- The Hidden Oracle
“So how do we kill it?”
“I’m…I’m working on that.”
All across the valley, campers screamed and ran for their weapons. Nico and Will were floundering in the lake, apparently having been capsized in the middle of a canoe ride. Chiron galloped through the dunes, harrying the Colossus with his arrows. Even by my standards, Chiron was a very fine archer. He targeted the statue’s joints and seams, yet his shots did not seem to bother the automaton at all. Already dozens of missiles stuck from the Colossus’s armpits and neck like unruly hair.
“More quivers!” Chiron shouted. “Quickly!”
Rachel Dare stumbled from the armory carrying half a dozen, and she ran to resupply him.
The Colossus brought down his rudder to smash the dining pavilion, but his blade bounced off the camp’s magical barrier, sparking as if it had hit solid metal. Mr. Gorgeous took another step inland, but the barrier resisted him, pushing him back with the force of a wind tunnel.
On Half-Blood Hill, a silver aura surrounded the Athena Parthenos. I wasn’t sure the demigods could see it, but every so often a beam of ultraviolet light shot from Athena’s helmet like a search lamp, hitting the Colossus’s chest and pushing back the invader. Next to her, in the tall pine tree, the Golden Fleece blazed with fiery energy. The dragon Peleus hissed and paced around the trunk, ready to defend his turf.
These were powerful forces, but I did not need godly sight to tell me that they would soon fail. The camp’s defensive barriers were designed to turn away the occasional stray monster, to confuse mortals and prevent them from detecting the valley, and to provide a first line of defense against invading forces. A criminally beautiful hundred-foot-tall Celestial bronze giant was another thing entirely. Soon the Colossus would break through and destroy everything in its path.
“Apollo!” Kayla nudged me in the ribs. “What do we do?”
I stirred, again with the unpleasant realization that I was expected to have answers. My first instinct was to order a seasoned demigod to take charge. Wasn’t it the weekend yet? Where was Percy Jackson? Or those Roman praetors Frank Zhang and Reyna Ramírez-Arellano? Yes, they would have done nicely.
My second instinct was to turn to Meg McCaffrey. How quickly I had grown used to her annoying yet strangely endearing presence! Alas, she was gone. Her absence felt like a Colossus stomping upon my heart. (This was an easy metaphor to summon, since the Colossus was presently stomping on a great many things.)
Flanking us on either side, the soldier ants flew in formation, awaiting the queen’s orders. The demigods watched me anxiously, random bits of bandage fluff swirling from their bodies as we sped through the air.
I leaned forward and spoke to Mama in a soothing tone, “I know I cannot ask you to risk your life for us.”
Mama hummed as if to say, You’re darn right!
“Just give us one pass around that statue’s head?” I asked. “Enough to distract it. Then set us down on the beach?”
She clicked her mandibles doubtfully.
“You’re the best mama in the whole world,” I added, “and you look lovely today.”
That line always worked with Leto. It did the trick with Mama Ant, too. She twitched her antennae, perhaps sending a high-frequency signal to her soldiers, and all three ants banked hard to the right.
Below us, more campers joined the battle. Sherman Yang had harnessed two pegasi to a chariot and was now circling the statue’s legs, while Julia and Alice threw electric javelins at the Colossus’s knees. The missiles stuck in his joints, discharging tendrils of blue lightning, but the statue barely seemed to notice. Meanwhile, at his feet, Connor Stoll and Harley used twin flamethrowers to give the Colossus a molten pedicure, while the Nike twins manned a catapult, lobbing boulders at the Colossus’s Celestial bronze crotch.
Malcolm Pace, a true child of Athena, was coordinating the attacks from a hastily organized command post on the green. He and Nyssa had spread war maps across a card table and were shouting targeting coordinates, while Chiara, Damien, Paolo, and Billie rushed to set up ballistae around the communal hearth.
Malcolm looked like the perfect battlefield commander, except for the fact that he’d forgotten his pants. His red briefs made quite a statement with his sword and leather cuirass.
Mama dove toward the Colossus, leaving my stomach at a higher altitude.
I had a moment to appreciate the statue’s regal features, its metal brow rimmed with a spiky crown meant to represent the beams of the sun. The Colossus was supposed to be Nero as the sun god, but the emperor had wisely made the face resemble mine more closely than his. Only the line of its nose and its ghastly neck beard suggested Nero’s trademark ugliness.