The Trial of the Rivers

All is going well for Lea as she finishes her time as a god, but when Nico goes mysteriously missing things take a turn for the worse. No longer welcome at camp, and with new power on the rise, Lea is doubting her decisions to stay mortal. Then when news from the gods comes, saying that Lord Hades has been overthrown, Lea and some other experienced demi-gods must travel west to take back the underworld.

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10. 10- I Go Fishing with Pants

10- I Go Fishing with Pants
The bus was completely destroyed, the engine frozen over, the immense dent in the top, it was basically in half. 
“Got any friends nearby?” asked Percy, talking to the Pegasus. 
The Pegasus snorted a response. 
“Alright, thanks Blackjack,” said Percy.  
We stood for a few minutes in awkward silence. Annabeth was taking stock of all of our supplies. We had enough money, but we were running out of food, We’d have to stop by a supermarket.  
I began to zone out thinking of all the people I’d lost to this quest, Nico, Leo, and even though they weren’t in immediate danger, Clarisse, Jason, Thalia, and Piper, all gone. 
I missed Nico so badly it hurt physically to think about, it was a throbbing in my chest every time my heart beat, he was my wingman, my best friend, it was wrong not having him next to me. Silent but present. 
I was jarred out of my trance, by the clack of hooves on pavement, a sound that by then I was surprisingly used to. 
I turned to see two pegasi, One pure white, the other dapple grey. 
“Guido,” said Percy nodding to the white one, “And nice to meet you, Bonnie.”
The grey Pegasus bowed her head slightly. 
“Please don’t call me boss,” said Percy, then he turned to me, “These guys can take us pretty far, as long as we give them food at the end.” 
Bonnie walked up to me assessing me with curious chocolate brown eyes. 
I tried my best to get on her normally, but since she was a good sized horse, Percy had to give me a boost. 
I’ve ridden plenty of horses before, even a pegasi, once or twice. I’d had plenty of riding practice at Camp Augusta, but that was with a saddle, not bareback and I certainly wasn’t riding side-saddle.  I knew to keep my hips loose and to use my thighs to hold on, but when we took off, I knew this was much different. Instead of the rolling motion of walking, flying had a dramatic up and down pump, which was extremely uncomfortable until we got up and could ride the air currents. We glided, spiraling up from the deserted bus. I watched as the baron field landscapes slide underneath. 
I twisted my fingers in Bonnie’s mane. I could see the lake in the distance behind us in the direction where Khione had taken Leo, it looked frozen over, which I’m sure it wasn’t before. 
Percy and Annabeth were out in front of me, Annabeth was reading, which was quite a feat, and Percy looked like he was having the time of his life, although Zeus was ruler of the sky, Percy looked perfectly in his element. The wind whipping his solid shiny black hair, he turned back and grinned at me, he smile clearly saying, “Isn’t this GREAT?!”
I laughed, a genuine grin spread across my face.
A watched the fields pass below us for the next hour, it was like a scenic but turbulent plane ride, with a lot more wind. 
The land looked like a huge quilt, stitched with rectangles, squares and circles, of golden brown and green fields. I didn’t even realize as we crossed from Kansas to Colorado, nor did I realize that I fell asleep until Bonnie nudged me back upright with her wing. 
I muttered an apology and rubbed at my eyes, I had only been out for a few minutes, fifteen maybe, but it felt like hours. 
I nodded back into sleep, the second my eyes shut again I was plunged in blackness, I was in the cavern again, the prison cell. 
Nico sat before me, his knees drawn to his chest his arms crossed over them and his head tucked behind those, so that I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell it was him. The lean structure, shaggy obsidian hair, and weathered aviator jacket. 
I ran to him kneeling in front of his, placing my hand on his upper arm, I could touch him, but not solidly I was hologram. 
“Nico,” I exhaled. 
His head whipped up, and he looked around frantically, his eyes met mine the dark shadows under his eyes more pronounced than ever as if he’d been smudged with charcoal. He smiled so wide, that I had to smile too. His lips were quivering with weakness, mine were too, but from joy. 
“Lea,” he croaked. 
“Hey,” I reached up touched his face, although I couldn’t feel him nor could he feel me, he closed his eyes and shuddered appreciatively. 
