Ello all you lovely lads and lasses! My days been long. Just finished my math final and I hate math I really hate it, so much so that I can't even began to explain it.
By the way after rereading all of this I've come to the conclusion that for whatever reason I like Crusty I think it's mostly because of his I don't really care attitude when they figured out who he was…hmmm oh well.
Anyway here is a new chapter of the wonderful Liz so I hope you enjoy.
Thanks to totalRandum, discb, Engineer4Ever , percyjacksonfan135, angelxofxmine, BloodyFallenRose , yorushihe, sdevil, KaggyAlucardSesh , r903 , BlizzardDragon , kyubbi lover 98, Extended Experience, The Lady Geek, saint21, Dark0w1, Nymphadora Jackson, TheNorwegianAuthor, Vangran, Faby0411, Padfootette , DarkPirateKing69, KiaraWangWilliams , DarkLord0012 , Guest, ro781727, QueenHecate92, beauty0102, Compbrain1720, Milisant, and Esarion. Since all you wonderful people reviewed, which makes me so happy it brings a tear to my eye. And thanks to everyone else who has reviewed and read so far, you're all lovely people, stay beautiful.
Compbrain1720- Alas I wish I could but hey at least she has Chomper's the gaint shark as a friend
Ro781727- Liz's and Snape's relationship is going to be interesting and full of… graying hair annoyance for Snape, since Liz will take it apon herself to brighten up Snape's day… which should go well
Vangran- sorry Tiny
Yorushie- Haha nice to know
Disclaimer: I own nothing
Disclaimer: Potty mouths galore!...that means swearing
The first thing that hit was the smell. It was like walking into a crazy cat ladies house with enfaces on the crazy and the cats.
The trailer was dark inside until I used that lighter I had taken from the river earlier. See it came in handy. I searched through Anna's backpack until I found some flashlights that were in the shapes of sea animals, giving Anna a plastic whale flashlight while Grover got the frog and I got the shark. We used them to cast light onto the very sad scene before us. Sitting in a row of filthy metal cages were three very sad animals: a zebra, a male albino lion, and an antelope.
Someone, those jackasses up front most likely, had thrown the lion a sack of turnips, which he obviously wasn't interested in. The zebra and the antelope had each gotten a Styrofoam tray of hamburger meat. The zebra's mane was matted with chewing gum, like somebody had been spitting on it in their spare time. The antelope had a balloon tied to one of his horns.
And while no one was stupid enough to get close enough to the lion to mess with him that didn't mean he was healthy looking. He was pacing the length of his cage right now, panting from the heat inside the trailer. His ribs showed through the fur on his side.
"This is kindness?" Grover yelled. "Humane zoo transport?"
He probably would've gone right back outside to beat up the truckers, and I would have of course helped him, but the truck's engine roared to life, the trailer started to shake, and we were forced to sit down or fall down.
I found a water jug and refilled their bowels, then used Riptide, in scythe form, to drag the mismatched food out of their cages. Splitting the turnips with the zebra and the antelope while giving the lion the hamburger meat.
Grover calmed the antelope down, while Anna used her knife to cut the balloon off his horns. We decided that we would help them more out tomorrow, and then we settled in for the night.
Grover curled up on a turnip sack; Anna opened our bag of Oreos and nibbled on one half-heartedly.
"Hey," Anna said. "I'm sorry for freaking out back at the water park, Liz."
"It's just…" she shuddered. "Spiders."
"Because of that Arachne story. Right? She got turned into a spider after challenging your mom to a weaving contest."
Anna nodded. "Arachne's children have been taking revenge on the children of Athena ever since. If there a spider within a mile of me, it'll find me. I hate the creepy things. Anyway I owe you."
I leaned over wrapping an arm around Anna. "It's fine Anna! Remember me, you, and Grover are a team. And also Grover was the one who was your Pterodactyl that night."
I thought he was asleep, but he mumbled from the corner, "I still say being her Superman tonight sounds better than being her Pterodactyl tonight."
Anna laughed as I scowled, crossing my arms.
She pulled apart and Oreo, handing me half of it.
We passed a few miles in silence after that, Grover now asleep.
"So the gods might fight now," Anna said, she leaned back onto her backpack.
I looked up at her, mid-way through licking half of an Oreo. Nodding my head slowly I hesitantly asked her. "Do you think it will be like the Trojan War? With it being Athena versus Poseidon?"
"I don't know what my mom will do. I just know I'll fight next to you."
"Because you're my friend, Coral Breath. Any more stupid questions?"
The next thing Anna knew I was squeezing her in a hug. "Aww, Anna! You said we're friends!"
"Yeah, yeah," Anna grumbled, trying not to smile.
Smiling happily I turned and laid down. My hoodie lengthen, growing larger and fluffier as it went over my knees. Petting Riptide's bracelet a few times fondly, making him purr happily back, I finally went to sleep.
My nightmare started out as something I'd dreamed a million times before. I was stuck inside a classroom in the middle of summer while wearing a straight jacket. Outside the day was sunny and people were playing and laughing. A carnival of some kind was going on outside. Stands lining the street.
'Free Fireworks' was on one of them, large explosive rockets along with hundreds of other dangerous explosive items lined the display. I stared at it longingly. Another stand beside it made me whimper in sadness.
"Free Ice Cream…"
"Please turn to page 459 in your text book," a monotone voice droned.
A very plain teacher with no emotion what so ever on his face stood in front of the room. My book started to flip through to the page rapidly by itself, finally coming to a stop. 'Advance Calculus' was written in the title.
"Now let's begin. The-"He started to teach his voice never changing from the bored monotone pitch.
I looked over at the desk next desk and saw a girl sitting there, also wearing a straight jacket. She was older than me, with unruly black, punk-style hair, dark eyeliner around her stormy green eyes, and freckles across her nose. Somehow I knew who she was. She was Thalia, daughter of that great guy known as Zeus.
She struggled against the straightjacket, glared at me in frustration, and started to say to me, "Well, Coral Breath? One of us has to get-"
I didn't hear anything else she said because I finally looked at the other people sitting around the room, things more like it. Dolls of all shapes in sizes sat throughout the room all of them diligently taking notes as the teacher talked.
