Sleight of Hand
The air was filled with
anticipation as the silver flag was raised high.
Fifty two girls grinned in excitement.
“Everyone remember the plan?” Thalia addressed the girls.
A girl stepped forward. “I still don’t think the flag will be safe with just two defenders.”
“No need to worry,” Calypso said with a confident smile. “I may not actively seek conflict, but I have ways of making sure people don’t try to take advantage of my kind nature.”
“I’ve been training with the campers for almost a year now,” Rachel said. “I don’t have the natural reflexes of a demigod, but then again neither do most Roman legacies, point is I’m a decent fighter and an even better knife thrower.”
That explains all those hidden knives, every veteran Hunter thought.
“Okay girls.” Thalia clapped to get their attention. “I know you have doubts about them since they’re not actual members but I assure you, they can handle it.”
She cracked her knuckles. “Now let’s stop talking and go kick some camper butt.” She turned to Selene. “Kick Percy’s butt for me. Oh and be sure to give my brother a hard time.”
“I intend to,” Selene responded as the Hunters took off.
“Not to be disrespectful,” Calypso told Selene, “but are you actually authorized to perform the summoning spells? I don’t doubt your closeness to Lord Cadmus, but being close does not mean one can use his teachings without permission.”
The Oracle, who had been sitting nearby keeping an eye for trouble, spoke up. “What are you guys talking about?” She asked, more than a bit curious as this topic seemed like something few people knew about.
Selene smiled at her. “What she means is that most of Father’s teachings are forbidden unless he allows you to use them or as an absolute last resort.” She turned to Calypso. “As for your question, yes I am allowed to use the summoning spells and I’ve also been informed which are the best to call on; both in terms of my ability to actually summon them and my ability to lead them.”
Calypso bowed a bit. “I understand. Please forgive my insubordination.”
Selene waved her off. “You were just worried, it’s fine.”
She looked at the full moon in the sky. “Time to see if the campers have gotten beter in my absence,” she said before rushing towards the forest.
Rachel quickly turned her attention to her flag guarding partner. “Any chance you could elaborate?”
“Like Selene said, there are certain teachings of Lord Cadmus’ that cannot be used without permission. To do so would invoke harsh punishments.”
“Why?” It was a legitimate question; after all, what was this Cadmus guy teaching that he would punish his students for using it?
“Because some of his teachings have no equivalent in our world. To have an outside power that can’t be matched would greatly upset the balance of power- which is already hard to maintain with the gods’ constantly scheming against each other for one reason or another.”
Rachel smiled a bit at that last part. She was about to say more when she saw Calypso put up her guard. The Oracle nocked an arrow.
“How far?” She asked. The girl was confident that they could protect the flag; sure she didn’t have powers, but she wasn’t exactly helpless.
“Ten minutes out, give or take,” Calypso said as she moved to a few feet from Rachel’s right side. Calypso took a breath and grinned. “Let’s go.”
Selene leaned back on a tree. Her eyes were closed in concentration. White fog crept into existence around the trees. It stalked towards her, turning thicker every second. Within moments, everything was smoky white and the only thing visible was Selene.
She took a deep breath, then let it out; the fog clearing as she did so. Now instead of a forest, Selene stood in the middle of a large clearing. At the edge, the fog lingered between the trees.
Figures burst out of the fog and stopped at the change of scenery.
Four girls. Five guys. The Threatening Nine had arrived.
“Is this the surprise?” Leo asked, holding a Thor inspired hammer. “I expected something… different.”
“Does she intend to fight us all by herself?” Piper asked, looking like a guerrilla warfare Barbie.
“No way,” Jason said. “She can’t be that crazy.”
“Ummm…” Hazel, who had been looking around for an ambush, noticed the looks of the Greek Veterans. “If nine against one is bad news for her, then why do they look worried?” She asked with a nod towards the three oldest and the youngest in the group.
