Read The Son of Neptune Online

Authors: Rick Riordan

Tags: #Legends; Myths; Fables, #Action & Adventure, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #General, #Other, #Fiction - Young Adult

The Son of Neptune (5 page)

BOOK: The Son of Neptune
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His heart sank. “Popular place.”

“I’m sorry, Percy,” Hazel said. “It’s just…Romans were always scared of the sea. They only used ships if they
to. Even in modern times, having a child of Neptune around has always been a bad omen. The last time one joined the legion

…well, it was 1906, when Camp Jupiter was located across the bay in San Francisco. There was this huge earthquake—”

“You’re telling me a child of Neptune caused that?”

“So they say.” Hazel looked apologetic. “Anyway…

Romans fear Neptune, but they don’t love him much.” Percy stared at the cobwebs on the trident. Great, he thought. Even if he joined the camp, he would never be loved. His best hope was to be scary to his new campmates. Maybe if he did really well, they’d give him some moldy apples.

Still…standing at Neptune’s altar, he felt something stirring inside him, like waves rippling through his veins.

He reached in his backpack and dug out the last bit of food from his trip—a stale bagel. It wasn’t much, but he set it on the altar.

“Hey…uh, Dad.” He felt pretty stupid talking to a bowl of fruit. “If you can hear me, help me out, okay? Give me my memory back. Tell me—tell me what to do.”

His voice cracked. He hadn’t meant to get emotional, but he was exhausted and scared, and he’d been lost for so long, he would’ve given anything for some guidance. He wanted to know something about his life for sure, without grabbing for missing memories.

Hazel put her hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay. You’re here now. You’re one of us.”

He felt awkward, depending on an eighth-grade girl he barely knew for comfort, but he was glad she was there.

Above them, thunder rumbled. Red lightning lit up the hill.

“Octavian’s almost done,” Hazel said. “Let’s go.”

Compared to Neptune’s tool shed, Jupiter’s temple was definitely optimus and maximus.

The marble floor was etched with fancy mosaics and Latin inscriptions. Sixty feet above, the domed ceiling sparkled gold. The whole temple was open to the wind.

In the center stood a marble altar, where a kid in a toga was doing some sort of ritual in front of a massive golden statue of the big dude himself: Jupiter the sky god, dressed in a silk XXXL purple toga, holding a lightning bolt.

“It doesn’t look like that,” Percy muttered.

“What?” Hazel asked.

“The master bolt,” Percy said.

“What are you

“I—” Percy frowned. For a second, he’d thought he remembered something. Now it was gone. “Nothing, I guess.”

The kid at the altar raised his hands. More red lightning flashed in the sky, shaking the temple. Then he put his hands down, and the rumbling stopped. The clouds turned from gray to white and broke apart.

A pretty impressive trick, considering the kid didn’t look like much. He was tall and skinny, with straw-colored hair, oversized jeans, a baggy T-shirt, and a drooping toga. He looked like a scarecrow wearing a bed sheet.

“What’s he doing?” Percy murmured.

The guy in the toga turned. He had a crooked smile and a slightly crazy look in his eyes, like he’d just been playing an intense video game. In one hand he held a knife. In the other hand was something like a dead animal. That didn’t make him look any less crazy.

“Percy,” Hazel said, “this is Octavian.”

!” Octavian announced. “How interesting.”

“Uh, hi,” Percy said. “Are you killing small animals?”

Octavian looked at the fuzzy thing in his hand and laughed. “No, no. Once upon a time, yes. We used to read the will of the gods by examining animal guts—chickens, goats, that sort of thing. Nowadays, we use these.”

He tossed the fuzzy thing to Percy. It was a disemboweled teddy bear. Then Percy noticed that there was a whole pile of mutilated stuffed animals at the foot of Jupiter’s statue.

“Seriously?” Percy asked.

Octavian stepped off the dais. He was probably about eighteen, but so skinny and sickly pale, he could’ve passed for younger. At first he looked harmless, but as he got closer, Percy wasn’t so sure. Octavian’s eyes glittered with harsh curiosity, like he might gut Percy just as easily as a teddy bear if he thought he could learn something from it.

Octavian narrowed his eyes. “You seem nervous.”

“You remind me of someone,” Percy said. “I can’t remember who.”

“Possibly my namesake, Octavian—Augustus Caesar. Everyone says I bear a remarkable resemblance.”

Percy didn’t think that was it, but he couldn’t pin down the memory. “Why did you call me ‘the Greek’?”

