Clash of the Titans
Disclaimer: Percy Jackson & the Olympians/The Heroes of Olympus and The Kane Chronicles are the intellectual and copy written properties of Rick Riordan. No intense is offended. Certain characters are my own creation, and the gods of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse Mythologies are public domain and no one can claim them.
Chapter 1: I fight the Dung Beetle from Hell
It's really not fair. I always end up having to face the lamest gods. Even when I was training, my friend Malik got to banish Khnum, the ram-headed god of creation. I got to banish…Heqet…the goddess of frogs. FROGS!
When Malik was banishing Khonsu, the moon god, I was battling Twaret. Twaret is the goddess of pregnancy. Pregnancy. Need I say more?
So I really shouldn't have been surprised by my latest assignment, Kherpi, the god of Dung Beetles. That's right, Dung Beetles. What does this have to do with anything? In fact, why am I even writing this down? Well, I'm trying to get my account as accurate as I can…because sooner or later I'm going to have to explain all this to Desjardins and the elders of the Per Ankh. Might as well get my story straight. Perhaps I should start at the beginning…
My name is Alexander Sands, and I am currently the only magician assigned to the 177th Nome. Madagascar. That's right, Madagascar. If you're wondering what connection Madagascar has to Egypt, the answer is none. They were trading partners in the 1400s, so there's a few bowls and pot shards. But the 1400s is long after the Per Ankh went underground, so the bowls have very little Egyptian magic in them.
It's actually a pretty cushy assignment. Tropical beach, gods never reform here, and I've got the local House all to myself. It could be worse…the 360th Nome…magic penguins, ugh.
The local house, such as it were, is on the eastern bank of the Ambinanimananano Atsimo River. It's more of a small shack than an actual house. I don't have one of those big mansions that you might find in New York or Paris. It's one story, only one room in fact. The house is also literally less than 100 feet from the beach and the Indian Ocean.
My only companions are a shabti crocodile and my pet peregrine falcon, Ardeth Bay.
Paradise really, and I'm okay with that. I've got friends in other nomes, since I don't have much to do in my nome, I'll sometimes pop in and help them out when they want me, but mostly I just relax, study magic, and take long naps.
That was exactly what I was planning on doing that fateful morning. I had a table set out front with the remains of my lunch. (I often eat outside) I had my Senet board set up (an ancient Egyptian game, a precursor to chess. The goal is to get all of your pieces off the board before your opponent does) I was playing Ardeth for the 800th time…and losing. The falcon plays a mean game of Senet.
I had retired from the game early and had now flopped down in my hammock strung between two trees when I heard the sound of someone clearing their throat. I opened one eye and glanced down to see a little man, three feet tall, with golden fur all over his body. He had a monkey-like face, and his feet were ape-like as well.
I groaned loudly.
"What do you want, Bes?" I said. "I'm napping."
Bes and I had a long standing relationship. He's an Egyptian trickster god, and the patron god of children, relatively harmless as gods go (believe me!). One of my first assignments was to banish him back to the Duat. Things hadn't gone according to plan, and I almost wound up being dragged into Netu, Sokkar's area of the Duat. Not a pleasant fate and Sokkar is not a pleasant god.
Anyway Bes saved my life, and since his host was not a human, but a lemur (long story) we came to an understanding. I would allow Bes to remain in the mortal realm, but he had to inform me when a god or goddess had been released. Iskandar had been aware of my arrangement with Bes, but I didn't tell Desjardins when he took over…and I probably won't either.
"I'm here to uphold our arrangement," Bes said. "To inform you of the release of a god…"
"Where were you during the Demon Days," I said sitting upright in my hammock. "When Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, Horus, and Set were released?" I demanded.
Bes winced. "Oh…eh…er…you know about that?"
I glared at him. "The whole House knows about that."
"Heh, heh," Bes said grinning feebly. "It was the Demon Days? You know that portals can't be activated then.'
