"I think that map has a sense of humor." Jacob said as pulled his jacket tighter. "Or it hates us."
"What makes you say that?" Artie breathed into his gloved hands.
"After Spain the map had us head north to Dublin."
"Then London from there."
"With Amsterdam right after."
"What are you getting at?" Artie frowned.
"Up until we hit Paris, it would have been easy to reach Norway." Jacob growled. "Instead it has us head all the way to Palermo."
"I'm sensing that making us double back isn't what eating you." Artie shivered in his seat.
"No." Jacob snapped. "It's the fact it waited until the tail end of January so we'd freeze our traseiros off when we barely entered the country that's eating me."
Artie had to agree with his brother. At least as far as the cold went. Between being born Brazil, running from country to country that dotted the equator, and finally moving into his girlfriend's home in Miami, Artie did not handle the cold well. Even the winters at Camp Half Blood were spent inside with a roaring fire and his DVD collection. Jacob didn't far much better. He had trekked through every swamp between Florida and Louisiana before The General tricked into serving the Titans and settled in California for a few years. Neither of them had ever as far north as Albany, let alone someplace far colder like Oslo, Norway.
But the problem wasn't reaching Oslo or even Norway for that matter. Using the credit card Artemis had given Artie, it was nothing to buy a couple of plane tickets to Norway. The problem was that Oslo was still too far south, three hundred and thirty miles too far south which was roughly the distance from Manhattan in New York to Montpelier in Vermont. Artie cursed the day he looked at a map and saw Oslo was a straight line from Alaska. They might as well head a bit farther north and hand deliver their lists to Santa himself as far he was concerned.
Even now in a heated train car and wearing several layers, the temperature was still too low for their liking. To distract themselves, they switched between drinking the large thermos of hot chocolate and discussing which god exactly sired Leif Issi. The magical map the Athena had given had done what it always did. It gave Artie and Jacob Leif's location and marked it with his godly parent's symbol, like a hammer for Tor as a son of Hephaestus or a heart for Aphrodite's Antonin, but no god on Mount Olympus used a snowflake. At least, none that Artie and Jacob were familiar with. They agreed that Lief was most likely a child of a minor god, but which one?
"I think I got it." Jacob said after fifteen minutes of silence.
"I'm listening." Artie said.
"You know how your mom's chariot is pulled by reindeer and that's where part of the Santa Claus myth came from?" Jacob asked.
"Well, I was thinking maybe that wasn't all of it." Jacob looked thoughtful. "What if the myth of Jack Frost or Old Man Winter came from another god?"
"Makes sense." Artie nodded. "Which god?"
"Uh . . ." Jacob frowned. "Zeus?"
"Zeus?" Artie raised an eyebrow. "How?"
"He's the god of the sky and winds." Jacob was scrambling to piece together an explanation. "If he control the winds then he controls storms."
"And what's a blizzard?" Jacob smiled. "A winter storm!"
"Except that means that Zeus broke the pact twice." Artie pointed out. "First Thalia in America and then Lief in Norway."
"You have a better idea?" Jacob demanded.
"Just an idea." Artie sighed. "I was thinking that most civilizations around the same time as the Greeks had a god or goddess for everything, you know? A god for fire, a god for water, a god for earth, that sort of thing."
"I follow you." Jacob nodded. "Like my dad for the sun and your mom for the moon. Each god is in charge of something."
"So, assuming we're not dealing with an actual Olympian god, it's possible the Greeks had a minor god or goddess for winter or something like that." Artie shrugged. "That's all I got."
"How minor are we talking?" Jacob folded his arms. "Like the difference between major league and minor league baseball?"
"You're guess is as good as mine." Artie frowned.
"Are we even sure it ever snowed in Greece?" Jacob asked. "I looked at a map and it should get roughly the same kind of weather as the southern states get."
"If it can snow in Texas then it can snow in Greece." Artie shook his head. "Still, it's just a theory. Hopefully we can learn more when we get there."
"Where is there exactly?" Jacob rubbed his hands to warm them. "You kinda laughed when I asked you."
"It's kind of funny when you consider how cold it is." Artie smiled. "The name of the town is call Hell."
"You're kidding me!" Jacob laughed lightly. "The town's called Hell?!"
"Talk about a cold in Hell." Artie laughed.
"Then the Titans' are in for a surprise." Jacob laughed with Artie.
"Atlas once said the gods have a small chance of beating them." Jacob laughed harder. "A snowball's chance in Hell!"
Together they laughed and for a few minutes, as the train pulled into the station, they forgot the cold. Of course, they quickly were reminded when they got off the train.
Just about everything was covered in either ice or snow like a blizzard had just pass through. That didn't stop the tourists naturally from posing in front of the station sign that read HELL with the words GODS - EXPEDITIONS. At first Artie and Jacob thought it was their dyslexia acting up, but realized it wasn't. At least, not more than usual.
"You don't think that's for us?" Jacob asked uneasy. "We're kinda on an expedition."
"But no one knows we're here." Artie reminded. "Well, only two that I can think of. Athena wouldn't have told anyone about her plan and your dad might have known, but he knows how to keep a secret."
"Unless the Titans figured it out." Jacob's reached inside his coat and felt for his boomerangs. "The head Titan is called the crooked one for a reason."
"I don't think so." Artie said. "If it was me, I'd have sent an entire army to nip our plan in the bud." Artie sniffed the air. "But I don't smell any monsters."
