Main Heroes of Olympus - The Blood of Olympus

Heroes of Olympus - The Blood of Olympus

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2014
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Penguin Books Ltd
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2 comments
 
A random guy on the internet
This was pretty good.
05 May 2021 (07:03) 
Nobody
Nobody liked this.









But really it's a good book.
05 May 2021 (07:04) 

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Contents
I: Jason
II: Jason
III: Jason
IV: Jason
V: Reyna
VI: Reyna
VII: Reyna
VIII: Reyna
IX: Leo
X: Leo
XI: Leo
XII: Leo
XIII: Nico
XIV: Nico
XV: Nico
XVI: Nico
XVII: Piper
XVIII: Piper
XIX: Piper
XX: Piper

XXI: Reyna
XXII: Reyna
XXIII: Reyna
XXIV: Reyna
XXV: Jason
XXVI: Jason
XXVII: Jason
XXVIII: Jason
XXIX: Nico
XXX: Nico
XXXI: Nico
XXXII: Nico
XXXIII: Leo
XXXIV: Leo
XXXV: Leo
XXXVI: Leo
XXXVII: Reyna
XXXVIII: Reyna
XXXIX: Reyna
XL: Reyna
XLI: Piper
XLII: Piper
XLIII: Piper
XLIV: Piper
XLV: Nico

XLVI: Nico
XLVII: Nico
XLVIII: Nico
XLIX: Jason
L: Jason
LI: Jason
LII: Jason
LIII: Nico
LIV: Nico
LV: Nico
LVI: Nico
LVII: Piper
LVIII: Leo
Glossary

Rick Riordan is the creator of the award-winning, bestselling Percy Jackson
series and the thrilling Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus series.
According to Rick, the idea for the Percy Jackson stories was inspired by
his son Haley. But rumour has it that Camp Half-Blood actually exists, and
Rick spends his summers there recording the adventures of young
demigods. Some believe that, to avoid a mass panic among the mortal
population, he was forced to swear on the River Styx to present Percy
Jackson’s story as fiction.
Rick lives in Boston (apart from his summers on Half-Blood Hill) with his
wife and two sons.
To learn more about him and his books, visit:
www.rickriordanmythmaster.co.uk

To my wonderful readers.
Sorry about that apology for that last cliffhanger.
I’ll try to avoid cliffhangers in this book.
Well, except for maybe a few small ones … because I love you guys.

Books by Rick Riordan
The Percy Jackson series
PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF
PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS
PERCY JACKSON AND THE TITAN’S CURSE
PERCY JACKSON AND THE BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH
PERCY JACKSON AND THE LAST OLYMPIAN
THE DEMIGOD FILES
PERCY JACKSON AND THE GREEK GODS

The Heroes of Olympus series
THE LOST HERO
THE SON OF NEPTUNE
THE MARK OF ATHENA
THE HOUSE OF HADES
THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS
THE DEMIGOD DIARIES

The Kane Chronicles series
THE RED PYRAMID
THE THRONE;  OF FIRE
THE SERPENT’S SHADOW
THE KANE CHRONICLES: SURVIVAL GUIDE

Percy Jackson/Kane Chronicles Adventures (ebooks)
THE SON OF SOBEK
THE STAFF OF SERAPIS

Graphic novels
PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF
PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS
PERCY JACKSON AND THE TITAN’S CURSE
THE KANE CHRONICLES: THE RED PYRAMID
HEROES OF OLYMPUS: THE LOST HERO

www.rickriordanmythmaster.co.uk

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

I

Jason

JASON HATED BEING OLD.
His joints hurt. His legs shook. As he tried to climb the hill, his lungs
rattled like a box of rocks.
He couldn’t see his face, thank goodness, but his fingers were gnarled
and bony. Bulging blue veins webbed the backs of his hands.
He even had that old-man smell – mothballs and chicken soup. How was
that possible? He’d gone from sixteen to seventy-five in a matter of
seconds, but the old-man smell happened instantly, like Boom.
Congratulations! You stink!
‘Almost there.’ Piper smiled at him. ‘You’re doing great.’
Easy for her to say. Piper and Annabeth were disguised as lovely Greek
serving maidens. Even in their white sleeveless gowns and laced sandals,
they had no trouble navigating the rocky path.
Piper’s mahogany hair was pinned up in a braided spiral. Silver bracelets
adorned her arms. She resembled an ancient statue of her mom, Aphrodite,
which Jason found a little intimidating.
Dating a beautiful girl was nerve-racking enough. Dating a girl whose
mom was the goddess of love … well, Jason was always afraid he’d do
something unromantic and Piper’s mom would frown down from Mount
Olympus and change him into a feral hog.
Jason glanced uphill. The summit was still a hundred yards above.
‘Worst idea ever.’ He leaned against a cedar tree and wiped his forehead.
‘Hazel’s magic is too good. If I have to fight, I’ll be useless.’

‘It won’t come to that,’ Annabeth promised. She looked uncomfortable in
her serving-maiden outfit. She kept hunching her shoulders to keep the
dress from slipping. Her pinned-up blonde bun had come undone in the
back and her hair dangled like long spider legs. Knowing her hatred of
spiders, Jason decided not to mention that.
‘We infiltrate the palace,’ she said. ‘We get the information we need, and
we get out.’
Piper set down her amphora, the tall ceramic wine jar in which her sword
was hidden. ‘We can rest for a second. Catch your breath, Jason.’
From her waist cord hung her cornucopia – the magic horn of plenty.
Tucked somewhere in the folds of her dress was her knife, Katoptris. Piper
didn’t look dangerous, but if the need arose she could dual-wield Celestial
bronze blades or shoot her enemies in the face with ripe mangoes.
Annabeth slung her own amphora off her shoulder. She, too, had a
concealed sword, but even without a visible weapon she looked deadly. Her
stormy grey eyes scanned the surroundings, alert for any threat. If any dude
asked Annabeth for a drink, Jason figured she was more likely to kick the
guy in the bifurcum.
He tried to steady his breathing.
Below them, Afales Bay glittered, the water so blue it might’ve been
dyed with food colouring. A few hundred yards offshore, the Argo II rested
at anchor. Its white sails looked no bigger than postage stamps, its ninety
oars like toothpicks. Jason imagined his friends on deck following his
progress, taking turns with Leo’s spyglass, trying not to laugh as they
watched Grandpa Jason hobble uphill.
‘Stupid Ithaca,’ he muttered.
He supposed the island was pretty enough. A spine of forested hills
twisted down its centre. Chalky white slopes plunged into the sea. Inlets
formed rocky beaches and harbours where red-roofed houses and white
stucco churches nestled against the shoreline.
The hills were dotted with poppies, crocuses and wild cherry trees. The
breeze smelled of blooming myrtle. All very nice – except the temperature

was about a hundred and five degrees. The air was as steamy as a Roman
bathhouse.
It would’ve been easy for Jason to control the winds and fly to the top of
the hill, but nooo. For the sake of stealth, he had to struggle along as an old
dude with bad knees and chicken-soup stink.
He thought about his last climb, two weeks ago, when Hazel and he had
faced the bandit Sciron on the cliffs of Croatia. At least then Jason had been
at full strength. What they were about to face would be much worse than a
bandit.
‘You sure this is the right hill?’ he asked. ‘Seems kind of – I don’t know
– quiet.’
Piper studied the ridgeline. Braided in her hair was a bright blue harpy
feather – a souvenir from last night’s attack. The feather didn’t exactly go
with her disguise, but Piper had earned it, defeating an entire flock of
demon chicken ladies by herself while she was on duty. She downplayed
the accomplishment, but Jason could tell she felt good about it. The feather
was a reminder that she wasn’t the same girl she’d been last winter, when
they’d first arrived at Camp Half-Blood.
‘The ruins are up there,’ she promised. ‘I saw them in Katoptris’s blade.
And you heard what Hazel said. “The biggest –” ’
‘ “The biggest gathering of evil spirits I’ve ever sensed,” ’ Jason recalled.
‘Yeah, sounds awesome.’
After battling through the underground temple of Hades, the last thing
Jason wanted was to deal with more evil spirits. But the fate of the quest
was at stake. The crew of the Argo II had a big decision to make. If they
chose wrong, they would fail, and the entire world would be destroyed.
Piper’s blade, Hazel’s magical senses and Annabeth’s instincts all agreed
– the answer lay here in Ithaca, at the ancient palace of Odysseus, where a
horde of evil spirits had gathered to await Gaia’s orders. The plan was to
sneak among them, learn what was going on and decide the best course of
action. Then get out, preferably alive.
Annabeth re-adjusted her golden belt. ‘I hope our disguises hold up. The
suitors were nasty customers when they were alive. If they find out we’re

demigods –’
‘Hazel’s magic will work,’ Piper said.
Jason tried to believe that.
The suitors: a hundred of the greediest, evilest cut-throats who’d ever
lived. When Odysseus, the Greek king of Ithaca, went missing after the
Trojan War, this mob of B-list princes had invaded his palace and refused to
leave, each one hoping to marry Queen Penelope and take over the
kingdom. Odysseus managed to return in secret and slaughter them all –
your basic happy homecoming. But, if Piper’s visions were right, the suitors
were now back, haunting the place where they’d died.
Jason couldn’t believe he was about to visit the actual palace of Odysseus
– one of the most famous Greek heroes of all time. Then again, this whole
quest had been one mind-blowing event after another. Annabeth herself had
just come back from the eternal abyss of Tartarus. Given that, Jason decided
maybe he shouldn’t complain about being an old man.
‘Well …’ He steadied himself with his walking stick. ‘If I look as old as I
feel, my disguise must be perfect. Let’s get going.’
As they climbed, sweat trickled down his neck. His calves ached. Despite
the heat, he began to shiver. And, try as he might, he couldn’t stop thinking
about his recent dreams.
Ever since the House of Hades, they’d become more vivid.
Sometimes Jason stood in the underground temple of Epirus, the giant
Clytius looming over him, speaking in a chorus of disembodied voices: It
took all of you together to defeat me. What will you do when the Earth
Mother opens her eyes?
Other times Jason found himself at the crest of Half-Blood Hill. Gaia the
Earth Mother rose from the ground – a swirling figure of soil, leaves and
stones.
Poor child. Her voice resonated across the landscape, shaking the
bedrock under Jason’s feet. Your father is first among the gods, yet you are
always second best – to your Roman comrades, to your Greek friends, even
to your family. How will you prove yourself?

His worst dream started in the courtyard of the Sonoma Wolf House.
Before him stood the goddess Juno, glowing with the radiance of molten
silver.
Your life belongs to me, her voice thundered. An appeasement from Zeus.
Jason knew he shouldn’t look, but he couldn’t close his eyes as Juno
went supernova, revealing her true godly form. Pain seared Jason’s mind.
His body burned away in layers like an onion.
Then the scene changed. Jason was still at the Wolf House, but now he
was a little boy – no more than two years old. A woman knelt before him,
her lemony scent so familiar. Her features were watery and indistinct, but
he knew her voice: bright and brittle, like the thinnest layer of ice over a
fast stream.
I will be back for you, dearest, she said. I will see you soon.
Every time Jason woke up from that nightmare, his face was beaded with
sweat. His eyes stung with tears.
Nico di Angelo had warned them: the House of Hades would stir their
worst memories, make them see things and hear things from the past. Their
ghosts would become restless.
Jason had hoped that particular ghost would stay away, but every night
the dream got worse. Now he was climbing to the ruins of a palace where
an army of ghosts had gathered.
That doesn’t mean she’ll be there, Jason told himself.
But his hands wouldn’t stop trembling. Every step seemed harder than
the last.
‘Almost there,’ Annabeth said. ‘Let’s –’
BOOM! The hillside rumbled. Somewhere over the ridge, a crowd roared
in approval, like spectators in a coliseum. The sound made Jason’s skin
crawl. Not so long ago, he’d fought for his life in the Roman Colosseum
before a cheering ghostly audience. He wasn’t anxious to repeat the
experience.
‘What was that explosion?’ he wondered.
‘Don’t know,’ Piper said. ‘But it sounds like they’re having fun. Let’s go
make some dead friends.’

