“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Mm-hm.” Meg tossed a piece of waffle into the air. Out of nowhere, one of the camp’s cleaning harpies swooped down like a two-hundred-pound kamikaze chicken, snatched up the food, and flew away.

Meg continued as if nothing had happened. “Let’s just get through today. We’ve got the race after lunch.”

A shiver ran down my neck. The last thing I wanted was to be strapped to Meg McCaffrey in the Labyrinth, but I managed to avoid screaming.

“Don’t worry about the race,” I said. “I have a plan for how to win it.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“Or rather, I will have a plan by this afternoon. All I need is a little time—”

Behind us, the conch horn blew.

“Morning boot camp!” Sherman Yang bellowed. “Let’s go, you special snowflakes! I want you all in tears by lunchtime!”

Practice makes perfect

Ha, ha, ha, I don’t think so

Ignore my sobbing

I WISHED I HAD A DOCTOR’S NOTE. I wanted to be excused from PE.

Honestly, I will never understand you mortals. You try to maintain good physical shape with push-ups, sit-ups, five-mile runs, obstacle courses, and other hard work that involves sweating. All the while, you know it is a losing battle. Eventually your weak, limited-use bodies will deteriorate and fail, giving you wrinkles, sagging parts, and old-person breath.

It’s horrific! If I want to change shape, or age, or gender, or species, I simply wish it to happen and—ka-bam!—I am a young, large, female three-toed sloth. No amount of push-ups will accomplish that. I simply don’t see the logic in your constant struggles. Exercise is nothing more than a depressing reminder that one is not a god.

By the end of Sherman Yang’s boot camp, I was gasping and drenched in sweat. My muscles felt like quivering columns of gelatinous dessert.

I did not feel like a special snowflake (though my mother, Leto, always assured me I was one), and I was sorely tempted to accuse Sherman of not treating me as such.

I grumbled about this to Will. I asked where the old head counselor of Ares had gone. Clarisse La Rue I could at least charm with my dazzling smile. Alas, Will reported she was attending the University of Arizona. Oh, why does college have to happen to perfectly good people?

After the torture, I staggered back to my cabin and took another shower.

Showers are good. Perhaps not as good as bacon, but good.

My second morning session was painful for a different reason. I was assigned to music lessons in the amphitheater with a satyr named Woodrow.

Woodrow seemed nervous to have me join his little class. Perhaps he had heard the legend about my skinning the satyr Marsyas alive after he challenged me to a music contest. (As I said, the flaying part was totally untrue, but rumors do have amazing staying power, especially when I may have been guilty of spreading them.)

Using his panpipe, Woodrow reviewed the minor scales. Austin had no problem with these, even though he was challenging himself by playing the violin, which was not his instrument. Valentina Diaz, a daughter of Aphrodite, did her best to throttle a clarinet, producing sounds like a basset hound whimpering in a thunderstorm. Damien White, son of Nemesis, lived up to his namesake by wreaking vengeance on an acoustic guitar. He played with such force that he broke the D string.

“You killed it!” said Chiara Benvenuti. She was the pretty Italian girl I’d noticed the night before—a child of Tyche, goddess of good fortune. “I needed to use that guitar!”

“Shut up, Lucky,” Damien muttered. “In the real world, accidents happen. Strings snap sometimes.”

Chiara unleashed some rapid-fire Italian that I decided not to translate.

“May I?” I reached for the guitar.

Damien reluctantly handed it over. I leaned toward the guitar case by Woodrow’s feet. The satyr leaped several inches into the air.

Austin laughed. “Relax, Woodrow. He’s just getting another string.”

I’ll admit I found the satyr’s reaction gratifying. If I could still scare satyrs, perhaps there was hope for me reclaiming some of my former glory. From here I could work my way up to scaring farm animals, then demigods, monsters, and minor deities.

In a matter of seconds, I had replaced the string. It felt good to do something so familiar and simple. I adjusted the pitch, but stopped when I realized Valentina was sobbing.

“That was so beautiful!” She wiped a tear from her cheek. “What was that song?”

I blinked. “It’s called tuning.”

“Yeah, Valentina, control yourself,” Damien chided, though his eyes were red. “It wasn’t that beautiful.”