All of the campers and I spend the rest of the day enjoying the park. I was pretty tired but that didn’t stop me from forcing Nico to go on all of the rides with me.
Apparently, as Nico had explained to me, Apollo had cast a spell sort of thing on Disneyland. There was something about today, the 20th of June, which repelled all mortals. Apollo had been planning it for months; nobody bought tickets for today or planned on coming. Also everyone who worked here decided to take the day off, calling in sick, everyone from the princesses to the janitors. It was just that nobody felt like going today. Thank the gods for that, I wouldn’t want Chiron to have to deal with explaining all this.
After a long day or fun we all piled back into the bus where I fell asleep on top of Nico as the sun set.
I woke up back in my cabin at Camp; I could tell Nico had carried me in. I could smell his cologne on me, “Au de Death” as I called it.
There was a scrap of paper on my bedside table and in Nico’s messy scrawl I could read: “I went back to the underworld to help my dad with a ghost problem. I’ll be back soon, we should talk. ~Nico”
“Soon,” I muttered to myself bitterly, upset by his extremely vague note. It was almost as useless as no note at all.
It was late morning and my limbs felt like lead as I stood up to stretch, yawning. My hair was disheveled and my morning breath was terrible but I was happy to be back at camp.
I lazily pulled a seat shirt over my deactivated mist form armor and stepped outside barefoot. I made my way up to the dining pavilion lazily, thanking the few campers that congratulated me on my victory and waving off the Ares kids who hissed death threats at me.
I walked up to the buffet which was serving whole grain pancakes with sugar free syrup. I stuffed a whole pancake in my mouth and then drank the rest of the emptiest bottle of syrup. Once I was content with my meal I started to walk back to my cabin.
I was stopped by Henry who was chatting with a few of the Apollo kids. All of them upon seeing me smiled warmly but also looking a bit taking aback by my appearance. I had noticed that with my immortality my air of grace and sophistication had left me too. When you’re a demigod your naturally faster, stronger, and better looking. Myself being the only mortal at camp kind of looked like a grizzly bear that had been through a few years of hibernation instead of one season.
“Lea!” exclaimed Henry, who was the only one used to seeing me look like this, “Just the girl I wanted to talk to.”
The kids he was talking to hastily said goodbye as I was led away.
Henry walked calmly with me to the big house, “So I heard you did a pretty valiant thing yesterday.”
“He pushed me playfully, “Sometimes your too humble.”
“Sometimes my ego nearly gets me killed,” I argued.
“Bah, that’s just part of being a hero,” he said, “It’s finding a balance that makes the difference.”
“Thank you, sensei, for your wise words of wisdom,” I joked.
“Anyways,” he continued, “Chiron was pretty surprised at your little act of selflessness, but I’m not.”
“Oh,” I replied.
“I’m not even a little surprised, you’ve always been such a great role model, even to people older to you,” he said.
“Yeah, you should aspire to be like me,” I said sarcastically.
He chuckled, “I’m proud of you, Lea, just take the compliment.”
“Compliment taken,” I confirmed feeling myself blush a little.
I was feeling pretty content, weaving my bare toes into the grass as I chatted with Henry, unfortunately this feeling was interrupted.
“I have the orb, well what remains of it in my quarters, let me go get it for you,” he said.
The memory of what had happened weighed down on me as Henry disappeared into the Big House.
After a few minutes of myself soaking in my shame Henry returned, handing me my messenger bag.
I sighed, “What am I gonna do?”
Henry placed his hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes sympathetically, “I recommend you find the god Hephaestus, if anyone could know how to fix this, it’s him.”
I nodded in agreement, Hephaestus, being the god of craftsmanship probably had the tools, means or at least the knowledge of how to repair the orb if it was possible.
If he didn’t then the quest would fail and the world would be doomed, but at least he’d have part of the blame and it wouldn’t be all on me. I don’t think I could survive knowing that I had caused the apocalypse.
I hugged Henry and thanked him, for nothing in particular just for being a good dad in general.
I went back to my cabin and changed into some suitable clothes, my usual: tank top, armor, jeans, converse and defense disk.
I thought about how to contact Hephaestus for a while, he probably wouldn’t be on Olympus since he spent most of his time in his forges. It was finding his forges that was the problem. Maybe one of his children would know, plus I needed an excuse to say hi to Leo.