II

Jason

NATURALLY, the situation was worse than Jason expected.
It wouldn’t have been any fun otherwise.
Peering through the olive bushes at the top of the rise, he saw what
looked like an out-of-control zombie frat party.
The ruins themselves weren’t that impressive: a few stone walls, a weedchoked central courtyard, a dead-end stairwell chiselled into the rock. Some
plywood sheets covered a pit and a metal scaffold supported a cracked
archway.
But superimposed over the ruins was another layer of reality – a spectral
mirage of the palace as it must have appeared in its heyday. Whitewashed
stucco walls lined with balconies rose three storeys high. Columned
porticoes faced the central atrium, which had a huge fountain and bronze
braziers. At a dozen banquet tables, ghouls laughed and ate and pushed one
another around.
Jason had expected about a hundred spirits, but twice that many were
milling about, chasing spectral serving girls, smashing plates and cups, and
basically making a nuisance of themselves.
Most looked like Lares from Camp Jupiter – transparent purple wraiths in
tunics and sandals. A few revellers had decayed bodies with grey flesh,
matted clumps of hair and nasty wounds. Others seemed to be regular living
mortals – some in togas, some in modern business suits or army fatigues.
Jason even spotted one guy in a purple Camp Jupiter T-shirt and Roman
legionnaire armour.

In the centre of the atrium, a grey-skinned ghoul in a tattered Greek tunic
paraded through the crowd, holding a marble bust over his head like a
sports trophy. The other ghosts cheered and slapped him on the back. As the
ghoul got closer, Jason noticed that he had an arrow in his throat, the
feathered shaft sprouting from his Adam’s apple. Even more disturbing: the
bust he was holding … was that Zeus?
It was hard to be sure. Most Greek god statues looked similar. But the
bearded, glowering face reminded Jason very much of the giant Hippie
Zeus in Cabin One at Camp Half-Blood.
‘Our next offering!’ the ghoul shouted, his voice buzzing from the arrow
in his throat. ‘Let us feed the Earth Mother!’
The partiers yelled and pounded their cups. The ghoul made his way to
the central fountain. The crowd parted, and Jason realized the fountain
wasn’t filled with water. From the three-foot-tall pedestal, a geyser of sand
spewed upward, arcing into an umbrella-shaped curtain of white particles
before spilling into the circular basin.
The ghoul heaved the marble bust into the fountain. As soon as Zeus’s
head passed through the shower of sand, the marble disintegrated like it was
going through a wood chipper. The sand glittered gold, the colour of ichor –
godly blood. Then the entire mountain rumbled with a muffled BOOM, as if
belching after a meal.
The dead partygoers roared with approval.
‘Any more statues?’ the ghoul shouted to the crowd. ‘No? Then I guess
we’ll have to wait for some real gods to sacrifice!’
His comrades laughed and applauded as the ghoul plopped himself down
at the nearest feast table.
Jason clenched his walking stick. ‘That guy just disintegrated my dad.
Who does he think he is?’
‘I’m guessing that’s Antinous,’ said Annabeth, ‘one of the suitors’
leaders. If I remember right, it was Odysseus who shot him through the
neck with that arrow.’
Piper winced. ‘You’d think that would keep a guy down. What about all
the others? Why are there so many?’

‘I don’t know,’ Annabeth said. ‘Newer recruits for Gaia, I guess. Some
must’ve come back to life before we closed the Doors of Death. Some are
just spirits.’
‘Some are ghouls,’ Jason said. ‘The ones with the gaping wounds and the
grey skin, like Antinous … I’ve fought their kind before.’
Piper tugged at her blue harpy feather. ‘Can they be killed?’
Jason remembered a quest he’d taken for Camp Jupiter years ago in San
Bernardino. ‘Not easily. They’re strong and fast and intelligent. Also, they
eat human flesh.’
‘Fantastic,’ Annabeth muttered. ‘I don’t see any option except to stick to
the plan. Split up, infiltrate, find out why they’re here. If things go bad –’
‘We use the backup plan,’ Piper said.
Jason hated the backup plan.
Before they left the ship, Leo had given each of them an emergency flare
the size of a birthday candle. Supposedly, if they tossed one in the air, it
would shoot upward in a streak of white phosphorus, alerting the Argo II
that the team was in trouble. At that point, Jason and the girls would have a
few seconds to take cover before the ship’s catapults fired on their position,
engulfing the palace in Greek fire and bursts of Celestial bronze shrapnel.
Not the safest plan, but at least Jason had the satisfaction of knowing that
he could call an air strike on this noisy mob of dead guys if the situation got
dicey. Of course, that was assuming he and his friends could get away. And
assuming Leo’s doomsday candles didn’t go off by accident – Leo’s
inventions sometimes did that – in which case the weather would get much
hotter, with a ninety percent chance of fiery apocalypse.
‘Be careful down there,’ he told Piper and Annabeth.
Piper crept around the left side of the ridge. Annabeth went right. Jason
pulled himself up with his walking stick and hobbled towards the ruins.
He flashed back to the last time he’d plunged into a mob of evil spirits, in
the House of Hades. If it hadn’t been for Frank Zhang and Nico di Angelo
…
Gods … Nico.

Over the past few days, every time Jason sacrificed a portion of a meal to
Jupiter, he prayed to his dad to help Nico. That kid had gone through so
much, and yet he had volunteered for the most difficult job: transporting the
Athena Parthenos statue to Camp Half-Blood. If he didn’t succeed, the
Roman and Greek demigods would slaughter each other. Then, no matter
what happened in Greece, the Argo II would have no home to return to.
Jason passed through the palace’s ghostly gateway. He realized just in
time that a section of mosaic floor in front of him was an illusion covering a
ten-foot-deep excavation pit. He sidestepped it and continued into the
courtyard.
The two levels of reality reminded him of the Titan stronghold on Mount
Othrys – a disorienting maze of black marble walls that randomly melted
into shadow and solidified again. At least during that fight Jason had had a
hundred legionnaires at his side. Now all he had was an old man’s body, a
stick and two friends in slinky dresses.
Forty feet ahead of him, Piper moved through the crowd, smiling and
filling wineglasses for the ghostly revellers. If she was afraid, she didn’t
show it. So far the ghosts weren’t paying her any special attention. Hazel’s
magic must have been working.
Over on the right, Annabeth collected empty plates and goblets. She
wasn’t smiling.
Jason remembered the talk he’d had with Percy before leaving the ship.
Percy had stayed aboard to watch for threats from the sea, but he hadn’t
liked the idea of Annabeth going on this expedition without him –
especially since it would be the first time they were apart since returning
from Tartarus.
He’d pulled Jason aside. ‘Hey, man … Annabeth would kill me if I
suggested she needed anybody to protect her.’
Jason laughed. ‘Yeah, she would.’
‘But look out for her, okay?’
Jason squeezed his friend’s shoulder. ‘I’ll make sure she gets back to you
safely.’
Now Jason wondered if he could keep that promise.

He reached the edge of the crowd.
A raspy voice cried, ‘IROS!’
Antinous, the ghoul with the arrow in his throat, was staring right at him.
‘Is that you, you old beggar?’
Hazel’s magic did its work. Cold air rippled across Jason’s face as the
Mist subtly altered his appearance, showing the suitors what they expected
to see.
‘That’s me!’ Jason said. ‘Iros!’
A dozen more ghosts turned towards him. Some scowled and gripped the
hilts of their glowing purple swords. Too late, Jason wondered if Iros was
an enemy of theirs, but he’d already committed to the part.
He hobbled forward, putting on his best cranky old man expression.
‘Guess I’m late to the party. I hope you saved me some food?’
One of the ghosts sneered in disgust. ‘Ungrateful old panhandler. Should
I kill him, Antinous?’
Jason’s neck muscles tightened.
Antinous regarded him for three counts, then chuckled. ‘I’m in a good
mood today. Come, Iros, join me at my table.’
Jason didn’t have much choice. He sat across from Antinous while more
ghosts crowded around, leering as if they expected to see a particularly
vicious arm-wrestling contest.
Up close, Antinous’s eyes were solid yellow. His lips stretched paper-thin
over wolfish teeth. At first, Jason thought the ghoul’s curly dark hair was
disintegrating. Then he realized a steady stream of dirt was trickling from
Antinous’s scalp, spilling over his shoulders. Clods of mud filled the old
sword gashes in the ghoul’s grey skin. More dirt spilled from the base of the
arrow wound in his throat.
The power of Gaia, Jason thought. The earth is holding this guy together.
Antinous slid a golden goblet and a platter of food across the table. ‘I
didn’t expect to see you here, Iros. But I suppose even a beggar can sue for
retribution. Drink. Eat.’
Thick red liquid sloshed in the goblet. On the plate sat a steaming brown
lump of mystery meat.

Jason’s stomach rebelled. Even if ghoul food didn’t kill him, his
vegetarian girlfriend probably wouldn’t kiss him for a month.
He recalled what Notus the South Wind had told him: A wind that blows
aimlessly is no good to anyone.
Jason’s entire career at Camp Jupiter had been built on careful choices.
He mediated between demigods, listened to all sides of an argument, found
compromises. Even when he chafed against Roman traditions, he thought
before he acted. He wasn’t impulsive.
Notus had warned him that such hesitation would kill him. Jason had to
stop deliberating and take what he wanted.
If he was an ungrateful beggar, he had to act like one.
He ripped off a chunk of meat with his fingers and stuffed it in his mouth.
He guzzled some red liquid, which thankfully tasted like watered-down
wine, not blood or poison. Jason fought the urge to gag, but he didn’t keel
over or explode.
‘Yum!’ He wiped his mouth. ‘Now tell me about this … what did you
call it? Retribution? Where do I sign up?’
The ghosts laughed. One pushed his shoulder and Jason was alarmed that
he could actually feel it.
At Camp Jupiter, Lares had no physical substance. Apparently these
spirits did – which meant more enemies who could beat, stab or decapitate
him.
Antinous leaned forward. ‘Tell me, Iros, what do you have to offer? We
don’t need you to run messages for us like in the old days. Certainly you
aren’t a fighter. As I recall, Odysseus crushed your jaw and tossed you into
the pigsty.’
Jason’s neurons fired. Iros … the old man who’d run messages for the
suitors in exchange for scraps of food. Iros had been sort of like their pet
homeless person. When Odysseus came home, disguised as a beggar, Iros
thought the new guy was moving in on his territory. The two had started
arguing …
‘You made Iros –’ Jason hesitated. ‘You made me fight Odysseus. You
bet money on it. Even when Odysseus took off his shirt and you saw how

muscular he was … you still made me fight him. You didn’t care if I lived
or died!’
Antinous bared his pointed teeth. ‘Of course I didn’t care. I still don’t!
But you’re here, so Gaia must have had a reason to allow you back into the
mortal world. Tell me, why are you worthy of a share in our spoils?’
‘What spoils?’
Antinous spread his hands. ‘The entire world, my friend. The first time
we met here, we were only after Odysseus’s land, his money and his wife.’
‘Especially his wife!’ A bald ghost in ragged clothes elbowed Jason in
the ribs. ‘That Penelope was a hot little honey cake!’
Jason caught a glimpse of Piper serving drinks at the next table. She
discreetly put her finger to her mouth in a gag me gesture, then went back
to flirting with dead guys.
Antinous sneered. ‘Eurymachus, you whining coward. You never stood a
chance with Penelope. I remember you blubbering and pleading for your
life with Odysseus, blaming everything on me!’
‘Lot of good it did me.’ Eurymachus lifted his tattered shirt, revealing an
inch-wide hole in the middle of his spectral chest. ‘Odysseus shot me in the
heart, just because I wanted to marry his wife!’
‘At any rate …’ Antinous turned to Jason. ‘We have gathered now for a
much bigger prize. Once Gaia destroys the gods, we will divide up the
remnants of the mortal world!’
‘Dibs on London!’ yelled a ghoul at the next table.
‘Montreal!’ shouted another.
‘Duluth!’ yelled a third, which momentarily stopped the conversation as
the other ghosts gave him confused looks.
The meat and wine turned to lead in Jason’s stomach. ‘What about the
rest of these … guests? I count at least two hundred. Half of them are new
to me.’
Antinous’s yellow eyes gleamed. ‘All of them are suitors for Gaia’s
favour. All have claims and grievances against the gods or their pet heroes.
That scoundrel over there is Hippias, former tyrant of Athens. He got

deposed and sided with the Persians to attack his own countrymen. No
morals whatsoever. He’d do anything for power.’
‘Thank you!’ called Hippias.
‘That rogue with the turkey leg in his mouth,’ Antinous continued, ‘that’s
Hasdrubal of Carthage. He has a grudge to settle with Rome.’
‘Mhhmm,’ said the Carthaginian.
‘And Michael Varus –’
Jason choked. ‘Who?’
Over by the sand fountain, the dark-haired guy in the purple T-shirt and
legionnaire armour turned to face them. His outline was blurred, smoky and
indistinct, so Jason guessed he was some form of spirit, but the legion tattoo
on his forearm was clear enough: the letters SPQR, the double-faced head of
the god Janus and six score marks for years of service. On his breastplate
hung the badge of praetorship and the emblem of the Fifth Cohort.
Jason had never met Michael Varus. The infamous praetor had died in the
1980s. Still, Jason’s skin crawled when he met Varus’s gaze. Those sunken
eyes seemed to bore right through Jason’s disguise.
Antinous waved dismissively. ‘He’s a Roman demigod. Lost his legion’s
eagle in … Alaska, was it? Doesn’t matter. Gaia lets him hang around. He
insists he has some insight into defeating Camp Jupiter. But you, Iros – you
still haven’t answered my question. Why should you be welcome among
us?’
Varus’s dead eyes had unnerved Jason. He could feel the Mist thinning
around him, reacting to his uncertainty.
Suddenly Annabeth appeared at Antinous’s shoulder. ‘More wine, my
lord? Oops!’
She spilled the contents of a silver pitcher down the back of Antinous’s
neck.
‘Gahh!’ The ghoul arched his spine. ‘Foolish girl! Who let you back from
Tartarus?’
‘A Titan, my lord.’ Annabeth dipped her head apologetically. ‘May I
bring you some moist towelettes? Your arrow is dripping.’
‘Begone!’