I struggled in my straightjacket, Thalia growing silent as she watched my struggles with wide surprised eyes. Riptide feeling my panic nudged my mind soothingly as he grew into a spiked chain tearing through the straightjacket.
I jumped out of my seat taking a few steps back only to fall through the classrooms floor. The teacher's voice changed until it was cold and ancient sounding, echoing from the depths of a great chasm.
"Azalea Potter," it said. "Yes, the exchange went well, I see.
I was back in that previous dream, right in front of the giant pit. Unseen in the hole, the monstrous thing was speaking, but this time it wasn't addressing me. The numbing power of its voice seemed directed somewhere else.
"And she suspects nothing?" it asked.
Another voice, one I vaguely recognized, answered at my shoulder. "No my lord."
I looked only to find no one there.
"Ah like father like daughter," the thing in the pit mused out loud. "Excellent."
"But wait, it looks like little Liz is with us now." The full force of the voices attention was now pouring on me. "Blast her father's blood-he is too changeable, too unpredictable. The girl brought herself hither."
"I shouldn't be surprise," the voice coldly chuckled. "You are powerful enough to do so. But since you seem so eager to dream of your quest, young half-blood, then I will oblige."
The scene melted away, changing.
I was standing in a vast throne room with a black marble walls and bronze floors. The empty, and in my opinion, very awesome looking throne was made from human bones fussed together. Riptide snarled in my mind, curling around it protectively, and I felt him force me out of the dream and into a deep sleep, darkness covering my vision.
I woke with a start.
Grover was shaking my shoulder. "The truck's stopped," he said. "We think they're coming to check the animals."
"Hide!" Anna hissed.
She had it easy. She just had to put on her voodoo magic cap and poof! She disappeared. Grover and I had to hide behind feed sacks and hope we looked like turnips.
The trailer door slid open, sunlight and heat pouring in.
"Man!" one of the truckers said, waving his hand in front of his face. He climbed inside and poured some water from a jug into the animal's dishes.
"You hot big boy?" he asked the lion, and then splashed the rest of the bucket right in the lion's face. He roared in indignation.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," the man said.
Next to me Grover tensed looking absolutely murderous.
The truck driver smirked at the zebra. "How you doin', Stripes? Least we'll be getting rid of you this stop. You like magic shows? You're going to love this one. They're gonna saw you in half!"
The zebra, wild-eye with fear, looked straight at me.
Free me my Lady. Please.
Oh… okay then I can, I can talk to horses now or a zebra in this case. That is a… new development, yeah new…
There was a loud knock, knock, knock on the side of the trailer.
The trucker inside with us yelled, "What do you want, Eddie?"
A voice outside- it must have been Eddie's- shouted back, "Maurice? What'd ya say?"
"What are you banging for?"
Knock, knock, knock.
Outside, Eddie yelled," What banging?"
Rolling his eyes, Maurice went back outside while cursing at Eddie for being an idiot.
A second later, Anna appeared next to me. "This transportation business can't be legal."
"No kidding," Grover said. He paused, listening to something, "The lion says these guys are animal smugglers!"
That's right, the zebra's voice said in my mind.
"We've got to free them!" Grover said looking over at Anna and me.
I clapped my hands together and nodded my head, "Let's do this!"
Riptide, who was listening to our conversation and heard my words, immediately transformed. I slashed the scythe easily through the lock on the zebra's cage.
The zebra burst out. It turned to me and bowed. Thank you my Lady.
Grover held up his hands and said something to the zebra, like a blessing.
Just as Maurice was poking his head back inside to check out the noise, the zebra leaped over him and into the street. There was yelling, screaming, and cars honking. I looked out the doors of the trailer in time to see Maurice and Eddie chasing after the zebra, with a few policemen following them, shouting. "Hey! You need a permit for that!"
Turning around I cut the other locks off. Grover raised his hands and spoke the same blessing to both animals. The antelope and the lion burst out of their cages and went off together into the streets.
Some tourist screamed. Most just backed off and took pictures, probably thinking it was some kind of stunt.
"Ahh," I sighed. "This is going to be a good day."
Anna shook her head, "Did you just see what happened Liz? We just set free a zebra, antelope, and a LION in Las Vegas!"
"Yes, we accomplished many great things this morning."
Anna sighed rubbing her temples, "You… you just can't live a normal human life for a couple seconds can you? It's like you have some kind of field of crazy around you that slowly causes mayhem were ever you go!"
Grover patted her shoulder, "its okay just let it all out. This outburst was long overdue."
"Then why aren't you freaking out right now?!"
Grover smiled weakly at her, "I already had mine, it happened after the cupcake incidence."
"The cupcake incidence?"
I laughed as a remembered that memory fondly. "Yeah I did that one before they banned me from the kitchen. Though it did take forever to bake that many cupcakes and to find enough laxative chocolate."
"Oh…" Anna said. "Well for Liz it doesn't sound that bad, I mean she just took glee on setting wild animals loose in Las Vegas, compared to that laxative cupcakes sound rather tame."
Grover shook his head, "Oh it would, if only it ended at the cupcake part."
Anna looked over at him, shocked, "What else could she have done?"
"Well Liz here, "he gave me a dry look. "Decided that she would also steal the keys from everyone on the faculty and then lock all the bathroom doors."
"Hey! Do you know how much skill it took to picklock all those doors and pick all those pockets?" I said.
Grover covered my mouth with his hand, "Well long story short, the only two people not caught in this prank was Liz and I. And while the staff couldn't prove anything, that didn't mean they didn't know who it was. What made it even worse was that she even tried to get me to eat one."
Anna raised one eyebrow. "And why didn't you eat it?"
"If Liz came over to you and gave you a piece of food while smiling at you, would you eat it?"
Anna shuddered rubbing her arms, "I'd jump out the window."
Grover nodded his head, "Exactly. And Liz no matter how many times you lick or bite my hand I'm not going to remove it from over your mouth. I'm completely immune to it by now… because of you."
I pouted at him crossing my arms over my chest.
