Thalia tensed. “How can you be sure?”
I didn’t have an answer, but I rose to my feet. I pulled out Hal’s dagger, mostly for the glow of the Celestial bronze. Thalia grabbed her spear and summoned Aegis. This time I knew better than to look at the face of Medusa, but its presence still made my skin crawl. I didn’t know if this shield was the aegis, or a replica made for heroes—but either way, it radiated power. I understood why Amaltheia had wanted Thalia to claim it.
We crept along the wall of the warehouse.
We turned into a dark alleyway that dead-ended at a loading dock piled with old scrap metal.
I pointed at the platform.
Thalia frowned. She whispered, “Are you sure?”
I nodded. “Something’s down there. I sense it.”
Just then there was a loud CLANG. A sheet of corrugated tin quivered on the dock. Something—someone—was underneath.
We crept toward the loading bay until we stood over the pile of metal. Thalia readied her spear. I gestured for her to hold back. I reached for the piece of corrugated metal and mouthed, One, two, three!
As soon as I lifted the sheet of tin, something flew at me—a blur of flannel and blond hair. A hammer hurtled straight at my face.
Things could’ve gone very wrong. Fortunately my reflexes were good from years of fighting.
I shouted, “Whoa!” and dodged the hammer, then grabbed the little girl’s wrist. The hammer went skidding across the pavement.
The little girl struggled. She couldn’t have been more than seven years old.
“No more monsters!” she screamed, kicking me in the legs. “Go away!”
“It’s okay!” I tried my best to hold her, but it was like holding a wildcat. Thalia looked too stunned to move. She still had her spear and shield ready.
“Thalia,” I said, “put your shield away! You’re scaring her!”
Thalia unfroze. She touched the shield and it shrank back into a bracelet. She dropped her spear.
“Hey, little girl,” she said, sounding more gentle than I’d ever heard. “It’s all right. We’re not going to hurt you. I’m Thalia. This is Luke.”
“Monsters!” she wailed.
“No,” I promised. The poor thing wasn’t fighting as hard, but she was shivering like crazy, terrified of us. “But we know about monsters,” I said. “We fight them too.”
I held her, more to comfort than restrain now. Eventually she stopped kicking. She felt cold. Her ribs were bony under her flannel pajamas. I wondered how long this little girl had gone without eating. She was even younger than I had been when I ran away.
Despite her fear, she looked at me with large eyes. They were startlingly gray, beautiful and intelligent. A demigod—no doubt about it. I got the feeling she was powerful—or she would be, if she survived.
“You’re like me?” she asked, still suspicious, but she sounded a little hopeful, too.
“Yeah,” I promised. “We’re…” I hesitated, not sure if she understood what she was, or if she’d ever heard the word demigod. I didn’t want to scare her even worse. “Well, it’s hard to explain, but we’re monster fighters. Where’s your family?”
The little girl’s expression turned hard and angry. Her chin trembled. “My family hates me. They don’t want me. I ran away.”
My heart felt like it was cracking into pieces. She had such pain in her voice—familiar pain. I looked at Thalia, and we made a silent decision right there. We would take care of this kid. After what had happened with Halcyon Green…well, it seemed like fate. We’d watched one demigod die for us. Now we’d found this little girl. It was almost like a second chance.
Thalia knelt next to me. She put her hand on the little girl’s shoulder. “What’s your name, kiddo?”
I couldn’t help smiling. I’d never heard that name before, but it was pretty, and it seemed to fit her. “Nice name,” I told her. “I tell you what, Annabeth. You’re pretty fierce. We could use a fighter like you.”
Her eyes widened. “You could?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said earnestly. Then a sudden thought struck me. I reached for Hal’s dagger and pulled it from my belt. It will protect its owner, Hal had said. He had gotten it from the little girl he had saved. Now fate had given us the chance to save another little girl.
“How’d you like a real monster-slaying weapon?” I asked her. “This is Celestial bronze. Works a lot better than a hammer.”
Annabeth took the dagger and studied it in awe. I know…she was seven years old at most. What was I thinking giving her a weapon? But she was a demigod. We have to defend ourselves. Hercules was only a baby when he strangled two snakes in his cradle. By the time I was nine, I’d fought for my life a dozen times. Annabeth could use a weapon.
“Knives are only for the bravest and quickest fighters,” I told her. My voice caught as I remembered Hal Green, and how he’d died to save us. “They don’t have the reach or power of a sword, but they’re easy to conceal and they can find weak spots in your enemy’s armor. It takes a clever warrior to use a knife. I have a feeling you’re pretty clever.”
Annabeth beamed at me, and for that instant, all my problems seemed to melt. I felt as if I’d done one thing right. I swore to myself I would never let this girl come to harm.
“I am clever!” she said.
Thalia laughed and tousled Annabeth’s hair. Just like that—we had a new companion.
“We’d better get going, Annabeth,” Thalia said. “We have a safe house on the James River. We’ll get you some clothes and food.”
Annabeth’s smile wavered. For a moment, she got that wild look in her eyes again. “You’re…you’re not going to take me back to my family? Promise?”