"Excuse me!" said a pleasant voice.
Artie and Jacob both wheeled around to face their attacker. Jacob held a celestial bronze boomerang before anyone cold blink while Artie opted for a more natural weapon and his nails grew into claws. Of course, thanks to Mist, the conductor saw was that he had startled two young boys. He looked like an thin middle-aged man with a blue conductor uniform. Of course, he was wearing a thick coat and glove, but so was everyone outside.
"Sorry." He held out a hand. "My name is Herman."
Jacob didn't lower his arm, but looked to Artie. Artie sniffed the air and nodded once. Only then did they lower their weapons.
"I'm Artie and this Jacob." Artie shook Herman's hand."Can we help you?"
"The sign." Herman pointed to it. "You two were wondering about it, no? Why it says Gods Expedition?"
"Uh, yeah." Jacob answered. "We're dyslexic and we thought it said something else."
"It's Norwegian for cargo handling, but it is spelt in English." Herman explained. "Properly it should say godsekspedisjon." Herman smiled. "You didn't honestly think multiple gods came here, did you?"
"Just the one then." Jacob chuckled.
"Excuse me?" Herman asked.
"Nothing." Jacob said. "Thanks for explaining."
"My pleasure." Herman smiled. "If you wish to know more about Hell, just ask."
"Well, we are here looking for someone." Artie said. "Someone called Leif Issi."
"May I ask why?" Herman asked pleasantly, but suspiciously.
"His mother sent us to find him." Artie said, figuring a fitly-fifty shot that Lief lived with his father. "Something important came up."
"Really?" Herman frowned. "I knew Lief ever since he was a baby and his father moved here. He was friends with my son. Lief's father, Eric, told me she had died."
"She didn't." Jacob looked guilty. He didn't want to lie to the guy, but he couldn't exactly tell him the truth. Not without being dragged off the loony bin. "From what she told us, they had an argument and she left. Now she's sick and wants to see them."
"Our dad is a private investigator so she hired him. We help him run the business when he's too busy." Artie added, instantly understanding Jacob's game. "We managed to track them down here. You know where they live?"
"Yes." Herman took out a pad and began writing. "This is a small village, but we still have taxis. Go inside and use the payphone to call one." Herman tore a page from the pad and handed to Artie. "Give the driver this and he will take you straight there."
"Thank you." Artie smiled. "You have no idea how much this means."
"Because our sons were close friends, Eric and I became close." Herman returned the smile. " In need you will recognize your friends or as we say, I nød skal du lære dine venner å kenne!"
Together, they bid Herman the conductor goodbye and called a taxi. Unfortunately, the driver didn't speak English, but nodded once Artie handed the slip of paper and began driving. Neither said a word and Artie couldn't help but notice how small Hell really was. It reminded him of the town Rambo drifted into in First Blood, if a blizzard had hit it really hard. It was quiet, but not the wrong creepy quiet. This was the peaceful kind of quiet. He wondered, offhand, if that was the reason Leif's mother had visited the town.
"So how are we gonna play this?" Jacob asked soundly breaking the silence.
"I don't know." Artie sighed. "Assuming either Lief or his dad can speak English, I guess we should just tell him the usual."
"That his mom didn't run off or die when he was young but is really an immortal Greek goddess?" Jacob said. "And because of that he can look forward to a dangerous and potentially short life?
"Yeah." Artie nodded. "Though I think we should leave out the potential short life part."
"Alright." Jacob paused. "And assuming they can't speak English?"
"Charades?" Artie shrugged. "Immortal Greek goddess is going to really hard to act out."
The taxi left in front of two floor building. The first floor was a store of some kind. On display on either side of a door were four beautiful women, beckoning anyone that could see them to enter. It was only when they got closer that the women were statues carved entirely from ice. Each of the women looked familiar to Artie, but he couldn't place them. But as beautifully as they were, they could not compete with the women painted on door. The woman on the door had long lush flowing black hair and coffee brown eyes. She wore a long off white silk dress that seemed to be flapping in the wind like on the covers of romance novels. She also appeared to have unnaturally white and pale skin, like freshly fallen snow.
"Well, I think we're in right place." Jacob said. "Or we're about to walk into a trap."
"What makes you say that?"
"Really?" Jacob motioned to the statues. "Don't you recognize them?" He point to each on in turn. "Thelxinoë, Aoide, Arche, and Melete. Four of the nine Muses."
"Oh, yeah." Artie motioned to the woman painted on the door. "And her? Which one is she?"
"I don't know." Jacob frowned. "I recognize the others from when we were on Olympus, but I've never seen her before." He pointed to the name written above her. "It says Chloe's Cold Shoulder. Maybe she's Chloe?"
"Maybe she's Lief's mother." Artie said. "Anyway, let's go inside. The only thing we'll get out here is frostbite."
Artie wasn't a fan of statues. It wasn't always the case, but after meeting Medusa when he traveled with Percy and Annabeth to retrieve Zeus' masterbolt, statues left him uneasy. He wasn't fighting the urge to scream like a little girl and run for the door like he had been in Medusa's layer, but he did make note that the only way out was they why they had came in. It helped that the statues were glass and mostly birds like swans and flamingos. Some were of young women in long flowing dresses. There was even a mermaid that looked suspiciously close to Ariel in the Disney movie, same position on a rock and all.