Annabeth caught Jason’s eye – a silent message of support – then she
disappeared in the crowd.
The ghoul wiped himself off, giving Jason a chance to collect his
thoughts.
He was Iros … former messenger of the suitors. Why would he be here?
Why should they accept him?
He picked up the nearest steak knife and stabbed it into the table, making
the ghosts around him jump.
‘Why should you welcome me?’ Jason growled. ‘Because I’m still
running messages, you stupid wretches! I’ve just come from the House of
Hades to see what you’re up to!’
That last part was true, and it seemed to give Antinous pause. The ghoul
glared at him, wine still dripping from the arrow shaft in his throat. ‘You
expect me to believe Gaia sent you – a beggar – to check up on us?’
Jason laughed. ‘I was among the last to leave Epirus before the Doors of
Death were closed! I saw the chamber where Clytius stood guard under a
domed ceiling tiled with tombstones. I walked the jewel-and-bone floors of
the Necromanteion!’
That was also true. Around the table, ghosts shifted and muttered.
‘So, Antinous …’ Jason jabbed a finger at the ghoul. ‘Maybe you should
explain to me why you’re worthy of Gaia’s favour. All I see is a crowd of
lazy, dawdling dead folk enjoying themselves and not helping the war
effort. What should I tell the Earth Mother?’
From the corner of his eye, Jason saw Piper flash him an approving
smile. Then she returned her attention to a glowing purple Greek dude who
was trying to make her sit on his lap.
Antinous wrapped his hand around the steak knife Jason had impaled in
the table. He pulled it free and studied the blade. ‘If you come from Gaia,
you must know we are here under orders. Porphyrion decreed it.’ Antinous
ran the knife blade across his palm. Instead of blood, dry dirt spilled from
the cut. ‘You do know Porphyrion … ?’
Jason struggled to keep his nausea under control. He remembered
Porphyrion just fine from their battle at the Wolf House. ‘The giant king –

green skin, forty feet tall, white eyes, hair braided with weapons. Of course
I know him. He’s a lot more impressive than you.’
He decided not to mention that the last time he’d seen the giant king,
Jason had blasted him in the head with lightning.
For once, Antinous looked speechless, but his bald ghost friend
Eurymachus put an arm around Jason’s shoulders.
‘Now, now, friend!’ Eurymachus smelled like sour wine and burning
electrical wires. His ghostly touch made Jason’s ribcage tingle. ‘I’m sure we
didn’t mean to question your credentials! It’s just, well, if you’ve spoken
with Porphyrion in Athens, you know why we’re here. I assure you, we’re
doing exactly as he ordered!’
Jason tried to mask his surprise. Porphyrion in Athens.
Gaia had promised to pull up the gods by their roots. Chiron, Jason’s
mentor at Camp Half-Blood, had assumed that meant that the giants would
try to rouse the earth goddess at the original Mount Olympus. But now …
‘The Acropolis,’ Jason said. ‘The most ancient temples to the gods, in the
middle of Athens. That’s where Gaia will wake.’
‘Of course!’ Eurymachus laughed. The wound in his chest made a
popping sound, like a porpoise’s blowhole. ‘And, to get there, those
meddlesome demigods will have to travel by sea, eh? They know it’s too
dangerous to fly over land.’
‘Which means they’ll have to pass this island,’ Jason said.
Eurymachus nodded eagerly. He removed his arm from Jason’s shoulders
and dipped his finger in his wineglass. ‘At that point, they’ll have to make a
choice, eh?’
On the tabletop, he traced a coastline, red wine glowing unnaturally
against the wood. He drew Greece like a mis-shapen hourglass – a large
dangly blob for the northern mainland, then another blob below it, almost as
large – the big chunk of land known as the Peloponnese. Cutting between
them was a narrow line of sea – the Straits of Corinth.
Jason hardly needed a picture. He and the rest of the crew had spent the
last day at sea studying maps.

‘The most direct route,’ Eurymachus said, ‘would be due east from here,
across the Straits of Corinth. But if they try to go that way –’
‘Enough,’ Antinous snapped. ‘You have a loose tongue, Eurymachus.’
The ghost looked offended. ‘I wasn’t going to tell him everything! Just
about the Cyclopes armies massed on either shore. And the raging storm
spirits in the air. And those vicious sea monsters Keto sent to infest the
waters. And of course if the ship got as far as Delphi –’
‘Idiot!’ Antinous lunged across the table and grabbed the ghost’s wrist. A
thin crust of dirt spread from the ghoul’s hand, straight up Eurymachus’s
spectral arm.
‘No!’ Eurymachus yelped. ‘Please! I – I only meant –’
The ghost screamed as the dirt covered his body like a shell, then cracked
apart, leaving nothing but a pile of dust. Eurymachus was gone.
Antinous sat back and brushed off his hands. The other suitors at the
table watched him in wary silence.
‘Apologies, Iros.’ The ghoul smiled coldly. ‘All you need to know is this
– the ways to Athens are well guarded, just as we promised. The demigods
would either have to risk the straits, which are impossible, or sail around the
entire Peloponnese, which is hardly much safer. In any event, it’s unlikely
they will survive long enough to make that choice. Once they reach Ithaca,
we will know. We will stop them here and Gaia will see how valuable we
are. You can take that message back to Athens.’
Jason’s heart hammered against his sternum. He’d never seen anything
like the shell of earth that Antinous had summoned to destroy Eurymachus.
He didn’t want to find out if that power worked on demigods.
Also, Antinous sounded confident that he could detect the Argo II.
Hazel’s magic seemed to be obscuring the ship so far, but there was no
telling how long that would last.
Jason had the intel they’d come for. Their goal was Athens. The safer
route, or at least the not impossible route, was around the southern coast.
Today was 20 July. They only had twelve days before Gaia planned to
wake, on 1 August, the ancient Feast of Hope.
Jason and his friends needed to leave while they had the chance.

But something else bothered him – a cold sense of foreboding, as if he
hadn’t heard the worst news yet.
Eurymachus had mentioned Delphi. Jason had secretly hoped to visit the
ancient site of Apollo’s Oracle, maybe get some insight into his personal
future, but if the place had been overrun by monsters …
He pushed aside his plate of cold food. ‘Sounds like everything is under
control. For your sake, Antinous, I hope so. These demigods are
resourceful. They closed the Doors of Death. We wouldn’t want them
sneaking past you, perhaps getting help from Delphi.’
Antinous chuckled. ‘No risk of that. Delphi is no longer in Apollo’s
control.’
‘I – I see. And if the demigods sail the long way around the
Peloponnese?’
‘You worry too much. That journey is never safe for demigods, and it’s
much too far. Besides, Victory runs rampant in Olympia. As long as that’s
the case, there is no way the demigods can win this war.’
Jason didn’t understand what that meant either, but he nodded. ‘Very
well. I will report as much to King Porphyrion. Thank you for the, er,
meal.’
Over at the fountain, Michael Varus called, ‘Wait.’
Jason bit back a curse. He’d been trying to ignore the dead praetor, but
now Varus walked over, surrounded in a hazy white aura, his deep-set eyes
like sinkholes. At his side hung an Imperial gold gladius.
‘You must stay,’ Varus said.
Antinous shot the ghost an irritated look. ‘What’s the problem,
legionnaire? If Iros wants to leave, let him. He smells bad!’
The other ghosts laughed nervously. Across the courtyard, Piper shot
Jason a worried glance. A little further away, Annabeth casually palmed a
carving knife from the nearest platter of meat.
Varus rested his hand on the pommel of his sword. Despite the heat, his
breastplate was glazed with ice. ‘I lost my cohort twice in Alaska – once in
life, once in death to a Graecus named Percy Jackson. Still I have come
here to answer Gaia’s call. Do you know why?’

Jason swallowed. ‘Stubbornness?’
‘This is a place of longing,’ Varus said. ‘All of us are drawn here,
sustained not only by Gaia’s power but also by our strongest desires.
Eurymachus’s greed. Antinous’s cruelty.’
‘You flatter me,’ the ghoul muttered.
‘Hasdrubal’s hatred,’ Varus continued. ‘Hippias’s bitterness. My
ambition. And you, Iros. What has drawn you here? What does a beggar
most desire? Perhaps a home?’
An uncomfortable tingle started at the base of Jason’s skull – the same
feeling he got when a huge electrical storm was about to break.
‘I should be going,’ he said. ‘Messages to carry.’
Michael Varus drew his sword. ‘My father is Janus, the god of two faces.
I am used to seeing through masks and deceptions. Do you know, Iros, why
we are so sure the demigods will not pass our island undetected?’
Jason silently ran through his repertoire of Latin cuss words. He tried to
calculate how long it would take him to get out his emergency flare and fire
it. Hopefully he could buy enough time for the girls to find shelter before
this mob of dead guys slaughtered him.
He turned to Antinous. ‘Look, are you in charge here or not? Maybe you
should muzzle your Roman.’
The ghoul took a deep breath. The arrow rattled in his throat. ‘Ah, but
this might be entertaining. Go on, Varus.’
The dead praetor raised his sword. ‘Our desires reveal us. They show us
for who we really are. Someone has come for you, Jason Grace.’
Behind Varus, the crowd parted. The shimmering ghost of a woman
drifted forward, and Jason felt as if his bones were turning to dust.
‘My dearest,’ said his mother’s ghost. ‘You have come home.’