I swallowed the lump out of my throat. Annabeth was so young, but she’d learned a hard lesson, just like Thalia and I had. Our parents had failed us. The gods were harsh and cruel and aloof. Demigods had only each other.
I put my hand on Annabeth’s shoulder. “You’re part of our family now. And I promise I’m not going to fail you like our families did us. Deal?”
“Deal!” she said happily, clutching her new dagger.
Thalia picked up her spear. She smiled at me with approval. “Now, come on. We can’t stay put for long!”
So here I am on guard duty, writing in Halcyon Green’s diary—my diary, now.
We’re camping in the woods south of Richmond. Tomorrow, we’ll press on to the James River and restock our supplies. After that…I don’t know. I keep thinking about Hal Green’s predictions. An ominous feeling weighs on my chest. There’s something dark in my future. It may be a long way off, but it feels like a thunderstorm on the horizon, supercharging the air. I just hope I have the strength to take care of my friends.
Looking at Thalia and Annabeth asleep by the fire, I’m amazed how peaceful their faces are. If I’m going to be the “dad” of this bunch, I’ve got to be worthy of their trust. None of us has had good luck with our dads. I have to be better than that. I may be only fourteen, but that’s no excuse. I have to keep my new family together.
I look toward the north. I imagine how long it would take to get to my mom’s house in Westport, Connecticut, from here. I wonder what my mom is doing right now. She was in such a bad state of mind when I left.…
But I can’t feel guilty about leaving her. I had to. If I ever meet my dad, we’re going to have a conversation about that.
For now, I’ll just have to survive day to day. I’ll write in this diary as I have the chance, though I doubt anyone will ever read it.
Thalia is stirring. It’s her turn on guard duty. Wow, my hand hurts. I haven’t written this much in forever. I’d better sleep, and hope for no dreams.
Luke Castellan—signing off for now.
GREEKS AND ROMANS
Let your knowledge of Greek and Roman gods guide you to a secret message!
The chart below lists the names of Greek and Roman gods. Your challenge: Match the proper Greek and Roman names to the descriptions in the chart on the opposite page.
When you’re done, replace the letter assigned to each Greek god with his or her Roman counterpart’s assigned number to reveal a hidden message! GREEK
GODS 1. Hephaestus A. Jupiter 2. Kronos B. Faunus 3. Aphrodite C. Vulcan 4. Poseidon D. Juno 5. Hermes E. Ceres 6. Zeus F. Bacchus 7. Demeter G. Venus 8. Ares H. Apollo 9. Hera I. Mercury 10. Gaea J. Arcus 11. Pan K. Janus 12. Dionysus L. Neptune 13. Hades M. Terra 14. Apollo N. Mars 15. Iris O. Pluto 16. Hecate P. Trivia
Where do Luke, Thalia, and Annabeth find a home?
GREEK GODS CHARACTERISTICS ROMAN GODS The patroness of love and beauty God of music, prophecy, medicine, poetry (loves haikus!), and intellectual inquiry A love of violence makes this god of war a fearsome avenger Zeus’s sister, she is credited for teaching man to farm The god of wine who loves parties, but is kind of a grump. In Roman form, he becomes more disciplined and warlike. Born from chaos, this “Mother Earth” is anything but maternal to the Olympians! One of the “big three,” he’s the god of wealth and the dead, and the king of the underworld A daughter of the Titans, this goddess is often seen as the patroness of magic God of fire and patron of craftsmen; his forges were associated with earthquakes and volcanoes As Zeus’s wife, she’s the queen of the gods, and a powerful goddess in her own right He travels all over as the god of roads, speed, messengers, commerce, travel, thieves, merchants, and mail deliverers She loves rainbows and keeps busy relaying messages to and from gods, demigods, and even Titans These deities both represent the passage of time—personified by age in Greece, by gateways and beginnings/endings in Rome The only god on this list with horns (he’s a satyr), he’s a patron of the Wild and protector of flocks and herds God of the sea, earthquakes, fresh water, and horses—also, Percy Jackson’s dad! Powerful and proud, he’s the king of the gods and associated with law, justice, and morality
ANSWER KEY GREEK
GODS CHARACTERISTICS ROMAN
Aphrodite The patroness of love and beauty (G)
Apollo God of music, prophecy, medicine, poetry (loves haikus!), and intellectual inquiry (H)
Ares A love of violence makes this god of war a fearsome avenger (N)
Demeter Zeus’s sister, she is credited for teaching man to farm (E)
Dionysus The god of wine who loves parties, but is kind of a grump. In Roman form, he becomes more disciplined and warlike. (F)
Gaea Born from chaos, this “Mother Earth” is anything but maternal to the Olympians! (M)
Hades One of the “big three,” he’s the god of wealth and the dead, and the king of the underworld (O)
Hecate A daughter of the Titans, this goddess is often seen as the patroness of magic (P)
Hephaestus God of fire and patron of craftsmen; his forges were associated with earthquakes and volcanoes (C)