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I Deliver a Prophecy
After everyone had congregated around Chiron, he cleared his throat, and silence fell over the campers, who’d been mumbling about the strange circumstances of Mist Tag just a second before. I looked up to him and saw that his eyes were locked on me as well, as if he were studying me, something he did quite often. He reared his head up and spoke loudly.
“It seems that our Mist has . . . malfunctioned,” he announced, seemingly at a lack of a better word. “The Zeus campers have assured me that they don’t understand what’s happening either—”
“I bet those Zeus kids did this to make their team win!” shouted one of the Nike campers.
“That’s a lie!” yelled Suzanne. She opened her mouth to say more, but Chiron raised his hand, and she closed her jaw.
“I do not think the Zeus campers would try something so worrying over something as minor as a game of Mist Tag. I’m going to ask all of you to be patient while we try to discover the reason for all of this. In the mean time, I’m afraid that we’ll be unable to hold another game. Now, I’d like you all to return to your cabins. Lights out will be pushed back half an hour to compensate.”
There were mixed grunts and hurrays from the other demigods, though all of them did what Chiron asked and started towards the various exits. By now, the mist had completely vanished, and the darkness of the sky above had reached the ground, cloaking everything in a thin layer of shadow. Chiron was heading towards the south exit, and I followed him. Helen and Laurel started walking with me, but Jordan held them back. I turned around and nodded to him.
“I need to talk to Chiron by myself,” I said, and Jordan mouthed one word to me: Chaos?
I nodded again. “We’ll talk in the morning,” I assured them, and they walked away together, each splitting up once they’d gotten outside the arena. I turned back around and ran up to Chiron.
“Not now, Alex,” Chiron said without looking down at me. “I need to meet with Mr. D.”
“Chiron, you know I deserve to be a part of that conversation,” I said bluntly, and he sighed.
“Just because you were on that quest last year doesn’t mean you know as much as we do. Besides, it’s possible this is an entirely different issue—”
“It’s not,” I remarked. “This is Chaos’s doing.”
Chiron halted immediately and looked down at me. “Do not ever say that name again. Names have power, Alexander. I would think you of all people would respect that by now.”
“I do Chiron,” I responded, trying to hide my intimidation. “But that doesn’t mean they should be feared more than the people they name, and I’m not afraid of Chaos.”
Chiron whinnied and pointed his index finger against my chest.
“It doesn’t matter if you fear her. I won’t let you bring her here. Not to my camp!”
“Then let me speak to Dionysus as well.”
Chiron froze for a moment, breathing deeply.
“No.” He turned away, and I was about to give up on convincing him when I remembered something.
“The Mist isn’t just failing here,” I said, and Chiron stopped once again, hopefully listening. “When Jordan and I were bringing Helen to camp, a family saw us fighting Lamia. They saw through the Mist, even if briefly. They could see what was happening for just a second before their eyes tricked them. One of the children was even talking about seeing my spear!”
Chiron breathed deeply more now, taking a longer time before he responded.
“Fine,” he said finally. “If you swear by the River Styx never to call the Primordial Gods by their names inside my camp again.”
“I swear,” I said quickly, though reluctantly. “I’ll never say Chaos, Chronos, Aether—”
“That’s enough!” Chiron yelled, but settled down. “Now come along. Mr. D is not one to be patient.”
* * *
Dionysus did however seem to be a serious patient in Chiron’s makeshift hospital room in the Big House. I’d heard campers complaining earlier about how he’d been given such a huge, decked out recovery room unlike the rest of them, attending the single hospital tent on the other edge of Camp, and it seemed everything they’d said was true. Opposite of his deluxe, massaging queen bed was a large plasma screen television that took up about three quarters of the wall. A shelf to the side of the TV held about a dozen different gaming consoles, of which three were currently indicating that they were on. Suddenly the round of Mariokart Dionysus was playing paused, and the image changed to an abandoned city, where the god of wine proceeded to go around shooting what appeared to be crosses between zombies and centaurs, and image Chiron clearly disapproved of.
Dionysus himself sat propped up by about ten fluffy pillows at the head of the bed, and had his swollen red eyes focused entirely on the game, probably not even having seen Chiron and me entering. His face was pale except for his nose, which was shiny with snot, and bright vermilion. From his mouth extended an incredibly long cord, which seemed to be comprised of several bendy straws taped together that eventually found their way to a diet coke can on the bedside table. He tightened his lips and sucked in, pulling out almost half the can of soda through the long device. It took nearly ten seconds for the whole sip to make its way to his mouth.
Overall, it wasn’t really a treat for the eyes.
“Mr. D—” Chiron began before being immediately interrupted.
“Chiron, great,” Dionysus said, talking with the half of his mouth not holding the straw, and not taking his eyes off the game, even though he paused to resume a battle with some Heartless in Kingdom Hearts. “Can you get me a refill?”
“Mr. D,” Chiron continued, trying to keep his cool. “There’s something you should know.”
Dionysus didn’t respond, continuing to button mash the X on the playstation controller.
“Mr. D?” The centaur asked, drumming his fingers on his horse hide. Still no answer.
For a few more seconds Dionysus kept playing his game, before finally pausing and putting down the controller. He took a sip from his can, and sat for another second. Then he picked up the controller again and resumed.
“Dionysus!” I yelled, stomping my foot.
“Alex!” Chiron shouted in reply, putting his hand forcefully on my shoulder. “Do not address Mr. D like—”
“Keep your horseshoes on, ponyboy,” Dionysus said, waving Chiron off and taking the straw out of his mouth. “This one’s a lost cause. If he wants to make an enemy out of me then so be it. I haven’t added anyone to my list in a while.”
