Months passed by with little excitement after Morenci. I was eager to get ahead and refused to stop for even the most basic of reasons. After hearing that Emily might be close by, my hopes had never been higher. Of course, after everything that had happened with Sarena, I ended up wasting nearly two months in Michigan. If Emily had been close by, she had already gotten too far ahead than I would have liked.
As far as monsters went, I barely ran into any. There were a few stray hellhounds, and a few of these weird half-horse half-rooster things that I had never heard of before. I did end up having a run in with another dragon though. Actually, it looked a lot like the one that I had run into down in Georgia. Luckily, Elice and I managed to evade it again. I wondered if it was following me.
I didn’t see much of my father after Morenci either. I was now well aware of the fact that he didn’t care about me, not really. I was just a weapon, a tool that may be useful to him. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was so sure that the rest of the Olympians would kill me, I would have revealed my presence to them a long time ago. If nothing else it would have at least foiled Hades’ plans.
That brings me to Athena, who, I was sure, was still watching me closely. I was careful not to use my powers unless it became an absolute necessity. Regardless, I was sure that her suspicions were high enough that she would have already told the other Olympians of my existence. With all of the Olympians watching me, I would have to be extra careful if I wanted to keep my godly parent a secret.
And then there were the weird dreams that I was having. Every few weeks or so I would have this dream where I was sitting in the Underworld, or a place that I thought was the Underworld. It wasn’t Hades’ palace, but it gave me the same cold feeling of death that the palace did. I was in a cave though, and a rather large one at that. In the center of the cave was a massive pit. I would sit and stare at it for hours. I didn’t know what was down there, but I knew that I was afraid of it. More recently, I started hearing a very low, barely audible laughter echoing from the bottom of the pit. A voice would speak every few minutes. Even though I could barely hear the voice, I knew what it was saying. “Soon I will come for you.”
I had no idea what that dream was supposed to mean, but I knew that it couldn’t be good. After I started having that dream I also started to get the strange feeling that someone was watching me. Of course, I already knew that the gods were watching me, but this was a different feeling. That made three groups that were paying attention to me. First Hades, then Olympus, and now this new presence, whatever it was, it looked like all eyes were on me.
Anyway, aside from the weird dream and the strange sense that I was being watched, the passing months were, more or less, normal, or as normal as it can get when you’re a demigod. Close to two years had already passed since I left New York. My thirteenth birthday came and went like any other day. I didn’t even realize until I managed to get to a town and found out it was January 2003, over a year since Emily had disappeared. By the time I made it to Gackle, North Dakota it was already May, just a month before I turned fourteen.
Elice and I had crossed the border from Minnesota into North Dakota and started making our way through the south of the state. It wasn’t long before she was running through wetlands. The ground was nothing but mud, which made it hard for Elice to run, and we would come across a pond every couple of feet. Elice ended up slowing to a walk when running through the mud became too difficult for her. We traveled through the wetlands through the rest of the day and a good ways into the night. It was just past midnight when we came upon the town called Gackle.
It had been a long time since we had actually stopped anywhere so I decided that we should probably find somewhere to sleep in town. Besides that, there was no way that I was sleeping on the ground when we were surrounded by wetlands. I’m pretty sure that Elice felt the same way.
This place was even smaller than Morenci. I found it hard to believe that anyone lived there. There were hardly any buildings and most of them looked like they were just homes, nothing really special about them. The place was pitch black in the night, the only light in the town came from the few street lights scattered about and the few lights that were still on in the houses. There wasn’t a soul on the street, well, it was the middle of the night and all, but I still thought that I might have seen someone. In short, the place was a literal ghost town.
Elice and I were standing on the only road that led into the town. From where I was standing, I didn’t think that we would find anything of interest in this place. My stomach growled in protest as if it was already aware of the fact that there was no food to be found here. Not unless someone in town would be kind enough to give me something, but I couldn’t hope for something like that. Of course, if worst came to worst I could always steal something to eat, or use up the last of my provisions.
