Mira, Leo, and Cal stood together back in the entry hall, where Cal shared some heartwarming stories about the destruction of a hockey team, sponsored by the Odysseus Pizza Company. Other than sharing a lot of worried looks with each other, Leo and Mira were in their own worlds.
Mira was shivering out of her mind when Piper and Jason came back. Both of them were tense, and Mira could tell their interaction with Boreas hadn't gone as well as they had hoped. As the details of what happened in the throne room slowly creeped up on Mira, her eyes widened.
Why was she remembering what happened after it happened? It was as if someone was holding back her memories the way you put a leash on a pet. The stuff she wanted to remember, she couldn't, but everything else came to her mind the minute it became useless.
Festus, who had been brought back to normal was sitting behind Leo and Mira. He kept snorting fire over his scales to keep himself defrosted, and Mira wanted to go cuddle with him. She didn't want to seem completely useless though, so she stood quietly next to Cal as he tried to (as eloquently as he possibly could) describe the great victory of the Odysseus' Giants, his heavenly hockey team.
Leo was the first to notice Piper and Jason. More like the goddess escorting them, but Mira paid him no mind. As Khione led Mira's friends down the stairs, Leo started combing his hair back with his hands. Mira raised an eyebrow at him. Was he just pretending to seem like himself?
At the bottom step, Khione turned to Piper. “You have fooled my father, girl. But you have not fooled me. We are not done. And you, Jason Grace, I will see you as a statue in the throne room soon enough.”
“Boreas is right,” Jason said. “You’re a spoiled kid. See you around, ice princess.”
Khione’s eyes flared pure white. For once, she seemed at a loss for words. She stormed back up the stairs—literally. Mira sighed a breath of relief when halfway up, she turned into a blizzard and disappeared.
“Be careful,” Zethes warned, coming up from behind Jason. “She never forgets an insult.”
Cal grunted in agreement. “Bad sister.”
“She’s the goddess of snow,” Jason said. “What’s she going to do, throw snowballs at us?”
"I don't think that's the kind of goddess she is, Jason." Mira winced.
Leo looked devastated. “What happened up there? You made her mad? Is she mad at me too? Guys, that was my prom date!”
Mira suddenly doubted whether the seven would ever end up going to prom, anyway. As depressing as the thought was, she couldn't help but feel all the guilt and panic building up inside of her again.
“We’ll explain later,” Piper promised, but when she glanced at Jason, it was clear she expected him to explain. But Mira wouldn't need his explanation. She was the queen of remembering stuff she should already know at the last minute.
From her newfound memory, Mira remembered Boreas had turned into his Roman version, Aquilon, thanks to Jason. He understood what Hera was planning, combining the two camps, and didn't think it would work. Basically, he was just really creepy about the whole thing.
Jason looked away from Piper, turning to us. “Yeah,” he agreed, “we’ll explain later.”
“Be careful, pretty girl,” Zethes said to Piper. “The winds between here and Chicago are bad-tempered. Many other evil things are stirring. I am sorry you will not be staying. You would make a lovely ice statue, in which I could check my reflection.”
“Thanks,” Piper said. “But I’d sooner play hockey with Cal.”
“Hockey?” Cal’s eyes lit up.
“Joking,” Piper said. “And the storm winds aren’t our worst problem, are they?”
“Oh, no,” Zethes agreed. “Something else. Something worse.”
“Worse,” Cal and Mira echoed. Mira was quieter, and thankfully no one seemed to notice her. She needed to stop acting on impulse, or even the people who trusted her now could turn their backs on her.
“Can you tell me?” Piper gave Cal a smile.
This time, her charm didn’t work. The purple-winged Boreads shook their heads in unison. The hangar doors opened onto a freezing starry night, and Festus, like a 6 year old, stomped his feet, anxious to fly.
“Ask Aeolus what is worse,” Zethes said darkly. “He knows. Good luck.”
