The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus 5) - Page 13



‘SMART CALL BACK THERE,’ Percy said, ‘choosing the air-conditioning.’

He and Leo had just searched the museum. Now they were sitting on a bridge that spanned the Kladeos River, their feet dangling over the water as they waited for Frank and Hazel to finish scouting the ruins.

To their left, the Olympic valley shimmered in the afternoon heat. To their right, the visitors’ lot was crammed with tour buses. Good thing the Argo II was moored a hundred feet in the air, because they never would’ve found parking.

Leo skipped a stone across the river. He wished Hazel and Frank would get back. He felt awkward hanging out with Percy.

For one thing, he wasn’t sure what kind of small talk to make with a guy who’d recently come back from Tartarus. Catch that last episode of Doctor Who? Oh, right. You were trudging through the Pit of Eternal Damnation!

Percy had been intimidating enough before – summoning hurricanes, duelling pirates, killing giants in the Colosseum …

Now … well, after what happened in Tartarus, it seemed like Percy had graduated to a totally different level of butt-kickery.

Leo had trouble even thinking of him as part of the same camp. The two of them had never been at Camp Half-Blood at the same time. Percy’s leather necklace had four beads for four completed summers. Leo’s leather necklace had exactly none.

The only thing they had in common was Calypso, and every time Leo thought about that he wanted to punch Percy in the face.

Leo kept thinking he should bring it up, just to clear the air, but the timing never seemed right. And, as the days went by, the subject got harder and harder to broach.

‘What?’ Percy asked.

Leo stirred. ‘What, what?’

‘You were staring at me, like, angry.’

‘Was I?’ Leo tried to muster a joke, or at least a smile, but he couldn’t. ‘Um, sorry.’

Percy gazed at the river. ‘I suppose we need to talk.’ He opened his hand and the stone Leo had skipped flew out of the stream, right into Percy’s palm.

Oh, Leo thought, we’re showing off now?

He considered shooting a column of fire at the nearest tour bus and blowing up the gas tank, but he decided that might be a tad dramatic. ‘Maybe we should talk. But not –’

‘Guys!’ Frank stood at the far end of the parking lot, waving at them to come over. Next to him, Hazel sat astride her horse Arion, who had appeared unannounced as soon as they’d landed.

Saved by the Zhang, Leo thought.

He and Percy jogged over to meet their friends.

‘This place is huge,’ Frank reported. ‘The ruins stretch from the river to the base of that mountain over there, about half a kilometre.’

‘How far is that in regular measurements?’ Percy asked.

Frank rolled his eyes. ‘That is a regular measurement in Canada and the rest of the world. Only you Americans –’

‘About five or six football fields,’ Hazel interceded, feeding Arion a big chunk of gold.

Percy spread his hands. ‘That’s all you needed to say.’

‘Anyway,’ Frank continued, ‘from overhead, I didn’t see anything suspicious.’

‘Neither did I,’ Hazel said. ‘Arion took me on a complete loop around the perimeter. A lot of tourists, but no crazy goddess.’

The big stallion nickered and tossed his head, his neck muscles rippling under his butterscotch coat.

‘Man, your horse can cuss.’ Percy shook his head. ‘He doesn’t think much of Olympia.’

For once, Leo agreed with the horse. He didn’t like the idea of tromping through fields full of ruins under a blazing sun, shoving his way through hordes of sweaty tourists while searching for a split-personality victory goddess. Besides, Frank had already flown over the whole valley as an eagle. If his sharp eyes hadn’t seen anything, maybe there was nothing to see.

On the other hand, Leo’s tool-belt pockets were full of dangerous toys. He would hate to go home without blowing anything up.

‘So we blunder around together,’ he said, ‘and let trouble find us. It’s always worked before.’

They poked about for a while, avoiding tour groups and ducking from one patch of shade to the next. Not for the first time, Leo was struck by how similar Greece was to his home state of Texas – the low hills, the scrubby trees, the drone of cicadas and the oppressive summer heat. Switch out the ancient columns and ruined temples for cows and barbed wire, and Leo would’ve felt right at home.

Frank found a tourist pamphlet (seriously, that dude would read the ingredients on a soup can) and gave them a running commentary on what was what.

‘This is the Propylon.’ He waved towards a stone path lined with crumbling columns. ‘One of the main

gates into the Olympic valley.’

