"Medusa? Yes, quite true. Lovely place, eh? Unfortunately, Medusa hasn't re-formed since Jackson killed her, so you needn't worry about joining her collection. Besides, there are much more dangerous forces in this room."

Kronos looked over at a Laistrygonian giant who was munching noisily on some french fries. Kronos waved his hand and the giant froze. A french fry hung suspended in midair halfway between his hand and his mouth.

"Why turn them to stone," Kronos asked, "when you can freeze time itself?"

His golden eyes bored into Ethan's face. "Now, tell me one more thing. What happened last night on the Williamsburg Bridge?"

Ethan trembled. Beads of perspiration were popping up on his forehead. "I . . . I don't know, sir."

"Yes, you do." Kronos rose from his seat. "When you attacked Jackson, something happened. Something was not quite right. The girl, Annabeth, jumped in your way."

"She wanted to save him."

"But he is invulnerable," Kronos said quietly. "You saw that yourself."

"I can't explain it. Maybe she forgot."

"She forgot," Kronos said. "Yes, that must've been it. Oh dear, I forgot my friend is invulnerable and took a knife for him. Oops. Tell me, Ethan, where were you aiming when you stabbed at Jackson?"

Ethan frowned. He clasped his hand as if he were holding a blade, and mimed a thrust. "I'm not sure, sir. It all happened so fast. I wasn't aiming for any spot in particular.'

Kronos's fingers tapped the blade of his scythe. "I see," he said in a chilly tone. "If your memory improves, I will expect—"

Suddenly the Titan lord winced. The giant in the corner unfroze and the french fry fell into his mouth. Kronos stumbled backward and sank into his throne.

"My lord?" Ethan started forward.

"I—" The voice was weak, but just for a moment it was Luke's. Then Kronos's expression hardened. He raised his hand and flexed his fingers slowly as if forcing them to obey.

"It is nothing," he said, his voice steely and cold again. "A minor discomfort."

Ethan moistened his lips. "He's still fighting you, isn't he? Luke—"

"Nonsense," Kronos spat. "Repeat that lie, and I will cut out your tongue. The boy's soul has been crushed. I am simply adjusting to the limits of this form. It requires rest. It is annoying, but no more than a temporary inconvenience."

"As . . . as you say, my lord."

"You!" Kronos pointed his scythe at a dracaena with green armor and a green crown. "Queen Sess, is it?"

"Yesssss, my lord."

"Is our little surprise ready to be unleashed?"

The dracaena queen bared her fangs. "Oh, yessss, my lord. Quite a lovely sssssurprissse."

"Excellent," Kronos said. "Tell my brother Hyperion to move our main force south into Central Park. The half-bloods will be in such disarray they will not be able to defend themselves. Go now, Ethan. Work on improving your memory. We will talk again when we have taken Manhattan."

Ethan bowed, and my dreams shifted one last time. I saw the Big House at camp, but it was a different era. The house was painted red instead of blue. The campers down at the volleyball pit had early '90s hairstyles, which were probably good for keeping monsters away.

Chiron stood by the porch, talking to Hermes and a woman holding a baby. Chiron's hair was shorter and darker. Hermes wore his usual jogging suit with his winged high-tops. The woman was tall and pretty. She had blond hair, shining eyes and a friendly smile. The baby in her arms squirmed in his blue blanket like Camp Half-Blood was the last place he wanted to be.

"It's an honor to have you here," Chiron told the woman, though he sounded nervous. "It's been a long time since a mortal was allowed at camp."

"Don't encourage her," Hermes grumbled. "May, you can't do this."

With a shock, I realized I was seeing May Castellan. She looked nothing like the old woman I'd met. She seemed full of life—the kind of person who could smile and make everyone around her feel good.

"Oh, don't worry so much," May said, rocking the baby. "You need an Oracle, don't you? The old one's been dead for, what, twenty years?"

"Longer," Chiron said gravely.

Hermes raised his arms in exasperation. "I didn't tell you that story so you could apply. It's dangerous. Chiron, tell her."

"It is," Chiron warned. "For many years, I have forbidden anyone from trying. We don't know exactly what's happened. Humanity seems to have lost the ability to host the Oracle."

"We've been through that," May said. "And I know I can do it. Hermes, this is my chance to do something good. I've been given the gift of sight for a reason."

I wanted to yell at May Castellan to stop. I knew what was about to happen. I finally understood how her life had been destroyed. But I couldn't move or speak.

Hermes looked more hurt than worried. "You couldn't marry if you became the Oracle," he complained. "You couldn't see me anymore."

May put her hand on his arm. "I can't have you forever, can I? You'll move on soon. You're immortal."

He started to protest, but she put her hand on his chest. "You know it's true! Don't try to spare my feelings. Besides, we have a wonderful child. I can still raise Luke if I'm the Oracle, right?"

Chiron coughed. "Yes, but in all fairness, I don't know how that will affect the spirit of the Oracle. A woman who has already borne a child—as far as I know, this has never been done before. If the spirit does not take—"

"It will," May insisted.

