The son of neptune, p.24
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       The Son of Neptune, p.24

         Part #2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
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Page 24

 

  “Great,” Percy said. “So we’ve got two giants to worry about. ”

  The praetor nodded. “Lupa and her wolves are trying to slow them down, but this force is too strong even for them. The enemy will be here soon—by the Feast of Fortuna at the very latest. ”

  Percy shuddered. He’d seen Lupa in action. He knew all about the wolf goddess and her pack. If this enemy was too powerful for Lupa, Camp Jupiter didn’t stand a chance.

  Reyna read his expression. “Yes, it’s bad, but not hopeless.

  If you succeed in bringing back our eagle, if you release Death so we can actually kill our enemies, then we stand a chance. And there’s one more possibility. …”

  Reyna slid the silver ring across the table. “I can’t give you much help, but your journey will take you close to Seattle. I’m asking you for a favor, which may also help you. Find my sister Hylla. ”

  “Your sister…the one who hates me?”

  “Oh, yes,” Reyna agreed. “She would love to kill you. But show her that ring as a token from me, and she may help you instead. ”

  “May?”

  “I can’t speak for her. In fact…” Reyna frowned. “In fact I haven’t spoken to her in weeks. She’s gone silent. With these armies passing through—”

  “You want me to check on her,” Percy guessed. “Make sure she’s okay. ”

  “Partially, yes. I can’t imagine she’s been overcome. My sister has a powerful force. Her territory is well defended. But if you can find her, she could offer you valuable help. It could mean the difference between success and failure on your quest. And if you tell her what’s happening here—”

  “She might send help?” Percy asked.

  Reyna didn’t answer, but Percy could see the desperation in her eyes. She was terrified, grasping for anything that could save her camp. No wonder she wanted Percy’s help. She was the only praetor. The defense of the camp rested on her shoulders alone.

  Percy took the ring. “I’ll find her. Where do I look? What kind force does she have?”

  “Don’t worry. Just go to Seattle. They’ll find you. ”

  That didn’t sound encouraging, but Percy slipped the ring onto his leather necklace with his beads and his probatio tablet. “Wish me luck. ”

  “Fight well, Percy Jackson,” Reyna said. “And thank you. ”

  He could tell the audience was over. Reyna was having trouble holding herself together, keeping up the image of the confident commander. She needed some time by herself.

  But at the door of the principia, Percy couldn’t resist turning. “How did we destroy your home—that spa where you lived?”

  The metal greyhounds growled. Reyna snapped her fingers to silence them.

  “You destroyed the power of our mistress,” she said. “You freed some prisoners who took revenge on all of us who lived on the island. My sister and I…well, we survived. It was difficult. But in the long run, I think we are better off away from that place. ”

  “Still, I’m sorry,” Percy said. “If I hurt you, I’m sorry. ”

  Reyna gazed at him for a long time, as if trying to translate his words. “An apology? Not very Roman at all, Percy Jackson. You’d make an interesting praetor. I hope you’ll think about my offer. ”

  XVI Percy

  LUNCH FELT LIKE A FUNERAL PARTY. Everybody ate. People talked in hushed tones. Nobody seemed particularly happy. The other campers kept glancing over at Percy like he was the corpse of honor.

  Reyna made a brief speech wishing them luck. Octavian ripped open a Beanie Baby and pronounced grave omens and hard times ahead, but predicted the camp would be saved by an unexpected hero (whose initials were probably OCTAVIAN). Then the other campers went off to their afternoon classes—gladiator fighting, Latin lessons, paintball with ghosts, eagle training, and a dozen other activities that sounded better than a suicide quest. Percy followed Hazel and Frank to the barracks to pack.

  Percy didn’t have much. He’d cleaned up his backpack from his trip south and had kept most of his Bargain Mart supplies.

  He had a fresh pair of jeans and an extra purple T-shirt from the camp quarter master, plus some nectar, ambrosia, snacks, a little mortal money, and camping supplies. At lunch, Reyna had handed him a scroll of introduction from the praetor and camp senate. Supposedly, any retired legionnaires they met on the trip would help them if shown the letter. He also kept his leather necklace with the beads, the silver ring, and the probatio tablet, and of course he had Riptide in his pocket.

  He folded his tattered orange T-shirt and left it on his bunk.

  “I’ll be back,” he said. He felt pretty stupid talking to a T-shirt, but he was really thinking of Annabeth, and his old life. “I’m not leaving for good. But I have to help these guys. They took me in. They deserve to survive. ”

  The T-shirt didn’t answer, thankfully.

  One of their roommates, Bobby, gave them a ride to the border of the valley on Hannibal the elephant. From the hilltops, Percy could see everything below. The Little Tiber snaked across golden pastures where the unicorns were grazing. The temples and forums of New Rome gleamed in the sunlight. On the Field of Mars, engineers were hard at work, pulling down the remains of last night’s fort and setting up barricades for a game of death ball. A normal day for Camp Jupiter—but on the northern horizon, storm clouds were gathering. Shadows moved across the hills, and Percy imagined the face of Gaea getting closer and closer.

