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Also by Rick Riordan

Perc y Jac kson and t he Ol ympi ans, Book One:

The Lightning Thief
Perc y Jac kson and t he Ol ympi ans, Book Two:
The Sea of Monsters
Perc y Jac kson and t he Ol ympi ans, Book Three:
The Titans Curse
Perc y Jac kson and t he Ol ympi ans, Book Four:
The Battle of the Labyrinth
Perc y Jac kson and t he Ol ympi ans, Book Fi ve:
The Last Olympian
The Kane Chroni c l es, Book One:
The Red Pyramid
The Kane Chroni c l es, Book Two:
The Throne of Fire
The Kane Chroni c l es, Book Three:
The Serpents Shadow
The Heroes of Ol ympus, Book One:
The Lost Hero
The Heroes of Ol ympus, Book Two:
The Son of Neptune

Many t hanks t o Sen Hemingway, curat or of Greek and Roman ant iquit ies at t he Met ropolit an
Museum of Art , New York, for helping me follow t he Mark of At hena t o it s source.
Copyright 2012 by Rick Riordan
All right s reserved. Published by Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No
part of t his book may be reproduced or t ransmit t ed in any form or by any means, elect ronic or
mechanical, including phot ocopying, recording, or by any informat ion st orage and ret rieval
syst em, wit hout writ t en permission from t he publisher. For informat ion address Disney
Hyperion Books, 114 Fift h Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.
ISBN 978-1-4231-5516-4
Visit www.disneyhyperionbooks.com

Also by Rick Riordan
Tit le Page
Dedicat ion
About t he Aut hor
To Speedy
Strays and wanderers are often sent by the gods.
UNTI L SHE MET THE EXPLODI NG STATUE, Annabet h t hought she was prepared for anyt hing.
Shed paced t he deck of t heir flying warship, t he Argo II, checking and double-checking t he
ballist ae t o make sure t hey were locked down. She confirmed t hat t he whit e We come in
peace flag was flying from t he mast . She reviewed t he plan wit h t he rest of t he crewand t he
backup plan, and t he backup plan for t he backup plan.
Most import ant , she pulled aside t heir war-crazed chaperone, Coach Gleeson Hedge, and
encouraged him t o t ake t he morning off in his cabin and wat ch reruns of mixed mart ial art s
championships. The last t hing t hey needed as t hey flew a magical Greek t rireme int o a
pot ent ially host ile Roman camp was a middle-aged sat yr in gym clot hes waving a club and
yelling Die!
Everyt hing seemed t o be in order. Even t hat myst erious chill shed been feeling since t he
ship launched had dissipat ed, at least for now.
The warship descended t hrough t he clouds, but Annabet h couldnt st op second-guessing
herself. What if t his was a bad idea? What if t he Romans panicked and at t acked t hem on
sight ?
The Argo II definit ely did not look friendly. Two hundred feet long, wit h a bronze-plat ed hull,
mount ed repeat ing crossbows fore and aft , a flaming met al dragon for a figurehead, and t wo
rot at ing ballist ae amidships t hat could fire explosive bolt s powerful enough t o blast t hrough
concret ewell, it wasnt t he most appropriat e ride for a meet -and-greet wit h t he neighbors.
Annabet h had t ried t o give t he Romans a heads-up. Shed asked Leo t o send one of his
special invent ionsa holographic scrollt o alert t heir friends inside t he camp. Hopefully t he
message had got t en t hrough. Leo had want ed t o paint a giant message on t he bot t om of t he
hullWASSUP? wit h a smiley facebut Annabet h vet oed t he idea. She wasnt sure t he
Romans had a sense of humor.
Too lat e t o t urn back now.
The clouds broke around t heir hull, revealing t he gold-and-green carpet of t he Oakland Hills
below t hem. Annabet h gripped one of t he bronze shields t hat lined t he st arboard rail.
Her t hree crewmat es t ook t heir places.
On t he st ern quart erdeck, Leo rushed around like a madman, checking his gauges and
wrest ling levers. Most helmsmen wouldve been sat isfied wit h a pilot s wheel or a t iller. Leo had
also inst alled a keyboard, monit or, aviat ion cont rols from a Learjet , a dubst ep soundboard, and
mot ion-cont rol sensors from a Nint endo Wii. He could t urn t he ship by pulling on t he t hrot t le,
fire weapons by sampling an album, or raise sails by shaking his Wii cont rollers really fast . Even
by demigod st andards, Leo was seriously ADHD.
Piper paced back and fort h bet ween t he mainmast and t he ballist ae, pract icing her lines.
Lower your weapons, she murmured. We just want t o t alk.
Her charmspeak was so powerful, t he words flowed over Annabet h, filling her wit h t he desire
t o drop her dagger and have a nice long chat .
For a child of Aphrodit e, Piper t ried hard t o play down her beaut y. Today she was dressed in
t at t ered jeans, worn-out sneakers, and a whit e t ank t op wit h pink Hello Kit t y designs. (Maybe
as a joke, t hough Annabet h could never be sure wit h Piper.) Her choppy brown hair was
braided down t he right side wit h an eagles feat her.
Then t here was Pipers boyfriendJason. He st ood at t he bow on t he raised crossbow
plat form, where t he Romans could easily spot him. His knuckles were whit e on t he hilt of his
golden sword. Ot herwise he looked calm for a guy who was making himself a t arget . Over his
jeans and orange Camp Half-Blood T-shirt , hed donned a t oga and a purple cloaksymbols of
his old rank as praet or. Wit h his wind-ruffled blond hair and his icy blue eyes, he looked
ruggedly handsome and in cont roljust like a son of Jupit er should. Hed grown up at Camp
Jupit er, so hopefully his familiar face would make t he Romans hesit ant t o blow t he ship out of
t he sky.
Annabet h t ried t o hide it , but she st ill didnt complet ely t rust t he guy. He act ed t oo perfect
always following t he rules, always doing t he honorable t hing. He even looked t oo perfect . In t he
back of her mind, she had a nagging t hought : What if t his is a t rick and he bet rays us? What if
we sail int o Camp Jupit er, and he says, Hey, Romans! Check out these prisoners and this cool
ship I brought you!
Annabet h doubt ed t hat would happen. St ill, she couldnt look at him wit hout get t ing a bit t er
t ast e in her mout h. Hed been part of Heras forced exchange program t o int roduce t he t wo
camps. Her Most Annoying Majest y, Queen of Olympus, had convinced t he ot her gods t hat
t heir t wo set s of childrenRoman and Greekhad t o combine forces t o save t he world from
t he evil goddess Gaea, who was awakening from t he eart h, and her horrible children t he giant s.
Wit hout warning, Hera had plucked up Percy Jackson, Annabet hs boyfriend, wiped his
memory, and sent him t o t he Roman camp. In exchange, t he Greeks had got t en Jason. None of
t hat was Jasons fault ; but every t ime Annabet h saw him, she remembered how much she
missed Percy.
Percywho was somewhere below t hem right now.
Oh, gods. Panic welled up inside her. She forced it down. She couldnt afford t o get
Im a child of Athena, she t old herself. I have to stick to my plan and not get distracted.
She felt it againt hat familiar shiver, as if a psychot ic snowman had crept up behind her and
was breat hing down her neck. She t urned, but no one was t here.
Must be her nerves. Even in a world of gods and monst ers, Annabet h couldnt believe a new
warship would be haunt ed. The Argo II was well prot ect ed. The Celest ial bronze shields along
t he rail were enchant ed t o ward off monst ers, and t heir onboard sat yr, Coach Hedge, would
have sniffed out any int ruders.
Annabet h wished she could pray t o her mot her for guidance, but t hat wasnt possible now.
Not aft er last mont h, when shed had t hat horrible encount er wit h her mom and got t en t he
worst present of her life.
The cold pressed closer. She t hought she heard a faint voice in t he wind, laughing. Every
muscle in her body t ensed. Somet hing was about t o go t erribly wrong.
She almost ordered Leo t o reverse course. Then, in t he valley below, horns sounded. The
Romans had spot t ed t hem.
Annabet h t hought she knew what t o expect . Jason had described Camp Jupit er t o her in
great det ail. St ill, she had t rouble believing her eyes. Ringed by t he Oakland Hills, t he valley was
at least t wice t he size of Camp Half-Blood. A small river snaked around one side and curled
t oward t he cent er like a capit al let t er G, empt ying int o a sparkling blue lake.
Direct ly below t he ship, nest led at t he edge of t he lake, t he cit y of New Rome gleamed in t he
sunlight . She recognized landmarks Jason had t old her about t he hippodrome, t he coliseum,
t he t emples and parks, t he neighborhood of Seven Hills wit h it s winding st reet s, colorful villas,
and flowering gardens.
She saw evidence of t he Romans recent bat t le wit h an army of monst ers. The dome was
cracked open on a building she guessed was t he Senat e House. The forums broad plaza was
pit t ed wit h crat ers. Some fount ains and st at ues were in ruins.
Dozens of kids in t ogas were st reaming out of t he Senat e House t o get a bet t er view of t he
Argo II. More Romans emerged from t he shops and cafs, gawking and point ing as t he ship
About half a mile t o t he west , where t he horns were blowing, a Roman fort st ood on a hill. It
looked just like t he illust rat ions Annabet h had seen in milit ary hist ory bookswit h a defensive
t rench lined wit h spikes, high walls, and wat cht owers armed wit h scorpion ballist ae. Inside,
perfect rows of whit e barracks lined t he main roadt he Via Principalis.
A column of demigods emerged from t he gat es, t heir armor and spears glint ing as t hey
hurried t oward t he cit y. In t he midst of t heir ranks was an act ual war elephant .
Annabet h want ed t o land t he Argo II before t hose t roops arrived, but t he ground was st ill
several hundred feet below. She scanned t he crowd, hoping t o cat ch a glimpse of Percy.
Then somet hing behind her went BOOM!

The explosion almost knocked her overboard. She whirled and found herself eye t o eye wit h an
angry st at ue.
Unaccept able! he shrieked.
Apparent ly he had exploded int o exist ence, right t here on t he deck. Sulfurous yellow smoke
rolled off his shoulders. Cinders popped around his curly hair. From t he waist down, he was
not hing but a square marble pedest al. From t he waist up, he was a muscular human figure in a
carved t oga.
I will not have weapons inside t he Pomerian Line! he announced in a fussy t eacher voice. I
certainly will not have Greeks!
Jason shot Annabet h a look t hat said, Ive got this.
Terminus, he said. It s me. Jason Grace.
Oh, I remember you, Jason! Terminus grumbled. I t hought you had bet t er sense t han t o
consort wit h t he enemies of Rome!
But t heyre not enemies
That s right , Piper jumped in. We just want t o t alk. If we could
Ha! snapped t he st at ue. Dont t ry t hat charmspeak on me, young lady. And put down t hat
dagger before I slap it out of your hands!
Piper glanced at her bronze dagger, which shed apparent ly forgot t en she was holding.
Umokay. But how would you slap it ? You dont have any arms.
Impert inence! There was a sharp POP and a flash of yellow. Piper yelped and dropped t he
dagger, which was now smoking and sparking.
Lucky for you Ive just been t hrough a bat t le, Terminus announced. If I were at full
st rengt h, I wouldve blast ed t his flying monst rosit y out of t he sky already!
Hold up. Leo st epped forward, wagging his Wii cont roller. Did you just call my ship a
monst rosit y? I know you didnt do t hat .
The idea t hat Leo might at t ack t he st at ue wit h his gaming device was enough t o snap
Annabet h out of her shock.
Let s all calm down. She raised her hands t o show she had no weapons. I t ake it youre
Terminus, t he god of boundaries. Jason t old me you prot ect t he cit y of New Rome, right ? Im
Annabet h Chase, daught er of
Oh, I know who you are! The st at ue glared at her wit h it s blank whit e eyes. A child of
Athena, Minervas Greek form. Scandalous! You Greeks have no sense of decency. We
Romans know t he proper place for that goddess.
Annabet h clenched her jaw. This st at ue wasnt making it easy t o be diplomat ic. What
exact ly do you mean, that goddess? And what s so scandalous about
Right ! Jason int errupt ed. Anyway, Terminus, were here on a mission of peace. Wed love
permission t o land so we can
Impossible! t he god squeaked. Lay down your weapons and surrender! Leave my cit y
immediat ely!
Which is it ? Leo asked. Surrender, or leave?
Bot h! Terminus said. Surrender, t hen leave. I am slapping your face for asking such a
st upid quest ion, you ridiculous boy! Do you feel t hat ?
Wow. Leo st udied Terminus wit h professional int erest . Youre wound up pret t y t ight . You
got any gears in t here t hat need loosening? I could t ake a look.
He exchanged t he Wii cont roller for a screwdriver from his magic t ool belt and t apped t he
st at ues pedest al.
St op t hat ! Terminus insist ed. Anot her small explosion made Leo drop his screwdriver.
Weapons are not allowed on Roman soil inside t he Pomerian Line.
The what ? Piper asked.
Cit y limit s, Jason t ranslat ed.
And t his ent ire ship is a weapon! Terminus said. You cannot land!
Down in t he valley, t he legion reinforcement s were halfway t o t he cit y. The crowd in t he
forum was over a hundred st rong now. Annabet h scanned t he faces andoh, gods. She saw
him. He was walking t oward t he ship wit h his arms around t wo ot her kids like t hey were best
buddiesa st out boy wit h a black buzz cut , and a girl wearing a Roman cavalry helmet . Percy
looked so at ease, so happy. He wore a purple cape just like Jasonst he mark of a praet or.
Annabet hs heart did a gymnast ics rout ine.
Leo, st op t he ship, she ordered.
What ?
You heard me. Keep us right where we are.
Leo pulled out his cont roller and yanked it upward. All ninet y oars froze in place. The ship
st opped sinking.
Terminus, Annabet h said, t heres no rule against hovering over New Rome, is t here?
The st at ue frowned. Well, no
We can keep t he ship aloft , Annabet h said. Well use a rope ladder t o reach t he forum.
That way, t he ship wont be on Roman soil. Not t echnically.
The st at ue seemed t o ponder t his. Annabet h wondered if he was scrat ching his chin wit h
imaginary hands.
I like t echnicalit ies, he admit t ed. St ill
All our weapons will st ay aboard t he ship, Annabet h promised. I assume t he Romans
even t hose reinforcement s marching t oward uswill also have t o honor your rules inside t he
Pomerian Line if you t ell t hem t o?
Of course! Terminus said. Do I look like I t olerat e rule breakers?
Uh, Annabet h Leo said. You sure t his is a good idea?
She closed her fist s t o keep t hem from shaking. That cold feeling was st ill t here. It float ed
just behind her, and now t hat Terminus was no longer shout ing and causing explosions, she
t hought she could hear t he presence laughing, as if it was delight ed by t he bad choices she
was making.
But Percy was down t herehe was so close. She had t o reach him.
It ll be fine, she said. No one will be armed. We can t alk in peace. Terminus will make sure
each side obeys t he rules. She looked at t he marble st at ue. Do we have an agreement ?
Terminus sniffed. I suppose. For now. You may climb down your ladder t o New Rome,
daught er of At hena. Please t ry not t o dest roy my t own.
A SEA OF HASTI LY ASSEMBLED demigods part ed for Annabet h as she walked t hrough t he forum. Some
looked t ense, some nervous. Some were bandaged from t heir recent bat t le wit h t he giant s, but
no one was armed. No one at t acked.
Ent ire families had gat hered t o see t he newcomers. Annabet h saw couples wit h babies,
t oddlers clinging t o t heir parent s legs, even some elderly folks in a combinat ion of Roman
robes and modern clot hes. Were all of t hem demigods? Annabet h suspect ed so, t hough shed
never seen a place like t his. At Camp Half-Blood, most demigods were t eens. If t hey survived
long enough t o graduat e from high school, t hey eit her st ayed on as counselors or left t o st art
lives as best t hey could in t he mort al world. Here, it was an ent ire mult igenerat ional communit y.
At t he far end of t he crowd, Annabet h spot t ed Tyson t he Cyclops and Percys hellhound,
Mrs. OLearywho had been t he first scout ing part y from Camp Half-Blood t o reach Camp
Jupit er. They looked t o be in good spirit s. Tyson waved and grinned. He was wearing an SPQR
banner like a giant bib.
Some part of Annabet hs mind regist ered how beaut iful t he cit y wast he smells from t he
bakeries, t he gurgling fount ains, t he flowers blooming in t he gardens. And t he archit ect ure
gods, t he archit ect uregilded marble columns, dazzling mosaics, monument al arches, and
t erraced villas.
In front of her, t he demigods made way for a girl in full Roman armor and a purple cape. Dark
hair t umbled across her shoulders. Her eyes were as black as obsidian.
Jason had described her well. Even wit hout t hat , Annabet h would have singled her out as
t he leader. Medals decorat ed her armor. She carried herself wit h such confidence t he ot her
demigods backed away and avert ed t heir gaze.
Annabet h recognized somet hing else in her face, t ooin t he hard set of her mout h and t he
deliberat e way she raised her chin like she was ready t o accept any challenge. Reyna was
forcing a look of courage, while holding back a mixt ure of hopefulness and worry and fear t hat
she couldnt show in public.
Annabet h knew t hat expression. She saw it every t ime she looked in a mirror.
The t wo girls considered each ot her. Annabet hs friends fanned out on eit her side. The
Romans murmured Jasons name, st aring at him in awe.
Then someone else appeared from t he crowd, and Annabet hs vision t unneled.
Percy smiled at hert hat sarcast ic, t roublemaker smile t hat had annoyed her for years but
event ually had become endearing. His sea-green eyes were as gorgeous as she remembered.
His dark hair was swept t o one side, like hed just come from a walk on t he beach. He looked
even bet t er t han he had six mont hs agot anner and t aller, leaner and more muscular.
Annabet h was t oo st unned t o move. She felt t hat if she got any closer t o him, all t he
molecules in her body might combust . Shed secret ly had a crush on him since t hey were
t welve years old. Last summer, shed fallen for him hard. Theyd been a happy couple for four
mont hsand t hen hed disappeared.
During t heir separat ion, somet hing had happened t o Annabet hs feelings. Theyd grown
painfully int enselike shed been forced t o wit hdraw from a life-saving medicat ion. Now she
wasnt sure which was more excruciat ingliving wit h t hat horrible absence, or being wit h him
The praet or Reyna st raight ened. Wit h apparent reluct ance, she t urned t oward Jason.
Jason Grace, my former colleague She spoke t he word colleague like it was a dangerous
t hing. I welcome you home. And t hese, your friends
Annabet h didnt mean t o, but she surged forward. Percy rushed t oward her at t he same
t ime. The crowd t ensed. Some reached for swords t hat werent t here.
Percy t hrew his arms around her. They kissed, and for a moment not hing else mat t ered. An
ast eroid could have hit t he planet and wiped out all life, and Annabet h wouldnt have cared.
Percy smelled of ocean air. His lips were salt y.
Seaweed Brain, she t hought giddily.
Percy pulled away and st udied her face. Gods, I never t hought
Annabet h grabbed his wrist and flipped him over her shoulder. He slammed int o t he st one
pavement . Romans cried out . Some surged forward, but Reyna shout ed, Hold! St and down!
Annabet h put her knee on Percys chest . She pushed her forearm against his t hroat . She
didnt care what t he Romans t hought . A whit e-hot lump of anger expanded in her chest a
t umor of worry and bit t erness t hat shed been carrying around since last aut umn.
If you ever leave me again, she said, her eyes st inging, I swear t o all t he gods
Percy had t he nerve t o laugh. Suddenly t he lump of heat ed emot ions melt ed inside
Annabet h.
Consider me warned, Percy said. I missed you, t oo.
Annabet h rose and helped him t o his feet . She want ed t o kiss him again so badly, but she
managed t o rest rain herself.
Jason cleared his t hroat . So, yeah.It s good t o be back.
He int roduced Reyna t o Piper, who looked a lit t le miffed t hat she hadnt got t en t o say t he
lines shed been pract icing, t hen t o Leo, who grinned and flashed a peace sign.
And t his is Annabet h, Jason said. Uh, normally she doesnt judo-flip people.
Reynas eyes sparkled. You sure youre not a Roman, Annabet h? Or an Amazon?
Annabet h didnt know if t hat was a compliment , but she held out her hand. I only at t ack my
boyfriend like t hat , she promised. Pleased t o meet you.
Reyna clasped her hand firmly. It seems we have a lot t o discuss. Cent urions!
A few of t he Roman campers hust led forwardapparent ly t he senior officers. Two kids
appeared at Percys side, t he same ones Annabet h had seen him chumming around wit h
earlier. The burly Asian guy wit h t he buzz cut was about fift een. He was cut e in a sort of
oversized-cuddly-panda-bear way. The girl was younger, maybe t hirt een, wit h amber eyes and
chocolat e skin and long curly hair. Her cavalry helmet was t ucked under her arm.
Annabet h could t ell from t heir body language t hat t hey felt close t o Percy. They st ood next
t o him prot ect ively, like t heyd already shared many advent ures. She fought down a t winge of
jealousy. Was it possible Percy and t his girlno. The chemist ry bet ween t he t hree of t hem
wasnt like t hat . Annabet h had spent her whole life learning t o read people. It was a survival
skill. If she had t o guess, shed say t he big Asian guy was t he girls boyfriend, t hough she
suspect ed t hey hadnt been t oget her long.
There was one t hing she didnt underst and: what was t he girl st aring at ? She kept frowning
in Piper and Leos direct ion, like she recognized one of t hem and t he memory was painful.
Meanwhile, Reyna was giving orders t o her officers. t ell t he legion t o st and down. Dakot a,
alert t he spirit s in t he kit chen. Tell t hem t o prepare a welcome feast . And, Oct avian
Youre let t ing t hese int ruders int o t he camp? A t all guy wit h st ringy blond hair elbowed his
way forward. Reyna, t he securit y risks
Were not t aking t hem t o t he camp, Oct avian. Reyna flashed him a st ern look. Well eat
here, in t he forum.
Oh, much bet t er, Oct avian grumbled. He seemed t o be t he only one who didnt defer t o
Reyna as his superior, despit e t he fact t hat he was scrawny and pale and for some reason had
t hree t eddy bears hanging from his belt . You want us t o relax in t he shadow of t heir warship.
These are our guest s. Reyna clipped off every word. We will welcome t hem, and we will
t alk t o t hem. As augur, you should burn an offering t o t hank t he gods for bringing Jason back
t o us safely.
Good idea, Percy put in. Go burn your bears, Oct avian.
Reyna looked like she was t rying not t o smile. You have my orders. Go.
The officers dispersed. Oct avian shot Percy a look of absolut e loat hing. Then he gave
Annabet h a suspicious once-over and st alked away.
Percy slipped his hand int o Annabet hs. Dont worry about Oct avian, he said. Most of t he
Romans are good peoplelike Frank and Hazel here, and Reyna. Well be fine.
Annabet h felt as if someone had draped a cold washclot h across her neck. She heard t hat
whispering laught er again, as if t he presence had followed her from t he ship.
She looked up at t he Argo II. It s massive bronze hull glit t ered in t he sunlight . Part of her
want ed t o kidnap Percy right now, climb on board, and get out of here while t hey st ill could.
She couldnt shake t he feeling t hat somet hing was about t o go t erribly wrong. And t here
was no way she would ever risk losing Percy again.
Well be fine, she repeat ed, t rying t o believe it .
Excellent , Reyna said. She t urned t o Jason, and Annabet h t hought t here was a hungry
sort of gleam in her eyes. Let s t alk, and we can have a proper reunion.
ANNABETH WI SHED SHE HAD AN APPETI TE, because t he Romans knew how t o eat .
Set s of couches and low t ables were cart ed int o t he forum unt il it resembled a furnit ure
showroom. Romans lounged in groups of t en or t went y, t alking and laughing while wind spirit s
auraeswirled overhead, bringing an endless assort ment of pizzas, sandwiches, chips, cold
drinks, and fresh-baked cookies. Drift ing t hrough t he crowd were purple ghost sLaresin
t ogas and legionnaire armor. Around t he edges of t he feast , sat yrs (no, fauns, Annabet h
t hought ) t rot t ed from t able t o t able, panhandling for food and spare change. In t he nearby
fields, t he war elephant frolicked wit h Mrs. OLeary, and children played t ag around t he st at ues
of Terminus t hat lined t he cit y limit s.
The whole scene was so familiar yet so complet ely alien t hat it gave Annabet h vert igo.
All she want ed t o do was be wit h Percypreferably alone. She knew she would have t o
wait . If t heir quest was going t o succeed, t hey needed t hese Romans, which meant get t ing t o
know t hem and building some goodwill.
Reyna and a few of her officers (including t he blond kid Oct avian, freshly back from burning a
t eddy bear for t he gods) sat wit h Annabet h and her crew. Percy joined t hem wit h his t wo new
friends, Frank and Hazel.
As a t ornado of food plat t ers set t led ont o t he t able, Percy leaned over and whispered, I
want t o show you around New Rome. Just you and me. The place is incredible.
Annabet h shouldve felt t hrilled. Just you and me was exact ly what she want ed. Inst ead,
resent ment swelled in her t hroat . How could Percy t alk so ent husiast ically about t his place?
What about Camp Half-Bloodtheir camp, their home?
She t ried not t o st are at t he new marks on Percys forearman SPQR t at t oo like Jasons. At
Camp Half-Blood, demigods got bead necklaces t o commemorat e years of t raining. Here, t he
Romans burned a t at t oo int o your flesh, as if t o say: You belong to us. Permanently.
She swallowed back some bit ing comment s. Okay. Sure.
Ive been t hinking, he said nervously. I had t his idea
He st opped as Reyna called a t oast t o friendship.
Aft er int roduct ions all around, t he Romans and Annabet hs crew began exchanging st ories.
Jason explained how hed arrived at Camp Half-Blood wit hout his memory, and how hed gone
on a quest wit h Piper and Leo t o rescue t he goddess Hera (or Juno, t ake your pickshe was
equally annoying in Greek or Roman) from imprisonment at t he Wolf House in nort hern
Impossible! Oct avian broke in. That s our most sacred place. If t he giant s had imprisoned a
goddess t here
They wouldve dest royed her, Piper said. And blamed it on t he Greeks, and st art ed a war
bet ween t he camps. Now, be quiet and let Jason finish.
Oct avian opened his mout h, but no sound came out . Annabet h really loved Pipers
charmspeak. She not iced Reyna looking back and fort h bet ween Jason and Piper, her brow
creased, as if just beginning t o realize t he t wo of t hem were a couple.
So, Jason cont inued, t hat s how we found out about t he eart h goddess Gaea. Shes st ill
half asleep, but shes t he one freeing t he monst ers from Tart arus and raising t he giant s.
Porphyrion, t he big leader dude we fought at t he Wolf House: he said he was ret reat ing t o t he
ancient landsGreece it self. He plans on awakening Gaea and dest roying t he gods bywhat
did he call it ? Pulling up their roots.
Percy nodded t hought fully. Gaeas been busy over here, t oo. We had our own encount er
wit h Queen Dirt Face.
Percy recount ed his side of t he st ory. He t alked about waking up at t he Wolf House wit h no
memories except for one nameAnnabeth.
When she heard t hat , Annabet h had t o t ry hard not t o cry. Percy t old t hem how hed
t raveled t o Alaska wit h Frank and Hazelhow t heyd defeat ed t he giant Alcyoneus, freed t he
deat h god Thanat os, and ret urned wit h t he lost golden eagle st andard of t he Roman camp t o
repel an at t ack by t he giant s army.
When Percy had finished, Jason whist led appreciat ively. No wonder t hey made you praet or.
Oct avian snort ed. Which means we now have three praet ors! The rules clearly st at e we
can only have t wo!
On t he bright side, Percy said, bot h Jason and I out rank you, Oct avian. So we can both t ell
you t o shut up.
Oct avian t urned as purple as a Roman T-shirt . Jason gave Percy a fist bump.
Even Reyna managed a smile, t hough her eyes were st ormy.
Well have t o figure out t he ext ra praet or problem lat er, she said. Right now we have more
serious issues t o deal wit h.
Ill st ep aside for Jason, Percy said easily. It s no biggie.
No biggie? Oct avian choked. The praet orship of Rome is no biggie?
Percy ignored him and t urned t o Jason. Youre Thalia Graces brot her, huh? Wow. You guys
look not hing alike.
Yeah, I not iced, Jason said. Anyway, t hanks for helping my camp while I was gone. You did
an awesome job.
Back at you, Percy said.
Annabet h kicked his shin. She hat ed t o int errupt a budding bromance, but Reyna was right :
t hey had serious t hings t o discuss. We should t alk about t he Great Prophecy. It sounds like
t he Romans are aware of it t oo?
Reyna nodded. We call it t he Prophecy of Seven. Oct avian, you have it commit t ed t o
Of course, he said. But , Reyna
Recit e it , please. In English, not Lat in.
Oct avian sighed. Seven half-bloods shall answer the call. To storm or fire the world must fall

An oath to keep with a final breath, Annabet h cont inued. And foes bear arms to the Doors
of Death.
Everyone st ared at herexcept for Leo, who had const ruct ed a pinwheel out of aluminum
foil t aco wrappers and was st icking it int o passing wind spirit s.
Annabet h wasnt sure why she had blurt ed out t he lines of t he prophecy. Shed just felt
The big kid, Frank, sat forward, st aring at her in fascinat ion, as if shed grown a t hird eye. Is it
t rue youre a child of MinI mean, At hena?
Yes, she said, suddenly feeling defensive. Why is t hat such a surprise?
Oct avian scoffed. If youre t ruly a child of t he wisdom goddess
Enough, Reyna snapped. Annabet h is what she says. Shes here in peace. Besides She
gave Annabet h a look of grudging respect . Percy has spoken highly of you.
The undert ones in Reynas voice t ook Annabet h a moment t o decipher. Percy looked down,
suddenly int erest ed in his cheeseburger.
Annabet hs face felt hot . Oh, godsReyna had t ried t o make a move on Percy. That
explained t he t inge of bit t erness, maybe even envy, in her words. Percy had t urned her down
for Annabet h.
At t hat moment , Annabet h forgave her ridiculous boyfriend for everyt hing hed ever done
wrong. She want ed t o t hrow her arms around him, but she commanded herself t o st ay cool.
Uh, t hanks, she t old Reyna. At any rat e, some of t he prophecy is becoming clear. Foes
bearing arms t o t he Doors of Deat ht hat means Romans and Greeks. We have t o combine
forces t o find t hose doors.
Hazel, t he girl wit h t he cavalry helmet and t he long curly hair, picked up somet hing next t o
her plat e. It looked like a large ruby; but before Annabet h could be sure, Hazel slipped it int o
t he pocket of her denim shirt .
My brot her, Nico, went looking for t he doors, she said.
Wait , Annabet h said. Nico di Angelo? Hes your brot her?
Hazel nodded as if t his were obvious. A dozen more quest ions crowded int o Annabet hs
head, but it was already spinning like Leos pinwheel. She decided t o let t he mat t er go. Okay.
You were saying?
He disappeared. Hazel moist ened her lips. Im afraidIm not sure, but I t hink somet hings
happened t o him.
Well look for him, Percy promised. We have t o find t he Doors of Deat h anyway. Thanat os
t old us wed find bot h answers in Romelike, t he original Rome. That s on t he way t o Greece,
right ?
Thanat os t old you t his? Annabet h t ried t o wrap her mind around that idea. The deat h
Shed met many gods. Shed even been t o t he Underworld; but Percys st ory about freeing
t he incarnat ion of deat h it self really creeped her out .
Percy t ook a bit e of his burger. Now t hat Deat h is free, monst ers will disint egrat e and ret urn
t o Tart arus again like t hey used t o. But as long as t he Doors of Deat h are open, t heyll just
keep coming back.
Piper t wist ed t he feat her in her hair. Like wat er leaking t hrough a dam, she suggest ed.
Yeah. Percy smiled. Weve got a dam hole.
What ? Piper asked.
Not hing, he said. Inside joke. The point is well have t o find t he doors and close t hem
before we can head t o Greece. It s t he only way well st and a chance of defeat ing t he giant s
and making sure t hey stay defeat ed.
Reyna plucked an apple from a passing fruit t ray. She t urned it in her fingers, st udying t he
dark red surface. You propose an expedit ion t o Greece in your warship. You do realize t hat
t he ancient landsand t he Mare Nost rumare dangerous?
Mary who? Leo asked.
Mare Nost rum, Jason explained. Our Sea. It s what t he Ancient Romans called t he
Medit erranean.
Reyna nodded. The t errit ory t hat was once t he Roman Empire is not only t he birt hplace of
t he gods. It s also t he ancest ral home of t he monst ers, Tit ans and giant sand worse t hings.
As dangerous as t ravel is for demigods here in America, there it would be t en t imes worse.
You said Alaska would be bad, Percy reminded her. We survived t hat .
Reyna shook her head. Her fingernails cut lit t le crescent s int o t he apple as she t urned it .
Percy, t raveling in t he Medit erranean is a different level of danger alt oget her. It s been off
limit s t o Roman demigods for cent uries. No hero in his right mind would go t here.
Then were good! Leo grinned over t he t op of his pinwheel. Because were all crazy, right ?
Besides, t he Argo II is a t op-of-t he-line warship. Shell get us t hrough.
Well have t o hurry, Jason added. I dont know exact ly what t he giant s are planning, but
Gaea is growing more conscious all t he t ime. Shes invading dreams, appearing in weird places,
summoning more and more powerful monst ers. We have t o st op t he giant s before t hey can
wake her up fully.
Annabet h shuddered. Shed had her own share of night mares lat ely.
Seven half-bloods must answer the call, she said. It needs t o be a mix from bot h our
camps. Jason, Piper, Leo, and me. That s four.
And me, Percy said. Along wit h Hazel and Frank. That s seven.
What ? Oct avian shot t o his feet . Were just supposed t o accept t hat ? Wit hout a vot e in
t he senat e? Wit hout a proper debat e? Wit hout
Percy! Tyson t he Cyclops bounded t oward t hem wit h Mrs. OLeary at his heels. On t he
hellhounds back sat t he skinniest harpy Annabet h had ever seena sickly-looking girl wit h
st ringy red hair, a sackclot h dress, and red-feat hered wings.
Annabet h didnt know where t he harpy had come from, but her heart warmed t o see Tyson
in his t at t ered flannel and denim wit h t he backward SPQR banner across his chest . Shed had
some pret t y bad experiences wit h Cyclopes, but Tyson was a sweet heart . He was also Percys
half brot her (long st ory), which made him almost like family.
Tyson st opped by t heir couch and wrung his meat y hands. His big brown eye was full of
concern. Ella is scared, he said.
N-n-no more boat s, t he harpy mut t ered t o herself, picking furiously at her feat hers. Titanic,
Lusitania, Paxboat s are not for harpies.
Leo squint ed. He looked at Hazel, who was seat ed next t o him. Did t hat chicken girl just
compare my ship t o t he Titanic?
Shes not a chicken. Hazel avert ed her eyes, as if Leo made her nervous. Ellas a harpy.
Shes just a lit t lehigh-st rung.
Ella is pret t y, Tyson said. And scared. We need t o t ake her away, but she will not go on
t he ship.
No ships, Ella repeat ed. She looked st raight at Annabet h. Bad luck. There she is. Wisdoms
daught er walks alone
Ella! Frank st ood suddenly. Maybe it s not t he best t ime
The Mark of Athena burns through Rome, Ella cont inued, cupping her hands over her ears
and raising her voice. Twins snuff out the angels breath, Who holds the key to endless death.
Giants bane stands gold and pale, Won through pain from a woven jail.
The effect was like someone dropping a flash grenade on t he t able. Everyone st ared at t he
harpy. No one spoke. Annabet hs heart was pounding. The Mark of AthenaShe resist ed t he
urge t o check her pocket , but she could feel t he silver coin growing warmert he cursed gift
from her mot her. Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me.
Around t hem, t he sounds of t he feast cont inued, but mut ed and dist ant , as if t heir lit t le
clust er of couches had slipped int o a quiet er dimension.
Percy was t he first t o recover. He st ood and t ook Tysons arm.
I know! he said wit h feigned ent husiasm. How about you t ake Ella t o get some fresh air?
You and Mrs. OLeary
Hold on. Oct avian gripped one of his t eddy bears, st rangling it wit h shaking hands. His eyes
fixed on Ella. What was t hat she said? It sounded like
Ella reads a lot , Frank blurt ed out . We found her at a library.
Yes! Hazel said. Probably just somet hing she read in a book.
Books, Ella mut t ered helpfully. Ella likes books.
Now t hat shed said her piece, t he harpy seemed more relaxed. She sat cross-legged on Mrs.
OLearys back, preening her wings.
Annabet h gave Percy a curious glance. Obviously, he and Frank and Hazel were hiding
somet hing. Just as obviously, Ella had recit ed a prophecya prophecy t hat concerned her.
Percys expression said, Help.
That was a prophecy, Oct avian insist ed. It sounded like a prophecy.
No one answered.
Annabet h wasnt exact ly sure what was going on, but she underst ood t hat Percy was on
t he verge of big t rouble.
She forced a laugh. Really, Oct avian? Maybe harpies are different here, on t he Roman side.
Ours have just enough int elligence t o clean cabins and cook lunches. Do yours usually foret ell
t he fut ure? Do you consult t hem for your auguries?
Her words had t he int ended effect . The Roman officers laughed nervously. Some sized up
Ella, t hen looked at Oct avian and snort ed. The idea of a chicken lady issuing prophecies was
apparent ly just as ridiculous t o Romans as it was t o Greeks.
I, uh Oct avian dropped his t eddy bear. No, but
Shes just spout ing lines from some book, Annabet h said, like Hazel suggest ed. Besides,
we already have a real prophecy t o worry about .
She t urned t o Tyson. Percys right . Why dont you t ake Ella and Mrs. OLeary and shadow-
t ravel somewhere for a while. Is Ella okay wit h t hat ?
Large dogs are good, Ella said. Old Yeller, 1957, screenplay by Fred Gipson and William
Annabet h wasnt sure how t o t ake t hat answer, but Percy smiled like t he problem was
Great ! Percy said. Well Iris-message you guys when were done and cat ch up wit h you
lat er.
The Romans looked at Reyna, wait ing for her ruling. Annabet h held her breat h.
Reyna had an excellent poker face. She st udied Ella, but Annabet h couldnt guess what she
was t hinking.
Fine, t he praet or said at last . Go.
Yay! Tyson went around t he couches and gave everyone a big hugeven Oct avian, who
didnt look happy about it . Then he climbed on Mrs. OLearys back wit h Ella, and t he hellhound
bounded out of t he forum. They dove st raight int o a shadow on t he Senat e House wall and
Well. Reyna set down her uneat en apple. Oct avian is right about one t hing. We must gain
t he senat es approval before we let any of our legionnaires go on a quest especially one as
dangerous as youre suggest ing.
This whole t hing smells of t reachery, Oct avian grumbled. That t rireme is not a ship of
Come aboard, man, Leo offered. Ill give you a t our. You can st eer t he boat , and if youre
really good Ill give you a lit t le paper capt ains hat t o wear.
Oct avians nost rils flared. How dare you
It s a good idea, Reyna said. Oct avian, go wit h him. See t he ship. Well convene a senat e
meet ing in one hour.
But Oct avian st opped. Apparent ly he could t ell from Reynas expression t hat furt her
arguing would not be good for his healt h. Fine.
Leo got up. He t urned t o Annabet h, and his smile changed. It happened so quickly, Annabet h
t hought shed imagined it ; but just for a moment someone else seemed t o be st anding in Leos
place, smiling coldly wit h a cruel light in his eyes. Then Annabet h blinked, and Leo was just
regular old Leo again, wit h his usual impish grin.
Back soon, he promised. This is gonna be epic.
A horrible chill set t led over her. As Leo and Oct avian headed for t he rope ladder, she t hought
about calling t hem backbut how could she explain t hat ? Tell everyone she was going crazy,
seeing t hings and feeling cold?
The wind spirit s began clearing t he plat es.
Uh, Reyna, Jason said, if you dont mind, Id like t o show Piper around before t he senat e
meet ing. Shes never seen New Rome.
Reynas expression hardened.
Annabet h wondered how Jason could be so dense. Was it possible he really didnt
underst and how much Reyna liked him? It was obvious enough t o Annabet h. Asking t o show
his new girlfriend around Reynas cit y was rubbing salt in a wound.
Of course, Reyna said coldly.
Percy t ook Annabet hs hand. Yeah, me, t oo. Id like t o show Annabet h
No, Reyna snapped.
Percy knit his eyebrows. Sorry?
Id like a few words wit h Annabet h, Reyna said. Alone. If you dont mind, my fellow praet or.
Her t one made it clear she wasnt really asking permission.
The chill spread down Annabet hs back. She wondered what Reyna was up t o. Maybe t he
praet or didnt like t he idea of two guys who had reject ed her giving t heir girlfriends t ours of her
cit y. Or maybe t here was somet hing she want ed t o say in privat e. Eit her way, Annabet h was
reluct ant t o be alone and unarmed wit h t he Roman leader.
Come, daught er of At hena. Reyna rose from her couch. Walk wit h me.

ANNABETH WANTED TO HATE NEW ROME. But as an aspiring archit ect , she couldnt help admiring t he t erraced
gardens, t he fount ains and t emples, t he winding cobblest one st reet s and gleaming whit e villas.
Aft er t he Tit an War last summer, shed got t en her dream job of redesigning t he palaces of
Mount Olympus. Now, walking t hrough t his miniat ure cit y, she kept t hinking, 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 t ime and love int o t he project .
We have t he best archit ect s and builders in t he world, Reyna said, as if reading her
t hought s. Rome always did, in t he ancient t imes. Many demigods st ay on t o live here aft er
t heir t ime in t he legion. They go t o our universit y. They set t le down t o raise families. Percy
seemed int erest ed in t his fact .
Annabet h wondered what that meant . She must have scowled more fiercely t han she
realized, because Reyna laughed.
Youre a warrior, all right , t he praet or said. Youve got fire in your eyes.
Sorry. Annabet h t ried t o t one down t he glare.
Dont be. Im t he daught er of Bellona.
Roman goddess of war?
Reyna nodded. She t urned and whist led like she was hailing a cab. A moment lat er, t wo
met al dogs raced t oward t hemaut omat on greyhounds, one silver and one gold. They
brushed against Reynas legs and regarded Annabet h wit h glist ening ruby eyes.
My pet s, Reyna explained. Aurum and Argent um. You dont mind if t hey walk wit h us?
Again, Annabet h got t he feeling it wasnt really a request . She not ed t hat t he greyhounds
had t eet h like st eel arrowheads. Maybe weapons werent allowed inside t he cit y, but Reynas
pet s could st ill t ear her t o pieces if t hey chose.
Reyna led her t o an out door caf, where t he wait er clearly knew her. He smiled and handed
her a t o-go cup, t hen offered one t o Annabet h.
Would you like some? Reyna asked. They make wonderful hot chocolat e. Not really a
Roman drink
But chocolat e is universal, Annabet h said.
Exact ly.
It was a warm June aft ernoon, but Annabet h accept ed t he cup wit h t hanks. The t wo of
t hem walked on, Reynas gold and silver dogs roaming nearby.
In our camp, Reyna said, At hena is Minerva. Are you familiar wit h how her Roman form is
different ?
Annabet h hadnt really considered it before. She remembered t he way Terminus had called
At hena that goddess, as if she were scandalous. Oct avian had act ed like Annabet hs very
exist ence was an insult .
I t ake it Minerva isnt uh, quit e as respect ed here?
Reyna blew st eam from her cup. We respect Minerva. Shes t he goddess of craft s and
wisdombut she isnt really a goddess of war. Not for Romans. Shes also a maiden goddess,
like Dianat he one you call Art emis. You wont find any children of Minerva here. The idea t hat
Minerva would have childrenfrankly, it s a lit t le shocking t o us.
Oh. Annabet h felt her face flush. She didnt want t o get int o t he det ails of At henas
childrenhow t hey were born st raight from t he mind of t he goddess, just as At hena herself
had sprung from t he head of Zeus. Talking about t hat always made Annabet h feel self-
conscious, like she was some sort of freak. People usually asked her whet her or not she had a
belly but t on, since she had been born magically. Of course she had a belly but t on. She couldnt
explain how. She didnt really want t o know.
I underst and t hat you Greeks dont see t hings t he same way, Reyna cont inued. But
Romans t ake vows of maidenhood very seriously. The Vest al Virgins, for inst anceif t hey
broke t heir vows and fell in love wit h anyone, t hey would be buried alive. So t he idea t hat a
maiden goddess would have children
Got it . Annabet hs hot chocolat e suddenly t ast ed like dust . No wonder t he Romans had
been giving her st range looks. Im not supposed t o exist . And even if your camp had children of
They wouldnt be like you, Reyna said. They might be craft smen, art ist s, maybe advisers,
but not warriors. Not leaders of dangerous quest s.
Annabet h st art ed t o object t hat she wasnt t he leader of t he quest . Not officially. But she
wondered if her friends on t he Argo II would agree. The past few days, t hey had been looking
t o her for orderseven Jason, who could have pulled rank as t he son of Jupit er, and Coach
Hedge, who didnt t ake orders from anyone.
Theres more. Reyna snapped her fingers, and her golden dog, Aurum, t rot t ed over. The
praet or st roked his ears. The harpy Ellait was a prophecy she spoke. We bot h know t hat ,
dont we?
Annabet h swallowed. Somet hing about Aurums ruby eyes made her uneasy. She had heard
t hat dogs could smell fear, even det ect changes in a humans breat hing and heart beat . She
didnt know if t hat applied t o magical met al dogs, but she decided it would be bet t er t o t ell t he
t rut h.
It sounded like a prophecy, she admit t ed. But Ive never met Ella before t oday, and Ive
never heard t hose lines exact ly.
I have, Reyna murmured. At least some of t hem
A few yards away, t he silver dog barked. A group of children spilled out of a nearby alleyway
and gat hered around Argent um, pet t ing t he dog and laughing, unfazed by it s razor-sharp
t eet h.
We should move on, Reyna said.
They wound t heir way up t he hill. The greyhounds followed, leaving t he children behind.
Annabet h kept glancing at Reynas face. A vague memory st art ed t ugging at hert he way
Reyna brushed her hair behind her ear, t he silver ring she wore wit h t he t orch and sword
Weve met before, Annabet h vent ured. You were younger, I t hink.
Reyna gave her a dry smile. Very good. Percy didnt remember me. Of course you spoke
most ly wit h my older sist er Hylla, who is now queen of t he Amazons. She left just t his morning,
before you arrived. At any rat e, when we last met , I was a mere handmaiden in t he house of
Circe Annabet h remembered her t rip t o t he island of t he sorceress. Shed been t hirt een.
Percy and she had washed ashore from t he Sea of Monst ers. Hylla had welcomed t hem. She
had helped Annabet h get cleaned up and given her a beaut iful new dress and a complet e
makeover. Then Circe had made her sales pit ch: if Annabet h st ayed on t he island, she could
have magical t raining and incredible power. Annabet h had been t empt ed, maybe just a lit t le,
unt il she realized t he place was a t rap, and Percy had been t urned int o a rodent . (That last
part seemed funny aft erward; but at t he t ime, it had been t errifying.) As for Reynashed been
one of t he servant s who had combed Annabet hs hair.
You Annabet h said in amazement . And Hylla is queen of t he Amazons? How did you
t wo?
Long st ory, Reyna said. But I remember you well. You were brave. Id never seen anyone
refuse Circes hospit alit y, much less out wit her. It s no wonder Percy cares for you.
Her voice was wist ful. Annabet h t hought it might be safer not t o respond.
They reached t he t op of t he hill, where a t errace overlooked t he ent ire valley.
This is my favorit e spot , Reyna said. The Garden of Bacchus.
Grapevine t rellises made a canopy overhead. Bees buzzed t hrough honeysuckle and
jasmine, which filled t he aft ernoon air wit h a dizzying mix of perfumes. In t he middle of t he
t errace st ood a st at ue of Bacchus in a sort of ballet posit ion, wearing not hing but a loinclot h,
his cheeks puffed out and lips pursed, spout ing wat er int o a fount ain.
Despit e her worries, Annabet h almost laughed. She knew t he god in his Greek form,
Dionysusor Mr. D, as t hey called him back at Camp Half-Blood. Seeing t heir cranky old camp
direct or immort alized in st one, wearing a diaper and spewing wat er from his mout h, made her
feel a lit t le bet t er.
Reyna st opped at t he edge of t he t errace. The view was wort h t he climb. The whole cit y
spread out below t hem like a 3-D mosaic. To t he sout h, beyond t he lake, a clust er of t emples
perched on a hill. To t he nort h, an aqueduct marched t oward t he Berkeley Hills. Work crews
were repairing a broken sect ion, probably damaged in t he recent bat t le.
I want ed t o hear it from you, Reyna said.
Annabet h t urned. Hear what from me?
The t rut h, Reyna said. Convince me t hat Im not making a mist ake by t rust ing you. Tell me
about yourself. Tell me about Camp Half-Blood. Your friend Piper has sorcery in her words. I
spent enough t ime wit h Circe t o know charmspeak when I hear it . I cant t rust what she says.
And Jasonwell, he has changed. He seems dist ant , no longer quit e Roman.
The hurt in her voice was as sharp as broken glass. Annabet h wondered if she had sounded
t hat way, all t he mont hs shed spent searching for Percy. At least shed found her boyfriend.
Reyna had no one. She was responsible for running an ent ire camp all by herself. Annabet h
could sense t hat Reyna want ed Jason t o love her. But he had disappeared, only t o come back
wit h a new girlfriend. Meanwhile, Percy had risen t o praet or, but he had rebuffed Reyna t oo.
Now Annabet h had come t o t ake him away. Reyna would be left alone again, shouldering a job
meant for t wo people.
When Annabet h had arrived at Camp Jupit er, shed been prepared t o negot iat e wit h Reyna
or even fight her if needed. She hadnt been prepared t o feel sorry for her.
She kept t hat feeling hidden. Reyna didnt st rike her as someone who would appreciat e pit y.
Inst ead, she t old Reyna about her own life. She t alked about her dad and st epmom and her
t wo st epbrot hers in San Francisco, and how she had felt like an out sider in her own family. She
t alked about how she had run away when she was only seven, finding her friends Luke and
Thalia and making her way t o Camp Half-Blood on Long Island. She described t he camp and
her years growing up t here. She t alked about meet ing Percy and t he advent ures t heyd had
t oget her.
Reyna was a good list ener.
Annabet h was t empt ed t o t ell her about more recent problems: her fight wit h her mom, t he
gift of t he silver coin, and t he night mares shed been havingabout an old fear so paralyzing,
shed almost decided t hat she couldnt go on t his quest . But she couldnt bring herself t o open
up quit e t hat much.
When Annabet h was done t alking, Reyna gazed over New Rome. Her met al greyhounds
sniffed around t he garden, snapping at bees in t he honeysuckle. Finally Reyna point ed t o t he
clust er of t emples on t he dist ant hill.
The small red building, she said, t here on t he nort hern side? That s t he t emple of my
mot her, Bellona. Reyna t urned t oward Annabet h. Unlike your mot her, Bellona has no Greek
equivalent . She is fully, t ruly Roman. Shes t he goddess of prot ect ing t he homeland.
Annabet h said not hing. She knew very lit t le about t he Roman goddess. She wished she had
st udied up, but Lat in never came as easily t o her as Greek. Down below, t he hull of t he Argo II
gleamed as it float ed over t he forum, like some massive bronze part y balloon.
When t he Romans go t o war, Reyna cont inued, we first visit t he Temple of Bellona. Inside
is a symbolic pat ch of ground t hat represent s enemy soil. We t hrow a spear int o t hat ground,
indicat ing t hat we are now at war. You see, Romans have always believed t hat offense is t he
best defense. In ancient t imes, whenever our ancest ors felt t hreat ened by t heir neighbors,
t hey would invade t o prot ect t hemselves.
They conquered everyone around t hem, Annabet h said. Cart hage, t he Gauls
And t he Greeks. Reyna let t hat comment hang. My point , Annabet h, is t hat it isnt Romes
nat ure t o cooperat e wit h ot her powers. Every t ime Greek and Roman demigods have met ,
weve fought . Conflict s bet ween our t wo sides have st art ed some of t he most horrible wars in
human hist oryespecially civil wars.
It doesnt have t o be t hat way, Annabet h said. Weve got t o work t oget her, or Gaea will
dest roy us bot h.
I agree, Reyna said. But is cooperat ion possible? What if Junos plan is flawed? Even
goddesses can make mist akes.
Annabet h wait ed for Reyna t o get st ruck by light ning or t urned int o a peacock. Not hing
Unfort unat ely, Annabet h shared Reynas doubt s. Hera did make mist akes. Annabet h had
had not hing but t rouble from t hat overbearing goddess, and shed never forgive Hera for t aking
Percy away, even if it was for a noble cause.
I dont t rust t he goddess, Annabet h admit t ed. But I do t rust my friends. This isnt a t rick,
Reyna. We can work t oget her.
Reyna finished her cup of chocolat e. She set t he cup on t he t errace railing and gazed over
t he valley as if imagining bat t le lines.
I believe you mean it , she said. But if you go t o t he ancient lands, especially Rome it self,
t here is somet hing you should know about your mot her.
Annabet hs shoulders t ensed. Mymy mot her?
When I lived on Circes island, Reyna said, we had many visit ors. Once, perhaps a year
before you and Percy arrived, a young man washed ashore. He was half mad from t hirst and
heat . Hed been drift ing at sea for days. His words didnt make much sense, but he said he was
a son of At hena.
Reyna paused as if wait ing for a react ion. Annabet h had no idea who t he boy might have
been. She wasnt aware of any ot her At hena kids whod gone on a quest in t he Sea of
Monst ers, but st ill she felt a sense of dread. The light filt ering t hrough t he grapevines made
shadows writ he across t he ground like a swarm of bugs.
What happened t o t his demigod? she asked.
Reyna waved her hand as if t he quest ion was t rivial. Circe t urned him int o a guinea pig, of
course. He made quit e a crazy lit t le rodent . But before t hat , he kept raving about his failed
quest . He claimed t hat hed gone t o Rome, following t he Mark of At hena.
Annabet h grabbed t he railing t o keep her balance.
Yes, Reyna said, seeing her discomfort . He kept mut t ering about wisdoms child, t he Mark
of At hena, and t he giant s bane st anding pale and gold. The same lines Ella was just recit ing.
But you say t hat youve never heard t hem before t oday?
Not not t he way Ella said t hem. Annabet hs voice was weak. She wasnt lying. Shed
never heard t hat prophecy, but her mot her had charged her wit h following t he Mark of At hena;
and as she t hought about t he coin in her pocket , a horrible suspicion began t aking root in her
mind. She remembered her mot hers scat hing words. She t hought about t he st range
night mares shed been having lat ely. Did t his demigoddid he explain his quest ?
Reyna shook her head. At t he t ime, I had no idea what he was t alking about . Much lat er,
when I became praet or of Camp Jupit er, I began t o suspect .
Suspect what ?
There is an old legend t hat t he praet ors of Camp Jupit er have passed down t hrough t he
cent uries. If it s t rue, it may explain why our t wo groups of demigods have never been able t o
work t oget her. It may be t he cause of our animosit y. Unt il t his old score is finally set t led, so t he
legend goes, Romans and Greeks will never be at peace. And t he legend cent ers on At hena
A shrill sound pierced t he air. Light flashed in t he corner of Annabet hs eye.
She t urned in t ime t o see an explosion blast a new crat er in t he forum. A burning couch
t umbled t hrough t he air. Demigods scat t ered in panic.
Giant s? Annabet h reached for her dagger, which of course wasnt t here. I t hought t heir
army was defeat ed!
It isnt t he giant s. Reynas eyes seet hed wit h rage. Youve bet rayed our t rust .
What ? No!
As soon as she said it , t he Argo II launched a second volley. It s port ballist a fired a massive
spear wreat hed in Greek fire, which sailed st raight t hrough t he broken dome of t he Senat e
House and exploded inside, light ing up t he building like a jack-o-lant ern. If anyone had been in
t here
Gods, no. A wave of nausea almost made Annabet hs knees buckle. Reyna, it isnt
possible. Wed never do t his!
The met al dogs ran t o t heir mist resss side. They snarled at Annabet h but paced
uncert ainly, as if reluct ant t o at t ack.
Youre t elling t he t rut h, Reyna judged. Perhaps you were not aware of t his t reachery, but
someone must pay.
Down in t he forum, chaos was spreading. Crowds were pushing and shoving. Fist fight s were
breaking out .
Bloodshed, Reyna said.
We have t o st op it !
Annabet h had a horrible feeling t his might be t he last t ime Reyna and she ever act ed in
agreement , but t oget her t hey ran down t he hill.

If weapons had been allowed in t he cit y, Annabet hs friends would have already been dead.
The Roman demigods in t he forum had coalesced int o an angry mob. Some t hrew plat es, food,
and rocks at t he Argo II, which was point less, as most of t he st uff fell back int o t he crowd.
Several dozen Romans had surrounded Piper and Jason, who were t rying t o calm t hem
wit hout much luck. Pipers charmspeak was useless against so many screaming, angry
demigods. Jasons forehead was bleeding. His purple cloak had been ripped t o shreds. He kept
pleading, Im on your side! but his orange Camp Half-Blood T-shirt didnt help mat t ersnor
did t he warship overhead, firing flaming spears int o New Rome. One landed nearby and blast ed
a t oga shop t o rubble.
Plut os pauldrons, Reyna cursed. Look.
Armed legionnaires were hurrying t oward t he forum. Two art illery crews had set up cat apult s
just out side t he Pomerian Line and were preparing t o fire at t he Argo II.
That ll just make t hings worse, Annabet h said.
I hat e my job, Reyna growled. She rushed off t oward t he legionnaires, her dogs at her side.
Percy, Annabet h t hought , scanning t he forum desperat ely. Where are you?
Two Romans t ried t o grab her. She ducked past t hem, plunging int o t he crowd. As if t he
angry Romans, burning couches, and exploding buildings werent confusing enough, hundreds
of purple ghost s drift ed t hrough t he forum, passing st raight t hrough t he demigods bodies and
wailing incoherent ly. The fauns had also t aken advant age of t he chaos. They swarmed t he
dining t ables, grabbing food, plat es, and cups. One t rot t ed by Annabet h wit h his arms full of
t acos and an ent ire pineapple bet ween his t eet h.
A st at ue of Terminus exploded int o being, right in front of Annabet h. He yelled at her in Lat in,
no doubt calling her a liar and a rule breaker; but she pushed t he st at ue over and kept running.
Finally she spot t ed Percy. He and his friends, Hazel and Frank, were st anding in t he middle of
a fount ain as Percy repelled t he angry Romans wit h blast s of wat er. Percys t oga was in
t at t ers, but he looked unhurt .
Annabet h called t o him as anot her explosion rocked t he forum. This t ime t he flash of light
was direct ly overhead. One of t he Roman cat apult s had fired, and t he Argo II groaned and
t ilt ed sideways, flames bubbling over it s bronze-plat ed hull.
Annabet h not iced a figure clinging desperat ely t o t he rope ladder, t rying t o climb down. It
was Oct avian, his robes st eaming and his face black wit h soot .
Over by t he fount ain, Percy blast ed t he Roman mob wit h more wat er. Annabet h ran t oward
him, ducking a Roman fist and a flying plat e of sandwiches.
Annabet h! Percy called. What ?
I dont know! she yelled.
Ill t ell you what ! cried a voice from above. Oct avian had reached t he bot t om of t he ladder.
The Greeks have fired on us! Your boy Leo has t rained his weapons on Rome!
Annabet hs chest filled wit h liquid hydrogen. She felt like she might shat t er int o a million
frozen pieces.
Youre lying, she said. Leo would never
I was just t here! Oct avian shrieked. I saw it wit h my own eyes!
The Argo II ret urned fire. Legionnaires in t he field scat t ered as one of t heir cat apult s was
blast ed t o splint ers.
You see? Oct avian screamed. Romans, kill t he invaders!
Annabet h growled in frust rat ion. There was no t ime for anyone t o figure out t he t rut h. The
crew from Camp Half-Blood was out numbered a hundred t o one, and even if Oct avian had
managed t o st age some sort of t rick (which she t hought likely), t heyd never be able t o
convince t he Romans before t hey were overrun and killed.
We have t o leave, she t old Percy. Now.
He nodded grimly. Hazel, Frank, youve got t o make a choice. Are you coming?
Hazel looked t errified, but she donned her cavalry helmet . Of course we are. But youll never
make it t o t he ship unless we buy you some t ime.
How? Annabet h asked.
Hazel whist led. Inst ant ly a blur of beige shot across t he forum. A majest ic horse mat erialized
next t o t he fount ain. He reared, whinnying and scat t ering t he mob. Hazel climbed on his back
like shed been born t o ride. St rapped t o t he horses saddle was a Roman cavalry sword.
Hazel unsheat hed her golden blade. Send me an Iris-message when youre safely away,
and well rendezvous, she said. Arion, ride!
The horse zipped t hrough t he crowd wit h incredible speed, pushing back Romans and
causing mass panic.
Annabet h felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe t hey could make it out of here alive. Then, from
halfway across t he forum, she heard Jason shout ing.
Romans! he cried. Please!
He and Piper were being pelt ed wit h plat es and st ones. Jason t ried t o shield Piper, but a
brick caught him above t he eye. He crumpled, and t he crowd surged forward.
Get back! Piper screamed. Her charmspeak rolled over t he mob, making t hem hesit at e, but
Annabet h knew t he effect wouldnt last . Percy and she couldnt possibly reach t hem in t ime t o
Frank, Percy said, it s up t o you. Can you help t hem?
Annabet h didnt underst and how Frank could do t hat all by himself, but he swallowed
Oh, gods, he murmured. Okay, sure. Just get up t he ropes. Now.
Percy and Annabet h lunged for t he ladder. Oct avian was st ill clinging t o t he bot t om, but
Percy yanked him off and t hrew him int o t he mob.
They began t o climb as armed legionnaires flooded int o t he forum. Arrows whist led past
Annabet hs head. An explosion almost knocked her off t he ladder. Halfway up, she heard a roar
below and glanced down.
Romans screamed and scat t ered as a full-sized dragon charged t hrough t he foruma
beast even scarier t han t he bronze dragon figurehead on t he Argo II. It had rough gray skin like
a Komodo lizards and leat hery bat wings. Arrows and rocks bounced harmlessly off it s hide as
it lumbered t oward Piper and Jason, grabbed t hem wit h it s front claws, and vault ed int o t he air.
Is t hat ? Annabet h couldnt even put t he t hought int o words.
Frank, Percy confirmed, a few feet above her. He has a few special t alent s.
Underst at ement , Annabet h mut t ered. Keep climbing!
Wit hout t he dragon and Hazels horse t o dist ract t he archers, t hey never would have made
it up t he ladder; but finally t hey climbed past a row of broken aerial oars and ont o t he deck.
The rigging was on fire. The foresail was ripped down t he middle, and t he ship list ed badly t o
st arboard.
There was no sign of Coach Hedge, but Leo st ood amidships, calmly reloading t he ballist a.
Annabet hs gut t wist ed wit h horror.
Leo! she screamed. What are you doing?
Dest roy t hem He faced Annabet h. His eyes were glazed. His movement s were like a
robot s. Dest roy t hem all.
He t urned back t o t he ballist a, but Percy t ackled him. Leos head hit t he deck hard, and his
eyes rolled up so t hat only t he whit es showed.
The gray dragon soared int o view. It circled t he ship once and landed at t he bow, deposit ing
Jason and Piper, who bot h collapsed.
Go! Percy yelled. Get us out of here!
Wit h a shock, Annabet h realized he was t alking t o her.
She ran for t he helm. She made t he mist ake of glancing over t he rail and saw armed
legionnaires closing ranks in t he forum, preparing flaming arrows. Hazel spurred Arion, and t hey
raced out of t he cit y wit h a mob chasing aft er t hem. More cat apult s were being wheeled int o
range. All along t he Pomerian Line, t he st at ues of Terminus were glowing purple, as if building
up energy for some kind of at t ack.
Annabet h looked over t he cont rols. She cursed Leo for making t hem so complicat ed. No t ime
for fancy maneuvers, but she did know one basic command: Up.
She grabbed t he aviat ion t hrot t le and yanked it st raight back. The ship groaned. The bow
t ilt ed up at a horrifying angle. The mooring lines snapped, and t he Argo II shot int o t he clouds.
LEO WI SHED HE COULD I NVENT a t ime machine. Hed go back t wo hours and undo what had happened.
Eit her t hat , or he could invent a Slap-Leo-in-t he-Face machine t o punish himself, t hough he
doubt ed it would hurt as badly as t he look Annabet h was giving him.
One more t ime, she said. Exact ly what happened?
Leo slumped against t he mast . His head st ill t hrobbed from hit t ing t he deck. All around him,
his beaut iful new ship was in shambles. The aft crossbows were piles of kindling. The foresail
was t at t ered. The sat ellit e array t hat powered t he onboard Int ernet and TV was blown t o bit s,
which had really made Coach Hedge mad. Their bronze dragon figurehead, Fest us, was
coughing up smoke like he had a hairball, and Leo could t ell from t he groaning sounds on t he
port side t hat some of t he aerial oars had been knocked out of alignment or broken off
complet ely, which explained why t he ship was list ing and shuddering as it flew, t he engine
wheezing like an ast hmat ic st eam t rain.
He choked back a sob. I dont know. It s fuzzy.
Too many people were looking at him: Annabet h (Leo hated t o make her angry; t hat girl
scared him), Coach Hedge wit h his furry goat legs, his orange polo shirt , and his baseball bat
(did he have t o carry t hat everywhere?), and t he newcomer, Frank.
Leo wasnt sure what t o make of Frank. He looked like a baby sumo wrest ler, t hough Leo
wasnt st upid enough t o say t hat aloud. Leos memory was hazy, but while hed been half
conscious, he was pret t y sure hed seen a dragon land on t he shipa dragon t hat had t urned
int o Frank.
Annabet h crossed her arms. You mean you dont remember?
I Leo felt like he was t rying t o swallow a marble. I remember, but it s like I was wat ching
myself do t hings. I couldnt cont rol it .
Coach Hedge t apped his bat against t he deck. In his gym clot hes, wit h his cap pulled over his
horns, he looked just like he used t o at t he Wilderness School, where hed spent a year
undercover as Jason, Piper, and Leos P.E. t eacher. The way t he old sat yr was glowering, Leo
almost wondered if t he coach was going t o order him t o do push-ups.
Look, kid, Hedge said, you blew up some st uff. You at t acked some Romans. Awesome!
Excellent ! But did you have t o knock out t he sat ellit e channels? I was right in t he middle of
wat ching a cage mat ch.
Coach, Annabet h said, why dont you make sure all t he fires are out ?
But I already did t hat .
Do it again.
The sat yr t rudged off, mut t ering under his breat h. Even Hedge wasnt crazy enough t o defy
Annabet h.
She knelt next t o Leo. Her gray eyes were as st eely as ball bearings. Her blond hair fell loose
around her shoulders, but Leo didnt find t hat at t ract ive. He had no idea where t he st ereot ype
of dumb giggly blondes came from. Ever since hed met Annabet h at t he Grand Canyon last
wint er, when shed marched t oward him wit h t hat Give me Percy Jackson or Ill kill you
expression, Leo t hought of blondes as much t oo smart and much t oo dangerous.
Leo, she said calmly, did Oct avian t rick you somehow? Did he frame you, or
No. Leo could have lied and blamed t hat st upid Roman, but he didnt want t o make a bad
sit uat ion worse. The guy was a jerk, but he didnt fire on t he camp. I did.
The new kid, Frank, scowled. On purpose?
No! Leo squeezed his eyes shut . Well, yesI mean, I didnt want t o. But at t he same t ime, I
felt like I want ed t o. Somet hing was making me do it . There was t his cold feeling inside me
A cold feeling. Annabet hs t one changed. She sounded almost scared.
Yeah, Leo said. Why?
From belowdecks, Percy called up, Annabet h, we need you.
Oh, gods, Leo t hought . Please let Jason be okay.
As soon as t heyd got t en on board, Piper had t aken Jason below. The cut on his head had
looked pret t y bad. Leo had known Jason longer t han anyone at Camp Half-Blood. They were
best friends. If Jason didnt make it
Hell be fine. Annabet hs expression soft ened. Frank, Ill be back. Just wat ch Leo. Please.
Frank nodded.
If it was possible for Leo t o feel worse, he did. Annabet h now t rust ed a Roman demigod
shed known for like, t hree seconds, more t han she t rust ed Leo.
Once she was gone, Leo and Frank st ared at each ot her. The big dude looked pret t y odd in
his bedsheet t oga, wit h his gray pullover hoodie and jeans, and a bow and quiver from t he
ships armory slung over his shoulder. Leo remembered t he t ime he had met t he Hunt ers of
Art emisa bunch of cut e lit he girls in silvery clot hes, all armed wit h bows. He imagined Frank
frolicking along wit h t hem. The idea was so ridiculous, it almost made him feel bet t er.
So, Frank said. Your name isnt Sammy?
Leo scowled. What kind of quest ion is t hat ?
Not hing, Frank said quickly. I just Not hing. About t he firing on t he campOct avian could
be behind it , like magically or somet hing. He didnt want t he Romans get t ing along wit h you
Leo want ed t o believe t hat . He was grat eful t o t his kid for not hat ing him. But he knew it
hadnt been Oct avian. Leo had walked t o a ballist a and st art ed firing. Part of him had known it
was wrong. Hed asked himself: What the heck am I doing? But hed done it anyway.
Maybe he was going crazy. The st ress of all t hose mont hs working on t he Argo II might ve
finally made him crack.
But he couldnt t hink about t hat . He needed t o do somet hing product ive. His hands needed
t o be busy.
Look, he said, I should t alk t o Fest us and get a damage report . You mind ?
Frank helped him up. Who is Fest us?
My friend, Leo said. His name isnt Sammy eit her, in case youre wondering. Come on. Ill
int roduce you.

Fort unat ely t he bronze dragon wasnt damaged. Well, aside from t he fact t hat last wint er hed
lost everyt hing except his headbut Leo didnt count t hat .
When t hey reached t he bow of t he ship, t he figurehead t urned a hundred and eight y
degrees t o look at t hem. Frank yelped and backed away.
It s alive! he said.
Leo would have laughed if he hadnt felt so bad. Yeah. Frank, t his is Fest us. He used t o be a
full bronze dragon, but we had an accident .
You have a lot of accident s, Frank not ed.
Well, some of us cant t urn int o dragons, so we have t o build our own. Leo arched his
eyebrows at Frank. Anyway, I revived him as a figurehead. Hes kind of t he ships main
int erface now. How are t hings looking, Fest us?
Fest us snort ed smoke and made a series of squeaking, whirring sounds. Over t he last few
mont hs, Leo had learned t o int erpret t his machine language. Ot her demigods could
underst and Lat in and Greek. Leo could speak Creak and Squeak.
Ugh, Leo said. Could be worse, but t he hull is compromised in several places. The port
aerial oars have t o be fixed before we can go full speed again. Well need some repair mat erials:
Celest ial bronze, t ar, lime
What do you need limes for?
Dude, lime. Calcium carbonat e, used in cement and a bunch of ot her Ah, never mind. The
point is, t his ship isnt going far unless we can fix it .
Fest us made anot her click-creak noise t hat Leo didnt recognize. It sounded like AY-zuhl.
OhHazel, he deciphered. That s t he girl wit h t he curly hair, right ?
Frank gulped. Is she okay?
Yeah, shes fine, Leo said. According t o Fest us, her horse is racing along below. Shes
following us.
Weve got t o land, t hen, Frank said.
Leo st udied him. Shes your girlfriend?
Frank chewed his lip. Yes.
You dont sound sure.
Yes. Yes, definit ely. Im sure.
Leo raised his hands. Okay, fine. The problem is we can only manage one landing. The way
t he hull and t he oars are, we wont be able t o lift off again unt il we repair, so well have t o make
sure we land somewhere wit h all t he right supplies.
Frank scrat ched his head. Where do you get Celest ial bronze? You cant just st ock up at
Home Depot .
Fest us, do a scan.
He can scan for magic bronze? Frank marveled. Is t here anyt hing he cant do?
Leo t hought : You shouldve seen him when he had a body. But he didnt say t hat . It was t oo
painful, remembering t he way Fest us used t o be.
Leo peered over t he ships bow. The Cent ral California valley was passing below. Leo didnt
hold out much hope t hat t hey could find what t hey needed all in one place, but t hey had t o t ry.
Leo also want ed t o put as much dist ance as possible bet ween himself and New Rome. The
Argo II could cover vast dist ances pret t y quickly, t hanks t o it s magical engine, but Leo figured
t he Romans had magic t ravel met hods of t heir own.
Behind him, t he st airs creaked. Percy and Annabet h climbed up, t heir faces grim.
Leos heart st umbled. Is Jason?
Hes rest ing, Annabet h said. Pipers keeping an eye on him, but he should be fine.
Percy gave him a hard look. Annabet h says you did fire t he ballist a?
Man, II dont underst and how it happened. Im so sorry
Sorry? Percy growled.
Annabet h put a hand on her boyfriends chest . Well figure it out lat er. Right now, we have
t o regroup and make a plan. What s t he sit uat ion wit h t he ship?
Leos legs t rembled. The way Percy had looked at him made him feel t he same as when
Jason summoned light ning. Leos skin t ingled, and every inst inct in his body screamed, Duck!
He t old Annabet h about t he damage and t he supplies t hey needed. At least he felt bet t er
t alking about somet hing fixable.
He was bemoaning t he short age of Celest ial bronze when Fest us began t o whir and squeak.
Perfect . Leo sighed wit h relief.
What s perfect ? Annabet h said. I could use some perfect about now.
Leo managed a smile. Everyt hing we need in one place. Frank, why dont you t urn int o a bird
or somet hing? Fly down and t ell your girlfriend t o meet us at t he Great Salt Lake in Ut ah.