He almost sounded like he cared what happened to them, even though a few minutes ago he’d wanted to make Piper into an ice sculpture.
Cal patted Leo on the shoulder. “Don’t get destroyed,” he said, which was probably the longest sentence he’d ever attempted.
He then moved towards Mira, somehow managing to smile at her with a serious face. “Next time—hockey. Pizza.”
“Come on, guys.” Jason stared out at the dark. “Let’s go to Chicago and try not to get destroyed.”
Everyone was tense until Quebec City faded behind them. The first person to speak up after their first part of the quest was Jason.
“You were amazing,” Jason told Piper. Mira, still clutching desperately at Leo's jacket, turned around to give Piper a small, reassuring smile. Piper might have been going through a lot of things right now, but she was more helpful than Mira had been so far on the quest.
Piper answered Jason in French.
“What’d you say?” he asked. But Mira had an idea of what she said. Not because she remembered reading the books- but because she could just tell. As someone who was really good at hating herself, Mira could tell when someone else was being hard on themselves, too.
“I said I only talked to Boreas. It wasn’t so amazing.” She didn’t turn to look, but she imagined him smiling.
"Piper, the most diplomatic way to win someone over is by talking to them," Mira told her.
“Besides,” Jason said, “you saved me from joining Khione’s subzero hero collection. I owe you one.”
Mira heard Piper scoff under her breath. She smiled at bit at that. Given Piper's personality, she'd most probably done that out of instinct, and jealousy. After a few more minutes, Leo managed to get Festus to fly on autopilot. Without complaining one bit about Mira, he shuffled through his pack, and handed everyone some sandwiches.
He’d been quiet ever since they’d told him what happened in the throne room. “I still can’t believe Khione,” he said. “She looked so nice.”
"Did she, now?" Mira mused under her breath. Anyone could see from a mile away how evil Khione looked. Maybe Leo didn't remember everything from his past experiences. Leo shot Mira an annoyed look, but he didn't say anything.
“Trust me, man,” Jason said. “Snow may be pretty, but up close it’s cold and nasty. We’ll find you a better prom date.”
Leo didn’t look pleased. Mira could tell Piper was getting frustrated. She kept huffing and shifting around behind Mira. Mira knew she had a secret, every single one of the seven did. She didn't remember much about Piper, or the two other Roman demigods.
She couldn't remember Jason's importance at the Roman camp, just that he was a son of Zeus- er Jupiter there. She knew the pasts of everyone else- Percy and Annabeth, Leo, Nico. Why was her memory so selective?
Was this just a side effect of coming to another world? Would she forget her past, too if she stayed for too long? But if it was just a side effect, why was it so random? Did she have some sort of significance in this world? Or maybe... Someone was trying to keep her memory from her on purpose?
Mira shivered wildly at the thought.
"OK, look, I know you're afraid of heights and all, but do you really have to be so clingy?" Leo snapped. He hasn't been in the best of moods since the whole incident, but he hadn't taken his anger out on Mira till now, so she thought this was improvement.
"I thought we'd talked about this?"
"Talk? All you did was accuse me, and bring up a lot of things that didn't make sense at all!" Leo said.
He kept waving around his arms to prove his point.
"OK, OK!" Mira squeaked, as Jason tried to get them to stop arguing. "Just stop moving around, please!"
Leo rolled his eyes, and stopped, but their moods seemed to be affecting Festus, too, who grumbled and steamed as he tried to keep himself warm in the cold Canadian air. Happy the Dragon was not so happy. Piper rubbed Mira's back in circles, trying to soothe her, but she seemed to be drowning in her own thoughts.
Soon enough, they'd all finished eating in silence. The moon rose and stars turned overhead. Mira wasn't too tired. She'd taken a nap right before getting to Quebec, after all.
But it didn't seem to be the case for everyone else. Piper fell asleep against Jason, and Jason tried to stay awake to secure her, but he ended up getting some shuteye, too.
