XII

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[KYRA]

FESTUS KEPT FLYING

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FESTUS KEPT FLYING. The wind got colder, and below them, snowy forests seemed to go on forever. Kyra was a bit uncomfortable about the thought of snow. She is the daughter of Apollo after all. She'd rather be in the sun, like at Camp Half-Blood where the climate was controlled and was almost always sunny. 

"Why don't you get some sleep?" Piper said in Leo's "You were up all night."

Leo looked like he wanted to protest, but the word sleep sounded really good. "You won't let me fall off?"

Piper patted his shoulder. "Trust me, Valdez. Beautiful people never lie."

"Right," he muttered. He leaned forward against the warm bronze of the dragon's neck, and closed his eyes. While he slept, the other three kept quiet. It was quite awkward and you could cut the tension in the air with a sword.

Kyra felt a bit guilty. According to Annabeth, Piper and Jason were a 'thing' but not really cause Piper was fooled by the mist and Jason had no clue who she was.

 It was like this for awhile until the daylight began to fade. In the distance, they can see a large city. It was Quebec, "Wow." Kyra gasped as Piper woke up Leo,

"We're here," she told him,

Below them, a city sat on a cliff overlooking a river. The plains around it were dusted with snow, but the city itself glowed warmly in the winter sunset. Buildings crowded together inside high walls like a medieval town, way older than any place they had seen before. In the center was an actual castle with massive red brick walls and a square tower with a peaked, green gabled roof.

"Tell me that's Quebec and not Santa's workshop," Leo begged,

"Yeah, Quebec City," Piper confirmed. "One of the oldest cities in North America. Founded around sixteen hundred or so?"

Leo raised an eyebrow. "Your dad do a movie about that too?"

She made a face at him, but it didn't quite work with her new glamorous makeup. "I read sometimes, okay? Just because Aphrodite claimed me, doesn't mean I have to be an airhead."

"Feisty!" Leo replied, "So you know so much, what's that castle?"

"A hotel, I think."

Leo laughed. "No way."

But as they got closer, the group saw that Piper was right. The grand entrance was bustling with doormen, valets, and porters taking bags. Sleek black luxury cars idled in the drive. People in elegant suits and winter cloaks hurried to get out of the cold.

"The North Wind is staying in a hotel?" Leo asked, "That can't be—"

"Heads up, guys," Jason interrupted. "We got company!"

Kyra looked below and saw what Jason meant. Rising from the top of the tower were two winged figures—angry angels, with nasty-looking swords.

Festus didn't like the angel guys. He swooped to a halt in midair, wings beating and talons bared, and made a rumbling sound in his throat that Leo recognized. He was getting ready to blow fire.

"Steady, boy," Leo muttered. Something told them that the angels would not take kindly to getting torched.

"I don't like this," Jason said. "They look like storm spirits."

Kyra didn't know what storm spirits looked like, but as the angels got closer, she could see they were much more solid than spirits. They looked like regular teenagers except for their icy white hair and feathery purple wings. Their bronze swords were jagged, like icicles. Their faces looked similar enough that they might've been brothers, but they definitely weren't twins.

One was the size of an ox, with a bright red hockey jersey, baggy sweatpants, and black leather cleats. The guy clearly had been in too many fights, because both his eyes were black, and when he bared his teeth, several of them were missing.

The other guy looked like he'd just stepped off one of an 80s rock band album cover. He was wearing pants that were way too tight, and a god-awful silk shirt with the top three buttons open. Maybe he thought he looked like a groovy love god, but the guy couldn't have weighed more than ninety pounds, and he had a bad case of acne.

The angels pulled up in front of the dragon and hovered there, swords at the ready. The hockey ox grunted. "No clearance."

"'Scuse me?" Leo questioned,

"You have no flight plan on file," explained the groovy love god. On top of his other problems, he had a French accent so bad Kyra was sure it was fake. "This is restricted airspace."

"Destroy them?" The ox showed off his gap-toothed grin.

The dragon began to hiss steam, ready to defend them. Jason summoned his golden sword, but Leo cried, "Hold on! Let's have some manners here, boys. Can I at least find out who has the honor of destroying me?"

"I am Cal!" the ox grunted. He looked very proud of himself, like he'd taken a long time to memorize that sentence.

"That's short for Calais," the love god said. "Sadly, my brother cannot say words with more than two syllables—"

"Pizza! Hockey! Destroy!" Cal offered.

"—which includes his own name," the love god finished.

"I am Cal," Cal repeated. "And this is Zethes! My brother!"

"Wow," Leo said. "That was almost three sentences, man! Way to go." Cal grunted, obviously pleased with himself.

"Stupid buffoon," his brother grumbled. "They make fun of you. But no matter. I am Zethes, which is short for Zethes. And the ladies there—" He winked at Piper and Kyra, but the wink was more like a facial seizure. "They can call me anything they like. Perhaps they would like to have dinner with a famous demigod before we must destroy you?"

Piper made a sound like gagging on a cough drop. "That's ... a truly horrifying offer."

Kyra winced, "Maybe some other time."

"It is no problem." Zethes wiggled his eyebrows. "We are a very romantic people, we Boreads."

"Boreads?" Jason cut in. "Do you mean, like, the sons of Boreas?"

"Ah, so you've heard of us!" Zethes looked pleased. "We are our father's gatekeepers. So you understand, we cannot have unauthorized people flying in his airspace on creaky dragons, scaring the silly mortal peoples."

He pointed below, and Kyra saw that the mortals were starting to take notice. Several were pointing up—not with alarm, yet—more with confusion and annoyance, like the dragon was a traffic helicopter flying too low.

"Which is sadly why, unless this is an emergency landing," Zethes said, brushing his hair out of his acne-covered face, "we will have to destroy you painfully."

"Destroy!" Cal agreed, with a little more enthusiasm than Kyra thought necessary.

"Wait!" Piper called out, "This is an emergency landing."

"Awww!" Cal looked so disappointed, Kyra almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Zethes studied Piper, which of course he'd already been doing. "How does the pretty girl decide this is an emergency, then?"

"We have to see Boreas. It's totally urgent! Please?" She forced a smile, which Kyra figured must've been killing her; but she still had that blessing of Aphrodite thing going on, and she looked great. Something about her voice, too, the three of them found themselves believing every word. Jason was nodding, looking absolutely convinced.

Zethes picked at his silk shirt, probably making sure it was still open wide enough. "Well ... I hate to disappoint a lovely lady, but you see, my sister, she would have an avalanche if we allowed you—"

"And our dragon is malfunctioning!" Piper added. "It could crash any minute!"

Festus shuddered helpfully, then turned his head and spilled gunk out of his ear, splattering a black Mercedes in the parking lot below.

"No destroy?" Cal whimpered.

Zethes pondered the problem. Then he gave Piper another spasmodic wink. "Well, you are pretty. I mean, you're right. A malfunctioning dragon—this could be an emergency."

"Destroy them later?" Cal offered, which was probably as close to friendly as he ever got.

"It will take some explaining," Zethes decided. "Father has not been kind to visitors lately. But, yes. Come, faulty dragon people. Follow us."

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