The Last Olympian – Chapter 3: I GET A SNEAK PEEK AT MY DEATH

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Chapter 3

I GET A SNEAK PEEK AT

 MY DEATH

  If you want to be popular at Camp Half-Blood, dont come back from a mission with bad news. 

  Word of my arrival spread as soon as I walked out of the ocean. Our beach is on the North Shore of Long Island, and its enchanted so most people cant even see it. People dont just appear on the beach unless theyre demigods or gods or really, really lost pizza delivery guys. (Its happened—but thats another story. )

  Anyway, that afternoon the lookout on duty was Connor Stoll from the Hermes cabin. When he spotted me, he got so excited he fell out of his tree. Then he blew the conch horn to signal the camp and ran to greet me. 

  Connor had a crooked smile that matched his crooked sense of humor. Hes a pretty nice guy, but you should always keep one hand on your wallet when hes around, and do not, under any circumstances, give him access to shaving cream unless you want to find your sleeping bag full of it. Hes got curly brown hair and is a little shorter than his brother, Travis, which is the only way I can tell them apart. They are both so unlike my old enemy Luke its hard to believe theyre all sons of Hermes. 

  “Percy!” he yelled. “What happened? Wheres Beckendorf?”

  Then he saw my expression, and his smile melted. “Oh, no. Poor Silena. Holy Zeus, when she finds out . . . “

  Together we climbed the sand dunes. A few hundred yards away, people were already streaming toward us, smiling and excited. Percys back, they were probably thinking. Hes saved the day! Maybe he brought souvenirs!

  I stopped at the dining pavilion and waited for them. No sense rushing down there to tell them what a loser I was. 

  I gazed across the valley and tried to remember how Camp Half-Blood looked the first time I ever saw it. That seemed like a bajillion years ago. 

  From the dining pavilion, you could see pretty much everything. Hills ringed the valley. On the tallest, Half-Blood Hill, Thalias pine tree stood with the Golden Fleece hanging from its branches, magically protecting the camp from its enemies. The guard dragon Peleus was so big now I could see him from here—curled around the tree trunk, lending up smoke signals as he snored. 

  To my right spread the woods. To my left, the canoe lake glittered and the climbing wall glowed from the lava pouring down its side. Twelve cabins—one for each Olympian god—made a horseshoe pattern around the commons area. Farther south were the strawberry fields, the armory, and the four-story Big House with its sky blue paint job and its bronze eagle weathervane. 

  In some ways, the camp hadnt changed. But you couldnt see the war by looking at the buildings or the fields. You could see it in the faces of the demigods and satyrs and naiads coming up the hill. 

  There werent as many at camp as four summers ago. Some had left and never come back. Some had died fighting. Others—we tried not to talk about them—had gone over to the enemy. 

  The ones who were still here were battle-hardened and weary. There was little laughter at camp these days. Even the Hermes cabin didnt play so many pranks. Its hard to enjoy practical jokes when your whole life feels like one. 

  Chiron galloped into the pavilion first, which was easy for him since hes a white stallion from the waist down. His beard had grown wilder over the summer. He wore a green T-shirt that said MY OTHER CAR IS A CENTAUR and a bow slung over his back. 

“Percy!” he said. “Thank the gods. But where . . . “

  Annabeth ran in right behind him, and Ill admit my heart did a little relay race in my chest when I saw her. Its not that she tried to look good. Wed been doing so many combat missions lately, she hardly brushed her curly blond hair anymore, and she didnt care what clothes she was wearing—usually the same old orange camp T-shirt and jeans, and once in a while her bronze armor. Her eyes were stormy gray. Most of the time we couldnt get through a conversation without trying to strangle each other. Still, just seeing her made me feel fuzzy in the head. Last summer, before Luke had turned into Kronos and everything went sour, there had been a few times when I thought maybe . . . well, that we might get past the strangle-each-other phase. 

  “What happened?” She grabbed my arm. “Is Luke—”

  “The ship blew up,” I said. “He wasnt destroyed. I dont know where—”

  Silena Beauregard pushed through the crowd. Her hair wasnt combed and she wasnt even wearing makeup, which wasnt like her. 

