The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus 2) - Page 47


Hazel felt as if she were expanding to the breaking point, just like that spire in the pit. Her misery would soon become too great to hold inside, and her skin would shatter. “That’s why I can find things under the earth?”

“And why they bring only sorrow. ” Her mother gestured listlessly around the cavern. “That’s how she found me, how she was able to control me. I was angry with your father. I blamed him for my problems. I blamed you. I was so bitter, I listened to Gaea’s voice. I was a fool. ”

“There’s got to be something we can do,” Hazel said. “Tell me how to stop her. ”

The ground trembled. Gaea’s disembodied voice echoed through the cave.

My eldest rises, she said, the most precious thing in the earth —and you have brought him from the depths, Hazel Levesque. You have made him anew. His awakening cannot be stopped. Only one thing remains.

Hazel clenched her fists. She was terrified, but now that her mother was free, she felt like she could confront her enemy at last. This creature, this evil goddess, had ruined their lives. Hazel wasn’t going to let her win.

“I won’t help you anymore!” she yelled.

But I am done with your help, girl. I brought you here for one reason only. Your mother required…incentive.

Hazel’s throat constricted. “Mother?”

“I’m sorry, Hazel. If you can forgive me, please—know that it was only because I loved you. She promised to let you live if—”

“If you sacrifice yourself,” Hazel said, realizing the truth. “She needs you to give your life willingly to raise that—that thing. ”

Alcyoneus, Gaea said. Eldest of the giants. He must rise first, and this will be his new homeland—far from the gods. He will walk these icy mountains and forests. He will raise an army of monsters. While the gods are divided, fighting each other in this mortal World War, he will send forth his armies to destroy Olympus.

The earth goddess’s dreams were so powerful, they cast shadows across the cave walls—ghastly shifting images of Nazi armies raging across Europe, Japanese planes destroying American cities. Hazel finally understood. The gods of Olympus would take sides in the battle as they always did in human wars. While the gods fought each other to a bloody standstill, an army of monsters would rise in the north. Alcyoneus would revive his brother giants and send them forth to conquer the world. The weakened gods would fall. The mortal conflict would rage for decades until all civilization was swept away, and the earth goddess awakened fully. Gaea would rule forever.

All this, the goddess purred, because your mother was greedy and cursed you with the gift of finding riches. In my sleeping state, I would have needed decades more, perhaps even centuries, before I found the power to resurrect Alcyoneus myself. But now he will wake, and soon, so shall I!

With terrible certainty, Hazel knew what would happen next. The only thing Gaea needed was a willing sacrifice—a soul to be consumed for Alcyoneus to awaken. Her mother would step into the fissure and touch that horrible spire—and she would be absorbed.

“Hazel, go. ” Her mother rose unsteadily. “She’ll let you live, but you must hurry. ”

Hazel believed it. That was the most horrible thing. Gaea would honor the bargain and let Hazel live. Hazel would survive to see the end of the world, knowing that she’d caused it.

“No. ” Hazel made her decision. “I won’t live. Not for that. ”

She reached deep into her soul. She called on her father, the Lord of the Underworld, and summoned all the riches that lay in his vast realm. The cavern shook.

Around the spire of Alcyoneus, oil bubbled, then churned and erupted like a boiling cauldron.

Don’t be foolish, Gaea said, but Hazel detected concern in her tone, maybe even fear. You will destroy yourself for nothing! Your mother will still die!

Hazel almost wavered. She remembered her father’s promise: someday her curse would be washed away; a descendant of Neptune would bring her peace. He’d even said she might find a horse of her own. Maybe that strange stallion in the hills was meant for her. But none of that would happen if she died now. She’d never see Sammy again, or return to New Orleans. Her life would be thirteen short, bitter years with an unhappy ending.

She met her mother’s eyes. For once, her mother didn’t look sad or angry. Her eyes shone with pride.

“You were my gift, Hazel,” she said. “My most precious gift. I was foolish to think I needed anything else. ”

She kissed Hazel’s forehead and held her close. Her warmth gave Hazel the courage to continue. They would die, but not as sacrifices to Gaea. Instinctively Hazel knew that their final act would reject Gaea’s power. Their souls would go to the Underworld, and Alcyoneus would not rise—at least not yet.

Hazel summoned the last of her willpower. The air turned searing hot. The spire began to sink. Jewels and chunks of gold shot from the fissure with such force, they cracked the cavern walls and sent shrapnel flying, stinging Hazel’s skin through her jacket.

Stop this! Gaea demanded. You cannot prevent his rise. At best, you will delay him—a few decades. Half a century. Would you trade your lives for that?

Hazel gave her an answer.

The last night, the raven had said.

The fissure exploded. The roof crumbled. Hazel sank into her mother’s arms, into the darkness, as oil filled her lungs and the island collapsed into the bay.

XVIII Hazel

“HAZEL!” FRANK SHOOK HER ARMS, sounding panicked. “Come on, please! Wake up!”

She opened her eyes. The night sky blazed with stars. The rocking of the boat was gone. She was lying on solid ground, her bundled sword and pack beside her.

She sat up groggily, her head spinning. They were on a cliff overlooking a beach. About a hundred feet away, the ocean glinted in the moonlight. The surf washed gently against the stern of their beached boat. To her right, hugging the edge of the cliff, was a building like a small church with a search light in the steeple. A lighthouse, Hazel guessed. Behind them, fields of tall grass rustled in the wind.

“Where are we?” she asked.

Frank exhaled. “Thank the gods you’re awake! We’re in Mendocino, about a hundred and fifty miles north of the Golden Gate. ”

“A hundred and fifty miles?” Hazel groaned. “I’ve been out that long?”

Percy knelt beside her, the sea wind sweeping his hair. He put his hand on her forehead as if checking for a fever. “We couldn’t wake you. Finally we decided to bring you ashore. We thought maybe the seasickness—”

“It wasn’t seasickness. ” She took a deep breath. She couldn’t hide the truth from them anymore. She remembered what Nico had said: If a flashback like that happens when you’re in combat . . .


Tags: Rick Riordan The Heroes of Olympus Fantasy
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