Thick As Theives
For the rest of the week, Artie seemed to stick Percy like glue. He sort of became a member of the Hermes cabin again, although everyone but Percy avoided him. Percy learned a lot about him. In addition to his speed and agility, Artie was easily the best archer in the whole camp matching Chiron shot for shot. He taught Percy how to make and sew his own leather items, gloves mostly .Percy was still wondering why everyone avoided him, only Luke would talk to him though only when he had to. The one thing Percy thought that was off about him was the fact he hardly wore a shirt. Most of the time he only wore the worn denim shorts Percy met him in and sandals.
Even in the arena, he forgoed armor of any kind. He claimed it restricted his movement too much and he couldn't fight with his knives. Sort of like Annabeth he didn't fight with a sword, he fought with a knife in each hand. Artie explained that they were called Bolo knives. They had been gift from his mother. He preferred a bow, but Percy knew you can't always keep your target away from you, that's where the knives came in. Artie told him that a bolo is a large cutting tool of Filipino origin similar to the machete only much smaller. They had a full tang which meant it was one solid piece of metal from the tip to butt of the handle. Percy asked about how the blade both curved and widened at its tip.
"This moves the center of gravity as far forward as possible, giving the knife extra momentum for chopping vegetation." Artie told him. "Or in the case of these 'Jungle Bolos', for slashing and stabbing through a monster's hide."
"But those aren't made of celestial bronze, are they?" Percy asked. "They don't seem to be made of normal iron or steel either."
Artie held one up, "These are made of Moonsilver."
Artie nodded. "Pure silver ore that has been mined under a full moon and forged under a blue moon. It works the same a celestial bronze, vaporizing monster on contact, but its much lighter so even if you carry a hammer made of the stuff it won't weigh you down."
He handed one to Percy. If Percy didn't know better he would sworn he was holding a plastic toy rather than a real weapon. The knife seemed to have almost no weight at all. He tried to bend it, but the metal was solid and strong. He handed it back to Artie who sheathed it.
Luke walked up to them, "Hey, Artie, I got some moves I need to show the rest of the cabin and just so happens I need someone who knows how to handle a knife or two."
"Sure, no problem." Artie said standing up.
"You sure you don't want to put on something more protective?" asked Luke, "Accident waiting to happen you know."
Artie laughed, "I'll consider it when you pick up the pace."
Luke and Artie took their positions in the arena. Luke was armed with a sword and shield. He wore a light breastplate and helmet while Artie had only his knives. The only thing that could remotely count as added protection was his Party Pony Bandana he always wore that his hair from view and his ever present sunglasses which Percy thought as weird and wondered why he didn't take them off.
"Today's lesson" Luke began, "You know what do if your opponent has the longer reach, but what do you when you have the longer reach? The trick is to keep your opponent from getting in close."
From there Luke continued to show various moves and techniques to keep ones opponent at the correct distance and prevent them from closing the distance. Artie also explained the openings and faults of each move. Several campers whispered to each other and exchanged drachma. Percy wasn't sure what that meant but he was certain something was about to happen. He tapped a camper on the shoulder, Micheal he thought his name was,
"What's going on?"
Micheal winked, "Placing bets! You want in? I got two on Artie myself."
"Two on Artie for what?"
"You'll see. Just sit back and enjoy the show, plus you might learn something."
Percy watched intently waiting for something to happen, but he wasn't sure what. The lesson was just ending as Artie sheathed his knives and Luke said, "In short, while training plays a huge part, size does matter."
Micheal called out," I don't know about that, Luke. What if your opponent is a lot faster than you? Aren't all those moves kinda thrown out the window?"
Luke shook his head, "As long as you keep a calm head and remember these techniques you should be fine."
"I don't know about should, Luke," Artie chimed in. "You do remember all those openings I mentioned? There's no such thing as an absolute defense no matter how much you train."
Luke looked annoyed, but all he said was, "Care to demonstrate?"
"We're all here to learn right? So why not?" said Artie as he took his previous position in the center of the arena.
Micheal leaned and whispered to Percy, "You want in? I can spot you a few if you want."
Percy was about to say no when Luke charged, not even giving Artie a chance to draw his knives.
Luke continued to slash and slam Artie with his shield making sure to keep him at a distance. With almost no effort Artie evaded every strike as if he had all the time in the world to move. He did eventually draw his knives but he hardly used them, preferring to block Luke's attacks and force him back. He wasn't exactly toying with Luke but he wasn't going all out either. It continued for several minutes as more campers joined to see the figured they were too evenly matched. While Luke had more experience and armor, Artie made up for it with his speed and agility. Artie's knives scratched against Luke's shield while Luke couldn't touch him.
Percy wasn't sure how it happened, but Luke managed to get Artie in a headlock with his sword arm. "Drop 'em"
Artie just smiled, "Whatever you say."
