Upon Further Review
Despite the gravity of the situation, Artie couldn't help being a little jealous of Percy's skill with a sword. Here he was not even a year of training and Percy was actually holding his against the god of war himself. Sure he was using the ocean to hold Ares back while it gave him power, but considering his opponent, Artie couldn't fault him at all. At any rate, it wasn't as if he could hope to do any better. He'd probably still be struggling with the giant boar and he would have surely gained a few more scars from the encounter. He and Annabeth each had given him their camp necklaces, a grand total of seven years. Artie knew Percy was fighting to prevent an all out war between the gods, but just standing there bored him. Watching a sword fight never had been particularity entertaining to him, even one as important as this. So he decided to replay the last few hours, to get a better understanding of what was going on. He took a relaxing breath and closed his eyes.
They had just gotten off Charon's ferry after Percy had bribed the ferryman with several golden drachmas and a promise of talking to Hades about a pay raise. On the way he could hear the howling of something big in the distance, and now they were at the gate, he could see the source. It was none other than the guardian of the Underworld, a giant three headed Rottweiler, Cerberus.
"Why is he getting easier to see?" asked Percy.
Annabeth gulped and licked her lips, "I think it's because we're getting closer to being dead."
"That's reassuring." said Artie. "Percy, whenever you're ready."
They slowly advanced and the middle head snarled while the other two barked so loudly that Artie would have sworn a jet just took off next to his ear. Like all dogs. he could understand Cerberus. He was surprised how much like a normal dog Cerberus was. What Cerberus conveyed confused him and he realized something. Despite all his obvious size and ferocity, Cerberus still a dog. Which meant with all his bark and bite, he was merely defending his master and territory, namely Hades and the Underworld, like any normal dog. Artie began mentally sorting through all he knew on dogs, rottweilers in particular, while Percy went ahead with his plan.
Percy took a big wooden post - a piece of trash they had found just outside the studio - and waved it overhead. "Hey big fella, I bet they don't play with you much." Cerberus merely responded with a low growl. "Good boy."
Artie continued to watch as Percy waved the stick. The middle head followed the stick while the other two focused entirely on Percy. For better or worse, Percy had his undivided attention. Percy tossed the stick and Cerberus watched it fly before returning his gaze back to Percy, unimpressed. He growled again, much deeper this time. Artie thought it best to translate.
"Um." he said. "Percy?"
"He's giving us ten seconds to turn back."
"Well he's . . . hungry."
Annabeth began digging around in her bag. "I think I got something." She produced a red rubberball from Waterland. "My dad used to have a doberman. They taught us a few things in obediance school."
She took a step forward but Artie stopped her. "You better let me do it."
"Does that make a difference?"
Artie nodded. "Iif worst come to worst, I can run alot faster than either of you."
Annabeth handed him the ball. "Okay. but be careful."
Artie took a deep breath and walked forward. As he did, two things went through his head. The first was, why did have Hades have to chose a rottweiler of all things? He knew why Hades had chosen this particular one, but it didn't make him feel any less terrified. Based on breeds, they made excellent guard dogs with their inherent desire to protect. Combined with an intelligent and a patient wait-and-see attitude, this dog was not be trifled with. He was comforted, if only slightly, by the fact they preferred to intimidate rather than attack.
The second was the poem Leonidas had given him. It was starting to make sense to him. He knew from experience that dogs were excellent readers of body language. It was a well known fact for a dog to obey was make sure he understood that the human was the alpha male. And the best way to do that was, regardless of all barking and growling, to show no fear. It taught the dog that he could not do as he pleased and it taught guard dogs that if the person in question wasn't afraid, he was on the guest list. It was a trick one could not repeat with most wild animals, like wolves for instance, because most could smell fear as well as sense it. So theoretically, Cerberus would recognize Artie, or anyone for that matter, and allow him passage, only as long he didn't sense any fear.
That was easier said than done he thought as he walked forward. While the two previous subject occupied about sixty percent of his mind, the remaining forty was screaming for him to stop and rethink what he was doing. It was barely coherent, which helped him ignore it, if only slightly.
Ahhh! Get out of there! Get out of there now!, it echoed in the back of his head. Run! Run! What are you doing? I said run! The other way! Go the other way! Can you hear me?
Artie now stood in front of Cerberus, not daring to make a move. Cerberus regarded the small skinny demigod and roared with all three heads. The roar temporarily deafened Artie as well as Percy and Annabeth. The roar also blew his Party Pony bandana off his head along with his sunglasses. Artie dug his claws into his palm, to prevent himself from giving into his old habit, with alot more screaming involved for this occasion. Cerberus cocked his head and barked, again Artie did not dare move. Cerberus bent down to sniff Artie with all three heads. It was only then did Artie dare move, and offered Cerberus the ball.