"Shouldn't there be someone here?" Jacob pointed to the empty counter and the unattended cash register. "You wouldn't have to be a child of Hermes, they're making it so easy."
"Maybe they're not used to it. This a small town where probably everyone knows each other." Artie looked around uneasy and sniffed the air. "But you're right. It's weird."
Suddenly, a door opened opposite the counter and man stepped out as the sound of a flushing toliet broke the silence. The man was beyond huge. Even Artie,at a generous six foot two, had to look up as the man walked towards them and noticed that another few inches and he'd have to slouch when he walked to avoid bumping his head on the ceiling. He was also ripped, or at least had been not too long ago, like a retired body builder. His wool shirt was neatly pressed and tucked into a pair of clean jeans. It also seemed it was one size too small. Either it had shrunk in the wash or they just didn't have Big & Tall clothing shops in such a small town
With the thick brown beard and bushy hair that matched, the man was one great sword and pint of mead from a pillaging viking.
"Ah, hallo. Jeg er lei meg for å gjøre deg vente." He smiled apologetically. "Hvordan kan jeg hjelpe deg?"
"Uh, do you speak English?" Artie asked.
"Ja, I do." The man nodded and smiled down at them. He held out a hand the size of baseball mitt. "My name is Sjurd Issi." He pronounced Sjurd sort of like 'should' with an 'R' forced in the middle. "It is not everyday I see tourists. Usually they take a few photographs and take the train back to Oslo or somewhere more interesting."
"I'm Artie and this is Jacob." Artie said and shook Sjurd's hand. "We're not tourists. At least not the usual kind."
"Ah, I see." Sjurd looked thoughtful. "You are planning a wedding."
"What now?" Jacob motioned to Artie and himself. "Us?"
"No, no, no." Sjurd chuckled. "Most of my work is from couples planning weddings or parents throwing a sweet sixteen."
"Your work?" Artie asked.
"Se deg rundt!" Sjurd motioned to the glass statues proudfully. "All of them."
"You make glass statues." Artie concluded.
"Not just statues." Sjurd smiled. "Stained glass windows for churches, chandeliers for rich houses. If anyone needs a window fixed, they come to me."
"Impressive." Jacob said politely.
"So what do you need?" Sjurd beamed. "A large bowl in the shape of a svane? Or something more original?"
"Uh, Mr. Issi?" Artie looked uncomfortable, like whenever he told Appolonia something she would not like to hear. "We didn't come to buy anything."
"Oh?" Sjurd's smiled dropped a bit.
"Yeah, uh." Jacob said looking less unsure. "We came looking for someone."
"I don't understand." Sjurd said.
"Do you have a son?" Artie asked. "A son called Lief? Lief Issi?"
"It is about his mother, no?" Sjurd asked.
"Yes." Artie nodded.
"Come." Sjurd walked to the front door to lock it and flip the sign from åpen to lukket. He began to lead them to a back room. "We will be talking for some time, I think. I will make coffee."
With worried glance to each other, Artie and Jacob followed Sjurd Issi up a small narrow flight of stairs to the building's second floor. They entered a standard kitchen. Jacob and Artie took of their thick coats and hung them on the back of a couple chair around a table, but kept their wool hoodies zipped tight and their gloves on. They noticed the kitchen was small, but it had everything a kitchen normal had. A white refrigerator hummed quietly next to an electric stove with off whit cabinets hanging overhead.
Artie expected he would have time to collect his thoughts while Sjurd brewed coffee, but it hardly took him two minutes with those fancy Keurig brewers that were taking America by storm. Along with the three mugs of coffee, Sjurd laid out some cookies with milk and sugar.
"I take it you two are like my son." Sjurd said after a moment.
"Yes." Artie said. "She told who she was? What she was?"
"Yes. I did not believe her at first, but she showed me." Sjurd motioned to Artie and Jacob. "But you are not her children."
"We're half bloods." Jacob shook his head. "But different gods."
"I thought so. She said there were others, but they ignored her." Sjurd smiled sadly down at his coffee. "Hard to believe anyone could ignore such beauty." He looked up. "May I ask which gods? Jupiter? Mars?"
"Not exactly." Artie sipped his coffee. "Those are the names they used during the Roman Empire. We use their Greek names. Jupiter is Zeus. Mars is Ares."
"Ah, I see." Sjurd nodded his understanding
"But to answer your question, Jacob is a son of Apollo." Artie said.
"Artemis." Jacob said.
"Was she not - "
"Yeah." Artie sighed. "I'm kind of a rare case."
"A rare case?" Sjurd asked. "How long ago was the other child of Artemis born?"
"Never." Artie smiled slightly. "I'm the first."
"That you know of." Sjurd offered. "Lief's mother said that some of gods have more children than they can keep track of."
"Some of us are like that." Jacob explained. "My dad is one of them. So is Hermes and Aphrodite to an extent, but unlike them, Artemis swore to remain a maiden forever."
"I only found out the truth myself hardly a few weeks ago." Artie sighed. "I was born mortal. Both my mom and dad were regular people. Well, at least my dad was. My mother had met Artemis and joined an immortal group called the Hunters of Artemis. She asked to leave when she met my father."
"Why could he not join?"
"His mom is kinda picky about who joins and who doesn't." joked Jacob
"The Hunters are an all girl group. In exchange for immortality, they give up men." Artie explained. "Long story short, Artemis let her leave and they eventually got married and had a son, me."
