"Annabeth," Piper sighed, exasperated. She was past being angry about Annabeth's decision to take the gray sisters' eye, but at this moment, she wasn't feeling happy about it, either.
"Let her go!" Leo shouted. "She has nothing to do with this!"
"Leo, you're melting the ice," Sean warned him. Piper looked down, and sure enough, the ice around them was thinning and becoming more slippery.
The woman with the knife smiled and held the blade a little tighter against Daisy's neck, so blood began to bead at the base of her throat.
"Run," Daisy grunted, but one of the sisters jerked her hair back and Daisy let out a short cry.
"We're not leaving," Leo said fiercely.
"Leo! Ice," Piper reminded him. That just made Leo panic, and the ice turned to vapor beneath his feet. He had to walk around so that he didn't melt any one place too quickly.
Jason seemed to be concentrating deeply on some thought. Probably, he was wishing he'd stayed behind with his pretty blonde friend.
"Fine, if you want revenge, kill me," Leo bargained.
Blood drained from Piper's cheeks as she came to a sudden realization. "No, Leo."
"Why not?" he snarled. "I wasn't good enough to go on your stupid quest, but I can at least do this."
"That's not it," Piper cried desperately. "My prophecy, Leo. I don't want it to be you."
Leo's face softened a bit. "It's got to be me," he said. "I'm the friend that has to die."
Piper finally let herself remember those horrible lines of the prophecy: but when they find the thing they seek… a dear friend's heart will have grown too weak.
Sean approached Leo slowly. Leo peered at the boy cautiously, like he was afraid that he might try to stop him. Instead, Sean did something that no one expected.
Sean knelt down and touched the water that was now pooling at Leo's feet. Then, he pulled out the pendant that hung around his neck.
"Sean?" Piper asked.
"What is he doing!" the gray sister with the eye cried, apparently recognizing the pendant.
"We will kill her!" warned the sister with the dagger.
Sean stood up to his full height, faced away from the sisters so that only Piper, Jason, and Leo could see him, and gave them an unmistakable wink.
"No… Don't take Leo. Take me. This all happened because of me," Sean lied. "I'm the one you want."
"He's right," Piper agreed, not knowing what Sean's plan was, but holding tight to the thought that anyone had an idea. "This is his fault."
"I'm the one you want," Sean repeated, walking slowly to the women.
The sister with sight eyed him warily. Sean was only a foot away when she gasped, like she was seeing him clearly for the first time. She nodded eagerly.
"Release the prisoner!" She told the sister with the knife.
"Why?" complained the third sister.
"Use your noses, idiots, or have those stopped working as well? I smell the sea in this one."
The other two women inhaled deeply, and their grimaces turned into grins.
"Let me see him," the one with the tooth demanded.
The first sister plucked her eye out easily and exchanged it for the tooth.
"He looks like Percy Jackson," the third sister exclaimed when she could finally see.
"Yes, he does, doesn't he?" Jason finally piped up. "This is Percy Jackson's half brother."
The sister with the knife released Daisy, who fell to the icy ground, then picked herself up again and ran/slid to Leo. Meanwhile, the sisters simultaneously reached for Sean with surprising speed. The dagger was already raised, glinting in the sun.
"NO!" Piper shouted. In a moment, several things seemed to happen.
First, Sean made eye contact with Piper. She wasn't sure, but he appeared to be smiling mischievously at her.
Second, the water under Leo's feet moved like rapids toward Sean and the three old women.
Third, the ice under their feet cracked beneath the weight of the rushing water, and the four figures plummeted into the icy depths below.
Just as Sean fell, he tore the pendant from his neck and tossed it to Jason. As it hit the sky, the golden eagle grew into full staff form, and the second it made contact with Jason's skin it began to flicker with sparks.
Piper wanted to go into the water and search for Sean. It was the least they could do, but when she looked at the sharp rocks below, she knew that no amount of manipulation over water could have saved him. Besides, the combination of Leo's heat and Sean's act of selflessness had caused the ice to become unstable. If they didn't move quickly they would all join Sean very quickly.
Jason grabbed Piper's arm.
"Let go of me," she struggled, not wanting him to touch her. His skin sent a shock up her arm, which made her want to be with him even less. His grip was like a vice, though, and Piper could not break free.
"Leo, Daisy, grab onto me before the ice breaks," Jason commanded. They did as he said despite the painful shocks that he sent through them both. When everyone was secure, Jason flew into the air steadily. The golden eagle seemed to give him more control and strength. He lifted them all without a problem, and together they flew to Iris' glass cabin.
The mood was somber all the way to the threshold of the crystalline structure. They were all dreading facing Iris. This was made worse when Iris saw them through a wall and ran out smiling to greet them.
"Hello, children," she said happily. One look at their faces and she seemed to understand.
"I'm sorry," Jason tried to comfort her.
