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Hero's Heart

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It really don't know how it happened. I have to point that out first. It's not my fault either. How was I supposed to knee fog was bad. I can see this is confusing. I'll start at the beginning.

I stood at the helm after a long day. Percy and Annabeth sat on the railing, the sea spray hitting them in the face. Piper watched Jason as he pulled down a rope from the sail. Behind me, I could feel Hazel's eyes and Frank's disapproval.

The boy had wanted to strangle me ever since she had discovered I was Sammy's descendant. We hadn't yet reached Rome and I knew we had bigger things to worry about. But I couldn't stop thinking how, if Hazel hadn't died in Alaska she could have been my grandma.

The image sent a chill down my spine. That wasn't the only cold thing.

"Leo?" Percy asked from the deck. "Is heading into a fog wise?"

I pealed my eyes from the controls and my lungs stopped working. We were on the edge of a huge fog. "It's fine," I tried to cover my mistake. "It's the fastest route and we're in the middle of the ocean. It's not like we're going to crash into anything."

CRASH!

"I think you spoke to soon," Hazel said, now standing at my elbow.

I jumped.

"What did we hit?" Jason asked, looking into the cloud.

"Don't know," Annabeth looked back to the clear ocean, which the mist had almost completely covered.

Vaulting myself onto the lower deck I ran to Festus and jumped into the masthead. "What is it, buddy?" I asked. He didn't answer. "Festus?" I leaned over, hanging above the surface of the water. The glowing red eyes were dim and the creaking, clicking gears didn't move. In fact, nothing seemed to move. It was quiet.

"This is bad," Piper's voice said from somewhere to my left.

I could hardly see anything through the vapor.

"Guys..." Annabeth whispered. "Listen."

I did. I heard... "Nothing," Frank whispered. "Absolutely nothing. I don't think the water is even moving."

"But..." I ran a hand through my hair, "the engines should be running at least."

"I don't think it is," Jason muttered.

"What's going on?" Piper asked.

"Good question," Percy spoke. I heard footsteps, to light to be Frank or Jason but too heavy to be Hazel or Annabeth.

That left... "Leo?" Piper stood at my shoulder and again I jumped. "Do you see that?"

"I can't see anything."

"I see it," Annabeth whispered.

"So do I," Hazel sounded terrified.

"What are you talking about?" Frank moved across the deck.

"I see it too." That was Percy.

"And me." Jason walked next to Piper who still stood beside me.

"Oh..." Frank gasped.

I looked around. I couldn't see anything but thick swirling whiteness. I couldn't even see Piper right next to me. "What do you see?"

A pause.

And Piper screamed.

"Piper!" Jason yelled as the girl next to me fell to the deck.

"What is it?" Hazel shuffled across the deck, Frank dragging behind her.

"It's..." Annabeth trailed off.

"Is that really...?" Percy asked.

"What's there?" I said, my tone returning from a whisper.

"You really don't see her?" Frank questioned.

"See who?" I turned again, trying to find where Frank was standing.

"It's all right." A tiny voice giggled right behind me. "I knew he wouldn't."

"What in Hades!" I yelled.

"Calm down Leo Valdez," she soothed. "You won't see me. The others can but that's only because their hearts are different."

"Who are you?" Percy inquired.

"The Greeks called me Kardiá. But I prefer Cor."

"Heart," Piper's voice was hoarse. "That is greek and Latin for heart."

"Clever girl."

"But," Annabeth faltered, "who are you?"

"There's an old legend at camp," Jason began. "About the girl who can see your heart."

"But that's just a just a myth," Hazel muttered.

"Says Hazel Levesque girl back from the dead," giggled Cor.

"Don't you dare," Frank let the threat hang.

"Calm down Frank Zhang," Cor comforted, "she is safe. I am simply pointing out my realism."

"Is that even a proper phrase?" Percy asked.

"You have been spending to much time with your wife," Cor sighed.

"Wife?" Percy sputtered.

"Ah," I could almost hear her wince. "My prophecies do get out of hand. I suppose she's only your girlfriend now."

"Why are you here?" Annabeth asked.

"I am insulted daughter of Athena. You really haven't heard of me?"

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered the name Cor. "Aren't you an evil angel in some kids TV show?" I asked.

Cor hissed, her voice right next to me. "You have the gall to insult me, child?"

I tried not to wince as her voice to a high pitched fury. "Maybe?" I shrugged.

"Leo," Hazel warned. "Cor is a goddess."

"Great," I groaned. "Another one."

This time I felt a hand, a tiny freezing hand, run across my cheek and down to my heart. "Tell him who I am Hazel Levesque. Then maybe he won't be so eager to put himself in danger."

"Cor was born a poor child of poor parents," Hazel began, her voice taking on the tone of a good bedtime story. "She would have starved if she hadn't been able to make prophecies. It wasn't like the oracle of Delphi. They weren't rhyming verses. They were love interests of future soul mates. And she was never wrong. She didn't abuse it and only used it to get money for her family." Her voice trembled and Jason took over.

