The son of neptune, p.5
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       The Son of Neptune, p.5

         Part #2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
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Page 5


  “Easy, guys,” Reyna told the greyhounds.

  They stopped growling, but kept eyeing Percy as though they were imagining him in a doggie bag.

  “They won’t attack,” Reyna said, “unless you try to steal something, or unless I tell them to. That’s Argentum and Aurum. ”

  “Silver and Gold,” Percy said. The Latin meanings popped into his head like Hazel had said they would. He almost asked which dog was which. Then he realized that that was a stupid question.

  Reyna set her dagger on the table. Percy had the vague feeling he’d seen her before. Her hair was black and glossy as volcanic rock, woven in a single braid down her back. She had the poise of a sword fighter—relaxed yet vigilant, as if ready to spring into action at any moment. The worry lines around her eyes made her look older than she probably was.

  “We have met,” he decided. “I don’t remember when. Please, if you can tell me anything—”

  “First things first,” Reyna said. “I want to hear your story. What do you remember? How did you get here? And don’t lie. My dogs don’t like liars. ”

  Argentum and Aurum snarled to emphasize the point.

  Percy told his story—how he’d woken up at the ruined mansion in the woods of Sonoma. He described his time with Lupa and her pack, learning their language of gestures and expressions, learning to survive and fight.

  Lupa had taught him about demigods, monsters, and gods. She’d explained that she was one of the guardian spirits of Ancient Rome. Demigods like Percy were still responsible for carrying on Roman traditions in modern times—fighting monsters, serving the gods, protecting mortals, and upholding the memory of the empire. She’d spent weeks training him, until he was as strong and tough and vicious as a wolf. When she was satisfied with his skills, she’d sent him south, telling him that if he survived the journey, he might find a new home and regain his memory.

  None of it seemed to surprise Reyna. In fact, she seemed to find it pretty ordinary—except for one thing.

  “No memory at all?” she asked. “You still remember nothing?”

  “Fuzzy bits and pieces. ” Percy glanced at the greyhounds. He didn’t want to mention Annabeth. It seemed too private, and he was still confused about where to find her. He was sure they’d met at a camp—but this one didn’t feel like the right place.

  Also, he was reluctant to share his one clear memory: Annabeth’s face, her blond hair and gray eyes, the way she laughed, threw her arms around him, and gave him a kiss whenever he did something stupid.

  She must have kissed me a lot, Percy thought.

  He feared that if he spoke about that memory to anyone, it would evaporate like a dream. He couldn’t risk that.

  Reyna spun her dagger. “Most of what you’re describing is normal for demigods. At a certain age, one way or another, we find our way to the Wolf House. We’re tested and trained.

  If Lupa thinks we’re worthy, she sends us south to join the legion. But I’ve never heard of someone losing his memory. How did you find Camp Jupiter?”

  Percy told her about the last three days—the gorgons who wouldn’t die, the old lady who turned out to be a goddess, and finally meeting Hazel and Frank at the tunnel in the hill.

  Hazel took the story from there. She described Percy as brave and heroic, which made him uncomfortable. All he’d done was carry a hippie bag lady.

  Reyna studied him. “You’re old for a recruit. You’re what, sixteen?”

  “I think so,” Percy said.

  “If you spent that many years on your own, without training or help, you should be dead. A son of Neptune? You’d have a powerful aura that would attract all kinds of monsters. ”

  “Yeah,” Percy said. “I’ve been told that I smell. ”

  Reyna almost cracked a smile, which gave Percy hope. Maybe she was human after all.

  “You must’ve been somewhere before the Wolf House,” she said.

  Percy shrugged. Juno had said something about him slumbering, and he did have a vague feeling that he’d been asleep—maybe for a long time. But that didn’t make sense.

  Reyna sighed. “Well, the dogs haven’t eaten you, so I suppose you’re telling the truth. ”

  “Great,” Percy said. “Next time, can I take a polygraph?”

  Reyna stood. She paced in front of the banners. Her metal dogs watched her go back and forth.

  “Even if I accept that you’re not an enemy,” she said, “you’re not a typical recruit. The Queen of Olympus simply doesn’t appear at camp, announcing a new demigod. The last time a major god visited us in person like that…” She shook her head. “I’ve only heard legends about such things. And a son of Neptune…that’s not a good omen. Especially now. ”

  “What’s wrong with Neptune?” Percy asked. “And what do you mean, ‘especially now’?”

  Hazel shot him a warning look.

  Reyna kept pacing. “You’ve fought Medusa’s sisters, who haven’t been seen in thousands of years. You’ve agitated our Lares, who are calling you a graecus. And you wear strange symbols—that shirt, the beads on your necklace. What do they mean?”

  Percy looked down at his tattered orange T-shirt. It might have had words on it at one point, but they were too faded to read. He should have thrown the shirt away weeks ago. It was worn to shreds, but he couldn’t bear to get rid of it. He just kept washing it in streams and water fountains as best he could and putting it back on.