“Your list?” I asked mockingly. “You can’t even drink your own creation for the next fifty years!”
“Thirty-seven years, mind you!” Dionysus roared, which would have been much more intimidating if a long bead of mucus hadn’t been dripping from his nostril. He wiped it off of one of the pillows and Chiron cringed. “And that just means I can get you after you’ve gotten too old to fight back. Or if you’re dead, which you likely will be with a mouth like that, I could always come to pay you a visit.”
“Whatever,” I said, honestly not frightened. “Time is kind of my specialty, remember. I’m pretty growing older’s gonna benefit me.”
“Oh yeah?” Dionysus asked, when Chiron reared up and whinnied startlingly.
“Quiet, both of you!” Chiron yelled, which was probably the first time I’d ever seen him stand up to Dionysus. “We have far more pressing matters to attend to.”
Before Dionysus could get very far into his high-pitched mimic of the centaur, Chiron raised his hand.
“The Mist has failed, Dionysus.”
“Understood,” the wine god replied, and turned back towards his game.
“No,” Chiron stated, and took the controller from Dionysus. “This is no laughing matter. Without the Mist, you know there is no way to regulate the mortals.”
“Uh, yeah there is,” Dionysus said. “We did it before with the Greeks. Just get Zeus to use a little lightning bolt action—”
“Mr. D!” Chiron was definitely fed up now. It was nice to have him be annoyed with someone other than me for once. “We’ve already lost Apollo, Artemis, and Iris, we can’t stand to lose Hecate as well!”
Something snapped in my brain. Of course I knew that Apollo and Artemis had been . . . eliminated, but I didn’t know anything about Iris or even worse, Hecate.
“Wait, what happened to those gods?
Chiron ignored me and continued talking with Dionysus.
“Look, Chiron, I’m not saying it’s not serious, it’s just . . . not pause-my-video-game-session-serious.”
“Mr. D, with all due respect, it’s far more important than bashing in a bunch of shadowy monsters with a giant key!”
“Fine!” Dionysus roared, and switched back to Mariokart, though he even seemed reluctant to press the play button.
“Ugh!” Chiron groaned, and clenched both of his fists.
“Chiron,” I said, and he turned on me viciously.
“What?” He demanded, and I took a step back. I still never got why the other campers tried to convince me he was so cool and easy-going.
“What happened to Iris and Hecate?” I asked, trying to remain confident.
Chiron sighed and brushed off his coat.
“Iris disappeared last September,” Chiron told me. “Around the same time that you and your friends left for your quest. That’s why no one’s been able to Iris message since then. And yes, we believe it has to do with her.”
“Why haven’t you told any of the campers?” I questioned. “They’ve been asking about it almost non-stop ever since.”
“There are things that you all don’t need to hear,” Chiron explained. “And that means you can’t tell anyone either.”
“Fine,” I promised. “But what about Hecate?”
“Hecate is the goddess of the Mist. She regulates what the mortals can and can’t see.”
“I know,” I said. “He told me all about that.”
Chiron paused. “He? You mean Lucian?”
I nodded, and Chiron went into thought for a second, seemingly remembering that his death hadn’t really been that long ago to his best friend.
I can’t say that I hadn’t said his name since his death, but whenever I though about it, I avoiding saying it. Whenever it slipped out, an awkward silence followed, so it was preferable to keep it from happening. However, if I was ever prompted to say his name, I would. In fact, I will.
“Well, anyway,” Chiron said, returning from his thought, and seemingly to have calmed down quite a bit. He didn’t even seem to care that Dionysus had returned to his race. “Now that the Mist is malfunctioning, it’s not hard to imagine that the Primordial Gods might have taken her as prisoner as well.”
“Ah,” I said, unable to say anything more.
“Now,” Chiron said, and started towards the door. “Mr. D, I’ll leave you to think things over,” he said, hinting towards Dionysus, who didn’t seem to be paying any attention. He opened door and stepped out. “And Alex, I suggest you do the same.”
I nodded, and started walking gloomily towards my cabin through the murky darkness of the night.
* * *
One thing I’d realized since I became the camp’s Oracle was that I no longer had frequent Half-Blood dreams, visions that appear in my sleep that show me things I need to see or hear, but instead I had occasional “Prophecy Dreams.” Basically, I would see small snippets of the future with a few words from the Prophecy of the Master. As you can imagine, anything I saw about it wasn’t really a pleasant dream. The worst they’d ever gotten was an image of Camp Half-Blood burning, and a voice I’d imagined was Chaos’s reading the third line, “Destruction will spread, Chaos will thrive.” A shudder went down my spine every time I thought about it.
Anyway, that night, I had another Prophecy Dream. Not quite as disturbing as some of the others, but still enough for me to wake up in a cold sweat with goosebumps all over my body.