Once t hey got t here, it wasnt a pret t y landing. Wit h t he oars damaged and t he foresail t orn,
Leo could barely manage a cont rolled descent . The ot hers st rapped t hemselves in below
except for Coach Hedge, who insist ed on clinging t o t he forward rail, yelling, YEAH! Bring it on,
lake! Leo st ood ast ern, alone at t he helm, and aimed as best he could.
Fest us creaked and whirred warning signals, which were relayed t hrough t he int ercom t o t he
quart erdeck.
I know, I know, Leo said, grit t ing his t eet h.
He didnt have much t ime t o t ake in t he scenery. To t he sout heast , a cit y was nest led in t he
foot hills of a mount ain range, blue and purple in t he aft ernoon shadows. A flat desert
landscape spread t o t he sout h. Direct ly beneat h t hem t he Great Salt Lake glit t ered like
aluminum foil, t he shoreline et ched wit h whit e salt marshes t hat reminded Leo of aerial phot os
of Mars.
Hang on, Coach! he shout ed. This is going t o hurt .
I was born for hurt !
WHOOM! A swell of salt wat er washed over t he bow, dousing Coach Hedge. The Argo II
list ed dangerously t o st arboard, t hen right ed it self and rocked on t he surface of t he lake.
Machinery hummed as t he aerial blades t hat were st ill working changed t o naut ical form.
Three banks of robot ic oars dipped int o t he wat er and began moving t hem forward.
Good job, Fest us, Leo said. Take us t oward t he sout h shore.
Yeah! Coach Hedge pumped his fist s in t he air. He was drenched from his horns t o hooves,
but grinning like a crazy goat . Do it again!
Uhmaybe lat er, Leo said. Just st ay above deck, okay? You can keep wat ch, in case
you know, t he lake decides t o at t ack us or somet hing.
On it , Hedge promised.
Leo rang t he All clear bell and headed for t he st airs. Before he got t here, a loud clump-
clump-clump shook t he hull. A t an st allion appeared on deck wit h Hazel Levesque on his back.
How? Leos quest ion died in his t hroat . Were in t he middle of a lake! Can t hat t hing
The horse whinnied angrily.
Arion cant fly, Hazel said. But he can run across just about anyt hing. Wat er, vert ical
surfaces, small mount ainsnone of t hat bot hers him.
Hazel was looking at him st rangely, t he way she had during t he feast in t he forumlike she
was searching for somet hing in his face. He was t empt ed t o ask if t hey had met before, but he
was sure t hey hadnt . He would remember a pret t y girl paying such close at t ent ion t o him. That
didnt happen a lot .
Shes Franks girlfriend, he reminded himself.
Frank was st ill below, but Leo almost wished t he big guy would come up t he st airs. The way
Hazel was st udying Leo made him feel uneasy and self-conscious.
Coach Hedge crept forward wit h his baseball bat , eyeing t he magic horse suspiciously.
Valdez, does t his count as an invasion?
No! Leo said. Um, Hazel, youd bet t er come wit h me. I built a st able belowdecks, if Arion
want s t o
Hes more of a free spirit . Hazel slipped out of t he saddle. Hell graze around t he lake unt il I
call him. But I want t o see t he ship. Lead t he way.
The Argo II was designed like an ancient t rireme, only t wice as big. The first deck had one
cent ral corridor wit h crew cabins on eit her side. On a normal t rireme, most of t he space
wouldve been t aken up wit h t hree rows of benches for a few hundred sweat y guys t o do t he
manual labor, but Leos oars were aut omat ed and ret ract able, so t hey t ook up very lit t le room
inside t he hull. The ships power came from t he engine room on t he second and lowest deck,
which also housed sickbay, st orage, and t he st ables.
Leo led t he way down t he hall. Hed built t he ship wit h eight cabinsseven for t he demigods
of t he prophecy, and a room for Coach Hedge (SeriouslyChiron considered him a responsible
adult chaperone?). At t he st ern was a large mess hall/lounge, which was where Leo headed.
On t he way, t hey passed Jasons room. The door was open. Piper sat at t he side of his
bert h, holding Jasons hand while he snored wit h an ice pack on his head.
Piper glanced at Leo. She held a finger t o her lips for quiet , but she didnt look angry. That
was somet hing. Leo t ried t o force down his guilt , and t hey kept walking. When t hey reached
t he mess hall, t hey found t he ot hersPercy, Annabet h, and Franksit t ing deject edly around
t he dining t able.
Leo had made t he lounge as nice as possible, since he figured t heyd be spending a lot of
t ime t here. The cupboard was lined wit h magic cups and plat es from Camp Half-Blood, which
would fill up wit h what ever food or drink you want ed on command. There was also a magical
ice chest wit h canned drinks, perfect for picnics ashore. The chairs were cushy recliners wit h
t housand-finger massage, built -in headphones, and sword and drink holders for all your
demigod kicking-back needs. There were no windows, but t he walls were enchant ed t o show
real-t ime foot age from Camp Half-Bloodt he beach, t he forest , t he st rawberry fields
alt hough now Leo was wondering if t his made people homesick rat her t han happy.
Percy was st aring longingly at a sunset view of Half-Blood Hill, where t he Golden Fleece
glit t ered in t he branches of t he t all pine t ree.
So weve landed, Percy said. What now?
Frank plucked on his bowst ring. Figure out t he prophecy? I meant hat was a prophecy Ella
spoke, right ? From t he Sibylline Books?
The what ? Leo asked.
Frank explained how t heir harpy friend was freakishly good at memorizing books. At some
point in t he past , shed inhaled a collect ion of ancient prophecies t hat had supposedly been
dest royed around t he fall of Rome.
That s why you didnt t ell t he Romans, Leo guessed. You didnt want t hem t o get hold of
Percy kept st aring at t he image of Half-Blood Hill. Ellas sensit ive. She was a capt ive when
we found her. I just didnt want He made a fist . It doesnt mat t er now. I sent Tyson an Iris-
message, t old him t o t ake Ella t o Camp Half-Blood. Theyll be safe t here.
Leo doubt ed t hat any of t hem would be safe, now t hat he had st irred up a camp of angry
Romans on t op of t he problems t hey already had wit h Gaea and t he giant s; but he kept quiet .
Annabet h laced her fingers. Let me t hink about t he prophecybut right now we have more
immediat e problems. We have t o get t his ship fixed. Leo, what do we need?
The easiest t hing is t ar. Leo was glad t o change t he subject . We can get t hat in t he cit y,
at a roofing-supply st ore or someplace like t hat . Also, Celest ial bronze and lime. According t o
Fest us, we can find bot h of t hose on an island in t he lake, just west of here.
Well have t o hurry, Hazel warned. If I know Oct avian, hes searching for us wit h his
auguries. The Romans will send a st rike force aft er us. It s a mat t er of honor.
Leo felt everyones eyes on him. GuysI dont know what happened. Honest ly, I
Annabet h raised her hand. Weve been t alking. We agree it couldnt have been you, Leo.
That cold feeling you ment ionedI felt it t oo. It must have been some sort of magic, eit her
Oct avian or Gaea or one of her minions. But unt il we underst and what happened
Frank grunt ed. How can we be sure it wont happen again?
Leos fingers heat ed up like t hey were about t o cat ch fire. One of his powers as a son of
Hephaest us was t hat he could summon flames at will; but he had t o be careful not t o do so by
accident , especially on a ship filled wit h explosives and flammable supplies.
Im fine now, he insist ed, t hough he wished he could be sure. Maybe we should use t he
buddy syst em. Nobody goes anywhere alone. We can leave Piper and Coach Hedge on board
wit h Jason. Send one t eam int o t own t o get t ar. Anot her t eam can go aft er t he bronze and t he
Split up? Percy said. That sounds like a really bad idea.
It ll be quicker, Hazel put in. Besides, t heres a reason a quest is usually limit ed t o t hree
demigods, right ?
Annabet h raised her eyebrows, as if reappraising Hazels merit s. Youre right . The same
reason we needed t he Argo IIout side camp, seven demigods in one place will at t ract way t oo
much monst rous at t ent ion. The ship is designed t o conceal and prot ect us. We should be safe
enough on board; but if we go on expedit ions, we shouldnt t ravel in groups larger t han t hree.
No sense alert ing more of Gaeas minions t han we have t o.
Percy st ill didnt look happy about it , but he t ook Annabet hs hand. As long as youre my
buddy, Im good.
Hazel smiled. Oh, t hat s easy. Frank, you were amazing, t urning int o a dragon! Could you do
it again t o fly Annabet h and Percy int o t own for t he t ar?
Frank opened his mout h like he want ed t o prot est . II suppose. But what about you?
Ill ride Arion wit h Sawit h Leo, here. She fidget ed wit h her sword hilt , which made Leo
uneasy. She had even more nervous energy t han he did. Well get t he bronze and t he lime.
We can all meet back here by dark.
Frank scowled. Obviously, he didnt like t he idea of Leo going off wit h Hazel. For some
reason, Franks disapproval made Leo want t o go. He had t o prove he was t rust wort hy. He
wasnt going t o fire any random ballist ae again.
Leo, said Annabet h, if we get t he supplies, how long t o fix t he ship?
Wit h luck, just a few hours.
Fine, she decided. Well meet you back here as soon as possible, but st ay safe. We could
use some good luck. That doesnt mean well get it .

RI DI NG ARI ON WAS THE BEST THI NG t hat had happened t o Leo all daywhich wasnt saying much, since his
day had sucked. The horses hooves t urned t he surface of t he lake t o salt y mist . Leo put his
hand against t he horses side and felt t he muscles working like a well-oiled machine. For t he
first t ime, he underst ood why car engines were measured in horsepower. Arion was a four-
legged Maserat i.
Ahead of t hem lay an islanda line of sand so whit e, it might have been pure t able salt .
Behind t hat rose an expanse of grassy dunes and weat hered boulders.
Leo sat behind Hazel, one arm around her waist . The close cont act made him a lit t le
uncomfort able, but it was t he only way he could st ay on board (or what ever you called it wit h a
Before t hey left , Percy had pulled him aside t o t ell him Hazels st ory. Percy made it sound like
he was just doing Leo a favor, but t hered been an undert one like If you mess with my friend, I
will personally feed you to a great white shark.
According t o Percy, Hazel was a daught er of Plut o. Shed died in t he 1940s and been
brought back t o life only a few mont hs ago.
Leo found t hat hard t o believe. Hazel seemed warm and very alive, not like t he ghost s or t he
ot her reborn mort als Leo had t angled wit h.
She seemed good wit h people, t oo, unlike Leo, who was much more comfort able wit h
machines. Living st uff, like horses and girls? He had no idea what made t hem work.
Hazel was also Franks girlfriend, so Leo knew he should keep his dist ance. St ill, her hair
smelled good, and riding wit h her made his heart race almost against his will. It must ve been
t he speed of t he horse.
Arion t hundered ont o t he beach. He st omped his hooves and whinnied t riumphant ly, like
Coach Hedge yelling a bat t le cry.
Hazel and Leo dismount ed. Arion pawed t he sand.
He needs t o eat , Hazel explained. He likes gold, but
Gold? Leo asked.
Hell set t le for grass. Go on, Arion. Thanks for t he ride. Ill call you.
Just like t hat , t he horse was gonenot hing left but a st eaming t rail across t he lake.
Fast horse, Leo said, and expensive t o feed.
Not really, Hazel said. Gold is easy for me.
Leo raised his eyebrows. How is gold easy? Please t ell me youre not relat ed t o King Midas. I
dont like t hat guy.
Hazel pursed her lips, as if she regret t ed raising t he subject . Never mind.
That made Leo even more curious, but he decided it might be bet t er not t o press her. He
knelt and cupped a handful of whit e sand. Wellone problem solved, anyway. This is lime.
Hazel frowned. The whole beach?
Yeah. See? The granules are perfect ly round. It s not really sand. It s calcium carbonat e.
Leo pulled a Ziploc bag from his t ool belt and dug his hand int o t he lime.
Suddenly he froze. He remembered all t he t imes t he eart h goddess Gaea had appeared t o
him in t he groundher sleeping face made of dust or sand or dirt . She loved t o t aunt him. He
imagined her closed eyes and her dreaming smile swirling in t he whit e calcium.
Walk away, little hero, Gaea said. Without you, the ship cannot be fixed.
Leo? Hazel asked. You okay?
He t ook a shaky breat h. Gaea wasnt here. He was just freaking himself out .
Yeah, he said. Yeah, fine.
He st art ed t o fill t he bag.
Hazel knelt next t o him and helped. We shouldve brought a pail and shovels.
The idea cheered Leo up. He even smiled. We couldve made a sand cast le.
A lime cast le.
Their eyes locked for a second t oo long.
Hazel looked away. You are so much like
Sammy? Leo guessed.
She fell backward. You know?
I have no idea who Sammy is. But Frank asked me if I was sure t hat wasnt my name.
Andit isnt ?
No! Jeez.
You dont have a t win brot her or Hazel st opped. Is your family from New Orleans?
Nah. Houst on. Why? Is Sammy a guy you used t o know?
IIt s not hing. You just look like him.
Leo could t ell she was t oo embarrassed t o say more. But if Hazel was a kid from t he past , did
t hat mean Sammy was from t he 1940s? If so, how could Frank know t he guy? And why would
Hazel t hink Leo was Sammy, all t hese decades lat er?
They finished filling t he bag in silence. Leo st uffed it in his t ool belt and t he bag vanished
no weight , no mass, no volumet hough Leo knew it would be t here as soon as he reached for
it . Anyt hing t hat could fit int o t he pocket s, Leo could t ot e around. He loved his t ool belt . He just
wished t he pocket s were large enough for a chain saw, or maybe a bazooka.
He st ood and scanned t he islandbleach-whit e dunes, blanket s of grass, and boulders
encrust ed wit h salt like frost ing. Fest us said t here was Celest ial bronze close by, but Im not
sure where
That way. Hazel point ed up t he beach. About five hundred yards.
How do you?
Precious met als, Hazel said. It s a Plut o t hing.
Leo remembered what shed said about gold being easy. Handy t alent . Lead t he way, Miss
Met al Det ect or.

The sun began t o set . The sky t urned a bizarre mix of purple and yellow. In anot her realit y, Leo
might ve enjoyed a walk on t he beach wit h a pret t y girl, but t he fart her t hey went , t he edgier
he felt . Finally Hazel t urned inland.
You sure t his is a good idea? he asked.
Were close, she promised. Come on.
Just over t he dunes, t hey saw t he woman.
She sat on a boulder in t he middle of a grassy field. A black-and-chrome mot orcycle was
parked nearby, but each of t he wheels had a big pie slice removed from t he spokes and rim, so
t hat t hey resembled Pac-Men. No way was t he bike drivable in t hat condit ion.
The woman had curly black hair and a bony frame. She wore black leat her bikers pant s, t all
leat her boot s, and a bloodred leat her jacket sort of a Michael Jackson joins the Hells Angels
look. Around her feet , t he ground was lit t ered wit h what looked like broken shells. She was
hunched over, pulling new ones out of a sack and cracking t hem open. Shucking oyst ers? Leo
wasnt sure if t here were oyst ers in t he Great Salt Lake. He didnt t hink so.
He wasnt anxious t o approach. Hed had bad experiences wit h st range ladies. His old
babysit t er, T a Callida, had t urned out t o be Hera and had a nast y habit of put t ing him down
for naps in a blazing fireplace. The eart h goddess Gaea had killed his mot her in a workshop fire
when Leo was eight . The snow goddess Khione had t ried t o t urn him int o a frozen dairy t reat
in Sonoma.
But Hazel forged ahead, so he didnt have much choice except t o follow.
As t hey got closer, Leo not iced dist urbing det ails. At t ached t o t he womans belt was a curled
whip. Her red-leat her jacket had a subt le design t o it t wist ed branches of an apple t ree
populat ed wit h skelet al birds. The oyst ers she was shucking were act ually fort une cookies.
A pile of broken cookies lay ankle-deep all around her. She kept pulling new ones from her
sack, cracking t hem open, and reading t he fort unes. Most she t ossed aside. A few made her
mut t er unhappily. She would swipe her finger over t he slip of paper like she was smudging it ,
t hen magically reseal t he cookie and t oss it int o a nearby basket .
What are you doing? Leo asked before he could st op himself.
The woman looked up. Leos lungs filled so fast , he t hought t hey might burst .
Aunt Rosa? he asked.
It didnt make sense, but t his woman looked exactly like his aunt . She had t he same broad
nose wit h a mole on one side, t he same sour mout h and hard eyes. But it couldnt be Rosa.
She would never wear clot hes like t hat , and she was st ill down in Houst on, as far as Leo knew.
She wouldnt be cracking open fort une cookies in t he middle of t he Great Salt Lake.
Is t hat what you see? t he woman asked. Int erest ing. And you, Hazel, dear?
How did you? Hazel st epped back in alarm. Youyou look like Mrs. Leer. My t hird grade
t eacher. I hat ed you.
The woman cackled. Excellent . You resent ed her, eh? She judged you unfairly?
Youshe t aped my hands t o t he desk for misbehaving, Hazel said. She called my mot her
a wit ch. She blamed me for everyt hing I didnt do and No. She has t o be dead. Who are you?
Oh, Leo knows, t he woman said. How do you feel about Aunt Rosa, mijo?
Mijo. That s what Leos mom had always called him. Aft er his mom died, Rosa had reject ed
Leo. Shed called him a devil child. Shed blamed him for t he fire t hat had killed her sist er. Rosa
had t urned his family against him and left hima scrawny orphaned eight -year-oldat t he
mercy of social services. Leo had bounced around from fost er home t o fost er home unt il hed
finally found a home at Camp Half-Blood. Leo didnt hat e many people, but aft er all t hese years,
Aunt Rosas face made him boil wit h resent ment .
How did he feel? He want ed t o get even. He want ed revenge.
His eyes drift ed t o t he mot orcycle wit h t he Pac-Man wheels. Where had he seen somet hing
like t hat before? Cabin 16, back at Camp Half-Bloodt he symbol above t heir door was a
broken wheel.
Nemesis, he said. Youre t he goddess of revenge.
You see? The goddess smiled at Hazel. He recognizes me.
Nemesis cracked anot her cookie and wrinkled her nose. You will have great fortune when
you least expect it, she read. That s exact ly t he sort of nonsense I hat e. Someone opens a
cookie, and suddenly t hey have a prophecy t hat t heyll be rich! I blame t hat t ramp Tyche.
Always dispensing good luck t o people who dont deserve it !
Leo looked at t he mound of broken cookies. Uhyou know t hose arent real prophecies,
right ? Theyre just st uffed in t he cookies at some fact ory
Dont t ry t o excuse it ! Nemesis snapped. It s just like Tyche t o get peoples hopes up. No,
no. I must count er her. Nemesis flicked a finger over t he slip of paper, and t he let t ers changed
t o red. You will die painfully when you most expect it. There! Much bet t er.
That s horrible! Hazel said. Youd let someone read t hat in t heir fort une cookie, and it
would come t rue?
Nemesis sneered. It really was creepy, seeing t hat expression on Aunt Rosas face. My dear
Hazel, havent you ever wished horrible t hings on Mrs. Leer for t he way she t reat ed you?
That doesnt mean Id want t hem t o come t rue!
Bah. The goddess resealed t he cookie and t ossed it in her basket . Tyche would be
Fort una for you, I suppose, being Roman. Like t he ot hers, shes in a horrible way right now. Me?
Im not affect ed. I am called Nemesis in bot h Greek and Roman. I do not change, because
revenge is universal.
What are you t alking about ? Leo asked. What are you doing here?
Nemesis opened anot her cookie. Lucky numbers. Ridiculous! That s not even a proper
fort une! She crushed t he cookie and scat t ered t he pieces around her feet .
To answer your quest ion, Leo Valdez, t he gods are in t errible shape. It always happens
when a civil war is brewing bet ween you Romans and Greeks. The Olympians are t orn
bet ween t heir t wo nat ures, called on by bot h sides. They become quit e schizophrenic, Im
afraid. Split t ing headaches. Disorient at ion.
But were not at war, Leo insist ed.
Um, Leo Hazel winced. Except for t he fact t hat you recent ly blew up large sect ions of
New Rome.
Leo st ared at her, wondering whose side she was on. Not on purpose!
I know Hazel said, but t he Romans dont realize t hat . And t heyll be pursuing us in
ret aliat ion.
Nemesis cackled. Leo, list en t o t he girl. War is coming. Gaea has seen t o it , wit h your help.
And can you guess whom t he gods blame for t heir predicament ?
Leos mout h t ast ed like calcium carbonat e. Me.
The goddess snort ed. Well, dont you have a high opinion of yourself. Youre just a pawn on
t he chessboard, Leo Valdez. I was referring t o t he player who set t his ridiculous quest in
mot ion, bringing t he Greeks and Romans t oget her. The gods blame Heraor Juno, if you
prefer! The queen of t he heavens has fled Olympus t o escape t he wrat h of her family. Dont
expect any more help from your pat ron!
Leos head t hrobbed. He had mixed feelings about Hera. Shed meddled in his life since he
was a baby, molding him t o serve her purpose in t his big prophecy, but at least she had been
on t heir side, more or less. If she was out of t he pict ure now
So why are you here? he asked.
Why, t o offer my help! Nemesis smiled wickedly.
Leo glanced at Hazel. She looked like shed just been offered a free snake.
Your help, Leo said.
Of course! said t he goddess. I enjoy t earing down t he proud and powerful, and t here are
none who deserve t earing down like Gaea and her giant s. St ill, I must warn you t hat I will not
suffer undeserved success. Good luck is a sham. The wheel of fort une is a Ponzi scheme. True
success requires sacrifice.
Sacrifice? Hazels voice was t ight . I lost my mot her. I died and came back. Now my brot her
is missing. Isnt t hat enough sacrifice for you?
Leo could t ot ally relat e. He want ed t o scream t hat hed lost his mom t oo. His whole life had
been one misery aft er anot her. Hed lost his dragon, Fest us. Hed nearly killed himself t rying t o
finish t he Argo II. Now hed fired on t he Roman camp, most likely st art ed a war, and maybe lost
t he t rust of his friends.
Right now, he said, t rying t o cont rol his anger, all I want is some Celest ial bronze.
Oh, t hat s easy, Nemesis said. It s just over t he rise. Youll find it wit h t he sweet heart s.
Wait , Hazel said. What sweet heart s?
Nemesis popped a cookie in her mout h and swallowed it , fort une and all. Youll see. Perhaps
t hey will t each you a lesson, Hazel Levesque. Most heroes cannot escape t heir nat ure, even
when given a second chance at life. She smiled. And speaking of your brot her Nico, you dont
have much t ime. Let s seeit s June t went y-fift h? Yes, aft er t oday, six more days. Then he
dies, along wit h t he ent ire cit y of Rome.
Hazels eyes widened. Howwhat ?
And as for you, child of fire. She t urned t o Leo. Your worst hardships are yet t o come. You
will always be t he out sider, t he sevent h wheel. You will not find a place among your bret hren.
Soon you will face a problem you cannot solve, t hough I could help youfor a price.
Leo smelled smoke. He realized fingers on his left hand were ablaze, and Hazel was st aring
at him in t error.
He shoved his hand in his pocket t o ext inguish t he flames. I like t o solve my own problems.
Very well. Nemesis brushed cookie dust off her jacket .
But , um, what sort of price are we t alking about ?
The goddess shrugged. One of my children recent ly t raded an eye for t he abilit y t o make a
real difference in t he world.
Leos st omach churned. Youwant an eye?
In your case, perhaps anot her sacrifice would do. But somet hing just as painful. Here. She
handed him an unbroken fort une cookie. If you need an answer, break t his. It will solve your
Leos hand t rembled as he held t he fort une cookie. What problem?
Youll know when t he t ime comes.
No, t hanks, Leo said firmly. But his hand, as t hough it had a will of it s own, slipped t he
cookie int o his t ool belt .
Nemesis picked anot her cookie from her bag and cracked it open. You will have cause to
reconsider your choices soon. Oh, I like t hat one. No changes needed here.
She resealed t he cookie and t ossed it int o t he basket . Very few gods will be able t o help
you on t he quest . Most are already incapacit at ed, and t heir confusion will only grow worse.
One t hing might bring unit y t o Olympus againan old wrong finally avenged. Ah, t hat would be
sweet indeed, t he scales finally balanced! But it will not happen unless you accept my help.
I suppose you wont t ell us what youre t alking about , Hazel mut t ered. Or why my brot her
Nico has only six days t o live. Or why Rome is going t o be dest royed.
Nemesis chuckled. She rose and slung her sack of cookies over her shoulder. Oh, it s all t ied
t oget her, Hazel Levesque. As for my offer, Leo Valdez, give it some t hought . Youre a good
child. A hard worker. We could do business. But I have det ained you t oo long. You should visit
t he reflect ing pool before t he light fades. My poor cursed boy get s quit eagit at ed when t he
darkness comes.
Leo didnt like t he sound of t hat , but t he goddess climbed on her mot orcycle. Apparent ly, it
was drivable, despit e t hose Pac-Manshaped wheels, because Nemesis revved her engine
and disappeared in a mushroom cloud of black smoke.
Hazel bent down. All t he broken cookies and fort unes had disappeared except for one
crumpled slip of paper. She picked it up and read, You will see yourself reflected, and you will
have reason to despair.
Fant ast ic, Leo grumbled. Let s go see what t hat means.

Leo didnt want t o t alk about her. Nemesiss words were st ill buzzing in his ears. His t ool belt
seemed heavier since hed put t he cookie in t herewhich was impossible. It s pocket s could
carry anyt hing wit hout adding ext ra weight . Even t he most fragile t hings would never break.
St ill, Leo imagined he could feel it in t here, dragging him down, wait ing t o be cracked open.
Long st ory, he said. She abandoned me aft er my mom died, gave me t o fost er care.
Im sorry.
Yeah, well Leo was anxious t o change t he subject . What about you? What Nemesis
said about your brot her?
Hazel blinked like shed got t en salt in her eyes. Nicohe found me in t he Underworld. He
brought me back t o t he mort al world and convinced t he Romans at Camp Jupit er t o accept
me. I owe him for my second chance at life. If Nemesis is right , and Nicos in dangerI have t o
help him.
Sure, Leo said, t hough t he idea made him uneasy. He doubt ed t he revenge goddess ever
gave advice out of t he goodness of her heart . And what Nemesis said about your brot her
having six days t o live, and Rome get t ing dest royedany idea what she meant ?
None, Hazel admit t ed. But Im afraid
What ever she was t hinking, she decided not t o share it . She climbed one of t he largest
boulders t o get a bet t er view. Leo t ried t o follow and lost his balance. Hazel caught his hand.
She pulled him up and t hey found t hemselves at op t he rock, holding hands, face-t o-face.
Hazels eyes glit t ered like gold.
Gold is easy, shed said. It didnt seem t hat way t o Leonot when he looked at her. He
wondered who Sammy was. Leo had a nagging suspicion t hat he should know, but he just
couldnt place t he name. Whoever he was, he was lucky if Hazel cared for him.
Um, t hanks. He let go of her hand, but t hey were st ill st anding so close, he could feel t he
warmt h of her breat h. She definitely didnt seem like a dead person.
When we were t alking t o Nemesis, Hazel said uneasily, your handsI saw flames.
Yeah, he said. It s a Hephaest us power. Usually I can keep it under cont rol.
Oh. She put one hand prot ect ively on her denim shirt , like she was about t o say t he Pledge
of Allegiance. Leo got t he feeling she want ed t o back away from him, but t he boulder was t oo
Great , he t hought . Anot her person who t hinks Im a scary freak.
He gazed across t he island. The opposit e shore was only a few hundred yards away.
Bet ween here and t here were dunes and clumps of boulders, but not hing t hat looked like a
reflect ing pool.
You will always be the outsider, Nemesis had t old him, the seventh wheel. You will not find a
place among your brethren.
She might as well have poured acid in his ears. Leo didnt need anybody t o t ell him he was
odd man out . Hed spent mont hs alone in Bunker 9 at Camp Half-Blood, working on his ship
while his friends t rained t oget her and shared meals and played capt ure-t he-flag for fun and
prizes. Even his t wo best friends, Piper and Jason, oft en t reat ed him like an out sider. Since
t heyd st art ed dat ing, t heir idea of qualit y t ime didnt include Leo. His only ot her friend, Fest us
t he dragon, had been reduced t o a figurehead when his cont rol disk had got t en dest royed on
t heir last advent ure. Leo didnt have t he t echnical skill t o repair it .
The seventh wheel. Leo had heard of a fift h wheelan ext ra, useless piece of equipment .
He figured a sevent h wheel was worse.
Hed t hought maybe t his quest would be a fresh st art for him. All his hard work on t he Argo II
would pay off. Hed have six good friends who would admire and appreciat e him, and t heyd go
sailing off int o t he sunrise t o fight giant s. Maybe, Leo secret ly hoped, hed even find a girlfriend.
Do the math, he chided himself.
Nemesis was right . He might be part of a group of seven, but he was st ill isolat ed. He had
fired on t he Romans and brought his friends not hing but t rouble. You will not find a place
among your brethren.
Leo? Hazel asked gent ly. You cant t ake what Nemesis said t o heart .
He frowned. What if it s t rue?
Shes t he goddess of revenge, Hazel reminded him. Maybe shes on our side, maybe not ;
but she exist s t o st ir up resent ment .
Leo wished he could dismiss his feelings t hat easily. He couldnt . St ill, it wasnt Hazels fault .
We should keep going, he said. I wonder what Nemesis meant about finishing before
Hazel glanced at t he sun, which was just t ouching t he horizon. And who is t he cursed boy
she ment ioned?
Below t hem, a voice said, Cursed boy she ment ioned.
At first , Leo saw no one. Then his eyes adjust ed. He realized a young woman was st anding
only t en feet from t he base of t he boulder. Her dress was a Greek-st yle t unic t he same color
as t he rocks. Her wispy hair was somewhere bet ween brown and blond and gray, so it blended
wit h t he dry grass. She wasnt invisible, exact ly, but she was almost perfect ly camouflaged unt il
she moved. Even t hen, Leo had t rouble focusing on her. Her face was pret t y but not
memorable. In fact , each t ime Leo blinked, he couldnt remember what she looked like, and he
had t o concent rat e t o find her again.
Hello, Hazel said. Who are you?
Who are you? t he girl answered. Her voice sounded weary, like she was t ired of answering
t hat quest ion.
Hazel and Leo exchanged looks. Wit h t his demigod gig, you never knew what youd run int o.
Nine t imes out of t en, it wasnt good. A ninja girl camouflaged in eart h t ones didnt st rike Leo as
somet hing he want ed t o deal wit h just t hen.
Are you t he cursed kid Nemesis ment ioned? Leo asked. But youre a girl.
Youre a girl, said t he girl.
Excuse me? Leo said.
Excuse me, t he girl said miserably.
Youre repeat ing Leo st opped. Oh. Hold it . Hazel, wasnt t here some myt h about a girl
who repeat ed everyt hing?
Echo, Hazel said.
Echo, t he girl agreed. She shift ed, her dress changing wit h t he landscape. Her eyes were
t he color of t he salt wat er. Leo t ried t o home in on her feat ures, but he couldnt .
I dont remember t he myt h, he admit t ed. You were cursed t o repeat t he last t hing you
You heard, Echo said.
Poor t hing, Hazel said. If I remember right , a goddess did t his?
A goddess did t his, Echo confirmed.
Leo scrat ched his head. But wasnt t hat t housands of yearsoh. Youre one of t he mort als
who came back t hrough t he Doors of Deat h. I really wish we could st op running int o dead
Dead people, Echo said, like she was chast ising him.
He realized Hazel was st aring at her feet .
Uhsorry, he mut t ered. I didnt mean it t hat way.
That way. Echo point ed t oward t he far shore of t he island.
You want t o show us somet hing? Hazel asked. She climbed down t he boulder, and Leo
Even up close, Echo was hard t o see. In fact , she seemed t o get more invisible t he longer he
looked at her.
You sure youre real? he asked. I meanflesh and blood?
Flesh and blood. She t ouched Leos face and made him flinch. Her fingers were warm.
Soyou have t o repeat everyt hing? he asked.
Everyt hing.
Leo couldnt help smiling. That could be fun.
Fun, she said unhappily.
Blue elephant s.
Blue elephant s.
Kiss me, you fool.
You fool.
Leo, Hazel pleaded, dont t ease her.
Dont t ease her, Echo agreed.
Okay, okay, Leo said, t hough he had t o resist t he urge. It wasnt every day he met
somebody wit h a built -in t alkback feat ure. So what were you point ing at ? Do you need our
Help, Echo agreed emphat ically. She gest ured for t hem t o follow and sprint ed down t he
slope. Leo could only follow her progress by t he movement of t he grass and t he shimmer of her
dress as it changed t o mat ch t he rocks.
Wed bet t er hurry, Hazel said. Or well lose her.

They found t he problemif you can call a mob of good-looking girls a problem. Echo led t hem
down int o a grassy meadow shaped like a blast crat er, wit h a small pond in t he middle.
Gat hered at t he wat ers edge were several dozen nymphs. At least , Leo guessed t hey were
nymphs. Like t he ones at Camp Half-Blood, t hese wore gossamer dresses. Their feet were
bare. They had elfish feat ures, and t heir skin had a slight ly greenish t inge.
Leo didnt underst and what t hey were doing, but t hey were all crowded t oget her in one spot ,
facing t he pond and jost ling for a bet t er view. Several held up phone cameras, t rying t o get a
shot over t he heads of t he ot hers. Leo had never seen nymphs wit h phones. He wondered if
t hey were looking at a dead body. If so, why were t hey bouncing up and down and giggling so
excit edly?
What are t hey looking at ? Leo wondered.
Looking at , Echo sighed.
One way t o find out . Hazel marched forward and began nudging her way t hrough t he
crowd. Excuse us. Pardon me.
Hey! one nymph complained. We were here first !
Yeah, anot her sniffed. He wont be int erest ed in you.
The second nymph had large red heart s paint ed on her cheeks. Over her dress, she wore a
T-shirt t hat read: OMG, I <3 N! ! ! !
Uh, demigod business, Leo said, t rying t o sound official. Make room. Thanks.
The nymphs grumbled, but t hey part ed t o reveal a young man kneeling at t he edge of t he
pond, gazing int ent ly at t he wat er.
Leo usually didnt pay much at t ent ion t o how ot her guys looked. He supposed t hat came
from hanging around Jasont all, blond, rugged, and basically everyt hing Leo could never be.
Leo was used t o not being not iced by girls. At least , he knew hed never get a girl by his looks.
He hoped his personalit y and sense of humor would do t hat someday, t hough it definit ely
hadnt worked yet .
At any rat e, Leo couldnt miss t he fact t hat t he guy at t he pond was one super good-looking
dude. He had a chiseled face wit h lips and eyes t hat were somewhere bet ween feminine
beaut iful and masculine handsome. Dark hair swept over his brow. He might ve been
sevent een or t went y, it was hard t o say, but he was built like a dancerwit h long graceful
arms and muscular legs, perfect post ure and an air of regal calm. He wore a simple whit e T-
shirt and jeans, wit h a bow and quiver st rapped t o his back. The weapons obviously hadnt
been used in a while. The arrows were covered in dust . A spider had woven a web in t he t op of
t he bow.
As Leo edged closer, he realized t he guys face was unusually golden. In t he sunset , t he light
was bouncing off a large flat sheet of Celest ial bronze t hat lay at t he bot t om of t he pond,
washing Mr. Handsomes feat ures in a warm glow.
The guy seemed fascinat ed wit h his reflect ion in t he met al.
Hazel inhaled sharply. Hes gorgeous.
Around her, t he nymphs squealed and clapped in agreement .
I am, t he young man murmured dreamily, his gaze st ill fixed on t he wat er. I am so
One of t he nymphs showed her iPhone screen. His lat est YouTube video got a million hit s in
like, an hour. I t hink I was half of t hose!
The ot her nymphs giggled.
YouTube video? Leo asked. What does he do in t he video, sing?
No, silly! t he nymph chided. He used t o be a prince, and a wonderful hunt er and st uff. But
t hat doesnt mat t er. Now he just well, look! She showed Leo t he video. It was exact ly what
t hey were seeing in real lifet he guy st aring at himself in t he pond.
He is sooooo hot ! said anot her girl. Her T-shirt read: MRS. NARCI SSUS.
Narcissus? Leo asked.
Narcissus, Echo agreed sadly.
Leo had forgot t en Echo was t here. Apparent ly none of t he nymphs had not iced her eit her.
Oh, not you again! Mrs. Narcissus t ried t o push Echo away, but she misjudged where t he
camouflaged girl was and ended up shoving several ot her nymphs.
You had your chance, Echo! said t he nymph wit h t he iPhone. He dumped you four
t housand years ago! You are so not good enough for him.
For him, Echo said bit t erly.
Wait . Hazel clearly had t rouble t earing her eyes away from t he handsome guy, but she
managed it . What s going on here? Why did Echo bring us here?
One nymph rolled her eyes. She was holding an aut ograph pen and a crumpled post er of
Narcissus. Echo was a nymph like us, a long t ime ago, but she was a t ot al chat t erbox!
Gossiping, blah, blah, blah, all t he t ime.
I know! anot her nymph shrieked. Like, who could st and t hat ? Just t he ot her day, I t old
Cleopeiayou know she lives in t he boulder next t o me?I said: Stop gossiping or youll end
up like Echo. Cleopeia is such a big mout h! Did you hear what she said about t hat cloud
nymph and t he sat yr?
Tot ally! said t he nymph wit h t he post er. So anyway, as punishment for blabbing, Hera
cursed Echo so she could only repeat t hings, which was fine wit h us. But t hen Echo fell in love
wit h our gorgeous guy, Narcissusas if he would ever not ice her.
As if! said half a dozen ot hers.
Now shes got some weird idea he needs saving, said Mrs. Narcissus. She should just go
Go away, Echo growled back.
Im so glad Narcissus is alive again, said anot her nymph in a gray dress. She had t he words
NARCI SSUS + LAI EA writ t en up and down her arms in black marker. Hes like the best! And hes in my
t errit ory.
Oh, st op it , Laiea, her friend said. Im t he pond nymph. Youre just t he rock nymph.
Well, Im t he grass nymph, anot her prot est ed.
No, he obviously came here because he likes t he wildflowers! anot her said. Those are
The whole mob began arguing while Narcissus st ared at t he lake, ignoring t hem.
Hold it ! Leo yelled. Ladies, hold it ! I need t o ask Narcissus somet hing.
Slowly t he nymphs set t led down and went back t o t aking pict ures.
Leo knelt next t o t he handsome dude. So, Narcissus. What s up?
Could you move? Narcissus asked dist ract edly. Youre ruining t he view.
Leo looked in t he wat er. His own reflect ion rippled next t o Narcissuss on t he surface of t he
submerged bronze. Leo didnt have any desire t o st are at himself. Compared t o Narcissus, he
looked like an undergrown t roll. But t here was no doubt t he met al was a sheet of hammered
Celest ial bronze, roughly circular, about five feet in diamet er.
What it was doing in t his pond, Leo wasnt sure. Celest ial bronze fell t o eart h in odd places.
Hed heard t hat most pieces were cast off from his dads various workshops. Hephaest us
would lose his t emper when project s didnt work out , and hed t oss his scraps int o t he mort al
world. This piece looked like it might have been meant as a shield for a god, but it hadnt t urned
out properly. If Leo could get it back t o t he ship, it would be just enough bronze for his repairs.
Right , great view, Leo said. Happy t o move, but if youre not using it , could I just t ake t hat
sheet of bronze?
No, Narcissus said. I love him. Hes so gorgeous.
Leo looked around t o see if t he nymphs were laughing. This had t o be a huge joke. But t hey
were swooning and nodding in agreement . Only Hazel seemed appalled. She wrinkled her nose
as if shed come t o t he conclusion t hat Narcissus smelled worse t han he looked.
Man, Leo said t o Narcissus. You do realize t hat youre looking at yourself in t he wat er,
right ?
I am so great , Narcissus sighed. He st ret ched out a hand longingly t o t ouch t he wat er, but
held back. No, I cant make ripples. That ruins t he image. WowI am so great .
Yeah, Leo mut t ered. But if I t ook t he bronze, you could st ill see yourself in t he wat er. Or
here He reached in his t ool belt and pulled out a simple mirror t he size of a monocle. Ill
t rade you.
Narcissus t ook t he mirror, reluct ant ly, and admired himself. Even you carry a pict ure of me? I
dont blame you. I am gorgeous. Thank you. He set t he mirror down and ret urned his at t ent ion
t o t he pond. But I already have a much bet t er image. The color flat t ers me, dont you t hink?
Oh, gods, yes! a nymph screamed. Marry me, Narcissus!
No, me! anot her cried. Would you sign my post er?
No, sign my shirt !
No, sign my forehead!
No, sign my
St op it ! Hazel snapped.
St op it , Echo agreed.
Leo had lost sight of Echo again, but now he realized she was kneeling on t he ot her side of
Narcissus, waving her hand in front of his face as if t rying t o break his concent rat ion. Narcissus
didnt even blink.
The nymph fan club t ried t o shove Hazel out of t he way, but she drew her cavalry sword and
forced t hem back. Snap out of it ! she yelled.
He wont sign your sword, t he post er nymph complained.
He wont marry you, said t he iPhone girl. And you cant t ake his bronze mirror! That s what
keeps him here!
Youre all ridiculous, Hazel said. Hes so full of himself! How can you possibly like him?
Like him, Echo sighed, st ill waving her hand in front of his face.
The ot hers sighed along wit h her.
I am so hot , Narcissus said sympat het ically.
Narcissus, list en. Hazel kept her sword at t he ready. Echo brought us here t o help you.
Didnt you, Echo?
Echo, said Echo.
Who? Narcissus said.
The only girl who cares what happens t o you, apparent ly, Hazel said. Do you remember
Narcissus frowned. Ino. That cant be right . I am much t oo import ant t o die.
You died st aring at yourself, Hazel insist ed. I remember t he st ory now. Nemesis was t he
goddess who cursed you, because you broke so many heart s. Your punishment was t o fall in
love wit h your own reflect ion.
I love me so, so much, Narcissus agreed.
You finally died, Hazel cont inued. I dont know which version of t he st ory is t rue. You eit her
drowned yourself or t urned int o a flower hanging over t he wat er orEcho, which is it ?
Which is it ? she said hopelessly.
Leo st ood. It doesnt mat t er. The point is youre alive again, man. You have a second
chance. That s what Nemesis was t elling us. You can get up, and get on wit h your life. Echo is
t rying t o save you. Or you can st ay here and st are at yourself unt il you die again.
St ay here! all t he nymphs screamed.
Marry me before you die! anot her squeaked.
Narcissus shook his head. You just want my reflect ion. I dont blame you, but you cant have
it . I belong t o me.
Hazel sighed in exasperat ion. She glanced at t he sun, which was sinking fast . Then she
gest ured wit h her sword t oward t he edge of t he crat er. Leo, could we t alk for a minut e?
Excuse us, Leo t old Narcissus. Echo, want t o come wit h?
Come wit h, Echo confirmed.
The nymphs clust ered around Narcissus again and began recording new videos and t aking
more phot os.
Hazel led t he way unt il t hey were out of earshot . Nemesis was right , she said. Some
demigods cant change t heir nat ure. Narcissus is going t o st ay t here unt il he dies again.
No, Leo said.
No, Echo agreed.
We need t hat bronze, Leo said. If we t ake it away, it might give Narcissus a reason t o
snap out of it . Echo could have a chance t o save him.
A chance t o save him, Echo said grat efully.
Hazel st abbed her sword in t he sand. It could also make several dozen nymphs very angry
wit h us, she said. And Narcissus might st ill know how t o shoot his bow.
Leo pondered t hat . The sun was just about down. Nemesis had ment ioned t hat Narcissus
got agit at ed aft er dark, probably because he couldnt see his reflect ion anymore. Leo didnt
want t o st ick around long enough t o find out what t he goddess meant by agitated. Hed also
had experience wit h mobs of crazed nymphs. He wasnt anxious t o repeat t hat .
Hazel, he said, your power wit h precious met al Can you just det ect it , or can you
act ually summon it t o you?
She frowned. Somet imes I can summon it . Ive never t ried wit h a piece of Celest ial bronze
t hat big before. I might be able t o draw it t o me t hrough t he eart h, but Id have t o be fairly close.
It would t ake a lot of concent rat ion, and it wouldnt be fast .
Be fast , Echo warned.
Leo cursed. He had hoped t hey could just go back t o t he ship, and Hazel could t eleport t he
Celest ial bronze from a safe dist ance.
All right , he said. Well have t o t ry somet hing risky. Hazel, how about you t ry t o summon
t he bronze from right here? Make it sink t hrough t he sand and t unnel over t o you, t hen grab it
and run for t he ship.
But Narcissus is looking at it all t he t ime, she said.
All t he t ime, Echo echoed.
That ll be my job, Leo said, hat ing his own plan already. Echo and I will cause a dist ract ion.
Dist ract ion? Echo asked.
Ill explain, Leo promised. Are you willing?
Willing, Echo said.
Great , Leo said. Now, let s hope we dont die.
LEO PSYCHED HI MSELF UP for an ext reme makeover. He summoned some breat h mint s and a pair of
welding goggles from his t ool belt . The goggles werent exact ly sunglasses, but t heyd have t o
do. He rolled up t he sleeves of his shirt . He used some machine oil t o grease back his hair. He
st uck a wrench in his back pocket (why exact ly, he wasnt sure) and he had Hazel draw a
t at t oo on his biceps wit h a marker: HOT STUFF, wit h a skull and crossbones.
What in t he world are you t hinking? She sounded pret t y flust ered.
I t ry not t o t hink, Leo admit t ed. It int erferes wit h being nut s. Just concent rat e on moving
t hat Celest ial bronze. Echo, you ready?
Ready, she said.
Leo t ook a deep breat h. He st rut t ed back t oward t he pond, hoping he looked awesome and
not like he had some sort of nervous afflict ion. Leo is t he coolest ! he shout ed.
Leo is t he coolest ! Echo shout ed back.
Yeah, baby, check me out !
Check me out ! Echo said.
Make way for t he king!
The king!
Narcissus is weak!
The crowd of nymphs scat t ered in surprise. Leo shooed t hem away as if t hey were bot hering
him. No aut ographs, girls. I know you want some Leo t ime, but Im way t oo cool. You bet t er just
hang around t hat ugly dweeb Narcissus. Hes lame!
Lame! Echo said wit h ent husiasm.
The nymphs mut t ered angrily.
What are you t alking about ? one demanded.
Youre lame, said anot her.
Leo adjust ed his goggles and smiled. He flexed his biceps, t hough he didnt have much t o
flex, and showed off his HOT STUFF t at t oo. He had t he nymphs at t ent ion, if only because t hey
were st unned; but Narcissus was st ill fixed on his own reflect ion.
You know how ugly Narcissus is? Leo asked t he crowd. Hes so ugly, when he was born
his mama t hought he was a backward cent aurwit h a horse but t for a face.
Some of t he nymphs gasped. Narcissus frowned, as t hough he was vaguely aware of a gnat
buzzing around his head.
You know why his bow has cobwebs? Leo cont inued. He uses it t o hunt for dat es, but he
cant find one!
One of t he nymphs laughed. The ot hers quickly elbowed her int o silence.
Narcissus t urned and scowled at Leo. Who are you?
Im t he Super-sized McShizzle, man! Leo said. Im Leo Valdez, bad boy supreme. And t he
ladies love a bad boy.
Love a bad boy! Echo said, wit h a convincing squeal.
Leo t ook out a pen and aut ographed t he arm of one of t he nymphs. Narcissus is a loser!
Hes so weak, he cant bench-press a Kleenex. Hes so lame, when you look up lame on
Wikipedia, it s got a pict ure of Narcissusonly t he pict ures so ugly, no one ever checks it out .
Narcissus knit his handsome eyebrows. His face was t urning from bronze t o salmon pink. For
t he moment , hed t ot ally forgot t en about t he pond, and Leo could see t he sheet of bronze
sinking int o t he sand.
What are you t alking about ? Narcissus demanded. I am amazing. Everyone knows t his.
Amazing at pure suck, Leo said. If I was as suck as you, Id drown myself. Oh wait , you
already did t hat .
Anot her nymph giggled. Then anot her. Narcissus growled, which did make him look a lit t le
less handsome. Meanwhile Leo beamed and wiggled his eyebrows over his goggles and spread
his hands, gest uring for applause.
That s right ! he said. Team Leo for t he win!
Team Leo for t he win! Echo shout ed. Shed wriggled int o t he mob of nymphs, and because
she was so hard t o see, t he nymphs apparent ly t hought t he voice came from one of t heir own.
Oh my god, I am so awesome! Leo bellowed.
So awesome! Echo yelled back.
He is funny, a nymph vent ured.
And cut e, in a scrawny way, anot her said.
Scrawny? Leo asked. Baby, I invented scrawny. Scrawny is t he new sizzling hot. And I
GOT t he scrawny. Narcissus? Hes such a loser even t he Underworld didnt want him. He
couldnt get t he ghost girls t o dat e him.
Eww, said a nymph.
Eww! Echo agreed.
St op! Narcissus got t o his feet . This is not right ! This person is obviously not awesome, so
he must be He st ruggled for t he right words. It had probably been a long t ime since hed
t alked about anyt hing ot her t han himself. He must be t ricking us.
Apparent ly Narcissus wasnt complet ely st upid. Realizat ion dawned on his face. He t urned
back t o t he pond. The bronze mirror is gone! My reflect ion! Give me back t o me!
Team Leo! one of t he nymphs squeaked. But t he ot hers ret urned t heir at t ent ion t o
Im t he beaut iful one! Narcissus insist ed. Hes st olen my mirror, and Im going t o leave
unless we get it back!
The girls gasped. One point ed. There!
Hazel was at t he t op of t he crat er, running away as fast as she could while lugging a large
sheet of bronze.
Get it back! cried a nymph.
Probably against her will, Echo mut t ered, Get it back.
Yes! Narcissus unslung his bow and grabbed an arrow from his dust y quiver. The first one
who get s t hat bronze, I will like you almost as much as I like me. I might even kiss you, right
aft er I kiss my reflect ion!
Oh my gods! t he nymphs screamed.
And kill t hose demigods! Narcissus added, glaring very handsomely at Leo. They are not
as cool as me!

Leo could run pret t y fast when someone was t rying t o kill him. Sadly, hed had a lot of pract ice.
He overt ook Hazel, which was easy, since she was st ruggling wit h fift y pounds of Celest ial
bronze. He t ook one side of t he met al plat e and glanced back. Narcissus was nocking an
arrow, but it was so old and brit t le, it broke int o splint ers.
Ow! he yelled very at t ract ively. My manicure!
Normally nymphs were quickat least t he ones at Camp Half-Blood werebut t hese were
burdened wit h post ers, T-shirt s, and ot her Narcissus merchandise. The nymphs also werent
great at working as a t eam. They kept st umbling over one anot her, pushing and shoving. Echo
made t hings worse by running among t hem, t ripping and t ackling as many as she could.
St ill, t hey were closing rapidly.
Call Arion! Leo gasped.
Already did! Hazel said.
They ran for t he beach. They made it t o t he edge of t he wat er and could see t he Argo II, but
t here was no way t o get t here. It was much t oo far t o swim, even if t hey hadnt been t ot ing
Leo t urned. The mob was coming over t he dunes, Narcissus in t he lead, holding his bow like
a band majors bat on. The nymphs had conjured assort ed weapons. Some held rocks. Some
had wooden clubs wreat hed in flowers. A few of t he wat er nymphs had squirt gunswhich
seemed not quit e as t errifyingbut t he look in t heir eyes was st ill murderous.
Oh, man, Leo mut t ered, summoning fire in his free hand. St raight -up fight ing isnt my
t hing.
Hold t he Celest ial bronze. Hazel drew her sword. Get behind me!
Get behind me! Echo repeat ed. The camouflaged girl was racing ahead of t he mob now.
She st opped in front of Leo and t urned, spreading her arms as if she meant t o personally shield
Echo? Leo could hardly t alk wit h t he lump in his t hroat . Youre one brave nymph.
Brave nymph? Her t one made it a quest ion.
Im proud t o have you on Team Leo, he said. If we survive t his, you should forget
Forget Narcissus? she said uncert ainly.
Youre way t oo good for him.
The nymphs surrounded t hem in a semicircle.
Trickery! Narcissus said. They dont love me, girls! We all love me, dont we?
Yes! t he girls screamed, except for one confused nymph in a yellow dress who squeaked,
Team Leo!
Kill t hem! Narcissus ordered.
The nymphs surged forward, but t he sand in front of t hem exploded. Arion raced out of
nowhere, circling t he mob so quickly he creat ed a sandst orm, showering t he nymphs in whit e
lime, spraying t heir eyes.
I love t his horse! Leo said.
The nymphs collapsed, coughing and gagging. Narcissus st umbled around blindly, swinging
his bow like he was t rying t o hit a piat a.
Hazel climbed int o t he saddle, hoist ed up t he bronze, and offered Leo a hand.
We cant leave Echo! Leo said.
Leave Echo, t he nymph repeat ed.
She smiled, and for t he first t ime Leo could clearly see her face. She really was pret t y. Her
eyes were bluer t han hed realized. How had he missed t hat ?
Why? Leo asked. You dont t hink you can st ill save Narcissus
Save Narcissus, she said confident ly. And even t hough it was only an echo, Leo could t ell
t hat she meant it . Shed been given a second chance at life, and she was det ermined t o use it
t o save t he guy she lovedeven if he was a complet ely hopeless (t hough very handsome)
Leo want ed t o prot est , but Echo leaned forward and kissed him on t he cheek, t hen pushed
him gent ly away.
Leo, come on! Hazel called.
The ot her nymphs were st art ing t o recover. They wiped t he lime out of t heir eyes, which
were now glowing green wit h anger. Leo looked for Echo again, but she had dissolved int o t he
Yeah, he said, his t hroat dry. Yeah, okay.
He climbed up behind Hazel. Arion t ook off across t he wat er, t he nymphs screaming behind
t hem, and Narcissus shout ing, Bring me back! Bring me back!
As Arion raced t oward t he Argo II, Leo remembered what Nemesis had said about Echo and
Narcissus: Perhaps theyll teach you a lesson.
Leo had t hought shed meant Narcissus, but now he wondered if t he real lesson for him was
Echoinvisible t o her bret hren, cursed t o love someone who didnt care for her. A seventh
wheel. He t ried t o shake t hat t hought . He clung t o t he sheet of bronze like a shield.
He was det ermined never t o forget Echos face. She deserved at least one person who saw
her and knew how good she was. Leo closed his eyes, but t he memory of her smile was already

But sit t ing in Jasons cabin, wait ing for him t o wake up, she felt alone and helpless.
Jasons face was so pale, he might ve been dead. She remembered t he awful sound of t hat
brick hit t ing his foreheadan injury t hat had happened only because hed t ried t o shield her
from t he Romans.
Even wit h t he nect ar and ambrosia t heyd managed t o force-feed him, Piper couldnt be sure
he would be okay when he woke up. What if hed lost his memories againbut t his t ime, his
memories of her?
That would be t he cruelest t rick t he gods had played on her yet , and t heyd played some
pret t y cruel t ricks.
She heard Gleeson Hedge in his room next door, humming a milit ary songSt ars and
St ripes Forever, maybe? Since t he sat ellit e TV was out , t he sat yr was probably sit t ing on his
bunk reading back issues of Guns & Ammo magazine. He wasnt a bad chaperone, but he was
definit ely t he most warlike old goat Piper had ever met .
Of course she was grat eful t o t he sat yr. He had helped her dad, movie act or Trist an McLean,
get back on his feet aft er being kidnapped by giant s t he past wint er. A few weeks ago, Hedge
had asked his girlfriend, Mellie, t o t ake charge of t he McLean household so he could come
along t o help wit h t his quest .
Coach Hedge had t ried t o make it sound like ret urning t o Camp Half-Blood had been all his
idea, but Piper suspect ed t here was more t o it . The last few weeks, whenever Piper called
home, her dad and Mellie had asked her what was wrong. Maybe somet hing in her voice had
t ipped t hem off.
Piper couldnt share t he visions shed seen. They were t oo dist urbing. Besides, her dad had
t aken a pot ion t hat had erased all of Pipers demigod secret s from his memory. But he could
st ill t ell when she was upset , and she was pret t y sure her dad had encouraged Coach t o look
out for her.
She shouldnt draw her blade. It would only make her feel worse.
Finally t he t empt at ion was t oo great . She unsheat hed Kat opt ris. It didnt look very special,
just a t riangular blade wit h an unadorned hilt , but it had once been owned by Helen of Troy.
The daggers name meant looking glass.
Piper gazed at t he bronze blade. At first , she saw only her reflect ion. Then light rippled
across t he met al. She saw a crowd of Roman demigods gat hered in t he forum. The blond
scarecrow-looking kid, Oct avian, was speaking t o t he mob, shaking his fist . Piper couldnt hear
him, but t he gist was obvious: We need to kill those Greeks!
Reyna, t he praet or, st ood t o one side, her face t ight wit h suppressed emot ion. Bit t erness?
Anger? Piper wasnt sure.
Shed been prepared t o hat e Reyna, but she couldnt . During t he feast in t he forum, Piper
had admired t he way Reyna kept her feelings in check.
Reyna had sized up Piper and Jasons relat ionship right away. As a daught er of Aphrodit e,
Piper could t ell st uff like t hat . Yet Reyna had st ayed polit e and in cont rol. Shed put her camps
needs ahead of her emot ions. Shed given t he Greeks a fair chanceright up unt il t he Argo II
had st art ed dest roying her cit y.
Shed almost made Piper feel guilt y about being Jasons girlfriend, t hough t hat was silly.
Jason hadnt ever been Reynas boyfriend, not really.
Maybe Reyna wasnt so bad, but it didnt mat t er now. Theyd messed up t he chance for
peace. Pipers power of persuasion had, for once, done absolut ely no good.
Her secret fear? Maybe she hadnt t ried hard enough. Piper had never want ed t o make
friends wit h t he Romans. She was t oo worried about losing Jason t o his old life. Maybe
unconsciously she hadnt put her best effort int o t he charmspeak.
Now Jason was hurt . The ship had been almost dest royed. And according t o her dagger,
t hat crazy t eddy-bear-st rangling kid, Oct avian, was whipping t he Romans int o a war frenzy.
The scene in her blade shift ed. There was a rapid series of images shed seen before, but
she st ill didnt underst and t hem: Jason riding int o bat t le on horseback, his eyes gold inst ead of
blue; a woman in an old-fashioned Sout hern belle dress, st anding in an oceanside park wit h
palm t rees; a bull wit h t he face of a bearded man, rising out of a river; and t wo giant s in
mat ching yellow t ogas, hoist ing a rope on a pulley syst em, lift ing a large bronze vase out of a
pit .
Then came t he worst vision: she saw herself wit h Jason and Percy, st anding waist -deep in
wat er at t he bot t om of a dark circular chamber, like a giant well. Ghost ly shapes moved
t hrough t he wat er as it rose rapidly. Piper clawed at t he walls, t rying t o escape, but t here was
nowhere t o go. The wat er reached t heir chest s. Jason was pulled under. Percy st umbled and
How could a child of t he sea god drown? Piper didnt know, but she wat ched herself in t he
vision, alone and t hrashing in t he dark, unt il t he wat er rose over her head.
Piper shut her eyes. Dont show me that again, she pleaded. Show me something helpful.
She forced herself t o look at t he blade again.
This t ime, she saw an empt y highway cut t ing bet ween fields of wheat and sunflowers. A
mileage marker read: TOPEKA 32. On t he shoulder of t he road st ood a man in khaki short s and a
purple camp shirt . His face was lost in t he shadow of a broad hat , t he brim wreat hed in leafy
vines. He held up a silver goblet and beckoned t o Piper. Somehow she knew he was offering
her some sort of gift a cure, or an ant idot e.
Hey, Jason croaked.
Piper was so st art led she dropped t he knife. Youre awake!
Dont sound so surprised. Jason t ouched his bandaged head and frowned. What what
happened? I remember t he explosions, and
You remember who I am?
Jason t ried t o laugh, but it t urned int o a painful wince. Last I checked, you were my
awesome girlfriend Piper. Unless somet hing has changed since I was out ?
Piper was so relieved she almost sobbed. She helped him sit up and gave him some nect ar
t o sip while she brought him up t o speed. She was just explaining Leos plan t o fix t he ship
when she heard horse hooves clomping across t he deck over t heir heads.
Moment s lat er, Leo and Hazel st umbled t o a st op in t he doorway, carrying a large sheet of
hammered bronze bet ween t hem.
Gods of Olympus. Piper st ared at Leo. What happened t o you?
His hair was greased back. He had welding goggles on his forehead, a lipst ick mark on his
cheek, t at t oos all over his arms, and a T-shirt t hat read HOT STUFF, BAD BOY, and TEAM LEO.
Long st ory, he said. Ot hers back?
Not yet , Piper said.
Leo cursed. Then he not iced Jason sit t ing up, and his face bright ened. Hey, man! Glad
youre bet t er. Ill be in t he engine room.
He ran off wit h t he sheet of bronze, leaving Hazel in t he doorway.
Piper raised an eyebrow at her. Team Leo?
We met Narcissus, Hazel said, which didnt really explain much. Also Nemesis, t he revenge
Jason sighed. I miss all t he fun.
On t he deck above, somet hing went THUMP, as if a heavy creat ure had landed. Annabet h
and Percy came running down t he hall. Percy was t ot ing a st eaming five-gallon plast ic bucket
t hat smelled horrible. Annabet h had a pat ch of black st icky st uff in her hair. Percys shirt was
covered in it .
Roofing t ar? Piper guessed.
Frank st umbled up behind t hem, which made t he hallway pret t y jam-packed wit h demigods.
Frank had a big smear of t he black sludge down his face.
Ran int o some t ar monst ers, Annabet h said. Hey, Jason, glad youre awake. Hazel, wheres
She point ed down. Engine room.
Suddenly t he ent ire ship list ed t o port . The demigods st umbled. Percy almost spilled his
bucket of t ar.
Uh, what was t hat ? he demanded.
Oh Hazel looked embarrassed. We may have angered t he nymphs who live in t his lake.
Likeall of t hem.
Great . Percy handed t he bucket of t ar t o Frank and Annabet h. You guys help Leo. Ill hold
off t he wat er spirit s as long as I can.
On it ! Frank promised.
The t hree of t hem ran off, leaving Hazel at t he cabin door. The ship list ed again, and Hazel
hugged her st omach like she was going t o be sick.
Ill just She swallowed, point ed weakly down t he passageway, and ran off.
Jason and Piper st ayed below as t he ship rocked back and fort h. For a hero, Piper felt pret t y
useless. Waves crashed against t he hull as angry voices came from above deckPercy
shout ing, Coach Hedge yelling at t he lake. Fest us t he figurehead breat hed fire several t imes.
Down t he hall, Hazel moaned miserably in her cabin. In t he engine room below, it sounded like
Leo and t he ot hers were doing an Irish line dance wit h anvils t ied t o t heir feet . Aft er what
seemed like hours, t he engine began t o hum. The oars creaked and groaned, and Piper felt t he
ship lift int o t he air.
The rocking and shaking st opped. The ship became quiet except for t he drone of machinery.
Finally Leo emerged from t he engine room. He was caked in sweat , lime dust , and t ar. His T-
shirt looked like it had been caught in an escalat or and chewed t o shreds. The TEAM LEO on his
chest now read: AM LEO. But he grinned like a madman and announced t hat t hey were safely
under way.
Meet ing in t he mess hall, one hour, he said. Crazy day, huh?

Aft er everyone had cleaned up, Coach Hedge t ook t he helm and t he demigods gat hered below
for dinner. It was t he first t ime t heyd all sat down t oget herjust t he seven of t hem. Maybe
t heir presence shouldve reassured Piper, but seeing all of t hem in one place only reminded her
t hat t he Prophecy of Seven was unfolding at last . No more wait ing for Leo t o finish t he ship. No
more easy days at Camp Half-Blood, pret ending t he fut ure was st ill a long way off. They were
under way, wit h a bunch of angry Romans behind t hem and t he ancient lands ahead. The
giant s would be wait ing. Gaea was rising. And unless t hey succeeded in t his quest , t he world
would be dest royed.
The ot hers must ve felt it t oo. The t ension in t he mess hall was like an elect rical st orm
brewing, which was t ot ally possible, considering Percys and Jasons powers. In an awkward
moment , t he t wo boys t ried t o sit in t he same chair at t he head of t he t able. Sparks lit erally
flew from Jasons hands. Aft er a brief silent st andoff, like t hey were bot h t hinking, Seriously,
dude?, t hey ceded t he chair t o Annabet h and sat at opposit e sides of t he t able.
The crew compared not es on what had happened in Salt Lake Cit y, but even Leos ridiculous
st ory about how he t ricked Narcissus wasnt enough t o cheer up t he group.
So where t o now? Leo asked wit h a mout hful of pizza. I did a quick repair job t o get us out
of t he lake, but t heres st ill a lot of damage. We should really put down again and fix t hings
right before we head across t he At lant ic.
Percy was eat ing a piece of pie, which for some reason was complet ely bluefilling, crust ,
even t he whipped cream. We need t o put some dist ance bet ween us and Camp Jupit er, he
said. Frank spot t ed some eagles over Salt Lake Cit y. We figure t he Romans arent far behind
That didnt improve t he mood around t he t able. Piper didnt want t o say anyt hing, but she
felt obligedand a lit t le guilt y. I dont suppose we should go back and t ry t o reason wit h t he
Romans? Maybemaybe I didnt t ry hard enough wit h t he charmspeak.
Jason t ook her hand. It wasnt your fault , Pipes. Or Leos, he added quickly. What ever
happened, it was Gaeas doing, t o drive t he t wo camps apart .
Piper was grat eful for his support , but she st ill felt uneasy. Maybe if we could explain t hat ,
t hough
Wit h no proof? Annabet h asked. And no idea what really happened? I appreciat e what
youre saying, Piper. I dont want t he Romans on our bad side, but unt il we underst and what
Gaeas up t o, going back is suicide.
Shes right , Hazel said. She st ill looked a lit t le queasy from seasickness, but she was t rying
t o eat a few salt ine crackers. The rim of her plat e was embedded wit h rubies, and Piper was
pret t y sure t hey hadnt been t here at t he beginning of t he meal. Reyna might list en, but
Oct avian wont . The Romans have honor t o t hink about . Theyve been at t acked. Theyll shoot
first and ask quest ions post hac.
Piper st ared at her own dinner. The magical plat es could conjure up a great select ion of
veget arian st uff. She especially liked t he avocado and grilled pepper quesadilla, but t onight she
didnt have much of an appet it e.
She t hought about t he visions shed seen in her knife: Jason wit h golden eyes; t he bull wit h
t he human head; t he t wo giant s in yellow t ogas hoist ing a bronze jar from a pit . Worst of all,
she remembered herself drowning in black wat er.
Piper had always liked t he wat er. She had good memories of surfing wit h her dad. But since
shed st art ed seeing t hat vision in Kat opt ris, shed been t hinking more and more of an old
Cherokee st ory her granddad used t o t ell t o keep her away from t he river near his cabin. He
t old her t he Cherokees believed in good wat er spirit s, like t he naiads of t he Greeks; but t hey
also believed in evil wat er spirit s, t he wat er cannibals, who hunt ed mort als wit h invisible arrows
and were especially fond of drowning small children.
Youre right , she decided. We have t o keep going. Not just because of t he Romans. We
have t o hurry.
Hazel nodded. Nemesis said we have only six days unt il Nico dies and Rome is dest royed.
Jason frowned. You mean Rome Rome, not New Rome?
I t hink, Hazel said. But if so, t hat s not much t ime.
Why six days? Percy wondered. And how are t hey going t o dest roy Rome?
No one answered. Piper didnt want t o add furt her bad news, but she felt she had t o.
Theres more, she said. Ive been seeing some t hings in my knife.
The big kid, Frank, froze wit h a forkful of spaghet t i halfway t o his mout h. Things such
as ?
They dont really make sense, Piper said, just garbled images, but I saw t wo giant s,
dressed alike. Maybe t wins.
Annabet h st ared at t he magical video feed from Camp Half-Blood on t he wall. Right now it
showed t he living room in t he Big House: a cozy fire on t he heart h and Seymour, t he st uffed
leopard head, snoring cont ent edly above t he mant el.
Twins, like in Ellas prophecy, Annabet h said. If we could figure out t hose lines, it might
Wisdoms daughter walks alone, Percy said. The Mark of Athena burns through Rome.
Annabet h, t hat s got t o mean you. Juno t old mewell, she said you had a hard t ask ahead of
you in Rome. She said she doubt ed you could do it . But I know shes wrong.
Annabet h t ook a long breat h. Reyna was about t o t ell me somet hing right before t he ship
fired on us. She said t here was an old legend among t he Roman praet orssomet hing t hat had
t o do wit h At hena. She said it might be t he reason Greeks and Romans could never get along.
Leo and Hazel exchanged nervous looks.
Nemesis ment ioned somet hing similar, Leo said. She t alked about an old score t hat had t o
be set t led
The one t hing t hat might bring t he gods t wo nat ures int o harmony, Hazel recalled. An old
wrong finally avenged.
Percy drew a frowny face in his blue whipped cream. I was only a praet or for about t wo
hours. Jason, you ever hear a legend like t hat ?
Jason was st ill holding Pipers hand. His fingers had t urned clammy.
Iuh, Im not sure, he said. Ill give it some t hought .
Percy narrowed his eyes. Youre not sure?
Jason didnt respond. Piper want ed t o ask him what was wrong. She could t ell he didnt want
t o discuss t his old legend. She caught his eye, and he pleaded silent ly, Later.
Hazel broke t he silence. What about t he ot her lines? She t urned her ruby-encrust ed plat e.
Twins snuff out the angels breath, Who holds the key to endless death.
Giants bane stands gold and pale, Frank added, Won through pain from a woven jail.
Giant s bane, Leo said. Anyt hing t hat s a giant s bane is good for us, right ? That s probably
what we need t o find. If it can help t he gods get t heir schizophrenic act t oget her, t hat s good.
Percy nodded. We cant kill t he giant s wit hout t he help of t he gods.
Jason t urned t o Frank and Hazel. I t hought you guys killed t hat one giant in Alaska wit hout
a gods help, just t he t wo of you.
Alcyoneus was a special case, Frank said. He was only immort al in t he t errit ory where he
was rebornAlaska. But not in Canada. I wish I could kill all t he giant s by dragging t hem across
t he border from Alaska int o Canada, but He shrugged. Percys right , well need t he gods.
Piper gazed at t he walls. She really wished Leo hadnt enchant ed t hem wit h images of Camp
Half-Blood. It was like a doorway t o home t hat she could never go t hrough. She wat ched t he
heart h of Hest ia burning in t he middle of t he green as t he cabins t urned off t heir light s for
She wondered how t he Roman demigods, Frank and Hazel, felt about t hose images. Theyd
never even been t o Camp Half-Blood. Did it seem alien t o t hem, or unfair t hat Camp Jupit er
wasnt represent ed? Did it make t hem miss t heir own home?
The ot her lines of t he prophecy t urned in Pipers mind. What was a woven jail? How could
t wins snuff out an angels breat h? The key t o endless deat h didnt sound very cheerful, eit her.
So Leo pushed his chair away from t he t able. First t hings first , I guess. Well have t o put
down in t he morning t o finish repairs.
Someplace close t o a cit y, Annabet h suggest ed, in case we need supplies. But
somewhere out of t he way, so t he Romans will have t rouble finding us. Any ideas?
No one spoke. Piper remembered her vision in t he knife: t he st range man in purple, holding
out a goblet and beckoning t o her. Hed been st anding in front of a sign t hat read TOPEKA 32.
Well, she vent ured, how do you guys feel about Kansas?
Coach Hedge spent t he first hour aft er curfew doing his night ly dut y, walking up and down
t he passageway yelling, Light s out ! Set t le down! Try t o sneak out , and Ill smack you back t o
Long Island!
He banged his baseball bat against a cabin door whenever he heard a noise, shout ing at
everyone t o go t o sleep, which made it impossible for anyone t o go t o sleep. Piper figured t his
was t he most fun t he sat yr had had since hed pret ended t o be a gym t eacher at t he
Wilderness School.
She st ared at t he bronze beams on t he ceiling. Her cabin was pret t y cozy. Leo had
programmed t heir quart ers t o adjust aut omat ically t o t he occupant s preferred t emperat ure, so
it was never t oo cold or t oo hot . The mat t ress and t he pillows were st uffed wit h pegasus down
(no pegasi were harmed in t he making of t hese product s, Leo had assured her), so t hey were
ber-comfort able. A bronze lant ern hung from t he ceiling, glowing at what ever bright ness Piper
wished. The lant erns sides were perforat ed wit h pinholes, so at night glimmering
const ellat ions drift ed across her walls.
Piper had so many t hings on her mind, she t hought shed never sleep. But t here was
somet hing peaceful about t he rocking of t he boat and t he drone of t he aerial oars as t hey
scooped t hrough t he sky.
Finally her eyelids got heavy, and she drift ed off.
It seemed like only a few seconds had passed before she woke t o t he breakfast bell.
Yo, Piper! Leo knocked on her door. Were landing!
Landing? She sat up groggily.
Leo opened her door and poked his head in. He had his hand over his eyes, which wouldve
been a nice gest ure if he hadnt been peeking t hrough his fingers. You decent ?
Sorry. He grinned. Hey, nice Power Ranger jammies.
They are not Power Rangers! Theyre Cherokee eagles!
Yeah, sure. Anyway, were set t ing down a few miles out side Topeka, as request ed. And,
um He glanced out in t he passageway, t hen leaned inside again. Thanks for not hat ing me,
about blowing up t he Romans yest erday.
Piper rubbed her eyes. The feast in New Rome had been only yest erday? That s okay, Leo.
You werent in cont rol of yourself.
Yeah, but st illyou didnt have t o st ick up for me.
Are you kidding? Youre like t he annoying lit t le brot her I never had. Of course Ill st ick up for
Uht hanks?
From above, Coach Hedge yelled, Thar she blows! Kansas, ahoy!
Holy Hephaest us, Leo mut t ered. He really needs t o work on his shipspeak. Id bet t er get
above deck.
By t he t ime Piper had showered, changed, and grabbed a bagel from t he mess hall, she
could hear t he ships landing gear ext ending. She climbed on deck and joined t he ot hers as t he
Argo II set t led in t he middle of a field of sunflowers. The oars ret ract ed. The gangplank lowered
it self.
The morning air smelled of irrigat ion, warm plant s, and fert ilized eart h. Not a bad smell. It
reminded Piper of Grandpa Toms place in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, back on t he reservat ion.
Percy was t he first t o not ice her. He smiled in greet ing, which for some reason surprised
Piper. He was wearing faded jeans and a fresh orange Camp Half-Blood T-shirt , as if hed never
been away from t he Greek side. The new clot hes had probably helped his moodand of
course t he fact t hat he was st anding at t he rail wit h his arm around Annabet h.
Piper was happy t o see Annabet h wit h a sparkle in her eyes, because Piper had never had a
bet t er friend. For mont hs, Annabet h had been t orment ing herself, her every waking moment
consumed wit h t he search for Percy. Now, despit e t he dangerous quest t hey were facing, at
least she had her boyfriend back.
So! Annabet h plucked t he bagel out of Pipers hand and t ook a bit e, but t hat didnt bot her
Piper. Back at camp, t heyd had a running joke about st ealing each ot hers breakfast . Here we
are. What s t he plan?
I want t o check out t he highway, Piper said. Find t he sign t hat says Topeka 32.
Leo spun his Wii cont roller in a circle, and t he sails lowered t hemselves. We shouldnt be far,
he said. Fest us and I calculat ed t he landing as best we could. What do you expect t o find at
t he mile marker?
Piper explained what shed seen in t he knifet he man in purple wit h a goblet . She kept
quiet about t he ot her images, t hough, like t he vision of Percy, Jason, and herself drowning. She
wasnt sure what it meant , anyway; and everyone seemed in such bet t er spirit s t his morning,
she didnt want t o ruin t he mood.
Purple shirt ? Jason asked. Vines on his hat ? Sounds like Bacchus.
Dionysus, Percy mut t ered. If we came all t he way t o Kansas t o see Mr. D
Bacchus isnt so bad, Jason said. I dont like his followers much.
Piper shuddered. Jason, Leo, and she had had an encount er wit h t he maenads a few mont hs
ago and almost got t en t orn t o pieces.
But t he god himself is okay, Jason cont inued. I did him a favor once up in t he wine
count ry.
Percy looked appalled. What ever, man. Maybe hes bet t er on t he Roman side. But why
would he be hanging around in Kansas? Didnt Zeus order t he gods t o cease all cont act wit h
mort als?
Frank grunt ed. The big guy was wearing a blue t racksuit t his morning, like he was ready t o
go for a jog in t he sunflowers.
The gods havent been very good at following that order, he not ed. Besides, if t he gods
have gone schizophrenic like Hazel said
And Leo said, added Leo.
Frank scowled at him. Then who knows what s going on wit h t he Olympians? Could be
some pret t y bad st uff out t here.
Sounds dangerous! Leo agreed cheerfully. Wellyou guys have fun. Ive got t o finish
repairs on t he hull. Coach Hedge is gonna work on t he broken crossbows. And, uh, Annabet h
I could really use your help. Youre t he only ot her person who even sort of underst ands
Annabet h looked apologet ically at Percy. Hes right . I should st ay and help.
Ill come back t o you. He kissed her on t he cheek. Promise.
They were so easy t oget her, it made Pipers heart ache.
Jason was great , of course. But somet imes he act ed so dist ant , like last night , when hed
been reluct ant t o t alk about t hat old Roman legend. So oft en he seemed t o be t hinking of his
old life at Camp Jupit er. Piper wondered if she would ever be able t o break t hrough t hat barrier.
The t rip t o Camp Jupit er, seeing Reyna in person, hadnt helped. Neit her did t he fact t hat
Jason had chosen t o wear a purple shirt t odayt he color of t he Romans.
Frank slid his bow off his shoulder and propped it against t he rail. I t hink I should t urn int o a
crow or somet hing and fly around, keep an eye out for Roman eagles.
Why a crow? Leo asked. Man, if you can t urn int o a dragon, why dont you just t urn int o a
dragon every t ime? That s t he coolest .
Franks face looked like it was being infused wit h cranberry juice. That s like asking why you
dont bench-press your maximum weight every t ime you lift . Because it s hard, and youd hurt
yourself. Turning int o a dragon isnt easy.
Oh. Leo nodded. I wouldnt know. I dont lift weight s.
Yeah. Well, maybe you should consider it , Mr.
Hazel st epped bet ween t hem.
Ill help you, Frank, she said, shoot ing Leo an evil look. I can summon Arion and scout
around below.
Sure, Frank said, st ill glaring at Leo. Yeah, t hanks.
Piper wondered what was going on wit h t hose t hree. The boys showing off for Hazel and
razzing each ot herthat she underst ood. But it almost seemed like Hazel and Leo had a
hist ory. So far as she knew, t heyd met for t he first t ime just yest erday. She wondered if
somet hing else had happened on t heir t rip t o t he Great Salt Lakesomet hing t hey hadnt
ment ioned.
Hazel t urned t o Percy. Just be careful when you go out t here. Lot s of fields, lot s of crops.
Could be karpoi on t he loose.
Karpoi? Piper asked.
Grain spirit s, Hazel said. You dont want t o meet t hem.
Piper didnt see how a grain spirit could be so bad, but Hazels t one convinced her not t o ask.
That leaves t hree of us t o check on t he mile marker, Percy said. Me, Jason, Piper. Im not
psyched about seeing Mr. D again. That guy is a pain. But , Jason, if youre on bet t er t erms wit h
Yeah, Jason said. If we find him, Ill t alk t o him. Piper, it s your vision. You should t ake t he
Piper shivered. Shed seen t he t hree of t hem drowning in t hat dark well. Was Kansas where
it would happen? That didnt seem right , but she couldnt be sure.
Of course, she said, t rying t o sound upbeat . Let s find t he highway.

