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Chapter 11: Nicky


I raised my sword and tried to clear my head. His words had shaken me.

I'd been right. He was in this for Piper. I imagined what I would do to someone if they killed my Wise Girl...

No. There was no torture horrible enough. But I had a feeling Jason was going to try and find one.

He raised his sword. I could probably out duel him, I thought. But then I noticed the tendrils of blue electricity arcing through the golden metal. I cursed, remembering Jason's practice duel. The second our swords connected, I'd be incapacitated.  I considered running, but thought better of it. I couldn't out run him with his flying ability. He was closing in. I braced myself. But before he could attack, Jason's sword lit with a different light, turning it the color of a metal in a forge. Jason cried out and dropped it. Then out of the thicket of trees walked the one and only Leo Valdez.


Jason scowled. "This isn't your fight, Leo. Get out of here. Or I'll have to make you."

Leo shook his head. "Is this really what it's come to, Jason? You were my friend. We used to be friends. But now..." he clenched his fists. "I don't know who you are anymore."

"He killed her!!" Jason screamed, waving his arms in my direction. "He helped kill her, and your helping him?"

"Like you can talk!" Leo yelled back. "Working with Khione. What, did you just forget what she did to us?!" Leo yanked up his sleeve. There, on his upper forearm, faded but still very visible, was  a thin white line, a scar, forming a capital letter K.

My mind was reeling. Leo and Jason knew eachother. They'd met Khione before, and she'd 'signed' them, so I guessed torture was involved. My thoughts suddenly jumped to the other night- Piper had said Khione marked all the other boys in the arena. But I'd just assumed that meant they were dead.

The roar of flames interupted my thoughts. Jason was now standing in the middle of a circle of flames that was getting taller every second. "Le- Leo." Jason choked. The air around him had to be at least 90% poisonous with all that smoke. Leo just raised his hands, and the flames rose with them. Jason fell to his knees. "Leo." I said. He blinked like he'd been woken from a trance. The flames immediatly died, leaving Jason unconsious in the middle of a charred black circle."What was that about?" I asked.

He looked at the ground. "Well, uh,  my mom, she's a mechanic. But she works all over Olympus, in every faction."

"I thought travel between factions was illegal?" I said. He smiled a little. "Technically, as long as you have permit from the Capitol, and you return to your home faction for reapings, it's alowed. And mom gets requests from all over. The only mechanic better than her is... well, my dad. But anyway, when I was eight, we spent almost a year in faction 2. Me and Jason were almost instantly friends. Pipes..her dad was an actor,so he was permitted to travel for work, and  she was there too. They were good people, Percy. They- they were my best friends. But around the time I left, they were both sent to the Career academy. I didn't get back for a few years. By then, they were like different people." Leo crouched down next to Jason and checked his pulse.

"Still alive." He announced.

"We can't leave him that way." I said.

"I know. You do it."

I nodded and raised my sword to strike. Then suddenly, I couldn't move. I was engulfed in coldness.

And I knew the feeling.


I heard applause and cold, female laughter from behind me. Leo's eyes widened, first in horror, then in hatred.

"Well done! I must say, I am impressed. I wasn't sure even the both of you working together could defeat Jason. But I see you did quite a fine job of that yourself, Leo." Khione sounded amused. Leo's fists burst into flame. He shot a fireball at her. But instead of dodging or deflecting  with ice, she moved her hand like swatting something. I moved, against my will, right into the line of fire. The flames hit my arm, which exploded in pain. I couldn't cry out or even look, but I figured third degree burns, definantly.

I raised my sword. I wasn't really moving; it was more like someone was picking up my arms and moving them for me. But it hurt just as bad. I found myself attacking Leo. He dodged my first strike, then held out his hand. I felt my sword heat up. It kept glowing until the heat was uncomfortable, but the ice blocked most of it. Then the ice started to melt, and Khione had no choice but to make me drop Riptide. "What, to scared to fight me yourself?"

The snow goddess's eyes narrowed. Then she seemed to remember something pleasent. "You didn't tell how you got that, did you?" She said, pointing to the scar on his arm. Leo pulled down his sleeve.  Khione laughed.

"Well, it must have been, what... 7 years ago? You and Jason and Piper wandered up to my father's palace. Now, my father doesn't  take kindly to trespassers, and he wanted to kill you all immediatly, but I convinced him to let me keep you."  She sighed contentedly. "That was a good day." Then her expression soured. "Little did I know you were a fire user. You'd broken out yourself and your friends by daybreak. I saw the other two  at the Career academy, of course, but I didn't say anything. And then when I saw you'd been reaped, well," she smiled. "I managed to convince them to volunteer. So now, here we all are. The girl's already out. Jason's as good as dead. Which just leaves you."

Khione raised her arms, and I mirrored her motion. The water from the spring lifted out of the banks and splashed over Leo. He tried to summon fire to his hand, but it refused to light. He looked momentarily panicked, then he pointed to the ground below Khione's feet. Another fire ring formed, but she surrounded herself in a miniature blizzard, and she reappeared  standing behind me. She twirled her finger, and the water that had been strewn across the ground rose and started to swirl around me, like a hurricane. I advanced on Leo, still under Khione's control. He'd managed to dry off, and he was shooting fire at me and Khione, but we were both safely in the eye of the hurricane. I tried my best to resist, but it was useless. Then he tripped. Khione haulted the storm and drew her dagger, knowing she'd already won. Then she stopped, tilting her head like she was trying to hear something. Then the sound got loud enough for me to hear- a faint buzzing.

