LXIII

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[JASON]

JASON WAITED ALONE IN CABIN ONE

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JASON WAITED ALONE IN CABIN ONE.

Annabeth and Rachel were due any minute for the head counselors' meeting, and Jason needed time to think.

His dreams the night before had been worse than he'd wanted to share—even with Kyra. His memory was still foggy, but bits and pieces were coming back. The night Lupa had tested him at the Wolf House, to decide if he would be a pup or food. Then the long trip south to ... he couldn't remember, but he had flashes of his old life. The day he'd gotten his tattoo. The day he'd been raised on a shield and proclaimed a praetor. His friends' faces: Dakota, Gwendolyn, Hazel, Bobby. And Reyna. Definitely, there'd been a girl named Reyna. He wasn't sure what she'd meant to him, but the memory did not make him question what he felt about Kyra. He liked her. A lot.

Jason moved his stuff to the corner alcove where his sister had once slept. He put Thalia's photograph back on the wall so he didn't feel alone. He stared up at the frowning statue of Zeus, mighty and proud, but the statue didn't scare him anymore. It just made him feel sad.

"I know you can hear me," Jason said to the statue. The statue said nothing. Its painted eyes seemed to stare at him, "I wish I could talk with you in person," Jason continued, "but I understand you can't do that. The Roman Gods don't like to interact with mortals so much, and—well, you're the king. You've got to set an example."

More silence. Jason had hoped for something—a bigger than usual rumble of thunder, a bright light, a smile. No, never mind. A smile would've been creepy.

"I remember some things," he continued. The more he talked, the less self-conscious he felt. "I remember that it's hard being a son of Jupiter. Everyone is always looking at me to be a leader, but I always feel alone. I guess you feel the same way up on Olympus. The other Gods challenge your decisions. Sometimes you've got to make hard choices, and the others criticize you. And you can't come to my aid like other Gods might. You've got to keep me at a distance so it doesn't look like you're playing favorites. I guess I just wanted to say ..."

Jason took a deep breath. "I understand all that. It's okay. I'm going to try to do my best. I'll try to make you proud. But I could really use some guidance, Dad. If there's anything you can do—help me so I can help my friends. I'm afraid I'll get them killed. I don't know how to protect them." He began to think about Kyra once again.

The back of his neck tingled. He realized someone was standing behind him. He turned and found a woman in a black hooded robe, with a goatskin cloak over her shoulders and a sheathed Roman sword—a gladius—in her hands.

"Hera," Jason cleared his throat,

She pushed back her hood. "To you, I have always been Juno. And your father has already sent you guidance, Jason. He sent you, Kyra, Piper, and Leo. They're not just your responsibility. They are also your friends. Listen to them, and you will do well."

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