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“Oh, pish,” Aeolus said. “I was just grumpy. Rescind that order, Mellie, and um, who’s on guard duty—Teriyaki?—Teri, take these storm spirits down to cell block Fourteen E, will you?”

A harpy swooped out of nowhere, snatched the golden bag, and spiraled into the abyss.

Aeolus grinned at Jason. “Now, sorry about that kill-on-sight business. But gods, I really was mad, wasn’t I?” His face suddenly darkened, and his suit did the same, the lapels flashing with lightning. “You know … I remember now. Almost seemed like a voice was telling me to give that order. A little cold tingle on the back of my neck.”

Jason tensed. A cold tingle on the back of his neck … Why did that sound so familiar? “A … um, voice in your head, sir?”

“Yes. How odd. Mellie, should we kill them?”

“No, sir,” she said patiently. “They just brought us the storm spirits, which makes everything all right.”

“Of course.” Aeolus laughed. “Sorry. Mellie, let’s send the demigods something nice. A box of chocolates, perhaps.”

“A box of chocolates to every demigod in the world, sir?”

“No, too expensive. Never mind. Wait, it’s time! I’m on!”

Aeolus flew off toward the blue screen as newscast music started to play.

Jason looked at Piper and Leo, who seemed just as confused as he was.

“Mellie,” he said, “is he … always like that?”

She smiled sheepishly. “Well, you know what they say. If you don’t like his mood, wait five minutes. That expression ‘whichever way the wind blows’—that was based on him.”

“And that thing about the sea monster,” Jason said. “Was I here before?”

Mellie blushed. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember. I’m Mr. Aeolus’s new assistant. I’ve been with him longer than most, but still—not that long.”

“How long do his assistants usually last?” Piper asked. “

Oh …” Mellie thought for a moment. “I’ve been doing this for … twelve hours?”

A voice blared from floating speakers: “And now, weather every twelve minutes! Here’s your forecaster for Olympian Weather—the OW! channel—Aeolus!”

Lights blazed on Aeolus, who was now standing in front of the blue screen. His smile was unnaturally white, and he looked like he’d had so much caffeine his face was about to explode.

“Hello, Olympus! Aeolus, master of the winds here, with weather every twelve! We’ll have a low-pressure system moving over Florida today, so expect milder temperatures since Demeter wishes to spare the citrus farmers!” He gestured at the blue screen, but when Jason checked the monitors, he saw that a digital image was being projected behind Aeolus, so it looked like he was standing in front of a U.S. map with animated smiley suns and frowny storm clouds. “Along the eastern seaboard—oh, hold on.” He tapped his earpiece. “Sorry, folks! Poseidon is angry with Miami today, so it looks like that Florida freeze is back on! Sorry, Demeter. Over in the Midwest, I’m not sure what St. Louis did to offend Zeus, but you can expect winter storms! Boreas himself is being called down to punish the area with ice. Bad news, Missouri! No, wait. Hephaestus feels sorry for central Missouri, so you all will have much more moderate temperatures and sunny skies.”

Aeolus kept going like that—forecasting each area of the country and changing his prediction two or three times as he got messages over his earpiece—the gods apparently putting in orders for various winds and weather.

“This can’t be right,” Jason whispered. “Weather isn’t this random.”

Mellie smirked. “And how often are the mortal weathermen right? They talk about fronts and air pressure and moisture, but the weather surprises them all the time. At least Aeolus tells us why it’s so unpredictable. Very hard job, trying to appease all the gods at once. It’s enough to drive anyone …”

She trailed off, but Jason knew what she meant. Mad. Aeolus was completely mad.

“And that’s the weather,” Aeolus concluded. “See you in twelve minutes, because I’m sure it’ll change!”

The lights shut off, the video monitors went back to random coverage, and just for a moment, Aeolus’s face sagged with weariness. Then he seemed to remember he had guests, and he put a smile back on.

“So, you brought me some rogue storm spirits,” Aeolus said. “I suppose … thanks! And did you want something else? I assume so. Demigods always do.”

Mellie said, “Um, sir, this is Zeus’s son.”

“Yes, yes. I know that. I said I remembered him from before.”

“But, sir, they’re here from Olympus.”

Aeolus looked stunned. Then he laughed so abruptly, Jason almost jumped into the chasm. “You mean you’re here on behalf of your father this time? Finally! I knew they would send someone to renegotiate my contract!”

“Um, what?” Jason asked.

“Oh, thank goodness!” Aeolus sighed with relief. “It’s been what, three thousand years since Zeus made me master of the winds. Not that I’m ungrateful, of course! But really, my contract is so vague. Obviously I’m immortal, but ‘master of the winds.’ What does that mean? Am I a nature spirit? A demigod? A god? I want to be god of the winds, because the benefits are so much better. Can we start with that?”

Jason looked at his friends, mystified.