No, I wanted to shout. It won't.

May Castellan kissed her baby and handed the bundle to Hermes. "I'll be right back."

She gave them one last confident smile and climbed the steps.

Chiron and Hermes paced in silence. The baby squirmed.

A green glow lit the windows of the house. The campers stopped playing volleyball and stared up at the attic. A cold wind rushed through the strawberry fields.

Hermes must've felt it too. He cried, "No! NO!"

He shoved the baby into Chiron's arms and ran for the porch. Before he reached the door, the sunny afternoon was shattered by May Castellan's terrified scream.

I got up so fast I banged my head on somebody's shield.


"Sorry, Percy." Annabeth was standing over me. "I was just about to wake you."

I rubbed my head, trying to clear the disturbing visions. Suddenly a lot of things made sense to me: May Castellan had tried to become the Oracle. She hadn't known about Hades's curse preventing the spirit of Delphi from taking another host. Neither had Chiron or Hermes. They hadn't realized that by trying to take the job, May would be driven mad, plagued with fits in which her eyes would glow green and she would have shattered glimpses of her child's future.

"Percy?" Annabeth asked. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I lied. "What . . . what are you doing in armor? You should be resting."

"Oh, I'm fine," she said, though she still looked pale. She was barely moving her right arm. "That nectar and ambrosia fixed me up."

"Uh-huh. You can't seriously go out and fight."

She offered me her good hand and helped me up. My head was pounding. Outside, the sky was purple and red.

"You're going to need every person you have," she said. "I just looked in my shield. There's an army—"

"Heading south into Central Park," I said. "Yeah, I know."

I told her part of my dreams. I left out the vision of May Castellan, because it was too disturbing to talk about. I also left out Ethan's speculation about Luke fighting Kronos inside his body. I didn't want to get Annabeth's hopes up.

"Do you think Ethan suspects about your weak spot?" she asked.

"I don't know," I admitted. "He didn't tell Kronos anything, but if he figures it out—"

"We can't let him."

"I'll bonk him on the head harder next time," I suggested. "Any idea what surprise Kronos was talking about?"

She shook her head. "I didn't see anything in the shield, but I don't like surprises."


"So," she said, "are you going to argue about me coming along?"

"Nah. You'd just beat me up."

She managed a laugh, which was good to hear. I grabbed my sword, and we went to rally the troops.

Thalia and the head counselors were waiting for us at the Reservoir. The lights of the city were blinking on at twilight. I guess a lot of them were on automatic timers. Streetlamps glowed around the shore of the lake, making the water and trees look even spookier.

"They're coming," Thalia confirmed, pointing north with a silver arrow. "One of my scouts just reported they've crossed the Harlem River. There was no way to hold them back. The army . . ." She shrugged. "It's huge."

"We'll hold them at the park," I said. "Grover, you ready?"

He nodded. "As ready as we'll ever be. If my nature spirits can stop them anywhere, this is the place."

"Yes, we will!" said another voice. A very old, fat satyr pushed through the crowd, stumbling over his own spear. He was dressed in wood-bark armor that only covered half of his belly.

"Leneus?" I said.

"Don't act so surprised," he huffed. "I am a leader of the Council, and you did tell me to find Grover. Well, I found him, and I'm not going to let a mere outcast lead the satyrs without my help!"

Behind Leneus's back, Grover made gagging motions, but the old satyr grinned like he was the savior of the day. "Never fear! We'll show those Titans!"

I didn't know whether to laugh or be angry, but I managed to keep a straight face. "Um . . . yeah. Well, Grover, you won't be alone. Annabeth and the Athena cabin will make their stand here. And me, and . . . Thalia?"

She patted me on the shoulder. "Say no more. The Hunters are ready."

I looked at the other counselors. "That leaves the rest of you with a job just as important. You have to guard the other entrances to Manhattan. You know how tricky Kronos is. He'll hope to distract us with this big army and sneak another force in somewhere else. It's up to you to make sure that doesn't happen. Has each cabin chosen a bridge or tunnel?"

The counselors nodded grimly.

"Then let's do it," I said. "Good hunting, everybody!"

We heard the army before we saw it.

The noise was like a cannon barrage combined with a football stadium crowd—like every Patriots fan in New England was charging us with bazookas.

At the north end of the reservoir, the enemy vanguard broke through the woods—a warrior in golden armor leading a battalion of Laistrygonian giants with huge bronze axes. Hundreds of other monsters poured out behind them.

"Positions!" Annabeth yelled.

Her cabinmates scrambled. The idea was to make the enemy army break around the reservoir. To get to us, they'd have to follow the trails, which meant they'd be marching in narrow columns on either side of the water.

At first, the plan seemed to work. The enemy divided and streamed toward us along the shore. When they were halfway across, our defenses kicked in. The jogging trail erupted in Greek fire, incinerating many of the monsters instantly. Others flailed around, engulfed in green flames. Athena campers threw grappling hooks around the largest giants and pulled them to the ground.