My view was that of some type of bird flying up to Mount Olympus at the top of the Empire State Building, moving swiftly through the shimmering, golden clouds of Mist that encircled the Eternal City. Below, dozens of Grecian Temples stood in perfect condition, with even more nymphs and minor gods running around doing their business. As I watched, a group of satyrs blew into magic reed pipes, causing a nearby oak to shift into the shape of what seemed to be a small mammal, possibly a groundhog in recognition of the upcoming February 2nd. The bird flew further up the rocky slope, shooting past statue upon statue of the gods, through archways and pavilions, over small forests and somehow rivers, until it reached the very peak of the mountain—the grand hall of the gods. Up until this point, I hadn’t really felt or heard anything, but suddenly a powerful tingling sensation overcame my body, and a loud whirring buzzed in my ears, until I felt newly discovered feet touch the ground. I sat down in one empty chair of the U—shaped throne collection, and was immediately overcome by a feeling of electricity sparking through my veins, trying to escape at every chance it could, the smell of metal filling my nasal, and I knew who and where I was. I wasn’t sure what Zeus was doing at the top of Mount Olympus, sitting on his throne far away from any solstice when the gods would meet, but there was fear in the back of mind.
Suddenly, my vision started to go hazy, and my peripheral started fading to black. The buzzing in my ears stopped and I could no longer feel or smell the electricity within me, and my body disappeared. Just before my view became total shadow, a dark figure appeared out of nowhere in a throne far from Zeus’s, and unhooded itself, revealing a scarred face cloaked by obsidian hair filled with twinkling stars.
When my vision was gone, I heard a new, sinister voice saying: “The gods shall fade forevermore.”
* * *
At breakfast that morning, I didn’t tell anyone about my dream, even Jordan, Laurel, or Helen. Outside of the Mess Hall, I didn’t even see any of them until Lunch, but we still weren’t allowed to eat together anyway, so me keeping it a secret didn’t become an issue until the hour of free time we were allowed afterward. I met up with Jordan, Helen and Ivan (Laurel was busy helping tending to the strawberry fields with the other dryads and the Dionysus campers), who had been helping Helen get a better feel of the camp, outside the big house, and we all headed up to my room to play a Mariokart Tournament, with each of us switching out each race. Once we’d finished (and I’d won, by the way), we went into the woods to hang out at Zeus’s fist. At one point, Jordan and I saw a large creature moving swiftly through the woods, and we all scrambled to the top, brandishing our weapons just in case it tried to attack. Unfortunately, Helen was the only defenseless one, and we decided to go to the Armory and ask one of the Hephaestus campers to make her a balanced sword, since she’d decided that was the weapon that felt best to her. After briefly describing the sword she’d used at Mist Tag the night before, the person running the Armory, a boy named Richard, looked at her for about three seconds before writing down about a dozen different notes on a piece of paper before handing it back to Helen.
“Take this to Carly at the Forge,” he said in a surprisingly soft voice. “Ask for a shield recommendation too. Trust me, you want one.”
We arrived at the Forge around the back of the armory, and were greeted by the Hephaestus cabin counselor, Ashton, who pointed us to a girl wearing a very conflicting outfit of a short, pink skirt with a matching sweater donned with hearts, and a scorched black welder’s mask that covered everything from the neck up. When she took off the mask to talk to us, two thick smudgy lines of soot and ash were left on the sides of her face, looking like misshapen sideburns descending from her equally dark hair. She read Richard’s note and quickly copied the contents of it onto a metal plate on the wall in the back of the room using a metal glove that glowed neon green when it traced letters of the same color and brightness onto the tablet. The note was then instantly torched in her hand, bursting into flame and smoke before being extinguished half a second later.
“Paper’s too flammable,” she said in a gruff voice that would probably have better suited Richard. “Plus green’s the only color bright enough to show up without looking like the fire.”
Carly wrote a few more notes and a couple lines creating a small sketch of the the sword Helen wanted to duplicate, and walked over to a long counter along the wall leading to a door that must have opened up to the heart of the inferno, where the weapons were melted and shaped for each demigod.
“Daughter of Nemesis, right?” she asked, and Helen nodded. Carly pulled out a drawer with three boxes inside, and picked out the middle one. It looked like a treasure chest, but wrapped in leather and much smaller. On the side there was the word Εκδίκηση, which I translated as saying Revenge. While I felt proud of myself for having learned something in my Greek lessons, it just reminded me of the fact that the nice, gentle Helen I’d met a few days ago was the daughter of a goddess who specialized in cutting people down to size.
Carly opened the box, revealing inside nearly four dozen different gemstones, each a slightly different color and shape.
“They’re all jasper,” she said, inspecting them all just as Helen did. “The sacred gemstone of Nemesis.”
I leaned over to get a good look at some of the different pieces. One sharply cut diamond-shaped piece was lime green, and strangely seemed to shimmer more brightly inside the gem. Another was deep crimson and cut in the shape of a heart. Before I could even think about why Carly was showing us these, she told us.
“Pick one, but make sure you like it. It’ll be set into the hilt of your sword. It’s kind of . . . a way for your mom to help you out.”
Before I could even look back down at the gems in the box, Helen already grabbed one and held it out to Carly.
“This one,” she said, holding a round, black gem with small blots of red dotted all over the surface of the stone.
“You already chose one?” I said, disbelievingly.
“Yeah, Helen, you might want to think this over,” Ivan said. “If the stone you pick’s gonna be on your weapon like, forever, you should probably take the time to—”
“No, no, most people are able to decide very quickly which one they want,” Carly said confidently. “The right one usually just speaks to them.”
“She’s right, Alex,” Jordan confirmed. “When I chose the obsidian for my pitchfork, it was this little shiny one that I just knew I wanted the second I saw it. Your weapon was a gift from Lucian, right? I guess you never got to pick your gem.”
“Just as well,” Carly said. “We only have gemstones for the gods.”
“I’m with Jordan,” Helen said, and I saw in her eyes that she was serious. This gemstone was meant for her. “I don’t know what it is, but I know that this is the one I want.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I believe you,” I said. “And if you’re sure, then I’m with you 100%.”
