FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

PJO/HoO: The Belly of the Beast, Chapter Six: I Give Directions To A Horse

Finally -- I couldn't get these guy out of the barn! And then I realized it was because I forgot to set soemthing in the last chapter that I really kind of needed to do for the plot, so...

I made a change in how Reyna left the ship in the last chapter. This is the new dialogue:
She nodded. "There were men in collars and I think they could get shocked or zapped or something. I told my sister that we just got away from that, and she said, 'We didn't get away, we were shoved out.' And she's right, only…" She looked at us with a hint of the old defiance. "I don't think boys ought to be treated like that any more than girls ought to. I don't think it's right. And I said that. And I went back to the pirates. She can do what she wants. But she's wrong. No one should be treated that way."

"No argument," I said.

"Anyway, they turned south again. That cruise ship was headed for the Panama canal. They wanted another whack at it. So did I. Only a couple of days out, that's when we hit a sea monster. It was the first one we saw since we got out of the Sea of Monsters. We had to go far out to sea to avoid it, and every time they got near the coast, it went after them again. They said in the old days, people would sacrifice a maiden to it. They got a funny look in their eyes, and the next thing you know, I’m in a cell and they're headed back for the coast. I broke out, took what I could and… left."

"How did you get to shore?"

"I had help," she said. "And we'll leave it there for now." She picked at the sleeve of her blouse. "That was last week. And I realized I can't really stay here. I needed to get back, because I left someone there. So… I figured I needed leverage to get back on."

"You're going back to help someone?" Bobby asked.

She nodded. "The one who helped me get away. I think they took him. He hasn't come to join me. And then maybe I'll take the ship. I
am good at being a pirate."

I Give Directions To A Horse

Once we decided that the rain had actually stopped, we trooped down to the truck again, this time not taking the car. Somehow, after hearing Reyna's story -- in her case, after speaking it aloud -- the notion that it was a gift from the gods faded away and was replaced by the knowledge that it was the property of a dead family who might not mind us taking shelter, but would certainly object to us taking their car, especially if restoring it was someone's prized hobby, which was the conclusion Dakota had finally come to. ("About half the parts are replaced with vintage parts that have been cleaned up. The rest is… well, not finished.")

Reyna took a turn at inspecting the damage under the truck's hood. Along with a cracked belt and something that was steaming after the rain, it looked like some of the things Bobby's dad had jury-rigged (not least, an engine alert light that wasn't exactly native to the model) were cross-wired. I expected Bobby to get defensive about this, but he just laughed and said his father was always tinkering, more like a son of Vulcan than the agricultural legacy he actually was.

"For a farmer, he's a good mechanic," Bobby mused. "He keeps our stuff running. But he's not… um… Well, he's not going to win any invention awards."

"If I unhook a few things," Dakota said, swigging Kool Aid from his hip flask, "I think we can limp it up to Eureka -- it's a long drive, about four hours, but I think once we start rolling, the battery will charge better -- but we might need to get out and push if it doesn't work. Or flag down someone with a cell phone, and risk the monsters."

"Then we better wait for morning," I said. "We won't have much time left before dark tonight if something goes wrong."

"You can stay in the barn," Reyna said. "Maybe use the car to jump the battery." She frowned uncertainly. "Unless someone has battery charging powers that aren't as… well, risky. That looks like an old battery."

Bobby smiled, then looked up at the sky. "How about it, Gramps? A tiny little lightning strike, very focused? No?"

"I'll do it," I said. "I mean, I'll hook up the jumper cables. If something electrical goes haywire, I can channel it."

"If the battery explodes, it's still going to wreck your pretty face."

"I could handle the scarred look."

Reyna muttered "Boys," and climbed up into the truck cab without asking.

She was right to do it, of course. She was the lightest of us and was the best to steer as we pushed. But I sort of resented that. There were definite disadvantages to no long being the smallest person I knew.

The walk down to the truck had taken a little less than ten minutes. It took an hour to push the thing up the hill and the ridiculously long driveway. We "parked" it carelessly at a skewed angle, its nose pointing toward the convertible's. We rested for an hour.

Reyna, who'd had the easier physical job, took her turn at exertion by harvesting the vegetables from the family's run-to-riot vegetable garden. Some of it had gone to seed, but it was a warm autumn, and there were plenty of options left. We all scarfed down fresh spinach and tomatoes and peppers, topped off with stalks of rhubarb so tangy it made my eyes water.

