Smoke on the Horizon

XX. Percy

XX. PERCY

Now, Percy did not wake up this morning wanting to go play bait for a giant hungry sea monster. He still didn’t see the appeal of the idea, but now that he, Jason, and Calypso were on their way to do just that, he couldn’t help but feel a little excited that maybe this crazy plan would work.

“Okay, so Jason and I’ll go under and draw him up, then you - well, you do your thing, I guess,” he said, awkwardly trying to form the sentence. The way she stared at him, gods. It was weird, almost like she was scanning him for his flaws and could pick out every one to analyze. He shifted uncomfortably in the saddle and cleared his throat, looking at Jason for a little backup.

Calypso on the other hand chuckled and shook her head. “No, no, no. I will not simply ‘do my thing’ as you say. You two have to get Cetus within range. I cannot simply start to sing and make everything within a twenty mile radius drop.”

“Okay, how close do you need him?” Percy tried his hardest to keep the annoyance out of his voice. He was anxious, that much was true, but he couldn’t afford to show it. Not now. Not with her eyes boring into him like that. So he’d try and accommodate without getting killed in the process.

“Close, closer than anyone would like to be getting to a great sea beast. But I can do it. If you get him up and make him stay up, I can do the rest.”

Percy nodded, not totally convinced but unwilling to argue with the goddess, and motioned to Jason. “Ready, I guess?”

“Sure, why not,” he said with a shrug. It was amazing, the longer Jason spent with his Graceus friends the more relaxed he seemed to be. He didn’t seem to be as uptight as the other kids at Camp Jupiter, the other Romans, instead he acted more like the Camp Half-Blood campers. He shrugged things off more easily, didn’t appear to let it get to him like it might have before. Maybe he just came across that way, but Percy thought it was pretty convincing.

“You two should get to it then if we’re to get this finished. It’ll be dark soon,” Calypso said, glancing carelessly at the sky and the orange whips that were creeping across it.

“We’re going,” Percy said, perhaps a little too defensively, but he really didn’t care anymore. There was something about her that was wearing thin on his nerves, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Maybe it had something to do with her and Leo -

No. That was stupid. Percy had no reason to have a problem with the two of them. No, he was probably just tired and fed up with his father.

Percy had been praying to Poseidon for days now, ever since he’d first had that strange dream with Oceanus and Koios. The only problem was, he was yet to get any kind of response. Usually, this wouldn’t have bothered Percy. It was normal for the gods to be more than a little absent and even uninterested in their children’s lives, but in this instance, Percy’s situation seemed a little more important. It wasn’t like he was using his father as a way to rant about the stuff he hated, like bad horror movies or sugar-free vanilla ice cream. He had a serious problem and he was more than certain Poseidon could help him with it.

It was like his father was ignoring him, yet again, the difference being that this time, Percy needed him more than ever.

“We good then?” Jason said, pulling Percy back. He blinked and nodded quickly, wondering how long he’d spaced, and moved to dismount Blackjack who was practically screaming in his head.

Hey, boss, what’d’ya think you’re doing? That monster thingy’s gonna eat you like I eat sugar cubes! Bad idea, bad idea.

It’ll be fine, bud. Don’t worry about it. Just stay close and stay out of its way when it comes up and watch Calypso’s back.

Okay, okay. Sure, boss. Whatever you say. Just don’t go getting yourself killed and eaten.

And Percy jumped.

Jason landed beside him, his little mini-cane instantly forming around him. The water was a deep, clear shade of blue, the color of a midnight sky. It was empty. An infinite expanse of depthless ocean, no animals, no reefs, no nothing.

And Cetus was no where in sight.

“Uh, where’d it go?” Jason said quietly. “It’s huge, how could it just disappear?”

“I’m not sure I want to find out.” Percy did a three-sixty and found just the same sight on all sides. “Okay, so. Where would you hide in the middle of an empty ocean if you were a giant ancient sea monster?”

“I’m not sure I would,” Jason said. “I mean, what use does a giant ancient sea monster have for hiding?”

“There’s a point.”

And of course, right on cue, the rumbling began. It resembled the kind of sound Percy imagined an angry bear would make if it were underwater.

Before their eyes, and not too far away, the massive shape of Cetus emerged out of a hazy patch of ocean Percy was sure had not been there before.

Instead of attacking however as Percy was expecting, the beast just hovered in the water, suspended in the clear liquid like some dinosaur model in a museum.

Now that it wasn’t chasing them and the lighting was better, they could make out the actual appearance of the great Cetus.

It had the head of a massive greyhound with the smooth skin of a seal. The long snout ended in a sharp point that most definitely served as a kind of extra tooth, while the lips curled up in a fearsome grin, showing off the smaller teeth they had admired earlier. The skin near the chin began to bleed into a beefy, scaly neck which in turn connected to the rest of its Nesse-like body. Four oar-shaped flippers jutted out from its sides and ended in some aquatic version of a paw, jagged claws clipping along the base of each.

It took him a moment, but before long Percy realized that the angry-bear noise was coming from Cetus. The base of his throat could just barely be seen vibrating as the monster grumbled, shifting the water in massive amounts around the top half of his body. The sound persisted and gradually grew in strength until it was a high pitched, dolphin-ish rattle that shook Percy’s very teeth.

