Annabeth Chase and the Lighting Thief

(9) We Get Advice from a Poodle

We were pretty miserable that night.

We camped out in the woods, a hundred meters from the main road, in a marshy clearing that local kids had obviously been using for parties. The ground was littered with flattened soda cans and fast-food wrappers.

We’d taken some food and blankets from Aunty Em’s, but we didn’t dare light a fire to dry our damp clothes. The Furies and Medusa had provided enough excitement for one day. We didn’t want to attract anything else.

We decided to sleep in shifts. Percy volunteered to take first watch. I curled up on the blankets and tried to sleep, but of course, none came.

I saw Grover flutter with his flying shoes to the lowest bough of a tree, put his back to the trunk, and stared at the night sky. I closed my eyes.

“Go ahead and sleep,” Percy told him. “I’ll wake you if there’s trouble.”

Silence. I wondered if Grover had gone to sleep until I heard him say, “It makes me sad, Percy.”

“What does? The fact that you signed up for this stupid quest?”

“No. This makes me sad.” I could tell he was pointing at the garbage on the ground. “And the sky. You can’t even see the stars. They’ve polluted the sky. This is a terrible time to be a satyr.”

“Oh, yeah. I guess you’d be an environmentalist.”

I felt anger rise inside of me, and tried to push it away. Why is Percy so rude sometimes?

“Only a human wouldn’t be. Your species is clogging up the world so fast... ah, never mind. It’s useless to lecture a human. At the rate things are going, I’ll never find Pan.”

“Pam? Like the cooking spray?”

“Pan!” he cried indignantly. “P-A-N. The great god Pan! What do you think I want a searcher’s license for?”

A strange breeze rustled through the clearing, temporarily overpowering the stink of trash and muck. It brought the smell of berries and wildflowers and clean rainwater, things that might’ve once been in these woods. Suddenly I was homesick. It reminded me of camp.

“Tell me about the search,” Percy said.

Grover hesitated, before saying, “The God of Wild Places disappeared two thousand years ago. A sailor off the coast of Ephesos heard a mysterious voice crying out from the shore, “Tell them that the great god Pan has died!” When humans heard the news, they believed it. They’ve been pillaging Pan’s kingdom ever since. But for the satyrs, Pan was our lord and master. He protected us and the wild places of the earth. We refuse to believe that he died. In every generation, the bravest satyrs pledge their lives to finding Pan. They search the earth, exploring all the wildest places, hoping to find where he is hidden and wake him from his sleep.”

“And you want to be a searcher.”

“It’s my life’s dream,” Grover said wistfully. “My father was a searcher. And my Uncle Ferdinand... the statue you saw back there –”

“Oh, right, sorry.”

“Uncle Ferdinand knew the risks. So did my dad. But I’ll succeed. I’ll be the first searcher to return alive.”

“Hang on – the first?” I heard Grover turning his reed pipes in his hand.

“No searcher has ever come back. Once they set out, they disappear. They’re never seen alive again.”

“Not once in two thousand years?”

“No.”

“And your dad? You have no idea what happened to him?”

“None.”

“But you still want to go,” I could hear the amazement in Percy’s voice. “I mean, you really think you’ll be the one to find Pan?”

“I have to believe that, Percy. Every searcher does. It’s the only thing that keeps us from despair when we look at what humans have done to the world. I have to believe Pan can still be awakened.”

“How are we going to get into the Underworld?” Percy asked him. “I mean, what chance do we have against a god?”

“I don’t know,” Grover admitted. “But back at Medusa’s, when you were busy stuffing your face with food? Annabeth was telling me –”

“Oh, I forgot. Annabeth will have a plan all figured out.”

Why does Percy have to be such a douche? I’m sorry for trying to survive and to see the world. I’m sorry for trying to make sure you don’t get killed. He hasn’t done anything besides almost killing us five different times.

“Don’t be so hard on her, Percy. She’s had a tough life, but she’s a good person. After all, she forgave me...” His voice faltered.

“What do you mean?” Percy asked. “Forgave you for what?”

Grover didn’t respond.

“Wait a minute,” Percy said. “Your first keeper job was five years ago. Annabeth has been at camp five years. She wasn’t... I mean, your first assignment that went wrong –”

“I can’t talk about it,” Grover’s voice shook. “But as I was saying, back at Medusas, Annabeth and I agreed there’s something strange going on with this quest. Something isn’t what it seems.”

