The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus Book 4)
‘We’re at another crossroads. The Athena Parthenos goes west. The
goes east. I hope we chose correctly.’
Percy wished he could say something encouraging, but he felt unsettled. Despite all they’d been through and all the battles they’d won, they still seemed no closer to defeating Gaia. Sure, they’d released Thanatos. They’d closed the Doors of Death. At least now they could kill monsters and make them
in Tartarus for a while. But the giants were back –
‘One thing bothers me,’ he said. ‘If the Feast of Spes is in two weeks, and Gaia needs the blood of two demigods to wake – what did Clytius call it? The blood of Olympus? – thenaren’t we doing exactly what Gaia wants, heading to Athens? If we don’t go, and she can’t sacrifice any of us, doesn’t that mean she can’t wake up fully?’
Annabeth took his hand. He drank in the sight of her now that they were back in the mortal world, without the Death Mist, her blonde hair catching the sunlight – even if she was still thin and wan, like him, and her grey eyes were stormy with thought.
‘Percy, prophecies cut both ways,’ she said. ‘If we
go, we may lose our best and only chance to stop her. Athens is where our battle lies. We can’t avoid it. Besides, trying to thwart prophecies never works. Gaia could capture us somewhere else or spill the blood of some other demigods.’
‘Yeah, you’re right,’ Percy said. ‘I don’t like it, but you’re right.’
The mood of the group became as gloomy as Tartarus air, until Piper broke the tension.
‘Well!’ She sheathed her blade and patted her cornucopia. ‘Good picnic. Who wants dessert?’
A T SUNSET, P ERCY FOUND N ICO tying ropes around the pedestal of the Athena Parthenos.
‘Thank you,’ Percy said.
Nico frowned. ‘What for?’
‘You promised to lead the others to the House of Hades,’ Percy said. ‘You did it.’
Nico tied the ends of the ropes together, making a halter. ‘You got me out of that bronze jar in Rome. Saved my life yet again. It was the least I could do.’
His voice was steely, guarded. Percy wished he could figure out what made this guy tick, but he’d never been able to. Nico was no longer the geeky kid from Westover Hall with the Mythomagic cards. Nor was he the angry loner who’d followed the ghost of Minos through the Labyrinth. But who was he?
‘Also,’ Percy said, ‘you visited Bob …’
He told Nico about their trip through Tartarus. He figuredif anyone could understand, Nico could. ‘You convinced Bob that I could be trusted, even though
never visited him. I never gave him a second thought. You probably saved our lives by being nice to him.’
‘Yeah, well,’ Nico said, ‘not giving people a second thought … that can be dangerous.’
‘Dude, I’m trying to say thank you.’
Nico laughed without humour. ‘I’m trying to say you don’t need to. Now I need to finish this, if you could give me some space?’
‘Yeah. Yeah, okay.’ Percy stepped back while Nico took up the slack on his ropes. He slipped them over his shoulders as if the Athena Parthenos were a giant backpack.
Percy couldn’t help feeling a little hurt, being told to take a hike. Then again, Nico had been through a lot. The guy had survived in Tartarus on his own. Percy understood firsthand just how much strength that must have taken.
Annabeth walked up the hill to join them. She took Percy’s hand, which made him feel better.
‘Good luck,’ she told Nico.
‘Yeah.’ He didn’t meet her eyes. ‘You, too.’
A minute later, Reyna and Coach Hedge arrived in full armour with packs over their shoulders. Reyna looked grim and ready for combat. Coach Hedge grinned like he was expecting a surprise party.
Reyna gave Annabeth a hug. ‘We will succeed,’ she promised.
‘I know you will,’ Annabeth said.
Coach Hedge shouldered his baseball bat. ‘Yeah, don’tworry. I’m going to get to camp and see my baby! Uh, I mean I’m going to get this baby to camp!’ He patted the leg of the Athena Parthenos.
‘All right,’ said Nico. ‘Grab the ropes, please. Here we go.’
Reyna and Hedge took hold. The air darkened. The Athena Parthenos collapsed into its own shadow and disappeared, along with its three escorts.
sailed after nightfall.
They veered southwest until they reached the coast, then splashed down in the Ionian Sea. Percy was relieved to feel the waves
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