Main The Son of Neptune
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a good starter for would be fiction/fantasy readers.the book is rendered differently from the established Greek folklore angle
20 January 2015 (01:04)
best collection ever seen .keep it up also loved it and very intrestting stories to rea -d in this time of lockdown
29 May 2020 (06:25)
Rick Riordan saved me from dying of boredom in quarantine
31 May 2020 (08:06)
This book is amazing! I would recommend it to everyone. But it would make more sense if you read the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
02 August 2020 (18:26)
this really helped during lockdown
02 August 2020 (18:26)
Sit back and let the stories of Rick send you to a world of fantasies and adventures
23 August 2020 (03:58)
I was lost in the pages of the book, it is amazing good.
24 August 2020 (16:14)
Just like watching a movie ????
10 September 2020 (22:47)
Who do u think is better Jason or Percy
28 May 2021 (19:31)
About the Author Rick Riordan is the author of the New York Times #1 bestselling The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero; The Heroes of Olympus, Book Two: The Son of Neptune; the New York Times #1 best-selling The Kane Chronicles, Book One: The Red Pyramid; The Kane Chronicles, Book Two: The Throne of Fire; as well as the five books in the New York Times #1 best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. His previous novels for adults include the hugely popular TresNavarre series, winner of the top three awards in the mystery genre. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife and two sons. To learn more about Rick, visit his Web site at www.rickriordan.com. Also by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: The Lightning Thief Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Two: The Sea of Monsters Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Three: The Titan’s Curse Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Four: The Battle of the Labyrinth Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Five: The Last Olympian The Kane Chronicles, Book One: The Red Pyramid The Kane Chronicles, Book Two: The Throne of Fire The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero Coming Fall 2012 The Heroes of Olympus, Book Three THE MARK OF ATHENA Copyright © 2011 by Rick Riordan All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion Books, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690. First Edition ISBN 978-1-4231-4059-7 Map illustration on pp. viii–ix by Kayley LeFaiver Visit www.disneyhyperionbooks.com To Becky, who shares my sanctuary in New Rome. Even Hera could never make me forget you. Glossary absurdus out of place, disco; rdant Achilles the mightiest of the Greek demigods who fought in the Trojan War Aesculapius the Roman god of medicine and healing Alcyoneus the eldest of the giants born to Gaea, destined to fight Pluto Amazons a nation of all-female warriors Anaklusmos Riptide. The name of Percy Jackson’s sword. argentum silver Argonauts a band of Greek heroes who accompanied Jason on his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. augury a sign of something coming, an omen; the practice of divining the future aurae invisible wind spirits aurum gold basilisk snake, literally “little crown” Bellerophon a Greek demigod, son of Poseidon, whodefeated monsters while riding on Pegasus Bellona the Roman goddess of war Byzantium the eastern empire that lasted another 1,000 years after Rome fell, under Greek influence Celestial bronze a rare metal deadly to monsters Centaur a race of creatures that is half human, half horse centurion an officer of the Roman army Cerberus the three-headed dog that guards the gates ofthe Underworld Ceres the Roman goddess of agriculture Charon the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of thenewly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron, which divide the world of the living from the world of the dead cognomen third name cohort a Roman military unit Cyclops a member of a primordial race of giants (Cyclopes, pl.), each with a single eye in the middle of his or herforehead denarius (denarii, pl.) the most common coin in the Roman currency system drachma the silver coin of ancient Greece Elysium the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous in the Underworld Erebos a place of darkness between Earth and Hades faun a Roman forest god, part goat and part man. Greek form: satyr Fields of Asphodel the section of the Underworld where the souls of people who lived lives of equal good and evil rest Fields of Punishment the section of the Underworld where evil souls are eternally tortured Fortuna the Roman goddess of fortune and good luck Fulminata armed with lightning. A Roman legion under Julius Caesar whose emblem was a lightning bolt (fulmen). Gaea the earth goddess; mother of Titans, giants, Cyclopes, and other monsters. Known to the Romans as Terra Gegenes earthborn monsters gladius a short sword gorgons three monstrous sisters (Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa) who have hair of living, venomous snakes; Medusa’s eyes can turn the beholder to stone graecus Greek; enemy; outsider greaves shin armor gris-gris a voodoo amulet that protects from evil or brings luck harpy a winged female creature that snatches things Hercules the Roman equivalent of Heracles; the son of Jupiter and Alcmene, who was born with great strength Hyperboreans peaceful northern giants ichor the golden blood of immortals Imperial gold a rare metal deadly to monsters, consecrated at the Pantheon; its existence was a closely guarded secret of the emperors Iris the rainbow goddess Juno Roman goddess of women, marriage, and fertility; sister and wife of Jupiter; mother of Mars. Greek form: Hera Jupiter Roman king of the gods; also called Jupiter Optimus Maximus (the best and the greatest). Greek form: Zeus karpoi grain spirits Laistrygonians tall cannibals from the north, possibly the source of the Sasquatch legend Lar house god, ancestral spirit (Lares, pl.) legion the major unit of the Roman army, consisting of infantry and cavalry troops legionnaire a member of a legion Liberalia a Roman festival that celebrated a boy’s rite of passage into manhood Lupa the sacred Roman she-wolf that nursed the foundling twins Romulus and Remus Mars the Roman god of war; also called Mars Ultor. Patronof the empire; divine father of Romulus and Remus. Greekform: Ares Minerva Roman goddess of wisdom. Greek form: Athena Mist magic force that disguises things from mortals Mount Othrys the base of the Titans during the ten-year war with the Olympian gods; Saturn’s headquarters muster formal military inspection nebulae cloud nymphs Neptune the Roman god of the sea. Greek form: Poseidon Otrera first Amazon queen, daughter of Ares pallium a cloak or mantle worn by the Romans Pantheon a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome Penthesilea a queen of the Amazons; daughter of Ares andOtrera, another Amazon queen Periclymenus a Greek prince of Pylos and a son ofPoseidon, who granted him the ability to shape-shift. He was renowned for his strength and participated in the voyage of the Argonauts. Phineas a son of Poseidon, who had the gift of prophecy. When he revealed too much of the plans of the gods, Zeuspunished him by blinding him. pilum a Roman spear Pluto the Roman god of death and riches. Greek equivalent: Hades Polybotes the giant son of Gaea, the Earth Mother praetor an elected Roman magistrate and commander of the army Priam the king of Troy during the Trojan War principia the headquarters of a Roman camp probatio testing period for a new recruit in a legion pugio a Roman dagger Queen Hippolyta’s belt Hippolyta wore a golden waist belt, a gift from her father, Ares, that signified her Amazonian queenship and also gave her strength. retiarius Roman gladiator who fought with a net and trident River Styx the river that forms the boundary betweenEarth and the Underworld Romulus and Remus the twin sons of Mars and the priestess Rhea Silvia who were thrown into the RiverTiber by their human father, Amulius. They were rescued and raised by a she-wolf and, upon reaching adulthood, founded Rome. Saturn the Roman god of agriculture, the son of Uranus and Gaea and the father of Jupiter. Greek equivalent:Kronos scorpion ballista a Roman missile siege weapon that launched a large projectile at a distant target Senatus Populusque Romanus (SPQR) “The Senate and People of Rome”; refers to the government of the Roman Republic and is used as an official emblem of Rome shades spirits Sibylline Books a collection of prophecies in rhyme writtenin Greek. Tarquinius Superbus, a king of Rome, bought them from a prophetess named Sibyl and consulted them in times of great danger. spartus a skeleton warrior spatha a cavalry sword Stygian iron like Celestial bronze and Imperial gold, amagical metal capable of killing monsters Tartarus husband of Gaea; spirit of the abyss; father of the giants; also the lowest region of the world Terminus the Roman god of boundaries and landmarks Thanatos the Greek god of death. Roman equivalent: Letus Tiber River the third-longest river in Italy. Rome wasfounded on its banks. In ancient Rome, executed criminals were thrown into the river. trireme a type of warship triumph a ceremonial procession for Roman generals and their troops in celebration of a great military victory Trojan War the war that was waged against the city of Troyby the Greeks after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband, Menelaus, the king of Sparta. It started with a quarrel between the goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite. [image: ] THE SNAKE-HAIRED LADIES WERE starting to annoy Percy. They should have died three days ago when he dropped a crate of bowling balls on them at the Napa Bargain Mart. They should have died two days ago when he ran over them with a police car in Martinez. They definitely should have died this morning when he cut off their heads in Tilden Park. No matter how many times Percy killed them and watched them crumble to powder, they just kept re-forming like large evil dust bunnies. He couldn’t even seem to outrun them. He reached the top of the hill and caught his breath. How long since he’d last killed them? Maybe two hours. They never seemed to stay dead longer than that. The past few days, he’d hardly slept. He’d eaten whatever he could scrounge—vending machine gummi bears, stale bagels, even a Jack in the Crack burrito, which was a new personal low. His clothes were torn, burned, and splattered with monster slime. He’d only survived this long because the two snake-haired-ladies—gorgons, they called themselves—couldn’t seem to kill him either. Their claws didn’t cut his skin. Their teeth broke whenever they tried to bite him. But Percy couldn’t keep going much longer. Soon he’d collapse from exhaustion, and then—as hard as he was to kill, he was pretty sure the gorgons would find a way. Where to run? He scanned his surroundings. Under different circumstances, he might’ve enjoyed the view. To his left, golden hills rolled inland, dotted with lakes, woods, and a few herds of cows. To his right, the flatlands of Berkeley and Oakland marched west—a vast checkerboard of neighborhoods, with several million people who probably did not want their morning interrupted by two monsters and a filthy demigod. Farther west, San Francisco Bay glittered under a silvery haze. Past