The house of hades, p.47
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       The House of Hades, p.47

         Part #4 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
Page 47


  “These won’t burn?” He picked up the jeans, but they felt just like normal denim.

  “They are completely fireproof,” Calypso promised. “They’ll stay clean and expand to fit you, should you ever become less scrawny. ”

  “Thanks. ” He meant it to sound sarcastic, but he was honestly impressed. Leo could make a lot of things, but an inflammable, self-cleaning outfit wasn’t one of them. “So…you made an exact replica of my favorite outfit. Did you, like, Google me or something?”

  She frowned. “I don’t know that word. ”

  “You looked me up,” he said. “Almost like you had some interest in me. ”

  She wrinkled her nose. “I have an interest in not making you a new set of clothes every other day. I have an interest in your not smelling so bad and walking around my island in smoldering rags. ”

  “Oh, yeah. ” Leo grinned. “You’re really warming up to me. ”

  Her face got even redder. “You are the most insufferable person I have ever met! I was only returning a favor. You fixed my fountain. ”

  “That?” Leo laughed. The problem had been so simple, he’d almost forgotten about it. One of the bronze satyrs had gotten turned sideways and the water pressure was off, so it started making an annoying ticking sound, jiggling up and down, and spewing water over the rim of the pool. He’d pulled out a couple of tools and fixed it in about two minutes. “That was no big deal. I don’t like it when things don’t work right. ”

  “And the curtains across the cave entrance?”

  “The rod wasn’t level. ”

  “And my gardening tools?”

  “Look, I just sharpened the shears. Cutting vines with a dull blade is dangerous. And the pruners needed to be oiled at the hinge, and—”

  “Oh, yeah,” Calypso said, in a pretty good imitation of his voice. “You’re really warming up to me. ”

  For once, Leo was speechless. Calypso’s eyes glittered. He knew she was making fun of him, but somehow it didn’t feel mean.

  She pointed at his worktable. “What are you building?”

  “Oh. ” He looked at the bronze mirror, which he’d just finished wiring up to the Archimedes sphere. In the screen’s polished surface, his own reflection surprised him. His hair had grown out longer and curlier. His face was thinner and more chiseled, maybe because he hadn’t been eating. His eyes were dark and a little ferocious when he wasn’t smiling—kind of a Tarzan look, if Tarzan came in extra-small Latino. He couldn’t blame Calypso for backing away from him.

  “Uh, it’s a seeing device,” he said. “We found one like this in Rome, in the workshop of Archimedes. If I can make it work, maybe I can find out what’s going on with my friends. ”

  Calypso shook her head. “That’s impossible. This island is hidden, cut off from the world by strong magic. Time doesn’t even flow the same here. ”

  “Well, you’ve got to have some kind of outside contact. How did you find out that I used to wear an army jacket?”

  She twisted her hair as if the question made her uncomfortable. “Seeing the past is simple magic. Seeing the present or the future—that is not. ”

  “Yeah, well,” Leo said. “Watch and learn, Sunshine. I just connect these last two wires, and—”

  The bronze plate sparked. Smoke billowed from the sphere. A flash of fire raced up Leo’s sleeve. He pulled off his shirt, threw it down, and stomped on it.

  He could tell Calypso was trying not to laugh, but she was shaking with the effort.

  “Not a word,” Leo warned.

  She glanced at his bare chest, which was sweaty, bony, and streaked with old scars from weapon-making accidents.

  “Nothing worth commenting on,” she assured him. “If you want that device to work, perhaps you should try a musical invocation. ”

  “Right,” he said. “Whenever an engine malfunctions, I like to tap-dance around it. Works every time. ”

  She took a deep breath and began to sing.

  Her voice hit him like a cool breeze—like that first cold front in Texas when the summer heat finally breaks and you start to believe things might get better. Leo couldn’t understand the words, but the song was plaintive and bittersweet, as if she were describing a home she could never return to.

  Her singing was magic, no doubt. But it wasn’t like Medea’s trance-inducing voice, or even Piper’s charmspeak. The music didn’t want anything from him. It simply reminded him of his best memories—building things with his mom in her workshop; sitting in the sunshine with his friends at camp. It made him miss home.

  Calypso stopped singing. Leo realized he was staring like an idiot.

  “Any luck?” she asked.

  “Uh…” He forced his eyes back to the bronze mirror. “Nothing. Wait…”

  The screen glowed. In the air above it, holographic pictures shimmered to life.

  Leo recognized the commons at Camp Half-Blood.

  There was no sound, but Clarisse LaRue from the Ares Cabin was yelling orders at the campers, forming them into lines. Leo’s brethren from Cabin Nine hurried around, fitting everyone with armor and passing out weapons.

  Even Chiron the centaur was dressed for war. He trotted up and down the ranks, his plumed helmet gleaming, his legs decked in bronze greaves. His usual friendly smile was gone, replaced with a look of grim determination.

  In the distance, Greek triremes floated on Long Island Sound, prepped for war. Along the hills, catapults were being primed. Satyrs patrolled the fields, and riders on pegasi circled overhead, alert for aerial attacks.

  “Your friends?” Calypso asked.

  Leo nodded. His face felt numb. “They’re preparing for war. ”

  “Against whom?”

