The house of hades, p.49
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       The House of Hades, p.49

         Part #4 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
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Page 49

 

  “You didn’t really think I could start Leo and Calypso’s Auto Repair without Calypso, did you?” he asked. “I can’t make cider and stew, and I sure can’t sing. ”

  She stared at the sand.

  “Well, anyway,” Leo said, “tomorrow I’ll start on the lumber. And in a few days…”

  He looked out over the water. Something was bobbing on the waves. Leo watched in disbelief as a large wooden raft floated in on the tide and slid to a stop on the beach.

  Leo was too dazed to move, but Calypso sprang to her feet.

  “Hurry!” She sprinted across the beach, grabbed some supply bags, and ran them to the raft. “I don’t know how long it will stay!”

  “But…” Leo stood. His legs felt like they’d turned to rock. He had just convinced himself he had another week on Ogygia. Now he didn’t have time to finish dinner. “That’s the magic raft?”

  “Duh!” Calypso yelled. “It might work like it’s supposed to and take you where you want to go. But we can’t be sure. The island’s magic is obviously unstable. You must rig up your guidance device to navigate. ”

  She snatched up the console and ran toward the raft, which got Leo moving. He helped her fasten it to the raft and run wires to the small rudder in the back. The raft was already fitted with a mast, so Leo and Calypso hauled their sail aboard and started on the rigging.

  They worked side by side in perfect harmony. Even among the Hephaestus campers, Leo had never worked with anyone as intuitive as this immortal gardener girl. In no time, they had the sail in place and all the supplies aboard. Leo hit the buttons on the Archimedes sphere, muttered a prayer to his dad, Hephaestus, and the Celestial bronze console hummed to life.

  The rigging tightened. The sail turned. The raft began scraping against the sand, straining to reach the waves.

  “Go,” Calypso said.

  Leo turned. She was so close he couldn’t stand it. She smelled like cinnamon and wood smoke, and he thought he’d never smell anything that good again.

  “The raft finally got here,” he said.

  Calypso snorted. Her eyes might have been red, but it was hard to tell in the moonlight. “You just noticed?”

  “But if it only shows up for guys you like—”

  “Don’t push your luck, Leo Valdez,” she said. “I still hate you. ”

  “Okay. ”

  “And you are not coming back here,” she insisted. “So don’t give me any empty promises. ”

  “How about a full promise?” he said. “Because I’m definitely—”

  She grabbed his face and pulled him into a kiss, which effectively shut him up.

  For all his joking and flirting, Leo had never kissed a girl before. Well, sisterly pecks on the cheek from Piper, but that didn’t count. This was a real, full-contact kiss. If Leo had had gears and wires in his brain, they would’ve short-circuited.

  Calypso pushed him away. “That didn’t happen. ”

  “Okay. ” His voice sounded an octave higher than usual.

  “Get out of here. ”

  “Okay. ”

  She turned, wiping her eyes furiously, and stormed up the beach, the breeze tousling her hair.

  Leo wanted to call to her, but the sail caught the full force of the wind, and the raft cleared the beach. He struggled to align the guidance console. By the time Leo looked back, the island of Ogygia was a dark line in the distance, their campfire pulsing like a tiny orange heart.

  His lips still tingled from the kiss.

  That didn’t happen, he told himself. I can’t be in love with an immortal girl. She definitely can’t be in love with me. Not possible.

  As his raft skimmed over the water, taking him back to the mortal world, he understood a line from the Prophecy better—an oath to keep with a final breath.

  He understood how dangerous oaths could be. But Leo didn’t care.

  “I’m coming back for you, Calypso,” he said to the night wind. “I swear it on the River Styx. ”

  ANNABETH HAD NEVER BEEN SCARED OF THE DARK.

  But normally the dark wasn’t forty feet tall. It didn’t have black wings, a whip made out of stars, and a shadowy chariot pulled by vampire horses.

  Nyx was almost too much to take in. Looming over the chasm, she was a churning figure of ash and smoke, as big as the Athena Parthenos statue, but very much alive. Her dress was void black, mixed with the colors of a space nebula, as if galaxies were being born in her bodice. Her face was hard to see except for the pinpoints of her eyes, which shone like quasars. When her wings beat, waves of darkness rolled over the cliffs, making Annabeth feel heavy and sleepy, her eyesight dim.

  The goddess’s chariot was made of the same material as Nico di Angelo’s sword—Stygian iron—and pulled by two massive horses, all black except for their pointed silver fangs. The beasts’ legs floated in the abyss, turning from solid to smoke as they moved.

  The horses snarled and bared their fangs at Annabeth. The goddess lashed her whip—a thin streak of stars like diamond barbs—and the horses reared back.

  “No, Shade,” the goddess said. “Down, Shadow. These little prizes are not for you. ”

  Percy eyed the horses as they nickered. He was still shrouded in Death Mist, so he looked like an out-of-focus corpse—which broke Annabeth’s heart every time she saw him. It also must not have been very good camouflage, since Nyx could obviously see them.

  Annabeth couldn’t read the expression on Percy’s ghoulish face very well. Apparently he didn’t like whatever the horses were saying.