Elice nudged my shoulder and whimpered softly at me the way she did when she was nervous. I patted her on the head. “I know girl,” I said, “But we need to find something.” I had gotten pretty good at understanding my hellhound. I knew when she was scared, when she was nervous, when she was happy, and all other manner of moods. I also knew when she was telling me that something was a bad idea, which was most of the time. “We’ll be quick,” I reassured her.
I walked into the town and began exploring with Elice right behind me. I should have known better by then. No matter how quick I was, staying anywhere for more than a few minutes was dangerous for me. A monster was sure to pick up on my scent sooner or later, and then I would be in for yet another fight. The fact that I managed to stay in Morenci for two months with no sign of monsters was nothing short of a miracle.
I walked through the streets of the town, each one darker than the last. Of course, being able to see in the dark, I had a hard time telling how dark it actually was. Elice and I had wound through the last of the streets and had found nothing, just like I expected. I was about to leave and hope that we would come across another city or town close by, but that was when things got weird…Actually, weird doesn’t even begin to describe what happened in Gackle.
We were walking down the one road that led into and out of the town when a sudden sense of danger came over me. I turned, but before I could react, an arrow with a celestial bronze tip pierced the ground in front of me. I stepped back and would’ve lost my balance if Elice hadn’t been behind me. After I had regained my footing, Elice stepped in front of me and began sniffing at the arrow like she was trying to guess where it had come from.
“Halt villain,” I heard a voice calling from somewhere ahead of me.
My eyes began darting around the area in an attempt to find the owner of the voice. Elice continued to sniff at the arrow in the ground as if she hadn’t even heard it, or she just didn’t care to acknowledge it. After a moment, her head tilted up and she stared at the roof of a house in front of us. I followed her gaze and found myself looking at one of the strangest sights I had seen in my life, and I had had my fair share of strange.
Standing on the roof of a house about twenty feet in front of us was a boy who was probably the same age as me, but he could have been a year or two younger. It was hard to tell when I couldn’t see his face. You might wonder why I couldn’t see his face. Well, he was wearing a mask, not a Halloween mask or anything like that. No, this was a piece of black cloth with two holes cut into it, you know, the type of thing that you would see someone like Robin wearing. That wasn’t even the weird part about him. He was also wearing a green spandex suit that covered his whole body, including his head, and over that he was wearing a pair of bright red underwear. On his chest was some sort of symbol that looked like Superman’s symbol except that the S had been replaced with a J. Tied around his neck was a red bath towel that blew in the wind like some sort of cape. The best I could tell, I was looking at a kid acting like some kind of superhero.
That was what I thought, until I saw his weapon. In his right hand he held a celestial bronze bow that was glowing in the darkness of the night. Strapped onto the kid’s back was a quiver that held…Absolutely nothing. Okay, so he might have used his last arrow to try and scare me, but what kind of idiot tries to pick a fight with someone with a bow as their only weapon and wastes their last arrow by shooting it into the ground. This kid obviously didn’t know much about strategy.
“Those who would commit villainy shall answer to those who fight for justice,” the kid called out, apparently to no one in particular.
I was too stunned by his appearance to worry about whatever it was that he was talking about. Elice and I both stood staring up at the kid as he stood on the roof. I could tell that my hellhound was just as confused as I was. She even started whimpering at me after a minute. I think she was trying to say, “Okay, this kid’s insane; let’s get out of here before he does something really crazy.”
I couldn’t blame her. Even I was afraid of what this kid might do, not so much to me, but to himself. Even if he had just tried to kill me, he was just another kid. It wasn’t like I was going to try and fight him. Then something occurred to me. Maybe he wasn’t mortal. He could have been a monster whose true form was hidden by the mist. That had to be it. He must have been trying to trick me.
“I see that my glorious presence has left you speechless,” the kid called.
Okay, so I established that he might be a monster, but he could just be a kid. Maybe he found that bow lying around somewhere and thought it would be fun to play some sort of hero. That really didn’t explain why he would attack me though. He had to be a monster to shoot at me for no reason. I couldn’t just assume that though, I had to call him out. Maybe I could get him to reveal his true form.
“What in the world are you supposed to be,” I asked.