“Annabeth?” Percy asked his strategist for her thoughts.
Annabeth grit her teeth. “Hard to say. It could be an ambush… or maybe the clearing is full of traps.”
“You’re already in the trap,” Selene told the group. She waved a hand at the surroundings. “This place is filled with Mist. No one is getting in… or out.”
“I knew it,” Hazel shouted. “I felt something similar to this when I met Hecate and when I dealt with Pasiphae.”
“So if we want to leave we have to beat her?” Clarisse asked with a grin. “Sounds good to me.”
She made to move forward but stopped when strange circles appeared on the ground by Selene’s sides.
“Victory does equal freedom.” Selene was grinning at the fact that the campers thought it would be easy. “But considering the opponents I have in store for you… escape is nothing but an illusion.”
She extended right arm to the side. “First up, one of Cadmus’ most trusted Warriors; Buster Blader.”
Out of the circle appeared a tall, muscular warrior in dark purple armor with gold trims. He had a full face mask with gold highlights and two horns; in his right hand was a sharp, curved blade.
Selene extended her left arm. “Next, one of Cadmus' most famous Spellcasters; Dark Magician.”
A tall, lean man in dark purple robes trimmed with a lighter purple color appeared out of the circle. He had fair skin and purple hair. He held a large staff that had a green orb on top, housed by two curved spikes.
The nine campers looked at the two fighters critically. The newcomers looked strange, but Selene wouldn’t have brought them here if they were weak.
They had to be careful against this obstacle.
“This is your plan then? The nine of us versus you three?” Percy asked, readying Riptide.
“Not quite,” Selene responded.
She extended her arms forward, the Mist at the edge of the clearing rushed forward, covering everything in white.
“Percy!” Annabeth shouted. “Piper! Nico!”
“Relax,” Selene’s voice sounded from the fog. “The Mist will separate four of you against my Warrior, and another four against my Spellcaster.”
“That still leaves someone alone,” said Piper’s voice.
“Not at all.”
Annabeth could practically imagine Selene’s grin.
“The remaining person,” the Hunter’s voice continued, “will deal with me. Try not to die will you? Won’t be much fun if you don’t try to get even.”
The Mist receded to the edge once more. Annabeth saw Piper, Hazel and Leo on her side and Dark Magician on the other.
The Spellcaster aimed his staff at Annabeth.
“Annabeth Chase,” he bellowed, “daughter of Athena. You and your partners have been deemed worthy by my Lord. Now your allies and soldiers must be tested to see if they are equally worthy of his blessing.”
“Annabeth,” Piper called as they grouped together, “what is he talking about?”
“Long story,” she replied. “Hazel, think you can get us out of here?”
The youngest of the four shook her head. “I’ve been trying since the Mist first appeared, but her control surpasses mine. I’m still new at this you know.”
“But you did it with Pasiphae,” Leo reminded. “Why not now?”
“Enough talk,” Dark Magician shouted. “It’s time to be tested!” He pointed his staff above the demigods. “Ookazi.”
A magic circle appeared over the campers who quickly scattered away moments before the area was engulfed in flames.
Dark Magician rushed at Piper, who was closest. The girl barely blocked the staff swung at her head.
Piper’s arms trembled. She knew she wasn’t a physical fighter, but this was ridiculous! Was she really that weak, or was her opponent that strong?
The wizard spun for another hit but Piper knelt under it. Unfortunately this left her open for his follow up kick. It hit her and sent her rolling on the grass.
“Piper!” Leo shouted. He reached into his belt and threw a metal baseball at the enemy.
Dark Magician pointed his staff, but before he could cast something, the ball exploded with light and sound.
Curses, he swore at being hit by the flashbang. His sight was full of spots and his ears were ringing.
His senses warned of danger, he jumped to the side and avoided a salvo of precious stones. From what the mage could tell, had they hit, it would have felt like being shot by a shotgun.