Leo had said t hey were close. His idea of close needed some work.
Aft er t rudging half a mile t hrough hot fields, get t ing bit t en by mosquit oes and whacked in
t he face wit h scrat chy sunflowers, t hey finally reached t he road. An old billboard for Bubbas
Gas n Grub indicat ed t hey were st ill fort y miles from t he first Topeka exit .
Correct my mat h, Percy said, but doesnt t hat mean we have eight miles t o walk?
Jason peered bot h ways down t he desert ed road. He looked bet t er t oday, t hanks t o t he
magical healing of ambrosia and nect ar. His color was back t o normal, and t he scar on his
forehead had almost vanished. The new gladius t hat Hera had given him last wint er hung at
his belt . Most guys would look pret t y awkward walking around wit h a scabbard st rapped t o
t heir jeans, but on Jason it seemed perfect ly nat ural.
No cars he said. But I guess we wouldnt want t o hit chhike.
No, Piper agreed, gazing nervously down t he highway. Weve already spent t oo much t ime
going overland. The eart h is Gaeas t errit ory.
Hmm Jason snapped his fingers. I can call a friend for a ride.
Percy raised his eyebrows. Oh, yeah? Me t oo. Let s see whose friend get s here first .
Jason whist led. Piper knew what he was doing, but hed succeeded in summoning Tempest
only t hree t imes since t heyd met t he st orm spirit at t he Wolf House last wint er. Today, t he sky
was so blue, Piper didnt see how it could work.
Percy simply closed his eyes and concent rat ed.
Piper hadnt st udied him up close before. Aft er hearing so much at Camp Half-Blood about
Percy Jackson this and Percy Jackson that, she t hought he lookedwell, unimpressive,
especially next t o Jason. Percy was more slender, about an inch short er, wit h slight ly longer,
much darker hair.
He wasnt really Pipers t ype. If shed seen him in t he mall somewhere, she probably wouldve
t hought he was a skat ercut e in a scruffy way, a lit t le on t he wild side, definit ely a
t roublemaker. She would have st eered clear. She had enough t rouble in her life. But she could
see why Annabet h liked him, and she could definit ely see why Percy needed Annabet h in his
life. If anybody could keep a guy like t hat under cont rol, it was Annabet h.
Thunder crackled in t he clear sky.
Jason smiled. Soon.
Too lat e. Percy point ed east , where a black winged shape was spiraling t oward t hem. At
first , Piper t hought it might be Frank in crow form. Then she realized it was much t oo big t o be
a bird.
A black pegasus? she said. Never seen one like t hat .
The winged st allion came in for a landing. He t rot t ed over t o Percy and nuzzled his face,
t hen t urned his head inquisit ively t oward Piper and Jason.
Blackjack, Percy said, t his is Piper and Jason. Theyre friends.
The horse nickered.
Uh, maybe lat er, Percy answered.
Piper had heard t hat Percy could speak t o horses, being t he son of t he horse lord Poseidon,
but shed never seen it in act ion.
What does Blackjack want ? she asked.
Donut s, Percy said. Always donut s. He can carry all t hree of us if
Suddenly t he air t urned cold. Pipers ears popped. About fift y yards away, a miniat ure
cyclone t hree st ories t all t ore across t he t ops of t he sunflowers like a scene from The Wizard
of Oz. It t ouched down on t he road next t o Jason and t ook t he form of a horsea mist y st eed
wit h light ning flickering t hrough it s body.
Tempest , Jason said, grinning broadly. Long t ime, my friend.
The st orm spirit reared and whinnied. Blackjack backed up skit t ishly.
Easy, boy, Percy said. Hes a friend t oo. He gave Jason an impressed look. Nice ride,
Jason shrugged. I made friends wit h him during our fight at t he Wolf House. Hes a free spirit ,
lit erally, but once in a while he agrees t o help me.
Percy and Jason climbed on t heir respect ive horses. Piper had never been comfort able wit h
Tempest . Riding full gallop on a beast t hat could vaporize at any moment made her a bit
nervous. Nevert heless, she accept ed Jasons hand and climbed on.
Tempest raced down t he road wit h Blackjack soaring overhead. Fort unat ely, t hey didnt pass
any cars, or t hey might have caused a wreck. In no t ime, t hey arrived at t he t hirt y-t wo-mile
marker, which looked exact ly as Piper had seen it in her vision.
Blackjack landed. Bot h horses pawed t he asphalt . Neit her looked pleased t o have st opped
so suddenly, just when t heyd found t heir st ride.
Blackjack whinnied.
Youre right , Percy said. No sign of t he wine dude.
I beg your pardon? said a voice from t he fields.
Tempest t urned so quickly, Piper almost fell off.
The wheat part ed, and t he man from her vision st epped int o view. He wore a wide-brimmed
hat wreat hed in grapevines, a purple short -sleeved shirt , khaki short s, and Birkenst ocks wit h
whit e socks. He looked maybe t hirt y, wit h a slight pot belly, like a frat boy who hadnt yet
realized college was over.
Did someone just call me t he wine dude? he asked in a lazy drawl. It s Bacchus, please. Or
Mr. Bacchus. Or Lord Bacchus. Or, somet imes, Oh-My-Gods-Please-Dont -Kill-Me, Lord
Percy urged Blackjack forward, t hough t he pegasus didnt seem happy about it .
You look different , Percy t old t he god. Skinnier. Your hair is longer. And your shirt isnt so
The wine god squint ed up at him. What in blazes are you t alking about ? Who are you, and
where is Ceres?
Uhwhat series?
I t hink he means Ceres, Jason said. The goddess of agricult ure. Youd call her Demet er.
He nodded respect fully t o t he god. Lord Bacchus, do you remember me? I helped you wit h
t hat missing leopard in Sonoma.
Bacchus scrat ched his st ubbly chin. Ahyes. John Green.
Jason Grace.
What ever, t he god said. Did Ceres send you, t hen?
No, Lord Bacchus, Jason said. Were you expect ing t o meet her here?
The god snort ed. Well, I didnt come t o Kansas t o party, my boy. Ceres asked me here for a
council of war. What wit h Gaea rising, t he crops are wit hering. Drought s are spreading. The
karpoi are in revolt . Even my grapes arent safe. Ceres want ed a unit ed front in t he plant war.
The plant war, Percy said. Youre going t o arm all t he lit t le grapes wit h t iny assault rifles?
The god narrowed his eyes. Have we met ?
At Camp Half-Blood, Percy said, I know you as Mr. DDionysus.
Agh! Bacchus winced and pressed his hands t o his t emples. For a moment , his image
flickered. Piper saw a different personfat t er, dumpier, in a much louder, leopard-pat t erned
shirt . Then Bacchus ret urned t o being Bacchus. St op t hat ! he demanded. St op t hinking
about me in Greek!
Percy blinked. Uh, but
Do you have any idea how hard it is t o st ay focused? Split t ing headaches all t he t ime! I
never know what Im doing or where Im going! Const ant ly grumpy!
That sounds pret t y normal for you, Percy said.
The gods nost rils flared. One of t he grape leaves on his hat burst int o flame. If we know
each ot her from t hat other camp, it s a wonder I havent already t urned you int o a dolphin.
It was discussed, Percy assured him. I t hink you were just t oo lazy t o do it .
Piper had been wat ching wit h horrified fascinat ion, t he way she might wat ch a car wreck in
progress. Now she realized Percy was not making t hings bet t er, and Annabet h wasnt around
t o rein him in. Piper figured her friend would never forgive her if she brought Percy back
t ransformed int o a sea mammal.
Lord Bacchus! she int errupt ed, slipping off Tempest s back.
Piper, careful, Jason said.
She shot him a warning glance: Ive got this.
Sorry t o t rouble you, my lord, she t old t he god, but act ually we came here t o get your
advice. Please, we need your wisdom.
She used her most agreeable t one, pouring respect int o her charmspeak.
The god frowned, but t he purple glow faded in his eyes. Youre well-spoken, girl. Advice, eh?
Very well. I would avoid karaoke. Really, t heme part ies in general are out . In t hese aust ere
t imes, people are looking for a simple, low-key affair, wit h locally produced organic snacks and

Not about part ies, Piper int errupt ed. Alt hough t hat s incredibly useful advice, Lord
Bacchus. We were hoping youd help us on our quest .
She explained about t he Argo II and t heir voyage t o st op t he giant s from awakening Gaea.
She t old him what Nemesis had said: t hat in six days, Rome would be dest royed. She described
t he vision reflect ed in her knife, where Bacchus offered her a silver goblet .
Silver goblet ? The god didnt sound very excit ed. He grabbed a Diet Pepsi from nowhere
and popped t he t op of t he can.
You drink Diet Coke, Percy said.
I dont know what youre t alking about , Bacchus snapped. As t o t his vision of t he goblet ,
young lady, I have not hing for you t o drink unless you want a Pepsi. Jupit er has put me under
st rict orders t o avoid giving wine t o minors. Bot hersome, but t here you have it . As for t he
giant s, I know t hem well. I fought in t he first Giant War, you know.
You can fight ? Percy asked.
Piper wished he hadnt sounded so incredulous.
Dionysus snarled. His Diet Pepsi t ransformed int o a five-foot st aff wreat hed in ivy, t opped
wit h a pinecone.
A thyrsus! Piper said, hoping t o dist ract t he god before he whacked Percy on t he head.
Shed seen weapons like t hat before in t he hands of crazy nymphs, and wasnt t hrilled t o see
one again, but she t ried t o sound impressed. Oh, what a might y weapon!
Indeed, Bacchus agreed. Im glad someone in your group is smart . The pinecone is a
fearsome t ool of dest ruct ion! I was a demigod myself in t he first Giant War, you know. The son
of Jupit er!
Jason flinched. Probably he wasnt t hrilled t o be reminded t hat t he Wine Dude was
t echnically his big brot her.
Bacchus swung his st aff t hrough t he air, t hough his pot belly almost t hrew him off balance.
Of course t hat was long before I invent ed wine and became an immort al. I fought side by side
wit h t he gods and some ot her demigodHarry Cleese, I t hink.
Heracles? Piper suggest ed polit ely.
What ever, Bacchus said. Anyway, I killed t he giant Ephialt es and his brot her Ot is. Horrible
boors, t hose t wo. Pinecone in t he face for bot h of t hem!
Piper held her breat h. All at once, several ideas came t oget her in her headt he visions in
t he knife, t he lines of t he prophecy t heyd been discussing t he night before. She felt like she
used t o when she was scuba diving wit h her fat her, and he would wipe her mask for her
underwat er. Suddenly, everyt hing was clearer.
Lord Bacchus, she said, t rying t o cont rol t he nervousness in her voice. Those t wo giant s,
Ephialt es and Ot iswould t hey happen t o be t wins?
Hmm? The god seemed dist ract ed by his thyrsus-swinging, but he nodded. Yes, t wins.
That s right .
Piper t urned t o Jason. She could t ell he was following her t hought s: Twins snuff out the
angels breath.
In t he blade of Kat opt ris, shed seen t wo giant s in yellow robes, lift ing a jar from a deep pit .
That s why were here, Piper t old t he god. Youre part of our quest !
Bacchus frowned. Im sorry, my girl. Im not a demigod anymore. I dont do quest s.
But giant s can only be killed by heroes and gods working t oget her, she insist ed. Youre a
god now, and t he t wo giant s we have t o fight are Ephialt es and Ot is. I t hinkI t hink t heyre
wait ing for us in Rome. Theyre going t o dest roy t he cit y somehow. The silver goblet I saw in
my visionmaybe it s meant as a symbol for your help. You have t o help us kill t he giant s!
Bacchus glared at her, and Piper realized shed chosen her words poorly.
My girl, he said coldly, I dont have t o do anyt hing. Besides, I only help t hose who give me
proper t ribut e, which no one has managed t o do in many, many cent uries.
Blackjack whinnied uneasily.
Piper couldnt blame him. She didnt like t he sound of tribute. She remembered t he maenads,
t he crazed followers of Bacchus, who would t ear up nonbelievers wit h t heir bare hands. And
t hat was when t hey were in a good mood.
Percy voiced t he quest ion t hat she was t oo scared t o ask. What kind of t ribut e?
Bacchus waved his hand dismissively. Not hing you could handle, insolent Greek. But I will
give you some free advice, since t his girl does have some manners. Seek out Gaeas son,
Phorcys. He always hat ed his mot her, not t hat I can blame him. He didnt have much use for his
siblings t he t wins, eit her. Youll find him in t he cit y t hey named aft er t hat heroineAt alant a.
Piper hesit at ed. You mean At lant a?
That s t he one.
But t his Phorcys, Jason said. Is he a giant ? A Tit an?
Bacchus laughed. Neit her. Seek out t he salt wat er.
Salt wat er Percy said. In At lant a?
Yes, Bacchus said. Are you hard of hearing? If anyone can give you insight on Gaea and
t he t wins, it s Phorcys. Just wat ch out for him.
What do you mean? Jason asked.
The god glanced at t he sun, which had climbed almost t o high noon. It s unlike Ceres t o be
lat e, unless she sensed somet hing dangerous in t his area. Or
The gods face suddenly went slack. Or a t rap. Well, I must be going! And if I were you, Id do
t he same!
Lord Bacchus, wait ! Jason prot est ed.
The god shimmered and disappeared wit h a sound like a soda-can t op being popped.
The wind rust led t hrough t he sunflowers. The horses paced in agit at ion. Despit e t he dry, hot
day, Piper shivered. A cold feelingAnnabet h and Leo had bot h described a cold feeling.
Bacchus is right , she said. We need t o leave
Too late, said a sleepy voice, humming t hrough t he fields all around t hem and resonat ing in
t he ground at Pipers feet .
Percy and Jason drew t heir swords. Piper st ood on t he road bet ween t hem, frozen wit h fear.
The power of Gaea was suddenly everywhere. The sunflowers t urned t o look at t hem. The
wheat bent t oward t hem like a million scyt hes.
Welcome to my party, Gaea murmured. Her voice reminded Piper of corn growinga
crackling, hissing, hot and persist ent noise she used t o hear at Grandpa Toms on t hose quiet
night s in Oklahoma.
What did Bacchus say? t he goddess mocked. A simple, low-key affair with organic snacks?
Yes. For my snacks, I need only two: the blood of a female demigod, and the blood of a male.
Piper, my dear, choose which hero will die with you.
Gaea! Jason yelled. St op hiding in t he wheat . Show yourself!
Such bravado, Gaea hissed. But the other one, Percy Jackson, also has appeal. Choose,
Piper McLean, or I will.
Pipers heart raced. Gaea meant t o kill her. That was no surprise. But what was t his about
choosing one of t he boys? Why would Gaea let eit her of t hem go? It had t o be a t rap.
Youre insane! she shout ed. Im not choosing anyt hing for you!
Suddenly Jason gasped. He sat up st raight in his saddle.
Jason! Piper cried. What s wrong?
He looked down at her, his expression deadly calm. His eyes were no longer blue. They
glowed solid gold.
Percy, help! Piper st umbled back from Tempest .
But Percy galloped away from t hem. He st opped t hirt y feet down t he road and wheeled his
pegasus around. He raised his sword and point ed t he t ip t oward Jason.
One will die, Percy said, but t he voice wasnt his. It was deep and hollow, like someone
whispering from inside t he barrel of a cannon.
I will choose, Jason answered, in t he same hollow voice.
No! Piper yelled.
All around her, t he fields crackled and hissed, laughing in Gaeas voice as Percy and Jason
charged at each ot her, t heir weapons ready.

Jason and Percy charged each ot her, but Tempest and Blackjack balked long enough for
Piper t o leap out of t he way.
She rolled t o t he edge of t he road and looked back, dazed and horrified, as t he boys crossed
swords, gold against bronze. Sparks flew. Their blades blurredst rike and parryand t he
pavement t rembled. The first exchange t ook only a second, but Piper couldnt believe t he
speed of t heir sword fight ing. The horses pulled away from each ot herTempest t hundering
in prot est , Blackjack flapping his wings.
St op it ! Piper yelled.
For a moment , Jason heeded her voice. His golden eyes t urned t oward her, and Percy
charged, slamming his blade int o Jason. Thank t he gods, Percy t urned his swordmaybe on
purpose, maybe accident allyso t he flat of it hit Jasons chest ; but t he impact was st ill enough
t o knock Jason off his mount .
Blackjack cant ered away as Tempest reared in confusion. The spirit horse charged int o t he
sunflowers and dissipat ed int o vapor.
Percy st ruggled t o t urn his pegasus around.
Percy! Piper yelled. Jasons your friend. Drop your weapon!
Percys sword arm dipped. Piper might have been able t o bring him under cont rol, but
unfort unat ely Jason got t o his feet .
Jason roared. A bolt of light ning arced out of t he clear blue sky. It ricochet ed off his gladius
and blast ed Percy off his horse.
Blackjack whinnied and fled int o t he wheat fields. Jason charged at Percy, who was now on
his back, his clot hes smoking from t he light ning blast .
For a horrible moment , Piper couldnt find her voice. Gaea seemed t o be whispering t o her:
You must choose one. Why not let Jason kill him?
No! she screamed. Jason, st op!
He froze, his sword six inches from Percys face.
Jason t urned, t he gold light in his eyes flickering uncert ainly. I cannot stop. One must die.
Somet hing about t hat voiceit wasnt Gaea. It wasnt Jason. Whoever it was spoke
halt ingly, as if English was it s second language.
Who are you? Piper demanded.
Jasons mout h t wist ed in a gruesome smile. We are the eidolons. We will live again.
Eidolons ? Pipers mind raced. Shed st udied all sort s of monst ers at Camp Half-Blood,
but t hat t erm wasnt familiar. Youreyoure some sort of ghost ?
He must die. Jason t urned his at t ent ion back t o Percy, but Percy had recovered more t han
eit her of t hem realized. He swept out his leg and knocked Jason off his feet .
Jasons head hit t he asphalt wit h a nauseat ing conk.
Percy rose.
St op it ! Piper screamed again, but t here was no charmspeak in her voice. She was
shout ing in sheer desperat ion.
Percy raised Ript ide over Jasons chest .
Panic closed up Pipers t hroat . She want ed t o at t ack Percy wit h her dagger, but she knew
t hat wouldnt help. What ever was cont rolling him had all of Percys skill. There was no way she
could beat him in combat .
She forced herself t o focus. She poured all of her anger int o her voice. Eidolon, st op.
Percy froze.
Face me, Piper ordered.
The son of t he sea god t urned. His eyes were gold inst ead of green, his face pale and cruel,
not at all like Percys.
You have not chosen, he said. So this one will die.
Youre a spirit from t he Underworld, Piper guessed. Youre possessing Percy Jackson. Is
t hat it ?
Percy sneered. I will live again in this body. The Earth Mother has promised. I will go where I
please, control whom I wish.
A wave of cold washed over Piper. Leot hat s what happened t o Leo. He was being
cont rolled by an eidolon.
The t hing in Percys form laughed wit hout humor. Too late you realize. You can trust no
Jason st ill wasnt moving. Piper had no help, no way t o prot ect him.
Behind Percy, somet hing rust led in t he wheat . Piper saw t he t ip of a black wing, and Percy
began t o t urn t oward t he sound.
Ignore it ! she yelped. Look at me.
Percy obeyed. You cannot stop me. I will kill Jason Grace.
Behind him, Blackjack emerged from t he wheat field, moving wit h surprising st ealt h for such a
large animal.
You wont kill him, Piper ordered. But she wasnt looking at Percy. She locked eyes wit h t he
pegasus, pouring all her power int o her words and hoping Blackjack would underst and. You will
knock him out .
The charmspeak washed over Percy. He shift ed his weight indecisively. Iwill knock him
Oh, sorry. Piper smiled. I wasnt t alking t o you.
Blackjack reared and brought his hoof down on Percys head.
Percy crumpled t o t he pavement next t o Jason.
Oh, gods! Piper ran t o t he boys. Blackjack, you didnt kill him, did you?
The pegasus snort ed. Piper couldnt speak Horse, but she t hought he might have said:
Please. I know my own strength.
Tempest was nowhere t o be seen. The light ning st eed had apparent ly ret urned t o wherever
st orm spirit s live on clear days.
Piper checked on Jason. He was breat hing st eadily, but t wo knocks on t he skull in t wo days
couldnt have been good for him. Then she examined Percys head. She didnt see any blood,
but a large knot was forming where t he horse had kicked him. We have t o get t hem bot h back
t o t he ship, she t old Blackjack.
The pegasus bobbed his head in agreement . He knelt t o t he ground, so t hat Piper could
drape Percy and Jason over his back. Aft er a lot of hard work (unconscious boys were heavy),
she got t hem reasonably secured, climbed ont o Blackjacks back herself, and t hey t ook off for
t he ship.

The ot hers were a lit t le surprised when Piper came back on a pegasus wit h t wo unconscious
demigods. While Frank and Hazel t ended t o Blackjack, Annabet h and Leo helped get Piper and
t he boys t o t he sickbay.
At t his rat e, were going t o run out of ambrosia, Coach Hedge grumbled as he t ended t heir
wounds. How come I never get invit ed on t hese violent t rips?
Piper sat at Jasons side. She herself felt fine aft er a swig of nect ar and some wat er, but she
was st ill worried about t he boys.
Leo, Piper said, are we ready t o sail?
Yeah, but
Set course for At lant a. Ill explain lat er.
But okay. He hurried off.
Annabet h didnt argue wit h Piper eit her. She was t oo busy examining t he horseshoe-shaped
dent on t he back of Percys head.
What hit him? she demanded.
Blackjack, Piper said.
Piper t ried t o explain while Coach Hedge applied some healing past e t o t he boys heads.
Shed never been impressed wit h Hedges nursing abilit ies before, but he must have done
somet hing right . Eit her t hat , or t he spirit s t hat possessed t he boys had also made t hem ext ra
resilient . They bot h groaned and opened t heir eyes.
Wit hin a few minut es, Jason and Percy were sit t ing up in t heir bert hs and able t o t alk in
complet e sent ences. Bot h had fuzzy memories of what had happened. When Piper described
t heir duel on t he highway, Jason winced.
Knocked out t wice in t wo days, he mut t ered. Some demigod. He glanced sheepishly at
Percy. Sorry, man. I didnt mean t o blast you.
Percys shirt was peppered wit h burn holes. His hair was even more disheveled t han normal.
Despit e t hat , he managed a weak laugh. Not t he first t ime. Your big sist er got me good once
at camp.
Yeah, but I could have killed you.
Or I could have killed you, Percy said.
Jason shrugged. If t hered been an ocean in Kansas, maybe.
I dont need an ocean
Boys, Annabet h int errupt ed, Im sure you bot h wouldve been wonderful at killing each
ot her. But right now, you need some rest .
Food first , Percy said. Please? And we really need t o t alk. Bacchus said some t hings t hat
Bacchus? Annabet h raised her hand. Okay, fine. We need t o t alk. Mess hall. Ten minut es.
Ill t ell t he ot hers. And please, Percychange your clot hes. You smell like youve been run over
by an elect ric horse.

Leo gave t he helm t o Coach Hedge again, aft er making t he sat yr promise he would not st eer
t hem t o t he nearest milit ary base for fun.
They gat hered around t he dining t able, and Piper explained what had happened at TOPEKA 32
t heir conversat ion wit h Bacchus, t he t rap sprung by Gaea, t he eidolons t hat had possessed
t he boys.
Of course! Hazel slapped t he t able, which st art led Frank so much, he dropped his burrit o.
That s what happened t o Leo t oo.
So it wasnt my fault . Leo exhaled. I didnt st art World War Three. I just got possessed by
an evil spirit . That s a relief!
But t he Romans dont know t hat , Annabet h said. And why would t hey t ake our word for
it ?
We could cont act Reyna, Jason suggest ed. She would believe us.
Hearing t he way Jason said her name, like it was a lifeline t o his past , made Pipers heart
Jason t urned t o her wit h a hopeful gleam in his eyes. You could convince her, Pipes. I know
you could.
Piper felt like all t he blood in her body was draining int o her feet . Annabet h looked at her
sympat het ically, as if t o say: Boys are so clueless. Even Hazel winced.
I could t ry, she said halfheart edly. But Oct avian is t he one we have t o worry about . In my
dagger blade, I saw him t aking cont rol of t he Roman crowd. Im not sure Reyna can st op him.
Jasons expression darkened. Piper didnt get any pleasure from burst ing his bubble, but t he
ot her RomansHazel and Franknodded in agreement .
Shes right , Frank said. This aft ernoon when we were scout ing, we saw eagles again. They
were a long way off, but closing fast . Oct avian is on t he warpat h.
Hazel grimaced. This is exact ly t he sort of opport unit y Oct avian has always want ed. Hell
t ry t o seize power. If Reyna object s, hell say shes soft on t he Greeks. As for t hose eaglesIt s
like t hey could smell us.
They can, Jason said. Roman eagles can hunt demigods by t heir magical scent even
bet t er t han monst ers can. This ship might conceal us somewhat , but not complet elynot from
t hem.
Leo drummed his fingers. Great . I should have inst alled a smoke screen t hat makes t he ship
smell like a giant chicken nugget . Remind me t o invent t hat , next t ime.
Hazel frowned. What is a chicken nugget ?
Oh, man Leo shook his head in amazement . That s right . Youve missed t he last like,
sevent y years. Well, my apprent ice, a chicken nugget
Doesnt mat t er, Annabet h int errupt ed. The point is, well have a hard t ime explaining t he
t rut h t o t he Romans. Even if t hey believe us
Youre right . Jason leaned forward. We should just keep going. Once were over t he
At lant ic, well be safeat least from t he legion.
He sounded so depressed, Piper didnt know whet her t o feel sorry for him or resent ful. How
can you be sure? she asked. Why wouldnt t hey follow us?
He shook his head. You heard Reyna t alking about t he ancient lands. Theyre much t oo
dangerous. Roman demigods have been forbidden t o go t here for generat ions. Even Oct avian
couldnt get around t hat rule.
Frank swallowed a bit e of burrit o like it had t urned t o cardboard in his mout h. So, if we go
t here
Well be out laws as well as t rait ors, Jason confirmed. Any Roman demigod would have t he
right t o kill us on sight . But I wouldnt worry about t hat . If we get across t he At lant ic, t heyll give
up on chasing us. Theyll assume t hat well die in t he Medit erraneant he Mare Nost rum.
Percy point ed his pizza slice at Jason. You, sir, are a ray of sunshine.
Jason didnt argue. The ot her demigods st ared at t heir plat es, except for Percy, who
cont inued t o enjoy his pizza. Where he put all t hat food, Piper didnt know. The guy could eat
like a sat yr.
So let s plan ahead, Percy suggest ed, and make sure we dont die. Mr. DBacchus Ugh,
do I have t o call him Mr. B now? Anyway, he ment ioned t he t wins in Ellas prophecy. Two
giant s. Ot is and, uh, somet hing t hat st art ed wit h an F?
Ephialt es, Jason said.
Twin giant s, like Piper saw in her blade Annabet h ran her finger along t he rim of her cup.
I remember a st ory about t win giant s. They t ried t o reach Mount Olympus by piling up a bunch
of mount ains.
Frank nearly choked. Well, t hat s great . Giant s who can use mount ains like building blocks.
And you say Bacchus killed t hese guys wit h a pinecone on a st ick?
Somet hing like t hat , Percy said. I dont t hink we should count on his help t his t ime. He
want ed a t ribut e, and he made it pret t y clear it would be a t ribut e we couldnt handle.
Silence fell around t he t able. Piper could hear Coach Hedge above deck singing Blow t he
Man Down, except he didnt know t he lyrics, so he most ly sang, Blah-blah-hum-de-dum-dum.
Piper couldnt shake t he feeling t hat Bacchus was meant t o help t hem. The giant t wins were
in Rome. They were keeping somet hing t he demigods neededsomet hing in t hat bronze jar.
What ever it was, she got t he feeling it held t he answer t o sealing t he Doors of Deat hthe key
to endless death. She also felt sure t hey could never defeat t he giant s wit hout Bacchuss help.
And if t hey couldnt do t hat in five days, Rome would be dest royed, and Hazels brot her, Nico,
would die.
On t he ot her hand, if t he vision of Bacchus offering her a silver goblet was false, maybe t he
ot her visions didnt have t o come t rue eit herespecially t he one of her, Percy, and Jason
drowning. Maybe t hat was just symbolic.
The blood of a female demigod, Gaea had said, and the blood of a male. Piper, my dear,
choose which hero will die with you.
She want s t wo of us, Piper murmured.
Everyone t urned t o look at her.
Piper hat ed being t he cent er of at t ent ion. Maybe t hat was st range for a child of Aphrodit e,
but shed wat ched her dad, t he movie st ar, deal wit h fame for years. She remembered when
Aphrodit e had claimed her at t he bonfire in front of t he ent ire camp, zapping her wit h a magic
beaut y-queen makeover. That had been t he most embarrassing moment of her life. Even here,
wit h only six ot her demigods, Piper felt exposed.
Theyre my friends, she t old herself. It s okay.
But she had a st range feelingas if more t han six set s of eyes were wat ching her.
Today on t he highway, she said, Gaea t old me t hat she needed t he blood of only t wo
demigodsone female, one male. Sheshe asked me t o choose which boy would die.
Jason squeezed her hand. But neit her of us died. You saved us.
I know. It s just Why would she want t hat ?
Leo whist led soft ly. Guys, remember at t he Wolf House? Our favorit e ice princess, Khione?
She t alked about spilling Jasons blood, how it would t aint t he place for generat ions. Maybe
demigod blood has some kind of power.
Oh Percy set down his t hird pizza slice. He leaned back and st ared at not hing, as if t he
horse kick t o his head had just now regist ered.
Percy? Annabet h gripped his arm.
Oh, bad, he mut t ered. Bad. Bad. He looked across t he t able at Frank and Hazel. You
guys remember Polybot es?
The giant who invaded Camp Jupit er, Hazel said. The ant i-Poseidon you whacked in t he
head wit h a Terminus st at ue. Yes, I t hink I remember.
I had a dream, Percy said, when we were flying t o Alaska. Polybot es was t alking t o t he
gorgons, and he saidhe said he want ed me t aken prisoner, not killed. He said: I want t hat
one chained at my feet , so I can kill him when t he t ime is ripe. His blood shall wat er t he st ones
of Mount Olympus and wake Eart h Mot her!
Piper wondered if t he rooms t emperat ure cont rols were broken, because suddenly she
couldnt st op shaking. It was t he same way shed felt on t he highway out side Topeka. You
t hink t he giant s would use our bloodt he blood of t wo of us
I dont know, Percy said. But unt il we figure it out , I suggest we all t ry t o avoid get t ing
capt ured.
Jason grunt ed. That I agree wit h.
But how do we figure it out ? Hazel asked. The Mark of At hena, t he t wins, Ellas
prophecyhow does it all fit t oget her?
Annabet h pressed her hands against t he edge of t he t able. Piper, you t old Leo t o set our
course for At lant a.
Right , Piper said. Bacchus t old us we should seek out what was his name?
Phorcys, Percy said.
Annabet h looked surprised, like she wasnt used t o her boyfriend having t he answers. You
know him?
Percy shrugged. I didnt recognize t he name at first . Then Bacchus ment ioned salt wat er,
and it rang a bell. Phorcys is an old sea god from before my dads t ime. Never met him, but
supposedly hes a son of Gaea. I st ill dont underst and what a sea god would be doing in
At lant a.
Leo snort ed. What s a wine god doing in Kansas? Gods are weird. Anyway, we should reach
At lant a by noon t omorrow, unless somet hing else goes wrong.
Dont even say t hat , Annabet h mut t ered. It s get t ing lat e. We should all get some sleep.
Wait , Piper said.
Once more, everyone looked at her.
She was rapidly losing her courage, wondering if her inst inct s were wrong, but she forced
herself t o speak.
Theres one last t hing, she said. The eidolonst he possessing spirit s. Theyre st ill here, in
t his room.

St ories of phant oms and t ort ured souls had always freaked her out . Her dad used t o joke
about Grandpa Toms Cherokee legends from back on t he rez, but even at home in t heir big
Malibu mansion, looking out over t he Pacific, whenever her dad recount ed t he ghost st ories for
her, she could never get t hem out of her head.
Cherokee spirit s were always rest less. They oft en lost t heir way t o t he Land of t he Dead, or
st ayed behind wit h t he living out of sheer st ubbornness. Somet imes t hey didnt even realize
t hey were dead.
The more Piper learned about being a demigod, t he more convinced she was t hat Cherokee
legends and Greek myt hs werent so different . These eidolons act ed a lot like t he spirit s in her
dads st ories.
Piper had a gut sense t hey were st ill present , simply because no one had t old t hem t o go
When she was done explaining, t he ot hers looked at her uncomfort ably. Up on deck, Hedge
sang somet hing t hat sounded like In t he Navy while Blackjack st omped his hooves, whinnying
in prot est .
Finally Hazel exhaled. Piper is right .
How can you be sure? Annabet h asked.
Ive met eidolons, Hazel said. In t he Underworld, when I wasyou know.
Piper had forgot t en t hat Hazel was a second-t imer. In her own way, Hazel t oo was a ghost
So Frank rubbed his hand across his buzz-cut hair as if some ghost s might have invaded
his scalp. You t hink t hese t hings are lurking on t he ship, or
Possibly lurking inside some of us, Piper said. We dont know.
Jason clenched his fist . If t hat s t rue
We have t o t ake st eps, Piper said. I t hink I can do t his.
Do what ? Percy asked.
Just list en, okay? Piper t ook a deep breat h. Everybody list en.
Piper met t heir eyes, one person at a t ime.
Eidolons, she said, using her charmspeak, raise your hands.
There was t ense silence.
Leo laughed nervously. Did you really t hink t hat was going t o?
His voice died. His face went slack. He raised his hand.
Jason and Percy did t he same. Their eyes had t urned glassy and gold. Hazel caught her
breat h. Next t o Leo, Frank scrambled out of his chair and put his back against t he wall.
Oh, gods. Annabet h looked at Piper imploringly. Can you cure t hem?
Piper want ed t o whimper and hide under t he t able, but she had t o help Jason. She couldnt
believe shed held hands wit hNo, she refused t o t hink about it .
She focused on Leo because he was t he least int imidat ing.
Are t here more of you on t his ship? she asked.
No, Leo said in a hollow voice. The Earth Mother sent three. The strongest, the best. We will
live again.
Not here, you wont , Piper growled. All t hree of you, list en carefully.
Jason and Percy t urned t oward her. Those gold eyes were unnerving, but seeing all t hree
boys like t hat fueled Pipers anger.
You will leave t hose bodies, she commanded.
No, Percy said.
Leo let out a soft hiss. We must live.
Frank fumbled for his bow. Mars Almight y, t hat s creepy! Get out of here, spirit s! Leave our
friends alone!
Leo t urned t oward him. You cannot command us, child of war. Your own life is fragile. Your
soul could burn at any moment.
Piper wasnt sure what t hat meant , but Frank st aggered like hed been punched in t he gut .
He drew an arrow, his hands shaking. IIve faced down worse t hings t han you. If you want a
Frank, dont . Hazel rose.
Next t o her, Jason drew his sword.
St op! Piper ordered, but her voice quavered. She was rapidly losing fait h in her plan. Shed
made t he eidolons appear, but what now? If she couldnt persuade t hem t o leave, any
bloodshed would be her fault . In t he back of her mind, she could almost hear Gaea laughing.
List en t o Piper. Hazel point ed at Jasons sword. The gold blade seemed t o grow heavy in
his hand. It clunked t o t he t able and Jason sank back int o his chair.
Percy growled in a very un-Percy-like way. Daughter of Pluto, you may control gems and
metals. You do not control the dead.
Annabet h reached t oward him as if t o rest rain him, but Hazel waved her off.
List en, eidolons, Hazel said st ernly, you do not belong here. I may not command you, but
Piper does. Obey her.
She t urned t oward Piper, her expression clear: Try again. You can do this.
Piper must ered all her courage. She looked st raight at Jasonst raight int o t he eyes of t he
t hing t hat was cont rolling him. You will leave t hose bodies, Piper repeat ed, even more
Jasons face t ight ened. His forehead beaded wit h sweat . Wewe will leave these bodies.
You will vow on t he River St yx never t o ret urn t o t his ship, Piper cont inued, and never t o
possess any member of t his crew.
Leo and Percy bot h hissed in prot est .
You will promise on t he River St yx, Piper insist ed.
A moment of t ensionshe could feel t heir wills fight ing against hers. Then all t hree eidolons
spoke in unison: We promise on the River Styx.
You are dead, Piper said.
We are dead, t hey agreed.
Now, leave.
All t hree boys slumped forward. Percy fell face-first int o his pizza.
Percy! Annabet h grabbed him.
Piper and Hazel caught Jasons arms as he slipped out of his chair.
Leo wasnt so lucky. He fell t oward Frank, who made no at t empt t o int ercept him. Leo hit t he
Ow! he groaned.
Are you all right ? Hazel asked.
Leo pulled himself up. He had a piece of spaghet t i in t he shape of a 3 st uck t o his forehead.
Did it work?
It worked, Piper said, feeling pret t y sure she was right . I dont t hink t heyll be back.
Jason blinked. Does t hat mean I can st op get t ing head injuries now?
Piper laughed, exhaling all her nervousness. Come on, Light ning Boy. Let s get you some
fresh air.

Piper and Jason walked back and fort h along t he deck. Jason was st ill wobbly, so Piper
encouraged him t o wrap his arm around her for support .
Leo st ood at t he helm, conferring wit h Fest us t hrough t he int ercom; he knew from
experience t o give Jason and Piper some space. Since t he sat ellit e TV was up again, Coach
Hedge was in his cabin happily cat ching up on his mixed mart ial art s cage mat ches. Percys
pegasus Blackjack had flown off somewhere. The ot her demigods were set t ling in for t he night .
The Argo II raced east , cruising several hundred feet above t he ground. Below t hem small
t owns passed by like lit -up islands in a dark sea of prairie.
Piper remembered last wint er, flying Fest us t he dragon over t he cit y of Quebec. She had
never seen anyt hing so beaut iful, or felt so happy t o have Jasons arms around herbut t his
was even bet t er.
The night was warm. The ship sailed along more smoot hly t han a dragon. Best of all, t hey
were flying away from Camp Jupit er as fast as t hey possibly could. No mat t er how dangerous
t he ancient lands were, Piper couldnt wait t o get t here. She hoped Jason was right t hat t he
Romans wouldnt follow t hem across t he At lant ic.
Jason st opped amidships and leaned against t he rail. The moonlight t urned his blond hair
Thanks, Pipes, he said. You saved me again.
He put his arm around her waist . She t hought about t he day t heyd fallen int o t he Grand
Canyont he first t ime shed learned t hat Jason could cont rol t he air. Hed held her so t ight ly,
she could feel his heart beat . Then t heyd st opped falling and float ed in midair. Best . Boyfriend.
She want ed t o kiss him now, but somet hing held her back.
I dont know if Percy will t rust me anymore, she said. Not aft er I let his horse knock him
out .
Jason laughed. Dont worry about t hat . Percys a nice guy, but I get t he feeling he needs a
knock on t he head every once in a while.
You could have killed him.
Jasons smile faded. That wasnt me.
But I almost let you, Piper said. When Gaea said I had t o choose, I hesit at ed and
She blinked, cursing herself for crying.
Dont be so hard on yourself, Jason said. You saved us bot h.
But if t wo of our crew really have t o die, a boy and a girl
I dont accept t hat . Were going t o st op Gaea. All seven of us are going t o come back alive. I
promise you.
Piper wished t hat he hadnt promised. The word only reminded her of t he Prophecy of
Seven: an oath to keep with a final breath.
Please, she t hought , wondering if her mom, t he goddess of love, could hear her. Dont let it
be Jasons final breath. If love means anything, dont take him away.
As soon as she had made t he wish, she felt guilt y. How could she st and t o see Annabet h in
t hat kind of pain if Percy died? How could she live wit h herself if any of t he seven demigods
died? Already, each of t hem had endured so much. Even t he t wo new Roman kids, Hazel and
Frank, whom Piper barely knew, felt like kin. At Camp Jupit er, Percy had recount ed t heir t rip t o
Alaska, which sounded as harrowing as anyt hing Piper had experienced. And from t he way
Hazel and Frank t ried t o help during t he exorcism, she could t ell t hey were brave, good people.
The legend t hat Annabet h ment ioned, she said, about t he Mark of At henawhy didnt
you want t o t alk about it ?
She was afraid Jason might shut her out , but he just lowered his head like hed been
expect ing t he quest ion. Pipes, I dont know what s t rue and what s not . That legendit could
be really dangerous.
For who?
All of us, he said grimly. The st ory goes t hat t he Romans st ole somet hing import ant from
t he Greeks, back in ancient t imes, when t he Romans conquered t he Greeks cit ies.
Piper wait ed, but Jason seemed lost in t hought .
What did t hey st eal? she asked.
I dont know, he said. Im not sure anyone in t he legion has ever known. But according t o
t he st ory, t his t hing was t aken away t o Rome and hidden t here. The children of At hena, Greek
demigods, have hat ed us ever since. Theyve always st irred up t heir bret hren against t he
Romans. Like I said, I dont know how much of t hat is t rue
But why not just t ell Annabet h? Piper asked. Shes not going t o suddenly hat e you.
He seemed t o have t rouble focusing on her. I hope not . But t he legend says t hat t he
children of At hena have been searching for t his t hing for millennia. Every generat ion, a few are
chosen by t he goddess t o find it . Apparent ly, t heyre led t o Rome by some signt he Mark of
At hena.
If Annabet h is one of t hose searcherswe should help her.
Jason hesit at ed. Maybe. When we get closer t o Rome, Ill t ell her what lit t le I know. Honest .
But t he st ory, at least t he way I heard it it claims t hat if t he Greeks ever found what was
st olen, t heyd never forgive us. Theyd dest roy t he legion and Rome, once and for all. Aft er
what Nemesis t old Leo, about Romes being dest royed five days from now
Piper st udied Jasons face. He was, wit hout a doubt , t he bravest person shed ever known,
but she realized he was afraid. This legendt he idea t hat it might t ear apart t heir group and
level a cit yabsolut ely t errified him.
Piper wondered what could have been st olen from t he Greeks t hat would be so import ant .
She couldnt imagine anyt hing t hat would make Annabet h suddenly t urn vengeful.
Then again, Piper couldnt imagine choosing one demigods life over anot her, and t oday on
t hat desert ed road, just for a moment , Gaea had almost t empt ed her.
Im sorry, by t he way, Jason said.
Piper wiped t he last t ear from her face. Sorry for what ? It was t he eidolon who at t acked
Not about t hat . The lit t le scar on Jasons upper lip seemed t o glow whit e in t he moonlight .
Shed always loved t hat scar. The imperfect ion made his face much more int erest ing.
I was st upid t o ask you t o cont act Reyna, he said. I wasnt t hinking.
Oh. Piper looked up at t he clouds and wondered if her mot her, Aphrodit e, was somehow
influencing him. His apology seemed t oo good t o be t rue.
But dont stop, she t hought . Really, it s okay.
It s just I never felt t hat way t oward Reyna, Jason said, so I didnt t hink about it s making
you uncomfort able. Youve got not hing t o worry about , Pipes.
I want ed t o hat e her, Piper admit t ed. I was so afraid youd go back t o Camp Jupit er.
Jason looked surprised. That would never happen. Not unless you came wit h me. I promise.
Piper held his hand. She managed a smile, but she was t hinking: Anot her promise. An oath to
keep with a final breath.
She t ried t o put t hose t hought s out of her mind. She knew she should just enjoy t his quiet
moment wit h Jason. But as she looked over t he side of t he ship, she couldnt help remembering
how much t he prairie at night looked like dark wat erlike t he drowning room shed seen in t he
blade of her knife.

FORGET THE CHI CKEN-NUGGET SMOKE SCREEN. Percy want ed Leo t o invent an ant i-dream hat .
That night he had horrible night mares. First he dreamed he was back in Alaska on t he quest
for t he legions eagle. He was hiking along a mount ain road, but as soon as he st epped off t he
shoulder he was swallowed by t he bogmuskeg, Hazel had called it . He found himself choking
in mud, unable t o move or see or breat he. For t he first t ime in his life, he underst ood what it
was like t o drown.
Its just a dream, he t old himself. Ill wake up.
But t hat didnt make it any less t errifying.
Percy had never been scared of wat er. It was his fat hers element . But since t he muskeg
experience, hed developed a fear of suffocat ion. He could never admit t his t o anyone, but it
had even made him nervous about going in t he wat er. He knew t hat was silly. He couldnt
drown. But he also suspect ed t hat if he didnt cont rol t he fear, it might st art cont rolling him.
He t hought about his friend Thalia, who was scared of height s even t hough she was t he
daught er of t he sky god. Her brot her, Jason, could fly by summoning t he winds. Thalia couldnt ,
maybe because she was t oo afraid t o t ry. If Percy st art ed t o believe he could drown
The muskeg pressed against his chest . His lungs want ed t o burst .
Stop panicking, he t old himself. This isnt real.
Just when he couldnt hold his breat h any longer, t he dream changed.
He st ood in a vast gloomy space like an underground parking garage. Rows of st one pillars
marched off in every direct ion, holding up t he ceiling about t went y feet above. Freest anding
braziers cast a dim red glow over t he floor.
Percy couldnt see very far in t he shadows, but hanging from t he ceiling were pulley syst ems,
sandbags, and rows of dark t heat er light s. Piled around t he chamber, wooden crat es were
Percy heard machinery creaking in t he darkness, huge gears t urning, and wat er rushing
t hrough pipes.
Then he saw t he giant or at least Percy guessed t hat he was a giant .
He was about t welve feet t alla respect able height for a Cyclops, but only half as t all as
ot her giant s Percy had dealt wit h. He also looked more human t han a t ypical giant , wit hout t he
dragonlike legs of his larger kin. Nevert heless, his long purple hair was braided in a ponyt ail of
dreadlocks, woven wit h gold and silver coins, which st ruck Percy as a giant ish hairst yle. He had
a t en-foot spear st rapped t o his backa giant ish weapon.
He wore t he largest black t urt leneck Percy had ever seen, black pant s, and black leat her
shoes wit h point s so long and curly, t hey might have been jest er slippers. He paced back and
fort h in front of a raised plat form, examining a bronze jar about t he size of Percy.
No, no, no, t he giant mut t ered t o himself. Wheres t he splash? Wheres t he value? He
yelled int o t he darkness, Ot is!
Percy heard somet hing shuffling in t he dist ance. Anot her giant appeared out of t he gloom.
He wore exact ly t he same black out fit , right down t o t he curly shoes. The only difference
bet ween t he t wo giant s was t hat t he second ones hair was green rat her t han purple.
The first giant cursed. Ot is, why do you do t his t o me every day? I t old you I was wearing
the black turtleneck today. You could wear anything but the black turtleneck!
Ot is blinked as if hed just woken up. I t hought you were wearing t he yellow t oga t oday.
That was yest erday! When you showed up in t he yellow t oga!
Oh. Right . Sorry, Ephie.
His brot her snarled. They had t o be t wins, because t heir faces were ident ically ugly.
And dont call me Ephie, Ephie demanded. Call me Ephialtes. That s my name. Or you can
use my st age name: The BIG F!
Ot is grimaced. Im st ill not sure about t hat st age name.
Nonsense! It s perfect . Now, how are t he preparat ions coming along?
Fine. Ot is didnt sound very ent husiast ic. The man-eat ing t igers, t he spinning bladesBut
I st ill t hink a few ballerinas would be nice.
No ballerinas! Ephialt es snapped. And this t hing. He waved at t he bronze jar in disgust .
What does it do? It s not excit ing.
But t hat s t he whole point of t he show. He dies unless t he ot hers rescue him. And if t hey
arrive on schedule
Oh, t heyd bet t er! Ephialt es said. July First , t he Kalends of July, sacred t o Juno. That s
when Mot her want s t o dest roy t hose st upid demigods and really rub it in Junos face. Besides,
Im not paying overt ime for t hose gladiat or ghost s!
Well, t hen, t hey all die, Ot is said, and we st art t he dest ruct ion of Rome. Just like Mot her
want s. It ll be perfect . The crowd will love it . Roman ghost s adore t his sort of t hing.
Ephialt es looked unconvinced. But t he jar just stands t here. Couldnt we suspend it above a
fire, or dissolve it in a pool of acid or somet hing?
We need him alive for a few more days, Ot is reminded his brot her. Ot herwise, t he seven
wont t ake t he bait and rush t o save him.
Hmm. I suppose. Id st ill like a lit t le more screaming. This slow deat h is boring. Ah, well, what
about our t alent ed friend? Is she ready t o receive her visit or?
Ot is made a sour face. I really dont like t alking t o her. She makes me nervous.
But is she ready?
Yes, Ot is said reluct ant ly. Shes been ready for cent uries. No one will be removing that
st at ue.
Excellent . Ephialt es rubbed his hands t oget her in ant icipat ion. This is our big chance, my
brot her.
That s what you said about our last st unt , Ot is mumbled. I was hanging in t hat block of ice
suspended over t he River Let he for six mont hs, and we didnt even get any media at t ent ion.
This is different ! Ephialt es insist ed. We will set a new st andard for ent ert ainment ! If
Mot her is pleased, we can writ e our own t icket t o fame and fort une!
If you say so, Ot is sighed. Though I st ill t hink t hose ballerina cost umes from Swan Lake
would look lovely
No ballet !
Come, Ephialt es said. Let s examine t he t igers. I want t o be sure t hey are hungry!
The giant s lumbered off int o t he gloom, and Percy t urned t oward t he jar.
I need t o see inside, he t hought .
He willed his dream forward, right t o t he surface of t he jar. Then he passed t hrough.
The air in t he jar smelled of st ale breat h and t arnished met al. The only light came from t he
dim purple glow of a dark sword, it s St ygian iron blade set against one side of t he cont ainer.
Huddled next t o it was a deject ed-looking boy in t at t ered jeans, a black shirt , and an old aviat or
jacket . On his right hand, a silver skull ring glit t ered.
Nico, Percy called. But t he son of Hades couldnt hear him.
The cont ainer was complet ely sealed. The air was t urning poisonous. Nicos eyes were
closed, his breat hing shallow. He appeared t o be medit at ing. His face was pale, and t hinner
t han Percy remembered.
On t he inner wall of t he jar, it looked as t hough Nico had scrat ched t hree hash marks wit h
his swordmaybe it had been t hree days t hat hed been imprisoned?
It didnt seem possible he could have survived so long wit hout suffocat ing. Even in a dream,
Percy was already st art ing t o feel panicky, st ruggling t o get enough oxygen.
Then he not iced somet hing bet ween Nicos feet a small collect ion of glist ening object s no
bigger t han baby t eet h.
Seeds, Percy realized. Pomegranat e seeds. Three had been eat en and spit out . Five were
st ill encased in dark red pulp.
Nico, Percy said, where is t his place? Well save you.
The image faded, and a girls voice whispered: Percy.
At first , Percy t hought he was st ill asleep. When hed lost his memory, hed spent weeks
dreaming about Annabet h, t he only person he remembered from his past . As his eyes opened
and his vision cleared, he realized she was really t here.
She was st anding by his bert h, smiling down at him.
Her blond hair fell across her shoulders. Her st orm-gray eyes were bright wit h amusement .
He remembered his first day at Camp Half-Blood, five years ago, when hed woken from a daze
and found Annabet h st anding over him. She had said, You drool when you sleep.
She was sent iment al t hat way.
Whwhat s going on? he asked. Are we t here?
No, she said, her voice low. It s t he middle of t he night .
You mean Percys heart st art ed t o race. He realized he was in his pajamas, in bed. He
probably had been drooling, or at least making weird noises as he dreamed. No doubt he had a
severe case of pillow hair and his breat h didnt smell great . You sneaked int o my cabin?
Annabet h rolled her eyes. Percy, youll be sevent een in t wo mont hs. You cant seriously be
worried about get t ing int o t rouble wit h Coach Hedge.
Uh, have you seen his baseball bat ?
Besides, Seaweed Brain, I just t hought we could t ake a walk. We havent had any t ime t o be
t oget her alone. I want t o show you somet hingmy favorit e place aboard t he ship.
Percys pulse was st ill in overdrive, but it wasnt from fear of get t ing int o t rouble. Can I, you
know, brush my t eet h first ?
Youd bet t er, Annabet h said. Because Im not kissing you unt il you do. And brush your hair
while youre at it .

For a t rireme, t he ship was huge, but it st ill felt cozy t o Percylike his dorm building back at
Yancy Academy, or any of t he ot her boarding schools hed got t en kicked out of. Annabet h and
he crept downst airs t o t he second deck, which Percy hadnt explored except for sickbay.
She led him past t he engine room, which looked like a very dangerous, mechanized jungle
gym, wit h pipes and pist ons and t ubes jut t ing from a cent ral bronze sphere. Cables resembling
giant met al noodles snaked across t he floor and ran up t he walls.
How does t hat t hing even work? Percy asked.
No idea, Annabet h said. And Im t he only one besides Leo who can operat e it .
That s reassuring.
It should be fine. It s only t hreat ened t o blow up once.
Youre kidding, I hope.
She smiled. Come on.
They worked t heir way past t he supply rooms and t he armory. Toward t he st ern of t he ship,
t hey reached a set of wooden double doors t hat opened int o a large st able. The room smelled
of fresh hay and wool blanket s. Lining t he left wall were t hree empt y horse st alls like t he ones
t hey used for pegasi back at camp. The right wall had t wo empt y cages big enough for large
zoo animals.
In t he cent er of t he floor was a t went y-foot -square see-t hrough panel. Far below, t he night
landscape whisked bymiles of dark count ryside crisscrossed wit h illuminat ed highways like
t he st rands of a web.
A glass-bot t omed boat ? Percy asked.
Annabet h grabbed a blanket from t he nearest st able gat e and spread it across part of t he
glass floor. Sit wit h me.
They relaxed on t he blanket as if t hey were having a picnic, and wat ched t he world go by
Leo built t he st ables so pegasi could come and go easily, Annabet h said. Only he didnt
realize t hat pegasi prefer t o roam free, so t he st ables are always empt y.
Percy wondered where Blackjack wasroaming t he skies somewhere, hopefully following
t heir progress. Percys head st ill t hrobbed from get t ing whopped by Blackjacks hoof, but he
didnt hold t hat against t he horse.
What do you mean, come and go easily? he asked. Wouldnt a pegasus have t o make it
down t wo flight s of st airs?
Annabet h rapped her knuckles on t he glass. These are bay doors, like on a bomber.
Percy gulped. You mean were sit t ing on doors? What if t hey opened?
I suppose wed fall t o our deat hs. But t hey wont open. Most likely.
Great .
Annabet h laughed. You know why I like it here? It s not just t he view. What does t his place
remind you of?
Percy looked around: t he cages and st ables, t he Celest ial bronze lamp hanging from t he
beam, t he smell of hay, and of course Annabet h sit t ing close t o him, her face ghost ly and
beaut iful in t he soft amber light .
That zoo t ruck, Percy decided. The one we t ook t o Las Vegas.
Her smile t old him hed got t en t he answer right .
That was so long ago, Percy said. We were in bad shape, st ruggling t o get across t he
count ry t o find t hat st upid light ning bolt , t rapped in a t ruck wit h a bunch of mist reat ed animals.
How can you be nost algic for t hat ?
Because, Seaweed Brain, it s t he first t ime we really t alked, you and me. I t old you about my
family, and She t ook out her camp necklace, st rung wit h her dads college ring and a colorful
clay bead for each year at Camp Half-Blood. Now t here was somet hing else on t he leat her
cord: a red coral pendant Percy had given her when t hey had st art ed dat ing. Hed brought it
from his fat hers palace at t he bot t om of t he sea.
And, Annabet h cont inued, it reminds me how long weve known each ot her. We were
twelve, Percy. Can you believe t hat ?
No, he admit t ed. Soyou knew you liked me from t hat moment ?
She smirked. I hat ed you at first . You annoyed me. Then I t olerat ed you for a few years.
Okay, fine.
She leaned over and kissed him: a good, proper kiss wit hout anyone wat chingno Romans
anywhere, no screaming sat yr chaperones.
She pulled away. I missed you, Percy.
Percy want ed t o t ell her t he same t hing, but it seemed t oo small a comment . While he had
been on t he Roman side, hed kept himself alive almost solely by t hinking of Annabet h. I
missed you didnt really cover t hat .
He remembered earlier in t he night , when Piper had forced t he eidolon t o leave his mind.
Percy hadnt been aware of it s presence unt il she had used her charmspeak. Aft er t he eidolon
was gone, he felt as if a hot spike had been removed from his forehead. He hadnt realized how
much pain he had been in unt il t he spirit left . Then his t hought s became clearer. His soul
set t led comfort ably back int o his body.
Sit t ing here wit h Annabet h made him feel t he same way. The past few mont hs could have
been one of his st range dreams. The event s at Camp Jupit er seemed as fuzzy and unreal as
t hat fight wit h Jason, when t hey had bot h been cont rolled by t he eidolons.
Yet he didnt regret t he t ime hed spent at Camp Jupit er. It had opened his eyes in a lot of
Annabet h, he said hesit ant ly, in New Rome, demigods can live t heir whole lives in peace.
Her expression t urned guarded. Reyna explained it t o me. But , Percy, you belong at Camp
Half-Blood. That ot her life
I know, Percy said. But while I was t here, I saw so many demigods living wit hout fear: kids
going t o college, couples get t ing married and raising families. Theres not hing like t hat at Camp
Half-Blood. I kept t hinking about you and meand maybe someday when t his war wit h t he
giant s is over
It was hard t o t ell in t he golden light , but he t hought Annabet h was blushing. Oh, she said.
Percy was afraid hed said t oo much. Maybe hed scared her wit h his big dreams of t he
fut ure. She was usually t he one wit h t he plans. Percy cursed himself silent ly.
As long as hed known Annabet h, he st ill felt like he underst ood so lit t le about her. Even
aft er t heyd been dat ing several mont hs, t heir relat ionship had always felt new and delicat e,
like a glass sculpt ure. He was t errified of doing somet hing wrong and breaking it .
Im sorry, he said. I just I had t o t hink of t hat t o keep going. To give me hope. Forget I
ment ioned
No! she said. No, Percy. Gods, t hat s so sweet . It s just we may have burned t hat bridge.
If we cant repair t hings wit h t he Romanswell, t he t wo set s of demigods have never got t en
along. That s why t he gods kept us separat e. I dont know if we could ever belong t here.
Percy didnt want t o argue, but he couldnt let go of t he hope. It felt import ant not just for
Annabet h and him, but for all t he ot her demigods. It had t o be possible t o belong in t wo
different worlds at once. Aft er all, t hat s what being a demigod was all about not quit e
belonging in t he mort al world or on Mount Olympus, but t rying t o make peace wit h bot h sides
of t heir nat ure.
Unfort unat ely, t hat got him t hinking about t he gods, t he war t hey were facing, and his dream
about t he t wins Ephialt es and Ot is.
I was having a night mare when you woke me up, he admit t ed.
He t old Annabet h what hed seen.
Even t he most t roubling part s didnt seem t o surprise her. She shook her head sadly when
he described Nicos imprisonment in t he bronze jar. She got an angry glint in her eyes when he
t old her about t he giant s planning some sort of Rome-dest roying ext ravaganza t hat would
include t heir painful deat hs as t he opening event .
Nico is t he bait , she murmured. Gaeas forces must have capt ured him somehow. But we
dont know exact ly where t heyre holding him.
Somewhere in Rome, Percy said. Somewhere underground. They made it sound like Nico
st ill had a few days t o live, but I dont see how he could hold out so long wit h no oxygen.
Five more days, according t o Nemesis, Annabet h said. The Kalends of July. At least t he
deadline makes sense now.
What s a Kalends?
Annabet h smirked, like she was pleased t hey were back in t heir old familiar pat t ernPercy
being ignorant , she herself explaining st uff. It s just t he Roman t erm for t he first of t he mont h.
That s where we get t he word calendar. But how can Nico survive t hat long? We should t alk t o
She hesit at ed. No. It can wait unt il morning. I dont want t o hit her wit h t his news in t he
middle of t he night .
The giant s ment ioned a st at ue, Percy recalled. And somet hing about a t alent ed friend
who was guarding it . Whoever t his friend was, she scared Ot is. Anyone who can scare a
Annabet h gazed down at a highway snaking t hrough dark hills. Percy, have you seen
Poseidon lat ely? Or had any kind of sign from him?
He shook his head. Not sinceWow. I guess I havent t hought about it . Not since t he end of
t he Tit an War. I saw him at Camp Half-Blood, but t hat was last August . A sense of dread
set t led over him. Why? Have you seen At hena?
She didnt meet his eyes.
A few weeks ago, she admit t ed. It it wasnt good. She didnt seem like herself. Maybe it s
t he Greek/Roman schizophrenia t hat Nemesis described. Im not sure. She said some hurt ful
t hings. She said I had failed her.
Failed her? Percy wasnt sure hed heard her right . Annabet h was t he perfect demigod
child. She was everyt hing a daught er of At hena should be. How could you ever?
I dont know, she said miserably. On t op of t hat , Ive been having night mares of my own.
They dont make as much sense as yours.
Percy wait ed, but Annabet h didnt share any more det ails. He want ed t o make her feel
bet t er and t ell her it would be okay, but he knew he couldnt . He want ed t o fix everyt hing for
bot h of t hem so t hey could have a happy ending. Aft er all t hese years, even t he cruelest gods
would have t o admit t hey deserved it .
But he had a gut feeling t hat t here was not hing he could do t o help Annabet h t his t ime,
ot her t han simply be t here. Wisdoms daughter walks alone.
He felt as t rapped and helpless as when hed sunk int o t he muskeg.
Annabet h managed a faint smile. Some romant ic evening, huh? No more bad t hings unt il
t he morning. She kissed him again. Well figure everyt hing out . Ive got you back. For now,
t hat s all t hat mat t ers.
Right , Percy said. No more t alk about Gaea rising, Nico being held host age, t he world
ending, t he giant s
Shut up, Seaweed Brain, she ordered. Just hold me for a while.
They sat t oget her cuddling, enjoying each ot hers warmt h. Before Percy knew it , t he drone of
t he ships engine, t he dim light , and t he comfort able feeling of being wit h Annabet h made his
eyes heavy, and he drift ed t o sleep.
When he woke, daylight was coming t hrough t he glass floor, and a boys voice said, Oh
You are in so much t rouble.

PERCY HAD SEEN FRANK SURROUNDED by cannibal ogres, facing down an unkillable giant , and even
unleashing Thanat os, t he god of deat h. But hed never seen Frank look as t errified as he did
now, finding t he t wo of t hem passed out in t he st ables.
What ? Percy rubbed his eyes. Oh, we just fell asleep.
Frank swallowed. He was dressed in running shoes, dark cargo pant s, and a Vancouver
Wint er Olympics T-shirt wit h his Roman cent urion badge pinned t o t he neck (which seemed
eit her sad or hopeful t o Percy, now t hat t hey were renegades). Frank avert ed his eyes as if t he
sight of t hem t oget her might burn him.
Everyone t hinks youve been kidnapped, he said. Weve been scouring t he ship. When
Coach Hedge finds out oh, gods, youve been here all night?
Frank! Annabet hs ears were as red as st rawberries. We just came down here t o t alk. We
fell asleep. Accident ally. That s it.
Kissed a couple of t imes, Percy said.
Annabet h glared at him. Not helping!
Wed bet t er Frank point ed t o t he st able doors. Uh, were supposed t o meet for
breakfast . Would you explain what you didI mean didnt do? I mean I really dont want t hat
faunI mean sat yrt o kill me.
Frank ran.
When everyone finally gat hered in t he mess hall, it wasnt quit e as bad as Frank had feared.
Jason and Piper were most ly relieved. Leo couldnt st op grinning and mut t ering, Classic.
Classic. Only Hazel seemed scandalized, maybe because she was from t he 1940s. She kept
fanning her face and wouldnt meet Percys eyes.
Nat urally, Coach Hedge went ballist ic; but Percy found it hard t o t ake t he sat yr seriously
since he was barely five feet t all.
Never in my life! Coach bellowed, waving his bat and knocking over a plat e of apples.
Against t he rules! Irresponsible!
Coach, Annabet h said, it was an accident . We were t alking, and we fell asleep.
Besides, Percy said, youre st art ing t o sound like Terminus.
Hedge narrowed his eyes. Is t hat an insult , Jackson? Cause IllIll t erminus you, buddy!
Percy t ried not t o laugh. It wont happen again, Coach. I promise. Now, dont we have ot her
t hings t o discuss?
Hedge fumed. Fine! But Im wat ching you, Jackson. And you, Annabet h Chase, I t hought you
had more sense
Jason cleared his t hroat . So grab some food, everybody. Let s get st art ed.

The meet ing was like a war council wit h donut s. Then again, back at Camp Half-Blood t hey
used t o have t heir most serious discussions around t he Ping-Pong t able in t he rec room wit h
crackers and Cheez Whiz, so Percy felt right at home.
He t old t hem about his dreamt he t win giant s planning a recept ion for t hem in an
underground parking lot wit h rocket launchers; Nico di Angelo t rapped in a bronze jar, slowly
dying from asphyxiat ion wit h pomegranat e seeds at his feet .
Hazel choked back a sob. Nico Oh, gods. The seeds.
You know what t hey are? Annabet h asked.
Hazel nodded. He showed t hem t o me once. Theyre from our st epmot hers garden.
Your st ep oh, Percy said. You mean Persephone.
Percy had met t he wife of Hades once. She hadnt been exact ly warm and sunny. He had
also been t o her Underworld gardena creepy place full of cryst al t rees and flowers t hat
bloomed bloodred and ghost whit e.
The seeds are a last -resort food, Hazel said. Percy could t ell she was nervous, because all
t he silverware on t he t able was st art ing t o move t oward her. Only children of Hades can eat
t hem. Nico always kept some in case he got st uck somewhere. But if hes really imprisoned
The giant s are t rying t o lure us, Annabet h said. Theyre assuming well t ry t o rescue him.
Well, t heyre right ! Hazel looked around t he t able, her confidence apparent ly crumbling.
Wont we?
Yes! Coach Hedge yelled wit h a mout hful of napkins. It ll involve fight ing, right ?
Hazel, of course well help him, Frank said. But how long do we have before uh, I mean,
how long can Nico hold out ?
One seed a day, Hazel said miserably. That s if he put s himself in a deat h t rance.
A deat h t rance? Annabet h scowled. That doesnt sound fun.
It keeps him from consuming all his air, Hazel said. Like hibernat ion, or a coma. One seed
can sust ain him one day, barely.
And he has five seeds left , Percy said. That s five days, including t oday. The giant s must
have planned it t hat way, so wed have t o arrive by July first . Assuming Nico is hidden
somewhere in Rome
That s not much t ime, Piper summed up. She put her hand on Hazels shoulder. Well find
him. At least we know what t he lines of t he prophecy mean now. Twins snuff out t he angels
breat h, who holds t he key t o endless deat h. Your brot hers last name: di Angelo. Angelo is
It alian for angel.
Oh, gods, Hazel mut t ered. Nico
Percy st ared at his jelly donut . He had a rocky hist ory wit h Nico di Angelo. The guy had once
t ricked him int o visit ing Hadess palace, and Percy had ended up in a cell. But most of t he t ime,
Nico sided wit h t he good guys. He cert ainly didnt deserve slow suffocat ion in a bronze jar, and
Percy couldnt st and seeing Hazel in pain.
Well rescue him, he promised her. We have t o. The prophecy says he holds t he key t o
endless deat h.
That s right , Piper said encouragingly. Hazel, your brot her went searching for t he Doors of
Deat h in t he Underworld, right ? He must ve found t hem.
He can t ell us where t he doors are, Percy said, and how t o close t hem.
Hazel t ook a deep breat h. Yes. Good.
Uh Leo shift ed in his chair. One t hing. The giant s are expect ing us t o do t his, right ? So
were walking int o a t rap?
Hazel looked at Leo like hed made a rude gest ure. We have no choice!
Dont get me wrong, Hazel. It s just t hat your brot her, Nico he knew about bot h camps,
right ?
Well, yes, Hazel said.
Hes been going back and fort h, Leo said, and he didnt t ell eit her side.
Jason sat forward, his expression grim. Youre wondering if we can t rust t he guy. So am I.
Hazel shot t o her feet . I dont believe t his. Hes my brother. He brought me back from t he
Underworld, and you dont want t o help him?
Frank put his hand on her shoulder. Nobodys saying t hat . He glared at Leo. Nobody had
better be saying t hat .
Leo blinked. Look, guys. All I mean is
Hazel, Jason said. Leo is raising a fair point . I remember Nico from Camp Jupit er. Now I find
out he also visit ed Camp Half-Blood. That does st rike me as well, a lit t le shady. Do we really
know where his loyalt ies lie? We just have t o be careful.
Hazels arms shook. A silver plat t er zoomed t oward her and hit t he wall t o her left ,
splat t ering scrambled eggs. You t he great Jason Grace t he praet or I looked up t o. You
were supposed t o be so fair, such a good leader. And now you Hazel st omped her foot and
st ormed out of t he mess hall.
Hazel! Leo called aft er her. Ah, jeez. I should
Youve done enough, Frank growled. He got up t o follow her, but Piper gest ured for him t o
wait .
Give her t ime, Piper advised. Then she frowned at Leo and Jason. You guys, t hat was
pret t y cold.
Jason looked shocked. Cold? Im just being caut ious!
Her brot her is dying, Piper said.
Ill go t alk t o her, Frank insist ed.
No, Piper said. Let her cool down first . Trust me on t his. Ill go check on her in a few
minut es.
But Frank huffed like an irrit at ed bear. Fine. Ill wait .
From up above came a whirring sound like a large drill.
That s Fest us, Leo said. Ive got him on aut opilot , but we must be nearing At lant a. Ill have
t o get up t here uh, assuming we know where t o land.
Everyone t urned t o Percy.
Jason raised an eyebrow. Youre Capt ain Salt Wat er. Any ideas from t he expert ?
Was t hat resent ment in his voice? Percy wondered if Jason was secret ly miffed about t he
duel in Kansas. Jason had joked about it , but Percy figured t hat t hey bot h harbored a lit t le
grudge. You couldnt put t wo demigods in a fight and not have t hem wonder who was
st ronger.
Im not sure, he admit t ed. Somewhere cent ral, high up so we can get a good view of t he
cit y. Maybe a park wit h some woods? We dont want t o land a warship in t he middle of
downt own. I doubt even t he Mist could cover up somet hing t hat huge.
Leo nodded. On it . He raced for t he st airs.
Frank set t led back in his chair uneasily. Percy felt bad for him. On t he t rip t o Alaska, he had
wat ched Hazel and Frank grow close. He knew how prot ect ive Frank felt t oward her. He also
not iced t he baleful look Frank was giving Leo. He decided it might be a good idea t o get Frank
off t he ship for a while.
When we land, Ill scout around in At lant a, Percy said. Frank, I could use your help.
You mean t urn int o a dragon again? Honest ly, Percy, I dont want t o spend t he whole quest
being everyones flying t axi.
No, Percy said. I want you wit h me because youve got t he blood of Poseidon. Maybe you
can help me figure out where t o find salt wat er. Besides, youre good in a fight .
That seemed t o make Frank feel a lit t le bet t er. Sure. I guess.
Great , Percy said. We should t ake one more. Annabet h
Oh, no! Coach Hedge barked. Young lady, you are grounded.
Annabet h st ared at him like he was speaking a foreign language. Excuse me?
You and Jackson are not going anywhere t oget her! Hedge insist ed. He glared at Percy,
daring him t o mout h off. Ill go wit h Frank and Mr. Sneaky Jackson. The rest of you guard t he
ship and make sure Annabet h doesnt break any more rules!
Wonderful, Percy t hought . A boys day out wit h Frank and a bloodt hirst y sat yr, t o find salt
wat er in a landlocked cit y.
This, he said, is going t o be so much fun.

They had landed near t he summit of a forest ed hill. A complex of whit e buildings, like a
museum or a universit y, nest led in a grove of pines t o t he left . Below t hem spread t he cit y of
At lant aa clust er of brown and silver downt own skyscrapers t wo miles away, rising from what
looked like an endless flat sprawl of highways, railroad t racks, houses, and green swat hes of
forest .
Ah, lovely spot . Coach Hedge inhaled t he morning air. Good choice, Valdez.
Leo shrugged. I just picked a t all hill. That s a president ial library or somet hing over t here. At
least t hat s what Fest us says.
I dont know about t hat ! Hedge barked. But do you realize what happened on t his hill?
Frank Zhang, you should know!
Frank flinched. I should?
A son of Ares st ood here! Hedge cried indignant ly.
Im Romanso Mars, act ually.
What ever! Famous spot in t he American Civil War!
Im Canadian, act ually.
What ever! General Sherman, Union leader. He st ood on t his hill wat ching t he cit y of At lant a
burn. Cut a pat h of dest ruct ion all t he way from here t o t he sea. Burning, loot ing, pillaging
now there was a demigod!
Frank inched away from t he sat yr. Uh, okay.
Percy didnt care much about hist ory, but he wondered whet her landing here was a bad
omen. Hed heard t hat most human civil wars st art ed as fight s bet ween Greek and Roman
demigods. Now t hey were st anding on t he sit e of one such bat t le. The ent ire cit y below t hem
had been leveled on orders of a child of Ares.
Percy could imagine some of t he kids at Camp Half-Blood giving such a command. Clarisse
La Rue, for inst ance, wouldnt hesit at e. But he couldnt imagine Frank being so harsh.
Anyway, Percy said, let s t ry not t o burn down t he cit y t his t ime.
The coach looked disappoint ed. All right . But where t o?
Percy point ed t oward downt own. When in doubt , st art in t he middle.

