Friendship and Sacrifice
We left the run down building we were staying in, much to the relief of us all, and made our way into the city. Sarah took the lead as she seemed to know where we were and how we were supposed to get to her house. I never actually considered how we would get there since I had no idea where to go, but Sarah obviously knew what she was doing. Actually, it kind of surprised me a bit. She had mentioned that she was sheltered as a child, so how did she know the streets of the city so well?
“This isn’t the first time I’ve run away from home,” she told me when I asked about it, “Somehow, I always manage to find my way back.”
She didn’t say anymore, but I could tell what she was thinking. Despite the fact that she wanted to leave that place, she just couldn’t. No matter how much she hated her father and his wife, there would always be that part of her that remembered the time they spent together when she was little. Even now, when she had managed to make it all the way to Nevada by herself, she had somehow ended up going back to him.
We went on in silence, trudging through the city streets and the people along the way. If it was hard to get around in Las Vegas, then getting anywhere in Los Angeles was an impossible task. Despite the fact that the sun was beginning to set, an endless number of mortals were walking the streets, pushing each other out of the way as they moved toward whatever destination they were going to. There were so many cars on the road that it looked like they were at a complete stand still most of the time.
Sarah took us through the winding streets, moving faster as she did. Eventually, she led us into a large suburban area with a lot of nice looking houses, some big and others small, but all of them looked like they cost a ton of money. Justin was awestruck by the sight of them, probably wondering how anyone could afford houses like them.
“Woah,” he said, “Where are we?”
“Bel-Air,” Sarah answered.
“Oh man,” Justin said, “What I wouldn’t give to live here.”
Sarah shrugged as if all of this was pretty normal to her, which it probably was. “These are nothing compared to my dad’s place,” she said.
“You don’t live here,” I asked wondering why we were here if she didn’t.
“Well, technically, I don’t,” she said, “Dad has another house on the other side of town, much nicer place, much bigger and more expensive than any of these. This is like his retreat, a place to go when he wants to have some alone time.”
“And what makes you think he’ll be here,” I asked.
“He always comes here after he gets home from some business trip,” Sarah said. She swallowed and hesitated before she said the next part. “And he knows that this is the first place I go when I run away.”
“Wait a minute,” Justin said, “I’m lost now.”
Sarah walked on, moving even faster now. She waited a moment before she answered Justin, but she never looked back at us. “When he was away, back when I was a kid, I had a habit of running away from home and coming here hoping to find him. Sometimes I would sit in his home away from home for hours before he came in. That was my way of getting him to come back early.” She became distant like she usually did, but she continued on. “That woman, she didn’t know about this place back then, so she didn’t know where to look for me. Instead, she would call dad, and he would come home early to find me sitting in the house, and then I would be happy…Until he left again.”
We all fell silent after that. Justin kept looking off to the side, apparently no longer concerned with the glamour of the houses. I knew what he was thinking about. Sarah’s family didn’t sound nearly as bad as she made them out to be. Maybe she was seeing things the wrong way and maybe she would realize that once she saw her father again. If that happened, she might decide to stay with him. I didn’t want to see her go, but I had to trust that she wouldn’t abandon us.
“Here we are,” Sarah said after a moment.
We were standing across the street from one of the many houses. This one was a bit larger than most of the others, but other than that it didn’t really stand out very much, not from the others at least. It was about three stories, not including what appeared to be an attic at the top. The front yard was surrounded by fencing and had bushes at the border on either side. Closer to the house was a flower garden, which looked nice and well cared for, but it also looked like something got into it and tried to tear it apart pretty often.
As we stood staring at the house, a small dog that was only slightly smaller than a common house cat ran out from under one of the bushes. It jumped at the fencing in the front of the yard and started barking at us. As it did so, it ran from one side of the fence to the other, stopping periodically and sometimes spinning around for some reason.
“Arch,” Sarah said.
She started walking across the street and Justin tried to join her. Before he could move, I grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar. He looked at me with a bit of surprise, but I shook my head at him and he got the message. Sarah had to do this alone.
