Okay, so the dragon wasn’t quite as fixed as Leo might’ve let on. He’d worked all night attaching those wings, but he hadn’t found an extra dragon brain anywhere in the bunker. Hey, they were under a time limit! Three days until the solstice. They had to get going. Besides, Leo had cleaned the disk pretty well. Most of the circuits were still good. It would just have to hold together.
His bad side started to think, Yeah, but what if—
“Shut up, me,” Leo said aloud.
“What?” Piper asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “Long night. I think I’m hallucinating. It’s cool.”
Sitting in front, Leo couldn’t see their faces, but he assumed from their silence that his friends were not pleased to have a sleepless, hallucinating dragon driver.
“Just joking.” Leo decided it might be good to change the subject. “So what’s the plan, bro? You said something about catching wind, or breaking wind, or something?”
As they flew over New England, Jason laid out the game plan: First, find some guy named Boreas and grill him for information—
“His name is Boreas?” Leo had to ask. “What is he, the God of Boring?”
Second, Jason continued, they had to find those venti that had attacked them at the Grand Canyon—
“Can we just call them storm spirits?” Leo asked. “Venti makes them sound like evil espresso drinks.”
And third, Jason finished, they had to find out who the storm spirits worked for, so they could find Hera and free her.
“So you want to look for Dylan, the nasty storm dude, on purpose,” Leo said. “The guy who threw me off the skywalk and sucked Coach Hedge into the clouds.”
“That’s about it,” Jason said. “Well … there may be a wolf involved, too. But I think she’s friendly. She probably won’t eat us, unless we show weakness.”
Jason told them about his dream—the big nasty mother wolf and a burned-out house with stone spires growing out of the swimming pool.
“Uh-huh,” Leo said. “But you don’t know where this place is.”
“Nope,” Jason admitted.
“There’s also giants,” Piper added. “The prophecy said the giants’ revenge.”
“Hold on,” Leo said. “Giants—like more than one? Why can’t it be just one giant who wants revenge?”
“I don’t think so,” Piper said. “I remember in some of the old Greek stories, there was something about an army of giants.”
“Great,” Leo muttered. “Of course, with our luck, it’s an army. So you know anything else about these giants? Didn’t you do a bunch of myth research for that movie with your dad?”
“Your dad’s an actor?” Jason asked.
Leo laughed. “I keep forgetting about your amnesia. Heh. Forgetting about amnesia. That’s funny. But yeah, her dad’s Tristan McLean.”
“Uh—Sorry, what was he in?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Piper said quickly. “The giants—well, there were lots of giants in Greek mythology. But if I’m thinking of the right ones, they were bad news. Huge, almost impossible to kill. They could throw mountains and stuff. I think they were related to the Titans. They rose from the earth after Kronos lost the war—I mean the first Titan war, thousands of years ago—and they tried to destroy Olympus. If we’re talking about the same giants—”
“Chiron said it was happening again,” Jason remembered. “The last chapter. That’s what he meant. No wonder he didn’t want us to know all the details.”
Leo whistled. “So … giants who can throw mountains. Friendly wolves that will eat us if we show weakness. Evil espresso drinks. Gotcha. Maybe this isn’t the time to bring up my psycho babysitter.”
“Is that another joke?” Piper asked.
Leo told them about Tía Callida, who was really Hera, and how she’d appeared to him at camp. He didn’t tell them about his fire abilities. That was still a touchy subject, especially after Nyssa had told him fire demigods tended to destroy cities and stuff. Besides, then Leo would have to get into how he’d caused his mom’s death, and … No. He wasn’t ready to go there. He did manage to tell about the night she died, not mentioning the fire, just saying the machine shop collapsed. It was easier without having to look at his friends, just keeping his eyes straight ahead as they flew.
And he told them about the strange woman in earthen robes who seemed to be asleep, and seemed to know the future.
Leo estimated the whole state of Massachusetts passed below them before his friends spoke.
“That’s … disturbing,” Piper said.
“’Bout sums it up,” Leo agreed. “Thing is, everybody says don’t trust Hera. She hates demigods. And the prophecy said we’d cause death if we unleash her rage. So I’m wondering … why are we doing this?”
“She chose us,” Jason said. “All three of us. We’re the first of the seven who have to gather for the Great Prophecy. This quest is the beginning of something much bigger.”
That didn’t make Leo feel any better, but he couldn’t argue with Jason’s point. It did feel like this was the start of something huge. He just wished that if there were four more demigods destined to help them, they’d show up quick. Leo didn’t want to hog all the terrifying life-threatening adventures.
“Besides,” Jason continued, “helping Hera is the only way I can get back my memory. And that dark spire in my dream seemed to be feeding on Hera’s energy. If that thing unleashes a king of the giants by destroying Hera—”
“Not a good trade-off,” Piper agreed. “At least Hera is on our side—mostly. Losing her would throw the gods into chaos. She’s the main one who keeps peace in the family. And a war with the giants could be even more destructive than the Titan War.”