“I saw it in the auguries.” Octavian waved his knife at the pile of stuffing on the altar. “The message said:
The Greek has arrived.
Or possibly:
The goose has cried.
I’m thinking the first interpretation is correct. You seek to join the legion?”

Hazel spoke for him. She told Octavian everything that had happened since they met at the tunnel—the gorgons, the fight at the river, the appearance of Juno, their conversation with Reyna.

When she mentioned Juno, Octavian looked surprised.

“Juno,” he mused. “We call her Juno Moneta. Juno the Warner. She appears in times of crisis, to counsel Rome about great threats.”

He glanced at Percy, as if to say:
like mysterious Greeks, for instance.

“I hear the Feast of Fortuna is this week,” Percy said. “The gorgons warned there’d be an invasion on that day. Did you see that in your stuffing?”

“Sadly, no.” Octavian sighed. “The will of the gods is hard to discern. And these days, my vision is even darker.”

“Don’t you have…I don’t know,” Percy said, “an oracle or something?”

“An oracle!” Octavian smiled. “What a cute idea. No, I’m afraid we’re fresh out of oracles. Now, if we’d gone questing for the Sibylline books, like I recommended—”

“The Siba-what?” Percy asked.

“Books of prophecy,” Hazel said, “which Octavian is
with. Romans used to consult them when disasters happened. Most people believe they burned up when Rome fell.”

people believe that,” Octavian corrected. “Unfortunately our present leadership won’t authorize a quest to look for them—”

“Because Reyna isn’t stupid,” Hazel said.

“—so we have only a few remaining scraps from the books,” Octavian continued. “A few mysterious predictions, like these.”

He nodded to the inscriptions on the marble floor. Percy stared at the lines of words, not really expecting to understand them. He almost choked.

“That one.” He pointed, translating as he read aloud:
“Seven half-bloods shall answer the call. To storm or fire the world must fall

“Yes, yes.” Octavian finished it without looking:
“An oath to keep with a final breath, and foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.”

“I—I know that one.” Percy thought thunder was shaking the temple again. Then he realized his whole body was trembling. “That’s

Octavian arched an eyebrow. “Of course it’s important. We call it the Prophecy of Seven, but it’s several thousand years old. We don’t know what it means. Every time someone tries to interpret it…Well, Hazel can tell you. Bad things happen.”

Hazel glared at him. “Just read the augury for Percy. Can he join the legion or not?”

Percy could almost see Octavian’s mind working, calculating whether or not Percy would be useful. He held out his hand for Percy’s backpack. “That’s a beautiful specimen. May I?”

Percy didn’t understand what he meant, but Octavian snatched the Bargain Mart panda pillow that was sticking out of the top of his pack. It was just a silly stuffed toy, but Percy had carried it a long way. He was kind of fond of it. Octavian turned toward the altar and raised his knife.

“Hey!” Percy protested.

Octavian slashed open the panda’s belly and poured its stuffing over the altar. He tossed the panda carcass aside, muttered a few words over the fluff, and turned with a big smile on his face.

“Good news!” he said. “Percy may join the legion. We’ll assign him a cohort at evening muster. Tell Reyna that I approve.”

Hazel’s shoulders relaxed. “Uh…great. Come on, Percy.”

“Oh, and Hazel,” Octavian said. “I’m happy to welcome Percy into the legion. But when the election for praetor comes up, I hope you’ll remember—”

dead,” Hazel snapped. “You’re the augur. You’re supposed to be looking for him!”

“Oh, I am!” Octavian pointed at the pile of gutted stuffed animals. “I consult the gods every day! Alas, after eight months, I’ve found nothing. Of course, I’m still looking. But if Jason doesn’t return by the Feast of Fortuna, we must act. We can’t have a power vacuum any longer. I hope you’ll support me for praetor. It would mean so much to me.”

Hazel clenched her fists. “Me. Support. You?”

Octavian took off his toga, setting it and his knife on the altar. Percy noticed seven lines on Octavian’s arm—seven years of camp, Percy guessed. Octavian’s mark was a harp, the symbol of Apollo.

“After all,” Octavian told Hazel, “I might be able to help you. It would be a shame if those awful rumors about you kept circulating…or, gods forbid, if they turned out to be true.”

Percy slipped his hand into his pocket and grabbed his pen. This guy was blackmailing Hazel. That was obvious. One sign from Hazel, and Percy was ready to bust out Riptide and see how Octavian liked being at the other end of a blade.