A compulsion told the mage to block left, but his instincts screamed that danger was on the right side. Turning towards the danger, he held out his hand.
“Negate Attack,” he casted.
The grenades in front of him exploded but almost instantly the event seemed to fold on itself before vanishing as if it never happened.
“Hepheastus’ hammer,” Leo said in awe. “What was that?”
Annabeth observed the Spellcaster with a grim face. She tried to take advantage of Leo’s opening by having Piper charmspeak the mage into leaving himself open to Hazel’s and Leo’s attacks, but they didn’t work.
Could he have taken precautions against Piper’s charmspeak? Annabeth wondered. It didn’t even look like he struggled against her.
If he did take precautions, it brought to question how long they had been planning this strategy.
Annabeth saw Dark Magician rubbed his eyes before focusing on her. The wizard had an excellent poker face, Annabeth couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
His eyes moved around as if looking for something. Annabeth rushed at him and attacked, putting him on the defensive. His staff gave him a longer reach, but her assault didn’t give any openings for him to make use of it.
As Annabeth kept Dark Magician focused on her so he didn’t notice that he was being led towards Piper, who had moved when the blonde attacked.
Dark Magician blocked another strike then twisted the staff to send a fist to Annabeth’s face. She leaned back to avoid it then stepped back when he tried to gut her with the curved spikes on his staff.
He swung the staff again, but not at Annabeth. The target was Piper who stopped cold, barely managing to avoid decapitation.
“Holy…” Piper breathed out, looking very pale. She was so shook up she barely dodged the fist sent her way. It was only thanks to her intense training that she managed to slightly recover so she could block and avoid the wizard’s assault.
She was slightly help by the fact that he was focused on speed attacks instead of strength.
Probably saving stamina, Piper guessed.
She was saved by a pair of bolas wrapping themselves around the wizard’s legs. The wizard planted his staff on the ground and pole vaulted to a safe distance. He landed with bent knees, using his staff to keep balance.
Dark Magician looked at the bolas then at Leo.
“Most impressive, young forger,” he praised. “First your device leaves me blind and deaf, if only for a few moments; then I would have been greatly injured if I had not countered your explosives; and now you immobilize as I was occupied with your friend, well done.”
He turned to Piper. “Your powers of persuasion are impressive, child. It is only thanks to my experience that I could resist it.”
His eyes fell to Annabeth. “You’re quite clever one, child; and your friends are something else… however if you had hoped to best me with misdirection… you had better think again.” The celestial bronze rope snapped at the end of his words. He raised his staff to the sky. “Mystical Space Typhoon.”
A blue wind encircled the mage then began to expand. Strangely the wind didn’t pick up debris or dust like normal wind.
To Annabeth’s horror, what the wind did pick up was Hazel’s invisibility despite the fact that she was still wearing the Yankees cap.
Dark Magician turned to Hazel with a kind smile as the wind died out. “Do not feel disappointed young sorceress. You do have great potential for magic, but that does not trump experience.”
“I already beat an experienced magic user,” Hazel said as she readied her spatha. “I can do it again.” She started to swing at him.
Dark Magician single handedly blocked her attacks, unamused by her boast.
After blocking the first attacks, he went on the attacks. He swung, jabbed, and swept one handed with precision.
“Do not place me in the same category as your enemies,” Dark Magician said. “Pashiphae may have been an impressive magic user, but she was blinded by arrogance and anger.” He pointed his staff to the right and launched a purple energy at the spheres Leo threw; they exploded and showered the area with popcorn to Dark Magician’s great confusion.
Hazel quickly ran to the group. As soon as she reached them, she vanished.
“Hazel!” They shouted.
“I’m okay,” Hazel’s voice assured, “I think I’m invisible again.” She shimmered into view holding the cap in her left hand.
Annabeth took back the cap and inspected it for a moment before placing in her back pocket.
