I'm presenting you with my favorite part in The Son of Neptune.
AFTER THAT, THE BATTLE WAS MAYHEM.
Frank, Percy and Hazel waded through the enemy,
ploughing down anyone who stood in their way. The First
and Second Cohorts – pride of Camp Jupiter, a well-oiled,
highly disciplined war machine – fell apart under the
assault and the sheer novelty of being on the losing side.
Part of their problem was Percy. He fought like a
demon, whirling through the defenders’ ranks in a
completely unorthodox style, rolling under their feet,
slashing with his sword instead of stabbing like a Roman
would, whacking campers with the flat of his blade and
generally causing mass panic. Octavian screamed in a
shrill voice – maybe ordering the First Cohort to stand
their ground, maybe trying to sing soprano – but Percy put
a stop to it. He somersaulted over a line of shields and
slammed the butt of his sword into Octavian’s helmet. The
centurion collapsed like a sock puppet.
Frank shot arrows until his quiver was empty, using
blunt-tipped missiles that wouldn’t kill but left some nasty
bruises. He broke his pilum over a defender’s head, then
reluctantly drew his gladius.
Meanwhile, Hazel climbed onto Hannibal’s back. She
charged towards the centre of the fort, grinning down at her
friends. ‘Let’s go, slowpokes!’
Gods of Olympus, she’s beautiful, Frank thought.
They ran to the centre of the base. The inner keep was
virtually unguarded. Obviously the defenders never
dreamed an assault would get this far. Hannibal busted
down the huge doors. Inside, the First and Second Cohort
standard-bearers were sitting around a table playing
Mythomagic with cards and figurines. The cohort’s
emblems were propped carelessly against one wall.
Hazel and Hannibal rode straight into the room, and the
standard-bearers fell backwards out of their chairs.
Hannibal stepped on the table, and game pieces
By the time the rest of the cohort caught up with them,
Percy and Frank had disarmed the enemies, grabbed the
banners and climbed onto Hannibal’s back with Hazel.
They marched out of the keep triumphantly with the
The Fifth Cohort formed ranks around them. Together
they paraded out of the fort, past stunned enemies and
lines of equally mystified allies.
Reyna circled low overhead on her pegasus. ‘The
game is won!’ She sounded as if she were trying not to
laugh. ‘Assemble for honours!’
Slowly the campers regrouped on the Field of Mars.
Frank saw plenty of minor injuries – some burns, broken
bones, black eyes, cuts and gashes, plus a lot of very
interesting hairdos from fires and exploding water
cannons – but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.
He slid off the elephant. His comrades swarmed him,
pounding him on the back and complimenting him. Frank
wondered if he was dreaming. It was the best night of his
life – until he saw Gwen.
‘Help!’ somebody yelled. A couple of campers rushed
out of the fortress, carrying a girl on a stretcher. They set
her down, and other kids started running over. Even from
a distance, Frank could tell it was Gwen. She was in bad
shape. She lay on her side on the stretcher with a pilum
sticking out of her armour – almost like she was holding it
between her chest and her arm, but there was too much
Frank shook his head in disbelief. ‘No, no, no …’ he
muttered as he ran to her side.
The medics barked at everyone to stand back and give
her air. The whole legion fell silent as the healers worked
– trying to get gauze and powdered unicorn horn under
Gwen’s armour to stop the bleeding, trying to force some
nectar into her mouth. Gwen didn’t move. Her face was
Finally one of the medics looked up at Reyna and
shook his head.
For a moment, there was no sound except water from
the ruined cannons trickling down the walls of the fort.
Hannibal nuzzled Gwen’s hair with his trunk.
Reyna surveyed the campers from her pegasus. Her
expression was as hard and dark as iron. ‘There will be an
investigation. Whoever did this, you cost the legion a
good officer. Honourable death is one thing, but this …’
Frank wasn’t sure what she meant. Then he noticed the
marks engraved in the wooden shaft of the pilum: CHT I
LEGIO XII F. The weapon belonged to the First Cohort, and
the point was sticking out the front of her armour. Gwen
had been speared from behind – possibly after the game
Frank scanned the crowd for Octavian. The centurion
was watching with more interest than concern, as if he
were examining one of his stupid gutted teddy bears. He
didn’t have a pilum.