She opened a gate at the front of the fence and walked into the yard. The dog immediately ran to her, barking and jumping, and lifted his front paws onto Sarah’s legs like he was trying to climb up her. Sarah leaned down and picked the dog up, petting his head and saying something to him that I never heard. She hugged the dog and set him back down. He continued to bark at her and followed her as she walked to the door of the house.
Before she took even a few steps, the door swung open and a woman stepped outside. She was pretty and looked to be maybe in her mid to late thirties. She had long curly brown hair, like Sarah’s, and a sweet kind of demeanor. By what she was wearing, it looked like she didn’t plan on going anywhere soon, but at the same time she could have passed it off as casual dress. She wore a sun hat as well. I wouldn’t have guessed that this was the woman that Sarah spoke of so disdainfully, not at first glance at least.
As the woman stepped outside and saw Sarah, her mouth fell open and she appeared to be at a complete loss for words. Sarah was in no better condition. The two stood silently for a long time before something unexpected happened. They ran to each other and threw their arms around one another. The woman had tears in her eyes and she said something to Sarah and kissed her on the cheek several times. It was hard to tell, but I was sure that Sarah was crying too.
The two let go of their embrace, but the woman remained standing in front of Sarah, her hands on her shoulders like she was holding her in place. The woman was saying something to her and she looked hysterical. After her appearance calmed down, she hugged Sarah again, whispering something in her ear as she did.
As the two stood there, a black, very expensive looking, Mercedes Benz pulled into the driveway of the house. A man wearing a suit stepped out of the car. The moment he saw Sarah in the front yard, he dashed for the gate, ran inside and hugged his daughter as tight as he could. Sarah had tears in her eyes. She was trying to keep herself from crying, but it was clear that she couldn’t hold back.
After their embrace, Sarah’s father pulled away from his daughter. That was when things seemed to go from a happy reunion, to a disastrous one. Sarah’s father was raising his voice, saying something about her being to old to be playing games. The woman came to his side, trying to calm him down a bit, but agreeing with him for the most part. Sarah began yelling as well, screaming out all of things that she had wanted to tell her father for years but never could.
Silence came upon the family. After a moment, Sarah’s father began to speak up, but his words never reached me. As he spoke, Sarah softened and then the three of them hugged again, glad to be with each other once more. Afterward, Sarah left the front yard of the house, saying good-bye to her father and the woman. She walked across the street and stood in front of us.
“What happened,” I asked after a long moment.
Sarah looked back at the house, her father and step-mother having disappeared inside, before she spoke. “It was,” she struggled to find the right words, “Nice.” She fell quiet for a moment. “I was actually glad to see them, both of them,” she said, “My dad got angry at me for running away, the same way he always does, and then I started screaming at him.” She stopped again. “As I told him how I felt, I realized something,” she went on, “There’s nothing wrong with Kim. She loves me like I’m her own daughter, but, for some reason, I can’t help but hate her.”
“You were afraid of losing your father,” I guessed.
Sarah nodded. “Yes,” she said, “I was afraid that he wouldn’t care about me anymore with her around. I’m such an idiot.”
“You’re not,” I said, “You didn’t want to lose your father, he was the only person that cared about you, anyone would have been terrified.”
Sarah seemed to have a hard time buying it, but she managed a smile. “Yeah,” she said, “Anyway, after I got all of that out, I tried to tell him about you guys and that I still had to help you. He had a hard time with that part too. We fought about it and then we stopped. That was when I told him about Aphrodite. He already knew who she was when I was born, and he knew that I was going to have to leave one day, but he wanted that day to wait for a little while.” Tears started forming in her eyes again. “So we said our good-byes and…” She broke down.
I put my arm around her and Justin came up and did the same. “It’s alright,” I said, “He knew you had to leave one day, this is probably the hardest thing he’s ever done, letting you go, but he knows it’s the right thing to do.” I fell silent for a second. “Just remember that you always have a family that loves you.”
“Yeah,” Justin said, “And if that doesn’t help, then just think about the fact that you have us.”
Sarah looked at Justin and then at me. I offered a smile and she returned the gesture. “Thanks guys,” she said, “I’m glad I’ll have you two around.”