With surprising dexterity, the middle head gently took the ball from his hand and chewed it playfully. Instantly the other two heads began to fight the middle for it. Artie motioned for Percy and Annabeth to quietly take advantage of the distraction. They quietly tip toed under his belly, careful not to make a sound. Annabeth motioned him to keep Cerberus distracted.
Artie looked up and was surprised his voice worked at all. "Drop it." Cerberus looked at him. "Drop it." he repeated trying sound more commanding.
Cerberus dropped the ball at his feet. He picked it up and ignored the slobber. "Good boy, now speak." Cerberus barked enthusiastically and tossed the ball to him.
Like before one of the heads caught the ball and the other two fought for it. Artie took the opportunity to quickly slip under Cerberus and joined his friends just behind a rotting tree trunk. His heart was threatening to burst through his chest and his breathing was quickened significantly, but despite that he smiled. Maybe there was something to facing down one's fear after all. They quickly made their way to the Fields of Asphodel.
Upon discussing it with Percy and Annabeth, he agreed that the dead weren't scary, simply depressing. He also agreed that the fields of punishment was something to defiantly avoid at all costs. And he absolutely agreed that if he were to die, he should aim for Elysium and the Isles of the Blest. They're conversation was cut short by the distant screech, the sound of their old friends from the bus accident, the Furies.
"I don't suppose its too late to turn back?" Artie asked.
"You wanna go through Cerberus again?" Percy responded.
Artie shuddered, "Okay let's split up and meet back in an hour. I call dibs on Elysium."
Annabeth frowned, "Stop messing around. This is serious."
"Okay, you get Elysium while Percy searches the fields of punishment." Artie smiled. "Which means I get the Isles of the - -Whoa!"
Artie's words were cut short as the wings on his flying sandals sprouted and his legs pulled forward. He fell back as the shoes began pulling him away from Annabeth. The shoes began flapping like crazy and levitated off the ground and began dragging him away from his friends.
"Maia! Maia already. O que diabos? A little help guys?" Artie called out as the shoes began dragging him down the hill.
Annabeth shouted as she and Percy took off after him. "Untie the shoes."
It made sense to Artie, but it was one thing to casually untie and slip out of one shoes while standing or sitting, it was another thing entirely to do it while being dragged through the air by said shoes. Still that didn't stop him trying. He bent forward and reached for the straps. He began pulling at them and slowly, them started coming loose. He risked a look to where the sandals were dragging him. He caught a glimpse of the gates to Hades's palace when the the shoes veered sharply to the right and he lost his grip on the sandals and fell back.
With curse he drew his knives and twisted so he was facing the ground. Like he did to slow his fall at the St. Louis arch, Artie stabbed the ground as hard as he could. He reasoned if he could anchor himself long enough, Percy and Annabeth could catch up and relieve him of those shoes, but fate is rarely so kind. When he buried his knives to the hilt, it did indeed stop him. He let loose a breath of relief when suddenly, they snapped like dry twigs. Artie just stared at the hilts in his hands before the shoes flipped onto his back and continued dragging him through air as Percy and Annabeth tried to catch up. He looked between his feet and saw the shoes were taking him to a cave. He sensed something evil down there and he began to panic slightly, clawing at the ground for something to grab.
Then it hit him. Clawing!, he brought his hands up and saw his claws had sprouted, like they always did whenever he panicked. He managed to bend forward again and jammed his fingertips into the leather that made the shoe on his left foot. He winced when he felt his claws puncture the side of his foot, but there would be time to worry about it later. He slashed downward and the leather straps came loose from the sole which continued flying, now much faster without any weight holding it back. He smiled as he slowed down significantly, the right shoe clearly could not carry his weight by itself. Up head he could see a large chasm, so he quickly repeated the action, once again ignoring the claws digging into his flesh. He landed with soft oof and saw the sandals fly down the chasm together, as if they were still dragging him along, and disappeared.
Percy and Annabeth reached him a few seconds later. As they helped him up, Artie could see his claws had sliced his foot along with the sandals. He wasn't worried. The cuts were small and shallow, no worse than a shave cut, and had already stopped bleeding. The gravel felt uncomfortable, but not unbearable since the soles of his feet had callused a long time ago. He could wait till they reached the mortal world to find a new pair of shoes, assuming they made it back.
"Pelos deuses . . . I don't know why . . ." Artie panted trying to catch his breath.
"Wait." said Percy. "Listen."
Artie did as he said and was quiet. Artie though he heard a faint whisper in the darkness. Unless he was mistaken, it was coming from the pit a few feet ahead of them.
"Percy." said Annabeth. "This place - - -"
"Shh." Percy stood.
