“I guess that’s the entrance,” Louis said, sizing up the spears. The spears were the main entrance to the Athena cabin’s private minefield, or Λαβύρινθο της Αθηνάς άμυνας (Athena’s Labyrinth of Defense) as they preferred to call it. The entrance was located deep within the Camp Half-Blood woods, so that no enemy demigods could inadvertently wander in. Not that they could though, since there some sort of passcode. The Red Team had gained the code through a series of wheeling and dealing with various cabins and gods. The ancient looking spears had been recently polished and had blue ribbons tied to them. An image of an owl was printed on them.
“Hmmm,” Armita observed, “Not very flashy.”
Cate, who had been examining the back of the spears, furled her brow. “Are you sure Jason is between those spears? There seems to be, um, nothing here.” She waved her hand around the spears just for emphasis.
“Never doubt Athena,” Atom said, straightening his sword.
Louis grimaced, entry was not the hard part, getting to Jason was. Without Ashe (who was off fighting Kieran in the arena or somewhere), the team was at a serious disadvantage.
Thuthu bounced up to the spears. “Let’s try this,” she said. She thrust her palm between the spears. “Aagh!” She yelled, recoiling her hand, “Something’s cold!”
The three-foot space between the spears was now filled with a giant transparent keypad.
“High tech,” Mark John remarked, “The keypad seems to be suspended in thin air, almost like a hologram.”
Louis put his hand on her shoulder, “Well done Thuthu!” He quickly punched in the code: 7-4-5-6-3-1. The transparent keypad vanished, but was replaced by these words:
Welcome, child of Athena. When entering Λαβύρινθο της Αθηνάς άμυνας, please remember that all traps are active and can only be deactivated by the administrator, Rebecca. Enter at your own risk, but first please take a moment to fill out this survey brought to you by Demeter’s Floristry Shop.
A questionnaire flashed between the spears. Louis promptly tapped “maybe later.” White luminescent lines appeared on the air, then shaped into a double door and opened.
Cate smiled at Louis, “After you, captain.”
Louis gave her an obviously fake smile then cautiously stepped between the spears. The rest of the Red Team reluctantly stepped in the Athena cabin’s labyrinth behind Louis. And then…..
Three things immediately tipped the team off that something was off there. First, a few owls hooted in the distance.Second, the forest floor was artificial turf (Armita quickly noticed this), and lastly, the sky seemed to glow with a luminescent grid, as if they were in some alternate computer world. Atom turned around to find that the only part of the Camp Half-Blood woods he could see, was between the spears. “Just like a doorway,” Louis remarked. “Dilip and Dimitris, remember that you’re standing guard so that the Blue Team’s reinforcements can’t get in here,” he called out. The two boys nodded and got into a defensive position outside of the labyrinth.
The Red Team got into a huddle. Mark John raised his sword, “We know the play. Find Jason and avoid the Blue Team. Anything else?” Louis shook his head in response, but winked. Mark John grinned, “Let’s go then!”
They walked about ten minutes in what they thought was the right direction then ended up back at the speared entrance.
Armita sighed, “The labyrinth is playing tricks in our mind, messing us up, changing our course.” She tossed her compass aside disgusted that it could fall prey to Athena’s tricks.
The son of Poseidon, Atom, ran his hands through his hair, and asked, “What do we do now.”
The daughter of Hades pushed her hand into the ground. Louis stared at her quizzically. “Armita?” She shushed him and dug one fingernail in the dirt. The ground cracked and a cloud of dirt rose up like steam. A trail began to form as more ground cracked and little puffs of dirt showed the way.
Louis grinned and congratulated Armita. She thanked him and explained, “Nothing beats underground directions, the one thing that cannot be easily altered by illusion and mind tricks.”
The directions went well, they avoided (most of) the traps. Atom fell into a tiger trap and was knocked out by gasses. Louis stayed behind to try to awaken him. Shortly after, Thuthu stepped off of the trail to inspect a suspicious noise and fell into quicksand.
Armita leapt to help her, but Cate pushed her back. She said to Armita, “We don’t want to lose you too.”
Mark John snaked a grapevine over to Thuthu, and she grabbed hold. They pulled her out with some help from the underground dirt and water (thanks to the Hades and Poseidon powers).
Thuthu gasped, “You three go on, I can’t.”
Cate gave her a Are you kidding me? We are NOT leaving you here look.
“Go!” Thuthu commanded, “I am not totally helpless you know.” Armita nodded, then the remaining three Red Team members headed back onto the trail.
The mansion was not what the team had been expecting. A camouflage tent pitched in the woods with spears out front was a more accurate description of they had planned for. Instead, an imposingly large English manor rose before them in front of the oddly gridded sky. Two silver spears were set at the beginning of a stone walkway that led up to the huge front double-doors.
