Camp Half-Blood: Part 2
Annabeth and I made our way over to the cabins where she left me and joined a group of kids that looked a lot like her. I guessed that they were her siblings, the Athena cabin. I tried to catch a glimpse of Sarena in the crowd, but I didn’t see her anywhere. I followed the other campers up toward the mess hall.
Justin and Sarah appeared next to me. “There he is,” Justin said slapping me on the back, “How’d your date go?” Sarah didn’t seem to appreciate Justin referring to my tour as a date.
“Better than you think,” I said, “Annabeth isn’t so bad, you know when she isn’t trying to kill you.”
“You two made nice,” Justin asked, “Didn’t expect that.”
“Me neither.” The three of us walked for a bit in silence. Sarah hadn’t spoken up since her and Justin had showed up, she looked upset. “What about you guys,” I asked as we began climbing up a hill towards the mess hall, “How are you settling in?”
Justin grew a wide smile across his face. “This place is great,” he said, “The archery range is amazing and I never imagined that I would have so many brothers and sisters. And have you seen the girls in the Aphrodite cabin?” Justin was swooning as he talked about Sarah’s sisters. “That Silena Beuregard, oh my, I’ve never seen a more beautiful girl in all my life.”
“They aren’t that great,” Sarah said with a bit of distaste.
I looked over at her. “I take it you aren’t adjusting as well?”
“It’s not that,” she said, “This place is great and all, but those kids in Aphrodite cabin, I’ve never seen a more stuck up group of kids in my life.” She paused for a second like she was thinking about what to say next. “All they care about is their looks. Even the guys obsess over themselves. It makes me sick.” She looked off for a moment. “Silena’s okay I guess, but the rest of them.” She opened her mouth and made a gagging noise. “I can’t believe I’m related to them.”
I smiled at her. I knew that she wouldn’t fit in too well with the rest of her siblings. Sarah always seemed a bit odd for a daughter of Aphrodite, not that it was a bad thing. Despite that, she looked like she was having fun with her new brothers and sisters, even if she was complaining about them. She seemed to have a way of saying the opposite of what she meant.
As we climbed the hill towards the mess hall, I saw the rest of the campers coming up as well. There was a group of muscular looking kids ahead of us who were being led by the girl I saw leading the charge the night before. Most of them were wearing camp jackets and I had to guess they were children of Ares. I saw Annabeth’s group, being led by Annabeth herself, but I still didn’t catch a glimpse of Sarena with them. In all, there were about eight groups of campers, about a hundred of them total.
“They aren’t even participating in capture the flag tonight,” Sarah continued complaining about her cabin mates, “I mean, maybe I want to join in the fight.”
I started laughing. “I never took you for the violent type,” I said.
“I’m not,” she protested, “But the chance to blow off some steam would be nice.” She stopped for a second. “Besides,” she went on, “I would love to have a chance to teach Justin a lesson about messing with me.”
“And how would you expect to do that,” Justin spoke up.
“Simple,” Sarah said placing a hand on her hip and using her other one to flip her hair, “I’d distract you with my body, then destroy you with my skill.” Justin’s face turned red. I think that was the first time Sarah had ever left him speechless. I laughed with her.
We entered the mess hall. Torches blazed on the marble columns. There was a central brazier where a fire burned bright orange. There were tables for each of the twelve cabins, four of which were empty. One of the tables was massively overcrowded, I guessed it was Hermes cabin. I caught sight of Dionysus sitting at a table on the far end, a couple of athletic looking kids and a bunch of satyrs sitting around him. Chiron stood to the side of Dionysus’ table, the thing being much too small for his horse body.
As we entered the pavilion, Justin and Sarah left me, saying their goodbyes, and joined their respective cabins. Justin appeared to have made a few friends among his siblings, but it looked like Sarah was friendly with just one girl, a slim, pretty blonde who I guessed was Silena Beuregard.