“Okay guys,” she said to her friends while keeping an eye on Dark Magician. “We’re doing well on using our powers but we’re too alone when we fight him. We’re going to have to fight more of us at once.”
“Um,” Piper said, “that’s going to hard.”
Suddenly, the ground trembled as if the earth itself was being torn apart. All five in the clearing fell on one knee. Moments later, strong forces of winds swept the area.
Earthquakes and storms at once.
“Think the others are okay?” Hazel asked.
“You think Sword Guy is responsible?” Leo added.
Piper stared at the clouds gathering in the sky. She could feel power forming within those clouds. She only felt something like once before. It was in Charleston when Jason and Percy teamed up and summoned the biggest storm she had ever witnessed.
Though not likely on purpose, both of them were joining powers once more.
“It’s Percy,” Annabeth answered Leo.
“What?” Leo said. “Percy’s doing this?”
“And Jason,” Piper added. “It feels just like when we were in our quest... it’s them, I know it is.”
“Lightning Vortex!” They heard the mage shout.
The campers instinctively moved away from their positions, just barely dodging the bolts of lightning.
They looked in a daze from their place on the ground.
“Distractions in battle can be fatal, children,” Dark Magician said in possible amusement. “You are fortunate that my duty is to test you; not kill you.”
“Really?!” Leo shouted as he stood up. “That’s what you call almost frying us with lightning? A test?”
Dark Magician gave Leo a stare so cold it could have frozen magma.
“Do not presume I cannot control my own power just because you have yet to control yours,” was the mage’s reply.
Leo stepped back as if hit. Piper and hazel tightened their grip on their weapons. They too had difficulties with their powers; still did sometimes.
The Spellcaster aimed his staff at them. “Hinotama.”
A large fireball was launched from the staff, leaving a trail of charred grass as it flew towards its target.
The girls looked at it in apprehension, but Leo saw red. Not only had he been insulted about his lack of control, now this out of nowhere magician was using fire, Leo’s own power against him and his friends.
The son of Hephaestus rushed at the fireball while wreathed in flames.
The girls screamed as they called him back, saying that the fire could be different and his immunity might fail and die for real this time.
Leo ignored their cries. He let out a roar as he aimed his Thor hammer at the fireball and fired a concentrated stream of flames at its center.
The girls and the mage looked in surprise as the sphere somehow exploded with a large heat wave, sending the girls to the ground. Dark Magician managed to brace and not get affected.
Leo took deep breaths in exhaustion. He couldn’t remember the last time he had used his power like that. Calming down a bit, he sent a triumphant grin at Dark Magician.
“An interesting development, young forger,” Dark Magician praised. “However, you used far more power than was necessary. Your potential is great, your knowledge is not. You have much to learn before you even come close to mastering your fire.”
He smiled at Leo. “Lady Sarah will be most helpful in that regard; should you pass my test of course.”
“And what exactly is this test of yours anyway?” Piper demanded. “You keep talking about testing us, but we don’t know what this stupid test is, or how to pass it!”
The oldest in the clearing gave Piper his full attention. She could swear there was a slight curve to his lips.
“It’s only fair I suppose,” the Spellcaster said. “Your best friend and her lover already know of the situation. As do the Hunters and the Oracle. The truth is simple; there’s danger on the horizon and Lord Cadmus has offered his blessing and assistance in order to ensure your survival.”
“Hold on,” Piper said. “You mean there’s trouble coming our way?”
“Why help us?” Leo said. “I’m grateful and all, but why aren’t you telling this to the gods?”
A scoff. “To what end?” The mage asked. “This knowledge would be wasted on those that send others to perform their duties. The gods can stay ignorant of their destruction for all my Lord cares. Only a chosen few will be actively protected, the rest will be given a choice as to where their loyalties lie; however… there are certain gods-” a cruel smile. “- that signed their damnation a long time ago.”
“What are you saying?” Hazel couldn’t help but blurt out. “We can’t keep this from the gods. We need them.”
