The lost hero, p.65
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       The Lost Hero, p.65
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         Part #1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
Page 65

 

  Something in Porphyrion’s voice told Jason he wasn’t bluffing.

  Jason and his friends had had a good run. The three of them had done amazing things. Yeah, even heroic things. But as the giant raised his spear, Jason knew there was no way he could deflect this strike.

  This was the end.

  “Got it!” Leo yelled.

  “Sleep!” Piper said, so forcefully, the nearest wolves fell to the ground and began snoring.

  The stone and wood cage crumbled. Leo had sawed through the base of the thickest tendril and apparently cut off the cage’s connection to Gaea. The tendrils turned to dust. The mud around Hera disintegrated. The goddess grew in size, glowing with power.

  “Yes!” the goddess said. She threw off her black robes to reveal a white gown, her arms bedecked with golden jewelry. Her face was both terrible and beautiful, and a golden crown glowed in her long black hair. “Now I shall have my revenge!”

  The giant Porphyrion backed away. He said nothing, but he gave Jason one last look of hatred. His message was clear: Another time. Then he slammed his spear against the earth, and the giant disappeared into the ground like he’d dropped down a chute.

  Around the courtyard, monsters began to panic and retreat, but there was no escape for them.

  Hera glowed brighter. She shouted, “Cover your eyes, my heroes!”

  But Jason was too much in shock. He understood too late.

  He watched as Hera turned into a supernova, exploding in a ring of force that vaporized every monster instantly. Jason fell, light searing into his mind, and his last thought was that his body was burning.

  “JASON!”

  Piper kept calling his name as she held him, though she’d almost lost hope. He’d been unconscious for two minutes now. His body was steaming, his eyes rolled back in his head. She couldn’t tell if he was even breathing.

  “It’s no use, child. ” Hera stood over them in her simple black robes and shawl.

  Piper hadn’t seen the goddess go nuclear. Thankfully she’d closed her eyes, but she could see the aftereffects. Every vestige of winter was gone from the valley. No signs of battle, either. The monsters had been vaporized. The ruins had been restored to what they were before—still ruins, but with no evidence that they’d been overrun by a horde of wolves, storm spirits, and six-armed ogres.

  Even the Hunters had been revived. Most waited at a respectful distance in the meadow, but Thalia knelt by Piper’s side, her hand on Jason’s forehead.

  Thalia glared up at the goddess. “This is your fault. Do something!”

  “Do not address me that way, girl. I am the queen—”

  “Fix him!”

  Hera’s eyes flickered with power. “I did warn him. I would never intentionally hurt the boy. He was to be my champion. I told them to close their eyes before I revealed my true form. ”

  “Um …” Leo frowned. “True form is bad, right? So why did you do it?”

  “I unleashed my power to help you, fool!” Hera cried. “I became pure energy so I could disintegrate the monsters, restore this place, and even save these miserable Hunters from the ice. ”

  “But mortals can’t look upon you in that form!” Thalia shouted. “You’ve killed him!”

  Leo shook his head in dismay. “That’s what our prophecy meant. Death unleash, through Hera’s rage. Come on, lady. You’re a goddess. Do some voodoo magic on him! Bring him back. ”

  Piper half heard their conversation, but mostly she was focused on Jason’s face. “He’s breathing!” she announced.

  “Impossible,” Hera said. “I wish it were true, child, but no mortal has ever—”

  “Jason,” Piper called, putting every bit of her willpower into his name. She could not lose him. “Listen to me. You can do this. Come back. You’re going to be fine. ”

  Nothing happened. Had she imagined his breath stirring?

  “Healing is not a power of Aphrodite,” Hera said regretfully. “Even I cannot fix this, girl. His mortal spirit—”

  “Jason,” Piper said again, and she imagined her voice resonating through the earth, all the way down to the Underworld. “Wake up. ”

  He gasped, and his eyes flew open. For a moment they were full of light—glowing pure gold. Then the light faded and his eyes were normal again. “What—what happened?”

  “Impossible!” Hera said.

  Piper wrapped him in a hug until he groaned, “Crushing me. ”

  “Sorry,” she said, so relieved, she laughed while wiping a tear from her eye.

  Thalia gripped her brother’s hand. “How do you feel?”

  “Hot,” he muttered. “Mouth is dry. And I saw something… really terrible. ”

  “That was Hera,” Thalia grumbled. “Her Majesty, the Loose Cannon. ”

  “That’s it, Thalia Grace,” said the goddess. “I will turn you into an aardvark, so help me—”

  “Stop it, you two,” Piper said. Amazingly, they both shut up.

  Piper helped Jason to his feet and gave him the last nectar from their supplies.

  “Now …” Piper faced Thalia and Hera. “Hera—Your Majesty—we couldn’t have rescued you without the Hunters. And Thalia, you never would’ve seen Jason again—I wouldn’t have met him—if it weren’t for Hera. You two make nice, because we’ve got bigger problems. ”

  They both glared at her, and for three long seconds, Piper wasn’t sure which one of them was going to kill her first.