I was left standing on my own. There wasn’t a cabin for Hades, which meant that there wasn’t a table for Hades either. Not knowing what else to do, I started walking towards Annabeth, who I saw sitting with a group of kids that all looked like her, the same blonde hair and storm gray eyes. I also noticed Sarena sitting across from Annabeth at the table talking with a couple of girls next to her. She had changed a bit from when I had met her two years ago, but I was still able to tell who she was. She looked even more beautiful now than I remembered.
As I walked across the pavilion, most of the kids at the other tables gave me angry looks. It was obvious that word of who I was had spread fast and just like how it always was, everyone hated me before they even got to know me. I didn’t care. I just ignored them. I was used to people hating me. Everyone at the orphanage hated me too. This wasn’t that different.
“Hey Hirius,” I heard someone call.
I looked over, expecting to see some burley looking guy walking up to me like he was going to try and kick my ass. Instead, I saw a table full of muscular kids, the ones I saw climbing the hill earlier. The girl who had led the charge last night was waving to me, apparently inviting me to come over and sit down across from her. I was skeptical, but I went over and sat down with them.
“There’s our new ally,” the girl said, I was guessing that she was the head of this cabin, “Welcome to team Ares.”
“Ummmm,” I said, “I’m lost.”
The girl laughed. “Yeah you’re still new here,” she said, “Normally we’d try to put you in your place, a bit of hazing for the new guy.”
“So what makes me special,” I asked.
The girl laughed again. “Are you kidding,” she said, “After I saw you fight last night, you’ve got my respect. The others might not trust Hades’ kid, but anyone crazy enough to charge an entire army of monsters like you did can’t be all bad.”
“Uh, thanks,” I said, “I guess.”
“Yup,” the girl said, “That’s why I made sure I got you on our side for capture the flag tonight, after I found out you were conscious.”
“You did what,” I asked.
“Had to make one heck of a deal too,” a guy nearby said, “Even had to give up Apollo cabin’s support, they didn’t want to fight on the same side as Hades’ son. They’re a bunch of wimps anyway.”
I looked over at Apollo cabin’s table. Justin was carrying on with a couple of guys sitting next to him. If he was on the other team, then that meant we were going to be fighting each other. It wouldn’t be the first time, but the two of us hadn’t sparred in a long time. I was actually looking forward to capture the flag now.
“Sounds like fun,” I said, “What’re the teams.”
“Right down to business,” the girl across from me said, “I like that.”
Before she could say anymore, a group of river spirits, Naiads, and nature spirits brought platters of food out to the tables. There was everything from fresh fruit to tender barbeque. The girl across from me put a plate together and slid it over to me. The food looked delicious and I was about to chow down, but then I saw everyone standing up and carrying their plates over to the bronze brazier in the center of the pavilion. I followed their lead.
“What’s this about,” I asked the girl from Ares table.
“Burnt offerings,” she said, “For the gods. They like the smell.”
Sure enough, the kids in front of me walked up to the brazier one at a time and scraped a piece of their food into the fire and it burnt up and sent a puff of smoke into the air. I saw Sarena walking up to the brazier as well. She was with a big guy who looked like someone who worked in the forges all day. His clothes were covered in burn marks, his hands were large and looked like they were covered in blisters, and his arms were muscular. It was easy to tell that he was a son of Hephaestus, god of the forge. The two of them walked up to the brazier together. After each of them made their offering, I saw them kiss.
I looked away from them and the brazier. I wasn’t sure what I was angry about really. I thought that I had managed to forget about Sarena. I knew that when I let her go two years ago that I would probably never see her again. Having the chance to meet with her got me thinking though. I thought that I might be able to rekindle our relationship, but it was clear that was never going to happen. She had moved on already.
The Ares girl approached the brazier and scraped some of her food in. “Ares,” she said as she did.
The food burned up in a spew of smoke and the girl went back to her table. I was the only one left. I approached the brazier and stared into the flames. I chose a large piece of brisket as an offering, but then I thought of something. Which god should I have given the offering to? If any of them knew who I was, then they probably all hated me by now. And there was no way that I was giving any kind of thanks to Hades.
I scraped the brisket into the fire. “For any god that still likes me,” I said as the food burned to smoke, “One of you still has to.”
