Monday, July 23, 2007

The Stolen Chariot, part one

Finally a sunny day in Texas! I thought I would celebrate by posting the one-and-only Percy Jackson short story, "Percy Jackson and the Stolen Chariot." This was originally written as a promotional piece for the release of Titan's Curse, and was available only on a special bookstore mailing list, but now you can read it here -- a little Percy to tide you over until book four. Part one of the story is below. Parts two and three will be published over the next week, so stay tuned! I hope you enjoy.



Percy Jackson and the Stolen Chariot



I was in fifth period science class when I heard these noises outside.
SCRAWK! OW! SCREECH! HIYA! Like somebody was getting attacked by possessed poultry, and believe me, that’s a situation I’ve been in before.

Nobody else in class seemed to notice the commotion. We were doing a lab so everybody was talking, and it wasn’t hard for me to go look out the window while I pretended to wash out my beaker.

Sure enough: there was a girl in alley with a sword drawn. She was tall and muscular like a basketball player, with stringy brown hair and jeans and combat boots and a denim jacket. She was hacking at a flock of black birds the size of ravens. Feathers stuck out of her clothes in several places. A cut was bleeding over her left eye. As I watched, one of the birds shot a feather like an arrow and it lodged in her shoulder. She cursed and sliced at the bird, but it flew away.

Unfortunately, I recognized the girl. It was Clarisse, my old enemy from demigod camp. Clarisse usually lived at Camp Half-Blood year-round. I had no idea what she was doing on the Upper East Side in the middle of a school day, but she was obviously in trouble. She wouldn’t last much longer.

I did the only the thing I could.

“Mrs. White,” I said, “can I go to the restroom? I feel like I’m going to puke.”

You know how teachers tell you the magic word is please? That’s not true. The magic word is puke. It will get you out of class faster than anything else.

“Go!” Mrs. White said.

I ran out the door, stripping off my safety goggles and gloves and lab apron. I got out my best weapon – a ballpoint pen called Riptide.

Nobody stopped me in the halls. I exited by the gym. I got to the alley just in time to see Clarisse smack a devil bird with the flat of her sword like she was hitting a home run. The bird squawked and spiraled away, slamming against the brick wall and sliding into a trash can. That still left a dozen more swarming around her.

“Clarisse!” I yelled.

She glared at me in disbelief. “Percy? What are you doing –”

She was cut short by a volley of feather arrows that zipped over her head and impaled themselves in the wall.

“This is my school,” I told her.

“Just my luck,” Clarisse grumbled, but she was too busy fighting to complain much.
I uncapped my pen, which grew into three-foot-long bronze sword, and joined the battle, slashing at the birds and deflecting their feathers off my blade. Together, Clarisse and I sliced and hacked until all the birds were reduced to piles of feathers on ground.

We were both breathing hard. I had a few scratches, but nothing major. I pulled a feather arrow out of my arm. It hadn’t gone in very deep. As long as it wasn’t poison, I’d be okay. I took a baggie of ambrosia out of my jacket, where I always kept it for emergencies, broke a piece in half and offered some to Clarisse.

“I don’t need your help,” she muttered, but she took the ambrosia.

We swallowed a few bites – not too much, since the food of the gods can burn you to ashes if you overindulge. I guess that’s why you don’t see many fat gods. Anyway, in a few seconds our cuts and bruises had disappeared.

Clarisse sheathed her sword and brushed off her denim jacket. “Well . . . see you.”

“Hold up!” I said. “You can’t just run off.”

“Sure I can.”

“What’s going on? What are you doing away from camp? Why were those birds after you?”

Clarisse pushed me, or tried to. I was too used to her tricks. I just sidestepped and let her stumble past me.

“Come on,” I said. “You just about got killed at my school. That makes it my business.”

“It does not!”

“Let me help.”

She took a shaky breath. I got the feeling she really wanted to punch me out, but at the same time there was a desperate look in her eyes, like she was in serious trouble.

“It’s my brothers,” she said. “They’re playing a prank on me.”

“Oh,” I said, not really surprised. Clarisse had lots of siblings at Camp Half-Blood. All of them picked on each other. I guess that was no big surprise since they were sons and daughters of the war god Ares. “Which brothers? Sherman? Mark?”

