“I’m the god of archery!” I wailed. “I don’t practice!”

Next to me, the daughters of Nike snickered.

They had the insufferably appropriate names Holly and Laurel Victor. They reminded me of the gorgeous, ferociously athletic African nymphs Athena used to hang out with at Lake Tritonis.

“Hey, ex-god,” Holly said, nocking an arrow, “practice is the only way to improve.” She scored a seven on the red ring, but she did not seem at all discouraged.

“For you, maybe,” I said. “You’re a mortal!”

Her sister, Laurel, snorted. “So are you now. Suck it up. Winners don’t complain.” She shot her arrow, which landed next to her sister’s but just inside the red ring. “That’s why I’m better than Holly. She’s always complaining.”

“Yeah, right,” Holly growled. “The only thing I complain about is how lame you are.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Laurel. “Let’s go. Right now. Best two out of three shots. The loser scrubs the toilets for a month.”

“You’re on!”

Just like that, they forgot about me. They definitely would’ve made excellent Tritonian nymphs.

Kayla took me by the arm and led me downrange. “Those two, I swear. We made them Nike co-counselors so they’d compete with each other. If we hadn’t, they would’ve taken over the camp by now and proclaimed a dictatorship.”

I suppose she was trying to cheer me up, but I was not consoled.

I stared at my fingers, now blistered from archery as well as sore from guitar. Impossible. Agonizing.

“I can’t do this, Kayla,” I muttered. “I’m too old to be sixteen again!”

Kayla cupped her hand over mine. Beneath the green shock of her hair, she had a ginger complexion—like cream painted over copper, the auburn sheen peeking through in the freckles of her face and arms. She reminded me very much of her father, the Canadian archery coach Darren Knowles.

I mean her other father. And, yes, of course it’s possible for a demigod child to spring from such a relationship. Why not? Zeus gave birth to Dionysus out of his own thigh. Athena once had a child who was created from a handkerchief. Why should such things surprise you? We gods are capable of infinite marvels.

Kayla took a deep breath, as if preparing for an important shot. “You can do it, Dad. You’re already good. Very good. You’ve just got to adjust your expectations. Be patient; be brave. You’ll get better.”

I was tempted to laugh. How could I get used to being merely good? Why would I strain myself to get better when before I had been divine?

“No,” I said bitterly. “No, it is too painful. I swear upon the River Styx—until I am a god again, I will not use a bow or a musical instrument!”

Go ahead and chide me. I know it was a foolish oath, spoken in a moment of misery and self-pity. And it was binding. An oath sworn on the River Styx can have terrible consequences if broken.

But I didn’t care. Zeus had cursed me with mortality. I was not going to pretend that everything was normal. I would not be Apollo until I was really Apollo. For now, I was just a stupid young man named Lester Papadopoulos. Maybe I would waste my time on skills I didn’t care about—like sword fighting or badminton—but I would not sully the memory of my once-perfect music and archery.

Kayla stared at me in horror. “Dad, you don’t mean it.”

“I do!”

“Take it back! You can’t…” She glanced over my shoulder. “What is he doing?”

I followed her gaze.

Sherman Yang was walking slowly, trancelike, into the woods.

It would have been foolhardy to run after him, straight into the most dangerous part of camp.

So that’s exactly what Kayla and I did.

We almost didn’t make it. As soon as we reached the tree line, the forest darkened. The temperature dropped. The horizon stretched out as if bent through a magnifying glass.

A woman whispered in my ear. This time I knew the voice well. It had never stopped haunting me. You did this to me. Come. Chase me again.

Fear rolled through my stomach.

I imagined the branches turning to arms; the leaves undulated like green hands.

Daphne, I thought.

Even after so many centuries, the guilt was overwhelming. I could not look at a tree without thinking of her. Forests made me nervous. The life force of each tree seemed to bear down on me with righteous hatred, accusing me of so many crimes….I wanted to fall to my knees. I wanted to beg forgiveness. But this was not the time.