I checked Bunker 9 only to find it empty with the lights turned off, which was odd since Leo was in there pretty much constantly.
Perhaps one of his siblings would know where he is.
I jogged to the Hephaestus cabin, banging on the large metal door.
It swung open almost instantly.
Standing in the door way was the person I wanted to see the least.
Lance Beckett leaned lazily against the door way, looking at me skeptically.
“Is Leo here?” I asked.
“No. He’s up on Olympus,” he said, “I thought you’d know that.”
The memory dawned on me like a piano falling from the sky, “Shoot,” I hissed under my breath.
“What about Ava or Jake?” I asked.
“There in the middle of a big project with the others,” he stated, crossing his arms.
“All of the other children of Hephaestus?” I asked.
“Except you?” I interrogated in disbelief.
“Listen,” he said, “They wanted to make some sort of new battle weapon and I wasn’t feeling up for it. Why do you need a child of Hephaestus so bad anyways?”
“I was hoping they could tell me where to find your dad,” I admitted.
“None of us know where he is,” he scoffed, “good luck finding him…wait, why do you want to find him?”
“I have something that needs fixing, okay?” I said dancing around the point. I could almost feel the tension between us. Our hatred for each other was so strong it was nearly tangible.
“I could take a look at it if you want. I’m pretty good at fixing things,” he offered.
I was so shocked at the kind gesture I nearly fell down the stairs.
“Fine,” I agreed, “Just make sure no one else finds out.”
He grinned mischievously, “Got something to hide?”
“Shut up, Mr. Fix It,” I said as he led me into the cabin.
It was empty, all the other Hephaestus kids were in the forge.
“Isn’t this against the rules…” I said, but Lance ignored me.
He sat down at a well lit work table at the end of the room.
“So what’s so important that needs fixing?” he asked contempt filling his voice.
I placed the satchel on the table.
He peered inside and then looked up at me confused.
“That’s not broken, that’s destroyed,” he stated, “What the Hades did you do?”
“I dropped it,” I said with a sigh.
“You-what? This is obviously super important I can feel an aura of power coming off of it,” he stated in awe, “What is this thing?”
“The Orb of the Titans,” I explained.
“And you dropped it?” he gasped.
“Shut up and fix it,” I said.
“I can’t,” he said, “Your right, if anyone can fix it, my dad can.”
“But I have no idea how to find him,” I complained, exasperatedly.
Something in my back pocket began to feel warm.
I tucked my hand in to find a small tab of paper; a business card to be exact.
I read it carefully, the umber paper and golden font sparking something in my memory.
Various Locations Nationwide
Wonderful creations carefully crafted in the gods forges themselves.
“Oh my gods,” I gasped, “This is the business card your dad gave me two years ago when I was on my first quest!”
“You’ve met my dad?” he asked.
“Yeah, haven’t you?” I replied.
“No,” he said looking away.
“Well,” I said, “I guess this is your chance! You wouldn’t happen to have phone on hand would you?”
“I’m a child of Hephaestus, of course I have a phone,” he stated.
Lance handed me a golden Samsung S7 and I quickly typed in the number as soon as the line was picked up I yelled, “YO Hephaestus!”
“Lea,” he greeted gruffly, “Why are you calling?”
“We need some help,” I said.
“I don’t know I’m quite busy…” he began.
“If you don’t help me the world’s going to end,” I said.
“Okay,” he agreed gruffly, “What do you want?”
“I need something fixed,” I said.
“Send it in the mail.”
“Fine,” he agreed then hung up.
I was about to redial and start cursing at him but I was interrupted.
Just then the ground began to shake and in the middle of the cabin floor a metal panel slid open.
“What? No way!” exclaimed Lance, “That hasn’t been there the whole time has it?”
“Bye,” I said as I dropped into the underground passageway.
“I’m coming with you,” he announced dropping down next to me.
“What? No,” I began but I didn’t finish my argument because the panel above us slid shut.
I groaned loudly.
At the end of the long hallway I could see a dim light glowing yellow in the distance.
As Lance and I made our way down the pitch black tunnel I could hear his breaths begin to grow faster.
“Dude, you claustrophobic or something? You sound like your about to hyperventilate,” I asked as I crashed into the wall soundlessly.
“I just haven’t talked to my dad before, I want to make a good first impression,” he said, the words rushing out.