“I am,” Helen said, and handed Carly the stone.
“I’ll have your sword ready by dinner,” she assured us, and put the piece of jasper in a little holder beneath the metal tablet that Carly had written on. “For now, I’ve got to go ride some pegasi.”
She took her welder’s mask all the way off, wiped off her face with an already dirty washcloth, somehow coming out cleaner than before, and ran off to the stables. Before the rest of us all parted ways for our next activities, mine being the Greek that I’d now discovered had actually been benefitting me, I pulled Helen aside.
“You’ve got volleyball tonight, right?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “Should I come get my sword then?”
“Meet me at the courts first, I’m supposed to be playing as well. We can sneak over here after the first game and get it.”
“Okay,” she said, and started towards the arena. “It’s a date.”
* * *
Greek lessons that day proved less fruitful than those I’d had before, and I walked out of the little room in the Big House where the classes were held feeling like I’d really just wasted an hour of my life. But who knows? Maybe someday I would need to know . . . whatever I learned. Still, it was in there somewhere.
After Greek came Stable Cleaning, the absolute worst activity in all of Camp Half-Blood. Fortunately, the Hades cabin was with us for the period, so I got to spend the time talking with Jordan and trying to stop Megan from throwing the . . . you know . . . at other campers. However, it seemed her bark was worse than her bite, and when Jordan and I had our backs turned, she dropped the stuff in a bucket and quickly washed her hands with a hose.
The last activity before dinner was Canoeing, which I rather enjoyed. It was a nice, relaxing change from a day filled with Lunch Preparation, Greek, and Stable Cleaning. I spent the hour just gently paddling myself from bank to bank, thinking about my dream, and what it meant. That shadowy figure had to be Nyx, the Primordial goddess who had replaced Artemis on the Olympian Council. But why was she meeting with Zeus? And why were none of the other gods there? I’d never heard of the gods using the grand hall for anything but formal meetings on the solstices.
Before I could think too much more of it, the other campers were already starting to land their canoes and heading for the Mess hall. I followed suit and quickly hurried after them, trying to run the smell of seaweed off of me. I plopped down in my chair next to Chiron at the head table, my pants slightly damp from the water that had splashed into my canoe, and looked up to see that none of the Ares, Nemesis, Athena, or Hades campers had shown up yet. That didn’t really sit right.
Suddenly, one of the Athena campers, a girl named Allison, appeared, and came up to me.
“Alex,” she said, grabbing my hand and pulling me out of my chair, much to Chiron’s silent disapproval. “You need to come see this.”
Allison led me to the arena, where I knew Helen had Javelin Throwing, and I could hear shouting going on from almost the very beginning. Chiron followed us to the source of the yelling, and when we entered the arena, my heart stopped. Warren, the toughest, most aggressive demigod at camp and son of Ares, was holding three javelins in one hand, teasingly jabbing them at the person opposite, Helen.
“Helen!” I called out and ran over to her, but Chiron caught my arm and pulled me back.
“Don’t try and deny it, new girl!” Warren yelled, bringing on several supportive shouts from the crowd of campers that had gathered around. “You threw that javelin right at my chest!”
“Yeah, sure,” Helen replied astonishingly calmly. “After all, it’s not like there would be no reason why I would.”
“Shut up, Ms. Pac-Man.”
“Be quiet, Warren,” someone in the crowd said, and I knew why the Hades campers hadn’t arrived at dinner. Jordan had come like I had to defend Helen.
“Yeah, you might want to hush before this gets messy.”
“You’re not gonna do anything while Chiron’s here, Jenny. Even you can’t be that stupid.”
“Maybe you’re stupid enough for it to be worth it!”
Before Jenny could draw the whip from her belt, Chiron finally stepped in. He shot an arrow that burst into a giant puff of white smoke in the middle of the mob, separating the Nemesis, Athena, and Hades campers to one side and the Ares campers to the other.
“That is enough!” Chiron roared, trotting into the center of the arena. “How is it that I am finding myself in the exact same position as last night? Can you all just calm yourselves?”
However, something immediately happened that assured the fact that we would not calm ourselves.
A loud bird call echoed over the hills of Camp, filling the air unnaturally with the sound. It reverberated in my mind, rattling every one of my thoughts and giving me a serious migraine within a second. As soon as it came up, though, it disappeared, and my head simply felt weirdly pressurized. Looking around, I saw that the same thing seemed to have happened to everyone else as well, even Chiron.
“Alex,” I heard someone calling, but the sound was too shaky for me to tell who it was. “Alex!”
I turned my head to the speaker and saw Helen and Jordan both running to me, while practically everyone else stood around in a daze, like me.
“What’s going on?” I asked, my own voice ringing in my ears.
“I have no idea,” Jordan yelled, his voice sounding like a whisper to me. Megan had run up to him and grabbed his hand, something that didn’t actually seem to bother him.
“What do we do?” Helen asked me, and then it happened. My body went numb, and my vision went black. I could no longer hear anything, even the weird ringing and echoing sounds, except my own voice, but it was muffled beyond my comprehension. This had only happened once before, but I knew exactly what it was—I was giving a prophecy.
When my vision came back, I found myself lying on the ground, Helen kneeled over me, Megan pacing nervously, and Jordan doing something weird with his knee.
“Alex?” Helen cried, panicked. “Alex?”
“It’s okay!” I said quickly, sitting up to prove I was feeling fine. “I’m the Oracle remember? I just do that whenever the spirit inside me needs to give a prophecy. I promise, I’m all right.”