that, a wall of fog had swallowed most of San Francisco, leaving just the tops of skyscrapers and the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. A vague sadness weighed on Percy’s chest. Something told him he’d been to San Francisco before. The city had some connection to Annabeth—the only person he could remember from his past. His memory of her was frustratingly dim. The wolf had promised he would see her again and regain his memory—if he succeeded in his journey. Should he try to cross the bay? It was tempting. He could feel the power of the ocean just over the horizon. Water always revived him. Salt water was the best. He’d discovered that two days ago when he had strangled a sea monster in the Carquinez Strait. If he could reach the bay, he might be able to make a last stand. Maybe he could even drown the gorgons. But the shore was at least two miles away. He’d have to cross an entire city. He hesitated for another reason. The she-wolf Lupa had taught him to sharpen his senses—to trust the instincts that had been guiding him south. His homing radar was tingling like crazy now. The end of his journey was close—almost right under his feet. But how could that be? There was nothing on the hilltop. The wind changed. Percy caught the sour scent of reptile. A hundred yards down the slope, something rustled through the woods—snapping branches, crunching leaves, hissing. Gorgons. For the millionth time, Percy wished their noses weren’t so good. They had always said they could smell him because he was a demigod—the half-blood son of some old Roman god. Percy had tried rolling in mud, splashing through creeks, even keeping air-freshener sticks in his pockets so he’d have that new car smell; but apparently demigod stink was hard to mask. He scrambled to the west side of the summit. It was too steep to descend. The slope plummeted eighty feet, straight to the roof of an apartment complex built into the hillside. Fifty feet below that, a highway emerged from the hill’s base and wound its way toward Berkeley. Great. No other way off the hill. He’d managed to get himself cornered. He stared at the stream of cars flowing west toward San Francisco and wished he were in one of them. Then he realized the highway must cut through the hill. There must be a tunnel…right under his feet. His internal radar went nuts. He was in the right place, just too high up. He had to check out that tunnel. He needed a way down to the highway—fast. He slung off his backpack. He’d managed to grab a lot of supplies at the Napa Bargain Mart: a portable GPS, duct tape, lighter, superglue, water bottle, camping roll, a Comfy Panda Pillow Pet (as seen on TV), and a Swiss army knife—pretty much every tool a modern demigod could want. But he had nothing that would serve as a parachute or a sled. That left him two options: jump eighty feet to his death, or stand and fight. Both options sounded pretty bad. He cursed and pulled his pen from his pocket. The pen didn’t look like much, just a regular cheap ballpoint, but when Percy uncapped it, it grew into a glowing bronze sword. The blade balanced perfectly. The leather grip fit his hand like it had been custom designed for him. Etched along the guard was an Ancient Greek word Percy somehow understood: Anaklusmos—Riptide. He’d woken up with this sword his first night at the Wolf House—two months ago? More? He’d lost track. He’d found himself in the courtyard of a burned-out mansion in the middle of the woods, wearing shorts, an orange T-shirt, and a leather necklace with a bunch of strange clay beads. Riptide had been in his hand, but Percy had had no idea how he’d gotten there, and only the vaguest idea who he was. He’d been barefoot, freezing, and confused. And then the wolves came.... Right next to him, a familiar voice jolted him back to the present: “There you are!” Percy stumbled away from the gorgon, almost falling off the edge of the hill. It was the smiley one—Beano. Okay, her name wasn’t really Beano. As near as Percy could figure, he was dyslexic, because words got twisted around when he tried to read. The first time he’d seen the gorgon, posing as a Bargain Mart greeter with a big green button that read: Welcome! My name is STHENO, he’d thought it said BEANO. She was still wearing her green Bargain Mart employee vest over a flower-print dress. If you looked just at her body, you might think she was somebody’s dumpy old grandmother—until you looked down and realized she had rooster feet. Or you looked up and saw bronze boar tusks sticking out of the corners of her mouth. Her eyes glowed red, and her hair was a writhing nest of bright green snakes. The most horrible thing about her? She was still holding her big silver platter of free samples: Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wieners. Her platter was dented from all the times Percyhad killed her, but those little samples looked perfectly fine. Stheno just kept toting them across California so she could offer Percy a snack before she killed him. Percy didn’t know why she kept doing that, but if he ever needed a suit of armor, he was going to make it out of Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wieners. They were indestructible. “Try one?” Stheno offered. Percy fended her off with his sword. “Where’s your sister?” “Oh, put the sword away,” Stheno chided. “You know by now that even Celestial bronze can’t kill us for long. Have a Cheese ’n’ Wiener! They’re on sale this week, and I’d hate to kill you on an empty stomach.” “Stheno!” The second gorgon appeared on Percy’s right so fast, he didn’t have time to react. Fortunately she was too busy glaring at her sister to pay him much attention. “I told you to sneak up on him and kill him!” Stheno’s smile wavered. “But, Euryale…” She said the nameso it rhymed with Muriel. “Can’t I give him a sample first?” “No, you imbecile!” Euryale turned toward Percy and bared her fangs. Except for her hair, which was a nest of coral snakes instead of green vipers, she looked exactly like her sister. Her Bargain Mart vest, her flowery dress, even her tusks were decorated with 50% off stickers. Her name badge read: Hello! My name is DIE, DEMIGOD SCUM! “You’ve led us on quite a chase, Percy Jackson,” Euryale said. “But now you’re trapped, and we’ll have our revenge!” “The Cheese ’n’ Wieners are only $2.99,” Stheno added helpfully. “Grocery department, aisle three.” Euryale snarled. “Stheno, the Bargain Mart was a front! You’re going native! Now, put down that ridiculous tray and help me kill this demigod. Or have you forgotten that he’s the one who vaporized Medusa?” Percy stepped back. Six more inches, and he’d be tumbling through thin air. “Look, ladies, we’ve been over this. I don’t even remember killing Medusa. I don’t remember anything! Can’t we just call a truce and talk about your weekly specials?” Stheno gave her sister a pouty look, which was hard to do with giant bronze tusks. “Can we?” “No!” Euryale’s red eyes bored into Percy. “I don’t care what you remember, son of the sea god. I can smell Medusa’s blood on you. It’s faint, yes, several years old, but you were the last one to defeat her. She still has not returned from Tartarus. It’s your fault!” Percy didn’t really get that. The whole “dying then returning from Tartarus” concept gave him a headache. Of course, so did the idea that a ballpoint pen could turn into a sword, or that monsters could disguise themselves with something called the Mist, or that Percy was the son of a barnacle-encrusted god from five thousand years ago. But he did believe it. Even though his memory was erased, he knew he was a demigod the same way he knew his name was Percy Jackson. From his very first conversation with Lupa the wolf, he’d accepted that this crazy messed-up world of gods and monsters was his reality. Which pretty much sucked. “How about we call it a draw?” he said. “I can’t kill you. You can’t kill me. If you’re Medusa’s sisters—like the Medusa who turned people to stone—shouldn’t I be petrified by now?” “Heroes!” Euryale said with disgust. “They always bring that up, just like our mother! ‘Why can’t you turn people to stone? Your sister can turn people to stone.’ Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, boy! That was Medusa’s curse alone. She was the most hideous one in the family. She got all the luck!” Stheno looked hurt. “Mother said I was the most hideous.” “Quiet!” Euryale snapped. “As for you, Percy Jackson, it’s true you bear the mark of Achilles. That makes you a little tougher to kill. But don’t worry. We’ll find a way.” “The mark of what?” “Achilles,” Stheno said cheerfully. “Oh, he was gorgeous! Dipped in the River Styx as a child, you know, so he was invulnerable except for a tiny spot on his ankle. That’s what happened to you, dear. Someone must’ve dumped you in the Styx and made your skin like iron. But not to worry. Heroes like you always have a weak spot. We just have to find it, and then we can kill you. Won’t that be lovely? Have a Cheese ’n’ Wiener!” Percy tried to think. He didn’t remember any dip in the Styx. Then again, he didn’t remember much of anything. His skin didn’t feel like iron, but it would explain how he’d held out so long against the gorgons. Maybe if he just fell down the mountain…would he survive? He didn’t want to risk it—not without something to slow the fall, or a sled, or… He looked at Stheno’s large silver platter of free samples. Hmm... “Reconsidering?” Stheno asked. “Very wise, dear. I added some gorgon’s blood to these, so your death will be quick and painless.” Percy’s throat constricted. “You added your blood to the Cheese ’n’ Wieners?” “Just a little.” Stheno smiled. “A tiny nick on my arm, but you’re sweet to be concerned. Blood from our right side can cure anything, you know, but blood from our left side is deadly—” “You dimwit!” Euryale screeched. “You’re not supposed to tell him that! He won’t eat the wieners if you tell him they’re poisoned!” Stheno looked stunned. “He won’t? But I said it would be quick and painless.” “Never mind!” Euryale’s fingernails grew into claws. “We’ll kill him the hard way—just keep slashing until we find the weak spot. Once we defeat Percy Jackson, we’ll be more famous than Medusa! Our patron will reward us greatly!” Percy gripped his sword. He’d have to time his move perfectly—a few seconds of confusion, grab the platter with his left hand... Keep them talking, he thought. “Before you slash me to bits,” he said, “who’s this patron you mentioned?” Euryale sneered. “The goddess Gaea, of course! The one who brought us back from oblivion! You won’t live long enough to meet her, but your friends below will soon face her wrath. Even now, her armies are marching south. At the Feast of Fortune, she’ll awaken, and the demigods will be cut down like—like—” “Like our low prices at Bargain Mart!” Stheno suggested. “Gah!” Euryale stormed toward her sister. Percy took the opening. He grabbed Stheno’s platter, scattering poisoned Cheese ’n’ Wieners, and slashed Riptide across Euryale’s waist, cutting her in half. He raised the platter, and Stheno found herself facing her own greasy reflection. “Medusa!” she screamed. Her sister Euryale had crumbled to dust, but she was already starting to re-form, like a snowman un-melting. “Stheno, you fool!” she gurgled as her half-made face rose from the mound of dust. “That’s just your own reflection! Get him!” Percy slammed the metal tray on top of Stheno’s head, and she passed out cold. He put the