The son of neptune, p.50
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       The Son of Neptune, p.50

         Part #2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
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Page 50

 

  Beside one of the craters knelt a Cyclops in oversized jeans, boots, and a massive flannel shirt. His messy brown hair was spattered with rain and mud. When he raised his head, his big brown eye was red from crying.

  “Close!” he moaned. “So close, but gone!”

  It broke Percy’s heart to hear the pain and worry in the big guy’s voice, but he knew they only had a few seconds to talk. The edges of the vision were already dissolving. If Alaska was the land beyond the gods, Percy figured the farther north he went, the harder it would be to communicate with his friends, even in his dreams.

  “Tyson!” he called.

  The Cyclops looked around frantically. “Percy? Brother?”

  “Tyson, I’m okay. I’m here—well, not really. ”

  Tyson grabbed the air like he was trying to catch butterflies. “Can’t see you! Where is my brother?”

  “Tyson, I’m flying to Alaska. I’m okay. I’ll be back. Just find Ella. She’s a harpy with red feathers. She’s hiding in the woods around the house. ”

  “Find a harpy? A red harpy?”

  “Yes! Protect her, okay? She’s my friend. Get her back to California. There’s a demigod camp in the Oakland Hills—Camp Jupiter. Meet me above the Caldecott Tunnel. ”

  “Oakland Hills . . . California . . . Caldecott Tunnel. ” He shouted to the dog: “Mrs. O’Leary! We must find a harpy!”

  “WOOF!” said the dog.

  Tyson’s face started to dissolve. “My brother is okay? My brother is coming back? I miss you!”

  “I miss you, too. ” Percy tried to keep his voice from cracking. “I’ll see you soon. Just be careful! There’s a giant’s army marching south. Tell Annabeth—”

  The dream shifted.

  Percy found himself standing in the hills north of Camp Jupiter, looking down at the Field of Mars and New Rome. At the legion’s fort, horns were blowing. Campers scrambled to muster.

  The giant’s army was arrayed to Percy’s left and right—centaurs with bull’s horns, the six-armed Earthborn, and evil Cyclopes in scrap-metal armor. The Cyclopes’ siege tower cast a shadow across the feet of the giant Polybotes, who grinned down at the Roman camp. He paced eagerly across the hill, snakes dropping from his green dreadlocks, his dragon legs stomping down small trees. On his green-blue armor, the decorative faces of hungry monsters seemed to blink in the shadows.

  “Yes,” he chuckled, planting his trident in the ground. “Blow your little horns, Romans. I’ve come to destroy you! Stheno!”

  The gorgon scrambled out of the bushes. Her lime green viper hair and Bargain Mart vest clashed horribly with the giant’s color scheme.

  “Yes, master!” she said. “Would you like a Puppy-in-a-

  Blanket?”

  She held up a tray of free samples.

  “Hmm,” Polybotes said. “What sort of puppy?”

  “Ah, they’re not actually puppies. They’re tiny hot dogs in crescent rolls, but they’re on sale this week—”

  “Bah! Never mind, then! Are our forces ready to attack?”

  “Oh—” Stheno stepped back quickly to avoid getting flattened by the giant’s foot. “Almost, great one. Ma Gasket and half her Cyclopes stopped in Napa. Something about a winery tour? They promised to be here by tomorrow evening. ”

  “What?” The giant looked around, as if just noticing that a big portion of his army was missing. “Gah! That Cyclops woman will give me an ulcer. Winery tour?”

  “I think there was cheese and crackers, too,” Stheno said helpfully. “Though Bargain Mart has a much better deal. ”

  Polybotes ripped an oak tree out of the ground and threw it into the valley. “Cyclopes! I tell you, Stheno, when I destroy Neptune and take over the oceans, we will renegotiate the Cyclopes’ labor contract. Ma Gasket will learn her place!Now, what news from the north?”

  “The demigods have left for Alaska,” Stheno said. “They fly straight to their death. Ah, small ‘d’ death, I mean. Not our prisoner Death. Although, I suppose they’re flying to him too. ”

  Polybotes growled. “Alcyoneus had better spare the son of Neptune as he promised. I want that one chained at my feet, so I can kill him when the time is ripe. His blood shall water the stones of Mount Olympus and wake the Earth Mother! What word from the Amazons?”

  “Only silence,” Stheno said. “We do not yet know the winner of last night’s duel, but it is only a matter of time before Otrera prevails and comes to our aid. ”

  “Hmm. ” Polybotes absently scratched some vipers out of his hair. “Perhaps it’s just as well we wait, then. Tomorrow at sundown is Fortuna’s Feast. By then, we must invade—Amazons or no. In the meantime, dig in! We set up camp here, on high ground. ”

  “Yes, great one!” Stheno announced to the troops: “Puppiesin-Blankets for everyone!”

  The monsters cheered.

  Polybotes spread his hands in front of him, taking in the valley like a panoramic picture. “Yes, blow your little horns, demigods. Soon, the legacy of Rome will be destroyed for the last time!”

  The dream faded.

  Percy woke with a jolt as the plane started its descent.

  Hazel laid her hand on his shoulder. “Sleep okay?”

  Percy sat up groggily. “How long was I out?”

