The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus 3) - Page 2

“Stop that!” Terminus insisted. Another small explosion made Leo drop his screwdriver. “Weapons are not allowed on Roman soil inside the Pomerian Line. ”

“The what?” Piper asked.

“City limits,” Jason translated.

“And this entire ship is a weapon!” Terminus said. “You cannot land!”

Down in the valley, the legion reinforcements were halfway to the city. The crowd in the forum was over a hundred strong now. Annabeth scanned the faces and…oh, gods. She saw him. He was walking toward the ship with his arms around two other kids like they were best buddies—a stout boy with a black buzz cut, and a girl wearing a Roman cavalry helmet. Percy looked so at ease, so happy. He wore a purple cape just like Jason’s—the mark of a praetor.

Annabeth’s heart did a gymnastics routine.

“Leo, stop the ship,” she ordered.

“What?”

“You heard me. Keep us right where we are. ”

Leo pulled out his controller and yanked it upward. All ninety oars froze in place. The ship stopped sinking.

“Terminus,” Annabeth said, “there’s no rule against hovering over New Rome, is there?”

The statue frowned. “Well, no…”

“We can keep the ship aloft,” Annabeth said. “We’ll use a rope ladder to reach the forum. That way, the ship won’t be on Roman soil. Not technically. ”

The statue seemed to ponder this. Annabeth wondered if he was scratching his chin with imaginary hands.

“I like technicalities,” he admitted. “Still…”

“All our weapons will stay aboard the ship,” Annabeth promised. “I assume the Romans—even those reinforcements marching toward us—will also have to honor your rules inside the Pomerian Line if you tell them to?”

“Of course!” Terminus said. “Do I look like I tolerate rule breakers?”

“Uh, Annabeth…” Leo said. “You sure this is a good idea?”

She closed her fists to keep them from shaking. That cold feeling was still there. It floated just behind her, and now that Terminus was no longer shouting and causing explosions, she thought she could hear the presence laughing, as if it was delighted by the bad choices she was making.

But Percy was down there…he was so close. She had to reach him.

“It’ll be fine,” she said. “No one will be armed. We can talk in peace. Terminus will make sure each side obeys the rules. ” She looked at the marble statue. “Do we have an agreement?”

Terminus sniffed. “I suppose. For now. You may climb down your ladder to New Rome, daughter of Athena. Please try not to destroy my town. ”

Chapter 2

A sea of hastily assembled demigods parted for Annabeth as she walked through the forum. Some looked tense, some nervous. Some were bandaged from their recent battle with the giants, but no one was armed. No one attacked.

Entire families had gathered to see the newcomers. Annabeth saw couples with babies, toddlers clinging to their parents’ legs, even some elderly folks in a combination of Roman robes and modern clothes. Were all of them demigods? Annabeth suspected so, though she’d never seen a place like this. At Camp Half-Blood, most demigods were teens. If they survived long enough to graduate from high school, they either stayed on as counselors or left to start lives as best they could in the mortal world. Here, it was an entire multigenerational community.

At the far end of the crowd, Annabeth spotted Tyson the Cyclops and Percy’s hellhound, Mrs. O’Leary—who had been the first scouting party from Camp Half-Blood to reach Camp Jupiter. They looked to be in good spirits. Tyson waved and grinned. He was wearing an SPQR banner like a giant bib.

Some part of Annabeth’s mind registered how beautiful the city was—the smells from the bakeries, the gurgling fountains, the flowers blooming in the gardens. And the architecture…gods, the architecture—gilded marble columns, dazzling mosaics, monumental arches, and terraced villas.

In front of her, the demigods made way for a girl in full Roman armor and a purple cape. Dark hair tumbled across her shoulders. Her eyes were as black as obsidian.

Reyna.

Jason had described her well. Even without that, Annabeth would have singled her out as the leader. Medals decorated her armor. She carried herself with such confidence the other demigods backed away and averted their gaze.

Annabeth recognized something else in her face, too—in the hard set of her mouth and the deliberate way she raised her chin like she was ready to accept any challenge. Reyna was forcing a look of courage, while holding back a mixture of hopefulness and worry and fear that she couldn’t show in public.

Annabeth knew that expression. She saw it every time she looked in a mirror.

The two girls considered each other. Annabeth’s friends fanned out on either side. The Romans murmured Jason’s name, staring at him in awe.

Then someone else appeared from the crowd, and Annabeth’s vision tunneled.

Percy smiled at her—that sarcastic, troublemaker smile that had annoyed her for years but eventually had become endearing. His sea-green eyes were as gorgeous as she remembered. His dark hair was swept to one side, like he’d just come from a walk on the beach. He looked even better than he had six months ago—tanner and taller, leaner and more muscular.

Tags: Rick Riordan The Heroes of Olympus Fantasy
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