platter behind his butt, said a silent prayer to whatever Roman god oversaw stupid sledding tricks, and jumped off the side of the hill. [image: ] THE THING ABOUT PLUMMETING DOWNHILL at fifty miles an hour on a snack platter—if you realize it’s a bad idea when you’re halfway down, it’s too late. Percy narrowly missed a tree, glanced off a boulder, and spun a three-sixty as he shot toward the highway. The stupid snack tray did not have power steering. He heard the gorgon sisters screaming and caught a glimpse of Euryale’s coral-snake hair at the top of the hill, but he didn’t have time to worry about it. The roof of the apartment building loomed below him like the prow of a battleship. Head-on collision in ten, nine, eight… He managed to swivel sideways to avoid breaking his legs on impact. The snack platter skittered across the roof and sailed through the air. The platter went one way. Percy went the other. As he fell toward the highway, a horrible scenario flashed through his mind: his body smashing against an SUV’s windshield, some annoyed commuter trying to push him off with the wipers. Stupid sixteen-year-old kid falling from the sky! I’m late! Miraculously, a gust of wind blew him to one side—just enough to miss the highway and crash into a clump of bushes. It wasn’t a soft landing, but it was better than asphalt. Percy groaned. He wanted to lie there and pass out, but he had to keep moving. He struggled to his feet. His hands were scratched up, but no bones seemed to be broken. He still had his backpack. Somewhere on the sled ride he’d lost his sword, but Percy knew it would eventually reappear in his pocket in pen form. That was part of its magic. He glanced up the hill. The gorgons were hard to miss, with their colorful snake hair and their bright green Bargain Mart vests. They were picking their way down the slope, going slower than Percy but with a lot more control. Those chicken feet must’ve been good for climbing. Percy figured he had maybe five minutes before they reached him. Next to him, a tall chain-link fence separated the highway from a neighborhood of winding streets, cozy houses, and talleucalyptus trees. The fence was probably there to keep people from getting onto the highway and doing stupid things—like sledding into the fast lane on snack trays—but the chain-link was full of big holes. Percy could easily slip through into the neighborhood. Maybe he could find a car and drive west to the ocean. He didn’t like stealing cars, but over the past few weeks, in life-and-death situations, he’d “borrowed” several, including a police cruiser. He’d meant to return them, but they never seemed to last very long. He glanced east. Just as he’d figured, a hundred yardsuphill the highway cut through the base of the cliff. Two tunnel entrances, one for each direction of traffic, stared down at him like eye sockets of a giant skull. In the middle, where the nose would have been, a cement wall jutted from the hillside, with a metal door like the entrance to a bunker. It might have been a maintenance tunnel. That’s probably what mortals thought, if they noticed the door at all. But they couldn’t see through the Mist. Percy knew the door was more than that. Two kids in armor flanked the entrance. They wore a bizarre mix of plumed Roman helmets, breastplates, scabbards, blue jeans, purple T-shirts, and white athletic shoes. The guard on the right looked like a girl, though it was hard to tell for sure with all the armor. The one on the left was a stocky guy with a bow and quiver on his back. Both kids held long wooden staffs with iron spear tips, like old-fashioned harpoons. Percy’s internal radar was pinging like crazy. After so many horrible days, he’d finally reached his goal. His instincts told him that if he could make it inside that door, he might find safety for the first time since the wolves had sent him south. So why did he feel such dread? Farther up the hill, the gorgons were scrambling over the roof of the apartment complex. Three minutes away—maybe less. Part of him wanted to run to the door in the hill. He’d have to cross to the median of the highway, but then it would be a short sprint. He could make it before the gorgons reached him. Part of him wanted to head west to the ocean. That’s where he’d be safest. That’s where his power would be greatest. Those Roman guards at the door made him uneasy. Something inside him said: This isn’t my territory. This is dangerous. “You’re right, of course,” said a voice next to him. Percy jumped. At first he thought Beano had managed to sneak up on him again, but the old lady sitting in the bushes was even more repulsive than a gorgon. She looked like a hippie who’d been kicked to the side of the road maybe forty years ago, where she’d been collecting trash and rags ever since. She wore a dress made of tie-dyed cloth, ripped-up quilts, and plastic grocery bags. Her frizzy mop of hair was gray-brown, like root-beer foam, tied back with a peace-sign headband. Warts and moles covered her face. When she smiled, she showed exactly three teeth. “It isn’t a maintenance tunnel,” she confided. “It’s the entrance to camp.” A jolt went up Percy’s spine. Camp. Yes, that’s where he was from. A camp. Maybe this was his home. Maybe Annabeth was close by. But something felt wrong. The gorgons were still on the roof of the apartment building. Then Stheno shrieked in delight and pointed in Percy’s direction. The old hippie lady raised her eyebrows. “Not much time, child. You need to make your choice.” “Who are you?” Percy asked, though he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. The last thing he needed was another harmless mortal who turned out to be a monster. “Oh, you can call me June.” The old lady’s eyes sparkled as if she’d made an excellent joke. “It is June, isn’t it? They named the month after me!” “Okay…Look, I should go. Two gorgons are coming. I don’t want them to hurt you.” June clasped her hands over her heart. “How sweet! But that’s part of your choice!” “My choice…” Percy glanced nervously toward the hill. The gorgons had taken off their green vests. Wings sprouted from their backs—small bat wings, which glinted like brass. Since when did they have wings? Maybe they were ornamental. Maybe they were too small to get a gorgon into the air. Then the two sisters leaped off the apartment building and soared toward him. Great. Just great. “Yes, a choice,” June said, as if she were in no hurry. “You could leave me here at the mercy of the gorgons and go to the ocean. You’d make it there safely, I guarantee. The gorgons will be quite happy to attack me and let you go. In the sea, no monster would bother you. You could begin a new life, live to a ripe old age, and escape a great deal of pain and misery that is in your future.” Percy was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like the second option. “Or?” “Or you could do a good deed for an old lady,” she said. “Carry me to the camp with you.” “Carry you?” Percy hoped she was kidding. Then June hiked up her skirts and showed him her swollen purple feet. “I can’t get there by myself,” she said. “Carry me to camp—across the highway, through the tunnel, across the river.” Percy didn’t know what river she meant, but it didn’t sound easy. June looked pretty heavy. The gorgons were only fifty yards away now—leisurely gliding toward him as if they knew the hunt was almost over. Percy looked at the old lady. “And I’d carry you to this camp because—?” “Because it’s a kindness!” she said. “And if you don’t, the gods will die, the world we know will perish, and everyone from your old life will be destroyed. Of course, you wouldn’t remember them, so I suppose it won’t matter. You’d be safe at the bottom of the sea.…” Percy swallowed. The gorgons shrieked with laughter as they soared in for the kill. “If I go to the camp,” he said, “will I get my memory back?” “Eventually,” June said. “But be warned, you will sacrifice much! You’ll lose the mark of Achilles. You’ll feel pain, misery, and loss beyond anything you’ve ever known. But you might have a chance to save your old friends and family, to reclaim your old life.” The gorgons were circling right overhead. They were probably studying the old woman, trying to figure out who the new player was before they struck. “What about those guards at the door?” Percy asked. June smiled. “Oh, they’ll let you in, dear. You can trust those two. So, what do you say? Will you help a defenseless old woman?” Percy doubted June was defenseless. At worst, this was a trap. At best, it was some kind of test. Percy hated tests. Since he’d lost his memory, his whole life was one big fill-in-the-blank. He was ____________________, from ____________________. He felt like ____________________, and if the monsters caught him, he’d be ____________________. Then he thought about Annabeth, the only part of his old life he was sure about. He had to find her. “I’ll carry you.” He scooped up the old woman. She was lighter than he expected. Percy tried to ignore her sour breath and her calloused hands clinging to his neck. He made it across the first lane of traffic. A driver honked. Another yelled something that was lost in the wind. Most just swerved and looked irritated, as if they had to deal with a lot of ratty teenagers carrying old hippie women across the freeway here in Berkeley. A shadow fell over him. Stheno called down gleefully, “Clever boy! Found a goddess to carry, did you?” A goddess? June cackled with delight, muttering, “Whoops!” as a car almost killed them. Somewhere off to his left, Euryale screamed, “Get them! Two prizes are better than one!” Percy bolted across the remaining lanes. Somehow he made it to the median alive. He saw the gorgons swooping down, cars swerving as the monsters passed overhead. He wondered what the mortals saw through the Mist—giant pelicans? Off-course hang gliders? The wolf Lupa had told him that mortal minds could believe just about anything—except the truth. Percy ran for the door in the hillside. June got heavier with every step. Percy’s heart pounded. His ribs ached. One of the guards yelled. The guy with the bow nocked an arrow. Percy shouted, “Wait!” But the boy wasn’t aiming at him. The arrow flew over Percy’s head. A gorgon wailed in pain. The second guard readied her spear, gesturing frantically at Percy to hurry. Fifty feet from the door. Thirty feet. “Gotcha!” shrieked Euryale. Percy turned as an arrow thudded into her forehead. Euryale tumbled into the fast lane. A truck slammed into her and carried her backward a hundred yards, but she just climbed over the cab, pulled the arrow out of her head, and launched back into the air. Percy reached the door. “Thanks,” he told the guards. “Good shot.” “That should’ve killed her!” the archer protested. “Welcome to my world,” Percy muttered. “Frank,” the girl said. “Get them inside, quick! Those are gorgons.” “Gorgons?” The archer’s voice squeaked. It was hard to tell much about him under the helmet, but he looked stout like a wrestler, maybe fourteen or fifteen. “Will the door hold them?” In Percy’s arms, June cackled. “No, no it won’t. Onward, Percy Jackson! Through the tunnel, over the river!” “Percy Jackson?” The female guard was darker-skinned, with curly hair sticking out the sides of her helmet. She looked younger than Frank—maybe thirteen. Her sword scabbard came down almost to her ankle. Still, she sounded like she was the one in charge. “Okay, you’re obviously a demigod. But who’s the—?” She glanced at June. “Never mind. Just get inside. I’ll hold them off.” “Hazel,” the boy said. “Don’t be crazy.” “Go!” she demanded. Frank cursed in another language—was that Latin?