“Then chill out,” I suggested, “It’s no big deal.”
“Maybe for you,” he huffed bitterly, “You get to talk to gods all the time.”
“It’s really not as great as you think,” I argued.
“Better than being ignored,” he muttered.
I was about to refute but I was cut short by my own thoughts, perhaps he was right. I would hate having to watch as some other person went on quests, fought monsters and got recognition from the gods as I stayed at camp.
I stayed quiet for the rest of the walk following the dim yellow light at the end of the tunnel.
When we finally reached the light, I could see it was a crudely cut open doorway into a large workshop, much like the one I had been to before.
There were multiple worktables with various tools, blueprints and projects strewn over them.
Hephaestus was hunched over one worktable, working hard on some sort of mechanical horse head. He scanned the blueprints on the table next to him looking for some sort of indicator as to where to go next with his project.
“Ehm,” I said loudly.
“Lance nudged me and hissed into my ear, “He’s in the middle of something.”
I held my messenger bag up in front of his face and shook it around, “Fate of the world.”
He shut up.
“Ehm,” I said even louder to Hephaestus.
The god jumped, being jarred out of his concentration, “Ah yes Lea!” he said.
“Yeah,” I prompted glancing at Lance.
“I see you brought on of my sons along with you, how wonderful!” he said, although the really didn’t sound all that happy. In fact he didn’t really react at all.
I waited for him to say something more to his son.
Hephaestus glanced over at us, seeing that we were expecting something he said, “So Lane, you were in a tournament recently, weren’t you?”
Lance didn’t bother correcting his father, but I could see he was hurt, his eyes were shiny with tears beginning to form, “Yes I was.”
I didn’t like Lance but that didn’t stop me from feeling resentful to Hephaestus; he didn’t even know his own sons name.
“Did you win?” asked Hephaestus.
“No,” replied Lance, his voice quivering, he looked away, staring at the wall, his teeth clenched.
Hephaestus didn’t change his expression as he leaned over the table, still examining the drawings, “Did you win?” he asked, nodding to me.
“I-I…yes,” I stuttered and then admitted quietly, suddenly I didn’t feel so proud.
“Good job,” huffed Hephaestus.
That was probably the most emotion I’d ever seen on his face. Well, at least the part of his face that was visible underneath his hair.
I began to squirm with anger and embarrassment, “We need you to fix this,” I stated dropping the messenger bag on the table in front of him.
Hephaestus peered inside taking our a few shards an examining them.
“The Titan Orb,” he said, “I’m afraid I can’t fix this.”
“What?” I sputtered.
“No godly glue or mesh system could stitch this together, only one thing can fix this,” he said.
“What is it?” I demanded.
“The tears of a phoenix,” he said.
My memory flickered back to a book my mother used to read to me, there was a phoenix in it with magical healing powers.
“It can restore inanimate objects too?” I asked.
“It can restore anything back to its original and intended form,” he replied.
“Where can we find a phoenix?” I asked.
“There is only one in the world and it resides in the tallest tree in the world,” he explained, “A tree that goes by the name of Hyperion.”
“Hyperion?” I questioned, “Isn’t that the name of a titan?”
“Indeed,” confirmed Hephaestus, “The tree and the bird both belong to the god of the sun.”
“Well then we better be careful,” I suggested, “Can you give us some sort of tools?”
“I think I can be of some help in that department,” he said then he disappeared into the clutter.
He came back a few minutes later with golden and copper climbing supplies which I gladly stuffed into my bag.
Then Hephaestus walked over to a large shape covered with a tarp.
He whipped off the tarp to reveal a golden Harley Davidson.
“Whoa,” said Lance and I simultaneously.
Lance strutted over to the machine and got on it.
“Hey whoa,” I said, “My quest therefore I’m driving.”
“Do you even know how?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
“No, but I’m sure I can figure it out,” I retorted.
I glanced at the control panel thing on it. There were gauges and buttons that I had no idea what they did or why they were there.
“Just get on the bike,” he said, “And hold on tight.”
I swung my leg over sitting behind Lance as Hephaestus opened a large garage door in front of the bike, showing a new tunnel that headed west.
I searched for some sort of handhold as Lance revved the engine. There was none to be found.
Before I could make a snarky comment the bike shot forward and I nearly tumbled off the back.