Hazel took a deep breath. Her knuckles were white. “I’ll think about it.”

“Excellent,” Octavian said. “By the way, your brother is here.”

Hazel stiffened. “My brother? Why?”

Octavian shrugged. “Why does your brother do
? He’s waiting for you at your father’s shrine. Just…ah, don’t invite him to stay too long. He has a disturbing effect on the others. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to keep searching for our poor lost friend, Jason. Nice to meet you, Percy.”

Hazel stormed out of the pavilion, and Percy followed. He was sure he’d never been so glad to leave a temple in his life.

As Hazel marched down the hill, she cursed in Latin. Percy didn’t understand all of it, but he got
son of a gorgon
power-hungry snake
, and a few choice suggestions about where Octavian could stick his knife.

that guy,” she muttered in English. “If I had my way—”

“He won’t really get elected praetor, will he?” Percy asked.

“I wish I could be certain. Octavian has a lot of friends, most of them
. The rest of the campers are afraid of him.”

“Afraid of that skinny little guy?”

“Don’t underestimate him. Reyna’s not so bad by herself, but if Octavian shares her power…” Hazel shuddered. “Let’s go see my brother. He’ll want to meet you.”

Percy didn’t argue. He wanted to meet this mysterious brother, maybe learn something about Hazel’s background—who her dad was, what secret she was hiding. Percy couldn’t believe she’d done anything to be guilty about. She seemed too nice. But Octavian had acted like he had some first-class dirt on her.

Hazel led Percy to a black crypt built into the side of the hill. Standing in front was a teenage boy in black jeans and an aviator jacket.

“Hey,” Hazel called. “I’ve brought a friend.”

The boy turned. Percy had another one of those weird flashes: like this was somebody he should know. The kid was almost as pale as Octavian, but with dark eyes and messy black hair. He didn’t look anything like Hazel. He wore a silver skull ring, a chain for a belt, and a black T-shirt with skull designs. At his side hung a pure-black sword.

For a microsecond when he saw Percy, the boy seemed shocked—panicked even, like he’d been caught in a searchlight.

“This is Percy Jackson,” Hazel said. “He’s a good guy. Percy, this is my brother, the son of Pluto.”

The boy regained his composure and held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you,” he said. “I’m Nico di Angelo.”

two nuclear bombs. Now she was waiting to see which one exploded first.

Until that morning, her brother Nico had been the most powerful demigod she knew. The others at Camp Jupiter saw him as a traveling oddball, about as harmless as the fauns. Hazel knew better. She hadn’t grown up with Nico, hadn’t even known him very long. But she knew Nico was more dangerous than Reyna, or Octavian, or maybe even Jason.

Then she’d met Percy.

At first, when she saw him stumbling up the highway with the old lady in his arms, Hazel had thought he might be a god in disguise. Even though he was beat up, dirty, and stooped with exhaustion, he’d had an aura of power. He had the good looks of a Roman god, with sea-green eyes and wind blown black hair.

She’d ordered Frank not to fire on him. She thought the gods might be testing them. She’d heard myths like that: a kid with an old lady begs for shelter, and when the rude mortals refuse—
they get turned into banana slugs.

Then Percy had controlled the river and destroyed the gorgons. He’d turned a pen into a bronze sword. He’d stirred up the whole camp with talk about the

A son of the sea god...

Long ago, Hazel had been told that a descendant of Neptune would save her. But could Percy really take away her curse? It seemed too much to hope for.

Percy and Nico shook hands. They studied each other warily, and Hazel fought the urge to run. If these two busted out the magic swords, things could get ugly.

Nico didn’t appear scary. He was skinny and sloppy in his rumpled black clothes. His hair, as always, looked like he’d just rolled out of bed.

Hazel remembered when she’d met him. The first time she’d seen him draw that black sword of his, she’d almost laughed. The way he called it “Stygian iron,” all serious-like—he’d looked ridiculous. This scrawny white boy was no fighter. She certainly hadn’t believed they were related.

She had changed her mind about that quick enough.

Percy scowled. “I—I know you.”

Nico raised his eyebrows. “Do you?” He looked at Hazel for explanation.

Hazel hesitated. Something about her brother’s reaction wasn’t right. He was trying hard to act casual, but when he had first seen Percy, Hazel had noticed his momentary look of panic. Nico already knew Percy. She was sure of it. Why was he pretending otherwise?