—and opened the door. “Come on!” Percy followed, staggering under the weight of the old lady, who was definitely getting heavier. He didn’t know how that girl Hazel would hold off the gorgons by herself, but he was too tired to argue. The tunnel cut through solid rock, about the width and height of a school hallway. At first, it looked like a typical maintenance tunnel, with electric cables, warning signs, and fuse boxes on the walls, lightbulbs in wire cages along the ceiling. As they ran deeper into the hillside, the cement floor changed to tiled mosaic. The lights changed to reed torches, which burned but didn’t smoke. A few hundred yards ahead, Percy saw a square of daylight. The old lady was heavier now than a pile of sandbags. Percy’s arms shook from the strain. June mumbled a song in Latin, like a lullaby, which didn’t help Percy concentrate. Behind them, the gorgons’ voices echoed in the tunnel. Hazel shouted. Percy was tempted to dump June and runback to help, but then the entire tunnel shook with the rumble of falling stone. There was a squawking sound, just like the gorgons had made when Percy had dropped a crate of bowling balls on them in Napa. He glanced back. The west end of the tunnel was now filled with dust. “Shouldn’t we check on Hazel?” he asked. “She’ll be okay—I hope,” Frank said. “She’s good underground. Just keep moving! We’re almost there.” “Almost where?” June chuckled. “All roads lead there, child. You should know that.” “Detention?” Percy asked. “Rome, child,” the old woman said. “Rome.” Percy wasn’t sure he’d heard her right. True, his memory was gone. His brain hadn’t felt right since he had woken up at the Wolf House. But he was pretty sure Rome wasn’t in California. They kept running. The glow at the end of the tunnel grew brighter, and finally they burst into sunlight. Percy froze. Spread out at his feet was a bowl-shaped valley several miles wide. The basin floor was rumpled with smaller hills, golden plains, and stretches of forest. A small clear rivercut a winding course from a lake in the center and around the perimeter, like a capital G. The geography could’ve been anywhere in northern California—live oaks and eucalyptus trees, gold hills and blue skies. That big inland mountain—what was it called, Mount Diablo?—rose in the distance, right where it should be. But Percy felt like he’d stepped into a secret world. In the center of the valley, nestled by the lake, was a small city of white marble buildings with red-tiled roofs. Some had domes and columned porticoes, like national monuments. Others looked like palaces, with golden doors and large gardens. He could see an open plaza with freestanding columns, fountains, and statues. A five-story-tall Roman coliseum gleamed in the sun, next to a long oval arena like a racetrack. Across the lake to the south, another hill was dotted with even more impressive buildings—temples, Percy guessed. Several stone bridges crossed the river as it wound through the valley, and in the north, a long line of brickwork arches stretched from the hills into the town. Percy thought it looked like an elevated train track. Then he realized it must be an aqueduct. The strangest part of the valley was right below him. About two hundred yards away, just across the river, was some sort of military encampment. It was about a quarter mile square, with earthen ramparts on all four sides, the tops lined with sharpened spikes. Outside the walls ran a dry moat, also studded with spikes. Wooden watchtowers rose at each corner, manned by sentries with oversized, mounted crossbows. Purple banners hung from the towers. A wide gateway opened on the far side of camp, leading toward the city. A narrower gate stood closed on the riverbank side. Inside, the fortress bustled with activity: dozens of kids going to and from barracks, carrying weapons, polishing armor. Percy heard the clank of hammers at a forge and smelled meat cooking over a fire. Something about this place felt very familiar, yet not quite right. “Camp Jupiter,” Frank said. “We’ll be safe once—” Footsteps echoed in the tunnel behind them. Hazel burst into the light. She was covered with stone dust and breathing hard. She’d lost her helmet, so her curly brown hair fell around her shoulders. Her armor had long slash marks in front from the claws of a gorgon. One of the monsters had tagged her with a 50% off sticker. “I slowed them down,” she said. “But they’ll be here any second.” Frank cursed. “We have to get across the river.” June squeezed Percy’s neck tighter. “Oh, yes, please. I can’t get my dress wet.” Percy bit his tongue. If this lady was a goddess, she must’ve been the goddess of smelly, heavy, useless hippies. But he’d come this far. He’d better keep lugging her along. It’s a kindness, she’d said. And if you don’t, the gods will die, the world we know will perish, and everyone from your old life will be destroyed. If this was a test, he couldn’t afford to get an F. He stumbled a few times as they ran for the river. Frank and Hazel kept him on his feet. They reached the riverbank, and Percy stopped to catch his breath. The current was fast, but the river didn’t look deep. Only a stone’s throw across stood the gates of the fort. “Go, Hazel.” Frank nocked two arrows at once. “Escort Percy so the sentries don’t shoot him. It’s my turn to hold off the baddies.” Hazel nodded and waded into the stream. Percy started to follow, but something made him hesitate. Usually he loved the water, but this river seemed…powerful, and not necessarily friendly. “The Little Tiber,” said June sympathetically. “It flows with the power of the original Tiber, river of the empire. This is your last chance to back out, child. The mark of Achilles is a Greek blessing. You can’t retain it if you cross into Roman territory. The Tiber will wash it away.” Percy was too exhausted to understand all that, but he got the main point. “If I cross, I won’t have iron skin anymore?” June smiled. “So what will it be? Safety, or a future of pain and possibility?” Behind him, the gorgons screeched as they flew from the tunnel. Frank let his arrows fly. From the middle of the river, Hazel yelled, “Percy, come on!” Up on the watchtowers, horns blew. The sentries shouted and swiveled their crossbows toward the gorgons. Annabeth, Percy thought. He forged into the river. It was icy cold, much swifter than he’d imagined, but that didn’t bother him. New strength surged through his limbs. His senses tingled like he’d been injected with caffeine. He reached the other side and put the old woman down as the camp’s gates opened. Dozens of kids in armor poured out. Hazel turned with a relieved smile. Then she looked over Percy’s shoulder, and her expression changed to horror. “Frank!” Frank was halfway across the river when the gorgons caught him. They swooped out of the sky and grabbed him by either arm. He screamed in pain as their claws dug into his skin. The sentries yelled, but Percy knew they couldn’t get a clear shot. They’d end up killing Frank. The other kids drew swords and got ready to charge into the water, but they’d be too late. There was only one way. Percy thrust out his hands. An intense tugging sensation filled his gut, and the Tiber obeyed his will. The river surged. Whirlpools formed on either side of Frank. Giant watery hands erupted from the stream, copying Percy’s movements. The giant hands grabbed the gorgons, who dropped Frank in surprise. Then the hands lifted the squawking monsters in a liquid vise grip. Percy heard the other kids yelping and backing away, but he stayed focused on his task. He made a smashing gesture with his fists, and the giant hands plunged the gorgons into the Tiber. The monsters hit bottom and broke into dust. Glittering clouds of gorgon essence struggled to re-form, but the river pulled them apart like a blender. Soon every trace of the gorgons was swept downstream. The whirlpools vanished, and the current returned to normal. Percy stood on the riverbank. His clothes and his skin steamed as if the Tiber’s waters had given him an acid bath. He felt exposed, raw…vulnerable. In the middle of the Tiber, Frank stumbled around, looking stunned but perfectly fine. Hazel waded out and helped him ashore. Only then did Percy realize how quiet the other kids had become. Everyone was staring at him. Only the old lady June looked unfazed. “Well, that was a lovely trip,” she said. “Thank you, Percy Jackson, for bringing me to Camp Jupiter.” One of the girls made a choking sound. “Percy…Jackson?” She sounded as if she recognized his name. Percy focused on her, hoping to see a familiar face. She was obviously a leader. She wore a regal purple cloak over her armor. Her chest was decorated with medals. She must have been about Percy’s age, with dark, piercing eyes and long black hair. Percy didn’t recognize her, but the girl stared at him as if she’d seen him in her nightmares. June laughed with delight. “Oh, yes. You’ll have such fun together!” Then, just because the day hadn’t been weird enough already, the old lady began to glow and change form. She grew until she was a shining, seven-foot-tall goddess in a blue dress, with a cloak that looked like goat’s skin over her shoulders. Her face was stern and stately. In her hand was a staff topped with a lotus flower. If it was possible for the campers to look more stunned, they did. The girl with the purple cloak knelt. The others followed her lead. One kid got down so hastily he almost impaled himself on his sword. Hazel was the first to speak. “Juno.” She and Frank also fell to their knees, leaving Percy the only one standing. He knew he should probably kneel too, but after carrying the old lady so far, he didn’t feel like showing her that much respect. “Juno, huh?” he said. “If I passed your test, can I have my memory and my life back?” The goddess smiled. “In time, Percy Jackson, if you succeed here at camp. You’ve done well today, which is a good start. Perhaps there’s hope for you yet.” She turned to the other kids. “Romans, I present to you the son of Neptune. For months he has been slumbering, but now he is awake. His fate is in your hands. The Feast of Fortune comes quickly, and Death must be unleashed if you are to stand any hope in the battle. Do not fail me!” Juno shimmered and disappeared. Percy looked at Hazel and Frank for some kind of explanation, but they seemed just as confused as he was. Frank was holding something Percy hadn’t noticed before—two small clay flasks with cork stoppers, like potions, one in each hand. Percy had no idea where they’d come from, but he saw Frank slip them into his pockets. Frank gave him a look like: We’ll talk about it later. The girl in the purple cloak stepped forward. She examined Percy warily, and Percy couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted to run him through with her dagger. “So,” she said coldly, “a son of Neptune, who comes to us with the blessing of Juno.” “Look,” he said, “my memory’s a little fuzzy. Um, it’s gone, actually. Do I know you?” The girl hesitated. “I am Reyna, praetor of the Twelfth Legion. And…no, I don’t know you.” That last part was a lie. Percy could tell from her eyes. But he also understood that if he argued with her about it here, in front of her soldiers, she wouldn’t appreciate it. “Hazel,” said Reyna, “bring him inside. I want to question him at the principia. Then we’ll send him to Octavian. We must consult the auguries before we decide what to do with him.” “What do you mean,” Percy asked, “‘decide what to do with’ me?” Reyna’s hand tightened on her dagger. Obviously she was not used to having her orders questioned. “Before we accept anyone into camp, we must interrogate them and read the auguries. Juno said your fate is in our hands. We have to know whether the goddess has brought us as a new recruit.