"By magicians," I said. "Gods can still activate them. Besides, they were released before the days."
"Why are you here?" I demanded again.
"It's uh, Kherpi," Bes informed me.
I frowned. "The God of Dung Beetles?"
"That's the one!" Bes said enthusiastically. "He's loose in St. Louis. Took a Volkswagen Beetle as his host."
"St. Louis?" I groaned again. If there's any city that magicians hate, it's that one. First off, my mother lives there, so I have a certain obligation to show up at least once a year. Secondly, the city proper is on the west side of the Mississippi. It should be obvious why that's bad. And East St. Louis is just a bad neighborhood. It's just a bad place for an Egyptian magician to be all around.
"Yes indeed," Bes said grinning. "Near the Arch."
With that, the trickster god vanished.
Part of the deal I had with Bes was that I had to act on any intelligence that he gave me. It was the only way Iskander would let me keep the little guy in the mortal plane. I owed Bes my life, but he was a trickster. If he gave me bad intelligence, Iskander wanted me, and only me to fall into the trap.
I sighed and glanced at the sun. Twenty minutes till noon. I grabbed my staff, wand and magic kit. I checked to make sure I was wearing all cotton, and walked around my little shack to my homemade obelisk.
It was small for an obelisk, only six feet tall. I built it expressly for the purposes of making portals, since there were no natural Egyptian artifacts in Madagascar strong enough to make one. It was also my only way in and out of Madagascar. The airport was an 8 hour drive and all flights out were 11 hours more.
Since I was leaving Madagascar, I wouldn't be able to come back for at least 12 hours, due to the obelisk overheating. I whistled sharply and Ardeth fluttered down and landed atop my white cedar staff. The top of the staff had a lion's head carved into it. I've always had an affinity for white lions, which is why I carved one into my staff. It helped focus my power.
My particular magical specialty is animal charming (hence Ardeth) but like any good magician I knew a little of everything.
I took out my wand and drew the 'open' symbol on my obelisk. (Ox horns, Box, X)
"St. Louis," I said, and the symbols faded away. It was still another two minutes till noon, so I just sat and waited for the portal to open. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the swirling vortex of sand burst open.
Ardeth likes traveling via portal for some reason. The moment the gate opened he chirped excitedly and flew into the portico, vanishing. I sighed heavily and then stepped through.
I tumbled out of the sand into a spacious room.
"Hmph," I muttered. "They moved the exhibits since the last time I was here."
The default portal for St. Louis was the St. Louis Art Museum. It's not because there's no obelisks in the area, because there are, (If you're observant, you'll find obelisk-like monuments everywhere) but rather because the most powerful artifact in the St. Louis area is housed in the museum. It's a mask, a simple mummy mask from the 19th dynasty. But it's a one of a kind mask; her eyes are made from glass, a technique that was forgotten quickly after they discovered it. It looks like she is actually looking at you, like her eyes are real.
The mask is so unique, that the Cairo museum has been demanding that St. Louis return it to them. They claim that the Art Museum acquired it illegally. The museum insists they did nothing of the kind and refuse to return it.
Personally I hope that Cairo never gets it back. For one thing, they've got so many exhibits, they'd never display it, and the mask would sit in their storerooms. Second, it would mean that they would move the default St. Louis gate. I would have no idea where I would come out.
As it was, the Egyptian artifacts had been moved to another room, so the gate had dropped me off in this room instead of the one I was accustomed to coming out in. I glanced at the mummy mask, and winked. Lady Ka-nefer-nefer's mummy mask had a decent amount of power settled in her, hence the ability to use her to make a portal.
I whistled again, and Ardeth fluttered to my shoulder. There's a 12 hour difference between Madagascar and St. Louis. It was noon in Madagascar, but was barely 6AM here.
