“Easy, guys,” Reyna told the greyhounds.
They stopped growling, but kept eyeing Percy as though they were imagining him in a doggie bag.
“They won’t attack,” Reyna said, “unless you try to steal something, or unless I tell them to. That’s Argentum and Aurum. ”
“Silver and Gold,” Percy said. The Latin meanings popped into his head like Hazel had said they would. He almost asked which dog was which. Then he realized that that was a stupid question.
Reyna set her dagger on the table. Percy had the vague feeling he’d seen her before. Her hair was black and glossy as volcanic rock, woven in a single braid down her back. She had the poise of a sword fighter—relaxed yet vigilant, as if ready to spring into action at any moment. The worry lines around her eyes made her look older than she probably was.
“We have met,” he decided. “I don’t remember when. Please, if you can tell me anything—”
“First things first,” Reyna said. “I want to hear your story. What do you remember? How did you get here? And don’t lie. My dogs don’t like liars. ”
Argentum and Aurum snarled to emphasize the point.
Percy told his story—how he’d woken up at the ruined mansion in the woods of Sonoma. He described his time with Lupa and her pack, learning their language of gestures and expressions, learning to survive and fight.
Lupa had taught him about demigods, monsters, and gods. She’d explained that she was one of the guardian spirits of Ancient Rome. Demigods like Percy were still responsible for carrying on Roman traditions in modern times—fighting monsters, serving the gods, protecting mortals, and upholding the memory of the empire. She’d spent weeks training him, until he was as strong and tough and vicious as a wolf. When she was satisfied with his skills, she’d sent him south, telling him that if he survived the journey, he might find a new home and regain his memory.
None of it seemed to surprise Reyna. In fact, she seemed to find it pretty ordinary—except for one thing.
“No memory at all?” she asked. “You still remember nothing?”
“Fuzzy bits and pieces. ” Percy glanced at the greyhounds. He didn’t want to mention Annabeth. It seemed too private, and he was still confused about where to find her. He was sure they’d met at a camp—but this one didn’t feel like the right place.
Also, he was reluctant to share his one clear memory: Annabeth’s face, her blond hair and gray eyes, the way she laughed, threw her arms around him, and gave him a kiss whenever he did something stupid.
She must have kissed me a lot, Percy thought.
He feared that if he spoke about that memory to anyone, it would evaporate like a dream. He couldn’t risk that.
Reyna spun her dagger. “Most of what you’re describing is normal for demigods. At a certain age, one way or another, we find our way to the Wolf House. We’re tested and trained.
If Lupa thinks we’re worthy, she sends us south to join the legion. But I’ve never heard of someone losing his memory. How did you find Camp Jupiter?”
Percy told her about the last three days—the gorgons who wouldn’t die, the old lady who turned out to be a goddess, and finally meeting Hazel and Frank at the tunnel in the hill.
Hazel took the story from there. She described Percy as brave and heroic, which made him uncomfortable. All he’d done was carry a hippie bag lady.
Reyna studied him. “You’re old for a recruit. You’re what, sixteen?”
“I think so,” Percy said.
“If you spent that many years on your own, without training or help, you should be dead. A son of Neptune? You’d have a powerful aura that would attract all kinds of monsters. ”
“Yeah,” Percy said. “I’ve been told that I smell. ”
Reyna almost cracked a smile, which gave Percy hope. Maybe she was human after all.
“You must’ve been somewhere before the Wolf House,” she said.
Percy shrugged. Juno had said something about him slumbering, and he did have a vague feeling that he’d been asleep—maybe for a long time. But that didn’t make sense.
Reyna sighed. “Well, the dogs haven’t eaten you, so I suppose you’re telling the truth. ”
“Great,” Percy said. “Next time, can I take a polygraph?”
Reyna stood. She paced in front of the banners. Her metal dogs watched her go back and forth.
“Even if I accept that you’re not an enemy,” she said, “you’re not a typical recruit. The Queen of Olympus simply doesn’t appear at camp, announcing a new demigod. The last time a major god visited us in person like that…” She shook her head. “I’ve only heard legends about such things. And a son of Neptune…that’s not a good omen. Especially now. ”
“What’s wrong with Neptune?” Percy asked. “And what do you mean, ‘especially now’?”
Hazel shot him a warning look.
Reyna kept pacing. “You’ve fought Medusa’s sisters, who haven’t been seen in thousands of years. You’ve agitated our Lares, who are calling you a graecus. And you wear strange symbols—that shirt, the beads on your necklace. What do they mean?”