"Come on. Let's get out of this filthy truck." Anna said, pulling us both out of the truck and into the street.
We stumbled out into the desert afternoon. Walking down the street we stumbled past various places. The Monte Carlo, a pyramid, a pirate ship, and a small version of the Statue of Liberty.
I wasn't really sure what we were looking for, but since we had just sort of gotten our ride arrested for animal smuggling, I suppose it was best to look for other transportation options.
Soon we found ourselves outside of the Lotus Hotel and Casino. The entrance was a huge neon flower, the petals lighting up and blinking. No one was going in or out, but the glittering chrome doors were open, spilling out air conditioning that smelled like flowers.
The doorman smiled at us, "Hey kids. You look tired. You want to come in and sit down?"
Yeah… how about no. This was the Medusa incident all over again. "I'd rather-"
"We'd love to," Anna and Grover said over my voice. They both grabbed my arms when I tried to run away. Dragging me through the chrome doors and into the lobby. Well didn't this situation seem familiar? Inside, we took one look around, and Grover said, "Whoa."
The whole lobby was a giant game room. And I don't mean like an old time arcade place. There was an indoor waterslide snaking around the glass elevator, which went straight up at least forty floors. There was a climbing wall on the side of one of the building, and an indoor bungee-jumping bridge. Some virtual-reality suits with working laser guns. And hundreds of other video games, each ones screen were the size of a widescreen TV. There were a few other kids playing, but not that many. No one was waiting to play any games. There were waitresses and snack bars all around; serving any kind of food you could think of.
Yeah as if this situation just didn't scream trap already.
"Hey!" a bellhop said. He was wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt with lotus designs, shirts, and flip-flops. "Welcome to the Lotus Casino. Here's your room key."
Okay now they're not even trying to disguise the fact this is a trap, come on people at least put some effort into this. Have some pride in your evil trap, I mean this is just insulting now.
"Well not that this is weird and all but-"I said.
"No, no," he said, laughing. "The bill's taken care of. No extra charges, no tips. Just go up to room 4001. Here are your LotusCash cards."
He handed us each a green plastic credit card.
I waved my hands in front of me at him. "Um, I don't think you understand. I'm not protesting about that, it's more along the fact-"
Anna covered my mouth as she smiled winningly at the man. "Thank you, come on Grover Liz let's go."
She grabbed my arm and dragged me into an elevator. Pressing the button to go upstairs, uncovering my mouth in the process.
"-that this seems like a huge trap." I finish staring at the elevator doors.
I looked over at Anna and Grover who both looked ragged and worn. Their clothes were ripped and stained. They both were covered from head to toe in dirt. Grover's Rasta hat sat hazourdly on his head, his curly brown hair poking through the bite holes in it. They both looked exhausted and I'm sure I didn't look any better.
"Fine," I sighed, "but when this turns into a huge trap, and I'm sure it will, then I'm saying I told you so. Besides what could a day or so of rest here harm?"
When we reached our room we were amazed. It was a suit with three separate bedrooms and a fully stocked snack bar filled with chips, fancy candy, soda, and other goodies. A big screen television with internet. The balcony had a Jacuzzi and the view was amazing. You could see out over the Strip and into the desert.
"This place is-"Anna said, as she walked into the room.
"Amazing," Grover finished as he walked in behind her.
There were clothes in the closet, and they fit me. I let out a sigh at their lack of trying when it came to hiding the fact this place was a trap.
After that I took a shower, which felt awesome by the way especially after a week of traveling. Changed my clothes, ate some candy and chips, drank some soda, and felt better than I had in a long time.
I came out of the bedroom to find that Grover and Anna had showered and changed to. Grover was eating potato chips, and the bag, to his heart content, while Anna cranked up the National Geographic Channel.
"I feel great," Grover sighed, as he stretched out on the couch.
"So what now?" Anna asked. "Sleep?"
Grover and I looked at each other. Hey if we were going to walk into this trap willingly then why not go all out? We both held up our plastic LotusCash cards.
"There's no rest for the wicked Anna."
Both Anna and Grover left then, running off to do who knows what. I stayed back because well, to put it simply, I'm rather paranoid. So I went and grabbed my backpack in my room, just to make sure if anything happened I wouldn't lose it, and also I didn't trust the place enough to leave my stuff unattended. I also may have cleaned out most of the snack bar while I was at it, but hey they said it was free.
I walked out of the room with my backpack over my shoulder and to the elevator. The LotusCash card was in my hand and I couldn't help but to smile. I might as well embrace the trap if I was stuck in it.
I'm couldn't remember the last time I had so much fun. I played game after game. From laser tag to the stuffed animal crane game. I passed by Grover playing this reverse hunter game were the deer hunted red necks. While Anna was playing some huge 3-d sim game where you could build your own city.
While I walked around I saw something odd. Some kid about my age was just sitting at a table in front of one of the various snack bars playing a card game. He seemed very focused on the game his dark eyes narrowing in concentration as he brushed his dark black hair out of his eyes, which stood out on his pale skin, that looked like it never saw the light of day.
Wondering over to him, I pulled out one of the chairs at his table and sat in it. Placing my elbows on the table and resting my chin in my hands I leaned forward. "Watcha doing?"
The kid looked up in surprise, looking startled that anyone was talking to him. "Umm, playing a card game…" he finally mumbled, looking shy.
I grinned at him. "Cool what kind?"
He visibly brightened at this, straightening up in his seat as a wide grin spread across his face. "Oh, it's this cool game and you play with Greek gods and monster!"
"That sounds interesting. Who is your favorite god?"
He flipped through the deck of cards in his hands before he pulled out one, holding it up and showing it to me. "My favorite is Hades."
I studied the card. There was a box listing various stats on it and on the top of it were the words 'HADES', a picture of a man with dark eyes, pale skin, and black hair was on it. The man was lounging on a throne made out of human bones a smirk on his face.
"Really? Hades is one of my favorites to. I also like Poseidon and Ares."
