Page 13

    Smack!

    The arrow had stoppe...oot from my face.

    Eyes wide, my head snapped to the side, an...ealized that the angry girl from the train station was ther...nd that she was holding the arrow in her hand like it wa...ootball she'd just plucked out of midair.

    "You're welcome," she said i...nide voice.

    Then, she tossed the arrow up in the air, grabbed it by the end, and threw it at the Reaper with the crossbow. The arrow sank into his throat. The man clawed at the projectile, trying to rip it free, even as his legs went out from under him, and he dropped to the floor.

    "A Spartan,"...hispered. "You'r...partan."

    "Yeah, and you and your friends seem to be i...ot of trouble," the girl sniped.

    She stepped in front of me and picked up the dead Reaper's crossbow...econd later, she slammed the heavy wood into the side of another Reaper's face...hook my head, stepped up, and got back into the fight.

    Together, the girl an...dvanced on the Reapers who were clustered in front of Alexei and climbing up onto the benches so they could swarm around and attack him all at once. She'd step up and hit one with the crossbow, then slide to the side, leaving me enough room to move forward and kill the Reaper with Vic. When the crossbow finally splintered, then shattered, she used one of the broken pieces a...agger, stabbing it into everyone she could reach.

    Logan would have definitely approved.

    Seeing that we ha...andle on the Reapers on this side of the car, Alexei whirled around to help Oliver deal with the ones who were attacking him. Working together, the four of us cut through the rest of them. Three minutes later, it was over, and all the Reapers were dead.

    We stood there, weapons clutched tight in our hands, blood everywhere, bodies stacked up two and three deep at our feet, with even more Reapers sprawled over the benches and tables. Fo...oment, the only sounds were our harsh, raspy breaths and the grind of the gears as the train kept chugging up the mountain.

    "Well," Vic said i...heery voice. "That's the way to start the day off right. Blood before breakfast. Alway...reat, if you ask me."

    The Spartan girl gave m...trange look, like she though...as the one who was talking. Please. As i...ould ever say such gruesome thing...r could manage an English accent right now.

    "Shut up, Vic,"...uttered.

    I looked at Oliver and Alexei. "You guys all right?"

    They both nodded, and we all stared at the Spartan girl.

    "I'm fine," she sniped again. "Thanks for asking."

    Alexei stepped forward, probably to start searching the bodies, when the door at the front of the car hissed open. We all tensed and whirled around toward the opening.

    Daphne stepped inside, with Carson and Coach Ajax right behind her.

    "I can't believe they were out of blueberry bagels alread...quot;

    Her voice cut off, and she stopped in the middle of the aisle. Carson ran into her back and bounced off. Daphne's black eyes fixed on the dead Reapers, then her gaze flicked to Alexei, Oliver, and finally me.

    "So,"...sked. "How was breakfast?"

    Daphne arched an eyebrow. "Obviously not as exciting as yours."

    I grimaced at her words.

    Chapter 13

    Ajax shouldered past Carson and Daphne. The coach went from one Reaper to another, looking at them all in turn. Finally, he shook his head.

    "I thought they'd at least wait until we got to the ruins before they attacked," he rumbled. "I'll have to call ahead and report this. Everybody stays in here wher...an see you until we get to Snowline Ridge. Understand?"

    We all nodded.

    Ajax pulled out his cell phone and moved to the front of the car. He punched in some numbers and started talking i...ow voice, probably alerting the members of the Protectorate about the battl...nd the fact that they needed to come and deal with the blood and bodies.

    We took turns using the bathrooms, cleaning the Reapers' blood off our hands, clothes, and weapons as best we could. Once that was done, Alexei and Oliver moved from body to body, pulling out the Reapers' wallets and looking at their driver's licenses, credit cards, and more. But they were just names that went with dead faces. None of the information told us anything important about the Reapers, like why they'd decided to attack us no...r what they might have planned next...ven leaned down and touche...ew of the dead Reapers' hands, but the only flashe...ot off them were of the battl...othing useful. Ajax also went through the other cars on the train, in case Vivian or Agrona might be on board, hiding in the midst of the other passengers, but they were nowhere to be found.

