"SQUUAAAKKKKK! GET BACK HERE, GODLING!
Luke made a face. "Uhhh, no thanks," he muttered under his breath.
Apparently the monster heard that. Her voice was thick, cracking with every syllable, and made her sound scary. As if that was enough. She, of course, had to also have a long, reptilian tail, a morbid look in her eyes, and was drooling (Luke had learned that the hard way, because he was using a dagger instead of his usual, desired sword). Her hair was jet black, messy, and her face was a wrinkled mess, and large wings were attached to her bony back. What was more, tiny points were made on two of her teeth. Luke didn't feel like getting a closer look. "Ohhhh, but you don't want to go into the Garden, godling," she said. "It's dangerous!"
Luke almost laughed. "Uh-huh," he replied, rolling his eyes, clutching to the dagger like it was life. "Right. Sooooo, you're supposed to be a better option to me or something?"
"You dare use that tone with me, Boy?"
Luke flinched. He tried to regain is courage. "Oh, trust me," he said slowly. "I dare."
Then, out of nowhere, the monstrous woman jumped in front of him, not letting him pass to leave the alleyway, levitating in the air (courtesy of the inconvenient wings). Luke was trapped. "You don't know when to shut your mouth, do you, Boy?!" she hissed.
He gulped, trying not to stare at her razor-sharp fangs. "It runs in the family," he admitted.
She seemed to think that was amusing. "I understand that, godling," she admitted, relaxing a bit. "My mother has always been cruel, and I've never liked the need to repay her for nothing."
Luke blinked. He totally understood that. He hated Hermes, his father (who was conveniently the god of Travel, Thieves, Athletes, and Roads), the god who'd left his mother to rot in her own madness. But then Luke found himself confused. "You're a demigod?" he asked, taken back.
"Yes!" her voice had a newfound edge.
"Who... Who's your parent? I-I mean... Who's your godly parent?"
"Hecate," the goddess spat out the name.
Vampire-like... daughter of Hecate. It came into place now. Luke gulped. "You're Lamia," he realized.
Her fists clenched, Luke saw her fangs draw closer to his neck, and her eyes looked evil. "I hate being confused with me sister!" she snapped. "She gets all of the attention! Well, guess what!? Not everything revolves around her, godling! I am Mormo!"
Luke said, "Uhhhh, I'm Luke?"
"I DON'T CARE!"
Luke snapped back, away from the wall in the narrow alleyway, and away from the monster. He tried to think of the myth about Mormo. Nothing came to mind. "Never heard of you," he admitted. That wasn't a very good thing to say to her, apparently.
"Yes!" she said. "Because Lamia is the center of attention! She murders her own children and then she's the famous one! Am I important!? The one who terrifies children into behaving-nooooooo! It's all about my PERFECT half-sister who thinks she's better than everyone else-"
"Listen," Luke said evenly. "I love hearing your 'I hate being a demigod' story, but I really have got to go. Sooooo, bye-" He started sprinting out of the alley, hoping he'd make it without Mormo interrupting him. He wasn't that lucky.
"Where do you think you're going?" she hissed.
Luke hastily said, "The Garden of Hesperides. And you're not going to kill me before I get there. Want to know why?"
She cackled. "Why is that?"
"Because I'm the hero," Luke insisted. "You're the monster, and that's how life works around here!" He jabbed his dagger towards Mormo, and she snarled, flapping her wings and going back.
Mormo cackled with laughter once more. "HERO!" she hooted. "You!"
Luke made a face. "Hey, I-"
Mormo grabbed Luke's wrist. Luke squirmed, praying she wouldn't take his dagger out of the hand. She didn't. Instead, she grinned and stared deep into his eyes. Luke hated the feeling of being watched so closely. "Your future is dark!" she told him, her voice deeper and creepier (yeah, apparently it was possible). But then her expression faltered, her guard was let down. She didn't look as scary. She looked shocked, scared. It confused Luke, but he didn't hesitate.
He pushed her off of him and tried to slash her with his dagger. The last time he'd handled a dagger, it was the one he gave Annabeth. The thought of Annabeth made him feel better. What would she say if she were in this situation? he asked himself. She would find a strategy. She would figure out Mormo's weakness and take advantage of it.
The Garden of Hesperides was so close to him. It wasn't fair that Mormo was delaying him. Just a block away was his destination, where the entrance to the Garden was! He'd gone through so much, just to be stopped by this vampiric monster! This was not going to be his last stand, Luke was determined of that.
Think like Annabeth would, he told himself. Do what she would do.
Annabeth would run, he insisted to himself. Luke sprinted farther away. If he got out of the secluded area, maybe he would be able to find the sword he'd lost. This time Mormo didn't follow him. He had a feeling she'd be back.