The kid stood still and silent for a moment, his bath towel cape fluttering around behind him. A faint smile spread across his face. “I am the ray of light that shines through the darkness when no light is to be found,” he chanted, pumping his fist into the air, “I am the wave of justice that blows through the air bringing peace and protection to all those who would be denied it.” He spread his arms out as if he were embracing the night sky. “All those who would do evil beware, for I am…” He ran forward and jumped from the roof of the two story building, twirling and spinning as he fell. “J-MAAAAAAAAA OH GODS THAT HURT,” he screamed as he fell and landed. He clutched at his ankle and began rolling on the ground screaming something about spraining his ankle.
I was left stunned and speechless. This was either the most idiotic monster I had ever met, or he actually was just a kid. I wasn’t sure if I should be preparing for a fight or laughing my head off. Elice made a sort of low rumbling noise that I was convinced was her laughing. I even let out a short chuckle of my own. That was before I realized that the kid probably needed help.
“Hey, are you okay,” I asked as I started moving towards him.
“I’m alright, I might need…” he started sounding normal for a second, until he looked up at me. “I mean, J-man is invincible he requires no aid from a villain such as you. Prepare for…” the kid held his hand up as if he was holding something, but there was nothing there. I stopped and wondered what he was going to do.
“ACK,” the kid screamed, “What happened to my bow!?” He looked all around him for his weapon while trying to keep pressure on his ankle. After a moment, he caught sight of his bow lying on the ground some feet away from where he had landed. “Prepare yourself, for soon I shall…ACK!” He tried to stand up and get his weapon, but the moment he put weight on his ankle his leg contorted and he fell over again. He sat up and started mumbling something about remembering last time and this being the last time it would happen.
“Ummm,” I said, “Do you need help?”
The kid looked back at me as if remembering that I was still there. “I require no help,” he said, “I am invincible, I just need…Ah, here it is.” He pulled something from under his suit that looked like a sandwich bag. He opened it and pulled out a small golden cube that he bit into immediately. I recognized the food as a cube of ambrosia.
Well, now I at least knew what I was dealing with. This wasn’t a mortal, or a monster, this kid was a demigod like me, a rather confused and very clumsy demigod, but a demigod none the less. Letting that thought sink in and watching this kid stumble around in the dark was making me ashamed of the fact that I was related to him, in a way at least.
The kid sat on the ground for a few seconds before standing up. He tested his ankle a few times by putting a bit of weight on it. Appearing satisfied, he walked over and retrieved his bow from the ground as if he had never suffered any injury. He turned back to me and a smile spread across his face.
“Now then,” he said, “Prepare to be defeated evil one!”
“Alright look,” I said, “We had some fun here, well, I did at least, but this has gotten way out of hand so let’s just…”
“Silence villain,” the kid yelled. I was starting to wonder how he hadn’t woken the entire town yet. “The time for talk is over, now we fight!”
The kid positioned himself in a low fighting stance with his bow in front of him pointing at the ground. He reached behind his back toward his quiver, still empty, like he was preparing to pull an arrow and fire at me. He held that position as he looked across the street at me.
I wasn’t sure what this kid’s game was. Did he even realize that he was out of arrows? Whatever it was though, I had to end this before he got himself hurt.
“Okay, play time’s over. Time for…” An arrow streaked past my face, nearly hitting my cheek, and impaled the wall of the house behind me. Where in the world did that come from? There was no way that the kid could pull an arrow from an empty quiver, but it had to be him. I didn’t sense any monsters nearby and there was no one else around. And the kid was still aiming his bow at me.
Okay, so maybe this kid was a bit strange and maybe he was kind of clumsy, but he clearly knew how to use that bow of his. I somehow knew that he had missed me on purpose, that he was just showing me that he was serious. If he wanted to, he could have killed me right there. I needed to talk some sense into this kid.
I tried to talk to him, but I was too late. The kid pulled two more arrows from his quiver, which still appeared to be empty, and fired them at me. I jumped aside as the arrows were aimed right at me. Elice moved to attack the kid, but I stopped her with a quick motion. It was clear that I would have to fight this kid to make him see reason, but I couldn’t let Elice get at him. After all, she might accidentally hurt him, or worse.
