The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus 5) - Page 46

The metal door swung open, and Leo settled to the floor.

‘See, the wait wasn’t so bad!’ Leo grinned at his friends. ‘The doctor will see us now.’

XXXVI

Leo

AT THE END OF THE HALL stood a walnut door with a bronze plaque:

ASCLEPIUS

MD, DMD, DME, DC, DVS, FAAN, OMG, EMT, TTYL, FRCP, ME, IOU, OD, OT, PHARMD, BAMF, RN, PHD, INC., SMH

There may have been more acronyms in the list, but by that point Leo’s brain had exploded.

Piper knocked. ‘Dr Asclepius?’

The door flew open. The man inside had a kindly smile, crinkles around his eyes, short salt-and-pepper hair and a well-trimmed beard. He wore a white lab coat over a business suit and a stethoscope around his neck – your stereotypical doctor outfit, except for one thing: Asclepius held a polished black staff with a live green python coiled around it.

Leo wasn’t happy to see another snake. The python regarded him with pale yellow eyes, and Leo had a feeling it was not set to idiot mode.

‘Hello!’ said Asclepius.

‘Doctor.’ Piper’s smile was so warm it would’ve melted a Boread. ‘We’d be so grateful for your help. We need the physician’s cure.’

Leo wasn’t even her target, but Piper’s charmspeak washed over him irresistibly. He would’ve done anything to help her get that cure. He would’ve gone to medical school, got twelve doctorate degrees and bought a large green python on a stick.

Asclepius put his hand over his heart. ‘Oh, my dear, I would be delighted to help.’

Piper’s smile wavered. ‘You would? I mean, of course you would.’

‘Come in! Come in!’ Asclepius ushered them into his office.

The guy was so nice that Leo figured his office would be full of torture devices, but it looked like … well, a doctor’s office: a big maple desk, bookshelves stuffed with medical books, and some of those plastic organ models Leo loved to play with as a kid. He remembered getting in trouble one time because he had turned a cross-section kidney and some skeleton legs into a kidney monster and scared the nurse.

Life was simpler back then.

Asclepius took the big comfy doctor’s chair and laid his staff and serpent across his desk. ‘Please, sit!’

Jason and Piper took the two chairs on the patients’ side. Leo had to remain standing, which was fine with him. He didn’t want to be eye-level with the snake.

‘So.’ Asclepius leaned back. ‘I can’t tell you how nice it is to actually talk with patients. The last few thousand years, the paperwork has got out of control. Rush, rush, rush. Fill in forms. Deal with red tape. Not to mention the giant alabaster guardian who kills everyone in the waiting room. It takes all the fun out of medicine!’

‘Yeah,’ Leo said. ‘Hygeia is kind of a downer.’

Asclepius grinned. ‘My real daughter Hygeia isn’t like that, I assure you. She’s quite nice. At any rate, you did well reprogramming the statue. You have a surgeon’s hands.’

Jason shuddered. ‘Leo with a scalpel? Don’t encourage him.’

The doctor god chuckled. ‘Now, what seems to be the trouble?’ He sat forward and peered at Jason. ‘Hmm … Imperial gold sword wound, but that’s healed nicely. No cancer, no heart problems. Watch that mole on your left foot, but I’m sure it’s benign.’

Jason blanched. ‘How did you –’

‘Oh, of course!’ Asclepius said. ‘You’re a bit short-sighted! Simple fix.’

He opened his drawer, whipped out a prescription pad and an eyeglasses case. He scribbled something on the pad, then handed the glasses and the scrip to Jason. ‘Keep the prescription for future reference, but these lenses should work. Try them on.’

‘Wait,’ Leo said. ‘Jason is short-sighted?’

Jason opened the case. ‘I – I have had a little trouble seeing stuff from a distance lately,’ he admitted. ‘I thought I was just tired.’ He tried on the glasses, which had thin frames of Imperial gold. ‘Wow. Yeah. That’s better.’

Piper smiled. ‘You look very distinguished.’

‘I don’t know, man,’ Leo said. ‘I’d go for contacts – glowing orange ones with cat’s-eye pupils. Those would be cool.’

‘Glasses are fine,’ Jason decided. ‘Thanks, uh, Dr Asclepius, but that’s not why we came.’

‘No?’ Asclepius steepled his fingers. ‘Well, let’s see then …’ He turned to Piper. ‘You seem fine, my dear. Broken arm when you were six. Fell off a horse?’

Piper’s jaw dropped. ‘How could you possibly know that?’

‘Vegetarian diet,’ he continued. ‘No problem, just make sure you’re getting enough iron and protein. Hmm … a little weak in the left shoulder. I assume you got hit with something heavy about a month ago?’

‘A sandbag in Rome,’ Piper said. ‘That’s amazing.’

‘Alternate ice and a hot pack if it bothers you,’ Asclepius advised. ‘And you …’ He faced Leo.

