The Lost Hero/22
“Happens all the time to demigods,” she said. “What did you see?”
He told her about the wolves and the ruined house and the two rock spires. As he talked, Annabeth started pacing, looking more and more agitated.
“You don’t remember where this house is?” she asked.
Jason shook his head. “But I’m sure I’ve been there before. ”
“Redwoods,” she mused. “Could be northern California. And the she-wolf … I’ve studied goddesses, spirits, and monsters my whole life. I’ve never heard of Lupa. ”
“She said the enemy was a ‘her. ’ I thought maybe it was Hera, but—”
“I wouldn’t trust Hera, but I don’t think she’s the enemy. And that thing rising out of the earth—” Annabeth’s expression darkened. “You’ve got to stop it. ”
“You know what it is, don’t you?” he asked. “Or at least, you’ve got a guess. I saw your face last night at the campfire. You looked at Chiron like it was suddenly dawning on you, but you didn’t want to scare us. ”
Annabeth hesitated. “Jason, the thing about prophecies …the more you know, the more you try to change them, and that can be disastrous. Chiron believes it’s better that you find your own path, find out things in your own time. If he’d told me everything he knew before my first quest with Percy… I’ve got to admit, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to go through with it. For your quest, it’s even more important. ”
“That bad, huh?”
“Not if you succeed. At least … I hope not. ”
“But I don’t even know where to start. Where am I supposed to go?”
“Follow the monsters,” Annabeth suggested.
Jason thought about that. The storm spirit who’d attacked him at the Grand Canyon had said he was being recalled to his boss. If Jason could track the storm spirits, he might be able to find the person controlling them. And maybe that would lead him to Hera’s prison.
“Okay,” he said. “How do I find storm winds?”
“Personally, I’d ask a wind god,” Annabeth said. “Aeolus is the master of all the winds, but he’s a little … unpredictable. No one finds him unless he wants to be found. I’d try one of the four seasonal wind gods that work for Aeolus. The nearest one, the one who has the most dealings with heroes, is Boreas, the North Wind. ”
“So if I looked him up on Google maps—”
“Oh, he’s not hard to find,” Annabeth promised. “He settled in North America like all the other gods. So of course he picked the oldest northern settlement, about as far north as you can go. ”
“Maine?” Jason guessed.
Jason tried to envision a map. What was farther north than Maine? The oldest northern settlement …
“Canada,” he decided. “Quebec. ”
Annabeth smiled. “I hope you speak French. ”
Jason actually felt a spark of excitement. Quebec—at least now he had a goal. Find the North Wind, track down the storm spirits, find out who they worked for and where that ruined house was. Free Hera. All in four days. Cake.
“Thanks, Annabeth. ” He looked at the photo booth pictures still in his hand. “So, um … you said it was dangerous being a child of Zeus. What ever happened to Thalia?”
“Oh, she’s fine,” Annabeth said. “She became a Hunter of Artemis—one of the handmaidens of the goddess. They roam around the country killing monsters. We don’t see them at camp very often. ”
Jason glanced over at the huge statue of Zeus. He understood why Thalia had slept in this alcove. It was the only place in the cabin not in Hippie Zeus’s line of sight. And even that hadn’t been enough. She’d chosen to follow Artemis and be part of a group rather than stay in this cold drafty temple alone with her twenty-foot-tall dad—Jason’s dad—glowering down at her. Eat voltage! Jason didn’t have any trouble understanding Thalia’s feelings. He wondered if there was a Hunters group for guys.
“Who’s the other kid in the photo?” he asked. “The sandy-haired guy. ”
Annabeth’s expression tightened. Touchy subject.
“That’s Luke,” she said. “He’s dead now. ”
Jason decided it was best not to ask more, but the way Annabeth said Luke’s name, he wondered if maybe Percy Jackson wasn’t the only boy Annabeth had ever liked.
He focused again on Thalia’s face. He kept thinking this photo of her was important. He was missing something.
Jason felt a strange sense of connection to this other child of Zeus—someone who might understand his confusion, maybe even answer some questions. But another voice inside him, an insistent whisper, said: Dangerous. Stay away.
“How old is she now?” he asked.
“Hard to say. She was a tree for a while. Now she’s immortal. ”
His expression must’ve been pretty good, because Annabeth laughed. “Don’t worry. It’s not something all children of Zeus go through. It’s a long story, but … well, she was out of commission for a long time. If she’d aged regularly, she’d be in her twenties now, but she still looks the same as in that picture, like she’s about … well, about your age. Fifteen or sixteen?”
Something the she-wolf had said in his dream nagged at Jason. He found himself asking, “What’s her last name?”
Annabeth looked uneasy. “She didn’t use a last name, really. If she had to, she’d use her mom’s, but they didn’t get along. Thalia ran away when she was pretty young. ”
“Grace,” Annabeth said. “Thalia Grace. ”
Jason’s fingers went numb. The picture fluttered to the floor.