…” Reyna studied Percy as if she found that doubtful. “Or,” she said more hopefully, “if she’s brought us an enemy to kill.” [image: ] PERCY WASN’T SCARED OF GHOSTS, which was lucky. Half the people in camp were dead. Shimmering purple warriors stood outside the armory, polishing ethereal swords. Others hung out in front of the barracks. A ghostly boy chased a ghostly dog down the street. And at the stables, a big glowing red dude with the head of a wolf guarded a herd of…Were those unicorns? None of the campers paid the ghosts much attention, but as Percy’s entourage walked by, with Reyna in the lead and Frank and Hazel on either side, all the spirits stopped what they were doing and stared at Percy. A few looked angry. The little boy ghost shrieked something like “Greggus!” and turned invisible. Percy wished he could turn invisible too. After weeks on his own, all this attention made him uneasy. He stayed between Hazel and Frank and tried to look inconspicuous. “Am I seeing things?” he asked. “Or are those—” “Ghosts?” Hazel turned. She had startling eyes, like fourteen-karat gold. “They’re Lares. House gods.” “House gods,” Percy said. “Like…smaller than real gods, but larger than apartment gods?” “They’re ancestral spirits,” Frank explained. He’d removed his helmet, revealing a babyish face that didn’t go with his military haircut or his big burly frame. He looked like a toddler who’d taken steroids and joined the Marines. “The Lares are kind of like mascots,” he continued. “Mostlythey’re harmless, but I’ve never seen them so agitated.” “They’re staring at me,” Percy said. “That ghost kid called me Greggus. My name isn’t Greg.” “Graecus,” Hazel said. “Once you’ve been here awhile, you’ll start understanding Latin. Demigods have a natural sense for it. Graecus means Greek.” “Is that bad?” Percy asked. Frank cleared his throat. “Maybe not. You’ve got that type of complexion, the dark hair and all. Maybe they think you’re actually Greek. Is your family from there?” “Don’t know. Like I said, my memory is gone.” “Or maybe…” Frank hesitated. “What?” Percy asked. “Probably nothing,” Frank said. “Romans and Greeks have an old rivalry. Sometimes Romans use graecus as an insult for someone who’s an outsider—an enemy. I wouldn’t worry about it.” He sounded pretty worried. They stopped at the center of camp, where two wide stone-paved roads met at a T. A street sign labeled the road to the main gates as via praetoria. The other road, cutting across the middle of camp, was labeled via principalis. Under those markers were hand-painted signs like berkeley 5 miles; NEW ROME 1 MILE; OLD ROME 7280 MILES; HADES 2310 MILES (pointing straight down); RENO 208 MILES, AND CERTAIN DEATH: YOU ARE HERE! For certain death, the place looked pretty clean and orderly. The buildings were freshly whitewashed, laid out in neat grids like the camp had been designed by a fussy math teacher. The barracks had shady porches, where campers lounged in hammocks or played cards and drank sodas. Each dorm had a different collection of banners out front displaying Roman numerals and various animals—eagle, bear, wolf, horse, and something that looked like a hamster. Along the Via Praetoria, rows of shops advertised food, armor, weapons, coffee, gladiator equipment, and toga rentals. A chariot dealership had a big advertisement out front: CAESAR XLS W/ANTILOCK BRAKES, NO DENARII DOWN! At one corner of the crossroads stood the most impressive building—a two-story wedge of white marble with a columned portico like an old-fashioned bank. Roman guards stood out front. Over the doorway hung a big purple banner with the gold letters SPQR embroidered inside a laurel wreath. “Your headquarters?” Percy asked. Reyna faced him, her eyes still cold and hostile. “It’s called the principia.” She scanned the mob of curious campers who had followed them from the river. “Everyone back to your duties. I’ll give you an update at evening muster. Remember, we have war games after dinner.” The thought of dinner made Percy’s stomach rumble. The scent of barbecue from the dining hall made his mouth water. The bakery down the street smelled pretty wonderful too, but he doubted Reyna would let him get an order to go. The crowd dispersed reluctantly. Some muttered comments about Percy’s chances. “He’s dead,” said one. “Would be those two who found him,” said another. “Yeah,” muttered another. “Let him join the Fifth Cohort. Greeks and geeks.” Several kids laughed at that, but Reyna scowled at them, and they cleared off. “Hazel,” Reyna said. “Come with us. I want your report on what happened at the gates.” “Me too?” Frank said. “Percy saved my life. We’ve got to let him—” Reyna gave Frank such a harsh look, he stepped back. “I’d remind you, Frank Zhang,” she said, “you are on probatio yourself. You’ve caused enough trouble this week.” Frank’s ears turned red. He fiddled with a little tablet on a cord around his neck. Percy hadn’t paid much attention to it, but it looked like a name tag made out of lead. “Go to the armory,” Reyna told him. “Check our inventory. I’ll call you if I need you.” “But—” Frank caught himself. “Yes, Reyna.” He hurried off. Reyna waved Hazel and Percy toward the headquarters. “Now, Percy Jackson, let’s see if we can improve your memory.” The principia was even more impressive inside. On the ceiling glittered a mosaic of Romulus and Remus under their adopted mama she-wolf (Lupa had told Percy that story a million times). The floor was polished marble. The walls were draped in velvet, so Percy felt like he was inside the world’s most expensive camping tent. Along the back wall stood a display of banners and wooden poles studded with bronze medals—military symbols, Percy guessed. In the center was one empty display stand, as if the main banner had been taken down for cleaning or something. In the back corner, a stairwell led down. It was blocked by a row of iron bars like a prison door. Percy wondered what was down there—monsters? Treasure? Amnesiac demigods who had gotten on Reyna’s bad side? In the center of the room, a long wooden table was cluttered with scrolls, notebooks, tablet computers, daggers, and a large bowl filled with jelly beans, which seemed kind of out of place. Two life-sized statues of greyhounds—one silver, one gold—flanked the table. Reyna walked behind the table and sat in one of two high-backed chairs. Percy wished he could sit in the other, but Hazel remained standing. Percy got the feeling he was supposed to also. “So…” he started to say. The dog statues bared their teeth and growled. Percy froze. Normally he liked dogs, but these glared at him with ruby eyes. Their fangs looked sharp as razors. “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: [image: ] 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 thought 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.” “Yes, Reyna.” Percy still had so many questions, his brain felt like it would melt. But Reyna made it clear the audience was over. She sheathed her dagger. The metal dogs stood and growled, inching toward Percy. “Good luck with the augury, Percy Jackson,” she said. “If Octavian lets you live, perhaps we can compare notes…about your past.” [image: ] ON THE WAY OUT OF CAMP, Hazel bought him an espresso drink and a cherry muffin from Bombilo the two-headed coffee merchant. Percy inhaled the muffin. The coffee was great. Now, Percy thought, if he could just get a shower, a change of clothes, and some sleep, he’d be golden. Maybe even Imperial golden. He watched a bunch of kids in swimsuits and towels head into a building that had steam coming out of a row of chimneys. Laughter and watery sounds echoed from inside, like it was an indoor pool—Percy’s kind of place. “Bath house,” Hazel said. “We’ll get you in there before dinner, hopefully. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a Roman bath.” Percy sighed with anticipation. As they approached the front gate, the barracks got bigger and nicer. Even the ghosts looked better—with fancier armor and shinier auras. Percy tried to decipher the banners and symbols hanging in front of the buildings. “You guys are divided into different cabins?” he asked. “Sort of.” Hazel ducked as a kid riding a giant eagle swooped overhead. “We have five cohorts of about forty kids each. Each cohort is divided into barracks of ten—like roommates, kind of.” Percy had never been great at math, but he tried to multiply. “You’re telling me there’s two hundred kids at camp?” “Roughly.” “And all of them are children of the gods? The gods have been busy.” Hazel laughed. “Not all of them are children of majorgods. There are hundreds of minor Roman gods. Plus, a lot of the campers are legacies—second or third generation. Maybe their parents were demigods. Or their grandparents.” Percy blinked. “Children of demigods?” “Why? Does that surprise you?” Percy wasn’t sure. The last few weeks he’d been so worried about surviving day to day. The idea of living long enough to be an adult and have kids of his own—that seemed like an impossible dream. “These Legos—” “Legacies,” Hazel corrected. “They have powers like a demigod?” “Sometimes. Sometimes not. But they can be trained. All the best Roman generals and emperors—you know, they all claimed to be descended from gods. Most of the time, they were telling the truth. The camp augur we’re going to meet, Octavian, he’s a legacy, descendant of Apollo. He’s got the gift of prophecy, supposedly.” “Supposedly?” Hazel made a sour face. “You’ll see.” That didn’t make Percy feel so great, if this dude Octavian had Percy’s fate in his hands. “So the divisions,” he asked, “the cohorts, whatever—you’re divided according to who your godly parent is?” Hazel stared at him. “What a horrible idea! No, the officers decide where to assign recruits. If we were divided according to god, the cohorts would be all uneven. I’d be alone.” Percy felt a twinge of sadness, like he’d been in that situation. “Why? What’s your ancestry?” Before she could answer, someone behind them yelled, “Wait!” A ghost ran toward them—an old man with a medicine-ball belly and toga so long he kept tripping on it. He caught up to them and gasped for air, his purple aura flickering around him. “This is him?” the ghost panted. “A new recruit for the Fifth, perhaps?” “Vitellius,” Hazel said, “we’re sort of in a hurry.” The ghost scowled at Percy and walked around him, inspecting him like a used car. “I don’t know,” he grumbled. “We need only the best for the cohort. Does he have all his teeth? Can he fight? Does he clean stables?” “Yes, yes, and no,” Percy said. “Who are you?” “Percy, this is Vitellius.” Hazel’s expression said: Just humor him. “He’s one of our Lares; takes an interest in new recruits.” On a nearby porch, other ghosts snickered as Vitellius paced back and forth, tripping over his toga and hiking up his sword belt. “Yes,” Vitellius said, “back in Caesar’s day—that’s Julius Caesar, mind you—the Fifth