There followed a sort of piranha attack of campers lunging toward each other to grab their preferred teammate. Before I could contemplate my options, Meg McCaffrey pointed at me from across the pavilion, her expression exactly like Uncle Sam’s in the recruitment poster.

Of course, I thought. Why should my luck improve now?

Chiron struck his hoof against the floor. “All right, everyone, settle down! The race will be tomorrow afternoon. Thank you, Harley, for your hard work on the…um, various lethal surprises in store.”

“BLAM!” Harley ran back to the Hephaestus table to join his older sister, Nyssa.

“This brings us to our other news,” Chiron said. “As you may have heard, two special newcomers joined us today. First, please welcome the god Apollo!”

Normally this was my cue to stand up, spread my arms, and grin as radiant light shone around me. The adoring crowd would applaud and toss flowers and chocolate bonbons at my feet.

This time I received no applause—just nervous looks. I had a strange, uncharacteristic impulse to slide lower in my seat and pull my coat over my head. I restrained myself through heroic effort.

Chiron struggled to maintain his smile. “Now, I know this is unusual,” he said, “but gods do become mortal from time to time. You should not be overly alarmed. Apollo’s presence among us could be a good omen, a chance for us to…” He seemed to lose track of his own argument. “Ah…do something good. I’m sure the best course of action will become clear in time. For now, please make Apollo feel at home. Treat him as you would any other new camper.”

At the Hermes table, Connor Stoll raised his hand. “Does that mean the Ares cabin should stick Apollo’s head in a toilet?”

At the Ares table, Sherman Yang snorted. “We don’t do that to everyone, Connor. Just the newbies who deserve it.”

Sherman glanced at Meg, who was obliviously finishing her last hot dog. The wispy black whiskers at the sides of her mouth were now frosted with mustard.

Connor Stoll grinned back at Sherman—a conspiratorial look if ever I saw one. That’s when I noticed the open backpack at Connor’s feet. Peeking from the top was something that looked like a net.

The implication sank in: two boys whom Meg had humiliated, preparing for payback. I didn’t have to be Nemesis to understand the allure of revenge. Still…I felt an odd desire to warn Meg.

I tried to catch her eye, but she remained focused on her dinner.

“Thank you, Sherman,” Chiron continued. “It’s good to know you won’t be giving the god of archery a swirly. As for the rest of you, we will keep you posted on our guest’s situation. I’m sending two of our finest satyrs, Millard and Herbert”—he gestured to the satyrs on his left—“to hand-deliver a message to Rachel Dare in New York. With any luck, she will be able to join us soon and help determine how we can best assist Apollo.”

There was some grumbling about this. I caught the words Oracle and prophecies. At a nearby table, a girl muttered to herself in Italian: The blind leading the blind.

I glared at her, but the young lady was quite beautiful. She was perhaps two years older than I (mortally speaking), with dark pixie hair and devastatingly fierce almond eyes. I may have blushed.

I turned back to my tablemates. “Um…yes, satyrs. Why not send that other satyr, the friend of Percy’s?”

“Grover?” Nico asked. “He’s in California. The whole Council of Cloven Elders is out there, meeting about the drought.”

“Oh.” My spirits fell. I remembered Grover as being quite resourceful, but if he was dealing with California’s natural disasters, he was unlikely to be back anytime in the next decade.

“Finally,” Chiron said, “we welcome a new demigod to camp—Meg McCaffrey!”

She wiped her mouth and stood.

Next to her, Alice Miyazawa said, “Stand up, Meg.”

Julia Feingold laughed.

At the Ares table, Sherman Yang rose. “Now this one—this one deserves a special welcome. What do you think, Connor?”

Connor reached into his backpack. “I think maybe the canoe lake.”

I started to say, “Meg—”

Then all Hades broke loose.

Sherman Yang strode toward Meg. Connor Stoll pulled out a golden net and threw it over her head. Meg yelped and tried to squirm free, while some of the campers chanted, “Dunk—her! Dunk—her!” Chiron did his best to shout them down: “Now, demigods, wait a moment!”

A guttural howl interrupted the proceedings. From the top of the colonnade, a blur of chubby flesh, leafy wings, and linen diaper hurtled downward and landed on Sherman Yang’s back, knocking him face-first into the stone floor. Peaches the karpos stood and wailed, beating his chest. His eyes glowed green with anger. He launched himself at Connor Stoll, locked his plump legs around the demigod’s neck, and began pulling out Connor’s hair with his claws.