Just a few days until this hits the shops – here is extract 6 of Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods by Rick Riordan
The one who stole your lunch money, teased you res is that guy. On the bus and gave you a wedgie in the locker room. The one who breaks other kids’ bones in varsity football and makes a D– in every class, but is still popular because it’s so funny when he gives the scrawny kids swirlies in the toilet.
If bullies, gangsters and thugs prayed to a god, they’d pray to Ares.
As soon as he was born, his parents knew he was bad news. Hera and Zeus wanted to love him, because he was their first child. But, instead of being cute or saying goo-goo or even crying for mama, the baby came out raging and shaking his little fists.
Hera could hardly keep hold of him as she held him up for Zeus to see. ‘My lord,’ she said, ‘your newborn son.’
Zeus reached down to tickle the baby’s chin. Ares grabbed his dad’s finger with both hands and twisted it. SNAP! The baby pounded his tiny chest and yelled, ‘RARR!’
Zeus examined his immortal finger, which was now dangling at a funny angle. ‘You know . . . perhaps we should get the boy a nanny.’
‘Good idea,’ Hera said.
‘A large, strong nanny. With lots of patience . . . and good medical insurance.’
They hired a lady named Thero. She must’ve been like a mountain nymph or something, because she was tough and strong and nothing bothered her. She took Ares into the land of Thrace, a harsh, rocky place just north of Greece, full of snow and jagged mountains and warlike tribes – the perfect spot for a baby combat god.
As Ares grew, he never cried for his bottle or his binky. He roared for blood. Early on, he learned to chuck rocks at birds and knock them out of the sky. He pulled the wings off insects to practise his fine motor skills. He would laugh and laugh as he learned to walk by stepping on flowers and crushing small animals. Meanwhile Thero sat on a rock nearby, reading her Olympian gossip magazines and yelling, ‘Keep it down, ya little delinquent!’
Yes, those were happy days.
Eventually Ares grew up and returned to Mount Olympus to take his rightful place on the Olympian council. Of course, he became the god of war (and just a friendly warning: if you ask him whether he’s that dude from the video game God of War, he will rip your arm off and beat you over the head with it). He also became the god of violence, bloodlust, weapons, bandits, pillaging, levelling cities and good old-fashioned family fun.
He was the god of strength and manly courage, too, which was kind of funny, since the few times he actually got into one-on-one combat with another god he ran away like a coward. I guess that’s typical of bullies. Ares was the first one to flee when the storm giant Typhoeus came knocking. Another time, during the Trojan War, he got stabbed in the gut by a Greek mortal’s spear. He roared so loud it sounded like ten thousand men. Then he fled back to Mount Olympus, crying and moaning to Zeus, ‘It’s not fair! It’s not fair!’
Zeus told him to shut up.
‘If you weren’t my son,’ the sky god grumbled, ‘I’d have stripped away your godliness and kicked you to the kerb years ago. You’re nothing but trouble!’
Heartwarming, how the Olympian family got along.
Despite his occasional cowardice, Ares was a bad dude to make angry. When he went into battle, he wore golden armour that burned with harsh light. His eyes were full of flames and, with his war helmet on, he was too scary for most mortals to look at, much less fight. His favourite weapon was his bronze spear. His shield always dripped with blood and gore, because that’s just the kind of friendly guy he was.
When he didn’t feel like walking, Ares rode a war chariot pulled by four fire-breathing horses. His twin sons, Phobos and Deimos (Fear and Panic), were his usual charioteers, holding the reins and amusing themselves by seeing how many people they could run over: Fifty points if you can smash that line of archers! A hundred points if you can hit that old dude!
You can see why Ares’s sacred animal was the wild boar, which will charge anything, is almost impossible to kill and has major attitude.
One of his sacred birds was the vulture, since it feasted on corpses after a battle. His favourite reptile was the poisonous snake. In a lot of pictures, you’ll see Ares holding one, or he’ll have one painted on his shield.
Ares didn’t have a sacred flower. Go figure.
In addition to his apartment on Olympus, where he liked to hang out with his girlfriend Aphrodite, Ares had his own fortress in the mountains of Thrace. It was the first and ultimate man cave.
The castle was made entirely of iron – black metal walls, metal gates, dark towers, spiked turrets and a central keep with bars on all the windows. The sunlight barely made it inside, as if it was afraid to enter.
The halls and rooms were piled high with loot from various wars – some trophies that Ares had claimed himself, some that had been sacrificed to him by mortal warriors. He had about ten million swords and shields, enough armour to outfit the entire population of India, heaps of broken chariots and siege equipment, old banners, spears and quivers of arrows. If you made a crossover TV show about hoarders who were also doomsday survivalists, the camera crew would totally want to film Ares’s fortress.
Taken from Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, published 7 August