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AFTER THE FIGHT ON MOUNT DIABLO, Jason didn't think he could ever feel more afraid or devastated

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AFTER THE FIGHT ON MOUNT DIABLO, Jason didn't think he could ever feel more afraid or devastated.

Now his sister was frozen at his feet. He was surrounded by monsters. He'd broken his golden sword and replaced it with a piece of wood. He had approximately five minutes until the King of the Giants busted out and destroyed them. Jason had already pulled his biggest ace, calling down Zeus's lightning when he'd fought Enceladus, and he doubted he'd have the strength or the cooperation from above to do it again. Which meant his only assets were one whiny imprisoned Goddess, one daughter of Apollo he had a major crush on with a bow and arrow, the daughter of Aphrodite whose bark was just as bad as her bite, and Leo, who apparently thought he could defeat the armies of darkness with breath mints.

On top of all this, Jason's worst memories were flooding back. He knew for certain he'd done many dangerous things in his life, but he'd never been closer to death than he was right now.

The enemy was beautiful. Khione smiled, her dark eyes glittering, as a dagger of ice grew in her hand.

"What've you done?" Jason demanded.

"Oh, so many things," the snow Goddess purred. "Your sister's not dead, if that's what you mean. She and her Hunters will make fine toys for our wolves. I thought we'd defrost them one at a time and hunt them down for amusement. Let them be the prey for once."

The wolves snarled appreciatively, "Yes, my dears." Khione kept her eyes on Jason. "Your sister almost killed their King, you know. Lycaon's off in a cave somewhere, no doubt licking his wounds, but his minions have joined us to take revenge for their master. And soon Porphyrion will arise, and we shall rule the world."

"Traitor!" Hera shouted. "You meddlesome, D-list goddess! You aren't worthy to pour my wine, much less rule the world."

"You are really not helping yourself here, lady." Kyra glared,

Khione sighed. "Tiresome as ever, Queen Hera. I've been wanting to shut you up for millennia." Khione waved her hand, and ice encased the prison, sealing in the spaces between the earthen tendrils. "That's better," the snow Goddess grinned. "Now, demigods, about your death—"

"You're the one who tricked Hera into coming here," Jason stated, "You gave Zeus the idea of closing Olympus."

The wolves snarled, and the storm spirits whinnied, ready to attack, but Khione held up her hand. "Patience, my loves. If he wants to talk, what matter? The sun is setting, and time is on our side. Of course, Jason Grace. Like snow, my voice is quiet and gentle, and very cold. It's easy for me to whisper to the other Gods, especially when I am only confirming their own deepest fears. I also whispered in Aeolus's ear that he should issue an order to kill demigods. It is a small service for Gaea, but I'm sure I will be well rewarded when her sons, the giants, come to power."

"You could've killed us in Quebec," Jason questioned. "Why let us live?"

Khione wrinkled her nose. "Messy business, killing you in my father's house, especially when he insists on meeting all visitors. I did try, you remember. It would've been lovely if he'd agreed to turn you to ice. But once he'd given you guarantee of safe passage, I couldn't openly disobey him. My father is an old fool. He lives in fear of Zeus and Aeolus, but he's still powerful. Soon enough, when my new masters have awakened, I will depose Boreas and take the throne of the North Wind, but not just yet. Besides, my father did have a point. Your quest was suicidal. I fully expected you to fail."

"And to help us with that," Kyra narrowed her eyes at the Goddess, "you knocked our dragon out of the sky over Detroit."

"Those frozen wires in his head, that was your fault." Leo growled, "You're gonna pay for that."

"You're also the one who kept Enceladus informed about us," Piper added. "We've been plagued by snowstorms the whole trip."

"Yes, I feel so close to all of you now!" Khione said. "Once you made it past Omaha, I decided to ask Lycaon to track you down so Jason could die here, at the Wolf House." Khione smiled at him. "You see, Jason, your blood spilled on this sacred ground will taint it for generations. Your demigod brethren will be outraged, especially when they find the bodies of these two from Camp Half-Blood. They'll believe the Greeks have conspired with giants. It will be ... delicious."

Kyra, Piper, and Leo didn't seem to understand what she was saying. But Jason knew. His memories were returning enough for him to realize how dangerously effective Khione's plan could be.

"You'll set demigods against demigods," he said.

"It's so easy!" said Khione. "As I told you, I only encourage what you would do anyway."

"But why?" Piper spread her hands. "Khione, you'll tear the world apart. The giants will destroy everything. You don't want that. Call off your monsters."

Khione hesitated, then laughed. "Your persuasive powers are improving, girl. But I am a Goddess. You can't charm-speak me. We Wind Gods are creatures of chaos! I'll overthrow Aeolus and let the storms run free. If we destroy the mortal world, all the better! They never honored me, even in Greek times. Humans and their talk of global warming. Pah! I'll cool them down quickly enough. When we retake the ancient places, I will cover the Acropolis in snow."

"The ancient places." Leo's eyes widened. "That's what Enceladus meant about destroy the roots of the Gods. He meant Greece."

"You could join me, son of Hephaestus," Khione said. "I know you find me beautiful. It would be enough for my plan if these other three were to die. Reject that ridiculous destiny the Fates have given you. Live and be my champion, instead. Your skills would be quite useful."

Leo looked stunned. He glanced behind him, like Khione might be talking to somebody else. For a second Jason was worried. He figured Leo didn't have beautiful Goddesses make him offers like this every day.

Then Leo laughed so hard, he doubled over. "Yeah, join you. Right. Until you get bored of me and turn me into a Leosicle? Lady, nobody messes with my dragon and gets away with it. I can't believe I thought you were hot."

Khione's face turned red. "Hot? You dare insult me? I am cold, Leo Valdez. Very, very cold." She shot a blast of wintry sleet at the demigods, but Leo held up his hand. A wall of fire roared to life in front of them, and the snow dissolved in a steamy cloud.

Leo grinned. "See, lady, that's what happens to snow in Texas. It—freaking—melts."

Khione hissed. "Enough of this. Hera is failing. Porphyrion is rising. Kill the demigods. Let them be our king's first meal!"

Jason hefted his icy wooden plank—a stupid weapon to die fighting with—and the monsters charged.

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