Percy And Artie Fall To Thier Deaths
Artie couldn't tell if he was dreaming or not, but he felt something licking his wrist.
He was about to open his eyes when a twig snapped loudly behind him and hand landed on his shoulder. Without thinking, he grabbed the hand and flipped his would be assailant onto the floor in front of him. He raised his other hand above his head as his nails grew into razor points.
Normally this only happened when Artie had , what he liked to call, an episode. When he got so angry or terrified the animal part of his brain, the part that was nothing but pure instinct, kicked in which so far had only happened twice in his life. Once when the manticore backed him against a wall and once at camp where he nearly killed Clarisse and two members of the Ares cabin. It wasn't like had super powers or anything, his nails only grew into about an inch and half long at most and they could chip and break like normal fingernails. Over the years he had learned to control it to a degree, only able to retract them once they grew. He didn't dare to try to intentionally summon them and currently they only grew as a reflex, like now.
Artie froze when he saw the would be assailant was Percy with a scared look on his face. Artie instantly let him up, put both his hands behind his back, and backed up against a tree.
"Pelo amor de Deus!" he cried in Portuguese. "Percy, I'm so sorry."
Percy got up cautiously,"What was that?"
"A reflex." answered a voice.
Artie and Percy turned to see Annabeth holding a pink poodle,"I'm sorry, Percy. I forgot to tell you."
"Tell me what?" he asked as he rubbed his wrist.
"Never, ever, sneak up on me. Unless you want a broken finger or dislocated shoulder." Artie warned him.
Annabeth nodded, "His time before camp left him a little . . . jumpy."
"Any more jumpy and I'd get to the Underworld the hard way." Percy remarked. "What's the deal with those claws anyway?"
"Claws?" asked Annabeth.
Artie shrugged and showed his hands. A little dirty maybe, but clearly normal hands. No claws in sight. If anything they looked short, like Artie had cut them too soon.
Percy scratched his head, " I could have sworn that I saw —"
"Whats with the poodle?" Artie cut in trying to change the subject.
Annabeth shrugged as the poodle hopped down from her arms and sniffed Artie. "He was sleeping in your lap before Percy woke you up. I guess he found us in the middle of the night."
Artie nodded. This kind of thing tended to happen a lot whenever he slept out in the open. He was grateful it was just a runaway dog and not something bigger. One time he woke up in a cave with a black jaguar and her cubs as room mates. Another time he woken up to find he was sharing a clearing with a wolf pack. They never seemed to mind him. In fact they seemed to adopt him, often feeding him like one their young.
Artie picked up the poodle and checked for tags, he didn't seem to mind. Clearly this dog had been on the street for a while, Artie judged by the smell and dirt in his fur. He found a mud splattered id tag with the dog's name and his family's address.
"Well, this little guy's name is Gladiola." said Artie.
Gladiola yipped as if to confirm.
"It's a he?" asked Percy. "He's a pink poodle."
Gladiola growled at him which Artie translated. "That's why he ran away. His family been treating him like an accessory."
Annabeth scratched behind his ears, "I'd love to help, but we have our own problems. We have to figure out a way west."
Tobias screeched as he landed on Artie's shoulder which terrified Gladiola. Artie couldn't blame him. To Tobias, Gladiola was the size of a skinny rabbit which Tobias loved to eat. He handed the dog to Annabeth and took the poster Tobias was holding in his beak.
It was a reward poster for the safe return of a missing pink poodle named Gladiola. The reward was posted under a picture of the poodle, two-hundred dollars cash, and underneath was a nearby address. Tobias cawed gently and motioned downhill to the train tracks Artie hadn't noticed last night.
"I think we found our way west." smiled Artie.
Using the reward money from returning Gladiola, they bought AM track train tickets. Unfortunately, they could only afford three tickets as far as Denver which meant they couldn't get berths in the sleeper cars. Percy and Annabeth took turns pacing up and down the length of the car while Artie spent all his time intently reading a book he bought with the last of his money which annoyed Annabeth for the first two days.
Percy saw her point. They didn't have much money to spare and yet Artie went ahead and bought The Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Artie had assured them it was important but he wouldn't explain why. All he said he needed to understand the battle better, more about the Spartans specifically, than what everyone already knew. Percy got the feeling it had to do something with his dreams. Whenever Artie fell asleep he would mutter and curse angrily, telling someone to leave him alone. After what happened in the woods, Percy didn't dare shake him awake. Annabeth seemed to share his concern, though she didn't ask, and asked Artie to give her his knives.
