The son of neptune, p.58
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       The Son of Neptune, p.58

         Part #2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
 
Page 58

 

  “Percy!” Frank yelled.

  Percy glanced over. He saw the fallen giant and seemed to understand what was happening. He yelled something that was lost in the wind, probably: Go!

  Then he slammed Riptide into the ice at his feet. The entire glacier shuddered. Ghosts fell to their knees. Behind Percy, a wave surged up from the bay—a wall of gray water even taller than the glacier. Water shot from the chasms and crevices in the ice. As the wave hit, the back half of the camp crumbled. The entire edge of the glacier peeled away, cascading into the void—carrying buildings, ghosts, and Percy Jackson over the edge.

  XLVII Frank

  FRANK WAS SO STUNNED THAT Hazel had to yell his name a dozen times before he realized Alcyoneus was getting up again.

  He slammed his shield into the giant’s nose until Alcyoneus began to snore. Meanwhile the glacier kept crumbling, the edge getting closer and closer.

  Thanatos glided toward them on his black wings, his expression serene.

  “Ah, yes,” he said with satisfaction. “There go some souls. Drowning, drowning. You’d best hurry, my friends, or you’ll drown, too. ”

  “But Percy…” Frank could barely speak his friend’s name. “Is he—?”

  “Too soon to tell. As for this one…” Thanatos looked down at Alcyoneus with distaste. “You’ll never kill him here. You know what to do?”

  Frank nodded numbly. “I think so. ”

  “Then our business is complete. ”

  Frank and Hazel exchanged nervous looks.

  “Um…” Hazel faltered. “You mean you won’t…you’re not going to—”“Claim your life?” Thanatos asked. “Well, let’s see…”

  He pulled a pure-black iPad from thin air. Death tapped the screen a few times, and all Frank could think was: Please don’t let there be an app for reaping souls.

  “I don’t see you on the list,” Thanatos said. “Pluto gives me specific orders for escaped souls, you see. For some reason, he has not issued a warrant for yours. Perhaps he feels your life is not finished, or it could be an oversight. If you’d like me to call and ask—”

  “No!” Hazel yelped. “That’s okay. ”

  “Are you sure?” Death asked helpfully. “I have video conferencing enabled. I have his Skype address here somewhere. . . ”

  “Really, no. ” Hazel looked as if several thousand pounds of worry had just been lifted from her shoulders. “Thank you. ”

  “Urgg,” Alcyoneus mumbled.

  Frank hit him over the head again.

  Death looked up from his iPad. “As for you, Frank Zhang, it isn’t your time, either. You’ve got a little fuel left to burn. But don’t think I’m doing either of you a favor. We will meet again under less pleasant circumstances. ”

  The cliff was still crumbling, the edge only twenty feet away now. Arion whinnied impatiently. Frank knew they had to leave, but there was one more question he had to ask.

  “What about the Doors of Death?” he said. “Where are they? How do we close them?”

  “Ah, yes. ” A look of irritation flickered across Thanatos’s face. “The Doors of Me. Closing them would be good, but I fear it is beyond my power. How you would do it, I haven’t the faintest idea. I can’t tell you exactly where they are. The location isn’t…well, it’s not entirely a physical place. They must be located through questing. I can tell you to start your search in Rome. The original Rome. You will need a special guide. Only one sort of demigod can read the signs that will ultimately lead you to the Doors of Me. ”

  Cracks appeared in the ice under their feet. Hazel patted Arion’s neck to keep him from bolting.

  “What about my brother?” she asked. “Is Nico alive?”

  Thanatos gave her a strange look—possibly pity, though that didn’t seem like an emotion Death would understand. “You will find the answer in Rome. And now I must fly south to your Camp Jupiter. I have a feeling there will be many souls to reap, very soon. Farewell, demigods, until we meet again. ”

  Thanatos dissipated into black smoke.

  The cracks widened in the ice under Frank’s feet.

  “Hurry!” he told Hazel. “We’ve got to take Alcyoneus about ten miles due north!”

  He climbed onto the giant’s chest and Arion took off, racing across the ice, dragging Alcyoneus like the world’s ugliest sled.

  It was a short trip.

  Arion rode the glacier like a highway, zipping across the ice, leaping crevices, and skidding down slopes that would’ve made a snowboarder’s eyes light up.

  Frank didn’t have to knock out Alcyoneus too many times, because the giant’s head kept bouncing and hitting the ice. As they raced along, the half-conscious Golden Boy mumbled a tune that sounded like “Jingle Bells. ”

  Frank felt pretty stunned himself. He’d just turned into an eagle and a bear. He could still feel fluid energy rippling through his body, like he was halfway between a solid and liquid state.

  Not only that: Hazel and he had released Death, and both of them had survived. And Percy…Frank swallowed down his fear. Percy had gone over the side of the glacier to save them.

  The son of Neptune shall drown.

  No. Frank refused to believe Percy was dead. They hadn’t come all this way just to lose their friend. Frank would find him—but first they had to deal with Alcyoneus.

  He visualized the map he had been studying on the train from Anchorage. He knew roughly where they were going, but there were no signs or markers on top of the glacier. He’d just have to take his best guess.

