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Why don't you take Ella and Mrs. O'Leary and shadow-travel somewhere for a while. Is Ella okay with that?
Annabeth held her breath. Reyna had an excellent poker face.
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She studied Ella, but Annabeth couldn't guess what she was thinking. Fine," the praetor said at last. Then he climbed on Mrs. O'Leary's back with Ella, and the hellhound bounded out of the forum. They dove straight into a shadow on the Senate House wall and disappeared. We must gain the senate's approval before we let any of our legionnaires go on a quest — especially one as dangerous as you're suggesting.
You can steer the boat, and if you're really good I'll give you a little paper captain's hat to wear. See the ship. We'll convene a senate meeting in one hour. Apparently he could tell from Reyna's expression that further arguing would not be good for his health. He turned to Annabeth, and his smile changed.
It happened so quickly, Annabeth thought she'd imagined it; but just for a moment someone else seemed to be standing in Leo's place, smiling coldly with a cruel light in his eyes. Then Annabeth blinked, and Leo was just regular old Leo again, with his usual impish grin.
As Leo and Octavian headed for the rope ladder, she thought about calling them back — but how could she explain that? Tell everyone she was going crazy, seeing things and feeling cold? The wind spirits began clearing the plates. She's never seen New Rome. Annabeth wondered how Jason could be so dense. Was it possible he really didn't understand how much Reyna liked him? It was obvious enough to Annabeth. Asking to show his new girlfriend around Reyna's city was rubbing salt in a wound.
Percy took Annabeth's hand. I'd like to show Annabeth — " "No," Reyna snapped. Percy knit his eyebrows. If you don't mind, my fellow praetor. The chill spread down Annabeth's back. She wondered what Reyna was up to. Maybe the praetor didn't like the idea of two guys who had rejected her giving their girlfriends tours of her city.
Or maybe there was something she wanted to say in private. Either way, Annabeth was reluctant to be alone and unarmed with the Roman leader. But as an aspiring architect, she couldn't help admiring the terraced gardens, the fountains and temples, the winding cobblestone streets and gleaming white villas. After the Titan War last summer, she'd gotten her dream job of redesigning the palaces of Mount Olympus.
Now, walking through this miniature city, she kept thinking, I should have made a dome like that. I love the way those columns lead into that courtyard. Whoever designed New Rome had clearly poured a lot of time and love into the project.
Many demigods stay on to live here after their time in the legion. They go to our university. They settle down to raise families. Percy seemed interested in this fact. She must have scowled more fiercely than she realized, because Reyna laughed. I'm the daughter of Bellona. She turned and whistled like she was hailing a cab. A moment later, two metal dogs raced toward them — automaton greyhounds, one silver and one gold. They brushed against Reyna's legs and regarded Annabeth with glistening ruby eyes.
You don't mind if they walk with us? She noted that the greyhounds had teeth like steel arrowheads. Maybe weapons weren't allowed inside the city, but Reyna's pets could still tear her to pieces if they chose.
Reyna led her to an outdoor cafe, where the waiter clearly knew her. He smiled and handed her a to-go cup, then offered one to Annabeth.
Not really a Roman drink — " "But chocolate is universal," Annabeth said. The two of them walked on, Reyna's gold and silver dogs roaming nearby. Are you familiar with how her Roman form is different? She remembered the way Terminus had called Athena that goddess, as if she were scandalous. Octavian had acted like Annabeth's very existence was an insult. She's the goddess of crafts and wisdom Not for Romans. She's also a maiden goddess, like Diana You won't find any children of Minerva here.
The idea that Minerva would have children — frankly, it's a little shocking to us. She didn't want to get into the details of Athena's children — how they were born straight from the mind of the goddess, just as Athena herself had sprung from the head of Zeus. Talking about that always made Annabeth feel self-conscious, like she was some sort of freak.
People usually asked her whether or not she had a belly button, since she had been born magically. Of course she had a belly button. She couldn't explain how. She didn't really want to know.
