“Ah, thank you, Paolo,” Chiron said, clearly baffled. “I’m glad you are feeling better.”

Austin leaned toward me and whispered, “Paolo understands English okay, but he only speaks Portuguese. At least, that’s what he claims. None of us can understand a word he says.”

I didn’t understand Portuguese either. Athena had been lecturing us for years about how Mount Olympus might migrate to Brazil someday, and we should all be prepared for the possibility. She’d even bought the gods Berlitz Portuguese DVDs for Saturnalia presents, but what does Athena know?

“Paolo seems agitated,” I noted.

Will shrugged. “He’s lucky he’s a fast healer—son of Hebe, goddess of youth, and all that.”

“You’re staring,” Nico noted.

“I am not,” Will said. “I am merely assessing how well Paolo’s arms are functioning after surgery.”


Paolo finally sat down. Chiron went through a long list of other injuries they had experienced during the first three-legged death race, all of which he hoped to avoid this time: second-degree burns, burst eardrums, a pulled groin, and two cases of chronic Irish step dancing.

The lone demigod at the Athena table raised his hand. “Chiron, just going to throw this out there….We’ve had three campers disappear. Is it really wise to be running a dangerous obstacle course?”

Chiron gave him a pained smile. “An excellent question, Malcolm, but this course will not take you into the woods, which we believe is the most hazardous area. The satyrs, dryads, and I will continue to investigate the disappearances. We will not rest until our missing campers are found. In the meantime, however, this three-legged race can foster important team-building skills. It also expands our understanding of the Labyrinth.”

The word smacked me in the face like Ares’s body odor. I turned to Austin. “The Labyrinth? As in Daedalus’s Labyrinth?”

Austin nodded, his fingers worrying the ceramic camp beads around his neck. I had a sudden memory of his mother, Latricia—the way she used to fiddle with her cowry necklace when she lectured at Oberlin. Even I learned things from Latricia Lake’s music theory class, though I had found her distractingly beautiful.

“During the war with Gaea,” Austin said, “the maze reopened. We’ve been trying to map it ever since.”

“That’s impossible,” I said. “Also insane. The Labyrinth is a malevolent sentient creation! It can’t be mapped or trusted.”

As usual, I could only draw on random bits and pieces of my memories, but I was fairly certain I spoke the truth. I remembered Daedalus. Back in the old days, the king of Crete had ordered him to build a maze to contain the monstrous Minotaur. But, oh no, a simple maze wasn’t good enough for a brilliant inventor like Daedalus. He had to make his Labyrinth self-aware and self-expanding. Over the centuries, it had honeycombed under the planet’s surface like an invasive root system.

Stupid brilliant inventors.

“It’s different now,” Austin told me. “Since Daedalus died…I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. Doesn’t feel so evil. Not quite as deadly.”

“Oh, that’s hugely reassuring. So of course you decided to do three-legged races through it.”

Will coughed. “The other thing, Dad…Nobody wants to disappoint Harley.”

I glanced at the head table. Chiron was still holding forth about the virtues of team building while Harley bounced up and down. I could see why the other campers might adopt the boy as their unofficial mascot. He was a cute little pipsqueak, even if he was scarily buff for an eight-year-old. His grin was infectious. His enthusiasm seemed to lift the mood of the entire group. Still, I recognized the mad gleam in his eyes. It was the same look his father, Hephaestus, got whenever he invented some automaton that would later go berserk and start destroying cities.

“Also keep in mind,” Chiron was saying, “that none of the unfortunate disappearances has been linked to the Labyrinth. Remain with your partner and you should be safe…at least, as safe as one can be in a three-legged death race.”

“Yeah,” Harley said. “Nobody has even died yet.” He sounded disappointed, as if he wanted us to try harder.

“In the face of a crisis,” Chiron said, “it’s important to stick to our regular activities. We must stay alert and in top condition. Our missing campers would expect no less from us. Now, as to the teams for the race, you will be allowed to choose your partner—”