Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades

Rick Riordan

  Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades

  A Short Story

  Released for the World Book Day in UK - Spring 2009

  Christmas in the Underworld was NOT my idea.

  If I’d known what was coming, I would’ve called in sick. I could’ve avoided an army of

  demons, a fight with a Titan and a trick that almost got my friends and me cast into

  eternal darkness.

  But no, I had to take my stupid English exam. So there I was the last day of the winter

  semester at Goode High School, sitting in the auditorium with all the other freshmen and

  trying to finish my I-didn’t-read-it-but-I’m-pretending-like-I-did essay on A Tale of Two

  Cities, when Mrs. O’Leary burst onto the stage, barking like crazy.

  Mrs. O’Leary is my pet hellhound. She’s a shaggy black monster the size of a Hummer

  with razor fangs, steel-sharp claws and glowing red eyes. She’s really sweet, but usually

  she stays at Camp Half-Blood, our demigod training camp. I was a little surprised to see

  her on stage, trampling over the Christmas trees and Santa’s elves and the rest of the

  Winter Wonderland set.

  Everyone looked up. I was sure the other kids were going to panic and run for the exits,

  but they just started snickering and laughing. A couple of the girls said, “Awww, cute!’’

  Our English teacher, Dr Boring (I’m not kidding; that’s his real name), adjusted his

  glasses and frowned.

  “All right,” he said. “Whose poodle?”

  I sighed in relief. Thank gods for the Mist, the magical veil that keeps humans from

  seeing things the way they really are. I'd seen it bend reality plenty of times before, but

  Mrs. O'Leary as a poodle? That was impressive.

  “Um... my poodle, sir,” I spoke up. “Sorry, it must have followed me.”

  Somebody behind me started whistling Mary had a Little Lamb. More kids cracked up.

  “Enough!” Dr. Boring snapped. “Percy Jackson, this is a final exam, I cannot have



  Mrs. O'Leary's bark shook the auditorium. She wagged her tail knocking over a few more

  elves. Then she crouched on her front paws and stared at me, like she wanted me to


  “Uh… I'll get her out of here, Dr. Boring,” I promised. “I'm finished anyway.”

  I closed my test booklet and ran toward the stage. Mrs. O'Leary bounded for the exit

  and I followed. The other kids still laughing and calling out behind me, See ya, poodle



  Mrs. O'Leary ran down East 81st Street toward the river.

  “Slow down,” I yelled. “Where are you going?”

  I got some strange looks from pedestrians, but this was New York, so a boy chasing a

  poodle probably wasn't the weirdest thing they ever seen.

  Mrs. O'Leary kept well ahead of me. She turn to bark every once in a while, as if to say,

  Move it, Slowpoke! She went three blocks north, straight into Carl Shirts Park. By the

  time I caught up with her, she leaped an iron fence and disappeared into the huge

  topiary wall of snow-covered bushes.

  “Oh, come on,” I complained.

  I haven't enough chance to grab my coat back at school. I was already freezing but I

  climbed the fence and plunged into the frozen shrubbery.

  On the other side was a clearing, a half-acre of icy grass ringed with berry trees. Mrs.

  O'Leary was sniffing around, wagging her tail like crazy. I didn't see anything out of the

  ordinary. In front of me, the steel colored East River flowed sluggishly. White plumes

  billowed from the rooftops in Queens. Behind me, the Upper East Side loomed cold and

  silent. I wasn't sure why, but the back of my neck started to tingle. I took out my

  ballpoint pen, and uncapped it. Immediately it grew into my bronze sword, Riptide, its

  blade glowing faintly in the winter light.

  Mrs. O'Leary lifted her head, her nostrils quivered.

  “What is it, girl?” I whispered.

  The bushes rustled and a golden deer burst through. When I say gold, I don't mean

  yellow. This thing had metallic fur and horns that looked like genuine 14 karat. It

  shimmered with an aura of golden light, making it almost too bright to look at. It was

  probably the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.

  Mrs. O'Leary licked her lips like she was thinking, Deer burgers!

  Then, the bushes rustled again and a figure in a hooded parka leaped into the clearing,

  an arrow notched in her bow. I raised my sword. The girl aimed at me, then froze.

  “Percy?” She pushed back the silvery hood of her parka. Her black hair was longer than

  I remembered, but I knew those bright blue eyes, and the silver tiara that marked her

  as the first lieutenant of Artemis.

  “Thalia?” I said. “What are you doing here?”

  “Following the golden deer,” she said, like that should be obvious. “It's the sacred

  animal of Artemis. I figured it was some sort of sign and um...” She nodded nervously at

  Mrs. O'Leary. “You want to tell me what that's doing here?”

  “That's my pet. Mrs. O'Leary, no!” Mrs. O'Leary was sniffing the deer and basically, not

  respecting its personal space. The deer butted the hellhound on the nose. Pretty soon,

  the two of them were playing a strange game of keep away around the clearing.

  “Percy,” Thalia frowned, “this can't be a coincidence. You and me ending up in the same

  place, at the same time?”

