The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero/4

Page 4

Her breath smelled like cinnamon. She said, “How did you—”

“I didn’t,” he said. “I think I would know if I could fly…”

But then he thought: I don’t even know who I am.

He imagined going up. Piper yelped as they shot a few feet higher. They weren’t exactly floating, Jason decided. He could feel pressure under his feet like they were balancing at the top of a geyser.

“The air is supporting us,” he said.

“Well, tell it to support us more! Get us out of here!”

Jason looked down. The easiest thing would be to sink gently to the canyon floor. Then he looked up. The rain had stopped. The storm clouds didn’t seem as bad, but they were still rumbling and flashing. There was no guarantee the spirits were gone for good. He had no idea what had happened to Coach Hedge. And he’d left Leo up there, barely conscious.

“We have to help them,” Piper said, as if reading his thoughts. “Can you—”

“Let’s see. ” Jason thought Up, and instantly they shot skyward.

The fact he was riding the winds might’ve been cool under different circumstances, but he was too much in shock. As soon as they landed on the skywalk, they ran to Leo.

Piper turned Leo over, and he groaned. His army coat was soaked from the rain. His curly hair glittered gold from rolling around in monster dust. But at least he wasn’t dead.

“Stupid … ugly … goat,” he muttered.

“Where did he go?” Piper asked.

Leo pointed straight up. “Never came down. Please tell me he didn’t actually save my life. ”

“Twice,” Jason said.

Leo groaned even louder. “What happened? The tornado guy, the gold sword … I hit my head. That’s it, right? I’m hallucinating?”

Jason had forgotten about the sword. He walked over to where it was lying and picked it up. The blade was well balanced. On a hunch he flipped it. Midspin, the sword shrank back into a coin and landed in his palm.

“Yep,” Leo said. “Definitely hallucinating. ”

Piper shivered in her rain-soaked clothes. “Jason, those things—”

“Venti,” he said. “Storm spirits. ”

“Okay. You acted like … like you’d seen them before. Who are you?”

He shook his head. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I don’t know. ”

The storm dissipated. The other kids from the Wilderness School were staring out the glass doors in horror. Security guards were working on the locks now, but they didn’t seem to be having any luck.

“Coach Hedge said he had to protect three people,” Jason remembered. “I think he meant us. ”

“And that thing Dylan turned into …” Piper shuddered. “God, I can’t believe it was hitting on me. He called us. . . what, demigods?”

Leo lay on his back, staring at the sky. He didn’t seem anxious to get up. “Don’t know what demi means,” he said. “But I’m not feeling too godly. You guys feeling godly?”

There was a brittle sound like dry twigs snapping, and the cracks in the skywalk began to widen.

“We need to get off this thing,” Jason said. “Maybe if we—”

“Ohhh-kay,” Leo interrupted. “Look up there and tell me if those are flying horses. ”

At first Jason thought Leo had hit his head too hard. Then he saw a dark shape descending from the east—too slow for a plane, too large for a bird. As it got closer he could see a pair of winged animals—gray, four-legged, exactly like horses—except each one had a twenty-foot wingspan. And they were pulling a brightly painted box with two wheels: a chariot.

“Reinforcements,” he said. “Hedge told me an extraction squad was coming for us. ”

“Extraction squad?” Leo struggled to his feet. “That sounds painful. ”

“And where are they extracting us to?” Piper asked.

Jason watched as the chariot landed on the far end of the skywalk. The flying horses tucked in their wings and cantered nervously across the glass, as if they sensed it was near breaking. Two teenagers stood in the chariot—a tall blond girl maybe a little older than Jason, and a bulky dude with a shaved head and a face like a pile of bricks. They both wore jeans and orange T-shirts, with shields tossed over their backs. The girl leaped off before the chariot had even finished moving. She pulled a knife and ran toward Jason’s group while the bulky dude was reining in the horses.

“Where is he?” the girl demanded. Her gray eyes were fierce and a little startling.

“Where’s who?” Jason asked.

She frowned like his answer was unacceptable. Then she turned to Leo and Piper. “What about Gleeson? Where is your protector, Gleeson Hedge?”

The coach’s first name was Gleeson? Jason might’ve laughed if the morning hadn’t been quite so weird and scary. Gleeson Hedge: football coach, goat man, protector of demigods. Sure. Why not?

Leo cleared his throat. “He got taken by some … tornado things. ”

“Venti,” Jason said. “Storm spirits. ”

The blond girl arched an eyebrow. “You mean anemoi thuellai? That’s the Greek term. Who are you, and what happened?”

Jason did his best to explain, though it was hard to meet those intense gray eyes. About halfway through the story, the other guy from the chariot came over. He stood there glaring at them, his arms crossed. He had a tattoo of a rainbow on his biceps, which seemed a little unusual.