I went back to the Ares table and sat down again. The Ares kids were all carrying on, being obnoxious and generally annoying. I didn’t really mind. Honestly, I was just glad that somebody at camp was willing to be friendly with me, even if everyone else in the camp seemed to be less than friends with them. While I ate, I talked to the girl I was sitting across from.
“My name’s Clarisse by the way,” she said.
“I’m Hirius,” I said, “But I guess you already knew that.”
Clarisse nodded. “Not every day a child of the elder gods shows up at camp,” she said, “Word of your arrival spread like wildfire.” I looked down at my food as she said that, my face turning a bit red. “Anyway,” Clarrise said, “Back to the game tonight.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I’m looking forward to this.”
Clarrise laughed. “I’m liking you more and more every second,” she said, “Anyway, this is how it’s going down. It’s our cabin, Ares, against Athena’s cabin, we each have our teams. We’ve got Hephaestus, Demeter, Dionysus, Aphrodite, and you of course. Athena has Apollo and Hermes.”
I looked around at the other tables, counting the number of campers at each. “We’re outnumbered,” I said.
“That’s right,” Clarrise said, “They have numbers, but we have force. Demeter’s cabin will be good for defense, their prowess with nature will make them perfect for it out in the forest. My kin and the Hephaestus kids will be good for offense, so will Dionysus’ two sons. Aphrodite kids are usually pretty useless.”
“They’ll probably be workin’ on their make-up the whole time,” one of the other girls said. The rest of the table laughed.
“Sarah can help,” I said.
Clarisse thought for a minute. “She’s the one that came in with you last night, huh,” she said, “Yeah, she was pretty impressive, wasn’t half as ferocious as you were, but she’s a lot better than those other prissy demigods.”
I sat back and tried to sip from my empty goblet. “Not to change the subject,” I said, “But what’s with this thing being empty?”
“Just speak to it,” Clarisse said.
I looked at the goblet. “Coke Cola,” I said like it was a question. The goblet filled with caramel colored liquid. I tasted it. It was perfect. “Oh man,” I said, “Wish I had one of these babies when I was out in the desert.” The other kids at the table started laughing.
Another horn sounded in the distance as we finished our meals and the kids all stood up. As we marched out of the pavilion, Naiads and nature spirits began clearing the plates and platters. We marched down the hill toward the forest. I caught sight of Justin as we moved. He was giving me a look that was obviously inviting me to challenge him once the game started. I gave him a look like I was saying, bring it on.
The groups marched into the forest and separated into our two teams. Our team set up camp on a far end of the forest in the north woods. We had our flag, a red one, stuck in what looked like the remains of a small ruined fortress. While we were there, some kids from the Hephaestus cabin passed out armor and weapons. The guy I saw with Sarena earlier tried to hand me a set of armor and a blade. I tried my best not to look like I hated him.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“What,” the guy said, “You at least need a weapon.”
I concentrated on the shadows, glad that it was nighttime. Heartstopper appeared in my hands and I held it up for the guy to see. “I’m covered,” I said.
As the guy moved on to the next person, I heard Sarah screaming. “Oh gods! This armor is so unfashionable,” she yelled. The only thing beauty wise that girl actually cared about was her clothes. I looked over at her as she pulled a celestial bronze breast plate off of her. “Forget it,” she said, “Will someone just get me a sword?”
“You’re a bit feisty today,” I said as I walked up to her.
She looked over at me and smiled. “I’m just glad I get a chance to join in,” she said, “After last night, I’m itching for a fight.”
I laughed at her. “I still have a hard time seeing you like this,” I said.
Her expression turned serious suddenly. “Well, after what happened last night,” she said, “You know, after you charged in ahead of us, I thought about how useless I am when it comes to fighting. I want to change that.”
I looked at her with a bit of surprise. Then I put a hand on her shoulder and smiled. “You’re not useless Sarah,” I told her.
