Mae opened the tent flap and observed the camp. Never had she seen all the camp awake at this hour. Squinting up at the sun, Mae was wondering if her clock was messed up. Thanks to her dad being god of the sun, Mae could read the time of day by the sun quite well. It was the time she thought it was. Weird. Piper and Annabeth were awakened by the loud trumpeting of the camp bugle. Piper’s hair was sticking in a hundred different directions, and Annabeth’s hair was a blond, curly Afro.
"Get ready quickly," said Mae, scooping up what small amount of luggage she had brought and stuffing it in her backpack. It was not long before each girl had gotten ready and joined the boys at the tent. Reyna was all over Jason during breakfast. Jason was completely miserable. Even the others could see it. There was a lot of snickering from the Hermes cabin. So much so that Annabeth shot the whole table such a loathsome glare that they shut up immediately. Mae was busily chatting away with everyone and seemed in the best mood. Annabeth ordered the others to eat quickly, and they soon took their leave. Samuel was very anxious for Mae to say goodbye, and she disappeared soon after breakfast. Annabeth packed the rest of their luggage and sent Addison off to find Mae. He found them in the exact same location as before. Samuel was so close to Mae that Addison wanted to hurl. He entered the clearing quickly to stop Samuel from making a move.
"Mae, time to go," said Addison. Mae nodded but look slightly preoccupied while listening to Samuel talk to her in low tones. Samuel gave Addison an irritated glance as he stooped down and kissed Mae on the cheek. Mae smiled back at Samuel as Addison grumpily dragged her away. Her cheeks were bright red as the two finally made it back to the group. Addison had a murderous look of mutiny on his face while Mae had a dazed expression splashed on her face. Annabeth hid a grin.
"Let’s go, shall we?!" snapped Addison, through gritted teeth. Annabeth nodded and waved at the Romans. Reyna kissed Jason on the lips as he attempted to de-tangle himself from her grasp. Looking slightly taken back, Jason merely looked uncomfortable as Lupa gave her parting words.
"Be careful, young Heroes," was all the she-wolf said. Jason did that ridiculous bow that he kept doing, and the group with the help of Jason made it out of the booby trapped trail off the island. The only place that Lupa had been able to tell them that Percy had headed north.
"I hate north," muttered Leo. The others looked at him strangely. The North was especially disliked by Leo because of his previous encounter with Khione and what she did to his beloved dragon. Metal dragon, mind you. It took them the rest of the day to get back to their ship. It seemed even longer when Leo was brooding about their upcoming destination, and Addison was still grumpy about Mae being kissed on the cheek by someone other than himself. Piper had not spoken a word yet, and Annabeth was scheming where Percy could have gone. Jason was lost in thought. Besides Mae-who was bouncing up in down with happiness and seemed oblivious to all the pain being suffered around her-, the party was pretty morose.
The boys were all below deck, and the girls had manned the upper deck. Mae, tired of playing Solitaire by herself, got up and looked for something to do. Addison was just coming up on deck, and Mae bounced over to him.
"Hey, Ad-" began Mae, but she was cut off by the intense waves of anger from Addison. Mae looked taken back.
"What did I do?" she demanded, as Addison gave her an irritated look. Addison grunted and walked down below deck.
"Why don’t you ask Samuel?" growled Addison. Mae heard a snort and a snicker behind her. A flash of irritation spiked her blood. She whirled around. Annabeth and Piper were trying not to show that they were amused.
"What?!" she demanded, throwing her hands up in the air. Piper hid a smile behind her hand.
"You are so clueless about boys." she replied. A line appeared between Mae’s eyebrows as she stared in confusion at Piper. Piper rolled her eyes.
"You don’t have to be the goddess of love’s daughter to realize he’s got it bad for you." said Piper, smirking and then added as if an afterthought. "I would take Addison over Samuel any day, though." Mae’s face got so red you could have fried an egg on it. Mae’s temper got the best of her.
