The house of hades, p.57
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       The House of Hades, p.57
 

         Part #4 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
Page 57

 

  “Both of you hold your tongues!” Hyperion’s voice was tinged with fear. “You never know when he is listening. ”

  The elevator dinged. All three Titans jumped.

  Had it been twelve minutes? Percy had lost track of time. Krios took his finger off the button and called out, “Double Red! Where is Double Red?”

  Hordes of monsters stirred and jostled one another, but none of them came forward.

  Krios heaved a sigh. “I told them to hang on to their tickets. Double Red! You’ll lose your place in the queue!”

  Annabeth was in position, right behind Hyperion. She raised her drakon-bone sword over the base of the chains. In the fiery light of the Titan’s armor, her Death Mist disguise made her look like a burning ghoul.

  She held up three fingers, ready to count down. They had to cut the chains before the next group tried to take the elevator, but they also had to make sure the Titans were as distracted as possible.

  Hyperion muttered a curse. “Just wonderful. This will completely mess up our schedule. ” He sneered at Bob. “Make your choice, brother. Fight us or help us. I don’t have time for your lectures. ”

  Bob glanced at Annabeth and Percy. Percy thought he might start a fight, but instead he raised the point of his spear. “Very well. I will take guard duty. Which of you wants a break first?”

  “Me, of course,” Hyperion said.

  “Me!” Krios snapped. “I’ve been holding that button so long my thumb is going to fall off. ”

  “I’ve been standing here longer,” Hyperion grumbled. “You two guard the Doors while I go up to the mortal world. I have some Greek heroes to wreak vengeance upon!”

  “Oh, no!” Krios complained. “That Roman boy is on his way to Epirus—the one who killed me on Mount Othrys. Got lucky, he did. Now it’s my turn. ”

  “Bah!” Hyperion drew his sword. “I’ll gut you first, Ram-head!”

  Krios raised his own blade. “You can try, but I won’t be stuck in this stinking pit any longer!”

  Annabeth caught Percy’s eyes. She mouthed: One, two—

  Before he could strike the chains, a high-pitched whine pierced his ears, like the sound of an incoming rocket. Percy just had time to think: Uh-oh. Then an explosion rocked the hillside. A wave of heat knocked Percy backward. Dark shrapnel ripped through Krios and Hyperion, shredding them as easily as wood in a chipper.

  STINKING PIT. A hollow voice rolled across the plains, shaking the warm fleshy ground.

  Bob staggered to his feet. Somehow the explosion hadn’t touched him. He swept his spear in front of him, trying to locate the source of the voice. Small Bob the kitten crawled into his coveralls.

  Annabeth had landed about twenty feet from the Doors. When she stood, Percy was so relieved she was alive it took him a moment to realize she looked like herself. The Death Mist had evaporated.

  He looked at his own hands. His disguise was gone too.

  TITANS, said the voice disdainfully. LESSER BEINGS. IMPERFECT AND WEAK.

  In front of the Doors of Death, the air darkened and solidified. The being who appeared was so massive, radiating such pure malevolence, that Percy wanted to crawl away and hide.

  Instead, he forced his eyes to trace the god’s form, starting with his black iron boots, each one as large as a coffin. His legs were covered in dark greaves; his flesh all thick purple muscle, like the ground. His armored skirt was made from thousands of blackened, twisted bones, woven together like chain links and clasped in place by a belt of interlocking monstrous arms.

  On the surface of the warrior’s breastplate, murky faces appeared and submerged—giants, Cyclopes, gorgons, and drakons—all pressing against the armor as if trying to get out.

  The warrior’s arms were bare—muscular, purple, and glistening—his hands as large as crane scoops.

  Worst of all was his head: a helmet of twisted rock and metal with no particular shape—just jagged spikes and pulsing patches of magma. His entire face was a whirlpool—an inward spiral of darkness. As Percy watched, the last particles of Titan essence from Hyperion and Krios were vacuumed into the warrior’s maw.

  Somehow Percy found his voice. “Tartarus. ”

  The warrior made a sound like a mountain cracking in half: a roar or a laugh, Percy couldn’t be sure.

  This form is only a small manifestation of my power, said the god. But it is enough to deal with you. I do not interfere lightly, little demigod. It is beneath me to deal with gnats such as yourself.

  “Uh…” Percy’s legs threatened to collapse under him. “Don’t…you know…go to any trouble. ”

  You have proven surprisingly resilient, Tartarus said. You have come too far. I can no longer stand by and watch your progress.

  Tartarus spread his arms. Throughout the valley, thousands of monsters wailed and roared, clashing their weapons and bellowing in triumph. The Doors of Death shuddered in their chains.

  Be honored, little demigods, said the god of the pit. Even the Olympians were never worthy of my personal attention. But you will be destroyed by Tartarus himself!

  FRANK WAS HOPING FOR FIREWORKS.

  Or at least a big sign that read: WELCOME HOME!

  More than three thousand years ago, his Greek ancestor—good old Periclymenus the shape-shifter—had sailed east with the Argonauts. Centuries later, Periclymenus’s descendants had served in the eastern Roman legions. Then, through a series of misadventures, the family had ended up in China, finally emigrating to Canada in the twentieth century. Now Frank was back in Greece, which meant that the Zhang family had completely circled the globe.