He opened his eyes and took a minute to stare at me, “You look terrible,” he said. 
I could see my reflection in the black pools of his eyes, I had cuts and scars all over my face and I was tired looking, my hair badly disheveled and wind-blown. 
“You’re one to talk,” I said, laughing lightly. 
He chuckled and his entire body shook with the movement, the laugh turning from wheezing to coughing. 
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon,” I said. 
He tried to reach up and brush back my bangs, which persistently fall in my eyes, but his hand went though me, and the effort to move was too much, his arm dropped to his side and he leaned back against the wall weakly. 
“Lea, Lea,” said repeating my name, rolling it off his tongue like it tasted sweet, “My father’s castle its been taken over. We are all prisoners.”
“Taken over by who?” I begged. 
“By the-“ he began but was cut off by a chillingly high and nasally voice. 
“Hey, who are you talking to?” it demanded, certain parts of the sentence were said at such high pitch it hurt my ears. 
Nico grabbed my hand, “She’s coming,” and the wall beside us split open. 
I jumped awake. 
Bonnie snorted and shoved me back upright again from my extremely off-kilter position on her back. 
I wiped away the tears that were streaming across my face, then twirled my fingers deeper into Bonnie’s silky grey mane. 
I tried to fall asleep again, to go back to Nico, but clearly Hypnos would not allow it. 
I watched the ground again, heights don’t scare me, so I could look down without feeling queasy. 
I could see three lakes in the distance, very isolated, a larger one, next to a smaller one with another small one not far off. 
“Twin lakes,” called back Annabeth, who was looking at a map. 
“Blackjack wants a water break,” yelled Percy.
With that all three pegasi, tucked in their wings and dived. 
I scrambled, frantically clawing for a better hold on Bonnie. 
We swooped onto the shoreline, landing roughly. I fell off Bonnie, landing on my butt, the rough gravel poking into my calloused palms, Bonnie let my duffel bag slide off her and hit the dust at my feet. 
I sat, wiping the gravel off my hands and watching the tiny waves lap against the shore. 
Bonnie whinnied.
“She says thank you, for not being heavy,” translated Percy. 
“Umm, thank you?” I replied. 
“But you need to work on your balance,” continued Percy. 
I didn’t respond to that, am I supposed to be a balanced sleeper?
The pegasi, went to get a drink and Annabeth handed me her water bottle which I chugged down appreciatively. 
It was peaceful here, but I had learned to grow wary of peaceful, mortals tend to shy away from danger even if the don’t know it’s there. 
Percy looked unsettled too, watching the water uncertainly. 
He, Annabeth and I sat in a circle eating our lunch of saltines and granola bars. Annabeth buzzed happily about how far we’ve gotten without real delay. 
She was right we were already half-way across the country and it’d only been two and a half days. Suddenly the pegasi began to snort and whinny, backing up from the water. 
“Whoa, whoa guys. What is it?” Asked Percy standing up.
In response the water erupted, a cylinder of foam rushing up hundreds of feet. The foam fell back to the water’s turbulent surface, revealing a sea monster.
It was the exact same color as the water, and I mean exact, it did some sort chameleon effect, and it had a serpent like body, like a giant spiky blue cobra, with milky white eyes. 
“Oh shi-“ said Percy, but the creature cut him off with a deafening roar. 
“Ceta,” said Annabeth, “Guido, Bonnie, Blackjack get, out of here. Cetus love livestock.”
Blackjack snorted, then took off, the others close behind. 
I wished I could fly away like that. 
The ceta, thrashed around angrily as his meal flew away, I guess he’d have to settle for demigod. He snapped at the air, as if trying to catch an invisible flying cow. 
Disappointed, he aimed for the only thing that really stood out against the dull landscapes: my hot pink duffel bag. He snatched it away from right in front of me, whipping it around like a terrier with a chew toy. 
My clothes flew everywhere. 
Neon orange and pink t-shirts rained from the sky. My favorite pair of jeans land ed in the water, fifty feet from shore. 
“Really?” I shouted at no one in particular. 
The Ceta cocked it’s head to the side, staring inquisitively. 
It was blind or at least mostly. 
A pair of jeggings fluttered down next in front of me. 
Percy ran out onto the lake and rocketed himself up using the water columns, like he had when I first met him. 