The Vestal Virgins, for instance So the idea that a maiden goddess would have children — " "Got it. No wonder the Romans had been giving her strange looks. And even if your camp had children of Minerva — "They wouldn't be like you," Reyna said. Not leaders of dangerous quests. Not officially. The past few days, they had been looking to her for orders — even Jason, who could have pulled rank as the son of Jupiter, and Coach Hedge, who didn't take orders from anyone.
The praetor stroked his ears. We both know that, don't we? Something about Aurum's ruby eyes made her uneasy. She had heard that dogs could smell fear, even detect changes in a human's breathing and heartbeat. She didn't know if that applied to magical metal dogs, but she decided it would be better to tell the truth. A group of children spilled out of a nearby alleyway and gathered around Argentum, petting the dog and laughing, unfazed by its razor-sharp teeth. They wound their way up the hill.
The greyhounds followed, leaving the children behind. Annabeth kept glancing at Reyna's face. A vague memory started tugging at her — the way Reyna brushed her hair behind her ear, the silver ring she wore with the torch and sword design. Percy didn't remember me.
Of course you spoke mostly with my older sister Hylla, who is now queen of the Amazons. She left just this morning, before you arrived.
At any rate, when we last met, I was a mere handmaiden in the house of Circe. She'd been thirteen. Percy and she had washed ashore from the Sea of Monsters. Hylla had welcomed them. She had helped Annabeth get cleaned up and given her a beautiful new dress and a complete makeover.
Then Circe had made her sales pitch: Annabeth had been tempted, maybe just a little, until she realized the place was a trap, and Percy had been turned into a rodent. That last part seemed funny afterward; but at the time, it had been terrifying.
As for Reyna How did you two —? You were brave. I'd never seen anyone refuse Circe's hospitality, much less outwit her. It's no wonder Percy cares for you. Annabeth thought it might be safer not to respond. They reached the top of the hill, where a terrace overlooked the entire valley. Bees buzzed through honeysuckle and jasmine, which filled the afternoon air with a dizzying mix of perfumes.
In the middle of the terrace stood a statue of Bacchus in a sort of ballet position, wearing nothing but a loincloth, his cheeks puffed out and lips pursed, spouting water into a fountain. Despite her worries, Annabeth almost laughed.
She knew the god in his Greek form, Dionysus — or Mr. D, as they called him back at Camp Half-Blood. Seeing their cranky old camp director immortalized in stone, wearing a diaper and spewing water from his mouth, made her feel a little better. Reyna stopped at the edge of the terrace. The view was worth the climb. The whole city spread out below them like a 3-D mosaic.
To the south, beyond the lake, a cluster of temples perched on a hill. To the north, an aqueduct marched toward the Berkeley Hills. Work crews were repairing a broken section, probably damaged in the recent battle. Annabeth turned. Tell me about yourself. Tell me about Camp Half-Blood. Your friend Piper has sorcery in her words.
I spent enough time with Circe to know charmspeak when I hear it.
I can't trust what she says. And Jason. He seems distant, no longer quite Roman. Annabeth wondered if she had sounded that way, all the months she'd spent searching for Percy. At least she'd found her boyfriend. Reyna had no one. She was responsible for running an entire camp all by herself. Annabeth could sense that Reyna wanted Jason to love her. But he had disappeared, only to come back with a new girlfriend. Meanwhile, Percy had risen to praetor, but he had rebuffed Reyna too.
Now Annabeth had come to take him away. Reyna would be left alone again, shouldering a job meant for two people. When Annabeth had arrived at Camp Jupiter, she'd been prepared to negotiate with Reyna or even fight her if needed. She hadn't been prepared to feel sorry for her. She kept that feeling hidden. Reyna didn't strike her as someone who would appreciate pity. Instead, she told Reyna about her own life. She talked about her dad and stepmom and her two stepbrothers in San Francisco, and how she had felt like an outsider in her own family.
She talked about how she had run away when she was only seven, finding her friends Luke and Thalia and making her way to Camp Half-Blood on Long Island. She described the camp and her years growing up there. She talked about meeting Percy and the adventures they'd had together. Reyna was a good listener. Annabeth was tempted to tell her about more recent problems: But she couldn't bring herself to open up quite that much. When Annabeth was done talking, Reyna gazed over New Rome.