Cate nodded, “Alright.” She turned to Armita and Mark John and said, “Let’s go find Jason, I assume he is in there.” The trio ran up to the front door and stopped short. This was clearly Athena territory. A huge silk flag with an owl emblem had been draped from the top window. Two patches of grass, one on each side of the walkway, had been dyed to match the owl emblem on the flag. Walking in there would be one of the biggest risks the Red Team had ever taken.
Armita took hold of the old-fashioned iron knockers and pulled.
Cate watched in disbelief, “No lock?” Armita shrugged as the mahogany wood door creaked and opened slowly, revealing the entrance hall of Athena.
A stone staircase had been set on the far wall. A twenty-five foot stained glass window of an owl greeted the guest’s eyes if they dared to walk up the stairs. Pillars lined the side of the hall, adding to very cold feeling of the entrance hall. Neither the pillars nor the window could compare to the aura of coldness radiated by the statue though. The three demigods discovered it when they turned to attempt to leave. At least thirty feet tall and made of solid marble stood the likeness of Athena. Mark John tried to exit through the front doors, but they had been locked. He exclaimed, “We’re trapped.”
“Well,” Armita said, “We’re here to stay, so let’s find Jason before we wear out our welcome.”
“Oh that won’t be necessary,” a new voice said. The trio whirled to find Rebecca, Hannah, Rodrigo, and Ivy descending the stone staircase. The children of Athena managed to make a ordinary grin look frighteningly murderous. The difference between the murderous looks given by Ares and Athena’s kids was that Ares looks said We will kill in whatever brutal and bloody way hurts the most; Athena’s said We will conquer you in the most ingenious way known to the modern civilized world.
Hannah swept knives around through the air, “Did you really think you could get in here without being noticed?”
Armita gave her a truly deathly snarl. The replica of the Sword of Hades glimmered in her hands.
Ivy smiled, “A daughter of Poseidon, a daughter of Hades, and a son of Dionysius. Easy points.” She cracked her whip on the stone stair banister.
Rodrigo spun his Spatha around, “Before we decimate you, I’m curious. How did you get the passcode?”
Cate gave a sly smile, “Easily, we expected more a challenge from Athena.”
Rebecca pantomimed an empathetic look, “Is that why there is only three of you.”
Cate slid her hunting knife out. Hannah laughed, “Really! Still not surrendering! Four to three in Athena’s home territory. Props to you for your futile bravery!”
Armita screamed, “Now!” Mark John grew a grape-vine and swung it across the Athena campers legs, knocking them all down.
Hannah was the first to launch herself back up. Cate growled and lunged at her. The deadly duel was knife-on-knife with a mix of martial arts. The daughter of Hades took on Rebecca in a messy old fashioned-brawl-style fight. Mark John had the duty of keeping Ivy and Rodrigo subdued. Every time they slashed through his vines, new ones sprouted up and yanked them down. That was all great until….Ivy shot an arrow into Dionysius’s son’s shoulder. He yelped and fell clutching his wound. Rodrigo sliced through the latest vines and pulled Ivy up.
The knife fight was quite evenly matched as neither demigod was gaining much ground. Hannah kicked Cate in the face, but as she lunged to stab Cate, the daughter of Poseidon used Hannah’s momentum against her and flipped the daughter of Athena over her. Cate noted that during the flip, Hannah’s key necklace had fallen out of her shirt. They need that key to free Jason. The daughter of Poseidon feinted to the right then slashed at Hannah’s neck, severing the key necklace. As fast as cheetah, Cate swept the key up and tossed it to Armita. The child of Hades flung it to the floor, where it sank through the stone as if it was warm butter.
As the daughter of Hades wrestled Rebecca across the stone floor and yanked the key from her neck. Armita pushed the key onto the floor, and the second one sank through the stone. “No!” Rebecca shrieked. She kicked the Sword of Death to the floor then gripped Armita’s shoulder and slammed her into a pillar. Hades’ daughter crumpled to the floor.
The last Red Teammate standing, Cate had very nearly bested Hannah until Rodrigo came up and knocked her unconscious with his sword’s hilt.
“That’s that, I guess,” Rebecca said.
“Oh no, the fun is just beginning,” a male voice said.
Hannah whirled around, “Jason, wha…?”
Another figure stepped out from the shadows, smaller, and grinning crazily. “You weren’t expecting that, were you?” Thuthu said, laughing. The bubbly girl threw the two keys over to Rebecca. “Thanks Armita, that underground travel was really clever of you!” She called out.
Rebecca growled, “You haven’t won yet.” The Athena kids vaulted themselves over to the door, blocking it. The Blue Team’s captain said definitively, “No one leaves the mansion.”
CRSHHSHH. The stained glass owl window shattered, spraying glass over the demigods. An Ace of Spades impaled itself into the wall, near Rodrigo’s head. The Athena kids stood wild eyed in shock.