The kid nodded flipping through his deck again until he pulled out two more cards. He held them up to me again. They were the same as the Hades cards, listing stats in a box with their name on the top of the card as well. Poseidon's picture showed a man that was surrounded by the sea. Waves crashing around him as he held a triton in one hand with a storm raging in the background. His skin was tanned and his dark hair seemed to blow wildly in the wind. Sea green eyes stared up at me.
Ares card had a picture of a man with cruel hard features wearing a Greek set of armor. Around him was a torn and bloodied battle field. Dead bodies and weapons were scattered all around as the sky showed red from some great fire, smoke and ash floating in the air. Blood red eyes glared out from under a helmet as he held a sword in his hand about to strike.
"These are awesome!" I practically squealed to him as I looked all three of them over.
The kid laughed, seeming pleased that I was interested in the cards to. "Here you can keep them."
I looked up from the cards at him, shaking my head. "Oh, no, I can't do that. These are your cards." I pushed all three cards back over to him.
He rolled his eyes. "Don't worry about it. I got spares of those three. You can keep them."
"Yeah, it's fine."
"Oh, by the way my names Azalea, Azalea Potter, but please call me Liz."
"Hi Liz, my names Nico Angeleo."
With that Nico began to teach me how to play the game. Listing all the rules and how you used the cards, it was actually kind of interesting. He was listing the uses of the stats when I noticed the cards printing date on them.
"Wow, these cards are in really good shape for being printed so long ago."
Nico looked up at me, a confused expression on his face. "That's not long ago Liz. That's only two or three years ago."
I froze staring at him. "When… when was the last time you bought a card?"
"Umm, right before we went to this hotel actually. Some man showed up and took me and my sister here. But we stopped at a gas station before we got here and I bought a pack of these cards. It's only been a few weeks since then so I bet you can go and get some of these cards too."
My mind spun. If what he said was true then… Nico had been in this hotel more than ten years, and he thought that only been a couple of weeks since then. We had just showed up at the hotel and it had only been here a few hours, but had more time passed outside of the hotel?
"I've got to go Nico!" I stood up to leave, putting the cards in my hoodie's pocket, but stopped a couple of feet from the table. "Nico, if you want, you can come with me and my two friends…"
Nico smiled at me and shook his head. "No thanks Liz, my sister and I can't leave until that man comes back and gets us."
"Okay then, bye Nico. I hope to see you again." I waved at him as I walked away. He waved back and then turned back to his game, shuffling the cards.
While walking around to find Anna and Grover I started to ask other people what year it was. It wasn't easy, getting their attention, they where all glued to their games completely unaware of the world around them. But when I finally did get their attention all their responses where the same. They all said some year that was way in the past, but they all claimed it had only been a few days or weeks at most. They didn't really know and they really didn't care.
I tried to remember how long I'd been there. It felt like only a few hours, but I wasn't sure. I couldn't really remember what we were doing before this. Something to do with a quest?
We were supposed to be finding a bolt… I think?
I found Anna still building her city.
"Come on we have to go."
I slapped her, which sure got her attention fast.
"Liz!" Anna turned to me, looking furious.
"We need to leave." I told her.
"Leave? What are you talking about? I've just got the towers-"
"Besides the fact this place is a trap I have a question."
"Fine, what is it Liz?"
"Do you remember what we were doing before we came in her?"
Anna frowned, her forehead wrinkled as she thought. "I… something to do with a quest. It's really hard to remember…"
"Exactly, just look at that guy over there," I gestured to a guy standing a few feet away from us; he was playing some sharpshooter game. He looked about thirteen, but his clothes where bell-bottom jeans and a red T-shirt with black piping. His hair was permed and jelled, all together looking like some Elvis wanabee. "He's about to go to some groovy disco. I just asked Groovy Darrin what year it was and he said 1977, and he claims it's only been a few weeks since he got here."
"So a place where no kids age and you can play games like this forever. Can you imagine anyplace better?"
I glared at her, frustration building in me. My magic shifted inside me, lashing out in my annoyance.
The game system in front of her twisted as it transformed into a giant spider. Anna let out a scream of fear as I ran Riptide through it. The creature fell to the floor its legs twitching as it slowly reformed back into a destroyed heap of metal and wires.
Anna looked like she had just snapped out of a day dream and was looking widely around at the other people, horror growing on her face. "Oh my gods," she said. "How long have we-"
"No clue Anna, but we better get moving." I grabbed her hand and we ran off to find Grover, who turned out to be still playing the Virtual Deer Hunter.
"Grover," we both shouted.
"Die human," he yelled. "Die, silly polluting nasty person!"
"Wow Grover, you got some issues." I said beside him.
He turned the plastic gun on me and started clicking, as if I was just another image from the screen.
"That's it," I said, Riptide's form twisted until he became a giant oversized hammer. "This is going to hurt you way more than it's going to hurt me Grover."
I lifted the hammer up high in the air as I aimed it.
"Grover!" Anna shouted, he ignored her. She bit her lip and seemed to be thinking really hard. "Uhh… Grover, you just ate Liz's last snack!"
Grover flinched and jerked back; he ran behind Anna and cowered behind her. "I didn't mean to, I swear!"
The hammer in my hands slammed down into the game system sending sparks everywhere as it let out a dying distorted noise. Anna stared at me with wide eyes as I lifted the hammer onto my shoulder, smiling at the both of them.
"I-," Anna said staring at me.
"You-you almost hit me!" Grover accused, still using Anna as a shield.
"Please," I waved my hand at him. "I was aiming for the machine not you. If you got hit it would have only been an accident not purposeful."
Grover glared at me and I pouted at him. "Aww don't be mad at me Grover here," I reached into my backpack and pulled out a bag of chips, "I'll give you these Jalapeño chips as a piece offering."
Grover slowly took them from me, and sighed. "I guess I did try to shoot you when I was playing that game. And you weren't aiming at me…"
I smiled as I hooked an arm with him and Anna, "Okay then, let's go!"
I dragged them to the exit. The Lotus bellhop, spotting us, hurried over. "Well, now, are you ready for your platinum cards?"
"We're leaving," I told him.
"Such a shame," he said. "We just added a new floor full of games for platinum card members."