She smiled. “Thanks,” she said, “But wait until you see what I’m really capable of.” She looked behind her like she was waiting for someone to show up. “If someone would just bring me a sword,” she yelled. As she said it, a Hephaestus kid came out of the trees, walked up to Sarah, and handed her a celestial bronze blade. “That’s better,” she said.
“You really want to use a sword,” I asked her.
Sarah swung the blade around a bit. “Yeah,” she said, “I might be used to my dagger, but a sword seems so much more practical.”
“But you’ve never used one before.”
Sarah shrugged. “Can’t be much different than my dagger,” she said, “I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it quick enough.”
Before I could say anything more, Clarisse cut into the conversation. “You might be the first daughter of Aphrodite I’ve ever seen that has a backbone,” she said as she walked up to us.
“We’re not all prissy little girls obsessed with our looks,” Sarah retorted.
Clarisse laughed at the comment. “Hey Hirius,” she said, “Where’d you find this one, we could use more girls like her at camp.”
“I don’t know if I can agree on your opinion of what we need more of around here, Clarisse,” another girl said, “But I can agree that Sarah should make a great addition to my cabin.”
I turned around to see the pretty blond girl from Sarah’s cabin walking up to us. I have to say, Justin was not joking when he told me how beautiful Silena was, he rarely joked about that kind of thing, but seeing her up close was astounding. Her skin was milky white and so smooth that I wouldn’t have thought it possible if I wasn’t looking right at her. Her curly blond hair looked like ocean waves as it flowed down her neck and over her back and her sparkling blue eyes were enough to make any man melt. Even the armor that she was wearing looked good on her, the way that it showed off her great figure. In short, she was basically the definition of perfect, appearance wise anyway.
Silena smiled at me as she approached us. “You must be Hirius,” she said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“You’d be the first one to think so,” I said.
“Actually, I wouldn’t think it was,” she said, “Not before I met Sarah anyway. After hearing her talk about you, there’s no way anyone could think you were a bad guy.”
I looked over at Sarah, but she was avoiding my gaze. I couldn’t see her face clearly, but I could tell that it was beet red. “Thanks,” I said turning to Silena again. She simply laughed in response like she knew something that I didn’t.
Before I could say anymore, another horn sounded in the distance. “Alright,” Clarisse yelled speaking to the whole team, “Fall in!”
The others began to form around the head of the Ares cabin, but I pulled Silena aside so I could talk to her before we joined them. “Thanks,” I told her, “For being friends with Sarah I mean. I know she isn’t like the other kids in her cabin, but I’m glad she found a friend.”
Silena smiled. “Its no trouble,” she said, “Sarah’s a good person, the others might give her a hard time because she’s not as…how should I put it…she’s not as ‘goddess of beauty,’ as they are, but I’ll keep them in line.”
I was glad to hear that she would look out for Sarah while we were there. With that settled, we listened to Clarisse giving orders to all of the team members. Like she told me earlier, the kids from Demeter cabin were placed on defense, along with about half of the Hephaestus kids and the whole Aphrodite cabin, which only really included Sarah and Silena since they were the only one’s that looked ready to fight. The rest of Hephaestus cabin and the whole Ares cabin were set on offense.
“What about me,” I asked.
“Oh, I have something special in mind for you,” Clarisse said. I wasn’t sure if I liked that smile on her face. “You’re defending the creek.”
“The creek,” I asked.
“That’s the dividing line,” Silena explained next to me, “If the blue team gets our flag to the other side of the creek, we lose.”
“Got it,” I said, “But wouldn’t I be better off just defending the flag?”
Clarisse’s smile grew even wider. “I know Annabeth’s strategy a little too well,” she said, “Her mother might be the goddess of wisdom, but my father’s the god of war.”
“So why am I defending the creek exactly,” I asked.
“That’s where Luke will be attacking from,” Clarisse answered.
“Luke Castellan,” Silena explained, “Head of Hermes cabin.”
“And probably the best swordsman in camp,” Clarisse said, “As much as I hate to admit that.” She looked at me. “But I think you can match him,” she said, “You should at least be able to buy me enough time to get to their flag.”