III

Jason

SOMEHOW HE KNEW HER. He recognized her dress – a flowery green-andred wraparound, like the skirt of a Christmas tree. He recognized the
colourful plastic bangles on her wrists that had dug into his back when she
hugged him goodbye at the Wolf House. He recognized her hair, an overteased corona of dyed blonde curls and her scent of lemons and aerosol.
Her eyes were blue like Jason’s, but they gleamed with fractured light,
like she’d just come out of a bunker after a nuclear war – hungrily
searching for familiar details in a changed world.
‘Dearest.’ She held out her arms.
Jason’s vision tunnelled. The ghosts and ghouls no longer mattered.
His Mist disguise burned off. His posture straightened. His joints stopped
aching. His walking stick turned back into an Imperial gold gladius.
The burning sensation didn’t stop. He felt as if layers of his life were
being seared away – his months at Camp Half-Blood, his years at Camp
Jupiter, his training with Lupa the wolf goddess. He was a scared and
vulnerable two-year-old again. Even the scar on his lip, from when he’d
tried to eat a stapler as a toddler, stung like a fresh wound.
‘Mom?’ he managed.
‘Yes, dearest.’ Her image flickered. ‘Come, embrace me.’
‘You’re – you’re not real.’
‘Of course she is real.’ Michael Varus’s voice sounded far away. ‘Did
you think Gaia would let such an important spirit languish in the
Underworld? She is your mother, Beryl Grace, star of television, sweetheart

to the king of Olympus, who rejected her not once but twice, in both his
Greek and Roman aspects. She deserves justice as much as any of us.’
Jason’s heart felt wobbly. The suitors crowded around him, watching.
I’m their entertainment, Jason realized. The ghosts probably found this
even more amusing than two beggars fighting to the death.
Piper’s voice cut through the buzzing in his head. ‘Jason, look at me.’
She stood twenty feet away, holding her ceramic amphora. Her smile was
gone. Her gaze was fierce and commanding – as impossible to ignore as the
blue harpy feather in her hair. ‘That isn’t your mother. Her voice is working
some kind of magic on you – like charmspeak, but more dangerous. Can’t
you sense it?’
‘She’s right.’ Annabeth climbed onto the nearest table. She kicked aside a
platter, startling a dozen suitors. ‘Jason, that’s only a remnant of your
mother, like an ara, maybe, or –’
‘A remnant!’ His mother’s ghost sobbed. ‘Yes, look what I have been
reduced to. It’s Jupiter’s fault. He abandoned us. He wouldn’t help me! I
didn’t want to leave you in Sonoma, my dear, but Juno and Jupiter gave me
no choice. They wouldn’t allow us to stay together. Why fight for them
now? Join these suitors. Lead them. We can be a family again!’
Jason felt hundreds of eyes on him.
This has been the story of my life, he thought bitterly. Everyone had
always watched him, expecting him to lead the way. From the moment he’d
arrived at Camp Jupiter, the Roman demigods had treated him like a prince
in waiting. Despite his attempts to alter his destiny – joining the worst
cohort, trying to change the camp traditions, taking the least glamorous
missions and befriending the least popular kids – he had been made praetor
anyway. As a son of Jupiter, his future had been assured.
He remembered what Hercules had said to him at the Straits of Gibraltar:
It’s not easy being a son of Zeus. Too much pressure. Eventually, it can
make a guy snap.
Now Jason was here, drawn as taut as a bowstring.
‘You left me,’ he told his mother. ‘That wasn’t Jupiter or Juno. That was
you.’

Beryl Grace stepped forward. The worry lines around her eyes, the
pained tightness in her mouth reminded Jason of his sister, Thalia.
‘Dearest, I told you I would come back. Those were my last words to
you. Don’t you remember?’
Jason shivered. In the ruins of the Wolf House his mother had hugged
him one last time. She had smiled, but her eyes were full of tears.
It’s all right, she had promised. But even as a little kid Jason had known
it wasn’t all right. Wait here. I will be back for you, dearest. I will see you
soon.
She hadn’t come back. Instead, Jason had wandered the ruins, crying and
alone, calling for his mother and for Thalia – until the wolves came for him.
His mother’s unkept promise was at the core of who he was. He’d built
his whole life around the irritation of her words, like the grain of sand at the
centre of a pearl.
People lie. Promises are broken.
That was why, as much as it chafed him, Jason followed rules. He kept
his promises. He never wanted to abandon anyone the way he’d been
abandoned and lied to.
Now his mom was back, erasing the one certainty Jason had about her –
that she’d left him forever.
Across the table, Antinous raised his goblet. ‘So pleased to meet you, son
of Jupiter. Listen to your mother. You have many grievances against the
gods. Why not join us? I gather these two serving girls are your friends? We
will spare them. You wish to have your mother remain in the world? We can
do that. You wish to be a king –’
‘No.’ Jason’s mind was spinning. ‘No, I don’t belong with you.’
Michael Varus regarded him with cold eyes. ‘Are you so sure, my fellow
praetor? Even if you defeat the giants and Gaia, would you return home like
Odysseus did? Where is your home now? With the Greeks? With the
Romans? No one will accept you. And, if you get back, who’s to say you
won’t find ruins like this?’
Jason scanned the palace courtyard. Without the illusory balconies and
colonnades, there was nothing but a heap of rubble on a barren hilltop. Only

the fountain seemed real, spewing forth sand like a reminder of Gaia’s
limitless power.
‘You were a legion officer,’ he told Varus. ‘A leader of Rome.’
‘So were you,’ Varus said. ‘Loyalties change.’
‘You think I belong with this crowd?’ Jason asked. ‘A bunch of dead
losers waiting for a free handout from Gaia, whining that the world owes
them something?’
Around the courtyard, ghosts and ghouls rose to their feet and drew
weapons.
‘Beware!’ Piper yelled at the crowd. ‘Every man in this palace is your
enemy. Each one will stab you in the back at the first chance!’
Over the last few weeks, Piper’s charmspeak had become truly powerful.
She spoke the truth, and the crowd believed her. They looked sideways at
one another, hands clenching the hilts of their swords.
Jason’s mother stepped towards him. ‘Dearest, be sensible. Give up your
quest. Your Argo II could never make the trip to Athens. Even if it did,
there’s the matter of the Athena Parthenos.’
A tremor passed through him. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Don’t feign ignorance, my dearest. Gaia knows about your friend Reyna
and Nico the son of Hades and the satyr Hedge. To kill them, the Earth
Mother has sent her most dangerous son – the hunter who never rests. But
you don’t have to die.’
The ghouls and ghosts closed in – two hundred of them facing Jason in
anticipation, as if he might lead them in the national anthem.
The hunter who never rests.
Jason didn’t know who that was, but he had to warn Reyna and Nico.
Which meant he had to get out of here alive.
He looked at Annabeth and Piper. Both stood ready, waiting for his cue.
He forced himself to meet his mother’s eyes. She looked like the same
woman who’d abandoned him in the Sonoma woods fourteen years ago.
But Jason wasn’t a toddler any more. He was a battle veteran, a demigod
who’d faced death countless times.

And what he saw in front of him wasn’t his mother – at least, not what
his mother should be – caring, loving, selflessly protective.
A remnant, Annabeth had called her.
Michael Varus had told him that the spirits here were sustained by their
strongest desires. The spirit of Beryl Grace literally glowed with need. Her
eyes demanded Jason’s attention. Her arms reached out, desperate to
possess him.
‘What do you want?’ he asked. ‘What brought you here?’
‘I want life!’ she cried. ‘Youth! Beauty! Your father could have made me
immortal. He could have taken me to Olympus, but he abandoned me. You
can set things right, Jason. You are my proud warrior!’
Her lemony scent turned acrid, as if she were starting to burn.
Jason remembered something Thalia had told him. Their mother had
become increasingly unstable, until her despair had driven her crazy. She
had died in a car accident, the result of her driving while drunk.
The watered wine in Jason’s stomach churned. He decided that if he lived
through this day he would never drink alcohol again.
‘You’re a mania,’ Jason decided, the word coming to him from his
studies at Camp Jupiter long ago. ‘A spirit of insanity. That’s what you’ve
been reduced to.’
‘I am all that remains,’ Beryl Grace agreed. Her image flickered through
a spectrum of colours. ‘Embrace me, son. I am all you have left.’
The memory of the South Wind spoke in his mind: You can’t choose your
parentage. But you can choose your legacy.
Jason felt like he was being reassembled, one layer at a time. His
heartbeat steadied. The chill left his bones. His skin warmed in the
afternoon sun.
‘No,’ he croaked. He glanced at Annabeth and Piper. ‘My loyalties
haven’t changed. My family has just expanded. I’m a child of Greece and
Rome.’ He looked back at his mother for the last time. ‘I’m no child of
yours.’
He made the ancient sign of warding off evil – three fingers thrust out
from the heart – and the ghost of Beryl Grace disappeared with a soft hiss,

like a sigh of relief.
The ghoul Antinous tossed aside his goblet. He studied Jason with a look
of lazy disgust. ‘Well, then,’ he said, ‘I suppose we’ll just kill you.’
All around Jason, the enemies closed in.

IV

Jason

THE FIGHT WAS GOING GREAT – until he got stabbed.
Jason slashed his gladius in a wide arc, vaporizing the nearest suitors,
then he vaulted onto the table and jumped right over Antinous’s head. In
midair he willed his blade to extend into a javelin – a trick he’d never tried
with this sword – but somehow he knew it would work.
He landed on his feet holding a six-foot-long pilum. As Antinous turned
to face him, Jason thrust the Imperial gold point through the ghoul’s chest.
Antinous looked down incredulously. ‘You –’
‘Enjoy the Fields of Punishment.’ Jason yanked out his pilum and
Antinous crumbled to dirt.
Jason kept fighting, spinning his javelin – slicing through ghosts,
knocking ghouls off their feet.
Across the courtyard, Annabeth fought like a demon, too. Her drakonbone sword scythed down any suitors stupid enough to face her.
Over by the sand fountain, Piper had also drawn her sword – the jagged
bronze blade she’d taken from Zethes the Boread. She stabbed and parried
with her right hand, occasionally shooting tomatoes from the cornucopia in
her left, while yelling at the suitors, ‘Save yourselves! I’m too dangerous!’
That must have been exactly what they wanted to hear, because her
opponents kept running away, only to freeze in confusion a few yards
downhill, then charge back into the fight.
The Greek tyrant Hippias lunged at Piper, his dagger raised, but Piper
blasted him point-blank in the chest with a lovely pot roast. He tumbled
backwards into the fountain and screamed as he disintegrated.

An arrow whistled towards Jason’s face. He blew it aside with a gust of
wind, then cut through a line of sword-wielding ghouls and noticed a dozen
suitors regrouping by the fountain to charge Annabeth. He lifted his javelin
to the sky. A bolt of lightning ricocheted off the point and blasted the ghosts
to ions, leaving a smoking crater where the sand fountain had been.
Over the last few months, Jason had fought many battles, but he’d
forgotten what it was like to feel good in combat. Of course he was still
afraid, but a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. For the first
time since waking up in Arizona with his memories erased, Jason felt
whole. He knew who he was. He had chosen his family, and it had nothing
to do with Beryl Grace or even Jupiter. His family included all the
demigods who fought at his side, Roman and Greek, new friends and old.
He wasn’t going to let anyone break his family apart.
He summoned the winds and flung three ghouls off the side of the hill
like rag dolls. He skewered a fourth, then willed his javelin to shrink back
to a sword and hacked through another group of spirits.
Soon no more enemies faced him. The remaining ghosts began to
disappear on their own. Annabeth cut down Hasdrubal the Carthaginian,
and Jason made the mistake of sheathing his sword.
Pain flared in his lower back – so sharp and cold he thought Khione the
snow goddess had touched him.
Next to his ear, Michael Varus snarled, ‘Born a Roman, die a Roman.’
The tip of a golden sword jutted through the front of Jason’s shirt, just
below his ribcage.
Jason fell to his knees. Piper’s scream sounded miles away. He felt like
he’d been immersed in salty water – his body weightless, his head swaying.
Piper charged towards him. He watched with detached emotion as her
sword passed over his head and cut through Michael Varus’s armour with a
metallic ka-chunk.
A burst of cold parted Jason’s hair from behind. Dust settled around him,
and an empty legionnaire’s helmet rolled across the stones. The evil
demigod was gone – but he had made a lasting impression.

‘Jason!’ Piper grabbed his shoulders as he began to fall sideways. He
gasped as she pulled the sword out of his back. Then she lowered him to the
ground, propping his head against a stone.
Annabeth ran to their side. She had a nasty cut on the side of her neck.
‘Gods.’ Annabeth stared at the wound in Jason’s gut. ‘Oh, gods.’
‘Thanks,’ Jason groaned. ‘I was afraid it might be bad.’
His arms and legs started to tingle as his body went into crisis mode,
sending all the blood to his chest. The pain was dull, which surprised him,
but his shirt was soaked red. The wound was smoking. He was pretty sure
sword wounds weren’t supposed to smoke.
‘You’re going to be fine.’ Piper spoke the words like an order. Her tone
steadied his breathing. ‘Annabeth, ambrosia!’
Annabeth stirred. ‘Yeah. Yeah, I got it.’ She ripped through her supply
pouch and unwrapped a piece of godly food.
‘We have to stop the bleeding.’ Piper used her dagger to cut fabric from
the bottom of her dress. She ripped the cloth into bandages.
Jason dimly wondered how she knew so much first aid. She wrapped the
wounds on his back and stomach while Annabeth pushed tiny bites of
ambrosia into his mouth.
Annabeth’s fingers trembled. After all the things she’d been through,
Jason found it odd that she would freak out now while Piper acted so calm.
Then it occurred to him – Annabeth could afford to be scared for him. Piper
couldn’t. She was completely focused on trying to save him.
Annabeth fed him another bite. ‘Jason, I – I’m sorry. About your mom.
But the way you handled it … that was so brave.’
Jason tried not to close his eyes. Every time he did, he saw his mom’s
spirit disintegrating.
‘It wasn’t her,’ he said. ‘At least, no part of her I could save. There was
no other choice.’
Annabeth took a shaky breath. ‘No other right choice, maybe, but … a
friend of mine, Luke. His mom … similar problem. He didn’t handle it as
well.’

