III

Nico

Leo hadn't been telling the complete truth; they weren't exactly in Lecce, more like they were hovering over it, but even from the air it was an impressive sight.

"It-it-it's beautiful!" Hazel gasped in definite awe this time. Nico had to agree.

Though it was nowhere near the size or splendour of Rome, it made up for it in its beautiful architecture, and its defining structures. From where they were situated in the sky, Nico could see for miles, and could make out dozens of churches, hundreds of piazzas, and-was that a castle? Nico turned his eyes toward the baby blue iridescent sea, and felt a wave of sadness. If only Percy were here. He quickly wiped away a tear with the hem of his sleeve, before anybody noticed.

"Ok Leo," Jason said begrudgingly. "This is cool. This is definitely cool."

"Yeah, nice pit stop Valdez!" the Coach commented in a serious tone. Then, grinning like a wild goat and with an enthusiastic first pump, said, "Now let's go break some stuff!"

"Uh Coach," Leo said sheepishly. "About that…yeah, actually you're gonna be sitting this one out-sorry."

The martial arts cage match watching satyr's face turned beet red, as he processed what The Latin-American demigod had just said. "No way, Valdez! Not this time!" he cried outraged, swinging his club in Leo's general direction. Deftly ducking the blow, he countered hastily, "C'mon Coach lay off! What I meant to say is that I need someone like you to watch over the ship while I work on the ship! Honest!"

Once it dawned on him what Leo had said, Gleeson Hedge stopped his battle-crazed rampage and looked at Leo first in confusion, and then as what Leo had told him dawned on the satyr, he nodded solemnly. "Right! I'll protect you from monsters and tourists, while you do your Hephaestus thing!"

"I hope he was joking about the tourists." Leo muttered.

"What was that Valdez?"

"Just talking about how you should watch out for those tourists."

Hedge grinned, showing that he still hadn't brushed his teeth yet, and said, "Will do Valdez, will do!"

"Guys," Piper said, interrupting their odd man/goat exchange. 'We should get going."

"Piper's right," Nico said, who had been silent until now. "We don't have all day, and besides; we don't know what Percy and Annabeth have to face right now down there." He emphasized this by pointing down at the ancient Roman city below.

Leo looked around uncomfortably. If no one had known what he had been talking about earlier, now they did. Sorry to burst your bubble, Nico thought grimly. But we have a quest to finish.

"Nico's right." Jason said with a struggle, like he was thinking, Stop acting like a leader; that's my job you punk. "We've got to get going if we're going to get any day light at all."

The sun was pretty low in the sky, so Nico assumed it was already late afternoon or early evening, (as if they had traveled back in time or something; of course, even by demigod standards, that was highly improbable, but not impossible) though he couldn't be sure; if they were going to get anything done, it was now or never.

Leo nodded thoughtfully. "Right. I'll land the ship in that castle-looking place over there, and then we'll make a plan for the afternoon.

As they came in for a landing, the aerial oars manoeuvring them toward an open flat of land within the fortress boundaries, Hazel pulled her brother aside, and whispered, "Nico, I talked to Frank on our way here, and the reason he's treating you so funny is because he's scared of you Nico. You see, during our quest with Percy, his father Mars gave him this staff that raised this spartus, and it really freaked him out. Just wanted to let you know that's all."

Nico thought about that. He looked towards the big guy, who averted his eyes guiltily. So he had assumed correctly. Nico had shaken him up, liek he did most people he met. That, combined with his own self-blame, resulted in his bad attitude. That didn't explain Jason though. Maybe Nico was overreacting. Jason hadn't really treated him all that bad. But right now that didn't matter. All that mattered was Leo could put upgrades on the ship in the least possible time as possible, so they could reach Epirus on the right day, whichever one it would be.

Nico had been so lost in thought, (as usual) that he hadn't realized Leo had been talking, yet again ignoring Leo, for the second time that day.

He decided to listen in, assuming what Leo was saying was important.

"I could have landed us closer to the sea," Leo explained, his eyes glued onto the helm's monitor screen. "But instead I thought it would be safer to land us more inland, with Keto's monsters and all still on the loose, considering we don't know how dangerous the Adriatic is even with the sonar on, and how powerful the Parthenos's aura really is. I know that Gaea is more powerful when we're on the ground, but besides; it gives me more things to do in the meantime, and hopefully no monsters will attack, assuming our luck still holds."

