The hammer had landed absurdly close to Leo and the ground shook from what seemed like the force of a freight train colliding with the ground of the coliseum. The mechanic laid on his stomach then instinctively rolled to his right, away from the cyclops, as a large sandled foot slammed right where Leo once was. Yorgos began to lift the mighty war-hammer from the ground onto his left shoulder, preparing to bring it down upon the child from cabin nine when Leo quickly scrambled away from the cyclops that was now yelling in annoyance at the mechanic.
"STOP MOVING SO I CAN CRUSH YOU!" Stomping his foot, leaving a large print in the ground, he barreled towards Leo while reeling his hammer back in preparation of flattening the child of fire against the coliseum's wall like a fly on a wall.
"You have a crush on me? Sorry man, you're not my ty-OH ZEUS!" Leo screamed as he dove to the right yet again as the war-hammer collided with the stone wall. Age old bricks rained down upon Leo as he lay on the ground, quickly trying to retreat with a cloud dust left behind. As he looked back to Yorgos, he saw that his hammer was lodged into the wall and the battle-hardened cyclops was trying desperately to remove it from it's new found home.
Leo took the opportunity and created two balls of fire in his hands, the flames casting a glow against his tan skin as he lobbed them both at the back of Yorgos. The first of the flame grenades had missed his opponent hilariously, hitting the wall to his left and caused the flames to fall onto the cyclops' hammer. Yorgos turned to his left just in time to be greeted by a smoldering hot fireball to his helmet covered face, his eye getting a nice view of the repair boy's fire. The cyclops reeled back from surprise of the grenade but no damage seemed to be done to the monster as his hammer was finally freed from the destroyed wall. Yorgos let out a long hearty laugh, resting his hammer on his shoulder as he slowly walked to Leo.
"Hephaestus won't help you here, demigod! How do you think the cyclopes survived as blacksmiths?! YOU'RE FIRE WON'T HARM ME, HERO!" Yorgos bellowed, earning cheers from the monsters in the stadium seating as Yorgos grinned wickedly from under his scorched helmet. "Now, stop running and face me like the hero you claim to be!"
I never claimed to be a hero...
Just as Yorgos was about to charge Leo, a whip came from behind Yorgos and wrapped itself around the tree trunk size legs of the cyclops; causing him to wave his arms like a grotesque baby bird trying to fly from a high branch. The crowd grew silent as they watched the man in the dark red shirt pull the whip from under the monster, causing him to fall flat on his face and a few monsters to chuckle to themselves.
"Now now now, Yorgos...I thought you wanted a fair fight? He needs weapons first, don't cha think?" He spoke in a distinct southern accent as he stepped onto the fallen cyclops with a small grin on his face. With a quick snap of his fingers, one of the large gated entrances to the coliseum opened as a burly cyclops half jogged towards them with a chest thrown over his back like a sack of grain.
Placing it on the ground, the monster kicked it with all it's might. The chest slid over to Leo like a hockey puck on ice, he had to sidestep the speeding chest to avoid being floored by it. The man in red lifted his foot towards the speeding chest as it began to slow down, coming to a stop just as it made contact with his foot. He beamed at everyone around him and his dark brown eyes' gaze eventually fell upon Leo.
"Ya have no idea how long it took to master that, it's 'bout time!" He exclaimed, beckoning the mechanic over to the chest as he unlocked the large steel lock with a key around his neck. "Well don't just stand there! Get ova' here!" The man commanded to the dumfounded Leo, walking cautiously over to the chest he heard the strange red clothed man mumble "Third round, Leo."
Leo had to do a double take as he registered what he thought he heard the man say, when he looked into his eyes though, the man had already turned around to address the crowd.
Did he say what I think he sai-
Yes, third round Mechanic.
Why'd he say that?
You really aren't that smart, are you...
What's that supposed to mean!?
"Ladies, gentlemen, monsters, and all those in between! Welcome to the first round of our main event!" He spoke as Yorgos stood up and wiped dirt off of his armor, glaring at the announcer while tossing the whip at him. Catching it without looking, the announcer rolled the whip up and continued speaking, "Our entertainment will fight until the bell! Or until one of them...gives up." And with that, the man walked past Leo and the chest towards the dark arch, giving the mechanic a strange look as he passed.
Leo Valdez lowered his gaze down to the contents of the chest, he saw a crude set of armor, a small dagger, a shield, and...
My tool belt!
Don't just stare at it...