It was an excellent dinner.

After, when we'd recovered enough to think about getting something done, Dakota went back to the truck and did some unwiring and tinkering. As the sun started to set, he called the rest of us out. Reyna went to the convertible, whose problems, thankfully, didn't include a dead battery. She popped up the hood. Dakota handed me the snaky ends of the jumper cables and instructed me about how to hook them up.

"I'm really not sure about this," he said. "This truck is pretty ancient, and I have no idea how old the battery is. I suspect the magic around Camp Jupiter may have helped it keep running, to tell the truth."

I shrugged. "Only one way to find out."

"You're the boss," he said, resigned.

I hooked up the cables.

Reyna turned on the convertible, and we let it run for a few minutes, then Bobby turned the ignition on the truck.

The truck did turn on -- so far, so good -- and at first, nothing else seemed to happen.

Then the truck started to shake. The negative clip slipped off the grounding bolt. Before I could think, before Bobby could turn the truck off, I ran and grabbed it.

The electricity arced through me. I could feel my hair go up, but instead of any fear, I suddenly seemed to know exactly what to do. I reached over and touched the battery.

The truck's sounds steadied out.

Suddenly, I felt something warm come into me. Maybe it was because I was channeling a lot of voltage, but I didn't think so. It came from somewhere else, and I felt like I'd been given a power boost, like video game character.

In the truck, the radio came on and the lights flashed.

"Enough!" Dakota yelled. "Kill it, Reyna."

She killed her engine.

The truck kept running, and I undid the clamp. Bobby leaned out the window and said, "I'm going to drive it for a while to set the charge." He didn't wait for an okay, and just pulled down the driveway.

I went and got the clamps off the convertible as Reyna got out.

She looked at me, wide-eyed. "That wasn't a normal jump start."

"I wouldn't know. I never did one before."

"You could make a good living getting dead cars to start."

"I didn't do anything."

She looked at Dakota. "Does he always say he didn't do things that he obviously did?"

To my annoyance, Dakota nodded and said, "You have no idea."

We went back into the barn.

I was asleep before Bobby even brought the truck back.

It was a light sleep, and I dreamed only vaguely, which is generally speaking a good thing. I saw the granola-crunchy hiker from Mount Tam, standing under a tornado. I saw a sea monster rising up and attacking a ship. I saw an old man shoving a girl out onto a little motorboat. The images fluttered faster and faster, like they were trying to achieve some kind of rudimentary animation, but they finally settled into my first real memory of Camp Jupiter. I remember swerving and veering down the road, walking along the median toward the place where Corey John was on guard duty. The wind was at my back and it was hard to walk after… after…

Then the dream just slipped off into my comforting fantasy, where I could glide along like a hawk, looking down at the rolling hills, jumping away from monsters into the open air and not coming down until I decided it was safe. The night air slipped around me, pushing me upward, running its fingers through my hair the way my mother used to (in the dream, I was sure of this, but in truth, I don't remember whether my mother ever did such a thing).

It was a restful sort of dream, and I was not ready to be awakened by musket fire.

Whoever it was luckily was a terrible shot. A chunk of wood high on the wall to the left side of the barn door flew down, and all of us jumped up. Legion training -- when you're under attack, there's no time for grogginess.

I grabbed Ivlivs and flipped it. It came down as a lance, which I leveled at the door. Bobby came over with his gladius drawn and a dented shield from the camp armory strapped to his arm, which probably should have looked ridiculous since he was otherwise only wearing a pair of Garfield boxer shorts, but really didn't. Dakota had slept in his jeans, and there was a large Kool Aid stain on his chest, from dropping his flask. I guessed this meant he'd been on lookout. I hadn't even though to set guards before I fell asleep. Stupid. But my team had filled in the gap.

"Who are they?" I asked him.

"My guess? Reyna's pirates." Dakota jerked his chin up toward the loft, where Reyna, wearing a little silk thing, was flattened in the big window, holding an old-fashioned rifle of some kind. I have no idea where she was hiding it, as I hadn't seen it yesterday.

"Reyna?" I called up. "Can you see them?"

But there wasn't a chance for her to answer. Another shot came up, this one a little better. Outside, someone shouted, "We know you're in there, Ramirez-Arellano. Come out and face us, you little thief!"

Reyna didn't take the bait. If she answered -- or fired -- they'd know exactly where she was.