Cat ching a ride t here was easier t han t hey t hought . The t hree of t hem headed t o t he
president ial librarywhich t urned out t o be t he Cart er Cent erand asked t he st aff if t hey
could call a t axi or give t hem direct ions t o t he nearest bus st op. Percy could have summoned
Blackjack, but he was reluct ant t o ask t he pegasus for help so soon aft er t heir last disast er.
Frank didnt want t o polymorph int o anyt hing. And besides, Percy was kind of hoping t o t ravel
like a regular mort al for a change.
One of t he librarians, whose name was Est her, insist ed on driving t hem personally. She was
so nice about it , Percy t hought she must be a monst er in disguise; but Hedge pulled him aside
and assured him t hat Est her smelled like a normal human.
Wit h a hint of pot pourri, he said. Cloves. Rose pet als. Tast y!
They piled int o Est hers big black Cadillac and drove t oward downt own. Est her was so t iny,
she could barely see over t he st eering wheel; but t hat didnt seem t o bot her her. She muscled
her car t hrough t raffic while regaling t hem wit h st ories about t he crazy families of At lant at he
old plant at ion owners, t he founders of Coca-Cola, t he sport s st ars, and t he CNN news people.
She sounded so knowledgeable t hat Percy decided t o t ry his luck.
Uh, so, Est her, he said, heres a hard quest ion for you. Salt wat er in At lant a. What s t he
first t hing t hat comes t o mind?
The old lady chuckled. Oh, sugar. That s easy. Whale sharks!
Frank and Percy exchanged looks.
Whale sharks? Frank asked nervously. You have t hose in At lant a?
At t he aquarium, sugar, Est her said. Very famous! Right downt own. Is t hat where you
want ed t o go?
An aquarium. Percy considered t hat . He didnt know what an Ancient Greek sea god would
be doing at a Georgia aquarium, but he didnt have any bet t er ideas.
Yes, Percy said. That s where were going.
Est her dropped t hem at t he main ent rance, where a line was already forming. She insist ed
on giving t hem her cell phone number for emergencies, money for a t axi ride back t o t he Cart er
Cent er, and a jar of homemade peach preserves, which for some reason she kept in a box in
her t runk. Frank st uck t he jar in his backpack and t hanked Est her, who had already swit ched
from calling him sugar t o son.
As she drove away, Frank said, Are all people in At lant a t hat nice?
Hedge grunt ed. Hope not . I cant fight t hem if t heyre nice. Let s go beat up some whale
sharks. They sound dangerous!
It hadnt occurred t o Percy t hat t hey might have t o pay admission, or st and in line behind a
bunch of families and kids from summer camps.
Looking at t he element ary schoolers in t heir colorful T-shirt s from various day camps, Percy
felt a t winge of sadness. He should be at Camp Half-Blood right now, set t ling int o his cabin for
t he summer, t eaching sword-fight ing lessons in t he arena, planning pranks on t he ot her
counselors. These kids had no idea just how crazy a summer camp could be.
He sighed. Well, I guess we wait in line. Anybody have money?
Frank checked his pocket s. Three denarii from Camp Jupit er. Five dollars Canadian.
Hedge pat t ed his gym short s and pulled out what he found. Three quart ers, t wo dimes, a
rubber band andscore! A piece of celery.
He st art ed munching on t he celery, eyeing t he change and t he rubber band like t hey might
be next .
Great , Percy said. His own pocket s were empt y except for his pen/sword, Ript ide. He was
pondering whet her or not t hey could sneak in somehow, when a woman in a blue-and-green
Georgia Aquarium shirt came up t o t hem, smiling bright ly.
Ah, VIP visit ors! She had perky dimpled cheeks, t hick-framed glasses, braces, and frizzy
black hair pulled t o t he sides in pigt ails, so t hat even t hough she was probably in her lat e
t went ies, she looked like a schoolgirl nerdsort of cut e, but sort of odd. Along wit h her Georgia
Aquarium polo shirt , she wore dark slacks and black sneakers, and she bounced on t he balls of
her feet like she simply couldnt cont ain her energy. Her name t ag read KATE.
You have your payment , I see, she said. Excellent !
What ? Percy asked.
Kat e scooped t he t hree denarii out of Franks hand. Yes, t hat s fine. Right t his way!
She spun and t rot t ed off t oward t he main ent rance.
Percy looked at Coach Hedge and Frank. A t rap?
Probably, Frank said.
Shes not mort al, Hedge said, sniffing t he air. Probably some sort of goat -eat ing, demigod-
dest roying fiend from Tart arus.
No doubt , Percy agreed.
Awesome. Hedge grinned. Let s go.
Kat e got t hem past t he t icket queue and int o t he aquarium wit h no problem.
Right t his way. Kat e grinned at Percy. It s a wonderful exhibit . You wont be disappoint ed.
So rare we get VIPs.
Uh, you mean demigods? Frank asked.
Kat e winked at him impishly and put a finger t o her mout h. So over here is t he cold-wat er
experience, wit h your penguins and beluga whales and what not . And over t herewell, t hose
are some fish, obviously.
For an aquarium worker, she didnt seem t o know much or care much about t he smaller fish.
They passed one huge t ank full of t ropical species, and when Frank point ed t o a part icular fish
and asked what it was, Kat e said, Oh, t hose are t he yellow ones.
They passed t he gift shop. Frank slowed down t o check out a clearance t able wit h clot hes
and t oys.
Take what you want , Kat e t old him.
Frank blinked. Really?
Of course! Youre a VIP!
Frank hesit at ed. Then he st uffed some T-shirt s in his backpack.
Dude, Percy said, what are you doing?
She said I could, Frank whispered. Besides, I need more clot hes. I didnt pack for a long
t rip!
He added a snow globe t o his st ash, which didnt seem like clot hing t o Percy. Then Frank
picked up a braided cylinder about t he size of a candy bar.
He squint ed at it . What is?
Chinese handcuffs, Percy said.
Frank, who was Chinese Canadian, looked offended. How is t his Chinese?
I dont know, Percy said. That s just what it s called. It s like a gag gift .
Come along, boys! Kat e called from across t he hall.
Ill show you lat er, Percy promised.
Frank st uffed t he handcuffs in his backpack, and t hey kept walking.
They passed t hrough an acrylic t unnel. Fish swam over t heir heads, and Percy felt irrat ional
panic building in his t hroat .
This is dumb, he t old himself. Ive been underwater a million times. And Im not even i n the
The real t hreat was Kat e, he reminded himself. Hedge had already det ect ed t hat she wasnt
human. Any minut e she might t urn int o some horrible creat ure and at t ack t hem. Unfort unat ely,
Percy didnt see much choice but t o play along wit h her VIP t our unt il t hey could find t he sea
god Phorcys, even if t hey were walking deeper int o a t rap.
They emerged in a viewing room awash wit h blue light . On t he ot her side of a glass wall was
t he biggest aquarium t ank Percy had ever seen. Cruising in circles were dozens of huge fish,
including t wo spot t ed sharks, each t wice Percys size. They were fat and slow, wit h open
mout hs and no t eet h.
Whale sharks, Coach Hedge growled. Now we shall bat t le t o t he deat h!
Kat e giggled. Silly sat yr. Whale sharks are peaceful. They only eat plankt on.
Percy scowled. He wondered how Kat e knew t he coach was a sat yr. Hedge was wearing
pant s and specially fit t ed shoes over his hooves, like sat yrs usually did t o blend in wit h mort als.
His baseball cap covered his horns. The more Kat e giggled and act ed friendly, t he more Percy
didnt like her; but Coach Hedge didnt seem fazed.
Peaceful sharks? t he coach said wit h disgust . What s t he point of t hat ?
Frank read t he plaque next t o t he t ank. The only whale sharks in capt ivit y in t he world, he
mused. That s kind of amazing.
Yes, and t hese are small, Kat e said. You should see some of my ot her babies out in t he
Your babies? Frank asked.
Judging from t he wicked glint in Kat es eyes, Percy was pret t y sure he didnt want t o meet
Kat es babies. He decided it was t ime t o get t o t he point . He didnt want t o go any fart her int o
t his aquarium t han he had t o.
So, Kat e, he said, were looking for a guyI mean a god, named Phorcys. Would you
happen t o know him?
Kat e snort ed. Know him? Hes my brot her. That s where were going, sillies. The real
exhibit s are right t hrough here.
She gest ured at t he far wall. The solid black surface rippled, and anot her t unnel appeared,
leading t hrough a luminous purple t ank.
Kat e st rolled inside. The last t hing Percy want ed t o do was follow, but if Phorcys was really
on t he ot her side, and if he had informat ion t hat would help t heir quest Percy t ook a deep
breat h and followed his friends int o t he t unnel.
As soon as t hey ent ered, Coach Hedge whist led. Now thats int erest ing.
Gliding above t hem were mult icolored jellyfish t he size of t rash cans, each wit h hundreds of
t ent acles t hat looked like silky barbed wire. One jellyfish had a paralyzed t en-foot -long
swordfish t angled in it s grasp. The jellyfish slowly wrapped it s t endrils t ight er and t ight er
around it s prey.
Kat e beamed at Coach Hedge. You see? Forget t he whale sharks! And t heres much more.
Kat e led t hem int o an even larger chamber, lined wit h more aquariums. On one wall, a
glowing red sign proclaimed: DEATH I N THE DEEP SEAS! Sponsored by Monster Donut.
Percy had t o read t he sign t wice because of his dyslexia, and t hen t wice more t o let t he
message sink in. Monst er Donut ?
Oh, yes, Kat e said. One of our corporat e sponsors.
Percy gulped. His last experience wit h Monst er Donut hadnt been pleasant . It had involved
acid-spit t ing serpent heads, much screaming, and a cannon.
In one aquarium, a dozen hippocampihorses wit h t he t ails of fishdrift ed aimlessly. Percy
had seen many hippocampi in t he wild. Hed even ridden a few; but he had never seen any in
an aquarium. He t ried t o speak wit h t hem, but t hey just float ed around, occasionally bonking
against t he glass. Their minds seemed addled.
This isnt right , Percy mut t ered.
He t urned and saw somet hing even worse. At t he bot t om of a smaller t ank, t wo Nereids
female sea spirit ssat cross-legged, facing each ot her, playing a game of Go Fish. They
looked incredibly bored. Their long green hair float ed list lessly around t heir faces. Their eyes
were half closed.
Percy felt so angry, he could hardly breat he. He glared at Kat e. How can you keep t hem
I know. Kat e sighed. They arent very int erest ing. We t ried t o t each t hem some t ricks, but
wit h no luck, Im afraid. I t hink youll like t his t ank over here much bet t er.
Percy st art ed t o prot est , but Kat e had already moved on.
Holy mot her of goat s! cried Coach Hedge. Look at t hese beaut ies!
He was gawking at t wo sea serpent st hirt y-foot -long monst ers wit h glowing blue scales
and jaws t hat could have bit t en a whale shark in half. In anot her t ank, peeking out from it s
cement cave, was a squid t he size of an eight een-wheeler, wit h a beak like a giant bolt cut t er.
A t hird t ank held a dozen humanoid creat ures wit h sleek seal bodies, doglike faces, and
human hands. They sat on t he sand at t he bot t om of t he t ank, building t hings out of Legos,
t hough t he creat ures seemed just as dazed as t he Nereids.
Are t hose? Percy st ruggled t o form t he quest ion.
Telkhines? Kat e said. Yes! The only ones in capt ivit y.
But t hey fought for Kronos in t he last war! Percy said. Theyre dangerous!
Kat e rolled her eyes. Well, we couldnt call it Deat h in t he Deep Seas if t hese exhibit s
werent dangerous. Dont worry. We keep t hem well sedat ed.
Sedat ed? Frank asked. Is t hat legal?
Kat e appeared not t o have heard. She kept walking, point ing out ot her exhibit s. Percy looked
back at t he t elkhines. One was obviously a youngst er. He was t rying t o make a sword out of
Legos, but he seemed t oo groggy t o put t he pieces t oget her. Percy had never liked sea
demons, but now he felt sorry for t hem.
And these sea monst ers, Kat e narrat ed up ahead, can grow five hundred feet long in t he
deep ocean. They have over a t housand t eet h. And t hese? Their favorit e food is demigod
Demigod? Frank yelped.
But t hey will eat whales or small boat s, t oo. Kat e t urned t o Percy and blushed. SorryIm
such a monst er nerd! Im sure you know all t his, being t he son of Poseidon, and all.
Percys ears were ringing like alarm bells. He didnt like how much Kat e knew about him. He
didnt like t he way she casually t ossed out informat ion about drugging capt ive creat ures or
which of her babies liked t o devour demigods.
Who are you? he demanded. Does Kat e st and for somet hing?
Kat e? She looked moment arily confused. Then she glanced at her name t ag. Oh She
laughed. No, it s
Hello! said a new voice, booming t hrough t he aquarium.
A small man scut t led out of t he darkness. He walked sideways on bowed legs like a crab, his
back hunched, his arms raised on eit her side like he was holding invisible plat es.
He wore a wet suit t hat was several horrible shades of green. Glit t ery silver words print ed
down t he side read: PORKYS FOLLI ES. A headset microphone was clamped over his greasy wiry hair.
His eyes were milky blue, one higher t han t he ot her, and t hough he smiled, he didnt look
friendlymore like his face was being peeled back in a wind t unnel.
Visit ors! t he man said, t he word t hundering t hrough t he microphone. He had a DJs voice,
deep and resonant , which did not at all mat ch his appearance. Welcome t o Phorcyss Follies!
He swept his arms in one direct ion, as if direct ing t heir at t ent ion t o an explosion. Not hing
Curse it , t he man grumbled. Telkhines, t hat s your cue! I wave my hands, and you leap
energet ically in your t ank, do a synchronized double spin, and land in pyramid format ion. We
pract iced t his!
The sea demons paid him no at t ent ion.
Coach Hedge leaned t oward t he crab man and sniffed his glit t ery wet suit . Nice out fit .
He didnt sound like he was kidding. Of course, t he sat yr wore gym uniforms for fun.
Thank you! The man beamed. I am Phorcys.
Frank shift ed his weight from foot t o foot . Why does your suit say Porky?
Phorcys snarled. St upid uniform company! They cant get anyt hing right .
Kat e t apped her name t ag. I t old t hem my name was Keto. They misspelled it as Kate. My
brot herwell, now hes Porky.
I am not ! t he man snapped. Im not even a little porky. The name doesnt work wit h Follies,
eit her. What kind of show is called Porkys Follies? But you folks dont want t o hear us
complain. Behold, t he wondrous majest y of t he giant killer squid!
He gest ured dramat ically t oward t he squid t ank. This t ime, fireworks shot off in front of t he
glass right on cue, sending up geysers of golden sparkles. Music swelled from t he
loudspeakers. The light s bright ened and revealed t he wondrous majest y of an empt y t ank.
The squid had apparent ly skulked back int o it s cave.
Curse it ! Phorcys yelled again. He wheeled on his sist er. Ket o, t raining t he squid was your
job. Juggling, I said. Maybe a bit of flesh-rending for t he finale. Is t hat t oo much t o ask?
Hes shy, Ket o said defensively. Besides, each of his t ent acles has sixt y-t wo razorlike
barbs t hat have t o be sharpened daily. She t urned t oward Frank. Did you know t he
monst rous squid is t he only beast known t o eat demigods whole, armor and all, wit hout get t ing
indigest ion? It s t rue!
Frank st umbled away from her, hugging his gut as if making sure he was st ill in one piece.
Ket o! Porky snappedlit erally, since he clicked his fingers t o his t humbs like crab claws.
Youll bore our guest s wit h so much informat ion. Less educat ion, more ent ert ainment ! Weve
discussed t his.
No but s! Were here t o present Deat h in t he Deep Seas! Sponsored by Monst er Donut !
The last words reverberat ed t hrough t he room wit h ext ra echo. Light s flashed. Smoke clouds
billowed from t he floor, making donut -shaped rings t hat smelled like real donut s.
Available at t he concession st and, Phorcys advised. But youve spent your hard-earned
denarii t o get t he VIP t our, and so you shall! Come wit h me!
Um, hold it , Percy said.
Phorcyss smile melt ed in an ugly way. Yes?
Youre a sea god, arent you? Percy asked. Son of Gaea?
The crab man sighed. Five t housand years, and Im st ill known as Gaeas lit t le boy. Never
mind t hat Im one of t he oldest sea gods in exist ence. Older t han your upst art fat her, by t he
way. Im god of t he hidden dept hs! Lord of wat ery t errors! Fat her of a t housand monst ers! But ,
nonobody even knows me. I make one lit t le mist ake, support ing t he Tit ans in t heir war, and
Im exiled from t he oceant o At lant a, of all places.
We t hought t he Olympians said Atlantis, Ket o explained. Their idea of a joke, I guess,
sending us here inst ead.
Percy narrowed his eyes. And youre a goddess?
Ket o, yes! She smiled happily. Goddess of sea monst ers, nat urally! Whales, sharks, squids,
and ot her giant sea life, but my heart always belonged t o t he monst ers. Did you know t hat
young sea serpent s can regurgit at e t he flesh of t heir vict ims and keep t hemselves fed for up
t o six years on t he same meal? It s t rue!
Frank was st ill clut ching his st omach like he was going t o be sick.
Coach Hedge whist led. Six years? That s fascinat ing.
I know! Ket o beamed.
And how exact ly does a killer squid rend t he flesh from it s vict ims? Hedge asked. I love
nat ure.
Oh, well
St op! Phorcys demanded. Youre ruining t he show! Now, wit ness our Nereid gladiat ors
fight t o t he deat h!
A mirrored disco ball descended int o t he Nereid exhibit , making t he wat er dance wit h
mult icolored light . Two swords fell t o t he bot t om and plunked in t he sand. The Nereids ignored
t hem and kept playing Go Fish.
Curse it ! Phorcys st omped his legs sideways.
Ket o grimaced at Coach Hedge. Dont mind Porky. Hes such a windbag. Come wit h me, my
fine sat yr. Ill show you full-color diagrams of t he monst ers hunt ing habit s.
Excellent !
Before Percy could object , Ket o led Coach Hedge away t hrough a maze of aquarium glass,
leaving Frank and him alone wit h t he crabby sea god.
A bead of sweat t raced it s way down Percys neck. He exchanged a nervous look wit h Frank.
This felt like a divide-and-conquer st rat egy. He didnt see any way t he encount er was going t o
end well. Part of him want ed t o at t ack Phorcys nowat least t hat might give t hem t he
element of surprisebut t hey hadnt found out any useful informat ion yet . Percy wasnt sure
he could find Coach Hedge again. He wasnt even sure he could find t he exit .
Phorcys must ve read his expression.
Oh, it s fine! t he god assured him. Ket o might be a lit t le boring, but shell t ake good care of
your friend. And honest ly, t he best part of t he t our is st ill t o come!
Percy t ried t o t hink, but he was st art ing t o get a headache. He wasnt sure if it was from
yest erdays head injury, Phorcyss special effect s, or his sist ers lect ures on nauseat ing sea
monst er fact s. So he managed. Dionysus sent us here.
Bacchus, Frank correct ed.
Right . Percy t ried t o keep his annoyance in check. He could barely remember one name for
each god. Two was pushing it . The wine god. What ever. He looked at Phorcys. Bacchus said
you might know what your mom Gaea is up t o, and t hese t win giant brot hers of yours
Ephialt es and Ot is. And if you happen t o know anyt hing about t his Mark of At hena
Bacchus t hought I would help you? Phorcys asked.
Well, yeah, Percy said. I mean, youre Phorcys. Everybody t alks about you.
Phorcys t ilt ed his head so t hat his mismat ched eyes almost lined up. They do?
Of course. Dont t hey, Frank?
Ohsure! Frank said. People t alk about you all t he t ime.
What do t hey say? t he god asked.
Frank looked uncomfort able. Well, you have great pyrot echnics. And a good announcers
voice. And, um, a disco ball
It s t rue! Phorcys clacked his fingers and t humbs excit edly. I also have t he largest
collect ion of capt ive sea monst ers in t he world!
And you know st uff, Percy added. Like about t he t wins and what t heyre up t o.
The t wins! Phorcys made his voice echo. Sparklers blazed t o life in front of t he sea serpent
t ank. Yes, I know all about Ephialt es and Ot is. Those wannabes! They never fit in wit h t he
ot her giant s. Too punyand t hose snakes for feet .
Snakes for feet ? Percy remembered t he long, curly shoes t he t wins had been wearing in
his dream.
Yes, yes, Phorcys said impat ient ly. They knew t hey couldnt get by on t heir st rengt h, so
t hey decided t o go for dramaillusions, st age t ricks, t hat sort of t hing. You see, Gaea shaped
her giant children wit h specific enemies in mind. Each giant was born t o kill a cert ain god.
Ephialt es and Ot iswell, t oget her t hey were sort of t he ant i-Dionysus.
Percy t ried t o wrap his mind around t hat idea. Sot hey want t o replace all wine wit h
cranberry juice or somet hing?
The sea god snort ed. Not hing like t hat ! Ephialt es and Ot is always want ed t o do t hings
bet t er, flashier, more spect acular! Oh, of course t hey want ed t o kill Dionysus. But first t hey
want ed t o humiliat e him by making his revelries look t ame!
Frank glanced at t he sparklers. By using st uff like fireworks and disco balls?
Phorcyss mout h st ret ched int o t hat wind t unnel smile. Exact ly! I t aught t he t wins
everyt hing t hey know, or at least I t ried t o. They never list ened. Their first big t rick? They t ried
t o reach Olympus by piling mount ains on t op of one anot her. It was just an illusion, of course. I
t old t hem it was ridiculous. You should st art small, I said. Sawing each ot her in half, pulling
gorgons out of a hat . That sort of t hing. And mat ching sequined out fit s. Twins need t hose!
Good advice, Percy agreed. And now t he t wins are
Oh, preparing for t heir doomsday show in Rome, Phorcys sneered. It s one of Mot hers silly
ideas. Theyre keeping some prisoner in a large bronze jar. He t urned t oward Frank. Youre a
child of Ares, arent you? Youve got t hat smell. The t wins imprisoned your fat her t he same
way, once.
Child of Mars, Frank correct ed. Wait t hese giant s t rapped my dad in a bronze jar?
Yes, anot her st upid st unt , said t he sea god. How can you show off your prisoner if hes in
a bronze jar? No ent ert ainment value. Not like my lovely specimens!
He gest ured t o t he hippocampi, who were bonking t heir heads apat het ically against t he
Percy t ried t o t hink. He felt like t he let hargy of t he addled sea creat ures was st art ing t o
affect him. You said t hist his doomsday show was Gaeas idea?
WellMot hers plans always have lot s of layers. He laughed. The eart h has layers! I
suppose t hat makes sense!
Uh-huh, Percy said. And so her plan
Oh, shes put out a general bount y on some group of demigods, Phorcys said. She doesnt
really care who kills t hem, as long as t heyre killed. WellI t ake t hat back. She was very specific
t hat two must be spared. One boy and one girl. Tart arus only knows why. At any rat e, t he
t wins have t heir lit t le show planned, hoping it will lure t hese demigods t o Rome. I suppose t he
prisoner in t he jar is a friend of t heirs or some such. That , or perhaps t hey t hink t his group of
demigods will be foolish enough t o come int o t heir t errit ory searching for t he Mark of At hena.
Phorcys elbowed Frank in t he ribs. Ha! Good luck wit h t hat , eh?
Frank laughed nervously. Yeah. Ha-ha. That would be really dumb because, uh
Phorcys narrowed his eyes.
Percy slipped his hand int o his pocket . He closed his fingers around Ript ide. Even t his old sea
god must be smart enough t o realize t hey were t he demigods wit h t he bount y on t heir heads.
But Phorcys just grinned and elbowed Frank again. Ha! Good one, child of Mars. I suppose
youre right . No point t alking about it . Even if t he demigods found t hat map in Charlest on,
t heyd never make it t o Rome alive!
Yes, t he MAP IN CHARLESTON, Frank said loudly, giving Percy a wide-eyed look t o make
sure he hadnt missed t he informat ion. He couldnt have been more obvious if he had held up a
large sign t hat read CLUE!!!!!
But enough boring educat ional st uff! Phorcys said. Youve paid for t he VIP t reat ment .
Wont you please let me finish t he t our? The t hree denarii ent rance fee is nonrefundable, you
Percy wasnt excit ed about more fireworks, donut -scent ed smoke, or depressing capt ive sea
creat ures. But he glanced at Frank and decided t heyd bet t er humor t he crabby old god, at
least unt il t hey found Coach Hedge and got safely t o t he exit . Besides, t hey might be able t o
get more informat ion out of Phorcys.
Aft erward, Percy said, can we ask quest ions?
Of course! Ill t ell you everyt hing you need t o know. Phorcys clapped his hands t wice. On
t he wall under t he glowing red sign, a new t unnel appeared, leading int o anot her t ank.
Walk t his way! Phorcys scut t led sideways t hrough t he t unnel.
Frank scrat ched his head. Do we have t o? He t urned sideways.
It s just a figure of speech, man, Percy said. Come on.

THE TUNNEL RAN ALONG THE FLOOR of a gymnasium-sized t ank. Except for wat er and some cheap
decorat ions, it seemed majest ically empt y. Percy guessed t here were about fift y t housand
gallons of wat er over t heir heads. If t he t unnel were t o shat t er for some reason
No big deal, Percy t hought . Ive been surrounded by wat er t housands of t imes. This is my
home court .
But his heart was pounding. He remembered sinking int o t he cold Alaskan bogblack mud
covering his eyes, mout h, and nose.
Phorcys st opped in t he middle of t he t unnel and spread his arms proudly. Beaut iful exhibit ,
isnt it ?
Percy t ried t o dist ract himself by concent rat ing on det ails. In one corner of t he t ank,
snuggled in a forest of fake kelp, was a life-sized plast ic gingerbread cot t age wit h bubbles
coming out of t he chimney. In t he opposit e corner, a plast ic sculpt ure of a guy in an old-
fashioned diving suit knelt beside a t reasure chest , which popped open every few seconds,
spewed bubbles, and closed again. Lit t ered across t he whit e sand floor were glass marbles t he
size of bowling balls, and a st range assort ment of weapons like t rident s and spearguns.
Out side t he t anks display wall was an amphit heat er wit h seat ing for several hundred.
What do you keep in here? Frank asked. Giant killer goldfish?
Phorcys raised his eyebrows. Oh, t hat would be good! But , no, Frank Zhang, descendant of
Poseidon. This t ank is not for goldfish.
At descendant of Poseidon, Frank flinched. He st epped back, gripping his backpack like a
mace he was prepared t o swing.
A sense of dread t rickled down Percys t hroat like cough syrup. Unfort unat ely, it was a
feeling he was used t o.
How do you know Franks last name? he demanded. How do you know hes descended
from Poseidon?
Well Phorcys shrugged, t rying t o look modest . It was probably in t he descript ions Gaea
provided. You know, for t he bount y, Percy Jackson.
Percy uncapped his pen. Inst ant ly, Ript ide appeared in his hand. Dont double-cross me,
Phorcys. You promised me answers.
Aft er t he VIP t reat ment , yes, Phorcys agreed. I promised t o t ell you everyt hing you need
t o know. The t hing is, however, you dont really need t o know anyt hing. His grot esque smile
st ret ched wide. You see, even if you made it t o Rome, which is quite unlikely, youd never
defeat my giant brot hers wit hout a god fight ing at your side. And what god would help you? So
I have a bet t er plan. Youre not leaving. Youre VIPsVery Import ant Prisoners!
Percy lunged. Frank hurled his backpack at t he sea gods head. Phorcys simply disappeared.
The gods voice reverberat ed t hrough t he aquariums sound syst em, echoing down t he
t unnel. Yes, good! Fight ing is good! You see, Mot her never t rust ed me wit h big assignment s,
but she did agree t hat I could keep anyt hing I caught . You t wo will make an excellent exhibit
t he only demigod spawn of Poseidon in capt ivit y. Demigod Terrorsyes, I like t hat ! We
already have sponsorship lined up wit h Bargain Mart . You can fight each ot her every day at
eleven AM and one PM, wit h an evening show at seven PM.
Youre crazy! Frank yelled.
Dont sell yourself short ! Phorcys said. Youll be our biggest draw!
Frank ran for t he exit , only t o slam int o a glass wall. Percy ran t he ot her way and found it
blocked as well. Their t unnel had become a bubble. He put his hand against t he glass and
realized it was soft ening, melt ing like ice. Soon t he wat er would come crashing in.
We wont cooperat e, Phorcys! he shout ed.
Oh, Im opt imist ic, t he sea gods voice boomed. If you wont fight each ot her at first , no
problem! I can send in fresh sea monst ers every day. Aft er you get used t o t he food here, youll
be properly sedat ed and will follow direct ions. Believe me, youll come t o love your new home.
Over Percys head, t he glass dome cracked and began t o leak.
Im t he son of Poseidon! Percy t ried t o keep t he fear out of his voice. You cant imprison
me in wat er. This is where Im st rongest .
Phorcyss laugh seemed t o come from all around t hem. What a coincidence! It s also where
Im st rongest . This t ank is specially designed t o cont ain demigods. Now, have fun, you t wo. Ill
see you at feeding t ime!
The glass dome shat t ered, and t he wat er crashed in.

Percy held his breat h unt il he couldnt st and it . When he finally filled his lungs wit h wat er, it felt
just like normal breat hing. The wat er pressure didnt bot her him. His clot hes didnt even get
wet . His underwat er abilit ies were as good as ever.
It s just a st upid phobia, he assured himself. Im not going t o drown.
Then he remembered Frank, and he immediat ely felt a surge of panic and guilt . Percy had
been so worried about himself t hat hed forgot t en his friend was only a dist ant descendant of
Poseidon. Frank couldnt breat he underwat er.
But where was he?
Percy t urned in a full circle. Not hing. Then he glanced up. Hovering about him was a giant
goldfish. Frank had t urnedclot hes, backpack, and allint o a koi t he size of a t eenaged boy.
Dude. Percy sent his t hought s t hrough t he wat er, t he way he spoke wit h ot her sea
creat ures. A goldfish?
Franks voice came back t o him: I freaked. We were talking about goldfish, so it was on my
mind. Sue me.
Im having a telepathic conversation with a giant koi, Percy said. Great. Can you turn into
something moreuseful?
Silence. Maybe Frank was concent rat ing, t hough it was impossible t o t ell, since koi dont
have many expressions.
Sorry. Frank sounded embarrassed. Im stuck. That happens sometimes when I panic.
Fine. Percy grit t ed his t eet h. Lets figure out how to escape.
Frank swam around t he t ank and report ed no exit s. The t op was covered wit h Celest ial
bronze mesh, like t he curt ains t hat roll down over closed st orefront s at t he mall. Percy t ried t o
cut t hrough wit h Ript ide, but he couldnt make a dent . He t ried t o smash t hrough t he glass wall
wit h his sword hilt again, no luck. Then he repeat ed his effort s wit h several of t he weapons
lying around t he bot t om of t he t ank and managed t o break t hree t rident s, a sword, and a
Finally he t ried t o cont rol t he wat er. He want ed it t o expand and break t he t ank, or explode
out t he t op. The wat er didnt obey. Maybe it was enchant ed, or under t he power of Phorcys.
Percy concent rat ed unt il his ears popped, but t he best he could do was blow t he lid off t he
plast ic t reasure chest .
Well, t hat s it , he t hought deject edly. Ill have t o live in a plast ic gingerbread house t he rest of
my life, fight ing my giant goldfish friend and wait ing for feeding t ime.
Phorcys had promised t heyd learn t o love it . Percy t hought about t he dazed t elkhines, t he
Nereids and hippocampi, all swimming in bored, lazy circles. The t hought of ending up like t hat
didnt help t o lower his anxiet y level.
He wondered if Phorcys was right . Even if t hey managed t o escape, how could t hey defeat
t he giant s if t he gods were all incapacit at ed? Bacchus might be able t o help. He had killed t he
t win giant s once before, but he would only join t he fight if he got an impossible t ribut e, and t he
idea of giving Bacchus any kind of t ribut e made Percy want t o gag himself wit h a Monst er
Donut .
Look! Frank said.
Out side t he glass, Ket o was leading Coach Hedge t hrough t he amphit heat er, lect uring him
on somet hing while t he coach nodded and admired t he st adium seat ing.
Coach! Percy yelled. Then he realized it was hopeless. The coach couldnt hear t elepat hic
Frank bumped his head against t he glass.
Hedge didnt seem t o not ice. Ket o walked him briskly across t he amphit heat er. She didnt
even look t hrough t he glass, probably because she assumed t he t ank was st ill empt y. She
point ed t o t he far end of t he room as if saying, Come on. More gruesome sea monsters this
Percy realized he had only a few seconds before t he coach would be gone. He swam aft er
t hem, but t he wat er didnt help him move as it usually did. In fact , it seemed t o be pushing him
back. He dropped Ript ide and used bot h arms.
Coach Hedge and Ket o were five feet from t he exit .
In desperat ion, Percy scooped up a giant marble and hurled it underhanded like a bowling
It hit t he glass wit h a thunknot nearly loud enough t o at t ract at t ent ion.
Percys heart sank.
But Coach Hedge had t he ears of a sat yr. He glanced over his shoulder. When he saw Percy,
his expression went t hrough several changes in a mat t er of microsecondsincomprehension,
surprise, out rage, t hen a mask of calm.
Before Ket o could not ice, Hedge point ed t oward t he t op of t he amphit heat er. It looked like
he might be screaming, Gods of Olympus, what is that?
Ket o t urned. Coach Hedge prompt ly t ook off his fake foot and ninja-kicked her in t he back of
t he head wit h his goat hoof. Ket o crumpled t o t he floor.
Percy winced. His own recent ly whopped head t hrobbed in sympat hy, but he had never been
happier t o have a chaperone who liked mixed mart ial art s cage mat ches.
Hedge ran t o t he glass. He held up his palms like: What are you doing in there, Jackson?
Percy pounded his fist on t he glass and mout hed: Break it!
Hedge yelled a quest ion t hat might have been: Wheres Frank?
Percy point ed at t he giant koi.
Frank waved his left dorsal fin. Sup?
Behind Hedge, t he sea goddess began t o move. Percy point ed frant ically.
Hedge shook his leg like he was warming up his kicking hoof, but Percy waved his arms, No.
They couldnt keep whopping Ket o on t he head forever. Since she was immort al, she wouldnt
st ay down, and it wouldnt get t hem out of t his t ank. It was only a mat t er of t ime before
Phorcys came back t o check on t hem.
On three, Percy mout hed, holding up t hree fingers and t hen gest uring at t he glass. All of us
hit it at the same time.
Percy had never been good at charades, but Hedge nodded like he underst ood. Hit t ing
t hings was a language t he sat yr knew well.
Percy heft ed anot her giant marble. Frank, well need you too. Can you change form yet?
Maybe back to human.
Human is fine! Just hold your breath. If this works
Ket o rose t o her knees. No t ime t o wast e.
Percy count ed on his fingers. One, two, three!
Frank t urned t o human and shoved his shoulder against t he glass. The coach did a Chuck
Norris roundhouse kick wit h his hoof. Percy used all his st rengt h t o slam t he marble int o t he
wall, but he did more t han t hat . He called on t he wat er t o obey him, and t his t ime he refused t o
t ake no for an answer. He felt all t he pent -up pressure inside t he t ank, and he put it t o use.
Wat er liked t o be free. Given t ime, wat er could overcome any barrier, and it hated t o be
t rapped, just like Percy. He t hought about get t ing back t o Annabet h. He t hought about
dest roying t his horrible prison for sea creat ures. He t hought about shoving Phorcyss
microphone down his ugly t hroat . Fift y t housand gallons of wat er responded t o his anger.
The glass wall cracked. Fract ure lines zigzagged from t he point of impact , and suddenly t he
t ank burst . Percy was sucked out in a t orrent of wat er. He t umbled across t he amphit heat er
floor wit h Frank, some large marbles, and a clump of plast ic seaweed. Ket o was just get t ing t o
her feet when t he diver st at ue slammed int o her like it want ed a hug.
Coach Hedge spit salt wat er. Pans pipes, Jackson! What were you doing in t here?
Phorcys! Percy splut t ered. Trap! Run!
Alarms blared as t hey fled t he exhibit s. They ran past t he Nereids t ank, t hen t he t elkhines.
Percy want ed t o free t hem, but how? They were drugged and sluggish, and t hey were sea
creat ures. They wouldnt survive unless he found a way t o t ransport t hem t o t he ocean.
Besides, if Phorcys caught t hem, Percy was pret t y sure t he sea gods power would
overcome his. And Ket o would be aft er t hem t oo, ready t o feed t hem t o her sea monst ers.
Ill be back, Percy promised, but if t he creat ures in t he exhibit s could hear him, t hey gave no
Over t he sound syst em, Phorcyss voice boomed: Percy Jackson!
Flash pot s and sparklers exploded randomly. Donut -scent ed smoke filled t he halls. Dramat ic
musicfive or six different t racksblared simult aneously from t he speakers. Light s popped
and caught fire as all t he special effect s in t he building were t riggered at once.
Percy, Coach Hedge, and Frank st umbled out of t he glass t unnel and found t hemselves back
in t he whale shark room. The mort al sect ion of t he aquarium was filled wit h screaming crowds
families and day camp groups running in every direct ion while t he st aff raced around
frant ically, t rying t o assure everyone it was just a fault y alarm syst em.
Percy knew bet t er. He and his friends joined t he mort als and ran for t he exit .

ANNABETH WAS TRYI NG TO CHEER UP HAZEL, regaling her wit h Percys great est Seaweed Brain moment s, when
Frank st umbled down t he hall and burst int o her cabin.
Wheres Leo? he gasped. Take off! Take off!
Bot h girls shot t o t heir feet .
Wheres Percy? Annabet h demanded. And t he goat ?
Frank grabbed his knees, t rying t o breat he. His clot hes were st iff and damp, like t heyd been
washed in pure st arch. On deck. Theyre fine. Were being followed!
Annabet h pushed past him and t ook t he st airs t hree at a t ime, Hazel right behind her and
Frank t railing, st ill gasping for air. Percy and Hedge lay on t he deck, looking exhaust ed. Hedge
was missing his shoes. He grinned at t he sky, mut t ering, Awesome. Awesome. Percy was
covered wit h nicks and scrat ches, like hed jumped t hrough a window. He didnt say anyt hing,
but he grasped Annabet hs hand weakly as if t o say, Be right with you, as soon as the world
stops spinning.
Leo, Piper, and Jason, whod been eat ing in t he mess hall, came rushing up t he st airs.
What ? What ? Leo cried, holding a half-eat en grilled cheese sandwich. Cant a guy even
t ake a lunch break? What s wrong?
Followed! Frank yelled again.
Followed by what? Jason asked.
I dont know! Frank pant ed. Whales? Sea monst ers? Maybe Kat e and Porky!
Annabet h want ed t o st rangle t he guy, but she wasnt sure her hands would fit around his
t hick neck. That makes absolut ely no sense. Leo, youd bet t er get us out of here.
Leo put his sandwich bet ween his t eet h, pirat e st yle, and ran for t he helm.
Soon t he Argo II was rising int o t he sky. Annabet h manned t he aft crossbow. She saw no
sign of pursuit by whales or ot herwise, but Percy, Frank, and Hedge didnt st art t o recover unt il
t he At lant a skyline was a hazy smudge in t he dist ance.
Charlest on, Percy said, hobbling around t he deck like an old man. He st ill sounded pret t y
shaken up. Set course for Charlest on.
Charlest on? Jason said t he name as if it brought back bad memories. What exact ly did
you find in At lant a?
Frank unzipped his backpack and st art ing bringing out souvenirs. Some peach preserves. A
couple of T-shirt s. A snow globe. And, um, t hese not -really-Chinese handcuffs.
Annabet h forced herself t o st ay calm. How about you st art from t he t opof t he st ory, not
t he backpack.
They gat hered on t he quart erdeck so Leo could hear t he conversat ion as he navigat ed.
Percy and Frank t ook t urns relat ing what had happened at t he Georgia Aquarium, wit h Coach
Hedge int erject ing from t ime t o t ime: That was awesome! or Then I kicked her in t he head!
At least t he coach seemed t o have forgot t en about Percy and Annabet h falling asleep in
t he st able t he night before. But judging from Percys st ory, Annabet h had worse problems t o
worry about t han being grounded.
When Percy explained about t he capt ive sea creat ures in t he aquarium, she underst ood why
he seemed so upset .
That s t errible, she said. We need t o help t hem.
We will, Percy promised. In t ime. But I have t o figure out how. I wish He shook his head.
Never mind. First we have t o deal wit h t his bount y on our heads.
Coach Hedge had lost int erest in t he conversat ionprobably because it was no longer
about himand wandered t oward t he bow of t he ship, pract icing his roundhouse kicks and
compliment ing himself on his t echnique.
Annabet h gripped t he hilt of her dagger. A bount y on our headsas if we didnt at t ract
enough monst ers already.
Do we get WANTED post ers? Leo asked. And do t hey have our bount ies, like, broken down on
a price list ?
Hazel wrinkled her nose. What are you t alking about ?
Just curious how much Im going for t hese days, Leo said. I mean, I can underst and not
being as pricey as Percy or Jason, maybebut am I wort h, like, t wo Franks, or t hree Franks?
Hey! Frank complained.
Knock it off, Annabet h ordered. At least we know our next st ep is t o go t o Charlest on, t o
find t his map.
Piper leaned against t he cont rol panel. Shed done her braid wit h whit e feat hers t oday, which
looked good wit h her dark brown hair. Annabet h wondered how she found t he t ime. Annabet h
could barely remember t o brush her hair.
A map, Piper said. But a map t o what?
The Mark of At hena. Percy looked caut iously at Annabet h, like he was afraid hed
overst epped. She must have been put t ing out a st rong I dont want to talk about it vibe.
Whatever t hat is, he cont inued. We know it leads t o somet hing import ant in Rome,
somet hing t hat might heal t he rift bet ween t he Romans and Greeks.
The giants bane, Hazel added.
Percy nodded. And in my dream, t he t win giant s said somet hing about a st at ue.
Um Frank rolled his not -exact ly-Chinese handcuffs bet ween his fingers. According t o
Phorcys, wed have t o be insane t o t ry t o find it . But what is it ?
Everyone looked at Annabet h. Her scalp t ingled, as if t he t hought s in her brain were
agit at ing t o get out : a st at ueAt henaGreek and Roman, her night mares, and her argument
wit h her mom. She saw how t he pieces were coming t oget her, but she couldnt believe it was
t rue. The answer was t oo big, t oo import ant , and much t oo scary.
She not iced Jason st udying her, as if he knew exactly what she was t hinking and didnt like it
any more t han she did. Again she couldnt help but wonder: Why does this guy make me so
nervous? Is he really on my side? Or maybe t hat was her mom t alking.
IIm close t o an answer, she said. Ill know more if we find t his map. Jason, t he way you
react ed t o t he name Charlestonhave you been t here before?
Jason glanced uneasily at Piper, t hough Annabet h wasnt sure why.
Yeah, he admit t ed. Reyna and I did a quest t here about a year ago. We were salvaging
Imperial gold weapons from t he C.S.S. Hunley.
The what ? Piper asked.
Whoa! Leo said. That s t he first successful milit ary submarine. From t he Civil War. I always
want ed t o see t hat .
It was designed by Roman demigods, Jason said. It held a secret st ash of Imperial gold
t orpedoesunt il we rescued t hem and brought t hem back t o Camp Jupit er.
Hazel crossed her arms. So t he Romans fought on t he Confederat e side? As a girl whose
grandmot her was a slave, can I just saynot cool?
Jason put his hands in front of him, palms up. I personally was not alive t hen. And it wasnt
all Greeks on one side and all Romans on t he ot her. But , yes. Not cool. Somet imes demigods
make bad choices. He looked sheepishly at Hazel. Like somet imes were t oo suspicious. And
we speak wit hout t hinking.
Hazel st ared at him. Slowly it seemed t o dawn on her t hat he was apologizing.
Jason elbowed Leo.
Ow! Leo yelped. I mean, yeahbad choices. Like not t rust ing peoples brot hers who, you
know, might need saving. Hypot het ically speaking.
Hazel pursed her lips. Fine. Back t o Charlest on. Are you saying we should check t hat
submarine again?
Jason shrugged. WellI can t hink of two places in Charlest on we might search. The
museum where t hey keep t he Hunleyt hat s one of t hem. It has a lot of relics from t he Civil
War. A map could be hidden in one. I know t he layout . I could lead a t eam inside.
Ill go, Leo said. That sounds cool.
Jason nodded. He t urned t o Frank, who was t rying t o pull his fingers out of t he Chinese
handcuffs. You should come t oo, Frank. We might need you.
Frank looked surprised. Why? Not like I was much good at t hat aquarium.
You did fine, Percy assured him. It t ook all t hree of us t o break t hat glass.
Besides, youre a child of Mars, Jason said. The ghost s of defeat ed causes are bound t o
serve you. And t he museum in Charlest on has plenty of Confederat e ghost s. Well need you t o
keep t hem in line.
Frank gulped. Annabet h remembered Percys comment about Frank t urning int o a giant
goldfish, and she resist ed t he urge t o smile. She would never be able t o look at t he big guy
again wit hout seeing him as a koi.
Okay. Frank relent ed. Sure. He frowned at his fingers, t rying t o pull t hem out of t he t rap.
Uh, how do you?
Leo chuckled. Man, youve never seen t hose before? Theres a simple t rick t o get t ing out .
Frank t ugged again wit h no luck. Even Hazel was t rying not t o laugh.
Frank grimaced wit h concent rat ion. Suddenly, he disappeared. On t he deck where hed been
st anding, a green iguana crouched next t o an empt y set of Chinese handcuffs.
Well done, Frank Zhang, Leo said dryly, doing his impression of Chiron t he cent aur. That is
exact ly how people beat Chinese handcuffs. They t urn int o iguanas.
Everybody bust ed out laughing. Frank t urned back t o human, picked up t he handcuffs, and
shoved t hem in his backpack. He managed an embarrassed smile.
Anyway, Frank said, clearly anxious t o change t he subject . The museum is one place t o
search. But , uh, Jason, you said t here were t wo?
Jasons smile faded. What ever he was t hinking about , Annabet h could t ell it wasnt pleasant .
Yeah, he said. The ot her place is called t he Bat t eryit s a park right by t he harbor. The
last t ime I was t herewit h Reyna He glanced at Piper, t hen rushed on. We saw somet hing
in t he park. A ghost or some sort of spirit , like a Sout hern belle from t he Civil War, glowing and
float ing along. We t ried t o approach it , but it disappeared whenever we got close. Then Reyna
had t his feelingshe said she should t ry it alone. Like maybe it would only t alk t o a girl. She
went up t o t he spirit by herself, and sure enough, it spoke t o her.
Everyone wait ed.
What did it say? Annabet h asked.
Reyna wouldnt t ell me, Jason admit t ed. But it must have been import ant . She seemed
shaken up. Maybe she got a prophecy or some bad news. Reyna never act ed t he same around
me aft er t hat .
Annabet h considered t hat . Aft er t heir experience wit h t he eidolons, she didnt like t he idea of
approaching a ghost , especially one t hat changed people wit h bad news or prophecies. On t he
ot her hand, her mom was t he goddess of knowledge, and knowledge was t he most powerful
weapon. Annabet h couldnt t urn down a possible source of informat ion.
A girls advent ure, t hen, Annabet h said. Piper and Hazel can come wit h me.
Bot h nodded, t hough Hazel looked nervous. No doubt her t ime in t he Underworld had given
her enough ghost experiences for t wo lifet imes. Pipers eyes flashed defiant ly, like anyt hing
Reyna could do, she could do.
Annabet h realized t hat if six of t hem went on t hese t wo quest s, it would leave Percy alone
on t he ship wit h Coach Hedge, which was maybe not a sit uat ion a caring girlfriend should put
him in. Nor was she eager t o let Percy out of her sight againnot aft er t heyd been apart for
so many mont hs. On t he ot her hand, Percy looked so t roubled by his experience wit h t hose
imprisoned sea creat ures, she t hought maybe he could use a rest . She met his eyes, asking
him a silent quest ion. He nodded as if t o say, Yeah. Itll be fine.
So t hat s set t led. Annabet h t urned t o Leo, who was st udying his console, list ening t o
Fest us creak and click over t he int ercom. Leo, how long unt il we reach Charlest on?
Good quest ion, he mut t ered. Fest us just det ect ed a large group of eagles behind us
long-range radar, st ill not in sight .
Piper leaned over t he console. Are you sure t heyre Roman?
Leo rolled his eyes. No, Pipes. It could be a random group of giant eagles flying in perfect
format ion. Of course t heyre Roman! I suppose we could t urn t he ship around and fight
Which would be a very bad idea, Jason said, and remove any doubt t hat were enemies of
Or Ive got anot her idea, Leo said. If we went st raight t o Charlest on, we could be t here in a
few hours. But t he eagles would overt ake us, and t hings would get complicat ed. Instead, we
could send out a decoy t o t rick t he eagles. We t ake t he ship on a det our, go t he long way t o
Charlest on, and get t here t omorrow morning
Hazel st art ed t o prot est , but Leo raised his hand. I know, I know. Nicos in t rouble and we
have t o hurry.
It s June t went y-sevent h, Hazel said. Aft er t oday, four more days. Then he dies.
I know! But t his might t hrow t he Romans off our t rail. We st ill should have enough t ime t o
reach Rome.
Hazel scowled. When you say should have enough
Leo shrugged. How do you feel about barely enough?
Hazel put her face in her hands for a count of t hree. Sounds about t ypical for us.
Annabet h decided t o t ake t hat as a green light . Okay, Leo. What kind of decoy are we
t alking about ?
Im so glad you asked! He punched a few but t ons on t he console, rot at ed t he t urnt able,
and repeat edly pressed t he A but t on on his Wii cont roller really, really fast . He called int o t he
int ercom, Buford? Report for dut y, please.
Frank t ook a st ep back. Theres somebody else on t he ship? Who is Buford?
A puff of st eam shot from t he st airwell, and Leos aut omat ic t able climbed on deck.
Annabet h hadnt seen much of Buford during t he t rip. He most ly st ayed in t he engine room.
(Leo insist ed t hat Buford had a secret crush on t he engine.) He was a t hree-legged t able wit h
a mahogany t op. His bronze base had several drawers, spinning gears, and a set of st eam
vent s. Buford was t ot ing a bag like a mail sack t ied t o one of his legs. He clat t ered t o t he helm
and made a sound like a t rain whist le.
This is Buford, Leo announced.
You name your furnit ure? Frank asked.
Leo snort ed. Man, you just wish you had furnit ure t his cool. Buford, are you ready for
Operat ion End Table?
Buford spewed st eam. He st epped t o t he railing. His mahogany t op split int o four pie slices,
which elongat ed int o wooden blades. The blades spun, and Buford t ook off.
A helicopt er t able, Percy mut t ered. Got t a admit , t hat s cool. What s in t he bag?
Dirt y demigod laundry, Leo said. I hope you dont mind, Frank.
Frank choked. What ?
It ll t hrow t he eagles off our scent .
Those were my only ext ra pant s!
Leo shrugged. I asked Buford t o get t hem laundered and folded while hes out . Hopefully he
will. He rubbed his hands and grinned. Well! I call t hat a good days work. Im gonna calculat e
our det our rout e now. See you all at dinner!

Percy passed out early, which left Annabet h wit h not hing t o do in t he evening except st are at
her comput er.
Shed brought Daedaluss lapt op wit h her, of course. Two years ago, shed inherit ed t he
machine from t he great est invent or of all t ime, and it was loaded wit h invent ion ideas,
schemat ics, and diagrams, most of which Annabet h was st ill t rying t o figure out . Aft er t wo
years, a t ypical lapt op would have been out of dat e, but Annabet h figured Daedaluss machine
was st ill about fift y years ahead of it s t ime. It could expand int o a full-size lapt op, shrink int o a
t ablet comput er, or fold int o a wafer of met al smaller t han a cell phone. It ran fast er t han any
comput er shed ever had, could access sat ellit es or Hephaest us-TV broadcast s from Mount
Olympus, and ran cust om-made programs t hat could do just about anyt hing except t ie
shoelaces. There might have been an app for t hat , t oo, but Annabet h hadnt found it yet .
She sat on her bunk, using one of Daedaluss 3-D-rendering programs t o st udy a model of
t he Part henon in At hens. Shed always yearned t o visit it , bot h because she loved archit ect ure
and because it was t he most famous t emple t o her mot her.
Now she might get her wish, if t hey lived long enough t o reach Greece. But t he more she
t hought about t he Mark of At hena, and t he old Roman legend Reyna had ment ioned, t he more
nervous she got .
She didnt want t o, but she recalled her argument wit h her mot her. Even aft er so many
weeks, t he words st ill st ung.
Annabet h had been riding t he subway back from t he Upper East Side aft er visit ing Percys
mom. During t hose long mont hs when Percy was missing, Annabet h made t he t rip at least
once a weekpart ly t o give Sally Jackson and her husband Paul an updat e on t he search, and
part ly because Annabet h and Sally needed t o lift each ot hers spirit s and convince one
anot her t hat Percy would be fine.
The spring had been especially hard. By t hen, Annabet h had reason t o hope Percy was alive,
since Heras plan seemed t o involve sending him t o t he Roman side, but she couldnt be sure
where he was. Jason had remembered his old camps locat ion more or less, but all t he Greeks
magiceven t hat of t he campers of Hecat es cabincouldnt confirm t hat Percy was t here, or
anywhere. He seemed t o have disappeared from t he planet . Rachel t he Oracle had t ried t o
read t he fut ure, and while she couldnt see much, shed been cert ain t hat Leo needed t o finish
t he Argo II before t hey could cont act t he Romans.
Nevert heless, Annabet h had spent every spare moment scouring all sources for any rumors
of Percy. She had t alked t o nat ure spirit s, read legends about Rome, dug for clues on
Daedaluss not ebook, and spent hundreds of golden drachmas on Iris-messages t o every
friendly spirit , demigod, or monst er shed ever met , all wit h no luck.
That part icular aft ernoon, coming back from Sallys, Annabet h had felt even more drained
t han usual. She and Sally had first cried and t hen at t empt ed t o pull t hemselves t oget her, but
t heir nerves were frayed. Finally Annabet h t ook t he Lexingt on Avenue subway down t o Grand
Cent ral.
There were ot her ways t o get back t o her high school dorm from t he Upper East Side, but
Annabet h liked going t hrough Grand Cent ral Terminal. The beaut iful design and t he vast open
space reminded her of Mount Olympus. Grand buildings made her feel bet t ermaybe because
being in a place so permanent made her feel more permanent .
She had just passed Sweet on America, t he candy shop where Percys mom used t o work,
and was t hinking about going inside t o buy some blue candy for old t imes sake, when she saw
At hena st udying t he subway map on t he wall.
Mot her! Annabet h couldnt believe it . She hadnt seen her mom in mont hsnot since Zeus
had closed t he gat es of Olympus and forbidden all communicat ion wit h demigods.
Many t imes, Annabet h had t ried t o call on her mom anyway, pleading for guidance, sending
up burnt offerings wit h every meal at camp. Shed had no response. Now here was At hena,
dressed in jeans and hiking boot s and a red flannel shirt , her dark hair cascading over her
shoulders. She held a backpack and a walking st ick like she was prepared for a long journey.
I must ret urn home, At hena murmured, st udying t he map. The way is complex. I wish
Odysseus were here. He would underst and.
Mom! Annabet h said. At hena!
The goddess t urned. She seemed t o look right t hrough Annabet h wit h no recognit ion.
That was my name, t he goddess said dreamily. Before t hey sacked my cit y, t ook my
ident it y, made me this. She looked at her clot hes in disgust . I must ret urn home.
Annabet h st epped back in shock. Youreyoure Minerva?
Dont call me t hat ! The goddesss gray eyes flared wit h anger. I used t o carry a spear and
a shield. I held vict ory in t he palm of my hand. I was so much more t han t his.
Mom. Annabet hs voice t rembled. It s me, Annabet h. Your daughter.
My daught er At hena repeat ed. Yes, my children will avenge me. They must dest roy t he
Romans. Horrible, dishonorable, copycat Romans. Hera argued t hat we must keep t he t wo
camps apart . I said, No, let t hem fight . Let my children dest roy t he usurpers.
Annabet hs heart beat t humped in her ears. You wanted t hat ? But youre wise. You
underst and warfare bet t er t han any
Once! t he goddess said. Replaced. Sacked. Loot ed like a t rophy and cart ed offaway
from my beloved homeland. I lost so much. I swore I would never forgive. Neit her would my
children. She focused more closely on Annabet h. You are my daught er?
The goddess fished somet hing from t he pocket of her shirt an old-fashioned subway t oken
and pressed it int o Annabet hs hand.
Follow t he Mark of At hena, t he goddess said. Avenge me.
Annabet h had looked at t he coin. As she wat ched, it changed from a New York subway
t oken t o an ancient silver drachma, t he kind used by At henians. It showed an owl, At henas
sacred animal, wit h an olive branch on one side and a Greek inscript ion on t he ot her.
The Mark of Athena.
At t he t ime, Annabet h had had no idea what it meant . She didnt underst and why her mom
was act ing like t his. Minerva or not , she shouldnt be so confused.
Mom She t ried t o make her t one as reasonable as possible. Percy is missing. I need your
help. She had st art ed t o explain Heras plan for bringing t he camps t oget her t o bat t le Gaea
and t he giant s, but t he goddess st amped her walking st ick against t he marble floor.
Never! she said. Anyone who helps Rome must perish. If you would join t hem, you are no
child of mine. You have already failed me.
Mot her!
I care not hing about t his Percy. If he has gone over t o t he Romans, let him perish. Kill him.
Kill all t he Romans. Find t he Mark, follow it t o it s source. Wit ness how Rome has disgraced me,
and pledge your vengeance.
At hena isnt t he goddess of revenge. Annabet hs nails bit int o her palms. The silver coin
seemed t o grow warmer in her hand. Percy is everyt hing t o me.
And revenge is everyt hing t o me, t he goddess snarled. Which of us is wiser?
Somet hing is wrong wit h you. What s happened?
Rome happened! t he goddess said bit t erly. See what t hey have done, making a Roman of
me. They wish me t o be t heir goddess? Then let t hem t ast e t heir own evil. Kill t hem, child.
Then you are not hing. The goddess t urned t o t he subway map. Her expression soft ened,
becoming confused and unfocused. If I could find t he rout et he way home, t hen perhaps
But , no. Avenge me or leave me. You are no child of mine.
Annabet hs eyes st ung. She t hought of a t housand horrible t hings she want ed t o say, but
she couldnt . She had t urned and fled.
Shed t ried t o t hrow away t he silver coin, but it simply reappeared in her pocket , t he way
Ript ide did for Percy. Unfort unat ely, Annabet hs drachma had no magical powersat least
not hing useful. It only gave her night mares, and no mat t er what she t ried, she couldnt get rid
of it .
Now, sit t ing in her cabin aboard t he Argo II, she could feel t he coin growing warm in her
pocket . She st ared at t he model of t he Part henon on her comput er screen and t hought about
t he argument wit h At hena. Phrases shed heard over t he last few days swirled in her head: A
talented friend, ready for her visitor. No one will retrieve that statue. Wisdoms daughter walks
She was afraid she finally underst ood what it all meant . She prayed t o t he gods t hat she
was wrong.
A knock on her door made her jump.
She hoped it might be Percy, but inst ead Frank Zhang poked his head in.
Um, sorry, he said. Could I?
She was so st art led t o see him, it t ook her a moment t o realize he want ed t o come in.
Sure, she said. Yes.
He st epped inside, looking around t he cabin. There wasnt much t o see. On her desk sat a
st ack of books, a journal and pen, and a pict ure of her dad flying his Sopwit h Camel biplane,
grinning and giving t he t humbs-up. Annabet h liked t hat phot o. It reminded her of t he t ime shed
felt closest t o him, when hed st rafed an army of monst ers wit h Celest ial bronze machine guns
just t o prot ect herpret t y much t he best present a girl could hope for.
Hanging from a hook on t he wall was her New York Yankees cap, her most prized
possession from her mom. Once, t he cap had had t he power t o t urn it s wearer invisible. Since
Annabet hs argument wit h At hena, t he cap had lost it s magic. Annabet h wasnt sure why, but
shed st ubbornly brought it along on t he quest . Every morning she would t ry it on, hoping it
would work again. So far it had only served as a reminder of her mot hers wrat h.
Ot herwise, her cabin was bare. She kept it clean and simple, which helped her t o t hink. Percy
didnt believe it because she always made excellent grades, but like most demigods, she was
ADHD. When t here were t oo many dist ract ions in her personal space, she was never able t o
SoFrank, she vent ured. What can I do for you?
Out of all t he kids on t he ship, Frank was t he one she t hought least likely t o pay her a visit .
She didnt feel any less confused when he blushed and pulled his Chinese handcuffs out of his
pocket .
I dont like being in t he dark about t his, he mut t ered. Could you show me t he t rick? I didnt
feel comfort able asking anyone else.
Annabet h processed his words wit h a slight delay. Wait Frank was asking her for help?
Then it dawned on her: of course, Frank was embarrassed. Leo had been razzing him pret t y
hard. Nobody liked being a laughingst ock. Franks det ermined expression said he never want ed
t hat t o happen again. He want ed t o underst and t he puzzle, wit hout t he iguana solut ion.
Annabet h felt st rangely honored. Frank t rust ed her not t o make fun of him. Besides, she had
a soft spot for anyone who was seeking knowledgeeven about somet hing as simple as
Chinese handcuffs.
She pat t ed t he bunk next t o her. Absolut ely. Sit down.
Frank sat on t he edge of t he mat t ress, as if preparing for a quick escape. Annabet h t ook t he
Chinese handcuffs and held t hem next t o her comput er.
She hit t he key for an infrared scan. A few seconds lat er a 3-D model of t he Chinese
handcuffs appeared on t he screen. She t urned t he lapt op so t hat Frank could see.
How did you do t hat ? he marveled.
Cut t ing-edge Ancient Greek t echnology, she said. Okay, look. The st ruct ure is a cylindrical
biaxial braid, so it has excellent resilience. She manipulat ed t he image so it squeezed in and
out like an accordion. When you put your fingers inside, it loosens. But when you t ry t o remove
t hem, t he circumference shrinks as t he braid cat ches and t ight ens. Theres no way you can
pull free by st ruggling.
Frank st ared at her blankly. But what s t he answer?
Well She showed him some of her calculat ionshow t he handcuffs could resist t earing
under incredible st ress, depending on t he mat erial used in t he braid. Pret t y amazing for a
woven st ruct ure, right ? Doct ors use it for t ract ion, and elect rical cont ract ors
Uh, but t he answer?
Annabet h laughed. You dont fight against t he handcuffs. You push your fingers in, not out .
That loosens t he braid.
Oh. Frank t ried it . It worked. Thanks, but couldnt you have just shown me on t he
handcuffs wit hout t he 3-D program and t he calculat ions?
Annabet h hesit at ed. Somet imes wisdom came from st range places, even from giant
t eenaged goldfish. I guess youre right . That was silly. I learned somet hing t oo.
Frank t ried t he handcuffs again. It s easy when you know t he solut ion.
Many of t he best t raps are simple, Annabet h said. You just have t o t hink about it , and
hope your vict im doesnt .
Frank nodded. He seemed reluct ant t o leave.
You know, Annabet h said, Leo doesnt int end t o be mean. Hes just got a big mout h.
When people make him nervous, he uses humor as a defense.
Frank frowned. Why would I make him nervous?
Youre t wice his size. You can t urn int o a dragon. And Hazel likes you, Annabet h t hought ,
t hough she didnt say t hat .
Frank didnt look convinced. Leo can summon fire. He t wist ed t he handcuffs. Annabet h
somet ime, maybe could you help me wit h anot her problem t hat s not so simple? Ive got I
guess youd call it an Achilles heel.
Annabet h felt like shed just had a drink of Roman hot chocolat e. Shed never really got t en
t he t erm warm and fuzzy, but Frank gave her t hat sensat ion. He was just a big t eddy bear. She
could see why Hazel liked him. Id be happy t o, she said. Does anyone else know about t his
Achilles heel?
Percy and Hazel, he said. That s it . Percyhes a really good guy. I would follow him
anywhere. Thought you should know.
Annabet h pat t ed his arm. Percy has a knack for picking good friends. Like you. But , Frank,
you can t rust anyone on t his ship. Even Leo. Were all a t eam. We have t o t rust each ot her.
II suppose.
So what s t he weakness youre worried about ?
The dinner bell sounded, and Frank jumped.
Maybemaybe lat er, he said. It s hard t o t alk about . But t hanks, Annabet h. He held up
t he Chinese handcuffs. Keep it simple.

THAT NI GHT, ANNABETH SLEPT wit hout night mares, which just made her uneasy when she woke uplike
t he calm before a st orm.
Leo docked t he ship at a pier in Charlest on Harbor, right next t o t he seawall. Along t he shore
was a hist orical dist rict wit h t all mansions, palm t rees, and wrought -iron fences. Ant ique
cannons point ed at t he wat er.
By t he t ime Annabet h came up on deck, Jason, Frank, and Leo had already left for t he
museum. According t o Coach Hedge, t heyd promised t o be back by sunset . Piper and Hazel
were ready t o go, but first Annabet h t urned t o Percy, who was leaning on t he st arboard rail,
gazing over t he bay.
Annabet h t ook his hand. What are you going t o do while were gone?
Jump int o t he harbor, he said casually, like anot her kid might say, Im going to get a snack. I
want t o t ry communicat ing wit h t he local Nereids. Maybe t hey can give me some advice about
how t o free t hose capt ives in At lant a. Besides, I t hink t he sea might be good for me. Being in
t hat aquarium made me feelunclean.
His hair was dark and t angled as usual, but Annabet h t hought about t he st reak of gray he
used t o have on one side. When t he t wo of t hem were fourt een, t heyd t aken t urns (unwillingly)
holding t he weight of t he sky. The st rain left t hem bot h wit h some gray hair. Over t he last year,
while Percy had been missing, t he gray st reaks had finally disappeared from bot h of t hem,
which made Annabet h sad and a lit t le worried. She felt like shed lost a symbolic bond wit h
Annabet h kissed him. Good luck, Seaweed Brain. Just come back t o me, okay?
I will, he promised. You do t he same.
Annabet h t ried t o push down her growing unease.
She t urned t o Piper and Hazel. Okay, ladies. Let s find t he ghost of t he Bat t ery.

Aft erward, Annabet h wished shed jumped int o t he harbor wit h Percy. She even wouldve
preferred a museum full of ghost s.
Not t hat she minded hanging out wit h Hazel and Piper. At first , t hey had a pret t y good t ime
walking along t he Bat t ery. According t o t he signs, t he seaside park was called Whit e Point
Gardens. The ocean breeze swept away t he muggy heat of t he summer aft ernoon, and it was
pleasant ly cool under t he shade of t he palmet t o t rees. Lining t he road were old Civil War
cannons and bronze st at ues of hist orical figures, which made Annabet h shudder. She t hought
about t he st at ues in New York Cit y during t he Tit an War, which had come t o life t hanks t o
Daedaluss command sequence t went y-t hree. She wondered how many ot her st at ues around
t he count ry were secret ly aut omat ons, wait ing t o be t riggered.
Charlest on Harbor glit t ered in t he sun. To t he nort h and sout h, st rips of land st ret ched out
like arms enclosing t he bay, and sit t ing in t he mout h of t he harbor, about a mile out , was an
island wit h a st one fort . Annabet h had a vague memory of t hat fort being import ant in t he Civil
War, but she didnt spend much t ime t hinking about it .
Most ly she breat hed in t he sea air and t hought about Percy. Gods forbid she ever had t o
break up wit h him. Shed never be able t o visit t he sea again wit hout remembering her broken
heart . She was relieved when t hey t urned away from t he seawall and explored t he inland side
of t he gardens.
The park wasnt crowded. Annabet h imagined t hat most of t he locals had gone on summer
vacat ion, or were holed up at home t aking a siest a. They st rolled along Sout h Bat t ery St reet ,
which was lined wit h four-st ory Colonial mansions. The brick walls were blanket ed wit h ivy. The
facades had soaring whit e columns like Roman t emples. The front gardens were burst ing wit h
rosebushes, honeysuckle, and flowering bougainvillea. It looked like Demet er had set t he t imer
on all t he plant s t o grow several decades ago, t hen forgot t en t o come back and check on
t hem.
Kind of reminds me of New Rome, Hazel said. All t he big mansions and t he gardens. The
columns and arches.
Annabet h nodded. She remembered reading how t he American Sout h had oft en compared
it self t o Rome back before t he Civil War. In t he old days t heir societ y had been all about
impressive archit ect ure, honor, and codes of chivalry. And on t he evil side, it had also been
about slavery. Rome had slaves, some Sout herners had argued, so why shouldnt we?
Annabet h shivered. She loved t he archit ect ure here. The houses and t he gardens were very
beaut iful, very Roman. But she wondered why beaut iful t hings had t o be wrapped up wit h evil
hist ory. Or was it t he ot her way around? Maybe t he evil hist ory made it necessary t o build
beaut iful t hings, t o mask t he darker aspect s.
She shook her head. Percy would hat e her get t ing so philosophical. If she t ried t o t alk t o him
about st uff like t hat , his eyes glazed over.
The ot her girls didnt say much.
Piper kept looking around like she expect ed an ambush. She had said shed seen t his park in
t he blade of her knife, but she wouldnt elaborat e. Annabet h guessed she was afraid t o. Aft er
all, t he last t ime Piper had t ried t o int erpret a vision from her knife, Percy and Jason had almost
killed each ot her in Kansas.
Hazel also seemed preoccupied. Maybe she was t aking in t heir surroundings, or maybe she
was worrying about her brot her. In less t han four days, unless t hey found him and freed him,
Nico would be dead.
Annabet h felt t hat deadline weighing on her, t oo. Shed always had mixed feelings about
Nico di Angelo. She suspect ed t hat hed had a crush on her ever since t hey rescued him and
his big sist er Bianca from t hat milit ary academy in Maine; but Annabet h had never felt any
at t ract ion t o Nico. He was t oo young and t oo moody. There was a darkness in him t hat made
her uneasy.
St ill, she felt responsible for him. Back when t hey had met , neit her of t hem had known about
his half sist er, Hazel. At t he t ime, Bianca had been Nicos only living family. When she had died,
Nico became a homeless orphan, drift ing t hrough t he world alone. Annabet h could relat e t o
t hat .
She was so deep in t hought , she might have kept walking around t he park forever, but Piper
grabbed her arm.
There. She point ed across t he harbor. A hundred yards out , a shimmering whit e figure
float ed on t he wat er. At first , Annabet h t hought it might be a buoy or a small boat reflect ing
t he sunlight , but it was definit ely glowing, and it was moving more smoot hly t han a boat ,
making a st raight line t oward t hem. As it got closer, Annabet h could t ell it was t he figure of a
The ghost , she said.
That s not a ghost , Hazel said. No kind of spirit glows t hat bright ly.
Annabet h decided t o t ake her word for it . She couldnt imagine being Hazel, dying at such a
young age and coming back from t he Underworld, knowing more about t he dead t han t he
As if in a t rance, Piper walked across t he st reet t oward t he edge of t he seawall, narrowly
avoiding a horse-drawn carriage.
Piper! Annabet h called.
Wed bet t er follow her, Hazel said.
By t he t ime Annabet h and Hazel caught up t o her, t he ghost ly apparit ion was only a few
yards away.
Piper glared at it like t he sight offended her.
It is her, she grumbled.
Annabet h squint ed at t he ghost , but it blazed t oo bright ly t o make out det ails. Then t he
apparit ion float ed up t he seawall and st opped in front of t hem. The glow faded.
Annabet h gasped. The woman was breat ht akingly beaut iful and st rangely familiar. Her face
was hard t o describe. Her feat ures seemed t o shift from t hose of one glamorous movie st ar t o
anot her. Her eyes sparkled playfullysomet imes green or blue or amber. Her hair changed
from long, st raight blond t o dark chocolat ey curls.
Annabet h was inst ant ly jealous. Shed always wished she had dark hair. She felt like nobody
t ook her seriously as a blonde. She had t o work t wice as hard t o get recognit ion as a
st rat egist , an archit ect , a senior counseloranyt hing t hat had t o do wit h brains.
The woman was dressed like a Sout hern belle, just as Jason had described. Her gown had a
low-cut bodice of pink silk and a t hree-t iered hoop skirt wit h whit e scalloped lace. She wore t all
whit e silk gloves, and held a feat hered pink-and-whit e fan t o her chest .
Everyt hing about her seemed calculat ed t o make Annabet h feel inadequat e: t he easy grace
wit h which she wore her dress, t he perfect yet underst at ed makeup, t he way she radiat ed
feminine charm t hat no man could possibly resist .
Annabet h realized t hat her jealousy was irrat ional. The woman was making her feel t his way.
Shed had t his experience before. She recognized t his woman, even t hough her face changed
by t he second, becoming more and more beaut iful.
Aphrodit e, she said.
Venus? Hazel asked in amazement .
Mom, Piper said, wit h no ent husiasm.
Girls! The goddess spread her arms like she want ed a group hug.
The t hree demigods did not oblige. Hazel backed int o a palmet t o t ree.
Im so glad youre here, Aphrodit e said. War is coming. Bloodshed is inevit able. So t heres
really only one t hing t o do.
Uhand t hat is? Annabet h vent ured.
Why, have t ea and chat , obviously. Come wit h me!

Aphrodit e knew how t o do t ea.
She led t hem t o t he cent ral pavilion in t he gardensa whit e-pillared gazebo, where a t able
was set wit h silverware, china cups, and of course a st eaming pot of t ea, t he fragrance shift ing
as easily as Aphrodit es appearancesomet imes cinnamon, or jasmine, or mint . There were
plat es of scones, cookies, and muffins, fresh but t er and jamall of which, Annabet h figured,
were incredibly fat t ening; unless, of course, you were t he immort al goddess of love.
Aphrodit e sat or held court , rat herin a wicker peacock chair. She poured t ea and served
cakes wit hout get t ing a speck on her clot hes, her post ure always perfect , her smile dazzling.
Annabet h hat ed her more and more t he longer t hey sat .
Oh, my sweet girls, t he goddess said. I do love Charlest on! The weddings Ive at t ended in
t his gazebot hey bring t ears t o my eyes. And t he elegant balls in t he days of t he Old Sout h.
Ah, t hey were lovely. Many of t hese mansions st ill have st at ues of me in t heir gardens, t hough
t hey called me Venus.
Which are you? Annabet h asked. Venus or Aphrodit e?
The goddess sipped her t ea. Her eyes sparkled mischievously. Annabet h Chase, youve
grown int o quit e a beaut iful young lady. You really should do somet hing wit h your hair, t hough.
And, Hazel Levesque, your clot hes
My clot hes? Hazel looked down at her rumpled denim, not self-consciously, but baffled, as
if she couldnt imagine what was wrong wit h t hem.
Mot her! Piper said. Youre embarrassing me.
Well, I dont see why, t he goddess said. Just because you dont appreciat e my fashion t ips,
Piper, doesnt mean t he ot hers wont . I could do a quick makeover for Annabet h and Hazel,
perhaps silk ball gowns like mine
Mot her!
Fine, Aphrodit e sighed. To answer your quest ion, Annabet h, I am both Aphrodit e and
Venus. Unlike many of my fellow Olympians, I changed hardly at all from one age t o t he ot her.
In fact , I like t o t hink I havent aged a bit ! Her fingers flut t ered around her face appreciat ively.
Love is love, aft er all, whet her youre Greek or Roman. This civil war wont affect me as much
as it will t he ot hers.
Wonderful, Annabet h t hought . Her own mot her, t he most levelheaded Olympian, was
reduced t o a raving, vicious scat t erbrain in a subway st at ion. And of all t he gods who might
help t hem, t he only ones not affect ed by t he GreekRoman schism seemed t o be Aphrodit e,
Nemesis, and Dionysus. Love, revenge, wine. Very helpful.
Hazel nibbled a sugar cookie. Were not in a war yet , my lady.
Oh, dear Hazel. Aphrodit e folded her fan. Such opt imism, yet you have heart rending days
ahead of you. Of course war is coming. Love and war always go t oget her. They are t he peaks
of human emot ion! Evil and good, beaut y and ugliness.
She smiled at Annabet h as if she knew what Annabet h had been t hinking earlier about t he
Old Sout h.
Hazel set down her sugar cookie. She had a few crumbs on her chin, and Annabet h liked t he
fact t hat Hazel eit her didnt know or didnt care.
What do you mean, Hazel asked, heart rending days?
The goddess laughed as if Hazel were a cut e puppy. Well, Annabet h could give you some
idea. I once promised t o make her love life int erest ing. And didnt I?
Annabet h almost snapped t he handle off her t eacup. For years, her heart had been t orn.
First t here was Luke Cast ellan, her first crush, who had seen her only as a lit t le sist er; t hen hed
t urned evil and decided he liked herright before he died. Next came Percy, who was
infuriat ing but sweet , yet he had seemed t o be falling for anot her girl named Rachel, and t hen
he almost died, several t imes. Finally Annabet h had got t en Percy t o herself, only t o have him
vanish for six mont hs and lose his memory.
Int erest ing, Annabet h said, is a mild way of put t ing it .
Well, I cant t ake credit for all your t roubles, t he goddess said. But I do love t wist s and
t urns in a love st ory. Oh, all of you are such excellent st oriesI mean, girls. You do me proud!
Mot her, Piper said, is t here a reason youre here?
Hmm? Oh, you mean besides t he t ea? I oft en come here. I love t he view, t he food, t he
at mosphereyou can just smell t he romance and heart break in t he air, cant you? Cent uries of
it .
She point ed t o a nearby mansion. Do you see t hat rooft op balcony? We had a part y t here
t he night t he American Civil War began. The shelling of Fort Sumt er.
That s it , Annabet h remembered. The island in t he harbor. That s where t he first fight ing
of t he Civil War happened. The Confederat es shelled t he Union t roops and t ook t he fort .
Oh, such a part y! Aphrodit e said. A st ring quart et , and all t he men in t heir elegant new
officers uniforms. The womens dressesyou shouldve seen t hem! I danced wit h Aresor
was he Mars? Im afraid I was a lit t le giddy. And t he beaut iful burst s of light across t he harbor,
t he roar of t he cannons giving t he men an excuse t o put t heir arms around t heir fright ened
sweet heart s!
Annabet hs t ea was cold. She hadnt eat en anyt hing, but she felt like she want ed t o t hrow
up. Youre t alking about t he beginning of t he bloodiest war in U.S. hist ory. Over six hundred
t housand people diedmore Americans t han in World War One and World War Two
And t he refreshment s! Aphrodit e cont inued. Ah, t hey were divine. General Beauregard
himself made an appearance. He was such a scoundrel. He was on his second wife, t hen, but
you should have seen t he way he looked at Lisbet h Cooper
Mot her! Piper t ossed her scone t o t he pigeons.
Yes, sorry, t he goddess said. To make t he st ory short , Im here t o help you, girls. I doubt
youll be seeing Hera much. Your lit t le quest has hardly made her welcome in t he t hrone room.
And t he ot her gods are rat her indisposed, as you know, t orn bet ween t heir Roman and Greek
sides. Some more t han ot hers. Aphrodit e fixed her gaze on Annabet h. I suppose youve t old
your friends about your falling-out wit h your mot her?
Heat rose t o Annabet hs cheeks. Hazel and Piper looked at her curiously.
Falling-out ? Hazel asked.
An argument , Annabet h said. It s not hing.
Not hing! t he goddess said. Well, I dont know about t hat . At hena was t he most Greek of
all goddesses. The pat ron of At hens, aft er all. When t he Romans t ook overoh, t hey adopt ed
At hena aft er a fashion. She became Minerva, t he goddess of craft s and cleverness. But t he
Romans had other war gods who were more t o t heir t ast e, more reliably Romanlike Bellona

Reynas mom, Piper mut t ered.

Yes, indeed, t he goddess agreed. I had a lovely t alk wit h Reyna a while back, right here in
t he park. And t he Romans had Mars, of course. And lat er, t here was Mit hrasnot even
properly Greek or Roman, but t he legionnaires were crazy about his cult . I always found him
crass and t erribly nouveau dieu, personally. At any rat e, t he Romans quit e sidelined poor
At hena. They t ook away most of her milit ary import ance. The Greeks never forgave t he
Romans for t hat insult . Neit her did At hena.
Annabet hs ears buzzed.
The Mark of At hena, she said. It leads t o a st at ue, doesnt it ? It leads t ot o the st at ue.
Aphrodit e smiled. You are clever, like your mot her. Underst and, t hough, your siblings, t he
children of At hena, have been searching for cent uries. None has succeeded in recovering t he
st at ue. In t he meant ime, t heyve been keeping alive t he Greek feud wit h t he Romans. Every
civil warso much bloodshed and heart breakhas been orchest rat ed largely by At henas
That s Annabet h want ed t o say impossible, but she remembered At henas bit t er words
in Grand Cent ral St at ion, t he burning hat red in her eyes.
Romant ic? Aphrodit e offered. Yes, I supposed it is.
But Annabet h t ried t o clear t he fog from her brain. The Mark of At hena, how does it
work? Is it a series of clues, or a t rail set by At hena
Hmm. Aphrodit e looked polit ely bored. I couldnt say. I dont believe At hena creat ed t he
Mark consciously. If she knew where her st at ue was, shed simply t ell you where t o find it . No
Id guess t he Mark is more like a spirit ual t rail of bread crumbs. It s a connect ion bet ween t he
st at ue and t he children of t he goddess. The st at ue wants t o be found, you see, but it can only
be freed by t he most wort hy.
And for t housands of years, Annabet h said, no one has managed.
Hold on, Piper said. What statue are we t alking about ?
The goddess laughed. Oh, Im sure Annabet h can fill you in. At any rat e, t he clue you need is
close by: a map of sort s, left by t he children of At hena in 1861a remembrance t hat will st art
you on your pat h, once you reach Rome. But as you said, Annabet h Chase, no one has ever
succeeded in following t he Mark of At hena t o it s end. There you will face your worst feart he
fear of every child of At hena. And even if you survive, how will you use your reward? For war or
for peace?
Annabet h was glad for t he t ableclot h, because under t he t able, her legs were t rembling.
This map, she said, where is it ?
Guys! Hazel point ed t o t he sky.
Circling above t he palmet t o t rees were t wo large eagles. Higher up, descending rapidly, was
a flying chariot pulled by pegasi. Apparent ly Leos diversion wit h Buford t he end t able hadnt
workedat least not for long.
Aphrodit e spread but t er on a muffin as if she had all t he t ime in t he world. Oh, t he map is at
Fort Sumt er, of course. She point ed her but t er knife t oward t he island across t he harbor. It
looks like t he Romans have arrived t o cut you off. Id get back t o your ship in a hurry if I were
you. Would you care for some t ea cakes t o go?