He held started to try and hand us the cards, but a woman in a Lotus Casino uniform ran up to him and whispered into his ear. The man's eyes widened and he looked over at me and then at the women's hands. She was holding two twisted and burnt signs, both of them from Anna and Grover's games. His hands went back behind him and he gave me a strained smiled, looking suddenly very wary.
"Or maybe you should just leave," he laughed nervously, "you know if you want to. I wouldn't want to upset anyone."
I smiled sweetly at him, "I'm glad we agree."
We burst through the doors of the Lotus Casino and ran down the sidewalk. It felt like it was afternoon, the time we had entered the Casino, but the weather had completely changed. It was stormy, with heat lightening flashing out in the desert.
Ares backpack was slung over Anna's shoulder, I noticed, which was odd, because I was sure I saw it thrown in the trash can back in room 4001, but there was something else I had to worry about at the moment.
I ran over and to the nearest newspaper stand and read the date. It was the same year, thankfully, but the date was different. It was June twentieth.
We had been in the Lotus Casino for five days.
We only had one day left until the summer solstice. One day left to complete our quest.
It was Anna's Idea.
She loaded us into the back of a Vegas taxi, and told the driver, "Los Angeles. Please."
The cabbie chewed his cigar and sized us up. "That's three hundred miles. For that, you gotta pay up front."
"You accept casino debit cards?" Anna asked.
He shrugged. "Some of 'em. Same as credit cards. I gotta swipe 'em through first."
Anna handed him her card.
He looked at it skeptically.
"Swipe it," Anna invited.
His meter machine started rattling. The lights flashed. Finally an infinity symbol came up next to the dollar sign. And I felt very happy about having my very own Lotus Casino card in my pocket.
The cigar fell out of the driver's mouth. He looked back at us, his eyes wide. "Where to in Los Angeles… uh, Your Highness?"
"The Santa Monica Pier."
At sunset, the taxi dropped us off at the beach in Santa Monica. It looked exactly the way L.A. beaches do in the movies, expect it smelt horrible. There was an amusement park on the Pier and surfer dudes waiting for the perfect wave as homeless guys slept in the sand dunes.
Grover, Anna, and I walked down to the edge of the surf.
"What now?" Anna asked.
The Pacific was turning golden in the sunset as we stood there.
I took a step forward, into the surf.
"Liz?" Anna said. "What are you doing?"
I skipped forward, the water came up to my waist, and then my chest forcing me to walk. So I turned around and walked backwards waving at Anna and Grover.
She called out to me, "You know how polluted that water is? There are all kinds of toxic-"
I tripped and my head went under.
I floated backwards, for a few seconds, down into the sandy bottom. Standing up I brushed sand from my clothes and walked down, into the shoals. I shouldn't have been able to see anything past the murky water, but I could sense where everything was. From the rolling textures at the bottom to the sand-dollar colonies dotting the sandbars. I could even feel the currents around me, warm and cold streams swirling together.
I heard distorted screams through the water. A surf board passed over me, blocking out the sun for a second as the guy on it swam frantically away.
Looking ahead I could tell why.
A giant form appeared in the murk, the huge form of Chomper's the shark swam towards me. He swam around me nuzzling my side as I petted him. Swimming lower he shook his back I reached out and grabbed his dorsal fin and he started to swim off, taking me along with him. Chomper's deposited me at the edge of the ocean proper, where the sand bank dropped off into a huge chasm.
I saw something in the darkness below growing bigger and brighter as it rose towards me. A women's voice called, "Azalea Potter."
As she got closer, her shape became clearer. She had flowing black hair, and a dress made of green silk. Light flickered around her like she was glowing. And she was riding a stallion sized sea horse.
Ah we meet again ghost lady.
She dismounted. The sea horse and Chomper's whisked off and started to play a game of something that looked like underwater tag. The lady smiled at me. "You've come far, Azalea Potter. Well done."
I smiled awkwardly at her waving, "Yeah… hi."
"I am Nereid, a spirit of the sea. I serve in your father, Lord Poseidon, court."
"Okay and so if you're here where is my dad? Why did he want me to come here?"
"Do not judge the Lord of the Sea to harshly. He stands on the brink of an unwanted war. He has much to occupy his time. Besides, he is forbidden to help you directly. The gods may not show such favoritism."
"Not even to their own children?"
"Especially to them. They have to work indirectly. That is why I give you a warning and a gift."
She held out her hand. Three white pearls flashed in her palm.
"I've heard of your journey to Hades realm. Once you are in his realm he will never willingly let you leave. Take these and when you are in need smash them at your feet. Keep faith. Good luck, Azalea Potter."
She summoned her sea horse and rode toward the void.
"Good-bye, young hero," she called back, her voice fading in the depths.
"Okay then," I muttered, pocketing the pearls as I swam towards Chomper's. The shark shot
towards me and I grabbed his fin as he passed by.
When I reached the beach, I patted Chomper's goodbye and stepped onto the shore. My clothes dried instantly, as I walked over to Grover and Anna, telling them everything that had happened.
Anna grimaced, "No gift comes without a price."
I waved my hand at her, "Come on Anna stop being so doom and gloom, be happy!"
She scowled at me as I rapped an arm around her and tugged her and Grover off and into the city.
With some spare change, we took a taxi to West Hollywood. I showed the driver the Underworld address slip I'd taken from the Aunty Em's Garden Gnome Emporium, but he'd never heard of DOA Recording Studios.
We thanked him and got off at the next stop. Wondering for miles on foot, looking for DOA. Nobody we asked seemed to know where it was.
It got dark, and certain… unique individuals came out to play. We walked past gangbangers, bums, and street hawkers, all of them watching us.
As we hurried passed the entrance of an alley, a voice from the darkness said, "Hey you."
Before we knew it, we were surrounded. A gang of kids had circled us. Six of them in all- all wearing fancy rich clothing. Like the kids at Yancy Academy: rich brats playing bad boys.
Riptide snarled in my mind transforming into a scythe, making all the boys step back at whatever they saw in the mist.
I took a step forward my eyes narrowing as my muscles tensed. My hand twitched as, unknown to them, water rose up behind them. A smile came across my face as everything in me buzzed in excitement, ready for the fight.