I wanted to ask more questions, but Chiron came out of the trees and spoke to our team at that moment. “Listen up everyone,” Chiron said as he passed through the trees, “You all know the rules, but let me remind you of them. You are free to fight however you wish, first team to capture the other’s flag and get it onto their side wins. Remember, no intentional maiming or killing, any questions?”
“Maiming,” Sarah spoke up.
“Or killing,” I asked.
Chiron looked over at us. “It’s not uncommon,” he said, “But by no circumstances are you to intentionally kill any other camper.”
“That makes me feel so much better,” I said. Chiron ignored the comment.
“The game will begin when the horn sounds,” he said. With that, Chiron dashed back into the forest and disappeared from sight.
Our team stood and waited for the game to begin. While we did, Clarisse pulled me aside and was showing me a map of the forest. She was pointing out where the main battle would take place and where I should position myself. Where she wanted me to go was out of the way of the battle, but close enough that I could come in to help if I needed to. It looked like the perfect spot to sneak a small group across the creek.
As Clarisse finished up what she was saying, I heard the horn in the distance for the third time that day. “Alright,” Clarisse said folding her map up and putting it in her pocket, “Let’s do this.”
She pushed her way to the front of the team and gave an order to charge. I watched our offensive group run forward into the woods. I turned and ran for the spot by the creek where Clarisse had told me I should defend. When I got there, the place was empty. From where I was, I could hear the two teams clashing not too far away, but I couldn’t see any of them.
I stood around for a long time while nothing happened. I listened to the sound of the battle nearby. It didn’t sound like either side was winning. With nothing better to do, I just started pacing back and forth. While I was doing so, I heard an arrow brush through the trees nearby. I quickly put up a shield and the projectile bounced off of it. I smiled as I looked to where my assailant had attacked me from.
“Come on, Justin,” I said, “Did you really think you could get me with that?”
Justin stepped out of the trees and stood where I could see him. “How’d you know it was me,” he asked.
“You’re the only one crazy enough to attack me,” I said. He shrugged in response as if to say, ‘yeah, probably’.
I brought my sword up and held it in a ready position. Justin pulled an arrow from his quiver and aimed his bow at me. I waited for him to loose his shot, but he didn’t. Justin was usually the first to attack when we sparred, but he looked different this time. I had never seen him fight this patiently before.
I wasn’t willing to waste any time with him. After all, I was supposed to be looking out for this Luke guy. I couldn’t be distracted by Justin all night. I dashed toward him, running across the water and into the blue team’s territory. Justin fired his bow as I reached the creek, but I easily swatted it away with Heartstopper and continued my charge.
I reached Justin before he could grab another arrow. I swung my sword, careful not to use too much force since Justin appeared to have opted out of wearing armor as well. Justin used his bow to block my attack. He pushed me away, another thing that was unlike him, and put some distance in between the two of us.
I wasn’t sure what he was trying to do, throw me off guard maybe, but I could at least see that he was trying to turn this into a long range fight, which he would have the advantage in. He should have known by then that it wouldn’t work. Every time he tried to put distance between us, I would close it before he could take advantage of the range, so why would he try it now?
Justin was quick to react to my next attack. He ducked under my blade and swung his bow at me, but I jumped out of range in time. I charged him again as he tried to pull another arrow and shoot it at me. Before his arm even reached his bow, I grabbed him by the wrist and held Heartstopper up to his throat. I didn’t anticipate how much of a weasel he was. Somehow, he managed to stab the loose arrow into my arm, not enough to do any real damage, but enough to break my grip. Instead of taking the moment to attack me, Justin fled and put several feet between us. He had his bow aimed at me again.
I held Heartstopper up, but I still didn’t think that this fight made any sense. Justin never fought with so much caution. He was usually reckless and aggressive, attacking me at every chance that he got. He looked like he was actually picking his hits this time though, like he was taking our fight seriously for the first time. Or maybe he was trying to buy time for someone else.