  “Uh, so you won’t let them eat us?” he asked the goddess. “They really want to eat us. ”

  Nyx’s quasar eyes burned. “Of course not. I would not let my horses eat you, any more than I would let Akhlys kill you. Such fine prizes, I will kill myself!”

  Annabeth didn’t feel particularly witty or courageous, but her instincts told her to take the initiative, or this would be a very short conversation.

  “Oh, don’t kill yourself!” she cried. “We’re not that scary. ”

  The goddess lowered her whip. “What? No, I didn’t mean—”

  “Well, I’d hope not!” Annabeth looked at Percy and forced a laugh. “We wouldn’t want to scare her, would we?”

  “Ha, ha,” Percy said weakly. “No, we wouldn’t. ”

  The vampire horses looked confused. They reared and snorted and knocked their dark heads together. Nyx pulled back on the reins.

  “Do you know who I am?” she demanded.

  “Well, you’re Night, I suppose,” said Annabeth. “I mean, I can tell because you’re dark and everything, though the brochure didn’t say much about you. ”

  Nyx’s eyes winked out for a moment. “What brochure?”

  Annabeth patted her pockets. “We had one, didn’t we?”

  Percy licked his lips. “Uh-huh. ” He was still watching the horses, his hand tight on his sword hilt, but he was smart enough to follow Annabeth’s lead. Now she just had to hope she wasn’t making things worse…though honestly, she didn’t see how things could be worse.

  “Anyway,” she said, “I guess the brochure didn’t say much, because you weren’t spotlighted on the tour. We got to see the River Phlegethon, the Cocytus, the arai, the poison glade of Akhlys, even some random Titans and giants, but Nyx…hmm, no, you weren’t really featured. ”

  “Featured? Spotlighted?”

  “Yeah,” Percy said, warming up to the idea. “We came down here for the Tartarus tour—like, exotic destinations, you know? The Underworld is overdone. Mount Olympus is a tourist trap—”

  “Gods, totally!” Annabeth agreed. “So we booked the Tartarus excursion, but no one even mentioned we’d run into Nyx. Huh. Oh, well. Guess they didn’t think you were important. ”

  “Not important!” Nyx cracked her whip. Her horses bucked and snapped their silvery fangs. Waves of darkness rolled out of the chasm, turning Annabeth’s insides to jelly, but she
couldn’t show her fear.

  She pushed down Percy’s sword arm, forcing him to lower his weapon. This was a goddess beyond anything they had ever faced. Nyx was older than any Olympian or Titan or giant, older even than Gaea. She couldn’t be defeated by two demigods—at least not two demigods using force.

  Annabeth made herself look at the goddess’s massive dark face.

  “Well, how many other demigods have come to see you on the tour?” she asked innocently.

  Nyx’s hand went slack on the reins. “None. Not one. This is unacceptable!”

  Annabeth shrugged. “Maybe it’s because you haven’t really done anything to get in the news. I mean, I can understand Tartarus being important! This whole place is named after him. Or, if we could meet Day—”

  “Oh, yeah,” Percy chimed in. “Day? She would be impressive. I’d totally want to meet her. Maybe get her autograph. ”

  “Day!” Nyx gripped the rail of her black chariot. The whole vehicle shuddered. “You mean Hemera? She is my daughter! Night is much more powerful than Day!”

  “Eh,” said Annabeth. “I liked the arai, or even Akhlys better. ”

  “They are my children as well!”

  Percy stifled a yawn. “Got a lot of children, huh?”

  “I am the mother of all terrors!” Nyx cried. “The Fates themselves! Hecate! Old Age! Pain! Sleep! Death! And all of the curses! Behold how newsworthy I am!”

  NYX LASHED HER WHIP AGAIN. The darkness congealed around her. On either side, an army of shadows appeared—more dark-winged arai, which Annabeth was not thrilled to see; a withered man who must have been Geras, the god of old age; and a younger woman in a black toga, her eyes gleaming and her smile like a serial killer’s—no doubt Eris, the goddess of strife. More kept appearing: dozens of demons and minor gods, each one the spawn of Night.

  Annabeth wanted to run. She was facing a brood of horrors that could snap anyone’s sanity. But if she ran, she would die.

  Next to her, Percy’s breathing turned shallow. Even through his misty ghoul disguise, Annabeth could tell he was on the verge of panic. She had to stand her ground for both of them.

  I am a daughter of Athena, she thought. I control my own mind.

  She imagined a mental frame around what she was seeing. She told herself it was just a movie—a scary movie, sure, but it could not hurt her. She was in control.

  “Yeah, not bad,” she admitted. “I guess we could get one picture for the scrapbook, but I don’t know. You guys are so…dark. Even if I used a flash, I’m not sure it would come out. ”

  “Y-yeah,” Percy managed. “You guys aren’t photogenic. ”

  “You—miserable—tourists!” Nyx hissed. “How dare you not tremble before me! How dare you not whimper and beg for my autograph and a picture for your scrapbook! You want newsworthy? My son Hypnos once put Zeus to sleep! When Zeus pursued him across the earth, bent on vengeance, Hypnos hid in my palace for safety, and Zeus did not follow. Even the king of Olympus fears me!”

 
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