(5) We Play Capture the Flag
My routine settled back to normal, besides the fact that Percy had decided we were all of a sudden best friends. Each morning I taught him Ancient Greek and we talked about the gods and goddesses.
And it turned out that I was right (obviously) about his dyslexia. He could read a few lines of Homer without giving either of us a headache.
The rest of the day Percy would try to see what he was good at. He shot Chiron in the tail with an arrow, face planted while foot racing, and got pulverized by Clarisse in wrestling.
Apparently the only thing he was good at was canoeing, and my theory about his father was slowly getting confirmed, and if I’m right, we’re all doomed.
With Grover reporting to camp that Percy was “special”, and him becoming one with the plumbing AND excelling at canoeing was a sure sign, but Chiron told me to pray to the gods I was wrong.
Luke told me that in Percy’s sword fighting class he was able to disarm him, but when Percy tried again he failed, and they put it on beginners’ luck and the fact that he wasn’t able to find Percy a balanced sword.
That night there was a lot more excitement than usual. Finally, it was time for capture the flag.
A few days before, I had scouted the forest, thinking of how to put my plan into action. It should’ve been fairly easy, but I needed to keep a close eye on Percy while being able to capture Ares’s flag.
Me and two of my siblings ran into the pavilion carrying a 10 foot long glistening gray banner with a painting of an owl above an olive tree, Athena’s symbol. Clarisse and her siblings ran in from the opposite side of the pavilion carrying the same banner as us except it was gaudy red with a bloody spear and a boar on it, Ares’s symbol.
I told Luke about my plan involving Percy, and he agreed to temporarily ally with us along with Apollo, so we had the two biggest cabins at camp.
Ares had allied themselves with everybody else: Dionysus, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hephestus. Dionysus’s kids were actually pretty athletic, but there were only two of them. Demeter kids had the advantage with nature, but they didn’t like to be aggressive.
Aphrodite’s sons and daughters I wasn’t too worried about, but I’m not going to underestimate them, not after last month. I was still coughing up glitter. Hephestsus’s kids weren’t pretty, and there were only four of them, but they were big and burly. That could be problematic. And all of that left the Ares cabin: A dozen of the biggest, ugliest, meanest kids at camp.
Chiron hammered his hoof on the marble. “Heroes!” he announced. “You know the rules. The creek is the boundary line. The entire forest is fair game. All magic items are allowed. The banner must be prominently displayed, and have no more than two guards. Prisoners may be disarmed, but may not be bound or gagged. No killing or maiming is allowed. I will serve as referee and battlefield medic. Arm yourselves!”
He spread his hands, and the tables were suddenly covered with equipment: helmets, bronze swords, spears, oxhide shields coated in metal. Everybody lunged for weapons and armour.
I only grabbed a helmet. My helmet, like all the helmets on Athena’s side, had a blue horsehair plume on top. Ares and their allies had red plumes.
I yelled, “Blue team, forward!”
The blue team cheered and shook their swords and followed me down the path to the south woods. The red team yelled taunts at us as they headed off towards the north. Percy managed to catch up with me without tripping over any of his equipment.
I studied Percy. His helmet fell over his eyes a little bit so he pushed it up every few minutes. His armor was perfect, so I assumed Luke did it. He carried a shield that was too big for his body.
I was nervous for him. I don’t think he’ll come out of this well. I was betting my entire plan off of Clarisse’s revenge skills (which were pretty good) and how long she can wait without getting her revenge.
“Hey.” Percy said, “So what’s the plan? Got any magic items you can loan me?”
My hand drifted towards my pocket, to my mother’s hat. Maybe instead I’ll watch over Percy while Luke captures the flag...
“Just watch Clarisse’s spear,” I warned him. “You don’t want that thing touching you. Otherwise, don’t worry. We’ll take the banner from Ares. Has Luke given you your job?”
“Border patrol, whatever that means.”
“It’s easy. Stand by the creek, keep the reds away. Leave the rest to me. Athena always has a plan.”
I pushed ahead, leaving Percy in the dust. I needed to be alone with my thoughts.
Before going over the plan, I stationed Per y next to a little creek that gurgled over some rocks, then the rest of the team scattered into the trees towards Zeus’s Fist.
In all honesty, I was a little scared for Percy, that’s why I put him next to the creek. If I’m right, he’ll be able to defend himself. If I’m wrong... well he’ll be spending the next week in the infirmary.
Luke found his way next to my side.
“You made sure Clarisse overheard you talking to Percy right?” I asked him. If she didn’t hear Luke the plan was done for.
“Of course she heard me. She can’t help it.”
I grinned. “Good. We can capture the flag with her out of the way.”
We went over the plan before we started, without Percy. Luke explained to his cabin the plan not involving Percy, and I told the Apollo cabin the same plan.
Technically we had two different plans. One involving Percy and one not involving Percy.
Once we stationed our banner we went over the plan one more time. As soon as we finished, the conch horn blew and both teams yelled and whooped, plunging into the woods. I slipped on my hat and vanished.
