The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus 2) - Page 104

When Arion saw the horses, he stamped the ground in outrage.

Frank gripped his bow. “Yep, here’s the trap. ”

XLIV Hazel

THE GHOSTS FORMED RANKS AND ENCIRCLED the crossroads. There were about a hundred in all—not an entire legion, but more than a cohort. Some carried the tattered lightning bolt banners of the Twelfth Legion, Fifth Cohort—Michael

Varus’s doomed expedition from the 1980s. Others carried standards and insignia Hazel didn’t recognize, as if they’d died at different times, on different quests—maybe not even from Camp Jupiter.

Most were armed with Imperial gold weapons—more Imperial gold than the entire Twelfth Legion possessed. Hazel could feel the combined power of all that gold humming around her, even scarier than the crackling of the glacier. She wondered if she could use her power to control the weapons, maybe disarm the ghosts, but she was afraid to try. Imperial gold wasn’t just a precious metal. It was deadly to demigods and monsters. Trying to control that much at once would be like trying to control plutonium in a reactor. If she failed, she might wipe Hubbard Glacier off the map and kill her friends.

“Thanatos!” Hazel turned to the robed figure. “We’re here to rescue you. If you control these shades, tell them—”

Her voice faltered. The god’s hood fell away and his robes dropped off as he spread his wings, leaving him in only a sleeveless black tunic belted at the waist. He was the most beautiful man Hazel had ever seen.

His skin was the color of teakwood, dark and glistening like Queen Marie’s old séance table. His eyes were as honey gold as Hazel’s. He was lean and muscular, with a regal face and black hair flowing down his shoulders. His wings glimmered in shades of blue, black, and purple.

Hazel reminded herself to breathe.

Beautiful was the right word for Thanatos—not handsome, or hot, or anything like that. He was beautiful the way an angel is beautiful—timeless, perfect, remote.

“Oh,” she said in a small voice.

The god’s wrists were shackled in icy manacles, with chains that ran straight into the glacier floor. His feet were bare, shackled around the ankles and also chained.

“It’s Cupid,” Frank said.

“A really buff Cupid,” Percy agreed.

“You compliment me,” Thanatos said. His voice was as gorgeous as he was—deep and melodious. “I am frequently mistaken for the god of love. Death has more in common with Love than you might imagine. But I am Death. I assure you. ”

Hazel didn’t doubt it. She felt as if she were made of ashes. Any second, she might crumble and be sucked into the vacuum. She doubted Thanatos even needed to touch her to kill her. He could simply tell her to die. She would keel over on the spot, her soul obeying that beautiful voice and those kind eyes.

“We’re—we’re here to save you,” she managed. “Where’s Alcyoneus?”

“Save me…?” Thanatos narrowed his eyes. “Do you understand what you are saying, Hazel Levesque? Do you understand what that will mean?”

Percy stepped forward. “We’re wasting time. ”

He swung his sword at the god’s chains. Celestial bronze rang against the ice, but Riptide stuck to the chain like glue. Frost began creeping up the blade. Percy pulled frantically. Frank ran to help. Together, they just managed to yank Riptide free before the frost reached their hands.

“That won’t work,” Thanatos said simply. “As for the giant, he is close. These shades are not mine. They are his. ”

Thanatos’s eyes scanned the ghost soldiers. They shifted uncomfortably, as if an arctic wind were rattling through their ranks.

“So how do we get you out?” Hazel demanded.

Thanatos turned his attention back to her. “Daughter of Pluto, child of my master, you of all people should not wish me released. ”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Hazel’s eyes stung, but she was done being afraid. She’d been a scared little girl seventy years ago. She’d lost her mother because she acted too late. Now she was a soldier of Rome. She wasn’t going to fail again. She wasn’t going to let down her friends.

“Listen, Death. ” She drew her cavalry sword, and Arion reared in defiance. “I didn’t come back from the Underworld and travel thousands of miles to be told that I’m stupid for setting you free. If I die, I die. I’ll fight this whole army if I have to. Just tell us how to break your chains. ”

Thanatos studied her for a heartbeat. “Interesting. You do understand that these shades were once demigods like you. They fought for Rome. They died without completing their heroic quests. Like you, they were sent to Asphodel. Now Gaea has promised them a second life if they fight for her today. Of course, if you release me and defeat them, they will have to return to the Underworld where they belong. For treason against the gods, they will face eternal punishment. They are not so different from you, Hazel Levesque. Are you sure you want to release me and damn these souls forever?”

Frank clenched his fists. “That’s not fair! Do you want to be freed or not?”

“Fair…” Death mused. “You’d be amazed how often I hear that word, Frank Zhang, and how meaningless it is. Is it fair that your life will burn so short and bright? Was it fair when I guided your mother to the Underworld?”

Frank staggered like he’d been punched.

“No,” Death said sadly. “Not fair. And yet it was her time. There is no fairness in Death. If you free me, I will do my duty. But of course these shades will try to stop you. ”

“So if we let you go,” Percy summed up, “we get mobbed by a bunch of black vapor dudes with gold swords. Fine. How do we break those chains?”

Thanatos smiled. “Only the fire of life can melt the chains of death. ”

“Without the riddles, please?” Percy asked.

Tags: Rick Riordan The Heroes of Olympus Fantasy
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