“You okay?” Annabeth asked.
A shred of memory had ignited—maybe a tiny piece that Hera had forgotten to steal. Or maybe she’d left it there on purpose—just enough for him to remember that name, and know that digging up his past was terribly, terribly dangerous.
You should be dead, Chiron had said. It wasn’t a comment about Jason beating the odds as a loner. Chiron knew something specific—something about Jason’s family.
The she-wolf ’s words in his dream finally made sense to him, her clever joke at his expense. He could imagine Lupa growling a wolfish laugh.
“What is it?” Annabeth pressed.
Jason couldn’t keep this to himself. It would kill him, and he had to get Annabeth’s help. If she knew Thalia, maybe she could advise him.
“You have to swear not to tell anyone else,” he said.
“Swear it,” he urged. “Until I figure out what’s going on, what this all means—” He rubbed the burned tattoos on his forearm. “You have to keep a secret. ”
Annabeth hesitated, but her curiosity won out. “All right. Until you tell me it’s okay, I won’t share what you say with anyone else. I swear on the River Styx. ”
Thunder rumbled, even louder than usual for the cabin. You are our saving Grace, the wolf had snarled. Jason picked up the photo from the floor. “My last name is Grace,” he said. “This is my sister. ” Annabeth turned pale. Jason could see her wrestling with dismay, disbelief, anger. She thought he was lying. His claim was impossible. And part of him felt the same way, but as soon as he spoke the words, he knew they were true.
Then the doors of the cabin burst open. Half a dozen campers spilled in, led by the bald guy from Iris, Butch. “Hurry!” he said, and Jason couldn’t tell if his expression was excitement or fear. “The dragon is back. ”
PIPER WOKE UP AND IMMEDIATELY GRABBED a mirror. There were plenty of those in the Aphrodite cabin. She sat on her bunk, looked at her reflection and groaned.
She was still gorgeous.
Last night after the campfire, she’d tried everything. She messed up her hair, washed the makeup off her face, cried to make her eyes red. Nothing worked. Her hair popped back to perfection. The magic makeup reapplied itself. Her eyes refused to get puffy or bloodshot.
She would’ve changed clothes, but she had nothing to change into. The other Aphrodite campers offered her some (laughing behind her back, she was sure), but each outfit was even more fashionable and ridiculous than what she had on.
Now, after a horrible night’s sleep, still no change. Piper normally looked like a zombie in the morning, but her hair was styled like a supermodel’s and her skin was perfect. Even that horrible zit at the base of her nose, which she’d had for so many days she’d started to call it Bob, had disappeared.
She growled in frustration and raked her fingers through her hair. No use. The do just popped back into place. She looked like Cherokee Barbie.
From across the cabin, Drew called, “Oh, honey, it won’t go away. ” Her voice dripped with false sympathy. “Mom’s blessing will last at least another day. Maybe a week if you’re lucky. ”
Piper gritted her teeth. “A week?”
The other Aphrodite kids—about dozen girls and five guys—smirked and snickered at her discomfort. Piper knew she should play cool, not let them get under her skin. She’d dealt with shallow, popular kids plenty of times. But this was different. These were her brothers and sisters, even if she had nothing in common with them, and how Aphrodite had managed to have so many kids so close in age … Never mind. She didn’t want to know.
“Don’t worry, hon. ” Drew blotted her fluorescent lipstick. “You’re thinking you don’t belong here? We couldn’t agree more. Isn’t that right, Mitchell ?”
One of the guys flinched. “Um, yeah. Sure. ”
“Mmm-hmm. ” Drew took out her mascara and checked her lashes. Everyone else watched, not daring to speak. “So anyways, people, fifteen minutes until breakfast. The cabin’s not going to clean itself! And Mitchell, I think you’ve learned your lesson. Right, sweetie? So you’re on garbage patrol just for today, mm-kay? Show Piper how it’s done, ’cause I have a feeling she’ll have that job soon—if she survives her quest. Now, get to work, everybody! It’s my bathroom time!”
Everybody started rushing around, making beds and folding clothes, while Drew scooped up her makeup kit, hair dryer, and brush and marched into the bathroom.
Someone inside yelped, and a girl about eleven was kicked out, hastily wrapped in towels with shampoo still in her hair.
The door slammed shut, and the girl started to cry. A couple of older campers comforted her and wiped the bubbles out of her hair.
“Seriously?” Piper said to no one in particular. “You let Drew treat you like this?”
A few kids shot Piper nervous looks, like they might actually agree, but they said nothing.
The campers kept working, though Piper couldn’t see why the cabin needed much cleaning. It was a life-size dollhouse, with pink walls and white window trim. The lace curtains were pastel blue and green, which of course matched the sheets and feather comforters on all the beds.