- The Hidden Oracle
“Guys, hang on!” Austin shouted.
The chariot plunged to avoid the Colossus’s swinging rudder. Without Austin’s warning, I would have been left in midair still arguing with my projectile.
“So you’re made from Dodona oak,” I guessed. “Is that why you talk?”
FORSOOTH, said the arrow.
“Apollo!” Kayla said. “I’m not sure why you’re talking to that arrow, but—”
From our right came a reverberating WHANG! like a snapped power line hitting a metal roof. In a flash of silver light, the camp’s magical barriers collapsed. The Colossus lurched forward and brought his foot down on the dining pavilion, smashing it to rubble like so many children’s blocks.
“But that just happened,” Kayla said with a sigh.
The Colossus raised his rudder in triumph. He marched inland, ignoring the campers who were running around his feet. Valentina Diaz launched a ballista missile into his groin. (Again, I had to wince in sympathy.) Harley and Connor Stoll kept blowtorching his feet, to no effect. Nyssa, Malcolm, and Chiron hastily ran a trip line of steel cable across the statue’s path, but they would never have time to anchor it properly.
I turned to Kayla. “You can’t hear this arrow talking?”
Judging from her wide eyes, I guessed the answer was, No, and does hallucinating run in the family?
“Never mind.” I looked at the arrow. “What would you suggest, O Wise Missile of Dodona? My quiver is empty.”
The arrow’s point dipped toward the statue’s left arm. LO, THE ARMPIT DOTH HOLD THE ARROWS THOU NEEDEST!
Kayla yelled, “Colossus is heading for the cabins!”
“Armpit!” I told Austin. “Flieth—er, fly for the armpit!”
That wasn’t an order one heard much in combat, but Austin spurred the pegasi into a steep ascent. We buzzed the forest of arrows sticking out of the Colossus’s arm seam, but I completely overestimated my mortal hand-eye coordination. I lunged for the shafts and came up empty.
Kayla was more agile. She snagged a fistful but screamed when she yanked them free.
I pulled her to safety. Her hand was bleeding badly, cut from the high-speed grab.
“I’m fine!” Kayla yelped. Her fingers were clenched, splattering drops of red all over the chariot’s floor. “Take the arrows.”
I did. I tugged the Brazilian-flag bandana from around my neck and gave it to her. “Bind your hand,” I ordered. “There’s some ambrosia in my coat pocket.”
“Don’t worry about me.” Kayla’s face was as green as her hair. “Make the shot! Hurry!”
I inspected the arrows. My heart sank. Only one of the missiles was unbroken, and its shaft was warped. It would be almost impossible to shoot.
I looked again at the talking arrow.
THOU SHALT NOT THINKEST ABOUT IT, he intoned. ENCHANT THOU THE WARPED ARROW!
I tried. I opened my mouth, but the proper words of enchantment were gone from my mind. As I feared, Lester Papadopoulos simply did not possess the power. “I can’t!”
I SHALT ASSIST, promised the Arrow of Dodona. STARTEST THOU: “PLAGUEY, PLAGUEY, PLAGUEY.”
“The enchantment does not start plaguey, plaguey, plaguey!”
“Who are you talking to?” Austin demanded.
“My arrow! I—I need more time.”
“We don’t have more time!” Kayla pointed with her wrapped bloody hand.
The Colossus was only a few steps away from the central green. I wasn’t sure the demigods even realized how much danger they were in. The Colossus could do much more than just flatten buildings. If he destroyed the central hearth, the sacred shrine of Hestia, he would extinguish the very soul of the camp. The valley would be cursed and uninhabitable for generations. Camp Half-Blood would cease to exist.
I realized I had failed. My plan would take much too long, if I could even remember how to make a plague arrow. This was my punishment for breaking an oath on the River Styx.
Then, from somewhere above us, a voice yelled, “Hey, Bronze Butt!”
Over the Colossus’s head, a cloud of darkness formed like a cartoon dialogue bubble. Out of the shadows dropped a furry black monster dog—a hellhound—and astride his back was a young man with a glowing bronze sword.
The weekend was here. Percy Jackson had arrived.
Hey, look! It’s Percy
Least he could do was help out
Taught him everything
I WAS TOO SURPRISED TO SPEAK. Otherwise I would have warned Percy what was about to happen.
Hellhounds are not fond of heights. When startled, they respond in a predictable way. The moment Percy’s faithful pet landed on top of the moving Colossus, she yelped and proceeded to wee-wee on said Colossus’s head. The statue froze and looked up, no doubt wondering what was trickling down his imperial sideburns.