Due to the exploding fireball, the campers had ended up slightly separated once again, so there was some distance between each person.
Unfortunately for Hazel, despite the distance, her opponent was instantly in front of her, his staff moving down to crush her skull.
She just barely deflected it with the flat of her blade.
“Need them?” The mage questioned as he stared at her eyes. “Why would you need arrogant, conceited fools who do nothing but bicker and complain from the safety and comfort of their thrones?”
He raised a hand at chest level of Hazel and blasted her away with a burst of air.
She yelped as she impacted the ground about fifteen feet away.
“The gods only kept their thrones,” Dark Magician said, “because of the blood, sweat and tears of the children they spawn and abandon, only to demand loyalty, worship and respect, should any of you be fortunate enough to make it to safety.”
He shook his head in apparent disgust. “If the gods wish to survive what’s coming, they had better get off their asses and actually fight for their right to rule. And actually show their children and followers why they deserve to rule.”
Dark Magician looked at each camper in the eye. “From what I've seen so far, along with what I've heard, I would gladly fight alongside any of you; however other than a select few, I would gladly abandon the gods to their destruction. The grand majority have done nothing to protect their world; why should I risk my life for someone not willing to do the same?”
“That’s not true,” Leo said. “Okay, so maybe none of them will be winning Parent of the Year, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to die.”
“Yeah,” Piper agreed. “I know my mom loves me - and even though I didn’t like the idea at first because of how different I was compared to her and my siblings, I’m proud to be her daughter and I’m going to make it so no one thinks of my family as weak or useless ever again.”
“That’s right,” Hazel said, raising her spatha. “We’ll always stand by our parent’s side. They do the best that they can, given their restrictions.”
Having given their passionate opinion, the three of them took an enraged look when Dark Magician gave a small, amused smile; as if they had said a joke.
“What’s so funny?” Leo demanded. If he had the strength, he would’ve barbecued the mage.
In response, Dark Magician raised his staff and aimed at Leo, then Piper, Hazel, and finally Annabeth.
He put away the staff. “Anything to add?” He said with amusement.
The question made the others realize that Annabeth didn’t support their claim. Did she agree with Dark Magician? Or did she have a different opinion entirely?
Annabeth kept silent. What could she say, when the enemy spoke the harsh truth. Her friends didn’t understand. They haven’t suffered the same trials the gods inflicted on her and her friends.
What had the gods done to call themselves rulers?
When Kronos threatened to rise, the gods did nothing. They didn’t even punish Ares for willingly helping and almost causing a civil war between the gods. They fired Chiron when Thalia’s Tree was poisoned instead of trying to find a cure or the real, obvious culprit. They failed to prevent Atlas’ escape, and when Percy and Thalia and the others stopped him, the gods rewarded them by taking a vote on whether or not Percy and Thalia should be killed in order to stave off the Great Prophecy. They battle Typhon because they didn't have a choice, and even then, victory was obtained thanks to Percy's risky gamble.
Hazel, Leo and Piper weren’t sure what to think of Annabeth’s silence. Not even Piper, her closest friend of the three could tell what she was thinking.
They then felt themselves relax when a familiar fire shined in her eyes.
“I don’t care about the gods’ position in the war,” Annabeth said. “All I care about is protecting my camp and the people that I hold close to my heart.”
She threatened Dark Magician with her Drakon bone sword. “We’ll beat you; and then we’ll deal with whatever the enemy throws at us, and we’ll keep moving forward to a better future!”
Her friends couldn’t help the grin that formed on their faces. They quickly took battle positions; no doubt the Spellcaster would be insulted by her boast.
To their surprise, Dark Magician grinned and laughed in apparent satisfaction.
“As expected of the camp’s greatest strategist and one of its leading veterans,” he said.
He spun his staff then gripped it with both hands as he entered a stance. “Know this though, the enemy has many servants both weaker and stronger than myself,” he warned. “Besting me will be an impressive feat, but do not think it will prove you invincible.”