Bobby took a step closer to me, then said, very quietly, "I parked the truck in back. It should be running. We've got one gun and three blades. If they've all got guns… well, you know the ancient Roman saying about bringing knives to a gunfight."

I nodded. "You get to the truck and get it ready." I nodded to Dakota as Bobby slipped back into the shadows. "Go up and tell Reyna we're -- "

But he didn't have to.

She slithered away from the window and came to the ladder, jumping down from about the halfway point. She had a bag slung over her shoulder. "Bad match," she said.

"Already covered," I told her. "We're going." I realized how that sounded. "I mean, all of us. I was just going to ask Dakota to get you. We couldn't yell."

She rolled her eyes.

I thought it might be fast, maybe even an easy getaway if they weren't blocking the driveway.

Never jinx a mission with a thought like that.

The next shot wasn't from a rifle. I'm not sure what it was -- cannon, catapult, something big. The barn doors burst inward with a shower of wooden shrapnel.

"Dakota, get our things," I ordered, and he grabbed as much as he could, taking it to the truck. Somewhere behind us, I heard an engine sputtering to life.

"Get out here, girl!" a man called, coming forward in the light morning rain. He had a wild black beard, run through with beads. His clothes were old-fashioned, like something out of a pirate movie (except for a pair of bright green high top sneakers and a stylish leather briefcase on a strap over his shoulders). Behind him, I could see about a dozen others. They weren't blocking the driveway, just surrounding the convertible that they probably thought was her only means of escape.

Reyna stepped forward. "Leave me alone, Captain Teach."

The man opened his arms in a conciliatory way. "Oh, I'd love to, my dear, but there's a beastie out there who has a promise of your blood, and I intend to give it to him. I know how to tame the beasts of the sea."

Above us, there was a small flash of lightning, and a low rumble of thunder.

I stepped up beside her. "Reyna's not going anywhere with you."

"I've got this," she hissed.

"You don't need to 'have it' by yourself," I told her. "You're a Roman demigod. The legion has your back."

The man, Captain Teach, laughed. "Well, well," he said. "Did you decide to make yourself an unworthy sacrifice, girl?"

Reyna leveled her rifle at him and fired without any hesitation.

Unfortunately, it was an old blunderbuss, and the shot went wild.

She cursed under her breath, and as the priate laughed at her, she turned it in her hands and swung it like a baseball bat, knocking Teach's weapon out of his hands.

I threw Ivlivs at him, driving him into the wall and pinning him there, then I grabbed Reyna's arm and ran for the truck.

"Your spear!" Reyna shouted.

"It'll come back," I told her. "Run."

Dakota grabbed her and flung her up into the trunk bed. He started to do the same to me, but I used the wheel well and climbed up myself as he jumped into the passenger seat. "Do you have any more ammo?" I asked.

Reyna was already re-loading, so she didn't have to answer.

Bobby slammed on the gas, and the truck lurched out around the barn.

The men saw it and ran toward us.

Reyna shot a round into the ground, kicking up dirt and sending the first wave running backward.

"Jason!" she said, rolling down to reload again. "Blast them!"

"I can't -- "

"We don't have time for you to pretend! Just blast them!"

"But I…"

Again, I felt myself struck by a wave of energy, this time not comforting, but galvanizing. Reyna didn't look at me, so I guess I didn't look any different. She finished loading and took another shot, but the pirates were coming back, running in front of the truck. Even if Bobby was the kind of person who'd run them down, I didn't think the truck was any tougher than the men.

I looked up at the sky, where the morning clouds were drawing together. I could see lightning arcing between them, high above.

"Do it, Jason!" Reyna ordered.

Our options were limited. If I didn't succeed, it wasn't like the others would be able to go back and tell anyone how stupid I looked shouting at the sky.

I reached into my pocket. Ivlivs was already back.

I stood up and flipped it.

It went up into the air, glinting in the dim dawn sunlight, and I felt a pirate's bullet go past my left ear.

Then my Imperial gold spear was in my hand. I didn't throw it.

I raised it to heavens and said, "Lord Jupiter, please!"

The world was full of noise and light, and I felt the truck almost sail forward on the shockwave as the lightning slammed down into the dooryard, electrifying the mud and shocking anyone who wasn't wearing rubber-soled shoes. Men were thrown back in the garden. I hoped it didn't catch the barn on fire. It wasn't ours.

But there wasn't time to worry about it if it did.