Halfway across t he dock, t hree giant eagles descended in front of t hem. Each deposit ed a
Roman commando in purple and denim wit h glit t ering gold armor, sword, and shield. The eagles
flew away, and t he Roman in t he middle, who was scrawnier t han t he ot hers, raised his visor.
Surrender t o Rome! Oct avian shrieked.
Hazel drew her cavalry sword and grumbled, Fat chance, Oct avian.
Annabet h cursed under her breat h. By himself, t he skinny augur wouldnt have bot hered her,
but t he t wo ot her guys looked like seasoned warriorsa lot bigger and st ronger t han
Annabet h want ed t o deal wit h, especially since Piper and she were armed only wit h daggers.
Piper raised her hands in a placat ing gest ure. Oct avian, what happened at camp was a
set up. We can explain.
Cant hear you! Oct avian yelled. Wax in our earsst andard procedure when bat t ling evil
sirens. Now, t hrow down your weapons and t urn around slowly so I can bind your hands.
Let me skewer him, Hazel mut t ered. Please.
The ship was only fift y feet away, but Annabet h saw no sign of Coach Hedge on deck. He
was probably below, wat ching his st upid mart ial art s programs. Jasons group wasnt due back
unt il sunset , and Percy would be underwat er, unaware of t he invasion. If Annabet h could get
on board, she could use t he ballist ae; but t here was no way t o get around t hese t hree
She was running out of t ime. The eagles circled overhead, crying out as if t o alert t heir
bret hren: Hey, some tasty Greek demigods over here! Annabet h couldnt see t he flying chariot
anymore, but she assumed it was close by. She had t o figure out somet hing before more
Romans arrived.
She needed helpsome kind of dist ress signal t o Coach Hedge, or even bet t erPercy.
Well? Oct avian demanded. His t wo friends brandished t heir swords.
Very slowly, using only t wo fingers, Annabet h drew her dagger. Inst ead of dropping it , she
t ossed it as far as she could int o t he wat er.
Oct avian made a squeaking sound. What was t hat for? I didnt say toss it ! That couldve
been evidence. Or spoils of war!
Annabet h t ried for a dumb-blonde smile, like: Oh, silly me. Nobody who knew her would have
been fooled. But Oct avian seemed t o buy it . He huffed in exasperat ion.
You ot her t wo He point ed his blade at Hazel and Piper. Put your weapons on t he dock.
No funny bus
All around t he Romans, Charlest on Harbor erupt ed like a Las Vegas fount ain put t ing on a
show. When t he wall of seawat er subsided, t he t hree Romans were in t he bay, splut t ering and
frant ically t rying t o st ay afloat in t heir armor. Percy st ood on t he dock, holding Annabet hs
You dropped t his, he said, t ot ally poker-faced.
Annabet h t hrew her arms around him. I love you!
Guys, Hazel int errupt ed. She had a lit t le smile on her face. We need t o hurry.
Down in t he wat er, Oct avian yelled, Get me out of here! Ill kill you!
Tempt ing, Percy called down.
What ? Oct avian shout ed. He was holding on t o one of his guards, who was having t rouble
keeping t hem bot h afloat .
Not hing! Percy shout ed back. Let s go, guys.
Hazel frowned. We cant let t hem drown, can we?
They wont , Percy promised. Ive got t he wat er circulat ing around t heir feet . As soon as
were out of range, Ill spit t hem ashore.
Piper grinned. Nice.
They climbed aboard t he Argo II, and Annabet h ran t o t he helm. Piper, get below. Use t he
sink in t he galley for an Iris-message. Warn Jason t o get back here!
Piper nodded and raced off.
Hazel, go find Coach Hedge and t ell him t o get his furry hindquart ers on deck!
Right !
And Percyyou and I need t o get t his ship t o Fort Sumt er.
Percy nodded and ran t o t he mast . Annabet h t ook t he helm. Her hands flew across t he
cont rols. Shed just have t o hope she knew enough t o operat e t hem.
Annabet h had seen Percy cont rol full-sized sailing ships before wit h only his willpower. This
t ime, he didnt disappoint . Ropes flew on t heir ownreleasing t he dock t ies, weighing t he
anchor. The sails unfurled and caught t he wind. Meanwhile Annabet h fired t he engine. The
oars ext ended wit h a sound like machine-gun fire, and t he Argo II t urned from t he dock,
heading for t he island in t he dist ance.
The t hree eagles st ill circled overhead, but t hey made no at t empt t o land on t he ship,
probably because Fest us t he figurehead blew fire whenever t hey got close. More eagles were
flying in format ion t oward Fort Sumt erat least a dozen. If each of t hem carried a Roman
demigodt hat was a lot of enemies.
Coach Hedge came pounding up t he st airs wit h Hazel at his hooves.
Where are t hey? he demanded. Who do I kill?
No killing! Annabet h ordered. Just defend t he ship!
But t hey int errupt ed a Chuck Norris movie!
Piper emerged from below. Got a message t hrough t o Jason. Kind of fuzzy, but hes already
on his way. He should beoh! There!
Soaring over t he cit y, heading in t heir direct ion, was a giant bald eagle, unlike t he golden
Roman birds.
Frank! Hazel said.
Leo was holding on t o t he eagles feet , and even from t he ship, Annabet h could hear him
screaming and cursing.
Behind t hem flew Jason, riding t he wind.
Never seen Jason fly before, Percy grumbled. He looks like a blond Superman.
This isnt t he t ime! Piper scolded him. Look, t heyre in t rouble!
Sure enough, t he Roman flying chariot had descended from a cloud and was diving st raight
t oward t hem. Jason and Frank veered out of t he way, pulling up t o avoid get t ing t rampled by
t he pegasi. The chariot eers fired t heir bows. Arrows whist led under Leos feet , which led t o
more screaming and cursing. Jason and Frank were forced t o overshoot t he Argo II and fly
t oward Fort Sumt er.
Ill get em! yelled Coach Hedge.
He spun t he port ballist a. Before Annabet h could yell, Dont be st upid! Hedge fired. A
flaming spear rocket ed t oward t he chariot .
It exploded over t he heads of t he pegasi and t hrew t hem int o a panic. Unfort unat ely it also
singed Franks wings and sent him spiraling out of cont rol. Leo slipped from his grasp. The
chariot shot t oward Fort Sumt er, slamming int o Jason.
Annabet h wat ched in horror as Jasonobviously dazed and in painlunged for Leo, caught
him, t hen st ruggled t o gain alt it ude. He only managed t o slow t heir fall. They disappeared
behind t he rampart s of t he fort . Frank t umbled aft er t hem. Then t he chariot dropped
somewhere inside and hit wit h a bone-shat t ering CRACK! One broken wheel spun int o t he air.
Coach! Piper screamed.
What ? Hedge demanded. That was just a warning shot !
Annabet h gunned t he engines. The hull shuddered as t hey picked up speed. The docks of
t he island were only a hundred yards away now, but a dozen more eagles were soaring
overhead, each carrying a Roman demigod in it s claws.
The Argo IIs crew would be out numbered at least t hree t o one.
Percy, Annabet h said, were going t o come in hard. I need you t o cont rol t he wat er so we
dont smash int o t he docks. Once were t here, youre going t o have t o hold off t he at t ackers.
The rest of you help him guard t he ship.
But Jason! Piper said.
Frank and Leo! Hazel added.
Ill find t hem, Annabet h promised. Ive got t o figure out where t he map is. And Im pret t y
sure Im t he only one who can do t hat .
The fort is crawling wit h Romans, Percy warned. Youll have t o fight your way t hrough, find
our friendsassuming t heyre okayfind t his map, and get everybody back alive. All on your
Just an average day. Annabet h kissed him. What ever you do, dont let t hem t ake t his

Leo had somehow escaped his fall unharmed. Annabet h saw him ducking from port ico t o
port ico, blast ing fire at t he giant eagles swooping down on him. Roman demigods t ried t o
chase him, t ripping over piles of cannonballs and dodging t ourist s, who screamed and ran in
Tour guides kept yelling, It s just a reenact ment ! Though t hey didnt sound sure. The Mist
could only do so much t o change what mort als saw.
In t he middle of t he court yard, a full-grown elephant could t hat be Frank?rampaged
around t he flagpoles, scat t ering Roman warriors. Jason st ood about fift y yards away, sword-
fight ing wit h a st ocky cent urion whose lips were st ained cherry red, like blood. A wannabe
vampire, or maybe a Kool-Aid freak?
As Annabet h wat ched, Jason yelled, Sorry about t his, Dakot a!
He vault ed st raight over t he cent urions head like an acrobat and slammed t he hilt of his
gladius int o t he back of t he Romans head. Dakot a crumpled.
Jason! Annabet h called.
He scanned t he bat t lefield unt il he saw her.
She point ed t o where t he Argo II was docked. Get t he ot hers aboard! Ret reat !
What about you? he called.
Dont wait for me!
Annabet h bolt ed off before he could prot est .
She had a hard t ime maneuvering t hrough t he mobs of t ourist s. Why did so many people
want t o see Fort Sumt er on a swelt ering summer day? But Annabet h quickly realized t he
crowds had saved t heir lives. Wit hout t he chaos of all t hese panicked mort als, t he Romans
would have already surrounded t heir out numbered crew.
Annabet h dodged int o a small room t hat must have been part of t he garrison. She t ried t o
st eady her breat hing. She imagined what it would have been like t o be a Union soldier on t his
island in 1861. Surrounded by enemies. Dwindling food and supplies, no reinforcement s coming.
Some of t he Union defenders had been children of At hena. Theyd hidden an import ant map
heresomet hing t hey didnt want falling int o enemy hands. If Annabet h had been one of
t hose demigods, where would she have put it ?
Suddenly t he walls glist ened. The air became warm. Annabet h wondered if she was
hallucinat ing. She was about t o run for t he exit when t he door slammed shut . The mort ar
bet ween t he st ones blist ered. The bubbles popped, and t housands of t iny black spiders
swelled fort h.
Annabet h couldnt move. Her heart seemed t o have st opped. The spiders blanket ed t he
walls, crawling over one anot her, spreading across t he floor and gradually surrounding her. It
was impossible. This couldnt be real.
Terror plunged her int o memories. She was seven years old again, alone in her bedroom in
Richmond, Virginia. The spiders came at night . They crawled in waves from her closet and
wait ed in t he shadows. She yelled for her fat her, but her fat her was away for work. He always
seemed t o be away for work.
Her st epmot her came inst ead.
I dont mind being the bad cop, she had once t old Annabet hs fat her, when she didnt t hink
Annabet h could hear.
Its only your imagination, her st epmot her said about t he spiders. Youre scaring your baby
Theyre not my brothers, Annabet h argued, which made her st epmot hers expression harden.
Her eyes were almost as scary as t he spiders.
Go to sleep now, her st epmot her insist ed. No more screaming.
The spiders came back as soon as her st epmot her had left t he room. Annabet h t ried t o hide
under t he covers, but it was no good. Event ually she fell asleep from sheer exhaust ion. She
woke up in t he morning, freckled wit h bit es, cobwebs covering her eyes, her mout h, and nose.
The bit es faded before she even got dressed, so she had not hing t o show her st epmot her
except cobwebs, which her st epmot her t hought was some sort of clever t rick.
No more talk of spiders, her st epmot her said firmly. Youre a big girl now.
The second night , t he spiders came again. Her st epmot her cont inued t o be t he bad cop.
Annabet h wasnt allowed t o call her fat her and bot her him wit h t his nonsense. No, he would
not come home early.
The t hird night , Annabet h ran away from home.
Lat er, at Camp Half-Blood, she learned t hat all children of At hena feared spiders. Long ago,
At hena had t aught t he mort al weaver Arachne a hard lessoncursing her for her pride by
t urning her int o t he first spider. Ever since, spiders had hat ed t he children of At hena.
But t hat didnt make her fear easier t o deal wit h. Once, shed almost killed Connor St oll at
camp for put t ing a t arant ula in her bunk. Years lat er, shed had a panic at t ack at a wat er park
in Denver, when Percy and she were assault ed by mechanical spiders. And t he past few
weeks, Annabet h had dreamed of spiders almost every night crawling over her, suffocat ing
her, wrapping her in webs.
Now, st anding in t he barracks at Fort Sumt er, she was surrounded. Her night mares had
come t rue.
A sleepy voice murmured in her head: Soon, my dear. You will meet the weaver soon.
Gaea? Annabet h murmured. She feared t he answer, but she asked: Whowho is t he
The spiders became excit ed, swarming over t he walls, swirling around Annabet hs feet like a
glist ening black whirlpool. Only t he hope t hat it might be an illusion kept Annabet h from
passing out from fear.
I hope you survive, child, t he womans voice said. I would prefer you as my sacrifice. But we
must let the weaver take her revenge
Gaeas voice faded. On t he far wall, in t he cent er of t he spider swarm, a red symbol blazed t o
life: t he figure of an owl like t he one on t he silver drachma, st aring st raight at Annabet h. Then,
just as in her night mares, t he Mark of At hena burned across t he walls, incinerat ing t he spiders
unt il t he room was empt y except for t he smell of sickly sweet ashes.
Go, said a new voiceAnnabet hs mot her. Avenge me. Follow the Mark.
The blazing symbol of t he owl faded. The garrison door burst open. Annabet h st ood
st unned in t he middle of t he room, unsure whet her shed seen somet hing real, or just a vision.
An explosion shook t he building. Annabet h remembered t hat her friends were in danger.
Shed st ayed here much t oo long.
She forced herself t o move. St ill t rembling, she st umbled out side. The ocean air helped clear
her mind. She gazed across t he court yardpast t he panicked t ourist s and fight ing demigods
t o t he edge of t he bat t lement s, where a large mort ar point ed out t o sea.
It might have been Annabet hs imaginat ion, but t he old art illery piece seemed t o be glowing
red. She dashed t oward it . An eagle swooped at her, but she ducked and kept running. Not hing
could possibly scare her as much as t hose spiders.
Roman demigods had formed ranks and were advancing t oward t he Argo II, but a miniat ure
st orm had gat hered over t heir heads. Though t he day was clear all around t hem, t hunder
rumbled, and light ning flashed above t he Romans. Rain and wind pushed t hem back.
Annabet h didnt st op t o t hink about it .
She reached t he mort ar and put her hand on t he muzzle. On t he plug t hat blocked t he
opening, t he Mark of At hena began t o glowt he red out line of an owl.
In t he mort ar, she said. Of course.
She pried at t he plug wit h her fingers. No luck. Cursing, she drew her dagger. As soon as t he
Celest ial bronze t ouched t he plug, t he plug shrank and loosened. Annabet h pulled it off and
st uck her hand inside t he cannon.
Her fingers t ouched somet hing cold, smoot h, and met al. She pulled out a small disk of
bronze t he size of a t ea saucer, et ched wit h delicat e let t ers and illust rat ions. She decided t o
examine it lat er. She t hrust it in her pack and t urned.
Rushing off? Reyna asked.
The praet or st ood t en feet away, in full bat t le armor, holding a golden javelin. Her t wo met al
greyhounds growled at her side.
Annabet h scanned t he area. They were more or less alone. Most of t he combat had moved
t oward t he docks. Hopefully her friends had all made it on board, but t heyd have t o set sail
immediat ely or risk being overrun. Annabet h had t o hurry.
Reyna, she said, what happened at Camp Jupit er was Gaeas fault . Eidolons, possessing
spirit s
Save your explanat ions, Reyna said. Youll need t hem for t he t rial.
The dogs snarled and inched forward. This t ime, it didnt seem t o mat t er t o t hem t hat
Annabet h was t elling t he t rut h. She t ried t o t hink of an escape plan. She doubt ed she could
t ake Reyna in one-on-one combat . Wit h t hose met al dogs, she st ood no chance at all.
If you let Gaea drive our camps apart , Annabet h said, t he giant s have already won. Theyll
dest roy t he Romans, t he Greeks, t he gods, t he whole mort al world.
Dont you t hink I know t hat ? Reynas voice was as hard as iron. What choice have you left
me? Oct avian smells blood. Hes whipped t he legion int o a frenzy, and I cant st op it . Surrender
t o me. Ill bring you back t o New Rome for t rial. It wont be fair. Youll be painfully execut ed. But
it may be enough t o st op furt her violence. Oct avian wont be sat isfied, of course, but I t hink I
can convince t he ot hers t o st and down.
It wasnt me!
It doesnt matter! Reyna snapped. Someone must pay for what happened. Let it be you.
It s t he bet t er opt ion.
Annabet hs skin crawled. Bet t er t han what ?
Use t hat wisdom of yours, Reyna said. If you escape t oday, we wont follow. I t old you
not even a madman would cross t he sea t o t he ancient lands. If Oct avian cant have
vengeance on your ship, hell t urn his at t ent ion t o Camp Half-Blood. The legion will march on
your t errit ory. We will raze it and salt t he eart h.
Kill the Romans, she heard her mot her urging. They can never be your allies.
Annabet h want ed t o sob. Camp Half-Blood was t he only real home shed ever known, and in
a bid for friendship, she had t old Reyna exact ly where t o find it . She couldnt leave it at t he
mercy of t he Romans and t ravel halfway around t he world.
But t heir quest , and everyt hing shed suffered t o get Percy backif she didnt go t o t he
ancient lands, it would all mean not hing. Besides, t he Mark of At hena didnt have t o lead t o
If I could find the route, her mot her had said, the way home
How will you use your reward? Aphrodit e had asked. For war or peace?
There was an answer. The Mark of At hena could lead her t hereif she survived.
Im going, she t old Reyna. Im following t he Mark of At hena t o Rome.
The praet or shook her head. You have no idea what await s you.
Yes, I do, Annabet h said. This grudge bet ween our campsI can fix it .
Our grudge is t housands of years old. How can one person fix it ?
Annabet h wished she could give a convincing answer, show Reyna a 3-D diagram or a
brilliant schemat ic, but she couldnt . She just knew she had t o t ry. She remembered t hat lost
look on her mot hers face: I must return home.
The quest has t o succeed, she said. You can t ry t o st op me, in which case well have t o
fight t o t he deat h. Or you can let me go, and Ill t ry t o save bot h our camps. If you must march
on Camp Half-Blood, at least t ry t o delay. Slow Oct avian down.
Reynas eyes narrowed. One daught er of a war goddess t o anot her, I respect your
boldness. But if you leave now, you doom your camp t o dest ruct ion.
Dont underest imat e Camp Half-Blood, Annabet h warned.
Youve never seen t he legion at war, Reyna count ered.
Over by t he docks, a familiar voice shrieked over t he wind: Kill t hem! Kill t hem all!
Oct avian had survived his swim in t he harbor. He crouched behind his guards, screaming
encouragement at t he ot her Roman demigods as t hey st ruggled t oward t he ship, holding up
t heir shields as if t hat would deflect t he st orm raging all around t hem.
On t he deck of t he Argo II, Percy and Jason st ood t oget her, t heir swords crossed. Annabet h
got a t ingle down her spine as she realized t he boys were working as one, summoning t he sky
and t he sea t o do t heir bidding. Wat er and wind churned t oget her. Waves heaved against t he
rampart s and light ning flashed. Giant eagles were knocked out of t he sky. Wreckage of t he
flying chariot burned in t he wat er, and Coach Hedge swung a mount ed crossbow, t aking
pot shot s at t he Roman birds as t hey flew overhead.
You see? Reyna said bit t erly. The spear is t hrown. Our people are at war.
Not if I succeed, Annabet h said.
Reynas expression looked t he same as it had at Camp Jupit er when she realized Jason had
found anot her girl. The praet or was t oo alone, t oo bit t er and bet rayed t o believe anyt hing
could go right for her ever again. Annabet h wait ed for her t o at t ack.
Inst ead, Reyna flicked her hand. The met al dogs backed away. Annabet h Chase, she said,
when we meet again, we will be enemies on t he field of bat t le.
The praet or t urned and walked across t he rampart s, her greyhounds behind her.
Annabet h feared it might be some sort of t rick, but she had no t ime t o wonder. She ran for
t he ship.
The winds t hat bat t ered t he Romans didnt seem t o affect her.
Annabet h sprint ed t hrough t heir lines. Oct avian yelled, St op her!
A spear flew past her ear. The Argo II was already pulling away from t he dock. Piper was at
t he gangplank, her hand out st ret ched.
Annabet h leaped and grabbed Pipers hand. The gangplank fell int o t he sea, and t he t wo
girls t umbled ont o t he deck.
Go! Annabet h screamed. Go, go, go!
The engines rumbled beneat h her. The oars churned. Jason changed t he course of t he wind,
and Percy called up a massive wave, which lift ed t he ship higher t han t he fort s walls and
pushed it out t o sea. By t he t ime t he Argo II reached t op speed, Fort Sumt er was only a blot in
t he dist ance, and t hey were racing across t he waves t oward t he ancient lands.

AFTER RAI DI NG A MUSEUM FULL OF Confederat e ghost s, Leo didnt t hink his day could get any worse. He
was wrong.
They hadnt found anyt hing in t he Civil War sub or elsewhere in t he museum; just a few
elderly t ourist s, a dozing securit y guard, andwhen t hey t ried t o inspect t he art ifact sa
whole bat t alion of glowing zombie dudes in gray uniforms.
The idea t hat Frank should be able t o cont rol t he spirit s? Yeaht hat pret t y much failed. By
t he t ime Piper sent her Iris-message warning t hem about t he Roman at t ack, t hey were already
halfway back t o t he ship, having been chased t hrough downt own Charlest on by a pack of
angry dead Confederat es.
Thenoh, boy!Leo got t o hit ch a ride wit h Frank t he Friendly Eagle so t hey could fight a
bunch of Romans. Rumor must ve got t en around t hat Leo was t he one who had fired on t heir
lit t le cit y, because t hose Romans seemed especially anxious t o kill him.
But wait ! There was more! Coach Hedge shot t hem out of t he sky; Frank dropped him (t hat
was no accident ); and t hey crash-landed in Fort Sumt er.
Now, as t he Argo II raced across t he waves, Leo had t o use all his skill just t o keep t he ship
in one piece. Percy and Jason were a lit t le too good at cooking up massive st orms.
At one point , Annabet h st ood next t o him, yelling against t he roar of t he wind: Percy says
he t alked t o a Nereid in Charlest on Harbor!
Good for him! Leo yelled back.
The Nereid said we should seek help from Chirons brot hers.
What does t hat mean? The Part y Ponies? Leo had never met Chirons crazy cent aur
relat ives, but hed heard rumors of Nerf sword-fight s, root beerchugging cont est s, and Super
Soakers filled wit h pressurized whipped cream.
Not sure, Annabet h said. But Ive got coordinat es. Can you input lat it ude and longit ude in
t his t hing?
I can input st ar chart s and order you a smoot hie, if you want . Of course I can do lat it ude and
longit ude!
Annabet h rat t led off t he numbers. Leo somehow managed t o punch t hem in while holding
t he wheel wit h one hand. A red dot popped up on t he bronze display screen.
That locat ion is in t he middle of t he At lant ic, he said. Do t he Part y Ponies have a yacht ?
Annabet h shrugged helplessly. Just hold t he ship t oget her unt il we get fart her from
Charlest on. Jason and Percy will keep up t he winds!
Happy fun t ime!
It seemed like forever, but finally t he sea calmed and t he winds died.
Valdez, said Coach Hedge, wit h surprising gent leness. Let me t ake t he wheel. Youve
been st eering for t wo hours.
Two hours?
Yeah. Give me t he wheel.
Yeah, kid?
I cant unclench my hands.
It was t rue. Leos fingers felt like t hey had t urned t o st one. His eyes burned from st aring at
t he horizon. His knees were marshmallows. Coach Hedge managed t o pry him from t he wheel.
Leo t ook one last look at t he console, list ening t o Fest us chat t er and whir a st at us report .
Leo felt like he was forget t ing somet hing. He st ared at t he cont rols, t rying t o t hink, but it was
no good. His eyes could hardly focus. Just wat ch for monst ers, he t old t he coach. And be
careful wit h t he damaged st abilizer. And
Ive got it covered, Coach Hedge promised. Now, go away!
Leo nodded wearily. He st aggered across t he deck t oward his friends.
Percy and Jason sat wit h t heir backs against t he mast , t heir heads slumped in exhaust ion.
Annabet h and Piper were t rying t o get t hem t o drink some wat er.
Hazel and Frank st ood just out of earshot , having an argument t hat involved lot s of arm
waving and head shaking. Leo should not have felt pleased about t hat , but part of him did. The
ot her part of him felt bad t hat he felt pleased.
The argument st opped abrupt ly when Hazel saw Leo. Everybody gat hered at t he mast .
Frank scowled like he was t rying hard t o t urn int o a bulldog. No sign of pursuit , he said.
Or land, Hazel added. She looked a lit t le green, t hough Leo wasnt sure if t hat was from t he
rocking of t he boat or from arguing.
Leo scanned t he horizon. Not hing but ocean in every direct ion. That shouldnt have
surprised him. Hed spent six mont hs building a ship t hat he knew would cross t he At lant ic. But
unt il t oday, t heir embarking on a journey t o t he ancient lands hadnt seemed real. Leo had
never been out side t he U.S. beforeexcept for a quick dragon flight up t o Quebec. Now t hey
were in t he middle of t he open sea, complet ely on t heir own, sailing t o t he Mare Nost rum,
where all t he scary monst ers and nast y giant s had come from. The Romans might not follow
t hem, but t hey couldnt count on any help from Camp Half-Blood, eit her.
Leo pat t ed his waist t o make sure his t ool belt was st ill t here. Unfort unat ely t hat just
reminded him of Nemesiss fort une cookie, t ucked inside one of t he pocket s.
You will always be an outsider. The goddesss voice st ill wriggled around in his head. The
seventh wheel.
Forget her, Leo t old himself. Concent rat e on t he st uff you can fix.
He t urned t o Annabet h. Did you find t he map you want ed?
She nodded, t hough she looked pale. Leo wondered what shed seen at Fort Sumt er t hat
could have shaken her up so badly.
Ill have t o st udy it , she said, as if t hat was t he end of t he subject . How far are we from
t hose coordinat es?
At t op rowing speed, about an hour, Leo said. Any idea what were looking for?
No, she admit t ed. Percy?
Percy raised his head. His green eyes were bloodshot and droopy. The Nereid said Chirons
brot hers were t here, and t heyd want t o hear about t hat aquarium in At lant a. I dont know
what she meant , but He paused, like hed used up all his energy saying t hat much. She also
warned me t o be careful. Ket o, t he goddess at t he aquarium: shes t he mot her of sea
monst ers. She might be st uck in At lant a, but she can st ill send her children aft er us. The Nereid
said we should expect an at t ack.
Wonderful, Frank mut t ered.
Jason t ried t o st and, which wasnt a good idea. Piper grabbed him t o keep him from falling
over, and he slid back down t he mast .
Can we get t he ship aloft ? he asked. If we could fly
That d be great , Leo said. Except Fest us t ells me t he port aerial st abilizer got pulverized
when t he ship raked against t he dock at Fort Sumt er.
We were in a hurry, Annabet h said. Trying t o save you.
And saving me is a very noble cause, Leo agreed. Im just saying, it ll t ake some t ime t o fix.
Unt il t hen, were not flying anywhere.
Percy flexed his shoulders and winced. Fine wit h me. The sea is good.
Speak for yourself. Hazel glanced at t he evening sun, which was almost t o t he horizon.
We need t o go fast . Weve burned anot her day, and Nico only has t hree more left .
We can do it , Leo promised. He hoped Hazel had forgiven him for not t rust ing her brot her
(hey, it had seemed like a reasonable suspicion t o Leo), but he didnt want t o reopen t hat
wound. We can make it t o Rome in t hree daysassuming, you know, not hing unexpect ed
Frank grunt ed. He looked like he was st ill working on t hat bulldog t ransformat ion. Is t here
any good news?
Act ually, yes, Leo said. According t o Fest us, our flying t able, Buford, made it back safely
while we were in Charlest on, so t hose eagles didnt get him. Unfort unat ely, he lost t he laundry
bag wit h your pant s.
Dang it ! Frank barked, which Leo figured was probably severe profanit y for him.
No doubt Frank wouldve cursed some morebust ing out t he golly gees and t he gosh darns
but Percy int errupt ed by doubling over and groaning.
Did t he world just t urn upside down? he asked.
Jason pressed his hands t o his head. Yeah, and it s spinning. Everyt hing is yellow. Is it
supposed t o be yellow?
Annabet h and Piper exchanged concerned looks.
Summoning t hat st orm really sapped your st rengt h, Piper t old t he boys. Youve got t o
rest .
Annabet h nodded agreement . Frank, can you help us get t he guys belowdecks?
Frank glanced at Leo, no doubt reluct ant t o leave him alone wit h Hazel.
It s fine, man, Leo said. Just t ry not t o drop t hem on t he way down t he st airs.
Once t he ot hers were below, Hazel and Leo faced each ot her awkwardly. They were alone
except for Coach Hedge, who was back on t he quart erdeck singing t he Pokmon t heme song.
The coach had changed t he words t o: Gotta Kill Em All , and Leo really didnt want t o know
The song didnt seem t o help Hazels nausea.
Ugh She leaned over and hugged her sides. She had nice hairfrizzy and golden brown
like curls of cinnamon. Her hair reminded Leo of a place in Houst on t hat made excellent
churros. The t hought made him hungry.
Dont lean over, he advised. Dont close your eyes. It makes t he queasiness worse.
It does? Do you get seasick t oo?
Not seasick. But cars make me nauseous, and
He st opped himself. He want ed t o say talking to girls, but he decided t o keep t hat t o himself.
Cars? Hazel st raight ened wit h difficult y. You can sail a ship or fly a dragon, but cars make
you sick?
I know, right ? Leo shrugged. Im special t hat way. Look, keep your eyes on t he horizon.
That s a fixed point . It ll help.
Hazel t ook a deep breat h and st ared int o t he dist ance. Her eyes were lust rous gold, like t he
copper and bronze disks inside Fest uss mechanical head.
Any bet t er? he asked.
Maybe a lit t le. She sounded like she was just being polit e. She kept her eyes on t he
horizon, but Leo got t he feeling she was gauging his mood, considering what t o say.
Frank didnt drop you on purpose, she said. Hes not like t hat . Hes just a lit t le clumsy
somet imes.
Oops, Leo said, in his best Frank Zhang voice. Dropped Leo into a squad of enemy
soldiers. Dang it!
Hazel t ried t o suppress a smile. Leo figured smiling was bet t er t han t hrowing up.
Go easy on him, Hazel said. You and your fireballs make Frank nervous.
The guy can t urn int o an elephant , and I make him nervous?
Hazel kept her eyes on t he horizon. She didnt look quit e so queasy, despit e t he fact t hat
Coach Hedge was st ill singing his Pokmon song at t he helm.
Leo, she said, about what happened at t he Great Salt Lake
Here it comes, Leo t hought .
He remembered t heir meet ing wit h t he revenge goddess Nemesis. The fort une cookie in his
t ool belt st art ed t o feel heavier. Last night , as t hey flew from At lant a, Leo had lain in his cabin
and t hought about how angry hed made Hazel. He had t hought about ways he could make it
right .
Soon you will face a problem you cannot solve, Nemesis had said, though I could help you
for a price.
Leo had t aken t he fort une cookie out of his t ool belt and t urned it in his fingers, wondering
what price he would have t o pay if he broke it open.
Maybe now was t he moment .
Id be willing, he t old Hazel. I could use t he fort une cookie t o find your brot her.
Hazel looked st unned. What ? No! I meanId never ask you t o do t hat . Not aft er what
Nemesis said about t he horrible cost . We barely know each ot her!
The barely know each other comment kind of hurt , t hough Leo knew it was t rue.
Sot hat s not what you want ed t o t alk about ? he asked. Uh, did you want t o t alk about
t he holding-hands-on-t he-boulder moment ? Because
No! she said quickly, fanning her face in t hat cut e way she did when she was flust ered.
No, I was just t hinking about t he way you t ricked Narcissus and t hose nymphs
Oh, right . Leo glanced self-consciously at his arm. The HOT STUFF t at t oo hadnt complet ely
faded. Seemed like a good idea at t he t ime.
You were amazing, Hazel said. Ive been mulling it over, how much you reminded me of
Sammy, Leo guessed. I wish youd t ell me who he is.
Who he was, Hazel correct ed. The evening air was warm, but she shivered. Ive been
t hinkingI might be able t o show you.
You mean like a phot o?
No. Theres a sort of flashback t hat happens t o me. I havent had one in a long t ime, and Ive
never t ried t o make one happen on purpose. But I shared one wit h Frank once, so I t hought
Hazel locked eyes wit h him. Leo st art ed t o feel jit t ery, like hed been inject ed wit h coffee. If
t his flashback was somet hing Frank had shared wit h Hazelwell, eit her Leo didnt want any
part of it , or he definitely want ed t o t ry it . He wasnt sure which.
When you say flashback He swallowed. What exact ly are we t alking about ? Is it safe?
Hazel held out her hand. I wouldnt ask you t o do t his, but Im sure it s import ant . It cant be a
coincidence we met . If t his works, maybe we can finally underst and how were connect ed.
Leo glanced back at t he helm. He st ill had a nagging suspicion hed forgot t en somet hing, but
Coach Hedge seemed t o be doing fine. The sky ahead was clear. There was no sign of t rouble.
Besides, a flashback sounded like a pret t y brief t hing. It couldnt hurt t o let t he coach be in
charge for a few more minut es, could it ?
Okay, he relent ed. Show me.
He t ook Hazels hand, and t he world dissolved.

THEY STOOD I N THE COURTYARD of an old compound, like a monast ery. Red brick walls were overgrown
wit h vines. Big magnolia t rees had cracked t he pavement . The sun beat down, and t he
humidit y was about t wo hundred percent , even st ickier t han in Houst on. Somewhere nearby,
Leo smelled fish frying. Overhead, t he cloud cover was low and gray, st riped like a t igers pelt .
The court yard was about t he size of a basket ball court . An old deflat ed foot ball sat in one
corner, at t he base of a Virgin Mary st at ue.
Along t he sides of t he buildings, windows were open. Leo could see flickers of movement
inside, but it was eerily quiet . He saw no sign of air condit ioning, which meant it must have
been a t housand degrees in t here.
Where are we? he asked.
My old school, Hazel said next t o him. St . Agnes Academy for Colored Children and
What kind of name?
He t urned t oward Hazel and yelped. She was a ghost just a vaporous silhouet t e in t he
st eamy air. Leo looked down and realized his own body had t urned t o mist t oo.
Everyt hing around him seemed solid and real, but he was a spirit . Aft er having been
possessed by an eidolon t hree days ago, he didnt appreciat e t he feeling.
Before he could ask quest ions, a bell rang inside: not a modern elect ronic sound, but t he old-
fashioned buzz of a hammer on met al.
This is a memory, Hazel said, so no one will see us. Look, here we come.
From every door, dozens of children spilled int o t he court yard, yelling and jost ling each ot her.
They were most ly African American, wit h a sprinkling of Hispanic-looking kids, as young as
kindergart ners and as old as high schoolers. Leo could t ell t his was in t he past , because all t he
girls wore dresses and buckled leat her shoes. The boys wore whit e collared shirt s and pant s
held up by suspenders. Many wore caps like horse jockeys wear. Some kids carried lunches.
Many didnt . Their clot hes were clean, but worn and faded. Some had holes in t he knees of
t heir t rousers, or shoes wit h t he heels coming apart .
A few of t he girls began playing jump rope wit h an old piece of clot hesline. The older guys
t ossed a rat t y baseball back and fort h. Kids wit h lunches sat t oget her and at e and chat t ed.
No one paid Ghost Hazel or Leo any at t ent ion.
Then HazelHazel from t he pastst epped int o t he court yard. Leo recognized her wit h no
problem, t hough she looked about t wo years younger t han now. Her hair was pinned back in a
bun. Her gold eyes dart ed around t he court yard uneasily. She wore a dark dress, unlike t he
ot her girls in t heir whit e cot t on or past el flowery print s, so she st ood out like a mourner at a
She gripped a canvas lunch bag and moved along t he wall, as if t rying hard not t o be not iced.
It didnt work. A boy called out , Wit ch girl! He lumbered t oward her, backing her int o a
corner. The boy could have been fourt een or ninet een. It was hard t o t ell because he was so
big and t all, easily t he largest guy on t he playground. Leo figured hed been held back a few
t imes. He wore a dirt y shirt t he color of grease rags, t hreadbare wool t rousers (in t his heat ,
t hey couldnt have been comfort able), and no shoes at all. Maybe t he t eachers were t oo
t errified t o insist t hat t his kid wear shoes, or maybe he just didnt have any.
That s Rufus, said Ghost Hazel wit h dist ast e.
Seriously? No way his name is Rufus, Leo said.
Come on, said Ghost Hazel. She drift ed t oward t he confront at ion. Leo followed. He wasnt
used t o drift ing, but hed ridden a Segway once and it was kind of like t hat . He simply leaned in
t he direct ion he want ed t o go and glided along.
The big kid Rufus had flat feat ures, as if he spent most of his t ime face-plant ing on t he
sidewalk. His hair was cut just as flat on t op, so miniat ure airplanes couldve used it for a
landing st rip.
Rufus t hrust out his hand. Lunch.
Hazel from t he past didnt prot est . She handed over her canvas bag like t his was an
everyday occurrence.
A few older girls drift ed over t o wat ch t he fun. One giggled at Rufus. You dont want t o eat
t hat , she warned. It s probably poison.
Youre right , Rufus said. Did your wit ch mom make t his, Levesque?
Shes not a wit ch, Hazel mut t ered.
Rufus dropped t he bag and st epped on it , smashing t he cont ent s under his bare heel. You
can have it back. I want a diamond, t hough. I hear your momma can make t hose out of t hin air.
Gimme a diamond.
I dont have diamonds, Hazel said. Go away.
Rufus balled his fist s. Leo had been in enough rough schools and fost er homes t o sense
when t hings were about t o t urn ugly. He want ed t o st ep in and help Hazel, but he was a ghost .
Besides, all t his had happened decades ago.
Then anot her kid st umbled out side int o t he sunlight .
Leo sucked in his breat h. The boy looked exact ly like him.
You see? asked Ghost Hazel.
Fake Leo was t he same height as Regular Leomeaning he was short . He had t he same
nervous energyt apping his fingers against his t rousers, brushing at his whit e cot t on shirt ,
adjust ing t he jockey cap on his curly brown hair. (Really, Leo t hought , short people should not
wear jockey caps unless t hey were jockeys.) Fake Leo had t he same devilish smile t hat
greet ed Regular Leo whenever he looked in a mirroran expression t hat made t eachers
immediat ely shout , Dont even t hink about it ! and plop him in t he front row.
Apparent ly, Fake Leo had just been scolded by a t eacher. He was holding a dunce capan
honest -t o-goodness cardboard cone t hat said DUNCE. Leo t hought t hose were somet hing you
only saw in cart oons.
He could underst and why Fake Leo wasnt wearing it . Bad enough t o look like a jockey. Wit h
t hat cone on his head, he wouldve looked like a gnome.
Some kids backed up when Fake Leo burst ont o t he scene. Ot hers nudged each ot her and
ran t oward him like t hey were expect ing a show.
Meanwhile, Flat head Rufus was st ill t rying t o punk Hazel out of a diamond, oblivious t o Fake
Leos arrival.
Come on, girl. Rufus loomed over Hazel wit h his fist s clenched. Give it !
Hazel pressed herself against t he wall. Suddenly t he ground at her feet went snap, like a
t wig breaking. A perfect diamond t he size of a pist achio glit t ered bet ween her feet .
Ha! Rufus barked when he saw it . He st art ed t o lean down, but Hazel yelped, No, please!
as if she was genuinely concerned for t he big goon.
That s when Fake Leo st rolled over.
Here it comes, Leo t hought . Fake Leo is gonna bust out some Coach Hedgest yle jujit su and
save t he day.
Inst ead, Fake Leo put t he t op of t he dunce cap t o his mout h like a megaphone and yelled,
He said it wit h such aut horit y all t he ot her kids moment arily froze. Even Rufus st raight ened
and backed away in confusion.
One of t he lit t le boys snickered under his breat h: Hammy Sammy.
Sammy Leo shivered. Who the heck was this kid?
Sammy/Fake Leo st ormed up t o Rufus wit h his dunce cap in his hand, looking angry. No, no,
no! he announced, waving his free hand wildly at t he ot her kids, who were gat hering t o wat ch
t he ent ert ainment .
Sammy t urned t o Hazel. Miss Lamarr, your line is Sammy looked around in exasperat ion.
Script ! What is Hedy Lamarrs line?
No, please, you villain! one of t he boys called out .
Thank you! Sammy said. Miss Lamarr, youre supposed t o say, No, please, you villain! And
you, Clark Gable
The whole court yard burst int o laught er. Leo vaguely knew Clark Gable was an old-t imey
act or, but he didnt know much else. Apparent ly, t hough, t he idea t hat Flat head Rufus could be
Clark Gable was hilarious t o t he kids.
Mr. Gable
No! one of t he girls cried. Make him Gary Cooper.
More laught er. Rufus looked as if he were about t o blow a valve. He balled his fist s like he
want ed t o hit somebody, but he couldnt at t ack t he ent ire school. He clearly hat ed being
laughed at , but his slow lit t le mind couldnt quit e work out what Sammy was up t o.
Leo nodded in appreciat ion. Sammy was like him. Leo had done t he same kind of st uff t o
bullies for years.
Right ! Sammy yelled imperiously. Mr. Cooper, you say, Oh, but the diamond is mine, my
treacherous darling! And t hen you scoop up t he diamond like t his!
Sammy, no! Hazel prot est ed, but Sammy snat ched up t he st one and slipped it int o his
pocket in one smoot h move.
He wheeled on Rufus. I want emot ion! I want t he ladies in t he audience swooning! Ladies,
did Mr. Cooper make you swoon just now?
No, several of t hem called back.
There, you see? Sammy cried. Now, from t he t op! he yelled int o his dunce cap. Act ion!
Rufus was just st art ing t o get over his confusion. He st epped t oward Sammy and said,
Valdez, Im gonna
The bell rang. Kids swarmed t he doors. Sammy pulled Hazel out of t he way as t he lit t le ones
who act ed like t hey were on Sammys payrollherded Rufus along wit h t hem so he was
carried inside on a t ide of kindergart ners.
Soon Sammy and Hazel were alone except for t he ghost s.
Sammy scooped up Hazels smashed lunch, made a show of dust ing off t he canvas bag, and
present ed it t o her wit h a deep bow, as if it were her crown. Miss Lamarr.
Hazel from t he past t ook her ruined lunch. She looked like she was about t o cry, but Leo
couldnt t ell if t hat was from relief or misery or admirat ion. SammyRufus is going t o kill you.
Ah, he knows bet t er t han t o t angle wit h me. Sammy plopped t he dunce cap on t op of his
jockey cap. He st ood up st raight and st uck out his scrawny chest . The dunce cap fell off.
Hazel laughed. You are ridiculous.
Why, t hank you, Miss Lamarr.
Youre welcome, my treacherous darling.
Sammys smile wavered. The air became uncomfort ably charged. Hazel st ared at t he
ground. You shouldnt have t ouched t hat diamond. It s dangerous.
Ah, come on, Sammy said. Not for me!
Hazel st udied him warily, like she want ed t o believe it . Bad t hings might happen. You
I wont sell it , Sammy said. I promise! Ill just keep it as a t oken of your flavor.
Hazel forced a smile. I t hink you mean token of my favor.
There you are! We should get going. It s t ime for our next scene: Hedy Lamarr nearly dies of
boredom in English class.
Sammy held out his elbow like a gent leman, but Hazel pushed him away playfully. Thanks
for being t here, Sammy.
Miss Lamarr, I will always be t here for you! he said bright ly. The t wo of t hem raced back
int o t he schoolhouse.
Leo felt more like a ghost t han ever. Maybe he had act ually been an eidolon his whole life,
because t his kid hed just seen should have been t he real Leo. He was smart er, cooler, and
funnier. He flirt ed so well wit h Hazel t hat he had obviously st olen her heart .
No wonder Hazel had looked at Leo so st rangely when t hey first met . No wonder she had
said Sammy wit h so much feeling. But Leo wasnt Sammy, any more t han Flat head Rufus was
Clark Gable.
Hazel, he said. II dont
The schoolyard dissolved int o a different scene.
Hazel and Leo were st ill ghost s, but now t hey st ood in front of a rundown house next t o a
drainage dit ch overgrown wit h weeds. A clump of banana t rees drooped in t he yard. Perched
on t he st eps, an old-fashioned radio played conjunto music, and on t he shaded porch, sit t ing in
a rocking chair, a skinny old man gazed at t he horizon.
Where are we? Hazel asked. She was st ill only vapor, but her voice was full of alarm. This
isnt from my life!
Leo felt as if his ghost ly self was t hickening, becoming more real. This place seemed
st rangely familiar.
It s Houst on, he realized. I know t his view. That drainage dit chThis is my moms old
neighborhood, where she grew up. Hobby Airport is over t hat way.
This is your life? Hazel said. I dont underst and! How?
Youre asking me? Leo demanded.
Suddenly t he old man murmured, Ah, Hazel
A shock went up Leos spine. The old mans eyes were st ill fixed on t he horizon. How did he
know t hey were here?
I guess we ran out of t ime, t he old man cont inued dreamily. Well
He didnt finish t he t hought .
Hazel and Leo st ayed very st ill. The old man made no furt her sign t hat he saw t hem or heard
t hem. It dawned on Leo t hat t he guy had been t alking t o himself. But t hen why had he said
Hazels name?
He had leat hery skin, curly whit e hair, and gnarled hands, like hed spent a lifet ime working in
a machine shop. He wore a pale yellow shirt , spot less and clean, wit h gray slacks and
suspenders and polished black shoes.
Despit e his age, his eyes were sharp and clear. He sat wit h a kind of quiet dignit y. He looked
at peaceamused, even, like he was t hinking, Dang, I lived this long? Cool!
Leo was pret t y sure he had never seen t his man before. So why did he seem familiar? Then
he realized t he man was t apping his fingers on t he arm of his chair, but t he t apping wasnt
random. He was using Morse code, just like Leos mot her used t o do wit h himand t he old man
was t apping t he same message: I love you.
The screen door opened. A young woman came out . She wore jeans and a t urquoise blouse.
Her hair was cut in a short black wedge. She was pret t y, but not delicat e. She had well-
muscled arms and calloused hands. Like t he old mans, her brown eyes glint ed wit h
amusement . In her arms was a baby, wrapped in a blue blanket .
Look, mijo, she said t o t he baby. This is your bisabuelo. Bisabuelo, you want t o hold him?
When Leo heard her voice, he sobbed.
It was his mot heryounger t han he remembered her, but very much alive. That meant t he
baby in her arms
The old man broke int o a huge grin. He had perfect t eet h, as whit e as his hair. His face
crinkled wit h smile lines. A boy! Mi bebito, Leo!
Leo? Hazel whispered. That t hat s you? What is bisabuelo?
Leo couldnt find his voice. Great-grandfather, he want ed t o say.
The old man t ook baby Leo in his arms, chuckling wit h appreciat ion and t ickling t he babys
chinand Ghost Leo finally realized what he was seeing.
Somehow, Hazels power t o revisit t he past had found t he one event t hat connect ed bot h of
t heir liveswhere Leos t ime line t ouched Hazels.
This old man
Oh Hazel seemed t o realize who he was at t he same moment . Her voice became very
small, on t he verge of t ears. Oh, Sammy, no
Ah, lit t le Leo, said Sammy Valdez, aged well int o his sevent ies. Youll have t o be my st unt
double, eh? That s what t hey call it , I t hink. Tell her for me. I hoped I would be alive, but , ay, t he
curse wont have it !
Hazel sobbed. GaeaGaea t old me t hat he died of a heart at t ack, in t he 1960s. But t his
isnt t his cant be
Sammy Valdez kept t alking t o t he baby, while Leos mot her, Esperanza, looked on wit h a
pained smileperhaps a lit t le worried t hat Leos bisabuelo was rambling, a lit t le sad t hat he
was speaking nonsense.
That lady, Doa Callida, she warned me. Sammy shook his head sadly. She said Hazels
great danger would not happen in my lifet ime. But I promised I would be t here for her. You will
have t o t ell her Im sorry, Leo. Help her if you can.
Bisabeulo, Esperanza said, you must be t ired.
She ext ended her arms t o t ake t he baby, but t he old man cuddled him a moment longer.
Baby Leo seemed perfect ly fine wit h it .
Tell her Im sorry I sold t he diamond, eh? Sammy said. I broke my promise. When she
disappeared in Alaskaah, so long ago, I finally used t hat diamond, moved t o Texas as I
always dreamed. I st art ed my machine shop. St art ed my family! It was a good life, but Hazel
was right . The diamond came wit h a curse. I never saw her again.
Oh, Sammy, Hazel said. No, a curse didnt keep me away. I wanted t o come back. I died!
The old man didnt seem t o hear. He smiled down at t he baby, and kissed him on t he head. I
give you my blessing, Leo. First male great -grandchild! I have a feeling you are special, like
Hazel was. You are more t han a regular baby, eh? You will carry on for me. You will see her
someday. Tell her hello for me.
Bisabuelo, Esperanza said, a lit t le more insist ent ly.
Yes, yes. Sammy chuckled. El viejo loco rambles on. I am t ired, Esperanza. You are right .
But Ill rest soon. It s been a good life. Raise him well, nieta.
The scene faded.
Leo was st anding on t he deck of t he Argo II, holding Hazels hand. The sun had gone down,
and t he ship was lit only by bronze lant erns. Hazels eyes were puffy from crying.
What t heyd seen was t oo much. The whole ocean heaved under t hem, and now for t he first
t ime Leo felt as if t hey were t ot ally adrift .
Hello, Hazel Levesque, he said, his voice gravelly.
Her chin t rembled. She t urned away and opened her mout h t o speak, but before she could,
t he ship lurched t o one side.
Leo! Coach Hedge yelled.
Fest us whirred in alarm and blew flames int o t he night sky. The ships bell rang.
Those monst ers you were worried about ? Hedge shout ed. One of em found us!

If hed been t hinking st raight , he wouldve swit ched t he ships det ect ion syst em from radar t o
sonar as soon as t hey left Charlest on Harbor. Thats what he had forgot t en. Hed designed t he
hull t o resonat e every few seconds, sending waves t hrough t he Mist and alert ing Fest us t o
any nearby monst ers, but it only worked in one mode at a t ime: wat er or air.
Hed been so rat t led by t he Romans, t hen t he st orm, t hen Hazel, t hat he had complet ely
forgot t en. Now, a monst er was right underneat h t hem.
The ship t ilt ed t o st arboard. Hazel gripped t he rigging. Hedge yelled, Valdez, which but t on
blows up monst ers? Take t he helm!
Leo climbed t he t ilt ing deck and managed t o grab t he port rail. He st art ed clambering
sideways t oward t he helm, but when he saw t he monst er surface, he forgot how t o move.
The t hing was t he lengt h of t heir ship. In t he moonlight , it looked like a cross bet ween a giant
shrimp and a cockroach, wit h a pink chit inous shell, a flat crayfish t ail, and millipede-t ype legs
undulat ing hypnot ically as t he monst er scraped against t he hull of t he Argo II.
It s head surfaced last t he slimy pink face of an enormous cat fish wit h glassy dead eyes, a
gaping t oot hless maw, and a forest of t ent acles sprout ing from each nost ril, making t he
bushiest nose beard Leo had ever had t he displeasure t o behold.
Leo remembered special Friday night dinners he and his mom used t o share at a local
seafood rest aurant in Houst on. They would eat shrimp and cat fish. The idea now made him
want t o t hrow up.
Come on, Valdez! Hedge yelled. Take t he wheel so I can get my baseball bat !
A bat s not going t o help, Leo said, but he made his way t oward t he helm.
Behind him, t he rest of his friends st umbled up t he st airs.
Percy yelled, What s going Gah! Shrimpzilla!
Frank ran t o Hazels side. She was clut ching t he rigging, st ill dazed from her flashback, but
she gest ured t hat she was all right .
The monst er rammed t he ship again. The hull groaned. Annabet h, Piper, and Jason t umbled
t o st arboard and almost rolled overboard.
Leo reached t he helm. His hands flew across t he cont rols. Over t he int ercom, Fest us clacked
and clicked about leaks belowdecks, but t he ship didnt seem t o be in danger of sinkingat
least not yet .
Leo t oggled t he oars. They could convert int o spears, which should be enough t o drive t he
creat ure away. Unfort unat ely, t hey were jammed. Shrimpzilla must have knocked t hem out of
alignment , and t he monst er was in spit t ing dist ance, which meant t hat Leo couldnt use t he
ballist ae wit hout set t ing t he Argo II on fire as well.
How did it get so close? Annabet h shout ed, pulling herself up on one of t he rail shields.
I dont know! Hedge snarled. He looked around for his bat , which had rolled across t he
quart erdeck.
Im st upid! Leo scolded himself. St upid, st upid! I forgot t he sonar!
The ship t ilt ed fart her t o st arboard. Eit her t he monst er was t rying t o give t hem a hug, or it
was about t o capsize t hem.
Sonar? Hedge demanded. Pans pipes, Valdez! Maybe if you hadnt been st aring int o
Hazels eyes, holding hands for so long
What? Frank yelped.
It wasnt like t hat ! Hazel prot est ed.
It doesnt mat t er! Piper said. Jason, can you call some light ning?
Jason st ruggled t o his feet . I He only managed t o shake his head. Summoning t he st orm
earlier had t aken t oo much out of him. Leo doubt ed t he poor guy could pop a spark plug in t he
shape he was in.
Percy! Annabet h said. Can you talk t o t hat t hing? Do you know what it is?
The son of t he sea god shook his head, clearly myst ified. Maybe it s just curious about t he
ship. Maybe
The monst ers t endrils lashed across t he deck so fast , Leo didnt even have t ime t o yell,
Look out!
One slammed Percy in t he chest and sent him crashing down t he st eps. Anot her wrapped
around Pipers legs and dragged her, screaming, t oward t he rail. Dozens more t endrils curled
around t he mast s, encircling t he crossbows and ripping down t he rigging.
Nose-hair at t ack! Hedge snat ched up his bat and leaped int o act ion; but his hit s just
bounced harmlessly off t he t endrils.
Jason drew his sword. He t ried t o free Piper, but he was st ill weak. His gold blade cut t hrough
t he t endrils wit h no problem, but fast er t han he could sever t hem, more t ook t heir place.
Annabet h unsheat hed her dagger. She ran t hrough t he forest of t ent acles, dodging and
st abbing at what ever t arget she could find. Frank pulled out his bow. He fired over t he side at
t he creat ures body, lodging arrows in t he chinks of it s shell; but t hat only seemed t o annoy t he
monst er. It bellowed, and rocked t he ship. The mast creaked like it might snap off.
They needed more firepower, but t hey couldnt use ballist ae. They needed t o deliver a blast
t hat wouldnt dest roy t he ship. But how ?
Leos eyes fixed on a supply crat e next t o Hazels feet .
Hazel! he yelled. That box! Open it !
She hesit at ed, t hen saw t he box he meant . The label read WARNI NG. DO NOT OPEN.
Open it ! Leo yelled again. Coach, t ake t he wheel! Turn us t oward t he monst er, or well
Hedge danced t hrough t he t ent acles wit h his nimble goat hooves, smashing away wit h
gust o. He bounded t oward t he helm and t ook t he cont rols.
Hope you got a plan! he shout ed.
A bad one. Leo raced t oward t he mast .
The monst er pushed against t he Argo II. The deck lurched t o fort y-five degrees. Despit e
everyones effort s, t he t ent acles were just t oo numerous t o fight . They seemed able t o
elongat e as much as t hey want ed. Soon t heyd have t he Argo II complet ely ent angled. Percy
hadnt appeared from below. The ot hers were fight ing for t heir lives against nose hair.
Frank! Leo called as he ran t oward Hazel. Buy us some t ime! Can you t urn int o a shark or
somet hing?
Frank glanced over, scowling; and in t hat moment a t ent acle slammed int o t he big guy,
knocking him overboard.
Hazel screamed. Shed opened t he supply box and almost dropped t he t wo glass vials she
was holding.
Leo caught t hem. Each was t he size of an apple, and t he liquid inside glowed poisonous
green. The glass was warm t o t he t ouch. Leos chest felt like it might implode from guilt . Hed
just dist ract ed Frank and possibly got t en him killed, but he couldnt t hink about it . He had t o
save t he ship.
Come on! He handed Hazel one of t he vials. We can kill t he monst erand save Frank!
He hoped he wasnt lying. Get t ing t o t he port rail was more like rock climbing t han walking,
but finally t hey made it .
What is t his st uff? Hazel gasped, cradling her glass vial.
Greek fire!
Her eyes widened. Are you crazy? If t hese break, well burn t he whole ship!
It s mout h! Leo said. Just chuck it down it s
Suddenly Leo was crushed against Hazel, and t he world t urned sideways. As t hey were
lift ed int o t he air, he realized t heyd been wrapped t oget her in a t ent acle. Leos arms were free,
but it was all he could do t o keep hold of his Greek fire vial. Hazel st ruggled. Her arms were
pinned, which meant at any moment t he vial t rapped bet ween t hem might breakand t hat
would be ext remely bad for t heir healt h.
They rose t en feet , t went y feet , t hirt y feet above t he monst er. Leo caught a glimpse of his
friends in a losing bat t le, yelling and slashing at t he monst ers nose hairs. He saw Coach Hedge
st ruggling t o keep t he ship from capsizing. The sea was dark, but in t he moonlight he t hought
he saw a glist ening object float ing near t he monst ermaybe t he unconscious body of Frank
Leo, Hazel gasped, I cant my arms
Hazel, he said. Do you t rust me?
Me neit her, Leo admit t ed. When t his t hing drops us, hold your breat h. What ever you do,
t ry t o chuck your vial as far away from t he ship as possible.
Whywhy would it drop us?
Leo st ared down at t he monst ers head. This would be a t ough shot , but he had no choice.
He raised t he vial in his left hand. He pressed his right hand against t he t ent acle and
summoned fire t o his palma narrowly focused, whit e-hot burst .
That got t he creat ures at t ent ion. A t remble went all t he way down t he t ent acle as it s flesh
blist ered under Leos t ouch. The monst er raised it s maw, bellowing in pain, and Leo t hrew his
Greek fire st raight down it s t hroat .
Aft er t hat , t hings got fuzzy. Leo felt t he t ent acle release t hem. They fell. He heard a muffled
explosion and saw a green flash of light inside t he giant pink lampshade of t he monst ers body.
The wat er hit Leos face like a brick wrapped in sandpaper, and he sank int o darkness. He
clamped his mout h shut , t rying not t o breat he, but he could feel himself losing consciousness.
Through t he st ing of t he salt wat er, he t hought he saw t he hazy silhouet t e of t he ships hull
abovea dark oval surrounded by a green fiery corona, but he couldnt t ell if t he ship was
act ually on fire.
Killed by a giant shrimp, Leo t hought bit t erly. At least let the Argo II survive. Let my friends be
His vision began t o dim. His lungs burned.
Just as he was about t o give up, a st range face hovered over hima man who looked like
Chiron, t heir t rainer back at Camp Half-Blood. He had t he same curly hair, shaggy beard, and
int elligent eyesa look somewhere bet ween wild hippie and fat herly professor, except t his
mans skin was t he color of a lima bean. The man silent ly held up a dagger. His expression was
grim and reproachful, as if t o say: Now, hold still, or I cant kill you properly.
Leo blacked out .

When Leo woke, he wondered if he was a ghost in anot her flashback, because he was float ing
weight lessly. His eyes slowly adjust ed t o t he dim light .
About t ime. Franks voice had t oo much reverb, like he was speaking t hrough several layers
of plast ic wrap.
Leo sat upor rat her he drift ed upright . He was underwat er, in a cave about t he size of a
t wo-car garage. Phosphorescent moss covered t he ceiling, bat hing t he room in a blue-and-
green glow. The floor was a carpet of sea urchins, which would have been uncomfort able t o
walk on, so Leo was glad he was float ing. He didnt underst and how he could be breat hing wit h
no air.
Frank levit at ed nearby in medit at ion posit ion. Wit h his chubby face and his grumpy
expression, he looked like a Buddha whod achieved enlight enment and wasnt t hrilled about it .
The only exit t o t he cave was blocked by a massive abalone shellit s surface glist ening in
pearl and rose and t urquoise. If t his cave was a prison, at least it had an awesome door.
Where are we? Leo asked. Where is everyone else?
Everyone? Frank grumbled. I dont know. As far as I can t ell, it s just you and me and Hazel
down here. The fish-horse guys t ook Hazel about an hour ago, leaving me wit h you.
Franks t one made it obvious he didnt approve of t hose arrangement s. He didnt look injured,
but Leo realized t hat he no longer had his bow or quiver. In a panic, Leo pat t ed his waist . His
t ool belt was gone.
They searched us, Frank said. Took anyt hing t hat could be a weapon.
Who? Leo demanded. Who are t hese fish-horse?
Fish-horse guys, Frank clarified, which wasnt very clear. They must have grabbed us
when we fell in t he ocean and dragged uswherever t his is.
Leo remembered t he last t hing hed seen before he passed out t he lima-bean-colored face
of t he bearded man wit h t he dagger. The shrimp monst er. The Argo IIis t he ship okay?
I dont know, Frank said darkly. The ot hers might be in t rouble or hurt , oror worse. But I
guess you care more about your ship t han your friends.
Leo felt like his face had just hit t he wat er again. What kind of st upid t hing?
Then he realized why Frank was so angry: t he flashback. Things had happened so fast wit h
t he monst er at t ack, Leo had almost forgot t en. Coach Hedge had made t hat st upid comment
about Leo and Hazel holding hands and gazing int o each ot hers eyes. It probably hadnt
helped t hat Leo had got t en Frank knocked overboard right aft er t hat .
Suddenly Leo found it hard t o meet Franks gaze.
Look, manIm sorry I got us int o t his mess. I t ot ally jacked t hings up. He t ook a deep
breat h, which felt surprisingly normal, considering he was underwat er. Me and Hazel holding
handsit s not what you t hink. She was showing me t his flashback from her past , t rying t o
figure out my connect ion wit h Sammy.
Franks angry expression st art ed t o unknot , replaced by curiosit y. Did shedid you figure it
out ?
Yeah, Leo said. Well, sort of. We didnt get a chance t o t alk about it aft erward because of
Shrimpzilla, but Sammy was my great -grandfat her.
He t old Frank what t heyd seen. The weirdness hadnt fully regist ered yet , but now, t rying t o
explain it aloud, Leo could hardly believe it . Hazel had been sweet on his bisabuelo, a guy who
had died when Leo was a baby. Leo hadnt made t he connect ion before, but he had a vague
memory of older family members calling his grandfat her Sam Junior. Which meant Sam Senior
was Sammy, Leos bisabuelo. At some point , T a CallidaHera herselfhad t alked wit h
Sammy, consoling him and giving him a glimpse int o t he fut ure, which meant t hat Hera had
been shaping Leos life generat ions before he was even born. If Hazel had st ayed in t he 1940s,
if shed married Sammy, Leo might ve been her great -grandson.
Oh, man, Leo said when he had finished t he st ory. I dont feel so good. But I swear on t he
St yx, t hat s what we saw.
Frank had t he same expression as t he monst er cat fish headwide glassy eyes and an open
mout h. HazelHazel liked your great-grandfather? That s why she likes you?
Frank, I know t his is weird. Believe me. But I dont like Hazelnot that way. Im not moving in
on your girl.
Frank knit his eyebrows. No?
Leo hoped he wasnt blushing. Trut hfully, he had no idea how he felt about Hazel. She was
awesome and cut e, and Leo had a weakness for awesome cut e girls. But t he flashback had
complicat ed his feelings a lot.
Besides, his ship was in t rouble.
I guess you care more about your ship than your friends, Frank had said.
That wasnt t rue, was it ? Leos dad, Hephaest us, had admit t ed once t hat he wasnt good
wit h organic life forms. And, yes, Leo had always been more comfort able wit h machines t han
people. But he did care about his friends. Piper and Jasonhed known t hem t he longest , but
t he ot hers were import ant t o him t oo. Even Frank. They were like family.
The problem was, it had been so long since Leo had had a family, he couldnt even remember
how it felt . Sure, last wint er hed become senior counselor of Hephaest us cabin; but most of his
t ime had been spent building t he ship. He liked his cabin mat es. He knew how t o work wit h
t hembut did he really know t hem?
If Leo had a family, it was t he demigods on t he Argo IIand maybe Coach Hedge, which Leo
would never admit aloud.
You will always be the outsider, warned Nemesiss voice; but Leo t ried t o push t hat t hought
Right , so He looked around him. We need t o make a plan. How are we breat hing? If
were under t he ocean, shouldnt we be crushed by t he wat er pressure?
Frank shrugged. Fish-horse magic, I guess. I remember t he green guy t ouching my head wit h
t he point of a dagger. Then I could breat he.
Leo st udied t he abalone door. Can you bust us out ? Turn int o a hammerhead shark or
somet hing?
Frank shook his head glumly. My shape-shift ing doesnt work. I dont know why. Maybe t hey
cursed me, or maybe Im t oo messed up t o focus.
Hazel could be in t rouble, Leo said. Weve got t o get out of here.
He swam t o t he door and ran his fingers along t he abalone. He couldnt feel any kind of lat ch
or ot her mechanism. Eit her t he door could only be opened by magic or sheer force was
requiredneit her of which was Leos specialt y.
Ive already t ried, Frank said. Even if we get out , we have no weapons.
Hmm Leo held up his hand. I wonder.
He concent rat ed, and fire flickered over his fingers. For a split second, Leo was excit ed,
because he hadnt expect ed it t o work underwat er. Then his plan st art ed working a lit t le t oo
well. Fire raced up his arm and over his body unt il he was complet ely shrouded in a t hin veil of
flame. He t ried t o breat he, but he was inhaling pure heat .
Leo! Frank flailed backward like he was falling off a bar st ool. Inst ead of racing t o Leos aid,
he hugged t he wall t o get as far away as possible.
Leo forced himself t o st ay calm. He underst ood what was going on. The fire it self couldnt
hurt him. He willed t he flames t o die and count ed t o five. He t ook a shallow breat h. He had
oxygen again.
Frank st opped t rying t o merge wit h t he cave wall. Youreyoure okay?
Yeah, Leo grumbled. Thanks for t he assist .
IIm sorry. Frank looked so horrified and ashamed it was hard for Leo t o st ay mad at him.
I just what happened?
Clever magic, Leo said. Theres a t hin layer of oxygen around us, like an ext ra skin. Must
be self-regenerat ing. That s how were breat hing and st aying dry. The oxygen gave t he fire
fuelexcept t he fire also suffocat ed me.
I really dont Frank gulped. I dont like t hat fire summoning you do. He st art ed get t ing
cozy wit h t he wall again.
Leo didnt mean t o, but he couldnt help laughing. Man, Im not going t o at t ack you.
Fire, Frank repeat ed, like t hat one word explained everyt hing.
Leo remembered what Hazel had saidt hat his fire made Frank nervous. Hed seen t he
discomfort in Franks face before, but Leo hadnt t aken it seriously. Frank seemed way more
powerful and scary t han Leo was.
Now it occurred t o him t hat Frank might have had a bad experience wit h fire. Leos own mom
had died in a machine shop blaze. Leo had been blamed for it . Hed grown up being called a
freak, an arsonist , because whenever he got angry, t hings burned.
Sorry I laughed, he said, and he meant it . My mom died in a fire. I underst and being afraid
of it . Did, uhdid somet hing like t hat happen wit h you?
Frank seemed t o be weighing how much t o say. My housemy grandmot hers place. It
burned down. But it s more t han t hat He st ared at t he sea urchins on t he floor. Annabet h
said I could t rust t he crew. Even you.
Even me, huh? Leo wondered how that had come up in conversat ion. Wow, high praise.
My weakness Frank st art ed, like t he words cut his mout h. Theres t his piece of firewood

The abalone door rolled open.

Leo t urned and found himself face-t o-face wit h Lima Bean Man, who wasnt act ually a man
at all. Now t hat Leo could see him clearly, t he guy was by far t he weirdest creat ure hed ever
met , and t hat was saying a lot .
From t he waist up, he was more or less humana t hin, bare-chest ed dude wit h a dagger in
his belt and a band of seashells st rapped across his chest like a bandolier. His skin was green,
his beard scraggly brown, and his longish hair was t ied back in a seaweed bandana. A pair of
lobst er claws st uck up from his head like horns, t urning and snapping at random.
Leo decided he didnt look so much like Chiron. He looked more like t he post er Leos mom
used t o keep in her workspacet hat old Mexican bandit Pancho Villa, except wit h seashells
and lobst er horns.
From t he waist down, t he guy was more complicat ed. He had t he forelegs of a blue-green
horse, sort of like a cent aur, but t oward t he back, his horse body morphed int o a long fishy t ail
about t en feet long, wit h a rainbow-colored, V-shaped t ail fin.
Now Leo underst ood what Frank meant about fish-horse guys.
I am Byt hos, said t he green man. I will int errogat e Frank Zhang.
His voice was calm and firm, leaving no room for debat e.
Why did you capt ure us? Leo demanded. Wheres Hazel?
Byt hos narrowed his eyes. His expression seemed t o say: Did this tiny creature just talk to
me? You, Leo Valdez, will go wit h my brot her.
Your brot her?
Leo realized t hat a much larger figure was looming behind Byt hos, wit h a shadow so wide, it
filled t he ent ire cave ent rance.
Yes, Byt hos said wit h a dry smile. Try not t o make Aphros mad.

APHROS LOOKED LI KE HI S BROTHER, except he was blue inst ead of green and much, much bigger. He had
Arnold-as-Terminat or abs and arms, and a square, brut ish head. A huge Conan-approved
sword was st rapped across his back. Even his hair was biggera massive globe of blue-black
frizz so t hick t hat his lobst er-claw horns appeared t o be drowning as t hey t ried t o swim t heir
way t o t he surface.
Is t hat why t hey named you Aphros? Leo asked as t hey glided down t he pat h from t he
cave. Because of t he Afro?
Aphros scowled. What do you mean?
Not hing, Leo said quickly. At least he would never have t rouble remembering which fish
dude was which. So what are you guys, exact ly?
Icht hyocent aurs, Aphros said, like it was a quest ion he was t ired of answering.
Uh, icky what ?
Fish cent aurs. We are t he half brot hers of Chiron.
Oh, hes a friend of mine!
Aphros narrowed his eyes. The one called Hazel t old us t his, but we will det ermine t he t rut h.
Leo didnt like t he sound of determine the truth. It made him t hink of t ort ure racks and red-hot
He followed t he fish cent aur t hrough a massive forest of kelp. Leo couldve dart ed t o one
side and got t en lost in t he plant s pret t y easily, but he didnt t ry. For one t hing, he figured
Aphros could t ravel much fast er in t he wat er, and t he guy might be able t o shut off t he magic
t hat let Leo move and breat he. Inside or out side t he cave, Leo was just as much a capt ive.
Also, Leo had no clue where he was.
They drift ed bet ween rows of kelp as t all as apart ment buildings. The green-and-yellow
plant s swayed weight lessly, like columns of helium balloons. High above, Leo saw a smudge of
whit e t hat might have been t he sun.
He guessed t hat meant t heyd been here overnight . Was t he Argo II all right ? Had it sailed
on wit hout t hem, or were t heir friends st ill searching?
Leo couldnt even be sure how deep t hey were. Plant s could grow hereso not too deep,
right ? St ill, he knew he couldnt just swim for t he surface. Hed heard about people who
ascended t oo quickly and developed nit rogen bubbles in t heir blood. Leo want ed t o avoid
carbonat ed blood.
They drift ed along for maybe half a mile. Leo was t empt ed t o ask where Aphros was t aking
him, but t he big sword st rapped t o t he cent aurs back sort of discouraged conversat ion.
Finally t he kelp forest opened up. Leo gasped. They were st anding (swimming, what ever) at
t he summit of a high underwat er hill. Below t hem st ret ched an ent ire t own of Greek-st yle
buildings on t he seafloor.
The roofs were t iled wit h mot her-of-pearl. The gardens were filled wit h coral and sea
anemones. Hippocampi grazed in a field of seaweed. A t eam of Cyclopes was placing t he
domed roof on a new t emple, using a blue whale as a crane. And swimming t hrough t he
st reet s, hanging out in t he court yards, pract icing combat wit h t rident s and swords in t he arena
were dozens of mermen and mermaidshonest -t o-goodness fish-people.
Leo had seen a lot of crazy st uff, but he had always t hought merpeople were silly fict ional
creat ures, like Smurfs or Muppet s.
There was not hing silly or cut e about t hese merpeople, t hough. Even from a dist ance, t hey
looked fierce and not at all human. Their eyes glowed yellow. They had sharklike t eet h and
leat hery skin in colors ranging from coral red t o ink black.
It s a t raining camp, Leo realized. He looked at Aphros in awe. You t rain heroes, t he same
way Chiron does?
Aphros nodded, a glint of pride in his eyes. We have t rained all t he famous mer-heroes!
Name a mer-hero, and we have t rained him or her!
Oh, sure, Leo said. Likeum, t he Lit t le Mermaid?
Aphros frowned. Who? No! Like Trit on, Glaucus, Weissmuller, and Bill!
Oh. Leo had no idea who any of t hose people were. You t rained Bill? Impressive.
Indeed! Aphros pounded his chest . I t rained Bill myself. A great merman.
You t each combat , I guess.
Aphros t hrew up his hands in exasperat ion. Why does everyone assume t hat ?
Leo glanced at t he massive sword on t he fish-guys back. Uh, I dont know.
I t each music and poet ry! Aphros said. Life skills! Homemaking! These are import ant for
Absolut ely. Leo t ried t o keep a st raight face. Sewing? Cookie baking?
Yes. Im glad you underst and. Perhaps lat er, if I dont have t o kill you, I will share my brownie
recipe. Aphros gest ured behind him cont empt uously. My brot her Byt hosh e t eaches
combat .
Leo wasnt sure whet her he felt relieved or insult ed t hat t he combat t rainer was
int errogat ing Frank, while Leo got t he home economics t eacher. So, great . This is Camp
what do you call it ? Camp Fish-Blood?
Aphros frowned. I hope t hat was a joke. This is Camp __________. He made a sound t hat
was a series of sonar pings and hisses.
Silly me, Leo said. And, you know, I could really go for some of t hose brownies! So what do
we have t o do t o get t o t he not killing me st age?
Tell me your st ory, Aphros said.
Leo hesit at ed, but not for long. Somehow he sensed t hat he should t ell t he t rut h. He st art ed
at t he beginninghow Hera had been his babysit t er and placed him in t he flames; how his
mot her had died because of Gaea, who had ident ified Leo as a fut ure enemy. He t alked about
how he had spent his childhood bouncing around in fost er homes, unt il he and Jason and Piper
had been t aken t o Camp Half-Blood. He explained t he Prophecy of Seven, t he building of t he
Argo II, and t heir quest t o reach Greece and defeat t he giant s before Gaea woke.
As he t alked, Aphros drew some wicked-looking met al spikes from his belt . Leo was afraid he
had said somet hing wrong, but Aphros pulled some seaweed yarn from his pouch and st art ed
knit t ing. Go on, he urged. Dont st op.
By t he t ime Leo had explained t he eidolons, t he problem wit h t he Romans, and all t he
t roubles t he Argo II had encount ered crossing t he Unit ed St at es and embarking from
Charlest on, Aphros had knit t ed a complet e baby bonnet .
Leo wait ed while t he fish cent aur put away his supplies. Aphross lobst er-claw horns kept
swimming around in his t hick hair, and Leo had t o resist t he urge t o t ry t o rescue t hem.
Very well, Aphros said. I believe you.
As simple as t hat ?
I am quit e good at discerning lies. I hear none from you. Your st ory also fit s wit h what Hazel
Levesque t old us.
Is she?
Of course, Aphros said. Shes fine. He put his fingers t o his mout h and whist led, which
sounded st range underwat erlike a dolphin screaming. My people will bring her here short ly.
You must underst andour locat ion is a carefully guarded secret . You and your friends showed
up in a warship, pursued by one of Ket os sea monst ers. We did not know whose side you were
Is t he ship all right ?
Damaged, Aphros said, but not t erribly. The skolopendra wit hdrew aft er it got a mout hful
of fire. Nice t ouch.
Thank you. Skolopendra? Never heard of it .
Consider yourself lucky. They are nast y creat ures. Ket o must really hat e you. At any rat e,
we rescued you and t he ot her t wo from t he creat ures t ent acles as it ret reat ed int o t he deep.
Your friends are st ill above, searching for you; but we have obscured t heir vision. We had t o be
sure you were not a t hreat . Ot herwise, we would have had t ot ake measures.
Leo gulped. He was pret t y sure taking measures did not mean baking ext ra brownies. And if
t hese guys were so powerful t hat t hey could keep t heir camp hidden from Percy, who had all
t hose Poseidonish wat er powers, t hey were not fish dudes t o mess wit h. Sowe can go?
Soon, Aphros promised. I must check wit h Byt hos. When he is done t alking wit h your friend
Frank. When t hey are done, we will send you back t o your ship. And we may have some
warnings for you.
Ah. Aphros point ed. Hazel emerged from t he kelp forest , escort ed by t wo vicious-looking
mermaids, who were baring t heir fangs and hissing. Leo t hought Hazel might be in danger.
Then he saw she was complet ely at ease, grinning and t alking wit h her escort s, and Leo
realized t hat t he mermaids were laughing.
Leo! Hazel paddled t oward him. Isnt t his place amazing?