Annabeth grinned back as her friends surrounded the magician.
“Not at all,” she said. “I’m kind of hoping you’ll want to even the score later on.”
“It would be my pleasure,” Dark Magician said. “Of course… you still have to win.”
Dark Magician extended his hand towards Piper. “Ookazi,” he called out. The path in front of Piper erupted in flames. There were no cries of pain though as they were meant to delay.
Changing his attention to Leo, Dark Magician slammed the butt of his staff on the ground. “Fissure,” he casted. The ground in front of the fire user opened up like a hungry beast ready to swallow him whole.
Seeing the danger, Hazel stomped on the ground and sealed the hole so Leo ended up falling into a two feet pit instead of a bottomless one. Her act left her open to a kick to her from the enemy.
As Hazel rolled on the ground, Dark Magician noticed the sounds of crunching grass and slicing air; it was too close to his liking.
He had just enough time to shout, “Magical Hats.”
Blade met fabric and was victorious with a satisfying rip as it travelled with ease.
So much ease that Piper fell forward due to the lack of resistance.
“What the hades?” She muttered as she looked to her victim. There was no body or blood to be seen, only the sliced fabric of a top hat the size of an adult human. A little bit further from her position were three intact hats.
“Be careful.” She heard Annabeth say, as she, Leo and Hazel safely positioned themselves around the hats.
“You think he’s in there?” Piper asked. Whatever trick the mage was up to, she was in the dark about it.
“Very likely,” Annabeth said. She had seen how the mage shifted form as the other hats appeared out of thin air.
She was beginning to understand why Dark Magician said misdirection won’t claim them victory. How could it when a magician’s entire existence is based on it.
When a stage magician performs a trick, he has the audience focus on something inconsequential while the secret of the trick happened elsewhere.
Annabeth’s brain started going a million miles an hour as she drew similarities between stage magicians and children of Hermes. She may not know the tricks magicians use, but she did know the ones that thieves used; and since it all tied to misdirection for success...
Annabeth smirked. This fight is in the bag.
“Leo, how many explosives you got left?” she asked.
“A lot,” he said, “ever since we figured out how to connect my belt to Bunker Nine.”
“Perfect,” Annabeth said. “Then let’s get ready for the next round. You and Hazel turn those hats to shreds.”
Leo grinned as he searched his belts for grenades while Hazel conjured up a salvo of precious jewels that circled like satellites.
“Got a plan?” Piper asked, just behind Annabeth.
Annabeth couldn’t help the grin as she said her signature phrase. “Athena always has a plan.”
Annabeth saw Leo with palms full of bombs as Hazel finished turning her jewels into thick spears.
“Take them down,” Annabeth ordered.
The world’s most expensive spears struck first, impaling the hats from many angles. A moment later the hats were blown to bits by the grenades.
The demigods stared as the burnt fabric fell like snow.
“Did we get him?” Piper asked.
The rising heat of the fire halted any response that could’ve been given.
“Meteor of Destruction!” A voice shouted.
The area exploded, sending the four campers flying away.
The four campers landed separately with various cries of pain.
Piper pushed herself on top of her elbows, a slightly better position than simply eating dirt. She saw a large bonfire where the big hats, along with her and her friends, used to be.
A silhouette formed inside the flames as Dark Magician walked out uninjured.
Piper was furious. Even after all that, they still had not done anything to the mage.
A quick glance revealed to her that she was the most aware at the moment. She had to buy time for her friends.
“So that’s it then?” Piper asked.
Dark Magician looked at her with a neutral expression.
“You’re gonna go and finish us off then?” Piper continued. “In that case, you should start with the weakest link.”
She managed to get to her feet but it wasn’t easy. She was favoring her right leg, her chest felt like she had just wiped out on a huge wave and she was pretty sure that saliva wasn’t the only thing she was swallowing.