“Dude,” Leo said, “you think we’re here to promote you?”

“You are, then?” Aeolus grinned. His business suit turned completely blue—not a cloud in the fabric. “Marvelous! I mean, I think I’ve shown quite a bit of initiative with the weather channel, eh? And of course I’m in the press all the time. So many books have been written about me: Into Thin Air, Up in the Air, Gone with the Wind—”

“Er, I don’t think those are about you,” Jason said, before he noticed Mellie shaking her head.

“Nonsense,” Aeolus said. “Mellie, they’re biographies of me, aren’t they?”

“Absolutely, sir,” she squeaked.

“There, you see? I don’t read. Who has time? But obviously the mortals love me. So, we’ll change my official title to god of the winds. Then, about salary and staff—”

“Sir,” Jason said, “we’re not from Olympus.”

Aeolus blinked. “But—”

“I’m the son of Zeus, yes,” Jason said, “but we’re not here to negotiate your contract. We’re on a quest and we need your help.”

Aeolus’s expression hardened. “Like last time? Like every hero who comes here? Demigods! It’s always about you, isn’t it?”

“Sir, please, I don’t remember last time, but if you helped me once before—”

“I’m always helping! Well, sometimes I’m destroying, but mostly I’m helping, and sometimes I’m asked to do both at the same time! Why, Aeneas, the first of your kind—”

“My kind?” Jason asked. “You mean, demigods?”

“Oh, please!” Aeolus said. “I mean your line of demigods. You know, Aeneas, son of Venus—the only surviving hero of Troy. When the Greeks burned down his city, he escaped to Italy, where he founded the kingdom that would eventually become Rome, blah, blah, blah. That’s what I meant.”

“I don’t get it,” Jason admitted.

Aeolus rolled his eyes. “The point being, I was thrown in the middle of that conflict, too! Juno calls up: ‘Oh, Aeolus, destroy Aeneas’s ships for me. I don’t like him.’ Then Neptune says, ‘No, you don’t! That’s my territory. Calm the winds.’ Then Juno is like, ‘No, wreck his ships, or I’ll tell Jupiter you’re uncooperative!’ Do you think it’s easy juggling requests like that?”

“No,” Jason said. “I guess not.”

“And don’t get me started on Amelia Earhart! I’m still getting angry calls from Olympus about knocking her out of the sky!”

“We just want information,” Piper said in her most calming voice. “We hear you know everything.”

Aeolus straightened his lapels and looked slightly mollified. “Well … that’s true, of course. For instance, I know that this business here”—he waggled his fingers at the three of them—“this harebrained scheme of Juno’s to bring you all together is likely to end in bloodshed. As for you, Piper McLean, I know your father is in serious trouble.” He held out his hand, and a scrap of paper fluttered into his grasp. It was a photo of Piper with a guy who must’ve been her dad. His face did look familiar. Jason was pretty sure he’d seen him in some movies.

Piper took the photo. Her hands were shaking. “This—this is from his wallet.”

“Yes,” Aeolus said. “All things lost in the wind eventually come to me. The photo blew away when the Earthborn captured him.”

“The what?” Piper asked.

Aeolus waved aside the question and narrowed his eyes at Leo. “Now, you, son of Hephaestus … yes, I see your future.” Another paper fell into the wind god’s hands—an old tattered drawing done in crayons.

Leo took it as if it might be coated in poison. He staggered backward.

“Leo?” Jason said. “What is it?”

“Something I—I drew when I was a kid.” He folded it quickly and put it in his coat. “It’s … yeah, it’s nothing.”

Aeolus laughed. “Really? Just the key to your success! Now, where were we? Ah, yes, you wanted information. Are you sure about that? Sometimes information can be dangerous.”

He smiled at Jason like he was issuing a challenge. Behind him, Mellie shook her head in warning.

“Yeah,” Jason said. “We need to find the lair of Enceladus.”

Aeolus’s smile melted. “The giant? Why would you want to go there? He’s horrible! He doesn’t even watch my program!”

Piper held up the photo. “Aeolus, he’s got my father. We need to rescue him and find out where Hera is being held captive.”

“Now, that’s impossible,” Aeolus said. “Even I can’t see that, and believe me, I’ve tried. There’s a veil of magic over Hera’s location—very strong, impossible to locate.”

“She’s at a place called the Wolf House,” Jason said.

“Hold on!” Aelous put a hand to his forehead and closed his eyes. “I’m getting something! Yes, she’s at a place called the Wolf House! Sadly, I don’t know where that is.”

“Enceladus does,” Piper persisted. “If you help us find him, we could get the location of the goddess—”

“Yeah,” Leo said, catching on. “And if we save her, she’d be really grateful to you—”

“And Zeus might promote you,” Jason finished.

Aeolus’s eyebrows crept up. “A promotion—and all you want from me is the giant’s location?”