  She was right. Demigods didn't have coincidences. Thalia was a good friend, but I

  hadn't seen her in over a year and now suddenly, here we were.

  “Some god is messing with us,” I guessed, “probably. Good to see you though.”

  She gave me a grudging smile. “Yeah. We get out of this in one piece, I'll buy you a

  cheeseburger. How's Annabeth?”

  Before I could answer, a cloud passed over the sun. The golden deer shimmered and

  disappeared, leaving Mrs. O'Leary barking at a pile of leaves. I readied my sword. Thalia

  drew her bow. Instinctively, we stood back-to-back. A patch of darkness passed over

  the clearing, and a boy tumbled out of it like he'd been tossed, landing in the grass at

  our feet.

  “Ow!” he muttered.

  He brushed off his aviator's jacket. He was about twelve years old with dark hair, jeans,

  a black t-shirt, and a silver skull ring on his right hand. A sword hung at his side.

  “Nico?” I said.

  Thalia's eyes widened, “Bianca's little brother?”

  Nico scowled. I doubt he liked being announced as Bianca's little brother. His sister, a

  Hunter of Artemis, had died a couple of years ago and it was still a sore subject for him.

  “Why did you bring me here?” he grumbled. “One minute I'm in a New Orleans’

  graveyard, the next minute... is this New York? What in Hades' name am I doing in New


  “We didn't bring you here,” I promised. “We were...” A shiver went down my back. “We

  were brought together. All three of us.”

  “What are you talking about?” Nico demanded.

  “The children of the Big Three,” I said. “Zeus, Poseidon, H

  Thalia took a sharp breath. “The prophecy. You don't think Kronos...” She didn't finish

  the thought. We all knew about the big prophecy. A war was coming between the Titans

  and gods. And the next child of the three major gods who turned sixteen would make a

  decision that saved or destroyed the world. That meant one of us.

  Over the last few years, the Titan Lord Kronos had tried to manipulate each of us

  separately. Now, could he be plotting something by bringing us all together?

  The ground rumbled. Nico drew his own sword, a black blade of Stygian iron. Mrs.

  O'Leary leaped backward and barked in alarm. Too late. I realized she was trying to

  warn me. The ground opened underneath Thalia, Nico, and me and we fell into



  I expected to keep falling forever or maybe be squashed into a demigod pancake when

  we hit the bottom. But the next thing I knew, Thalia, Nico and I were standing in a

  garden. All three of us still screaming in terror, which made me feel pretty silly.

  “What? Where are we?” Thalia asked.

  The garden was dark. Rows of silver flowers glowed faintly, reflecting off huge

  gemstones that lined the planting beds: diamonds, sapphires, and rubies — the size of

  footballs. Trees arched over us. Their branches covered with orange blooms and sweet

  smelling fruit. The air was cool and damp. But not like a New York winter. More like a


  “I'd been here before,” I said.

  Nico plucked the pomegranate off a tree. “My stepmother Persephone's garden.” He

  made a sour face and dropped the fruit. “Don't eat anything.”

  He didn't need to tell me twice. One taste of Underworld food and we'd never be able to


  “Heads up,” Thalia warned.

  I turned and found her aiming her bow at a tall woman in a white dress. At first I

  thought the woman was a ghost. Her dress billowed around her like smoke. Her long

  dark hair floated and curled as if it were weightless. Her face was beautiful but definitely

  pale. Then I realized her dress wasn't white. It was made of all sorts of changing colors:

  red, blue, and yellow flowers blooming in the fabric. But it was strangely faded. Her

  eyes were the same way, multi-colored but washed out, like the Underworld has sapped

  her life force. I have the feeling that in the world above, she'd be beautiful, even


  “I am Persephone,” she said, her voice thin and papery. “Welcome demigods.”

  Nico squashed the pomegranate under his boot. “Welcome? Huh. After last time you’ve

  got the nerve to welcome me?”

  I shifted uneasily because talking that way to a god can get you blasted into dust


  “Um, Nico…”

  “It's all right,” Persephone said coldly. “We had a little family spat.”

  “Family spat?” Nico cried. “You turned me into a dandelion!”

  Persephone ignored her stepson. “As I was saying, demigods, I welcome you to my


  Thalia lowered her bow. “You sent the golden deer?”

  “And the hellhound,” the goddess admitted. “And the shadow that collected Nico. It was

  necessary to bring you together.”

  “Why?” I asked.

  Persephone regarded me. And I felt like cold little flowers were blooming in my

  stomach. “Lord Hades has a problem,” she said, “and if you know what's good for you,

  you will help him.”

  We sat on the dark veranda overlooking the garden. Persephone's handmaidens brought

  food and drink which none of us touched. The handmaidens would have been pretty

  except for the fact that they were dead. They wore yellow dresses with daisy and

  hemlock wreaths on their heads. Their eyes were hollow and they spoke in jittering batlike

  voices of shades.

  Persephone sat on a silver throne and studied us. “If this was spring I would be able to

  greet you properly in the world above. Alas in winter, this is the best I can do.” She

  sounded bitter. After all this millennia, I guess she still resented living with Hades half

  the year.