  Frank stood in the aisle, wrapping his spear and new bow in his ski bag. “A few hours,” he said. “We’re almost there. ”

  Percy looked out the window. A glittering inlet of the sea snaked between snowy mountains. In the distance, a city was carved out of the wilderness, surrounded by lush green forestson one side and icy black beaches on the other.

  “Welcome to Alaska,” Hazel said. “We’re beyond the help of the gods. ”

  XXXVIII Percy

  THE PILOT SAID THE PLANE COULDN’T WAIT for them, but that was okay with Percy. If they survived till the next day, he hoped they could find a different way back—anything but a plane.

  He should’ve been depressed. He was stuck in Alaska, the giant’s home territory, out of contact with his old friends just as his memories were coming back. He had seen an image of Polybotes’s army about to invade Camp Jupiter. He’d learned that the giants planned to use him as some kind of blood sacrifice to awaken Gaea. Plus, tomorrow evening was the Feast of Fortuna. He, Frank, and Hazel had an impossible task to complete before then. At best, they would unleash Death, who might take Percy’s two friends to the Underworld. Not much to look forward to.

  Still, Percy felt strangely invigorated. His dream of Tyson had lifted his spirits. He remembered Tyson, his brother. They’d fought together, celebrated victories, shared good times at

  Camp Half-Blood. He remembered his home, and that gave him a new determination to succeed. He was fighting for two camps now—two families.

  Juno had stolen his memory and sent him to Camp Jupiter for a reason. He understood that now. He still wanted to punch her in her godly face, but at least he got her reasoning. If the two camps could work together, they stood a chance of stopping their mutual enemies. Separately, both camps were doomed.

  There were other reasons Percy wanted to save Camp Jupiter. Reasons he didn’t dare put into words—not yet, anyway. Suddenly he saw a future for himself and for Annabeth that he’d never imagined before.

  As they took a taxi into downtown Anchorage, Percy told Frank and Hazel about his dreams. They looked anxious but not surprised when he told them about the giant’s army closing in on camp.

  Frank choked when he heard about Tyson. “You have a half-brother who’s a Cyclops?”

  “Sure,” Percy said. “Which makes him your great-great-great—”

  “Please. ” Frank covered his ears. “Enough. ”

  “As long as he can get Ella to camp,” Hazel said. “I’m worried about her. ”

  Percy nodded. He was still thinking about the lines of prophecy the harpy had recited—about the son of Neptune drowning, and the mark of Athena burning through Rome.

/>   He wasn’t sure what the first part meant, but he was starting to have an idea about the second. He tried to set the question aside. He had to survive this quest first.

  The taxi turned on Highway One, which looked more like a small street to Percy, and took them north toward downtown. It was late afternoon, but the sun was still high in the sky.

  “I can’t believe how much this place has grown,” Hazel muttered.

  The taxi driver grinned in the rearview mirror. “Been a long time since you visited, miss?”

  “About seventy years,” Hazel said.

  The driver slid the glass partition closed and drove on in silence.

  According to Hazel, almost none of the buildings were the same, but she pointed out features of the landscape: the vast forests ringing the city, the cold, gray waters of Cook Inlet tracing the north edge of town, and the Chugach Mountains rising grayish-blue in the distance, capped with snow even in June. Percy had never smelled air this clean before. The town itself had a weather-beaten look to it, with closed stores, rusted-out cars, and worn apartment complexes lining the road, but it was still beautiful. Lakes and huge stretches of woods cut through the middle. The arctic sky was an amazing combination of turquoise and gold.

  Then there were the giants. Dozens of bright-blue men, each thirty feet tall with gray frosty hair, were wading through the forests, fishing in the bay, and striding across the mountains. The mortals didn’t seem to notice them. The taxi passed within a few yards of one who was sitting at the edge of a lake washing his feet, but the driver didn’t panic.

  “Um…” Frank pointed at the blue guy.

  “Hyperboreans,” Percy said. He was amazed he remembered that name. “Northern giants. I fought some when Kronos invaded Manhattan. ”

  “Wait,” Frank said. “When who did what?”

  “Long story. But these guys look…I don’t know, peaceful. ”

  “They usually are,” Hazel agreed. “I remember them. They’re everywhere in Alaska, like bears. ”

  “Bears?” Frank said nervously.

  “The giants are invisible to mortals,” Hazel said. “They never bothered me, though one almost stepped on me by accident once. ”

  That sounded fairly bothersome to Percy, but the taxi kept driving. None of the giants paid them any attention. One stood right at the intersection of Northern Lights Road, straddling the highway, and they drove between his legs. The Hyperborean was cradling a Native American totem pole wrapped in furs, humming to it like a baby. If the guy hadn’t been the size of a building, he would’ve been almost cute.

  The taxi drove through downtown, past a bunch of tourists’ shops advertising furs, Native American art, and gold. Percy hoped Hazel wouldn’t get agitated and make the jewelry shops explode.

  As the driver turned and headed toward the seashore, Hazel knocked on the glass partition. “Here is good. Can you let us out?”

  They paid the driver and stepped onto Fourth Street. Compared to Vancouver, downtown Anchorage was tiny—more like a college campus than a city, but Hazel looked amazed.

 
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