    "What do you think they wanted?" Carson asked, leaning down to peer a...uy who wore the same sort of black glasses he did.

    "Other than killing us?" Daphne said. "I think that's enough for them. Don't you?"

    Carson's words made me think back to the way the first Reaper girl's eyes had fixed on Vic. Sure, maybe she hadn't expected me to have the sword propped up in the seat beside me, but it seemed like there had been something more to her sharp gaze than just curiosity...ouldn't imagine what it could be, though, or what her interest in Vic could have to do with the attack.

    Daphne turned to the mystery girl, who was leaning against the back wall of the car, her arms crossed over her chest once again. "And then there's you. Gwen says you'r...partan. Female Spartans are rare. I've never met one before."

    The girl shrugged. "Not so rare to me, since my mom and dad were both Spartans. Lucky for you, you get to meet me first, Valkyrie."

    Pink sparks of magic crackled around Daphne's fingers, and she narrowed her eyes at the other girl...tepped in between them, trying to diffuse the situation before things got any crazier.

    "Well, thank you,"...aid. "For saving me. For fighting with us against the Reapers. You didn't have to do that."

    The girl laughed, although it wa...arsh, bitter sound. "Oh, you know us Spartans. We can't resis...ood fight."

    "What's your name?"

    The girl glared at me, as though I'd asked her to reveal her deepest, darkest secret. Finally, when she realized tha...as serious and expected her to, you know, actually answer me, she let ou...ong, deep sigh, as if giving me the information was some sort of cruel torture I'd devised specifically for her.

    "Rory Forseti."

    My mouth dropped open in surprise...idn't know what name I'd expected her to give, but it hadn't been that on...ecause Forseti had been my dad, Tyr's, last name. Tyr Forseti. My parents had been married, bu...ad my mom's last name of Frost since that was the tradition for the women in our family.

    It took m...oment to close my gaping jaw and gather my thoughts. "Forseti?"...sked, wondering if I'd heard her right. "F-o-r-s-e-t-i?"

    The girl's eyes narrowed, and her hands balled into fists like she was thinking about stepping forward and attacking me the same way she had the Reapers. "Well, give yo...old star, for being able to spell. You go...roblem with that name?"

    Alexei stepped forward, shielding me from her. "You're the one who's going to hav...roblem if you take another step toward Gwen."

    She let out another angry, bitter laugh. "In case you didn't notice, dude, I'm the one who saved your precious little princess from getting an arrow through her skull."

    "Princess?"...sked.

    Rory gav...oud, derisive snort. "Yeah. You. Princess. You and your little entourage...aw them hovering around you at the station. You'd think that you were some sort of princess or something the way they were hanging all over you."

    My eyes widened, my lips twitched, and my shoulders started to shake...ried to contain i...eally...i...u...ouldn't help it...tarted laughing. And onc...tarted...ouldn't stop...new it was crazy, that my laughter was crazy, tha...hould try to bottle it up the wa...ad all of my other emotions lately, bu...ust couldn't do it.

    My friends looked at me, then each other. Daphne shrugged. She didn't know wh...as laughing, and neither did any of the guys.

    "What's so funny?" Rory muttered.

    "Princess!"...anaged to get out the word between fits of laughter. "You think I'...loody princess!"

    The laughter kept coming and coming until tears streamed out of the corners of my eyes, and my stomach ached from the force of it.

    Rory glared at me again. "If I'd known you were crazy...ould have let the Reapers put you out of your miser...nd mine too."

    I wiped the tears away and finally managed to get my giggles under control. "You don't understand. If there's one thing I'm not, it's definitel...rincess. That's more Daphne's thing than mine."

    "Hey!" Daphne snapped.

    I looked at her. "C'mon. You know it's true. How many bags did you bring for this trip?"

    She sniffed. "Just because you want to spend the rest of your life wearing hoodies, sneakers, and ratty T-shirts doesn't mean the rest of us should suffer."