"And I thought my dreams were bad?" Percy observed.
"What do you mean?" asked Annabeth.
They spent the next few hours talking. Percy explained about his two dreams about the pit and voice asking him to help him rise from the Underworld. Annabeth agreed the quest was rather strange. The Furies seemed to be looking for something rather than a person. Percy was sure it was Hades since no one else could offer his mother in trade, but Percy's description seemed off to Annabeth. Hades always appeared on a black throne and he never laughed apparently.
Eventually the subject changed to Annabeth's past. She told him how she appeared on her father's doorstep and her father though of her as an inconvenience. How her father eventually married a mortal wife and they resented her every time something monster related happened. She explained how she eventually ran away at seven years old and how her mother guided towards help, two friends who took care of her for a short while.
The train stopped in downtown St. Louis. An intercom announced they would have a three hour layover before heading to Denver. The intercom jerked Artie awake which meant he reached for his knife but paused when he didn't find it on his belt. Annabeth handed them back to him and explained about the three hour layover.
Artie sheathed his knives and stuffed his book in his satchel. "What do you guys wanna do for three hours? Cause I need to get off this train, for a while at least. "
Annabeth looked at the St. Louis Arch in the distance, "Come on, we're going sightseeing."
Since it was late in the day, the lines were fairly short. Annabeth went on and on about how the arch was built and other stuff like that as they walked around the underground museum. Artie and Percy only half heard her. Percy just wasn't that much into Architecture like Annabeth while Artie thought about what he read in The Gates Of Fire and how brutal it life was back then.
He knew not to take the book to seriously. In his haste, he failed to see it was historical fiction, meaning the author would and could take liberties with the material. Still he learned a lot about the training the Spartans would often did. Compared to what he had gone through, it made his four years of cat mouse with the manticore look like exactly that, a game of cat and mouse.
The Spartans would form up in ranks, the shield of each pressed into the hollow of the back of the one in front of him, with the leading soldier's shield mashed by their combined weight and pressure against a tree. They would push and they would strain. The soles of their bare feet would churn the dirt, heaving and straining until a rut had been excavated ankle-deep, while they crushed each other's guts grinding into that immovable tree. When the one in front could stand no more, he would assume the position of the rear and the second one would move up. If they could not move the tree, it would go into an all-night shield drill. Only dawn signaled a reprieve for them to eat meager rations and then they would fall in for another full day of training without a minute's sleep.
Artie would have continued thinking about but Percy asked him, "You smell anything?"
Artie sniffed the air and frowned. "Underground. The air underground always smells like monsters. We could be surrounded and I wouldn't be able to tell."
"Great." Percy rolled his eyes. "That makes me feel better."
Annabeth then steered and stuffed them into the elevator that would take them to the top of the arch. The confined space seemed to unnerve Percy as the elevator went up in a curve. Artie was uneasy as well but it wasn't the confined space. He remembered the smell from his time in the wild, the unmistakable scent of reptiles. Artie thought it was the fat lady with the chihuahua, but he dismissed the thought as the underground air playing with his nose.
They eventually got out of the elevator and enjoyed the view of St. Louis from the six-hundred foot angle. They would have stayed longer, but the park ranger said the observation deck would be closing soon. Percy steered Annabeth and Artie into the elevator and found there wasn't any room for him. They offered to get off and go together, but Percy declined.
"It's okay." he assured. "I'll see you guys at the bottom."
The doors closed and the elevator began its descend. A minute or two passed when the elevator stopped and shook. A voice came over the intercom saying it was a slight mechanical glitch. Artie and Annabeth looked at each other and they knew Percy was in trouble. Artie boosted Annabeth and she open the maintenance hatch in the roof. She hauled Artie up and they looked they had several hundred feet to climb to reach observation deck again.
Artie sighed and began climbing. "I'm starting to think someone doesn't particularly like Percy. You coming?"
Annabeth jumped and grabbed the cable, but it was to slick and she began to slid down. She struggled to climb faster, but she couldn't seem to grip the cable tight enough. Artie just hung there and watched trying figure out the problem. Annabeth kept trying until she was breathing hard.