Nico wasn't exactly sure what Leo was talking about, considering their "luck" so far had been pretty much non-existent , but he realized Leo was still shaken up over their last experience on the water, whether anyone blamed it on him or not, so he decided not to mention it.

As they got closer to the medieval looking building, Nico realized it was some sort of park or hotel. He could see mortals lounging around reading books at small round coffee tables with those little umbrellas sticking up to shade them from the sun, people walking their dogs, or sitting on park benches chatting. He could only hope that they wouldn't notice the gargantuan Ancient Greek trireme slowly descending upon them.

Oddly enough no one did. Well no one was putting it a bit too optimistically. Occasionally people would gawk at the sky, but they didn't seem to do anything about it. Maybe they saw an airplane, or an inflatable blimp. It was hard to know what mortals saw through the mysterious force called the Mist.

Finally, the ship settled down in the middle of an open veranda, next to a Renaissance-style turret and everybody met up on deck. It was decided that the three guys, Nico, Frank and Jason would team up together, and the two girls, Piper and Hazel would go together. Frank scowled at this prospect, but Jason kept his face neutral, so Nico couldn't determine how he felt on the matter. Leo and Coach would stay behind while Leo put his upgrades onto the ship.

Leo pulled a map out of his tool belt and handed to each of the two groups, when Frank pointed out, "Hey, why didn't we use one of these last time?!"

To which Leo replied blushing, and shuffling his feet awkwardly,"Oops! I kind of forgot about that."

They had to get Coach Hedge, Jason and Nico, to restrain the solid Chinese Canadian teenager from beating Leo to a pulp.

After that was dealt with, Leo lowered the boarding ramp, and the five demigods exited the trireme into a warm, but not all that uncomfortable atmosphere. "I'll keep in touch," Leo reassured them, on their way down. "If you get into any trouble, just send me an Iris message, and I'll be on my way." He winked slyly, and everybody laughed.

Once going down the ramp of the ship, Nico felt much better. Being stuck on a floating ship for hours on end was not one of the things on Nico's top ten list of favourite things to do. He realized that he had become much too philosophical recently, and brooded too much, and needed to be more focused on the matters at hand. Maybe that's why people acted so funny around him. Nico shook his head amusedly. He was doing it again.

It took them a little while to find their way around the castle-like place, and they got a few strange looks from the mortals there, but finally the three demigod boys emerged onto the streets of Lecce.

The first thing Nico noticed was that it was a lot like Rome, but nothing at all like Rome. Everything here felt more compact or closer together, and it had more of a lazy small-town feel, and almost felt more modern than Rome. Not to say that that was true; (according to the map, Lecce stretched all the way to the sea,) and was over two-thousand years old, but it sure felt that way.

After winding their way through some busy streets, and narrowly avoiding being hit by oncoming traffic and constantly dodging people's vespas, they decided to eat out some place using some mortal money that Leo had given them for the rest of the day. They ate at a small corner side restaurant called Mario's (which Nico found quite ironic,) and Jason asked the waiter there some good places for an average tourist to check out.

At first he seemed to look uncomfortable telling unaccompanied minors where to go, but finally he said in a thick Italian accent, "The Roman Amphitheatre is not too far from here." He circled it on the map in blue pen, and once they had finished their meal, (Nico had pasta, Frank had spaghetti, and Jason had some pepperoni and olive pizza,) they made their way there.

Fortunately, it wasn't all that far off from where they had eaten, so they didn't get too lost, though they had to ask direction once or twice from friendly strangers. So far there had been no monster attacks, which was surprisingly optimistic, but Nico couldn't help shake the feeling like they were being watched. None of the three pre-adolescent guys talked while they walked, all of them being too preoccupied with their own thoughts, but all the same there was an uneasy silence in the air.

Nico was glad when they finally found what they had been looking for. Surrounded on three sides by long wide cobblestone roads, the Amphitheatre was nothing all that spectacular in demigod standards, with arches, broken pillars and broken stairways shooting out of the grassy/earthy ground, where the foundations of the Amphitheatre had been in days long past. A large ring of seats lay in one of the corners, and a sizeable brick building encircled one section of the Amphitheatre, with the words, ISTITUTO NAZIONALE ASSICURAZIONI inscribed on it in black letters, which Nico eventually translated roughly to, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR INSURANCE. There was a modern clock tower connected to this, and facing one side of this building there was a limestone arch, flanked by a large column resting on a pedestal, with a Roman bishop holding a sceptre in his left hand, while his right hand was raised palm out,and index finger crooked slightly in a sign of blessing.