“Alright then,” Justin said eager as he always was to move on from the emotional part, “Let’s be off again.” He pulled away from us and walked ahead. Before long, he stopped and turned around. “Soooooo, which way is New York again?”
Sarah and I started laughing. “We won’t get there on foot anytime soon,” I said as I pulled away from Sarah, “We need a different way to travel.”
“We could fly,” Sarah suggested.
I turned to her. “How are we supposed to do that,” I asked.
She pulled out her dad’s credit card. I looked at her with surprise. “What,” she said, “You didn’t think I was going to give this back, did you?”
Sarah laughed. “I tried to actually,” she said, “But dad wanted me to keep it in case of an emergency. I guess this qualifies.”
“WOO HOO,” Justin whooped, “Flying to New York in first class baby! Life doesn’t get much better than that.”
I shook my head at him. “Well if that’s settled,” I said, “I guess we should get moving.”
“I prefer we wait,” Sarah said, “My head’s been spinning ever since I woke up…plus I could really use something to eat.”
Justin and I looked at each other and our stomach’s growled in unison. It hadn’t occurred to me that none of us had eaten anything since the night before. The mention of food was starting to make me wish that we were back at the hotel and that I could order room service and pig out on whatever I wanted. Justin looked like he was fantasizing about something similar.
With all of us agreeing that we needed food, we let Sarah lead us back into the city where we sat down inside of a Burger King and ate. The place was packed with a lot of people who were trying to get their meals at the last minute, it was nine after all and the place wasn’t open all night. Luckily, we were able to get our food pretty quickly. While we ate, we talked about where we would sleep.
“So,” I said, “If you’re suggesting we wait until morning then you must know somewhere we can sleep.”
“Of course I do,” Sarah said, “It just might be a bit of trouble to get there.”
“Well, the place I had in mind is in Bel-Air, not too far from my dad’s place.”
“Alright,” Justin said, “First the rich people’s hotel and now the rich people’s house. This has been a good couple of days.”
“It’s not that simple,” Sarah went on, “The place is up for sale, so there won’t be anyone there tonight, but we’ll have to break in, without tripping any alarms, and we’ll have to be gone early in case anyone stops by to look at the house.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Of course,” she said, “This is all assuming the place is still for sale. I haven’t been here for close to two months now.”
“Well, I’m sure we’ll figure something out if it isn’t,” I commented.
“Just as long as we get to stay somewhere comfortable,” Justin added, “I’m tired of staying in the forest or some building that may or may not decide to fall apart while I sleep.”
With that said, we finished our food and made our way back to Bel-Air. Once there, Sarah led us through the streets again until we were standing outside of a small house, only two stories, that was pretty nice, but didn’t really have anything special over any other house. It was clear that no one was living there since there was no car in the driveway, no sign of any attempt to make the front yard look nice, and the real estate sign in the front yard was probably a good indication too.
“Okay,” Sarah said, “Now we just have to get inside.”
“I’ll take care of that.”
I didn’t need much to shadow travel, usually just an idea of where I was going, so it was pretty easy to get inside. Once I was there, I searched the house until I found a keypad that was most likely a security system. Of course, I had no idea how I could disarm it, but I was sure that everything spoke a pretty universal language. That’s fancy talk for I smashed the keypad with Heartstopper. It wasn’t the most elegant solution, but it seemed to work.
I unlocked the door and let Sarah and Justin inside. “What’s this,” Justin said, “This is nothing like what I expected.”
I was sure that he was talking about the fact that the house was completely empty. There were no chairs, no couches, no TVs, no beds, no anything. The only part of the house that had something in it was the kitchen and there wasn’t anything there that was of much use. Justin was starting to look like he might cry soon.
“What did you expect,” Sarah asked, “The place is for sale. That means no one lives here.”
“They could have at least left some beds behind,” he commented, “Like, what if a group of demigods breaks in looking for a place to sleep.”
“Then they make the best of what they have,” I said.
“I don’t want to.”
