The house rumbled. Outside a ball of fire exploded in midair, lighting up the entire room.
“The ogres are getting restless,” Grandmother said. “We must hurry. Now, about your powers, I hope you’ve figured them out.”
Grandmother muttered some curses in rapid-fire
Mandarin. “Gods of your ancestors, boy! Have you learned nothing?”
“Yes!” He stammered out the details of his discussion with Mars the night before, but he felt much more tongue-tied in front of Grandmother. “The gift of Periclymenus…I think, I think he was a son of Poseidon, I mean Neptune, I mean…” Frank spread his hands. “The sea god.”
Grandmother nodded grudgingly. “He was the grandson of Poseidon, but good enough. How did your brilliant intellect arrive at this fact?”
“A seer in Portland…he said something about my great- grandfather, Shen Lun. The seer said he was blamed for the 1906 earthquake that destroyed San Francisco and the old location of Camp Jupiter.”
“At camp, they said a descendant of Neptune had caused the disaster. Neptune is the god of earthquakes. But…but I don’t think great-grandfather actually did it. Causing earthquakes isn’t our gift.”
“No,” Grandmother agreed. “But yes, he was blamed. He was unpopular as a descendant of Neptune. He was unpopular because his real gift was much stranger than causing earthquakes. And he was unpopular because he was Chinese. A Chinese boy had never before claimed Roman blood. An ugly truth—but there is no denying it. He was falsely accused, forced out in shame.”
“So…if he didn’t do anything wrong, why did you tell me to apologize for him?”
Grandmother’s cheeks flushed. “Because apologizing for something you didn’t do is better than dying for it! I wasn’t sure if the camp would hold you to blame. I did not know if the prejudice of the Romans had eased.”
Frank swallowed down his breakfast. He’d been teased in school and on the streets sometimes, but not that much, and never at Camp Jupiter. Nobody at camp, not once, had made fun of him for being Asian. Nobody cared about that. They only made fun of him because he was clumsy and slow. He couldn’t imagine what it had been like for his great-grandfather, accused of destroying the entire camp, drummed out of the legion for something he didn’t do.
“And our real gift?” Grandmother asked. “Have you at least figured out what it is?”
His mother’s old stories swirled in Frank’s head. Fighting like a swarm of bees. He was the greatest dragon of all. He remembered his mother’s appearing next to him in the backyard, as if she’d flown from the attic. He remembered her coming out of the woods, saying that she’d given a mama grizzly bear directions.
“You can be anything,” Frank said. “That’s what she always told me.”
Grandmother huffed. “Finally, a dim light goes on in that head of yours. Yes, Fai Zhang. Your mother was not simply boosting your self-esteem. She was telling you the literal truth.”
“But…” Another explosion shook the house. Ceiling plaster fell like snow. Frank was so bewildered he barely noticed.
“Within reason,” Grandmother said. “Living things. It helps if you know the creature well. It also helps if you are in a life-and-death situation, such as combat. Why do you look so surprised, Fai? You have always said you are not comfort able in your own body. We all feel that way—all of us with the blood of Pylos. This gift was only given once to a mortal family. We are unique among demigods. Poseidon must have been feeling especially generous when he blessed our ancestor—or especially spiteful. The gift has often proven a curse. It did not save your mother.…”
Outside, a cheer went up from the ogres. Someone shouted, “Zhang! Zhang!”
“You must go, silly boy,” Grandmother said. “Our time is up.”
“But—I don’t know how to use my power. I’ve never—I can’t—”
“You can,” Grandmother said. “Or you will not survive to realize your destiny. I don’t like this Prophecy of Seven that Mars told me about. Seven is an unlucky number in Chinese—a ghost number. But there is nothing we can do about that. Now, go! Tomorrow evening is the Feast of Fortuna. You have no time to waste. Don’t worry about me. I will die in my own time, in my own way. I have no intention of being devoured by those ridiculous ogres. Go!”
Frank turned at the door. He felt like his heart was being squeezed through a juicer, but he bowed formally. “Thank you, Grandmother,” he said. “I will make you proud.”
She muttered something under her breath. Frank almost thought she had said, You have.
He stared at her, dumbfounded, but her expression immediately soured. “Stop gaping, boy! Go shower and dress!Comb your hair! My last image of you, and you show me messy hair?”
He patted down his hair and bowed again.
His last image of Grandmother was of her glaring out the window, as if thinking about the terrible scolding she would give the ogres when they invaded her home.
FRANK TOOK THE QUICKEST POSSIBLE SHOWER, put on the clothes Hazel had set out—an olive-green shirt with beige cargo pants, really?—then grabbed his spare bow and quiver and bounded up the attic stairs.
The attic was full of weapons. His family had collected enough ancient armaments to supply an army. Shields, spears, and quivers of arrows hung along one wall—almost as many as in the Camp Jupiter armory. At the back window, a scorpion crossbow was mounted and loaded, ready for action. At the front window stood something that looked like a machine gun with a cluster of barrels.