They were left alone at t he ridge, which must have meant Aphros really did t rust t hem. While
t he cent aur and t he mermaids went off t o fet ch Frank, Leo and Hazel float ed above t he hill
and gazed down at t he underwat er camp.
Hazel t old him how t he mermaids had warmed up t o her right away. Aphros and Byt hos had
been fascinat ed by her st ory, as t hey had never met a child of Plut o before. On t op of t hat ,
t hey had heard many legends about t he horse Arion, and t hey were amazed t hat Hazel had
befriended him.
Hazel had promised t o visit again wit h Arion. The mermaids had writ t en t heir phone numbers
in wat erproof ink on Hazels arm so t hat she could keep in t ouch. Leo didnt even want t o ask
how mermaids got cell-phone coverage in t he middle of t he At lant ic.
As Hazel t alked, her hair float ed around her face in a cloudlike brown eart h and gold dust
in a miners pan. She looked very sure of herself and very beaut ifulnot at all like t he shy,
nervous girl in t hat New Orleans schoolyard wit h her smashed canvas lunch bag at her feet .
We didnt get t o t alk, Leo said. He was reluct ant t o bring up t he subject , but he knew t his
might be t heir only chance t o be alone. I mean about Sammy.
Her smile faded. I knowI just need some t ime t o let it sink in. It s st range t o t hink t hat you
and he
She didnt need t o finish t he t hought . Leo knew exact ly how st range it was.
Im not sure I can explain t his t o Frank, she added. About you and me holding hands.
She wouldnt meet Leos eyes. Down in t he valley, t he Cyclopes work crew cheered as t he
t emple roof was set in place.
I t alked t o him, Leo said. I t old him I wasnt t rying t oyou know. Make t rouble bet ween you
t wo.
Oh. Good.
Did she sound disappoint ed? Leo wasnt sure, and he wasnt sure he want ed t o know.
Frank, um, seemed pret t y freaked out when I summoned fire. Leo explained what had
happened in t he cave.
Hazel looked st unned. Oh, no. That would t errify him.
Her hand went t o her denim jacket , like she was checking for somet hing in t he inside pocket .
She always wore t hat jacket , or some sort of overshirt , even when it was hot out side. Leo had
assumed t hat she did it out of modest y, or because it was bet t er for horseback riding, like a
mot orcycle jacket . Now he began t o wonder.
His brain shift ed int o high gear. He remembered what Frank had said about his weaknessa
piece of firewood. He t hought about why t his kid would have a fear of fire, and why Hazel
would be so at t uned t o t hose feelings. Leo t hought about some of t he st ories hed heard at
Camp Half-Blood. For obvious reasons, he t ended t o pay at t ent ion t o legends about fire. Now
he remembered one he hadnt t hought about in mont hs.
There was an old legend about a hero, he recalled. His lifeline was t ied t o a st ick in a
fireplace, and when t hat piece of wood burned up
Hazels expression t urned dark. Leo knew hed st ruck on t he t rut h.
Frank has t hat problem, he guessed. And t he piece of firewood He point ed at Hazels
jacket . He gave it t o you for safekeeping?
Leo, please dont I cant t alk about it .
Leos inst inct s as a mechanic kicked in. He st art ed t hinking about t he propert ies of wood
and t he corrosiveness of salt wat er. Is t he firewood okay in t he ocean like t his? Does t he layer
of air around you prot ect it ?
It s fine, Hazel said. The wood didnt even get wet . Besides, it s wrapped up in several
layers of clot h and plast ic and She bit her lip in frust rat ion. And Im not supposed t o talk
about it ! Leo, t he point is if Frank seems afraid of you, or uneasy, youve got t o underst and
Leo was glad he was float ing, because he probably wouldve been t oo dizzy t o st and. He
imagined being in Franks posit ion, his life so fragile, it lit erally could burn up at any t ime. He
imagined how much t rust it would t ake t o give his lifelinehis ent ire fat et o anot her person.
Frank had chosen Hazel, obviously. So when he had seen Leoa guy who could summon
fire at willmoving in on his girl
Leo shuddered. No wonder Frank didnt like him. And suddenly Franks abilit y t o t urn int o a
bunch of different animals didnt seem so awesomenot if it came wit h a big cat ch like t hat .
Leo t hought about his least favorit e line in t he Prophecy of Seven: To storm or fire the world
must fall. For a long t ime, hed figured t hat Jason or Percy st ood for st ormmaybe bot h of
t hem t oget her. Leo was t he fire guy. Nobody said t hat , but it was pret t y clear. Leo was one of
t he wild cards. If he did t he wrong t hing, t he world could fall. Noit must fall. Leo wondered if
Frank and his firewood had somet hing t o do wit h t hat line. Leo had already made some epic
mist akes. It would be so easy for him t o accident ally send Frank Zhang up in flames.
There you are! Byt hoss voice made Leo flinch.
Byt hos and Aphros float ed over wit h Frank bet ween t hem, looking pale but okay. Frank
st udied Hazel and Leo carefully, as if t rying t o read what t heyd been t alking about .
You are free t o go, Byt hos said. He opened his saddlebags and ret urned t heir confiscat ed
supplies. Leo had never been so glad t o fit his t ool belt around his waist .
Tell Percy Jackson not t o worry, Aphros said. We have underst ood your st ory about t he
imprisoned sea creat ures in At lant a. Ket o and Phorcys must be st opped. We will send a quest
of mer-heroes t o defeat t hem and free t heir capt ives. Perhaps Cyrus?
Or Bill, Byt hos offered.
Yes! Bill would be perfect , Aphros agreed. At any rat e, we are grat eful t hat Percy brought
t his t o our at t ent ion.
You should t alk t o him in person, Leo suggest ed. I mean, son of Poseidon, and all.
Bot h fish-cent aurs shook t heir heads solemnly. Somet imes it is best not t o int eract wit h
Poseidons brood, Aphros said. We are friendly wit h t he sea god, of course; but t he polit ics of
undersea deit ies iscomplicat ed. And we value our independence. Nevert heless, t ell Percy
t hank you. We will do what we can t o speed you safely across t he At lant ic wit hout furt her
int erference from Ket os monst ers, but be warned: in t he ancient sea, t he Mare Nost rum, more
dangers await .
Frank sighed. Nat urally.
Byt hos clapped t he big guy on t he shoulder. You will be fine, Frank Zhang. Keep pract icing
t hose sea life t ransformat ions. The koi fish is good, but t ry for a Port uguese man-of-war.
Remember what I showed you. It s all in t he breat hing.
Frank looked mort ally embarrassed. Leo bit his lip, det ermined not t o smile.
And you, Hazel, Aphros said, come visit again, and bring t hat horse of yours! I know you
are concerned about t he t ime you lost , spending t he night in our realm. You are worried about
your brot her, Nico.
Hazel gripped her cavalry sword. Is hedo you know where he is?
Aphros shook his head. Not exact ly. But when you get closer, you should be able t o sense
his presence. Never fear! You must reach Rome t he day aft er t omorrow if you are t o save him,
but t here is st ill t ime. And you must save him.
Yes, Byt hos agreed. He will be essent ial for your journey. I am not sure how, but I sense it
is t rue.
Aphros plant ed his hand on Leos shoulder. As for you, Leo Valdez, st ay close t o Hazel and
Frank when you reach Rome. I sense t hey will faceah, mechanical difficult ies t hat only you
can overcome.
Mechanical difficult ies? Leo asked.
Aphros smiled as if t hat was great news. And I have gift s for you, t he brave navigat or of t he
Argo II!
I like t o t hink of myself as capt ain, Leo said. Or supreme commander.
Brownies! Aphros said proudly, shoving an old-fashioned picnic basket int o Leos arms. It
was surrounded by a bubble of air, which Leo hoped would keep t he brownies from t urning int o
salt wat er fudge sludge. In t his basket you will also find t he recipe. Not t oo much but t er! That s
t he t rick. And Ive given you a let t er of int roduct ion t o Tiberinus, t he god of t he Tiber River.
Once you reach Rome, your friend t he daught er of At hena will need t his.
Annabet h Leo said. Okay, but why?
Byt hos laughed. She follows t he Mark of At hena, doesnt she? Tiberinus can guide her in
t his quest . Hes an ancient , proud god who can bedifficult ; but let t ers of int roduct ion are
everyt hing t o Roman spirit s. This will convince Tiberinus t o help her. Hopefully.
Hopefully, Leo repeat ed.
Byt hos produced t hree small pink pearls from his saddlebags. And now, off wit h you,
demigods! Good sailing!
He t hrew a pearl at each of t hem in t urn, and t hree shimmering pink bubbles of energy
formed around t hem.
They began t o rise t hrough t he wat er. Leo just had t ime t o t hink: A hamster ball elevator?
Then he gained speed and rocket ed t oward t he dist ant glow of t he sun above.

PI PER HAD A NEW ENTRY in her t op-t en list of Times Piper Felt Useless.
Fight ing Shrimpzilla wit h a dagger and a pret t y voice? Not so effect ive. Then t he monst er
had sunk int o t he deep and disappeared along wit h t hree of her friends, and shed been
powerless t o help t hem.
Aft erward, Annabet h, Coach Hedge, and Buford t he t able rushed around repairing t hings so
t hat t he ship wouldnt sink. Percy, despit e being exhaust ed, searched t he ocean for t heir
missing friends. Jason, also exhaust ed, flew around t he rigging like a blond Pet er Pan, put t ing
out fires from t he second green explosion t hat had lit up t he sky just above t he mainmast .
As for Piper, all she could do was st are at her knife Kat opt ris, t rying t o locat e Leo, Hazel, and
Frank. The only images t hat came t o her were ones she didnt want t o see: t hree black SUVs
driving nort h from Charlest on, packed wit h Roman demigods, Reyna sit t ing at t he wheel of t he
lead car. Giant eagles escort ed t hem from above. Every so oft en, glowing purple spirit s in
ghost ly chariot s appeared out of t he count ryside and fell in behind t hem, t hundering up I-95
t oward New York and Camp Half-Blood.
Piper concent rat ed harder. She saw t he night marish images she had seen before: t he
human-headed bull rising from t he wat er, t hen t he dark well-shaped room filling wit h black
wat er as Jason, Percy, and she st ruggled t o st ay afloat .
She sheat hed Kat opt ris, wondering how Helen of Troy had st ayed sane during t he Trojan
War, if t his blade had been her only source of news. Then she remembered t hat everyone
around Helen had been slaught ered by t he invading Greek army. Maybe she hadnt st ayed
By t he t ime t he sun rose, none of t hem had slept . Percy had scoured t he seafloor and found
not hing. The Argo II was no longer in danger of sinking, t hough wit hout Leo, t hey couldnt do
full repairs. The ship was capable of sailing, but no one suggest ed leaving t he areanot
wit hout t heir missing friends.
Piper and Annabet h sent a dream vision t o Camp Half-Blood, warning Chiron of what had
happened wit h t he Romans at Fort Sumt er. Annabet h explained her exchange of words wit h
Reyna. Piper relayed t he vision from her knife about t he SUVs racing nort h. The kindly
cent aurs face seemed t o age t hirt y years during t he course of t heir conversat ion, but he
assured t hem he would see t o t he defenses of t he camp. Tyson, Mrs. OLeary, and Ella had
arrived safely. If necessary, Tyson could summon an army of Cyclopes t o t he camps defense,
and Ella and Rachel Dare were already comparing prophecies, t rying t o learn more about what
t he fut ure held. The job of t he seven demigods aboard t he Argo II, Chiron reminded t hem, was
t o finish t he quest and come back safely.
Aft er t he Iris-message, t he demigods paced t he deck in silence, st aring at t he wat er and
hoping for a miracle.
When it finally camet hree giant pink bubbles burst ing at t he surface off t he st arboard bow
and eject ing Frank, Hazel, and LeoPiper went a lit t le crazy. She cried out wit h relief and dove
st raight int o t he wat er.
What was she t hinking? She didnt t ake a rope or a life vest or anyt hing. But at t he moment ,
she was just so happy t hat she paddled over t o Leo and kissed him on t he cheek, which kind of
surprised him.
Miss me? Leo laughed.
Piper was suddenly furious. Where were you? How are you guys alive?
Long st ory, he said. A picnic basket bobbed t o t he surface next t o him. Want a brownie?
Once t hey got on board and changed int o dry clot hes (poor Frank had t o borrow a pair of
t oo-small pant s from Jason) t he crew all gat hered on t he quart erdeck for a celebrat ory
breakfast except for Coach Hedge, who grumbled t hat t he at mosphere was get t ing t oo
cuddly for his t ast es and went below t o hammer out some dent s in t he hull. While Leo fussed
over his helm cont rols, Hazel and Frank relat ed t he st ory of t he fish-cent aurs and t heir t raining
Incredible, Jason said. These are really good brownies.
That s your only comment ? Piper demanded.
He looked surprised. What ? I heard t he st ory. Fish-cent aurs. Merpeople. Let t er of int ro t o
t he Tiber River god. Got it . But t hese brownies
I know, Frank said, his mout h full. Try t hem wit h Est hers peach preserves.
That , Hazel said, is incredibly disgust ing.
Pass me t he jar, man, Jason said.
Hazel and Piper exchanged a look of t ot al exasperat ion. Boys.
Percy, for his part , want ed t o hear every det ail about t he aquat ic camp. He kept coming back
t o one point : They didnt want t o meet me?
It wasnt t hat , Hazel said. Just undersea polit ics, I guess. The merpeople are t errit orial.
The good news is t heyre t aking care of t hat aquarium in At lant a. And t heyll help prot ect t he
Argo II as we cross t he At lant ic.
Percy nodded absent ly. But t hey didnt want t o meet me?
Annabet h swat t ed his arm. Come on, Seaweed Brain! Weve got ot her t hings t o worry
about .
Shes right , Hazel said. Aft er t oday, Nico has less t han t wo days. The fish-cent aurs said
we have t o rescue him. Hes essent ial t o t he quest somehow.
She looked around defensively, as if wait ing for someone t o argue. No one did. Piper t ried t o
imagine what Nico di Angelo was feeling, st uck in a jar wit h only t wo pomegranat e seeds left t o
sust ain him, and no idea whet her he would be rescued. It made Piper anxious t o reach Rome,
even t hough she had a horrible feeling she was sailing t oward her own sort of prisona dark
room filled wit h wat er.
Nico must have informat ion about t he Doors of Deat h, Piper said. Well save him, Hazel.
We can make it in t ime. Right , Leo?
What ? Leo t ore his eyes away from t he cont rols. Oh, yeah. We should reach t he
Medit erranean t omorrow morning. Then spend t he rest of t hat day sailing t o Rome, or flying, if I
can get t he st abilizer fixed by t hen.
Jason suddenly looked as t hough his brownie wit h peach preserves didnt t ast e so good.
Which will put us in Rome on t he last possible day for Nico. Twent y-four hours t o find himat
most .
Percy crossed his legs. And t hat s only part of t he problem. Theres t he Mark of At hena,
t oo.
Annabet h didnt seem happy wit h t he change of t opic. She rest ed her hand on her
backpack, which, since t heyd left Charlest on, she always seemed t o have wit h her.
She opened t he bag and brought out a t hin bronze disk t he diamet er of a donut . This is t he
map t hat I found at Fort Sumt er. It s
She st opped abrupt ly, st aring at t he smoot h bronze surface. It s blank!
Percy t ook it and examined bot h sides. It wasnt like t his earlier?
No! I was looking at it in my cabin and Annabet h mut t ered under her breat h. It must be
like t he Mark of At hena. I can only see it when Im alone. It wont show it self t o ot her demigods.
Frank scoot ed back like t he disk might explode. He had an orange-juice must ache and a
brownie-crumb beard t hat made Piper want t o hand him a napkin.
What did it have on it ? Frank asked nervously. And what i s t he Mark of At hena? I st ill
dont get it .
Annabet h t ook t he disk from Percy. She t urned it in t he sunlight , but it remained blank. The
map was hard t o read, but it showed a spot on t he Tiber River in Rome. I t hink t hat s where my
quest st art st he pat h Ive got t o t ake t o follow t he Mark.
Maybe t hat s where you meet t he river god Tiberinus, Piper said. But what is t he Mark?
The coin, Annabet h murmured.
Percy frowned. What coin?
Annabet h dug int o her pocket and brought out a silver drachma. Ive been carrying t his ever
since I saw my mom at Grand Cent ral. It s an At henian coin.
She passed it around. While each demigod looked at it , Piper had a ridiculous memory of
show-and-t ell in element ary school.
An owl, Leo not ed. Well, t hat makes sense. I guess t he branch is an olive branch? But
what s t his inscript ion, Area Of Effect ?
It s alpha, t het a, epsilon, Annabet h said. In Greek it st ands for Of The Atheniansor you
could read it as the children of Athena. It s sort of t he At henian mot t o.
Like SPQR for t he Romans, Piper guessed.
Annabet h nodded. Anyway, t he Mark of At hena is an owl, just like t hat one. It appears in
fiery red. Ive seen it in my dreams. Then t wice at Fort Sumt er.
She described what had happened at t he fort t he voice of Gaea, t he spiders in t he
garrison, t he Mark burning t hem away. Piper could t ell it wasnt easy for her t o t alk about .
Percy t ook Annabet hs hand. I should have been t here for you.
But t hat s t he point , Annabet h said. No one can be t here for me. When I get t o Rome, Ill
have t o st rike out on my own. Ot herwise, t he Mark wont appear. Ill have t o follow it t ot o t he
Frank t ook t he coin from Leo. He st ared at t he owl. The giants bane stands gold and pale,
Won with pain from a woven jail. He looked up at Annabet h. What is it t his t hing at t he
Before Annabet h could answer, Jason spoke up.
A st at ue, he said. A st at ue of At hena. At least t hat s my guess.
Piper frowned. You said you didnt know.
I dont. But t he more I t hink about it t heres only one art ifact t hat could fit t he legend. He
t urned t o Annabet h. Im sorry. I should have t old you everyt hing Ive heard, much earlier. But
honest ly, I was scared. If t his legend is t rue
I know, Annabet h said. I figured it out , Jason. I dont blame you. But if we manage t o save
t he st at ue, Greek and Romans t oget herDont you see? It could heal t he rift .
Hold on. Percy made a time-out gest ure. What statue?
Annabet h t ook back t he silver coin and slipped it int o her pocket . The At hena Part henos,
she said. The most famous Greek st at ue of all t ime. It was fort y feet t all, covered in ivory and
gold. It st ood in t he middle of t he Part henon in At hens.
The ship went silent , except for t he waves lapping against t he hull.
Okay, Ill bit e, Leo said at last . What happened t o it ?
It disappeared, Annabet h said.
Leo frowned. How does a fort y-foot -t all st at ue in t he middle of t he Part henon just
That s a good quest ion, Annabet h said. It s one of t he biggest myst eries in hist ory. Some
people t hought t he st at ue was melt ed down for it s gold, or dest royed by invaders. At hens was
sacked a number of t imes. Some t hought t he st at ue was carried off
By Romans, Jason finished. At least , t hat s one t heory, and it fit s t he legend I heard at
Camp Jupit er. To break t he Greeks spirit , t he Romans cart ed off t he At hena Part henos when
t hey t ook over t he cit y of At hens. They hid it in an underground shrine in Rome. The Roman
demigods swore it would never see t he light of day. They lit erally stole At hena, so she could no
longer be t he symbol of Greek milit ary power. She became Minerva, a much t amer goddess.
And t he children of At hena have been searching for t he st at ue ever since, Annabet h said.
Most dont know about t he legend, but in each generat ion, a few are chosen by t he goddess.
Theyre given a coin like mine. They follow t he Mark of At henaa kind of magical t rail t hat links
t hem t o t he st at uehoping t o find t he rest ing place of t he At hena Part henos and get t he
st at ue back.
Piper wat ched t he t wo of t hemAnnabet h and Jasonwit h quiet amazement . They spoke
like a t eam, wit hout any host ilit y or blame. The t wo of t hem had never really t rust ed each
ot her. Piper was close enough t o bot h of t hem t o know t hat . But nowif t hey could discuss
such a huge problem so calmlyt he ult imat e source of Greek/Roman hat redmaybe t here
was hope for t he t wo camps, aft er all.
Percy seemed be having similar t hought s, judging from his surprised expression. So if weI
mean youfind t he st at uewhat would we do wit h it ? Could we even move it ?
Im not sure, Annabet h admit t ed. But if we could save it somehow, it could unit e t he t wo
camps. It could heal my mot her of t his hat red shes got , t earing her t wo aspect s apart . And
maybemaybe t he st at ue has some sort of power t hat could help us against t he giant s.
Piper st ared at Annabet h wit h awe, just st art ing t o appreciat e t he huge responsibilit y her
friend had t aken on. And Annabet h meant t o do it alone.
This could change everyt hing, Piper said. It could end t housands of years of host ilit y. It
might be t he key t o defeat ing Gaea. But if we cant help you
She didnt finish, but t he quest ion seemed t o hang in t he air: Was saving the statue even
Annabet h squared her shoulders. Piper knew she must be t errified inside, but she did a good
job hiding it .
I have t o succeed, Annabet h said simply. The risk is wort h it .
Hazel t wirled her hair pensively. I dont like t he idea of you risking your life alone, but youre
right . We saw what recovering t he golden eagle st andard did for t he Roman legion. If t his
st at ue is t he most powerful symbol of At hena ever creat ed
It could kick some serious boot y, Leo offered.
Hazel frowned. That wasnt t he way Id put it , but yes.
Except Percy t ook Annabet hs hand again. No child of At hena has ever found it .
Annabet h, what s down t here? What s guarding it ? If it s got t o do wit h spiders?
Won through pain from a woven jail, Frank recalled. Woven, like webs?
Annabet hs face t urned as whit e as print er paper. Piper suspect ed t hat Annabet h knew
what await ed heror at least t hat she had a very good idea. She was t rying t o hold down a
wave of panic and t error.
Well deal wit h t hat when we get t o Rome, Piper suggest ed, put t ing a lit t le charmspeak in
her voice t o soot he her friends nerves. It s going t o work out . Annabet h is going t o kick some
serious boot y, t oo. Youll see.
Yeah, Percy said. I learned a long t ime ago: Never bet against Annabet h.
Annabet h looked at t hem bot h grat efully.
Judging from t heir half-eat en breakfast s, t he ot hers st ill felt uneasy; but Leo managed t o
shake t hem out of it . He pushed a but t on, and a loud blast of st eam exploded from Fest uss
mout h, making everyone jump.
Well! he said. Good pep rally, but t heres st ill a t on of t hings t o fix on t his ship before we
get t o t he Medit erranean. Please report t o Supreme Commander Leo for your superfun list of

Piper and Jason t ook charge of cleaning t he lower deck, which had been t hrown int o chaos
during t he monst er at t ack. Reorganizing sickbay and bat t ening down t he st orage area t ook
t hem most of t he day, but Piper didnt mind. For one t hing, she got t o spend t ime wit h Jason.
For anot her, last night s explosions had given Piper a healt hy respect for Greek fire. She didnt
want any loose vials of t hat st uff rolling t hrough t he corridors in t he middle of t he night .
As t hey were fixing up t he st ables, Piper t hought about t he night Annabet h and Percy had
spent down here accident ally. Piper wished t hat she could t alk wit h Jason all night just curl
up on t he st able floor and enjoy being wit h him. Why didnt they get t o break t he rules?
But Jason wasnt like t hat . He was hardwired t o be a leader and set a good example.
Breaking t he rules didnt come nat urally t o him.
No doubt Reyna admired t hat about him. Piper did t oomost ly.
The one t ime shed convinced him t o be a rebel was back at t he Wilderness School, when
t hey had sneaked ont o t he roof at night t o wat ch a met eor shower. That s where t heyd had
t heir first kiss.
Unfort unat ely, t hat memory was a t rick of t he Mist , a magical lie implant ed in her head by
Hera. Piper and Jason were t oget her now, in real life, but t heir relat ionship had been founded
on an illusion. If Piper t ried t o get t he real Jason t o sneak out at night , would he do it ?
She swept t he hay int o piles. Jason fixed a broken door on one of t he st ables. The glass
floor hat ch glowed from t he ocean belowa green expanse of light and shadow t hat seemed
t o go down forever. Piper kept glancing over, afraid shed see a monst ers face peeping in, or
t he wat er cannibals from her grandfat hers old st ories; but all she saw was an occasional
school of herring.
As she wat ched Jason work, she admired how easily he did each t ask, whet her it was fixing
a door or oiling saddles. It wasnt just his st rong arms and his skillful hands, t hough Piper liked
t hose just fine, but t he way he act ed so upbeat and confident . He did what needed t o be done
wit hout complaint . He kept his sense of humor, despit e t he fact t hat t he guy had t o be dead
on his feet aft er not having slept t he night before. Piper couldnt blame Reyna for having a
crush on him. When it came t o work and dut y, Jason was Roman t o t he core.
Piper t hought about her mot hers t ea part y in Charlest on. She wondered what t he goddess
had t old Reyna a year ago, and why it had changed t he way Reyna t reat ed Jason. Had
Aphrodit e encouraged or discouraged her t o like Jason?
Piper wasnt sure, but she wished her mom hadnt appeared in Charlest on. Regular mot hers
were embarrassing enough. Godly glamour moms who invit ed your friends over for t ea and guy
t alkt hat was just mort ifying.
Aphrodit e had paid so much at t ent ion t o Annabet h and Hazel, it had made Piper uneasy.
When her mom got int erest ed in somebodys love life, usually t hat was a bad sign. It meant
t rouble was coming. Or as Aphrodit e would say, twists and turns.
But also, Piper was secret ly hurt not t o have her mot her t o herself. Aphrodit e had barely
looked at her. She hadnt said a word about Jason. She hadnt bot hered explaining her
conversat ion wit h Reyna at all.
It was almost as if Aphrodit e no longer found Piper int erest ing. Piper had got t en her guy.
Now it was up t o her t o make t hings work, and Aphrodit e had moved on t o newer gossip as
easily as she might t oss out an old copy of a t abloid magazine.
All of you are such excellent stories, Aphrodit e had said. I mean, girls.
Piper hadnt appreciat ed t hat , but part of her had t hought : Fine. I dont want to be a story. I
want a nice steady life with a nice steady boyfriend.
If only she knew more about making relat ionships work. She was supposed t o be an expert ,
being t he head counselor for Aphrodit e cabin. Ot her campers at Camp Half-Blood came t o her
for advice all t he t ime. Piper had t ried t o do her best , but wit h her own boyfriend, she was
clueless. She was const ant ly second-guessing herself, reading t oo much int o Jasons
expressions, his moods, his offhand comment s. Why did it have t o be so hard? Why couldnt
t here be a happily-ever-aft er ride-int o-t he-sunset feeling all t he t ime?
What are you t hinking? Jason asked.
Piper realized shed been making a sour face. In t he reflect ion of t he glass bay doors, she
looked like shed swallowed a t easpoon of salt .
Not hing, she said. I meana lot of t hings. Kind of all at once.
Jason laughed. The scar on his lip almost disappeared when he smiled. Considering all t he
st uff hed been t hrough, it was amazing t hat he could be in such a good mood.
It s going t o work out , he promised. You said so yourself.
Yeah, Piper agreed. Except I was just saying t hat t o make Annabet h feel bet t er.
Jason shrugged. St ill, it s t rue. Were almost t o t he ancient lands. Weve left t he Romans
And now t heyre on t heir way t o Camp Half-Blood t o at t ack our friends.
Jason hesit at ed, as if it was hard for him t o put a posit ive spin on t hat . Chiron will find a way
t o st all t hem. The Romans might t ake weeks t o act ually find t he camp and plan t heir at t ack.
Besides, Reyna will do what she can t o slow t hings down. Shes st ill on our side. I know she is.
You t rust her. Pipers voice sounded hollow, even t o herself.
Look, Pipes. I t old you, youve got not hing t o be jealous about .
Shes beaut iful. Shes powerful. Shes soRoman.
Jason put down his hammer. He t ook her hand, which sent a t ingle up her arm. Pipers dad
had once t aken her t o t he Aquarium of t he Pacific and shown her an elect ric eel. He t old her
t hat t he eel sent out pulses t hat shocked and paralyzed it s prey. Every t ime Jason looked at
her or t ouched her hand, Piper felt like t hat .
Youre beaut iful and powerful, he said. And I dont want you t o be Roman. I want you t o be
Piper. Besides, were a t eam, you and me.
She want ed t o believe him. Theyd been t oget her, really, for mont hs now. St ill, she couldnt
get rid of her doubt s, any more t han Jason could get rid of t he SPQR t at t oo burned on his
Above t hem, t he ships bell rang for dinner.
Jason smirked. Wed bet t er get up t here. We dont want Coach Hedge t ying bells around
our necks.
Piper shuddered. Coach Hedge had t hreat ened t o do t hat aft er t he Percy/Annabet h
scandal, so hed know if anyone sneaked out at night .
Yeah, she said regret fully, looking at t he glass doors below t heir feet . I guess we need
dinnerand a good night s sleep.

THE NEXT MORNI NG PI PER WOKE t o a different ships horna blast so loud it lit erally shook her out of bed.
She wondered if Leo was pulling anot her joke. Then t he horn boomed again. It sounded like it
was coming from several hundred yards awayfrom anot her vessel.
She rushed t o get dressed. By t he t ime she got up on deck, t he ot hers had already gat hered
all hast ily dressed except for Coach Hedge, who had pulled t he night wat ch.
Franks Vancouver Wint er Olympics shirt was inside out . Percy wore pajama pant s and a
bronze breast plat e, which was an int erest ing fashion st at ement . Hazels hair was all blown t o
one side, as t hough shed walked t hrough a cyclone; and Leo had accident ally set himself on
fire. His T-shirt was in charred t at t ers. His arms were smoking.
About a hundred yards t o port , a massive cruise ship glided past . Tourist s waved at t hem
from fift een or sixt een rows of balconies. Some smiled and t ook pict ures. None of t hem looked
surprised t o see an Ancient Greek t rireme. Maybe t he Mist made it look like a fishing boat , or
perhaps t he cruisers t hought t he Argo II was a t ourist at t ract ion.
The cruise ship blew it s horn again, and t he Argo II had a shaking fit .
Coach Hedge plugged his ears. Do t hey have t o be so loud?
Theyre just saying hi, Frank speculat ed.
WHAT? Hedge yelled back.
The ship edged past t hem, heading out t o sea. The t ourist s kept waving. If t hey found it
st range t hat t he Argo II was populat ed by half-asleep kids in armor and pajamas and a man
wit h goat legs, t hey didnt let on.
Bye! Leo called, raising his smoking hand.
Can I man t he ballist ae? Hedge asked.
No, Leo said t hrough a forced smile.
Hazel rubbed her eyes and looked across t he glit t ering green wat er. Where areoh
Piper followed her gaze and gasped. Wit hout t he cruise ship blocking t heir view, she saw a
mount ain jut t ing from t he sea less t han half a mile t o t he nort h. Piper had seen impressive cliffs
before. Shed driven Highway 1 along t he California coast . Shed even fallen down t he Grand
Canyon wit h Jason and flown back up. But neit her was as amazing as t his massive fist of
blinding whit e rock t hrust int o t he sky. On one side, t he limest one cliffs were almost complet ely
sheer, dropping int o t he sea over a t housand feet below, as near as Piper could figure. On t he
ot her side, t he mount ain sloped in t iers, covered in green forest , so t hat t he whole t hing
reminded Piper of a colossal sphinx, worn down over t he millennia, wit h a massive whit e head
and chest , and a green cloak over it s back.
The Rock of Gibralt ar, Annabet h said in awe. At t he t ip of Spain. And over t here She
point ed sout h, t o a more dist ant st ret ch of red and ochre hills. That must be Africa. Were at
t he mout h of t he Medit erranean.
The morning was warm, but Piper shivered. Despit e t he wide st ret ch of sea in front of t hem,
she felt like she was st anding at an impassable barrier. Once in t he Medit erraneant he Mare
Nost rumt hey would be in t he ancient lands. If t he legends were t rue, t heir quest would
become t en t imes more dangerous.
What now? she asked. Do we just sail in?
Why not ? Leo said. It s a big shipping channel. Boat s go in and out all t he t ime.
Not t riremes full of demigods, Piper t hought .
Annabet h gazed at t he Rock of Gibralt ar. Piper recognized t hat brooding expression on her
friends face. It almost always meant t hat she ant icipat ed t rouble.
In t he old days, Annabet h said, t hey called t his area t he pillars of Hercules. The Rock was
supposed t o be one pillar. The ot her was one of t he African mount ains. Nobody is sure which
Hercules, huh? Percy frowned. That guy was like t he St arbucks of Ancient Greece.
Everywhere you t urnt here he is.
A t hunderous boom shook t he Argo II, t hough Piper wasnt sure where it came from t his
t ime. She didnt see any ot her ships, and t he skies were clear.
Her mout h suddenly felt dry. Sot hese Pillars of Hercules. Are t hey dangerous?
Annabet h st ayed focused on t he whit e cliffs, as if wait ing for t he Mark of At hena t o blaze t o
life. For Greeks, t he pillars marked t he end of t he known world. The Romans said t he pillars
were inscribed wit h a Lat in warning
Non plus ultra, Percy said.
Annabet h looked st unned. Yeah. Nothing Further Beyond. How did you know?
Percy point ed. Because Im looking at it .
Direct ly ahead of t hem, in t he middle of t he st rait s, an island had shimmered int o exist ence.
Piper was posit ive no island had been t here before. It was a small hilly mass of land, covered in
forest s and ringed wit h whit e beaches. Not very impressive compared t o Gibralt ar, but in front
of t he island, jut t ing from waves about a hundred yards offshore, were t wo whit e Grecian
columns as t all as t he Argos mast s. Bet ween t he columns, huge silver words glit t ered
underwat ermaybe an illusion, or maybe inlaid in t he sand: NON PLUS ULTRA.
Guys, do I t urn around? Leo asked nervously. Or
No one answeredmaybe because, like Piper, t hey had not iced t he figure st anding on t he
beach. As t he ship approached t he columns, she saw a dark-haired man in purple robes, his
arms crossed, st aring int ent ly at t heir ship as if he were expect ing t hem. Piper couldnt t ell
much else about him from t his dist ance, but judging from his post ure, he wasnt happy.
Frank inhaled sharply. Could t hat be?
Hercules, Jason said. The most powerful demigod of all t ime.
The Argo II was only a few hundred yards from t he columns now.
Need an answer, Leo said urgent ly. I can t urn, or we can t ake off. The st abilizers are
working again. But I need t o know quick
We have t o keep going, Annabet h said. I t hink hes guarding t hese st rait s. If t hat s really
Hercules, sailing or flying away wouldnt do any good. Hell want t o t alk t o us.
Piper resist ed t he urge t o use charmspeak. She want ed t o yell at Leo: Fly! Get us out of here!
Unfort unat ely, she had a feeling t hat Annabet h was right . If t hey want ed t o pass int o t he
Medit erranean, t hey couldnt avoid t his meet ing.
Wont Hercules be on our side? she asked hopefully. I meanhes one of us, right ?
Jason grunt ed. He was a son of Zeus, but when he died, he became a god. You can never
be sure wit h gods.
Piper remembered t heir meet ing wit h Bacchus in Kansasanot her god who used t o be a
demigod. He hadnt been exact ly helpful.
Great , Percy said. Seven of us against Hercules.
And a sat yr! Hedge added. We can t ake him.
Ive got a bet t er idea, Annabet h said. We send ambassadors ashore. A small groupone
or t wo at most . Try t o t alk wit h him.
Ill go, Jason said. Hes a son of Zeus. Im t he son of Jupit er. Maybe hell be friendly t o me.
Or maybe hell hat e you, Percy suggest ed. Half brot hers dont always get along.
Jason scowled. Thank you, Mr. Opt imism.
It s wort h a shot , Annabet h said. At least Jason and Hercules have somet hing in common.
And we need our best diplomat . Somebody whos good wit h words.
All eyes t urned t o Piper.
She t ried t o avoid screaming and jumping over t he side. A bad premonit ion gnawed at her
gut . But if Jason was going ashore, she want ed t o be wit h him. Maybe t his hugely powerful god
would t urn out t o be helpful. They had t o have good luck once in a while, didnt t hey?
Fine, she said. Just let me change my clot hes.

Once Leo had anchored t he Argo II bet ween t he pillars, Jason summoned t he wind t o carry him
and Piper ashore.
The man in purple was wait ing for t hem.
Piper had heard t ons of st ories about Hercules. Shed seen several cheesy movies and
cart oons. Before t oday, if she had t hought about him at all, shed just roll her eyes and imagine
some st upid hairy dude in his t hirt ies wit h a barrel chest and a gross hippie beard, wit h a lion
skin over his head and a big club, like a caveman. She imagined he would smell bad, belch, and
scrat ch himself a lot , and speak most ly in grunt s.
She was not expect ing this.
His feet were bare, covered in whit e sand. His robes made him look like a priest , t hough Piper
couldnt remember which rank of priest wore purple. Was t hat cardinals? Bishops? And did t he
purple color mean he was t he Roman version of Hercules rat her t han t he Greek? His beard
was fashionably scruffy, like Pipers dad and his act or friends wore t heirst he sort of I just
happened not to shave for two days and I still look awesome look.
He was well built , but not t oo st ocky. His ebony hair was close-cropped, Roman st yle. He had
st art ling blue eyes like Jasons, but his skin was coppery, as if hed spent his ent ire life on a
t anning bed. The most surprising t hing: he looked about t went y. Definit ely no older. He was
handsome in a rugged but not -at -all-caveman way.
He did in fact have a club, which lay in t he sand next t o him, but it was more like an oversized
baseball bat a five-foot -long polished cylinder of mahogany wit h a leat her handgrip st udded
in bronze. Coach Hedge would have been jealous.
Jason and Piper landed at t he edge of t he surf. They approached slowly, careful not t o make
any t hreat ening moves. Hercules wat ched t hem wit h no part icular emot ion, as if t hey were
some form of seabird he had never not iced before.
Hello, Piper said. Always a good st art .
What s up? Hercules said. His voice was deep but casual, very modern. He couldve been
greet ing t hem in t he high school locker room.
Uh, not much. Piper winced. Well, act ually, a lot . Im Piper. This is Jason. We
Wheres your lion skin? Jason int errupt ed.
Piper want ed t o elbow him, but Hercules looked more amused t han annoyed.
It s ninet y degrees out here, he said. Why would I wear my lion skin? Do you wear a fur
coat t o t he beach?
I guess t hat makes sense. Jason sounded disappoint ed. It s just t hat t he pict ures always
show you wit h a lion skin.
Hercules glared at t he sky accusingly, like he want ed t o have words wit h his fat her, Zeus.
Dont believe everyt hing you hear about me. Being famous isnt as fun as you might t hink.
Tell me about it , Piper sighed.
Hercules fixed t hose brilliant blue eyes on her. Are you famous?
My dadhes in t he movies.
Hercules snarled. Dont get me st art ed wit h t he movies. Gods of Olympus, t hey never get
anything right . Have you seen one movie about me where I look like me?
Piper had t o admit he had a point . Im surprised youre so young.
Ha! Being immort al helps. But , yes, I wasnt so old when I died. Not by modern st andards. I
did a lot during my years as a herot oo much, really. His eyes drift ed t o Jason. Son of Zeus,
Jupit er, Jason said.
Not much difference, Hercules grumbled. Dads annoying in eit her form. Me? I was called
Heracles. Then t he Romans came along and named me Hercules. I didnt really change t hat
much, t hough lat ely just t hinking about it gives me split t ing headaches
The left side of his face t wit ched. His robes shimmered, moment arily t urning whit e, t hen back
t o purple.
At any rat e, Hercules said, if youre Jupit ers son, you might underst and. It s a lot of
pressure. Enough is never enough. Event ually it can make a guy snap.
He t urned t o Piper. She felt like a t housand ant s were crawling up her back. There was a
mixt ure of sadness and darkness in his eyes t hat seemed not quit e sane, and definit ely not
As for you, my dear, Hercules said, be careful. Sons of Zeus can bewell, never mind.
Piper wasnt sure what t hat meant . Suddenly she want ed t o get as far from t his god as
possible, but she t ried t o maint ain a calm, polit e expression.
So, Lord Hercules, she said, were on a quest . Wed like permission t o pass int o t he
Medit erranean.
Hercules shrugged. That s why Im here. Aft er I died, Dad made me t he doorkeeper of
Olympus. I said, Great! Palace duty! Party all the time! What he didnt ment ion is t hat Id be
guarding t he doors t o t he ancient lands, st uck on t his island for t he rest of et ernit y. Lot s of
He point ed at t he pillars rising from t he surf. St upid columns. Some people claim I creat ed
t he whole St rait of Gibralt ar by shoving mount ains apart . Some people say t he mount ains are
t he pillars. What a bunch of Augean manure. The pillars are pillars.
Right , Piper said. Nat urally. Socan we pass?
The god scrat ched his fashionable beard. Well, I have t o give you t he st andard warning
about how dangerous t he ancient lands are. Not just any demigod can survive t he Mare
Nost rum. Because of t hat , I have t o give you a quest t o complet e. Prove your wort h, blah, blah,
blah. Honest ly, I dont make a big deal of it . Usually I give demigods somet hing simple like a
shopping t rip, singing a funny song, t hat sort of t hing. Aft er all t hose labors I had t o complet e
for my evil cousin Euryst heus, wellI dont want t o be that guy, you know?
Appreciat e it , Jason said.
Hey, no problem. Hercules sounded relaxed and easygoing, but he st ill made Piper nervous.
That dark glint in his eyes reminded her of charcoal soaked in kerosene, ready t o go up at a
moment s not ice.
So anyway, Hercules said, what s your quest ?
Giant s, Jason said. Were off t o Greece t o st op t hem from awakening Gaea.
Giant s, Hercules mut t ered. I hat e t hose guys. Back when I was a demigod heroah, but
never mind. So which god put you up t o t hisDad? At hena? Maybe Aphrodit e? He raised an
eyebrow at Piper. As pret t y as you are, Im guessing t hat s your mom.
Piper shouldve been t hinking fast er, but Hercules had unset t led her. Too lat e, she realized
t he conversat ion had become a minefield.
Hera sent us, Jason said. She brought us t oget her t o
Hera. Suddenly Herculess expression was like t he cliffs of Gibralt ara solid, unforgiving
sheet of st one.
We hat e her t oo, Piper said quickly. Gods, why hadnt it occurred t o her? Hera had been
Herculess mort al enemy. We didnt want t o help her. She didnt give us much choice, but
But here you are, Hercules said, all friendliness gone. Sorry, you t wo. I dont care how
wort hy your quest is. I dont do anything t hat Hera want s. Ever.
Jason looked myst ified. But I t hought you made up wit h her when you became a god.
Like I said, Hercules grumbled, dont believe everyt hing you hear. If you want t o pass int o
t he Medit erranean, Im afraid Ive got t o give you an ext ra-hard quest .
But were like brot hers, Jason prot est ed. Heras messed wit h my life, t oo. I underst and
You underst and not hing, Hercules said coldly. My first family: dead. My life wast ed on
ridiculous quest s. My second wife dead, aft er being t ricked int o poisoning me and leaving me t o
a painful demise. And my compensat ion? I got t o become a minor god. Immort al, so I can never
forget my pain. St uck here as a gat ekeeper, a doorman, aa but ler for t he Olympians. No, you
dont underst and. The only god who underst ands me even a lit t le bit is Dionysus. And at least
he invent ed somet hing useful. I have not hing t o show except bad film adapt at ions of my life.
Piper t urned on t he charmspeak. That s horribly sad, Lord Hercules. But please go easy on
us. Were not bad people.
She t hought shed succeeded. Hercules hesit at ed. Then his jaw t ight ened, and he shook his
head. On t he opposit e side of t his island, over t hose hills, youll find a river. In t he middle of t hat
river lives t he old god Achelous.
Hercules wait ed, as if t his informat ion should send t hem running in t error.
And ? Jason asked.
And, Hercules said, I want you t o break off his ot her horn and bring it t o me.
He has horns, Jason said. Wait his other horn? What ?
Figure it out , t he god snapped. Here, t his should help.
He said t he word help like it meant hurt. From under his robes, Hercules t ook a small book
and t ossed it t o Piper. She barely caught it .
The books glossy cover showed a phot ographic mont age of Greek t emples and smiling
monst ers. The Minot aur was giving t he t humbs-up. The t it le read: The Hercules Guide to the
Mare Nostrum.
Bring me t hat horn by sundown, Hercules said. Just t he t wo of you. No cont act ing your
friends. Your ship will remain where it is. If you succeed, you may pass int o t he Medit erranean.
And if we dont ? Piper asked, pret t y sure she didnt want t he answer.
Well, Achelous will kill you, obviously, Hercules said. And I will break your ship in half wit h
my bare hands and send your friends t o an early grave.
Jason shift ed his feet . Couldnt we just sing a funny song?
Id get going, Hercules said coldly. Sundown. Or your friends are dead.

THE HERCULES GUIDE TO THE MARE NOSTRUM didnt help much wit h snakes and mosquit oes.
If t his is a magic island, Piper grumbled, why couldnt it be a nice magic island?
They t romped up a hill and down int o a heavily wooded valley, careful t o avoid t he black-
and-red-st riped snakes sunning t hemselves on t he rocks. Mosquit oes swarmed over st agnant
ponds in t he lowest areas. The t rees were most ly st unt ed olives, cypress, and pines. The
chirring of t he cicadas and t he oppressive heat reminded Piper of t he rez in Oklahoma during
t he summer.
So far t hey hadnt found any river.
We could fly, Jason suggest ed again.
We might miss somet hing, Piper said. Besides, Im not sure I want t o drop in on an
unfriendly god. What was his name? Et ch-a-Sket ch?
Achelous. Jason was t rying t o read t he guidebook while t hey walked, so he kept running
int o t rees and st umbling over rocks. Says here hes a potamus.
Hes a hippopot amus?
No. Potamus. A river god. According t o t his, hes t he spirit of some river in Greece.
Since were not in Greece, let s assume hes moved, Piper said. Doesnt bode well for how
useful t hat book is going t o be. Anyt hing else?
Says Hercules fought him one t ime, Jason offered.
Hercules fought ninet y-nine percent of everyt hing in Ancient Greece.
Yeah. Let s see. Pillars of Hercules Jason flipped a page. Says here t his island has no
hot els, no rest aurant s, no t ransport at ion. At t ract ions: Hercules and t wo pillars. Huh, t his is
int erest ing. Supposedly t he dollar signyou know, t he S wit h t he t wo lines t hrough it ?t hat
came from t he Spanish coat of arms, which showed t he Pillars of Hercules wit h a banner
curling bet ween t hem.
Great , Piper t hought . Jason finally get s along wit h Annabet h, and her brainiac t endencies
st art rubbing off on him.
Anyt hing helpful? she asked.
Wait . Heres a t iny reference t o Achelous: This river god fought Hercules for the hand of the
beautiful Deianira. During the struggle, Hercules broke off one of the river gods horns, which
became the first cornucopia.
Corn of what ?
It s t hat Thanksgiving decorat ion, Jason said. The horn wit h all t he goodies spilling out ?
We have some in t he mess hall at Camp Jupit er. I didnt know t he original one was act ually
some guys horn.
And were supposed t o t ake his ot her one, Piper said. Im guessing t hat wont be so easy.
Who was Deianira?
Hercules married her, Jason said. I t hinkdoesnt say here. But I t hink somet hing bad
happened t o her.
Piper remembered what Hercules had t old t hem: his first family dead, his second wife dead
aft er being t ricked int o poisoning him. She was liking t his challenge less and less.
They t rudged across a ridge bet ween t wo hills, t rying t o st ay in t he shade; but Piper was
already soaked wit h perspirat ion. The mosquit oes left welt s on her ankles, arms, and neck, so
she probably looked like a smallpox vict im.
Shed finally got t en some alone t ime wit h Jason, and this was how t hey spent it .
She was irrit at ed wit h Jason for having ment ioned Hera, but she knew she shouldnt blame
him. Maybe she was just irrit at ed wit h him in general. Ever since Camp Jupit er, shed been
carrying around a lot of worry and resent ment .
She wondered what Hercules had want ed t o t ell her about t he sons of Zeus. They couldnt
be t rust ed? They were under t oo much pressure? Piper t ried t o imagine Jason becoming a god
when he died, st anding on some beach guarding t he gat es t o an ocean long aft er Piper and
everyone else he knew in his mort al life were dead.
She wondered if Hercules had ever been as posit ive as Jasonmore upbeat , confident ,
quick t o comfort . It was hard t o pict ure.
As t hey hiked down int o t he next valley, Piper wondered what was happening back on t he
Argo II. She was t empt ed t o send an Iris-message, but Hercules had warned t hem not t o
cont act t heir friends. She hoped Annabet h could guess what was going on and didnt t ry t o
send anot her part y ashore. Piper wasnt sure what Hercules would do if he were bot hered
furt her. She imagined Coach Hedge get t ing impat ient and aiming a ballist a at t he man in
purple, or eidolons possessing t he crew and forcing t hem t o commit suicide-by-Hercules.
Piper shuddered. She didnt know what t ime it was, but t he sun was already st art ing t o sink.
How had t he day passed so quickly? She would have welcomed sundown for t he cooler
t emperat ures, except it was also t heir deadline. A cool night breeze wouldnt mean much if
t hey were dead. Besides, t omorrow was July 1, t he Kalends of July. If t heir informat ion was
correct , it would be Nico di Angelos last day of life, and t he day Rome was dest royed.
St op, Jason said.
Piper wasnt sure what was wrong. Then she realized she could hear running wat er up
ahead. They crept t hrough t he t rees and found t hemselves on t he bank of a river. It was
maybe fort y feet wide but only a few inches deep, a silver sheet of wat er racing over a smoot h
bed of st ones. A few yards downst ream, t he rapids plunged int o a dark blue swimming hole.
Somet hing about t he river bot hered her. The cicadas in t he t rees had gone quiet . No birds
were chirping. It was as if t he wat er was giving a lect ure and would only allow it s own voice.
But t he more Piper list ened, t he more invit ing t he river seemed. She want ed t o t ake a drink.
Maybe she should t ake off her shoes. Her feet could really use a soak. And t hat swimming
holeit would be so nice t o jump in wit h Jason and relax in t he shade of t he t rees, float ing in
t he nice cool wat er. So romant ic.
Piper shook herself. These t hought s werent hers. Somet hing was wrong. It almost felt like
t he river was charmspeaking.
Jason sat on a rock and st art ed t aking off his shoes. He grinned at t he swimming hole like he
couldnt wait t o get in.
Cut it out ! Piper yelled at t he river.
Jason looked st art led. Cut what out ?
Not you, Piper said. Him.
She felt silly point ing at t he wat er, but she was cert ain it was working some sort of magic,
swaying t heir feelings.
Just when she t hought she had lost it and Jason would t ell her so, t he river spoke: Forgive
me. Singing is one of the few pleasures I have left.
A figure emerged from t he swimming hole as if rising on an elevat or.
Pipers shoulders t ensed. It was t he creat ure shed seen in her knife blade, t he bull wit h t he
human face. His skin was as blue as t he wat er. His hooves levit at ed on t he rivers surface. At
t he t op of his bovine neck was t he head of a man wit h short curly black hair, a beard done in
ringlet s Ancient Greek st yle, deep, mournful eyes behind bifocal glasses, and a mout h t hat
seemed set in a permanent pout . Sprout ing from t he left side of his head was a single bulls
horna curved black-and-whit e one like warriors might t urn int o drinking cups. The imbalance
made his head t ilt t o t he left , so t hat he looked like he was t rying t o get wat er out of his ear.
Hello, he said sadly. Come t o kill me, I suppose.
Jason put his shoes back on and st ood slowly. Um, well
No! Piper int ervened. Im sorry. This is embarrassing. We didnt want t o bot her you, but
Hercules sent us.
Hercules! The bull-man sighed. His hooves pawed t he wat er as if ready t o charge. To me,
hell always be Heracles. That s his Greek name, you know: the glory of Hera.
Funny name, Jason said. Since he hat es her.
Indeed, t he bull-man said. Perhaps t hat s why he didnt prot est when t he Romans
renamed him Hercules. Of course, t hat s t he name most people know him byhis brand, if you
will. Hercules is not hing if not image-conscious.
The bull-man spoke wit h bit t erness but familiarit y, as if Hercules was an old friend who had
lost his way.
Youre Achelous? Piper asked.
The bull-man bent his front legs and lowered his head in a bow, which Piper found bot h
sweet and a lit t le sad. At your service. River god ext raordinaire. Once t he spirit of t he
might iest river in Greece. Now sent enced t o dwell here, on t he opposit e side of t he island from
my old enemy. Oh, t he gods are cruel! But whet her t hey put us so close t oget her t o punish me
or Hercules, I have never been sure.
Piper wasnt sure what he meant , but t he background noise of t he river was invading her
mind againreminding her how hot and t hirst y she felt , how pleasant a nice swim would be.
She t ried t o focus.
Im Piper, she said. This is Jason. We dont want t o fight . It s just t hat HeraclesHercules
whoever he is, got mad at us and sent us here.
She explained about t heir quest t o t he ancient lands t o st op t he giant s from waking Gaea.
She described how t heir t eam of Greeks and Romans had come t oget her, and how Hercules
had t hrown a t emper t ant rum when he found out Hera was behind it .
Achelous kept t ipping his head t o t he left , so Piper wasnt sure if he was dozing off or
dealing wit h one-horn fat igue.
When she was done, Achelous regarded her as if she were developing a regret t able skin
rash. Ah, my deart he legends are t rue, you know. The spirit s, t he wat er cannibals.
Piper had t o fight back a whimper. She hadnt t old Achelous anything about t hat . H-how
River gods know many t hings, he said. Alas, you are focusing on t he wrong st ory. If you
had made it t o Rome, t he st ory of t he flood would have served you bet t er.
Piper? Jason asked. What s he t alking about ?
Her t hought s were suddenly as jumbled as kaleidoscope glass. The story of the floodIf you
had made it to Rome.
IIm not sure, she said, t hough t he ment ion of a flood st ory rang a dist ant bell. Achelous,
I dont underst and
No, you dont , t he river god sympat hized. Poor t hing. Anot her girl st uck wit h a son of
Wait a minut e, Jason said. It s Jupit er, act ually. And how does t hat make her a poor thing?
Achelous ignored him. My girl, do you know t he cause of my fight wit h Hercules?
It was over a woman, Piper recalled. Deianira?
Yes. Achelous heaved a sigh. And do you know what happened t o her?
Uh Piper glanced at Jason.
He t ook out his guidebook and began flipping t hrough pages. It doesnt really
Achelous snort ed indignant ly. What is that?
Jason blinked. Just The Hercules Guide to Mare Nostrum. He gave us t he guidebook so
That is not a book, Achelous insist ed. He gave you t hat just t o get under my skin, didnt
he? He knows I hat e t hose t hings.
You hat ebooks? Piper asked.
Bah! Achelouss face flushed, t urning his blue skin eggplant purple. That s not a book.
He pawed t he wat er. A scroll shot from t he river like a miniat ure rocket and landed in front of
him. He nudged it open wit h his hooves. The weat hered yellow parchment unfurled, covered
wit h faded Lat in script and elaborat e hand-drawn pict ures.
This is a book! Achelous said. Oh, t he smell of sheepskin! The elegant feel of t he scroll
unrolling beneat h my hooves. You simply cant duplicat e it in somet hing like that.
He nodded indignant ly at t he guidebook in Jasons hand. You young folks t oday and your
newfangled gadget s. Bound pages. Lit t le compact squares of t ext t hat are not hoof-friendly.
That s a bound book, a b-book, if you must . But it s not a t radit ional book. It ll never replace t he
good old-fashioned scroll!
Um, Ill just put t his away now. Jason slipped t he guidebook in his back pocket t he way he
might holst er a dangerous weapon.
Achelous seemed t o calm down a lit t le, which was a relief t o Piper. She didnt need t o get run
over by a one-horned bull wit h a scroll obsession.
Now, Achelous said, t apping a pict ure on his scroll. This is Deianira.
Piper knelt down t o look. The hand-paint ed port rait was small, but she could t ell t he woman
had been very beaut iful, wit h long dark hair, dark eyes, and a playful smile t hat probably drove
guys crazy.
Princess of Calydon, t he river god said mournfully. She was promised t o me, unt il Hercules
but t ed in. He insist ed on combat .
And he broke off your horn? Jason guessed.
Yes, Achelous said. I could never forgive him for t hat . Horribly uncomfort able, having only
one horn. But t he sit uat ion was worse for poor Deianira. She could have had a long, happy life
married t o me.
A man-headed bull, Piper said, who lives in a river.
Exact ly, Achelous agreed. It seems impossible she would refuse, eh? Inst ead, she went off
wit h Hercules. She picked t he handsome, flashy hero over t he good, fait hful husband who
would have t reat ed her well. What happened next ? Well, she should have known. Hercules
was much t oo wrapped up in his own problems t o be a good husband. He had already
murdered one wife, you know. Hera cursed him, so he flew int o a rage and killed his ent ire
family. Horrible business. That s why he had t o do t hose t welve labors as penance.
Piper felt appalled. Wait Hera made him crazy, and Hercules had t o do t he penance?
Achelous shrugged. The Olympians never seem t o pay for t heir crimes. And Hera has
always hat ed t he sons of Zeusor Jupit er. He glanced dist rust fully at Jason. At any rat e, my
poor Deianira had a t ragic end. She became jealous of Herculess many affairs. He gallivant ed
all over t he world, you see, just like his fat her Zeus, flirt ing wit h every woman he met . Finally
Deianira got so desperat e she list ened t o bad advice. A craft y cent aur named Nessus t old her
t hat if she want ed Hercules t o be fait hful forever, she should spread some cent aur blood on
t he inside of Herculess favorit e shirt . Unfort unat ely Nessus was lying because he want ed
revenge on Hercules. Deianira followed his inst ruct ions, but inst ead of making Hercules a
fait hful husband
Cent aur blood is like acid, Jason said.
Yes, Achelous said. Hercules died a painful deat h. When Deianira realized what shed
done, she The river god drew a line across his neck.
That s awful, Piper said.
And t he moral, my dear? Achelous said. Beware t he sons of Zeus.
Piper couldnt look at her boyfriend. She wasnt sure she could mask t he uneasiness in her
eyes. Jason would never be like Hercules. But t he st ory played int o all her fears. Hera had
manipulat ed t heir relat ionship, just as she had manipulat ed Hercules. Piper want ed t o believe
t hat Jason could never go int o a murderous frenzy like Hercules had. Then again, only four
days ago he had been cont rolled by an eidolon and almost killed Percy Jackson.
Hercules is a god now, Achelous said. He married Hebe, t he yout h goddess, but st ill he is
rarely at home. He dwells here on t his island, guarding t hose silly pillars. He says Zeus makes
him do t his, but I t hink he prefers being here t o Mount Olympus, nursing his bit t erness and
mourning his mort al life. My presence reminds him of his failuresespecially t he woman who
finally killed him. And his presence reminds me of poor Deianira, who could have been my wife.
The bull-man t apped t he scroll, which rolled it self up and sank int o t he wat er.
Hercules want s my ot her horn in order t o humiliat e me, Achelous said. Perhaps it would
make him feel bet t er about himself, knowing t hat Im miserable t oo. Besides, t he horn would
become a cornucopia. Good food and drink would flow from it , just as my power causes t he
river t o flow. No doubt Hercules would keep t he cornucopia for himself. It would be a t ragedy
and a wast e.
Piper suspect ed t he noise of t he river and t he drowsy sound of Achelouss voice were st ill
affect ing her t hought s, but she couldnt help agreeing wit h t he river god. She was st art ing t o
hat e Hercules. This poor bull-man seemed so sad and lonely.
Jason st irred. Im sorry, Achelous. Honest ly, youve got t en a bum deal. But maybewell,
wit hout t he ot her horn, you might not be so lopsided. It might feel bet t er.
Jason! Piper prot est ed.
Jason held up his hands. Just a t hought . Besides, I dont see t hat we have many choices. If
Hercules doesnt get t hat horn, hell kill us and our friends.
Hes right , Achelous said. You have no choice. Which is why I hope youll forgive me.
Piper frowned. The river god sounded so heart broken, she want ed t o pat his head. Forgive
you for what ?
I have no choice eit her, Achelous said. I have t o st op you.
The river exploded, and a wall of wat er crashed over Piper.

THE CURRENT GRABBED HER LI KE A FI ST and pulled her int o t he deep. St ruggling was useless. She clamped
her mout h shut , forcing herself not t o inhale, but she could barely keep from panicking. She
couldnt see anyt hing but a t orrent of bubbles. She could only hear her own t hrashing and t he
dull roar of t he rapids.
Shed just about decided t his was how she would die: drowning in a swimming hole on an
island t hat didnt exist . Then, as suddenly as shed been pulled under, she was t hrust t o t he
surface. She found herself at t he cent er of a whirlpool, able t o breat he but unable t o break
A few yards away, Jason broke t he surface and gasped, his sword in one hand. He swung
wildly, but t here was not hing t o at t ack.
Twent y feet t o Pipers right , Achelous rose from t he wat er. Im really sorry about t his, he
Jason lunged t oward him, summoning t he winds t o lift him out of t he river, but Achelous was
quicker and more powerful. A curl of wat er slammed int o Jason and sent him under once more.
St op it ! Piper screamed.
Using charmspeak wasnt easy when she was floundering in a whirlpool, but she got
Achelouss at t ent ion.
Im afraid I cant st op, said t he river god. I cant let Hercules have my ot her horn. It would be
mort ifying.
Theres anot her way! Piper said. You dont have t o kill us!
Jason clawed his way t o t he surface again. A miniat ure st orm cloud formed over his head.
Thunder boomed.
None of t hat , son of Jupit er, Achelous chided. If you call light ning, youll just elect rocut e
your girlfriend.
The wat er pulled Jason under again.
Let him go! Piper charged her voice wit h all t he persuasiveness she could must er. I
promise I wont let Hercules get t he horn!
Achelous hesit at ed. He cant ered over t o her, his head t ilt ing t o t he left . I believe you mean
t hat .
I do! Piper promised. Hercules is despicable. But , please, first let my friend go.
The wat er churned where Jason had gone under. Piper want ed t o scream. How much longer
could he hold his breat h?
Achelous looked down at her t hrough his bifocals. His expression soft ened. I see. You would
be my Deianira. You would be my bride t o compensat e for my loss.
What ? Piper wasnt sure if shed heard him right . The whirlpool was lit erally making her
head spin. Uh, act ually I was t hinking
Oh, I underst and, Achelous said. You were t oo modest t o suggest t his in front of your
boyfriend. You are right , of course. I would t reat you much bet t er t han a son of Zeus would. I
could make t hings right aft er all t hese cent uries. I could not save Deianira, but I could save
Had it been t hirt y seconds now? A minut e? Jason couldnt hold out much longer.
You would have t o let your friends die, Achelous cont inued. Hercules would be angry, but I
can prot ect you from him. We could be quit e happy t oget her. Let s st art by let t ing t hat Jason
fellow drown, eh?
Piper could barely hold it t oget her, but she had t o concent rat e. She masked her fear and her
anger. She was a child of Aphrodit e. She had t o use t he t ools she was given.
She smiled as sweet ly as she could and raised her arms. Lift me up, please.
Achelouss face bright ened. He grabbed Pipers hands and pulled her out of t he whirlpool.
Shed never ridden a bull before, but shed pract iced bareback pegasus riding at Camp Half-
Blood, and she remembered what t o do. She used her moment um, swinging one leg over
Achelouss back. Then she locked her ankles around his neck, wrapped one arm around his
t hroat , and drew her knife wit h t he ot her. She pressed t he blade under t he river gods chin.
Let Jasongo. She put all her force int o t he command. Now!
Piper realized t here were many flaws in her plan. The river god might simply dissolve int o
wat er. Or he could pull her under and wait for her t o drown. But apparent ly her charmspeak
worked. Or maybe Achelous was just t oo surprised t o t hink st raight . He probably wasnt used
t o pret t y girls t hreat ening t o cut his t hroat .
Jason shot out of t he wat er like a human cannonball. He broke t hrough t he branches of an
olive t ree and t umbled ont o t he grass. That couldnt have felt good, but he st ruggled t o his
feet , gasping and coughing. He raised his sword, and t he dark clouds t hickened over t he river.
Piper shot him a warning look: Not yet. She st ill had t o get out of t his river wit hout drowning
or get t ing elect rocut ed.
Achelous arched his back as if cont emplat ing a t rick. Piper pressed t he knife harder against
his t hroat .
Be a good bull, she warned.
You promised, Achelous said t hrough grit t ed t eet h. You promised Hercules wouldnt get
my horn.
And he wont , Piper said. But I will.
She raised her knife and slashed off t he gods horn. The Celest ial bronze cut t hrough t he
base like it was wet clay. Achelous bellowed in rage. Before he could recover, Piper st ood up on
his back. Wit h t he horn in one hand and her dagger in t he ot her, she leaped for t he shore.
Jason! she yelled.
Thank t he gods, he underst ood. A gust of wind caught her and carried her safely over t he
bank. Piper hit t he ground rolling as t he hairs on her neck st ood up. A met allic smell filled t he air.
She t urned t oward t he river in t ime t o be blinded.
BOOM!Light ning st irred t he wat er int o a boiling cauldron, st eaming and hissing wit h
elect ricit y. Piper blinked t he yellow spot s out of her eyes as t he god Achelous wailed and
dissolved beneat h t he surface. His horrified expression seemed t o be asking: How could you?
Jason, run! She was st ill dizzy and sick wit h fear, but she and Jason crashed t hrough t he
As she climbed t he hill, clasping t he bulls horn t o her chest , Piper realized she was sobbing
t hough she wasnt sure if it was from fear, or relief, or shame for what shed done t o t he old
river god.

They didnt slow down unt il t hey reached t he crest of t he hill.
Piper felt silly, but she kept breaking down and crying as she t old Jason what had happened
while he was st ruggling underwat er.
Piper, you had no choice. He put his hand on her shoulder. You saved my life.
She wiped her eyes and t ried t o cont rol herself. The sun was nearing t he horizon. They had
t o get back t o Hercules quickly, or t heir friends would die.
Achelous forced your hand, Jason cont inued. Besides, I doubt t hat light ning bolt killed him.
Hes an ancient god. Youd have t o dest roy his river t o dest roy him. And he can live wit hout a
horn. If you had t o lie about not giving it t o Hercules, well
I wasnt lying.
Jason st ared at her. Pipeswe dont have a choice. Hercules will kill
Hercules doesnt deserve t his. Piper wasnt sure where t his rage was coming from, but she
had never felt more cert ain of anyt hing in her life.
Hercules was a bit t er, selfish jerk. Hed hurt t oo many people, and he want ed t o keep on
hurt ing t hem. Maybe hed had some bad breaks. Maybe t he gods had kicked him around. But
t hat didnt excuse it . A hero couldnt cont rol t he gods, but he should be able t o cont rol himself.
Jason would never be like t hat . He would never blame ot hers for his problems or make a
grudge more import ant t han doing t he right t hing.
Piper was not going t o repeat Deianiras st ory. She wasnt going t o go along wit h what
Hercules want ed just because he was handsome and st rong and scary. He couldnt get his
way t his t imenot aft er t hreat ening t heir lives and sending t hem t o make Achelous miserable
for t he sake of spit ing Hera. Hercules didnt deserve a horn of plent y. Piper was going t o put
him in his place.
I have a plan, she said.
She t old Jason what t o do. She didnt even realize she was using charmspeak unt il his eyes
glazed over.
What ever you say, he promised. Then he blinked a few t imes. Were going t o die, but Im

Hercules was wait ing right where t heyd left him. He was st aring at t he Argo II, docked
bet ween t he pillars as t he sun set behind it . The ship looked okay, but Pipers plan had st art ed
t o feel insane t o her.
Too lat e t o reconsider. Shed already sent an Iris-message t o Leo. Jason was prepared. And,
seeing Hercules again, she felt more cert ain t han ever she couldnt give him what he want ed.
Hercules didnt exact ly bright en when he saw Piper carrying t he bulls horn, but his scowl
lines lessened.
Good, he said. You got it . In t hat case, you are free t o go.
Piper glanced at Jason. You heard him. He gave us permission. She t urned back t o t he god.
That means our ship will be able t o pass int o t he Medit erranean?
Yes, yes. Hercules snapped his fingers. Now, t he horn.
No, Piper said.
The god frowned. Excuse me?
She raised t he cornucopia. Since shed cut it from Achelouss head, t he horn had hollowed
out , becoming smoot h and dark on t he inside. It didnt appear magical, but Piper was count ing
on it s power.
Achelous was right , she said. Youre hi s curse as much as he is yours. Youre a sorry
excuse for a hero.
Hercules st ared at her as if she were speaking in Japanese. You realize I could kill you wit h
a flick of my finger, he said. I could t hrow my club at your ship and cut st raight t hrough it s hull.
I could
You could shut up, Jason said. He drew his sword. Maybe Zeus is different from Jupit er.
Because I wouldnt put up wit h any brot her who act s like you.
The veins on Herculess neck t urned as purple as his robes. You would not be t he first
demigod Ive killed.
Jason is bet t er t han you, Piper said. But dont worry. Were not going t o fight you. Were
going t o leave t his island wit h t he horn. You dont deserve it as a prize. Im going t o keep it , t o
remind me of what not t o be like as a demigod, and t o remind me of poor Achelous and
The gods nost rils flared. Do not ment ion t hat name! You cant seriously t hink Im worried
about your puny boyfriend. No one is st ronger t han me.
I didnt say st ronger, Piper correct ed. I said hes better.
Piper point ed t he mout h of t he horn at Hercules. She let go of t he resent ment and doubt
and anger shed been harboring since Camp Jupit er. She concent rat ed on all t he good t hings
shed shared wit h Jason Grace: soaring upward in t he Grand Canyon, walking on t he beach at
Camp Half-Blood, holding hands at t he sing-along and wat ching t he st ars, sit t ing by t he
st rawberry fields t oget her on lazy aft ernoons and list ening t o t he sat yrs play t heir pipes.
She t hought about a fut ure when t he giant s had been defeat ed, Gaea was asleep, and t hey
would live happily t oget herno jealousy, no monst ers left t o bat t le. She filled her heart wit h
t hose t hought s, and she felt t he cornucopia grow warm.
The horn blast ed fort h a flood of food as powerful as Achelouss river. A t orrent of fresh fruit ,
baked goods, and smoked hams complet ely buried Hercules. Piper didnt underst and how all
t hat st uff could fit t hrough t he ent rance of t he horn, but she t hought t he hams were especially
appropriat e.
When it had spewed out enough goodies t o fill a house, t he horn shut it self off. Piper heard
Hercules shrieking and st ruggling somewhere underneat h. Apparent ly even t he st rongest god
in t he world could be caught off guard when buried under fresh produce.
Go! she t old Jason, whod forgot t en his part of t he plan and was st aring in amazement at
t he fruit pile. Go!
He grabbed Pipers waist and summoned t he wind. They shot away from t he island so
quickly, Piper almost got whiplash; but it wasnt a second t oo soon.
As t he island ret reat ed from view, Herculess head broke above t he mound of goodies. Half a
coconut was st uck on his noggin like a war helmet . Kill! he bellowed, like hed had a lot of
pract ice saying it .
Jason t ouched down on t he deck of t he Argo II. Thankfully, Leo had done his part . The ships
oars were already in aerial mode. The anchor was up. Jason summoned a gale so st rong, it
pushed t hem int o t he sky, while Percy sent a t en-foot -t all wave against t he shore, knocking
Hercules down a second t ime, in a cascade of seawat er and pineapples.
By t he t ime t he god regained his feet and st art ed lobbing coconut s at t hem from far below,
t he Argo II was already sailing t hrough t he clouds above t he Medit erranean.

Bad enough hed been run out of At lant a by evil sea gods. Then he had failed t o st op a giant
shrimp at t ack on t he Argo II. Then t he icht hyocent aurs, Chirons brot hers, hadnt even want ed
t o meet him.
Aft er all t hat , t hey had arrived at t he Pillars of Hercules, and Percy had t o st ay aboard ship
while Jason t he Big Shot visit ed his half brot her. Hercules, t he most famous demigod of all t ime,
and Percy didnt get t o meet him eit her.
Okay, sure, from what Piper said aft erward, Hercules was a jerk, but st illPercy was get t ing
kind of t ired of st aying aboard ship and pacing t he deck.
The open sea was supposed t o be his t errit ory. Percy was supposed t o st ep up, t ake
charge, and keep everybody safe. Inst ead, all t he way across t he At lant ic, hed done pret t y
much not hing except make small t alk wit h sharks and list en t o Coach Hedge sing TV t heme
To make mat t ers worse, Annabet h had been dist ant ever since t hey had left Charlest on.
She spent most of her t ime in her cabin, st udying t he bronze map shed ret rieved from Fort
Sumt er, or looking up informat ion on Daedaluss lapt op.
Whenever Percy st opped by t o see her, she was so lost in t hought t hat t he conversat ion
went somet hing like t his:
Percy: Hey, hows it going?
Annabet h: Uh, no t hanks.
Percy: Okayhave you eat en anyt hing t oday?
Annabet h: I t hink Leo is on dut y. Ask him.
Percy: So, my hair is on fire.
Annabet h: Okay. In a while.
She got like t his somet imes. It was one of t he challenges of dat ing an At hena girl. St ill, Percy
wondered what he had t o do t o get her at t ent ion. He was worried about her aft er her
encount er wit h t he spiders at Fort Sumt er, and he didnt know how t o help her, especially if she
shut him out .
Aft er leaving t he Pillars of Herculesunscat hed except for a few coconut s lodged in t he
hulls bronze plat ingt he ship t raveled by air for a few hundred miles.
Percy hoped t he ancient lands wouldnt be as bad as t heyd heard. But it was almost like a
commercial: Youll notice the difference immediately!
Several t imes an hour, somet hing at t acked t he ship. A flock of flesh-eat ing St ymphalian
birds swooped out of t he night sky, and Fest us t orched t hem. St orm spirit s swirled around t he
mast , and Jason blast ed t hem wit h light ning. While Coach Hedge was having dinner on t he
foredeck, a wild pegasus appeared from nowhere, st ampeded over t he coachs enchiladas, and
flew off again, leaving cheesy hoof print s all across t he deck.
What was that for? t he coach demanded.
The sight of t he pegasus made Percy wish Blackjack were here. He hadnt seen his friend in
days. Tempest and Arion also hadnt shown t hemselves. Maybe t hey didnt want t o vent ure
int o t he Medit erranean. If so, Percy couldnt blame t hem.
Finally around midnight , aft er t he nint h or t ent h aerial at t ack, Jason t urned t o him. How
about you get some sleep? Ill keep blast ing st uff out of t he sky as long as I can. Then we can
go by sea for a while, and you can t ake point .
Percy wasnt sure t hat hed be able t o sleep wit h t he boat rocking t hrough t he clouds as it
was shaken by angry wind spirit s, but Jasons idea made sense. He went belowdecks and
crashed on his bunk.
His night mares, of course, were anyt hing but rest ful.

