- The Hidden Oracle
Calypso smiled, though her eyes were still touched by melancholy. “Thank you, babe.”
“Babe?” Percy asked.
Leo’s expression brightened. “Yeah. She won’t call me Hunk Muffin, though. I dunno why.—Ow!”
It was Harley’s turn. The little boy punched Leo, then threw his arms around him and broke down sobbing.
“Hey, brother.” Leo ruffled his hair and had the good sense to look ashamed. “You brought me home with that beacon of yours, H-Meister. You’re a hero! You know I never would’ve left you hanging like that on purpose, don’t you?”
Harley wailed and sniffled and nodded. Then he punched Leo again and ran away. Leo looked like he was about to get sick. Harley was quite strong.
“At any rate,” Calypso said, “these problems with the Roman emperors—how can we help?”
I raised my eyebrows. “You will help me, then? Despite…ah, well, I always knew you were kindhearted and forgiving, Calypso. I meant to visit you at Ogygia more often—”
“Spare me.” Calypso sipped her lemonade. “I’ll help you if Leo decides to help you, and he seems to have some affection for you. Why, I can’t imagine.”
I let go of the breath I had been holding for…oh, an hour. “I’m grateful. Leo Valdez, you have always been a gentleman and a genius. After all, you created the Valdezinator.”
Leo grinned. “I did, didn’t I? I suppose that was pretty awesome. So where is this next Oracle you—Ow!”
Nyssa had made it to the front of the line. She slapped Leo, then berated him in rapid Spanish.
“Yeah, okay, okay.” Leo rubbed his face. “Dang, hermana, I love you, too!”
He turned his attention back to me. “So this next Oracle, you said it was where?”
Percy tapped the picnic table. “Chiron and I were talking about this. He figures this triumvirate thingie…they probably divided America into three parts, with one emperor in charge of each. We know Nero is holed up in New York, so we’re guessing this next Oracle is in the second dude’s territory, maybe in the middle third of the U.S.”
“Oh, the middle third of the U.S.!” Leo spread his arms. “Piece of torta, then. We’ll just search the entire middle of the country!”
“Still with the sarcasm,” Percy noted.
“Hey, man, I’ve sailed with the most sarcastic scalawags on the high seas.”
The two gave each other a high five, though I did not quite understand why. I thought about a snippet of prophecy I’d heard in the grove: something about Indiana. It might be a place to start….
The last person to come through the line was Chiron himself, pushed in his wheelchair by Rachel Dare. The old centaur gave Leo a warm, fatherly smile. “My boy, I am so pleased to have you back. And you freed Calypso, I see. Well done, and welcome, both of you!” Chiron spread his arms for a hug.
“Uh, thanks, Chiron.” Leo leaned forward.
From underneath Chiron’s lap blanket, his equine foreleg shot out and implanted a hoof in Leo’s gut. Then, just as quickly, the leg disappeared. “Mr. Valdez,” Chiron said in the same kindly tone, “if you ever pull a stunt like that again—”
“I got it, I got it!” Leo rubbed his stomach. “Dang, for a teacher, you got a heck of a high kick.”
Rachel grinned and wheeled Chiron away. Calypso and Percy helped Leo to his feet.
“Yo, Nico,” Leo called, “please tell me that’s it for the physical abuse.”
“For now.” Nico smiled. “We’re still trying to get in touch with the West Coast. You’ll have a few dozen people out there who will definitely want to hit you.”
Leo winced. “Yeah, that’s something to look forward to. Well, I guess I’d better keep my strength up. Where do you guys eat lunch now that the Colossus stepped on the dining pavilion?”
Percy left that night just before dinner.
I expected a moving one-on-one farewell, during which he would ask my advice about test taking, being a hero, and living life in general. After he lent me his help in defeating the Colossus, it would have been the least I could do.
Instead, he seemed more interested in saying good-bye to Leo and Calypso. I wasn’t part of their conversation, but the three of them seemed to reach some sort of mutual understanding. Percy and Leo embraced. Calypso even pecked Percy on the cheek. Then the son of Poseidon waded into Long Island Sound with his extremely large dog and they both disappeared underwater. Did Mrs. O’Leary swim? Did she travel through the shadows of whales? I did not know.