By dinnertime, I was starving. I hoped for another fresh meal, preferably one prepared for me, but Josephine waved listlessly toward the kitchen. “I think there’s some leftover tofu enchiladas in the fridge. Agamethus will show you to your rooms.”
She and Emmie left us to fend for ourselves.
The glowing orange ghost escorted Calypso to her room first. Agamethus let it be known, via the Magic 8 Ball and lots of gesticulation, that girls and boys always slept in entirely different wings.
I found this ridiculous, but like so many things about my sister and her Hunters, it was beyond logic.
Calypso didn’t complain. Before leaving, she turned to us hesitantly and said, “See you in the morning,” as if this was a huge concession. As if by talking to Leo and me at all, she was going above and beyond the courtesy we deserved. Honestly, I didn’t see how anyone could act so haughty after an afternoon planting legumes.
A few minutes later, armed with leftovers from the fridge, Leo and I followed Agamethus to our guest room.
That’s right. We had to share, which I took as another sign of our hosts’ displeasure.
Before leaving us, Agamethus tossed me his Magic 8 Ball.
I frowned. “I didn’t ask you a question.”
He pointed emphatically at the magic orb.
I turned it over and read APOLLO MUST BRING HER HOME.
I wished the ghost had a face so I might interpret it. “You already told me that.”
I tossed the ball back to him, hoping for further explanation. Agamethus hovered expectantly, as if waiting for me to realize something. Then, shoulders slumped, he turned and floated away.
I was in no mood for reheated tofu enchiladas. I gave mine to Leo, who sat cross-legged on his bed and inhaled his food. He still wore Georgina’s coveralls with a light frosting of hay. He seemed to have decided that being able to fit in a seven-year-old girl’s work clothes was a mark of honor.
I lay back on my bed. I stared at the arched brickwork on the ceiling, wondering if and when it would collapse on my head. “I miss my cot at Camp Half-Blood.”
“This place ain’t so bad,” Leo said. “When I was between foster homes, I slept under the Main Street Bridge in Houston for like a month.”
I glanced over. He did look quite comfortable in his nest of hay and blankets.
“You will change clothes before turning in?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I’ll shower in the morning. If I get itchy in the middle of the night, I’ll just burst into flames.”
“I’m not in the mood for joking. Not after Britomartis.”
“Who’s joking? Don’t worry. I’m sure Jo has this place rigged with fire-suppression equipment.”
The thought of waking up burning and covered in extinguisher foam did not appeal to me, but it would be about par for the course.
Leo tapped his fork against his plate. “These tofu enchiladas are sabrosas. Gotta get the recipe from Josephine. My homegirl Piper would love them.”
“How can you be so calm?” I demanded. “I am going on a dangerous quest tomorrow with your girlfriend!”
Normally, telling a mortal man that I was going somewhere with his girlfriend would’ve been enough to break his heart.
Leo concentrated on his tofu. “You guys will do fine.”
“But Calypso has no powers! How will she help me?”
“It ain’t about powers, ese. You watch. Calypso will still save your sorry butt tomorrow.”
I didn’t like that idea. I didn’t want my sorry butt dependent on a former sorceress who had failed at street fighting and improvisational comedy, especially given her recent mood.
“And if she’s still angry in the morning?” I asked. “What’s going on between you two?”
Leo’s fork hovered over his last enchilada. “It’s just…Six months we were traveling, trying to get to New York. Constant danger. Never staying in the same place longer than a night. Then another month and a half getting to Indianapolis.”
I considered that. I tried to imagine suffering through four times as many trials as I’d already experienced. “I suppose that would put pressure on a new relationship.”
Leo nodded glumly. “Calypso lived on her island for thousands of years, man. She’s all about gardening, weaving tapestries, making her surroundings beautiful. You can’t do any of that when you don’t have a home. Then there’s the fact that I—I took her away.”
“You rescued her,” I said. “The gods were in no hurry to free her from her prison. She might have been on that island for a thousand more years.”
Leo chewed his last bite. He swallowed as if the tofu had turned to clay (which, in my opinion, would not have been a dramatic change).
“Sometimes she’s happy about it,” he said. “Other times, without her powers, without her immortality…it’s like…” He shook his head. “I was going to compare our relationship to a machine. She would hate that.”
“I don’t mind machines.”
He set his plate on the nightstand. “An engine is only built to handle so much stress, you know? Run it too fast for too long, it starts to overheat.”
This I understood. Even my sun chariot got a bit tetchy when I drove it all day in Maserati form. “You need time for maintenance. You haven’t had a chance to find out who you are as a couple without all the danger and constant movement.”
Leo smiled, though his eyes were devoid of their usual impish gleam. “Yeah. Except danger and constant movement—that’s pretty much my life. I don’t—I don’t know how to fix that. If it’s even fixable.”
He picked a few pieces of straw off his borrowed coveralls. “Enough of that. Better sleep while you can, Sunny. I’m gonna crash.”
“Don’t call me Sunny,” I complained.
But it was too late. When Leo shuts down, he does so with the efficiency of a diesel generator. He flopped down sideways and immediately began to snore.
I was not so lucky. I lay in bed for a long while, counting golden carnivorous sheep in my mind, until at last I drifted into uneasy sleep.
Four beheaded dudes
Are too much for one nightmare
Why me? Sob. Sob. Sob.
NATURALLY, I had terrible dreams.
I found myself standing at the foot of a mighty fortress on a moonless night. Before me, rough-hewn walls soared hundreds of feet upward, flecks of feldspar glittering like stars.
At first, I heard nothing but the whistling cries of owls in the woods behind me—a sound that always reminded me of nighttime in ancient Greece. Then, at the base of the stronghold, stone ground against stone. A small hatch appeared where none had been before. A young man crawled out, lugging a heavy sack behind him.
“Come on!” he hissed to someone still in the tunnel.
The man struggled to his feet, the contents of his sack clinking and clanking. Either he was taking out the recycling (unlikely) or he had just stolen a great deal of treasure.
He turned in my direction, and a jolt of recognition made me want to scream like an owl.
It was Trophonius. My son.
You know that feeling when you suspect you might have fathered someone thousands of years ago, but you’re not really sure? Then you see that child as a grown man, and looking into his eyes, you know beyond a doubt that he is yours? Yes, I’m sure many of you can relate.