Blood roared in Frank’s ears. He wanted to strangle
Octavian with his bare hands, but at that moment, Gwen
Everyone stepped back. Gwen opened her eyes. The
colour came back to her face.
‘Wh-what is it?’ She blinked. ‘What’s everyone staring
at?’ She didn’t seem to notice the seven-foot harpoon
sticking out through her chest.
Behind Frank, a medic whispered, ‘There’s no way. She
was dead. She has to be dead.’
Gwen tried to sit up, but couldn’t. ‘There was a river, and
a man asking … for a coin? I turned around and the exit
door was open. So I just … I just left. I don’t understand.
Everyone stared at her in horror. Nobody tried to help.
‘Gwen.’ Frank knelt next to her. ‘Don’t try to get up. Just
close your eyes for a second, okay?’
‘Why? What –’
‘Just trust me.’
Gwen did what he asked.
Frank grabbed the shaft of the pilum below its tip, but
his hands were shaking. The wood was slick. ‘Percy, Hazel
– help me.’
One of the medics realized what he was planning.
‘Don’t!’ he said. ‘You might –’
‘What?’ Hazel snapped. ‘Make it worse?’
Frank took a deep breath. ‘Hold her steady. One, two,
He pulled the pilum out from the front. Gwen didn’t even
wince. The blood stopped quickly.
Hazel bent down to examine the wound. ‘It’s closing on
its own,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how, but –’
‘I feel fine,’ Gwen protested. ‘What’s everyone worried
With Frank and Percy’s help, she got to her feet. Frank
glowered at Octavian, but the centurion’s face was a mask
of polite concern.
Later, Frank thought. Deal with him later.
‘Gwen,’ Hazel said gently, ‘there’s no easy way to say
this. You were dead. Somehow you came back.’
‘I … what?’ She stumbled against Frank. Her hand
pressed against the ragged hole in her armour. ‘How –
‘Good question.’ Reyna turned to Nico, who was
watching grimly from the edge of the crowd. ‘Is this some
power of Pluto?’
Nico shook his head. ‘Pluto never lets people return
from the dead.’
He glanced at Hazel as if warning her to stay quiet.
Frank wondered what that was about, but he didn’t have
time to think about it.
A thunderous voice rolled across the field: DEATH
LOSES ITS HOLD. THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING.
Campers drew weapons. Hannibal trumpeted
nervously. Scipio reared, almost throwing Reyna.
‘I know that voice,’ Percy said. He didn’t sound pleased.
In the midst of the legion, a column of fire blasted into
the air. Heat seared Frank’s eyelashes. Campers who had
been soaked by the cannons found their clothes instantly
steam-dried. Everyone scrambled backwards as a huge
soldier stepped out of the explosion.
Frank didn’t have much hair, but what he did have stood
straight up. The soldier was ten feet tall, dressed in
Canadian Forces desert camouflage. He radiated
confidence and power. His black hair was cut in a flattopped
wedge like Frank’s. His face was angular and
brutal, marked with old knife scars. His eyes were covered
with infrared goggles that glowed from inside. He wore a
utility belt with a sidearm, a knife holster and several
grenades. In his hands was an oversized M16 rifle.
The worst thing was that Frank felt drawn to him. As
everyone else stepped back, Frank stepped forward. He
realized the soldier was silently willing him to approach.
Frank desperately wanted to run away and hide, but he
couldn’t. He took three more steps. Then he sank to one
The other campers followed his example and knelt.
Even Reyna dismounted.
‘That’s good,’ the soldier said. ‘Kneeling is good. It’s
been a long time since I’ve visited Camp Jupiter.’
Frank noticed that one person wasn’t kneeling. Percy
Jackson, his sword still in hand, was glaring at the giant
‘You’re Ares,’ Percy said. ‘What do you want?’
A collective gasp went up from two hundred campers
and an elephant. Frank wanted to say something to
excuse Percy and placate the god, but he didn’t know
what. He was afraid the war god would blast his new friend
with that extra-large M16.
Instead, the god bared his brilliant white teeth.
‘You’ve got spunk, demigod,’ he said. ‘Ares is my Greek
form. But to these followers, to the children of Rome, I am
Mars – patron of the empire, divine father of Romulus and
‘We’ve met,’ Percy said. ‘We … we had a fight …’
The god scratched his chin, as if trying to recall. ‘I fight
a lot of people. But I assure you – you’ve never fought me
as Mars. If you had, you’d be dead. Now, kneel, as befits a
child of Rome, before you try my patience.’