"You! You're the reason this all happened!" the goddess accused him through sobs. "I should never have trusted the son of Jupiter to protect him! Get out!" she shrieked. "Leave! All of you, go!"
Iris snapped her fingers and they suddenly they were surrounded by thick darkness. Piper felt fear well up in her chest. Was this the underworld? Everything felt so cold.
Jason squeezed her hand and Piper wanted to make him let go, but couldn't bear to lose her grip on humanity when she was surrounded by darkness and horrible feelings.
Suddenly, the world became light again, and they were just outside of Camp Half-Blood.
"What just happened?" Daisy asked.
Piper studied the girl. A streak of dry blood was smeared across her neck and her hair was piled messily on top of her head. She looked like she'd been through so much, and Piper could imagine how tired she was after refusing to fall asleep for so long. Piper felt a rush of gratitude for Daisy, for having her life put on the line in a fit of revenge. She didn't deserve any of this.
"Looked like shadow travel to me." Piper looked to the voice and saw Nico di Angelo resting against a large oak tree. "What happened to you guys?" he asked.
They all ignored his question. Instead, Daisy ran forward and hugged Nico. Piper looked at Leo— saw the way his entire body seemed to tense up—and she knew just what he was feeling.
Nico looked over Daisy's shoulder while they embraced, and he looked into Jason's eyes.
He mouthed the words, "I sense death."
Piper shivered. She did not like Nico di Angelo.
Jason sighed and mouthed back, "Later." Then, outloud, "We should go inside and talk to Chiron."
Daisy broke from Nico and looked at the large camp with the hint of a smile playing across her face. "It's good to be home."
Part of Piper loved that statement. They were indeed home, but as she looked at Jason, she couldn't help but think, are you home?
Instead, she thought about her prophecy as they walked into the camp together.
From the half-blood haven, three demigods run
They had indeed left the half-blood haven quickly.
They travel to the land of the midnight sun
But when they find the thing they seek,
That had been Percy… or maybe Hypnos? They had been seeking a lot of things.
A dear friend's heart will have grown too weak
Sean had not really been a dear friend to Piper in the beginning, but the prophecy never specified whose dear friend. Besides, the number of people willing to lay down their life for her could be counted on one hand.
Beware, dove's daughter, of the path you desire,
This line was difficult to think about. That had been a warning from the oracle to be wary of how much she had wanted to be with Jason.
For more than you asked for, you may find you acquire
Sure enough, Piper had not asked for a stupid, painful, triangular relationship. She had definitely not asked to be in competition with that pretty little blonde that Jason clearly like. Above all, she did not want to get her heart broken.
Don't say I didn't warn you, said a little voice in Piper's head.
Shut up, mother, Piper told the voice.
Just let me say a few things and then I'll be out of your air. Or head, I guess. Piper did not reply, which was as good as permission to Aphrodite. First, I told you so.
Piper was so angry she exclaimed, "If you're going to gloat, you can leave!"
The others gave her a funny look, which she ignored.
Sorry, Aphrodite apologized. Secondly, I must explain something to you. Sean Slager a son of Neptune.
I already know that, Piper told her mother.
Then you'll know that Zeus stripped him of his powers and cast him into the sea to die because he fell in love with Iris. Piper nodded her head. Well, as the goddess of love, you can see how I would be angry about this. Love is my domain, not Zeus'. That is why I led him through the doors of Death.
You did that? Piper asked, astonished.
Yes, child, I did. He deserved a second chance, and now that the doors are open, this was the best time to let him go. But I did not come to him. I never explained why he was set free, and so he figured the gods were giving him an opportunity to redeem himself. He gave his life because he felt guilty for loving Iris. Because he saved Zeus's—or rather, Jupiter's—son after he took his powers, he performed a deed that cannot be ignored. Hades will not allow the boy to be free after second death if he can help it, of course. So, Zeus must be indebted to those that were with the boy when he died.
Piper's heart began to race as she started to understand. Zeus is indebted to us?
Yes… Zeus is indebted to you. Each of you may call upon Zeus's help only once, and he will come to your aid.
Piper smiled at all of the ways she could humiliate Zeus. She could call upon the Lord of Olympus to do her dirty laundry.
I wanted to warn you, Piper. Life will not become easier for you. In fact, it will become much, much harder. You have been given a wonderful gift. Save it for when you need it most.
With that, the echo in Piper's head was gone and she knew that her mother had left.
"It's them! I see them!" cried one of the young demigods from the big house who had spotted them.
All of the other heroes ran to greet Piper, Jason, Leo, and Daisy, ready to hear their stories. A flash of bright red hair caught Piper's attention and she spun around to see the smiling face of Rachel Elizabeth Dare.
"Nice to see you," she laughed.
"Nice to see you, too," Piper replied.
"Now would someone please tell me what's going on?" Rachel demanded.
Piper groaned, thinking about all that had happened recently. "It's going to be a long night at the campfire tonight, isn't it?"