The son of neptune, p.48
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       The Son of Neptune, p.48

         Part #2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
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Page 48

 

  He forced himself to concentrate. He remembered what his grandmother had told him about the nature of his gift, and how he had to leave her here to die.

  You’ve got a role to play, Mars had said.

  Frank couldn’t believe he was Juno’s secret weapon, or that this big Prophecy of the Seven depended on him. But Hazel and Percy were counting on him. He had to do his best.

  He thought about that weird partial prophecy Ella had recited in the attic, about the son of Neptune drowning.

  You don’t understand her true value, Phineas had told them in Portland. The old blind man had thought that controlling Ella would make him a king.

  All these puzzle pieces swirled around in Frank’s mind. He got the feeling that when they finally connected, they would create a picture he didn’t like.

  “Guys, I’ve got an escape plan. ” He told his friends about the plane waiting at the airfield, and his grandmother’s note for the pilot. “He’s a legion veteran. He’ll help us. ”

  “But Arion’s not back,” Hazel said. “And what about your grandmother? We can’t just leave her. ”

  Frank choked back a sob. “Maybe—maybe Arion will find us. As for my grandmother…she was pretty clear. She said she’d be okay. ”

  It wasn’t exactly the truth, but it was as much as Frank could manage.

  “There’s another problem,” Percy said. “I’m not good with air travel. It’s dangerous for a son of Neptune. ”

  “You’ll have to risk it. …and so will I,” Frank said. “By the way, we’re related. ” Percy almost stumbled off the roof. “What?”

  Frank gave them the five-second version: “Periclymenus.

  Ancestor on my mom’s side. Argonaut. Grandson of Poseidon. ”

  Hazel’s mouth fell open. “You’re a—a descendant of Neptune? Frank, that’s—”

  “Crazy? Yeah. And there’s this ability my family has, supposedly. But I don’t know how to use it. If I can’t figure it out—”

  Another massive cheer went up from the Laistrygonians. Frank realized they were staring up at him, pointing and waving and laughing. They had spotted their breakfast.

  “Zhang!” they yelled. “Zhang!”

  Hazel stepped closer to him. “They keep doing that. Why are they yelling your name?”

  “Never mind,” Frank said. “Listen, we’ve got to protect Ella, take her with us. ”

  “Of course,” Hazel said. “The poor thing needs our help. ”

  “No,” Frank said. “I mean yes, but it’s not just that. She recited a prophecy downstairs. I think…I think it was about this quest. ”

  He didn’t want to tell Percy the bad news, about a son of Neptune drowning, but he repeated the lines.

  Percy’s jaw tightened. “I don’t know how a son of Neptune can drown. I can breathe underwater. But the crown of the legion—”

  “That’s got to be the eagle,” Hazel said.

  Percy nodded. “And Ella recited something like this once before, in Portland—a line from the old Great Prophecy. ”

  “The what?” Frank asked.

  “Tell you later. ” Percy turned his garden hose and shot another cannonball out of the sky.

  It exploded in an orange fireball. The ogres clapped with appreciation and yelled, “Pretty! Pretty!”

  “The thing is,” Frank said, “Ella remembers everything she reads. She said something about the page being burned, like she’d read a damaged text of prophecies. ”

  Hazel’s eyes widened. “Burned books of prophecy? You don’t think—but that’s impossible!”

  “The books Octavian wanted, back at camp?” Percy guessed.

  Hazel whistled under her breath. “The lost Sibylline books that outlined the entire destiny of Rome. If Ella actually read a copy somehow, and memorized it—”

  “Then she’s the most valuable harpy in the world,” Frank said. “No wonder Phineas wanted to capture her. ”

  “Frank Zhang!” an ogre shouted from below. He was bigger than the rest, wearing a lion’s cape like a Roman standard bearer and a plastic bib with a lobster on it. “Come down, son of Mars! We’ve been waiting for you. Come, be our honored guest!”

  Hazel gripped Frank’s arm. “Why do I get the feeling that ‘honored guest’ means the same thing as ‘dinner’?”

  Frank wished Mars were still there. He could use somebody to snap his fingers and make his battle jitters go away.

  Hazel believes in me, he thought. I can do this.

  He looked at Percy. “Can you drive?”

  “Sure. Why?”

  “Grandmother’s car is in the garage. It’s an old Cadillac. The thing is like a tank. If you can get it started—”

  “We’ll still have to break through a line of ogres,” Hazel said.

  “The sprinkler system,” Percy said. “Use it as a distraction?”

  “Exactly,” Frank said. “I’ll buy you as much time as I can. Get Ella, and get in the car. I’ll try to meet you in the garage, but don’t wait for me. ”

  Percy frowned. “Frank—”

  “Give us your answer, Frank Zhang!” the ogre yelled up. “Come down, and we will spare the others—your friends, your poor old granny. We only want you!”

  “They’re lying,” Percy muttered.

  “Yeah, I got that,” Frank agreed. “Go!”

  His friends ran for the ladder.