The museum wasn't even open yet. Fortunately I was accustomed to that. And I knew my way around the museum fairly well. A simple hieroglyphic spell and the cameras were disabled. Another and the door was unlocked and we were outside, at which point Ardeth took to the sky. One more set of hieroglyphs and the cameras were back online and the doors were locked like nothing had happened.
Kherpi wasn't hard to find, unfortunately. There was a nasty smell near the Arch that even the mortals were noticing. They just couldn't figure out the source. I could though…I massive pile of manure large enough for a fifty foot insect to roll into a ball.
"Where did he even find this much dung?" I wondered aloud.
There was a shudder through the ground and a massive beetle crawled out of a hole in the earth. It had to have been the ugliest thing I had ever seen. Fifty feet long, with massive serrated mandibles, and these coal-black eyes that penetrated your soul.
The weird part was the Volkswagen emblem on its face, right above the mandibles and just below those terrifying eyes. I remembered that Bes had said that Kherpi had possessed a Volkswagen Bug as its host…but I had kinda figured he'd been kidding. I saw a tailpipe sticking out of the insect's abdomen.
"I am Alexander Sands," I said. "Magician of the Per Ankh, and you are going back to the Duat."
The god made a loud hissing sound, which rather reminded me of the Hissing Cockroaches back in Madagascar. The scent of motor oil and feces filled the air, and I could barely breathe. It took me a moment to realize the Kherpi was speaking.
"Never little mortal magician," Kherpi said. "We are all free at last! After centuries of being banished by the Great House, we shall not be forced out again!"
"We?" I gasped, trying desperately to breathe in some clean air. Kherpi could be a poster child for global warming, with all the CO2 he was releasing.
"The gods," Kherpi hissed. "We are all free at last."
"All of the gods?" I said, utterly shocked. "Bes failed to mention that."
"Bes? That little imp owes me money!"
And, that explains why he told me about Kherpi but not any of the other gods, I thought rolling my eyes. Little weasel didn't want to have to pay his debt.
"Nevertheless," I said throwing down my staff. It transformed into a massive white lion with Safire blue eyes. My lion staff snarled loudly at the dung beetle. The horrifying insect looked at me calculating. My lion growled and circled closer and closer to the dung beetle.
The beetle leapt atop his massive sphere of dung and charged toward me, rolling the dung ball to flatten me.
I may be an animal charmer, but elemental magic is always the fastest, and I had a massive supply of water to the right of me…the mighty Mississippi.
"Water," I crowed, and a blast of brown water shot out of the river, knocking Kherpi off of his ball and washing the excrement orb into the river. As an animal charmer, I knew that that many feces would be devastating to the ecosystem, even for a river as polluted as the Mississippi, so I quickly cast a second bit of magic on the dung ball, even as it started breaking apart.
"Cheese!" I declared. The dung changed color, and broke apart into large hunks of limburger floating down the river.
The beetle honked in frustration. That's right, honked. Like a car. I got the impression Kherpi wasn't fully acclimated to his automobile host. My lion-staff lunged and leapt upon the god's back, tearing at his exoskeleton. At the same time Ardeth dove out of the sky and started tearing at the beetle's eyes.
The beetle opened the wings on his back and shook violently, knocking the big kitty off. Kherpi honked again and charged forward, I quickly drew a Wadjet symbol in the air with my wand, creating a barrier spell around me, but Kherpi just charged past me. I turned around to see a massive portal had formed right underneath the arch. The symbolic Gateway to the West had become a literal gate to wherever Kherpi was trying to escape to.
He knew better than to try and use the Duat to escape, I'd just bind him there, so he had created a portal instead. With barely a thought my lion-staff was at my side and I was on his back, riding him and charging after the big Bug.
Kherpi dove into the sand vortex, but the portal remained open.
This is probably a bad idea, I thought. I don't even know where this gate leads.
Despite the more logical part of my brain speaking up, I charged, and my lion-staff pounced leaping into the gate.