Around Mars’s feet, the ground boiled in a circle of
‘Percy,’ Frank said, ‘please.’
Percy clearly didn’t like it, but he knelt.
Mars scanned the crowd. ‘Romans, lend me your ears!’
He laughed – a good, hearty bellow, so infectious it
almost made Frank smile, though he was still shivering
with fear. ‘I’ve always wanted to say that. I come from
Olympus with a message. Jupiter doesn’t like us
communicating directly with mortals, especially
nowadays, but he has allowed this exception, as you
Romans have always been my special people. I’m only
permitted to speak for a few minutes, so listen up.’
He pointed at Gwen. ‘This one should be dead, yet
she’s not. The monsters you fight no longer return to
Tartarus when they are slain. Some mortals who died long
ago are now walking the earth again.’
Was it Frank’s imagination, or did the god glare at Nico
‘Thanatos has been chained,’ Mars announced. ‘The
Doors of Death have been forced open, and no one is
policing them – at least, not impartially. Gaia allows our
enemies to pour forth into the world of mortals. Her sons
the giants are mustering armies against you – armies that
you will not be able to kill. Unless Death is unleashed to
return to his duties, you will be overrun. You must find
Thanatos and free him from the giants. Only he can
reverse the tide.’
Mars looked around, and noticed that everyone was still
silently kneeling. ‘Oh, you can get up now. Any
Reyna rose uneasily. She approached the god,
followed by Octavian, who was bowing and scraping like a
‘Lord Mars,’ Reyna said, ‘we are honoured.’
‘Beyond honoured,’ said Octavian. ‘So far beyond
‘Well?’ Mars snapped.
‘Well,’ Reyna said, ‘Thanatos is the god of death, the
lieutenant of Pluto?’
‘Right,’ the god said.
‘And you’re saying that he’s been captured by giants.’
‘And therefore people will stop dying?’
‘Not all at once,’ Mars said. ‘But the barriers between life
and death will continue to weaken. Those who know how to
take advantage of this will exploit it. Monsters are already
harder to dispatch. Soon they will be completely
impossible to kill. Some demigods will also be able to find
their way back from the Underworld – like your friend
Centurion Shish Kebab.’
Gwen winced. ‘Centurion Shish Kebab?’
‘If left unchecked,’ Mars continued, ‘even mortals will
eventually find it impossible to die. Can you imagine a
world in which no one dies – ever?’
Octavian raised his hand. ‘But, ah, mighty all-powerful
Lord Mars, if we can’t die, isn’t that a good thing? If we can
stay alive indefinitely –’
‘Don’t be foolish, boy!’ Mars bellowed. ‘Endless
slaughter with no conclusion? Carnage without any point?
Enemies that rise again and again and can never be
killed? Is that what you want?’
‘You’re the god of war,’ Percy spoke up. ‘Don’t you want
Mars’s infrared goggles glowed brighter. ‘Insolent, aren’t
you? Perhaps I have fought you before. I can understand
why I’d want to kill you. I’m the god of Rome, child. I am the
god of military might used for a righteous cause. I protect
the legions. I am happy to crush my enemies underfoot,
but I don’t fight without reason. I don’t want war without end.
You will discover this. You will serve me.’
‘Not likely,’ Percy said.
Again, Frank waited for the god to strike him down, but
Mars just grinned like they were two old buddies talking
‘I order a quest!’ the god announced. ‘You will go north
and find Thanatos in the land beyond the gods. You will
free him and thwart the plans of the giants. Beware Gaia!
Beware her son, the eldest giant!’
Next to Frank, Hazel made a squeaking sound. ‘The
land beyond the gods?’
Mars stared down at her, his grip tightening on his M16.
‘That’s right, Hazel Levesque. You know what I mean.
Everyone here remembers the land where the legion lost
its honour! Perhaps if the quest succeeds, and you return
by the Feast of Fortuna … perhaps then your honour will
be restored. If you don’t succeed, there won’t be any camp
left to return to. Rome will be overrun, its legacy lost
forever. So my advice is: don’t fail.’
Octavian somehow managed to bow even lower. ‘Um,
Lord Mars, just one tiny thing. A quest requires a
prophecy, a mystical poem to guide us! We used to get
them from the Sibylline books, but now it’s up to the augur
to glean the will of gods. So if I could just run and get
about seventy stuffed animals and possibly a knife –’
‘You’re the augur?’ the god interrupted.