  As for the necklace, the four clay beads were each decorated with a different symbol. One showed a trident. Another displayed a miniature Golden Fleece. The third was etched with the design of a maze, and the last had an image of a building—maybe the Empire State Building?—with names Percy didn’t recognize engraved around it. The beads felt important, like pictures from a family album, but he couldn’t remember what they meant.

  “I don’t know,” he said.

  “And your sword?” Reyna asked.

  Percy checked his pocket. The pen had reappeared as it always did. He pulled it out, but then realized he’d never shown Reyna the sword. Hazel and Frank hadn’t seen it either. How had Reyna known about it?

  Too late to pretend it didn’t exist. …He uncapped the pen. Riptide sprang to full form. Hazel gasped. The greyhounds barked apprehensively.

  “What is that?” Hazel asked. “I’ve never seen a sword like that. ”

  “I have,” Reyna said darkly. “It’s very old—a Greek design. We used to have a few in the armory before…” She stopped herself. “The metal is called Celestial bronze. It’s deadly to monsters, like Imperial gold, but even rarer. ”

  “Imperial gold?” Percy asked.

  Reyna unsheathed her dagger. Sure enough, the blade was gold. “The metal was consecrated in ancient times, at the Pantheon in Rome. Its existence was a closely guarded secret of the emperors—a way for their champions to slay monsters that threatened the empire. We used to have more weapons like this, but now…well, we scrape by. I use this dagger. Hazel has a spatha, a cavalry sword. Most legionnaires use a shorter sword called a gladius. But that weapon of yours is not Roman at all. It’s another sign you’re not a typical demigod. And your arm. . . ”

  “What about it?” Percy asked.

  Reyna held up her own forearm. Percy hadn’t noticed before, but she had a tattoo on the inside: the letters SPQR, a crossed sword and torch, and under that, four parallel lines like score marks.

  Percy glanced at Hazel.

  “We all have them,” she confirmed, holding up her arm. “All full members of the legion do. ”

  Hazel’s tattoo also had the letters SPQR, but she only had one score mark, and her emblem was different: a black glyph like a cross with curved arms and a head:

  Percy looked at his own arms. A few scrapes, some mud, and a fleck of Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wiener, but no tattoos.

  “So you’ve never been a member of the legion,” Reyna said. “These marks can’t be removed. I though
t perhaps…” She shook her head, as if dismissing an idea.

  Hazel leaned forward. “If he’s survived as a loner all this time, maybe he’s seen Jason. ” She turned to Percy. “Have you ever met a demigod like us before? A guy in a purple shirt, with marks on his arm—”

  “Hazel. ” Reyna’s voice tightened. “Percy’s got enough to worry about. ”

  Percy touched the point of his sword, and Riptide shrank back into a pen. “I haven’t seen anyone like you guys before. Who’s Jason?”

  Reyna gave Hazel an irritated look. “He is…he was my colleague. ” She waved her hand at the second empty chair. “The legion normally has two elected praetors. Jason Grace, son of Jupiter, was our other praetor until he disappeared last October. ”

  Percy tried to calculate. He hadn’t paid much attention to the calendar out in the wilderness, but Juno had mentioned that it was now June. “You mean he’s been gone eight months, and you haven’t replaced him?”

  “He might not be dead,” Hazel said. “We haven’t given up. ”

  Reyna grimaced. Percy got the feeling this guy Jason might’ve been more to her than just a colleague.

  “Elections only happen in two ways,” Reyna said. “Either the legion raises someone on a shield after a major success on the battlefield—and we haven’t had any major battles—or we hold a ballot on the evening of June 24, at the Feast of Fortuna. That’s in five days. ”

  Percy frowned. “You have a feast for tuna?”

  “Fortuna,” Hazel corrected. “She’s the goddess of luck. Whatever happens on her feast day can affect the entire rest of the year. She can grant the camp good luck…or really bad luck. ”

  Reyna and Hazel both glanced at the empty display stand, as if thinking about what was missing.

  A chill went down Percy’s back. “The Feast of Fortune…The gorgons mentioned that. So did Juno. They said the camp was going to be attacked on that day, something about a big bad goddess named Gaea, and an army, and Death being unleashed. You’re telling me that day is this week?”

  Reyna’s fingers tightened around the hilt of her dagger.

  “You will say nothing about that outside this room,” she ordered. “I will not have you spreading more panic in the camp. ”

  “So it’s true,” Percy said. “Do you know what’s going to happen? Can we stop it?”

  Percy had just met these people. He wasn’t sure he even liked Reyna. But he wanted to help. They were demigods, the same as him. They had the same enemies. Besides, Percy remembered what Juno had told him: it wasn’t just this camp at risk. His old life, the gods, and the entire world might be destroyed. Whatever was coming down, it was huge.

  “We’ve talked enough for now,” Reyna said. “Hazel, take him to Temple Hill. Find Octavian. On the way you can answer Percy’s questions. Tell him about the legion. ”

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