‘Oh, my.’ The doctor’s expression turned grim. The friendly twinkle disappeared from his eyes. ‘Oh, I see …’

The doctor’s expression said, I am so, so sorry.

Leo’s heart filled with cement. If he’d harboured any last hopes of avoiding what was to come, they now sank.

‘What?’ Jason’s new glasses flashed. ‘What’s wrong with Leo?’

‘Hey, doc.’ Leo shot him a drop it look. Hopefully they knew about patient confidentiality in Ancient Greece. ‘We came for the physician’s cure. Can you help us? I’ve got some Pylosian mint here and a very nice yellow daisy.’ He set the ingredients on the desk, carefully avoiding the snake’s mouth.

‘Hold it,’ Piper said. ‘Is there something wrong with Leo or not?’

Asclepius cleared his throat. ‘I … never mind. Forget I said anything. Now, you want the physician’s cure.’

Piper frowned. ‘But –’

‘Seriously, guys,’ Leo said, ‘I’m fine, except for the fact that Gaia’s destroying the world tomorrow. Let’s focus.’

They didn’t look happy about it, but Asclepius forged ahead. ‘So this daisy was picked by my father, Apollo?’

‘Yep,’ Leo said. ‘He sends hugs and kisses.’

Asclepius picked up the flower and sniffed it. ‘I do hope Dad comes through this war all right. Zeus can be … quite unreasonable. Now, the only missing ingredient is the heartbeat of the chained god.’

‘I have it,’ Piper said. ‘At least … I can summon the makhai.’

‘Excellent. Just a moment, dear.’ He looked at his python. ‘Spike, are you ready?’

Leo stifled a laugh. ‘Your snake’s name is Spike?’

Spike looked at him balefully. He hissed, revealing a crown of spikes around his neck like a basilisk’s.

Leo’s laugh crawled back down his throat to die. ‘My bad,’ he said. ‘Of course your name is Spike.’

‘He’s a little grumpy,’ Asclepius said. ‘People are always confusing my staff with the staff of Hermes, which has two snakes, obviously. Over the centuries, people have called Hermes’s staff the symbol of medicine, when of course it should be my staff. Spike feels slighted. George and Martha get all the attention. Anyway …’

Asclepius set the daisy and poison in front of Spike. ‘Pylosian mint – certainty of death. The curse of Delos – anchoring that which cannot be anchored. Now the final ingredient: the heartbeat of the chained god – chaos, violence and fear of mortality.’ He turned to Piper. ‘My dear, you may release the makhai.’

Piper closed her eyes.

Wind swirled through the room. Angry voices wailed. Leo felt a strange desire to smack Spike with a hammer. He wanted to strangle the good doctor with his bare hands.

Then Spike unhinged his jaw and swallowed the angry wind. His neck ballooned as the spirits of battle went down his throat. He snapped up the daisy and the vial of Pylosian mint for dessert.

‘Won’t the poison hurt him?’ Jason asked.

‘No, no,’ Asclepius said. ‘W

ait and see.’

A moment later Spike belched out a new vial – a stoppered glass tube no bigger than Leo’s finger. Dark red liquid glowed inside.

‘The physician’s cure.’ Asclepius picked up the vial and turned it in the light. His expression became serious, then bewildered. ‘Wait … why did I agree to make this?’

Piper placed her hand palm up on the desk. ‘Because we need it to save the world. It’s very important. You’re the only one who can help us.’

Her charmspeak was so potent even Spike the snake relaxed. He curled around his staff and went to sleep. Asclepius’s expression softened, like he was easing himself into a hot bath.

‘Of course,’ the god said. ‘I forgot. But you must be careful. Hades hates it when I raise people from the dead. The last time I gave someone this potion, the Lord of the Underworld complained to Zeus, and I was killed by a lightning bolt. BOOM!’

Leo flinched. ‘You look pretty good for a dead guy.’

‘Oh, I got better. That was part of the compromise. You see, when Zeus killed me, my father Apollo got very upset. He couldn’t take out his anger on Zeus directly; the king of the gods was much too powerful. So Apollo took revenge on the makers of lightning bolts instead. He killed some of the Elder Cyclopes. For that, Zeus punished Apollo … quite severely. Finally, to make peace, Zeus agreed to make me a god of medicine, with the understanding that I wouldn’t bring anyone else back to life.’ Asclepius’s eyes filled with uncertainty. ‘And yet here I am … giving you the cure.’

‘Because you realize how important this is,’ Piper said, ‘you’re willing to make an exception.’

‘Yes …’ Reluctantly, Asclepius handed Piper the vial. ‘At any rate, the potion must be administered as soon as possible after death. It can be injected or poured into the mouth. And there is only enough for one person. Do you understand me?’ He looked directly at Leo.

‘We understand,’ Piper promised. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to come with us, Asclepius? Your guardian is out of commission. You’d be really helpful aboard the Argo II.’

Tags: Rick Riordan The Heroes of Olympus Fantasy
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