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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7. 7-I Kill the Bus Driver

7-I Kill the Bus Driver
After a few minutes of regrouping, we walked back to the van. 
Percy stopped so abruptly at the sidewalk, I nearly ran into him. Luckily Jason was there to catch me before I tumbled to the cement. My legs were still weak and shaking from the fight. 
I was about to ask what was wrong when I saw it, the van in a state of disrepair. It was so rusted it looked as if it had been there since the 1800’s. It was badly scratched, as if somebody has gouged it. The tires has been slashed and some of the seats were missing, the others shredded. Percy knelt and looked at the tires. 
“It’s been ripped with barbed wire,” he said, “Looks as if Palioxis took out her grudge on the car. So much for that. I’ll message Chiron and tell him that we need a Camp Van #3.”
“I guess we’ll need to take a bus, or a taxi. At least till we find a train station,” added Annabeth. 
Almost as if on que, a large bus pulled up to the curb, at a bus stop only a few yards down the street. We all looked at the each other expectantly; to confirm that that was our next move, then sprinted to the open doors. 
The bus driver was large  pig like man, sweat stains visible through his shirt and a hunched figure, his name tag read “JOE BOB” which I found to be an odd name. He smelt like burnt steak. When he looked up at Percy for payment, Percy shoved a fifty dollar bill into the driver’s pudgy sausage-like fingers and said “Get us as far west as you can go.”
For a minute the driver looked shocked, but without saying anything he nodded, and sped off. The offer clearly good enough for him to break his routine. 
We all took a seat. Percy Annabeth and I shared a booth. Percy wanting to sit in the window seat and next to Annabeth, and Annabeth wanting to sit next to me, so that she could tend to my hand. 
There was about fifteen minutes of peace as we sped out of the city. 
Annabeth prodded at my wounds to my many objections, but she insisted that they needed to be redressed frequently. 
After a while I started to get a leery feeling, our bus driver hadn’t said a word the entire time, and he was speeding through traffic like a manic. We were almost out of the city already. We were just coming upon Newark when something went wrong. We headed into a tunnel and everything went black for a minute. 
After we had emerged into the light and my eyes had adjust I saw him. The bus driver was standing up and facing us. The bus was still moving as if on autopilot. 
The driver said into his microphone, “Approaching Newark, next stop Hades.”
Then he began to transform, he straightened up, revealing himself to be eight feet tall. He skin was reddish brown like a bad sunburn, he had shaggy brown hair and tattoos all over his arms. He looked pretty normal, except for the fact that when he smiled it showed pointed teeth. As he grew his large shirt tore at the seems to accommodate his humongous body. On his bicep I could see a tattoo, faint and old, that said “JB loves Babycakes” and a more fresh one display him tearing into, throwing and killing in many other gruesome ways, a kid that looked way to much like Percy to be a coincidence.
I looked over at Percy whose mouth hung open in awe. 
“Let me guess,” I said, “You’ve killed this guy before.”
“Yeah,” he replied still astounded. 
“Let’s hope he isn’t still holding a grudge.”
Joe Bob, grabbed one of the front seat and threw it in our direction. 
We ducked behind our row.
“Well, it was worth suggesting.”
Joe Bob, roared. His anger resonating through the bus. 
The roar didn’t seem to stop it just echoed. 
Or at least I thought it was echoing. 
I wish it was echoing. 
I turned to look out the window, in slow-motion, I watched through the glass. A red-brown blur came across the view. Then suddenly the glass shattered, pieces flying through the air slitting though my skin. My cheek now speckled with blood. 
Standing in front of me was another one. 
He had jumped through the window.
Along with him, six more giants had joined the fight. 
Before I could really consider my next move, I ran up and kicked the giant facing me in the chest. He tumbled back out the window and exploded into dust on the highway. 
For a second I looked around the bus. Annabeth was rolling and jumping to doge one’s desperate swings at her. She would be fine. Piper and Jason were slashing away at two in the very back. Leo was crouched behind one of the seats, fiddling with some metal on his lap, which was disappointing, but I’m sure he had something to rationalize his actions. Thalia was taunting one with her silver blade and Percy was taking on two in the front of the bus. I decided to help Percy, and repaying him for saving my sorry soul earlier. I was jumping over the seats, making my way to the front when I heard someone shout, “Lea!” 
I turned quickly to see a flash of metal coming in my direction. I reached out and caught it, which probably wasn’t the best idea, but I did it anyways. I looked to see that in my palm I held a small golden disk, I flipped it over to see that it was my necklace. I pressed the jewel and my sword elongated from the little plate. 
