Sample text for The fire thief fights back / Terry Deary.


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Chapter One
Ancient Greece--But I'm not sure when
The first part of my tale is from a book of legends. "Ha!" you say. "Legends
are just old lies. I want to know the TRUTH." Well, I have met one of the
legends, and I know that HIS story is true. So why shouldn't the other
legends be true? Anyway, it's the only way we can explain what happened to
me when I was a young boy. And THAT was true, because I was there at the
time. SO let's start with ancient Greece, and stop interrupting me with your
moaning about the "truth," will you?
"What do you want, fat face?" the young god asked. He wore a winged
helmet and had wings on his sandals. He carried a rod with a snake wrapped
around it. Even the snake looked shocked.
"You can't sss-speak to your mother like that, Hermes!"
"Oh, go shed your skin, you rattail of a reptile," Hermes replied and polished
his nails on his white tunic.
"You'll be sss-sorry you sss-said that," the snake hissed. A goddess lay on
a golden couch and scowled at the winged god. She was so beautiful that
you could hardly bear to look at her. Her dark hair fell in a curling cloud over
her shoulders, yet she never used curlers and hardly ever had to dye it.
If you could bear to look at her, you'd have seen her face turn red with rage
and her lips pull back tightly over her gleaming teeth. (And she never had to
go to the dentist.) Somehow she controlled her temper.
"I am Hera, queen of the gods, wife to the mighty Zeus, and ruler of the world.
Speak to me like that, and I will punish you like no god has ever been
punished, Hermes."
He blew on his nails and gave a warm smile. "Oh, knock it off, Mom. You
won't punish your dear little Hermes."
"Why not?" she spat.
"Because you need me! I am the messenger of the gods. If you didn't have
me to run errands, you'd be tramping from here to the Caucasus Mountains,
from Troy to Atlantis, just to make mischief."
She narrowed her eyes. "Mischief?"
"Yes. You know you like to go around making trouble, because you get
bored, don't you, Mom?"
She raised her beautiful chin and looked through the window of the marble
palace to the lake below and the mountains beyond. "Mischief is my job. It's
what gods do."
Hermes walked across the shining marble floor, his winged sandals fluttering.
He leaned over the goddess. "Anyway, you must want something or you
wouldn't have called for me."
"Maybe."
"Oh, come on. What is it? You want me to kidnap some human maiden
who's caught Zeus's eye? It wouldn't be the first time."
Hera glared at him, and then her face became softer and almost tearful. Her
voice was low. "It's more serious than that, Hermes. Zeus is gone."
The winged god threw back his head and laughed. "Gone? So? He's always
off somewhere, the old goat. He'll be back. He always comes back to
Olympus."
Hera blinked away a tear. "Not this time, Hermes. Not this time."
She looked around to make sure that there were no servants watching and
reached underneath the couch. She pulled out a scroll of yellow parchment
and unrolled it carefully. Hermes peered at it. There was a message there,
but not in the usual stylus and ink.
"What's this?" Hermes asked. Even the snake stretched its neck to look.
Hera explained. "Someone has taken another scroll, cut out the letters, and
stuck them onto the parchment."
"They've ruined the scroll!" Hermes said and sighed.
Hera shook her head. "What has that got to do with anything, idiot boy? The
point is that they sent this message."
"But why didn't they just write it?" Hermes asked.
"Because they didn't want us to know who sent it!" Hera said wisely.
Hermes nodded and read the message:
"Dear Hera,
I have captured Zeus. I cut out the tendons in his wrists and knees. He
cannot run. He cannot throw his thunderbolts. He is helpless. He is a
prisoner in Delphyne's cave. I will not tell you where he is unless you bring
me his crown so that I can rule the world. You have until sunset to obey, or
Zeus will lose an eye, an arm, or a leg every day till, on the last day, he
loses his head. I mean it. The crown, or your hubby gets it . . . and I don't
mean a vacation in Crete.
Your sincerely,
The secret kidnapper--Typhon"
Hermes turned as pale as his feathers. "The Typhon? The most hideous
creature in the whole world! And now he's going to rule the world."
"Not if you set Zeus free," Hera said softly.
"Not if I set Zeus free," Hermes agreed. Then he swallowed hard. "ME!" he
squawked. "This is a job for a hero--Hercules or Prometheus. Someone who
doesn't mind being blasted by a hundred dragon breaths. I'm a messenger,
Mom! Why should I go? Why can't someone else rescue Zeus?"
Hera grabbed her son by the front of his tunic. "Keep your voice down. Listen.
Everybody hates Zeus . . ."
"Well, I wouldn't say everybody, Mom. I know you do . . ."
"If Hades in the underworld gets to hear about this, he'll be up here like one of
your father's thunderbolts. He's always wanted to rule Earth. And Poseidon
down in the sea would leap like a dolphin at the chance. We've already had
to defeat the revolt of the giants . . ."
"Ugly brutes," Hermes agreed. "Their mother, Gaia, was furious!"
Hera nodded her head quickly. "And that's why Gaia created the Typhon--for
revenge." She shook the letter under Hermes's nose. "This is it."
"But you still aren't saying why I have to go after the Typhon, Mom. He's a
monster."
"He's half human." Hera shrugged.