‘Rubble!’ said Leo.

‘And over there –’ Frank pointed to a square foundation that looked like the patio for a Mexican restaurant – ‘is the Temple of Hera, one of the oldest structures here.’

‘More rubble!’ Leo said.

‘And that round bandstand-looking thing – that’s the Philipeon, dedicated to Philip of Macedonia.’

‘Even more rubble! First-rate rubble!’

Hazel, who was still riding Arion, kicked Leo in the arm. ‘Doesn’t anything impress you?’

Leo glanced up. Her curly gold-brown hair and golden eyes matched her helmet and sword so well she might’ve been engineered from Imperial gold. Leo doubted Hazel would consider that a compliment, but, as far as humans went, Hazel was first-rate craftsmanship.

Leo remembered their trip together through the House of Hades. Hazel had led him through that creepy maze of illusions. She’d made the sorceress Pasiphaë disappear through an imaginary hole in the floor. She’d battled the giant Clytius while Leo choked in the giant’s cloud of darkness. She’d cut the chains binding the Doors of Death. Meanwhile Leo had done … well, pretty much nothing.

He wasn’t infatuated with Hazel any more. His heart was far away on the island of Ogygia. Still, Hazel Levesque impressed him – even when she wasn’t sitting atop a scary immortal supersonic horse who cussed like a sailor.

He didn’t say any of this, but Hazel must have picked up on his thoughts. She looked away, flustered.

Happily oblivious, Frank continued his guided tour. ‘And over there … oh.’ He glanced at Percy. ‘Uh, that semicircular depression in the hill, with the niches … that’s a nymphaeum, built in Roman times.’

Percy’s face turned the colour of limeade. ‘Here’s an idea: let’s not go there.’

Leo had heard all about his near-death experience in the nymphaeum in Rome with Jason and Piper. ‘I love that idea.’

They kept walking.

Once in a while, Leo’s hands drifted to his tool belt. Ever since the Kerkopes had stolen it in Bologna, he was scared he might get belt-jacked again, though he doubted any monster was as good at thievery as those dwarfs. He wondered how the little crud monkeys were doing in New York. He hoped they were still having fun harassing Romans, stealing lots of shiny zippers and causing legionnaires’ trousers to fall down.

‘This is the Pelopion,’ Frank said, pointing to another fascinating pile of stones.

‘Come on, Zhang,’ Leo said. ‘Pelopion isn’t even a word. What was it – a sacred spot for plopping?’

Frank looked offended. ‘It’s the burial site of Pelops. This whole part of Greece, the Peloponnese, was named after him.’

Leo resisted the urge to throw a grenade in Frank’s face. ‘I suppose I should know who Pelops was?’

‘He was a prince, won his wife in a chariot race. Supposedly he started the Olympic games in honour of that.’

Hazel sniffed. ‘How romantic. “Nice wife you have, Prince Pelops.” “Thanks. I won her in a chariot race.” ’

Leo didn’t see how any of this was helping them find the victory goddess. At the moment, the only victory he wanted was to vanquish an ice-cold drink and maybe some nachos.

Still … the further they got into the ruins, the more uneasy he felt. He flashed back to one of his earliest memories – his babysitter Tía Callida, a.k.a. Hera, encouraging him to prod a poisonous snake with a stick when he was four years old. The psycho goddess told him it was good training for being a hero, and maybe she’d been right. These days Leo spent most of his time poking around until he found trouble.

He scanned the crowds of tourists, wondering if they were regular mortals or monsters in disguise, like those eidolons who’d chased them in Rome. Every so often he thought he saw a familiar face – his bully cousin, Raphael; his mean third-grade teacher, Mr Borquin; his abusive foster mom, Teresa – all kinds of people who had treated Leo like dirt.

Probably he just imagined their faces, but it made him edgy. He remembered how the goddess Nemesis had appeared as his Aunt Rosa, the person Leo most resented and wanted revenge on. He wondered if Nemesis was around here somewhere, watching to see what Leo would do. He still wasn’t sure he’d paid his debt to that goddess. He suspected she wanted more suffering from him. Maybe today was the day.

They stopped at some wide steps leading to another ruined building – the Temple of Zeus, according to Frank.

‘Used to be a huge gold-and-ivory statue of Zeus inside,’ Zhang said. ‘One of

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