Ben's shocked looked changed quickly masking his emotions his lip curled seeing Luke. The soldiers who were about to kill the demigods hesitated seeing Luke, they waited for Ben's orders.
Before Ben could say anything, Agrius, the bear-man, burst onto the deck leading a brown horse with a black mane and brown eyes, Arion. The boy banders and Ceci were all shocked to see Arion, Giselle and Luke both looked at Arion knowingly. Arion bucked and whined, and Niall cringed hearing Arion's foul language listening to his thoughts. Arion was calling Ben and Agrius names so bad Chiron would've washed his muzzle out with saddle soap.
"Sir!" Agrius called, dodging one of Arion's hooves "Your steed is ready!"
Ben kept his eyes on Luke.
"You should know better, Luke," Ben said "You can't bait me or you for that matter into a fight."
"And you're avoiding me and a fight," Luke noticed that this was like when he fought Percy on the Princess Andromeda so repeating what Percy told him a few years back "Scared your warriors will see you get your ass whopped?"
Ben glanced at his men, and he saw Luke trapped him. If Ben backed down now, he would look weak. If he fought Luke, Ben would lose valuable time chasing The Wanted members. For Luke's part, the best he could hope for was to distract Ben, giving the other campers a chance to escape. If anybody could think of a plan to get them out of there, Giselle could or any child of Athena. On the down-side, Ben knew how good Luke was at sword fighting everyone in camp knew.
"I'll kill you quickly." Ben decided, and raised his weapon. His dagger that its blade glinted with an evil gray-and-gold- light where human steel had been melded with celestial bronze. The boybanders and Ceci could almost feel the blade fighting itself, like two opposing magnets bound together. They didn't know how the blade had been made, but they sensed a tragedy. Someone had died in the process. Ben whistled to one of his men, who threw him a round leather-and-bronze shield.
Ben grinned wickedly at Luke.
"Ben," Ceci said, "At least give him a shield."
"Sorry, Cecilia," He said "You bring your own equipment to this party."
The shield was a problem. Fighting two-handed with just a sword gives you more, but fighting one-handed with a shield gives you better defense and versatility. Everyone knew this but Luke and Giselle both knew that they would get out of this. There were more moves, more options, more ways to kill. Luke thought back to Chiron, who'd taught him at his stay at camp. Now he was going to fight for him, he was going to fix his mistakes. Starting with Giselle.
Ben lunged and almost killed Luke on the first try. His dagger went under Luke's arm, slashing through his shirt grazing his ribs.
Luke jumped back, then counterattacked with Backbiter, but Ben slammed Luke's blade away with his shield.
"My, Luke," Ben chided "You're out of practice."
"Well, duh he was dead." Luke smiled hearing Giselle say that glancing quickly he saw her with the boybanders and Ceci.
Ben went after Luke again with a swipe to the head. Luke parried, returned with a thrust. Ben sidestepped easily.
The cut on Luke's ribs stung. Hos heart racing. When Ben lunged again, he jumped backward into the swimming pool and then he felt a surge of strength. Luke saw Giselle moving her lips in a chant and he knew she was giving him strength. Luke spun underwater, creating a funnel cloud, and blasted out of the deep end, straight at Ben's face. Luke nodded at Giselle thanking her for manipulating the water for him.
The force of the water knocked Ben down, spluttering and blinded. But before Luke could strike, Ben rolled aside and was on his feet again. Luke attacked and sliced off the edge of Ben's shield, but that didn't faze him. Ben dropped to a crouch and stabbed at Luke's legs. Suddenly, Luke's thigh was on fire, with a pain so intense he collapsed. Luke's pants were ripped above the knee. He was hurt and now he knew how Percy felt during their battle on the Princess Andromeda. Luke didn't know how badly. Ben hacked downward and Luke rolled behind a deck chair. He tried to stand, but his leg wouldn't take the weight.
"Luke!" Giselle screamed shocking Harry hearing the worry and pain in her voice.
Luke rolled again as Ben's dagger slashed the deck chair in half, metal pipes and all.
Luke clawed toward the swimming pool, trying hard not to black out. He'd never make it. Ben knew it, too. Ben advanced slowly, smiling. The edge of his dagger was tinged with red. Blood. Luke's blood.
"One thing I want you to watch before you die, Luke." Ben looked at Giselle then at the bear-man Oreius, who was still holding Ceci and Niall by the necks. "You can eat your dinner now, Oreius. Bon appetit." Then a girl wearing armor dragged Giselle to where Ben was.
"He-he!" The bear-man lifted Ceci and Niall and bared his teeth.
That's when all Hades broke loose.
A red-feathered arrow sprouted from Oreius's mouth. With a surprised looked on his hairy face, he crumbled to the deck.
"Brother!" Agrius wailed. He let Arion's reins go slack long enough for the brown steed to kick him in the head and disappear in a blur free over Miami Bay running back to wherever Hazel was.
For a split second, Ben's guards were too stunned to do anything except watch the bear twins' bodies dissolve into smoke.
To Luke and Giselle it was like they were reliving their memories from the Princess Andromeda.
Then there was a wild chorus of war cries and hooves thundering against metal. A dozen centaurs charged out of the main stairwell.
"Centaurs!" Louis cried with delight while Giselle cried out "The Party Ponies!"
