The Demigod Files
The Bronze Dragon
On the blue team were Hephaestus's cabin, Apollo, Hermes, and me—the only demigod in Poseidon's cabin. The bad news was that for once, Athena and Ares—both war god cabins—were against us on the red team, along with Aphrodite, Dionysus, and Demeter. Athena's cabin held the other flag, and my friend Annabeth was their captain.
Annabeth is not somebody you want as an enemy.
Right before the game, she strolled up to me. "Hey, seaweed brain."
"Will you stop calling me that?"
She knows I hate that name, mostly because I never have a good comeback. She's the daughter of Athena, which doesn't give me a lot of ammunition. I mean,Owl-head and Wise Girl are kind of lame insults.
"You know you love it." She bumped me with her shoulder, which I guess was supposed to be friendly, but she was wearing full Greek armor, so it kind of hurt. Her gray eyes sparkled under the helmet. Her blond ponytail curled around one shoulder. It was hard for anyone to look cute in combat armor, but Annabeth pulled it off.
"Tell you what." She lowered her voice. "We're going to crush you tonight, but if you pick a safe position—like right flank, for instance—I'll make sure you don't get pulverized too much."
"Gee, thanks," I said, "but I'm playing to win."
She smiled. "See you on the battlefield."
She jogged back to her teammates, who all laughed and gave her highfives. I'd never seen her so happy, like the chance to beat me up was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
Beckendorf walked up with his helmet under his arm. "She likes you, man."
"Sure," I muttered. "She likes me for target practice."
"Nah, they always do that. A girl starts trying to kill you, you know she's into you."
"Makes a lot of sense."
Beckendorf shrugged. "I know about these things. You ought to ask her to the fireworks."
I couldn't tell if he was serious. Beckendorf was lead counselor for Hephaestus. He was this huge African American dude with a permanent scowl, muscles like a pro ballplayer, and hands calloused from working in the forges his whole life. He'd just turned eighteen and was on his way to NYU in the fall. Since he was older, I usually listened to him about stuff, but the idea of asking Annabeth to the Fourth of July fireworks down at the beach—like, the biggest dating event of the summer—made my stomach do somersaults.
"If I was going to pick one person in the world to reattach my head," I said, "I'd pick you."
I just blurted it out—to give her confidence, I guess—but immediately I realized it sounded pretty stupid.
"Awww. . ." Silena sniffled and wiped her eyes. "Percy, that is so sweet!"
Annabeth blushed. "Shut up, Silena. Hand me your dagger."
I was afraid Annabeth was going to stab me with it.
Annabeth came up to me and squeezed my shoulder. "Hey, seaweed brain, you okay?"
"Fine... I guess." I was thinking how close I'd come to being chopped into demigod hash in the dragon's mouth.
"You did great." Annabeth's smile was a lot nicer than that stupid dragon's.
"You, too," I said shakily.
Watching them, with my arm around Annabeth for support, I felt pretty uncomfortable. I silently cursed Beckendorf for being so brave, and I don't mean for facing the dragon. After three years, he'd finally gotten the courage to ask Silena Beauregard out. It wasn't fair.
"You know," Annabeth said as we struggled along, "it wasn't the bravest thing I've ever seen."
I blinked. Had she been reading my thoughts?
"Um... what do you mean?"
Annabeth gripped my wrist as we stumbled through a shallow creek. "You stood up to the dragon so Beckendorf would have his chance to jump—now that was brave."
"Or pretty stupid."
"Percy, you're a brave guy," she said. "Just take the compliment. I swear, it is so hard?"
We locked eyes. Our faces were, like, two inches apart. My chest felt a little funny, like my heart was trying to do jumping jacks.
"So..." I said. "I guess Silena and Charlie are going to the fireworks together."
"I guess so," Annabeth agreed.
"Yeah," I said. "Um, about that—"
I don't know what I would've said, but just then, three of Annabeth's siblings from the Athena cabin burst out of the bushes with their swords drawn.
But Annabeth just smiled and put us in jail. As she was heading back to the front line, she turned and winked. "See you at the fireworks?"
She didn't even wait for my answer before darting off into the woods.
I looked at Beckendorf. "Did she just... ask me out?"
He shrugged, completely disgusted. "Who knows with girls? Give me a haywire dragon, any day."
Interview with ANNABETH CHASE, Daughter of Athena
Of all of your Camp Half-Blood friends, who would you most like to have with you in battle?
Annabeth: Oh, Percy. No contest. I mean, sure he can be annoying, but he's dependable. He's brave and he's a good fighter. Normally, as long as I'm telling him what to do, he wins in a fight.
You've been known to call Percy "Seaweed Brain" from time to time. what's his most annoying quality?
Annabeth: Well, I don't call him that because he's so bright, do I? I mean, he's not dumb. He's actually pretty intelligent, but he acts so dumb sometimes. I wonder if he does it just to annoy me. The guy has a lot going for him. He's courageous. He's got a sense of humor. He's good-looking, but don't you dare tell him I said that.
Where was I? Oh yeah, so he's got a lot going for him, but he's so...obtuse. That's the word. I mean he doesn't see really obvous stuff, like the way people feel, even when you're giving him hints, and being totally blatant. What? No, I'm not talking about anyone or anything in particular! I'm just making a general statement. Why does everyone always think...agh! Forget it.