  Finally Arion zoomed between two mountains into a valley of ice and rocks, like a massive bowl of frozen milk with bits of Cocoa Puffs. The giant’s golden skin paled as if it were turning to brass. Frank felt a subtle vibration in his own body, like a tuning fork pressed against his sternum. He knew he’d crossed into friendly territory—home territory.

  “Here!” Frank shouted.

  Arion veered to one side. Hazel cut the rope, and Alcyoneus went skidding past. Frank leaped off just before the giant slammed into a boulder.

  Immediately Alcyoneus jumped to his feet. “What? Where? Who?”

  His nose was bent in an odd direction. His wounds had healed, though his golden skin had lost some of its luster. He looked around for his iron staff, which was still back at Hubbard Glacier. Then he gave up and pounded the nearest boulder to pieces with his fist.

  “You dare take me for a sleigh ride?” He tensed and sniffed the air. “That smell…like snuffed-out souls. Thanatos is free, eh? Bah! It doesn’t matter. Gaea still controls the Doors of Death. Now, why have you brought me here, son of Mars?”

  “To kill you,” Frank said. “Next question?”

  The giant’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve never known a child of Mars who can change his form, but that doesn’t mean you can defeat me. Do you think your stupid soldier of a father gave you the strength to face me in one-on-one combat?”

  Hazel drew her sword. “How about two on one?”

  The giant growled and charged at Hazel, but Arion nimbly darted out of the way. Hazel slashed her sword across the back of the giant’s calf. Black oil spouted from the wound.

  Alcyoneus stumbled. “You can’t kill me, Thanatos or no!”

  Hazel made a grabbing gesture with her free hand. An invisible force yanked the giant’s jewel-encrusted hair back ward. Hazel rushed in, slashed his other leg, and raced away before he could regain his balance.

  “Stop that!” Alcyoneus shouted. “This is Alaska. I am immortal in my homeland!”

  “Actually,” Frank said, “I have some bad news about that. See, I got more from my dad than strength. ”

  The giant snarled. “What are you talking about, war brat?”

  “Tactics,” Frank said. “That’s my gift from Mars. A battle can be won before it’s ever fought by choosing the right ground. ” He pointed over his shoulder. “We crossed the border a few hundred yards back. You’re not in Alaska anymore. Ca
n’t you feel it, Al? You want to get to Alaska, you have to go through me. ”

  Slowly, understanding dawned in the giant’s eyes. He looked down incredulously at his wounded legs. Oil still poured from his calves, turning the ice black.

  “Impossible!” the giant bellowed. “I’ll—I’ll—Gah!”

  He charged at Frank, determined to reach the international boundary. For a split second, Frank doubted his plan. If he couldn’t use his gift again, if he froze, he was dead. Then he remembered his grandmother’s instructions:

  It helps if you know the creature well. Check.

  It also helps if you are in a life-and-death situation, such as combat. Double check.

  The giant kept coming. Twenty yards. Ten yards.

  “Frank?” Hazel called nervously.

  Frank stood his ground. “I got this. ”

  Just before Alcyoneus smashed into him, Frank changed. He’d always felt too big and clumsy. Now he used that feeling. His body swelled to massive size. His skin thickened. His arms changed to stout front legs. His mouth grew tusks and his nose elongated. He became the animal he knew best—the one he’d cared for, fed, bathed, and even given indigestion to at Camp Jupiter.

  Alcyoneus slammed into a full-grown ten-ton elephant.

  The giant staggered sideways. He screamed in frustration and slammed into Frank again, but Alcyoneus was completely out of his weight division. Frank head-butted him so hard Alcyoneus flew backward and landed spread-eagled on the ice.

  “You—can’t—kill me,” Alcyoneus growled. “You can’t—”

  Frank turned back to his normal form. He walked up to the giant, whose oily wounds were steaming. The gems fell out of his hair and sizzled in the snow. His golden skin began to corrode, breaking into chunks.

  Hazel dismounted and stood next to Frank, her sword ready. “May I?”

  Frank nodded. He looked into the giant’s seething eyes. “Here’s a tip, Alcyoneus. Next time you choose the biggest state for your home, don’t set up base in the part that’s only ten miles wide. Welcome to Canada, idiot. ”

  Hazel’s sword came down on the giant’s neck. Alcyoneus dissolved into a pile of very expensive rocks.

  For a while Hazel and Frank stood together, watching the remains of the giant melt into the ice. Frank picked up his rope.

  “An elephant?” Hazel asked.

  Frank scratched his neck. “Yeah. It seemed like a good idea. ”

  He couldn’t read her expression. He was afraid he’d finally done something so weird that she’d never want to be around him again. Frank Zhang: lumbering klutz, child of Mars, part-time pachyderm.

  Then she kissed him—a real kiss on the lips, much better than the kind of kiss she’d given Percy on the airplane.

  “You are amazing,” she said. “And you make a very hand some elephant. ”

  Frank felt so flustered that he thought his boots might melt through the ice. Before he could say anything, a voice echoed across the valley:

  You haven’t won.

 
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