The three young half-bloods leaned nonchalantly against the railing, which had stone X's as supports, some more worn than others, and looked at the ancient sight before them. Nico realized Annabeth would have loved this, and that just brought a bitter taste to his mouth. He wondered how Percy and Annabeth were faring, and how Annabeth's ankle was holding up. Nico really hadn't gotten to know Annabeth over the years. But what he had seen of her, he knew that she could hold her own in a fight.

Finally Jason spoke up, breaking Nico's train of thought. "We can't stay here all day. Come on, we should start to head back and see if Leo's done with the ship-"

Jason turned to leave, then froze, pulled out his golden denarius coin, tossed it in his hand and it turned into his trusty Imperial golden gladius. Frank drew his sword also, and Nico reached for his Stygian iron blade, and cursing realized he had left it aboard the Argo II. He turned to see who this new foe could be.

Standing in front of them was a man dressed in full golden armour, with a quite terrifyingly accurate gorgon's head helmet, and a sword that looked very similar to Jason's. He leaned apathetically on the hilt of this, as if he had all the time in the world, which considering the mere size of him, he probably did.

"Not you again!" Jason growled, pointing his weapon at the golden figure's chest. "I thought we lost you in the Mediterranean!"

Nico vaguely remember Hazel mentioning something about this very same warrior, but his brain was suddenly very scattered and confused.

"Yes, Jason Grace," he said in a weird, sibilant, middle-eastern sounding accent. "It is I, Chrysaor!"

Frank suddenly seemed to panic, and turned into a dolphin, which Nico thought didn't really help their situation all that much, and would have been funny, if they weren't in the middle of a city, with no water in sight whatsoever.

Chrysaor laughed, a harsh grating sound, and said menacingly, "Is that the best you can do, Frank Zhang? I will bring her head back to Gaea on a silver platter!"

"Wait a minute," said Jason, as if finally cluing in to something they had all missed. "Last time we faced you us you had your stupid dolphin friends. But now you face us alone; why is that?"

Chrysaor growled angrily, "You impudent young hero, behold, Chrysaor's newly improved army!"

The "Golden Boy" snapped his fingers, and immediately all the tourists around the three demigods eyes turned golden and lifeless. They turned toward them, and in unison said in a metallic, grating voice, "Jason Grace, Frank Zhang, Nico di Angelo, prepare to face your death."

"Eidolons," Jason said his voice dry.

Frank, now human, gulped nervously. Nico had briefly heard about the stupid possessing spirits, and how Piper had done an exorcism with her charmspeak on Jason, Percy and Leo, and forced the eidolons possessing them to swear on the River Styx never to posses another one of the crew again; Nico now suddenly hoped he was on that list as well.

"Yes, fear the minions of Gaea!" Chrysaor said victoriously. "Now see the fate of your two comrades in Tartarus and despair!"

Before anyone could react to that shocking statement, Chrysaor took his sword and stabbed it into the cobblestone road, then withdrew it just as quickly. At first nothing happened. Then slowly but surely, a dark scene appeared in the ground. With a start Nico saw that he was looking into Tartarus, and two small figures were stumbling their way through that evil place. Suddenly the image focused up close, and Nico could see the frightened faces of Percy and Annabeth painstakingly making their way through the darkness, illuminated by the glow of Percy's sword, Riptide, and Annabeth's bronze dagger.

Behind them a large bloated shape followed them hissing in absolute hatred. Percy quickly pivoted and turned to face the thing, swinging Riptide as hard as he could against the monster's skull. It disintegrated into powdered dust, but immediately began to reform. Percy cursed and turned to Annabeth. She looked terrible. Her face was completely pale. She was scratched and bleeding in multiple places, and Percy didn't look much better. She tried to go on, but tripped, couldn't regain her balance, and fell, losing her grip on her dagger, which clattered away into the darkness. She cried out in pain, and Percy helped her up. By this time, the giant monster-was that a spider? - had mostly put itself back together. Nico wanted to yell at them to look out, but he knew he could do nothing but watch in horror as the spider shot a strand of web at Annabeth's broken leg, and snagged her by it. She screamed in terror and agony, and Percy hacked at the web, but he was to slow. Annabeth was gone. Chrysoar swiped his balde through the image and it dissolved, and the cobblestone reformed, and Chrysaor was standing over them, smirking in distaste. The last thing Nico saw before the scene faded into nothing, was Percy holding both Riptide, and Annabeth's dagger, and plunging into the darkness.