I shook my head at him as I summoned our backpack of supplies. I pulled out two sleeping bags and a couple of blankets. I gave the two sleeping bags to Justin and Sarah. I then went to the living room, the biggest room in the house, and laid out the blankets into a sort of makeshift bed. Justin and Sarah each curled up in their sleeping bags, Justin commenting that I could have one if Sarah was willing to share hers with him…she wasn’t.
“This sucks,” Justin said.
“What,” Sarah asked, “The house with no furniture, or the fact that you can’t shut up and sleep?”
“The house,” Justin said.
“Deal with it,” I told him, “It’s better than sleeping outside.”
Justin made a mock imitation of my voice, but I ignored him. I tried to sleep, but Justin was restless and was keeping me up with his constant tossing around. I was also bothered by the dream that I had the last time I fell asleep. I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I knew that something evil was beginning to stir. And I might be the one that had to stop it.
I pushed the thoughts out of my head and closed my eyes. I finally managed to get to sleep and, in true demigod fashion, I had another horrible dream. I really needed to find a way to live without sleep.
I wasn’t sure where I was. The world was dark, so much so that I couldn’t see anything, not even my own hands when I tried to look at them. There was nothing beneath me and nothing above me. I felt like I was floating in some kind of eternal abyss. This must have been what it felt like to die.
I was still for a long time, the air silent. Then I felt something begin to stir and I could feel the same presence I had felt from my first dream. Whatever it was, it was closer this time. A light shined from ahead of me and I saw the same golden sarcophagus that I had seen before. Something felt like it was trying to escape from it.
“You are here,” the voice I had heard so many times said, “The time shall soon arrive.”
I tried to move, to run, but I couldn’t. I stared at the sarcophagus, wondering what could possibly fit inside of it. I was reminded again of that story about the gods sending their own father to Tartarus after they defeated him in some war. His name was at the tip of my tongue. Somehow, I managed to find my voice.
“Kronos,” I said.
“Yes,” Kronos said, “I am the Lord of time, Kronos.”
“What,” I said my voice weak, “What do you want?”
“What do I want,” Kronos asked, “This isn’t about me. This is about you.”
My head was swirling and I felt like I was about to throw up. The story came back to me all at once. Kronos had ruled the world, he was the father of the gods, but he was afraid that they would take his place. So he got rid of them, he swallowed them whole, all except for Zeus, who came back and saved his brothers and sisters and together they took Kronos down and sent him to Tartarus. I remembered who he was, but what would the father of the gods want with me?
“Yes,” Kronos said, “I can give you power, the power to destroy your father, but you must help me.”
“Help you,” I said, “How could I help you?”
“You must join me,” he said, “I still cannot escape this prison. I need a host, a demigod, whose body I can use until I am at full power. You are the only one that can contain my strength without being turned into dust.”
I thought about what he said. Did I want to destroy my father? I definitely hated him, but I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to destroy him. I hated the way that he treated me like I was some kind of tool, but was I being offered anything different. Kronos was actually evil. I mean, Hades was evil in his own way, but Kronos was the real deal. If I let him use my body to do whatever he was planning on doing, was it any better than being used as a tool by Hades?
“And why would I want that,” I asked.
“You hate your father,” Kronos said, “I can help you get rid of him. He won’t be able to use you anymore.”
“And you think that being used by you is any better,” I asked, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
The room began heating up as Kronos began growling. It was almost like the temperature was being controlled by his emotions. The sarcophagus’ light began to fade slightly. I tried to move again, thinking that Kronos had left, but I was still frozen in place. Kronos let out a massive roar.
“You are making a grave mistake,” Kronos said, “I will destroy you and your friends if you deny me!”
“You can try,” I retorted.
The light faded away entirely. The room was silent for a long time. Then I saw something in the distance. At first, it looked like a bird flying through the darkness, but as it got closer, it grew bigger. I was looking at a massive dragon, the same one I had run into in Georgia and again near Kansas. The beast had green scales covering its body and two large wings that were nearly the size of his whole body from head to tail. It flew towards me, roaring into the void as it got closer, its teeth shining like knives in the darkness. I tried to get away, but I was going nowhere. A jet of flames was sprayed at me as the image faded away.
