Last night while on tour for The Serpent's Shadow, Rick Riordan read the first chapter of Mark of Athena out loud to the audience. The video can be found here, but here's the transcript:
The Mark of Athena
Until she met the exploding statue, Annabeth thought she was prepared for anything. She paced the deck of the Argo II, checking and double checking the ballistics to make sure they were locked in on. She confirmed that the white flag was flying from the mast. She reviewed the plan with the rest of the crew. And the back-up plan, and the back-up plan for the back-up plan.
Most importantly, she pulled aside their war crazed chaperone, Gleeson Hedge, and encouraged him to take the morning off in his cabin watching reruns of a mixed martial arts championship. The last thing they needed, flying a Greek trireme into a potentially hostile Roman camp, was a middle-aged satyr in gym clothes waving a club and yelling “DIE!”.
Everything seemed to be in order. Even that mysterious chill that she’d been feeling since the ship launched seemed to have dissipated. At least for now.
The warship descended from the clouds but Annabeth couldn’t stop second guessing herself. What if this was a bad idea? What if the Romans panicked and attacked on sight? The Argo II definitely did not look friendly. Two hundred feet long with a bronze hull, flaming metal dragon for a mast head, mounted repeating crossbows that could fire explosive bolts powerful enough to blast through concrete. Well, it wasn’t the most appropriate ride for a meet and greet with the neighbors.
Annabeth had tried to give the Romans a heads up. She’d asked Leo to send one of his special inventions, a holographic scroll, to alert their friends inside their camp. Hopefully the message had gotten through. Leo had wanted to paint a giant message on the bottom of the hull, “Wazzup?” and a smiley face, but Annabeth had vetoed the idea. She wasn’t sure the Romans had a sense of humor.
Too late to turn back now. The clouds broke around the hull, revealing the golden green carpet of the Oakland hills below them. Annabeth gripped one of the bronze shields that lined the starboard railing. Her three crewmates took their places.
On the stern quarterdeck, Leo brushed around like a madman, checking his gauges and levers. Most helmsmen would have been satisfied with a pilot’s wheel or a rudder. Leo had installed a keyboard monitor aviation controls from a leer jet and dubstep soundboard and the motion control sensors from a Nintendo Wii. He could fire the ship by pulling on the throttle or fire the weapons by sampling an album or raise the sails by shaking his Wii controllers really fast. Even by demigod standards, Leo was seriously ADHD.
Piper paced back and forth behind the main mast, practicing her lines. “Lower your weapons,” she murmured, “we just want to talk.”
Her Charmspeak was so powerful the words flowed over Annabeth, filling her with the desire to drop her dagger and have a nice long chat. For a child of Aphrodite, Piper tried really hard to play down her beauty. Today she was dressed in tattered jeans, worn out sneakers, and a white tank top with pink Hello Kitty designs. Maybe a joke? Though Annabeth really could never tell with Piper. Her choppy brown hair was braided down the right side with an eagle’s feather.
And then there was Piper’s boyfriend, Jason. He stood at the bow on a raised crossbow platform where the Romans could easily spot him. His knuckles were white on the hilt of his sword. Otherwise he was pretty calm for a guy who was making himself a target. Over his jeans and his orange Camp Half Blood T-shirt, he had donned a toga and a purple cloak, symbols of his old rank as praetor. With his wind ruffled blond hair and his icy blue eyes, he looked ruggedly handsome and in control, just like son of Jupiter should. He’d grown up at Camp Jupiter, so hopefully his familiar face would make the Romans hesitate to blow them out of the sky.
Annabeth tried to fight it, but she didn’t completely trust this guy. He acted too perfect, always following the rules, always doing the honorable thing. He even looked too perfect. In the back of her mind, she kept thinking ‘maybe this was a trick and he betrayed us. What if we sail into Camp Jupiter and he says, “Hey, Romans! Check out these prisoners and this cool ship I brought you.”
Annabeth didn’t think he would do that, but still. She couldn’t look at him without getting a bitter taste in her mouth. He’d been part of Hera’s forced exchange program between the two camps. Without warning, Hera had plucked up Percy Jackson, Annabeth’s boyfriend, wiped his memory and sent him to this Roman camp. In exchange, the Greeks got Jason. None of that was Jason’s fault, but every time Annabeth looked at him, she remembered how much she missed Percy.
Percy, who might be below them right now.
Oh god. Panic welled up inside her. “I’m a child of Athena,” she said to herself, “I have to stick to my plan and not get distracted.”
Then she felt it again, that familiar shiver, as if an evil snowman had crept up right behind her and was breathing down her neck. She turned but no one was there. It must be her nerves. Annabeth wished she could pray to her mother for help, but now that was impossible. Not this last month since she’d had a horrible encounter with her mom and had gotten the worst present of her life.
The cold pressed closer. She thought she heard a voice in the wind, laughing. Every muscle in her body tensed. She knew something was about to be terribly wrong. She almost ordered Leo to reverse course. And then, in the valley below, horns sounded.
The Romans had spotted them.
The sound quality on the video wasn't the best, so if I missed something/got it wrong, let me know, okay?