  “Wheres Charlie?” she demanded, looking around like he might be hiding. 

  I glanced at Chiron helplessly. 

  The old centaur cleared his throat. “Silena, my dear, lets talk about this at the Big House—”

  “No,” she muttered. “No. No. “

  She started to cry, and the rest of us stood around, too stunned to speak. Wed already lost so many people over the summer, but this was the worst. With Beckendorf gone, it felt like someone had stolen the anchor for the entire camp. 

  Finally Clarisse from the Ares cabin came forward. She put her arm around Silena. They had one of the strangest friendships ever—a daughter of the war god and a daughter of the love goddess—but ever since Silena had given Clarisse advice last summer about her first boyfriend, Clarisse had decided she was Silenas personal bodyguard. 

  Clarisse was dressed in her bloodred combat armor, her brown hair tucked into a bandana. She was as big and beefy as a rugby player, with a permanent scowl on her face, but she spoke gently to Silena. 

  “Come on, girl,” she said. “Lets get to the Big House. Ill make you some hot chocolate. “

  Everyone turned and wandered off in twos and threes, heading back to the cabins. Nobody was excited to see me now. Nobody wanted to hear about the blown-up ship. 

  Only Annabeth and Chiron stayed behind. 

  Annabeth wiped a tear from her cheek. “Im glad youre not dead, Seaweed Brain. “

  “Thanks,” I said. “Me too. “

  Chiron put a hand on my shoulder. “Im sure you did everything you could, Percy. Will you tell us what happened?”

  I didnt want to go through it again, but I told them the story, including my dream about the Titans. I left out the detail about Nico. Nico had made me promise not to tell anybody about his plan until I made up my mind, and the plan was so scary I didnt mind keeping it a secret. 

  Chiron gazed down at the valley. “We must call a war council immediately, to discuss this spy, and other matters. “

  “Poseidon mentioned another threat,” I said. “Something even bigger than the Princess Andromeda. I thought it might be that challenge the Titan had mentioned in my dream. “

  Chiron and Annabeth exchanged looks, like they knew something I didnt. I hated when they did that. 

  “We will discuss that also,” Chiron promised. 

  “One more thing. ” I took a deep breath. “When I talked to my father, he said to tell you its time. I need to know the full prophecy. “

  Chirons shoulders sagged, but he didnt look surprised. “Ive dreaded this day. Very well. Annabeth, we will show Percy the truth—all of it. Lets go to the attic. “

  * * *

  I’d been to the Big House attic three times before, which was three times more than I wanted to. 

  A ladder led up from the top of the staircase. I wondered how Chiron was going to get up there, being half horse and all, but he didnt try. 

  “You know where it is,” he told Annabeth. “Bring it down, please. “

  Annabeth nodded. “Come on, Percy. “

  The sun was setting outside, so the attic was even darker and creepier than usual. Old hero trophies were slacked everywhere—dented shields, pickled heads in jars from various monsters, a pair of fuzzy dice on a bronze plaque that read: STOLEN FROM CHRYSAORS HONDA CIVIC, BY GUS, SON OF HERMES, 1988. 

  I picked up a curved bronze sword so badly bent it looked like the letter M. I could still see green stains on the metal from the magical poison that used to cover it. The tag was dated last summer. It read: Scimitar of Kampê, destroyed in the Battle of the Labyrinth. 

  “You remember Briares throwing those boulders?” I asked. 

  Annabeth gave me a grudging smile. “And Grover causing a Panic?”

  We locked eyes. I thought of a different time last summer, under Mount St. Helens, when Annabeth thought I was going to die and she kissed me. 

  She cleared her throat and looked away. “Prophecy. “

  “Right. ” I put down the scimitar. “Prophecy. “

  We walked over to the window. On a three-legged stool sat the Oracle—a shriveled female mummy in a tie-dyed dress. Tufts of black hair clung to her skull. Glassy eyes stared out of her leathery face. Just looking at her made my skin crawl. 