‘Y-yes, my lord.’
Mars pulled a scroll from his utility belt. ‘Anyone got a
The legionnaires stared at him.
Mars sighed. ‘Two hundred Romans, and no one’s got a
pen? Never mind!’
He slung his M16 onto his back and pulled out a hand
grenade. There were many screaming Romans. Then the
grenade morphed into a ballpoint pen, and Mars began to
Frank looked at Percy with wide eyes. He mouthed: Can
your sword do grenade form?
Percy mouthed back, No. Shut up.
‘There!’ Mars finished writing and threw the scroll at
Octavian. ‘A prophecy. You can add it to your books,
engrave it on your floor, whatever.’
Octavian read the scroll. ‘This says, “Go to Alaska. Find
Thanatos and free him. Come back by sundown on June
twenty-fourth or die.”’
‘Yes,’ Mars said. ‘Is that not clear?’
‘Well, my lord … usually prophecies are unclear.
They’re wrapped in riddles. They rhyme, and …’
Mars casually popped another grenade off his belt.
‘The prophecy is clear!’ Octavian announced. ‘A quest!’
‘Good answer.’ Mars tapped the grenade to his chin.
‘Now, what else? There was something else … Oh, yes.’
He turned to Frank. ‘C’mere, kid.’
No, Frank thought. The burnt stick in his coat pocket felt
heavier. His legs turned wobbly. A sense of dread settled
over him, worse than the day the military officer had come
to the door.
He knew what was coming, but he couldn’t stop it. He
stepped forward against his will.
Mars grinned. ‘Nice job taking the wall, kid. Who’s the
ref for this game?’
Reyna raised her hand.
‘You see that play, ref?’ Mars demanded. ‘That was my
kid. First over the wall, won the game for his team. Unless
you’re blind, that was an MVP play. You’re not blind, are
Reyna looked like she was trying to swallow a mouse.
‘No, Lord Mars.’
‘Then make sure he gets the Mural Crown,’ Mars
demanded. ‘My kid, here!’ he yelled at the legion, in case
anyone hadn’t heard. Frank wanted to melt into the dirt.
‘Emily Zhang’s son,’ Mars continued. ‘She was a good
soldier. Good woman. This kid Frank proved his stuff
tonight. Happy late birthday, kid. Time you stepped up to
a real man’s weapon.’
He tossed Frank his M16. For a split second Frank
thought he’d be crushed under the weight of the massive
assault rifle, but the gun changed in midair, becoming
smaller and thinner. When Frank caught it, the weapon
was a spear. It had a shaft of Imperial gold and a strange
point like a white bone, flickering with ghostly light.
‘The tip is a dragon’s tooth,’ Mars said. ‘You haven’t
learned to use your mom’s talents yet, have you? Well –
that spear will give you some breathing room until you do.
You get three charges out of it, so use it wisely.’
Frank didn’t understand, but Mars acted like the matter
was closed. ‘Now, my kid Frank Zhang is gonna lead the
quest to free Thanatos, unless there are any objections?’
Of course, no one said a word. But many of the
campers glared at Frank with envy, jealousy, anger,
‘You can take two companions,’ Mars said. ‘Those are
the rules. One of them needs to be this kid.’
He pointed at Percy. ‘He’s gonna learn some respect
for Mars on this trip, or die trying. As for the second, I don’t
care. Pick whomever you want. Have one of your senate
debates. You all are good at those.’
The god’s image flickered. Lightning crackled across
‘That’s my cue,’ Mars said. ‘Until next time, Romans. Do
not disappoint me!’
The god erupted in flames, and then he was gone.
Reyna turned towards Frank. Her expression was part
amazement, part nausea, like she’d finally managed to
swallow that mouse. She raised her arm in a Roman
salute. ‘Ave, Frank Zhang, son of Mars.’
The whole legion followed her lead, but Frank didn’t
want their attention any more. His perfect night had been
Mars was his father. The god of war was sending him to
Alaska. Frank had been handed more than a spear for his
birthday. He’d been handed a death sentence.
MY favorite chapter, especially the part I bolded and italicized in the beginning.
I know, it's long. If you have the book, you can just find chapter 12, or XII