A/N: Heya! Sorry for the wait - my summer's been hectic so far, so I didn't really have time to write this. Now, Percy finally joins the quest! Without further adieu, Chapter VI of Champion of Light and Dark!
I searched for the quest, hopping from building to building, using a combination of both shadow-traveling and light-traveling to fill in where my parkour skills lacked. Just as I saw the quest, exiting their van and deciding to head towards one of the buildings lining the mall, I also saw a man step out of a black sedan, which I recognized as Doctor Thorn. I cursed mentally. How did he reform so fast?
Shaking those thoughts out of my head, I began to trail the manticore, who was trailing the quest. Eventually, we reached the Smithsonian. The quest entered the National Air and Space Museum, while Doc Thorn went into the National Museum of Natural History. I decided to follow Thorn instead of the quest - after all, I could get valuable intelligence on what we would be facing on our journey.
I commanded the shadows to take me to the interior of the museum, and used this method to trail Thorn to a dinosaur exhibit. Inside, there were some mortal mercenaries, - Percy felt a pang of disgust at their presence - a teen or young adult with sandy blonde hair and sky blue eyes, who Percy idly recognized as Chris Rodriguez, son of Hermes - and a large man, who had the aura of a Titan. Shit.
"Do you have them, Thorn?" bellowed the Titan.
"Yes, my lord."
"Have you gotten them from the correct exhibit this time, Thorn?"
"Y-yes, my lord." I don't blame Thorn for quivering - Titans are fairly intimidating.
"Then plant them!"
Thorn handed some items, which I couldn't make out, to some of the mercenaries. The ones who didn't get the items instead picked up some watering cans. Huh? The mercenaries with some of the items buried them in the ground, before those with watering cans stepped up and poured blood on them. From where the items were planted, sprouted nine skeleton warriors, which I recognized as spartoi. Double shit.
"Do you have the clothes, Chris?" The Titan turned to Chris.
"Yes, General. It was taken from the Lieutenant, Zoe N-"
"Do not speak her name!" roared the Titan.
"S-sorry, my lord," apologized Chris, cowed.
The Titan took the scrap of silver cloth Chris had, and handed it to the spartoi. They began to take turns smelling it. I considered trying to take it, but realized they'd just take some of my clothes. Instead, I shadow traveled into the Air and Space Museum. Luckily, I was in the same exhibit the quest was in. Sprinting out of the shadows, I shouted for their attention, waving my hand frantically. They stopped and turned around to look at me.
Zoe spoke first. "What doth thee want, boy?"
"First of all, there are nine spartoi with your," I pointed at Zoe, "scent, and second of all, I'm here to join your quest, because according to Moros, if I don't, you're doomed to failure."
The other Hunter, with ginger hair and a beefy build, snorts. "How would you know what Moros says?"
I glared at her. "He's my brother." She opened her mouth. "I swear on the River Styx that everything I just said is true."
Zoe paled, before shaking it off, and beginning to issue orders to her questmates. They began to move out of the museum, before we all heard the sound of a giant beast stomping around.
"Look mommy, a kitty!" cried a five-year-old, as he pointed at a lion the size of a pick-up truck, with glittering gold fur, shiny silvery claws, and fangs like stainless steel.
"Triple shit," I muttered, getting a few odd looks, before I summoned Blackfire and Dawnbringer, readying for the fight. The two Hunters climbed up to a vantage point, where they readied their bows, leaving me with Thalia and the other quester - a young daughter of Athena I didn't know the name of.
"Aim for the eyes!" I shouted. Thalia's spear charged with crackling electricity, while the Athena girl readied a Celestial Bronze dagger and donned a Yankees cap, turning her invisible. The Hunters seemed to have heard my advice, as their arrows were landing near the monster's eyes. However, it's movement made it difficult for them to land any hits. I saw sparks sprouting from the Lion's pelt, attracting the monster's attention. Definitely the Athena girl's work.
Thalia charged, jabbing at the beast with her electrically-charged spear. I charged along with her. We worked together just as well as we did that day on Half-Blood Hill two years ago, distracting the Lion when the other went in for a strike. Then, Thalia tripped on some debris of the exhibits the Lion had destroyed, and the giant cat pounced on the opportunity, slamming into her with one of its paws, sending her into the wall and unconsciousness. This infuriated me, and the beast roaring triumphantly only added fuel to the flame of hatred for it. Wait...the mouth didn't have any fur in it!
"Go for the mouth!" I cried, as I gathered shadows in my left hand to form a bow.
With my right, I released a flash of light at the Lion, garnering its attention, before letting fly a volley of light arrows, all simply annoyances for the weapon-proof monster. This process continued, until the Lion was so annoyed that it released a frustrated roar. Taking my chance, I fired an explosive arrow of light from my bow of shadow, going into the Lion's gullet, where it exploded, causing the monster to dissolve into golden dust, the only remnant being a metallic golden pelt.
"Take the pelt, boy. It is your spoil," said Zoe.
The other hunter chimed in with, "After all, it was worn by Heracles once. Don't all you boys want to be just like him?"
As I shrugged the pelt onto my torso, and it shifted forms into a leather jacket, I responded. "I'd rather be like Diomedes, myself. Now, we should probably get going. After all, we do have nine spartoi after us."
A/N: The title of this chapter translates to Terror of Nemea, referring to the Nemean Lion, which got its name for terrorizing the kingdom of Nemea. Apologies for its shortness - it is just above 1000 words, which is less than the others.
JarkosofTroy, signing off!