- The Hidden Oracle
But, oh, how I wanted to stay with Will, Kayla, Austin—my mortal children. I wanted to help Harley put smiley faces on his flamethrower. I wanted to flirt with Chiara and steal her away from Damien…or perhaps steal Damien away from Chiara, I wasn’t sure yet. I wanted to improve my music and archery through that strange activity known as practice. I wanted to have a home.
Leave, I told myself. Hurry.
Because I was a coward, I waited too long. Below me, the cabin lights flickered on. Campers emerged from their doorways. Sherman Yang began his morning stretches. Harley jogged around the green, holding his Leo Valdez beacon high with the hope it would finally work.
At last, a pair of familiar figures spotted me. They approached from different directions—the Big House and Cabin Three—hiking up the hill to see me: Rachel Dare and Percy Jackson.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Rachel said. “Don’t do it.”
I feigned surprise. “Can you read my mind, Miss Dare?”
“I don’t need to. I know you, Lord Apollo.”
A week ago, the idea would have made me laugh. A mortal could not know me. I had lived for four millennia. Merely looking upon my true form would have vaporized any human. Now, though, Rachel’s words seemed perfectly reasonable. With Lester Papadopoulos, what you saw was what you got. There really wasn’t much to know.
“Don’t call me Lord,” I sighed. “I am just a mortal teen. I do not belong at this camp.”
Percy sat next to me. He squinted at the sunrise, the sea breeze tousling his hair. “Yeah, I used to think I didn’t belong here either.”
“It’s not the same,” I said. “You humans change and grow and mature. Gods do not.”
Percy faced me. “You sure about that? You seem pretty different.”
I think he meant that as a compliment, but I didn’t find his words reassuring. If I was becoming more fully human, that was hardly a cause for celebration. True, I had mustered a few godly powers at important moments—a burst of divine strength against the Germani, a hay fever arrow against the Colossus—but I could not rely on those abilities. I didn’t even understand how I had summoned them. The fact that I had limits, and that I couldn’t be sure where those limits were…Well, that made me feel much more like Lester Papadopoulos than Apollo.
“The other Oracles must be found and secured,” I said. “I cannot do that unless I leave Camp Half-Blood. And I cannot risk anyone else’s life.”
Rachel sat on my other side. “You sound certain. Did you get a prophecy from the grove?”
I shuddered. “I fear so.”
Rachel cupped her hands on her knees. “Kayla said you were talking to an arrow yesterday. I’m guessing it’s wood from Dodona?”
“Wait,” Percy said. “You found a talking arrow that gave you a prophecy?”
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “The arrow talks, but I got the prophecy from the grove itself. The Arrow of Dodona just gives random advice. He’s quite annoying.”
The arrow buzzed in my quiver.
“At any rate,” I continued, “I must leave the camp. The Triumvirate means to possess all the ancient Oracles. I have to stop them. Once I have defeated the former emperors…only then will I be able to face my old enemy Python and free the Oracle of Delphi. After that…if I survive…perhaps Zeus will restore me to Olympus.”
Rachel tugged at a strand of her hair. “You know it’s too dangerous to do all that alone, right?”
“Listen to her,” Percy urged. “Chiron told me about Nero and this weird holding company of his.”
“I appreciate the offer of assistance, but—”
“Whoa.” Percy held up his hands. “Just to be clear, I’m not offering to go with you. I still have to finish my senior year, pass my DSTOMP and my SAT, and avoid getting killed by my girlfriend. But I’m sure we can get you some other helpers.”
“I’ll go,” Rachel said.
I shook my head. “My enemies would love to capture someone as dear to me as the priestess of Delphi. Besides, I need you and Miranda Gardiner to stay here and study the Grove of Dodona. For now, it is our only source of prophecy. And since our communication problems have not gone away, learning to use the grove’s power is all the more critical.”
Rachel tried to hide it, but I could see her disappointment in the lines around her mouth. “What about Meg?” she asked. “You’ll try to find her, won’t you?”