Austin shuddered. “I hate it when Nico disappears like that. What’s our plan?”

“You two are my backup,” I said. “If I miss, if I die…it will be up to you.”

“Whoa, whoa,” Kayla said. “What do you mean if you miss?”

I drew my last arrow—the one I’d found in the grove. “I’m going to shoot that gorgeous gargantuan in the ear.”

Austin and Kayla exchanged looks, perhaps wondering if I’d finally cracked under the strain of being mortal.

“A plague arrow,” I explained. “I’m going to enchant an arrow with sickness, then shoot it into the statue’s ear. Its head is hollow. The ears are the only openings. The arrow should release enough disease to kill the Colossus’s animating power…or at least to disable it.”

“How do you know it will work?” Kayla asked.

“I don’t, but—”

Our conversation was ruined by a sudden heavy downpour of Colossus foot. We darted inland, barely avoiding being flattened.

Behind us, Miranda shouted, “Hey, ugly!”

I knew she wasn’t talking to me, but I glanced back anyway. She raised her arms, causing ropes of sea grass to spring from the dunes and wrap around the statue’s ankles. The Colossus broke through them easily, but they annoyed him enough to be a distraction. Watching Miranda face the statue made me heartsick for Meg all over again.

Meanwhile, Ellis and Cecil stood on either side of the Colossus, throwing rocks at his shins. From the camp, a volley of flaming ballista projectiles exploded against Mr. Gorgeous’s naked backside, which made me clench in sympathy.

“You were saying?” Austin asked.

“Right.” I twirled the arrow between my fingers. “I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have godly powers. It’s doubtful I’ll be able to cook up the Black Death or the Spanish Flu. But still, if I can make the shot from close range, straight into its head, I might be able to do some damage.”

“And…if you fail?” Kayla asked. I noticed her quiver was also empty.

“I won’t have the strength to try twice. You’ll have to make another pass. Find an arrow, try to summon some sickness, make the shot while Austin holds the chariot steady.”

I realized this was an impossible request, but they accepted it with grim silence. I wasn’t sure whether to feel grateful or guilty. Back when I was a god, I would’ve taken it for granted that mortals had faith in me. Now…I was asking my children to risk their lives again, and I was not at all sure my plan would work.

I caught a flash of movement in the sky. This time, instead of a Colossus foot, it was Sherman Yang’s chariot, minus Sherman Yang. Will brought the pegasi in for a landing, then dragged out a half-conscious Nico di Angelo.

“Where are the others?” Kayla asked. “Sherman and the Hermes girls?”

Will rolled his eyes. “Nico convinced them to disembark.”

As if on cue, I heard Sherman screaming from somewhere far in the distance, “I’ll get you, di Angelo!”

“You guys go,” Will told me. “The chariot is only designed for three, and after that shadow-travel, Nico is going to pass out any second.”

“No, I’m not,” Nico complained, then passed out.

Will caught him in a fireman’s carry and took him away. “Good luck! I’m going to get the Lord of Darkness here some Gatorade!”

Austin hopped in first and took the reins. As soon as Kayla and I were aboard, we shot skyward, the pegasi swerving and banking around the Colossus with expert skill. I began to feel a glimmer of hope. We might be able to outmaneuver this giant hunk of good-looking bronze.

“Now,” I said, “if I can just enchant this arrow with a nice plague.”

The arrow shuddered from its fletching to its point.

THOU SHALT NOT, it told me.

I try to avoid weapons that talk. I find them rude and distracting. Once, Artemis had a bow that could cuss like a Phoenician sailor. Another time, in a Stockholm tavern, I met this god who was smoking hot, except his talking sword just would not shut up.

But I digress.

I asked the obvious question. “Did you just speak to me?”

The arrow quivered. (Oh, dear. That was a horrible pun. My apologies.) YEA, VERILY. PRITHEE, SHOOTING IS NOT MY PURPOSE.

His voice was definitely male, sonorous and grave, like a bad Shakespearean actor’s.

“But you’re an arrow,” I said. “Shooting you is the whole point.” (Ah, I really must watch those puns.)