Leo looked like he had just gotten sucker-punched. he tapped the table with his knuckles and turned away quickly.
"I'm going to go check the engines," said Leo, disappearing below deck. Annabeth's searching gaze followed him while Piper searched Mae's face. Mae cleared her throat and disappeared down to her nook on the back of the ship. Addison was left with the rest of the group. He suddenly felt the need to be alone and left the remaining three behind him. He climbed up the mast and gazed put onto the water. He had messed up. Mae was not even looking at him. The salty breeze hit his tan face, and he spotted the shore. They had drifted through all he islands in the Sea of Monsters and now were almost at their destination.
"Annabeth!" Addison yelled, down to her. Her head snapped up.
"What?" she demanded. Addison pointed to the slowly but surely upcoming shore. She walked over to the railing and gazed out.
"The Bay area is just further along the coast," said Annabeth, pointing out some pointed rocks. The ship groaned as Leo switched gears to alter the course to the position indicated.
"Mae, Leo, report to deck in an hour," snapped Annabeth, and she disappeared down the hull. Addison crawled up to the only spot on the ship where he could see the nook where Mae sat. She was completely curled up and was staring blankly at the water. Addison heard a scraping noise behind him. He turned to see Leo crawling up beside him.
"Hey," he said, faintly.
"Why'd you pick this particular spot to sit?" asked Leo, curiously. Addison pointed down to Mae's little body. Leo's eyebrows went up.
"Why don't you just go talk to her?" asked Leo. Addison shook his head.
"I messed up," he replied. His jaw clenched when he saw Mae brush her eye as if she were crying. Leo pursed his lips, but then opened his mouth as if to crack a joke. Complete silence followed. He got up and gave Addison a little pat on the back.
"Hope it works out for you, man," said Leo, crawling down the mast. Addison gave Mae one last look and descended down after Leo.
Later that day, Addison saw their destination coming towards them.
"Jason!" he shouted. Instead of only Jason coming to the side, everyone swarmed up the deck. Everyone’s eyes grew huge as they saw it.
"We’re here," murmured Jason, faintly. Leo began shouting orders, and the racket began. The entire ship shuddered to a stop before reaching shore.
"We’ll have to take the longboat out to shore and swim back," said Annabeth. Annabeth answered their questions swirling around in their minds before they had a chance to speak them.
"If we take the ship to shore, chances are we’ll never get it out of the ground. Gaea will see to that. We’ll have to swim back because the longboat will probably disappear while we are gone," explained Annabeth. Jason gave her a pat on the shoulder.
"Glad to have you along, Annabeth," he said, and moved on. Piper bit her lip and followed Jason like a puppy. Addison half-glanced at Mae, but she was asking Leo something. He followed Annabeth, Jason, and Piper down to the boat and was shortly followed by the other two. They paddled quickly to the shore, and Annabeth secured the boat.
"Have everything?" she checked. Everyone mutely nodded and followed her up the steep incline. It was not long before they were sweaty and tired from climbing up such a steep slope. What made matters worse, however, was the constant tug of ground under their feet. Each step felt like they were running a marathon in a snowstorm.
"At least Khione isn’t blasting us with an ice storm right now," said Leo, brightly. An icy wind whistled over the mountainside chilling them. Annabeth’s teeth chattered.
"You just had to say that, didn’t you?" snapped Annabeth, crossly. Mae looked up at the sky that was steadily turning darker.
"I’m not sure that was her," said Mae. Her voice oddly stilted. Addison followed her gaze. The sky was getting blacker by the second.
"We need to find shelter soon," said Addison. Annabeth found a suitable cave, and they huddled in it while the sky let loose.
"Piss off any rain gods lately?" asked Addison, sarcastically. Mae forgot her anger long enough to glare at him. Addison took to staring at the floor instead of Mae. A constant ache filled his chest.
"There aren’t any rain gods," said Leo, suddenly. Piper screwed up her mouth in concentration.
"There’s Ouranos, the Sky god," began Piper.
"But there’s also Zeus, the god of the sky," added Jason.
"Why would either want to be trying to slow us down?" asked Annabeth. There was a pause interrupted only by the distant pitter-patter of rain.
"Let’s get some sleep," suggested Piper. She did not need charm-speak for it to sound appealing to them. Without answering, they huddled together and gradually fell asleep.
" Gaea will not sleep unless you come to see me. She does not know that I know her weakness." boomed a deep voice. Addison could not see anything. Everything was a dark blue. Two stars began to sparkle and shine brightly. Addison peered closer. They were the eyes of this great thing.
"Who are you?" demanded Addison, covering his eyes from the glare.
"You will find me, young Hero. Ask the one whom you love. Apollo has indeed blessed her." answered the deep voice, that radiated strength. There was a strangled cry from the direction of the eyes." Addison woke with a start. He sat rubbing the sleep from his eyes while trying to figure out what was missing. The noise, he realized. He peered through the darkness and saw no rain. He could not hear it either. It stopped, he realized. He got up as much as the ceiling allowed.
"Guys, we need to get up and go now," said Addison, breaking their sleep. All of the half-bloods piled out of their corner where they had been huddled and trekked out into the night. It was rough going at night and through the massive amount of mud. Mae seemed to be having a harder time than the rest. Due to her height, Mae was nearly knee-deep in the mud. Addison swallowed his pride and doubled back.
"Mae," he said, to get her attention. She looked up at him with her beautiful eyes. Addison cupped his hands together and motioned up. Her gaze froze as she battled what to do. She finally came to a conclusion and gingerly stuck a muddy Converse into his hand and climbed piggy-back style onto his back. Addison was a bit more sturdy in the mud than Mae was, and in no time at all, he had covered the distance it would have taken her several minutes to cross in two strides. With this sturdy gait, the teens reached the bottom of their last hill/ mountain in several hours. Jason wiped the sweat off his brow and examined the rocky terrain.