He dreamed he was in a dark cavern. He could only see a few feet in front of him, but t he
space must have been vast . Wat er dripped from somewhere nearby, and t he sound echoed off
dist ant walls. The way t he air moved made Percy suspect t he caves ceiling was far, far above.
He heard heavy foot st eps, and t he t win giant s Ephialt es and Ot is shuffled out of t he gloom.
Percy could dist inguish t hem only by t heir hairEphialt es had t he green locks braided wit h
silver and gold coins; Ot is had t he purple ponyt ail braided wit hwere t hose firecrackers?
Ot herwise t hey were dressed ident ically, and t heir out fit s definit ely belonged in a night mare.
They wore mat ching whit e slacks and gold buccaneer shirt s wit h V-necks t hat showed way
t oo much chest hair. A dozen sheat hed daggers lined t heir rhinest one belt s. Their shoes were
open-t oed sandals, proving t hat yes, indeedt hey had snakes for feet . The st raps wrapped
around t he serpent s necks. Their heads curled up where t he t oes should be. The snakes
flicked t heir t ongues excit edly and t urned t heir gold eyes in every direct ion, like dogs looking
out t he window of a car. Maybe it had been a long t ime since t heyd had shoes wit h a view.
The giant s st ood in front of Percy, but t hey paid him no at t ent ion. Inst ead, t hey gazed up
int o t he darkness.
Were here, Ephialt es announced. Despit e his booming voice, his words dissipat ed in t he
cavern, echoing unt il t hey sounded small and insignificant .
Far above, somet hing answered, Yes. I can see t hat . Those out fit s are hard t o miss.
The voice made Percys st omach drop about six inches. It sounded vaguely female, but not
at all human. Each word was a garbled hiss in mult iple t ones, as if a swarm of African killer bees
had learned t o speak English in unison.
It wasnt Gaea. Percy was sure of t hat . But what ever it was, t he t win giant s became
nervous. They shift ed on t heir snakes and bobbed t heir heads respect fully.
Of course, Your Ladyship, Ephialt es said. We bring news of
Why are you dressed like t hat ? asked t he t hing in t he dark. She didnt seem t o be coming
any closer, which was fine wit h Percy.
Ephialt es shot his brot her an irrit at ed look. My brot her was supposed t o wear somet hing
different . Unfort unat ely
You said I was t he knife t hrower t oday, Ot is prot est ed.
I said I was t he knife t hrower! You were supposed t o be t he magician! Ah, forgive me, Your
Ladyship. You dont want t o hear us arguing. We came as you request ed, t o bring you news.
The ship is approaching.
Her Ladyship, what ever she was, made a series of violent hisses like a t ire being slashed
repeat edly. Wit h a shudder, Percy realized she was laughing.
How long? she asked.
They should land in Rome short ly aft er daybreak, I t hink, Ephialt es said. Of course, t heyll
have t o get past t he golden boy.
He sneered, as if t he golden boy was not his favorit e person.
I hope t hey arrive safely, Her Ladyship said. It would spoil our fun t o have t hem capt ured
t oo soon. Are your preparat ions made?
Yes, Your Ladyship. Ot is st epped forward, and t he cavern t rembled. A crack appeared
under Ot iss left snake.
Careful, you dolt ! Her Ladyship snarled. Do you want t o ret urn t o Tart arus t he hard way?
Ot is scrambled back, his face slack wit h t error. Percy realized t hat t he floor, which looked like
solid st one, was more like t he glacier hed walked on in Alaskain some places solid, in ot her
placesnot so much. He was glad he weighed not hing in his dreams.
There is lit t le left holding t his place t oget her, Her Ladyship caut ioned. Except , of course,
my own skill. Cent uries of At henas rage can only be cont ained so well, and t he great Eart h
Mot her churns below us in her sleep. Bet ween t hose t wo forces, wellmy nest has quit e
eroded. We must hope t his child of At hena proves t o be a wort hy vict im. She may be my last
playt hing.
Ephialt es gulped. He kept his eyes on t he crack in t he floor. Soon it will not mat t er, Your
Ladyship. Gaea will rise, and we all will be rewarded. You will no longer have t o guard t his place,
or keep your works hidden.
Perhaps, said t he voice in t he dark. But I will miss t he sweet ness of my revenge. We have
worked well t oget her over t he cent uries, have we not ?
The t wins bowed. The coins glit t ered in Ephialt ess hair, and Percy realized wit h nauseat ing
cert aint y t hat some of t hem were silver drachma, exact ly like t he one Annabet h had got t en
from her mom.
Annabet h had t old him t hat in each generat ion, a few children of At hena were sent on t he
quest t o recover t he missing Part henon st at ue. None had ever succeeded.
We have worked well together over the centuries.
The giant Ephialt es had cent uries wort h of coins in his braidshundreds of t rophies. Percy
pict ured Annabet h st anding in t his dark place alone. He imagined t he giant t aking t hat coin
she carried and adding it t o his collect ion. Percy want ed t o draw his sword and give t he giant a
haircut st art ing at t he neck, but he was powerless t o act . He could only wat ch.
Uh, Your Ladyship, Ephialt es said nervously. I would remind you t hat Gaea wishes t he girl
t o be t aken alive. You can t orment her. Drive her insane. What ever you wish, of course. But her
blood must be spilt on t he ancient st ones.
Her Ladyship hissed. Ot hers could be used for t hat purpose.
Y-yes, Ephialt es said. But this girl is preferred. And t he boyt he son of Poseidon. You can
see why t hose t wo would be most suit ed for t he t ask.
Percy wasnt sure what t hat meant , but he want ed t o crack t he floor and send t hese st upid
gold-shirt ed t wins down t o oblivion. Hed never let Gaea spill his blood for any t askand t here
was no way hed let anyone hurt Annabet h.
We will see, Her Ladyship grumbled. Leave me now. Tend t o your own preparat ions. You
will have your spect acle. And II will work in darkness.
The dream dissolved, and Percy woke wit h a st art .
Jason was knocking at his open doorway.
Weve set down in t he wat er, he said, looking ut t erly exhaust ed. Your t urn.

Percy didnt want t o, but he woke Annabet h. He figured even Coach Hedge wouldnt mind t heir
t alking aft er curfew if it meant giving her informat ion t hat might save her life.
They st ood on deck, alone except for Leo, who was st ill manning t he helm. The guy must
have been shat t ered, but he refused t o go t o sleep.
I dont want any more Shrimpzilla surprises, he insist ed.
Theyd all t ried t o convince Leo t hat t he skolopendra at t ack hadnt been ent irely his fault ,
but he wouldnt list en. Percy knew how he felt . Not forgiving himself for mist akes was one of
Percys biggest t alent s.
It was about four in t he morning. The weat her was miserable. The fog was so t hick, Percy
couldnt see Fest us at t he end of t he prow, and warm drizzle hung in t he air like a bead curt ain.
As t hey sailed int o t went y-foot swells, t he sea heaving underneat h t hem, Percy could hear
poor Hazel down in her cabinalso heaving.
Despit e all t hat , Percy was grat eful t o be back on t he wat er. He preferred it t o flying t hrough
st orm clouds and being at t acked by man-eat ing birds and enchilada-t rampling pegasi.
He st ood wit h Annabet h at t he forward rail while he t old her about his dream.
Percy wasnt sure how shed t ake t he news. Her react ion was even more t roubling t han he
ant icipat ed: she didnt seem surprised.
She peered int o t he fog. Percy, you have t o promise me somet hing. Dont t ell t he ot hers
about t his dream.
Dont what? Annabet h
What you saw was about t he Mark of At hena, she said. It wont help t he ot hers t o know.
It ll only make t hem worry, and it ll make it harder for me t o go off on my own.
Annabet h, you cant be serious. That t hing in t he dark, t he big chamber wit h t he crumbling
I know. Her face looked unnat urally pale, and Percy suspect ed it wasnt just t he fog. But I
have t o do t his alone.
Percy swallowed back his anger. He wasnt sure if he was mad at Annabet h, or his dream, or
t he ent ire Greek/Roman world t hat had endured and shaped human hist ory for five t housand
years wit h one goal in mind: t o make Percy Jacksons life suck as much as possible.
You know what s in t hat cavern, he guessed. Does it have t o do wit h spiders?
Yes, she said in a small voice.
Then how can you even? He made himself st op.
Once Annabet h had made up her mind, arguing wit h her wouldnt do any good. He
remembered t he night t hree and a half years ago, when t heyd saved Nico and Bianca di
Angelo in Maine. Annabet h had been capt ured by t he Tit an At las. For a while, Percy wasnt
sure if she was alive or dead. Hed t raveled across t he count ry t o save her from t he Tit an. It
had been t he hardest few days of his lifenot just t he monst ers and t he fight ing, but t he
How could he intentionally let her go now, knowing she was heading int o somet hing even
more dangerous?
Then it dawned on him: t he way he had felt back t hen, for a few days, was probably how
Annabet h had felt for t he six mont hs he had been missing wit h amnesia.
That made him feel guilt y, and a lit t le bit selfish, t o be st anding here arguing wit h her. She
had t o go on t his quest . The fat e of t he world might depend on it . But part of him want ed t o
say: Forget the world. He didnt want t o be wit hout her.
Percy st ared int o t he fog. He couldnt see anyt hing around t hem, but he had perfect
bearings at sea. He knew t heir exact lat it ude and longit ude. He knew t he dept h of t he ocean
and which way t he current s were flowing. He knew t he ships speed, and could sense no rocks,
sandbars, or ot her nat ural dangers in t heir pat h. St ill, being blind was unset t ling.
They hadnt been at t acked since t hey had t ouched t he wat er, but t he sea seemed different .
Percy had been in t he At lant ic, t he Pacific, even t he Gulf of Alaska, but t his sea felt more
ancient and powerful. Percy could sense it s layers swirling below him. Every Greek or Roman
hero had sailed t hese wat ersfrom Hercules t o Aeneas. Monst ers st ill dwelt in t he dept hs, so
deeply wrapped in t he Mist t hat t hey slept most of t he t ime; but Percy could feel t hem st irring,
responding t o t he Celest ial bronze hull of a Greek t rireme and t he presence of demigod blood.
They are back, t he monst ers seemed t o say. Finally, fresh blood.
Were not far from t he It alian coast , Percy said, most ly t o break t he silence. Maybe a
hundred naut ical miles t o t he mout h of t he Tiber.
Good, Annabet h said. By daybreak, we should
St op. Percys skin felt washed wit h ice. We have t o st op.
Why? Annabet h asked.
Leo, st op! he yelled.
Too lat e. The ot her boat appeared out of t he fog and rammed t hem head-on. In t hat split
second, Percy regist ered random det ails: anot her t rireme; black sails paint ed wit h a gorgons
head; hulking warriors, not quit e human, crowded at t he front of t he boat in Greek armor,
swords and spears ready; and a bronze ram at wat er level, slamming against t he hull of t he
Argo II.
Annabet h and Percy were almost t hrown overboard.
Fest us blew fire, sending a dozen very surprised warriors screaming and diving int o t he sea,
but more swarmed aboard t he Argo II. Grappling lines wrapped around t he rails and t he mast ,
digging iron claws int o t he hulls planks.
By t he t ime Percy had recovered his wit s, t he enemy was everywhere. He couldnt see well
t hrough t he fog and t he dark, but t he invaders seemed t o be humanlike dolphins, or dolphinlike
humans. Some had gray snout s. Ot hers held t heir swords in st unt ed flippers. Some waddled on
legs part ially fused t oget her, while ot hers had flippers for feet , which reminded Percy of clown
Leo sounded t he alarm bell. He made a dash for t he nearest ballist a but went down under a
pile of chat t ering dolphin warriors.
Annabet h and Percy st ood back-t o-back, as t heyd done many t imes before, t heir weapons
drawn. Percy t ried t o summon t he waves, hoping he could push t he ships apart or even
capsize t he enemy vessel, but not hing happened. It almost felt like somet hing was pushing
against his will, wrest ing t he sea from his cont rol.
He raised Ript ide, ready t o fight , but t hey were hopelessly out numbered. Several dozen
warriors lowered t heir spears and made a ring around t hem, wisely keeping out of st riking
dist ance of Percys sword. The dolphin-men opened t heir snout s and made whist ling, popping
noises. Percy had never considered just how vicious dolphin t eet h looked.
He t ried t o t hink. Maybe he could break out of t he circle and dest roy a few invaders, but not
wit hout t he ot hers skewering him and Annabet h.
At least t he warriors didnt seem int erest ed in killing t hem immediat ely. They kept Percy and
Annabet h cont ained while more of t heir comrades flooded belowdecks and secured t he hull.
Percy could hear t hem breaking down t he cabin doors, scuffling wit h his friends. Even if t he
ot her demigods hadnt been fast asleep, t hey wouldnt have st ood a chance against so many.
Leo was dragged across t he deck, half-conscious and groaning, and dumped on a pile of
ropes. Below, t he sounds of fight ing t apered off. Eit her t he ot hers had been subdued oror
Percy refused t o t hink about it .
On one side of t he ring of spears, t he dolphin warriors part ed t o let someone t hrough. He
appeared t o be fully human, but from t he way t he dolphins fell back before him, he was clearly
t he leader. He was dressed in Greek combat armorsandals, kilt , and greaves, a breast plat e
decorat ed wit h elaborat e sea monst er designsand everyt hing he wore was gold. Even his
sword, a Greek blade like Ript ide, was gold inst ead of bronze.
The golden boy, Percy t hought , remembering his dream. Theyll have to get past the golden
What really made Percy nervous was t he guys helmet . His visor was a full face mask
fashioned like a gorgons headcurved t usks, horrible feat ures pinched int o a snarl, and
golden snake hair curling around t he face. Percy had met gorgons before. The likeness was
gooda lit t le t oo good for his t ast e.
Annabet h t urned so she was shoulder t o shoulder wit h Percy. He want ed t o put his arm
around her prot ect ively, but he doubt ed shed appreciat e t he gest ure, and he didnt want t o
give t his golden guy any indicat ion t hat Annabet h was his girlfriend. No sense giving t he enemy
more leverage t han t hey already had.
Who are you? Percy demanded. What do you want ?
The golden warrior chuckled. Wit h a flick of his blade, fast er t han Percy could follow, he
smacked Ript ide out of Percys hand and sent it flying int o t he sea.
He might as well have t hrown Percys lungs int o t he sea, because suddenly Percy couldnt
breat he. Hed never been disarmed so easily.
Hello, brot her. The golden warriors voice was rich and velvet y, wit h an exot ic accent
Middle East ern, maybet hat seemed vaguely familiar. Always happy t o rob a fellow son of
Poseidon. I am Chrysaor, t he Golden Sword. As for what I want He t urned his met al mask
t oward Annabet h. Well, t hat s easy. I want everyt hing you have.

PERCYS HEART DI D JUMPI NG JACKS while Chrysaor walked back and fort h, inspect ing t hem like prized cat t le.
A dozen of his dolphin-man warriors st ayed in a ring around t hem, spears leveled at Percys
chest , while dozens more ransacked t he ship, banging and crashing around belowdecks. One
carried a box of ambrosia up t he st airs. Anot her carried an armful of ballist a bolt s and a crat e of
Greek fire.
Careful wit h t hat ! Annabet h warned. It ll blow up bot h our ships.
Ha! Chrysaor said. We know all about Greek fire, girl. Dont worry. Weve been loot ing and
pillaging ships on t he Mare Nost rum for eons.
Your accent sounds familiar, Percy said. Have we met ?
I havent had t he pleasure. Chrysaors golden gorgon mask snarled at him, t hough it was
impossible t o t ell what his real expression might be underneat h. But Ive heard all about you,
Percy Jackson. Oh, yes, t he young man who saved Olympus. And his fait hful sidekick,
Annabet h Chase.
Im nobodys sidekick, Annabet h growled. And, Percy, his accent sounds familiar because
he sounds like his mot her. We killed her in New Jersey.
Percy frowned. Im pret t y sure t hat accent isnt New Jersey. Whos his? Oh.
It all fell int o place. Aunt y Ems Garden Gnome Emporiumt he lair of Medusa. Shed t alked
wit h t hat same accent , at least unt il Percy had cut off her head.
Medusa is your mom? he asked. Dude, t hat sucks for you.
Judging from t he sound in Chrysaors t hroat , he was now snarling under t he mask, t oo.
You are as arrogant as t he first Perseus, Chrysaor said. But , yes, Percy Jackson. Poseidon
was my fat her. Medusa was my mot her. Aft er Medusa was changed int o a monst er by t hat so-
called goddess of wisdom The golden mask t urned on Annabet h. That would be your
mot her, I believeMedusas t wo children were t rapped inside her, unable t o be born. When t he
original Perseus cut off Medusas head
Two children sprang out , Annabet h remembered. Pegasus and you.
Percy blinked. So your brot her is a winged horse. But youre also my half brot her, which
means all t he flying horses in t he world are myYou know what ? Let s forget it .
Hed learned years ago it was bet t er not t o dwell t oo much on who was relat ed t o whom on
t he godly side of t hings. Aft er Tyson t he Cyclops adopt ed him as a brot her, Percy decided t hat
t hat was about as far as he want ed t o ext end t he family.
But if youre Medusas kid, he said, why havent I ever heard of you?
Chrysaor sighed in exasperat ion. When your brot her is Pegasus, you get used t o being
forgot t en. Oh, look, a winged horse! Does anyone care about me? No! He raised t he t ip of his
blade t o Percys eyes. But dont underest imat e me. My name means t he Golden Sword for a
Imperial gold? Percy guessed.
Bah! Enchanted gold, yes. Lat er on, t he Romans called it Imperial gold, but I was t he first t o
ever wield such a blade. I should have been t he most famous hero of all t ime! Since t he legend-
t ellers decided t o ignore me, I became a villain inst ead. I resolved t o put my herit age t o use. As
t he son of Medusa, I would inspire t error. As t he son of Poseidon, I would rule t he seas!
You became a pirat e, Annabet h summed up.
Chrysaor spread his arms, which was fine wit h Percy since it got t he sword point away from
his eyes.
The best pirat e, Chrysaor said. Ive sailed t hese wat ers for cent uries, waylaying any
demigods foolish enough t o explore t he Mare Nost rum. This is my t errit ory now. And all you
have is mine.
One of t he dolphin warriors dragged Coach Hedge up from below.
Let me go, you t una fish! Hedge bellowed. He t ried t o kick t he warrior, but his hoof clanged
off his capt ors armor. Judging from t he hoof-shaped print s in t he dolphins breast plat e and
helmet , t he coach had already made several at t empt s.
Ah, a sat yr, Chrysaor mused. A lit t le old and st ringy, but Cyclopes will pay well for a morsel
like him. Chain him up.
Im nobodys goat meat ! Hedge prot est ed.
Gag him as well, Chrysaor decided.
Why you gilded lit t le Hedges insult was cut short when t he dolphin put a greasy wad of
canvas in his mout h. Soon t he coach was t russed like a rodeo calf and dumped wit h t he ot her
loot crat es of food, ext ra weapons, even t he magical ice chest from t he mess hall.
You cant do t his! Annabet h shout ed.
Chrysaors laught er reverberat ed inside his gold face mask. Percy wondered if he was
horribly disfigured under t here, or if his gaze could pet rify people t he way his mot hers could.
I can do anyt hing I want , Chrysaor said. My warriors have been t rained t o perfect ion. They
are vicious, cut t hroat
Dolphins, Percy not ed.
Chrysaor shrugged. Yes. So? They had some bad luck a few millennia ago, kidnapped t he
wrong person. Some of t heir crew got t urned completely int o dolphins. Ot hers went mad. But
t heset hese survived as hybrid creat ures. When I found t hem under t he sea and offered t hem
a new life, t hey became my loyal crew. They fear not hing!
One of t he warriors chat t ered at him nervously.
Yes, yes, Chrysaor growled. They fear one t hing, but it hardly mat t ers. Hes not here.
An idea began t ickling at t he base of Percys skull. Before he could pursue it , more dolphin
warriors climbed t he st airs, hauling up t he rest of his friends. Jason was unconscious. Judging
from t he new bruises on his face, hed t ried t o fight . Hazel and Piper were bound hand and foot .
Piper had a gag in her mout h, so apparent ly t he dolphins had discovered she could
charmspeak. Frank was t he only one missing, t hough t wo of t he dolphins had bee st ings
covering t heir faces.
Could Frank act ually t urn int o a swarm of bees? Percy hoped so. If he was free aboard t he
ship somewhere, t hat could be an advant age, assuming Percy could figure out how t o
communicat e wit h him.
Excellent ! Chrysaor gloat ed. He direct ed his warriors t o dump Jason by t he crossbows.
Then he examined t he girls like t hey were Christ mas present s, which made Percy grit his t eet h.
The boy is no use t o me, Chrysaor said. But we have an underst anding wit h t he wit ch
Circe. She will buy t he womeneit her as slaves or t rainees, depending on t heir skill. But not
you, lovely Annabet h.
Annabet h recoiled. You are not t aking me anywhere.
Percys hand crept t o his pocket . His pen had appeared back in his jeans. He only needed a
moment s dist ract ion t o draw his sword. Maybe if he could t ake down Chrysaor quickly, his
crew would panic.
He wished he knew somet hing about Chrysaors weaknesses. Usually Annabet h provided
him wit h informat ion like t hat , but apparent ly Chrysaor didnt have any legends, so t hey were
bot h in t he dark.
The golden warrior t ut t ed. Oh, sadly, Annabet h, you will not be st aying wit h me. I would love
t hat . But you and your friend Percy are spoken for. A cert ain goddess is paying a high bount y
for your capt urealive, if possible, t hough she didnt say you had t o be unharmed.
At t hat moment , Piper caused t he dist urbance t hey needed. She wailed so loudly it could be
heard t hrough her gag. Then she faint ed against t he nearest guard, knocking him over. Hazel
got t he idea and crumpled t o t he deck, kicking her legs and t hrashing like she was having a fit .
Percy drew Ript ide and lashed out . The blade should have gone st raight t hrough Chrysaors
neck, but t he golden warrior was unbelievably fast . He dodged and parried as t he dolphin
warriors backed up, guarding t he ot her capt ives while giving t heir capt ain room t o bat t le. They
chat t ered and squeaked, egging him on, and Percy got t he sinking suspicion t he crew was
used t o t his sort of ent ert ainment . They didnt feel t heir leader was in any sort of danger.
Percy hadnt crossed swords wit h an opponent like t his sincewell, since hed bat t led t he
war god Ares. Chrysaor was that good. Many of Percys powers had got t en st ronger over t he
years, but now, t oo lat e, Percy realized t hat swordplay wasnt one of t hem.
He was rust yat least against an adversary like Chrysaor.
They bat t led back and fort h, t hrust ing and parrying. Wit hout meaning t o, Percy heard t he
voice of Luke Cast ellan, his first sword-fight ing ment or at Camp Half-Blood, t hrowing out
suggest ions. But it didnt help.
The golden gorgon mask was t oo unnerving. The warm fog, t he slick deck boards, t he
chat t ering of t he warriorsnone of it helped. And in t he corner of his eye, Percy could see one
of t he dolphin-men holding a knife at Annabet hs t hroat in case she t ried anyt hing t ricky.
He feint ed and t hrust at Chrysaors gut , but Chrysaor ant icipat ed t he move. He knocked
Percys sword out of his hand again, and once more Ript ide flew int o t he sea.
Chrysaor laughed easily. He wasnt even winded. He pressed t he t ip of his golden sword
against Percys st ernum.
A good t ry, said t he pirat e. But now youll be chained and t ransport ed t o Gaeas minions.
They are quit e eager t o spill your blood and wake t he goddess.

NOTHI NG LI KE TOTAL FAI LURE t o generat e great ideas.
As Percy st ood t here, disarmed and out mat ched, t he plan formed in his head. He was so
used t o Annabet h providing Greek legend informat ion t hat he was kind of st unned t o act ually
remember somet hing useful, but he had t o act fast . He couldnt let anyt hing happen t o his
friends. He wasnt going t o lose Annabet hnot again.
Chrysaor couldnt be beat . At least not in single combat . But wit hout his crewmaybe t hen
he could be overwhelmed if enough demigods at t acked him at once.
How t o deal wit h Chrysaors crew? Percy put t he pieces t oget her: t he pirat es had been
t urned int o dolphin-men millennia ago when t hey had kidnapped t he wrong person. Percy knew
t hat st ory. Heck, t he wrong person in quest ion had t hreat ened t o t urn him int o a dolphin. And
when Chrysaor said t he crew wasnt afraid of anyt hing, one of t he dolphins had nervously
correct ed him. Yes, Chrysaor said. But hes not here.
Percy glanced t oward t he st ern and spot t ed Frank, in human form, peeking out from behind
a ballist a, wait ing. Percy resist ed t he urge t o smile. The big guy claimed t o be clumsy and
useless, but he always seemed t o be in exact ly t he right place when Percy needed him.
The girlsFrankt he ice chest .
It was a crazy idea. But , as usual, t hat s all Percy had.
Fine! Percy shout ed, so loudly t hat he got everyones at t ent ion. Take us away, if our
capt ain will let you.
Chrysaor t urned his golden mask. What capt ain? My men searched t he ship. There is no
one else.
Percy raised his hands dramat ically. The god appears only when he wishes. But he is our
leader. He runs our camp for demigods. Doesnt he, Annabet h?
Annabet h was quick. Yes! She nodded ent husiast ically. Mr. D! The great Dionysus!
A ripple of uneasiness passed t hrough t he dolphin-men. One dropped his sword.
St and fast ! Chrysaor bellowed. There is no god on t his ship. They are t rying t o scare you.
You should be scared! Percy looked at t he pirat e crew wit h sympat hy. Dionysus will be
severely cranky wit h you for having delayed our voyage. He will punish all of us. Didnt you
not ice t he girls falling int o t he wine gods madness?
Hazel and Piper had st opped t he shaking fit s. They were sit t ing on t he deck, st aring at
Percy, but when he glared at t hem point edly, t hey st art ed hamming it up again, t rembling and
flopping around like fish. The dolphin-men fell over t hemselves t rying t o get away from t heir
capt ives.
Fakes! Chrysaor roared. Shut up, Percy Jackson. Your camp direct or is not here. He was
recalled t o Olympus. This is common knowledge.
So you admit Dionysus is our direct or! Percy said.
He was, Chrysaor correct ed. Everyone knows t hat .
Percy gest ured at t he golden warrior like hed just bet rayed himself. You see? We are
doomed. If you dont believe me, let s check t he ice chest !
Percy st ormed over t o t he magical cooler. No one t ried t o st op him. He knocked open t he lid
and rummaged t hrough t he ice. There had t o be one. Please. He was rewarded wit h a silver-
and-red can of soda. He brandished it at t he dolphin warriors as if spraying t hem wit h bug
repellent .
Behold! Percy shout ed. The gods chosen beverage. Tremble before t he horror of Diet
The dolphin-men began t o panic. They were on t he edge of ret reat . Percy could feel it .
The god will t ake your ship, Percy warned. He will finish your t ransformat ion int o dolphins,
or make you insane, or t ransform you int o insane dolphins! Your only hope is t o swim away
now, quickly!
Ridiculous! Chrysaors voice t urned shrill. He didnt seem sure where t o level his swordat
Percy or his own crew.
Save yourselves! Percy warned. It is t oo lat e for us!
Then he gasped and point ed t o t he spot where Frank was hiding. Oh, no! Frank is t urning
int o a crazy dolphin!
Not hing happened.
I said, Percy repeat ed, Frank is t urning int o a crazy dolphin!
Frank st umbled out of nowhere, making a big show of grabbing his t hroat . Oh, no, he said,
like he was reading from a t eleprompt er. I am t urning int o a crazy dolphin.
He began t o change, his nose elongat ing int o a snout , his skin becoming sleek and gray. He
fell t o t he deck as a dolphin, his t ail t humping against t he boards.
The pirat e crew disbanded in t error, chat t ering and clicking as t hey dropped t heir weapons,
forgot t he capt ives, ignored Chrysaors orders, and jumped overboard. In t he confusion,
Annabet h moved quickly t o cut t he bonds on Hazel, Piper, and Coach Hedge.
Wit hin seconds, Chrysaor was alone and surrounded. Percy and his friends had no weapons
except for Annabet hs knife and Hedges hooves, but t he murderous looks on t heir faces
evident ly convinced t he golden warrior he was doomed.
He backed t o t he edge of t he rail.
This isnt over, Jackson, Chrysaor growled. I will have my revenge
His words were cut short by Frank, who had changed form again. An eight -hundred-pound
grizzly bear can definit ely break up a conversat ion. He sideswiped Chrysaor and raked t he
golden mask off his helmet . Chrysaor screamed, inst ant ly covering his face wit h his arms and
t umbling int o t he wat er.
They ran t o t he rail. Chrysaor had disappeared. Percy t hought about chasing him, but he
didnt know t hese wat ers, and he didnt want t o confront t hat guy alone again.
That was brilliant ! Annabet h kissed him, which made him feel a lit t le bet t er.
It was desperat e, Percy correct ed. And we need t o get rid of t his pirat e t rireme.
Burn it ? Annabet h asked.
Percy looked at t he Diet Coke in his hand. No. Ive got anot her idea.

It t ook t hem longer t han Percy want ed. As t hey worked, he kept glancing at t he sea, wait ing
for Chrysaor and his pirat e dolphins t o ret urn, but t hey didnt .
Leo got back on his feet , t hanks t o a lit t le nect ar. Piper t ended t o Jasons wounds, but he
wasnt as badly hurt as he looked. Most ly he was just ashamed t hat hed got t en overpowered
again, which Percy could relat e t o.
They ret urned all t heir own supplies t o t he proper places and t idied up from t he invasion
while Coach Hedge had a field day on t he enemy ship, breaking everyt hing he could find wit h
his baseball bat .
When he was done, Percy loaded t he enemys weapons back on t he pirat e ship. Their
st oreroom was full of t reasure, but Percy insist ed t hat t hey t ouch none of it .
I can sense about six million dollars wort h of gold aboard, Hazel said. Plus diamonds,
Six m-million? Frank st ammered. Canadian dollars or American?
Leave it , Percy said. It s part of t he t ribut e.
Tribut e? Hazel asked.
Oh. Piper nodded. Kansas.
Jason grinned. Hed been t here t oo when t heyd met t he wine god. Crazy. But I like it .
Finally Percy went aboard t he pirat e ship and opened t he flood valves. He asked Leo t o drill a
few ext ra holes in t he bot t om of t he hull wit h his power t ools, and Leo was happy t o oblige.
The crew of t he Argo II assembled at t he rail and cut t he grappling lines. Piper brought out
her new horn of plent y and, on Percys direct ion, willed it t o spew Diet Coke, which came out
wit h t he st rengt h of a fire hose, dousing t he enemy deck. Percy t hought it would t ake hours,
but t he ship sank remarkably fast , filling wit h Diet Coke and seawat er.
Dionysus, Percy called, holding up Chrysaors golden mask. Or Bacchuswhat ever. You
made t his vict ory possible, even if you werent here. Your enemies t rembled at your nameor
your Diet Coke, or somet hing. So, yeah, t hank you.
The words were hard t o get out , but Percy managed not t o gag. We give t his ship t o you as
t ribut e. We hope you like it .
Six million in gold, Leo mut t ered. Hed better like it .
Shh, Hazel scolded. Precious met al isnt all t hat great . Believe me.
Percy t hrew t he golden mask aboard t he vessel, which was now sinking even fast er, brown
fizzy liquid spewing out t he t riremes oar slot s and bubbling from t he cargo hold, t urning t he
sea frot hy brown.
Percy summoned a wave, and t he enemy ship was swamped. Leo st eered t he Argo II away
as t he pirat e vessel disappeared underwat er.
Isnt t hat pollut ing? Piper asked.
I wouldnt worry, Jason t old her. If Bacchus likes it , t he ship should vanish.
Percy didnt know if t hat would happen, but he felt like hed done all he could. He had no fait h
t hat Dionysus would hear t hem or care, much less help t hem in t heir bat t le against t he t win
giant s, but he had t o t ry.
As t he Argo II headed east int o t he fog, Percy decided at least one good t hing had come out
of his sword fight wit h Chrysaor. He was feeling humbleeven humble enough t o pay t ribut e
t o t he wine dude.

Aft er t heir bout wit h t he pirat es, t hey decided t o fly t he rest of t he way t o Rome. Jason
insist ed he was well enough t o t ake sent ry dut y, along wit h Coach Hedge, who was st ill so
charged wit h adrenaline t hat every t ime t he ship hit t urbulence, he swung his bat and yelled,
They had a couple of hours before daybreak, so Jason suggest ed Percy t ry t o get a few
more hours of sleep.
It s fine, man, Jason said. Give somebody else a chance t o save t he ship, huh?
Percy agreed, t hough once in his cabin, he had t rouble falling asleep.
He st ared at t he bronze lant ern swaying from t he ceiling and t hought about how easily
Chrysaor had beat en him at swordplay. The golden warrior couldve killed him wit hout breaking
a sweat . Hed only kept Percy alive because someone else want ed t o pay for t he privilege of
killing him lat er.
Percy felt like an arrow had slipped t hrough a chink in his armoras if he st ill had t he
blessing of Achilles, and someone had found his weak spot . The older he got , t he longer he
survived as a half-blood, t he more his friends looked up t o him. They depended on him and
relied on his powers. Even t he Romans had raised him on a shield and made him praet or, and
hed only known t hem for a couple of weeks.
But Percy didnt feel powerful. The more heroic st uff he did, t he more he realized how limit ed
he was. He felt like a fraud. Im not as great as you think, he want ed t o warn his friends. His
failures, like t onight , seemed t o prove it . Maybe t hat s why he had st art ed t o fear suffocat ion. It
wasnt so much drowning in t he eart h or t he sea, but t he feeling t hat he was sinking int o t oo
many expect at ions, lit erally get t ing in over his head.
Wowwhen he st art ed having t hought s like t hat , he knew hed been spending t oo much
t ime wit h Annabet h.
At hena had once t old Percy his fat al flaw: he was supposedly t oo loyal t o his friends. He
couldnt see t he big pict ure. He would save a friend even if it meant dest roying t he world.
At t he t ime, Percy had shrugged t his off. How could loyalt y be a bad t hing? Besides, t hings
worked out okay against t he Tit ans. Hed saved his friends and beat en Kronos.
Now, t hough, he st art ed t o wonder. He would gladly t hrow himself at any monst er, god, or
giant t o keep his friends from being hurt . But what if he wasnt up t o t he t ask? What if
someone else had t o do it ? That was very hard for him t o admit . He even had t rouble wit h
simple t hings like let t ing Jason t ake a t urn at wat ch. He didnt want t o rely on someone else t o
prot ect him, someone who could get hurt on his account .
Percys mom had done t hat for him. Shed st ayed in a bad relat ionship wit h a gross mort al
guy because she t hought it would save Percy from monst ers. Grover, his best friend, had
prot ect ed Percy for almost a year before Percy even realized he was a demigod, and Grover
had almost got t en killed by t he Minot aur.
Percy wasnt a kid anymore. He didnt want anybody he loved t aking a risk for him. He had t o
be st rong enough t o be t he prot ect or himself. But now he was supposed t o let Annabet h go
off on her own t o follow t he Mark of At hena, knowing she might die. If it came t o a choice
save Annabet h or let t he quest succeedcould Percy really choose t he quest ?
Exhaust ion finally overt ook him. He fell asleep, and in his night mare, t he rumble of t hunder
became t he laught er of t he eart h goddess Gaea.
Percy dreamed he was st anding on t he front porch of t he Big House at Camp Half-Blood.
The sleeping face of Gaea appeared on t he side of Half-Blood Hillher massive feat ures
formed from t he shadows on t he grassy slopes. Her lips didnt move, but her voice echoed
across t he valley.
So this is your home, Gaea murmured. Take a last look, Percy Jackson. You should have
returned here. At least then you could have died with your comrades when the Romans invade.
Now your blood will be spilled far from home, on the ancient stones, and I will rise.
The ground shook. At t he t op of Half-Blood Hill, Thalias pine t ree burst int o flames.
Disrupt ion rolled across t he valleygrass t urning t o sand, forest crumbling t o dust . The river
and t he canoe lake dried up. The cabins and t he Big House burned t o ashes. When t he t remor
st opped, Camp Half-Blood looked like a wast eland aft er an at omic blast . The only t hing left
was t he porch where Percy st ood.
Next t o him, t he dust swirled and solidified int o t he figure of a woman. Her eyes were closed,
as if she were sleepwalking. Her robes were forest green, dappled wit h gold and whit e like
sunlight shift ing t hrough branches. Her hair was as black as t illed soil. Her face was beaut iful,
but even wit h a dreamy smile on her lips she seemed cold and dist ant . Percy got t he feeling
she could wat ch demigods die or cit ies burn, and t hat smile wouldnt waver.
When I reclaim t he eart h, Gaea said, I will leave t his spot barren forever, t o remind me of
your kind and how ut t erly powerless t hey were t o st op me. It doesnt mat t er when you fall, my
sweet lit t le pawnt o Phorcys or Chrysaor or my dear t wins. You will fall, and I will be t here t o
devour you. Your only choice nowwill you fall alone? Come t o me willingly; bring t he girl.
Perhaps I will spare t his place you love. Ot herwise
Gaea opened her eyes. They swirled in green and black, as deep as t he crust of t he eart h.
Gaea saw everyt hing. Her pat ience was infinit e. She was slow t o wake, but once she arose, her
power was unst oppable.
Percys skin t ingled. His hands went numb. He looked down and realized he was crumbling t o
dust , like all t he monst ers hed ever defeat ed.
Enjoy Tart arus, my lit t le pawn, Gaea purred.
A met allic CLANG-CLANG-CLANG jolt ed Percy out of his dream. His eyes shot open. He
realized hed just heard t he landing gear being lowered.
There was a knock on his door, and Jason poked his head in. The bruises on his face had
faded. His blue eyes glit t ered wit h excit ement .
Hey, man, he said. Were descending over Rome. You really should see t his.

The sky was brilliant blue, as if t he st ormy weat her had never happened. The sun rose over
t he dist ant hills, so everyt hing below t hem shone and sparkled like t he ent ire cit y of Rome had
just come out of t he car wash.
Percy had seen big cit ies before. He was from New York, aft er all. But t he sheer vast ness of
Rome grabbed him by t he t hroat and made it hard t o breat he. The cit y seemed t o have no
regard for t he limit s of geography. It spread t hrough hills and valleys, jumped over t he Tiber
wit h dozens of bridges, and just kept sprawling t o t he horizon. St reet s and alleys zigzagged
wit h no rhyme or reason t hrough quilt s of neighborhoods. Glass office buildings st ood next t o
excavat ion sit es. A cat hedral st ood next t o a line of Roman columns, which st ood next t o a
modern soccer st adium. In some neighborhoods, old st ucco villas wit h red-t iled roofs crowded
t he cobblest one st reet s, so t hat if Percy concent rat ed just on t hose areas, he could imagine
he was back in ancient t imes. Everywhere he looked, t here were wide piazzas and t raffic-
clogged st reet s. Parks cut across t he cit y wit h a crazy collect ion of palm t rees, pines, junipers,
and olive t rees, as if Rome couldnt decide what part of t he world it belonged t oor maybe it
just believed all t he world st ill belonged t o Rome.
It was as if t he cit y knew about Percys dream of Gaea. It knew t hat t he eart h goddess
int ended on razing all human civilizat ion, and t his cit y, which had st ood for t housands of years,
was saying back t o her: You wanna dissolve this city, Dirt Face? Give it a shot.
In ot her words, it was t he Coach Hedge of mort al cit iesonly t aller.
Were set t ing down in t hat park, Leo announced, point ing t o a wide green space dot t ed
wit h palm t rees. Let s hope t he Mist makes us look like a large pigeon or somet hing.
Percy wished Jasons sist er Thalia were here. Shed always had a way of bending t he Mist t o
make people see what she want ed. Percy had never been very good at t hat . He just kept
t hinking: Dont look at me, and hoped t he Romans below would fail t o not ice t he giant bronze
t rireme descending on t heir cit y in t he middle of morning rush hour.
It seemed t o work. Percy didnt not ice any cars veering off t he road or Romans point ing t o
t he sky and screaming, Aliens! The Argo II set down in t he grassy field and t he oars
ret ract ed.
The noise of t raffic was all around t hem, but t he park it self was peaceful and desert ed. To
t heir left , a green lawn sloped t oward a line of woods. An old villa nest led in t he shade of some
weird-looking pine t rees wit h t hin curvy t runks t hat shot up t hirt y or fort y feet , t hen sprout ed
int o puffy canopies. They reminded Percy of t rees in t hose Dr. Seuss books his mom used t o
read him when he was lit t le.
To t heir right , snaking along t he t op of a hill, was a long brick wall wit h not ches at t he t op for
archersmaybe a medieval defensive line, maybe Ancient Roman. Percy wasnt sure.
To t he nort h, about a mile away t hrough t he folds of t he cit y, t he t op of t he Colosseum rose
above t he rooft ops, looking just like it did in t ravel phot os. That s when Percys legs st art ed
shaking. He was act ually here. Hed t hought his t rip t o Alaska had been pret t y exot ic, but now
he was in t he heart of t he old Roman Empire, enemy t errit ory for a Greek demigod. In a way,
t his place had shaped his life as much as New York.
Jason point ed t o t he base of t he archers wall, where st eps led down int o some kind of
t unnel.
I t hink I know where we are, he said. That s t he Tomb of t he Scipios.
Percy frowned. ScipioReynas pegasus?
No, Annabet h put in. They were a noble Roman family, andwow, t his place is amazing.
Jason nodded. Ive st udied maps of Rome before. Ive always want ed t o come here, but
Nobody bot hered finishing t hat sent ence. Looking at his friends faces, Percy could t ell t hey
were just as much in awe as he was. Theyd made it . Theyd landed in Romethe Rome.
Plans? Hazel asked. Nico has unt il sunset at best . And t his ent ire cit y is supposedly
get t ing dest royed t oday.
Percy shook himself out of his daze. Youre right . Annabet hdid you zero in on t hat spot
from your bronze map?
Her gray eyes t urned ext ra t hunderst orm dark, which Percy could int erpret just fine:
Remember what I said, buddy. Keep that dream to yourself.
Yes, she said carefully. It s on t he Tiber River. I t hink I can find it , but I should
Take me along, Percy finished. Yeah, youre right .
Annabet h glared daggers at him. That s not
Safe, he supplied. One demigod walking t hrough Rome alone. Ill go wit h you as far as t he
Tiber. We can use t hat let t er of int roduct ion, hopefully meet t he river god Tiberinus. Maybe he
can give you some help or advice. Then you can go on alone from t here.
They had a silent st aring cont est , but Percy didnt back down. When he and Annabet h
st art ed dat ing, his mot her had drummed it int o his head: Its good manners to walk your date to
the door. If t hat was t rue, it had t o be good manners t o walk her t o t he st art of her epic solo
deat h quest .
Fine, Annabet h mut t ered. Hazel, now t hat were in Rome, do you t hink you can pinpoint
Nicos locat ion?
Hazel blinked, as if coming out of a t rance from wat ching t he Percy/Annabet h Show. Um
hopefully, if I get close enough. Ill have t o walk around t he cit y. Frank, would you come wit h
Frank beamed. Absolut ely.
And, uhLeo, Hazel added. It might be a good idea if you came along t oo. The fish-
cent aurs said wed need your help wit h somet hing mechanical.
Yeah, Leo said, no problem.
Franks smile t urned int o somet hing more like Chrysaors mask.
Percy was no genius when it came t o relat ionships, but even he could feel t he t ension
among t hose t hree. Ever since t heyd got t en knocked int o t he At lant ic, t hey hadnt act ed quit e
t he same. It wasnt just t he t wo guys compet ing for Hazel. It was like t he t hree of t hem were
locked t oget her, act ing out some kind of murder myst ery, but t hey hadnt yet discovered which
of t hem was t he vict im.
Piper drew her knife and set it on t he rail. Jason and I can wat ch t he ship for now. Ill see
what Kat opt ris can show me. But , Hazel, if you guys get a fix on Nicos locat ion, dont go in
t here by yourselves. Come back and get us. It ll t ake all of us t o fight t he giant s.
She didnt say t he obvious: even all of t hem t oget her wouldnt be enough, unless t hey had a
god on t heir side. Percy decided not t o bring t hat up.
Good idea, Percy said. How about we plan t o meet back here at what ?
Three t his aft ernoon? Jason suggest ed. That s probably t he lat est we could rendezvous
and st ill hope t o fight t he giant s and save Nico. If somet hing happens t o change t he plan, t ry t o
send an Iris-message.
The ot hers nodded in agreement , but Percy not iced several of t hem glancing at Annabet h.
Anot her t hing no one want ed t o say: Annabet h would be on a different schedule. She might be
back at t hree, or much lat er, or never. But she would be on her own, searching for t he At hena
Part henos.
Coach Hedge grunt ed. That ll give me t ime t o eat t he coconut sI mean dig t he coconut s
out of our hull. Percy, Annabet hI dont like you t wo going off on your own. Just remember:
behave. If I hear about any funny business, I will ground you unt il t he St yx freezes over.
The idea of get t ing grounded when t hey were about t o risk t heir lives was so ridiculous,
Percy couldnt help smiling.
Well be back soon, he promised. He looked around at his friends, t rying not t o feel like t his
was t he last t ime t heyd ever be t oget her. Good luck, everyone.
Leo lowered t he gangplank, and Percy and Annabet h were first off t he ship.

UNDER DI FFERENT CI RCUMSTANCES, wandering t hrough Rome wit h Annabet h would have been pret t y
awesome. They held hands as t hey navigat ed t he winding st reet s, dodging cars and crazy
Vespa drivers, squeezing t hrough mobs of t ourist s, and wading t hrough oceans of pigeons.
The day warmed up quickly. Once t hey got away from t he car exhaust on t he main roads, t he
air smelled of baking bread and freshly cut flowers.
They aimed for t he Colosseum because t hat was an easy landmark, but get t ing t here
proved harder t han Percy ant icipat ed. As big and confusing as t he cit y had looked from above,
it was even more so on t he ground. Several t imes t hey got lost on dead-end st reet s. They
found beaut iful fount ains and huge monument s by accident .
Annabet h comment ed on t he archit ect ure, but Percy kept his eyes open for ot her t hings.
Once he spot t ed a glowing purple ghost a Larglaring at t hem from t he window of an
apart ment building. Anot her t ime he saw a whit e-robed womanmaybe a nymph or a goddess
holding a wicked-looking knife, slipping bet ween ruined columns in a public park. Not hing
at t acked t hem, but Percy felt like t hey were being wat ched, and t he wat chers were not
Finally t hey reached t he Colosseum, where a dozen guys in cheap gladiat or cost umes were
scuffling wit h t he policeplast ic swords versus bat ons. Percy wasnt sure what t hat was
about , but he and Annabet h decided t o keep walking. Somet imes mort als were even st ranger
t han monst ers.
They made t heir way west , st opping every once in a while t o ask direct ions t o t he river.
Percy hadnt considered t hat duhpeople in It aly spoke It alian, while he did not . As it t urned
out , t hough, t hat wasnt much of a problem. The few t imes someone approached t hem on t he
st reet and asked a quest ion, Percy just looked at t hem in confusion, and t hey swit ched t o
Next discovery: t he It alians used euros, and Percy didnt have any. He regret t ed t his as soon
as he found a t ourist shop t hat sold sodas. By t hen it was almost noon, get t ing really hot , and
Percy was st art ing t o wish he had a t rireme filled wit h Diet Coke.
Annabet h solved t he problem. She dug around in her backpack, brought out Daedaluss
lapt op, and t yped in a few commands. A plast ic card eject ed from a slot in t he side.
Annabet h waved it t riumphant ly. Int ernat ional credit card. For emergencies.
Percy st ared at her in amazement . How did you? No. Never mind. I dont want t o know.
Just keep being awesome.
The sodas helped, but t hey were st ill hot and t ired by t he t ime t hey arrived at t he Tiber
River. The shore was edged wit h a st one embankment . A chaot ic assort ment of warehouses,
apart ment s, st ores, and cafs crowded t he riverfront .
The Tiber it self was wide, lazy, and caramel-colored. A few t all cypress t rees hung over t he
banks. The nearest bridge looked fairly new, made from iron girders, but right next t o it st ood a
crumbling line of st one arches t hat st opped halfway across t he riverruins t hat might ve been
left over from t he days of t he Caesars.
This is it . Annabet h point ed at t he old st one bridge. I recognize t hat from t he map. But
what do we do now?
Percy was glad she had said we. He didnt want t o leave her yet . In fact , he wasnt sure he
could make himself do it when t he t ime came. Gaeas words came back t o him: Will you fall
He st ared at t he river, wondering how t hey could make cont act wit h t he god Tiberinus. He
didnt really want t o jump in. The Tiber didnt look much cleaner t han t he East River back home,
where hed had t oo many encount ers wit h grouchy river spirit s.
He gest ured t o a nearby caf wit h t ables overlooking t he wat er. It s about luncht ime. How
about we t ry your credit card again?
Even t hough it was noon, t he place was empt y. They picked a t able out side by t he river, and
a wait er hurried over. He looked a bit surprised t o see t hemespecially when t hey said t hey
want ed lunch.
American? he asked, wit h a pained smile.
Yes, Annabet h said.
And Id love a pizza, Percy said.
The wait er looked like he was t rying t o swallow a euro coin. Of course you would, signor.
And let me guess: a Coca-Cola? Wit h ice?
Awesome, Percy said. He didnt underst and why t he guy was giving him such a sour face. It
wasnt like Percy had asked for a blue Coke.
Annabet h ordered a panini and some fizzy wat er. Aft er t he wait er left , she smiled at Percy. I
t hink It alians eat a lot lat er in t he day. They dont put ice in t heir drinks. And t hey only do pizza
for t ourist s.
Oh. Percy shrugged. The best It alian food, and t hey dont even eat it ?
I wouldnt say t hat in front of t he wait er.
They held hands across t he t able. Percy was cont ent just t o look at Annabet h in t he
sunlight . It always made her hair so bright and warm. Her eyes t ook on t he colors of t he sky
and t he cobblest ones, alt ernat ely brown or blue.
He wondered if he should t ell Annabet h his dream about Gaea dest roying Camp Half-Blood.
He decided against it . She didnt need anyt hing else t o worry about not wit h what she was
But it made him wonderwhat would have happened if t hey hadnt scared off Chrysaors
pirat es? Percy and Annabet h wouldve been put in chains and t aken t o Gaeas minions. Their
blood would have been spilled on ancient st ones. Percy guessed t hat meant t hey wouldve
been t aken t o Greece for some big horrible sacrifice. But Annabet h and he had been in plent y
of bad sit uat ions t oget her. They couldve figured out an escape plan, saved t he dayand
Annabet h wouldnt be facing t his solo quest in Rome.
It doesnt matter when you fall, Gaea had said.
Percy knew it was a horrible wish, but he almost regret t ed t hat t hey hadnt been capt ured at
sea. At least Annabet h and he wouldve been t oget her.
You shouldnt feel ashamed, Annabet h said. Youre t hinking about Chrysaor, arent you?
Swords cant solve every problem. You saved us in t he end.
In spit e of himself, Percy smiled. How do you do t hat ? You always know what Im t hinking.
I know you, she said.
And you like me anyway? Percy want ed t o ask, but he held it back.
Percy, she said, you cant carry t he weight of t his whole quest . It s impossible. That s why
t here are seven of us. And youll have t o let me search for t he At hena Part henos on my own.
I missed you, he confessed. For mont hs. A huge chunk of our lives was t aken away. If I lost
you again
Lunch arrived. The wait er looked much calmer. Having accept ed t he fact t hat t hey were
clueless Americans, he had apparent ly decided t o forgive t hem and t reat t hem polit ely.
It is a beaut iful view, he said, nodding t oward t he river. Enjoy, please.
Once he left , t hey at e in silence. The pizza was a bland, doughy square wit h not a lot of
cheese. Maybe, Percy t hought , t hat s why Romans didnt eat it . Poor Romans.
Youll have t o t rust me, Annabet h said. Percy almost t hought she was t alking t o her
sandwich, because she didnt meet his eyes. Youve got t o believe Ill come back.
He swallowed anot her bit e. I believe in you. That s not t he problem. But come back from
The sound of a Vespa int errupt ed t hem. Percy looked along t he riverfront and did a double
t ake. The mot or scoot er was an old-fashioned model: big and baby blue. The driver was a guy
in a silky gray suit . Behind him sat a younger woman wit h a headscarf, her hands around t he
mans waist . They weaved bet ween caf t ables and put t ered t o a st op next t o Percy and
Annabet h.
Why, hello, t he man said. His voice was deep, almost croaky, like a movie act ors. His hair
was short and greased back from his craggy face. He was handsome in a 1950s dad-on-
t elevision way. Even his clot hes seemed old-fashioned. When he st epped off his bike, t he
waist line of his slacks was way higher t han normal, but somehow he st ill managed t o look
manly and st ylish and not like a t ot al goober. Percy had t rouble guessing his agemaybe
t hirt y-somet hing, t hough t he mans fashion and manner seemed grandfat herish.
The woman slid off t he bike. Weve had t he most lovely morning, she said breat hlessly.
She looked about t went y-one, also dressed in an old-fashioned st yle. Her ankle-lengt h
marigold skirt and whit e blouse were pinched t oget her wit h a large leat her belt , giving her t he
narrowest waist Percy had ever seen. When she removed her scarf, her short wavy black hair
bounced int o perfect shape. She had dark playful eyes and a brilliant smile. Percy had seen
naiads t hat looked less pixieish t han t his lady.
Annabet hs sandwich fell out of her hands. Oh, gods. Howhow ?
She seemed so st unned t hat Percy figured he ought t o know t hese t wo.
You guys do look familiar, he decided. He t hought he might have seen t heir faces on
t elevision. It seemed like t hey were from an old show, but t hat couldnt be right . They hadnt
aged at all. Nevert heless, he point ed at t he guy and t ook a guess. Are you t hat guy on Mad
Percy! Annabet h looked horrified.
What ? he prot est ed. I dont wat ch a lot of TV.
That s Gregory Peck! Annabet hs eyes were wide, and her mout h kept falling open. And
oh gods! Audrey Hepburn! I know t his movie. Roman Holiday. But t hat was from t he 1950s.
Oh, my dear! The woman t wirled like an air spirit and sat down at t heir t able. Im afraid
youve mist aken me for someone else! My name is Rhea Silvia. I was t he mot her t o Romulus
and Remus, thousands of years ago. But youre so kind t o t hink I look as young as t he 1950s.
And t his is my husband
Tiberinus, said Gregory Peck, t hrust ing out his hand t o Percy in a manly way. God of t he
River Tiber.
Percy shook his hand. The guy smelled of aft ershave. Of course, if Percy were t he Tiber
River, hed probably want t o mask t he smell wit h cologne t oo.
Uh, hi, Percy said. Do you t wo always look like American movie st ars?
Do we? Tiberinus frowned and st udied his clot hes. Im not sure, act ually. The migrat ion of
West ern civilizat ion goes bot h ways, you know. Rome affect ed t he world, but t he world also
affect s Rome. There does seem t o be a lot of American influence lat ely. Ive rat her lost t rack
over t he cent uries.
Okay, Percy said. But youre here t o help?
My naiads t old me you t wo were here. Tiberinus cast his dark eyes t oward Annabet h. You
have t he map, my dear? And your let t er of int roduct ion?
Uh Annabet h handed him t he let t er and t he disk of bronze. She was st aring at t he river
god so int ent ly Percy st art ed t o feel jealous.
S-so she st ammered, youve helped ot her children of At hena wit h t his quest ?
Oh, my dear! The pret t y lady, Rhea Silvia, put her hand on Annabet hs shoulder. Tiberinus
is ever so helpful. He saved my children Romulus and Remus, you know, and brought t hem t o
t he wolf goddess Lupa. Lat er, when t hat old king Numen t ried t o kill me, Tiberinus t ook pit y on
me and made me his wife. Ive been ruling t he river kingdom at his side ever since. Hes just
Thank you, my dear, Tiberinus said wit h a wry smile. And, yes, Annabet h Chase, Ive
helped many of your siblingst o at least begin t heir journey safely. A shame all of t hem died
painfully lat er on. Well, your document s seem in order. We should get going. The Mark of
At hena await s!
Percy gripped Annabet hs handprobably a lit t le t oo t ight . Tiberinus, let me go wit h her.
Just a lit t le fart her.
Rhea Silvia laughed sweet ly. But you cant , silly boy. You must ret urn t o your ship and
gat her your ot her friends. Confront t he giant s! The way will appear in your friend Pipers knife.
Annabet h has a different pat h. She must walk alone.
Indeed, Tiberinus said. Annabet h must face t he guardian of t he shrine by herself. It is t he
only way. And Percy Jackson, you have less t ime t han you realized t o rescue your friend in t he
jar. You must hurry.
Percys pizza felt like a cement lump in his st omach. But
It s all right , Percy. Annabet h squeezed his hand. I need t o do t his.
He st art ed t o prot est . Her expression st opped him. She was t errified but doing her best t o
hide it for his sake. If he t ried t o argue, he would only make t hings harder for her. Or worse, he
might convince her t o st ay. Then she would have t o live wit h t he knowledge t hat shed backed
down from her biggest challengeassuming t hat t hey survived at all, wit h Rome about t o get
leveled and Gaea about t o rise and dest roy t he world. The At hena st at ue held t he key t o
defeat ing t he giant s. Percy didnt know why or how, but Annabet h was t he only one who could
find it .
Youre right , he said, forcing out t he words. Be safe.
Rhea Silvia giggled like it was a ridiculous comment . Safe? Not at all! But necessary. Come,
Annabet h, my dear. We will show you where your pat h st art s. Aft er t hat , youre on your own.
Annabet h kissed Percy. She hesit at ed, like she was wondering what else t o say. Then she
shouldered her backpack and climbed on t he back of t he scoot er.
Percy hat ed it . He wouldve preferred t o fight any monst er in t he world. He wouldve
preferred a remat ch wit h Chrysaor. But he forced himself t o st ay in his chair and wat ch as
Annabet h mot ored off t hrough t he st reet s of Rome wit h Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.

ANNABETH FI GURED I T COULDVE BEEN WORSE. If she had t o go on a horrifying solo quest , at least shed got t en
t o have lunch wit h Percy on t he banks of t he Tiber first . Now she got t o t ake a scoot er ride
wit h Gregory Peck.
She only knew about t hat old movie because of her dad. Over t he past few years, since t he
t wo of t hem had made up, t heyd spent more t ime t oget her, and she had learned t hat her dad
had a sappy side. Sure, he liked milit ary hist ory, weapons, and biplanes, but he also loved old
films, especially romant ic comedies from t he 1940s and 50s. Roman Holiday was one of his
favorit es. Hed made Annabet h wat ch it .
She t hought t he plot was sillya princess escapes her minders and falls in love wit h an
American journalist in Romebut she suspect ed her dad liked it because it reminded him of his
own romance wit h t he goddess At hena: anot her impossible pairing t hat couldnt end happily.
Her dad was not hing like Gregory Peck. At hena cert ainly wasnt anyt hing like Audrey Hepburn.
But Annabet h knew t hat people saw what t hey want ed t o see. They didnt need t he Mist t o
warp t heir percept ions.
As t he baby-blue scoot er zipped t hrough t he st reet s of Rome, t he goddess Rhea Silvia gave
Annabet h a running comment ary on how t he cit y had changed over t he cent uries.
The Sublician Bridge was over t here, she said, point ing t o a bend in t he Tiber. You know,
where Horat ius and his t wo friends defended t he cit y from an invading army? Now, there was a
brave Roman!
And look, dear, Tiberinus added, t hat s t he place where Romulus and Remus washed
He seemed t o be t alking about a spot on t he riverside where some ducks were making a
nest out of t orn-up plast ic bags and candy wrappers.
Ah, yes, Rhea Silvia sighed happily. You were so kind t o flood yourself and wash my babies
ashore for t he wolves t o find.
It was not hing, Tiberinus said.
Annabet h felt light -headed. The river god was t alking about somet hing t hat had happened
t housands of years ago, when t his area was not hing but marshes and maybe some shacks.
Tiberinus saved t wo babies, one of whom went on t o found t he worlds great est empire. It was
Rhea Silvia point ed out a large modern apart ment building. That used t o be a t emple t o
Venus. Then it was a church. Then a palace. Then an apart ment building. It burned down t hree
t imes. Now it s an apart ment building again. And t hat spot right t here
Please, Annabet h said. Youre making me dizzy.
Rhea Silvia laughed. Im sorry, dear. Layers upon layers of hist ory here, but it s not hing
compared t o Greece. At hens was old when Rome was a collect ion of mud hut s. Youll see, if
you survive.
Not helping, Annabet h mut t ered.
Here we are, Tiberinus announced. He pulled over in front of a large marble building, t he
facade covered in cit y grime but st ill beaut iful. Ornat e carvings of Roman gods decorat ed t he
roofline. The massive ent rance was barred wit h iron gat es, heavily padlocked.
Im going in t here? Annabet h wished shed brought Leo, or at least borrowed some wire
cut t ers from his t ool belt .
Rhea Silvia covered her mout h and giggled. No, my dear. Not in it . Under it .
Tiberinus point ed t o a set of st one st eps on t he side of t he buildingt he sort t hat would
have led t o a basement apart ment if t his place were in Manhat t an.
Rome is chaot ic aboveground, Tiberinus said, but t hat s not hing compared t o below
ground. You must descend int o t he buried cit y, Annabet h Chase. Find t he alt ar of t he foreign
god. The failures of your predecessors will guide you. Aft er t hat I do not know.
Annabet hs backpack felt heavy on her shoulders. Shed been st udying t he bronze map for
days now, scouring Daedaluss lapt op for informat ion. Unfort unat ely, t he few t hings she had
learned made t his quest seem even more impossible. My siblingsnone of t hem made it all
t he way t o t he shrine, did t hey.
Tiberinus shook his head. But you know what prize await s, if you can liberat e it .
Yes, Annabet h said.
It could bring peace t o t he children of Greece and Rome, Rhea Silvia said. It could change
t he course of t he coming war.
If I live, Annabet h said.
Tiberinus nodded sadly. Because you also underst and t he guardian you must face?
Annabet h remembered t he spiders at Fort Sumt er, and t he dream Percy had describedt he
hissing voice in t he dark. Yes.
Rhea Silvia looked at her husband. She is brave. Perhaps she is st ronger t han t he ot hers.
I hope so, said t he river god. Good-bye, Annabet h Chase. And good luck.
Rhea Silvia beamed. We have such a lovely aft ernoon planned! Off t o shop!
Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn sped off on t heir baby-blue mot orbike. Then Annabet h
t urned and descended t he st eps alone.

Shed been underground plent y of t imes.
But halfway down t he st eps, she realized just how long it had been since shed advent ured
by herself. She froze.
Godsshe hadnt done somet hing like t his since she was a kid. Aft er running away from
home, shed spent a few weeks surviving on her own, living in alleyways and hiding from
monst ers unt il Thalia and Luke t ook her under t heir wings. Then, once shed arrived at Camp
Half-Blood, shed lived t here unt il she was t welve. Aft er t hat , all her quest s had been wit h
Percy or her ot her friends.
The last t ime she had felt t his scared and alone, shed been seven years old. She
remembered t he day Thalia, Luke, and she had wandered int o a Cyclopes lair in Brooklyn.
Thalia and Luke had got t en capt ured, and Annabet h had had t o cut t hem free. She st ill
remembered shivering in a dark corner of t hat dilapidat ed mansion, list ening t o t he Cyclopes
mimicking her friends voices, t rying t o t rick her int o coming out int o t he open.
What if this is a t rick, t oo? she wondered. What if t hose ot her children of At hena died
because Tiberinus and Rhea Silvia led t hem int o a t rap? Would Gregory Peck and Audrey
Hepburn do somet hing like t hat ?
She forced herself t o keep going. She had no choice. If t he At hena Part henos was really
down here, it could decide t he fat e of t he war. More import ant ly, it could help her mom. At hena
needed her.
At t he bot t om of t he st eps she reached an old wooden door wit h an iron pull ring. Above t he
ring was a met al plat e wit h a keyhole. Annabet h st art ed considering ways t o pick t he lock, but
as soon as she t ouched t he pull ring, a fiery shape burned in t he middle of t he door: t he
silhouet t e of At henas owl. Smoke plumed from t he keyhole. The door swung inward.
Annabet h looked up one last t ime. At t he t op of t he st airwell, t he sky was a square of
brilliant blue. Mort als would be enjoying t he warm aft ernoon. Couples would be holding hands
at t he cafs. Tourist s would be bust ling t hrough t he shops and museums. Regular Romans
would be going about t heir daily business, probably not considering t he t housands of years of
hist ory under t heir feet , and definit ely unaware of t he spirit s, gods, and monst ers t hat st ill
dwelt here, or t he fact t hat t heir cit y might be dest royed t oday unless a cert ain group of
demigods succeeded in st opping t he giant s.
Annabet h st epped t hrough t he doorway.
She found herself in a basement t hat was an archit ect ural cyborg. Ancient brick walls were
crisscrossed wit h modern elect rical cables and plumbing. The ceiling was held up wit h a
combinat ion of st eel scaffolding and old granit e Roman columns.
The front half of t he basement was st acked wit h crat es. Out of curiosit y, Annabet h opened
a few. Some were packed wit h mult icolored spools of st ringlike for kit es or art s and craft s
project s. Ot her crat es were full of cheap plast ic gladiat or swords. Maybe at one point t his had
been a st orage area for a t ourist shop.
In t he back of t he basement , t he floor had been excavat ed, revealing anot her set of st eps
t hese of whit e st oneleading st ill deeper underground.
Annabet h crept t o t he edge. Even wit h t he glow cast by her dagger, it was t oo dark t o see
below. She rest ed her hand on t he wall and found a light swit ch.
She flipped it . Glaring whit e fluorescent bulbs illuminat ed t he st airs. Below, she saw a mosaic
floor decorat ed wit h deer and faunsmaybe a room from an Ancient Roman villa, just st ashed
away under t his modern basement along wit h t he crat es of st ring and plast ic swords.
She climbed down. The room was about t went y feet square. The walls had once been
bright ly paint ed, but most of t he frescoes had peeled or faded. The only exit was a hole dug in
one corner of t he floor where t he mosaic had been pulled up. Annabet h crouched next t o t he
opening. It dropped st raight down int o a larger cavern, but Annabet h couldnt see t he bot t om.
She heard running wat er maybe t hirt y or fort y feet below. The air didnt smell like a sewer
just old and must y, and slight ly sweet , like moldering flowers. Perhaps it was an old wat er line
from t he aqueduct s. There was no way down.
Im not jumping, she mut t ered t o herself.
As if in reply, somet hing glowed in t he darkness. The Mark of At hena blazed t o life at t he
bot t om of t he cavern, revealing glist ening brickwork along a subt erranean canal fort y feet
below. The fiery owl seemed t o be t aunt ing her: Well, this is the way, kid. So youd better figure
something out.
Annabet h considered her opt ions. Too dangerous t o jump. No ladders or ropes. She t hought
about borrowing some met al scaffolding from above t o use as a fire pole, but it was all bolt ed in
place. Besides, she didnt want t o cause t he building t o collapse on t op of her.
Frust rat ion crawled t hrough her like an army of t ermit es. She had spent her life wat ching
ot her demigods gain amazing powers. Percy could cont rol wat er. If he were here, he could raise
t he wat er level and simply float down. Hazel, from what she had said, could find her way
underground wit h flawless accuracy and even creat e or change t he course of t unnels. She
could easily make a new pat h. Leo would pull just t he right t ools from his belt and build
somet hing t o do t he job. Frank could t urn int o a bird. Jason could simply cont rol t he wind and
float down. Even Piper wit h her charmspeakshe could have convinced Tiberinus and Rhea
Silvia t o be a lit t le more helpful.
What did Annabet h have? A bronze dagger t hat did not hing special, and a cursed silver coin.
She had her backpack wit h Daedaluss lapt op, a wat er bot t le, a few pieces of ambrosia for
emergencies, and a box of mat chesprobably useless, but her dad had drilled int o her head
t hat she should always have a way t o make fire.
She had no amazing powers. Even her one t rue magic it em, her New York Yankees cap of
invisibilit y, had st opped working, and was st ill back in her cabin on t he Argo II.
Youve got your intelligence, a voice said. Annabet h wondered if At hena was speaking t o
her, but t hat was probably just wishful t hinking.
Int elligencelike At henas favorit e hero, Odysseus. Hed won t he Trojan War wit h
cleverness, not st rengt h. He had overcome all sort s of monst ers and hardships wit h his quick
wit s. That s what At hena valued.
Wisdoms daughter walks alone.
That didnt mean just wit hout ot her people, Annabet h realized. It meant wit hout any special
Okayso how t o get down t here safely and make sure she had a way t o get out again if
She climbed back t o t he basement and st ared at t he open crat es. Kit e st ring and plast ic
swords. The idea t hat came t o her was so ridiculous, she almost had t o laugh; but it was bet t er
t han not hing.
She set t o work. Her hands seemed t o know exact ly what t o do. Somet imes t hat happened,
like when she was helping Leo wit h t he ships machinery or drawing archit ect ural plans on t he
comput er. Shed never made anyt hing out of kit e st ring and plast ic swords, but it seemed easy,
nat ural. Wit hin minut es shed used a dozen balls of st ring and a crat eful of swords t o creat e a
makeshift rope laddera braided line, woven for st rengt h yet not t oo t hick, wit h swords t ied at
t wo-foot int ervals t o serve as hand- and foot holds.
As a t est , she t ied one end around a support column and leaned on t he rope wit h all her
weight . The plast ic swords bent under her, but t hey provided some ext ra bulk t o t he knot s in
t he cord, so at least she could keep a bet t er grip.
The ladder wouldnt win any design awards, but it might get her t o t he bot t om of t he cavern
safely. First , she st uffed her backpack wit h t he left over spools of st ring. She wasnt sure why,
but t hey were one more resource, and not t oo heavy.
She headed back t o t he hole in t he mosaic floor. She secured one end of her ladder t o t he
nearest piece of scaffolding, lowered t he rope int o t he cavern, and shinnied down.