"Well, at least, I don’t go mooning over some guy who already has a girlfriend, or like you, Annabeth, who worries whether or not Percy will remember every tender moment you two shared," snapped Mae, losing it. Her eyes blazed blue fire as she stormed off. Annabeth watched her with a calculating expression. She pushed Piper back down in her seat as Piper angrily shot up to her feet.
"She doesn’t mean it, Piper. She is just scared that you’re right," said Annabeth, watching Mae disappear in her odd nook at the back of the ship. "The only best friend she has ever had might be turning into something more. She’s too young to process it straight." Piper gave a short nod, but Mae’s words had cut below the belt.
"Yeah, okay," said Piper, not sounding entirely convinced.
It was early the next morning when everyone came up to the deck. Mae was sullenly off to one side the happiness forgotten. Addison was feeling once again depressed as he had ruined the apology that he had so taken so long to think up. It was not going unnoticed by the other that Addison was grumpy because of his failed attempts with Mae. As well as Mae, the other two girls seemed to have a bad case of the Mondays (except that today was not Monday). They, too, were in horrible moods as they stood away from the group.
"We will have to reach land soon to contact a few sources," said Annabeth, gazing out at the land. Green grass swayed invitingly. The others disappeared, and Addison and Mae were left alone.
"Mae, I was unnecessarily short with-" began Addison, but Mae cut him off.
"I don’t want your apologies. What I want is answers. Don’t come near me until I figure them out." said Mae, shortly. Addison was left completely crushed. Memories flashed through his mind. The first time he held her was after a football game when they had lost. Mae was devastated that the Volunteers would lose for the third time against Alabama. Back then, it was not weird that the two of them were so close. Another memory floated through his mind. It was in the car on the way to the movie on the day that everything changed. It was not that long ago. Only a few days, but Addison felt like it had been forever. Mae had been singing to Sara Bareilles, and Addison had dared to sing alongside her. She had teased him to embarrassment about his inability to sing. Those had been the good old times when he could shrug off the teasing taunts about he and Mae being together. Now, it was the only thing really pressing on his mind. Instead of being courageous and telling her how he felt, Addison was too afraid that he would get rejected. He might kill the friendship that they had. What was left of it anyway. Addison had a feeling that he had caused the fight amongst the girls right after he had left, but he could not figure out what it was specifically about. Suddenly, Addison had a idea. It was not a great idea. It was not even a good idea.
"Help me, Aphrodite," he murmured. He jumped up from his seat on the deck and quickly crawled down to Mae’s side on her favorite niche.
"Mae-" began Addison. Before she could tell him off for being near her, he was interrupted by a loud yell from across ship.
"All hands on deck!" yelled Leo, in his best pirate voice. Mae giggled, and the two emerged from the nook.
"Land ahoy, mates," said Leo, curling his index finger into a hook and slashing the air like he was gouging out the eyes of some unfortunate sailor. Mae could not help but chuckle again. Piper groaned and rubbed her forehead as if she was getting a headache because his cheesy jokes. Jason looked at her out of the corner of his eye and smiled faintly. Leo steered the ship as close as possible to land without touching it.
"Where to now?" asked Leo. Jason looked to Annabeth.
"I need to call in some favors," she said, grimly. Mae held Piper and Annabeth back while the boys went on ahead.
"Look, umm, I’m really sorry for-" began Mae. Piper cut her off with raising her hand.
"Don’t sweat it, Mae. What you said is true whether I like it or not. I needed to have some sense slapped into me." said Piper. Mae’s smile lit up her face, and she dove into a massive hug for the both of them.
"Well, it didn’t have to be slapped. It could have just been handed to you or-oh, never mind. Thanks." said Mae, her voice slightly muffled from talking into Annabeth’s jacket. The three females followed the boys as they swam back to shore. Their little boat that had carried them to land the previous time had been dragged under the ground as Annabeth had predicted. They all had to swim to get to shore. The traveling was slow due to Gaea, but they still managed to reach their destination. A large, white house stood before them.
"Let’s go," said Leo, striding forward confidently. The others looked at each other uneasily. Piper could feel Jason’s arm bump into her arm. Like a mind reader, Piper could tell just what he was thinking.