I summoned my sword with little effort and tried to charge J-man, but he quickly fired another volley of arrows at me. I jumped back and the arrows impaled the ground an inch in front of me. He ran to the side in a circle around me and fired a few arrows at regular intervals. I tried to close the distance between us, but J-man easily kept me away with his bow. As clumsy as he appeared, he was making me an easy target.
I was never going to get close to him fighting the way that I was. I dodged another volley of arrows and focused my sight on a spot outside of J-man’s circle. After a second, I felt myself melt into the shadows and shoot forward at top speed. I saw the surprise in J-man’s face as I appeared in front of him. He must have still been trying to figure out what happened even after I tripped him.
J-man hit the ground face first and laid there. I turned and looked at him, wondering what he would do next. I was starting to learn that this kid was highly unpredictable.
“You ready to listen to reason?”
J-man was silent for a time. Then he started laughing. It was soft at first, but it grew louder in no time. Now I was seriously starting to wonder what was wrong with this kid. Maybe I had given him a concussion when I tripped him. Or maybe he was just insane like I had originally thought.
J-man continued to laugh as he stood up and turned to look at me. A thin stream of blood trickled from his now severely bruised nose, down his cheek, and dripped off of his chin. He smiled and continued to laugh as he said, “A worthy opponent indeed. Very well, our battle shall be held in close quarters!”
“Look, I don’t want to…”
I was too late again. J-man charged at me, firing an arrow as quick as lightning as he did so. I ducked the arrow and just barely had time to side step when he swung his bow at me. I had never seen anyone fight like him. It was either the smartest thing I had ever seen, or the dumbest. The way he used his bow as if it were a sword was innovative, if not a bit on the idiotic side.
I managed to block his next strike with my sword and our weapons ended up locked together. “Listen,” I ventured while we were both held still, “I don’t know what your problem is, but I am not your enemy!”
“Trickery,” J-man said, “You show up with this beast and expect me to think you an ally.” He indicated Elice as he said this. I guess I could see how my hellhound could make me look suspicious. “You are clearly the one that sent those other monsters as well.”
Now things were starting to add up. This kid must have fought more than a few monsters, being a demigod and all. Maybe he was trying to protect the town from the monsters that were attacking him and seeing me with one of them made him think that I was the one that was sending them. Sure, it sounded crazy, but I had seen crazier. The ironic part was that he was the one that was attracting all of the monsters.
“Alright,” I said, “If you won’t listen to reason, then maybe you’ll listen to this!”
I twisted my sword so that J-man was holding his bow awkwardly and was forced to let go of it. His weapon clattered to the ground some feet away from him. J-man stepped back and held his hands up like he was surrendering, but I wasn’t willing to believe that he was. I held the point of Heartstopper an inch from his neck.
“Ready to listen to me now?”
J-man slowly lowered his hands to his sides as he looked at me. He looked back at where his bow had landed. I thought that he might be foolish enough to try and go for it, but the look on his face showed that even he wasn’t that big of an idiot. A moment of silence proceeded before a smile came across J-man’s face. He had clearly planned something.
“Fool,” J-man yelled, “I cannot be defeated!”
Before I could react, J-man reached behind his back and swiped at my sword with a dagger that I hadn’t noticed he was carrying. He deflected Heartstopper away from him and ran for his bow. I regained my footing, but before I could move, J-man pulled something from his suit and threw it at the ground near my feet. A cloud of smoke erupted around me and I was blind within seconds.
I was a sitting duck in the middle of that cloud. I tried to move, but J-man fired more arrows at me that kept me firmly in place. After dodging several arrows, the air grew quiet. I waited for another attack, but nothing came. The smoke cleared after a few seconds. The only things left on the street were several arrows strewn about the ground and a very angry looking hellhound.
It didn’t take me long to realize what happened. Elice must have attacked J-man after sensing that I was in danger. She probably took him by surprise and forced him to retreat. I couldn’t blame him. Even I was afraid of Elice when she was mad.