Her voice broke. Jason didn’t know much about Annabeth’s past, but
Piper glanced over in concern.
‘I’ve bandaged as much as I can,’ she said. ‘Blood is still soaking
through. And the smoke. I don’t get that.’
‘Imperial gold,’ Annabeth said, her voice quavering. ‘It’s deadly to
demigods. It’s only a matter of time before –’
‘He’ll be all right,’ Piper insisted. ‘We’ve got to get him back to the
ship.’
‘I don’t feel that bad,’ Jason said. And it was true. The ambrosia had
cleared his head. Warmth was seeping back into his limbs. ‘Maybe I could
fly …’
Jason sat up. His vision turned a pale shade of green. ‘Or maybe not …’
Piper caught his shoulders as he keeled sideways. ‘Whoa, Sparky. We
need to contact the Argo II, get help.’
‘You haven’t called me Sparky in a long time.’
Piper kissed his forehead. ‘Stick with me and I’ll insult you all you
want.’
Annabeth scanned the ruins. The magic veneer had faded, leaving only
broken walls and excavation pits. ‘We could use the emergency flares, but
–’
‘No,’ Jason said. ‘Leo would blast the top of the hill with Greek fire.
Maybe, if you guys helped me, I could walk –’
‘Absolutely not,’ Piper objected. ‘That would take too long.’ She
rummaged in her belt pouch and pulled out a compact mirror. ‘Annabeth,
you know Morse code?’
‘Of course.’
‘So does Leo.’ Piper handed her the mirror. ‘He’ll be watching from the
ship. Go to the ridge –’
‘And flash him!’ Annabeth’s face reddened. ‘That came out wrong. But,
yeah, good idea.’
She ran to the edge of the ruins.
Piper pulled out a flask of nectar and gave Jason a sip. ‘Hang in there.
You are not dying from a stupid body piercing.’

Jason managed a weak smile. ‘At least it wasn’t a head injury this time. I
stayed conscious the entire fight.’
‘You defeated, like, two hundred enemies,’ Piper said. ‘You were scary
amazing.’
‘You guys helped.’
‘Maybe, but … Hey, stay with me.’
Jason’s head started to droop. The cracks in the stones came into sharper
focus.
‘Little dizzy,’ he muttered.
‘More nectar,’ Piper ordered. ‘There. Taste okay?’
‘Yeah. Yeah, fine.’
In fact the nectar tasted like liquid sawdust, but Jason kept that to
himself. Ever since the House of Hades when he’d resigned his praetorship,
ambrosia and nectar didn’t taste like his favourite foods from Camp Jupiter.
It was as if the memory of his old home no longer had the power to heal
him.
Born a Roman, die a Roman, Michael Varus had said.
He looked at the smoke curling from his bandages. He had worse things
to worry about than blood loss. Annabeth was right about Imperial gold.
The stuff was deadly to demigods as well as monsters. The wound from
Varus’s blade would do its best to eat away at Jason’s life force.
He’d seen a demigod die like that once before. It hadn’t been fast or
pretty.
I can’t die, he told himself. My friends are depending on me.
Antinous’s words rang in his ears – about the giants in Athens, the
impossible trip facing the Argo II, the mysterious hunter Gaia had sent to
intercept the Athena Parthenos.
‘Reyna, Nico and Coach Hedge,’ he said. ‘They’re in danger. We need to
warn them.’
‘We’ll take care of it when we get back to the ship,’ Piper promised.
‘Your job right now is to relax.’ Her tone was light and confident, but her
eyes brimmed with tears. ‘Besides, those three are a tough group. They’ll be
fine.’

Jason hoped she was right. Reyna had risked so much to help them.
Coach Hedge was annoying sometimes, but he’d been a loyal protector for
the entire crew. And Nico … Jason felt especially worried about him.
Piper brushed her thumb against the scar on his lip. ‘Once the war is over
… everything will work out for Nico. You’ve done what you could, being a
friend to him.’
Jason wasn’t sure what to say. He hadn’t told Piper anything about his
conversations with Nico. He’d kept di Angelo’s secret.
Still … Piper seemed to sense what was wrong. As a daughter of
Aphrodite, maybe she could tell when somebody was struggling with
heartache. She hadn’t pressured Jason to talk about it, though. He
appreciated that.
Another wave of pain made him wince.
‘Concentrate on my voice.’ Piper kissed his forehead. ‘Think about
something good. Birthday cake in the park in Rome –’
‘That was nice.’
‘Last winter,’ she suggested. ‘The s’mores fight at the campfire.’
‘I totally got you.’
‘You had marshmallows in your hair for days!’
‘I did not.’
Jason’s mind drifted back to better times.
He just wanted to stay there – talking with Piper, holding her hand, not
worrying about giants or Gaia or his mother’s madness.
He knew they should get back to the ship. He was in bad shape. They had
the information they’d come for. But as he lay there on the cool stones,
Jason felt a sense of incompleteness. The story of the suitors and Queen
Penelope … his thoughts about family … his recent dreams. Those things
all swirled around in his head. There was something more to this place –
something he’d missed.
Annabeth came back limping from the edge of the hill.
‘Are you hurt?’ Jason asked her.
Annabeth glanced at her ankle. ‘It’s fine. Just the old break from the
Roman caverns. Sometimes when I’m stressed … That’s not important. I

signalled Leo. Frank’s going to change form, fly up here and carry you back
to the ship. I need to make a litter to keep you stable.’
Jason had a terrifying image of himself in a hammock, swinging between
the claws of Frank the giant eagle, but he decided it would be better than
dying.
Annabeth set to work. She collected scraps left behind by the suitors – a
leather belt, a torn tunic, sandal straps, a red blanket and a couple of broken
spear shafts. Her hands flew across the materials – ripping, weaving, tying,
braiding.
‘How are you doing that?’ Jason asked in amazement.
‘Learned it during my quest under Rome.’ Annabeth kept her eyes on her
work. ‘I’d never had a reason to try weaving before, but it’s handy for
certain things, like getting away from spiders …’
She tied off one last bit of leather cord and voilà – a stretcher large
enough for Jason, with spear shafts as carrying handles and safety straps
across the middle.
Piper whistled appreciatively. ‘The next time I need a dress altered, I’m
coming to you.’
‘Shut up, McLean,’ Annabeth said, but her eyes glinted with satisfaction.
‘Now, let’s get him secured –’
‘Wait,’ Jason said.
His heart pounded. Watching Annabeth weave the makeshift bed, Jason
had remembered the story of Penelope – how she’d held out for twenty
years, waiting for her husband Odysseus to return.
‘A bed,’ Jason said. ‘There was a special bed in this palace.’
Piper looked worried. ‘Jason, you’ve lost a lot of blood.’
‘I’m not hallucinating,’ he insisted. ‘The marriage bed was sacred. If
there was any place you could talk to Juno …’ He took a deep breath and
called, ‘Juno!’
Silence.
Maybe Piper was right. He wasn’t thinking clearly.
Then, about sixty feet away, the stone floor cracked. Branches muscled
through the earth, growing in fast motion until a full-sized olive tree shaded

the courtyard. Under a canopy of grey-green leaves stood a dark-haired
woman in a white dress, a leopard-skin cape draped over her shoulders. Her
staff was topped with a white lotus flower. Her expression was cool and
regal.
‘My heroes,’ said the goddess.
‘Hera,’ Piper said.
‘Juno,’ Jason corrected.
‘Whatever,’ Annabeth grumbled. ‘What are you doing here, Your Bovine
Majesty?’
Juno’s dark eyes glittered dangerously. ‘Annabeth Chase. As charming as
ever.’
‘Yeah, well,’ Annabeth said, ‘I just got back from Tartarus, so my
manners are a little rusty, especially towards goddesses who wiped my
boyfriend’s memory, made him disappear for months and then –’
‘Honestly, child. Are we going to rehash this again?’
‘Aren’t you supposed to be suffering from split-personality disorder?’
Annabeth asked. ‘I mean – more so than usual?’
‘Whoa,’ Jason interceded. He had plenty of reasons to hate Juno, but they
had other issues to deal with. ‘Juno, we need your help. We –’ Jason tried to
sit up and immediately regretted it. His insides felt like they were being
twirled on a giant spaghetti fork.
Piper kept him from falling over. ‘First things first,’ she said. ‘Jason is
hurt. Heal him!’
The goddess knitted her eyebrows. Her form shimmered unsteadily.
‘Some things even the gods cannot heal,’ she said. ‘This wound touches
your soul as well as your body. You must fight it, Jason Grace … you must
survive.’
‘Yeah, thanks,’ he said, his mouth dry. ‘I’m trying.’
‘What do you mean, the wound touches his soul?’ Piper demanded. ‘Why
can’t you –’
‘My heroes, our time together is short,’ Juno said. ‘I am grateful that you
called upon me. I have spent weeks in a state of pain and confusion … my
Greek and Roman natures warring against each other. Worse, I’ve been

forced to hide from Jupiter, who searches for me in his misguided wrath,
believing that I caused this war with Gaia.’
‘Gee,’ Annabeth said, ‘why would he think that?’
Juno flashed her an irritated look. ‘Fortunately, this place is sacred to me.
By clearing away those ghosts, you have purified it and given me a moment
of clarity. I will be able to speak with you – if only briefly.’
‘Why is it sacred … ?’ Piper’s eyes widened. ‘Oh. The marriage bed!’
‘Marriage bed?’ Annabeth asked. ‘I don’t see any –’
‘The bed of Penelope and Odysseus,’ Piper explained. ‘One of its
bedposts was a living olive tree, so it could never be moved.’
‘Indeed.’ Juno ran her hand along the olive tree’s trunk. ‘An immovable
marriage bed. Such a beautiful symbol! Like Penelope, the most faithful
wife, standing her ground, fending off a hundred arrogant suitors for years
because she knew her husband would return. Odysseus and Penelope – the
epitome of a perfect marriage!’
Even in his dazed state, Jason was pretty sure he remembered stories
about Odysseus falling for other women during his travels, but he decided
not to bring that up.
‘Can you advise us, at least?’ he asked. ‘Tell us what to do?’
‘Sail around the Peloponnese,’ said the goddess. ‘As you suspect, that is
the only possible route. On your way, seek out the goddess of victory in
Olympia. She is out of control. Unless you can subdue her, the rift between
Greek and Roman can never be healed.’
‘You mean Nike?’ Annabeth asked. ‘How is she out of control?’
Thunder boomed overhead, shaking the hill.
‘Explaining would take too long,’ Juno said. ‘I must flee before Jupiter
finds me. Once I leave, I will not be able to help you again.’
Jason bit back a retort: When did you help me the first time?
‘What else should we know?’ he asked.
‘As you heard, the giants have gathered in Athens. Few gods will be able
to help you on your journey, but I am not the only Olympian who is out of
favour with Jupiter. The twins have also incurred his wrath.’
‘Artemis and Apollo?’ Piper asked. ‘Why?’

Juno’s image began to fade. ‘If you reach the island of Delos, they might
be prepared to help you. They are desperate enough to try anything to make
amends. Go now. Perhaps we will meet again in Athens, if you succeed. If
you do not …’
The goddess disappeared, or maybe Jason’s eyesight simply failed. Pain
rolled through him. His head lolled back. He saw a giant eagle circling high
above. Then the blue sky turned black, and Jason saw nothing at all.