Anna and Grover each grabbed one of my arms.
"Liz," Grover warned. "Remember what we talked about when it came to fighting with other people?"
"Grover," I whined. "They're just asking for it!"
"Liz," Anna said tugging on my arm.
"But you didn't even hear the conversation Anna!"
Anna rolled her eyes, "I don't have to hear it to know what it was about. After spending a couple of days with you I can figure out the jist of it."
"Fine," I pouted, glaring at the ground. One of the preppy bad boys took a step forward only for all of them to get picked up and slammed into the alley way wall by a wave of water.
A grinned weakly at Grover, "Oops, my hand slipped?"
He hit the side of my head and both Anna and Grover pulled me away from the cean of the crime, erm, I mean accident. We turned a corner.
"In there." Anna told Grover, they both tugged me with them.
Only one store on the block looked open, the light coming from it illuminating the whole street. The neon sign above the door read CRUSTY'S WATER BED PALACE.
We burst through the doors, well it was more like Anna and Grover burst through the doors and threw me in with them.
"I don't think they'll find us in here." Grover panted.
A voice behind us said, "Who won't find you?"
We all jumped.
Standing behind us was a guy who looked like a raptor in a leisure suit. He was at least seven feet tall, with absolutely no hair. He had gray leathery skin, thick-lidded eyes, and a cold reptile like smile. He strolled towards us slowly.
His wore a silk shirt paisley, unbuttoned halfway down. The lapels of his velvet jacket were riducously wide. And the piece a de resistance was the silver chains around his neck, I was unable to count all of them.
"I'm Crusty," he said, with a teeth showing smile.
"That could be fixed with a bath." I told him from in-between Anna and Grover. They both elbowed me, Anna covering my mouth as Grover put me in a head hold.
"Please don't listen to anything she says." Grover said a strained smile on his face.
Anna laughed nervously, "She was dropped one too many times on her head when she was a baby."
"Sorry to barge in," Anna continued. "We were just browsing."
"You mean hiding from those no-good kids," he grumbled. "They hang around every night. I get a lot of people in here, thanks to them. Say, you want to look at a water bed?"
"OUCH!" Anna yelped pulling her hand away from my mouth.
"See? You should have let me continue my conversation with those boys. All I got to do was give them a friendly warning!" I cried before Anna recovered my mouth.
"We didn't let you continue your 'conversation' with them because, I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but murder is illegal. And your friendly warning was so friendly!"
I bit Anna again, making her let go long enough for me to say, "Please what I did was downright neighborly."
"Liz," Grover said, patting my head with his free hand. "Throwing someone into a wall with pressurized water is not considered nice."
Crusty was watching the whole conversation, but shook his head and quickly reached forward pulling me out of the villainous grasp of Anna and Grover. His large hand engulfed my shoulder as he steered me deeper into the showroom.
There was every kind of water bed you could want. Different types of wood, patterns, shapes, and sizes.
"This is my most popular model." Crusty spread his hands proudly over a bed covered with black satin sheet and a built in Lava Lamp on the headboard.
"Million-hand massage," he told us. "Go on, try it out. Shoot, take a nap. I don't care. No business today, anyway."
I was about to say something but a bed I saw distracted me.
"Million-hand massage!" Grover cried, and dove in. "Oh, you guys! This is cool."
"Hmm," Crusty said, stroking his chin. "Almost, almost."
I snuck away from the group approaching the bed.
He looked at Anna. "Do me a favor and try this one over here, honey. Might fit."
Anna said, "But what-"
He patted her shoulder reassuringly and led her over to the Safari Deluxe model with teakwood
lions carved into the frame and a leopard-pattered comforter.
Anna, at the moment, noticed I wasn't with them, "Liz! What are you doing?!" She yelled over at me, stomping towards me.
"I umm… oh look Anna!" I pointed over at a bed a few feet from me. "That bed has Roman sculptures and arcutect carved into the headboard!" And it did the whole thing was covered in a white silk sheet the headboard and frame made out of marble.
Anna scowled at me but walked over to the bed and laid down on her stomach inspecting the carvings.
Crusty walked over to her to tell her about the bed. With no one paying attention to me I finally reached my destination. In front of me was the coolest bed in the whole store, in my opinion. The frame was made out of some dark wood, scales carved into the whole wood work. They led up to the headboard which was a T-Rex's head.
The head was frozen in a fierce roar, the gleaming white teeth showing as the lips curled up over them. The eyes where Lava Lamps, the purple goo inside was swirling around as they glowed. The sheets where thick, covered in pictures of a rainforest that had hundreds of different dinosaurs wondering about.
With a happy squeal, I mean cry, I jumped into the bed bouncing on the water surface.
I looked at the tag and felt I little annoyed when it said Kid's Section. How could this be a kid's selection? It had such a badass T-Rex head!
…that came out a little more immature then I thought it would…
Crusty snapped his fingers. "Ergo!"
I watched as ropes sprang out from the sides of the bed, lashing around Anna, tying her down.
Grover tried to get up, but ropes sprang from his black satin bed, too, and lashed him down.
"N-not c-cool!" Grover yelled his voice vibrating. "N-n-not c-c-ool a-at all!"
I frowned carefully standing up from my bed… only for nothing to happen. I frowned, jumping back down onto, saying Ergo a few times myself, and even snapping my fingers.
"Hey Crusty! My bed's broken!" I yelled as I bounced on the dinosaur bed a few more times.
He frowned walking over to me as I flopped face forward onto the bed letting out a sad sigh.
Tilting my head to the side I looked at him through a curtain of hair as a smile came across his face. "Wonderful! Finally after so long I found a perfect match. It barely ever happens you know. Now let's see this is the Kid's Selection made for kids ten or younger-"
I let out a pitiful moan interrupting him, "My pride it can't take the height jokes anymore."
He continued ignoring me, "I'll get you rung up in a second, which is if you are going to buy it. I'll let you think it over as I get your friends fitted."
"Fitted?" I asked rolling onto my back and sitting up as I leaned back onto my hands.