“Well, duh. I’m getting blamed for stealing a thunderbolt that Hades took.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Grover said. “The Fu – The Kindly Ones were sort of holding back. Like Mrs Dodds at Yancy Academy... why did she wait so long to try to kill you? Then on the bus, they just weren’t as aggressive as they could’ve been.”

“They seemed plenty aggressive to me.”

“They were screeching at us: “‘Where is it? Where?’”

“Asking about me,” Percy said.

“Maybe... but Annabeth and I, we both got the feeling they weren’t asking about a person. They said “Where is it?” They seemed to be asking about an object.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“I know. But if we’ve misunderstood something about this quest, and we only have nine days to find the master bolt...”

They sat in silence.

“I haven’t been straight with you,” Percy told Grover. “I don’t care about the master bolt. I agreed to go to the Underworld so I could bring back my mother.”

I rolled my eyes. Does he really think we’re that dumb?

Grover blew a soft note on his pipes. “I know that, Percy. But are you sure that’s the only reason?”

“I’m not doing it to help my father. He doesn’t care about me. I don’t care about him.”

“Look, Percy, I’m not as smart as Annabeth. I’m not as brave as you. But I’m pretty good at reading emotions. You’re glad your dad is alive. You feel good that he’s claimed you, and part of you wants to make him proud. That’s why you mailed Medusa’s head to Olympus. You wanted him to notice what you’d done.”

“Yeah? Well maybe satyr emotions work differently than human emotions. Because you’re wrong. I don’t care what he thinks.”

“Okay, Percy. Whatever.”

“Besides, I haven’t done anything worth bragging about. We barely got out of New York and we’re stuck here with no money and no way west.”

“How about I take first watch, huh? You get some sleep.”

Grover started to play Mozart, soft and sweet, and my eyelids felt more droopy. After a few bars of Piano Concerto no. 12, I was asleep.

I woke to someone shaking me.

“Huh? What’s up?” I asked groggily, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.

“I’m bored so I’m going exploring, don’t die while I’m gone.”

“M’kay. Cya later.”

A few minutes later I was chewing on some nacho-flavored corn chips from Aunty Em’s snack bar. I watched as Grover walked back to our camping spot with a bright pink poodle trailing behind him.

“One, why is it pink? Two, why is it pink?”

Grover shrugged. “This is Gladiola, say hi.”

“Um, okay... Hi Gladiola it’s nice to meet you.”

Gladiola barked at me happily.

I reached over and shook Percy.

“Wake up Percy. Percy. Wake. Up.”

Percy opened his eyes.

“Well,” I said, “the zombie lives.”

He was trembling, probably from a dream.

“How long was I asleep?”

“Long enough for me to cook breakfast.” I tossed him a bag of nacho-flavored corn chips.

“And Grover went exploring. Look, he found a friend.”

Percy’s eyes had trouble focusing, when they did focus he just stared at Grover, who was sitting cross-legged on a blanket with Gladiola in his lap.

The poodle yapped at Percy suspiciously.

Grover said, “No, he’s not.”

Percy blinked. “Are you... talking to that thing?”

Gladiola growled.

“This thing,” Grover warned, “is our ticket west. Be nice to him.”

“You can talk to animals?”

Grover ignored the question. “Percy, meet Gladiola. Gladiola, Percy.” Percy stared at me, probably thinking that this was a joke.

“I’m not saying hello to a pink poodle,” he said. “Forget it.”

“Percy, I said hello to the poodle. You say hello to the poodle.”

The poodle growled.

Percy said hello to the poodle.

Grover explained to us that he’d come across Gladiola in the woods and they’d struck up a conversation. The poodle had run away from a rich local family, who’d posted a $200 reward for his return. Gladiola didn’t really want to go back to his family, but he was willing to if it meant helping Grover.

“How does Gladiola know about the reward?” Percy asked.

“He read the signs,” Grover said. “Duh.”

I snickered.

“Of course,” Percy said. “Silly me.”

“So we turn in Gladiola,” I explained in my best strategy voice, “we get money and we buy tickets to Los Angeles. Simple.”

“Not another bus,” he said warily.

“No,” I agreed and pointed downhill, towards train tracks I hadn’t been able to see last night in the dark.

“There’s an Amtrack station half a mile that way. According to Gladiola, the westbound train leaves at noon.”

A/N: i’m sorry I didn’t post anything last week, I’ve been busy with school and didn’t have the time to write anything. Also, this chapter is so short compared to my last because I’m trying to do the chapters like the way Rick Riordan has them in the books, so I’m sorry about that!!

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