V

Reyna

DIVE-BOMBING A VOLCANO was not on Reyna’s bucket list.
Her first view of southern Italy was from five thousand feet in the air. To
the west, along the crescent of the Gulf of Naples, the lights of sleeping
cities glittered in the predawn gloom. A thousand feet below her, a halfmile-wide caldera yawned at the top of a mountain, white steam pluming
from the centre.
Reyna’s disorientation took a moment to subside. Shadow-travel left her
groggy and nauseous, as if she’d been dragged from the cold waters of the
frigidarium into the sauna at a Roman bathhouse.
Then she realized she was suspended in midair. Gravity took hold, and
she began to fall.
‘Nico!’ she yelled.
‘Pan’s pipes!’ cursed Gleeson Hedge.
‘Whaaaaa!’ Nico flailed, almost slipping out of Reyna’s grip. She held
tight and grabbed Coach Hedge by the shirt collar as he started to tumble
away. If they got separated now, they were dead.
They plummeted towards the volcano as their largest piece of luggage –
the forty-foot-tall Athena Parthenos – trailed after them, leashed to a
harness on Nico’s back like a very ineffective parachute.
‘That’s Vesuvius below us!’ Reyna shouted over the wind. ‘Nico, teleport
us out of here!’
His eyes were wild and unfocused. His dark feathery hair whipped
around his face like a raven shot out of the sky. ‘I – I can’t! No strength!’

Coach Hedge bleated. ‘News flash, kid! Goats can’t fly! Zap us out of
here or we’re gonna get flattened into an Athena Parthenos omelette!’
Reyna tried to think. She could accept death if she had to, but if the
Athena Parthenos was destroyed their quest would fail. Reyna could not
accept that.
‘Nico, shadow-travel,’ she ordered. ‘I’ll lend you my strength.’
He stared at her blankly. ‘How –’
‘Do it!’
She tightened her grip on his hand. The torch-and-sword symbol of
Bellona on her forearm grew painfully hot, as if it were being seared into
her skin for the first time.
Nico gasped. Colour returned to his face. Just before they hit the
volcano’s steam plume, they slipped into shadows.
The air turned frigid. The sound of the wind was replaced by a
cacophony of voices whispering in a thousand languages. Reyna’s insides
felt like a giant piragua – cold syrup trickled over crushed ice – her
favourite treat from her childhood in Viejo San Juan.
She wondered why that memory would surface now, when she was on
the verge of death. Then her vision cleared. Her feet rested on solid ground.
The eastern sky had begun to lighten. For a moment Reyna thought she
was back in New Rome. Doric columns lined an atrium the size of a
baseball diamond. In front of her, a bronze faun stood in the middle of a
sunken fountain decorated with mosaic tile.
Crepe myrtles and rosebushes bloomed in a nearby garden. Palm trees
and pines stretched skyward. Cobblestone paths led from the courtyard in
several directions – straight, level roads of good Roman construction,
edging low stone houses with colonnaded porches.
Reyna turned. Behind her, the Athena Parthenos stood intact and upright,
dominating the courtyard like a ridiculously oversized lawn ornament. The
little bronze faun in the fountain had both his arms raised, facing Athena, so
he seemed to be cowering in fear of the new arrival.
On the horizon, Mount Vesuvius loomed – a dark, humpbacked shape
now several miles away. Thick pillars of steam curled from the crest.

‘We’re in Pompeii,’ Reyna realized.
‘Oh, that’s not good,’ Nico said, and he immediately collapsed.
‘Whoa!’ Coach Hedge caught him before he hit the ground. The satyr
propped him against Athena’s feet and loosened the harness that attached
Nico to the statue.
Reyna’s own knees buckled. She’d expected some backlash; it happened
every time she shared her strength. But she hadn’t anticipated so much raw
anguish from Nico di Angelo. She sat down heavily, just managing to stay
conscious.
Gods of Rome. If this was only a portion of Nico’s pain … how could he
bear it?
She tried to steady her breathing while Coach Hedge rummaged through
his camping supplies. Around Nico’s boots, the stones cracked. Dark seams
radiated outwards like a shotgun blast of ink, as if Nico’s body were trying
to expel all the shadows he’d travelled through.
Yesterday had been worse: an entire meadow withering, skeletons rising
from the earth. Reyna wasn’t anxious for that to happen again.
‘Drink something.’ She offered him a canteen of unicorn draught –
powdered horn mixed with sanctified water from the Little Tiber. They’d
found it worked on Nico better than nectar, helping to cleanse the fatigue
and darkness from his system with less danger of spontaneous combustion.
Nico gulped it down. He still looked terrible. His skin had a bluish tint.
His cheeks were sunken. Hanging at his side, the sceptre of Diocletian
glowed angry purple, like a radioactive bruise.
He studied Reyna. ‘How did you do that … that surge of energy?’
Reyna turned her forearm. The tattoo still burned like hot wax: the
symbol of Bellona, SPQR, with four lines for her years of service. ‘I don’t
like to talk about it,’ she said, ‘but it’s a power from my mother. I can
impart strength to others.’
Coach Hedge looked up from his rucksack. ‘Seriously? Why haven’t you
hooked me up, Roman girl? I want super-muscles!’
Reyna frowned. ‘It doesn’t work like that, Coach. I can only do it in lifeand-death situations, and it’s more useful in large groups. When I command

troops, I can share whatever attributes I have – strength, courage, endurance
– multiplied by the size of my forces.’
Nico arched an eyebrow. ‘Useful for a Roman praetor.’
Reyna didn’t answer. She preferred not to speak of her power for exactly
this reason. She didn’t want the demigods under her command to think she
was controlling them, or that she’d become a leader because she had some
special magic. She could only share the qualities she already possessed, and
she couldn’t help anyone who wasn’t worthy of being a hero.
Coach Hedge grunted. ‘Too bad. Super-muscles would be nice.’ He went
back to sorting through his pack, which seemed to hold a bottomless supply
of cooking utensils, survivalist gear and random sports equipment.
Nico took another swig of unicorn draught. His eyes were heavy with
exhaustion, but Reyna could tell he was fighting to stay awake.
‘You stumbled just now,’ he noted. ‘When you use your power … do you
get some sort of, um, feedback from me?’
‘It’s not mind-reading,’ she said. ‘Not even an empathy link. Just … a
temporary wave of exhaustion. Primal emotions. Your pain washes over me.
I take on some of your burden.’
Nico’s expression became guarded.
He twisted the silver skull ring on his finger, the same way Reyna did
with her silver ring when she was thinking. Sharing a habit with the son of
Hades made her uneasy.
She’d felt more pain from Nico in their brief connection than she had
from her entire legion during the battle against the giant Polybotes. It had
drained her worse than the last time she’d used her power, to sustain her
pegasus Scipio during their journey across the Atlantic.
She tried to push away that memory. Her brave winged friend dying from
poison, his muzzle in her lap, looking at her trustingly as she raised her
dagger to end his misery … Gods, no. She couldn’t dwell on that or it
would break her.
But the pain she’d felt from Nico was sharper.
‘You should rest,’ she told him. ‘After two jumps in a row, even with a
little help … you’re lucky to be alive. We’ll need you to be ready again by

nightfall.’
She felt bad asking him to do something so impossible. Unfortunately,
she’d had a lot of practice pushing demigods beyond their limits.
Nico clenched his jaw and nodded. ‘We’re stuck here now.’ He scanned
the ruins. ‘But Pompeii is the last place I would’ve chosen to land. This
place is full of lemures.’
‘Lemurs?’ Coach Hedge seemed to be making some sort of snare out of
kite string, a tennis racket and a hunting knife. ‘You mean those cute fuzzy
critters –’
‘No.’ Nico sounded annoyed, like he got that question a lot. ‘Lemures.
Unfriendly ghosts. All Roman cities have them, but in Pompeii –’
‘The whole city was wiped out,’ Reyna remembered. ‘In 79 C.E.,
Vesuvius erupted and covered the town in ash.’
Nico nodded. ‘A tragedy like that creates a lot of angry spirits.’
Coach Hedge eyed the distant volcano. ‘It’s steaming. Is that a bad sign?’
‘I – I’m not sure.’ Nico picked at a hole in the knee of his black jeans.
‘Mountain gods, the ourae, can sense children of Hades. It’s possible that’s
why we were pulled off course. The spirit of Vesuvius might have been
intentionally trying to kill us. But I doubt the mountain can hurt us this far
away. Working up to a full eruption would take too long. The immediate
threat is all around us.’
The back of Reyna’s neck tingled.
She’d grown used to Lares, the friendly spirits at Camp Jupiter, but even
they made her uneasy. They didn’t have a good understanding of personal
space. Sometimes they’d walk right through her, leaving her with vertigo.
Being in Pompeii gave Reyna the same feeling, as if the whole city was one
big ghost that had swallowed her whole.
She couldn’t tell her friends how much she feared ghosts, or why she
feared them. The whole reason she and her sister had run away from San
Juan all those years ago … that secret had to stay buried.
‘Can you keep them at bay?’ she asked.
Nico turned up his palms. ‘I’ve sent out that message: Stay away. But
once I’m asleep it won’t do us much good.’

Coach Hedge patted his tennis-racket-knife contraption. ‘Don’t worry,
kid. I’m going to line the perimeter with alarms and snares. Plus, I’ll be
watching over you the whole time with my baseball bat.’
That didn’t seem to reassure Nico, but his eyes were already half-closed.
‘Okay. But … go easy. We don’t want another Albania.’
‘No,’ Reyna agreed.
Their first shadow-travel experience together two days ago had been a
total fiasco, possibly the most humiliating episode in Reyna’s long career.
Perhaps someday, if they survived, they would look back on it and laugh,
but not now. The three of them had agreed never to speak of it. What
happened in Albania would stay in Albania.
Coach Hedge looked hurt. ‘Fine, whatever. Just rest, kid. We got you
covered.’
‘All right,’ Nico relented. ‘Maybe a little …’ He managed to take off his
aviator jacket and wad it into a pillow before he keeled over and began to
snore.
Reyna marvelled at how peaceful he looked. The worry lines vanished.
His face became strangely angelic … like his surname, di Angelo. She
could almost believe he was a regular fourteen-year-old boy, not a son of
Hades who had been pulled out of time from the 1940s and forced to endure
more tragedy and danger than most demigods would in a lifetime.
When Nico had arrived at Camp Jupiter, Reyna didn’t trust him. She’d
sensed there was more to his story than being an ambassador from his
father, Pluto. Now, of course, she knew the truth. He was a Greek demigod
– the first person in living memory, perhaps the first ever, to go back and
forth between the Roman and Greek camps without telling either group that
the other existed.
Strangely, that made Reyna trust Nico more.
Sure, he wasn’t Roman. He’d never hunted with Lupa or endured the
brutal legion training. But Nico had proven himself in other ways. He’d
kept the camps’ secrets for the best of reasons, because he feared a war. He
had plunged into Tartarus alone, voluntarily, to find the Doors of Death.
He’d been captured and imprisoned by giants. He had led the crew of the

Argo II into the House of Hades … and now he had accepted yet another
terrible quest: risking himself to haul the Athena Parthenos back to Camp
Half-Blood.
The pace of the journey was maddeningly slow. They could only
shadow-travel a few hundred miles each night, resting during the day to let
Nico recover, but even that required more stamina from Nico than Reyna
would have thought possible.
He carried so much sadness and loneliness, so much heartache. Yet he
put his mission first. He persevered. Reyna respected that. She understood
that.
She’d never been a touchy-feely person, but she had the strangest desire
to drape her cloak over Nico’s shoulders and tuck him in. She mentally
chided herself. He was a comrade, not her little brother. He wouldn’t
appreciate the gesture.
‘Hey.’ Coach Hedge interrupted her thoughts. ‘You need sleep, too. I’ll
take first watch and cook some grub. Those ghosts shouldn’t be too
dangerous now that the sun’s coming up.’
Reyna hadn’t noticed how light it was getting. Pink and turquoise clouds
striped the eastern horizon. The little bronze faun cast a shadow across the
dry fountain.
‘I’ve read about this place,’ Reyna realized. ‘It’s one of the bestpreserved villas in Pompeii. They call it the House of the Faun.’
Gleeson glanced at the statue with distaste. ‘Yeah, well, today it’s the
House of the Satyr.’
Reyna managed a smile. She was starting to appreciate the differences
between satyrs and fauns. If she ever fell asleep with a faun on duty, she’d
wake up with her supplies stolen, a moustache drawn on her face and the
faun long gone. Coach Hedge was different – mostly good different, though
he did have an unhealthy obsession with martial arts and baseball bats.
‘All right,’ she agreed. ‘You take first watch. I’ll put Aurum and
Argentum on guard duty with you.’
Hedge looked like he wanted to protest, but Reyna whistled sharply. The
metallic greyhounds materialized from the ruins, racing towards her from

different directions. Even after so many years, Reyna had no idea where
they came from or where they went when she dismissed them, but seeing
them lifted her spirits.
Hedge cleared his throat. ‘You sure those aren’t Dalmatians? They look
like Dalmatians.’
‘They’re greyhounds, Coach.’ Reyna had no idea why Hedge feared
Dalmatians, but she was too tired to ask right now. ‘Aurum, Argentum,
guard us while I sleep. Obey Gleeson Hedge.’
The dogs circled the courtyard, keeping their distance from the Athena
Parthenos, which radiated hostility towards everything Roman.
Reyna herself was only now getting used to it, and she was pretty sure
the statue did not appreciate being relocated in the middle of an ancient
Roman city.
She lay down and pulled her purple cloak over herself. Her fingers curled
around the pouch at her belt, where she kept the silver coin Annabeth had
given her before they parted company in Epirus.
It’s a sign that things can change, Annabeth had told her. The Mark of
Athena is yours now. Maybe the coin will bring you luck.
Whether that luck would be good or bad, Reyna wasn’t sure.
She took one last look at the bronze faun cowering before the sunrise and
the Athena Parthenos. Then she closed her eyes and slipped into dreams.