Elice continued to stare down a dark, empty street and growled at the nothingness like she expected J-man to attack again. I was surprised that she didn’t chase after him. The way she looked, she was probably ready to tear apart an entire army of demigods if the need arose. She must have been respecting my wish to leave him alive. That or she just didn’t want to leave me alone for fear of what might happen. Either way, I was glad that she didn’t chase after him.
I walked over to Elice and patted her head. It took her a few seconds, but she was calm and back to her normal self again. She looked over at me with a bit of worry showing in her eyes. I knew that she wanted to leave this town, a crazed demigod was ten times more dangerous than most of the monsters we’d encountered, but neither one of us had the energy to be going anywhere. We would have to stay in the town for the night.
As luck would have it, we ended up finding an abandoned shack right on the edge of town. It was small, barely large enough for two people to sleep in, but it was better than sleeping out in the swampy wetlands that surrounded Gackle. There was no bed in the shack, so Elice curled up on the floor of the place and I slept next to her like we usually would when we slept in our camp. I was out within seconds, and the dream hit me immediately.
I was standing in the middle of some kind of summer camp. Surrounding me were cabins, each one decorated differently as if they each stood to represent something different. There were twelve in all. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized that each cabin was meant to represent each of the twelve Olympians. I wasn’t sure how I knew that, but it made sense somehow.
I stood alone in the dark for a long time before one of the cabin doors opened. A girl with long blond hair ran out of the cabin and across the field that I was standing in. For just a second, I thought that she was Sarena, but she was too young to be. I tried to stop her, but I couldn’t speak, or move. That’s how demigod dreams usually worked.
After a moment, my dream shifted and I was standing in a rather large room. There was a girl lying in a bed, who I could see was Sarena, but she was unconscious. On one side of the bed was a very tall man with a thick beard looking down at Sarena with concern. Well, it wasn’t a man actually, it was a centaur. See, he had the upper body of a man, but where his legs should have been there was a horse’s body instead.
Elsewhere in the room was a man sitting at a card table that had four chairs around it. The man wore a Hawaiian style shirt, very colorful, very flowery, very something that I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. He seemed normal enough, but I could sense some kind of power in him. There was something more-than-mortal about him. He was staring at the centaur with a hint of irritation while tapping his fingers on the table in front of him.
“Come on Chiron,” the man at the table said, “Are you ever coming back to our game?”
“In a minute Dionysus,” Chiron said, “I must tend to our new friend.”
The name Dionysus struck me hard. I recognized it as one of the names of the twelve Olympians. At least that explained the power that I was sensing in him. That didn’t exactly explain what a god was doing at a summer camp though.
The room went silent as Chiron felt Sarena’s forehead. She stirred a bit at his touch, but remained still otherwise. After a moment, the door swung open and the girl from earlier darted into the room, out of breath. She stopped at Sarena’s bedside. Now that I got a good look at her, I could tell that she was only about ten. She wore an orange shirt that I could read perfectly (I can do that in dreams): Camp Half-Blood. It then struck me that this was the place that Hades had told me about.
“I heard from Grover,” the girl said, “Is she alright?”
“She’ll be fine Annabeth,” Chiron said, “She just needs to sleep.”
Annabeth let out a breath. “That’s good,” she said, “Do we know who’s child she is?”
“See for yourself,” Chiron said.
He pointed towards a window at the far end of the room. Annabeth looked over and saw an owl perched at the window. The animal was staring daggers at her. An understanding passed over Annabeth as the owl flew off. She turned her attention back to Sarena.
“So she’s one of my sisters,” she said, “I wonder where she came from.”
“Don’t worry,” Dionysus said, his presence in the room nearly forgotten, “I’m sure we’ll be meeting the one who sent her very soon.” He said this to Annabeth and Chiron, but he was staring at me like he knew I was watching. Something about the look on his face told me that he did. As soon as he said it, the dream faded.
I woke with a start, my body soaked in my own sweat. Next to me, Elice yawned and her eyes fluttered open. She looked at me like she was seeing me for the first time. A moment of silence passed and Elice realized that something was wrong with me. She stood up and looked about the room as if expecting something, or someone, to attack us. I calmed her with a quick touch.
