XLII

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[JASON]

AEOLUS HANDED PIPER SOMETHING, a scrap of paper

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AEOLUS HANDED PIPER SOMETHING, a scrap of paper. It was a photo of Piper with a guy who must've been her dad. His face did look familiar. Jason was pretty sure he'd seen him in some movies.

Piper took the photo. Her hands were shaking. "This—this is from his wallet."

"Yes," Aeolus said. "All things lost in the wind eventually come to me. The photo blew away when the Earthborn captured him."

"The what?" Piper asked.

Aeolus waved aside the question and narrowed his eyes at Leo. "Now, you, son of Hephaestus ... yes, I see your future." Another paper fell into the Wind god's hands—an old tattered drawing done in crayons.

Leo took it as if it might be coated in poison. He staggered backward, "Leo?" Jason asked. "What is it?"

"Something I—I drew when I was a kid." He folded it quickly and put it in his coat. "It's ... yeah, it's nothing."

Aeolus laughed. "Really? Just the key to your success!" He turned to the blonde girl, "Daughter of Apollo." A photograph appeared in his hand, and handed it to Kyra,

"Where did you find this?"

"Your mother threw it away months ago and it landed in my grasp." Aeolus replied,

Kyra looked down at the photo with betrayal and Jason knew it was something personal. He was going to have to ask her about it when this was all over. Kyra put the photo in her jean pocket and Jason grabbed her hand to comfort her.

 "Now, where were we? Ah, yes, you wanted information. Are you sure about that? Sometimes information can be dangerous." He smiled at Jason like he was issuing a challenge. Behind him, Mellie shook her head in warning.

"Yeah," Jason cleared his throat,  "We need to find the lair of Enceladus."

Aeolus's smile melted. "The giant? Why would you want to go there? He's horrible! He doesn't even watch my program!"

Piper held up the photo. "Aeolus, he's got my father. We need to rescue him and find out where Hera is being held captive."

"Now, that's impossible," Aeolus replied, "Even I can't see that, and believe me, I've tried. There's a veil of magic over Hera's location—very strong, impossible to locate."

"She's at a place called the Wolf House," Jason told the God of the Winds.

"Hold on!" Aelous put a hand to his forehead and closed his eyes. "I'm getting something! Yes, she's at a place called the Wolf House! Sadly, I don't know where that is."

"Enceladus does," Piper persisted. "If you help us find him, we could get the location of the goddess—"

"Yeah," Leo said, catching on. "And if we save her, she'd be really grateful to you—"

"And Zeus might promote you," Kyra finished.

Aeolus's eyebrows crept up. "A promotion—and all you want from me is the giant's location?"

"Well, if you could get us there, too," Jason amended, "that would be great."

Mellie clapped her hands in excitement. "Oh, he could do that! He often sends helpful winds—"

"Mellie, quiet!" Aeolus snapped. "I have half a mind to fire you for letting these people in under false pretenses."

Her face paled. "Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."

"It wasn't her fault," Jason said. "But about that help ..."

Aelous tilted his head as if thinking. Then Jason realized the Wind Lord was listening to voices in his earpiece, "Well ... Zeus approves," Aeolus muttered. "He says ... he says it would be better if you could avoid saving her until after the weekend, because he has a big party planned—Ow! That's Aphrodite yelling at him, reminding him that the solstice starts at dawn. She says I should help you. And Hephaestus... yes. Apollo, too Hmm. Very rare they agree on anything. Hold on ..."

Jason smiled at his friends. Finally, they were having some good luck. Their Godly parents were standing up for them.

Back toward the entrance, Jason heard a loud belch. Coach Hedge waddled in from the lobby, grass all over his face. Mellie saw him coming across the makeshift floor and caught her breath. "Who is that?"

Jason stifled a cough. "That? That's just Coach Hedge. Uh, Gleeson Hedge. He's our ..." Jason wasn't sure what to call him: teacher, friend, problem?

"Our guide." Kyra answered for him.

"He's so goatly," Mellie murmured.

"What's up, guys?" Hedge trotted over. "Wow, nice place. Oh! Sod squares."

"Coach, you just ate," Jason said. "And we're using the sod as a floor. This is, ah, Mellie—"

"An aura." Hedge smiled winningly. "Beautiful as a summer breeze."

Mellie blushed.

"And Aeolus here was just about to help us," Jason said.

"Yes," the Wind Lord muttered. "It seems so. You'll find Enceladus on Mount Diablo."

"Devil Mountain?" Leo asked. "That doesn't sound good."

"I remember that place!" Piper said. "I went there once with my dad. It's just east of San Francisco Bay."

"The Bay Area again?" The coach shook his head. "Not good. Not good at all."

"Now ..." Aeolus began to smile. "As to getting you there—"

Suddenly his face went slack. He bent over and tapped his earpiece as if it were malfunctioning. When he straightened again, his eyes were wild. Despite the makeup, he looked like an old man—an old, very frightened man. "She hasn't spoke to me for centuries. I can't—yes, yes I understand."

He swallowed, regarding Jason as if he had suddenly turned into a giant cockroach. "I'm sorry, son of Jupiter. New orders. You all have to die."

Mellie squeaked. "But—but, sir! Zeus said to help them. Aphrodite, Apollo, Hephaestus—"

"Mellie!" Aeolus snapped. "Your job is already on the line. Besides, there are some orders that transcend even the wishes of the gods, especially when it comes to the forces of nature."

"Whose orders?" Jason asked, "Zeus will fire you if you don't help us!"

"I doubt it." Aeolus flicked his wrist, and far below them, a cell door opened in the pit. Jason could hear storm spirits screaming out of it, spiraling up toward them, howling for blood. His hand tightened around Kyra's.

"Even Zeus understands the order of things," Aeolus said. "And if she is waking—by all the gods—she cannot be denied. Good-bye, heroes. I'm terribly sorry, but I'll have to make this quick. I'm back on the air in four minutes."

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