My sigh filled the chilly storm air with a puff of smoke. It sunk like a mist of flour down to the surface of the equally foggy ocean. It was nearly as clear as glass, reflecting the silver slice of moon above me.
All my shipmates were down below enjoying the pleasant interior while I sat on the deck freezing my rear end off. Percy and Annabeth would be asleep as they always seemed to be after their trip to Tartarus. Frank and Hazel had gone to bed hours ago after a whispered argument no one was clear on. Piper and Jason would have been talking, presumably, about serious camp related stuff.
I had labeled that under 'topics to avoid’. I didn't want to think about camp. I knew my cabin would be able to protect camp for a while.
Bunker nine had an almost unlimited amount of weapons and devices just waiting to be charged up, flipped on and fired.
The smallest of smiles crossed my lips as I thought of my little half brother Harley shooting a flame thrower at oncoming forces or Jake trying to figure out the EMP I’d found in the back room. In my mind’s eye I saw his hammy fingers carefully connecting all the right wires, the circuit board connecting perfectly.
Before I could get caught up in the happy idea reality crashed over me like a piano in a cartoon. The reason they needed weapons at all would be looming over them in hardly a week. The roman armies were attacking camp. Hundreds upon hundreds of demigods, legacies both old and young would march in those perfect rows over the hill and flatten the only place Id ever though could be my home.
And to make matters worse we couldn’t even contact the group of people who had our only hope of peace. Reyna, Nico Di Angelo and Gleeson Hedge were disturbingly quiet as they journeyed with the massive full sized Athena Parthenos; a giant gold statue of Athena. No one on the ship had heard a word since we’d left them in Rome.
The mere idea make stomach twist in perfect boy scout knots and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
"Topics to avoid!" I groaned, smacking my head on the railing. "Think about something else." I whacked my head harder down on the ship. "Ow..." I came up, rubbing the spot, trying to steer my thought to facts. Facts usually relaxed my ADHD brain.
Fact; the ship was on a steady straight coarse back to America. Fact; everyone had agreed staying on the water was much safer than the air at the moment just in case any Roman eagles caught sight of us. Percy was, however, unaware this decision had also been made for his benefit. The ocean would help him build the strength he’d lost. I didn’t doubt he suspected and was silently grateful.
My eyes scanned the sounding area, just thinking of the impending attack. The skies were a frigid dark blue but, thankfully, very clear. The water was still in it’s disturbingly mirror smooth patterns. Or so I’d thought. A faint shinning was coming from under the water not a hundred yards to the port.
Running to the ropes I pulled myself higher onto the railing to get a better look. The light was shining up through the surface as best as it could, casting flickering silver beams into the air. I thought it was random at first before I noticed a pattern.
Short, short, short. Long, long, long. Short, short, short. It was an SOS.
Hurrying back to the steering I grabbing the wheel and carefully angled the ship toward the signal. It didn’t occur to me what consequences my actions could’ve caused. All I was thinking about was who could be sending an SOS this far out in the ocean
As the ship approached I leaned across the railing to see it properly. The Argo Two pulled up along the side of it and I again leaned over the railing to get a closer look.
In hind sight I probably should have gotten someone else. Anyone would have been nice. Hazel would have used her gem power. Piper would have used charm speak. Jason could've used the wind. Annabeth would have reasoned with it. Frank could've changed into a bird or fish and draw it away. Percy could have water controlled it. But me? I was useless. Fire...? Well let's just say fire wasn't the best defense.
What could I do? Like a total idiot I moved closer to the surface and called “Hello?”
My instincts screamed at me to flee. But when I heard the song I lost it. I can never remember the tune and I probably never will. But the tone was light, airy and strong all at the same time. It flowed like the ocean and the high notes seemed to cut away at my very soul.
I said something really intelligent like, "whoa..." but I don't remember that either.
The woman came from the ocean like a goddess herself. Her lithe body raised itself from the rippling surface, head toward the sky; skin and clothing dripping silently back into the water. Her face was alabaster pale, chiseled without a single flaw, line or blemish. It was flat with a straight nose; long lashes brushed her high cheek bones Silver blonde hair stuck to her soaking body, outlining a figure as perfect as her face. Those piercing darker than black eyes stared into me, freezing me from the inside out and I stood there like a statue.
She reached out a hand and I responded, imitating her, my mouth open like fish. Her touch was cool and soft, like silk. And as she moved the water shifted around her as if it were cloth.
"Hmmm," she said smoothly, the song never ceasing. But to this day I'm not sure if the song was still going on or if it echoed in my head. "A boy. Not alone either."
I was sure I was going something witty and charming but when I opened my mouth all that came out was a moaning gasp.
"Sweet looking," she tilted my head to the side. "Skinny and small. Not a good sacrifice at all."
"S-sacrifice?" I recovered my voice.
"Hmmm. No man has ever recovered from my song so quickly but, ah well; I might simply answer your question. Yes young Leonard Valdez. You were to be my sacrifice to the queen, but," she sighed. "Alas, to skinny."
"It's j-just Leo." I choked.
"Yes," she tilted her head. "I was told you are important. Why would this be? What could you possibly do to offend my queen and her mistress the mother of the gods?"
Gaia. This beautiful woman worked for Gaia. "Well lady," I pushed myself farther out from her curse. "I don't know why I'm important, I really don't, but my friends and I..." my breaths came a bit shorter as cold water sprayed into my lungs.”Were the ones who closed the doors of death?"
"What!" the nymph screamed and became larger, larger than even the giants I had seen. The boat rocked and it was a wonder to me that the others weren't running up, swords drawn. "You?" Her hand wrapped around my waist, gripping me tightly. "You? A skinny child was able to beat my mistress?"
"Apparently," I grinned.
"You will be punished," she growled, eyes churning like the sea in a storm. "I will take you to the goddess and she will punish you herself."
"No she won't!" I protested, squirming in her tight fingers. "You'll never take me alive."
"If that is what it takes." She sighed.
Well I certainly wasn’t going to take wasn’t going to take her option and I lit my entire body on fire, the ever present cold of the evening melting in a single flash of red hot energy.
She released me with a high pitched howl that did not fit the smooth chocolaty voice of just a moment ago. I didn’t have much time to reflect on that fact as I hit the deck with a sharp thud. My head was full of stars and I blinked quickly, trying to gather my wits. I knew I would have bruises when I stood but that that didn’t matter.
"You dare burn me?" She asked, as the flames ceased. My vision returned and I wondered how I had ever thought she was beautiful. Tose beautiful eyes were clouding over a deep blood red and the gentle wave of her body and the air around her was swirling like its own storm. "You dare burn me; Marina princess of ocean spirits? I will teach you a lesson Leo Valdez!"
"I'd like to see you try," I smirked, running a small stream of fire through my fingers.
She snarled, a sound like a wave crashing and spoke, "you will pay," her tone was charged with energy like Piper's charm speak. "Your body will betray you and you will know the pain of flames, the water your only safe haven."
I tried to remain skeptic and would have succeeded if she hadn't grown larger than the Argo Two and pushed it away like a child's toy.