The whisper came again, louder this time. Now Artie was sure, it was coming from the pit. Someone or something, was calling out from really, really far down below. For some reason the voice made Artie feel uneasy. Whatever was down there, eh was sure he didn't want to meet it.
Artie saw the scared look on Annabeth's face, she could hear it too. "Tarturus. The entrance to Tartarus."
Artie's eyes snapped open as he was jerked violently out of his stroll down memory lane. Ares had roared so loud it shook the very ground itself, and Artie saw why. Percy had managed to stab Ares in the foot, causing the golden ichor to mix with waves that came in and out on the beach. Despite the look Ares was giving Percy, Artie found their meeting with Hades much more daunting. Mostly due to finding out Hades was angry with him. It was more of an annoyance than anything when compared how mad he was at Percy, but still one did wish to annoy the lord of the dead unless you had a wish to be dead yourself.
In his mind's eye, Artie reviewed their audience with Hades. He watched the dead guards carefully as they made their way to the throne room. They saw warriors from vastly different time periods. There were ancient Greek solders all the way to more modern day warrior, Marine Corps with RPG's for example. They were about to knock on the door to the throne room when it opened with a small gust of wind.
"I guess that means entrez-vous." said Annabeth.
Like the other gods, Hades's resembled countless historic people, or ather they resembled him. Artie was instantly reminded of Adolph Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte. Then he saw a resemblance to terrorist leaders that directed suicide bombers. They all had the same intense look in their eyes. A look that made you think these were individuals who would set the world ablaze just to watch it burn.
"You are very brave to come here, Son of Poseidon." he said in an oily smooth voice. "After what you've done to me. Very brave indeed, or perhaps you're simply very foolish."
Percy stepped forward. "Lord and Uncle, I've come with two requests."
Hades flicked to Percy as he spoke then he switched unmistakably to Artie. "I see that thieves still band together. Tell me boy, how do you find your second life? Don't tell me you've grown bored with my generous gift."
Artie's eyes widened as his mind went into overdrive, unable to form a complete thought, "I . . . um . . . I mean . . . uh . . ."
Hades grew bored with Artie's stammering. "I'll deal with you later. I've more important matters." Hades turned to Percy. "You were saying?"
Percy gulped and repeated, "I've come with two requests."
"Return the master bolt to me. Please, let me carry it to Olympus to prevent war."
Hades grew angry, "You dare keep up this pretense, after what you've done?"
From there Artie memory grew fuzzy. He was aware of the countless warriors that flooded the throne room and readied their weapons. He vaguely remembered Hades explaining how did not want war and how he did not wish to expand his kingdom as it had already swollen significantly in the last century. Percy and Annabeth continued speaking with Hades as it became apparent they had been tricked. Somehow Zeus's master bolt had appeared in Percy's backpack. He was still frozen in place as the lord of the dead's words echoed in his head.
Tell me boy, how do you find your second life? Don't tell me you've grown bored with my generous gift.
The words caught him by surprise. He had often been told he shouldn't be alive, mostly by the Hunters and other demigods. When in a dark mood, he would laugh to himself at the irony of it all. He agreed he shouldn't be alive, but it wasn't because he was a child of Artemis. For him it was far more literal than he liked to admit. He didn't know why he kept it secret. When he learned the story of his birth, she had not instructed for him to do so. And yet it was only him, his mother, and of course Hades that knew. It made sense Hades would be angry with him, he was never pleased when someone entered his realm and left, especially one who should be there.
The next thing he remembered clearly was Percy handing him a pearl and one to Annabeth as well before turning to Hades. "I'll find your helm Uncle. I'll return it. Remember Charon's pay raise."
"Do not defy me." bellowed Hades angrily.
"And it wouldn't hurt to play with Cerberus once in a while. He likes red rubber balls."
They managed to destroy the pearls at their feet and escape just as the dead solders attacked. They flew straight through the solid rock roof and eventually entered the sea. They continued their pace without slowing and broke the surface of the water, knocking a surfer off his board. Artie recognized they were back in Santa Monica Bay just before he heard explosions and an earthquake. No doubt Hades furious and LA was going to find out first hand how furious. The coastguard eventually picked them out of the water and took them ashore before rushing off to the chaos that was LA.
Artie gently opened his eyes and saw that Ares was gone and Percy was handing a helmet to the Furies. They looked annoyed, but took the helmet and flew off. Percy retook the bag with the master bolt from Annabeth. Artie could hear the sirens from what was left of the police cars and the officers as they shouted and made their way to them.
"We have to get to New York." said Percy. "By tonight."
"That's impossible." Annabeth objected. "Unless we - -"
"Fly." Artie finished for. He rubbed his temples and sighed. "You know Percy, You're running out of gods to annoy."
Percy gave them a tired smile, "Yeah, I think so too. Come on, I got an idea."