Mira couldn't help but get the feeling that the next part of the quest wasn't too far away. All of Rick's books were always so compact, after all. Events from one day equalled to 5 chapters in his series. And unfortunately for her, this was the first time she was right.
A couple hours into flying, Festus began smoking from his ears- more than usual.
"Festus? Festus, buddy, what's wrong?" Leo tried asking his metallic friend. Mira shakily held onto Festus' back as Leo leaned forward to examine him.
For a few seconds, Festus' body trembled, and Jason awoke.
"What happened?" he asked, alarmed.
"I'm not sure," Mira told him. "Leo, what's wrong?"
But before he could answer, Festus trembled some more. He suddenly jerked sideways, and all of a sudden, a feeling of weightlessness took over Mira's body. In that split second, Mira saw her entire life flash through her eyes. She really, truly believed she'd die that day.
As she tumbled down with an ear shattering scream loud enough to break some world records, she saw city lights glimmering in the early dawn. As if her body was gaining weight with every passing second, (Mira guessed it was Zeus toying with her) she defied all the laws of physics and hurtled past the bronze metal dragon she was learning to grow fond of.
With a slam into Festus' side, Mira was somehow able to catch onto the dragon. Mira wished, hoped that Festus would be able to save her. But no.
The moment Mira and Festus slammed into the ground, Festus a fireball shot into the air, surrounding Mira and Festus. Mira's face burned, sweat rolling down her forehead, but Festus saved her. He protectively placed one of his wings over Mira.
Mira ended up sprawled across the dragon's bronze hide, her head stuck in a horizontal position, and her shoulder literally oozing with pain. Mira tried getting up, but her left arm groaned, and she slipped back down.
She could hear her friends screaming in the eerie silence. Leo, screaming and frantically grabbing at the clouds. “Not coooooool!”
But none of them landed with her. Mira was all alone.
Mira had managed to stand up on Festus' back, but it didn't really help. All around her, she could only see lots and lots of smelly, discoloured sludge, in between dozens of blue plastic portable potty boxes. As far as she could see, it was in the yard of a factory, but she couldn't see farther than that. Her friends would find her she knew that. Festus wasn't meant to die yet. Even if he was, a thought which was already making Mira tear up) Leo was supposed to send his head to bunker 9, wasn't he? Mira slumped back down on Festus' back, flexing and rolling her arm around, trying to test the intensity of the injury.
She hissed when she rolled her shoulder in its socket, and decided it wasn't an injury she'd be able to treat herself. Mira got off Festus, and carefully picked her way through the mess. She didn't want to leave Festus here all alone, but she also wanted to find Leo and bring him back.
Heavy snow was coming down, but the dragon’s face, neck, and tail were dreaming hot. The hide had been coated heavily with insulators by Mira and Leo, Mira's idea, so that if any incident like this ever happened, no one would be hurt.
Mira hesitantly started walking away from the dragon when she bumped into someone. Worried they'd question her about why a kid was in a factory yard unsupervised, she turned away quickly, and straightened her shoulders, trying to seem taller.
"Mira!" a shocked voice exclaimed. Mira whipped her head around so fast she almost tripped.
"Leo!" she gasped. "Oh, thank the gods, I was just coming to look for you, Festus-"
"What happened? Are you ok? What happened to Festus?" he asked quickly, despair crossing his face. To Mira's pain and shock, he grabbed her shoulders tightly, examining her for any injuries. She stepped backwards quickly, almost falling over.
Clearing her throat, she spoke up. "Uhm I'm fine. I-"
Mira winced, not just because her shoulder was hurting but also because she wasn't sure how to break the news to Leo. "I'm not sure what happened to Festus though,"
"Where is he?" Leo asked sullenly. Mira turned around and wordlessly lead Leo back to Festus. Leo rushed over all the obstacles, disgusting as they were, and went to touch Festus' head.
