“I’ll get in.” I tried to exude confidence. I had no alternative. If I was unable to enter Camp Half-Blood…No. I’d already been attacked twice on my first day as a mortal. There was no plan B that would keep me alive.

The police car’s doors opened.

“Go,” I urged Percy. “We’ll find our way through the woods. You explain to the police that you’re sick and you lost control of the car. They’ll go easy on you.”

Percy laughed. “Yeah. Cops love me almost as much as teachers do.” He glanced at Meg. “You sure you’re okay with the baby fruit demon?”

Peaches growled.

“All good,” Meg promised. “Go home. Rest. Get lots of fluids.”

Percy’s mouth twitched. “You’re telling a son of Poseidon to get lots of fluids? Okay, just try to survive until the weekend, will you? I’ll come to camp and check on you guys if I can. Be careful and—CHOOOO!”

Muttering unhappily, he touched the cap of his pen to his sword, turning it back into a simple ballpoint. A wise precaution before approaching law enforcement. He trudged down the hill, sneezing and sniffling.

“Officer?” he called. “Sorry, I’m up here. Can you tell me where Manhattan is?”

Meg turned to me. “Ready?”

I was soaking wet and shivering. I was having the worst day in the history of days. I was stuck with a scary girl and an even scarier peach baby. I was by no means ready for anything. But I also desperately wanted to reach camp. I might find some friendly faces there—perhaps even jubilant worshippers who would bring me peeled grapes, Oreos, and other holy offerings.

“Sure,” I said. “Let’s go.”

Peaches the karpos grunted. He gestured for us to follow, then scampered toward the hills. Maybe he knew the way. Maybe he just wanted to lead us to a grisly death.

Meg skipped after him, swinging from tree branches and cartwheeling through the mud as the mood took her. You might’ve thought we’d just finished a nice picnic rather than a battle with plague-ridden cadavers.

I turned my face to the sky. “Are you sure, Zeus? It’s not too late to tell me this was an elaborate prank and recall me to Olympus. I’ve learned my lesson. I promise.”

The gray winter clouds did not respond. With a sigh, I jogged after Meg and her homicidal new minion.

A walk through the woods

Voices driving me bonkers

I hate spaghetti

I SIGHED WITH RELIEF. “This should be easy.”

Granted, I’d said the same thing before I fought Poseidon in hand-to-hand combat, and that had not turned out to be easy. Nevertheless, our path into Camp Half-Blood looked straightforward enough. For starters, I was pleased I could see the camp, since it was normally shielded from mortal eyes. This boded well for me getting in.

From where we stood at the top of a hill, the entire valley spread out below us: roughly three square miles of woods, meadows, and strawberry fields bordered by Long Island Sound to the north and rolling hills on the other three sides. Just below us, a dense forest of evergreens covered the western third of the vale.

Beyond that, the buildings of Camp Half-Blood gleamed in the wintry light: the amphitheater, the sword-fighting stadium, the open-air dining pavilion with its white marble columns. A trireme floated in the canoe lake. Twenty cabins lined the central green where the communal hearth fire glowed cheerfully.

At the edge of the strawberry fields stood the Big House: a four-story Victorian painted sky blue with white trim. My friend Chiron would be inside, probably having tea by the fireplace. I would find sanctuary at last.

My gaze rose to the far end of the valley. There, on the tallest hill, the Athena Parthenos shone in all its gold-and-alabaster glory. Once, the massive statue had graced the Parthenon in Greece. Now it presided over Camp Half-Blood, protecting the valley from intruders. Even from here I could feel its power, like the subsonic thrum of a mighty engine. Old Gray Eyes was on the lookout for threats, being her usual vigilant, no-fun, all-business self.

Personally, I would have installed a more interesting statue—of myself, for instance. Still, the panorama of Camp Half-Blood was an impressive sight. My mood always improved when I saw the place—a small reminder of the good old days when mortals knew how to build temples and do proper burnt sacrifices. Ah, everything was better in ancient Greece! Well, except for a few small improvements modern humans had made—the Internet, chocolate croissants, life expectancy.

Meg’s mouth hung open. “How come I’ve never heard about this place? Do you need tickets?”