“Alex,” Jordan said, and I saw now that he was writing something on his pant leg with a little black sharpie. “Any chance you remember what you said after the thing about the single star?”
“The single star?” I asked, as unsure as he was. I hadn’t heard a thing I’d said, let alone anything about a single star.
“Wait, I got it,” he said, writing something quickly. “It was ‘the villains shall rise.’”
“Pleasant,” I responded, standing up. Most of the other campers had congregated at one of the arena’s exits, shoving to get out of there. “You wrote the whole thing down?”
“Yeah,” he said, capping the sharpie and sticking it in his pocket. “I’ve been keeping that pen handy ever since you became the Oracle, just in case you started spouting out prophecies at random.”
“Smart,” I told him. “Thanks.”
“So what did I say?”
Jordan grabbed his pants and started trying to decipher what he’d written. It seemed demigods couldn’t even read their own terrible handwriting.
“‘The daughter of balance returns to her home,’” he began, and Helen gulped. “‘To hear the last augury of Greece and Rome: The once safe haven shall burn to the ground, and the Lord of the Sky will return by the crowned. The immortal sight in the mortals’ eyes, at the single star, the villains shall rise.’”
Now I gulped.
“That’s . . . not good,” I offered.
Suddenly, the bird call went out again, but with less of an effect now. Over my head I saw a flash of red and blue streaking across the sky, a few feathers falling to the ground below. Jordan caught first one just fine, but the second one landing on the grass about fifty feet away, and burst into a plume of fire.
“And neither is that!” Helen yelled, and she grabbed my hand. The plume of fire began spreading quickly, engulfing the area in flames.
“Let’s get out of here!” I shouted, and all four of us took off running to the exit where everyone else had already gone, trying to outrace the blaze behind us.
As soon as we stepped foot outside the arena, the entire central field had caught fire. Flames were shooting up all over Camp, causing the Mess Hall and the north woods to erupt in fire, while campers frantically scattered around. Chiron was standing in the center of Camp, trying to call everyone to order, but no one was paying attention. Instead, they hurried to meet with their siblings, and began drawing weapons. I summoned my spear, Jordan his pitchfork, and Megan her shield. Overhead, the bird was still dropping feathers like rain, and everyone knew this wasn’t some random monster. Monsters weren’t even able to enter the camp’s magic border unless invited in by a camper or possibly by some . . . greater power.
Camp Half-Blood was under attack by the Primordial gods.
* * *
A Firebird Burns Down Camp
“Why do you run in fear of us?” the cold, metallic voice rang across the campgrounds, overpowering the screaming and battle cries from the campers. “We were summoned, were we not? My son called for us by name?”
I knew I’d have to deal with Chiron later about what Chronos had said, but there were clearly more pressing matters at the moment. I led Jordan, Megan, and Helen across the rolling hills of Camp, my target in sight, yet knowing that getting there would be unbelievably difficult thanks to the pandemonium all around us. I was surprised no one asked where I was running, but once again, there were bigger concerns for the time being.
The feathers seemed to be falling even more densely now, and for a moment, I could see the flash of red and blue in the sky, but now it was clearly in the form of a bird. I even thought I knew what bird, but from what I recalled from Greek Mythology, it couldn’t be. Phoenix was a nice bird! Why would it be attacking Camp?
“Alex!” Jordan yelled out, and jumped in front of me to catch a feather that otherwise would have landed on my head, lighting my hair on fire as it flared up. Fortunately, being the God of the Inferno’s son, the feather didn’t have a reaction. He was still holding the other feather he’d caught in the arena in his other hand, careful not to drop it.
“Watch your heads!” I told everyone commandingly, and they obliged. We continued running through the camp, dodging plumes of fire and trying not to knock down demigods trying to shoot the firebird flying overhead. Soon enough we managed to reach our destination, the Forge, mostly unharmed. Helen had a small burn on her left hand from running too close to a blaze, but she insisted it was nothing major. Inside the forge, there weren’t any campers, but the door to the actual blacksmithing room had been left open in everyone’s haste to get to safety. We ran inside before realizing that yet another fire was burning inside, and were careful not to get too close.
“Alex,” Helen cried, coughing up smoke as she exhaled. “What are we doing?”
“I think now’s a good time for you to get your weapon,” I said, worried that there might not have ever been another chance to at all.
“But there are like fifty swords in here,” Jordan commented. “How are we supposed to find Helen’s?”
Before I could even contemplate the question much, Helen pointed at a sword leaning against the wall to our left.
“It’s that one. I can feel the same power in the jasper as before.”
I nodded and was about to run over there, when Jordan grabbed my shoulder.
“Might be smarter if I did it,” he said, looking at the central fire that was burning quite wildly.
“Probably,” I said, smiling, and Jordan ran off to get the sword, tossing his two feathers into the central fire, and getting tickled by the flames in a way that might have melted my skin off.
“Got it,” Jordan said, and handed Helen the shining unicorn-styled sword with the dotted black stone for an eye. “Now let’s get out of here.”
“Wait,” I said, and Jordan and Helen both looked at me in shock.
“Wait?” Jordan asked. “What are you talking about.”
“Helen needs a shield.”
For a second it seemed like Jordan was making a decision, but Helen interrupted.
“That’s not important now,” she said, grabbing my hand and leading me out of the Forge. “We need to help the others stop whatever’s causing all this.”
“No, Alex is right,” Jordan insisted. “It doesn’t have to even be a permanent shield. But you’re untrained and defenseless against fire. You need protection.”