"Jason, do you remember where the camp is?" asked Annabeth. Hope filled her voice as she scanned the plain.
"Not at all," he answered. There was a massive amount of dead looking trees in the distance.
"How about over there?" suggested Leo, pointing to the large, dead wood.
"It’s a start," said Piper, tiredly walking towards their new destination.
Mae had long since gotten off of Addison’s back and was now walking beside him. In the darkness, it was hard to make out much about their surroundings. A long screech startled the halfbloods to the point where they all jumped about a foot in the air each. Addison glanced down to his coat sleeve that was wrinkled and drawn up because Mae’s cold fingers were digging into his arm. She flushed and let go slightly disturbed by Addison’s facial expression. The screech had made them all jumpy, and they huddled in a closer knit group more than they had before. Suddenly, the wind picked them all up and tossed them about like scattered leaves. Mae let out a shriek when she caught sight of a massive, black hole. It was the one from her dreams. She just knew it.
"Stay away from that hole!" shouted Mae, over the violent gusts of wind. Everyone grabbed the nearest dead tree and inched their way away from the hole. It was awhile before they finally collapsed completely worn out but safe from the pulling hole.
"Reminds me of Tartarus," muttered Annabeth, staring at it darkly. The other did not even respond. No one asked permission to rest. They all just rolled over and fell asleep.
"Who are you?" demanded an angry sounding voice. Everyone’s eyes flew open to the bright, harsh rays of the sun. Their weapons had been confiscated. By a small army of battle-scarred teens. Their leader held his dagger to the throat of Annabeth. Somehow he had singled Annabeth out as the deadliest threat. Smart move. Addison stared at the leader. Annabeth raked her gaze over the lot of them. Judging by their gold weapons, stiff mannerisms, and kilted armor, Annabeth guessed that they were from the Roman camp.
"You’re the Roman camp," she said. Everyone sat up. The leader squinted as if sizing her up.
"Get up," he ordered. He cast a backwards glance towards Addison.
"Release your girlfriend, dude," ordered the leader. He stared directly at Addison, and Addison was embarrassed to find that Mae had somehow fallen asleep in his arms, and his arms were still encircling her. He withdrew them quickly and scrambled to his feet. The leader’s eyes swept their faces, until his gaze landed on Jason.
"Jason!" he cried, relief washing over his face. He rushed forward and nearly tackled Jason.
‘Bobby!" cried Jason, with joy. A grin breaking over his tan, good-looking face. There was a stir as the Roman teens all broke their stiff, unhappy expression and swarmed over Jason. One girl broke rank and rushed forward. Her brown curls flying.
"Jason! I thought you were dead!" she yelled, in a boyish manner and tackled him. When she came up, her brown eyes were dancing on a very freckled face. A purple shirt covered her torso and torn jeans her legs. Piper eyed the girl as if she were sizing her up, but something relaxed in her expression.
"Gwendolyn!" he exclaimed, smiling wider. Her expression turned sour. She jammed her spear tip up against his chin.
"That’s Lynn to you, buddy-boy," she snapped, with narrowed eyes. Within a minute, she was back to her good-natured self. Piper looked confused, and Mae could not blame her.
"Where’s Hazel?" asked Jason, to Lynn. She jammed a finger behind her.
"Back at camp," she answered. She peered closely at Jason’s face like he had forgotten something. "Reyna is also back at camp," she added. Jason nodded nonchalantly, and Piper heard something in Lynn’s voice. She eyed Jason at the same time Lynn did. Neither could read his face.
"Where have you been?" asked Bobby, breaking the girl examination of Jason’s face. Greek teens melted into the pack and moved as one unit.
"I’ll tell you that when we get back to camp," said Jason, looking pleased to see his friends but a little distracted at the same time. Piper stuck to his side like a faithful puppy. The walking to the camp was somewhat difficult since they had to swim across the lake to the middle island. The brush was so thick that you could only get through one space around the entire island. They trudged through it, and Jason instinctively ducked as an arrow sped over his head.
"Booby-trapped. Duck here." said Jason, shuffling forward while crouched down. He led them through the maze of precautions set against intruders. When they finally came to a clearing, the Greeks were stunned. The Roman camp sprawled out over a broad, grassy green hill. Erect, white tents were primly set up orderly in rows. They looked decent sized, but once you got in them, they were huge. Jason was led to his tent first.
"You can stay in mine," offered Jason, but was interrupted by a growl. They all turned around quickly to see a massive wolf growling at them. Without thinking, Jason snapped his heels together and very robotic, swung his closed fist against his chest. He gave a short bow.
"Pitch your own tent, Greeks. That is, after you’ve proven yourself in the Arena. You’re only as strong as your weakest link," growled Lupa. Mae gulped. Jason looked uneasily at his friends as they followed Lupa to a dirt encirclement. A boy was busy stripping his purple t-shirt off and applying chalk to his hands on the other side.
"Mae Jordan," Lupa said. Mae took a hesitant step forward and stepped into the arena. The boy turned around with a sneer. Mae gawked at his ripped abdomen and bulging arms. Addison watched with horror as she took off her jacket and scar and handed them to Piper. Addison started forward, but Jason caught him. A silent exchange of understanding crossed between the two boys. Addison reluctantly stepped back. Lupa focused her attention on Mae and the boy. With a snarl from Lupa, the fight began. Mae’s bouncy pigtails leapt around as she nimbly avoided the guy’s rod. It was obvious that he was an Ares kid with his ferocious teammates and rough attitude. It all went downhill when his rod grew a blade. Mae’s leg was slit open upon impact. Limping, Mae could not out run him and fell with the blade at her throat.
"Mae!" shouted Addison, lunging forward.