Out of instinct, Mira screamed, "Careful! He's hot,"
Leo turned around and scoffed at her, raising an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Sorry, I forgot," she smiled sheepishly, walking back to Leo, shivering.
After a few minutes climbing over Festus’s inanimate body, it was clear Leo had started to get irritated. The dragon looked perfectly fine. It's body wasn’t dented at all. The fireball had come from built up gasses inside the toilet units, not from the dragon itself, which Mira didn't have to tell Leo. He figured it out himself. Festus’s wings were intact. Nothing seemed broken. There was no reason he should have stopped in midair.
But he had, and Mira's heart was still doing little flips, a hundred beats a minute because of that fall. She was feeling nauseous, and her shoulder wasn't helping with anything. She didn't think it had popped off the socket, it wasn't that painful, but she'd be able to spot a bruise even through her dusky skin.
Thankfully, besides an injured pride and shoulder Mira hadn't gotten a punishment. She didn't think that would last though. She had a feeling Zeus says just warning her this time.
“Not my fault,” he muttered. “Festus, you’re making me look bad.”
Then he opened the control panel on the dragon’s head, and Leo’s heart sank. “Oh, Festus, what the heck?”
"What happened?" Mira asked worriedly, and climbed over besides Leo to check out the damage. She didn't need to be a mechanic to know what had happened here, though.
The wiring had frozen over. It had been perfectly OK yesterday, Mira knew that. She had helped Leo work really hard to repair the corroded lines, but something had caused a flash freeze inside the dragon’s skull, where it should’ve been too hot for ice to form. She knew that because Leo hadn't let her touch the skull herself, even when the dragon had cooled down, just in case.
"Oh," Mira said softly.
The ice had caused the wiring to overload and char the control disk. Mira knew it couldn't have happened by itself. She knew the books had given a reason, too. And she knew it wasn't because the dragon was old. But as usual, she was being useless and a damsel in distress. She just wished she could be one of those good OC's in Percy Jackson fanfiction. Heck, she wouldn't even mind being a Mary sue if it would solve all her problems quickly. Sure it wasn't realistic, but why couldn't she just have been one of those?!
Mira knew the charred control disk was a bigger problem. The Greek letters and pictures carved around the edges, which probably held all kinds of magic, were blurred and blackened. She knew Leo didn't know how to fix it yet, he was new to the demigod world. And right now, so was she. They'd have to make do with the best they could.
Mira knew it bothered Leo that he couldn't fix Festus completely, so she didn't try to talk to him. He wasn't the kind of person who went to others when he had problems. He tried to solve them on his own. Mira didn't want to bother Leo while he worked, and worsen his mood.
He clenched his teeth and kept examining the dragon.
“Right,” he muttered, brushing the snow off his shoulders. Mira shivering beside him, did the same, and pushed off some large clumps of snowflakes that had landed themselves on her hair.
“Gimme a nylon bristle detail brush, some nitrile gloves, and maybe a can of that aerosol cleaning solvent.”
Leo's tool belt obliged. Leo smiled as he pulled out the supplies. Mira helped him hold all the supplies he needed as she sat on Festus. Leo began cleaning off the control disk. While he worked, snow collected on the cooling dragon. Leo had to stop from time to time to summon fire and melt it away, but mostly he seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, not exactly focusing.
"Leo?" Mira asked softly. His head snapped up, as he was jarred back from his thoughts. "Are you ok?"
Leo rolled his eyes, but he looked away, making Mira think he didn't want her to see his sadness.
"You don't have to hide from me." She looked down. "I.. I know you're upset about what Cal said at Quebec,"
Leo looked up at her, he stopped working. His hands clenched around the tools in his hand.
"How much do you know?" he asked.
"My fire. My... past. Me," he clarified. Mira gulped. How should she answer him?
In the end she chose to be truthful. If she knew Leo's past, he had the right to know how much she knew.
"A lot. I know... I know you think your fire caused your mom to... And that you had an evil babysitter," she trailed off.