  “Look,” Leo said.

  The scene changed. A phalanx of Roman demigods marched through a moonlit vineyard. An illuminated sign in the distance read: GOLDSMITH WINERY.

  “I’ve seen that sign before,” Leo said. “That’s not far from Camp Half-Blood. ”

  Suddenly the Roman ranks deteriorated into chaos. Demigods scattered. Shields fell. Javelins swung wildly, like the whole group had stepped in fire ants.

  Darting through the moonlight were two small hairy shapes dressed in mismatched clothes and garish hats. They seemed to be everywhere at once—whacking Romans on the head, stealing their weapons, cutting their belts so their pants fell around their ankles.

  Leo couldn’t help grinning. “Those beautiful little troublemakers! They kept their promise. ”

  Calypso leaned in, watching the Kerkopes. “Cousins of yours?”

  “Ha, ha, ha, no,” Leo said. “Couple of dwarfs I met in Bologna. I sent them to slow down the Romans, and they’re doing it. ”

  “But for how long?” Calypso wondered.

  Good question. The scene shifted again. Leo saw Octavian—that no-good blond scarecrow of an augur. He stood in a gas station parking lot, surrounded by black SUVs and Roman demigods. He held up a long pole wrapped in canvas. When he uncovered it, a golden eagle glimmered at the top.

  “Oh, that’s not good,” Leo said.

  “A Roman standard,” Calypso noted.

  “Yeah. And this one shoots lightning, according to Percy. ”

  As soon as he said Percy’s name, Leo regretted it. He glanced at Calypso. He could see in her eyes how much she was struggling, trying to marshal her emotions into neat orderly rows like strands on her loom. What surprised Leo most was the surge of anger he felt. It wasn’t just annoyance or jealousy. He was mad at Percy for hurting this girl.

  He refocused on the holographic images. Now he saw a single rider—Reyna, the praetor from Camp Jupiter—flying through a storm on the back of a light-brown pegasus. Reyna’s dark hair flew in the wind. Her purple cloak fluttered, revealing the glimmer of her armor. She was bleeding from cuts on her arms and face. Her pegasus’s eyes were wild, his mouth slathering from hard riding; but Reyna peered steadfastly forward into the storm.

  As Leo watched, a wild gryphon dived out of the clouds. It raked its claws across the horse’s ribs, almost throwing Reyna. She drew her sword and slashed the monster down. Seconds later, three venti appeared—dark air spirits swirling like miniature tornadoes laced with lightning. Reyna charged them, yelling defiantly.

  Then the bronze mirror went dark.

  “No!” Leo yelled. “No, not now. Show me what happens!” He banged on the mirror. “Calypso, can you sing again or something?”

  She glared at him. “I suppose that is your girlfriend? Your Penelope? Your Elizabeth? Your Annabeth?”

  “What?” Leo couldn’t figure this girl out. Half the stuff she said made no sense. “That’s Reyna. She’s not my girlfriend! I need to see more! I need—”

  NEED, a voice rumbled in the ground beneath his feet. Leo staggered, suddenly feeling like he was standing on the surface of a trampoline.

  NEED is an overused word. A swirling human figure erupted from the sand—Leo’s least favorite goddess, the Mistress of Mud, the Princess of Potty Sludge, Gaea herself.

  Leo threw a pair of pliers at her. Unfortunately she wasn’t solid, and they passed right through. Her eyes were closed, but she didn’t look asleep, exactly. She had a smile on her dust devil face, as if she were intently listening to her favorite song. Her sandy robes shifted and folded, reminding Leo of the undulating fins on that stupid shrimpzilla monster they’d fought in the Atlantic. For his money, though, Gaea was uglier.

  You want to live, Gaea said. You want to join your friends. But you do not need this, my poor boy. It would make no difference. Your friends will die, regardless.

  Leo’s legs shook. He hated it, but whenever this witch appeared, he felt like he was eight years old again, trapped in the lobby of his mom’s machine shop, listening to Gaea’s soothing evil voice while his mother was locked inside the burning warehouse, dying from heat and smoke.

  “What I don’t need,” he growled, “is more lies from you, Dirt Face. You told me my great-granddad died in the 1960s. Wrong! You told me I couldn’t save my friends in Rome. Wrong! You told me a lot of things. ”

  Gaea’s laughter was a soft rustling sound, like dirt trickling down a hill in the first moments of an avalanche.

  I tried to help you make better choices. You could have saved yourself. But you defied me at every step. You built your ship. You joined that foolish quest. Now you are trapped here, helpless, while the mortal world dies.

  Leo’s hands burst into flame. He wanted to melt Gaea’s sandy face to glass. Then he felt Calypso’s hand on his shoulder.

  “Gaea. ” Her voice was stern and steady. “You are not welcome. ”

  Leo wished he could sound as confident as Calypso. Then he remembered that this annoying fifteen-year-old girl was actually the immortal daughter of a Titan.

  Ah, Calypso. Gaea raised her arms as if for a hug. Still here, I see, despite the gods’ promises. Why do you think that is, my dear grandchild? Are the Olympians being spiteful, leaving you with no company except this undergrown fool? Or have they simply forgotten you, because you are not worth their time?

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