“Rocket launcher?” he wondered aloud.
“Nope, nope,” said a voice from the corner. “Potatoes. Ella doesn’t like potatoes.”
The harpy had made a nest for herself between two old steamer trunks. She was sitting in a pile of Chinese scrolls, reading seven or eight at once.
“Ella,” Frank said, “where are the others?”
“Roof.” She glanced upward, then returned to her reading, alternately picking at her feathers and turning pages. “Roof. Ogre-watching. Ella doesn’t like ogres. Potatoes.”
“Potatoes?” Frank didn’t understand until he swiveled the machine gun around. Its eight barrels were loaded with spuds. At the base of the gun, a basket was filled with more edible ammunition.
He looked out the window—the same window his mom had watched him from when he had met the bear. Down in the yard, the ogres were milling around, shoving each other, occasionally yelling at the house, and throwing bronze cannonballs that exploded in midair.
“They have cannonballs,” Frank said. “And we have a potato gun.”
“Starch,” Ella said thoughtfully. “Starch is bad for ogres.”
The house shook from another explosion. Frank needed to reach the roof and see how Percy and Hazel were doing, but he felt bad leaving Ella alone.
He knelt next to her, careful not to get too close. “Ella, it’s not safe here with the ogres. We’re going to be flying to Alaska soon. Will you come with us?”
Ella twitched uncomfortably. “Alaska. Six hundred twenty-six thousand, four hundred twenty-five square miles.
State mammal: the moose.”
Suddenly she switched to Latin, which Frank could just barely follow thanks to his classes at Camp Jupiter:
“To the north, beyond the gods, lies the legion’s crown. Falling from ice, the son of Neptune shall drown—” She stopped and scratched her disheveled red hair. “Hmm. Burned. The rest is burned.”
Frank could hardly breathe. “Ella, was…was that a prophecy? Where did you read that?”
“Moose,” Ella said, savoring the word. “Moose. Moose. Moose.”
The house shook again. Dust rained down from the rafters. Outside, an ogre bellowed, “Frank Zhang! Show yourself!”
“Nope,” Ella said. “Frank shouldn’t. Nope.”
“Just…stay here, okay?” Frank said. “I’ve got to go help Hazel and Percy.”
He pulled down the ladder to the roof.
“Morning,” Percy said grimly. “Beautiful day, huh?” He wore the same clothes as the day before—jeans, his purple T-shirt, and Polartec jacket—but they’d obviously been freshly washed. He held his sword in one hand and a garden hose in the other. Why there was a garden hose on the roof, Frank wasn’t sure, but every time the giants sent up a cannonball, Percy summoned a high-powered blast of water and detonated the sphere in midair. Then Frank remembered—his family was descended from Poseidon, too. Grandmother had said their house had been attacked before. Maybe they had put a hose up here for just that reason.
Hazel patrolled the widow’s walk between the two attic gables. She looked so good, it made Frank’s chest hurt. She wore jeans, a cream-colored jacket, and a white shirt that made her skin look as warm as cocoa. Her curly hair fell around her shoulders. When she came close, Frank could smell jasmine shampoo.
She gripped her sword. When she glanced at Frank, her eyes flashed with concern. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Why are you smiling?”
“Oh, uh, nothing,” he managed. “Thanks for breakfast. And the clothes. And…not hating me.”
Hazel looked baffled. “Why would I hate you?”
Frank’s face burned. He wished he’d kept his mouth shut, but it was too late now. Don’t let her get away, his grandmother had said. You need strong women.
“It’s just…last night,” he stammered. “When I summoned the skeleton. I thought…I thought that you thought…I was repulsive ... or something.”
Hazel raised her eyebrows. She shook her head in dismay. “Frank, maybe I was surprised. Maybe I was scared of that thing. But repulsed? The way you commanded it, so confident and everything—like, Oh, by the way, guys, I have this all-powerful spartus we can use. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t repulsed, Frank. I was impressed.”
Frank wasn’t sure he’d heard her right. “You were…impressed ... by me?”
Percy laughed. “Dude, it was pretty amazing.”
“Honest?” Frank asked.
“Honest,” Hazel promised. “But right now, we have other problems to worry about. Okay?”
She gestured at the army of ogres, who were getting increasingly bold, shuffling closer and closer to the house.
Percy readied the garden hose. “I’ve got one more trick up my sleeve. Your lawn has a sprinkler system. I can blow it up and cause some confusion down there, but that’ll destroy your water pressure. No pressure, no hose, and those cannonballs are going to plow right into the house.”
Hazel’s praise was still ringing in Frank’s ears, making it difficult to think. Dozens of ogres were camped on his lawn, waiting to tear him apart, and Frank could barely control the urge to grin.
Hazel didn’t hate him. She was impressed.
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