My mind had trouble processing everything. Starting with Luke and Giselle's relationship along with a dead guy coming back to life. I saw Chiron was among the crowd, but his relatives were nothing like him. There were centaurs with different bodies like the ones you see in paintings, Some wore brightly colored t-shirts with Day-Glo letters that said PARTY PONIES: SOUTH FLORIDA CHAPTER. Some were armed with bows, some with baseball bats, some with paintball guns. One had his face like a Comanche warrior and was waving a large orange styrofoam hand making a big Number 1. Another was bare-chested and painted entirely green. A third had googly-eye glasses with the eyeballs bouncing around on slinkly coils, and one of those baseball caps with soda-can-and-straw attachments on either side.
They exploded onto the deck with such ferocity and color that for a moment even Ben was stunned as if only finding out they existed. I couldn't tell if they had come to celebrate or attack.
When I looked at Giselle I saw her smiling widely before making her way towards Luke after sneaking away from Ben. I looked back at the centaurs deciding that they apparently came to both party and fight. As Ben was raising his dagger to rally his troops, a centaur shot a custom-made arrow with a leather boxing glove on the end. It smacked Ben in the face and sent him crashing into the swimming pool.
His warriors scattered. I couldn't blame them. Facing the hooves of a rearing stallion is scary enough, but when it's a centaur, armed with a bow and whooping it up a soda-drinking hat, even the bravest warrior would retreat.
"Come get some!" Yelled one of the party ponies.
They let loose with their paintball guns. A wave of blue and green exploded against Ben's warriors, blinding them and splattering them from head to toe. They tried to run only to slip and fall.
Chiron galloped toward Ceci and Niall, neatly plucked them off the deck, and deposited them on his back. Louis and Zayn both knocked out the two guards that were holding Liam. I watched over Louis and Liam before looking back Giselle and Luke.
I tried to get up, but my wounded leg still felt it was on fire. I remembered that I did the same to Percy and now I felt his pain.
Ben was crawling out of the pool.
"Attack, you idiots." He ordered his troops. Somewhere down below deck, a large alarm bell thrummed.
I knew any second we would be swamped by Ben's reinforcements. Already, his warriors were getting over their surprise, coming at the centaurs with swords and spears drawn.
Giselle let out a high pitched cry that sent half a dozen of them were knocked over the guardrail into Miami Bay. But more warriors were coming up the stairs.
"Withdraw, brethren!" Chiron said
"You won't get away with this, horse man!" Ben shouted. He raised his dagger, but got smacked in the face with another boxing glove arrow, and sat down hard in a deck chair.
A Palomino centaur hoisted me and Giselle onto his back, "Dude, get your friends."
"Guys!" Giselle yelled "Get on a centaur!"
Louis, Liam, Harry, and Zayn knocked the warriors they were fighting to the ground and jogged after us. They jumped onto two centaurs back.
Ben's warriors were organizing themselves into a phalanx, But by the time they were ready advance, the centaurs had galloped to the edge of the deck and fearlessly jumped the guardrail, as if it were a steeplechase and not ten stories above the ground.
I was sure we were going to die. We plummeted towards the decks, but the centaurs git the asphalt with hardly a jolt and galloped off, whooping and yelling taunts at the Chimera as we raced into the streets of downtown Miami.
I have no idea what the Miamians thought as we galloped by. Liam sat behind me gripping my waist so he wouldn't fall Harry doing the same to Louis as they galloped in front of us.
Streets and buildings began to blur as the centaurs picked up speed. It felt as if space were compacting-as if each centaur took us miles and miles. In no time, we'd left the city behind. We raced through the marshy fields of high grass and ponds and stunted trees.
Finally, we found ourselves in a trailer park at the edge of a lake. The trailers were all horse trailers, tricked out with televisions and mini-refrigerators and mosquito netting. We were in a centaur camp.
"Dude!" said a party pony as he unloaded his gear. "Did you see that bear guy? He was all like: 'Whoa, I have an arrow in my mouth!'"
The centaur with the googly-eye glasses laughed. "That was awesome! Head slam!"
The two centaurs charged at each other full-force and knocked heads, then went staggering off in different directions with crazy grins on their faces.
Chiron sighed. He set Niall and Ceci down on a picnic blanket next to me, Liam, and Harry. "I really wish my cousins wouldn't slam their heads together. They don't have the brain cells to spare."
"Chiron," I said, still stunned by the fact that he was here. "You saved us."
He gave me a dry smile. "Well now, I couldn't very well let you die, especially since you've stopped Kronos from fully healing."
"But how did you know where we were? I had gotten a message from my father saying history was repeating again." Niall asked.
"Advanced planning, child. I figured you would wash up near Miami if you made it out of the Sea of Monsters alive. Almost everything strange washes up near Miami."
"Gee, thanks," Ceci mumbled.
"No, no," Chiron said. "I didn't mean ... Oh, never mind. I am glad to see you, my young demigods. The point is, I was able to eavesdrop on Niall's Iris-message and trace the signal. Iris and I have been friends for centuries. I asked her to alert me to any important communications in this area. It then took no effort to convince my cousins to ride to your aid. As you see, centaurs can travel quite fast when we wish to. Distance for us is not the same as distance for humans."
I looked over at the campfire, where three party ponies were teaching Tyson to operate a paintball gun. I hoped they knew what they were getting into. I saw Giselle, Luke, and a party pony sitting at the edge of the lake together.