The truck bounced down onto the ground, and Bobby gunned it down the driveway. As we turned out onto Route 1, I saw the high, white sails of an old-fashioned ship anchored offshore. I had time to think that they must have rowed ashore from out there, then Bobby pushed the pedal all the way down, and Reyna and I both flattened ourselves in the truck bed to keep from being thrown off. It was too loud to think about anything, let alone talk.

We didn't slow down for a good hour, but I guess up front, Dakota must have finally convinced Bobby that an underage driver in boxer shorts speeding up the coast with two kids loose in the truck bed was likely to catch the wrong kind of attention, because the speed dropped down at last and the truck pulled up a dirt road.

Bobby jumped down from the driver's side and looked over the edge of the bed. "You guys okay? Need to yark?"

"I'm fine," I said. "Reyna?"

She got up. She was covered with scrapes and bruises, since her sleeping outfit wasn't exactly made for combat or riding in the back of a farm truck, but she gave the injuries only the most cursory glance before fishing in her bag and bringing out a pair of binoculars. "I'm fine," she muttered to no one, looking down the road. "The hills are in the way. I can't tell if they're coming."

"I think we lost them," Dakota said, coming around. "I haven't seen them in the rearview."

Reyna didn't seem reassured. She pointed the binoculars up at the sky and hissed, "There's a scout."

"What?" Bobby asked.

She handed him the binoculars.

He raised them, then lowered them again, his eyes wide. "That's a… it's… "

"A pegasus," she said. "They keep him against his will. He helped me escape, but he went back to distract them."

"That's who you want to rescue?" I asked. "The horse?"

She stuck out her chin. "I help people who help me. So don't worry, you helped me, so I won't put you in any more danger. I'll get out here and take care of my own business -- "

"Don't be stupid," I said. I took the binoculars. The pegasus was bucking a little bit and obviously not happy with the pirate on his back. Blood was flowing from several wounds around his harness, and on his side where cruel looking spurs were urging him along. "Do you have a way to call him?"


"Well, we need to lose the scout, and you want the pegasus away from them. Two birds, one stone?" I smiled.

Reyna stared at me, utterly dumbfounded, as if no one in her life had ever offered to help her.

"Wait," Bobby said. "I got this. I've been around horses -- unicorns -- my whole life. Great-Grandson of Pales, remember? What's its name?"

Reyna floundered. "I… I don't know his real name. I call him Scipio. After the general who defeated Hannibal."

Bobby smiled. "If you're his friend -- and I guess you are, if he helped you so much -- and that's what you call him, that's his name. Probably he has a horse name, but that's his name from humans." He looked up and raised his hands. He didn't speak loudly, just firmly. "Scipio," he said. "To us! Safety! Food!" He spread his arms at the long grass on the hill. "And Reyna! Reyna is waiting!"

In the air, I watched the pegasus. It heard the call. It bucked harder against its rider, then it folded its wings and dropped like a stone. The rider could do nothing but cling to his mane. About ten feet over the beach, it spread its wings again and tipped to one side.

The disoriented rider lost hold and plunged down toward the water.

Scipio shook his shoulders, where a harsh looking harness was cutting into him, then turned and flew to us.

Reyna ran up to meet him and threw her arms around his neck. "You're safe!" she said. "You're safe, and let's get you out of this, and…"

She ignored us entirely, except for occasional grateful glances, while she took off the brutal looking tack.

Dakota got the first aid kit and dug up some nectar. He poured some of it onto a handkerchief, then handed the bottle to me. It still felt full, even though he'd poured a lot out of it.

He took the rag over to Reyna, and a moment later, she was laving Scipio's wounds with it. I could see them starting to heal.

In all, we spent half an hour at the side of the road with Reyna's pegasus. I brought him some grass. Reyna and Bobby curried him. Dakota kept refilling the rag with nectar, and the bottle kept not getting any lighter.

"We have to get on down the road," I finally. "I'm sorry, but we're expected in the north. Reyna, if you want to stay with your horse…"

She kept her hand on Scipio's neck, but shook her head. "I… I don't know why you helped me. All of you. But I don't want to be in your debt. I'll help you from here."

"A pegasus might be handy in that."

She shook her head. "He's not trained as a war horse. He's smart, but… I don't want to put him in the line of fire again." She turned to the horse. "Can you find a safe place?" she asked him.

From nowhere, inspiration struck me. "Scipio," I said, even though I never did have any special skill with horses. "Find Lupa. Lupa will teach you to be safe."