VI

Reyna

MOST OF THE TIME, Reyna could control her nightmares.
She had trained her mind to start all her dreams in her favourite place –
the Garden of Bacchus on the tallest hill in New Rome. She felt safe and
tranquil there. When visions invaded her sleep – as they always did with
demigods – she could contain them by imagining they were reflections in
the garden’s fountain. This allowed her to sleep peacefully and avoid
waking up the next morning in a cold sweat.
Tonight, however, she wasn’t so lucky.
The dream began well enough. She stood in the garden on a warm
afternoon, the arbour heavy with blooming honey-suckle. In the central
fountain, the little statue of Bacchus spouted water into the basin.
The golden domes and red-tiled roofs of New Rome spread out below
her. Half a mile west rose the fortifications of Camp Jupiter. Beyond that,
the Little Tiber curved gently around the valley, tracing the edge of the
Berkeley Hills, hazy and golden in the summer light.
Reyna held a cup of hot chocolate, her favourite drink.
She exhaled contentedly. This place was worth defending – for herself,
for her friends, for all demigods. Her four years at Camp Jupiter hadn’t
been easy, but they’d been the best time of Reyna’s life.
Suddenly the horizon darkened. Reyna thought it might be a storm. Then
she realized a tidal wave of dark loam was rolling across the hills, turning
the skin of the earth inside out, leaving nothing behind.
Reyna watched in horror as the earthen tide reached the edge of the
valley. The god Terminus sustained a magical barrier around the camp, but

it slowed the destruction for only a moment. Purple light sprayed upward
like shattered glass, and the tide poured through, shredding trees, destroying
roads, wiping the Little Tiber off the map.
It’s a vision, Reyna thought. I can control this.
She tried to change the dream. She imagined that the destruction was
only a reflection in the fountain, a harmless video image, but the nightmare
continued in full vivid scope.
The earth swallowed the Field of Mars, obliterating every trace of forts
and trenches from the war games. The city’s aqueduct collapsed like a line
of children’s blocks. Camp Jupiter itself fell – watchtowers crashing down,
walls and barracks disintegrating. The screams of demigods were silenced,
and the earth moved on.
A sob built in Reyna’s throat. The gleaming shrines and monuments on
Temple Hill crumbled. The coliseum and the hippodrome were swept away.
The tide of loam reached the Pomerian line and roared straight into the city.
Families ran through the forum. Children cried in terror.
The Senate House imploded. Villas and gardens disappeared like crops
under a tiller. The tide churned uphill towards the Garden of Bacchus – the
last remnant of Reyna’s world.
You left them helpless, Reyna Ramírez-Arellano. A woman’s voice issued
from the black terrain. Your camp will be destroyed. Your quest is a fool’s
errand. My hunter comes for you.
Reyna tore herself from the garden railing. She ran to the fountain of
Bacchus and gripped the rim of the basin, staring desperately into the water.
She willed the nightmare to become a harmless reflection.
THUNK.
The basin broke in half, split by an arrow the size of a rake. Reyna stared
in shock at the raven-feather fletching, the shaft painted red, yellow and
black like a coral snake, the Stygian iron point embedded in her gut.
She looked up through a haze of pain. At the edge of the garden, a dark
figure approached – the silhouette of a man whose eyes shone like
miniature headlamps, blinding Reyna. She heard the scrape of iron against
leather as he drew another arrow from his quiver.

Then her dream changed.
The garden and the hunter vanished, along with the arrow in Reyna’s
stomach.
She found herself in an abandoned vineyard. Stretched out before her,
acres of dead grapevines hung in rows on wooden lattices, like gnarled
miniature skeletons. At the far end of the fields stood a cedar-shingled
farmhouse with a wraparound porch. Beyond that, the land dropped off into
the sea.
Reyna recognized this place: the Goldsmith Winery on the north shore of
Long Island. Her scouting parties had secured it as a forward base for the
legion’s assault on Camp Half-Blood.
She had ordered the bulk of the legion to remain in Manhattan until she
told them otherwise, but obviously Octavian had disobeyed her.
The entire Twelfth Legion was camped in the northern-most field.
They’d dug in with their usual military precision – ten-foot-deep trenches
and spiked earthen walls around the perimeter, a watchtower on each corner
armed with ballistae. Inside, tents were arranged in neat rows of white and
red. The standards of all five cohorts curled in the wind.
The sight of the legion should have lifted Reyna’s spirits. It was a small
force, barely two hundred demigods, but they were well trained and well
organized. If Julius Caesar came back from the dead, he would’ve had no
trouble recognizing Reyna’s troops as worthy soldiers of Rome.
But they had no business being so close to Camp Half-Blood. Octavian’s
insubordination made Reyna clench her fists. He was intentionally
provoking the Greeks, hoping for battle.
Her dream vision zoomed to the porch of the farmhouse, where Octavian
sat in a gilded chair that looked suspiciously like a throne. Along with his
senatorial purple-lined toga, his centurion badge and his augur’s knife, he
had adopted a new honour: a white cloth mantle over his head, which
marked him as Pontifex Maximus, high priest to the gods.
Reyna wanted to strangle him. No demigod in living memory had taken
the title Pontifex Maximus. By doing so, Octavian was elevating himself
almost to the level of emperor.

To his right, reports and maps were strewn across a low table. To his left,
a marble altar was heaped with fruit and gold offerings, no doubt for the
gods. But to Reyna it looked like an altar to Octavian himself.
At his side, the legion’s eagle bearer, Jacob, stood at attention, sweating
in his lion-skin cloak as he held the staff with the golden eagle standard of
the Twelfth.
Octavian was in the midst of an audience. At the base of the stairs knelt a
boy in jeans and a rumpled hoodie. Octavian’s fellow centurion of the First
Cohort, Mike Kahale, stood to one side with his arms crossed, glowering
with obvious displeasure.
‘Well, now.’ Octavian scanned a piece of parchment. ‘I see here you are a
legacy, a descendant of Orcus.’
The boy in the hoodie looked up, and Reyna caught her breath. Bryce
Lawrence. She recognized his mop of brown hair, his broken nose, his cruel
green eyes and smug, twisted smile.
‘Yes, my lord,’ Bryce said.
‘Oh, I’m not a lord.’ Octavian’s eyes crinkled. ‘Just a centurion, an augur
and a humble priest doing his best to serve the gods. I understand you were
dismissed from the legion for … ah, disciplinary problems.’
Reyna tried to shout, but she couldn’t make a sound. Octavian knew
perfectly well why Bryce had been kicked out. Much like his godly
forefather, Orcus, the underworld god of punishment, Bryce was completely
remorseless. The little psychopath had survived his trials with Lupa just
fine, but as soon as he arrived at Camp Jupiter he had proved to be
untrainable. He had tried to set a cat on fire for fun. He had stabbed a horse
and sent it stampeding through the Forum. He was even suspected of
sabotaging a siege engine and getting his own centurion killed during the
war games.
If Reyna had been able to prove it, Bryce’s punishment would’ve been
death. But because the evidence was circumstantial, and because Bryce’s
family was rich and powerful with lots of influence in New Rome, he’d got
away with the lighter sentence of banishment.

‘Yes, Pontifex,’ Bryce said slowly. ‘But, if I may, those charges were
unproven. I am a loyal Roman.’
Mike Kahale looked like he was doing his best not to throw up.
Octavian smiled. ‘I believe in second chances. You’ve responded to my
call for recruits. You have the proper credentials and letters of
recommendation. Do you pledge to follow my orders and serve the legion?’
‘Absolutely,’ said Bryce.
‘Then you are reinstated in probatio,’ Octavian said, ‘until you have
proven yourself in combat.’
He gestured at Mike, who reached in his pouch and fished out a lead
probatio tablet on a leather cord. He hung the cord around Bryce’s neck.
‘Report to the Fifth Cohort,’ Octavian said. ‘They could use some new
blood, some fresh perspective. If your centurion Dakota has any problem
with that, tell him to talk to me.’
Bryce smiled like he’d just been handed a sharp knife. ‘My pleasure.’
‘And, Bryce.’ Octavian’s face looked almost ghoulish under his white
mantle – his eyes too piercing, his cheeks too gaunt, his lips too thin and
colourless. ‘However much money, power and prestige the Lawrence
family carries in the legion, remember that my family carries more. I am
personally sponsoring you, as I am sponsoring all the other new recruits.
Follow my orders, and you’ll advance quickly. Soon I may have a little job
for you – a chance to prove your worth. But cross me and I will not be as
lenient as Reyna. Do you understand?’
Bryce’s smile faded. He looked like he wanted to say something, but he
changed his mind. He nodded.
‘Good,’ Octavian said. ‘Also, get a haircut. You look like one of those
Graecus scum. Dismissed.’
After Bryce left, Mike Kahale shook his head. ‘That makes two dozen
now.’
‘It’s good news, my friend,’ Octavian assured him. ‘We need the extra
manpower.’
‘Murderers. Thieves. Traitors.’
‘Loyal demigods,’ Octavian said, ‘who owe their position to me.’

Mike scowled. Until Reyna had met him, she’d never understood why
people called biceps guns, but Mike’s arms were as thick as bazooka
barrels. He had broad features, a toasted-almond complexion, onyx hair and
proud dark eyes, like the old Hawaiian kings. She wasn’t sure how a highschool linebacker from Hilo had wound up with Venus for a mom, but no
one in the legion gave him any grief about that – not once they saw him
crush rocks with his bare hands.
Reyna had always liked Mike Kahale. Unfortunately, Mike was very
loyal to his sponsor. And his sponsor was Octavian.
The self-appointed pontifex rose and stretched. ‘Don’t worry, old friend.
Our siege teams have the Greek camp surrounded. Our eagles have
complete air superiority. The Greeks aren’t going anywhere until we’re
ready to strike. In eleven days, all my forces will be in place. My little
surprises will be prepared. On August first, the Feast of Spes, the Greek
camp will fall.’
‘But Reyna said –’
‘We’ve been through this.’ Octavian slid his iron dagger from his belt
and threw it at the table, where it impaled a map of Camp Half-Blood.
‘Reyna has forfeited her position. She went to the ancient lands, which is
against the law.’
‘But the Earth Mother –’
‘– has been stirring because of the war between the Greek and Roman
camps, yes? The gods are incapacitated, yes? And how do we solve that
problem, Mike? We eliminate the division. We wipe out the Greeks. We
return the gods to their proper manifestation as Roman. Once the gods are
restored to their full power, Gaia will not dare rise. She will sink back into
her slumber. We demigods will be strong and unified, as we were in the old
days of the empire. Besides, the first day of August is most auspicious – the
month named after my ancestor Augustus. And you know how he united the
Romans?’
‘He seized power and became emperor,’ Mike rumbled.
Octavian waved aside the comment. ‘Nonsense. He saved Rome by
becoming First Citizen. He wanted peace and prosperity, not power!