“Don’t worry girl,” I told her, “I’m alright. Just had a bad dream is all.”
I stood up and brushed the dirt from the shack’s floor off of my clothes. I summoned my backpack, which I had begun to hide in a similar manner as I did with my sword, and pulled out a few things to eat and the bottle of water I had left in there, which was still somehow cold. I also pulled out a bag of dog food, something that Elice had begun to take a liking to, and let her tear into it.
After we were purged of hunger and thirst we left the shack. The sunlight blinded me as I stepped into it. The shack we slept in didn’t have any windows so it barely let any light in. It didn’t bother me very much, but the sudden introduction of light still blinded me. And gave me a headache.
Elice was prepared to take off as soon as we woke up, but I wanted to stay in Gackle for just a bit longer. “Hang on girl,” I said, “I have something I need to take care of.” She whimpered, conveying her worry to me, but she followed along anyway.
We made our way into town and looked around the streets. It didn’t take me long to find him. I had only heard J-man’s “non-superhero” voice for a second when we fought, but it was enough to recognize it, especially when he was screaming at the top of his lungs.
I followed the sound of his screaming and found him on one of the side streets of the town. He was standing on top of a box and shouting into the air about J-man and his heroic deeds. I wasn’t sure who he was talking to. There wasn’t anyone on the street to hear him.
I walked toward him. When I got close I yelled, “Hey!”
J-man stopped his ranting and looked over at me. I could now see that he was definitely a year or so younger than me, at least. In place of his suit, he was wearing a plain red shirt and a simple pair of blue jeans that looked too big for him, which he held up with a piece of rope. He had bright blue eyes and short, dirty blond hair, like Sarena’s but much darker. He looked like the kind of guy that would be popular with girls, aside from how scrawny, but his looks were diminished by his bruised nose, which had now turned dark purple.
The minute he caught sight of me, he tried to run, but I was ready for any of his tricks this time, although running was the last thing that I expected him to do. I grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar and slammed him against the nearest wall so that he was facing me. I knew that I shouldn’t blame this kid for attacking me, but I wanted answers from him. Luckily there was no one around otherwise it might look like I was trying to mug him.
“Nowhere to run this time,” I said.
“What do you mean,” he said feigning innocence.
“Don’t play dumb,” I said, “You’re J-man. You attacked me and my dog last night.”
“I am not.”
“I broke your nose.”
I had caught him off guard with that. It was clear that he knew that he wasn’t going to lie his way out of this. He made a move to try and break my grip, but Elice growled at him when he did. Even if he could get away from me, he wasn’t going to outrun my hellhound.
“Alright, I surrender, see,” he held his hands up, “Legit this time, I’m unarmed. Please don’t kill me.”
“Relax,” I said, “I’m not going to kill you.” I let go of his shirt to show him that I was serious.
The kid looked at me and then at Elice. He looked like he might try and run, but we were both ready to catch him if he did. “But you’re evil,” he said, “Don’t you want to get rid of me to complete your diabolical plan or something.”
“If you would stop and listen to me,” I said, “Then I could explain.”
The kid looked over the two of us again. “Okay,” he said.
“Look you’re not mortal,” I said, “I know it’s kind of crazy sounding, but…”
“I know,” the kid said.
“I know,” he said again, “My father explained everything. You’re going to tell me that I’m a demigod, right? The son of Apollo.”
“You knew already?”
“Yeah,” he said.
My voice trailed off as a strangely serpentine voice, with a feminine undertone, entered the conversation. “There they are,” the voice said.
I looked over and saw them at the end of the street. They looked like normal women, the torso part anyway, other than the fact that their skin was green and scaly. In place of their legs, each had a set of serpentine tails. Each one of them wore a set of Greek armor, or the torso piece and a helmet at least. There were five of them in all. Scythian Dracanae, dragon women.
I summoned my sword and watched them closely. Two of them held celestial bronze swords in there right hands, they stood closest to us. Behind them were three more which each held a celestial bronze tipped spear. All five of them had a bronze shield in their opposite hand.
“Ah-ha,” J-man said from behind me, “You ARE the evil ring leader!”
