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[KYRA]

ONCE INSIDE, JASON SEEMED to get his bearings and Kyra let go of him

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ONCE INSIDE, JASON SEEMED to get his bearings and Kyra let go of him. The house was built in a giant U, and Jason led them between the two wings to an outside courtyard with an empty reflecting pool. At the bottom of the pool, just as Jason had described to them from his dream, two spires of rock and root tendrils had cracked through the foundation.

One of the spires was much bigger—a solid dark mass about twenty feet high, and to Kyra, it looked like a stone body bag. Underneath the mass of fused tendrils she could make out the shape of a head, wide shoulders, a massive chest and arms, like the creature was stuck waist deep in the earth. No, not stuck—rising.

On the opposite end of the pool, the other spire was smaller and more loosely woven. Each tendril was as thick as a telephone pole, with so little space between them that Kyra doubted he could've gotten her arm through. Still, she could see inside. And in the center of the cage stood a woman. Or at least what looked like a regular, mortal woman. It was Hera.

Leo stepped forward and dropped into the pool and approached the cage.  "Hola, Tía. Little bit of trouble?"

The woman crossed her arms and sighed in exasperation. "Don't inspect me like I'm one of your machines, Leo Valdez. Get me out of here!"

Thalia stepped next to him and looked at the cage with distaste—or maybe she was looking at the goddess. "We tried everything we could think of, Leo, but maybe my heart wasn't in it. If it was up to me, I'd just leave her in there."

"Ohh, Thalia Grace," the Goddess growled, "When I get out of here, you'll be sorry you were ever born."

"Save it!" Thalia snapped. "You've been nothing but a curse to every child of Zeus for ages. You sent a bunch of intestinally challenged cows after my friend Annabeth—"

"She was disrespectful!" Hera interrupted,

"You dropped a statue on my legs." Thalia continued,

"It was an accident!" The Goddess aruged,

"And you took my brother!" Thalia's voice cracked with emotion. "Here—on this spot. You ruined our lives. We should leave you to Gaea!"

"Hey," Jason intervened. "Thalia—Sis—I know. But this isn't the time. You should help your Hunters."

Thalia clenched her jaw. "Fine. For you, Jason. But if you ask me, she isn't worth it." Thalia turned, leaped out of the pool, and stormed from the building.

Leo turned to Hera with grudging respect. "Intestinally challenged cows?"

"Focus on the cage, Leo," she grumbled. "And Jason—you are wiser than your sister. I chose my champion well."

"I'm not your champion, lady," Jason replied. "I'm only helping you because you stole my memories and you're better than the alternative. Speaking of which, what's going on with that?"

He nodded to the other spire that looked like the king-size granite body bag. Was Kyra imagining it, or had it grown taller since they'd gotten here?

"That, Jason," Hera said, "is the King of the Giants being reborn."

"Gross," Piper muttered,

"Indeed," Hera said. "Porphyrion, the strongest of his kind. Gaea needed a great deal of power to raise him again —my power. For weeks I've grown weaker as my essence was used to grow him a new form."

"So you're like a heat lamp," Leo guessed. "Or fertilizer."

The Goddess glared at him, and Kyra knew Leo didn't care. To be honest, Kyra thinks that he has the right to bag down on her.

"Joke all you wish," Hera said in a clipped tone. "But at sundown, it will be too late. The giant will awake. He will offer me a choice: marry him, or be consumed by the earth. And I cannot marry him. We will all be destroyed. And as we die, Gaea will awaken."

Leo frowned at the giant's spire. "Can't we blow it up or something?"

"Without me, you do not have the power," Hera replied, "You might as well try to destroy a mountain."

"Done that once today," Jason responded.

"Just hurry up and let me out!" Hera demanded.

Jason scratched his head. "Leo, can you do it?"

"I don't know." Leo sighed,"Besides, if she's a Goddess, why hasn't she busted herself out?"

Hera paced furiously around her cage, cursing in Ancient Greek. "Use your brain, Leo Valdez. I picked you because you're intelligent. Once trapped, a God's power is useless. Your own father trapped me once in a golden chair. It was humiliating! I had to beg—beg him for my freedom and apologize for throwing him off Olympus."

"Sounds fair," Leo said.

Hera gave him the Godly stink-eye. "I've watched you since you were a child, son of Hephaestus, because I knew you could aid me at this moment. If anyone can find a way to destroy this abomination, it is you."

"But it's not a machine. It's like Gaea thrust her hand out of the ground and ..." Leo seemed to falter and sway. Kyra quickly jumped down and helped him steady himself. Then, the line of their prophecy came back to her: The forge and dove shall break the cage. 

"Hold on." Leo spoke up, thinking the same thing as her, "I do have an idea. Piper, I'm going to need your help. And we're going to need time."

The air turned brittle with cold. The temperature dropped so fast, Kyra's lips cracked and her breath changed to mist. Frost coated the walls of the Wolf House. Venti rushed in —but instead of winged men, these were shaped like horses, with dark storm-cloud bodies and manes that crackled with lightning. Some had silver arrows sticking out of their flanks. Behind them came red-eyed wolves and the six-armed Earthborn.

Piper drew her dagger. Kyra's charms grew in her hand and she readied her bow. Jason grabbed an ice-covered plank off the pool floor. Leo reached into his tool belt, but he was so shaken up, all he produced was a tin of breath mints. He shoved them back in and drew a hammer instead.

One of the wolves padded forward. It was dragging a human-size statue by the leg. At the edge of the pool, the wolf opened its maw and dropped the statue for them to see—an ice sculpture of a girl, an archer with short spiky hair and a surprised look on her face.

"Thalia!" Jason rushed forward, but Kyra pulled him back. The ground around Thalia's statue was already webbed with ice. Kyra feared if Jason touched her, he might freeze too.

"Who did this?" Jason yelled. His body crackled with electricity, shocking Kyra slightly but she kept her grip on him, "I'll kill you myself!"

From somewhere behind the monsters, Kyra heard a girl's laughter, clear and cold. She stepped out of the mist in her snowy white dress, a silver crown atop her long black hair. She regarded them with those deep brown eyes Kyra had thought were so dark and cold in Quebec.

"Bon soir, mes amis," said Khione, the Goddess of snow. She gave Leo a frosty smile. "Alas, son of Hephaestus, you say you need time? I'm afraid time is one tool you do not have."

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