The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians 4) - Page 5


Still…something felt wrong. There was tension in the air, as if the hill itself were holding its breath, waiting for something bad to happen.

We walked down into the valley and found the summer session in full swing. Most of the campers had arrived last Friday, so I already felt out of it. The satyrs were playing their pipes in the strawberry fields, making the plants grow with woodland magic. Campers were having flying horseback lessons, swooping over the woods on their pegasi. Smoke rose from the forges, and hammers rang as kids made their own weapons for Arts & Crafts. The Athena and Demeter teams were having a chariot race around the track, and over at the canoe lake some kids in a Greek trireme were fighting a large orange sea serpent. A typical day at camp.

“I need to talk to Clarisse,” Annabeth said.

I stared at her as if she’d just said I need to eat a large, smelly boot. “What for?”

Clarisse from the Ares cabin was one of my least favorite people. She was a mean, ungrateful bully. Her dad, the war god, wanted to kill me. She tried to beat me to a pulp on a regular basis. Other than that, she was just great.

“We’ve been working on something,” Annabeth said. “I’ll see you later.”

“Working on what?”

Annabeth glanced toward the forest.

“I’ll tell Chiron you’re here,” she said. “He’ll want to talk to you before the hearing.”

“What hearing?”

But she jogged down the path toward the archery field without looking back.

“Yeah,” I muttered. “Great talking with you, too.”

***

As I made my way through camp, I said hi to some of my friends. In the Big House’s driveway, Connor and Travis Stoll from the Hermes cabin were hot-wiring the camps SUV. Silena Beauregard, the head counselor for Aphrodite, waved at me from her Pegasus as she flew past. I looked for Grover, but I didn’t see him. Finally I wandered into the sword arena, where I usually go when I’m in a bad mood. Practicing always calms me down. Maybe that’s because swordplay is one thing I can actually understand.

I walked into the amphitheater and my heart almost stopped. In the middle of the arena floor, with its back to me, was the biggest hellhound I’d ever seen.

I mean, I’ve seen some pretty big hellhounds. One the size of a rhino tried to kill me when I was twelve. But this hellhound was bigger than a tank. I had no idea how it had gotten past the camp’s magic boundaries. It looked right at home, lying on its belly, growling contentedly as it chewed the head off a combat dummy. It hadn’t noticed me yet, but if I made a sound, I knew it would sense me. There was no time to go for help. I pulled out Riptide and uncapped it.

“Yaaaaah!” I charged. I brought down the blade on the monster’s enormous backside when out of nowhere another sword blocked my strike.

CLANG!

The hellhound pricked up its ears. “WOOF!”

I jumped back and instinctively struck at the swordsman—a gray-haired man in Greek armor. He parried my attack with no problem.

“Whoa there!” he said. “Truce!”

“WOOF!” The hellhound’s bark shook the arena.

“That’s a hellhound!” I shouted.

“She’s harmless,” the man said. “That’s Mrs. O’Leary.”

I blinked. “Mrs. O’Leary?”

At the sound of her name, the hellhound barked again. I realized she wasn’t angry. She was excited. She nudged the soggy, badly chewed target dummy toward the swordsman.

“Good girl,” the man said. With his free hand he grabbed the armored manikin by the neck and heaved it toward the bleachers. “Get the Greek! Get the Greek!”

Mrs. O’Leary bounded after her prey and pounced on the dummy, flattening its armor. She began chewing on its helmet.

The swordsman smiled dryly. He was in his fifties. I guess, with short gray hair and a clipped gray beard. He was in good shape for an older guy. He wore black mountain-climbing pants and a bronze breastplate strapped over an orange camp T-shirt. At the base of his neck was a strange mark, a purplish blotch like a birthmark or a tattoo, but before I could make out what it was, he shifted his armor straps and the mark disappeared under his collar.

“Mrs. O’Leary is my pet,” he explained. “I couldn’t let you stick a sword in her rump, now, could I? That might have scared her.”

“Who are you?”

Promise not to kill me if I put my sword away?”

“I guess.”

He sheathed his sword and held out his hand. “Quintus.”

I shook his hand. It was as rough as a sandpaper.

“Percy Jackson,” I said. “Sorry about—How did you, um—”

“Get a hellhound for a pet? Long story, involving many close calls with a death and quite a few giant chew toys. I’m the new sword instructor, by the way. Helping out Chiron while Mr. D is away.”

“Oh.” I tried not to stare as Mrs. O’Leary ripped off the target dummy’s shield with the arm still attached and shook it like a Frisbee. “Wait, Mr. D is away?”

“Yes, well…busy times. Even Dionysus must help out. He’s gone to visit some old friends. Make sure they’re on the right side. I probably shouldn’t say more than that.”

If Dionysus was gone, that was the best news I’d had all day. He was only our camp director because Zeus had sent him here as a punishment for chasing some off-limits wood nymph. He hated the campers and tried to make our lives miserable. With him away, this summer might actually be cool. On the other hand, if Dionysus had gotten off his butt and actually started helping the gods recruit against the Titan threat, things must be looking pretty bad.

Off to my left, there was a loud BUMP. Six wooden crates the size of picnic tables were stacked nearby, and they were rattling. Mrs. O’Leary cocked her head and bounded toward them.


Tags: Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Olympians Fantasy
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