Part Thirty-Eight:

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Part Thirty-Eight:

The ground was sloped downhill. Rocks and small stalagmites poked out from underfoot and the ground was slimy and rocky.

Zoe was supporting Charlie as they made their way down the hill. The air around them was humid and it smelled like rotten sewage. Bob and Damasen were leading the way, and when the terrain finally levelled out into a black swamp, Zoe breathed a sigh of relief. She looked from the leafless trees to clumps of reeds cluttered around like they had been added there as an afterthought. It was an oddly beautiful place, each thing looking as old and desolate as another. The area was also dark, but not gloomy like the Underworld.

Large tracks littered the ground, and Sammy suddenly sucked in a breath. "Drakon." He said.

Damasen turned to look back at him. "Do not fear, demigod. He is harmless."

They walked until the swamp opened up into a muddy clearing. A large hut stood in the middle, made of what looked like bones and greenish leather. There was a large tree trunk in the middle of the clearing beside the hut. But tethered to it was the thing that made Zoe's heart stop. The drakon snarled and bared his fangs. It's hide was green and yellow, with wide sea green eyes that reminded Zoe of her younger sister Lily. A wave of homesickness overcame her, and she had to quickly shake it off. The drakon was at least the length of a train and when it hissed, clouds of poisonous green smoke escaped from it's nose.

"That's Mae." Damasen explained. "Mae the Maeonian Drakon. He's my pet."

"You have a pet drakon?" Alex asked incredulously.

"Yes. I used to kill him everyday but now we're quite good friends." Damasen walked up to Mae and patted him on the head gently. The drakon rubbed the side of his face against the giant's hand.

"He is being serious." Bob the Titan said to Sammy after a weird look.

"Come in." Damasen disappeared into the hut. "We shall have some drakon stew.

"How do you get drakon stew?" Zoe asked, following the giant into the hut. She was immediately washed in warmth from the bonfire in the middle. The hut was massive, yet it felt like a place which you could call home.

"Mae and I have a deal." Damasen grunted. He was standing at the large pot that hung over the bonfire. "I kill him every two nights for supplies and he is my friend and ally all other times when he regenerates."

"Oh." Zoe replied.

"Whoa." Charlie breathed when he came in. He had healed his shoulder on the way and was almost back to normal - winded, but otherwise normal.

Damasen dished out bowls of drakon soup to everyone. Zoe took hers gratefully and chowed it down. She got halfway through it before she remembered something.

"So..." She started. "You knew my parents."

Bob froze. He gazed at Zoe with an unblinking stare. "Percy and Annabeth?" He asked.

"Yeah. They say hello."

A small smile lit up Bob's face. "They were good friends." He sighed. A tear slid down his face. "Tell them I will never forget."

"I will." Zoe promised.

There was silence for a few moments before Damasen came back with his cauldron-sized bowl.

"Wait, so are you a giant?" Charlie asked Damasen.

"Correct." Damasen replied.

"But he is a friendly giant." Bob cut in.

"I was born to oppose Ares." Damasen said. "But I am not warlike. I can be when I want to, but otherwise I am a friendly giant."

"Okay," Charlie said.

Suddenly, there was a deep growl and for a split second Zoe thought it was the drakon. But then she realised that this growl was more cat-like, and when a large tiger appeared, Zoe had the sudden urge to faint. How many pets did these two have?

"This is Small Bob." Bob grinned, seeing Zoe's expression. "Or just Big Bob is fine."

"Your cat is made of bones." Michael said, his mouth wide open.

"He is a great fighter." Bob argued. "And a good pet."

Small Bob came over and stretched out next to the fire. "Did you have trouble fighting the arai?" Bob asked, leaning over to scratch behind Small Bob's ears.

"Yeah." Alex said. Small Bob started purring. "And also something weird happened. When we were fighting them, Charlie, Sammy, Michael and I stabbed one together. It died, but we weren't cursed. Do you know why?"

Damasen looked thoughtful for a moment. "I do not know entirely why you didn't get cursed," he admitted. "But you could've gained an Unforgettable Curse."

"Unforgettable Curse?" Michael asked. "What's that?"

"You never forget you have the curse." Bob said helpfully, now stroking Small Bob.

"It will activate itself when you want it least." Damasen continued. "But any powerful god, titan, giant or immortal monster can activate it. So you must never forget you have it."

Zoe felt a sudden sense of relief as she realised that she didn't have the curse. But then she scolded herself quietly for thinking that thought.

As soon as everyone had finished their food, Damasen collected the bowls. "You should get going soon." He said. "It is safe here, but you cannot relax. Seek out the demigod that lives near here. She will help you."

"Thank you, Damasen and Iapetus - I mean, Bob, sorry." Sammy said.

"No need to thank us." Bob replied.
The group stood up and stretched.

"Good luck with your quest." Damasen said.

•••

The girl peered out of her cave. She could sense the demigods were coming nearer, but they weren't anywhere in sight.

Just then, out of the gloom, five figures emerged. The girl smiled. They were coming. Finally. Suddenly, there was a loud hiss and a scuttle of legs, as something moved across the ground - and it was moving fast.

"No!" The girl cried, but it was too late. A gigantic spider had pounced on the nearst person.

The girl rushed out towards them.

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