Chapter 1:

THE SUN CHILD

A pattern formed in the shadows on the wall around the park. Then out came a boy of around 14 years followed by a slightly older girl wearing something like a bed sheet with a purple robe around her shoulders, and then a middle aged man wearing a baseball cap and a tracksuit. They were all tied at the waist with ropes. Then a 15 foot or so statue appeared behind them.

The girl looked around for a while and returned to tell them," No sign of any body nearby. We could stop here and rest," she looked at the skinny boy in a dark cloak and spoke again," At least until Nico gains his energy back. Shadow travel is our only hope of moving the Athena Parthenos at all. That means Coach, you and I will have to keep guard." The coach looked around at the bushes and shrugged," Easy enough, but I can whack people in the head right?"

"No.", the girl replied.

"But Reyna, I could keep everyone safe with just one blow…"

"NO."

"Hey, I am not even using my club..." he said, swinging a baseball bat in the air.

"NO!" Reyna looked frustrated now. Her eyebrows knitted together and her tone was full of pride like she was used to commanding people about.

"Whoa… alright. No need to get angry…" coach said as he walked away.

Reyna turned towards Nico, shook her head and got a shrug in return. As she was turning, she caught a glimpse of something glowing on the grass. She raised her eyebrows and suspiciously lifted the item. Now her face was serious and full of concern. She turned it over and over in her hands. Nico noticed that it looked something like a circular disc around 5 inches big and it had grooves in the edges. It looked like a sun.

His head started spinning. Reyna then turned at him and literally attacked him with questions. And believe me, the daughter of the Roman war god Belona knows how to attack.

"Have you seen this before? It seems dangerous. We should leave quickly. Where is Hedge when you need him? I should have let him do the whacking, right? Are you sure it is not Greek? Are we anywhere near Camp HalfBlood?"

Nico found it very difficult to think. His mind seemed to have gotten ten times slower in the process. His voice barely came out as a whisper but Reyna had finished her rally of questions and had silently unsheathed her dagger. Currently, she was holding it up precariously with her first three fingers, ready to drop it or throw it at the drop of a pin. But Nico knew that she could effortlessly fling it across the enemy's heart, if it was at all required. He said," It is sunburnt brass, extremely rare, but very powerful as a weapon if you know how to use it. But the weird part is that I have seen it before." His voice seemed to echo from the trees giving an over-dramatic effect to it all.

Reyna looked at him with absolutely wild eyes. If Nico was never scared of her normal frown, he would be terrified with this one. She quickly looked away, not willing to lose an eye of the surroundings muttering something about how boys never remember anything useful when they are supposed to.

A voice suddenly spoke sending shivers down all spines in audible range,"Ah, I see you do remember me then. That is good." It seemed to be coming from the front. Nico and Reyna turned towards the voice and Reyna yelled in the most war-like voice ever, which was saying a lot," Who said that? " Suddenly they heard a rustling in the leaves. Wait, it is not the leaves, it's the flapping of hair in the wind. Before they could think, something ran into Nico, and he fell down flat with whatever bumped into him. Now he felt that something coil around his neck and he screamed,"Aaagh!"

Reyna regained her senses and lifted the thing off of him by the collar. Nico sat straight trying to collect his thoughts which were now, contrary to his earlier state of mind, flying faster than his brain could comprehend. Reyna held her dagger pointed at the girl whose dark brown curls bounced off her shoulders. She asked, "Who are you? Greek or Roman? You could not at all be a mere mortal."

The girl replied, clearly frustrated with the way Reyna was speaking," You must be Roman. I am sure the Greeks could make better clothes than that. I mean, seriously, is that a bed sheet? "

"That doesn't answer my question." Reyna rudely cut her off, "I am Reyna, the praetor of Rome. I have come to regain peace with the Greeks by returning the Athena Parthenos."

"Well, you definitely won't with that attitude."

"You don't really get second chances with things like these."

"You're right about that. The Greeks would rather just finish you off than bear to listen to you again."

"We shall see who finishes who off. Your name?"

The girl stood tall and proud," I am daughter of Apollo…"

Nico interrupted her," Atalanta."

The girls turned so suddenly and replied together," What?!"

Coach Hedge suddenly jumped out of a bush yelling 'charge' but Reyna turned to look at him. And that look was enough to make him stop abruptly and say," What?"

Nico stood up, slightly dazed at the turn of events and surprised everyone even more, if that was even possible since everyone already looked so surprised, by hugging the girl. As he held her in his arms, he said," Oh gods, thank heavens you're okay. I was so scared. You were the only one that helped me and made me realize what had to be done. That day, after Percy told me of Bianca…I thought you had…You came back…"

She lifted her head which was just two inches away from his face. Her eyes were shining with a light so bright and her smile ever so reassuring. She softly whispered ,"I missed you too, Nico.", and then she kissed him on his cheek.

That shocked Nico back to his senses. He realized that he hadn't given anyone a hug since Bianca left him for that quest and never returned. He had turned away from any personal contact and found company with the dead. He hadn't realized how much he missed having someone close that could understand you. He must have been overwhelmed with emotion. He let his hands fall down to his sides and straightened himself up. He was pretty tall for his age and was almost the same height as Atalanta though she was one year older than him. He looked up at her face, her beautiful face, absolutely shining with joy and found it difficult to keep the constant gaze without letting the colour rise in his cheeks. He would then thank his lucky stars that it was dark outside, and that no one could see his face and then resolve to study the way the grass blew in the wind. Fortunately for him, everyone was busy glaring at Atalanta, who by the way showed no sign of any embarrassment, to bother with him.

Coach said," Why did you stop? It is not everyday that you get to see a son of the underworld embracing people." Reyna looked a bit troubled but then decided to let it go.

Atalanta spoke up," Well, you look exhausted. Want to grab a snack. Nico, do you still like those Happy Meals?" Reyna hesitated but it had been long since we had thought of food. Coach Hedge might have been the only person who kept eating the leaves here and there. Reyna said that they couldn't just leave the statue there. Atalanta offered to get some food here herself while Reyna waited with Coach Hedge. The two girls then turned to Nico to see where he would rather stay. Nico first looked at Reyna and figured she didn't really trust Atalanta and wouldn't want anything to happen to her only hope of traveling home. Atalanta noticed his hesitation and saved him by suggesting," Nico, stay here okay. I will be right back with some food. I promise I will not leave you again." And then she disappeared into the clearance between some trees as fast as she had come.

Reyna said," I would prefer it if she left us alone. How the hell do you know her, Nico?" Nico closed his eyes trying to remember the facts.