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    Vulcan (9)

    Hera As Zeus's wife, she's the queen of the gods, an...owerful goddess in her own right (D)

    Juno (5)

    Hermes He travels all over as the god of roads, speed, messengers, commerce, travel, thieves, merchants, and mail deliverers (I)

    Mercury (15)

    Iris She loves rainbows and keeps busy relaying messages to and from gods, demigods, and even Titans (J)

    Arcus (2)

    Kronos These deities both represent the passage of time-personified by age in Greece, by gateways and beginnings/endings in Rome (K)

    Janus (11)

    Pan The only god on this list with horns (he'...atyr), he'...atron of the Wild and protector of flocks and herds (B)

    Faunus (4)

    Poseidon God of the sea, earthquakes, fresh water, and horses-also, Percy Jackson's dad! (L)

    Neptune (6)

    Zeus Powerful and proud, he's the king of the gods and associated with law, justice, and morality (A)

    Jupiter

    CODED MESSAGE ANSWER

    Camp Half-Blood

    Percy Jackson and the Staff of Hermes

    ANNABETH AN...ERE RELAXING on the Great Lawn in Central Park when she ambushed me wit...uestion.

    "You forgot, didn't you?"

    I went into red-alert mode. It's easy to panic when you'r...ew boyfriend. Sure, I'd fought monsters with Annabeth for years. Together we'd faced the wrath of the gods. We'd battled Titans and calmly faced deat...ozen times. But now that we were dating, one frown from her an...reaked. What ha...one wrong?

    I mentally reviewed the picnic list: Comfy blanket? Check. Annabeth's favorite pizza with extra olives? Check. Chocolate toffee from La Maison du Chocolat? Check. Chilled sparkling water with twist of lemon? Check. Weapons in case of sudden Greek mythological apocalypse? Check.

    So what ha...orgotten?

    I was tempted (briefly) to bluff my way through. Two things stopped me. First...idn't want to lie to Annabeth. Second, she was too smart. She'd see right through me.

    S...id wha...o best...tared at her blankly and acted dumb.

    Annabeth rolled her eyes. "Percy, today is September eighteenth. What happened exactly one month ago?"

    "It was my birthday,&rdquo...aid.

    That was true: August eighteenth. But judging from Annabeth's expression, that wasn't the answer she'd been hoping for.

    It didn't help my concentration that Annabeth looked so good today. She was wearing her regular orange camp T-shirt and shorts, but her tan arms and legs seemed to glow in the sunlight. Her blond hair swept over her shoulders. Around her neck hun...eather cord with colorful beads from our demigod training camp-Camp Half-Blood. Her storm-gray eyes were as dazzling as ever...ust wished that their fierce look wasn't directed at me.

    I tried to think. One month ago we'd defeated the Titan Kronos. Was that what she meant? Then Annabeth set my priorities straight.

    "Our first kiss, Seaweed Brain," she said. "It's our one-month anniversary."

    "Well...yeah!&rdquo...hought: Do people celebrate stuff like that...ave to remember birthdays, holidays, and all anniversaries?

    I tried fo...mile. "That's why we're having this great picnic, right?"

    She tucked her legs underneath her. "Percy...I love the picnic. Really. But you promised to take me out fo...pecial dinner tonight. Remember? It's not tha...xpect it, but you said you had something planned. So...?"

    I could hear hopefulness in her voice, but also doubt. She was waiting for me to admit the obvious: I'd forgotten...as toast...as boyfriend roadkill.

    Just becaus...orgot, you shouldn't take that a...ig...idn't care about Annabeth. Seriously, the last month with her had been awesome...as the luckiest demigod ever. Bu...pecial dinner...when ha...entioned that? Maybe I'd said it after Annabeth kissed me, which had sort of sent me int...og. Mayb...reek god had disguised himself as me and made her that promise a...rank. Or mayb...as jus...otten boyfriend.

    Time to fess up...leared my throat. "Well-"

    A sudden streak of light made me blink, as if someone had flashe...irror in my face...ooked around an...a...rown delivery truck parked in the middle of the Great Lawn where no cars were allowed. Lettered on the side were the words: HERNIAS ARE US

    Wait...sorry. I'm dyslexic...quinted and decided it probably read: HERMES EXPRESS

    "Oh, good,&rdquo...uttered. "We've got mail."

    "What?" Annabeth asked.

    I pointed at the truck. The driver was climbing out. He wor...rown uniform shirt and knee-length shorts along with stylish black socks and cleats. His curly salt-and-pepper hair stuck out around the edges of his brown cap. He looked lik...uy in his mid-thirties, bu...new from experience he was actually in his mid-five-thousands.

    Hermes. Messenger of the gods. Personal friend, dispenser of heroic quests, and frequent cause of migraine headaches.

    He looked upset. He kept patting his pockets and wringing his hands. Either he'd lost something important or he'd had too many espressos at the Mount Olympus Starbucks. Finally he spotted me and beckoned, Get over here!

    That could've meant several things. If he was deliverin...essage in person from the gods, it was bad news. If he wanted something from me, it was also bad news. But seeing as he'd just saved me from explaining myself to Annabeth...as too relieved to care.