The second he let go of the knives, he grabbed Luke from the back of his head and flipped him over, armor and all. Luke landed with a metallic thud. Artie did not let go, applying his own headlock. Luke kicked and coughed trying to get free. Artie gained a couple of cuts from Luke's sword as he struggled but he ignored them and tightened the hold on Luke's neck.
"Just tap out." Artie encouraged.
"Never . . . ack! . . . I can . . . " Luke managed to get out.
Artie released his hold as he felt Luke had seemed to calm down. Luke gasped and coughed on all fours refilling his lungs with precious oxygen. Artie tried to help him up , but Luke had the presence of mind to swat him away. He recovered and stormed off without a word. Percy was sure this wasn't just a friendly match, there was something more to it.
Later that that day Percy approached Artie before capture the flag game. Percy saw the cuts were much deeper than he first saw. At his feet was a couple of blood stained rags and bowl of rubbing alcohol as Artie stretched to stitch up the cuts with a needle and thread. Annabeth was with him wrapping the wounds he had already stitched.
"I don't know why you don't just go to the infirmary." said Annabeth. "This isn't a war where there aren't medics available."
"It'sssss . . . ah! . . . a reminder" Artie grunted as he poured alcohol on the freshly stitched wound.
"Reminder for what?" demanded Annabeth. "Or this just a macho thing?"
"Its a reminder not make the same mistakes. Next time I need to disarm my opponent before I get him in a choke hold." Artie explained. Then he saw Percy. "Hey, Percy, como vai?"
"I could ask you the same thing?" said Percy. "Luke been acting weird all day since the fight."
"I expected as much." said Artie. "He really took it badly. That fight was just salt on the wound."
"What are you talking about?"
Annabeth started to say something, but she looked to Artie as if to ask permission. Artie nodded and continued cleaning and dressing his wounds as Annabeth explained, "They may not act like it now, but Luke was like an older brother Artie. When he first got here, he had . . . uh . . . hard time trusting anyone. Luke was the first he managed to open up to."
"Taught me about monsters and how to kill them." added Artie. "Even taught me how read and write in English.
"What happened?" asked Percy. "People don't just stop being friends one day to the next."
"It was when I came back from my quest two months after arriving." Artie answered. "That was when it all went down the drain."
Annabeth nodded, "Luke was worried out of his mind. A camper who hadn't even completed a year of training sent on a quest to Yellowstone National Park by himself. Most of us thought it was suicide."
"Don't forget that the blasted oracle said I was to travel unarmed." added Artie. "I ran all the way to Yellowstone with nothing but the clothes on my back. It was a miracle I made it back at all."
Annabeth continued, "Luke, after Chiron, was the first to meet him when he returned a month later with a magic bow from his mother and a quiver from Hephaestus. He admitted he was a little jealous how well it went for Artie, but he said he was just happy he was back."
"But the straw that broke the camel's back was the next morning, when I was claimed by Artemis." Artie laughed to himself as he remembered, "The look on Mr.D's face was priceless and Chiron was just as surprised."
"Plenty of people choked when it happened, but Luke just got up and walked away from the table." Annabeth explained. "He hardly said a word to anyone the entire week."
"He also avoided me like I was a monster. I finally got him to talk to me, but he just went off." Artie continued ."I'm still trying to understand .He just said I didn't need him anymore. Said I should be used to figuring things out myself or I could just ask my mother for help .He said he watched out for me because Chiron had asked personally. I asked Chiron later and he told me that he never instructed Luke to do anything."
"No one knows except for me, Luke, and Artie what exactly happened," said Annabeth. "And now you. That little match just sent Luke over the edge."
"How so?" Percy asked.
Artie held up five fingers, "I'm stronger than him, not to mention faster too. I smoke just about anyone here at archery, though not in the normal way. He hates the fact he has to depend on me for anything leather related. The only thing he had on me was armed combat and now he doesn't have that. Truth is he's a much better fighter than I ever could be, but if you pile on enough power and speed, experience doesn't count for much and he knows that."
"So what are going to do? Apologize?"
"For being better than him? No chance." said Artie and then he sighed. "There isn't anything I can do. He has a problem with me not the other way around."
As if to end the conversation before Percy could push the matter forward, a conch horn blew signaling that the capture the flag game was close to starting. Percy wanted to know more but he figured it wasn't the right time or place for it.
Artie stood up, "I'd get going you two. See if you can beat Clarisse' cabin. Just make sure you let Luke get the flag i think he needs more than he knows."
"You're not coming?" Percy asked.
"Remember what Grover and I told you?" asked Annabeth cocking her head at Artie.
"Oh right." said Percy, embarrassed he forgot.
"Don't worry about it." said Artie. "Just make sure you give Clarisse a good beating for me. She's been impossible lately."