*
come Ursula K. Le Guin, who taught me the rules readjust in the will Lester (Apollo) still human; many thanks for asking Gods, I hate my life as soon as OUR DRAGON asserted war top top Indiana, ns knew it was going to be a poor day. We’d been traveling west for six weeks, and Festus had actually never presented such hostility towards a state. Brand-new Jersey he ignored. Pennsylvania he appeared to enjoy, despite our battle with the Cyclopes of Pittsburgh. Ohio that tolerated, also after our encounter v Potina, the roman inn goddess that childhood drinks, who pursued us in the type of a gigantic red pitcher emblazoned through a smiley face. Yet for part reason, Festus determined he go not choose Indiana. He came down on the cupola the the Indiana Statehouse, flapped his metallic wings, and also blew a cone that fire the incinerated the state flag best off the flagpole. “Whoa, buddy!” Leo Valdez traction the dragon’s reins. “We’ve talked around this. No blowtorching public monuments!” Behind that on the dragon’s spine, Calypso gripped Festus’s scales for balance. “Could us please get to the ground? tenderness this time?” for a formerly immortal sorceress who once regulated air spirits, Calypso was not a pan of flying. Cold wind blew her chestnut hair into my face, make me blink and spit. It is right, to ~ reader. I, the most essential passenger, the youth who had actually once to be the glorious god Apollo, was compelled to sit in the earlier of the dragon. Oh, the indignities I had suffered since Zeus stripped me of my magnificent powers! that wasn’t sufficient that i was currently a sixteen-year-old mortal through the ghastly alias Lester Papadopoulos. It wasn’t sufficient that I had to toil upon the earth doing (ugh) heroic searches until I can find a means back into my father’s good graces, or the I had a case of acne which simply would no respond to over-the-counter zit medicine. Regardless of my brand-new York State junior driver’s license, Leo Valdez didn’t trust me to operate his aerial bronze steed! Festus’s claws scrabbled for a hold on the environment-friendly copper dome, i beg your pardon was lot too little for a dragon his size. I had a remind to the time I set up a life-size statue the the muse Calliope ~ above my sun chariot and also the extra weight of the hood ornament make me nosedive into China and also create the Gobi Desert. Leo glanced back, his confront streaked v soot. “Apollo, you sense anything?” “Why is it my project to feeling things? Just since I supplied to be a god the prophecy—” “You’re the one who been having actually visions,” Calypso reminded me. “You claimed your friend Meg would certainly be here.” just hearing Meg’s name offered me a twinge that pain. “That doesn’t typical I can pinpoint her place with my mind! Zeus has revoked my access to GPS!” “GPS?” Calypso asked. “Godly placing systems.” “That’s not a genuine thing!” “Guys, cool it.” Leo patted the dragon’s neck. “Apollo, simply try, will you? walk this look like the city girlfriend dreamed around or not?” i scanned the horizon. Indiana was flat country—highways crisscrossing scrubby brown plains, shadows that winter clouds floating over urban sprawl. Approximately us increased a meager cluster of downtown high-rises—stacks of stone and glass like layered wedges that black and also white licorice. (Not the yummy type of licorice, either; the nasty range that sits because that eons in her stepmother’s candy key on the coffee table. And, no, Hera, why would I be talking about you?) after falling to planet in new York City, I discovered Indianapolis desolate and also uninspiring, together if one proper brand-new York neighborhood—Midtown, perhaps—had been stretched out to encompass the entire area that Manhattan, climate relieved that two-thirds of its population and intensely power-washed. I could think of no reason why an evil triumvirate of ancient Roman kings would take attention in such a location. Nor might I imagine why Meg McCaffrey would certainly be sent right here to record me. Yet my visions had actually been clear. I had actually seen this skyline. I had actually heard my old adversary Nero offer orders come Meg: go west. Catch Apollo before he can discover the next Oracle. If girlfriend cannot carry him come me alive, death him. The truly sad thing about this? Meg was among my far better friends. She likewise happened to it is in my demigod master, thanks to Zeus’s twisted sense of humor. As long as I stayed mortal, Meg might order me to perform anything, even kill myself….No. Better not to think of such possibilities. Ns shifted in my steel seat. After so many weeks of travel, ns was tired and also saddle sore. I want to uncover a safe location to rest. This was not such a city. Something about the landscape below made me together restless as Festus. Alas, i was certain this was wherein we were intended to be. In spite of the danger, if I had a opportunity of see Meg McCaffrey again, the prying her away from she villainous stepfather’s grasp, I had to try. “This is the spot,” ns said. “Before this dome collapses under us, I imply we obtain to the ground.” Calypso grumbled in ancient Minoan, “I currently said that.” “Well, pardon