"All the adult beds are exactly six feet, see? Your friends are too short. Got to make them fit."
Anna and Grover struggled even more.
"Can't stand imperfect measurements," Crusty muttered. "Ergo!"
A new set of ropes leaped out from the top and bottom of the beds, wrapping around Grover and Anna's ankles, then around their armpits. The ropes started tightening, pulling them from both ends.
"Don't worry," Crusty told me. "These are stretching jobs. Maybe three extra inches on their spines. They might even live. Now why don't I ring you up, huh? The Kid's bed comes with some wonderful features."
"Liz!" Grover yelled.
I ran over to them, Crusty letting out a surprised noise as I ran by. Flicking my wrist Riptide changed into a sword as I cut both Anna and Grover's binds. Flicking my hand again Riptide changed as I stood beside both of them.
"Your real names not Crusty is it," Grover weakly said, backing away from the approaching figure.
"Legally it's Procrustes," he admitted, shrugging.
"The stretcher," Anna whispered.
"Yeah," the salesman said. "But who can pronounce Procrustes? Bad for business. Now 'Crusty,' anybody can say that."
I hummed thinking, "you're right, it's much easier to say, and it's got a certain unique quality to it."
His eyes light up. "You think so?"
"Oh, absolutely," I said, nodding. "You're the first sales person I've come across with such a name, and I sure going to remember you because of that… and also because of the whole being a Greek mythology monster. But I do have to say I love some of your beds. The T-Rex head board is awesome and the Lava Lamp eyes never seen anything like it!"
He grinned hugely, "I tell my costumers constantly that finding beds of this quality is hard. I mean your right! How many built-in Lava Lamp headboards have you seen?"
"Exactly!" Crusty shook his head as he walked over to us. "All my customers are so inconsiderate. Never six feet exactly. And then they have the gull to complain about the fitting!"
I grinned widely as I shoved Grover and Anna out of the way, jumping onto one of the water beds. "Well I'm not complaining. I'd like a fitting."
Crusty frowned at me as Grover and Anna quickly moved over to me and started to try and pull me off the bed.
"Um," Crusty said, scratching his bald head. "I don't think you understand. I do fittings for people who don't fit the adult beds but you happen to fit the child bed. Perfectly to! I couldn't in good will ruin such a perfect match for one of my beds."
Anna and Grover pooled at my legs as I clung to the mattress.
"Listen to the nice man Liz," Anna gritted out between her teeth.
"Young lady!" Grover warned. "You better let go to the bed when I reach three!"
"Oh great," Anna cried. "Now Grover's counting down are you happy Liz!"
Anna tugged even harder, "You know he's not going to stop. You might as well just stop!"
"I um… do you guys just want me to give you a moment alone?" Crusty said weakly backing away.
"Oh no you don't!" Anna yelled "you're a part of this now! You hear me!"
Crusty flinched back watching us with wide eyes.
"Liz!" Anna warned.
Crusty raised his hands, taking a few steps back. "I really think you guys just need a moment alone. I'm perfectly fine with stepping back into the stock room for a couple seconds till you sort out… whatever is going on here."
"Two and a half!"
Liz!" Anna said tugging on my leg. "He's almost to three!"
I kicked my legs sending Grover and Anna sprawling backwards onto the floor. They both scrambled to their feet and moved towards me. I snapped my fingers yelling, "Ergo!"
Ropes wrapped around me, attaching to my feet and arms. Grover and Anna grabbed at the ropes.
"Liz," Grover said, trying to untie the ropes around my arms. "Don't think that just because you are tied down by ropes you got off scot free! When I get you out of here…"
Crusty walked over quickly. "Honestly um Liz," he said reaching to grab the ropes as well. "You are the perfect height for the Kid's Bed there is no reason to fit you for an adult bed."
"No!" I said. "I refuse to leave this bed before I get stretched! I demand to be taller!"
I felt Riptide mentally roll his eyes in my head as he transformed into some sharp wire, slicing through the rope around me.
"No Riptide! You're supposed to be on my side." I snapped my fingers again yelling "Ergo!"
…Only for Riptide to slice through the ropes again.
Anna, Grover, and Crusty took a step back as they watched Riptide and I fight.
"Riptide I don't think you understand my problem with height." I said snapping my fingers say, "Ergo!" once again.
He sliced through the ropes again grumbling in my head.
"Well of course you don't understand my fictaion with height; you're a bracelet that transforms into weapons. Ergo!"
The ropes hesitantly wrapped around me again, seeming to flinch when they finished tying me down like they were bracing for something.
Riptide let out a shocked offended huff in my mind.
"Jeez Riptide don't be so sensitive! I meant nothing by it; I just think that you don't fully understand where I'm coming from here."
"Um," Crusty said, "who is she talking to?"
"Her bracelet," Grover explained, watching calmly as Liz yelled Ergo again. "It's a setnatal weapon that is able to change its form into various things."
"And she's having an argument with it?"
"Yes," Anna said. "And losing to it to, from what it sounds like."
"Okay," Crusty said weakly. "Just making sure. Because that all makes… perfect sense, and is totally normal."
"Hey don't judge her," Grover said, glaring at Crusty. "You stretch people or chop of parts of them so they fit on your water bed for a living!"
"Yeah but," Crusty gestured over to Liz who let out a frustrated scream of Ergo as Riptide finished cutting through another set of ropes.
"She's just unique." Grover defended.
"Crusty!" I yelled over to the man who was watching all of this happen. "I'm very dissatisfied with your product!"
He shrugged, "Well you know, usually a setanate sword is not cutting through all the rope as it tries to stretch the person."
"Well," I sputtered, "I was expecting to be taller by the end of this not the same damn height!"
"Liz," Grover took a step forward, grabbing my face with both of his hands. "That. Would. Kill. You."
"Nessicary sacrifice. Besides we're heading to the Underworld anyway. Just consider this a short cut."
"But you'd be dead, a ghost." Grover repeated.
"Ahh, but I'd be a tall ghost."
"Liz!" Anna and Grover shouted at the same time.
"Stretching yourself is not worth the extra height. " Anna continued.