It looked like Helen was about to protest being called “untrained” and “defenseless”, but I grabbed her other hand and she looked at me.
“We’re not going to let you get hurt because you’re too proud. You’re a daughter of Nemesis, you of all people should know that pride leads to downfall. It’s kind of your family motto.”
She nodded, either at what I was arguing or my logic, but ran back into the Forge and grabbed one of the shields hanging on the wall by the door.
“Let’s go,” she said, and we charged into battle.
The Apollo campers were stationed at the top of Half-Blood Hill, firing dozens upon dozens of arrows at the bird overhead. They were known for their incredible accuracy, yet somehow none managed to hit their target. In the middle of the valley, the Poseidon campers were running around frantically, trying to douse the raging flames with water from the river and canoe lake. The larger cabins like Hermes and Aphrodite had all their campers trying to keep the feathers from landing on those who were trying to stop the chaos. Everyone else was either fruitlessly throwing spells and weapons at the firebird or trying to get to safety inside the cabins that were undamaged.
“What is wrong, heroes?” rang the deep, cold voice of my father across the camp. I heard Megan start to cry and Jordan trying to comfort her, the panic in his voice strongly restrained. “Are you all upset that your one safe haven is burning to the ground? You must have known this was coming. Your Oracle predicted it, did he not?”
My fist clenched around my spear, and I was tempted to through it into the sky, despite the fact that I knew Chronos was nowhere nearby.
“No matter. I’m sure the rest of the prophecy will be very uplifting. If you have any questions about it, I’m sure my son would be more than willing to field them. Have a nice day!”
A strange wave of force suddenly burst from the center of camp, knocking every demigod in sight to the ground, including Helen, Jordan, Megan, and I. Another wave of feathers fell from the sky, causing camp to erupt in fire once again. A deafening cry from the firebird echoed across the camp once again, disorienting me and causing me to collapse once again. Jordan helped me up, and I looked at him for a moment, my vision swirling and blurring his face.
“You okay, Alex?” he asked, and I nodded dizzily. Before I could process much else, I heard someone shouting from high up.
I looked into the sky and, sure enough, the firebird had disappeared. The last of the feathers were still coming down, but it was clear the assault was over. I knew exactly what had happened. Chronos had set the stage for a grand-scale attack on Camp Half-Blood, leading all the campers to go into full battle mode. But when the only threat had been fire, something that could obviously not be stopped by swords and arrows, there were only the two Poseidon campers fighting the real danger.
I walked past Helen, Jordan, and Megan, who was now crying and hugging Jordan tightly, to get a better view of the entire camp, and saw exactly what Chronos wanted. The twenty cabins were scorched, with the Demeter and Dionysus cabins almost completely reduced to cinders. Fittingly, the only one that seemed undamaged was the one belonged to Tyche, goddess of luck. The pegasus stables, which had fortunately been emptied by the Hebe campers, had lost their roof to the blaze. The amphitheater, arena, and mess hall, which had always had glimmering white marble exteriors, were blackened by smoke, and parts of walls had collapsed. The areas of camp that had suffered the most were the strawberry fields, the volleyball courts, the arts and crafts pavilion and, worst of all . . .
“The Big House,” I said, and took off running.
“Alex!” Helen called after me, and I heard all of their footsteps behind me, but I didn’t care. Every single part of my being was focused on what was before me—the smoking, ashen remains of the once-towering head building of Camp.
The only piece of the structure still intact was the square stone patio that had surrounded the Big House, piles of cinders and glowing embers covering the top, sides, and grass all around. One short plank of wood had fallen to the ground where I was standing, the sky blue paint cracked, peeling, and smothered in soot.
“Let me through,” Chiron’s shouted, sounding uncharacteristically shaken. “Please, let me through.”
The centaur stepped up next to me, cleared his throat softly, and turned away almost immediately from the measly remains of the Big House to address the campers.
“Heroes!” he stated in his once again Chiron-esque calm voice, which carried across the group of demigods herded together, silencing their minor conversations. “I understand this is a very upsetting, traumatic time for you all.”
I heard one person, likely and Ares camper, shout out No duh! followed by several snickers, but Chiron seemed to ignore them.
“However, I must ask that all of you, except for the cabin counselors, return either to your cabin or to the Mess Hall. As for the counselors, please meet me in the Arena in five minutes’ time. Thank you.”
Chiron headed off toward Thalia’s Pine Tree, which I was overwhelming glad to see was still standing, no doubt to check to see what had allowed such a devastating monster into our magical boundaries. I wanted to follow and talk, but knowing my current relationship with him and the with all that had just happened, I knew he wouldn’t want another one-on-one with me.
“Alex?” Jordan rested his hand on my shoulder, and I realized how cold I was, despite the fact that I’d just been running through, basically, an inferno.
“Hey,” I said, not quite up for saying much more, and Jordan seemed to know that. He had put away his pitchfork, so I tapped the Alpha on my spear, but just held the chain in my hand, my arms too heavy to lift.
“Helen,” he said, turning toward her. “Can you take Megan to the Mess Hall?”
“Sure thing,” she said, and took Megan’s hand, awkwardly carrying her sword and shield with her right. Megan seemed a little reluctant to let go of Jordan at first, but finally waddled over to Helen, holding on tight to her arm. “You two go meet with the other counselors at the Arena. We’ll be waiting for you guys when you’re done.”
She started walking away, then paused to turn back.