Her metal greyhounds sniffed around the garden, snapping at bees in the honeysuckle. Finally Reyna pointed to the cluster of temples on the distant hill.
That's the temple of my mother, Bellona. She is fully, truly Roman. She's the goddess of protecting the homeland. She knew very little about the Roman goddess. She wished she had studied up, but Latin never came as easily to her as Greek. Down below, the hull of the Argo II gleamed as it floated over the forum, like some massive bronze party balloon.
Inside is a symbolic patch of ground that represents enemy soil. We throw a spear into that ground, indicating that we are now at war. You see, Romans have always believed that offense is the best defense. In ancient times, whenever our ancestors felt threatened by their neighbors, they would invade to protect themselves. Every time Greek and Roman demigods have met, we've fought. Conflicts between our two sides have started some of the most horrible wars in human history — especially civil wars.
What if Juno's plan is flawed? Even goddesses can make mistakes. Nothing happened. Unfortunately, Annabeth shared Reyna's doubts. Hera did make mistakes. Annabeth had had nothing but trouble from that overbearing goddess, and she'd never forgive Hera for taking Percy away, even if it was for a noble cause. This isn't a trick, Reyna. We can work together. She set the cup on the terrace railing and gazed over the valley as if imagining battle lines. Once, perhaps a year before you and Percy arrived, a young man washed ashore.
He was half mad from thirst and heat. He'd been drifting at sea for days. His words didn't make much sense, but he said he was a son of Athena. Annabeth had no idea who the boy might have been. She wasn't aware of any other Athena kids who'd gone on a quest in the Sea of Monsters, but still she felt a sense of dread. The light filtering through the grapevines made shadows writhe across the ground like a swarm of bugs.
Reyna waved her hand as if the question was trivial. He made quite a crazy little rodent. But before that, he kept raving about his failed quest. He claimed that he'd gone to Rome, following the Mark of Athena. The same lines Ella was just reciting.
But you say that you've never heard them before today? She wasn't lying. She'd never heard that prophecy, but her mother had charged her with following the Mark of Athena; and as she thought about the coin in her pocket, a horrible suspicion began taking root in her mind.
She remembered her mother's scathing words. She thought about the strange nightmares she'd been having lately. Much later, when I became praetor of Camp Jupiter, I began to suspect. If it's true, it may explain why our two groups of demigods have never been able to work together.
It may be the cause of our animosity.
Full text of "The Mark of Athena"
Until this old score is finally settled, so the legend goes, Romans and Greeks will never be at peace. And the legend centers on Athena — " A shrill sound pierced the air. Light flashed in the corner of Annabeth's eye.
She turned in time to see an explosion blast a new crater in the forum. A burning couch tumbled through the air. Demigods scattered in panic. Its port ballista fired a massive spear wreathed in Greek fire, which sailed straight through the broken dome of the Senate House and exploded inside, lighting up the building like a jack-o'-lantern.
If anyone had been in there We'd never do this! They snarled at Annabeth but paced uncertainly, as if reluctant to attack. Crowds were pushing and shoving. Fistfights were breaking out.
If weapons had been allowed in the city, Annabeth's friends would have already been dead. The Roman demigods in the forum had coalesced into an angry mob.
Some threw plates, food, and rocks at the Argo II, which was pointless, as most of the stuff fell back into the crowd. Several dozen Romans had surrounded Piper and Jason, who were trying to calm them without much luck. Piper's charmspeak was useless against so many screaming, angry demigods. Jason's forehead was bleeding. His purple cloak had been ripped to shreds.
He kept pleading, "I'm on your side! One landed nearby and blasted a toga shop to rubble. Two artillery crews had set up catapults just outside the Pomerian Line and were preparing to fire at the Argo II. She rushed off toward the legionnaires, her dogs at her side. Percy, Annabeth thought, scanning the forum desperately. Where are you? Two Romans tried to grab her. She ducked past them, plunging into the crowd.