As Leo put on the breastplate that was a size or two too big, strapped the shield to his arm and attached the dagger to his tool belt, a bell resounded throughout the coliseum; commence Yorgos laughing heartily again.
"NOW WE CAN BATTLE, FINALLY! I'LL MAKE YOU RUE THE DAY YOU MESSED WITH HER!"
"Oh goody..." Leo muttered as he clipped his belt around his thin waist, pulling out a hammer from it and lighting it on fire.
The two circled each other for a few tense moments, the crowd roaring in annoyance of blood not being shed from either of the champions.
"Is this the ballroom dancing portion of the battle?" Leo questioned, spinning his hammer in his hand with a forced grin. Yorgos grunted in response as he rushed towards the lonely mechanic like a professional linebacker, except much larger and uglier while wielding a war-hammer. Leo raised his shield just in time as Yorgos' infamous hammer came crashing down upon him, leaving a large dent in the metal shield and causing Leo to sink to his knees from the force of the first attack. He groaned from pushing against the ground, opening his clenched eyes just in time to see Yorgos' large foot come racing towards his thin body.
This is gonna hu-
The foot launched Leo away from the collision, the wind being knocked out of him and a large bruise already forming on his chest. Spitting some blood onto the ground, Leo shakily stood up preparing for the next attack; only there wasn't one. When he looked at his opponent, he saw the cyclops gloating to the audience, arms wide open and a smile on his small one-eyed fishbowl head.
"I AM THE STRONGEST THERE IS!" He bellowed to the crowd, earning a loud roar of approval.
And I thought I was cocky...
He craves entertainment, Leo. Use it against him.
Leo didn't have time to ponder why the Voice was suddenly helping him, nor did he care. He'd learned to drone it out and he needed to stay focused on surviving till the third round, for whatever was to come.
"I AM THE CONQUERER OF DEMIG-"
The back of Yorgos' helmet had just had an intimate yet quick date with a flaming hammer thrown by none other than Leo Valdez. The crowd laughed at Yorgos' confusion as he turned around to see the child of Hephaestus grinning wickedly with a dagger in hand.
"DID YOU THROW THAT AT ME, DEMIGOD?" Leo couldn't hold back his chuckles, causing Yorgos' face to turn red with rage.
"Ya really hit the nail on the head with that one, didn't ya?"
"YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT!" He screamed, charging Leo full force.
You're fast, Leo. Use it to your advantage.
For once, the Voice was helpful. Leo waited until the last second to dive to the left to avoid the charging cyclops, slashing blindly at his leg in the process with the dagger. After rolling away, Leo caught a glimpse of blood on his knife and his spirits lifted immensely. He had landed a strike. Albeit a small and insignificant one, but it meant he could do it again. As the large cyclops turned to face Leo, he saw his fat leg had a surprisingly large gash in it from his opponent's dagger.
"HOW DARE YOU!" He yelled, slamming his hammer on the ground in anger as he glared at the child of Hephaestus. He turned to the crowd with a look of hatred and commanded them to assist him, "GIVE HIM A CHALLENGE!" The crowd immediately started throwing all of its garbage at Leo as Yorgos charged at him.
Why do they never play fair?! MOTHER OF HEPHAESTUS!
He had ducked just in time to avoid Yorgos' hammer, slicing his leg with his dagger and slamming his shield into him afterward; causing the massive cyclops to stagger back from a surprise blow. One of the spectators must have smuggled in illegal weapons, as a small dagger was thrown from the crowd and buried itself within Leo's right leg. His leg, already losing blood as he hobbled away from his enemy, was shooting massive amounts of pain throughout his entire body. Lucky for him, one of the monsters misjudged their throw and hit Yorgos over the head with a piece of their seat, sending him into a rage at the spectator.
As Leo limped away from his challenger, the ground started rumbling as the dirt was pushed aside from stone structures coming from the ground. The announcer's voice resonated throughout the arena in his accent, obviously trying to please the crowd and if he was trying to help Leo...he certainly wasn't showing it.
"WELCOME TO ROUND TWO: THE MAZE! WATCH OUT FOR THOSE TRAPS! THEY'RE TRICKY!" He yelled over a magical PA system as a stone wall came up from the ground right beneath Leo, he steadied himself atop the structure from surprise as he saw the giant labyrinth from inside the coliseum. When all of the walls had risen, Leo was at least 15 feet up in the air and he could see Yorgos, on account of the crowd turning on him and throwing it's last bit of trash at him as he navigated the maze.