It was at that point that Percy decided to think, Huh, maybe he just wants to talk.

It was also the point that Cetus decided he would prove Percy wrong and he bowed his head to charge.

“Okay, now, I think, would be a good time to head up,” Percy said as he began to back away.

“Yup, think I agree on that one.”

They propelled themselves upward, emerging from the water and, still airborne, found themselves back on the backs of their pegasi who had remained near the surface to wait for the demigods. They swooped down to catch them and soared up again as fast as they could. They knew what was coming this time. Good thing too, because Cetus was right behind them.

As before, the monster plunged from the water’s surface, teeth bashing and dolphin-screaming in anger, and shot out into the open air. They did circles and figure eights around the beasts’ head, drawing its attention and staying just close enough yet just out of reach to keep its focus.

Gods, where is Calypso? Percy thought angrily. She was going to get them all killed if she didn’t do it soon. Then, suddenly, there she was, grey pegasus beneath her, calm as could be as it approached the snarling head.

And she began to sing.

Now, if Percy had thought about it, it would have made perfect sense that if they were near Calypso when she started to sing, they’d be effected by it too, but somehow his brain had determined that if they were attempting to make Cetus sleepy, they would be safe. Unfortunately, this is not how it worked and almost immediately did Jason and Percy begin to feel the effects of her magical song. This time was much stronger, more intense than before, their eyes beginning to droop with only one chorus. Blackjack began to beat his wings more sluggishly, hovering irregularly as he did a kind of bounce through the air.

“Oh no,” Percy said, forcing his eyes into focus again. They hadn’t planned on being able to actually hear what Calypso was doing.

Then, Percy remembered something from a quest he and Annabeth had gone on when they were thirteen -

“Quick!” he shouted over the roar of the waves. “Plug your ears!”

Jason didn’t object and they both worked at tearing pieces of fabric from their teeshirts and stuffing the thread in their ears. It didn’t totally block out the sound, but it was better than nothing and at least muffled the melody.

Unfortunately it was a little more effective at blocking out the words Jason was saying as well, and Percy looked up to find him urgently pointing to where Cetus and Calypso were.

She had gotten its attention alright, but now the monster was staring at her like she was the newest item on the lunch menu. And it didn’t look the least bit sleepy. It began to advance, and her pegasus wouldn’t be much of a match for it if it got too close. But she couldn’t turn and run, nor would she, Percy knew, if this was to get done. She continued to sing, never missing a beat, and as the beast continued to get uncomfortably close, Percy knew they had to do something.

“Come on,” he motioned, starting forward.

“What’s the plan?” Jason yelled over the earplugs.

“Get between them. That way he’ll still be hearing the song but he’ll have more than one target.”

“Cool. Monster bait twice in one day? That’s like my dream come true, Percy!”

They made their way over to Calypso, who stopped singing as they swooped to insert themselves between her and Cetus.

“What are you doing?” she said through gritted teeth.

“Just keep going,” Percy yelled back, Blackjack flapping his wings madly trying to keep ahead of the wall of teeth. Now that they were closer, they could see the monster was swaying slightly but in a controlled fashion, not like he was off balance out of the water.

He was like a giant cobra, Percy realized, mesmerized by the song yet still not fully under. Still dangerous.

But as it swayed, it also began to sink. It was losing its balance and was slowly, ever so slowly, toppling back into the sea where Percy had no doubt it would sink to the bottom and sleep for a very long time.

Before long, the great Cetus’ body buckled, the abyssal eyes remained open, and he fell, hurtling down in a great mass of greyhound and flippers. Hurtling towards them.

“Move! Everyone move!” Percy yelled, the three scattering and flying as quickly as their pegasi could carry them in the opposite direction of the monster.

They weren’t fast enough.

The body twisted midair as it slackened and began to pick of speed, the pegasi doing their best to do the same.

Calypso cleared first, looping up and away from the beast as soon as she could. Jason was next, racing under the catatonic paws and arching up and under, just missing one by the tail of his pegasus.

Now Percy saw his problem.

There wasn’t enough room for him to continue going straight and make it. He’d have to go down, staying just in front of Cetus, and sneak out at the bottom. Gods of Olympus, why can’t you just make it easy one day? he thought, cursing under his breath and urging Blackjack on. By this point, the body of Cetus had formed a strange, almost cave-like arch under which Percy was flying - a cave that kept getting smaller.

He clung close to Blackjack and felt the cloth fly out of his ears, probably to be lodged in Cetus’ giant nose or something. He fixed his gaze on a little opening between the beast’s limbs and focused all his power on getting to it.

He would make it. He would.

The water was quickly coming upon them, a few more seconds and they’d hit, and so would Cetus.

And then they pulled finally through the little opening, just big enough for the pegasus, his hooves scraping the water as he whinnied in apparent victory.

Only then did Blackjack realize that he was alone.

Percy was no longer on his back, nor was he in his head.

Boss! Hey, boss! Talk to me, boss! he called to his master as he circled the water in distress.

But Percy couldn’t hear him.

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