  If you wanted to leave camp during the summer, it used to be you had to come up here to get a quest. This summer, that rule had been tossed. Campers left all the time on combat missions. We had no choice if we wanted to stop Kronos. 

  Still, I remembered too well the strange green mist—the spirit of the Oracle—that lived inside the mummy. She looked lifeless now, but whenever she spoke a prophecy, she moved. Sometimes fog gushed out of her mouth and created strange shapes. Once, shed even left the attic and taken a little zombie stroll into the woods to deliver a message. I wasnt sure what shed do for the “Great Prophecy. ” I half expected her to start tap dancing or something. 

  But she just sat there like she was dead—which she was. 

  “I never understood this,” I whispered. 

  “What?” Annabeth asked. 

  “Why its a mummy. “

  “Percy, she didnt used to be a mummy. For thousands of years the spirit of the Oracle lived inside a beautiful maiden. The spirit would be passed on from generation to generation. Chiron told me she was like that fifty years ago. ” Annabeth pointed at the mummy. “But she was the last. “

  “What happened?”

  Annabeth started to say something, then apparently changed her mind. “Lets just do our job and get out of here. “

  I looked nervously at the Oracles withered face. “So what now?”

  Annabeth approached the mummy and held out her palms. “O Oracle, the time is at hand. I ask for the Great Prophecy. “

  I braced myself, but the mummy didnt move. Instead, Annabeth approached and unclasped one of its necklaces. I’d never paid too much attention to its jewelry before. I figured it was just hippie love beads and stuff. But when Annabeth turned toward me, she was holding a leather pouch—like a Native American medicine pouch on a cord braided with feathers. She opened the bag and took out a roll of parchment no bigger than her pinky. 

  “No way,” I said. “You mean all these years, Ive been asking about this stupid prophecy, and its been right there around her neck?”

  “The time wasnt right,” Annabeth said. “Believe me, Percy, I read this when I was ten years old, and I still have nightmares about it. “

  “Great,” I said. “Can I read it now?”

  “Downstairs at the war council,” Annabeth said. “Not in front of . . . you know. “

  I looked at the glassy eyes of the Oracle, and I decided not to argue. We headed downstairs to join the others. I didnt know it then, but it would be the last time I ever visited the attic. 

  * * *

  The senior counselors had gathered around the Ping-Pong table. Dont ask me why, but the rec room had become the camps informal headquarters for war councils. When Annabeth, Chiron, and I came in, though, it looked more like a shouting match. 

  Clarisse was still in full battle gear. Her electric spear was strapped to her back. (Actually, her second electric spear, since Id broken the first one. She called the spear “Maimer. ” Behind her back, everybody else called it “Lamer. “) She had her boar-shaped helmet under one arm and a knife at her belt. 

  She was in the midst of yelling at Michael Yew, the new head counselor for Apollo, which looked kind of funny since Clarisse was a foot taller. Michael had taken over the Apollo cabin after Lee Fletcher died in battle last summer. Michael stood four feet six, with another two feet of attitude. He reminded me of a ferret, with a pointy nose and scrunched-up features—either because he scowled so much or because he spent too much time looking down the shaft of an arrow. 

  “Its our loot!” he yelled, standing on his tiptoes so he could get in Clarisses face. “If you dont like it, you can kiss my quiver!”

  Around the table, people were trying not to laugh—the Stoll brothers, Pollux from the Dionysus cabin, Katie Gardner from Demeter. Even Jake Mason, the hastily appointed new counselor from Hephaestus, managed a faint smile. Only Silena Beauregard didnt pay any attention. She sat beside Clarisse and stared vacantly at the Ping-Pong net. Her eyes were red and puffy. A cup of hot chocolate sat untouched in front of her. It seemed unfair that she had to be here. I couldnt believe Clarisse and Michael standing over her, arguing about something as stupid as loot, when shed just lost Beckendorf. 

  “STOP IT!” I yelled. “What are you guys doing?”

  Clarisse glowered at me. “Tell Michael not to be a selfish jerk. “

  “Oh, thats perfect, coming from you,” Michael said. 

