The Demigods of Olympus: An Interactive Adventure, Page 2Rick Riordan
I wanted to curl into a ball and hide under the shattered counselor’s desk. I wanted to sob and laugh at the same time. Obviously, I was losing my mind. None of this could be happening.
“Thank the gods you’re safe!” Sam shouted over the sound of the fire alarms. “We have to leave now!”
“Wh-what—how—?” I pointed feebly at his cloven hooves.
Sam rolled his eyes. “No time to talk! More monsters will be coming. Just grab your file and follow me!”
My file. I spotted the red folder nestled nicely in one of the tree branches. With the sprinklers going, it would soon be ruined.
You’re very special, Ms. Roche had said. What was in that file? Why had that lion/counselor/monster lady been so intent on killing me?
I snatched up the folder. Sam leaped through the hole in the office wall and ran toward the woods, where he and I had spent so many summers hiding out and playing when we were kids.
Could I trust Sam? How could I not? Even if he had suddenly grown furry legs and hooves, he was my best friend. Besides, I didn’t see much choice. With my luck, I would probably get blamed for destroying the office and disintegrating the guidance counselor…And I couldn’t forget what Sam had said: More monsters will be coming.
I jumped through the broken wall and followed him.
By the time we reached our favorite clearing in the woods, I was gasping for breath. Fire alarms and emergency vehicle sirens howled behind us in the distance. I was still dripping wet from the sprinklers, and my legs were shaking from the adrenaline rush.
I wiped my eyes. I hoped Sam would look normal again, but nope. He was still rocking the goat fur and the hooves.
“Sam Greenwood,” I said. “Why are you a sheep?”
He made that bleating sound like he always did when he was annoyed. “I’m half-goat. Not half-sheep. I’m a satyr. But that’s not important right now.”
“Not important? How is my best friend turning into a livestock animal not important?”
“Look, you’re in danger. I was afraid this might happen when you told me you had used Lexi’s cell phone.”
“Why is everyone so obsessed about me using a stupid cell phone?”
“Because when a demigod uses one, the signal attracts monsters,” Sam said, like this was obvious information. “When you were summoned to the office, I should’ve realized they’d zeroed in on you.”
“Demigod,” I said, my head spinning. “Monster. I-I don’t—”
“I know it’s a lot to take in,” he said. “But we have to get you someplace safe. That file you’re carrying may have some answers. We’ll study it later.”
“We’ll study it now,” I insisted.
I opened the red folder. Some of the ink had bled, making parts of the report hard to read. I suspected I might have lost some pages while running from the school to the woods, but the first page was clear enough. It had a grainy surveillance-style photo of me above a bunch of personal information: home address, birthdate, family details.
I flipped to the next page and saw an official-looking form with Zane Carver at the top, and the following words:
As I looked at the page, I tried to steady my breathing. “Sam, what does this all mean? What is going on? How—”
From somewhere in the woods, an angry howl pierced the air—like a large predator cat on the hunt.
“There’s no time, Zane,” Sam said urgently. “I know you have a lot of questions, but we’re not safe here! Come on!”
The Library of Deadly Weapons
“Sam,” I wheezed. “I have to stop.”
After running through the woods for over a mile, we were nearing the Broken Fork River, a whitewater rapid about eight feet across.
So far, no crazy lion ladies had attacked us, but if I kept running I wouldn’t have to worry about that, because I would die of a heart attack.
Sam had always been faster than me, but now that he had goat hooves, he was even more nimble in the forest.
I still couldn’t believe it. I wanted to think that the incident back at school had been a crazy pizza-induced hallucination, but no…my best friend was clopping around right in front of me, shedding tufts of goat fur and twitching his little tail.
Did he have horns? Oh, man. Maybe that’s why he kept his hair so long and shaggy. He could totally hide goat horns under that blond thicket of his.
“We’ll rest a second,” Sam said, scanning the woods behind us. “But only a second. We’re not—”
“We’re not safe,” I said. “Yeah. I got that the first twelve times you told me. But I want explanations. How are you a goat man?”
“Whatever! Why was Ms. Roche a monster? What is a demigod? And what does it have to do with me?”
Sam raised his hands in surrender. “I’ll try to give you the quick version. You know all that stuff we’ve been learning in Mr. Scheer’s class—the Greek myths, gods, monsters? It’s all true.”
My throat felt like it was full of cotton. “When you say true…”
“I mean the gods are still around, Zane,” Sam said. “The myths are real. Those stories about how the gods mingle with humans and occasionally have kids—”
“—who are half-god, half-human. Like Hercules.”
Sam frowned. “Yeah, well, Hercules isn’t my personal favorite, but that’s the general idea. Demigods exist in the modern world, too. So do monsters. Creatures like Ms. Roche…they’re always looking for demigods, hoping to kill them before they get old enough and strong enough to be a threat. Satyrs like me…our job is to protect demigods. We get close to the young heroes, let them enjoy a normal life for as long as possible, then, when the monsters finally close in, we get the demigods out of danger.”