Nico felt a sudden rage well up inside him. Who did this jerk-face think he was showing them their worst fears and acting so tough and heartless about the whole situation in general? Before he could act on this impulse however, and probably do something rash and stupid that he'd regret later, Jason whispered to him out of the corner of his mouth, "We can take him together Nico, don't worry."

"Not with all those eidolons around," Nico pointed out. How could they get rid of all those eidolons without hurting the mortals? The ghost of an idea began to filter into Nico's cunning mind. It was a crazy idea sure, but it might just work.

"I will face him," Nico said, a little louder than he had meant to.

"What was that?" Chrysaor said, focusing on Nico's face.

"I said," he replied, stepping forward." I will face you. We'll be one on one and it'll be to the death. I swear this on the River Styx."

Before he could go nay further, Jason grabbed his shoulder, and whispered more urgently now, "Uh Nico? Are you sure about this? You do realize-"

"Yeah I know," Nico said, shrugging off Jason's hand. "Don't worry I've got this. I am a son of Hades after all." Nico smiled sheepishly at Jason, and he seemed to relax a little bit. Even Frank, who hadn't liked Nico from the beginning, seemed to look a little less worried, which just made Nico feel guilty. Why was he doing this? It's not like he had anything to prove. Yes, the other side of his brain said. You do. Whatever the reason was, he would still go through with it, even if it would claim his life. Who knows, maybe even his father would be watching him. He doubted that was so, but he still willed himself to believe so.

"If you need any back up," Jason murmured in his ear. "If I see Chrysaor is going to win, swear or not, I'm going to help you know matter what. Got it Frank?" Jason looked up at the son of Mars, his eyes pleading him to say yes. Frank must of had good ears, or could read minds/emotions really well, because he muttered back,

"Sure, whatever." But he didn't he didn't look too thrilled about it.

Nico was actually kind of surprised, (which he really shouldn't be,) that Frank would actually do that for him, even if Jason made him. Maybe he still felt guitly aobut treating Nico so badly. He wondered now more than ever what his sister had talked to Frank about, that made him like htis.

"I've got this." Nico said, then took a deep breath, and moved closer towards his opponent.

"Do you agree to my terms?" Nico asked.

Chrysaor hissed, and Nico almost thought that he could feel his fear, but as quickly as it had come it was gone, and he answered confidently, "I agree to your terms, Nico di Angelo. Though you are not Percy Jackson," (at that point he spit out the words as if they were poison) "I will face you anyway. I never step down to a challenge. However, I see you have no weapon. I will not fight an unarmed opponent."

"Well that's just too bad for you then isn't it?" Nico snapped, grinding his teeth together impatiently. "Will you fight me or not Fish boy?"

That did it. Chryasor snarled angrily and said, "Very well then son of Hades, scum of the Underworld. Your father will not save you this time!"

He snapped his fingers again, but this time instead of eidolons, the Amphitheatre rebuilt itself, piece by piece, brick by brick. Nico was suddenly standing on a lightly sanded, beige-coloured limestone semi-oval, Chrysaor directly across from him. The eidolons lined the seats, and Jason and Frank sat at the end closest him, their bodies tensed, ready for action in case the fight went awry or not to their liking.

"I will enjoy making you bleed, death spawn. Prepare to die!"

"Your move," Nico said, looking Jason in the eyes. He nodded. He was as ready as they all were.

Suddenly Jason's face was masked with terror, and he yelled over the hissing of the possessed, "Look out!"

Nico turned on the soles of his feet, just to see Chrysaor making his way towards him at a starling speed.

Here goes nothing, he thought grimly.

Chrysaor charged.

IV

Nico

Right before Chrysaor came down him, Nico made his move. Throwing himself down, he slid through Chrysaor's armoured legs. He was momentarily confused, but not for long. Propelled forward by the force of his charge Chrysaor went flying out of the ring, and smashed into a column, with a loud yell of rage. However, he was not fazed. Struggling upwards, he dusted himself off and laughed amusedly,

"Is that all you can muster di Angelo!" He leaped, higher than should have been possible, and landed feet first on the stage.