"Oh man...this is so not amazing..." Leo muttered to himself as he tried to locate Yorgos' exact position as well as get a grip on the dagger that had pierced his flesh. Through gritted teeth, Leo spoke words of encouragement to himself, "Come on Leo...this is a piece of cake...you've pulled thousands of daggers from this leg before..."
Even though that's NOT true, Leo...you must hurry. Do it quick! Stop your whining and be a man!
Leo wasn't sure which version of the voice he liked better, the helpful one or the mean one. Though, it was right. He gripped the handle of the dagger and clenched his eyes shut as he yanked the dagger out from his leg as fast as possible, blood gushing down his calf to his ankle and pain shooting up to his brain immediately. With tears in his eyes, he set one of his fingers aflame with a snap and mentally prepared himself for what was to come next...cauterization.
"Oh, gods...what am I doing..." While looking away, he stuck his flaming finger to the wound and screamed in pain as the wound and area around it became burned. But at least the wound would stop bleeding and it wouldn't become infected. Sadly, his cry of pain alerted Yorgos to his position...who was too close for comfort.
"I HAVE YOU NOW, HALF-BLOOD!" He screamed as he prepared to swing at Leo atop the wall. In order to avoid the deadly hammer, Leo leaped from his hiding spot to the closest wall away from the cyclops...barely making it by pulling himself up.
Good thinking, Leo. Stay on high ground. Avoid the traps and-
Get the drop on him?
He could hear the Voice smirking in his head as he leaped from wall to wall, trying to circle behind Yorgos, who was currently covered in gashes on his body from a saw trap the maze had thrown at him. Leo could hear the cyclops' frustration as he climbed out of ANOTHER pitfall trap.
"WHERE ARE YOU, LEO? STOP YOUR HIDING!"
"It's called strategy...oh man, I sound like Annabeth..." Leo mumbled to himself as he leaped from a wall, his reminder of the Seven back at camp made him lose his concentration and stumble over his feet...sending him falling down to the ground and landing on his cauterized leg. He gritted his teeth and stifled another cry of pain as he lay on the ground, trying to clear his head and focus on the situation at hand. Using the wall for support as he stood up, he slowly traversed the maze by sticking to the right side of the labyrinth and simultaneously keeping an eye out for Yorgos.
As he stepped through the labyrinth, he felt a tug in his gut as he sensed a machine nearby. One of the perks of being a child of cabin nine. Sadly, he didn't notice it until it was too late. All he heard was the click of one of the slabs of stone used to create the labyrinth walls being pushed by his body weight, sending shivers down his spine.
"Oh...just what I needed...more pressure..." He said to himself as a hole from the intersection he was coming up to opened and a strange metallic figurehead that resembled Hephaestus came from within the wall. He stared at the head for a moment, keeping his distance from it, and realized what it meant...
He bolted back the way he came just in time to avoid getting a face full of Grecian fire that shot out of the head like a stream of water that filled the path he had just taken. Just as the fire engulfed his body, he turned the next corner before any major harm was inflicted upon him. He looked down to see his shirt on fire and immediately took it off along with the scorched breastplate. Tossing the shirt aside, he dubbed it useless since it had countless holes, he somehow found the irony of a Hephaestus head using fire to try and kill him.
He kept his suspenders on and just as he was about to place the breastplate onto his bare chest, he looked down to his right to see Yorgos stumble around the corner covered in slices and his helmet gone. A sinister grin crossed the cyclops' face as his brain recognized his true objective...kill Leo Valdez at all costs.
With a gut wrenching battle cry, the one-eyed beast raced towards Leo with murder in his eye as the repair boy yelped and dropped the armor to run the opposite way. No matter how many corners he turned, Yorgos stayed right on him like beauty did on Aphrodite. The lonely mechanic could feel the cyclops gaining on him when he felt a tug in his stomach once more.
Perfect. Now, where is it?
Quickly scanning the walls and floors, he saw a pressure plate at an intersection he was coming up on and devised a quick plan. When he reached the trap, he swung his body around the corner to avoid the plate as Yorgos came rushing towards him. All of his focus was on Leo and not the traps within the maze as he stepped onto the pressure plate, a loud click being heard over the roar of the crowd. A large hole opened up from the ground in front of him instantly, causing him to fall and become acquainted with a spike that went through his arm as he hit the bottom of the pit. Sadly, Yorgos was not yet vanquished.