"Uh, Jason," Dakota said. "He's… he's a horse."

"He rescued Reyna and he dumped someone who was scouting us," I said. "I think he qualifies as a hero. And I don't think a wolf is going to make a big distinction between a human and horse, as far as qualifications go."

"Is the wolf safe?" Reyna asked.

I wanted to say yes, but I couldn't. If heroes didn't live up to Lupa's expectations, the outcome could get bloody. But it didn't happen very often. I think it was a threat more than a reality. I'd never heard of a demigod who was actually attacked by Lupa's wolves in training, and I couldn't see her going for pegasus meat on a whim. Finally, I said, "Probably. And if you decide to stay with us, if you come to camp, you'll go there, too. You can see him there."

"What do you think, boy?" she asked the horse.

He whinnied.

"Fly inland," I said. "Bear south once you can't see the ocean, but not too much. I think, if it's like with demigods, he'll… you'll find guides."

Reyna hugged him again, then said, "Inland is good. Inland is away from them. I'll meet you there." She looked up and smiled at me beautifully, and I suddenly realized, out of nowhere, that I might have a bigger problem than pirates here.

I didn't say anything. And a part of me wondered if maybe, it wasn't a problem. I liked her. I really did. Why shouldn't I like her in the same way she was… the way she was looking at me?

But I didn't.

Maybe it would come later. I decided not to think about it.

I was probably wrong, anyway. Dakota and Bobby had done more to help her horse.

Scipio gave Reyna a friendly nudge and bent his neck a little bit around her neck, a kind of equine hug. Then he rose into the air and flew east.

Reyna watched him, waving, until he disappeared from sight.

We all looked at each other then, and, for the first time, I think we all realized in more than a cursory way that no one was entirely dressed. I was closest, as I'd fallen asleep in my clothes, but I was barefoot.

Dakota had thrown our bags into the truck, and Reyna had hers slung over her shoulder, but I don't think she had any clothes, since the ones she liked were still back on the clothesline in Gualala, and I think the ones she was wearing yesterday were drying from the rain, too. She certainly couldn't keep the quest up wearing a silk… nightgown? Pajama thing? I didn't know what it was called. Some kind of spaghetti strap top with matching shorts. I don't even know why a girl like Reyna would own something like that. It must have come from the resort.

We all looked away from her, scratching our heads awkwardly. Bobby realized he was in boxers and blushed, even though they'd been working together on Scipio's wounds for quite a while. Dakota blushed and pulled a Camp Jupiter tee shirt on over his slightly flabby gut. Reyna fished in her bag, but came up empty-handed.

"I don't even have shoes," she said.

"We'll get you shoes in Eureka," I said. "I have an extra pair, but I don't think they'd fit you." I went to the back of the truck and pulled out my duffel. "And, um… If you want something… um… warmer… " I found a pair of cargo shorts that at least wouldn't be too long for her legs, and one of my own purple Camp Jupiter shirts. I handed them too her without looking at her, which was also strange, since I'd spent an hour practically on top of her in the truck.

She rolled her eyes and took them, There was a stand of rocks nearby, and she disappeared behind them. Bobby took the opportunity to pull on jeans and the first shirt that came into his hand. We all put on shoes. She came out a minute later, dressed like any girl at Camp Jupiter. She looked perfectly normal. My cargo shorts were capris on her, but they looked fine. She started braiding her hair as she came back to us.

The four of us, now fully clothed, looked at each other cautiously.

Bobby broke the silence. "Well," he said, "It's going to be a squeeze in that cab, but I think we can do it. Reyna can sit on my lap." He waggled his eyebrows.

"You sit in mine," she said dryly.

"Sure thing," Bobby said amiably.

And that was how we made our way the rest of the way to Eureka -- nearly three hours of Dakota driving, me sitting cramped in the middle, and Bobby sitting on Reyna's lap with his head scraping the ceiling. I think Reyna slept a little bit.

After that, there was no chance of her not being part of the group. She just was.

By the time we got to Eureka, we were starving, so the first order of business was buying Reyna a pair of flip flops so we could actually go into a store or a restaurant to eat. Since she couldn't come with us, I had to guess her foot size, and I got it wildly wrong. Her feet were almost lost in the purple things, her toes buried under the big flower (I figured I'd get her something pretty). She was laughing and trying to balance when we went into the Bayshore Mall.

And walked directly into another pirate.
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