"But something happened." Sjurd concluded. "If you were born mortal, you could just become half god."
"No." Artie looked down at his coffee. "They were killed when I was three and I was almost too. Artemis sensed something was wrong, but she got there too late." Artie took a sip of coffee before he continued. "Using their life force and the power of the full moon, she saved me. From then on, I was a demigod, a half blood." He shrugged. "While she didn't actually give birth like the other goddesses, I'm still her child."
"I'm sorry." Sjurd.
"It kinda goes with the territory." Jacob said solemnly. "We half bloods don't exactly live easy lives."
"But my birth is also why we're here." Artie explained. "You see, Artemis was given a prophecy way back when the god were still in Greece. A prophecy that hinted she would break her vow and bear a child." Artie thew up his hands like 'those are prophecies for you' gesture. "But they're never clear. She would have a child, me, but she didn't break her vow."
"What does this have to do with Lief?" Sjurd asked.
"You're son is the only one we're looking for." Jacob said. "We've found others in the past month and we'll search for more after him."
"Artemis fought the prophecy for as long as she could, but it had to come true." Artie went on. "It said the child of the moon, me since Artemis is the goddess of the moon and hunting, would raise the walls of sparta against the enemies of Olympus."
"And my son is part of these walls?"
"The thing is, prophecies are never clear." Jacob explained. "In ancient Greece, Sparta was city state like Athens. Unlike Athens though, they cared more about having the strongest army. They were so tough that the city demolished the wall protecting the city."
"They claimed their soldiers were the walls of Sparta." Artie took over. "According to the prophecy, I'm supposed to find and train an elite group of demigods."
"But why?" Sjurd looked confused. "Whom are you to fight?"
"The Titans." Artie answered. "Like the gods, they never went away because they're immortal and can't die."
"But they're starting to restless." Jacob shuddered. "A week before Christmas, Artie and I fought Atlas with Artemis and a few other powerful demigods In California. Even with a goddess, we barely got him under the sky and we still lost one of ours."
"California?" Sjurd was astounded.
"Yes. Normally, we'd look for other demigods in the United States and bring them to New York where we have camp to train them to survive." Artie explained. "But there are just no demigods left in America, or least the Titans are flooding the country with monsters to make it impossible to recruit them."
"Which is why we came to Europe." Jacob said. "The Titans want to destroy the gods and since they're in America, we figured no one would notice two demigods disappear." Jacob motioned to Artie and himself. "Plus, we're from Brazil. If my dad visited Rio de Janerio during Carneval, then why wouldn't Aphrodite visit Paris, France on Valentine's Day? Or Athena pop over to Oxford College in England?"
"So you want my son to fight and possibly die in an American war?" Sjurd asked cautiously. "He is barely fifteen!"
"Then he's lucky." Jacob said. "Most demigods start attracting monsters when they're about twelve. Unless he's got a really strong scent. Artie was attacked by a manticore when he was eight and I was eleven."
"We didn't have set up a camp in New York for an army." Jacob said firmly. "That's part of the reason why we're here. Camp Half Blood's priority is finding demigods to defend themselves from monsters. They have plenty of great fighters, but it's not an army."
"Like the gods and Titans, the monsters can't permanently die. They reform and come back, but if they kill a demigod then that demigod stays dead." Artie motioned to Sjurd. "These monster can smell demigods among the mortals. We give off a scent that they can pick up on and that scent gets stronger over time."
"The only reason Lief's gone so long is because they're aren't a lot of monsters outside of the United States." Jacob warned. "But trust us when we say it's only a matter of time."
"So what do wish of me? Of Lief?"
"We'll explain what he really is and tell him everything we just told you." Artie assured. "After that, he can either meet us at Thermopylae in Greece or he can stay. It's his choice."
"Really?" Sjurd looked surprised. "You won't force him."
"We're not the Titans." Jacob said firmly. "We're not going to lie and force you to do anything."
"But keep in mind that if we lose then the world is going to enter the Dark Ages again." Artie warned. "It'll start in America, but it'll spread to the rest of the world."
"Not to mention every single demigod, whether they know they're demigods and didn't fight or not, will be hunted down for sport." Jacob added. "Including Lief."
"I think she saw this might happen to Lief." Sjurd said to himself sounding soloem. "I didn't understand why she did not take Lief with her if it was so dangerous for him."
"It's not your fault." Artie said gently. "Lief's mother had to leave him with you. The gods, minor and otherwise, are forbidden from raising their children on Mount Olympus."
"Yes. She had explained that." Sjurd stood. "But she also left something for him."
"Really?" Artie asked. "What?"
"Wait here." Sjurd stood from the table. "I will get it."
Jacob and Artie waited as Sjurd stood and went into an adjacent room. They wondered what exactly Lief's mother had left him. It could range anying from a weapon, like a sword or dagger, to something less lethal, a magical item like Annabeth's invisibility hat. It would help if Sjurd had given them a name. Based on their track record, it might have given them a clue. After all, gods tended to stick to their fortes like Apollo giving his son Carlos a standing slingshot or Ares leaving Colin's metal boxing gloves.
"Here!" Sjurd returned and laid a long metal briefcase on the table. "I found this waiting the morning of Lief's thirteenth birthday."
"Out of curiosity," Artie asked. "Did she ever tell you her name?"
