Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Stolen Chariot, part three

Below is the conclusion to the Percy Jackson short story. Hope you enjoy!

Percy Jackson and the Stolen Chariot, part 3

I had no trouble finding her. I just followed the path of destruction. Fences were knocked down. Animals were running free. Badgers and lemurs were checking out the popcorn machine. A fat-looking leopard was lounging on the park bench with a bunch of pigeon feathers around him.


I parked the motorcycle next to the petting zoo and there were Deimos and Clarisse in the goat area. Clarisse was on her knees. I ran forward but stopped suddenly when I saw how Deimos had changed form. He was Ares now – the tall god of war, dressed in black leather and sunglasses, his whole body smoking with anger as he raised his fist over Clarisse.


“You failed me again!” the war god bellowed. “I told you what would happen!”


He tried to strike her but Clarisse scrambled away, shrieking, “No! Please!”


“Foolish girl!”


“Clarisse!” I yelled. “It’s an illusion. Stand up to him!”


Deimos’s form flickered. “I am Ares!” he insisted. “And you are a worthless girl! I knew you would fail me. Now you will suffer my wrath.”


I wanted to charge in and fight Deimos, but somehow I knew it wouldn’t help. Clarisse had to do it. This was her worst fear. She had to overcome it for herself.


“Clarisse!” I said. She glanced over and I tried to hold her eyes. “Stand up to him!” I said. “He’s all talk. Get up!”


“I – I can’t.”


“Yes, you can. You’re a warrior. Get up!”


She hesitated. Then she began to stand.


“What are you doing?” Ares bellowed. “Grovel for mercy, girl!”


Clarisse took a shaky breath. Very quietly, she said, “No.”


“WHAT?”

She raised her sword. “I’m tired of being scared of you.”


Deimos struck, but Clarisse deflected the blow. She staggered backward but didn’t fall.
“You’re not Ares,” Clarisse said. “You’re not even a good fighter.”


Deimos growled in frustration. When he struck again, Clarisse was ready. She disarmed him and stabbed him in the shoulder – not deep, but deep enough to hurt even a godling.


He yowled in pain and began to glow.


“Look away!” I told Clarisse.


We averted our eyes as Deimos exploded into golden light – his true godly form – and disappeared.


We were alone except for the petting zoo goats who were tugging at our clothes, looking for snacks.


The motorcycle had turned back into a horse-drawn chariot.


Clarisse looked at me cautiously. She wiped the straw and sweat off her face. “You didn’t see that. You didn’t see any of that.”


I grinned. “You did good.”


She glanced at the sky, which was turning red behind the trees.


“Get in the chariot,” Clarisse said. “We’ve still got a long ride to make.”


*

A few minutes later, we reached the Staten Island ferry building and remembered something obvious: We were on an island. The ferry didn’t take cars. Or chariots. Or motorcycles.


“Great,” Clarisse mumbled. “What do we do now? Ride this thing across the Verrazano Bridge?”


We both knew there wasn’t time. There were bridges to Queens and New Jersey, but either way it would take hours to drive the chariot back to Manhattan, even if we could fool people into thinking it was a regular car.


Then I got an idea. “We’ll take the direct route.”


Clarisse frowned. “What do you mean?”

I closed my eyes and began to concentrate. “Drive straight ahead. Go!”


Clarisse was so desperate she didn’t hesitate. She yelled, “Hiya!” and lashed the horses. They charged straight toward the water. I imagined the sea turning solid, the waves becoming a firm surface all the way to Manhattan. The war chariot hit the surf, the horses’ fiery breath smoking all around us, and we rode the tops of the waves straight across New York Harbor.



*


We arrived at Pier 86 just as the sunset was fading to purple. The U.S.S. Intrepid, temple of Ares, was a huge wall of grey metal in front of us, the flight deck dotted with fighter aircraft and helicopters. We parked the chariot on the ramp and I jumped out. For once, I was glad to be on dry land. Concentrating on keeping the chariot above the waves had been one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I was exhausted.


“I’d better get out of here before Ares arrives,” I said.


Clarisse nodded. “He’d probably kill you on sight.”


“Congratulations,” I said. “I guess you passed your driving test.”


She wrapped the reins around her hand. “About what you saw, Percy. What I was afraid of, I mean –”


“I won’t tell anybody.”


She looked at me uncomfortably. “Did Phobos scare you?”


“Yeah. I saw the camp in flames. I saw my friends all pleading for my help, and I didn’t know what to do. For a second, I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed. I know how you felt.”


She lowered her eyes. “I, uh . . . I guess I should say . . .” The words seemed to stick in her throat. I wasn’t sure Clarisse had ever said thank you in her life.


“Don’t mention it,” I told her.


I started to walk away, but she called out, “Percy?”


“Yeah?”


“When you, uh, had that vision about your friends . . .”


“You were one of them,” I promised. “Just don’t tell anybody, okay? Or I’d have to kill you.”


A faint smile flickered across her face. “See you later.”


“See you.”


And I headed off toward the subway. It had been a long day, and I was ready to get home.

THE END


Copyright 2007 by Rick Riordan. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.