As if the angry Romans, burning couches, and exploding buildings weren't confusing enough, hundreds of purple ghosts drifted through the forum, passing straight through the demigods' bodies and wailing incoherently. The fauns had also taken advantage of the chaos. They swarmed the dining tables, grabbing food, plates, and cups. One trotted by Annabeth with his arms full of tacos and an entire pineapple between his teeth. A statue of Terminus exploded into being, right in front of Annabeth.
He yelled at her in Latin, no doubt calling her a liar and a rule breaker; but she pushed the statue over and kept running. Finally she spotted Percy. He and his friends, Hazel and Frank, were standing in the middle of a fountain as Percy repelled the angry Romans with blasts of water. Percy's toga was in tatters, but he looked unhurt. Annabeth called to him as another explosion rocked the forum.
This time the flash of light was directly overhead. One of the Roman catapults had fired, and the A rgo II groaned and tilted sideways, flames bubbling over its bronze-plated hull. Annabeth noticed a figure clinging desperately to the rope ladder, trying to climb down.
It was Octavian, his robes steaming and his face black with soot. Over by the fountain, Percy blasted the Roman mob with more water.
Annabeth ran toward him, ducking a Roman fist and a flying plate of sandwiches. Octavian had reached the bottom of the ladder. Your boy Leo has trained his weapons on Rome! She felt like she might shatter into a million frozen pieces. Legionnaires in the field scattered as one of their catapults was blasted to splinters. There was no time for anyone to figure out the truth.
The crew from Camp Half-Blood was outnumbered a hundred to one, and even if Octavian had managed to stage some sort of trick which she thought likely , they'd never be able to convince the Romans before they were overrun and killed. Are you coming? But you'll never make it to the ship unless we buy you some time. Hazel whistled. Instantly a blur of beige shot across the forum. A majestic horse materialized next to the fountain.
He reared, whinnying and scattering the mob. Hazel climbed on his back like she'd been born to ride. Strapped to the horse's saddle was a Roman cavalry sword. Hazel unsheathed her golden blade. Annabeth felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe they could make it out of here alive. Then, from halfway across the forum, she heard Jason shouting. Jason tried to shield Piper, but a brick caught him above the eye. He crumpled, and the crowd surged forward.
Her charmspeak rolled over the mob, making them hesitate, but Annabeth knew the effect wouldn't last. Percy and she couldn't possibly reach them in time to help. Can you help them? Just get up the ropes. Octavian was still clinging to the bottom, but Percy yanked him off and threw him into the mob. They began to climb as armed legionnaires flooded into the forum. Arrows whistled past Annabeth's head. An explosion almost knocked her off the ladder.
Halfway up, she heard a roar below and glanced down. Romans screamed and scattered as a full-sized dragon charged through the forum — a beast even scarier than the bronze dragon figurehead on the Argo II. It had rough gray skin like a Komodo lizard's and leathery bat wings. Arrows and rocks bounced harmlessly off its hide as it lumbered toward Piper and Jason, grabbed them with its front claws, and vaulted into the air.
The rigging was on fire. The foresail was ripped down the middle, and the ship listed badly to starboard. There was no sign of Coach Hedge, but Leo stood amidships, calmly reloading the ballista. Annabeth's gut twisted with horror. His eyes were glazed.
The Mark of Athena
His movements were like a robot's. Leo's head hit the deck hard, and his eyes rolled up so that only the whites showed. The gray dragon soared into view. It circled the ship once and landed at the bow, depositing Jason and Piper, who both collapsed. She ran for the helm. She made the mistake of glancing over the rail and saw armed legionnaires closing ranks in the forum, preparing flaming arrows. Hazel spurred Arion, and they raced out of the city with a mob chasing after them. More catapults were being wheeled into range.
All along the Pomerian Line, the statues of Terminus were glowing purple, as if building up energy for some kind of attack. Annabeth looked over the controls. She cursed Leo for making them so complicated. No time for fancy maneuvers, but she did know one basic command: She grabbed the aviation throttle and yanked it straight back.