"Yes." Sjurd nodded. "I named my store after Chloe."
"Dang." Artie sighed.
"What is wrong?" Sjurd asked.
"We've been trying to figure out which goddess is Lief's mother." Jacob explained. "The problem is that they don't always reveal themselves. Maybe you tell us how you met her?"
"It was in Oslo." Sjurd sat back down. "My parents both had died in a car crash and with no relatives to take me in, I was taken to an orphanage. When I was about twelve, a man adopted me. He made a living making sculptures from glass and he taught me to do the same." Sjurd smiled fondly as he remembered. "But I liked to work with ice too. This town hold an ice sculpting contest every so often. It was sixteen years ago that I traveled here and met her." He laughed light at himself. "I was frustrated because I could not decide on what to sculpt. So the day before I was in the local bar and she entered, the beautiful woman I had ever seen."
"They like to look their best." Jacob remarked with smile.
"That they do." Artie agreed.
"I explained what I planned to do and posed for me." Sjurd continued. "I won the contest and, like you kids say, we hit it off. We did not marry, but we were happy for a time. She was strange, always saying my ice sculptures were alright for a mortal."
"You see some of Hephaestus's stuff." Artie shrugged. "Don't take it the wrong way, but they're on a whole different level."
"He's right." Jacob agreed. "Beethoven, Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix. Name the artist and chances are my dad is their dad and if they're that good, then just imagine what he can do."
"It was not until she revealed herself I understood." Sjurd nodded in agreement. "She waved a hand a block of ice I was sculpting of a deer and I swore that it looked almost real. It was so smooth and clear, it wasn't until I touched it that I saw it was not made of diamond." Sjurd looked he still couldn't believe it even after so much time. "She stayed for another six months, but she came home on the fifth with Lief in her arms. She said she could not stay and had been called back by her father in Canada. Quebec, I think." Sjurd motioned to the case. "I hadn't heard from her until two years ago when I found this on my table when I came up from work."
"Any ideas?" Jacob asked.
"Just that she like the cold." Artie said.
"That winter goddess theory is looking good." Jacob shrugged. "But it ain't giving us a name."
"She left a note." Sjurd undid the clasps on the case.
"What?" Artie and Jacob asked together.
Sjurd opened the case.
In black velvet sat a long knife made of a strange white pristine metal that glittered in the light. The blade was roughly fifty centimeters (just under twenty inches) and single edged. It also had a sharp angle from the point to the back with the actual edge itself untouched and straight . The hilt was more commonly, to demigods anyway, made of celestial bronze. Next to the knife was a leather sheath painted so it looked it was coated in frost along with a belt.
On top of the knife, sat a note which Sjurd took out.
"What does it say?" Artie asked.
"Nothing strange. she hopes that Lief and I are well and wishes see could see him" Sjurd shrugged, but pause and scanned the note again. "She does explain what exactly this Seax should do for Lief."
"A sea axe?" Jacob motioned to the knife. "That's clearly not an axe."
"No, no." Sjurd said. "That knife is called a Seax. It is the Old English word for knife. It was quite common for many centuries and for many different groups."
"Wow, how did you know that?"
"I did some research over the years." Sjurd motioned. "That design is strictly Norse."
"Norse?" Jacob looked to Artie. "That means . . . "
"Tor isn't the only viking we've met." Artie asked Sjurd. "What dose she say about this seax? Like can only Lief use it or something?"
"Let me see." Sjurd read the note again. "She does not mention anything like that, but it is the only one of it's kind. She says it was made by freezing hundreds upon hundreds layers of something called Stygian ice together while it was coated in the blood of something she calls a Hyperborean between each layer." Sjurd scratched his head. "That mean anything to either of you?"
"Kinda." Artie said. "Stygian ice is just frozen water from the river styx. It's suppose to be really delicate. Too delicate for a weapon. A hyperborean is a giant that live really far north where it's always cold." Artie looked unsure. "I could be wrong, but maybe their blood helps the knife from shattering like glass. You'd have to ask a child of Hephaestus or Hephaestus himself to be sure."
"Ah, I see." Sjurd handed the note. "There is something else I cannot make out. She signed it, but not in English like she used for the rest of the note."
"I doubt we'll be much help." Artie took the note. "We're both dyslexic. Most half bloods are."
"Perhaps it will make sense to you." Sjurd shrugged. "It is, how you say, looks Greek to me."
Artie looked down at the note. Like he expected, most of it was a jumbled mix of letters with a few odd words making sense. He could make out words that were connected to Greek mythology, like Stygian and hyperborean, but Sjurd was right. Lief's mother had written the note in English, but she had signed it in ancient Greek. As to why, it was anyone guess. Of course, like almost every half blood, a translation instantly popped into his head.
"Khione . . . " Artie covered his face. "How could we be so stupid?"
"What now?" Jacob asked.
"I was right." Artie handed the letter. "Khione is the daughter of Boreas."
"As in the god of the north wind?"
"Yeah." Artie pointed to the seax. "Who knows how many hyperboreans you'd have to kill to have enough of their blood to soak the blade between hundreds of layers of ice?" Artie sighed. "I'd be willing to bet he's got an army serving him and just had them donate blood or something."
"Hold on." Jacob held up his hands. "I've heard of Boreas and other winds, but this is the first time I'm hearing of Khione."
"As am I." Sjurd said. "Is Greece not too far south for snow and ice?"