  “The only reason Im here is to support Silena!” Clarisse shouted. “Otherwise Id be back in my cabin. “

  “What are you talking about?” I demanded. 

  Pollux cleared his throat. “Clarisse has refused to speak to any of us, until her, um, issue is resolved. She hasnt spoken for three days. “

  “Its been wonderful,” Travis Stoll said wistfully. 

  “What issue?” I asked. 

  Clarisse turned to Chiron. “Youre in charge, right? Does my cabin get what we want or not?”

  Chiron shuffled his hooves. “My dear, as Ive already explained, Michael is correct. Apollos cabin has the best claim. Besides, we have more important matters—”

  “Sure,” Clarisse snapped. “Always more important matters than what Ares needs. Were just supposed to show up and light when you need us, and not complain!”

  “That would be nice,” Connor Stoll muttered. 

  Clarisse gripped her knife. “Maybe I should ask Mr. D—”

  “As you know,” Chiron interrupted, his tone slightly angry now, “our director, Dionysus, is busy with the war. He cant be bothered with this. “

  “I see,” Clarisse said. “And the senior counselors? Are any of you going to side with me?”

  Nobody was smiling now. None of them met Clarisses eyes. 

  “Fine. ” Clarisse turned to Silena. “Im sorry. I didnt mean to get into this when youve just lost . . . Anyway, I apologize. To you. Nobody else. “

Silena didnt seem to register her words. 

  Clarisse threw her knife on the Ping-Pong table. “All of you can fight this war without Ares. Until I get satisfaction, no one in my cabin is lifting a finger to help. Have fun dying. “

  The counselors were all too stunned to say anything as Clarisse stormed out of the room. 

  Finally Michael Yew said, “Good riddance. “

  “Are you kidding?” Katie Gardner protested. “This is a disaster!”

  “She cant be serious,” Travis said. “Can she?”

  Chiron sighed. “Her pride has been wounded. Shell calm down eventually. ” But he didnt sound convinced. 

  I wanted to ask what the heck Clarisse was so mad about, but I looked at Annabeth and she mouthed the words Ill tell you later. 

  “Now,” Chiron continued, “if you please, counselors. Percy has brought something I think you should hear. Percy—the Great Prophecy. “

  Annabeth handed me the parchment. It felt dry and old, and my fingers fumbled with the string. I uncurled the paper, trying not to rip it, and began to read:

  “A half-blood of the eldest dogs . . . “

  “Er, Percy?” Annabeth interrupted. “Thats gods. Not dogs. “

  “Oh, right,” I said. Being dyslexic is one mark of a demigod, but sometimes I really hate it. The more nervous I am, the worse my reading gets. “A half~blood of the eldest gods . . . shall reach sixteen against all odds . . . “

  I hesitated, staring at the next lines. A cold feeling started in my fingers as if the paper was freezing. 

  “And see the world in endless sleep,

  The heros soul, cursed blade shall reap. “

  Suddenly Riptide seemed heavier in my pocket. A cursed blade? Chiron once told me Riptide had brought many people sorrow. Was it possible my own sword could get me killed? And how could the world fall into endless sleep, unless that meant death?

  “Percy,” Chiron urged. “Read the rest. “

  My mouth felt like it was full of sand, but I spoke the last two lines. 

  “A single choice shall. . . shall end his days. 

  Olympus to per—pursue—”

  “Preserve,” Annabeth said gently. “It means to save. “

  “I know what it means,” I grumbled. “Olympus to preserve or raze. “

  The room was silent. Finally Connor Stoll said, “Raise is good, isnt it?”

  “Not raise,” Silena said. Her voice was hollow, but I was startled to hear her speak at all. “R-a-z-e means destroy. “

  “Obliterate,” Annabeth said. “Annihilate. Turn to rubble. “

  “Got it. ” My heart felt like lead. “Thanks. “

  Everybody was looking at me—with concern, or pity, or maybe a little fear. 