My eyes shot open and I was staring up at the ceiling of the living room. The morning sun was beginning to rise and light was starting to fill the room. I sat up and looked around, a bit confused because I wasn’t sure where I was at first. The image of the dragon in my dream was still fresh in my mind. I knew that seeing that now couldn’t be a good sign. I escaped that dragon twice already, but I wasn’t sure I could evade it again if I needed to.
I got up and Justin and Sarah stirred awake as I did. “Oh glorious morning,” Justin said, “How I hate you so.”
“The sun’s already up,” Sarah asked, “I guess we should get going soon.”
We packed up quickly and left the house through the back door. It was good that we did too since a couple had shown up to take a look at the inside of the house. Guess they would be in for a surprise when they saw the security system’s keypad had been smashed.
Sarah took us on a bit of an adventure, skirting around the edge of the suburbs to avoid people. Eventually, we took a tangent and ended up traversing through a forested area on the side of a mountain that was looming over Bel Air. I was starting to wonder where in the world she was trying to take us.
“Where are we going,” Justin asked.
“Los Angeles International,” Sarah answered.
“And why, dare I ask, are we taking a mountain trail,” I asked.
Sarah thought for a moment. “Less people,” she said like it was a question. Justin and I stared at her for a moment. “Okay,” she said, “So I’ve always wanted to walk these trails, but I never got the chance to, happy now?”
We dropped it at that. The fact that she was taking us on an unnecessary tangent didn’t really bother me. What was bothering me was that I was still thinking about what I had seen in my dream. If that dragon was close by, then we were putting ourselves into a complicated situation by taking a mountain trail. After all, we wouldn’t have anywhere to run if it decided to attack now.
“Do you guys hear that,” Justin asked after we had been walking for a few hours.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Sarah said.
“Huh, I could have sworn…”
We were all quiet again. Justin was staring out at the skyline like he was waiting for something to show up over the horizon. It wasn’t unlike him. He was usually a bit paranoid, he hadn’t been lately, but he had a tendency to hear and see things that weren’t there. He blamed it on his super powered senses and told me that he could hear and see things from great distances that I couldn’t imagine.
I ignored Justin’s uneasiness. I kept walking and tried to get the idea of a dragon attacking us out of my head, but I couldn’t. The image was still there and so was Kronos’ words, how he said that he would destroy us. I was starting to wonder if all of these monster attacks over the years were all his doing. The manticore was definitely sent by him, but maybe the other monsters had been sent as well.
“Hey,” Sarah said, “Check out that bird, it’s kind of weird looking.”
I looked up at the horizon to where she was pointing. The three of us stopped and looked to the sky. The bird that Sarah was talking about was soaring high in the air, hovering toward the mountain and descending quickly. A pit started forming in my stomach as the image was looking all too familiar. The “bird” increased its speed and came at us even faster, appearing to grow larger and larger until it was clear that it wasn’t a bird. The dragon opened its maw and shot a jet of fire at us.
“Look out,” I yelled.
I pushed Sarah and Justin away from me and they fell to the ground. I got them out of the way, but there was no time for me to move. Luckily, the mountain was casting a shadow over me. I was able to use my powers to form an invisible shield between myself and the dragon. Fire wrapped around me, forming a bubble of flames that felt as though they gave off no heat. I tried to push my shade at the dragon, but it pulled up and flew over us.
I turned and watched the dragon rear back around and fly towards us again. It stopped several feet away and hovered in the air. The dragon stared at me with two demonic looking eyes. This was the only monster that I had ever been afraid of. It was the only monster that I just couldn’t seem to kill. No matter how hard I tried to get rid of it, it kept chasing after me with a crazed bloodlust.
“Run,” I yelled to Sarah and Justin.
The two of them stood and did as I said, each of them going in a different direction. The dragon roared, a sound that shook the entire mountain. It flapped its wings and turned to chase after Justin. I didn’t hesitate. I ran after the dragon, but the monster was far too fast for me. I could imagine it laughing as I tried in vain to catch up with it.
I could just barely see Justin running at full speed ahead of me. Despite how good of a runner he was, the dragon was catching up to him fast. I tried to shadow travel next to him, but I couldn’t concentrate properly. I watched the dragon open its mouth again and a jet of flames shot directly at Justin.