“What,” I screamed, “No! I’m a demigod too. These things want to kill BOTH of us!”
As if to confirm what I was saying, one of the women in the back threw her spear right at me. I was able to deflect it with ease and the spear clattered to the ground some feet away. I turned and gave J-man a look as if to say, “NOW do you believe me?” I could see an understanding in his face.
Before I could say anything more, the women charged us. The three in the back moved ahead of the other two, their spears pointed towards us. The one that had thrown her spear drew a sword as she charged. Elice darted ahead and jumped at the three women. She slashed the one using a sword to dust using her claws, but the other two closed in on her.
I charged forward to help Elice. While she held the two armed with spears at bay, their sisters ran at me. I met with the first attack and blocked the woman’s sword with my own. Her sister skirted around me and tried to stab me in the back, but I was easily able to place a shield of shadow up to deflect the blow. It was lucky that we were fighting in the shadow of one of the houses.
I spun and tried to hack at the second Dracanae sister after deflecting her attack, but she got out of range just in time. The first tried to attack me from behind again, but I was still maintaining my shield. It took a lot of energy to maintain it, but it was worth it if I didn’t have to worry about getting stabbed in the back. Of course, I couldn’t use any other powers while doing so, which meant that I was relying solely on my sword skills. Not exactly a bad thing.
The first sister jumped back before I could attack her. The second one slashed at me again, but I easily caught her blow. I tried to kill her while she faltered, but her sister attacked me from behind again. I didn’t have to worry about her hitting me, but it was still distracting, which gave the second Dracanae time to escape.
There was a momentary lull in the fighting as the Dracanae sisters repositioned themselves on either side of me. It was seconds before they were on me again. I parried their attacks with little effort, but they always managed to escape before I could finish either one of them. Even if I could defend myself on two different sides, I couldn’t win a fight while doing so. And I couldn’t keep this up forever. I was going to run out of energy eventually.
I kept myself standing by drawing in the shadows surrounding me. They offered me an infinite store of power, but there were always ways for me to get killed. For example, if I just happened to step out of the house’s shadows at the exact moment that I needed to draw on their power, then my shield would go down instantly. But the odds of that happening at that exact moment were so slim that even my luck couldn’t be that bad. That was what I thought anyway, right when I was forced out of the shadows.
I realized it too late. I parried away from one of the sister’s swords. I could feel my knees beginning to wobble as the shield drew on more and more of my energy. I tried to replenish myself, but I couldn’t feel the familiar rush that normally came. That was when I realized that I was standing in the sunlight. That was also the moment that my shield disappeared.
The two Dracanae closed in on me, both of them in front of me. They made sure that I wouldn’t be able to get back into the shadows. I only had one chance. I had to kill them fast. I ran forward and slashed at one of the sisters. Luckily, I was able to catch them by surprise and the second sister fled from me. However, the one I had attacked caught my blade on her shield.
The Dracanae lifted her sword and slashed down at me. I side stepped her sword, which left her wide open. I spun around her flank and stabbed Heartstopper into her back. Before she even turned to dust, the second Dracanae recovered from her surprise and attacked me. I tried to defend myself, but I knew I wouldn’t be fast enough. I was as good as dead.
An arrow flew over my head and I heard the Dracanae let out a scream from behind me. I turned and slashed at her, unable to stop my initial attack, and cut through the cloud of dust behind me. The arrow clattered to the ground at my feet. I turned around and saw J-man, now wearing his black mask, standing with his bow aimed toward me.
“Beware all evil doers,” he yelled, “For you must face the wrath of J-man!”
He threw his arms into the air as though he were speaking to a crowd of people. In his mind, he was probably being cheered for by a mass of his imaginary fans who were chanting his name as he celebrated his victory. In reality, he was talking to a boy who thought he was insane, a hellhound who was now staring at me like she wanted to ask, “Please, can I eat him NOW,” and several piles of dust.
“J-man saves the day,” he said, although it sounded like he was trying to imitate someone else’s voice.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said, “You can cut the act now.”
He looked over at me, a smile on his face. “Admit it,” he said speaking normally, “You would be dead if it wasn’t for me.”
