- The Hidden Oracle
But this boy was definitely Naomi’s son.
Which meant he was my son too.
Which felt very, very strange.
“You’re Will Solace,” I said. “My, ah…erm—”
“Yeah,” Will agreed. “It’s awkward.”
My frontal lobe did a one-eighty inside my skull. I listed sideways.
“Whoa, there.” Will steadied me. “I tried to heal you, but honestly, I don’t understand what’s wrong. You’ve got blood, not ichor. You’re recovering quickly from your injuries, but your vital signs are completely human.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Yeah, well…” He put his hand on my forehead and frowned in concentration. His fingers trembled slightly. “I didn’t know any of that until I tried to give you nectar. Your lips started steaming. I almost killed you.”
“Ah…” I ran my tongue across my bottom lip, which felt heavy and numb. I wondered if that explained my dream about smoke and fire. I hoped so. “I guess Meg forgot to tell you about my condition.”
“I guess she did.” Will took my wrist and checked my pulse. “You seem to be about my age, fifteen or so. Your heart rate is back to normal. Ribs are mending. Nose is swollen, but not broken.”
“And I have acne,” I lamented. “And flab.”
Will tilted his head. “You’re mortal, and that’s what you’re worried about?”
“You’re right. I’m powerless. Weaker even than you puny demigods!”
I got the feeling that he almost said Dad but managed to stop himself.
It was difficult to think of this young man as my son. He was so poised, so unassuming, so free of acne. He also didn’t appear to be awestruck in my presence. In fact, the corner of his mouth had started twitching.
“Are—are you amused?” I demanded.
Will shrugged. “Well, it’s either find this funny or freak out. My dad, the god Apollo, is a fifteen-year-old—”
“Sixteen,” I corrected. “Let’s go with sixteen.”
“A sixteen-year-old mortal, lying in a cot in my cabin, and with all my healing arts—which I got from you—I still can’t figure out how to fix you.”
“There is no fixing this,” I said miserably. “I am cast out of Olympus. My fate is tied to a girl named Meg. It could not be worse!”
Will laughed, which I thought took a great deal of gall. “Meg seems cool. She’s already poked Connor Stoll in the eyes and kicked Sherman Yang in the crotch.”
“She did what?”
“She’ll get along just fine here. She’s waiting for you outside—along with most of the campers.” Will’s smile faded. “Just so you’re prepared, they’re asking a lot of questions. Everybody is wondering if your arrival, your mortal situation, has anything to do with what’s been going on at camp.”
I frowned. “What has been going on at camp?”
The cabin door opened. Two more demigods stepped inside. One was a tall boy of about thirteen, his skin burnished bronze and his cornrows woven like DNA helixes. In his black wool peacoat and black jeans, he looked as if he’d stepped from the deck of an eighteenth-century whaling vessel. The other newcomer was a younger girl in olive camouflage. She had a full quiver on her shoulder, and her short ginger hair was dyed with a shock of bright green, which seemed to defeat the point of wearing camouflage.
I smiled, delighted that I actually remembered their names.
“Austin,” I said. “And Kayla, isn’t it?”
Rather than falling to their knees and blubbering gratefully, they gave each other a nervous glance.
“So it’s really you,” Kayla said.
Austin frowned. “Meg told us you were beaten up by a couple of thugs. She said you had no powers and you went hysterical out in the woods.”
My mouth tasted like burnt school bus upholstery. “Meg talks too much.”
“But you’re mortal?” Kayla asked. “As in completely mortal? Does that mean I’m going to lose my archery skills? I can’t even qualify for the Olympics until I’m sixteen!”
“And if I lose my music…” Austin shook his head. “No, man, that’s wrong. My last video got, like, five hundred thousand views in a week. What am I supposed to do?”
It warmed my heart that my children had the right priorities: their skills, their images, their views on YouTube. Say what you will about gods being absentee parents; our children inherit many of our finest personality traits.