Cohort was something! Twelfth Legion Fulminata, pride of Rome! But these days? Disgraceful what we’ve come to. Look at Hazel here, using a spatha. Ridiculous weapon for a Roman legionnaire—that’s for cavalry! And you, boy—you smell like a Greek sewer. Haven’t you had a bath?” “I’ve been a little busy fighting gorgons,” Percy said. “Vitellius,” Hazel interrupted, “we’ve got to get Percy’s augury before he can join. Why don’t you check on Frank? He’s in the armory doing inventory. You know how much he values your help.” The ghost’s furry purple eyebrows shot up. “Mars Almighty! They let the probatio check the armor? We’ll be ruined!” He stumbled off down the street, stopping every few feet to pick up his sword or rearrange his toga. “O-h-h-kay,” Percy said. “Sorry,” Hazel said. “He’s eccentric, but he’s one of the oldest Lares. Been around since the legion was founded.” “He called the legion…Fulminata?” Percy said. “‘Armed with Lightning,’” Hazel translated. “That’s our motto. The Twelfth Legion was around for the entire Roman Empire. When Rome fell, a lot of legions just disappeared. We went underground, acting on secret orders from Jupiter himself: stay alive, recruit demigods and their children, keep Rome going. We’ve been doing that ever since, moving around to wherever Roman influence was strongest. The last few centuries, we’ve been in America.” As bizarre as that sounded, Percy had no trouble believing it. In fact, it sounded familiar, like something he’d always known. “And you’re in the Fifth Cohort,” he guessed, “which maybe isn’t the most popular?” Hazel scowled. “Yeah. I joined up last September.” “So…just a few weeks before that guy Jason disappeared.” Percy knew he’d hit a sore spot. Hazel looked down. She was silent long enough to count every paving stone. “Come on,” she said at last. “I’ll show you my favorite view.” They stopped outside the main gates. The fort was situated on the highest point in the valley, so they could see pretty much everything. The road led down to the river and divided. One path led south across a bridge, up to the hill with all the temples. The other road led north into the city, a miniature version of Ancient Rome. Unlike the military camp, the city looked chaotic and colorful, with buildings crowded together at haphazard angles. Even from this far away, Percy could see people gathered in the plaza, shoppers milling around an open-air market, parents with kids playing in the parks. “You’ve got families here?” he asked. “In the city, absolutely,” Hazel said. “When you’re accepted into the legion, you do ten years of service. After that, you can muster out whenever you want. Most demigods go into the mortal world. But for some—well, it’s pretty dangerous out there. This valley is a sanctuary. You can go to college in the city, get married, have kids, retire when you get old. It’s the only safe place on earth for people like us. So yeah, a lot of veterans make their homes there, under the protection of the legion.” Adult demigods. Demigods who could live without fear, get married, raise a family. Percy couldn’t quite wrap his mind around that. It seemed too good to be true. “But if this valley is attacked?” Hazel pursed her lips. “We have defenses. The borders are magical. But our strength isn’t what it used to be. Lately, the monster attacks have been increasing. What you said about the gorgons not dying…we’ve noticed that too, with other monsters.” “Do you know what’s causing it?” Hazel looked away. Percy could tell that she was holding something back—something she wasn’t supposed to say. “It’s—it’s complicated,” she said. “My brother says Death isn’t—” She was interrupted by an elephant. Someone behind them shouted, “Make way!” Hazel dragged Percy out of the road as a demigod rode past on a full-grown pachyderm covered in black Kevlar armor. The word elephant was printed on the side of his armor, which seemed a little obvious to Percy. The elephant thundered down the road and turned north, heading toward a big open field where some fortifications were under construction. Percy spit dust out of his mouth. “What the—?” “Elephant,” Hazel explained. “Yeah, I read the sign. Why do you have an elephant in a bulletproof vest?” “War games tonight,” Hazel said. “That’s Hannibal. If we didn’t include him, he’d get upset.” “We can’t have that.” Hazel laughed. It was hard to believe she’d looked so moody a moment ago. Percy wondered what she’d been about to say. She had a brother. Yet she had claimed she’d be alone if the camp sorted her by her godly parent. Percy couldn’t figure her out. She seemed nice and easy going, mature for somebody who couldn’t have been more than thirteen. But she also seemed to be hiding a deep sadness, like she felt guilty about something. Hazel pointed south across the river. Dark clouds were gathering over Temple Hill. Red flashes of lightning washed the monuments in blood-colored light. “Octavian is busy,” Hazel said. “We’d better get over there.” On the way, they passed some goat-legged guys hanging out on the side of the road. “Hazel!” one of them cried. He trotted over with a big grin on his face. He wore a faded Hawaiian shirt and nothing for pants except thick brown goat fur. His massive Afro jiggled. His eyes were hidden behind little round rainbow-tinted glasses. He held a cardboard sign that read: WILL WORK SING TALK go away for denarii. “Hi, Don,” Hazel said. “Sorry, we don’t have time—” “Oh, that’s cool! That’s cool!” Don trotted along with them. “Hey, this guy’s new!” He grinned at Percy. “Do you have three denarii for the bus? Because I left my wallet at home, and I’ve got to get to work, and—” “Don,” Hazel chided. “Fauns don’t have wallets. Or jobs. Or homes. And we don’t have buses.” “Right,” he said cheerfully, “but do you have denarii?” “Your name is Don the Faun?” Percy asked. “Yeah. So?” “Nothing.” Percy tried to keep a straight face. “Why don’t fauns have jobs? Shouldn’t they work for the camp?” Don bleated. “Fauns! Work for the camp! Hilarious!” “Fauns are, um, free spirits,” Hazel explained. “They hang out here because, well, it’s a safe place to hang out and beg. We tolerate them, but—” “Oh, Hazel is awesome,” Don said. “She’s so nice! All the other campers are like, ‘Go away, Don.’ But she’s like, ‘Please go away, Don.’ I love her!” The faun seemed harmless, but Percy still found him unsettling. He couldn’t shake the feeling that fauns should be more than just homeless guys begging for denarii. Don looked at the ground in front of them and gasped. “Score!” He reached for something, but Hazel screamed, “Don, no!” She pushed him out of the way and snatched up a small shiny object. Percy caught a glimpse of it before Hazel slipped it into her pocket. He could have sworn it was a diamond. “Come on, Hazel,” Don complained. “I could’ve bought a year’s worth of doughnuts with that!” “Don, please,” Hazel said. “Go away.” She sounded shaken, like she’d just saved Don from a charging bulletproof elephant. The faun sighed. “Aw, I can’t stay mad at you. But I swear, it’s like you’re good luck. Every time you walk by—” “Good-bye, Don,” Hazel said quickly. “Let’s go, Percy.” She started jogging. Percy had to sprint to catch up. “What was that about?” Percy asked. “That diamond in the road—” “Please,” she said. “Don’t ask.” They walked in uneasy silence the rest of the way to TempleHill. A crooked stone path led past a crazy assortment of tiny altars and massive domed vaults. Statues of gods seemed to follow Percy with their eyes. Hazel pointed out the Temple of Bellona. “Goddess of war,” she said. “That’s Reyna’s mom.” Then they passed a massive red crypt decorated with human skulls on iron spikes. “Please tell me we’re not going in there,” Percy said. Hazel shook her head. “That’s the Temple of Mars Ultor.” “Mars ... Ares, the war god?” “That’s his Greek name,” Hazel said. “But, yeah, same guy. Ultor means ‘the Avenger.’ He’s the second-most important god of Rome.” Percy wasn’t thrilled to hear that. For some reason, just looking at the ugly red building made him feel angry. He pointed toward the summit. Clouds swirled over the largest temple, a round pavilion with a ring of white columns supporting a domed roof. “I’m guessing that’s Zeus—uh, I mean, Jupiter’s? That’s where we’re heading?” “Yeah.” Hazel sounded edgy. “Octavian reads auguries there—the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.” Percy had to think about it, but the Latin words clicked into English. “Jupiter…the best and the greatest?” “Right.” “What’s Neptune’s title?” Percy asked. “The coolest and most awesome?” “Um, not quite.” Hazel gestured to a small blue building the size of a toolshed. A cobweb-covered trident was nailed above the door. Percy peeked inside. On a small altar sat a bowl with three dried-up, moldy apples. His heart sank. “Popular place.” “I’m sorry, Percy,” Hazel said. “It’s just…Romans were always scared of the sea. They only used ships if they had to. Even in modern times, having a child of Neptune around has always been a bad omen. The last time one joined the legion …well, it was 1906, when Camp Jupiter was located across the bay in San Francisco. There was this huge earthquake—” “You’re telling me a child of Neptune caused that?” “So they say.” Hazel looked apologetic. “Anyway… Romans fear Neptune, but they don’t love him much.” Percy stared at the cobwebs on the trident. Great, he thought. Even if he joined the camp, he would never be loved. His best hope was to be scary to his new campmates. Maybe if he did really well, they’d give him some moldy apples. Still…standing at Neptune’s altar, he felt something stirring inside him, like waves rippling through his veins. He reached in his backpack and dug out the last bit of food from his trip—a stale bagel. It wasn’t much, but he set it on the altar. “Hey…uh, Dad.” He felt pretty stupid talking to a bowl of fruit. “If you can hear me, help me out, okay? Give me my memory back. Tell me—tell me what to do.” His voice cracked. He hadn’t meant to get emotional, but he was exhausted and scared, and he’d been lost for so long, he would’ve given anything for some guidance. He wanted to know something about his life for sure, without grabbing for missing memories. Hazel put her hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay. You’re here now. You’re one of us.” He felt awkward, depending on an eighth-grade girl he barely knew for comfort, but he was glad she was there. Above them, thunder rumbled. Red lightning lit up the hill. “Octavian’s almost done,” Hazel said. “Let’s go.” Compared to Neptune’s tool shed, Jupiter’s temple was definitely optimus and maximus. The marble floor was etched with fancy mosaics and Latin inscriptions. Sixty feet above, the domed ceiling sparkled gold. The whole temple was open to the wind. In the center stood a marble altar, where a kid in a toga was doing some sort of ritual in front of a massive golden statue of the big dude himself: Jupiter the sky god, dressed in a silk XXXL purple toga, holding a lightning bolt. “It doesn’t look like that,” Percy muttered. “What?” Hazel asked. “The master bolt,” Percy said. “What are you talking about?” “I—” Percy frowned. For a second, he’d thought he remembered something. Now it was gone. “Nothing, I guess.” The kid at the altar raised his hands. More red lightning flashed in the sky, shaking the temple. Then he put his hands down, and the rumbling stopped. The clouds turned from gray to white and broke apart. A pretty