"And now for the grand finale!" Chrysaor said sweeping his hand dramatically in the air. Nico went into a fighting stance and Chrysaor changed tactics. He circled Nico, looking for an open spot, which there was a lot of. Swinging his blade experimentally, Chryasor began to move his sword at an alarming rate, spinning it in large blurred controlled circles like he was hewing wheat in a field, and getting ever closer to his target with each pass of his blade.

Nico suddenly felt naked and useless. He wished more than ever that he had a sword like Percy's which returned to his pocket when he lost it. But he didn't. He had wanted to put this part of the plan into action at a later point, but it was starting to look like he was running out of options. Raising his hands into the sky and swaying back in forth as if in a trance he cried authoritatively in Ancient Greek, "Eidolons! Spirits of the dead! Answer my call! Come to my aid!"

At first, nothing happened. Chrysaor laughed mockingly, saying, "Ha! You fool! You cannot control the minions of Gaea!"

Please dad, Nico pleaded. Please help me in my time of need.

Chrysaor had become more cautious, but was getting dangerously close. Nico could feel the air around him being disturbed by each arc of sword, which was not a good sign.

This is it, Nico thought bitterly. I've failed.

As if out of the blue there was a loud groan as of a sudden wind, and then Nico was very far from alone. The eidolons hovered around him in spirit form, hissing with a sound like the grinding of metal, their pale golden eyes surveying the scene as if it were not unfamiliar to them. Hundreds of eyes turned upon Nico, and he couldn't help the shiver he felt go up his spine. Man, sometimes his powers were really darn creepy.

"We serve the master of the dead; the 'Ghost King'! "they intoned in their hollow voices, staring deep into the son of Hades's eyes, as if they were looknig deep into his soul, or waiting for a command. Nico shuddered. Yeah, he was pretty creepy all right. Silently he thanked his father, then to the eidolons he said, "Eidolons, fulfil your oath and fight this man, and you will be rewarded."

This was followed by a harsh grinding noise, and then the eidolons went to work, swarming over Chrysaor unmercifully. Puzzled mortals tried to leave their seats, but Chrysaor snapped his fingers and said, "Eidolons possess!" But if the eidolons even heard him, nothing happened, and the free spectators continued to walk around in a daze.

"Nooooooo!" Chrysaor wailed and let out an ear-splitting shriek, as he was raised into the air above the Amphitheatre by the spirits. "This cannot be! The Earth-Mother promised me! She promised!"

"Gaea has no control over the air, Golden Boy!" Nico growled. "Eidolons-drop him!"

"Nooooo!" he continued to plead, then, "Wait! I have information; information about your friends!"

Nico hesitated. He looked over at Frank and Jason who were stunned with shock and probably horror; he didn't blame them. What if Chrysaor was bluffing though? It wasn't unlikely. And besides; he didn't know which friends Chrysoar was speaking of, (most like Percy and Annabeth, but he wasn't one hundred percent positive on that fact.) Should he trust this monster/man/whatever he was?

"Master…shall we… execute?"the eidolons inquired expectantly.

Nico was about to answer, but that hesitation had been just long enough for the half-son of Poseidon to put his plan into action. A giant title wave sprang out of nowhere, and hit the eidolons dead on, and they shrieked horrifically in their strange ghost voices. Using the momentous force of the wave, Chrysaor launched himself forward, and at the last second dive rolled to safety. Nico wasn't so lucky. A ten foot wave hit him like a fist, and sent him flying backwards. He slammed into the railing with a sickening thud! and collapsed in a heap on the ground. He nearly passed out, and when he regained consciousness Chrysaor was advancing toward him, laughing hysterically.

Stepping down off the centre stage, he sauntered in no hurry whatsoever towards Nico's prostrate form. Picking him up by the collar of his shirt, he hissed vehemently, "No one can defeat me."

Nico knew he was done for. He didn't risk asking for more of his father than he already had, and besides, what could he do to save him? Send a giant skeletal chariot out of the sky, to head butt the golden jerk? Though that would be rather amusing, Nico doubted that would ever happen.

Just as Chrysaor prepared for the final thrust that would end Nico's life, he felt a sharp, urgent tug in his stomach. In disbelief Nico reach out his hand, and his Stygian iron blade came rocketing out of the earth, and into Nico's open grip narrowly deflecting Chrysaor's blow.