“Here I am,” she challenged. “Easy pickings.”
Dark Magician made no movement.
Unknown to Piper, the Spellcaster was raging an internal battle. He was trying to maintain control of his body as it tried to obey her strengthened charmspeak. She had ordered him to focus solely on her and he was finding very hard to disobey.
“What are you waiting for?” Piper demanded. “Attack me with your staff already!”
The persuasion of the charmspeak was too much for the mage to resist. He gripped his weapon and ran towards the injured girl.
Just as Dark Magician was about to reach Piper, the ground erupted in spikes, but the mage managed to jump sideways to avoid impalement.
“What’s the matter, magician?” Taunted the honeyed words of his target. “Can’t even take a simple beauty queen out of commission.” A dramatic sigh. “How embarrassing.”
Dark Magician ran around the spikes, his anger ruling his actions. He spotted the girl, along with a dazzling smile that would have broken a mirror if she weren’t a daughter of Aphrodite.
The oldest in the clearing rushed towards her against his better judgement.
That was after all the result of those who were under the influence of Aphrodite or her children. Their beauty affected their target’s thoughts to the point of overwriting everything else.
As expected of a power originating from the oldest Olympian.
Dark Magician did want to defeat Piper, but he also knew she was only part of the problem.
However, her enhanced charmspeak had convinced Dark Magician that she was the only problem and that made her his only focus. Everything else was insignificant.
A series of clicks sounded underneath the mage’s feet during his rush.
It was the sound of landmines, but he barely paid attention, he simply used the same ability that saved him from his Hats’ destruction.
“Waboku.” As soon as the word was spoken, the ground erupted.
Piper had to raise her arms against the shockwaves that washed over her.
She kept her guard up after it passed. After all, he had already survived one explosion.
Her tactic bore fruit when the spiked staff sailed out of the fire towards her chest. She dove to the side, succeeding in not aggravating her injuries further.
When she stood up again, she saw Dark Magician looking confused.
The reason for this was that despite putting the bare minimum into the dive, she ended up about ten feet away from her original spot. The same spot that the mage now stood on, having failed his follow up attack.
Piper smiled at Hazel’s success in using the Mist to warp her away.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Piper took a wrapped ambrosia from her back pocket and took a decent but careful bite. There was no way she would repeat the emergency bite she took in Detroit. If the others knew of that one or if she ever repeated it, they’d never leave her alone with ambrosia again.
The effects of the bite was instant, the pain was dulled by the taste of her father’s black bean soup.
In the distance, Piper saw Dark Magician shoot something best described as purple lightning in a random direction, tearing apart the ground in the process.
“I don’t know which of you is the real one, but I will be victorious,” he shouted as he fired another blast in a random direction.
Piper, wondering what was going on, looked around and saw a flash of gold. Hidden behind a mound of displaced earth, Hazel knelt with closed eyes, likely in concentration to maintain whatever Dark Magician was experiencing.
Piper wasn’t sure, but she could’ve sworn she saw a glow coming from Hazel’s shoulder.
“Gah!” Someone shouted.
Piper looked and saw Leo on the ground with blood flowing from a gash in his chest.
Dark Magician seemed to be fighting thin air as he continued to swing his staff at nothing in particular.
Piper took a breath and gripped her boread sword and made her way to the fight.
Unbeknown to her, her left shoulder was emitting a soft pink glow; one that had the outline of a crown.
To say that Dark Magician was enraged was like saying Clarisse liked to fight; meaning it was completely obvious and unnecessary.
Still under the effects of that blasted charmspeak, the Spellcaster saw pink instead of red as that nuisance of a love child somehow created duplicates of herself.
Had he been in his right mind, the mage would have thought of at least five different ways of dealing with the situation.
“Wow, you really suck at this.”
“You have too much purple on you, get some variation.”