“Wait…” I felt like I was being covered in heavy sap; if I let Sam’s words settle over me, if I tried to believe them, I would be trapped forever like a bug in amber. “So you want me to believe that one of my parents is a…I can’t even say it. A god? My dad can barely throw a baseball, let alone a spear. My mom drives a minivan. They eat at Olive Garden. They’re in a bowling league. They’re the two most un-godlike people ever.”
“Well…” Sam shifted uncomfortably. “I’m really not the person who should be telling you this…but you know how sometimes one bird lays an egg in another bird’s nest and then…or, wait. No. Did you ever maybe hear about how when there’s a kid who everyone totally loves, but they aren’t quite sure who…no, wait…”
“Hold on.” I felt slightly dizzy as Sam’s meaning became clear. “Are you saying I’m adopted?”
“Definitely by one of them. Maybe both…I don’t really know. But I do know that they both know what you are. They’re the ones who requested a satyr when you were little, and they’ve been model parents. I actually think they should write a handbook: What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Demigod…”
“Sam, this is ridiculous!”
He just stared at me, allowing time for the truth to sink in.
The sad thing was, I didn’t really find it ridiculous. My whole life had been one weird incident after another. Just this morning, my principal and guidance counselor had been disposed of by a talking lioness who enjoyed personality quizzes. My best friend turned out to be a satyr. Given all that, me being a demigod wasn’t so hard to believe.
And I’d always known there was something strange about my past. My folks got nervous whenever I asked questions about when I was a baby. There were no pictures of me before the age of two.
But if I really was a demigod…what did that mean? And who was my godly parent?
I shook it off and looked at Sam. “So that business at the aquarium with the otter, and the exploding tray of enchiladas, and the earthquake in the chemistry lab—”
“Yes,” Sam said. “It’s all because of who you are. Demigods are always surrounded by strange events. You more than most.”
“Why me more than most?”
Sam glanced nervously over my shoulder. “I don’t know. Honestly, for years I’ve been watching you, trying to figure out who your godly parent is—”
“You make me sound like a science experiment.” The words tasted bitter in my mouth. “I thought you were my friend.”
“I am! I wouldn’t have stuck around if I wasn’t your friend! But I’m also your protector. The gods have some sort of plan for you. I’m sure of that. And while we figure out what it is, it’s my job to keep you alive.”
My brain spun like a gyroscope. One more crazy fact, and my head would fly apart from centrifugal force. “So…where do we go now? My house? Your house?”
“No,” Sam said. “The monsters would find you. I know a few gathering places for demigods. Normally I could take you to one of those, but none of them is close, and right now, they’re not really safe. Gaea is rising. The monsters are taking over—”
“Wait, what’s rising?”
“It’s too complicated to explain.” Sam wrung his hands. “Look, there’s a safe house in town. The old library—”
“That’s been closed for years.”
“Yeah, but monsters hate the place. I’ve stored some supplies there for emergencies. If we can get inside, we can at least get you a weapon and maybe some advice from the gods.”
I didn’t see how we’d get godly advice at an abandoned library.
The problem was, I didn’t have any better plan.
Another howl sounded in the distance.
Sam flinched. “That’s the other leonte.”
“Leonte? You mean a lion monster, like Ms. Roche?”
“They always hunt in pairs.” He took a deep breath. “Okay. We’re just across from the old mill. So I see three options for reaching the library. We can stay in the woods until we get to town, but we’ll have to find a way over the river. Or we can try to get across the old mason bridge. Or we head to the main road and try to catch a ride. Each way should get us to the library, but honestly I don’t know which one will be the safest.” Ms. Roche’s lion buddy howled again, closer, and Sam looked at me. “You have to pick one, and fast.”
“You want me to pick?” I asked incredulously. “Yeah, that seems like a great idea, Sam. Let’s have the guy who just had his entire life turned upside down figure out how to avoid getting eaten by a giant lion.”
“Zane, if I knew the best way, believe me, I would say so. But I don’t. So someone has to decide, and like it or not, life-or-death decisions are what you were born to do. Satyrs? Not so much. But heroes…?”
“Heroes…” I echoed.
“You have to learn how to make smart decisions. And right now seems like as good of a time as any to start.”
“I really don’t think…”
“Trust your gut. What feels right?”
I thought about the fast moving rapids, then tried to remember the bridge. It was really just a few wooden slats supported by a loose wire truss. I’m sure it used to have guide ropes, but they had long ago rotted away. I turned and looked toward the highway, a broken stretch of asphalt about 100 yards away.
“Well?” said Sam. “We gotta try one of them. What do you think?”
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“The woods,” I blurted out before I could think too much.
Sam nodded. “Are you sure?”
“Am I…? Were you not listening to me at all? NO! Of course I’m not sure. You told me to trust my gut, and my gut says it wants to get away from grumpy cat. Fast.”
Sam exhaled, clearly relieved. “Good. I like the woods.”
Together we sprinted through the trees until we reached the edge of the river. I was having second thoughts as we stared at the frothing water, the swirling eddies, the sharp-edged rocks…until a loud growl brought me back to my new reality.
Sam shuddered. “Give me your folder. Just in case.”