“And remember everything Chiron says,” she told us. “I mean, if you plan on telling me, that is.”
“Come on,” Jordan said, and patted my back. “Let’s go.”
* * *
When Jordan and I arrived at the Arena, I wasn’t surprised to see all the other counselors eagerly awaiting to talk to Chiron, each of them engaged in discussion about possible ways the firebird had entered Camp. Fortunately, Jordan and I were saved from taking part in such conversations by a voice that made me turn around and tackle the speaker with a hug.
“Hey there, Alex!” Laurel said, fortunately holding out her arms for a hug so that when I dove into one, she was prepared. We almost fell over, but she somehow managed to catch me and keep me upright. Perhaps the fact that she spent much of her day being a tree gave her a slight boost in staying up.
“Thank gods, Laurel!” I cried, tears of relief streaming down my face. A Mountain Laurel + Fire doesn’t exactly equal safety. “Your tree’s okay?”
“Yeah, it’s totally fine,” she said, surprisingly upbeat in light of what had happened. Then again, it was Laurel. She could never be surprisingly upbeat. “I used Chlorokinesis to move it right next to the river in case anything . . . happened. All the other dryads who could move their trees did as well, and we all helped the ones that couldn’t. Nothing happened to any of us, though some trees around the outer edge of the north woods got burnt.”
Her voice turned solemn now, and I remembered how sad she’d gotten in the beginning of the year when the Camp’s Christmas tree had died. She had even insisted I say a few words about how beautiful and lively it had been in its prime.
“Chiron!” I heard one camper shout, and I saw the centaur trotting into the arena, followed by four satyrs holding up what appeared to be a bed with some person sinking very far down into the middle sheet.
“Oh gods,” I said. “Really?”
The four satyrs laid Dionysus down onto the four corner posters, which seemed to be made of bamboo, next to Chiron in the middle of the arena. The wine god’s nose was still bright red and his eyes were still very puffy, but he seemed quite . . . cheerful? It was hard to tell, since there was no frame of reference—as far as I knew, Dionyus hadn’t been happy since he’d been sent to Camp Half-Blood by Zeus as punishment for chasing down an off-limits nymph. Yet there was an unmistakably giddy grin on his grubby little face. As I watched, he shut his eyes and started whistling an unbearable toon, twiddling his thumbs as he did.
“Heroes!” Chiron shouted, and the 20 demigods and however many nymphs and satyrs had come circled around him.
“Chiron, what was that thing?”
“Where did that bird come from?”
“How did it get into Camp?”
The cabin counselors had several dozen questions for the centaur, and didn’t let up on asking him, despite the fact that he didn’t even open his mouth, just standing up straight and waiting.
“Do you think it’s gonna come back?”
“Was it Alex’s dad?”
I knew the Demeter camper who’d asked that didn’t mean that as a stab at me, as she was merely trying to avoid using Chronos’s name, but it still bothered me. I hated being associated with my father.
“Hey, everyone,” Jenny said commandingly, but calmly. Then, she added, less calmly, “SHUT UP!”
The counselors quieted, except for the Ares camper who still seemed to be angry with her from his fight with Helen earlier, who was whispering insults and threats at her.
“Thank you, Jennifer,” Chiron said, though the seriousness in his eyes overpowered his smile. “To answer a few of you, I have no doubt that we were attacked by the Primordial Gods, or that we will not be struck again soon. The goal of the assault was simply to cause much damage to Camp, and that has been accomplished.”
“They wanted to make it look like a larger-scale attack to make us prepare for combat,” I added, and though I expected Chiron to get annoyed, for once, he seemed to appreciate what I’d said.
“Alex is right. The Primordial Gods expected all of your battle instincts to kick in when threatened. But grabbing your swords and shields wasn’t a strong defense against such a beast as Phoenix.”
A few campers started murmuring to each other, but I got straight to the point.
“But Chiron,” I said, and saw once again that the centaur didn’t seem to be upset by me. “Phoenix, in the old stories, didn’t attack people. He was a gentle creature, right?”
“Yes.” Chiron nodded. “Phoenix was known to be helpful and kind, not vicious or even notoriously dangerous as he was tonight. However, one way or another, he was manipulated into attacking. Perhaps he’s even gone slightly senile, as he’d have to be very near death to be dropping as many feathers as he was.”
I took in the information, still unsure about the entire situation, when Jenny spoke up again.
“Hey, what was it that guy said about a prophecy, Alex?” she asked, and I wasn’t sure if she was just wondering of if she was passive-aggressively accusing me of hiding something like that.
“Oh yeah, that was your dad, wasn’t it?” piped the Demeter girl, and I had to clench my fists a little.
“Yeah, that was—” I was about to say Chronos’s name, but I remembered what Chiron had said, and since he was being nice now, I wanted to pay him back a little. “That was my father.”
I could see Chiron’s expression loosen a tiny amount, and it was clear he appreciated me sidestepping the lord of time’s name.
“Was there a prophecy, Alex?” he questioned, sounding a lot like Jenny.
“There was,” I said, and Chiron shut his eyes, likely from holding back his anger. “But I swear, I only said the prophecy after Phoenix had arrived.”
“It’s true,” Jordan backed me up. “And I wrote it down.”
“Well, what did it say?” Chiron asked, no longer upset.
Jordan repeated the prophecy, reading it off of his knee again, and a chill ran down my spine when he said the third line: “The once safe haven shall burn to the ground”. Without even realizing it, we’d just experienced a very important, very awful part of the prophecy, seconds after I’d said it.