me, sorceress!” I responded in the exact same language. “Perhaps if you had useful visions, I’d listen to you an ext often!” Calypso referred to as me a few names that reminded me how vivid the Minoan language had been prior to it walk extinct. “Hey, girlfriend two,” Leo said. “No ancient dialects. Spanish or English, please. Or Machine.” Festus creaked in agreement. “It’s okay, boy,” Leo said. “I’m certain they didn’t average to exclude us. Currently let’s fly down to street level, huh?” Festus’s ruby eye glowed. His steel teeth spun choose drill bits. Ns imagined the thinking, Illinois is sounding pretty an excellent right around now. But he flapped his wings and leaped native the dome. We hurtled downward, landing in former of the statehouse with sufficient force to cracked the sidewalk. My eyeballs jiggled favor water balloons. Festus whipped his head from side to side, steam curling native his nostrils. I saw no prompt threats. Cars drove leisurely under West Washington Street. Pedestrians strolled by: a middle-aged mrs in a flowery dress, a heavyset policeman carrying a document coffee cup labeled CAFÉ PATACHOU, a clean-cut man in a blue seersucker suit. The man in blue waved politely together he passed. “Morning.” “’Sup, dude,” Leo called. Calypso tilted she head. “Why was he therefore friendly? Does the not view that we’re sit atop a fifty-ton metal dragon?” Leo grinned. “It’s the Mist, babe—messes v mortal eyes. Provides monsters look like stray dogs. Renders swords look like umbrellas. Makes me watch even much more handsome 보다 usual!” Calypso jabbed her thumbs into Leo’s kidneys. “Ow!” he complained. “I understand what the Mist is, Leonidas—” “Hey, i told you never to speak to me that.” “—but the Mist need to be very strong here if it can hide a monster the Festus’s size at together close range. Apollo, don’t you discover that a small odd?” i studied the happen pedestrians. True, I had actually seen places where the Mist was particularly heavy. At Troy, the sky above the battlefield had actually been therefore thick with gods friend couldn’t revolve your chariot without to run into another deity, however the Trojans and also Greeks saw only ideas of ours presence. At 3 Mile Island in 1979, the mortals somehow failed to realize the their partial nuclear meltdown was caused by an epos chainsaw fight between Ares and also Hephaestus. (As ns recall, Hephaestus had insulted Ares’s bell-bottom jeans.) Still, ns did not think hefty Mist to be the trouble here. Something about these locals bothered me. Their encounters were also placid. Their dazed smiles reminded me of ancient Athenians just before the Dionysus Festival—everyone in a an excellent mood, distracted, thinking about the drunken riots and also debauchery to come. “We should acquire out of the general public eye,” ns suggested. “Perhaps—” Festus stumbled, shaking choose a wet dog. From inside his chest came a noise choose a loose bicycle chain. “Aw, no again,” Leo said. “Everybody off!” Calypso and I quickly dismounted. Leo ran in front of Festus and held out his eight in a standard dragon-wrangler’s stance. “Hey, buddy, that fine! I’m simply going to switch you turn off for a while, okay? A little downtime to—” Festus projectile-vomited a obelisk of flames that engulfed Leo. Fortunately, Valdez was fireproof. His garments were not. From what Leo had actually told me, he might generally avoid his outfits from burn up simply by concentrating. If the were captured by surprise, however, that didn’t constantly work. When the flames dissipated, Leo stood prior to us wearing nothing yet his asbestos boxer shorts, his magical tool belt, and a pair of smoking, partly melted sneakers. “Dang it!” the complained. “Festus, that cold out here!” The dragon stumbled. Leo lunged and also flipped the lever behind the dragon’s left foreleg. Festus started to collapse. His wings, limbs, neck, and tail contracted into his body, his bronze plates overlapping and folding inward. In a matter of seconds, our robotic friend had been diminished to a huge bronze suitcase. The should have been physically impossible, of course, yet like any kind of decent god, demigod, or engineer, Leo Valdez refused to be quit by the legislations of physics. The scowled in ~ his brand-new piece that luggage. “Man…I thought I addressed his gyro-capacitor. Guess we’re stuck right here until ns can discover a maker shop.” Calypso grimaced. She pink ski coat glistened v condensation indigenous our trip through the clouds. “And if we find such a shop, exactly how long will certainly it take to repair Festus?” Leo shrugged. “Twelve hours? Fifteen?” He propelled a button on the side of the suitcase. A manage popped up. “Also, if we see a men’s clothing store, that might be good.” ns imagined walking right into a T.J. Maxx, Leo in boxer shorts and also melted sneakers, roll a copper suitcase behind him. I did not relish the idea. Then, from the direction the the sidewalk, a voice called, “Hello!” The mrs in the flowery dress had returned. At the very least she looked choose the very same woman. Either that or several ladies in Indianapolis wore purple-and-yellow honeysuckle-pattern dresses and had 1950s bouffant