My arms whipped out automatically clinging to Lance as we flew down the tunnel. The wind whipped around my hair and Lance laughed haughtily, “I told you to hold on,” he said.
“Shut up,” I barked at him.
I could feel his toned stomach underneath his camp shirt and I began to feel my cheeks grow red.
“Dude, you nervous or something? I can feel your heartbeat against my back,” he said mocking me for my comment earlier.
“Shut up,” I repeated.
Within seconds I could see a light in the distance.
Thank the gods, I thought to myself.
After a few more minutes of having to wrap my arms around my rival we screeched into daylight. After my eyes adjusted I could see that we were in a forest, a granite outcropping behind us, with a small crevice with the entrance back into the tunnels. All around were huge redwoods. Recognized the scent of evergreen and rich soil but something else was familiar about this place.
“I know where we are!” I exclaimed as I let go of Lance stepping off the bike and onto the squishy soil, “I went on a field trip here in fourth grade! This is the California Redwood Forest!”
“California?” questioned Lance, “But we were just in New York.”
“Yeah those underground tunnels don’t really agree with physics,” I said shrugging, “Just accept it.”
Lance gaped for a while, letting his mouth hang open.
Then he shut off the bike, pushed it back into the small crevice, out of sight, and walked over next to me.
“What now?” he asked.
“We climb the tree,” I said.
“Yeah but how do we find it?” he asked.
I pointed at a sign that said: “THI S WAY TO THE WORLD’S TALLEST TREE”.
“Oh,” said Lance.
I set off down the path and Lance followed, in no time we had arrived at the base of the tree.
There didn’t appear to be any mortals around, which was good luck for us.
I pulled the climbing supplies out of my bag and pulled on a harness, handing the other one to Lance.
There were already some ropes set up from previous climbers.
I clipped myself in and began to climb, digging my fingers into the trees bark.
Lance followed me, and we climbed in silence.
I listen to the wind rushing through the trees and the sound of birds chirping.
After an hour or so I began to grow tired, so Lance and I stopped and took a break.
“I didn’t bring my sword,” he admitted.
“Nor did I,” I replied, “Let’s hope this bird isn’t hostile.”
Almost as if in response something flew past my fast.
The heat from the unknown projectile seared my face.
The fireball hit a nearby tree and exploded into flames.
The flames didn’t seem to harm the redwood though, only burning Lance and I.
“Whoa! Definitely hostile!” I shouted.
“And selectively flammable,” replied Lance.
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
“I don’t know you’re the one with experience!” he shouted at me, “At least we should get to the top of the tree before it knocks us down.”
I began to climb quicker than before, my adrenaline fueling me.
As we ascended more fireballs began to rain down around us. I began to count the seconds in between them.
It took seven seconds for the phoenix to recharge. It would be our only chance.
After about fifty more feet of climbing I reached the nest.
It was a bit of a struggle since the rope didn’t make it all the way up to the nest so I had to unclip and trust myself to get up there without falling to my death or being set ablaze by a fireball.
Once inside of the huge nest I gave Lance a hand up and we both took a second to catch our breath.
The nest was probably ten feet in diameter, sitting in the middle of it, in a pile of ash was a beautiful crimson, orange and gold bird.
That beautiful bird then hacked up another molten ball straight at us.
It screeched and flew into the air, disappearing.
I flopped down onto the twigs.
“It’s gone,” I said hopelessly, “Were doomed.”
Lance was about to say something but when there was shrill squawk from behind us he stopped. I jumped to my feet, reaching for a sword that wasn’t there.
I turned searching the sky for the bird.
“Lea!” yelled Lance.
Before I could do anything I felt sharp claws dig into my shoulder as the bird whizzed past.
I ignored the pain and fumbled to grab onto the birds legs somehow and bring it down.
It was futile, the bird was too fast.
It disappeared and Lance looked over at me with worry in his eyes, “Are you alright?”he asked.
I nodded and returned to looking around for the phoenix.
At the next second Lance yelped and I turned to see the bird’s talons cut into his face.
If only we had some way of pinning it down.
As I looked at the ground for some sort of solution I didn’t see the creature swooping straight for me.
I looked up at the last moment and as Lance yelled out reaching for me, I stumbled backwards, right over the edge of the nest.
The air caught in my lungs as I plummeted down seconds away from hitting the ground hundreds of feet below.