  That seemed like cause for celebration, but the only welcoming committee was a flock of wild, hungry harpies who attacked the ship. Frank felt kind of bad as he shot them down with his bow. He kept thinking of Ella, their freakishly smart harpy friend from Portland. But these harpies weren’t Ella. They gladly would have chewed Frank’s face off. So he blasted them into clouds of dust and feathers.

  The Greek landscape below was just as inhospitable. The hills were strewn with boulders and stunted cedars, all shimmering in the hazy air. The sun beat down as if trying to hammer the countryside into a Celestial bronze shield. Even from a hundred feet up, Frank could hear the drone of cicadas buzzing in the trees—a sleepy, otherworldly sound that made his eyes heavy. Even the dueling voices of the war gods inside his head seemed to have dozed off. They had hardly bothered Frank at all since the crew had crossed into Greece.

  Sweat trickled down his neck. After being frozen below deck by that crazy snow goddess, Frank had thought he would never feel warm again; but now the back of his shirt was soaked.

  “Hot and steamy!” Leo grinned at the helm. “Makes me homesick for Houston! What do you say, Hazel? All we need now are some giant mosquitoes, and it’ll feel just like the Gulf Coast!”

  “Thanks a lot, Leo,” Hazel grumbled. “We’ll probably get attacked by Ancient Greek mosquito monsters now. ”

  Frank studied the two of them, quietly marveling how the tension between them had disappeared. Whatever had happened to Leo during his five days of exile, it had changed him. He still joked around, but Frank sensed something different about him—like a ship with a new keel. Maybe you couldn’t see the keel, but you could tell it was there by the way the ship cut through the waves.

  Leo didn’t seem so intent on teasing Frank. He chatted more easily with Hazel—not stealing those wistful, mooning glances that had always made Frank uncomfortable.

  Hazel had diagnosed the problem privately to Frank: “He met someone. ”

  Frank was incredulous. “How? Where? How could you possibly know?”

  Hazel smiled. “I just do. ”

  As if she were a child of Venus rather than Pluto. Frank didn’t get it.

  Of course he was relieved that Leo wasn’t hitting on his girl, but Frank was also kind of worried about Leo. Sure, they’d had their differences; but after all they’d been th
rough together, Frank didn’t want to see Leo get his heart broken.

  “There!” Nico’s voice shook Frank out of his thoughts. As usual, di Angelo was perched atop the foremast. He pointed toward a glittering green river snaking through the hills a kilometer away. “Maneuver us that way. We’re close to the temple. Very close. ”

  As if to prove his point, black lightning ripped through the sky, leaving dark spots before Frank’s eyes and making the hairs on his arms stand up.

  Jason strapped on his sword belt. “Everyone, arm yourself. Leo, get us close, but don’t land—no more contact with the ground than necessary. Piper, Hazel, get the mooring ropes. ”

  “On it!” Piper said.

  Hazel gave Frank a peck on the cheek and ran to help.

  “Frank,” Jason called, “get below and find Coach Hedge. ”

  “Yep!”

  He climbed downstairs and headed for Hedge’s cabin. As he neared the door, he slowed down. He didn’t want to surprise the satyr with any loud noises. Coach Hedge had a habit of jumping into the gangway with his baseball bat if he thought attackers were on board. Frank had almost gotten his head taken off a couple of times on his way to the bathroom.

  He raised his hand to knock. Then he realized the door was cracked open. He heard Coach Hedge talking inside.

  “Come on, babe!” the satyr said. “You know it’s not like that!”

  Frank froze. He didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but he wasn’t sure what to do. Hazel had mentioned being worried about the coach. She’d insisted something was bothering him, but Frank hadn’t thought much of it until now.

  He’d never heard the coach talk so gently. Usually the only sounds Frank heard from the coach’s cabin were sporting events on the TV, or the coach yelling, “Yeah! Get ’em!” as he watched his favorite martial arts movies. Frank was pretty sure the coach wouldn’t be calling Chuck Norris babe.

  Another voice spoke—female, but barely audible, like it was coming from a long way away.

  “I will,” Coach Hedge promised. “But, uh, we’re going into battle”—he cleared his throat—“and it may get ugly. You just stay safe. I’ll get back. Honest. ”

  Frank couldn’t stand it anymore. He knocked loudly. “Hey, Coach?”

  The talking stopped.

  Frank counted to six. The door flew open.

  Coach Hedge stood there scowling, his eyes bloodshot, like he’d been watching too much TV. He wore his usual baseball cap and gym shorts, with a leather cuirass over his shirt and a whistle hanging from his neck, maybe in case he wanted to call a foul against the monster armies.

  “Zhang. What do you want?”

  “Uh, we’re getting ready for battle. We need you above deck. ”

  The coach’s goatee quivered. “Yeah. ’Course you do. ” He sounded strangely unexcited about the prospect of a fight.

  “I didn’t mean to—I mean, I heard you talking,” Frank stammered. “Were you sending an Iris-message?”

  Hedge looked like he might smack Frank in the face, or at least blow the whistle really loud. Then his shoulders slumped. He heaved a sigh and turned inside, leaving Frank standing awkwardly in the doorway.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment