The house of hades, p.30
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       The House of Hades, p.30

         Part #4 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
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Page 30


  “Bob cannot cure this,” Bob said. “Too much poison. Too many curses piled up. ”

  Annabeth hugged Percy’s shoulders. He wanted to say: I can feel that now. Ow. Too tight.

  “What can we do, Bob?” Annabeth asked. “Is there water anywhere? Water might heal him. ”

  “No water,” Bob said. “Tartarus is bad. ”

  I noticed, Percy wanted to yell.

  At least the Titan called himself Bob. Even if he blamed Percy for taking his memory, maybe he would help Annabeth if Percy didn’t make it.

  “No,” Annabeth insisted. “No, there has to be a way. Something to heal him. ”

  Bob placed his hand on Percy’s chest. A cold tingle like eucalyptus oil spread across his sternum, but as soon as Bob lifted his hand, the relief stopped. Percy’s lungs felt as hot as lava again.

  “Tartarus kills demigods,” Bob said. “It heals monsters, but you do not belong. Tartarus will not heal Percy. The pit hates your kind. ”

  “I don’t care,” Annabeth said. “Even here, there has to be someplace he can rest, some kind of cure he can take. Maybe back at the altar of Hermes, or—”

  In the distance, a deep voice bellowed—a voice that Percy recognized, unfortunately.


  “Polybotes,” Bob said. “He hates Poseidon and his children. He is very close now. ”

  Annabeth struggled to get Percy to his feet. He hated making her work so hard, but he felt like a sack of billiard balls. Even with Annabeth supporting almost all his weight, he could barely stand.

  “Bob, I’m going on, with or without you,” she said. “Will you help?”

  The kitten Small Bob mewed and began to purr, rubbing against Bob’s chin.

  Bob looked at Percy, and Percy wished he could read the Titan’s expression. Was he angry, or just thoughtful? Was he planning revenge, or was he just feeling hurt because Percy had lied about being his friend?

  “There is one place,” Bob said at last. “There is a giant who might know what to do. ”

  Annabeth almost dropped Percy. “A giant. Uh, Bob, giants are bad. ”

  “One is good,” Bob insisted. “Trust me, and I will take you…unless Polybotes and the others catch us first. ”

  JASON FELL ASLEEP ON THE JOB. Which was bad, since he was a thousand feet in the air.

  He should have known better. It was the morning after their encounter with Sciron the bandit, and Jason was on duty, fighting some wild venti who were threatening the ship. When he slashed through the last one, he forgot to hold his breath.

  A stupid mistake. When a wind spirit disintegrates, it creates a vacuum. Unless you’re holding your breath, the air gets sucked right out of your lungs. The pressure in your inner ears drops so fast, you black out.

  That’s what happened to Jason.

  Even worse, he instantly plunged into a dream. In the back of his subconscious, he thought: Really? Now?

  He needed to wake up, or he would die; but he wasn’t able to hold on to that thought. In the dream, he found himself on the roof of a tall building, the nighttime skyline of Manhattan spread around him. A cold wind whipped through his clothes.

  A few blocks away, clouds gathered above the Empire State Building—the entrance to Mount Olympus itself. Lightning flashed. The air was metallic with the smell of oncoming rain. The top of the skyscraper was lit up as usual, but the lights seemed to be malfunctioning. They flickered from purple to orange as if the colors were fighting for dominance.

  On the roof of Jason’s building stood his old comrades from Camp Jupiter: an array of demigods in combat armor, their Imperial gold weapons and shields glinting in the dark. He saw Dakota and Nathan, Leila and Marcus. Octavian stood to one side, thin and pale, his eyes red-rimmed from sleeplessness or anger, a string of sacrificial stuffed animals around his waist. His augur’s white robe was draped over a purple T-shirt and cargo pants.

  In the center of the line stood Reyna, her metal dogs Aurum and Argentum at her side. Upon seeing her, Jason felt an incredible pang of guilt. He’d let her believe they had a future together. He had never been in love with her, and he hadn’t led her on, exactly…but he also hadn’t shut her down.

  He’d disappeared, leaving her to run the camp on her own. (Okay, that hadn’t exactly been Jason’s idea, but still…) Then he had returned to Camp Jupiter with his new girlfriend Piper and a whole bunch of Greek friends in a warship. They’d fired on the Forum and run away, leaving Reyna with a war on her hands.

  In his dream she looked tired. Others might not notice, but he’d worked with her long enough to recognize the weariness in her eyes, the tightness in her shoulders under the straps of her armor. Her dark hair was wet, like she’d taken a hasty shower.

  The Romans stared at the roof-access door as if they were waiting for someone.

  When the door opened, two people emerged. One was a faun—no, Jason thought—a satyr. He’d learned the difference at Camp Half-Blood, and Coach Hedge was always correcting him if he made that mistake. Roman fauns tended to hang around and beg and eat. Satyrs were more helpful, more engaged with demigod affairs. Jason didn’t think he’d seen this particular satyr before, but he was sure the guy was from the Greek side. No faun would look so purposeful walking up to an armed group of Romans in the middle of the night.

  He wore a green Nature Conservancy T-shirt with pictures of endangered whales and tigers and stuff. Nothing covered his shaggy legs and hooves. He had a bushy goatee, curly brown hair tucked into a Rasta-style cap, and a set of reed pipes around his neck. His hands fidgeted with the hem of his shirt, but considering the way he studied the Romans, noting their positions and their weapons, Jason figured this satyr had been in combat before.

  At his side was a redheaded girl Jason recognized from Camp Half-Blood—their oracle, Rachel Elizabeth Dare. She had long frizzy hair, a plain white blouse, and jeans covered with hand-drawn ink designs. She held a blue plastic hairbrush that she tapped nervously against her thigh like a good luck talisman.

  Jason remembered her at the campfire, reciting lines of prophecy that sent Jason, Piper, and Leo on their first quest together. She was a regular mortal teenager—not a demigod—but for reasons Jason never understood, the spirit of Delphi had chosen her as its host.

  The real question: What was she doing with the Romans?

  She stepped forward, her eyes fixed on Reyna. “You got my message. ”

  Octavian snorted. “That’s the only reason you made it this far alive, Graecus. I hope you’ve come to discuss surrender terms. ”

  “Octavian…” Reyna warned.

  “At least search them!” Octavian protested.

  “No need,” Reyna said, studying Rachel Dare. “Do you bring weapons?”

  Rachel shrugged. “I hit Kronos in the eye with this hairbrush once. Otherwise, no. ”

  The Romans didn’t seem to know what to make of that. The mortal didn’t sound like she was kidding.

  “And your friend?” Reyna nodded to the satyr. “I thought you were coming alone. ”

  “This is Grover Underwood,” Rachel said. “He’s a leader of the Council. ”

  “What council?” Octavian demanded.

  “Cloven Elders, man. ” Grover’s voice was high and reedy, as if he were terrified, but Jason suspected the satyr had more steel than he let on. “Seriously, don’t you Romans have nature and trees and stuff? I’ve got some news you need to hear. Plus, I’m a card-carrying protector. I’m here to, you know, protect Rachel. ”

  Reyna looked like she was trying not to smile. “But no weapons?”

  “Just the pipes. ” Grover’s expression became wistful. “Percy always said my cover of ‘Born to be Wild’ should count as a dangerous weapon, but I don’t think it’s that bad. ”

  Octavian sneered. “Another friend of Percy Jackson. That’s all I need to hear. ”

  Reyna held up her hand for silence. Her gold and silver dogs sniffed the air, but they remained calm and attentive at her side.

  “So far, our guests speak the truth,” Reyna said. “Be warned, Rachel and Grover, if you start to lie, this conversation will not go well for you. Say what you came to say. ”

  From her jeans pocket, Rachel dug out a piece of paper like a napkin. “A message. From Annabeth. ”

  Jason wasn’t sure he’d heard her right. Annabeth was in Tartarus. She couldn’t send anyone a note on a napkin.

  Maybe I’ve hit the water and died, his subconscious said. This isn’t a real vision. It’s some sort of after-death hallucination.

  But the dream seemed very real. He could feel the wind sweeping across the roof. He could smell the storm. Lightning flickered over the Empire State Building, making the Romans’ armor flash.

  Reyna took the note. As she read it, her eyebrows crept higher. Her mouth parted in shock. Finally, she looked up at Rachel. “Is this a joke?”

  “I wish,” Rachel said. “They’re really in Tartarus. ”

  “But how—”

  “I don’t know,” Rachel said. “The note appeared in the sacrificial fire at our dining pavilion. That’s Annabeth’s handwriting. She asks for you by name. ”

  Octavian stirred. “Tartarus? What do you mean?”

  Reyna handed him the letter.

  Octavian muttered as he read: “Rome, Arachne, Athena—Athena Parthenos?” He looked around in outrage, as if waiting for someone to contradict what he was reading. “A Greek trick! Greeks are infamous for their tricks!”

  Reyna took back the note. “Why ask this of me?”

  Rachel smiled. “Because Annabeth is wise. She believes you can do this, Reyna Avila Ramírez-Arellano. ”

  Jason felt like he’d been slapped. Nobody ever used Reyna’s full name. She hated telling anyone what it was. The only time Jason had ever said it aloud, just trying to pronounce it correctly, she’d given him a murderous look. That was the name of a little girl in San Juan, she told him. I left it behind when I left Puerto Rico.

  Reyna scowled. “How did you—”

  “Uh,” Grover Underwood interrupted. “You mean your initials are RA-RA?”

  Reyna’s hand drifted toward her dagger.

  “But that’s not important!” the satyr said quickly. “Look, we wouldn’t have risked coming here if we didn’t trust Annabeth’s instincts. A Roman leader returning the most important Greek statue to Camp Half-Blood—she knows that could prevent a war. ”

  “This isn’t a trick,” Rachel added. “We’re not lying. Ask your dogs. ”

  The metallic greyhounds didn’t react. Reyna stroked Aurum’s head thoughtfully. “The Athena Parthenos…so the legend is true. ”

  “Reyna!” Octavian cried. “You can’t seriously be considering this! Even if the statue still exists, you see what they’re doing. We’re on the verge of attacking them—destroying the stupid Greeks once and for all—and they concoct this stupid errand to divert your attention. They want to send you to your death!”

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