“Justin,” I yelled.
He turned his head just in time to see the fire coming at him. He dove out of the way. Unfortunately, the only place to go forced him to fall off of the path and down the side of the mountain. Before he fell, Justin pulled his ring off, drawing his bow, and fired an arrow at the dragon. The arrow hit the monster’s neck, but its scales seemed to be made of steel as the arrow barely left a scratch on it. Justin disappeared down the side of the mountain and into the trees below the path.
“No,” I screamed.
The dragon reared around and flew at me. I stopped and got ready to protect myself, but the dragon ignored me and soared over my head. I looked back at it and then down the side of the mountain. I knew where the monster was going, but I had to make sure that Justin was okay too. I had to hope that Sarah had found somewhere to hide. I jumped off of the path.
I fell down the mountain, which wasn’t very steep since we weren’t too high up, but the trees and brush made the fall a lot worse than it would have been. I tried to slow my decent, but it was impossible. I slammed into trees and rolled through vegetation collecting a ton of bruises and cuts along the way. Eventually, the slope leveled out and I rolled out into what appeared to be a canyon. I laid there for a long time, hoping that I had escaped with no broken bones.
I stood up slowly, pain shooting through every inch of my body. My shirt had been torn to shreds and the jeans I was wearing had been cut open on the right from the knee down the whole side of the leg. I had a large cut on my leg where my jeans were split that bled profusely. A number of smaller cuts covered the rest of my body, each of them burning just as bad as the last. I pulled a square of ambrosia from my pocket and bit a piece of it off. My wounds were sewed up within seconds and most of the pain died down.
I started walking to where I hoped Justin would have fallen, taking off what was left of my shirt as I did. I couldn’t find Justin anywhere and I was starting to panic. I called his name out over and over again, but I couldn’t seem to find him anywhere in the canyon.
“Up here,” I heard someone call to me after a time.
I looked to where I heard the voice come from, but I didn’t see anyone. I looked up into a tree at the bottom of the slope I had fallen down. Hanging from one of the branches near the top was Justin, still holding his bow. He was draped over the branch at his waist, looking down at me, and waving like this was supposed to be normal. Despite his complicated situation, Justin looked like he was in much better shape than I was.
“How did you even get up there,” I asked holding back a laugh.
“I tried to stop my fall by jumping and…well, it doesn’t matter…can you just help me out here?”
“How am I supposed to help you,” I asked.
“Just hold my bow,” he said.
He tossed his bow down and I caught it. I watched him wiggle himself free of his position so that he was sitting on the branch he had been draped over. He began climbing down the tree, making good progress. However, when he was about halfway down, his foot slipped on one of the branches and he ended up falling the rest of the way to the ground. It was a good thing he hadn’t been up very high.
“You alright,” I asked as I helped him to his feet.
“I’m fine,” he said, “Just a little shaken up. You have any ambrosia on you?”
I pulled my ambrosia out. I handed him the half of a square left from what I had used earlier, which left only two more pieces left. Justin ate the whole half of the golden food. After a couple of seconds, he stretched his arms and legs. After he was satisfied with how his wounds had healed, he pointed to his bow still in my hands, which I handed to him.
“So tell me,” I said, “Why did you need me to hold your bow? You couldn’t just turn it back into a ring?”
Justin thought for a moment like the idea of getting down without my help had never occurred to him. “Well I…I mean I could have, but…Okay, so I didn’t think of that,” he said. I gave him a look like I was asking him if he was joking. “Alright I get it,” he said, “I need to use my head more often. What happened to the dragon?”
The smile on my face disappeared as I remembered why we were there. “It turned back and went after Sarah,” I said hoping she was okay, “I just hope she was able to find a place to hide.”
“Then we need to find her and…”
“Find who,” someone said behind me. I turned around to find Sarah walking up to us, completely unscathed. Justin and I stood speechless at the sight of her. “Woah,” she said, “Looks like you two took the long way down.”
I was still wondering where she had come from, but Justin managed to speak up. “How did you get down here?”
