Frank drew a shaky breath. “It isn’t a riddle. ”
“Frank, no,” Hazel said weakly. “There’s got to be another way. ”
Laughter boomed across the glacier. A rumbling voice said: “My friends. I’ve waited so long!”
Standing at the gates of the camp was Alcyoneus. He was even larger than the giant Polybotes they’d seen in California. He had metallic golden skin, armor made from platinum links, and an iron staff the size of a totem pole. His rust-red dragon legs pounded against the ice as he entered the camp. Precious stones glinted in his red braided hair.
Hazel had never seen him fully formed, but she knew him better than she knew her own parents. She had made him. For months, she had raised gold and gems from the earth to create this monster. She knew the diamonds he used for a heart. She knew the oil that ran in his veins instead of blood. More than anything, she wanted to destroy him.
The giant approached, grinning at her with his solid silver teeth.
“Ah, Hazel Levesque,” he said, “you cost me dearly! If not for you, I would have risen decades ago, and this world would already be Gaea’s. But no matter!”
He spread his hands, showing off the ranks of ghostly soldiers. “Welcome, Percy Jackson! Welcome, Frank Zhang! I am Alcyoneus, the bane of Pluto, the new master of Death. And this is your new legion. ”
NO FAIRNESS IN DEATH. Those words kept ringing in Frank’s head.
The golden giant didn’t scare him. The army of shades didn’t scare him. But the thought of freeing Thanatos made Frank want to curl into the fetal position. This god had taken his mother.
Frank understood what he had to do to break those chains. Mars had warned him. He’d explained why he loved Emily Zhang so much: She always put her duty first, ahead of everything. Even her life.
Now it was Frank’s turn.
His mother’s sacrifice medal felt warm in his pocket. He finally understood his mother’s choice, saving her comrades at the cost of her own life. He got what Mars had been trying to tell him—Duty. Sacrifice. They mean something.
In Frank’s chest, a hard knot of anger and resentment—a lump
of grief he’d been carrying since the funeral—finally began to dissolve. He understood why his mother never came home. Some things were worth dying for.
“Hazel. ” He tried to keep his voice steady. “That package you’re keeping for me? I need it. ”
Hazel glanced at him in dismay. Sitting on Arion, she looked like a queen, powerful and beautiful, her brown hair swept over her shoulders and a wreath of icy mist around her head. “Frank, no. There has to be another way. ”
“Please. I—I know what I’m doing. ”
Thanatos smiled and lifted his manacled wrists. “You’re right, Frank Zhang. Sacrifices must be made. ”
Great. If Death approved of his plan, Frank was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like the results.
The giant Alcyoneus stepped forward, his reptilian feet shaking the ground. “What package do you speak of, Frank Zhang? Have you brought me a present?”
“Nothing for you, Golden Boy,” Frank said. “Except a whole lot of pain. ”
The giant roared with laughter. “Spoken like a child of Mars! Too bad I have to kill you. And this one. . . my, my, I’ve been waiting to meet the famous Percy Jackson. ”
The giant grinned. His silver teeth made his mouth look like a car grille.
“I’ve followed your progress, son of Neptune,” said Alcyoneus. “Your fight with Kronos? Well done. Gaea hates you above all others…except perhaps for that upstart Jason Grace. I’m sorry I can’t kill you right away, but my brother Polybotes wishes to keep you as a pet. He thinks it will be amusing when he destroys Neptune to have the god’s favorite son on a leash. After that, of course, Gaea has plans for you. ”
“Yeah, flattering. ” Percy raised Riptide. “But actually I’m the son of Poseidon. I’m from Camp Half-Blood. ”
The ghosts stirred. Some drew swords and lifted shields. Alcyoneus raised his hand, gesturing for them to wait.
“Greek, Roman, it doesn’t matter,” the giant said easily. “We will crush both camps underfoot. You see, the Titans didn’t think big enough. They planned to destroy the godsin their new home of America. We giants know better! To kill a weed, you must pull up its roots. Even now, while my forces destroy your little Roman camp, my brother Porphyrionis preparing for the real battle in the ancient lands! We will destroy the gods at their source. ”
The ghosts pounded their swords against their shields. The sound echoed across the mountains.
“The source?” Frank asked. “You mean Greece?”
Alcyoneus chuckled. “No need to worry about that, son of Mars. You won’t live long enough to see our ultimate victory.
I will replace Pluto as lord of the Underworld. I already have Death in my custody. With Hazel Levesque in my service, I will have all the riches under the earth as well!”
Hazel gripped her spatha. “I don’t do service. ”
“Oh, but you gave me life!” Alcyoneus said. “True, we hoped to awaken Gaea during World War II. That would’ve been glorious. But really, the world is in almost as bad a shape now. Soon, your civilization will be wiped out. The Doors of Death will stand open. Those who serve us will never perish. Alive or dead, you three will join my army. ”