  Frank tried to control the beating of his heart. He grinned and yelled, “Hey, down there! Who’s hungry?” The ogres cheered as Frank paced along the widow’s walk and waved like a rock star.

  Frank tried to summon his family power. He imagined himself as a fire-breathing dragon. He strained and clenched his fist and thought about dragons so hard, beads of sweat popped up on his forehead. He wanted to sweep down on the enemy and destroy them. That would be extremely cool. But nothing happened. He had no clue how to change himself. He had never even seen a real dragon. For a panicky moment, he wondered if Grandmother had played some sort of cruel joke on him. Maybe he’d misunderstood the gift. Maybe Frank was the only member of the family who hadn’t inherited it. That would be just his luck.

  The ogres started to become restless. The cheering turned to catcalls. A few Laistrygonians hefted their cannonballs.

  “Hold on!” Frank yelled. “You don’t want to char me, do you? I won’t taste very good that way. ”

  “Come down!” they yelled. “Hungry!”

  Time for Plan B. Frank just wished he had one.

  “Do you promise to spare my friends?” Frank asked. “Do you swear on the River Styx?”

  The ogres laughed. One threw a cannonball that arced over Frank’s head and blew up the chimney. By some miracle, Frank wasn’t hit with shrapnel.

  “I’ll take that as a no,” he muttered. Then he shouted down:

  “Okay, fine! You win! I’ll be right down. Wait there!” The ogres cheered, but their leader in the lion’s-skin cape scowled suspiciously. Frank wouldn’t have much time. He descended the ladder into the attic. Ella was gone. He hoped that was a good sign. Maybe they’d gotten her to the Cadillac. He grabbed an extra quiver of arrows labeled assorted varieties in his mother’s neat printing. Then he ran to the machine gun.

  He swiveled the barrel, took aim at the lead ogre, and pressed the trigger. Eight high-powered spuds blasted the giant in the chest, propelling him backward with such force that he crashed into a stack of bronze cannonballs, which promptly exploded, leaving a smoking crater in the yard.

  Apparently starch was bad for ogres.

  While the rest of the monsters ran around in confusion, Frank pulled his bow and rained arrows on them. Some of the missiles detonated on impact. Others splintered like buckshot and left the giants with some painful new tattoos. One hit an ogre and instantly turned him into a potted rosebush.

  Unfortunately, the ogres recovered quickly. They began throwing cannonballs—dozens at a time. The whole house groaned under the im
pact. Frank ran for the stairs. The attic disintegrated behind him. Smoke and fire poured down the second-floor hallway.

  “Grandmother!” he cried, but the heat was so intense, he couldn’t reach her room. He raced to the ground floor, clinging to the banister as the house shook and huge chunks of the ceiling collapsed.

  The base of the staircase was a smoking crater. He leaped over it and stumbled through the kitchen. Choking from the ash and soot, he burst into the garage. The Cadillac’s headlights were on. The engine was running and the garage door was opening.

  “Get in!” Percy yelled.

  Frank dove in the back next to Hazel. Ella was curled up in the front, her head tucked under her wings, muttering,

  “Yikes. Yikes. Yikes. ”

  Percy gunned the engine. They shot out of the garage before it was fully open, leaving a Cadillac-shaped hole of splintered wood.

  The ogres ran to intercept, but Percy shouted at the top of his lungs, and the irrigation system exploded. A hundred geysers shot into the air along with clods of dirt, pieces of pipe, and very heavy sprinkler heads.

  The Cadillac was going about forty when they hit the first ogre, who disintegrated on impact. By the time the other monsters overcame their confusion, the Cadillac was half a mile down the road. Flaming cannonballs burst behind them.

  Frank glanced back and saw his family mansion on fire, the walls collapsing inward and smoke billowing into the sky. He saw a large black speck—maybe a buzzard—circling up from the fire. It might’ve been Frank’s imagination, but he thought it had flown out of the second-story window.

  “Grandmother?” he murmured.

  It seemed impossible, but she had promised she would die in her own way, not at the hands of the ogres. Frank hoped she had been right.

  They drove through the woods and headed north.

  “About three miles!” Frank said. “You can’t miss it!”

  Behind them, more explosions ripped through the forest. Smoke boiled into the sky.

  “How fast can Laistrygonians run?” Hazel asked.

  “Let’s not find out,” Percy said.

  The gates of the airfield appeared before them—only a few hundred yards away. A private jet idled on the runway. Its stairs were down.

  The Cadillac hit a pothole and went airborne. Frank’s head slammed into the ceiling. When the wheels touched the ground, Percy floored the brakes, and they swerved to a stop just inside the gates.

  Frank climbed out and drew his bow. “Get to the plane! They’re coming!”

  The Laistrygonians were closing in with alarming speed. The first line of ogres burst out of the woods and barreled toward the airfield—five hundred yards away, four hundred yards. . .

  Percy and Hazel managed to get Ella out of the Cadillac, but as soon as the harpy saw the airplane, she began to shriek.

  “N-n-no!” she yelped. “Fly with wings! N-n-no airplanes. ”

  “It’s okay,” Hazel promised. “We’ll protect you!”

 
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