AS ANNABETH HUNG I N THE AI R, descending hand over hand wit h t he ladder swinging wildly, she t hanked
Chiron for all t hose years of t raining on t he climbing course at Camp Half-Blood. Shed
complained loudly and oft en t hat rope climbing would never help her defeat a monst er. Chiron
had just smiled, like he knew t his day would come.
Finally Annabet h made it t o t he bot t om. She missed t he brickwork edge and landed in t he
canal, but it t urned out t o be only a few inches deep. Freezing wat er soaked int o her running
She held up her glowing dagger. The shallow channel ran down t he middle of a brickwork
t unnel. Every few yards, ceramic pipes jut t ed from t he walls. She guessed t hat t he pipes were
drains, part of t he ancient Roman plumbing syst em, t hough it was amazing t o her t hat a t unnel
like t his had survived, crowded underground wit h all t he ot her cent uries wort h of pipes,
basement s, and sewers.
A sudden t hought chilled her even more t han t he wat er. A few years ago, Percy and she had
gone on a quest in Daedaluss labyrint ha secret net work of t unnels and rooms, heavily
enchant ed and t rapped, which ran under all t he cit ies of America.
When Daedalus died in t he Bat t le of t he Labyrint h, t he ent ire maze had collapsedor so
Annabet h believed. But what if t hat was only in America? What if t his was an older version of
t he labyrint h? Daedalus once t old her t hat his maze had a life of it s own. It was const ant ly
growing and changing. Maybe t he labyrint h could regenerat e, like monst ers. That would make
sense. It was an archet ypal force, as Chiron would saysomet hing t hat could never really die.
If t his was part of t he labyrint h
Annabet h decided not t o dwell on t hat , but she also decided not t o assume her direct ions
were accurat e. The labyrint h made dist ance meaningless. If she wasnt careful, she could walk
t went y feet in t he wrong direct ion and end up in Poland.
Just t o be safe, she t ied a new ball of st ring t o t he end of her rope ladder. She could unravel
it behind her as she explored. An old t rick, but a good one.
She debat ed which way t o go. The t unnel seemed t he same in bot h direct ions. Then, about
fift y feet t o her left , t he Mark of At hena blazed against t he wall. Annabet h could swear it was
glaring at her wit h t hose big fiery eyes, as if t o say, Whats your problem? Hurry up!
She was really st art ing t o hat e t hat owl.
By t he t ime she reached t he spot , t he image had faded, and shed run out of st ring on her
first spool.
As she was at t aching a new line, she glanced across t he t unnel. There was a broken sect ion
in t he brickwork, as if a sledgehammer had knocked a hole in t he wall. She crossed t o t ake a
look. St icking her dagger t hrough t he opening for light , Annabet h could see a lower chamber,
long and narrow, wit h a mosaic floor, paint ed walls, and benches running down eit her side. It
was shaped sort of like a subway car.
She st uck her head int o t he hole, hoping not hing would bit e it off. At t he near end of t he
room was a bricked-off doorway. At t he far end was a st one t able, or maybe an alt ar.
HmmThe wat er t unnel kept going, but Annabet h was sure t his was t he way. She
remembered what Tiberinus had said: Find the altar of the foreign god. There didnt seem t o be
any exit s from t he alt ar room, but it was a short drop ont o t he bench below. She should be able
t o climb out again wit h no problem.
St ill holding her st ring, she lowered herself down.
The rooms ceiling was barrel-shaped wit h brick arches, but Annabet h didnt like t he look of
t he support s. Direct ly above her head, on t he arch nearest t o t he bricked-in doorway, t he
capst one was cracked in half. St ress fract ures ran across t he ceiling. The place had probably
been int act for t wo t housand years, but she decided shed rat her not spend t oo much t ime
here. Wit h her luck, it would collapse in t he next t wo minut es.
The floor was a long narrow mosaic wit h seven pict ures in a row, like a t ime line. At
Annabet hs feet was a raven. Next was a lion. Several ot hers looked like Roman warriors wit h
various weapons. The rest were t oo damaged or covered in dust for Annabet h t o make out
det ails. The benches on eit her side were lit t ered wit h broken pot t ery. The walls were paint ed
wit h scenes of a banquet : a robed man wit h a curved cap like an ice cream scoop, sit t ing next
t o a larger guy who radiat ed sunbeams. St anding around t hem were t orchbearers and
servant s, and various animals like crows and lions wandered in t he background. Annabet h
wasnt sure what t he pict ure represent ed, but it didnt remind her of any Greek legends t hat
she knew.
At t he far end of t he room, t he alt ar was elaborat ely carved wit h a frieze showing t he man
wit h t he ice-cream-scoop hat holding a knife t o t he neck of a bull. On t he alt ar st ood a st one
figure of a man sunk t o his knees in rock, a dagger and a t orch in his out raised hands. Again,
Annabet h had no idea what t hose images meant .
She t ook one st ep t oward t he alt ar. Her foot went CRUNCH. She looked down and realized
shed just put her shoe t hrough a human rib cage.
Annabet h swallowed back a scream. Where had that come from? She had glanced down
only a moment before and hadnt seen any bones. Now t he floor was lit t ered wit h t hem. The
rib cage was obviously old. It crumbled t o dust as she removed her foot . Nearby lay a corroded
bronze dagger very much like her own. Eit her t his dead person had been carrying t he weapon,
or it had killed him.
She held out her blade t o see in front of her. A lit t le fart her down t he mosaic pat h sprawled a
more complet e skelet on in t he remains of an embroidered red doublet , like a man from t he
Renaissance. His frilled collar and skull had been badly burned, as if t he guy had decided t o
wash his hair wit h a blowt orch.
Wonderful, Annabet h t hought . She lift ed her eyes t o t he alt ar st at ue, which held a dagger
and a t orch.
Some kind of t est , Annabet h decided. These t wo guys had failed. Correct ion: not just t wo
guys. More bones and scraps of clot hing were scat t ered all t he way t o t he alt ar. She couldnt
guess how many skelet ons were represent ed, but she was willing t o bet t hey were all
demigods from t he past , children of At hena on t he same quest .
I will not be anot her skelet on on your floor, she called t o t he st at ue, hoping she sounded
A girl, said a wat ery voice, echoing t hrough t he room. Girls are not allowed.
A female demigod, said a second voice. Inexcusable.
The chamber rumbled. Dust fell from t he cracked ceiling. Annabet h bolt ed for t he hole shed
come t hrough, but it had disappeared. Her st ring had been severed. She clambered up on t he
bench and pounded on t he wall where t he hole had been, hoping t he holes absence was just
an illusion, but t he wall felt solid.
She was t rapped.
Along t he benches, a dozen ghost s shimmered int o exist enceglowing purple men in
Roman t ogas, like t he Lares shed seen at Camp Jupit er. They glared at her as if shed
int errupt ed t heir meet ing.
She did t he only t hing she could. She st epped down from t he bench and put her back t o t he
bricked-in doorway. She t ried t o look confident , t hough t he scowling purple ghost s and t he
demigod skelet ons at her feet made her want t o t urt le in her T-shirt and scream.
Im a child of At hena, she said, as boldly as she could manage.
A Greek, one of t he ghost s said wit h disgust . That is even worse.
At t he ot her end of t he chamber, an old-looking ghost rose wit h some difficult y (do ghost s
have art hrit is?) and st ood by t he alt ar, his dark eyes fixed on Annabet h. Her first t hought was
t hat he looked like t he pope. He had a glit t ering robe, a point ed hat , and a shepherds crook.
This is t he cavern of Mit hras, said t he old ghost . You have dist urbed our sacred rit uals.
You cannot look upon our myst eries and live.
I dont want t o look upon your myst eries, Annabet h assured him. Im following t he Mark of
At hena. Show me t he exit , and Ill be on my way.
Her voice sounded calm, which surprised her. She had no idea how t o get out of here, but
she knew she had t o succeed where her siblings had failed. Her pat h led fart her ondeeper
int o t he underground layers of Rome.
The failures of your predecessors will guide you, Tiberinus had said. After thatI do not
The ghost s mumbled t o each ot her in Lat in. Annabet h caught a few unkind words about
female demigods and At hena.
Finally t he ghost wit h t he pope hat st ruck his shepherds crook against t he floor. The ot her
Lares fell silent .
Your Greek goddess is powerless here, said t he pope. Mit hras is t he god of Roman
warriors! He is t he god of t he legion, t he god of t he empire!
He wasnt even Roman, Annabet h prot est ed. Wasnt he, like, Persian or somet hing?
Sacrilege! t he old man yelped, banging his st aff on t he floor a few more t imes. Mit hras
prot ect s us! I am t he pater of t his brot herhood
The fat her, Annabet h t ranslat ed.
Do not int errupt ! As pater, I must prot ect our myst eries.
What myst eries? Annabet h asked. A dozen dead guys in t ogas sit t ing around in a cave?
The ghost s mut t ered and complained, unt il t he pater got t hem under cont rol wit h a t axicab
whist le. The old guy had a good set of lungs. You are clearly an unbeliever. Like t he ot hers,
you must die.
The others. Annabet h made an effort not t o look at t he skelet ons.
Her mind worked furiously, grasping for anyt hing she knew about Mit hras. He had a secret
cult for warriors. He was popular in t he legion. He was one of t he gods whod supplant ed
At hena as a war deit y. Aphrodit e had ment ioned him during t heir t eat ime chat in Charlest on.
Aside from t hat , Annabet h had no idea. Mit hras just wasnt one of t he gods t hey t alked about
at Camp Half-Blood. She doubt ed t he ghost s would wait while she whipped out Daedaluss
lapt op and did a search.
She scanned t he floor mosaicseven pict ures in a row. She st udied t he ghost s and not iced
all of t hem wore some sort of badge on t heir t ogaa raven, or a t orch, or a bow.
You have rit es of passage, she blurt ed out . Seven levels of membership. And t he t op level
is t he pater.
The ghost s let out a collect ive gasp. Then t hey all began shout ing at once.
How does she know t his? one demanded.
The girl has gleaned our secret s!
Silence! t he pater ordered.
But she might know about t he ordeals! anot her cried.
The ordeals! Annabet h said. I know about t hem!
Anot her round of incredulous gasping.
Ridiculous! The pater yelled. The girl lies! Daught er of At hena, choose your way of deat h.
If you do not choose, t he god will choose for you!
Fire or dagger, Annabet h guessed.
Even t he pater looked st unned. Apparent ly he hadnt remembered t here were vict ims of past
punishment s lying on t he floor.
Howhow did you ? He gulped. Who are you?
A child of At hena, Annabet h said again. But not just any child. I amuh, t he mater in my
sist erhood. The magna mater, in fact . There are no myst eries t o me. Mit hras cannot hide
anyt hing from my sight .
The magna mater! a ghost wailed in despair. The big mot her!
Kill her! One of t he ghost s charged, his hands out t o st rangle her, but he passed right
t hrough her.
Youre dead, Annabet h reminded him. Sit down.
The ghost looked embarrassed and t ook his seat .
We do not need t o kill you ourselves, t he pater growled. Mit hras shall do t hat for us!
The st at ue on t he alt ar began t o glow.
Annabet h pressed her hands against t he bricked-in doorway at her back. That had t o be t he
exit . The mort ar was crumbling, but it was not weak enough for her t o break t hrough wit h brut e
She looked desperat ely around t he roomt he cracked ceiling, t he floor mosaic, t he wall
paint ings, and t he carved alt ar. She began t o t alk, pulling deduct ions from t he t op of her head.
It is no good, she said. I know all. You t est your init iat es wit h fire because t he t orch is t he
symbol of Mit hras. His ot her symbol is t he dagger, which is why you can also be t est ed wit h t he
blade. You want t o kill me, just asuh, as Mit hras killed t he sacred bull.
It was a t ot al guess, but t he alt ar showed Mit hras killing a bull, so Annabet h figured it must
be import ant . The ghost s wailed and covered t heir ears. Some slapped t heir faces as if t o
wake up from a bad dream.
The big mot her knows! one said. It is impossible!
Unless you look around t he room, Annabet h t hought , her confidence growing.
She glared at t he ghost who had just spoken. He had a raven badge on his t ogat he same
symbol as on t he floor at her feet .
You are just a raven, she scolded. That is t he lowest rank. Be silent and let me speak t o
your pater.
The ghost cringed. Mercy! Mercy!
At t he front of t he room, t he pater t rembledeit her from rage or fear, Annabet h wasnt sure
which. His pope hat t ilt ed sideways on his head like a gas gauge dropping t oward empt y.
Truly, you know much, big mot her. Your wisdom is great , but t hat is all t he more reason why
you cannot leave. The weaver warned us you would come.
The weaver Annabet h realized wit h a sinking feeling what t he pater was t alking about :
t he t hing in t he dark from Percys dream, t he guardian of t he shrine. This was one t ime she
wished she didnt know t he answer, but she t ried t o maint ain her calm. The weaver fears me.
She doesnt want me t o follow t he Mark of At hena. But you will let me pass.
You must choose an ordeal! t he pater insist ed. Fire or dagger! Survive one, and t hen,
Annabet h looked down at t he bones of her siblings. The failures of your predecessors will
guide you.
Theyd all chosen one or t he ot her: fire or dagger. Maybe t heyd t hought t hey could beat t he
ordeal. But t hey had all died. Annabet h needed a t hird choice.
She st ared at t he alt ar st at ue, which was glowing bright er by t he second. She could feel it s
heat across t he room. Her inst inct was t o focus on t he dagger or t he t orch, but inst ead she
concent rat ed on t he st at ues base. She wondered why it s legs were st uck in st one. Then it
occurred t o her: maybe t he lit t le st at ue of Mit hras wasnt stuck in t he rock. Maybe he was
emerging from t he rock.
Neit her t orch nor dagger, Annabet h said firmly. There is a t hird t est , which I will pass.
A t hird t est ? t he pater demanded.
Mit hras was born from rock, Annabet h said, hoping she was right . He emerged fully grown
from t he st one, holding his dagger and t orch.
The screaming and wailing t old her she had guessed correct ly.
The big mot her knows all! a ghost cried. That is our most closely guarded secret !
Then maybe you shouldnt put a statue of it on your altar, Annabet h t hought . But she was
t hankful for st upid male ghost s. If t heyd let women warriors int o t heir cult , t hey might have
learned some common sense.
Annabet h gest ured dramat ically t o t he wall shed come from. I was born from st one, just as
Mit hras was! Therefore, I have already passed your ordeal!
Bah! t he pater spat . You came from a hole in t he wall! That s not t he same t hing.
Okay. So apparent ly t he pater wasnt a complet e moron, but Annabet h remained confident .
She glanced at t he ceiling, and anot her idea came t o herall t he det ails clicking t oget her.
I have cont rol over t he very st ones. She raised her arms. I will prove my power is great er
t han Mit hras. Wit h a single st rike, I will bring down t his chamber.
The ghost s wailed and t rembled and looked at t he ceiling, but Annabet h knew t hey didnt
see what she saw. These ghost s were warriors, not engineers. The children of At hena had
many skills, and not just in combat . Annabet h had st udied archit ect ure for years. She knew t his
ancient chamber was on t he verge of collapse. She recognized what t he st ress fract ures in t he
ceiling meant , all emanat ing from a single point t he t op of t he st one arch just above her. The
capst one was about t o crumble, and when t hat happened, assuming she could t ime it
correct ly
Impossible! t he pater shout ed. The weaver has paid us much t ribut e t o dest roy any
children of At hena who would dare ent er our shrine. We have never let her down. We cannot
let you pass.
Then you fear my power! Annabet h said. You admit t hat I could dest roy your sacred
The pater scowled. He st raight ened his hat uneasily. Annabet h knew shed put him in an
impossible posit ion. He couldnt back down wit hout looking cowardly.
Do your worst , child of At hena, he decided. No one can bring down t he cavern of Mit hras,
especially wit h one st rike. Especially not a girl!
Annabet h heft ed her dagger. The ceiling was low. She could reach t he capst one easily, but
shed have t o make her one st rike count .
The doorway behind her was blocked, but in t heory, if t he room st art ed t o collapse, t hose
bricks should weaken and crumble. She should be able t o bust her way t hrough before t he
ent ire ceiling came downassuming, of course, t hat t here was somet hing behind t he brick
wall, not just solid eart h; and assuming t hat Annabet h was quick enough and st rong enough
and lucky enough. Ot herwise, she was about t o be a demigod pancake.
Well, boys, she said. Looks like you chose t he wrong war god.
She st ruck t he capst one. The Celest ial bronze blade shat t ered it like a sugar cube. For a
moment , not hing happened.
Ha! t he pater gloat ed. You see? At hena has no power here!
The room shook. A fissure ran across t he lengt h of t he ceiling and t he far end of t he cavern
collapsed, burying t he alt ar and t he pater. More cracks widened. Bricks fell from t he arches.
Ghost s screamed and ran, but t hey couldnt seem t o pass t hrough t he walls. Apparent ly t hey
were bound t o t his chamber even in deat h.
Annabet h t urned. She slammed against t he blocked ent rance wit h all her might , and t he
bricks gave way. As t he cavern of Mit hras imploded behind her, she lunged int o darkness and
found herself falling.

ANNABETH THOUGHT SHE KNEW PAI N. She had fallen off t he lava wall at Camp Half-Blood. Shed been
st abbed in t he arm wit h a poison blade on t he Williamsburg Bridge. She had even held t he
weight of t he sky on her shoulders.
But t hat was not hing compared t o landing hard on her ankle.
She immediat ely knew shed broken it . Pain like a hot st eel wire jabbed it s way up her leg and
int o her hip. The world narrowed t o just her, her ankle, and t he agony.
She almost blacked out . Her head spun. Her breat h became short and rapid.
No, she t old herself. You cant go into shock.
She t ried t o breat he more slowly. She lay as st ill as possible unt il t he pain subsided from
absolut e t ort ure t o just horrible t hrobbing.
Part of her want ed t o howl at t he world for being so unfair. All t his way, just t o be st opped by
somet hing as common as a broken ankle?
She forced her emot ions back down. At camp, shed been t rained t o survive in all sort s of
bad sit uat ions, including injuries like t his.
She looked around her. Her dagger had skit t ered a few feet away. In it s dim light she could
make out t he feat ures of t he room. She was lying on a cold floor of sandst one blocks. The
ceiling was t wo st ories t all. The doorway t hrough which shed fallen was t en feet off t he
ground, now complet ely blocked wit h debris t hat had cascaded int o t he room, making a
rockslide. Scat t ered around her were old pieces of lumbersome cracked and desiccat ed,
ot hers broken int o kindling.
Stupid, she scolded herself. Shed lunged t hrough t hat doorway, assuming t here would be a
level corridor or anot her room. It had never occurred t o her t hat shed be t umbling int o space.
The lumber had probably once been a st aircase, long ago collapsed.
She inspect ed her ankle. Her foot didnt appear t oo st rangely bent . She could feel her t oes.
She didnt see any blood. That was all good.
She reached out for a piece of lumber. Even t hat small bit of movement made her yelp.
The board crumbled in her hand. The wood might be cent uries old, or even millennia. She
had no way of knowing if t his room was older t han t he shrine of Mit hras, or iflike t he labyrint h
t he rooms were a hodgepodge from many eras t hrown randomly t oget her.
Okay, she said aloud, just t o hear her voice. Think, Annabet h. Priorit ize.
She remembered a silly wilderness survival course Grover had t aught her back at camp. At
least it had seemed silly at t he t ime. First st ep: Scan your surroundings for immediat e t hreat s.
This room didnt seem t o be in danger of collapsing. The rockslide had st opped. The walls
were solid blocks of st one wit h no major cracks t hat she could see. The ceiling was not
sagging. Good.
The only exit was on t he far wallan arched doorway t hat led int o darkness. Bet ween her
and t he doorway, a small brickwork t rench cut across t he floor, let t ing wat er flow t hrough t he
room from left t o right . Maybe plumbing from t he Roman days? If t he wat er was drinkable, t hat
was good t oo.
Piled in one corner were some broken ceramic vases, spilling out shriveled brown clumps t hat
might once have been fruit . Yuck. In anot her corner were some wooden crat es t hat looked
more int act , and some wicker boxes bound wit h leat her st raps.
So, no immediat e danger, she said t o herself. Unless somet hing comes barreling out of
t hat dark t unnel.
She glared at t he doorway, almost daring her luck t o get worse. Not hing happened.
Okay, she said. Next st ep: Take invent ory.
What could she use? She had her wat er bot t le, and more wat er in t hat t rench if she could
reach it . She had her knife. Her backpack was full of colorful st ring (whee), her lapt op, t he
bronze map, some mat ches, and some ambrosia for emergencies.
Ahyeah. This qualified as an emergency. She dug t he godly food out of her pack and
wolfed it down. As usual, it t ast ed like comfort ing memories. This t ime it was but t ered popcorn
movie night wit h her dad at his place in San Francisco, no st epmom, no st epbrot hers, just
Annabet h and her fat her curled up on t he sofa wat ching sappy old romant ic comedies.
The ambrosia warmed her whole body. The pain in her leg became a dull t hrob. Annabet h
knew she was st ill in major t rouble. Even ambrosia couldnt heal broken bones right away. It
might speed up t he process, but best -case scenario, she wouldnt be able t o put any weight
on her foot for a day or more.
She t ried t o reach her knife, but it was t oo far away. She scoot ed in t hat direct ion. Pain flared
again, like nails were piercing her foot . Her face beaded wit h sweat , but aft er one more scoot ,
she managed t o reach t he dagger.
She felt bet t er holding it not just for light and prot ect ion, but also because it was so
What next ? Grovers survival class had ment ioned somet hing about st aying put and wait ing
for rescue, but t hat wasnt going t o happen. Even if Percy somehow managed t o t race her
st eps, t he cavern of Mit hras had collapsed.
She could t ry cont act ing someone wit h Daedaluss lapt op, but she doubt ed she could get a
signal down here. Besides, who would she call? She couldnt t ext anyone who was close
enough t o help. Demigods never carried cell phones, because t heir signals at t ract ed t oo much
monst rous at t ent ion, and none of her friends would be sit t ing around checking t heir e-mail.
An Iris-message? She had wat er, but she doubt ed t hat she could make enough light for a
rainbow. The only coin she had was her silver At henian drachma, which didnt make a great
t ribut e.
There was anot her problem wit h calling for help: t his was supposed t o be a solo quest . If
Annabet h did get rescued, shed be admit t ing defeat . Somet hing t old her t hat t he Mark of
At hena would no longer guide her. She could wander down here forever, and shed never find
t he At hena Part henos.
Sono good st aying put and wait ing for help. Which meant she had t o find a way t o keep
going on her own.
She opened her wat er bot t le and drank. She hadnt realized how t hirst y she was. When t he
bot t le was empt y, she crawled t o t he gut t er and refilled it .
The wat er was cold and moving swift lygood signs t hat it might be safe t o drink. She filled
her bot t le, t hen cupped some wat er in her hands and splashed her face. Immediat ely she felt
more alert . She washed off and cleaned her scrapes as best she could.
Annabet h sat up and glared at her ankle.
You had t o break, she scolded it .
The ankle did not reply.
Shed have t o immobilize it in some sort of cast . That was t he only way shed be able t o
She raised her dagger and inspect ed t he room again in it s bronze light . Now t hat she was
closer t o t he open doorway, she liked it even less. It led int o a dark silent corridor. The air
waft ing out smelled sickly sweet and somehow evil. Unfort unat ely, Annabet h didnt see any
ot her way she could go.
Wit h a lot of gasping and blinking back t ears, she crawled over t o t he wreckage of t he st airs.
She found t wo planks t hat were in fairly good shape and long enough for a splint . Then she
scoot ed over t o t he wicker boxes and used her knife t o cut off t he leat her st raps.
While she was psyching herself up t o immobilize her ankle, she not iced some faded words on
one of t he wooden crat es: HERMES EXPRESS.
Annabet h scoot ed excit edly t oward t he box.
She had no idea what it was doing here, but Hermes delivered all sort s of useful st uff t o
gods, spirit s, and even demigods. Maybe hed dropped t his care package here years ago t o
help demigods like her wit h t his quest .
She pried it open and pulled out several sheet s of Bubble Wrap, but what ever had been
inside was gone.
Hermes! she prot est ed.
She st ared glumly at t he Bubble Wrap. Then her mind kicked int o gear, and she realized t he
wrapping was a gift . Oht hat s perfect !
Annabet h covered her broken ankle in a Bubble Wrap cast . She set it wit h t he lumber splint s
and t ied it all t oget her wit h t he leat her st raps.
Once before, in first aid pract ice, shed splint ed a fake broken leg for anot her camper, but
she never imagined shed have t o make a splint for herself.
It was hard, painful work, but finally it was done. She searched t he wreckage of t he st airs
unt il she found part of t he railinga narrow board about four feet long t hat could serve as a
crut ch. She put her back against t he wall, got her good leg ready, and hauled herself up.
Whoa. Black spot s danced in her eyes, but she st ayed upright .
Next t ime, she mut t ered t o t he dark room, just let me fight a monst er. Much easier.
Above t he open doorway, t he Mark of At hena blazed t o life against t he arch.
The fiery owl seemed t o be wat ching her expect ant ly, as if t o say: About time. Oh, you want
monsters? Right this way!
Annabet h wondered if t hat burning mark was based on a real sacred owl. If so, when she
survived, she was going t o find t hat owl and punch it in t he face.
That t hought lift ed her spirit s. She made it across t he t rench and hobbled slowly int o t he

THE TUNNEL RAN STRAI GHT AND SMOOTH, but aft er her fall, Annabet h decided t o t ake no chances. She used
t he wall for support and t apped t he floor in front of her wit h her crut ch t o make sure t here
were no t raps.
As she walked, t he sickly sweet smell got st ronger and set her nerves on edge. The sound
of running wat er faded behind her. In it s place came a dry chorus of whispers like a million t iny
voices. They seemed t o be coming from inside t he walls, and t hey were get t ing louder.
Annabet h t ried t o speed up, but she couldnt go much fast er wit hout losing her balance or
jarring her broken ankle. She hobbled onward, convinced t hat somet hing was following her. The
small voices were massing t oget her, get t ing closer.
She t ouched t he wall, and her hand came back covered in cobwebs.
She yelped, t hen cursed herself for making a sound.
It s only a web, she t old herself. But t hat didnt st op t he roaring in her ears.
Shed expect ed spiders. She knew what was ahead: The weaver. Her Ladyship. The voice in
the dark. But t he webs made her realize how close she was.
Her hand t rembled as she wiped it on t he st ones. What had she been t hinking? She couldnt
do t his quest alone.
Too lat e, she t old herself. Just keep going.
She made her way down t he corridor one painful st ep at a t ime. The whispering sounds got
louder behind her unt il t hey sounded like millions of dried leaves swirling in t he wind. The
cobwebs became t hicker, filling t he t unnel. Soon she was pushing t hem out of her face, ripping
t hrough gauzy curt ains t hat covered her like Silly St ring.
Her heart want ed t o break out of her chest and run. She st umbled ahead more recklessly,
t rying t o ignore t he pain in her ankle.
Finally t he corridor ended in a doorway filled waist -high wit h old lumber. It looked as if
someone had t ried t o barricade t he opening. That didnt bode well, but Annabet h used her
crut ch t o push away t he boards as best she could. She crawled over t he remaining pile, get t ing
a few dozen splint ers in her free hand.
On t he ot her side of t he barricade was a chamber t he size of a basket ball court . The floor
was done in Roman mosaics. The remains of t apest ries hung from t he walls. Two unlit t orches
sat in wall sconces on eit her side of t he doorway, bot h covered in cobwebs.
At t he far end of t he room, t he Mark of At hena burned over anot her doorway. Unfort unat ely,
bet ween Annabet h and t hat exit , t he floor was bisect ed by a chasm fift y feet across. Spanning
t he pit were t wo parallel wooden beams, t oo far apart for bot h feet , but each t oo narrow t o
walk on unless Annabet h was an acrobat , which she wasnt , and didnt have a broken ankle,
which she did.
The corridor shed come from was filled wit h hissing noises. Cobwebs t rembled and danced
as t he first of t he spiders appeared: no larger t han gumdrops, but plump and black, skit t ering
over t he walls and t he floor.
What kind of spiders? Annabet h had no idea. She only knew t hey were coming for her, and
she only had seconds t o figure out a plan.
Annabet h want ed t o sob. She want ed someone, anyone, t o be here for her. She want ed Leo
wit h his fire skills, or Jason wit h his light ning, or Hazel t o collapse t he t unnel. Most of all she
want ed Percy. She always felt braver when Percy was wit h her.
I am not going t o die here, she t old herself. Im going t o see Percy again.
The first spiders were almost t o t he door. Behind t hem came t he bulk of t he armya black
sea of creepy-crawlies.
Annabet h hobbled t o one of t he wall sconces and snat ched up t he t orch. The end was
coat ed in pit ch for easy light ing. Her fingers felt like lead, but she rummaged t hrough her
backpack and found t he mat ches. She st ruck one and set t he t orch ablaze.
She t hrust it int o t he barricade. The old dry wood caught immediat ely. Flames leaped t o t he
cobwebs and roared down t he corridor in a flash fire, roast ing spiders by t he t housands.
Annabet h st epped back from her bonfire. Shed bought herself some t ime, but she doubt ed
t hat shed killed all t he spiders. They would regroup and swarm again as soon as t he fire died.
She st epped t o t he edge of t he chasm.
She shined her light int o t he pit , but she couldnt see t he bot t om. Jumping in would be
suicide. She could t ry t o cross one of t he bars hand over hand, but she didnt t rust her arm
st rengt h, and she didnt see how she would be able t o haul herself up wit h a full backpack and
a broken ankle once she reached t he ot her side.
She crouched and st udied t he beams. Each had a set of iron eye hooks along t he inside, set
at one-foot int ervals. Maybe t he rails had been t he sides of a bridge and t he middle planks had
been removed or dest royed. But eye hooks? Those werent for support ing planks. More like
She glanced at t he walls. The same kind of hooks had been used t o hang t he shredded
t apest ries.
She realized t he beams werent meant as a bridge. They were some kind of loom.
Annabet h t hrew her flaming t orch t o t he ot her side of t he chasm. She had no fait h her plan
would work, but she pulled all t he st ring out of her backpack and began weaving bet ween t he
beams, st ringing a cat s cradle pat t ern back and fort h from eye hook t o eye hook, doubling and
t ripling t he line.
Her hands moved wit h blazing speed. She st opped t hinking about t he t ask and just did it ,
looping and t ying off lines, slowly ext ending her woven net over t he pit .
She forgot t he pain in her leg and t he fiery barricade gut t ering out behind her. She inched
over t he chasm. The weaving held her weight . Before she knew it , she was halfway across.
How had she learned t o do t his?
It s At hena, she t old herself. My mot hers skill wit h useful craft s. Weaving had never seemed
part icularly useful t o Annabet hunt il now.
She glanced behind her. The barricade fire was dying. A few spiders crawled in around t he
edges of t he doorway.
Desperat ely she cont inued weaving, and finally she made it across. She snat ched up t he
t orch and t hrust it int o her woven bridge. Flames raced along t he st ring. Even t he beams
caught fire as if t heyd been pre-soaked in oil.
For a moment , t he bridge burned in a clear pat t erna fiery row of ident ical owls. Had
Annabet h really woven t hem int o t he st ring, or was it some kind of magic? She didnt know, but
as t he spiders began t o cross, t he beams crumbled and collapsed int o t he pit .
Annabet h held her breat h. She didnt see any reason why t he spiders couldnt reach her by
climbing t he walls or t he ceiling. If t hey st art ed t o do t hat , shed have t o run for it , and she was
pret t y sure she couldnt move fast enough.
For some reason, t he spiders didnt follow. They massed at t he edge of t he pit a seet hing
black carpet of creepiness. Then t hey dispersed, flooding back int o t he burned corridor, almost
as if Annabet h was no longer int erest ing.
Or I passed a t est , she said aloud.
Her t orch sput t ered out , leaving her wit h only t he light of her dagger. She realized t hat shed
left her makeshift crut ch on t he ot her side of t he chasm.
She felt exhaust ed and out of t ricks, but her mind was clear. Her panic seemed t o have
burned up along wit h t hat woven bridge.
The weaver, she t hought . I must be close. At least I know what s ahead.
She made her way down t he next corridor, hopping t o keep t he weight off her bad foot .
She didnt have far t o go.
Aft er t went y feet , t he t unnel opened int o a cavern as large as a cat hedral, so majest ic t hat
Annabet h had t rouble processing everyt hing she saw. She guessed t hat t his was t he room
from Percys dream, but it wasnt dark. Bronze braziers of magical light , like t he gods used on
Mount Olympus, glowed around t he circumference of t he room, int erspersed wit h gorgeous
t apest ries. The st one floor was webbed wit h fissures like a sheet of ice. The ceiling was so
high, it was lost in t he gloom and layers upon layers of spiderwebs.
St rands of silk as t hick as pillars ran from t he ceiling all over t he room, anchoring t he walls
and t he floor like t he cables of a suspension bridge.
Webs also surrounded t he cent erpiece of t he shrine, which was so int imidat ing t hat
Annabet h had t rouble raising her eyes t o look at it . Looming over her was a fort y-foot -t all
st at ue of At hena, wit h luminous ivory skin and a dress of gold. In her out st ret ched hand,
At hena held a st at ue of Nike, t he winged vict ory goddessa st at ue t hat looked t iny from here,
but was probably as t all as a real person. At henas ot her hand rest ed on a shield as big as a
billboard, wit h a sculpt ed snake peeking out from behind, as if At hena was prot ect ing it .
The goddesss face was serene and kindlyand it looked like At hena. Annabet h had seen
many st at ues t hat didnt resemble her mom at all, but t his giant version, made t housands of
years ago, made her t hink t hat t he art ist must have met At hena in person. He had capt ured
her perfect ly.
At hena Part henos, Annabet h murmured. It s really here.
All her life, she had want ed t o visit t he Part henon. Now she was seeing t he main at t ract ion
t hat used t o be t hereand she was t he first child of At hena t o do so in millennia.
She realized her mout h was hanging open. She forced herself t o swallow. Annabet h could
have st ood t here all day looking at t he st at ue, but she had only accomplished half her mission.
She had found t he At hena Part henos. Now, how could she rescue it from t his cavern?
St rands of web covered it like a gauze pavilion. Annabet h suspect ed t hat wit hout t hose
webs, t he st at ue would have fallen t hrough t he weakened floor long ago. As she st epped int o
t he room, she could see t hat t he cracks below were so wide, she could have lost her foot in
t hem. Beneat h t he cracks, she saw not hing but empt y darkness.
A chill washed over her. Where was t he guardian? How could Annabet h free t he st at ue
wit hout collapsing t he floor? She couldnt very well shove t he At hena Part henos down t he
corridor t hat shed come from.
She scanned t he chamber, hoping t o see somet hing t hat might help. Her eyes wandered
over t he t apest ries, which were heart -wrenchingly beaut iful. One showed a past oral scene so
t hree-dimensional, it couldve been a window. Anot her t apest ry showed t he gods bat t ling t he
giant s. Annabet h saw a landscape of t he Underworld. Next t o it was t he skyline of modern
Rome. And in t he t apest ry t o her left
She caught her breat h. It was a port rait of t wo demigods kissing underwat er: Annabet h and
Percy, t he day t heir friends had t hrown t hem int o t he canoe lake at camp. It was so lifelike t hat
she wondered if t he weaver had been t here, lurking in t he lake wit h a wat erproof camera.
How is t hat possible? she murmured.
Above her in t he gloom, a voice spoke. For ages I have known t hat you would come, my
sweet .
Annabet h shuddered. Suddenly she was seven years old again, hiding under her covers,
wait ing for t he spiders t o at t ack her in t he night . The voice sounded just as Percy had
described: an angry buzz in mult iple t ones, female but not human.
In t he webs above t he st at ue, somet hing movedsomet hing dark and large.
I have seen you in my dreams, t he voice said, sickly sweet and evil, like t he smell in t he
corridors. I had t o make sure you were wort hy, t he only child of At hena clever enough t o pass
my t est s and reach t his place alive. Indeed, you are her most t alent ed child. This will make your
deat h so much more painful t o my old enemy when you fail utterly.
The pain in Annabet hs ankle was not hing compared t o t he icy acid now filling her veins. She
want ed t o run. She want ed t o plead for mercy. But she couldnt show weaknessnot now.
Youre Arachne, she called out . The weaver who was t urned int o a spider.
The figure descended, becoming clearer and more horrible. Cursed by your mot her, she
said. Scorned by all and made int o a hideous t hingbecause I was t he bet t er weaver.
But you lost t he cont est , Annabet h said.
That s t he st ory writ t en by t he winner! cried Arachne. Look on my work! See for yourself!
Annabet h didnt have t o. The t apest ries were t he best shed ever seenbet t er t han t he
wit ch Circes work, and, yes, even bet t er t han some weavings shed seen on Mount Olympus.
She wondered if her mot her t ruly had lost if shed hidden Arachne away and rewrit t en t he
t rut h. But right now, it didnt mat t er.
Youve been guarding t his st at ue since t he ancient t imes, Annabet h guessed. But it
doesnt belong here. Im t aking it back.
Ha, Arachne said.
Even Annabet h had t o admit her t hreat sounded ridiculous. How could one girl in a Bubble
Wrap ankle cast remove t his huge st at ue from it s underground chamber?
Im afraid you would have t o defeat me first , my sweet , Arachne said. And alas, t hat is
The creat ure appeared from t he curt ains of webbing, and Annabet h realized t hat her quest
was hopeless. She was about t o die.
Arachne had t he body of a giant black widow, wit h a hairy red hourglass mark on t he
underside of her abdomen and a pair of oozing spinneret s. Her eight spindly legs were lined
wit h curved barbs as big as Annabet hs dagger. If t he spider came any closer, her sweet
st ench alone would have been enough t o make Annabet h faint . But t he most horrible part was
her misshapen face.
She might once have been a beaut iful woman. Now black mandibles prot ruded from her
mout h like t usks. Her ot her t eet h had grown int o t hin whit e needles. Fine dark whiskers dot t ed
her cheeks. Her eyes were large, lidless, and pure black, wit h t wo smaller eyes st icking out of
her t emples.
The creat ure made a violent rip-rip-rip sound t hat might have been laught er.
Now I will feast on you, my sweet , Arachne said. But do not fear. I will make a beaut iful
t apest ry depict ing your deat h.

Really, somet imes it was just embarrassing. If he hadnt had such an eye for mechanical
st uff, t hey might never have found t he secret chut e, got t en lost in t he underground, and been
at t acked by met al dudes. But he just couldnt help himself.
Part of it was Hazels fault . For a girl wit h super underground senses, she wasnt much good
in Rome. She kept leading t hem around and around t he cit y, get t ing dizzy, and doubling back.
Sorry, she said. It s just t heres so much underground here, so many layers, it s
overwhelming. Like st anding in t he middle of an orchest ra and t rying t o concent rat e on a single
inst rument . Im going deaf.
As a result , t hey got a t our of Rome. Frank seemed happy t o plod along like a big sheepdog
(hmm, Leo wondered if he could t urn int o one of t hose, or even bet t er: a horse t hat Leo could
ride). But Leo st art ed t o get impat ient . His feet were sore, t he day was sunny and hot , and t he
st reet s were choked wit h t ourist s.
The Forum was okay, but it was most ly ruins overgrown wit h bushes and t rees. It t ook a lot
of imaginat ion t o see it as t he bust ling cent er of Ancient Rome. Leo could only manage it
because hed seen New Rome in California.
They passed big churches, freest anding arches, clot hing st ores, and fast -food rest aurant s.
One st at ue of some Ancient Roman dude seemed t o be point ing t o a nearby McDonalds.
On t he wider st reet s, t he car t raffic was absolut ely nut sman, Leo t hought people in
Houston drove crazybut t hey spent most of t heir t ime weaving t hrough small alleys, coming
across fount ains and lit t le cafs where Leo was not allowed t o rest .
I never t hought Id get t o see Rome, Hazel said. When I was alive, I mean t he first t ime,
Mussolini was in charge. We were at war.
Mussolini? Leo frowned. Wasnt he like BFFs wit h Hit ler?
Hazel st ared at him like he was an alien. BFFs?
Never mind.
Id love t o see t he Trevi Fount ain, she said.
Theres a fount ain on every block, Leo grumbled.
Or t he Spanish St eps, Hazel said.
Why would you come t o It aly t o see Spanish st eps? Leo asked. That s like going t o China
for Mexican food, isnt it ?
Youre hopeless, Hazel complained.
So Ive been t old.
She t urned t o Frank and grabbed his hand, as if Leo had ceased t o exist . Come on. I t hink
we should go t his way.
Frank gave Leo a confused smilelike he couldnt decide whet her t o gloat or t o t hank Leo
for being a doofusbut he cheerfully let Hazel drag him along.
Aft er walking forever, Hazel st opped in front of a church. At least , Leo assumed it was a
church. The main sect ion had a big domed roof. The ent rance had a t riangular roof, t ypical
Roman columns, and an inscript ion across t he t op: M. AGRI PPA somet hing or ot her.
Lat in for Get a grip? Leo speculat ed.
This is our best bet . Hazel sounded more cert ain t han she had all day. There should be a
secret passage somewhere inside.
Tour groups milled around t he st eps. Guides held up colored placards wit h different numbers
and lect ured in dozens of languages like t hey were playing some kind of int ernat ional bingo.
Leo list ened t o t he Spanish t our guide for a few seconds, and t hen he report ed t o his friends,
This is t he Pant heon. It was originally built by Marcus Agrippa as a t emple t o t he gods. Aft er it
burned down, Emperor Hadrian rebuilt it , and it s been st anding for t wo t housand years. It s one
of t he best -preserved Roman buildings in t he world.
Frank and Hazel st ared at him.
How did you know t hat ? Hazel asked.
Im nat urally brilliant .
Cent aur poop, Frank said. He eavesdropped on a t our group.
Leo grinned. Maybe. Come on. Let s go find t hat secret passage. I hope t his place has air
condit ioning.

Of course, no AC.
On t he bright side, t here were no lines and no admission fee, so t hey just muscled t heir way
past t he t our groups and walked on in.
The int erior was pret t y impressive, considering it had been const ruct ed t wo t housand years
ago. The marble floor was pat t erned wit h squares and circles like a Roman t ic-t ac-t oe game.
The main space was one huge chamber wit h a circular rot unda, sort of like a capit ol building
back in t he St at es. Lining t he walls were different shrines and st at ues and t ombs and st uff.
But t he real eye-cat cher was t he dome overhead. All t he light in t he building came from one
circular opening right at t he t op. A beam of sunlight slant ed int o t he rot unda and glowed on
t he floor, like Zeus was up t here wit h a magnifying glass, t rying t o fry puny humans.
Leo was no archit ect like Annabet h, but he could appreciat e t he engineering. The Romans
had made t he dome out of big st one panels, but t heyd hollowed out each panel in a square-
wit hin-square pat t ern. It looked cool. Leo figured it also made t he dome light er and easier t o
support .
He didnt ment ion t hat t o his friends. He doubt ed t hey would care, but if Annabet h were
here, she wouldve spent t he whole day t alking about it . Thinking about t hat made Leo wonder
how she was doing on her Mark of At hena expedit ion. Leo never t hought hed feel t his way,
but he was worried about t hat scary blond girl.
Hazel st opped in t he middle of t he room and t urned in a circle. This is amazing. In t he old
days, t he children of Vulcan would come here in secret t o consecrat e demigod weapons. This
is where Imperial gold was enchant ed.
Leo wondered how t hat worked. He imagined a bunch of demigods in dark robes t rying t o
quiet ly roll a scorpion ballist a t hrough t he front doors.
But were not here because of t hat , he guessed.
No, Hazel said. Theres an ent rancea t unnel t hat will lead us t oward Nico. I can sense it
close by. Im not sure where.
Frank grunt ed. If t his building is t wo t housand years old, it makes sense t here could be
some kind of secret passage left over from t he Roman days.
That s when Leo made his mist ake of simply being t oo good.
He scanned t he t emples int erior, t hinking: If I were designing a secret passage, where would
I put it ?
He could somet imes figure out how a machine worked by put t ing his hand on it . Hed learned
t o fly a helicopt er t hat way. Hed fixed Fest us t he dragon t hat way (before Fest us crashed and
burned). Once hed even reprogrammed t he elect ronic billboards in Times Square t o read: ALL DA
LADI ES LUV LEOaccident ally, of course.
Now he t ried t o sense t he workings of t his ancient building. He t urned t oward a red marble
alt ar-looking t hing wit h a st at ue of t he Virgin Mary on t he t op. Over t here, he said.
He marched confident ly t o t he shrine. It was shaped sort of like a fireplace, wit h an arched
recess at t he bot t om. The mant el was inscribed wit h a name, like a t omb.
The passage is around here, he said. This guys final rest ing place is in t he way. Raphael
Famous paint er, I t hink, Hazel said.
Leo shrugged. He had a cousin named Raphael, and he didnt t hink much of t he name. He
wondered if he could produce a st ick of dynamit e from his t ool belt and do a lit t le discreet
demolit ion; but he figured t he caret akers of t his place probably wouldnt approve.
Hold on Leo looked around t o make sure t hey werent being wat ched.
Most of t he t our groups were gawking at t he dome, but one t rio made Leo uneasy. About
fift y feet away, some overweight middle-aged dudes wit h American accent s were conversing
loudly, complaining t o each ot her about t he heat . They looked like manat ees st uffed int o
beach clot hessandals, walking short s, t ourist y T-shirt s and floppy hat s. Their legs were big
and past y and covered wit h spider veins. The guys act ed ext remely bored, and Leo wondered
why t hey were hanging around.
They werent wat ching him. Leo wasnt sure why t hey made him nervous. Maybe he just
didnt like manat ees.
Forget t hem, Leo t old himself.
He slipped around t he side of t he t omb. He ran his hand down t he back of a Roman column,
all t he way t o t he base. Right at t he bot t om, a series of lines had been et ched int o t he marble
Roman numerals.
Heh, Leo said. Not very elegant , but effect ive.
What is? Frank asked.
The combinat ion for a lock. He felt around t he back of t he column some more and
discovered a square hole about t he size of an elect rical socket . The lock face it self has been
ripped out probably vandalized somet ime in t he last few cent uries. But I should be able t o
cont rol t he mechanism inside, if I can
Leo placed his hand on t he marble floor. He could sense old bronze gears under t he surface
of t he st one. Regular bronze would have corroded and become unusable long ago, but t hese
were Celest ial bronzet he handiwork of a demigod. Wit h a lit t le willpower, Leo urged t hem t o
move, using t he Roman numerals t o guide him. The cylinders t urnedclick, click, click. Then
click, click.
On t he floor next t o t he wall, one sect ion of marble t ile slid under anot her, revealing a dark
square opening barely large enough t o wiggle t hrough.
Romans must ve been small. Leo looked at Frank appraisingly. Youll need t o change int o
somet hing t hinner t o get t hrough here.
That s not nice! Hazel chided.
What ? Just saying
Dont worry about it , Frank mumbled. We should go get t he ot hers before we explore.
That s what Piper said.
Theyre halfway across t he cit y, Leo reminded him. Besides, uh, Im not sure I can close t his
hat ch again. The gears are pret t y old.
Great , Frank said. How do we know it s safe down t here?
Hazel knelt . She put her hand over t he opening as if checking t he t emperat ure. Theres
not hing aliveat least not for several hundred feet . The t unnel slant s down, t hen levels out
and goes sout h, more or less. I dont sense any t raps
How can you t ell all t hat ? Leo asked.
She shrugged. Same way you can pick locks on marble columns, I guess. Im glad youre not
int o robbing banks.
Ohbank vault s, Leo said. Never t hought about t hat .
Forget I said anyt hing. Hazel sighed. Look, it s not t hree oclock yet . We can at least do a
lit t le exploring, t ry t o pinpoint Nicos locat ion before we cont act t he ot hers. You t wo st ay here
unt il I call for you. I want t o check t hings out , make sure t he t unnel is st ruct urally sound. Ill be
able t o t ell more once Im underground.
Frank scowled. We cant let you go by yourself. You could get hurt .
Frank, I can t ake care of myself, she said. Underground is my specialt y. It s safest for all of
us if I go first .
Unless Frank want s t o t urn int o a mole, Leo suggest ed. Or a prairie dog. Those t hings are
Shut up, Frank mumbled.
Or a badger.
Frank jabbed a finger at Leos face. Valdez, I swear
Bot h of you, be quiet , Hazel scolded. Ill be back soon. Give me t en minut es. If you dont
hear from me by t henNever mind. Ill be fine. Just t ry not t o kill each ot her while Im down
t here.
She dropped down t he hole. Leo and Frank blocked her from view as best t hey could. They
st ood shoulder t o shoulder, t rying t o look casual, like it was complet ely nat ural for t wo
t eenaged guys t o hang around Raphaels t omb.
Tour groups came and went . Most ignored Leo and Frank. A few people glanced at t hem
apprehensively and kept walking. Maybe t he t ourist s t hought t hey would ask for t ips. For some
reason, Leo could unnerve people when he grinned.
The t hree American manat ees were st ill hanging out in t he middle of t he room. One of t hem
wore a T-shirt t hat said ROMA, as if hed forget what cit y he was in if he didnt wear it . Every once
in a while, he would glance over at Leo and Frank like he found t heir presence dist ast eful.
Somet hing about t hat dude bot hered Leo. He wished Hazel would hurry up.
She t alked t o me earlier, Frank said abrupt ly. Hazel t old me you figured out about my
Leo st irred. Hed almost forgot t en Frank was st anding next t o him.
Your lifelineoh, t he burning st ick. Right . Leo resist ed t he urge t o set his hand ablaze and
yell: Bwah ha ha! The idea was sort of funny, but he wasnt t hat cruel.
Look, man, he said. It s cool. Id never do anyt hing t o put you in danger. Were on t he same
t eam.
Frank fiddled wit h his cent urion badge. I always knew fire could kill me, but since my
grandmot hers mansion burned down in Vancouverit seems a lot more real.
Leo nodded. He felt sympat hy for Frank, but t he guy didnt make it easy when he t alked
about his family mansion. Sort of like saying, I crashed my Lamborghini, and wait ing for people
t o say, Oh, you poor baby!
Of course Leo didnt t ell him t hat . Your grandmot herdid she die in t hat fire? You didnt
II dont know. She was sick, and pret t y old. She said she would die in her own t ime, in her
own way. But I t hink she made it out of t he fire. I saw t his bird flying up from t he flames.
Leo t hought about t hat . So your whole family has t he shape-changing t hing?
I guess, Frank said. My mom did. Grandmot her t hought t hat s what got her killed in
Afghanist an, in t he war. Mom t ried t o help some of her buddies, andI dont know exact ly what
happened. There was a firebomb.
Leo winced wit h sympat hy. So we bot h lost our moms t o fire.
He hadnt been planning on it , but he t old Frank t he whole st ory of t he night at t he workshop
when Gaea had appeared t o him, and his mot her had died.
Franks eyes got wat ery. I never like it when people t ell me, Sorry about your mom.
It never feels genuine, Leo agreed.
But Im sorry about your mom.
No sign of Hazel. The American t ourist s were st ill milling around t he Pant heon. They seemed
t o be circling closer, like t hey were t rying t o sneak up on Raphaels t omb wit hout it not icing.
Back at Camp Jupit er, Frank said, our cabin Lar, Ret iculus, t old me I have more power t han
most demigods, being a son of Mars, plus having t he shape-changing abilit y from my moms
side. He said t hat s why my life is t ied t o a burning st ick. It s such a huge weakness t hat it kind
of balances t hings out .
Leo remembered his conversat ion wit h Nemesis t he revenge goddess at t he Great Salt
Lake. Shed said somet hing similar about want ing t he scales t o balance. Good luck is a sham.
True success requires sacrifice.
Her fort une cookie was st ill in Leos t ool belt , wait ing t o be opened. Soon you will face a
problem you cannot solve, though I could help youfor a price.
Leo wished he could pluck t hat memory out of his head and shove it in his t ool belt . It was
t aking up t oo much space. Weve all got weaknesses, he said. Me, for inst ance. Im t ragically
funny and good-looking.
Frank snort ed. You might have weaknesses. But your life doesnt depend on a piece of
No, Leo admit t ed. He st art ed t hinking: if Franks problem were his problem, how would he
solve it ? Almost every design flaw could be fixed. I wonder
He looked across t he room and falt ered. The t hree American t ourist s were coming t heir way;
no more circling or sneaking. They were making a st raight line for Raphaels t omb, and all t hree
were glaring at Leo.
Uh, Frank? Leo asked. Has it been t en minut es yet ?
Frank followed his gaze. The Americans faces were angry and confused, like t hey were
sleepwalking t hrough a very annoying night mare.
Leo Valdez, called t he guy in t he ROMA shirt . His voice had changed. It was hollow and
met allic. He spoke English as if it was a second language. We meet again.
All t hree t ourist s blinked, and t heir eyes t urned solid gold.
Frank yelped. Eidolons!
The manat ees clenched t heir beefy fist s. Normally, Leo wouldnt have worried about get t ing
murdered by overweight guys in floppy hat s, but he suspect ed t he eidolons were dangerous
even in t hose bodies, especially since t he spirit s wouldnt care whet her t heir host s survived or
not .
They cant fit down t he hole, Leo said.
Right , Frank said. Underground is sounding really good.
He t urned int o a snake and slit hered over t he edge. Leo jumped in aft er him while t he spirit s
began t o wail above, Valdez! Kill Valdez!

ONE PROBLEM SOLVED: t he hat ch above t hem closed aut omat ically, cut t ing off t heir pursuers. It also
cut off all light , but Leo and Frank could deal wit h t hat . Leo just hoped t hey didnt need t o get
out t he same way t hey came in. He wasnt sure he could open t he t ile from underneat h.
At least t he possessed manat ee dudes were on t he ot her side. Over Leos head, t he marble
floor shuddered, like fat t ourist y feet were kicking it .
Frank must have t urned back t o human form. Leo could hear him wheezing in t he dark.
What now? Frank asked.
Okay, dont freak, Leo said. Im going t o summon a lit t le fire, just so we can see.
Thanks for t he warning.
Leos index finger blazed like a birt hday candle. In front of t hem st ret ched a st one t unnel
wit h a low ceiling. Just as Hazel had predict ed, it slant ed down, t hen leveled out and went
sout h.
Well, Leo said. It only goes in one direct ion.
Let s find Hazel, Frank said.
Leo had no argument wit h t hat suggest ion. They made t heir way down t he corridor, Leo
going first wit h t he fire. He was glad t o have Frank at his back, big and st rong and able t o t urn
int o scary animals in case t hose possessed t ourist s somehow broke t hrough t he hat ch,
squeezed inside, and followed t hem. He wondered if t he eidolons might just leave t hose bodies
behind, seep underground, and possess one of t hem inst ead.
Oh, theres my happy thought for the day! Leo scolded himself.
Aft er a hundred feet or so, t hey t urned a corner and found Hazel. In t he light of her golden
cavalry sword, she was examining a door. She was so engrossed, she didnt not ice t hem unt il
Leo said, Hi.
Hazel whirled, t rying t o swing her spatha. Fort unat ely for Leos face, t he blade was t oo long
t o wield in t he corridor.
What are you doing here? Hazel demanded.
Leo gulped. Sorry. We ran int o some angry t ourist s. He t old her what had happened.
She hissed in frust rat ion. I hat e eidolons. I t hought Piper made t hem promise t o st ay away.
Oh Frank said, like hed just had his own daily happy t hought . Piper made t hem promise
t o st ay off t he ship and not possess any of us. But if t hey followed us, and used ot her bodies
t o at t ack us, t hen t heyre not t echnically breaking t heir vow.
Great , Leo mut t ered. Eidolons who are also lawyers. Now I really want t o kill t hem.
Okay, forget t hem for now, Hazel said. This door is giving me fit s. Leo, can you t ry your skill
wit h t he lock?
Leo cracked his knuckles. St and aside for t he mast er, please.
The door was int erest ing, much more complicat ed t han t he Roman numeral combinat ion
lock above. The ent ire door was coat ed in Imperial gold. A mechanical sphere about t he size of
a bowling ball was embedded in t he cent er. The sphere was const ruct ed from five concent ric
rings, each inscribed wit h zodiac symbolst he bull, t he scorpion, et cet eraand seemingly
random numbers and let t ers.
These let t ers are Greek, Leo said in surprise.
Well, lot s of Romans spoke Greek, Hazel said.
Well, lot s of Romans spoke Greek, Hazel said.
I guess, Leo said. But t his workmanshipno offense t o you Camp Jupit er t ypes, but t his is
t oo complicat ed t o be Roman.
Frank snort ed. Whereas you Greeks just love making t hings complicat ed.
Hey, Leo prot est ed. All Im saying is t his machinery is delicat e, sophist icat ed. It reminds me
of Leo st ared at t he sphere, t rying t o recall where hed read or heard about a similar ancient
machine. It s a more advanced sort of lock, he decided. You line up t he symbols on t he
different rings in t he right order, and t hat opens t he door.
But what s t he right order? Hazel asked.
Good quest ion. Greek spheresast ronomy, geomet ry Leo got a warm feeling inside.
Oh, no way. I wonderWhat s t he value of pi?
Frank frowned. What kind of pie?
He means t he number, Hazel guessed. I learned t hat in mat h class once, but
It s used t o measure circles, Leo said. This sphere, if it s made by t he guy Im t hinking of
Hazel and Frank bot h st ared at him blankly.
Never mind, Leo said. Im pret t y sure pi is, uh, 3.1415 blah blah blah. The number goes on
forever, but t he sphere has only five rings, so t hat should be enough, if Im right .
And if youre not ? Frank asked.
Well, t hen, Leo fall down, go boom. Let s find out !
He t urned t he rings, st art ing on t he out side and moving in. He ignored t he zodiac signs and
let t ers, lining up t he correct numbers so t hey made t he value of pi. Not hing happened.
Im st upid, Leo mumbled. Pi would expand out ward, because it s infinit e.
He reversed t he order of t he numbers, st art ing in t he cent er and working t oward t he edge.
When he aligned t he last ring, somet hing inside t he sphere clicked. The door swung open.
Leo beamed at his friends. That , good people, is how we do t hings in Leo World. Come on
I hat e Leo World, Frank mut t ered.
Hazel laughed.
Inside was enough cool st uff t o keep Leo busy for years. The room was about t he size of t he
forge back at Camp Half-Blood, wit h bronze-t opped workt ables along t he walls, and basket s
full of ancient met alworking t ools. Dozens of bronze and gold spheres like st eampunk
basket balls sat around in various st ages of disassembly. Loose gears and wiring lit t ered t he
floor. Thick met al cables ran from each t able t oward t he back of t he room, where t here was an
enclosed loft like a t heat ers sound boot h. St airs led up t o t he boot h on eit her side. All t he
cables seemed t o run int o it . Next t o t he st airs on t he left , a row of cubbyholes was filled wit h
leat her cylindersprobably ancient scroll cases.
Leo was about t o head t oward t he t ables when he glanced t o his left and nearly jumped out
of his shoes. Flanking t he doorway were t wo armored manikinslike skelet al scarecrows made
from bronze pipes, out fit t ed wit h full suit s of Roman armor, shield and sword.
Dude. Leo walked up t o one. These would be awesome if t hey worked.
Frank edged away from t he manikins. Those t hings are going t o come alive and at t ack us,
arent t hey?
Leo laughed. Not a chance. They arent complet e. He t apped t he nearest manikins neck,
where loose copper wires sprout ed from underneat h it s breast plat e. Look, t he heads wiring
has been disconnect ed. And here, at t he elbow, t he pulley syst em for t his joint is out of
alignment . My guess? The Romans were t rying t o duplicat e a Greek design, but t hey didnt
have t he skill.
Hazel arched her eyebrows. The Romans werent good enough at being complicated, I
Or delicat e, Frank added. Or sophist icat ed.
Hey, I just call it like I see it . Leo jiggled t he manikins head, making it nod like it was
agreeing wit h him. St illa pret t y impressive t ry. Ive heard legends t hat t he Romans
confiscat ed t he writ ings of Archimedes, but
Archimedes? Hazel looked baffled. Wasnt he an ancient mat hemat ician or somet hing?
Leo laughed. He was a lot more t han t hat . He was only t he most famous son of Hephaest us
who ever lived.
Frank scrat ched his ear. Ive heard his name before, but how can you be sure t his manikin is
his design?
It has t o be! Leo said. Look, Ive read all about Archimedes. Hes a hero t o Cabin Nine. The
dude was Greek, right ? He lived in one of t he Greek colonies in sout hern It aly, back before
Rome got all huge and t ook over. Finally t he Romans moved in and dest royed his cit y. The
Roman general want ed t o spare Archimedes, because he was so valuablesort of like t he
Einst ein of t he ancient worldbut some st upid Roman soldier killed him.
There you go again, Hazel mut t ered. Stupid and Roman dont always go t oget her, Leo.
Frank grunt ed agreement . How do you know all t his, anyway? he demanded. Is t here a
Spanish t our guide around here?
No, man, Leo said. You cant be a demigod whos int o building st uff and not know about
Archimedes. The guy was seriously elit e. He calculat ed t he value of pi. He did all t his mat h st uff
we st ill use for engineering. He invent ed a hydraulic screw t hat could move wat er t hrough
Hazel scowled. A hydraulic screw. Excuse me for not knowing about that awesome
achievement .
He also built a deat h ray made of mirrors t hat could burn enemy ships, Leo said. Is t hat
awesome enough for you?
I saw somet hing about t hat on TV, Frank admit t ed. They proved it didnt work.
Ah, t hat s just because modern mort als dont know how t o use Celest ial bronze, Leo said.
Thats t he key. Archimedes also invent ed a massive claw t hat could swing on a crane and
pluck enemy ships out of t he wat er.
Okay, t hat s cool, Frank admit t ed. I love grabber-arm games.
Well, t here you go, Leo said. Anyway, all his invent ions werent enough. The Romans
dest royed his cit y. Archimedes was killed. According t o legends, t he Roman general was a big
fan of his work, so he raided Archimedess workshop and cart ed a bunch of souvenirs back t o
Rome. They disappeared from hist ory, except Leo waved his hands at t he st uff on t he
t ables. Here t hey are.
Met al basket balls? Hazel asked.
Leo couldnt believe t hat t hey didnt appreciat e what t hey were looking at , but he t ried t o
cont ain his irrit at ion. Guys, Archimedes const ruct ed spheres. The Romans couldnt figure
t hem out . They t hought t hey were just for t elling t ime or following const ellat ions, because t hey
were covered wit h pict ures of st ars and planet s. But t hat s like finding a rifle and t hinking it s a
walking st ick.
Leo, t he Romans were t op-not ch engineers, Hazel reminded him. They built aqueduct s,
Siege weapons, Frank added. Public sanit at ion.
Yeah, fine, Leo said. But Archimedes was in a class by himself. His spheres could do all
sort s of t hings, only nobody is sure
Suddenly Leo got an idea so incredible t hat his nose burst int o flames. He pat t ed it out as
quickly as possible. Man, it was embarrassing when t hat happened.
He ran t o t he row of cubbyholes and examined t he markings on t he scroll cases. Oh, gods.
This is it !
He gingerly lift ed out one of t he scrolls. He wasnt great at Ancient Greek, but he could t ell
t he inscript ion on t he case read On Building Spheres.
Guys, t his is t he lost book! His hands were shaking. Archimedes wrot e t his, describing his
const ruct ion met hods, but all t he copies were lost in ancient t imes. If I can t ranslat e t his
The possibilit ies were endless. For Leo, t he quest had now t ot ally t aken on a new dimension.
Leo had t o get t he spheres and scrolls safely out of here. He had t o prot ect t his st uff unt il he
could get it back t o Bunker 9 and st udy it .
The secret s of Archimedes, he murmured. Guys, t his is bigger t han Daedaluss lapt op. If
t heres a Roman at t ack on Camp Half-Blood, t hese secret s could save t he camp. They might
even give us an edge over Gaea and t he giant s!
Hazel and Frank glanced at each ot her skept ically.
Okay, Hazel said. We didnt come here for a scroll, but I guess we can t ake it wit h us.
Assuming, Frank added, t hat you dont mind sharing it s secret s wit h us st upid
uncomplicat ed Romans.
What ? Leo st ared at him blankly. No. Look, I didnt mean t o insult Ah, never mind. The
point is t his is good news!
For t he first t ime in days, Leo felt really hopeful.
Nat urally, t hat s when everyt hing went wrong.
On t he t able next t o Hazel and Frank, one of t he orbs clicked and whirred. A row of spindly
legs ext ended from it s equat or. The orb st ood, and t wo bronze cables shot out of t he t op,
hit t ing Hazel and Frank like Taser wires. Leos friends bot h crumpled t o t he floor.
Leo lunged t o help t hem, but t he t wo armored manikins t hat couldnt possibly move did
move. They drew t heir swords and st epped t oward Leo.
The one on t he left t urned it s crooked helmet , which was shaped like a wolfs head. Despit e
t he fact t hat it had no face or mout h, a familiar hollow voice spoke from behind it s visor.
You cannot escape us, Leo Valdez, it said. We do not like possessing machines, but they
are better than tourists. You will not leave here alive.

LEO AGREED WI TH NEMESI S ABOUT ONE THI NG: good luck was a sham. At least when it came t o Leos luck.
Last wint er he had wat ched in horror while a family of Cyclopes prepared t o roast Jason and
Piper wit h hot sauce. Hed schemed his way out of t hat one and saved his friends all by himself,
but at least hed had t ime t o t hink.
Now, not so much. Hazel and Frank had been knocked out by t he t endrils of a possessed
st eampunk bowling ball. Two suit s of armor wit h bad at t it udes were about t o kill him.
Leo couldnt blast t hem wit h fire. Suit s of armor wouldnt be hurt by t hat . Besides, Hazel and
Frank were t oo close. He didnt want t o burn t hem, or accident ally hit t he piece of firewood t hat
cont rolled Franks life.
On Leos right , t he suit of armor wit h a lions head helmet creaked it s wiry neck and regarded
Hazel and Frank, who were st ill lying unconscious.
A male and female demigod, said Lion Head. These will do, if the others die. It s hollow
face mask t urned back t o Leo. We do not need you, Leo Valdez.
Oh, hey! Leo t ried for a winning smile. You always need Leo Valdez!
He spread his hands and hoped he looked confident and useful, not desperat e and t errified.
He wondered if it was t oo lat e t o writ e TEAM LEO on his shirt .
Sadly, t he suit s of armor were not as easily swayed as t he Narcissus Fan Club had been.
The one wit h t he wolf-headed helmet snarled, I have been in your mind, Leo. I helped you
start the war.
Leos smile crumbled. He t ook a st ep back. That was you?
Now he underst ood why t hose t ourist s had bot hered him right away, and why t his t hings
voice sounded so familiar. Hed heard it in his mind.
You made me fire t he ballist a? Leo demanded. You call t hat helping?
I know how you think, said Wolf Head. I know your limits. You are small and alone. You
need friends to protect you. Without them, you are unable to withstand me. I vowed not to
possess you again, but I can still kill you.
The armored dudes st epped forward. The point s of t heir swords hovered a few inches from
Leos face.
Leos fear suddenly made way for a whole lot of anger. This eidolon in t he wolf helmet had
shamed him, cont rolled him, and made him at t ack New Rome. It had endangered his friends
and bot ched t heir quest .
Leo glanced at t he dormant spheres on t he workt ables. He considered his t ool belt . He
t hought about t he loft behind himt he area t hat looked like a sound boot h. Prest o: Operation
Junk Pile was born.
First : you dont know me, he t old Wolf Head. And second: Bye.
He lunged for t he st airs and bounded t o t he t op. The suit s of armor were scary, but t hey
were not fast . As Leo suspect ed, t he loft had doors on eit her sidefolding met al gat es. The
operat ors wouldve want ed prot ect ion in case t heir creat ions went haywirelike now. Leo
slammed bot h gat es shut and summoned fire t o his hands, fusing t he locks.
The suit s of armor closed in on eit her side. They rat t led t he gat es, hacking at t hem wit h t heir
This is foolish, said Lion Head. You only delay your death.
Delaying deat h is one of my favorit e hobbies. Leo scanned his new home. Overlooking t he
workshop was a single t able like a cont rol board. It was crowded wit h junk, but most of it Leo
dismissed immediat ely: a diagram for a human cat apult t hat would never work; a st range black
sword (Leo was no good wit h swords); a large bronze mirror (Leos reflect ion looked t errible);
and a set of t ools t hat someone had broken, eit her in frust rat ion or clumsiness.
He focused on t he main project . In t he cent er of t he t able, someone had disassembled an
Archimedes sphere. Gears, springs, levers, and rods were lit t ered around it . All t he bronze
cables t o t he room below were connect ed t o a met al plat e under t he sphere. Leo could sense
t he Celest ial bronze running t hrough t he workshop like art eries from a heart ready t o
conduct magical energy from t his spot .
One basket ball t o rule t hem all, Leo mut t ered.
This sphere was a mast er regulat or. He was st anding at Ancient Roman mission cont rol.
Leo Valdez! t he spirit howled. Open this gate or I will kill you!
A fair and generous offer! Leo said, his eyes st ill on t he sphere. Just let me finish t his. A
last request , all right ?
That must have confused t he spirit s, because t hey moment arily st opped hacking at t he
Leos hands flew over t he sphere, reassembling it s missing pieces. Why did t he st upid
Romans have t o t ake apart such a beaut iful machine? They had killed Archimedes, st olen his
st uff, t hen messed wit h a piece of equipment t hey could never underst and. On t he ot her hand,
at least t heyd had t he sense t o lock it away for t wo t housand years so t hat Leo could ret rieve
it .
The eidolons st art ed pounding on t he gat es again.
Who is it ? Leo called.
Valdez! Wolf Head bellowed.
Valdez who? Leo asked.
Event ually t he eidolons would realize t hey couldnt get in. Then, if Wolf Head t ruly knew
Leos mind, he would decide t here were ot her ways t o force his cooperat ion. Leo had t o work
fast er.
He connect ed t he gears, got one wrong, and had t o st art again. Hephaest uss Hand
Grenades, t his was hard!
Finally he got t he last spring in place. The ham-fist ed Romans had almost ruined t he t ension
adjust er, but Leo pulled a set of wat chmakers t ools from his belt and did some final
calibrat ions. Archimedes was a geniusassuming t his t hing act ually worked.
He wound t he st art er coil. The gears began t o t urn. Leo closed t he t op of t he sphere and
st udied it s concent ric circlessimilar t o t he ones on t he workshop door.
Valdez! Wolf Head pounded on t he gat e. Our third comrade will kill your friends!
Leo cursed under his breat h. Our third comrade. He glanced down at t he spindly-legged
Taser ball t hat had knocked out Hazel and Frank. He had figured eidolon number t hree was
hiding inside t hat t hing. But Leo st ill had t o deduce t he right sequence t o act ivat e t his cont rol
Yeah, okay, he called. You got me. Just just a sec.
No more seconds! Wolf Head shout ed. Open this gate now, or they die.
The possessed Taser ball lashed out wit h it s t endrils and sent anot her shock t hrough Hazel
and Frank. Their unconscious bodies flinched. That kind of elect ricit y might have st opped t heir
heart s.
Leo held back t ears. This was t oo hard. He couldnt do it .
He st ared at t he face of t he sphereseven rings, each one covered wit h t iny Greek let t ers,
numbers, and zodiac signs. The answer wouldnt be pi. Archimedes would never do t he same
t hing t wice. Besides, just by put t ing his hand on t he sphere Leo could feel t hat t he sequence
had been generat ed randomly. It was somet hing only Archimedes would know.
Supposedly, Archimedess last words had been: Dont disturb my circles.
No one knew what t hat meant , but Leo could apply it t o t his sphere. The lock was much t oo
complicat ed. Maybe if Leo had a few years, he could decipher t he markings and figure out t he
right combinat ion, but he didnt even have a few seconds.
He was out of t ime. Out of luck. And his friends were going t o die.
A problem you cannot solve, said a voice in his mind.
Nemesisshed t old him t o expect t his moment . Leo t hrust his hand in his pocket and
brought out t he fort une cookie. The goddess had warned him of a great price for her helpas
great as losing an eye. But if he didnt t ry, his friends would die.
I need t he access code for t his sphere, he said.
He broke open t he cookie.

On t he back, t he paper said:
Wit h t rembling fingers, Leo t urned t he rings.
Out side t he gat es, Wolf Head growled in frust rat ion. If friends do not matter to you, perhaps
you need more incentive. Perhaps I should destroy these scrolls insteadpriceless works by
The last ring clicked int o place. The sphere hummed wit h power. Leo ran his hands along t he
surface, sensing t iny but t ons and levers await ing his commands.
Magical and elect rical pulses coursed via t he Celest ial bronze cables, and surged t hrough
t he ent ire room.
Leo had never played a musical inst rument , but he imagined it must be like t hisknowing
each key or not e so well t hat you didnt really t hink about what your hands were doing. You
just concent rat ed on t he kind of sound you want ed t o creat e.
He st art ed small. He focused on one reasonably int act gold sphere down in t he main room.
The gold sphere shuddered. It grew a t ripod of legs and clat t ered over t o t he Taser ball. A t iny
circular saw popped out of t he gold spheres head, and it began cut t ing int o Taser balls brain.
Leo t ried t o act ivat e anot her orb. This one burst in a small mushroom cloud of bronze dust
and smoke.
Oops, he mut t ered. Sorry, Archimedes.
What are you doing? Wolf Head demanded. Stop your foolishness and surrender!
Oh, yes, I surrender! Leo said. Im t ot ally surrendering!
He t ried t o t ake cont rol of a t hird orb. That one broke t oo. Leo felt bad about ruining all t hese
ancient invent ions, but t his was life or deat h. Frank had accused him of caring more for
machines t han people, but if it came down t o saving old spheres or his friends, t here was no
The fourt h t ry went bet t er. A ruby-encrust ed orb popped it s t op and helicopt er blades
unfolded. Leo was glad Buford t he t able wasnt herehe wouldve fallen in love. The ruby orb
spun int o t he air and sailed st raight for t he cubbyholes. Thin golden arms ext ended from it s
middle and snapped up t he precious scroll cases.
Enough! Wolf Head yelled. I will destroy the
He t urned in t ime t o see t he ruby sphere t ake off wit h t he scrolls. It zipped across t he room
and hovered in t he far corner.
What?! Wolf Head cried. Kill the prisoners!
He must have been t alking t o t he Taser ball. Unfort unat ely, Taser ball was in no shape t o
comply. Leos gold sphere was sit t ing on t op of it s sawed-open head, picking t hrough it s gears
and wires like it was scooping out a pumpkin.
Thank t he gods, Hazel and Frank began t o st ir.
Bah! Wolf Head gest ured t o Lion Head at t he opposit e gat e. Come! We will destroy the
demigods ourselves.
I dont t hink so, guys. Leo t urned t oward Lion Head. His hands worked t he cont rol sphere,
and he felt a shock t ravel t hrough t he floor.
Lion Head shuddered and lowered his sword.
Leo grinned. Youre in Leo World, now.
Lion Head t urned and st ormed down t he st airs. Inst ead of advancing on Hazel and Leo, he
marched up t he opposit e st airs and faced his comrade.
What are you doing? Wolf Head demanded. We have to
Lion Head slammed his shield int o Wolf Heads chest . He smashed t he pommel of his sword
int o his comrades helmet , so Wolf Head became Flat , Deformed, Not Very Happy Wolf Head.
Stop that! Wolf Head demanded.
I cannot! Lion Head wailed.
Leo was get t ing t he hang of it now. He commanded bot h suit s of armor t o drop t heir swords
and shields and slap each ot her repeat edly.
Valdez! called Wolf Head in a warbling voice. You will die for this!
Yeah, Leo called out . Whos possessing who now, Casper?
The machine men t umbled down t he st airs, and Leo forced t hem t o jit t erbug like 1920s
flappers. Their joint s began smoking. The ot her spheres around t he room began t o pop. Too
much energy was surging t hrough t he ancient syst em. The cont rol sphere in Leos hand grew
uncomfort ably warm.
Frank, Hazel! Leo shout ed. Take cover!
His friends were st ill dazed, st aring in amazement at t he jit t erbugging met al guys, but t hey
got his warning. Frank pulled Hazel under t he nearest t able and shielded her wit h his body.
One last t wist of t he sphere, and Leo sent a massive jolt t hrough t he syst em. The armored
warriors blew apart . Rods, pist ons, and bronze shards flew everywhere. On all t he t ables,
spheres popped like hot soda cans. Leos gold sphere froze. His flying ruby orb dropped t o t he
floor wit h t he scroll cases.
The room was suddenly quiet except for a few random sparks and sizzles. The air smelled
like burning car engines. Leo raced down t he st airs and found Frank and Hazel safe under t heir
t able. He had never been so happy t o see t hose t wo hugging.
Youre alive! he said.
Hazels left eye t wit ched, maybe from t he Taser shock. Ot herwise she looked okay. Uh,
what exact ly happened?
Archimedes came t hrough! Leo said. Just enough power left in t hose old machines for one
final show. Once I had t he access code, it was easy.
He pat t ed t he cont rol sphere, which was st eaming in a bad way. Leo didnt know if it could
be fixed, but at t he moment he was t oo relieved t o care.
The eidolons, Frank said. Are t hey gone?
Leo grinned. My last command overloaded t heir kill swit chesbasically locked down all t heir
circuit s and melt ed t heir cores.
In English? Frank asked.
I t rapped t he eidolons inside t he wiring, Leo said. Then I melt ed t hem. They wont be
bot hering anyone again.
Leo helped his friends t o t heir feet .
You saved us, Frank said.
Dont sound so surprised. Leo glanced around t he dest royed workshop. Too bad all t his
st uff got wrecked, but at least I salvaged t he scrolls. If I can get t hem back t o Camp Half-Blood,
maybe I can learn how t o recreat e Archimedess invent ions.
Hazel rubbed t he side of her head. But I dont underst and. Where is Nico? That t unnel was
supposed t o lead us t o Nico.
Leo had almost forgot t en why t heyd come down here in t he first place. Nico obviously
wasnt here. The place was a dead end. So why ?
Oh. He felt like t here was a buzz-saw sphere on his own head, pulling out his wires and
gears. Hazel, how exact ly were you t racking Nico? I mean, could you just sense him nearby
because he was your brot her?
She frowned, st ill looking a bit wobbly from her elect ric shock t reat ment . Not not t ot ally.
Somet imes I can t ell when hes close, but , like I said, Rome is so confusing, so much
int erference because of all t he t unnels and caves
You t racked him wit h your met al-finding senses, Leo guessed. His sword?
She blinked. How did you know?
Youd bet t er come here. He led Hazel and Frank up t o t he cont rol room and point ed t o t he
black sword.
Oh. Oh, no. Hazel wouldve collapsed if Frank hadnt caught her. But t hat s impossible!
Nicos sword was wit h him in t he bronze jar. Percy saw it in his dream!
Eit her t he dream was wrong, Leo said, or t he giant s moved t he sword here as a decoy.
So t his was a t rap, Frank said. We were lured here.
But why? Hazel cried. Wheres my brot her?
A hissing sound filled t he cont rol boot h. At first , Leo t hought t he eidolons were back. Then
he realized t he bronze mirror on t he t able was st eaming.
Ah, my poor demigods. The sleeping face of Gaea appeared in t he mirror. As usual, she
spoke wit hout moving her mout h, which could only have been creepier if shed had a
vent riloquism puppet . Leo hat ed t hose t hings.
You had your choice, Gaea said. Her voice echoed t hrough t he room. It seemed t o be
coming not just from t he mirror, but from t he st one walls as well.
Leo realized she was all around t hem. Of course. They were in t he eart h. Theyd gone t o all
t he t rouble of building t he Argo II so t hey could t ravel by sea and air, and t heyd ended up in
t he eart h anyway.
I offered salvation to all of you, Gaea said. You could have turned back. Now it is too late.
Youve come to the ancient lands where I am strongestwhere I will wake.
Leo pulled a hammer from his t ool belt . He whacked t he mirror. Being met al, it just quivered
like a t ea t ray, but it felt good t o smash Gaea in t he nose.
In case you havent not iced, Dirt Face, he said, your lit t le ambush failed. Your t hree
eidolons got melt ed in bronze, and were fine.
Gaea laughed soft ly. Oh, my sweet Leo. You three have been separated from your friends.
That was the whole point.
The workshop door slammed shut .
You are trapped in my embrace, Gaea said. Meanwhile, Annabeth Chase faces her death
alone, terrified and crippled, at the hands of her mothers greatest enemy.
The image in t he mirror changed. Leo saw Annabet h sprawled on t he floor of a dark cavern,
holding up her bronze knife as if warding off a monst er. Her face was gaunt . Her leg was
wrapped up in some sort of splint . Leo couldnt see what she was looking at , but it was
obviously somet hing horrible. He want ed t o believe t he image was a lie, but he had a bad
feeling it was real, and it was happening right now.
The others, Gaea said, Jason Grace, Piper McLean, and my dear friend Percy Jacksonthey
will perish within minutes.
The scene changed again. Percy was holding Ript ide, leading Jason and Piper down a spiral
st aircase int o t he darkness.
Their powers will betray them, Gaea said. They will die in their own elements. I almost hoped
they would survive. They would have made a better sacrifice. But alas, Hazel and Frank, you
will have to do. My minions will collect you shortly and bring you to the ancient place. Your
blood will awaken me at last. Until then, I will allow you to watch your friends perish. Please
enjoy this last glimpse of your failed quest.
Leo couldnt st and it . His hand glowed whit e hot . Hazel and Frank scrambled back as he
pressed his palm against t he mirror and melt ed it int o a puddle of bronze goo.
The voice of Gaea went silent . Leo could only hear t he roar of blood in his ears. He t ook a
shaky breat h.
Sorry, he t old his friends. She was get t ing annoying.
What do we do? Frank asked. We have t o get out and help t he ot hers.
Leo scanned t he workshop, now lit t ered wit h smoking pieces of broken spheres. His friends
st ill needed him. This was st ill his show. As long as he had his t ool belt , Leo Valdez wasnt
going t o sit around helplessly wat ching t he Demigod Deat h Channel.
Ive got an idea, he said. But it s going t o t ake all t hree of us.
He st art ed t elling t hem t he plan.

Once she and Jason had got t en t ired of pacing t he deck, list ening t o Coach Hedge sing Old
MacDonald (wit h weapons inst ead of animals), t hey decided t o have a picnic in t he park.
Hedge grudgingly agreed. St ay where I can see you.
What are we, kids? Jason asked.
Hedge snort ed. Kids are baby goat s. Theyre cut e, and t hey have redeeming social value.
You are definit ely not kids.
They spread t heir blanket under a willow t ree next t o a pond. Piper t urned over her
cornucopia and spilled out an ent ire mealneat ly wrapped sandwiches, canned drinks, fresh
fruit , and (for some reason) a birt hday cake wit h purple icing and candles already lit .
She frowned. Is it someones birt hday?
Jason winced. I wasnt going t o say anyt hing.
Theres t oo much going on, he said. And honest lybefore last mont h, I didnt even know
when my birt hday was. Thalia t old me t he last t ime she was at camp.
Piper wondered what t hat would be likenot even knowing t he day you were born. Jason
had been given t o Lupa t he wolf when he was only t wo years old. Hed never really known his
mort al mom. Hed only been reunit ed wit h his sist er last wint er.
July First , Piper said. The Kalends of July.
Yeah. Jason smirked. The Romans would find t hat auspicioust he first day of t he mont h
named for Julius Caesar. Junos sacred day. Yippee.
Piper didnt want t o push it , or make a celebrat ion if he didnt feel like celebrat ing.
Sixt een? she asked.
He nodded. Oh, boy. I can get my drivers license.
Piper laughed. Jason had killed so many monst ers and saved t he world so many t imes t hat
t he idea of him sweat ing a driving t est seemed ridiculous. She pict ured him behind t he wheel of
some old Lincoln wit h a STUDENT DRI VER sign on t op and a grumpy t eacher in t he passenger seat
wit h an emergency brake pedal.
Well? she urged. Blow out t he candles.
Jason did. Piper wondered if hed made a wishhopefully t hat he and Piper would survive
t his quest and st ay t oget her forever. She decided not t o ask him. She didnt want t o jinx t hat
wish, and she definit ely didnt want t o find out t hat hed wished for somet hing different .
Since t heyd left t he Pillars of Hercules yest erday evening, Jason had seemed dist ract ed.
Piper couldnt blame him. Hercules had been a pret t y huge disappoint ment as a big brot her,
and t he old river god Achelous had said some unflat t ering t hings about t he sons of Jupit er.
Piper st ared at t he cornucopia. She wondered if Achelous was get t ing used t o having no
horns at all. She hoped so. Sure, he had t ried t o kill t hem, but Piper st ill felt bad for t he old god.
She didnt underst and how such a lonely, depressed spirit could produce a horn of plent y t hat
shot out pineapples and birt hday cakes. Could it be t hat t he cornucopia had drained all t he
goodness out of him? Maybe now t hat t he horn was gone, Achelous would be able t o fill up
wit h some happiness and keep it for himself.
She also kept t hinking about Achelouss advice: If you had made it to Rome, the story of the
flood would have served you better. She knew t he st ory he was t alking about . She just didnt
underst and how it would help.
Jason plucked an ext inguished candle from his cake. Ive been t hinking.
That snapped Piper back t o t he present . Coming from your boyfriend, Ive been thinking was
kind of a scary line.
About ? she asked.
Camp Jupit er, he said. All t he years I t rained t here. We were always pushing t eamwork,
working as a unit . I t hought I underst ood what t hat meant . But honest ly? I was always t he
leader. Even when I was