Percy looked down at his tattered orange T-shirt. It might have had words on it at one point, but they were too faded to read. He should have thrown the shirt away weeks ago. It was worn to shreds, but he couldn’t bear to get rid of it. He just kept washing it in streams and water fountains as best he could and putting it back on.
As for the necklace, the four clay beads were each decorated with a different symbol. One showed a trident. Another displayed a miniature Golden Fleece. The third was etched with the design of a maze, and the last had an image of a building—maybe the Empire State Building?—with names Percy didn’t recognize engraved around it. The beads felt important, like pictures from a family album, but he couldn’t remember what they meant.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“And your sword?” Reyna asked.
Percy checked his pocket. The pen had reappeared as it always did. He pulled it out, but then realized he’d never shown Reyna the sword. Hazel and Frank hadn’t seen it either. How had Reyna known about it?
Too late to pretend it didn’t exist. …He uncapped the pen. Riptide sprang to full form. Hazel gasped. The greyhounds barked apprehensively.
“What is that?” Hazel asked. “I’ve never seen a sword like that. ”
“I have,” Reyna said darkly. “It’s very old—a Greek design. We used to have a few in the armory before…” She stopped herself. “The metal is called Celestial bronze. It’s deadly to monsters, like Imperial gold, but even rarer. ”
“Imperial gold?” Percy asked.
Reyna unsheathed her dagger. Sure enough, the blade was gold. “The metal was consecrated in ancient times, at the Pantheon in Rome. Its existence was a closely guarded secret of the emperors—a way for their champions to slay monsters that threatened the empire. We used to have more weapons like this, but now…well, we scrape by. I use this dagger. Hazel has a spatha, a cavalry sword. Most legionnaires use a shorter sword called a gladius. But that weapon of yours is not Roman at all. It’s another sign you’re not a typical demigod. And your arm. . . ”
“What about it?” Percy asked.
Reyna held up her own forearm. Percy hadn’t noticed before, but she had a tattoo on the inside: the letters SPQR, a crossed sword and torch, and under that, four parallel lines like score marks.
Percy glanced at Hazel.
“We all have them,” she confirmed, holding up her arm. “All full members of the legion do. ”
Hazel’s tattoo also had the letters SPQR, but she only had one score mark, and her emblem was different: a black glyph like a cross with curved arms and a head:
Percy looked at his own arms. A few scrapes, some mud, and a fleck of Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wiener, but no tattoos.
“So you’ve never been a member of the legion,” Reyna said. “These marks can’t be removed. I though
t perhaps…” She shook her head, as if dismissing an idea.
Hazel leaned forward. “If he’s survived as a loner all this time, maybe he’s seen Jason. ” She turned to Percy. “Have you ever met a demigod like us before? A guy in a purple shirt, with marks on his arm—”
“Hazel. ” Reyna’s voice tightened. “Percy’s got enough to worry about. ”
Percy touched the point of his sword, and Riptide shrank back into a pen. “I haven’t seen anyone like you guys before. Who’s Jason?”
Reyna gave Hazel an irritated look. “He is…he was my colleague. ” She waved her hand at the second empty chair. “The legion normally has two elected praetors. Jason Grace, son of Jupiter, was our other praetor until he disappeared last October. ”
Percy tried to calculate. He hadn’t paid much attention to the calendar out in the wilderness, but Juno had mentioned that it was now June. “You mean he’s been gone eight months, and you haven’t replaced him?”
“He might not be dead,” Hazel said. “We haven’t given up. ”
Reyna grimaced. Percy got the feeling this guy Jason might’ve been more to her than just a colleague.
“Elections only happen in two ways,” Reyna said. “Either the legion raises someone on a shield after a major success on the battlefield—and we haven’t had any major battles—or we hold a ballot on the evening of June 24, at the Feast of Fortuna. That’s in five days. ”
Percy frowned. “You have a feast for tuna?”
“Fortuna,” Hazel corrected. “She’s the goddess of luck. Whatever happens on her feast day can affect the entire rest of the year. She can grant the camp good luck…or really bad luck. ”
Reyna and Hazel both glanced at the empty display stand, as if thinking about what was missing.
A chill went down Percy’s back. “The Feast of Fortune…The gorgons mentioned that. So did Juno. They said the camp was going to be attacked on that day, something about a big bad goddess named Gaea, and an army, and Death being unleashed. You’re telling me that day is this week?”
Reyna’s fingers tightened around the hilt of her dagger.
“You will say nothing about that outside this room,” she ordered. “I will not have you spreading more panic in the camp. ”
“So it’s true,” Percy said. “Do you know what’s going to happen? Can we stop it?”
Percy had just met these people. He wasn’t sure he even liked Reyna. But he wanted to help. They were demigods, the same as him. They had the same enemies. Besides, Percy remembered what Juno had told him: it wasn’t just this camp at risk. His old life, the gods, and the entire world might be destroyed. Whatever was coming down, it was huge.
“We’ve talked enough for now,” Reyna said. “Hazel, take him to Temple Hill. Find Octavian. On the way you can answer Percy’s questions. Tell him about the legion. ”