hairstyles. She smiled vacantly. “Beautiful morning!” It was in reality a miserable morning—cold and also cloudy through a smell of brewing snow—but i felt it would certainly be crude to disregard her completely. I provided her a small parade wave—the kind of gesture I supplied to give my worshippers once they concerned grovel at my altar. To me, the message was clear enough: I check out you, puny mortal; currently run along. The gods space talking. The mrs did no take the hint. She strolled forward and also planted it s her in front of us. She wasn’t particularly large, however something about her proportions appeared off. She shoulders were too large for she head. Her chest and also belly protruded in a lumpy mass, as if she’d stuffed a bag of mangos under the front of she dress. Through her spindly arms and also legs, she reminded me the some type of large beetle. If she ever before tipped over, I questioned she could easily get earlier up. “Oh, my!” She gripped she purse v both hands. “Aren’t you youngsters cute!” her lipstick and also eye shadow to be both a violent shade of purple. I wondered if she to be getting sufficient oxygen to she brain. “Madam,” ns said, “we room not children.” I can have added that ns was over four thousand years old, and Calypso was also older, yet I chose not to get into that. “Now, if you will do it excuse us, we have a suitcase come repair and my girlfriend is in dire require of a pair that pants.” ns tried come step roughly her. She clogged my path. “You can’t go yet, dear! we haven’t welcomed you to Indiana!” From she purse, she attracted a smartphone. The display glowed as if a contact were already in progress. “It’s him, every right,” she said right into the phone. “Everybody, which over. Apollo is here!” My lung shriveled in my chest. In the old days, ns would have actually expected come be well-known as quickly as i arrived in a town. Of food the locals would rush come welcome me. They would sing and dance and also throw flowers. Lock would instantly begin constructing a new temple. However as Lester Papadopoulos, ns did not warrant together treatment. I looked nothing choose my previous glorious self. The idea the the Indianans might recognize me regardless of my tangled hair, acne, and also flab was both insulting and terrifying. What if they erected a statue of me in my current form—a giant gold Lester in the center of your city? The various other gods would never ever let me hear the end of it! “Madam,” ns said, “I’m afraid you have mistaken me—” “Don’t it is in modest!” The mrs tossed she phone and purse aside. She got hold of my forearm v the stamin of a weightlifter. “Our master will be happy to have actually you in custody. And also please contact me Nanette.” Calypso charged. One of two people she wished to defend me (unlikely), or she was no a pan of the name Nanette. She punched the woman in the face. This by itself did no surprise me. Having actually lost her immortal powers, Calypso remained in the process of do the efforts to understand other skills. For this reason far, she’d failed at swords, polearms, shurikens, whips, and improvisational comedy. (I sympathized through her frustration.) Today, she’d decided to shot fisticuffs. What surprised me was the according to CRACK her fist made versus Nanette’s face—the sound of finger bones breaking. “Ow!” Calypso stumbled away, clutching she hand. Nanette’s head slide backward. She released me to shot to take her very own face, yet it was also late. She head toppled off her shoulders. The clanged versus the pavement and also rolled sideways, the eye still blinking, the violet lips twitching. The base to be smooth stainless steel. Attached to it to be ragged strips the duct tape stuck with hair and also bobby pins. “Holy Hephaestus!” Leo ran come Calypso’s side. “Lady, you broke my girlfriend’s hand with your face. What are you, one automaton?” “No, dear,” stated decapitated Nanette. She muffled voice didn’t come native the stainless-steel head top top the sidewalk. The emanated from somewhere inside her dress. Just above her collar, wherein her neck offered to be, an outcropping that fine blond hair was tangled v bobby pins. “And I have to say, hitting me wasn’t an extremely polite.” Belatedly, ns realized the steel head had actually been a disguise. Simply as satyrs extended their hooves with person shoes, this biology passed because that mortal through pretending to have actually a human face. Its voice came from the gut area, i m sorry meant… My knee trembled. “A blemmyae,” i said. Nanette chuckled. She bulging midsection writhed under the honeysuckle cloth. She ripped open up her blouse—something a polite Midwesterner would never ever think the doing—and revealed she true face. Wherein a woman’s brassiere would have been, two substantial bulging eye blinked in ~ me. From she sternum protruded a big shiny nose. Across her abdomen cutting a hideous mouth—glistening orange lips, teeth prefer a spread of blank white play cards. “Yes, dear,” the challenge said. “And i’m arresting you in the surname of the Triumvirate!” Up and down Washington Street, pleasant-looking pedestrians turned and began marching in ours direction. Headless guys