The idea occurred to me too late. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Annabeth, as well as several other members of the blue team, walking into our territory and to our flag. I couldn’t believe that they had slipped right under my nose. More than that, I was stunned that Justin had managed to control his impulsiveness long enough to buy them the time that they needed.
Justin must have realized that I noticed his teammates because he charged straight for me at that moment. I dodged his attack, but I was through wasting any more time with him. Justin tried to hit me again, but I summoned a shade and used it to block his attack. I sent the shade forward and it threw Justin off of his feet and he was slammed into a nearby tree, not hard enough to do much, but I imagined it shook him up a good bit. Justin sat on the ground looking like he was trying to figure out where he was.
I started back across the creek, but before I left, I turned to Justin and said, “Guess that’s seventy-four to seventy now,” indicating our bet. He didn’t answer.
I ran back to where our flag was. When I got there, I saw a whole battle playing out. The Demeter kids had grown a wall of thorn bushes that kept out most of the blue team, who were hacking in vain at the wall. The kids from Hephaestus cabin who had stayed back on defense were holding off anyone that made it through the wall. Most of Aphrodite cabin appeared to have disappeared, aside from Silena and another girl who was batting at one of the kids from Athena’s cabin with a sword and screaming about how long it had taken her to do her hair that morning.
I saw Sarah holding off two members of the blue team over by our flag using her sword and her dagger like she had been trained with them her whole life. I had only seen Sarah fight a couple of times, but, watching her now, I was actually afraid of her, a little bit at least. The two people she was in combat with were Annabeth and a tall, blond guy with sharp features who I guessed to be Luke Castellan. Despite how well she was fighting, Sarah was clearly outmatched by her opponents, not to mention there were two of them.
I charged toward the fight, knocking a few members from the blue team onto their butts with my powers. I used shadow travel to get past the wall without tearing myself to shreds trying to get through the thorn bushes. Sarah was locked sword to sword with Annabeth. While she was distracted, Luke tried to sneak around her and get to our flag. I wasn’t about to let it be that easy for him.
I sent a shade forward and knocked Luke off balance. He stumbled back, but managed to regain his footing as I attacked him and he knocked my blade aside. I shifted away from him, spinning myself around and hitting him from the opposite side. As much force as I put into my strike, I would have killed the guy if he hadn’t managed to block my attack. We disengaged and stood staring at each other for a bit.
Before either of us could attack, an arrow soared past me and impaled a tree a few feet away. “Sorry I’m late,” Justin said. He ran up and stood next to Luke, his bow aimed at me.
Sarah appeared next to me, breathing heavily, and held her two weapons ready to fight. Annabeth walked between her two teammates and stopped ahead of them so they were standing in a triangle while facing us. I was still facing Justin, Heartstopper up to block any attacks. Sarah was facing Luke, who obviously outmatched her based on what I had seen before.
“Ha,” Annabeth said, “Three against one. We’ve got this.”
Before she said anymore, I heard someone roaring from somewhere in the forest, a sound that could have scared a dragon silly. Clarisse came barreling out of the trees, her shield up and a bronze tipped, electrified spear in her other hand. She charged at Annabeth, rammed into her, and pushed her away with the shield letting out a massive battle cry as she did.
Annabeth rolled across the ground. She was slow to get up, but she gathered herself together. By the way she was looking at Clarisse, I could tell that she wasn’t too happy about her interrupting. Annabeth ran at the daughter of Ares. Sarah and I looked at each other, an idea passing between us. I looked at Justin, who was still aiming his bow at me. I charged, but I pivoted away from Justin and attacked Luke instead. Sarah mirrored my movement and went after Justin, who was so confused by the attack that he ended up shooting his arrow into the ground, which gave Sarah the chance to push him off his feet.
Luke was confused for a second, but he got himself together in no time. He brought his sword up and blocked my attack. We backed off and Luke slashed at me. I ducked under his sword and kicked at his feet. Luke stumbled back, but avoided my kick. He tried to move in on me again, but I grabbed him by the wrist and pushed him away from me. We locked each other’s gaze.
“Clarisse didn’t lie when she said you were the best swordsman here,” I said.