"You lose, you Midas wannabe." Nico growled, and stabbed him right through the eye. The noise that emanated from his mouth was so horrible that Nico's head hurt. It was the sound of an enraged and wounded animal in its death throes. Nico dropped to the ground, and immediately ran for the steps leading up onto the stage. Once Chrysaor had gotten over the initial shock and confusion of having been stabbed in the eye, he wasted no time to join Nico, who was feeling more confident by the minute.

"You're fast, son of Hades," Chrysaor admitted grudgingly, "But not fast enough!" and with one hand still covering his bleeding eye, the son of Medusa charged infuriatingly, and swung his sword haphazardly, as well as blindly, his snake hair heads hissing in anger. Nico knew that Chrysaor was getting sloppier and less rational in his battle tactics, (Nico had assumed his first charge was to test Nico's battle skills,) but guessed that he still would not fall for the same trick twice, so he just barely feinted a roll, but instead sidestepped, as Chrysaor came barrelling past him like a freight train, cursing in Ancient Greek. When he had finally checked himself, he was breathing heavily, and wiping profusely at his eye, Chrysaor had tired of the bull fight maneuver Instead, he simply jumped as high as he could, and slammed the blade of his enchanted gold weapon into the wooden planking below. Nico easily avoided this, and scrambled up his back like a monkey, attempting to pry open his helmet and stab him in the neck. Realizing a split-second before he attempted it, that that would be rather fatal and stupid, and wasn't to thrilled about the idea of playing "bucking Bronco" with a man in full golden armour, he grabbed him in a choke-hold instead, and hung on for dear life. He had been attempting to slit Chrysaor's throat, but the golden-armoured man merely just bellowed in outrage, and pulled Nico off his back and threw him like a rag doll across the stage. The pain in Nico's back increased, and once gain he was stuck in the fetal position. This time however, he was ready. Raising his hand up, a chariot burst out from beneath the surface of the Amphitheatre, pulled by two skeletal horses, and yes, kicked Chrysaor in the back of the noggin. He collapsed with a loud "Oomph!" and Nico immediately hopped in the flying mobile, calling to his stunned friends,

"Come on! All aboard the Nico express before Mr. Goldilocks there gets up."

Climbing into the chariot, the three friends took off, with Nico in the front riding, and Jason and Frank in the back. Soon they were gone, leaving a howling, cursing and wounded warrior in both body and pride, alone in the deserted Ampitheatre. Nico did his best to drive, but he soon realized how exhausted he was, and let Frank take the reins, (after all he was a son of Mars, but he still didn't look all two happy about it,) and curled up into a ball. Before he drifted off to sleep, Jason nudged him, and said, "You did a good job back there."

Nico was surprised, and looked up at Jason saying, "I thought you hated me."

Jason snorted. "Me? Hate you? Nah, of course not! You see...it's something you said earlier, uh about-" Jason turned his face away, and Nico could swear he was blushing.

"About what?" Nico asked, but then it dawned on him; of course! Nico had said that Percy was a better demigod than Jason! No wonder he had been acting so weird towards him. That and combined with the whole Percy, Annabeth thing, he could understand why Jason would fell the way he did.

"It's okay man," Nico said. "I'm sorry about what I said, it's just I've known Percy so long and now that he's gone-" His voice cracked. "Well I'm really sorry about what I said, honestly. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Truce?"

The ghost of a smile hovered on Jason's lip, one of which had been scarred when he had tried to eat a staple when he was little. "Truce. And hey, of what I've seen of him, Percy's a really cool guy. Don't worry we'll get them back. I can understand how you think he's cooler than me and all that. And just for the record, I was going to help you when Chrysaor had in you in his clutches; but then I saw you had it under control."

Was that admiration in his voice? Jealously? Nico couldn't be sure, but he appreciated the comment about Percy. "Oh yeah," Jason added quickly. "I was also ready to save you the second time as well, and Frank was in it with me. He doesn't think your so bad by the way." Wiping away a threatening tear, Nico asked smugly, "What do you think about that Frank?"

He muttered something unintelligible, and Jason said, "I think he said he said he agrees with me."

They both laughed. Then, with exhaustion finally setting in, Nico settled down once more. Thanks dad, he silently prayed to his father, and then fell asleep to the sound of the wind in his ears, and the soft whinny of horses.