“No,” she said, sounding more afraid than I’d ever heard her. “My immortal brothers. Phobos and Deimos.”

*

We sat on a bench at the park while Clarisse told me the story. I wasn’t too worried about getting back to school. Mrs. White would just assume the nurse sent me home, and sixth period was shop class. Mr. Bell never took attendance.

“So let me get this straight,” I said. “You took your dad’s car for a joy ride and now it’s missing.”

“It’s not a car,” Clarisse growled. “It’s a war chariot! And he told me to take it out. It’s like . . . a test. I’m supposed to bring it back at sunset. But –”

“Your brothers carjacked you.”

“Chariot-jacked me,” she corrected. “They’re his regular charioteers, see. And they don’t like anybody else getting to drive. So they stole the chariot from me and chased me off with those stupid arrow-throwing birds.”

“Your dad’s pets?”

She nodded miserably. “They guard his temple. Anyway, if I don’t find the chariot . . .”

She looked like she was about to lose it. I didn’t blame her. I’d seen her dad Ares get mad before, and it was not a pretty sight. If Clarisse failed him, he would come down hard on her. Real hard.

“I’ll help you,” I said.

She scowled. “Why would you? I’m not your friend.”

I couldn’t argue with that. Clarisse had been mean to me a million times, but still, I didn’t like the idea of her or anybody else getting beat up by Ares. I was trying to figure out how to explain that to her that when a guy’s voice said, “Aw, look. I think she’s been crying!”

A teenage dude was leaning against the telephone pole. He was dressed in ratty jeans, a black T-shirt and a leather jacket with a bandana over his hair. A knife was stuck in his belt. He had eyes the color of flames.

“Phobos.” Clarisse balled her fists. “Where’s the chariot, you jerk?”

“You lost it,” he teased. “Don’t ask me.”

“You little –” Clarisse drew her sword and charged, but he disappeared as she swung and her blade bit into the telephone pole.

Phobos appeared on the bench next to me. He was laughing, but he stopped when I stuck Riptide’s point against his throat.

“You’d better return that chariot,” I told him. “Before I get mad.”

He sneered and tried to look tough, or as tough as you can with a sword under your chin. “Who’s your little boyfriend, Clarisse? You have to get help fighting your battles now?”

“He’s not my boyfriend!” Clarisse tugged her sword out of the telephone pole. “He’s not even my friend. That’s Percy Jackson.”

Something changed in Phobos’s expression. He looked surprised, maybe even nervous. “The son of Poseidon? The one who made Dad angry? Oh, this is too good, Clarisse. You’re hanging out with a sworn enemy?”

“I’m not hanging out with him!”

Phobos’s eyes glowed bright red. Clarisse screamed. She swatted the air as if she were being attacked by invisible bugs. “Please, no!”

“What are you doing to her?” I demanded.

Clarisse backed up into the street, swinging her sword wildly.

“Stop it!” I told Phobos. I dug my sword a little deeper against his throat, but he simply vanished, reappearing back at the telephone pole.

“Don’t get so excited, Jackson,” Phobos said. “I’m just showing her what she fears.”
The glow faded from his eyes.

Clarisse collapsed, breathing hard. “You creep,” she gasped. “I’ll – I’ll get you.”

Phobos turned toward me. “How about you, Percy Jackson? What do you fear? I’ll find out, you know. I always do.”

“Give the chariot back.” I tried to keep my voice even. “I took on your dad once. You don’t scare me.”

Phobos laughed. “Nothing to fear but fear itself. Isn’t that what they say? Well, let me tell you a little secret, half-blood. I am fear. If you want to find the chariot, come and get it. It’s across the water. You’ll find it where the little wild animals live – just the sort of place you belong.”

He snapped his fingers and disappeared in a curtain of yellow vapor.

Now I’ve got to tell you, I’ve met a lot of godlings and monsters I didn’t like, but Phobos took the prize. I didn’t like bullies. I’d never been in the “A” crowd at school, so I’d spent most of my life standing up to punks who tried to frighten me and my friends. The way Phobos laughed at me and made Clarisse collapse just by looking at her . . . I wanted to teach this guy a lesson.

I helped Clarisse up. Her face was still beaded with sweat. “Now are you ready for help?” I asked.


To be continued.....

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