"Oh, yes!" Hermes squawked. "It's not the human half that I'm worried about!
It's the half that has a hundred fire-breathing dragon heads under his arms
and the serpents that are wrapped around his legs!"
"Nothing wrong with sss-serpents," Hermes's snake hissed.
"There is when they can stretch out as high as his head--and he's as tall as
this palace!" Hermes moaned.
"Sss-sorry, I'm sss-sure!"
"Every one of those dragon heads spits fire," Hera explained. "He can heat
rocks with his breath and throw them at you."
The snake sighed. "I can't do that."
Hera turned to Hermes. "You are the only one I can trust. If Poseidon or
Hades takes over Olympus, they'll destroy you."
"Me? What have I ever done? I'm only a poor little messenger of the gods. I
never did anyone any harm. Not one single god," Hermes whimpered.
"You are the son of Zeus, and that is enough," Hera explained. "They will
crush you--or shut you down in Hades's underworld forever."
Hermes shuddered. "But how can a little old feathered fool like me beat a
serpent-snapping, fire-frizzling fiend like the Typhon?"
Hera lay back and thought. "First you have to find your father . . ."
"But the Typhon says in the letter that he won't tell where Zeus is hidden."
"The letter also says that Zeus is a prisoner in Delphyne's cave. The Typhon
isn't very bright."
Hermes looked miserable. "Are there no heroes brave enough to fight the
Typhon? Someone who could battle with the monster while I sneak inside the
cave?"
Hera shook her head. "When the Typhon first appeared, the gods all fled to
Egypt or disguised themselves as animals."
"Chickens," Hermes mumbled.
"Yes, chickens--or rabbits or ducks," Hera agreed. "Only Prometheus would
have been brave enough to tackle the Typhon."
"Even Prometheus is hiding," Hermes said with a sigh.
"Ah, but he's not hiding from the Typhon," Hera said. "He stole fire from the
gods and gave it to the humans. He is being hunted by the eagle-winged
Avenger."
"Can't we bring him back? Offer to pardon him if he rescues Zeus?"
Hera shook her head. "He's traveled through time--he's thousands of years
into the future. If the Avenger can't find him, then we have no chance. Only
Zeus could track down Prometheus . . . and Zeus is a prisoner of the Typhon.
It's your job. You're Zeus's son."
Hermes puffed out his cheeks and blew. "And a son's got to do what a son's
got to do. I'll go and get my maps," he said and fluttered sadly out of the
great marble room.
***
The god Prometheus was also flying. Flying far out in the galaxy of stars. A
strange monster flew by his side. A man with 50 heads on top of his square
body and 100 arms--50 down each side. He was the guardian of the gates of
the underworld--the Hecatonchires--and he was escaping.
The two legends slowed as they reached an amber sun and headed for a
planet of blue grasslands and green seas.
"Here we are, Hec," Prometheus said as they swooped down toward a village
on the planet. "Your home planet."
Head 35 sniffed away a tear. "Home," he said. "The prettiest word ever
invented."
"Except the word 'prettiest,'" Head 27 argued.
Head 35 ignored him. "A planet where everyone has fifty heads and one
hundred arms."
They hovered in the clouds. "I'm sure you'll be very happy here," Prometheus
said.
"Oh, I will," Head 35 said. "You could join me, Theus. The Avenger would
never find you here."
"I'd feel a little bit out of place," the hero demigod said and sighed. "I'd be
treated like a monster."
"Well, I suppose you are--only one head and two arms. You are a bit freaky."
"Thanks," Prometheus muttered.
Big Hec nodded all 50 heads. "But I know what you mean. I was like that on
Earth. People treated me like some weird alien! Me! I reckon that they are
the weird ones!"
"I can't imagine why."
"Because I have a hundred arms!" the Hecatonchires cried. "I mean, even
your spiders have eight arms, and as for your millipedes . . ."
"Yes, Hec. I'm glad you've found a planet full of your own kind," Theus said
and looked down sadly.
"You'll find a home somewhere, Theus," Head 49 said. "But I have a feeling it
will be back on Earth. All you have to do is find a human hero, and Zeus will
set you free."
"I know," Theus said and nodded his single head. "I've been to that place they
call Eden City. I've visited it twice now. I'm sure that the answer lies down
there. I went there in 1858 and again in 1795. Maybe if I go back just a little
further . . . just ten years."
"That's 1785!" the Hecatonchires told him.
"Then 1785 it is," Theus said and slapped the 100-armed monster on the
back. "Goodbye, my friend. I hope you find happiness . . . but forgive me
if I don't shake hands with you." He laughed. "It would take too long!"
As the Hecatonchires let himself drift down to the green-and-blue planet, he
waved 100 hands in farewell.
Theus soared back to the edge of the universe and turned left at the farthest
star. That way, he would arrive back on Earth ten years before he left it in
1795.
He sped past meteors and comets through the emptiness toward a little
planet that wasn't green and blue like the home of the Hecatonchires. It was
blue and green. "Home," he cried. "A pretty word."
But as he raced down toward the sunset side of Earth, the god thought that
there is a lovelier word than "home."
It's the word "hope."


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Prometheus (Greek deity) -- Juvenile fiction.
Time travel -- Juvenile fiction.