The team captain of the Red Team, Jason, launched himself into the air, flying in his winged shoes. In a blur, he swept the Athena kids down. He flew over and strained to pick up Cate and Armita. The daughter of Poseidon, Thuthu, helped Mark John to his feet and they limped over to the door.
“Three, two, one,” Thuthu counted. The door swung open revealing a relieved looking Atom. The son of Poseidon quickly hoisted Mark John onto his shoulder. With the support of Atom and Thuthu, the injured demigod managed a gimpy run out. The angry threats coming from the hulking mansion were (very clearly) heard as the three demigods ran down the stone walkway.
Jason flew overhead carrying two of his rescuers. He glanced back at the mansion in time to see Rebecca climbing onto a Pegasus and her three siblings run out the front door, armed to the teeth. He willed his shoes to flap faster.
Down in the forest, Louis had met up with Mark John and his supports. Their sprint to the spears was interrupted a few times by sprung traps, all barely avoided by luck.
Once, a spike shot out from a tree and would have implanted itself in Thuthu’s shoulder if Louis hadn’t tackled the group to the ground.
SCREECH!!!!!!!! The four demigods stopped in their tracks. Louis said shakily, “Guys… its just an owl.” Despite trying to comfort his teammates (and himself), he pulled out a hand of razor-edged cards.
Thuthu screamed. The largest owl they had ever seen was swooping down from the sky at a terrifying speed. As the owl became within range, Louis sent a volley of cards up. They all missed and one glanced off its talons.
Atom set Mark John down beside a tree and pulled out his celestial bronze sword. Thuthu clicked her flashlight on and it melted into a half celestial bronze, half silver sword. The owl came down fast and hard. It slid its talons into Louis’ shoulder then engaged in a talon versus sword fight with Atom. Thuthu slashed at the minster bird’s wings, but they acted as shields and buffeted the sword blows.
Meanwhile, a half mile away, Jason reached the entrance of the labyrinth. He stepped outside and laid Cate andArmita down. Dimitris laughed in surprise, “Bro, you made it!”
Jason high-fived his two teammates. He grinned a mischievous Hermes’ trademark grin, “Its good to be back.” He looked around, “Where’s everyone else?” The boys shrugged in response. Shouts from the opposite side of the woods in Camp Half-Blood grew increasingly louder. A royal blue banner appeared through the trees. Jason instructed Dimitris and Dilip, “I hope you’re armed up, because I have a feeling we’ll be receiving some company.”
“Aggh!” The owl had brought its talons sharply down upon Atom’s wrist. The son of Poseidon recoiled beside a tree for protection. Thuthu smacked the owl in the face, stunning it momentarily. With his good arm, Louis slashed across the owl’s neck with the Queen of Hearts. “Off with his head,” he said grimly. The owl exploded into millions of feathers. Louis fist-bumped Thuthu. “Good job,” he said, “But this isn’t over.” A horse neigh snapped the demigods’ attention back to the Blue Team. Rebecca, sword drawn and hair flowing in the wind, was approaching very speedily on her Pegasus.
Louis and Thuthu hoisted Mark John up, while Atom ran beside them. After a minute or so, with the shadow of a winged horse above them, they saw the crossed spears.
The team captain was waving them in desperately. “Hurry!” He shouted. They leapt through the entrance into the arms of the Red Team. Within seconds though, the entire Blue Team encircled them.
Rebecca stepped off of her Pegasus and walked right up to Louis. She looked down right murderous with no grin to be found. The daughter of Athena’s knuckles had begun to turn white as she gripped her sword. She said angrily, “Son of Tyche, hand over Jason.”
Louis held a card in each of hands and said solemnly “If you want him, come and get him.” Rebecca swung her sword, but Louis caught the blade with his cards. He shook the blade off and stepped back. He shook his head, “I don’t want to fight you Rebecca.I think we won fair and square.” In response she ground her teeth, but threw down her sword.
Hannah spun Rebecca around and asked, “Are you insane? You are letting them win!” Hannah raised her knife and strode up to Louis, but Rebecca grabbed her and yanked her back.
Rebecca glared at her in the eyes. She said, “Hannah, I threw down my weapon. I expect you to do the same.” For a moment it appeared as if Hannah was going to strike her unarmed team captain, but then thought better of it. With great reluctance, she tossed her knives into the dirt.
Jason grinned and clapped Louis on the back. As the Blue Team dispersed into the Λαβύρινθο της Αθηνάς άμυνας, the Red Team team tended to their wounded. Cate and Armita slowly awoke after the consumption of nectar and ambrosia.
Cate looked up at Jason, then at the rest of the team. She shook out the aftereffects of unconsciousness then asked, squinting in the tree-broken sunlight, “Did we win, did we get you back?”
Jason smiled, raised his sword and staff, and shouted, “Yes!”