"Kind of looks like Midas’s place, doesn’t it?" asked Piper, in an undertone. The rest were up ahead too much to hear her. Jason gave a short nod.
"Yeah, let’s hope he doesn’t resurrect anytime soon," said Jason. Piper smiled, but she could still picture Reyna slobbering all over him in that commanding air that she had. Piper gulped. She gazed ahead at Addison and Mae. They belong together, thought Piper, whimsically. A tight knot in her stomach lessened when she was momentarily distracted by a strand of rogue hair. She reached up to tuck it away, but Jason’s hand got there faster. Piper’s mouth formed a perfect "O". Jason held her gaze for a minute with as much emotion as was in his whole body. When he removed his gaze from Piper’s, he glared down at the ground as if remembering something unpleasant. The knot returned as he seemed to drift back into his own, little world away from Piper. Far away. Piper removed her gaze and blinked back tears. She had to be strong.
Leo could not detect anything out of the ordinary with the house involving booby traps. They walked up to the front porch cautiously but more curious than anything.
"Whose house is this, Annabeth?" asked Addison. Piper glanced at the door. Something felt wrong.
"Like I said, I’m calling in some favors," said Annabeth. The door opened, and a blond woman stood in the doorway. She looked pleasant enough, but a few wrinkles suggested that she was middle aged. Annabeth swallowed and smiled forcefully.
"Ms. Castella, may we come in?" she asked. The woman slumped against the doorway, and a green mist poured out of her mouth. They all took a step back. She looked up with half crazed eyes. She looked directly at Jason.
"Hello, Luke," she said, smiling at Jason. They all looked completely repulsed.
Ms. Castella had been telling them to have some more kool-aid and cookies for awhile when Jason leaned over to Annabeth.
"What are you waiting for?" asked Jason, in an uneasy undertone as Ms. Castella grabbed his arm and told him to eat some more burned cookies. Annabeth did not say a word. Easy for her. She was not the one being forced to eat burned cookies and drink watery kool-aid while a creepy, old lady pets your hair and tells you it is going to be alright. Annabeth’s gaze was frozen in a slightly repulsed expression. She was obviously not satisfied with the mere woman. It made no sense that she would not talk to the only person that was at the house. Why had she come here at all then? A shimmering ghost appeared at the other side of the room. The guy was obviously PO’d to see Annabeth sitting in that particular living room.
"Annabeth, what are you doing?" asked Hermes. Jason knew who it was immediately. He looked just like Reyna.
"Woah," said Leo, jumping back when he saw the ghostly shape.
"I must ask for the return of a favor," said Annabeth. Hermes scowled even darker.
"So soon? There’s been less than a day since you’ve seen my daughter and delivered the package, and you’re already cashing this in?" asked Hermes, his gaze flickered over to Ms. Castella. His frown darkened still more.
"Where is Percy?" asked Annabeth. She looked grim but resolute. Hermes sighed.
"Don’t forget your original quest, Annabeth." he said, rubbing his eyes like he was not getting enough sleep. He glanced up at Annabeth to see that her expression was just the same as before. He sighed.
"He is heading to Alaska with some new friends." said Hermes. "Can I go now?" he whined. Annabeth gave a short nod and rose to leave. Hermes’s ghost vanished. The teens managed to de-tangle themselves from the Ms. Castella and head for the door.
"Why did we come here?" asked Jason.
"Seeing Hermes’s old girlfriend that he takes care of was the only way to get his attention," explained Annabeth.
"Castella," said Jason, like he was remembering something about the name.
"That was Luke’s last name, wasn’t it?" Annabeth did not respond. As soon as they reached the door, Annabeth heard a voice. It was not May Castella’s.
"To the North, beyond the gods, lies the legion’s crown. Falling from ice, the son of Neptune shall drown-" said May Castella. Annabeth’s hand froze above the doorknob. As off timed as always, Leo frowned and said:
"North? Isn’t that where Percy’s headed?" asked Leo.