The game was fairly quick. Luke had grabbed the Ares’s flag with almost no interference, seeing how the Ares kids were probably too busy beating up Percy.
Luke’s siblings were guarding him as he ran, so I decided to go see if Percy had die yet, but turns out he was doing good on his own.
Percy smacked Clarisse between the eyes with his sword-butt and sent her tumbling backwards out of the creek.
Luke raced past us, Ares’s flag flying behind him like a cape.
“A trick!” She shouted. “It was a trick.”
Clarisse’s siblings staggered after Luke, but it was too late. Everybody converged on the creek as Luke ran across into friendly territory. Our side exploded into cheers. The red banner shimmered and turned to silver. The boar and spear were replaced with a huge caduceus, the symbol of cabin eleven. Everybody on the blue team picked up Luke and started carrying him around on their shoulders. Chiron cantered out from the woods and blew the conch horn.
The game was over. We’d won.
“Not bad, hero.”
Percy looked at me puzzled.
“Where the heck did you learn to fight like that?” I asked, then I realized I was still wearing my hat and took it off. He wasn’t even fazed by the fact that I had just been invisible.
“You set me up,” Percy said. “You put me here because you knew Clarisse would come after me, while you sent Luke around the flank. You had it all figured out.”
I shrugged. “I told you. Athena always, always has a plan.”
“A plan to get me pulverized.”
“I came as fast as I could. I was about to jump in, but...” I shrugged again. “You didn’t need help.”
Then I noticed his wounded arm.
“How did you do that?”
“Sword cut,” he replied. “What do you think?”
“No. It was a sword cut. Look at it.” The blood was gone. Where the huge cut had been, there was a long white scratch, and even that was fading. As I watched, it turned into a small scar, and disappeared.
“I – I don’t get it,” Percy said.
I looked down at his feet, noticing he was still standing in the water.
I said, “Step out of the water, Percy.”
“Just do it.”
Percy carefully stepped out of the creek and almost fell over, but I steadied him.
I knew who his father was, and this was not good. I groaned internally for not guessing it earlier. The signs were so obvious.
“Oh, Styx,” I cursed. “This is not good. I didn’t want... I assumed it would be Zeus...”
He opened his mouth but before he could speak, something growled. It sounded canine. A howl ripped through the forest. The campers’ cheering died instantly.
Chiron shouted in Ancient Greek, “Stand ready! My bow!”
I drew my dagger. There on the rocks just above us was a black hound the size of a rhino, with lava-red eyes and fangs like daggers. A hellhound.
It was looking straight at me, no not at me, at Percy. Nobody moved except me. I yelled, “Percy, run!”
I tried to step in front of him, but the hellhound was too fast. It leaped over me – an enormous shadow with teeth – and it hit Percy. He stumbled backwards. I watched as the hounds razor-sharp claws ripped through his armor like it was paper.
Then there was a cascade of thwacking sounds, like forty pieces of paper being ripped one after the other. From the hellhound’s neck sprouted a cluster of arrows. The monster fell dead at Percy’s feet. By some miracle, he was still alive.
Chiron trotted up next to us, a bow in his hand, his face grim.
“Di immortales,” I said. “That’s a hellhound from the Fields of Punishment. They don’t... they’re not supposed to...”
“Someone summoned it,” Chiron said. “Someone inside the camp.”
Luke came over, the banner in his hand forgotten, his moment of glory gone. He looked grim, his scar casted a shadow, making him look... different, but his eyes glinted with something but before I could tell what it was, it was gone.
Clarisse yelled, “It’s all Percy’s fault! Percy summoned it!”
“Be quiet, child,” Chiron told her. We watched the body of the hellhound melt into shadow, soaking into the ground until it disappeared.
“You’re wounded,” I said, just realizing how badly he was bleeding. “Quick, Percy, get in the water.”
“No, you’re not,” I couldn’t tell if he was being modest, or stupid. “Chiron, watch this.”
Percy stumbled back into the creek, the whole camp gathering around him.
He straightened up, the cuts on his chest closing up. Some campers gasped.
“Look, I – I don’t know why,” Percy stuttered, trying to apologize. “I’m sorry...”
But no one was watching his wounds heal anymore. They were staring at something above Percy’s head.
“Percy,” I said, pointing. “Um...”
By the time he looked up, the sign was already fading, but you could still make out the hologram of green light, spinning and gleaming. A three-tipped spear: a trident.
“Your father,” I murmured. “This is really not good.”
“It is determined,” Chiron announced. All around me, campers started kneeling, even the Ares cabin, though they didn’t look happy about it. I stayed grounded on my feet.
“My father?” Percy asked, completely bewildered.
“Poseidon,” said Chiron. “Earthshaker, Stormbringer, Father of Horses. Hail, Perseus Jackson, Son of the Sea God.”
A/N: not me already creating the cover for book two... no...😏