“I’m not sure,” Hazel admitted.
She looked at the town below and couldn’t believe how much it had grown since 1942. The main harbor had moved east as the town had expanded. Most of the buildings were new to her, but the grid of downtown streets seemed familiar. She thought she recognized some warehouses along the shore. “I might know a place we can freshen up.”
WHEN THEY GOT INTO TOWN, Hazel followed the same route she’d used seventy years ago—the last night of her life, when she’d come home from the hills and found her mother missing.
She led her friends along Third Avenue. The railroad station was still there. The big white two-story Seward Hotel was still in business, though it had expanded to twice its old size. They thought about stopping there, but Hazel didn’t think it would be a good idea to traipse into the lobby covered in mud, nor was she sure the hotel would give a room to three minors.
Instead, they turned toward the shoreline. Hazel couldn’t believe it, but her old home was still there, leaning over the water on barnacle-encrusted piers. The roof sagged. The walls were perforated with holes like buckshot. The door was boarded-up, and a hand-painted sign read: ROOMS—STORAGE—AVAILABLE.
“Come on,” she said.
“Uh, you sure it’s safe?” Frank asked.
Hazel found an open window and climbed inside. Her friends followed. The room hadn’t been used in a long time. Their feet kicked up dust that swirled in the buckshot beams of sunlight. Mouldering cardboard boxes were stacked along the walls. Their faded labels read: Greeting Cards, Assorted Seasonal. Why several hundred boxes of season’s greetings hadwound up crumbling to dust in a warehouse in Alaska, Hazel had no idea, but it felt like a cruel joke: as if the cards were for all the holidays she’d never gotten to celebrate—decades of Christmases, Easters, birthdays, Valentine’s Days.
“It’s warmer in here, at least,” Frank said. “Guess no running water? Maybe I can go shopping. I’m not as muddy as you guys. I could find us some clothes.”
Hazel only half heard him.
She climbed over a stack of boxes in the corner that used to be her sleeping area. An old sign was propped against the wall: GOLD PROSPECTING SUPPLIES. She thought she’dfind a bare wall behind it, but when she moved the sign, most of her photos and drawings were still pinned there. The sign must have protected them from sunlight and the elements. They seemed not to have aged. Her crayon drawings of New Orleans looked so childish. Had she really made them? Her mother stared out at her from one photograph, smiling in front of her business sign: QUEEN MARIE’S GRIS-GRIS—CHARMS SOLD, FORTUNES TOLD.
Next to that was a photo of Sammy at the carnival. He was frozen in time with his crazy grin, his curly black hair, and those beautiful eyes. If Gaea was telling the truth, Sammy had been dead for over forty years. Had he really remembered Hazel all that time? Or had he forgotten the peculiar girl he used to go riding with—the girl who shared one kiss and a birthday cupcake with him before disappearing forever?
Frank’s fingers hovered over the photo. “Who…?” He saw that she was crying and clamped back his question. “Sorry, Hazel. This must be really hard. Do you want some time—”
“No,” she croaked. “No, it’s fine.”
“Is that your mother?” Percy pointed to the photo of QueenMarie. “She looks like you. She’s beautiful.”
Then Percy studied the picture of Sammy. “Who is that?”
Hazel didn’t understand why he looked so spooked. “That’s…that’s Sammy. He was my—uh—friend from New Orleans.” She forced herself not to look at Frank.
“I’ve seen him before,” Percy said.
“You couldn’t have,” Hazel said. “That was in 1941. He’s…he’s probably dead now.”
Percy frowned. “I guess. Still…” He shook his head, like the thought was too uncomfortable.
Frank cleared his throat. “Look, we passed a store on the last block. We’ve got a little money left. Maybe I should go get you guys some food and clothes and—I don’t know—a hundred boxes of wet wipes or something?”
Hazel put the gold prospecting sign back over her mementos. She felt guilty even looking at that old picture of Sammy, with Frank trying to be so sweet and supportive. It didn’t do her any good to think about her old life.
“That would be great,” she said. “You’re the best, Frank.”
The floorboards creaked under his feet. “Well…I’m the only one not completely covered in mud, anyway. Be back soon.”
Once he was gone, Percy and Hazel made temporary camp. They took off their jackets and tried to scrape off the mud. They found some old blankets in a crate and used them to clean up. They discovered that boxes of greeting cards made pretty good places to rest if you arranged them like mattresses.
Percy set his sword on the floor where it glowed with a faint bronze light. Then he stretched out on a bed of Merry Christmas 1982.
“Thank you for saving me,” he said. “I should’ve told you that earlier.”
Hazel shrugged. “You would have done the same for me.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “But when I was down in the mud, I remembered that line from Ella’s prophecy—about the son of Neptune drowning. I thought. ‘This is what it means. I’m drowning in the earth.’ I was sure I was dead.”
