“Let us find the dam snack bar," Zoe said. "We should eat while we can."
Grover cracked a smile. "The dam snack bar?"
Zoe blinked. "Yes. What is funny?"
"Nothing," Grover said, trying to keep a straight face. "I could use some dam french fries."
Even Thalia smiled at that. "And I need to use the dam restroom."
I started cracking up, and Thalia and Grover joined in, while Zoe just looked at me. "I do not understand."
"I want to use the dam water fountain," Grover said.
"And..." Thalia tried to catch her breath. "I want to buy a dam t-shirt.”
“Love conquers all," Aphrodite promised. "Look at Helen and Paris. Did they let anything come between them?"
"Didn't they start the Trojan War and get thousands of people killed?"
"Pfft. That's not the point. Follow your heart.”
“Ever had a flying burrito hit you? Well, it's a deadly projectile, right up there with cannonballs and grenades.”
“Wow," Thalia muttered. "Apollo is hot."
"He's the sun god," I said.
"That's not what I meant.”
“Grover was sniffing the wind, looking nervous. He fished out his acorns and threw them into the sand, then played his pipes. They rearranged themselves in a pattern that made no sense to me, but Grover looked concerned.
"That's us," he said. "Those five nuts right there."
"Which one is me?" I asked.
"The little deformed one," Zoe suggested.
"Oh, shut up.”
“In a way, it's nice to know that there are Greek gods out there, because you have somebody to blame when things go wrong. For instance, when you're walking away from a bus that's just been attacked by monster hags and blown up by lightning, and it's raining on top of everything else, most people might think that's just really bad luck; when you're a half-blood, you understand that some devine force is really trying to mess up your day.”
“God alert!" Blackjack yelled. "It's the wine dude!
Mr. D sighed in exasperation. "The next person, or horse, who calls me the 'wine dude' will end up in a bottle of Merlot!”
“He cleared his throat and held up one hand dramatically.
“Green grass breaks through snow.
Artemis pleads for my help.
I am so cool.”
He grinned at us, waiting for applause.
"That last line was four syllables.” Artemis said.
Apollo frowned. “Was it?”
“Yes. What about I am so bigheaded?”
“No, no, that’s six syllable, hhhm.” He started muttering to himself.
Zoe Nightshade turned to us. “Lord Apollo has been going through this haiku phase ever since he visited Japan. Tis not as bad as the time he visited Limerick. If I’d had to hear one more poem that started with, There once was a godess from Sparta-"
“I’ve got it!” Apollo announced. “I am so awesome. That’s five syllables!” He bowed, looking very pleased with himself.”
“The cafe windows wrapped all the way around the observation floor, which gave us a beautiful panoramic view of the skeleton army that had come to kill us.”
“Hey, can I see that sword you were using?"
I showed him Riptide, and explained how it turned from a pen into a sword just by uncapping it.
"Cool! Does it ever run out of ink?"
"Um, well, I don't actually write with it."
"Are you really the son of Poseidon?"
"Can you surf really well, then?"
I looked at Grover, who was trying hard not to laugh.
"Jeez, Nico," I said. "I've never really tried."
He went on asking questions. Did I fight a lot with Thalia, since she was a daughter of Zeus? (I didn't answer that one.) If Annabeth's mother was Athena, the goddess of wisdom, then why didn't Annabeth know better than to fall off a cliff? (I tried not to strangle Nico for asking that one.) Was Annabeth my girlfriend? (At this point, I was ready to stick the kid in a meat-flavored sack and throw him to the wolves.)”
“She said this in the same way you might say Fields of Punishment or Hades's gym shorts.”
“Argh!" Thalia pushed me, and a shock went through my body that blew me backward ten feet into the water. Some of the campers gasped. A couple of the Hunters stifled laughs.
"Sorry!" Thalia said, turning pale. "I didn't mean to—"
Anger roared in my ears. A wave erupted from the creek, blasting into Thalia's face and dousing her from head to toe.
I stood up. "Yeah," I growled. "I didn't mean to, either."
Thalia was breathing heavily.
"Enough!" Chiron ordered.
But Thalia held out her spear. "You want some, Seaweed Brain?"
Somehow, it was okay when Annabeth called me that — at least, I'd gotten used to it — but hearing it from Thalia was not cool.
"Bring it on, Pinecone Face!”
“You're a stalker with hooves."
"I am not! I followed her to the Big House and hid in a bush and watched the whole thing.”
“Hoover Dam," Thalia said. "It's huge."
We stood at the river's edge, looking up at a curve of concrete that loomed between the cliffs. People were walking along the top of the dam. They were so tiny they looked like fleas.
The naiads had left with a lot of grumbling—not in words I could understand, but it was obvious they hated this dam blocking up their nice river. Our canoes floated back downstream, swirling in the wake from the dam's discharge vents.
"Seven hundred feet tall," I said. "Built in the 1930s."
"Five million cubic acres of water," Thalia said.
Graver sighed. "Largest construction project in the United States."
Zoe stared at us. "How do you know all that?"