He ran all the way to Golden Gate Park. As soon as he went towards the secret entrance, located in the Conservatory of Flowers, he regretted it.
He saw four beautiful girls, their hands joined, hopping and skipping around a tree. One the tree, apples the color of gold were hung, shining in the gentle gleam of the sun.
Now, Luke could live with the beautiful girls part. But not the gigantic, green-scaled dragon that was standing in front of him. It had about a hundred heads. When Luke thought more about it, he realized that there was a myth about a hundred-headed dragon named 'Ladon' guarding the Garden, and he automatically decided this dragon literally had one-hundred heads. He also assumed its name was 'Ladon.'
Luke stared down Ladon, hoping the dragon hadn't seen him. He tiptoed past the monster, towards the tree with the four girls dancing around it.
One girl smiled wide when she saw him. "Sisters," she purred. "We've company!"
The other three girls looked at Luke, and he saw delicate looks in their eyes. He had suspicions, that they might be monsters, but their beauty was mesmerizing. The only thing he could think of to make me snap out of it was, What would Annabeth do!? Annabeth! Annabeth!
It bothered Luke that the thought of little Annabeth, one of his best friends, could get him to stop realizing how pretty the girls were. That girl was starting to become mature-well, more mature than the eight-year-old daughter of Athena he'd met behind that garbage can with Thalia... Thalia.
Luke grimaced at the thought. I hate them, he thought. I hate the gods. Thalia didn't deserve that fate.
Thalia had been a half-blood daughter of Zeus. She's accompanied Luke Castellan and Annabeth Chase, with Grover the satyr, towards Camp Half-Blood, the only safe place for demigod children of Greek gods.
"A boooooooy!" one of them said. She neared Luke. Her light red hair was curly and soft, and she made him blush when she held onto his arm. "A cute boy!"
Luke shrugged away. "I-"
Another girl frowned. "Aegle! You got to be with the last boy!" she complained. She smiled, seeing him. She ran to Luke's side. "He's mine!"
"No, Hesperia!" the brunette said, with a voice as sweet as honey. "You girls never allow me to-"
Luke's eyes bulged, realizing. The girls were screaming over him... the dragon!
Luke pulled away from the girls, hoping his face wasn't as red as he thought it was. He ran to the tree and reached for an apple urgently. Please, please, please-
"Heyyyyyy!" the girls cooed. "That's not a very nice thing to do!"
"NO HE'S MINE, STOP IT!"
"OW, MY HAIR!"
The four girls began to brawl. Luke ignored them, reaching for the tree branch. His finger touched the golden apple and-SCRAW!
A claw scratched Luke in the face. Luke groaned, staggering back. He looked up, holding his face, and saw Ladon, the terrifying dragon. Just my luck, he thought bitterly.
Luke gripped the dagger, his only weapon. As soon as he went over this in his mind, he felt hopeless. Fighting a ginormous dragon with a dagger? Not even a sword! He was going to fail.
Luke gulped. Might as well go down fighting. He was about to step forward when, "SQUUUAAAAKKKKKKKKK!"
He shook his head gravely. "Great timing!" he shouted as Mormo soared through the air. He raised the dagger. "Do I need to kill you, too!?" he tried to sound confident.
But Mormo wasn't looking at him. Instead of landing by Luke, the vampire-woman landed on one of Ladon's many heads. She bent towards him and pierced him with her sharp teeth, a fang going into his eye.
Luke averted his eyes. Confusion made him curious. Mormo, the monster he'd been fighting, was saving him. At least, trying.
"Go!" Mormo screeched at Luke. "Run!"
Luke yelled, "What!? Why are you-"
Mormo whirled around and hovered beside Luke, her back to the dragon that was moaning in pain. She seemed fine with hearing the agonizing cries, and Luke had a feeling she was used to the sound. "You will be important, demigod," she said reluctantly. She bowed her head. "Very soon. It will happen very soon."
"What?" he demanded. "What will happen very soon-"
Mormo looked at him gravely. "Luke." The way she said his name made him flinch. He hadn't told her his name, had he...? "You'll be part of a very big cause. Before I die-"
"Wait, you're going to-"
"Listen!" she snapped, glaring ferociously. When Luke didn't say anything for a few more seconds, she continued. "Before I die, I want you to know that my mother-Hecate-did nothing when I become this way." She looked down. "Like my sister, Lamia, I was a young girl... I misbehaved! I'm sure a son of Hermes can understand that."
Luke could, honestly. He'd had a lot of bad experiences. "Yeah, so?"
"One day," Mormo said sadly. "Hera wanted me to kill one of Lord Zeus's offspring. I refused, and she turned me into this."
He stared. "Wh-what d'ya mean?" he asked, confused.
