“Of course,” he said. “But, Reyna—”
“Recite it, please. In English, not Latin. ”
Octavian sighed. “Seven half-bloods shall answer the call. To storm or fire the world must fall—”
“An oath to keep with a final breath,” Annabeth continued. “And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death. ”
Everyone stared at her—except for Leo, who had constructed a pinwheel out of aluminum foil taco wrappers and was sticking it into passing wind spirits.
Annabeth wasn’t sure why she had blurted out the lines of the prophecy. She’d just felt compelled.
The big kid, Frank, sat forward, staring at her in fascination, as if she’d grown a third eye. “Is it true you’re a child of Min—I mean, Athena?”
“Yes,” she said, suddenly feeling defensive. “Why is that such a surprise?”
Octavian scoffed. “If you’re truly a child of the wisdom goddess—”
“Enough,” Reyna snapped. “Annabeth is what she says. She’s here in peace. Besides…” She gave Annabeth a look of grudging respect. “Percy has spoken highly of you. ”
The undertones in Reyna’s voice took Annabeth a moment to decipher. Percy looked down, suddenly interested in his cheeseburger.
Annabeth’s face felt hot. Oh, gods…Reyna had tried to make a move on Percy. That explained the tinge of bitterness, maybe even envy, in her words. Percy had turned her down for Annabeth.
At that moment, Annabeth forgave her ridiculous boyfriend for everything he’d ever done wrong. She wanted to throw her arms around him, but she commanded herself to stay cool.
“Uh, thanks,” she told Reyna. “At any rate, some of the prophecy is becoming clear. Foes bearing arms to the Doors of Death…that means Romans and Greeks. We have to combine forces to find those doors. ”
Hazel, the girl with the cavalry helmet and the long curly hair, picked up something next to her plate. It looked like a large ruby; but before Annabeth could be sure, Hazel slipped it into the pocket of her denim shirt.
“My brother, Nico, went looking for the doors,” she said.
“Wait,” Annabeth said. “Nico di Angelo? He’s your brother?”
Hazel nodded as if this were obvious. A dozen more questions c
rowded into Annabeth’s head, but it was already spinning like Leo’s pinwheel. She decided to let the matter go. “Okay. You were saying?”
“He disappeared. ” Hazel moistened her lips. “I’m afraid…I’m not sure, but I think something’s happened to him. ”
“We’ll look for him,” Percy promised. “We have to find the Doors of Death anyway. Thanatos told us we’d find both answers in Rome—like, the original Rome. That’s on the way to Greece, right?”
“Thanatos told you this?” Annabeth tried to wrap her mind around that idea. “The death god?”
She’d met many gods. She’d even been to the Underworld; but Percy’s story about freeing the incarnation of death itself really creeped her out.
Percy took a bite of his burger. “Now that Death is free, monsters will disintegrate and return to Tartarus again like they used to. But as long as the Doors of Death are open, they’ll just keep coming back. ”
Piper twisted the feather in her hair. “Like water leaking through a dam,” she suggested.
“Yeah. ” Percy smiled. “We’ve got a dam hole. ”
“What?” Piper asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “Inside joke. The point is we’ll have to find the doors and close them before we can head to Greece. It’s the only way we’ll stand a chance of defeating the giants and making sure they stay defeated. ”
Reyna plucked an apple from a passing fruit tray. She turned it in her fingers, studying the dark red surface. “You propose an expedition to Greece in your warship. You do realize that the ancient lands—and the Mare Nostrum—are dangerous?”
“Mary who?” Leo asked.
“Mare Nostrum,” Jason explained. “Our Sea. It’s what the Ancient Romans called the Mediterranean. ”
Reyna nodded. “The territory that was once the Roman Empire is not only the birthplace of the gods. It’s also the ancestral home of the monsters, Titans and giants…and worse things. As dangerous as travel is for demigods here in America, there it would be ten times worse. ”
“You said Alaska would be bad,” Percy reminded her. “We survived that. ”
Reyna shook her head. Her fingernails cut little crescents into the apple as she turned it. “Percy, traveling in the Mediterranean is a different level of danger altogether. It’s been off limits to Roman demigods for centuries. No hero in his right mind would go there. ”
“Then we’re good!” Leo grinned over the top of his pinwheel. “Because we’re all crazy, right? Besides, the Argo II is a top-of-the-line warship. She’ll get us through. ”
“We’ll have to hurry,” Jason added. “I don’t know exactly what the giants are planning, but Gaea is growing more conscious all the time. She’s invading dreams, appearing in weird places, summoning more and more powerful monsters. We have to stop the giants before they can wake her up fully. ”