“There’s a bunch of paths that lead down here,” she said, “I just figured this was the best place to hide from that dragon. I’m glad you guys had the same idea.”
“We weren’t exactly hiding,” I said, “It was more like running away.”
Sarah laughed. “Either way, it’s a good thing that…”
Her words were cut short when a roar reached our ears. The three of us looked off into the distance to where the sound had come from. We couldn’t see anything on the horizon, but none of us were reassured by that. From the sound of that roar, it was obvious that the monster was close by, and probably getting closer. We looked at each other and a silent agreement passed. It was time to get out of there.
“What’s the fastest way out,” I asked Sarah.
“This way,” she said.
We ran through the canyon with Sarah leading us along the way. We were running in the same direction that the sound had come from, which I thought was strange since the dragon would have been down that way, but I wasn’t going to question Sarah since she knew this place better than we did.
“Shouldn’t we be going the other way,” Justin asked as we ran, “You know, away from the big scary lizard that wants to eat us?”
“There’s a dead end that way,” Sarah responded, “I saw it from the path earlier.”
“So our choices are to get cornered and get eaten,” I said, “Or run straight to the monster.”
“And probably get eaten,” Justin said.
“We might be able to get away from it,” Sarah said, “If we get back to the city fast enough…”
She was cut off as the dragon swooped down from out of nowhere and flew right over us. We stopped and looked back as the dragon turned around and swooped down towards us again. He tried to breathe fire at us, but I was able to make a shield in time to direct the attack away. The dragon flew over us again, stopping and landing a few feet in front of us, just barely able to fit into the canyon. We were trapped.
“Okay,” Justin shouted as he drew his bow, “I think we should go the other way now!”
“We can’t,” Sarah said her dagger drawn and ready to fight, “We’ll just end up cornering ourselves.”
“Then what are we supposed to do?!”
I summoned Heartstopper. “We fight!”
“Fight,” Justin questioned, “Maybe you didn’t notice, but that’s a DRAGON trying to kill us! There’s no way we can win!”
The dragon roared as if it were agreeing with Justin. I looked back at my friends, seeing the fear in their eyes, and then at the dragon again. I knew that Justin was right. There was no way that we could defeat something as powerful as a dragon. On the other hand, we were definitely trapped this time. Even if we ran, the dragon would end up cornering us like rats. The only way out was to go through it. I charged forward.
“Hirius,” Sarah and Justin yelled in unison.
I didn’t listen to them. I realized when I looked back at them what this dragon was sent for. Kronos didn’t want to kill me, he wanted to break me. The monster had ignored me all this time because it was after my friends. Kronos wanted to get rid of any hope that I had and he knew that killing Sarah and Justin was the best way to do it. I wasn’t about to let that happen. Maybe I could distract the monster long enough for them to get away, even if it decided to kill me.
The dragon whipped around and tried to whack at me with its tail. I ducked and rolled over the ground, barely avoiding the attack. I slashed at the dragon’s thigh as it turned to face me again. My sword connected with its mark, but the blade bounced off of the dragon’s scales without leaving so much as a scratch. The dragon roared in protest at me and opened its maw to breathe fire.
Before I could react, an arrow soared into the dragon’s mouth and pierced the soft skin inside. The monster reared backward and roared as the pain came over it. I stepped back to regain my footing and Sarah and Justin appeared on either side of me, both of them ready for a fight. Those idiots, couldn’t they see what I was trying to do.
“You guys need to get out of here,” I yelled, “That thing is trying to kill you guys!”
“Don’t you think we figured that out already,” Sarah asked, “But we made a promise remember?! If you fight then we fight!”
“Yeah,” Justin said, “Besides, I’m not about to miss out on this.” He looked confident, but he quickly added in a whisper, “Even if it does get me killed.”
I would have protested their involvement, but the dragon roared again, apparently irritated with the fact that we were ignoring him. He charged forward, his mouth ready to snap at us. Sarah and Justin darted to either side of the monster, surrounding it as best they could. The dragon tried to snap at Sarah, but she was too far away by the time he got to us. I jumped forward and tried to stab at the beast’s eye, but it pulled away just in time.