  She looked so bleached and out of place like an old photograph of springtime. She

  turned toward me as if reading my thoughts. “Hades is my husband and master, young

  one. I would do anything for him but in this case, I need your help. And quickly, it

  concerns Lord Hades' sword.”

  Nico frowned. “My father doesn't have a sword. He uses his staff in battle and his helm

  of terror.”

  “He didn't have a sword,” Persephone corrected.

  Thalia sat up. “He's forging a new symbol of power without Zeus' permission?”

  The goddess of springtime pointed. Above the table, an image flickered to life. Skeletal

  weapon smiths worked over a forge of black flames using hammers fashioned like metal

  skulls to beat a length of iron into a blade.

  “War with the Titans is almost upon us,” Persephone said. “My Lord Hades must be


  “But Zeus and Poseidon would never allow Hades to forge a new weapon,” Thalia

  protested. “It would unbalance their power sharing agreement.”

  Persephone shook her head. “You mean it would make Hades their equal. Believe me

  daughter of Zeus, the Lord of the Dead has no designs against his brothers. He knew

  they would never understand. Which is why he forged the blade in secret.”

  The image over the table shimmered. A zombie weapon smith raised the blade still

  glowing hot. Something strange was set on the base. Not a gem, more like...

  “Is that a key?” I asked.

  Nico made a gagging sound. “The keys of Hades?”

  “Wait!” Thalia said. “What are the keys of Hades?”

  Nico looked even paler than his stepmother. “Hades has a set of golden keys that can

  lock or unlock death. At least... that's the legend.”

  “It’s true,” Persephone said.

  “How do you lock and unlock death?” I asked.

  “The keys have the power to imprison a soul in the Underworld,” Persephone said, “or

  to release it.”

  Nico swallowed. “If one of those keys has been set in the sword...”

  “The wielder can raise the dead,” Persephone said, “or slay any living thing and send its

  soul to the Underworld with a mere touch of the blade.”

  We were all silent. The shadowy fountain gurgled in the corner. Handmaidens floated

  around us, offering trays of fruit and candy that would keep us in the Underworld


  ”That's a wicked sword,” I said at last.

  “It would make Hades unstoppable,” Thalia agreed.

  “So you see,” Persephone said, “why you must help get it back.”

  I stared at her. “Did you say get it back?”

  Persephone's eyes were beautiful and deadly serious like poisonous blooms. “The blade

  was stolen when it was almost finished. I do not know how but I suspect a demigod,

  some servant of Kronos. If the blade falls into the Titan Lord's hands...”

  Thalia shot to her feet. “You allowed the blade to be stolen! How stupid was that?

  Kronos probably has it by now!”

  Thalia’s arrows sprouted into long-stemmed roses. Her bow melted into a honeysuckle

  vine, dotted with white and gold flowers.

  “Take care, Huntress,” Persephone warned. “Your father may be Zeus and
you may be

  the lieutenant of Artemis but you do not speak to me with disrespect in my own palace.”

  Thalia ground her teeth. “Give. Me. Back. My. Bow.”

  Persephone waived her hand. The bow and arrows changed back to normal. “Now sit

  and listen. The sword could have not left the Underworld yet. Lord Hades used his

  remaining keys to shut down the realm. Nothing gets in or out until he finds the sword

  and he is using all his power to locate the thief.”

  Thalia sat down reluctantly. “Then what do you need us for?”

  “The search for the blade cannot be common knowledge,” said the goddess. “We have

  locked the realm but we have not announced why nor can Hades' servants be used for

  the search. They cannot know the blade exists until it is finished. Certainly, they can't

  know it is missing.”

  “If they thought Hades was in trouble, they might desert him,” Nico guessed. “And join

  the Titans.”

  Persephone didn't answer. But if a goddess could look nervous, she did. “The thief must

  be a demigod. No immortal can steal another immortal's weapon directly. Even Kronos

  must abide by that ancient law. He has a champion down here somewhere. And to catch

  a demigod, we shall use three.”

  “Why us?” I said.

  “You are the children of the three major gods,” Persephone said. “Who could withstand

  your combined power? Besides when you restore the sword to Hades, you will send a

  message to Olympus. Zeus and Poseidon will not protest Hades' new weapon if it is

  given to him by their own children. It will show that you trust Hades.”

  “But I don't trust him,” Thalia said.

  “Ditto,” I said. “Why should we do anything for Hades, much less give him a super

  weapon, right Nico?”

  Nico stared at the table. His fingers tapped on his black Stygian blade.

  “Right, Nico?” I prompted.

  It took him a second to focus on me. “I have to do this, Percy. He's my father.”

  “Oh, no way,” Thalia protested. “You can't believe this is a good idea!”

  “Would you rather have the sword in Kronos's hands?” He had a point there.

  “Time is wasting,” Persephone said. “The thief may have accomplices in the Underworld

  and he would be looking for a way out.”

  I frowned. “I thought you said the realm was locked.”

  “No prison is air tight, not even the Underworld. Souls are always finding new ways out