“Yes, Reyna. ”
Percy still had so many questions, his brain felt like it would melt. But Reyna made it clear the audience was over. She sheathed her dagger. The metal dogs stood and growled, inching toward Percy.
“Good luck with the augury, Percy Jackson,” she said. “If Octavian lets you live, perhaps we can compare notes…about your past. ”
ON THE WAY OUT OF CAMP, Hazel bought him an espresso drink and a cherry muffin from Bombilo the two-headed coffee merchant.
Percy inhaled the muffin. The coffee was great. Now, Percy thought, if he could just get a shower, a change of clothes, and some sleep, he’d be golden. Maybe even Imperial golden.
He watched a bunch of kids in swimsuits and towels head into a building that had steam coming out of a row of chimneys. Laughter and watery sounds echoed from inside, like it was an indoor pool—Percy’s kind of place.
“Bath house,” Hazel said. “We’ll get you in there before dinner, hopefully. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a Roman bath. ” Percy sighed with anticipation.
As they approached the front gate, the barracks got bigger and nicer. Even the ghosts looked better—with fancier armor and shinier auras. Percy tried to decipher the banners and symbols hanging in front of the buildings.
“You guys are divided into different cabins?” he asked.
“Sort of. ” Hazel ducked as a kid riding a giant eagle swooped overhead. “We have five cohorts of about forty kids each. Each cohort is divided into barracks of ten—like roommates, kind of. ”
Percy had never been great at math, but he tried to multiply. “You’re telling me there’s two hundred kids at camp?”
“And all of them are children of the gods? The gods have been busy. ”
Hazel laughed. “Not all of them are children of majorgods. There are hundreds of minor Roman gods. Plus, a lot of the campers are legacies—second or third generation. Maybe their parents were demigods. Or their grandparents. ”
Percy blinked. “Children of demigods?”
“Why? Does that surprise you?”
Percy wasn’t sure. The last few weeks he’d been so worried about surviving day to day. The idea of living long enough to be an adult and have kids of his own—that seemed like an impossible dream.
“Legacies,” Hazel corrected.
“They have powers like a demigod?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes not. But they can be trained. All the best Roman generals and emperors—you know, they all claimed to be descended from gods. Most of the time, they were telling the truth. The camp augur we’re going to meet, Octavian, he’s a legacy, descendant of Apollo. He’s got the gift of prophecy, supposedly. ”
Hazel made a sour face. “You’ll see. ”
That didn’t make Percy feel so great, if this dude Octavian had Percy’s fate in his hands.
“So the divisions,” he asked, “the cohorts, whatever—you’re divided according to who your godly parent is?”
Hazel stared at him. “What a horrible idea! No, the officers decide where to assign recruits. If we were divided according to god, the cohorts would be all uneven. I’d be alone. ”
Percy felt a twinge of sadness, like he’d been in that situation. “Why? What’s your ancestry?”
Before she could answer, someone behind them yelled, “Wait!”
A ghost ran toward them—an old man with a medicine-ball belly and toga so long he kept tripping on it. He caught up to them and gasped for air, his purple aura flickering around him.
“This is him?” the ghost panted. “A new recruit for the Fifth, perhaps?”
“Vitellius,” Hazel said, “we’re sort of in a hurry. ”
The ghost scowled at Percy and walked around him, inspecting him like a used car. “I don’t know,” he grumbled. “We need only the best for the cohort. Does he have all his teeth? Can he fight? Does he clean stables?”
“Yes, yes, and no,” Percy said. “Who are you?”
“Percy, this is Vitellius. ” Hazel’s expression said: Just humor him. “He’s one of our Lares; takes an interest in new recruits. ”
On a nearby porch, other ghosts snickered as Vitellius paced back and forth, tripping over his toga and hiking up his sword belt.
“Yes,” Vitellius said, “back in Caesar’s day—that’s Julius Caesar, mind you—the Fifth Cohort was something! Twelfth Legion Fulminata, pride of Rome! But these days? Disgraceful what we’ve come to. Look at Hazel here, using a spatha. Ridiculous weapon for a Roman legionnaire—that’s for cavalry! And you, boy—you smell like a Greek sewer. Haven’t you had a bath?”
“I’ve been a little busy fighting gorgons,” Percy said.
“Vitellius,” Hazel interrupted, “we’ve got to get Percy’s augury before he can join. Why don’t you check on Frank? He’s in the armory doing inventory. You know how much he values your help. ”
The ghost’s furry purple eyebrows shot up. “Mars Almighty! They let the probatio check the armor? We’ll be ruined!”
He stumbled off down the street, stopping every few feet to pick up his sword or rearrange his toga.
“O-h-h-kay,” Percy said.