- The Hidden Oracle
“I—I was afraid you would say that.”
“There’s one other thing,” she warned. “The Beast is planning some kind of attack on your camp. I don’t know what it is, but it’s going to be big. Like, even worse than napalm. You have to warn your friends.”
The nearest lion nudged me. I wrapped my arms around his neck and allowed him to pull me to my feet. I managed to remain standing, but only because my legs locked up in complete fright. For the first time, I understood the trials that awaited me. I knew the enemies I must face. I would need more than wind chimes and enlightenment. I’d need a miracle. And as a god, I can tell you that those are never distributed lightly.
“Good luck, Apollo.” The Titan queen placed the wind chimes in my hands. “I’ve got to check my kiln before my pots crack. Keep on trucking, and save those trees!”
The woods dissolved. I found myself standing in the central green at Camp Half-Blood, face-to-face with Chiara Benvenuti, who jumped back in alarm. “Apollo?”
I smiled. “Hey, girl.” My eyes rolled up in my head and, for the second time that week, I charmingly passed out in front of her.
For pretty much everything
Wow, I’m a good guy
“WAKE,” SAID A VOICE.
I opened my eyes and saw a ghost—his face just as precious to me as Daphne’s. I knew his copper skin, his kind smile, the dark curls of his hair, and those eyes as purple as senatorial robes.
“Hyacinthus,” I sobbed. “I’m so sorry…”
He turned his face toward the sunlight, revealing the ugly dent above his left ear where the discus had struck him. My own wounded face throbbed in sympathy.
“Seek the caverns,” he said. “Near the springs of blue. Oh, Apollo…your sanity will be taken away, but do not…”
His image faded and began to retreat. I rose from my sickbed. I rushed after him and grabbed his shoulders. “Do not what? Please don’t leave me again!”
My vision cleared. I found myself by the window in Cabin Seven, holding a ceramic pot of purple and red hyacinths. Nearby, looking very concerned, Will and Nico stood as if ready to catch me.
“He’s talking to the flowers,” Nico noted. “Is that normal?”
“Apollo,” Will said, “you had a concussion. I healed you, but—”
“These hyacinths,” I demanded. “Have they always been here?”
Will frowned. “Honestly, I don’t know where they came from, but…” He took the flowerpot from my hands and set it back on the windowsill. “Let’s worry about you, okay?”
Usually that would’ve been excellent advice, but now I could only stare at the hyacinths and wonder if they were some sort of message. How cruel to see them—the flowers that I had created to honor my fallen love, with their plumes stained red like his blood or hued violet like his eyes. They bloomed so cheerfully in the window, reminding me of the joy I had lost.
Nico rested his hand on Will’s shoulder. “Apollo, we were worried. Will was especially.”
Seeing them together, supporting each other, made my heart feel even heavier. During my delirium, both of my great loves had visited me. Now, once again, I was devastatingly alone.
Still, I had a task to complete. A friend needed my help.
“Meg is in trouble,” I said. “How long was I unconscious?”
Will and Nico glanced at each other.
“It’s about noon now,” Will said. “You showed up on the green around six this morning. When Meg didn’t return with you, we wanted to search the woods for her, but Chiron wouldn’t let us.”
“Chiron was absolutely correct,” I said. “I won’t allow any others to put themselves at risk. But I must hurry. Meg has until tonight at the latest.”
“Then what happens?” Nico asked.
I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t even think about it without losing my nerve. I looked down. Aside from Paolo’s Brazilian-flag bandana and my ukulele-string necklace, I was wearing only my boxer shorts. My offensive flabbiness was on display for everyone to see, but I no longer cared about that. (Well, not much, anyway.) “I have to get dressed.”
I staggered back to my cot. I fumbled through my meager supplies and found Percy Jackson’s Led Zeppelin T-shirt. I tugged it on. It seemed more appropriate than ever.
Will hovered nearby. “Look, Apollo, I don’t think you’re back to a hundred percent.”
“I’ll be fine.” I pulled on my jeans. “I have to save Meg.”