Leo stared at him for a few moments at the edge of the trap, pondering on whether to kill the monster now or to run. Yorgos was writing in pain as he tried to wrench the spike from his forearm. Blood spilled out from multiple wounds on his body from the various traps he had activated, his eye red from irritation. All in all, he looked worse than normal.
I can do it. He's immobile. It'll be easy. It'll be over, finally.
No, it won't. You'll stay trapped here. Left to fight more. Turn around and wait until round three, Leo.
Why should I? WHY SHOULD I EVEN LISTEN TO YOU?
Like I said...I only speak the truth. Whether you like it or not, I don't want you to die...yet. Now's not your time. Follow LV's advice.
Who's LV? Tell me, now! No more secrets. No more vague answers!
You will find out soon. Leave this monster, you'll be free soon.
Give me one good reason to trust you.
I'm your only shot at freedom.
He hated to admit it, but the Voice was right. He had no other options. Even if he killed Yorgos, he'd only be caged again until the next fight. One that might end in his death. At least now he had a chance, he just had to wait till round three...for something to happen. Whether it be good or bad, it was his only shot.
And with that thought, Leo Valdez turned away from a cyclops bent on destroying him. Running as fast as he could, careful to avoid traps on the way, he sat in a corner of the maze and waited. Waited for the round to be over so he could become free, hopefully.
How much lon-?
His thought was interrupted by the cheering of the crowd, they were all chanting one name. All yelling insults at Leo. All cheering for their champion of death. Leo's demise. His death. The cyclops had escaped the trap. And from the sound of walls crumbling, Leo guessed he wasn't too excited about his new spike piercing. Just like that, a loud and familiar bell rang through the stadium.
"YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS, FOLKS! R-R-R-R-R-ROUND THREE!" the announcer screamed to the spectators, the two cyclopes in chairs by the announcer were grinning at the maze as they watched their entertainment. "THIS IS A SPECIAL ROUND, OUR CHAMPIONS MUST FACE EACH OTHER ALONG WITH A NEW CHALLENGE!"
"BRING 'EM IN!"
"END HIS LIFE!"
"GET OFF ME TAIL!"
Leo heard members of the crowd yell as his heart rate increased, he was covered in sweat and blood. Every square inch of his body aching from the last two rounds. He was weak, struggling to stand upright from exhaustion. Leo leaned against the wall closest to him, dropping his knife to the ground as he tried to steady his heart and catch his breath. He could see the announcer pacing with a grin on his face, he looked in Leo's direction (or at least, that's what Leo thought) and nodded ever so slightly.
W-was that a...
"THEY'LL BE FACING THE DEADLY MINOTAUR HIMSELF! AIDED BY NOT ONE, BUT TWO BABY DRAKONS!" He beamed at the crowd as he announced the final round.
This was it. Hopefully, the man in red meant the beginning of round three and not the end, because Leo didn't think he could survive that long. All he had was his tool-belt, a busted shield, and a small dagger to aid him.
They must be rounding up the beasts...
He thought to himself as time went on, he could hear the cyclops destroying countless walls with his hammer to find him. They were taking their time with the start of round three, and Leo assumed that meant Yorgos was close to him.
He sent a final farewell to everyone he knew, he had accepted his fate already. There was no getting out, now. No Percy to save him. No Jason to fly him away. No Annabeth to devise a plan. No Piper to charm their way out. No Frank to go all shape-shifter on their ugly monster behinds. No Hazel to use magic to escape. No Reyna...
He had started walking away from the destruction of walls, dagger held loosely in his hand along with his shield strapped to his arm, in hopes of a swift death. He had made his way to the gate closest to the announcer, silently praying for him to help the lonely mechanic. The gate shifted and as it rose up, Leo glanced at the announcer...who put his arm at a ninety-degree angle in front of him.
Looks like he's holding a...
Leo raised an eyebrow as he looked into the dark arch, two red eyes slithering towards him. He had found the entrance to one of the drakons. A baby to one of the most deadly creatures on Earth. He'd heard of the drakon that only a kid of Ares could kill and one that helped Percy and Annabeth against Tartarus when they were down there. They were everything demigods feared. Deadly, extremely hard to kill, fast, powerful, and merciless.
As the eyes came closer to him, he felt a familiar tug in his stomach. A machine was close by. And if he was supposed to escape...
OH MY GODS!
Leo Valdez raised his shield just as the announcer did, trying to hide his body behind it as the drakon drew nearer. It lunged at him from within the arch, a roar going through the stadium as it started to breathe fire at his newest prey.
Then came the explosion.