Mormo glared at him. "I mean that Hera got mad at me because I didn't listen to her! She turned me into a monster!" Her nose flared. "And my mother did nothing to stop her! She didn't help me!"
"And when Hera turned to Lamia, my sister, Lamia refused, too! So she turned Lamia monstrous too!" Her eyes moistened from the sadness. "Lamia was forced to devour her own children. And now she gets all of the attention...!"
Luke was beyond confused now. A monster with a... sob-story?
Ladon squealed, and Mormo grabbed Luke's wrist, startling him. "Go," she urged him. "Leave the apple. It won't matter to you. With it, your path will fail."
Luke felt weird. "Uhh-"
"HEY!" a voice screamed.
Luke looked away and saw a girl and boy, both in Greek armor, sprinting to his rescue. Demigods, he automatically decided.
The boy ran to Luke, the girl to Ladon. "Come on," the boy insisted. "We have to go!"
"Go with them," Mormo said evenly.
The boy looked at Mormo. "Hey, Mormo," he said, confused. "What are you-"
"You know the monster?" Luke asked, taken back.
The boy sighed. "Whatever. I'll explain about the Army later. Just know this; you owe your life to us."
"Us?!" Luke demanded.
The girl ran to Luke and the boy. She looked at Mormo. "Can you control the stupid reptilian nut? He's beginning to annoy me."
Mormo rolled her eyes. "Annoying mortal..." She flew up towards Ladon.
Luke said, "Wha-she could die-"
The girl rolled her eyes and smirked. "Like you'd care. We've seen you fighting her for, like, hours so far."
Luke stared. "You've been watching me?"
"For a while now," the boy admitted.
"We're part of Kronos's Army," the girl said mysteriously. "And you owe us."
Luke narrowed his eyebrows. "What?"
The girl smiled menacingly. "Maybe we should get you cleaned up."
"The scratch," the boy informed Luke.
Luke stopped. The dragon, Ladon, had scratched him. He jogged over to the pond close to the Garden and stared at himself. A gash cut from above his lip towards the top of his chin, cutting off his skin. He grimaced. Perfect.
The girl went over and touched his shoulder. "Don't worry. Hey, I'm Lava, just so you know."
"Seriously?" he asked.
She gave him a ferocious glare. "Yeah. You got a problem with that, punk?"
Luke was suddenly reminded of Clarisse LaRue of the Ares cabin, but dismissed the thought. "Are you a demigod-"
"We're part of Kronos's Amy," the boy said. "And I'm Les, by the way."
Lava rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Les, let's just get this recruit and get out of here."
Lava looked at Luke straight in eyes, and he felt creeped out by her. "The gods are cruel, Luke," she said. "You can't trust them. Kronos's Army-we're going to start a new age. A new age, where the gods won't rule! The corruption will be gone, and you'll be free from despair on being rejected."
He stared at the two of them. It did sound really cool, not having to care about monsters wanting to murder you every five seconds. And then having monsters-like Mormo-defend you, and try to protect you? How often does that happen?
But something bothered him. "Kronos," he said, feeling the dark, heaviness of the name. "He was a Titan."
"He was the Titan," Les corrected.
Lava said, "He is the Titan." She smiled innocently. "He's the Titan Lord, and we serve him. We're going to bring him back Luke, whether or not you help."
Luke blinked, considering. He didn't know much about who Kronos was. "Wh-what would you want me to do?"
"Go back to Camp," Les said firmly. "Don't take an apple of Hesperides with you. This quest failed, as far as Chiron and the others are concerned. You never saw us, too."
"And stay in touch with us," Lava added. She tilted her head, smiling wide. "Lava, daughter of Deimos." She winked. "I-M me, will ya?" She turned around and strutted off.
Les rolled his eyes and looked at me. "Sorry 'bout here. She thinks she's 'perfect'-"
Les grimaced. "And now she's ignoring me for a day." He looked at where she was leaving. "COMING, SWEETIE!" he called.
Luke blinked. "You're a couple-"
Les sighed, looking mystified. "I ask myself that question countless times, Luke." He shook his head. "Not the point-just... we'll be in touch." With that, he walked away.
Luke heard a screech from Mormo, and tried to think about who Kronos was. Titan, he remembered. He was the King of the Titans, father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera. Zeus scattered his remains in Tartarus, after that big war.
Ladon called out a cry of terror, and an agonizing moan. Mormo tossed down a claw of the dragon and Luke stared down at it. "GO!" Mormo screamed. "GO AND RAISE KRONOS!"
Luke looked down at the claw of the dragon. His fists clenched, seeing blood on it. His blood. The gods didn't care about him, anyway. It's not like they'd be effected much if he helped.
Luke bent down and picked up the claw. He gripped it tightly, and then strode away from the Garden of Hesperides.