    I rolled my eyes. "Oh no."

    Rory looked at the Valkyrie. "Your name's Daphne?"

    She straightened up. "Daphne Cruz. From the North Carolina academy."

    One by one, Daphne introduced everyone, including Coach Ajax, who'd finished his phone call.

    Rory glanced at my friends before her green eyes fixed on me once more. "And what's the princess's name?"

    "Gwen,"...aid. "Gwen Frost."

    Rory froze, just a...a...oment ago...hadow passed over her pretty face, and fo...oment, her whole body tensed up, like she was debating whether or not to throw herself forward and attack me. Something that looke...ot like hate blazed in her eyes, an...el...ave of anger surge off her, as hot a...urnace blasting heat in my face.

    "Maybe you've heard of her," Carson said i...elpful voice.

    "Yeah," Rory muttered. "I've heard of her all right."

    And from the sound of her voice, it hadn't been anything good. It was bad enough that all the kids back home watched my every move now, but I'd never considered that word of wh...as would make its way through the rest of the mythological world...hould have known it would, though. Sometimes...hought Mythos kids gossiped even better than they wielded weapons...ondered what this meant for our welcome at the academy. Ajax had wanted to pass our group off as some kids takin...ield trip, but that wasn't going to happen no...f it had ever even been possible to start with.

    Rory gave me another dark look, then plopped down on her bench, crossed her arms over her chest, and turned her head toward the windows, pointedly ignoring me and my friends. The others an...at down, as well, making sure we were as far away from the blood and Reapers' bodies as we could get...ried to catch Rory's gaze, but she stared out the windows with the same sort of intense, single-minded determination she'd shown during the fight. She might have saved my life, but it was obvious she wasn't happy about it...ondered why. I'd never seen or met her before today, s...ad no idea why she'd have such an obvious grudge against me. Usually...ad to be around people for at leas...ew minutes befor...issed them off.

    Maybe it was her dislike of me or maybe it was the fact that the train was now filled with dead Reapers, bu...ouldn't help feeling there wa...iant ax swinging back and forth over my head. All that was left to do now was to see when it would finally fall.

    About fifteen minutes later, the train pulled into the station at Snowline Ridge. My friends an...rabbed our things and stepped off the car. Waiting on the platform wa...roup of men and women, all wearing black coveralls with the hand-and-scales symbol of the Protectorate stitched into the collars in white thread. The Protectorate members waited for us to get clear of the train before they boarded, pushing metal carts into the car where the Reapers' bodies were.

    The other folks on the train had finally realized something had happened, and more tha...ew kids held their phones out and up, taking photos of me and my friends before they started texting furiously. Someone must have known someone who knew something about me, because within two minutes, everyone's phones started chirping, and the whispers drifted over to me.

    "Her name is Gwen Fros... ."

    "She's supposed to b...hampio... ."

    "Apparently, she's always in some sort of trouble with the Reaper... ."

    Well, there went Ajax's hopes of our staying incognito for as long as possible...rimaced. Maybe things weren't going to be all that different here at the Colorado academy after all. Reapers trying to kill me? Check. Everyone staring at me? Check. Kids whispering about me behind my back? Double-check. So far, it was lik...adn't even left home.

    The only person who seemed as miserable a...id was Rory. The Spartan girl stood off to one side of the platform by herself. Once again...oticed how the other kids took pains to avoid he...hen they weren't openly sneering and snickering at her.

    "Of course she was on the train with the Reaper... ."

    "Keeping it in the family...uppos... ."

    "I don't know why they even let her come to school with u... ."

    From the sound of things, the other kids thought Rory had something to do with the Reapers. But why would they think that? She'd helped us fight them. If she'd really been one of them, she would have joined in the attac...nd let that arrow punch right through my skull...rowned and looked at Rory, but once again, she wouldn't meet my gaze.

    "Come on," Ajax said, interrupting my thoughts. "It's jus...hort walk to the academy from here. We need to get there, get settled in, and start making plans for tomorrow."

    ...
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