"If it can snow in southern Texas then it can snow just about anywhere." Artie remarked. "It hardly snowed in ancient Greece so that's she's not as well known."
"How do you all of that?" Jacob chuckled. "Let me guess, a movie?"
"No." Artie sagged in his chair. "Back when I was twelve and Artemis told me how she created me, I couldn't take it." Artie took a deep breath. "I managed to make it back to New York and Mount Olympus. I snuck into Athena's library and tried to find something to make sense out of it. I learned a couple of things, like Zoe was actually part of the Hesperides before she help Hercules." Artie pointed to the letter. "I also learned that while Zeus is lord of the sky, he delegates. Like Boreas as one the four winds and his daughter, Khione, was in charge of blizzards and snow."
"So it takes you less than a second to quote some obscure movie that came out over fifty years ago you saw when you were five, but you can't remember something important from four years go?" Jacob snapped. "Like who's the goddess of freaking snow?!"
"Do I look like Apollo?" Artie demanded. "How was I suppose to know that I was going to need to know that in four years?"
"Um, excuse me?" Sjurd asked. "But what does this mean for Leif?"
Artie and Jacob paused.
"Well, now we'll have a name to give him." Jacob offered.
"It'll also make us believing a bit easier." Artie added. "Kinda hard to tell someone they're a child of a god without knowing which one."
"Alright." Sjurd asked. "You swear that you will only tell Lief why you are here and then let him choose to stay or go with you?"
"That's all." Artie nodded.
"We'll also give him some pointers and Camp Half Blood's address." Jacob added. "It's safe there for half bloods like us, but we don't know for how long."
"If he does go there, he is going to have to come up with story how he learned about it all the way out here." Artie warned. "It's possible that the Titans will have spies in there. People will had to have noticed already that Jacob and I are missing. If Lief mentions my name and it gets to the Titans, they'll have every monster in Europe killing and recruiting every half blood they can find."
"I see." Sjurd. nodded.
"Speaking of which." Jacob looked around. "Where is Lief? School?"
"Uh, there might be a problem." Sjurd looked uncomfortable. "Lief and I have not been seeing eye to eye."
"He's still gotta come home." Jacob said.
"Unless he ran away." Artie looked thoughtful. "If you want, I can track him. I just need a shirt of his or a comb he used."
"What for?" Sjurd asked.
"Each demigod has special skills from their godly parent." Jacob explained. "Most of us Apollo kids are good with a bow and playing music." Jacob pointed to Artie. "As the son of Artemis, Artie here can track your son by his scent."
"No. That won't be necessary." Sjurd said. "I know where he is. He is at the library. He has been spending all of his time there looking for an answer."
"An answer to what?"
"I told him." Sjurd took a deep a breath. "I told him everything. He did not take it very well. He is trying find which goddess is his mother."
"Dang." Jacob assured. "Look, it's not your fault. It's tough thing to accept for anyone."
"Then he might need this." Artie took the seax, almost dropping it when he felt how cold the hilt and scabbard were, and slipping through his belt. "Khione should have told you that Lief shouldn't use things like computers or cellphones. It's practically sending a giant signal flare to every monster nearby."
"Well, in America anyway." Jacob added quickly when he saw Sjurd reaction. "This town is so isolated and so cold that nothing might come, but better safe than sorry."
"Can you give us directions to the library?" Artie asked as he and Jacob slipped on their coats. "The faster we can get their the better."
"I can drive you." Sjurd quickly stood and snatched a coat from a hook by the door. "Come, follow me."
Before they knew it, Artie and Jacob were in the bed of an old truck while Sjurd drove quickly through town. Surprisingly, no police stopped them. They could have sat in the back seat, but Artie said it might slow them down if they needed to reach Lief quickly.
"I think it got colder." Jacob grumbled.
"It's just the wind." Artie said. "We're going pretty fast."
"True." Jacob nodded towards the seax. "Good thing that thing can be picked up by anyone. I was kinda expecting you'd have the same problem I had when you tossed me your Kopis back in Palermo."
"Yeah, lucky." Artie agreed. "Though I'm surprised my hand isn't a block of ice or black and blue when I touched it. I guess that's the difference between ice and Stygian ice."
"I just hope we find Lief quick." Jacob shivered and Artie shared his brother view. "Then it's a quick beeline south until we reach a place where you don't risk freezing to death just to take out the trash."
"If the map tells us to." Artie shivered too. "But I think we'll be able to -"
Whatever Artie was going to say was shoved back into his throat as an entire bike rack, with a few bikes still chained to it, flew overhead and crashed into parked car. Naturally, the alarm blared loud enough for people in France to hear. Sjurd surprisingly did not slam on the brakes, but sped up. No doubt he had seen it come from the library.
"Was that what I think it was?" Jacob asked.
"I don't know what to think." Artie said. "That they can still ride bikes in this weather or that his insurance covers monster collateral damage."
Jacob just enough time to give Artie a look before the truck came to a screeching halt and they both saw the library. It looked liked any library, roman inspired columns for decoration supporting a dentaled triangle with a large flight of steps leading to the entrance. It had also a bit of yard with benches and bikes racks for people to use and an iron fence surrounding it. While it looked like everything was fine, Artie sniffed th air and caught the scent of monster and, as if offer Jacob the same conclusion, something shot out through the fist floor window and land with a loud crack.
