‘Help me,’ Jason urged. ‘Together, a goddess and a demigod can kill a giant.’
‘No!’ Polybotes suddenly looked very nervous. ‘No, that’s a terrible idea. Gaia will be most displeased!’
‘If Gaia wakes,’ Jason said. ‘The mighty Kymopoleia can help us make sure that never happens. Then all demigods will honour you big-time!’
‘Will they cower?’ Kym asked.
‘Tons of cowering! Plus your name in the summer programme. A custom-designed banner. A cabin at Camp Half-Blood. Two shrines. I’ll even throw in a Kymopoleia action figure.’
‘No!’ Polybotes wailed. ‘Not merchandising rights!’
Kymopoleia turned on the giant. ‘I’m afraid that deal beats what Gaia has offered.’
‘Unacceptable!’ the giant bellowed. ‘You cannot trust this vile Roman!’
‘If I don’t honour the bargain,’ Jason said, ‘Kym can always kill me. With Gaia, she has no guarantee at all.’
‘That,’ Kym said, ‘is difficult to argue with.’
As Polybotes struggled to answer, Jason charged forward and stabbed his javelin in the giant’s gut.
Kym lifted her bronze disc from its pedestal. ‘Say goodbye, Polybotes.’
She spun the disc at the giant’s neck. Turned out, the rim was sharp.
Polybotes found it difficult to say goodbye, since he no longer had a head.
‘POISON IS A NASTY HABIT.’ Kymopoleia waved her hand and the murky clouds dissipated. ‘Secondhand poison can kill a person, you know.’
Jason wasn’t too fond of firsthand poison either, but he decided not to mention that. He cut Percy out of the net and propped him against the temple wall, enveloping him in the airy shell of the ventus. The oxygen was getting thin, but Jason hoped it might help expel the poison from his friend’s lungs.
It seemed to work. Percy doubled over and began to retch. ‘Ugh. Thanks.’
Jason exhaled with relief. ‘You had me worried there, bro.’
Percy blinked, cross-eyed. ‘I’m still a little fuzzy. But did you … promise Kym an action figure?’
The goddess loomed over them. ‘Indeed he did. And I expect him to deliver.’
‘I will,’ Jason said. ‘When we win this war, I’m going to make sure all the gods get recognized.’ He put a hand on Percy’s shoulder. ‘My friend here started that process last summer. He made the Olympians promise to pay you guys more attention.’
Kym sniffed. ‘We know what an Olympian promise is worth.’
‘Which is why I’m going to finish the job.’ Jason didn’t know where these words were coming from, but the idea felt absolutely right. ‘I’ll make sure none of the gods are forgotten at either camp. Maybe they’ll get temples, or cabins, or at least shrines –’
‘Or collectible trading cards,’ Kym suggested.
‘Sure.’ Jason smiled. ‘I’ll go back and forth between the camps until the job is done.’
Percy whistled. ‘You’re talking about dozens of gods.’
‘Hundreds,’ Kym corrected.
‘Well, then,’ Jason said, ‘it might take a while. But you’ll be first on the list, Kymopoleia … the storm goddess who beheaded a giant and saved our quest.’
Kym stroked her jellyfish hair. ‘That will do nicely.’ She regarded Percy. ‘Though I am still sorry I won’t see you die.’
‘I get that comment a lot,’ Percy said. ‘Now about our ship –’
‘Still in one piece,’ said the goddess. ‘Not in very good shape, but you should be able to make it to Delos.’
‘Thank you,’ Jason said.
‘Yeah,’ Percy said. ‘And, really, your husband Briares is a good dude. You should give him a chance.’
The goddess picked up her bronze disc. ‘Don’t push your luck, brother. Briares has fifty faces; all of them are ugly. He’s got a hundred hands, and he’s still all thumbs around the house.’
‘Okay,’ Percy relented. ‘Not pushing my luck.’
Kym turned over the disc, revealing straps on the bottom side like a shield. She slipped it over her shoulders, Captain America style. ‘I will be watching your progress. Polybotes was not boasting when he warned that your blood would awaken the Earth Mother. The giants are very confident of this.’
‘My blood, personally?’ Percy asked.