  Work with me for the future, Reyna had said. I intend to save this camp.

  Looking down at the valley, Percy understood why she cared so much. Even though he was new to Camp Jupiter, he felt a fierce desire to protect this place. A safe haven where demigods could build their lives—he wanted that to be part of his future. Maybe not the way Reyna imagined, but if he could share this place with Annabeth…

  They got off the elephant. Bobby wished them a safe journey. Hannibal wrapped the three questers with his trunk. Then the elephant taxi service headed back into the valley.

  Percy sighed. He turned to Hazel and Frank and tried to think of something upbeat to say.

  A familiar voice said, “IDs, please. ”

  A statue of Terminus appeared at the summit of the hill. The god’s marble face frowned irritably. “Well? Come along!”

  “You again?” Percy asked. “I thought you just guarded the city. ”

  Terminus huffed. “Glad to see you, too, Mr. Rule Flouter. Normally, yes, I guard the city, but for international departures, I like to provide extra security at the camp borders. You really should’ve allowed two hours before your planned departure time, you know. But we’ll have to make do. Now, come over here so I can pat you down. ”

  “But you don’t have—” Percy stopped himself. “Uh, sure. ”

  He stood next to the armless statue. Terminus conducted a rigorous mental pat down.

  “You seem to be clean,” Terminus decided. “Do you have anything to declare?”

  “Yes,” Percy said. “I declare this is stupid. ”

  “Hmph! Probatio tablet: Percy Jackson, Fifth Cohort, son of Neptune. Fine, go. Hazel Levesque, daughter of Pluto. Fine. Any foreign currency or, ahem, precious metals to declare?”

  “No,” she muttered.

  “Are you sure?” Terminus asked. “Because last time—”

  “No!”

  “Well, this is a grumpy bunch,” said the god. “Quest travelers! Always in a rush. Now, let’s see—Frank Zhang. Ah! Centurion? Well done, Frank. And that haircut is regulation perfect. I approve! Off you go, then, Centurion Zhang. Do you need any directions today?”

  “No. No, I guess not. ”

  “Just down to the BART station,” Terminus said anyway. “Change trains at Twelfth Street in Oakland. You want Fruitvale Station. From there, you can walk or take the bus to Alameda. ”

  “You guys don’t have a magical BART train or some thing?” Percy asked.

  “Magic trains!” Terminus
scoffed. “You’ll be wanting your own security lane and a pass to the executive lounge next. Just travel safely, and watch out for Polybotes. Talk about scofflaws—bah! I wish I could throttle him with my bare hands. ”

  “Wait—who?” Percy asked.

  Terminus made a straining expression, like he was flexing his nonexistent biceps. “Ah, well. Just be careful of him. I imagine he can smell a son of Neptune a mile away. Out you go, now. Good luck!”

  An invisible force kicked them across the boundary. When Percy looked back, Terminus was gone. In fact, the entire valley was gone. The Berkeley Hills seemed to be free of any Roman camp.

  Percy looked at his friends. “Any idea what Terminus was talking about? Watch out for…Political something or other?”

  “Poh-LIB-uh-tease?” Hazel sounded out the name carefully. “Never heard of him. ”

  “Sounds Greek,” Frank said.

  “That narrows it down. ” Percy sighed. “Well, we probably just appeared on the smell radar for every monster within five miles. We’d better get moving. ”

  It took them two hours to reach the docks in Alameda. Compared to Percy’s last few months, the trip was easy. No monsters attacked. Nobody looked at Percy like he was a homeless wild child.

  Frank had stored his spear, bow, and quiver in a long bag made for skis. Hazel’s cavalry sword was wrapped in a bedroll slung on her back. Together the three of them looked like normal high schoolers on their way to an overnight trip. They walked to Rockridge Station, bought their tickets with mortal money, and hopped on the BART train.

  They got off in Oakland. They had to walk through some rough neighborhoods, but nobody bothered them. When ever the local gang members came close enough to look in Percy’s eyes, they quickly veered away. He’d perfected his wolf stare over the last few months—a look that said: However bad you think you are, I’m worse. After strangling sea monsters and running over gorgons in a police car, Percy wasn’t scared of gangs. Pretty much nothing in the mortal world scared him anymore.

  In the late afternoon, they made it to the Alameda docks. Percy looked out over San Francisco Bay and breathed in the salty sea air. Immediately he felt better. This was his father’s domain. Whatever they faced, he’d have the upper hand as long as they were at sea.

  Dozens of boats were moored at the docks—everything from fifty-foot yachts to ten-foot fishing boats. He scanned the slips for some sort of magic vessel—a trireme, maybe, or a dragon-headed warship like he’d seen in his dreams.

  “Um…you guys know what we’re looking for?”

  Hazel and Frank shook their heads.

  “I didn’t even know we had a navy. ” Hazel sounded as if she wished there wasn’t one.

  “Oh…” Frank pointed. “You don’t think…?”

  At the end of the dock was a tiny boat, like a dinghy, covered in a purple tarp. Embroidered in faded gold along the canvas was S. P. Q. R.

  Percy’s confidence wavered. “No way. ”

 
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