The ship groaned. The bow tilted up at a horrifying angle. He'd go back two hours and undo what had happened. Either that, or he could invent a Slap-Leo-in-the-Face machine to punish himself, though he doubted it would hurt as badly as the look Annabeth was giving him.
His head still throbbed from hitting the deck. All around him, his beautiful new ship was in shambles. The aft crossbows were piles of kindling.
The foresail was tattered. The satellite array that powered the onboard Internet and TV was blown to bits, which had really made Coach Hedge mad. Their bronze dragon figurehead, Festus, was coughing up smoke like he had a hairball, and Leo could tell from the groaning sounds on the port side that some of the aerial oars had been knocked out of alignment or broken off completely, which explained why the ship was listing and shuddering as it flew, the engine wheezing like an asthmatic steam train.
He choked back a sob. It's fuzzy. Annabeth Leo hated to make her angry; that girl scared him , Coach Hedge with his furry goat legs, his orange polo shirt, and his baseball bat did he have to carry that everywhere? Leo wasn't sure what to make of Frank. He looked like a baby sumo wrestler, though Leo wasn't stupid enough to say that aloud. Leo's memory was ha2y, but while he'd been half conscious, he was pretty sure he'd seen a dragon land on the ship — a dragon that had turned into Frank.
Annabeth crossed her arms. I couldn't control it. In his gym clothes, with his cap pulled over his horns, he looked just like he used to at the Wilderness School, where he'd spent a year undercover as Jason, Piper, and Leo's P.
The way the old satyr was glowering, Leo almost wondered if the coach was going to order him to do push-ups. You attacked some Romans. But did you have to knock out the satellite channels? I was right in the middle of watching a cage match. Even Hedge wasn't crazy enough to defy Annabeth.
She knelt next to Leo. Her gray eyes were as steely as ball bearings. Her blond hair fell loose around her shoulders, but Leo didn't find that attractive. He had no idea where the stereotype of dumb giggly blondes came from. Ever since he'd met Annabeth at the Grand Canyon last winter, when she'd marched toward him with that Give me Percy Jackson or Til kill you expression, Leo thought of blondes as much too smart and much too dangerous.
Did he frame you, or — " "No. I did. But at the same time, I felt like I wanted to. Something was making me do it. There was this cold feeling inside me — " "A cold feeling. She sounded almost Please let Jason be okay.
As soon as they'd gotten on board, Piper had taken Jason below.
The cut on his head had looked pretty bad. Leo had known Jason longer than anyone at Camp Half-Blood. They were best friends. If Jason didn't make it. If it was possible for Leo to feel worse, he did. Annabeth now trusted a Roman demigod she'd known for like, three seconds, more than she trusted Leo.
Once she was gone, Leo and Frank stared at each other. The big dude looked pretty odd in his bedsheet toga, with his gray pullover hoodie and jeans, and a bow and quiver from the ship's armory slung over his shoulder.
Leo remembered the time he had met the Hunters of Artemis — a bunch of cute lithe girls in silvery clothes, all armed with bows. He imagined Frank frolicking along with them.
The idea was so ridiculous, it almost made him feel better. So," Frank said. About the firing on the camp Octavian could be behind it, like magically or something. He didn't want the Romans getting along with you guys.
He was grateful to this kid for not hating him. But he knew it hadn't been Octavian. Leo had walked to a ballista and started firing.
Part of him had known it was wrong. He'd asked himself: What the heck am I doing? But he'd done it anyway. Maybe he was going crazy. The stress of all those months working on the Argo II might've finally made him crack. But he couldn't think about that. He needed to do something productive.
His hands needed to be busy. You mind.
Come on. I'll introduce you. Well, aside from the fact that last winter he'd lost everything except his head — but Leo didn't count that. When they reached the bow of the ship, the figurehead turned a hundred and eighty degrees to look at them.