Hazel forced herself to speak. “Um…Percy’s lost his memory.” She told her brother what had happened since Percy had arrived at the gates.

“So, Nico…” she continued carefully, “I thought…you know, you travel all over. Maybe you’ve met demigods like Percy before, or...”

Nico’s expression turned as dark as Tartarus. Hazel didn’t understand why, but she got the message:
Drop it.

“This story about Gaea’s army,” Nico said. “You warned Reyna?”

Percy nodded. “Who is Gaea, anyway?”

Hazel’s mouth went dry. Just hearing that name…It was all she could do to keep her knees from buckling. She remembered a woman’s soft sleepy voice, a glowing cave, and feeling her lungs fill with black oil.

“She’s the earth goddess.” Nico glanced at the ground as if it might be listening. “The oldest goddess of all. She’s in a deep sleep most of the time, but she hates the gods and their children.”

“Mother Earth…is evil?” Percy asked.

“Very,” Nico said gravely. “She convinced her son, the Titan Kronos—um, I mean, Saturn—to kill his dad, Uranus, and take over the world. The Titans ruled for a long time. Then the Titans’ children, the Olympian gods, overthrew them.”

“That story seems familiar,” Percy sounded surprised, like an old memory had partially surfaced. “But I don’t think I ever heard the part about Gaea.”

Nico shrugged. “She got mad when the gods took over. She took a new husband—Tartarus, the spirit of the abyss—and gave birth to a race of giants. They tried to destroy Mount Olympus, but the gods finally beat them. At least…the first time.”

“The first time?” Percy repeated.

Nico glanced at Hazel. He probably wasn’t meaning to make her feel guilty, but she couldn’t help it. If Percy knew the truth about her, and the horrible things she’d done…

“Last summer,” Nico continued, “Saturn tried to make a comeback. There was a second Titan war. The Romans at Camp Jupiter stormed his headquarters on Mount Othrys, across the bay, and destroyed his throne. Saturn disappeared—” He hesitated, watching Percy’s face. Hazel got the feeling her brother was nervous that more of Percy’s memory might come back.

“Um, anyway,” Nico continued, “Saturn probably faded back to the abyss. We all thought the war was over. Now it looks like the Titans’ defeat stirred up Gaea. She’s starting to wake. I’ve heard reports of giants being reborn. If they mean to challenge the gods again, they’ll probably start by destroying the demigods.…”

“You’ve told Reyna this?” Percy asked.

“Of course.” Nico’s jaw tensed. “The Romans don’t trust me. That’s why I was hoping she’d listen to you. Children of Pluto…well, no offense, but they think we’re even worse than children of Neptune. We’re bad luck.”

“They let Hazel stay here,” Percy noted.

“That’s different,” Nico said.


“Percy,” Hazel cut in, “look, the giants aren’t the worst problem. Even ... even
isn’t the worst problem. The thing you noticed about the gorgons, how they wouldn’t die,
our biggest worry.” She looked at Nico. She was getting dangerously close to her own secret now, but for some reason Hazel trusted Percy. Maybe because he was also an outsider, maybe because he’d saved Frank at the river. He deserved to know what they were facing.

“Nico and I,” she said carefully, “we think that what’s happening is…Death isn’t—”

Before she could finish, a shout came from down the hill.

Frank jogged toward them, wearing his jeans, purple camp shirt, and denim jacket. His hands were covered with grease from cleaning weapons.

As it did every time she saw Frank, Hazel’s heart performed a little skip-beat tap-dance—which
irritated her. Sure, he was a good friend—one of the only people at camp who didn’t treat her as if she had a contagious disease. But she didn’t like him in

He was three years older than she was, and he wasn’t exactly Prince Charming, with that strange combination of baby face and bulky wrestler’s body. He looked like a cuddly koala bear with muscles. The fact that everyone always tried to pair them up—
the two biggest losers at camp! You guys are perfect for each other
—just made Hazel more determined not to like him.

But her heart wasn’t with the program. It went nuts whenever Frank was around. She hadn’t felt like that since ... well, since Sammy.

Stop it, she thought. You’re here for one reason—and it isn’t to get a new boyfriend.

Besides, Frank didn’t know her secret. If he knew, he wouldn’t be so nice to her.

He reached the shrine. “Hey, Nico…”

“Frank.” Nico smiled. He seemed to find Frank amusing, maybe because Frank was the only one at camp who wasn’t uneasy around the children of Pluto.

