As Lord Zeus sent lightning bolts from the sky, a hurricane stirred in the west.
Poseidon. Hazel thought instantly.
With the gods back in order, they had a chance to defeat Gaia. They could win – Hazel knew it.
Ghostly pale arms reached up from the depths of the Underworld, snatching at the bodies of monsters who squealed in fright, holding them tightly and burying them under the earth.
Pluto. She thought. Her father, although seemingly ignorant of the battle occurring above him, was intervening.
Hazel watched as Leo tossed various metal items down the sides of his ship with the help of Percy and Annabeth. Even as thunder boomed directly above, she distinctly heard him yell;
“They say the invention of the shovel is ground breaking,” while he tossed shovel after shovel at the enemies below. One giant crumpled under the force, rubbing his head in a daze.
Gaia was not finished. Her fury swelled before her despite the gods’ attempts to destroy her. A dangerous array of earthen weaponry spread before her.
“No!” Hazel shrieked, straining through the crowd to reach the goddess as she aimed her magic at her friends aboard the Argo II. Nico ran alongside, swinging his blade at any opportunity.
Coach Hedge spun around, catching Hazel’s eye. He winked and charged at the earth goddess.
“Not today, you mud covered wrench!”
The Coach ran on his goat legs to Gaia, swinging his bat furiously. He was close enough to strike her, and her attention was only on those aboard Leo’s ship.
A green blast lifted the Coach off of his feet – or hooves? He flew through the air, landing painfully behind the tree line.
“You try to injure me, little satyr?” the earth mother’s voice boomed.
Hazel focused entirely on the ground, summoning up more precious stones than she ever had before. She began to feel woozy. She concentrated on Gaia and lifted the metals to her feet, where the earth goddess became stuck and imprisoned.
“Let me go! FREE ME!” Gaia screamed, pulling her feet from the stone clamps.
Before Gaia could dissolve into the earth, Festus and Jupiter seemed to share the same idea. Lightning and fire merged as one, consuming the goddess in a ball of molten material. Hazel shielded her eyes from the blast, blinking while heat surged over skin. Her heart hammered in her chest. Gaia screamed.
“YOU SHALL NEVER DEFEAT ME…”
Hazel looked up.
As the flames slowly disappeared, the goddess lay weakened on a small patch of grass.
Hazel willed the stones attached to the feet of the earth goddess to sink back into the ground, dragging Gaia with it.
Leo’s head popped back up from his ship.
“Oh, no, she’s gone and soiled herself.” He grinned.
“Time to land this baby!”
The Argo II prepared to land as the gods descended from Olympus. Just as it was about to land, a loud scream erupted from the ground, and the earth erupted.
It was if Lord Zeus himself had punched a hole in the terrain. Clay and rock and what Hazel could only presume was the remnants of animals soared into the air. The ground shook like an earthquake. Hazel’s eyes widened as she realized what was about to happen. She took a step forward, but it was too late.
The rubble smashed into the Argo II, ripping apart masts and framework. Festus roared and spat fire, but the cloud of debris raced overhead. Percy yelled and grabbed Annabeth by the waist. A fountain of water rushed up to meet him from the overhead creek, guiding him down safely to the ground.
Leo wasn’t so lucky.
The ship twisted in on itself and rocked. Leo frantically looked for an exit, or an eject button. Something.
There was a moment of silence, and then the Argo II ceased to exist.
It blew up. Every last bit. Shrapnel littered the grounds of Camp-Half Blood. Frantic demigods scattered, yelling loudly. Hazel knew Leo was immune to fire, but that explosion would have torn him to shreds.
She sunk to her knees, unsure of what to do. Leo Valdez, her friend throughout everything, gone.
Jason yelled from the distance.
“We need help here!”
Hazel wiped her eyes and sprinted to her friend, who knelt beside the unmoving body of Coach Hedge.
Jason looked at Hazel, sky blue eyes pleading. The Coach had always made everything feel better, like Leo. Hazel choked out a sob.
“Coach?” she asked timidly, reaching for his cold hand. The Coach gasped shakily and opened his eyes. Hazel felt a surge of hope, until she realized the unmistakeable feeling of death that lay upon him. His soul was as tight as a coiled wire, ready to break at any moment. Hazel’s heart felt as if it had well and truly broken.
“Mellie,” he gasped, eyes searching for something he couldn’t see. His grip tightened on Hazel’s.
“Mellie,” he said once more, then looked Hazel straight in the eyes.
“She’s fine,” she promised, tears threatening to spill over her cheeks.
“And… the baby. Look… after… him,”
“I will,” Hazel sniffled. The Coach let out a hoarse laugh.
“Ah… not so bad… not bad at all…” His hand slackened, and the Coach’s eyes rolled into the back of his skull.
Jason stood, staring at his friend. The Coach, who had been nothing but helpful, was dead.
A faint aura illuminated the satyr’s body. Suddenly Hazel could smell pine and strawberries and mint. The Coach glowed blinding-white, forcing Hazel to shut her eyes. When she opened them, a patch of clovers sat in his place. Hazel’s lips parted into a sad smile.
“Rest well,” she whispered and stood next to Jason. He was staring at something behind her, dumbfounded. Hazel turned and followed his stare. Jupiter had appeared on the battleground.
“Go,” she told Jason.
“Speak to your father.” He nodded once and walked to greet Jupiter. Someone tapped Hazel on the shoulder. They appeared at her side, ghostly pale yet merging into the shadows behind him.
“Nico,” she sighed, relieved.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” he said. Tears welled in Hazel’s eyes.
“But… Leo…” she whimpered. Nico stared at his shoes.
“I know. I felt his presence leave the living. He died heroically.”
“What will we tell the others?” Hazel cried. Nothing had ever felt so bad in her entire life. It didn’t seem natural for Leo to be dead – he was one of the seven, one of her dearest friends. Nico pulled her in an embrace; something so unnatural Hazel almost choked on her tears.
“We’ll figure something out.”