“A daughter of Aphrodite is giving you a hard time. You must be dying of embarrassment.”
Similar insults ranging from extremely ridiculous to those that would have the girl needing mouthwash spilled all at once from the mouths of the girls surrounding him. The words were endless despite his constant attempt at elimination.
Worse yet, there was no logic to their being. Although they vanished when struck, when they attacked, they would either pass through him like a fog or like the impact one just made, the attack cut him like an actual sword.
Curses, the mage swore. This stupid girl shouldn’t be giving me this much trouble.
He swiped three Pipers away then stepped back from four others.
Even if she trained in Mist manipulation, she shouldn’t be this capable. Someone or something must be at work.
“Dark Magic Attack!” A purple sphere erupted from the staff, cleaning ten feet of illusions arounds the mage.
“Wait… Someone else?” He started thinking, now that the pink fog cleared slightly. “Of course. She wasn’t alone, she was with-”
Dark Magician’s mind froze for a moment at the sound before working again.
I am going to murd-
Fffwwwoossshhh. Fire and debris interrupted the thought as the area exploded once again.
It didn’t take long for everything to settle. Where the Spellcaster stood was now a ten foot crater with lingering smoke.
Piper looked at the crater cautiously. She prayed that third time would be the charm.
She saw Hazel walking to the crater, sweaty and exhausted. Leo stood at the edge with a proud smile; his chest was covered in dried red, but the injury was gone.
“Whhooo! Gotcha this time Magic Man.” Leo lifted his Thor inspired hammer to the sky and roared.
Piper couldn’t help laugh at the sight. Hazel herself was smiling as she limped towards Piper.
“Hey,” the Roman said. “You okay?”
Piper nodded. Her injuries were taken care of, but she didn’t have much stamina left in the tank. Still, she could say she was fine.
Hazel shrugged, which made her wince. “Been better.”
A loud boom sounded off in the distance, the ground trembled a bit.
“Whoa,” Leo said, stumbling near the girls. “Percy and Jason are still going at it? Should I feel bad for whoever they’re fighting? I don’t think they’ll last much longer.”
“Our friends or their opponents?” Piper asked.
Before Piper could say anything, another boom made itself known.
“That one sounded close,” Hazel said.
Just then, the air filled itself with a metallic scent and high heat.
Piper knew this sensation well. It surfaced whenever her boyfriend used his powers after all.
“Move!” That was Piper could say before the biggest bolt of lightning the trio had ever seen struck the clearing.
A bleeding Dark Magician stood over the bodies of the three demigods.
Were it not for their light breathing, they could’ve been mistaken for dead.
“Tch,” said the mage. “Got carried away it seems. Ugh, I’m definitely getting reprimanded for using Raigeki. Now where-gah!”
“Oh,” said a voice without owner, “and why is that?”
The invisible blade was ripped out of his back. Dark Magician spat blood as he used his staff to stand while using his free hand to slow the bleeding.
“The answer is around you, Daughter of Athena. Heh, looks like you win after all. Congratulations.”
“Better luck next time,” was the reply the mage heard before her blade met his neck.
The Spellcaster vanished in a burst of colors with the sound of shattering glass.
An exhausted Annabeth shimmered into view, holding her Yankees hat.
“Finally,” she said. “Hades, that was nuts. Good thing they’re on our side.”
She looked at her fallen friends and saw all of them covered in a glowing outline as their wounds healed; pink for Piper, brown-gold for Hazel, and metallic gray for Leo.
Annabeth also noticed they all had the crown tattoo. Left shoulder blade for Piper, right shoulder for Hazel, and left side collarbone for Leo.
Annabeth smiled as she plopped on the ground; a gray glow formed on her body making her feel way better.
They had done it. They had proven themselves to their enigmatic ally and had gained further power and support against the strange threat.
All that was left was to wait for her friends to heal and hope that the campers could get the Hunter’s flag before it was too late.
Nothing wrong with that plan.