The dent was gone from my sword, and it seemed as good as new, besides the shattered jewel. Leo had fixed it. I turned to him to say thank you, but I saw that he was a bit preoccupied trying to lure one of Piper and Jason’s giants into a snare trap. 
I turned and sprinted up the aisle. On the way I rammed Thalia’s opponent straight into her knife. He exploded into yellow dust with a howl. 
I ran and  baseball slid past Annabeth, slashing at her giant’s ankles as I went past. She finished him off with a stab to the gut. 
Percy wasn’t doing well, it was apparent Joe Bob and the other giant had a bone to pick with Percy, like most monsters did. Unfortunately, my arrival instead of helping Percy, distracted him. In the second that he turned to look at me he was swept off his feet by Joe Bob, who hung Percy upside down by his ankle. 
In retrospect I was probably hysterical by this time, the adrenaline mixing with all of the other chemicals in my head trying to subdue the pain and keep me alive. So my next move was completely insane. I ran, jumped on one of the booths, and launched off of there straight onto Joe Bob. I cut him in half diagonally. He roared in pain and confusion, dropping Percy. 
“I will get my revenge, just as promised,” he yelled, then exploded into dust. 
His friend, looked shocked for a minute then charged at me, trampling Percy. I scrambled out of the way, and the giant skidded past. When he fell forwards I kicked him straight into the stick-shift. His back hit it with a sickening crack. 
Suddenly the bus was thrown to the right, him hitting it must have turned off the auto-pilot. The bus veered crazily as we sped down the highway, nearly missing cars with angry commuters. Percy jumped into the  driver’s seat trying to steady the bus. I figured he had it under control. So I put my focus back on the fight.  
Then I did the craziest thing yet. 
I marched up to him and head-butted him. 
I had learned from the first time with Mlyssa that you aim for the bridge of the nose. 
As my forehead collided with his face he exploded instantaneously. 
The yellow, sulfur smelling dust, coated my body, and I sneezed out some of it through my nose. 
It was disgusting. 
I turned slowly, slightly disoriented to see, Piper stab the last giant, which was hanging by his ankle from Leo’s snare, with her triangular knife. 
The adrenaline instantly disappeared with the threat, and for the third time I passed out. This time straight onto my face. 
So much for a graceful victor. 
When I awoke, it was night, and I was lying on one of the benches. 
My head resting in Leo’s lap. 
He grinned and said “Nice face plant you did there, I’d give it an eight maybe and eight-point five.”
I tried to laugh but it hurt too much so I just kind of snorted. 
He helped me sit up. I looked around the bus. 
Piper and Jason were curled up in the back, asleep. Thalia was cleaning her bow a few rows down. Percy was driving the bus and Annabeth was sitting in the row across from him. Everything seemed okay, for the first time today. We all seemed to have found our place. 
Sitting next to Leo I didn’t really feel like the seventh wheel anymore. Maybe because both of us were so used to being the outsiders. He didn’t really have to tell me how he felt, I just kind of knew by the sad look in his eyes when he saw Piper and Jason. It was the same way I felt when I saw Percy and Annabeth, I wanted a relationship like that. 
I leaned against Leo, melting into his side. 
“Um,” he said, as if he was trying to start a conversation. 
“Hmm?” I asked. 
“I made you this,” he replied pulling a small golden ring out of his tool belt, “Since yours seems to keep breaking.”
He set it in my palm. 
It was a small golden hair-band woven from tiny threads of metal. It was stretchy but virtually indestructible. 
I looked up at him. 
His face was kind and hopeful, the youth of his smile but the wisdom from the many gruesome trials of his life evident in his eyes. 
There was a small flames flickering on a strand of hair just above his slightly pointed ear. 
I reached up and snuffed it out with my fingers then said, “Thanks, it’s perfect.”
I put my hair up into my signature ponytail and curled up next to him. 
“Oh and one more thing,” he said, he held the golden disk of my sword in his hand and the miniaturized shield in the other, “ I found this out,” he snapped the sword disk into the front of the shield. It fit perfectly as if they were made for each other. 
“That’s awesome,” I replied, “But wasn’t my shield in my pocket?”
“Umm,” he replied, looking out the window. 
“My back pocket?” I prompted. 
“Yeah,” he agreed, still avoiding eye contact and containing a smile.
I punched him on the shoulder but still stayed leaning against his side. I closed my eyes.
As I drifted out of consciousness, the last thing I remember hearing was Leo mutter, “Why is it always the shoulder?”

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