"But one day Apollo heard of this gift and was angry, determined to find out how she was able to do this. He found out that Aphrodite had given her this gift. Furious with the goddess Apollo demanded Aphrodite take away this gift. But she refused. Apollo lost his temper and cursed her to never see the sun and dwell within the cloud of fog, saying that no one would ever be able to find her."

"I know this," Annabeth whispered. "People kept coming, despite the fog, to hear her predictions. Still unsatisfied with her punishment Apollo cursed her again that she would see the hearts of everyone she prophesied for. She would see all the darkness in them. But she was so young she had no idea what was going on and she went..." Annabeth paused and coughed. "Well, the legends say she went crazy."

"The legends weren't wrong," Cor's voice was now a few feet away, where Percy and Annabeth must have been standing. "I was only seven. The same age as you when you ran away from home as I recall."

"Yes."

"I am never wrong."

"But what do you want?" Frank asked.

"Oh Frank Zhang," Cor sighed. "Don't you know? You have strayed into my cloud. No one comes into my cloud and no one has seen your heart. I will tell you what must be in your heart." She clapped, a tiny sound followed by a child-like giggle. "Let us begin shall we?"

"Get away from her," Jason growled.

"I'm not going to touch Piper McLean, I don't have to. She wears her heart on her sleeve... Let's see." She paused. "I know. Let's start with her entirely too bitter feelings toward those who hurt you? She hates the gods so much. She hates them for taking her father's memories."

"Stop it," Piper's voice trembled.

"Why? You know it's your fault that he cannot remember your bravery."

"He would have gone insane."

"But he also could've loved you. However, these bitter feelings are buried so completely by the love you feel for young Jason Grace. Your feelings are suppressed, thinking the other can't possibly feel the same way. You don't want to move too fast, worried they might leave you. Don't worry your little heads about that," she scoffed. "You both feel so strongly for each other you couldn't get any closer."

A gust of wind and her voice came by Frank and Hazel. "Hazel... Hazel Levesque. But before you came here you wanted so much to be Hazel Valdez. Sammy's wife. He wanted the same thing. So young but emotionally stable. Then you were pulled away by the earth goddess. You didn't know that," she laughed like a harpy. "You blamed your mother's insanity. And now your mother can never know you forgive her. Wandering in the underworld. You think she must hate you."

"Don't talk about my mother."

"Don't worry child I am done. Frank is much more fun anyway," the fog began to clear away and I saw the faint outlines of my friends, but still nothing for the little girl.

"Keep your mouth shut."

"No. You're easy. It's so sad your heart. You're so jealous and why?" She laughed again. "That skinny little son of Hephaestus? You have nothing to worry about. Hazel loves you more than anyone on the face of this earth and I'm sure you feel the same way. But your love can be clouded by hate. For your father, for the Romans, you have left behind, for the earth goddess... So many people you want to vanquish. What was it you said...? 'You want to be her knight in shining armor?' Yes, that was it. What would your grandmother say? At the moment...? Nothing. She died and you couldn't save her. So sad."

Another sound of the wind.

"And now, Annabeth Chase, the girl who felt forgotten. Then," she tittered. "The prophecy boy came along. Percy Jackson saved her from her torment. They've grown so much..." She paused with a proud sound, like a mother admiring her child's crayon drawing. "He saved her from her useless feeling. She had been so sad at home with her annoying little brothers and her mother who couldn't manage to love her."

"What does my mother have to do with this?"

"Everything, daughter of Athena! Or should I even call her Athena anymore? She has taken her roman aspect, the insane goddess of knowledge. She's so crazy she sent her favorite child on a quest to the death."

"What are you talking about?" Percy asked.

"Aw, onto perfect Percy," she crooned.

"What?"

"It seems you cabin mates found a new appreciation for you after you vanished." She made a sound of disgust. "There is no bitterness in your heart. You're so open and so giving. You have your loving girlfriend and supporting friends..." Cor paused. "Oh, I have found something. How about your dear mother who you've left behind?"

"She has Paul," Percy argued.

"True," the mist began to clear more and I slowly caught sight of Jason and Piper, only a few feet away. Frank and Hazel's shapes cleared but I could hardly see Percy and Annabeth. "But she hasn't seen her little baby in so long. How do we know her heart hasn't gone bitter?"

"She hasn't," Annabeth growled. "Sally Jackson is the strongest woman alive and she can't wait until the day he returns."

"Fine," Cor sighed. "You're boring anyway."

I felt the hiss of sound by my ear and I looked around. I couldn't see anything. "Leo..." Piper whispered. I turned to her and saw her wide, terrified eyes. "She's right behind you."

I turned in a complete circle but I couldn't see anything.