"Easy for you to say," I said. "You guys can actually ride the rollercoaster when you go to the amusement park. If I have to ride the kiddie's ride one more time I swear to gods I'll go on a murderous rampage!"
They both just stared silently at me and I let out an annoyed sigh as I sat up from the bed. The ropes willingly releasing me before Riptide could slice them off again.
Crusty looked relieved that the little fight we were having was over. Walking over to me quickly he firmly led me away and over to the cash register.
"Okay then. Now that that is all over let's get you a new bed." He said cheerfully.
I frowned at him, "What about Grover's and Anna's beds?"
He twitched his one eye squinting for a second as his smile becoming strained. "I'm sorry to say that your friends aren't going to be lucky enough to procure new beds today. No only lucky you get's a new bed. And then all three of you can leave. Right after I finish ringing you up, because I'm closing right after."
I raised my eyebrow, "Your sign say's open 24 seven."
"A paper sign?"
Grover walked a little faster, so he was beside us. "It's okay; we both understand your pain. But trust me she grows on you. Granted like an incurable deadly disease but well… what can you do?"
Crusty's eye started to twitch again.
"And," Grover continued, "I'm pretty sure none of her… 'habits' are contagious."
We reached the cash register then, Crusty walking behind it. "Okay then, that's one Kid bed. That comes with a few add on's. The bed will grow with you, to keep its perfect measurement. It will also replace any bed you are going to use, so it is going to be connected to you."
"Okay," I nodded. "Do you take Casino cash cards?"
Crusty shrugged, "Sure."
He lazily took the credit card from me and swiped it. "There you go."
He snapped his fingers and I heard Anna and Grover gasp from beside me. I followed their line of vision and saw the dinosaur bed walking towards me. All I could think of then was the movie beauty and the beast. Images of the dog turned footrest running through my mind.
It stopped in front of me and the T-rex head blinked, wooden eyelids closing over lava lamp eyes. The head snapped forward suddenly and nipped my hand. A drop of blood falling into the wooden mouth.
I felt a tug at the magic inside of me and felt an odd stretching feeling fill me as it attached itself to the wooden bed in front of me. The bed shifted for a few more seconds before it walked back over to its original spot, sitting still like it wasn't just walking around a few seconds ago.
Crusty clapped his hands, "There now everything seems to be in order. Now if you could all just go." He stared at our unmoving forms for a few seconds before frowning. He made a waving gesture with his hands, "Shoo."
"Actually," Anna said stepping forward. "We could use your help for something."
"Yeah," he said looking at all of us. "I would say you guys need some help." His looked at me. "A lot of it."
Anna scowled, "No we need to find out if you know where this address is?" She grabbed the business card from my pocket and held it up to him.
"DOA Recording Studios hmmm." He nodded his head, turning around and tacking flier off the bulletin board behind him. "Here you go."
Anna took it from him and held it up so we could all see it. The paper was bright neon orange; the address we were looking for was under the title.
"It's only a block away," Crusty commented as he leaned against the counter watching us read the flier he'd given us. "To be honest," he continued, "I thought you were kidding about the whole going to the underworld thing, since its crazy. But you know have fun and all and if you happen to live remember to tell everyone about my wonderful selection of beds."
Far away on Mount Olympus
A few gods where sitting around in the throne room only Ares missing.
"Where is he?" Athena said annoyance clear on her face.
Aphrodite shrugged, "I have no idea."
Thunder crashed in the sky as Zeus glared at the empty seat.
A voice suddenly spoke from nowhere. "Live to Olympus in 3…2…1…"
The air shimmered in front of them. An image of Azalea and Annabeth stood in front of them. Annabeth was frantically strapping herself into a boat as Azalea held a surf board under one arm. Everything was calm for a second as the gods muttered to themselves, wondering what was happening.
Hephaestus frowned in his seat looking over at Ares seat, which was no longer empty. The war god was lounging on it, smirking at the picture in front of them. He winked at Hephaestus when he saw him looking at him.
Azalea raised her hand and the peace was shattered.
Water came rushing into the pool the two were standing in blocking them from view. When the water calmed down they were finally visible. Annabeth screaming as she held onto the boat she was in and Azalea whooping excitably as she surfed the wave of water.
"Well that's certainly unique…" Apollo said slowly.
Ares laughed from his seat drawing everyone's attention.
"Is this your doing?" Athena said scowling at him.
"Calm down girly," Ares said waving a hand at her. "They seem to be doing fine."
Athena stood from seat only for a loud boom of thunder to make her sit back down.
Zeus was watching the image in front of them with a blank face not voicing anything. Beside him Poseidon was both furious and proud. Furies because Ares had put his daughter in danger and proud because she was surfing so well and using her powers as well.
"When this is over Ares," Poseidon threatened from his seat not tearing his eyes away.
Some of the gods muttered as Azalea saved Annabeth from falling into the water.
A few seconds later they watched with wide eyes as Azalea used a very… unique way of getting over the metal gate.
Apollo and Hermes laughed as Azalea took a picture of the passed out Annabeth and Grover. Athena looking like she wanted to strangle the nearest thing.
Ares looked delighted through all of this smirking the whole time and chuckling to. A scowl came across his face when Azalea named the metal spider she found. Hephaestus watching the interaction between the two with confusion. Something she had done had short circuited his spider.
Finally it was over and with a cheerful farewell from Azalea the image faded away.
The room was silent for a few seconds before everyone started to talk, fighting with each other.
"Silence!" Zeus roared glaring at them all. He opened his mouth to say something when the floor started to shake.
Poseidon was standing and walking towards a now worried Ares.
Ares gulped standing up to leave only to turn around and be face to face with Athena who was also glaring at him.
"Let's have little talk." She hissed as a hand landed onto his shoulder from behind.
A very manly noise left his lips, not a whimper at all.
Hermes and Apollo snickered from their seats only to pail as Poseidon and Athena joined forces for one of the few times in their life's to punish Ares.
Apollo whimpered, "You think Athena still has Medusa's head? Maybe I can stare at it long enough to go blind."
Hermes flinched as another pained yell left Ares. "I think it's under her chair."