Frank yelped and backed away. Leo would have laughed if he hadn't felt so bad. Frank, this is Festus. He used to be a full bronze dragon, but we had an accident. He's kind of the ship's main interface now. How are things looking, Festus? Over the last few months, Leo had learned to interpret this machine language. Other demigods could understand Latin and Greek. Leo could speak Creak and Squeak. The port aerial oars have to be fixed before we can go full speed again.
We'll need some repair materials: Celestial bronze, tar, lime — " "What do you need limes for? Calcium carbonate, used in cement and a bunch of other — Ah, never mind.
The point is, this ship isn't going far unless we can fix it. It sounded like AY-zuhl. She's following us. Leo studied him. Yes, definitely.
I'm sure. The problem is we can only manage one landing. The way the hull and the oars are, we won't be able to lift off again until we repair, so we'll have to make sure we land somewhere with all the right supplies. You can't just stock up at Home Depot. You should've seen him when he had a body. But he didn't say that. It was too painful, remembering the way Festus used to be. Leo peered over the ship's bow. The Central California valley was passing below.
Leo didn't hold out much hope that they could find what they needed all in one place, but they had to try. Leo also wanted to put as much distance as possible between himself and New Rome. The Argo II could cover vast distances pretty quickly, thanks to its magical engine, but Leo figured the Romans had magic travel methods of their own.
Behind him, the stairs creaked. Percy and Annabeth climbed up, their faces grim. Leo's heart stumbled. I'm so sorry — " "Sorry? Annabeth put a hand on her boyfriend's chest. Right now, we have to regroup and make a plan. What's the situation with the ship? The way Percy had looked at him made him feel the same as when Jason summoned lightning. Leo's skin tingled, and every instinct in his body screamed, Duck!
He told Annabeth about the damage and the supplies they needed. At least he felt better talking about something fixable. He was bemoaning the shortage of Celestial bronze when Festus began to whir and squeak. Frank, why don't you turn into a bird or something? Fly down and tell your girlfriend to meet us at the Great Salt Lake in Utah. With the oars damaged and the foresail torn, Leo could barely manage a controlled descent. The others strapped themselves in below — except for Coach Hedge, who insisted on clinging to the forward rail, yelling, "YEAH!
Bring it on, lake! Festus creaked and whirred warning signals, which were relayed through the intercom to the quarterdeck. He didn't have much time to take in the scenery. To the southeast, a city was nestled in the foothills of a mountain range, blue and purple in the afternoon shadows. A flat desert landscape spread to the south. Directly beneath them the Great Salt Lake glittered like aluminum foil, the shoreline etched with white salt marshes that reminded Leo of aerial photos of Mars.
A swell of salt water washed over the bow, dousing Coach Hedge. The Argo II listed dangerously to starboard, then righted itself and rocked on the surface of the lake. Machinery hummed as the aerial blades that were still working changed to nautical form. Three banks of robotic oars dipped into the water and began moving them forward. He was drenched from his horns to hooves, but grinning like a crazy goat. You can keep watch, in case — you know, the lake decides to attack us or something.
Leo rang the All clear bell and headed for the stairs. Before he got there, a loud clump-clump-clump shook the hull. A tan stallion appeared on deck with Hazel Levesque on his back. Can that thing fly? Water, vertical surfaces, small mountains — none of that bothers him.
He was tempted to ask if they had met before, but he was sure they hadn't. He would remember a pretty girl paying such close attention to him. That didn't happen a lot.
She's Frank's girlfriend, he reminded himself. Frank was still below, but Leo almost wished the big guy would come up the stairs. The way Hazel was studying Leo made him feel uneasy and self-conscious.
Coach Hedge crept forward with his baseball bat, eyeing the magic horse suspiciously. I built a stable belowdecks, if Arion wants to — " "He's more of a free spirit. But I want to see the ship. Lead the way. The first deck had one central corridor with crew cabins on either side. On a normal trireme, most of the space would've been taken up with three rows of benches for a few hundred sweaty guys to do the manual labor, but Leo's oars were automated and retractable, so they took up very little room inside the hull.