“I would’ve managed.”
As much as I hated to admit it, J-man was right. If he hadn’t come back when he did I wouldn’t have my head anymore. I wasn’t going to tell him that, but I was sure that he already knew as much. The way that he was still smiling at me told me everything that I needed to know.
“Alright let’s get on with this,” I said.
“You can’t stay here,” I said, “You need to go somewhere safe.”
The way J-man looked at me, a mixture of sadness and confusion, was almost kind of heartbreaking. Well, I was basically telling him that he had to leave his home. I guess anyone would be unwilling to do something like that. Maybe I was used to it since I had already gone through it.
“It might be a long shot,” I continued, “But there’s a place in Long Island, New York where…”
“I thought I was going with you,” he said, cutting me off.
“Yeah,” he said, “I thought you needed help with something.”
No, no, and no. There was absolutely NO WAY that this kid was coming with me. I could barely stand being around him for a few seconds, how was I supposed to stand being around him ALL THE TIME? Still, he had proven that he could handle himself in a fight, and I could use help.
“Why join me,” I asked, “Wouldn’t you rather stay here?”
“Apollo told me to,” he said, which caught me off guard, “He told me, ‘you will meet a warrior of the dead, and you must join him in his journey’ that was all he knew. I don’t know why, but I think he meant you.”
Apollo wanted him to join me. Did that mean that he knew who I was? No, Apollo was the god of prophecy. It must have been something that he just spat out. Maybe he meant someone else. That couldn’t be it either. Warrior of the dead clearly meant a child of Hades, and I was the only one in the world. Either the Fates intended for us to travel together, or this was Apollo’s idea of a joke.
“Alright,” I said, “If Apollo put it that way, then I guess I don’t have a choice.”
“Yes,” J-man said, “Let me just get my suit and…”
“No,” I said quickly, “You bring that suit, I leave you here.”
“Okay,” he said, “But can I at least where my mask.”
“Okay,” he said, “No mask.”
He pulled his mask off and dropped it. He ran after me and caught up in no time. “So,” he said, “What’s you’re name?”
“Hirius,” I said without missing a beat.
“Just Hirius,” I said, “I don’t…I don’t remember my last name, and all of my records are apparently missing.”
I wasn’t lying. When I arrived at the orphanage, all records of me had been erased (Hades doing) and I couldn’t remember what my last name was; only my first name, Hirius. I never understood why Hades erased my records, maybe because the caretakers would realize who I was sooner if he hadn’t, but I didn’t care much for his intentions, not anymore.
“Strange,” J-man said, “My name, my real name that is, it’s Justin. Justin Strait.”
A long time of silence proceeded as the two of us, and Elice, walked out of the town. “If you don’t mind,” Justin said, “Who’s you’re godly parent?”
“My godly parent is…” I trailed off and stopped as I almost told him who my father was. I looked back at him. As dimwitted as he seemed, I didn’t think he would trust me if I told him that Hades was my father. I guess I could have gotten rid of him if I told him, but I wanted him to stick around, as odd as that seems. “Athena,” I said as the first Olympian that popped into my head.
I stared at Justin and him back at me. There was no way he would believe me, even if he was an idiot. There was a mountain of evidence to prove that I was a son of Hades. Besides that, all children of Athena had the same features, blond hair and storm gray eyes. Justin would have to be a complete idiot to believe that I was actually a son of Athena.
“Awesome,” he said, “You must be like super smart and stuff.”
I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. This kid actually bought that I was a son of Athena, after everything he had seen. He obviously didn’t know much about Greek mythology.
I stared at him for a long time, wondering how anyone could be that stupid. He simply smiled and waited for my response. Ignoring what he said, I turned around and started walking down the road again.
“Hey wait,” Justin called as he ran after me. “You’re swords pretty cool,” he said when he caught up, “Think I can look at it sometime? And how about those snake ladies? That was a crazy fight. Oh, and…”
His voice trailed off as I stopped listening to his seemingly endless barrage of questions. I looked over at Elice as she walked next to me. She was staring at me like she was saying, “Hirius? What have you gotten yourself into this time?”