His voice quavered like it had his first day at Camp Jupiter, when Hazel had shown him the shrine of Neptune. Back then she had wondered if Percy was the answer to her problems—the descendant of Neptune that Pluto had promised would take away her curse someday. Percy had seemed so intimidating and powerful, like a real hero.
Only now, she knew that Frank was a descendant of
Neptune, too. Frank wasn’t the most impressive-looking hero in the world, but he’d trusted her with his life. He tried so hard to protect her. Even his clumsiness was endearing.
She’d never felt more confused—and since she had spent her whole life confused, that was saying a lot.
“Percy,” she said, “that prophecy might not have been complete. Frank thought Ella was remembering a burned page. Maybe you’ll drown someone else.”
He looked at her cautiously. “You think so?”
Hazel felt strange reassuring him. He was so much older, and more in command. But she nodded confidently. “You’re going to make it back home. You’re going to see your girlfriend Annabeth.”
“You’ll make it back, too, Hazel,” he insisted. “We’re not going to let anything happen to you. You’re too valuable to me, to the camp, and especially to Frank.”
Hazel picked up an old valentine. The lacy white paper fell apart in her hands. “I don’t belong in this century. Nico only brought me back so I could correct my mistakes, maybe get into Elysium.”
“There’s more to your destiny than that,” he said. “We’re supposed to fight Gaea together. I’m going to need you at my side way longer than just today. And Frank—you can see the guy is crazy about you. This life is worth fighting for, Hazel.”
She closed her eyes. “Please, don’t get my hopes up. I can’t—”
The window creaked open. Frank climbed in, triumphantly holding some shopping bags. “Success!”
He showed off his prizes. From a hunting store, he’d gotten a new quiver of arrows for himself, some rations, and a coil of rope.
“For the next time we run across muskeg,” he said.
From a local tourist shop, he had bought three sets of fresh clothes, some towels, some soap, some bottled water, and, yes, a huge box of wet wipes. It wasn’t exactly a hot shower, but Hazel ducked behind a wall of greeting card boxes to clean up and change. Soon she was feeling much better.
This is your last day, she reminded herself. Don’t get too comfortable.
The Feast of Fortuna—all the luck that happened today, good or bad, was supposed to be an omen of the entire year to come. One way or another, their quest would end this evening.
She slipped the piece of driftwood into her new coatpocket. Somehow, she’d have to make sure it stayed safe, no matter what happened to her. She could bear her own death as long as her friends survived.
“So,” she said. “Now we find a boat to Hubbard Glacier.”
She tried to sound confident, but it wasn’t easy. She wished Arion were still with her. She’d much rather ride into battle on that beautiful horse. Ever since they’d left Vancouver, she’d been calling to him in her thoughts, hoping he would hear her and come find her, but that was just wishful thinking.
Frank patted his stomach. “If we’re going to battle to the death, I want lunch first. I found the perfect place.”
Frank led them to a shopping plaza near the wharf, where an old railway car had been converted to a diner. Hazel had no memory of the place from the 1940s, but the food smelled amazing. While Frank and Percy ordered, Hazel wandered down to the docks and asked some questions. When she came back, she needed cheering up. Even the cheeseburger and fries didn’t do the trick.
“We’re in trouble,” she said. “I tried to get a boat. But…I miscalculated.”
“No boats?” Frank asked.
“Oh, I can get a boat,” Hazel said. “But the glacier is farther than I thought. Even at top speed, we couldn’t get there until tomorrow morning.”
Percy turned pale. “Maybe I could make the boat go faster?”
“Even if you could,” Hazel said, “from what the captains tell me, it’s treacherous—icebergs, mazes of channels to navigate. You’d have to know where you were going.”
“A plane?” Frank asked.
Hazel shook her head. “I asked the boat captains about that. They said we could try, but it’s a tiny airfield. You have to charter a plane two, three weeks in advance.”
They ate in silence after that. Hazel’s cheeseburger was excellent, but she couldn’t concentrate on it. She’d eaten about three bites when a raven settled on the telephone pole above and began to croak at them.
Hazel shivered. She was afraid it would speak to her like the other raven, so many years ago: The last night. Tonight. She wondered if ravens always appeared to children of Pluto when they were about to die. She hoped Nico was still alive, and Gaea had just been lying to make her unsettled. Hazel had a bad feeling that the goddess was telling the truth.
Nico had told her that he’d search for the Doors of Death from the other side. If he’d been captured by Gaea’s forces,
Hazel might’ve lost the only family she had.
She stared at her cheeseburger.
Suddenly, the raven’s cawing changed to a strangled yelp.
Frank got up so fast that he almost toppled the picnic table. Percy drew his sword.
Hazel followed their eyes. Perched on top of the pole where the raven had been, a fat ugly gryphon glared down at them. It burped, and raven feathers fluttered from its beak.
Hazel stood and unsheathed her spatha.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com