Rick Riordan: The Son of Neptune

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Rick Riordan The Son of Neptune
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    The Son of Neptune
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    Фэнтези / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Rick Riordan


The Son of Neptune


( Heroes of Olympus – 2)

To Becky, who shares my sanctuary in New Rome.


Even Hera could never make me forget you.


Map 1

Camp Jupiter

I


Percy

THE SNAKE-HAIRED LADIES WERE starting to annoy Percy.

They should have died three days ago when he dropped a crate of bowling balls on them at the Napa Bargain Mart. They should have died two days ago when he ran over them with a police car in Martinez. They definitely should have died this morning when he cut off their heads in Tilden Park.

No matter how many times Percy killed them and watched them crumble to powder, they just kept re-forming like large evil dust bunnies. He couldn’t even seem to outrun them.

He reached the top of the hill and caught his breath. How long since he’d last killed them? Maybe two hours. They never seemed to stay dead longer than that.

The past few days, he’d hardly slept. He’d eaten whatever he could scrounge – vending machine gummi bears, stale bagels, even a Jack in the Crack burrito, which was a new personal low. His clothes were torn, burnt and splattered with monster slime.

He’d only survived this long because the two snake-haired ladies – gorgons, they called themselves – couldn’t seem to kill him either. Their claws didn’t cut his skin. Their teeth broke whenever they tried to bite him. But Percy couldn’t keep going much longer. Soon he’d collapse from exhaustion, and then, as hard as he was to kill, he was pretty sure the gorgons would find a way.

Where to run?

He scanned his surroundings. Under different circumstances, he might’ve enjoyed the view. To his left, golden hills rolled inland, dotted with lakes, woods and a few herds of cows. To his right, the flatlands of Berkeley and Oakland marched west – a vast chequerboard of neighbourhoods, with several million people who probably did not want their morning interrupted by two monsters and a filthy demigod.

Further west, San Francisco Bay glittered under a silvery haze. Past that, a wall of fog had swallowed most of San Francisco, leaving just the tops of skyscrapers and the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.

A vague sadness weighed on Percy’s chest. Something told him he’d been to San Francisco before. The city had some connection to Annabeth – the only person he could remember from his past. His memory of her was frustratingly dim. The wolf had promised he would see her again and regain his memory – if he succeeded in his journey.

Should he try to cross the bay?

It was tempting. He could feel the power of the ocean just over the horizon. Water always revived him. Salt water was the best. He’d discovered that two days ago when he had strangled a sea monster in the Carquinez Strait. If he could reach the bay, he might be able to make a last stand. Maybe he could even drown the gorgons. But the shore was at least two miles away. He’d have to cross an entire city.

He hesitated for another reason. The she-wolf Lupa had taught him to sharpen his senses – to trust the instincts that had been guiding him south. His homing radar was tingling like crazy now. The end of his journey was close – almost right under his feet. But how could that be? There was nothing on the hilltop.

The wind changed. Percy caught the sour scent of reptile. A hundred yards down the slope, something rustled through the woods – snapping branches, crunching leaves, hissing.

Gorgons.

For the millionth time, Percy wished their noses weren’t so good. They had always said they could smell him because he was a demigod – the half-blood son of some old Roman god. Percy had tried rolling in mud, splashing through creeks, even keeping air-freshener sticks in his pockets so he’d have that new-car smell, but apparently demigod stink was hard to mask.

He scrambled to the west side of the summit. It was too steep to descend. The slope plummeted eighty feet, straight to the roof of an apartment complex built into the hillside. Fifty feet below that, a highway emerged from the hill’s base and wound its way towards Berkeley.

Great. No other way off the hill. He’d managed to get himself cornered.

He stared at the stream of cars flowing west towards San Francisco and wished he were in one of them. Then he realized the highway must cut through the hill. There must be a tunnel … right under his feet.

His internal radar went nuts. He was in the right place, just too high up. He had to check out that tunnel. He needed a way down to the highway – fast.

He slung off his backpack. He’d managed to grab a lot of supplies at the Napa Bargain Mart: a portable GPS, duct tape, lighter, superglue, water bottle, camping roll, a Comfy Panda Pillow Pet (as seen on TV) and a Swiss army knife – pretty much every tool a modern demigod could want. But he had nothing that would serve as a parachute or a sled.

That left him two options: jump eighty feet to his death, or stand and fight. Both options sounded pretty bad.

He cursed and pulled his pen from his pocket.

The pen didn’t look like much, just a regular cheap ballpoint, but, when Percy uncapped it, it grew into a glowing bronze sword. The blade balanced perfectly. The leather grip fitted his hand like it had been custom designed for him. Etched along the guard was an Ancient Greek word Percy somehow understood: Anaklusmos - Riptide.

He’d woken up with this sword his first night at the Wolf House – two months ago? More? He’d lost track. He’d found himself in the courtyard of a burnt-out mansion in the middle of the woods, wearing shorts, an orange T-shirt and a leather necklace with a bunch of strange clay beads. Riptide had been in his hand, but Percy had had no idea how he’d got there, and only the vaguest idea who he was. He’d been barefoot, freezing and confused. And then the wolves came …

Right next to him, a familiar voice jolted him back to the present: ‘There you are!’

Percy stumbled away from the gorgon, almost falling off the edge of the hill.

It was the smiley one – Beano.

Okay, her name wasn’t really Beano. As near as Percy could figure, he was dyslexic, because words got twisted around when he tried to read. The first time he’d seen the gorgon, posing as a Bargain Mart greeter with a big green button that read: Welcome! My name is STHENO, he’d thought it said beano.

She was still wearing her green Bargain Mart employee vest over a flower-print dress. If you looked just at her body, you might think she was somebody’s dumpy old grandmother – until you looked down and realized she had rooster feet. Or you looked up and saw bronze boar tusks sticking out of the corners of her mouth. Her eyes glowed red, and her hair was a writhing nest of bright green snakes.

The most horrible thing about her? She was still holding her big silver platter of free samples: Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wieners. Her platter was dented from all the times Percy had killed her, but those little samples looked perfectly fine. Stheno just kept toting them across California so she could offer Percy a snack before she killed him. Percy didn’t know why she kept doing that, but if he ever needed a suit of armour he was going to make it out of Crispy Cheese ’n’ Wieners. They were indestructible.

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