"How are you doing that?" she asked desperately.
"I don't know." he answered. Then he looked up. "Look I'll climb up and see what the problem is. You take the elevator down. Protect the mortals. If there is a monster up there, I wouldn't be surprised if another is waiting in the lobby in case the other messes up."
As Artie climbed, he saw why he could climb the cable while Annabeth couldn't. When he jumped onto the cable, his claws instinctively grew and dug into the cable. Like a panther climbing a tree or a house cat fighting with another cat, his claws were proving useful for continued to climb as the wall curved and curved until it became a floor. He eventually made it to the observation deck and he didn't like what he heard behind the door. He wedged his claws between the elevator and pulled them apart.
If he didn't like what he had heard, he really didn't like what he saw. Percy was fighting a giant animal that had the body of a lion with a serpent for a tail. Percy rolled and dodged as it breathed fire, often scorching or blowing holes in the arch. The woman, who Artie noticed smelled of reptiles and now saw she had matching reptile skin and eyes, was laughing at Percy as he fought to stay alive.
"Be honored, Percy Jackson." she cackled. "Lord Zeus rarely allows me to test a hero with one of my brood. For I am the the mother of all monsters, Echinda."
This is not good, Artie thought. The mother of monsters was just boasting. This lady had sired lots of famous monsters, some of which were still around. She was mother to Typhon, Cerebus, and Scylla just to name a few, but right now he was concerned more about the monster currently in front of him, the Chimera.
He threw the doors wide open and rolled in. As he rolled, he drew an arrow, opened his bow, and fired right into the Chimera's maw. Just before arrow connected, the Chimera blew a ball of fire at him, completely reducing it to ash. Artie dived to the side to avoided being roasted like a chicken. When he stood he now saw he was standing next to Percy.
"I can't leave you alone for two minutes?" he joked grimly as he aimed another arrow at the Chimera.
Echinda regarded the new demigod with a bow, "The alleged son of the moon. So glad you could join us, Artemis."
"What?" asked Percy.
Artie aimed an arrow at Echinda, "Later." he promised. "If we live."
Percy charged the Chimera and slashed at his neck. Riptide bounced of his collar as the serpent tail whipped around and sank his teeth in Percy's calf. Artie saw Echinda was distracted and fired. Echinda didn't even flinch as the Chimera snatched arrow mid air and snapped like it toothpick between his teeth. Percy took a step and tried to jab it in the mouth before the serpent tail wrapped around his ankle and pulled him off balance which sent Riptide threw a hole in the arch into the Mississippi river down below.
"They sure don't make heroes like they used to, eh son?" Echinda chuckled.
Percy managed to get to his feet next to Artie. Together they stepped back until their backs were against the doors of the elevator and giant hole on either side of the observation deck. Percy looked down the hole to his right, where Riptide had fallen through, and gulped at the Mississippi river glittering far far below.
"If you are the son of Poseidon." Echinda hissed. "You wouldn't fear the water. Jump and retrieve your sword, Percy Jackson. Prove your bloodline."
That gave Artie an idea. "Percy, if this doesn't work. I'm sorry."
Percy still was gaping at the river, "Sorry about whAaaaggghhh . . ."
Percy's scream was quickly lost as he dropped six-hundred and thirty feet to the Mississippi river. Echinda had reminded Artie that Percy was the son of Poseidon which meant, in theory at least, he could survive the fall so long he landed in water. Combined with the fact Poseidon needed Percy to clear his name, Artie was fairly sure Percy had a decent chance of living to see LA. He wished the same could be said for him.
Echinda seemed momentarily shocked by the fact that the son of Artemis had just sent the son of Poseidon screaming to his death. Artie used the the opportunity to draw an arrow and fire. Like before at Medusa's lair, Artie made sure to close his eyes before the solar arrow exploded, blinding Echinda and the Chimera. He quickly turned and pried open the the elevator, his claws had sprouted instinctively as he jammed them in the crease. Echinda and her son seemed to be recovering as the door slammed closed behind him.
Artie heard the Chimera roar in anger then the door exploded. Artie jumped in surprise as he stared through the smoking hole in the elevator door.
Not wanting to press his luck, Artie turned and slid down the arch.