  Finally Thalia grunted. “You’ve got spirit, Piper. ” She pulled a silver card from her parka and tucked it into the pocket of Piper’s snowboarding jacket. “You ever want to be a Hunter, call me. We could use you. ”

  Hera crossed her arms. “Fortunately for this Hunter, you have a point, daughter of Aphrodite. ” She assessed Piper, as if seeing her clearly for the time. “You wondered, Piper, why I chose you for this quest, why I didn’t reveal your secret in the beginning, even when I knew Enceladus was using you. I must admit, until this moment I was not sure. Something told me you would be vital to the quest. Now I see I was right. You’re even stronger than I realized. And you are correct about the dangers to come. We must work together. ”

  Piper’s face felt warm. She wasn’t sure how to respond to Hera’s compliment, but Leo stepped in.

  “Yeah,” he said, “I don’t suppose that Porphyrion guy just melted and died, huh?”

  “No,” Hera agreed. “By saving me, and saving this place, you prevented Gaea from waking. You have bought us some time. But Porphyrion has risen. He simply knew better than to stay here, especially since he has not yet regained his full power. Giants can only be killed by a combination of god and demigod, working together. Once you freed me—”

  “He ran away,” Jason said. “But to where?”

  Hera didn’t answer, but a sense of dread washed over Piper. She remembered what Porphyrion had said about killing the Olympians by pulling up their roots. Greece. She looked at Thalia’s grim expression, and guessed the Hunter had come to the same conclusion.

  “I need to find Annabeth,” Thalia said. “She has to know what’s happened here. ”

  “Thalia …” Jason gripped her hand. “We never got to talk about this place, or—”

  “I know. ” Her expression softened. “I lost you here once. I don’t want to leave you again. But we’ll meet soon. I’ll rendezvous with you back at Camp Half-Blood. ” She glanced at Hera. “You’ll see them there safely? It’s the least you can do. ”

  “It’s not your place to tell me—”

  “Queen Hera,” Piper interceded.

  The goddess sighed. “Fine. Yes. Just off with you, Hunter!”

  Thalia gave Jason a hug and said her good-byes. When the Hunters were gone, the courtyard seemed strangely quiet. The dry reflecting pool showed no sign of the earthen tendrils that had brought back the giant king or imprisoned Hera. The night sky was clear and starry. The wind rustled in the redwoods. Piper thought about tha
t night in Oklahoma when she and her dad had slept in Grandpa Tom’s front yard. She thought about the night on the Wilderness School dorm roof, when Jason had kissed her—in her Mist-altered memories, anyway.

  “Jason, what happened to you here?” she asked. “I mean—I know your mom abandoned you here. But you said it was sacred ground for demigods. Why? What happened after you were on your own?”

  Jason shook his head uneasily. “It’s still murky. The wolves …”

  “You were given a destiny,” Hera said. “You were given into my service. ”

  Jason scowled. “Because you forced my mom to do that. You couldn’t stand knowing Zeus had two children with my mom. Knowing that he’d fallen for her twice. I was the price you demanded for leaving the rest of my family alone. ”

  “It was the right choice for you as well, Jason,” Hera insisted. “The second time your mother managed to snare Zeus’s affections, it was because she imagined him in a different aspect—the aspect of Jupiter. Never before had this happened—two children, Greek and Roman, born into the same family. You had to be separated from Thalia. This is where all demigods of your kind start their journey. ”

  “Of his kind?” Piper asked.

  “She means Roman,” Jason said. “Demigods are left here. We meet the she-wolf goddess, Lupa, the same immortal wolf that raised Romulus and Remus. ”

  Hera nodded. “And if you are strong enough, you live. ”

  “But …” Leo looked mystified. “What happened after that? I mean, Jason never made it to camp. ”

  “Not to Camp Half-Blood, no,” Hera agreed.

  Piper felt as if the sky were spiraling above her, making her dizzy. “You went somewhere else. That’s where you’ve been all these years. Somewhere else for demigods—but where?”

  Jason turned to the goddess. “The memories are coming back, but not the location. You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

  “No,” Hera said. “That is part of your destiny, Jason. You must find your own way back. But when you do … you will unite two great powers. You will give us hope against the giants, and more importantly—against Gaea herself. ”

  “You want us to help you,” Jason said, “but you’re holding back information. ”

  “Giving you answers would make those answers invalid,” Hera said. “That is the way of the Fates. You must forge your own path for it to mean anything. Already, you three have surprised me. I would not have thought it possible …”

  The goddess shook her head. “Suffice to say, you have performed well, demigods. But this is only the beginning. Now you must return to Camp Half-Blood, where you will begin planning for the next phase. ”

  “Which you won’t tell us about,” Jason grumped. “And I suppose you destroyed my nice storm spirit horse, so we’ll have to walk home?”

 
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