"Annabeth," I said. "She liked architecture."
"She was nuts about monuments," Thalia said.
"Spouted facts all the time." Grover sniffled. "So annoying."
"I wish she were here," I said.”
“Can’t this thing go any faster?” Thalia demanded.
Zoe glared at her. “I cannot control traffic.”
You both sound like my mother,” I said.
Shut up!” they both said in union.”
“Do you always try to kill people when they blow their nose?”
“Thalia's shoulders relaxed. "I owe you one."
"One and a half," Thalia said.
She smiled, and for a second, I remembered that I actually liked her when she wasn't yelling at me.”
“Brother,” Artemis chided. “You do not help my Hunters. You do not look at, talk to, or flirt with my Hunters. And you do not call them sweetheart.”
“Not knowing is half the fun," Aphrodite said, "Exquisitely painful isn't it? Not being sure who you love and who loves you? Oh, you kids! It's so cute I'm going to cry!”
“There is always a way out for those clever enough to find it.”
“And, whoa!" He turned to Mr.D. "Your the wine dude? No way!"
Mr.D turned hi eyes away from me and gave Nico a look of loathing. "The wine dude?"
"Dionysus, right? Oh, wow! I've got your figurine!"
"In my game, Mythomagic. And holofoil card, too! And even though you've only got like five hundred attack points and everybody thinks your the lamest god card, I totally think your powers are sweet!"
"Ah." Mr.D seemed truly perplexed, which probably saved my life. "Well, that's...gratifying.”
“Aretmis gripped her bow. “Let us pray I am wrong.”
Can goddesses pray?”
“This is so cool!" Nico said, jumping up and down in the driver's seat. "Is this really the sun? I thought Helios and Selene were the sun and moon gods. How come sometimes it's them and sometimes it's you and Artemis?"
"Downsizing," Apollo said. "The Romans started it. They couldn't afford all those temple sacrifices, so they laid off Helios and Selene and folded their duties into our job descriptions. My sis got the moon. I got the sun. It was pretty annoying at first, but at least I got this cool car."
"But how does it work?" Nico asked. "I thought the sun was a big fiery ball of gas!"
Apollo chuckled and ruffled Nico's hair. "That rumor probably got started because Artemis used to call me a big fiery ball of gas.”
“She studied me with concern. She touched the new streak of gray in my hair that matched hers exactly—our painful souvenir from holding Atlas's burden. There was a lot I'd wanted to say to Annabeth, but Athena had taken the confidence out of me. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.
I do not approve of your friendship with my daughter.
"So," Annabeth said. "What did you want to tell me earlier?"
The music was playing. People were dancing in the streets. I said, "I, uh, was thinking we got interrupted at Westover Hall. And… I think I owe you a dance."
She smiled slowly. "All right, Seaweed Brain."
So I took her hand, and I don't know what everybody else heard, but to me it sounded like a slow dance: a little sad, but maybe a little hopeful, too.”
“Mr. D, wearing his leopard-skin jogging suit and rummaging through the refrigerator.
He looked up lazily. "Do you mind?"
Where's Chiron!" I shouted.
How rude." Mr. D took a swig from a jug of grape juice. "Is that how you say hello?"
Hello," I amended. "We're about to die! Where's Chiron?”
“Boys are usually forbidden to have any contact with the Hunters. The last one to see this camp…” She looked at Zoe. “Which one was it?”
That boy in Colorado,” Zoe said. “You turned him into a jackalope.”
Ah, yes.” Artemis nodded, satisfied. “I enjoy making jackalopes…”
“Apollo?” I guessed…
He put a finger to his lips. “I’m incognito. Call me Fred.”
A god named Fred?”
“I looked at Thalia. "You're afraid of heights."
Now that we were safely down the mountain, her eyes had their usual angry look. "Don't be stupid."
That explains why you freaked out on Apollo's bus. Why you didn't want to talk about it."
She took a deep breath. Then she brushed the pine needles out of her hair. "If you tell anyone, I swear—"
No, no," I said. "That's cool. It's just… the daughter of Zeus, the Lord of the Sky, afraid of heights?”
“Little sister!" Apollo called. If his teeth were any whiter he could've blinded us without the sun car. "What's up? You never call. You never write. I was getting worried!"
Artemis sighed. "I'm fine, Apollo. And I am not your little sister."
"Hey, I was born first."
"We're twins! How many millennia do we have to argue—”
“necessity tonight. She accepted the glass of red wine Nick offered and tried not to down it with one gulp. “What’s the plan for tomorrow?” She sat down on the”
“As far as I am concerned sexuality no longer exists. I used to call this indifference serenity: all at once I have come to see it in another light—it is a mutilation; it is the loss of a sense. The lack of it makes me blind to the needs, the pains, and the joys of those who do possess it.”
“It’s like a jolt of electricity, but worse.”
“Smiles, kindness, hugs & love are all free to give, but priceless to recieve.”
“I could feel something cold stalking my heart. It was fear. They all begin this way, I thought, with pledges of love.”
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