  Chiron closed his eyes as if he were saying a prayer. In horse form, his head almost brushed the lights in the rec room. “You see now, Percy, why we thought it best not to tell you the whole prophecy. Youve had enough on your shoulders—”

  “Without realizing I was going to die in the end anyway?” I said. “Yeah, I get it. “

  Chiron gazed at me sadly. The guy was three thousand years old. Hed seen hundreds of heroes die. He might not like it, but he was used to it. He probably knew better than to try to reassure me. 

  “Percy,” Annabeth said. “You know prophecies always have double meanings. It might not literally mean you die. “

  “Sure,” I said. “A single choice shall end his days. That has tons of meanings, right?”

  “Maybe we can stop it,” Jake Mason offered. “The heros soul, cursed blade shall reap. Maybe we could find this cursed blade and destroy it. Sounds like Kronoss scythe, right?”

  I hadnt thought about that, but it didnt matter if the cursed blade was Riptide or Kronoss scythe. Either way, I doubted we could stop the prophecy. A blade was supposed to reap my soul. As a general rule, I preferred not to have my soul reaped. 

  “Perhaps we should let Percy think about these lines,” Chiron said. “He needs time—”

  “No. ” I folded up the prophecy and shoved it into my pocket. I felt defiant and angry, though I wasnt sure who I was angry with. “I dont need time. If I die, I die. I cant worry about that, right?”

  Annabeths hands were shaking a little. She wouldnt meet my eyes. 

  “Lets move on,” I said. “Weve got other problems. Weve got a spy. “

  Michael Yew scowled. “A spy?”

  I told them what had happened on the Princess Andromeda—how Kronos had known we were coming, how hed shown me the silver scythe pendant hed used to communicate with someone at camp. 

  Silena started to cry again, and Annabeth put an arm around her shoulders. 

  “Well,” Connor Stoll said uncomfortably, “weve suspected there might a spy for years, right? Somebody kept passing information to Luke—like the location of the Golden Fleece a couple of years ago. It must be somebody who knew him well. “

  Maybe subconsciously, he glanced at Annabeth. Shed known Luke better than anyone, of course, but Connor looked away quickly. “Um, I mean, it could be anybody. “

  “Yes. ” Katie Gardner frowned at the Stoll brothers. Shed disliked them ever since theyd decorated the grass roof of the Demeter cabin with chocolate Easter bunnies. “Like one of Lukes siblings. “

  Travis and Connor both started arguing with her. 

  “Stop!” Silena banged the table so hard her hot chocolate spilled. “Charlies dead and . . . and youre all arguing like little kids!” She put her head down and began to sob. 

  Hot chocolate trickled off the Ping-Pong table. Everybody looked ashamed. 

  “Shes right,” Pollux said at last. “Accusing each other doesnt help. We need to keep our eyes open for a silver necklace with a scythe charm. If Kronos had one, the spy probably does too. “

  Michael Yew grunted. “We need to find this spy before we plan our next operation. Blowing up the Princess Andromeda wont stop Kronos forever. “

  “No indeed,” Chiron said. “In fact his next assault is already on the way. “

  I scowled. “You mean the bigger threat Poseidon mentioned?”

  He and Annabeth looked at each other like, Its time. Did I mention I hate it when they do that?

  “Percy,” Chiron said, “we didnt want to tell you until you returned to camp. You needed a break with your . . . mortal friends. “

  Annabeth blushed. It dawned on me that she knew Id been hanging out with Rachel, and I felt guilty. Then I felt angry that I felt guilty. I was allowed to have friends outside camp, right? It wasnt like . . . 

  “Tell me whats happened,” I said. 

  Chiron picked up a bronze goblet from the snack table. He tossed water onto the hot plate where we usually melted nacho cheese. Steam billowed up, making a rainbow in the fluorescent lights. Chiron fished a golden drachma out of his pouch, tossed it through the mist, and muttered, “O Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow, show us the threat. “

  The mist shimmered. I saw the familiar image of a smoldering volcano—Mount St. Helens. As I watched, the side of the mountain exploded. Fire, ash, and lava rolled out. A newscasters voice was saying “—even larger than last years eruption, and geologists warn that the mountain may not be done. “

  I knew all about last years eruption. Id caused it. But this explosion was much worse. The mountain tore itself apart, collapsing inward, and an enormous form rose out of the smoke and lava like it was emerging from a manhole. I hoped the Mist would keep the humans from seeing it clearly, because what I saw wouldve caused panic and riots across the entire United States. 