The ship's power came from the engine room on the second and lowest deck, which also housed sickbay, storage, and the stables. Leo led the way down the hall. He'd built the ship with eight cabins — seven for the demigods of the prophecy, and a room for Coach Hedge Seriously — Chiron considered him a responsible adult chaperone?
On the way, they passed Jason's room. The door was open. Piper sat at the side of his berth, holding Jason's hand while he snored with an ice pack on his head. Piper glanced at Leo. She held a finger to her lips for quiet, but she didn't look angry.
That was something. Leo tried to force down his guilt, and they kept walking. When they reached the mess hall, they found the others — Percy, Annabeth, and Frank — sitting dejectedly around the dining table. Leo had made the lounge as nice as possible, since he figured they'd be spending a lot of time there. The cupboard was lined with magic cups and plates from Camp Half-Blood, which would fill up with whatever food or drink you wanted on command.
There was also a magical ice chest with canned drinks, perfect for picnics ashore. The chairs were cushy recliners with thousand-finger massage, built-in headphones, and sword and drink holders for all your demigod kicking-back needs. There were no windows, but the walls were enchanted to show real-time footage from Camp Half- Blood — the beach, the forest, the strawberry fields — although now Leo was wondering if this made people homesick rather than happy.
Percy was staring longingly at a sunset view of Half-Blood Hill, where the Golden Fleece glittered in the branches of the tall pine tree. I mean From the Sibylline Books? Frank explained how their harpy friend was freakishly good at memorizing books. At some point in the past, she'd inhaled a collection of ancient prophecies that had supposedly been destroyed around the fall of Rome. She was a captive when we found her. I just didn't want They'll be safe there. Annabeth laced her fingers.
We have to get this ship fixed. Leo, what do we need? Also, Celestial bronze and lime. According to Festus, we can find both of those on an island in the lake, just west of here. The Romans will send a strike force after us.
It's a matter of honor. Honestly, I — " Annabeth raised her hand. We agree it couldn't have been you, Leo. That cold feeling you mentioned I felt it too. It must have been some sort of magic, either Octavian or Gaea or one of her minions.
But until we understand what happened — " Frank grunted. One of his powers as a son of Hephaestus was that he could summon flames at will; but he had to be careful not to do so by accident, especially on a ship filled with explosives and flammable supplies.
Nobody goes anywhere alone. We can leave Piper and Coach Hedge on board with Jason. Send one team into town to get tar. Another team can go after the bronze and the lime. The ship is designed to conceal and protect us.
We should be safe enough on board; but if we go on expeditions, we shouldn't travel in groups larger than three. No sense alerting more of Gaea's minions than we have to. Frank, you were amazing, turning into a dragon! Could you do it again to fly Annabeth and Percy into town for the tar? But what about you? She had even more nervous energy than he did. We can all meet back here by dark.
Obviously, he didn't like the idea of Leo going off with Hazel. For some reason, Frank's disapproval made Leo want to go. He had to prove he was trustworthy. He wasn't going to fire any random ballistae again. We could use some good luck. That doesn't mean we'll get it.
The horse's hooves turned the surface of the lake to salty mist. Leo put his hand against the horse's side and felt the muscles working like a well-oiled machine. For the first time, he understood why car engines were measured in horsepower. Arion was a four-legged Maserati.
Ahead of them lay an island — a line of sand so white, it might have been pure table salt. Behind that rose an expanse of grassy dunes and weathered boulders. Leo sat behind Hazel, one arm around her waist.
The close contact made him a little uncomfortable, but it was the only way he could stay on board or whatever you called it with a horse. Before they left, Percy had pulled him aside to tell him Hazel's story. Percy made it sound like he was just doing Leo a favor, but there'd been an undertone like If you mess with my friend, I will personally feed you to a great white shark.
According to Percy, Hazel was a daughter of Pluto. She'd died in the s and been brought back to life only a few months ago. Leo found that hard to believe. Hazel seemed warm and very alive, not like the ghosts or the other reborn mortals Leo had tangled with. She seemed good with people, too, unlike Leo, who was much more comfortable with machines.
Living stuff, like horses and girls? He had no idea what made them work.
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