Jason nodded. “Chiron also talked about worse forces stirring on the solstice, with it being a good time for dark magic, and all—something that could awaken if Hera were sacrificed on that day. And this mistress who’s controlling the storm spirits, the one who wants to kill all the demigods—”
“Might be that weird sleeping lady,” Leo finished. “Dirt Woman fully awake? Not something I want to see.”
“But who is she?” Jason asked. “And what does she have to do with giants?”
Good questions, but none of them had answers. They flew in silence while Leo wondered if he’d done the right thing, sharing so much. He’d never told anyone about that night at the warehouse. Even if he hadn’t give them the whole story, it still felt strange, like he’d opened up his chest and taken out all the gears that made him tick. His body was shaking, and not from the cold. He hoped Piper, sitting behind him, couldn’t tell.
The forge and dove shall break the cage. Wasn’t that the prophecy line? That meant Piper and he would have to figure out how to break into that magic rock prison, assuming they could find it. Then they’d unleash Hera’s rage, causing a lot of death. Well, that sounded fun! Leo had seen Tía Callida in action; she liked knives, snakes, and putting babies in roaring fires. Yeah, definitely let’s unleash her rage. Great idea.
Festus kept flying. The wind got colder, and below them snowy forests seemed to go on forever. Leo didn’t know exactly where Quebec was. He’d told Festus to take them to the palace of Boreas, and Festus kept going north. Hopefully, the dragon knew the way, and they wouldn’t end up at the North Pole.
“Why don’t you get some sleep?” Piper said in his ear. “You were up all night.”
Leo wanted to protest, but the word sleep sounded really good. “You won’t let me fall off?”
Piper patted his shoulder. “Trust me, Valdez. Beautiful people never lie.”
“Right,” he muttered. He leaned forward against the warm bronze of the dragon’s neck, and closed his eyes.
IT SEEMED HE SLEPT ONLY FOR SECONDS, but when Piper shook him awake, the daylight was fading.
“We’re here,” she said.
Leo rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. Below them, a city sat on a cliff overlooking a river. The plains around it were dusted with snow, but the city itself glowed warmly in the winter sunset. Buildings crowded together inside high walls like a medieval town, way older than any place Leo had seen before. In the center was an actual castle—at least Leo assumed it was a castle—with massive red brick walls and a square tower with a peaked, green gabled roof.
“Tell me that’s Quebec and not Santa’s workshop,” Leo said.
“Yeah, Quebec City,” Piper confirmed. “One of the oldest cities in North America. Founded around sixteen hundred or so?”
Leo raised an eyebrow. “Your dad do a movie about that too?”
She made a face at him, which Leo was used to, but it didn’t quite work with her new glamorous makeup. “I read sometimes, okay? Just because Aphrodite claimed me, doesn’t mean I have to be an airhead.”
“Feisty!” Leo said. “So you know so much, what’s that castle?”
“A hotel, I think.”
Leo laughed. “No way.”
But as they got closer, Leo saw she was right. The grand entrance was bustling with doormen, valets, and porters taking bags. Sleek black luxury cars idled in the drive. People in elegant suits and winter cloaks hurried to get out of the cold.
“The North Wind is staying in a hotel?” Leo said. “That can’t be—”
“Heads up, guys,” Jason interrupted. “We got company!”
Leo looked below and saw what Jason meant. Rising from the top of the tower were two winged figures—angry angels, with nasty-looking swords.
Festus didn’t like the angel guys. He swooped to a halt in midair, wings beating and talons bared, and made a rumbling sound in his throat that Leo recognized. He was getting ready to blow fire.
“Steady, boy,” Leo muttered. Something told him the angels would not take kindly to getting torched.
“I don’t like this,” Jason said. “They look like storm spirits.”
At first Leo thought he was right, but as the angels got closer, he could see they were much more solid than venti. They looked like regular teenagers except for their icy white hair and feathery purple wings. Their bronze swords were jagged, like icicles. Their faces looked similar enough that they might’ve been brothers, but they definitely weren’t twins.
One was the size of an ox, with a bright red hockey jersey, baggy sweatpants, and black leather cleats. The guy clearly had been in too many fights, because both his eyes were black, and when he bared his teeth, several of them were missing.
The other guy looked like he’d just stepped off one of Leo’s mom’s 1980s rock album covers—Journey, maybe, or Hall & Oates, or something even lamer. His ice-white hair was long and feathered into a mullet. He wore pointy-toed leather shoes, designer pants that were way too tight, and a god-awful silk shirt with the top three buttons open. Maybe he thought he looked like a groovy love god, but the guy couldn’t have weighed more than ninety pounds, and he had a bad case of acne.