down. He liked to think because swordplay was something he actually understood.
He walked into the amphitheater and his heart stopped. In the middle of the arena, with its back to him, was the biggest hellhound he'd had ever seen.
Percy had seen hellhounds before. One as big as rhino had nearly killed him when he was twelve, but this particular hellhound was a large as a military tank. It was impossible for hellhounds, or any monster as a matter of fact, to penetrate the camp's magical borders. It looked right at home, laying on its belly, chewing on the head of a combat dummy. It hadn't seen him yet, but one little sound from him, it would sense him. There was no time to go for help. Percy took out Riptide and uncapped it.
"Yahhh!" He charge, bringing down the blade on the monster's enormous backside when something large and powerful tackled him to the side midair.
Before Percy heard his sword clang loudly on the floor, he was face to face with a saber-toothed tiger. As to how an animal that even he knew was supposed extinct millions of years ago came to protecting a hellhound, Percy was stumped.
Percy turned to see the hellhound was on its feet, barking at the tiger.
In the time it took Percy to blink, the not so extinct tiger leapt off and tackled the hellhound. For a moment Percy thought they were fighting, with all the snarling and growling, but as he got up he saw different.
"Are they playing?" He asked aloud.
"And I thought I'd seen everything." cried a voice.
Percy turned to see a man who appeared roughly in his fifties. He had short grey hair and a clipped grey beard. He was dressed in black black mountain-climbing pants and a bronze breastplate strapped over his Camp Half-Blood t-shirt.
"That's a hellhound!" said Percy.
"She's harmless." assured the man. "That's Mrs O'Leary."
Percy blinked. "Mrs O'Leary?"
"Yes." The man nodded and pointed to the tiger. "And that Smilodon populator's name is Diego."
"Wait!" Percy knew that name and looked at the tiger as it rolled around with Mrs O'Leary. "That's Diego?"
"Yes." said a voice.
Percy and the man turned to see Appolonia, wearing a Camp Half Blood shirt and jeans.
"Hey, Quintus" She smiled to Percy. "Hey, Percy. When did you get here?"
"Is that really Diego?" Percy blurted. "He was barely the size of kitten a few months ago."
"Well, modern day cats often reach their full size by 8 or 9 months of age." Quintus mused. "Considering they're Diego's descendants, my guess you're witnessing that same thing. Only undiluted by millions of years of evolution."
Percy looked at Diego again. He kinda looked like a modern day lion rather than tiger, a light golden brown coat with a thin line of darker hair along the top of neck like a mane. His paws were the size of dinner plate and Percy thought it would better to not be on the receiving end of his claws. His tail was barely there, hardly even a foot long. Like the name implied Diego's teeth, which extended well past his lower jaw, were huge and a bite from him would be like being stabbed with two sharp daggers at the same time.
"I still can't believe he took one." Percy shook his head.
"Who?" Quintus asked.
"Artie." said Appolonia. "He said Atlas was trying to raise gray skelton soilders but used the wrong teeth."
"Speaking of which," Percy said. "Where is Artie?"
"Not sure." said Appolonia. "Why?"
"Some empousa attacked me during orientation." Percy said. "They said something about the camp in flames. I thought he might have overhead something when he was spying on Luke. Maybe some plan to attack the camp or something."
"That sounds serious." Quintus nodded gravely. "It would take a lot of power to break the camp's borders." Quintus paused. "Or a lot of cunning to slip in from behind."
"So you don't know where he is?" Percy asked. "When did last see him?"
"A day or two after Christmas." Appolonia looked uneasy.
"What?" Percy asked. "He just left?"
"More or less." Appolonia sighed. "He said he had something to do and he'd come back when he was done. He didn't exactly what or when, but told me not worry."
"I hope for your sake, dear." said Quintus. "He knows how to take care of himself."
"I'm more worried what about might happen if we do get attacked." Percy said concerned. "If Annabeth is working with Clarisse willingly, then something tells me we're going to need every once of fire power we got."
"This Artie must be quite the warrior." remarked Quintus. "If you think he could make a significant difference."
"He might not be a child of the Big Three." Appolonia beamed. "But the only child of Artemis isn't something you ignore."
"You might want to speak up, dear." Quintus cupped his ear. "I think I had something crazy in my ear. Did you say 'child of Artemis'?"
"Yeah," said Percy. "He's doing pretty good. His mom made him King of The Hunt."
"King of The Hunt?" Quintus looked puzzled.
"I got no idea what it means, but I think it means he's the best hunter in the world. Except to Artemis herself." Percy shrugged. "At least that's my guess."
"I'm still finding it difficult Artemis, thee Lady Artemis, had a child and son to top it off." said Quintus.
"Yeah," Percy agreed. "It does take some getting used to." He looked to Appolonia who seemed worried. "Still, I hope he's alright. Where ever he is."