Then Khione was engulfed in some sort of yellowish blur. Leo scrambled back and stood up. Then he approached me, his palm lit with flame.After a couple minutes, I was melted out. "Thanks, man. I owe you one."

The buzzing stopped. The blur that had surrounded Khione convened into a single form- a teenage boy.

"Frank. You were not just a swarm of bees." The son of Mars just shrugged. "Don't think I was doing you any favors. I heard her talking about what she did. I probably would have done that after she killed you anyway, so I figured, why wait?"

"He just turned into a swarm of bees." Leo said in awe. Then he regained his sarcastic composure. "I wonder what would happen if one of them got squished."

Frank glared. "I wonder what would happen if you got squished under an elephant's foot."

Leo paled. "Let's not find out."

We all looked at the two unconsious Careers. Jason was still unconscious, and Khione was covered in quickly-fading welts. "We can't kill him." Leo said. Frank and I looked at him like he was insane. "That's what she wants. For us to destroy eachother until there's no one left, ad then she wins. And I am not giving her anything she wants."

"You realize he does have to go eventually." I said.

He nodded grimly. "Ya. Just After her." He pointed at Khione.

"I guess we've all had enough fighting for one day." I decide. I really didn't like the idea of leaving the Jason alive, but after being ice-possesed into fighting, I was sort of done. For now, I thought. "What about her?"

Leo clenched his fist. "She dies."

"How?" Frank asked. "She's an immortal goddess."

I thought about it. There was all ways the cut-up-into-a-million-pieces option, but the idea of slicing someone into  cool-mint chexmix made me sick to my stomach. "I don't know. We'll have to think of something later."

"We?" Frank asked.

I tried to shrug, but my arm, which I realized hadn't moved since being unfrozen, exploded in pain. I fell to my knees. The burn,I thought. I heard myself scream, and a distant voice yell-"Percy!"

A gray-eyed girl ran onto the scene. "Oh my gods." My Wise Girl kneeled beside me. She fumbled pulling a blue vial out of her pocket- the Nefertum's Balm. The vial was mostly empty, but she used the last bit on my arm, and it seemed to do the trick. The burn faded until it was just a patch of slightly red skin. Then her gaze fell on Leo. "You did this." She drew her bronze knife. 

"No! I mean,I guess technically-"

"It wasn't his fault." Me, Leo, and Frank took turns telling what had happened with Jason and Khione.

Annabeth looked at Frank quizickly. "Bees?"

I smiled. "Seriously? That's what you got from that story?" 

She shrugged. "So what now?"

Then something silver fell on her head. She caught it before it hit the ground- a Capitol blimp. She studied it, then handed it to me. Written in blueish-green  letters across the bottom was, "Percy"

I opened it and pulled out the contents. Leo laughed. "Ribbons?"

It was true. The blimp contained a roll of pale pink ribbons. What kind of idiot sends a tribute ribbons?, I thought. Then I read the note.

Percy-

It's been a long time. There's so much to tell you.But I can't write it down here. Speak the word "Tas." I don't know if it will work, especially since you're not a- well, never mind.They won't hold her forever, but she should be out of your hair for a day or two. I hope you win. We could use your help.

-Carter

My mouth fell open. Carter? Former-mayor's-son, Carter? He-and-his-sister-dissapeared-mysteriously-when-he-was-like-14-never-to-be-seen-again, Carter? And what did he need my help with? And what the freak was he doing sending me ribbons?

"What does it say?" Annabeth asked.

I stuffed the paper in my pocket. "Uh... Tas."

"What kind of note says Ta- ah...." she trailed off as the ribbons levitated, and then wrapped up Khione like a mummy. "Whoa." Frank said.

The mummy moved. Khione'd woken up. I heard muffled screams of protest from behind the ribbons, And saw silvery light bleed through- her true  godly form. But the ribbons held. 

"We should get out of here. The note said they'll only hold her until tomorrow, maybe the next day." I said.

"There you go with the 'we' again." Frank said.

I looked at Frank and Leo. "I think it would be a good idea to team up. We're the only ones left, besides the careers."

"And Reyna." Leo said.

"Oh, ya. Forgot her."

Leo whistled and shook his head. "I could never forget her."

We all looked at him. "Dude." I said.

"What?"

Anabeth rolled her eyes. We went back to our conversation.

"I'll pass." Frank said. He turned into a bird and darted off into the woods. Annabeth and I both looked at Leo. He shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"

As we walked back toward the cave, I had a lot to think about. Instead of eliminating an enemy like I planned, I 'd made an ally. And what was up with that note? Last time I saw Carter, his house was overrun with cops and he and his sister had been carted off by some dude with dreadlocks and a trenchcoat. Now he was sending me goddess-mummifying ribbons. And he wanted my help with something. Hated to burst his bubble, but I had no intention of living through these games. I would give Annabeth the note when it came down to just the two of us, I decided. What ever he needed me for, she could do it ten times better. I fell asleep to troubled dreams.


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