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[KYRA]

PIPER TOLD THEM ABOUT THEIR REAL ENEMY:

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PIPER TOLD THEM ABOUT THEIR REAL ENEMY:

Gaea. 

"Gaea?" Leo shook his head. "Isn't that Mother Nature? She's supposed to have, like, flowers in her hair and birds singing around her and deer and rabbits doing her laundry."

"Leo, that's Snow White," Kyra rolled her eyes, 

"Okay, but—"

"Listen, cupcake." Coach Hedge dabbed the espresso out of his goatee. "Piper's telling us some serious stuff, here. Gaea's no softie. I'm not even sure I could take her."

Leo whistled. "Really?"

Hedge nodded. "This earth lady—she and her old man the sky were nasty customers."

"Ouranos," Piper said. 

Kyra played with the hem of her dress, which reached an inch above her knee before looking up at the blue sky, wondering if it had eyes.

"Right," Hedge continued, "So Ouranos, he's not the best dad. He throws their first kids, the Cyclopes, into Tartarus. That makes Gaea mad, but she bides her time. Then they have another set of kids—the twelve Titans—and Gaea is afraid they'll get thrown into prison too. So she goes up to her son Kronos—"

"The big bad dude," Leo interrupted, "The one they defeated last summer."

"Right. And Gaea's the one who gives him the scythe, and tells him, 'Hey, why don't I call your dad down here? And while he's talking to me, distracted, you can cut him to pieces. Then you can take over the world. Wouldn't that be great?'"

Nobody said anything. Kyra's chocolate chip muffin didn't look so appetizing anymore. Even though she'd heard the story before from the other campers at Camp-Half Blood, she still couldn't quite get her mind around it. She tried to imagine a kid so messed up, he would kill his own dad just for power. Then she imagined a mom so messed up, she would convince her son to do it.

"Definitely not Snow White," Kyra decided and Jason reached over to grab her hand under the table and squeezed it. 

"Nah, Kronos was a bad guy," Hedge said. "But Gaea is literally the mother of all bad guys. She's so old and powerful, so huge, that it's hard for her to be fully conscious. Most of the time, she sleeps, and that's the way we like her—snoring."

"But she talked to me," Leo brought up, "How can she be asleep?"

Hedge brushed crumbs off his canary yellow lapel. He was on his sixth espresso now, and his pupils were as big as quarters. "Even in her sleep, part of her consciousness is active—dreaming, keeping watch, doing little things like causing volcanoes to explode and monsters to rise. Even now, she's not fully awake. Believe me, you don't want to see her fully awake."

"But she's getting more powerful," Piper said. "She's causing the giants to rise. And if their king comes back—this guy Porphyrion—"

"He'll raise an army to destroy the Gods," Jason put in. "Starting with Hera. It'll be another war. And Gaea will wake up fully." 

Kyra looked over at him with worried eyes and Jason rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand, trying to comfort her without making it obvious to the others.

He was always trying to make her feel better, no matter what the situation. When her camera broke, he promised to get her a new one. It made her feel... special. Cared about.

Kyra examined his features. From his sky blue eyes that were filled with a hint of deep sadness to his strong jaw and the cut on his upper lip. His face was kind and gentle, but now looking closer, looked a bit sad. 

She wondered what he would look like if he was truly happy. Then she realized she wanted to be the reason why he had that look on his face.

Jason must've felt her eyes on him because he quickly turned his head towards hers and they made eye contact. Kyra blushed and quickly looked away, not before seeing the small smile that appeared on his face.

Hedge nodded. "Which is why it's a good idea for us to stay off the ground as much as possible."

Leo looked warily at Mount Diablo. "So ... climbing a mountain. That would be bad."

"Guys, I can't ask you to do this," Piper said. "This is too dangerous."

"You kidding?" Hedge belched and showed them his blue carnation smile. "Who's ready to beat stuff up?"

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