"Ten bucks that's Lief." Jacob hefted his boomerangs.
"Or someone hates school as much as Percy does." Artie smiled as his bow sprang from his ring. "The way he talks about it, I'd say it was him if we were in New York."
"You should stay here." Artie said once they got off the truck to Sjurd. "We might need you if it's more than we can handle and need to get away with Lief."
"I understand." Sjurd nodded. "Just get Lief out of danger."
Together, Artie and Jacob ran to whatever, or whomever, had crashed out of the window. Normally, Artie would have made it in the blink of an eye, but the foot of snow that covered the ground had frozen several inches thick and was as smooth as polished glass. At any other time it would have funny to look like cartoon running place, but not when he was fighting gods knew what. They did manage reach where they saw the object land and saw it was a fifteen year old boy whom they assumed was Lief. The ice around was cracked and sunken around him like a crater and had probably been what they had heard when he landed and it continued to crack and snap as he got up.
There was really no way to be sure if the boy sitting up in the crater was Lief. If it was Lief, he did not look like much. He wasn't short, but he wasn't tall either. He definitely had his father's muscular build, but he wasn't ripped like Sjurd. He may have had his father's build, but Artie suspected the rest was strictly Khione. His skin was pale and white as snow which made his pitch black stand out that much more as well his coffee brown eyes.
Truth be told, Artie was more impressed he was wearing a thin T-shirt, ripped jeans, and sneakers. Either the cold didn't bother him or he was more concerned with looking cool than any sane person should.
"Herregud, hva . . . var den . . . tingen?" The boy muttered as he sat up and looked to see Artie and Jacob staring. "Hvem er du?"
"Do you speak English?" Artie asked.
"Yes?" The boy said.
"And is your name Lief Issi?" Jacob followed up.
"Yes." Lief looked to both of them and, more importantly, their weapons. "Please, what is happening?"
"Here!" Artie thrusted the seax and belt into Lief's hands. "Put it on. You're going to need it."
"What?" Lief looked from the seax and the brothers. "Who are you?"
"I'm Artie and this is Jacob." Artie stood and sniffed the air. "He's close, but I can't pin him down."
"Your mother sent us." Jacob knelt by Lief. "Can you tell us what happened?"
"My mother?!" Lief was shocked.
"Kinda." Artie looked worried as he drew and nocked an arrow. "We'll explain later. Now what happened?"
"I was researching Greek myths on the computer." Lief explained. "Then giant crashed into the room and began throwing things at me."
"Then he threw you." Jacob patted Lief in places. "Are you hurt?"
"No?" Lief stood and looked down at his body. "But how?"
"The ice." Artie said, still looking around. "It broke your fall."
"Uh, what now?" Jacob pointed to the window. "That's almost a ten foot drop and he was practically shot out of cannon."
"Percy fell from the top of the Arch into a lake and survived without a scratch." Artie told him. "Frozen snow is still snow. It probably cushioned his fall a bit and healed whatever got hurt while he was laying there." Artie saw Lief was still holding the seax. "Now put that on! One giant we can handle, but we don't know how many you called."
Lief looped the belt through his jeans and positioned the scabbard so it was on his right side and drew the blade with his left hand. To his surprise, the seax fit his hand perfectly like he had custom made for him. He tilted at different angles noticing the blade was ice and not metal like the hilt and it seemed to weigh almost nothing.
"Good." Artie seemed to have relaxed a bit. "Now let's get back your dad. He's waiting for us in his -"
Together, all three half blood turned to see what had jumped down from the window and most likely had thrown Lief from the same window. It had blue skin like a nasty bruise and icy gray hair. Like Lief, it was wearing clothes not meant for icy north of Norway. It was bare chested and barefoot with only XXXXL pair of worn jeans to cover his legs. While Artie and Jacob had fought their fair share of giants, those were only fifteen feet tall at most and this one giant was easily twice that. At least it wasn't carrying a weapon, Artie thought. A single hit from it was probably the same at taking on the train from Unstoppable with your bare hands.
"Looks like someone been eating their spinach." Jacob gulped.
"Along with some milk." Artie nodded shakily. "And maybe some steroids for dessert."
"Hvordan kan du spøke?" Lief looked at them. "What do we do?"
"The usual." Artie aimed an arrow. "Keep attacking the legs until it brings him down."
"And keep moving so he can't hit you." Jacob drew his arm back with two boomerangs between his fingers. "Just stay back. Your seax can't hurt him without getting in close." Jacob looked to Artie. "Speaking of him, what exactly is he?"
"This far north?" Artie pulled back the string on his bow. "Ten bucks it's a hyperborean. It literally means inhabitant of the extreme north. I've heard they're normally peaceful, but someone forgot to tell him."
"Just something I've been holding in for a while now." Artie slipped into his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. "Let's kick some ice!"
With that line from Batman & Robin, Artie loosed his arrow and Jacob his boomerangs. Before Lief could blink, the giant roared in pain as he not only took an arrow to one knee, but two bronze boomerangs in the other. He cried out again when the boomerangs suddenly were ripped out by some invisible force and zipped back to Jacob's hands only to be cut short by three of Artie's arrows to bury themselves in its arm.
Lief thought it was going to be a quick fight, but as Artie and Jacob tried for a third volley something happened. Lief saw the giant take a deep breath and blow like a he was blowing out candles on a birthday cake. It wasn't until he saw what happened to Artie's arrows and Jacob's boomerangs that he understood why.