The dragon shifted its gaze and tried to strike at us in turn, but we were able to hold it at bay. Justin aimed for soft spots on its body, its underbelly, its mouth, its eyes, and other places where he might be able to cause some damage, but he had a hard time getting more than a few of his shots to connect. Sarah kept the monster distracted by moving in close to him, tempting him into an attack, but keeping far enough away so she could avoid getting eaten. I was using my powers to keep the monster from getting too close to any of us, while hitting it with a shade whenever I got the chance.
From the looks of things, it appeared that we were actually winning this fight, but we weren’t getting anywhere in reality. We had barely caused any actual damage to the dragon and, at best, we were doing nothing more than making it angry. It would only be a matter of time before it would get to us.
“You guys need to get out of here,” I yelled again, “We can’t beat this thing!”
“No way,” Sarah yelled as she dodged the dragon’s tail, “The only way any of us are getting out of this is if all of us get out of this!”
I cursed silently. I was glad that they were so willing to sacrifice their lives for me, but I didn’t want them to do that. I didn’t want to be responsible for another’s death, not again. But I was doing the same thing to them by fighting the dragon off alone and allowing them to escape. So the only way that I could save their lives was by saving mine.
I slashed at the monster’s face as it tried to snap at me again, but it avoided my attack. I jumped back and looked around the canyon. I stopped as my eyes caught sight of a rock formation close by. It was an arch formation that jutted out of the side of a cliff near us. Between it and the cliff, there was enough room to fit a large car, but maybe I could use it against our giant lizard friend.
I called to Justin and indicated the arch with a quick motion. He understood my plan. He ran toward me and fired an arrow at the underside of the dragon’s neck, which struck it, but bounced off of its scales harmlessly. Luckily, it was enough to get its attention. The monster turned its head to him and watched as he ran past me. I joined him and the two of us ran for the arch by the cliff. Sarah joined us as she saw what we were doing.
“Hey you overgrown lizard,” I yelled to the dragon. We stopped several feet from the arch and turned to the monster. I put a bit of power into my words as I called to it again. “You think you can take us?! Well come and get us then!”
The dragon stared at me with its demon like eyes. It charged at us, its wings flared out. The three of us turned and ran under the arch. Just as I hoped, the dragon tried to chase after us. As we passed under the cliff, I looked back and saw the monster still coming after us. For a dreadful moment, I thought that I had been wrong and it was going to get to us, but then I heard its body slam into the rock. The dragon stopped suddenly, its mouth snapping shut only a few inches from my face.
We stopped and looked on at the monster as it struggled to escape, but it was stuck fast. Justin began taunting it, poking at its nose and eyes with his bow, which only seemed to irritate the beast even more. It let out a massive roar that shook the side of the mountain and then began struggling even harder. A smile crossed my face as I watched it and realized that we had actually managed to get away with our lives. Then something hit my head. I looked up and saw that the whole cliff above us was shaking violently as the dragon struggled to break free.
I grabbed Justin and Sarah and pulled them away from the cliff. As I did, the mountainside collapsed and fell onto the dragon, burying it under a…well, mountain of rock and earth. I heard the monster let out another painful roar as its body disappeared under its new tomb. The air fell silent and still.
“Yeah, that’ll teach you,” Justin yelled after a moment. He walked up to the base of the mountainous tomb and kicked a boulder at the bottom. “Nothing can stop us!”
“It’s still alive,” I said.
Justin fell backward as he jumped away from the tomb. “What!?”
“It’s still alive,” I repeated slowly. My friends went dead silent.
“Hirius,” Sarah said after a time, “There’s no way that it could’ve survived that.”
“I can still sense it,” I said, “It’s weak now, but it’s still alive.”
As if to confirm what I was saying, the tomb shifted slightly and the top of it fell over. It went still again, the monster under the rocks too weak to move them. The three of us looked at each other and a silent agreement passed between us again. We sheathed our weapons, mine disappearing and Justin’s turning back into a ring, and ran, with Sarah taking the lead once more, toward Los Angeles international Airport. I could still sense the creature stirring as its tomb disappeared from sight.