I found this inconsiderate, since I’d only just gotten up. All around the orchard, the frozen blackened remnants of the harvest were beginning to levitate.

Believe me, in four thousand years I have seen some strange things. I have seen the dreaming face of Ouranos etched in stars across the heavens, and the full fury of Typhon as he raged across the earth. I’ve seen men turn into snakes, ants turn into men, and otherwise rational people dance the macarena.

But never before had I seen an uprising of frozen fruit.

Percy and I hit the ground as peaches shot around the orchard, ricocheting off trees like eight balls, ripping through the nosoi’s cadaverous bodies. If I had been standing up, I would have been killed, but Meg simply stood there, unfazed and unhurt, as frozen dead fruit zinged around her.

All three nosoi collapsed, riddled with holes. Every piece of fruit dropped to the ground.

Percy looked up, his eyes red and puffy. “Whah jus happened?”

He sounded congested, which meant he hadn’t completely escaped the effects of the plague cloud, but at least he wasn’t dead. That was generally a good sign.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Meg, is it safe?”

She was staring in amazement at the carnage of fruit, mangled corpses, and broken tree limbs. “I—I’m not sure.”

“How’d you do thah?” Percy snuffled.

Meg looked horrified. “I didn’t! I just knew it would happen.”

One of the cadavers began to stir. It got up, wobbling on its heavily perforated legs.

“But you did doooo it,” the spirit growled. “Yooou are strong, child.”

The other two corpses rose.

“Not strong enough,” said the second nosos. “We will finish you now.”

The third spirit bared his rotten teeth. “Your guardian would be sooooo disappointed.”

Guardian? Perhaps the spirit meant me. When in doubt, I usually assumed the conversation was about me.

Meg looked as if she’d been punched in the gut. Her face paled. Her arms trembled. She stamped her foot and yelled, “NO!”

More peaches swirled into the air. This time the fruit blurred together in a fructose dust devil, until standing in front of Meg was a creature like a pudgy human toddler wearing only a linen diaper. Protruding from his back were wings made of leafy branches. His babyish face might have been cute except for the glowing green eyes and pointy fangs. The creature snarled and snapped at the air.

“Oh, no.” Percy shook his head. “I hate these things.”

The three nosoi also did not look pleased. They edged away from the snarling baby.

“Wh-what is it?” Meg asked.

I stared at her in disbelief. She had to be the cause of this fruit-based strangeness, but she looked as shocked as we were. Unfortunately, if Meg didn’t know how she had summoned this creature, she would not know how to make it go away, and like Percy Jackson, I was no fan of karpoi.

“It’s a grain spirit,” I said, trying to keep the panic out of my voice. “I’ve never seen a peach karpos before, but if it’s as vicious as other types…”

I was about to say, we’re doomed, but that seemed both obvious and depressing.

The peach baby turned toward the nosoi. For a moment, I feared he would make some hellish alliance—an axis of evil between illnesses and fruits.

The middle corpse, the one with the peach in his forehead, inched backward. “Do not interfere,” he warned the karpos. “We will not allooow—”

The peach baby launched himself at the nosos and bit his head off.

That is not a figure of speech. The karpos’s fanged mouth unhinged, expanding to an unbelievable circumference, then closed around the cadaver’s head, and chomped it off in one bite.

Oh, dear…I hope you weren’t eating dinner as you read that.

In a matter of seconds, the nosos had been torn to shreds and devoured.

Understandably, the other two nosoi retreated, but the karpos crouched and sprang. He landed on the second corpse and proceeded to rip it into plague-flavored Cream of Wheat.

The last spirit dissolved into glittering smoke and tried to fly away, but the peach baby spread his leafy wings and launched himself in pursuit. He opened his mouth and inhaled the sickness, snapping and swallowing until every wisp of smoke was gone.

He landed in front of Meg and belched. His green eyes gleamed. He did not appear even slightly sick, which I suppose wasn’t surprising, since human diseases don’t infect fruit trees. Instead, even after eating three whole nosoi, the little fellow looked hungry.