and gals no loving the Midwest vibe Oh, look—a cheese ghost GEE, APOLLO, you may be thinking, why no you simply pull the end your bow and also shoot her? Or charm her v a track from her combat ukulele? True, I had actually both those items slung across my back along v my quiver. Sadly, also the finest demigod weapons require something referred to as maintenance. My children Kayla and also Austin had explained this to me prior to I left Camp Half-Blood. I couldn’t simply pull my bow and quiver the end of slim air as I supplied to once I was a god. I can no longer wish my ukulele right into my hands and also expect it to be perfect in tune. My weapons and also my musical instrument were carefully wrapped in blankets. Otherwise flying v the wet winter skies would’ve warped the bow, ruined the arrows, and played Hades through the strings of mine ukulele. To acquire them out now would require several minute that ns did no have. Also, I questioned they would carry out me much good against blemmyae. Ns hadn’t faced their kind since the time that Julius Caesar, and also I would’ve been happy to go an additional two thousand year without seeing one. How might a god that poetry and also music be effective versus a varieties whose ears were wedged under their armpits? no one did the blemmyae are afraid or respect archery. They were sturdy melee fighters through thick skin. Lock were also resistant to most develops of disease, which supposed they never dubbed on me because that medical aid nor fear my plague arrows. Worst the all, they were humorless and unimaginative. They had no attention in the future, for this reason they experienced no use for Oracles or prophecies. In short, you could not develop a race less sympathetic to an attractive, multitalented god prefer me. (And think me, Ares had actually tried. Those eighteenth-century Hessian mercenaries that cooked up? Ugh. George Washington and also I had the worst time with them.) “Leo,” ns said, “activate the dragon.” “I just put him right into sleep cycle.” “Hurry!” Leo fumbled through the suitcase’s buttons. Nothing happened. “I called you, man. Even if Festus no malfunctioning, he is really hard to wake up up once he’s asleep.” Wonderful, ns thought. Calypso hunched end her broken hand, muttering Minoan obscenities. Leo shivered in his underwear. And I…well, i was Lester. On height of every that, rather of dealing with our enemies with a large fire-breathing automaton, we would now have to confront them v a right portable item of steel luggage. I rolled on the blemmyae. “BEGONE, foul Nanette!” ns tried come muster my old godly wrath voice. “Lay hands upon my magnificent person again and also you shall it is in DESTROYED!” earlier when i was a god, that risk would have been enough to do entire armies wet their camouflage pants. Nanette simply blinked she cow-brown eyes. “Don’t fuss, now,” she said. She lips to be grotesquely hypnotic, favor watching a surgical incision being used as a puppet. “Besides, dearie, you’re not a god anymore.” Why did people have to save reminding me of that? much more locals converged on our position. Two police police officers trotted under the procedures of the statehouse. In ~ the edge of Senate Avenue, a trio the sanitation employees abandoned their garbage truck and lumbered end wielding big metal garbage cans. From the other direction, a half dozen males in organization suits tromped throughout the capitol lawn. Leo cursed. “Is everybody in this town a metalhead? and also I don’t average the great kind of metalhead.” “Relax, sweetie,” Nanette said. “Surrender and also we won’t need to hurt girlfriend much. It is the emperor’s job!” in spite of her broken hand, Calypso reportedly didn’t feel choose surrendering. Through a defiant yell she fee Nanette again, this time launching a karate kick toward the blemmyae’s large nose. “Don’t!” ns blurted out, also late. As I mentioned, blemmyae space sturdy beings. They’re daunting to hurt and even more daunting to kill. Calypso’s foot connected with its target, and also her ankle bent with a nasty pop. She collapsed, gurgling in pain. “Cal!” Leo ran to she side. “Back off, chest-face!” “Language, dear,” Nanette chided. “Now ns afraid I’ll have to stomp top top you.” She raised one patent animal leather pump, yet Leo was faster. The summoned a world of fire and also threw it like a baseball, hitting Nanette right in between her large chest-level eyes. Flames washed end her, setup her eyebrows and also flowery dress ablaze. As Nanette screamed and stumbled, Leo yelled, “Apollo, help me!” i realized I’d to be standing there, frozen in shock—which would’ve to be fine if I’d been watching the step unfold indigenous the safety of mine throne on mount Olympus. Alas, ns was very much down right here in the trenches with the lesser beings. I helped acquire Calypso to she feet (her one an excellent foot, at least). We slung her arms end our shoulders (with several screaming native Calypso when I accidentally grabbed her damaged hand) and began hobbling away. Thirty feet throughout the lawn, Leo all of sudden stopped.


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“I forgot Festus!” “Leave him,” ns snapped. “What?”