The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus 3) - Page 4

She couldn’t shake the feeling that something was about to go terribly wrong. And there was no way she would ever risk losing Percy again.

“We’ll be fine,” she repeated, trying to believe it.

“Excellent,” Reyna said. She turned to Jason, and Annabeth thought there was a hungry sort of gleam in her eyes. “Let’s talk, and we can have a proper reunion. ”

Chapter 3

Annabeth wished she had an appetite, because the Romans knew how to eat.

Sets of couches and low tables were carted into the forum until it resembled a furniture showroom. Romans lounged in groups of ten or twenty, talking and laughing while wind spirits—aurae—swirled overhead, bringing an endless assortment of pizzas, sandwiches, chips, cold drinks, and fresh-baked cookies. Drifting through the crowd were purple ghosts—Lares—in togas and legionnaire armor. Around the edges of the feast, satyrs (no, fauns, Annabeth thought) trotted from table to table, panhandling for food and spare change. In the nearby fields, the war elephant frolicked with Mrs. O’Leary, and children played tag around the statues of Terminus that lined the city limits.

The whole scene was so familiar yet so completely alien that it gave Annabeth vertigo.

All she wanted to do was be with Percy—preferably alone. She knew she would have to wait. If their quest was going to succeed, they needed these Romans, which meant getting to know them and building some goodwill.

Reyna and a few of her officers (including the blond kid Octavian, freshly back from burning a teddy bear for the gods) sat with Annabeth and her crew. Percy joined them with his two new friends, Frank and Hazel.

As a tornado of food platters settled onto the table, Percy leaned over and whispered, “I want to show you around New Rome. Just you and me. The place is incredible. ”

Annabeth should’ve felt thrilled. Just you and me was exactly what she wanted. Instead, resentment swelled in her throat. How could Percy talk so enthusiastically about this place? What about Camp Half-Blood—their camp, their home?

She tried not to stare at the new marks on Percy’s forearm—an SPQR tattoo like Jason’s. At Camp Half-Blood, demigods got bead necklaces to commemorate years of training. Here, the Romans burned a tattoo into your flesh, as if to say: You belong to us. Permanently.

She swallowed back some biting comments. “Okay. Sure. ”

“I’ve been thinking,” he said nervously. “I had this idea—”

He stopped as Reyna called a toast to friendship.

After introductions all around, the Romans and Annabeth’s crew began exchanging stories. Jason explained how he’d arrived at Camp Half-Blood without his memory, and how he’d gone on a quest with Piper and Leo to rescue the goddess Hera (or Juno, take your pick—she was equally annoying in Greek or Roman) from imprisonment at the Wolf House in northern California.

“Impossible!” Octavian broke in. “That’s our most sacred place. If the giants had imprisoned a goddess there—”

“They would’ve destroyed her,” Piper said. “And blamed it on the Greeks, and started a war between the camps. Now, be quiet and let Jason finish. ”

Octavian opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Annabeth really loved Piper’s charmspeak. She noticed Reyna looking back and forth between Jason and Piper, her brow creased, as if just beginning to realize the two of them were a couple.

“So,” Jason continued, “that’s how we found out about the earth goddess Gaea. She’s still half asleep, but she’s the one freeing the monsters from Tartarus and raising the giants. Porphyrion, the big leader dude we fought at the Wolf House: he said he was retreating to the ancient lands—Greece itself. He plans on awakening Gaea and destroying the gods by…what did he call it? Pulling up their roots. ”

Percy nodded thoughtfully. “Gaea’s been busy over here, too. We had our own encounter with Queen Dirt Face. ”

Percy recounted his side of the story. He talked about waking up at the Wolf House with no memories except for one name—Annabeth.

When she heard that, Annabeth had to try hard not to cry. Percy told them how he’d traveled to Alaska with Frank and Hazel—how they’d defeated the giant Alcyoneus, freed the death god Thanatos, and returned with the lost golden eagle standard of the Roman camp to repel an attack by the giants’ army.

When Percy had finished, Jason whistled appreciatively. “No wonder they made you praetor. ”

Octavian snorted. “Which means we now have three praetors! The rules clearly state we can only have two!”

“On the bright side,” Percy said, “both Jason and I outrank you, Octavian. So we can both tell you to shut up. ”

Octavian turned as purple as a Roman T-shirt. Jason gave Percy a fist bump.

Even Reyna managed a smile, though her eyes were stormy.

“We’ll have to figure out the extra praetor problem later,” she said. “Right now we have more serious issues to deal with. ”

“I’ll step aside for Jason,” Percy said easily. “It’s no biggie. ”

“No biggie?” Octavian choked. “The praetorship of Rome is no biggie?”

Percy ignored him and turned to Jason. “You’re Thalia Grace’s brother, huh? Wow. You guys look nothing alike. ”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Jason said. “Anyway, thanks for helping my camp while I was gone. You did an awesome job. ”

“Back at you,” Percy said.

Annabeth kicked his shin. She hated to interrupt a budding bromance, but Reyna was right: they had serious things to discuss. “We should talk about the Great Prophecy. It sounds like the Romans are aware of it too?”

Reyna nodded. “We call it the Prophecy of Seven. Octavian, you have it committed to memory?”

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