Percy waited outside the shack as he waited for Grover. He scanned the compound of what the demigods called the "Glade," this new place of nightmares where he seemed destined to live. The shadows from the walls had lengthened considerably, already creeping up the sides of the ivy-cocered stone faces on the other side.
At lease this helped Percy know the directions- the wooden building crouched in the northwest corner, wedged in a darkening patch of shadow, the grove of trees in the southwest. The farm area, where a few workers were still picking their way through the fields, spread across the entire northeast quarter of the Glade. The animals were in the southeast corner, mooing and crowing and baying away.
In the exact middle of the courtyard, the still-gaping hole of the Box lay open, as if waiting for him to crawl back in and go home. Near that, maybe twenty feet to the south, stood a squat building made of rough concrete blocks, a menacing iron door its only entrance and without windows at all. Percy studied it with curiousity, and finally decided it either held something or someone inside or kept people out.
Percy had just moved on and was concentrating on four vast openings in the middle of the mains walls of the Glade when Grover came back out the door of the shack, a couple sandwiches cradled in his arms, along with apples and two metal cups of water. The sense of relief that came when Percy saw the water was undescribable. He hadn't know how thirsty he was- and how he longed for the water, even if it was just inside a small cup.
"Well, Leo wasn't too happy with me about invading his kitchen before suppertime," Grover said, sitting down on the grass, motioning to Percy to do the same. Percy carefully examined his sandwich as Grover fished a soda can from his pocket. Percy said nothing as he chewed, nothing surprised him anymore. As Grover chomped on his aluminum can and Percy demolished his ham sandwich wishing it was barbecue, questions flooded through the Probatio's mind.
"Didn't know how hungry I was," Percy admitted as he wiped his hands on his shorts.
Grover closed his eyes and leaned back into the side of the shack, smiling in content.
Percy picked up a second sandwich and took a bite. "What...what was wrong with Dakota?"
Grover opened his eyes. "Well...um...I already told you. The hellhounds got him. They're dangerous, and well they like to poison us demigods, see if they can kill us. First one to poison 100 demigods wins." Grover grinned but his smile faded within a few seconds. "But really. Don't ever get caught in the Maze alone."
That got Percy's attention. "Maze?" He asked, sitting straight up, forgetting about his sandwich. "What is this place...some kind of prison?"
Grover hesitated. Looked uncomfortable. "Um, I've never been outside the Glade before. Well...once. I don't go there anymore."
Percy dropped his sandwich. "You're serious? What happened?"
The saytr turned away, tucking his head between his goat legs. "I don't want to talk about it."
Percy observed his friend, sighed, dusted off his hands again and climbed to his feet. "Well, I'm going to get a look around. Want to come?" He felt bad for ruining the night for Grover. Obviously what ever had happened was not something he liked to remember.
Grover nodded and wiped his nose on his arm. "If you want me along...where are we going?"
Percy took in the area. "Eastern opening." He started out, taking the earth with heavy long strides.
"Whoa, wait!" Grover cried, trotting to catch up. "Be careful! These things are about to close any minute now!" He already sounded out of breath.
"Close? What are you talking about?" Percy repeated, looking bewildered. He started up a large hill, panting as he hiked up the steep side.
"The Doors. They close every night. This one here," Grover gestured to the opening that was coming into view. "This is called the East Door. There are more just like this."
Percy stared at him, trying not to crack a smile. "Sure these are doors. They open and close every night- why not? And we also have giant trolls living near the stream."
"Don't go to close to the water." Grover said seriously. "Everyone here fears the water, it's the only thing stronger than fire which is our main weapon. Our special cook- Leo has the fire gift. Jason's all lightning and thunder and boom look at me. Luke, he's got nothin'. We thought he would be...you know important." Grover paused. "But see Luke here is just like Connor and Travis. The only siblings here by the way. They steal stuff, good at stealth."
Percy was still stuck on 'everyone here fears the water.' "So...uh...why do people hate water so much?" He asked carefully.
Grover shook his head. "I don't know. Oh wait look at this-the Doors are closing!"
Percy jerked his head up just as they reached the Doors. They were large, much bigger thank when he'd seen them from afar. At least twenty feet across, the break in the wall went all the way to the top, far above. The edges that bordered the vast opening were smooth, except for one odd, repeating pattern on both sides. On the left side of the East Door, deep holes several inches in diameter and spaced a foot apart jutted out of the rock, starting low near the ground and climbing all the way up, evenly spaced, to the top.
"The walls in the maze move too, we just don't get to see it. Watch."
A loud boom exploded through the air, making Percy jump backwards in surprise. It was followed by a horrible crunching grinding sound. He stumbled backward, fell to the ground, not bothering to get up. It felt as if the whole earth shook, rocking the ground beneath his feet. The walls were closing. The walls were really closing- trapping him inside the Glade. Percy watched wide eyed as the enormous stone wall to the right of them slid across the ground, throwing sparks and dust as it moved, rock against rock. The crunching sound rattled his bones. Percy realized that wall was moving, heading for its neighbor to the left, ready to seal shut with its protruding rods slipping into the drilled holes across from it. He looked around at the other openings, the Doors there were closing too.
"Dang." Percy slapped his knee once the Doors had finished their process. That was about all he could say.
Grover grinned. "C'mon Probatio." He put an arm around Percy's shoulder. "Let's go to bed, tomorrow you'll start the first day of the rest of your life!"
And for the first time in his life, Percy obeyed. He didn't know what else to do, tried to suppress everything he was feeling and work it out later. Right now, he needed to sleep.
Grover looked back at the walls once last time then guided Percy back to the cabins. "Trust me, when nightime falls you want to be in bed."