“Circe’s Island,” Percy said. “I just remembered. The gorgon’s blood—maybe it’s starting to heal my mind. TheSea of Monsters. Hylla…she welcomed us at the docks, took us to see her boss. Hylla worked for the sorceress. ”
Hylla bared her perfect white teeth. “Are you telling me you’ve had amnesia? You know, I might actually believe you.
Why else would you be stupid enough to come here?”
“We’ve come in peace,” Hazel insisted. “What did Percy do?”
“Peace?” The queen raised her eyebrows at Hazel. “What did he do? This male destroyed Circe’s school of magic!”
“Circe turned me into a guinea pig!” Percy protested.
“No excuses!” Hylla said. “Circe was a wise and generous employer. I had room and board, a good health plan, dental, pet leopards, free potions—everything! And this demigod with his friend, the blonde—”
“Annabeth. ” Percy tapped his forehead like he wanted the memories to come back faster. “That’s right. I was there with Annabeth. ”
“You released our captives—Blackbeard and his pirates. ” She turned to Hazel. “Have you ever been kidnapped by pirates? It isn’t fun. They burned our spa to the ground. My sister and I were their prisoners for months. Fortunately we were daughters of Bellona. We learned to fight quickly. If we hadn’t…” She shuddered. “Well, the pirates learned torespect us. Eventually we made our way to California where we—” She hesitated as if the memory was painful. “Where my sister and I parted ways. ”
She stepped toward Percy until they were nose-to-nose. She ran her dagger under his chin. “Of course, I survived and prospered. I have risen to be queen of the Amazons. So perhaps I should thank you. ”
“You’re welcome,” Percy said.
The queen dug her knife in a little deeper. “Never mind. I think I’ll kill you. ”
“Wait!” Hazel yelped. “Reyna sent us! Your sister! Look at the ring on his necklace. ”
Hylla frowned. She lowered her knife to Percy’s necklace until the point rested on the silver ring. The color drained from her face.
“Explain this. ” She glared at Hazel. “Quickly. ”
Hazel tried. She described Camp Jupiter. She told the Amazons about Reyna being their praetor, and the army of monsters that was marching south. She told them about their quest to free Thanatos in Alaska.
As Hazel talked, another group of Amazons entered the room. One was taller and older than the rest, with plaited silver hair and fine silk robes like a Roman matron. The other Amazons made way for her, treating her with such respect that Hazel wondered if she was Hylla’s mother—until she noticed how Hylla and the older woman stared daggers at each other.
“So we need your help,” Hazel finished her story. “Reyna needs your help. ”
Hylla gripped Percy’s leather cord and yanked it off his neck—beads, ring, probatio tablet and all. “Reyna…that foolish girl—”
“Well!” the older woman interrupted. “Romans need our help?” She laughed, and the Amazons around her joined in.
“How many times did we battle the Romans in my day?” the woman asked. “How many times have they killed our sisters in battle? When I was queen—”
“Otrera,” Hylla interrupted, “you are here as a guest. You are not queen anymore. ”
The older woman spread her hands and made a mocking bow. “As you say—at least, until tonight. But I speak the truth, Queen Hylla. ” She said the word like a taunt. “I’ve been brought back by the Earth Mother herself! I bring tidings of a new war. Why should Amazons follow Jupiter, that foolish king of Olympus, when we can follow a queen? When I take command—”
“If you take command,” Hylla said. “But for now, I am queen. My word is law. ”
“I see. ” Otrera looked at the assembled Amazons, who were standing very still, as if they’d found themselves in a pit with two wild tigers. “Have we become so weak that we listen to male demigods? Will you spare the life of this son of Neptune, even though he once destroyed your home? Perhaps you’ll let him destroy your new home, too!”
Hazel held her breath. The Amazons looked back and forth between Hylla and Otrera, watching for any sign of weakness.
“I will pass judgment,” Hylla said in an icy tone, “once I have all the facts. That is how I rule—by reason, not fear. First, I will talk with this one. ” She jabbed a finger toward Hazel. “It is my duty to hear out a female warrior before I sentence her or her allies to death. That is the Amazon way. Or have your years in the Underworld muddled your memory, Otrera?”
The older woman sneered, but she didn’t try to argue.
Hylla turned to Kinzie. “Take these males to the holding cells. The rest of you, leave us. ”
Otrera raised her hand to the crowd. “As our queen commands. But any of you who would like to hear more about Gaea, and our glorious future with her, come with me!”
About half the Amazons followed her out of the room. Kinzie snorted with disgust, then she and her guards hauled Percy and Frank away.
Soon Hylla and Hazel were alone except for the queen’s personal guards. At Hylla’s signal, even they moved out of earshot.
The queen turned toward Hazel. Her anger dissolved, and Hazel saw desperation in her eyes. The queen looked like one of her caged animals being whisked off on a conveyor belt.
“We must talk,” Hylla said. “We don’t have much time. By midnight, I will most likely be dead. ”