impressive trick, considering the kid didn’t look like much. He was tall and skinny, with straw-colored hair, oversized jeans, a baggy T-shirt, and a drooping toga. He looked like a scarecrow wearing a bed sheet. “What’s he doing?” Percy murmured. The guy in the toga turned. He had a crooked smile and a slightly crazy look in his eyes, like he’d just been playing an intense video game. In one hand he held a knife. In the other hand was something like a dead animal. That didn’t make him look any less crazy. “Percy,” Hazel said, “this is Octavian.” “The graecus!” Octavian announced. “How interesting.” “Uh, hi,” Percy said. “Are you killing small animals?” Octavian looked at the fuzzy thing in his hand and laughed. “No, no. Once upon a time, yes. We used to read the will of the gods by examining animal guts—chickens, goats, that sort of thing. Nowadays, we use these.” He tossed the fuzzy thing to Percy. It was a disemboweled teddy bear. Then Percy noticed that there was a whole pile of mutilated stuffed animals at the foot of Jupiter’s statue. “Seriously?” Percy asked. Octavian stepped off the dais. He was probably about eighteen, but so skinny and sickly pale, he could’ve passed for younger. At first he looked harmless, but as he got closer, Percy wasn’t so sure. Octavian’s eyes glittered with harsh curiosity, like he might gut Percy just as easily as a teddy bear if he thought he could learn something from it. Octavian narrowed his eyes. “You seem nervous.” “You remind me of someone,” Percy said. “I can’t remember who.” “Possibly my namesake, Octavian—Augustus Caesar. Everyone says I bear a remarkable resemblance.” Percy didn’t think that was it, but he couldn’t pin down the memory. “Why did you call me ‘the Greek’?” “I saw it in the auguries.” Octavian waved his knife at the pile of stuffing on the altar. “The message said: The Greek has arrived. Or possibly: The goose has cried. I’m thinking the first interpretation is correct. You seek to join the legion?” Hazel spoke for him. She told Octavian everything that had happened since they met at the tunnel—the gorgons, the fight at the river, the appearance of Juno, their conversation with Reyna. When she mentioned Juno, Octavian looked surprised. “Juno,” he mused. “We call her Juno Moneta. Juno the Warner. She appears in times of crisis, to counsel Rome about great threats.” He glanced at Percy, as if to say: like mysterious Greeks, for instance. “I hear the Feast of Fortuna is this week,” Percy said. “The gorgons warned there’d be an invasion on that day. Did you see that in your stuffing?” “Sadly, no.” Octavian sighed. “The will of the gods is hard to discern. And these days, my vision is even darker.” “Don’t you have…I don’t know,” Percy said, “an oracle or something?” “An oracle!” Octavian smiled. “What a cute idea. No, I’m afraid we’re fresh out of oracles. Now, if we’d gone questing for the Sibylline books, like I recommended—” “The Siba-what?” Percy asked. “Books of prophecy,” Hazel said, “which Octavian is obsessed with. Romans used to consult them when disasters happened. Most people believe they burned up when Rome fell.” “Some people believe that,” Octavian corrected. “Unfortunately our present leadership won’t authorize a quest to look for them—” “Because Reyna isn’t stupid,” Hazel said. “—so we have only a few remaining scraps from the books,” Octavian continued. “A few mysterious predictions, like these.” He nodded to the inscriptions on the marble floor. Percy stared at the lines of words, not really expecting to understand them. He almost choked. “That one.” He pointed, translating as he read aloud:“Seven half-bloods shall answer the call. To storm or fire the world must fall—” “Yes, yes.” Octavian finished it without looking: “An oath to keep with a final breath, and foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.” “I—I know that one.” Percy thought thunder was shaking the temple again. Then he realized his whole body was trembling. “That’s important.” Octavian arched an eyebrow. “Of course it’s important. We call it the Prophecy of Seven, but it’s several thousand years old. We don’t know what it means. Every time someone tries to interpret it…Well, Hazel can tell you. Bad things happen.” Hazel glared at him. “Just read the augury for Percy. Can he join the legion or not?” Percy could almost see Octavian’s mind working, calculating whether or not Percy would be useful. He held out his hand for Percy’s backpack. “That’s a beautiful specimen. May I?” Percy didn’t understand what he meant, but Octavian snatched the Bargain Mart panda pillow that was sticking out of the top of his pack. It was just a silly stuffed toy, but Percy had carried it a long way. He was kind of fond of it. Octavian turned toward the altar and raised his knife. “Hey!” Percy protested. Octavian slashed open the panda’s belly and poured its stuffing over the altar. He tossed the panda carcass aside, muttered a few words over the fluff, and turned with a big smile on his face. “Good news!” he said. “Percy may join the legion. We’ll assign him a cohort at evening muster. Tell Reyna that I approve.” Hazel’s shoulders relaxed. “Uh…great. Come on, Percy.” “Oh, and Hazel,” Octavian said. “I’m happy to welcome Percy into the legion. But when the election for praetor comes up, I hope you’ll remember—” “Jason isn’t dead,” Hazel snapped. “You’re the augur. You’re supposed to be looking for him!” “Oh, I am!” Octavian pointed at the pile of gutted stuffed animals. “I consult the gods every day! Alas, after eight months, I’ve found nothing. Of course, I’m still looking. But if Jason doesn’t return by the Feast of Fortuna, we must act. We can’t have a power vacuum any longer. I hope you’ll support me for praetor. It would mean so much to me.” Hazel clenched her fists. “Me. Support. You?” Octavian took off his toga, setting it and his knife on the altar. Percy noticed seven lines on Octavian’s arm—seven years of camp, Percy guessed. Octavian’s mark was a harp, the symbol of Apollo. “After all,” Octavian told Hazel, “I might be able to help you. It would be a shame if those awful rumors about you kept circulating…or, gods forbid, if they turned out to be true.” Percy slipped his hand into his pocket and grabbed his pen. This guy was blackmailing Hazel. That was obvious. One sign from Hazel, and Percy was ready to bust out Riptide and see how Octavian liked being at the other end of a blade. Hazel took a deep breath. Her knuckles were white. “I’ll think about it.” “Excellent,” Octavian said. “By the way, your brother is here.” Hazel stiffened. “My brother? Why?” Octavian shrugged. “Why does your brother do anything? He’s waiting for you at your father’s shrine. Just…ah, don’t invite him to stay too long. He has a disturbing effect on the others. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to keep searching for our poor lost friend, Jason. Nice to meet you, Percy.” Hazel stormed out of the pavilion, and Percy followed. He was sure he’d never been so glad to leave a temple in his life. As Hazel marched down the hill, she cursed in Latin. Percy didn’t understand all of it, but he got son of a gorgon, power-hungry snake, and a few choice suggestions about where Octavian could stick his knife. “I hate that guy,” she muttered in English. “If I had my way—” “He won’t really get elected praetor, will he?” Percy asked. “I wish I could be certain. Octavian has a lot of friends, most of them bought. The rest of the campers are afraid of him.” “Afraid of that skinny little guy?” “Don’t underestimate him. Reyna’s not so bad by herself, but if Octavian shares her power…” Hazel shuddered. “Let’s go see my brother. He’ll want to meet you.” Percy didn’t argue. He wanted to meet this mysterious brother, maybe learn something about Hazel’s background—who her dad was, what secret she was hiding. Percy couldn’t believe she’d done anything to be guilty about. She seemed too nice. But Octavian had acted like he had some first-class dirt on her. Hazel led Percy to a black crypt built into the side of the hill. Standing in front was a teenage boy in black jeans and an aviator jacket. “Hey,” Hazel called. “I’ve brought a friend.” The boy turned. Percy had another one of those weird flashes: like this was somebody he should know. The kid was almost as pale as Octavian, but with dark eyes and messy black hair. He didn’t look anything like Hazel. He wore a silver skull ring, a chain for a belt, and a black T-shirt with skull designs. At his side hung a pure-black sword. For a microsecond when he saw Percy, the boy seemed shocked—panicked even, like he’d been caught in a searchlight. “This is Percy Jackson,” Hazel said. “He’s a good guy. Percy, this is my brother, the son of Pluto.” The boy regained his composure and held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you,” he said. “I’m Nico di Angelo.” [image: ] AS HE MARCHED TO THE WAR GAMES, Frank replayed the day in his mind. He couldn’t believe how close he’d come to death. That morning on sentry duty, before Percy showed up, Frank had almost told Hazel his secret. The two of them had been standing for hours in the chilly fog, watching the commuter traffic on Highway 24. Hazel had been complaining about the cold. “I’d give anything to be warm,” she said, her teeth chattering. “I wish we had a fire.” Even with her armor on, she looked great. Frank liked the way her cinnamon-toast–colored hair curled around the edges of her helmet, and the way her chin dimpled when she frowned. She was tiny compared to Frank, which made him feel like a big clumsy ox. He wanted to put his arms around her to warm her up, but he’d never do that. She’d probably hit him, and he’d lose the only friend he had at camp. I could make a really impressive fire, he thought. Of course, it would only burn for a few minutes, and then I’d die.