Luke shrugged. “I’m pretty good,” he said modestly, “I don’t know about the best, but I know my way around the battlefield.”
“You’re not the only one.”
We charged each other, each of us attacking in turn. Luke was a ruthless fighter. He wasn’t very strong, but it was obvious that he knew what he was doing. He placed is attacks precisely so that I would have a hard time blocking or avoiding him. He was agile too, which probably had to do with being a son of Hermes. He managed to get away from me every time I thought I had him.
Our blades clashed back and forth, sparks flying with every hit. Luke stabbed at me and I caught his blade on my own and let him go forward with the momentum, pushing him along as I did. I turned around and hacked at Luke, but he regained his footing and blocked my attack before it could reach him.
He pushed my blade away and stabbed at me again, but I batted his sword away and stepped out of his reach. I swung Heartstopper and hit Luke in the side with the flat of my blade and he fell down. I tried to get the tip of my blade to him to keep him from moving, but he was too fast for me. He rolled away and stood up, putting several feet worth of distance between us.
Luke looked at me and smiled. He could tell that I was annoyed with him. I thought for sure I had him that time, but he managed to slip away from me again. I watched him closely, trying to see if he had any weakness that I could exploit. I noticed that he was leaning on his side, opposite of where I had hit him. I must have gotten him harder than I thought.
Luke charged me again, careful of how he shifted his weight. I stepped back and blocked his attack and our blades locked. Luke’s face was beaded with sweat. I could feel his attacks getting weaker as our fight dragged on. I knew that I could get him this time. Luke backed off and threw another attack at me. I ducked under his blade and slammed the flat of Heartstopper into his stomach into a spot where his armor was thin. Luke keeled over, clutching at his stomach and dropping his sword. Before he could recover, I swept his feet out from under him and he fell onto his back. I got the tip of my blade to his neck before he could react.
Luke stared up at me, his face full of surprise. As I stood looking at him, our team erupted into a cheer. I looked up and saw a girl form Ares cabin, a big ugly one, carrying our flag up to our home base. Even though she was the reason we had won, most of the team seemed to be cheering for me, even Justin and Annabeth were giving me a bit of an applause. I looked down at Luke, who was wearing a smile now.
I lowered my sword away from him and offered the son of Hermes my hand. He took it and I helped him up. “That was a workout,” Luke said out of breath, “You’re one heck of a demigod.”
Sarah came up and stood next to me. “That was amazing,” she said as she hugged me.
“Seriously dude,” Justin said slapping me on the back after Sarah pulled away, “That was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen.”
“It wasn’t that great,” I retorted.
“Are you kidding,” Annabeth said, “Nobody has ever beaten Luke sword to sword.”
Luke was laughing as she said that. “Like I said, I don’t think I’m the best,” he said, “But I’m pretty good.” He offered me his hand in a friendly gesture. “Either way,” he went on, “I’d like to try my hand at you again, maybe off the battlefield next time? What do you say, Hirius?”
I took his hand and shook it. “You name the time and place,” I said, “And I’ll be there.”
Luke smiled as we let go of each other. The rest of our team, still cheering their victory, lifted the girl who had won the game for us, onto their shoulders and carried her off, disappearing into the woods. I watched them go, and wanted to join them, but I was too out of breath to move at the moment. Besides that, Clarisse came up to me and wrapped one arm around my neck in a half headlock, half hug.
“Alright,” she yelled, “With this guy on our team we can’t lose.”
“Don’t speak so soon,” Annabeth said, “I’ve still got plenty of strategies planned for next time.”
“Bring ‘em on little girl,” Clarisse said as she let go of me, “We’ll beat you every time.”
I expected Clarisse to be more hostile towards Annabeth, especially since Annabeth didn’t seem to like her very much, but I think she was just overly excited about our victory. I imagined that Clarisse was usually the bully of the camp, but, right now, she wasn’t in the mood to be the bully.
“Hey,” I said, “I’m as happy as the next demigod, but I could sure use some rest.”
The others nodded in agreement.