"Leo cannot see me yet," she purred. "He isn't in tune with his heart." I felt a pressure on my chest where a hand should've been but when I looked down I didn't see anything. "Little Leo... he feels so alone, and rightly so," she giggled. "Months on months spent alone after his mother died. All those nights on the streets and in cold houses where you stomach growled for need of food. Then one you thought you could have friends these 'friends' left you in a dusty old bunker while they had fun."

I tried not to feel bitter but it was hard.

"Leo!" Jason called. "You can't listen to her."

I looked down at my toes and didn't say anything.

"But I'm only saying what's in his heart, his shriveled," she tugged at the front of my shirt, "blackened," she pulled me down and I tripped, "tortured," I fell to the deck, "heart!" She pushed me back and my elbows scraped on the deck as I saved myself. "You know it shouldn't really be his fault but in his mind it is. He has so many people he could blame for his loneliness. He could blame his father, the distant god who gave him the talent for machines but not people. He could blame any of the people who took care of him over the last few years. They beat him, starved him and kicked him out, and that's not even the worst of it."

"Leo?" Hazel whimpered. "Is that really what happened?"

"Don't listen to them, Leo!" Cor sang. "I'm only telling them what you feel. We can't forget the cabin mates who cared about the ship, I don't know... every few days. Helpful for maybe an hour until you shooed them out, not being able to stand their presence. But let's back up even farther. What about your dear mother who left you for dead. I don't even think she tried to escape the machine shop. Of course, she's in Elysium, lived like a hero, always faithful to the gods. But what does that matter? She left skinny helpless Leo to defend himself. That's not very hero–"

I didn't know where she was but I dove for a foggy shape in the mist and gripped it. I didn't see anything and stood, pulling back my fist to punch. "Don't talk about my mother!" I spat. "You can insult me or hit me or whatever but don't you dare talk about my mother!"

That's when I realized what I was seeing. In my fist was a bunch of white fabric and in front of me, I held a little girl with perfectly curled black hair and big pink lips, chubby hands and freckles. She would have been cute if her eyes hadn't been blood red and pupil-less, and her teeth sharp fangs.

Despite my fist drawn back and the fact I was holding her a foot above the ground she didn't look scared. In fact, she looked almost amused. Gently she placed her tiny hand on my cheek. Her touch sent a shock through me and I dropped the she-demon, stumbling back into the railing. "Oh, Leo..." she tisked."Don't you know what I feed on?"

"I get the feeling you're going to tell me."

Cor ignored my comment and plowed on. "I feed on the fear and loneliness of others. Since becoming immortal I have been able to see the happiness and love but that gets boring so quickly." She walked toward me on light feet a smile on her face. "Misery is the only true entertainment. It is new and everyone reacts differently. But my favorite is when you push it all down until there's nothing left." She towered over me, her face aging from its small countenance into a grown woman, her voice became deep and terrifying. "Nothing left but a sad empty husk of loneliness and cold bitter sorrow."

She advanced her outstretched bright blue.

"Just like you," a smile spread across her face.

"Lady," I pulled on a grin, fire bubbling right under my skin. "I may not be perfect; in fact, I'm pretty far from it."

She was still advancing, the insane smile still plastered to her cheeks. "Do you have a point?" she was inches from me.

"I do," I lit her flowing dress on fire, a faint smoke at first. "If you hadn't noticed I'm anything but cold."

The flames caught as if touched by gasoline. Her scream lasted half a second before the fire caught onto the mist.

"Hit the deck!" I cried. My shipmates listened and fell to the earth as the mist burned away.

When the flames vanished we had clear skies once again. That much fire seemed to have sucked most of the oxygen from me. My hands were shaking, but not from the exposure to the element. Her words had rattled me, right down to my soul.

"Leo?" I glanced over to see everyone staring at me.

I grinned. "Well that was crazy, wasn't it? Corra, whatever, was nuts."

"Leo," Piper spoke again, gently.

The six teens in front of me were looking at me like I was made of tissue paper or glass. "What?" I didn't mean to sound defensive but I couldn't help it.

"About what happened…?" Jason continued.

"What about it?" I crossed my arms tightly.

"Talk to us," Hazel chimed in.

"I've got a ship to recourse and check over for damage." I moved to the control, trying to get my shaking hands under control.

"You can't just brush this off," Annabeth spoke firmly.

"Watch me," I mumbled, checking the controls.

"About what Cor said, that isn't true is it?" Percy seemed almost horrified.

For a second I debated. I could brush it off, tell them she was just trying to get a reaction out of us. But I couldn't do that; I couldn't lie to my friends.

Keeping my eyes locked on the control panel I nodded. "It was."

"But... but…" Frank was at a loss for words.

"We've got a ship to check," I took a slow breath. "Are you going to help me or not?"

They all nodded. But I felt the glances on the back of my neck for the rest of the day.