I tumbled out of the portal and onto hard pavement. Wherever I was it was still dark. The portal remained open just long enough for Ardeth to come fluttering out, still covered in sand. My staff had instantly transformed back in transit, so I picked it up as I got to my feet, and looked around.
Cleopatra's Needle. The one in New York, not London. It resided in Central Park. This much I realized when I saw the skyline. Three flashes of annoyance struck me at once.
The first was, I could see no sign of Kherpi. How I could have lost a fifty foot long beetle I had no idea, but gone he was. Second, being in Manhattan meant that I was on the western side of the river, which is always bad news for an Egyptian Magician. Third, I was deep in the territory of the Greco-Roman gods.
All right, I'm going to break it down for those of you who have no idea about the Greco-Roman gods. I doubt that there are any, but just in case. America is their territory…generally speaking. It's the heart of Western Civilization, of which they believe they are the source.
Any Egyptian Magician worth two cents will tell you that that's inaccurate, but it's somewhat pointless to quibble. Regardless, the Greco-Roman gods are at least connected to Western Civilization, their Mount Olympus moves to wherever Western Civilization is strongest. Greece first, then Rome, a few other places, Spain, France, England. Now it's in New York, hovering just above the Empire State Building.
Magicians have always noted its location, just so we can steer clear of the place. Those of you who don't know, are probably wondering, don't magicians fight and banish gods? What's the big deal?
The Greco-Roman gods aren't like the Egyptian gods…they're more…realized I guess is the proper term. They don't take human hosts, only human lovers. Yeah, they mess with peoples lives, but they have never actively done anything that the Per Ankh objects to. Egyptian gods are older, more primordial forces. They need hosts to affect things in our world, because they simply have too much power to manifest here in their true form.
We've never seen a need to fight the Greco-Roman gods, and mostly we don't like to even pop up on their radar. No need to let them know that Egyptian society has affected Western culture as much as they have. The Ankh amulet around my neck would hide my presence; they wouldn't even have to know I was here.
Besides I doubted very seriously if any besides Athena and Hermes were even aware of the existence of the Netjer (Egyptian word for Egyptian gods). Athena because…well, she's pretty perceptive and Hermes because he once hosted an Egyptian god. (I KID YOU NOT! Google Hermanubis, see what comes up, it's pretty creepy)
Anyway, for all the reasons mentioned above, the long standing policy of the Per Ankh has been, 'It is best not to interfere'. Obviously we don't worship the Greco-Roman gods any more than we would the Egyptian. (Most House members are Copts, since we are descendants of the original Egyptians, and not the Arabs who currently occupy the country)
So, anyway since New York is the New Olympus, it is very much Greek territory, and quite frankly teeming with Greek monsters and gods. Like I said, we don't like to interfere, so that meant that I should try to keep my magic use to a minimum, lest I attract unwanted attention.
The Greco-Roman gods couldn't sense me, but if one happened to be walking in Central Park at night…they might see me, and wonder who or what I was. I didn't wish to be the guy who exposed the Per Ankh to Olympus.
I was tired, having just fought a god, and having made a portal earlier today. I wanted some rest. That meant checking into the local Per Ankh headquarters, which was in Brooklyn. It was also a tricky proposition. The headquarters of the 21rst nome was run by Amos Kane.
Like everyone in the Great House, I had heard about what had occurred during the Demon Days in December. How Carter and Sadie Kane had hosted Horus and Isis, and defeated, but not bound Set. How they had revealed that Apophis, the vile serpent had been on the cusp of returning to power. And how they had abandoned the gods who had inhabited them, releasing their power and the gods' hold over them. This was something that most of us had not thought possible.
The Kane children had insisted it was time to work with the gods, to fight Apophis, like the House had in the olden days. Desjardins did not agree. As a result the House was starting to divide. Some felt that the Kane children were correct, that the times of banishing gods were through. My friend Malik felt strongly about this. He told me he had even started to bow to the children out of respect after they fought Set.