When Jason had finished his story, the blond girl didn’t look satisfied. “No, no, no! She told me he would be here. She told me if I came here, I’d find the answer. ”

“Annabeth,” the bald guy grunted. “Check it out. ” He pointed at Jason’s feet.

Jason hadn’t thought much about it, but he was still missing his left shoe, which had been blown off by the lightning. His bare foot felt okay, but it looked like a lump of charcoal.

“The guy with one shoe,” said the bald dude. “He’s the answer. ”

“No, Butch,” the girl insisted. “He can’t be. I was tricked. ” She glared at the sky as though it had done something wrong. “What do you want from me?” she screamed. “What have you done with him?”

The skywalk shuddered, and the horses whinnied urgently.

“Annabeth,” said the bald dude, Butch, “we gotta leave. Let’s get these three to camp and figure it out there. Those storm spirits might come back. ”

She fumed for a moment. “Fine. ” She fixed Jason with a resentful look. “We’ll settle this later. ”

She turned on her heel and marched toward the chariot.

Piper shook her head. “What’s her problem? What’s going on?”

“Seriously,” Leo agreed.

“We have to get you out of here,” Butch said. “I’ll explain on the way. ”

“I’m not going anywhere with her. ” Jason gestured toward the blonde. “She looks like she wants to kill me. ”

Butch hesitated. “Annabeth’s okay. You gotta cut her some slack. She had a vision telling her to come here, to find a guy with one shoe. That was supposed to be the answer to her problem. ”

“What problem?” Piper asked.

“She’s been looking for one of our campers, who’s been missing three days,” Butch said. “She’s going out of her mind with worry. She hoped he’d be here. ”

“Who?” Jason asked.

“Her boyfriend,” Butch said. “A guy named Percy Jackson. ”

AFTER A MORNING OF STORM SPIRIT’S, goat men, and flying boyfriends, Piper should’ve been losing her mind. Instead, all she felt was dread.

It’s starting, she thought. Just like the dream said.

She stood in back of the chariot with Leo and Jason, while the bald guy, Butch, handled the reins, and the blond girl, Annabeth, adjusted a bronze navigation device. They rose over the Grand Canyon and headed east, icy wind ripping straight through Piper’s jacket. Behind them, more storm clouds were gathering.

The chariot lurched and bumped. It had no seat belts and the back was wide open, so Piper wondered if Jason would catch her again if she fell. That had been the most disturbing part of the morning—not that Jason could fly, but that he’d held her in his arms and yet didn’t know who she was.

All semester she’d worked on a relationship, trying to get Jason to notice her as more than a friend. Finally she’d gotten the big dope to kiss her. The last few weeks had been the best of her life. And then, three nights ago, the dream had ruined everything—that horrible voice, giving her horrible news. She hadn’t told anyone about it, not even Jason.

Now she didn’t even have him. It was like someone had wiped his memory, and she was stuck in the worst “do over” of all time. She wanted to scream. Jason stood right next to her: those sky blue eyes, close-cropped blond hair, that cute little scar on his upper lip. His face was kind and gentle, but always a little sad. And he just stared at the horizon, not even noticing her.

Meanwhile, Leo was being annoying, as usual. “This is so cool!” He spit a pegasus feather out of his mouth. “Where are we going?”

“A safe place,” Annabeth said. “The only safe place for kids like us. Camp Half-Blood. ”

“Half-Blood?” Piper was immediately on guard. She hated that word. She’d been called a half-blood too many times—half Cherokee, half white—and it was never a compliment. “Is that some kind of bad joke?”

“She means we’re demigods,” Jason said. “Half god, half mortal. ”

Annabeth looked back. “You seem to know a lot, Jason. But, yes, demigods. My mom is Athena, goddess of wisdom. Butch here is the son of Iris, the rainbow goddess. ”

Leo choked. “Your mom is a rainbow goddess?”

“Got a problem with that?” Butch said.

“No, no,” Leo said. “Rainbows. Very macho. ”

“Butch is our best equestrian,” Annabeth said. “He gets along great with the pegasi. ”

“Rainbows, ponies,” Leo muttered.

“I’m gonna toss you off this chariot,” Butch warned.

“Demigods,” Piper said. “You mean you think you’re … you think we’re—”

Lightning flashed. The chariot shuddered, and Jason yelled, “Left wheel’s on fire!”

Piper stepped back. Sure enough, the wheel was burning, white flames lapping up the side of the chariot.

The wind roared. Piper glanced behind them and saw dark shapes forming in the clouds, more storm spirits spiraling toward the chariot—except these looked more like horses than angels.

She started to say, “Why are they—”

“Anemoi come in different shapes,” Annabeth said. “Sometimes human, sometimes stallions, depending on how chaotic they are. Hold on. This is going to get rough. ”

Butch flicked the reins. The pegasi put on a burst of speed, and the chariot blurred. Piper’s stomach crawled into her throat. Her vision went black, and when it came back to normal, they were in a totally different place.