Believe me, Mike, I intend to follow his example. I will save New Rome
and, when I do, I will remember my friends.’
Mike shifted his considerable bulk. ‘You sound certain. Has your gift of
prophecy –’
Octavian held up his hand in warning. He glanced at Jacob the eagle
bearer, who was still standing at attention behind him. ‘Jacob, you’re
dismissed. Why don’t you go polish the eagle or something?’
Jacob’s shoulders slumped in relief. ‘Yes, Augur. I mean Centurion! I
mean Pontifex! I mean –’
‘Go.’
‘I’ll go.’
Once Jacob had hobbled off, Octavian’s face clouded. ‘Mike, I told you
not to speak of my, ah, problem. But to answer your question: no, there still
seems to be some interference with Apollo’s usual gift to me.’ He glanced
resentfully at a pile of mutilated stuffed animals heaped in the corner of the
porch. ‘I can’t see the future. Perhaps that false Oracle at Camp Half-Blood
is working some sort of witchcraft. But as I’ve told you before, in strictest
confidence, Apollo spoke to me clearly last year at Camp Jupiter! He
personally blessed my endeavours. He promised I would be remembered as
the saviour of the Romans.’
Octavian spread his arms, revealing his harp tattoo, the symbol of his
godly forefather. Seven slash marks indicated his years of service – more
than any presiding officer, including Reyna.
‘Never fear, Mike. We will crush the Greeks. We will stop Gaia and her
minions. Then we’ll take that harpy the Greeks have been harbouring – the
one who memorized our Sibylline Books – and we’ll force her to give us
the knowledge of our ancestors. Once that happens, I’m sure Apollo will
restore my gift of prophecy. Camp Jupiter will be more powerful than ever.
We will rule the future.’
Mike’s scowl didn’t lessen, but he raised his fist in salute. ‘You’re the
boss.’
‘Yes, I am.’ Octavian pulled his dagger from the table. ‘Now, go check
on those two dwarfs you captured. I want them properly terrified before I

interrogate them again and dispatch them to Tartarus.’
The dream faded.
‘Hey, wake up.’ Reyna’s eyes fluttered open. Gleeson Hedge was leaning
over her, shaking her shoulder. ‘We got trouble.’
His grave tone got her blood moving.
‘What is it?’ She struggled to sit up. ‘Ghosts? Monsters?’
Hedge scowled. ‘Worse. Tourists.’

VII

Reyna

THE HORDES HAD ARRIVED.
In groups of twenty or thirty, tourists swarmed through the ruins, milling
around the villas, wandering the cobblestone paths, gawking at the
colourful frescoes and mosaics.
Reyna worried how the tourists would react to a forty-foot-tall statue of
Athena in the middle of the courtyard, but the Mist must have been working
overtime to obscure the mortals’ vision.
Each time a group approached, they’d stop at the edge of the courtyard
and stare in disappointment at the statue. One British tour guide announced,
‘Ah, scaffolding. It appears this area is undergoing restoration. Pity. Let’s
move along.’
And off they went.
At least the statue didn’t rumble, ‘DIE, UNBELIEVERS!’ and zap the
mortals to dust. Reyna had once dealt with a statue of the goddess Diana
like that. It hadn’t been her most relaxing day.
She recalled what Annabeth had told her about the Athena Parthenos: its
magical aura both attracted monsters and kept them at bay. Sure enough,
every so often, out of the corner of her eye, Reyna would spot glowing
white spirits in Roman clothes flitting among the ruins, frowning at the
statue in consternation.
‘Those lemures are everywhere,’ Gleeson muttered. ‘Keeping their
distance for now – but come nightfall we’d better be ready to move. Ghosts
are always worse at night.’
Reyna didn’t need to be reminded of that.

She watched as an elderly couple in matching pastel shirts and Bermuda
shorts tottered through a nearby garden. She was glad they didn’t come any
closer. Around the camp, Coach Hedge had rigged all sorts of trip wires,
snares and oversized mousetraps that wouldn’t stop any self-respecting
monster, but they might very well bring down a senior citizen.
Despite the warm morning, Reyna shivered from her dreams. She
couldn’t decide which was more terrifying – the impending destruction of
New Rome, or the way Octavian was poisoning the legion from the inside.
Your quest is a fool’s errand.
Camp Jupiter needed her. The Twelfth Legion needed her. Yet Reyna was
halfway across the world, watching a satyr toast blueberry waffles on a
stick over an open fire.
She wanted to talk about her nightmares, but she decided to wait until
Nico woke up. She wasn’t sure she’d have the courage to describe them
twice.
Nico kept snoring. Reyna had discovered that once he fell asleep it took a
lot to wake him up. The coach could do a goat-hoof tap dance around
Nico’s head and the son of Hades wouldn’t even budge.
‘Here.’ Hedge offered her a plate of flame-grilled waffles with fresh
sliced kiwi and pineapple. It all looked surprisingly good.
‘Where are you getting these supplies?’ Reyna marvelled.
‘Hey, I’m a satyr. We’re very efficient packers.’ He took a bite of waffle.
‘We also know how to live off the land!’
As Reyna ate, Coach Hedge took out a notepad and started to write.
When he was finished, he folded the paper into an aeroplane and tossed it
into the air. A breeze carried it away.
‘A letter to your wife?’ Reyna guessed.
Under the rim of his baseball cap, Hedge’s eyes were bloodshot.
‘Mellie’s a cloud nymph. Air spirits send stuff by paper aeroplane all the
time. Hopefully her cousins will keep the letter going across the ocean until
it finds her. It’s not as fast as an Iris-message, but, well, I want our kid to
have some record of me, in case, you know …’
‘We’ll get you home,’ Reyna promised. ‘You will see your kid.’

Hedge clenched his jaw and said nothing.
Reyna was pretty good at getting people to talk. She considered it
essential to know her comrades-in-arms. But she’d had a tough time
convincing Hedge to open up about his wife, Mellie, who was close to
giving birth back at Camp Half-Blood. Reyna had trouble imagining the
coach as a father, but she understood what it was like to grow up without
parents. She wasn’t going to let that happen to Coach Hedge’s child.
‘Yeah, well …’ The satyr bit off another piece of waffle, including the
stick he’d toasted it on. ‘I just wish we could move faster.’ He chin-pointed
to Nico. ‘I don’t see how this kid is going to last one more jump. How many
more will it take us to get home?’
Reyna shared his concern. In only eleven days, the giants planned to
awaken Gaia. Octavian planned to attack Camp Half-Blood on the same
day. That couldn’t be a coincidence. Perhaps Gaia was whispering in
Octavian’s ear, influencing his decisions subconsciously. Or worse:
Octavian was actively in league with the earth goddess. Reyna didn’t want
to believe that even Octavian would knowingly betray the legion, but after
what she’d seen in her dreams she couldn’t be sure.
She finished her meal as a group of Chinese tourists shuffled past the
courtyard. Reyna had been awake for less than an hour and already she was
restless to get moving.
‘Thanks for breakfast, Coach.’ She got to her feet and stretched. ‘If you’ll
excuse me, where there are tourists, there are bathrooms. I need to use the
little praetors’ room.’
‘Go ahead.’ The coach jangled the whistle that hung around his neck. ‘If
anything happens, I’ll blow.’
Reyna left Aurum and Argentum on guard duty and strolled through the
crowds of mortals until she found a visitors’ centre with restrooms. She did
her best to clean up, but she found it ironic that she was in an actual Roman
city and couldn’t enjoy a nice hot Roman bath. She had to settle for paper
towels, a broken soap dispenser and an asthmatic hand dryer. And the
toilets … the less said about those, the better.

As she was walking back, she passed a small museum with a window
display. Behind the glass lay a row of plaster figures, all frozen in the throes
of death. A young girl was curled in a fetal position. A woman lay twisted
in agony, her mouth open to scream, her arms thrown overhead. A man
knelt with his head bowed, as if accepting the inevitable.
Reyna stared with a mixture of horror and revulsion. She’d read about
such figures, but she’d never seen them in person. After the eruption of
Vesuvius, volcanic ash had buried the city and hardened to rock around
dying Pompeians. Their bodies had disintegrated, leaving behind humanshaped pockets of air. Early archaeologists had poured plaster into the holes
and made these casts – creepy replicas of Ancient Romans.
Reyna found it disturbing, wrong, that these people’s dying moments
were on display like clothes in a shop window, yet she couldn’t look away.
All her life she’d dreamed about coming to Italy. She had assumed it
would never happen. The ancient lands were forbidden to modern
demigods; the area was simply too dangerous. Nevertheless, she wanted to
follow in the footsteps of Aeneas, son of Aphrodite, the first demigod to
settle here after the Trojan War. She wanted to see the original Tiber River,
where Lupa the wolf goddess saved Romulus and Remus.
But Pompeii? Reyna had never wanted to come here. The site of Rome’s
most infamous disaster, an entire city swallowed by the earth … After
Reyna’s nightmares, that hit a little too close to home.
So far in the ancient lands, she’d only seen one place on her wish list:
Diocletian’s Palace in Split, and even that visit had hardly gone the way
she’d imagined. Reyna used to dream about going there with Jason to
admire their favourite emperor’s home. She pictured romantic walks with
him through the old city, sunset picnics on the parapets.
Instead, Reyna had arrived in Croatia not with him but with a dozen
angry wind spirits on her tail. She’d fought her way through ghosts in the
palace. On her way out, gryphons had attacked, mortally wounding her
pegasus. The closest she’d got to Jason was finding a note he’d left for her
under a bust of Diocletian in the basement.
She would only have painful memories of that place.

Don’t be bitter, she chided herself. Aeneas suffered, too. So did Romulus,
Diocletian and all the rest. Romans don’t complain about hardship.
Staring at the plaster death figures in the museum window, she wondered
what they had been thinking as they curled up to die in the ashes. Probably
not: Well, we’re Romans! We shouldn’t complain!
A gust of wind blew through the ruins, making a hollow moan. Sunlight
flashed against the window, momentarily blinding her.
With a start, Reyna looked up. The sun was directly overhead. How could
it be noon already? She’d left the House of the Faun just after breakfast.
She’d only been standing here a few minutes … hadn’t she?
She tore herself from the museum display and hurried off, trying to shake
the feeling that the dead Pompeians were whispering behind her back.
The rest of the afternoon was unnervingly quiet.
Reyna kept watch while Coach Hedge slept, but there was nothing much
to guard against. Tourists came and went. Random harpies and wind spirits
flew by overhead. Reyna’s dogs would snarl in warning, but the monsters
didn’t stop to fight.
Ghosts skulked around the edges of the courtyard, apparently intimidated
by the Athena Parthenos. Reyna couldn’t blame them. The longer the statue
stood in Pompeii, the more anger it seemed to radiate, making Reyna’s skin
itchy and her nerves raw.
Finally, just after sunset, Nico woke. He wolfed down an avocado and
cheese sandwich, the first time he’d shown a decent appetite since leaving
the House of Hades.
Reyna hated to ruin his dinner, but they didn’t have much time. As the
daylight faded, the ghosts started moving closer and in greater numbers.
She told him about her dreams: the earth swallowing Camp Jupiter,
Octavian closing in on Camp Half-Blood and the hunter with the glowing
eyes who had shot Reyna in the gut.
Nico stared at his empty plate. ‘This hunter … a giant, maybe?’
Coach Hedge grunted. ‘I’d rather not find out. I say we keep moving.’
Nico’s mouth twitched. ‘You are suggesting we avoid a fight?’

‘Listen, cupcake, I like a smackdown as much as the next guy, but we’ve
got enough monsters to worry about without some bounty-hunter giant
tracking us across the world. I don’t like the sound of those huge arrows.’
‘For once,’ Reyna said, ‘I agree with Hedge.’
Nico unfolded his aviator jacket. He put his finger through an arrow hole
in the sleeve.
‘I could ask for advice.’ Nico sounded reluctant. ‘Thalia Grace …’
‘Jason’s sister,’ Reyna said.
She’d never met Thalia. In fact, she’d only recently learned Jason had a
sister. According to Jason, she was a Greek demigod, a daughter of Zeus,
who led a group of Diana’s … no, Artemis’s followers. The whole idea
made Reyna’s head spin.
Nico nodded. ‘The Hunters of Artemis are … well, hunters. If anybody
knew about this giant hunter guy, Thalia would. I could try sending her an
Iris-message.’
‘You don’t sound very excited about the idea,’ Reyna noticed. ‘Are you
two … on bad terms?’
‘We’re fine.’
A few feet away, Aurum snarled quietly, which meant Nico was lying.
Reyna decided not to press.
‘I should also try to contact my sister, Hylla,’ she said. ‘Camp Jupiter is
lightly defended. If Gaia attacks there, perhaps the Amazons could help.’
Coach Hedge scowled. ‘No offence, but, uh … what’s an army of
Amazons going to do against a wave of dirt?’
Reyna fought down a sense of dread. She suspected Hedge was right.
Against what she’d seen in her dreams, the only defence wo