My best friend Ziva Fazahl however, disagreed. She felt that no good could come from consorting with gods. She never did approve of my arrangement with Bes.
Me, I was on the fence. I hadn't decided yet, and I really wasn't in a rush to decide either. Still, Amos Kane should, theoretically at least, still open his doors to me. After all, hospitality was important to the House.
I sighed loudly and began to head east, praying only for a warm meal and a snug bed. Ardeth swooped down and landed atop my staff. I tossed the rest of my gear except my wand into my personal storage bin in the Duat.
As I was about to exit the park, Ardeth let out a warning chirp and took to the sky again. Instantly I realized I was in danger. I turned around cautiously examining my surroundings. Then I saw them.
Two Greco-Roman heroes, half blood children of Olympian gods (easy to spot if you know the signs) were attempting to fight a monster. I say attempting, because their backs were turned to her.
My mother is a mythology professor at Washington University in St. Louis. I know my myths, too well in fact. Fortunately for me, the monster's face was focused on the half-bloods, so I could not see it. But I knew Medusa when I saw her.
I should have done nothing; I should simply have walked away. It's not the House's policy to interfere in the affairs of the Greco-Roman gods or their children. But the part of my oath that involved the protection of innocents tugged at me, and God help me, I decided to interfere.
First, I recalled my kit from the Duat, and then tossed my staff down, transforming it into a lion, which bounded toward Medusa roaring. This was only a distraction so that I could write my Ma'at hieroglyph on my papyrus scroll.
Every once in a while, an Egyptian Magician will run into a Greco-Roman monster. It doesn't happen often, because we smell like mortals and our amulets render us unperceivable to them. But there are so many of the nasty creatures out there, that it does happen occasionally. We find them more annoying than anything else. They are creatures of pure chaos, the barbaric, chaotic forces that lie just underneath Western Society. And they are easily dispelled by a simple Ma'at hieroglyph.
Ma'at is order, the force that opposes Isfet or Chaos. It is also the name of Thoth's wife, but that is a WHOLE different story. Greco-Roman monsters are simple embodiments of chaos; nothing more, nothing less. They may be difficult for Greco-Roman hero's to defeat, but the Ma'at spell makes short work of them.
My lion roared, distracting Medusa and causing her to turn her attention to him. The lion turned to stone instantly. The two half-bloods turned in surprise as well. By this time I had written the symbol on my papyrus. It glowed a soft green and faded away. Medusa exploded into dust.
The half-bloods stood there gawking. I got a better look at them now, a boy and a girl.
I couldn't help but smirk. Knowing magic older than the Parthenon came in handy. I calmly walked up to the stone lion and clasped his tail. The statue shuddered and shrank back into my wooden staff.
Something clicked with the girl, because she suddenly blurted out;
"You're an Egyptian Magician aren't you?"
"You must be either a child of Hermes or Athena," I said casually tossing my kit into the Duat. "No one else could possibly have guessed."
"I was right!" she said. I glanced at her. She was 16 or 17, with long blond hair and stormy grey eyes.
"Athena," I said. "Definitely Athena."
"Annabeth," she said after a moments hesitation. "Annabeth Chase…I've read stories about Egyptian Magicians…but I thought that they were just that…stories. I never dreamed they were true."
"'There are more things on heaven and earth'," I said. "'Then are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio', Shakespeare. Ironic, as he was aware of his parentage. Or prophetic, depending on how you look at it. Alexander Sands, Scribe in the Per Ankh, you may call me Xander, Miss Annabeth. And your silent friend?"
The second half-blood was 17 or 18, perhaps older. He wore a simple orange t-shirt and a pair of jeans and tennis shoes. He had wild black hair and sea-green eyes. I could tell instantly however, that his appearance was deceiving. He practically radiated power from his whole body, save an area in the small of his back.
"Percy," he said, offering his hand. "Percy Jackson."