… It was scary that he even considered it. Hazel had that effect on him. Whenever she wanted something, he had the irrational urge to provide it. He wanted to be the old-fashioned knight riding to her rescue, which was stupid, as she was way more capable at everything than he was. He imagined what his grandmother would say: Frank Zhang riding to the rescue? Ha! He’d fall off his horse and break his neck. Hard to believe it had been only six weeks since he’d left his grandmother’s house—six weeks since his mom’s funeral. Everything had happened since then: wolves arriving at his grandmother’s door, the journey to Camp Jupiter, the weeks he’d spent in the Fifth Cohort trying not to be a complete failure. Through it all, he’d kept the half-burned piece of firewood wrapped in a cloth in his coat pocket. Keep it close, his grandmother had warned. As long as it is safe, you are safe. The problem was that it burned so easily. He remembered the trip south from Vancouver. When the temperature dropped below freezing near Mount Hood, Frank had brought out the piece of tinder and held it in his hands, imagining how nice it would be to have some fire. Immediately, the charred end blazed with a searing yellow flame. It lit up the night and warmed Frank to the bone, but he could feel his life slipping away, as if he were being consumed rather than the wood. He’d thrust the flame into a snowbank. For a horrible moment it kept burning. When it finally went out, Frank got his panic under control. He wrapped the piece of wood and put it back in his coat pocket, determined not to bring it out again. But he couldn’t forget it. It was as though someone had said, “Whatever you do, don’t think about that stick bursting into flame!” So of course, that’s all he thought about. On sentry duty with Hazel, he would try to take his mind off it. He loved spending time with her. He asked her about growing up in New Orleans, but she got edgy at his questions, so they made small talk instead. Just for fun, they tried to speak French to each other. Hazel had some Creole blood on her mother’s side. Frank had taken French in school. Neither of them was very fluent, and Louisiana French was so different from Canadian French it was almost impossible to converse. When Frank asked Hazel how her beef was feeling today, and she replied that his shoe was green, they decided to give up. Then Percy Jackson had arrived. Sure, Frank had seen kids fight monsters before. He’d fought plenty of them himself on his journey from Vancouver. But he’d never seen gorgons. He’d never seen a goddess in person. And the way Percy had controlled the Little Tiber—wow. Frank wished he had powers like that. He could still feel the gorgons’ claws pressing into his arms and smell their snaky breath—like dead mice and poison. If not for Percy, those grotesque hags would have carried him away. He’d be a pile of bones in the back of a Bargain Mart by now. After the incident at the river, Reyna had sent Frank to the armory, which had given him way too much time to think. While he polished swords, he remembered Juno, warning them to unleash Death. Unfortunately Frank had a pretty good idea of what the goddess meant. He had tried to hide his shock when Juno had appeared, but she looked exactly like his grandmother had described—right down to the goatskin cape. She chose your path years ago, Grandmother had told him. And it will not be easy. Frank glanced at his bow in the corner of the armory. He’d feel better if Apollo would claim him as a son. Frank had been sure his godly parent would speak up on his sixteenth birthday, which had passed two weeks ago. Sixteen was an important milestone for Romans. It had been Frank’s first birthday at camp. But nothing had happened. Now Frank hoped he would be claimed on the Feast of Fortuna, though from what Juno had said, they’d be in a battle for their lives on that day. His father had to be Apollo. Archery was the only thing Frank was good at. Years ago, his mother had told him that their family name, Zhang, meant “master of bows” in Chinese. That must have been a hint about his dad. Frank put down his polishing rags. He looked at the ceiling. “Please, Apollo, if you’re my dad, tell me. I want to be an archer like you.” “No, you don’t,” a voice grumbled. Frank jumped out of his seat. Vitellius, the Fifth Cohort’s Lar, was shimmering behind him. His full name was Gaius Vitellius Reticulus, but the other cohorts called him Vitellius the Ridiculous. “Hazel Levesque sent me to check on you,” Vitellius said, hiking up his sword belt. “Good thing, too. Look at the state of this armor!” Vitellius wasn’t one to talk. His toga was baggy, his tunic barely fit over his belly, and his scabbard fell off his belt every three seconds, but Frank didn’t bother pointing that out. “As for archers,” the ghost said, “they’re wimps! Back in my day, archery was a job for barbarians. A good Roman should be in the fray, gutting his enemy with spear and sword like a civilized man! That’s how we did it in the Punic Wars. Roman up, boy!” Frank sighed. “I thought you were in Caesar’s army.” “I was!” “Vitellius, Caesar was hundreds of years after the Punic Wars. You couldn’t have been alive that long.” “Questioning my honor?” Vitellius looked so mad, his purple aura glowed. He drew his ghostly gladius and yelled, “Take that!” He ran the sword, which was about as deadly as a laser pointer, through Frank’s chest a few times. “Ouch,” Frank said, just to be nice. Vitellius looked satisfied and put his sword away. “Perhaps you’ll think twice about doubting your elders next time! Now…it was your sixteenth birthday recently, wasn’t it?” Frank nodded. He wasn’t sure how Vitellius knew this, since Frank hadn’t told anyone except Hazel, but ghosts had ways of finding out secrets. Eavesdropping while invisible was probably one of them. “So that’s why you’re such a grumpy gladiator,” the Lar said. “Understandable. The sixteenth birthday is your day of manhood! Your godly parent should have claimed you, no doubt about it, even if with only a small omen. Perhaps he thought you were younger. You look younger, you know, with that pudgy baby face.”“Thanks for reminding me,” Frank muttered. “Yes, I remember my sixteenth,” Vitellius said happily. “Wonderful omen! A chicken in my underpants.” “Excuse me?” Vitellius puffed up with pride. “That’s right! I was at the river changing my clothes for my Liberalia. Rite of passage into manhood, you know. We did things properly back then. I’d taken off my childhood toga and was washing up to don the adult one. Suddenly, a pure-white chicken ran out of nowhere, dove into my loincloth, and ran off with it. I wasn’t wearing it at the time.” “That’s good,” Frank said. “And can I just say: Too much information?” “Mm.” Vitellius wasn’t listening. “That was the sign I was descended from Aesculapius, the god of medicine. I took my cognomen, my third name, Reticulus, because it meant undergarment, to remind me of the blessed day when a chicken stole my loincloth.” “So…your name means Mr. Underwear?” “Praise the gods! I became a surgeon in the legion, and the rest is history.” He spread his arms generously. “Don’t give up, boy. Maybe your father is running late. Most omens are not as dramatic as a chicken, of course. I knew a fellow once who got a dung beetle—” “Thanks, Vitellius,” Frank said. “But I have to finish polishing this armor—” “And the gorgon’s blood?” Frank froze. He hadn’t told anyone about that. As far as he knew, only Percy had seen him pocket the vials at the river, and they hadn’t had a chance to talk about it. “Come now,” Vitellius chided. “I’m a healer. I know the legends about gorgon’s blood. Show me the vials.” Reluctantly, Frank brought out the two ceramic flask she’d retrieved from the Little Tiber. Spoils of war were often left behind when a monster dissolved—sometimes a tooth, or a weapon, or even the monster’s entire head. Frank had known what the two vials were immediately. By tradition they belonged to Percy, who had killed the gorgons, but Frank couldn’t help thinking, What if I could use them? “Yes.” Vitellius studied the vials approvingly. “Blood takenfrom the right side of a gorgon’s body can cure any disease, even bring the dead back to life. The goddess Minerva once gave a vial of it to my divine ancestor, Aesculapius. But blood taken from the left side of a gorgon—instantly fatal. So, which is which?” Frank looked down at the vials. “I don’t know. They’re identical.” “Ha! But you’re hoping the right vial could solve your problem with the burned stick, eh? Maybe break your curse?” Frank was so stunned, he couldn’t talk. “Oh, don’t worry, boy.” The ghost chuckled. “I won’t tell anyone. I’m a Lar, a protector of the cohort! I wouldn’t do anything to endanger you.” “You stabbed me through the chest with your sword.” “Trust me, boy! I have sympathy for you, carrying the curse of that Argonaut.” “The ... what?” Vitellius waved away the question. “Don’t be modest. You’ve got ancient roots. Greek as well as Roman. It’s no wonder Juno—” He tilted his head, as if listening to a voice from above. His face went slack. His entire aura flickered green. “But I’ve said enough! At any rate, I’ll let you work out who gets the gorgon’s blood. I suppose that newcomer Percy could use it too, with his memory problem.” Frank wondered what Vitellius had been about to say and what had made him so scared, but he got the feeling that for once Vitellius was going to keep his mouth shut. He looked down at the two vials. He hadn’t even thought of Percy’s needing them. He felt guilty that he’d been intending to use the blood for himself. “Yeah. Of course. He should have it.” “Ah, but if you want my advice…” Vitellius looked up nervously again. “You should both wait on that gorgon blood. If my sources are right, you’re going to need it on your quest.” “Quest?” The doors of the armory flew open. Reyna stormed in with her metal greyhounds. Vitellius vanished. He might have liked chickens, but he did not like the praetor’s dogs. “Frank.” Reyna looked troubled. “That’s enough with the armor. Go find Hazel. Get Percy Jackson down here. He’s been up there too long. I don’t want Octavian…” She hesitated. “Just get Percy down here.” So Frank had run all the way to Temple Hill. Walking back, Percy had asked tons of questions about Hazel’s brother, Nico, but Frank didn’t know that much. “He’s okay,” Frank said. “He’s not like Hazel—” “How do you mean?” Percy asked. “Oh, um…” Frank coughed. He’d meant that Hazel was better looking and nicer, but he decided not to say that. “Nico is kind of mysterious. He makes everybody else nervous, being the son of Pluto, and all.” “But not you?” Frank shrugged. “Pluto’s cool. It’s not his fault he runs the Underworld. He just got bad luck when the gods were dividing up the world, you know? Jupiter got the sky, Neptune got the sea, and Pluto got the shaft.” “Death doesn’t scare you?” Frank almost wanted to laugh. Not at all! Got a match? Instead he said, “Back in the old times, like the Greek times, when Pluto was called Hades, he was more of a death god. When he became Roman, he got more…I don’t know, respectable. He became the god of wealth, too. Everything under the earth belongs to him. So I don’t think of him as being real scary.” Percy scratched his head. “How does a god become Roman? If he’s Greek, wouldn’t he stay Greek?” Frank walked a few steps, thinking about that. Vitellius would’ve given Percy an hour-long lecture on the subject, probably with a PowerPoint presentation, but Frank took his best shot. “The way Romans saw it, they adopted the Greek stuff and perfected it.” Percy made a sour face. “Perfected it? Like there was something wrong with it?” Frank remembered what Vitellius had said: You’ve got ancient roots. Greek as well as Roman. His grandmother had said something similar. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Rome was more successful than Greece. They made this huge empire. The gods became a bigger deal in Roman times—more powerful and widely known. That’s why they’re still around today. So many civilizations base themselves on Rome. The gods changed to Roman because that’s where the center of power was. Jupiter was…well, more responsible as a Roman god than he had been when he was Zeus. Mars became a lot more important and disciplined.” “And Juno became a hippie bag lady,” Percy noted. “So you’re saying the old Greek gods—they just changed permanently to Roman? There’s nothing left of the Greek?” “Uh…” Frank looked around to make sure there were no campers or Lares nearby, but the main gates were still a hundred yards away. “That’s a sensitive topic. Some people say Greek influence is still around, like it’s still a part of the gods’ personalities. I’ve heard stories of demigods occasionally leaving Camp Jupiter. They reject Roman training and try to follow the older Greek style—like being solo heroes instead of working as a team the way the legion does. And back in the ancient days, when Rome fell, the eastern half of the empire survived—the Greek half.” Percy stared at him. “I didn’t know that.” “It was called Byzan