  The giant was bigger than anything Id ever encountered. Even my demigod eyes couldnt make out its exact form through the ash and fire, but it was vaguely humanoid and so huge it couldve used the Chrysler Building as a baseball bat. The mountain shook with a horrible rumbling, as if the monster were laughing. 

  “Its him,” I said. “Typhon. “

  I was seriously hoping Chiron would say something good, like No, thats our huge friend Leroy! Hes going to help us! But no such luck. He simply nodded. “The most horrible monster of all, the biggest single threat the gods ever faced. He has been freed from under the mountain at last. But this scene is from two days ago. Here is what is happening today. “

  Chiron waved his hand and the image changed. I saw a bank of storm clouds rolling across the Midwest plains. Lightning flickered. Lines of tornadoes destroyed everything in their path—ripping up houses and trailers, tossing cars around like Matchbox toys. 

  “Monumental floods,” an announcer was saying. “Five states declared disaster areas as the freak storm system sweeps east, continuing its path of destruction. ” The cameras zoomed in on a column of storm bearing down on some Midwest city. I couldnt tell which one. Inside the storm I could see the giant—just small glimpses of his true form: a smoky arm, a dark clawed hand the size of a city block. His angry roar rolled across the plains like a nuclear blast. Other smaller forms darted through the clouds, circling the monster. I saw flashes of light, and I realized the giant was trying to swat them. I squinted and thought I saw a golden chariot flying into the blackness. Then some kind of huge bird—a monstrous owl—dived in to attack the giant. 

  “Are those . . . the gods?” I said. 

  “Yes, Percy,” Chiron said. “They have been fighting him for days now, trying to slow him down. But Typhon is marching forward—toward New York. Toward Olympus. “

  I let that sink in. “How long until he gets here?”

  “Unless the gods can stop him? Perhaps five days. Most of the Olympians are there . . . except your father, who has a war of his own to fight. “

  “But then whos guarding Olympus?”

  Connor Stoll shook his head. “If Typhon gets to New York, it wont matter whos guarding Olympus. “

  I thought about Kronoss words on the ship: I would love to see the terror in your eyes when you realize how I will destroy Olympus. 

  Was this what he was talking about: an attack by Typhon? It was sure terrifying enough. But Kronos was always fooling us, misdirecting our attention. This seemed too obvious for him. And in my dream, the golden Titan had talked about several more challenges to come, as if Typhon were only the first. 

  “Its a trick,” I said. “We have to warn the gods. Something else is going to happen. “

  Chiron looked at me gravely. “Something worse than Typhon? I hope not. “

  “We have to defend Olympus,” I insisted. “Kronos has another attack planned. “

  “He did,” Travis Stoll reminded me. “But you sunk his ship. “

  Everyone was looking at me. They wanted some good news. They wanted to believe that at least Id given them a little bit of hope. 

  I glanced at Annabeth. I could tell we were thinking the same thing: What if the Princess Andromeda was a ploy? What if Kronos let us blow up that ship so wed lower our guard?

  But I wasnt going to say that in front of Silena. Her boyfriend had sacrificed himself for that mission. 

  “Maybe youre right,” I said, though I didnt believe it. 

  I tried to imagine how things could get much worse. The gods were in the Midwest fighting a huge monster that had almost defeated them once before. Poseidon was under siege and losing a war against the sea Titan Oceanus. Kronos was still out there somewhere. Olympus was virtually undefended. The demigods of Camp Half-Blood were on our own with a spy in our midst. 

Oh, and according to the ancient prophecy, I was going to die when I turned sixteen—which happened to be in five days, the exact same time Typhon was supposed to hit New York. Almost forgot that. 

  “Well,” Chiron said, “I think thats enough for one night. “

  He waved his hand and the steam dissipated. The stormy battle of Typhon and the gods disappeared. 

  “Thats an understatement,” I muttered. 

  And the war council adjourned. 

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