Suddenly a blinding gust of winds and snow engulfed passed over them. In the blink of an eye, they were covered in a thick layer of ice and fell to the floor. Lief barelt had a time to gasp before he realize the gust didn't stop there and continued towards them. Instinctivly, he threw up his arms and closed his eyes.
But nothing came.
After a couple of seconds, he opened his eyes and lowered his arms. To his left, Jacob was frozen in place like one of his father's statues and encased in several inches of ice. He looked like he was reaching for his boomerangs as if to call them back to his hand. To Lief's right, Artie seemed have been slightly faster. Lief guessed he must have tried to dive out of the way, but not fasten enough to avoid have his legs frozen like all of Jacob.
"H-h-h-how a-a-re y-y-you n-n-not f-f-f-frozen ssssolid?" Artie looked up at Lief and then forced a smile. "S-s-son of K-K-Khione. F-f-forgot about t-that."
"What?" Lief was not following anything that was happening.
"LOOK OUT!" Artie shouted.
Lief turned to see, but a pair of giant hands gripped his waist like an anaconda and he was lifted of the ground. He punched and kicked to get free, but the giant held out him at arm's length and laughed at how Lief futility pounded on his hand. That was when Lief began to feel the giant tighten its grip and something dig painfully into his right hip. Part of wondered how he could have forgotten about the seax while the rest tried not think about how easily his bone might break.
He jammed his left arm between the giant's hand and his right hip. It was slow work and Lief's thought his arm was going to snap like branch before he could reach it, but he practically cried out in joy when he felt the seax's hilt. With strong and desperate yank, he drew the seax out of its scabbard and sliced into the giant's hand and just as he began to drop him, Lief brought the seax down and sliced its across the palm from between the thumb and pointer finger.
"Oof!" Lief grunted when he landed on his butt.
"B-b-bring h-him d-d-down!" Artie tried to shouted. "G-g-go for h-h-his knees!"
Lief might have thought he was having a really lucid dream, if it wasn't for his aching chest and sharp pain in his butt. So everything happening was real. Everything from being thrown a window to the blue blood that coated a viking seax made of ice he held in hand was real. Which meant he could really die if the giant wasn't killed first.
Luckily for Lief, the giant wasn't the smartest tool in the shed was busy licking the cut on his hand. Like Artie told him, Lief ran towards the giant's leg with yell and sank his weapon into the side of its knee. While he didn't plan it, the seax's blade slid just behind the knee cap and separated it from the tendon which anyone who has suffered a broken knee is quite painful. Naturally, the giant roared in agony and went down on it. Quicker than he thought possible for himself, Lief yanked his seax free and twisted so he stab the giant in the other knee. This time however, he went through the back and came out through the front.
Like a building with no support beams, the giant went down like a ton of bricks. It was lucky that he fell forward. Had he gone the other way, Lief would have been crushed and crushed by a hyperborean giant's butt was not a good way to go. Lief thought after all that punishment and going down pretty hard on its head would be enough for anything to stay down, but he was wrong.
The giant pushed himself up and shook the snow, ice, and blue blood from his face.
"Hey, you!" Artie shouted. "Olaf Wannabe!"
"Huh?" The giant turned and his eyes went wide.
Artie, legs still frozen solid and laying on the ground, had two arrows nocked and aimed at point blank range.
"Take two of these and call me in the morning!"
Artie fired and giant's body jerked for a second before it went limp. Rather than explode into golden powder like monster had been doing all his life, Artie was surprised when the giant turned into a huge block of ice.
"Is it over?" Lief asked.
"For now." Artie smiled wearily. "Not bad for a first timer."
"What was that?"
"It was what we call a hyperborean giant." Artie held out a hand and Lief saw he was shivering again. "L-l-look, any ch-chance we can t-talk later? At l-least until I c-can feel my legs again?"
"And him?" Lief point to Jacob.
"Good point." Artie motioned to the end of the block. "Y-your d-dad should b-be in h-his t-t-truck. G-get him t-to load Jacob and t-then c-come back for me."
"Thank you." Lief breathed a sigh of relief. "For everything."
"No problem." Artie held out a hand.
Lief took and shook it. To both their surprise, the ice around Artie legs began to crack and snap. Before they could gasp, the ice turned into fresh snow. Artie still couldn't feel his legs, but at least he wouldn't have to thaw his legs out for the next few hours.
"How . . ." Lief looked to Artie for an answer.
"Not sure, but I have an idea." Artie pointed to Jacob. "Go touch him and see what happens."
Lief turned and hesitantly tapped Jacob's nose. Like Artie's legs, the ice crack and snapped before it turned into snow. Lief managed to catch Jacob and gently him down. Clearly Jacob was in bad shape and needed to be warmed up right away. Lief, the only one able to move, ran off to get his dad.
"W-w-w-w-what d-d-d-d-did I m-m-m-missssss?" Jacob managed to say.
"The Ice Man cometh!" Artie said with a smile.
"The movie was." Artie laid a hand over Jacob. "Relax. A few minutes and we'll be neck deep in hot chocolate."
"I-I-I'm n-not s-s-sure about y-y-you." Jacob tried to smile. "B-b-but I'm n-not e-e-eating i-i-ice c-cream e-ever a-again."
"Ice cream?!" Artie snorted. "Heck, I'm never having ice again."