“Reyna sent me to get Percy,” Frank said. “Did Octavian accept you?”

“Yeah,” Percy said. “He slaughtered my panda.”

“He…Oh. The augury? Yeah, teddy bears must have nightmares about that guy. But you’re in! We need to get you cleaned up before evening muster.”

Hazel realized the sun was getting low over the hills. How had the day gone so fast? “You’re right,” she said. “We’d better—”

“Frank,” Nico interrupted, “why don’t you take Percy down? Hazel and I will be along soon.”

Uh-oh, Hazel thought. She tried not to look anxious.

“That’s—that’s a good idea,” she managed. “Go ahead, guys. We’ll catch up.”

Percy looked at Nico one more time, as though he was still trying to place a memory. “I’d like to talk with you some more. I can’t shake the feeling—”

“Sure,” Nico agreed. “Later. I’ll be staying overnight.”

“You will?” Hazel blurted. The campers were going to love that—the son of Neptune and the son of Pluto arriving on the same day. Now all they needed was some black cats and broken mirrors.

“Go on, Percy,” Nico said. “Settle in.” He turned to Hazel, and she got the sense that the worst part of her day was yet to come. “My sister and I need to talk.”

“You know him, don’t you,” Hazel said.

They sat on the roof of Pluto’s shrine, which was covered with bones and diamonds. As far as Hazel knew, the bones had always been there. The diamonds were her fault. If she sat anywhere too long, or just got anxious, they started popping up all around her like mushrooms after a rain. Several million dollars’ worth of stones glittered on the roof, but fortunately the other campers wouldn’t touch them. They knew better than to steal from temples—especially Pluto’s—and the fauns never came up here.

Hazel shuddered, remembering her close call with Don that afternoon. If she hadn’t moved quickly and snatched that diamond off the road…She didn’t want to think about it. She didn’t need another death on her conscience.

Nico swung his feet like a little kid. His Stygian iron sword lay by his side, next to Hazel’s
He gazed across the valley, where construction crews were working in the Field of Mars, building fortifications for tonight’s games.

“Percy Jackson.” He said the name like an incantation. “Hazel, I have to be careful what I say. Important things are at work here. Some secrets need to stay secret. You of all people—you should understand that.”

Hazel’s cheeks felt hot. “But he’s not like…like me?”

“No,” Nico said. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you more. I can’t interfere. Percy has to find his own way at this camp.”

“Is he dangerous?” she asked.

Nico managed a dry smile. “Very. To his enemies. But he’s not a threat to Camp Jupiter. You can trust him.”

“Like I trust you,” Hazel said bitterly.

Nico twisted his skull ring. Around him, bones began to quiver as if they were trying to form a new skeleton. Whenever he got moody, Nico had that effect on the dead, kind of like Hazel’s curse. Between them, they represented Pluto’s two spheres of control: death and riches. Sometimes Hazel thought Nico had gotten the better end of the deal.

“Look, I know this is hard,” Nico said. “But you have a second chance. You can make things right.”

“Nothing about this is right,” Hazel said. “If they find out the truth about me—”

“They won’t,” Nico promised. “They’ll call a quest soon. They have to. You’ll make me proud. Trust me, Bi—”

He caught himself, but Hazel knew what he’d almost called her:
sister—the one he’d grown up with. Nico might care about Hazel, but she’d never be Bianca. Hazel was the simply the next best thing Nico could manage—a consolation prize from the Underworld.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Hazel’s mouth tasted like metal, as if gold nuggets were popping up under her tongue. “Then it’s true about Death? Is Alcyoneus to blame?”

“I think so,” Nico said. “It’s getting bad in the Underworld. Dad’s going crazy trying to keep things under control. From what Percy said about the gorgons, things are getting worse up here, too. But look, that’s why you’re here. All that stuff in your past—you can make something
come out of it.

You belong at Camp Jupiter.”

That sounded so ridiculous, Hazel almost laughed. She didn’t belong in this place. She didn’t even belong in this century.

She should have known better than to focus on the past, but she remembered the day when her old life had been shattered. The blackout hit her so suddenly, she didn’t even have time to say,
. She shifted back in time. Not a dream or a vision. The memory washed over her with such perfect clarity, she felt she was actually there.

Her most recent birthday. She’d just turned thirteen. But not
December—December 17, 1941, the last day she had lived in New Orleans.

BOOK: The Son of Neptune
6.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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