Chiron considered my prediction for a few seconds while Dionysus started singing the lines of the prophecy to the tune of It’s a Small World, bouncing his fingers around as if he were conducting.
“Well,” Chiron said finally, looking very stern. “Prophecies, as always, are calls for quests. And based on the remark about “the immortal sight”, I’d say this quest will revolve around the situation with the Mist. As for “the Lord of the Sky”, well, I have ideas but nothing solid. That’s for the quest members to figure out. And on that note, Alex, may I ask to whom you delivered this prophecy?”
I paused for a moment, knowing that I’d said the prophecy as a response to Helen asking me what we should do, but I wasn’t sure she’d want to lead a quest so soon into her stay at Camp. I’d left to go on a quest days after arriving, and it really wasn’t a fun way to get a crash-course on survival skills. The amount of pressure on someone leading a quest must be extraordinarily more strenuous. For a moment, I considered saying I’d said it to Jordan, but I realized that before he could realize why I was lying he’d say it had been Helen. Besides, it was hard to tell what Helen’s reaction to everything would be, having known her only a little while. She may have been upset to hear that I hadn’t given her the chance to lead a quest.
Not knowing exactly what to do, I did what I thought was best.
“Helen,” I said finally. “I delivered the prophecy to Helen.”
Chiron sent one of the nymphs to fetch Helen, and a few moments later she entered the arena, Megan trailing behind her closely and holding the nymph’s hand. The centaur and I briefed her on what we’d been talking about, and the moment finally came.
“I accept the quest,” she replied to Chiron. “And am I correct in saying I get to have two people accompany me?”
“Yes, you are,” Chiron said, “And I’d advise you to choose wisely, as—”
“I’ll need Alex and Jordan.”
Chiron looked at her for a moment, studying her, and so did I.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “You’ll be counting on these two to keep you alive.”
“I’m sure,” she said assuringly. “I don’t think I’ll be able to do it without them.”
“Helen,” I said, trying not to draw too much attention, though it was hard when everyone was staring at her. “Are you sure you don’t want like Ivan or—”
“I’m positive,” she insisted. “I only want you two.”
“If they accept, of course,” Chiron added.
“We accept,” Jordan and I said together, and Helen smiled. Despite my nerves, I couldn’t help but smile back.
“There you are, then,” Chiron said, straightening up after having bent down to speak to Helen. “I’ll ask you three to please stay for a while. As for the rest of you, you’re free to go.”
Chiron waved out the other campers, as well as the satyrs and nymphs, and clapped his hands together.
“That went well,” he said, and kneeled down next to Dionysus, whose carrier satyrs had remained, but were standing off to the side so as not to intrude on our conversation. “Now, I hope the three of you will be ready to leave within a day’s time.”
“That should be fine,” Helen said. “But we’ll need money and supplies.”
“That too should be fine.” Chiron paused to stop Dionysus from picking all the dandelions and blowing away the seeds. “We’ll have the Camp Store, or what’s left of it, supply you with everything you need. However, before any of that takes place, I must tell you three something. I highly suspect that not only has Hecate been taken, causing the Mist to begin fading, but that Iris was taken by the same people.”
“Is that why we can’t Iris message?” Jordan asked, and I remembered what Chiron had said before.
“Yeah, Jordan. Iris disappeared last September.”
The centaur nodded.
“I believe that much like what happened to Apollo and Artemis last year is going to happen to Hecate and Iris. It seems the Primordial Gods are trying to cut off the Olympians’ best means of communication and disguise. Without them, the gods are essentially trapped where they are, unable to enter the mortal world for too long without their true form being exposed, and they cannot speak with the others.”
“Wait a minute,” Helen interrupted. “What happened to Apollo and Artemis?”
I gulped, not wanting to recount the story even yet. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.
“We went on a quest last September,” Jordan said. “Apollo and Artemis were kidnapped. We tracked them down to Mt. McKinley but . . . well, they were killed anyway, as much as immortals can be killed.”
Helen looked shocked. After all, why wouldn’t she have been? The few campers Chiron had decided to tell had been emotionally traumatized for weeks. Even now, it was easy to tell who had heard the news. Luckily, those we’d told seemed to have kept their mouths shut, and most of the campers didn’t know. We decided it’d be best for them to know when it became clear we were going to have to go to war. Which now seemed to be near on the horizon.
“So if we can’t rescue Hecate and Iris, then . . .”
“We can’t be sure, but it would be unwise to rule anything out,” Chiron said. “Plus, now that it has become clear that the Primordial Gods have means of hearing us at all times, it isn’t safe to risk them hearing what you plan on encountering, or they’ll throw everything they can at you, completely unexpected. I suggest you three find them as soon as you can so there isn’t much time for them to strategize against you.”
At this, Chiron stood up, brushed some of the grass off of his equine legs and called Dionysus’s carrier satyrs over.
“You may stay in the arena all night if you wish. Try to plan on leaving either tomorrow morning or the day after. The sooner you can go, the better. I wish you the best of luck.”
The satyrs picked Dionysus’s bed off of the grass as he was trying to catch a butterfly fluttering over his head.
“Chiron,” I called after the centaur, who was now starting toward the exit. “I have one last question.”
“Why is Mr. D acting so strangely?”
Chiron smiled and looked at the euphoric god of wine, who was weakly flapping his hands to match the butterfly’s wings.
“One of the Apollo campers got distracted while tending to him and mixed some of your mortal DayQuil into his nectar. Apparently human medicine has some side effects to it. They should really warn you about that.”
* * *