I hadn’t even thought about the red folder getting ruined. I handed it to Sam, who pulled a Ziploc bag out of his backpack. He wrapped up the folder and stuffed it in his bag.
“Why do you always carry Ziplocs?” I asked.
“They make great snacks.”
I hoped he was kidding. Then again, I had no idea what satyrs considered tasty junk food.
I took a few steps back and inhaled deeply.
Another roar, this time much closer.
“Go!” said Sam, and I sprinted for the river. When I reached its bank, I planted my foot in the soft mud and took a wild leap. I knew immediately that I’d misjudged the distance, and I flailed my arms as I crashed near the opposite bank.
I landed hard in the shallow water, a small boulder high-fiving my chest and smashing the wind out of me. I moaned as I clung to the slippery rock and tried to catch my breath, the howls of the leonte growing closer.
Two hooves landed with a thump right in front of my face, and I looked up to see Sam there, staring down at me with a concerned look. “Not sure this was the best decision,” he said, reaching down and yanking me to my feet. I winced, ignoring the pain shooting through my limbs. “We’re stuck with it, though, so come on.”
He took off running through the woods, and I did my best to follow. My knee ached from the fall, and I was sure my chest was bruised. Five minutes…then ten. How far was this place?
Sam had to keep stopping to wait for me. “I think the leonte ran downstream,” he said, anxiously looking behind me. “Probably looking for a better place to cross. That’ll buy us a little more time, but we really, really have to hurry.”
Too winded to speak, I nodded and gulped as much air as I could. Sweat poured down my face and my thighs screamed in protest. Twice I fell and had to be hauled to my feet by my satyr protector.
I was contemplating whether death by lion would be more or less painful than a heart attack when we burst into a clearing behind the old public library.
“Yes!” said Sam. “Let’s get inside!”
The town library had been shut down several years ago—something about state funding cuts. With its red brick facade, white columns, and clock tower, the library had always been the nicest building on Main Street. Now that it was closed, it felt like the town’s heart had stopped beating.
The windows were dark. The main entrance was boarded up. Taggers had spray-painted neon graffiti across the front steps.
“How do we get in?” I asked.
“Around the side.” Sam led me to a storm cellar entrance half-hidden in the bushes. A big padlock hung from the latch, but Sam produced a key from his backpack and opened the lock.
“You’re full of surprises,” I noticed.
Sam shrugged. “It’s nothing fancy inside, but at least the goddess might protect us.”
“There’s a goddess…?”
Sam nodded and descended into the cellar. I didn’t feel so sure about following him into the dark, but I also didn’t want to wait around for the leonte to catch up. I climbed down the steps and closed the door behind us.
That’s when I heard it…the rustle of little feet scurrying across the floor. And squeaking. Lots of squeaking.
“S-Sam? What’s that?” I whispered, trying to keep my voice from shaking.
Sam paused to listen before taking his next step down. “Oh, I’m sure it’s just—”
“Rats,” I blurted, a shudder running through my body. “Oh, no. I can’t go down there, Sam. I can’t.”
“Oh,” said Sam. “That’s right.” He pulled a flashlight from his backpack, wincing as the beam swept across rows of moldering cardboard boxes, stacks of folding chairs…and a moving, furry floor. There were rats everywhere—hundreds of them. My chest clenched up, and I felt like the walls were closing in. I turned and
started back up the stairs, but Sam grabbed me and shook his head. “The leonte,” he whispered.
“But you know how I feel about rats,” I said.
“You’re going to have to get over it,” said Sam. “There’s really no other choice.”
I took a deep breath. The basement smelled of mildew and rust and wet fur (though I guessed that last smell could be from Sam). He panned the flashlight over the writhing, squeaking floor, landing the beam on a small set of stairs directly opposite us. “There,” he said. “Those stairs lead to the main reading room. If we can make it across, we’ll be safe.”
“But how?” I said. “There must be a million of them!”
“Maybe you can get on my shoulders?” said Sam doubtfully.
“And risk you dropping me in the middle of the rat ocean? Fat chance.”
“Well, do you have any other ideas?” asked Sam, shining the light around the room.
Something brushed against my leg and I jumped straight up in the air, trying not to scream. This was literally my worst nightmare come true.
“There’re no other options?” I asked, angry that my voice sounded so weak and frightened.
“Um,” said Sam. “Not really, no.”
I nodded, glad the darkness was hiding my face. “This hero thing is the worst.”
I heard him laugh, then pause. “It’ll probably get worse.”
“It can’t get worse. This is the worst. The worst thing ever. In the whole wide world. That’s ever happened. Ever.”
He was quiet for a second. “But if you can get through this, you can probably get through anything, right? In the whole wide world? Ever?”
“Do you enjoy being annoying?” I asked. Then I sighed, knowing he was right. I had to start facing my fears if I wanted to be a hero. “What do we do?”
“They won’t hurt us,” he said. “Just stay calm and move slowly. Slide your feet along the floor, and they won’t even know you’re there.”
I tried to prevent myself from hyperventilating again, and to slow my racing heartbeat. Get it together, Zane, I thought. I nodded, then realized Sam couldn’t see me. “Okay,” I managed. “Let’s do it.”