    "Bummer.&rdquo...ried to sound regretful, as if my rump hadn't just been pulled from the barbecue. "We'd better see what he wants."

    How do you gree...od? If there's an etiquette guide for that...aven't read it. I'm never sure if I'm supposed to shake hands, kneel, or bow and shout, "We're not worthy!"

    I knew Hermes better than most of the Olympians. Over the years, he'd helped me out several times. Unfortunately last summer I'd also fought his demigod son Luke, who'd been corrupted by the Titan Kronos, i...ortal combat smack-down for the fate of the world. Luke's death hadn't been entirely my fault, but it still pu...amper on my relationship with Hermes.

    I decided to start simple. "Hi."

    Hermes scanned the park as if he was afraid of being watched. I'm not sure why he bothered. Gods are usually invisible to mortals. Nobody else on the Great Lawn was paying any attention to the delivery van.

    Hermes glanced at Annabeth, then back at me. "I didn't know the girl would be here. She'll have to swear to keep her mouth shut."

    Annabeth crossed her arms. "The girl can hear you. And befor...wear to anything, maybe you'd better tell us what's wrong."

    I don't think I've ever see...od look so jittery. Hermes tucke...url of gray hair behind his ear. He patted his pockets again. His hands didn't seem to know what to do.

    He leaned in and lowered his voice. "I mean it, girl. If word gets back to Athena, she'll never stop teasing me. She already thinks she's so much cleverer tha...m."

    "She is," Annabeth said. Of course, she's prejudiced. Athena is her mom.

    Hermes glared at her. "Promise. Befor...xplain the problem, both of you must promise to keep silent."

    Suddenly it dawned on me. "Where's your staff?"

    Hermes's eye twitched. He looked like he was about to cry.

    "Oh, gods," Annabeth said. "You lost your staff?"

    "I didn't lose it!" Hermes snapped. "It was stolen. An...asn't asking for your help, girl!"

    "Fine," she said. "Solve your own problem. Come on, Percy. Let's get out of here."

    Hermes snarled...ealize...ight have to break u...ight between an immortal god and my girlfriend, an...idn't want to be on either side of that.

    A little background: Annabeth used to adventure with Hermes's son Luke. Over time, Annabeth develope...rush on Luke. As Annabeth got older, Luke developed feelings for her, too. Luke turned evil. Hermes blamed Annabeth for not preventing Luke from turning evil. Annabeth blamed Hermes for bein...otten dad and giving Luke the capacity to become evil in the first place. Luke died in war. Hermes and Annabeth blamed each other.

    Confused? Welcome to my world.

    Anyway...igured things would go badly if these two went nuclear, s...isked stepping between them. "Annabeth, tell you what. This sounds important. Let me hear him out, and I'll meet you back at the picnic blanket, okay?"

    I gave he...mile tha...oped conveyed something like: Hey, you know I'm on your side. Gods are such jerks! But what can you do?

    Probably my expression actually conveyed: It's not my fault! Please do not kill me!

    Before she could protest or cause me bodily harm...rabbed Hermes's arm. "Let's step into your office."

    Hermes an...at in the back of the delivery truck o...ouple of boxes labeled TOXIC SERPENTS. THIS END UP. Maybe that wasn't the best place to sit, but it was better than some of his other deliveries, which were labeled EXPLOSIVES, DO NOT SIT ON, and DRAKON EGGS, DO NOT STORE NEAR EXPLOSIVES.

    "So what happened?&rdquo...sked him.

    Hermes slumped on his delivery boxes. He stared at his empty hands. "I only left them alone fo...inute."

    "Them...&rdquo...aid. "Oh, George and Martha?"

    Hermes nodded dejectedly.

    George and Martha were the two snakes that wrapped around his caduceus-his staff of power. You've probably seen pictures of the caduceus at hospitals, since it's often used a...ymbol for doctors. (Annabeth would argue and say that whole thing i...isconception. It's supposed to be the staff of Asclepius the medicine god, blah, blah, blah. But whatever.)

    I was kind of fond of George and Martha...ot the feeling Hermes was too, even though he was constantly arguing with them.

    "I mad...tupid mistake," he muttered. "I was late wit...elivery...topped at Rockefeller Center and was deliverin...ox of doormats to Janus-"

    "Janus,&rdquo...aid. "The two-faced guy, god of doorways."

    "Yes, yes. He works there. Network television."

    "Say what?" The last time I'd met Janus he'd been i...eadly magical labyrinth, and the experience hadn't been pleasant.

    Hermes rolled his eyes. "Surely you've seen network TV lately. It's clear they don't know whether they're coming or going. That's because Janus is in charge of programming. He loves ordering new shows and canceling them after two episodes. God of beginnings and endings, after all. Anyway...as bringing him some magic doormats, an...as double-parked-"

    "You have to worry about double-parking?"

    "Will you let me tell the story?"

    "Sorry."

    "S...eft my caduceus on the dashboard and ran inside with the box. The...ealize...eeded to have Janus sign for the delivery, s...an back to the truck-"

    "And the caduceus was gone."

    Hermes nodded. "If that ugly brute has harmed my snakes...wear by the Styx-"

    "Hold on. You know who took the staff?"

    ...
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