Kym’s smile was even creepier than usual. ‘I am not an Oracle. But I heard what the seer Phineas told you in the city of Portland. You will face a sacrifice that you may not be able to make, and it will cost you the world. You have yet to face your fatal flaw, my brother. Look around. All works of gods and men eventually turn to ruins. Would it not be easier to flee into the depths with that girlfriend of yours?’
Percy put his hand on Jason’s shoulder and struggled to his feet. ‘Juno offered me a choice like that, back when I found Camp Jupiter. I’ll give you the same answer. I don’t run when my friends need me.’
Kym turned up her palms. ‘And there is your flaw: being unable to step away. I will retreat to the depths and watch this battle unfold. You should know that the forces of the ocean are also at war. Your friend Hazel Levesque made quite an impression on the merpeople and on their mentors, Aphros and Bythos.’
‘The fish pony dudes,’ Percy muttered. ‘They didn’t want to meet me.’
‘Even now they are waging war for your sake,’ Kym said, ‘trying to keep Gaia’s allies away from Long Island. Whether or not they will survive … that remains to be seen. As for you, Jason Grace, your path will be no easier than your friend’s. You will be tricked. You will face unbearable sorrow.’
Jason tried to keep from sparking. He wasn’t sure Percy’s heart could take the shock. ‘Kym, you said you’re not an Oracle? They should give you the job. You’re definitely depressing enough.’
The goddess let loose her dolphin laugh. ‘You amuse me, son of Jupiter. I hope you live to defeat Gaia.’
‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘Any pointers on defeating a goddess who can’t be defeated?’
Kymopoleia tilted her head. ‘Oh, but you know the answer. You are a child of the sky, with storms in your blood. A primordial god has been defeated once before. You know of whom I speak.’
Jason’s insides started swirling faster than the ventus. ‘Ouranos, the first god of the sky. But that means –’
‘Yes.’ Kym’s alien features took on an expression that almost resembled sympathy. ‘Let us hope it does not come to that. If Gaia does wake … well, your task will not be easy. But, if you win, remember your promise, Pontifex.’
Jason took a moment to process her words. ‘I’m not a priest.’
‘No?’ Kym’s white eyes gleamed. ‘By the way, your ventus servant says he wishes to be freed. Since he has helped you, he hopes you will let him go when you reach the surface. He promises he will not bother you a third time.’
‘A third time?’
Kym paused, as if listening. ‘He says he joined the storm above to take revenge on you, but had he known how strong you’ve become since the Grand Canyon he never would’ve approached your ship.’
‘The Grand Canyon …’ Jason recalled that day on the Skywalk, when one of his jerk classmates turned out to be a wind spirit. ‘Dylan? Are you kidding me? I’m breathing Dylan?’
‘Yes,’ Kym said. ‘That seems to be his name.’
Jason shuddered. ‘I’ll let him go as soon as I reach the surface. No worries.’
‘Farewell, then,’ said the goddess. ‘And may the Fates smile upon you … assuming the Fates survive.’
They needed to leave.
Jason was running out of air (Dylan air – gross) and everyone on the Argo II would be worried about them.
But Percy was still woozy from the poison, so they sat on the edge of the ruined golden dome for a few minutes to let Percy catch his breath … or catch his water, whatever a son of Poseidon catches when he’s at the bottom of the ocean.
‘Thanks, man,’ Percy said. ‘You s
aved my life.’
‘Hey, that’s what we do for our friends.’
‘But, uh, the Jupiter guy saving the Poseidon guy at the bottom of the ocean … maybe we can keep the details to ourselves? Otherwise I’ll never hear the end of it.’
Jason grinned. ‘You got it. How you feeling?’
‘Better. I … I have to admit, when I was choking on that poison, I kept thinking about Akhlys, the misery goddess in Tartarus. I almost destroyed her with poison.’ He shivered. ‘It felt good, but in a bad way. If Annabeth hadn’t stopped me –’
‘But she did,’ Jason said. ‘That’s another thing friends have to do for each other.’
‘Yeah … Thing is, as I was choking just now, I kept thinking: this is payback for Akhlys. The Fates are letting me die the same way I tried to kill that goddess. And … honestly, a part of me felt I deserved it. That’s why I didn’t try to control the giant’s poison and move it away from me. That probably sounds crazy.’