“We need a plan…” Trailed off Annabeth sighing, “I guess he’ll handle this one on his own.”
She looked slightly, put down, she probably wanted to be helpful but Percy seemed to be doing fine. 
He was rocketing around the Ceta slashing at its throat, he had gotten a few good cuts but the creature was thrashing around so much it was hard to make contact. 
Suddenly, the monster whipped it’s head to the right, whacking Percy. I think it was trying to bite him, but because the monster was so far off from Percy, it just whacked him with the side of it’s face. Percy went flying. He streamlined at least three hundred feet all the way across the lake, slamming into the mountain side. 
Annabeth gasped, then looked at me desperately. 
“Go help him,” I said confidently, “I’ve got this,” but my voice trailed off at the last part. I probably didn’t have this. 
Annabeth sprinted to around the lake to get to Percy, who was just an orange speck on the mountainside. 
What now?
I checked for resources. My sword, my shield, and a few random pieces of clothing. Mostly tank tops and camp shirts, littering the landscapes like neon pink and orange confetti. There were some undergarments that I really wished were not in the publics view, but at least it was only Percy and Annabeth. 
The Ceta hissed at the sky, snapped at nothing, picked up one of my bras from the shoreline and flung it to who knows where. 
Then I spotted my ticket item, the world’s stretchiest pair of jeggings. 
I don’t know why I needed such an elastic pair of pants, it’s not like I had a huge waistline. I only bought them because they’re super comfy, and the additional benefit of being able to stretch them up over my shoulders and wear them as a giant denim-like jumpsuit/straight-jacket. Finally they had a more useful purpose.
Now, how the heck to get up to the things face. 
“Percy!” I yelled at the top of my lungs!
This was both a good and very bad idea.
The bad side consisted of the Ceta, who had very acute hearing abilities to pinpoint my location and then rocket its face straight to where I was so that I had to dive roll out of the way. 
The good part was that I dive rolled  past the jeggings, grabbing them on my way into the water where Percy launched me  up. The Ceta slithered around looking for me then realized I was on top of the huge pillar of water right next to him. 
We weren’t dealing with the brightest opponent.
It flicked it’s giant forked tougue at me and wove it’s head back forth, it was apprehensive for the first now that he actually had a clean shot. 
I prepared myself, this was either my most brilliant paln next or a suicide mission. I was about to find out. 
I kept my sword and shield in my pocket both of my hands gripping the jegging’s waistline tightly. No screwing up now, or else I’d be sea monster food. Well, lake-monster.
The monster finally figured out now was a good time to attack, it lunged forward, but I was ready. Just as it was about to open it’s jaws fully I pulled open the jeggings as far as the waistline would allow, which was my entire freaking arm span, and let go. The jeggings snapped tight over the creatures mouth, for it stared cross eyed, quizzically staring at it’s new muzzle. I jumped forward grabbing on the pant legs and jungle-vine swinging onto the Ceta back. I looped one around the left side of the head and one on the right, tying them in the back making the perfect reins. 
Percy and Annabeth were on the ground staring up amazed. 
“Oh stop your wiggling, there is no way your getting out of the Ultra-Stretches,” I yelled at the Ceta. 
Suddenly he stopped moving. 
Surprised I tried something different, I stroke it’s forehead. 
He made a noise that sounded strangely like purring. 
“Hey guys,” I yelled down to Percy and Annabeth, “Can you pick up some of my clothes, I think I found us a new ride, and it comes with fortification.”
The Ceta flared it’s spiked hood out to show off.
Annabeth put her hand and her hip and smirked, “You are amazing.” 
“I know!” I yelled back, laughing at the absurdity of this situation. 
She and Percy began to pick up some of my clothes stuffing them back in my partially ripped duffel. I then guided the Ceta’s head to the shore where, Percy and Annabeth hopped on. 
The  slightly concaves scale spikes on his back created surprisingly nice seats. 
Luckily the Ceta could also move on land, he slid swiftly over the rough landscape. I turned back to Percy grinning. 
“Welcome aboard Norman, Thank you for traveling with Sea-Monster Slither Lines. Please keep hands and feet aboard Ceta at all times. Thank you and enjoy your ride. 
And we rode our large blue water cobra into the sunset.

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