We were about to leave when something came out of the trees like a crazed bull charging at a rival. I brought my sword up in time for the hellhound attacking me to bite into the stygian iron instead of my face. It tackled me to the ground, but I was able to keep it away from me using Heartstopper for leverage. Luke was the first to react to the beast. Quick as lightning, he picked his sword up and stabbed it in the side. The monster turned to dust and Luke helped me to my feet.
“What in Hades,” Annabeth yelled, “The forest shouldn’t be stocked right now! Where did that hellhound come from?!”
Instead of an answer, a whole pack of hellhounds, eight in all, burst from the trees and surrounded us. The beasts snarled and charged. Our group formed a circle, our backs facing each other. As the hellhounds reached us, we broke our defense and attacked them in turn.
Luke ducked under a leaping hound and stabbed its stomach as it soared over him. Clarisse stabbed her spear at her attacker, having a massive reach over it, and pierced the monster between its eyes. Silena dodged an initial attack and stabbed the hound in the neck. Annabeth hacked a hellhound to dust with ease. Sarah used her dagger to stab a hellhound in its neck and then her sword to behead it. Justin pulled an arrow from his quiver and stabbed it into a hound’s eye. I summoned a shade and sent one hound into a tree and then stabbed Heartstopper into a second hound’s head. What were left afterward were piles of yellow dust.
The seven of us stood and looked at each other, all of us breathing heavily. “What,” Annabeth said between breaths, “What just happened?”
“I don’t know,” Luke said, “We shouldn’t have any monsters stocked right now.”
“So how did a pack of hellhounds get in,” I asked.
Before anyone could answer me, I heard the sound of hooves moving towards us. Whoever it was, it sounded like he was in a hurry. Chiron burst out of the trees and stopped in front of us. He looked even more out of breath than we did. He held a bow in one of his hands and a quiver strapped to his back. He looked like he had just been through a major battle.
“Half-Blood Hill,” he said trying to breathe as he did, “Hurry.”
We looked at each other again. None of us had any idea what he was talking about, but it was clear that something bad was happening. We ran into the forest without any of us saying a word and dashed toward Half-Blood Hill. When we got out of the woods, everything looked fine, other than everyone hurrying to the hill like we were. I didn’t know what was going on, but everyone looked panicked.
We reached the hill and climbed to the top. When we reached the crest, I was stunned by what I saw. Standing at the foot of the hill, outside of the barrier, was the army that chased us into camp the night before. They were all dressed in armor, including the Minotaur who stood at the front of the army. I had never actually seen monsters attack in an organized way, but these ones looked like they were getting ready for war.
“Am I really seeing this,” Silena asked as the others reached the crest and stood beside me, “Tell me I’m dreaming.” No one answered her.
I wished that I could tell her that she was, but this was no dream. I looked at the monsters at the foot of the hill as they roared, snorted, and made various other noises that I couldn’t describe even if I wanted to. I caught sight of the drakon at the back of the army, still held back by its chains. The beast snarled, roared, and fought against its bounds as it tried to rush up the hill.
“What’s going on,” Annabeth said a hint of despair in her voice, “They shouldn’t know that we’re here, they shouldn’t be this organized.”
“It must be him,” I said.
I didn’t say anymore. I stepped past the barrier around the camp. It didn’t seem like much, but I must have appeared in front of the monsters out of thin air. The Minotaur looked up at me and he and the army behind him fell silent. The Minotaur held his ax up as though he were challenging me. I held Heartstopper up in mirror of his movement.
Then the strangest thing happened. The army turned and marched away from the camp, the Minotaur remaining in place. He held still and looked up at me and I did the same. It was a clear message. They would be back tomorrow night, and we weren’t going get lucky next time. As the rest of the army disappeared, the Minotaur turned and marched off with them. I stood and watched until they disappeared completely.
Annabeth and the others stepped up and stood beside me. “Good,” Annabeth said after a moment, “They’re gone.”
“No,” I said, “They’ll be back.” I fell silent as my words lingered. “And next time we’ll have to fight all of them.”